Oaks and Weeds

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Throughout the years of our life, we come across different people. I firmly believe that while there may be many, you can always categorize them into two groups. There are those that stand strong like ‘oaks’, deeply rooted into the ground. And then there are ‘weeds’ that grow in the moments where you ignored and changed route – ‘growing in the wrong place’.

Weeds will always fester, and like poison attach themselves, eating away at all the good. Unless you don’t make the active effort to pull them out and chuck them away, they will remain. But once the weeds are pulled out from the ground, they are pulled out from your life as well.

The oaks however, unlike the weeds hold more eminence. Their loss is not insignificant like the weeds’. It is commonly wondered, “If a tree falls in the forest with no ears to hear does it make a sound. It matters not for the tree has fallen.”The obvious, scientific answer would be a resounding ‘yes’. But that sound unheard would not remain unfeeling in the heart. The true answer actually does not lie in the sound but rather the fallen tree – the unmistakable loss of the tree.

An oak may never have the power like the weed to disappear. An oak with always make its presence, or lack of, be known. The lush forest will may appear the same to untrained eyes of an outsider, but for those who live within its depths, the loss will be imposing.

This brings into question why it is always considered a ‘family tree’. Drawn on paper is a great sturdy oak that branches across the page as the family grows. That single truck holds everyone together but the loss brings everyone tumbling down.

We all resume life after the death of an oak, a loved one who held importance in our life, but are we ever able to extract ourselves from the legacies that they leave behind? Your oak need not be famous; their legacy could simply be living. The loss of that one person in our life is like losing the whole forest, leaving behind barren land that cultivates no life.

Life is never the same. Slowly, traditions start to die down. They almost seem trivial and time consuming, things that we rationalize with ourselves that we no longer need to do. Sometimes, it is that single person who was the last piece in the jigsaw puzzle and with them gone, the puzzle forever remains incomplete. That single piece possessed the power to bring forth a landscape that had mesmerizing qualities and with it gone, the rest of the puzzle begins to dull in comparison.

The family is no longer complete. Relations are no longer complete. The oak’s roots were what prevented relations to drift away and with it gone, the landslides of strife and missed connections come to play.

The disappearance of the weed causes no loss to land, to life, to love. It is the oak that holds the power to make true loss felt.

Just Because I Don’t Go on a Social Media Date with God, Doesn’t Mean We Don’t Have a Relationship

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Today life consists of falling in love 140 characters at a time and proposing through status updates. Your friends, popularity and likeness are measured through the number of likes and comments. Every aspect of your life is infiltrated by others and so, how could religion stay far behind.

Social media has always had its highs and its lows, and while it has worked to salvage misconceptions and ideals, it also has worked to create unnecessary fear and hate. Don’t tell me I’m going to Hell just because I scroll past the Holy picture that you’ve shared. Don’t promise me Heaven if I do continue the chain and share it. None of these outcomes were ever in your hands. And our piety cannot be measured this way.

Instead of being pious in the eyes of God, you work to appear pious in the eyes of the world. And then follows your innate need to flaunt this piety making others out to be sinners in your eyes. Religion should not be measured through the horn that you blare all over your timeline. The sheer volume of your voice does not constitute anything. This itch that you constantly feel to ‘save’ people only proves the kind of person that you are.

#Blessed has become more a part of our lives than the simple, private act of thanking God of bestowing His blessings upon us. Don’t recount your blessings by making it a public matter because it brings into question just exactly what you’re trying to prove and show to the world. Religion has never not been complicated and we’re all in the midst of learning, always will be learning. It’s hard enough loving yourself but when people make you out to be sinful, it becomes all the more difficult.

Religion has always been this beautiful, private relationship that we have with God. Don’t make it perverse by attaching multiple partners. The power lies in the silence of a voice that requires no sound. God ain’t your trophy wife to show off to the world.

Karachi

Khaula Jamil Photography
Khaula Jamil Photography

They call us “The City that Never Sleeps”, only I don’t think the name does justice. We aren’t exactly people who move with zombie-like vigor due to the lack of sleep. No, I’m afraid we’re more nocturnal, staying awake till the wee morning hours when the sun itself awakens from its slumber. That, is when the people of this city decide to listen to the calls that their bed makes beckoning them to sleep.

