Slice of Life
The Unbuttered Slice
Enough is enough, they threatened. "You mention your mid level perimeter, your sleep disorders, your aches and pain one more time and we stop reading you."
"But I've done it only thrice over the forty weeks of gestation. It's only fair, isn't it?" I reasoned.
No, they said. "Stop whining in your columns before we stop reading you."
They failed to understand that if the entire body is working overtime to bring a new life into this world, it is difficult for the mind to look the other way and churn out yarns to make people smile. So I decided to stop. After all, you can't have a column without readers who are willing to invest their three minutes in it on a Friday morning.
Interestingly, the strongest criticisms, and in no veiled terms, came from men who have been projecting the softer sides of theirs with relative ease. These men cook, accompany their partners for grocery shopping, even sing or paint or design table lamps. They were happy when I wrote about The Hubby, because he was one of them; they laughed along with the societal exposé because it touched their lives in some way; but their patience ended the moment the most feminine of all processes started finding a mention in this space. To me, the message was clear: keep your girly stuff out of the purview of this page.
Of course, women maintained a studious silence, as women usually do. Praise none, criticise none, and the world will be a more liveable place. With women, you'll never know where you stand.
Then a few others came by and said stop. Three years is a long time. Your page has become so predictable that we know the words even before we've read them. Fridays come and Fridays go, the world has changed at a hurricane pace where 9/11 is history; people have lost count of Toni Blair's progenies; the remix fever has come, gone, making the sight of bare skin even more commonplace than that of our cricketers endorsing products, but your page is where it was three years ago.
So I decided to stop. Introspection is a good thing; being driven to introspect, even better. Maybe they were right, I thought. I was where I was the day this column began: same house, same car, same clothes, yes yes, same Hubby. You can't blame the mind for getting staid, can you? The only things to have changed were my vital statistics and the descriptor on my visiting card. It now reads 'mother of two' instead of the earlier 'mother of one'. They must be right, I thought again. If they felt nothing new was being penned, may be there WAS nothing new being said on this page.
So I stopped. But only for the moment, I said to myself. A couple of weeks' break would be good for one and all, helping me clear my own mental cobwebs…
I stopped and I waited. Waited for being told my words were being missed. Secretly hoping that a letter or half to the editor would urge me to start writing again.
Of course, nothing happened. To suddenly stop writing one day is easy; restarting is a gargantuan task (and I had that perfectly plausible excuse of a baby to look after). The settling inertia was the biggest deterrent.
And then, my baby was born. The He's and the She's came, met me, blessed the newborn, shared their experiences of child-rearing over mishti and lemonade, and left. Not a word was spoken about putting my pen to paper again. The world is kind towards new mothers, having minimal expectations from them. Perhaps, no one wanted to disrupt the postcard-perfect picture of the mother and infant together by even suggesting that I start writing again. Or perhaps they didn't think it was even important enough for me then to know that my absence from the magazine had not gone unnoticed. Whatever it was, it did prick somewhere…
Post partum depression is not as much a hormonal affliction as it is dependant on these little niggling extraneous factors. The initial loss of self-worth soon gives way to an unassuming complacency one settles into. Which is what happened with me. But whatever it was, it gave me an escape from the weekly cycle of ideating, deliberating, writing, and then thinking again. I couldn't have had a smoother exit!
But then came this gentleman (see, I told you, it's always men) who popped the big question I had been waiting for, "So, when are you going to restart your column?"
Soon, I said.
"Good. But I hope it is not going to be about your baby in this innings?"
Thank God he said what he did. For, that very moment, every part of me revolted and questioned, "And why shouldn't it be about my baby?" The resolve was made then and there that I needed to restart. Not because I wanted the world to know what my baby, or my family is up to, but because every Slice is a slice from our lives. It's your story as much as it is mine. The basic human nature doesn't change, and as long as there is even one person out there who feels that it is his/her story being told, I will have achieved my goal.
And, as long as I get my worth of recognition, I should be the last one complaining. For everyone else, there's the Letters To The Editor page.
(R) thedailystar.net 2005