"Why?", I asked my mother flashing her the best puppy-eyed look I could muster "Why, me?" Sitting across from me, my mother averted her glance just as the waiter walked up to the table with our drinks - a strong filter coffee for my mother, and a bottle of juice for me. She said nothing in reply to my question, as she took a sip of the drink.
Even though I was only fifteen years old, I knew the reason for her silence. I had just completed my 10th CBSE board exams, which I had passed with flying colours. Yes, the results had surprised me too. But nevertheless, I was riding high on the success. And then my father had dropped a bombshell.
Walking into the living room one day, while I was inconspicuously trying to watch an episode of FRIENDS, he had nonchalantly announced, "Sidharth, you're going to a new school." Now, my father is often known for his good sense of humour, so I just dismissed it as a prank that he was trying to pull off. I barely looked up and just let out a guffaw. But then he came over and sat down on the opposite sofa and placed his hand on my shoulder. "You're going to a prestigious residential school in Kerala. There will be many kids similar to you, ones who have been born and brought up abroad in the UAE and elsewhere. So you won't feel out-of-place either. "
Of course, the news hit me quite hard. I am an only child. So as expected, my parents have always gone out of their way to make sure that I've had every level of comfort that they could afford to give me. That is not to say that I was spoiled for choice. No, they offered me a rein, long enough for me to be able to make my small choices, while looking out for me. So perhaps, the last thing I had thought I would ever hear was the fact that I was being 'banished' to the depths of a windowless, soul-less dungeon where I would have no friends, no family and was be all alone. Or at least that's what my fifteen year old brain convinced me would happen.
What followed next were a few weeks of utter torture. Not of the mental kind, but emotionally heart wrenching. I bade a heavy-hearted good-bye to all my friends and my neighbours and was soon on my journey to this new 'gated hell' that awaited me. Since the summer vacations in the Middle East and in India are during different times, my father was unable to accompany us. So a couple of days before the start of the new academic year, my mother and I, made the long and arduous journey to this enormous residential school in Nilambur, thousands of miles away from home.
Now, up until that point, I had never asked my mother the reason behind my father's actions. I mean, I did not even ask my father the reason. I just complained and tried to resist the change. But that day, sitting at this quaint little cafe, merely minutes away from walking through the gigantic wooden gates that would lead me to my new 'home' for the next couple of years, I was overwhelmed. Mixed emotions surged through me like roller coaster ride with no stop in sight. But somehow I gathered my wits and asked my mother why they did what they had done.
As I sat there waiting for my mother to give me an explanation, tears started to well up and for the first time I could remember, since I had entered my teenage years, I cried. No, it wasn't a wail like how babies or little kids do when they're hurt or throwing a tantrum. It was more of a continuous stream of pearl-shaped droplets chasing each other down the contours of my chubby cheeks, while my brain struggled to process the potential reasons behind my parents' actions and how I would face the next two years in a strange place. I felt like I was in a dark tunnel and there was absolutely no light at the end.
Suddenly my mother spoke. I wiped my tears and looked at her. Her eyes had started to well up too and the tip of her nose had turned a shade of light pink. As she gently called out my name, it struck me. This transition and change was going to be a lot difficult for her than it was for me. Yes, in due course, I would make friends and settle down. But my mother, whose life revolved around her little family, that included my father and me, would be missing a whole part when I had gone. The fact that she was a teacher who would be teaching kids around the same group as I was, would not help either. For in every pair of eyes that looked back at her while she was reading aloud that poem or story, would remind her of me.
As these thoughts rushed through my head, she pulled up her chair towards me and embraced me in a tight hug. Suddenly, I felt like a little kid again. I did not want to go anywhere, but just stay like that forever. But she cut short the embrace and looked into my eyes.
