Bhaag amma, bhaag!

I might receive a lot of flak for this piece, but that hasn’t ever really bothered me, so it won’t this time either 😁 I am writing about the new ‘cool’ thing to do; running.

shoes

There was a time when gymming was the in thing, then there was Pilates, then aerobics, Zumba, yoga, hot steamy yoga and different variants of yoga came into being. In the last two years or so, running seems to have gained immense popularity. My Facebook timeline is forever flooded with images of people running some marathon or the other, images of them biting into the medal after finishing the marathon, and general celebrations post completion.

It’s great, I love seeing these photos and the cheer it seems to bring to everyone. What I cannot seem to understand is all the gyaan that non-runners receive from the runners. I’ve been at the receiving end a bit too often, what with the husband also deciding suddenly to join the bandwagon and start running. Its a different story that he stopped somewhere in between,he attributes his stopping to the arrival of baby number 2. I don’t see a link, do you? He just needed a reason, me thinks.

So now since I’ve done the other ‘cool’ things like aerobics, yoga, gymming, I have decided to participate in my first ever 5k run this weekend. Now now, don’t judge. Unless I run, how will I be able to say what it feels like, isn’t it? So wish me luck and pray that I don’t collapse before the finish line.

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Woh Saat Din

Hi, Dhruv,

If my memory isn’t acting up then I think you are the same Dhruv who was my senior in RPS, Chennai. I don’t know if you will remember me. My name is Anika and I was three years your junior in school. Nice to have found you on facebook. I see that you are now living in Delhi. I have just moved here and would be glad to have a known face around. Do drop in a line if you are the same Dhruv.

Anika

Dhruv sat at his desk reading this message and smiling that crooked smile of his. Of course he was the same Dhruv and yes he vaguely remembered Anika as well. He mentally made a note to reply after getting home and got back to his number crunching. Dhruv was an associate with a reputed financial institution in the capital. After having done his parents proud by graduating from some well reputed colleges he landed himself a plum job in Delhi. Dhruv was his own master and he loved his life and work. He was a self-proclaimed workaholic who enjoyed the finer aspects in life as well. No one knew their alcohol and women better that Dhruv did.

By the time Dhruv decided to call it a day it was almost half past eleven and that meant that dinner would yet again have to be Maggi. He packed up his laptop and got into the cab, stopping on the way to pick up some beer, smokes, and maggi. He rented a place in central Delhi which was close to work. For a bachelor, Dhruv had managed to do up the place rather tastefully. A corner of his house was dedicated to music, his latest and most expensive acquisition were the Bose speakers that did wonders to any singers acumen, the well stocked bar at another end and the variety of books that lay strewn around ( even the strewn around books had some art to them).

Click…….click….clack…..the key was the only thing that made noise as he entered his house. With one deft movement he switched on the music system and let Parveena Sultan’s voice flow into the room. He quickly put the maggi to boil and waited for it to cook while humming to himself. His phone suddenly beeped and startled him. It was an e-mail alert, he put it aside for later. He didn’t want to work until some food went into his growling stomach. Though not in two minutes, the maggi was ready in five. He greedily ate it all up and let out a satisfactory burp. He would have certainly been glared at if he were to do this at home with his mother around. He smiled to himself at the thought of his mother.

Parveena Sultana gave way to Ghulam Ali and then some Sufi classics. Dhruv continued sitting at the same spot enjoying the music. He could spend hours listening to them. He suddenly remembered the e-mail that had come in. He got up from the comfortable bean bag to reach for him phone. As he opened his e-mail he started smiling again. This wasn’t any work e-mail. This was from Anika.

Hi, since I didn’t get any reply from you I presumed that you are not the Dhruv I knew from school. But then I looked at your friends list and found many of the people I know from school on it and now I am sure you are the same Dhruv. My number is 9600323245. Call me when you read this so we can catch up. Bye. Anika. 

