Thursday, 25 December 2014

And Never Would...

I saw you,
Sitting there peacefully
Scribbling something,
eyes unfocused, life turmoiled
trying you were,
to listen yet ignore,
the stirrings, somewhere inside,
But I heard them,
somewhere in the distance,
and I assure you,
that you can trust them,
and that you can go after them,
and that you can love them,
Just as I do.
Though you don't know,
and never would.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Aag ka Darya (The River of Fire) by Qurat ul Ain Haider- Book Review

If a novel forces you to stop now and then, and consider your own life and its extensions and from where it got extended, then there should be no doubt about the eloquent depth of that novel. The story creeps inside you, bit by bit, until it permanently extends itself inside you. For me, such was the experience of reading Aag ka Darya. It demanded a great deal of effort to read it in Urdu, for like most fourth generations of the post-colonial countries, our attachment with and command over our language is pretty shallow. However, such was the eloquence of this novel that the whole mental structure of Urdu got redefined for me, of what Urdu can be and can contain. In short, the effort was well worth it, both in terms of meaning and linguistics.

The novel starts with the Urdu translation of 'The Dry Salvages', a poem by TS Eliot. The emphasis of the poem is on reincarnation, of how the past repeats itself in the future. This theme is carried out throughout the novel by Qurat ul Ain in great depth.

The story starts in 400 BC, the age of Chankya, the first Indian philosophical giant the implementations of whom's political and religious philosophy kept the subcontinent united and under control. Qurat ul Ain Haider's emphasis is on the portrayal of such rule from the lenses of the most native people, the subalterns if you will; a theme that is persistent through out the novel. Gautam Nelamber is the character she conjures up to personify those lenses; a character in pursuit of knowledge in the Hindu traditions. He finds himself at various hamlets and is bothered by the questions whose horizons lie outside the theological and philosophical discourses that he is taught. Here comes another major theme of this novel, rather a question. Is their an end to loneliness? Is a man destined to be lonely? During the course of over 2000 years of incarnations, the philosophies of Buddhism, colonialism , Hinduism , Marxism , Islamism and Nationalism are frequently used in the contextualization of the plots. If loneliness is a philosophy, then it is the major philosophy behind which all the other philosophies find their place.

And thus we advance through the ages, the questions as persistent as ever, the characters being reborn and their thinking being redefined according to time and space, yet the questions persisting and piercing as well. We get to see a very realistic and unbiased discourse of the narratives cultivated in the minds of ordinary citizens regarding colonialism, independence and post colonialism. At times, Haider also offers insights from the mind of those who are oppressing people. That may be a minor theme as well, how the oppressed or how the people who were so ideologically against oppression tend to do the same things, being molded by the obvious question of surviving in a better way. She also depicts the dilemmas of idealists who have to give up their cherished beliefs of equality and welfare when faced with the practical questions of earning a livelihood.

A novel that evolves in the grey area and does not talk in absolutes is a pretty rare thing in Urdu, and for that Urdu will always be grateful to Qurat ul Ain Haider. Halfway through the novel, I started relating it with 'One hundred years of solitude', the theme of the same repetitive patterns of incarnations being the common factor.But for me, the weaving around of different ideologies around the lives of ordinary people, portraying the effects of those ideologies on the outlook of their lives and then again how these ordinary people observe the even more ordinary or rather impoverished people in the context of those ideologies was something truly spectacular and something that gives it an edge over one hundred years of solitude.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Just Not The End

So this is that part of the year again, when the sun closes itself down and the unsaturated tears of some unloved mystery surround the atmosphere like a mirror. And that mirror brings out the unloved, unseen, unverified part inside of us to light, so that we can become aware of it. That awareness is beautiful for it is painful. It is beautiful because it indicates that stirring inside the abyss that we are, as if it is at the end of the metamorphosis, but not just the end.

It’s excruciating, yet exquisite when you are at a place which is just not the end.

You can see the light that stretches out in front of you, but you have to see the infinite darkness that you have overcome in pursuit of that light. Somehow, you tend to develop a strange fondness for that darkness. They don’t have a word for feeling attachment to bad memories. They call it nostalgia when you remember the happy times in the face of darkness. But we still don’t know what to label ourselves when we remember the other than happy times in the face of happy times.

Somethings linger longer than you would have suspected.

You thought that the choice will be easier once you were there. You thought that the stretching of your hand will be the most natural thing once the distance is the length of that arm. You thought that when you’ll have the strength to break the shell, watching that crack appear on the shell will be the first thing you'll want to see. You thought that when you’ll have the freedom to speak from a place of meaning and stirring, you won’t hesitate. You thought that when the sea was in the sight, touching and feeling the waves would be the only thing on your mind.

