Wednesday, February 19, 2014

When Nightmares Come True

 Being married to a fighter pilot, my nightmares weren’t the most imaginative kind. Night upon night, I dreamed about the Fellow ejecting from an aircraft that was headed, nose first, into the ground. Over the years, as I started thinking about children, my nightmares adjusted themselves. I might have to talk to a therapist about this, but I’m pretty sure I postponed having babies because of these nightmares.

On February 19th 2013, my worst nightmare came true. I was 5 months pregnant when I got a text message from the Fellow at 7.30 pm. 3 words – “Ejected. Am fine”. This was followed up immediately with a phone call, which lasted less than a minute – not enough time to get answers to the hundreds of questions in my head – but enough to know that he was fine. In a manner of speaking.

The next hour was spent taking deep breaths and reminding myself that there was no point in crying or panicking. I packed an overnight bag for the Fellow since I knew he’d be staying at the Military Hospital for a few days, and headed off to a friend’s house to be closer to the Air Force Station where I knew the rescue helicopter would be bringing the Fellow and his co-pilot.

The two hours of waiting that followed have to be the longest in my life. I remember feeling helpless, just sitting around, waiting for something to happen. I made two phone calls – one to my parents and the other to my brother-in-law. He was tasked with breaking the news gently to his folks. Once they knew, I spent a lot of time assuring that all seemed to be fine and that there was no need to panic. The Fellow’s boss was sent to ‘handle’ me and he turned up expecting a hysterical pregnant woman. He found instead, a surprisingly calm person who just wanted to know what had happened for an apparently safe aircraft to crash.  

When the rescue chopper finally landed, I was there, waiting on the tarmac with about 40 officers. The two pilots were transferred to waiting ambulances and finally I was allowed to meet the Fellow. Lying on the stretcher, with his neck in a brace, the right side of his face bloody, his right hand heavily bandaged and several stitches next to his left eye, he was still managing to smile. Probably all the painkillers they’d pumped into him. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but smile back. “Your dad isn’t going to be happy about the stitches on your pretty face you know” was the first thing out of my mouth. Later he complained that I hadn’t thrown myself at him in filmy style. Those painkillers had definitely addled his brain.

Once we reached the hospital I was told to go home because it was already late and all the MRIs and tests would take several hours. I was prepared to wait there in the corridor till someone reminded me that I was pregnant and needed my rest. The next morning, I got there at 7 am to find the Fellow and his co-pilot extremely chatty, and still on an adrenaline high. In a few hours, after some more scans, both of them were moved from the ICU to a regular room. This turned out to be for the best because all day there were visitors. And in Air Force tradition, all of them came bearing cakes for the two pilots – a second birthday of sorts. From morning till night, the story of what happened in the air was repeated on loop. For friends, for bosses, for official investigative purposes. By the end of the day I could give all the details of what had happened. By the next day, every time the Fellow started narrating his story, my baby would start kicking inside me.

All day I would be the wife who took everything in her stride and didn’t sit around crying. But when I got home at night, alone in my room, I couldn’t sleep. I was afraid of what I would dream about. For two nights I stayed up watching tv, numbing my brain with inane programming, sleeping only in the wee hours of the morning out of sheer exhaustion.

We spent a week in the hospital. By the time we got back home to Pune, just the scar near the Fellow’s eye and the pink skin on his right hand that had suffered burns, reminded us of what we’d been through.

Today, even those scars are almost gone. But we’ve been through hell and back. It took ten months and two rounds of intensive medical tests and checks for the Fellow to be given clearance to fly again post ejection. The uncertainty of it all, the possibility of the Fellow never flying again, not knowing where life was headed was sometimes more stressful than the days immediately after the accident.

This last year I’ve been nightmare free. Mostly because I knew the Fellow wasn’t flying. But I know he is itching to get back into the cockpit. It has been too long. And I know I’m dreading the day he does. For the nightmares will return.  

In August 2013, the Fellow was conferred with a presidential award, the Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry) for his actions on that ill-fated day in February 2013. The details of what exactly transpired can be read here.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Masters in Motherhood - I

I'm writing after ages. So this post has ended up being longer than i planned. Don't complain later. Also, don't run away. All 5 of you readers of this blog are important for my self esteem. 

Whoever said that being a mother comes naturally to women has to be a man. 

I've been a mother for six months and let me tell you, i've had to learn how to get the job done. And learn quickly. The only thing that came naturally were the labour pains. And those were far from quick. *shudder* No, not going to talk about those because i'm trying to keep this post expletive free. Let's just say those were the ten worst hours of my life so far and no, you don't forget the pain as soon as you see the baby. 

In fact when they gave me the my baby, a tiny thing bundled up in a cloud of blanket, my first reaction was "what am i supposed to do with him?" and the nurse told me "nothing". And so i lay there, trying not to crush this tiny, crumpled human that was my responsibility now, and it comes to me that the Fellow hadn't seen him yet (what with him pacing outside the maternity ward). So, since they'd given me my phone by this time i took photos of my 30 min old baby, dropped the phone twice on his head (thankfully babies are too shell-shocked right in the beginning to take note of this obvious piece of bad parenting) and generally tried to not fall off the delivery table in my attempt to get a good angle.  

