The anatomy of a happy family

In my house, rooms are claimed in the name of things rather than people- sandook room, almirah room, AC room, mandir room- a steady reminder that our family will never be enough to name this home after us, that I will never be complete enough to fill a room. Perhaps families in smaller houses are happier because there are more people than things under their roof- more beating hearts than ticking clocks. Time is ugly in the mouth of homes, it only pulls us apart.

In our household, we use the same soap bar but different towels per person- we are only similar in our filth, our grief, our shame, but we’re strangers when you strip us clean of misery. Happy families are not the ones that dine together three times a day, but who gulp down their hunger without letting each other know- it’s not blood that makes stronger families, but mere thirst. Since I was a child, I have been made to learn and repeat and scream, ‘blood is thicker than water’. Only now did I realise, the actual saying is “the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb”. Maybe it was fear of broken families that ate away the rest of the words. Aren’t all parents afraid of their children’s choices, afraid that we’d run away the moment we are let free?

I often wonder about love wrapped in aluminium foils and hinged against unlocked doors in our house. ‘I fell in love with you the moment I felt you in my womb’, mother says. Does she love me as a possession rather than a person? If I was born to another woman, would she smile at me on the streets? The love I grew up with was never mine. The child she birthed was never me but a part of her. Perhaps I will never know how much of me she loves, or how much of myself I am supposed to love- what parts of me lay abandoned within myself, what parts I am supposed to mother on my own.

All families are happy- some together, others apart. It is so easy to want to run away, so hard to convince myself to. If I have no family to belong to, will I ever be able to call myself mine? If no person who looks at me says I look like my father, would I want to see myself through their eyes? If I have no room to return to, will I ever be home? These questions are always hanging on the doorknob I never succeed to twist. Perhaps, as my parents tell me, one day, I’ll have a family of my own and I will know what it takes to fill their shoes. Maybe I am writing this because that day, I’ll need to know what makes a happy family.