life

Short Story: Sami Sahab

Author’s note: My short story, Sami Sahab has been published in Queen Mob’s Teahouse, where you can read now at https://queenmobs.com/2020/05/fiction-sami-sahab/

Initial except is shared below: 

 

Sami Arain is a funny man. And when I say funny I don’t mean that he makes people laugh, although he does make people laugh, it’s just that he doesn’t intend to make people laugh and yet people snigger. He doesn’t mind that. But sometimes he does. It depends on his mood.

Sami Arain is also a funny-looking man—six feet three inches tall, wide built and plump—you wouldn’t know what to do with so much human mass—crop-cut salt and pepper hair, fair complexion (something us South Asians die for) and baritone voice, square rimmed glasses on the nose; fifty-five and yet always immaculately dressed (with smart-cut ties and close-checkered suits), you would be slightly intimidated if you were meeting him for the first time. But that notion would soon dispel as you meet him a few more times. Especially after-lunch hours. Because he does not look the same Sami Arain you knew in the morning. His coat would come off, shirt would be tucked out from pants, tie loosened up, collar buttons undone and his hair would stand at their edges, their salt and pepper color separated.

He calls it his relaxed hours, hours of lesser productivity. ‘But that doesn’t mean you’re not supposed to work,’ he says poking his fat finger at the shoulder of one of his subordinates. ‘You are supposed to work with the same level of energy. Only your boss is allowed to relax,’ he tells him smiling slyly while his subordinate tries to lengthen the space between him and Sami to get away from his constant stab of finger.

Sami Sahab or boss as people in his department often call him, comes from a land holding family of Punjab. One of those landlords who are neither too big to join politics nor too small to be known as farmers. He tells his story proudly, tapping his cigarette lightly on the ashtray, ‘I don’t know why my father thought I could study out of all my siblings. Probably because I was the youngest,’ he shrugs. ‘He sent me to Aitchison, expecting I’d become some big shot lawyer studying with the sons of judges and politicians. But he was mistaken.’ He lowers his voice conspiringly, ‘they always think the youngest ones should be the best in everything. What the older ones couldn’t achieve, the younger ones should get that badge and put it on their goddamned chests. If you ask me, younger ones like to live up a little too.’

He repeats his story every time a new employee gets transferred to his department. ‘Look at what I have achieved. Nothing. My older brother would have done so much better. So much better I tell you!’ his voice rises sharply. ‘He only studied till tenth grade and he’s sitting in the US today running three fuel stations. Two of his children have gone to Ivy League colleges while white people cry about their children getting into drugs, and my children don’t bother to raise their heads up from their cell phones to respond to me.’ He takes a large drag from his cigarette shaking his head.

Khair yaar, you tell me, why did you get transferred here, what did you do, huh?’ He asks the newly transferred employee dramatically taking off his glasses.

Honestly I think Sami Sahab underestimates himself. He passed the exam of Superior Services of the country at the age of twenty-nine and was appointed as a civil servant, although he couldn’t get the first department of his choice. Or rather, in his words, he got selected into one of the least preferred ones.

‘By that time I was so sick of switching jobs that had they given me the Postal Group, I would have taken it too.’ Postal Group is supposed to be the most unwanted department. But when I object that he should be proud that he’s serving the country in the highest of offices, Sami sahab has a rigid response, ‘don’t tell me about this highest of offices crap Nasir, these are nothing but the remnants of the British Raj. What have we done for ourselves? For this country, huh? He gives a dramatic pause, ‘I’ve been in this job for almost twenty-six years, have you seen any change in the system?’ he asks Nasir irately.

Nasir is his Personal Assistant who you would always find in Sami Sahab’s office, never outside at his desk; sometimes making phone calls, other times just giving him company while Sami’s subordinates and guests come and go. Nasir never answers his boss. He only nods. So Sami resumes. ‘Except Bhutto Sahab, no one brought any reforms to the civil service. And were those really reforms?’ He asks taking a long drag of smoke and shakes his head. ‘He deformed this bureaucracy. That bloody genius of a politician.’ He throws his remaining cigarette forcefully in the bin under his table, his long fingers hitting the pen holder in the process.

Sami Sahab is an expressive man. Larger than life that he already is, his presence can never be missed in a company. When he talks, his large hands mimic the gestures of his tone, moving in all directions, sometimes bumping into things and people around him.

