‘Remind me again why we decided to have children?’ I asked my husband one last time.
He chuckled as we walked into the railway station.
It was loud, crammed and dusty. Trains pulled into the platform while a few other chucked out simultaneously. A distant memory popped up, and reminded me of how much I used to love trains.
It was not the same anymore, because with two teenagers and one kindergartner, I knew that railway stations weren’t romantic or beautiful anymore. They were a challenge. They were the ultimate test of my parenting skills.
‘Because you thought they were adorable.’ he said. I rolled my eyes with exhaustion. ‘Also, kind reminder, you wanted ten, I wanted one. That was why we settled with three.’
The sarcasm in his voice annoyed me.
‘Honey, do I really have to go alone? I am not sure how I’m going to handle these little monsters on my own.’ I said. I wanted him to accompany us. Chennai to Trichy was a seven hour journey and I was already sweating through my head, thinking about all that I might have to deal with.
‘You’re an amazing mother, sweetheart. I’m sure you can handle them. Moreover, you know this meeting is important.’ he said.
I nodded with a weak smile and heavy heart.
Sometimes, I just need him to be there.
I love my children. No arguing there. I’m a fierce protective mamma, and would do anything to keep them safe and happy. However, there were certain instances when they drained all my energy.
Summer vacations just made it worse.
Every single year, it was like all hell was unleashed. Poster paint staining the curtains, kitchen in a gruesome mess, pillows strewn on the floor, secret girl friends and boy friends to watch out for, the television screaming amidst all the chaos, and the infinite fights to resolve. It was all just too much to handle. Too much.
And locking the three of them in the same space, for seven long hours, would be my worst nightmare, realized.
That was why I needed him by my side.
Especially with the eldest and our only daughter, Indira.
She was in her teens and there wasn’t anything I could do or say to make her listen to me. And I was afraid she was in that phase when girls look at their mothers as an archenemy. There seems to be so much tension between us these days that I need him to be there, just the ease things down a little.
The second one, Ishayu, was trouble in the sense that he was no trouble.
He buried himself under books, aced every test and took pride in his intelligence. We were told by the Psychiatrist that he had an IQ that was either good enough to make him a Nobel Laureate or a Serial Killer. His favorite pastime includes mocking his sister for her ‘dumb blondness’ and his sister mocked him back for his lack of social life. I spent the last fifteen years of my life, resolving disputes between the two.
And when I say disputes, I mean weird, out of this world, disputes.
For example, last week, he told her that if she buried her cell phone battery under a mango tree, it would recharge itself. Imagine my plight when Indira came to me with a soggy mud covered battery complaining, ‘Gosh, I probably took it out before it was fully charged.’ and Ishayu was sneaking out of the living room, snickering and very proud of himself.
Plot twist, they are twins, eight minutes apart.
The youngest of the lot is Ishwar. He is still my baby, and I am terrified of the very thought of him growing up. I’m hoping he would stay my baby forever.
Because once they grow up, they are never coming back to us.
We boarded the train, and settled down in fifteen minutes.
Indira sat by the window, giggling and texting with her mobile, Ishayu found a reading spot at the top berth, and Ishwar was peacefully sleeping on my lap. The train slowly started moving, and my hubby gave me a motivating smile.
‘Oh, look at them.They are angels. Each minding their own business. You’re going to be fine, sweetheart.’ He whispered.
‘For now.’ I replied.
He laughed, gave me a quick peck on the cheek and got off the train. I watched him wave at us, until the train moved out of the station and we disappeared out of his sight.
* TWENTY TWO MINUTES LATER*
‘Mom!! Look!! This dumbass!! He is reading my diary!’ Indira screeched.
‘Don’t flatter yourself, I was looking for spelling and grammar mistakes.’ Ishayu’s voice was calm and composed.
‘Oh, shut up, you arrogant know-it-all, or I’ll smack you so hard that you’re loose all your front teeth and your nose.’ Indira was now climbing up to the top berth, and grabbing her journal out of her brother’s hands.
‘Mommie…..I feeel vomitty.’ Ishwar tugged at my pallu, even before I could process my mind into resolving the diary issue.
‘Who keeps a diary anyway? It’s the twenty first century.’ Ishayu snarled.
‘Well, people who have a LIFE.’ Indira insulted him at the top of her voice, loud enough for the entire coach to hear.
‘Says the girl who can’t even spell Tiruchirapalli.’ Ishayu said. ‘And who is Magadh? Your boyfriend?’
‘Mommieeee…..very very vomitty’ Ishwar repeated, sounding very blue.
And my mind was now torn between twins who thirsted for each other’s blood and a toddler who looked like he could throw up any minute.
I knew I couldn’t afford to take Ishwar to the restroom and help him out, because I feared leaving the twins alone at such a sensitive time would mean I would come back to a crime scene.
That was when I witnessed a miracle.
The miracle walked into my life in the form of a sixty year old senior citizen, dressed in a black tee shirt and a pair of grey cargo pants. He smiled at me and lifted Ishwar in his arms.
‘I’ll take care of this lil one while you resolve that diary issue, beta.’ he said and took Ishwar to the restroom. I thanked the almighty and re directed my attention to the two teens who were pulling each other’s hair and wrestling on the top berth.
‘Down, now. Both of you!’ I said as I pulled them apart. They clambered down and sat in front of me.
‘One more sound, and I’ll make sure that you get no more pocket money for the rest of this summer.’ I warned them.
‘He started it, and you scold me?’ Indira argued and I knew where this would lead.
‘Why do you hate me so much? Gosh, if you didn’t want me,why did you even have me?’ she continued, her eyes red and tears welling up.
‘Indira. No. Please, not now.’ I was truly exhausted. ‘I do not have time for any of this drama.’