Tum itna jo mushkura rahe ho……..kya gham hain jisko chupa rahe ho……. Dhruv checked again to see if he had the right number. “Hello”, said Anika almost catching Dhruv off guard. “Hi, Anika. Hmmm this is Dhruv…. even before he could finish his sentence she had begun talking. “ Hi, Dhruv, I just messaged you on facebook giving you my contact details. Oh silly me, that is how you got my number and are calling me right? How have you been? Have you been staying in Delhi for long? Where do you live by the way, I stay in Lajpat Nagar with another friend of mine”. Just as she stopped to catch some breath Dhruv chuckled and started speaking. “Well, you have bombarded me with so many questions, so let’s see. Yes, I got your message and hence am making this call to you. I am doing very well, thank you. I have been in Delhi for a little over a year now and well I live in Malviya Nagar. How have you been ,kiddo? Also if the caller tune was something you opted for and wasn’t thrusted upon you by some gross mistake by the service provider then I must also say great taste in music.”

Before they knew it they were talking to each other like they had known each forever. Dhruv was working his usual charm and surprisingly this time there wasn’t any hidden agenda. He was merely being nice to a fellow RPS’ite. He learned that Anika had just moved into Delhi and was studying fashion at one of the leading fashion institutes in the country. She was sharing a place with a classmate and was comfortably settling into the routine. Almost an hour later, Dhruv decided to call it a night. They decided on meeting the coming weekend over lunch. “Good night kiddo, will see you around”, said Dhruv as he hung up.

Just out of curiosity Dhruv decided to go to facebook to check on how Anika looked after all these years. Thank god for wi-fi, thought Dhruv to himself. Gone were the days of dial-up connections. There were some million things that seemed to have happened on facebook since the last time Dhruv had logged in. ANIKA SAXENA he typed into the search box and waited for her face to show up. He was a little disappointed when the display picture turned out to be a NO SMOKING sign. “Not a good sign”, Dhruv exclaimed aloud and instinctively picked up his smoke. He went back to sit on his bean bag and turned the music on. Soon he was fast asleep sprawled across the floor.

Before he knew it, the door bell was ringing and his maid was standing outside. “Kya, Bhaiya, aaj bhi aap idhar hi so gaye?” “ Chai bana do jaldi se,” said Dhruv as he headed to the washroom. Today was going to be a packed day at work with several meetings lined up. He was ready in no time and left for work. He was always the first one to come into work, often the last to leave as well. When nothing at home seemed inviting why go back early at all, was his logic. The week went well and Dhruv was happy with all the work that had gotten done through the week. It was Friday evening when he remembered his lunch date with Anika the next day. He was just wrapping up to leave when his phone beeped. He picked it up to find that Anika had messaged to confirm their lunch date for the next day.

Hi Dhruv, just wanted to confirm that we are meeting for lunch tomorrow. Have to tell the cook not to make lunch for me, so checking with you.

Hey Anika, Yes yes….. lunch is very much on. Will see you at around 1:00pm at Select City Walk. Does that work for you?

He had just sent it when his phone beeped again.

Yes that works for me. Will see you there. 🙂 

Anika had ended the message with a smiling face. “She certainly is a kid”, thought Dhruv to himself.

Friday nights were sacrosanct to Dhruv and his group of buddies. They all got together at Sports Bar and drank till they all passed out.  This Friday was no different; they all met up at around 9:30pm and were all on the verge of collapsing at about 3:30am. The only sensible thing they did was to have a designated driver who unfortunately had to bear the brunt of dropping these pissed-drunk-unruly-men home. Thankfully this Friday was not Dhruv’s turn. Dhruv got home at 4:00 a.m. and somehow sauntered into bed.

Saturdays and Sundays the maid knew better than to come knocking at 7:00 a.m. Dhruv woke up with the mother of all hangovers the next morning at 11:00am and went straight into the kitchen to make himself some coffee. He missed his mother’s coffee on days like this. He wished he was still living with all of them in Bangalore, but he also knew that his career would go nowhere if he had continued living there. He looked at the clock and remembered that he was to meet Anika at 1:00 p.m. He gulped down his coffee and quickly jumped into the shower. He emerged looking fresh, smelling like a dream. He picked out a white shirt and blue jeans; he knew women loved this combination. He had been told this by many of his lady friends. He glanced at himself at the mirror and smiled, he seemed pleased with the outcome. He dabbed some colonge and left the house feeling strangely happy.