But what I appreciate most about Sami Sahab is that he is an honest man. Never involved himself in kickbacks and under-the-table deals. His promotions have been delayed, he has been transferred to far flung areas of the country, but he has been relentless. With a meagre government salary it’s difficult to live a comfortable life unless you have ensured some other means for yourself. And Sami Sahab’s family is used to a very comfortable lifestyle.

His wife, a daughter of a Lahori businessman was brought up in a well to do family and went to all girls Liberal Arts college in Lahore. Living in a household of four sisters, all loud, chatty, highly opinionated and prodigal, there was always something or the other going on the house—birthday parties, lunches and dinners full of cousins and dozens of friends invited by each sister, Seema had never witnessed a dull life before, devoid of human chatter and activity, until Sami was posted in Khuzdaar, a far flung district in Balochistan, right after their wedding.

‘You know my wife hates me.’ Sami repeats as matter-of-factly whenever he asks Nasir leave to his room for some privacy to talk on the phone each time things heat up between the two. Nasir says it’s always Seema who hangs up the phone first. I may be naïve but I don’t understand how two people could be so unhappy with each other, when they married out of love — another of his famously told stories.

(full story in the link above).

Day 10 in Quarantine: Life in the midst of chaos

As I listen to the slightly subdued voices of our neighbors wishing one of their family members a happy birthday at the change of the date at midnight, I suddenly start with a pang of reality hitting me in the face—there is life in the midst of chaos. As they finish the ‘Happy Birthday’ song with a loud cheer at the end of it and ask the birthday person to blow the candles—blame my room at the end of the house and absence of fans whirring for listening to every word of it—I am reminded of how birthdays would continue to come, children will be born, weddings will take place, and people will continue to fall in love despite death at our doors; and thus life will go on.

A few days ago, I read about a couple who said their wedding vows on a street in NYC while one of their friends read the vows to them from the window of an apartment building, the photographers took their wedding shots and passers-by took photos of the couple from their phones to record the surreal moment, and I wondered if there’s a possibility that the world might be ending. The question seems far-fetched, but so does the absolute denial of severity of lives at risk. People seem unperturbed—Italians, Spanish, Pakistanis, the governments of first world countries, conspiracy theorists, politicians; it seems as if cultures and Capitalism has taken a better part of us. Wage earners have been made an excuse rather than the governments’ responsibility to provide for them.

There is anxiety, confusion, ignorance and poverty, furthering as each day passes by; and then there is privilege—money, boredom and plenty of time to do ‘nothing’. And that ‘nothing’ translates into anxiety, misinformation and indulgence into an abyss of emotions ominous at present.

And yet there is nature. Thriving—despite the human suffering. The nature cures itself as the number of infections increase, the death toll surges—as the air quality improves and I witness cold breeze in the month of March in Karachi; canals in Venice have cleared up they say; deers have come out on the roads in Japan from the wild; Ozone is showing a remarkable self-recovery. Is it balancing it out? The pain with healing? Or perhaps it’s just how the nature works—endearing, undaunted, daring? We would never understand. Camus resolves this dilemma for us, ‘But perhaps we should love what we cannot understand.’           

The world might not end yet. Our children might grow up and have their children and grand children. We may live to tell the tale of social isolation in the time of technology that virtually connected us across the globe, when we took off the stickers of our devices’ cameras voluntarily to let people see our faces and the inside of our rooms—for work, for studies, for connecting with friends across the globe who we had not seen in years. And yet there would be a slight doubt in that memory because everything felt so unreal, movie-like—empty roads, silent streets, mass graves, lit up cities with no tourists, the sound of applause from balconies, windows, excited cheers animated at the noise of another cheer, until everything is only validated by history.