‘Oh please. Admit it. You hate me.’ Indira was on full teenage rebel mode now. I had been through this several times that I was emotionally drained for another round of that argument.
‘Why is that? Because I’m not smart like him?’ she was now at the peak of her tantrum.
I remained silent. Trying to count backwards from 100 to 1 and hoping to keep calm over the entire episode.
‘Well, it’s not my fault, okay? I try to study, but all the letters dance when I start.’ She continued.
‘Please honey, we had you tested, you do not have dyslexia.’ I rolled my eyes.
‘Stop pretending like that because you think its cool.’ Ishayu commented.
‘You stay out of this!’ She shouted at him, and threw one of Ishwar’s soft balls into his face.
I glared at Ishayu.
He was now back in his reading pit, buried under a book, and he was now back to normal, as if nothing had happened. He was calm and cool, but Indira was now in the middle of a tantrum. Once the switch was flicked on, it was hard to turn it off. She made herself such an easy target.
A part of me empathized with her innocence, because she reminded me of a girl I used to know.
She was looking at me with such hatred, that I didn’t understand where all of this came from. The fight was about her brother reading her diary, and now she believed that I hated her. I did not understand why all the problems in her life always ended up with her assuming I hated her. My heart twisted with pain as I realized that I was losing my baby girl.
‘Ishayu! Quiet.’ I warned him. He went back to his reading, with an evil grin.
Indira glared at me, tears streaming down her eyes, and the mascara flowing down with it and staining her cheeks. It was by this time that the wise old man, came back with Ishwar. He looked better, and I thanked the stranger for his timely help. He introduced himself as Ravi,an ex-Serviceman.
I invited him to sit down with us for dinner. I insisted that I wanted to thank him and this was the only way I could think of.
I excused myself and got back to my self-critical teenager.
‘Indira, your father and I love you. You know that. We have never had any favorites. We loved you, even when you got average marks in your board exams.’ I said, trying to sound as patient as possible.
‘Yeah, which you never let me forget, thank you.’ She snapped.
And that was it for me. I could not put up with that attitude anymore. I lost my patience.
‘You know what lady, you will not use that attitude with me!’ I snapped back at her. ‘No pocket money for you. All summer.’
‘Gosh, you’re such a psychotic control freak!’ She stormed out of the compartment.
I collapsed on the leather seat.
‘Teenagers. So scary, huh.’ Mr.Ravi said, trying to offer some support. I gave him a weak smile.
‘What’s actually scary is that there’s still six hours of this left.’ I replied.
‘You have kids?’ I asked him.
‘Yes. There were several summers when I had five teenagers at home.’ he said it in a matter of fact way. ‘They’re all grown up and have kids of their own now, anyway.’
‘Five?’ I was so shocked that I could have fainted.
‘Yes, Four girls and one boy.’ he smiled at me.
‘Wow. Four girls.’ I could imagine what it must have been for him, having four Indras, while I couldn’t even handle one. He looked like a true hero. But his answer took me by surprise.
‘Oh, the girls were very easy. Never gave me the tiniest bit of trouble.’ he said. ‘It was the boy that was a handful.’
I could not believe that.
‘You know why?’ he asked me, looking so deep into my eyes that I could feel him stare into my soul.
‘Why?’ I asked him.
‘Because it was the boy that reminded me a lot of a guy that I used to know.’ He smiled. ‘Me.’
And then it dawned upon me.
Mr.Ravi was an angel. He taught me a very important lesson that I hadn’t seen all along. After an elaborate dinner, I thanked him and he left.
That night, I could not help but watch Indira in her sleep.
True, I missed her depending on me, and looking up at me. My baby girl was painfully slipping out of my hands.
But every time Indira did something, be it fight with her twin, fall for his pranks easily, take care of her little borther like a mother, or give away tons and tons of love to her father, or fight with her mother over the pettiest things, she reminded me of a girl I used to know.
The rest of the journey was surprisingly peaceful.
Indira slept like a log, exhausted by all the crying and screaming. Ishwar slept heavily, owing to the medicine I gave him to stop the vomiting. And I had to give Ishayu a final warning at Two AM to get rid of the book and get shut his eyes. It didn’t work. So I had to wake up at Three Thirty and tell him I’d burn the book down if he didn’t sleep already.
After that I had three hours of sleep from three thirty to seven thirty.
The train pulled into Tiruchirapalli junction early next morning. We moved out of the compartment and waited near the doors for the train to stop.
Ishwar was still sleeping on my arms, and I was wondering how I’d get all the luggage out. I knew that waking the kid would be a bad idea, because I was afraid he was catching a fever.
‘We got it.’ Indira and Ishayu’s high spirited voice took me by surprise, as they lugged out of the train with the three heavily packed suitcases.
They neatly helped each other out and got the luggage’s, one by one out of the train, while I waited down with Ishwar. Quickly, they grabbed one each, and Ishayu slung the last luggage, that was a large duffle bag, over his shoulders and the two of them started walking down the platform.
I was rendered speechless.
My phone rang. It was from home.
‘Hey, Wonder Woman. Good Morning!’ My hubby’s voice sounded happier than usual.
‘Any crime scenes at the train that I ought to know of?’ he inquired.
I watched my two teenagers, in a deep animate discussion and dragging the heavy luggage with their hands. They suddenly burst out into giggles and held each others hands tightly. Fight as much as they wanted to,there was a special bond between them that I couldn’t comprehend. My toddler, slept peacefully on my shoulders, although he looked like he might’ve been food poisoned.
‘Nope. Everything’s fine.’ I said, making a new reminder in my mobile to take Ishwar to the hospital, as soon as I reached my brother’s place.
‘Happy Mothers’ Day.’ He wished.
I had never felt so accomplished in my life.