Category Archives: therapy

Blowing the Lid off a Marriage

A good long day being folded and put away for the night suddenly flares up with an unexpected argument.
I forget what the disagreement was about but I remember how we went about it. A casual remark sparked a more vehement assertion from one of us. My tone became sharp. His voice grew louder. It felt like he was yelling at me. I stopped yelling back, but by now he was on a roll.
I looked at the child who was watching us. I hoped that he would see that both our child and I were distraught. I held her in my arms and lay down with her to sleep. I wanted to reassure her that it’s just a temporary fight, that arguments are a part of life. We’ll sort it out tomorrow.
I slept through the night instead of lying awake like a younger me might have done. It is a milestone in our relationship that I can turn away from an unfinished fight and just fall asleep.
The next morning demanded its own rhythm. Children get ready for school. There is a bus-stop and breakfast routine. He appears. He is sorry but he won’t say sorry. He sits around looking sorry. Some tears flow down my cheeks. We distract each other with conversations about logistics. We talk about other people. Future plans are made. Then we replay the “sorry scene” one more time. He won’t say sorry.
It might be faster to do that. But we are not efficient. Love is not efficient. It slows us down. Marriage chugs along, getting the work done. It has deadlines to meet.
We used to be the annoying couple who never seemed to disagree with each other. Friends would mock us for being so well behaved.
Last year when my husband and I exchanged gifts on our 10th wedding anniversary, I asked him for a few good arguments. I want to let go of the silences, I said. I realized that our “differences” scared us. Afzal would get angry and give up too easily. I would be fearful and try to cover up and deny them. One reason we seemed to get along so well was our fear that we had very little in common.
In the 11th year, we learned to fight. This month we complete 11 years of being married and to celebrate I am going to blow the lid off our marriage.
I am really good at making money and Afzal is really good at spending it.
“You are not supposed to keep money,” he reminds me, “you are supposed to spend it on what you want.”
I don’t get his logic at all. What are banks for? What are accounts for? What are envelopes stashed between saris for? Before I had children I was saving for their school fees. Now I must save for their higher education, no?

Apparently not. Well, I am learning to spend money after I have earned it and he is learning to earn money before he spends it.

I spent most of my growing-up years living in big city apartments. His home is a sprawling haveli in his village. He opens doors and windows and lets fresh air circulate in the house. I am learning to live with dust everywhere.
I grow indoor plants in cracked coffee mugs. He plants tree saplings. He is beginning to share my joy at the tight fist of a new leaf on the windowsill. I pretend to be interested when he gushes about the trees that will surround us 10 years from now. We live on the edge between my city and his village.
When setting food on the table, I use the words practical and logic a lot. He talks of adaab-e-dastarkhwan. I get impressed and accept his version of table etiquette. Besides, he’s in charge of the rules he sets.
We have the compulsive habit of showing each other the mirror. There was a time I would come home enamoured of this CEO I worked with, and narrate anecdotes in awe.
“The property dealers I meet are better than these corporate honchos,” he said. “Whatever they are, they are on the outside. They are honest that way.”
I am worse. I hit out at what he calls family. I show him what his mother endures. Propound theories about his father’s patience. The games other people play.
Outsiders in each other’s worlds, we are blind to hierarchies and unwritten rules. We make each other very uncomfortable in what used to be our comfort zones. Sometimes it is too much and we fight. Stripped of our security blankets, we find ourselves forced to redefine and articulate our choices again and again.
Marriage is the bad cop who keeps us on our toes. Love is the good cop who announces the tea break. The time to look out at the setting sun.
“Stop analysing everything, Natasha,” he interrupts me. “Life is not for analysing, it is for living. Live it.”
“Okay,” I say.
“Why are you so quiet?” he asks me after a long pause.
“You said, no analysis,” I say, “so I am being obedient.”
His face crinkles up in amusement.
Don’t be afraid to love. It is a terrible thing, but it keeps you alive. Be an adventure hunter, determined to keep some part of your innocence alive. I’m still new at this, jotting down notes on the side as we go along.
[This was first published on here: Blowing the lid of a marriage

Do you know where the tears come from?

When I died that day,
I didn’t die.
I broke many parts but I survived.
All of me didn’t live either.
I carried the dead weight with me for years.

That’s also why I cry.

At funerals where everyone else is dry-eyed.
At weddings,
When the bride begins to walk away.
In school, when children get on stage,
Crying brings me back from my dead.

I cry for grandmothers who didn’t stop to mourn.
For people who were gone before I was born.

I cry for children silenced by abuse.
I close my eyes not knowing where the tears come from.
I cry because no one else did.

