The one life we have..

IMG_6237This week before my birthday is the week of existential crisis for me every year. A time of taking stock and always feeling inadequate, not enough. Not doing enough, not planning enough and just simply not being enough. On most other weeks, I have my head firmly on my shoulders, but as my mental Earth is about to complete one more round around the sun, everything suddenly seems out of focus, dizzy and inundating.

The brunt of it is faced with severe force by the husband and a few friends who I fight with or cry on their shoulders or simultaneously both at times. It is also a time when unfulfilled desires which are brushed under the carpet come forth again, with vengeance. You wanted to write a book, didn’t you? Wake up, you are going to be 33 and time is running out. Or did you always think you wanted 2 kids? Uh oh, may be not. Clock is ticking, perhaps you will die as a mother of one and never have a daughter.

Things which make me want to get up and create or procreate or go to sleep for the rest of the week. Its always a dichotomy between two extremes. I can either make a book or a baby. In all probability next year I will be at the same place, same time, turning 34 without having created either.

Perhaps what I need to learn in this year of life is to be alone with  myself, complete within me. Not look at external factors for validation but look within self for the fulfilment that I crave. Par yeh hain kya andar ? Dekhu kidhar ? A well wisher told me to start meditation , another one asked me to write the journal with happy thoughts. Be mindful and try to live a meaningful life. But saala ye sab ek moh maaya hain and hum sab iske shikaar hain.

As a child I loved birthdays, my parents would call a small group of friends from our society and there would be Monginis cake-cutting and some idli chutney or home made Batata-vadas. A new dress was donned, presents were had and in general it was a time of cheer.

Then came the strange early-teen years where I would want the guy I am crushing on to notice me and come say something to me on my birthday, but that didn’t happen. I was very nerdy and the first-bencher types.

Then there was a brief spell of my very early 20s when the world felt this charming thing I had in my control. Education was happening as per plan, I was dating guys who adored me and lavished me with attention. It was a time of roses and chocolates. Even the early years after getting married at 24 were birthdays filled with surprises. Because husband and you are both trying to impress each other and trying to find out what exactly works.

I distinctly remember, I was 28 when I started feeling it’s all downhill from here. All major milestones in life have been met and now it’s just existing. There are wonderful moments in this existence and I feel very productive and fulfilled at work and engaged in family life, but every once in a while it starts feeling pointless, unnecessary. Like, why are we doing all this? Why are we born? Who made us? Why is humanity existing? This feels like a play mankind is acting, but who is the narrator? And the viewers? Why do we wake up every morning and do all these things and make up all the technology just to end up worrying about global warming?!

I have no answers to this and I have read a decent amount of philosophy to know that no one does. Neither Socrates, not Aristotle nor Plato. I am not hopeful that I will find any answers either, but perhaps, dear God, send me some rays of hope, some light which shows me the pathway to why I am on this earth. What do you want me to do with this one life that I have?

I hope it’s something worthwhile and we are not just carbon atoms colliding into each other in different forms

I hope my life matters to someone, something, I leave it a bit better than it would have been in my absence.

One good thing of having a child is, no matter how purposeless or futile you feel, the child will alway think you are the most amazing that has happened on earth. For now, I will hold on to my 4 years olds’ belief of life and go on.

Cheers,

Rutvika

P.S : Check out this if you want to know how inconsequential we are, Tiny Glowing Screens

Connected. For now.

Building blocks for a connected future.

Every week or 10 days, Arjun needs “alone time” with me. One part of the weekend when its just him and me. No one else. He is also aware that he needs it and often tells me that its time we get some alone time. It is most often peppered with him telling his dad that I love you too, but this is me and momma alone time so we can’t take you out with us. He is very well behaved when it’s just him and me. No tantrums, no difference of opinions. We are totally in sync with each other. Our minds operate as one. 

This Saturday we went to the Byculla zoo followed by an event about the origins of Mumbai at Bhau Daji Lad museum. Weekend mornings are the best time to go into our crowded city. Most folks are still at their homes waking up and getting ready and we were at the Humboldt centre with penguins. Watching them do the penguins dance to brush off water from the feathers. Arjun wanted to touch them and kiss them which couldn’t be done, but he was happy to hug the dusty plastic penguin at the entrance. ‘Its good for immunity’ I think in my head and brush it off. 