Karachi is for the dreamers and the doers. Eyes scour the streets and roads always searching, always looking for the next muse, the next inspiration to life. The buildings, a combination of exquisite and alluring, of something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue beckon the eyes casting a spell on the onlooker, giving the mind a piece of imagination, a look into a life that is always foreign from his own.

She is resilient and stubborn and strong. Her heart is the shore, waves lapping at the sand, tickling those who dare to wet their feet. All roads lead to the heart, every cell and every organism. There are those who visit every day, just wistfully staring at the ocean, only their minds know why the sea calls out to them in a siren song. And others hop on over on the holidays, occasionally visiting a friend that does well to lend a shoulder when life truly gets tough and all you really need is a break.

We are a city almost always encompassed in red. We love with red, and we hate with red. You can expect the passion to forever run its course. And yet, Karachi is as diverse as the colours painted on the buses that roam its streets. We dip into green and white every Independence Day, yellow on days of sincerity, purple when pride swells our chests out and blue in moments of jubilation. It’s not just a truck; it’s the canvas of life.

But the true essence of Karachi lies in the old. Here the streets are narrow and only seem to get thinner as vendors line themselves selling delicacies whose smells are enough to make the mouth water. The buildings might appear dilapidated but that’s where true beauty lies. It’s the trained eye that notices the carving on the stone, the exuberant colours on the doors, the old huddled in a corner playing cards, a family of five making room in an apartment for one and the cricketers that continue to find place even in the smallest of places to play the game that has the power to unite.

There is a lot to cry and complain about but the love is unconditional like a child to its mother.

#PrayForPeshawar

It’s okay if you want to cry. It’s okay if you hide in a darkened room simply staring into black. It’s okay if your thoughts won’t let you sleep. It just shows that maybe there is some hope, some hope in humanity.

All faith in humanity was lost yesterday. And as information & details & facts came forward today I couldn’t help but imagine what those children might have gone through. What were their final thoughts? Did they even realise that they were probably breathing their last breath?

Today as a nation we shiver. Not from the cold winter air but from the fear and sorrow and pain that we feel for those families and children.

The survivors put on brave faces and portray a strength that many of us would never be able to muster had we been in their shoes. It’s not right for us to expect them to stand strong. What they’ve witnessed was traumatic and nothing short of hell on earth.

White, pristine uniforms have been painted crimson. Children who longed to see what the world had to offer them are now left with a bitter aftertaste. Eyes that held a spark, a thirst are now forever closed.

16th December, 2014 will be marked as the bloodiest and darkest day in Pakistan’s history. Innocent souls murdered in cold blood through no fault of theirs. Only cowards target children.

I want you to think: what if you were in that classroom with them? What if you were in that auditorium when they walked in?

God, what has this world come to?

The shatter here is too great

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She exercises great control and executes true care when in her home. Everything is meticulously in its place and not a fleck of dust in sight. Others marvel at her patience and some call in her obsessive tendencies. The psychiatrists on the other hand term it to be her only form of control in an uncertain life.

So, when the vase falls to the ground, the distance between her hands and the porcelain figure is too great. This vase of cherry blossoms and a Japanese spring she witnessed with her family is falling. The world has fallen quiet and the hair on the back of her neck stand alert. Her eyes go wide as the vase falls to its demise. And then it’s done.

At first she can’t breathe and the sound of the shatter continues to ring in her ear, every shard a lament. When she does gain control of her senses, she walks closer barefooted and crouches where every piece makes an intricate pattern on the floor, a constellation of broken pieces mirroring a life that she has always identified as her own.

Her body is numb to the pain of the shards digging into her bare legs, a fact she chooses to ignore before a sob escapes her mouth and she has to place a hand to her lips to control the wail threatening to escape. The hiccups are on the way and she can’t remember what her therapist told her to do in such a situation. She had promised her that such a situation would never occur again and so the coping mechanism would not be needed. So, how did she miscalculate something so important?

She can hear voices now whispering, broadcasting her failures at the simplest of things.

‘Pathetic.’

‘Pathetic.’

‘Pathetic.’

The word breaks her every time it’s uttered and instead of the vase it’s her that’s falling to the ground, slowly plummeting to her doom.

And then they’re all standing before her, picking each piece, one by one and depositing them before her. Her mother is smiling, her eyes crinkling at the corners. Her father is smiling, his moustache lifting like wings. Her sister is smiling, a mischievous glint in her eyes. They make a new pattern on the ground, a constellation that no longer looks like a black hole she could fall into – a web that Charlotte even couldn’t call her own.

