Is she your favourite? Let's get the most important question out of the way [laughs]
Oh Allah, help me. [laughs and sighs] Yes she is my favourite , she is my first after all.

What was your first thought when she was born?
Ofcourse that she was the most beautiful, really. But the first thought was Allah, give me the strength to raise her into a good woman. It's surprising that even now, after years, I carry the same thought for her.

What was the most difficult time with her ?
Her teenage years [closes eyes and sighs deeply], my god. She was the most difficult than any of my other ones. Rebellious child and the thing was that, she was soft spoken and a sweet girl but she had this wall around her and she hated me or so I thought. She was the most mean to me, arrogant and angry but now I know it's because she felt most close to me and felt that I didn't understand her still. She was disappointed. But how do you understand a child that slammed doors on my face and wrote horrible things of me in her poetry? [long pause] She was so moody, and no one could calm her, nothing could calm her. It was a nightmare and only I knew the depth of it, not even her father.


What worried you the most then?
That she would stay that way, that she would be an angry human for the rest of her life, or that this period of life would affect her life in an adverse way because me or her father didn't understand her or it.

What was one thing you wish you understood then, that you do now?
I wish I understood that she was strong, even though she was little and still a baby. I wouldn't have worried so much or been tough on her if I knew she would grow out of it on her own.

What was your best memory of her during that period of time?
It's so absurd, but when her girlfriends were over at our home, they would be in her room and I would hear her laugh her heart out from inside the room. And her father and I would be in the dining or kitchen and we would look at each other with relief and smile, that she was happy and laughing. You don't understand , it meant alot to me to hear that. [ air tenses ]

What was the moment you realised she has grown from a girl to a woman?
[long pause] It's a hard moment for mothers, especially when it's a girl I think. Because you always want to protect her. But I am better than her father. [eyes look distant and thoughtful] I think when she left to Delhi, when she got her first job. She didn't call me, she wasn't communicating.. [Interviewer] And whose fault is that? Yes but I knew she was going to be alright, I just knew she was going to be okay on her own. There are many other moments though, when I hear her speak to her siblings, advice them or scold them. This is so silly [laughs] but some days when she dresses up, for a wedding or an event and she walks down the stairs I find her so womanly and beautiful, she moves and talks very gracefully, she has really beautiful hair. [looks at the Interviewer lovingly]

How has she surprised you?
In alot of ways. Her feminism, her views and how vocal she has become about them. Sometimes she says something so radical or repulsive , it used to surprise me but not anymore I think. Also her act of kindness, she can seem so cold and arrogant but late at night, she might come sleep next to me or kiss me on my cheeks and it surprises me.

What was the one advice she always took from you?
[shrugs] there is none I think, should ask her.

What was the one ( or more ) advice(es) she never took from you?
To dress modestly. I always tried to teach her that your clothes must express your values but over the years I have understood that her idea of modesty and mine are very different and ofcourse our values too and I think now, it's a good change. I'm only learning from her. But I'm afraid that not everyone will understand that and will judge her.

How have your relationship changed with her over the years?
Oh so much ofcourse. I'm learning to accept her and her views so now she sees me more as a friend. She discusses things with me and is more open and truthful because she is not afraid. It's scary but it's better than being in the dark. And now even though she is away and I miss her constantly , I feel more close to her.

What is one of the qualities she inherited or learned from you?
She is very intense, in everything, she knows no moderation, in her emotions. She feels very largely. She got that from me. As you grow older , you learn to control. But because she is so young , she really knows no moderation.

What have you learned from her as a woman?
There is alot to learn. She talks alot about men, and how disappointing they are. I could never talk like that or understand it completely. She looks everything from many perspectives. Like for example, marriage, these girls really think it through. She studies the history, why people do the things they do , is it even right? I'm starting to learn from her to question everything we know as right. And I haven't learned this but I admire her ability to put herself first before anything else. I'm really happy that she does but I'm worried when she needs to adjust , she would find it difficult.

What do you think are her virtues?
She is very understanding. Deeply mature for her age. She is forgiving.

What do you think are her vices?
Her anger and coldness, it's hell for anyone who loves her. Rebellious. She acts on feelings or emotions and it will get her into trouble.

What do you think of her romances?
[laughs] I only know of one and she has been very closed off about it lately and tells me it didn't work out. I don't know. But I do think she is very thoughtful about who she includes in her life, so I am not worried about her romantic choices.

