Love.

Love. The kind through which one first enters the heart of another. Pure, fresh, unblemished. The kind that emerges with the exchange of that very first glance. The kind that, for a moment, dissolves everything else into oblivion, and engulfs two souls in a universe of their own. In that single moment, all that two hearts seek and yearn to offer transpires between them: fidelity, friendship, acceptance, comfort, relief, loyalty, eternal support and companionship. This single moment is the culmination of all that a mortal heart desires from a mortal being. But it is a feeling that is as fleeting as its existence: one that never returns after it has passed.

Once pure love makes its visit, it is gradually worn down by the weight of expectations, selfishness, impatience, untempered words, betrayals big and small, unbridled ego, deliberate injury and ingratitude.

Ah… pure love leaves behind such a shadow of itself, that the heart exhausts itself for a lifetime seeking just one more moment of that unblemished love that pumped life through its every vein.

Why do we feel what we do? Why do these bonds come into being? Why do they take root where nothing was meant to grow? How will they end up if they are nothing like the way they began? Why do they begin if all that will remain is their end?PC @diegoph

Advertisements

4 Years a Mom: My Memoir on Motherhood

img_1269

It’s my son’s 4th birthday today – four years since the mum in me was born. Four years since I experienced water breaking for the first time at 4 am in the morning, four years since I knew what it meant to be swooning in death-like pain to be able to bring new life into the world. Four years since my heart has been transformed to contain a dweller who will forever be irreplaceable.

Don’t be deceived by the first paragraph though, this isn’t going to be one of those mushy motherly dedications or monologues about how fantastic motherhood is. I was (am) the kind of mother who never ‘enjoyed’ being pregnant and definitely never loved or ‘missed’ breastfeeding. However, my natural feelings towards these phenomena are completely separate from my value and gratitude for them – having become a mother, I can fully comprehend what it can mean to be pregnant for those who want to have children but haven’t been able to yet, and how truly enjoyable or difficult different parts of motherhood can be for different mothers depending on their personalities and circumstances.

Six months after my son was born, I’d written this reflection on motherhood; but last month I was going through some old photographs of my son and I, and since then I’ve been meaning to share something. With every picture that I browsed through, I realized it was but a momentary capture of the one role that singularly dominated the past 4 years of my life. My infant son’s fingers wrapped around mine, 1-month old him looking up at the colorful bees in his musical mobile, the first videos of him laughing or excitedly flexing his legs on the bed, pictures of him in his high chair enjoying his apple and oats and smearing his baby books with food, happy selfies of us where we both managed to shower and get changed before dad got home, moments of him observing bees and flowers in the garden or splashing in the bath tub, videos of him simmering with fever in my lap and narrating hilarious fever-induced stories, or him engrossed in discovering processes in the kitchen or playing alone with his cars under the table in the garden, him flipping through the books we’d read everyday and the stories he’d ask for on loop, pictures of him relishing his favorite home-made cookies or cupcakes or watching his favorite cartoons: a thousand moments and more of just me and him; him in my care and me by his side.

I couldn’t believe I’d been the one watching, nourishing, teaching, disciplining, supporting, observing, encouraging, loving, caring and constantly being there for another human being in all those moments. And all those pictures were but a few of our moments together that happened to be captured by a camera: I’d been doing this continuously for four, full years. In that instance, my mind reeled thinking of the decades and millions and millions of moments that mothers throughout time have spent dedicating their entire existence to another, like it is the most ordinary thing to do. I realized that day that it must be the most natural thing to do, but it definitely is one of the most extraordinary things to do too.  I hadn’t realized just how much of my inner potential this one role was capable of extracting and bringing forth. I didn’t realize how far being dedicated to the nurturing of another soul could go in nourishing and growing my own. I hadn’t realized how my child was shaping who I am as much as I was molding him. As mundane, monotonous, restricting and often miserable as motherhood had been, I hadn’t realized what a spectacular sight it would be to behold someday.

