Run for Freedom:Escaping Grahasthashrama

I remember we had waited a long time before we were finally blessed with a child:9 years of marriage, and 14 year of being together in total. We had lived in the US, France, Chennai and Kolkata for long (and short) periods during this time, and had spent lots of time being a “couple”.

I’ve always been Nandy-obsessed and although Nandy resented how demanding I was of his time (every breathing moment outside of his work), after some time he grew accustomed to it and started secretly loving how much I was in love with him. We have never done Boys’ nights or Girls’ nights out, because there was no extra fun to be had without each other. In all the years of being married, I have never spent a Sunday away from Nandy (except the one time I was in Goa for a family wedding and there was a torrential downpour, so due to all flights being cancelled, I could not physically find a way back to my love).

Then came BabyA and our lives blew over (she’s been the most thrilling but crazy tornado). Gone were the hours of laying in bed, talking about everything and nothing; gone were the times of fighting over how we had to (always!) watch something on TV that interested both of us, so we wouldn’t land up spending any screen time away from each other. Now I was on baby-duty.

I have to admit, from the time that BabyA popped out, I have missed Nandy a lot. Most moments that I was with her when Nandy was home, I wished I could be spending with him instead. There- I’ve said it! I know everyone tells you that it’s the boys who can’t deal with the baby coming into their lives but as for the women, motherhood is an eternal spring of contentment that you gladly drink from; it’s not always true. This is my story.

As I sang lullabies to BabyA, I wished I was caressing Nandy’s forehead to make him sleep (my first baby!) With BabyA’s energy (and Nandy’s lack of), he was always snoring before A; not that I’d have had the strength to pat his back after 2 hours of singing and patting her to sleep: my voice was too hoarse for any conversation and Nandy had anyway been asleep since an hour and a half, at most times.

I missed having all that luxury of time to expend on my hubby, spending languorous evenings watching him swim while I sipped on fresh lime sodas at the club. That was no longer possible because I was a mom!

Ancient Hindu texts talk about the importance of ashramas or stages in our lives being Brahmacharya (student), Grihastha (householder), Vanaprastha (retired) and Sannyasa (renunciation). Yesterday, as I ate dinner alone watching Nandy watch Kungfu Hustle (for the hundredth time) seated on the couch in front of me, I felt the disconnect again, and it pained me.

I couldn’t have dinner with the family because it’s BabyA’s sleeping time when everyone sits to eat. At night, I wondered how my mom brought 3 kids up, and I came to the conclusion that the only one to to be blamed for my problems is Jon Bon Jovi. In 2000, as his voice screamed out from the speakers, it entered my veins and became a part of my psyche: “It’s my life… Now or never. I ain’t going to live forever!” I had lived my life living MY LIFE! I was part of a generation that didn’t know how to ‘adjust’ (now there’s a favourite Indian word) other people into my wants, and had lived as I pleased, only making place for Nandy to come in and fit (since we met when I was 17, that wasn’t so hard).

Now that I reflect on the 4 Ashramas, they seem to be in sync with one’s own evolving psychology in adjustment to one’s circumstances. The first stage of being a student is one where a person can focus on himself, get an education and widen his horizons (still growing out of childhood which is very self-driven). Then Grahasthashrama is all about making a family and dedicating yourself to its needs. Vanaprasthashrama is when people start stepping back from family responsibilities and taking a backseat, while Sanyasa means giving up attachment to things in life while readying yourself for death.

As I pondered, this made complete sense and yet, it was the opposite of what I was following. I was stuck in the Brahmacharyashrama since I wanted to be an eternal student and focus on my needs. I had only been able to add Nandy into my life, as part of the Grahastha, but was finding it hard to succumb to all my family responsibilities. So many people in my generation don’t want a second one (like me), and there is a growing number of people who don’t want kids at all. When asked why, the answer usually is that it’s too much of a commitment, it’s cramping our social lives so Semi-Brahmacharyism suits us just fine.

These days, accepting our spouse is a big enough feat, with most marriages making new rules to make things work, like girls’/boys’ nights out providing couples with the temporary space of spinsterhood. So, if only I could get into the same mindset as my parents where I could allow myself to evolve from one ashrama to the other, it maybe easier to accept the natural changes of life. After all, once I turn 70, I won’t look so cute boogeying it up to the Black Eyed Peas in a short, fitting bandage dress. In concept, we love the idea of that (18 till I die!), yet I see everyone hating on the old uncles donning cravats at the club bars who keep catching the young ‘uns for a twirl as they hop n bop, insisting along with Justin Timberlake that they’re bringing sexy back!