“You need to let things go”, he said casually.
“How do I let something go, if it attacks my self-respect”, it was not a question.
“You are overthinking it all.”
“No, I am not. You, are not paying it due attention.”
“You are their daughter in law. They reserve the right to say some things you wouldn’t approve of. It happens with every single woman. You are new to them. It’ll take some time for you to adjust to their ways. But honey, I know you can and you will do it.” He finished his opinion with warmth and support.
This conversation had happened four years ago and it had happened again tonight. Her husband went to sleep right after this but she couldn’t. He had fallen in love with a girl who stood up against majority of their class for a change in educational policies of the college and relentlessly pursued her faith, till she had it executed. Was she that woman anymore? More importantly, did he want her to be that woman anymore?
She had lost her voice after marriage. Initially, she thought it was phase of adjustment for both her and her new family. But hadn’t it perpetuated for way too long now? Four years? She kept turning in bed searching her identity and when she couldn’t take it anymore, she got up and made herself a cup of coffee. She carried that cup to the terrace of her building. The skyline of the city was immersed in bucketful of black. And she felt as lost there as she felt in broad day light. As hard as she tried to remember, she couldn’t recall a single incidence when she could have stood by her opinion in past four years. No, she wasn’t smothered. She was following her passion of sculpting as a career. She could boast of two exhibitions and her art had been critically and commercially acknowledged. She was financially independent and an epitome of new age woman. Or was she? After marriage, she was labelled a rebellious woman right off the bat. And every effort had been made by the entire family to domesticate her. It didn’t seem like much to anyone else, but she was never asked for an opinion on any important matter. Even if she had been, it was always in a leading way. What should we do? Was never the question. It was always, Shouldn’t we do this?” And whenever she tried to stand up for her self-esteem, she had been referred as impatient and needs-to-grow-up. She had tried to ‘be patient’ but it felt wrong to not have a place for herself in a family that was supposedly hers now. She felt like everyone around her had a hammer and chisel in their hand waiting to sculpt her to their own needs. She felt tired and was unable to keep up with the never ending demand of more patience.
She sipped her coffee and breathed all the night in. The dead silence of the night felt loud. The voices in her head wouldn’t rest. She wanted to calm down. She searched for a happy place in her heart. A place where she could be who she once was and now wanted to be. A place where her life was her own. A place where her loved ones loved her unconditionally and accepted her. She sat down on the floor, resting her back against the parapet. Her coffee cup snuggled to her chest. She closed her eyes and suddenly she was 15 and in her own room which she shared with her two sisters. Her grandpa’s cot was in the adjoining room. He was an ailing man who had been a sculptor in his prime. Despite his weak arms, he taught her to hit it hard with the hammer that summer. And despite his quivering fingers, he taught her to work on the finest details. He also taught her how to make coffee, his way. Though it was for him, she had a sip now and then. That summer had given her two passions and endless peace. She learned all she could at sculpting from the old man before he died few months later. She never mourned his death. He was a free soul who had been liberated of everything that could tie him down. Moreover, he never really died for her. He lived in every stroke of her hammer. The sound of her grandpa drowned all the voices in her restless mind. And she couldn’t help but smile remembering how he had made her smuggle more coffee than he was allowed by doctors.
As she opened her eyes, she realised she couldn’t rub her identity with her own hands. Adjustment meant to make small changes to fit the circumstances not to topple over and create a newer version that defeated your own self. Patience meant to not let circumstances get to your head, it certainly did not mean not having a voice or opinion. She finished the coffee really slow, savouring every little bit of the taste her grandpa had introduced her to making up her mind to not let who she was fade away into marriage.
It must’ve been somewhere near 3am when she returned to her studio which was the last room down the corridor of the house. She closed the door and pulled the drapes from over a fresh piece of a huge stone. With a smile on her face and a serene fire in her heart, she hammered away. She hit hard, she carved fine. The hours melted away and the sun rose up. She had been working for four hours but she felt no fatigue. She was not even close to finished yet. She draped it back and went downstairs to resume her household duties. She felt light as a feather.
“Did you come to bed last night?” Her husband asked her while having breakfast.
“I did. We had a talk in bed, remember?”
“Oh yeah!” He said in a tone that gave away how usual that conversation now felt to him.
She didn’t feel hurt. Neither was she surprised.
She carried on with day to day. People behaved the same way they always did but she felt different. She felt nothing. She was only physically present there. Sun went down and moon went up. She finished all her tasks, made herself a cup of coffee and rushed to her studio. With the hammer in her hand, she worked unremittingly. Her body would tire and she would catch a small nap of an hour or two, once or twice in the whole night. But her mind and her heart did not sleep.
Her bed would remain unslept most of the nights. Her husband asked some mornings but she was quite sure that he was relieved of the incessant arguments they had been having since last four years almost every night. One amongst a few nights, she would sleep few hours but otherwise the sound of hammer and chisel would echo through the night. And every morning she would drape it well and become the woman of the house. The change was not unnoticed and she overheard her mother by marriage say to one of her friends, “It took me more than four years to teach her patience. To make her accustomed to this family was the most difficult task I ever accomplished.” She smiled to herself and worked harder than ever that night.
