This blog went through a fair number of titles before I finally settled on this one, ‘The Opposites Game’. Where this title comes from I will tell, in just a minute, but before that let me set out my aims and objectives (yes, we’re being academic here because it’s the only way I can handle the truth).
1) To establish my sentiments towards the L-word (I’ll say it once, just so we’re thinking of the same L-word, ahem Love).
2) To hopefully entertain you along the way.
All right, so. The Opposites Game actually morphed from a few other names such as, ‘Eureka!’ and ‘Enter title here’ but I decided I would tell you a story as well as share my opinions on the L-word.
To me the L-word comes in many different shapes and sizes. Different forms for different occasions and it is one of the very frustrating things about the English language that there is only ONE WORD for the L-word. Now, only some forms of this L-word create bilious feelings inside of me and to be honest with you, a lot of forms come very naturally (now-a-days). I mean most forms I have now taught myself to say, like to a friend, ‘I love you!’ when you call them and present to them a 45 minute monologue (in a squeaky high pitched almost, some would say, manic voice) about why life currently sucks right now. (Incidentally, my other nickname is squeaky but that’s a whole other story).
So where was I? Oh yes, Bollywood has monopolised on that Greek word for the L-word-EROS through it’s well known Eros International movie extravaganzas! I miss Bollywood, the 90s were definitely a better time. Far too much kissing and nakedness for my liking these days, and what happened to holding hands creates babies?! There are full on naughty scenes and everything! Honestly, what is the world coming to?! Anyway, so there is EROS, by the Greeks and still only the L-word in English. (Incidentally, the Greeks had 4 words for love as my R.E teacher used to tell me. Agape being the one he hoped I would remember meaning true love i.e. that for God. Wonder why the only one that stuck without the help of Google was EROS? Bollywood on the brain, obviously).
But I must now come to my original point which was-The Opposites Game. The name struck me because I finally realised how it is that I express the L-word. And actually it’s funny because I say it at home all the time:
'Fighting is Love'
Now this isn’t the same thing as Cheryl Cole’s ‘Fight for this Love’ which was sad because in the end Ashley Cole was a total **** (insert any four letter word that you feel fits the bill, because let’s face it she’s gorgeous and he’s an idiot and that’s putting it mildly, on both accounts). No, this is exactly what it says on the tin, ‘Fighting is Love’.
My mother has spent the last few years trying to dispel this known fact about me as it makes finding a suitable husband slightly more difficult. You can’t just waltz up to random strangers, decide you like or god forbid L-word them and start acting like some crazy psycho at them every two seconds. No, that just will not do. In fact, I have been given explicit instructions NOT TO fight with them, which I personally think is ridiculous. For one thing, it’s likely to crop up once or twice if I’m bound to them for the rest of my life and for another thing well, then I obviously don’t L-word them right? So how on earth am I supposed to survive being bound to them for the rest of my life?! Sigh. The tangle of webs grows even thicker.
But, there is a type of love that is bottomless and one which has no beginning, middle or end and that my friends is the love of one for a mother.
I tell you this because 3 days ago my grandmother passed away. My father’s mother. And, given the fact we live on the other side of the world, and despite the fact she presented terminal with cancer all over her body (lung, liver, bone and probably brain) he didn’t make it in time to see her. He was one day late. One day more and he could have said his last goodbyes. One day more and he could have said his sorries. One day more to be with her, see her smiling face, feel her wizened hands and hear her constant prayer. Just one day.
And today I weep. I weep for my loss, but more than that I weep for his. For a mother’s love is one which cannot be replaced in any way. She protects you, she guides you, she wipes your tears when you fall down, and teaches you how to be strong. She picks you up after school, waits patiently for hours until you finally turn up, fixes you lunch, combs your hair, battles with you to take your daily bath, holds you when you are ill and scolds you when you are bold. She always puts your needs before her own, and by the time we are old enough or smart enough to realise that that is in fact what she has been doing all along, she is gone. And by that stage it is too late to say those three words, ‘I love you’. No not the Agape love or the Eros love, but the bottomless, no beginning, middle or end Mother love.
I am sad because I also did not get to say goodbye, to a wonderful lady with a wealth of burden on her tiny frame. I will miss her little ‘Ammachi-isms’. How she disliked photographs because it was un-Islamic. How she always liked the little presents we gave her, even the scarf I bought for my grandfather that he had dubbed ‘not expensive enough’-she was like a magpie, seeking the shiny new things. Her nosiness (inherited), her pernickety mannerisms which translated in absolutely every aspect of life, from which cup could be used to cook rice to where the dishes were to be placed (also inherited).
The last time I saw her, I told her to take rest and stop trying to over exert herself. She talked about it every time, every week we phoned her. How her ‘kunnye mol‘ <little daughter> told her to rest.
But if you want to know what love is, you only have to look at my grandparents to truly understand. He was 17, she was 14. Him the oldest of 8 children, her the youngest of 9. 60 odd years they were married, isn’t that crazy? But is it the length, duration or timing which makes it love? No.
We have two houses at my grandparents plot. One, their own house. Built by my grandfather with his own two hands. Corrugated sheets and asbestos galore. The second more recent ‘out house’ with two bedrooms, a bathroom and a sitting area with a gas cooker for making tea. Just somewhere we as a family can stay when we visit. From the day it was built my grandmother ached to live there. In fact, like another stubborn lassie you may know, she didn’t shut up about it because once an idea gripped her it had to be done. One day, she took her prayer mat, quran, a few pots and pans and decided she was going to live there. My grandfather retaliated upset, what about the beautiful house he had made for them both many years ago? She went back. When my grandfather took ill last year, we nursed him in the out house so a home nurse could stay with him also. Every morning he would wake up and the first thing he would check is whether Ammachi was up and whether her needs were catered to. He was the one that cut the vegetables, he was the one who did the chores, he was the one that carried out her every crazy whim. Silent, obliging, attentive and not one bit disgruntled by it.
I’ll never forget the morning she slept in. By Indian standards this means, ‘did not get up at 5am’. He noticed, I had not, and asked, ‘Go check if she has woken’. She had not. A while later a very upset, sleepy and grumpy Ammachi emerged from the ancestral home, ‘This is all your fault! I came to read you the quran that’s why I slept in!’ (also inherited, the morning grumpiness I mean. Ok and maybe the blaming someone else for your own problems thing too). But he noticed, and he knew she would be grumpy about it.
You ask me, ‘What do you really think about love?‘ and I tell you this. That, is love. Patient, kind, attentive, adoring, realistic, practical, impractical, all the contradictions of truth merged into one. How can you define something that you can barely notice as it creeps up on you? How can you define something that is transient and timeless all at once?
I am not skilled enough to do so, and so I’ll leave you with a poem from one of my favourite pieces of writing by Khalil Gibran.
'And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course. Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself. But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires: To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night. To know the pain of too much tenderness. To be wounded by your own understanding of love; And to bleed willingly and joyfully. To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving; To rest at the noon hour and meditate love's ecstasy; To return home at eventide with gratitude; And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.'
My mother, who was with my grandmother when she passed, said even in her last days Ammachi asked, ‘Now can I live in the Out House?’
Ammachi, I love you. We will all miss you very, very much.
(Oh, and The Opposites Game is a very cringeworthy game I once played (yes ladies and gentlemen, played) on a blind date. I lost. He won. There was no second date. Guess he missed the memo huh? ‘I always win’ (inherited)).