"Listen," she said, her soothing voice offered me as much comfort as a gentle babbling brook, "We're in this together. Even though your father might not acknowledge this, it is as difficult for the both of us to be away from you, as much as it is for you to be away from us. But we won't be there with you forever. There will be a time in your life when you need to be able to adjust to newer surroundings, make new friends and be optimistic about the future. And that time is now! Look back fondly on the memories of all the time you've had with us and your friends and at your old school. They will be your light during the darkest days. And they will guide and help you to make more memories with new friends here too."
As I quietly nodded along to everything she said, she added, "And remember son, we love you. We are doing this because we love you and want you to be independent. You can't live in our shadows forever or live with the decisions we make for you. This is the first step to your new life. So embrace it. And for everything else, we're always there to guide you. Together, we can do this."
Looking back, that was perhaps the best decision that my parents had made for me. And also the last. They gave me the support that I needed to be independent, and of course have always been together with me during my low points and high ones. Today, I stand proud and tall with my head held high because of the fact that I've known they have always supported me. In retrospect, I might even say that was perhaps one of the most memorable moments in my life. The time that I spent with my mother in the cafe that day and listening to her telling me the reasons behind their decisions, helped me look up and be optimistic about my future. No, it wasn't easy, but as she said, #together, we did it.
Thank you Housing.com for giving me the opportunity to relive this valuable memory that has made me the person that I am today
Image courtesy : www.shutterstock.com
It is often said that the road to your parenthood becoming a fruitful reality is approximately 40 weeks long. Try as you may, you just cannot go above the nature-regulated speed limit - doesn't matter if you have a brand new Ferrari or a decade old Toyota Supra. Me, I say it's more like a board game - more often than not, you go from starting point to the winner's circle on a set path, and lady luck occasionally throws you a few lucky rolls of the dice, the outcomes of which are anybody's guess.
Though others may choose to disagree, I would broadly split out this 40 week path into 5 complex yet beautiful phases.
Phase 1: Wonderful beginnings
From a man's point of view, this stage almost always starts with either a "Yay, we're pregnant" or a "I'm pregnant with YOUR child" phrase. Since I am a staunch believer in the institution of marriage and/or any kind of serious relationship, I am going to use the former statement as the basis going forward. (Another reason is that mostly the latter statement has a 50% chance of going either ways - i.e could be good or bad news.)
Great, you're expecting! This has to be amazing news. Your partner (for this example, I am going to go ahead and assume it's a woman - to ensure biological accuracy) and you are excited beyond words, and suddenly everywhere you turn, you can't help but notice expectant couples everywhere. You personally want to shout out the news from the top of a very high building - however your sensibilities make you understand that only immediate family / friends need to know. You dote on your partner and are available at her beck and call. Their every little "ooh and aah" are a cause for concern for you. If you are a couple that enjoy the occasional drink, you voluntarily solemnly vow to take a detox till the little one(s) is/are out. This phase usually lasts till the first proper scan - say for about 12 weeks from conception, or possibly 6 weeks from when you discover you are expecting
Phase 2: Ups & Downs
You've just accompanied your "expectant partner" for her first scan. As much as you'd hate to admit it, you would have been jittery for the past couple of days - after all, this scan is black and white proof of your impending parenthood. The scan goes well, and your excitement (or fear) is confirmed, and you've now officially got an ultrasound image of something that resembles a cross between a reasonable sized squashed coffee bean and a baby chimp. Though you are vividly aware of both the scan technician and your better half squealing in delight at the "apparent features of your baby", you probably are squinting at the screen, unable to differentiate the baby's head from its feet. Fear not - research has shown that more men struggle with inkblot tests, which would probably go some way to explain our lack of skill in this field. Having said that, more often than not, you'd tend to play along and try to imagine what the baby should look like.