But that un-stretched hand, that confided existence, those repressed words and that wave less life lives inside you, breathing slowly in the face of its antithesis yet being consistent.

And then you are hit with an even stronger and scarier realization. That that strangled hand did not want to stretch. You did. That shell didn't want to break. You wanted the cracks. Those words of meaning wanted to stay inside. You were adamant to them being heard. That longing for the sea didn't want itself to end by seeing and touching the waves. You did.

Capital Why OO You.

That pain and wanting wanted more pain and wanting instead. You wanted a logical conclusion.

And now when you stand in front of that logical conclusion, you realize how divorced are you from every pain and wanting you have identified yourself with in your life. You derived your strength and a sense of identity from them, yet you were not the same as they were. You were always something bigger and incomprehensible for them and for yourself.
That awareness of enormous intricacy and strangeness lying ahead is what strangles your hand. The strength has to come from something different, something reflective of the beautiful ambiguity that lies ahead. Fear can’t provide that strength, for fear can fight, but it can’t create. It can’t be pain either. Pain can react, but the reaction towards intricacy and strangeness can never be the extension of the soul.

That is when you have to make the journey backwards one last time,yet this time differently, so that you can find the strength to go beyondwards.

Every silently won battle has to be honored. Every act of grace, done or being done to, has to be revered. Every blade of grass that was supporting your weight when you stared at the piercing sun has to be noticed and felt.  

I don’t know what lies at the end for I am not there yet. I don’t if I’ll ever be. 

Monday, 1 December 2014

The Painting (Short Story)

I hit him across his innocent, rosy face and within a second, the eyes that were glittering with excitement were shining with tears. I spent another hour telling him how worthless he was in my eyes and that he would never mount to anything in life. I made it abundantly clear that he was a disgrace to his parents who were naive enough to spend money on his education. He left my room with a heavy heart, and tears dripping on his cheeks like a waterfall, that finds a new direction after breaking some rock. I knew that what broke were his dreams. His only sin was to ask me if he could sketch a painting placed in my office because he loved to draw and sketch. He told me that he had always admired that painting a lot. He also told me that he wanted to become an artist someday. That was enough to set me off. And I did it for his own good. After all, I was his teacher and it was my responsibility to make my students practical. I was allowed to employ any means to do that. Since ancient times, teachers in the sub-continent have tortured their students so that life may not torture them and I was to carry that tradition of affronting students both verbally and physically, so that they may learn the stark realities of life beforehand.

I was busy justifying myself when my eyes fell on that painting. People who visited my office often praised that painting. It portrayed a secluded grassland, surrounded by mountains with a tree in the middle. There was a white-painted bench under that tree with a table in front. People said that that landscape gave them the impression of unbounded serenity and peace; something that was in direct conflict with the heated and loud discussions that were carried out here. I was so accustomed to berating people that they often thought that this painting ought to be a misfit in my office. How could someone, who could not resist even a little bit of criticism or creativity or anything out of the box buy such a piece of art which was clearly very expensive.

Of course I didn't buy it. I created it.

I still remember the time I painted that landscape. Those hours just went by like a boat that is carried by the waves towards its perfect destination without having to change the sails all the time. It was so effortless, so natural to hold a brush and interact with the canvas in the company of colors. Someone once asked me the reasons as to why I wanted to paint?’ ‘Well,’ I said with a smirk ‘you don’t ask why someone wants to breathe, right? ‘

It was a fairly convincing reason for me, but that kind of reasoning was unable to convince my father who needed to see tangible and instant benefits for doing anything.

From a very early age, he tried to incorporate within my mind that my world should be restricted to the books taught at the school and the Holy Book taught at the madrassa. Anything beyond that was sacrificing the prospect of a bright future by wasting time today. His firm belief was that there should be visible and instant benefits for doing anything and if that was not the case, it was not worth pursuing. He applied that principle in every area of his life; from his family and friends to his work place. He stopped me from playing any kind of sports or participating in any extra-curricular activity because he thought that such activities diverted my attention from education. I hated those restrictions placed upon me because I wanted to excel, to explore the world around me and to connect with that world. But I couldn’t voice my desires. Because for him, that was disobedience and he didn’t like it at all. If anything went against his will, he resorted to violence; both physically and verbally. And he didn’t stop there. He would call me in front of his friends (who were obviously like him) and would spend quite some time telling them how worthless and ungrateful I was. His friends would join in too, and every second spent there was filled with examples narrating the misfortunes of people who disobeyed their parents like that. After every such session, I could not sleep at night for those words echoed in my head and didn’t let go of me. So whenever I ventured to do anything other than what I was supposed to do, that stream of events of humiliation flashed through my mind and I instantly stopped, thinking of the sleepless nights I had to endure because of that.

