The years I’ve spent in this world have taught me a lot. People have given me lessons to treasure, places have lent their experiences to me and I always find nature willing to contribute to my knowledge, wisdom and experience, of which I have little at this age.
There’s one friend who taught me to think in a twisted way. She thinks a lot-unnecessarily. And then she worries. And then she becomes crazy over all the worst possible outcomes of whatever has happened. She taught me to control and direct my thoughts. But she also taught me to think in a twisted way. About every aspect of everything. I control it, but I find it useful at times. She also taught me to value little things. To accept one’s shortcomings, though she often doesn’t do that herself. She taught me to accept situations, and do something about them rather than fretting over them in a non-productive way. She doesn’t do it, but she taught me to, unconsciously.
Then there’s this other friend who is apparently very careless, but at the same time, very responsible. She gives me maturity. She taught me to take everything together, to balance life. I haven’t learned to do it completely, but I’ll get there. She also taught me to cope with whatever life throws at us. I see her struggling and I see myself struggling and I see both of us getting the better of situations we never thought we’d get through. She has a love-hate relationship with life. And in all her uniqueness, that relationship suits her. She’s one of the most thoughtful people I’ve met, and one of the most productive as well. She might not have the best of everything, but she makes the best of what she has. She’s obviously a treasure.
A third friend, who is equally important for me, taught me respect. For everything. Having gone through some very tough situations in life, she’s the most realistic person I’ve come across. She might not be very optimistic, but it saves her from getting crushed by expectations. No, she’s not hopeless-just realistic. She plans the future but she keeps it loose enough to accommodate changes and spontaneous decisions. She expects from life but she keeps it real enough to be able to cope with disappointment. She’s traditional but she keeps the world on track. She teaches me time and again, to plan, to expect but to keep it real at the same time.
There’s another friend I love, and she taught me to express. She taught me to not restrain myself unnecessarily. She taught me that life is not all about rules, it’s not all about others and yet, it’s not all about ourselves. It’s about itself, in reality. She’s the wind
Everyone I know or meet even if very briefly, they teach me something. Passing people teach me too, sometimes by their appearance, sometimes by the phrases of their conversation that the wind brings to me, and sometimes by the way they look at me, other people or the environment. The people I encounter in public transport, they speak volumes without actually speaking too. They teach.
Nature teaches too. My university is the best place I’ve been to. It has trees that whisper secrets, and some of them don’t even need to whisper. Their majestic roots and beards speak for themselves. And oh those twisted trees in the park, they have a very weird structure with which I do not agree. And that is what they teach me. The other trees? They teach me that we’re here to stay whether we like it or not. And that we get through tough times. We’re never tested for more than we can bear. The little ones teach me that we’ll grow-with all the chaos to the side, we’ll grow and we’ll grow strong.
The buildings have a lot to tell us too. They’re old and huge and open. They have cracked walls and tall windows. And then there are the new buildings in contrast to them, with their shiny glass and fresh paint, new desks, clean boards and modern architecture. The library is huge. There’s a world of volumes in there. Its massive structure has been standing for decades, and it has a withered look but it remains poised. It tells me it has experience. That with age comes elegance, comes experience, comes wisdom. There’s a long path that goes from the main gate of the university to the faculty of arts. It teaches perseverance to everyone who walks on it. owing to its length and traffic… I find the path beautiful. I refer to it as the path of the righteous, since it’s so long and straight and tests our patience to limits.
My point here: Everything teaches everything. Provided we’re willing to learn.
I died an hour ago. It was crucial, but not because of what I was going through… No, I was hopeful of a good eternal life. It was very painful watching my only son sitting beside my deathbed, crying quietly and discreetly. It was excruciating feeling my mother’s sobs as she clutched me to her chest. It was pure agony watching my husband’s blank face. He was not crying, he was not showing grief, he was just staring at me. Silently, hauntingly, intently, as if willing me to stay. And when I took my last breath, he nodded at me.… Giving me permission to go, assuring me that he would take care of everything and everyone that I was leaving behind, promising me that he would be fine.
Now I was being covered in white from head to toe, after being given my final bath. A tear landed on my shoulder as my husband lifted up the white covers for one last look. He had promised me he would be brave. I had told him exactly how I wanted my funeral to be… “Hold a very small funeral, but make sure there are many at the final prayer… Don’t let anyone cry very loudly, and don’t wait more than 2 hours to bury me”. He had listened very quietly. I knew it was exceedingly painful for him, but he needed to hear this. He needed to be ready. He had to stay strong for the rest of the family. I had also asked him to make sure my assets are divided fairly.. I had always hated family feuds over assets and estate.
My biggest worry before death was my son. He was everything a mother would dream of. But he had refused to talk to me about my death. He didn’t want to accept it. And right now… I could see him in his room, sitting in a corner, all guards down… He looked devastated. Face tear-stained, knuckles white, jaws clenched, hair messed up. My dear boy… Just two days ago he had brought me a journal and a pencil. “Ma, write in this about your days. You’ll laugh about your worries when all this is over and you’re well again”, he said, hope exuding from his words. My heart ached for his innocence and inevitable despair. He had tough years ahead of him, but I know he would be okay. He would go on to become a good man. He would make me proud.
Then I saw my mother again. She hadn’t left my side since an hour before my death. She was strong, but she hadn’t stopped crying since then. The room was cold and she was shivering but she refused to move. She had been by my side every step before I died, and she was beside me now. But she couldn’t accompany me any further… She had told me a week earlier that she couldn’t believe that her youngest was dying before all, before herself! She had given me strength to bear with life and looking at her now, I felt as if I had drained her of all of it. She looked frail, defeated, and so vulnerable.
The door opened and my husband came in, followed by my dear son. He told mother gravely, that it was time for the funeral prayers and then the burial. She looked at him desperately, and then at me longingly. Then she said a prayer for me as she always did when I would go out, and gestured for him to take me away.
There were no tears then, just prayers. A while later, I was being lowered into my grave. I felt dirt fall on my coffin. And then I remembered; I was dead. You only die once. And so, I returned to God, as was inevitable and foretold.
~By Moniba Mehboob.
I wrote this story in early 2013, to enter into a competition held by Oxford University Press. A few days ago they sent me these pages and informed me that the story had been selected and published in their book “I’ll find my way” which is to be released on 7th February 2014.
I wrote this just to write, since I’ve been close to losing my partially established identity as a writer. And so, it’s rough and unedited.
Whoosh goes the sound of wind
Pitter patter for the rain
Chitter chatter go the words
And blank goes silence.
Crack goes the gun, boom goes the bomb
Chaos of war and mayhem for lives
But there, two doves chirping concord
The sound of peace - after war.
The bubbly sound of bliss
The silent trip of tears
The wailing noise of mental war
The depressing silence of misery.
Look how they complement each other
The light balances the dark
The dark gives way to light
Same goes for everything.
They’re companions, they hold hands
With one comes the other
With the other comes the one
And life happens when they embrace.
That dent upon your brow
And frown upon your lips
That nervous twitch of your fingers
And the habit of angry pacing
I wish it were of use.
That genuine smile of purity
Those eyes when wide with intensity
The glisten of your tears
And your everlasting hope
I wish it weren’t in vain.
Your random endless talents
That silver tongue, the play of words
Your mind so quick, and thoughts so clear
That golden pen, and the wand of vision
I wish… You knew to use them.
Not for you, not for them.
Just for Him, and then for all.