Today when I look in the mirror, I see wrinkles and eye bags and uneven skin tone and blemishes that I didn’t have four years ago. I realize a lot of it is probably going to stay too and I try (very) hard to embrace that fact. But I also see the soul and inner strength I never had four years ago. My body has aged, but I have simultaneously grown and matured and evolved in so many wonderful ways. My time was constantly sacrificed and given away, but I was unknowingly creating, building and achieving so much.

There have been many dark days. Days I’m certain will never be over till I am no longer a mother. Days of frustration, loneliness, anger at not knowing how to handle yourself and your child, days of exhaustion having to do so much by yourself, feelings of being trapped for eternity with human beings less than half your real and mental age, days when every bone and muscle and nerve in your body is throbbing in pain and your eyes well up with tears that you’ve managed to hold back for far too long, days when people pass the kind of inconsiderate remarks that knock the words out of even the most self-assured mothers, days when everything you’ve done or have been doing is belittled to the point where you just want to abandon everything and run away, days when you feel like not a second of being a mother was or ever will be worth it. I’ve been through all of these days, every single mother has. They are as real and as existent as the good days, don’t let anyone fool you into believing otherwise. It is because of days like these that I’ve also realized that no one deserves your all and your best all the time.

Being a devoted mother does not mean destroying your own self. Being a good mother does not mean giving in to your child’s, husband’s, in-laws’ or society’s every demand and expectation of what you ‘should’ be doing as a mother. Being a perfect mother does not mean packing Instagram-worthy lunches everyday, doing daily Pinterest crafts, tracking and achieving every Baby Centre milestone by the millisecond and trying to legitimize your bouts of guilt and insecurity because your child isn’t ‘performing’ as well as your friend’s. Being a loving mother does not mean never, ever leaving your child in someone else’s care so you can take a break with your friends or go out on a date with your husband or do something you love for a little while. Being a dedicated mother does not mean carrying your child on your hip all day and doing every little thing for them because teaching them to be independent requires more patience and effort and then conveniently blaming your lack of me-time on your all-consuming children. Being a caring mother does not mean being the only parent who wakes up in the middle of the night to tend to the children or cater to their every need with no spousal support despite their father being present. Being a great mother doesn’t mean taking the entire world’s burden on your shoulders and not asking for the help or support that is either within your reach or within your rights. Let me assure you, you’ll be getting no special awards or recognition for any of this. You’ll only be in for some major resentment once everyone goes on to live the lives they were meant to; while you’re left with nothing but hopefully good memories of how every drop of your blood, sweat, tears and time was spent in raising your children who don’t seem to even remember to call you, and all those in-laws and people who dictated what you did as a mother couldn’t care less that your body, mind and soul are broken and constantly hurting after years of ‘perfect’ mothering.

Being senseless and sacrificial are not the same thing, though it’s very easy to confuse the two as a mother. Yes, easier said than done, yes not everyone’s circumstances are the same; but no, everyone has the ability to choose to stand up for themselves. Everyone has the ability to choose to give value to themselves. Everyone has the ability to choose to ignore other people’s opinions. Everyone has the ability to choose to make healthy, balanced lifestyle choices. Everyone has the ability to choose to seek the physical, mental, emotional or other help they need. Everyone has the ability to choose to live a life with some semblance of structure, boundaries and routine that may gradually but eventually lead to you being a good mother while also being good to yourself. The only difference is that making and sticking to that choice will be relatively harder or easier, depending on your circumstances.

And if there’s one thing I’ve learnt for sure in these four years, it is that making the choice to love and take care of yourself while you love and care for your children, will make all the difference when you have no one but yourself to tend to.

The Decreasingly Human Being

I put my son to sleep, watching his sleepy fingers fidgeting, holding onto and letting go of his favorite blue blanket.
The house is quiet and my husband is away at a meeting. Dinner’s ready, I just need to make some bread. My work for the day is done. Some deadlines approaching but I don’t want to give them space in my head today.

