Sunday, November 30, 2008

Infidelity

It's been on my mind a lot these last few months. Not least because I myself contemplated it, even if only in thought. Some close friends went through hell thinking that their husbands were in other relationships. Close relatives have been affected.

So, as you can imagine, I've been thinking a lot about it. I used to be the kind of girl who had major trust issues; if I felt betrayed then I wanted nothing to do with the people concerned any more. If, six months ago, you had asked me what I would do if Vicky cheated on me (even if only in thought) I probably wouldn't have even paused for thought before exclaiming that I'd consider the marriage over.

Now though I'm starting to see the finer shades of gray. It's not just about whether your partner cheated on you or didn't. How do you define cheated? Slept with someone else? Had intimate conversations with them? How do you define intimate? Did they only just think of somebody in a way you'd rather they wouldn't? Where are you, yes, you, drawing the line between what you have the right to object to and what you don't? Does your spouse agree to that demarcation? It's all very difficult to pin down, isn't it?

It seems a poor life to me if you can't lust after the odd non-spouse now and then. Especially when I consider how little these men mean to me before and after. Perhaps for a period of time -- and always when the going is rocky at home -- I may consider closer relationships with a man I know but he never displaces Vicky. It's part of the bigger way of life as I live it. I fly away, roam free, and come home to him, and I married him precisely so I could do this. The flying makes no sense without a home to come to and a home makes no sense without a Vicky waiting for me. I'm not trying to justify a fling here, you understand, because I haven't had one. But I can understand the misery and loneliness that would have you looking elsewhere for companionship. And I also know quite well just what I would be giving up if I were to cross the line. Thus far even though it's been tempting now and then, it's never been quite tempting enough. (Also, quite frankly, if you consider that I'm mostly in this frame of mind when I'm angry with the husband, saddling myself with yet another male isn't high on my list of priorities.)

But I also hold that if blame is to be apportioned, it falls equally upon both the parties who indulged themselves. It's not for either to say that the other led them on or tempted them or something that stupid. Two people went ahead, knowing all the while that they were in the wrong. So I blame both. A person may follow you but you can always say no, I think. Since school I've seen male friends try to justify letting girls dangle after them by saying that they (the guys) were helpless. I've never bought that. If I can ensure that an unwanted follower gets the message why can't they? So yeah, it's your fault too if you can't say no.

But then what? Life doesn't stop there and neither does the average marriage. How do you move on? I'm learning that it's not all about betrayed trust and packing of suitcases and contacting lawyers. It's about facing your own lack of commitment to your marriage that would have your partner looking elsewhere, or your own lack of belief in your relationship that would have your partner thinking that she has nothing much to lose. And it's about all those concerns you shared till now and how well you two really do know each other even when you think you don't. It's about going beyond the surface hurt and shame to reaching out to your partner in the time they need you the most. In lesser cases it's about trying to work out why you no longer feel secure in your marriage.

Six months ago I'd have deleted that last paragraph in disgust, but now I hope I know better. I have always prided myself on being able to tell my husband everything. When I told him about my mixed up thoughts, it was extremely difficult to get the words out but it helped that he heard me out, that he knew me well enough to understand that it was less about another man than it was about him and me moving away from each other. And since then I've seen other husbands and wives reach out to one another. It's said that you need to lose something or think that you've lost it, to truly value it. Well, in all these marriages, nobody lost each other but some came close. And I cannot help but appreciate the grace with which the 'wronged' spouse in every case behaved. From Vicky holding me while I 'fessed, to a wife understanding that a handful of indiscreet SMSes are not the end of the marriage while another wife tried to make up for the attention she hadn't given her husband and thus felt cut adrift from his inner thoughts, to a husband looking beyond his own humiliation to understand why a dearly beloved wife would start walking away -- all of these are real lessons. They teach me that it's not all about instant decisions and snap judgments. It's also about the 'cheating' spouse getting beyond the guilt and resentment and meeting their partner halfway.

