This miracle is mine

So my older two.. R & R are both quite amused with my routine here in Lahore at my parents’ place. During breakfast Daughter remarked:

“mama you’re really enjoying your break!”

me: from what beta?

“from the kitchen!” (Cue: surge of joy)

Then later on son noticed how I was sitting relaxed reading a book and drinking tea, which I didn’t have to make. He noticed from the other room, grinned and said:

“mama… Maujen!!!!” (Cue: pinching myself to make sure it’s real)

Spending time with parents, friends, and focusing on myself. Please excuse this bout of narcissism quite unbecoming of a mother… but mauj indeed!

Nearing 40 and at times feeling like the Wicked Witch of the West crumpled under the woes of the indignant modern life…. this carefree/short-lived spurt of life while visiting my parents, is uncanny. Magical. And this urgency, this feeling that if I close my eyes, the bubble will burst. It’s nothing I’ve experienced before. A few years ago if you’d have asked me, I might have put it differently. But now. I know enough of life’s fickle abandonment. And I choose to be entranced in this spell for as long as I can. To hold on to every speck of the fairy dust.

As mothers we always want our little ones to learn from experiences. It’s good if they realize certain things in life sooner, right? That these little pleasures you get at your parents’ home are a big deal. The real deal. Especially after you’ve officially graduated on to real life. And also happen to live continents away. It strikes you like lightening. But I know. This is an abundance of life-text for them at this point. And it’d be unfair to want them to turn into little know-it-all Socrates. Let them savour these years of ‘taking it all for granted’, I say. Though I never leave the chance to shake my finger at them whilst lecturing about ‘being grateful.’ But who am I kidding? Let them celebrate life’s blissful ignorance. Some things, if they are fortunate enough, will come in their due time.

Though years from now… I suspect(replace at your discretion : secretly pray) I may ask them to visit. I may ask them to take a break and unwind at their parents’ home. I hope they’ll look forward to coming. As much as I always do. And when they visit, I hope I do justice. And make them feel safe and happy. No matter how old, or whichever way their lives unfold.

So maybe that’s when they will understand these little pleasures. Luxury that is almost a God given right at your parents’ home. No matter how rich or poor, the comfort found behind those closed doors, between a mother’s embrace and a father’s doting gaze, is a miracle.

In an era where feelings, emotions, care and regard are sidelined. Where material worth outweighs all other measures of humanity. Where we doubt everything we do and want to do it another way. The better way. The way they show us online or on TV. Because doubt sells, doubt makes money. Where purity is outdated. And selflessness is archaic. It is important to remember there is a home. Filled with people who would go to ends of the Earth for you. People who will love you with all your cracks and potholes (no pun intended). Who will love you even if you’re a full grown woman who seems to know it all. But she never does. Definitely not at her parents’ home.

I feel like an old Windows Desktop. The one we’d smack on the head to get it to reboot, with dust flying off. That’s me. Rebooted ‘n Revived. So I don’t know about other people. And what they say about miracles and magic. But this safe haven is about me. And where I came from. Tucked between childhood pictures. In furniture as old as I am. In countless hazy memories. In old faces. In familiar places. This life away from life. This miracle is mine.

Wednesday Wiseness: What makes perfect sense

What a wonderful feeling it would be not to rush through our story. To pay homage to each fleeting tick-tock of the madness we call life. To wake up in the morning with nothing but a reminder that this day is perfect. It is perfect not because I can do the impossible. But because I can do everything possible to make it perfect.

image

I can’t find perfection in the monumental happenings. I try to, but it never makes enough sense. Be it scientific breakthroughs or mind-numbing tragedies, nothing adds up.

What makes perfect sense is the way plants in my backyard fill with green blood when spring touches their wintery pulse.

What makes perfect sense is the way my children love me for no reason.

What makes perfect sense is the way my parents can forgive me for all the reasons.

What makes perfect sense is that my wrinkly version doesn’t sound horrifying when I imagine it with my wrinkly husband.

