We are seated at a corner table at a crowded restaurant at Bangalore. My cousin, a friend I haven’t seen in over 20 years and I. I order the thaali and watch with amusement as my friend carefully scans the menu for low calorie options. “Live a little,” I tell her and smile as she nods and goes ahead with her original order.
I am at the local salon getting my tresses massaged and treated into submission. It is almost four hours since I left home. My cell phone shows three missed calls as I walk out but I am not panicked or anxious. I take an auto home to find all kids fed and happy. I shower, load my plate and take it to the bedroom to catch up with Amma as I eat. It has been years since I have had this kind of time for myself.
I towel Laddu’s hair, clothe her and turn attention to myself. I can hear muted sounds from the twins’ tablet. The clock shows 1:00 PM. Worried the kids are late for lunch, I open the door and walk in to the sight of the two of them eating with tablets propped up against the water jug. Their plates are loaded and they seem to be tucking in. A rush of happiness is followed by immense gratitude for Amma.
In the many years post marriage, trips to India have meant visits to in-laws mostly with a rushed trip to Chennai thrown in. These visits have mostly felt like an extension of being at home (read same responsibilities) with the added complexity of having to deal with a kitchen and a home that is not mine.
This time when I earmarked a few weeks to stay with Amma I had expected it to be better but it amazes me how relaxing this is. I feel at home without feeling like everything is on me. Most days, I have coffee handed to me as I brush and step out. Lunch is ready before I can get the kids in the shower. Dinner is done before I can even think of the next meal. I make calls and watch my calendar fill up as I count down to my departure date.
i eat chaat, order 50 grams of sweets I want to try and on a whim order molagai bajji as well. I go to bed at 8:30 PM without feeling guilty. I am up at 5:30 AM just to soak in the cool morning air and sip my coffee in peace before the kids are up. I schedule weekday lunches with friends I haven’t met in ages. I get my hair done, my nails painted and dress up for no reason.
Live a little I tell myself and feel a laugh bubble up through me.