Mother’s love in the time of American Express

Shunali Khullar Shroff

April 14, 2012

Last night I was indulging in my usual cleansing and age-defying ritual that includes scrubbing my face and slapping on some serum.

Standing there in front of the mirror, I noticed that there was a whole evenly spread out layer of grime all over my face somehow that was making me look like a coal miner.  I rinsed my face gently and groped around for a hand towel to wipe it and looked back at my reflection. Strangely the grime was still there. I tried to wipe it off my face again but in vain. On closer inspection I realized that it wasn’t grime at all. This was my newly acquired tan from sitting under the unforgiving and inconsiderate-to-women-with-sensitive-skin sun, earlier in the day. This is the thing about life. You want something good but you have to be patient and wait it out and then there are things which don’t rank very high on your wish list but you can get them in no time at all. Just like that.

So what was I doing at the poolside at 4pm? I was just being a mother. This is the part of the package deal that comes with signing up for the role of a domestic goddess.

I will have you know, that sitting by the pool, baking in the heat is the next best thing only to lobotomies and child birthing. Yes sir, there are few crimes towards the self that can match the torture of sitting under the relentless sun at 4 pm watching your children flip about in the pool.

My friend K who was also suffering the same fate as me observed that husbands had no idea that motherhood entailed such tortures. Our men had presumptuously decided that bringing in the bread was the real deal. False notions, false notions indeed.

There were two burka-clad women too at the poolside who seemed unperturbed by the UV rays and the scalding sun for obvious reasons. One of them sat there grinning from ear to ear flashing her gold tooth implant while the other one as giving her child some instructions. Oh the disparity of the universe.The sun really does not shine equally on all people. Least of all on people with hijabs and headgears.

I immediately began to consider the possibility of embracing Islam and set a reminder on my phone to Google the prerequisites for converting once I was home.

I must clarify here that I would not mind tanning at all if it gave me a healthy red or golden hue but no one likes to look like they dunked their face head down in a bucket of dirt do they?

I have developed extreme sensitivity to the sun over the years. In my bid to save myself from the fate of having to sit on the deck chairs, I had procrastinated my older one’s swimming lessons by a few years. The husband was told that the chlorine bothered the child and made her eyes and skin itch. If he ever asked why it did not happen when he took her swimming, I would just brush it off by saying that sometimes the level of chlorine was lesser than usual. Then of course, there were other excuses one used to convince the spouse, like the child was sensitive to extreme temperature variations and could not swim because it was “really just too hot.” Or that “monsoons are not a good time to swim because of the high concentration of virals that mate and multiply during the rainy season. Heh, as though they were toads and peacocks.

Then during the winter months, “the water is just too cold to swim”.

However this year I decided to turn over a new leaf. It was about time my child finished her beginner’s lessons that she signed up for four years ago and learnt to swim. This explains my time at the poolside under non-UV proof umbrellas that cast just about enough shade to cover Celine Dion who is about the size of my left arm. There is a long arduous summer ahead of us. By the end of it, I will look like I belong to another continent I am sure.

But one has to choose between their vanity and teaching the kids to swim. A famous Buddhist sage once said “Suffer what there is to suffer and enjoy what there is to enjoy…”. Since I am trying to live by that dictum, clearly I will have to choose maddeningly hot afternoons by the poolside and say good-bye to my vanity and self-esteem along with it.

By nature I am someone who looks for a silver lining under every dark cloud. In this case the silver lining comes in the shape of an American Express credit card for there are few things in life that shopping cannot fix and my new skin tone will require a whole new wardrobe to go with it.

It ought to be understood here that my credit card statement next month will have been generated not from a place of greed, but from a place of pure maternal love, from a place of sacrifice just so I can watch my children step forth into the world as able swimmers. For what else is motherhood all about if not selfless, limitless love? Much like the American Express card, the one that has no credit limit.