It’s only ghosts here in the winter.
When you’re in love all this
“life” stuff feels like a play —
a game; a dream. And when
you’re not, it’s not. That’s just
how it works. Nights like these
I feel like I’ve forgotten how to
dream. I used to dream of flying.
I miss the wind in my hair, the
sun on my face. But most of
all, I miss your sighs; how the
longing in them would rise up —
up through the zephyrs and comets —
dissolving into stardust that just
might, with a bit of luck, power
the universe for an-
Time was a string of knots, a spiked wheel,
a seam that you could split and heal—
As a boy, reclining on horsehair
one morning on a train,
you watched the countryside,
a single light-filled frame
in which lives flickered, drawn forward
like a train along a track; you saw yourself,
suspended in a fractured, endless motion,
going, never going back.
Lauren Wilcox, The Moving-Picture Principle,The Paris Review, Summer 2004
AND then there was that band that had that song called the Loving Sounds of Static. Before then, I’d never thought of static as something that could be loving; beautiful, even.
And then I learnt the only thing I remember from high-school physics: that 2% of the static you hear on old radios as you turn the dial from station to station at sunset is primordial waves — remnants of the Big Bang destined to course forever more through the lonely spaces between the stars and I feel a bit strange knowing that, don’t you?
And the band was called Möbius Band and a Möbius strip is a band, too — not the musical kind — but kinda like the one you wear around your wrist except it has a twist in it so you can visit both sides — inside, outside — without lifting your finger.
And Arthur C. Clarke once wrote, famously, about the bittersweet songs of distant earth but he also wrote about a wall of darkness at the edge of an alien universe and I remember reading it twice in one go and wondering at the magic of it all, and wanting to be a writer, and that was about a Möbius strip, too.
And since then, that’s what I think of whenever I hear static on old radios: sci-fi and interstellar origins and whatever it is that lies just beyond the border of everything. But more and more, now, I think of those quiet evenings spent endlessly tracing a finger along the continuous surface of a band worn, once upon a time, by you.
SHINE Humanity is a registered NGO dedicated to providing high-quality healthcare and clean drinking water to underserved populations.
As President of SHINE Humanity’s Youth Board, I gave a presentation on SHINE’s charitable activities to the students and faculty of Karachi Grammar School.
This post was also published here, on the Ziauddin University Atlas Blog.
Man’s heart a river be
deeper in depth than the unfathomable oceans,
Ah! Who knows the wailing of the heart
in search of its Lord?
Sultan Bahu, d. 1691, (translated from the Punjabi bySayed Akhlaque Husain Tauhid i)
THERE is a stubborn Sohni in my soul who longs to cross the Chenab of two worlds to reach her beloved, Mahiwal. I refuse. She persists. I patiently explain how fragile my ghaṛiya; how vast—how turbulent—the waters. It is but a simple thing fashioned of simple, unbaked clay: how dare it aspire—ad astra—to the stars? She smiles at me and slowly shakes her lovely head.
A marvellous thing: as we watch the shoreline recede behind us—and the waters swirl higher, ever higher—my turbid heart settles for the first time since I was a boy of twelve and found that battered old copy of the Conference of the Birds and learnt of love and Love.
And together, my Sohni and I watch as ourMahiwal appears on the distant bank and dives into the waves and strikes out for our simple, fragile, star-seeking, little ghaṛiya.
(Still from the music video of Coke Studio’s “Paar Chanaan De” (Across the Chenab) by Noori ft. Shilpa Rao.)
A million years ago — as they sat by their little campfire — a father pointed out the constellations to his son. And the infinite night sky didn’t seem as intimidating anymore.
It’s the stories we grow up with that whisper the loudest within our hearts; they are the framework for our dreams; they pulse with the rhythm of our short, bright lives.
Thank you for giving me the stories that have made me who I am today. (Here is one of them.) Stories of social justice and dignity and equality. Stories of a divine love that is greater than the stars. And stories of who I was, who I am, and who I will be.
They are stories that will last a lifetime and I shall never tire of telling them.
Love you, forever and always.
