Sneak Peek: Maidless in Mumbai

Sneak Peek: Maidless in Mumbai

Sneak Peek: Maidless in MumbaiMaidless in Mumbai


  • Cover car seat with plastic (in case water breaks en-route)
  • Fit mattress protector (in case water breaks in the bedroom)
  • Spray sofa with Scotchgard (in case water breaks in the
  • living room)
  • Label cord-blood kit ‘NOT ICE CREAM’ and store in
  • freezer
  • Work out how the dam story could be the scoop of the
  • year
  • Don’t breathe a word to Eddy about dam story yet
  • Time contractions
  • Call obstetrician
  • Message obstetrician (in case he forgets I just called)
  • Call obstetrician again
  • Call baby nurse
  • Send ‘Baby Coming’ email to Eddy
  • Cc Sonam (in case Eddy forgets to check his email)
  • Take cord-blood kit from freezer
  • Take hospital bag
  • Take hubby
  • Stay calm

8 AM

The thing is, I love lists. I also love filing cabinets and drawer dividers and little planners with an entire page for each day.

I have lists for everything—weekly groceries, people to call in an emergency, people to call if the people to call in an emergency are out. (Or dead.) Those are the ones on the fridge door.

Inside the cupboard, there’s social engagements (divided into must-attend and call-in-sick). By my bedside, a rolled-up list of the best books to read before you die (which is some way off, so there’s time). And safely stashed in the drawer where I keep my sanitary pads lies the Master List.

The list of all lists.

Sometimes, I wonder what would happen if a thief stole the Master List? But then again, what sort of perv would rifle through your panty liners? But I have a password-protected copy on my computer, too. Just to be safe.

Last night, I had a nightmare that there was a break in and that the computer crashed at the same time. I woke up feeling vaguely uneasy, but I got a grip on myself when I remembered something I’d read about how unease of the vague sort thickens the arteries, and how would thickened arteries help at a time like this?

Now wait a minute. Could this vague unease be the outcome of a mild griping pain in the lower abdominal region? Oh God. Could this mild griping pain in the lower abdominal region be a contraction? I have barely waddled to the fridge, pencilled in the duration of the pain against ‘Time contractions,’ and popped a cold cube of melon in my mouth when my water breaks.

Which is the slightest bit unnerving because ‘Time contractions’ is ahead of ‘Call obstetrician’ on the Right Before Baby Arrives list. And common sense tells me that I should have at least five respectable contractions, timed and noted, before I make The Call. Instead, all I have is a single contraction of a doubtful nature and an impatient water bag that has broken before time. I return to the list on the fridge and it steadies me.

While Sameer is looking to mop up the mess with something that is not a dish-cloth/bath towel/ maternity bra, I call Dr Sen. Done. I point Sameer to the kitchen drawer labelled ‘LINENS’ as I text Dr Sen. Done. And call him again. Done. Next call to baby nurse. I feel better already. I’m slipping on my clothes with one hand, pulling up the email to Eddy with the other.

Eddy is my editor at the Sceptic, a national newsmagazine where all hell breaks loose on month-ends when we go to print. I’ve done everything to prepare Eddy for the day he gets an email from his special political correspondent. Subject: Baby coming. But as soon as this lands in his inbox, all hell will break loose anyway. I take a deep breath and hit Send. Done.

I return to the fridge to update the list. Check. Check. Check. Sameer is looking flushed now. I coolly remove the cord-blood kit from the freezer. I pick up the hospital bag. I hold out my hand to my better half. ‘Shall we?’

Sameer is squeezing my right hand like a stress ball. I text my colleague Sonam with my left. Baby coming. Won’t make it for meeting. Please tell Eddy.

‘Hurting, Anu?’ Sameer is squeezing my hand so hard, the pain hovers somewhere between caught-in-a-door and gangrenous. But I give him a wan smile.

‘Hurry, Anu!’ Sameer’s voice sounds frayed as I make a last- minute dash to the fridge. (Hardly a dash in my current state!) I stare at the list on the door—so hard that all the tick marks swim before my eyes. Like little V-for-victory signs. I check the last item: ‘Stay calm’.

‘Coming!’ I sing.

1 PM

Status: Baby stuck!

I am on top of things. I have a seriously stuck baby inside me,

and a queue of people between my legs. But I am on top of things. The obstetrician got first-peek up the canal: ‘Let’s see what the hold-up is here?’ The nurse went next. She made me duck-walk up and down the hallway to speed up labour (and to mop the floor with the last shreds of my dignity). It’s the anaesthetist’s turn now. He communes long and hard with whatever is down there. ‘Would you like an epidural?’ he asks when he’s got his head back out. Like a maitre d’ asking if you’d like an aperitif.

