Tanu Shree Singh is the author of Keep Calm and Mommy On. In this blog post, she writes about how she kept calm and recorded an audiobook.
A few years back when I first wrote a blog post, I had no idea how it all worked. Hell, I don’t even know now. The right hashtags, the right times to promote, target audience–it all remains fairly alien. It started as a bid to collect my thoughts, to help friends (who am I kidding? I was tired of long conversations over the phone), who had similar issues, and as a bit of a vent to the angst I felt over how things were (and still are) for children today. I never thought of it as a book. And yet the next few years after the first blog post were surreal. These were just experiences but they were helping mums like me. I’d get messages saying that reading a particular piece had helped. Some shared their deepest, darkest secrets over private messages, hoping to get help. It was overwhelming and humbling.
All the while, the boys were steadily inching forward. From naughty corners to their own rooms–the equation was silently changing. The boys were becoming teenagers. The book, after loads of editing and rewriting, finally got published a year ago and the ‘protagonists’ were no longer tiny bundles. They were towering teens. So the last year was mostly spent biting my nails. Would the book do well? Would the boys do well? Would I still be somewhat sane by the end of it all? The questions kept piling up.
Every review that the book got, counted. Every smile that the boys mercifully threw my way did too. They were both growing. The book’s chapters started to fade in distant memory as the boys’ smiles started to give way to grunts and scowls. I was still keeping calm but there were blotches of self-doubt that had begun to appear. We took it one day at a time. To be accurate, I took it one day at a time. The boys were in the business of giving hell, not taking.
I barely got time to breathe, sit back, re-group. It had become one long evening of two dark clouds with no silver lining in sight. In fact like them, I too was getting used to it. I started to forget any other way of existing. Despite the million textbooks, sleepy lectures on adolescence, seminars, drunken conversations with fellow mums, nothing prepared me. So I decided to brave it all out. This will pass.
Then one fine morning, after the usual grunts of good morning, I got a phone call.
The book was to be turned in to an audiobook. My heart obviously broke in to an instant jig. The heart was still doing a happy dance when it tripped and fell face down. They wanted ME to read it out. In my voice. My voice that had now been reduced to a croak. ‘Are you sure?’ I croaked. They were still sure.
The next few days were spent in coordinating with the recording studio and the two dark clouds doing what they did best, grumbling and groaning. And finally I was there–a messy bundle of twitching nerves. The first sentence that I spoke in to the microphone was pathetic. I ate half the words, I stammered the rest of them out. The huge earphones that looked supercool in the pictures of singers crooning the net super-hit, were uncomfortably heavy. The sofa was too straight. The recording studio was too quiet. Nothing was okay. This was a disaster.
The sound engineer asked me to take a break, have some water and relax. I sat there, took a few deep breaths in and started reading the first chapter. It all started to come back. I could here my voice from the yesteryears. It was surprisingly calm and amused at my angst. We gave it another go. The sound engineer was facing away from me so he could not see me smile while speaking into the mic. He told me later he could hear it. Without turning, at the end of the first chapter, he gave me a thumbs up. I could feel myself swell with pride. I had done it! Spoken without fumbling, and with the same emotions that I had written all with.
The next few days saw me revisit my old self. After the few chapters I read each day, I went home smiling and hugged my dark clouds. Re-reading my own thoughts and experiences brought back the centre of gravity. Perhaps, that is why they used to say that keeping a journal could be therapeutic. If I could survive the discovery of accidental porn sites and a scared child, a bullied older one, a looking-out-of-the-window-during-class younger one, I could definitely survive this.
The audiobook recording was not just a leap as far as the book was concerned. It was an introspection of sorts. It was a revisit to the boys’ younger days, their unsure steps in to teenage, their tiny voices, their hugs and my love. It was all still here. As the final chapter rolled past and I spoke the last lines, ‘you are a Supermom. Try asking the kids and they will show you the cape that flows behind your back.’ it was a reassertion of sorts. I AM a supermom despite disapproving teens who dissolve into hugs with a drop of the hat. And I do have a cape.