Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Marriage Worries - Age 4

Me (to HRH): Today is Nano and Nana-Abu's anniversary so we'll go over and wish them a Happy Anniversary later.

HRH:
What's anniversary?

Me: It's the day you get married, then every year you have an anniversary like you have a birthday.

HRH: When will I get married?

Me: Not any time soon...many years later

HRH: How many years?

Me: I don't know. Maybe when you are 26 or 27 years old?

HRH: That's so far away! Who will I marry?

Me: I don't know. You can see who ever you like at that time.

HRH (worried): I don't know any girls!

Me: Well you will know girls when you are older, so you can see then.

HRH: Can I marry you?

Me: No. You can't marry your Ammi.

HRH: What about my khalas? Can I marry one of them?

Me: No. You can't marry your Khalas either. You can find someone later. You don't have to worry about it right now.

HRH: What about Stephanie?

Me: Who is Stephanie?

HRH: She's from Lazy Town (a TV show on Playhouse Disney) *pause* I have a dream that I marry Stephanie.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Man Or Mouse?

What is the deal with married men playing the victim? Boohoo my wife is so horrible/I am trapped/I need to get away from her. That’s the sort of thing I am referring to. There are thousands of jokes about the wife or the wife's mother being the bad guy (whereas at least in this part of the world at least we know which mother-in-law is apparently the bad guy).

So what exactly is this need to make your wife out to be a monster? Or insulting a guy who is messaging or calling his wife when she is not there? Or branding a man a pathetic loser for not succumbing to peer pressure and doing his own thing (which most probably involves doing something his wife wouldn't like?)

I have my own name for this phenomenon. It's the Trapped-Male syndrome. It is an off-shoot of the victim complex family and effects married men.

Scene: Socializing in civilized company where members of both genders are present
Married man # 1 (cue for escape): ‘Chal yaar bahar chaltay hain.’
There is a stampede of males trying to exit the room as quickly as possible. Apparently the reason for stepping outside is to smoke. However when the indoors is also a smoking zone the only difference between outside and inside would be the lack of estrogen outside. Are the women so un-intelligent that men need to get away for a while? These 'getaways' usually revolve around insulting each other and exchanging a few dirty jokes. As far as I'm concerned I would be happy to hear both (especially since half the time I wish I had a getaway opportunity too from all the talk to children, tailors and maids).

I really don't understand the wish all men have to escape whether it is to get half an hour alone in a two hour social gathering or a holiday with the 'boys'. Firstly you are not 'boys' any more. Being nearly 40 does not make you a 'boy'. Sorry to burst your bubble. Secondly do men really think they are the only ones who need a break? I'd think these men's wives who are running their houses, children and organizing their social lives deserve a lot more credit than they get. They certainly deserve a lot more credit than being lumped into the 'my wife is the bad guy' category.

The other day I attended a wedding with my husband. It was the marriage of the child of a golf buddy of his. As expected most of the men there were golfers, most of whom appear to have a stunted sense of humor, as there was one standard joke. After the initial exchange of pleasantries, the comments varied from ‘Please let him play golf on more days of the week? Pretty please?’ (As if I am my husband’s boss. Obviously husband has been portraying me as the bad guy who does not ‘allow’him to play as much as he would like to. Now if only he really were that obedient) or something along the lines of ‘So he tells you he’s coming to the golf course huh?’ wink wink nudge nudge. Yawn.

Almost all married men love to perpetuate the I-am-a-victim-save-me-from-the-bully-that-is-my-wife persona. Quite a few of them who are in stable, loving relationships also continue to do the same. They act like one of the 'boys' in public, despite being caring husbands with strong family values. These guys will be loud and obnoxious, but everyone knows it’s all just a facade to act macho when underneath they are just normal, sensitive guys. Awwwww.

There are also those men who are in fact actually pigs, who think their wives are simply for raising their children and doing as they are bid. ‘I am man. Oo oo oo’ (That was supposed to be more of a caveman sound rather than that of an ape. But either works.) Even this category of men pretend to act like victims which is a little amazing.
“My wife doesn’t let me do that.”
Seriously, who are you kidding?