What makes perfect sense is how I can pull off gut-hurting-tear-spurting  laughter with no other but my brother.

What makes perfect sense is that I met certain people because they carried an invisible message only I was meant to read.

What makes perfect sense is how blood relations do not always mean we share the same blood; it could mean that we share the same energy and dimension.

What makes perfect sense is how my dreams may not always come true, but that they give me reasons for doing and not just being.

What makes perfect sense is how petty life is when all you think of is yourself. And how magnanimous each breath can be if you tell your heart to just scoot over.

What makes perfect sense for you?

When I cooked my first Sheer Khorma (vermicelli pudding) on Eid …

Vermicelli. Milk. Sugar. Dates. Cardamoms. Almonds. Pistachios. I have it all laid out in front of me. My trembling hands reach for the cooking pot. My first attempt at making the most special dessert on Eid. Sheer Khorma – vermicelli pudding.

I pour in some clarified butter. A bunch of cardamoms. I wait to hear the popping sound of cardamoms that tells me I can move on to the next step. I grab a cup of vermicelli and fry it in the pot. “Wait for the color to change”, said mother, mother-in-law and Google. So I stir and I stir. I feel like a novice baseball player, striking the thin vermicelli strands back and forth.  The light caramel color of the vermicelli soon transforms into a glistening light brown. The sweet aroma of the butter and cardamoms make my senses tingle.

After frying, I add a liter of milk. Some newer versions call for condensed milk. But I lean towards simple ingredients. The original recipe passed down from decades outshines all other. I wait for the milk to boil and then I turn down the flame. Now the wait begins. Sheer Khorma needs time and patience. The more time, the creamier it becomes – like a mouthful of clouds. Edible white clouds.

I remember peering down at a similar cooking pot, a couple of years ago in Lahore (Pakistan) at my in-laws’ place. Every year on Eid, the entire house would be on its toes. Family members readying clothes for the morning prayer. Talks of henna prints on our hands. Matching bangles. And of course food. The last day of fasting opens doors to unlimited ways of overeating. Ramzaan(Ramadan) is essentially about spiritual reflection, abstaining from sins and a means of improving oneself (physically and mentally). But refraining from food and water is a basic principle. Post-Ramzaan, show us food and we forget everything else. The queen of all foods on Eid is essentially Sheer Khorma. I remember my mum-in-law, stirring the delectable pot of sugary vermicelli. I remember her worried expression as she repeated the long list of things still left for the next day’s celebration. I remember telling her not to worry because everything will turn out perfect. And it always did. Guests poured in the next day, gorging down delicious food, greeting each other with warm hugs and thankful smiles. Laughter, food and gratitude all day long. A perfect celebration is all I remember.

My mind wanders further back. Eid at my parents’ home before I got married. Like many too-busy-for-no-reason children and teenagers, I rarely entered the kitchen. But I knew that my mama would have everything ready in the morning; sheer khorma and other delights laid out for Eid guests. The morning ritual involved greeting parents with “Eid Mubarak!” and collecting hefty amounts of Eidi (money) that eventually made its way into convenient stores carrying junk food. Early morning Army gatherings were the biggest highlight.  Families visited each others’ homes carrying sweets. Spending the entire day in glittery made-up clothes was exciting. Even if it meant playing cricket or softball and tripping over uncomfortable sandals.  A different lifetime. Another perfect Eid.

Eid is celebrated all over the world, but with varying traditions and cultural intricacies. Its variations are marked by beautiful little nuances within each home, each family. I’ve lived through two different Eids in my life. I’ve tasted two different types of sheer khormas. I cherish each celebration, each bite that is much more than a simple dessert. A sweet dish that symbolizes a lifelong tradition. It represents perfection. It portrays joy.  And now, I am in a new country, celebrating Eid in my home for the first time. On the eve of Eid, for a minute there I almost felt lost; Not knowing where to start or what to do. But then all those memories came rolling in. The aroma of sheer khorma gave me comfort. Valuable family traditions gave me a gentle nudge in the right direction. Coaxing me to find my way.