What is one thing you would change in her if you could?
Her relationship with her father . And her faith in God. These both relationships are very fragile in her life right now [ The interviewer reminds only one was asked]

Choose three things she would excel at in life?
Her career, she is very career driven. I think she envisions a good, sweet life for herself and she would get to that. She would be a good mother. [laughs] She is going to kill me but I hope she excels at finally finding a damn husband she can tolerate [whispers] or can tolerate her.  [both laughs] 


-Evening Conversation Series; An Interview with My Mother.


Do you love her?
I need my lawyer [both laughs]
[long pause] yes, very much.

What do you think about you loving her?
I think it's a great feeling.  It's surprising.

Choose three things that you love the most about her
Her sexuality, her smartness, her undeniable wittiness.

What is your best memory of her?
The first day I met her. [Interviewer] That's the best memory of her? The date, yes it was nice, it's a very warm memory. It's something I remember always , when I saw her for the first time.

How did you fall in love with her?
I think she's very different in how she sees life, and I like that, especially related to her relationships with people and how she sees them and understands them, how strange they are , it's different. I loved that. And also she is very easy going when she's good, not so much now, because she has gotten alot more difficult but she can be good and kind and when she loves sweetly, it's hard not to love her.

How does she hurt you?
When she is particularly difficult when I'm under pressure and she's only thinking about herself  [ long pause] because she needs me.

How do you hurt her?
By not being available for her.

Choose three things ugly about her
She is too stubborn in emotions, non diplomatic , she needs to always understand everything , she cannot let go. [Interviewer]And that's bad? When you don't know when to stop, yes. So for example, she goes "but why, why is that , but why" to everything and endlessly.

Have you had moments where you hated her?
No, never.

Is she the love of your life or your soul mate?
Neither, I don't have a love of my life or a soul mate. If she was the love of my life, I would marry her and live on an island but I cannot.[The interviewer disagrees with the definition of the love of life and decides to discuss it later ] I love her deeply and it's very very special but  [ Later adds] age gives you a very different perspective on life. So no, she isn't either but there is no one else and there will be not and that says alot about how special she is for me.

What's the wildest thing you've done for her?
Travelling for her, going through alot to spend little time together. I haven't ever done this before for anyone.

What's the wildest thing she has done for you?
[The Interviewer decides not to share the answer ]

When is she the easiest to love?
In intimate moments like these, when she is relaxed and calm.

When is she  the hardest to love?
When I'm not with her and she starts to need attention and is very difficult and demanding.

Does she love you?
Yes, I think she does.


-Evening Conversation Series; An Interview with my lover.

I like to dream that
someday,
I would want to
be a wife.  A creature,
the myth and the truth
of my culture.
I would stand in the
kitchen, and
carry his honour,
my grace
and our children
on my widened hips
and for that,
he would call me his
omram. I would smile
and fill the house
with smoke from oud.
I would move from one
room to another
in long silk dresses,
a country to another.
I would pack love and
my mother's pickles.
This creature, his name
trailing mine, a gift
to his ancestors,
a loss to mine.
But it would grace me
to be this creature
to be his creature
in his house, to be
worshiped in love,
swollen breasts
and long hair, on his bed.
Goddess of a home, mother
of beautifully raised children
but only a wife
to the world.

- Creatures of Culture by Thamanna Razak
My mother boils cardamom in the kitchen on a Sunday morning. Basking in the early sunlight, I enjoy a fresh bowl of fruits sitting in the balcony surrounded by vines my mother grows and flowers that bloom around me like a home I've always wanted. I try to work but the air carries a gentle scent of spices, coconut oil and jasmines, so I loosen by hair from the bun and let the moment engulf me. I think of small pleasures and how I have found my solace in them. Years ago, always grieving heart of mine didn't always experience moments of pleasure or true happiness. As years have passed, I've let go of my belief of my narrow and misguided idea of happiness. Happiness, I've come to realise is experienced often in the expanse of suffering or grief. A true oasis, in the middle of a burning desert , maybe a mirage of how life can be without the suffering, comforting and soothing , but not always a burst of life changing event. Time passes in thoughts, I listen to a speech made by Barack Obama in 2012 about fleeting youth and how to contribute to our society, while having a honey-milk mask on my face and painting my nails, somewhere in the back of my head, this image of me makes me proud. Youth, as I understand is a gift to yourself, what you learn, and strive for in your early years makes a difference on the life you will lead. This age, and this youthfulness also comes with conflicts, mostly inner dilemmas and diasporas of a destabilised life that most of us been exposed to. I haven't been able to completely let go of my tragic sense of life but I have been able to look up and recognise light and I think in itself is powerful, to be able to see light. I took some time to feel rather than write the past couple of months and it has changed a lot of things in me and as hard and taxing as it was, I'm really glad to have made that decision.