 ‘It’s okay.’

Her mother whispers before she kisses her temple. Her father squeezes her shoulder and her sister just laughs, that melody she could never forget even if she tried. She wipes the tears from her face till her family no longer stands before and carefully starts collecting the shards.

She wants control on even the smallest of things because deep down she knows that she couldn’t have done anything to prevent what happened to her family. And yet she replays every scene from that unfaithful day, pressing pause at each point that she wishes she could have done differently. What if she’d woken up early? Gotten out of bed from the other side? Prayed the night before?

But even she knows, or at least tries to know that sometimes what’s broken should remain broken and there are times that no amount of glue can stick what was fated to be apart. Even if she had them tethered to her, tried to control an outcome with the hope that it could be changed, it wouldn’t have made a difference.

Being powerless is a part of life and no matter how much you confine yourself to a controlled environment; a shatter is all it takes to open your eyes to the reality before you.

I think life is a journey…

I think life is a journey, one we have no idea that we’re on. Every choice that we make is the road we take to the next town. Every person that we meet can either decide to take the journey with us or just remain a townie, memories held but no longer an active part. […]

Karachi, You’re Killing Me! by Saba Imtiaz

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In a city where gun shots and bomb blasts are a norm, individuals find themselves navigating life as if its ‘all in a day’s work’. Such is Imtiaz’s character Ayesha who lives the life of a journalist covering shootouts, rallies and surviving bandits all the while traveling all over in a rickshaw.

The book gives a fresh look into the life of those living in Pakistan’s Metropolis and the city deemed ‘most dangerous’. Here the sex is casual and the booze flow easy, even if Ayesha never has enough money to buy her cigarettes, pay her bootlegger or her taxi driver because her editor keeps putting off her salary.

Imtiaz, who herself lives the life of a journalist speaks in a tone so true to the characters that one knows instantly what it’s like to be part of a profession that clearly isn’t safe. Yet, as we watch Ayesha navigate her way throughout the book, her strength and determination is quite evident. She possesses the patience and endurance of being a journalist. That is exactly what made her character so enjoyable to read. Her tribulations at finding love in a city that takes up all her time and the man she finds herself trusting, only for him to use her for sex that came with a ‘i-will-steal-your-story-from-under-your-nose-while-you-sleep-in-my-bed’ made her out to be a character you were rooting for till the end.

The book had a very Meg Cabot and Bridget Jones feel to it, filled with humour and a heroine who you often found ranting about a city she loved and wanted to escape at the same time. It was filled with words that Pakistanis, or rather Karachiites will understand instantly and conversations that simply leapt of the page because they honestly felt so real.

Gone are the misconceptions about the women and the life that one lives in Pakistan, especially Karachi. A true eye opener for those unaware. The characterization of Karachi, with a voice of its own gave the book an interesting outlook at the way things are done here. A fun read even if the ending was slightly ‘Bollywood’ but then again living in a city like Karachi you come to enjoy the flair of the drama.

This fire can burn two ways…

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Our emotions are very much like fire. They can either roar with life or flicker down almost to the point of extinguishing.

The anger that bubbles to the surface and becomes evident on our face is like gasoline on a flame. It takes like wild fire, smoke everywhere, sooth clinging to every surface and leaving destruction in its wake. Our words sometimes get the better of us at these points and every control switch that we learned to flick off suddenly switches on and every insecurity and point of hurt comes tumbling out. At times like these we find it difficult to take back our words, in fact it’s impossible to take them back. There they lie on the table naked and exposed – your heart and everything that it stored away for your mind and your mind alone.

It’s okay, though to spout these thoughts because our shoulders learn to breathe and drop their weights at our feet. We learn to let go of many things and instead take large gulps of air after air. Because you feel like all the air in this world will never be enough for your lungs and you cower at the thought of what your confession might entail. Don’t be afraid. It’s okay to unclench your fingers sometimes and just let go, deep down even you knew that this fire was going to cause a major blast that would send your thoughts exploding in every direction.

There are moments that I imagine in my life that might cause forest fires and building fires and city fires that could end up destroying almost everything and I’m watching from the sidelines clenching my throat for air only to cough up a fit due to all the smoke.

It’s okay to speak up, from time to time instead of causing gastronomic destruction. Speak your mind.

