on March 2014 …

On principle I do not believe in hunger strikes or putting oneself on fire in protest. It is like a tmasha for the passing by who would stop, watch, shake their heads say a few hai, hai and be on their ways again to where ever they were going. No one would give two hoots, life would go on and it would be business as usual,

killed by a fly by shooting is unfortunate. It was not planned or for seen so we are not talking about that. A Passive / planned death is beyond human dignity. Shahadat / martyrdom is attained while fighting for your rights, not by not eating and just getting weaker by day till the day you are no more.

Fighting for the cause and do logon ko mar kr mrna is shahadat, otherwise it is suicide. yes, suicide. period. I am not a mulla, or a religious authority but if you are a Muslim, You should know It is not a favorable act.

Tipu Sultan, a pious , devote Muslim, fighting for freedom from the British, chose death over a life of subjugation. He knew that once he was out of his fort, he would die but he also knew he would die defending the rights of his people. He killed many before he was martyred. We celebrate his death, his courage and his stance on principles. Before stepping out to face the enemy, he said

” Sher ki ek din ki zindagi, geedarr ki sou din ki zindagi sey behtar haiy.”

This is not 1930’s time any more. Gandhi and his “barats” (hunger strikes) were noticed then but now are meaningless. Such passive protests are injurious not only to the person himself but to the organization as well because a man lost is the organization’s loss. Living, one can use his faculties to further help the body of resistance but dead he is only a heap of flesh and bones. The oppressor would welcome your death because he knows, one man dead is one man less demanding his rights.

Sitting high up he wouldn’t give a damn. You live, you die; what is it to him? He is safe in his ivory tower.

I like Johar and absolutely love his innocent smile and those big black eyes that now look like two saucers on his thin face. With what information on his health I am getting, I am not sure he would live long now. Only the other day I was discussing his health scenario with a Baloch friend and he said that that was exactly what the doctor says. I listened to the video I was sent. What the doctor was saying was common sense / plus professional opinion but he didn’t say what would happen if Johar goes into a coma, if he is revived, and if he becomes brain dead. What would he do then? He would not be able to take care of himself so he would be dumped in some khairati idara or he would become a burden on his parents. Has johar thought about that? He wouldn’t have a healthy, thinking brain to decide for himself then. So?

I am not a prophet of doom, I want him to live. I want to see him have a meaningful life. I would love to see him happy that he attained what he was struggling / working for . And That would be a happy day when some friend would tell me “johar got married and now has many little proud Johars to love and serve the free country he worked for.

5/31/ 2014

its not about legends …


Last night again, one of the Pakistani TV stations played one of the great renditions of Abida Parveen,

ڈھو نڈو گے اگر ملکوں، ملکوں

and I never thought I would be so disappointed. The original style was par excellence and here in this one, she had used a totally different style, different “raaga “ and turned it into a mere vocal exercise – all simplicity, feel and that haunting resonance gone! Just like what Rahat Ali did to Nusrat Fateh Ali’s تم اک گورکھ دھندا ھو

But one can forgive Rahat because he was never an original artist – just there to nit-pick Nusrat, the great legend. But Abida Parveen? She is also considered a living legend in ghazal singing. She should have remained faithful to the original rendition, the first one where she gives all… deep down from her soul.

If I am not mixing it up with some other event, it was 2005 – 6 that I – just by chance – landed on some Pakistani TV station and heard Abida Parveen singing this ghazal. It was like I was struck by some thunder bolt.. I just sat there, mesmerized, not moving, not blinking and only God knows how I was breathing. Long after it finished, I was still sitting in the same position, lost somewhere in memory marshes; brought back by “whats wrong? Why are you crying baby”

Yes. I was crying and I didn’t know.

That was the impact of those words and that voice.

I got stuck with the ghazal but there was one couplet that was like a non stop tap tapping on my mind and causing a disturbing, distracting rude ripple in this otherwise smooth flowing of music, mood and mantra. The couplet was / is

میں حیرت و حسرت کا مارا خاموش کھڑا ھوں ساحل پر

دریاۓ محبت کہتا ھے، آ کچھ بھی نھیں پایاب ھیں ھم

Why the river of love is saying that there is no need for hessitation because it is not deep – I know the meanings of ‘ payab ‘ but still I checked the meanings in dictionary کم گہر ا

is what payaab means ، it said. I checked it with a friend. Nothing new. Same apparent explaination.