Music in my neighbor’s backyard

I’ve been trying to write lately but my thoughts wander. It’s been about changes in life, embracing growing up, growing old and of noticing changes that makes you realize that it’s not so scary growing old after all. There will always be people who, when you meet, talk about the same reservations that you have about this trickery of growing old, and so all of a sudden, you’re not alone. There’s always nostalgia, fatigue and the sharply advancing generation around you that makes you realize that late twenties might not be the ‘sought after’ age to be–that’s only till twenty-three. I’ve been listening to this live gig from my room at this hour from our neighbor’s backyard. It’s an intimate gathering—from the noise of it, a bunch of friends, laughter, guitar and songs. It’s almost Spring—where your rooms are cold enough at night to keep the fans turned off, but windows opened, so I can listen to the chatter and every stroke of the pick on guitar. From the looks of it, the company is my age—they have played Wo Lamhay, Tum he tou ho, Wake me up when September ends, The Fray. I don’t know why but it makes me feel connected. Millennials, the depressed generation, the pioneers of social media, generation with the highest suicide rate—somehow we find the reason to connect. The boy who sings is a little rough with his voice but he plays the instrument alright. He plays Wo Lamhay while I carry out ablution, plays Tum he tou ho, while I pray and think about a thousand things unconsciously that the song reminds me of. I’ve started reading W.B Yeats today and was planning to finish a part of the book but the music from my window asks me to write—about unfinished tasks, unfulfilled promises, almost-happiness, driving at night without the music on, unresolved resolutions, lists on my phone and in my notebook and about people close to my heart; in books, in pictures and in real life.

Two of the boys sing Atif’s Ye Meri Kahani and I remember the first the time I heard the song. I still think about the little optimistic girl I used to be. It’s like a reel unraveling. I wonder how it would be moments before you’re going to die. Are there going to be flashbacks? Of good moments and the worse? Or is it going to be all blank? No memories retained, nothing lost?

It has started to rain. Boys have stopped playing. Winter is over. I do not await the summer.

The Homely Feeling

Hum bhool gae har baat magar tera piyar nahi bhoolay

Kia kia hua dil ke sath, magar tera piyar nahi bhoolay

We forgot everything but we did not forget your love/ whatever happened to the heart but did not forget your love

I stand in the light bluish marbled floor lounge, a seven year old, scowling at the cassette playing Lata on the tape. It’s a cold Sunday morning, the light entering through the long horizontal windows that run along the upper edge of the wall with the entrance door, throwing squares of clean sunlight in the living room which is the center of activity on most weekend days. The cassettes play Lata (or her sister, you can never tell who), Rafi and Mehdi Hasan alternating between the three every weekend—their songs audible in all rooms while my father polishes his shoes for the week and mother makes breakfast and then lunch. Often my father sings along with the singer just to tease us, or maybe not, but we get annoyed by the two singers now singing in chorus, one of the them slightly offbeat. All we want to do is, turn on the TV on a Sunday and watch it for the rest of the day. But we wait till the shoes are polished and other weekly house chores done; till the cassette (or one of its sides) has ended, and someone from the siblings stealthily switches it off and turns on the TV instead.

I stand in the marbled floor lounge, eight years old, nine years old, ten years old, listening to Baharo Phool Barsao, Jo Waada Kia Wo Nibhana Paray Ga, Choudhween Ka Chaand ho, until I can’t remember when the songs stopped playing on Sundays, when I started singing along with Rafi, when I finally understood meaning of lyrics or played one of those songs when I was alone and feeling low; but years later when I come across an old song somewhere from those cassettes, in the car, at a dhaaba or a fancy desi restaurant, I am transported back to our old house—bare feet on the cold marbled floor with indistinct noise of the kitchen’s exhaust fan whirring and my father’s clear strokes of brush on his shoes—I think about how home is sometimes a feeling, a nostalgia, an unconscious learning of being at ease with your past.

 

Love Letters to the Dead

Dear Sarah,

September left in a jiffy. Just when I was beginning to get used to its unpredictability, it said its farewell. Remember the humid Septembers, beginning of cold winds? This was one was rainy.

Although morning walks were beautiful—our same old route via little church cottage—but a little too slippery and a little too cold for September.

October is going to be hard. As always. If you were here, you’d keep badgering me to prepare for it. ‘Plan for the rainy days Hadi!’ shaking your head at my procrastination. But then if you were here, I wouldn’t need to prepare.

It’s October the 4th today. 10: 37 pm. It has started to get colder. Just the kind of cold you would love. The chilly windy October when we would go out for a stroll down the hill right after dinner. When the winds would howl and you would laugh with the winds. I always thought it was silly. The winds have begun to howl outside the window starting tonight. I miss your funny laugh.

I’m sorry I couldn’t write. Not that I didn’t get time, but I was avoiding you, in a way. Like you had said. Trying to move on. But sometimes it gets too much.

