Jo Tune Mujhe Maari… “very good Sukhmani ma’am, right hand up, shimmy left – shimmy right”.
I am not Sukhmani ma’am. I am the lone box out of 30 on this zoom call that missed the shimmy beat. Which is odd, really, because my body weight has nothing but shimmied from side to side over the last year post-partum, much like the neon-green ‘ganji’ clad instructor on screen. A dramatic pause close to the start shortly after delivery, then a sort of bare-toothed, thundering forward in the weeks that followed, then a brief retreat at the five-month mark in what seemed to be the end of the obscene antics. But just as I was catching my breath, out came the bare-toothed shimmy again! And now the screen has frozen. I’ve tried plenty to refresh the window but neither the pesky instructor nor the weight will go away.
After some initial procrastination out of faith in nature’s processes, and deep dives into tubs of ice-cream when that faith ran out, I took to rigorous damage control by month 7. Upended the mandatory bottle of water first thing in the morning, took the extra flight of steps where I could, and put my under-slept limbs through a daily 40-minute grind. Sometimes knocking the air out of my lungs under the nose of oxygen-infusing trees. Other times becoming a tree myself, on one leg, eyes closed, deep breath to the navel, and ‘Ommmmmmm’.
All in vain. This Bollywood dance class is the latest in a series of attempts to find my inner Deepika Padukone. If my baby’s nosey nanny was to peep through the curtains now, she’d find her 35-year-old vakil bhabhi attempting to duck-walk on stunted knees while grinding flour with one hand.
Toh Lattooo Padosan ki Bhabhi ho gayi!
Maybe I am the lattoo Bhabhi in the song. Holding onto old clothes that just won’t fit. Driving myself crazy with every upward swipe of Instagram. I really want to bare all the #battlescars of #beautifulmotherhood in that orange swimsuit. Except it wouldn’t have gone up my right leg even before I got pregnant, and I can’t imagine travelling to a tropical island with my little monster for that sun-and-sand background. I know this, as I waste precious moments of sleep and silence on the potty seat to lap up make-believe #hotmomma stories. I also know somewhere that none of these mommas have a 9 to 9 job, nor nannies prone to plotting leave before a family get together. Yet somehow, I continue to swipe with equal measures of intrigue and anxiety, wishing I had their metabolism, squeezing myself into an old skimpy dress. Its buttons won’t close across the chest, and zip won’t slide up the hip. We spend hours huffing and puffing from fatigue. A bundle of misfits.
The lattoo-est bit of this sequence is that the very part of me that is overgrown is also secretly complacent. Busy sliding in and out bed without waking the 10 kgs asleep on her upper body, marvelling at her Olympian strength and immaculate grace. She honestly thinks she is the tree she emulates during yoga: a giver of life, a force of nature. Some days I catch her standing before a mirror and popping her belly out just so, to remember what it felt like. Other days, she quietly extends herself to let her baby snuggle against all the jiggling parts of her.
Yet other days, she is neck deep in that tub of ice-cream.
I mean, how does one get on with such a serious civil war raging within ones own body?! Can you blame me for being a step behind when a part of me just refuses to catch up?
“Manini ma’am, balam-a-pi-ee-cha-ka-aaaaa…ri!”, his hands make saucers beneath his protruded chest, clucking in and out like a chicken. His face is contrived into a courteous but obviously impatient smile. I realise I am out of beat, again, and now the rest of my class-mates have paused to glare at me through their small boxes. Her, again! What sort of a buffoon blunders on such a popular hook-step? Surely she’s done it somewhere before – a party, a wedding, something?
I jerk my elbows with all my might until my ribs make a crackling sound at the final ‘aaaa….ri!’, and my feet knot over themselves. Stumbling forward, I fall face down to the floor to my immense relief.
Let’s just lie here a while, beneath the camera’s judgmental glare. Slide a hand up and snap the laptop shut. Thank god it is over!
The nanny’s face comes into view where the ceiling fan should have been.
‘Mein karke dikhaaon? Woh balam pichkari waaala step?!’
I close my eyes tightly again and pretend to faint. Or do faint. I can’t say for sure.