Hi, I am Asha! That is the first entry in my personal diary.
If you think I did not consider starting with Dear Diary, you are wrong! But this diary is about me, the part of me that never lived, my dreams and desires and discovering myself. That is how Aarti di explained it when she asked me to start a diary. “You should start writing in a diary”, she announced the other day out of the blue. She was on her way back from office and I was at the children’s park where Mishti was playing on the swings. She had stopped beside me for a moment when I waved at her and we quietly watched the children at play. No chit chat about the weather, just a smile and a sense of company. I was happy to share a quiet moment with her. I like that best about Aarti di. There is no nonsense about her. She is so comfortable with her own self. She knows that most of us found her eccentricities odd, but does not let it bother her. She just does her own thing and ignores the rest. At my expression of surprise, she expanded, “There is more to you than being a minor part in a social circle not entirely of your choice. You just have not found out yet. Others may think you are perfect just the way you are, but I get the feeling you do not share the sentiment about yourself. So, do something for yourself. Go deeper, think your thoughts through without judging them, make and effort to share them; not with people, not even me, you never know where that would lead”, she raises a wry eyebrow. “Just put your thoughts down on paper. Within the pages of the diary, allow yourself to acknowledge what you feel, without any restrictions”, she said to me. “Write down about your hopes and dreams and all those things that you find yourself unable to express. Read it over when you have finished and find your real self in its pages. I bet you will be surprised at what you discover!”
I have taken Aarti di’s advice to heart. I bought a notebook for myself along with the children’s school supplies and today I am starting to write in it. First things first, I am going to introduce myself. So, no dear diary for me assuming that the introduction is not necessary. In real life, I rarely meet new people and even when I do, someone else usually introduces me. So, I have been introduced as a daughter, wife, and daughter in law, mother, aunt or friend. Sometimes, people ask what I do, and I reply that I am a homemaker and that’s the end of that. With that statement, the person enquiring suddenly seems to understand everything there is to know about me and loses interest. As though that one word sums up my whole existence, I am put in my slot and forgotten. Then again, that is indeed what my life is about. It was kind of always destined to be so. I was the biddable girl of a conventional joint family. Quiet and studious by nature, but not brilliant or anything. I was in my final year BA when Veer’s mother approached my mother with the proposal. As neighbors, we all had known each other since our childhood, though Veer was a few years older than me and I knew him more as my eldest cousin’s friend. He was quiet too by nature and my father thought that we would make a good match. So the date was fixed right after my finals and preparations started for the wedding. The rest as they say is history.
We have 2 children, Adi and Mishti. Adi is like Veer, quiet and brilliant at whatever he does. He was born little over a year into our marriage. Mishti came along 10 years later. She is the one I worry about. I wonder where she got her naughtiness from. She is so restless and always up to some mischief. I even asked her pediatrician about it last visit. He laughed at my fears. It is not ADHD, he said, if that is what you are worried about. She is just a precocious child; that is all. My mother in law laughed too when I told her about this conversation. I hope she does not make a joke about it with her friends. That would be so embarrassing.
Wait, this was supposed to be about my dreams and I got distracted! So what do I dream about?! Besides the dreams of failing my math exam in high school and being left behind a year? I used to dream about having a boyfriend when I was in college, but then I went to a women’s college. My best friend Shilpa and I were always together there. We did not interact much with anyone outside the extended circle of friends of our siblings and cousins. She was in love with my brother and considered herself secretly engaged to him. I never told her that everyone in the family knew about it and we used to tease Bhaiyya like anything about it. It was good match and had the elder’s blessings too. But, telling her that would ruin her romance, so I never told her. She is my Bhabhi now, so that ended well.
There I go, distracted again. Well actually, I was talking about my desires to have a boyfriend, which never happened. Then I was married and I dreamt about the little romances they show on TV and in the movies. Long romantic walks in the park holding hands. Hubby bringing me a saree or piece of jewelry as a surprise. We have visited many nice places, but we never held hands as we walked in public. Last birthday, he gave me really large sum for saree shopping, “Buy a red saree this time. You look good in red”, he said. For Dhanteras, he takes me to the jeweler himself and lets me choose. And if I occasionally happen to like something a little beyond the budget we decided, he has not refused till date. I count my blessings and yet somewhere deep down, my heart yearns for romantic gestures.
