Sahar Beg, 7 year old planner
Where is my love story, I thought as I sat in a corner in the garden, crouching under the guava tree, hidden from direct view by a shrub.
The love is all around, the story carries on….. its the conflicts, loss, confusion, the inabilities….that baffle me.
I saw Afzal walk out of the main door with Naseem in his arms… calling out to me. Searching for me. It was a lovely low angle shot from where I sat, foreground of leaves, dappled light, the two of them looking for me. I did not answer.
I took some more time to calm down and then walked back into the house. Sahar had been worried. She had seen me get exasperated with half-dressed Nam and walk out of the door. Afzal was angry.
I stayed calm, but I guess I had said a lot to Afzal without really using any words.
I expressed all this in a light-hearted way in my FB update of the day:
We were doing excellent timing, girls to be shampoo-ed, chasing baby with a dropper full of antibiotic, marinating the murgi…..till we walked into a slushy, sloppy, muddy-fuddy, splattering us all over
Comment 1 by me: gender roles debate.
(should have scheduled that for wednesday…..after hours, I think)
Comment 2 by me: wednesday, after hours, Year 2040, I mean
My FB update: “She’s our Haiku, he said, adjusting Baby on his shoulders.”
My own Comment: Doesn’t make much sense, but she feels good. Baby played with his hair, woowoo woo”
A friend’s comment: What do you mean makes no sense of course it does. I think ‘haiku’ describes her just perfectly. Just as the other two would completely fit ‘sonnet’ and ‘prog rock’!!
Two mornings ago, Afzal woke up and narrated his dream to me. He rarely remembers his dreams, that morning he did.
He said that he dreamt of Ammi and me. Often in the dream, it would be Ammi, but she had my face. Then he looked at me and I had Ammi’s face. It kept changing.
Sometimes it was Ammi, then again when he looked at her, it was her, but with my face.
(Always quick to interpret everything for everyone, I wanted to whisper to him, ‘that’s right, Afzal, Ammi and me are the same….there’s no contradiction between us. Accept that…’
However, I did keep quiet and just listen.)
The last time he spoke of Ammi and me together in this way was when he was narrating his worst trauma to me. His journey back from Chicago to London, after he had been deported from the airport in November 2001. Two months after 9/11. Coincidentally, I was in London, filming a documentary when he landed there.
He told me that when he was being interrogated at the airport, all he was praying for after a while was to be deported. Just send me back guys, I don’t have any answers for you.
On the flight back, his recurrent thought had been, ‘Ammi and Natasha.’
‘I just want to go back home to Ammi and Natasha.’
We got married 8 months later.
Looking back, I think getting pregnant with Sahar is the line that divides a major before and after in my life. Ceratinly it is THE one line drawn in the middle of Afzal’s and my time together.
On this side of the line, I have often been very agitated, I have run back and forth, I’ve crossed back to the previous side, stood on the line a lot. I have felt anger, frustration, loss, confusion…..I’ve not always been good but I have been determined to deal with it. I have figured out that the only way to love my children well is to love myself well. And my parents well.
Sahar has been my perfect companion. She can see right through Afzal and me, often she pats us with love and tells us we are fine, we are beautiful, we are good.
Thank you Sahar, my baby, my baby, my baby.
One Saturday afternoon, in the summer of 2009, I said to Fr. Os, Aliza is so fragile. The smallest things make her breakdown into extreme reactions. (Like me suggesting a different sandal or offering a pink bottle instead of the leaking red one she wants)
Fr. Os interrupted me sharply and said, Aliza is NOT fragile, its YOUR Child Ego state which is fragile.
I understand that a little bit, but not totally.
It does help me turn the focus back to myself, though. If Ali seems to be in trouble, look into your own state of mind first.
The other question I want to go to Fr. Os with is this: Why is Sahar so angry? Not all the time, in fact when the stress levels are high, she puts up a great Adult performance, sometimes Parent too. But when everything seems to be normal, sometimes without reason, she seems to wake up crabby and return from school angry. And she lets me know by pushing Aliza around, so that Aliza will ring the alarm bells…Sahar is pushing me, she took away my crayon, she called me crazy…..something like that.
