Survive, world !

We have all heard and read about pandemics and plagues during history class back in school but to actually live through one has been – and still is – well, an experience that surely cannot be described with one word. It has been terrifying, deadly, tragic, bizarre and utterly haunting; a roller coaster of emotions that we still continue to endure.

2020, the year of the ‘Great Lockdown’ will always be remembered as the one when life as we knew it came to a grinding halt, jettisoning us into this unpredictable black hole of uncertainty. With the blink of an eye, years of research and technological advancements that our kind had for so long taken pride in, became obsolete, making us realise how in peril we really are.

I can safely assume that at this point, everyone is tired of hearing and seeing ‘coronavirus’ everywhere, however, this word – as repulsive as it is – is very much part of our present and future. Each of us came up with our own small mechanisms to adapt to this new, out rightly strange normal; for some this might have amounted to little more than inconvenience but for others it has been a time of unimaginable tragedy and life-altering consequences. Before moving forward, I hope we can humbly just pause for rumination, without looking back for too long, and let our minds be filled with prayers for all those we have lost in all corners of the world, whether we knew them or not. Then come the people, who valiantly ran against the odds to save the lives of others, putting their own at risk; they deserve unending appreciation for having hearts of gold, may they win and remain strong.

It is heartening to know that there are vaccination drives going on around the world, reverberating sweet melodies of progress and survival. The thought of healing from this pandemic’s mind boggling absurdity reminds me of a beautiful quotation by Elie Wiesel: Just like dreams reflect the past, hope summons the future.

It surely does and I hope it is one that is kind to all of us.

Ode to satire

I have never found the courage to write about this until now.

Why I didn’t find courage is because, as some would say, it will put me in a more “vulnerable position” than the one I am already in: young widowed mother of a girl child, woh bhi Pakistan jaise mulk main. It’s a badge given to you that you absolutely must wear every time you step out of the house and if that wasn’t enough, people have certain expectations off of you. You must look the part as well na, jaise star plus ke dramon main roti dhoti, lut-gayi-barbad-hogayi type aurtain hoti hain.

You’d be surprised at the kind of things people say, as if they somehow had an epiphany about how your life should be or how they can make it better. What baffles me most is that most of these comments and speculations, so to say come from a place of *pun intended* empathy and concern.

The good news is that you do eventually develop a thick skin and, I am not kidding, even begin to have fun of your own.

For instance:

But apko daikh ke toh nahin lagta ke ap widow hain. I mean the way you dress and wear bright colours and all. It’s just that you don’t look sad enough.” – “You could use some bright colours too you know. Just saying.”

 “Haye mere khuda, aisa din kisi ko na dikhaye baita. Apna khayal rakha karo, daikho kitni kamzor ho.” – “Aunty, I do yoga to stay fit. Ap bhi kiya karain. And why so dramatic? Its not the end of the world.”

I can’t believe how strong you are, it must be exhausting no?” – “Not more exhausting than listening to you.”

“Ap toh itni choti hain, ye kaise ho gaya? Agar apki jagah main hoti toh mar hi jati.” – “I swear, maine khuda ko paigham bhaij ke nahin karwaya. Dunya main bohat bari cheezain horahi hain, please news parhliya karain.”

But don’t you need a man now? Let me find you one or hey how about my son? Zyada independent hogayi na toh shaadi nahin hogi.” – “Thanks for your generosity. I am good.”

Why don’t you date someone? I know! You should be on a dating website.” – “Good for you but no.”

But you are a young widowed mother and that too of a girl child. Itne alfaaz aur awaaz tumhain shobha nahin de gain. Think about your daughter, people will say all sorts of things about you and it will negatively impact her.” – “Sure, I spent 26 hours in labour, that too voluntarily without an epidural, continue to lose sleep along with my hair since the past six years making sure she is safe but you must know more about being a mother than I do.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to cry all the time?” – “Why don’t I make you cry right now?”

Aik toh tum jaise log kuch zyada hi innovative hote hain. Bhai ghar main baitho sukoon se.” – “hmm.”

“Apni baiti ke cheeks pe vaseline na lagaya karo, rang kharab ho jaye ga.” – “Aunty, har rang khoobsurat hota hai. Lagta hai uncle ne kaafi insecure kar diya hai apko with this rang talk. Lets confront him about this!”

And the list goes on.

