Posted in Words

The Moon of Sham e Ghareeban

The moon I asked one night if it shone just as bright,

On that dreadful night did it shed as much light.

When everywhere that Sakina turned to look

All she could see was blood, sobbing she shook.

She saw heads of her brothers and father, each on a spear,

That night when cries and wails were all she could hear…

Somehow, every year at Sham e Ghareeban (the night of the  homeless), the moon catches my eye. It’s the moon of the eleventh night and is always shining bright. I am usually on my way to a majlis or on my way back from one, tired from the previous night of majlises and the entire day of azadari. And this night in Karbala, thirteen hundred and eighty-two years ago, is on my mind when I notice the moon on these nights.

On this night, when I see the moon, I wonder if this moon on that night all these years ago had shone just as bright. Did it… even after the tents were burned away in fires? Could the moon show itself after Qamar e Bani Hashim (Bani Hashim’s moon) had fallen near the river Euphrates? After the family of the Prophet lost the light of their eyes, their beloved Imam, along with their brothers and children, did the moon light up the sky as it does now?

There’s a nauha, asking the sun, the same one that shone on Ashur, to tell us what happened that day, and I think of that nauha as I ask the moon what it saw that night after everything that could have happened, had happened and nothing was left. And again I ask, did it shine the only light left, after the flames had died? Or did it hide its light behind the clouds so that the women of the holy family who would be paraded in bazaars after this day could remain covered for at least one more night…

P.S – after I wrote this, I discovered a marsiya addressing the moon of Karbala, it’s much nicer than what I wrote and it’s so much more descriptive too. Here’s the link in case you want to listen to it: Aay chand karbala kay – Prof Sibte Jafar – HadiTV Here’s the link for the nauha addressing the sun: Ashur ke Suraj full nohay with lyrics

Posted in Words

But what should one do with the saved number of those who are no more?

Should the number be memorised so one can recall it when the face seems to fade away?
Should the text conversations with that number be reread in what is left of the memory of their voice?
Should the last profile picture of that number be saved to go back to every time we feel their memory slipping away?
Should everything that has been shared and received from that number be written down, printed and archived for when technology also fails you like your memory has?

Or should the number be allowed to sink to the bottom of your phone’s vast pool of data, which you dive into once in a while looking specifically for that one document or link when the need arises?
Should it be allowed to flow away into the streams of virtual oblivion where this number can remind you of those no longer here when you least expect it?

Or do we just erase them from our phones the same way that they have been physically taken away from us too soon?

Posted in Words

Why I write…

I wrote this piece a while ago that I called “Why I Can’t Write…”. I feel like this requires a follow-up, since I am writing, nothing great I know, but I am writing something all the same.

I was telling a friend about the indescribable relief I felt after having written about something particularly close to me, something that confused and bothered me. I’d said that I could not put into words the relief of finally giving words to this feeling. And as soon as these words left me, I realised that this was exactly what I should be trying to do. It was exactly what I had been doing all this while.

I would write about the stuff I felt, wouldn’t I? The stuff that I felt had not been put into words the way I felt it… I put those into words myself. Why should this feeling that “I could not put into words” be any different? It would be a challenge, of course, but a healthy and fulfilling one. One that would explain to me why I did write.

It makes sense to start this by describing the relief I feel at writing, since I have already gone on about it for a while. Writing is relieving, relieving because tangled thoughts are untangled as they are given words. Conversations do this too, but that would give my thoughts an audience before I am able to completely understand them myself and not all my thought are ready for or worthy of an audience. It is relieving to put my thoughts where I can review them, where I can make sense of them from the outside. Where it isn’t just in my head anymore.

I write to explain myself. When words fail me in a conversation, when I don’t know what to say anymore, but I have the need to say it. I write. I write what I cannot tell you. I write what I need to tell you. I write what I need you to understand.

Of course, I know you will not understand what I write in the exact same sense that I write it in, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not going to try. In fact that makes me want to write even more. Because now I can use my words to be as clear as I want, where I want you to understand me, and to be as vague as I can possibly get where I wish to remain ambiguous but also to be known to some extent.

I write to be known. No not to be famous, just to be known… There’s this quote about how in order to be loved, you must submit to the mortifying ordeal of being known. And I don’t think there is anyway anyone can claim to know me without reading what I write. I write, and let you read what I write because like God created to be known, so do I.

Posted in Words

Welcome, Unwelcome Visitors from the Past

I’ve heard a lot of talk around unresolved traumas recently. Another important topic that deserves the attention it gets now. We go through our lives, brushing away things that hurt us, pushing aside events that affected us, as we get busy in our lives and don’t have the time to deal with these silly things that distract us from our productive normal lives. We jump over these obstacles, stumbling on our way, but rushing on ahead without checking ourselves for bruises and wounds. This works fine, or seems to at least, but as we stumble through life like this, forgetting to give ourselves the time to heal our wounds and bruises, a small fall that hits an injured spot can leave us in unexplainable pain.

Unexplainable because we never paid attention to the wounds we got as we stumbled the times before this. We are left wondering why this small fall has left us in so much pain. Other times, we only realise we are in pain when we lay down to rest. We run through the events of our day or recent life, trying to find an explanation for why it all hurts so much and why we are so exhausted. It is only when the pain hits us all at once that we stop to look for its cause, and that when they come in. These unwelcome memories of things past that we brushed away and pushed aside as we stumbled on ahead.

Sometimes we ignore these visitors, and leave them out on the doorstep, and we hope to ourselves that out of sight truly does mean out of mind, but does it? Other times we struggle to keep these unwelcome visitors out, exhausting ourselves further by fighting against these strong intense memories that demand our attention. At times, we do let these memories in, once we tire of holding out against them and just let them come in and wreck havoc, and do the damage we were scared of, when we pushed them away the first time. But, when we welcome these unwelcome guests, when we sit down to tea with them, when we ask how they’re doing and why they came, we realise that the pain they brought along with them was because they wanted to be seen, they didn’t know how else to catch our attention, since we had been ignoring ourselves as we rushed on in life. Welcome these unwelcome visitors from your past, to learn that the pain was not as much from the falling as it was from us ignoring it for so long. Welcome them so they get the attention they need to move on.

Posted in Words

Kaju Pudi

Holidays, Hyderabad
Charminar, Chudiyaan
Dada, Dukaan
Kaju, Kishmish, Phule chane, Misri.
“Beta aur kuch?”
“Can I have some pistas too?”

Kaju pudi.

What for almost ten years was my favourite thing about Hyderabad. It is a small cone of newspaper filled with Kajus, some misri and kishmish to satisfy a kid’s sweet tooth and phule chane ki daal (because for some reason it takes its place next to misri, wherever misri goes. I still find that annoying. The joy of picking out misri from a dry fruit mixture is ruined by the similar size of phule chane). Whenever something had to be sent home from the dukaan, dada would send in some kaju pudis too. One for each of us.

Sometimes we’d walk with Dada as he went back to the dukaan after his post-lunch nap. He’d let us wander peeking into the sacks and rummaging through the shelves. He’d then take a square of newspaper, make a small cone out of it, and make us a kaju pudi. Going to the dukaan meant we could customise it, ask for extra kishmish and some badaam, pista and anjeer too. Then he’d pack the pudi, sometimes with an extra square of newspaper if we asked for the pudi to be filled more than it could hold.

One of the bhaiyyas who worked at the dukaan would then drop us home, walking with us as we would carefully open and start picking things from our pudis on the way back home. Carefully picking the phule chane out first, so that if anything was to fall from our fingers as we were eating while we walked, it would be the phule chane that no one cared about. The good bits, like the kishmish and the pistas were to be savoured on the steps to the terrace once we got back home.

Posted in Poems

Balanced

You hide it, yet I know
I can see it in the winces you suppress,
I can hear it in your disguised sighs,
In fact, I can feel it in the way you breathe…

You keep your pain from me
Maybe because you know,
That I’d memorize each inch of the road,
Make sure no bump nor hole
Would cause you pain again.
I’d mend every road and way;
Every path you may ever have to take
For you, if I could I’d do it today.

Let me protect you,
At your pace, as you did for me…
No, our roles haven’t reversed,
They’ve balanced.

