Monday, May 23, 2016

The Restless Mother's Rant

On the big question of whether there is life after birth for a mother, I would say – there are good days and there are bad days. If you ask moms around the world there is not much difference between the two. Here is a comparative table:

Good Day
Bad Day
Get woken up by a scream and a pull of the hair
Get woken up by poke in the eye, kick in the nose and a bum sitting on your face
Go to the bathroom and breast feed
Breastfeed before you can go to the bathroom because the child is screaming the neighbourhood down
Clean and dress child (deal with mild resistance if you follow her instructions)
Clean and dress baby (deal with severe resistance and tantrum if you follow her instructions or don’t)
Make breakfast while baby empties all your kitchen cupboards on to the floor.
Make breakfast while baby catches the fridge open, brings out the milk box, spills it all over the floor, slips on it and hurts herself or breaks one of the china or glass and cuts herself
Eat and feed breakfast (you end up eating her breakfast which has been turned into a gooey mass by the child)
Same as a good day except the gooey mass is thrown at you
Clean and dress child (repeat of the same behavior from earlier attempt)
Repeat of same behavior from earlier attempt
Child plays while you try to get some ‘work’ done. You get about five minutes work done with potty, thirst, some loud noise scare, demand for breastfeeding or plain attention intervals.
You get no ‘work’ done as you have to attend to all the demands as in a good day at the same time.  
Try to put child to nap (breastfeed and deep breath. Occurrence of violent thoughts in you)
Try to put child to nap (breast feed and can’t breathe as you face violence from child)
Child naps. Phew! Now get some work done and make lunch. Drink a beer on exceptional days.
Child naps for all of 10 minutes. You hand child over to someone else, go to the bathroom for some me time and cry.
Bath (usually fun and lasts way longer than you want)
Bath (resistance, deathly screams, accidents)
Lunch (repeat of breakfast scene)
Lunch (repeat of breakfast scene with more screams or squeals of laughter as the mashed fish mixed with dal lands on your head)
Nap (same as before)
Nap (same as before)
Play time in the park (help child climb up and down the slide 250 times)
Play time in the park (help child climb up and down the slide 350 times and have an accident)
Socialise with people your age (with interruption from child every 2 seconds and I am not exaggerating)
Socialise with people your age (have child through numerous tantrums, things at people and complete meltdowns resulting in permanent damage in your long term relationships.
Dinner (child is all perked up, happy, singing, you are ready to die)
Dinner (child is all perked up, you are dead)
Sleep (you sleep while child jumps on your for a while, suckles your nipples for half the night and finally falls asleep. To wake up after one hour)
Sleep (child cries, suckles, sleeps, wakes up, cries, suckles, sleeps, wakes up…every 15 minutes or so and you wonder if you did the right thing by having a child)

Bad days basically are good days multiplied by 10-100 depending on how bad you were in your previous life to deserve this.

But no, this is not a motherhood blog. Mothers have been doing this forever and have done it more efficiently than me. Even my own mother. So do not get alarmed new and wannabe moms. By the time your child stands on their two feet you get so used to the madness that at the end of the day, good or bad, you thank yourself that you are still alive feel nothing but gratitude for this extraordinary experience. But sometimes my bad days get worse (yes, it is possible) by other random things. The affairs of the state I live in for example.

There is no hiding that I am no fan of BJP and what it stands for – be it its Hindutva ideology or its ‘development’ rhetoric. Therefore it is with mixed (trepidations and optimisms) feelings that I take in the election results and what it could mean for people like me.

At the same time I am no Congress fan either. Every time I looked at the list of people who have lost, I feel elated. For *&^%’s sake (no swearing now that there is a child in the house), each one of them deserve to lose. Congress has been sitting at Dispur since Independence (barring a few years in between) and look at the condition of the state. People do not have basic services like healthcare, education, drinking water, electricity, road and access to market. Why, just before the elections I was in splits listening to a Congress radio campaign. This little girl’s mother in the campaign is angry at the little girl for not carrying drinking water to school. The girl tells her mother not to worry because the government has provided them with drinking water at school. And the girl’s mother be like – What! Sarkar has given you drinking water?!! She sounds completely taken aback. Imagine! This is 2016, and this woman is shocked at hearing there can be drinking water at school.

