My Days in the Sun

April 6, 2008

It is probably a dangerous thing to say, because, strangely enough, I have to admit to a superstitious belief that saying so might change it, but I’m going to risk saying it out loud anyway: I’m in a very happy place in my life right now. After a very, very long time, I realize that I’m not desperately wishing or waiting for anything any more. I wouldn’t describe my life as perfect, but this is as close as it gets.

  • My family is complete. The twins absolutely light up my life. There is immense satisfaction in doing all the mundane motherly chores for them. And satisfaction in seeing them grow in confidence, in ability, and – of course – in size.
  • Amit is a delighted, devoted and doting father – as I always knew he would be, but getting him to believe it was one helluva task.
  • True I’m not working, but at last I’m working on a project that I’ve always wanted to work on but never had the time – my travel website. I can only spare a couple of hours a day to work on it, but that’s enough – I know that if I keep at it, I can take it to some kind of completion by the end of the year. I’m in no hurry.
  • I can pick freelance projects to work on. I can reject work that’s not interesting enough. I am fortunate enough that I can afford not to work for pay if I choose – either not to work, or not to get paid. Currently, I’m somewhere in-between: I’m almost not working, and I’m certainly not getting paid; but either aspect might change sometime in the future.
  • I can, hopefully, find the time to resume – and, eventually, complete – my online Archaeology course. This is one of my few longest-standing desires still pending.

The only reasons I wouldn’t use the word perfect are:

  • I’d like to get out of the house more… if only for a daily walk, a bit of window-shopping, a cup of coffee.
  • I wish I had more time with Amit. Though I suppose that if after ten years of marriage I still feel that way, it can’t altogether be a bad thing…
  • Resuming my German classes doesn’t seem likely in the near future.
  • I still have to find a publisher for my travel book.

A couple of those might look like quite major areas of improvement, but they hardly make in dent in my general satisfaction with life at present. I’m sure things will change – after a while, I’ll probably start to miss working life. Or I might find it really stifling to be so extremely home-bound. Or… something. But right now, while the kids are well and everything’s going smoothly, I have to say that I’m in a good place in life, and I’m keeping my fingers (and toes etc) crossed that it stays that way at least for a while.

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Love Comes Slowly

April 3, 2008

I used to think that the very first time I held my daughter – I didn’t know then that we’d have twins – I thought there would be some magic. I expected to feel something soft… something tender, maternal, loving…

This was when I knew we’d be adopting. I felt sure that it wouldn’t matter that it was someone else’s child I was holding, that the child would straightaway feel like mine, ours. I thought I’d feel happy, ecstatic even, and most of all, I thought I’d feel sure. Confident. I was confident that I’d be confident… when the time came.

In the end, I was nothing of the sort. I was, if I can use a single word to say it, determined. I was determined to be a mother to these two children. But I would have to say that right there and then, there wasn’t much motherly feeling in me. I felt two steps removed – like watching someone else clumsily taking hold of someone else’s baby.

Bonding doesn’t happen right away, does it? Both the girls cried when we first held them. I suppose this was inevitable – our social worker had warned us to expect this. I looked at them, each in turn, taking in their dark complexions (we had been told to expect medium, but I found them outright dark), their snub noses, their jutting out top lips, their dark, oily hair, and with Mrini, the spots and scars on her face and limbs, due to a combination of chicken pox (in the past) and scabies (ongoing). I didn’t think them pretty then, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. They were too old to have the absolute, heartmelting baby innocence of a 3-4-month-old infant, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me either. The only thing that could have stopped me, by then, was the discovery of some terrible and fatal disease or condition. That apart, I was determined that these two girls were going to be ours… but I realised then, that they wouldn’t become “ours” just by wanting it. That would take time.

Then, there at the orphanage, as well as in the days that followed, as we started getting to know the girls better, I didn’t feel any delight or elation. I felt a sense of achievement at having finally got what I had for so long wanted and hoped/tried/waited for… but more than anything I felt worried, unsure of myself, even a little scared. The enormity of the responsibility of being left alone with two small children without any idea of how to manage them began to sink in. At first, I was terrified of how I would manage when Amit finally returned to work and I was left alone with them all day. What would I do if they started to cry and wouldn’t stop? It took over two weeks for me to settle down, gain some confidence, realise that I could handle most things that they threw at me, and that they didn’t generally start crying without reason and without being amenable to love or distraction techniques. I realised that I had some, even many, of the answers – and that others I could pick up “on the job”.

In every possible way, the first 24 hours that they were with us were the worst. We didn’t know when to feed them, what to feed them, how to feed them, how much to feed them, how to clean them, how to sleep with them (we both were scared about rolling over and squashing them!)… Both were unwell, vomiting and suffering from diarrhoea, and Mrini (I think) had a mild fever as well. We rushed around, feeding, cleaning, making an absolute mess of that hotel room and feeling horribly guilty about it. No sooner had we cleaned one girl’s vomit than the other one was at it. We had planned to leave at 6 a.m. and for that we woke at 5, but it was 7 before everything was a little less of a shambles and we finally walked out of the room leaving behind utter disarray and a terrible smell. The only good thing about that time was that they didn’t cry, not even when they woke up that first morning, in a hotel, strange surroundings, strange people, strange food, everything new and different… They didn’t cry, but they didn’t smile much either.