I remember the time when I first laid my hands on a paint brush. I was in 6th grade and there was a compulsory drawing course which included painting. When I told my father that I needed some bottles of paint and a brush for that class, he instantly became furious and told me to do without it. So I attended that class without having any sort of equipment. The teacher took me to the principal and narrated the whole problem. The principal called my parents and talked about how they were constantly ignoring the needs of their child. I was standing nearby and I could see the expressions on my father’s face. I desperately wanted the Principal to stop right there but he carried on for quite some time, commenting on my uniform that was patched and boots that bore more stitches than leather.

I don’t want to go in details of what happened when we returned home. Long story short, I got bruises all over my body, a swollen eye and a few bottles of paint along with a brush. It was worth it.

The next day, the teacher asked me to have additional classes with her because I had missed quite a lot and needed to cover the syllabus in order to pass. The first thing I was asked to draw was a plant. The minute I started sketching the outline, I felt a certain jolt of excitement that I had long forgotten. I became so immersed in that work that my teacher had to clap in front of me to have my attention. ‘Time’s up, little champ’ she said, smiling, ‘And wow, that is amazing. I can’t believe that you did it.’ That sketch was displayed as the best class work.

I returned home, excited beyond measure, bursting to tell my tale. I told my father about it who remained impassive at first. I was called to his room later that night and he made it very clear that he had no interest whatsoever in either I excelled in that class or not and that I ought not to indulge too much in such activities. He also told me that he won’t buy me any new paint bottles for the rest of the year, so I had better be careful about how I used my supplies. But all of those warnings didn’t matter to me. I just told him that I would be having extra classes after school because I had missed a lot of stuff. With a grunt, he told me that he had no problem with that.

I couldn’t sleep that night too. But for the first time in my life, it was because of excitement and not of endless thoughts of being humiliated in the near past.

The next day, I again excelled in that drawing class. In the extra class, the teacher asked me to do something different. She told me to paint whatever I wanted to. I told her about the restraint I had on my resources. She lifted a piece of cardboard placed on a table beside me; a tray of paint bottles were on that table. ‘Do whatever you want with whatever is on that table and in your hands’ she smiled.

The afternoon that followed was the best time I had ever spent.

I started painting, despite everything that was piled up against that passion by my father. That teacher encouraged me a lot, seeing within me as someone who could really excel in that field. She lent me her room and some resources to do that. I was euphoric and really thought that I could break free of those chains that bound me, those that were imposed upon me since I was borne, the chains I felt were around for generations. I really thought that with every stroke of brush, I was making those chains weak.

Until one day, the chains I thought I had weakened with my brush strokes fell on me with all their might and all of this got lost; once and for all.

I used to hide my paintings in the store room. One day, while looking for his old office documents, my father discovered them. I was in high school back then and was hoping against hope that my father would allow me to take admission in an arts college. When I returned home that day, there were a lot of people sitting in the drawing room; his friends along with some family members but the moment I saw all my paintings staked in the middle of the room like a pile of skins of some slaughtered animals, my heart skipped a beat.

That afternoon, he shouted at me everything a father should never say to his son, no human being should ever say to another. He told me that I was a thief and a traitor. That I stole his money and time and expectations and abused them. That I was an ultimate disgrace to him and the whole family because I didn’t obey them. As if that wasn’t enough, he started hitting me in front of all those people sitting around. I always thought that being hit in front of a lot of people would be the ultimate pain.

The thing that happened next actually was.

He burned all those paintings that day in front of everyone else in that room and told me that if he ever found me near a canvas and a brush, I might as well leave the house.

I saw all those colors burn alongside the only moments of joy I ever had. I found out how cheap and worthless were they after all, both the colors and those moments. That ultimate humiliation of those colors and moments and the subsequent pain ensured that I never even touched a brush for quite some time.

Many years after that incident, when I became a teacher and was on my own, I tried to paint again. The moment I picked that brush, that drawing room, those people ,that hitting, those words, that pile, that fire and those colors flashed like a night mare and for the first time in my life, I couldn't manage to put anything on the canvas. I stared at the canvas with my hands shivering, unable to extend the brush to the bottle of paint and then again to the canvas.

I guess it all got lost in that drawing room, among those people, and in that fire.

I heard about the death of that teacher who first encouraged me to draw. I thought that I had better go and condole with the family of the departed. When I got there, her eldest son handed me a package and told me that her mother had asked him specifically to give it to me. I opened it and there was this painting I had long forgotten about, something I painted for a competition but had left it there for her consideration. I touched the canvas and my skin was met with the uneven layers of paint. The faint tint of the lost joys was still there. I didn’t know what to do with it. It reminded me of something I was, that got lost.

