Balancing act ~ 2

Last night I encountered a gray African parrot  at a friends place. The parrot belongs to his father, who is a bird aficionado, and Raju, the African gray, has been around for many years. I walked over to his cage for a closer look and he immediately bristled and turned away, wary of newcomers, but I whistled to reassure him of my friendliness.

His feathers settled down and he slowly turned around to inspect me with an unblinking birdy eye, head cocked to one side. Then he whistled back. I whistled again. He whistled too.

‘Hello birdy,’ I said.

‘Hello!’ said Raju.

‘Helloooo….’ I repeated, stunned.

‘Hellooo!’ said Raju.

Needless to say, I would have been quite content to hang with Raju the remainder of the evening, shooting the breeze, but etiquette demanded I socialize with my human friends. I’m told Raju does a great imitation of friend’s Dad, repeating an idiosyncratic phrase in his exact voice, calling out to the chowkidars loudly,  ‘Javaiiiiiid…..’…..’Mukhtiaaaaar….’. He also greets everyone with a chirpy ‘Good morning’ every day.

I had a cup of very good coffee, as a result of which I had trouble falling asleep. (This is the first time I actually put two and two together)

Consequently, I woke up later than usual. Huz said he woke up during the night and heard me making strange purring sounds as I slept and he wondered what I was dreaming of. It was so weird to be told I was doing something I was completely unaware of doing. He was so amused.

Amu has been agitated of late. I watched as she paced the rug yesterday, going in circles as she followed the border pattern.

‘Have you ever considered that I might actually really need to see a therapist?’ she asks.

‘Nonsense, therapists are useless. I can do a better job of sorting you out,’ say I, the bird whisperer.

We sat on my bed and talked for an hour, girl to girl. Turns out I’m not the only one with friend woes in this family. Turns out I’m not the only one who over thinks things and drives herself crazy. And apparently she is just like her mother, tears spilling over as she gets emotional.

My concern for Amu’s emotional well-being is visceral. If she is troubled, I am troubled, as simple as that. No one gave me a handbook for parenting an only kid. When I was growing up, I didn’t seek out my mother to confide in or discuss my problems with…..I had my sisters. Apparently people who have sisters tend to be happier and more optimistic, simply because of the connection they feel when they talk. Sometimes I feel crushed when I think that Amu’s long-lasting happiness and optimism have been sabotaged, because we didn’t provide her with any. It is a sadness I carry around with me.

Not a lot of people I know can understand the intensity of the balancing act I do, trying to be both mother and sister.

The good thing is, Amu talks to Huz too, albeit of different things. We hang together as a family. That doesn’t mean Amu isn’t a moody, broody teenager, but I’m pleased to report she isn’t closed off to us, just because we’re parents.

I tell Amu to keep calm and eat chocolate. I know she doesn’t like chocolate, but I wish she did. I had made hot cocoa the other night and it sure had a therapeutic effect on me.

Sometimes I wish I was less goofy and weird, but it is the idiotic things I babble that make Amu giggle. As for me, I just felt absolutely relieved to see the clouds on her head dissipate. She bounced off the bed and ran off to scribble things in her diary. Later that night, as we were driving to aforementioned friends place, I heard my phone beep. There was a text message on it that said, ‘I love you loadz nice parents of mine.’

Farroo

Dear readers of ‘munira’s bubble’,

You must be a tad confounded at the mysterious lack of activity here, and I feel an explanatory post is due.

The reason for the absence has been my niece’s wedding, which had kept us all on our toes for the past month or so, the festivities and events of which finally drew to a close on the 26th of January.

Much as we enjoyed the preparations and the quests for matching shoes and jewellery, the shopping for materials and the trips to the tailors, the excitement over the bride’s clothes and accessories, the distribution of cards and the selection of gifts, attending all the various functions, eating copious amounts of rich food, and of course the countdown to the final event, the ‘rukhsati’…..I think I can speak for the whole family (with the exception of Amu, who didn’t want the wedding to end, ever) when I say that I feel light as a bird all of a sudden! *sighs with relief*

Farroo, my little sweetheart, is all grown up and married at 21. My sister Sax was 22 when she gave birth to her, and I was 18.

yes, i KNOW i had really weird hair :p

I could ramble at length about how much we looked forward to Sax’s visits, or the longing to go over to her place every day, just so we could hang out with Farroo, make her laugh and play, watch Sax as she gave her oil massages and baths, or just stare at her happily as she learnt to roll over, then sit up without support, crawl, and finally totter around on her own two legs.

