Friday, April 6, 2012


My parents are still discussing how best to say an Easter greeting to my aunt. 

Long ago she married a Catholic and converted. Nobody minded much. Her parents were more concerned that he was of Chinese descent. "Are you sure?" they asked. "You don't want to find a Javanese man instead?" 

She had had the kind of relationship that lasted years. He would get jealous for various reasons throughout the years and she would often sit hunched on the phone with him, crying, silently so that her mother would not notice, but her sister, my mother, always noticed. She could not imagine anyone loving her as much as he did, completely, possessively. In the 70's nobody had yet figured out that possessiveness was a sign of insecurity.

So she converted and over the years his insecurity started leaking out from various parts of him, little by little, like hair that sheds one by one and nobody notices until they see a picture of how the hair used to be. One day his insecurity decided it was comfortable there and enveloped him whole, leaving no cover.  It became his character. He appeared to be a faithless man, or faithful only to the tales he spun to cover his lack of achievement.  My aunt, by contrast, became more faithful.  She went to church, sang praises, sought peace, and new friends. Jesus was her savior. 

My mother went through an entirely different journey and ended up in the same intensity of faithfulness, the kind that is born from a certain desperation.  The only thing that differentiated the sisters were their choice in men, and their choice of religion. They had the same mistaken perception of how different they were from each other. 

My parents are wondering how to say Happy Easter to her in a way which is Islamically correct. The saying goes that if we wish someone a Happy Easter or Merry Christmas, we are somehow acknowledging the raison d'être of their celebration, acknowledging the very fact that Jesus was born and died and resurrected to save humanity and is some kind of God. We could, however, tailor it a certain way so as to merely wish them a happy celebration, or a happy day in which they can conduct their celebrations. 

So far we have journeyed, from the days when my grandparents did not even blink when my aunt chose to convert. These days it is ridiculous.  It is like a different kind of insecurity.

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