Chai and other lies: The Life of a Mumbai Mum

BabyA comes, handing me the jet spray, and says, “Mamma, why don’t you wash yourself?” Silly me! I really believed that I can steal a minute of peace to sit and answer the call that nature hollers out to me every morning. I wasn’t asking for newspaper time, or even a peek into Facebook to catch up on the important events featuring on my Newsfeed. I just asked for a minute so that I could feel like a human being with some amount of personal and private space so I could empty my bowels without emptying my self-respect. No such luck!

The other day, my nutritionist tells me, “You’re constantly skipping your afternoon green tea!” She doesn’t have kids, so she doesn’t understand that I don’t have the luxury of mulling over life’s ironies as I sip on chai. Does anyone realise what a long and self-reflective process drinking tea is? I never fully understood this till I had a kid (because earlier, time was commonplace- always there): You brew the tea, and then wait for it to cool down, burn your tongue a few times while waiting, and finally slowly sip through it (lavishly slurping if no one’s around) when it reaches the perfect temperature. This takes time, and feels like ‘living on the edge’ when you have a toddler who loves to jump all the time on anything she can find- be it a pillow or more excitingly, your head lying on that pillow.

Some time ago, there was a tea ad campaign that proclaimed “Chai Time is My Time”. Now that I have a toddler, I fully appreciate what that means. It means that drinking (and really enjoying) tea takes time. It is a meditative experience. Moms don’t meditate because moms have no time! “My time”- what’s that? Occasionally, I do encounter this phenomenon but it happens so rarely that it warrants great excitement, wherein I put updates about the hours I slept or movies I watched or I share Instagram images of my “Daffodils” inspired tea cup alongside my fancy Rose Pouchong tea leaves. After all, afternoon tea for a mum is an event and it must be treated as such.

I read blogs, once in a while, wherein people on the outside, wonder what moms in Mumbai (especially SoBo) do. They imagine us to be much like “moms of the Upper East Side” (did you read that article?) who just sit around spending hours on narcissistic activities like getting manicures, exercising and having shopping-mommy-lunches all day, while our kids are brought up by our nannies. I guess some moms live their lives like that (and that’s entirely their choice), but most of the moms I know, don’t. I would love to live that life, but I don’t.

I do take the time out to exercise and take care of my health, especially now that my child is getting older and goes to school, but I don’t understand why do moms have to apologize for prioritizing themselves, or for having a support system? And just because we have a support system, why do some people assume that we are less involved mothers? I have a full time maid for BabyA, and I live in a joint family with a helpful mother in law, and an eager mom who lives 20 minutes away so the world tells me that I must be having lots of “my time” and yet, here I am, trying to schedule a cup of green tea at any point in the day.

It’s not that I don’t have time because I don’t trust anyone with my kid. When I go out, I never call to ask the 3 Ms: my mother in law, mother or maid the quintessential mommy concern, “Baby ne khaana khaaya, kya?” (Has Baby eaten her food?) In fact, I never call home because I’m too busy taking selfies of myself having a good time- because it is an event in my life!

So even though I have so much support, and I do manage to sneak in a mommy lunch every now and then, in reality, I spend most of my day with BabyA. I pick her up from school, and after her lunch, we play board games. We have “chutney time” where we make “chutney” out of each other, hugging tight and squashing tighter till we’re both paté. We go for coffee dates often to the local bookstore, where after our reading session, I drink cappuccinos while she sips on babycinos (milk) at their cafe (she’ll let me drink a hot beverage in peace as long as “coffee time is our time”). I do realize that this is a luxury in itself, because I don’t have to do housework or work outside to supplement the house income, so I can truly spend quality and quantity time with my child. I thank God every day for blessing me with this luxury, but I resent when people make a caricature of my type, and write that we don’t have time for our kids because we have so many people to help out!

I grew up with a mom who was always home when we got home, and to me, that was the biggest joy, whether I expressed it to her or not. I don’t mean to pass judgement on someone who doesn’t have the opportunity to do that, but I do mean to share what was important to me while growing up, and I want to be the kind of mom I have had. That’s why, when people think I have a decadent life where I wonder what to do with the oodles of time I have to myself, I want to believe in that fantasy too. I shut my eyes, and imagine myself all alone on some beach, holding a tall glass of chilled Sangria and a copy of “The Lowland” by Jhumpa Lahiri (of which I have read the first chapter four times, as I have never had the free time to escalate to the second), the cool sea breeze mixed with the hot sun lulling me to sleep… and just then, a squirt of tepid water hits my face. I open my eyes to see her standing there, looking impatient, with the jet spray pointed towards me like a gun:

“Mamma, why are you sleeping on the potty? Come on quick! Wash yourself!”

And I’m back to reality.

12 thoughts on “Chai and other lies: The Life of a Mumbai Mum”

  1. Nidhi sweety you write so proud of you.
    You write of reality we all can relate too.with a thread of laughter waiting to bubble out !!
    Keep it coming .and publish all these articles soon.
    Love you.

  2. A Mom who was home, when we got in- was also my biggest joy.. And, like yourself, I’ve done my best to do the same with my child. While we are indeed, fortunate, we too need to juggle many things in order to have that time. ( and No, I do not mean manis n pedis- these would be rarer than chai!) Mommyhood brings on the realisation that 24 hours just ain’t enough
    Time really does fly Nidhi- you’ll look back on this time with complete and utter happiness…. Ironically…. With a cup of chai..

    1. I love that- with a cuppa chai! Then there will be too much chai and my time, and not enough of the babies! *Sigh* it’s so hard to be present in the present.

  3. So well written Nidhi and true to every word. Can completely relate with it, just having had my second baby I feel I have zero “my time” and if it’s any consolation I have not had tea since 3 months and I was the kind who cudn’t surface out of bed without my morning cuppa but who is sleeping anyway… Ha ha! Keep them coming in…

    1. Lol! Congrats on the second one! I hear when we get loads of my time (by the time they hit their teens or older), we are craving for them to sit with us, and just dream about the days when they would follow us right to the potty!

  4. We are all in the same club sister, I too have dreams of being on a beach with the smell of coconuts and sips of Sangria.

    And now I’m typing with my left hand as my two year old had taken my right one to play with….

    1. Ha ha! My life story too: Right hand with BabyA, left hand Facebooking! All of us mums, are constantly multi-tasking.

  5. dont let it get to you! we moms are ALWAYS judged no matter what we do. it’s like having help and having a life is supposed to be a bad thing.

    1. You’re completely right Aloka! I feel like whether you’re a working mom or a mom working mom, a lazy mom or a hyper mom, you’re always judged!
      Thanks for the vote of confidence ☺️

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