The pursuit of happiness has always been more of a task list…
- Get married to the richest, most successful, good-looking “Indian” professional who’s family are akin to ours in all aspects.
- Become the pride of his family doing as they ask & always ensuring his happiness.
- Have beautiful children & keep an impeccable home.
- Foresake what is needed to ensure his happiness including dreams of a career & in turn you will be treated like a Princess…showered with gifts & luxurious trappings befitting your beauty & consistent good behaviour.
- You will be secure & not wanting of anything.
- Make sure you raise successful & beautiful children who will in turn continue to this unending chain to eternal bliss..
Because you, Kailash, are fairer than one would’ve imagined… just stay out of the sun. You are “beauuutiful” (I’m actually hot…not beautiful), you have a great body & your hair would be perfect if you kept it straight! Just roll your rotis round, cook your chicken curry strong… practice wearing heels, don’t wear so many colours & crazy things. Mostly, keep your big mouth shut & don’t always try to be clever. No man wants a clever wife. Learn your prayers & prayer rituals.
Stay in Medschool (how else does one call dibbs on the most suitable & handsome doctors?) & always smile nicely at weddings because you look lovely in a sari.
I actually came to learn that I was every handsome Indian Doctor’s complete solution & ticked every box he had been tracing off the walls in the deepest caves of Laudium/ Durban/ PE or wherever.
I simply had to seal the deal was confirm the exceptional household training & cultural & religious status that my family proudly maintained… that was the easy part…
I’ll claim that my kitchen & housekeeping is exemplary.
The only thing I had to really do that required any effort was to kill the fire inside me…quell my personality… conform…fit in…yet stand out in the race to be the prettiest/fairest or best dressed of course… follow the rules…tow the line…be what people wanted & expected me to be.
Cruel you might think? Sexist? Disenfranchising? Not at all! The family who I grew up with who gave me the “Secret to Eternal Happines” loved me much & saw enough potential in me to uncover the best happiness (ie; I could have the perfect “Indian” life) that they sincerely & lovingly devoted their time & effort into giving me every tool I would need to claim the best prize!
What my family did was try their hardest to help me be the best I could be within their limited frame of reference of what “being the best” is and the parameters in which that actually matters.
What they ended up doing is instilling in me a sense of competition. Be the best (wife)! Get the best (husband)! They also helped me see that I had some edge that I could leverage to get what I wanted.
They taught me that if one wants the best, you needed to do what it takes to be the best & always maintain your pride & dignity in doing so. Mostly, they left no room for mediocrity or the unexceptional. That’s how women fulfilled their duties as caregivers to girls….back in the day…
I was the my Father’s 1st born child!
I don’t think my Dad knew that 1st babies come in girl & beyond that had no idea what to do with me besides kisses and hugs…Until my Father discovered that I was smart!
Suddenly life became an endless adventure of him testing what I could learn & how fast...mostly, he realised he could influence me by reasoning with my rational processing powers.
Stories by Dad & Kamala-akka of Europe filled my head with lust for seeing this other World.
All of a sudden, at age 5, science, space, music, history & actual real-life recollections beyond anything I’d imagined filled my head with more information than the requirements for the perfect marriage.
Saturday trips to learn how to work for a dollar bill in Marabastad turned into a disclosure and often, expose of all sorts of unexpected tales. My Dad was my 1st www. & he had no idea as to the limitlessness of the adventures he instigated. He was also the 1st person to tell me that I could actually be anything I wanted to be… besides a great snare of rich, successful, perfect husbands.
“I threw coins into this fountain in Italy. They say that if you throw a coin in, you’ll return! Maybe you’ll go instead!” he said… While Apartheid gripped his family & friends in the vice of further oppression, confining & isolating them even more… Sandha was the exotic fascination of every Mary in Dublin!
Till he came home and did the conventional thing by marrying the woman who was everything he had ever wanted…in an unconventional way!
Someone give Sandha a Bells. Guji stekkie right?!
He lived a different life in a different world & didn’t succumb to the challenges of leaving his comfort zone. He made it the best life experience by taking in as much as possible without reluctance or hesitation. His guidance, advice & scolding came from a completely different view-point. A bigger, better, more cosmopolitan global view-point.