So whether men beg, plead, bribe, cajole or bully their way into doing whatever it is they want to do (for they will indeed do whatever it is they want to), he is of course still victimized by his wife.

One way or another, I suppose you just can't take the boy out of the man.

30 - Dirty, Flirty or Just A Parent?

30 came.

30 + 1 day later = contemplation

Thinking about health, relationships and of course HRH (apologies to anyone who thinks HRH won't make an appearance in at least one of my blog posts for a change. Sorry, I can't help it).

I worry a lot. About how difficult it will be for me to lose weight if I need to (apparently your metabolism slows down post 30). About if something happens to me what will be the effects on my husband and child (Thank you horrible old lady who read my hand when I was 14 and told me sadly something awful would happen to me mid-life and then told me most un-convincingly that I would recover from whatever horrible thing it was. I still look at my left hand life line and wonder why it splits in halfway through).

Anyway. HRH makes me want to be around forever to help and support him where ever he may require some assistance, in whatever way. No one knows what's around the corner. I suppose the healthy thing is not to dwell on it either since you may forget to live out of fear. But when you do think about all the uncertainities in life, it's frankly quite terrifying,

Having come beyond the age where I think I am invincible, now there is the fear of mortality. Perhaps that wouldn't be such a big deal if it weren't for HRH.

HRH made me a wonderful birthday card (thanks to Faisal, who made him sit down and spell the 'hard' words for him). The card had a masterpiece of HRH and I in the garden outside our house. The inside said "I will give this card and and (there were two ands for some reason) present and lots of hugs and kisses to you because you are the best mum of the world. I love you a million, billion, trillion, google, double google." Needless to say I was quite teary-eyed.

Life is weird. I don't understand and far more eloquent people have tried to sum it up. All I can surmise is that it is short and unpredictable. When you are young ie before you have a child it's all fun and games. The feeling of invincibility and the world being your oyster and so on is a given. Post-kid, life is suddenly uncertain. You don't stop living but now you live for someone other than yourself. The feeling of invincibility is gone. Instead what's left is a hope and a prayer that you can live long enough to see your child grow up and be in a happy, settled place in the world.

P.S. 30. Shit.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lawn Yawn

It’s that time of year again, when the weather changes and the sweaters and jackets start coming off. Along with all other Pakistanis, women too complain of how hot it has become, how this year’s summer temperatures are bound to be worse than before, how the load-shedding will be as frustrating/high-blood-pressure-inducing as always and so on. Pakistani women though (during the ranting and raving about summer, temperatures and power cuts) will have a little gleam in their eyes. There will be some salivating as they think of some of the names which will make the summer better for them.

Sonya Battla, V9, Gul Ahmed, Sobia Nazir, Sana Safinaz (Eeeeeeeee! Imagine women shrieking, arms raised as they salivate over what lovely lawn prints they will be able to lay their hands upon.) Days are counted down in all the major cities around Pakistan as lawn exhibitions come to town, causing traffic havoc in their wake.

Hordes of women descend upon the venue of said lawn exhibition. These venues can be recognized by the fact that they will be surrounded by cars of all sorts, with a driver in each one, with a murderous, boiling rage bubbling inside as they battle with other unfortunate men who must wait for ‘madam’ or ‘baji’. Madam/Baji in the meantime is inside the venue battling it out with other ladies in screeching and snatching at the lawn print of choice. Feet are trod on, little toes crushed, apologies are muttered (in a non-apologetic manner), elbows are dug into ribs (of others) and battle lines are drawn.

Sometimes when battle lines are crossed then all thoughts of age or self-respect go out of the door. I refer here to a pitched battle that took place at a certain lawn exhibition in Lahore, where rumor has it, two ladies had a disagreement and there was a punch-up. The two then proceeded to slap, kick and pull each other’s hair. While this is a hilarious story to tell, I feel rather puzzled about the object of the conflict. A lawn suit? One which has no special quality other than being ‘designed’ by the lawn designer of the year? One which is not exclusive in any way at all? One which has been bought by hundreds of others and will be bought by hundreds more? One which is bound to be worn by at least two other women when you go to work or out shopping or to pick your kids up from school? And if not worn on the same day then definitely worn some time during the week by a few others at least? You seriously want to fight over THAT?

