Tuesday, March 06, 2018

My daughter

With the birth of Beni came a deep sadness that took me half a year to throw off. (Perhaps I love him more fiercely because I was sad at his birth. The heart does strange things.)

I was sad because finally, after two decades of waiting for my daughter, I knew she would never come to me. There would be no more children and my sons were all I was getting. For all that I acknowledged that I was lucky to have such beautiful, healthy, loving babies, I could not stop myself crying almost daily as I remembered that I would never have a daughter. Till then I had not realised how much of my very being had been built around the daughter that I would have one day. I had taught myself things, built my little library, carefully saved my favourite clothes, monitored my thinking, my politics, my feminism, all for a daughter I will never have. I had little boxes of buttons set aside for little dresses that I would never make. Ribbons for little ponytails I will not tie. All around me were reminders that life followed its own wishes, not mine.

Even after Rahul was born the pain had not been so deep. Somewhere deep inside me there remained a defiant little hope, completely without foundation, that whispered at the world, 'Just wait till my daughter comes. Then you'll all see.' It gave me the strength to keep picking myself up because I needed to show my daughter that she must be strong too, so I could not afford to fall myself.

Nor did all the stories my friends and family told me make me feel any different. Their stories of daughters who were anything but dutiful, daughters who did not live up to their mother's wishes (which daughter does, though), daughters who were little tomboys, daughters who loathed cutesy buttons and ribbons, all these washed over me without the slightest lifting of the pain.

Part of the deep sadness was the thought that so much ends with me. Maybe there will be granddaughters one day who will want to learn what I have to teach, but it's not a thought that brings any real comfort. It's too ephemeral. It made me understand some of my father's frustration that neither my brother nor I share his interests and so much of what he has to teach will go with him. It startled me to realise my mother too felt a similar sadness at the thought of generations of daughters ending with me. We all mourned a child that never came to us even as we cuddled and adored the ones that did.

Three years have passed since then. I changed. As I accepted my reality, as Beni became more and more his fiery self, as thoughts of all that might have been were ousted through the sheer exhaustion of keeping up with all that is, I slowly moved away from the world of girls. Now I find myself an outsider looking in. In a gathering I am more likely to be found around the little boys than the girls, because I don't know how to talk to little girls any more. I don't know how they think and my awkwardness shows. Last week I started stitching little bits of cloth I'd hoarded into clothes for myself. I gave Beni the cute buttons to play with and break and lose. I no longer save clothes for anybody at all. Daily I remind myself and accept all over again that whatever makes up my life ends with me, that is how it is and that is how it should be. Somewhere there is perhaps a little girl relieved to have been spared the weight of my heavy expectations.

Thursday, February 08, 2018


When my brother called off his wedding, I was with my mother. We looked at each other not putting our feelings into words. We had both expected and dreaded this moment and hoped it would not come, but it came anyway. I spoke up first, and sounded unnatural as I wondered if perhaps this was not for the best after all, the way it had been going. I fought to trust in him and his choices and my own belief that he could and would do what was right for him.

Later on, the day after, Moonmoon's Marriage came up on my playlist and I explained what it was about to my mother. I watched her face crumple a little and then she pulled herself back together. Looking back, I haven't seen her show her fear and worry over my brother so openly since we were in school. We were both grieving for him but I worried as a sibling and she as a mother.

Watching my mother be a mother -- and not my mother, not in that moment -- is a particularly unsettling thing. It reminds me that I too have two children and the rest of my life will be walking a similar tightrope of balancing needs and worries.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

The year ahead

It's February and I am finally gathering the courage to say, I'm scared. I'm terribly scared of what the months will bring. I don't think I was a particularly fearful person till now. I used to worry a lot, but there was a certain conviction, a defiance if you will, that I could take whatever life threw at me. I called myself a survivor and held on to that word when I had nothing else. Now... I don't know that any more. What if I can't last? When will a straw be the last one and I retreat into myself and can never find my way back out?

I'm scared this will be the year I finally lose my father.

I'm scared the year will be even harder for my brother than the last.

I'm terribly scared that this year my mother will discover the limits of her strength and then who will I draw my own strength from?

I'm worried about Rahul but not scared for him. He has the resilience of an eleven year-old and his father by his side.

I'm not looking forward to Beni starting school but perhaps he will love it and the choice will have been the right one.

Most of all I'm scared of myself. Last year I was restless and made choices I can't be at peace with but can't live without. Last year I drove myself into a breakdown trying to have it all. This year I want to live quietly and not draw too much attention to myself or do anything much but what if I forget to live safely and revert to type? I'm tired of pain. I'm terribly scared of hurting.

How does a coward live? Should a coward live?