Understand, I'm not talking of actual episodes of infidelity; I'm only talking of relationships which have had close calls of late. I have no patience with doormats, you see. But none of the men or women in any of these relationships are anything but strong-minded, highly individualistic people. Most of these marriages are of long duration and worth the effort. It's just that it's nice to see them make the effort. It would have been so easy to walk away. One doesn't need a divorce to shut oneself off, after all. But these people, both husbands and wives, have taken stock, reworked their schedules, adjusted their priorities and carried on. Knowing that rocky times lie ahead, they nevertheless have the experience, the maturity and the self-confidence to recognise that there is more to be got from working on their relationships than in giving in to dented egos.

Friday, November 28, 2008

As I type this

... Bombay has been under attack for over a day now. I think what really brought it alive for me was the constant stream of emails from friends in Bombay and elsewhere. Too many of us know somebody who has been wounded. Sanchita has lost a cousin.

I really don't know what I want to write tonight.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Comparisons

So I would like you to re-read this post of mine and this one of hers.

And then, for good measure, if you remember my little Guide, you may enjoy reading it rephrased here.

I do know I'm not buying the internalisation argument.


Update:

The blogger has removed the posts in question and explained that she did not intentionally plagiarise. I am satisfied by her explanation and have de-linked but am not removing my post because quite a lot of you have it in your RSS feed anyway and I don't believe in  removing a published post unless strictly necessary. Either way, no more ill feeling towards her -- but I state now for the record and for everybody: if you can't be bothered to acknowledge me, I can't be bothered to be quoted by you. Do remember that.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

When Medicines Attack

Nearly twenty-five years ago, my Didi (my uncle's daughter) was a toddler and I was still a baby. She had picked up some kind of infection, something that upset her stomach, so she was taken to the doctor. She was prescribed and dosed with some medicine whose name nobody in the family seems to remember any more. What they do remember is the effects.

Shortly after being given the medicine she went along with the rest of our (then) joint family to an invitation. On the way she seemed to get drowsier and drowsier until somebody suddenly noticed that the sleepiness seemed unnatural. She was completely collapsing and couldn't hold herself up at all.

The family hurried to a nearby doctor instead and he immediately diagnosed it as an allergy to the medicine she'd been given, a sulpha drug of some kind, much in vogue then. He gave her anti-allergens and she slept it off and was much better the next morning.

It's a cautionary tale, this one, and somewhat tangential perhaps to the FAAM but the importance of testing a child's reactions to medicines cannot be stressed too highly. We tend to be hyper parents of infants and be more lax when they reach the toddler stage. Well, this is not about being hyper 24/7 but carefully watching a child until you can undeniably see that the medicine is being entirely beneficial. This is also about something else I learnt from my father -- being absolutely anal about maintaining medical records: yours as well as your children's. The sulpha allergy surfaced earlier in our aunt so it was less of a shock to the family. But it pays to know the allergies within your family. And it pays to write them down and file that in a place where it's easily accessible.

This was my contribution to the FAAM and MM has the roundup here

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Snobbish Sue!

I've begun to carry the iPod to work, to listen to music during my commute. I try not to flash it around, Cal still being a place where public transport is fairly democratic (i.e. you get all kinds of people.)

So yesterday I walked into the Metro, took up a position near the door and listened on. The guy in front of me looked fairly paati (not sure how to translate that, though perhaps DM comes close) in an affluent sort of way. Typical Big Bazar clothes- too much gel in hair- ugly shoes kind with earphones stuck in his ear. He checked me out and looked away and I ignored him. I wanted to switch albums so I discreetly opened my handbag and changed. Tried not to make a big deal out of it. A few minutes later he pulled out his iTouch, changed his tracks and carried on listening.

So much for my three year-old iPod... We both ignored each other and I couldn’t help but laugh at myself. So, if you were on the train with me and you saw me giggling into the BIG FM ad, now you know why.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Smoking Ban

Just the other day I was explaining to Cee and Dottie how I don’t like the idea of strapping kids into car seats being a law and not just a guideline. I do think kids ought to be in seats and there is a lot to be said for a child safely strapped in the backseat while you enjoy a peaceful drive in the front. And I’m not even going into the safety aspect. But I do feel that it should be something you are taught to do and left to practice as you’ve been taught. I really don’t like the law being a shotgun pointed at me for something as basic as enjoying a drive cuddling my baby.

