there is no such thing as “things falling apart”

1:18 PM | 4 August 2019

A few minutes ago as I was tidying up my closet, a delightful thought arrived (just like how epiphanies do – amidst the chaos of our daily chores) and my heart smiled. I could picture the twinkling stars in the dark sky covering up the fairy lights set up gaily by humans like ourselves, to lighten up a simple dinner on a hot and humid day.

As I carefully hung one shirt after another onto the white hangers, I wanted to clap and laugh and laugh at myself for not realising earlier that the secret to being happy – eternally happy – was in accepting that with His praise and with gratitude on our tongues, nothing could ever go wrong; there is no such thing as “things falling apart” or “everything that can go wrong in the universe is going wrong” – it is all a part of His plan, His will, His way of rearranging and realigning things to make everything perfect for us. But what’s the key to this hidden treasure? Constant dhikr, remembering our Allah at all times – our tongues moving to sing His praise; our hands removing a thorn from the road; our legs moving to save a patient; invoking in ourselves a gentle consciousness of our actions that doesn’t hurt another soul; thoughtful gestures that rescue another one in need; through kind acceptance of another human being’s uniqueness; by not lying, by not cheating; by fulfilling the rights of our near and dear ones; by killing the deadly nafs that seeks acceptance from this world; by being forgiving; by elevating our souls and becoming better versions of ourselves.

Yep. It is all a part of His plan, His will, His way of rearranging and realigning things to make everything perfect for us. And what is perfect? Extraordinarily different and unique for us all, just like our fingerprints.

So what I’ve learnt in a little more than two decades is that the real joy is in finding happiness and peace and contentment when things don’t go our way.
Otherwise, what’s so special about this life, about us?

 

Artwork: Tooba Masihuddin 

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“I know what you are fighting. I am, too.”

Some places are not meant to be visited more than once. Like that corner in your heart that is only inhabited by the ghost of desires long dead. Or that tiny lane which you avoid because you don’t trust yourself anymore. Or the dust-laden path that ends at sorrowful sighs and a silence just kept.

Silence comes in all shapes and sizes. Companionable, distrustful, regretful. The worst kind – as my feeble heart has decided – is the one that chooses to not complain or fight or kill someone with a baseball bat. Those are bad. Real bad.

There’s some fog behind and there’s some fog ahead. It’s a very narrow path and it’s leading somewhere. Somewhere. Tucked away between the beginning and the end, it gets dusky as ignorant human figures sway with the gush of time. Time, time, time.

“I know what you are fighting. I am, too.”

Photo: Saba Saeed

City lights? Fairy lights.

Summer poems, winter ghazals. Sunny mornings, whispering nights.
But what does one really want? Thudding along the velocity of life, here and there. Pretending, always pretending.

It’s hilarious – and even incredible – how these glistening city lights protectively hide the hurt, the anger, the remorse (or lack of), the bitterness, the hopelessness, and all things lonely. Like a loving mother, hiding her child in her heart, saving – trying to save. It’s like standing across the table, watching a stranger cut their birthday cake as their friends and family clap and sing gaily, ‘Happy birthday to you!’ And you only smile to yourself and sigh with the wisdom of one who has lived a hundred years of solitude.

These remind me of a half-forgotten midsummer night’s dream; a quite little house by the sea, under the blue sky. Much like that nostalgic pretty house from Black Mirror’s San Junipero.

Sailors from the sky, stars from the sea, walking with us on the sandy carpet, listening to the peace of a country life, dancing to the happy carols, being the happiest you can be.

City lights? Fairy lights.

Yeah?

Hmmm…yeah!

 

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Photo credits: Momina Qadri

 

Tycho – A Walk

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A still from Tycho – A Walk.

She suddenly draws in her breath – like the secret in that slow walk before you enter a room and shout “surprise!” – and you expect her to shatter your folly with her golden philosophy. Except that a heavy musical greets you. It is a surprise.

My meeting with this instrumental was also a surprise. Searching for an old classic, I had accidentally stumbled upon this.

So Tycho’s ‘A Walk is my drive. A smooth drive in a quiet, black car as the little droplets of rain hurriedly fall on its roof – falling slowly, aren’t they? – racing against each other to listen to the symphony that it was creating between something and everything. Outside, the sky is velvety black and the grey clouds are safely hidden away in the excitement of the shy, uncertain, future.

A deep breath here, a faraway look there.

The heart matches its beat with A Walk. You look out of the car window and see a storm behind but you do not press the accelerator. You can’t alone, can you? You can’t. So you drive ahead at the same speed till you realise just how tired, how very tired you are, but you don’t turn down the volume. You can’t. You wait. You wait for your favourite bits to come again so you can ignore the world and the taxes, and the elections, and all that nonsense that the morning newspapers shove down your throat. And as you are bravely waiting, you realise that Tycho’s A Walk is about to end and that it will never play by itself again. Never? Maybe. See the artwork of this album; you don’t know if the sun is rising or setting, do you? And just like that, you don’t know where you are – going or coming.