He reached the mall a little before 1:00 p.m. and decided to walk around before Anika could join him. The mall seemed to be overflowing with families; maybe meeting her here on a Saturday wasn’t the best decision. As he wandered about he felt a tap on his shoulder and turned around to find himself staring at this round but pretty face smiling up at him. “Hi Dhruv, remember me?” she chirped. “Hey Anika, nice to see you,” said Dhruv and bent to give her a hug. “Ya I know, it’s always nice to meet familiar people in a new strange city,” replied Anika. “So where are we headed for lunch in this huge mall?” she asked. Dhruv was so taken in on seeing her that he just kept looking at her. She was sweet looking; there was something innately innocent about her. He liked her almost instantly. “Why don’t we go have Chinese, they have a good place on the 3rd floor”, said Dhruv. Anika just smiled and started walking towards the escalator.

The more he spoke to Anika the more he started to like her, and this liking was very different from what he felt towards all those other women he had dated over the years. The lunch that begun at around 1:15 p.m. went on almost until half past three. The only reason they left was because they needed to shut the restaurant and the waiters were hovering around their table. “Would you like to join me for a cup of coffee?” asked Dhruv. “Before anything I need a smoke to settle all that food you just fed me Dhruv,” said Anika. “You smoke?” asked Dhruv with a rather bewildered look. “Yes, I do, is that a problem?” replied Anika. “No no, just that it’s quiet contrary to your facebook profile picture,” said Dhruv. “Oh so you were snooping around to see what I look like before we met is it?” she laughed as soon as she completed saying it. For once in his life he didn’t know what to say and just smiled at her.

He had seen women smoke before, but this was different. He was so attracted to her that he was surprising himself. Anika was not his type of woman, she was everything opposite infact. She was chubby, short, a little too sweet for his liking and yet all he wanted to do was sit with her and talk. There was something sensuous about watching her smoke; she did it with such ease and panache. Bottom line was that he liked her. Coffee led to ice cream and then another coffee and before they knew it the sun had gone down and it was dinner time. “Why don’t you come by, we’ll order in”, said Dhruv. “Yes, that sounds good to me, that way I also get to see your place.”

“ WOW”!!! are you seriously telling me you live alone and did this place up all by yourself?” asked Anika. The house always worked with all the women, but this one time it wasn’t about scoring any brownie points. He was genuinely happy when he heard her say all those things. “Yes. I am a great guy,” he said, grinning. “ Can I make you a drink? Or would you like a beer? ” he asked. “No, I shouldn’t be drinking, I need to get home soon, I have an early morning class tomorrow,” replied Anika.

Dinner was a of a lot of talking, some good music, and food that was hardly even touched by either of them. Dhruv insisted on dropping Anika back but she outright refused saying it didn’t make sense for him to come in a cab and then come back all the way. “I had a wonderful day with you Anika, we should meet again,” said Dhruv, yet again surprising himself. “Of course we will Dhruv,” she said just as she pressed for the lift. He waited at the door till he heard the lift reach the ground floor and then walked into the apartment that suddenly seemed so lonely without her. He waited patiently for her message saying she had gotten home safe and then curled up in bed and slept like a baby.

The next few days where just filled with excitement, they started meeting almost everyday, coffee, dinner, book-stores, music concerts, movies or even if it meant just to share a smoke. He was besotted, he couldn’t put a finger on what it was about her. It was a wonder that he hadn’t so much as toucher her even, and yet he felt such a strong sense of attraction towards her. With Anika it wasn’t about sex, it wasn’t to prove anything. He just wanted to take care of her and be with her, perhaps forever.

It had been 7 days of this heady feeling, of feeling like a teenager all over again. Dhruv couldn’t even remember the last time he felt that flutter when he saw a girl, those butterflies when you held someone’s hand for the first time. With Anika he wanted to feel all that and more.

