I like that this blog, that was born was from calamity, has become the Kureishi family forum, with input from your sons. It feels like the psychic component of a much larger scaffold that I hope will move you slowly but surely along a scale of recovery.

There was a moment in my life, many years ago, when it hit me that I would never be a parent. It's one of those short-form memories that manifest as a strong emotional yearning, tied to a soft focus mental image.

I was walking through Bethnal Green, in East London. It was a dark and wretched evening in January. A persistent rain was building a cumulative sense of misery. I was looking for a music venue called The Ocean. I didn't know if I was heading in the right direction. The street where I was walking didn't strike me as the kind of place where it would be a good idea to be observed studying a copy of the AZ, so I kept on going.

I passed a young man. He was standing underneath the slender awning of a late night chemists. His hands were absently wheeling a covered pushchair an inch or so back and forth. He appeared to be starring through the fogged glass of the window display. Yellow and green light from inside diffused through the condensation. I assume he was waiting for the child's mother. There was an element of something quite beautiful in that fluid tableau.

I was overwhelmed by a sudden realisation: I will never have what this man has – I will never fully understand the sacrifices, the joys, the frustrations and the gradual transformation that are part and parcel of being a parent. It is a continental expanse of life that I will never experience.

A few years later I was diagnosed with a progressive disease that really should have killed me by now, but is dragging its heels. It can be passed down through the genes. I would not wish it on anyone. The line separating me from parenthood had already been provisionally drawn in pencil. When I received the diagnosis I went over it in permanent ink. No children for me. No wife or long-term partner either.

I catch occasional glimpses of what it might be like to be a parent. Supervising activities – giving space while building enthusiasm, managing accidents and diffusing tempers. It is rewarding and draining.

One evening I returned home from the hospital, where I was at the time employed as deliverer of medical records. I was so exhausted, the moment after I walked in I lay down in the hallway. My brother's family were visiting for Easter. My Lego-obsessed nephew wandered out and began engaging me in his favourite subject. He wanted me to build with him. I told that I would. I just needed a few moments. I dozed off. When I awoke, still lying on the floor, I had become the foundation hill of a Lego village that was still undergoing construction.

My parents are providers – a quality whose value is often taken for granted. It is because of the stability they provided that I can look to my left and see the spindly branches of tall trees swaying stiffly in the wind, and the green parakeets, who have found a home in this area, flapping in silhouette from limb to limb.

They offered me very little in the way of guidance. As the eldest child I had to work out a lot myself. The experience has left me with a distaste for milquetoast parenting. It is easy to criticise from a position of ignorance. I do not know whether I would be a good parent. I suspect that I would not.

One consequence of not having children occurred to me quite recently. Our family has lived in Southend-on-Sea for a very long time. There is a notoriously complicated road junction in the area that is named, presumably, after some distant ancestors.

My brothers have both moved from the town, taking their families with them. They will not be back. When I die it will close a chapter in the history of our immediate family. We lived in these parts for a long time. We built houses and raised children. Now we are gone and those graves we leave behind will go untended.

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Now I remember why I thought I should subscribe to this. I loved this.

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Your son is so right; here is an old sanskrit proverb: the word pressure shoould rightly be translated as discipline from sanskrit.

As per the ancient Sanskrit rhyme on child rearing, children should be nurtured with full care and affections up to 5 years of age. They should be kept under pressure during next 10 years.

Reaching at 16 years, children should be treated as friends.

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Oh my, so honest. I would love to hear your sons' perspectives. Though no matter, it's your story. I was fortunate to have entered motherhood enthusiastically, although I was dragging, scraping on the ground with exhaustion, trying to do it "right". I put off my dreams of writing because of time, but also exhaustion. But truthfully, if I had nannies, would I have had the attention? I seemed to always have one eye and ear out for the kids. Being a parent is to be brain damaged I think. Now, as a grandparent, I'm grateful for my family and would do it again. There's no right way to do it I think. Thank you for this.

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Hanif, how beautiful. Yes, as others have written, it reflects my years as a young mother to three children. I loved them and I hated them at the same time. My body was wrecked by breastfeeding them and I don’t remember where the surge of energy came from six in the morning till eight o clock at night. I was a wreck. Yet, I read all the time. My oldest Liz said to me once when I was thinking what to do for a living: You should be a teacher, you were the only mother in the playground, absorbed in a book ignoring all the dangers we kids were facing. I read night and day, but I also cooked, read to them, took care of them night and day. Once a year, I would fly to my aunt’ s huge house in the DR to collapse. Maids and cooks took care of my children while I slept, went to the ocean and swam. They remember those periods with a mixture of alarm and delight. There were dangers, Liz, the lawyer recriminares, but you mom were socializing with the adults to pay too much attention to us. And then back to NYC, to the violence and horrors of those days in the seventies and eighties.

