Saturday, January 26, 2008

Confessing a Human Tragedy

Ages ago I had a book of quotes and one struck me then and smacks me in the face now:
"Every woman grows up to be like her mother, that's her
tragedy; no man does, that's his."
As I whiled away this time last year, Ma took it to her to drill into me what marriage meant.
Marriage, she said, is hard work, plain and simple; and it's upto the woman to make it work. In societies like ours, the man is never at fault, however much a beast he may be, it's always the woman who'd be put up on the stake of criticism. Marriage, Ma said, is compromise, not just by the wife, but also by the husband, but it's essential that you don't look at it as compromise, look at it as a decision that was reached mutually because your spouse agreed with you had to say. It takes work, 24/7 to make marriages last, 30 years plus and Ma and Pa still had to see through each day to see their marriage work. I've seen my parents grow old, I've seen them have their issues, resolve their issues, work around...I grew up seeing all that, even if I was presented with a child-friendly version of their tiffs, my view of how Ma made her marriage work may be juandiced, limited to whatever exposure I had of them. At the end of it all, I saw Ma and Pa as a team, whether it came to getting us kids ready for work, deciding life-altering things like relocating the family to Pakistan, they may have had their differences, but to us it came as The Decision. Pa's word was final but it never meant he would actually decide againsst what Ma had said. They'd reason around but the decision had to be mutual. They must have, in the long course of their marriage, been at odds with each other numerous times, one must have compromised, bent to others judgement, but for most parts, we were blissfully unaware of it all. Pa, the ideal man-figure that I've always looked upto him as (as most daughters end up doing, knowingly or otherwise), took years and years of being moulded into shape. He was a difficult man, Ma told me, but with time, he came around to being a family man. I remember once long ago Pa asking me and sis if we had 'ideals' or an idea of what kind of man we wanted to marry (Pa's that way, more of a friend than a traditional desi father), we were stumped, but sis turned it round and asked him if he had an ideal before marriage and he said, very seriously, that he was married to her. And he meant it.
Every marriage is unique, but the essentials of making it work remain the same; understanding, compassion and respect, the confidence that you can talk about anything under the sun and your spouse would understand you even if he/she disagrees. This, being able to talk and be understood is the foundation for marraige. It would be the foundation for every relaitionship but marriage it trickier. The moment you realise, or are reluctant or afraid to talk about anything to your spouse, you should know that your marriage has hit a rough patch. You simply need to connect, start over again, if needs be, but work over it. Love, passion and all that hoopla is trivial. Connect and how well you connect is what matters in marriages. With desi marriages, on the woman's part there is surrender. At least I argued with Ma that it was surrender and letting go of your being. I'm still learning about marriage and how to make it work. There are times when I marvel at all those people who've lasted decades with each other and there are times when I know for certain that I could be one of those lucky couples who grow fonder with each other as they age. If I have the will , strength and the sabr to make my marriage work. As Ma said, it's upto me now.
As I look back onto the months that have past since I've been married, I see how I have changed, how my priorities have changed. If there's one thing I like in myself, it's that I take complete responsibility for my decisions, with no regrets. I haven't ever regretted my marriage, it was, at the end of it all, my decision, I could've said no and no one would have pushed me into it. Ma told both me and sis, when we were getting married, that we don't make the mistakes that she made in her married life, if there is anything you find admirable in your parent's marriage, she pleaded with us, take that with you.
As I'm reminded of the saying above, I fear if I have indeed become my mother, down right to some of the mistakes she made in her relationship. I'd love to have the kind of marriage Ma and Pa have, but I don't want to repeat any of their mistakes (I'd rather have my own?). At times I find myself so insecure, so drained that I encyst myself, completely. It's not right, I know, I've seen Ma do it and how it strained the home environs. This is one of her mistakes she'd warned us about. At times you just need a sympathetic shoulder to lean on and it's such a shame that it is not your spouse's. The guilt of confiding in someone else than my husband kills me but I do it all the same. I should be able to talk freely and completely, why do I then hold back? The fear that there is something lacking, that I'm not doing enough to make my marriage work makes me restless, ruins my appetite, makes me mad, and I'm generally reduced to an emotional, mushy mish-mash of insecurities. All that and it hasn't even been a year.
Becoming Ma in her mistakes has been one of sis' and my greatest fears, she's talked to me about it (when she could talk to me), how nerve-racking it is, the realisation that you're making your Ma's mistake...and go on making it. I would want to be like Ma, as Pa has glorified her in the rare moments he reflects back on his life, I would like to be like Ma in all the good she's done and been as a wife and mother. If I can half as good a wife and mother she's been to us, I'd think myself lucky and utterly blessed; but her mistakes, I fear and dread. One most than others, her silent temper. Not talking at all, a blank face and a whirlwind of thoughts plaguing the mind.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Books NOT Recommended

