“When You Walk Through A Storm…”

From Rodgers & Hammerstein musical CAROUSEL


When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark.
At the end of a storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet, silver song of a lark.
Walk on, through the wind,
Walk on, through the rain,
Though your dreams be tossed and blown.
Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart,
And you'll never walk alone,
You'll never walk alone.





This song came to me this morning as I walked home from taking the girls to school, Ganga on my back.  The song comforts and strengthens me. 

 24-11-08 wal alone 006w

It also has a past for me, real and symbolic.  It's the song with the high notes I couldn't reach and was therefore ridiculed by the teacher and kicked out of the school Glee Club.  I can still hear her booming voice, "WHO IS THAT SINGING IN THE BACK ROW WHO CANNOT REACH THE NOTE?"  Meekly I said, "me" and she sent me from the room. "YOU ARE OUT OF GLEE CLUB!"  As that was some 55 years ago, I can safely assume I will never get over the shame I felt, and the loss, and the self label, "I can't sing."


Most of my life though I have walked alone.


This morning I sang softly to Ganga, and like most little children made no complaint about my voice.  She was just happy to have me back home after four days away.  She has been a brave and strong little one, worried, keeping an eye on my office, waiting for me to walk through the door.  But unlike past times, she didn't run fevers or cry inconsolably.  She waited, for her off-tune, walking-along Mummy to come home.


I was in Frankfurt Germany for three days, visiting with Cici, my younger daughter.  She is OK about being talked about on my blog.  We talk and visit through Facebook.  She is never embarrassed by my writing.  She loves to share my work with her friends.  She loves that I am part of their worlds too.  And this is true, that I am.  I believe that her generation is different, better in some way that will be evident in the future.  They are not so cynical.    But she IS embarrassed when I wear a saree in Frankfurt, rather a normal reaction. The first reason is that I gained weight so my western clothes didn't fit.  I never got shopping because of chaos here.   But I guess I just wanted to wear a saree,  one of those things in my head, a kind of adolescent wish to be accepted as I am by my daughter.  She was good spirited about it. I gave her permission to post on Facebook the most embarrassing picture. But the one she put up was small and mild.  Below you will see what/who she had to walk beside as we explored Frankfurt and talked, and talked. 



If you look closely at this picture you will also see the untied shoe laces.  She was kind and tolerant, and never told me directly what she felt.  She just told me what her friends back home told her when she reported on my appearance!



Wearing a saree in Frankfurt, just wearing a saree leaving Kolkata, was  a much more powerful experience than I had anticipated.  I wasn't just a tourist leaving Kolkata for Germany, but clearly had a base, an attachment, my own internal sense of belonging.  Indians smiled at me.  I smile at Indians but they don't "recognize" me when I am in Western clothes.  I am a stranger.  But with a saree on, with my Nike sneakers (common dress for traveling non-fashion conscious older Bengali women) I really look more "familiar," and so my smile is returned.   In India I have worn a saree exclusively since February 2004.  I started because my daughter didn't know how to wear a saree and neither did her Indian friends raised in the US.  So I wanted to be a mom who could teach her to wear a saree (for the once a year occasion when she wanted to).  I figured the best way to learn was to wear it every day when I was in India.  I really loved wearing it, and it meant a lot to the people I was with, as it means a lot to my children at Shishur Sevay.  In the US I would probably be seen as a pretender or a wannabe — totally politically incorrect, but here in India it is a sign of respect for India, a sign of not separating myself away.


As a white skinned mother of a dark-skinned Indian child, we were rarely taken for mother and daughter.   But now in Frankfurt, in a saree, the assumption was that we were together, mother daughter or aunty, but of the same family/community/world.  For me that was a wonderful feeling.  There is a pride in walking with one's children, and the acknowledgment felt wonderful.  In one store the people assumed she was my daughter.





Kolkata has become home.  I have children here, children who called twice a day to ask what I was doing, to talk to their Cici did, to ask when I was coming home, and once to tell me homework had been done, and could they watch TV (yes, of course).  I am torn, with children on both sides of the oceans.


I'd spent months working on coverage for while I was away.  Most of it worked.  Some didn't.  I am alone with the responsibility for my children, which is why I now more often use the first person, "my."  It is as important to the children as it is to me that in my absence they are well cared for.


Thus the song, thus filling my heart with hope, listening for the silver song of the lark, and holding my head up high.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Cici
    Dec 01, 2008 @ 09:33:34

    Thanks for posting this, Mom. Makes me smile.


  2. mom
    Dec 01, 2008 @ 11:44:30

    Makes me smile too… love you.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

November 2008
%d bloggers like this: