TEACHER STORIES

The girls of my class, merely stared back at me. I repeated,

“Periods, yes periods. It’s called menstruation”

I could see the shock and surprise in the eyes of a few students while others looked literally horrified at the mention of this word being said out aloud.

“There’s nothing to be ashamed about Periods. They are as natural as life itself. The women population on earth is almost 49.59%, almost half of the population is female. Periods are a part of a woman’s life. Why is it inappropriate to speak about such an integral part of our lives?”

By this point, the young teenage girls of my English language class had recovered from the shock and horror of the word “Periods” and now were intently listening to me.

This wasn’t the first time I was talking about women’s health, hygiene and menstruation, with my students. Every year, I spoke to the newly inducted pre-O level English Language students about this at our all-girls campus, to normalise “the Periods talk” and let them know that Menstruation wasn’t called Voldemort or It-That-Must-Not-Be-Named. The sole purpose behind this discussion was always to build self awareness and self acknowledgement along with better health and hygiene in my female students. This year however, I had another reason too.

Pakistan had been flooded severely in the summer of 2022. By September, nearly one third of the country was underwater with 33 million people affected by this calamity. From every corner of Pakistan, people stepped forward for donations and flood relief as the destruction was on a massive scale and needed attention of everyone. Our School was also one of the organisations that took part in Flood Relief Donations. Food, Clothing, Medication, Monetary funds all sort of help was appreciated. During the days of collection, I kept on thinking about all the women and girls who were left without shelter and any personal possessions.

“How are they managing their periods?”

“They have no access to clean cloth, cotton, undergarments and pads of any sort. How does one manage seven days of bleeding and pain without proper hygiene products?”

I asked my students the very same questions the same day we had our discussion on one of the most tabooed topics for Pakistani females: PERIODS.

My hesitant students, soon started sharing their views and pitching in ideas as to how to show support to our fellow women, in this tough time of flooding and displacement. My young girls decided that while other necessities like rations were being collected, they would start a collection drive for women hygiene products, undergarments and pads.  By the next afternoon, all my young learners had brought the required stuff, neatly packaged in cartons. These little angels, who were mortified about talking about periods just one day ago, were now keenly following my lead and taking part in the initiative to support women and girls in need.

It didn’t stop there. These girls spread their message among their school fellows, family members and friends too. More and more people contributed in the collection of women sanitary products and carton after carton was sent over to the affected areas through the helpful organisation who was collaborating with our institution for the flood relief.

Every year, I encouraged my students to be comfortable around communicating about menstruation but this year was special because not only did the awareness level of my students  increased and their confidence boosted up, but they put their newly acquired self  assurance to help and support the ones in need. Women support women; the idea and it’s implementation was visible in the words and actions of my amazing students and I couldn’t be more proud!

 

Written by:

Nida Javed Khan

English Language Teacher and Deputy Head

Bloomfield Hall Girls Campus

Multan

Nidajavedkhan1@gmail.com

Advertisement

LONGING by Nida Javed Khan (Fiction)

“You want to do a lot but you can’t do it. You expect a lot from yourself but you simply don’t have that energy. Look at you! Learn to manage your life first, and then think about your dreams”, the sharpness in my mom’s tone, shredded my confidence to little pieces. It wasn’t the first time.
As she saw the change of color on my face, she quickly changed the topic and her tone too. She always knew how to administer a perfect dose of insult and then divert the conversation. I could hear her talk about my houseplants now, and how beautiful they looked after rain but inside, I was still trying to decipher the meaning of what she just said to me.
My mom and I had a complicated relationship. She controlled the steering wheel of my life and I let her. Her acknowledgement was all I sought as a child and later as a married woman too. I tried my whole life to make her feel proud of me, but was never successful.
“I’ll never be good enough for her!”
Tears stinged my eyes and I reverted my gaze to the vegetable patch, I had recently started working on. The tomato plant was visibly growing and I could see two, tiny buds, hanging close to the soil. They were a sign of my meager yet successful attempt at gardening. The white flowers were all gone, and their shriveled remains on the branches looked damp and brown. I recalled how beautiful those flowers looked just a couple weeks ago. Though the beauty was gone, the promise of a fruitful future lingered on. The same night I found out that I was pregnant.
The next month saw the tomato plant flourish. There were a dozen buds on it, all different sizes and shades. The weather was pleasant, and every day I sat in my lawn, near the vegetable patch staring hard at the beautiful hues of the evening sky, contemplating about everything and nothing. By now, the baby bump was slightly visible to me through my clothes.
__________________________

