What do you ask for?

My earliest gaussian-clear memory of asking my mother about powers of the Higher Power as it may be, was after I saw this TV series called “Out of this World”. It was about a girl whose father was an alien and she had the power to stop time. To the me of that time it was the coolest most amazing gift ever and I asked for it with most heart I could. I vaguely recall making my index fingers meet horizontally a couple of times (her mode of stopping time) after that to see if my “prayer” had been answered.

“Did you know whatever you want comes from Allah Mian?” asked my mother once, when I think we sisters wanted something and we had been told no. If memory serves correctly it was a Wendy house, elaborately made of wood at the time we lived in Qatar. We used to drive past that big toy shop and see it all beckoning and lovely in the window. “So we should ask Him and not you?” I clarified, a tad confused. “Will he tell you to get it?” I needed to know the logistics.

Fast forward to more years later when I asked my mother if God gave us whatever we wanted if we asked for it hard and true, even if it seemed impossible. I suspect, though I am not too clear on the details now, that some kind of heart matter was involved at the time. “Well, she said, weighing the response and trying not to smile, “if He thinks that’s the best you should have then yes He will eventually give it to you”. It was a committed non committal answer that made my conversations with God become more personal and what I think was a pivotal point in how I evolved in my connection with Him.

My system of belief has always been an almost childlike one- simple and straightforward. Maybe that is how I was initially introduced to religion and spirituality but the lesson has stuck. I shy away from the complications and aggressive status updates that are abundant and toxic now and I am interested more in feeding that part of me that applies the faith factor to living life as best as we can.

September 12, 2010. The day after Zo died. Ruby, my wonderful, loud, warm, and somewhat exasperating doctor, came in to see me. She was exuberantly dressed in a bright saree, with big earrings dangling from her ears and cheerful red lipstick. It was the day after Eid and the flurry of celebrations for us by then had turned into a flurry of arrangements for Zo’s janaza.  I was sitting in my room, waiting to be called to go to see Lily in the NICU for out few hourly visit. “You asked for perfect healthy babies, Sara” she told me, “and He always grants your duas no matter what. The only thing we can’t imagine is how He will do it so that it is the best way possible for us, and for that we must trust Him.” I don’t think I understood the full import of the words back then but they have come to revisit me many a times since then. It was probably the best and most comforting thing I had heard in those few days . It was true, I have it in my journal also from the night before I had them. The prayer for them to be perfect. To not suffer. I actually did not say I needed them both with me. Not in so that many words.


(Zo, from the day she was born.)

So after all this, what do I ask for? I still ask for it all of course; all that He wants to give me. And then I pray for the strength to be able to deal with it all because, us human beings, us tiny specks of dusts in the vastness of life, we have no idea of how much we can get if only we knew how to ask it right. One of the hardest things to practice has been to try to curtail what I think I want for myself, with the knowledge that what He may have in store will be better than my wildest imaginations. To leave it upto Him is both easy and really difficult, so I always put in a side note now, of what I would like  it to be, and could He please possibly make THAT the best thing for me. After all, we control freaks are hard to subdue.


But why.

“It’s come at last”, she thought, “the time when you can no longer stand between your children and heartache.” Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Trying to explain to a 4 year old the intricacies in simple language of what makes a relationship can be the most dizzying most repetitive ride in the world. Our first year in Big School was been a resounding success. Nadi did things that took my breath away mainly because I was still looking at him with preschooler mom eyes. The fact is the summer between preschool and nursery, magic happens and suddenly there is a proper little boy in place of your baby. Fully armed with my insider knowledge that Nadi “takes a while to adjust” we walked him to his classroom, looking perfect in his new uniform. I looked at him apprehensively. He shoved both hands in his shorts’ pockets half turned, smiled, said “Bye Mama” and sauntered casually into class in an almost debonair manner, pausing for a second to check out some puzzles on the shelf. I remember coming home in shock at my candid dismissal.

Cue month 4 or 5 into classes and regular school life, I start hearing of one girl’s name appear more frequently in conversation. It’s a new name and I’m intrigued. Nadi takes his time with people generally and for someone to have clicked for him in this spontaneous manner is interesting to me. “She won’t play with me” Nadi explained, a bit lost and sad. “Why doesn’t she play with me?” Despite my promises to let playground issues resolve themsleves, my radar goes up and i spend a few weeks observing and assessing the situation from a distance. “Nadi,” I try explaining to him, “she likes playing with different things. And you can’t make someone play what you want them to play” “But why, Mama?” he asks simply. “My game is fun too- it’s called running.” “I know Nadi, but she likes the sandpit” “But that’s boring” he claims.

Watching your child bewildered at someone not liking them or not wanting to play with them is an odd helpless feeling. Especially when you know your kid likes them enough to be hurt by it. Part of me wanted to go upto the little person and say “Hey. What’s wrong with you? My kid’s awesome! Play with him” and the other part of me, the newer side I was a bit taken aback to discover, said, out loud to Nadi, “You have other friends who love playing your game, why not focus on them.?” “Doesn’t she like me, Mama?” The million dollar question. The thing is, I, from my vast playground experience, by now had figured out that she likes him and even wants to play with him but she has stuff going on that makes her want to do different things. But this isn’t a sitcom and they aren’t teenagers yet. Thankfully the wisdom in learning to let things be pays off and somehow Nadi has made some kind of peace with the fact that this girl, no matter how much he wants to be friends with her, will exhibit mixed feelings with him.


Last week, as we talk about going back to school and on being even more “big” now, he suddenly asks, “Do you think she has grown up now and is not so silly anymore?” So carefully masking any giggles or concern, I ask casually, “Silly? Why would you say she was silly?” “Because Mama, one day she would say I am your friend and the next day she would say no you’re not. Isn’t that silly?” “Umm yes, well that’s not very grown up. Maybe because she isn’t 5 yet?” Being 5 is everything to us right now. He nods wisely and says, “Yes, you are right, she is not 5 yet. But I am. We had my party na?” Playground relationships are messy, be warned.

Yes, this broke my heart a little, because I imagine it broke Nadi’s heart a little to not be friends with someone when in his life he thought all it took to be friends was to want to be friends. I wish I could stop this tide from starting- this ebb and flow of friends, heartbreak, love, disappointment that is going to come into his life. I pray all he finds himself surrounded with all is life are people who want to be around him. But secretly I am perversely relieved too, that my serious, sensitive, nutty, sparkly eyed little boy who has the capacity to be emotionally over-involved into his own processes of figuring things out, has managed to cross this tiny little starters hurdle  on his own. I am happy, if heavy-hearted that this makes him a tinier bit more equipped for the stuff up ahead which will hurt and ache and pain as much as it will be exciting and growing and fun, but more than anything else, I feel useless because all I will ever really be able to do, is be there.