It is a part of human nature that we are never satisfied with our circumstances! We either yearn for the days that are to come or pine for those which have already past.
As a child, my biggest dreams were to free myself from the shackles of childhood, which in those days I considered a sort of prison. ‘Growing up’ seemed to me a solution for all my problems; the end of all the disappointments, frustrations and pains relating to childhood. I soothed myself by dreaming that all my woes would end ‘When I shall grow up’; the golden times when I would have no school, no homework, no don’t do this and don’t do that, eating whatever and whenever I wanted to and sleeping and getting up according to my wish!
Grow up I did, but alas! None of my dreams were fulfilled. The problems were still there, only they had changed their faces. Although I was free from the shackles of childhood, free from the clutches of Ammi and had stepped into a married life, I found out that after tying the knot, I had also assumed a new set of responsibilities.
House-work took the place of home-work, and I found running a home, looking after my children and making ends meet, more tiring and demanding than going to school or college. The do’s and don’ts were still there but the end receivers had changed. This time it was me who was the admonisher and my (poor) children the admonished.
And Oh! All the chocolates, cakes, ice creams and cold drinks I had once intended to devour, after I got out of the watchful eyes of Ammi, seemed to beckon to me whenever I opened the refrigerator! The urge was still there, and I was free to eat as much as I wanted to, but this time my enemy was the pointer on the weighing scale and an ever increasing waist line.
My dreams of sleeping and getting up according to my mood were also shattered. Back in my childhood days when Ammi came to my room in the morning, scolding, switching off the fan and pulling back the curtains she seemed to me the greatest of all tyrants. Why couldn’t I sleep for an extra hour or stay up late at night if I wanted to? These were the rebellious questions that crossed my mind. Lights had to be put off at a particular hour and being a book worm, I often had to hide in the bathroom with my un-finished story book.
After marriage, I was blessed with children and life as a mother became more hectic. I had hardly any time for myself and sleep became a very precious commodity! The youngest didn’t want to sleep when I was sleepy or he was hungry at the oddest hours in the night! At dawn, when he finally decided to call it a day and go to sleep, it was time for the older children to be sent to school. Mornings always seemed a race against the clock, as my ears strained for the dreaded horn of the school van as it hit the kerb. Since I was a full time home-maker, even on holidays it was impossible for me to get up late; the never ending ringing of the telephone and door bell had to be attended. This much to sleep according to my mood!
Memories of a particular Sunday when I failed to get up when the Maasi (maid), rang the bell are like a nightmare. Presuming conveniently that I was not at home, she left and I had to do all the additional work myself. After washing the nappies and doing the pile of dishes, I picked the garbage bin and stepped out to empty it. But the sight which welcomed me at the entrance of my apartment made me feel like cursing myself. I had missed the milkman too! And he had left packet of the milk at the doorstep. The silly cat, taking it to be her breakfast, had dragged the packet all along the entrance. I had lost the milk as well had to clean up the mess she had created!
I felt like crying out aloud but had to remind myself that I was no more a child and could not give way to my feelings whenever and wherever I wanted to do so! Picking up the bucket of water and a brush, and pretending to ignore the amused eyes of my prying neighbour, I started to scrub the floor viciously as if venting out my anger at my adulthood and the hardships it had brought with it.
In the days when I was busy rearing children there always seemed to be a race against time. I consoled myself by thinking that once the children grew up and settled down in life, I shall have a lot of time for myself. I shall catch up on my reading (which had always been an obsession with me). But, with the passage of time, I have learnt otherwise.
With married sons living in a joint family, and a very good relationship with my daughters in law, life still doesn’t seem to give me the respite I had looked forward to! Although the daughters in law want to take over the running of the household I do not want to let go! Hasn’t this house been my domain for a good part my life? I simply can not bring myself to relinquish the power I have enjoyed for such a long time. I may have a passive role, but I want to keep my interference and opinions (read final word) in all matters, small or big.
The nights are usually restless, sometimes due to my arthritis and others due to bouts of insomnia, and my doctor says I should watch my intake of sugar as I my blood glucose levels are on the border line of diabetes and excess weight could worsen my arthritis! So, though a good figure is no more a priority for me I still can not have the cakes, chocolates, ice creams and cold drinks which always have been my Kamzori (weakness)!
There are days when I plan to relax with an interesting book and as I settle down in my couch to spend a quiet afternoon reading, the daughter in law peeps in. Would I look after the baby while she is going for shopping (or visiting an ailing relative or any other outing where the children can not accompany her)? She asks with a sweet smile.
The school going children are having there afternoon nap and would have to be served milk and biscuits when they get up, and I have to make sure that they finish their mugs. My heart sinks as I hold the bundle of mischief which comes tumbling down into my arms, but keeping my smile as sweet as her’s, I say, “ Sure darling, take your time, I will look after the children”. As she leaves the room, I sigh resignedly and put away the book I was planning to read. I may adore my grand children, but at my age, having them to myself for a good part of the day, can be quite tiring for me.
On the threshold of old age, I have finally realized that responsibilities and restrictions are part of a healthy and fulfilling life; they are always there but only change faces with the passage of time! What a fool I was, not to make the most of the golden days of my childhood; the days when the only responsibilities I had were going to school and doing my homework and Ammi took care of the rest!