Journal; I Dream of A Better World in My Mother's Garden by Thamanna Razak
There is a part of you that mistakes pity for love, my lover tells me one night. You love me but you do so from a throne so it doesn't really matterYou tell me you love me but you say it out of guilt because your mother taught you a good woman is a woman who loves and forgives a lesser being, out of pity, out of the enormous burden it is to birth life into this earth.
But isn't that the truest form of love, darling. Perhaps the greatest love story is a tale of endless sympathy for each other's mistakes, and boundless forgiveness and will last for a lifetime. If women didn't feel sorry for their lovers, there would be no romance at all, I tell him to spite him. He is angry for this, senseless bitterness at what my mother taught me, only for a brief time and then wants my pity. So I give him and let him sleep on my chest.

- Journal;  Truths of Love and Loving.


There have been poems and there have been not. Few are lovelorn and others are in pain. But none are comprehensible. In the lamp light, there is no poem I want to love, there is nothing I ever want to love. Love has made me a weak woman and I'm loathing its presence for stripping me of my words , and my light. Oh how often love throws me in this hell. And how often I come out of it only to be seduced again. In the lamp light, writing poetry about love, but out of pain, I only want to belong to myself.

- Journal, In The Lamp Light Love and Pain Are The Same by Thamanna Razak
I woke up at 2 am last night, feeling too warm. I put my one foot out and try  to sleep again but my head is forming a poem or series of events start to find a rhythm and they want to be written down but I refuse and hope to remember it in the morning. I'm almost confident that I will, so I go back to sleep. As predicted in the morning I don't remember what thought it was, or what clarity it may have offered. But I cannot stop wondering how many thoughts I must've lost , what truths my mind may have brought to me but I simply didn't grasp it fast enough. And that is enough for me to settle into my melancholy, fully immerse in my thoughts. I have never been able to write when I'm this deeply in touch with my own self, so I go back to few of the pages marked in books, some old poetry, and even old music. It gives me comfort and sometimes terror but most times hysteria at how truly sorrowful I was at so many fleeting things in life, things I never could have made a difference upon. In one of the entries I have quoted a friend that told me that her realities are very different from mine, that we may experience a moment together and I may remember it as a poem while she may remember only the hot burning sun on our heads. I thought of this for a long time, wondering if it was a curse or a blessing to remember moments only tinted with words, romance and poetry, that I may lose the true essence or reality of a moment because of the person I am. It's a deep confusion, something even if I found an answer to it, may not satisfy me . I have always been someone who remembered life in poetry, my only grief is to not have enough words to describe every moment, not having a language that is as masterful and deep as our feelings and thoughts, Today, I feel loss, of thoughts, of reality and most of all loss of words.
I haven't written poetry. It's not a writer's block, it's a writer's too-many-inspirations-and-no-mental-energy situation. It's the first week of Ramadan, my faith has been shaky , but in a good way as I realise my faith hasn't been really my faith for a long time. It was my mother's or my father's most times, a borrowed faith and beliefs of someone else. It's been hard to come to terms with that, and to be in the most holiest month and have a shattered belief you haven't been able to put back together as fast. I'm also learning that it is hard to be honest if I'm not hiding behind metaphors , and that is something I have been working on for a long time, to be unconditionally my raw self every where and with everyone without the need to be acceptable or pretend to be something less than what I am in order to be easily understood. It does me great damage and gives me no sense of self, to be only my true self in poetry. I have been wanting my freedom back and I know I would perhaps lose the preciousness of my poems but it's a cost I'm willing to pay.

- Journal; Cost of Living (and Loving) by Thamanna Razak
I ripen,
in your two palms
held together warmly.
I turn,
fruitful and
glistening,
growing.
Oh how the moon
must envy
you,
for your dirt,
your impure,
your knowledge of
life.
Oh how the universe
must envy
you,
for your mastery
to hold someone else's
roots in your soil,
until they grow
beyond the darkness,
until gravity has learned
to let go
what it loves.
I rise
above the ground
and meet my sun
and my sky
but I will always
come back
to your two palms
held together warmly
to lay my body
back in your dirt.

