An existential moment

It was a rare existential moment. A sudden realization of mortality, seizing to exist. washed away , gone – with no forwarding address. Jenny was almost in tears with disbelief. Al was sitting on the far end of a sofa in the other corner of the room, head bent and a lopsided smile on his old goat face.

maybe we are sitting in a transit lounge waiting for the bus to take us to the next stop or the destination. Yousef said with a nervous laugh. Then he got up and picking his car keys from the table he went to the door. I am out of here. Too depressing. Whatever time I have , I would prefer to spend it the way I want to spend it. and when the time came, I will embrace it quietly and annihilate. Simple as that. What good is talking about something not in my hands. . then opened the door and was gone swallowed by the night. we three of us sitting, quiet and lost.

hey, don’t worry kid, There are so many other worlds out there in space. maybe we have a home waiting there for us.

Without you, there is no home. Jenny said quietly. Al, who was getting up from his perch, sat back again. This can’t be it, for heaven’s sake. she said in a hushed voice – like whispering

my silence is not silent …

My silence is not silent.
Haunted by images,
feelings and fragrances
words and their meanings
I pretend
I am silent.

Teary eyed I look into my cup half full half gone and I have no recollection when did it happen there is no taste of tea on my tongue. I had dropped some tears in it and am looking for them. My heart is heavy. I want to lie down, curl up into a ball and vanish. I think that is how mothers feel when their sons leave them. One day they just pick up their things and following their dreams they leave. Now I know how my mother in law must have felt when I let her son go in search of a better future and when he secured it, I joined him along with our first born. But we helped her improve her life , made it comfortable for her. At that time ,that was all I thought was important. Emotional side of separation never came to mind. Now I know. I know the taste, the heartache it causes.

My tea is cold. Who added salt in it ?

Earlier when waiting for the kettle to boil for tea and I was standing against the wall, looking outside at the lake. This lake is my retreat. It has seen me happy and laughing, seen me basking in the love and attention of my children. birthdays, anniversaries and just family evenings with fun and games. And it has seen me shedding tears, talking to myself, grappling with memories I would rather not remember. not sharing my grief with anyone except this calm and reassuring water body.

I was standing and looking out. Water was still quiet in the kettle. On the far side of the lake some 20 0r 30 little duck babies were floating in a tight cluster. Suddenly one of them would break away and start gliding in the opposite direction and with a flurry of movements all of them, in a formation, would follow the one that got away. The chase ending in getting together again. On this side of the lake a lone star is pecking in the water, God knows what. He is not bothered about the group. Just pecking away, whatever it is
I heard the kettle whistle. Tea on the table., boiled eggs in their cups crisp toast and jam or cheese on the side. Butter knife, small spoon, salt and pepper shakers … robotic work
but I must hide what is going in my mind and what my body is going through.
It didn’t hurt me when I had that bad fall in their parking lot. Everybody saw my bruises – black and blue . I am more blue, more achy now but I keep reminding myself over and over again –
No tears, no emotions, put your best foot forward, show a happy face, be normal, talk normal. Depression and distress are infectious. Keep them at bay.

Just remember that you are a mother. And mothers always want their children to be happy and contented.

hurricane methew …

Birds have disappeared, ducks are not to be seen anywhere and the Sand hill cranes who love to come and knock on the windows and then retreat further down to the lake and jump in the air flapping their wings like they had just cracked some joke, flew into the setting Sun yesterday. A steel grey sky is hanging low spreading anticipating quiet every where.
There is no sound. Humans are inside their homes. Windows boarded, doors locked, watching news channels. Where is Matthew now? what country it hit and mutilated; turning it into a twisted and chopped corpse. Haiti, Bahamas and now Florida shores.
And oh yes, taking stock of valuables too. Bring in the plants, prepare a shelter, beware of tornadoes …. a doomsday scenario.
No cars on the roads. All the humdrum of life just wrapped up it’s show and left. Curfew in two counties.
In the Atlantic arena, Matthew is raging, raving mad. A mindless energy. Like a carpet snake, that just came to life – Blind but focused. Untangling it’s coils and ready to pounce and devour.
Sometimes in the early hours Matthew would have a landfall near the Florida coast.
7:17 PM
WTSP’s meteorologist Bobby Deskins keeps us up-to-date on the latest Hurricane Matthew forecast as it roars towards the U.S.
No matter how close the center of Hurricane Matthew gets to the U.S., the southeastern coast can expect to feel the effects Thursday through Sunday with fierce winds, driving rain, possible power outages and drenching floods, forecasters say.
on Wednesday with 120-mph winds, is forecast to approach Florida as a stronger Category 4 hurricane with 130-mph winds Thursday. Hurricane watches and warnings are in effect for the entire east coast of Florida.
The worst conditions should be late Thursday and throughout Friday in eastern Florida and Saturday and Sunday in coastal sections of Georgia and the Carolinas.”

this stubborn, mule of a boy …

Everyone looks a little lost. First it was adjusting routines, making room in tight schedules welcoming a guest who would stay with us for a month. And now when he has left after being with us for a month, eveyone looks a little lost, unsure of where to start or readjust the altered routines.
My husband and my sons went to the airport to see him off. They were a little quiet when they came back. I know we all are going to miss him.

He was my husband’s younger brother – my brother in law. One of his friends, living in Chicago wanted him to come to attend his daughter’s wedding. A visitors visa from Pakistan, tickets, confirmed seat etc. everything was done in almost no time. Bottom line is he was destined to visit this place so everything was easily done and achieved.

My children were happy that their chacha was coming, my grand daughters were excited that they would see their chhote dada for the first time. My husband was happy and getting things done to welcome his younger brother. Once he was here, both the brothers spent hours reminiscing their long lost times and I am sure they still were not done when he left after all this time. I mean here I am a quiet person by nature who loves peace and silence and avoids crowds; and there they were never getting tired of talking. It was good to see them enjoying eachother’s company but I would excuse myself when the talking would turn into hours of non stop …”remember that ….” “oh remember what happened …”

Another funny thing about them was their similar looks. They are brothers.True. But such resemblance one only witnesses in identical twins. My granddaughter asked her father the next day on her way to school .. .” baba are you sure my dada and chote dada are not twins? ”

I love and value family and family reunions even if it was just one more person joining. There was a time when we used to go to Pakistan every year to see our families. My children loved to visit their grandparent’s house because apart from being pampered by dada abba and dadi amman, there was their chacha – a hero with his wonderful motorcycle who would take them out on a spin every afternoon after coming home from his office.

I am sure every one of us is a little sad in some private corner of our hearts because he is not what we all had in our memories.

How time cheats on us!

There is an aura of sad resignation around him. Has it something to do with the loss of his wife who passed away two years ago? Yes. for sure it is. She was a simple, high school graduate woman, least bothered about the world affairs or local politics. All her interests revolved around her family. A good natured, happy go lucky type.

I remember way back when we were visiting Pakistan, my father in law saying ” dulhan, I want to talk to you. I said yes babu ji what is it? suddenly his face was red, ” talk to this stubborn, mule of a boy. There is this nice girl from a good syed family – we know the family, she comes and recites the majlis when ever we are having one. very nice, very respectful, very religious minded. She will be good for him, for the family but no, this high and mighty would not listen. Talk to him. Put some sense in his head. Okay babu ji, I will try. was my meek response. So one afternoon after lunch when the table was cleared, I told him that I have a message for him. He sat back lowering his eyes. ‘Babu ji’s message? is it? I said yes. So you know. I heard she is nice. You have seen her. She comes here all the time. Is there something you want to talk about? like some one else you like or something? There was nothing or no one. He assured me. After some more talking, suddenly he said okay, I am ready. I was silent. Didn’t know what to say. I remember saying a prayer silently; For him and his wife to be, their future togather. For myself , being responsible for helping this happen. I called out. “time for celebration!! ” Everybody came running, smiling, laughing. Babu ji just put his hand on his son’s head and went out of room, probably to thank Allah in the privacy of his room.

They were happy. They had a good life togather. And now when they had fulfilled all their obligations and responsibilities and were looking forward to being togather for hassel free, twilight years, she died. She had a heart condition that she was born with. She held on to life bravely all through this time raising a family, their education, getting them married, grandchildren and when she was sure everyone was settled and didn’t need her help any more, she took a deep breath and closed her eyes.

another poem …

اُس ہوا دی گل سنو

جو پنچھیاں وانگوں اُڈدی اے
تے بطخاں وانگوں تر دی اے
جھیل درختاں جھاڑیاں توں
اُچیاں نیویاں پہاڑیاں چوں
لنگھ کے سب جدائیاں توں
ہور طراں کجھ لگدی اے