Then there was the part where I had to learn how to nurse the baby, which, contrary to popular belief and mother-baby magazines, is not the most natural thing in the world. Didn't help that all i wanted to do was sleep for a month straight. Instead, i was up all night, struggling to hold a mouse sized baby correctly. Oh, and did you know, babies need to be burped after every feed? And that you can't put them down unless they do? And that they can take forever to burp. So much time in fact, that by the time they do, it is time to feed them again? On night 3 of doing this, i even fell asleep with my head resting on my baby as i held him up to burp. I told you, i had to learn how to be a mother - especially when it came to poop.

I have to confess that the first poop cleaning for my baby was done by my mom because i couldn't stop getting grossed out. But then the hospital i was at wouldn't let her stay the night and i was thrown, quite literally, into the deep end. Also, no one told me that new borns poop several times a day. And night. The only silver lining was that it wasn't smelly. But it did go from black to green to mustard and it was then i learnt the most important lesson of parenthood - everything is about the poop.

On this smelly note, Part I ends.

Part II shall be about more poop, pee that goes in all directions, sleep cycles and bath time. Amongst other things. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

At The End of The Day...

...all's well that ends well.

All the drama and panic in the last post might have been slightly premature. I blame over active hormones and a slight neurosis when it comes to having my whole life organised. You can't fault me though. There were too many variables involved when all i wanted was a constant in life and freaking out was a natural reaction.

Of course, with this episode turning out all right, i'm just more free to panic about other things. Like having to get up at 8 am and drive myself to the next appointment with my doctor. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013


I've lost count of the number times i've started writing this and then hit the backspace key. I don't know where to start. Or what to start with. So much has happened. So much is happening. Sometimes it all feels a bit surreal. This is the kind of thing that happens to other people. 

Life has not been the same since the evening of February 19th 2013. Without going into details here, lets just say that what happened is the worst nightmare in the life of any pilot and his family come true. When i first got the news i went numb for a couple of minutes. I guess my mind refused to process the information until it was sure i had all my coping mechanisms in place. 

The week that followed tested each and every one of those mechanisms. Thankfully, i have my mom's head when it comes to a crisis the likes of which i was faced with. Even while one part of me was numb with disbelief, the other knew that remaining calm was extremely important. I knew that people around me would take their cue from how hysterical or not i was. It wouldn't help anyone, especially the worried parents halfway across the country, if i gave way to my worry and panic. And so during the day, i was strong and practical and non-weepy. I was in good humour about what had happened, looking at the good in the situation and ignoring the what-ifs.   

But back home, exhausted after 12 hours in a hospital chair and alone, the calm would shatter and the tears would fall freely. In a way, those nightly crying sessions rejuvenated me for a whole new day. And i guess i had everyone convinced that nothing fazed me because when i did let my worry show about small concerns like travel plans, they appeared shocked and surprised. After all, i'd remained calm where most wives would get hysterical. 

And now, a month and a half later, when life finally seemed to be going well and we had a lot to look forward to, the universe decided to keep pushing our limits. It seems we hadn't gone through enough and still had some residual bad karma to make up for or something. Nothing else explains the situation we are in now. Unless you want to believe in the whole evil eye concept and how people can't be happy that things are going right for you. 

Yes, in the bigger picture of life, we should just count our blessings and be happy. But i'm out of perspective and so done with looking for silver linings. And i'm tired of being strong and composed. I'm human. I'd like to be able to get hysterical and cry my heart out till my eyes are puffy and painful without having to explain it to anyone. I want to be able to vent and rant and howl. And i want people to stop being shocked by my lack of composure or calm in the face of a messy situation. I want to be able to have a breakdown and not feel guilty about it. I need to be allowed my reactions. And emotions. 

I need it all to just end well.

I want it all to just end. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Day 1 of 1

Three and a half years back I’d embarked on a personal project – 112 days of writing on my blog – a simple way of distracting myself from the fact that I had to spend those 112 days away from the Fellow. Little did I know that something as simple as this would bring with it a friend I’ve come to love a little bit more each day.

It began with comments on what I would write each day. And even those came much later, after weeks of stalking and mutual admiration (I would also follow his blog regularly). Somewhere along the way we got to talking away from the blogosphere. And the rest is history - dotted with some crazy lunches, insane amounts of laughter, even more food, weekend getaways and some seriously embarrassing videos on the internet.  

Age difference notwithstanding, I found it very easy to talk to him. Okay, so a lot of the talking involved problem solving and/or gyaan giving. But if you knew the stupid things he’d done and would then tell me about, you’d know I had no choice in the matter really. And it turned out that he gave the best hugs. Definitely a keeper.