I will say this at the end, to all those who need a push because they have heard similar things from acquaintances, friends, not friends, relatives, strangers, second and third cousins who you will never meet again except that one time at someone’s wedding that you did not want to go to anyway, and so on: Hum bhi kisi se kam nahin hain 🙂

Happy women’s day!

نوروز‎

Spring is in the air and Islamabad’s infamous cherry blossoms are nearing full bloom. This unique rose-scented time is truly special – probably because it, like all good things, is here for just a few days. Through divinely ordained law, our surroundings and everything in them begin to make sense, albeit weirdly.

The weather remains balanced as the sun chooses to be merciful; like your childhood best friend encouraging you to take the leap of faith and get your name registered in the upcoming full-circle marathon. More daylight means walks in the rose garden whilst pondering over future plans, some of which may never see the light of day, ironically, but worth a shot, still.

Not too cold that you have to roll yourself up in a thousand plushy layers like sushi and not so hot that the mere thought of stepping outside invokes in you a passion whereby you can’t resist cursing the guardians of the universe and wonder whether summer is what hell must feel like or – God forbid – worse.

One no longer wants more or less, making peace with what is as the pain of what never could be starts to get fainter. The cosmos runs its course as you watch how remarkably matters begin to align. You make your way towards endearing hope of the unseen tomorrow, as if preparing yourself to sail forth towards the undying lands.

A new promising reality of rebirth, recovery and renewal to the greatest extent.

May it be blessed as one expects it to be!

Of conversation

We walked around the city for hours, telling each other stories from our new [hate to admit to it] *arduously grown-up* lives that are, to our dismay, forging the crap out of us into real people from the idiots we used to be, sitting in noisy, oh-so-bumpy, dusty Lahori rickshaws singing Amir Zaki songs out loud whilst munching on Rashid bhai’s infamous all-nighter aaloo parathas and later having Chaman’s – God only knows why – surreally peculiar blueberry flavoured ice-cream.

It all seems like it happened in another lifetime, no? The mere audacity we had, thinking we were invincible.  

Yea man. We were lucky to have found such smooth integration between people. Or maybe it was because it’s easier to open up when you are younger. I crave to feel that again but it’s so hard here. Everyone is so intolerant and full of ego that I just retrieve back into my shell of isolation.

I don’t know what to say to that. Waqt kharay rehne ke liye nahin bana. It was meant to go and ab sab kuch jaisa hai uska bhi yahi waqt hai. 10 years down the line, we’ll look back at this very conversation and think “wow, remember that surreal evening, when we ambitiously set out to ride horses and ended up having steak and daal chawal instead. Kitne jahaaz thae hum.”

Do you ever feel out of place? Like you don’t belong?

I feel like I should be doing more and have an is-this-supposed-to-be-it alarm going off in my head all the time.

Yes! I know exactly what you mean. That’s why I trek so much and stay up in the mountains. For some reason, it has become easier to relate to people who don’t even speak the same language as me. I like the vast emptiness up there, it is liberating as compared to here or anywhere else in the world for that matter. Pakistan is a strange blend. Jo chahiye woh sab hai laikin kuch phir bhi kam hai. But up there, you are able to hear yourself clearly. I trekked to Wakhan for eight straight days and the only access I had to the world was through a small radio that my Kyrgyz porter carried. All we had to eat was bread and Yaks carried our luggage.

Did you ride one?

Of course. Otherwise I’d be dead from all that walking in the snow.

I am so jealous!

I’ll get one for you next time.

Or I’ll come there just to sit on one.

Please do.

You know our generation is lost. Everyone seems to be in a perpetual limbo of sorts, unhappy and extremely annoyed all the time.

It’s because they are all stuck in the rat race. It is important to be grateful for what you have and not run too much after the world because that is a slope one is eventually bound to slip on. Jo hai shayad uska bhi reason hai.

Haan shayad.. but..

You and your buts.

But I can’t help wonder how much better it could all be if things were different and they could be. We just don’t make the effort. I wish we would. It is the 21st century, must we pompously still be stuck in the days of yore?

It could be different, yes. But maybe it not being that way is for the best, at the moment. Who knows what might happen if we let it be? Things might just fall into place on their own pace. Have some faith.

I do.

Then let it be.

The entire world seems to be hanging by a thread. It is so fragile, so vulnerable.

