By Lata Gwalani May. 13, 2019
Much has been said about motherhood. “Motherhood is divinity” – I suppose that can be debated. “Motherhood is a job you can never quit” – True that. “Motherhood is a responsibility? – Hey, preaching to the choir, here! But to me, here’s what it really is: Motherhood means you are never alone in your thoughts.
It’s a Monday morning and my wave of bye is deliberately restrained so as not to reveal the storm of excitement waiting to unleash as my husband’s back disappears inside the lift. In a couple of minutes, I will be replaying a similar scene with my son.
These are the longest two minutes of my life. But I dare not display my impatience. My son is a seeker. Each morning, a 120 seconds before he crosses over the threshold into the lift lobby on his way out to work, he seeks out his universe – earphones, wallet, and a sock. On any other day, his frantic searches under sofa cushions, behind doors, inside commodes, would leave me ranting – and wheezing in its aftermath.
Today, although, I can barely wait for him to leave, I am calm. The Buddha has lent me his smile for the day with a promise that I shall return it to him at the stroke of midnight. I wait patiently in the centre of the living room, while the world around me turns turtle in a phenomenal uprooting of cushions.
With the universe lost and now found, my son steps out of the door. I wait a full 10 minutes for any hasty comebacks – a forgotten item, or something more profound like a change of mind about going to work. My lips tremble in fervent prayer. At the end of 10 minutes, I hurriedly type out a message on our family WhatsApp group of three. Shaky fingers don’t type well, “Phone acting funny… you may not get through.” I wait long enough to see two blue tick marks alongside my message. A gleeful grin replaces Buddha on my lips as I, with a flourish, switch off my phone. I turn off the main switch to the doorbell. With my eyes shut, I turn my face up and breathe in the wafting fragrance of silence.
Thus, I stand, my back against the world locked outside. Once the reality of my situation seeps in, I turn on my Caravan. Happy is the mood I select on the music player. When a woman is happy, can dance be far behind? I let my hair down and shimmy away with Helen’s “Mera naam chin chin chu”. Slightly out of breath 30 minutes later, I plop into the leather folds of the recliner. I sit there in my sweat-soaked pyjamas and tee, unshackled by any suffocating inners. Free as free can be.
“Why the holiday?” my cook and maid had both chorused last evening. “I will be out for the entire day tomorrow,” I had answered untruthfully. But happy to get a day off, they did not pursue the matter. Pinky and Usha are my lifelines. Yet, a day without them cannot be described, it can only be experienced. The clank of utensils, the plop of the mop, and rising above all this, the din of incessant chatter and the hushed yet loud-enough gurgle of gossip turn the house into a machine with moving parts.
But what I was seeking today was silence. I turn my head as if on cue to see Kamala Das looking back at me from the cover of her autobiography. I pick up the book. When I shut the book with a sigh, it is almost 1 pm. Slight hunger pangs nudge me: I make my way to the kitchen to fix a quick bite. On the way, I catch a glimpse of my son’s bed and a pile of clothes threatening to slide down to the floor. I flick my mane and turn the other way, toward the kitchen.
Happy is the mood I select on the music player. When a woman is happy, can dance be far behind? I let my hair down and shimmy away with Helen’s “Mera naam chin chin chu”.
Armed with a bottle of Sula, a wine glass and a plate of cheese, I head back to the recliner. On the way, I catch myself in the mirror in the corridor. Rowdy strands of hair dance on my cheek. The shapeless nightwear clings to me comfortingly. But the best accessory is my face… flawless in its joyous abandon. I can’t help but smile to myself.
I curl up with Netflix and let the wine glide down my throat. The young and unsure Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth struggles to have her way with the imperious Churchill. Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. Two episodes and half a bottle later, I switch to Divine Destinations on Travel XP. But soon enough, a tiny spring of guilt leaps out of my heart. I haven’t lit the lamp in the prayer room, nor have I said my prayers for the wellbeing of the family.
“God, too, needs a break,” says a wine-laced inner voice. “Let God be, at least for a day!” the voice reprimands. Brusquely put into place, I sink deeper into the recliner and seek spirituality vicariously through the travel anchor on screen. It is with this frame of mind that I seek more meaning in the idea of motherhood.
Much has been said about motherhood:
“Motherhood is divinity” – I suppose that can be debated.
“Motherhood is a job you can never quit” – True that.
“Motherhood is a responsibility? – Hey, preaching to the choir, here!
But to me, here’s what it really is: Motherhood means you are never alone in your thoughts.
Imagine having someone lurking in your thoughts all the time. First they are tiny beings. Then they grow up and take up more space in your thoughts. Then they continue to grow and become permanent residents in your head. They mess with you so much that the thought of losing them makes you lose your head. So you cling on and think about them all the time. It’s a bad word, this motherhood. Maa ki…
And just then I give in to the temptation of checking my phone. The minute I switch it on, frantic beeps announce a string of messages: Yesterday’s unread messages announcing Mother’s Day goodies, Mother’s Day offers, Mother’s Day useless gyaan. But my gaze stops at one particular message: Hot tears sting my eyes as I read, “Hope you are having your day of quiet, Mom. You deserve it.”
Fine, it’s time I admit that motherhood happened each time a gummy, toothless smile looked up at me. Motherhood continues to happen in those harried moments of the morning when he rushes out of the door. And I will not barter this bonding for anything in life.
Lata Gwalani speaks, writes, reads, and not necessarily in that order, and gets paid for doing so. She has X-ray vision into human psyche, and deduces more than what meets the eye, and is usually wrong. She is wary of people and is highly impressed with Noah for allowing only animals on his ark.