across the river …

Excerpts from  …

He woke up with a start and sat bolt upright.

He was fast asleep, a deep sleep, tired and sleepless sleep; and suddenly someone pulled him out of his semi unconscious state – softly touched him on the shoulder. “wake up” a whisper came close to his lips, and suddenly he was awake. He looked all around him but there was nothing unusual – everything was just as it was the night before or even before that. He tried to listen if there was some intruder in the house. Nothing. Even the room felt as it always felt … belonging mostly to his wife.

In the dim light coming from the night lamp, he saw the curtains moving. But it was because the fans were on. Then he realized that he was thinking about her. Denying all the time, pushing the thought, the image away from his thoughts. This irritated him. ‘ why, am I going crazy ? senile? He rubbed his eyes. ‘This is definitely not me. I need to get my head examined’
He again shook his head but it was hard to shake off those hauntingly beautiful black eyes, flecked with something like burnished gold. And those curled up thick eyelashes! He had never before seen such eyes. Looking at her he had always wondered about her younger days and how she looked then.

“What is it honey?” Carol woke up and turning towards him put her hand on his arm.
” Nothing. Go back to sleep”
” Then why are you sitting up? come, lie down please.”
“Go to sleep, carol” his voice was a notch higher than usual this time.
Carol withdrew her hand and again turned to her side, taking an exaggerated, loud breath.

She was fast asleep within minutes, leaving him sitting up in the dark.

He had to make a decision, and soon. She didn’t have much time left but before that happened, he was going to pitch in whatever was there in his capacity. She was a challenge to his profession.

The wheels were already in motion.

April, 2013.
afternoon.

whiff of a moment …

I am incensed. Wasted so much time on useless talk. But my fault only.  “someone only bothers you as much as you allow to be bothered. ” my son once said that. This is a very sound advice but we sometimes don’t pay attention.  It is all in our hands to empower some one to keep probing into your info. Hate myself for being a victim of someone’s designs/ motives.

Actually this never could have happened if I hadn’t gone outside just to feel the feel of the wind blowing in the trees.  I was having my morning cup of tea when across the family room, through the front door, I saw  a soft wind playing with the plants and shrubs, growing near the main door.  Looked so beautiful that with my cup in hand I went out and stayed there for a long time savoring the feel of spring in the air.  A long ago memory visiting, I smiled and decided to go inside, rinse the cups and stacking them in the dishwasher, go and have an hour in the company of my albums. Turkey was on my mind because standing outside, the memory of Ahmad Mohammad and his family had visited. May be in some unknown corner of UK they thought about us at the same time – who knows!. Both our families went on vacation together to Turkey, Murad, a Turkish gentleman was with us too and it was on his insistence we had included Istanbul in our plans. Otherwise, we were going directly to Surrey, UK, where my mum and brother were.

After spending about ten days in Istanbul, Murad stayed with his parents in Istanbul, the Iraqi friends went to London and our family to Greece. and from there to Italy and then to Lake District, then Surrey.  We had talked about meeting again somewhere in London, but never did.  Any ways, I’ll come back to it later.

My mistake was that after finishing with dishwasher, I came to my room and put on my computer to look at and say my salam, my routine. Being oceans apart does not mean anything when you know you are connected somehow! This is my way of thinking 🙂

Some one else was waiting and took this opportunity to come forward and introduce. Robbed me of my moment. My mood is ruined now, I am just hitting the keys.  Once this handyman working on our internet speed is finished, I’ll go get the album, if possible, put some pics for you. and continue with my thoughts. Have to see if what I felt sipping my tea, standing outside, feeling the spring on my skin – is still there.

April, 20, 2013

Spent the morning looking for the photos. It was hard to find what I was looking for in that collection of photographs shot during all those years. And once you start looking through the albums, slowly and gradually one by one every one starts coming and joining the group. This is exactly what happened and an hour’s work became timeless journey. It was fun. One more thing – I noticed that pictures need to be transferred – either to the computer or some new acid free albums. We do not have any negatives left. They were damaged while getting transported here along with my precious crystal collected over the years. Transferring was all done by professional packers. Oh well.