‘No, thank you, I’m fine.’

The anaesthetist is awestruck by my stoic response. ‘Are you sure?’ In his profession, he doesn’t usually come across women who aren’t begging for it.

Well, I’m not sure. But I can’t show weakness now, not after I’ve inspired awe. Besides, the contractions are a mild tickle. I mean, didn’t I hang upside down in prenatal yoga for this very moment? I’ll just sit back and relax, let the baby slip out when it’s ready. Just like Sonia said.

Now, I’m not the sort of person who goes running for advice, but in a pinch, a woman can always count upon her bestie. Even if her bestie is in Singapore to give a talk titled ‘Women as Leaders’. The last few weeks of pregnancy (and gaining two pounds over my target weight) had caught me off my stride. I emailed Sonia from work:

Subject: current method of producing little humans

  1. What is in must come out.
  2. The size of the stomach is directly proportional to the size of its occupant. Read: humongous.
  3. There is only one way out. Gulp. What if my best yoga poses fail and I have a C-section?

Sonia responded to my fears, point for point, with her trademark breeziness.

Re: current method of producing little humans

  1. True. No use crying over spilt milk/sperm/birth control pill that rolled under the bed and that you never bothered to look for. It was that pill you missed, wasn’t it?
  2. Reg: size of stomach. Will you stop watching your weight just this once?
  3. There are no medals for women who have normal deliveries. And the C in C-section does not stand for cowardly. Or cheating.



P.S. Relax. Aaru slipped out of me.

Based on current indications and Sonia’s first-hand report of birth, this thing is a cakewalk. I will do it au natural. I am mother, nurturer, Giver of Life . . .

2 p.m.

Status: Baby coming!
Turns out I was having fake contractions an hour ago, but

now it’s the real thing. This whole Giver of Life idea is utter hogwash to dupe unsuspecting women into becoming mothers! Where is the Giver of Epidural, by the way?

Imagine my dismay. The spurned anaesthetist has taken my polite declining of his offer personally and sulked off to give his epidural to some weaker woman!

OK, this is not the time to panic. Hold it together. What is the best way to deal with pain in the absence of:

  1. Laughing gas
  2. Mind-altering drugs
  3. Instant death by heart failure
  4. Epidural

A new list, that’s it! An Inflict Pain list. What better way to deal with pain than to dole some of it out in the immediate vicinity?

The husband: obvious choice and conveniently close at hand.

Male obstetrician: for taking a cheap shot and saying, ‘The last mother did it without an epidural.’

That ‘last mother’: currently wedged between obstetrician and husband on the aforementioned I.P. list, for setting such a shining bloody example and winning the halo.

But the person who should have been in slapping distance right now is Sonia—for being an entirely unreliable source of information about this pushing-a-grand-piano-through-a-porthole exercise. The baby is not slipping out as smoothly as a cabinet drawer on well-oiled runners. It’s stuck. Like a pilot groping for the Eject button in a plummeting plane. Like a tampon with the string broken off.

Right. Deep breaths. Didn’t my grandmother have eight children without an epidural? I will tap into my genetic reservoir of female strength.

OK, maybe later, when I can find it. For now, I’ll resort to the next best thing (i.e. shrieking for options C and D above, whichever comes first). Although this is a dramatic departure from my stoic self-image.

That’s it! Loud screams of ‘&*#@!’ have had their calculated effect. The sulking anaesthetist comes sashaying along.

3 p.m.

Status: Baby stuck!
The epidural is a cheap Chinese knockoff. A sham. Like

yoga. And Lamaze. And Sonia’s advice. I’m rethinking this whole motherhood thing, but something tells me it’s moot now. I am, I can’t quite believe it, starting to panic.

4 p.m.

Status: Baby out!
I am half-demented with pain and muttering nonsense when

the obstetrician waves a vacuum pump and yanks the baby out. With as much ceremony as a plumber clearing a clogged drain. Baby! My baby! Tara! Red in the face, wriggly, scummy (and

nothing like the Anne Geddes babies dressed as bumblebees on greeting cards). I am supposed to feel warm and mother-y. I feel sore. Exhausted. Finished. And terrified.

10 p.m.

