Two Hands Only

I realized when I became a mother that I have only two hands. I learnt to count pretty early in a severe convent school. But it was only after my daughter came along that this truth hit me full in the face. All along, I was led to believe that women have several invisible hands that materialize once we pop a baby out. I’d be able to manage my career, child, health and the house while wearing an abnormally large smile. I’d be this multi-tasking goddess who slaughtered an onion with one hand, typed an email with another, fed the baby with yet another, brushed my thinning hair with one more and did handstands with the pair that was still available.

This was the promise that the internet gave me. Motherhood, I was told, was about balance. As a kid who routinely tripped over her shoelaces, I ought to have been more cautious. However, a baby is all about new beginnings and I was uncharacteristically optimistic. The first few months after my daughter was born, we had the grandmothers helping us out. ‘Only cloth nappies,’ one said. ‘Let’s apply kajal in the baby’s eyes,’ another said. Enough to say that this kind of help quickly got on my nerves and I fell out of favour with the newly minted grannies before you could say ‘coochie-coo’. ‘I can do this myself!’ I declared.

And so, everyone left. I came up with a formidable time-table for the family. A list of tasks that my husband and I were to accomplish with military precision. We were like those sincere students in IIT coaching factories who wake up at 4 am, full of purpose. I was so proud about our efficiency. The house was spick and span, the meals were cooked, the baby was alive…and we were beyond exhausted. I could actually hear my bones creaking. My husband was dying to go to office the next day just so he could sit for a while.

The enthusiasm lasted for exactly 24 hours. After that, I took a good hard look at the mirror and concluded that though I was violently gorgeous, I was only human. Dang. So I ate some murukku and decided that I was going to stop being an idiot. I was only going to do what was possible. For me. It was okay to live on curd rice while admiring the cobweb that an industrious spider was spinning on my walls. I’ve always embraced chaos – the state of my wardrobe in my teen years routinely brought my mother to tears – so there was no reason to pretend otherwise now.  I was no goddess. I nearly bought a Being Human T-shirt to celebrate this moment of epiphany.

My daughter is four now. Like all little children, she makes several demands of her mother. But like a Good Indian Parent, I’ve started her mathematical education quite early. ‘How many hands does Amma have?’ I ask. ‘Two,’ she says. ‘Then you wait,’ I reply.

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