I left it at that.

A few years passed and I sent it to Naim sahab. Now keep in mind that I respect him, love him, think that there is none more honest, more sound and original in his opinions – a total no nonsense person. I am in awe of him and sometimes totally nervous communictating with him. Really, Talking to him I always feel like I am a total jahil. Once he threatened “ … one couplet in bad taste and we will have a fight ..”So talking to him is like treading a most fearsome, slippery path. There is a fear of slipping, tripping and falling down. And when this happens, then there is no hope left for any retribution.. Totally gone. But I still put my courage in both my hands and offered him this couplet.

Nope. Nothing. He said the same thing.

I stoped and left it at that. Though I had this suspicion that the great master had something else on his mind.

I couldn,t let it go altogether. Every now and then a time would come when I would feel the need to pry open the poet’s mind and the association of ideas that made the poet go against the set meaning of dariyaiay mohabat – I know I will keep wondering from time to time.

What is it that is so ellusive? Its there and not there and still there!. I turn this couplet in simple phrase.

میں حیرت اور حسرت کا مارا ھوا، ساحل پر خاموش کھڑا ھوں اور

دریاۓ محبت مجھے یہ کہہ کر بلا رھا ھے کہ وہ کم گہرا ھے، پایاب ھے

اور میں اس میں اتر سکتا ھوں

This literal meaning is fine but my point is dariyaiy mohabat is never meant to be payaab. It is meant to be deep. Where ever in Urdu lit, anyone mentioned mohabat, tried to explain it, always called it deep, gehra, with depth, doonga (now this one is a Punjabi word but I am only giving an example 🙂

Given the option to the poet to say what and how he wants to put forth his thoghts, the couplet would become mere exercise، a “ qafiya pemaaii “ Poets have a thing called “poetic license” that gives a lot of lee way to them ; and if this is what it is then Abida Parveen also can sing in whatever style she chooses to and spoil it.






analysing …

Last night reading a book, I suddenly started feeling irritated for no apparent reason. I put the book down and started walking around the house. Did a little stretching, and some deep breathing routine. I have never liked going to bed with a heavy heart and irritated soul.

I discovered some fresh scars. Peshawar bomb blast – a shia moulana targetted and killed – a wounded infant in his father‘s arms, and most of all the expression on this father’s face.

I had heard this news in the afternon. We, – meaning I and my family – talked about this, talked just as we are now so used to discussing such “waqaiyat” and then everyone went back to what everyone was doing before this four sided discussion. I do not know about others but that face stayed with me a long time and then finally disappeared in the afternoon routine. Cannot say about others but I had pushed it to some far corner of my mind.

While pacing from family room to the office – the far corner of the house and back, that face surfaced. I sat down and cried; saying sorry, sorry, sorry, again and again. Like I was the one who had done that. Sitting here, on this side of the World, thousands of miles away, I was feeling like I was responsible for causing that grief – that grief on that silent face. What was he thinking holding his child in his arms, looking at his injuries. Was he also saying sorry to his son? I cried.

There is no way to know how his son is now. Did he open his eyes and smiled at his father, did the wamth in his mother’s lap put soothing balm on his wounds. No way to know that. A prayer for him for all the little angels was sent on its way to heavens, hoping that Someone High Up Would Listen, would do something but He had already said a long, long time ago that He would help only those, who would try helping themselves first.
Please, please, make some amendment in your doctrine… look at the suffering. I said. Did He listen?

This morning when I got up, I was feeling fine. That moment when I first open my eyes and the first thought that comes to me, is important. After a few moments I put my hand out and picked up a book from my night table, put on my reading glasses and opened the book. There it was :

unhein manzoor apnaiy zakhmiyon ka daikh aana tha
othhaiy thaiy sair e gul ko, dekhna shokhi bhanaiy ki

What a beautiful, beautiful couplet. I had the feeling I would be okay. This was my first relaxed and calm moment and I had this feeling that things would be alright. I know I am not a chronic optimist but when was the last time worring did me any good. Pakistan is going through a difficult time but things that go down, come up again. This is the circle of life. We shall emerge victorious; I am optimistic about that.

I thought about a dear friend who is pouting for the last week or so and smiled. Then I picked up my Nexus 7 and wrote my status of the day and got out of bed.

mid morning.

looking for the one who knows …

I am looking for the one who knows.

I need to consult him to get the answers to some very important questions.