My house was a villa, situated in a posh suburb. It was everything I had ever dreamed of and yet not what I wanted anymore. As a teenager, I had always fantasized myself married to a handsome man, living in a beautiful house, and enjoying a serene life. At 25, when I had it all, I felt suffocated. The last five years, had brought a lot of changes in my life.
It began when I changed my Major in college from Business Studies to English Literature in my Junior year. My parents who were already disappointed in me for choosing a career in humanities, felt let down with this decision. I had qualified for an English Literature scholarship in the same university where I studied so I didn’t take their suggestions in account. This engraved in their minds that their eldest was out of control. Living far away from home, for an ordinary degree seemed like a fruitless idea to them. My mother was pretty vocal about her disappointment and told me very frankly that she wasn’t going to let me get my way anymore. What I perceived as a personal choice, she deemed as a threat to her parenthood. My scholarship, my hard work, my happiness meant nothing to her. The same year I made the mistake of telling her that my best friend from college, who was nothing more than a friend to me, had proposed to me. This revelation confirmed her fears that I was a bad egg. In her eyes, I was a bad influence on my siblings; a bad influence, solely because I had discovered what I wanted to do in life and because someone she didn’t approve was in love with me. I had to be controlled right away so she summoned me back home, asked me to shift my credits to a local college, and got me married to her cousin’s son, all the while telling me that it was the ultimate test for me to prove my love to her. I passed the test!
The next three years saw me struggling with a long-distance degree, an inattentive husband and a miscarriage. When I graduated, my mom asked me to focus on building my life.
“You’ve always done what you’ve wanted. Now focus on your life! Ali wants kids and you have been delaying it for long. You’re done with your studies now. You can’t make more excuses.”
I felt devastated.
“But when did I ever, Mama?” I asked her. “My miscarriage isn’t an excuse. I didn’t make it happen”, I cried.
“Don’t play the victim card. It was entirely your fault. You’ve never been good at handling anything”, she spoke curtly. “I asked you not to appear in your Finals once the report came positive, but no! You never listen.”
“Mama, do you hear yourself,” I whispered, “It is not like I planned it.”
“This is what I’m saying. You don’t have a plan. You’ve never had a plan. You just do what you feel like. Now, don’t say another word,” she ended the conversation.


Two years after that, I was still unable to get pregnant. Tired of staying at home, with nothing to do I applied for a part-time job and got it. I talked to Ali about it, and he blatantly refused to let me work. I requested and pleaded with him because I desperately wanted to get out of the house, do something, and be something other than my mother’s obedient first-born and Ali’s trophy wife. That’s when he complained to his family about what a disobedient wife I was. That’s when my wish to work was discussed in a family meeting, where both our mothers sided with him and that’s when my mother told me that I was only being a source of humiliation for our families.
After that, I grew quieter. In the following weeks, I could feel the changes in my body, but I didn’t try to confirm my fears. To distract myself, I started gardening. When the first flower sprouted on the tomato plant, I felt something growing inside me too. I missed my period that month again. Weeks later, when the buds had all appeared, I told Ali about the positive pregnancy test.
The buds grew and swelled. Soon, they were just a shade shy from being perfectly ripe. I was happy with my little project. After a long time, I was proud of myself. After long, no one was disappointed in me. After long, I had something to look forward to.
Then, one dark night, I woke up from my slumber only to find that I sat in a pool of blood. Ali rushed me to the hospital. I made it through the night, the baby didn’t.
Two days later, I was discharged from the hospital. As Ali, parked the car in the porch, I looked over at my vegetable patch. The over ripened fruits had fallen off the vines, onto the soil. Some were cracked and looked rotten. A couple still clung to the flaccid vines, but their blossom ends were darkened. The surrounding plants looked droopy too. I was sent off to the comfort of my room, as if anything could comfort me at that point. Outside, I could hear Ali telling my mother, “It’s all because of her gardening, she didn’t even realize that she was pregnant for months and kept on squatting and bending to attend to her damn plants. Once I knew, I told her to be extra careful but when has she ever listened!”
All Mama replied was, “Yes, You’re right. She never listens”
Tears trickled down my face, as I longed to feel a movement in my empty womb, as I longed to see my vegetable patch all blooming like two days ago, as I longed to feel Ali’s arms around me and as I longed to hear my mother say that she loved me and it wasn’t my fault.

