call me

All my life, I told people I didn’t want to have children. I was too independent to buckle down and have kids. I was too ambitious, I had far too much to achieve. What was I going to do, stuck with a couple of little humans crying and sniffling behind me. No part of the thought excited me. I had no room for motherhood. I am an actress, and the unforgiving world of television does not allow for the scars, the restrictions of having a family. Of course, there are women who can achieve the balance; but then, it is what they have always wanted. Me? I’m different. I was different. I wasn’t cut out for desiring these ordinary things. Or so I thought.

At 36 years of age, I was informed that I was physiologically unable to have children. The thought bothered me but I did not pay much heed to my own heart. It doesn’t matter to me, I would tell my mother, as she wept and consoled herself. “It doesn’t matter, I wasn’t interested anyway,” I told my friends, all of them with children and some even with teenagers of their own. However, a slow and sickening loneliness had begun to settle in me. With the glory and chaos of youth slipping away, with the faint lines of age beginning to shadow my hands, I began to feel afraid for myself. No one would be with me as I grew older. I wasn’t married; I had driven every good man away by declaring loudly over the years that I wasn’t going to be the mother of anyone’s children. They would stay for a while, listen to me, try to understand me and eventually give up on a future together. Why would they stay, after all? At the time I accused them of being ordinary, of being too mediocre to understand that there could be more to life than the creation and nurturing of children. I used to point to people on the roads, beggar-children, children piled like meat on a motorcycle, and I would say, “Is this the only achievement you want to show for your life?”

The irony of the things I said is not lost on me. When I got my medical reports, I sat in silence and ran these words over and over in my head. “Is this the only miracle you think people can create?” I said once and pointed to a baby hanging beneath his mother’s arm as she went car to car begging for food one day long ago in the stifling Karachi heat. And the dear man sitting on the passenger seat next to me looked at me amazed that I didn’t know the answer. He said, “It is.” I was amused by his simplicity, and we parted ways not long after.

These afternoons, I sit and let these words run through me. The neat poetic justice of it all; the wonderfully aligned punishment granted to me for the things I said. All in one medical report. I don’t know if it is just because the possibility has been taken away, or because some natural biological need has begun to kick in, but I now look at families very differently. I envy their small worlds, the comforts and protections they give each other. I can now appreciate the greatness and the wisdom of this kind of desire. It is a miracle. It really is a miracle, that in a world where we roam alone, we are able to find people to belong to, and people who can belong to us. It is akin to finding warmth on a cold night. There could be an opera, a party, a royal parade just outside the window, but all you really value in that moment is the comfort of a warm fire beside which to fall asleep.