I cried for seven nights
after you left. In a holy
book, I would have
come out as a prophet after
the eighth. But I’m only a
woman in love. I came out
weary, unloved,
puffy eyed and nobody
believed in me.

A Prophet in the Making by Thamanna Razak

Sweetest moments of my
childhood summers
is the wondering.
What did he think when
man spread butter on bread
for the first time?
I wonder, licking
warm butter off
my fingers.
Was he delighted in
watching it melt
on the bread
and then in his mouth?
Did he invite his children?
Did he call on to his wife
and said darling, do you want
to taste love?
Here it is.
Did she always
remember his love,
in every slice of bread
she spread butter on
and tasted in her mouth?
Did she wake up every morning
longing for it?
Did she grow fat from it?
Did they make love regardless?

History of Bread , Butter and Love by Thamanna Razak

Picture Credit – macross-82.tumblr.com

Tell me this, was I not
beautiful for you? I kept
my eyes wet for you
and my mouth open
for a kiss. I let my hair
down. My tresses,
they grew darker on your
touch. Was I not,
the woman of your dreams?
Or was it that you had
no dream at all,
that your dreams died
at the end of your fingertips,
at the start of my skin.
Was it that you were
only an animal,
in the skin of a man?
And I, a sweet smelling prey.

Prey by Thamanna Razak

Permission to chocolates and other things our parents have taught us.

It’s Thursday night, and where I am people go back to their homes after work in elation of the week ending, of work and its frustration being left behind and I , come back home to an empty home, make a fresh pot of coffee and sit alone at the dining table. An evening light so precious stream in through the kitchen window and seeps in to the dining. I put on Aznevour and I think of a Hopper painting, I know exactly how this light would appear in his strokes. It’s become a ritual so intimate that if I wrote a memoir all my life-changing realisations would be set in these moments, ‘oh, I am deeply in love with him’ , ‘oh I have grown apart from the friends I grew up with’ , ‘oh my mother, she is lonely’, ‘and my father, I forgive him’. Later, I take myself to the supermarket. I walk in to feel a bit lost, I forget why I decided to come in the first place, it feels odd, I feel out of place. I suddenly remember my childhood, running across the aisles , standing between rows of candies larger than my five year old self and deciding this is heaven and never letting my parents leave the aisle. I remember warmly, at the counter my father would look at all the candies and chocolates I’d filled in the cart, at my fingers stained with colour of m&m’s I had even before we got to the counter and demand that I promise not to have too many at a time and I would prepare myself to cry but my mother would place her hand on his and that was it, they come through to the other end of the counter. I would dance and twirl to the car hanging on to my mother’s hand with one hand and another on the cart my father is pushing, dreaming of all the candies I would eat all night. Ofcourse I would get sick with my seventh one and abandon them under my bed which later my father would find. It’s a story I like to tell to when I explain my unquenchable sweet tooth to people. It’s a story I remember in the hard moments I miss my parents dearly. Today, I pass aisle after aisle aimlessly pushing my cart by myself. I turn an aisle to look for something but I can’t seem to remember what. I hope to see something I recognise , I hope to pass an aisle and find a familiar face, maybe my mother. And then I find myself between rows of gummy bears and chocolate bars again, but this time I feel a loneliness that you feel when you miss your womb , your family . The kind of loneliness where you feel the distance in your blood to your blood and that is enough for me to turn to the yellow packets of m&m’s , nauseatingly happy and cheery , and let a tear roll down, a soft sob. I hoped they would understand, recognise somehow , this little girl while they witness a private moment. 

I remember a time when I had envisioned myself doing this, doing my own groceries, doing the mundane job of taking care of yourself, being the woman I always imagined myself to be.  I had imagined myself content, happy , an independence of sort that I had dreamt of all my life. Why does it feel so crippling then, why didn’t I see this coming? I wonder if all my dreams realised would end in me turning on the dream to wipe a tear . If all my ambitions realised will be wounded and blurred with tears somehow. I fear if nothing would bring true happiness to me without the people I love the most to share it with. In a terror of realisation I call my mother and tell her I miss her and she tells me, “ Buy some chocolates that you love, nothing makes you happier” So I do just that. Being alone is something to be learned for women like me, somehow everything that you do feels terrifyingly wrong in the absence of authority. I imagined if she was here she would place her hand on mine on the counter, and that would be her way of saying ‘you’re allowed to be happy darling, with or without me.’ 

The next time we love,
I will love you in
bread slices and mulled wine.
Strawberry jam in my
mouth and it means
in your mouth, because darling,
in the next life our lips
never part and if they do
they part only to call
each other’s names.
The next time we love
I will love you through big
windows and white sunshine
on your back, my cheek
pressed up against it.
I will love you in our backyard
between the blossoms
with my dirt stained hands.
I will love you on lazy Fridays,
in the rice that I will put to boil
just like my mother’s.
I will love you in long hours
at dining tables and large families.
The next time we love, oh darling
I promise to love you soft and warm.
The next time we love, I will never
have to write this poem,
only live it.

In the Next Life by Thamanna Razak

Evening Conversation Series; An Interview with my mother

Is she your favourite? Let’s get the most important question out of the way [laughs]
Oh Allah, help me. [laughs and sighs] Yes she is my favourite , she is my first after all.

