Wednesday, February 28, 2007

It's Swim-ple

A bright beautiful sunny day in Bangkok, Thailand.
The momentous date: some time in July 1995.
The venue: pool and poolside of a neighbourhood swimming school.

Rows of excited parents chattering in Thai wait for their 3 and 4 year olds to embark on their first swimming lesson. From the changing room, the pitter patter of tiny feet is heard as 15-20 little angels in oh-so-cute swimsuits dash out and run circles around the pool to warm-up before they enter the water. Cameras and handycams are activated by said proud parents.

But what is this blocking their view as it goes thundering past, beating a thunderous tattoo on the concrete? Is it T-Rex? Is it the Concorde? (It is jumbo though.) Oh, is it the swim instructor? is the oldest kid ever to join this class.

Meet yours truly on that date: 5 foot 6, about 50 kilos (that sounds like music now), 16 years old, in a swimsuit for the first time and terribly self-conscious. A good time to seek the sanctuary of a hiding-place. This is not when you do jumping jacks by the pool in the company of Lilliputians.

As I slide into the pool to find that watery hide-out, fervently praying for invisibility or at least chameleonic powers, my last refuge is denied to me. The water in the pool is a mere 4 foot 8. leaving a LOT of me sticking out. This is going to take forever (forever equals 3 months).

Needless to say, I am a bad swimmer. I re-entered a pool yesterday after almost 9 years. And all my old weaknesses re-emerged. I think I shall hold on to the sides and blow bubbles under water.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

"But She's a Mom!"

I was chatting with a friend, G, this morning and complaining that my mother, despite getting leave in order to come visit me here, was denied a visa by the UAE Embassy. Below is an excerpt from the conversation:
G: Mom coming soon?
A: Nah, it's not working. Apparently it's really tough to arrange visas for lone women
travellers :(
G: Oh god - even moms?!

We exchanged smilies and scowlies and moved on to other topics but the thought remained, of how mothers always seem like a category apart. Like they would be above doing sneaky things to damage the nation's integrity by staying on in Dubai long after the visa expired. Evidently the UAE government is on to them and in typical suspicious fashion has decided that unless they come here on work, no lone woman, mother or not, will be allowed in by herself.

What is it about mothers? I have two close friends who are members of the Mommy Club and one who will soon be joining and I can guarantee that when we talk, we are often up to no good! (Well, you could blame my corrupting influence on their mommy halos, given that I am not a Mommy.) Are mothers not separate entities?

Let me take my mother as an example. She is certainly a "mother" type. And for the first 12 years of my life, she was a full-time mother. Reminding me to drink my milk, polish my shoes, helping with homework, glaring at me over bad report cards. She looked the stereotypical mother too. Long, black hair that I loved to comb. Saree. Hot food. Medicines for fever. Band-aids as and when. Treats. Scoldings. The works. But then, after my brother was born and had grown up a little, I saw my mother embark on a desperate and determined search to find herself.

Her duty with us as a full-time mom was done. She could think of herself too. And she reinvented herself. Without ever leaving us to cold food or uncounselled teenage troubles, she went ahead, chopped her hair, got a job, began working, began earning, and became an individual. I am not saying that she was not one before. Just that seeing her metamorphose taught me that within my mother, and indeed within all mothers, is just another girl who wants to see herself in the mirror first, and a mother, wife or home-maker second.

As we grow up, grow old rather, I realise that I am changing too. I have other responsibilities. A home of my own. I am now a wife. I am someone who works, but from home, for various reasons. I am the person who has to plan the menu. I am the one who chooses the groceries. I welcome (almost always!) these mantles and try to do my best. But every interaction with my girlfriends reminds me that I should never forget what I have always been. A girl with a mind of my own.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Take Me Home

I am in an alien land but I am not alone. Away from my country, in a place full of Indians, I am another Indian. Here are some things that have reminded me that I am in a new place and made me think of home (Delhi/Bombay/India) in small ways over the last 2 weeks:
  • A hoarding for Titan, with Rani Mukherji's face on it
  • A poster advertising Jat Airways, which made me smile, laugh and then say "Oh!" when I discovered that it is not a carrier bringing Jats to the Middle East, but a Serbian airline
  • A 50 paise coin that met my searching hands as I groped for a lost piece of paper in the bottom of my handbag
  • The sudden music of an unseen person on the road below hawking and then spitting with gusto
  • The smell of jeera frying as I cook on a hotplate
  • Loudspeaker somewhere playing "Aalo Aalo"
  • Supermarket shelves selling Amul butter and Mother's pickles
  • The local dhobi going by on a bicycle

The list could go on, just like Indians go on coming to Dubai. Yes, Indians live in Dubai, and in many ways, so does India. But it is still not home.

What do I do?

Having lately acquired a husband and given up a job (in reverse order) I am often a bit taken aback when asked "and what do you do?"

Well, I was an editor, a good one I think, and I continue to be. Only now I do so from home, in my pajamas, with loud music keeping me company. And of course, TV, friends online, other blogs, interesting books, laziness, sleep and sunshine on the balcony do occasionally get in the way. But the question has now struck me, more than what I do, what is it that I can do?

I can write.

I keep losing sight of that fact while ploughing through other people's writings. My blog feels bad. So does everyone who has ever believed that I can write. The list of such people is small, but weighty. And so I am going to promise myself that I must, must, must write.

Which means, I am back........taran taraaaaaaaaa.......