Right now I am adding some pictures. Writing part I am leaving to some other time. Some times a broken chain of thought is hard to mend. Also Topkapi Museum pics are  missing. So now I shall only share a few photos and whenever the mood strikes, I would write some more about our Turkish vacation.  Murad left the UAE befor us. Ahmad Mohammad left a year later. The last we heard they were living in London. They wanted to go back to Iraq but Shia Muslims had no future under Saddam Hussain’s rule.

Children from both the families goofing around The Guard in front of  Topkapi 

Ali Imran standing in front of  Hagiya Sophia

Do not remember the name but it was on the Bosphorus .

Dolmabahce Palace.

get well my friend…

I feel so sorry that  my dear friend Mustafa Karim is ill … has been for a long time.  He answers my emails but they are always very short messages. During the day today I was reading our old correspondence  and thinking about all those times  and the ease with which we used to discuss and share our thoughts with each other. When my mother passed away he was there for me holding a hankie, offering his shoulder to cry on and for that it wasn’t  necessary for him to come all the way to Florida.  He did all that living in UK.  He talked to me about his brother who was living  in India. It was really difficult for him but he did open up.   Always made sure that I get a copy of his books. When my afsana   <  phool, chaand taare aur drakht >  was published in Funoon received rave reviews, he wrote two articles about it.   Talked about < javaab > ,  < pehchaan>and   < gunnah> also.  I had picked the idea for pehchaan  while lunching in a Lebanese restaurant – Beirut – on – Edgware road?  I am talking about 1984 so there could be some memory mix up.  My brother’s friend Rabia was visiting from Saudi Arabia and we two were sent to Paddington  to pick her up and bring her there ) It was a small Lebanese restaurant. there was a family – father and son sitting close by. father was talking mainly in Punjabi and the son was struggling with three languages. English which obviously he was comfortable with, and Urdu and Punjabi for his father So a mixture of three language was a unique experience for me I absorbed it like a sponge and sat down the same night to write it.

Sorry I got carried away.

I was talking about Mustafa Krim. He is a true friend and I feel so sorry that he is not well. I hope and pray he gets well and we continue reading and writing and sharing with each other. Good friends are God’s precious gift to his people

Here is the one that set the direction of our knowing each other. I think you would enjoy this.

“…..when we share our life’s ups and downs with someone, we are actually honoring that person …that is how I felt while reading your previous email. In so many years that we have been in contact this was the first time you shared a little of your life.

I hope you have regained your strength. Both the times your body fought back and won and that is a good news. Problem of dampness in the garages is a tough one though. Handymen love such problems. I’ll certainly read the reviews on your book. Actually I had asked my brother in Pakistan to get that book for me. I had given him the address too where he’d find them but then misfortune struck and his wife had a stroke. I didn’t ask him about the book after that.

Have you read Rohinton Mistry’s novel ‘A Fine Balance’ ? A good read, no doubt about it. Now  I am reading Angela’s Ashes these days. Reading this book is an experience in itself…. I cry, I laugh …most of the time, at the same time. My other half thinks I am losing my mind.

Good luck with Ulysses. My countless efforts failed leaving me no choice but to put the book back on the shelf and never try reading it again ……”

a poem …

heartache …

Walking in my back porch last night
nursing a sleepless body,
cajoling a hunched soul
I suddenly realized
my blood has gone cold.

The love, the passion, the desire to be …
are worthless thoughts!
Silence prevails
when tempests end
ecstasy takes a wing.

I cannot hold, his roving heart
once mine now gone to the next call
his touch on my hands, my face – an anticipation – lingers.
I let him go for he was never mine.
He needs to learn to navigate, to keep afloat a steady helm.

The night owl
hooting across the lake
was looking for a prey !
the cheap baits, hooked on a line
in search of prize catch
were sunk.

the right thing ….

In  every day vagaries of life, I still think about her.

A friend I knew committed suicide. I know it has been years now but to put her memory to rest, I know I have to write about her.

Sometimes in the beginning of that year someone failed her trust. We all face all kinds of failures – big or small – in our life, but for her it was so despairingly grotesque and so helplessly unbearable that she just turned her back to life.

She was nice and gentle and had a lovable personality. What I liked most about her was that she had a very soft voice. Talking to her was always a pleasure. She always made you feel like wrapped in her warmth and glowing! Our knowing each other period was short but it was an instant bonding. For a person like me who always takes slow and hesitant steps towards new friendships – unless there is some chemistry involved – this bonding was unbelievable.