Lockdown observations (Fiction)

“What the hell! Not again!”
Nauman’s angry roar echoed around our living room. Both my kids looked up instantly. Passing them a reassuring smile and asking them to find a good movie to download, I stepped outside my room into the well-lit living room. I could see Nauman pacing up and down the lobby, his phone fixed between his right ear and shoulder, as he cracked his knuckles. Annoyance dripped from his face. Our eyes met, and in that exact moment he realized his mistake. A quick apologetic nod, and he went inside the dining room which had been his make-shift office for the past month. Behind the closed door, I could still make out the irritation and anger in his otherwise calm voice.
Later that night, I asked him if anything was bothering him and his answer was , “No. Nothing.” I could sense the curtness in his tone and thought best not to probe him further.


The very next morning, he greeted me with a smile on his face and handed me my coffee in bed, all the while making small talk. This had always been his way of masking his emotions. He was clearly stressed out due to work but admitting it to me was not his style. To him, being vulnerable or sad meant being less of a man and he wasn’t going to allow himself to be seen as a weak man by anyone let alone his wife.
Over the course of the next few days, I found him cursing and shouting in his make-shift office a couple times more. In the evenings, he avoided spending time with kids and me and preferred sitting alone in front of the T.V; just staring at it, lost in his thoughts. He got better at passing fake smiles at our kid’s jokes and making small talk at dinner. He complained about being tired all the time and popped an aspirin everyday. Squinting and frowning had become his only expressions. Sleeplessness was visible on his face as his dark circles grew darker with each passing day and I could see a vein popped near his temple all the time. Frustration and irritability was obvious in all his actions. Kicking doors, and throwing things instead of placing them in their place had become a daily occurrence. I was angry at him for disrupting the peace of my house, but at the same time worried for him because as soon as his office hours would be over, he’d try to act all normal and avoid conversations that involved talking about his day or work or his behavior while working. From past experiences, I knew that talking things out is a lost cause with him. Interventions only made him go in denial. Questions about his feelings made him uncomfortable and repeated discussions always made him distant.


Was he always this tense at work? Were we going through a financial crisis? Could he lose his business? Was he depressed? Was he exhausted due to the Lockdown?


These and a million other questions were in my mind but I didn’t ask any of them. Instead, I just held his hand one evening, looked in his eyes and told him, “You need help! And I’m going to get you that help.”
And then, I did. I convinced him to see a counselor who could help him channel his negative emotions in the right way. Long story short, it was a miracle that he agreed and a month later thanked me too for identifying the problems he couldn’t.


Over the course of past fourteen years, I had learnt that my husband was a strong man, with a great passion for his work. He not only dedicated himself to his work only but was always supportive of my education and career as well. He was a loving father who prioritized his family over everything. His ME-Time included working out and he had a million friends who loved and respected him.


I had also learnt that he had trouble expressing his feelings and was a champion at hiding them. He avoided conversations that involved sharing his emotions and he considered being sad a weakness.
The Lockdown brought out many hidden agendas that he didn’t allow to surface before. Amidst, Covid-19 all businesses suffered and so did his. Trouble at work and inability to do anything about it had caused him to be frustrated and angry. Staying at home for an indefinite time, with no means to see his mother or siblings in the near future was eating him up from inside. Cutting ties from our social lives turned out to be more stressful for him than me. And most of all, the fear of Corona had opened up another dark avenue in his mind : Fear of losing his loved ones ! To top it all off, his mind told him that he was raised to be a strong man who wouldn’t and shouldn’t succumb to trivial inconveniences.
He didn’t tell me any of this ever, but I knew all of it. Living with someone, reveals secrets one doesn’t tell anyone. His childhood stories, his memories, his mannerism, his attitude towards certain things, had all allowed me in to his mind and I could sense what he was going through but since, the effects of all of it was never so obviously disturbing, I never thought that Nauman could feel so mentally drained.

