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Learning on the job

Learning on the job
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First Published: Fri, Aug 05 2011. 08 47 PM IST

Mom mantra : Small is beautiful. Photograph by Thinkstock.
Mom mantra : Small is beautiful. Photograph by Thinkstock.
Updated: Fri, Aug 05 2011. 08 47 PM IST
What do you know, they say to you.
Wait till the pain starts. Wait till the baby wakes up, starts toddling, demands an iPad. Wait till the brat starts school, the angel turns 12. Wait till they fall in love…and then you’ll know.
I don’t know what the grand truths are. I do know that everyday life with children needs to be constructed every day. Bruises kissed, roads crossed, stories narrated, albums uploaded, excuses made and work done. So how does one do it all?
Mom mantra : Small is beautiful. Photograph by Thinkstock.
I won’t lie. I was clueless. When we first brought baby home, our house of cards collapsed quite swiftly. Nothing I had ever done before had prepared me for this. Or had it?
I looked back at my years as a media-wallah. I had spent a decade lugging lights, tripod and video camera, making pictures for news television. I had dust on my shoes, a passport out of pages and an eye for composition. I knew how to circumvent barricades to be on the front line.
And now I was home with baby. A glossy baby book for reference. Hmm, think of them as video camera and manual, I said to myself. It gave me confidence. Till the camera began to bawl.
Eventually I discovered that almost everything I know about being a mum, I had practised in the years that I had been a video journalist.
Make a checklist. I know lists are for amateurs. The first step is to admit that you are an amateur. In the first year of my career, my mantra had been white balance-focus-aperture- compose-roll camera. Cut. My new chant: Feed-burp-rock- check diaper-clean-repeat. Build a team. Feed your team well for best results.
Everyone loves cameras. And babies in other people’s laps. Airline staff pays extra attention. Army men smile. You can ask for the seat of your choice. Confront customs, visa, immigration, security and other bullies by planting the camera on their desk first. When the baby makes eye contact, something changes. In the confusion, you might be able to get away with what you want.
Having a friend for a partner makes all the difference. Someone who will shield the lens from the glare of the setting sun. Hold the baby and clean her behind the ears. Replenish you with a drink after the shot. After the feed, I mean.
In my glorious years, I’ve driven off twice forgetting the camera behind. Once in Yangon, once in Delhi. Don’t panic, soon enough we reversed and picked it up from exactly where I’d left it.
One camera lost consciousness on me, in London. One fell from the tripod in Pokhara, Nepal. What do you think I did? In fuzzy slow motion, I picked up the baby, returned to my resort room and hung myself by the 5m XLR cable. Went shopping the next day.
From cameras to children. In the last six years, twice or thrice I have forgotten to appear at Sahar’s school bus stop to receive her. Ok, thrice. Naseem fell once from my arms. Sometimes Aliza’s batteries run out. We make mistakes, we mend our ways.
You work with two cameras. Wow, you are so awesome. Three cameras are a bit much. So are three children. You will be mocked. Everyone will ask you why. Don’t bother with an answer, no one really wants to know.
When you have stuck around long enough, you either evolve into a higher form of being or become a crabby bore. Some of us switch from one to the other between dawn and dusk.
Parenting isn’t a limelight kind of role. Neither was camerawork. You are supposed to do it quietly in the background and not hanker for credit. Yet both of them taught me to see the light. Think on my feet. Do jugaad, be creative, stay in control. Charge baby’s batteries in time, talk to her lovingly. Recharge your own batteries.
Differences. Well, cameras never cry. They stay in one place when you ask them to. Alas, they get obsolete. As with all love stories, the memories acquire a warm glow.
On a good day at work, someone would ask, “What’s a little girl like you doing among men like us?”
Among other things, I was learning how to have fun while doing dirty jobs for the rest of my life. I was learning to see beauty, beauty in the small moments.
So you tell me. Tell yourself. What is it that you do best? Actor, actuary, teacher, editor, doctor, dodger, whatever.
Identify your expertise. Transfer your lessons. Be a boss.
Watch baby sleep and take a picture. Put up your feet and absorb the peace.
Natasha Badhwar is a film-maker, media trainer and mother of three.
Write to Natasha at mydaughtersmum@livemint.com
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First Published: Fri, Aug 05 2011. 08 47 PM IST