Languishing in a shared ward on account of droves of copycat women clamouring to give birth like this were the next rage after palazzos. The expectant woman in the next bed has a cell phone superglued to her mouth and a loudspeaker in place of a voice box. The first five calls last an hour. I should tell her to ditch the phone. That she can be heard quite well on the adjacent continent without one. But if I acted on every thought that crossed my mind, Sonia would be in a North Korean gulag now.

The next five calls are full of false assurances about how she plans to sleep. Then she puts a hand on her stomach and groans. As though she’s swallowed the hospital’s entire PA system in one go.

What? Is she making more calls? What about sleeping? What about either of us sleeping? Putting a pillow on my head and a laryngitis voodoo on hers.


Wha—? The apparition before my groggy eyes is the night nurse. How can she be shaking me awake when I have not yet recovered from the hideous birthing experience that Sonia glossed over?

You want me to go to the newborn ward to feed the baby? Any chance you have a wheelchair lying around?

1.40 AM

No, she does not have a wheelchair lying around. I must propel myself to the newborn ward on my own two legs.

1.45 AM

For every five Johnson & Johnson babies, God gives out one barracuda. Guess who got the barracuda.

2 AM

It’s official. Breastfeeding is worse than labour.

June 20

If I’d made a Right After Baby is Born list, it would look like this:

  • Congratulate self on natural delivery
  • Applaud self for trying to give birth without an epidural (trying is everything)
  • Commend self on breastfeeding a barracuda baby 􏰀9Salute self on being a perfect mom

I’m glowing with warm feelings. Time to call Sister Roshan, the baby nurse I booked as soon the pink line appeared on the preg test. No reply. I’ll just send a quick message: We should be home soon. Please call me about reporting for duty.

The woman in the next bed has been carted off to have her stomach cut open. Maybe they’ll cut her tongue out while they’re at it? The pleasant thought lulls me to sleep. At last.

‘Mummy, mummy . . .’ Evil night nurse is trying to wake me up again.

‘I’m not mummy,’ I mumble.

‘Your dotter is here,’ she says in a thick accent.

My eyelids feel glued shut. Groan. I allow a thin sliver of light

to slip between them. A blurred form glimmers at my bedside. Something small. Someone. My dotter, as the nurse put it. Her chest rising and falling as she breathes outside me. Entirely on her own. Want to collapse into sleep, but also want to stay up and watch her. Something stirs inside me, can’t place what.

I try Sister Roshan’s number again. Still no reply. Her phone must be on silent, which is so utterly professional of her. I like her already.

During visitor hours, Sameer brings flowers that the night nurse (why is she still awake?) dispatches to the bin. ‘Hospital policy,’ she says. Mom brings home-made sweets. The nurse sends the sweets off to keep the flowers company. Hospital policy again. Sameer’s mom, who has flown in from Igatpuri to spend the week with us, brings ghastly advice. ‘Yesterday, you were living for yourself,’ she says, making it sound like I was dancing for money on the tops of bar tables. ‘Now you must live for your daughter.’ There’s no hospital policy about advice. (I checked.)

My colleagues from the Sceptic drop in, bringing stories of our editor Eknath ‘Eddy’ Dixit, whose initials E.D. miraculously tie up with his job title. ‘Eddy is probably ready to kill Poor Pia,’ chuckles Sonam, the Sceptic’s chief business correspondent. ‘Maternity leave all the way till 2 January? Six whole months, Anu?’ Sonam rolls her eyes. ‘Poor Pia won’t last six hours without you!’

Poor Pia is our newest hire, a wobbly thing with more questions in her head than answers. I feel bad about leaving her in the lurch like this. Did I tell you I have a soft corner for her?

How are you? I message Poor Pia as soon as Tara and I have moved to a private room. Ask Sonam to help you with story ideas. You’ll do great!

‘Let me know how the monthly meeting goes?’ I message Sonam. ‘Please look after Poor Pia.’

Oh, and what’s this? A birth announcement from Michelle. In a freak coincidence, my best friend from university and I have become mothers within hours of each other.

‘Too exhausted to talk,’ she murmurs when I Skype her. ‘Who knows when I’ll sleep next?’

Poor Michelle. How is she going to do this when Alan goes back to work? At least I have Mom and Sister Roshan, whose phone is off now. I send another message. Not sure the best private nurse in the city should be this hard to reach.

The hospital nurse takes Tara away for a top feed because of some twisted postnatal physiology where hungry babies come into this world well before the breastmilk does. The day takes on a sonorous rhythm. Sleeping and eating. Life distilled to its basics. I could get used to this. Maybe maternity leave will be like a long paid vacation . . .