I am not entirely sure why there is this craze for lawn prints. Obviously I am missing some important point about something which a lot of others do understand since each year there is a mushrooming of a few new lawn print designers. I am assuming they must do well, since they seem to appear the next year again, with another batch of designer-mushrooms.

Lawn print prices rise every year and still a manic state of consumerism is achieved. Ladies rush from lawn exhibition venue to home, for suits to be soaked and impatiently wait for them to dry, before rushing off to deliver them at the tailor. If you make the mistake of not going to check out the latest prints immediately, at least do not make the mistake of wearing last year’s lawn print in public. For you will be looked down upon if not outrightly sneered at.

The stacking up of pile after pile of the latest lawn print from every ‘designer’s’ collection is continuing unabated at the moment. With a towering heap of lawn suits precariously balanced, the appetite for lawn is quenched (at least until next weekend’s lawn exhibition anyway).

Saturday, March 20, 2010

About Turn

This article may not make a lot of sense. You have been warned. It is an emotional (perhaps nonsensical) piece inspired by my son, as well as by a poem of Khalil Gibran's that my sister shared with me earlier today. The poem entitled “Children” actually gave me goosebumps and is a must-share (I should add this is probably the first thing I have read by him. I know, I am ignorant).

Children by Khalil Gibran

“And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, 'Speak to us of Children.'
And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.”

Every day my son, HRH, asks me one question which leaves me speechless. Today, on the way back home after a long day of various activities after school, I thought he felt feverish and asked him how he was feeling. I also said, “I hope you haven't got a fever..”

HRH said to me 'Why don't you pray to Allah that I don't have a fever'

Agreeing that this was a good idea I said aloud 'Allah please don't let my son fall sick.'

HRH asked me, “What did Allah say?”

I replied that he had not said anything in reply.

HRH said to me “Why doesn't Allah answer back when we talk to him?”

I told my son that Allah does not reply in the way humans talk to each other.

HRH said to me, very matter-of-fact-ly, “Why? Is he rude?”

I tried to explain no that's not how Allah communicates. Neither to his (nor my) satisfaction.

My son is four and a half. Today while looking at him I was amazed to see how he was a tiny actual (starting from a cell) part of me not so long ago. It amazes me that he is now a proper human being. Yes, I know he was one 4.5 years ago, but now I realize he is his own separate human being. With his own thoughts and his own feelings and his own way of expressing himself.

HRH has been sleeping in his own bed, in his own room for the last six months or so. Each night I have to lie with him till he falls asleep and every night he has a routine he goes through.

“Ammi, are the windows and doors closed?”

“Yes.”

“Can any cats or dogs come in my room?”

“No.”

“Are there any alligators here?”

“No, there are not.” (Exasperation setting in.)

“What about bugs? Are there any mosquitoes or flies?”

“No.” (Needless to say we have a religious Mortein-spray routine going on a few hours before bedtime along with a Mortein socket-plug-in device on all night. And no I am not a Mortein ad but seriously it seems to work for us.)

“Ammi.”

“Yes?”

“My quilt looks like a dinosaur.”

“So take it off.”

Silence

“Ammi?”

“Yes?”

“Now the quilt looks like a Brontosaurus. Can you flatten it?”

After flattening his quilt and asking him with clenched teeth if he is comfortable now, he announces, “I am scared.”

That's when I get him to start reciting whatever prayers/surahs he knows.

When we are done, HRH seems secure enough to stop talking and fall asleep.

Tonight, my husband and I were going out for dinner and had his aunt over to babysit. I had told him before he went to bed that she would be babysitting and we would be back soon. He asked me if he could sleep in our bed and we could shift him to his room when we came back. I agreed. When he was about to sleep, I asked him to say his surahs/prayers.

He said to me “I don't need to say them today.”

