Is this the silence that bothers you?

I have written some more about marriage for my new column that will be published tomorrow.

I wrote this line: “I want to let go of silences. And pretences. The ones that take up so much space, everything else crunches up into a mess.”

Afzal read this after I had submitted it. A couple of hours later he came up to me and said, “You mean silences like this…?”

He was looking for silences. To banish them.

It takes very little to please a woman if you put a bit of your heart in it.

(oh btw, 10 years tomorrow. Send cake. And flowers. Thanks!)

A birthday poem for a friend whose name I forgot.

Hey XYZ,
I’d like to wish you a very happy birthday
A shower of glory and peace.
That’s all.Oh wait,
Also a lifetime of satisfying burps

And blurbs.
Of course, you are a writer,
I wish you useful things,
Things that rhyme,
That shoot
And scatter
That flow effortlessly
Sometimes messy
That bring deep sighs and
involuntary smiles.

You’re a lover
A comedian
A writer
A worrier

I’m not even sure anymore
Where I met you
Why I met you
Did I ever meet you?
Will I ever meet you?
Does it matter?

this is about cakes and candles
And birthday kisses and
love handles.

About growing up
and staying young.
Recovering wisdom
And skipping again.

Didn’t I say I was going to keep this short
And breezy,

Like the back-lit yellow flowers
that wave at you
As you run.

Happy birthday, XYZ.
You sweetheart.

(Somehow saying XYZ breaks the rhythm. It could be SUPW or XKD or RSVP or something. I found this on my computer today.)

Marriage. Don’t do it, seriously.

One evening we lost our two-year-old in the park.

We had just moved into a new home. There were unexpected guests and a pocket of chaos as we cleared away cartons on the floor and put enough chairs for everyone. Cool water and sweets were offered. Pleasantries.

Our children were playing outside. Aliza, our five-year-old, came running in to let us know that she couldn’t find Naseem any more.

My first reaction in an emergency is to be calm. I ran out with Aliza to the forest park next to our new home. Too many people, gates, trees, bushes, a pond. It was a large space. I was not wearing my spectacles.

How long was it that I could not see my child? 10, 5, 20 minutes? Some people said they had seen her, some stared at me blankly. Everyone was a stranger. I sent Aliza to call her father.

“Tell him that I cannot find Naseem, run and get Papa,” I said to her.

I had crossed over to panic. My world was whirling around me. It was Afzal’s turn to be calm. When he found her, she was sitting near a gate with a flower in her hand.

“I got this for Mamma,” she said.

This month we complete 10 years of being married to each other. It seems like a good time to revisit the moment when I was ready to run out of our home without looking back.

That time when I had been standing in the park paralysed by fear, unable to find our toddler, the thought in my head had been: If anything happens to Naseem, I will leave Afzal.

After I had finished crying, put Naseem to sleep and worn her flower in my hair, I was left with the residue of my panicky thoughts. I had not known that I was this close to the edge in my head.

“I don’t know who or what this marriage is but it better not come between my wife and me,” a friend of mine had once written to me.

Marriage is really an accident-prone adventure. It gets hijacked, kidnapped, derailed, distracted and exhausted. Marriage can become a pile of resentments.

Togetherness is a venue. We seek it for respite. For nurturing and rest. We go there to practise fighting. It’s a boxing ring. Boxing is a sport, remember. We play at boxing to be better prepared for the rest of the world. We analyse our strengths, compensate for weaknesses.

But don’t always stay there. Go away also. Don’t expect it to work all the time. It is lazy and busy and easily distracted. Just like the lovers in it.

And then there are children. Children are like a JCB. They will wreck your marriage and play with the debris.

If they don’t come along and create utter chaos, something else always does. If nothing else shakes us up, it is quite likely that we will start feeling itchy and draw blood ourselves.

Marriage isn’t necessary at all. Don’t do it. It’s a lot of trouble. It’s a racket. A conspiracy to defeat the individual. A human rights violation that creeps up on you.

Marriage can be lonesome. Being together won’t stop you from being alone, lost, tempted, greedy, insecure and sleepless.

Just like a two-year-old playing outside the house, love is vulnerable. It is gentle and friendly, like a child. Yours could be wild and tantrum-prone.

Love learns to walk. Love ages. Be gentle with it, holding its hand when the traffic is fast.

Love is looking at him in the evening light and being able to smell the tea that you will have with him. Even on a train. Specially on a train. Love is made of still images. Clothes hanging together on a clothes peg in the bathroom. Messages saved in an inbox. Earrings next to a black wallet. A shared backpack.

Love sulks for attention. Sometimes you make up because there’s a rat behind the washing machine and you need company to deal with it. Sometimes the rat is just an excuse.

Love gets taken for granted. We forget what it was like in the first place.

“Come and help me choose my shirt,” he says.

“I am working,” I say.

“Please, I have no idea what will go with this colour.”

“Is that your way of saying you love me?”

“You’re the expert,” he says.

Be creative. Have an affair with the one you love. That’s one way to make this business profitable.

Falling in love with the same silly smile again and again and again. That’s shaadi for you. Total barbaadi. Don’t do it, seriously.

(This was first published here: and has 40 comments from readers)