me the scatterbrained …

Orlando ·
It was one of those mornings that dawn so quietly after a restless night.
It started raining in the afternoon – a nonstop drizzle that drenches your soul, makes you restless and you walk from room to room – treading softly, not making a sound. I stood by the window and watched the rain water coming in the patio giving the illusion of a flowing river. Front yard was soaking wet too. Rose petals were strewn all over the grass.
And night! restless night when you just lie still and listen to the falling rain – on the roof, against the window, knocking on the door with its soft fingers. Time keeps ticking and suddenly there is dawn nudging you to get up.
It was raining all day today too and it was raining in parts of Pakistan too, so I heard. I smiled. yes, I smiled. Suddenly that unexplained feeling of loss was no more. We were in each others company. Who cares if the distance of miles was in thousands. We were close, we were together enjoying the rains. In far corners of life we all reached out and touched.

زندگی میں شہد آگیں ،پھولوں سے مہکتے وقت کی چاہت ہر کوئ کرتا ہے مگر حقیقت کچھ اور ھوتی ھے ۔ جو جس کے لئے ہے بس وہی ہے۔
نہ اُس سے زیادہ نہ کم ۔ تنہا ئ کا مارا شکستہ دم مسافِر رکتا ضرور پے مگر جا نتا ہے کہ منزل کہیں اور ہے ۔ ۔ منزل ، جو کبھی نہیں آتی اور سفر جاری رھتا ھے
چلو کہ چل کے چراغاں کریں دیار ِحبیب
ھیں ا نتظار میں ا گلی محبتوں کے مزار
محبتیں جو فنا ہو گئ ہیں میرے ند یم ۔
یہ تین سطریں کسی نطم کی ، اچھی لگتی تھیں ، اِن کو پڑ ھنا اچھا
لگتا تھا ، سنانا اچھا لگتا تھا ۔ ز ندگی اور اُس کی تفہیم کے ساتوں در ابھی اجنبی تھے مگر پھر بھی چھوٹے چھو ٹے غم تھے ، چھوٹی چھوٹی خوشیاں تھیں ، ملال تھے ، خیال ہی خیال میں محبتوں کے مزار کبھی بنتے کبھی بگڑتے رہتے اور ایسی نطمیں دِلوں کو اُداس کر دیتیں ۔ ۔ اُداسی ، نا پائیدار اُداسی !
آداس تو اِس نے آج بھی کر دیا ھے ، معنی وہی ، دُکھ اور ملال کی کیفیت وہی ۔ ۔ ۔ کہیں کُچھ ہو گیا ہے ۔ کہیں کوئ ناخوش ہے ۔
بہت !!
میرے پاس کچھ اور نہیں
بس یہی چند حرف ہیں
جو لفظ بناتے بگاڑتے
معنی سمجھتے سمجھاتے
پھر حرف بن جاتے ہیں ۔
آج کا دِن چمکتے غبار کے جیسا تھا مگر ہوا بہت ٹھنڈی تھی کہیں جانے کو ہوا ہی نہیں ۔ نہ جھیل پر نہ ساحل کی طرف ۔ کتاب پڑھنے کا دِن !! اچھا لگتا ہے یہ بھی ۔
2 مارچ 2013

Orlando ·
Saw my swans, my beautiful swans
gliding in blue waters.
I scooped the beauty and planted in my heart!
I saw the name
etched on my morning window
suddenly my heart gave a leap, the surge was very strong.
I reached the sky and kissed the morning blue.
The rosy cheeks of dawn blushed even more.
In my garden, walking on the emeralds
I touched the daisies
and whispered to their fragrance
ride the air
reach the far corners
the book is waiting to be writ.
3: 32
March 8, 2015