I agree. But it is not your job to fix the entire world. Things will be as they are meant to be.

If that was true, things would not have progressed this far. We would still be sitting in caves rubbing rocks together for fire. Are you saying one shouldn’t even strive for some sort of harmony?

Surely, but are you willing to pay the price for that? And by price I mean sacrifice.

Aik toh har cheez main sacrifice kyun zaroori hota hai? I wish there was a button that I could push and the world would just magically tune itself.

Let me know when you find it.

I will.  Can we have tea now?

I’d love some!

Incognito

I cannot imagine the amount of courage it must have taken for you to talk about this but I am glad you are. You are one of the most resilient people I know. If at any point during this conversation, you feel uncomfortable, please let me know. We’ll end the interview!

You know, I hear this a lot, that I am brave and resilient and while that makes me feel special and unique in a way, it breaks my heart too. It’s not easy to be brave. People say patience pays off, maybe it’s true but its bitter at the same time. So bitter. Especially for someone like me. I have been patient my entire life, waiting for my moment to come. Something. In a way, maybe this is it. Here, today. I get to talk about the huge burden I have had to carry my entire life. I’ll try to be as honest as I can.

Please do. Shall we begin?

Yes.

How old were you?

The abuse began when I was between 7 or 8 years old. It was someone my family trusted. My first cousin. My parents were helping him get settled in the new city which is why he was over at our house a lot. They helped him find a job. He would sometimes be at the house when my governess was picking up my younger siblings from school. I would sometimes get home earlier than them. Those are some of my first memories of the abuse. I would be alone with him for a few minutes before my siblings and governess were back.

Did you tell anyone at that time?

No, I did not tell anyone because I was not old enough to know that what happened with me was unusual. Now when I look back at that time, the memories are somewhat blurry, I think that was how I subconsciously dealt with it. Victims of childhood sexual abuse have varying coping mechanisms. Each one I have met has dealt with it in their own way. All I know is that I lost my childhood. The one time in your life you are supposed to feel free from worries. My childhood was a struggle. Everywhere. I was the most misunderstood kid in my family and in school. The abuse manifested into every area of my life. I would try hard at school to focus on lessons, sometimes I could but I would get tired and retrieve. I was a great writer, horrible at numbers though.

Where did you find comfort during this time?

Some teachers I had were amazing. They loved me for who I was and how I expressed myself. My mother, who did not understand me most of the time but never gave up on me. She pushed me and taught me grit. I finally told her about what happened when I was 13, after six years. It was harder for her than it was for me. She told my father. He could not believe what he had heard. They took a stand for me in every way they could and I am grateful to them. But still, it wasn’t as it should have been and I believe in this life it never will feel like justice was delivered.

Did you have friends you could talk to?

I had a few friends growing up but the ones I did were the best, including you. They saw me for who I was. Some I am still in touch with. The people closest to me know about the abuse because while it is something that doesn’t define me, it did happen to me. Talking about it with my friends and close family members made it easier for me. I finally felt understood and included. Did it make up for the damage? No. Nothing ever will. What is lost is lost but that is where compassion comes in. I confided in people close to me because I couldn’t carry the pain anymore and I wanted to break free. It felt good. I did not care anymore what people would say or think about me. I had to put myself first. I feel if I didn’t talk about it I wouldn’t have lived this long. I still cry at times because I know what I would have achieved if I hadn’t lost all those years dealing with something so huge. I was the victim of the most heinous of crimes. This person. This sick, disgusting excuse of a human being, this monster, who put me through a hell I did not deserve. No child deserves.

What became of him?

To say that he should be put on trial or sent behind bars or hanged doesn’t cut it. He lives still pretending as if he did nothing wrong. It baffles me that I was the one going through hell yet most of my life, I was condemned for being different while this monster continued living as if he did no wrong. What he took from me, nothing will ever bring back. I want him to suffer in the worst way.

I am so sorry.

Don’t be. Thank you for listening and documenting this. I wish more people will talk about this so there is inclusivity for so many others like me. You will be surprised how many people in our country go through similar experiences. No matter what background they come from. It is a problem no one wants to talk about or listens to. “Nahin yar, itni ajeeb baat nahin kar sakte. Log kya kahein ge,” is what you will hear. But jab itni gandi harkat ki ja sakti hai toh baat karne main kya harj hai? This world with its bullshit, I swear.

