I am happy now, curiously content, purring perhaps to the music only I can hear.
Every morning, I run, dash like a possessed banshee screaming at the top of her voice. Run, the kolam has not yet been put. Splash cold water on the steps and outside and sweep. Sweep with a couple of lusty swings while the neighbour sings a ragam you cannot recognise. She smiles at me, perfect bindi in place, oiled and combed hair put up in a braid. Her kolam is an art form that street vendors stop to admire; I look at the squiggly lines I have drawn and wonder if I can get away by calling it a vilakku.
Time now to cook; a simple fare – with some rice, sambar and vegetables – but the dal will not cook, the sambar is runny and the vegetables are soggy.
A cranky three year old is now hugging me at my knee while crying at being left behind – “Amma. I want to go to office too!”
“You will darling. Your office is your school now”.
“Am I a big boy now Amma? How big am I?”
“You are so big. Why, I cannot carry you too long at this rate!”
“Carry me Amma. Show me”
And so I spend at least ten minutes, holding his little body close and breathing in that fresh child’s smell – the smell of Johnson’ Baby powder and soap and cleanliness at the start of the day.
And then getting a child ready for school and holding off parents in law who wish to discuss the relative’s function that needs to be attended and “Can you please take leave otherwise Chitti will feel bad?”.
Guilt at knowing that I have not really got off with being both a career woman and a mother. Packing the tiffin because there is no time to eat breakfast.
And then opening the door to the office and sitting down. I breathe in deeply, no one is in yet and I have the time finally to read. Just a couple of pages. I turn on my music – a few strings of jazz. Perhaps one day, they will find me out and then descend on me for being a bad mother.
For the sake of a couple of pages and two minutes of music, I leave my son at home everyday.
Just to read and listen.
And so, I become, like many other women who were ahead of me, selfish.
But then, a selfless me would be a caricature of myself – just a sheath that holds no soul. I have come to realise over the last few days that perhaps that is what I need – a selfish attitude so that my son will have me as his mother. Not some perfect woman created by every man’s fantasy.
So I give my son me – flawed, but totally me.