And this is precisely why, my bad day gets ruined when I see a post on facebook praising Tarun Gogoi saying, “lets Thank him for serving us 15 long years. We should not forget that at the age when our Grandparents are at home taking regular medical check-ups, he was there controlling and governing our state...May you live long with a healthy life Sir....!!” For goodness’s sake, what kind of an overtly positive message is this? This is precisely what is the problem with the Congress. That we have been ruled by half-corpses for all this while. At his age, Tarun Gogoi and other deadbeats in politics should have been retired, have health-insurance, have access to good geriatric care, play with their grandchildren and bask in the glow of their ill-gotten wealth. They are not supposed to be meddling with politics without a clue of what is going on in the world, how people are living and how you spell p-o-l-i-c-y. He also did what Congress has been doing shamelessly and there should be some rule about it in this country – making politics hereditary, a property that can be passed to the next kin. There is nothing to be thankful to him for. Stop ruining my bad days.  

Talking about politics being a property, it seems it is also a very lucrative career option right now in India. And I am not even talking about the under-the-table perks. Over years MP’s and MLA’s have given themselves hundreds of percentages of raise in their salaries. They get medical, travel, free housing, daily allowance, water, electricity, furniture, office expenditure etc etc for free. And their income is tax free. They are also trying to give themselves lifelong pensions right now, even if they serve for just 5 years and no matter how lousily. And this while they are trying to tax my savings in Employees Providence Fund, a fund where the government forces me to save and pay little interest. No wonder politicians do not want to retire and want to pass on their career to their children. It is the best job you can get with such little or no qualification and experience whatsoever. Meanwhile there is still no minimum support price for small scale farmers in many states in the country.

Sarbanda Sonowal as a person is definitely an improvement upon the Gogois (both father and son). At least he has all his faculties in order, can speak in clear sentences and has earned his win over years of practice in politics instead of as a feudal title. The young people of Assam seem excited about having a young and intelligible chief minister. And it is a good thing that BJP did not play the Hindu card face-up in Assam. I therefore have prepared a very short list of extremely personal expectations from the new government.

*Please note that this list does not include the promises of development and change that have been made to the people by the people who won the elections. That is between the people and the government to sort out. My demands are:  

No communal politics. We have already been charred time and over by our ethnic conflicts and identity politics. Let us please not regress back to Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Naga-Hmar-Bodo-Rabha-Garo-Nepali-Khasi-Dimasa-Karbi-Adivasi conflicts. This government has the extra responsibility to retain that pride with which all young people are saying today – In Assam BJP is not the same as BJP in other parts of India. It is not about Hindu-Muslim in Assam. Let that be true.

No beef ban. Serious! One of the major fears that my household has is banning of beef. Or pork for that matter. We will not know what to eat otherwise. If you have to ban, ban papad or achar. Just kidding. Please do not ban any food. Let food, clothes and religion remain a personal choice. Let us not have the state on my dinner plate and in my underwear.

Talking about the personal and the politics, my other demand is about women and their rights. We have all of 6% of women who have won this election. Isn’t that ridiculous? In a country and state where women have been showing better results than men from class X exams onwards, what happens to them in the professional areas? Why are there so few women there? Why are there so few women who are given tickets in the elections by parties? Can this government promise to look first into itself and then around to identify the obstacles that patriarchy has put for women to be in decision making positions? Can we see some promises to work to remove these?

And lastly I want to remain the identity, citizenship defying (even if wishfully), cranky, homebound, barf and potty smeared critter that I have become. Can we please not have any patriotism and ‘sanskar’ imposed on me? It is a bit late for that. I have been terribly westernized, giftedly shameless around my body and have acquired habits like drinking, smoking and swearing from the bad company of my friends. It will not be possible for me to become a Bharatiya or a nari at this point. Can I have the assurance that this will not be imposed on me? Can I continue to smoke in my shorts at the local pub, rant in English and not be terrorized by any RSS-Bajrang Dal and the likes for doing apasankriti please.

Talking about apasankriti, there is a programme that comes on one of the FM radio stations in Guwahati. It is a ‘ladies’ show. And for the sake of my gender, they talk about astrology and puja! Seriously they say things like, ‘on Tuesdays you were a red saree, go to the laxmi temple and give one gold coin and five bananas to a monkey. This will help you bring sanity to your home.’ In case this does not work, ‘you can have a bath on a Wednesday in a purple petticoat and buy a 10000 rupees coral stone and wear it around your middle finger. This will bring prosperity to your house.’ I mean what is going on here? If there needs a policing it is this show. It assumes all ladies are Hindu and the only way they can bring sanity and prosperity to their homes is by doing colourcoded monkey business on specific days of the week. In an year where women have topped UPSC, CBSE and other exams, in an age where mothers expect their daughters to become astronauts and climb Everest, this assumption that stay at home ladies have no ways but to depend on hocus-bogus to raise a happy successful family should be taken as nothing but an insult. 

That’s it. Today is a good and a bad day. The child is taking a nap and I am going to drown my anxieties in a glass of mid-day ice-soaked Amarula. Cheers!