Chapter 20: Thou Shalt Taste the Iron


In western countries, I’m told it is compulsory for people to get their male children circumcised at birth (please correct me if I’m wrong). However, that’s not the case in India, where it’s an optional thing. For practicing Muslims though, be they in India or any part of the world, circumcision is an absolute must for the male child—the earlier the better, because according to our beliefs a boy born to Muslim parents will not be a Muslim until he is circumcised.

Scientifically, of course, male circumcision has many benefits—lowering the chances of getting STDs or urinary infections and many others…but this is not a medical blog so you’ll just have to find out about the rest elsewhere.

Now, there are close to zero boys in my family. I have just one sibling, and that’s a girl. My father’s brother has two girls, and my father’s two sisters have two girls each. Only his third and youngest sister has two boys and a girl but they’ve lived in the US all their lives. So I have no experience whatsoever of how boys are brought up. Especially not how they are circumcised.

My mother’s only brother does have a boy but he was circumcised in a hospital. My boy wasn’t. If I had my way, he’d have been operated upon at a hospital, too. But you can’t always have your way, can you?

I suppose most of you are gonna freak out coz I sure did. But this is how it all happened:

The local jarrah who is a semi-doctor plus circumcision specialist comes to your house and performs the whole process without any anesthesia. I think I’d have died if I knew beforehand what it really entails. I actually thought that it’d be like his vaccination—he’d cry of course but I’d soothe him and everything would be fine. On hindsight, this would sound funny if it weren’t so … scary…

Afterwards, my aunt narrated her son’s experience and said that even if you get it done at the hospital, the pain is all the same once the anesthesia wears out. And, as she verified, the younger the baby, the faster the healing. The pain was certainly gone after the first day, but if I ever decided to have another baby, and if it happens to be a son again, I’m certainly putting my foot down about the at-home procedure…and here’s why:

I’ll never forget my tiny son’s scream from the other room… and I’ll never forget bursting into tears at that sound…. I’ll never forget that day when I cried whenever he cried… and not because I was angry or frustrated… I just wanted his pain to end.

And I’ll never forget weeping in the bathroom while taking a bath … listening to his wails outside… and making an earnest prayer to the Lord… “Please, please, dear God… just take away his pain and give it to me instead. I’ll take it. I will.”

That’s when, I think, I understood what a mother’s love is all about.

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Chapter 19: Uprooted


My home in Delhi was a delightful little haven, a real life version of a poem I wrote as a teenager. It was cosy, compact, surrounded by open spaces and greenery, and bird songs in the morning, full of light and air, and, most importantly, full of love. And peace.

And then I had to let it go.

October 1, 2012

A month after the birth of our son, we pack up every single belonging so lovingly placed into our home, and head into a life that would test us to the hilt. It wasn’t like everything happened overnight. We knew, for the past six months or so, that we’d have to vacate this house and look for another one.  And we had looked at several in Delhi. But fate had other plans. Sajjad got an offer from Oman, and to cut a long story short, he’d be moving there in a couple of months’ time. I was supposed to stay in Aligarh till then, and after a couple months more, I’d be joining him in Oman—at least, that’s what they promised.

Doesn’t sound so bad, does it? I thought so too.

Oct 5, 2012

3:00 a.m.

I am at my in laws place in Aligarh. Hasan is in my lap. Every time I try to put him down he bawls his head off. And I can’t understand why. I had, in the past month, trained him to at least sleep for two hours at a stretch, so I could sleep in two hour bursts. But moving from his home seems to have derailed him too. I get not a single wink all night…even as the entire household sleeps peacefully.

I resent that. I hate it. I hate that I’m the only one awake here with this awful nuisance while the whole damn house peacefully snores. I hate that this baby goes to sleep during the day when I just can’t ! I hate that there is an incessant stream of guests all day who don’t care a fig that this is the only time that I could have gone to sleep.

And most of all, I hate it when *some* people who had chewed my head off lecturing me to have a baby watch me smugly when I cuddle my child, and declare :

“There now. See? You should hand me an award. Weren’t we right in telling you to have a baby straightaway? See how much you love him? Didn’t we tell you that you’d instantly love him?”

As if. As if I wouldn’t have loved him had he been born a couple of years later? As if I could do anything but love my son? As if not loving him was even an option?

And. As if loving him would erase the pain of being separated from every damn thing I had dreamt of—My Dream Man, My Dream House, My Dream Job?

The fact that I did love my son didn’t obviate the other fact that I was not a willing martyr. I wouldn’t say that I would willingly do it all for my son. I hated, positively hated the sacrifices I had to make for him. And here all they cared about was that they were right. That once you become a mother nothing else matters.

Sorry, it does. Very much.