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

My good heart broke
in your good hands.
And I forgive you
for leaving it
behind, where it
could come together
without your hands
bleeding into it.
I forgive you for
leaving it where
it belongs, under the
lamp of our
memories. I forgive
you for leaving and
for taking your hands
with you. For my childish
heart would betray
itself in the warmth
of your hands, my love.
It would stay broken
for all of eternity to
be in the cusp of
what broke it.

My Heart is a Betrayer by Thamanna Razak

When romance doesn’t save you

This tropical little town of where my father was born and raised , has me taking cold showers and wearing cotton shirts all year round. It’s December and I wake up to the sun streaming through and a skin that is drenched. But it’s always sweet smelling , our house. My mother’s carefully planted flowers , fragrant and blooming like no other sits right outside my balcony, with the occasional breeze comes the sweet scents of the morning. I enjoy waking up to this, in my heart I know I would always be a creature of the city, but it helps me enjoy these moments more and keep them close to my heart. This earth, this wetness, my mother’s flowers on my father’s land. This is where I  write from today. Today, after what feels like an eternity of not being able to find something to say, I have nothing spectacular but, sipping my muddy espresso, watching the hibiscus flowers bathe itself in the early morning dew, I can’t help myself.

When I entered my twenties with a heavy and beaten heart, I had thought to myself that I would never experience pain greater than this, pain of love is the greatest, I had declared. I was convinced romantic love, was the worst kind of tragedy to happen to a woman like me. Ofcourse I was wrong, there are worse things to happen to a woman like me, love was just one of them.

As I turned 21, I was in more pain than I could’ve imagined, and it was nothing romantic, which troubled me even more. “How was I to ever survive or fight something that had no romance” I asked myself mid-sobbing , “I don’t know anything outside of it, don’t you know I have been raised this way, I am all heart and no brain”. I spent a lot of my time romanticizing what was being thrown at me, ofcourse what I realised is that you cannot romanticise your own failures , at least I couldn’t. I was forced to face my failure, inadequacy, creative and artistic blocks with a straight head and it broke my heart like no other lover. I had lived 21 years convinced my romance is my art and my talent and my self. And then it no longer was. Everything I had learned, everything I knew of the world ceased to exist. All the colours I recognized and knew of the world and carried from my childhood no longer existed. It was all black and white and grey. Without it, I no longer recognized joy, or even sadness or love, couldn’t remember the child I used to be or the heart I used to have.

No one ever talks about how truly lonely these days of growing up are, or youth is. My mother if she was reading would tell me I am being a child, that true loneliness of a woman is when her children grow up, your husband is aloof, and you no longer feel that you are part of the life you help created. But I think loneliness is a different world to each, and none of it can be equated or quantified. For me loneliness has been something that I have always been familiar with, but I thought when my heart was breaking, I would reach out to someone , or someone I loved would reach out to me. I wasn’t brave enough for either. I didn’t know how I would explain how everything in the world , every passing moment , pressed up against my heart and would leave its impression like on wet clay, and how my heart pressed against my ribs from the inside from the enormity of everything I felt,  how I prayed for it to be taken away. But people would look at you and envy your childlike optimism , your eyes full of dreams and tell you that you are the luckiest little thing to have your whole life infront of you , yet to be made and lived. How do you feel lucky when all your life you’ve seen in colours and then you don’t , and this world you are stepping into no longer excites you , that without colours you no longer recognize your family, your friends, your art, your dreams and even yourself. How do I tell them I’m scared and I’m lonely in this. Like the first time your parents lost you in an amusement park or a crowded place, and everything you walked past amused and gleaming holding your father’s hands had suddenly become unrecognizable, scary and monstrous. The world had gone from light to dark in the split of a second you let go of your father’s hand and it would stay that way until you saw his familiar face again, and from the corner of your vision, light seeps through and the world would be ordinary again.

I spend my days looking for that familiar light or warmth of something I recognize from the world I knew. I spend my time reading old poetry and journals , waiting around in the corner of my memories, hoping something will hold my hand and make my world light filled and ordinary again.

Journal; When Romance Doesn’t Save You by Thamanna Razak

Evening Conversation Series; An Interview with my lover.

Do you love her?
I need my lawyer [both laughs]
[long pause] yes, very much.
What do you think about you loving her?
I think it’s a great feeling.  It’s surprising.
Choose three things that you love the most about her
Her sensuality about everything in life, her smartness, her undeniable wittiness.
What is your best memory of her?
The first day I met her. [Interviewer] That’s the best memory of her? yes it was nice, it’s a very warm memory. It’s something I remember always , when I saw her for the first time. And how much she could eat [ both laughs ]
How did you fall in love with her?
I think she’s very different in how she sees life, and I like that, especially related to her relationships with people and how she sees them and understands them, how strange they are , it’s different. I loved that. And also she is very easy going when she’s good, not so much now, because she has gotten alot more difficult but she can be good and kind and when she loves sweetly, it’s hard not to love her.
How does she hurt you?
When she is particularly difficult when I’m under pressure and she’s only thinking about herself  [ long pause] because she needs me.
How do you hurt her?
By not being available for her.
Choose three things ugly about her
She is too stubborn in emotions, non diplomatic , she needs to always understand everything , she cannot let go. [Interviewer]And that’s bad? When you don’t know when to stop, yes. So for example, she goes “but why, why is that , but why” to everything and endlessly.
Have you had moments where you hated her?
No, never.
Is she the love of your life or your soul mate?
Neither, I don’t have a love of my life or a soul mate. If she was the love of my life, I would marry her and live on an island but I cannot.[The interviewer disagrees with the definition of the love of life and decides to discuss it later ] I love her deeply and it’s very very special but  [ Later adds] age gives you a very different perspective on life. So no, she isn’t either but there is no one else and there will be not and that says alot about how special she is for me.
What’s the wildest thing you’ve done for her?
Travelling for her, going through alot to spend little time together. I haven’t ever done this before for anyone.
What’s the wildest thing she has done for you?
[The Interviewer decides not to share the answer ]
When is she the easiest to love?
In intimate moments like these, when she is relaxed and calm.
When is she  the hardest to love?
When I’m not with her and she starts to need attention and is very difficult and demanding.
Does she love you?
Yes, I think she does.