It had been a little more than two months. The sun rose up and creeped a little higher in the sky when her husband got up. It was the first time since he married, that he had not woken up to a cup of tea on his bedside. “She must’ve slept in the studio”, he thought. He reached the kitchen and saw his mother across the hall.
“Have you seen Smita, ma? Please tell her to make me sprouts for breakfast.” He finished without waiting for an answer.
“I have not seen her since I woke up.”
“Oh! She must be in her studio.”
“Isn’t a whole night enough for her to work.”
He ignored. He had learnt to ignore in four years. As he returned to his room and got ready, he waited for Smita to turn up anytime and announce that breakfast was ready. She didn’t. Once ready, he decided to look for her and went to her studio. It was open. How come? It is never open. He entered inside and saw a huge note that said, “May everyone love the gift waiting for them in the lobby.”
He headed towards lobby, calling everyone out. As he reached, he saw a draped sculpture. By this moment, everyone had gathered around. He pulled over the drape and saw a life size Smita carved into stone. As beautiful as herself. Uncanny resemblance to his wife, the sculpture had a note between its fingers. It read,
“I’m leaving with only one thing, my voice. But I’m leaving behind something for this family. May she have the patience, I could never fathom!”
At the outset, I want to underline the fact that I love my baby. No, I do not regret being a mother. Infact, I thank God everyday for his faith in me to bless me with a baby. This post is not meant to bring forth any hatred for parenting or to discourage any to-be mom. It’s a realistically funny take on the struggles of a new mom.
Being a new mother is unexpectedly overwhelming. You have no idea how its going to be but know its going to be magical (’cause that’s what everyone claims). And then, when you actually have your baby, you realise it is nothing flowery or starry. And the bubble bursts. I had my baby recently. She’ll turn 4 months tomorrow and I’m here to tell you what the first month was like for me. If you’re already a mom, you know what I’m talking about and if you’re not, you can judge me all you want.
Google is what you turn to when you have questions that you’re too embarrassed to ask. Following are top ten things I googled in the first month of my baby’s life.
- How to hold the baby?
Yes! I did it. I actually googled how to hold the baby. I knew before my baby’s birth that babies are small and delicate and podgy and have no neck control but I had no idea that holding a baby is so intimidating.
- How to swaddle my baby?
I did watch some youtube videos on how to swaddle a baby but when I tried doing it, I needed a refresher course.
- When will my breastmilk come?
You think you’ll start milking the moment baby is born which may or may not be true. In my case, it was latter. And it was disheartening.
- How to breastfeed?
Let me tell you, breastfeeding is one of the toughest thing I have had to do in my life. How to feed? How to properly latch the baby? How to know if the baby’s getting enough milk? I googled it all.
- Am I suffering from postpartum depression?
Instead of being an elated mother with glowing skin and endorphins in my body as I expected, I was the one with under eye bags and crying bouts waiting for chloasma to go away. But to answer the question, I wasn’t depressed. I just had baby blues.
- When will I feel attached to my baby?
Call me a bad mother but it wasn’t in any magical moment that I saw my baby and fell head over heels in love with her. in reality, I could properly see her only 24 hrs after she was born. The drugs and sleep deprivation kept me from having any birth related bonding and later as the sleep deprivation continued and she cried more than she was awake, it was difficult to look at her as the heart and soul to my flesh. I can honestly say that I started “loving ” her by the end of 3rd week.
- When can I resume daily activities after a C-section?
Despite the fact that you have an OBG telling you what you should or shouldn’t do, there are so many silly questions that I kept googling. Can I bend down to change my baby’s nappy? When can I walk around the house doing basic chores? Can I strain to poop?
- When will I stop bleeding down below?
Sounds yucky but I’m guilty.
- What to do if baby won’t stop crying?
You have fed the baby, you’ve checked the diaper, you’ve burped her and you’ve done everything you possibly can think of but she won’t stop crying and neighbours are asking if you’re killing her?
- And finally… When does it get easier with a newborn?
You want to know when the unnecessary crying will stop. When will you get to sleep for 3 hours at stretch. When will you be able to get out of the house. When will you be able to understand her cues.
It’s a relief to hear new mums around the world struggling with same problems as you. If you’re a new mother please know that you are not alone and that it will pass. Get all help you can, personal and medical. And that there’s a beautiful light at the end if this tunnel. Babies are so worth all the pain. If you don’t believe me, wait till she smiles for the first time!
He was an eight year old boy and he did not have any hair on his scalp. Never had. The rest of him was normal. He had normal eyebrows or eyelashes. He had fair complexion in a country of brown people. He was healthy and active. Everything but hair. His mother and father were doctors and they had consulted specialists of all sorts. Apparently it was some genetic condition. When the boy had been younger it didn’t bother him this much. He had his favourite toys and he had friends. But as he grew up, kids around became mean and judgemental. They would not play with him, eat lunch with him in school or come to his birthday party. They gave him mean nicknames and sniggered. It broke his heart piece by piece.