After hours of tasting and wondering if the dish is complete or needs more time to cook, I finally pour out the sheer khorma in the serving dish. I top it with blanched and crushed almonds and pistachios. I take another quick bite. As the slippery vermicelli slides into my mouth, I realize that the taste and texture is close to what I’ve eaten in my homes, but I still have a long way to go.

I miss all those years of celebrating Eid with my family in my homeland. But then as I look at my freshly cooked pot of sheer khorma, I feel blessed and thankful. I feel as if everything is just as it were all those years ago.

My first Eid in my new home with my family. That sounds to me like another perfect Eid.

But one thing is for sure. I have big shoes to fill.

When my life was a big fat adventure

Writing 101 prompt – Day 11: Tell us about the home where you lived when you were twelve. Which town, city, or country? Was it a house or an apartment? A boarding school or foster home? An airstream or an RV? Who lived there with you? Today’s twist: pay attention to your sentence lengths and use short, medium, and long sentences as you compose your response about the home you lived in when you were twelve.

Going back to when I was twelve years old. Now that’s a heartwarming, skin-tingling thought. Year 1995 to be exact. City was the ever beautiful and rustic, Quetta (Pakistan). We were in the Army cantonment, the famous Command and Staff College. A hub of Pakistan army’s most brilliant minds at work. Our street name – Sahibzad Gul Road, named after a prominent Army general. It was the fanciest name I had ever heard. Our house was huge with an untamed, unfenced lawn that spread out towards the back and on to vast spans of land.A long winded driveway extended from the front gate to the house entrance. Outside the house was breathtaking. Architecture was in fact from the British ruling days. Inside, it was a different story.

My mom almost cried when she entered the house for the first time. It was the most rundown house on the street. I wasn’t too bothered with its rickety condition. I had other things to worry about. Making Friends. Who was to know! I was to make my closest and oldest friends there. A few of my bestest (this just says it so much better!) friends to date are the ones I made in Quetta. We didn’t have or need the term BFF back then. We had the real thing.

We were adaptable folk. All army families had to be. No two ways about that. One year you were indulging yourself in a developed country playing double dutch, eating ice cream sandwiches and prancing about in Disney Land. The next year it was a remote but heavenly city of Pakistan called Skardu, where bare necessities were hard to come by. When you’ve had an ugly coal heater resembling a 1950’s space shuttle, with a huge pipe placed at the dead center of your bedroom, you can’t possibly complain about anything. Ever. So the house in Quetta was not a big deal. We quickly fell in love with its twisted architecture, its sky-kissed ceilings and its cold concrete that went on to give us the warmest and most loving years of our lives.

Life inside the cantonment had everything a child would want. And more. Our school (Iqra Army Public school) was in a league of its own – years ahead of its time in our country. We had music classes, sports like softball, netball, badminton, tennis, athletics; cultural and dramatic activities; field trips. Our principal, Sir James Last was Australian. I still remember his hawk-like gaze that was enough to keep everything and everyone in line. Outside school we had an equally exciting life. Riding. Swimming. Sailing. Marathons. Hiking adventures. Cycling. Huge birthday parties. Playing in the streets till sunset. No one cared where we were off exploring or playing because that’s how safe it all was. Studying was there somewhere I think, hidden beneath piles of FUN. Army life in cantonments is essentially a social setup that involves a lot of family gatherings, excursions and events. So when the children weren’t creating havoc on the streets, we were spending quality time with our families.

An endless vacation. The adventure never stopped. Never ever.

Feelings of love, anger, hope, fantasy, thrill, pride, competition; all slowly seeped into my existence and I didn’t even know it. All that exposure played a huge role in shaping the person I am today. I could write an entire book on this. The friends I made, the people I met, everything that I learned. But this will have to do for now. Oh how I love you Quetta….