My tickets were booked and co-passengers decided. We had already made an itinerary that was as whimsical as our lives. With clothes all selected, dry-cleaned, rejected, tried and finally dumped for an entire new set, I was ready. After almost seven years, I was going on a vacation.
Don’t get me wrong. We, as a family of three, are often spotted in our car covering miles to reach weekend getaways recommended by travel sites.
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This was different. This was about me. I was going on a vacation. Without my daughter and husband.
I looked at my to-do list and proudly ticked off almost all the things. One task still remained — “inform/convince the family”. I knew that these were two gigantic tasks. The ‘informing’ part would lead to utter chaos in all quarters and “convince” wasn’t exactly what I was planning to do anyway. Inform and run looked more feasible.
My seven-year-old daughter is the epitome of worldly wisdom and moral policing. Thanks to a lot of free time at my end, her world is very clearly marked with just A-plus or E-minus. There is no in-between for her. So, when I told her that I was “planning” a trip with my friends alone, she went quiet.
Lull before the storm is an extremely abused phrase but for want of anything more appropriate, I admit, it did feel like ‘that lull’.
She went to her room, rang up her dad, sobbed and spoke in whispers while I sat in the dining room, waiting for the verdict. Honestly, I had made up my mind and was definitely going, but I wanted to give my daughter the pleasure of thinking she did have a say.
She stumped me with the unlikeliest of questions. “Don’t you and papa love each other, mumma?”
“Of course, we do. Why do you ask?”
“Because papa says we shouldn’t stop you from going. That you should have fun too. Mumma, don’t you like going with us? Papa doesn’t mind it either,” she exclaimed.
I smiled and made a note to give a warm hug to hubby darling once he is home but there were other important matters to be attended to.
“We love each other but we love our time with other people too. So I want to go. I need to go,” I told her. To her, nothing made sense but since she heard the urgency in my tone and because she found no support in her sole support — her dad, she gave in. Temporarily, of course.
We have been married for over a decade and what we share is a wonderful mix of friendship, love, jealousy, freedom, understanding and an accurate sense of “when to shut up.”
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So, there wasn’t much convincing required on my part when he returned home. In fact, he said he was happy that I was finally living my life again. In any other story, this statement could have been a potential preface to a marriage-shattering plot but because I know this guy, and he in turn knows me really well, I knew he meant it. That night, I snuggled in his arms and slept happily. One day at a time.
In the morning, I began making the necessary arrangements for the trip, which was just two days away. When I told my maid, rather nonchalantly, about my trip and gave her instructions on how to manage everything in my absence, she gave me the worst mother-in-law look she could. I was about to justify my case but good sense prevailed and I shut up. I had more important people to handle right now.
“You are going alone,” my mother asked when I finally called her up.
“Without him and her,” she asked again.
When I said I was, she went quiet, just like my daughter had, but thankfully the questions that followed were easier. Or so I thought.
“Who will take care of her?”
“What do you mean ‘who will’? He will, of course,” I replied. I was prepared to not feel guilty.
“Okay. So he will take leave to take care of her. Then why don’t you all go together as a family. You will get your break too.” I always knew my argumentative streak came from within the family.
“Mumma, I don’t want to go with them. I want to go with friends. I want my ‘me’ time.”
Mothers have various secret weapons and they use it often to manipulate the children, irrespective of either party’s age or gender. I can say this with authority because being a mother, I often use these tactics to get things done. Or not done.
Mum now pulled the most powerful weapon from her quiver and said as coldly as she could, “You are a grown-up woman now. You know things better. Do what you want to do.”
Just when I thought, I would say ‘okay’ and hang up, she added, “but I don’t understand why would you want to leave your ‘little’ daughter and ‘loving’ husband and enjoy without them.”
There was no point explaining so I left it at that and went back to packing my bag.
Mother-in-law was the next in line. I called and informed her. Being in the same city, I would need her help too. To my surprise, even if she had reservations, she expressed none. Honestly, I think I felt a tinge of jealousy when she inquired about my vacation. May be one day I will take her and other girls too, I thought, drowning in gratitude at her reaction.
THE TRIP AND OTHER NOTHINGS
While everyone was painting me evil, selfish and irresponsible, hubby darling earned a lot of brownie points both from me and the world at large for his “support.” Dad just sent me a message that said, “I hope you are not giving ideas to your mum too.”
After making all the arrangements I could (which mostly meant putting all the neighborhood food joints’ numbers on the fridge) and giving as many instructions as I could, I left. I was so happy and overwhelmed that while saying bye to my baby, I said “I will miss you two so, so much.”
I shouldn’t have because my daughter went teary-eyed and said, “Then don’t go.” I smiled and left.
In those few days away from family, I spent hours sitting by a window without being disturbed, admired the majestic hills without anyone complaining about the prickly grass, often stopped en-route to admire nature without having to hunt for clean public toilets, ordered food without worrying about the spices or the hygiene, and listened to songs that weren’t nasal or unfathomable. Basically, I did nothing.
When I came back, I met an equally happy and content father-daughter. I say “happy” because when I asked them, what they did all these days, they just looked at each other, smiled their identical dimpled smiles and said, “Nothing.”