Build Me Hope

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Throughout history, we have been building ourselves a brighter tomorrow at the cost of today.

 “What are we to do now, mother?” my daughter-in-law Rafiza spoke softly, uncertain of the life of her unborn child as much as she was uncertain of her own. Her misty eyes, fixed on the cloudless grey sky; searched for light; for courage; for answers she knew wouldn’t help. Who had seen this coming? The brutality and the force with which the war had destroyed our lives, had vanquished the human capacity to keep faith.

Bloodshed…No – Carnage. It had caused carnage. Blood painted the roads where children once used to walk to school. Bombs had bombarded what were parks, where I had once played with my young son Iqbal, and taught him of strength. Missiles had broken roofs to bits, roofs that were once adorned with stoned chandeliers. The country was enthused with anger and fury to a point where all beyond vengeance became subordinate; anger had gobbled our beautiful nation, and left in its place a community stitched together by terror, fear and empathy for each other’s pain.

The million men who left their families – newly married wives, old mothers, dyeing fathers, beloved children, and everyday stability – to join the war had deduced their homes to houses – homes where happy husbands used to return for warmth and love, where brides had settled to build new lives, where souls had affined, where stories rested, homes which were all people had, which were all people were; houses which the war had shattered to nothing. Families crippled – every plot had a husband dead in war, a wife destitute of her honour, and an innocent child orphaned. Yet tears no longer welled up in the citizen’s eyes – there was too much fright, pain and shock to make room for grief. The war had come like a tornado – destroying and wiping away with it the roots of everything they ever knew, everything they had, everything that defined life for them.

 I worked continuously on the patch of mud. My hands muddy, and sweat dripping over my head. The sound of bullets and sirens infiltrated inside us as we heard a bomb hit a nearby structure. Shards of metal fumed over us and the air grew hot. Military men marched outside the gates. Rafiza broke into bouts of tears. She shrieked with intolerable dread. “Answer me Ma! Why won’t you say anything! I wish not to die! I have another life within me. This child will be our only memory of Iqbal! Please Ma. Answer me! Tell me the war will be over! Say it for my child. Say it for your dead son’s soul!” she wailed.  

A tear rained down my cheek.

“Why won’t you answer me Ma?! Let us run away! Let us go! Let us leave all this behind and run away!”

I got up from the patch of garden. “You know how much Iqbal loved this house?” I spoke with the calmness of the morning dew. A sparkle danced in my eyes as I lost myself into the beautiful past, for it offered refuge, if not remedy, from both the present and what it was to bring. “How much he loved the country! He could have exhausted all his life building our nation. He spent more time at his plantations than at business or with us. Here, he planted his first plant as a child. This is my freshest memory of him, and I will not let ashes take it away from me.”

“What are you saying? Why would you say something like that? What are you doing Ma?” Although the panic left her voice, her tone was intrigued and frightened like that of an abandoned child– weak.

I moved my hands away from the plant of clover. “I am planting hope.” I clenched my teeth together, trying to curb my inner turmoil, for it was larger, and more colossal than the force of this war. I kissed Rafiza’s forehead as we embraced each other and closed our eyes to the last sound of a bomb as concrete dripped around us.

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To A Year of Happy Blogging


 I am celebrating a year of happy blogging today. I thank everyone for the immense support throughout this journey, and look forward to your continued companionship. Cheers and Happy Writing.

From gradually letting go of the invisible filter at the back of my head, that binds the manner of my posts, to the brave, original, inventive writing The Conundrum has offered me a forum to incept -each moment of this 365 day journey has helped me explore, if not define, the beautiful world of inspiration, of riddles, of stories and secrets of secrets, that continues to grow around me and you like clouds grow in the sky – without trace.

It has helped me track a tiny section of the magnanimous universe of vividly varying characters and parallel personalities; it has helped me tap sentiments and flatten paradoxical opinions to equal stature. Through my blog, I have understood the many ways and methods in which the world works. I have learnt how temper and tenderness stay locked inside the same soul without causing colossal   damage – just like bitterness and sweet intertwine with melody. My blog has helped me discover, slowly and steadily, that the written word has so much to offer – and satisfaction is only one of its many gifts.

It is like Helen Keller says, without the gift of writing, I was indeed ‘like a ship in a dense fog, groping its way without compass or sounding-line.’

What is more, it has given me reason. Reason to look at things differently, to go behind the curtain and see for myself what lies beyond the ordinary, it has persuaded me to come back to words after tiring, absorbing days of monotony. And it is to this reason that I celebrate a year of happy blogging.

Today, the 28th of July is to the posts that helped me marry the stylistic bugs of writing, and make them my own imperfect route to encore perfection. To it being the rain gauge of my dispositions and thoughtfulness. To every sheet that bore with me the torture of deleted words amidst Writer’s Blocks, and every page which adjusted overflowing ideas and overlapping streams of thought into concrete, sensible and artful space.

So, 56 posts, and many a thousand words later, I sit in my room, hot wind circling me, my hair tied all messy, my Superman T-shirt no more heroic than my dreamy heart, a bowl of soggy cereal before me, at 12 pm on my watch – I have no cupcakes lined up on a tray, no candles waiting to be lit, no big post coming up, I have no party of slam poets all geared up for a literary fiesta – all I have is a pen and an inkling of a thought. And for once in a really long time, it seems enough.

Today, I have a rainbow steering me to the things I wish to do – to dreams, to aspirations, to goals. And I am sure, that at the other end of my rainbow is a pot of gold, yet it is not for the lure of this treasure that I travel, not for its glitter that I transcend and dwell into the many colours of my adventure. The reasons, my friends, are so very different.