This Saturday, I began repairing the attic, after year long procrastination. It’s probably not a good time but it had to be done. Last winter the snow came seeping through the broken planks, remember? I had to shift your old books from your grandfather (that you were trying to treasure), to the leather couch in the study. Initially, it was a momentary decision. I thought I’d put them on the shelf in the living room in a few days. But then I let it be, although it was such a mess. We couldn’t sit on the couch all year. But it was probably an act of protest. A part of me didn’t want to shelve the books because that part of me believed that if I left the books long enough, a part of you would probably come back to push me into shelving them. It doesn’t make sense I know. But I was always a little stubborn.

But so were you.

I wasted the whole summer putting it off. I can’t say sorry, I know. I finished The Idiot from your collection, so there’s that. One book this year after more than three years. You should congratulate me for that at least.

Huda has recently learnt to write all the alphabets. The lower foot of the wall by the fireplace in living room is littered with her colorful scrawls. Yesterday she asked me to help her write her name on the wall.

‘H-U-D-A’, she pronounced each syllable, carefully stretching each one of them until she wrote all the four letters with a green crayon. Then she asked the spelling of Baba and wrote it with a blue crayon right beside Huda. She smiled looking at the two words–green and blue, squiggly and scrawny–the same dimply smile of yours that reaches the eyes and said, ‘if I had a mama, we would write her name here,’ pointing to the left of where H-U-D-A was written.

She’s a little work of art.

The little cottage opposite ours with blue wooden door finally has owners. They moved here last month. It’s a middle aged couple, probably in their forties. You would probably argue they are still young and not ‘middle aged’. Although they might be younger. But even thirty-two looks middle aged to me now. They are lovely though. First thing they did, they changed the color of the blue wooden door to bright orange.

Huda sat by the living room window all day watching Nina and Moosa—that’s their names—paint the door. They painted the door seven times, she told me. When we went out for a walk the next day, Huda told Nina that she liked the new color of the door. ‘Just like autumn,’ she said. I saw Nina smile at her for a long time.

Few days later, she brought chocolates for Huda when she was at school. We sat by the steps of our front door. Nina told me about her husband, who works for the government and about their seven year old son who they lost to a seasonal fever. I didn’t know it was still possible. She told me this so conversationally, I was taken aback for a few seconds after I processed it. But then I saw her hands, shaking—just a little, so that only those in suffering could see. I couldn’t say anything to her. Those are the things only you are good at.

But then she did the strangest thing. She took my hand and said, ‘I told you only because you miss her too.’

Does it show in our eyes if we miss people too much? Or love too much? Or lose too much? I’ve been thinking about it lately. I am not ashamed of missing you. What unnerved me was how someone with a similar pain could see your loss so easily—like stripping you naked. What embarrassed me more was not recognizing the sadness in her smile when she looked at another’s child. For days I had thought they loved Huda because they didn’t have their own child. They did have a child. Only he has left. Why am I so self-centered Sarah?

Nina often comes at the library to read. Since Moosa works late till evenings, Nina brings her books here and reads till lunch. She mostly reads poetry. T. S. Eliot and e. e. cummings and Frank O’Hara. You two would have been such good friends. But now she has to tolerate me with my silly fantasy interests.

Sometimes it’s so easy to open up to certain people. It’s like I’ve known her for the longest time. Nina knows everything about you by now. When I showed her your picture, the one in the wheat fields where you’re wearing your straw hat and yellow overalls, laughing against the sun, she smiled and told me she always knew how Sarah would look like, ‘bright and sunny, like the color of a smile.’

I never thought of you in terms of that metaphor. You were so many things to me. But perhaps I’d add that to my list of metaphors for you.

Last weekend, Nina and Moosa invited us for dinner. Huda was awfully excited, since she has never been to a dinner before except at your parents’. She kept asking me what to wear for ‘Nina Aunty’s dinner’. Eventually we decided on a yellow jumper that Nani Ma had gifted her last month. We made a little ponytail too. It turned out pretty fine. To be honest, I didn’t know what to wear either. Dinner mannerisms were always your forte. And it’s been such a long time since I went to a homely dinner. Perhaps the first after you. So I just ended up wearing a black Shalwar Kameez. I wasn’t thinking anything when I wore it. It was just the first thing that came to my mind.

