Remember that early 1990s film Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin? Pooja Bhatt’s fabulous big hair and boyish, lean Aamir Khan. In the climax of the film, Anupam Kher walks with his daughter, Pooja, towards the mandap where her groom waits to marry her. Throughout the walk, he tries to convince his daughter to run away right then and chase her lover, played by Khan. He will love her better, and truer. There is a white Maruti van he has arranged for the runaway bride.
“Bhaag jaa, beti, bhaag jaa,” he says, almost begging her. Run, daughter, run.
As parents of little daughters, Afzal and I sometimes indulge in idle conversation about how they might get married one day. He openly expresses violent feelings towards potential lovers. I like to think that I will be like Seth Dharamchand, the eccentric, liberated parent Kher plays in Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin.
Feel and talk: Be expressive for the benefit of your children. By Thinkstock
“Run, daughter, run. Be impulsive. Follow your heart. Make it big.”
Well, today our youngest daughter started school. I am getting my first dose of separation from her. She ran to the bus stop. She hopped, skipped and jumped. She sang. She got on a bus for the first time in her life. By the time she sat in her seat, she no longer had a view or a sense of direction of which side we were standing. She waved randomly. The bus took her away.
Seth Dharamchand be damned. I must go after my daughter.
“I’m going to sit in the school reception and write my column,” I say to Afzal.
“It will be better for you to stay at home,” he says.
“But it will be so peaceful, no? I can feel and write there.”
He gives me the look. “Go to your Dosa Corner. Or the coffee shop,” he says. “Very peaceful, this early in the morning.”
“There’s such a nice aquarium in the school,” I say. “Big glittering fish in it. I will write well there.”
“Okay. I’ll complain about you in my column,” I say to him. I’m feeling desperate. Very desperate.
“So what,” he says, “I’m not afraid of looking like a fool. That’s your problem.”
I don’t know how he knows, but that is my problem, you know. The fear of looking foolish. Fear of being told not to be silly. I have been typing and un-typing lines for this column for six days now. Words have failed me. I have failed my words.
There is a tightness in my throat. As if someone is gripping it, not letting any feelings out. That someone is me. “What’s the big deal, Natasha? Little children start school all the time,” says the voice of reason in my head.
This voice, however, isn’t reasonable at all. It doesn’t remember its lessons. Let me repeat them for you here, you dumb voice of reason:
Just because I feel like crying, does not mean I am unhappy.
Just because I care for the details, does not mean I have gone to pieces..
Just because I am jittery, does not mean I am not prepared.
These are feelings, man. Feelings must be felt. And expressed. It leads to better productivity. It unleashes creativity. It protects the ozone layer. And ultimately contributes to better sex lives.
Unless we allow ourselves to be expressive, we are not going to raise children who are better in touch with their inner selves, are we? And then what will happen?
Another generation of mindless Facebook and Twitter updates, among other things. Take my word for it.
Coming together, then going our own way. Getting on top of things, then plummeting at top speed. Figuring it out, then forgetting again. Not always getting it, but being determined to deal with it.
It’s a lovely loop really. Life is never a straight road.
Meanwhile, the first day of school is almost over. I’m back at the bus stop to receive my baby. The baby who is not a baby any more. It is a sunny winter afternoon and everything seems all right from this angle. Just that I feel like something has been yanked out of me.
Here comes the yellow bus.
Natasha Badhwar is a film-maker, media trainer and mother of three.
Write to Natasha at firstname.lastname@example.org