Asked why, he said “Because today I am sleeping in your bed.”

The sense of confidence and security he gave just by sleeping somewhere where he felt safer was overwhelming. I still made him say his prayers. He went to sleep without our usual conversation of cats, dogs, crocodiles and so on.

I stared at him when he was asleep. It amazed me that this 4.5 year old had come out of me not so long ago (ok I lie, it feels like a LONG time ago). But that he was still so much a part of me that I still cannot tolerate any sort of pain he feels, whether emotional or physical. When he is sick, I feel like I'm the one who can't function. When it's emotional pain, I feel frustrated that I can't fix it for him.

Maybe all those (infamous) desi mothers-in-law are just the same, who just can't tolerate the thought of their son being unhappy (seriously though, come on, your son's 25/30/45 years old...let go already!....Perhaps easier said than done?)

I think of all the parents I know and know of, who have lost sons and daughters of various ages. There is the 18 year old who died in a car accident. There is a 30 year old, who died a month before his wedding. There is the 24 year old, with a 4 year old child, who died of cancer. There are numerous other cases.

I have met some of these parents who have dealt with such tragedies. From meeting them, I know this.
You never get over it.
Yes, you go on with your life.
Yes, you breathe, you eat, you sleep, you meet people, you smile, you laugh.
You act like you are alive and you behave the way (apparently) normal people behave.
But underneath all the mundane things you do, the truth is a major part of you has died.

Children are strange things. You give birth to them. You tolerate their night time bawling for months on end (the unlucky ones perhaps years on end). You do the proper-child-raising readings. The toilet trainings, the disciplining, the educating and so on. You may or may not forget the pain and torture of it all (considering the number of people who have more than one kid, I'm assuming a lot people have more short-term memories than I do), but at the end of the day that child is the most important thing in your life. Whatever decisions have to be made, are made around him or her. Suddenly you don't matter. Neither do your needs or desires. What now matters is what the bawler wants, and you are happy to give it to him or her(ok, not necessarily 'happy' but feel is more important than what you want anyway.)

Kids change your life. In ways you never knew they would. Or always assumed “I'M not going to be like that.” I was like that anyway. I was the obsessive paranoid parent I never thought I would be. I assumed I would go back to work 3 months after HRH was born, and I couldn't. I thought I would do all my socializing and traveling just like I had done before him, but I couldn't.

I look at HRH and my heart aches. For all that he is going to go through while growing up. Which is what we all go through in order to 'grow up'. I also know I am going to have to let him fight his own battles (I bought him a punching bag with little gloves for that very reason to practice for the battles right now). I am also going to let him make his own decisions. Right now these only go as far as 'I don't want to wear this shirt. I want to wear those shoes' etc.

It's hard for parents to let go. It's especially unfair since they are the ones who get the least amount of credit from their offspring, when they deserve the most. (That is until the offspring have offspring, which is when said-offspring become suddenly thankful.)

I think I should just end on a heartfelt 'thank you' to my parents. And a hope that I can make my son feel as secure, safe and loved as they have made me feel through out my life and still make me feel today.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Angry Young Man

My sisters and I are very fond of using the phrase ‘angry young man’. Considering neither of us is a ‘man’ let alone a young one, the phrase simply describes someone who is angry for no apparent reason. You could say someone who is a rebel without a cause.

In our case, or since I can only speak authentically for myself, it means becoming uncharacteristically angry or annoyed about something which if you really think about it, you shouldn't bother much about. A lot of things anger me. It angers me when I think HRH is being too thick learning something which I know should be easy for him. It angers me to have to drive with maniacs on roads who make being in their vicinity a hazard to my life.