We got them a ‘Home is where Heart is’ art piece.

It was the first time I saw Nina and Moosa together in their home. It was as if I had missed seeing a proper home for a long time. Although I could sense a constant feeling of absence, or lack of presence of something dearly missed, but I could also see so much calm. There was coherence in everything they did, like their minds and movements were aligned. It was overpowering. There was a mysterious understanding you wished you were also a part of. Does living together for so long do that to you? I guess I would never know.

After dinner, we sat in the living room talking about life in general, Huda falling asleep, her head in Nina’s lap. Moosa had turned on the radio lightly in the background and was telling me about the restructuring plan of the town to be carried out this winter (taking advantage of the off-season for tourists), when Bryan Adams’ Everything I Do began playing on the radio. It was in the way he looked at Nina for a second and smiled, not breaking monologue with me all the while, that said everything. As if Huda and I did not exist. It looked like they were the only breathing humans on the planet.

I looked at Nina for reciprocity of his feelings. She was in the moment, smiling, and she was somewhere else with him. It was their song.

For days, their smiles have remained with me. Envy is a powerful feeling. Destructive. I’ve always been wary of it. But that evening I felt a tinge of envy for which I have not been able to forgive myself.

Nina asked me that night to prepare for Huda’s birthday celebrations. ‘It’s not too far away’. I told her we don’t celebrate Huda’s birthday. ‘But this year, we will.’ Moosa said, like it resolved the matter.

Nina knows you left us the same night but she says that I should not punish my own child for it. I know you think the same way. But some things are not so simple.

‘She doesn’t even know she is turning four in two weeks. Kids this age are so excited about their birthdays. Think about her.’ She came to talk about it the next morning in the library. But she doesn’t understand. And neither do you.

How is it that someone decides to take your most beloved possession from you and bestow you with something that comes to be your other most beloved possession? What if you were fine with what you had? That is not to say that I love my child any less. But what is the joy of fatherhood if I can’t share my happiness with you?

I know you’re still skeptical but at least you know how I think. Just a little. Nina didn’t. But then her grief is different here from mine. So I ended up saying yes to Nina’s invitation to Huda’s birthday party. I shall be a guest.

I wish this month would get over soon. I might start shelving the books on the couch in the living room shelf from tomorrow. Anything to distract myself.

I’ll write to you on October 31st. May be Huda can be a little witch on Halloween.

 

Love,

Hadi

Author’s note: Love Letters to the Dead has been published in 9th issue of Confluence Magazine UK, a litersry magazine funded by Arts Council England. It can be found here: https://www.confluencemagazine.co.uk/confluence-issue-9

Of Organizing

In my struggle to make sense of this otherwise unpredictable world, I had always resorted to organizing things around me. I knew I couldn’t control time, so I naturally became its treasurer.

I would organize my work bag IMG-20181103-WA0053-1once a month, save all my receipts, undo my closet twice a month and redo it, clean all the surfaces regularly that I would come in contact with, stack books over one another either by their themes or titles or size, make elaborate notes of readings so neat and organized that some of those are still being used by my younger siblings; give away clothes and shoes I wasn’t wearing anymore to clear space, and categorize pieces of cleaning cloths based on things they would clean. My workspace would always have all the things I needed and not an ounce more. I would either shred papers I didn’t need or reuse them. I wouldn’t call myself a clean freak but I had a fascination for organization–obsession if you would. My computer has layers and layers of folders organized into themes, categories, dates and time so I would never forget what happened when.

But then a point came when I started to forget—things, minute events, scheduled work, deadlines—replaced by memories that I wanted to suppress. It wasn’t all of a sudden, but I all can remember is, I slowly began procrastinating on my organization, because I was scared to admit that the disorder around me was due to chaos in my mind. What was once a source of contentment was slowly turning into mayhem. It was deeply disturbing and impeding—more like blockages in the veins but I had so much to do and had so little time. In a haste of losing, and disbelief of what I had already lost, I began setting reminders and alarms and sticking scribbled notes to things to remind me of what I needed to do.

