Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Sheer Sunshine like Joy


23rd January, 2011, Sunday
Dear Baby,

You cried a bit and then you pooped as your little stomach growled. I noticed that every time you stir and move and cry, your stomach growls. I think your stomach is upset because I ate too much chili. I’m sorry darling for not considering you in my diet. From now on, I will try to eat as little chili as possible. I thought you would get used to it. I did not want to trouble my mother in preparing a separate curry for me. 

Baby, right now, I’m lying next to you and writing this letter. I haven’t changed you yet because you fell asleep so peacefully that I didn’t want to disturb you. You are sleeping, so, so peacefully, your father’s left hand wrapped around you. God Baby, I never saw a face bathed completely in sheer contentment and joy. I remembered Thich Nhat Hanh’s observance of a little boy: 

One day, I sat by the window of a friend’s home and watched a scene I could have watched forever. Across the street was a low roofed dry goods store. Coils of rope and barbed wire, pots and pans hung from the eaves. Hundreds of items were on display – fish sauce and bean sauce, candles and peanut candy. The store was so packed and dimly lit, it was difficult to distinguish one object from another as the rainstorm darkened the street. A young boy, no more than five or six, wearing a simple pair of shorts, his skin darkened by hours of play in the sun, sat on a little stool on the front step of the store. He was eating a bowl of rice, protected by the overhand. Rain ran off the roof making puddles in front of where he sat. He held his rice bowl in one hand and his chopsticks in the other, and he ate slowly, his eyes riveted on the stream of water pouring from the roof. Large drops exploded into bubbles on the surface of a puddle. Though I was across the street, I could tell that his rice was mixed with pieces of duck egg and sprinkled with fish sauce. He raised his chopsticks slowly to his mouth, savoring each small mouthful. He gazed at the rain and appeared to be utterly content, the very image of well-being. I could feel his heart beating. His lungs, stomach, liver, and all his organs were working in perfect harmony. If he had had a toothache, he could not have been enjoying the effortless peace of that moment.  I looked at him as one might admire a perfect jewel, a flower, or a sunrise. Truth and paradise revealed themselves. I was completely absorbed by his image. He seemed to be a divine being, a young god embodying the bliss of well-being with every glance of his eyes and every bite of rice he took. He was completely free of worry or anxiety. He had no thought of being poor. He did not compare his simple black shorts to the fancy clothes of other children. He did not feel sad because he had no shoes. He did not mind that he sat on a hard stool rather than a cushioned chair. He felt no longing. He was completely at peace in the moment. Just by watching him, the same well-being flooded my body.

Yes Baby, I felt exactly as he describes here. It flooded my body with joy and I felt myself exploding with it. I couldn’t hold myself back in the bed – so I woke up to express myself in my blog. It is still very early. It is winter you know and the past few days have been very cold. It did not really snow but the weather has been very gloomy and cloudy. Even right now -- I have opened the curtains on my window – the sky is dark and cloudy but it has no effect on this overwhelming joy I’m feeling. People must wake up early. I already heard several cars passing by. Now I hear the birds; I already heard a crow crowing early morning when I got up to go to toilet. I even felt a little scared. I never heard a crow that early and I took that to be ominous. I couldn’t interpret what it would mean but I couldn’t help notice it and feel strange. 

But that was gone as soon as I got in bed next to you. I took a picture of you lying peacefully next to your father and got back in bed beside you. Baby I love you. You have brought so much joy in my life.

Love, Mom

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Women’s Sensitive Nature and Men’s Ignorance (of it)

Now that I am a mother I know the enchanted moments the mothers experience simply by looking at their babies’ faces. I also know the impatience mothers wait with for their babies to see them and speak to them. And during my time of being with the baby 24 hours, I have seen the difference men and women have in the nature of being different sexes.

While mother stays home with her baby, loving the baby and smiling alone with the baby, all the time talking to the baby, though baby doesn’t respond, father comes home in the evening from work or elsewhere and kisses the baby, coos the baby some affection and that is it. Yesterday was such a time where my baby did not sleep well. The previous night she cried more than she usually does and I was not able to get the quota of sleep that I actually require. I thought I should sleep during the day when she slept – but I couldn’t do that because even during the day she did not sleep well as usual.

And in the evening, I thought I should sleep when she did, which she did not. I felt irritated. Looking back, I think it was because I planned it and the plan did not work. She cried every time I put her on the bed. She slept peacefully well on my lap though.

Now, I did not know if she was unwell. When a baby cries, all you can do is assume what must be wrong with her. Not knowing what to do, or what else could be wrong, other than wanting to be fed, or changed, I cried with her. Her father was gone out to play basket ball. He informed me a day earlier about his plan to play basket ball – so that I did not freak out. And I did not want to freak out at all. I usually don’t. My way of coping with situation I do not really like to see is by letting out the tears. It consoles me. Yesterday when I had to be with the baby alone when she cried, I cried with her. I cried also because I thought he should be there with us and he was not. My mother said, ‘what could a father do, even if he was there?’ He could not breastfeed a baby, but he could sit next to us and we would expect him to do just that. That time, for once, I really wished father were the ones to breastfeed the babies (and I thought all fathers should share the thoughts PaSsu does). 

While men can call themselves fathers, they will never know the pain women go through; neither will they know the difficulty of giving birth, or raising children. I thought, just by the virtue of the capability of being mothers, women are precious. And I want to live believing that while men enjoy more freedom in the sense of movement, women enjoy the delicate sensitivity of being gentle and loving.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Growing up, witnessing changes


I was seeing off my niece who is 7 years younger to me. She had completed her three-years teacher’s training and going home. A certain sadness gripped my heart. I felt like a mother who was seeing her daughter leave house to live on her own – the sadness I felt was similar to the one a mother would feel on the knowledge that her daughter would now have a home of her own and she would return home only as a guest sometimes.

