Chapter 42 (ii): Village Life


village life

 

A village is a hive of glass, where nothing unobserved can pass

—- Charles H. Spurgeon

 

May 4, 2014

Before I was married, I had no idea what village life was like. Even my grandparents on both sides were city dwellers. And never had I glamorised country life either, the way many people do—for its simplicity, slow pace, close knit family atmosphere, fresh organic produce and so on. I was a city slicker through and through.

I never actually had to live in the village after marriage either, for my immediate in laws—the husband’s parents—were city dwellers too. It was just the ancestral home and the extended family that we used to visit in the village and that only on festivals, weddings and special occasions. And to be fair, my husband’s ancestral home in the village is a far cry from the typical village homes you’d imagine in India.

A sprawling khandaani house spread across 10 acres—40,500 square metres, to be precise—flanked by the family’s mango orchards on one side and a small lake on the other, and divided into separate, independent sections for each of the six families that make up the home. Like a private colony with interconnected doors that are forever open to each other.

The rooms all come equipped with most of the amenities you’d find in an urban middle class home. My bedroom is a large, well ventilated room with a sparkling bathroom that I particularly adore, mostly owing to the rain shower head fitted especially for me upon my arrival. But the thing that most delighted me when I first arrived as a bride was the courtyard facing my room—all abloom with pink bougainvillea and the Madhumalti or Rangoon creeper. The adjacent courtyard boasts a flowering pomegranate tree and a grand old Neem, another one has a flowering peach tree while yet another boasts red chilli plants. A veritable organic heaven of sorts.

And yet, what struck me hard right from the beginning was the huge cultural chasm. Within the beautifully painted walls and blooming courtyards, the lives and mindsets are quintessentially representative of regular Indian villages. The values I’ve lived and sworn by all my life are alien here, drawing blank astonished looks if I so much as utter the phrase “women’s rights” or “gender equality”— unfortunately/fortunately my favourite phrases in any conversation. Women are expected to know their place– quite literally.

But then again, this isn’t something odd or astonishing—considering that I’ve met some of the most deep rooted patriarchal mindsets in swanky urban settings as well–it’s not like my own relatives are immune to it either. It’s a general Indian trait—except I happen to not share it, and thankfully, neither does my husband. But the effects of patriarchy are never as manifest as when you become a mother.

In truth I am aware that this is just for a few days. I am aware that it springs merely from a place of love for the kid, I’m aware that all their advice can be taken calmly. But with everything going wrong in my life right now— dashed hopes, frayed trust and unreliable business partners—calm is the one thing I cannot be.

What I am is desolate, suffocated and utterly trapped.

 

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Chapter 10: Happiness is…


Happiness is ever-changing and ever-elusive. You cannot know it until you feel it. Happiness is a walk in the breeze… happiness is a drive in the rain… happiness is a midnight date… happiness is a moment shared.

May 14, 2012

We are in Aligarh. Sajjad is sitting before me on the bed. We’d been away from each other for about 15 days because I came here to meet my mom. He hasn’t felt his baby’s movements yet; when I was with him they were too light to be felt on the outside. He has his hand on my belly as his eyes search my face with anticipation.

BUMP!

That was a huge one!

I’m delighted to see the astonished, wondrous, childlike grin on my husband’s face. He laughs out loud. He is amazed… It’s a moment we’ll cherish forever.

June 15, 2012

This baby is gonna be a really naughty one. Lord knows how she/he manages to do it, but every so often I feel 4 simultaneous kicks (or whatever they are) at 4 different places in my tummy!  There’s hardly a moment when this little one lies still….!

My sister says she can actually see him/her “swimming around” in my tummy! I know what she means, the bulge often seems to “glide” from one end to another… the doctor says these movements are so visible on the outside since I’m so thin and there’s been no fat increase whatsoever on other parts of my body.

June 25, 2012

It’s post-dinner and me and my husband are talking our daily walk around the park. I love these walks with him. Love the wind in the trees, flapping our clothes and sweeping our hair…love the moon beaming gently down on us…love holding his hand and talking softly…  In a way, it’s been a good thing I’ve taken time off from work—with our busy schedules we’d never have got time for these leisurely everyday strolls. It’s moments like these that make life beautiful.

July 14, 2012

It’s raining hard in South Delhi. Monsoon has arrived in all its glory. Sajjad has come back from work sometime ago. He takes my hand.

“Wanna go for a drive in the rain?” he smiles at me.

Yes. Of course. Would I say no?

He’s backing up the car to bring it right to the door so I don’t have to get wet. Our neighbor comes out of his house. “Coming from somewhere?” he asks.

“No, going for a drive!” I giggle.

“In the rain!?”

“Yes…”

But obviously, lost in our fancies we had forgotten that we’re in Delhi, not the Garden of Eden and rains here mean just one thing: Traffic jams. But I have Michael Schumacher for a husband and I could trust him to find the best routes away from the traffic.

Never loved rain so much….

July 21,2012

12:00 a.m.

We’re having dinner at Comesum, the all-night restaurant near Nizamuddin Railway Station. Hadn’t even heard about this eat-out until today. Sajjad’s trying hard to make this right for me, to assure me that nothing’s gonna change between us.

Perhaps it won’t. Perhaps it will. But what won’t change is what happiness is….

