November 5, 2006

his space, my space, and all that matters in-between

despite the three-and-half-hour powercuts we have daily, today we’ve had the internet connection for longer than usual. i wanted to write a lot…about the project i am stuck with and *have* to complete before my baby is out, about writers like kiran desai and others and why i too so want to start on a story, about why indians in india will always blame their country and i will always fight against them…

instead i started writing and before i knew it, i was rambling about my own struggles with being myself while being happily married (five years this 25th!), my problems with staying away from my roots, and the hope that babies, for better or worse, can change anything. this post has turned out to be rather personal, but here it is nevertheless…

…the trouble with living abroad with just your spouse is that you simply get used to each other.

you wake up seeing his or her face and you go to bed doing the same. your life revolves around each other’s, for all the 24 hours of the day, each day of the week, all month and through the year. friends drop in and out of your lives and you talk to family over the phone. once in a year or two, your parents or in-laws visit you, change everyday routines into whirlwind tourist escapades that leave both of you sinking in your chairs exhausted. at least not for another year, you think.

and then it is time for you to visit home. his family and then your family, or vice versa. gifts for everyone. neither of you are really satisfied with the holiday, but that’s only natural and you know it. then the calculations begin…who stayed for how long at whose home and why. one of you demands more time with (one) family. sigh, and one of you has to compromise. always.

is the trouble – staying abroad away from family, getting homesick, missing your old friends, constantly compromising – worth it at all, i wonder.

this year, long before praveen‘s back forced us to take this unscheduled and almost frustratingly-extended holiday, we had decided to give each other some space…

every year, i would fly alone, early, so that i got an extra week with my family, and he, with his, and i hated every moment of it. the separation i mean. i was used to us being together all the while, and i didn’t regret it one bit. we had (and sometimes still do) begun to complete each other’s sentences, or spookily, speak out what the other was still thinking about. we were growing within each other and without. we were the best of friends, and yet, we were like any husband and wife.

this year, boldly, we thought that would change. we would fly together, no matter what. and once we met everyone we would live in our own homes. he would be in kerala and i, in mumbai. at first i shuddered at the thought, but i belong to that category of women who at times consider themselves to be independent, or at least pretend to. (and believe me they do try). so i agreed, wholeheartedly.

but we ended up staying at two ayurvedic hospitals instead, for over five weeks. thankfully, praveen had begun to recover after his ordeal. he had had his prescribed month-and-a-half-long period of strict bedrest. as he got better, he got restless and wanted to move around, walk, and be with family. his family.

it was a painful three days and nights, before i finally let him go last week. will he be able to fly alone, will he take his medicines on time, what if he accidentally stumbles, what if the pain returns on the flight to cochin, who will apply all the oils on his back…thousands of questions played in my mind. after all, there was a lot that had already happened…the pain, the treatment, the house we had to vacate through our friends, the MA degree i had to postpone to next year…and besides, i am in my last month of pregnancy. i am allowed to be an emotional freak, am i not?

but then, i also realised i was unintentionally mothering someone already. him. and when a best friend begins to parent the other, one of them is bound to rebel. that’s when it is practical to let go.

praveen is away for just two weeks, of which a week has already passed. he’s with his family, free to do what he wants to, and i am with mine. i cannot do a lot of things though, since i look and waddle like a sea horse, and have trouble travelling on thane’s permanently-dug-up roads. but then i was restless too.

so i took part in a four-day tribal art or warli painting workshop to keep me sane. i am sorting out pieces of leftover cloth from my mother’s old tailoring bags, for quilts i can make once the baby is out. (i wish i could do that right now but we indians don’t shop/prepare for the baby before it is out. and don�t ask me why!)

i am still struggling with my MA project that has to be submitted in january as soon as i get back. i am hoping my warli art teacher gets some more students so i can learn madhubani painting from her. before praveen comes back next week, i must spend some time with my aunts…

perhaps this is what giving each other ‘space’ really means. or is it? had we not been residents of a foreign country, perhaps i would have learnt this sooner. i don�t know if everyone who�s abroad goes through what I�ve rambled above. perhaps babies change everything.

hopefully, they will.