I love reading books...actually I love reading, I'll read anything as long as it's in Urdu or English, the two langauges that I claim to be fluent in...and I mean anything, if it's readable, it has to be read. How long I take to read it depends on teh length of the writing, its format and portability (e-treatise have their limitations for instance, they can't be read before dozing off to sleep and picked up the next morning from the floor to be read again). When it comes to books, I confess I prefer fiction to non-fictitious works, but once I start a book, I have to finish it, irrespective of genre, it becomes a HAVE TO task. Sometimes though, there is a book that I start with all the steam of an full-throttled engine but somehow leave midway and those books are just relegated to an ornamental place in the paltry bookshelf I have here. (My actual collection is in Pakistan, indexed, maintained and subsequently, gradually taken over by kid bro, A.) Books like Orhan Pamuk's The White Castle (left midway), Umberto Eco's Focault's Pendulum (too esoteric and intelligent for my present state of being), or even Aag ka Darya and Naguib Mahfouz's Palace Walk, the last two I borrowed from Bhai last year. I always get some more books from his MA bursting at the ends bookshelf but rarely get down to reading any. In the meantime I'm beefing up my own shelf here, Z's ordering books online and buying books too (our tastes in books are poles apart and so far we've fought over only one book, The Leopard and The Fox), thus there is a whole stack of reading to be done...add to it the numerous magazine subscriptions that Z has and the amount of reading a person, who has teh whole day to herself, can do is staggering. Of course it won't and doesn't stagger me.
There was a time at school when I was reading two books a day, it took two math and urdu classes in a row for me to finish a Nancy Drew/Sweet Valley paperback and then I switched books with N, my classmate. I learned speed reading at school, I also learned math and urdu enough to get by. :)
Last time we went to the Sharjah World Book Fair, I did not buy a single book, even Z was surprised (he steers me away from bookshops, I think he fears himself at such places more than what and how much I would bring to the check-out counter; somehow his stack is always larger than mine). And then I slipped into Border at DCC some weeks past and did not buy any book from there either...I have resolved to first read up what I have before buying anything new, lest I end up with an enviable collection of books I have not read and bros are happily passing off as their possessions back home. How far I'm resolute in my resolve is yet to be seen, if I go to the House of Prose I might give in but that bridge is to be crossed when it comes.
The Kite Runner, I'd been reading so much about it and then I downloaded the movie too. I saw and brought the book back from Bhai's place yesterday thinking I'd read it first and then watch the movie. I shouldn't have. After My Forbidden Face and the Bookseller of Kabul, I'd decided to stay clear of any book on Afghanistan. It just dampens your spirit, these books, make you morose, depressed, melancholy to read all that has befallen the people of Afghanistan...I wonder if books have to absolutely trashy or really dank to become a best-seller. I started reading the book at around one in the morning last depressed, let it go, tossed and turned, switched on the light, read some more, put it aside, tried to sleep, picked it up again...till about five in the morning. It was such a dreary read that I could not put it if my hurrying through the pages and finishing off teh story would somehow lesses or at least quicken the suffering recorded in its pages. I finally finished it this evening, only getting up to fix something to eat. I'm glad that I did, read it off, not eat. However bleak and whatever travails and sufferings it contains, there was, literally, a ghost of a smile at the end. And I'll also watch the movie, there's no way they could've carried all that pain onto celluloid. And Also find and read Hosseini's second novel, it's been on the top ten best-seller list too long for me to have not read it. And perhaps I can start on Orhan Pamuk again. I brought all of his books here with me only to spite mean bro S, he loves Pamuk...but I forgot that he has my Kazuo Ishiguro collection with him, gah! they have all my collection with them that they're dishing out to their friends!
"Children aren't colouring books. You
don't get to fill them with your favourite colours
." The Kite