I decided to place it in my office, so that it may witness the pain and humiliation it caused me getting transferred ahead, the cycle continuing. The chains were still intact, stronger than ever, and I was strengthening them even further.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

I Can See You

I can see you
In the distance, through the distance,
And even though
The stones that stand between you and me
As opaque, placid they can be, stronger than ever,
Strengthened by centuries of decaying
of connection and will and life and joy,
And that earth beneath me is refusing to stay still,
And that my eyes are blind by the shadows of strain
And my hands now refuse to listen to me,
Because you are so far away from me,
And because you are above the frame and space for me,
And because you are a mirror
That reflects my burning, my yearnings and my learnings,
And because that burning produces a light
That flames the yearnings
Which lights the learning,
And that light can pass though stones, and frozen hands and blind eyes,
To reach you,
Because you know it,
And since you know it, you reflect it,
Thus in that reflection, despite everything,

I can see you.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Ma'en Ni Mien Keh'nun Akhan by Shah Hussain ((Translation)

Ma'en ni keh'nun akhan, dard wachore da haal

O' mother, to whom should I narrate, the pain of estrangement?

Dhuan Dhu'ke mere murshid wala, jaan pholan taa'n laal

the smoke rises out of (the extinguished fire of) my passion for my beloved, (but if) I scrutinize the ashes, the coal is still red.

So'laan mar diwani keti, burhoon piya saade khayal

The strokes of anguish rendered me insane, my every thought is sunk in rift.

Dukhan di rooti, So'laan da saalan, Aa'hun da balan 

(My meal consists of) the bread of sorrow, the curry of angst, cooked on the heat of my sighs.

Jangul bee'le phire dhond'endi, aaje na payo laal

I wander around in the woodlands, probing, but have not found the gem yet.

Ranjhan Ranjhan phira'aan dhondedi, Ranjhan mere naal

(I call out) Ranjhan, Ranjhan(the beloved) searching for him,( but) he is with me (all along)

Kaahe Hussain faqeer numana, shoo mile taa'n thayon nihaal

Says the innocent Dervesh Shah Hussain, I'll be happy when I'll find the beloved.

Here is a link if you want to listen this kafi,

Monday, 6 October 2014

A Naive Retracing Of Patriotism

By all standards, Ganda Singh Border is a very peaceful and serene place. Located at the outskirts of Kasoor, city of the famous poet Baba Bulleh Shah, this international border line is between Pakistan and India. A solitary road amidst the lush green fields spread as far as eyes can go, with occasional trees in the middle, gives you a hiss of peace of which you become afraid of at first blush. You become afraid of losing it, for you have been missing it if you have lived long enough in a metropolitan city like Lahore.

You go ahead on that road and what you encounter is a huge amphitheater divided by a white line on the road. That line,with two flag posts on either side, is what marks the people sitting on my side as Pakistanis and the people sitting on the other side as Indians.


And I am thus far fine with it. Who can disagree that there were a whole host of problems back then when the line was drawn? We all know that when you eliminate tolerance in such a plural society as that of the sub-continent, the minority had to suffer in one way or another. That tolerance was eliminated by the colonialists in the two centuries that they spent there for their own gains, and the saga that resulted was a natural consequence. Yes, you can debate about whether this was the best way to protect the minorities or not, but that is not my assertion in this essay. Partition, either good or bad, was an event no one can reverse.

The question that really bothered me was, what we, the people and the authorities on both sides of the border are doing now?

Back to my narrative, and it’s time to add a lot of Pakistanis on my side and a lot of Indians on the other side. You might as well add some slogans. ‘Quaid e Azam Zindabad’ on my side, and ‘Bapu Ji ki Jay’ on the other side. And both of these slogans were going on in retaliation of each other, and how loud you cheered was a mark of how patriotic you were. I wondered if both Jinnah and Gandhi were to see this 'magnificent' display of patriotism today and what would have been their reaction? Both people, of imminent intellect and a respect for pacifism and plurality would have found this display rather less appealing.

And that might as well be the collective tragedy on both sides of the border. Neither of us had the courage and the wisdom to really implement the vision of our ideologues. We found hating each other most convenient and we did that. And we did it with such efficiency and intensity that even though millions of people on either side are still living below the poverty line, our arms are always up to date, always expanding. Both the nations lost the two individuals in the picture in the same year, and may be, the real vision behind India and Pakistan was also lost in that year.

But anyways, now was the time for the most awaited event, one for which people on both sides were particularly excited about. The parade.