The week had flown past and Dhruv couldn’t be happier about that the weekend being back. The Friday night routine was also back and Sports bar it was yet again. Dhruv was the designated driver for the evening and so he stood with this iced tea while the others gulped down beer after beer. He was however too high on life for him to need any alcohol in the system. In between all the back slapping and jokes he saw her at the far end of the room. She was with someone; they were seated beside each other in a booth. Dhruv stared hard to make sure he wasn’t seeing things, it was her, there she was,  Anika, with another man. She was laughing that same laugh, and seemed as comfortable as she was with him. And just like that, the man she was with kissed her, right there in front of everyone. Dhruv felt like he had been punched a million times in his stomach. He felt sick.

He turned away from his buddies lest they saw his stricken face. He stood there wondering what he had done wrong. It hit him right then, she was merely looking for a friend in him. There were no signals from her, she never wanted anything more. He messed up, he fell in love…  just with the wrong girl.

Selfless and hungry? 

There are somethings I like to take time and enjoy eating; sandwiches for example. I like savouring my sandwich and eating it slowly. I eat the edges first and put aside the middle part so that I can eat it at the end of my meal. 

Post motherhood I cannot remember the last time I ate that middle part EVER. Every time I keep that part aside to savour later, the older son comes in from somewhere, it’s like he has a radar and demands for that particular piece alone. 

Now I would be a terrible mother if I said no to him. Well, I have said no, a couple of times 😁 not that it changed anything. He still managed to get his hands on that piece alone and run into the toy-room with a glint in his eyes.  

I cannot be selfish and say no to him, though honestly, secretly I wish I could just say no sometimes. There are moments when I look at the piece being taken away from my plate in slow motion and feel like ‘Ross’ must have felt in FRIENDS when his sandwich gets eaten by someone at work 😳  

 But, I’m a mother, so I can’t complain, and I must be giving, especially to my own flesh and blood. Oh! well. I wonder who comes up with all these. Next time I eat my sandwich or something I want to savour, I’m just going to eat it when the kids are asleep, away, or after I ensure I have fed them their share. That’s a fair deal, isn’t it. 

Erased

The water was cold, my feet were frozen. I stood there silently watching the waves rush up to me. I was feeling numb to the pain and the cold. My face pale and my eyes were tearing up. My mind kept instructing me to wipe the tears away but my hand did not seem to obey. I continued standing there looking at the waves as they got violent. From the corner of my eye I could see the red flag go up, signalling high tide. I didn’t want to leave, not yet. I felt a strange sense of peace standing there. It brought back memories, and made me think.

beach1

I was a coward and a selfish one at that. Nearly twenty minutes later I managed to move my feet and turn away from the waves. I looked ahead at my house and started walking towards it. My feet felt like jelly, my thighs were wobbly and I was afraid I would collapse and lie there on the sand until some dog came by sniffing out my dead body. I wish that would have happened, I wish I didn’t have to go into my house and look at myself in the mirror ever again.

I walked into my house, through the door at the back and quietly slipped into the kitchen to make myself a cup of tea. I could hear the kids in the room above. I could also hear the music seep into the kitchen from the family den. I had three lovely children and a husband who loved me dearly. We were on our annual family retreat. We made it a point to come away every year and spend time with each other and ourselves. This was one period that we all enjoyed thoroughly and yet this year I felt rather restless and uneasy. We had a good 28 days before we all headed back to the city and the hustle-bustle of our lives. Two days into the retreat and I was itching to go back. I poured the tea into my cup and walked into the den, Ashwin was sitting on the couch and seemed lost in his book. I sneaked up beside him and cuddled up to him. He stretched his arm and took me in. Thirty years of togetherness had taught us to enjoy the silence.

