the beginning of our everything, a somewhere only we know.

This poem is inspired by the song, ‘Somwhere Only We Know’ by RenĂ©e Dominique.

3:45 PM | 12 April 2020


there’s a fallen flower lying on our path, the only path i know.
in the field of daffodils, it’s raining cherry blossoms
and the mist of unspoken words hug me so close.
and i wonder if i’m dreaming or
walking through a future i’ve been dreaming of:
a whole life ahead of us, a long, long path
and no secret map, except our grieving hearts.
you can go there, and light our lamps,
and sit under the chandelier of stars, and love
the tiny heaven only we know of;
the beginning of our everything,
a somewhere only we know.

they wait for god to bless them

10:55 PM | 9 April 2020


heartstrings pulling at each other,
dreams scattered everywhere – under the moonlight, around the stars,
hugging the galaxies, hiding with the undiscovered sun.
every poetry that touches the eyes
and holds my heart,
looks back at the empty side.
walking across the room barefoot,
sandy feet marking a future.
the room echoes with all the names
they had for them,
and through the aching silence and the long, long nights,
they wait for god to bless them.

A letter for her (XXIX) – I’m not scared today

4:20 PM | 8 April 2020


The last few letters that I wrote to you were all written in a hurry, like a quick update to my best friend so I can feel her around. It reminds me of how we draw back the curtains on a sunny day to let the sunlight in without letting the room heat up.

It’s going alright. It’s going okay.

When we wake up from a long, long sleep – literally – there’s a fresh glow on the face that prepares us for what is to come – the squabbles of the day, the empty milk bottle in the fridge, another terrorising shift in the middle of human bodies breathing in money. A little bit of that and a lot of our own misgivings, our own trials being judged by our God. So there was that finally. It’s a good start, you’d say. At least enough to let one stand up again.

What’s the point of this all anyway? What’s the point of being defeated in a battle that was never mine?

There’s a long, long journey lying ahead in the count of whatever miles we have left. And I do not want to sin by wasting them. What answer will my soul have when I stand in front of Him then? Your resilience taught us to stand firm on our faith – the faith that asks us to believe in His powers, in His wisdom, in His mercy – and not give up. The last six months of your life ask me to honour that. How can I turn away now? I’ve come so far on this journey and on the journey of my heart and soul. I’ve lost the way to go back. There are no sign-posts behind, there’s nothing; some people take away all of us when they go. You know that.

In a parallel world, if little fn was stepping on these same pebbles, falling and hurting herself, giving up, crying and praying, what would have I done? I thought long and hard about this, Nani Jaan.
I’d have told her to stand up for herself. Finding happiness within ourselves is pretty much like laughing at the balloon you just threw in the air. Or the thorny rose you plucked from the garden – the gardener snoring blissfully – to hide in your ‘Dear Diary’.
I’ll fight everything – the injustices, the cruelty of this world – and I’ll also pick up the shattered glass pieces that have pierced the gentleness of what I so freely and happily gave. But with the smile of my soul, the faith that you had, and the miracle of prayers. And some forgiveness. That’s going to be hard. But I shall try because I want to be true to the promises I’ve made.
Do you think I can do that? Do you think you are still proud of me?

It’s so quiet in here. So very quiet. The quiet dripping of the water from a broken tap. The childhood memory of the meyna chirping at 3 PM in the afternoon, only the sun keeping it company as young kids slept before a daily ritual of tea and Gluco biscuits. The sharpening of the pencils before starting off the exam paper as small hands brushed the shavings underneath the desk drawers. The lovely, lovely scent of baby powder as a new born slept peacefully – curtains drawn, innocence and happiness frolicking in the air – and grown ups looked down at it in awe and envy.
It’s so quiet in here. So very quiet.

I’m not scared today. Maybe because I’m your granddaughter. Maybe because I’m the daughter of a woman who sends out her heart everyday when she drops me off at the hospital, duas and “Beta, apna bohat khayal rakhna!” making the seconds go by. Maybe because I come from a generation of women whose strength and courage in the face of life’s challenges have always, always won. Women who have truly been women, God’s gentlest, strongest creations. So now I’m not scared of anything anymore. Because you weren’t either.
And because she isn’t, either.
And Insha’Allah, she won’t be, either.