I remembered the time I saw her grow up from a little girl to a lady.

Because our house was far away from the only school in our village, I stayed with her parents during schooling. As is usual, there were times when she would rebuke me – ask me to leave her house, to not stay with them. That would hurt me so much that I would cry. I was foolish; being 7 years older and not know that a child’s talk shouldn’t be taken to heart. I would then go away from their house and nestle myself in the small tree below the house.

I would carry the Dzongka text book with me. And then, tears rolling down my eyes, I would make the preface of that Dzongkha text book into a song. I remember how on cloudy days such as today I would watch our house lying like a lone star on the bright summer night down south. My heart longing for my parents, I would break down once again and silently wish my days at school would end soon.

And today yes, I was seeing off this little girl I saw grow up. She is now a matured, very responsible and gentle person. More than my niece, we are friends. We talk at equal terms on all that matters in our lives.

And then before I became a mother, I heard that she had given birth to a baby girl. That left me even more shattered on the sadness I felt on our parting. I feel a little unhappy thinking about all this, but of course, life itself is a journey and journey obviously means witnessing changes. I’m now a mother myself and I can only feel proud of her growing up and treading on the path of motherhood. Somehow, we are all bound by the model in the society. Almost without a choice or a second thought, we become who all our ancestors and our contemporary fellow humans become. Despite change being inevitable, I want to differ and I feel sad that we are all dictated by this model.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Scene from My Window


(11th January, 2011)
I just bathed my baby and I’m feeding her. My apartment is not on a highway but the road that runs above it is busy. At late night I hear the car passing by. I hear the cars before dawn as well. This makes me think that people are very busy in fact.

Across my apartment, above this busy road stays a National Assembly member. I see people walk by, different cars speed by, and sometime, even though I stay quietly in my house, I can’t help notice the irritating shrill honk of the cars. These days people have the taste for irritating not-normal car honk. I even get a feeling that it should not be allowed. I heard someone say that it is banned in Delhi. I don’t know how far it is true but I think it is right. You don’t have to go anywhere to be exposed to noise pollution. You can be disturbed right when you are in the quiet of your own home.

Yes I was going to write about this scene I witnessed this morning. It is 9:45 a.m. I am caught by the sight of an NA member – he has a neatly folded blue kabney on his shoulder; his right hand is holding a shining silver patang. Then what catches my attention even more is – taking his left hand to his mouth. And there, did I see something like a flake of smoke come out? I am not mistaken. Yes he is smoking a cigarette. And this suddenly takes me to the many discussions the last National Assembly Session had on making stricter rules and laws on smoking. I think of the very-wide news coverage it received. I am not meaning to say that an NA member cannot smoke, for they are the ones enacting the laws on banning it. I don’t know. It gives me a nudge, an enthusiasm so strong that I quickly type an entry in my journal.

Two women stand near him. A red alto car is in front of them. He throws up the cigarette butt on the tall wall above the parking. But it falls down. So he picks it up and puts it in the front wall on which are planted flowers. Then, he throws the patang and kabney in the car and drives away.
I fight a thought that maybe, one’s family is not public; maybe one’s family becoming passive smokers doesn’t matter. But I do hate fathers or mothers smoking nonchalantly in front of their children.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


A New Chapter
When people knew that I had been married for 4 years and did not have a child, they expressed surprise and wanted to know why I wasn’t a mother yet. (By last year end, I am married for exactly 5 years.) I told them that I wasn’t so keen on giving birth. I was not. No, wait. I think I wasn’t very sure about it. I didn’t know what kind of mother I would be and I didn’t even know if I wanted to raise a child. But now that I am a mother, I think I have waited for the gift too long. No regrets, but I feel becoming a mother sooner would not have hampered anything in my life. It surely would not have killed any of my dreams like I feared. Right now, looking at the angelic face of my daughter is like nothing in the world. I love the way she smiles – an infant does smile in a day or two after the delivery – I’m told they are being teased in their dreams (by the gods).

I dreamed of giving birth to a son. By the time I had given birth, I had already dreamed four times giving birth to a baby boy. I dreamed that my labor wasn’t so difficult. True to it, it did not take long. Nurses thought it was quick – but of course the pain, though the duration was short was too, too painful. I thought my lower abdomen was surely going to get off from my body. Surprising how you cry out for your mother when you are truly in pain. And when you are undergoing labor, there is no better comfort than holding your husband’s hands. I’m glad my husband was next to me all through it. We were starting a new life – and I feel it is only right that he was beside me. But I’m not saying he should be obligated to be there.

When you have just given birth, people tell you to be ready to have sleepless nights of breastfeeding and changing diapers. I am glad my baby doesn’t keep me awake whole night. I do have to wake up at least once to change her or feed her. But that is nothing much. And I thank her that she is a very understanding baby. A friend came to see me and the baby and she said, three months of maternity leave flies off – you have no time to get bored. She said, ‘waktsa rang goth chhumo man cha. Ngar ne la ngar ba lek pa. Gep ne le gepha lek pa…’ It is true really. Even if you had more than 24 hours, I think you wouldn’t know how you spent it with your baby. It flies off and you can’t help falling in love with the different odd expressions baby makes in their sleep. I am waiting for her to talk back to me. I sing to her different strange phrases of love and affection and I feel she understands me.

This new chapter is going to take me off for a long, long happy ride in my life. And I’m glad, it happened to me. I’m glad I got a chance to be called a mother.