the Madni phase after the trials of Mecca

1 PM | 5 August 2019

When you’re standing in front of the freezing burst of the air conditioner, shivering a little uncomfortably – but not enough to be noticed – all you can think of is how to turn that damned machine off. A few seconds of good luck that reappear after every minute or so, strikes and the direction of that freezing blast of air moves away from you, leaving you in that very welcome warmth of comfort. It makes you very much comfortable. You may even sigh with relief. And then the cold air comes again.

Unfortunate incidents and bumps in the road are like that; they last for a few days before there’s the warmth of happiness again. Then something else happens to give you another sleepless night before there’s a smile of gratitude. So just like the cold air booming out of the air conditioner, happiness and peace also play hide-and-seek with us.

But what I’d like us to remember is the very comfortable warmth of Love that hugs us. The sunrise after a dark, stormy night of thunderstorms. The laugh mixed with tears. Like a dear friend said, the Madni phase after the trials of Mecca.

 

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Artwork: Tooba Masihuddin

 

A letter for her (XX) – subha bakhyr

9:01 AM | 27 February

I’d like to imagine that right now – at this moment – I’m watching the sun rise here and set far away.

Slowly, gracefully, the orange semi-circle of the centre of this known universe rises. The darkness of the previous night shies away as hope and love begin to dawn. It’s going to be a new day, another day, anything can happen! Anything at all! Do you see how big that is? How amazing that is? Good Lord!

It keeps on ascending the azure, singing hymns to the seven skies, admiring the hues of the wild blue yonder, nodding “*subha bakhyr” to all who woke up to say “thank you for another day” to the God who sends little miracles along their way, each day, every day.

And once it’s up there – majestic and all – it just shines down on everyone. The rich, the poor, the weak, the strong, the sad, the happy, the sinful, the pious. And just knowing that it’s there up there, helps you breathe deeply, slowly, calming that erratic heartbeat and sweaty palms and racing thoughts and the doubts and fears. It’s a little hard to believe but when you peek at the crystal mirror, you see your reflection smile in gratitude for another chance at life; for tearing away the heavy, heavy mask that was taking your life away; for this magical walk on the clouds when you lightly put your feet in front of the other and dance carefully, unbelievably light, not believing that the long path behind you is really now that: behind you.

Skipping heartbeats, grateful **sujoods, peaceful eyes. Really, “***Allah O Akbar”!

Love you more!

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Sandspit, Karachi

* good morning
** prostration
*** God is great

 

 

Three Girls

| Self-forgiveness|

I don’t know what that means, but I’ll try.

Maybe a little like gasping for breath in a room full of smoke. Choking your lungs and then struggling to breathe.

Or applying an antiseptic on a fresh wound. And then years later, again.

Also listening to the craziness of your own heart beating against your breath, waking you up from the dream you never wanted.

The fear of being happy. Of being homeless. Of never being able to listen to the soul.

I think it’s more like that little child who is afraid to leave his mother’s side in the darkness of the unlit room, afraid of the monsters eating him up. Or afraid of tumbling over the chair and falling down and hurting his knee and then crying himself to sleep.

Or like these Three Girls by Amrita Sher-Gil.
I call them اعتراف  (‘Acceptance’), افسوس  (‘Remorse’), and امید  (‘Hope’).
Eyes bowed, hearts heavy. If you were to pat them on the back, I doubt they’d even look at you. Their hearts have fallen to the bottom of the dark, deep well. They cannot smile like you and me! Perhaps that’s what exhaustion really is. Perhaps that’s how they hide inside us all, beneath our calm poker faces and Insta savvy smiles and Snapchat filters, dying a little each day, punishing and punishing.

But so what do you do?
You put your forehead to the ground and you breathe it out with each heartbeat. Slowly, with love. And you say, “Please! Please!”

If the sun rises again tomorrow and if you rise with it, then its done and you’re home for all.

You’re home for all.

That, trust me, is the only way.

 

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Amrita Sher-Gil. Three Girls 1935. National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi

“Verily, with every difficulty there is relief.”

 

For a dear friend, my Parabatai – we can beat Jem and Will! 

Dreams big, fears small 

Oceans deep, ambitions tall.

You stand there, my friend, amongst the Unseen;

Battling the tumultuous winds.

The whispers of a lonely heart

strangle the ticking clock within,

But know, O’ Parabatai, that

“Verily, with every difficulty there is relief”.

 

 

“I like the idea of you…”

It was cold out there, and the unsettling feeling of missing someone, something, disgruntled him.

He sought the warmth of the coffee shop because the aroma of coffee beans had a magical affect on him; like sending him to sleep. It was like living a reality too…dreamy. You just want to live it forever, don’t you? Sitting there beside the window, looking out, far away – into the past and the future – wishing, hoping that someone as crazy as you would turn up and join you in living the silence of being understood.

