Omaima Sobhi  |  Creative and Critical Writings  |  2023  |  Egypt
From the definition of the word kushtaban found in Arabic dictionaries, we can see it is of Persian origin; the kushtaban is a small metal tool akin to a fez, which is worn by someone sewing to protect their finger from the needle. It might also be worn by a musician playing a string instrument to minimize contact between the string and their skin to be able to produce beautiful melodies. There is another usage that I did not find in dictionaries but saw in my childhood, when I would accompany my mother to the hardware store to buy beads in all shapes and colors to decorate my dolls’ clothes as we did our usual stitching. The women working at the store would use a kushtaban as a measurement unit for the amount of beads we needed. The price of one would depend on the size and shape of the beads; each kushtaban would be priced differently. I was struck by the metal tool filled with the colors of happiness. I looked at it passionately and wanted to touch it and see my finger wearing it. I didn’t know that 30 years later, a voice would whisper to me during a meditation session and tell me that I would write a book about my motherhood, which would be titled Kushtaban, which I would document with my discovery that I — with time — was drowning in words. I’m raising them with words, and my son is a barricade around me to protect me from them. Then there is another barricade, like a second circle, to protect them with me and a barricade around Alia and a barricade around Nouh to protect them from each other. I place each letter above the other. I write a word, a sentence, a page, a book. I write a book everyday, and I edit a book. I amend a book. I translate and say and express. I sharpen the letters when my resistance collapses and I lock the door to search for other words underneath the bed, underneath my nets. They knock on the door: “Open, mama!” I yell for them to leave. I don’t find the words. I beg them to leave until the words return. I had no idea that motherhood was like this metal tool. We hide inside of it to protect ourselves and search for the meaning of what happens, and then we allow our children sometimes to scratch its metal surface. And other times, we all fit inside, and perhaps all this hit-and-run might produce some authentic melody, even if it is off-tune! Kushtaban is my book about a travel journey I embark on with my children, Alia and Nouh. Still, it is not a book about motherhood or children. It’s not a book about warm moments or even joy and making memories. It is an internal journey that I go on with my children, in order to seek meaning, deconstruct it, and put it back together.