Let me explain that parade to you in most simple terms. Six soldiers on either side, with bayonets in their hands and an intense expression of determination and contempt on their faces for the other side, march around the space between the amphitheater and hit their feet as hard as they can on the ground and then raise their bayonets. This single act receives huge applause from one side of the theater while the other side jeers on the soldier who has just performed the act. This goes on and on for quite some time, and it’s kind of funny how each side believes that they have the better set of soldiers. And by that they assume that they are better than the other side. And that the other side owes to be hated, for they identify themselves completely with the soldier on the stage for he is representing them, and when they see the expression of extreme contempt on the face of that soldier for his counter parts on the other side, they are led to believe that the only way to be patriotic is to have such contempt for the other side and to show that contempt in their slogans.

I sat there as an impartial observer and honestly, I was rendered speechless and sad at the same time.
Is this what loving your country means? That you hate the other side?
And if I don’t hate the other side, if those men marching on that stage don’t incite love for my country but rather the futility of what they have been trained and asked to do, then do I not love my country?
If the acts of those men don’t seem to represent me, then do I not respect my institutions or do I not care for the lives sacrificed by men in similar uniforms?

I pondered upon these questions the way back from Kasoor to Lahore. I scrutinized every answer that I already knew of these questions, of which the state-narrative syllabus and the people around me were too keen to tell. I had to go through all the India-Pakistan matches where I just wished that an Indian player playing well would get injured by a delivery from Shoib Akhter and return to the pavilion so that we can win or that Indian team should lose every match it is playing because, well they are Indians,right? I had to go through the state version of 1965 and 1971 wars, of Indians attacking the land of pure in the middle of night and we repelling them with a mighty force. I had to go through the pamphlets of the extreme right winged parties that found the doorstep of my home, that basically proclaimed that the root of all of our problems is India and that the rulers who tried to make peace with them were in fact betraying the blood of countless martyrs.

I am pretty sure that the other side had been taught similar narratives about Pakistan and Pakistanis. It was clearly evident by their slogans and chants.

My question is, can you base your national identity and your association with that identity on the basis of hating the other identity?  I agree that atrocities were committed but no such affair was one sided. No one nation was a holy angel of peace and piety and fairness.   Let’s say it was, now when is the time to move on? When is the time to get out of that hate and go on to love? Not loving the other side, but at least love yourself for who you are, not against who you are.

And let me be very clear about one thing at this point, I have utmost respect in my heart for my soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the protection of my homeland and who are still doing that. I don't question their faith or their courage or bravery. My point of contention is this, arms may be a way to defend yourself but it should never be the way to represent yourself. Those who are defending us are patriotic, but it is not the only patriotism that there is.

Patriotism for me is knowing your own motherland. It means you search for your culture and literature and music and embrace it. It means you explore your motherland and come to know of its beauty. It means you know what black spots are there on that beauty and what you can do to nullify them. Imperfection further enhances the beauty for it gives you a chance to make it more beautiful, to make your own contribution, to have your say and to enrich it further. It even gives you the reverence for your own motherland. 

It is in witnessing that beauty in its entirety, with its perfections and imperfections that you’ll get a real sense of reverence and respect and honor for your country. You’ll never get to know it by comparing the sound of footsteps of soldiers of the other nation, and thinking that, because your soldier had more strength, your country is better. For your country to be better, the other country does not have to be worse.

The sun was setting and as is the tradition, the flags were lowered and the ceremony was officially concluded. I saw the sun set over the green fields, behind a distant tree. It was such a peaceful and serene vision that I could not contain myself from dreaming far-fetched. 

 I wished that someday, instead of jeering at the parade and at each other, we, both Indians and Pakistanis, would gather everyday and discuss things right here in this serene place. We would discuss our culture, our art, our music, our poetry and our literature.We would discuss Bulleh Shah for instance,whose shrine is in this very city, and we would admire the spirit of that free soul that said;

Bullay Nu Samjhawan Aaian Bheynaan Tay Bharjaiyaan,
Man Lay Bulleya Sada Kena, Chad Day Palla Raaiyan
Aal Nabi Ullad Ali,
Nu Tu Kyun Lee-kaan Laiyaan.
Jeyra Saanoun Syed Saday Dozakh Milay Sazaiyaan.
Jo Koi Saanu Raie Aakhe, Bhisti Peenghaan Paian.

(Sisters and Sisters in law of Bulleh Shah came to talk sense in to him,
That please listen to us and leave the hand of Arien (Peer of Bulleh Shah)
Why are you staining the name of the heirs of the Holy Prophet (Syeds)
(Bulleh Shah) Those who'll call me a Syed would rot in hell,
Those who'll call me Arien (associate me with that name) would enjoy the swings of heaven) 

We would discuss, how in the pursuit of his Yar( best friend), he didn't care about his higher caste. We would discuss how Bulleh Shah learned to dance to make his Yar happy, against all conventions and odds (Bulleh nuch ke yar manana ae). We would discuss that spirit that overcame all odds for his love, that danced to the music of love, and that now resided in this very city where that spirit has a following in every group that you can think of. Or, we would discuss the poetry of the great Punjabi poet Kabir, who roamed in the same villages of Punjab and who preached oneness and unity. Who proclaimed as Baba Bulleh Shah proclaimed; 

'Bulleh Shah, aasmaanian udthiyan pharonan ae,
We jheera ghr bhetha unhun pharya nahin'
(Bulleh Shah, you go for the one, flying in the sky,
You don't care for the sitting right beside you)

and Kabir would say the same thing, sometimes back as;

“I laugh when I hear that the fish in the water is thirsty.

