“Life isn’t measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the number of moments that take your breath away.”
I read this somewhere and I thought; How apt! It’s been almost three months since we got married and somehow, I remember this time not as months, not as weeks or even days either… I remember it in moments. Some of them were precious.. the others, scary… I’ve picked out 6 of them to share here… The others, I’d rather keep to myself.. 🙂
A week into being married, we were either ordering in or cooking very basic food at home. But I knew this couldn’t go on for long. So, beginning one Monday morning, I decided that for a week, we would order nothing from outside. I will prove to myself that I can take care of my home and put wholesome meals on my husband’s plate thrice a day. Monday went well. A good breakfast, a neat lunch and a filling dinner. Tuesday saw me a little rattled but I managed the routine again. By Wednesday’s dinner, I had run out of the recipes that I knew. That night, it hit me that I wasn’t prepared for this! Thursday I muddled through with some rudimentary recipes from the internet but I was unraveling fast. Cooking three meals a day is not an easy task. There are so many things to consider; likes and dislikes, what ingredients do you have, what left overs are in the fridge, how much time do you have, what’s the average appetite.. and believe it or not, once you begin running your own kitchen, you’ll see that it feels like ten seconds pass between clearing the plates after one meal and beginning preparations for the next! There is no respite! And being raised by my mother and my grand mother – two extremely efficient home makers – I had standards to live up to! So between the endless chores through the day and the worry keeping me up at night, it is no surprise that I miserably broke down over the charred remains in my kadhai after I’d burnt Friday’s breakfast. My husband was still fast asleep since he’d been working late the earlier night which left me sobbing over the sink as I scrubbed the kadhai, wondering what he was going to eat when he woke up. In that moment, I felt lonelier than I’ve ever felt before. My darling of a husband had been doing everything he could to make sure our life could go as smoothly as possible and here I was, a clumsy mess of a woman who couldn’t even serve meals for a week without incident! I felt wretched, gripped by fear that I was going to bungle this whole thing up… It took an hour long chat with my mother to calm me down. Finally, I got bread and served toast and tea for breakfast. And though it was a perfectly acceptable breakfast, the feeling of being inadequate stayed with me. It was a couple of days later that we had a chat and my husband forced it out of me… and the man made me feel like a master chef with the way he reassured me about my cooking skills!
I started to lighten up a bit after this. The euphoria of being married had settled down quite a lot but some of our close family and friends were still pretty kicked about the ‘newly weds’. Small anecdote: We had spent our wedding night in a hotel with one of those horrible spring mattresses which appear fun at first but ruin your back. It resulted in my husband asking for a back treatment from my father-in-law who is an exceptionally amazing acupressure therapist. Do I need to quote the jokes that followed? Wedding night followed by the groom having a back ache? You get it right? yeah… it was pretty funny and almost everyone made snide comments for weeks after that. In fact, for the first month, no one could resist teasing us and to be honest, I enjoyed all the attention. But then, it started getting repetitive… I know we have a place of our own and we can ‘do it’ a zillion times a day if we want to but the fact is, we didn’t! We did so many fun things… slow dancing to no music… cooking together… endless tickling matches… intense nerdy movie marathons… so so much more than just sex… So after a point, all the innuendos and teasing started feeling churlish… Like, there came a point when I felt like shaking the next person who throws a layered comment at me and saying, Look! We are not rabbits in heat! We do other stuff too.. OK? I vented my feelings and the husband, knowing my temper very well, pulled out the fire hose (Don’t you dare twist that in your dirty mind and snigger!) He too found all the teasing pretty annoying so we just sat and laughed at all the naive commentary people made about our private life over a peaceful cup of coffee. After that, whenever someone (with a few exceptions) spat out a predictable teasing comment at us, we just exchanged a look; knowing that we’d laugh at that when we got back home later.
Life likes to sucker punch us when we least expect it. Since we’d spoken about the stress of the chores, my husband took up a lot of the work and we even cooked some meals together. Whatsapp came to the rescue and I got mom to send me recipes every day. My husband and I went vegetable shopping together so we picked stuff that both of us wanted to eat. That eased off some of the stress. Still, life wasn’t a song yet. Amidst all this, Sankranti appeared around the corner. Mr. Iyer made me Gajar ka Halwa which was splendid despite it being his first attempt… that was a moment in itself but like I said, some moments I shall keep to myself.. Now, like I said, I had standards to uphold and there was no way that I was letting my first festival as a married woman go by without doing something special. So I decided to make tilgul laadus. For years, I’d helped mom make these so it wasn’t a big deal. I got the exact recipe from mom and went about making them. For those of you who don’t know, this involves melting jaggery, adding sesame seeds and other ingredients to it and rolling the mixture between your palms into smooth laadus before the jaggery hardens. Yes, it is hot and yes, it stings your palms! Like hell! As I made these, I thought to myself, what kind of a masochistic woman invented this recipe..? And somewhere, a memory stirred… Once, when I was a little girl, I’d asked my mom, why she did this when it was so painful? and she’d said, “Because you love to eat the laadus so much!” And I missed mom… it was almost a physical ache, like a constant toothache that wouldn’t go away. I cried myself to sleep that night. But then morning came and I found the husband stealing the laadus and eating more than were healthy for him and that made me smile… they’d turned out almost the way mom’s did.
