memories

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.

 

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Nostalgia

Merriam Webster defines Nostalgia as ‘pleasure and sadness that is caused by remembering something from the past and wishing that you could experience it again.’

Dictionaries are supposed to be accurate in their meanings that they provide. However, it doesn’t do justice with the word ‘nostalgia’. I’m not good with words but I do feel more than an average person does and it doesn’t feel right that nostalgia is just a ‘noun’ given to some feeling we think is bitter and sweet. Nostalgia is a past that sticks with your present and haunts you with emptiness and loss of all good things that were once yours when you so much as come to brush something vaguely similar, that might or might not be yours at present. It is that tingling sensation of hopelessness and misery that comes with knowing that you cannot go back to what you’ve lived, that seeing other people go through it will make you smile but hate that you’re not in their place again. It’s the reluctance to play that song for the fear that it would trigger those memories of goofing around at sunset at the top of your lungs blanketed in 5 layers of clothes and still shivering but not letting that moment go. Nostalgia is the fear that when you play that song, you won’t be able to believe it was you—and how an eternity seems to have passed making it an unreal fragment of memory.

Why can’t we have a time-turner? No really. Not the Harry Potter one where you could make deviations so the future is safe, but just the one where you could go back and relive it once more, just like it happened in reality—where you could experience it just like it happened the first time, those heart palpitations, those real laughters in between exam preps at 3 am in the morning to release stress of failing the next day; late night winter walks amid security situations and curfew timings and singing 90s pop songs in horrendous voices which would lead to complains the next day. I don’t know if we could call it cruel that we were once those people in photographs which are now stored in long forgotten folders somewhere in the PC waiting to be opened only when one of the us passes away. Also isn’t it strange how photographs never do justice to the memory, either being too visually bright—when the memory’s only source of light is bonfire—or being too still, hiding away all behind-the-scenes and position-settings and everyone-yelling-at-the-top-of-their-lungs-to-be-heard for taking the picture perfect? The only good photographs are the blurred ones where the moment is caught in between being and having been done. And yet it misses the frame-worthy click. Shucks.

But nostalgia is not just the moments, it’s the smells, the sounds, the playlists and those lights that make us feel a certain way that no one can explain. It’s excruciating and not pleasant despite what they tell us in books and novels. A bowl of badly cooked noodles, a cup of black coffee on a hot evening, a randomly switched channel on TV which plays Coke Studio’sKinara, a group of friends procrastinating late at night for their group project—it’s like a remake of a movie, only we’re not the main character this time. It’s almost mocking, in-your-face, déjà vu, where we have no control.

I’ve met people who move on, no longer smile at old photographs, not even look at them anymore—it doesn’t work as a stimulus for them. Would I rather be like them? Maybe. It’s a good state to be, a past no longer there to haunt with beautiful memories. Would I choose to? I don’t think so.     

 

Microsecond

 

You know that part of the second, when a sight of long lost someone reminds you of a memory buried deep in the past, a glimpse from the future, a lovely combination of things said and done, of things that might have been said but thought better of them—all those feelings in one part of the second. The feeling of loving and being loved, the feeling of being needed and needing someone and the force of attraction that stretches that one part of the second—slows it down, repeats those conversations, makes you smile and cry and hates you for feeling so much. That one part of a second—when it becomes more than a lifetime of living.

 

Book Review–Ashes, Wine and Dust

“There are no plans, just people fooling themselves by attempting to design their fates and futures. It makes them feel invincible, even if it’s for a transient period of time.”

Ashes, Wine and Dust is the debut novel of Kanza Javed, which was shortlisted for Tibor Jones South Asia Prize 2013, making her the youngest and the only Pakistani writer nominated for the prize that year.

Set in Lahore and Washington DC, Ashes, Wine and Dust is a journey of a young girl, Mariam, whose childhood experiences of loss of loved ones and memories associated with them make her feel everything a little more deeply. Thus, since her childhood, she feels more connected with the memories of her dada (paternal grandfather) and less with the rest of the family.

Memories of her childhood friends and confidants 10403138_1186536494695904_912160836046943541_nstill haunt her when she decides to leave for the US for further studies and in search for self-exploration. Thus, America awaits her with the mysterious art work of her uncle who had left her family years ago, his family who no longer cares for his work, and an unexpected incident that leaves her vulnerable in an estranged land. And while Mariam is figuring out on how to cope with her current situation, she finds out about the disappearance of her younger brother, Abdullah.

Alone in a foreign country with a brother missing, she blames herself for Abdullah’s disappearance and eventually travels back home in search of clues which might lead her to him.

As the family goes through the trauma of loss of a loved one and ultimately decides to move on albeit slowly, Mariam hangs on to the clues that Abdullah has left and vows to unite him with their family.

Javed’s Ashes, Wine and Dust is an excruciatingly beautiful read with strong characters that are often difficult to find in a debut novel. The story is gripping and engulfed in such an exuberant tone of despair and desolation of the protagonist that it keeps you in the mood even after you’ve finished the book.

