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Mrs Funnybones(9)
Twinkle Khanna

I desperately call my mother, asking for her help. She arrives in half an hour, and instead of assisting me with the mundane task of organizing diapers and matching hairbands, decides that all the paintings in my house have to be rearranged at this very moment.

I am standing helplessly in the midst of six suitcases and she has badgered my staff to drop everything they were doing, including last-minute washing and ironing, and they are now all busy drilling holes in my walls.

8th June: We are at the airport and what was supposed to be a smooth journey has now descended into utter pandemonium. The man of the house has decided that he wants to fly in a particular airline only—so a trip that should have taken us around five hours has become a mammoth ten-hour journey.

I decide not to grumble about the delay that this will cause us and quietly board the flight.

An hour later, as I am about to fall asleep, I spot a fellow passenger who is also from showbiz and who happens to be mommy dearest’s colleague. He guzzles down (what is probably) his fifth whisky and then gets up to go to the galley to scrounge around for his next drink. Having accomplished his mission, he comes back and sits down, only to have the stewardess run towards him and pull him off his seat violently.

Our friend was so inebriated that he could barely see and had actually perched himself ON TOP of a frail old woman asleep in her own seat. Blimey!

We have reached Dubai where we have a three-hour halt. Our son is an excellent mimic but performing little acts like pretending to be a British old lady looking for cinnamon buns or a teenage Chinese pop star, in the middle of Dubai’s international airport can cause him to be deported; as I am desperately looking for a burka to gag him with, the baby decides she must go to the bathroom right then, but will not sit without her pink Hello Kitty potty seat.

We are aimlessly sitting at the lounge. The man of the house is looking at his iPad, our son is dozing off on the couch and the baby is on my shoulder. I am singing a song to her which has something to do with the moon, but since it is made up by me and not Gulzar, it consists of only two words: Chanda and aaja.

I am finally at peace and she is giving me a tight hug. This is what makes it all worthwhile, this tiny moment of joy when suddenly I yelp—the little beast has nipped me hard on my arm and is grinning, saying, ‘I doing biting.’

Why did I have these children? If I merely wanted to be tortured, I could have just gotten weekly tattoos rather than have voluntarily reproduced these tiny ‘mini-mes’ albeit with martial-art skills.

I vaguely remember travelling with my parents when I was a little girl. Did my mom also run behind us like this? Did she not want to be free sometimes, just to breathe, with no one tugging her shirt, no one asking her what’s for dinner? Free to fly wherever she wanted, do whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted. Life is full of contradictions. We crave security and independence in equal measures.

As I am in the midst of my random musings, my reverie is interrupted by the man of the house saying, ‘I am hungry, let’s get some food!’

Sometimes I am glad I am not a philosopher— how would I ever complete a single chain of thought when someone is constantly asking me to do something? I don’t think Plato would have been able to write his dialogues if he had a wife who kept bugging him to pass the pita bread.

9th June: Our holiday has officially begun and I am relishing the prospect of idling away my days. This is the time I switch off, work on my tan, and leave carpenters, cement dust and wax fumes behind.

An hour later, I am still sitting on my bed, sipping coffee and enjoying the idea of doing absolutely nothing, when my son barges in and declares that I have to go ‘zip lining’ with him.

Technically, ‘zip lining’ is riding a wire that is tied between two distant points very high up in the air. You get into a harness, send a prayer up to whatever God you believe in, let go, and hope that you will reach the other end in one piece.

I put away all thoughts of lazing on the beach, reading a new book about spaceships and aliens on my iPad, and decide to give Mother India some stiff competition in sacrificing my needs before the needs of my offspring.

Sweating in the blistering heat and sitting in a boat for forty minutes, we finally reach the island where we are supposed to participate in this strange sport. I am ready in my harness and, as I start, I realize that this is not just plain zip lining that I have been cornered into doing—it’s zip lining with an aerial obstacle course.

The next hour passes with me crawling through nets, trying to walk on a balance beam and doing splits to go from one moving step to another; all the while trying not to look down because I am 40 feet above the ground.

Every muscle in my body is sore. I hurt my wrist last week and all this climbing and crawling is really causing it to flare up. All I want to do is give up, when my son, who is merrily crossing each hurdle, calls out, ‘Mom, why are you moving so slowly? Are you already tired?’

I want to yell at him for putting me through this; yell at him for not realizing that I am not eleven like him, or twenty-one or even thirty-one any more.

I don’t say a word because children are always learning from us. They don’t pay attention to most of the stuff we say, but are always watching what we do. Do I really want him to see that when life gets even remotely challenging, one must complain, crib and quit? I strengthen my resolve, plaster a cheerful smile and finish the obstacle course.

The ordeal is over and when I am finally climbing down the exit ladder, I realize that I am exhausted and exhilarated at the same time. I feel truly alive because I have been living in the moment, hurdle to hurdle, with no time or energy to think about anything else.

We grown-ups always try to take the easy way out, the laziest way. We seem to have a great fear of getting tired, as if any energy depleted is lost forever. We want to plan our fatigue the same way we plan everything else. Most of us barely move till we have that one hour in the gym that we have decided we should expend physical energy on. And there, too, we time ourselves, count the precise repetitions we need to do, adjust our speed to what the heart-rate monitor indicates we should move at and go on practising our robotic routines day in and day out.

I wish we lived like children. Run till you are out of breath, flop on the grass, stare at clouds, jump up again, chase a squirrel around every tree in the park, walk on your hands because the world looks different upside down, climb little hills and roll down the other side, do somersaults . . . just because you can.

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