Sunday, August 1, 2010

not just a mother

Fixing myself a cup of chamomile tea, my favourite singer serenading me on the stereo and a blank canvas becokining...this was life. As I stared out of the french windows I couldn’t help smiling. The simple joys of life were so attainable, why did it take me 60 years to realise that?
Till 3 years ago I was just Mrs Sharma and Bindi, Bela and Bhupesh’s mother. I was very happy and content. I had been a great wife and a wonderful mother and I knew that. Life was a roller coaster and I didn’t have the controls. My husband was rising fast in his career and was soon a prominent lawyer. Bringing up the kids was something I did almost singlehandedly. From pta meetings to illnesses. Birthday parties to keeping a check on their reading material, I didn’t have a moment to spare. It was only when they fared well in academics or won accolades in other spheres did I feel like it was all worth it.
Before I knew it they had grown up and didn’t need me too much. Of course I was still involved in their lives but to the extent they allowed. Bhupesh came to America for higher studies, Bindi got busy with her banking career and Bela was stuck to the computer and excelling in graphic design. I did set the rules at home but there wasn’t really much to do. Till it was time to get them married, first Bindi got a good match and then Bela married the neighbour’s son.
What happened next was painful. Opportunities and dreams led them all one by one to America and soon it was just the two of us. How much could you talk on the phone? I got net savvy so I could chat with the children but it really wasn’t the same. I kept telling Kapil to slow down and plan a holiday to see the kids but you know how husbands can be. We just kept postponing our retirement and peaceful holiday plans. Then one day he was gone...just like that. The first heart attack proved fatal. I was devastated and despite the kids insisting I stayed back in Bombay.
In a couple of months I realised how utterly lonely I was. Other than my family, I had nothing, no career, no friends, no hobbies. I was too old to start again and soon I found myself watching trite television soaps and hated myself for doing that.
A year later, I gave in to the kids and agreed to move to Philadelphia. Bhupesh was marrying Clara and it was my first real exposure to a foreigner. She was a lovely child and spoilt me silly. Her mother Karen and I became friends. We were the same age but so utterly different. I honestly didn’t like her smoking, drinking friends who used cuss words so calmly. Yet something she said made me think. She said “Vidya, why don’t you just get a life? The kids don’t need us any longer”
So I stopped badgering my children and their spouses to make me grand children. Instead I started doing things that I had always wanted to but never had the time for. I went for walks, visited art galleries and museums and realised I loved it. Soon I was taking the tube and going by myself. It was such a high to do that. Thankfully none of my kids laughed when I told them that. Instead they set up a studio for me in the basement of Bhupesh’s house.
Finally I could spend time doing what I felt like, without feeling guilty. For practical reasons I took to wearing jeans...and that was so so liberating. Like becoming another person. The first time I applied for an art competition online and was called in, it felt almost as good as it did when Bela topped in college.
I was now at art workshops every wednseday and I was known as Vidya there. Just plain Vidya. Karen came to visit and said she had never seen anyone transform so much in six months. When I sold my first painting and got paid for it, I could have danced on the streets. I took the kids out to dinner and on Sunday I organised lunch for children at the orphanage.
My kids are so proud of me and I suspect they are also relieved that they don’t need to baby sit me any longer. Sixty and single is not such a scary space you know...

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