Headlines I’d heard of swirl in my head. Is the conflict getting too close to home? I’d stopped following the news a long time ago. There’s only so much your senses and heart can take before nothing shocks or hurts or moves you anymore. When you take in too many lies, you lose the ability to see the truth in anything. ISIS, Al Qaeda, Saudi, Yemen, Iraq, Egypt, Palestine, Israel, Al Nusra, Somalia, Pakistan, India, North Korea, Iran, America, Syria, Taleban, Russia, Kashmir, Al Shabab, Boko Haram. Trafficked migrants drowning in the middle of the sea, child molestation, environmental devastation, job insecurity, financial fraud, bribery and corruption, gross parental abuse and neglect, raping refugees, looting war victims, medical crime, withholding cures, intentionally spreading epidemics, genetically modified fruit and vegetables and grains, artificially enriched eggs and bread and milk, chemically treated water, 100%-chemical soap and shampoo and cosmetics and toothpaste, artificially cooled spaces, microwaved ‘food’, chemically colored hair, fake eyelashes, botoxed bodies, virtual socialization, tasteless fashion, senseless art, packed yet dead silent trains, queues of heads bent into screens, selfies with corpses.

Why? By whom? For What? Till when? 

Have we again come to a point in history where we begin to devolve as a species? Could I really be less human than the generation before me? Will my child be less human than me?

Will he know what it’s like to read a paperback book in the morning sun, while lying down on grass and sipping home-made lemonade? Will he know how to smile genuinely from his heart when he is photographed? Will he know what a naturally beautiful woman can look like? Will he taste the fruit of a plant that was never changed since God created it? Will he ever taste water directly from a pure natural spring? Will he hear birds outside his house every morning? Will he have the courtesy and courage to smile at a stranger he commutes with? Will he know what peace and security feels like? Will he know what its like to have neighbors welcome him in their homes? Will he have thick, natural hair and naturally white teeth? What will dessert consist of when he places an order? Will he know how to comfort a lost child if he sees one? Will he know how to enjoy the sea and the breeze when he’s on holiday? Will he know what it feels like to contemplate? What level of brutality and inhumanity will he need to see to be moved? What will wearing clothes look like in his time? What will family time look like when he’s a parent? Will he ever see a virgin coral reef? Will there be such a thing as immorality when he’s grown up?

What will good mean, and what will bad look like, in his world? 

In the Heart of a Homemaker

In the Heart of a Homemaker
In the Heart of a Homemaker

I watch my fingers as they struggle to type, words lingering at their tips, unable to arrange themselves in an interesting sentence because they just don’t flow as easily as they used to. I begin to reflect on the evolution of my hands and the things they contained, touched, created and dealt with over the past few years. From books, poetry and coffee; to writing messages of love, caressing, preparing meticulous meals, carefully applying makeup, adjusting my earrings. To writing down my confused, depressed thoughts, to cupping them on my face as tears flowed in them and I prayed for direction. To drafting legal contracts  and typing out legal advice. To writing and editing articles and chopping onions for curry. To taking pills for various illnesses and having IV needles inserted into them. To taking off my rings as my fingers swelled. To holding my baby for the first time. To mixing bottles of milk and checking to make sure the temperature is right. To washing dishes, cracking eggs for breakfast, laying plates, peeling apples and boiling oats for baby lunch. To hurriedly getting dressed and fixing my hair before the bell rings. To flipping through Youtube aimlessly on a boring weekend. To making a cup of tea that fixes everything. To doing the bed and rocking my baby to sleep. To applying ointment to an aching neck or foot. To switching off the bed light, hoping for a few hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Under the layers of responsibility, of duties, of diapers, dishes, dressing up, doctor’s visits, expectations and arguments, underneath it all; in the heart and mind of a mother, of a wife, of a home-maker – is a young girl with unfinished dreams of her youth: studying in her dream university, cycling in the sun, laughing in the rain and getting drenched in the sea, pursuing the career everyone had always told her she would excel in, hearing words of deep love and affection, travelling the world, being surprised to tears, having a timeless conversation, taking in a breathtaking view, catching her loved one lost looking at her.