This was the first time in my life when I realized, how much pressure lies on good men to be ‘good men’ in our society. The pressure of being strong and masculine, the pressure of being composed, the pressure of never expressing their fears, or embracing their vulnerabilities. As boys, they are taught not to cry and be brave and if they do, they are labeled as being feminine. Not that being feminine is a bad thing but somehow we are taught that sensitivity and being a man are two different things. This vile idea, damages them for life and throughout their lives, they confuse being upset with being angry. Whenever they feel helplessness, fear or sadness they resort to anger and on suppressing all of it, they end up irritated and exhausted. I have seen my father’s face go red on my Grandmother’s funeral but not a single tear escaped his eye! I have seen my husband go quiet for months when he lost his father, but not even once, he cried his heart out. I have seen people mocking boys at my school for crying like girls. I have seen my best friend being bullied at college just because he loved wearing colors and prints. I have seen my brother being teased because he didn’t play team sports. And very recently, I have seen my son being discouraged by his friends for taking up baking as a hobby. All this and more has led me to believe that a change is needed. Teaching kids about expressing themselves, regardless of their genders, is a lesson all of us need to learn. And this way, we might be able to raise men who are in touch with their sensitivity and willing to accept themselves as they are.

Inhale negativity, exhale positivity!
I salute those who have mastered this art, but I’m still struggling with it! I’m still not on terms with how amazingly optimistic some people are. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike happy people! I like them! In fact, I like them so much that I want to follow their footsteps, I want to smile bright like them. I think they are warriors, who have conquered life and I pray for more and more happiness for them! But I can’t relate with them. Am I normal? Anyways…Wrote this just now..



You tell me how to smile,
You tell me how to let go
You tell me, c’mon be strong
You tell me ,it’s so easy to move on

You say all the right things
You say the things I want to hear
You exude positivity and perfection
You ask what is doubt? You condemn fear

You talk about the lows too
You do tell you’ve been wounded too
You share your fears and failures
You share what you’ve been through

And as I see you now,pretty, powerful, preaching self-love
I find myself shrink in shame
Wondering Am I doing enough?
Wondering why I can’t be more like you? Why can’t we be same?

How did you heal so quickly?
How am I still hurt?
How did you find a way out?
How am I still lost?

And though I praise your strength
And though I pray for your well being
I do find it hard to relate with you
Because I’m still self-loathing

You’ve told me all your secrets to life
You’ve told me how to be happy
You really are a success
I’m still a little no body
You’ve turned around your life
And I’ve tried to do it too
You’ve made it big! and I’m proud of you
Why can’t I be proud of me too?

We ran the same race with same set of skills
We clambered, we fell, we got up to finish
And though my legs moved as fast as you
and though I ran as hard
You ended up with a gold
And I finished last!

How I Handle Toxic People

1. Avoid and ignore
This is basically my nature. I don’t get involved in pettiness and I never respond to people who want a reaction out of me. I do not mingle or socialize with them at all. However, sometimes these people are part of our circle and can’t be avoided. Then, I stick to a simple greeting and I make sure that I avoid sitting or talking with that person because nothing is above my peace of mind.

2. Understand their psychological issues
Toxic people are toxic for a reason. Over the course of many long years, I have learnt that their Toxicity has more to do with them than me. If we look closely at their lives, we get to know that they have underlying issues with love, loneliness, self esteem, anger, abuse, medical reasons and/or so much more, and that has caused them to become this sadist who likes making others miserable. It’s okay if you feel sympathy for them.

3. Be the bigger person
Forgive Toxic people and move on! This is easier said than done but when you truly start believing sorry for Toxic people and their reasons to be so negative, your compassion may let you forgive them. In all honesty, this is very hard to do and was only possible for me when I totally disconnect from such people, as on Zero contact.

4. Don’t Forget
Forgive but don’t forget, ever! If I forgive someone for their Toxic behaviour, they think that I am actually giving them another chance to bully me because some people do not understand the concept of forgiveness.
Moreover, remembering their behaviour patterns help me in not letting them get close to me again.

