I am a perfect mother, a perfect wife, a perfect daughter. How do I know this?
When my parents give me unasked for advice about Baby, I put on my best phone smile–the all-encompassing, “Of course!” followed by a slight-to medium lilt as I expound on the many reasons I should have thought of such a valuable idea but did not and how I, a first time parent, am in awe of their expertise. To some extent, that’s true–my parents do, after all, have 29 years of parenting experience apiece, so 58 years of parenting experience together. Some of their advice (He’s inconsolable? Just put him in on your chest, rub his back, and tell him you love him) is the stuff marvels are made of. Some of it is 58 years out of date.
My husband didn’t grow up Indian. His first experience with the perfect Indian girl was watching Jas in Bend It Like Beckham. And then he met my aunts.
My aunts are splendid. They flit from bejeweled sari to jeans and a leather jacket as easily as a butterfly flits from flower to flower. They roll ten perfectly round roti in the time it takes me to roll one roughly the shape of the continental US (or Al Gore’s profile, depending on the tilt of your head). They raise polite, well-spoken, thoughtful, clever kids, cook full thali for dinner everyday, and hold down a job. My aunts are the women in the magazine ad, the ones who have it all, and owe it all to L’Oreal/Clorox/Victoria’s Secret.
Joe, love of my life, does not expect me to be my aunts. But he does needle me about my shortcomings (forgetfulness, slapdash meals of pasta and baby friendly food put together twice a week, my shrieks of pain and fear every time Baby screeches for attention). Now and then, he eyes the spices in the pantry wistfully, and makes sad remarks about the days when I made samosa, roti, and special cheyne (sugar) roti just for him, just because he liked it. On such occasions I, perfect wife that I am, smile sweetly, hand him Baby, and tell him I’m going out. If he’s lucky, I bring back Indian food, complete with his favorite, gulab jamun.
My baby is a monster. He smears prune and crackers over his books and toys, throws himself backward when he doesn’t get his way, and screeches when he thinks I’m not falling over myself in adoration and worship often enough. Every day, I put him in the stroller, and we go for a walk. Most of the time, he screams going in, because the stroller is not mummy’s arms. I, perfect mother and nominee for the World’s Greatest Maternal Instinct Award, soothe him by stroking his face and confirming that, “Yes, darling little Mir-Cat, all my waking hours are spent plotting ways to ruin your life”. Five minutes later, we’re sauntering down the street, Baby asleep, clutching a Duplo cat and drooling like my uncle’s bull mastiff.
See? I told you I was perfect.
At the end of the day, though, I am a perfect mother, a perfect wife, and a perfect daughter. Yes, I’m Indian. Yes, I’ve been known to resort to name calling when my son, my darling little Mir, insists I cuddle him and sing for hours on end (Hush now darling, don’t you cry, Mama’s going to sing you a lullaby. If that lullaby don’t work, Mama’s going to call you a big fat jerk). My laundry basket runneth over, and my patience is thinner than a teething rusk. But I love my kidlet, love my husband, and love my parents. I do what’s needed, when it’s needed. If you look behind the curtain, you’ll find most Indian women are the same–doing what’s needed when it’s needed, and leaving the rest.
Last night, a new friend of mine wrote to say she’s impressed by my blog, and the amount of work I actually get done, insisting I make it look easy. But it’s all smoke and mirrors–smoke, mirrors, and copious amounts of chocolate.
Like Jas, Indian women are carving new roles for ourselves. Life is no longer about ticking the perfect box on our mental checklists. And that’s okay.