شکیل احمد طاہری

نظم پہلی ھی نظر میں دل کو بھا گئی تھی ۔ معصوم ، پیاری اور ہنس مکھ۔ ! ہنس مکھ پر شائید آپ ہنسیں مگر میری پسند کی درجہ بندی کچھ اسی طرح ھو تی ھے۔ میں پہلے بھی یہ بات کہہ چکی ھوں کہ میں پنجاب سے ھوں۔ میرے بابا کی دو بار ساھیوال میں پوسٹنگ ھوئی تھی اور میں وہیں پیدا ھوئی تھی ۔ ابھی شہر کا نام بدلا نہیں تھا۔ اسے منٹگمری کہتے تھا اور میری ڈاکٹر کا نام بھی الزبتھ تھا جس کی” آنکھیں بہار کے آسمان کی طرح نیلی تھیں “۔۔۔ میری بی جی کی پکی سہیلی تھی اور بی جی اکثر اس کو یاد کیا کرتی تھیں ۔

بہرحال بات کہہ یہ رہی تھی نظم مجھے بہت پیاری لگی اور چاہا اپنی دوسری کاوشوں کی طرح اس کو بھی انگریزی زبان میں لا کر دیکھوں ؛ کوئی مشکل تو ھو نی نہیں چاہیئے اور ھمیشہ کی طرح اس کو ذہن میں اتارنے اور اپنا بنانے کے لئے بار بار پڑھنا شروع کیا۔ اور پھر رک گئی۔ جو میں سمجھ رہی تھی یہ وہ نہیں ھے ۔ گہری ھے ، پرت در پرت کھو لیں تو کہیں دور اپنے اندر اپنی روح سنبھالے بیٹھی ھے۔ سارا راز ۔۔۔” لنگھ کے سب جدائیاں توں
ہور طراں کُج لگدی اے – میں پوشیدہ ملا ۔

تو جھیلیں درخت، پہاڑ ، جھاڑیاں اور پہاڑیاں سب رکاوٹیں تھیں جدائیاں تھیں اور ان سب کے پار اُ ترنا پا لینے کی معراج ! ۔ میں نے اپنا کلپ بورڈ اور قلم ایک طرف رکھ دیئے نہیں معلوم آنکھیں کب بھیگنا شروع ہوئی تھیں ۔ کچھ دیر برسات ہوئی پھر تھم گئی۔

میں نہیں جانتی میں شاعر کے ذہن تک رسائی پا سکی، ان کی سوچ اور خیالات اور میری سوچ اور خیالات میں کوئی ہم آہنگی ہے یا نہیں ۔

میں اپنی رسائی کی بات کر سکتی ہوں اور بس

نظم کا پہلا مصرعہ میرے لیئے آسان نہیں ۔ ہر دفعہ ایک نیا روپ دِکھاتا ھے

“ اُس ہوا دی گل سنو”

اس ہوا کی بات سنو جو – زرا سنو تو اس ہوا کی بات جو – میں بتاتا ہوں اس ہوا کی بات جو

اور ہر ایک کے ساتھ نظم کا مفہوم اور ہو جاتا ہے ۔ یہ میں ، میری ، پنجابی زبان کی محدود سمجھ بوجھ کی بات کر رہی ہوں جس کی جانکاری نہ ہوتے ہوئے بھی یہ نظمیں مجھ سے کچھ کہتی ہیں اور میں سنتی ہوں ۔

میری پہلی ملا قات

Follow the wind, and listen, what it is telling you about –

the one that has the wings like a bird in flight –

that meets the water gliding like a swan,

that crosses lakes, tall trees or low shrubs and does not stop

that does not even gets intimidated by mountains or hillocks coming in the way

leaving all separations behind whispers – merge

in that moment of surrender, it primes to something else!

میری دوسری ملاقات

Pay attention to the wind that is telling you something

coming to you, gliding ever so smoothly on the air, like a bird in flight

or like a swan swimming in a lake – swimming serenely, confident and free; just see –

Sometimes the lakes, tall trees or shrubs, hinder the way

but with perfect vigor, it crosses all – leaving behind – conquering all

Not even intimidated by the mountains high, or hillocks low;

blocking its onward call.

Leaving all separations behind, it whispers – merge

That moment of surrender, it primes in it’s glory – all burnished .