Amongst other things that anger me are (in no particular order):

* Having to wait for some bloody VIP to pass by as and when he feels fit. After all your time (and the hundreds of others being held up) is obviously not as important as theirs. (Not even if you are a woman who ends up giving birth in a rickshaw because the President will be passing through sometime in the next three hours)

* Being pushed aside by a man armed to the brim, at your son’s school gate and told to wait while some VIP’s son/grandson/third cousin twice removed is dropped off at the same school with his escort of 10 armed bodyguards (I guess they start the inculcation of holding up others at a young age)

* Having some person pass judgment on something you say or do with no prior knowledge of the background and simply on their own pompous-ness

* Watching morons on TV channels all day spouting their theories on life and religion, which leave you spluttering in indignation

* Meeting people who are nothing but hot air. One pin prick and there would be nothing left (except for a deflated prick)

* Rude salesmen/waiters. You are not doing us a favor by answering our queries. That is your job.

* Idiots who think they know it all, when in reality they do not. Really. Nothing. At. All.

* People who are always on the lookout for sympathy. Look everyone has tough times. Deal with it.

* Having to be polite to rude/pompous data-entry and interview personnel at NADRA and passport offices. No I have not changed my name after marriage. No I do not think there is anything wrong with me. And no, I would not like a lecture on how wrong that is, thank you. Just stamp the damn paper and get on with it.

* Men who stare in market places or on motorcycles/cars next to you at traffic lights. What I wouldn’t give to kick them where it would hurt. A lot.

* Politicians and all their bullshit.

* Having to hear a bomb blast go off (Heard twice now and hope I won’t have to hear any more. Though I probably shouldn’t hold my breath).

* Having to watch the news and see dead and maimed people in places where I or others I know frequent.

* Having to watch the blood and tears of countless others who just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

* Having to be paranoid about the places you go to and hurrying through errands to get home as soon as possible. You still go to all these places (after all life doesn’t end..at least till your time is up), while glancing over your shoulder on multiple occasions wondering who and what looks suspicious.

* Having to stop at checkpoints and wondering what if someone decide to blow themselves up right now.

* Wondering how to protect your kid from the bombs/blasts/bad guys (So far so good as far as bomb blasts go. He does know the ‘bad guys’ are the ‘Taliban’ and they have beards. He also thinks the 6-8 commandos outside his school/on the rooftop can keep him safe. I hope so too.)

* Trying to figure out if the nightmare your kid woke up from screaming in terror was just a 4 year old’s bad dream or because of subconsciously absorbing what you and everyone around him talks about, discusses and watches on TV.

* Seeing no end in sight to all the madness going on in my country.

As disillusioned as I may sound, I have not given up hope. Everyday, I along with all other Pakistanis hope and pray that we may find our way out of this quagmire.

Till then, I think I will remain an ‘angry young man’.

Friday, March 12, 2010

NOYB

We seem to have more issues with everyone else’s life than we do our own. Whether it involves someone we know, or don’t know, or know remotely, or wish we knew, or glad we don’t, or somewhere in between all these (it would make a very complicated Venn diagram); we want to talk and gossip and dissect whatever we know, have heard or can speculate on.

I think this is a major waste of brain power. Especially where this ability is already severely lacking in some people. You already only have a few brain cells, yet you want to waste it on other people’s lives. How about dealing with your own first? Also do you think those you want to inspect so closely really care enough about you or your life?

The main point of this rant is the prescribed life cycle of Pakistani females which primarily involves getting married and procreating. The involvement of opinion of female in question is actually not required at all. It is actually everyone else's perception of her and what she ought to be doing which is most important. Said female may be very happy doing whatever she is in fact doing. Whether it is studying, working or even just simply enjoying whatever point she is in her life. But oh no, she obviously does not know what she needs.

Age 18 - 21 (for a single female)
“So are you still single?”
“So beta what do you do?” inquisitive questions from Aunty jees with ‘marriageable’ age sons, or Aunties who will do their best to hook you up with ‘marriageable’ age males whether you like it or not.


Age 21 - 25 (if female is still not married)

“Are you still single beta?”
“Abhi tak shaadi nahi hui…” said sadly by Aunty jees who may or may not know female in question but are of course entitled to believe that it must indeed be a sad and horrible existence to be leading without a man featuring in it.


