Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Out with the old...

..In with the new seems to be the order of the day, does’nt it? For everyone except me that is. Me, I cling to the old- tried, tested and comfortable-even after it ceases to be comfortable. And weep tears of sorrow when it is taken away from me.

Circa 2003. One year after our marriage and 6 months into my first job, I got very, very tired of going around Bangalore without a vehicle. Since amma and appa flatly refused to let me ride my two-wheeler in ‘crazy Bangalore traffic’, there really was only one option. ‘Let’s buy a car baby’, I told the husband. ‘We have no money’, the man said succinctly. ‘No problem, let’s not buy anything fancy…something really basic would do’. And it was as basic as it got.

Our first car was a second hand 3 year old Maruti 800. Appa came from Coimbatore to work out a loan for us (yes, yes, that’s how much broke we were. We had to take a loan to buy a second-hand M800 which we repaid over the next 3 years!!). But we had our own, our very own car! No more filching daddy’s car. We could do what we pleased with it.

I did not even have a driver’s license when I started driving her. She was small, easy to manage and I had no fears or qualms about driving her anywhere. There is’nt a single road, lane or by-lane to which I have not taken my beloved car. She would dutifully oblige, turning and twisting and maneuvering herself into narrow parking lots and wait patiently under sun and shine, hail and storm as I went around.

When we first bought our car, we lived in a house which did not even have a parking lot. Three houses, each consecutively bigger, and 5 years later, we still drove the same car. This was the car kuttan came home in. This was the car which had sticky candy, gift wrapper and water bottles strewn all over the back seat. Where the seats contained scruff marks of tiny booted feet. And none of it bothered us too much because it was old and comfortable and we did not fuss too much about keeping it in tip-top shape.

Our friends had moved on to snazzier, bigger cars and we were the object of much leg-pulling and laughter on account of the car we drove. We took it all in our stride but I stood firm. ‘No new car. This is doing just fine.’ When the husband would talk about some new car taking the market by the storm, I would hear him vaguely, my mind elsewhere, not really believing I would ever drive anything else.

Then, after 9 years of existence, 6 with us, the old girl started giving trouble. She would stop bang in the middle of the road. She would not start. The repair costs were mounting. And so, after a lot of thought, we gave away our first car and brought home a new car last month. I bade farewell sadly as they drove my beloved little car out the garage, knowing she gave me the kind of freedom and mobility that I would never experience again.

Boys will be boys. And men will be boys too. The man and the boy in my life are totally taken with the sexy, bold woman in their lives. ‘Look at the alloy wheels. Look at the engine power and the pickup’, the man gushes. ‘Look at the windows rolling down on their own. Look at the beautiful seats, amma’, the boy squawks, clapping his hands with glee. I nod my head and smile sadly, all the while missing the comfort of my torn seats and the slow, steady sound she would make as she sleepily started.

I refused to drive the new car for a month. Because I still missed my old car and because this one was too big, too new for my comfort. Finally, for practical reasons and urged and tormented endlessly by the husband, I drove her last week. Driving my old car felt like talking to my spinster aunt. She was slow, comforting, easily controlled. I could count on her never to want to run away from me. This new one was like a headstrong, sexy young girl. Sure of her powers and attraction and her place in my man’s heart. Taunting me, challenging me, chafing against the tight leash I put on her, wanting to release all the barely controlled energy and fly.

I may become friends with my new car. She may gentle against my control with time and learn to take my instructions more obligingly. Maybe it’s just a matter of time…but till then, I don’t like her. I don’t like her at all.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Unrequited Love

All of 4 years old, kuttan fell in love over the summer. 'She is so pretty amma', he said. 'I like her a LOOOT', he said, his eyes widening. He hid under my dupatta and blushed painfully when she smiled at him. 'Why don't you cut your hair like her amma?', he asked, looking down his nose at the few wisps of hair that still cling to my scalp after all the hair pulling. 'Why don't you wear sarees like her amma?'

'She' is his class teacher. The love affair happened over the summer as he joined LKG and went to class, all apprehensive and nervous. June was a busy month for the Bangalore household with Kuttan's new school and little princess's arrival. I was worried about how kuttan would adjust to so many changes at once. As it turned out, I need'nt have. Ms.B smiled at him gently as I led him to class on the first day and kuttan took one look at her and I knew things would be ok, in school at least.

He would come from school and sing Ms.B's praises. If I said anything contrary to her words, I would be summarily shot down. 'You dont know anything amma'. And when we went for the PTA I could see the feelings were entirely reciprocated. Kuttan seems to have shared all his feelings, his joy and sadness and fears with Ms.B. A cheerful, warm young woman who was sensitive to my baby boy's needs and knew just how to deal with all his childish fears and anxieties.

Last week, kuttan came back from school and said 'Amma, I have 2 madams in class now.' The husband and I exchanged glances, fearing the worst. 'Maybe Ms.B is going to leave kanna', I suggested gently. 'No', came the explosive shout. I wisely kept quiet.

Tonight the husband had a call from Ms.B who said she was leaving. She called because kuttan was so attached to her and she was worried about him, about how he would adapt. Could you please explain to him, she asked. What do I say, I thought to myself all the while thinking how graceful it was of her to call in the first place.

Husband and I called kuttan and told him Ms.B was going away. When is she coming back, he asked innocently. She isnt baby, I told him. And watched realization slowly dawn. And tears fill those big, soft eyes of his. Call her amma, I will tell her not to leave, he begged. A long talk followed. About how people sometimes have to go away and new people come and we learn to love them as much. About the need to adjust to changes even though it may be difficult at times. At the end of it we ask, 'So are we ok honey? What are you going to tell Ms.B tomorrow?'

Pat comes the reply, 'I am going to say I love you and don't cry too much when you leave me and go, ok?' Someday, my darling, you are going to find someone who cant resist that charm of yours and who will decide to stay back with you. Forever. Till that day, well, you have your mom and dad.