I met B at an anniversary dinner a couple fo months ago- the first time after we had Naddu. I like B, shes outspoken and funny and irreverent and she honestly seems to not care about what anyone thinks. Which is why a conversation with her is always refreshing because one doesn’t have to tiptoe on eggs pretending to be all politically correct about anything.
“Why on earth would you choose to have kids in this country?” she asks blatantly after congratulating me and making the appropriate cooing noises when shown a picture of Naddu. “I mean isn’t it enough that we have to live here now you want a child to grow up here also?” Under normal circumstances, I would have simply lashed out, but because I happen to like B, I controlled my spasming facial muscles and asked in what I hoped what a voice not quavering with too much indignation, “Why would you say that?”
“Come on, you can’t be serious. Don’t you remember our childhoods? Being able to cycle when we wanted? Where we wanted? Less pollution. Safer neighbourhoods. Just the overall sense of better life. Now if you want to bring kids into the world wouldn’t you rather atleast do it in a safer more progressive country where you can give your kids what they need?”
“Bringing a kid into the world like this…” is such a hot topic of discussion, more so whenever happens in the city which disrupts our already hanging-in-the-balance political atmosphere. I have no answer here except that everytime someone talks about the future, I say a prayer for Naddu and all other children who will inherit our wars and fights and burdens. The tension, the volatility, the mistakes no longer only belong to this side of the world. It ‘s something of a global issue and I also hope that along with all the bad things they also inherit a sense of hope, peace and faith that good eventually does win out over evil because in many cases, and in the way I choose to bring up Naddu, believing does make it so. M put it well when I asked her if she thought of this before she had her baby and she says “Of course, I wondered what kind of a screwed up world will he grow up in- and why on earth do I want to do this…and then I realized it is because a part of me is selfish and I want to know and live the kind of hope only a baby brings- one that makes you feel glad that there is a tomorrow.”
Day One: Brown Stripey Kurta
Day Two: Dark Red Khaddi Kurta- both made for him by his besotted Nanna-mama.
New parents, I think are the luckiest people on earth. They have so many wonderfully exciting firsts to look forward to. First smile, first tooth, first step, first word, first birthday, first day at school…the list is endless, my mom says. Apparently she is still crossing off firsts of her own kids! To Nadir’s first eid, surrounded by family, friends, love, duas, peace and happiness.
A friend of mine says that her mother calls the phenomenon of post natal depression “Angrezi Bakwaas”- that when you have a child you should be so naturally overjoyed and fulfilled that sadness and frustration are the last things on your mind. The same friend went through a rough patch following the birth of her son and she couldn’t talk to her mother about it because…well..according to her mother, she was being a drama queen and thousands of women across the world did this everyday, without the help that my friend had.
A lot of my friends who had babies went through a period of adjustment following their baby’s birth. Some more tough than others. Tantrums, tears, frustration, excitement, joy, madness, chaos, exhuastion, and yes maybe even depression- any new mom would smile and nod hysterically at these words- they are very familiar indeed. The change is enormous and you cannot predict when the sheer overwhelmingness of it will creep up on you. Some of us are luckier than others, and a few tantrums and screaming banshee fits later, we are able to put the whole thing behind us and actually BE happy. Others are not so lucky. A doctor friend tells me how this can be traced back to your own feeling of not having done enough for yourself as a person before motherhood collides with you. “If you feel that the child slows you down, changes your career path and basically doesn’t allow you the life you want, you will get upset. Hormones play a huge role too because suddenly there will be a sense of loss because the bbay which was yours alone now beloings to the world. You will be upset at that too.”
The first 6 weeks were a rollercoaster ride. You did not know when a dip was coming and you felt like screaming with exhilaration at the highs. The lows exhausted you and even the steady plateaus of routine just made you antsy in anticipation of what was going to come. Today, 4 months, later, I still have to tell myself, very strictly, to take each day as it comes. To not get upset when a previously planned day goes haywire. And not start counting my chickens in advanced if we have a great time-managed week. I still sometimes have to talk myself out of the disappointment of delayed shopping trips and cancelled visits and missed deadlines and learn to rejoice in the milestones that I am able to be a part of each day with Naddu because of my decision to be at home with him. Some days it takes every ounce of your energy and positivity and sense of humour to be able to look at your well ordered life from before and smile and exclaim, “oh what the hell” and actually mean it. And the funny thing is the more the more that happens, the more you actually DO mean it.