I can tell you how distracted I was when Sax and Farroo came to Karachi for a visit during my A levels (they were in Islamabad at the time) and I couldn’t focus on my studies at all, so obsessed was I with spending time with my little dolly, and I totally attribute my terrible grades to her. But she was such a bundle of fun!

at the beach, around 1992?

We waited anxiously for photographs that Sax would mail regularly. Those were the days before digital cameras and computers, so her letters and phone calls and descriptions of Farroo’s antics were the only way we had of staying in touch, and it felt terribly devastating to miss out on so many precious months of her growth, her baby babble, her delightful laughter, her gorgeous little face, her soft curly hair.

Farroo in Islamabad 🙂

They moved back and forth from Karachi to Islamabad over the course of the next few years, and there were more additions to the family along the way. Through all these events, we watched Farroo change as she grew from a cheerful little chatterbox, bouncing around after school in her ponytails, to a quieter little lady.

She’d love making things with her hands, painting, doing crafty little projects, displaying them proudly every time we went over, not saying much, but always around, listening to her aunts gossiping with her mom, giggling if she found something funny.

We marvelled over the cuteness of her pursuits, as she filled her room with Harry Potter memorabilia, composing letters of acceptance as a Hogwarts student, making trunks, a castle, a Snitch, Pygmy Puffs, wands and little potion bottles, pictures of James, Sirius, Harry, Ron and Hermione all over her walls along with her own, her friends and all her cousins (whom she is firmly bonded with.)

As her ‘Munni khala’, as she calls me, I could wax eloquent about the awesomeness that is my little Farroo, her creativity and attention to detail know no bounds. I wish I could share pictures of everything, tell you more stories about her, but I’m afraid that would be beyond the scope of this little blog post. That deserves a post of its own! So I’ll just skip to the part where Farroo decided to take time off from studying after her A levels, and during this ‘sabbatical’, she dabbled with translating Urdu books into English. Then, while the rest of her friends went on to go to college, Farroo applied for a job as a teacher at her old school….and got it. Being the youngest teacher at the school was both a challenge and a very cool thing. Her kids could relate to her, and loved her for her ‘funkiness’.

And once again, a metamorphosis occurred. Known for being shy, quiet and indecisive, teaching a bunch of unruly kids and dealing with parents and the responsibility of imparting education brought out hitherto unwitnessed qualities in Farroo. Here was a new Farroo, a more confident, quietly responsible, an ever more mature Farroo, someone who could take charge of situations. And to make a long story criminally short, it was around this time that she met the man she would end up marrying 🙂

So it is with feelings of love, nostalgia and happiness for Farroo that I share with you my favourite pictures of her from the wedding. These were taken by Amu, my budding, talented photographer child, for whom Farroo is like an older sister 🙂

time to get hands embellished with mehndi 🙂

So off she goes now, on a new adventure in her life.

Farroo, if you’re reading this, I want you to know we’re going to miss you like hell!….what will we do without you around the house in your tshirt and jammies??? Your room should definitely be turned into a museum of Farroo’s artefacts though!

Sax, if you’re reading this…….*hugs*. I really don’t know what else to say to you, you who just married off her first-born, your best friend. I can’t imagine how much you guys will miss her. ❤


Mother’s Day, in retrospect.

So yesterday was Mother’s Day and here’s my two-bit for what it’s worth.

There’s been a flurry of posts and related articles, not to mention radio shows and TV shows on the subject…people debating whether or not said day should be celebrated. Some glorify their mothers and quote sappy sayings ad nauseum, declaring their love for all the world to see or maybe they’re just saying it cos’ everybody else seems to be doing it. No doubt they mean it too!

