Whilst laying awake in the small hours of this morning, it occurred to me that, whilst I can narrate this story of our family for you, my little one, I cannot begin to narrate its future.
Compelling me to tears, as a mother, is the fear and grief of my limitations. I have tried to understand and explore our unidentifiable identity, that which is uncategorised and unfamiliar.
Neither side of your family is what you could describe as ‘elite’. Not in India, nor in England. Rather, we are a people that blend and un-blend simultaneously with other classes.
To illustrate, you have, by your father’s side, an ancestor’s name ‘Arthur King’ carved on a War memorial that stands in the town centre. I was thinking about you while I sat looking at it through a window of a coffee shop. He was a man that was of an ordinary class, English and Anglican.
The memorial says:
‘Remember with thanksgiving the true and faithful men and women of this town and countryside who in these years of War went forth for God and the Right.’
An interesting phrase ‘God and the Right’. The God it mentions, is that the same God your father believed in when he became a Muslim? Is God simply an extension of the ego that is always right?
The way we wage war, and the way we mourn those that fell in battle is telling through every representation, including the war memorials. It is something that I find tries to compel us to cry the tears of mothers, it tries to exploit that sense of responsibility and make us mourn. It is what Susan Sontag wrote about in Regarding the Pain of Others:
‘To those who are sure that right is on one side, oppression and injustice on the other, and that fighting must go on, what matters is precisely who is killed and by whom…During the fighting between Serbs and Croats at the beginning of the recent Balkan wars, the same photographs of children killed were passed around at both Serb and Croat propaganda briefings. Alter the caption, and the children’s deaths could be used and reused.’ p. 9
Watching other people in pain can profoundly impact our own choices, and that is exploited heavily in every conflict by those that represent it, to draw from us love for the Nation/the Queen/democracy or our own freedoms, and attempt to win others to it.
There have been Hindus, Christians, Muslims and Atheists in our family. We have also had refugees and gypsie blood blended together, through times of peace and conflict. Some, very few, have known money and privilege, others, were homeless or, like Arthur King, died in battle and were not so fortunate.