The imagery of Lahore with its canals, food, colourful bazaars (markets) and backdrop of Badshahi Mosque in several scenes brings back the love of Lahore for those who have visited the beautiful city and invites those who still haven’t.

While Ashes, Wine and Dust is a powerfully gripping read till the end, it did let me down towards the end. And although the book ends with a closure, tying all its loose ends, I would have been happier had it ended on a brighter note. Nevertheless, the book is a must read of 2015.

Javed has done a wonderful job writing a novel that is unswerving, profound and painfully beautiful till the very end. Ashes, Wine and Dust would be available across Pakistan by the end of November, so get a copy of the book for a reading full of feels.

 

Average rating: 4.7/5

(This review was first published on ETribune)

False hope

False pretenses

Of moving away

When you existed right here,

long distances

Or the time, does it matter?

Old photographs when we were a team

It didn’t matter whether lost or won

I don’t even remember.

Yes, though I remember candies and school uniforms

And sunny days and dry nights

Windy and dusty,

Always the same, that they made me forget the how the time flew.

Remember peeking from windows?

Or running after children in the evenings

While birds would chirp and trees would swing,

Until they lost their home, their only safe haven?

But then it was only chaos and abyss

Until I tried to figure out what missed

Winters and rain

Would come as they did

You were forgotten and not yet

‘Cause you had your part

to play years later

when we were to be

fresh and new with perspective.

Hurt gone, injuries healed, wounds filled,

But you had to come

to melt a heart and dig the wounds anew.

Wait (Boston)

It had been an hour.

In the light of the sun, is there anyone? Oh it has begun…

The rain continued. Only it looked more like continuous showers than unpredicted rain. The street had been drenched, the puddles had formed already. Only the water in those puddles was clear as crystal.

His eyes were fixed right in front of his car—on a newly formed puddle of water. The puddle kept receiving more rain. The drops created those ripples that he had always enjoyed watching as a child. The ripple would spread wider and wider, until another drop fell at exactly the same place and the ripple would start all over again. It was like the ticking of time—only time would fly a little slower than the falling drops of rain. This wasn’t like back home.

You don’t know me, you don’t even care, oh yeah, she said…

He turned on the car’s wipers for a hundredth time when the visibility became zero again. He had to wait. He told himself. For the last time, before he left. The decision had already been made. He did not know whether it was only him who had made the decision. Yet he wished, hoped that it could change. Only one sincere request, one wishful phrase was needed to make him stay. After all this time.

Essential yet appealed, carry all your thoughts across
An open field,
When flowers gaze at you… they’re not the only ones who cry
When they see you

He almost heard the footsteps reaching, splashing through the rain, running towards the direction of his car. It was incredible that he could hear, despite the loud melancholy music. He lunged forward, almost opening the door of his car.

But he had been dreaming—in the daylight. It was not his fault. He had hardly slept for the past 48 hours. And in his defence, it was not ‘daylight’ as one would call. 3 pm as it may be, but it was as dark as a 6 o’ clock winter evening in London.

He wished the door of the front yard would open now. It had been too much to take. It could not wait much longer.

But he didn’t dare go towards the door himself. That required killing his ego for a thousandth time. He would not be able to face those eyes if he knocked the door. He would have to kill himself for the rest of his life. But more than that, those eyes would never forgive him for it. He had not forgotten the look in those eyes the last time he had tried to approach.

So he waited.

I think I’ll go to Boston…
I think I’ll start a new life,
I think I’ll start it over, where no one knows my name,
I’ll get out of California, I’m tired of the weather,
I think I’ll get a lover and fly’m out to Spain…

Why was there so much redundancy in his life? He thought as the song kept playing in the background. It had been on repeat since his two hour long drive from college.

Perhaps it talked about him. It matched so much. And yet it was so different from his own situation. He tried to keep quiet and concentrated on the rhythm of the piano. He needed peace within himself.

I think that I’m just tired
I think I need a new town, to leave this all behind…
I think I need a sunrise, I’m tired of the sunset,
I hear it’s nice in the Summer, some snow would be nice… oh yeah

The rain continued with occasional thunder. The ripples still formed. The piano kept playing. The puddles were larger than ever. The water seeped through his window and fell on his jacket. Summers had never been so cruel.

 

Until he saw the door of the front yard, at his far right side open.

 

(Feb 26, 2014)

The night

The cold breeze that touched his face was harsh, almost like a sandpaper; it reddened his cheeks and froze his nose. But he kept walking. Today was unusual unlike other days. The leaves under his Sneakers rustled the same way as they always did on every other cold December night. The fog that engulfed his surroundings at this time of night always bothered him, but today it did not. Rubbing his hands together and digging them in his pockets he headed towards the frozen lake. It was more than a coincidence that it was full moon tonight. He smiled to himself. Too many reasons to smile at oneself, he thought. Tightening the muffler around his neck, he dropped another gaze to his shoes whose laces had been tied twice in one day, something that he had been doing only once in day for 10 years no matter whatever happened. It had been a lovely gesture; something he had never expected.