At a point it became so overwhelming that I couldn’t trust what I had written for myself. So I decided to return to organizing. I began from scratch. Little by little. I emptied my bags. Washed them. Filled them first with things of necessity, then of leisure. Made new playlists while listening to old ones, to remind me of passage of a lifetime that once was. Transferred years of data in a hard drive should my computer decide to pull a stunt like me. Undid and redid my wardrobe on the basis of frequency of clothes I wore. Gave away some. Deposited my old receipts and cleared my workspace both at work and home. Felt my head a hundred pounds lighter.

I’m still working on remembering stuff. But it’s so much easier. Because I’ve accepted what happened was the best it could have rather than questioning why it really happened. I know some things are not in our control and time will fly but we need some reins to make sure things that are ours—our imagination and the space that elevates it—remain that way.

 

Portraits – His neighbor-coworker

She often comes late to work. Nobody really minds but her boss doesn’t appreciate it. Although he does ask about it once. Her excuses are fickle. She says she comes late because she has to prepare breakfast for her mother who is old. ‘But you could make her breakfast early and leave for work on time?’

‘Yes but then I have to give her medicines too.’ She drags her words a little when she doesn’t have good answers.

‘Can’t the medicines be given a little early too?’ her boss asks still pretending composure. ‘Yes sir. No sir. Actually, she’s very old so I give her the medicines myself’, she shifts from one foot to another. She has a little problem standing on her feet for too long these days. The doctor has asked her to go for physiotherapy but she’s been procrastinating because it is not covered in the company’s medical insurance. ‘Just try to reach office till 9:30’, her boss finally closes the discussion. ‘Yes sir’, she pauses, thinks, ‘okay sir’, she puts a full stop. She’s not satisfied with how it ended, but she drags her feet away and out from his office and towards her workstation.

She must be around 57. Or at least that’s what the younger employees think. She hasn’t given the company much—she’s a data operator—just her years of service. She comes late, leaves early and works around three hours in total if we count her individual contribution per day. Most of the time she forgets her due assignments and someone has to remind her politely what she has been missing. People are generally considerate of her old age.

Ms. Raima is a short stubby lady who wears long Kameez with chappals that make distinct noise of dragging feet from ten meters away. She dyes her hair a shade darker than blonde whose roots she gets renewed after every 15 days. ‘You know Papa doesn’t particularly like unkempt hair.’ She explains. Her favorite person in the world is her father—only he’s not in this world anymore. She calls him Papa. She mentions Papa at least once every day. She mentions him in the present tense. So if you were new around her, you would think Papa is alive. So Papa likes to take a nap in the afternoon, he thinks it’s good for health. Papa always thinks highly of people who wear white. It’s Papa’s favorite color. Papa’s favorite poet is Ghalib, he absolutely loves his poetry—and so she does too.

When she does not come to work one day and you ask her the next day, just out of courtesy, the reason of her absence, she tells you that it was Papa’s 11th death anniversary yesterday; it’s only then that you realize that Papa has actually been gone for more than a decade now. ‘You know Papa never likes to make a big deal out of anything, so I just took leave to recite Quran all day and make some Biryani and distribute it among my sisters and brothers and their children. No big deal. But it took all day.’ Her eyebrows shoot up while her head nods. ‘I didn’t want to come today—I was so tired, but Papa doesn’t appreciate when people take their work for granted, so I had to come.’

She has been working in the company for more than 18 years now but she still doesn’t have a decided commute to and from the office. She hails a different rickshaw every day after work and tells him the route to her house. No matter how the situation of the roads of Karachi  is—due to traffic, protests, exhibitions, presence of high government officials in the city—the rickshaw has to take the route she dictates—because, that’s the best possible route to her place.

Most of the colleagues in her department are male except three younger women—one of them sits right across her. She really likes her. Whenever the girl wears a new dress, she asks her to stand up and show her how it looks. The girl mostly feels awkward but obliges. She then nods her head and smiles, and tells her that the dress looks lovely. ‘Light colors suit you very much. I don’t wear light colors to office because I come by rickshaw and there is so much dirt in the air that the clothes get ruined on the way’, she says. ‘Most of my dresses I wear are old ones. Beta, why would someone ruin their new clothes for office?’ She asks the girl. ‘It’s a waste of money.’ She shakes her head. But then she smiles and takes the girl’s hand, her voice goes down conspiringly, ‘you know, you should rather be saving this money for your wedding.’