You are so strong and despite all that you had to endure, you have achieved so much in life, through courage and perseverance. I have witnessed your extraordinary journey. You inspire people every day and continue to urge them to look deeper into the grey areas of life. I hope your voice is heard at every platform, so space can be created for such conversations. It will only help.

I believe so too.

Thank you for talking with me today. I know it was not easy but you still did. I am so proud of you!

Doing the right thing, I believe, is hardest to do always but it must be done. It requires you to come out of your comfort zone. Moving on, entails hard work and sacrifice. It is not easy, but it can be done. I want others to know that if I can move on, they can too. I am happy you called me and we did this. To people out there, who have gone through abuse, of any nature, I have one thing to say, “Be dauntingly outspoken and audacious about your truth. You were meant to be extraordinary and you can achieve all that you set your mind to regardless of the darkest parts of your story.”

Justice

Ma, what is justice?

Wow, what an intense question for a person as small as you to ask. I am impressed and inspired at the same time!

Well? Do you have an answer?

You know sometimes, we or so many others feel like the way we are being treated or have been treated does not feel fair or right. When that happens, it is usually accompanied by a hollowness and sadness of sorts. That is called injustice. Remember, last week, when I decided to place the cats outside and you protested saying, “but why should they be outside in the cold when we have space for them here?”

Yes! I also said it’s not fair to them.

The fact that you felt that way was because you thought injustice – the opposite of justice – was being done.

So justice is saying, “it’s not fair?”

Justice is many feelings combined together, darling; more like a stew that tastes the best sometimes and awfully repulsive at others. At times, it tastes like freedom, empowering you, making you feel like you exuberantly just rode a flying white horse across the horizon but not quite. It can also taste bitterly frustrating. It could nail you to the ground with an unimaginably stinging force, as if a mountain decided to sit on you.

The horse part sounds fun, but I don’t want a mountain to sit on me.

That is why it is important to be just every day and maintain balance.

How do I do that?

First things first, we begin the process with knowing ourselves.

What do you mean?

We must judge ourselves, to know ourselves. Ask yourself questions, recollect your thoughts and write about your day – evaluate how this day made you feel. List the experiences that made you feel good and those that made you feel bad. Was it something you did or something that was done or said to you? Observe people’s actions and your reactions to things.

Mummy, how do I become a just person?

We ought, not only to think in a fair manner, but act accordingly. Just people are wise and merciful, normally pacific – minding their own business, raising their voice only when its necessary against abhorrence – speaking truth to power, sometimes at a personal cost. They question themselves, vigilantly maintain a clear conscience – they are not afraid to accept their own mistakes and work on themselves. They respect who they actually are, not who they wish to be which makes them pretty good at recognising others for their reality. They do as they say and say what they do, loyal to the core.

Sounds like a superpower, mummy!

It can feel like that, yes; albeit, humility has its place but it should not be overdone to a point where one willingly sacrifices their own rights or let it stop them from calling out what is wrong. That is failing justice, remember this!

How important is justice then?

The most.

Was I just to my cats?

Very much, darling.   

I feel happy about that.

I am glad.

Goodnight, mummy!

Sleep well, love.

Empathy

I have been thinking about an ability lately.

It’s simple.

How many humans does one come in contact with every day? Family, friends, neighbours, shopkeeper at the regular grocery store, colleagues, the help and so on.

So many times, no, most of the time actually, we hurriedly carry on with our routines. Repeating the same loop over and over again without realizing it.

As we do that, I wonder how many times, we consciously make an effort to empathise with these people. Take a moment and slip out of our own skin and land into their shoes. Create a connection by doing or saying something out of the ordinary. A silent, random, unconditional, unflaunted gesture – for the sake of someone else; to add brightness to their day and let it be known to them that their existence is important. Their efforts do not go unnoticed, that they matter.

How many times do we break away from the crunching, mundane cycle and do it differently?

Take extra minutes to have a meaningful conversation with our children, sit a little while longer with our aging parents and ask them if they need anything, say ‘thank you’ accompanied by a smile to the newspaper delivery guy, step out and ask the gardener about his family while he waters the lawn, lend a helping hand to the handy man, offer sweets to everyone at work for no reason, call an old friend who has been struggling and make plans to go fishing, put out last night’s leftovers so the birds don’t have to fly too far for breakfast, gather clothes we don’t wear anymore and drop them off at the nearest shelter home – maybe step inside while we are there and deliberately make someone laugh out loud.

