Friday, August 23, 2013

The truth about becoming a mother & holding on.

It's not easy to write your own truth.
It's honest, real and raw - the bare, naked reality of the moment.

Becoming a mother changed my life.
And yes, its a million and one, beautiful moments. I generally write about those.
But in the middle of that lovely carnival of fun and riot of color, there is that one dark, frightening ride, that people tend to walk past and pretend isn't there because no one really likes it. But it's there all right. And it’s scary.

So here it is. My honest attempt at telling you my truth. As messed up and beautiful and cluttered and crazy, as only the truth can be.

It's the reality that I'm beginning to understand a lot of new mothers face. Where you're almost always sleep deprived. Nights of constant rising, rocking and feeding, take their toll. Times when you hold a crying baby in your arms, in complete and utter despair, wondering how on earth you'll ever be able to figure out the problem.  Worried that you'll do something wrong and your mind races at break-neck speed, to the unthinkable. Moments spent watching a sleeping angel - will you be able to do right by this little person? Dealing with the personal guilt of having to go to work, leaving your baby at home. Work pressure which has always been manageable, but suddenly, coupled with the new 'I'm a Mom' phase in your life - it's all too much. A solid kick in the stomach.

You read about hormonal changes that take place when your baby is born. You never think it could happen to you. But it does. It may not be extreme, but it's there.
The fire breathing dragon; that is the baby belly. There are tons of ways to lose it, but not enough available hours in your day to make it happen. You read all the right online articles, spout all the motivational speeches to yourself that you can – and you suddenly have that moment where you think, “Man, who am I kidding?”

You know you have the unconditional love and support of your family and friends. You constantly pinch yourself to remember that. But unfortunately, this is a battle you fight on your own. This is your Goliath.
It's a struggle to remember who you are in the middle of everything. In a matter of months, you're not so sure anymore and you give it everything you've got to hold on to some semblance of normalcy, that part of you that can hopefully rise above all the uninvited drama.

No, these are not excuses. It’s just the truth. People who know us well, will know how many times we’ve said in the last few months, as new parents – that people need to talk about the stuff that happens when a couple moves on to this stage of their lives. It’s beautiful and life altering and you forget the pain, they say.
I agree for the most part. It is beautiful and life altering. But there is pain. There is pressure. Nervousness, anxiety, fear, anger, misery – that all comes too, in varying doses. Call a spade a spade. It helps sometimes.

The good news?
It passes. Quicker than you realize. You’re not the only one. Ask for help. From family; above all.
To all the moms out there who’ve gone through any or all of the above…I feel you.
And it’s normal. Hang in there. It’ll pass.

A soul sister of mine (she’s my Pink Chili) recently quit her job to follow her passion. To say they're good at their craft is an understatement. They're constantly learning, experimenting, brain-storming. They call themselves Candid Kama Photography.

They're currently working on a relatively new concept for this market - a unique twist on glamour. Though it's just at fledgling stage - we've discussed its ears off.  She asked me if I would let them practice on me for a bit. I agreed.

So there I was. After a full day’s work, sans any kind of make-up.
In my full, tired, dark circled, wobbly baby tummy, spotty faced, hair falling, glory.
I realized how naked I subconsciously felt during the shoot. In that white, photographers light, all the bad bits that I was carefully hiding, were suddenly out in the open, flat on the table for everyone to see.
Woman flaws.

It was only later, when I saw some of their shots - that the reality of what we had just done - actually hit home.

It started out as just helping a friend. Practice Posing.
But here's the thing. On the other side of the lens was a new mother. An exhausted, worried, new mother, convinced that all her 101 bad bits which all decided to show themselves at this same time in her life, make her look and feel ugly, un-pretty and undesirable. Who feels unattractive and old, all in a matter of months. And completely out of her comfort zone with all this serious posing. 

But the camera whirred and my Pink Chili smiled and turned the camera image for me to see ... I felt a little light turn on in my head and heart. I saw just a few images...but I saw 'me' again. And I slowly let go of my inhibitions and relaxed. 

I realized it was more than posing. These girls reminded me of who I was on the inside. And that though I couldn't see it because of the little cloud of gloom that seemed to effortlessly follow me around these days, invisible to all human eyes except my own - there I was. 

Just Rose. Only me and my truth. My happy.

