1. Bringing up myself
On the occasion when I stamped my feet, and insisted that I was NOT, NOT, NOT, NOT going to wear the pretty skirt and blouse that amma had painstakingly stitched for me, my amma turned Durvasav.
Durvasav incidentally was the hot tempered Sage in mythology, who was given to making life uncomfortable for others, by predicting their futures.
” I am declaring to all the Universe ,” ( My, my, she still can be so melodramatic if she wants!) she said, ” that one day, you will have a daughter, and that you will understand my pain at this moment.”
I remember sniggering , not so very gracefully. I was fourteen.
I did not believe in prophecies coming true. Besides, who wanted to have kids?Yuck!
Today I stand, another raging Durvasav, as my daughter tosses all the lovely blues and pinks to the side and insists on Black.
” But you look so lovely, so graceful in blue,” I plead.
Better to try theory Y of that BSchool learnings, before giving vent to a virulent theory X that I have stashed away beneath. Barely under control, simmering away like dosa on a heated vessel…hisssssssss…herssssssssss!
My daughter rolls her beautiful eyes ( why can’t she wear a little kajal for Chrissake?), and says, “Mommmmmmm”in that Western-serial way, that has me jumping on my toes.
” Amma”, I insist “Amma.”
” Amma, I hate pinks and blues.”
Good- time for trying out that lesson on negotiation they taught me at the Academy- I was supposed to get any rabblerouser change tracks with that strategy!
” Check out this purple one-the tag line is cool too..Princess Attitude”..I try simpering now.
The eyes roll in the opposite direction.
” Mommm..sorry, amma, I DETEST purple.”
So much for buying her Enid Blyton from age three. I am to blame for my fate. All her vocabulary!
” So what do you want?” I bleat like Baa, Baa, Black sheep.
” Finally you asked me that. Mommmaaaamma..Black.Black is cool. Black top, black tights, black boots.”
And she is supposed to be fourteen and into colours!
” Black on festivities? Girl, you can wear all the black when you reach University..your don gowns..even those are golden and yellow..Dear, come to your senses.”
She turns temporarily deaf.
(My mother laughs from her home. She is laughing really, really, hard.)
What the heck!
” Ok, for this one time..because my feet hurt and I cannot see another pile of tossed up colours..pick one.”
She picks up XL size- four teens of her size, would fit into that one.
” Are you mad?” I almost yell. Theory X has come out spurting like over cooked idli and spluttering sambhar.
My kid grins at me symapthetically, as if I am a puppy that has gone slightly wobbly on the head.
” Relax mom..you see, I have to go out and exercise , nah? So loose fitting is better.”
” Even two of me will fit into this one, girl!”
I am almost reduced to tears now.She has managed to do the impossible. Usually I cry after extreme stress, that too in private. Boo hoo!
Fifteen minutes later, my teenager walks out of the mall, whistling . She has bought four dresses-all in XL size, all in pitch black.
I look like Sylvia Plath with her head popped inside the oven.
As I sit down to drink a hot cappuchino (she insisted on a cool drink in that cold!) , my little six year old asks me gently:
” Amma, when I am her age, will you get me pinks? Pink, pink, pink dresses like Barbie.”
I break down and cry, hugging her.
My mother in Kerala cries along with me.
All is well. There is hope at the end of the blackest dress.
2. Nailing It Black, Without White
My teenager bares her claws- her finger nails are perfectly manicured, sharp and pale.
” I want to paint these black,” she says cautiously.
” Er, consider red,” I suggest politely.
An old memory, of a cinema in which the heroine asked the hero (who was a kitchen hand in the first half) to fetch her ” Quetex- red, apple red”, reverberates in colourful resplendence in my mind.
“Amma, red is sooooo boring!”
” Any colour but black on your nails? Purple, pink, silver..”, I canoodle in vain.
” I love black. Goth is the style,” she says.
” Vulgarity and Classy- they have a narrow line in between. A very, very, delicate line. So watch your black,” I murmur, and withdraw into my own world.
Black triggers a gun shot full of smoky memories.
The ashes after burning dry leaves and rice husks in the old brick choolah.
The kitten with one green eye and one pitch black eye, which would nestle amidst the warm ashes.
The soot on the clay vessel in which fish would be cooked at noon.
The colour of kohl, as castor seeds mixed with lemon and ghee.
The robe of Dracula in the children’s magazine. The colour of his flaring eyebrows.
The raven turn of wings drawn on a beautiful actress’s eyes- making them appear angelic and devilish at the same time.
The smudge of slate pencil on a black slate.
The spilt ink of Indian Black. A nib pen lying besides a black ink pot.
The dot on a baby’s cheek, to keep evil at bay.
The black bindi on a clear forehead, marking a sacred spot of energy, a rebellious show of power.
The black pearls in a traditional wedding chain, interspersed with gold.
The monsoon clouds, angry and wild, darkening, blackening before the burst of showers.
The black splashed brush keeling on the white canvas, tinting, unraveling mysteries at the same time.
The black tresses, gleaming with oil scented with camphor and basil
The black, smooth stone that touches the maiden’s cheeks, as she picks up one by the side of the rivulet
Black, as the speckles on a witch’s cauldron- especially after boiling a concoction of hawthorne buds and belladonna leaves.
“Go ahead, wear black,” I say, emerging from rumination’s black cave.
” Actually, I was contemplating dotting it with white glitter,” she grins at me.
I shudder not too delicately.
” Don’t spoil my black,” I say pleadingly.
” Since when have you become a fan of black?” she asks, astounded.
” Ever since I really looked at it,” I reply with a smile. ” Besides, you have beautiful, black eyes. Go ahead.”
She paints her nails black.