Around Christmas time, that year she told me she had gift wrapped almost a hundred gifts – big and small. Ironically, out of those hundred people not a single being could save her from that lonely death.

On a misty Florida morning she calmly told me her husband had left her for another woman.  I was speechless for a moment. Didn’t know what to say.

Then I hugged her and she started crying. That became even harder for me, but then I got some courage and told her that I was sorry to learn that. It must hurt a lot but think it this way  that if he did this to you now, there is no guarantee that tomorrow he would not leave that woman for another woman?  Problem lies with him, not you so be sorry for him, not yourself.  If you think this is  the end of the world I would say –  it is not.

Then I told her that if and when she needed me, she knew where to find me.  After all she had shared her pain with me , I had a responsibility now to see if she needed something, some encouragement, some moral support. Then I asked her if she had any children. She said she married late and at forty two there was no hope she would ever have any. Then she assured me that after she had sorted things out , she would go back to her parents in Alaska.  Parents! ah, the greatest gift of God to mankind!

I met her again after a couple of days. She looked calm and serene in her white dress. Her hair was bleached. I told her she was looking lovely with her new hair do. She smiled and said she  was a lot in the sun and her hair got bleached, better thank Florida Sunshine !  We both laughed. I was relieved to see her laughing.  Then she hugged me and told me that she was going.  I didn’t ask where was she going because in our last conversation she had mentioned going to her parents.  She said she was in a hurry because she had to see some people and saying goodbye, she left.

Next day I called her. I wanted to invite her to dinner before she left but no one picked up the phone. I called again after an hour , no answering.  I thought she probably had left for her parents place.

A few days later someone at work said ‘did you know that Avon lady? I said yes. What about her? She looked  at me with sad eyes and sighed – poor soul must have been so heart broken after what her husband did to her! She killed herself.

That was a Hiroshima to me. I could not believe my ears. Just one thought flashed in my mind.  When she was telling me about her husband, I was thinking to offer her to move in our house .. at least for as long as she needed to sort things out. But during that depressing talk and her crying, I didn’t. Maybe if she had moved in with any of her friends, this might not have happened.

A long time ago in my Psychology class  we were talking why some people seek the answer in killing instead of reasoning. Ms. Buksh, our  Philosophy and Psychology professor, concluded her lecture  saying that people kill themselves when they are in a state of sheer desperation. Usually their failures are not their faults alone. It is the people around them who knowingly or unknowingly push them over the edge. And in such cases, humanity, in all its fairness grieves over its failures. Ms Buksh was right!

She was a nice person who touched my heart briefly and made me wonder about so many aspects of life.  we  were new to this country at that time with children  at a very young age, trying to put some solid ground under our feet. It was specially difficult for me because a spoiled rotten person like me was suddenly inundated with all kinds of responsibilities. But at that moment when she was standing there against the Sun, trying to hold back her tears and telling that she didn’t know where to go, what to do. How to think straight – everything that was bothering me ever since I came here, made sense.  I wanted her pain to go away, all the same.  What would she do all by herself was a potent question, pointing to wards so many directions.

Sometimes when I get sleepless nights, my mind wanders. I think about all those people who at one point or the other touched my life. My relatives,friends,acquaintances, people in the street, a lone figure standing at the corner of a street, a homeless, carrying his home in a bag over his shoulder, braving the Florida heat and humidity, while air conditioned cars speed by. I try to grapple with thoughts of why things happen the way they happen. Most nights I think about her too because I see her standing there, at the end of a long line, waiting for her turn to to go somewhere ; and I always telling her that she didn’t do the right thing. She chose the easy way out. There is always pleasure in a struggle in the end.

I hope she is at peace, where ever she is.

March, 19, 2013

2:37 PM

‘hari’ …

On a clear night, the sky is forever, far and beyond, nothing but a star studded silence. Seeing him to the door, I saw the Orion’s Belt right in the line of my vision. After his car left the drive way, I went in put on my jacket and a cap, then went out in the cold night and watched the sky … Serene and silent sky, watching me in return. The stars blinked – they only blink! Cold rocks, dead planets, they all blink. what do they care!.

