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

Who are you? Who am I? I am no one. I am everyone.

Arjun and RC in the sun

A close friend recently asked me, “Who are you?” My first impulse was to say, “What?? What do you mean by who am I?” I am Rutvika, a mother, a businesswoman, a Chartered Accountant blah blah blah. But my friend kept looking into my eyes, searching for something, and I mentally took a step back. I couldn’t answer her then, but this question crops up in my head often now. While doing the most complicated things at work to the most mundane things at home, the question comes and stands before me.

I am a soul. Living this life, enjoying its ups and downs, taking risks, falling committedly in love with people, with things, with ideas; nourishing itself to keep faith in the way things are so as to come back again once this body gives up. These 70-80 years of my life are just a tiny blip in the journey of the soul. 

By now, half of you must have stopped reading, this topic is voodoo. But those of you who are still reading, hear me out.

As a little girl, when the concept of universe was first introduced in school, I was taken aback. All these planets, the sun, the moon, the billion other stars are so huge and have been existing for so long, that a rational non-spiritual mind cannot fathom it. It felt beyond the grasp of reality. The earth is spinning and I can’t feel it? These rocks , rivers, mountains have been here since centuries, our entire existence is merely a moment in their life. We are so inconsequential that we are nothing. And still see how much we take our life seriously. As if it matters.

It doesn’t. Not to the universe.

Everything will go on, whether you are there or you are not there. Whether I exist or I don’t, life will go on. 

But this soul here, he is been living forever. Residing in my body, before that someone else’s and after me in someone else. It feels, it knows. It guides. 

People say babies often remember things which happened in past lives. Arjun used to and still says stuff which couldn’t have possibly happened in this life. Sure, it can be his imagination, but he knows something which is bigger than his 3 year existence on this planet. When we were in Rishikesh on a holiday, he told me that he was bitten by a snake many years back. Or when he was 2, he would go to a corner of the house and say Rukmini-devi is standing here. He wouldn’t let us go near that spot. 

My grandmother, like most Hindus, believes in this stuff of rebirth and souls transcending lives. But most of these people are aiming for “moksha” or avoidance of rebirth. I don’t feel that though. I feel I want to learn as much in this life as much is possible to lead a gracious next life. We live in a world of extremities. On one hand we don’t mind spending several thousand rupees on a two-day holiday, but on the other hand there are people we know who live on a meagre 50 rupees a day. All these kinds of things exist. All the wars, the betrayals, the blood shed, the famines, the joyous moments, births, marriages, victories big and small, all of these are etched into our souls. The black and white, all the grey between, the rainbows and the green of the trees, its been here and you have witnessed it before, in another body, by the same soul.

So who am I ?

I am no one. And I am everyone who has been. I am everyone who will be.

Your father may be reborn as your great-granddaughter. And she will know you. You will know her. We all know each other, and so this question is rhetoric. You and me are same. We are the universe, we are nothing and everything at the same time. 

So now get back to your day, your life, your journey and do good. Be gracious, our soul is going to live on for centuries. 

Cheers,

Rutvika

A renewed fresh perspective

A fresh perspective

A wonderful thing happened to me last week. Two things actually. I got to meet / talk to some of my closest friends and it led to conversations which I was in dire need of. Secondly, I started reading a book that I had read as a teenager. And I see the world and myself in a new light, which used to shine within me when I was a young girl.

Since some time now I have felt like getting in touch with the people who knew me while I was growing up, in my teens and early 20s. And asking them one question. “Was I always such a worrier?”

I am much more confident now, I can be assertive on issues that matter to me, but I am so worried all the time. Worried about the company, the employee who has resigned, worried about the child, about someone dying, about hairloss, Modi-ji’s policies and everything under the sun. I want to know if this was how I used to be or is this something I have picked up along the way? Because as far as I remember, I used to be a fun person. Easy to break into spontaneous laughter and always ready to smile. Now I feel as if I am a tightly strung ball of wool with frayed edges and threads coming out which I am constantly trying to tuck in. The softness, the laughter is hard to come by now.

But not in this week that went by. Two of my best friends from school made me laugh so much that my sides hurt. The restaurant was almost about to throw us out because of the ruckus we were creating. We remembered how we would crackle on silly jokes in school and leap across the room to give a high-five and laugh uncontrollably. Both of them confided that they are as much worried now about everything as I am and perhaps its just this growing up business that sucks. One of them, the chirpiest girl I’ve known said that she hates talking now. Everything feels fake. But that night we talked. We convinced each other that this is a phase and it shall pass. We must keep reminding each other of who we were and of who we are deep within.

Another friend assured me on WhatsApp that I was always “optimistic and looked at the world amidst chaos like you always found the needle in the proverbial haystack”. These words were a balm to me. Chaos is everywhere, why had I forgotten to find my needle of peace?