غبارِ ِ راہ ! رستے کی دھول مٹی ، کاروان کے گزر جانے کے بعد کا گرد باد ، غبار !
پروفیسر نعیم نے قریبا” قریبا” ڈانٹ دیا ” اضافتوں کا استعمال کم سے کم رکھو ۔ اچھی نژ کے لئے بہت ضروری ہے۔”
اب کوئی یہ بتائے کہ غبار ِ راہ نہ کہوں تو پھر کیا کہوں ؟ اس لفظ کی پرتیں جس طرح کھلی ہیں اس کے بعد کوئی اور متبادل ہو ہی نہیں سکتا ۔اور اگر سوچیں تو بہت ان کہی کہانیاں ملیں گی اس میں۔ کسی کو دیر میں پتہ چلتا ہے کوئی کب سے واقف ‘ حیران کھڑا ملتا ہے ۔ شائید ہر کوئی اپنے اپنے غبار ِ راہ کی خلش اپنے اندر سنبھالے ہوئے ہے ۔۔ کون جانے۔
غبار ِ راہ ! بہت افسردہ کر دیا اس نے آج ۔
اچھا شعر ‘ دن بھر میں اگر ایک بھی مل جائے ، میرے لئے وہ دن روز ِ عید سے کم نہیں ہوتا ۔اور آج کے دن کا حاصل ؟
اکیلی شام یوں گلیوں مکانوں سے گزرتی ہے
پھرے سینے میں جیسے اضطراب آہستہ آہستہ ( سرمد صہبائی)


Connections snap. But they do not die or whither away.
Time or distance never become an issue. It stays deep down in our hearts shining just the way it was the day it bloomed.
Three years, four years or an eternity – nothing comes in the way. Memories keep the ends connected. Both aware, both acutely aware for each little, tiny, speck or smudge or a wave or a sudden whiff of a fragrance – making senses come alive. Like a half finished act of being with –
It was a welcome rap. I whispered to the winds knowing they will get the message connected !
From: kitab e zindagi

All of a sudden the lights went off…
It was not the electricity that got cut off, though. The rhythm, the lyrics and the lilt that was making the singers alive, alluring and electrifying for time to hold it for other times.
And time does not fly it happens and then stands still. only people go forward, leaving it behind. And it keeps collecting more and more. Gathering , piling up, more and more!
And I met the time. Found it still standing, waiting and sad. Sad and melancholy.
Standing lost and defeated for the last three years
Three years!! Standing tall, delivering thoughts. Smiling through words. Three years cupped their hands and received the words, “wish I was there” the distance
Whispered ” to hold you , to ease the pain ” the lonely winter night sobbed and time stood helpless. Watching. Silent.
Why? The wind throws a question angrily. It had to be, had to be?
Time puts a finger on its lips and closing eyes, dips to eternity

A writer’s mind is a strange thing.
In any given day, she would yearn for a time to call her own but instead she would go through the day, keeping a conversation going on in her mind. Some thought, a story line, making a dash to her note pad to jot down something she was looking for to help move the piece she was working on — bits and pieces of moments to vent her creativity – hard to find!
And on a rare occasion, when she has a whole day to herself. House is quiet and peaceful. there is no rush of anything – no meals to prepare because everyone is out doing their stuff and if she feel hungry, she would heat some frozen vegetables, toast a piece of bread, spread some humus on it and be happy. And write till her fingers are numb.
But it never happens
Mind has changed tracks.
Or you can say, mind has a mind of it’s own and it refuses to co-operate.

کچھ تھا – کہیں کچھ ھوا تھا۔ کوئی بات تھی ضرور۔ اسقدر بے چین تھی رات۔ بادل نہ برستے تھے اور نہ ھی کھلتے تھے ۔ رہ رہ کے بجلی چمکتی اور کہیں دور، بادلوں کے اندر کہیں بہت دور ایک گڑگڑاہٹ سنائی دیتی۔ جیسے شیر، بھوکا اور ناراض شیر دھاڑنے سے پہلے غّراتا ھو۔ یا کوئی فیصلوں کی محراب میں کھڑا گڑگڑاتا ھو۔ بے چینی اور سکون کا درمیانی فاصلہ طے کرنے کی اجازت طلب کرتا ھو۔ کن فَیّکُن کے درمیان درماندہ۔!!
کچھ تھا۔ کہیں کچھ تھا!!