I invariably thought I would have two, but this modern life and work and personal aspirations made us realise that we can have time and mental bandwidth for only one child. So its always a painful reminder that I will never again have a suckling baby, or a blabbering 2 year old. It makes me cherish the days of this 4 year old a lot more, and mobile phones help us document every little aspect of his being, but I am aware that this is a once in a lifetime kind of opportunity. 

My brother and I always competed for my mom’s attention. When we would lie down with her on her either side, it still mattered which side she kept her head turned towards. So we would stay up to monitor that she is constantly looking at the ceiling and not on any one side, a testament to her loving us equally. With Arjun, its just him and I snuggle into him while he snuggles into me and these baby moments I am soon going to lose forever once he grows up and starts thinking, “oh momma stop kissing me all the time”, or further down the road when kids start feeling that momma is the most ridiculous person on earth, someone who is so old school she doesn’t know a thing about been a shiny teenager. We have all been through it, it’s almost a rite of passage, thinking how smarter we are than our obsolete parents. I am aware about it, it makes me crumple, but I also want him to be so smart and sassy but I wish he takes kindness from his father. I wasn’t so kind to my mom growing up. 

Ketki, my best friend and my shrink since we were twelve, long before we had even heard of this term or even thought that some people may need to go to someone to pay them to talk to them, we are always dissecting each other’s thoughts and beliefs, prodding and questioning our source of discomfort and finding ways to soothe each other and self on a continuous basis. Our parenting styles are different, our circumstances are different, she is a manager at a hot-shot MNC and I am running our traditional family business, but we have grown from the same soil. We are equally invested in our children’s well being and want them to be self-reliant when they grow up, in all aspects, but especially emotionally. We often wonder how our choices as a parent are ruining our kids. And 20 years later when they are sitting and drinking with their friends on a Saturday night, what will they talk about their parents? About us the humans in this flesh, the ones who are going all out on a limb trying to be the best versions of parents they ever know.

But this deliberation of what would be Arjun’s narrative of his mom when he grows up also makes me be a better person. As a 4 year old he worships his mom, he thinks mom and dad are the most powerful and kind people in the whole world. And I know how that’s not true. I am bossy most times, I can be mean and demanding, but under the scrutiny of these tiny little eyes, I try to be gentler. He picks up phrases we use and stuff we say and replicates them while talking to his stuff toys. I often find him kissing my forehead exactly like I kiss his or his father kisses mine, and I also see him reprimand his toys for not cleaning the mess they have left behind. Its heartwarming but a constant reminder that my actions are being emulated here, I better be a better person.

I hope I turn out to be a better person and I hope he always remembers that I tried.

Xoxo,

Rutvika

 

This is why I paint my face..

IMG_3541

Every morning when I am getting dressed for work, my son sits on the bed and looks at me as I apply make-up on my face. I took personal make-up classes a year back, as my facial skin started showing the years gone by, my penchant to paint and erase the frown lines and dab some color on my cheeks started to grow. Previously I owned only a couple of lipsticks and a kohl stick which I love. But now my repertoire boasts of blush and contour and highlight, eyebrow pencils, mascara and whole range of lipsticks in varying textures and colours. I have to keep them all on the top shelf though. Or else my 4 year old boy also likes to paint himself like a tiger and leopard with momma’s eyeliner and lipsticks.

But every morning, we have a ritual. My boy’s little portruding belly becomes a canvas for the paint and he wants me to do everything on his taut belly skin that I do on my face. So we begin with a moisturiser and a little compact. The thick luxurious makeup brush spreads across some contour on my jawline and gets repeated on the sides of his belly button. A pinkish blush decorates my cheeks and then his light veined skin just below his  ribcage. I have to pretend that I am applying my deep red and crimson lipsticks on his skin and not actually apply because otherwise they will smear his yellow school uniform. And then after I make two thin strokes of black liner on the upper eyelid, I write our initials A for Arjun and R for Rutvika on his chest. And thats our secret. He tells me that when I apply my moisturiser and make up on him he can smell me when he is in school and he misses me a little less. It’s strange how similar things work in different ways on two different minds. My mum also used to slather her face and arms with Lakme peach milk moisturiser when she used to go to work. But that smell, even now, makes me terribly miss my mom (who lives a minute away) and makes my eyes tear up and I absolutely detest that fragrance.

