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Saturday, March 07, 2009

Begone Dysphoria!

As I sit rocking rhythmically, instinctively tightening my hold around feverish Oggie jerking and lurching trying to find a position to settle in, my mind wanders to the first time I felt a strange sense of helplessness: when baby Ana was curled up on me with a 102+ fever; my mind raced faster than my heart then, conjuring up several possible worst-case scenarios within the space of 5 minutes, leaving me feeling inadequate and jittery.

Cuddling Ana on the left and cradling Oggie on the right, grateful for the large and accommodating rocking chair, I try to find a comfortable position making sure the pacifier is within arm's reach in case Oggie can't settle down and the hand towel stays put on my shoulder in case Ana has another spell of vomiting.

Vignettes of my mom brushing neem leaves over my chicken-pox-infected body fade away to reveal my dad holding my long hair back with one hand and supporting my forehead with the other as I retch over the toilet throwing up laboriously... which in turn brings to focus the blurry images I thought I had repressed of watching my brother in hospital room recovering... and finally, my roving mind settles on a crowded waiting room at our family doctor's office with its stomach-churning disinfectant odor and pots of boiling water for sterilizing the needles prompting me to clutch my dad's arm tighter asking, "Usi poduvala?" and quickly adding, "Enakku usi vendaam, Appa". (Will they give me a shot? I don't want a shot, Appa). I couldn't understand how my dad could be wrong especially after he picked up his 5-yr-old daughter, looked her in the eye and reassured her that the shots were being prepared for someone else, not her!

Something about caring for the kids when they are sick brings out morbid thoughts, despite Logic and Reason trying to explain that this is how babies all over the world develop immunity and learn to fight off microscopic invaders that constantly attack their tiny little bodies...

Perhaps the melancholy mood right now is just a by-product of sleep-deprivation and exhaustion compounded by the sheer effort needed to stay calm and function efficiently at all costs, or perhaps it is just a coping mechanism reminding me to slow down and recognize the precious things in life at this juncture as my mind probes and brings forth sepia-toned snapshots of a relatively careless childhood...

Sitting on the baby-seat in the front bar of my dad's bicyle, confident that the dangerous-looking 45° angle at which my dad pedals and swings his leg over to seat himself is not going to throw me down, I wait for the right moment to ask, "Appa, I like cone ice-cream very much. Can I have one today?", as sweetly as I can as he starts pedaling steadily towards the market... Licking the generic vanilla ice cream scooped on top of the small sugar cone, I look longingly at the small striped spinning wheels in the newly installed weighing machine outside the market when my dad fishes out the 75 paisa required to operate it... out pops the little rectangular antique-white card with a fortune on one side and my weight in kilos on the other which I promptly hand over to my dad for safe-keeping till we get home, where I know it will join many of its other comrades safely inside an old cookie box...

The unconditional support for my fleeting obsessions - be it perfumed erasers that looked good enough to eat, with alphabets on them urging me to collect all 26 at a tender age, or, posters, magazine/newspaper articles and pictures of favorite cricketers at awkward adolescence... the fussing and ministering and open concern when I fell ill... the staunch empathy for my hopes and dreams... these are the memories I chose to etch permanently.

The nostalgia that suffuses me every year around Navarathri and Deepavali stems from sweet memories of going shopping with my mom for the thambulam items, grouping and arranging them in small baskets (sort of like party favors) for the guests, choosing a silk saree for my mom to wear every evening for the nine evenings that Navarathri is celebrated, rising up early morning on Deepavali to get an oil bath, put on new clothes and eat a traditional meal... long walks to the local temples, spur-of-the-moment stops at Iyengar's bakery on the way for fresh baked onion bun and thool pakkoda, bus rides across town to Parry's Corner for wholesale shops that specialize in craft supplies...

Try as hard as I can, my mind is unable to zoom in on any single specific incident that made me feel unloved or neglected, despite the fact that there were quite a few circumstances where raised voices characterized the verbal exchanges while quite a few others involved the dreaded silent treatment.

Reassuring. Very Reassuring.

I do have hope after all... Ana and Oggie perhaps will tuck away memories of visits to the Museum and impromptu snacks at Cinnabon®, harvesting tomatoes in our garden and picking berries in the nearby farm, reading books at bedtime and cuddling together on the sofa on weekend mornings... and perhaps, just perhaps, they will choose to fondly remember resting on their mommy's chest as she rocked them gently during their bouts of illnesses comforting them in her own quiet way and graciously delete the memories of their mommy raising her voice at them every once in a while as she struggled to cope with her responsibilities...

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8 Comments:

At 10:02 PM, Blogger Me2 said...

How come I never figure in your nostalgic trips :(

 
At 5:14 AM, Blogger Subhashree said...

Aww... lovely post. Hope the kids are better now. Take care.

 
At 3:56 PM, Blogger Tharini said...

Dear Sheela...

Something for you, with all my heart!
http://winkiesways.blogspot.com/2009/03/sisterhood.html

 
At 6:51 PM, Blogger VJ said...

This so touchy !!!
came here from Tharini's blog.

 
At 1:17 AM, Blogger Swati said...

lovely post ..came over from tharini's , you have an awesome blog

 
At 2:36 PM, Blogger AD said...

Love it, Sheela, especially the choice of words. Looking forward to join the Desi Momz sistahood. Do check out my two cents at
http://tandoorilounge.com

 
At 10:44 AM, Blogger Subhashree said...

All well? Quite sometime since you posted. Take care.

 
At 11:02 AM, Blogger Sheela said...

Me2, Tharini, VJ, Swati, AD, thank you all!

and, Subhashree, very kind of you to check in on us - the weird bug that the kids had was a bit overwhelming, but, we are well-rested after a short spring break and i am hoping to post again real soon!

 

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