Make love not war, sang John Lennon. If only…
The world abounds with scare-mongers. Doomsday prophesies a la Nostradamus and shrieking banshees shocking the lights out of you a la Pan the Greek Goat-God. Everyone’s ready, hands crossed across chest, to let you know how terrible a place this world is, and how things just get worse as you get deeper. Have I been turning into one of those banshees here? I hope not, because here are some great things that do happen, and most people don’t mention them at all:
During my pregnancy, I read up a lot about the growing foetus, about beneficial exercises, about how to manage depressing thoughts. But I also read a lot of this: “Enjoy the romantic moments with your partner, because this is the last of your exclusive moments together…” and “You won’t have much physical desire left after the baby” and “Romance definitely takes a back seat as kids come into the picture.” Being the die-hard romantic that I am, the words sucked the life out of me, creating an ever-more-grudging mother.
Perhaps I grew up on too many fairy tales, but the essence of my being is love.
My editor, a colleague and I were once discussing a theory that humans are all driven by the desire for immortality: if not their own selves, then their name must live on forever. We were talking about the things that are most important to people, and my editor, who was of the opinion that it’s either money or family, claimed he could guess what mine was: Family.
Nope, I said, you’re wrong. Close, but wrong.
He was quite surprised, because he’s often heard me speaking of my mother.
“Then it must be God,” he said triumphantly, because he knew for sure that it wasn’t money.
“Wrong again,” I grinned, though I could understand why he made that assumption: I’m a spiritual preacher of sorts.
“Yourself!” exclaimed Kumar (my colleague), like he just hit the nail on the head.
“Hmm… close… you could say that,” I mused, “but not exactly.”
“Then what is it?” Kumar insisted, exasperated. “You must tell us!”
I became all secretive, smiling mysteriously.
“No, really. Tell us.”
“Okay,” I said. “It’s love.”
“Haan, so that’s family,” the editor interjected immediately.
“No… It’s not family per se. It’s the man I love.”
“So then it’s children,” he insisted
“No. Definitely not children. Just the man I love.” I repeated emphatically.
“Just you and your man?” Kumar echoed, genuinely perplexed. “Like Adam and Eve?”
That made me laugh. “Yes, somewhat like that. Just love. Everything else comes second.”
(Folks back home might consider me selfish and amoral for this: considering your parents and family second to anyone or anything is almost a crime in our culture. But, this is the truth—laid bare for all your judgement, come who may.)
Cotton candy, hearts and candles. Dark clouds, sea-storm and thunder. Conquering the world together.
To not have romance in my life is to be sucked clean of blood, zombie-fied into blank bitterness.
And that’s why, when those banshees proclaimed the end of romance, I felt I was close to death. But here’s the thing: like all good things in life, love must also be worked upon; you need to work hard for romance too.
Before coming to Aligarh, for the first month of Hasan’s life—in Delhi—this is what I used to do: our baby slept in two hour bursts at night,and generally, exhausted moms are advised to use this time for catching up on their own sleep. I found a better use for that time, though: Sajjad and I watched movies on weekend nights—like we used to before the baby came along. It made life seem a little more continuous. I couldn’t make love yet—too injured for that— so we used to talk love. And then those little things that taste like love…
Aligarh was a lot more difficult, because the move upset the tiny tot, disrupted his routine and turned life into a general nightmare… compounded by the fact that Sajjad and I were together for only about a day and a half every week. But thank goodness for mothers that play cupid ! My mom ensured that she babysat Hasan a lot—especially during the weekends, so we could go out together. Half the nights she would keep him in her room, rocking him in the bouncer, giving us that silver lining…the moonlight behind the clouds…
One of my favourite post-baby-love episodes goes thus:
Sajjad and I are sitting in a restaurant, talking, laughing and holding hands. The waiter suddenly comes close to us, and beckoning to a private table in a dimly-lit corner of the restaurant, asks in a low voice if we’d like to sit there? Considering that in small-town India, the only people who ever sit in dimly-lit corners of any place are college love-birds, we were both left grinning from ear to ear!
But over and above any of this, we realised what makes love work when there’s three of you: You take the baby inside the two curves of the heart. ❤
We made caring for him an act of bonding; we made kissing him and cuddling him an extension of our love. The burps and gurgles became a reason to look at each other with joy. We took him along on our outings, even visiting the Qutub Minar once, with Hasan tucked securely in a ‘baby basket’– photographed by all tourists in the complex!
Our baby isn’t an intrusion on our exclusivity; he just turns our love a richer shade of red. Yes, we do have to work harder to keep the colour from fading, but, as Jim’s dad tells Michelle in American Wedding, “It’s called making love ‘cause you have to make love work.”
And so you make love work amid nappies and yowls.