A little bit of peace was found in Paolo Coelho’s The Alchemist. I was 18 years old when the book came out and it stunned me. I had a purchased a pirated copy somewhere on the street shops of Mumbai, it was missing a few pages, but the message was alive. The words were magical. I dreamt of going to a dessert after reading it. I am reading that one again, from a fresh perspective. It’s a simple book which tells you to believe in chances, in the soul of the world. Of having faith in Maktub, ‘that what is written’. People believe in God, some believe in science, some others in holy men and women. I started believing in destiny. It’s all already written. So many things could have happened if something else had worked out or if something hadn’t worked out. We would be entirely different people if just one thing in life had changed tracks. But this is where we are, for better or worse, this is what is written for us. Now this doesn’t mean we stop working hard towards what we believe in, but its always “Karma kar, phal ki chinta na kar”. Dont worry about something that didn’t happen exactly as you thought it would, but what happened is the best for you. I also know it can get difficult to believe this in times of despair, but I assure you that once you are out of the tunnel, you will see the magic that went through you.

In this glitzy age, more things come to you than you can digest. Fancy places, ground breaking concepts and songs that you can’t make a word of.  It’s like spinning all the time and you can only see everything in a blur.

But I am slowly bringing back things which I cherished and savoured 10 years back. Arjun and I dance to the tune of ‘Chhaiyya chhaiyya’ and those wonderful 90s songs. I have made vow to meet and talk to my old friends more often now. To read my journals from that time and start believing again that “everything happens for the good”.

May you too hear the language of your soul.

Love,

Rutvika

Here’s a toast to a non-fussy Valentine’s day

Valentines day

Cheesy is as cheesy does.

There are a couple of Valentine’s days that I remember very vividly. Now at 31 it is not a big deal, but there was a time when it did mean a lot.

I was about 12 or 14 when the song ‘Chui Mui Si Tum’ had released. Remember that one with Preeti Jhangiani and Abbas and that weird teddy bear which clung to your tee-shirt with its paws and feet? Yep, it had become a huge craze and all the shops were lined with those teddy bears embroidered with Valentine messages. I was perhaps too young for anyone to give any Valentine’s gift to me, especially since my father was a police inspector then, but I wanted it so badly. And then I remember walking down to that shop with my dad and buying a small off-white teddy bear with a red jacket and black paws with a velcro. I had that one for several years, a Valentine’s gift from my dad. That teddy bear brought in a lot of promises for a youth filled with cheesy indie-pop love songs.

Later as we were growing up, there were countless number of Valentine’s days celebrated with several people. There was a time when my brother and I were such partners in crime that we would bring our gifts home together , remove the personalised messages and say ‘oh, we just got it for each other’. Once a girl gave him a 3 foot tall soft toy and that disgusting thing sat in our bedroom for so long that I still see it in my horror dreams.  I am sure my parents knew exactly what was happening but they played along.

Our first Valentine’s after marriage was a wreck. We were 24, both of us had joined our family business but we were unsure about what exactly to do. After a long drunk dinner on Valentine’s eve, we woke up at 9 am and stumbled into office sometime at 11. My father-in-law gave us a talk that day. We had sure inherited the business but we had no reason to be callous about it. It was time to man-up and take responsibilities. And all this he said to his son for both of us and not directly to me (which is such a relief when you are newly married), but it hurt in the correct way. Now six years later, many times he has to tell us to relax and take it easy, but on some days it feels as if the office has become our Valentine.

I also remember the February of 2008, 10 years back, when I was madly in love with a guy who had promised to take me to the gully wali chai-ki-tapri for a date. It was convenience. He could smoke there and wouldn’t have to fuss over the details. I lit his cigarette for him, may be smoked one myself too. It was the cool thing to do you see, but being young and stupid can make you do the most foolish things and fall in love with the best rogues in town.

Now at 31 all I can see is the commercial mushy side of Valentines day. Just like me, the Shiv Sena seems to be calmer now, they used to create havoc every Valentine’s day when we were in college.

I am not sure what the 20 year olds do on Valentine’s Day now, but for me when you are facing real world problems like your maid falling sick and asking for a 2 month leave, I want to dance around her and woo her so that she comes back sooner and my life returns back to normal. Or when the child is preparing for the annual day at school and keeps singing ‘nanha munha rahi hoon’ all day long, you start humming it even in the bathroom and cannot for the love of god remember any other romantic song to sing to your husband.

The silver lining is that after 6-7 years of marriage the cynicism level of husband and wife has matched and he expects as much (or just as little) from Valentine’s Day as I do.

So cheers to that and a happy Valentine’s day to all of you!

Rutvika