As the months passed, he took control of his life, made important decisions, corrected stupid mistakes and didn’t bother cutting his hair or shaving his beard. Somewhere along this path to new awareness and more facial hair I became his therapist, for want of a better word. Of course, telling him to grow up and stop whining like a girl is not a method you’d find in any reference text. But it worked.

Yesterday, he grew up, this friend of mine.

And while I couldn’t be there in person to see this eternal 8 year old make one of the most difficult commitments there is to make, I knew he’d be doing it without a moment of doubt in his mind. After all he’d be crazy not to realise he was lucky to be bound by law and at least 2 different pandits to the best thing that had ever happened to him.

Today was day one of a new life.

And in honour of how we met, Day 1 of 1.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Growing Up. Or Not.

Note: What you're about to read is just my opinion. Please do not inundate me with comments justifying your lifestyle and decisions you make. The internet is not meant to be taken this seriously.

It's in fashion these days to complain. The weather, the prices, our politicians, the economy, public transport, no public transport, parents, traffic, a chipped nail, the neighbour's dog, the boss' wife...

Most of the times there is just cause for complaint. I mean, a chipped nail can be extremely annoying. Everyone knows that. But in most other cases, it's just the cool thing to complain. How else will you be part of a group? Belong? Today, accepting and proclaiming that you're content and happy with your life is extremely uncool. And what is happening because of this, is that people are hoping they have unsatisfactory lives, just so they get to complain about it. Not that people have a problem being fake. But still. 

Everywhere i look, there are people holding onto things they did 10 yrs back, hoping that if they don't think about it, they won't have to grow up. And i personally believe that if, as a 30 yr old, you insist on behaving and thinking like a 19 yr old, you're going to have a hell lot to complain about. Especially if your peer group has evolved over the years and has moved beyond drink fests, casual flings and dissing long term commitments. 

A lot of "free thinking" people might suggest that it's only in India that such pressure exists for people to settle down, as it were. I disagree. It's just that here, we are more vocal about such things and families and relatives are actively involved in the process. Intrusive even. But the pressure exists around the world. 

The latest in trends these days, is to complain about all the people getting engaged/married/pregnant. But if you're 30+, single and complaining about these things, it's simply because you haven't grown up enough to make such commitments. I'm not saying that everyone should be hitched and or ready to be a parent by 30. But if you mock those who are, it says a lot about you and not the other person.

And that's all i have to say.

*end of rant*

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Short Cuts

This is attempt number 873 at writing a new post for this space and since i've decided that i'm no longer mentally capable of achieving that task, i'm going to take the easy way out and use the "vishesh tippani" format so loved by Marathi exam paper setters in the Maharashtra state board. *stops for breathe* 

Bal Thackeray died. Bombay froze (literally) of of sheer terror, just like a deer does when facing a predator. It's pure self-preservation. I just wish we had the skills of a skunk and instead of rolling over and playing dead, the city had shot out super stinky stuff at the bad guys. It's been 3 days and the internet  is full of all kinds of analyses and discussions and opinions. I'm not going to add to it. At least not any more.

Pune was also in shut down mode. The only good thing that came of it was that the Fellow got to have a mini adventure when he went shopping for vegetables. Yes he does that. I've trained him well. Anyway.  We had dinner guests and no veggies in the house. So he heads out to the closest market which is literally abandoned. Except for one man who tells the Fellow to follow a kid who will take him to what he wants. Turns out, one guy was selling vegetables. Out of his house. He invited the Fellow in, offered him tea and proceeded to weigh out everything i'd put on the shopping list. And then he told him to take an alternative route out of the place to avoid goons on the lookout for any shady activity. The Fellow came home totally thrilled and with a new story for parties. 

Before the old man died, Diwali came to town. Our first time away from any family which was a bummer. But it forced me to clean up my act and do grown up stuff - like stringing fairy lights all over the house and lighting so many candles the Fellow was sure i was going to burn the place down. In the end, i cooked the food of my childhood Diwali celebrations and to add to the joy, the Fellow enjoyed it. So many days later, and i'm still clearing the house of marigold petals. Fun times. 

A lot of our old friends are going to be in town this December. It's going to be a happy end to an interesting year. With such a nomadic lifestyle, catching up with old friends is a pleasure unmatched. 

Am at the end of my rope when it comes to the Fellow's boss' wife. She's an annoying, loud-mouthed, opinionated, rude woman who thinks she's the boss of all the women she meets. And one of these days i'm going to bitchslap her in full drama mode right in the middle of one of her "i'm so cool" speeches. No really. Just because you drink neat scotch and don't have volume control doesn't mean you're cool.

The Fellow is crazy busy at work. Even as i type this out he's been at work for 12 hours. Which means that i've been alone for those 12 hours with no one to talk to. And for those who know me personally, you know what a huge deal that is. So here i am, super cranky and no one to vent to, knowing very well that if i vent to the Fellow after he comes home following an insane day at home, i'll be the bitch.