I sit on the big brown coloured couch which is discolured at the edges but still offers the warmth of an old friend. I am fidgeting with the remote and my eyes are transfixed on the television which presents a panorama of images, images of gaiety mostly. But, it does nothing to push away the clouds of loneliness that loom large over me. I have tried in vain to uplift my spirits. I want to be happy, I want to live each day to the brim but something plunges me back to this unpleasant place and I am left utterly miserable and perplexed.
My life was not always the mess it is today. It is hard to believe that I was once a happy person who was constantly on the move. My life revolved around my son Ayansh. I was ecstatic when I held my baby boy in my arms for the first time. I was overwhelmed with emotions and from then on something in me changed. I was not the same person. I was a mother now and unwittingly, I took on the role a tad too seriously. Motherhood is a journey which engulfs you and transforms you into something else. But, I was delighted to be transformed. And from then on a mother was born but it shoved the ‘me’ from my identity, into a bottomless dark chasm.
Bringing up a child is an arduous task and I was blissfully engrossed in bringing up my bonny boy. My relationship with my husband also took a backseat and slowly but steadily he became the second fiddle in my life.
I would wake up in the wee hours of the morning and sweat out in the kitchen to make what my boy demanded. Oh! How I beamed to see that smile on my son’s face.
As Ayansh grew into a lanky teenager, my time was filled with the pick and drop rides to tuition classes. I was very particular about his studies and meticulously researched about books that would lend him that edge and carve a path that would lead to academic excellence.
I distinctly remember that day. Ayansh’s board exams were in full swing. My best friend Sheetal decided to call me on one of those crucial March days when the examinations had made their Draconian presence in my house. Sheetal was one of my closest friends and we had studied together in school and college. After college, she got married and moved to US. I hardly used to get time to call her but she kept in touch despite everything.
As I picked up the phone, the familiar voice at the other hand instilled in me a sense of nostalgia and I was transported back to the old dusty lanes of the town where I had spent my childhood.
“Hey, Aarti, how are you? I am so excited. I landed yesterday and the first thing I want to do is meet you. I am still jet lagged but what the heck!” It was difficult to escape the jubilation in Sheetal’s voice. And so, unwillingly I acquiesced to meet her.
The hip coffee shop lingered with the aroma of freshly brewed coffee and as I sat there waiting for Sheetal, I could not help but think about Ayansh and worried if he would loiter in the house, now that I am away. The mere thought made me repent as to why I stepped out.
My reverie was broken by Sheetal’s warm bear hug while she exclaimed animatedly, “Aarti, you look lovely. I so missed you. Today, we will talk and talk and do nothing else. It has been ages”.
As we chatted, we were once again the spirited young girls who laughed at the drop of a hat and who were unscathed by the travails of time.
Suddenly, I glanced at my watch.
“Sheetal, I have to leave now. I should be home now. Ayansh has his exams.”
Sheetal looked at me and held my hand.
“Aarti I have known you almost all your life. You are very dear to me and I care about you immensely. So, I need to tell you this. I respect you for being the par excellence mother you are. But, don’t you think you have lost yourself while playing the role of a mother? It is important to be be there for your children but have you considered what will happen once your son will move away to carve his own life? Do not lose yourself Arti, discover your true self, the chirpy, opinionated level- headed girl who was fond of music and who lived each day to the hilt. You have pushed that girl into oblivion. Please find that girl before it is too late. You owe it to yourself.”
I vividly recall each and every word that Sheetal said as each word pierced my soul not because she said those words harshly but because deep down I knew she was right. But, I chose to shut my eyes and move on and live a life of delusion.
Back to the Present day
As I continue to stare at the tv screen, the feeling of worthlessness grips me all over again. It has been six months since Ayansh left for college. I knew this day would arrive sooner or later but what I did not know was that it would affect me in such a catastrophic manner. My son who was the axis around which my life encircled has flown the nest.
To make things worse, he hardly speak to me now. My world has come crashing down and suddenly I have no purpose in life. My husband sensed my plight and desperation but in being the perfect mother, I had created a huge fissure between us, which deepened with each passing day.
It has been a couple of months since I have been suffering from insomnia. I hardly venture out. I have no one to talk to as I never invested in any other relationship. With shivering hands, I dial the number.
As I hear the peppy voice from the other end, it at once feels like home. I speak for an hour incessantly and the barrage of emotions let themselves unfold unabated.
She listens to me quietly.
A couple of hours later, Sheetal is sitting next to me.
She holds on to me as I sob like someone possessed.
When I can cry no more, she looks into my eyes.
“You have to find yourself. You cannot let motherhood define you. You are one hell of a woman and you will start your life afresh. I will be there by you come what may. So, get up, get a grip over yourself. Henceforth, you will live your life for yourself.”
Sheetal helped me come out of the most traumatic phase of my life. I rediscovered myself and started learning music. I made an effort to rekindle the love between me and my husband and gradually took charge of my life.
Today after my music session and a warm home cooked dinner with my husband, as I lay down my head on the pillow, I take a sigh of relief and suddenly find all the exhaustion dispelling into thin air. As I rediscovered myself, sleepless nights gave way to nights of sweet slumber and so I slept only to wake up to be the person who was lost in the labyrinths of motherhood.
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