Flowers dried in the folds of a book

We talk. A lot. I hold on to conversations like they are tender saplings. I collect them and keep them like flowers dried in the folds of a book.
“Mamma, aap itne sad kyon lag rahe ho?” Why are you looking so sad, Mamma?
We were at the dining table and I was serving rice to Naseem, our four-year-old. Her question made me pay attention to myself. An unfinished thing with a friend had crossed my mind and made my face dark and droopy. 
“I was thinking about a friend,” I said, shooing away the cloud of gloom.
“Oh, she said, flashing a relieved smile. “I thought you were angry with me.”
She is back in the moment again. I quietly congratulate myself for giving her an honest answer, instead of a default you-won’t-understand-just-pay-attention-to–your-dinner shrug. A simple sentence has made us allies, rather than strangers. Unexpectedly, I feel lighter too.
I was quoting from a Mary Kom interview to my husband over tea. “First they said you are too short and thin to train. Then they said you are married, you cannot fight any more. Then they said, you are a mother, you cannot be a good boxer. I have things to prove…” I paraphrased her.
Sahar looked up from her books and asked what we were talking about. I told her that Mary Kom, who she had written a school essay on, had won a bronze medal at the Olympics.
“You cannot be a boxer because you are a mother?” she said. “Who can be stronger than the one who gives birth to babies?”
Sahar is eight years old. I don’t know where she has picked this line from. She rarely watches television or Hindi films. Maybe she still remembers what she knew in the beginning. 
Suppose we listen to her, let her speak her mind and not be embarrassed by the things she says casually. What will happen? She will retain her confidence in answers, instead of clinging to the security of questions. Irrelevant questions that paralyse us into inaction, enabling us to feel like responsible, outraged adults. Helpless adults.
Conversation takes time. It slows us down. It gets us nowhere. Talking is inefficient, it doesn’t pay the bills or fold laundry while we are asleep.
Yet we crave for conversation. We want to share, we seek validation. We can go for long drives, faraway holidays, family get-togethers…and never really talk. Conversation is the purpose of the journey. Like writing, we really don’t know what we will say, till we start. Words, when they emerge from the wings, surprise us. Sometimes they shock us, coming out all wrong, wincing in the brightness of daylight.
Like any urban warrior, I am trained to move fast. I get things done, and done really fast. Emails, phone calls, status updates, editing and eyeliner, all at the same time. My family tugs at me to slow down. Do nothing. Just listen. Watch. Be. “Look at me, Mamma,” they call out to me.
I go to school to pick up our children, straight from a work meeting, my smartphone keeping me connected and distracted. My daughter’s classmates surround me around my knees.
“Are you coming from a wedding?” one says, stroking my skirt. “You look like a fairy today.”
I put my phone back in my bag.
“Naughty girl,” says Naseem, emerging from her classroom. “You know what a naughty girl is? A naughty girl is a good girl who does bad things.”
“There is also good naughty,” I tell her. I smile a “good naughty” smile for her.
Being a family and raising children offers us a second shot at childhood. It’s like a wild card entry into the next season of the game. Sometimes friends are the family that we create. At some stage, our parents will be the children we will learn to listen to.
Then there are pending conversations. All of us extra-efficient, high-achieving people have loads of those. Talking needs listening. It needs pockets of silence. It’s not always words, sometimes actions will fill the gaps. Switching roles, changing routines, picking up the rhythm of the slow group dance.
“Sometimes you call him Afzal, sometimes Bubbles and sometimes Boss,” says Sahar to me.
“Yes, I do,” I say.
“Which one of the names do you like best?” asks Afzal.
She thinks about it. “I like Bubbles best.”
Just like that, it feels like Sahar has drawn a line in the mud around our home and us. A home where one turns around from the computer screen, puts away the phone and looks at the faces in the room. Ruffle that mop of hair, kiss a cheek, lose at a game of arm wrestling. Trip over the toys on the floor.
Start that conversation. Talk, write, call, SMS, send a song. Give wings to your words, they will play with the breeze.

[Give wings to your words ]

About mydaughtersmum

"Because I'm a Tinker. That's who I am. Tinkers fix things. But I can't do it alone." (Pause for lots of action. Group Action......) "You did it, Tinker, you saved Spring!" I also have three children, one marriage, a million friends and one life.
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5 Responses to Flowers dried in the folds of a book

  1. Anonymous says:

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  2. Natasha says:

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  3. Divoo says:

    "Who can be stronger than the one who gives birth to babies?" Yes, nobody! Kids amaze us with their words, thoughts, and gestures all the time. :)I've been a regular reader here since quite some time, but I'm leaving a comment for the first time. I love reading your posts. I read them a multiple times, at times. And then, I forget all about the comments. I like the way you write. You surely know how to give wings to the words!~ Divoo

  4. Fabulous; such vital needs, such vital connections. Great to see that you have put it all out there. Thanks.

  5. anand pandey says:

    Your writer 'gotr – गोत्र ' is "Reader's Digest". Uss kabiley ki hain aap.You write like the reader's Digest. A Story, a real story, that has real people, that is told using simple words, short, crisp sentences, and has a complex issue that gets sorted in the reader's mind.. almost always.Jai ho!anand.

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