I went in and listened to < man tarpat hari darshan ko aaj>

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6p_KZXB62ck

Later when waiting for the sleep a long gone time visited my sleepy mind. My father was in service, and was posted in Sialkot. Our residence was a three storied house with a distinct feature. I do not have a name for it because I do not remember. It was a kind of Sun Roof. going through  all the levels – a  4’x 4′ square ‘hole’ in the roof / floor. If on the ground floor, you stood under it, you could see the sky. I don’t know why I thought of that. Sleep came slowly.

March, 05, 2013
3:15 pm.

night listens …

Majlis at the Center. jaana zuroorii thha. A friend’s father in law had died yesterday.

On our way back home, the light drizzle that had met us while driving to the Center, had stopped. There was no traffic on the roads and everything looked so open and wast and beautiful under silver edged clouds, swimming in a blue haze. The Moon the glorious Moon would come out every now and then looking for some answers. I do not have any answers – a whisper I heard.

Only an hour ago I had seen her with tears in her eyes and thought about a long ago poem –

Our car was now on Lake Jesup bridge and on both sides of the bridge the lake was alive with marine life. Alligators were out cruising in the moon-lit night. I could see their eyes burning on the water..

Night is long and silent … very !

Feb, 25, 2013
11:49 pm.

hiatus

Taking care of long neglected chores is – in some ways – rewarding.  I also think that this helps you understand a lot about yourself.  Even though everything  was very much there, the will to do it was not.  I was not willing to pay attention – didn’t think it important enough – I was not in the mood.  So it got pushed back, got forgotten and buried.
I realize that this happens all the time. Finally, getting around to do it, I become aware of the particular reason or reasons behind it. This is – in a way – therapeutic too.

Do you understand what I am trying to say?

Pushing it under the carpet, burying my head in sand like an Ostrich will not help in any way. Better bite the bullet.  So I did.

In today’s scheme of things was a promise too.  Being hard and harsh, in some ways, sometimes is the only way if I want to keep it.  Yet, I cannot assure its durability.  A friend professes : ” who says promises are for keeping. They are made to break. This is their charm.”  I don’t know what kind of charm he meant; neither did I ask.
I came across something in my note book.  ” she didn’t implore Bibi this time. ”   Sounds ominous, isn’t it?
and then,
” always remember that there is nothing in life called affinity – mental or emotional. Ego always has an upper hand.”
and then,
” zakhm e umeed bhar giya kab ka

qais to apne ghar gia kab ka. ”

I had my doctor’s appointments coming  – most feared one!! So I went on the date all jittery and nervous. He gave me a clean bill of health.. He said all is well and working fine. I wanted to give him a smile at the choice of his words, but I didn’t. It was relief.

Abu Dhabi friends visiting Florida. We took them out to dinner. and had an enjoyable evening. Weather was again cold . A chilling wind was blowing and rains too that at times became heavy. But it didn’t make any dent in the mutual happiness. With age they have mellowed down. The wife always had a fiery nature but now she was quieter and gentler towards her husband. It was not fighting. It was more like being in constant arguments. Not agreeing with what the other said. But they never were dis-respectful. We always enjoyed and sometimes laughed at their friendly banter which was not there this time.

I certainly needed this break. Their company, the lively conversation. Remembering old times. It was fun. A much needed distraction. Cannot say more.

A wedding reception. A friend’s daughter’s giving away ceremony. A new beginning for a new couple. There is a whole life of ups and downs, expectations and experiences ahead of them. May they meet those coming times with love, respect and calm resilience. May they have a blissfully happy companionship. A friend at one point said, ” if one is a Virgo and the other is a Sagittarius, it would be a most suitable union.”

What was she talking about? she certainly didn’t know anything about Stars !!

Ordered a few books from my wish list on my Kindle.

Tried a casserole recipe. Turned out very well.

Replied all of the pending email messages. Feels so good.  Really.

Irshad sahib emailed informing that Zavia is with the publisher now, who promises it to be ready in a weeks time. Amazing!  but we shall believe when we see it. Irshad always keeps me updated about Zavia and its progress. Thank you Khan sahib! ( he is no khan. I just call him khan sahib sometimes)

Mustafa Karim is not well. Writes very short notes to me these days. Sometimes repeats himself over again. writes that his wife and daughter are taking good care of him. I wish you health and strength my friend!

I will not say that I don’t miss my Facebook friends.   Familiar names posting their day’s likes and finds and thoughts and on the other side of the world, I read and appreciate them. This sure is a touch base or, home run feeling. Thanks guys!