تیسری ملاقات

Just listen about the wind
that glides on the air,
like a bird in flight.
or like a swan,
that swims in a lake, so serene, so free.

with perfect vigor, that crosses the trees
lakes and shrubs too.
come mountains high or hillocks low
nothing deters or makes it slow

going through those shades of separation,
like a Pheonix it rises again – all burnished, all new, just see!

ایک چوتھی ملاقات بھی ہے مگر وہ ابھی ادھوری ھے اور شائید تکمیل کی منتظر ھی رہے گی ۔

daairay …

لکھنا ، کسی تمہید باندھنے کے اہتمام کے بغیر ہی ہو تو اچھا ہے ۔ جو بات سامنے آئے ، لکھتے جاؤ۔ قلم جو بھی لکھے ،لکھے ۔ قوسیں، دائرے جو بھی بیل بوٹے بنانا چاہیں, بنانے دیں ۔ کو ئی روک ٹوک نہ ہو ۔ ذہن کو ،خیالات کو چھوٹ مل جائے ۔ ذہن کے کل پرزے درست رہنے کے لئے یہ ضروری ہے ورنہ روکنے ، دبانے ، چیک کرنے سے رفتہ رفتہ زندگی کی حرارت ماند پڑ جاتی ہے اور رفتہ رفتہ، پھر زنگ بھی لگ ہی جاتا ہے ۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔ٹوٹل تباہی ۔ مکمل، مکمل ۔
میں نے اپنا ارتھوڈونٹسٹ بدل دیا ہے ۔ ایک تو وہ پہلے والا دور بہت تھا۔ بالکل شہر کے دوسرے کنارے پر ۔ اور اس کے علاوہ ۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔ خیر میں اُس کی پریکٹس خراب کرنا نہیں چاہتی ۔آنکھیں تو ویسے بھی رفتہ رفتہ ہی کھلتی ہیں ۔ دانتوں کے ڈاکٹر کے سامنے بس منہ کھول کر بیٹھنا ہوتا ہے دیکھنے بات کرنے کا موقعہ نہیں ملتا ۔ ابو ظہبی کے زمانے میں ہمارے گھر سے لگے گھر میں ڈاکٹر شرما رہتے تھے ۔۔۔۔۔۔۔یہ دوائیوں والے ڈاکٹر نہیں تھے ۔ بس بہت پڑھ لکھ گئے تھے ۔ بقول مسز شرما ایک رات دانت کے درد سے انہوں نے بالکل بھی سونے نہیں دیا۔ صبح صبح اُنہیں دبئی جانا ضروری ہو گیا کیونکہ اُن کے دانتوں کے ڈاکٹر کا دفتر جمیرہ میں تھا۔ ہمارے پیارے ڈاکٹر شرما کو بات اچھی طرح گھول گھول کر کرنے کی عادت تھی ۔ ڈاکٹر کو بھی انہوں نے رو رو کر اپنی داستان سنانا چاہی جس پر اُن کے فرنچ ڈاکٹر نے اُن سے بڑے پیار کے لہجے میں کہا “ شٹ اپ اینڈ اوپن یور ماؤتھ “ اُن کے لئے یہ ناقابلِ معافی بات تھی ۔ کئی دن ،ہر آئے گئے کو اس بد تمیزی کا قصہ سناتے رہے ۔ ہتکِ عزت کا مقدمہ ہوتے ہوتے رہ گیا
خیر ، اس کو آپ بس برسبیلِ تذکرہ سمجھئے ۔
ہمیں بچپن سے دوسری اور باتوں کے ساتھ ساتھ یہ بھی کہا جاتا ہے کہ صبح مین اُٹھنے کے بعد اور رات میں سونے سے پہلے دانتوں کو برش کرنا ضروری ہے ۔ بچپن میں تو خیر یہ بھی ڈراوا ملتا تھا کہ اگر منہ صاف نہ کیا تو رات میں چوہا ہونٹ کُتر لے گا یا زبان کھا جائے گا ۔ معصوم دِل دہل تو ضرور جاتے تھے مگر ان ڈراووں کا فائدہ بھی تھا ۔ بڑا ہوتے ہوتے یہ عادت بھی مزاج کا حصہ بن جاتی تھی ۔
مگر اور بڑا ہونے کے بعد پتہ چلا کہ ایک اورتھوڈونٹسٹ سے رابطے میں رہنا ضروری ہے اور جب رابطے میں ہوئے تو اُس نے کہا ہر چھ ماہ بعد آنا ضروری ہے کہ دانتوں کی صفائی ( جیب کی صفائی کے ساتھ ساتھ) ہو اور اگر کچھ غیر معمولی بات نظر آئے تو حالات پر قابو پایا جائے اور یوں حالات قابو میں رہتے ہیں ۔
تو آج میرے نئے ڈینٹسٹ سے میری پہلی ملاقات تھی۔ ادھیڑ عمر ،ہمدرد اور ہنس مکھ۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔۔ ۔ یہ تھا میرا آج کا امپریشن۔ دو مشورے جن کا دانتوں سے کوئ تعلق نہیں تھا یونہی مفت میں دے دئیے ۔ وٹامن سی کی کریم جلد کو صاف اور صحت مند رکھتی ہے اور وٹامن ڈی ضرور کھاؤ ۔ ناخن ۔ مضبوط اور بالوں میں چمک کے لئے۔ ھمممم !! سوچنے کی بات ہے ۔ !
گھر آنے کے بعد آئنے کے سامنے کھڑے ہو کر میں نے اپنے بالوں کا جائزہ لیا کہ کہیں روکھے پھیکے تو نہیں ؟
بالکل بھی روکھے نہیں تھے ۔ صحت کی چمک سے اچھے بھلے لگ رہے تھے
