For the last two-and-a-half years, life has chugged along rather smoothly. Amit’s job went through all kinds of ups and downs, but everything else was calm and stable. The kids’ school was settled and their class teacher and friends remained the same over this time; daycare was settled and remained the same; even the van driver who took them from school to daycare was the same. My job was the same. Our home was the same. It was wonderful.
And just as if our destiny were determined by some strange celestial movement (which I don’t believe) something shifted and everything changed. From June, the kids go to First Standard. Of course, they are enormously excited – First Standard is “big girls’ school”. I remember the feeling from my own childhood – I just couldn’t wait to grow up. Now, for the first time, they get to wear uniforms. Their notebooks must be neatly covered in brown paper. They will now need proper black shoes, proper canvas shoes, a school belt, house-colour T-shirts, and even proper pencil boxes.
Meanwhile, my company got acquired and it has resulted in a change in my office location. I also have a new role – it’s pretty much like joining a new job, except that my payslip looks just the same as before. It’s a busy time for me, and I’m just as nervous, apprehensive, eager and stressed out as I would have been had I joined any other organization. A new job always means having to prove oneself all over again – an exciting but tiring task. There are also goodbyes – to people and even to places. I took a long time to settle into my old organization, to make my space there, to feel at home. Today I went back to that office to collect my stuff and suddenly I realized just how much it felt like home. My cube with its lovely view out of the window, my dear colleagues, my fabulous fresh filter coffee, my workspace cluttered with two-and-a-half years of little things… I really didn’t want to leave it all.
The change in office location also means that our old faithful daycare is no longer on my route. Amit has also left his old job – which used to be in the same office complex as mine – so daycare hasn’t been on his route for quite a while. When I realized that my office location shift was imminent, we immediately began looking for a daycare closer to home or my new office. We found several – and it was a tough decision to pick one. It is such a weighty decision – the cost is pertinent, of course, but when it comes to daycare, it just can’t be the “most important” factor. We need to pick a place we are happy with on many levels, a place we feel will be right for our kids. We’ve picked one – but we won’t know for some weeks or months yet whether or not this is the right decision.
Tara has been enthusiastic about dancing. For their “graduation day” – when they said goodbye to their Montessori class just prior to the summer vacation – they all put up a wonderful song-and-dance show in an auditorium near school. It wasn’t Mrini and Tara’s first stage show – they’d been part of a dance show in the summer of 2010 (not even four years old at the time) and again that December. Though Tara had been nervous the first time – and she appeared to be nervous this time as well – they loved it. They loved being on stage and having us – and sometimes our friends – come to watch. They loved the dance, but they also loved the whole backstage experience, getting dressed up in costume, having make-up applied, waiting around with their friends, the whole nine yards. Strangely enough, when their daycare re-introduced dance class this year, Mrini opted out after a month or so, but Tara was thrilled. She has a particular flexibility of movement that makes her a wonderfully graceful dancer and that might possibly be motivating her to keep dancing. So we enrolled her in the dance class and eventually, as the end of the summer holidays approached, a dance show was announced. Only thing was, this time they were just doing a small performance at the daycare centre itself – no special costumes, no big stage, no fanfare at all. Tara, however, had all the trappings of a big event firmly etched in her mind. Every time we or the daycare coordinator tried to tell her it would be just a small show at the daycare centre itself, she stomped off refusing to believe us. Right until a day before the show, she was telling me how we would drop her at the daycare centre and from there they would take her to the venue and we must be sure to get seats right in the front row to watch her and that Mrini must also come. Of course Mrini is going to watch – but it was heart-breaking to try to convince Tara that this time it would just be a small, informal show with a handful of parents forming the entire audience and that all the glitz and glamour of a big stage and auditorium would be missing. That girl likes the spotlight!
So anyway, when we told the kids we would have to change their daycare because my office was going to be shifting, Tara’s first reaction was – not before my dance show! She even went so far as to say, let Mrini go to the new daycare, but let me go to the old daycare because I have to practice for my dance show. Well, of course, we couldn’t possibly move them before that!
And that’s how it happened that the first two weeks in my new job were spent driving miles and miles out of my way twice each day – to drop the kids and pick them up from the old daycare, while I went all the way around to my new office in-between. Amit did help as much as he could – but it was no short a commute for him, either. And it was exhausting. Just when you think you can finally bid goodbye to your everyday commute – the same commute I’ve been doing for the past two-and-a-half years without complaining too much – it becomes utterly unbearable. Partly, it’s just the thought of not having to do it any more that makes doing it unbearable; partly it’s knowing that you needn’t really do it even now; and partly it’s the sheer, breathtaking stupidity of Bangalore’s traffic systems.
So, having slogged through the traffic needlessly for two weeks, today, at last, was their last day at the old daycare. The kids didn’t care. I packed them two homemade chocolate cakes to share with everyone, but apart from that, it was business as usual for them. They went in their usual ragged clothes. They packed their usual boring snacks and lunch. They even said bye as usual to everyone as we left. No hugs, no kisses and – thank god! – no tears. It was us, the adults, who were sad. It’s been a home away from home for the kids and for me, it’s been a haven, a place and a set of people that I can absolutely rely on to take care of my kids so that I don’t have to worry at all about them while I’m at work. Their staff has been good (barring minor incidents) and the coordinator has been so pleasant, so sensible, so… so much a friend – it breaks my heart to take them away from there.
I remember when I was about ten, my family moved from Chandigarh to Delhi. My mother was not very happy about the move. I don’t remember now what my sister felt. My father, I think, was eager because it was a good move for him career-wise. I? I was excited, thrilled, delighted. I knew, of course, that I’d be leaving my friends behind and possibly never seeing them again (or at least, not for a year or whatever, which is pretty much “forever” to a ten-year-old) but it really didn’t bother me as much as the prospect of a new everything excited me. And I see the same thing with my kids – the prospect of the new is so exciting that they never pause to miss the old faithfuls. For me, it was only when I was much older, looking back, that I had any sense of sadness at what I’d left behind.
It’s just as well, of course. I already have to deal with my own sadness, my own uncertainty and regrets about these changes. If I had to deal with nervous, scared, sad kids as well, I really don’t know how I’d manage.
Tomorrow is the dance show. And Monday, the new daycare. And next Monday, the first day of First Standard. And then, sometime next month, a new home. That’s a lot of change in a short time. Thank god for the stability of two-and-a-half years that precedes it. It’s going to be an interesting period of transitions. I know the kids will swim through it with ease. The question is – will I?