Diurnal lull has given way to nocturnal madness. At the stroke of midnight, Tara has turned into T-Rex. She lunges at my breasts, chews them silly and bawls her head off. This is where maternal instinct should kick in because there is such a thing, right? Why else would they put up that cheesy mother-and-child picture on the wall in which the mother is smiling?

Sameer and I service both ends of Tara, but a fibre-optic connection has taken over between mouth and butt. Every time I breastfeed, Tara takes a piss/poop. We call the night nurse, but she seems to have bucked her insomnia at last and dropped asleep over a bedpan somewhere.

I know, sending six messages to Sister Roshan through the night is a departure from my usually measured response to things. Maybe when she calls back, I’ll disown knowledge of all but the first message, and blame the others on an Android glitch.

June 21

Yesterday’s slight disquiet has hurtled into today’s full-blown anxiety. Sister Roshan has responded at last: I cannot come. Please forgive, Madam.

I make ten calls to her, back-to-back, steadily counting through the choked up feeling in my throat. Twenty rings each time, my hopes lifting to a crescendo till the 19th ring and then crashing. No reply. I am not in a forgiving frame of mind.

I go for my first how-to-bathe-baby lesson, feeling the crosshairs of bad luck on my back. Not to mention some wrenching and clenching in the gastric zone (which can’t be contractions as the baby is out). The lady with loudspeaker-in-place-of-voice-box cuts my path like a black cat. ‘Heading home?’

Best to keep my eyes on the nurse, who is holding Tara by the crook of her neck. How can something be so tiny and so . . .

Hairy. Tara’s skin is shrivelled, her head is wonky. Will she have to go through life looking like this? I feel guilty now. I’m supposed to be blown away by this surge of affection, this where-have-you-been-all-my-life epiphany. I am supposed to fall in love with my baby instantly. Right?

At this vulnerable moment, the loudspeaker-lady sows the maid seed. ‘You have your maid in place, don’t you?’

‘I was getting a nurse,’ I mumble. ‘The city’s best.’ ‘Best-shest, who cares! The maid. You have the maid, right?’ She makes it sound like we’re talking about a specific maid.

My lips are moving, but no sound comes out. I’m saying something about how we have a part-time cook and a part-time cleaner, but how we don’t feel ready for a full-time maid. After all, it isn’t easy to go from a cozy twosome to a crowded family of four in one fell swoop.

‘What? No maid? Did you say you have no maid?’

More lip syncing on my part. Something about the specific maid she’s referring to being on the distant horizon of my plans.

‘Why? WHY?’

I’ll just project my best unruffled image, the one reserved for the workplace when we’re twenty minutes from deadline. ‘I’ll hire a maid now that the baby is here!’ (And now that Sister Roshan isn’t.)

‘You have it backassward. First the maid, then the baby! No one makes a baby without getting a maid first!’

I am Eve in the Garden of Motherhood. The snake with the loudspeaker voice has just paid a visit. Niggling, nagging thought: could the natural order of things have escaped me? About the maid coming before the motherhood business? The ugly maid seed is taking root . . .

‘Pay attention, mothers!’ says the nurse sharply. ‘If you talk so much now, how will you bathe your babies yourselves when you go home?’

Who said anything about going home? Like, ever? Tara has turned up without an instruction manual, and there is no Sister Roshan. How can something as vital as keeping Tara alive be entrusted to me?

I lodge my protest in no uncertain terms, something to the tune of ungluing me from the bed sheets, unwrapping me from around the bed-legs, scraping me off the floor. But it seems that the bed must be vacated for the next lunatic who has decided to have a baby.

‘Found a good baby maid, did you?’ inquires the obstetrician, signing the discharge papers. He has obviously discussed the matter with the loudspeaker lady and decided to rub my nose in

it. No maid, I say, and then I get the sort of look doctors give you when you’re dying.

But who’s dying here? I am Giver of Life, remember? All I need to do is dress Tara in her going-home outfit and slip into mine. Except that the Zara jeans I wore when I was two months pregnant have shrunk without warning. Why else wouldn’t they fit now that Tara has vacated my premises?

One throw-up, two poops and three wettings later, we step out of the hospital. Tara, wrapped in the last swaddling cloth we own; me, in the slouch pants I came to the hospital in, toting a polythene bag of piss-soaked clothes; Sameer, comfortable holding the camera for our first family selfie, not as comfortable holding Tara.