Posted in Words

Why I Can’t Write…

More often than not, I can’t write. I think about all the things that I can put into words, things that I want to put into words, things that are waiting to be said, things that some people perhaps might be waiting to hear. But in spite of the fact that I can think these things, I can’t seem to put them into words. They float around, these ideas very barely defined, only just making sense to me. And I play around with these ideas for days or even months, waiting for the words that can shape these ideas to come to me. 

Other times though, I have the words to write, they flow like tiny droplets of water down a windowpane, sometimes taking a course I hadn’t expected, sometimes merging with another drop on the way, but always progressing with some sense of direction, making sense at the end. But even in this case, there are times when I can’t write. Perhaps that’s because these ideas and the way they word themselves, give away too much about me. The way these words flow makes me feel like those 2 am conversations do, the ones where you talk about stuff you hadn’t known you had opinions about, the things you didn’t know you remembered, the life lessons you never knew you learnt.  And all these words in my head, waiting, ready to be written, remain there because while 2 am conversations are dialogues, this one-sided 2 am conversation is like performing to an invisible audience. It’s like being left on ‘seen’.

Besides, even though art exists independently of its creator, an artist remains tied to his art (fancy isn’t it? Calling yourself an artist when you can barely put your thoughts down coherently..) Once you’ve seen someone through what have created, is it possible to ever unsee the person that creates?

And what if the things I write, I do not agree with, the very next day? Is it okay to leave something out there with your name attached to it that you don’t even believe as the truth? What if my opinion on something is wrong? Just plain wrong, because its unethical or inaccurate or inappropriate in a way I hadn’t noticed while I was writing? All these issues and insecurities with putting what I think into words. Sometimes I wonder whether it’s worth all the worry…

Posted in Words

Tell Me Why…

What is it called when the men around you simply assume that some thing may be coarse, uncomfortable or unpleasant for you? What drives them to think this I wonder. I thought to list out my guesses here, but I won’t since anyone reading this may choose one of these to use as a reply when asked why men do these things.

But, tell me honestly, why do the men around me say things like, “take some biscuits to eat when you have the chai, its too strong for you”, “disclaimer, this video has cuss words”, “bikes are too heavy, you might have trouble with it”, “this is a little spicy, I’m not sure you’ll like it”…

What makes you think that a certain chai is too strong for me, or that I wouldn’t want to watch a movie that has some violence, or that I can’t tolerate spice, or any other thing for that matter…

Do you make these same “considerations” when talking to other men? Do you warn them about how they might get lost if they go for a half an hour walk? Or that some clothes may not be comfortable for them? Or that they may get sleepy if something is a little late at night?

Again I’m tempted to list out possible reasons for this treatment, but I don’t want to suggest a response. I’m not asking you to stop doing this, some times and for some things it is nice. But that would also depend on why you do this. As I said, all I want to know is why? Tell me why you do it… I’m really curious to know.

Posted in Words

Carpet

In the TV show “Four more shots please” Umang says that her family sweeps everything under the carpet and that’s how they maintain their peace.

I wonder though, don’t carpets have to be shaken out and dusted every once in a while? A carpet can’t be left gathering dust forever, even the finest of weaves will wear out if they aren’t cleaned and taken care of. And what about when you eventually do shake out the carpet? The dust gathered under the carpet would then suddenly be flying all over the place. What of the big mess that would create? How can all that be cleared in one go? Is a dirty carpet and that is about to fall apart better than this mess? Or should dirt never be swept under the carpet at all, and the dust be cleaned up everyday? Isn’t that too much work to maintain a carpet? How does one decide if having a carpet is worth it at all?

Posted in Poems, the things i fear

Reflections

I look at you expecting a loving and concerned gaze.
As I look at you now, I wonder why, no…
Not why, I wonder when you fell from divinity.
No longer a deity, just another being I must endure.

What right have I to hold you to such high standards,
But didn’t you say “Look up to me”?
I look up to you now and what do I see?
I see frustration and jealousy, is that…
Is that a hint of hatred that I see?

Maybe my calm exterior doesn’t give away my fear…
My fear of the reflection that I see.
A reflection of you in me.