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.’ 

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

I Dream of A Better World in My Mother’s Garden

My mother boils cardamom in the kitchen on a Sunday morning. Basking in the early sunlight, I enjoy a fresh bowl of fruits sitting in the balcony surrounded by vines my mother grows and flowers that bloom around me like a home I’ve always wanted. I try to work but the air carries a gentle scent of spices, coconut oil and jasmines, so I loosen by hair from the bun and let the moment engulf me. I think of small pleasures and how I have found my solace in them. Years ago, always grieving heart of mine didn’t always experience moments of pleasure or true happiness. As years have passed, I’ve let go of my belief of my narrow and misguided idea of happiness. Happiness, I’ve come to realise is experienced often in the expanse of suffering or grief. A true oasis, in the middle of a burning desert , maybe a mirage of how life can be without the suffering, comforting and soothing , but not always a burst of life changing event. Time passes in thoughts, I listen to a speech made by Barack Obama in 2012 about fleeting youth and how to contribute to our society, while having a honey-milk mask on my face and painting my nails, somewhere in the back of my head, this image of me makes me proud. Youth, as I understand is a gift to yourself, what you learn, and strive for in your early years makes a difference on the life you will lead. This age, and this youthfulness also comes with conflicts, mostly inner dilemmas and diasporas of a destabilised life that most of us been exposed to. I haven’t been able to completely let go of my tragic sense of life but I have been able to look up and recognise light and I think in itself is powerful, to be able to see light. I took some time to feel rather than write the past couple of months and it has changed a lot of things in me and as hard and taxing as it was, I’m really glad to have made that decision.

Journal; I Dream of A Better World in My Mother’s Garden by Thamanna Razak

Truths of Love & Loving

There is a part of you that mistakes pity for love, my lover tells me one night. You love me but you do so from a throne so it doesn’t really matterYou tell me you love me but you say it out of guilt because your mother taught you a good woman is a woman who loves and forgives a lesser being, out of pity, out of the enormous burden it is to birth life into this earth.
But isn’t that the truest form of love, darling. Perhaps the greatest love story is a tale of endless sympathy for each other’s mistakes, and boundless forgiveness and will last for a lifetime. If women didn’t feel sorry for their lovers, there would be no romance at all, I tell him to spite him. He is angry for this, senseless bitterness at what my mother taught me, only for a brief time and then wants my pity. So I give him and let him sleep on my chest.

– Journal;  Truths of Love and Loving.

Love is the Highest Law After All

So here’s the truth, I’ve been forgetful . It’s drizzling outside the window, almost as quiet as breathing and in these moments of calm, I forgot how painful living has become until I read that yet another city was attacked, as airports and metros blow up, as innocent lives are taken  and wounded in the name of wrong place to be, I remember how far back this war goes. I remember how shamefully Muslims will have to defend themselves before they can hold out a helping hand or offer their condolences. Terror is so hard to understand, what it demands of us and how much it takes from us each time. I’m thinking about those moments before the bombs went off, was it raining like it’s raining where I am? was it gentle , did someone look at the sky and sigh because the world seemed like such a warm place to be? did the same thoughts cross the minds of those who planted it? did they stop for a while and marvel or maybe their eyes softened at the sight of a child and it reminded them of theirs? I don’t know. It must be so hard to understand because we are humans, we are taught that we are inherently kind , we invented words like humane to remind us of our tenderness and here we are far from what we wanted to be. It’s easy to look at this and say it’s only a bunch of people , they’re the mad ones. It’s easy to believe we, as compassionate beings haven’t failed. But the truth is, it’s frustrating to know what human beings are capable of doing to one another. That at some point in time, our hearts and minds could betray us of our kindness and gentleness if we aren’t careful enough. It’s tragic and scary at the same time.

In these times of racism, rapes, terrorist attacks, wars, Donald Trumps and a long list of crimes committed for no reason other than causing pain and terror, it’s easy to forget our place and our purpose. And it’s okay for you to do whatever it takes to find that place and reassure your humanness whichever small way possible. Maybe it’s sharing a post on facebook or tweeting your grievances or heck changing your profile picture , nobody can take that small part of you that needs to know you still care , that you are still warm and soft and aching , even if you never imagined it would come to this. And it’s okay for you to take a leap and help bigger , open your heart for all those people walking the earth who can’t. Grow the kindness everyone has forgotten about and remind everyone of it. It’s okay , It’s okay to feel as long as you do because that’s the closest thing we have left from our humanity.

“What separates us from the animals, what separates us from the chaos, is our ability to mourn people we’ve never met.

—  David Levithan, Love Is the Higher Law

My prayers and thoughts with Brussels and Turkey and every other nation and its citizens who have been victims of terrorism .

In the Lamp Light Love and Pain are the same

There have been poems and there have been not. Few are lovelorn and others are in pain. But none are comprehensible. In the lamp light, there is no poem I want to love, there is nothing I ever want to love. Love has made me a weak woman and I’m loathing its presence for stripping me of my words , and my light. Oh how often love throws me in this hell. And how often I come out of it only to be seduced again. In the lamp light, writing poetry about love, but out of pain, I only want to belong to myself.

– Journal, In The Lamp Light Love and Pain Are The Same by Thamanna Razak