B says she cannot see herself as a mom (yet?) because she doesn’t think she could live without her work. It is what defines her and without it, well, she wouldn’t be B, she says, souding worried. She and N have been married almost 2 years now. A crazy fast paced wonderful whirlwind of two years that show no sign of slowing down.
The last 4 months of momminess have been startling. Chaotic. Confusing. And earth shatteringly right. I could not have, of course, seen the rightness of it when I was happily submerged in my teaching and work. I loved that life and no amount of goo-goo eyed babies and their rhapsodizing glowing mothers could convince me that that is what k and I needed to make our family “complete”. “We are happy as we are now…” I went blue in the face saying. “We have each other and our work which we love and a great set of friends and really, right now isn’t the time.” We didnt’ just mouth the words, we actually meant them. So where in the well oiled machinery of it all, did we suddenly decide we wanted to throw in a little monkeywrench? And more importantly WHY?
“It’s like my life will have to go on hold if we decide to have a baby now,” says C. “And getting back into it will be so stressful and I will have lost out on precious time.” Her husband nods his agreement. A baby right now is NOT a good idea. They cannot afford to put their life on hold.
I am caught right now in the midst of a baby boom. They are being born with a fericuousness that belies us turning 30 this year. It is the Year of the Baby. I see transfortmation all around me- A previously die hard live and let live type mom has suddenly taken to telling all the others how they should have their kids sooner rather than later. Another mom to be quit her job and currently nurturing a more wholesome environment of non-competitiveness at home. The urge to change gets overwhelming and as you yourself succumb to the many wonders of mommyhood, the desire and need to drag along others is intense. You want to tell them how amazing the feeling of a kid is. But you shouldn’t. You want to extol the virtues of motherhood, how fulfilling it is, how perfect it feels and how you wonder why you ever thought this would hinder your career plans. THIS is the ultimate plan you want to shout deliriously happy. But you can’t. And more importantly you shouldn’t.
Timing is most important in all this. And that is what I meant to say. The rest? All fluff.
Truly, it takes a baby- your baby- for you to start feeling shaky about the grantedness you take life for. Right down to your toes.
As people go, I think I am a pretty “faithy” person. I believe in the good over the bad, mostly and I don’t think I stress unnecessarily about bad things happening until…well…until they happen. And even then, my usual first instinct is to find something good that that comes out of it and try to focus on that. Allah ka shukar, we have been blessed and lucky in our beliefs and lives.
Having Naddu has brought on a whole new dimension to life. A scarier place to be- where having faith takes a lot more than it did before- mainly because it is not only about you. It’s about the tiny little person God created for you. Naddu goes pretty much everywhere with us. Friends places, weddings, coffeeshops, drives. Yes, I am of that school of thought. It is remarkable how many people I know have issues with that. “Dont take him everywhere- nazar lagtee hai” “Don’t expose him- nazar laghtee hai” “Aray keep him safe-nazar lagtee hai.” and yes even “Don’t take too many pictures of him- its not good.”
The concept of nazar- or evil eye- is an unusual one. By definition, it is “the belief is that a person – otherwise not malific in any way – can harm you, your children, your livestock, or your fruit trees, by *looking at them* and praising them. The word “evil” is unfortunate in this context because it implies that someone has “cursed” the victim, but such is not the case.” Having a dimply baby (modest mother aren’t I?) means that you get seen- or “eyed”- on the streets, at shops, occasions and more often than not by your own loved ones. I have had many well meaning friends, mothers and elders tell me to “nazar utaro” Naddu when I get home. Some methods require burning of chillies, some breaking of eggs with certain prayers, some visiting some mazars- I could go on.
I have been thinking about this a lot and of course everyone has to reach a conclusion that they are happy with. Mainly ever since Naddu was born, I have read the Ayatul Qursi on and the 4 Quls on him all the time- many times a day and night. That is my real-life version of staying the nazar. I cannot bring myself to do all the other stuff- because for me the power of prayer remains the strongest. Also I figure that nazar aside, I am sure the people who look at him also give their love and prayers right? Surely one cancels out the other?