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An empty nester’s saga

Motherhood throws surprises at every turn. A friend ripened in experience, once told me jokingly, “motherhood is a journey of never ending discoveries.”

Nowadays are times when I couldn’t agree more.

It’s a week since the night my only child turned and waved to me before the airport doors slid shut.  He shot one last glance at me, forcing his pursed lips to smile. I saw he was battling with an inexplicable emotion.  I craned my neck to watch through misty eyes as he got sucked into the whirlpool of travellers.  All alone, he got done with each step of the airport processes, and with each step he moved farther from me.

I had six months to get ready for this moment. I thought I would do well. But nothing readies you for the sorrow of parting. The grit and determination I had built block upon block crumbled like a pile of ash as held me in a tight embrace and whispered in my ear, “take care Mom”.

From the time the letter announcing his admission into his dream institute arrived to the frenzied days of making packing lists and shopping trips, my emotions turned turbulent. There were enough sessions of laughter, irritation, and of course the unannounced downpour of tears. During these months I tried being a stay-at-home-mom for a while, but to everyone’s chagrin I failed miserably to keep ‘smother’ at bay from ‘mother’.

When hubby and I returned home from the airport in the wee hours, a gush of vacuum gripped my core. I could feel hubby too falter in his step. We exchanged glances and reassuring smiles and pretended to get busy about preparing to sleep.

We lay in bed staring up at the ceiling. He broke the silence first. “It’s going to be alright,” he said almost to himself.

“It’s going to be alright, but it will never be the same again,” I replied softly.

And that’s the essence of it all.

We will be alright. Eventually we will get occupied in the business of living. But, nothing will be the same again.  And, it is this that the heart laments.

The age-old resistance to change was rearing its ugly head again. Suddenly my boy is on his own to make a life for himself. It’s the starting of a new phase. The old ways will give way to new. No more of those evenings of chatter and banter. No more bickering over late nights…no more this…no more that.

His room is too tidy for comfort.  I long to see the mess on his table and clothes piling up on his study chair. My eyes long to see him sprawled on his bed, his eyes devouring a book.  I long for those weekend afternoons when we would remain at the table long after the lunch plates had dried, as he regaled us with his office stories.

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Memories are God’s gift. And like the powers that be, they are omnipresent.

In the last week I made a pact with myself.  While I would allow myself to fondly recall the growing up years of my boy, I shall not lament. The sadder I will be, the worse he would feel, I chide myself. Instead I envelope myself in the pride of being a mother to a young man who has set afoot on a journey of self-discovery.

In a note to me before he left, my son wished for me to be happy and to lead the life I want. He wished for me to excel in my career and spend time pursuing my passion. He wished that his father and I would spend time together doing the things we love doing. “Without guilt”, he had added. This is my mission. Children are constantly beseeched to make their parents proud. As a parent, I want to return the favour. I want to continue to lead a life of productivity and positivity. I want to be able to tick off the items on my bucket list. I want to continue doing the things that make me happy. I want to lead by example so that when technology brings the chatter and banter back every evening, I want my son to feel the excitement in my life, just as I feel the excitement in his.

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I want my son to know that it’s ok to be homesick at times. I want him to know that he can let his guard down every once in a while and tell me that he misses me, and I will not melt into a pool of tears and book a seat on the next flight.  If I want to make it easy for him, I have to be happy.

I am going to show him how he and I can be truly happy, so what if we are under a different sky.

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Women too have stories to tell

Women have come into their own. Even in cinema, which is often said to be the true reflection of societal changes.  In this memoryscape through Bollywood, I trace the changing portrayal of women over the years.

I have grown up on Bo

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llywood.  I grew up intoxicated by the histrionics of Dilip Kumar, the manliness of Garam Dharam, the inimitable style of Shammi Kapoor, and the romanticism of Rajendra Kumar.  Hovering behind these mighty shadows, was the dainty presence of Mala Sinha, Nanda, Babita and the likes of Sadhana. Honestly, they did not warrant the title Heroine. Why, even Nazir Hussain, wrapped in his trademark silk house-coat, got more mind space than the so-called leading lady.