The path is really long.

yellow butterflies

And whether you are a rebellious twelve-year-old or an ambitious twenty-four or a tired forty-two – or even a bored eighty – there’s just one simple pleasure in life: having something to look forward to. Anticipation, as they say.

A new funky backpack. That new glitzy ring from the local marketplace. Peaceful surrender to ‘Fragrance of Guava – Conversations with Gabriel Garçia Marquez’ in the comforting company of some good ol’ ginger ale. Friendly banter with your cousins just to see grandma smile as you race with her to finish her mango shake. The stable vitals of a very sick loved one. New teacups and intricate henna patterns on soft palms. The early morning call to prayer that jingles gently in the background as you talk to the meyna. Old friends, new letters, yellow butterflies. Even the scary uncertainty that slowly, turbulently eases into a patient wait for the exciting surprise promised by “Verily, with every difficulty there is relief”. (Quran. 94:5)

These are all little grains in the sand that the blue of the sea prostrates on; my little galaxies in the mystery of the thought of infinite, the seconds before happiness, the spring before the favourite season. So this is also what happiness looks like.
I wonder what took me so long…

Photo credits: https://www.instagram.com/sabsescape/

A letter for her (II) – it’s getting quieter in here

Dearest *Nani Jaan,

You didn’t wish me ‘Eid Mubarak’. You didn’t get up to tell me how my dress looked. You didn’t even chide me for not getting henna on my hands this time even though I love it. Why?
You didn’t lovingly order us to pile our plates with food. So I didn’t. I just sat by you not wondering why Eid didn’t seem like Eid.

It’s getting quieter in here, you know.

There are highs and lows. I have raged and fought with God. I have demanded justice. There was no answer but I know it will come. I just don’t want those empty days to return. Can you possibly come back? Giving up isn’t easy and who would know that better than you? Because this silence that is becoming my new best friend is haunted by guilt.

Regrets are not easy to live with, Nani Jaan. And every time I bend down to move you, every time my own hands touch yours as I tie the damned sphygmomanometer cuff around your bony arm, every time I glance at your sunken cheeks, I find myself beaten up by guilt and regret. And then I run away from myself; my feet falter with the weakness of my heart, my tongue begging Him for help. And then you know what happened? One such moonlit night brought me the answers I had never expected.
Life is so, so strange.
It doesn’t seem fair that through this I’m seeking the mercy that I need, that through this will come my relief, that this is my way out.
It’s so true, Nani Jaan, that human intelligence is bound within the first degree of imprisonment; no matter how many nanoseconds we discover, no matter how many moons we land on, no matter what great genetic engineers we become, we are always helpless in front of His plans. Always.
I wonder if introspection and retrospection are His favourite ‘-tions’? Because they steer us towards His love, and through our own follies and short-comings, we discover His Being, and then with shaking hearts and hopeful souls we go Home to Him.

We go Home to Him.
We go Home to Him.

This doesn’t seem fair. But then who am I to decide that? A small collection of cells that is nothing without His beautiful Will. Absolutely nothing. And I know that when I see how marvellously my own plans fail and how wise are His.

Remember several of those sunny afternoons when we would ask you if you’re hungry? You’d say, “No. God has filled my stomach. I don’t feel hungry. I’m content. Thank God”.
And of course, you don’t. The hypothalamus in your brain has taken care of that. See. I found my answer. Why does that always happen? Why do I find the how to the why as soon as the when happens? Because it’s all a matter of perspective, you’d say, and it all goes back to Him.

This is just so crazy.

You called me your friend, your ‘saheli’. You said that because your friends left, you found me.
“Meri saheliyaan chali gaeeyn tou yeh saheli aagaee”.
Yes, Nani Jaan. One friendship for another. Maybe this is the meezan that God lovingly spoke about, isn’t it?

It really is getting quieter in here. And I miss a lot of a lot of things. Thank you for not giving up. Not yet.

Love,

Your Arfu.

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*Nani Jaan: maternal grandmother

In the middle of Somewhere 

ARTWORK: SABA SAEED

 

In the middle of Nowhere,
I rest,
thinking of You,
missing You.

 
I dip my feet in the easy flow of the
river, and I run
my hands over the smoothness of
the pebbles.

 
In the middle of Somewhere,
I look around,
calling out to you,
missing you.

 
The water is cold,
and
the pebbles are shining.
Can you hear the love, too?

 
In the middle of Everywhere,
I weep for You,
because the One
is You.

 
The flowers are gorgeous,
can you feel them, too?
The grass is misty,
and so are my eyes.

 
In the middle of Nowhere,
I rest,
thinking of You,
missing You.

 

The night descends,
and I fall into
Dreams of
The Pilgrimage to You.

 
In the middle of Somewhere,
I look around,
calling out to you,
missing you.

 
The dawn of the birds
flies me to You,
And I embrace
myself through You.

 
In the middle of Everywhere,
I weep for You,
because the One
is You.