Similarly, I don’t know that I’m so much in favour of the smoking ban. It’s been a month and so far it’s been fairly effective in places like pubs and discs. It’s nice to go out with my hair loose and not come home reeking of stale cigarette smoke. On the other hand, I don’t know that I like smokers being hunted down like this. My prejudice against smoking is a personal one and I try to stand up for it but what I really want is better smoking etiquette taught in homes and schools and peer circles. Yes, I’m all for smoking and non-smoking zones in eating and recreational spaces and most air-conditioned offices anyway have separate zones for smoking, usually near stairwells or outdoors. But let’s not make lepers out of our smokers.

I will even admit that I don’t encourage people to smoke in my house, but that is entirely because a baby lives in it. Until things came to that I did have a flat to myself for almost five years, and I wasn’t a smoker myself for a good year of that. But I didn’t mind people smoking in my home before a baby entered the picture.

All I ask is that you request your hosts for permission before you light up. Move to an open window or a balcony if there are children present. Not carry your cigarette into public transport with you. Don’t throw lighted cigarettes onto the roads for them to burn holes in my saree. Check with your fellow passengers in the office shuttle before you light up – a courtesy markedly lacking my last place of work. It didn’t matter in the bigger vehicles, but it did in the smaller cars, especially when the windows were rolled up because it was raining. Why can’t these be taught in school? People will have their vices and the bigger fuss you make over them, the more they will be tempted. It makes more sense to me to teach young kids that while smoking is a stupid sort of thing to do. you might as well try not to add being obnoxious to it by following the rules of etiquette. It’s like sex ed. Nobody wants kids to have sex, but hey, since you can’t stop them, at least you can teach them what they are getting into.

On the other hand, this Big Brother approach makes me sympathise. To the extent of wanting to have a smoke just to thumb my nose at, er, Big Brother.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Of Changing Relations

Last night we were invited to dinner by Rinkadi (Vicky's cousin's wife who's here on holiday). Rahul was offered his dinner early and my mother-in-law asked to feed him. As I served them and discreetly left the scene, I couldn't help but think of how little I had expected such a simple gesture, once.

When I wrote my Survival Guide for Daughters-in-Law a year ago I did get a lot of flack, both directly at the post and elsewhere for being regressive. (Mad Momma's place comes to mind, although it was a commentor there and MM herself, despite her differing views, defended me quite dearly.) The idea of me being regressive is a bit of a joke, if you know me in person. But you don't, so perhaps I need to tell you why I write those posts. I write them because those are valuable lessons that I learnt and quite frequently, learnt a little late.

I don't forget the things that Vicky's mother did to me. Nor do I underplay the extent of the harm she did to me and mine. Nor have I ever thought that his father was any less to blame for letting the siutation spiral out of control as badly as it did. Consequently, it took me a long time to get over my fears and inhibitions, to visit that house once more. On the other hand, I'm glad I pushed myself and kept pushing, because it's now that I see how good it can get.

Now Rahul knows his other grandparents. He knows their home and is as free in it as he is in Madras. He knows what he can expect from them and is secure in his place as their first grandchild. He had always had it from my parents, of course, and now he has it from both sides. Vicky and I have the security of knowing we have a place to leave him in emergencies and also that in a crisis his parents call us up. We are finally functioning as a family again, depending on one another, taking the support for granted, doing things together.

I didn't know how important this was for me. I needed the acceptance and I needed the balance. I used to feel vaguely uncomfortable that R had such a fantastic relationship with my parents and such a desultory one with V's. One of the nicest things to come out of this in fact is not just that Vicky turns to his parents when in need -- something he had entirely stopped doing -- but that I'm finally secure enough in his life to be comfortable with that. However much I may throw an old hurt or two at him in a moment of anger, I no longer believe that his mother would be happy to see this marriage broken up.

My mother told me a long time ago to give her time to learn to be a mother-in-law, because she'd never been one before. And likewise, that she needed time to learn some of the grandmotherly requirements other than the cuddling because she'd never been a grandmother either, before. Somewhere along the line it suddenly made sense to apply the same logic to the in-laws as well.

I can understand that not everybody's in-laws meet them halfway or even part-way. Some are not worth the trouble of getting to know. And a few will never accept you no matter how often you shove your own hurts aside. On the other hand, some, quite a lot of them do want a happy family. Maybe they don't want you to be a part of it, but if you make their child happy that is a point in your favour already. Nothing comes overnight but there is nothing like a constant chipping away of walls. However discouraged I have been in the past I have always tried to keep it to myself. (To me that means I yell at Vicky and calm down. That's keeping things to myself. That's why I keep the man around.)

