Your head is in the right place girl!

20th January! I am wedded to K for 9 years! Phew! But the whole world watched this with anticipation..

As did we.  

Chiyaa: (with awe in her voice) " She is so beautiful"
Me: (knowing she is referring to Melania Trump) " Who?"
Chiyaa: She, the one in red!
Me: (with disbelief) You think so! The one on the left?"
Chiyaa: (running to the tv and touching Michelle Obama) "She. She is so beautiful. I think she is a princess!"

I am so proud of you for not sticking with beauty stereotypes. Stay sensible my clever kid!

Creatures of habit

We are amazing creatures of habit aren't we? I am a very jittery traveller. I check, double check the trifecta of essentials - phone, wallet, id card. I check the platform on every available wide screen disbursing that information. I keep an ear on the announcements for the next station in the train. I do not sleep lest I miss my station. I go to great lengths to awaken if I am groggy. The first day of travel I was going through all these motions with the an undercurrent of panic. I didn't like being anxious because it was exhausting. But I couldn't help it. Not only was I on the edge regarding my travel, I was anxious about the state at home too. 

In a day I was 'seasoned'. The next day I was way calmer. The process of letting go had also kicked in and I was not pestering Mil with updates about the kids. The third time around I was on auto pilot. It was unbelievable that I looked at the wide screen displaying information at the entrance of the station only. I did not check it 7 times before getting on the train. In fact I started recognising some regulars. I even labelled a seat as my favourite. On the onward journey, till the first leg I was so engrossed in the book and some other random stuff on the phone, that I realised I was about to reach the station only after I saw a few passengers getting ready to alight. The second leg of the journey I even risked a little nap. The journey was 90 minutes long and I of course had an alarm set.  During the return journey, I did not even look at the platform information. I knew which platform I had to get to! 

My colleagues think I have a very long commute and I spend a lot on it too - a little less than 1/4th of my earnings. But I feel I get to have a job and contribute and maybe have a chance at a long running career. Some friends feel its strenuous and I should maybe opt to stay in Leeds. That way I would get some rest and also a much needed time away from home chores. But I feel, the days I travel, I do nothing at home absolutely. Even if it's 4 times a month, it's a lot for a mom with two kids under 6. I remember travelling with Chiyaa and Pumpki. On all occasions I noticed the travellers without kids. Ladies sipping gin and tonic in the flight or people unencumbered by numerous luggage making the platform changes with a phone in one hand and a coffee in other. I would wistfully think - I would just want to travel without kids. Being far from them, away from them - is not something I would ever want. But just the travel.... I wouldn't mind. I would rather like it. As I always believe be careful what you wish for. In a strange way it has come true for me. I have travel time, away from kids. I am so tired that even a good night's sleep does not recharge me. I feel sluggish till mid morning the next day. But snuggling next to the two brats on other days, I just sigh. Its all worth it. 

Are we not barking up the wrong tree?

Raise your son better if you want your daughter's safety. Like who died and made this the panacea for instilling safety of women ? And what about the women whose peers are sons who have already been raised. Women like my sister, my best friend, me? Ours is a lost cause eh? We have to live in the probable belief that our daughters will be safer? That's tad unfair isn't it?

So women who have borne sons and now have the additional responsibility of raising them well (lucky me with two girls, I can raise them however I like). I feel, the problem lies somewhere else. In my humble opinion these might bring about an iota of difference. 

1. Increase culpability - Eveteasing, molestation, abuse, rape - increase their culpability. And to enforce this increase the culpability of the law enforcement agencies.  A more 'innocent until proven guilty' approach would be helpful in this respect. If a woman can report and see the consequences of her action, every woman will be emboldened. If a man is reported against and faces the consequences, it will set an example to his homies that some actions are illegal. No amount of conscience rapping will do the job. It's a cheap thrill for many. They feel they can do something and get away with it. They do have maa-behen at home. But that lady walking on the steeet or sitting on the window seat is not maa-behen. So with her anything goes. Till - we have the laws to make sure that no, anything does not go. 

3. Police power - 1 cannot be effective if the police force is incompetent without an accountability. Most of the time the police is lethargic when responding to cases of abuse. At other times they engage in victim blaming. Again , both these actions should be culpable offenses.

2. Light it up - Light up the streets, the alleys, the by lanes. The roads that are not too bright, are avoided. But for some that might be the only way home. Lurching in the darkness are the breed of scum for whom abusing is a woman gives them a high. If we shine the light and make cctv cameras rampant there might be some hope. There is a study which states that the consciousness that one is being watched reduces the occurrence of crimes. But then this goes hand in hand with point one. If a crime is committed, make sure that the resources are utilised to bring the perpetrators to book. 

3. Make sex available - well sex is still a taboo. People in India reach puberty around the same time as the rest of the world, but can avail 'sex' mostly after parental consent. If it was more available in the form of an established industry, relationship or even through the medium of toys and appendages - I feel it could bring about a lot of change. If it was a freely discussed subject like dandruff or downloading movies, it would make it much safer for girls. Girls would not be shame faced to tell their parents that the uncle next door brushed against her in a 'weird' way. And there might be a chance to nip it in the bud rather than her waiting to get to college and out of the neighbourhood.

