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: http://www.livemint.com/articles/2012/07/05193229/Marriage-Don8217t-do-it.html and has 40 comments from readers)
Finally I have a sense of why I don’t use the word ‘Wife.’
Thank you very much, appreciate the hard work everyone has put into creating this corporation.
For now, I am friend, lover. Lover, friend.
I give, I receive.
I love, I am beloved.
I’m hiding behind him because the superficial world, the chamki world, the world of aggression and competition tempts me too much. I love it, I thrive in it………. but I don’t want to spend all my time and life there.
Its empty and it also depresses me…. a lot.
I’m using him as a shield.
I’m also saying Protect me, Hide me, Take Care of me.
Sometimes he does…. sometimes he says, Honey, I gotta go right now. (or something like that!)
I’m also hiding because I feel too thin, too flat to come out and be photographed.
Besides its a great way to touch him, to hug him. He makes me desperate, what can I say.
(Photo taken by Jyotindra at Sush’s Chitt Park home in early 2002. Much before Shaadi)
In November 2008, 2 months after Naseem was born, I retrieved this photo from a heap inside a drawer, dusted it and put it up on my notice board. I could see it when I was nursing the baby, after I had yelled at my daughters, when I felt lonely, lost, hungry and angry.
I looked at it and wondered why I had put it up. There was a reason why but I took my time to understand what.
It was a cross connection time.
Last year, after NamNam was born, I needed to hide, to hold, to be protected. I was exhausted and weak, happy and disturbed. I wanted a shield.
Last year, after Nam Nam was born, he really had to go. (Maybe he had to run, that might be how he felt. To his credit, he didn’t)
Makes the most atrocious (embarrassing) PC. Unapologetically.
Is masseur par excellence.
Expert at cleaning the bathroom he uses…. he dries the floor with the wiper…. even if the effort makes him bathe with sweat.
Hates make-up. (But not made-up women)
Is excellent with our children…. even though he insists vehemently that he “Hates” children related chores. Brushing teeth, going park, attending school functions.
(‘Why should I travel by bus when I can afford a car? Get a maid, Natasha!’)
Has a special something with Nam Nam, although he dismisses it as my desire so strong that I imagine it.
Worships his Ammi.
I told him today that he is a conservative liberal.
Dreams up what Chris (our XXLsize English friend) used to call Beg Plans.
Dreams up these dreams and while others are silently praying that he may get over it, embarks on doing them…….. and pain or no pain, gain or no gain ends up doing them.
Some kind of a financial maverick. I cannot elaborate on that yet.
I’m beginning to realise that he has some strengths and talents of genius proportions (calibre)
I can’t quite put my finger on it yet…… but I am slowly getting a sense of it.
(partly from all the suffering he himself endures…. and partly from the suffering caused in me as a side effect of loving him and being true to him as intensely as I am)
Sounds a bit off, I know, but I am saying that even all this misery, pain, heartache and hidden diseases point to something big brewing inside. It wouldn’t hurt so much if he weren’t aiming so high and working so hard. And stretching himself all the way from Adilabad to God knows best where.
It may well be that in some way he is stuck. On his own, he is not being able to make a breakthrough. Or he isn’t ready for it, yet.
We’ll find out.
So what the hell are we two doing together? We don’t know yet, but we’re keeping at it. God guiding us.
He is so silly, he doesn’t even know yet that we have the same God. I mean Af is silly, not God, of course.
Is an artist. People artist. Self trained. Sometimes frustrated, but then this path is hard.
Meanwhile he continues to make atrocious PC.
And brush their teeth at night even as he can’t stand anymore with that pain in his legs. Then massage three pairs of little feet to put them to sleep.
Homeless at Home
I’m a film-maker , an artist, a mother and my husband’s lover. What’s wrong with the word, wife?
Must be something not okay about it because I do not say I am a wife. I am probably not a few things a wife is supposed to be. And I don’t want to be those roles either…. So I won’t use that word for now.
(Things are great between Afzal and me….this is a better marriage and partnership than I could ever have imagined even if I had really pushed my imagination from a feminist standpoint. So not using the word wife is not a bad thing, I think)
Coming back to why I feel homeless at home.
There are a few issues here: God, religion, dress code, our mothers. Some others which are unconnected to my marriage: the house is too big, I’m too lazy for consistent housewifery, I worked and traveled for news television for too long.
Also these days accentuated by the fact it’s the month of Razman and this is the first time that I am at home watching Afzal observe his fasts. Empathy, guilt, love…. A combination of emotions causing me to be uncomfortable in my skin.
When he fasts and suffers and prays and I don’t, we become very different. And ‘differences’ is still a bad word for me. It makes me insecure and a little scared.
And that’s the time when it really helps that we have two children who still make us chase them to eat and use the potty and separate them when they are too tired to be nice to each other.