A blurry picture but a very, very vivid memory of one of the best days of my life. A major milestone on the journey that I set out on 4 years ago. On my birthday in 2019, I had initiated a shift in my life. With every passing year, I align that shift more to my growing awareness of myself; every birthday I become more ‘me’. (As the Kung Fu Panda says in the third movie of the series- I don’t have to teach you to be me, I just have to teach you to be you! )
I wish I could post pictures from my birthday so you would all see the joy that I am absolutely bursting with! (But I’m not in hijab so I will refrain from posting them.)
Just a day before the D-Day, while attending a lecture in a course on Locating the Postcolonial Feminine that I’ve been taking, there had been a discussion on how women are conditioned to privilege their family- their marital family to be precise- over all other relationships in life. That triggered something in me and I decided to privilege my friends this time- my new bunch of young friends who make me happier than ever. Growing up, I had very few close friends, because I was always different from people of my own age group, always too radical in my ideas and notions for my immediate surroundings. The ones that I did have are my friends even to this day, because they were the handful that understood me and I understood them. My friends from Senior Secondary Girls (Abdullah) were the ones that showed me some of the best times of my life!
But the older I grow, the more I bond with people far younger than me – 10 years or even more. I feel a sense of belonging with them, a sense of greater alignment in our ideas about the world. For so many years, I have felt that I belong to the future. The future seems to have found me now.
And so I decided to spend my birthday in my ‘second home’ with my young, exuberant friends. (Those of you who know this will know what I’m talking about. Those of you who don’t- well, you’ll find out in time! )
Not only did they go out of their way to give me a midnight surprise, I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said that I hadn’t felt more fully ‘me’ in a long, long time as I did that day with them. Such ease of being, such comfort, such joy, such care. I have often said in my posts that I do not believe that unconditional love exists, or that it can be found anywhere. But that day when my friends surprised me, I experienced what it was like to be loved unconditionally, without any terms and conditions attached. To be loved as I am, without any expectation of sacrificing parts of myself in order to be loved. Without any conditions of ‘propriety’ and ‘virtue’ being imposed on me, without any conditions of ‘acceptable behaviour’ as the price of being loved. Darlings, you know who you are. Thank you for this most precious gift.
To top it all, I had two birthday celebrations. I threw my own party for a large group of friends – the kind of party I would never have thought of having on my birthday, if not for my second home.
A tailor-made party of my favourite kind- candle light, soft Sufi music and everyone singing ghazals or folk songs. So we had a delightful mish mash of Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Multani, Sindhi, Punjabi, Urdu, Hindi and English songs! The best sort of music mix ever. I had never realised that my favourite kind of parties are the ones that have a softness, a sense of poetry and a rich, joyous languidness to them.
Every day at my new home I discover bits of myself in other souls, souls that mirror mine. I discover parts of myself that I had forgotten, or even those that I never knew existed.
To have a second home with friends is an indescribable state of rapture. Words fail me now, so I will use the words of my favourite Professor Bazaz:
‘If you have found a home here, a place that fulfils you intellectually and makes you feel like yourself, then it doesn’t matter where you go in life. You will always carry this home within you.’
Thank you for that, Professor. Thank you.
May we all find such ‘homes’ that become inseparable parts of us and keep us ensconced in the comforting cloud of belonging that comes from holding a home, forever, in the innermost sanctums of your heart.