پھر ؟
شائید یہ کومپلیمینٹ تھا جو ذرا سا منہا ہو گیا ۔ خیر ۔ مشورہ اچھا تھا۔
کچھ لوگوں کے لئے رات ، رات نہیں دن ہوتی ہے۔ میرا بھی کچھ ایسا ہی معاملہ ھے ۔ جوں جوں دن گزرتا ہے میری انرجی لیول اونچی ہوتی جاتی ہے لکھنا اور پڑھنا، دونوں ہی کام رات کی خاموشی اور سکون مانگتے ہیں ۔ دن کے کام بھی ایک طرح سے تخلیقی ہی ہیں ۔ کھانا پکانا بھی آرٹ ہے ۔ گھر کی سجاوٹ اور رکھ رکھاؤ بھی عورت کے تخلیقی جوہر ہی ہیں مگر ان کے لئے کسی خاموش اور خوابناک فضا کی اتنی ضرورت نہیں ہوتی جتنی لکھنے پڑھنے کے لئے ۔
رات آرام کے لئے اور دن کام کے لئے ۔ مگر کچھ بھی ہو ، میں اپنے اہم کام رات ہی میں کرنا پسند کرتی ہوں ، جب ہر طرف خاموشی اور سناٹا اور سکون ہوتا ہے ۔ خاموش گھر میں بند دروازوں کے نیچے سے نائٹ لائیٹس کی نیون روشنی گھر کو کوئی دوسری ہی دنیا بنا دیتی ہے ۔ مٰیں جب آفس پرنٹر کی ٹرے سے اپنی پرنٹ ہوئی کاپیاں اُٹھانے جاتی ہوں تو راستے میں کچن اور ڈائینگ ایریا بھی آتا ہے پھر بڑے ہال نما کمرے میں میری کرافٹ کی میز ہے ایک طرف اور عین درمیان میں ٹیبل ٹینس کی بڑی میز رکھی ہے ۔ وہاں سے گزرنا مجھے بہت اچھا لگتا ہے اس لئے کہ رات میں یہ سب کسی بھلے خواب کی فضا اوڑھ لیتی ہیں اور یہاں سے دبے پاؤں گزرتے ہوئے کرافٹ ٹیبل پر رکھی ، کچھ مکمل کچھ نا مکمل چیزوں کو چھو نا اچھا لگتا ہے ۔ جیسے ان میں خوابیدہ زندگی باہر نکلنے ، خود کو منوانے کے لئے منتظر ہو ، پُر سکون انتظار ! ٹیبل ٹینس کے آس پاس چھوٹی سی سفید گیند کی پنگ اس نیون روشنی میں کہیں ٹھہری لگتی ہے ۔
اپنا پرنٹ آؤٹ لے کر واپسی پر کھانے کی میز پر بچھے پلیس میٹ ، درمیان میں رنر اور اس پر نمک کالی مرچ کے چھوٹے چھوٹے شیشے – دوسرے کنارے پر گلابی رنگ کے پھولوں کی جھکی ہوئی ٹہنی ! اورکڈز ! ایک زمانہ تھا کہ میں بھی اورکڈ سوسائیٹی کی ممبر تھی مگر پھر دل اُچٹ گیا ، بھر گیا وغیرہ وغیرہ ۔ ایک سال ایک بہت کمیاب رنگ کے اورکڈز خریدے مگر وہ زیادہ چلے نہیں ۔ پہلے پھول جھڑے – عام طور پر پھول جھڑنے کے بعد پودا سو جاتا ہے مگر زندہ رہتا ہے اور پھول آنے کے اگلے موسم کا انتظار کرتا ہے مگر ان نیلے رنگ کے پھولوں میں کوئی جنیٹک خرابی تھی کہ پھول جھڑنے کے بعد پہلے ایک ٹہنی سوکھی ، پھر دوسری بھی اسی راستے پر نکل گئی یوں قصہ تمام ہوا ۔ اور مجھ سے پوچھئے تو اچھا ہی ہوا ۔ وہ افسوسناک حوالوں کی پیداوار تھا جو بعد میں میری سمجھ میں آئے ۔ بہر حال سیکھنے کا عمل عمر بھر جاری رہتا ہے اور رہنا بھی چاہئے ، فلاح اسی میں ہے ۔
میرے گلاب خوب دہک رہے ہیں ۔ با ہری دروازہ جیسے ہی کھلتا ہے ، خوشبو کا جھونکا لپک کر آتا ہے اور آکاس بیل کی طرح میرے چاروں طرف لپٹ جاتا ہے ۔ ہمارے پہلے والے گھر میں رات کی رانی اور موتیا بھی لگائے تھے ۔ جب ہم اِس گھر میں آ رہے تھی تو میری دوست نے کہا کہ ہمیں چاہئے پودے نکال کر لے جائیں ۔ میں ہنس کر چپ ہو رہی ۔ کیا کہتی کہ کسی کو تو اپنی زمین سے جُڑا رہنے دیں ۔ ہم ہجرتوں کے مارے لوگ اچھی طرح سے جانتے ہیں کہ اجنبی زمینوں میں جڑیں اُگانا آسان نہیں ہوتا ۔
ہم پہلی پیڑھی ہیں مگر دوسری پیڑھی سے نئی جڑیں مضبوط ہونا شروع ہو جاتی ہیں۔ اجنبیت کا احساس اجنبی ہونے لگتا ہے ۔ تو بہتر ہے کہ ان پودوں کو وہیں رہنے دوں ۔ ٖ
فلوریڈا کی اور اچھی باتوں میں ایک بات یہاں مالٹے کے باغات کی فراوانی ہے اور جب ان درختوں میں پھول آتے ہیں تو ان کی خوشبو سے قرب و جوار مہکنے لگتے ہیں اور اب وہی دن ہیں جب لیک جیس اپ میں فشنگ کرنے جائیں تو لگتا ہے مچھلیاں بھی خوشبو سونگھنے پانی کے بالکل اوپر تیر رہی ہیں ۔۔۔
میں کہاں تھی ؟
کیا بات کر رہی تھی ؟
ذہن پوری چھٹی پر تھا
پتہ نہیں کہاں بھٹکا دیا اس نے ۔
سکیوریٹی سسٹم ،دروازے کھڑکیاں پھر کتاب
!اور نیند
شب بخیر پیارے دوستو !!۔

