Our flight was at 7.30am from Singapore. Leaving for Mumbai. To finally settle down in Pune, for at least a year. We decided we would get back if we didn’t like the experience. It was that simple; at the snap of a finger. The previous night had been good; filled with alcohol and friends and banter and emotions running high. I wasn’t so unnerved even on my wedding day. I did have cold feet and for a fraction of a second planned to elope all by myself though. But it was just that quaint moment.
Now, today, almost 11 years after getting married, living in the safe haven of comforts, was me… thoroughly spoilt by life…. Friends, a colorful social life to brag about, the bestest hubby, the most adorable children and a great life. Yet there was craving for more. But it felt like reaching a mid life crisis. I lacked purpose; there was nothing to look forward to; no adventure; no thrill; nothing new except the progress reports of children and husband that were right on track. I on the other hand was imprisoned in my jail of comforts, conveniences and complacence.
‘But today would mark a change’; for better or worse, who knew. This thought reverberated in my mind; like an echo that had the stop button missing. It was no mean feat. We were quitting; no wait… giving up our life… actually committing suicide. Yes, apt. Suicide. That’s what you call it when you leave your house unrented, your car in the car park, pack up the bare necessities and board the next flight and leave.
Did I forget the month long farewells and meltdowns we survived before we left. That was intoxicating. I couldn’t believe we were doing this. The purpose was real. It was called for. This is what we ought to do. But to think of noble deeds is one thing and taking action quite the other.
My husband lost his brother… he was just 46. It was an accident. The family was devastated. So was I. We could never come to terms with the loss. So how could my in-laws? For a couple that lost one child to destiny decades ago, this was the rudest shock ever. His wife and kids were badly affected. Everyone went into a shell. Hubby changed completely. Grey strands started to show… changing his looks from the young hot guy I once dated to the salt n pepper, mature male I couldn’t handle… he had mood swings.. actually no swings, only bad mood; sad mood. He was permanently on PMS. In laws started to fall sick often. Then there were physical accidents too. One death, and the biggest dent in my universe; our universe. And hence, the decision to pack up and go back; literally.
So today was that dreaded day. To just let go of the past and the present and make a new beginning. I didn’t sleep the night. It was 4am. I was checking and rechecking on all things that were to go into that luggage. We were in a hush; almost tearing. We were leaving back our lives.
About 12 years ago, who knew a young boy and girl would meet up at his residence… and that first handshake would be the one meant to last a lifetime ( can say so as of now at least). Nothing short of a Yash Chopra movie, I could sell the script to be filmed as the next Bollywood blockbuster. That story, some other day.
We got hitched. Life began and it was just wonderful. 10 years and two girls later, we felt complete. He was soaring in his career; we were leading good lives. I was happy for him and for us. Personally, I was frustrated and sad. The working woman within felt caged, locked, domesticated. My life revolved around my family. I was grateful to have the most beautiful family. But when I looked at my own journey, as an individual, it was one of failure, anguish and compromises.
I craved for job satisfaction. I gave up a well paying job to start my own business. It was my decision. He supported. But I failed. It hit me like a bullet. Failure, and me? Used to being the ‘crème de la crèm’ in school and college, raking in the moolah at work, I wasn’t the failure material. But before I could revive and rebound, baby number one popped out. I guess depression is known to end in reproduction… or was it just me.
I was overjoyed. The 21st century woman in me decided (had decided ever since) that we would be a single child family. We would make India proud by not spiralling the population by keeping up tradition(both of us belong to 4 sibling families). And so, after my dear little princess turned 2, I flew back to rescue my sinking ship. Tried keeping it afloat. But the winds drifted me once more and contrary to my thoughts and beliefs; but as a result of getting high one New Year’s night, baby number two made her grand appearance in our lives. Both families were overjoyed at the birth of another Goddess born during Navratri. The girl in me was grief-stricken though. The birth of one more child meant happiness, yes. But at the cost of my career, my dreams and my freedom which had just begun to rise like the morning sun over the horizon. It now meant waiting another 5 years or so before I could start out.
The mother within, never faltered in her love or duty. I was washed out, tired and permanently seeking refuge in friends, parties, vacations, even weekends. I was dependent on everything external. Life had come a full circle. Hubby would travel on weekdays, get back over weekends. I would be at home leading my life ever so unceremoniously; changing diapers, going for vaccinations, school duty, breastfeeding, weight issues, lack of sleep, sex deprived, low self esteem.. the trail was endless. It felt like falling into a bottomless pit. I finally de-registered my business. There was no hope. I would attempt at getting back to work, part time work, every six months or so, only to discover a new medical condition about my younger one. And each time, the mother within would pull back the girl that was dying a slow but steady death somewhere deep within. But times change. Aadya got better. Life now began looking good.
The ambitious girl within raised her head once more. There was hope. There was faith. That’s when storytelling fell into my lap. It just happened. There was an event happening for the children. As I put down their names, I offered to volunteer. I loved telling stories to my kids and we would indulge in a pretend play all the time. It worked for me. I got trained to be a storyteller. Now I started doing it periodically for kids. I was all over the place. Performing, telling and being myself. My heart flew back to schooldays where I would be found on stage more often than not. Happiness was blowing in like a breeze. It jolted me like first love. And life smiled back at me.
