Today was quite a day for me.
My husband called me up in the morning to inform me that he has actually taken a printout of my second manuscript for my grandmother to read – this is a fictional story, unlike my first book, so I wasn’t sure she would enjoy it – but she’s been a little depressed lately with her cancer, so I thought it would be a good idea to try and distract her with a little reading material. After all, she devoured the manuscript for my first book, enjoying every bit of it to the fullest extent.
An SMS exchange an hour later with my Chief Editor had me jumping around whooping for joy –thanks to those words ‘It Works’ as applied to this selfsame manuscript, which she finally read in full this weekend. Of course, she has feedback on it which means it will take me work, but knowing her, it’ll make for a far better book, so it’s worth it. I just don’t know how much work it will be.
I waited for the twins to come home from playschool and then got ready to go to Noida to see my grandma, stopping to have a pleasant lunch with my mother at the Gymkhana, on the way –since she happened to be pottering around Delhi instead of being at her home in Noida. A Bloody Mary and several Kababs later, I found myself on the road yet again - sure enough, Grandma was truly delighted at both the news about the Editor liking the book, and the fact that she was getting to read the manuscript - she practically grabbed it from my hands and held it close, murmuring a little prayer. She started reading almost immediately, chuckling every now and then, and saying 'Bah'. ( Which is Bengali for 'Wah' in case you thought she didn't like my writing.)
I found myself thinking on the 1.5 hour journey home - I am in the process of plotting the sequel to Just Married Please Excuse ( loosely titled ‘Still Married, Thank You’) – I almost took on a project at work from November. I travel to Noida three days a week to see my grandma, which pretty much takes up most of the day. We’re also shifting house at the end of November, moving to the ground floor of the building we’re currently in ( yes, we lucked out!). I’ve got so much going on despite being on sabbatical, and so far I haven’t even mentioned those three little people, kind of important to me - Peanut, Pickle and Papad. I’m so glad that I took this break, but the fact is that time is now running out and I’m going to have to figure out how to balance things from January onwards – what with work projects added to the mix.
The last month was kind of directionless because I had finished Book 2 and sent it off to the Chief Editor and wanted to take a break from writing. But now, I figure, it makes sense to use most of the rest of the sabbatical on just the family commitments and writing; which means giving up some of the stuff like Zumba and the guitar lessons. A bit of a pity because I loved both – but they were just taking up too much time, so from November onwards, I’m going to have to ease up on them. Oh well. I guess I can work on fitness and music at my own pace for a while.
With Vijay out of town, and my maid Rinki’s mother being ill, I had the challenge of putting all three kids to bed tonight. It wasn’t easy because Peanut wanted me to tell her the bedtime story, show me the Diya she made at school, tell me the Diwali song she learnt, and for me to brush her teeth all at the same time that I was trying to make the twins sleep. I first handled Papad while Pickle thrashed around with the hapless K in the other room. Exhausted after making Papad sleep, I then went over to sleepy, wailing Pickle and rocked him for a while. He was so excited at this unusual treat that he woke up all over again and started asking me questions like ‘Aapka naam, Mama?’ and then repeating with satisfaction ‘Yashodhia’. This took a long while, especially with Peanut’s constant interruptions.
I then turned my attention to the extremely frustrated 5 year old and pacified her by listening to her Diwali song, praising her Diya and telling her a story of the ‘Faraway Tree’ – the series I loved as a kid – of course, for her, I’m just making up the stories as I go along because I don’t remember the actual adventures the kids had in the books –mental note to buy those books for her. And me.
At one point, Peanut went in to the bathroom to wash her hands and then came out screaming ‘Mama Mama’ – she was scared by ‘a hissing sound like a snake’- it turned out to be the overactive Geyser. I comforted her and explained to her what was going on, switching off the geyser. She smiled tentatively but looked distinctly happier. I so remember what my childhood was like around the kids – more so with Peanut than the twins. Maybe it’s because she’s a girl, or maybe she’s just a lot more like me. It worries me a little. The challenge of bringing up your kids well necessarily requires you to grow up a great deal, whether you’re ready for it, or not. I am re-reading Thomas Harris’s iconic ‘I’m Ok, You’re Ok’ and the whole Parent, Adult, Child and Transaction Analysis is re-fascinating me all over again.
Three kids are a lot of work, even with a lot of help. They are the most immense joy, too, but you do end up feeling frazzled and unsure about how much time you’re able to give them. It’s great that they have each other, and they do spend a lot of time happily playing – the twins are far more social and cooperative than most kids their age, for example – far more extroverted than Peanut was at the same age. They are very lucky to have each other, all three of them. But I find myself thinking a lot about my own time with them. How much is enough?
I have come to the conclusion at this point of my break that it’s not that a great deal of time is needed with them; I’m there to see them off in the mornings, mostly there to greet them when they come back, and definitely around at nights to put them to bed and round off the day. I think they’re fairly comfortable with the few hours that they get, although it’s hardly ever one-on-one time with me except the above-mentioned bedtimes. But still. It’s not just about the physical time with them – there’s a whole lot of other stuff that comes with the package which requires thinking, planning, coordinating, monitoring and general attentiveness. It’s important to cut out other distractions, basically.
Anyway, all in all – it was quite a day. And I realize now how important it was for me to take this time off from work; my frazzled and frayed nerves were too busy trying not to implode while simply trying to get through each day – all this self-reflection was hardly a possibility a few months ago.
I’m hardly at a point where I can say I have crystal clarity about where things are going. But let’s just say things are getting clearer – especially about what’s most important.
Always a good thing.