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Baby Blues

So Churchill's Black Dog has paid sis a visit. It was due, PN, after all the euphoria of having brought a new life into this world had settled down and she realised that the li'l piece of being had taken over her life...nay, pushed her on the backburner and everyone would henceforth only focus on li'l D. I know I do, whenever I call sis, I'm hoping for a background music of D crying and then I have to hang up as sis has to attend on the little despot who's taken over her life. I also talked to M, SiL, today, she'd had a li'l one, H2, early December last year...I asked if she was well and she had just one response; that she had to be well, for the kids...I should've asked her about her PND experience but thought better of it. Mothers, however many kids they might've brought into the world, must feel overwhelmed specially in the first few weeks, if not months post-birth...add to it that general tendency of ours to ignore the mother and going ga-ga over the new's just so unfair...all the gifts are for the li'l one, all attention is for the li'l one...and only his/her needs are important. A new mom can bid farewell to sleep, relaxation becomes a thing of the past. I wish I could say this is temporary, but it becomes a habit...a mother worries, period. She starts worrying from the first moment she learns of her impending motherhood, frets first over the baby's movements in utero and then all through the child's life...It's a lifetime of worrying and fretting over the kid(s). Sleepless nights not limited to baby days, I know my mother stays awake till all her kids are home safe, soundly fed and in bed. And it's such a thankless job, no one has the slightest bit of consideration for the woman, at times not even other women in her life. It's as if we take it for granted that the moment a woman becomes a mother, she's become a super-duper woman who can manage feats unimaginable. Like being able to function without sleep or rest or anything even vaguely resembling rest (including some time in the shower), she's not allowed to get sick, or if sick, not allowed to rest till she actually drops out of exhaustion, no off days, no time out, nothing. And to top it all, everyone takes you for granted, the husband, even the thankless babes you've produced. If you're a lucky woman you'd have a husband with some sense of decency and consideration for your mostly forgotten human status, else you just have to put up with it. But who am I to say all this, I've been taking MY ma for granted for years...
See, sis is younger than me and my only sis, so I kind of ignore the itsy bitsy age difference we have and insist in calling and treating her like a baby (Actually I like mothering all my siblings and cousins...and siblings in law, can't help it, I'm the eldest or one of the elders in most cases, such a huge responsibility). And it hurts and kills me to think that my li'l sis now has to go through all that child-birth and post-natal grind-mill. She does not even have time to talk to me, her only sister, as her brand new baby starts bawling for attention the moment khalajan calls. I stopped calling sis altoghether so that the li'l tyke would settle into a routine and let my sis have some time to talk to me, but that is not to be. Early this morning I got a call from sis that she wasn't feeling well, she felt alone and wanted to talk to me...and when I call her, D starts crying, again. Where exactly is F, mean BiL, when needed to soothe a howling child, I ask? And where is the family army once so eager for the child? Can't a woman have some rest, some time off to talk to her sis? Should sis forget life as it was, write off family? I know woman the world over survive this phase of life and happily go for another stint at motherhood, multiple stints, but all teh same it looks so different when it's happening to someone so close to you. My sis is not all mine anymore, I'll have to share her with D from now on, and concede my priority status to the new arrival...I could fight with F, mean BiL, for the spot but how is one to compete with a 55 cms bald, bawling pink bundle? And how come I have it's picture as my desktop? Oh, I know, it was looking deceptively angelic wrapped in pink blanket and over-sized pink bonnet. I actually love the li'l D.
PS: I'm still wating for sis to call me back to talk off her blues

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Brand New Khala

Sis' baby had to be the world's most eagerly awaited baby. We were to have a babe in the family after a long, long time. We, all of us, are crazy about babies. R, my brother, once actually borrowed a kid from a passer-by and brought it home to show us. All my brothers have at one point or another brought their friend's niece/nephew home to be admired by us all. And God help a guest's child hapless in our house...they'd take turns to play with it... and if te child was unusually friendly and did not cry at their antics (nothing torturous, bros just think that children should be afraid of them and cry at their mere sight, they are offended otherwise, except R, whom children take an instant liking to), they'd ask me or sis if it ever cried. They wanted a kid's all moods displayed before them in the few minutes they had their turn with it, the kid had to smile, laugh, play, giggle and also cry. The child had to be deposited with their mom/dad and if there was another one, they'd ask me to bring the other one (equal oppurtunity). When sis told me of my impending Khalahood, my first thought was, 'God help the child with it's mamoons! And nana, nani. It would be spoiled rotten!' Ma insists all our friends' kids call her nani/dadi. Ma and Pa absolutely adore kids (which explains why they have so many of us).
I know everyone adores babies but my family actually goes ga-ga over kids...they'd been deprived of a child for such a long time. A, the youngest bro was never considered a child by his elder bros, he was 10 years when he was 5 years and at 14 years, they consider him to be a fully grown man...A's attitude, come to think of it, is that of an uncle, but that's another family circus tale.
So, last evening, after a long wait, past EDD, and hours of calls later from the news of sis finally going to the hospital to get my niece, I got Ma's ecstatic call...I was a khala!
My li'l sis is a mommy.
And now I am waiting for pics and a video. I hate my bros for not sending me the pics yet, it's been more than 12 hours, all I get is smart-alec replies to my pleading sms'es for some pics...they've seen the kid and all, what would they know how terrible it is to wait to see your first niece...and I, the one and only khala only has a tub of Ben & Jerry's Phish Food Ice Cream for company. It makes great solace food, btw, B & J's.

blogger templates | Make Money Online