And there is also a lot to be said for being very strong and not being afraid to show it. Vicky's parents now know that I am no less capable of shutting them out as they once shut me out. It's just that we have finally accepted, all of us, that we each have a lot to lose by walking away. It started out because I wanted Rahul to have the chance of knowing all his grandparents, and to be honest, I also wanted them to see what they were missing. In the process somewhere down the line we all saw what we were missing. This doesn't mean we spend all our time bonding together, but it does mean that when we meet, we gather as a family. Too much water has gone under the bridge for me to ever take that for granted again.

I have been in two minds about writing this post. For one thing, I was so scared of jinxing things. For another, I would not wish for a reader to take this for an IL dissing post. But I think that now we all recognise how precious these ties are, we will all take the trouble to get along. And I also believe in setting the record straight. I have never hidden the troubles Vicky and I have gone through but nor would I like anybody to think that we don't have our good times.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Explanation

The bowbowatata in the last post was the bhai phonta gift I'd promised to blog later. That is to say, it was given to him by his paternal grandparents on Bhai Phonta, although his grandfather had been eyeing it in the shop for much longer.

As you can see, Bowbowatata has been a big hit all around. Sleeps under the cot at night. Startles me when I see him in a dim corner. A nice doggie though. Doesn't snap or bite.

Even though, as is clearly seen, he has provocation.

Friday, November 07, 2008

He may...

pinch people or throw things when he's annoyed, but never his BooBoo-a-ta-ta. He got angry and went over to the dog intending harm. Bent down to deliver a pinch, stopped mid-way, realised what he was doing, lay down on top of it, hugged it and said something conspiratorially in it's ear.

(From an sms sent by Vicky to me while I was at work.)

Thursday, November 06, 2008

So We Went to See The Great Banyan Tree

Sunday morning we went for a picnic, the three of us with Ma and Dada. Packed our 'picnic' basket and set off. It didn't take us too long to reach the Botanical Gardens, what with it being a Sunday morning.


We set off a little late so it was quite sunny by the time we reached but the wide lanes are well bordered by high-arcing trees, so it was fairly comfortable strolling along. Rahul was delighted to be able to run around so freely. Since cars aren't allowed (except those belonging to the staff we were told, but I'm certain the two cars with the firang tourists weren't staff but we'll let that pass) and there was only the odd cycle or motorbike, he had the run of the road and picked at pebbles and dirt and things I don't want to think about.


We ambled along, stopping to admire little ponds, the beautiful giant lotus leaves, the calm of the surroundings. There were couples hidden behind every bush and in every shade. All very peaceful though. We picnicked on a bench near the river and were visited by a fox. It seems like a very long time since I was last this close to a fox. The downside of living in a city -- that my son thinks a grassy verge is a rare treat. We passed a pretty old building, now falling apart. It's a pity nobody has the money these days to repair old wooden lace or pretty iron grillwork.

Then we found ourselves walking down this beautiful gravel avenue:

Eventually, having walked some more -- although I'll admit that after a heavy breakfast it felt like a lot more -- we reached the Great Banyan Tree. Can you see it, there behind us?

I find it humbling that the board only lists it as the largest in India, "perhaps in Asia". So there could be one or more even larger somewhere nearby. What a thought!

If you haven't been able to figure it out yet, the thing that looks like a mini grove behind us is one tree. The main trunk was removed in 1925 after a fungal attack but the rest of it continues to grow, supported on its aerial roots. I remember the first time I went to see it. I was cranky, having been made to walk what I considered much too far to see some mouldy old tree. Every now and then I saw some vast tree and asked if this was the famous banyan and my uncle (Cousin J's father) only laughed. And then, he pointed to the horizon and said, "There it is."

He's been teasing me all my life so I really didn't believe him until I was standing under the branches and could see the thing for myself. It's an Experience.

So was this other thing they have introduced -- boating in this nice, twisting, island-dotted lake nearby. We took a four-seater paddleboat.