What would the cost of all this be?

Absolutely, nothing.

But somehow, for some reason, I see people keep making these towering walls they have built around themselves, stronger. Finding ways, only to crush others. There are always, I believe, gentle alternatives to deal with things, yet no one cares to think of them.

Why?   

Is it because indifference is the norm today? or cruelty is in with the crowd? or kindness is considered weak? or because we have intelligibly forgotten how to be human?  

I am afraid indisputably, through faults very much our own, we perhaps have.

Sheer tragedy!

“Dara” – The tale of Mughal India’s forgotten prince

“There is no limit to what families do to one another, so much crueler than they are to strangers”

dara.jpg

In celebration of 70 years of Pakistan’s cultural heritage, Lok Virsa’s film club Mandwa arranged a screening of Shahid Nadeem’s play Dara on Saturday. Originally produced by Ajoka theatre and adapted by the National Theatre UK last year, Dara received the award for best play at the Grand Eastern Eye for Art and Culture at a prestigious ceremony held at the Royal Festival Hall in London on May 22, 2016.

5490095a4bb88.jpg

Set in Mughal India in the year 1659, Dara is the story of Emperor Shah Jahan’s two sons whose mother’s death inspired the Taj Mahal; ferociously caught in a battle of succession for not just the throne but their opposing ideologies. It dramatizes the victory of the fundamentalist Aurangzeb over his moderate and liberal younger brother Dara Shikoh. Tanya Ronder’s adaptation of Dara spans the princes’ lives from cradle to grave.

Poet and painter Dara Shikoh was the crown prince who had the love of the people and the favour of his emperor father Shah Jahan. Dara wanted to progress the Mughal Empire towards the vision of his grandfather Akbar: an India which is undivided and tolerant of its people’s religious sentiments. Aurangzeb, on the other hand had a more radical picture in mind for the future of India. Both brothers followed two separate strands of the same religion: Islam. Dara was a sufi, curious and consumed by the secrets of the  universe and Aurangzeb was rigid and materialistic, blinded by his thirst for power; while Islam inspired love and poetry in Dara, Aurangzeb tactfully used it as a means to assert his authority on others.

 

images (1)

The play made its debut four years ago in Lahore before being seen in Karachi, Islamabad and later in India. The journey of collaboration between Shahid Nadeem’s company Ajoka and the National Theatre took four years to complete. Anwar Akhtar, the founder of online platform The Samosa, brought Dara and the work of Ajoka to the attention of National’s director, Nicholas Hytner.  Hytner commissioned for the play to be translated from Urdu and performed at the National.

Nadeem said he was thrilled to be able to bring to the West an accurate insight into the history of Islam and break away from negative Western stereotypes of extremism, violence and fundamentalism. The fact that Shah Jahan favored Dara since childhood largely contributed to the venom Aurangzeb harbored in his heart towards Dara; the perceptive eunuch puts it into these words, “Shah Jahan has earned his son’s hatred.” The story unfolds to show how Aurangzeb manipulates circumstances according to his own desires and the decisive role played by their sisters Jahan Ara and Roshan Ara towards his final verdict.  At a crucial point, the mullah tells Aurangzeb,

“Dara inspires love. It is not just his physical form that must perish but his mythology.”

“This idea that there is one overarching, overbearing school of Islam is not a reality and crucially this play explores this multiplicity of the history of Islam,” said Anwar.

According to Shahid Nadeem, Dara is a play that holds much more than entertainment value. Grappling with disputes between different forms of Islam, Dara boldly represents the issues, currently overshadowing the Muslim world.

“This struggle between these two princes was the turning point in the history of the subcontinent and has shaped our present in a complex manner. Today, in history books throughout Pakistan, Aurangzeb’s version is projected and Dara has been relegated to a footnote. We are trying to reclaim our heroes and rectify the distortion of our history.”

Dear child.

I remember mentioning in one of my posts that I have a daughter but that was hardly a formal introduction. My daughter’s name is Nizalia, although she has a number of nicknames (most of them devised by me) the most common one is Nizu.

