These days when I try to bring Shonai back from daycare she clings to Revati; vehemently refusing my offers. Sometimes I wait, even as “waiting” auto bhaiya honks on. On other days after 5 hours of teaching I make it quick. Later as Shonai snores lightly on my tummy I often ponder on the cruelty of my intrusion.
After the traumatic silence of her first days, she has come to love the place. Yet in these moments the ghosts of the jealous mother shrouds the rationale.
Back home we have automated our lives to her bowel movements. I remember watching Piku with Shonai still in my belly. My sister, like other Bongs universally decried the crude reduction of our community’s life to journeys in the netherworld. Having lived under the dread of missing family members locking themselves up in the loo out of precaution every time someone suggested an outing; I couldn’t help admire the profundity of Sircar’s conception.
Although Shonai has now given up her marathon run with soiled nappies; gastronomical concerns never leave my very Bong household. So, early in the morning as I shuffle between pressure cooker sirens and smelly nappies, Piku and I sometimes stop to share a sigh.
Even my canteen double coffee somehow gravitates towards my newfound status as a struggling working mom. Senior colleagues smile wisely as they recall harrowing histories of child rearing while younger ones desperately clutch their mobile phones in boredom. P who had a baby 6 months before me is almost unnerving in her accomplished composure.
As I try to hide my now prominent facial hair in patchy powder I look up to her for advice. My agony aunt talks of perfect bottle loving babies, of nightlong slumbers and packed lunchboxes as I gulp down disappointment in sugary caffeine.
My first day back in college after six months of solitary confinement in the nursery, had been blessedly uneventful except for my last Additional English class. I remember choking half way through Dickens because I could no longer go on about three-year-old chimney sweepers and coal miners in early industrial Britain.
As I looked apologetically to the class, a student on the first bench smiled. It is okay Ma’am she’d said. Maybe she is right. Maybe it’s okay to be a mess. Maybe we are all a mess – the seasoned class defaulters or fumbling multi-taskers.
Yesterday while rushing to the PG block I stood a full 3 minutes on the road. I had just scribbled fanatic notes for my class (an astonishing feat these days) and was rushing for the final performance. There on the farce of the pavement before me, a woman in a sequined pink saree paused to balance her child on her waist while adjusting a her saabzi jhola.
I don’t know whether it was the baby curls or the asymmetrical bulge of the mother’s waistline, I stood captivated. Shonai was teething for the 7th time and I must watch out for fever I reminded myself as I marched off to my older brats.
Daycare has successfully erased some of my initial anxieties of leaving Shonai with strangers. Again it was P who had first recommended it as I gloomed over the thought of three maids taking over my house. Her baby had apparently loved it. I was skeptical; in the battle of wills Shonai has always had the last laugh. Yet somehow Shonai has managed to surprise me once again.
Now on the rare mornings that I manage to get up early enough, I sit an extra minute or two fidgeting with my mobile in the bathroom. I bathe in the private quiet that precedes the impending rush. For a brief moment I even manage to forget the pile of to -dos waiting outside as I stash yet another silver earing to my shopping cart.