Found in Translation

First I practise my mother tongue activism on my kids by speaking to them only in Hindustani.

Then, everytime I lose it properly, which sometimes I do, I raise my voice and fire in rat-a-tat English:
“What’s with this ridiculous deprived expression, man? Don’t I ever give you anything? Didn’t I just ask you what chocolate you want? If you want both Snickers and Gems, then say so.
Don’t show me that sorry little face, Mamma is not really going to give me what I want……..”

P A U S E in the the room.

Aliza speaks. ‘Mamma, what you just said, can you say that again in Hindi?’

“I know everything already, but you have forgotten some things, Mamma”

A couple of days later, Shireen is visiting. Ah, wonderful, loving, feeding us lunch while telling us a lovely story big-sister-Shireen. Now we are safe!

I’m walking past the huddle of the three of them giggling and exchanging stories when Aliza calls out to me. ‘Mamma!’
‘Yes, Ali?’
‘Mamma, that day when you got angry with me over the chocolate, you were just tired. And you didn’t know that.’
‘Yes, Ali.’
‘It wasn’t anything I had said.’

I sit down.
‘Oh, Ali, I’m so sorry.’
I hold my ears. Because I broke my elbow as a teenager, it locks at a right angle, and I have to hold my left ear with my right hand and right ear with my left hand. Arms crossed like that, I look sorrier.
‘I’m sorry, Ali. Should I become a Murga also?’ I ask. (Sit on my haunches and hold my ears, looking like a sorry rooster)

‘No, no, no,’ she stops me.

I begin to get up to move to another group of Sunday lunch people.

‘And Mamma,’ she calls out, ‘the other day when you got so upset because you thought that I had slapped myself in anger? I was not really angry at all. It was just a fly on my cheek.’
‘Oh is that right, Ali?’
‘Yes, you couldn’t see it, but it was a fly. Trying to make a hole in my cheek.
And you thought I was slapping myself, ha ha!’

‘I’m sorry, Bambino, I say,’ and move really fast now. Run.

Just one last thing, eye contact with Shireen.
(I need her on my side too)

Sometimes I say grandmother when I refer to her

My mum-in-law reminds me of my Nani. My mother’s Mother. Mataji, her children called her. 
Nani was from Lahore, now in Pakistan. Ammi is from Jaunpur in UP, India

All this helps. Somehow.
The pieces come together. Life makes sense. We carry on.

Sometimes Ammi admires me for being beautiful, sometimes she scolds me for being a shrunken ghost. She often accuses me of being a fashion victim on a diet.

Before I got married, I used to fantasize about the food on their dining table. Wow, I’ll put on weight eating that lovely rich food. I added that to the list of fringe benefits I hoped for.

Sometimes Ammi blesses me with elaborate words in Urdu.
Sometimes she keeps it short. ‘I wish for you a long healthy life so that you can take care of my grandchildren in the way they deserve.’