It’s a very cold night. A freezing cold, strong wind kept blowing all day. It hasn’t lost it’s strength even now. I hear it howling. strange sound – kind of; scary.
I know the county opens the shelters for the night for homeless people. But even then some die huddled under the bridges. or sleeping on park benches because they didn’t want to go to a shelter. Unreasonable fears, mental illness or … I don’t know what does not let them understand the danger of being out in the open in a cold night like it is tonight.
They are constantly on my mind.
I hope they will survive the cold.

نہ جانے کون کس کے راستے پہ چل رہا ہے
نہ پیروں کے نشاں ہیں
اور نہ کوئی چاپ اُبھرتی ہے
مگر پھر بھی کہیں کوئی سماعت
منتظر ہے ،
ہزاروں حاشیوں میں اک سنہرے حرف کُن کی ۔
میں سنتی ہوں، وہ کہتا ہے
سنو، دیکھو
تمہیں میری ضرورت ہے
میرے نغمے تمہاری نزر کرتا ہوں
انہیں رکھ لو
خزاں راتوں کی تنہائی سجا لینا
محبت گنگنا لینا
اگر پھر بھی سمندر پیاس کا سونے نہیں دے تو
تو اتنا سوچ لینا
ابھی میں جاگتا ہوں اور
ابھی کچھ اور جاگوں گا ۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔
محبت آزما لینا ۔

The world just does not revolve around me.
There is life outside of my sphere too. Countless universes where they come and go – connect – disconnect – collide – sever – get severed … or – just sit in the city of wait and wait for .. what? For nothing is nothing till it becomes something.
Forever running after our stars, desires, hopes … we do.
But The Suns keep setting and rising. Moons lose their shape, then curve and become crescents again.
A new vista opens – far and wide!
Ever expanding.
Does the center get alienated or the universes out of harmony ?


یہ “بس” کون ھے؟
کیوں روکتا ھے، کچھ کرنے نہیں دیتا، بے بسی کی انتہا
بن کر زندگی اجیرن کرتا ھے ۔ مزا آتا ھے تنگ کرنے کا؟
اگر میرے بس میں ھوتا –
تو یہ کرتا،
وہ کرتا
زندگی کچھ اور ھوتی میری
دنیا کچھ اور ھوتی ، رنگا رنگ، خوبصورت ھوتی، نا انصافی اور ظلم سے پاک
سب مل جُل کر ، خوشی خوشی ، بھائ چارے کی مثال ھوتے ۔۔۔۔
تم میری زندگی میں شامِل ۔۔۔۔
تو کس نے روکا ھے ؟
“بس – میرا بس۔۔۔”
کوئ اور نہیں – بس – میں ھوں، بس’ ھم خود ھیں۔
“اگر ھو بس میں تمھارے تو بھول جاؤ ھمیں ”
کیوں بھئ، کیوں بس میں نہیں ؟ کہو تو آج، ابھی بھول جائیں !
مگر شائید نہیں۔
یہ ‘ بس ‘ کی کوئ اور قِسم ھے !

i love my dreams …

I love my dreams. They are not always rosy and nice, but I love them anyhow. They give me a point to ponder, an opening to look into and find something webbed deep in something else. Once I wrote a story based on one of my dreams. I think dreaming is fun and it is educating too. I am not obsessed with the good or bad of dreams, I just take them as interesting chapters of an equally interesting book – LIFE.

Recently my primary care physician prescribed a medication that was giving me nightmares. I am not joking. Seriously. Serious nightmares. The night I take that pill, I am sure to wake up two or three times during the night because I was having a nightmare. I get out of bed, drink water, straighten my pillows and get into bed again. The funny part is, sometimes the dream will start again from where I had disrupted it. Me disrupting my dream! So does that mean these nightmares are churned by some machine and the machine has a cycle that has to complete itself? Weird. Isn’t it?

So a call to my nice doctor. He knew the side effects but its not that everyone has the same effect. He stopped it anyways. No more nightmares but I am not yet back to my previous pattern of dreaming. No dreaming is no fun. Really.