Coming back home from the Islamic center, after the martyrs of Karbala majlis, I was feeling bruised all over.  Like my soul was hunched over with helplessness. In such situations I go quietly somewhere deep inside me and think – not in words but images.

In this year’s Chehlam majlis someone read  something in the end that was just pure grief and nothing else. The prophet’s family released from the prison and having the first ever majlis for their martyrs; visiting their dead, visiting the battle ground, visiting the river Euphrates. Calling their sons, and brothers their fathers and husbands, their children and getting only the swirling sands of the desert sending their wailing in reply.

Half way to our home, my inner conversation ended . My mind had gone numb.  Then slowly a question came out of the fog.

” why, but why Allah? you never once tried to intervene? Didn’t you know what was happening? what was going on? never once, never once you did something to help them.  There was a lot more that I hurled at my creator because I was hurting inside.

I am familiar with this line of thought, and I have grappled with such questions many times before and somewhat, have satisfied myself, with my reasoning but that nauha was absolutely heart rending and like a small child I was throwing a tantrum. I knew that, but I  was not willing to stop it.

” Why is he not letting us go” someone in the car said. I came out of my reverie and looked up with real eyes this time … without any blinders of my thoughts.  A truck , right ahead of us was moving slowly. I leaned to my right to see what was in front of the truck that was not letting it go faster. Nothing, there was nothing  in its way. I looked up again at the truck. This time I saw it.  Right in the middle of its back wall There were some highlighted words:


Whatever was holding the truck back got out of the way and the truck gathered its speed.

I reeled back in my seat.


fall is here …

It is that time of the year again. Dry, cold winds singing an autumn sonata … a song of separation making you go deeper, looking for lost times.

A mist hanging in the air like a curtain  and a night bird whispering a name over and over again.

Go to sleep. It is time to dream the dreams!

stars don’t talk …

 A very warm night was reigning over the town last night – dark and mysterious; Pulsating with many unsaid stories, unspoken promises and longings. A very bright half Moon was looking down and loving its beauty reflected on a calm and serene surface of the lake. Sitting on the back porch, I watched the houses on the opposite shore. Their outside lights were on and looked like minarets of light bathing in the calm waters, intending to go deep down to play with the sleeping fish

A group of people – probably high school kids, out for summer break from schools – were having a party. A contained fire was burning. Every once in a while, red and orange flames leapt in the air, illuminating the silhouettes of a small group of people sitting on the grass. Sometimes their laughter or some muffled word or two, riding on the air would land here on this side. Then two figures stood up and started doing a slow waltz on the green turf … fire in the background, smell of burning wood in the air and people scattered on the grass like shadows from the past! It was ethereal.

A hand stretched and stoked the dying fire and sparks rose to the sky where a half moon was playing hide and seek with some dark, some silvery white tufts of clouds …. It sure was a playful night, demanding love ….  cajoling, beckoning, smiling and dancing away the moments, weaving the memories.

I changed my side on my patio recliner and looked at the sky – an ink blue vastness where the clouds were floating and the moon was sending moon-beams to the restless souls. I found my star twinkling on the far west side of the sky.
“hello” I whispered. “are you there? I see you every morning, I look at you every night – do you know that ? But that does not make anything any easier. Do you know that?

But stars don’t talk … or do they?

I am thinking …

Last Wednesday I was on the road again. I mean another long drive. Invited to dine at a friend’s. It was good … met some old friends. Sitting there, talking, listening, and enjoying, a question popped in my mind. ‘ how old is old? ‘ I am a scatter brain for sure because it is always busy at different levels. I am there and yet not there. I listen , participate in the conversation but … I do my… best not to seem to be absent minded.

‘how old is old? eleven years plus twenty six years equals to thirty seven years. Oh my! thirty seven years !! we have been friends for thirty seven years ? seems like it was only yesterday that some one introduced us. She needed a lift and a driver was coming to drive me home. (I was trying to get a driving license but the policy there was to make it difficult for women drivers to pass the test… Sorry, I strayed. I was talking about my friend )

So, while driving her to her house, we introduced ourselves properly and somehow, while talking about our families, our countries, interests, our children, we just clicked. I have no idea how could that happen because I am reserved, rather quiet, more interested in listening than talking. She is the total opposite. The only common thing was our love of listening to a good “marsia” and appreciating a good majlis by a learned aalim. I think that was what bonded us.

