A letter for her (XV) – a memory so strong, a feeling so beautiful, it still breaks my heart.

Our final year of medical school has begun. So close, and yet. There’s not much that I have to say. Except that in every patient that I see, I see you, Nani Jaan. Every deranged renal function test, every ailing elderly, every smiling patient reminds me of you. Each step I take towards these patients, each word that I utter brings me closer to YOU. As I breathe in these simple moments – like reading off facts from a sheet of yellowed paper – I make sense of the past, and perhaps, the future, too.

I know now what it means to be a shadow, to find honour in a loss.
Always with me, hidden away in my heart; a memory so strong, a feeling so beautiful, it still breaks my heart.

There’s one thing, though, that I do know. I will no longer question who the real me was, is, will be. And for that, I thank you. Again.

To peaceful, happier, lovelier, kinder days.


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Dr Ziauddin Hospital, Nazimabad.

My heart is my own, after all.

9 AM | 22 December 2018

You can see the sign of ‘Cafe Zee’ behind that old umbrella, I’m sure.

I love Saturday mornings like these. The otherwise depressing atmosphere of the hospital switches over to the merriment of a desi breakfast of halwa puri warmed by a steaming cup of doodh patti that the overworked doctors and the sad, sad students (what else would you call a bunch of final years who measure time as the jump from one existential crisis to another, clouded by the vastness of all the knowledge that they are supposed to have and that which they don’t?) seem to celebrate.

I love these mornings simply because they gently remind me of how graceful is the happiness that you steal from the threats of circumstances beyond your control, and that I really don’t have to walk with the pain that nostalgia tends to bring and that not everything is beyond the horizon.

My heart is my own, after all.

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A letter for her (XIII) – Bijwara

I miss Bijwara, too, now. I miss the rocky mountains that you would climb. And the ripe, juicy mangoes that I have never tasted. I miss those friends of yours, the ones you played with. And the warm peanuts heated in cold winters over guarded fires. And the buggy rides on strong, Indian horses.

Suddenly, as I’m missing Bijwara, I see you. Lying on the bed, with that white shroud. I see no sign of the life that had kept me alive. “What am I going to do now?” Of course, nothing at all. They took you away then. And that was the end of an era they will never know of.

The next morning felt like a new day, you know. A new sun, a new wind, a new me. A new beginning to some new loss. I miss that, even. I miss it so much that even my dreams call out to you, call out for all that you had prayed for.

The touch of your hand in mine. The trust that one human gives to another one. Those silent sunsets and the struggle to forgive the imposter as Rumi explained to me what the heart is really capable of: our souls are already mourning the seconds fleeting by. As I held your hands in mine and said goodbye to the selfish desires of mortality.

I am happy. Yes.





A letter for her (XII) – faith-testing-happiness

Life is catching up – like an old, Victorian train steaming away from one station to the next – and the days gone by seeming like a nightmare. But I miss those days. The fear of losing someone very precious, the inevitability of it – that’s a blessing in itself, too. To know that you had a bond so lovely, that you had a love so tender that living without it seems like a punishment, is a gift in itself. Do you think I’m getting that gift back?

The calendar reminds me of the days gone by and those yet to come. And as the days flip over, I realize – smile by smile – that the pain made me feel Loved.

This bright Saturday evening, my fear of embracing the happiness blew up. A little bird of mercy reminded me of a crazy prayer made last season: faith-testing-happiness.
And the jasmine flowers are beginning to blossom again.

You know K sent me this picture some time back? A chiseled, long staircase with sky-high roofs, echoing of a God loved only when the waves are tossing the ship off.

I miss you terribly today, Nani Jaan. Today, every day. I will miss you when the 7 AM call will not come.

“And which of the favours of your Lord will you deny?”



Tomorrow is another day!

It’s time to say goodbye to the sun-baked benches of Keemari that have often eavesdropped on the little moments of our lives there; rants over strict teachers, last-minute exam revisions, the hushed secrets, giggles over the phone, sad smiles, many a happy birthday. The year passed away a little too soon, I tell myself. Exhausting me, teaching me. Those dusty leaves of the faithful trees crowning those benches have sheltered many a sigh, many a smile, a little anger, a few disappointments.