You don't grasp the fact that what is most alive of all is inside your own house;
and you walk from one holy city to the next with a confused look!

Kabir will tell you the truth: go wherever you like, to Calcutta or Tibet;
if you can't find where your soul is hidden,
for you the world will never be real!” 

Or better still, we can always discuss Heer Ranjha. We can always discuss the spirit of heer who stood before the court in a patriarchal society and spoke for her love for Ranjha and defied all conventions for her Ishq. Imagine the sense of awe and admiration and reverence we'll have for ourselves when we'll discuss all of these tales that teach the lesson of oneness, of following your heart, of facing troubles in that following and working even though everything around you, conventions, friends, family proclaim your voice to be false but in your heart, you know it to be true, for it makes you go at any length, it makes you learn to dance to make your Yaar happy, it makes you stand in the courts, as fearless as one could be, and ultimately, it makes you eternal if you become its embodiment.

And one step further from that, we'll discuss our problems, our obstacles and hurdles in realizing who we really are, and that we will be able say that to each other with humility and respect that;

'Come, my friends.
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are -
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.'
(Alfred Lord Tennyson)

And then perhaps, we won't need to fight anymore, or to be hostile towards each other. For we'll be able to relate with each other on a deeper level, a level centuries deep. And with the recognition of that depth would come harmony and peace and serenity, the spirit that a place like Ganda Singh Border truly deserves. 

I know I was being naive. But then, it was a beautiful sunset.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Lessons learned from The GIK Debate Competition

Rumi says 'Travel brings power and love back to your life'. That power and love, in my view, is being able to observe your life patterns through a different lens, in face of something new. That something new may be unknown people who you have to trust to reach your destination or far off places where you have to live for what you want to have. During our travel, we may be able to have an idea of what we are missing, or what we are so fortunate to have. Thus we are able to mark new destinations and be grateful for what we already have. And being able to expand and appreciate your life, you proceed towards a higher, more conscious way of living. That conscious way of living is a result of learning lessons from every endevour of your life,especially travelling. 

I was fortunate enough to represent team GCU in a parliamentary debate competition at Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute at Topi, KPK. It is an idyllic side of the world, surrounded by beautiful mountains and forests. The seven hours travel to and from Topi, Three days of debating and strolling through one of the most magnificent landscapes was a truly wonderful and enlightening experience. After I came back, I decided to pen down what I learned from my experience. Here are the new perspectives I was able to draw from my experience that I'll try to apply in my life.

1. Your capacity to suffer is your capacity to expand your life. Your willingness to let go of the known, to get out of your comfort zone and embrace the unknown is the mark of how far you will go in life.

2. The happiest people are those who have the courage to be  vulnerable in front of other people. Vulnerability exposes you to harm, judgment and betrayal but it also lets the light of joy, companionship, beauty and knowledge to shine in your life.

3. When you are hurt, all you can think of to relieve that hurt is by hurting other people, people you think are responsible for your hurt. It is one of the greatest misconceptions that we are led to believe that our hurt can go away by doing this. Projecting your hurt on the outside, on other people, strengthens it even further by making its monuments on the outside. On the other hand, rejecting that hurt on the inside makes it even worse for it engraves it inside your being. When you are hurt, instead of rejecting or projecting it, ask yourself this question; 'Can I become a person bigger than this hurt and through this hurt?' and stay with this question for some time. I don't guarantee that the hurt will go away but I do predict that you'll come to know a lot about yourself and your life will expand as a result. You can always confront that person responsible for that hurt later, but this time, it would be with out heavy emotions or judgments and you'll get a better understanding of the real situation.

4.For this insight, I'll quote Wasif Ali Wasif. I truly understood what he meant during a debate match.

'Jin logon ne battle of Waterloo larni huti hai, barri aur dur ki jangien larni huti hain na, wu yun chuti laraian gali muhale mien nahi larte. Wu kehte hain hum larien ge zror lekin dur ja kar'

5.Don't judge a person by his or her worse behavior. I have two reasons for that. Number one is an analogy, that when you go mining to search for gold, you may encounter a lot of dirt. But when you look for gold, you don't look at the dirt that came your way for the gold makes it up for it. So when interacting with people, look for the gold. Second, everyone has the capacity to become more than who they are today. May be this behavior is your call to help them on their way. Also, if you judge someone of their worse behavior, you are doing that to yourself too. Stop it, for your own sake.