The French word for makeup is maquillage, a mask. Two different faces , two different people. One for home and one for work. I believe I used to be gentler person before my shoulders were burdened with the running of a 40 year old, 45 people organisation.  My parents used to be the decision makers, we weren’t supposed to or expected to make life changing decisions on our own.  A cocooned life if you may. But this metamorphosis was bound to happen. The strong winds of adulthood sometimes push you into unfamiliar territories where you have to take stern decisions, take a call and somehow also build up the conviction that your decisions are correct. But this doesn’t go well with a 4 year old. He resists and fights me if I am not gentle with him. He holds my face steady by grabbing my hair and buries his nose in my forehead till I calm down and till I am again my gentler mommy self with him. So I need maquillage. I need this mask, I need my mascara and my red lips to hide the inner self who doesn’t want to take decisions. Who wants to follow and not lead. But this act of applying make up, prepares me for the outside world and prepares my son for separation from his mom for the next 10 hours. It is how we cope.

I also have some subtle browns and nude lip colours. They are reserved for days when I don’t want to threaten the patriarchal male associates we need to work with. I don’t want them to feel threatened, because I need to make my point and I need to make them do as I know is right for our company. Here, I say,  I am nothing. I am just vanilla, but sir, may you please shut up and listen to what this goddam woman is saying?

Nevermind.

My first ruby red lip color was gifted to me by cousin brother, from his first salary on Diwali. We are sort of estranged now, the painful memories of growing up overshadowing the joys of sharing holidays, but that lipstick in the shape of a bullet sits on my shelf. I use it sparingly, it’s 10 years old now. But I still twist and unravel it and close it back again, safe in its shell. May be that lipstick will live to be 50, may be the cousin and I will have forgotten the mean things that happened, and may be my words will find a way to reach him and set things right. May be. Till then, the crimson reds will line my lips, preparing me for the battle of the day, erasing itself from the inside out with every sip of water and tea , till I go back to the powder room, take a moment to gather myself and reapply the red. Pull up my mask and be ready to face the next set of challenges.

xoxo,

Rutvika

This baby girl, my sous-chef!

Baking with Sara

When my four year old niece Sara came to Mumbai to spend her vacation with us for a month, I was unprepared for the way she would make me fall in love with her. My three year old boy already takes up all of my free time and I was sure that I don’t have room in my mind and my heart for another child, even as an aunt. Work is hectic, we had foreign visitors to entertain, but every evening for the last one week I felt like I should leave work and go back to the kids. Take Arjun and Sara for a ride and get lost in their little world.

For the first day or two after they came, I actively resisted getting drawn in to her magical little being. I felt that I anyway won’t understand her US accent, she doesn’t really know me and would prefer being with her parents and grandparents since she is attached to them much more than me. She speaks only in English and Arjun understands mostly Marathi, I won’t even be able to do anything with them together.

But I was so wrong.

Ever since I remember, I have always wanted two kids, and at-least one daughter. But in a marriage there are two people and eventually the husband and I decided that one child was enough. We should concentrate on Arjun so that we can also focus on the increasing demands of our expanding business. So you see I have a daughter shaped void in my life. I did not know the extent of it till Sara came and snugly fit into it. With her little skirts, and her hair which I love to braid, the quiet understanding way in which she holds my hand when we are in the market, the way in which she sits on my lap and twirls my curls and asks me to paint her toenails and becomes my sous-chef when we are baking cookies, all these little things make up for the lack of a daughter who I always wanted. I love my sonny boy, you know how much I do, but its just different with girls and boys. Your nieces and nephews will always make a special place for themselves in you life.

