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The anxiety was killing me. Bizarre, ugly and even irrational thoughts had engulfed my mind, making it all the more difficult to think clearly. Why had she disconnected the phone? What must have happened? She sounded really low…was she…? I was speaking to my mother on the phone and our conversation was cut off abruptly. She was all by herself at home and I felt I heard her voice quiver. Or am I imagining it? I had no other number to contact. Should I call dad? Shoot, I can’t get him worried since he is away from home….I slowly felt a lump forming in my throat, my eyes blurred with mist. A tug at my kurta interrupted the trail of my thoughts and I realized that I was in the company of my little toddler. The last thing I wanted was to bemuse her innocent brain with my weeps.
“NO, don’t”, said the mother in me very firmly. That lump had to be suppressed, those tears pushed back. I had to mask my turbulent insides with a happy face. I pasted a smile on my face and even faked a laughter all while contemplating on options to somehow make a contact with my mother. My daughter pulled me on my feet, signaling me to dance on her favourite song. I dialed my mother’s number yet another time before beginning to dance with the kid. Nope, the phone was not switched on yet. I continued clapping for my daughter, smiling and laughing at her antics while all I was thinking about was hearing my mother’s voice. All of a sudden, my phone rang and it was mom on the other side. Like she had expected, I bombarded her with questions. Her kind voice felt like music to my ears and calmed me down instantly. She said the battery of her phone had died out and she had misplaced the charger, hence the delay. After disconnecting the phone and seeing my kid in the company of mom-in-law, I excused myself to the restroom and cried a river out of relief and helplessness. Pulling myself up on my feet, I splashed my eyes with water and put on a happy face complete with a perfect smile.
More relief came my way when I found that my husband had arrived back from work and was playing the part of the dance partner my daughter needed. Parents-in-law were more than happy to play spectators to the adorable dancing couple. Daddy got hold of my dupatta out of the wardrobe, tied it into a cape around his shoulders and did a superman, all for his daughter. The madness of the silly gags between father and daughter continued well after the dinner until it was bedtime. The little monster was now sleepy and with a smile on the face my husband put his little girl to sleep, covered her with a blanket and buried his head in his pillow. I sensed something amiss and instantly felt guilty since very little interaction happened between us these days. The mayhem of motherhood had taken me guilty of pushing the rest of the relationships to no. 2, 3, 4…On inquiring; he talked about the brutality of the corporate world, about the red tapism in the government departments he had to deal with every single day and about that constant struggle of trying to climb a notch higher. His words trailed off midway and he fell fast asleep. I lay there staring at his face. Like a mask ripped off him, I saw an exhausted, vulnerable man behind that face of a happy father. Thinking over the events of the day, I began to surf the internet on my phone absent-mindedly. Like it was meant to be, I stumbled upon a divided picture, of the before-and-after variety. One half of the picture had a clown surrounded with kids at a birthday party while the other half had the same man, without the mask, seated at a bench, counting his payment, with his kid seated beside him. He was parenting and clowning. Parenting OR clowning? Wait, aren’t they both synonymous in a certain way?
WOW! That little picture had bought a lot of things into perspective. Why, I see clowning parents all around me, every single day.
That neighbor, with a broken hand, I met at the society garden the other day- no amount of pain abstained her from taking the daily evening stroll with her kid. Laughing at his antics, even playing with him- she did all of it while being in pain.
That maid, whose life was a mess because of her alcoholic, unemployed husband- no amount of financial stress stopped her from carrying her little daughter to each and every household of her work, singing with her, teaching her the most important things of life.
My own father, who automatically takes a clue of cracking a joke on sensing exhaustion in my voice. Isn’t he himself exhausted? Looking at that image again, I told myself, “Every parent is but a clown.” A clown is a hard working being whose sole purpose is to entertain his audience. No level of exhaustion, no feelings of depression, no amount of angst deter him from attending to his call of duty with impeccable sincerity. Ditto for parents. Of all people in the world, a parent might want to disguise his\ her actual feelings of negativity from the children.
Hey, but I wasn’t complaining about this clowning bit for it was a fulfilling job. Switching the screen of my mobile phone off, I closed my eyes with a smile on my face and for the first time during the day, this smile was not a forced one. The show must go on, I reminded myself.
Happy clowning :)