Weeks passed after this. Work was catching on and I had episodes to deliver. When I was mailing an episode I realized that I’d signed the e-mail off with my maiden name. That brought on its feet the embarrassing realization that I had sent all earlier mails with the same name and signed for couriers and debit card slips with it too! Two months and I still hadn’t gotten a hang of it! For someone who’d been so excited about us being Mr & Mrs Iyer (Like the movie) I wasn’t very good at using the name. I decided this wouldn’t do and used my old school teacher’s trick. Yep! I took a pen and paper and wrote my name with the ‘Mrs’ and ‘Iyer’ prefix and suffix in place some twenty times. Days later, I was placing an order for home delivery with the local cold storage. The guy asked for my name and number. I almost used my maiden name… but then paused and said, Mrs. Iyer. Believe it or not, I think I blushed when I said that!
Now, between managing home and work, I woke up one morning and realized it had been two months since we got married! There were so many things that I had wanted to do by now and there had never been enough time! What if my life went by like this and I never got to do the things that I had wanted to do? Imagine this. This post has been in the drafts folder for a month now and I’ve been meaning to complete this and post it for days! I’m an adventurous soul. I thrive on DIY’s and travel. What if I woke up one morning and realized that it was our 50th anniversary and I hadn’t done anything other than keep home and finish work? It was a paralyzing fear and I knew I did NOT want that to happen. From that day, I made a conscious effort to make sure I got some time to do something I wanted to even if that meant ordering in for a night. Life is about balance and I was not about to lose mine so early into the game.
After the first few weeks of chaos, life settled into a manageable cycle. Somethings became routine. I still had my fears of being a messed up wife but not as much as before. I’ve mentioned twice earlier that I had standards to live up to. Now let me elucidate a little on that. As a child, I’d seen my mother and my grandmother putting together ingredients and serving magic on my plate. In my grandmother’s presence, even with the most unexpected of guests showing up, there was always enough to go around and then some. Yet, nothing was every wasted. She always recycled leftovers into some amazing treats! One of the things that my grandmother routinely did was make Ghee. We never purchased ghee from the market. And the day she made it at home was a fun day for all of us kids. When she churned the butter out, we got little lumps of it along with a glass of the buttermilk. And when she put the butter on the stove to make the ghee, the house filled up with the waffling aroma of it. When the ghee was ready, we each got rolled up chapatis with ghee and sugar. In my mind, She will always be the epitome of the house proud home maker and I will always see her as that plump old woman sitting at the kitchen platform, surrounded by that heady aroma. If I could be half as good as she is, I’d have achieved something. Keeping that in mind, I’d started collecting cream from milk practically from the day we started living here. After making two batches of butter, I took a deep breath and set about making ghee.. and when I finished, my tiny flat was filled with that same aroma… it was like going back in time to our old bungalow… though a tiny, almost insignificant achievement, I had been able to do what she used to do… I’d made a little bit of the magic that had filled my childhood.. and as I stood staring at the golden liquid in a bottle, I couldn’t help but smile.. I’d done this… I’d made it… and somewhere, it was a reassurance that I could do this… I could make this new life work… of all the chats I had with my mom and my husband, this moment in my kitchen was the most reassuring one.
As I publish this post, we are a week away from finishing three months together and I am already managing much better. I’ve found normalcy in chaos and peace in things as simple as a perfectly shaped, fluffy chapati. I still have these moments; of desperation, of victory and of wonderment. Each passing day brings with it new moments and with each, I grow a little. I realize that I’ve rambled on through this post but I think I wanted to get this out there. If there is one thing I’ve learnt, it is that no matter what the situation, you are never alone. There is always someone out there who knows exactly where you are standing. So this post is to all those newly weds out there. You may have these moments too… and when you do, I want you to know that you are not alone. We all go through these and if you hang on tight through the tough bits, more often than not, the view on the other side is pretty darn good!
Photo Credit: Meraki Pictures (I Love You Guys!)