Tuesday, December 23, 2008

How do you manage?

If I had a dollar for every time someone has asked me that question in the last three years since I went back to work post maternity leave, no one would need to ask that question any more. Because I would have been rich enough to quit this working mom gig and live off said money. However, such windfall being unlikely to come my way, it’s likely I will have to suffer this question many times over till the day I retire or the child becomes a self-sufficient adult.

Just in case that introduction didn’t make it clear enough, I am less than thrilled when these words are addressed to me. Because these seemingly innocuous words are loaded with judgment (mostly of the negative sort) on my choice to be a working mother.

Let’s start with figuring out what might be a valid, genuine reason for asking this question. It could be that the person asking the question really wants to get some advice on how to balance motherhood with a career. But then how does one explain the fact that this question almost always comes from a SAHM, usually one with no intention of getting back to work anywhere in the near future…

Or could it be an indirect way to express admiration for my excellent management skills. Now I might buy this but for the fact that this question is typically followed by one, more or all of the following questions:

  • Does your mother-in-law stay with you?
  • No? How about your mom?
  • So you son is with the maid the whole day?
  • And then, it is very often followed up by a heart-breaking (not!) story of how the question asker could not bring herself to go back to work after her child was born or how she did go back to work but felt that the child was not ‘developing well’ with the maid and so quit her job.

Or maybe it’s their attempt at polite conversation… but then wouldn’t a little more tact and diplomacy be called for so that the conversation can actually be classified as polite? I can say for sure that if it is intended as an ice-breaker, it has the exact opposite effect as far as I am concerned. I know I shouldn’t care but this question always gets my goat and puts me at my irritable and defensive best. Am I over-reacting? Quite possibly so…

Cross-posted over at Parul's - here

Friday, December 12, 2008

Paranoid

It’s been over two weeks since the horrific events that unfolded in Mumbai. And I have wanted to write something about what has been happening in my city almost every day since it happened. But someone always beat me to what I wanted to say and said it much better. So I am going to just stick to talking about how it has affected me personally.

To start with, there is this lingering feeling of ‘that could have been us’. The night the attack started happened to be our anniversary. And for the first time in three and a half years, we left a sleeping Ayaan at home with the maid and headed out for a romantic candle-lit dinner for two. At a restaurant not very far from another five star hotel (JW Marriot), which is rumoured to have been a terror target too.

And then there is this lingering feeling of ‘it could still be us’ Because suddenly it seems like something like this is just around the corner. You might be unlucky enough to run slam bang into it or your good fortune might allow you to dodge a bullet, like so very many people we know directly and indirectly did two weeks ago. But the shadow of possibility exists and it still haunts. And the paranoia is hard to shake in its entirety.

A colleague got married on 6th December in Chennai. The Sixth Of December. And a group of us colleagues had planned to travel down from Mumbai for the wedding. But then 26/11 happened and there were mutliple media articles on terror threats to airports and corporate travel advisories issued against travelling that day. So we didn’t go… and felt foolish later, since nothing happened…

And I find myself thinking twice before going shopping to a big mall. And wondering if five star hotels (with their retinue of bag and car checkers) are a soft target, what about schools and offices? And looking for the location of the emergency exit when I am in a building. And feeling just the slightest bit uneasy about the the fact that we are taking 6 flights across the country this winter vacation.

Last weekend, we were thinking of going to the local market to pick up some stuff. But then it struck me that the market was very close to a suburban railway station and who knows whether that might not be the next target. So I suggested that we avoid going there together. So that atleast if anything did happen, atleast Ayaan would have one of his parents.

Morbid thoughts these but I can’t stop them from popping into my head at will. But what if the worst were to happen? In the last couple of weeks, I have come to realise how unprepared we are for it and its implications for Ayaan:

  • We don’t have a will.
  • Jai manages all our money and other than the ATM PIN, I have no idea how it is invested.
  • We had only written out our numbers in the vernacular and pasted it on the kitchen notice board for easy access for the maids. But what if something happened to the both of us? They have no other contact for anyone else.

I know people directly affected have much bigger problems and a bigger right to mourn. And my heart bleeds for them. I also feel for this city that has been my home for over eight years. But at a more selfish and personal level, I mourn for the almost careless sense of security and disregard for mortality with which I have lived my life upto now. For the sense of surety that I made the right choice when I brought my son into this crazy world. And for my anniversary, which will forever be known as the day that Mumbai was attacked...