Bad liar

This poem is inspired by the song Bad Liar.

where do i go? there’s no where to go.
hills green in my dreams, the sun touching it’s light upon us,
the wind running with me.
i want to believe it’s a bad dream,
i want to believe it’s just a dream.
the moonlight calling out to the truth, a soft music in the background.
what do we say? we’re somewhere –
where’s the middle, where’s the end?
but one day, happiness will sit on our windows
and the darkness will die.
run away with your dreams.
because where do i go? there’s just nowhere to go.

i just want to see my small world one last time. just one last time.”Oh, God! How long till then?”

10:34 PM | 5 April 2020

the poetry i’ve always read
the only language i understand.
aching together, trying again.
again and again and again.
dark nights and hiccups and tears,
the breaths coming in slow, coming with pain.
grieving, hurting – the losses are too many.
but where can one go?
there’s doomsday ahead but we have already reached ours.
what do we want, all of us?
home. home. home.
the only word that says it all.
it’ll always pain, the doctor says.
“that’s just how it is!”
it’ll haunt you in you, inside your heart and soul –
for how long will you run away
from you? there’s no escape.
twenty-six and counting, there’s no escape from you.
and now we’re ready, the world is ready.
i just want to see my small world one last time. just one last time.
“Oh, God! How long till then?”

A letter for her (XXI) – You were right about us.

9 March 2020


why can I still hear the chord echoing through again and again at 1:09 and 1:32? because I always will, because I want to.

This morning, I woke up after watching you smile and laugh in amusement at our efforts at trying to be home in a way different from what you had foretold. That gleam in your eyes, dancing with a secret only you are privy to – that really made me happy, Nani Jaan. And you know that because I think that’s why we met today. Haina?

I’m just so grateful now… I look back and I’m terrified to feel the fears hiding behind that facade of bravery; those shivers running down my soul, my own breath choking me. Very much like how I feel when I’m walking to the female cardiac ward on the third floor to see a patient who has been accomodated there because of lack of space in the surgical general ward; the low-lying, slopy railing making me look away. Always. Do you see the similarity? Walking to a make-do place, hesitantly, unwillingly.

But you were right back then! I know that now, deep down. And even though I’m swimming in a slow current of uncertainty, I’m at peace because I’m waiting for good and wonderful things to happen, the kind of happiness I’ve been longing and praying for. The difference is that this time, I’ll be more patient.

Back when I was just a little girl who loved to read, I bought this book from the annual book-sale at Paramount. I forgot what it was called. But it was about this family who ran a circus and travelled all over the country in colourful caravans. One day, as the show was running, a young girl was spotted watching the show from afar. There was a longing on her face, a sparkle only children her age can afford to have, a desire for simply being happy and clapping her hands. Now years later, I can feel that same longing: standing far away from it, wishing it success, waiting for some Divine intervention to magically make me a part of it. It’s a little funny, I know. But it’s the truth. It probably seems like a cowardly thing to do but you and I both know that for me, it’s probably more courage than I have ever given myself credit for.

I’m just happy to be free from that fear now; that crippling fear of writing with a new ink, of learning a new language. I don’t think I’ll ever complain to Him about anything ever again because it’s the biggest hug from Him to be able to see the wisdom behind our story. Alhamdullillah always.

We’ve missed you. Thank you for not giving up on me ever and for being our guardian angel.

Abb kya kar saktay hain?

11:04 am | 8 November 2019

The morning shone with a little chill in the air, the first proper welcome to the year’s winter. I really wanted to turn the pages of a poetry book and enjoy a banana-chocolate muffin but I need to finish studying hernias. As I try to do that, I sense the goodbye in the air. Goodbyes and grief and broken chords. Goodbye to the safety net some of us had around us; grieving the loss of a safe space; loose strings mocking us all in the face.

When did it come to this? How did it come to this?