You can imagine what it must be like, being the single mother of a thriving, jumping, tantrum-throwing toddler. Those are some of the many titles a toddler carries as they make their way through toddler-hood: the most destructive phase in the life of a person which they themselves forget but no parent can.

A toddler is a ticking time bomb instilled within a tiny person. They have chubby cheeks, the best laugh you will ever hear and their articulation of things is brutally honest and last but not least they give the warmest hugs. But do not let that fool you because whilst all the giggles, they can reign down hell on you, if triggered.

TODDLER (n) : Emotionally unstable pint-sized dictator with the uncanny ability to know exactly how far to push you towards utter insanity before reverting back to a lovable creature.

The above mentioned sentences aptly define the toddler experience for parents. All I have to say is stay strong ladies, we are all in this together.

If she wills it upon you, Nizu can be quiet the trouble maker. She will say she loves you one minute and god forbid, if you try to outsmart her by taking advantage of the moment and stuffing her face with some more bananas, well that is it for you. She will throw at you, what ever is in her hand, slap you barehanded and even attempt to bite your thighs or poke you in the eye. You would be surprised at how loud she is capable of shouting. The waterworks are inevitable; by this time in their child’s life, all parents grow somewhat numb to the tears. Once at the peak of a tyrannical tantrum, there is no stopping them. You just have to stay where you are so they can see you from a distance but its likely, they do not want to be touched at a point like this so you just freeze and wait for them to calm down.

It is harder if an episode like this happens in public. They will not refrain from lying down and screaming on the floor of your regular grocery store and embarrass you. Which is why it is best to make the trip after taking all safety measures: they should be fed, changed and well slept. 

The terrible-twos had me begging on all fours for some peace. I was looking forward to the time that I would get to myself while the little monster was in school; to be able to make myself a nice meal and a warm cup of tea along with some silence without having to worry for just a few moments. Instead, everything but relief was what I felt on her first day of school.

I had been preparing Nizu for school since she had spoken her first word. Now that I was finally filling out the admission forms and buying school supplies, I could not shake off unwelcome fears. Sending your kid off to school is a milestone but I wish somebody had told me about the emotional repercussions of it.

What kept bothering me was that I would be required to leave my child for hours on a stretch beyond the confines of her first home, under the supervision of people that I barely knew.

Lets be honest, the world is not exactly a safe place to live in. I am aware that no parent can give their child the perfect life and I am okay with that but I seriously fear for my daughter’s generation. I was alarmed to send her out into the world because it has become the breeding ground of uncontrollable evil.

Dawn published a story about a six year old girl, who was found in a drain in Karachi. She was left to die after someone raped her and slit her throat.

I came across an article about 17 year old Pearl Moen on my Facebook news feed today. In 2015, Pearl Moen stabbed a stranger 21 times , leaving her to die in an Austin park. Police found out that after killing her victim, Pearl Moen wrote about it in her diary. The post read: “I stabbed an innocent woman to death earlier today- technically yesterday since it is 1 am. It was absolutely fantastic. Murder gives me a high like any other. the whole thing was unreal. I am so proud of myself. I stabbed her like 20 times, maybe more. I wasn’t counting.”

Protests in 2012 following the gang rape of Nirbhaya

This image is from a protest held in India following the brutal gang rape and death of medical student Jyoti Singh on a New Delhi bus in 2012.

Young boy washed up on the beach.

3 year old Aylan Kurdi’s body was found washed up on the shores of Europe on 2 September 2015. Aylan and his brother met the same fate. Both had reportedly hailed from the northern Syrian town of Kobani, the site of fierce fighting between Islamic State insurgents and Kurdish forces earlier this year.

Related image

Army Public School, Peshawar in the aftermath of an attack by seven gunmen from the Tehreek-i-Taliban on 17 December, 2014. The militants opened fire on school staff and children, killing 141 people. 132 of them were children aged between 8 to 18 years.

With growing terrorism and war around the world, people have become susceptible and insecure, building walls around themselves. Instead of finding comfort with one another, people have become fearful of each other.

The world is changing unpredictably and not for the better. I believe that our world has fallen prey to a great calamity. Our kind has let itself fall into the depths of a darkness that they themselves summoned. The most apparent consequence of our callousness is climate change.

This world is what I am sending my innocent child out to. A world I do not comprehend my self. I clasped Nizu’s hand tightly in mine as I walked her to school on her first day, where she will find her place as an individual. She said goodbye and ran off without looking back.

