No Living Without Them

Sometimes life is so funny, you can’t even laugh. Especially, when something gets thrown right back at you, in your face!

You see, I have many friends who always made a big song and dance of the occasion when their children were going away abroad, to study. Right from the time the admission process would start to the time it came to say farewell to them. No, the goodbyes would not happen at the Bombay airport, but at the university campuses in USA or UK, where my loving friends, usually mums, would go all the way to, to ‘settle’ the ‘kid’ in! I used to be quite surprised and even make fun, saying, ‘Come on, your children are all grown up now, they can look after themselves.’

Till the tables turned this morning.

I was going abroad and the idea of leaving my ‘kids’ home alone was eating me up. I have done it before, but they have always been such guilt trips! To be honest nowadays I don’t care over much, going away, seeing new places, meeting new people. Travelling, in short. While in part it may be true that when you are doing something for four decades you do get jaded and have had enough and you say to yourself, ‘been there, done that’, the fact remains that travelling is an occupational hazard for me, what with publishing UpperCrust, a food, wine and travel magazine.

So how were the tables turned?

Well, I decided, this time my canine children, Inshy and Tasha must not suffer too much due to my absence. So I decided to send them away to a place they like being in, where the distraction offered would help them not miss me too much. That way I would also feel less guilty leaving them in an apartment, all locked up with just the maid.

So I requested my sister and her husband to take them to my home in Panchgani. And I decided they should leave for the hill station a day before I left for Europe, so that I could see them off, instead of them seeing me off and being traumatised as they always are when they see my suitcase being packed (which is worthy of another column altogether!) Well, so to avoid double confusion in their little minds, seeing me leave at night and they going away somewhere without me the next morning, they were being bundled away earlier. I wonder if you do understand what I am saying…

Anyways, here I was now, in the compound of my building, dogs and maid packed into the car, giving instructions to the driver to go pick my sister and bro-in-law, drive carefully, make two pee breaks, etc, etc, when Tasha realising I was out of the car and not inside, like lightning darted forward, flying through the window and into my chest! Stunned, I grabbed this missile, which seemed to say with imploring eyes, ‘No, please don’t send me away’! It broke my heart as I put her back on the seat, through the window and yelled,  ‘Stay’! Stay, she did, but turning to look at me as the car went through the building gates, I heard them both crying out loud, now standing on their hind legs scratching away at the window.

As I walked to the lift, feeling an imaginary tail between my legs, I calmed myself saying, ‘For now they will be upset, but once they reach their other home they will be fine’.

But what about me?

The day hung so heavy. I returned to an empty, ‘non-barking’ flat. My apartment seemed so soulless. I went from one room to the other, picking up their toys, putting them away. Dusting out their beds, which I left in the balcony to air… And as I went to make breakfast for myself I sat instead at the dining table and started to cry. And this was only in the first 10 minutes of them going away. What a dismal, desolate, abandoned feeling!

That’s when I thought of my friends and how they must feel when their children go away to make their future. The ‘empty nest’ syndrome was now hitting me.

All day long, I would turn around to see if one or the other was behind me. When I sat to have some water chestnuts, I missed Tasha scrambling up my leg, wanting some. It’s one among her most favourite treats. When I went for a shower, force of habit made me leave the door ajar, as I do, for Tasha always follows me in. When my eyes fell on the water bowl, I instinctively bent to refill it (heck! I said, they are not around!). When I turned in at night, it was just awful not to find them leaping into bed. And the worse was when I awoke, there were no children to come stretch in front of me and then turn around for their belly rubs.

Am I glad I was soon going to drive to the airport to catch my flight???

Silver Lining. When I return, they will be home to greet me. With their barks and jumping in circles and all. And I am surely not gonna say, ‘Stay’!

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