Do these Jehadies and suicide bombers dream? Can they? If they do; then of what? Dead bodies? – blown away body parts? – blood? – destruction? – carnage? But this is what nightmares are made of.

I wonder if they were devoid of feelings and emotions. Do they never fall in love? wish to spend life with someone? be part of someone’s life? Do they know what beauty is? And dreaming about a beloved’s face is so beautiful! Puts a smile on your face that you carry with you the whole day. Oh, do they know what they are missing in life!

I value my dreams. They keep me sane and give me sensibility.

my firsts of august …

My “firsts” of August,

It was beautiful and magnificent.
Tall and big.
I had never seen anything like that.
When I saw the Eiffel Tower the first time, I just flipped.

We were in Paris for a week. Iqbal Rizvi sahab’s French driver was supposed to pick us from our Champs-Elysees – again Rizvi sahabs vacation apartment – to take us to louver museum. And then to St. Peter’s Cathedral.

I told him to just deposit us at the museum and we would do the rest of sight seeing on foot. Like a true French man he would not speak in English , just nod the head to let us know he understood what we were saying. In one full week he never once uttered an English word and did exactly what was told him to do. We were warned about that before hands.

“It is below a french people to adopt another language to talk “


ants and ants …

Back home after hours and hours of just – killing the time. reason? Fumigation before the rainy season sets in. We already have daily thunderstorms that some times garajtey hein par barastey nahin 🙂
And what ever rainfall we are getting has disturbed the ants colonies. Already we we have an – kind of – onslaught of ghost ants. They are such sneaky ummm s. And they love sneaking on me and then’ ready… go. there, they bite me; me, the person who has such fear of ants. We have another kind here, called fire ants. If they bite you then God help. For a week you will be scratching like crazy……….. no matter what you apply, they will take their course before subsiding slowly.

They are actually quite a bad lot. If you don’t take care of your yards, they would start building their colonies. we call them ant hills. If – God forbid – you hit that hill , before you know it they would already be crawling up half your body. And you know what? they probably have some secrete password. The queen ant would say that and all those already crawling on you would lock their jaws on your flesh, That is the exact time you would let out a blood curdling scream and start jumping like a mumbo jumbo dancer…

I got bit by a single so called fire ant and had to be rushed to emergency room. I got shot after shot and the nurse kept working on me to keep me awake.That was some ant bite!!

We are safely back home.
Hello friends.
Hope you all are good


the enchantress …

The Enchantress.

Poor girl lost her life. I feel sorry for her. Whoever or what ever she was is none of my concern. My concern is she was a pretty faced human being. Pretty inside too or not? I have no authority to decide. But like any other human being she had a right to live; and die a natural death. Did an one ask the brother who gave him the right to decide an adult’s – that happened to be his sister – fate. Every sensible, person with a conscience is fed up with these self styled keepers of faith, honor and religion.

And why doesn’t anyone say anything about people who were streaming her photos lying beside these moulvies , selfies of various stages of intimacy and people on the sidelines doing hai hai look at this be sharam and giving her bad names free hand!. Then there are some being more self righteous and remembering how people 1300 years ago used to kill their daughters . Give me a break friends, this was a Pre-Islamic practice. It was the Prophet of Islam who put a ban on it. Please understand that these goon who are ravaging towns and cities and countries have no Fiqh. No Faith. What they preach and practice is NOT Islam. They are nothing but a plague.

Then there is another group calling Qandeel Baloch a Pakistani kim kardashian? A what ? Excuse me ?? Is it some kind of a medal? Oh bow your heads people, she looked like Kim K.. This is called inferiority complex if anything. To liken yourself to some gori actress/ model/ cheapster to prove your worth, your sale ability?

I feel nauseous reading all this … feel like throwing up. Where is our self respect people! Value her for her, not for some foreign name brand! Be proud that you had a home grown bold and fearless enchantress. Not like someone who in her own country is a butt for jokes

I feel strongly averse to the practice of pairing people with rich and famous. Like this will give some shine if they rub with some celebrity. Pathetic – is what comes to my mind. Why can’t we stand on our two feet and assert proudly – this is me.. yes this is me and I am proud of who I am. Period.



