First published (November 11, 2013) on my TOI blog, Freeze Frame
“Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.” T.S. Eliot
Today, it was one of those mornings again. You know the kind when I find myself in a purna chakrasan. It’s as if I’m watching myself from outside, arched backwards in an almost perfect circle, watching the world upside down, an imaginary vicious circle that I get myself into, from giving in to bending backwards beyond all bending norms.
If you are wondering what brought on this vision, it was the state of internal affairs on home turf: in plain English, the burden of the previous fortnight that had resulted in my taking on this yogic ‘wheel’ state. The ever-so-busy husband, who chooses to visit us whenever he gets a little time off from work, his meetings, conference calls, presentations, travels, interviews, more meetings and even more calls from overseas, happened to be travelling across the seas, again. And I being the one who, fifteen years ago in all my youthful eagerness chose to be the working-from home-mother (a decision albeit taken from the lack of proper knowledge of the trade) naturally end up with no option but to bend over backwards as I try to juggle as many hats as my honorary Home Ministership comes with, including filling up the shoes of the missing-in-action-better-half, at times.
Anyway, this morning as I sipped my below ambient coffee and he sipped his steaming cup of Darjeeling tea, the only solution that rushed through my mind to climb out of this twist was picking up a machete and making two neat halves of this household that we call ours. No, not hack down the home and hearth, for I believe in creating something beautiful, not destroying things. but in sitting down and equally dividing the headaches that are associated with playing the role of the wife to a time traveller, the mother and at times the father and friend to a just-turned-teenaged daughter, as well as the teacher to the eager and confused teen, slave driver to electricians/ plumbers/ carpenters and every kind of handyman required to keep the household in good shape, to the one who chaperones, waits with a book in every corridor outside the daughter’s guitar, vocal training, swimming, art classes as well as dedicates time, energy and thought to getting car brakes serviced, take care of chores at the bank, drawing up the itinerary for the forthcoming winter holidays, fill in as a minor member of the building society committee, fight more fires and after all of this, finding the time and energy to do something I really want to do for myself – write that book .… phew. Yes, all that and much more. I’m sorry for the rant. But look around you, and look into your life Woman, and tell me, am I making up any of this? I’m sure you will have a lot more to add to this ever burgeoning list of responsibilities.
I kept watching him over the rim of my cup. He had finished with the day’s headlines, read the editorials and had moved on to the business section of the morning paper. Soon he would neatly fold the paper back and push it aside, glance through his Blackberry inbox, check his calendar, make polite conversation starting with ‘so what does your day look like…’ and get on with his day. I wrangled with myself not to start a civil war. This needed more time and not a sermon starting with ‘you ALWAYS find the worst possible time to start SUCH conversations’ and inevitably ending at ‘why pray are you in a hostile mood so early in the morning?’. I took and deep breath and slowly exhaled. I had to do it right this time, I needed to have time on my side, with proper homework in place, with ‘proof’ that the rest of the world relied on equilibrium for a sane and balanced conjugal life, be it one-size-fits-all or bespoke and that the word ‘equilibrium’ was missing from this apparently placid waters.
I needed a strategy. Wasn’t it better to locate the faults myself, find answers to my questions and then point out the loopholes, and put it upon him to set it right, for once? On one hand the machete was baying for blood, on the other the peace-loving me was reasoning with myself as to why it was absolutely unnecessary to cause ripples in this placid pool of domesticity and watch it lash back at me like a tsunami, on this cool, quiet morning meant for billing and cooing.
The machete needs to wait, I sighed. I needed to introspect and find inner peace. Then, silently observe, study the equilibrium that is holding the universe in place, take notes and create a docket that will bring forth the bigger changes. And eventually I would untangle myself from the tangle of frazzled nerves, the time traveller falling in line and picking up his half of responsibilities and all this without causing a ripple on lake placid, on cloud 25.
What you are about to read next are notes, from my secret day long ‘research’. First the close observations of several research subjects, mostly people I have known and watched closely enough over the years to know the necessary ‘domestic’ details and form an objective opinion. This is followed by a closer examination of each of the scenarios, followed by an evaluation and a foot note.