I don’t remember when I fell asleep, when I turned and opened my eyes I found Ashwin gone and a quilt over me. I turned over to check the time and was surprised to note that I had dozed off for almost 4 hours. I hurriedly woke up and rushed out to check on everyone. There was an eerie silence outside, I looked for the kids and Ashwin but found all the rooms empty and the car missing. I picked up the phone and dialled Ashwin’s number. Two rings later the call was answered by a chirpy happy Ashwin. I was just glad that they were all together and sounded happy. They were to return by evening. I put the phone down and returned to the den. I went back to the couch and sat in the corner all shrivelled up. I didn’t bother switching on the lights. I wanted to be alone in that darkness. I needed that. Suddenly the tears started to flow again.

My tears took me back to when I was a selfish 22 year old girl. A few months into my marriage with Ashwin, I had gotten pregnant. I was elated when I found out. Ashwin was out of the country and all I did was wait for him to return so I could run into his arms and share this wonderful piece of news with him. I remember it all like it happened yesterday. I went to the doctor for my regular check-up and it was then that she told me that my ‘foetus’ would not survive. She had insisted on calling my baby a ‘foetus’. My baby had an acute heart condition which was next to impossible to cure. I was going to give birth to a baby whose chances of survival were bleak; he could die within minutes of coming into my world. The doctor had said, “If the foetus does survive beyond three months, it might cause danger to you, and if by some miracle you managed to give birth it wasn’t going to be easy.  You would have to put your life on hold in nurturing this child.”

I was shattered and the manner in which the doctor was speaking made it even more difficult for me to think straight. She kept saying that the best option would be to abort the foetus. It would mean nothing if done at this stage. She kept talking, told me about how non-invasive the technique was and how I would be ready to conceive again. She convinced me, I agreed, I don’t know what took over me, but I agreed and scheduled the procedure to be conducted that very day.

I returned home that evening feeling devoid of all emotions. I showered, changed, and fell into bed that night. I woke up next morning having erased all memory of what happened to me and with me. I got ready and left for work. Ashwin returned that night. I held him close at night and slept on his arm. As assured by my doctor, I conceived again. Life seemed to have moved on and as the days went by the memory became more and more distant. I gave birth to three healthy children. I raised a beautiful family. I put in everything I had in raising and nurturing this family. Yet today as I sit here in darkness I feel a void in me. 

I don’t hear my kids call out for me every morning; I am seldom let in on secrets, crushes ,and pranks anymore. No one seems to be asking me to cook anything any more. I feel redundant, worthless, and many a time just numb.  The world believed I had it all, but I knew what I didn’t have. I knew what I had erased.  I wish I was selfish in wanting to keep that baby. Selfish in wanting to give that baby everything I had, nurturing that baby for life. I wish I hadn’t been a coward.

I wish I hadn’t allowed myself to erase that chapter….

Battle Hymn of a Bewildered Mother – book review 

When one writes from the heart, chances are it shows. Shunali Shroff’s writing does just that. It touches a chord with the reader, all the more so if you are a parent. ‘Battle Hymn of a Bewildered Mother’ is exactly what the title suggests. A crazy account of one mothers tale, which could very well be my tale or yours. There are many chapters in her book that had me laughing out loud.

  

When Shunali describes her tryst with religion and spirituality, it feels like she’s telling my story. It’s hilarious to read her describe how she has to resort to YouTube to complete the aarthi during the puja. If I undertook doing a puja I wouldn’t be surprised if I did the same thing. 

There is another chapter where she talks about how we rely so heavily on Google to self-diagnose on the basis of symptoms and then struggle to make sense of it, in the aftermath of all the information the Internet throws at us. 

The need to constantly be connected to my doctor at a time when either of my children is unwell makes me understand the author’s need to change doctors whom she finds unresponsive to calls and texts. Yes, they are human too and have a life but as a parent whose child is unwell I can be crazy and would need a doctor who understands and treats that too. 

Her struggles are real, well some atleast. Some are just ‘rich people problems’ which also make for fun reading. What’s refreshing is that the author isn’t being preachy anywhere, she merely puts down incidents that have occurred in her journey of parenting so far. 
This is an easy read, pick it up if you ever watched a kid, have had a kid, intend to have a kid, like kids, get annoyed by kids, like reading about kids, like reading, basically just pick it up and read it 😀