4th of Shawwal 1437.


This year, the Eid was on July 6/2016 after 29 days of fasting. It was tough fasting in this heat, when any given day the temp. is hovering around 96/97 degrees F. We in the western countries are still better off than our other Muslim Families in Pakistan where load shedding and water scarcity has made life a punishment. And the scariest part of the situation is : there is no hope of any improvement .
11:40 Morning.
Ramadan, 22/

This is the third year, I am repeating this small segment of my mind. It sometimes scares me how monotonous life sometimes looks but does it feel monotonous too?
Over the period of these three Ramadans, I do not see much difference from one to the other. From moon sighting to first sehri to first breaking of fast is the same all over again, and again. or maybe it’s so for the ‘veterans’ and different for younger ‘crop’ who embrace every new thing with a wide eyed wonder.

So is there any notable change? Well… yes and no. Yes, my son got married. Yes, my lovely granddaughter is not wavering in her resolve to keep fasting the whole month. MashaAllah. Her chacha, at age seven was asked why he is not keeping a roza like other friends his age? That seven year old child startled me with his reply.

” I am going to fast all my life after it is wajib. So why do it now when it is not wajib” True to his words, he has never missed one, after he reached the age when fasting became obligatory to him.

(Previous year)

Its not that I have stopped thinking or my mind is on strike. But during this time of Ramadhan, I am trying to have a peek into my mind to see, and match the previous Ramadhan. Its amusing to note the changes .. hum wohi, tum wohi magar ….,
ثبات ایک تغیر کو ھے زمانے میں

So how is life?
Life says I is fine; thank you.
Month of Ramadhan is almost here. My younger son has already started fasting. He was telling me that during lunch hour he goes to their Conference Room if it is not in use at that time; and his Kindle gives him company. Kindle definitely has integrated in our lives.

I sometimes wonder if we are heading towards eliminating speech and start communicating only via text, and such.

In early sixties when TV came to our house, I was upset because suddenly evening activities were decided around TV viewing. Family get to-gathers were restricted, rerouted or rare. Come evening and the family would sit around the set, watching something or the other. Evening walks became history.
Then came the Internet and the world was not the same anymore. Whatever little semblance of the old world was there – GONE!

No complains. On-line ‘thingy magic’ has many benefits too. When I received my first Kindle, I was a little weary. Letting go of paper books was hard. The smell of a leather-bound book is so exhilarating! I am not joking but having a book in my hands was an ultimate ‘High’. It still is. But I am also used to reading on Kindle now. Right now I have 18 books on it. If I think about the paper books, I also have to think about space. And to say the least, my two four shelf each, big book cases are brimming. There is absolutely no space for even a thin volume. Then there is the question of cost. Its about half the cost of a paper book. Sometimes even less. My Amazon buddy works for me like a network of libraries. I have set-up an account with them. So any book is just a click away. Only regret is, I cannot order Urdu books from them and there are hoards of Urdu books that I would like to read. But getting a book from Pakistan is not easy. Funoon, an Urdu, literary magazine was sent to me from Karachi in the middle of June. We are approaching middle of July and it is still somewhere on its way.

Girls are busy today. They were already on the breakfast table when I went to the kitchen for my cup of tea. empty glasses of chocolate milk pushed aside, heads touching, they were busy on I-Pad. They looked up, gave me a smile, said salaam to me and then – I was dismissed! They went back to what they were reading and enjoying. My lovelies!!

I wish love, compassion, peace and a prosperous future to all the children of the world.

July, 9, 2013
10:56 in the morning.




i love writing …

I love writing.
Once Professor Nagi asked “… what would you be doing if not writing stories? ” I would still be writing stories, I just blurted out. He peered from under his brow but didn’t say anything. Only a girl at the back seats guffawed. I have no idea she laughed at my stupidity or the professor being out witted by a student. I didn’t even ask after the class was over.
Such are precious little memories that hearts cherish.