It felt perfect. 10 years, 2 kids, my own life, a great family, an extremely loving and supportive spouse… I couldn’t have asked for more. And then one day, life changed.
We were at the Singapore Changi airport, waiting to board SQ422 to Mumbai. Carrying the baggage of our happy past, transporting it into a future unknown. One we never wanted; never even imagined. Homecoming felt nothing short of misery. Living with our families did bring a smile but an insipid one. All other areas were grey. He found a job. One that wasn’t up to the mark. Wouldn’t pay as much. The only agenda was his parents. Their health. Neither of us could live with the guilt of letting them perish slow and steady, waiting for their son to return. We couldn’t add years to their lives. But could certainly add life to their years. We wanted them to live. And live with them. Be there for them when they needed us the most. I had superficial issues. The usual saas bahu mishaps. But they fell fragile compared to the loss my in laws had experienced not once but twice.
And so we agreed. Both my husband and me. Life happens once. And it would be our greatest loss… of any sense of pride or love or self respect if we did not make it up to them for the sake of a convenient life. Easier said than done, with a thousand reasons to cry, but just one to rejoice, hubby and I made our way into the flight. The girls felt distraught. They never wanted to leave Singapore. The sounds in the background didn’t bother us. I stared out into the open field of the airport as my gaze stretched beyond the metal fence to Print Screen the landscape of the setting sun permanently in my moist eyes. The road that had once been a favorite on our many long drives; The beach that stretched on the other side of the road; that had seen us picnic around for years even before kids were born. The plane took off as my heart sank. Was this for real?
It was my, our decision, but one that would have far reaching consequences on our lives; on their lives. Were we right or was it a big mistake. Only time would tell. As we left the island far below us and were hanging in mid air, I glanced at him; it felt like the end of the world. It felt like attaining a Bharat Ratna when all u wanted was a pat on the back. It felt like dying.
I have thought this over and over again. I really don’t know what it will feel like to leave my body. But this certainly felt like death. To leave all that we loved, earned, wanted and believed to be real. Oftentimes, I heard or read that life is not real. All of it is just a dream. I never really understood that phrase. Now, I was living that experience. I felt happy and content I was able to live up to our decision; no matter how harsh on my kids and us. I felt happy we met every soul we had connected with over the past 12 years. I was happy we had well-wishers and friends in a land that was once foreign. I was happy we had the courage to leave where “WE” came into being. I was happy to be humane in a world where money outweighs the value of life. I was happy I was a good spouse.
Couple of hours later Aadya was hungry. She was boxing me now and in the midst of the clatter of cutlery and smells of food, my mind quickly dismissed all thoughts and returned to the present. I looked at him. He seemed to be on a journey of his own. Similar, perhaps. We fed the kids, fed ourselves and drifted into slumber. I started dreaming almost immediately and woke up to hear the landing announcement. It felt like déjà vu.
As we landed into Mumbai, it dawned upon us that we were back. It was more than 13 years since I left home. Then, I was excited and happy to embark on the new journey of life and board my first flight out. But today, right now, I was sinking. I was morose, tired, sceptical, sad and mad all that the same time. I had pulled myself to do this.
It felt like getting trapped into an arranged marriage. You don’t know what to expect. But you must change yourself. Never had I lived with my in laws (the ones who never wanted me for a daughter in law) except on annual stays together. Never had I lived with my children in India or sent them to schools there. And all those news flashes about the ever increasing rapes and child abuse cases came gushing past my eyes and spike my blood pressure.
Nevertheless, this was the present. This was my today, my now. And I decided to make peace with it. Yesterday was a fancy dream that anybody would have loved to trade with me. Today was nothing more than standing at the air-plane door, ready to skydive. It could be fatal if the parachute didn’t open out. But there was no other choice. This was my life. And our decision. It wasn’t a piece of cake, sure. But then I thought, ‘All of us live with our past. All of us allow it to shape our future. But some of us know how to shrug the past. I think that is who I am….. ‘
Yes I lived a rosy past, a life that many desire. But if I have it within me, I shall dazzle and I shall live it up wherever I go. I am not giving up hope. I believe life is like the yo-yo. It has its ups and it has its downs. And while rising up has its thrills that give me goosebumps in my tummy, the falls help me become grateful for all I have seen from the mountaintop.
The day came to an end as night fell. My brother and his family came to receive us. We reached home to reunite with my Mom and enjoyed her delicious cooking as I have since the beginning of time. Tomorrow was going to mark the heralding of a new life; one of the many days that would challenge my decisions, strengthen my beliefs and reassure this experience was part of the plan. Life happens even while you are thinking what’s next; it’s perspective that makes all the difference.
Ask the family that lost their son to enmity between two nations; or the girl who got cheated in marriage because the gay she married couldn’t muster up the courage to talk beforehand; or the one who never lived the life of his choice because he was bogged down by responsibility. I was a free bird. My being here was not a matter of chance but choice. I could have decided to stay back and make merry unaffected by the plight of the old parents that were ready to choose somebody else to become their sons’ bride. But clearly, I was me. And I am happy to step up when life so demands. I am ready to start from scratch. I am ready to unlearn what life once taught. I am happy to be the brave heart that I am.