Case Study # 1 – This dear friend of mine had made it rather clear ‘I’m never going to set foot in the kitchen, consider that before you decide to take the plunge’ before she had said ‘I do’ to the smitten. Their conjugal life of 17 years has been blessed with two bright young brats, a beautiful house, potted plants, two cars, two maids, a driver and a cook.
Footnote : And I am clearly weak in my Maths.
Case Study # 2 – Neighbour from another city with new born son made it clear that the parents and parents in law have to take turns in rearing their grandson, for she had to get back to her demanding career, come hail or high water. Her two children are pretty little angels. The two pairs of elderly couples live between cities, happily raising grand children while their children climb the corporate ladder.
Footnote : I wonder if I had ever made one distress call, to near and dear ones, let alone setting such high expectations for them to live up to, living between cities, that is, to raise our daughter.
Case Study # 3 – Another dear friend, with a husband who has a rather flexible spinal cord, a clear sense of priorities and a huge appetite for work, for not only does he manage a high stress profession, he also finds time to iron out issues, her silks, clean their French windows, attend to their garden with her and who knows what all otherwise.
Footnote : I always just raise an eye brow, ‘rare, but such men do exist’.
Case Study # 4 – Friends from Forever, have set up two households in two different cities, across countries, because their staying-ahead-of-the-curve-career demands them to, stay married and stay in two different countries.
Footnote : No comments.
Case Study # 5 – Finally, I turned to the net for answers and ways to solve this inequation. But at the end of having gone through over thirty odd articles, mostly researched and collated in the West, I come up with solutions like ‘do the dishes together’, ‘wash the car while he mows the lawn’, ‘men should get their hands dirty by shouldering home-improvement and getting down to cleaning’, ‘partners who share household chores have a better sex life’ ‘More marriages break down over couples fighting about who does boring household chores or pays the bills rather than infidelity’ etc.
Footnote : I resign.
And all this brings you back to, yours sincerely, me. Again. Clearly, my fault finding exercise to seal seeming loopholes of my “unbalanced, lacking in method and sanity” life did not fetch much. In fact, the exercise had fetched nothing at all. The more I studied cases and watched people, the more I was convinced that there are as many methods to the madness as the number of couples. Each situation I gauged demanded its own quirk and those who had found their middle ground managed to stay afloat together as a couple – even if it meant the husband staying in a different city from the wife and children because both pursued challenging and rewarding careers. In a few rarest of rare cases, the husband had even stepped into the home-husband shoes while the wife chased her dreams, both happy in their roles.
Yet, I was still where I had started, machete in hand, wanting only a half of the pie I currently owned. None of the solutions seemed to suit my situation. I had no need for a house husband, no. Nor did I fancy a bevy of maids, cooks and drivers at my disposal, for in my opinion they tend to add to ones headaches rather than relieving one of any. Would I be happy with the husband’s cleaning, cooking or ironing skills? Doubtful, for I am too much of a perfectionist and I set very high standards – so no, I might not appreciate his use of spices for my favouroite kababs or his lack of finesse in washing dishes. A long distance relationship sounded like disaster to me, the saying ‘out of sight, out of mind’ loomed large as an omen. Solutions did not find their way to me. So I resolved it for myself, for the time being at least. I assured myself that my methods have worked fine for the last decade and a half in my madness, and trying to undo anything at this juncture will only upset the current balance. Yes, I realized an invisible balance, even though wonky, was at work, even within my walls and I was its fulcrum.
So, by evening, I had quietly straightened myself out of the yogic posture and had gone back to the drawing board to formulate my own recipe to deal with my own unique brand of madness. Perhaps the ‘mythical’ equilibrium is nothing but better communication, clever delegation, a clever head for Maths, setting ground rules before taking the plunge and perhaps an inflexible spinal cord that refuses to bend, come what may. The machete? Well, it will have to wait to taste blood, if at all.
Disclaimer : In case you find a close resemblance of yourself with any of the case studies mentioned above, kindly disregard and read on. It is someone else, not you.