going for the gold.

God knows there are enough articles out there to make any parent practicing in the know that competitiveness in the extreme form is wrong. That somewhere along the next two decades of your child developing into an adult it will have some form of negative impact, either emotionally or security wise which will probably result in the said kid either breaking down or turning into an ass of an adult, one who has no empathy or compassion. Ok ok I exaggerate and on the heels of what was an exciting Olympics, filled with emotional soul raising moments, I have to admit I also have been swept away by the excellence and high that can be found in watching your human beings sport (and excel at it).

My lifeline whatsapp group and I have had this conversation a few times- about what is lacking in us that makes us pushy and aggressive as mothers wanting their kids to be just brilliant at something. We all agree that our parents didn’t really push us. That they let us choose and decide and just generally be good at what we were at. They were not hard core and perhaps as a result we are not. That is not to say, that we haven’t found our niches of excellence and sculpted good lives for ourselves, but we acknowledge and accept that the “push” was lacking. And of course the conversation then moves onto whether in the times of today, that push has become almost a necessity in order to give kids (and their eventual adult selves) a lifeline in case other things don’t go their way.

Nadi loves swimming and while it started out all water fun and recreational, he suddenly developed an edge in it. And that edge led us to the club heats yesterday. I will be lying if I don’t admit the butterflies that assaulted my heart as we walked into the Gala, flags flying, music playing, the smell of chlorine and the chatter of excited children commingled with instructions from parents. “Whatever you do, DO NOT LOOK BACK” one mom assertively told her 7 year old. “JUST FOCUS ON SPEEDING THROUGH” told another one wisely. A tiny bit awed, I turned to Nadi, and out of my mouth comes ” You sure you want to do this?” He looked at me weirdly and says, “Yes of course, why?” And in a spurt of good parenting I say, “Well I don’t want you to feel pressured in case you know, you don’t make it to the final race.” He looked at me weirdly again and said.”Yes mama but that’s what the heats are for- to decide na?”

Thing is we underestimate and over complicate things for our children so much every step of the way, out of love and protection of them. He was doing something he loved, and whatever extra that came with it was just the cherry. For my little fish, the fact that he would get to swim was kind of the point, and meeting and doing it with friends the other bonus. It wasn’t him who needed to understand that, it was me.

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The races began and no matter how much you tell yourself that it’s all in the name of good healthy competition, by the time his race came around, I just wanted him to win dammit. Until the second he took that dive and hit the water. And then the joy of watching someone you love do something they love took over in an instant. There are no words. There are slightly damp eyes though.

We made it to team reserve. And though there is a high chance we won’t get to swim in the actual race today, the beaming wet face, stuffing itself with the fries and Oreo shake, the shiny happy eyes and the slightly more confident stance for having done something he loves was my gold for today.

 

lovely illustration by Davide Bonazzi taken from Pinterest

 

Midnight Feasts of the Grown up kind.

It was the days of 35/S. I remember waking up once in the middle of the night and following a trail of laughter and conversation to the kitchen with the round rotating top table, only to find all the adults of the house indulging in what seemed like a midnight pagan ritual of eating without the little people. It seemed wrong and oh so secret and simultaneously so completely exciting. I recall vaguely sharing with cousins and siblings the next day that indignation of our parents looking so happy and chatty in the wee morning hours and that too, without us. If I squint hard enough, I see khajla pheini on the table, and anda paratha and I can smell the tea. The one that is made in saucepans not in kettles.

Perhaps because I am that parent zone right now, a lot of my own childhood memories seem to be sliding back into consciousness. I am remembering details and regurgitating instances that I had even forgotten I was aware of, much less that they had imprinted in my mind. Sehris at my mother’s house  have always been a time of conversation, laughter (and fights too) and time spent together. Having hailed from a family of mostly morning people, we would be at our best most hysterical at this point, truly turning it into a fun if exhausting get together. Though my own family now  is smaller and younger right now,  and K is definitely less of a lets-socialize-at sehri person, today, Lily scuffled into the kitchen at 3:30am while we ate and chatted, and then as she stood there, staring at us with a mixture of quizzical fascination and bewilderment,  I was suddenly transported back to that night when I walked in and discovered the grown ups having fun without us.

Recap: Suddenly Seven

I used to do these recaps fairly often back in the early days of parenthood, excitedly logging in gurgles and sounds and quirks and likes and oddball bits of information with much love and clearly more time. Reading back it makes me glad I did because the memory is an odd thing, and while some things come into sharp focus as the years go by, so many little fun things melt into a warm blurry mess. And since Nadi’s seventh birthday just passed, what better time to put down for posterity some of those things that I want to one day embarrass him with?

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Dear Nadooni,

Watching you with your friends is unreal. The relationships, the conversations, the self assured way you suddenly fall into a leader role, the nuttiness and especially the happy vibe you exude that draws your friends to you are all things I watch with fascination, especially since you were a shy little person not too long ago.

I love that you ask questions I have never even thought of, about things I haven’t noticed in detail.

We have had our battles, you and I, but we both know we are each other’s best champion, even in the middle of what you right now call a “daanto”. Isn’t that cool?

I know you love me but how you are with your dad is unreal. It’s like a force field of love and I can see it emanating from your eyes as you follow his every move to try and emulate his existence. From what he wears to a repeat of his phrases and his interests and habits. It is borderline creepy. Some days I get jealous. I have to admit. But mostly I am just mushy.

Everyday as soon as you come back from school, even before changing out of that filthy uniform, you must grab a paper from the printing tray, reach out for whatever pen is handy and start drawing. It is almost like the school day isn’t complete till your hands have sketched out something- expelled that leftover energy brought in from the playground. Once done is when you finally focus and get going on the usual routine.

