Monday, January 28, 2013

The Extra Three

Today is the 26th of January. As per a carefully crafted plan that I started working on about three months ago, I should have been in Chandigarh yesterday with my mother, daughter and dog. But here I am, writing from Singapore.

On the day we were to leave, Jan 23rd, we were packed and all set to go. There was only one hitch- Atreya, who was supposed to take half day off and see us off, was nowhere to be found. I started calling him from 2 pm onward and would have called and messaged him at least 10 times till 4 pm, but there was no response. I was having a tough time keeping my cool. I then called his camp and asked the manpower branch to locate him. Just as they got back with a vague response that he had left the camp, I received a call from Atreya. He was sick and had overslept in his bunk. 

In a single moment, I felt relieved at having located him and totally stressed to hear that he was sick. You see, when Atreya falls sick, he usually falls very sick. A strong young man, he has amazing tolerance for pain and discomfort, but the downside is that by the time his body tells him something is wrong, he is usually sick like a dog. When he reached home, I rushed him to a nearby clinic in the same taxi. He looked pale and sweaty and gaunt. He asked the cabby to stop on the way and was sick on the road side. The nice doctor at the neighborhood clinic, located hurriedly via Google, diagnosed him with food poisoning and gave him a slew of medication and a medical leave of absence for two days. 

By now, it was 5 pm. Another two hours and we would need to be in a cab to the airport. I called up mom from the clinic and told her I won't be able to leave him like this. She agreed and assured me that she would handle Aloka and Anakin's transport to India. Back at home, we had more discussions about what to do. Mom, seeing the condition I was in, insisted that I should stay on and care for Atreya. Mallika, concerned about mommy and Aloka, insisted that I should go with them while she would look after Atreya (she was to stay in Singapore for an additional seven days). This went on for a while until Atreya, half conscious, looked at me and said "Don't go". Was there any room for further discussions after that?

I then made phone calls to my travel agent, who had to rush to align Aloka's to mom's and change my ticket to Sunday. I called the pet mover to discuss if I could change Anakin's departure date, but he advised me not too because it would entail getting a new health cert and NOC. I called my brother to update him and discussed possible complications and new pickup arrangements. Finally, after a few more phone calls to these three parties, I handed over to mom copies of my passport and an authorization letter to receive Anakin at the airport, and all documents to enable her to travel with Aloka and Anakin. Plans, carefully crafted and executed over the last three months, were changed and redone in less than two hours. 

For the next three days, Atreya and I stayed mainly indoors, watching TV, catching up on sleep, working at our laptops, making each other listen to our favorite music, and talking. These extra unplanned three days allowed us to be with each other without any distraction, enjoy each other's company in total peace, and align our minds to a common goal- that of reinventing ourselves in our respective new environments. It was an extended goodbye, totally unplanned and fully satisfying.

On the third day, Atreya, by now almost fully recovered, looked at me gleefully and said- "Isn't it great that I fell sick just before you were to leave mom?" Honestly, I couldn't agree agree with him more!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

His Mother!

Busy with the move, I have no time to update my blog. Atreya helped by writing a heart-warming post on his blog. Since he wrote about me, here is a link to it.

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Letter to Myself

You have got to trust the Universe. You have got to believe in the goodness of the forces that protect us every moment of the day. Their protection is not dependent on your plans. Their benevolence is not yours to demand or command.

A life wrought with anxiety is not life, so what that you are acutely aware of the fragility of life. A life spent doing what you are passionate about is infinitely better than one that saps you of your principles and objectives. You've got to embrace it without regrets.

Life is strange. Life is odd. It is all this and more. But one thing it is not is easy, however badly you may desire that. An easy life is a life half lived. A half-lived life only leads to moral and spiritual bankruptcy. What is the protection in such poverty?

Nothing gold can stay. Change will come. It is inevitable.  Either you let yourself be carried away by it wherever it wants, or take the steering wheel in your hands and decide where to go. How is being carried away nobler than deciding where to go? Don't shirk the responsibility.

Throw away this guilt and this anxiety. There, see them blow away with the wind. Get up. Smile. Trust. Live.

It's time now. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Our Prince Charming

I have a good reason for using that cliche'd title. When I was pregnant with my first child, my maternal grandma, nani, was sure that I was carrying a boy. She had a theory about it- if the husband was the real boss in the family, then the first child will be a boy and if the wife was in control, then a girl. And she seemed pretty sure about my role in my family. Also, all her great-grandchildren were girls and she wanted it balanced.

I had my own reasons for wanting a girl. First, I adored girls and wanted a little girl to take care of, and second, I never for a moment believed I was not the boss in my family. Every time I would meet nani, she would ask "When is the Prince Charming arriving?". I had a standard answer for her "Nani, princess, not prince"!

Atreya was born via C-Section three weeks ahead of schedule because he was in distress. When I was being wheeled out of the OR, I was just coming out of the anesthesia and had no clue if I had a boy or a girl (those were the days!). Suddenly, in my half daze, I heard my nani's high-pitched voice saying "Puja, Prince Charming eshe gaylo". I am not kidding you that my heart sank, I so badly wanted a girl!

This boy, born almost 20 years ago, was commissioned as an Officer in Singapore Armed Forces yesterday after training for a year. This is a 10-month assignment as part of his mandatory National Service. We are not Singaporeans, just Permanent Residents, so the decision of serving about 2 years in the Singapore Armed Forces was fraught with doubts and guilt. Did I do the right thing? Could I have been better prepared with alternatives instead of sending him to NS? Did I just ruin my son's future? In fact, there are people I know who think we are foolish for not choosing to leave Singapore before Atreya turned 16, or giving up his PR status when he was younger. To top it, the training is very hard, pushing Atreya to his physical and mental limits. He suffered almost non-stop for 11 months. That didn't help with my guilt and doubts.

But yesterday, at the commissioning dinner, as I watched this dashing young man make smooth intelligent conversation with a Brigadier General on one side and a Master Sergeant on the other, I realized that my boy has grown into a young man completely worthy of the title that was bestowed on him by his great-grandma even before he was born.

But that's not all. After dinner, he chose to stay back and help his mate complete the last few tasks that were pending. While every other cadet was busy celebrating, Atreya sacrificed family time, or clubbing time, to help a friend in need.

Prince Charming indeed!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Of Birds and Bees!

The other day, over a post-lunch chat with some Singaporean team members, the topic of sex education came up. We were all having a laugh over how you can guess a person's age by just listening to how they first got their sex education. The one's born in 90's learned directly from the Internet, those in 80's learned in formal school programs, and those in 70's from friends. Since I was the only one in the group born in 1960's, all eyes turned to me as they asked me how I found out about the birds and bees. Well this is how!

I learned it all from a book that my loving mom had bought for my older sister to keep her company in a train ride to Chandigarh, where she was going to study. No, my mother was not one of those who believed in being friends with her teenage kids and talking openly about sex and stuff. She bought the book because it looked like a regular romance novel set in medieval times, harmless like the Mills and Boon's books (with a whole lot of sardonic grins and just one kiss at the end) that we used to read as teens. It was only when my sister came home for holidays that she revealed how wonderfully educational that book really was! I remember my mother's reactions as she picked the book and read parts of it- she would cluck and shake her head, and say "haw hai" every now and then! She could not stop talking about how much she regretted buying such trash for her own daughter.

I, 13 or 14 at that time, was forbidden from reading the book, but like everything else I was forbidden from doing, I did surreptitiously. That's how I learned to fly like a bird, and buzz like a bee!