Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  -  Contact Us
     Volume 6 Issue 36 | September 14, 2007 |

   Cover Story
   Writing the wrong
   View from the    Bottom
   Dhaka Diary
   Book Review

   SWM Home

Writing the Wrong

A Stinky Mystical Morning

Sharbari Ahmed

The following is a mostly faithful rendition not to be confused with the CIA's version of rendition, which is to snatch people off the street and detain them indefinitely in Turkish-like prisons, while never bringing charges against them but a regurgitation of a scenario I recently found myself a part of and indicative of an ongoing struggle or Jihad that I have embarked upon. That of bohemian artist vs. suburban mommy. I am S and the other speaker I have identified as simply A. They are a new acquaintance/colleague of mine. It occurred at 11 am on a Sunday morning, while I lay in a warm bed, staring at the ceiling on which gentle white clouds that had been painted by the previous owner danced. The phone rang:

S: Hallo?
A: Did I wake you?
S: No not at all. What's up?
A: Well this is going to sound weird but you know how I have been taking these lessons in channeling my psychic abilities?*

*A note to the reader: please remember that I work in New York City and that I am literally a magnet for people and situations such as these. It is, therefore, ultimately my fault for even engaging in this conversation.

S: Yeah. How is that going?
A: Well, I just needed to tell you something.
S: (worriedly) Yes?
A: You are meant to do great things. I can see that clearly. Something to further humanity. But there is something keeping you from achieving your goals and potential.

S: (thought but not said) Crippling insecurity and extreme laziness? (Instead I said) Uh, what?
A: You need to divorce your husband and move out of D (the bucolic town where I live). All the energy that you put into managing him and the marriage is taking away from what you are meant to do, which is something very, very important.

I was silent, naturally, not knowing how to take this. This was a person I had admired for a while. They are a published novelist and accomplished art aficionado. They are hip in that effortless New York kind of way and an activist to boot. Everything I am not.

My life has been a constant balancing act and I have found myself caught between trying to fulfill my duties as a wife and mother, while feeding this compulsion to express myself as a writer and filmmaker. There are times as many ambitious women will attest to when neither motherhood nor work are easy or gratifying. On top of that, I have been feeling maternal urges again and been thinking about having another baby. Was A picking up on a recent malaise I had experienced, I wondered? I am an open book, lacking the talent some women have for creating mystery and intrigue. My heart is not worn on my sleeve but right smack in the middle of my forehead like a third eye. So I had, at some point, expressed to A my concern that I had many conflicting motivations and was learning to separate the intertwined strands of my aspirations and obligations and identify what was 1: a priority and 2: simply doable.

This is the struggle of so many people, forget women, and is not unusual. A must have caught on to that.

They were the first to speak.
A: I know this is heavy and I am sorry to call you on a Sunday morning and dump this on you but I felt I should tell you.

A went on to explain that they felt that my energy was dissipated. Well hello! I wanted to say. I am a mom and a wife and constantly trying to convince people that my work is worthy of publication, investment or some kind of support. I am on an intimate footing with rejection and find that I can live with it most of the time. It is what I have chosen to be and cannot think of a time when I didn't want to make films or write stories. The one realm where I clearly never get rejected is in motherhood. My son is eight and at an age where he still thinks I am the most beautiful creature in the world. A notion that will disappear soon enough or will morph into simply a healthy respect for women and womankind. Both the uncertainty of the career path I have chosen and the concrete realities of motherhood form the person I am. To have someone with whom I am embarking on a friendship call me up on a sunny, winter's day and tell me that in order to be happy I need to destabilise my child, abandon my husband and resign my volunteer position at the help desk of my kid's school was, needless to say, appalling. But I did not flinch. I heard her out. I was trying to be mature. One must always hear one out.

It is difficult to be ambitious and a decent parent at the same time no matter how noble one's endeavours are. Didn't Gandhi's eldest son resent him for the rest of his life, knowing full well that his father was acting out of pure selflessness? (We think) Gandhi was still a man with a definite agenda and somebody's feelings (besides the blackguard Churchill's) had to be sacrificed. All women in my position know the sacrifices that need to be made when one marries and gives birth. But that doesn't mean that they cannot achieve greatness and their child doesn't have to be severely emotionally damaged as a result.

Who knows in the end what A's real motivations were? They are single, with children and an uncertain financial future. Maybe, being miserable, they wanted company. I hung up the phone on a jovial note but this conversation has haunted me several times since then. I now have to make peace with not being great and maybe that is my karma. It's not that I believe her, but her words got me thinking about what it meant to be a valuable member of society. Indeed any greatness I am destined to achieve (greatness of course being an entirely relative term) is directly related to how good a human being I aim to be one would think. Being a lousy wife and mother automatically disqualifies me for the international greatness awards. When one is vain and egotistical as I am wont to be at times understanding what their limitations are can be a bitter pill to swallow, but for me it's just been tart at times and extremely sweet at others. Maybe I will not further humanity. Maybe I will never win an Oscar or a Pulitzer or even get a best mommy in the world coffee mug but I actually think I am okay with that. Psychic suggestions not withstanding.


Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2007