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.

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.

A Year Ago in Womanhood

You finally feel like a woman, complete. You are 21, oh so sweet and young and tender in all the places you want to be. your 16 would be angry at you, how can you love yourself more than you love him, you wanted to die for him. You hold her hand , kiss her forehead and you tell her everything about the glorious woman you have found inside yourself. She is angrier and calls you a narcissist. You laugh because you are. You are beyond everything you ever taught your younger self, you are more romantic than you are human and you do not hide it anymore. You’re screaming and yelling and spitting love on the streets , you have become a wild one, but you are not running. You stopped running now, you do not run from love anymore , not from heart wrenching romances. You are staying and seething and drowning in love, but this time you are fearless and you are in control. Men look at you and want you in their bedrooms and in their kitchen, bearing their children, but mostly they desire for you to be in their hearts , be the Queen of their lovedom and you aren’t afraid anymore, you love them back, you have turned soft but you are oh so full of yourself you know not to lose yourself. You have finally learned to give all of the love you have without giving yourself.

A Year Ago In Womanhood, by Thamanna Razak

Two Ends of A Moment

I lay under the noise of a ceiling fan in a borrowed cotton kurta, staring at the timber ceiling of my father’s ancestral house. Windows open to the side of me, with occasional chirping of birds, sweat tries to calm the hotness lingering behind my neck, baby hairs around my face stick to my forehead. I’m flustered and uneasy, but I lay there remembering Neruda’s warm poetry, stroking my own locks, pulling strands and letting them fall through my fingers that still have a lingering scent of mangoes I opened raw with my hands earlier. And there isn’t a thought that isn’t about the coolness of the night, or chilled soda pop or the cold heart of my lover. I’m thirsty in the throat but the moment eludes me, time has painfully slowed down this afternoon, almost dreamy , almost embalmed in the oil and sweat of  this sweet tropical summer. Out the window, in a slow course , the sky is shifting. I can feel the weight of the storm in the distance, a wind , a slow breeze carrying its calm and I lay patiently. My body cools down in the sight of a sodden cloud , and all my longings are for the rain as I hear a distant thunder. When the storm finally arrives, it is forgiving to all. The smell of earth and wood is everywhere and it unshackles me from my own hot liquid ache . Leaves grow heavier, not out of pain but only out of the heaviness of memory. In the eye of a pouring rain, birds find temporary roofs and call it home, quiet and almost desolate, the earth takes a long deep breath in and I find time and everything in its grip coming to a still, rooted. Behind me my grandmother tells me it’s the first rain of monsoon, the heat will no longer tug at you she jokes. On the brim of a season change,  I already fall into my nostalgia for summer .  I feel my entire life I only live longing for moments like these, in the desire to experience such heightened moments of raw and mostly unattainable pleasure that only comes from earth and its bringing of calm to both my melancholy and joy, sometimes both in the expanse of one moment.
journal; Two Ends of A Moment by Thamanna Razak

For Unhappy Girls Who like Sitting in the Sun

  • it’s another end of the week , isn’t it?  your longings are swelling up in your throat , and your hands need to touch something meaningful. It’s okay it’s alright. Only the coffee cup knows you’re holding it as you would hold another human , gently, sweaty and with love.
  • soft warm pillows, from the drapes you forgot to close, the sunlight that rushed in without your permission, suddenly there’s uninvited light, terrible terrible warmth , but also the soft haloed picture of your room surprises you.
  • nights are always the hardest, there isn’t a ray to help you forget your grief and that’s okay I think, sometimes you are needed to take the blow heart first , on your knees , but you’ll know woman, you’ll know you can take it and that’s glorious and fucking courageous.
  • even if you’re sad and wants to die everyday, your opinions still matter? did you know that? people try and tell you all sorts of things like, ” you shouldn’t feel like that if you are feeling like this ” ” it’s not like that, you’re just in a phase of your life where everything feels negative” “it’s all in your head” well guess what? guess fucking what? it is all in your head and that is why it’s real and important. that’s why when you feel the crippling fear of existence , it’s a fear instilled in you by your
    ancestors and years of making you feel crazy, it’s all real baby
  • you don’t always have to sound poetic to make your point, I realised that very recently . but your voice , just you breathing is a blessing to this world and it’s all poetry in itself , it’s a point, it’s a statement of God itself, He said I created woman and that is the point .
  • get angry , get fucking angry
  • your femininity is not tied to your gentleness , or your soft, or your curves
  • but woman, love is one thing you die for, you’re greedy for, all your yearnings are for love and you do not celebrate it. the whole world is falling apart from the absence of it, and you go ahead and try to quiet your large heart, tell yourself you don’t need it , you can live a life in its absence. the earth cannot bear the absence of your love , love. so let it brim, and fall and flow.
  • this is the most honest, heartful thing I’ve written in a while
 