In millions of homes around the world at this very moment, there is a woman who’s probably setting the table for dinner or feeding her baby or packing a lunchbox; who, with the end of every day, buries the young girl she was in her heart. The young girl she was who watches her everyday as she gives, sacrifices, puts up, puts aside, settles, gives up and gives in. Gives every single second of her time and every single ounce of her health. Sacrifices her ambitions, interests and brilliance to routine. Puts up with what she never expected and never thought she had the strength to. Puts aside everything that happened, wipes her tears and forgets. Settles for whatever life’s brought her way. Gives up hope of seeing any change. And eventually, gives in to a life very different from the one she’d dreamed of.

Not all of this is my story. This is a collective story of the daily and eventual life of almost every single woman who is putting her husband and child(ren) first. A collection of the fragments of pain and longing that I come across in the eyes of and conversations I’ve had with so many women who are about to break, or have broken and become numb. Or are relentlessly struggling to make it work, and make it beautiful. This is the story of your mother, my mother, your sister, my sister, your close friend, my neighbor, you, me. You know it is.

Those who’ve passed it say it is a phase and that it will end. But isn’t the ending almost always the same: a woman with a battered body or/and soul, who doesn’t even remember what she was like before?

We’re happy, of course we are, and we love our families. But that does not mean we are not sad. That we do not tear up thinking of what we could have been doing or would have become by now… if we had put ourselves first.

NOTE: Your maturity will reflect in your understanding of this article and its message. Please do not flood me with comments of how to be grateful and look at the good times because if you think this is complaining, you are still too immature to understand.

The Past After the Future

It was one of those ritual trips to KLCC that students take while trying to deal with the short-semester boredom. As the LRT rolled on, the three of them sat watching the rain battering against the train windows… trees swinging wildly in the wind, cars caught in the jam below… and they began to talk about the train. What could possibly have existed a 100 years ago along the same route they were travelling on? People moved about on foot, rode animals, primitive carts maybe; taking hours to cross distances that we now cross in minutes. Their clothes, technology and food would have definitely been different from ours… ours developed, exotic and stylish; and theirs quite dull and monotonous. But what if, for a moment, we were one of those people who lived a 100 years ago that these bored friends were talking about on a train? Where exactly would we be as they spoke?

Somewhere deep below the ground, walked upon by millions of busy people. Rarely or never thought about. Our faces nameless, our positions taken over, our institutions and houses destroyed, our contributions ridiculously insignificant, our lifestyles outdated… our entire civilization buried. Our once existence on this earth would be imaginary.

Caesar’s dead for all you could care to know about him today. The mighty Pharaoh lies lifeless in a box somewhere in Egypt. The affluent Ottoman Empire has crumbled. And we would never ever know the multitudes of common people that lived during those generations. So too, we will one day be. Meaningless to those that live when we are dead.
If to learn from the past is to realise the true insignificance and temporariness of everything that humans have always cherished, it is also to marvel at the timelessness of the lives of revolutionary people throughout the ages.

Continue reading

No Place Like Home

Just the thought of it ceases the rush around us, immerses us into beautiful memories and drowns our hearts in longing. Its comfort, security and love left behind, we embark on student life; living with strangers, keeping everything locked, managing budgets, planning where and how to get every meal, allotting time to do laundry and clean the room—rarely having time to think of it, yet many a times intentionally avoiding thoughts of it, but surely, it lingers constantly in each of our minds…

The advice of a father, the kiss of a mother, the laughter of a younger sister, the fights with a brother, the family discussions, the meals together, the airport reunions, the waking up to sumptuous breakfasts, the peaceful sleep knowing that everything’s taken care of for you… truly, there’s no place like home.

Screaming with the agony of loss, they held on to the corpses of their family scattered through the streets… drenched in their blood as they embraced them, crying for them to come back, this was the last exchange between too many parents and children, husbands and wives, and siblings in Gaza. Children sat crying around their mother’s body for four days, trying to wake her up, not understanding why she was sleeping so long. Orphans wept throughout the city, no one coming to claim them, not knowing that they had no one left. Thousands of others with throbbing gunshot wounds, hanging limbs or phosphorous burns flooded the hospitals, the doctors not sleeping for 15 days because the patients were too many. Every few hours there were fresh announcements of death in the wards, and another anxious parent or relative or spouse fell down with grief.

Continue reading