The morning stretches lazily like a ribbon or a band of elastic. The minutes inching their way slowly to the hour. Breakfast is over, Saathi is yet to return from his weekly tennis ritual. Laddu is content to sit beside me and hold my ear. The twins look mutinous because I told them they could not be out in the sun. I look them up and down, wracking my brains to come up with something that will be new. I almost shout in glee when I realize they have projects to work on before school starts. I clear my throat and ask them if they want me to read out the teacher’s letter to them before they start the next grade. They nod, suspicious but curious.
I read out the letters and focus dramatically on the project they should take to school with them a couple of weeks from them. Let’s practice I say. I ask Pattu to stand in the center of the room, her imaginary project in hand and talk about her. She stands, her foot tracing arcs in the polished wood floor. Her eyes look down, a smile hidden somewhere in her face. I nudge her to go on.
“I am shy!” she declares before she flops on the floor next to me. I plead with Ammu to show Pattu how it is done. She starts promisingly. “Hi! I am Ammu. I am a twin.” I urge her to go on. She stops, silent and then gives it up and sits beside me. I look at the two of them and debate talking to them about confidence. Instead I heave myself up, plant myself in the center of the room, face them and start.
“Hi! I am Lakshmi. I am proud to be the mother of my three beautiful girls. I love to read and write. I am want to be friends with you.” I smile my broadest smile and return to my space beaming. Ammu and Pattu look at me, their eyes wide with wonder. I decide to put them to work on their licence plates. A series of letters and numbers that mean something about them. They work in silence, heads bent, drawing and coloring the block that is to be their identity.
The garage opens and the fragile peace shatters. I haul myself up to surrender to the demands of the kitchen while they run, gloriously unfettered into the hot sun and green grass. I go back to the little intro skit from the morning and remember what it was like to be up on the stage at school and college, introducing myself and actually participating in competitions. I remember the nerves, the euphoria as I walked away, proving to myself that I could do it. I remember the identities I created from myself. I was G. Lakshmi, the daughter of my father. I was Laksh, an entity created for and by friends. I was Lakshmi, the child-woman desperate to carve a space for herself apart from the people around her. I was glaksh, a quiet, anonymous voice on the internet seeking and finding advice and solace in the abyss of despair created by infertility. I was enkay, putting her thoughts out, knowing a clique of souls will walk with her as she went on to fulfill her dream of being a parent. I am Lakshmi, a woman struggling to find her voice.
I have been calibrating and re-calibrating who I am and what I want to be seen as for decades now. I realize this journey will see me morph with each station and take new forms. With luck, the voice will still be with me when I recognize my destination.