Thanks to her nanny and the “bus aunty,” Avanee has grown quite fond of; no, quite obsessed with wearing salwar kameezes. She wants to wear one all the time–everywhere, and even at home. To bed, if she can have her way. A few months ago, we gave in, and got her a couple–go knock yourself out, we said. It’s a phase, we said. She’ll soon get sick of it, we said. Let’s just say it didn’t happen with any kind of persuasion or any manner of ignoring.

Meanwhile, she took to dance. She performed in every school event, and I could see she enjoyed it. I dug (very deep) in the far recesses of the memories of my childhood and found that I still remembered a few steps. We bought her a pair of ghungroos, and every once in a while, she and I would put on our pairs and dance. I would thump, she would twirl. When M was at work and the maids were all gone. Just by ourselves, giggling away. She was trying to catch the beat, I could see. I mentioned it to my cousin, a Bharatnatyam exponent and teacher, who sent me a DVD of basic Bharatnatyam steps that she had just worked on with her guru. It is a lovely set of demonstrations that are slow enough for a young dancer to grasp. For the next few months, Avanee wanted that DVD on loop. With the occasional Mickey Mouse Clubhouse thrown in, the Bharatnatyam adavus made for our evening viewing. As long as she wasn’t insisting on Doraemon or Chhota Bheem or other such screechy, annoying, loud animation, we were good. I left her to it.

And then, the boys came along. Through the seemingly long and painful pregnancy and the first three months of the twins’ arrival, I had next to no time or energy for Avanee. The poor thing had to grow up overnight, coping with the challenges of having a mother walk in and out of hospital with needles stuck in her hand. When we came home, the boys took a while to get adjusted, and until very recently, all I was doing was making feeds, giving feeds, changing diapers, and worrying about this or that. Avanee’s school routines, eating, play, bedtime reading–suddenly seemed to take second place. Someone or other always helped with those. And from the corner of my eye, I knew she missed me as much as I missed holding her close and being silly with her. Most times, she understood; sometimes, she just couldn’t help being the 4 year old she was. I felt angry with myself. I blamed me for not bring the perfect mother. For not sitting down on the floor and scribbling on large sheets of paper with her. For not asking her what she wanted in her snack box that day. For not reading her bedtime story to her. For assuming that  she will understand. Understand, she did. In all these months, she has played the part of an elder sister perfectly, and sometimes, when she and I are exchanging glances over how one of the boys times his “small job” just when I have removed the diaper for a change, I wonder if Avanee and I will be best friends.

Last week, finally, Avanee started with formal dance classes. Bharatnatyam classes conducted by a gentle and very talented teacher, who weaves stories around mudras and gets the children bright eyed and enthusiastic with her encouraging manner. The class is conducted after hours in the empty premises of an old school. The children dance in one of the kindergarten rooms, colourful charts with flowers and bugs and rainbows painted on them, merrily dancing in the breeze of an old ceiling fan. I wait outside. I sit across from the school watchman, under the ample shade of a large tamarind tree robbed of all its seasonal fruit (hopefully plucked by the school children and none else). I have an hour to myself.

When I first went, I thought of all the errands I could run in that one hour–in a house with three children, there are always fruits and vegetables to buy, cereal you have run out of, diapers threatening to get over that night, stationery that the school needs yesterday, and so on. I had the noble intentions of dashing about and ticking all those jobs off the list–on the two days of the week that I get to step out. But in the quiet calm of the school, the rhythmic tapping of the children’s feet in the distance, the gymnastic class children pottering about aimlessly in the school ground, doing their not quite synchronised exercises under the un-watchful eye of a particularly large-sized coach busy eating her snack, and such other activities, time seems to slow down. And I find myself saying, I want to sit here a while. I want to be with myself and my thoughts. I want to be ready for Avanee when she comes out of class, carrying herself just so after an hour of classical dance, excited to tell me what she learned today. I want to sit here and allow the varied stimuli to transform themselves into stories I may or may not write. I want to stop being the-mother-of-three-kids. I might take a book along, or listen to a song on my phone. I might miss my laptop to jot down that brilliant phrase I just thought of and am sure to forget by the time I get home to write, but I want to just sit there. Where the heat, humidity, dust, and traffic don’t affect me. Where I don’t have to worry about the children at home. Where I don’t have to strategize my work for the coming days. Where I don’t have to explain to people that I actually work from home, so it is a bit annoying when they trapeze in as and when they please.

Because this is my time. It is when I rediscover the writer in me, the thinker in me. When I find peace and quiet. When I regain my sanity and get ready to go back to the life I chose. And if I have my time, we will have our time.