Nobody understands where her money goes to. She earns a handsome salary after 18 years of service and doesn’t have most obligations people her age have. She didn’t marry, in case you were wondering.

But she should really go see a physiotherapist now. The drag in her feet while walking is increasing and so are her complaints. She’s been taking off every other week and can’t stand properly for more than two minutes. She also offers her prayer on a chair and feels cold even when it’s 37 degrees outside. Her colleagues wouldn’t mind otherwise but when she asks the office boy in the middle of the noon to go and turn off their side of the air conditioning, it does get really hot and suffocating—until someone passive-aggressively starts whining about how hot it is outside today that even the ACs are not working and the other person replies that the ACs are working but theirs have been turned off because Ms. Raima was feeling cold, that Ms. Raima realizes that it’s time to restore the system to normal.

Lightly

Often times, it’s not adversity that defines you, it’s rather the journey that you decide to make. The path that you take, the dwindling steps, the fear of unknown, of the darkness ahead (or the absence of it), define the strength of your existence.
So lightly, child. Don’t make adversity define you. For although you may be born to suffer for what’s written for you, yet it’s you who decides how you’re going to steer your way out of it. Everything will come into place. Slowly. Yes, painfully. But things will fall into place eventually. So lightly child. Worrying is natural, but know that there’s always those people and things that matter. Far more than the things you worry for.

And surely, it would happen that there would be too much pressure, to pretend, to act like it doesn’t matter; you wouldn’t know what’s happening to you until your eyes are wet and you haven’t realized you’re crying until someone asks if you’re alright. You don’t have to be strong all the time. Let yourself loose. It’s okay to cry child. It’s okay to not perform sometimes. It’s okay if some people are let down. Just remember, when you look yourself in the mirror, you look at yourself and not the shadow of you.
It’s okay to fall until you don’t give up attempting to stand. It’s okay child. You’ve tried too hard. You’ve prayed too hard. So lightly child. Don’t be too harsh on yourself.
Good times will come. But look for them in moments rather than in periods. You’ll find love unexpectedly–in books, in badly scribbled notes from friends, in music that reminds of slumber parties of 3 am ending with pizza deliveries, and in people who genuinely love you for how annoying you are, because it’s only them that you annoy so much–and sometimes you’ll find love from where you expect, those close cushions of support who cry when you cry but help you turn into a rock when you need them.
So lightly my child. Talk long walks along the paths that you’ve known all your life to clear your head but don’t hesitate to find newer paths every once in a while and make new memories with yourself. Know that the longest you’re ever going to be with, is yourself. So learn to love your company, and don’t ever hesitate being seen alone sitting in the cafe reading a book, drinking your coffee and nodding at people–it’s the most charming thing ever. Few people, if ever, are brave enough to be sitting alone all on their own enjoying their little solitude.

You don’t have be brave all the time my child. It’s okay to cry when you’re down. But it’s okay to smile too–in moments, in gaps between nothingness and everything; while lipsynching your favorite song and the memory that comes with it, while stumbling upon your favorite lines from a book randomly scrolling. It’s okay to smile while heading home after a long exhausting day. It’s okay to live your life my child. Lightly. Ever so lightly…

 

PS: unedited.

Inspired from Island by Auldous Huxley.

Black, White and Gray

Crossroads

Roads closed

Dreams of faceless people.

Darkness,

Or absence of light,

Tests that determine nothing that was mine.

Patience,

Endurance,

All that false pretense,

Of things that would be,

and people who will change.

Everything, that has been,

Is a mass of contradictions.

Love what we trust, or trust what we love?

It’s a shame it’s all come down to it all over again.

 

 

Hopeless patterns

There was a pattern,

always a pattern

In the books read, recent playlists played,

Colors of weather and unwritten letters,

Badly scribbled notes under the mattress of the bed.

There was a pattern in the first said words of that broken conversation—if only you knew

Those tucked away pictures hidden from the world,

And tickets that were never used to fly 7000 miles away.

There was a shameless pattern in all the words unsaid, all the endeavors to make you break away

In the first days when seasons changed—the leaves falling off or turning green,

There were patterns in the first fall of snow and my perfect summer dream,

There were patterns in the waves of the ocean that connected lands in between.

There were perfect patterns in the winds that blew; signs if only you knew.

But oh well, never mind

Why did it matter?

When our minds were always a mess, a hopeless clatter.