My mom is an only child so we grew up without a khala or mamun1. Ever since we were little we felt that void in our lives as we saw friends/family being loved by theirs. The words khala and mamun were magical for us and many of our childhood make-belief games had a khala character in them. Our favorite self-invented game where we would make paper house plans and little families that lived in them; ended up being called 'choti khala' because of a khala character in many of these families we made.
When Anya was born, my sisters and I used to remember this game we had and how we finally got that wish when they became khalas themselves. And what a joy it has been to see this khala-niece bond begin and grow. My sisters have changed dirty diapers, rocked her to sleep, stayed up nights while I slept and more than any of that, played with her those endless pretend games that only a khala-of-one can have the time and energy to do.
Where Skype is the only way we can be present in each others’ daily lives, most mornings are Anya-khala time. They play ‘Starbucks-Starbucks’ (Them: Can I have a cake pop and an apple pie?, Anya: Yes, Twenty Ten please) become Raheem Uncle2 and cook food for each other, read stories out to her or those long conversations with one of Anya’s stuffies that she’s talking as. They babysit many times as I cook or take a shower or sometimes edit pictures or write for this blog. Initially I used to keep checking, worrying they'd get bored. Thinking how long can one play and talk with a toddler from across the world! but now I know they don’t get bored. They enjoy it as much as she does!
And its beautiful that even though we never got the khala we dreamed of, Anya got not one but two mashaAllah3, and I see them everyday and realize we were right. We were missing something amazing!
As I watch her with them, I cant help thinking about many such relations around us, that are strained. I’m sure most of these started with love too, but somewhere somehow it all changed. Some grew apart, some circumstances changed, and resentment, anger, hurt, even hate crept in. Relationships don’t just continue one-sided, they are work. We should appreciate and cherish them, value them, love them and make time for them. I hope and pray that nothing ever comes in the way of these bonds that Anya shares with her khalas, phupos, grannies, taya4, cousins and each of the relations that are a part of her life. It would be heartbreaking because I saw where these relations all began, in love! Even when she’s 20 or 30 or 40, I hope she will love them and they will love her equally back!
Do you have any special khala or other bonds in your lives? Would love to hear some stories.
Thanks for reading and lots of love.
1 Urdu has specific words for relations from the maternal and paternal sides. Khala is the word for mom’s sister, Mamun for mom’s brother.
2 Raheem Uncle is the cook at my parent’s house and has been with them since a long long time.
3 Masha Allah is an Arabic phrase that is used when one expresses appreciation, joy, praise or thankfulness. It is used in serving as a reminder that all accomplishments/blessings are by the will of God. In some Muslim cultures, people may utter this phrase in the belief that it may help protect them from jealousy, evil eyes, or jinxing.
4 Khalas: Mom’s sisters; Phupos: Dad’s sisters; Taya: Dad’s Elder Brother