Now The question is why some friendships, you want to hold on to but – even putting your life on line – you fail. Sometimes we have the same roots, almost ditto likes and dislikes, move in our own spheres, but love to get to-gather for a lively healthy exchange of ideas. Respect and care for the other’s life and responsibilities and yet nothing seems to work. Strange, isn’t it. There has to be a reason – a powerful, believable, reason.
I discussed this to my “thirty-seven year friendship” friend. She didn’t take time to give an answer. “The only thing is gender difference. If one is a man and the other is a woman , things become complicated.”

Maybe she was right.

July, 11, 2013
11:14 Morning.

book of life …

  I see the darkness finally curving around my universe. It will soon reach the whole perimeter and close the circle. I feel numb; but this should not matter., should not be so. I enjoyed my journey on – not so familiar grounds. I have also felt that this was a gift that only lucky ones get. Yes only few lucky experience such unique moments, such pristine feelings. But unfortunately, every rose comes with a very fine, sharp, piercing thorn and we pay the price for not being careful.

 We also know that where there is darkness there is light too. We don’t care if darkness engulfs the light. Why? because if it was dark, we were also sure that light was not too far.

 And if we were sure of being on the same wave length, how can we now say that it was not so. We were, even for a short while, but we were. So what if we were smug that nothing could go wrong, and again – so what if this notion – all exhausted, all breathless – started staring us in the face. We were chosen to enjoy a gift! Does it matter if it was for a short while? 

There is something else too. One of the two is inevitably weaker. Bewildered at the intensity and enormity of the whole thing, tries to make some sense of the feelings, desires, wishes and finds out that that was a futile search. What happened, happened and there was no going back and if you did, you would only get heartache. It was certainly built on a fault line. 

“ I know its not you.

This is my fight, with myself. Problem is I don’t know how to get this thing out of me. Problem is I care way too much. Problem is you are part of it. And the biggest problem is this whole thing is not right.

I wish I had some magic wand and I could be invisible. “

 These were her last words.

Then she over-dozed!

End of story. 

But problem is things do not always end this way. They take their own course. And vulnerability being the central player, fate intervenes and …..

I am stumped. Story does not move any further. Hmmm. Okay, I will move a few things here and there, make some changes … that probably would work.

A writer is the god of his / her creations! 

Okay then ….. , 

After breakfast, the table was cleared, she thought about the work ahead. Not much to do – she thought and leaned back in the chair. He had come back last night. – they had drifted apart one more time and as usual one of the two had offered the olive branch and things were ‘ business as usual’ again, like the ‘waqfa’ had never happened. She smiled and looked at him like always, with her inner eye. Suddenly she sat up. There was a horrific expression on her face like she had seen a ghost. She was unable to remember the shape of his nose. How can a face be complete without a nose!! 

I have no way of knowing what he thought. Did he smile after he had read what I had written for him? I was calm, though I was going in for a major surgery. I never asked, he never mentioned. 

“Today I’m out wandering, turning my skull

into a cup for others to drink wine from.

In this town somewhere there sits a calm, intelligent man,

who doesn’t know what he’s about to do!”

― Rumi

 ( Book Of Life. by Riffat Murtaza )

happy is the soul that grows a garden …

A beautiful day – a happy day after so many dull drab and dreary days.

I thought I was falling ill again. But then suddenly weather changed. Low clouds, heavy with vapors, mist over the lake, a cool gust of wind and like a cherry on the top, our Sand Hill Cranes dancing a few vigorous steps. Now staying indoors was sacrilegious. Perfect day to go to a tea house. Unfortunately we do not have any here. This is Florida, a tourist destination, a fast food haven and going to a fast food place and drinking tea, smelling fried food smell wafting from the kitchen was not on my cup of tea. I went to Home Depot Garden Center.

Oh the flowers! so many kinds, shapes and colors! Suddenly I smelled roses and for sure there they were – riots of colors! Over here they have doctored the roses to the perfection but robbed them of the fragrance. Finally someone has thought of putting the fragrance back in these beauties. I can smell these roses – red, yellow, burnt sienna, dirty pink! Bought some planters, soil, seeds, and a small trellis too. It was fun. The only deterrent from buying more was; my cart was full to the capacity.

 And then it started raining.

I was suddenly transported to Wah, My beautiful Wah! This time around my mother and our gardener used to have the most serious talks. Back verandah, their “conference Room ” was the place where seed, seedlings, flower beds , vegetable beds and pruning of trees, trimming of hedges was discussed diligently, drinking teas, and Zarin Khan enjoying Rehmat bibi made  ‘samosas!

