A daughter who leaves. A mother who stays. 

For my mother.


from mother’s womb,

nurtured with warm milk, honey

and grandmother’s snuggles,

when on the cusp of maturing,

begins to attract fireflies.


asks daughter

to don Lion’s teeth for hands

and cat’s fur for tongue,

gets thrown into the wilderness,

a genesis manifested by selfish 

self proclaimed culture gods,

to love them and leave them.

It is what it is

I got married. I left my home and its people, my hometown and its familiarity because I was told this is how it is. No explanation. I didn’t bother asking for one because I know there is none. We have been slaves to this tradition since time immemorial. So I let the frustration slide. It now lies dormant in this piece of writing.

I write this as the curtains sway to the rhythm of my husband’s gentle snoring. It’s not loud but then even the faintest noise can wake up a light sleeper like me. It’s been five days since I arrived at his place, that is four nights of sleep lost somewhere in the field of homesickness and the feeling of un-belonging.

I have 8 hours to kill while everyone around me is sound asleep. I begin with mumbling a small prayer, then I close my eyes and think of my mother, the one who taught me this verse for a good night’s rest. She said she learnt it from her mother, and I assumed her mother to have learnt it from hers, sort of like a family recipe that is being passed on, generation after generation. 

It’s in Arabic. It sounds beautiful but I don't know what it means  or what good it will bring or what charm it holds. I have been muttering it for as long as my memory can touch its toenails. I have been doing it as soon as my head touches the pillow, because I had been told to. Just as my mother does it because she had been told to.

Of sleepless nights and infinite thoughts 

It’s not the snoring that bothers me or the freezing temperature his body is accustomed to sleeping in, it’s the way the room smells. It smells nothing like my room, back in my home. I tell him this one night expecting feeble answers like “this is also your home” or “maybe it’s the smell of paint that’s bothering you” or “light your favourite scented candle.” Instead he says,“If you don’t feel like home here, then make it” 

Tongue-tied, a realisation dawned on me. Home will always be an unsure place for women. We ought to make a home with whatever it is we have, with whoever it is we are given to, and wherever it is they take us. He falls asleep even before I finish the Arabic verse, which is only one sentence.

I have always been envious of deep sleepers. Why is sleep so kind to them and brutal to us? I toss and turn, the bed creaks, the mattress squeaks yet nothing disturbs him as if he is in the land of Nod. The ceiling fan’s rattling noise irks me more than people who don’t use proper punctuation.

The moonlight gleaming on his shoulder blades keeps me awake and I notice he doesn’t sleep on a pillow. He snores when his head is placed at a particular angle. I run my fingers along his ribs, counting them. I notice they are shaped like a half open hardcover book. He has a mole on his left ear.

I have been in his presence for a month now yet I look at him only when he is unconscious. It’s weird but my stomach drops when I look at those I love in the eye.

 Of mornings and unceasing restlessness

My mother calls me first thing in the morning, not because she misses making coffee for me, because she doesn’t want me sleeping in. “Your sleep schedule embarrasses me.”, she says when I tell her I feel sleepy during the day, that I didn’t get enough sleep last night. “What do you do all night then? Count the stars?”, she asks rhetorically.

I have always been an ardent follower of intermittent fasting. That, along with my other innumerable habits and quirks and patterns, if not abandoned completely, I had to let them go, at least for the time being. Now I sit at the breakfast table, amongst unfamiliar faces, fiddling with food as the feeling of home grows unknown to me, steadily yet piercingly so.

When I think of home, I think of my mother, with cherry blossoms at the tip of her fingers and sunshine at the tip of her tongue. Always soft, always warm, every cranny of her being brimming with coziness. It’s baffling how for women, home has always been anchored to one human, one soul, and when they leave, you feel homeless. 

My mother calls me several times a day. She misses me. She misses me terribly yet never utters a word. She is strong and graceful and fears her feelings won’t be reciprocated. She thinks I don’t miss her. How silly of her! If only she could witness the gaping hole in my chest that screams her name every now and then, and I never tell her I miss her either, for it terrifies me to cause her pain.

Building a Home needs Strong Hands

I have always hated tea drinkers with a strong passion. Don’t ask me why. I just do. More than people who drink tea, I loathe making it. The smell of it makes me nauseous. I had vowed to myself I would never marry a tea enthusiast, and by now, I was well aware God likes to play games.

During the second week of my husband and I living together, one evening, without him asking for a cup of tea, my legs sauntered into the kitchen. It wasn’t out of habit. It takes 21 days to form a habit. It wasn’t love or compassion either. I felt an intense rush of responsibility coursing through my veins.

(and fondness)

I had forgotten it takes two to sustain any relationship. I had also forgotten if I am trying to adjust, so is my significant other. My heart swelled at this apprehension. A little tenderness, understanding and a lot of communication made it better. I still miss my mother every second of every day but he isn’t such a bad place to call home either. 

I took my time to adapt and accept realism. It wasn’t easy. It never is, and that’s the core of womanhood. To make the best out of everything that life and society hands us in a platter called heritage. I figured one cannot build a home with trembling hands. I have to be valiant in being, always. 

A Mother Who Knits Sweaters Now Preaches Feminism 

I ask my mother why she never asked her husband to live at her place when my grandfather was on his deathbed. Her father was a widower. He lost his wife when my mother was barely twelve, a child still foreign to mother’s love. She showers me with kisses while answering, “you are too young to understand the laws of the society, my heaven, my moon.”

I tell her there aren’t such laws. It is convention/custom/culture. It is a patriarchal ordinance hiding behind the façade of “protection” when gender equality was less than nothing, that it doesn’t have to be like that anymore. “Since it’s the era of feminism, why don’t young women turn the tables on this one?”, she asks. The question hangs in the air like a bad omen waiting to inhabit my soul. I leave it hanging.