That day, we took a large, comfortable car with driver and made the six-hour drive to Bangalore. I felt so self-conscious about being out with them – I thought that everyone, from the driver to the hotel staff, to the people at the restaurant where we stopped for lunch, everyone must be wondering what we two were doing with these two, when they clearly didn’t belong to us. I almost felt that we should have some legal document proving that we are adopting these kids, lest someone accuse us of kidnapping. (All we had was a foster care agreement, a single sheet of paper that simply didn’t seem to me to be very substantial; that’s all we have even now, and I still feel it is inadequate, but at least now the girls’ behaviour with us tells the tale more convincingly.) That same self-consciousness carried over for the next several days, as neighbours and acquaintances raised eyebrows and we had to explain. I never minded admitting that they were adopted, though, and gradually the self-consciousness gave way to delight and pride in the girls.

Getting home was a huge relief. At last, the girls were in their permanent home. From this point on, I thought, their lives would re-start. Both had been hungry and crying in the car, but once home and fed, Tara slept peacefully, while Mrini, the adventurer, set about exploring the house. It was so nice to see her wandering about, curious, apparently happy – they had been so extremely quiet and subdued till now, it was nice to see some spontaneous initiative emerging. Now, when I look back at the photos and videos of those initial days, I see two frightened, timid little creatures, nothing like the naughty monkeys they are now. But at least their smiles were beginning to show.

I know now that I know how to be a mother to these girls. I know now that I know them now better than anyone else does. And, wonderfully reassuring that it is, I know now that they know me and turn to me the way any child knows and turns to its mother – I’m no longer just another kind – but passing – stranger to them.

And yet… I still worry about the paperwork – until it is all sealed, signed and stamped, how can I breathe easy? What if some strange twist of fate wants to take them away from me?


Hot and Spicy!

April 1, 2008

And they love it that way!

But let me start at the beginning. We took the girls out for lunch on Sunday. We went to Eden Park, which has been a long-time favourite for Amit and me. Amit has been an irregular but faithful client for twelve years! It was one of the first restaurants he took me to, when I came to Bangalore ten years ago. The best part of it is, it hasn’t changed at all in all these years. I’m not even sure that they’ve had the upholstery redone, and certainly nothing significant on the menu has changed.

Eden Park is an Andhra food restaurant. (It lies somewhere between the office of the Hindu and Minsk Square, in case you don’t know it.) The many times that we’ve been there, we’ve almost always had the veg meal, but there are plenty of non-veg side dishes on offer. The veg meal here consists of heaps of steamed rice served literally steaming; three side dishes, always the same three on Sundays and Wednesdays; sambhar, rasam, curd, buttermilk, papad, and a whole variety of pickles. Oh, and ghee. The “plate” is a banana leaf, cutlery comes only on request, but the sambhar, rasam, curd, and buttermilk are served in little steel bowls.

Andhra food is always reputed to be ultra hot (=chilly hot = spicy =sets you on fire) but Amit and I have a fairly high tolerance level so we never really noticed it. It was only when we actually mixed up the food to feed the kids, that it struck us that for them it might just be a tad spicy.

They loved it, though. Tara, after a couple of mouthfuls, started letting out a lusty scream if Amit was at all tardy in conveying the next bite to her wide open mouth. Mrini was more sedate, but initially she was also quite enthusiastic. After a few minutes, however, she suddenly realised that it was the food that was making her eyes stream and causing little beads of perspiration to form on her upper lip. What it was doing to her insides I can only guess. From then on, curd, buttermilk, papad and even plain rice would do nothing to appease her – she wanted water, water, and more water. She went through a whole glassful (must be 200 ml) and held it out for more, saying “pati-pati” clearly to eliminate any possible doubt in the matter.

At the end, we got them ice cream. It was the first time we were giving them ice cream, and they didn’t seem to take to it very much. It required a bit of persuasion to convince Mrini that it wouldn’t cause tears or perspiration and in fact might be quite cooling and nice. Tara didn’t require much persuasion, but she also didn’t think it was anything to be overly excited about. Amit and I ended up finishing it – not that I was complaining about that.

I was all prepared to spend Monday in a continuous state of diaper-changing. I even thought it might start by Sunday night. Amit said he would take Monday off, so that each girl could have her own, sole, allocated butt-cleaner. The girls had their own ideas about that, and surprised us by digesting it all and sending out rather normal waste. Phew! They must’ve inherited cast-iron-clad stomachs to survive that onslaught. And now, it’s back to safe, innocuous, home-made food… for a few days, at least.


Flawless

April 1, 2008

What a good movie! This one is in the same class as Ocean’s Eleven, though different and in some ways not quite as good.

Of Demi Moore and Michael Caine, I would have expected the former to steal the limelight, if nothing else, then just for being a glamorous woman. But I would have been mistaken. Demi Moore was good, but not great in her role; Michael Caine was great.

Still, neither actor alone would have carried the movie if it hadn’t had a good plot and a good pace and lots of suspense right up to the end.  I can’t say much more about this without spoiling it – which would be a shame – so I’ll just say that it was a really interesting movie and I enjoyed it thoroughly.


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