- Portrait Series; Mother by Thamanna Razak

My heart,
it endures pain like slow
burning ember,
a purgatory for
every man who
had the misfortune
to have seen
your glow
behind that veil
and desired for you.
At a seaside, families
wait for dusk, grow old
in its waiting
and lull into the sand.
At another end of
the sea , a boy
waits for the dawn
and his mother to
come back
and he never grows up.
At an end of a
water tap, a woman
waits for the next drop
of water. Her whole
life, she only knows
of thirst.
And I, wait lifetimes
consumed in sorrow
like no other to
find a language that
transcends this unbearable
spread of time. I, turn
into a poet
in hopes
to touch your thoughts
on the evening you fix
your tangles. I want
my sigh to be the
reason for your
blushed cheeks.
But Rabb, in his
selfish longing to
keep your heart
and beauty alive
have stretched
the string of time
and suffering.
Oh my love, how the
entire world stands still
and suffers
for your beauty.

- The World Waits on Your Beauty (*based on Aah Ko Chahiye by Mirza Ghalib and sung by Jagjit Singh) by Thamanna Razak

*I would prefer if you could enjoy the music before/after/while reading the poem to really understand where the poem comes from. This is my father's favourite song. I have had this song/ poetry as my backdrop music almost all roadtrips or drives and on early mornings on Fridays my entire life. The image of a woman untangling her hair unaware of the love and desire men hold for her is what this song brings to me. And I think I'm only trying to find my own narration for the image, in my own personal ways of knowing love and desire. And most importantly I am trying to tell a story of longing. I only hope I have done justice.

the revolution came,
the rulers ran and
came back with tanks.
people changed
they grew different
and then indifferent
to blood
and
to love but I,
only remember
the war in the
reflection I saw
of myself in a
bloody water bowl
as I dressed your wounds
and then you count
the number of our
dead men on the streets
and I kiss your lips
for it to stop
and you say
habibti, your love
isn't going to stop
the war, and I say
but what if it did.

-Lovers in Mosul by Thamanna Razak
You finally feel like a woman, complete. You are 21, oh so sweet and young and tender in all the places you want to be. your 16 would be angry at you, how can you love yourself more than you love him, you wanted to die for him. You hold her hand , kiss her forehead and you tell her everything about the glorious woman you have found inside yourself. She is angrier and calls you a narcissist. You laugh because you are. You are beyond everything you ever taught your younger self, you are more romantic than you are human and you do not hide it anymore. You're screaming and yelling and spitting love on the streets , you have become a wild one, but you are not running. You stopped running now, you do not run from love anymore , not from heart wrenching romances. You are staying and seething and drowning in love, but this time you are fearless and you are in control. Men look at you and want you in their bedrooms and in their kitchen, bearing their children, but mostly they desire for you to be in their hearts , be the Queen of their lovedom and you aren't afraid anymore, you love them back, you have turned soft but you are oh so full of yourself you know not to lose yourself. You have finally learned to give all of the love you have without giving yourself.

A Year Ago In Womanhood, by Thamanna Razak
I lay under the noise of a ceiling fan in a borrowed cotton kurta, staring at the timber ceiling of my father's ancestral house. Windows open to the side of me, with occasional chirping of birds, sweat tries to calm the hotness lingering behind my neck, baby hairs around my face stick to my forehead. I'm flustered and uneasy, but I lay there remembering Neruda's warm poetry, stroking my own locks, pulling strands and letting them fall through my fingers that still have a lingering scent of mangoes I opened raw with my hands earlier. And there isn't a thought that isn't about the coolness of the night, or chilled soda pop or the cold heart of my lover. I'm thirsty in the throat but the moment eludes me, time has painfully slowed down this afternoon, almost dreamy , almost embalmed in the oil and sweat of  this sweet tropical summer. Out the window, in a slow course , the sky is shifting. I can feel the weight of the storm in the distance, a wind , a slow breeze carrying its calm and I lay patiently. My body cools down in the sight of a sodden cloud , and all my longings are for the rain as I hear a distant thunder. When the storm finally arrives, it is forgiving to all. The smell of earth and wood is everywhere and it unshackles me from my own hot liquid ache . Leaves grow heavier, not out of pain but only out of the heaviness of memory. In the eye of a pouring rain, birds find temporary roofs and call it home, quiet and almost desolate, the earth takes a long deep breath in and I find time and everything in its grip coming to a still, rooted. Behind me my grandmother tells me it's the first rain of monsoon, the heat will no longer tug at you she jokes. On the brim of a season change,  I already fall into my nostalgia for summer .  I feel my entire life I only live longing for moments like these, in the desire to experience such heightened moments of raw and mostly unattainable pleasure that only comes from earth and its bringing of calm to both my melancholy and joy, sometimes both in the expanse of one moment.