You are quite impressed with the fact that post workouts my arms have become”tighter” and that I also sweat (like Abba, you said in starry eyed wonder) but then you grab my arm from underneath and tell me I need to work harder since it is still “quite squishy”.

When Lily says a longer, fancier word or sentence than what we are used to hearing, you will cock your eyebrow at me above her head with that barely contained grin you have and we will both share a moment of pride and excitement at how grown up and amazing she is.

You are a complete push over when it comes to her. From packing up her endless lines of animals to going to the other end of the house to fetch her Elsa’s shoes, you will grumble and huff but comply. You love annoying her as well. And when you think I am not looking, you will do something to bug her, which when I call you out upon, you will cheekily answer to with “But that’s what brothers are for!” I don’t quite know where you picked up that line but it makes me laugh.

You are a creature of habit where food is concerned. Just like me and your Nanna. You can have the same thing day and day out for years. Happily.

Your obsession with characters of a villainous nature is going strong. You find them interesting, studying their mannerisms and intentions to a point of exhaustion. Your villains of the hour right now are Hans who has reached delightful new lows in your eyes because he pretended to be good and Megamind whose dialogue “Remember, bad guys always lose” you have repeated ad nauseam to the point when both Lily and Leens are quoting is as a mantra.

One only needs to say the word “poop” for you to start giggling crazily. I don’t get it. I thought it was a boy thing till Lily and Leens also followed suit. Now I just think its mad.

I love watching you with Aanoo. It’s like your face physically morphs into this mushy looking, soft eyed pulp. You talk to her in this weird baby-like tone (which we all agree is quite scary but in a terribly endearing way) and she completely responds by always trying to touch your face. It’s oddly reminiscent of you with Lily when she was a baby. You are exactly the kind of big brother these 3 girls will use to their hearts content to get away with god-knows-what.

These days you (and Lily) love hearing stories of when me, Maii and Bia were small. You want details on what we did, where we lived and what our fights were about. I am really enjoying this as well, because it is jogging my memory on details I thought I had forgotten.

You can do all those daily little things on your own now. Eat your food. Take a bath. Style your hair. Tie your laces. Make your chocolate milk. Choose your clothes. And yet you still want me to be next to you every night just as you fall asleep. Thank God for that. It’s true what they say, that the days are so long but the years are so short. I love you so so very much my baby boy. Always be as you as you can be.

Love, Mama

 

 

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There are certain things you dread post a trauma. Or in my case a loss. Things that remind you of what is no more or drive home the point that that loss is a permanent one. One niggles that painful nub tentatively, not quite sure how badly it may hurt or bother and sometimes one is pleasantly surprised at how many steps towards “normal” life have been taken quite inadvertently.

Yesterday was M’s baby shower. Even a month ago, I was not in the mood. M and I are babily connected, something that I always considered a blessing. Last time we had daughters 20 hours apart and this time too, we were going to have kids within the week of each other. So I had no idea how I was going to feel and this time, I didn’t want to do something for someone else that didn’t feel good for me too.

Truth be told, I am so so excited to have a baby around again that while yes, there are sad pangs, the anticipation of that baby smell and gurgles is a happy high and one that selfishly, I want to celebrate. I have also realized I like people getting together. It is one of things that in my currently enlightened epiphanic state, I am in the mood for.
It heals. Laughing groups of people with pretty lights and decorations. Like on my birthday also.

So we went all out for M, who mind you isn’t exactly the ideal person to inspire celebration. She is obsessive, guilt-ridden, suffocatingly affectionate when in the mood and massively annoying and a control freak all in one. Yes, lovably so, but still. To remain consistent in wanting to do something for her requires Herculean effort, even though it comes from the heart. Many pompoms, hearts and raindrops and clouds and food and colour and friends and cousins later, we were all achey painy, the kind of tired  only good parties filled with close people inspire.

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April has been all about showers of both the rain and baby mama sort. It has rained, leaving everything cleaner, greener, lighter. It is raining outside as we speak and I am already looking forward to going over to Mama’s later for chai and pakoras. I feel grounded. Surrounded by the right people. Happy enough to ignore the minuses when they come to needle me.

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.

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(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.

warm postings from Karachi

Winter time in Karachi isn’t really winter-the-season time. The weather takes it time in making up its mind and there isn’t a marked change in attire- light wraps and on a more nippy day, a sweater of sorts at the most. We usually only get Real Winter for a few days, and then, everyone rushes out in their lovely smart jackets and wraps and boots to celebrate the deviance. No, winter in Karachi is definitely more of a feeling. Hope, happiness, laziness, friends family and good, all mixed up and tumble dried.

As December rolls around, there is a festivity in the air. Despite the fact that work and school is in progress till atleast the third week, the holiday mode is infectious. The twinkling lights and Christmas decor in shop windows help- yes our Enid Blyton and Archie comics childhood does link holiday season with snow and Santa. What also intensifies the joyous anarchy in the air in terms of work timelines and bedtimes, is the avalanche of friends and family that starts arriving for their annual Karachi fix. Late night chat and chai sessions- a long dinner grabbed with a friend while catching up on the last two years of life, park plans with the many kids, coffee plans with the old comfies, discovering a new breakfast nook with the love- all have a sense of lazy fun and long days all playing to the music of winter in Karachi.

I am in a super illustratey mood these days. Loving the raw marker feel that has Nadi enraptured these days. The roughness of the stroke the loss of details are all qualities in these one-minute sketches that are in line with the current mood of simply letting things roll as they will, without a need to examine, think or control.  Want to make tiny little drawings of everything to capture the feeling in the air. Truly feeling the joy.