SHADES

•May 14, 2007 • 6 Comments

“You have beautiful eyes”, she heard a soft but profound voice of a man who seemed to have traveled a lot, knowing many places, people and dialects.

Even though she didn’t like the intrusion while she was out shopping for shades, she garnished a smile onto her lips and turned around, “thank you”, she uttered as she looked at a man whose small but intelligent eyes were gazing at her. She wanted to keep looking at him for a while for he had a strangely attractive face with specs of his slightly grown shave hardening the surface of his skin. His eyes were deep and dark, his lips were thick but soft; a handsome face on broad shoulders, any other day and she would have let her heart follow him everywhere.

“If I had eyes like yours I wouldn’t hide them behind shades” he smiled.

“I would rather protect them then” she said with a hint of sarcasm and another hint of telling him to mind his own business, “behind these shades.” She turned around to make the payment at the counter.

“As you wish”, he started to drift away leaving with her a feeling of guilt that eventually led her feet rolling towards the exit. She found him standing by the sidewalk waiting for a taxi.

“I am sorry”, he stopped his waving hand and turned back to look at her. She had wide eyes, shining with hints of dew in the corners, her lips soft and red were of the same shape as her eyes, the skin of her face fresh as the sky after the rain when clouds have given way to the sun. His heart wanted to follow her around everywhere.

“I am sorry for being rude to you in there” she apologized for her unintended sarcasm.

“Its perfectly fine, I understand. I would have reacted the same way if a stranger spoke to me in the middle of what I was doing” he said politely in that charmingly rough voice of his.

She smiled, “so you forgive that easily?”

He chuckled an old laugh, “Yes, but I am going to make an exception now, you better have a cup of coffee with me before I accept the apology”, it had been a long time since he laughed.

Moments fell in abundance and piled up a heap of days; everyday they would add another memory and mount the heap to discover a new scene in front of them. Life had grown wings. He was polite and forgiving; she changed herself to become less cynical and more giving. She even promised not to wear shades for he loved her eyes.

One day, while strolling on the beach, it started to rain and everybody ran for the cover except them. They kept walking along the shore. And then, at a slight curve where manmade cliffs had stretched into the sea, he stopped and stood in front of her. He kissed her and then went down on his knee, taking out a ring from his soaked pocket, he proposed her as the rain drops hit the surface of the sea and the waves crashed under their feet. She laughed with a thrilling chill and said yes.

Seasons changed a number of times adding countless days to the heap. The view from that heap didn’t change as much but added a few harsh words and some arguments to it; his voice had grown harsher and even more so harsher when he found an old letter in her documents. It was a letter from her ex boyfriend; it started with the phrase, “You have beautiful eyes …”

“You still have letters from your old boyfriends?” He said in a voice which had forgotten any emotion but loathing.

“I had just one boyfriend” she said with conviction, “and I didn’t even know I still had this letter.”

“Oh please, don’t tell me things which you know I won’t believe, and I won’t believe because I know it’s not true” his eyes shrunk and grew deeper.

There was no point in arguing but they still did; she thought it would end, as always, with him leaving the room slamming the door behind, but it didn’t happen like that. The heat of words rolled into his head as his eyes shrunk more, his arm lifted, his hand turning into a fist, swirling in the air and landing with a thump on the corner of her left eye. The view faded away and all she could hear was the fuming anger of a man she never knew before.

She looked at herself in the mirror. A dark circle of pain had wrapped around her eye; it was a price too much for her selflessness. She opened the bottom drawer of her dressing table and took out an un-opened bag. She took out the cash receipt and threw it in the trash bin, removed the brand tag and put on the shades to hide her pain.

She walked out the room slamming the door behind her.
 

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WARMTH OF THE LAST SUNSHINE

•April 1, 2007 • 1 Comment

December 1993. Rawalpindi. Pakistan.

Spotless morning sunshine rolled through the rain ridden streets. The after rain affects are pouring from the leaky tin roof of the bus stop as I walk through it making my way through all the people taking refuge in that little hut. As the chilly wind blows across, some drifted away drops of rain that stayed anonymously hung in the misty air, splatter on my face.


The cars going by slowly; the smell of fresh baked corn as a man bakes them on the side walk of the Liaqat Bagh Chowk, a nine year old boy carrying a gigantic bag on his shoulder unwilling going towards Islamia School; and those two girls appearing from the far corner of the street, walking towards me with that sheepish smile and a creepy glance at me as they pass by at the same time everyday.

As I take the left turn from Liaqat Bagh, towards
Gordon College, a van passes by. A song. Bin Terey Kuch Bhi Nahin Hai Jeewan Mera. It clings to my tongue and I start singing along. It remains in my voice all day long, all week long. I sing and hum, rain or sunshine. I, who absolutely despises sunshine, all of a sudden found that warmth pleasent. Someone in my mind, a smile, a song, and winter sunshine.


April, 2007. Dubai. UAE.

I had forgotten that song. I even forgot that I ever remembered it, that I ever sang it, that there ever was a sunshine which I liked. Out of pure accident, I ran across this song again.


It has just stopped raining, the roads are wet again, and I am singing this song all over again.
 
(And of course it is sung by the one and only Udit Narayan.) … (Click here to download the song.)

HERO TO THE UNTHANKFULS

•March 22, 2007 • 3 Comments

He was a hero.

March 21, 1992. Auckland

He wrote the lyrics for the songs of their glory. He breezed through the obstacles and stroked his way to victory; he even made the word “victory” sound easy. 60 runs off 37 balls is a mere statistic; but having the guts and courage to fight the odds and lift the curse of Pakistan never winning a World Cup semi final is a page of history written by the gentle giant; the man they call Inzamam ul Haq.

In the days that fell afterwards, they sang the songs he wrote, they danced on the tunes he composed with his bat, they rested in comfort for he was yet to come to bat, they trusted their heartfelt wishes of victory for he was still on the crease, they screamed with joy for he had won it for them once again.

His calmness was his trait and his humbleness a habit. Others would bat well on their day, but he would bat with utmost ease and passion of a cornered tiger whenever he wanted to; whenever he was in his mood. He could and did make many bowlers seem as ineffective as a door of sand standing in the way of a hurricane. His fifties, his hundreds, would, more than often, mean that Pakistan would not lose the match. He stood their with his subtle presence, even sometimes unnoticed, stealing the moments and incentives from the opponents, playing a better mind game and walking away with pride, as a winner.

For 15 years, he was a hero.

March 21, 2007. Jamaica

They wrote the slogans of hatred for him; they rose in anger and disrespect, they burnt his posters and dented his persona with words of wrath. One match, one defeat, one ousting stood between them and him. A thick fog of disgust and fury rolled in. They forgot; he was the hero.They blamed him for being emotionless on the field, for being a passive captain, for being stubborn in his team selection, and above all they started questioning his performance as a batsman and ultimately objecting to his presence in the team. They did not have the patience nor the moral courage to let him go with glory he earned and honor he deserved.  They had their reasons, their logics, their arguments to prove he was the guilty; that a patriot had turned into a traitor. He had only one reason to prove them wrong; his passion to play cricket.

His passion still alive, he stepped in the field for one last time in an ODI, to rekindle the magic he once had so skillfully woven, on the same day, a decade and a half ago; to relive those moments of purified willingness to achieve greatness, to bring back the memories into their minds of the strokes that brought them their most prized glory. But pain had taken over his will, a flame flickered hard before it went off; 37 runs on his last outing and Jamaica bid farewell to a traitor.

They let him go.

They forgot … he is a hero.

—————————————

Inzama ul Haq, unarguably Pakistan’s greatest One Day batsman, retired from this form of cricket on March 21, 2007.
 

A THOUSAND YEARS

•March 9, 2007 • 3 Comments

A thousand years, a thousand more
A thousand times a million doors … to eternity
I may have lived a thousand lives, a thousand times
An endless turning stairway climbs
To a tower of souls

If it takes another thousand years, a thousand wars
The towers rise to numberless floors in space
I could shed another million tears, a million breaths
A million names but only one truth to face

A million roads, a million fears
A million suns, ten million years of uncertainty
I could speak a million lies, a million songs,
A million rights, a million wrongs in this balance of time

But if there was a single truth, a single light
A single thought, a singular touch of grace
Then following this single point , this single flame,
The single haunted memory of your face

I still love you
I still want you

A thousand times the mysteries unfold themselves
Like galaxies in my headI may be numberless,
I may be innocent,
I may know many things,
I may be ignorant

Or I could ride with kings and conquer many lands
Or win this world at cards and let it slip my hands
I could be cannon food, destroyed a thousand times
Reborn as fortune’s child to judge another’s crimes
Or wear this pilgrim’s cloak, or be a common thief
I’ve kept this single faith, I have but one belief

I still love you
I still want you

A thousand times the mysteries unfold themselves
Like galaxies in my head
On and on the mysteries unwind themselves
Eternities still unsaid

‘Til you love me

THE LONG WINTERS. (Part 1)

•March 8, 2007 • Leave a Comment

Winters were pure and long in those days; no wonder they still stick to my memory very warmly. It was the beginning of 1986; there wasn’t much of a hustle bustle even though we were moving to a newer bigger house. May be because we had grown used to the house (in fact a servant quarter) where we had lived for the past five years. It was a very small one room house with a very close knitted life.

Six people living in one room and a veranda was getting too much; and by February 1986 the plans were made to move to a new house in the New Civil Lines near Punjab House in Rawalpindi. Since I had passed my primary (fifth standard) exams, therefore I had to get admission in a new school as well. I wasn’t really sad about leaving my current school or excited about joining the new one; because the whole concept of school was a cumbersome feeling for me. I never liked or even approved of schools.

The closest school to the place where we shifted was Federal Government High School,  Marir Hassan; or Marir University as it was called in the streets, given its long history of accepting enrollment of street vagabonds, and even producing its own share of the lot. The school was close and it was cheap; everything fitted in. I would just have to walk for about 10 minutes; and I never mind walking. I joined the school a few weeks after the session had begun.

I don’t exactly remember my first day in school but I do remember the feeling. Kamran, a.k.a Kami was the brightest student in 6-C, the monitor of the class and of course sat in the prime seat at the right corner of the middle row. His uniform was the cleanest and his school bag the neatest and even worst than that, he spoke another language called English. I knew I wasn’t going to give a flying damn about him.

Zafar and Ijaz were both first cousins; they must be good students as well because they sat in the second row on the far left. Now that I think back about what I was thinking then, I must be a good face reader. Zafar seemed to be a nice bloke, straight forward who would mind his own business and focus more on studies. Ijaz was on the reverse side; his eyes would tell he was intelligent of the wicked kind. Zafar was there to study for Ijaz as well, so Ijaz focused more on extra-class activities. There was space available on their bench and they were generous enough to offer me the place; I accepted the offer.

F.G. High School Marir Hassan stands at the shoulder of Mayo Road that starts off from Kachehri Chowk and merges into Murree Road at Marir Chowk. The school is situated just before the Marir Hassan bus stop. In 1986, it was a pale old building with grim looking windows that gave it a haunting look. A few years back, the building was reconstructed and today it has a fresher look to it.

The students of the school came from different social classes, the poor, the less poor, the lower middle class and some even from the middle and upper middle class. There were a few exceptions though; I remember one guy who was a class senior to me, always thronged by some very loyal mates. His uniform just didn’t look like a uniform, though it was the same color, it was brighter and better than ours; he had long hair and would never be reprimanded by the PT Master for that. What made him even more aloof was that he never bought anything from the school canteen, I never saw him eating a 5 paisa toffee or 25 paisa chewing gum; he just wouldn’t eat anything at recess, a car would come pick him up and he would go home for 45 minutes of midday break. Even though I never wanted to be friends with him, we did actually end up being pals. His uncle is a very well known politician and a former member of the Punjab National Assembly.

6th C was considered to be a below standard class, with the exception of a few front-rowers who were considered to be the brains. At the times of admission, they put me in this class and I kept wondering for the first couple of weeks as to what gave the teachers the idea that I belonged there. Whatever the idea was, they were certainly right. I wasn’t much interested in studying anyways.

Nabi Ahmad; that guy was completely the opposite of his sweet name. He sat in the last row and was the worst possible distraction for any student or teacher. I knew he was the kind of guy I would get along well with. I wasn’t a bad guy, I was a mere rebel. The thought of doing something out of the way just to please a teacher or to impress fellow students disgusted me. I have no one but God to thank for an intelligent brain He has given me. I was the calmest rebel, because I knew what I was doing.

I am not claiming that it was my original idea, but I cant recall either as to where did I get this idea from; but my theme has always been to pay attention to what the teacher is saying and that’s it; you will pass. And if you add a bit of your own brain to what you listen, you will pass with good grades. Just before the summer break; the internal exams took place and I came second in my class, just after Kami. The teachers noted my existence and so did the front-rowers; but I was too busy playing cricket with the so-called trash of the class.

To be continued. …

THE LETTER THAT LET LIFE GO

•March 7, 2007 • Leave a Comment

I wish for the day when I don’t remember you anymore.

Life, for once was perfect; seeing you was like losing all senses of sorrow and pain, being with you was like having dreams float around me like wayward clouds. Whatever there was between us was made of joy; it never stopped drizzling. With you, I never wanted another sunshine. 

But then attentions diverted, new faces, new names, new curves laid in our path; taking a right turn doesn’t always make you right. Our story was never clichéd, but it seems that our end will be. When you sat in the church, right next to me and asked me to never doubt your sincerity; I knew there was something wrong, you never had to ask me this. You knew, I would never doubt you; and I would know that there was something, some path, some curve you had chosen for yourself which would make me doubt you, your intentions, your sincerity. 

Taking a right turn doesn’t always make sense.

You chose another path; a path where I would never walk, a turn I would never take. What went wrong, I know. Time elapsed. Time that was suppose to stay between us. There is still time between us; but that of a distance, that of a memory. And that time will always keep adding to itself. 

Your will for change will take you away from me and my arrogance will not let me stop you. This is how it is, this is how it will always be. I never got tired of looking at your face, but now this is the face that’s fading away in my memory. Your voice is a distant whisper; your eyes a hazy glimmer. 

I am not going to wait for the day when I won’t be able to recall your face.

Today is that day.

DUBAI SKYLINE: A DISTANT VIEW

•March 7, 2007 • 1 Comment

Dubai Skyline. A Distant View.

During a rain break.

At Dusk

At Dusk.

A view of Shaikh Zyed Road Skyline in Dubai.

From my appartment in Sharjah, UAE.