It was fairly shady on the water and with a little breeze sometimes rustling by, quite pleasant. Rahul was quite tired by then. He'd woken up early in the morning and run lots, so he was starting to get all cranky. So I took him in my lap. The child refused to wear a hat so I put on this undersized umbrella, hoping to keep him shaded as well. Someday, if you need to hang on to a floaty hat while clutching on to a child and paddling a boat all at once, you'll know what it was like. Till then, I leave you with this:

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Great, Greedy Guts

And he is, too. The husband, I mean. We’ve known each other off and on, for over seven years now. One of my earlier memories of us sharing the same space was when his parents went out of town and his brother threw afternoon parties every day to celebrate. Obviously all the money available was spent on grass so usually there was no food. Sometimes there was a little alcohol. One such day I went out to the dining room for a little fresh air, feeling faintly sorry for myself because I hadn’t eaten all day.

Vicky came out of his room, took a carton of cheese spread out of the ‘fridge, a packet of Cream Crackers and proceeded to devour the whole lot on his own. In front of me, seated across the table. Over friendly conversation. Without so much as offering me a bite.

You’d think I should have known better than to marry a monster like him.

Now, these long days at work are tough on my munch-happy tum. I like to munch through the afternoon and I only survived the other day by reminding myself about the chicken cutlet sitting in the ‘fridge at home. Vicky was to have had one for lunch and the other one I planned to slide into the system ASAP.

But you know where this is going. He had them both. I don’t think I’ll get over the disappointment any time soon.

Note: The man is being disgustingly nice to me while I adjust to this major lifestyle change. I have been thinking for a long time but this was the only legit complaint I found to write about. So what if one part is six years old. I don’t intend to let a little thing like that stop me.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Dust Flies Still

Mainly because Vicky's a lousy housekeeper.

OK, no, it's mainly because I can't settle down to the new routine. Rahul's not too happy with it but he's coping better than I'd hoped. Or so I was thinking. But it's also true that these last few weeks have seen the Terrible Twos come storming back into our lives. He was becoming so much easier to deal with but now he is whining all day, nothing seems to please him and he and I have been fighting endlessly.

This morning things took an upswing. I was sitting at the Mac with my morning coffee when he came toddling out of his cot (N.B. He can now climb in as well as out now, and we're pretty thrilled about it. No more rushing to get him in or out.) and hugged me. We haven't had any serious fights since although things got a bit nasty later in the evening. I have been miserable, feeling left out and unloved because father and son seemed so complete and self-sufficient in themselves. But I suppose it was me standing outside rather than them closing me out.

I come back to a home that's basically a mess and I don't mean the toys being on the floor either. I mean wet laundry in both bathrooms, used dishes in various places, mattresses not being aired, windows never having been opened all day and stuff like that. And I've been getting upset because somebody else is looking after my home and doing a lousy job of it. I don't want to think of how long it took me to learn to look after my home. How I added a chore each day as I learnt it needed to be done. That Vicky is freelancing full-time from home now and needs the time to work.

Well, I'm thinking of that now and it's true, I did tell him I'd fly off the handle but would he please overlook it because underneath it, all I wanted him to do was take care of himself and the boy. Everything else would happen somehow.

My second day of work today and things are falling into places. Hours have been fixed -- a consideration I really appreciate from an advertising agency -- and it is something I have been insistent about since I need to be able to at least take the babycare off Vicky's shoulders for a fixed amount of time everyday. I still don't know why I'm doing this to myself but I'm willing to finish the week before I apply for retirement.

This is what my horoscope for tomorrow (today) says:

Try to accept things they way they are right now -- even if they're not exactly how you want them to be. Keep in mind that things will never be perfect. So the sooner you can learn how to be more flexible, the better! Being uncomfortable, either emotionally or physically, isn't necessarily a bad thing, anyway. There is a lot of opportunity for growth when you are struggling to make things better. If everything was easy, then attaining things wouldn't be very rewarding.

In the meantime, Vicky is learning to cook khichudi for his son's lunch.

Monday, November 03, 2008

This is in extremely bad form

and you mustn't think I don't know it. Each of you who awarded me this nearly two months ago:

I meant to acknowledge it then but I kept losing track of all the people I had to acknowledge and then it just snowballed from there. Next time I'll do it before I put up any more posts. Because it isn't everyday I get called brilliant is it? And mostly the word has an "ass" or some such tagged on after it, which, let me assure you, quite takes the shine away from the brilliant.

