As published in Robinage 2019, Aug 8-14 edition

The d-day finally arrives. My 11-year-old and I kiss goodbyes to the father-daughter duo at Changi Airport. They are on their way to India to surprise Aaji-Ajoba and Nani this summer. The seven-year-old monkey is all too excited to grab a window seat on the flight, watch movies and land in style. Fathers are easy to travel with after all. Unlike mothers, they don’t have a
rule book to restrict screen time.

The minute our travellers turn their backs on us, I feel all upbeat—like a single mom in a new city. My imagination runs wild. The older one and I enjoy a couple of hours at JEWEL, Singapore’s latest attraction close to the airport. We eat, shop and walk endlessly like two girls on wanderlust until my daughter wishes for Aladdin’s magic carpet to carry her home, albeit in the arms of her mother. The feminist that she is turning out to be tells me she sees a bleak future for the men in our country. Soon we may need a ‘Beta Bachao’ campaign!

The next day is historic. I drop off my 11-year-old at her bestie’s for a sleepover. The two girls and a dog (bestie’s pet who now knows my daughter is extended family) quickly vanish into the girl’s bedroom. Nail polish, books, board games, movies, ice cream and girlie talk are served as a lavish buffet. My daughter wastes no time in goodbyes. I quickly catch up with the mother and head out.

And that’s when the magic begins. A smile hijacks my face. It refuses to fade. Just like in Bollywood movies, a gentle breeze blows my hair as I flag a cab. I feel the blood rush down my spine and suddenly I am transported to a time 15 years ago. Young, brash, independent, living and working alone on foreign soil. It feels empowering. I feel young again. I almost squeal in delight. I get inside the cab and head to Tea Villa to meet my bunch of girlfriends. There is endless chatter. An order is placed without consulting the menu. Samosas and cutting chai fly across the table at lightning speeds. Conversations waft from one gossip to another in a matter of minutes and as our volumes double with excitement, we break all norms of acceptable decibels and public behaviour. People around us display incredible tolerance. Hours of priceless banter later, I find my Dopamine levels at an all-time high. We smile goodbyes and I retire to my empty nest.

I spend the rest of the evening alone, not lonely, watching TV with Mexican rolls for take-out. For the first time in 12 years, I spend 24 hours all by myself. Being myself. Not a mom, not a wife, not even a daughter. It is bliss. The clock seems to have stopped ticking. This nothingness feels amazing. Not answerable to anybody for one whole day!

But just as I hit the 25th hour, all satisfaction wears off. I cry for chaos. The chaos that is my family. I miss the screams and fights; the hugs and complaints; the cluttered living room and noisy bedrooms; Alexa following vague orders and the piano making music while I cook. I miss the food demands by the girls and petty arguments with their father. I miss my house in perfect disorder.

Over the next couple of days, the older one leaves yet again for a school camp while our tourists return. A constant wave of emotions hits the four of us for almost a week. It is for the first time that we have ventured out individually in different directions. It is for the first time that my girls and I have chosen to stay alone while the better half has enjoyed his share, thanks to work.

But this break is one of a kind. It is rejuvenating. It beats all international stays and social media show offs of that picture perfect vacation. It satiates the soul. As a mother, it never occurred to me that I needed a break too—a complete break, like this one.

This summer has been our maiden experiment. Now we are all set to turn it into an annual expedition where the four of us experience the world solo; grow emotionally strong and get a taste of adventure! And despite all the bitter-sweet memories we make, the biggest realisation is, ‘Distance makes the hearts grow fonder’.

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