He walked in wistfully, and chose his favourite spot. Closing his eyes, he leaned back against the seat of the chair and wished and missed. Looking around, he sensed his lonely presence.
Coffee shops were strange places, he mused. You could sit in solitude and listen to people cry over their sorrows and pretend to look away because you don’t want to embarrass them. You could listen to people singing over good grades, job promotions, babies, marriages, and you pretend to hide the envy tugging at your heart because they remind you that you have been waiting for too long. You could eavesdrop over unshared troubles, and intelligent political debates, and judge while not judging, he chuckled.

He looked around again, hoping to catch a similar soul troubled by the volatility of its own thoughts and feelings. Disappointed, he sighed and wrapped his hands around the cylindrical plastic cup steaming with his favourite beverage.

Many a time, our imagination can be the biggest dragon in our life, he traced his thoughts on the edge of the cup.
And little did he know, that a few years later, a similar soul troubled by the intensity of her thoughts and feelings would sit right there, sipping on the same, nostalgic aroma of freshly brewed coffee and chocolate chip biscuits, thinking the same things, missing the same, and unknown to him, accompanying him to his solitude.

The Game of Destiny.

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Because Optimism Helps…

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Whether its news headlines that announce that the stock-market has gone down by a hundered points, or that scientists have warned industrialists to limit the use of greenhouse gases, or disturbing ones that report how many people were killed in a certain terrorist activity; optimisim has been made a figment. Either one can adopt a merciless lack of empathy and just carry on as if nothing has happened, or sit at home and mourn and be a pessimist. Reality check : these two are not the only options available. If you want to retain your sanity, and both your body and soul, then it is time you bring about a 360 degree rotation on your outlook of life.

If we are tired of all the “terrorism” that is infesting our country, then is it not making us cherish the idea of “peace” even more? The presence of any “bad” element adds to the “good” element. If it was not for all the unhappiness in the world, then euphoria would have been a foreign idea. Hence, if 60% of the population are tax thiefs, then the remaining 40 % are law abiding citizens. Looking at the good side of the picture will make life a lot easier.

Mistrust. This word can sometimes be the root of all evils. If someone is offering you a helping hand, it is not necessary that he/she has some ulterior motive beneath it. Prevention is better than cure, agreed. However, this growing trend of “national mistrust” is seeping the very life out of our society, weakening relationships.

Times change. If you were not born with a silver spoon in your mouth, it does not mean that you cannot die with one! Even the greatest of all scientists have not yet discovered a substitute for hardwork, nor are they ever likely to. Full points to Shakespeare for having Cassius say “ The fault, dear Brutus/ Is not in our stars, but in ourselves/ That we are underlings.” Bid goodbye to the blame game. You are the one in charge. Put an end to all your mournings about how the neighbour has a better car, a better house and a better job than yourself. The formula for change and prosperity awaits you.

Sitting within the confines of your living room and complaining how the economy will soon meet its Waterloo, is not going to solve your problems. Or the country’s, for that matter. You are an adult, and it does not suit you to act otherwise. Even if the least you can do is go and genuinely volunteer at the countless Non- Profit Organizations that are there, then do it! There are several hospitals out there that can train you to serve the needs of those in distress.

For those who have retired from the work force, here is a chance to be productive and help mitigate the unnerving feelings of helplessness that is bound to invade you. If you were a teacher, then look around. There are several young kids out there who could be better off at studying rather than being pick-pockets. If its pollution that distresses you, then grab a spade and a few seedlings and make the city beautiful by planting trees. If you have a penchant for cooking simple meals that are budget-friendly, then go ahead and feed the several hundered hungry souls out there who toil away in the day time only to go to bed hungry. This may not be much but every drop counts.

Research has shown that optimists tend to live longer than pessimists. Pessimism catalyses the deterioration of your mental health. And besides, pessimists are generally dispised by their peers, and that, is certainly not a very good feeling.

Stress boosts hypertension. And hypertension is the root cause of coronary problems and strokes. Men who dwell in a constant state of stress develop hypertension early in life, and with all the other problems that are harassing our nerves, we do not want another one on our minds. Even women who burden themselves with unnecessary strain related to housework, child rearing, marriage or career, can face severe consequences in the face of hormonal imbalances.

Old is gold. Rise early. Exercise regularly. There is nothing like a good Stephen Covey book, if that is our cup of tea. Count your blessings.

After every sunset, a beautiful sunrise awaits us. Things never remain the same, irrespective of the magnitude of its inertia. Infact, as I read somewhere, every child that is born into this world, is a living testimony to the fact that God has not lost hope in future generations, so why have we? Hope gives wings to our dreams, life to a dying soul. If we realize just that, then all our problems will fly out of the window. At the end of the day, it is merely a matter of perspective. And of time.