Yes - lot of other things will help. Pepper spray, martial arts and self defence training, a sock filled with an unused bar of soap, presence of mind. Raising your sons right - well it might help. 

Starting thoughts

I could not be prepared enough. I could not bring myself to digest all the thoughts that were scouring my head. And I thought about Papa. Papa used to travel for four hours to his work place and return. It involved a bus change in a nearby city. He used to do it from the age of 50 till he retired at 58. Many a times he would not get a place to sit for a major portion of the travel. Given his age, he was not keen on driving. Later when he had some peers, they would car pool, but on an average papa used to travel at least thrice a week from Bhubaneswar to Dhenkanal. He could have put up there, which was suggested by colleagues and mummy. But he preferred returning home. I did not understand him then. Did not understand his rationale for travelling, for keeping that routine, for putting up with the travails for 8 long years. I did not understand his tiredness on the days he travelled. I was busy being a 'child'.

Perspective is a strange thing isn't it. It takes weird forms to come around, and being in the same shoes as papa drove the reality home. The wish to travel back home to be surrounded by my family. The wish to not mind the journey. 

0420 - woke up before the alarm. In super stealth mode, I was all attired for my first work day after 402 days ( technically that is how long I had been away. No I did not actually count it - a colleague noticed the status on the internal messenger :P ) At 0500 - Chiyaa was up. She asked for milk. Actually it is an indication of her being thirsty. But K being the totally hands off parent emerged to get the milk from the kitchen. Now proper practitioners of "how to handle Chiyaa " would know that we are starting a vicious cycle there. Start we did. She had the milk, then asked for mummy, would not get pacified if K slept near her, starting kicking him, he started to raise his voice, Amma came in as Family Peace Keeping Force but to no avail and the "big one" started bawling which in turn led to the "little one " waking up and staring bleary eyed before starting to cry. All this before I had stepped out of the house. I cuddled Chiyaa and asked her if she wants the tab. The tab is a miracle medicine! Of course she wanted the tab. She got up, smiled and started playing. I went with strict instructions to take it away from her after an hour. I am a bit of a screen time nazi. 

I had booked a cab, checked the platform and awaited the train. Smooth enough transition the station where I had to board the one to Leeds. I was a bit nervous in the second leg of the journey. I am not sure why. There was nothing to be. I was chatting with a colleague who has been a long timer and had returned from her third maternity break last May. She resssured me that nothing would have changed. 

Reached work and my access card didn't work. Well that is change :) My new manager walked me up to our place. Another change. Uh well - the place was scattered with people. Many had not returned from their Christmas vacation yet. Met a few folks and soon enough my laptop died. Yes. Things tend to go awry after 402 days of rest. And so did a lot of permissions and accesses. The day zipped past as I reinstated myself. And in no time it was 1700 when I had to dash out. 

As I stood in the station, I could not help but wonder, how much I loved Leeds. How strongly I felt a connection with the place. But I could not wait to get out of Leeds. Take the train and make that journey to reach sleepy Ipswich . 

I reached my sleepy town which I called home. But my home was not asleep even though the clock showed 2140. Chiyaa was upset about something else and the Pumpki was complaining about another thing. As soon as I entered home, I had time to dump my handbag and laptop bag and get on with pacifying the divas. Amma and K were at their wits end, themselves having had a long day with the demanding kids. Slowly they calmed down and drifted off to sleep around 2230. When I hit the bed at 2315 ish, the next morning 0420 alarm was not something I was looking forward to :(

Planning and then some

I had a plan in place. Since I was joining after a year, my manager recommended that I be at Leeds for two consecutive days. Work started on Tuesday. I planned to be in Leeds on Monday evening, put up with a college mate and come back on Wednesday. 

Amma and K were confident of taking care of the two kitties while I was away. I on the contrary had my utmost reservations. I don't know why people don't listen to me the first time *rolls eyes* I kept hollering that day times are different but the nights would be daunting. But no one else heeded. Till it was Saturday and seeing how the kids were, we started brain storming. I stood corrected in fact - they were two clingy babies.

One option was the entire battalion bar K travels to Leeds, puts up in a hotel. They could go to my college mate's house, but I did not want to inconvenience her by making everyone stay there. This came with the quandary of how was Amma supposed to keep them entertained in a closed hotel room. And in case of an emergency she would  not be able to reach out to anyone - I would be  busy the first couple of days. 

The other option was K taking the couple of days off. But that still left the night time open for any emergency by the kids. 

K gingerly suggested that I travel back and forth both the days. It would be taxing for me given one way was a four hours long journey. But then it seemed like the most conducive plan. Though with the travel being a mere two days away, the ticket prices were exponential. Well... as they say anything for man ki shanti. 

Being a nervous traveller, I 'tried' to plan my first day to work as much as possible. I collected the tickets before hand, I ironed and even wore my work clothes so that I am not disappointed to see the outcome on the day ( given that I would be getting dressed in the dark around 5 in the morning) and kept my food all packed ( Yeah I don't like eating outside). 

First day was just a day away.