Writing is my love. And I know that I write well. But I never stop and wait for some applause. Once some one sent a detailed article that he had written about my Kraft along with a letter to – ‘any’ editor, and asking me to send that to any magazine of my choice. No sir, I cannot do that. So it is still with me, resting in my papers. If ever I could bring myself to type that long article in Urdu, I will add it to my website, that I promise, but sending it out does not feel right.
Here is a friend – Nisar Sheikh – who wrote this short piece appreciating two of my stories.

Dear Riffat !

Yesterday my composer sent your both afsanas composed in INPAGE for my proofing of his composed work. I read your both stories in one go and I was very much impressed by your style,the themes the imagery.the situation,The back ground,the dialogues and the Anti-climax of Gunnah.

I wonder how could you visualize such a situation for SAIEY. I too had the opportunity to watch these poor emigrants from the third floor window of my hotel in Dubai,clad in navy blue uniform,walking briskly to a dirty but cheap restaurant at rear road of my hotel, for their lunch . I could only pity them but could not develop a story out of it as you have knitted.The lust for money and hunger of sex has very beautifully been described by you in this story. But I still fail to understand your source of observation.If it is an imagination,it is simply superb.

Again in Gunnah your observation is having unlimited depth and truth.while describing the events and carving your characters.It has a touch of class and only a very mature writer can create such articulate expression. I guess you wrote this story Gunnah when you had just completed your Masters in Urdu. Or you had ample time in your university classes to sit and pen down such type of master piece .. Oh , Yes the Anti- climax is most stunning. This alone is flaggship of your story to distinguish and excel it from others.

Unfortunately I am not gifted with the talent of a critic.So I can not select the right words and the usual appreciation phrases for your both Afsanas.However I can commit that I have never read such stories with such unique plots.and themes.

Thank you for providing me a rare chance to read such wonderful stories.

Thank you Nisar janab smile emoticon


a poem …

Niaz Betab is destined to make a name for himself one day; so I believe.

Creative writing is a craft – crafting thoughts into words and like all crafts, this one also needs dedication, perseverance and hard work. If he can take up this challenge, then the road to success is there, beckoning him

Like all creative writers he likes to have an audience to listen or read his latest piece. A couple of days ago he messaged and sent a link, asking me to read his new poem – “ The Gravedigger” what a formidable name, I thought. But still I read it. The first reading didn’t open anything that would make some lasting impression. I left it on the ‘burner’ to ‘slow cooking’ and the ‘aroma’ started wafting. I picked up the poem again at night and slowly, read it to the end and decided that this definitely is an outstanding poem of resistance.

Like all resistance poetry, “ The gravedigger” tells the reader something ( atrocities in Balochistan) and confirms something (killings and kidnappings) that the reader already knows.

“ ……

I started digging a well out of this earth
To water my village
But each time, every time, I miserably fail
For my tools deceive me (his teary-eyes directing mine toward his hands)
Or perhaps our (Baloch) land likes the opposite
You see, each time I start for a well
I’m condemned to end up with a grave
Thus graves all around!”

“water” symbolizes life and prosperity which is denied to the people.
For my “tools” “deceive” me(his teary eyes directing mine toward his hands)
“hands” is yet another meaningful symbol.
“ or perhaps our (Baloch) land likes the opposite”

All of these in my view are meaningful symbols and tell the inside story of Balochistan. Resistance poetry tries to engage the reader’s mind to think – not just’ thoughts’ but to think in actual, decipherable, easy to comprehend thoughts in words. Words that could be spoken out loud and understood by all; and I think this is what the writer is doing here.

“We turn to poems most urgently, perhaps just when we feel that our choice among course of action(in public matters or elsewhere) is no choice at all, and that nothing we do in a world wholly outside ourselves can resolve the genuine conflict we face “ (Stephan Burt)

There is so much more in this poem and to understand and appreciate that, one needs to read it carefully.

Riffat Murtaza
Orlando, Florida.

In the evening dust It was a heap of shadows But as I approached It rose to an old man His face bathing in tears – big, dark, menacing, droplets Tears of defeat, tears of despair, helplessness…

words cannot die …

“There is no friend as loyal as a book.”

(Earnest Hemingway.)

