It’s quite normal for Indian women to go maike once a year or so, after they get married. Going maike refers to going to her mother’s house. Usually without the better half. Sons in law are treated with such overwhelming respect and deference in their parents in laws’ homes, that their presence becomes quite intimidating for one and all. Going maike minus the better half, therefore, is a kind of luxury, an occasion to be pampered, cosseted, to have mom make all your favourite dishes, do your laundry, make your bed, and generally take care of your every need while you rest, relax, and meet all your bachelor friends in your hometown. (Going maike is much less significant if your parents are in the same town and you meet them every other weekend or so.) Going maike is even more luxurious when you have kids, whom the fond grandparents will spoil rotten while you watch, shudder, then ignore the spectacle and catch up on sleep and TV.
All of this is stereotypical, of course. Actual mileage may vary. In our case, for instance, going maike has not been much of a thing for me. We usually travel up north together. As long as my parents and Amit’s parents were all in Delhi, we spent most (or all) of our nights under my father in law’s roof and made short visits to my parents’ house. When my parents moved to Chandigarh, things were a little easier. Now we could spend two or three clear nights with them, instead of driving around Delhi trying to spend sufficient time in both camps and ending up tired and frustrated in the process. Still, I rarely split from Amit to spend undiluted time languishing in my maternal home. And even though my parents have never been the sort to fawn on on their various sons in law, or on me when I’m alone (or on anyone for that matter), going maike is still not the same thing when the better half is in tow.
Men, of course, don’t go maike. Mainly, this is because traditionally men continue to live with their parents after marriage. Even when men do move out, it is not so common for them to make regular, unaccompanied trips back home to mom. Either the whole family goes; or the parents come to visit. In some cases, the dutiful daughter-in-law goes to visit her husband’s parents, kids in tow, while the husband enjoys a few days of blissful bachelor life at home. (Obviously, this is something I have never done.)
The most uncommon situation is for the husband to take the kids and go maike and leave the wife to enjoy a few days of blissful bachelor life at home. I don’t believe I know of anyone, directly or indirectly, who has done this. Correction – I hadn’t heard of any such person. Now I have – and I have the joy of being married to said person; in other words, I have the joy of being the lucky wife who gets to stay home and enjoy a few days of blissful bachelor life.
Yes, Amit is going maike for a week with the kids.
Ok, Amit technically can’t go “maike” because he lost his mother at a very young age. So he’s going – not to Delhi, where his father is, but – to Calcutta, where his Aunt is, the Aunt who has been almost a mother to him. And he’s taking the kids. They leave tomorrow morning by train (something I wouldn’t consider doing solo with the kids – it takes almost 30 hours!) and return to Bangalore at some ungodly hour of morning next Monday. The immediate cause for this trip is a wedding in the family, but they won’t be attending the actual wedding itself, which is going to take place a five-hour drive outside of Calcutta. Actually, Amit had been quite enthusiastic about taking the kids on the “bor jatri” (baraat to Hindi-speakers), but in the end he decided it was easier to luxuriate at home with the kids. Some of the older family members are also not going, so he will get to spend quality time with those he is closest to much more than he would by going along with the wedding party. And the kids will have an easier time of it, even if they do miss out on all the excitement.
I will be right here, at home, wondering what to do with myself. It’s going to be really strange to not have the kids at home. Nobody to wake up, bathe, brush teeth for, clean bum for, feed, dress, shout at, be shouted at by, drop to school, pick up from daycare, have my head talked off by, hug, kiss and be hugged and kissed by. And no packing lunch boxes and unpacking lunch boxes. And no kiddy music in the car on my drive to work. And no living-room-tennis evenings.
What am I going to do all day long? I’m going to really, really miss them – all the noise and action in my life.
My sister has been asking us to send the kids over to her place (in Delhi) for a week or so. I wasn’t sure they were ready to be somewhere without us. Sending them somewhere without me is a start. As Amit pointed out, we’ll probably find out that they are fine – it’s me who is not ready.
So in an effort to be ready, I’ve been thinking about what I’m going to do over the next few days. In a way, I’m very lucky to have this window. Parenting is as tough a job as any and it’s not often that one gets two complete breaks from the job, just four months apart. I’ve lined up a long list of books to read and I’m wondering whether I can work in a couple of movies as well. There are various household and external chores to catch up on, as usual. And, as Tara kindly pointed out to me when she caught sight of a couple of her favourite clothes in my cupboard awaiting repairs, “you can fix those when I’m in Calcutta. Then I’ll wear it when I come back.” Yes, there’s that too – plenty of things need repairs, I’m sure I’ll have time to get around to those – or at least, I’ll no longer be able to use the lack of time as an excuse.
Of course, by Friday night, if I can’t survive another moment without the kids, I still have the option of jumping on to a flight on Saturday morning. That way, I get to attend the wedding reception on Sunday evening and I’ll have the addition pleasure of getting up at 3 a.m. to catch a flight back on Monday morning – right in time to catch up with the next week without the benefit of any weekend relaxation whatsoever. I don’t really enjoy weddings (and that’s an understatement) so I’m probably not going to do this. But you never know!