There was a yellow folded paper on the back porch, trembling in the cold wind or …  I do not know why I thought that it was a message to some one from someone. I went out, picked it up – and sure it was what I thought. ” would you be my Valentine?”

Who wrote to who. One thing is sure though; either the recipient didn’t care much about the sender or is now frantically looking for it. The good thing is the sender probably is not aware of the fate of his or her love message.  Breaking a heart is like committing a sin. Right?

Read something this morning and could not let it pass by.

When people walk away from you, let them go

Your destiny is never tied to anyone who leaves you.

It does not mean they are bad people.

It just means that their part in your story is over.

Need say no more !

Monday,Feb,18, 2013

2:o4 am.

this one is for you …

If winter comes

can spring be far behind?

Maybe yes, maybe no – who knows.

I am thinking. What about? I do not know yet. There is so much jumbled up, up there in the upper story and everything striving at the same time to come out, be untangled, wrinkles be smoothed out. But I cannot, or maybe I don’t want to. Sometimes a tangled state of emotions is good. Nothing is clear, nothing is staring you in the face to deal and solve. You feel safe because you don’t know. But this sham does not last long.

I remember one of my cousins sitting with all of us but not really with us. She was lost somewhere  in her own world. One of her younger sisters asked her something, and asked again when she didn’t reply. She without looking at her younger sister mumbled. “don’t disturb me. I am thinking”

Later I asked her what was she thinking about. “Nothing but I am fine now” I was a little girl at that time. To me this answer was another example of ‘ big people hiding things from small people’ ( my cousin was my maamun’s first born and almost my mother’s age)

Now I understand she was not hiding anything. That is how our thinking pattern is sometimes. We retreat somewhere – a world of images, not words and leave that world again in the same state but ourselves satiated. Actually there isn’t anything in dire needs of untangling.  Our mind likes it that way. Now I know its satisfying.

Last night I was reading a Rumi quotes.

What you seek is seeking you.”
Rumi

This is not true. I am ‘seeking from the last …. and still seeking. Of-course you might say my search is not worth a fulfillment. Now who decides that?  the Beloved? Oh forgive me but this is a jaundiced reply.

But why then grief sits heavy and this invisible weight carrying gives soul a hump?

enamored

I just finished reading another of his letter I found in my old files post dated November 15, 2003. I  think this was his last letter he wrote to me.

Two lines into the letter, he starts talking about his death in a round about way. I never knew how old he was. I vaguely remember in one of his numerous letters he mentioned that he was 56/57 years old. But that was a long long time ago, before this letter. If he was talking about dying in 2003 then ten years are right there added to 56/57. Even if he was alive today,  considering  the time he wrote his first letter of appreciation, he must be somewhere in his eighties now.

Eighty years of futile living!! Well how can I be so sure, I only know that for all those years he just kept writing me letter after letter and when our address changed, he started sending them through a magazine. I only remember all those letters echoing with hints of defeat, failiur , heartache and yearning for love and friendship and he had picked me for that.

Stories don’t always reflect their authors. But sometimes a hungry soul sees in them what is lacking in his/her life and thinking that the author is the answer to his/her woes, he starts persueing the author which in-fact is; persuing his own dreams.

I was really scared of him.  Had stopped going out on my own, or if I had to I would wear huge dark sun glasses, dress up as conspicuously as I could, keep the car doors locked all the time … it was miserable.

Eighty years! I feel sorry for him now. I was very young when he first started pouring out his appreciation  about my writings. Yes I feel sorry for him that I didn’t grant him his wish. He so wanted to see me, sit with me, talk to me about my stories and why he liked them so much. I could have let him come to our house, meet me and my family. Listened to him, his story that he so wanted to tell me. I talked to my elders about this situation and was told off …

“kis ne kha tha zuroor khaniyan likho? yhi saza mile gi tumhein phir … ”  Naturally such talk  scared me even more.

It all started in 1979.  I had written a story about …. well that is beside the point.  He was so enamored with it that he copied almost all of my afsana praising it paragraph by paragraph. This letter was sent to me by the editor of the magazine who he had requested to forward the letter to me.  I wouldn’t say I didn’t enjoy reading that. Who wouldn’t? But that was the only letter that I saved  in my files. What is ironicle is that now I cannot find it.