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The art of mommying
Nirupa Roy had it easy. Mothers of that generation usually wore white (husbands popped it early those days so there was no wardrobe confusion), never lamented their 'lost' figure in sundry gyms, and routinely met all kids in the last reel, having shed them at some mela early on with sheer genius.
These days, fulltime moms have no clue what to call themselves. 'Housewife' sounds like they are married to a house, and though 'homemaker' has an architect ring to it, there's no glam quotient. Once the kids are packed off to school, these women roam the planet furtively like they are meant to be somewhere else, not meeting the eye of the other aimless moms on the loose. But no mother will venture out alone on a weekend, which is for spending 'quality time' with their nearest and dearest - one bored man and two or more offspring who respond only at gunpoint.
Not enough that most moms cook, clean, care deeply about the trash can, devise a sophisticated filing system for old newspapers and scintillate the domestic help with small talk, they have unlimited access to the most unattractive species in the world - their own kids. Without any formal training and totally against their will, legions of women launch daily into the totally non-paying career of mommying, mainly because no one else will touch their kids.
Dads act like the roughly two minutes of cooperation nine months prior to the baby's arrival were more than they could spare. On a typical Sunday, while the kids proceed to kill each other to kill time, the better half arranges himself laboriously before the TV for the long haul. One hand gropes weakly for the TV remote that is just out of reach and can be located only with a yell so that wifey has to leave her totally rocking toilet-cleaning party to rush over and hand the said remote.
Before I went forth and multiplied, I thought babies would make me look good. We would do everything they did in TV ads: go for picnics, tickle tummies, look at each other through transparent soaps, exclaim over each other's soft skin etc.
They said 'eat for two' and as I had no idea about the second party's appetite, I just ate everything in sight. The husband did his best to keep me on my toes, the toes I could no longer see. 'Where are my socks?' 'What's for dinner?' 'Take my mother out shopping, ' and no excuse would do, not even, 'I'm in labour'.
And when labour does start and the medical staff treats you like Exhibit A, you say the three little words that stay with you for life - 'what the hell??? '
Babies are a lot like mobile phones. When new, we stare at them constantly, smile and compare them with others', and if they fall from our hands, we wring our hands in panic. By and by, we stop jabbing to see if it works and when it falls on its head, we shrug and watch Friends.
I was not prepared for the name change either - to Mommeee. But now, after being called this constantly day and night, I rush to any child who calls out in supermarket aisles or public loos. It is like the Superman thing. One minute I am sniffing perfumes at the girly counter, the next minute I fly through air, to the rescue. It is only when some woman comes bearing down on me, gesticulating violently, that I relinquish my death grip on what turns out to be someone else's child.
Between answering 'If Tom and Jerry can survive bombs, why not my brother?' and giving them bread when they ask for cake, mommery is like being locked up in a firebreathing dragon's nostril. They slide down banisters, shouting 'whee', to arrive with a bang among total strangers. Whole nights are spent listening to their recurring soprano of 'I want water!' and 'There's someone under my bed!' After to-ing and froing half the night, it is best to grab and hold on to a squirming kid and sleep standing. A quickie, in mom-speak, means a hurried nap wherever, whenever in peculiar positions. Remember, mom is always wrong, so get used to the children rolling their eyes and groaning every time you open your mouth. Freely explore your clown potential because laughing at mom keeps whole families together. Even if you're tied to a pole and lit up like Joan of Arc, the word is ha-ha. Psst... the best way to hit back is to remember every anecdote in your child's life, click every expression on his face for the album and then, like a doting mother, play it all back to anyone who passes by. I know what I am saying. My parents play my wedding video on a loop when guests overstay.
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