Shahid Bhai’s first-floor cafeteria has always welcomed us with a homely comfort otherwise alien to the sound of ‘Keemari’. It’s warm, milky tea steaming with the joy of life-long friendships, meaningful – and meandering – conversations, even a few sad tears, a lot of fights with the best friends, and a square-table conference over the important matters of the world (and the heart) that absolutely demanded an opinion upon – that’s more than a comfortable haul to take home as I empty the Keemari locker.

The fourth year of my medical school has thankfully drawn to an end. I’m not particularly ready for the exams ahead, or for the grill of the fifth year. I’m just looking at tomorrow because “Tomorrow is another day!”* and while we live, we will hope, we will smile, we will Love.

*from Gone With The Wind, Margaret Mitchell


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Tonight, there are two bright stars shining up in the sky

Starry nights and the warm September air are peacefully looking down upon us this Saturday. “Goodbyes,” I say to myself, “can be a nostalgic fantasy!”

The pitter patter of the words on this dimly lit screen is just an indictment of what the timelessness of grief and loss feels like. Woven from sentiments struggling to find a way out of this, there’s a rope of hope hanging around somewhere, begging to be clutched on to for dear life.

Tonight, there are two bright stars shining up in the sky, celebrating the nostalgic love of the days gone by, the memories sacrificed at the altar of egos, the love of knowing that you belong to a rather lovely “These are my people!”
And there’s nothing left but promises of meeting in happier times.

It’s a few days past the full moon. It’s time to play with the heartstrings again, and I am beginning to realise that I really do love this music.

Photo: Haniya Ather

A letter for her (VIII) – “Meet me in my dreams till I join you?”

I step into the house that is the “once upon a time” for all my childhood adventures. I see your red rooster proudly walking in the verandah. Every now and then, it goes to the door overlooking the sitting area and expectantly peeks inside before turning away. A little disappointed.

I enter the sitting area through the dimly lit passage. Our childhood faces gaze back at me from the walls, reminding me of what a long, long way your grandchildren have come; of how my eyes hold a few autumns and the smile is not that of a child’s who is gloating over her recent mischief.

So I enter the sitting area and my eyes automatically go to the sofa that had been your throne. Do you know what I see? I see you smiling fondly at me, your arms open, calling out to me. I rush towards you. But you’re not there. You’re not there anymore.

The ludo game sits untouched. Remember the times we’d all gather around you to play ludo, promises of chips and juices inviting us to speed up the game as your watchful eyes kept track of every unfair move we made? And those cricket matches that we’d all enthusiastically watch – cheering, shouting, eating – and you, disappointed at Inzimam’s performance, would make no effort to hide that disappointment. And the innocent way your eyes danced when they saw your favourite food. And how you’d look at me proudly as I followed your recipes and you’d tell me that I cook as well as you do? There’s no one to pamper me like that anymore. I hear your “shukriya” – the ones you’d say every time we did the smallest of things for you – coming from my lips as I now thank people.

I miss that.

I miss you.

I walk into your room, I sit on your bed. It’s so quiet in here. It’s peaceful. This – the memory of your fragrance, the memory of your hug, the memory of your *duas, the memory of your love, the memory of those sparkling eyes telling me that I’m not alone – is the only home I have now. You were home, the home that understood the difference between what it saw and how I felt. And now I feel stranded on an island, millions of kilometres away from where I should be. I will board the boat again but not now. Not now.

For all these months, you were the home that kept me safe and happy. You helped me fly with peace, you taught me how beautiful is the love that gently springs from struggling hearts, how kindness and empathy make you feel God, how patience is so much more than just watching – feeling – the seconds tick by, how there’s more to a garden of flowers than just some colourful petals and dancing dewdrops.

“Meet me in my dreams till I join you?”

The flower quivered but it was the bird that fell.

In a parallel universe, the mountains have already flown, the moon has lovingly shared its light with the sun, the neutrons are already charged with love and only love, and the night is alive with the poems of those who have lost this world to win the universe.

Thank you for being the centre of my universe for all these months. Thank you for that unconditional, selfless love. Thank you – again – for being the Rumi to my Shams. Thank you for showing me the light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you for holding my hand when I asked you if dua is the only way out.
Thank you for receiving these letters; who else will I write for?

I miss you.

Your friend.