He had reached the edge of the lake now. He looked at the thin frozen layer, and put one of his feet firmly on the surface of the lake which had now converted into a perfect layer of ice. Without any further thought he started walking towards the center of the lake. It had never been so easy. Either the layer had been too solid today or he felt much more confident; only two minutes and he had reached where he always wanted to be. The power of determination, he thought. Covering his neck once again with the muffler, he tapped the ice underneath him and lied down on the icy surface. It had been a great day today. The night being celebrated this way was to honor the day. He was never a person who partied when happy, since partying was too main stream. It was the company of himself alone that he yearned when he wanted to rejoice his own moments, ponder upon what’s been happening and decide where and how to move on. He knew getting away like this in the middle of the night was not easy and his friends would soon find out and say as always, ‘That lucky son of a gun got away again’ but he really needed his time to decide for his life tonight.

These times had not been easy but perhaps lying under the Milky Way, above the frozen lake had its own pros. He knew when he would get up later, the stars would be replaced by the bright sun that comes out from the other side of the mountains (that he’s been witnessing for the past four years), and he would have made the most beautiful decision of his entire life.

 

(Dec 12, 2012)

State of Colours

Point of insolvency. Studies. Music. Movies. Farewells. Rejections. Depression. And then it comes over all over again. No, don’t assume my life is only full of miseries. There are pranks, songs, discussions, arguments, ice creams and Biriyani. But again, it’s only one part of the picture. Other side is always dark, more like the rough surface of the glass which makes mirror a mirror. If it weren’t for the rough surface, you wouldn’t be able to look at yourself in the mirror.

But I was talking about the farewells. Ever wondered why these farewells happen? Are there ever any happy farewells? What would happen if we just left one day, not being able to bid farewell to anyone? People, who we love, people who love us.

I am not really sure what I am writing about. It’s an alien, unsung, obscure feeling. Feeling of dropped ice-cream on the shirt, of a missed class, a missed deadline, an unmarked quiz, a missed family. It’s like a bottomless guilty feeling when you can’t keep a record of your younger sibling’s exams, and crack your own family jokes that no one else can ever understand. It’s even more hurting that you can’t advice what your younger siblings should go for; the way you were career counselled. It’s only more remorseful. No more detailed talking because you are simply not there. It is simply like: you are nowhere. A nut would even be more satisfied with itself.

It’s a feeling when you want to cry, but tears never come out, you want to scream but your voice hurts to make a sound, you want to break all the clutter and emerge out as plain white. But all of this looks decent when you think about it or maybe write it down, I don’t know how it would look if I say it out loud. I may be better at debating, arguing and making my point about things where you need logic and make a sensible point but this may not even look sense.

Maybe I might explain myself better if I use only words rather than sentences. Sentences make things complicated. Words make it look simple and plain. Or maybe colours will make it more beautiful and honest, so I’ll just stick to colours.

Bright, shiny nail colours that I seldom put because they make me feel a lot more like a girl.

Black and white photocopied handouts whose smell makes me go crazy but no more attracts me to read them. I have conditioned myself to the surroundings I dwell.

That big white chart labelled “timetable” that I’ve pasted on my wall above my study table to remind me of the day I get free of a never ending semester.

Those blue and black ‘crosses’ I made on her feet and kept on drawing until she swore at me and told me that it was time to get admitted in the biggest mental asylum that coincidentally is located in my city.

The Dark brown stains of chocolate on shirt which were a result of late night ice-cream licking. The phenomenon explained me that it’s not only 10 year olds who lick chocolate ice-creams but 21 year old sane friend who just ‘wanted to look cute.’

Loud dark red jamming sessions of previous seasons of Coke Studio being played as late as 3 in the morning just to explain your friends how inspired you are with the Sufi music. Providing translations along comes as an additional point altogether.

Walks under the dark blue sky only so that the sky would know you were there. No more witnesses. I want to be sure I am alone.

Light blue of Twitter and dark blue of Facebook. I only think how better or worse my life would have been if they were not there. But perhaps they wonder the same.

A plain (but not colourless) text from your mom who never uses text as a medium to communicate, makes you want to leave everything, run back home and tell her the how you love her.

A dark brown coffee, hot but tasteless just made because I demanded it from a friend. No milk in it of course.

A bright coloured smile from a teacher that just made your day for no reason.

A state of black depression.

I have more colors; colours of mischief, of colors of friendship, of joint depression, of sleepless nights, of endless laughs, of exploding anger, of heated debates, of sarcastic humor, of bhangra and party, of karaoke and cheap gaanay and Qawali, and Sufism and in-process genres of melodies that we invented ourselves; of people we talked about and knew they would be talking about us. I know of colours that even nature hasn’t even named yet. Colours that we all know of, but have second thoughts about sharing them.

 

(27 May, 2012)