If anything, the leading ladies were great influencers. For hair-stylists and tailors – the Sadhana fringe cut, the figure-hugging kurtas of…well, all the leading ladies.

In fact, the only woman who enjoyed a powerful presence almost at par with the hero was the vamp. Bindu, Shashikala, Nadira and others of their ilk carved a niche for themselves. The plot moved forward only because of their cunning, stereotypical womanly motives. The lesser known vamps were reduced to molls that hung on the arm of the big bad guy.

I can almost visualise the script-writer of yesteryears at his desk.  He writes the story revolving around the macho man, the dancer man, the romantic starry-eyed man, the truthful man, and the soulful tramp.  The challenge is huge. You see, the hero has already been signed on. So, the script has to be written for him. For months, the script-writer, buried under heaps of creativity, burns the midnight oil. At the end of it, he emerges a satisfied man. There are a few minor blanks in the script. But they do not hassle him. He knows they will all be filled up in a matter of minutes. On a dramatically rainy night, at the stroke of twilight, in a dimly lit room, the director, the actor and he sit down with Bagpiper. They review the script. Everyone is mighty happy.

“Let’s now fill in the blanks,” the actor initiates gleefully.

“Take Nirupa Roy for the mother with TB,” the director instructs swirling his pipe in the air. “She coughs well.”

“Done! What about the other blank?” the script-writer gently prods.

“Mala Sinha,” the director promptly says. “She has lots of energy, she runs around trees really fast. Will be good for that peppy number in the storm.”

“Or even Tanuja,” the actor quips. “She looks good in sleeveless.”

“And take Bindu for the rest of the movie,” the director concludes with a flourish of his pipe.

Then the Bagpiper becomes the centre of attraction for the rest of the night.

So much for the heroine. Ouch!

In the midst of this, rising like a phoenix, came a movie I distinctly remember. Guddi. The petite Jaya Bhadhuri carried off the delightful movie entirely on her slender shoulders. The script was tailor-made for her.

Even in the male-dominated super action blockbuster Sholay, Basanti held her own.

Khoobsurat is another flick I remember for the well-carved role that Rekha essayed with great panache. And this despite the presence of Ashok Kumar, a stalwart, and Rakesh Roshan, who never did quite succeed at creating a presence on-screen as much as he could from behind it.

But such movies were few and far apart. The industry continued to churn out mainstream formula flicks shot at exotic locales where women were mere eye candy. And then, like a breath of fresh air came Astitva and Tabu evolved as an actress to reckon with.

Scripts are now being written for the leading lady. The nomenclature has also changed. The women are referred to as ‘actors’ and not actresses.

 

Now, people walk out of multiplexes over-awed by the strength of the character. Who can forget the fiery Punjabi kudi from Bhatinda in Jab We Met?  Lately, Vidya Balan overshadowed the very formidable Naseeruddin Shah in The Dirty Picture and then she did an encore as a very pregnant wife frantically searching for her husband in Kahaani.

Madhur Bhandarkar arrived on the scene with his women-oriented movies.  Chandni Bar, Page 3, Fashion and now the most recent Heroine.  What’s more, all of them are mainstream commercial successes.

Topping it all is Sridevi’s comeback offering. English Vinglish is a poignant story of a woman seeking to build her self-esteem. A powerful movie with a powerful message subtly delivered through an impeccable performance. No item number, no love triangle, no skin-show.

For me English Vinglish worked just as well as my all-time favourite Mama Mia. Sridevi did a Meryl Streep, and how!  Thank you Gauri Shinde and R Balki for stimulating our taste buds and making the movie-goer recognise the fact that women too have stories to tell.

My appetite has been whetted. I am hungry for more. A Julia & Julia kind maybe!