6.Your bench mark, for who you truly are, is never the outside accomplishments. True dignity and goodness lies in the attitude of you being conscious of your actions, of your life. Be willing to explore what you do and why you do it.

7.The clues as to whether you can do something or not lies not on the outside but inside. Imagine yourself doing that particular thing and see the fears and doubts coming to surface. Know these fears and doubts intimately. This is the hardest thing you can do, but once you are through that, things will fall into picture.

8.One of the truly life enriching and nurturing experiences is a direct contact with nature. When you see all that life existing in nature, so wild in the outlook yet at peace, there is something that shifts inside you. I have not been able to figure out what it is, so can't tell you about that. All I can say is that wild peace becomes a part of you and stays with you.

9.You'll never know and appreciate how far you have come unless you occasionally visit the place where you started. I reflected upon that while I was travelling and the bus was passing through distant villages, meadows and mountains. Somehow it made me reflect on the place where I started and where I was now. I felt a wave of gratitude and a sense of responsibility.

10. When you reflect on your life, you'll see little things that somehow chipped in your life out of nowhere. Someone guided you, inspired you, helped you out of a tough situation, believed in you or gave you an opportunity and stuff like that. And though you never appreciated those things as much as they deserved to be, they turned your life around and made you who you are today. You can't help but notice a divine force chipping those things in your life, making things work when you lost all hope. You realize that there is something greater than life, greater than everything you have seen that exists and that force is independent of your opinion about it.

11. Respect how other people view the world but never let them impose that view on you.Also, when you find people who share your view, never let them go. Have the courage to be vulnerable in front of them. Have the courage to learn from them and let them shine new light on the view both of you hold so dear. 

12.Know that what you have to say is important. The fact that there is a lot of shout around it does not make it insignificant. 

13. The majority of the people are doing the best they can, with what they have, for who they are and want to become. You may not agree with the approach but respect the spirit. 

Pictures Courtesy

Humans Of GIKI
Danyal Butt

The Barren River

Like a barren river that waits for flood,
I wait for you.
And even though the river knows,
That the flood would break every bank,
Every trusted, known bank he made,
Since the last flood.
And that the great wave of water,
Would turn everything upside down,
And nothing will be the same,
And that wave will be gone soon,
And all the river will inherit,
Is the sand the flood brought along,
Still the river waits for the clouds to thunder,
For the rains to fall heavily,
For the waves to come quietly and powerfully,

I wait for you.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

The Ironic Miracle

'Like an ocean that sails along, in itself,with itself with echoes of storm largely unheard I saw a ship that no one saw and I probably didn't see it myself,

but I wanted that ship to exist so much that I forgot the fierce winds,the cloudy skies and though it was a miracle

that that ship actually came into being
but I'd say that 

it was an ironic miracle for the moment the winds touched the sails, they tore them apart, the wooden framework was met with an iceberg I didn't believe that the ship was real until the iceburg sank it and the winds soothed it apart.

Friday, 5 September 2014

Free;As A Drop Of Rain

Rain. It flows like a continuum of suppressed rage when there is no fear to scare it off. That rage is fearless and thus honest and resounding.And with all that is blunt and honest and resounding, there lies a subtle beauty in rain.

That beauty is freedom.

A freedom that is revealed and embraced by every drop of rain.

A freedom to give up the ultimate heights at the message of a cold wind and dive fearlessly to unknown depths.

A freedom to transcend down with humility in a world that is not free, that has limitations both in essence and existence.

A freedom to make music when striking cords with anything on its way.

A freedom to venture for an unknown, dark destination and still be enthusiastic about it.

A freedom to bid farewell to their homes, where they got borne and cherished and found peace.

A freedom to bid farewell to other drops of rain whom it saw being formed, who embraced that drop like a part of themselves and the drop knew it was a drop when he watched those other drop.

A most importantly the freedom to bid farewell to its own self, for the journey between the cloud and earth will be the last time it will know itself before driven in to oblivion and a wait to see the sunshine again. 

That single drop of rain is free and willing to do all of these things,the moment a cool wind touches it.

Are we as free as a drop of rain?

Thursday, 31 July 2014

In the hopeless grind of this life,

I found the misery preserved forever.

In the soothing waves of the sea,

I found the end at the shore.

I hear what of what life speaks,

and it's ugly, at least for now

and I don't know yet but one day,

the questions that haunted me,

would be haunted by answers.

and the rupture of the misery

would be the rapture of me.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

My Only Hope.

