Archive | April, 2013

The beauty of large families

26 Apr

Disclaimer: I am not sure if I should start every blog of mine with a disclaimer. However here goes, I am aware that I am an Indian citizen, and that India has a population problem.I am also aware,  that educated citizens, should think about their nation’s prosperity before their own. While the financial implications of having more children, might also be a cause of worry, I am not discussing them here.

I was brought up in the Middle East, and most of my close friends were Pakistanis or North Kerala Muslims (I am a south Kerala Muslim, and yes there is a huge cultural difference between the two).  All my classmates had big families, the fact that I had “only” one brother, was something everyone rolled their eyes at.

I fondly remember, my Pakistani classmate, Tusadaf Akram. She was the eldest of, from what I remember,8 siblings. She was a talented little girl, her paintings looked as good as today’s graphic novels, when she must have hardly been 10 years old. Till her 5th class, she was just that, a very pretty girl, who was great in painting.

 Then something took over her. She started studying really really hard. So from being an average student, she catapulted to a class topper, in a very short time. I remember how inspired I was by her. Till date, I don’t know what took over her, or why she studied so hard.  I may have been a better student than she was, but yet I wanted to be just like her. I was in awe of her, and I especially loved that she had a big family. I am not sure if having a big family helped her, or hindered her. But as a 10 year old, I believed that, not having as many siblings as her and the rest of my classmates I was missing out on life. I also played make-believe and day dreamed about having 4 elder brothers (3 imaginary and 1 real) and 3 younger siblings.

Later, I returned back to my hometown, Trivandrum. Here of course, all the oddness of being a 2-child family drained out. It was the norm, and as years passed by, I forgot everything about big families. The kids in my family, also started demanding they do not want other siblings. This again became the norm. one-child families. Not that I have anything against it, I know of amazingly grounded and wonderful people who are single children.


The cute and large family from The Bill Cosby Show

And THEN I got married into a north-kerala family. My childhood came rushing back to me.

In Kannur, my husband’s hometown, the families are big, an average no of children, for today’s couples is 4.  So naturally people in my generation had  4 (or more) siblings. Since I personally never belonged to a big family, as a kid, I always wondered, how mothers took equal care of all of them. Did they forget about any of their kids? Were they treated unequally? Were the children less loved, because there were too many to love?

After marriage, however, I became part of a big family, and got the answers to all of my life-long questions.

I am not a parent, and hence can’t speak for them. But as a part-time aunt/sister-in-law to more than 13 kids (below the age of 10), I can say for sure, I understand and celebrate each of their uniqueness. And I miss the ones who aren’t there, even when there are 7 other kids to distract me. I have noticed time and again how my mother-in-law remembers what each of the kids in her and her husband’s family like for dinner. I, for one, fall sick every time I visit, and my husband’s grandmother who has her hands-full to say the least, alters my diet easily and accordingly, and I am cured the very next day. The grandfather gives a wake-up call to all of his 7 kids, (whoever is in his timezone) for the morning prayer, every day . I realized love isn’t something that gets distracted or divided among family. Even if you are the fifth daughter’s third child, you are as much included, and taken care of, (and worried about) as the rest of them are.  

The difference of course being that, parents do not get time to obsess over every little detail of their children. (which happens a lot from where I come from). Jennifer Grant, mother of four, and author of Momumental, mentions in her book, that the beauty of having four children is that, she didn’t obsess and spoil any one of her children. So each of them had their own secrets, independence, and individuality. The parents themselves remain young and busy for a very long part of their lives, as the whole “empty-nest” descends on them pretty late, and for some of them never.Most importantly, the kids have each other to play and grow up with, and for the large part aren’t interested in adults

Then of course, there is loads of unadulterated fun that you never have to switch on the television again. And, if you ask me, life is meant to have fun


With the Hijab! Again

24 Apr

For those who do not know what a Hijab is: It’s the headscarf used by Muslim women.

I am sorry: But I really had to write about this again.

So it’s been months since I updated my blog. I contemplated writing a review about the books I read: (Feminine Mistake and Momumental), then I wanted to write about Veda Pierce a particularly disturbing character from the brilliant mini-series Mildred Pierce. But as always life got in the way, and then the hijab related questions started again. So here I go again.

Recently , a complete stranger send me a Facebook message asking me why I “liked” the photo of one of my Muslim friend’s when I very well knew that she  was married to a Hindu man. And if that meant that  I support inter-religious marriages. Considering that the photo was liked by at least a 100 people, and that he didn’t know me, why did he chose to ask ME, of all people?

Of course, the Hijab. The fact that I am seen wearing a hijab in my profile picture, made him automatically assume that I am against  inter-religious marriages, and that I had taken it upon myself to advice every one of my friends who I think are going the “wrong” way. Now that I have FB blocked him, I am sure he won’t be reading this. But yet, to clarify to everyone, I have NOTHING against an inter-religious marriage. I am proud to be an Indian who interact and live amicably a midst different religions. And  living amicably includes, marrying a person of a different religion. India gives its citizens the legal right to choose their own life partner. And I stand by it, tooth and nail. In short, the hijab hasn’t made me a radical. It doesn’t make me anything I wasn’t before.

Second: One of my ex colleagues who is a Muslim, told me that he has “converted” a Hindu girl and will be marrying her soon. Now considering that I never was one of his close friends, and merely an acquaintance, I was wondering why he chose ME to share this kind of sensitive information. Of course the Hijab. He expected me to applaud his decision. However I am sure he wasn’t happy with the response he received.

Not to mention, he said, he considered me an “ideal” Muslim woman.  I know how men equate Hijab to ideal-ness, all the time. He doesn’t know about my prayer life,about how spiritually advanced I am, he hardly knows me, and yet I am “ideal”. I was flattered alright, but , it wasn’t appealing to know that wearing a hijab ALONE made me ideal.

Third: One another Muslim acquaintance pinged me early this morning, asking if he can buy a pet dog, and if it’s allowed in Islam. I know the Islamic standing on pet dogs, but I knew it when I was probably 10 years old, and never wore a hijab.  I was raised in Al-Ain, and any person who spends their childhood in a Muslim country has an idea about it. This doesn’t mean I am an Islamic scholar. I shouldn’t be asked such questions, really, I shouldn’t.

Hijab is made out into so much more than its supposed to be.  It’s a piece of cloth and is considered a fashion statement, in my husband’s place. I wear it as much out of respect, as out of vanity and the need to remain “fashionable” (Like all women?).
It doesn’t make me anything I wasn’t before. It doesn’t make me a scholar or a radical. Most importantly it doesn’t make me  Non-Indian.

I AM A SECULAR INDIAN. And always will be.

P.S: There! I have gotten rid of my writer’s block aka laziness, now let me get back to the reviews and Veda Pierce.