I’ll focus on regaining my characteristic joie de vivre on the ride home. Blue sky, trees, flowers, a new appreciation surges through me for the sheer miracle of life . . . ‘—change of plans.’

What did I miss here? I straighten up. What change of plans? And why is Sameer speaking in his bad news voice? ‘Your mom isn’t moving in with us, Anu. You see, mine isn’t going home in a week like we’d planned.’

It’s like that moment when you’re feeding birds in a park and an asteroid hurtles out of space and gouges out a giant section of earth where you once stood.

‘She’ll be staying with us for longer . . .’

‘How much longer?’ My voice sounds like it is coming from somewhere else. From hell, maybe. Sameer’s knuckles are white where he’s gripped the steering wheel and he’s saying something about ‘Ma got here and became all emotional . . . her first grandchild . . . what could I say . . . told her to stay as long as she likes . . .’

As long as she likes! ‘I couldn’t help it, Anu . . . It was the decent thing to do . . .’ Sameer is still talking, but I’ve tuned out. I could curl up into a ball and hurl myself out the car. Or crawl into a bunker somewhere and wait for the air-raid sirens to stop ringing. I am unchecking everything on my list. No nurse. No maid. No mother. No peaceful baby without barracuda gums.

No jeans. Whatever happened to being on top of things?

June 22

I’ve been known to change my mind, especially when confronted with avoidable pain. Like the time I fled the salon with only one eyebrow done.

Having second thoughts is a sign of intelligence. It means that not only are you the thinking sort, you are the thinking-again sort. Which is why Sameer assumes that I’ll change my mind about his mother and her staying with us ‘as long as she likes.’ That’s where he’s wrong.

My mother-in-law has moved in with her jackboots on. She looks like an immigration officer in charge of stamping ‘REJECTED’ on passports on her better days. And a manufacturer of nooses on worse.

It used to bother me before, how MIL (mother-in-law for the uninitiated) glowered at me. I know now that this is only my overactive imagination (by and large). MIL’s facial expression is probably produced by the struggle of raising Sameer all by herself after his father died early. I feel a little mean-spirited now. Maybe I should be doubly sweet to MIL to make up for her hard life (and for the thoughts that cross my mind when I look at her). After all, appearances aren’t everything.

‘Have you had tea, Ma?’ I inquire sweetly.

‘Ask Sameer first!’ I am mildly puzzled. Why should I ask Sameer if he’s had tea when he’s been driving me home, and I know for a fact that he hasn’t?

‘What about you, Ma?’ I persist sweetly.

‘What about me?’ A giant sigh (also a product of her hard life). ‘Who is there to make tea for me?’

MIL wields her umbilical cord like a whip, and Sameer jumps up as though it has struck him upon his back: ‘I’ll put tea on for us all!’ MIL convulses like she has walked into a high-voltage fence.

I pretend I can’t see the thought balloon floating above her head: What have you done to my son? Instead, I think of tea and of the many improvements to Sameer in the six years we’ve been married.

A description of old-model Sameer would read as follows:

Man who scratches head in puzzlement when doorbell rings and is unable to find kitchen with map. Who wonders how the crumpled heap of clothes on floor turned into the ironed pile on shelf. Who barely registers the jangling phone or the empty fridge.

The new and improved Sameer wheels out with three steaming cups. ‘Tea is not good for the baby,’ says MIL. No one is giving the baby tea, so I have no idea what she means. However, I do remember to cast a look of abject gratitude at the man I’ve married as he stirs sugar into his mother’s tea and looks at me lovingly: ‘Why don’t you take your cup inside and lie down?’

And so I do. There’s nothing I need more right now.

June 23

I’ve been having the opposite of a déjà vu. Sitting in my own home with a what-is-this-strange-and-unfamiliar-place sort of feeling (which doesn’t only have to do with Sameer’s mother hovering without a date of departure).

My erstwhile bedroom is now a nursery. Of course, it’s perfectly reasonable to rearrange a room so that it reflects the mature and grounded nature of its occupants. I’m a parent now. Nothing sensible about holding on to:

Favourite books (Who’ll have the time to read?)
Vase of lilies (Flowers will make Tara sneeze.)
Computer (Work can wait, I’m a mother.)
Clothes (Redundant after maternity weight has spread itself thick like butter on thighs)

Instead, there are prudent items of furniture:

Plastic trolley piled high with nappies, cotton wool, wet wipes Nappy changing table
Baby clothes
Baby toys

And one book: What to Expect the First Year

Still, I feel like that African warthog I once saw on a nature programme. I found it funny then, how he tottered about confused because he’d forgotten where home was. Doesn’t feel that funny now.