Parents who hate and try to pass it off as love.
Learning to be indifferent because feeling hurts too much.
Because we are strong.
We must move on.
We must get up and dust our hands.

I cry because it is an ocean inside.
I didn’t know it.
It surprises me.
Tears come in waves.
I struggle to remember the faces for whom I cry.

I cry because he never did.
I cry because he learned to laugh when he wanted to cry.
I cry because I want to stop him but I cannot.
I cry because it bothers him.
It jolts him.

It might make him cry one day.

Message from a friend.

Dear Natasha, the Internet is a huge world but it’s your photos that sustain me in this time. I just lost my father. Thank you and namaste.

[We have a book at home with a story of a baby turtle called Honu. Honu is born on a beach in Hawaii and gets separated from his siblings, but later after a series of adventures gets reunited with his sister and their group swimming together in the ocean.]

In Conversation with Roger Ebert

I am in conversation. When you think about it, Twitter is something like a casual conversation among friends over dinner: Jokes, gossip, idle chatter, despair, philosophy, snark, outrage, news bulletins, mourning the dead, passing the time, remembering favorite lines, revealing yourself.”
“I said it was impossible to think of great writing in terms of 140 characters. I have been humbled by a mother of three in New Delhi.
In the morning, I’ll find a poetic tweet waiting from the wonderful @natashabadhwar, who is a filmmaker and photographer in New Delhi and most of all a mum of three….
I picked up paper and pen in Village Adilabad, District Ghazipur, India and wrote him a reply. It is posted in the Comments section of the link mentioned on the top of this page. It goes like this:

Dear Roger,
Hi, this is the mother of three from New Delhi. We are far away from Delhi, I am typing from a borrowed internet connection. It is late in this hot, dusty, quiet village in East UP. We are in one of our homes. Summer holiday.

I came to Twitter to find a quiet private place where I could put back the pieces of a self that felt broken and bruised in many places. To climb out of the dark hole in which I found myself.

I had turned away from the wonderful world around me, a world that I thrived in, succeeded in, and one that I was hooked to. Yet it was also a place that was superficial and hollow; where truth had been painted over in dark colors. Where it seemed forbidden to raise questions, make inquiries and seek change. (Among other things I had been working in news television for longer than necessary.)

I found that I could not be a mother to my children in this world. I did not know how to nurture myself and those I loved. I did not know how to reconnect with the God who had bailed me out so many times in my teens and early youth.

“Lie fallow. It is vast, empty, raw and sore. But it is fertile.”

Everything seemed alright and yet it did not. Beauty ruled our senses, yet it was not enough. I missed my friends, yet I needed something else more urgently.

“The only way to begin to hear my voice was to walk towards the silence.
“The view from the surface was fine, it was even beautiful. Yet, for reasons unknown to herself, she took the plunge.”

Tweet by tweet, update by update, I began to create a world that I could live in, that I did live in. I wrote to console and entertain, to live in the moment, the moment that in itself was the meaning of my life. I wrote dreams and memories, I began to share and expand my world. I sent out, I received.

“Baby Nam sleeps in my lap, her cheek listening to my heart. Good night for now”
“Mamma, there are many different worlds out there, but the same one sky for all. Aliza returns from her travels.”
“The little girl was very attached to things. She realized that it seemed silly. She transferred her love and loyalty to imaginary people”

For a while I lived at home with myself and met the outside world via internet. I needed to build spaces where love, beauty, humor and inspiration would dominate. I needed to replenish and nourish. To shed my defenses and rip away the cloak of timidity. And bring to the fore everything that I know matters.

“Confidence is a paper plane. It soars, it crashes, I fold a new one.”
“I know anger, I know hate and sadness. I don’t bring them here, they’re useless on stage. Here I practice alchemy, I come to meet alchemists”

Eventually, my alchemy began to work. Eventually, I found other alchemists on Twitter.

Thank you, Roger Ebert, for your smartness and generosity, for your childlike wonder and joy in the world around us. Your confidence in your sixth sense is so inspiring, I’m afraid I’m going to end up doing some very foolish things soon as I resolve to follow my own sixth sense.

“6 year old’s today what-to-do list
“Ask Baby Nam what Papa did when the monkeys sneaked in today, and she will raise her arm and throw imaginary shoes at you”


Ebert: Natasha, you are my shining light on Twitter. You showed me what could be done. You make 140 characters into a universe. I am not surprised that you could have had a period of unhappiness and discontent. Anyone who evokes the joy in what you write could not do so without a deep sense of gratitude.

Readers: I know what you’re thinking. It is: