Two friends

 

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Once there were two friends, Love and Respect. They considered themselves equal and inseparable. But deep down, Love secretly felt superior. Respect always felt this strain on their friendship. It chose to remain quiet.

Years passed. Lives changed. Love crumpled in the tough tides of time. It’s skin sagged and limbs trembled. It lay shaking in its feeble condition, as life’s clock ticked into oblivion. It longed for its soul-mate. Respect.

Love had gone far in life. Perhaps too far. And once it crossed the sacred realms of its existence , it began to burn in its own hateful fire.

And that’s how Love was lost, forever. For now it knew what it meant to lose Respect.

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I discovered that I am my Mother’s Daughter

 

The Purple Fig

The Purple Fig

Read the original feature on : The Purple Fig

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“You look just like Munnoo!”said my grandma several years ago. She always called my mom using her childhood nickname. I was standing in my mom’s kitchen, with my back facing her. “Really?” I laughed in surprise. It was probably the way my hair was done that day; tied up on my head, showing off a meek looking neck that begged for respite from the raging Lahore summers. I never thought I resembled my mama much. Her beauty and ability to look good in anything, her grace and skill, her judgement and critique, her determination and confidence, her kindness and wrath. Who was to know?My grandmother’s statement would often make me wonder in the future.

I was an insufferable part of the corporate sector before I got married. Whenever I got back from work, I’d melt into the living room couch like an overzealous ice cream cone working hard under the sun. House work? Yeah, right. That was never my thing. My mama worked too. Almost all of her life really. But my brother and I never felt her absence. Nor do I remember many times where she was preoccupied more with her work than her family.My little ones sometimes miss me even when I’m sitting right in front of them. Because well, when I write, I forget everything else. Strange, now that I think of it. It seems almost unreal to be present fully in both demanding worlds. But that’s what mama has been always known to do. The impossible. A cliché for many, but one of my biggest truths.

There’s no way to explain her overpowering and protective presence throughout my life. Wiping away my tears and telling me to chin up on my failed cupid adventures. Giving me freedom but always hovering at the background, making sure I didn’t mess up diabolically.  Serving me delicious food at my study table during my final exams in high school. Peeking in often, caressing my hair and face lovingly, telling me I’d do great in the exams. She made a huge deal out of it all. It was serious business. I was to study undisturbed, in the comfort of an air-conditioned room, while the rest of the house had to endure the heat. She understood where she had to let go, though. So I was allowed to watch ‘The X-files’ that was aired on the satellite dish every Wednesday night. Even this timid teenager would have lashed out on account of a missed date with David Duchovny. Fortunately, we understood each other. Well, mostly.

When I got married, the entire process passed by like a storm. Leaving us all exhilarated, tired, angry and relieved, all at the same time. This was one time when mama and I didn’t see eye to eye on certain matters. I even disagreed with my dad on a few things. That’s when I realized how parents are not always right or sure of what they are doing. But they do it anyway. They don’t have the luxury to sit back or procrastinate. That’s when I realized how parents too are humans who err and lose their way sometimes. And that no matter what happens, I  know that they’ve got my back.

I moved across town from my parents. I secretly yearned to find similarities between my new kitchen and my mama’s. The way all her kitchen counters would sparkle and shine within minutes of cooking up a delicious storm. If it were the cook in charge, he’d be forced to do just as mama pleased, or he’d never hear the end of it. Everything was always in its rightful place. From the oft-used rolling pin to the coriander powder spice jar. And why wouldn’t it be? It was my mama’s kitchen. All this time, I wondered if I’d ever be able to keep it all together like mama. I wondered when some of her magic would trickle down the hereditary ladder. I still do.

A year later, I had a baby boy. The first month I felt like a child lost in the jungle. Forever on the verge of tears, and always choking with delight when mama came to the rescue. She fed me healthy and strange concoctions that were apparently a necessity for a new mother’s ravaged body. Turmeric and almonds with hot milk. And a few spoonfuls of ‘Panjeeri’, a medley of delicious nuts and fancy things(I can barely pronounce) cooked with clarified butter to ease my bones. I never thought she was truly conventional or dated in her beliefs. But she knew the important things to pluck from the ancestral tree. Setting up a warm bath to sooth my stinging stitches. Putting an anxious baby to bed, while I snored away. In those few weeks staying with my mama, I felt like a queen.  By the time my daughter was born, I didn’t feel as Alice-in-wonderlandish lost as before.

Years later, I moved to Canada with my husband and two children. When it was time to set up my kitchen, I thought I’d be clueless. But then I felt myself moving about my kitchen as she might have. She gave me a hand-written a small cook. I  wanted to preserve some of her taste in my cooking. I had my entire life ahead to fall back on Google for recipes. Though I’m still struggling and nothing’s perfect, I just hope I’ve not fallen too far from the tree.

Mama used to tell me how she was as emotional, trusting and vulnerable in her younger years as I was. But then real life happened to her. And that’s how a person hardens with time. Something that she hinted would happen with me too. I don’t think I’m there yet or ever will be. Because of her I have lived a beautiful life, and continue to do so. Because of her, I continue to revel in my safe bubble, where in my head no harm can come. It’s all because of her. And you know what? I don’t agree with her here. Sure life can deal you a hard blow now and then. Yet it can’t change your soul. Because all it takes is an injured bird at the doorstep and voila, you see the little girl that my mama once was.

My parents are visiting us this June. I am pregnant with my third child. I am hormonal and already hyperventilating. I have to clean, scrub, organize and arrange. But you know what my mama will say when she enters my home for the first time? “You didn’t have to tire yourself in this condition, beta ( loving name for son or daughter). Relax! House work can always be done later.”

I may not be like you, but I am my mama’s daughter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday Wiseness: I don’t do Compassion. I only FAKE it.

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Compassion is overrated.

Not because it doesn’t deserve its high position in the virtue ladder. It’s a pure emotion that begins where kindness and empathy end. It is stronger, more powerful, almost magical.

Not because we lecture our children about it or because we imagine it to be the solution to all problems.

But because the compassion we show as creatures of a supposed heart and soul is FAKE. We know no compassion. We feel no compassion. We only know how to FAKE it.

Are the wheels in my head rounding up one delusion after another? Or does this really bear any weight? Your call. But my mind is made.

The world is dying as we know it. Scientists proved that many years ago. Prophets and philosophers predicted this tortuous end as they played chess with spirituality and fate, way before ‘many-years-ago’. The decay was never limited to places of nature (global warming, deforestation, extinction, and pollution). It was supposed to be much worse. This is a sore truth humanity swallows every day.

People let hate take over. They turned on each other almost as soon they were created and set free. To do what? Create havoc and pretend to feel bad about it. And then, set themselves on a perpetual repeat mode of destruction and hypocrisy. So where does compassion figure in all of this? It doesn’t. It is a unicorn, an apparition, almost a myth.

And now, the bigger question. Why fake it? The righteous surely don’t need to. They came as Prophets, as Saints and as blue moons in our universe. They are the real deal, with no need to prove anything to anyone. And the self-righteous? One too many, like  you and me. The worst of the lot.

People like you and me; who think they know how it feels to sleep on the streets; who think they know how it feels to be hungry and thirsty and to actually die from both.

People like you and me; who think they know how a mother feels when her six-year-old daughter is raped and left to rot; who think they know how a terminally depressed person feels trapped in the darkest corners of an unending alley they call the mind.

People like you and me; who think they know how a person suffering from cancer or HIV feels; who think they know how parents feel when burying their flesh and blood.

People like you and me; who think they know how loss of hope feels for a person who had nothing else; who think they know how it feels to be a child and never see the inside of a classroom; who think they know how it feels to see your entire family murdered in front of you.

People like you and me, who think they know compassion. But we don’t. We never did.

You want to know how we get away with it every single time? We cry a redundant tear, sing a morose tune, crumple our eyebrows and make the perfect sad face. We fill up our Facebook and twitter pages with tragic, flowery language thinking we have something in common with the sufferers. In return, we fill up with pocket loads of an emotional drug called compassion. A feeling designed to make us feel better about ourselves. A false assurance that we aren’t bad people; we have hearts that do feel for others.

Another reason we are so good at forgetting is because we know there is plenty more from where it all came from. Someone will always be dying or dead. Someone will always be unwell or unhappy. Someone will always be caged in hell. While spectators like you and me, will stare out with popcorns in our hands and a box of Kleenex for the tears we are all so good at spurting. Only, it is never a movie that we are watching. It is real life. They are real people. The only thing unreal here is our compassion.

And eventually, we move on.  We go on about our lame busy lives. Our regular transmission resumes as newer, brighter shades paint the grey away. Tears melt away and empty tunes thud loudly on our hearts. Facebook profile pictures and messages get back to normal. The final virtual signal that it’s time to move on. Because after all, we live only once. Why waste it on worrying for others? We already have a lot on our plates. You and I.

Worries? Oh there are plenty. Like how the heating in your house was acting up all winter. Or how you can’t afford to buy a new dress this summer. Or how you can’t get yourself to exercise. Or how you just can’t quit smoking. Or how you have such crazy working hours. Or how you haven’t done anything ‘fun’ in so long. Or how you have never been to Europe. Or how you can never fulfill your new year’s resolutions . Or how your toddler drives you up the wall. Or how you missed the buss. Or how you got a speeding ticket. Or how your kitchen helper didn’t show up today. Or how you didn’t ace your exam. Or how nobody noticed your new haircut.

So yes. Don’t tell me you have compassion, if you can’t feel exactly the same way as the people suffering in front of you. Don’t tell me you have compassion, if you can’t step away from your life and offer help, in any way possible. Don’t tell me you have compassion if you can’t pray for others with the same intensity and humility as you would for yourself. Don’t tell me you have compassion, if you can sleep at night knowing how profusely the world bleeds.

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And if you catch me telling this lie, pinch me real hard. For I don’t do compassion. I only fake it.

All’s not lost. But it is certainly not how we make it out to be. We might have a kind streak in us. We might be caring towards certain people, certain issues, at certain times. But true compassion? In the words of Daniel Goleman,

“True compassion means not only feeling another’s pain, but also being moved to help relieve it.”

I won’t be convinced.

Short-story: Playing Jenga for love.

Anna’s intense concentration stopped the habitual quiver in her fingers as she formed a tiny tower of wooden blocks. Tooth-less and teeth-filled smiles of her now,possibly decades old children gawked at Telsa from the surrounding walls of Anna’s room. Telsa nervously shifted in her seat when those infant eyes met her’s. Anna didn’t like that anyone stared at her children’s pictures for long. Telsa quickly averted her glance and checked her watch.

Herma’s usual spot across from Telsa was empty. “Telsa, let’s put baby powder in her pea puree this time,” said Anna with an air of accomplishment. Last time she had put  sugar in her lentils. Telsa never took part but just pretended to agree. Herma never noticed the changed flavours. She also never came on time.

Their favourite block-stacking-and-crashing game, Jenga, began in Anna’s stuffy nursing home room every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning like a sacred ritual; obsolete, staunch and oddly invigorating, much like Anna. Other days were reserved for bingo, exercise and Frank Sinatra sing-a-along programs. These women were wrinkly hamsters living on stolen time in their cages.

Anna punched her table as the door slid open and in limped the curly haired 80 year old Herma who secretly loved that she was the youngest in the room. “Dammit Herma! Get on with it will you!”, Anna shrieked.

Chairs were pulled up, blocks were set and ready to be pulled apart and toppled over.

Anna pulled first. She was the dominant one. It was just a game to Telsa, but she dare not say that out loud. Anna would bite off her lips with straight, ivory tinted teeth. Herma wanted to be the first one, but she was not in the mood for confrontation.

“Watch and learn!” Anna announced right before she grappled the loose block from the tower, akin to a cautious dentist at work.

“How I hate that bastard! Did I tell you two about my ex-husband?” Anna suddenly began her best-loved topic of conversation.

“Hmmm.” Telsa was sympathetic for the hundredth time, possibly even more.  Herma was busy burping.

“The platypus left me for that slutty duck! I am glad I never met her or I’d have been in jail now.” Anna continued.

“Well you certainly ain’t in no Palace right now Anna!” Herma couldn’t help herself.

Anna spat at Herma. Quite literally. The wide honey oak table in between saved the other two from the salivic shower. “You’re in my room, so my rules. Shut the hell up!”

It was Telsa’s turn. She braced herself as the wobbly tile tilted below the block she had just removed.

“I gift-wrapped my soul for him you know. ” Anna’s harsh tone mellowed and she took a pink napkin with white doves. There were no tears. But she wiped her eyes as if rehearsing for the real deal. The smeared crusted maroon lipstick made her look morbid. “I am beautiful aren’t I?” Telsa nodded.  Herma controlled her laughter.

“Then why?” This time her tears gushed. Telsa’s green eyes watered up, as if in a compulsion to join the teary river that gushed in the room. She had eternally damned herself to cry for others.

“I am sure he always loved you, and no other,” came Telsa’s over-rehearsed reply.

“What do you know?!” A raucous crow just replaced the mellow squeak in Anna’s throat. “You’re as wretched of a woman as I am.” Telsa bit her tongue. She could taste the bloody saliva.  The tower gracefully dismembered itself as an army of wooden soldiers rose on each side.

“Why you gotta talk like dat to her?” Herma defended Telsa.

Anna ignored Herma and continued. “He took my children and my dignity. Neither came back.” Telsa leaned forward to console but Anna screamed with blood in her eyes, “Why can’t you just do your turn?”  The game was almost over.

Anna suddenly sprang up as if the chair had developed canines. Her trembling legs dragged her to a wrought-iron night stand. A golden velvet pouch peeked through her pale hands as she took out an envelope, and from it a letter.

“His last words before sucking down those pills.” She stared at her only two friends. “He apologised, you know. Damn well regretted leaving me!” She smiled with hurt and contentment all rolled up in a bitter-sweet strudel. She took a minute to read the letter under her breath and carefully folded it back in its rightful creases.

Knock. Knock.

Someone was at the  half-opened door. Herma quickly called out, “Come on in, nothing to hide here!” It was  the new Nurse Wilma. She had joined just a week ago. A woman in her mid 50’s, with a surly air about her, like someone who’d been rudely stripped off her royalty and could kill for the lost title.

Anna had missed her morning medication for dementia. “Hello ladies,” said Nurse Wilma, uninterested in what was going on in the room. She handed the pills to Anna and waited for her to squeeze them down. Nurse Wilma turned to leave, but paused for a minute to look at the pictures on the wall. Telsa noticed and was about to comment when Nurse Wilma rushed out without another word.

Anna was trapped in a daze. “He gave my grandmother’s precious ruby bracelet to that wretch, you know. He never admitted but I know. That cut me real bad. Real bad.” She was scratching her left hand without looking up.

It was down to the last few moves. Herma complained about being hungry. Telsa scooped her arm over for her turn. Her hands wobbled and the patchy tower finally gave away.

“HA! You gals can never win from me!” Anna was back to her competitive self. She stood up to celebrate with some coffee.

“Anybody got anything to eat around here?” Herma spoke looking at the ceiling. She then leaned across and whispered to Telsa, “Why you gotta take her shit every day? See she never talks to me this way. I know how to set her straight. Why don’t we hide one of those kids’ pictures?!”

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Nurse Wilma stepped out for a quick smoke. Those children on the wall. She knew those eyes. She’d know them anywhere.

“But how could it be?! He told me that his wife had died in an accident. Who was Anna then? Why did she have those children’s pictures?!” She started to sweat under her wool coat.

She rolled up her sleeves to cool down.Glistening red stones peaked from her wrist.

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National Blog Posting Month - November 2014

I am participating in the National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) – November 2014. This is an awesome venture of Blogher.com. In their own words:

“Every November, thousands of bloggers commit to posting daily. But it’s about much more than getting that post up—it’s about community and connection. It’s also about honing your craft, challenging yourself, and taking your blog to the next level.”

I will write every day of November. This is my fourth post.

#NaBloPoMo – Day 4