Since he couldn’t have usual friends, he started making queer ones. He befriended all the dogs that lived behind his school and sneaked in sometimes only to be scared and run after by school guards. He became friends with his bus driver who was a ruggedly rude Muslim but to him he was chacha jaani. He shared his lunch with the sweeper’s daughter who was 10 years older than him and a school dropout. And he played Frisbee with the old man who came to his community park in evening. The old man was paralysed knee below and clamped to a wheelchair. Every evening a servant would come and drop him off to the park and pick him up later only when the old man would call him up. The boy saw him one day, the laces of old man’s shoes unfastened and offered to tie them into bunny hairs, the way his mom did for him.
“Leave them be, its not like I’m tipping over or anything.”, the old man had replied.
“But my mom says, you should never leave your shoelaces undone.” He was quirky. He bent down clutching the Frisbee in his armpit and tied the laces. Once done he stood up and took seat on a bench nearby.
“Why are you sitting? Isn’t that Frisbee for playing?”
He looked at other kids playing cricket with woeful eyes and said, “They don’t play with me. That boy over there” he pointed one out “was my best friend. But now he calls me an alien. I don’t have hair.” He pulled a face with that last sentence. The old man surveyed the situation and offered himself for playing. The boy had gladly agreed. And that day on, both of them played everyday. He’d throw Frisbee and the old man would catch and throw back. If the old man couldn’t catch because of his legs tied to the wheelchair, the boy would pick up and throw again. They became Frisbee-Friends as the boy called him. The boy would tell stories about school, the dogs, the sweeper’s daughter and chacha jaani. And the old man would listen intently.
But he was an eight year old boy after all and once in a while he’d catch deplorable glimpses of other children who would never let him in. Now that he hung out with the old man, he was considered even more misfit. The boy cried sometimes and longed to be treated better by other kids. He cried to his mother and questioned his father about why this was happening to him. But nothing grew his hair.
And then one day as he reached park, the old man seemed weaker and paler.
“I don’t think I can play today.”
“It’s okay. I can tell you about my English lesson. My teacher read us a story today, A Christmas Carol. It was so nice. It’s about a mean old man…”
He kept on and on without realizing that old man had lost consciousness. As soon as he caught the glimpse, he tried to wake the old man up. He shook him and shook him harder. He kicked him too bit when old man didn’t get up, he shouted for help. There was no grown up in the park. Only the kids, playing cricket. Most of them were his age. He hollered the boy who had once been his friend. But everybody ignored him like every other time. He didn’t know what to do, so he ran to them and said, “Something is wrong with the old uncle. We have to help.” They listened to him but nobody moved. “Help him quick, please.”
A bigger boy came to the front line and said, “Go away. We can’t help. We’re not supposed to mingle with strangers.”
“But he might…might die.” He was scared to bone now.
They turned their backs and resumed the game. He ran back to the old man. And tried to wake him up. Seeing no response he scratched his brain hard. What could he do? And then he remembered, how old man kept a mobile phone in his pocket to call his servant to pick him up. He brought out the phone and called the last called number and informed how old man was unconscious.
Soon after the servant came with a woman who was probably as old as his mother. They asked him about what happened and he told the whole story starting from A Christmas Carol to the phone call while they rolled the wheelchair out. Ambulance approached and all of them went away. He ran back home crying. He told his mother everything and she comforted her panic stricken son saying repeatedly that his Frisbee friend would be alright.
He became all the more aloof since that incident. He’d remain inside home and paint mountains in his drawing book rather than going out. His mother sometimes saw him looking longingly at other kids through the window. Weeks went by and he started tortoising inside the house. His mother became worried and then one day she insisted, convinced and instructed him to go out to play. He sadly carried his Frisbee and dragged himself out towards park.
But he was pleasantly surprised to see the old man there. He ran with open arms and ear to ear smile yelling Frisbee friend. The old man reciprocated equally hugging an squeezing him.
“What happened to you?” The boy asked.
“Oh. My heart got lazy and took a break from work. Doctors call it heart attack. I’m totally fine now. They’ve just added couple more pills to my everyday routine. That’s all. What happened to you? I’ve been coming for 4 days now and you were nowhere to be seen.”
“I was scared something bad happened to you. And since there are no more friends here, I didn’t want to come to park. The one day that i came these kids threw my Frisbee into trash bin, and pushed me to the ground.”
The old man held the tiny torso of the boy in his hands and said, “My nurse told me what happened. I’m going to let you in on a secret. You know who is more sad and pitiable than people who don’t have hair? Its people who don’t have courage. In fact not having hair isn’t a problem at all. You’re not missing on anything. If those kids can’t realize what a wonderful boy you are, they are not worth crying over. Because you may not have hair, but you have kindness to those dogs, comfort for that poor girl and respect for your chacha zaani. More than anything you have courage. Courage to help an old man when you didn’t know what to do. And boy, that is precious. You’re special.”
With this both of them smiled and though the old man was still too weak to play, they had a good time catching up. And that night when his mother put him to bed, he was smiling.
So she asked, “You seem happy. Something special?”
An he said peacefully, “Yes. I’m special. Because I don’t have hair. And because I have courage.”
When everything goes to hell, the people who stand by you without flinching – they are your family.