Maybe that’s what adulting is about. We spend years and years in building homes within our hearts – falling down, scraping our knees, crying like a baby, getting up again, wiping away the tears, making up with jelly-os – only to watch it being bulldozed by our irresponsible selves. Maybe we just don’t know how to act our parts well. And by the time we learn, we’ve moved past that bridge.

A pinch of salt can make such a difference in the food we cook. Quite like the pinch of attention and care that can save us all.

Like my best friend says, “Abb kya kar saktay hain?”

Photo: Azzam Murtaza

We’ll get better. Like old wine.

2 October 2019

Throw together a few words with a full stop as the only bridge between them, and the reader is still able to understand what they’re being told. For example, “Happiness. Grief. Love. Hatred. Repentance. Fear.” You know that these are feelings. You recognise them.

In this picture, four of the people I’ve willingly – and lovingly – chosen as my family sit together like those words. Each one unique, and yet, still connected. Somehow.

It was a gorgeous Wednesday. The afternoon sun glistened fiercely over warm smiles. A lot of young laughter and some grateful sunny faces sang away to memories as dreams and ambitions peeked out from the window of a cosy apartment by the sea.
The salt in the air. The sea out there.
When the sea and the sun meet, their orange is the colour of what you see when five girls count five years as they grow into their womanhood, together. It’s such a lovely shade because it’s not a mere figment of our imagination; it’s real and it’s tangible. We can feel it in the protective way we guard each other – physically, mentally, emotionally – and the honest loyalty that has our back always. We can feel it in the way we find our way back to each other after foggy evenings, in the peace we find in a mehfil of Gluco and Zeera biscuits and Chocolato dipped in warm cups of tea followed by one samosa after another. We can feel it in the way the air brushes our hair as we drive across the city to a playlist as unpredictable as it’s weather. We can feel it in the promises of not letting time and life and responsibilities get in the way of these five years.

We’ll get better. Like old wine.

 

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 

kawaakari

10:15 AM | 18 July 2019

kawaakari: (n.) the gleam of last light on a river’s surface at dusk; the glow of a river in darkness

Someone said something to someone and that someone told me that, “self-righteousness and righteousness are opposites. The existence or increase of one necessarily means the absence or decrease of the other. they eliminate each other.”

A bell rang somewhere and my heart skipped a beat. I was scared. I was scared because I chose to stand away from the crowd by making a lot of decisions the way I did – in my choice of the headscarf, in choosing to expand my spiritual world by writing about it here, in listening to my heart and working hard on Walking Thoughts, in nurturing friendships and relationships the way I do. And in trying to detach myself from those worldly pleasures that could have made me a slave of my own desires. And where did that leave me? To more questions, to more locked doors. But it’s okay. Because no matter how deep, how immense the ocean seems, the shore does exist. Somewhere. And what all did everyone teach me along the way? Kindness. Empathy. Humility.
As a very dear soul sister shared a lovely secret with me, “Experience another human being in his or her very uniqueness. Giving others enough comfort to be themselves will open your eyes and heart to a multiverse of His signs. And you’ll learn who you are in the process.” This comfort to be ourselves is a privilege that our ancestors ought to have left behind as a legacy. But some dreams remain dreams.

So every time I step out of the warmth of my home sweet home, I’m reminded of how every dervish must explore, but must also guard their eyes and heart against making themselves feel better, feel superior at the cost of another human being’s uniqueness. Every time I hear the hymns of the meynas, I wonder if they, too, have time to do anything other than becoming better at flying, and taking care of their intricate nests, and of course, their hearts.

And so I realise every day that everyone is beautiful and there really are no flaws in anyone. There are only scars from falls, wounds from stabs, dried tears of pain. And fear. Fear of losing a loved one, of failing and falling, of more pain. So we’re all beautiful in our own ways. And every person we meet in this lifetime, only adds to that beauty. We’re all the same in our uniqueness, carrying a little of God everywhere we go, sharing it with everyone we meet.

 

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Photo: Aleena Zahid Naqvi (National Museum, Karachi)