Age 21 - 25 (if female is married without offspring)
“Bacha kab ho ga?”
“Bacha jab ho ga na…" *dreamy expression* (Probably since they have forgotten what actually happens to new parents when a kid is born). All knowing Aunty jees know what’s best for a woman and her uterus. (Said to all 21 - 25 aged females they know; which is probably countless. Thus adding to the already explosive population growth. What’s one more right?)


Age 25 - 30 (if female has one child)
“So when’s the next one coming along?” *wink* *nudge*
Oh gee I don’t know really. Wanna keep track of period cycles?

Barely a year (if you’re lucky), after child number one is born, everyone is hungry for child number two. After all no family is complete with just one child. If your first is a girl, then you must have a boy to make the family ‘complete’ and vice versa. Not entirely sure how this works but maybe they have a magical way of deciding what the gender of the next potential child will be.


Age 30 (if still with only one child)
*Sad expression* “There must be some problem.” (Whispered). After all what woman in her right mind would only want to have one child? After all what more is there to life than to produce offspring? And look after them forever and ever until you are dead or close to it?


Age 21 - 30 (if still single)

Well you don’t want to hear what’s being said. You are a waste of space. You are a non-entity until attached to a male.

What I want to know is this; why does everyone from your closest family (who you might allow to question/nag/inquire about your lifestyle/choices) to the remotest stranger who you meet once every two years want to know why you are either not married or have only one child or only have two children (“teen tu honay chahiyay na”).

Why?

Do you not have enough going on in your own lives? Do you want to forget about your own miserable existence by transferring that misery onto other people who may not be miserable in the first place? Or perhaps you want to see people suffer as you have suffered by being forced into making choices that you didn’t want to make either?


Maybe I am happy with where I am. Maybe I am not. Maybe I want more. Maybe I don’t. But either way, its really got nothing to do with you, or with what you think, or with where you think my life should be, or what schedule I ought to be working on.

I have 4 words for these people. NOYB.

None of Your Business.

Feel free to add an F in between the Y and the B if you like.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Day 1 of Unemployment aka Twiddling Thumbs

6:45 AM - Woke HRH and Faisal up

7:30 AM - Actually got out of bed (thanks Faisal for doing the HRH teeth brushing/breakfast stuff as always)

7:35 AM - Made HRH sit on the pot with his reading material ("Be Quiet, Pooh!")

7:36 AM - Made HRH's school lunch while having him yell letters of the hard words at me which he couldn't read. Yelled back what the word was.

7:45 AM - Dressed HRH for school

8:00 AM - HRH and Faisal left for school and work respectively

8:01 AM - Bijli chali gayi

8 - 9 AM - Twiddled thumbs and looked at watch 34 times

9:01 AM - Bijli aa gayi

9:05 - 9:25 AM -
Burned 200 calories on the treadmill (yes I walked slowly)

9:30 - 10 AM -
Updated CV/Sent out a few mails/Read BBC News online

10:01 AM - Bijli chali gayi

10:15 AM - Bath

10:35 AM - Looked at watch and thought 'Oh my God. Why is time going by so slowly??'

10:35 - 11 AM - Skimmed through newspaper

11:01 AM - Bijli aa gayi

11:02 AM - 12 PM -
Wasted time on Facebook/Twitter/random internet surfing

12:01 PM - Bijli chali gayi.

Still 45 minutes to go before I leave to pick HRH up from school.

Sigh.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

All Good Things Come To An End

My American employers informed us today that they were shutting down the entire Lahore office where I am based.

HRH asked me as per usual, on the way back from his school after I had picked him up "Ammi how was your day?"

Me: Well not so great. My office is being shut down.

HRH: yayyy! (with obvious happiness)

Me: Huh? No no, not yay. I am feeling sad.

HRH: But why? I would be really happy if my school was being shut down.

Me: No you wouldn't. Anyway I'm really sad.

HRH: But you always like having a holiday, don't you?

Me: Yes, but only when I have to go to work.

HRH: (looking confused)

----

A few hours later -

Me: HRH give me a hug

HRH:
Why?

Me: Because I'm feeling sad.

HRH: Why?

Me: Because my office has closed.

HRH: I really wish my school would shut down.

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