So *takes a deep breath*, thank you, Jottings and Musings, who was born in the year of my birth on the day that The Bhablet was later born; Abha of the unforgettable smile; Dipali who needs no intro; and Avanti who's currently rather taken up in her new role.

This award is for blogs whose content and/or design are brilliant as well as creative. Its purpose to promote as many blogs as possible in the blogosphere.
1. When you receive the prize you must write a post showing it, together with the name of who has given it to you, and link them back
2. Choose a minimum of 7 blogs (or even more) that you find brilliant in their content or design.
3. Show their names and links and leave them a comment informing they were prized with ‘Brilliant Weblog’
4. Show a picture of those who awarded you and those you give the prize (optional).
5. And then we pass it on!

To:
Ana -- For a blog that is visually appealing, clearly written and always interesting.

MayG's Creative Startup -- It's only a part of her regular blog but I love the artwork and widgetwork she's put into it.

Poppin (and Sweetpea's) Mom -- She's on a bit of a break what with being a do betiyonki ma but I've always loved her blog.

Sailu's Food -- Another early favourite from when I used to surf aimlessly during work. Go on, go through her archives. She gave me the courage to walk into the kitchen and pick up the ladle for things other than Maggie. I haven't come very far but I do acknowledge her efforts!

Dooce -- You appreciate the honesty of my writing, you tell me. Well, this is what I try to aspire to.

Lali -- Because her blog keeps a little part of her alive over here.

Jai -- I love his blog. No particular reason, but yeah, I prefer the content to the green template. :)

JAP -- I like both his blogs but for some reason I read the Blogspot one more.

I'm indeed so sheepish about it that I shan't even nominate any more blogs. Not because all my fav blogs have been nominated, but because having lost my blogroll during the template fiasco I don't have most of my fav links handy any more. That and also because of the sheepishness.

On the other hand, Avanti at least calls me her BFF (Blogging Friend Forever)


so I hope this means she at least forgives me. Since I've been sheepish for a considerable period of time already I shall now revert to my normal, brash self and toss some BFF cards out to E whose blog is private but who forgives me everything, and Beq who is blind to my mistakes. And Dipali who sees beyond them. And I'm sending over an extra large version of the card to the girls at CTT. Just because they are there. You know who you are, all of you.


P.S.
If you nominated me and I haven't acknowledged you, you must blame CTT. I have over a thousand mails to sort out the blog comments from, to find out the links to your awarding posts, and I just couldn't find the courage to wade into that. But I'm really touched you like Sunny Days. Father-mother-god-promise.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

These Mens... They Just Don't Get It

A conversation chez Sue during a Puja night:

- You're quite ill, you know. The fever's pretty high.
- Hmm.
- How about we don't go anywhere tomorrow? I think you need to stay home and get some rest.
- No! You don't understand, I have a saree I need to wear tomorrow.

Surely you, gentle reader, understand what I'm saying? Because the husband didn't.


Saturday, November 01, 2008

My Life is Changing In So Many Waaays

All three of our lives are, actually. As you read this I'm on my way to work. I've gone back to work full-time and I'm waiting to see how I like it. If this works out:

* Vicky will work from home full-time while I spend the day at work.

* He will be taking on Bhablet-stuff full-time. We've been doing that more or less for two weeks now but it'll also be up to him to cook emergency meals, take a call on doctor visits, medication, changes in schedule etc. Full-time responsibility instead of following a pattern I set.

* He'll need to handle the laundry guy, the repair people, stuff like that, and keep an eye on groceries. Boil milk and keep the curtains closed against the afternoon heat. Things like that.

* Rahul will learn to know me as the parent who goes to office and his father as the person he automatically goes to.

* I will not sleep in any more mornings, nor will I laze around the house in a tatty nightie doing chores in my usual haphazard fashion.

* I will need to be polite, punctual and presentable for most of the day most of the week. That seems like a big deal in my current mood.

I'm not ready for it, and to tell you the truth, I've been trying not to think about it.

Although I will probably feel a lot better once the day is done and I have a better idea of what I've let myself in for.