I was in high school when I fell in love with his books and to this day, they are a source of awe and respect, for his use and respect for ‘words.’

In those days every month American Traveling Library vans used to visit schools and colleges once a month. It was through those libraries that I was introduced to American Literature. “A Farewell To Arms” was the first book that I was issued by the driver of the van who was also a librarian + the attendant to help around the books. His name was Ken and he could speak in Urdu too. Maybe in their archives, they still have a picture of a young girl checking out a hoard of books from the shelves. On one visit there was a photographer on board who took photos of the students coming in to borrow books. On next visit, we were presented the library magazine with pictures of the students in the narrow space between bookshelves. It was here, in this traveling library that I was introduced to Hemingway.
Even when I had exhausted everything by him, available in that van, my hunger for his prose was not satiated.

Over the years, his style of writing has influenced many writers and it still retains that power. When not writing, he was pursuing some adventure. Sometimes game hunting in Africa or bullfighting in Spain. He also loved deep-sea fishing in Florida. Worked as a war journalist too – He was a reporter on the Spanish Civil War. He lived a life to its fullest – as large as his creative talent was. Here is something I am copying from an old journal that I kept on him adding things that I read and liked about him :

…. “When asked by George Plimpton about the function of his art, Hemingway proved once again to be a master of the “one true sentence”: “From things that have happened and from things as they exist and from all things that you know and all those you cannot know, you make something through your invention that is not a representation but a whole new thing truer than anything true and alive, and you make it alive, and if you make it well enough, you give it immortality.”
This was the most meaningful entry in my journal and all through my creative writing time, I have followed these lines as my ‘ mantra’

Now that we were living in Florida, not going to Key West and and visiting the place called Hemingway House was – in my eyes – unforgivable. So one warm morning we started from Orlando and drove straight six hours to the destination. Our hotel was on Duval Street, not far from his house. The house is now turned into a museum and is a tourist destination.

We Visited the house the next day. Earnest Hemingway house in Key West where he lived and wrote his novels. Wow!! Reading his books, in my high school time, I never in my wildest dreams, dreamed that one day I will breathe in the same space, he once owned and lived – his home! It was an experience to remember for all times. I went to his study which was on the second floor, his writing desk and chair – a wooden chair. A serious writer never goes for comfortable, cushy chairs – I know that. There was a book display showing the books that were owned by him. Our guide explained that there was a second story walkway connecting the study to the Master bedroom. It was not there anymore. She did explain why it was not there any more but I am not sure about the details.

We saw the six and seven toed cats. These are the descendants of of the cats owned by Hemingway. They are a big tourist attraction. They live on the premises, roam around the grounds where tropical trees and plants are growing and they are protected by Animal Protection Agency.

The most interesting feature of the house is the swimming pool with a shiny penny embedded in concrete near the pool. The story goes like this that Hemingway wanted to have a swimming pool in the house, but it was just an idea when he talking to a reporter who was interviewing him. It was during the time he went away, as Spanish Civil War reporter, that his third wife Pauline had it built. It cost a huge amount of money for those times. When Hemingway came back, he was not happy to learn how much money Pauline had spent on it. He gave her a penny saying “well, you might as well have my last cent.” That penny is now smiling there, embedded in the cement and bringing smile to every face listening to this story.

After the tour, I sat in the porch for some time. That was an intense existential moment. But a cat peacefully, was sleeping under the shadow of a low tree. Another, a little further down the drive way was licking her six or seven toed paw and tropical plants still were growing on the far edge of a lush yard, swaying in the Tropical breeze. There was also a book lined shelf in the house behind me, only a master story teller’s vacant chair, pulled near a writing desk, was reminding, that the story teller had long gone.

But then there was also a penny holding that moment it exchanged hands and went down the immortality rout. People coming from far away lands, when see the shining penny, they smile and they think about this larger than life man. That is the moment he comes to life. And when they go back a living memory goes back with them.

Am I trying to appease my angst? No, I do not think so. Because there are words I am talking about. Yes. Words.
And words cannot die.


a compassion called agony …

A friend from Pakistan screamed. The scream was loud enough to reach from across the oceans to the shores of Florida without any telephonic help.