I have countless memories of me and my younger cousin sitting with my mami, my maternal aunt, while she taught us craftwork, origami, let us play in the mud in the garden for hours and read to us from the Big book of Fairytales every single night before going to bed. She would come home every evening, tired from work, do the house chores and sit with us to satisfy our never ending demands and resolve our squabbles. Last whole week when I sat down with Arjun and Sara sticking pictures in a scrap book or taking them to a restaurant to eat ice-cream, I imagined that I had turned into her. She is miles away, but I felt as if she was standing besides me in the same room and feeling proud of how I had turned out to be. My cousin remembers a different version of our time spent together, a version where the adults in the room were fighting with each other, but my brain has skilfully learnt to mask that story.

When Arjun and Sara grow up, I want them to remember these good times. Remember that they are so loved and that we are always available for them with a hug and unconditional love, no matter where they are. The world is changing like it always does, times are getting stressful, but these kids prevent me from getting drowned in a sea of my cynical worries. And these two little people should also develop a strong connection with each other, to support one another even long after we are gone. Living in two different continents, their backgrounds, cultures will be different. But what hopefully ties them to each other will be the memories. Of the family gathered together, laughing and joking over tea, while they are busy making towers of colourful Lego and learning from each other.

As for Sara and me, we will be best buddies, baking up a storm. Wanna come have a cookie?

A very smitten Aunt,

Rutvika

When we all turn into clouds.

Arjun contemplating

Every time when someone old is sick, I feel this is the final time I am seeing them. Every time my grandmother calls me I hold on to her words, I feel this is the last time I am talking to her. She is healthy as a horse, takes good care of herself, gives unwanted advice to everyone she meets, insists on them following her advice and in general keeps getting in trouble because of all the questions she asks people which she is not supposed to.

But still, every time I see a call from her number, my heart beat quickens till I hear her voice.

It is strange to have this feeling in your head at all times. It is a cycle of life and death. What is born must die, and yet, it feels as if we are all fighting it every minute. For ourselves and for our loved ones.

When Arjun, my 2.5 year old boy asked me where 3 out of 4 of my grandparents are, I pointed at the sky and told him that they have become clouds now. We can’t see them, but they can see us. Now in this monsoon season, when he sees a dark cloud or a soft white cloud against a grey blue sky, he points at it and asks me who that specific cloud is. I make up some stories and he entertains them. One day last weekend he came to me, held my face in both his hands and then very sincerely told me ‘Momma, please don’t become a cloud when you get old”. I squeezed him and said okay, but actually what I wanted to tell him is that ‘Becoming a cloud after you become old is the best thing to happen, honey.’ But may be he is too little to understand that thing happening to his mom.

And kids can be strange. This idea is stuck in his head and when he sees any really old person, he asks them, ‘When do you think you will become a cloud?’ I quickly change the topic before any more questions are asked, but you can imagine me getting a small panic attack when he starts questioning in that direction.

Last month, I asked my 80 year old grandmother who had gone to meet her dying 83 old brother, “What did you say to him?”. “Nothing”, she told me. “I just stroked his hand and his forehead”. “Thats it? No last words of wisdom from you or from him?” “No. We have just been there forever, what else to say?”

Getting old and then leaving this world is perhaps the best form of dying. Of having lived a life, of knowing that your children, their children are all grown up, that they can take care of themselves without you – that is solace. And I believe in re-birth. In same soul, many lives. So all those who have left us will come back in some other form, in some other person. It helps me navigate the everyday. My husband believes that we are all carbon atoms, there is no soul and there is no re-birth. And this belief makes him stay sane. Well, different things work for different people, but I refuse to believe that my grandmother’s unrelenting, unsolicited advice will leave me and not come back. I am sure she will pass on that baton to someone else, for her sake and for mine.

This week, we will celebrate her 80th birthday. All her sisters will be there too, in the old-age home where she now stays. Me and mom were trying to convince her that we should all go on a holiday to celebrate her 8oth. But she wants to stay put and wants us all to come there. So thats where we all will be, amongst 30 other grannies and grandpas, some of whom we know and some only she knows. Arjun loves it there, so much open space and trees and flowers, he runs around the whole time.

On the other side of the family, Akshay’s grandma also lives very close to us. Arjun is very attached to her. She is 81. In good health, but ageing. Arjun sees all of this. How fortunate he is to love and be loved by three generations, but he will also miss them the most when they are all no more.

But there is no better thing than to grow old and die. May we all have the same fate.

Cheers,

RC