– For Unhappy Girls Who Like Sitting in The Sun by Thamanna Razak

Without You

Everywhere, everyone talks like they know I broke your heart. In my lecture they talk about kitchens and how they’re essentially meant for two. That’s my heart wrapping around you for the day, how I’m supposed to sit on our counter and trace your spine with my toes while you cook over the other. The long summer days, you’d open all the windows of our home while I complain about the heat, I eat pomegranate seeds and kiss you with that mouth. The music and sunlight, the sound of us laughing , our sticky bodies, our eyes on each other. The days when heat gets to my head, I’m furious and bickering about everything and you’re joking about having to move to Antarctica. We’ll fight like little children, I’ll drive you crazy and we’ll make love reckless. Another day I’m at a restaurant alone, the waiter asks if anybody will ever join me and I stare outside the window for so long, aching at all the places you should be and the waiter doesn’t come back. I think I’d have my feet up on your lap under the table while we talk about our days, I’d wipe the crumbs off your chin, ”pay the bill tomorrow” ”collect that parcel will you” ”we need to get our light fixed in the bathroom” ”here , I wrote a letter to you while I was at work” . We are childish in our longings, always touching after a long day apart. When I realise I’m small without you for the first time, I’m in a crowded bus, I find it so hard to breathe and I wish for you. How terrifying is that, the entire world shrinking into a smaller one, all that space of you emptying, growing a new heart of without. We tested our fate with our ‘ours’ yeah? Didn’t tremble when throwing ‘we’ like it has been all along. Now the whole of universe is taking its entire time to show me how reckless I’ve been with loving you.

My mother’s lesson on surviving

My mother talks about ‘haalat’, in our little kitchen, water boiling , raw meat on the counter. They’re taking away our nafs, our souls, our generation of sleepy children slowly , she says.  ‘Do your prayers’ she quickly reminds me, say the words sent down from the sky for your protection. The mosques, the churches , the temples, the paintings on the roof, the rug on the altar, the light on the porch, they’re not for you, I know your angry heart and how your throat feels heavy but please turn your face away, please, for mama. Our cities will burn with lives still in them, your sorrow will be your lover for months, it will sit next to you and burst into tears. I’m sorry you have so much pain, how long nights may seem when you’re grieving. I’m sorry for you because you’ll be disappointed, longing for a man that will keep you where he keeps himself. The ‘haalat’ she says, the unfortunate brokenness of our human condition is inescapable. But keep your sanity close she says, your moments of femininity, your minutes before the dawn, on a prayer mat, your quiet ,when the first of sun rays  reminds you of your gentle, your womanhood, keep it close. Do not abandon your purpose, the strength of your kindness, the length of your patience. Your sweaty palms, swollen feet, tired limb, silence so deafening ,your heart changing its beat to match the life between your legs , your children, keep them close. Be a good wife, but a better mother and the best of leaders. The religion you grew to believe is the religion that has paradise under your feet, so keep your faith. She says, sacrifice for your children, the men in your life, for the nation you love and may the white cloth on your body be the flag of peace that puts this war to an end.
– My Mother’s Lesson On Surviving by Thamanna Razak