Let’s face it. It’s the most usual morning. Everything is predictable. I wake up, cook, ferry the kids off and run through my to-do list for the day. With the extended Chinese New Year weekend almost knocking my door, I know I need to make a trip to Mustafa, the Desi-Haven for Indians in Singapore. I need to stock-up on ammunition to combat the never-ending cravings of my small but quite a handful family. And five days seem like some war zone if your kitchen shelves have run out of pasta, noodles and Haldiram snacks to say the least. Then there are chutneys to be prepared and oh yes, we need to go big on fruits and ice creams for those midnight, post-movie marathon binges. Sounds like Diwali? Now, we are on the same page.
I have no clue if my Chinese friends have gone all out to prepare themselves so much for reunion dinners. But yours truly certainly has. If schools and offices have declared a holiday, I know what to expect – truckloads of labour in the kitchen, only to witness some million dollar smiles and priceless cuddles. And while I am lost in my chain of thoughts, the corner of my eye notices this sweet smile coming to me from one foot over my head. I reciprocate and dismiss the gesture.
Post breakfast, one of my million alarms hollers out for attention to an almost forgotten big ticket item. It occurs to me I haven’t graced the new space that the Ministry of Manpower has so fondly created for my favourite person in this house – my domestic helper or simply put, Kaam Waali Bai. I beg the better half to offload the maid and me to our destination. Today is the day she finally vows to be mine, thankfully not in a wedlock. Although, I must confess it is more the Bai that will come to my rescue each time I need help in the kitchen, with my kids, with visiting kids, visiting adults and more often than not, my own tantrums. Sometimes, I think, I must bring the new helper straight to the temple from the airport, get one of those prayers recited and then usher her home; just like we would welcome a new bride.
By 8.30am, I am cursing beneath my breath over another a beautiful morning ruined over making mundane but necessary trips. My morning walk to the beach will have to wait another day. Being a woman isn’t exactly easy. I bet God showed me some a screensaver with Orchard Road malls before I signed on the dotted line. It was a trap. Grocery shopping, dealing with maid mood swings and getting children to complete homework formed part of the disclaimer that comes in ant-sized print or gets narrated at the speed of cars on the Formula One race track, making sure you fall for the mall bit.
So, well, everything goes perfectly well and the spouse passes another sweet smile before saying goodbye. I spend my morning in the company of my newly found love – my maid. We eat together, we shop together and by the time we make it back home, I need a break from this togetherness. It is getting to me.
While I lie down in my bed, feeling the urge for a bottoms-up at 11.30 am, my hand touches some paper. With my detective hat on, I jump in to scrutinise, when a little envelope makes its way to my palms. A handwritten note says, “Happy Valentine’s Day love….”
Now, it’s my turn to smile. And I do that for a really long time. I call him and we have a little chat. And there, I find myself sitting numb. I forgot Valentine’s Day? Over the last fifteen years, my husband has been tagged and bullied by me for not being romantic enough and lacking any element of surprise. But right now, I don’t know how to react. It’s like forgetting your name. It’s unbelievable what age can do to you. The girl who would go crazy planning all sorts of romantic surprises, completely justifying commercial spends by consumer giants until last year, finds herself losing a grip over life – and all things young. And no, I am not making peace with myself by comforting thoughts like, “It happens, it just shows you’ve been married for very long and blah blah blah…”
I will make it up to him this evening. It’s far more dreadful to feel old and not enjoy a day that offers the many benefits of visiting the malls and restaurants around Orchard Road after all. Isn’t that what I signed up for?
P.S. The fourth-grader returns from school with added wisdom. Girls discussed they shouldn’t be wishing a Happy Valentine’s Day to the boys. You know exactly why. The only permissible boys happen to be Dads and Brothers.