journal; Two Ends of A Moment by Thamanna Razak
"On a Friday morning,
with another takbir,
he places his palms
on the ground,
and his forehead
before his God, and
his only prayers are
for you, woman.
And after, he walks
across from the masjid
onto the market street.
under the sultry sun, hot
and seducing, watermelon
of the streets lay, raw
open and glistening
and all his thirsty cravings
are only for you, woman.
He holds a pot of Kohl
and the older man
at the other end
wants to warn
him, women like her
are waiting for you
in your homes , stirring 
milk drinks for you, 
leaving traces for 
you to kiss
on their tender lips
but sinful their hips
are, hell their full breasts 
are. He walks home
with a pot of Kohl
and all his sweat beads
are in a prayer
for yours, woman.
In his kitchen, you are
brewing chamomile
In his home, you are
bathing in oils,
steaming your locks
in rose water
and you wait for him
in all your beauty slipped
into a long silk dress.
On a Friday morning,
with another takbir
he comes home to you,
pulls your seeds and nectar
apart, licks it off your neck
with the salt of your sweat
and his only thoughts
are holy holy holy."

- Holy Fridays by Thamanna Razak
"In a small sunny balcony
is the wet shadow of me
on a pale green cloth.
Outline of my body
in a deep shade of moss
and on the other side 
is you , darling
you watch me
pinning another wet cloth
on to the washline
and you want me
to make you a home
even if you are a shadow
even if home is cold and damp
you say, make me a home.
I want a mother and a lover
and I want your sweet,
swollen with water hands
I want the sweet scent of
soap, and salt of your sweat
I want you, of all.
you are my 
cool wet cloth 
on a hot 
summer afternoon"

- Portrait Series; Balcony Boy by Thamanna Razak
It's a very old story, the most ancient of all. The letting go, the inevitable break up of what two people thought they built, a relationship, a child of their love and affection for each other. At the end of it you hope to shake hands, or not, or perhaps you shake each other and dirt falls off from all your pockets and none of you look the same. It's a careful separation, thought out and deliberate even if the truck came out of nowhere, even if the truck carried flowers and only wanted to give them to you. It hurts, it still is part of your skin even if it's peeling off of someone else's body.
On a particularly cold night, you see it, how it doesn't add up anymore, how you think of love and you want to pull it out of your teeth and flush it down your drain because what's the fucking point of it if he isn't with you in the depths of it, in its dark, dirty and cruel bottom of it. He asks you what is this 'it' anyway , and you say fuck off because you are angry that love is easy for him, you are angry because he doesn't know a bottom exists and you want him to, you want him to boil in this, burn his skin in this, drown in the hell of what it means to love another person. So you refuse to explain, refuse to hold his hands, turn your face from him and stay angry. On another morning you are seething love from your skin and it's all over the floor and he isn't there to clean it up, and you wonder what that means, I did it for him I did it for him you sob while you clean the mess with a cotton cloth. And then you squeeze whatever love is left out on the cloth into a glass, a jar, not too much , not too less, just enough for him to understand, neatly packed and labelled, 'I love you'. You hit send and spend the rest of the evening hiding the traces of spills and leaks.
By this time I didn't like looking in the mirror, I looked like a lesser person of myself, reminded me of days spent cleaning the mess from the floor of what we called "our love" before you came home. By this time I'm frantically going through all my journals, trying to find the summer I fell in love, find a line of poetry that will help me remember what it felt like to love without the chaos but every line sounds like infatuation, and lust, perhaps just a child holding someone else's affection in her palms and calling it love , there is no hint of depth, or the madness that was about to come. But slowly, in between walking alone to lectures on cold winter mornings, and watching my mother sob, and listening to my baby sister talk about a boy. I realised we have been loving each other across a wall, our hells, on different sides . I realised only and only by luck can two people find themselves in the same hell, cleaning the same floor of love , sitting next to each other. I realised while you were in your bottom of hell I was in mine, and neither of us knew. And that was the truth. There's a certain relief in it, to say it, after years of hoping and even pretending that we were on same side of the wall when we weren't even in the same hell of love.

- journal; Till Hell Do Us Apart by Thamanna Razak