Holding back tears, I drove back home, feeling powerless. It is not easy to bring a child to this world, I nearly died in the process of giving birth to her. The agonising physical pain one eventually forgets, but the real test of becoming a mother is having to sacrifice all that you hold dear to your heart for one small human. Each day since the birth of my child I have fought a battle with myself and the world. 

I can say this with certainty that there is no greater love in this world than the one a mother feels for her child. It gives her extraordinary courage along with the ability to break through mountains and roar louder than lions. But this love makes her weak too. It never lets her forget that she will not always be able to save her child from the shadows that lurk in every corner. So she stands, guarding every moment and never letting her eyes and mind sleep to the possibility of peril. She drains herself and still goes on.

With a prayer in my heart, I drank my tea in the silence I had long anticipated.

My child,

If it was up to me, I would keep you in the blanket of my arms forever. Far away from the cruelty of our kind. I cannot do that because I am bound in the shackles of this time and space.

It’s a big bad world out there, never missing chances to bruise you where it can. It will teach you things for the better. Never shy away because you will heal and you will stand back up again. 

With moments of love and joy, there will be anger and sorrow. Life will show you glory but don’t break if you are defeated too.

Understand my dear child, that one against the other, moments are illusions of life. Night and day is inevitable but the light of your heart is forever. 

I pray that you meet the best people and defeat the worst. I pray that you always triumph over anyone who seeks to break you.

Remember your mother’s words my love. You are the brightest light in the world and I hope your light blinds all those who mean for darkness to befall you.

Above the light of your own being is the light of God, never failing to shield you and creating a way for you, your creator and your guardian. I know you cannot see God and there will be moments when you doubt the existence of God. Even when it is the hardest to have faith, I ask you to put your trust in God, who watches and listens to all. I assure you that God has been your mother’s protector and will be yours. The best gift a mother can give to her child is to ask the creator to be the guardian of her child, every step of the way. 

I hope you find the strength to aspire towards the best of everything. You deserve nothing short of perfection and I hope you never settle for anything less.

I hope you remain under the shadow of kindness, given to you by the best humans because you are the kindest yourself.

Fly high, but remember to be humble when you walk on earth. I hope God keeps you standing tall. Never let your heart be filled with arrogance. Be at one with all creation; birds, trees, air and animals because they have souls like you do.

You will meet people with many forms of pride. You will come across wretched souls who have nothing in their lives but the pride they feel upon making others think they are better than them for what they own or what they might look like. There are many in this world who take pride in putting others down; they do this because they have ugly souls. My dear child I pray that you see people for who they really are and you choose to turn away from wretched souls because they will bring you nothing but distress. I hope you recognize ill-will and never let your heart be polluted by the insecurities of others.

The most important thing in life is how you choose to make others feel about themselves because that is one of the few things you have power over. All else is worth nothing.

My love, you are all that you will ever need to accomplish everything you desire for yourself. When you decide to depend on hard work and an iron will, all energies in the world will stand up for you. The fruit of hard work is sweeter than all others. 

Remember to be patient and grateful at all times.

I pray that you sail through all the storms and celebrations of life with valor and grace, holding the flag of glory.

Everyone makes mistakes. They teach you to fight harder and conquer with even more might than before.

Know when to talk but there will be times when silence will be best. It is not upon your shoulders to fix everyone. Know when to walk away and do not look back on that which you decided to walk away from.

Words are both weapons and your best armor. Choose them wisely!

Thank you for being the best gift life has given me. 

Love,

Ma. 

If Only

He saw her approach from a distance, wearing her pearl white gown. She walked through the grass barefoot. Nothing seemed different about her, even after all these years. Her hair loosely fell down on her shoulders and she still looked as breathtaking as she used to when they were young. The sight of her still made his heart give up on him. Nothing had changed.

She sat down next to him and didn’t say a word. They sat. Together. Consumed. Reminded as if of the all the burdens they had been made to carry by life. They went on a journey of silence. Reminiscing still..about what could have been. How different would their lives have turned out..if only.

.

.

.

.

You: I am still not over you.

Me: I didn’t come here so you could guilt trip me into feeling sorry for you.

You: Why did you not give me a chance?

Me: You took too long to say anything. I fell in love with him.

You: Did you ever stop loving me?

Me: I thought I did.