“oye, stop writing about your American holidays. Stop confusing my clueless ‘hum-watanon ko… you are doing a huge dis-service. Making them act like headless – clueless – directionless robots.”

“ What happened?” I asked, wincing at that shrill voice boring in my ear, “and calm down… stop shouting. You would even raise the dead with your shrieking.”

She calmed down.

“Okay, what have I done this time that has agitated you so? “ I asked

“ Look my bholey bhaley humwatan are already confused about their identity. These ‘shaitan and shatir shit-bag politicians are also playing tug of war with their sensibilities. Poor dears have been fooled many times and are still being fooled by the likes of Zardaris and Sharifs. Now with Qadri and Imran Khan joining hands and showing already victimized public the new ‘sabz baaghs’, things are not getting any better. So why confuse them further?”

What have I done – you didn’t answer that”

Mr. St.Valentine has already landed here. Ab koun poochhey in mindless logon sai keh yeh Valentine tumhara chach, mama thha kia? I am asking why insert alien customs in our tradition? Its people like you living in amreeka , in wilaiyat who are sending wrong vibes to my country. “

“ You are rambling.”

“ No I am not.” she thundered again.
“ Chalo maan lia… there is no harm in celebrating a mother’s day. Celebrate this day the year round – each day and every day. Not just one day in a year. But a Valentine’s day?”

“ No, I do not do that. Not Valentines day.”
“then why feed it to my people?”
“ No, I never did that either.”
“ Why not?”
“ A strange question coming from you. Love is not for advertising. It’s a bond between you and the person you love. You show it with your actions, honoring the person, treating with respect and compassion, understanding. Love is not just leading towards the bedroom … which has become the sole purpose of this day.”

“Hmmmm, yes, true.

“If only I could tell my fellow citizens that Valentines day does not suit you? You are used to raping, abusing, burning and mistreating women, why make a show of a fake emotion? First learn to respect a female. Otherwise this would be just one more venue, opened for the predators to operate from. We do not know what love and compassion and respect is. So why bother? Right?”
She took a big gulp of air to fill her lungs.
“ But no, if it’s not you then there is someone else oohing and aahing about your amreeki stuff.
“ Are you done?” I squeaked?

“ No, I am not yaar, or maybe I am. Everyday I die a little more. Every day a new wave of dishonesty, maltreatment,bigotry, killing of innocent and Mulla geeri lines up for inspection… See, look, yes look at us, I am your Watan that people died for… Your Pakistan – the land of pure.”

“ Yes, I am sorry, things are tough. My voice was a bit stronger this time

“So stop contributing to this sorry state of affairs. One more word about your next  eid called  Thanksgiving and I am banishing you from what little circle of friends I keep.”

“ But it is a purely American tradition, my dear. Nothing to do with your azeez ham-watanou! Aren’t they already thanking Almighty five times a day?”

“ That is exactly the point.” She thundered again.
“That is exactly the point. These badesi traditions and myths are cluttering our culture – not that I am demeaning your tradition. But my people, taking some from here and some from there are fast forgetting their own tradition, their myth, their identity. With the rate of following other cultures, my people are losing their ‘Shanakht’ – self respect. Do you understand what that means?”

“ Yes I do. But you are also missing my point. This is just a historic, American Christian tradition that people celebrate. It was the year 1623 when the crops were harvested and they were found to be in abundance. So the Governor of Plymouth Plantation proclaimed a day in November and told every one to gather at the Meeting House to listen to the Pastor and show the Thanksgiving spirit to God.
That is the ‘myth’ the honorable tradition we remember and honor by celebrating the spirit of welcoming and sharing and thanking.”

“ So if it is a christian tradition then why do you follow it? “

Well we have so many names for Almighty. Haven’t we? So keeping with the American tradition we Thank Almighty Allah for His Blessings on this historically documented day.

“It’s all nice and lush for you.” She paused.
“ I am tired.”
And with that she went off the line.

I am not callous, I have a compassionate heart. I understand her agony.