So I suppose the question is likely to turn around to me: Why do I think Sahar may be angry or dissatisfied?
Or, what am I angry about?
I think part of the answer may be that Sahar holds up so well under stress and looks out for me and Afzal so much (being the one gifted with extreme empathy) that we tend to take her for granted too much. We forget to appreciate her and cuddle her and thank her in time….which leads to a neglected Child in her who then becomes resentful-deprived Child.
The first year of her life, when I was a somewhat timid, tense new Bahu, holding on to my baby for comfort. The second year of her life, when I was expecting Aliza and frustrated at work. The third year of her life when Ali was born, Afzal had a bad accident, we moved to Greater Noida and I lost myself somewhere.
Baby Sahar, I OWE you.
It was fabulous.
Later one part of me wanted to get down on the ground and bang my fists on the floor….in protest, in rebellion. Why, why, why?
But we’ve got to focus on the positive, don’t we?
Yesterday I met an old friend of mine after a gap of 15 years. We had gone off on your own after college to make our own lives.
We have a CHILD-CHILD connection….. he’s a barrel of fun and he has a vulnerability that my Child is fiercely protective of. Like we were two kids with similar troubles and I was the stronger, older kid….so I looked out for him. Or I wanted to look out for him.
But mostly just fun and laughter and being naughty and laughing our guts out at our own slyness.
And so innocent….that’s my abiding memory of my times with (A). We roamed around the streets, way past go-home time and walked and talked and sometimes had rum and coke on the sly and laughed over it…..but so innocently. With such clean hearts and minds.
You’d never believe the miles we walked together if I ever told you.
15 years later, we met at IHC last evening. My three daughters and I. And (A).
I was a bit nervous, every now and then I had to look back at my expression and check that it was OK. If not, then relax it.
It was fabulous. For the first time in my life I met a friend of mine who was genuinely interested in my kids. I’m not complaining, its just that all others are more interested in chatting to me and the kids have to be on the periphery. I often find myself totally exhausted after I’ve been with any Friend and my kids together. Both parties WANT my attention, and I’m not good at juggling. Besides I don’t know too many people who can go beyond do-you-like-mummy-or-papa-better kind of questions in their small talk with children. (ShefB, I’m not talking about you!)
Last evening for the first time it was different.
Sahar and Aliza got talking, they talked about themselves. Their best friends, the boys in their class, their Mum’s activities at home. Their poems and jokes. Even if the punch-lines came out awry, for lack of practice.
They ordered French fries and Pizza and sucked as much sauce out of satchets as their little tummies allowed. Sahar made a goody bag for herself: Two plastic glasses with two satchets of sauce in them. Noone judged them.
A couple of times when noone was looking, I’d make a sign to myself, zipping my lips up. Keep quiet, don’t interrupt. Let everyone have fun, we don’t need a Chowkidar from you, Nuts.
After stuffing themselves, they went off to play video games. Another first. They played that game where you have to pick out stuffed toys and toffees by maneuvering a mechanical hand with a lever. They won many toffees and a strange stuffed toy. Aliza’s fantasy of fun.
She asked me herself. Mama, I can see some toy things on that side, I want to play there. She wanted to play the motorcycle racing and car racing video games too.
I greedily asked (A), Can you take them to that corner, woh sab kaise khelte hain?
It was a blast after that!
A few years after college, I fell in love with and married Afzal, a teetotaler. I gave up drinking. To guard against my potential alcohol-dependant gene, I suspect. (A) wrote to me once recently referring to himself as an alcoholic.
I asked him at the dinner table, Won’t you eat anything?
He replied in gestures. Two glasses down his throat type of gesture. I’ll go back to my hotel, down some drinks and then have dinner.
When (A) first resurfaced a couple of months ago (On FB, where else) he wrote, why don’t you invite me home and cook me a good meal?
I thought in my head, “What if I start crying when I see you? What if I hug you and refuse to let go?”
I guess Child wanted to do that. On my way to IHC yesterday, I spoke to my Child, I held her hand and then we were calm and fine.
I could cry a bit now, though. Certainly I feel like shutting the door of this room and letting some tears roll.
So I did.
(arre baba, khushi ke aansoon hai, khushi ke)