5. Call them out
Many times, these people are connected to us in such a way (relative/workfellow/classmate) that there is no way out but to stand up for one’s self. Be confident enough, in such situations, and talk to that person one on one. Let them know, that they are disrespectful. They might turn around for you and stop. If they don’t, talk to them in the presence of other people that their negative words and actions towards you bother you. These people can be put in their place with such interventions. The key here is that you never lose control. Don’t get angry and say your mind out in a relaxed manner. I learnt this the hard way, because one time I lost my temper and instead ended up making that person look like a victim. You need to be really strong emotionally, before you take this step.

6. Involve a mediator
Those who find it difficult to manage their emotions or are not confident with direct interventions can take help from someone with authority. In families, this person can be the wisest elder whom you trust, in schools and colleges it can be a teacher, in workplaces it can be the HR or an authoritative person who listens or solve problems, or it can be a common friend. These people can help you with the communication and even set the other person to their right mind. However, if you rely too much on this, you’ll end up being a “Shikayati Tattoo” so don’t over do it.

7. Don’t blame yourself
Don’t let the words of these people get you. They want you to believe every negative comment that they pass.
For years, I thought that maybe I was responsible for certain people to be behaving badly with me. I was always doubting myself, ” Maybe it’s the way I speak” , “Maybe it’s the way I walk”, “Maybe it’s the way I breathe”. I believed for long that I was the reason behind all their negative behaviours because I was told a million times that I was a bad person in million ways, none of which was true.
I still regret blaming myself for other’s behaviour and wasting away years of my life over such people.
Don’t be like me, be better. Love yourself enough to not fall in that trap! This has been the hardest one for me. I’m still working on this one!

8. Work on your inner peace
This is an important and integral part of not just handling Toxic people but of Life. I learned to believe that I am responsible for my happiness, contentment and peace. Yes, life is unpredictable but that should not stop us from trying to make it better! It is not a one day thing, it’s a process which requires you to let go of Toxic people, toxic habits, and toxic thoughts. Again, this is something that I’m still working on, but every single step that I have taken in this direction has helped me be better!

I still regret blaming myself for other’s behaviour and wasting away years of my life over such people.

Forgive Toxic people and move on! This is easier said than done but when you truly start believing sorry for Toxic people and their reasons to be so negative, your compassion may let you forgive them

Types of Toxic People I have encountered


1. Judgemental jocks
These are the ones who watch us closely and judge us for the littlest thing ever, leaving us feel inferior, or judge us for our choices which are different from them, they are the ones to look out for! They’ll judge your clothes, parenting styles, your body, your ideas…..the list is endless!

Okay, let me clarify one thing. Our family and close friends know us pretty well so when they see us being out of character, or they feel the need to intervene to save us from the consequences of our actions, they can judge us too but that’s for our betterment. It’s our close ones job to keep us stay positive and true to ourselves so you can’t call them judgemental.
Learn to differentiate.


2. Sarcasm Spewers
Being funny is one thing but if someone’s double meaning talk is hurting me rather than making me smile and laugh, I get alarmed.
Also, these people pinpoint one person in a crowd and won’t stop being sarcastic towards that one person while making others laugh. Beware of such people, cause they’ll target you soon too and then everyone except you will be laughing. So my idea is to never be a part of the situation where sarcasm or mean jokes are targeted towards one person.


3. Sympathetic soul suckers
This trait is used by many toxic people. They’ll try to make you feel, like they’re on your side but won’t stop dragging you to feel negative about a certain situation or person, by showing they feel sorry for you. ( I did a piece ’10 times I was called a ” bechari” ‘ a few days back which is in my feed, going through that will certainly give you a better idea of what I’m saying here)

4. Narcissists
Self proclaimed “Best of the Best” these people don’t want to hear you talk about anything, they just want you to listen to them praising themselves. Hanging out with such people leave me drained and miserable.

5. Gossip Mongers
I think I don’t need to explain this in detail. Spending time with such people is all about back biting, rumours, and masala talk.

6. Serial Apologists
These love creating rifts and when caught, quickly label everything as a misunderstanding and apologise. Same pattern, they keep on repeating, because ” sorry” is just a meaningless word for them.

7. Blame Gamers
These are the ones who tactfully blame someone else for their mistakes. They can make you feel that somehow you’re responsible for every bad situation caused by them. They’ll say things like , ” You left me no choice” or ” You forced to do be bad” etc

A soldier never wins!