When the grandkids came, particularly the twins, I felt I was exhausted still from caring and mothering my own. I thought I would never be invested in the same way with these little ones. But, the moment I saw them, it happened all over again. In fact, I adored them. There was no ambivalence. I love in particular the twins. I love Isaiah, Luke, but I adore Zeke and Amaya, the twins. When they were born in Boston, I was teaching in Florida (yes, hard to believe there are educational institutions in FL) I flew to Boston every time I had a break. One of my sisters came to live with my daughter Liz the moment the word went out the twins were born. It was nightmarish at first. They would wake each other up, they screamed to be fed, and there were not enough hands to feed, wipe their arses, feed them again, and more. Bathing them was another nightmare. I flew often to help my exhausted sister and my exasperated Liz. But then they began to walk or better to run. It was insane. I respect parents with twins. It ain’t easy. But because I adored them, I was there at every chance. Eventually, Liz hired a nanny plus my sister and I took care of life with twins. Of course, time flies. They will be going to University this year. I love them more each day.

My children also tell me that I was not a great mother, but with a funny expression they say they forgive me. Thanks, i say. It is okay with me. I have said to them when I die to put a piece of paper in my hand that says one or none: meaning no children or only one. They laugh! I don’t laugh, I mean it!

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Ah, ha! This is fantastic! Thank you for writing it so fully and honestly- and to whoever transcribed it, for doing that. I have much to say in agreement - and some differences, being the mother. And didn't have the self-indulgent 70s- having jumped prematurely into responsibility.

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Yep. This would be my mom, for me.

“The people most likely to madden you are not those you merely hate, but those who raise the greatest, most insane-making conflicts in you.”

Absolutely 💯

The Black Snake of Wounded Vanity


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Ha! Beautiful. As always.

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I loved INTIMACY for the same reason. Juggling the dual ideas/ambivalence.

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I’ve read your engaging dispatches. You’re traveling a path split off from the tree of catastrophe that is too familiar. You’ve touched so many recognizable landmarks: the loss of agency, the invasion of your body to manage what once was private, the dependence on those closest while hating and needing it, the loss of a life you once had and liked to start new in the unknown, the need and pleasure of talking to people, the discovery that the prison of your body can have wheels and move about in the world, blowing up the life of the person you love, and what about sex and a nonmoving part. You are time’s creature; no more think it do it. This mess can be comic, tragic, terrifying, energizing, and scrambles poor me. Writing about it is the one agency the f-ing accident didn’t take and can’t have. I assume the injury to your spine is incomplete. Resurrection with physical therapy, patience, and determination is an option with the help of those who love you. I fell off a porch and fractured the bones in my neck. It was just after Christmas. The following year I’d be seventy and retire. Injury at C4-5 made me a quadriplegic until I wasn’t. I wrote about it. I think it will be helpful. My book is Take It Lying Down: Finding My Feet After a Spinal Cord Injury.

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I enjoyed your piece very much thankyou. One of my thirty-something babies recently announced she has absolutely no recollection of her childhood. Wait What??

I want to bonk her over the head. What was the point of my dedication (long torturous man hours) to ensure that each had amazing childhood experiences? Years of enduring days long athletic events (envision molasses moving over a hard flat surface),slowwww piano recitals, screeching birthday parties and not my first choice, child-friendly holidays. And this was for my entertainment ?

¡Ay Caramba!

(I wouldn’t have missed it for the world really❤️).

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This struck a very deep chord Hanif. I am currently wrestling with a "willful" 7 year old who incites and inspires me all at the same time. I look forward to the day we become more like friends, less like combatants lol! All the best from Singapore (by way of Bromley I might add 😉)

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That is raw, honest, and poignant. I got a glimpse into the next phase which seemed quite fun...I remember making a little film of Kier in a pub when he was very young with a mobile phone and a laptop...I also remember taking you Carlo and Sachin to Chandlers in Kew to buy their first electric guitar...a Telecaster? I can't quite remember...but it was quite punky and colourful...

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Your sons turned out brilliant but I think , without hurting your feelings, they must have felt your absence .My father was a painter and had absolutely no interest in children so it's unfortunate he had me as a daughter.I had a great fear- because I resemble him- I would give my own children the same childhood. So I never had any

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I absolutely hate this piece. Thank you for sharing it.

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A different voice, H … after all that immobilization … and after all that physio … after all that care and feeding, hand to mouth … two months on.

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