Aarti di is right too, I do play a minor part in our social life. I am pretty in my own way and I maintain myself with yoga at home and regular trips to the beauty parlor. I have put on a little weight since Misthi and perhaps I should go to the gym, but the ladies there are so out my league that I can’t seem to muster up the courage. Veer just got irritated when I mentioned it the other day. “Don’t be so vain”, he had snapped, “You look good to me and you should just do what you are comfortable with”. Basically, I am not really a glamourous wife. I am shy and retiring by nature and my life revolves around my family. I am not an artist or performer who plays a major part in social functions. I feel shy to go to the gym or swimming pool and I dress in sarees and the occasional ghagra. I cannot imagine myself in a daring dress which everyone would complement or pay attention to. I did not have a high profile job that I “chose” to put on hold to raise my family’s sake. Hey, I don’t even know what it feels like to have a paid job.
Twelve years of marriage and yet I sigh for romance. Of being picked up and swung around in my hubby’s arms. I wonder what that feels like. Maybe I should faint sometime and then he would pick me up. But I never faint. The only time I nearly fainted was one afternoon when I was pregnant with Adi. My mother in law had helped me stay on my feet then and guided me to a chair where I recovered after a cup of sweet tea and that was that.
There are other types of romance too. Somehow, our lives don’t seem to include such gestures either. Veer did not hold my hand during my deliveries. He waited outside. Actually, even though Veer is there for all obligatory PTA meetings and such, his relationship with the kids is not very physical. They treat him with a bit of awe, perhaps learnt from me. If Mishti sometimes breaks his barriers and hangs on to his leg, all she gets is a ruffling of her hair and then Veer hands her over to me. Adi is too much like his father to indulge in such shows of affection. Veer and I never really do romantic things together like cooking or changing diapers. There never has been any need for that either. We do have a cook and a nanny. The only reason I still cook is that I like it. Sometimes my mother in law and I plan and make something special during the festivals. I used to embroider and knit too when I was younger, but who uses embroidered table cloths or wears hand knitted sweaters anymore?! So life is stuck somewhere between the routine caring for my family and endless kitty party discussions about the latest movies or serials and the fashion trends launched by them. Aarti di is right, I need to go deeper. For now, just a few disjointed dreams of romance are jotted down in my diary.
Christmas picnic time. The posh ladies are openly flirting with the men as they huddle in groups in the sun. Mrs. S is hanging on to her husband’s arm as she preens and I feel a pang of jealousy. My diary will have a new entry tonight. A public display of affection dream that will never come true, though I really cannot imagine myself laughing out loud with so many people hanging on to my every word or hanging on to Veer’s arm in public.
Veer has formed a cricket team and is focused in play. Adi has found a high rock and is sitting there with a book. I sigh, but see no way out; there are no other boys his age at this picnic. I am glad he brought his book along, at least he won’t be bored. Mishti does not have that problem. She is busy playing with a bunch of kids approximately her own age and is very much in her element. I am volunteered to serving duty with my mother in law and some of the other ladies. Suddenly a shout from Adi makes me turn and I freeze in horror. In the few seconds my back was turned, Mishti has taken it into her head to leave her play group join her brother on the high rock. The way she is lying on the ground tells me she must have climbed part of the way before she fell. Even though it is far, I can feel the exact moment she whimpers and my feet unlock. As I rush towards her, Veer is already there. He has picked her up as gently as possible and is already walking towards our car. Someone offers to drive, so he gets into the back and they wait for me to catch up. Veer has Mishti cradled in his lap. Adi and his grandmother join us as we head towards the hospital.
At the hospital, we are relieved to be seen by a doctor immediately and he announces that other than a broken arm and a few cuts and bruises, Mishti is fine. A painkiller later, she is back to her cheery self like only children can be and the only strain shows in the faces of the adults. More well-wishers arrive as we wait for the surgery to set her arm. After some time, a nurse informs us that it will be 2 hours before the OT will be available and we will have to stay overnight at the hospital. Veer and I see everyone off and have Adi accompany his grandmother home, promising to call them through the night with updates. Few minutes later, it’s just Veer and I standing beside Mishti’s bed. She is asleep now and my adrenalin finally fades. I start shivering with belated shock and Veer gathers me into his arms. My tears flow freely as I clutch onto his strength. Gently, as though I weigh no more than Mishti, Veer picks me up and settles me into the only couch in the room. “I will be outside”, he announces as he walks out of the room. A strange sense of lethargy overwhelms me. After craning my neck to see that Misthi is still sleeping peacefully, I settle in for a bit of rest.
Then it hits me, what just happened, a smile breaks through despite everything that has happened in the last few hours. The next entry in my diary will be different from the ones made till today.