Category Archives: anger

What were we afraid of losing?

We spent our best years fighting
That was the best thing about them.

We began to live together when we began to fight
We began to fight when we became unafraid of losing.

What were we afraid of losing?
I know I was afraid of losing him.

I was afraid I would be hurt
Now I treat words like falling leaves, not a sharp knife.

When I have no words to counter the barrage from him
I leave the room.

Sometimes I stay and make faces at him
I let him fight with me.

Because that is love
Love slicing through silence like curtains pulled suddenly.

Too much sunlight makes us wince
Sometimes the view distracts us.

Why are you fighting with me, he says
You know why I am fighting with you, I say.

We fight because the silence stifles us
We fight to find out if we are still friends.

I fold some fights in the pages of time
Letting them mature over years.

By the time I bring them out between us
Some of them have become stories to tell.

Sometimes we start fighting as soon as we meet
As if we must accelerate everything.

There isn’t time for everything

So lets get straight to the point, lets fight to keep us together.


Love letter to my firstborn

My dear Sahar,
You were sitting in my lap in the front seat of our car. Your father was driving. I was crying. “My baby, my baby,” I whispered, holding you tight. We had just found out that we were going to have our second child.
My world with you, my perfect world with you, was going to come apart and I was not ready for it.
There’s a photo of you from that year. You are sitting on the floor with a newspaper, and you look up at me pointing a camera at you. The morning sun reflects in your face. I have captioned that photo in my album with these words: This photo was taken when Sahar and I were still one.
We talked to each other all the time. I would tell you what we would do next. I made up stories about everything we saw together. Someone would look at us and say, “You are talking to the baby like she understands you.”
“Of course she understands me.” There was no other possibility.
We both grew up really fast from that point. Now we are a family of five. You are the nine-year-old BIG sister. I am a BIG mamma. You are not so even-tempered any more. You get crabby, you snap at your sisters. You feel ill and tired and quite frustrated.
So do I.
I had a big brother too, when we were children. I don’t remember him ever being like a child when he was a child. He was always Bhaiya, the elder brother. I didn’t always like that about him. I look at you and realize that this is how we push the first born to grow up too soon.
“Don’t be such a child. You have grown up now.”
“Help me. I cannot help you. Hurry up, stop talking, finish your work.”
“Look, don’t cry. I cannot handle this right now.”
“I cannot believe you made this mistake. You know better, how could you do this?”
“Mamma,” you say sometimes, holding back your tears. “Just like you, I get irritable too.”
I need your rebellion, my little woman. It stops me in my tracks and reassures me. You stand up to me when I push you too far. You challenge your father. You tell him what you think, what you feel, what you want.
I also love your spelling mistakes, Sahar. You are a phonetic speller. You invent spellings. “Sichul,” you wrote, when you wanted to label your drawing of a cycle. “Dilicious,” you write, because that’s how you like your food. “Preety,” is what compliments sound like to you. I love your spellings because they are an expression of baby Sahar. They show me the working of a child’s mind. The child I so often forget you are.
I get unexpectedly lucky some days. You call me on the phone when I’m away. Sometimes you pick up your father’s phone when you read my name flashing on it.
“Hello Mamma,” a little girl’s voice says.
“How are you, jaaneman?” I ask.
“I’m fine, Mamma,” you say. “I have finished the drawing I started. We ate ice cream after lunch. It was A’s turn to choose a film today, so we are watching Balto. N has fallen asleep. When will you come home, Mamma?”
Your voice on the phone presses the reset button in my brain. You are so young, just a child, I am reminded. This is the baby whose diapers we changed at roadside dhabas. The baby I bathed in awkward hotel bathrooms. The one who held my hand at airports as we read signs together. I want my baby back.
Just like that, I figured out the formula one day. Sahar is the key. If Sahar is well and okay, we are all okay. When Papa asks what is the matter and Mamma says nothing is the matter, Sahar knows that something is definitely the matter. You get the sniffles and you have aches and allergies. You offer to tell us a joke from your repertoire of a nine-year-old’s jokes.
In a school essay on our family, you wrote, “One thing I don’t like about my mother is that when she is upset, she doesn’t tell me why she is upset.”
I’ll tell you, Sahar. To be able to tell you, I will tell myself first. When I neglect to pay attention to myself, I neglect you. When I hold my pieces together, stretching to be perfect for everyone else, you can see all those pieces of me separately. Like I could see my mother’s.
After a while, it is just a tedious hobby, this desire to be picture-perfect. There is nothing more perfect than stealing time from everyone and everything and running away with you. Our time together is here again. We’ll hold hands till our conversations come back. And listen to your jokes.
Love, Mamma.