Destruction always happens in most painful and impossible-to-fix-ways. Better not to let it get that far otherwise our bodies start feeling foreign and our skin becomes a home we no longer feel safe in. Don’t start to break within yourself. Don’t start to break parts of yourself away. Chipping away pieces is the first clue.

Learn to say no.

She once told me, “You’ll give up your dreams and what you want for someone else, because that’s just the person you are. You care more about others and helping them prosper in their life than about your own. You’ll let them leave without putting up a fight because you know you’d be happier knowing that their doing what makes them happy.”

This fire burns within us all. The passions and dreams and ambitions run in our veins. The dreams make up more percentage of our body than the blood in this heart. And it’s what keeps us going and pushing and careening towards our happiness. Learn to cling to them a little longer but always remember that you have the option to toss them in the fire, watch them burn and then flip to a new page to start again.

There is another kind of fire. The one that moves sensuously, swaying lazily from side to side just waiting for the oxygen to finish so that it can fall into slumber till all that is left is warm ash and rising smoke. Stay away from that fire. Never reach that point where giving up is more appealing and dreams that you see when your eyes are closed are much better than the ones you can accomplish while awake. I swear that fire won’t burn you but its dance will make you an addict till all you can do is watch it sway, captivating you in a trance.

Hypnotism works no better way. Don’t fall prey and everything will be fine. Take that aerosol can and toss it in. I give you permission to watch the flames grind and gyrate before you like bodies swaying in close proximity to music that makes the blood pump in your body and your feet move in unison. Dance a little longer, I dare you.

I’ll Be Waiting…

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The foyer remains well illuminated through the approaching night, almost welcoming. Yet, the windows have curtains and blinds drawn, glimpse into life not allowed. The apartment building appears well maintained while the creepers are ethereal; one wrong touch and they could all tumble down.

I see a fortress guarded well, behind gated borders and a force field that protects its foundation; a building that nature itself has taken upon itself to look after.

Remember when you said that we would buy an apartment adorned much like this one, so that our love would always remain protected against those trying to penetrate our fortress. You made me believe in a fairytale surrounded by skyscrapers and tall buildings, where we had a place of our own to create our own happy ending. You made me believe in our own happily ever after in the city, among the cars, buses, noise and people.

Now I wait on these very steps, each and every day, day and night so that you may come, whisk me away through the door of our castle. And when you hand me the key to our very own forever, I’ll clutch it to my heart so that every time you put it close to your ears the only thing you hear is the sound of my heartbeat every time I’m near you.

Our kiss will open the door wide so that without the other we may never find a way home and even if Ali Baba feels tempted, he may never get a hold of our treasures. Because I know, the city is littered with broken hearts and aching hearts and stitched-up hearts that will look to us in disdain. I want to give them hope so that they may love again and those who want nothing more than to see our downfall, let’s promise to always keep them at a distance. So that our happiness, our sorrows, our lives remain unaffected by their actions.

But these creepers grow denser and you take three steps back every time you take one step forward. All the dreams we saw together, the future we imagined now rests between us except you keep moving further away.

I still believe, even if I appear pitiful but these steps are where you’ll find me. Because I tasted our happily ever after and now I find myself an addict, for even your simplest touch can make me relapse. I’ll warm these steps for your return and I know the city is big and hearts are littered all over the sidewalk but mine has always rested near this foyer. Let its light guide you back to me and let my love beat its song once more.

You told me it was fleeting like a bird thrown out of its nest before it has a chance to spread its wings and in that moment of freefall it has a decision to make and if it chooses to flap and flap and flap then even the sun learns to clap for it. I hoped that somehow you would learn to fly but the step towards the fall was not a risk you wanted to take.

And on this journey I learned self-love while you missed the intersection along the way which is why I ask you to shut off Siri and listen to my voice drone out directions.

Put on your running shoes, place them on tight and take a left from your broken thoughts, the first right will lead you back there so ignore it. Take the second right, the street will be titled ‘Self-Love’ take small, steady steps till you reach the second left. The street is ‘Wishing Arbor’ where the people scream their wishes to the sky. I want you to scream it out, so that even you know what you want. Keep going straight till you reach the bridge, cross it with the expectation that when you reach the other side you’ll give it your all. When you’re on the other side…you’ll know where to find me.

I’ll be waiting. I’ll always be waiting.