The keeping mum story
11 is a precarious age to be for a girl, one minute she is sauntering between being cute and obnoxious and the other minute she is adorable and cruelly frank on all matters of the world. Our daughter who was born on the 1st day of Navtratri in 2006, is Durga incarnate when is comes to having a fiery spirit and since she was told this so many times, she firmly believes that fearlessness is her art. The other day she comes home all agitated and hassled and announces “Our school is out to make sure that we don’t get to have any fun!” .. Knowing her talent at making every argument end up being my fault I should have not poked in asking for what she meant, but I did. “We are supposed to wear traditional clothes for the Dussera party!, I am not the traditional clothes kind of person mamma, how can the school have such rules……..!” she added… again I should have remained quiet and only nodded in sympathy but being her mother I am no less of a impassioned woman myself, “I don’t think you should skip school based on the traditional outfit code, that sounds silly, just wear something appropriate and have fun with your friends”. She grinned and imitating my tone, said, “Mamma then why do you make fun of the Navratri colors? why don’t you wear “something appropriate” and have fun with your friends?” .. See? Bringing up my choices in a lawyerly fashion is her way to instigate me into an argument. This time I managed not to battle her knowing what an epic fail it will end up being.
I was out when my mother dropped in on Thursday afternoon, I walked in home and Aai was chatting with my father-in-law, she was telling him about how well her friend’s child (a gown-up woman) is doing, you know, managing family, a fantastic job, children et all. While overhearing the pile of adjectives Aai was using describe the woman, I folded the laundry, laid the table for lunch and that’s when she noticed that it was the maid day off. During lunch, after she was done bringing my father-in-law up to date on all the fabulous things my cousins do and how they showcase their talent on social media, she asked me “Where had you gone?” .. “I was at the apace office" I told her. “apace? he kay navin?” .. there that’s the calling card of being a Koknastha Bhrahmin mom. Being massively gung ho about careers/hobbies that your nieces, nephews, friend’s children are following and being sort of cavalierly unaware what your own are up to and expecting to sound non-offensive about it is an art cornered by Kotnastha Bhramin mothers. Biting, chewing and gulping my words as to how is it that she has forgotten that I too am gainfully employed I resorted to asking her if she wants more amti.
There were these 3 young boys, riding a motorbike triple-seat, moving at a speed faster than what is considered safe on a busy Prabhat road they found my car’s turn on the road a little wide. They looked at me condescendingly and mouthed the aunty-can’t-you-see words. Not expecting me to be cordial about it, when I waved at them instead of making angry gestures myself their faces broke into gales of laughter. Somehow I didn’t care, I drove along feeling pleasantly stimulated about myself.
The same night during a conversation with my husband the topic of my running came up. I told him that I am doing worse than last year, to which he shrugged and suggested that since I consider myself a mediocre runner, I should not worry too much about time and 5 to 10 mins here and there should not make me feel worse about myself. In my runner mind I was thinking; Whoa! dude, have you not read the top 10 things not to say to a runner? It’s not the local train of Mumbai we are talking about here, 5 to 10 mins here and there for any runner is a humongous deal! But since the conversation took place over the phone, I got away with changing the topic and asked him how his day went.
Staying quiet, not responding immediately is not my style of doing things, but you see, the entire of last week, I have been in a rather painful situation. Undergoing an unpleasant root canal, multiple fillings and the thought of a painful wisdom tooth extraction has had me keep a solid control over the words that usually just fly out of me. Raw toothache can help in readjusting expectations in a given situation. Staying close mouthed in general has kept me away from getting into routine sticky situations. Because the thing is that getting off from these sticky situations requires tedious extra work that comes from retracting back and finding equilibrium again, which in the four instances stated above I didn’t have to endure, for which I am grateful to the merits of silence. My tryst with keeping mum has had me feeling giddily in love, like a young girl who finds love at first sight at the most unexpected place. I can see why silence is considered treasure and it’s antonym a vice. I have moved away from believing that being combative equals to having a voice, to experiencing that being reticent and silently holding ground is uniquely liberating as well.
It’s no coincidence that this coming-of-age awakening happened to me during the Navratri festival. We are conditioned into believing that the devi’s bare tongue is a manifestation of her passion for flaming verbalization. But here’s another thought, what if the devi is exhibiting that at times holding one's tongue in place to keep peace is a sign of strength as well? As of today I am going to go with the latter.
Happy Dussera, folks!