When everyone was training to fight battles and win them, I was forced to rush into the battlefield, untrained and unarmed. I was overwhelmed, but struggled hard to survive, knowing all the while, that only the survival of the fittest was possible, and I wasn’t the fittest, I wasn’t even fit! I was fighting a lost battle, that I hadn’t even chosen to fight! But I had to make through it. Winning gloriously, wasn’t even an option! But surviving it all was, even if it meant that my survival would cost me multiple wounds. Wounds that would take time to cure, suppurating and oozing filth multiple times before healing, and at the end leaving ugly scars, scars that would remind me of all that I’ve been through just to reach that one point.
And even after I faced all of it, I remained a soldier and those who trained long and hard, excelled without ever exercising their expertise because…well….because they knew how to make diplomatic amends, and they knew how to win without fighting! And while me, the soldier, bore the wounds, no one would ever remember her. The ones on top.. .they will always be celebrated as heroes, because they matter more!

The Struggles Continue 

Food is my life and owning a small food business is a life time dream which has never really come true. REASON: Not enough finances.

Growing up I always felt as if I was destined to do something great, something immense. But luck didn’t agree with me on this subject. Anyways, struggling through a rocky marriage, trying to complete college in my early twenties, along with embracing motherhood ( Yes! I have a boy and a girl who are three years apart) with hardly any financial backup, my life seemed like the perfect recipe for a disaster. Somehow, I managed, completed my Masters in English Literature, started a teaching job and built up a small home-cooked food delivery service. It started doing well, and for a year I worked hard at making it successful. Competition sprung up in my vicinity, and soon I wasn’t getting many orders. But I kept it alive, working only on a few orders in months. The good reputation of my small business preceded wherever I went. Another year down the road, my food company was shortlisted for a big contract of provision of meals in a corporate set-up. The new contract meant better money but extremely tough working schedule. But it was my chance, my opportunity, and I had lost too many of them to really understand the worth of a good one, so I wasn’t going to let this get away.

The company I was to work with was thoroughly impressed by my food quality and my work ethics. I clicked with the Management during the interviews and they assured that I was to commence working with them as soon as their previous contract expired. I waited patiently for a couple of months until finally they gave me an event to cater for almost 100 people. I was ecstatic. They communicated that the event would mark the beginning of my contract with them. Menus were worked out, money talk was talked and everything was going according to my plan. Yes! For once, everything was going according to my plan! I couldn’t believe it. This could help me get out of my failure streaks.

Alas! Just 2 days before the event, the company informed me that they were approached by Mr So n So and he had insisted on doing the event. Now this Mr. So and So is one of the big guns of my city. He is an industrialist with two sons who have recently started working in the restaurant business as they had truck loads of money to invest. After trying their hands at different ventures, and being successful at them , they had come to occupy the food market too. Long story short, they were rich, influential men and I am a not-rich-woman with hardly any contacts ( apart from my cell phone contacts) so they ended up with the gig. The billionaires were not going to allow anyone else to earn a few thousands right under their nose. So, I was politely refused with the meek reason that Mr.So and So can not be refused. I landed again in a big pile of disappointment with nothing to blame accept the fact that I wasn’t as rich and influential as the Big Names of my city. Was I discontent? Yes. Was I upset? Ofcourse! Did I feel like a looser? 100%. Another Failure? Absolutely.

But one thing that I decided that day was, that this failure wasn’t going to change what I love. I love food and I love my small venture, and although I felt dismay but I wasn’t going to stop working for what I really wanted out of life. I want to feel contentment and satisfaction in life even if it doesn’t bring in a lot of success, and it can only come from doing what I love!

Cycling Chronicles.

Welcome to my childhood, where toys were a luxury and owning a bicycle meant that the young bike-owner was exemplary.
Some good behaviour, a shining result card and a few requests later, I was the proud owner of a red BMX, with a step-through frame and a sleek handle. It was love at first sight. Our relationship soared and soon we were inseparable. We took trips together to the nearby market area and occasionally ran errands for my Daadi. Every once in a while, I would take her for a wild tour on the main SherShah Road. We were pushing our limits every passing day until finally her support wheels gave away and she was no more the same bicycle. We had to part ways. Her disability became a big obstacle on us being together and I couldn’t deny the fact that our relationship had nose-dived. She graced our garage while I stopped making an effort to even step out of my room. My Summer fling ended abruptly and in despair. I tried to replace her with OsakaJapan, our video game console, but we couldn’t be mutually exclusive (I had to share it with my younger siblings). Finally, I made up my mind and decided to be the bigger person. I knew I had to make it work even if the whole relationship had to be carried on my shoulders  alone. I went up to her, let down my guard and took her out only to return with skinned knees and elbows, bruised legs and a broken heart.