The 60’s & 70’s was a terrible era in SA, but in Europe, it was the dawning of the age of Aquarius & he was in it.
Most of my Dad’s misadventures left me shocked & in awe.
I didn’t even know you could talk to a white lady let alone have a white girlfriend.
My Dad seemed like the only person in Laudium with any guts or wanderlust.
“When Papa came to visit, I took him to the Moulin Rouge. It isn’t a bad place. There are just Beautiful girls doing a show called cabaret but people who don’t know what it is think it’s something terrible.
I smoked cigars & drank with him for the 1st time. Champagne.” he told me…
Dad: You must travel through Europe when you’re a student. That’s what students do? Me: In school?
Dad: No! College. After school! You must go to college to become a professional. A lawyer or a Doctor. You are clever in Maths like me and you have your Mother’s brains too!
Dad: No with your friends. You’ll make friends. College friends. Pen pals. Krishie. Himal. Me: Before I get married?
Dad: Yes! You must experience things & be independent before you get married. Stand on your own feet!
So suddenly there’s an alternative to what I was always given as my only option in life. As opposed to being the fairest, most obedient, well-groomed housekeeper, cook & breeder of genetically modified seeds…I could do something else in between. That was exciting and so much more appealing at 4 years old!
By the time I was 6, I was plain, shy and completely introverted…and I, at no point expected that I was extraordinary in any way…
Until I “came out 1st” which did not mean I exited 1st but had the top marks in Grade 1 at Jacaranda Primary…
Although I loved learning, I knew that my 4 year old sister was smarter than me… Being bored stiff and knowing everything that I was being taught just fitted into my label of being a “big mouth know it all”.
Being awarded the 1st prize in front of 1000 “Indians” in a hall with my Dad filming me getting a book prize…a NEW book prize was something else. I claimed my brain and didn’t care about anything else but being the cleverest.
Which led to the next evolution of the dream I inherited.
Dad: You got a problem! You’ll have to marry someone cleverer than you!
Me: Why? None of the boys ever beat me at any subject.
Dad: Men don’t like women who are cleverer than them. Not me. I married your Mother for her brains (ja right) because I wanted to make sure youple (you people) where smart. But I’m smart! If your husband is stupid, he’ll feel threatened & men do things like hit their wives & terrible things when they feel inferior.
Me: *Scared* OMG! What if I don’t ever get married then? None of boys at school are cleverer than me.
Dad: Don’t worry about these fullahs. You’ll meet other people all over. But just promise me you won’t marry a stupid chap. He’ll get so fed up with you and your big mouth on top of it… you’ll keep telling him what’s right & what’s wrong!
Me: I don’t have a big mouth. Ok Dad. But clever guys are ugly!
How ever many times the inherited dream and fail proof formula to eternal happiness was re-purposed in my head to accommodate the bigger, better and more soul satisfying dreams…and no matter how many women around me set the way by also personalising the formula and succeeding in achieving their dreams & following the prescription for happiness with new age add ons like degrees, driver’s licenses, boyfriends of their choices, dating & going on holidays on their own… I was always challenged by the instigation & encouragement into achieving things that I hadn’t even considered possible for me let alone supported by my Dad.
Happiness suddenly had many variables and it looked like there where many roads to the same destination!
My dreams where far bigger than being the perfect girl in order to find the perfect man…and it’s all Sandha’s fault!
- Age 1: Oh you can walk! Now Rollerskate! Everyone in London rollerskates. You must pass these onto the younger kids and the older kids will pass theirs into you.
- Age 3: We bought you & Krishie motorbikes with a battery you charge then put on the bike & you can ride it together in the street like real motorbikes!
- Age 4: Look, do you want to learn how to use my video camera?
- Age 4: Come here! Let me show you how to use the video machine & record shows from TV onto video and play videos.
- Age 4: Let me teach you time-tables.
- Age 5: Ok ok! Don’t worry! There’s nothing wrong with playing PacMan. Here take this silver. Don’t tell your Ba. Go run play the shop, play 2 games then come back. Quickly.
- Age 6: Don’t ever think a woman mustn’t know how to do things. Come help me change the plug. Remember, find a man who’ll do all this for you. Not a useless. But make sure he knows you can do it yourself.