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.


and then love will return …

I want rains, lots of rains – non stop rains. On my roof, against my windows, and hear it falling; falling  beyond the glass doors. Looking –  just looking at it falling. Lying still – under the blanket – just looking, just listening – not thinking. But what is there to think? All the words wrapped in a bundle, have long left.
There is nothing happening – waiting to happen but not happening. So there!!

This year the famine in Damishq was bad. So bad that people even forgot love … لوگ بھول گئے ۔۔۔ محبت کرنا بھول گئے   who said that? Who was that sage? Sa’adi? Oh yes Sa’adi.

They have forgotten, they don’t care what love is, he laments. What life is without love ۔۔۔ اب کے برس دمشق میں بڑا کال پڑا، اتنا کہ لوگ بھول گئے ۔ محبت کرنا بھول گئے۔ محبت کے جیسا لطیف جذبہ؟ محبت کی باتیں ، محبت کی نظر ،محبت سے گلے لگانا ٓ بھول گئے ، سب بھو گئے

And across the oceans, the story continues. They have famine for years now. But this famine is of a different kind.
Every morning they bring out their hope, wipe its face clean, and holding it close to heart they go out looking for life and come back at night. Hope dead, darkness another shade darker and they silently descend in their dark holes, avoiding hungry eyes, burning – burning white, burning wide, staring in the darkness, bulging out of sockets. Another hungry night before another day of famine sets over the towns – fangs,teeth,claws,talons and shrieking contests.
What is one supposed to do if not ….

