Skinny jeans, trendy tops, layered haircuts, lipgloss. Waxing, threading, shaving, plucking. Puberty, adolescence, hormones.
Cell phones, Facebook, texting, MSN, girlfriends. Boys? Maybe.
I think I have freaked out at the idea of Amu growing up since she was born. It has been only 12 years since then, but it’s staggering to think of the sheer GROWTH that has taken place. My baby transformed slowly but inexorably in front of my very eyes, and there was nothing I could do to hold on to her precious childhood, except take hordes of photos and videos, and save almost every drawing she ever made.
When I think of myself at the age of 12, what comes to mind is an embarrassingly awkward phase. Puberty would hit 2 years later, so I was still rather ‘ungroomed’, and the few photos of myself in the family albums are glaringly testament to that hairy fact. Reminding myself that it WAS the 80’s is small consolation for having hated most of the clothes in my wardrobe, which I admit consisted of a lot of hand-me-downs. It also didn’t help my self esteem much that I was rather low on the ladder of, ahem.. physical development, as compared to others in my peer group.
I feel a twinge of astonishment that it has been 25 years since I was 12. Some of my memories from those days are appallingly fresh, and yes, it does sometimes feel startlingly like yesterday…
I can’t help drawing parallels between my daughter and I, even though it is apparent to me that she is a product of a completely different environment and a completely different set of rules from the ones that I was brought up with. My parents were an odd combination of liberal-thinking and deep-rooted conservatism with a touch more of the latter than the former. It was enough to make me a somewhat rebellious teenager (compared to my older sisters), a trait that has had a hard time reconciling itself to cultural and societal norms as I grew up, married, and became a parent myself.
Someone said, giving birth to your daughter is like giving birth to your own best friend.
Friend or alter ego, I’m not quite sure. But these days as I watch my awkward little daughter blossom into this pretty young lady, I am vicariously pleased by how very different she is from myself. I’m secretly thrilled when she tells me people think she looks like me, though I myself fail to see the resemblance, especially when I recall how I looked and behaved at her age. She has poise and perfect teeth, at least five pairs of jeans in different shades of denim, and a professional haircut, all the things I never had.
When I was 12, I went to an all-girl school. There were no cell phones nor internet, and computer studies had just been introduced as a subject. It was the age of Enid Blyton and Archie comics, playing badminton and pitthoo and riding bicycles in the enclosed armed forces apartment complex where we lived. Orange ice lollies cost two rupees, and so did a packet of chilli chips. I made friends with boys my own age, who raced their bikes with me and hung out at the communal ‘hangout’ till 11 o clock in the night on weekends. I also heard the f word for the first time, didn’t quite grasp what it meant and didn’t much care. I was too busy imagining myself being married to the utterly handsome but oblivious ‘Chuckie’, my 16 yr old crush, or being jealous of the beautiful and rather ‘developed’ K, who had a lot of people falling madly in love and recording mixed tapes for her. My sister Fatu was my arch-enemy in those days, and Sax, my closest confidante. Angst was not knowing exactly how well-liked I was in school within my group, which in retrospect I think made me try too hard.
Yesterday after picking up Amu from a farewell party for a friend whose parents had decided to go away from the madness that our country has become, she seemed troubled about something. She wouldn’t tell me what was bothering her at first, but as she talked about the party, it made me aware of the dynamics in her peer group. I found myself spiralling back into my own past and my own issues with friends from school, fitting in, and being popular. It dawned on me that Amu might be genetically programmed to be as averse to affiliating herself with any ‘groups’ as I was.
I don’t want to draw parallels. I want things to be different for her, easier. I want her to be all the things I wasn’t, do all the things I couldn’t. Then again, I wish she could have some of the things I had, the lack of gadgets, the simple pleasure of not having so much choice, a country without terrorists and fewer cars on the roads. Mostly though, I hope she remembers being 12 as vividly as I do when she is my age.
Dearest Munee – It has been a little over 24 years since we first met. This puts our meeting bang in the period you talk about in this blog. Zabardast! I bear witness to this discourse and am proud to have been part of it. Your ownership of me as your “big bhaloo brother” (I dropped the in-law from brother-in-law cause you have always treated me as bhai – and that is a wonderful feeling). Zabardast again.
Life for you has been kind, particularly in the manner that I have observed your evolution into “Munee the Mother” – clearly this virtue is visible for all to see (at least for all those that have their eyes open)! It is a fact that I can vouch for! You have added a lot of value to your being over these two decades and it give me pleasure to be privy to this magnanimous reflection. It gives me even more joy to read between the lines and to listen to the whispers of a very caring, loving, and deserving mother.
Judging by YOU, your parents have done wonders and the same can be said for my Sakina, my Shireen and that naughty soul mate, our Fatu. Judging our AMU, kya baat hey, Hozi has little to do with her qualities, well maybe his greatest contribution is his unconditional love that nurtures her growth in her mother’s bubble.
Amu, hamree kamal ke beti, is genetically programmed to be MUNEE-II and that is a blessing. I always thought there weren’t enough of you.
Write on girl – more memories please!
All my love and unconditional support
Only today I found this beautiful post of yours, dear Munira. Wonderful memories and reflections. And the photos are excellent. I also read the above comment by Bhai. Great reading all together. I must check out all your other memories! Love to you and all your family.
Bhai means ‘brother’ in Urdu Aunty Uta 🙂 It makes me so glad to think that you have been reading and enjoying all my past posts! You are a sweetheart indeed. Thank you so much for being one of my most regular readers! You don’t know how much I appreciate it. Much love!
I read a lot of other posts too, Munira. But yours are really special for me. I just love your writing. I hope I’ll be able to read much more of it. Take care! Much love from your Australian friend Uta.