Love will find a way through paths where the wolves fear to prey.
Lord Byron

Friday, 23 May 2014

“I will be waiting here....
For your silence to break,
For your soul to shake,
For your love to wake!”
― Rumi!

Wednesday, 21 May 2014


I seek completion
Yet I am unsure of it.
I tend to expand
Yet shrink at the sight
of an unending sea.
My ship never goes far
because I steer it back
every time; back to the harbor
Where it rests and I torment
The day ends like that,
and the night falls.
On the deck of my ship
I lay down and
let the stars stare me.
they look at me with pity
and tell me stories of a different kind
and un myth the darkness
that is there background
which gives the message that
despite the infinite dark
that stretches behind you
you still can shine
and let your colors stay alive.
I get that message sometimes,
and sometimes not. 

Thursday, 15 May 2014


I invite you to be silent for the duration of the time you read this post.

Silent within and just forget everything because you'll eventually do in the years to come. I am not predicting Alzheimer's but rather the realization that most of the things you are after now appear rather futile when you look back,trying to connect the dotes of your life. Often times, the things that make more sense later are things that are in hindsight in the present.

If you observe carefully, there is a ray of light in the display picture of this blog. Concentrate on that. Isn't it beautiful? Did you notice it when you opened the link and the window appeared? How many rays of light like that have you failed to notice just because you were so busy in the urgency of the moment? These rays can represent anything; a new perspective, a new dimension or even a new life amidst the darkness that might be encapsulating you right now.Sometimes all you need to see is the silver lining in any situation,distant in the dark horizons yet it makes all the difference.

A captain of a ship being used for slave trade,opened his heart and awareness for that ray of light and sparked a movement that would later free the lives of millions of humans around the vast British empire. John Newton described that awareness as the 'Amazing Grace'.'I once was lost but now I found, was blind but now I see'. The sweetness of that grace then faced the bitterness of the cruel slave masters yet it didn't lost her charm and won.

We all wait for that amazing grace in our lives. But to really receive it, to realize it's sweetness and to let that sweetness overpower our bitterness, we have got to be aware of it.  

Friday, 9 May 2014

That Someone Else.

I see
Life in the context of life.
It's me and someone else.
That someone else is also me.
Yet there is a difference.
I don't see it,
But it's very clear.
Not the picture but the pain.
It torments me not to see
What hits me.
All I witness and cherish and heal
are the wounds.
Appearing out of nowhere
And disappearing in nothingness
Taking you along
on a journey where you die
Every moment.
And are reborn
This mystical journey kills.
And that someone else.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Give It a Name!

This week we discussed in our class that how important it is to name what you fear.Because when you name something and know its mechanics,you know what to expect.It gives you certainty that we crave as human beings.You can even fight that fear and destroy it because you know what it is.

If we extend that,we can easily argue that what we are afraid of is what brings us pain on emotional,physical or spiritual levels.If someone is afraid of public speaking for example,it's because he has linked immense pain to the idea of standing up in the crowd and speak.We are fearful of what we think can bring us pain.Then by the same logic,it is also important to give a name to your suffering/pain too.Because when you give that name,you recognize it and that is the first step towards acceptance and ultimately transcendence of that pain.Most of the time,we reject the notion that we are afraid of something just because it makes us sound weak and vulnerable,as if we are less worthy and cowards as a human beings if we are afraid of something.But 'What you resist,persists' so that fear of pain that you are trying to ignore keeps on building until it's so big that it literally paralyzes your life and you become a two-faced person.In short,'you can't escape a prison unless you know that you are in one'

Most of the time,your fears are 'False Evidence Appearing Real'. They may tell you that avoiding something might save you from pain, however that very thing you are avoiding can become your key to a better life and to a better you. But it's important first to accept that you are afraid of something and that does not make you less worthy in any regard. Having fears is very natural and overcoming them is what makes you grow.

 'Run towards your fears.On the other side of your greatest fears,lives your greatest lives'
                                                                                                                       Robin Sharma

I love this poem of Faiz Ahmad Faiz and I think that it makes a great link with what I wrote above.

                                     Mera Dard Naghma e Be sada
                                  (My sorrow is a voiceless song)

 Mera dard naghma-e-be sada
Meri zaat zarra-e-benishaN
Meray dard ko jo zabaN milay
Mujhe apna nam-o-nishaN mile
Mujhe raz-e-nazm-o-jahan mile
Jo mujhe ye raz-e-nihaN mile
Meri khamoshi ko bayaN mile
Mujhe kainat ki sarwarii
Mujhe dolat-e-do jahaN mile

My sorrow is a voiceless song
My self is a mass less particle
If my sorrow finds a tongue
I find my place and identity
I find the connections of the cosmos
If I find that open secret
My silence finds a voice
I get the kingship of the Universe
And the wealth of both worlds!