Happiness is US. Whether it’s BOTH of US, or THREE of US. Happiness is “Us”.

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{Read from the beginning }

(For more good things about pregnancy, read http://thegoodandthegood.wordpress.com/)

Chapter 6: One a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns; “May you have no daughters, only bear sons.”


(All rights belong to the nursery rhyme creator; my twisting of the second line is in no way intended to be a violation)

All my blogger friends, most of them pregnant women from other countries sharing their experiences, either know the sex of their unborn child, or are excited because they will get to know soon. Well, in India, this is banned—sex determination, I mean. Know why? Because the family of the unborn child will most likely want to finish it off in the womb if it’s a female. Welcome to our great land.

Alright, so not everyone is like that. Educated city people will not kill the baby, mostly. But they will heave a sigh of despair and people will give them consoling wishes instead of congratulations on the birth. Even the ones who consider themselves ‘progressive’ will spout stuff like “Oh, these days girls are as good as boys and they are also earning and supporting their parents…etc…etc…” which does not really sound like a congratulatory statement, does it?

All cultures value the love of parents above everything else. It’s supposed to be unconditional. So then why do I meet so many parents who want a son because he’ll provide for them in old age, or he’ll be a source of security and a daughter will be a liability because you have to start stacking up the dowry for their wedding right from the time they’re born? (I could get started on dowry and how hateful it is and why MEN need to stand up and speak against it, but this post would become a research thesis then and you probably won’t take the time to read it.)

So what I’m saying is, if parental love is indeed unconditional, why would you prefer to have a child who brings you more benefits (supposedly)? That sounds a lot like a transaction to me.

Anyway, to come back to the point, even before I became pregnant, I’ve been getting “blessings” from a whole bunch of elders to bear a son. Really, now. What about your own self, madam? Do you feel sad that your parents gave birth to you and not to a boy? I’m sure you spend your days filled with self-loathing, cursing the day you were born. Shame.

Okay, so I’m getting side-tracked. Back to my story: Farhan, my husband’s cousin, is living with us right now, and he’s such a godsend ‘cause I have someone to talk to while Sajjad is at work. So, I have these very strict instructions for Farhan:

“Listen, bro, I’m gonna buy a chart paper and a permanent marker, and if I give birth to a baby girl, this is what I want you to write on it and stick outside my hospital room: IF YOU ARE COMING TO CONSOLE US INSTEAD OF CONGRATULATING, PLEASE TURN BACK RIGHT NOW. WE ARE CELEBRATING.”

I’m a religious person, and though I didn’t wanna bring religion into this blog, I can’t help but mention this: When Moses asked the Lord what he does when he’s happiest, God replied: “I create daughters.” I’m so looking forward to having a daughter. But then again, I’d be equally happy if it’s a son. So long as she/he’s healthy, happy and sweet-tempered.

I’m not going to choose. God will choose for me. Because you cannot—and should not—be picky about gifts. Especially when they’re coming from heaven………

Chapter 2: That moment when your life flashes before you…


Death.

Its supposed to be the moment when you’re dying, when your whole life moves before your eyes in a flash. I wasn’t dying. I was fully, completely alive. And I was going to bring new life into this world. And yet, I was experiencing that moment.

The only reason I got married so early was because I was in love with this man. Correction. I was head over heels in love with this man. For him, I had turned my life upside down and shaken it up. Just to be with him.

Now, if you’re reading this and you’re not an Indian, you won’t be able to comprehend.  Everybody gets married because they have fallen in love, right? Not so in India.

Here a ‘love marriage’ is an aberration. Something you need to hide or your parents will be sneered at. Here, people marry for their parents’ happiness. Or money. Or prestige. Or to bring forth thorough-bred offspring. Or if they were busy bachelors incapable of cleaning and cooking for themselves–then they get themselves a cleaning and cooking maid, one that they can legally have sex with and who would raise their children, all for free.

So believe you me when I tell you that this love marriage thing was no piece of cake. Everyone told me I would regret this. But I knew I wouldn’t. And I didn’t.

I was truly, really happily married. Every morning I would wake up, watch his sleeping face and feel an overwhelming mixture of thrill and serenity , all at once. I couldn’t just get over the fact that I had him. Here, before me, in my arms. I had every thing I wanted.

“You know I never feel like we’re married,” Sajjad would often tell me. ” It’s just as if we’re a live-in couple!” he would exclaim with wonder. We had heard all the marriage jokes and none of them applied to us. We were in our own private paradise.

I suppose that was because we respected each other as individuals, and never really expected each other to perform the “husband-wife duties”. Or if we did, we never took these for granted. I mean, what the hell, we literally said sweet thank you’s to each other for the littlest chore done. My entire life revolved around this man and being able to spend the maximum time with him.

All my life, from the time I was 12, I had been known as the super ambitious, super-competitive feminist. Everybody thought I would sacrifice anything for my career. But there was something more important to me than even my career.

Yes, I loved my job. Yes, I was crazy about being a journalist. But I could, and I did once, chuck it all up for him.

My biggest, greatest dream was to be with this man. To spend every second with him. To go on vacations round the world, to have romantic dinners, to watch movies together, to share silly, funny jokes, to go on long drives in the rain, to make love in every corner of the house. And I was doing it. I was living the dream.

Until.

I felt my dream slip from my fingers.