I thank everyone, readers and critics alike, for the immense support and for pushing me when needed and for a pat on the back when I so deserved. Thank you for giving me so much to look back to and helping me keep the hearth aflame and warm in hope of many things to come ahead. I thank you for helping me maintain the feeble line between imagination and reality and yet allowing me to make compromises on this demarcation whilst writing. May you continue to write, read, and inspire and may you discover your personal conundrums through beautiful journeys.

On Day 365, and for not giving up in the lows, for the good and worse The Conundrum has seen, and for the small dream it is today, I say:

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.”

To beginnings.

Discovering Me

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I lie on a chair, slipping and sliding occasionally and losing my balance, like a cocoon of silk on satin sheets. I knocked my whisky down by accident, and the golden medicine spilled on the wood planked floor, glittering under the pinching yellow light that grew obliquely in the rather dark hallway.

Your wife’s death is a good reason to drink. Jenny won’t mind, I soothed my prickly conscious. I picked the vial of rat poison from the side table, and rotated the bottle in my hand. “It’d be painless.” I told myself.

After serving 7 years in the prison, and a consequent period of chronic alcoholism, when Jenny showed up in my life, and introduced me to her simple world, free from the brutality that laces the life of a gangster, I found the figurative shade I happened to need all my life.

She never did change the person I was and am – she accepted the drinking, the bouts of anger, my selfish insensitivity and heartlessness – but she helped me discover who I am, and that perception dismissed all of this and everything else that I knew about myself as wrong and facetious. She gave me stability, and almost effortlessly became an extension of my individuality. “And whenever your vial of new beginnings goes dry, I will pour you a new drink,” she had vowed.

“You have had enough for the night,” a familiar voice iterated from the hallway, clear and patient. I was too drunk to see who it was. Everything before my eyes was a blur. The house was quiet, and the clock was clueless. A misty, shadowy figure stood before me, looking like an out-of-focus photograph.

I tried raising my head to see who my guest was. But I had too much alcohol in me to shake a hair. I lay back down and smirked. I was too tired to talk. Exhausted, and hopeless, I couldn’t see the point in life anymore. Nothing had changed even one whole year after the daunting funeral; my life oscillated on the verge of apocalypse.

For reasons unknown, I asked her, “Do you know what is behind that door?” I pointed lazily towards the door of my house. A drunken man talks in many riddles when blotto. There hasn’t been a single day that I haven’t wondered why I asked that question of many things.

“You mean outside it?” came the reply. “No. I, I’ll tell you…there is a big world that does not care about a soulless man like me.” I spat.

“You haven’t left this house since almost a year. The idea that there exists a world outside of here is a good way to start.”

“Ah! What if there isn’t? What if it died too with Jenny? Crippled?” I cussed. “There is only one way to find out.” I could sense the shadow move closer to me. Strangely so, its breath on mine smelt of roses like Jenny’s, something sank at the pit of my stomach.

Open it.” She whispered.

My eyes sparked open.

~

That night, a shadow robbed me of my inebriety, and it was perhaps, a gust of wind, which broke my vial of poison. I remember staring at the door, and for the first time in ages, giving opening it a metamorphic thought – a thought that held the unrepressed capacity to help me give life another chance.

The Allegory of Space

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Few would understand the allegory of a blank page in a person’s life. It is difficult to contemplate its significance in this galaxy of fast paced ideas, where thoughts transpire into actions with the snap of a finger. In this process, from the renaissance of an idea to its accomplishment, the blank paper lingers like an abandoned feather in the gusty wind – oscillating through time and cosmos, to remind us how the inception of every idea is utter, plain fallow  space.

Like smudged finger impressions on a sheet of glass, ideas are the colour that paint a blank sheet. The first alphabet of a bestseller, the first stroke of brush of a masterpiece – an artist would know historic masterworks have taken birth on this very blank sheet of paper. This blank sheet of paper has seen everything from an art’s creation to its final breath of completion. It has witnessed its exalt and kept its craft alive to be relived by posterities to come. It has seen the darkness that falls on the creator’s face when – a comma, a palate shade – a question of artful choice keeps them awake, and it has experienced first-hand the joy of recognizing a good idea.

It is in the limitless freedom it offers that there hides a serine beauty and an uncapped capacity to do wonders. This blank sheet of paper has traced every step, each correction and every revamp of things that went from good to great.

It has seen history take shape. Like the unmoving pearl in the depth of sea, it has rested inside age-old ballot boxes to dictate political and humanitarian fortune. It is the backbone of a map of treasure, of every national paper hiding secrets, of each tarot card that takes life, and the lottery ticket that changes it.

In all of eternity, beneath the masterworks of Mona Lisa and Hamlet, underlies a subtle sheet of paper – the modest creator of magic. The weatherproof tool of an innovator, this sheet of paper, has taught people how easy it is to rewrite both history and coming fate. It has become the torch that gleams and reiterates across land and sea of how the impoverished poor and spectacular rich meet on the same door to incept craft. This sheet is not just paper, but another design in the syntax of art, which resonates how everyone is at par, which holds you by the shoulder and whispers boldly in your ear how creating art is an equal act, how it has not bent with ages, and not melted with stereotype, and how it has remained level, no matter how lopsided or biased the world around it became.

In its ordinary stature it has reminded men and women of everyday life that making beginnings does not cost much. It has become, almost unknowingly, the emblem of start, of creation, and of invention. This blank sheet of paper has inspired a heart to confess love; it has faithfully held the doctor’s hand when he scribbled the death certificate.

It is on a blank sheet of paper that I scribble my love for it because it all begins here, on an untrodden path.