Once the confirmation of the scan is done, you'd most likely be ready to let your close friends and acquaintances know about this momentous event that is now slowly taking over your life. However phase 2 is not entirely stress-free. As your baby grows, so does your partner, albeit very slowly. And invariably so does your partner's pregnancy related syndromes - Nausea, tiredness, an absolute aversion to some previously well-liked aromas etc. just to name a few. To add to your misery, your partner now starts to show signs of weight gain; Unfortunately the worst part of this, is that she now starts to look more fat than pregnant. So be prepared for a lot of "Do I look fat in this?" and plenty more "I don't fit into those jeans anymore". Be patient - she deserves to whinge. However this is where the luck of the dice starts to come into play for the first time in this board game of pregnancy. Your partner could have all, some or none of these symptoms at all. This phase also sets off a round of maternity related purchases - maternity clothes, baby toys etc. Though fear not, these are the occasional spur-of-the-moment purchases.
Phase 3: Calm before the storm
You as a couple, are now approximately 7 months into your pregnancy. More than likely, your partner has now either been set free from the vicious holds of the initial pregnancy related symptoms, or both of you have made peace with it, so much so that you've accepted it as part and parcel of this wonderful journey. By now, the signs of pregnancy are really starting to show on the both of you - Her with her cute round bump and you with those monstrous dark circles under your eyes as well as your overall unkempt dishevelled state. Personally this is one of the best stages of the pregnancy - your partner gets a lot of attention from everyone, loads of congratulatory messages and plenty of " You look so beautiful / You're glowing" messages; It's great because these feed her good ego, and hence you are invariably much more relaxed.
Through the midst of all this, you can't secretly help but wonder if you should invest in a larger king-size bed, in the hope that this might stop you from being kicked out at night. Have fun while this lasts - which is for about a week or two.
Phase 4 : " I hate you …and everything else" phase
At approximately 8-and-odd months, starts the penultimate leg of this "lovely" journey. Be prepared to hear this phrase, at least once a day : " I hate you!". She finds it difficult to breathe, and everything that can swell, will start to swell. Maternity clothes stop fitting and she even finds it an arduous task to wear any kind of footwear that involves straps or a pair of laces. And you….you find yourself at the receiving end of every single outburst. You're torn between wanting to take care of her, and secretly wanting to stay a bit longer at work, till she possibly goes to bed. But at this stage, even a simple thing like a nap is excruciatingly difficult for her to come by. Once again, be patient - we men can whine and whinge all we want, when we are able to reciprocate with the production of life inside of us. Until then, be as loving and kind as you can be. At this point, you're very likely starting to regret the whole " I vow to detox and restrain from having any kind of alcoholic beverage" episode from Phase 1. Also get set to hear a lot of " Haven't you guys had the baby yet?" from the rest of the world. Phase 4 culminates with both of you secretly harbouring the same thoughts - " I don't care if that baby needs to be pulled out through the ears, I just wish it'd hurry up!"
Phase 5: The miracle of birth
This phase often starts off with a long resounding "aaah" from your better half, which progressively gets repeated every 10 minutes or so. So you do the best thing possible - call the Maternity suite/wing and let them know you think the bun's had enough cooking in the oven. Depending on your luck, you'd either be asked to come in straight away, or the duty nurse will insist on speaking to the mother-to-be to assess the situation. For the sake of simplicity, and sanity, let's assume that both of you have been advised to come to the labour suite. This sets the stage for "Let's wait and see.."; Your partner is now "comfortably" (yeah, right!) settled on the hospital bed, dressed in their traditional maternity gown, bed at a half-elevated position. As for you, you're just sitting around by the bed waiting for the inevitable push to come through. Apart form the occasional visits from the maternity nurse and the doctor-on-call, the both of you have some quality time to pass. Unfortunately, neither of you are in the mood to have lengthy philosophical or romantic talks. Sooner or later, the fated push will materialise, and riding on these waves of pushes and deep breaths, shall arrive the answer to the age-old travel question " Are we there yet?" - your little bundle of joy!
Sounds simple, doesn't it ?
Image Courtesy : RGBstock.com/johnnyberg