You: What made you come here today?

Me: I wanted a glimpse into who I used to be.

You: You said no. I never took it well but that was what you wanted. I would sit in my camp in the most remote places with gunshots being fired over my head. The war just wouldn’t stop. It shut out all memory of happiness from my mind. I would stand in my lonely trench with warheads and tanks detonating above my head. In the agony of losing my patience I would close my eyes and the only thing that would come to my mind was a picture of your face. That illuminating smile. The memory of that smile was the only thing that kept me strong. I would remember those brightly lit eyes of yours..those eyes that filled me with hopes of life in the zone of a brutal murder game I was sent for. I saw it all. All that this brutal world could show me but it all did not break my heart more than when I saw you walk away from me to him. You broke me then but you still kept me alive. This might be bitter to hear but I need to say this now, not because I want to hurt you but because you need to hear it from me. You need to know about the man who loved you without condition. You fought your battles alone as I. How I wish, my love, I could save you from the wrath of people’s cruelty.

Me:  I did what I did and so did you. Tell me, what would you have done if we fought? We used to, so much when we were children. You were always so protective of me yet determined to win. It would make me so angry but somehow, even then, I could see through it. Your actions and where you were coming from. You were always so kind.

You: I would drive you on a plane towards the sky..into the heart of the thickest cloud because I know how you love the shades of light playing with the vast open skies..I would drive you straight towards the sun because I know how your fearless soul adores looking it in the eye. I would walk with you. Not say a word because you loathe listening to another voice but your own when you are sad. I would let you take me to the darkest corners of your mind and I would stay there with you for as long as you want me to. I would see those tears trickle down your cheeks and wait for you to smile again because your smile reminds me of sunflowers dancing in that golden light they love so much.

Me: But what if I yelled at you and called you names? What if I threw things at you and said I hated you? What would you have done had I gotten so angry with you? You know I have my issues.

You: I’d dive off a cliff with you till we found that same girl you came here to look for. I am sorry that I let you go. I should have fought, I should have said something. I made a mistake.

Me: My sorrow was too rigid. I would have failed you over and over till there was no way else for you but to give up on me. I spent half my life being in love with the idea of love and I only came to realize that I was naive to think that way. My life taught me that I longed to look for a pearl in the soul of another when it was there all along in my own heart. All battles came to an end when I became content with the fulfillment of my own heart. Humans are frail creatures my dear, they say they love with all their heart and their heart deceives them. Deception is a malicious thing. You have seen war. You were a soldier always and you taught me to be one too, yet you still sound foolish to me. So what.. if life took us on separate paths? Where is it dictated that the only way to make your love known to someone is to be married to them, live with them or dress up and be seen with them at social soirees? I think it was much better this way, just knowing that we are out there somewhere and haven’t forgotten one another. Just like when night falls, you always have the stars to look at and remind you of worlds beyond your own. Reaching them in this lifetime would be a miracle itself yet they never cease to fascinate. That feeling itself is divine. You have been my brightest star in the darkest night. Thankyou for shining your light on me, it doesn’t matter if you were far away or you didn’t fight harder. Our terms always differed from the rest of the world. I am fond of this kind of endearment because it is unreserved.

You: It still hurts. I wanted to be the one you spent your life with.

Me: I wanted the same. For the longest time. There is no us. Only you and I. Make peace with that, please. The only thing we have control over is our own actions. Me and you did not need to belong to one another because sooner or later it would turn into a battle of who owns whom. There is something inhumane about that. Owning someone other than yourself!

You: You and I could have been much more than just YOU and I.

Me: Something to dwell about..yes.

You: Would you marry me if I asked you now?

Me: Are you asking?

You: No.

Me: Then no.

You: Will you marry me?

Me: What are you doing?

You: I am asking.

Me: No.

You: Still hurts.

Me: Lets get even. Will you marry me?

You: Tomorrow?

Me: Some tomorrow.

You: No seriously.

Me: Restless soul.

You: Do you know something?

Me: What?

You: I will let go now.

Me: Do.

You: Is it time to go yet?

Me: We have lives to get back to.

You: I am afraid we do.

Me: I’ll see you back here in a few years!

You: There is a chance our front teeth will have fallen off by then.

Me: I look forward to it.

You: So do I.

Me: Bye.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

You: Think about me.

Me: Everyday.