These matters of mysticism
Ye tirā bayān ‘ġhālib’
These discourses of yours, Ghalib
Tujhe ham valī samajhte
We’d judge you a saint
Jo na bāda-ḳhvār hotā
If you weren’t an alcoholic
Ghalib, Ye na thi hamari qismat ki visal-e-yar hota (It just wasn’t my kismet to meet my lover)
searching for it at night
searching for it in brothels
searching for it in bottles of Murree’s finest on cold winter evenings
searching for it on walks through the city
walking through the humid streets of your childhood
by the park where you first kissed her
behind the queen-of-the-nights;
you will ask for them on your deathbed
to your tired, ravaged mind they will only be
of something you knew, once,
walking through the graveyard
where your grandfather lies
and his father
and his father before him
and you, too, someday
(if you like)
under the big banyan tree
that your grandmother told you was haunted
by a family of djinn
and you’d search for them during the hot afternoons
for three whole summers;
they say every love story is a ghost story
and if that’s true
who will you love?
who will you haunt?
to the mosque by the sea
where you found God one day
found him on the sea breeze
that came in through the broken windowpane
of that poor fishermen’s mosque
and kissed you on the forehead as you knelt
and you kneel again
please, you say,
but there is no breeze tonight
so you sit there
cross-legged on the dusty woven mat
and look through another broken windowpane
at the rising sun
and the fishermen as they row in
from nights spent
on the dark waters
and you see the morning star
and you see the Ursids flash by
and something flutters in your heart, then
and you are alright, then;
what a strange thing you are,
what a strange, strange thing you are.
a photograph is all that lasts long
with glory years and quiet fears gone
when summer days are far away
you can dream of skies and lover’s eyes
Shoecraft, Eyes, Blue
OF all the addictions that may plague a man, an addiction to love is the trickiest addiction to have. This is due to the singular fact that one can not buy love in the marketplace. If one could, that would be another matter entirely and we would not be having this conversation for I would be in the marketplace but we are, and I’m not, for it is — truly, insufferably — priceless.
Its effects are astounding. It can take a boy of fifteen — a promising young lad with a first-rate mind and sound disposition — and render him anaesthetised to worldly pursuits. The worlds of commerce and politics and sport are forever more left grey and drab to him. The gold stars of society no longer mean anything to him. He has glimpsed a world drenched in colour and he can not thrive without it. Over the years, he secretly feeds his addiction with scraps of poetry and ancient Persian treatises on Sufism. He devours literature with an unslakable thirst, searching, ever searching. He sees something he can not articulate in the way the sun sets behind lonely apartment complexes. Something beckons to him on the sea breeze as it blows through banyans in the hot afternoons. And something tightens in his chest every night as he watches the rising of the stars from the roof of his ancestral home. Everything he writes ends the same way: smeared with the half-remembered colours of forgotten love. Like waking from a dream and scrambling to put it all down before it’s lost to the aether; knowing it’s going, knowing it’s gone, knowing even as you begin to write that it’s useless and yet still grasping for another fix, you addict, happy in your addiction, wouldn’t trade it for the world because you’d rather your half-remembered colour than the grey, grey, grey of everyone and everything else…
There is a boy or a girl a thousand years hence on another planet who is reading all this, feeling all this. Here, Earth is merely a byword for an unspeakable nostalgia. I write to you — future-boy, future-girl — from your ancestral home. The colours are real. They exist. There is only one way to find them and there always has been. Good luck. Godspeed.
Gharo, Sindh, Pakistan. PHOTO CREDITS: HASHAM MASOOD, M.B.B.S., BATCH XVIII
BY: SHAHZEB NAJAM, M.B.B.S., BATCH XVIII
If you sail far enough into the blue waters of Keenjhar Lake, you’ll see a small, stone structure rising up out of the waves. You disembark onto weather-beaten steps and climb up to a white, circular platform and in the centre, in eternal solitude, lie the graves of an ancient king and an ancient queen. You say a small prayer for the royal lovers — for all lovers, in all epochs, and for those who loved too much. Before you leave, your gaze lingers a moment longer on the setting sun and the wind-ruffled waters and you wonder why it feels like you’ve left something of yourself behind there with Noori and with Jam Tamachi and their thousand sunsets. Soon, the stars will rise. And I shall think of you.
About the author: Shahzeb…
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