- Age 8: We are going to live in a mixed area with blacks and whites and coloureds. I’m sick & tired of Indians and the mentality.
- Age 8: Come watch the World Cup. Let me explain the game. Brazil is the greatest football country in the World! Bloody East Germany!
- Age 8: Come watch James Bond! Now this is the kinda guy you must look for. He how he dresses? See the car? Gentleman that!
- Age 9: This is roulette.
- Age 10: What you asking me for? All the girls London wore hot pants! Let her wear shorts man. This is Midrand. No one is watching what they are doing!
- Age 10: My friend is coming out of exile. Looks like we are going to see a change in government. Youple can do whatever you want. If wherever you want. I hope this happens then at least you have the opportunity to make something of yourself.
- Age 11: Take the steering wheel.
- Age 11: You girls wanna go to a concert? Whitney Houston! Here, hide our tot packs in your jacket!
- Age 12: Here. Read the Qu’raan. Read the Bible too. Understand the next man’s Religion!
- Age 12: You are going to a white school that’s final. Would you rather be head girl in Laudium or get a better education.
- Age 12: Congratulations on coming of age. I’ve been keeping this drafting set for you. Try to see if they’ll let you do technical drawing at school.
- Age 13: You are pretty! What you taking about!
- Age 13: What? Where you wanna work? How much they paying you? Ok I’ll take you.
- Age 15: You can’t date till you 21 and remove that nail-polish!
- Age 16: Make sure he opens the door and takes your chair out. Be home before 10 and here’s R 500 in case. Just in case. Have fun.
- Age 16: Come change this tyre with me. You can’t be stuck in the middle of no where…
- Age 16: Do me a favor. Buy your own house before you even think of getting married. Don’t ever be obligated the stay with a man if things don’t work out. Have your own assets.
- Age 18: Here! This is Dooley’s. A new cider the rep brought. Try it. Here’s a straw! Don’t be scared of alcohol. I won’t let you get drunk. Drink it quickly and losen up.
I could’ve taken that easy 3-step route to eternal happiness & had I not known any better by not being exposed to it, I would be married with kids right now.
But… does the formula deliver the happiness it promises? Because that’s where it ends. The key to happiness isn’t a happy marriage. It’s getting married!
Having kids. Then being married as per requirements.
I know my Dad would Love to see us married to deserved men who treat us well…I know this because he makes no secret of it.
But, I’m also pretty damned sure that he is super proud of the Mummy & Daddy I am…especially because every lesson he gave me in independence has enabled raising my child.
He took a simple plan & turned it on its head by filling my head with bigger dreams & always reminding me that I can be whatever I wanted to be with or without anyone else. Mostly, that fulfilment of my dreams was not dependant on anyone else.
I realised that I have and am making my BIG, wonderful dreams come true and am more happy than ever… Many can’t understand how this could be possible without following the rules & obtaining the husband & child in standard family home trophies…
BUT here’s the thing; THERE IS NO THING OR PERSON THAT MY HAPPINESS IS ATTACHED TO.
I took the road less travelled and certainly don’t conform to normal.
But I am happily married to a life of fulfilling the great destiny I was born to.
Age 8: The shortest distance between 2 points is a straight line! Pythagoras!
Except, Life is not linear.
It is curvy and colourful and bumpy and slippery…but your willingness to think beyond the boundries of what you had been taught and step outside of the limitations of the world you had been placed in empowered me and my sisters to be more than someone’s “lovely wife”!
More than anything I could achieve, I fully believe that I am raising a little girl who will change the World in some way and make her mark on humanity. She is a product of who you let me be.
I thank you…because if Point 1 is where I am, and Point 2 is Happiness…the shortest distance would have taken me to a lesser Happiness.
Not only is the road less travelled exhilarating and exciting, but every wind and slope, kink and bump forces me to shift the bar and strive for more.
I am Happy!
I Love You and everything you have done with me, for me and because of me.
And yes, there where many wonderful people in my life who contributed to making me who I am…
but this isn’t about who I am…
it’s about who I want to be…
the culmination of the dreams that I’ve had, those I’ve fulfilled and those I will have…
and you got me dreaming Dad!