“chunaN qehet saale …. ?
framoosh kerdand ishq ? “
بھول گئے ، محبت کرنا بھول گئے؟

I want rains. Rains, up the towns, down the vales – rains. To wipe clean the dirt hanging in the air, the blackened hearts, the soul dredged with soot,  making them sparkling clean

And then love will return.

kitab e zindagi …


کون؟ کون ھے؟ اس نے سر اٹھا کر کمرے میں پھیلی مدھم روشنی میں دیکھنے کی کوشش کی مگر کمرے میں تھا ھی کون۔ اس نے پھر تکۓ پر سر رکھ دیا اور سونے کی کوشش کرنے لگی مگر نیند ایک بار اچٹ جاۓ تو پھر دیر ھی سے آتی ھے۔ کچھ دیر بعد اٹھی اور پانی پینے کے لۓ چلی گئ ۔ ۔پانی کا گلاس ہاتھ میں لے کر کمرے کی طرف آتے ھوۓ دروازے کے اوپر لگے شیشے سے آخری تاریخوں کا چاند نظر آ رھا تھا، آدھا اور کسی بوڑھے کی مانند کبڑا اور جھکا ھوا۔ پھیکی ، بیمار چاندنی کی چادر میں لپٹا ، شرمندہ۔ کچھ دیر کھڑی وہ اسے ھی دیکھتی رھی پھر کچھ ہنس کر سر جھٹکتی کمرے کی طرف چلی گئ ۔نیند اب پوری طرح غائب ھو چکی تھی ۔ پانی کا گلاس اس نے آدھا پیا اور میز پر رکھ دیا اور کتاب اٹھا کر پھر کمرے سے باہر چلی گئ ۔ مگر کتاب میں بھی دھیان لگ نہیں رھا تھا ۔ جانتی تھی ، نیند اچٹ جانے کی وجہ جانتی تھی مگر جان کر بھی کیا ، کچھ ھو سکتا تھا ؟ بالکل بھی نہیں ، یہ وہ جانتی تھی ۔۔۔ اچھی طرح سے جانتی تھی ایک وقت آیا تھا جب اسے اپنی کوششیں کامیا ب ھوتی لگی تھیں مگر بات صرف اُسی تک تو محدود نہیں تھی اس رستے پر کسی اور کی بھی نظرٰیں لگی رھتی تھیں ، منتظر ! مگر وقت آگے جا چکا تھا۔ پیڑوں کے نیچے اب صرف خاموشی تھی اور ہوا ئیں سر برہنہ خاک اڑاتی پھرتی تھیں ۔ ایک وقت تھا جب اس نے کچھ لفظ اپنی ہتھیلیوں پر رکھ کر اسے ہدیہ کۓ تھےجو اس نے بہت خوش ہو کر اٹھا لۓ اور اس کی خالی ہتھیلیاں واپس کر دیں۔ اپنے روزمرہ سے کچھ لمحے اٹھا کر ان خالی ہتھیلیوں پر رکھنے کا اسے خیال بھی نہیں آیا یا شائد آیا مگر ۔۔۔ شائد عافیت پسندی نے اسے آنکھیں چرانے کے لۓ کہہ دیا۔ کسی کو کیا معلوم !۔

اس نے کتاب بند کر دی اور آنکھیں بھی بند کر کے وقت کے تعاقب میں نکل گئ ۔ آج کی رات کہیں کوئ بہت بے چین تھا ۔ مگر اب اسے خود
سے کۓ وعدے یاد تھے اور یاد رکھنے تھے ۔ یہ وعدے کسی سکون کا باعث ھوتے ھیں ، نہیں ھوتے ھیں ، جاننا بھی نہیں تھا

تمھیں یاد ھے وہ لڑکی جس نے سکول آڈیٹوریم کی سیڑھیوں پر چُپ بیٹھی لڑکی سے کہا تھا “کبھی ایسے مت کرنا” اور ھوا میں ہاتھ
اُٹھاۓ چٹکییاں بجاتی برآمد وں میں کہیں غائب ھو گئ تھی” ۔۔۔۔
( کتابِ زندگی سے ایک اقتباس )