It was my Hallelujah moment. That affirmation, that the beautiful part of me that I've been fighting to hold on to - is there. Silently, joyously, waiting to be picked up, dusted and worn again. And I found it again because I subconsciously trusted a friend with the naked truth.
When we spoke about it later - I realized that as a subject and a photographer - it may have been just a project.
But for me and her - the images were more. It was her...but it was me. Soul sisters took on a whole new meaning right there.

I remembered to be thankful for the person God made me. And I remembered to be thankful for the angels that He constantly sends, to remind me of who that person is.

I am thankful for my Ara, who still thinks I am beautiful; in spite of all my insecurities right now. Love.

This is a big year for us. And I’m learning to cut myself just a little bit of slack. We’re getting there - slowly but surely. It’s a huge pot, with a lot in to cook…and when I have trouble blending it all, I’m learning to trust the hands that firmly, hold my own.

Even when it is the tiny hand of our little Princess. 

Till later. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Bella's Kitchen

Everyone has that one aunt whose house always smelt like Heaven was having a buffet.
Me too. My grand aunt, in fact. 

She made the most amazing potato & mince cutlets, beef fry, pulav rice, prawns…and these were just my personal favorites, mind. 
Everyone in our family has that one favorite dish of hers, that they love. To bits. Drool worthy love. 

I associate some of my most pleasant memories of Bombay, with her and her home. Being the youngest, I was pampered by her. And this is one of the few times I’ll admit it.

1981 - Aunty Bella & me

Whenever I visited her home as a child, there would be a Mango Frooti juice waiting. And Bourbon chocolate biscuits. Why? Because they were my favorites. And she cared.

If we were having a family dinner at her home – there would always be those cutlets that I loved. 
There would be beef julienne - especially for Mum. And Dad, well, he had grown up with it, so he just grinned and enjoyed it all, in that knowing way, "Yup, I told you this was coming!" 
If I was at our home and she had cooked something she knew I would like, it would get packed in a little steel dabba and one of her three sons would get on his cycle and come over - just for me.

She knew exactly what we all liked and she remembered. My family was only in Bombay during the summer holidays – but make our favorites she would. She cared.

Years passed. I went to college. Little changed. 

She still made the most amazing food and her kitchen still smelt like heaven. We still had family dinners and picnics to the beach. She loved to play Bingo. 
Her sons moved around the world and she went around visiting, every now and then. Her boys had children of their own. And they too had their favorite dishes that Nana made.
She was still the same fun loving, happy go lucky woman, ever ready to be part of a good laugh and of course - a special meal. 

The day her youngest grandchild Bianca was born. 

I decided to get married. The first time Dude came to Goa, we visited her home. 
Guess what we left with? A little steel dabba, with mince and potato cutlets. 
We finished them in the car on the drive back home.  

In Goa, we have a tradition where the bride to be wears a set of colorful bangles on both wrists. These bangles signify the blessings of your home, elders and good wishes for the new life ahead of you. In our home, my grand aunt was the one who came with us when we bought these bangles and she put them on my wrists herself. She cried, then blessed me and my future. 

19th July 2008 - my wedding day

We lost her last month,  to a disease that only she could fight with a smile. 
She seldom complained, was always cheerful and celebrated her birthday just two weeks before she passed away. She was happy. Surrounded by her grandchildren and the people she loved. She was strong and brave and wonderful - even as she fought her way through multiple visits to the hospital and dreadful pain. 

When we would speak and I would begin my conversation with, "Hello my darling!", I would always get a warm, "Hello my sweetheart" back. I could hear her smile...even when I knew it was hard to do in the middle of tired pain.  

No, we don't only remember the food. We remember the warm laughter and shy grin when any of us said the food was amazing. We remember the care and concern when she told her daughters in law and me, what to eat and what not to eat during our pregnancies. 
We remember each celebration and occasion where she cooked up a storm, making a little bit of everyone's favorite this and that - even when it was a tiny little kitchen in Dahisar to a much bigger one in Dubai. Because she cared. 

Our extended family all over the world remember her cooking. Bella che kaaiiz as my Mum's brother fondly remembered each time they would talk. Her sons friends through school, college and even now - remember. And no, it's not just the food. You know, you see and you feel the love that goes into it. You can imagine the heart that prepared the meal. And you cannot help but love her. 

Goodbyes suck. But memories are beautiful. So you remember the good times where we laughed, sang and lived. But you also remember the bad times where you saw how strong that beautiful heart could be. 
And you realize how lucky you were to have a Bella's Kitchen to go to - at some point in your life. 

Artwork by Joefery Barretto - July, 2013

We miss you, my darling.