Rest in peace mama and thank you old man Zarin Khan, for making a garden grow.

Memories !

May, 29, 2013
4:44, Evening.

love is a funny thing …

Last night I was at the Islamic center. After the program was over, I called my hub and told him that if  he was ready, I was ready too – to go home, I mean 🙂

In the Parking lot, near our car, I saw something shining. I picked it up. It was a silver ring. I looked around to see if I could show it to whoever was there. No one was there so I put it in my purse. I knew the next day also there was a lecture and we intended to come. I thought I would give it to one of the committee members.

So today, when I took it out and looked at it, it was a silver band and the word ‘Love’  was inscribed all around it. Definitely a very special ring!

While handing it over to the Chair Lady, I said, jokingly

Yesterday, I found ‘love’ in the parking lot. “Oh really? lucky you!” I  laughed  “oh yes, that I am. Here is the proof “.. and handed the ring to her

“Are you sure it was not for you? some secret admirer left it near your car.” Well in that case, I’ll be justified if I kept it. Finders keepers you know”

“You would be breaking someone’s heart.” Now her daughter took the ring and looked at it closely. I think there is another ring – see this groove? the other would fit in here.

Okay, so find her then

Yes, two people -friends – husband and wife – girlfriend and boyfriend … certainly a pair !

We all laughed and agreed that finding the ring person was very important.

It was a long – I mean a real long session and I was a little tired so while coming back home, I decided to spend some time with my albums. This is my mantra , my ultimate relaxing exercise.

Every one in bed, handing the house over to me, I took out some albums at random.


… and the memories started tumbling down. What a beautiful time it was!  The tour package was four nights in Venice.

On the last night there, we went  for the Gondola ride. The trip started from St. Marks Square. Bill and Marrie – an older couple we had met on this tour – and we two with our two children were in one boat. We had a lovely time on the Canal. Going under the Lovers Bridge, taking pictures, receiving Geraniums thrown from the people sitting in Canal side cafes, at passing gondolas, cat calls, kisses being blown on the air ! It was fun. Italians are really fun loving people … happy people, ready to laugh with you, ready to make you laugh!

Suddenly our Gondola man started singing some Italian song, probably a romantic number. He looked at four of us, expecting some show of emotion. The sixty plus couple just laughed, just looking at us like putting the responsibility for the boat man’s demand.  But us two?  there was no question of a public show – not  in a hundred years!  Especially when he makes sure that there is at least a yard and a half’s distance between us when in public.

Romantic? us? no sir, no way 🙂

After the ride we sat in the Square and had Late’ . The children enjoyed their hot chocolate. Then the bands started playing and the couples started getting up to dance. We watched some then got up to go to the hotel. The group was starting early the next morning.

Bill, my other half and children were walking ahead of us. Marrie and myself were following them, walking slowly, talking, telling jokes, laughing. When we were getting down the Square’s stairs,  a young Italian passed us by running, then he turned and facing us, started running back words, saying something loudly. What is he saying? I asked Marrie “what did you say? Marrie asked him loudly ” I lovva ya, my fair ladies ” he said equally loudly… lovva you ” he said again blowing kisses. He turned again and ran off.

” what a nut case ” Marrie said. ” but how romantic!”  “oh I lovva ya” she tried to copy him. We laughed, almost falling over each other. Our men turned and looked at us to see what was making us behave like this. That sent us in stitches ! It was certainly Venice!

Oh Venice!!

George Sand, Robert Browning, Lady Ash Burton!  Previous night sitting on our hotel’s terrace, we talked about every one who came to this place. Cathrine Mansfield? no one was sure she ever ventured this far. This damp climate was bad for her anyways, we decided. I never tried to look up to get this information straight.

I put the album down, refreshed.  Thought about a dear friend,  assuring , that no matter what, my love for you shall always be as fragrant as always ! Maybe one day we’ll go there to-gather again and if not then that is okay too.

And then there was Abu Dhabi too. How can I forget that place? Hot and humid, big houses, High rising buildings, villas and shining cars but no humanity! Dull and drab, bloated with money,. But I still love and remember that place. It was an oasis of a different kind … a Cornish to the sea of  ….. but that is for another time. And the time I spent there was a long time ago. May be things are different now.