A journey of becoming

September 13, 2020

It is an uphill task for a woman to pursue her interest in writing after marriage and kids, but it doesn’t have to be so

A Greek poet (Konstantinos Kavafis) once said: “New lands you will not find, you will not find other seas/ The city will follow you…/ You will roam the same streets.”

The city for writers is their sense of ease at writing. Their space, their time and their pen. Which is sometimes elusive, but the author does come home to writing eventually. The streets are their ideas that whirl and twirl in their minds before ensconcing themselves in the paper. I take this to be a beautiful elegy of the sparkling new eras ushered into our lives while we cling onto our old, ‘natural’ selves. How life can take a diametric turn but we remain intrinsically the same within, is amazing.

With the same old ambitions, interests, hobbies and means for personal catharsis, we tread along different people, in different countries sometimes and a whole lot of different ethos. The new life can sometimes be very imposing but making time for one’s true calling, in this case writing, is commendable. To balance one’s life after marriage and kids with a passion to pursue one’s interest in writing is a good deal uphill. It requires one to be “a kind-hearted woman and a brave man” simultaneously, as Ivan Turgenyev says.

It is for those who refuse to lead an ordinary life. Those who still want the colour of their ink to brighten up their moods and lighten up their days. But in doing so one needs to remember that while we are juggling all the roles with our personal sense of perfection, one of the roles will eventually suffer from time to time.

Much of the expectations that come from being a mother, are imposed by society and are hence, environmental. What is innate and natural, still needs a lot of discovery from women folk themselves. They are in the driving seat of the biggest institution in the world: motherhood. Once they know better, society will treat them better.

Conscious and sensitive women – and those aware of these qualities in them – will always carry umbrage against being stereotyped, generalised, loathed and trivialised for being who they are. And not without a reason. An uncompromising woman will fight these notions to the end and help in breaking these bastions of tradition however she can. Sometimes quietly, other times openly. If it is a conventional woman who in her hay day wrote poems or prose or anything she felt like writing, she will quietly carry those scripts with her to her husband’s house. No sooner will anyone explore those hidden gems till her own granddaughters open their eyes into the world that suppresses female talents. Only then will she tell them of a magical time when she used to pen down her heart on paper till she got married and none of that heart was left in one piece. The world takes away her talents, or maybe she gives too much of her heart to the world. A world which looks at men as writers first and men later, but women as women first and maybe only women later.

For an intelligent female maverick, to while away an entire day with an infant – without having done anything that satiates her intellectual appetite – is much more taxing than is ever understood. While what Simone de Beauvoir said is real, “One is not born a woman, but becomes one”, we still need to dissect this discourse for greater enlightenment of those whom it reaches. For a woman, the journey is strictly one of becoming. She is never endorsed as she is. She has to continuously chisel up her corners for smooth viability in a home, culture and society.

There is no established definition of a seamless mother or a father, and any daft definitions are all equally harrowing for real women and real men. In trying to be a perfect trio of a wife, mother and housekeeper, sometimes the mother loses, at other times the housekeeper or the wife. But only incessantly does the writer suffer as due to prolonged absconding, either the writer forgets to write, or writing forgets the writer.

For a woman, the journey is strictly one of becoming. She is never endorsed as she is. She has to continuously chisel up her corners for smooth viability in a home, culture and society.

After almost a two year break from writing after marriage and a daughter, I suspected that I had forgotten writing. Then much later I felt that maybe writing had forgotten me, maybe the likes of me were not meant for the realm. The arena of writers and writing demand utmost discipline and order in life. Above all, space and time. These were not available to me. Or maybe I was not available to anything other than this tiny human who now decided my daily routine. My brain was at a constant tug of war with the limitations of my body. While the brain was out there willing to run into the wilderness of creativity and flex its neurons a bit; the body pulled me back to the ground with a thud. I landed heavy, bruised, sleepless and exhausted. All transcendent maiden visions also vanished into a ‘grounded’ vortex.

But while this conflict continued, I came across a piece on Sylvia Plath. I found out that she wrote some of her masterpieces after the birth of her baby. This information somehow managed to put a bandage on my wounded heart. One of her quotes encouraged me to write about not being able to write. “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt”, she said, and as an afterthought, “By the way, everything in life is writable”. These lines gave me the boost that I was looking for. I learnt, in one revelatory night, to relish the childhood of my babies and cherish every bit of it. And write about it sometimes too.

Typically, as soon as the writer mother sits down to write, still getting in the frame of mind, the toddler comes weeping with a popular issue or two; requiring an immediate and effective solution. So the disturbed mother fights an internal battle with the writing woman. To be up or to remain nonchalant and continue to type. A soliloquy ensues which ‘naturally’ tips in favour of the kid. Once the troubled toddler calms down, she again picks up from where she left. Ten minutes into her work the toddler wants to go to the loo.

As the child finally sleeps, she begins typing again, half confused about where she was.

Oscar Wilde once said, “Men marry because they are tired, women because they are curious.”

Maybe my phase of curiosity is finally over; curiosity about people, their intentions, life in general, and my purpose in all of it. Maybe now a keen sense of self-discovery is setting in for me, where I refuse to be pigeonholed into a certain role or a character in life, where the sky is the limit and articulation is the path to liberation. Audre Lorde was a woman, a poet, a writer and a mother of two. Like Anais Nin, she refused to live an ordinary life. Her famous quote has given me strength on some difficult days, “The white fathers told us, ‘I think therefore I am’, and the Black mother within each of us - the poet - whispers in our dream, ‘I feel, therefore I can be free.’”

Being sensitive is not all that being vulnerable. It is not synonymous with being a chump. Writing frees the soul, unburdens the mind and heels wounds both visible and invisible to the naked eye. As Rumi once said, “the pen puts its head down/ To give a dark sweetness to the page,” – it is easy to converse with dead paper, it is ironically the very words that make the space where we write, come alive.

The writer is a freelance columnist for Pakistani dailies and author of A Child of the New Millennium- Stories and Essays from Pakistan (2015)

A journey of becoming