[This was first published here: Love letter to the firstborn http://bit.ly/UOHmv2 ]

Rage, rage against the dying of the light

“That girl, your friend’s niece, she got married?”

It was a really random question I asked my mother. We were finishing dinner, she and I. The children had already eaten, I could hear a music based reality show on the TV in the other room.

“She’s back home, didn’t I tell you,” my mother said with alarm in her voice.

“What happened?”

“Oh, she had a terrible experience. The man she was married to was already in a relationship with someone else. He even had a child with that woman.”

“What?”

“Yes. He used to go out alone for long walks after dinner to talk to her on the phone. He would lock his new bride in the house, telling her that it was not safe for her. She didn’t even have a cell phone.”

My mother’s friend is a smart, rich, modern Indian woman. She has no children of her own. Her niece lost her father when she was a child. She has been raised by her mother, her grandmother, her aunt and her uncle (her mother’s brother)

One child among 4 adults. One young, pretty, educated, Delhi-born and raised working woman to be married. An arranged marriage is arranged. And botched.

How did they manage to do this? How did they meet and check out a young man and his family and not get a whiff that they were going to be cheated so badly? I want to know.

My mother tells me more. The in-laws had lied about their property and income. They had been greedy about the dowry they expected. There had been rudeness. Now the girl’s uncle has hired a detective who brought the news of his lover and their child.

No, no, no. Don’t tell me this happens all the time in India. Tell me HOW? Tell me how you guys do it. How and why do you betray your own children like this? Answer me.
Who were you trying to please when you acted against your gut and let this arranged marriage go through? The patriarch amongst you guys? The goddam extended family? The in-laws who never were.

What do you do with your brains? What do you do with your love? I know you felt love for your daughter when you were raising her. What did you DO WITH THAT LOVE?

Did you bury it in a shallow grave and pat in down with your shoe? Put it in the back of a drawer and let it die in the darkness? Leave it whimpering in the dark till it lost its voice?
No. I am NOT crying. I am freaking not crying.

My mother tries to calm me down. I ask her, “Mamma, when they could see that the in-laws were being greedy, that the groom was acting rude, then why didn’t they probe deeper then?”

“It’s not easy to tell these things,” she says.

“They hired a detective now, right? Why didn’t they hire one earlier? Oh I know that’s not how these things work.”

“People can’t tell these things,” she says.

“How can they NOT KNOW? People show so many signs, why do we overlook what is OBVIOUS. Or suspicious. I can SEE IT.

“You were like this even when you were a child,” my mother says.

I know I am screaming for me. I am screaming for all daughters. I am screaming to release the muffled voice inside me. Inside my mother.

I also wanted to live, Neeta screams at the end of Megha Dhaka Tara. “Dada, ami baachte chai.” 
Rescue me, she says. Let me live. Give me permission to live. To love.

Slow Coach


I’m slow.

Say something begins to happen now. I begin to note the symptoms in a few months.
Takes me 6-8 months , sometimes over a year to figure out that I may be depressed. Or angry.

Then 2-3 years, sometimes 6 to figure out why.

Most other things that I’m doing meanwhile, I’m pretty fast at. Fast girl.
Say that again, properly, slowly: I’m pretty fast at most other things I’m doing.

I didn’t used to be so slow. When I was 11 and then 12, I knew I was sad, I even found out I was depressed, and I knew I needed help.

I suppose I finally figured out why we live so long….. we get 50-80 years to amble along slowly, figuring out whatever we want to figure out.
I guess I would like to thank God for that.

Meanwhile there’s a really posh Slow Movement growing really fast in the world. But I want to be slower right now.