I was sent off to Ami Jan’s house to recover and to get over my failed relationship. In a week, I was up and about and ready to give it one more go. On Ami Jan’s insistence, Pappa brought my beauty there and left her with me so we could work out our issues. I hèsitated initially, she had hurt me. But then, I loved her fondly. She was my freedom, my ticket to independence. We started going out again, but I never rode her. I would walk around the blocks, holding her handle bar, promising never to let go.

My uncle noticed my struggle and decided to help me. He took us to a nearby playground and started the cycling lessons that lasted for about a week. Two of my younger cousins accompanied us everyday. Unfortunately, both of them were better riders than me. The first day, my uncle just held the bike and ran alongside while I pedalled it. But as soon as he would let go, my BMX and I would both crash on the ground. The injuries were minor but the humiliation was larger than life. My cousins would laugh and I got angrier and angrier on her for not co-operating. The second day was the same, no positive outcome only more embarrassment. Those two devils were given chances by my uncle to demonstrate how to ride my bike perfectly and soon I realized that the fault lied in me and not her. Hurt and disappointed, I looked forward to overcoming my weaknesses the 3rd day.

A new plan was then devised my uncle. There was a slope in the play ground and he decided to make perfect use of it. I had to ride down the slope and since the cycle would already be in motion by the time I reached the flat ground, I was only to pedal and maintain balance and voila’ task achieved. My irritating cousin demonstrated how it was to be done. My uncle pushed him down the slope while he balanced atop the BMX, reached the base and squished around the playground. I was so jealous. I promised to out do him right there and then. It was my turn now. I was on the top of the slope, sitting nervously on the seat of my most prized possession, mumbling BISMILLAH, praying to get it right this time. My uncle pushed the bike gently and let go. I was smoothly going downhill, the evening Sun behind me, the wind gushing in on my face, my hair flowing black; it was amazing. I reached the end of the slope and my BMX kept on going. I was happy and felt unstoppable. But then air resistance happened. We were slowing down. I could hear my uncle shouting “Pedal Maro” ( start pedalling) but I couldn’t register it’s meaning. I froze and waited for my bike to slow down and stop. When it finally did stop, I was unable to move and fell on my left, legs entangled  in the bike’s frame. I was oblivious to everything after that. I had failed.

The classes went on for a few days. I learnt little but fell  a lot. After the slope fiasco, we took chances with riding along the pavement so as to stop falling straight on to the ground. Then, lowering down of the seat and contemplation over getting new support wheels happened. Both plans tanked as  my mom knew that then I would never be able to learn the simple art of cycling. A couple of days, some more practice and counselling later, it was established that I was  a lost cause. The remaining summer, while I saw my younger sister claiming my ride and riding on it like a pro, even attempting different stunts, I felt like a failure. These days, still haunt me to date as at that time I realised what it felt like not being able to get what you really want. 

The universe conspired after that and I finally learnt the sorcery of riding a bike but honestly speaking I can’t really recall the days when that happened. My childhood victory of achieving something which seemed next to impossible to me happened someday and I don’t have a recollection of it. All I remember are the days that marked me as a failure in front of the whole Khan clan. Thus, a good chapter of My failure story.

I would conclude with a cycling joke that still cracks me up.

A boy was gifted a bicycle by his mom and taken to the park for a ride. The boy cycled around the park while the Mom sat on a bench. The first time around he yelled,”Ammi, hathon k baghair” , while taking his hands away from the steering handle. The second time he passed his mother, he removed his feet from the pedals and raising his legs in mid air. He shouted, “Ammi, paoon k baghair. The third time, he got t a bit late. The mother waited anxiously and then finally saw her son covered in mid dragging the bike along. As he got closer, he opened his mouth, toothless and bloody, just to inform his mother, “Ammi,daanto k baghair”.

I know pathetic joke but it always cracks me up!