What was your first thought when she was born?
Ofcourse that she was the most beautiful, really. But the first thought was Allah, give me the strength to raise her into a good woman. It’s surprising that even now, after years, I carry the same thought for her.

What was the most difficult time with her ?
Her teenage years [closes eyes and sighs deeply], my god. She was the most difficult than any of my other ones. Rebellious child and the thing was that, she was soft spoken and a sweet girl but she had this wall around her and she hated me or so I thought. She was the most mean to me, arrogant and angry but now I know it’s because she felt most close to me and felt that I didn’t understand her still. She was disappointed. But how do you understand a child that slammed doors on my face and wrote horrible things of me in her poetry? [long pause] She was so moody, and no one could calm her, nothing could calm her. It was a nightmare and only I knew the depth of it, not even her father.

What worried you the most then?
That she would stay that way, that she would be an angry human for the rest of her life, or that this period of life would affect her life in an adverse way because me or her father didn’t understand her or it.

What was one thing you wish you understood then, that you do now?
I wish I understood that she was strong, even though she was little and still a baby. I wouldn’t have worried so much or been tough on her if I knew she would grow out of it on her own.

What was your best memory of her during that period of time?
It’s so absurd, but when her girlfriends were over at our home, they would be in her room and I would hear her laugh her heart out from inside the room. And her father and I would be in the dining or kitchen and we would look at each other with relief and smile, that she was happy and laughing. You don’t understand , it meant alot to me to hear that. [ air tenses ]

What was the moment you realised she has grown from a girl to a woman?
[long pause] It’s a hard moment for mothers, especially when it’s a girl I think. Because you always want to protect her. But I am better than her father. [eyes look distant and thoughtful] I think when she left to Delhi, when she got her first job. She didn’t call me, she wasn’t communicating.. [Interviewer] And whose fault is that? Yes but I knew she was going to be alright, I just knew she was going to be okay on her own. There are many other moments though, when I hear her speak to her siblings, advice them or scold them. This is so silly [laughs] but some days when she dresses up, for a wedding or an event and she walks down the stairs I find her so womanly and beautiful, she moves and talks very gracefully, she has really beautiful hair. [looks at the Interviewer lovingly]

How has she surprised you?
In alot of ways. Her feminism, her views and how vocal she has become about them. Sometimes she says something so radical or repulsive , it used to surprise me but not anymore I think. Also her act of kindness, she can seem so cold and arrogant but late at night, she might come sleep next to me or kiss me on my cheeks and it surprises me.

What was the one advice she always took from you?

[shrugs] there is none I think, should ask her.

What was the one ( or more ) advice(es) she never took from you?
To dress modestly. I always tried to teach her that your clothes must express your values but over the years I have understood that her idea of modesty and mine are very different and ofcourse our values too and I think now, it’s a good change. I’m only learning from her. But I’m afraid that not everyone will understand that and will judge her.

How have your relationship changed with her over the years?
Oh so much ofcourse. I’m learning to accept her and her views so now she sees me more as a friend. She discusses things with me and is more open and truthful because she is not afraid. It’s scary but it’s better than being in the dark. And now even though she is away and I miss her constantly , I feel more close to her.

What is one of the qualities she inherited or learned from you?
She is very intense, in everything, she knows no moderation, in her emotions. She feels very largely. She got that from me. As you grow older , you learn to control. But because she is so young , she really knows no moderation.

What have you learned from her as a woman?
There is alot to learn. She talks alot about men, and how disappointing they are. I could never talk like that or understand it completely. She looks everything from many perspectives. Like for example, marriage, these girls really think it through. She studies the history, why people do the things they do , is it even right? I’m starting to learn from her to question everything we know as right. And I haven’t learned this but I admire her ability to put herself first before anything else. I’m really happy that she does but I’m worried when she needs to adjust , she would find it difficult.

What do you think are her virtues?
She is very understanding. Deeply mature for her age. She is forgiving.

What do you think are her vices?

Her anger and coldness, it’s hell for anyone who loves her. Rebellious. She acts on feelings or emotions and it will get her into trouble.

What do you think of her romances?
[laughs] I only know of one and she has been very closed off about it lately and tells me it didn’t work out. I don’t know. But I do think she is very thoughtful about who she includes in her life, so I am not worried about her romantic choices.

What is one thing you would change in her if you could?
Her relationship with her father . And her faith in God. These both relationships are very fragile in her life right now [ The interviewer reminds only one was asked]

Choose three things she would excel at in life?

Her career, she is very career driven. I think she envisions a good, sweet life for herself and she would get to that. She would be a good mother. [laughs] She is going to kill me but I hope she excels at finally finding a damn husband she can tolerate [whispers] or can tolerate her.  [both laughs] 

Evening Conversation Series; An Interview with My Mother.

How can I love you, darling?
Desire on desire,
longings on longings.
In the intensity of
this moment, this espresso
this sea, this sweet éclair,
all my causes die
one by one with
the tides that crash
on the rocks and
turn into foam.
I love you, I love you,
but oh, you are
so formidable.
Darling , I want you,
but be a good husband,
for that is the only cause
I will wound my desire for,
for holy marriage,
for another woman
in love. Another woman,
who gave you her vows
her youth, her children
and her love. I will not
take her heart and replace
with mine. I remember
what God wants. I understand
her pain more than I understand
my desire. Darling,
I am to die for but
the only cause I’m willing
to die for,  is another woman’s.

To Die for by Thamanna Razak