Outside, Dad has come over to play with Tara. He seems as nervous about picking up Tara as Sameer is. Is this some undocumented male thing? MIL is playing to the gallery now that she is the only one with holding skills. She directs a steady stream of gibberish at Tara as if she has mastered an obscure language beyond the reach of her all-male audience. ‘My kitchoo-witchoo! My chintoo-mintoo!’

‘Wow, Veena, you are a natural with your granddaughter!’ That’s Dad, buttering up the in-laws. Superb. MIL is unstoppable now. A sigh escapes me—and then my eyes fall upon the newspaper.

Support builds for dam. My breath catches at the front-page headlines. I skim the story. Same minister, no surprises there. Same spiel about rivers and power; no surprises there either. This is the story that everyone knows: Chief Minister Khandu building a series of dams in his remote home state. His election battle cries don’t proclaim him ‘friend of the farmer’ for nothing.

Not a hint of the real story. The one I’ve been working on quietly for months. Who would have thought that a soft-spoken waiter could turn into a whistle-blower and promise me the most explosive story of my career?

Sanmitra, that’s who he said he was when he called out of the blue. It was only after I’d made the eight-hour trip out by air and road to see him that I knew he was a credible source. That he was telling the truth about waiting tables at a hotel owned by CM Khandu’s nephew. Where money changed hands in a clandestine meeting between the chief minister and men in suits. Kickbacks for construction contracts for the first dam of many. Nothing friendly to farmers there.

We decided to wait. If CM Khandu had taken money once, he’d take it again. Only this time, we’d record it.

Outside, the men have gotten over Tara, and Sameer is telling Dad how he’s on the fast track for partnership this year. This story is making me edgy about being away from the newsroom. My fingers scrabble at my cell phone. When I show the world the shady backroom dealings on which these dams are being built, a thousand villages will be saved. Sanmitra’s home will still be standing. A fragile ecozone will be pulled back from the brink of disaster.

‘Hello, Hotel Grand Palace.’ It is only when someone picks up that I realize how awkward this is. For a woman to be calling at a small-town hotel and asking for a waiter by name. ‘Yes, I’ll hold.’

What is that mewling sound? Is it Tara’s feed time already? And when did Dad leave? I feel a little pang of guilt. How could I plunge into work and forget that I’ve just had a baby? Coming, Tara . . . what’s taking Sanmitra so long?

‘Hello?’ Thank god.

The mewling outside my door has picked up. ‘Any news, Sanmitra?’ I try to keep my voice steady.

‘I told you not to call here.’ He sounds anxious.

‘I haven’t heard from you in weeks . . .’

‘I am getting strange looks.’

‘I’m sorry, give me another number where I can reach you, then.’

‘I will call you. Don’t call again. Please.’

The phone goes dead. Damn. What if I’ve pissed him off and blown the story? Tara is bawling now. I should go to her. I will. In a minute. First, I’ll grab my planner.

  • Regain trust with whistle-blower.
  • Convince him to share safe contact details.
  • Press for details about next meeting.
  • Stay mum—too early to tell Eddy yet.

I am jotting down one last thing when MIL throws the door open and hurls herself at me. As if Tara and she have been washed in by a flash flood. ‘Zara is crying!’

Zara? MIL’s agitation has provoked a slip of tongue. Sameer purposefully throws open Tara’s nappy—What? Dry?—and stands around looking stumped. MIL shoos Sameer out with a ‘Go! Ladies’ stuff!’ and thrusts Tara in the general direction of my breasts, exhorting her to ‘Drink! Drink!’ Great. I have just been objectified into a milk bottle with legs.

A half hour later: Tara has been fed, burped, cleaned and coddled, but she is still crying. The omitted item on my planner is gnawing at me. But MIL is singing a quavering lullaby in my right ear and Tara is crying in my left. Can’t think with all this commotion. Think.

‘Ma, hold Tara for a minute, please!’ I smuggle the planner into the bathroom. Silence at last! What was it now?

Speak to geologist about building dam in seismic zone.

MIL hammers on the door: ‘Zara is still crying!’

Why is she still crying? . . . I should find out how his previous elections were financed . . . Zara’s nappy must be wet . . . Why am I calling her Zara now?

File under RTI.


That’s it. One last thing to jot down: Get a maid. Now.