Monday, August 6, 2012

Growing up is never easy....

"All my friends think you look very young and cute, not your age at all!" said Toshali, in her now famous grumpy look. It was a regular post-school-hour afternoon and I was folding clothes. I turned and smiled. She shrugged and said, "You don't, I dunno why they say that? You have wrinkles around your eyes and laugh lines and quite a few of your hair has turned grey." My grin turned from happy to amused as I turned back to folding clothes.

You all must have gathered that I am speaking of my daughter who is a teenager now and conscious of every detail that she was just a few months back oblivious to. Topping her chart of annoyance is 'Moi'. It used to be her brother but now I reign supreme. "You behave like a teen Maa and that is why you are so popular!!" She was not done yet, I realised. Usually I just let her speak till she has said it all and then I say my part, if there is scope to say anything in my defense. Today I was stumped.

I sat down on the bed and looked at her. "What is it that has put you off?" I asked. "I don't like the fact that people think we are sisters. You must look your age Maa. The other mums all look their age." I seriously did not like the way this conversation was going. I explained to her that most of the 'other mums' that she was referring to had older children and hence were years older than me. She refused to listen. Turning her head away resentfully she said, "When we walk into a room together people want to talk to you, not me." My fuse started to tick. A dull throbbing ache starts at the back of my head and spreads willfully towards a full blown out migraine. There is a sense of helplessness. I know what she is feeling, I can empathise on one level. Yet I feel ill-equipped to cope with her.

The words that want to spring out of my mouth are reactive. They hang on the tip of my tongue begging to be let loose. She wants a fight, I will give her one, my reflex churns choppy signals to my brain. It takes immense will to keep a reign on my words. The migraine will go away, but the words once uttered will not return unscathed. I suddenly wish there were more clothes to fold. But the pile is done. All sorted, nothing left for me to do apart from facing her, talking to her and dealing with my fuse.

I tell her then of my adolescence, "I grew up in the presence of a woman whose beauty is admired even today. I grew up hearing people say, 'You have nothing of your mum's looks.' It must have hurt then. I was your age, my face was full of acne, I was not slim, neither fair compared to the friends I had. I had to smile. I have never confronted my mother about this. I don't remember holding a grudge against her, maybe I did sub consciously, but those times were different and parents were 'parents', not 'friends' with whom you could pick a fight." Toshali gets restless and I know it is time to change my track as it must sound 'preachy' to her. So I change gears and start again, "To begin with I am happy that you are honest and vocal about your feelings. I think that is praiseworthy." She looks stumped now. But she says that I am digressing from the subject and I allow myself a hint of a smile that promises ultimately to alleviate my migraine. So I let the smile linger.

I tell her that what she perceives as young is actually agelessness. It is a period in a woman's life when she is sure of herself, knows her strengths and accepts her weaknesses. When she has travelled equally, inwards than outwards. Her experiences glints from her eyes and smile through her lips. "What you call beauty is actually maturity, a face that is calm in its understanding of the world and poised in its knowledge.", I tell her also, "The only way to reach this ageless quality is to live life. Enrich yourself with as many experiences as possible. Even this talk that we are having today will reflect from your face tomorrow and give it a desirable quality." A part of me tells me she is too young to understand all this, and the other part says,"Try her." I speak as she continues to listen.

"I have to wait it out, you mean?", she finally asks. My smile widens. She did get the jist of it. "You can say wait it out, I would say live it, feel the joy, the pain, the love and the bitterness and one day when you are on your own, your face will be transformed. What is a face, but a mirror of your experiences!! What is it that holds a gaze and makes people want to talk to you... it is nothing but your willingness to talk back. I do look my age, it is age alone that transforms a precocious girl to an ageless woman." She smiles, plucks a grey hair from my temple and laughs. "You are old.", she says and winks as she leaves the room. Well well... what can I say? I let her have the last laugh.

My migraine didn't bother me. That was good enough for the day.