It started a few days ago when everyone began changing their profile pictures on Facebook to one of their mom’s. It was kinda weird to see a woman’s picture with a man’s name next to it. Those of my girl friends who look a lot like their moms left me confused for a second, but not to be left behind, I hopped on to the bandwagon and put up a picture of my Mummy. It was fun! I ended up confusing a lot of people too 🙂

It’s true though, all my adult life I have had people exclaim and tell me how much I look like a younger version of my mother. It’s rough hearing things like that when the last person you want to turn into is your mom. *mock horror*

When you’re one of four daughters, every one of you will have a different relationship with your mother. My eldest sister has the dubious honour of being the firstborn, hence has all the personality traits that go with being the eldest sibling. My youngest sister was born 12 years after the first and has, true to tradition, always been a brat. The middle two, of which I am one, didn’t know what was expected of them so we played it safe and behaved like middle children should. Reasonably. But all my life I have been accused of being my mom’s favourite, maybe cos’ it slipped out of the horse’s mouth one day. The biggest manifestation of being the favourite was being home-schooled for the first six years of my life. The Montessori system had just been introduced in Karachi and Mummy got to learn of the methods of teaching. Don’t ask me how. She just did. I hear she made a lot of flash cards and stuff and proceeded to experiment on my brain. If only I had known what she was up to, I’m sure I would have felt like a guinea pig. Sadly, I have no recollection of all the trouble my mother went through to teach me alphabets and words using pictures, but perhaps it was a result of her efforts that I fared better at school than my predecessors. 😉

When we were growing up, we didn’t get showered with hugs or kisses. We weren’t a very touchy feely family. We were fed and clothed and bathed and de-flead and put through school and could do whatever the heck we wanted, as long as we allowed ourselves to be dragged to the masjid and agreed to pray namaaz and read the Quran.  Mom was always busy cooking in the mornings and always had hot meals waiting for us when we got back, ravenous, from school, after which she pretended we didn’t exist and set to work with demon-like determination on all her various pursuits, only taking a break from it if one of us needed a haircut. Or a birthday party.

But to get back to Mother’s Day, I really don’t see why anyone would NOT want to celebrate it. There are those who say things like ‘oh, mothers should be made to feel special every day, not just one designated day a year.’ What a load of crock.

The fact is, NO ONE makes their mother feel special every day. We take our moms for granted. That’s just how we roll, my friend. It’s the nature of the relationship. Goes with the territory, like it or not.

I love my mother, always have, always will, and I’m not ashamed to say that I feel rather silly saying it. Because THAT goes with the territory too. My mother is opinionated and is extremely good at getting her own way, and she bugs the hell out of me most times. That’s the reality of it. As for all that she has done for me all my life, I can’t really say I feel grateful. I just feel entitled! That’s what parents are SUPPOSED to do! It’s give and take really. Kids give parents the pleasure of their company, parents take care of the kids. It’s win-win all the way. Imagine how lonely our parents would be if we weren’t there. Actually, it’s US they should be grateful for! There should be a day for US!

Seriously though, it’s only after getting married and having her own family that a woman realizes just how much she must do, and how thanklessly. We’re basically unsung heroes, even if I say so myself (on behalf of all mothers.) I shall leave the specifics to your imagination. (Hint: think…1) pregnancy/labour; 2) diapers; 3) cracked nipples. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.)

So my point is, by all means, be good to your mothers. Love them in your own way, whether you hug them or not, declare your love, or not. You don’t need me to tell you that, so I’ll shut up. But I’ll tell you this. Mother’s day is here to stay. So If you don’t do something specifically nice for her that day, it’s bound to hurt. Don’t underestimate the power of a present. Something you just KNOW your mother will love. It may just be a token, or it may be just another thing you do for her amongst the other things you do for her all year round. But why ignore the celebration of it, just because you’re against the principle of it? Being against a principle is a principle too. And it’s just idiotic. Does that sound opinionated? I can’t help it, I get it from my Mom 😀

Memories.

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.