I have been very restless for the past couple of days. My consultancy assignment gets over two days later. Will I get an extension? Will I be able to work as flexibly? Have I delivered well? I am restless, even though I know from within that these doubts are unfounded. I take a deep breath and let that be. I have no control over some decisions, even though they could change the world for me.
I am a journalist by training, a filmmaker by choice, a writer by default, a translator by chance and a communications consultant for an NGO by intention. It’s the last part of my profile really that keeps me financially secure by the end of every month. And top of it, I am a mother of 4-year old twins. That should explain my career graph.
Working has never been easy. I come from Bihar, and believe it or not, am the first working woman from the large and extended agrarian family. At 22, I was working as a production assistant in Mumbai for a feature film that was based on gigolos. I had to go back home when the film released. It took three months for everyone to get over the shock. Only a decent job with a prestigious organization could mend the damage. So at 24, I was working on the news desk of a leading news channel, trying to act informed and empowered all the time. It didn’t take me anywhere, the steady and beloved job I mean. But I continued to work harder, month after month, braving the monotony of producing the same kinds of bulletins over and over again. I continued to be the insignificant victim of the TRP race and the appraisal system.
It wouldn’t have changed at all. The decently healthy salary arriving every month had put me in a comfort zone. Then at 27, the twins arrived - first as a very difficult pregnancy and then as tiny, vulnerable, underweight babies. My focus changed, everything else became immaterial. But the overindulgence was short-lived. Leaving five month old twins into the safe hands of my mother and mother-in-law, who were taking turns to help me out, I was back in the newsroom. First few weeks were superb and seamless. I had a support system and three domestic helps to run the chores. I would wake up with the twins, feed them, bathe them, play with them and would refer to Dr. Spock’s once in a while to be sure if I was matching up to the universally set parameters for motherhood. It was another comfortable cocoon where I didn’t need anyone else other than twins and their grandmothers. I didn’t even need my husband.
Everything was fine till I landed in the hospital with a prolapsed disc. A desperate attempt to recover through every single kind of therapy failed and relapses followed. Meanwhile another crisis emerged. The mothers couldn’t be held up forever in Delhi. They had their own husbands and establishments to take care of. Two months of bed rest and a number of changes of guard at home front later, I quit my job. Almost suddenly, although not unexpectedly.
Three days after resigning, I was writing to friends asking for freelance assignments. A week later, I had a meeting with an NGO to produce a documentary for them. Fifteen days later, I had left for the shoot. Within a month of quitting my job, I was exploring an uncharted territory as a filmmaker! All of this happened suddenly. And the months that followed were very exciting – shooting, editing, writing, translating – everything I wanted to do but feared doing. I had time for the twins, and I had time for myself.
Then came a lull that stayed for almost two years. I had nothing to do. I had nowhere to go. Since I had nowhere to go, I stayed in Purnea with my family for almost six months. Sometimes in the moments of despair and hopelessness, I fought with myself. But I mostly fought with my husband. I almost believed that he didn’t help me deliberately because this arrangement suited everyone. I can’t even explain how I felt when I would see people leaving for work in the mornings while I would be coming back from the bus stop after seeing off my children. I wanted to run away, I wanted to cry, I wanted to hold onto something – all at the same time. I could write a separate chapter on what it feels like to be idle and directionless, but that’s not what I am here for. What I do want to remember and reiterate is that whatever happens, happens for good and whatever doesn’t happen, happens for better.
It was not easy to decide whether I wanted to be a working mom or not. It was tougher to shake off the inertia. It was even more difficult to tell people that I was competent, but I could work only at certain hours. And it was almost impossible to ask for help. Who would help me? I didn’t matter to anyone.
But it did matter to someone after all. My kids needed a sane mother. My husband wanted a happy wife. My friends wanted me to get a life. And I had to pull up my socks. I faced a couple of interviews just for the heck of it. I taught mass communication for a while to reassure myself that I hadn’t lost control over myself totally. Fleximoms is a good concept, but it won’t work in my kind of profile – I had almost convinced myself.
Then this offer came through. The offer was for a fulltime position. I loved the profile and I loved every single thing about the organization. I wanted to join them really badly. But fulltime? I was too shy to even negotiate a flexi timing or a part time role. And then I was pushed into negotiations by the people who believed in me. It worked. I have done well with the flexibility, and have even managed to travel on work. I have learnt to juggle in these four months. I have learnt to spend more and more time with my children, even if that means waking up at 5 in the morning to finish work. I have somehow managed to muster the energy. I have learnt to ignore the messy toy room and unkempt cupboards. They don’t matter to me so much. My being happy and sane does. I have learnt to communicate with my husband and I don’t let ego come into my way when I need to reach out to him for help. He has rarely refused the few times I have tried. And most importantly, I have learnt to prioritise.
So it doesn’t matter whether I get an extension or not. I am convinced that life is defined by a few moments and the next life defining moment could be this one.