Past few months had been stressful for Payal. Not the physical or financial kind of stress, but this was more like, ‘out of place stress’. She now felt out of place and out of topics all the time. Once chirpy and full of life, now this new Payal had started mincing and minding her words.
Postpartum depression? She thought. No. Her baby was 4 years old now. Then empty nest syndrome. Not at all. Her daughter was just 4. Then what was troubling her.
She planned an evening with her friends. Her partners in crime. She knew they would bring solace to her wandering soul. Her restlessness. They sat, they ordered. And the very moment she planned to voice her feelings it all began.
The conversation began with how the last few weddings they had attended were such a bore. The jewelry, the dresses. How they weren’t designer enough. How the paneer (cottage cheese) in the dish was not fried, and the fried rice, over cooked.
And proceeded on to the trophy maids. How efficient or inefficient they were. Or who had a better supply to quality help. Which ones maid made more fuss about food and bed, and which ones were more flexible.
Payal was at a loss of words and found herself missing from the table. She was physically present but just physically. Her body was there, her mind was not.
Then as the main course was laid the conversation went on to kids.
She sighed with relief. But not for long. A healthy conversation transitioned to a comparison spree. And after making rounds about whose school was the setting a benchmark and whose dad could baby sit the best came the epitome of all comparisons. Boys vs Girls. And who is naughtier and how does gender impact choices in food , toys , habits. And few raise in voices trying to prove how their kid was a bigger trouble maker than the rest.
It all seemed normal from the face of it. But for Payal something had changed. She was married. Had a child. Understood all that was being discussed. This group of smart women had been her friends since forever. But her heart craved for more. Her words searched for more meaningful discussions.
There was nothing wrong with all this.
But her voice craved for a companion who would realise that she was much more than a wife and mother. And the woman in her could discuss Trump and Modi with perfect fluency. And how the current budget would make little or no difference to her. And which movie was not just for shere entertainment but had a deeper impact than that. Which book should she read next. Or how can she just live for herself, guilt free for a few moments.
No doubt her daughter was the axis of her existence and she had left no stone unturned to raise her. But now Payal craved for her space.
And the irony, though it didn’t sound like an offence to her but whoever she shared her thoughts with found her guilty of an uncalled for behavior. They camaraderie ended with a sentence, Once a Mother always a Mother.
No one ever justified, as to why once a mother, Just a Mother.