From my drafts (2)

4am in the morning, she’s looking at herself in the bathroom mirror, telling herself, “It’s okay, you’re okay, you’re beautiful”. The newly acquired nosepin shines slightly to validate her comfort phrases. She really is okay and beautiful. But it’s 4am and she’s in the bathroom telling herself that she’s okay and beautiful.

From a Formerly Disillusioned Pakistani

The Sounds of Freedom by PSO

Today is the 75th independence day of Pakistan. This dear little country, so often dwarfed and swept under the rug with her neighbour India, has completed her 74th year as an independent state.

I find myself so often changing my opinions on this matter. Two days ago, when I was reminded that the independence day was near, I felt disinterested. What independence? Have you seen the state of the country? Have you seen the state of the people? Then yesterday, I saw a delivery man riding his bike proudly adorned with small flags of Pakistan on both its handles. And today, the 14th of August, I woke up to wishes of a happy independence day. I thought again, is the country happy? Are its people happy? Does this day deserve celebration? Why did the separation happen at all? Maybe it would’ve been better if it hadn’t. At least these two countries wouldn’t be ceaselessly bickering over every issue. So much blood could’ve been spared. Think of how bloody the events of the partition were…

Then it ocurred to me, would those people whose blood was spilled, want us to treat this day with such disdain? Would this day matter to them? Of course, it would. Why? Because they believed in the purpose behind the partition. They believed they deserved a land to practise Islam with freedom. They believed that they mattered.

So much of this has now been reduced to “What independence? Have you seen the state of the country? Have you seen the state of the people?” And perhaps, intentionally. We have come to believe our country, its purpose, its people don’t really matter much anymore. Where are we on the map? How many awards did we win in the Olympics? How does the world look at us?

Well, is that why we fought for independence anyway?

There are good people. And there are bad people. Neither of these define the country. What defines the country is its founding principle? Why did Iqbal voice his dream? What exactly was his dream? A land of Islam, by Islam, for Islam. Not even Muslims. Islam. Not a land of the people, by the people, for the people. A land where the word of Allah could be propagated and hailed with freedom. A land where people of Allah could worship Him and invite others to worship Him. Where the Azaan could soar high and proud.

So now, when I say, Happy Independence Day to my fellow Pakistanis, I say it with a proud, hopeful heart. Proud that we’re still standing. Hopeful that we will be able to restore our country to its intended glory. I don’t say it from a nationalistic perspective, I say it from a Muslim’s perspective.

This isn’t to say that all is well. This is to say that all can be well. If only we remember why we gained freedom in the first place… If only we remember it was Allah who made this happen the way it did… If only we remember to live in the present, to better the present, to create the present.

I’ll Meet You There (2020)

A Muslim cop goes undercover at his estranged father’s mosque while his daughter hides her passion for a forbidden dance, uncovering a shocking family secret. (IMDb)

This blogpost is available as a podcast here: https://anchor.fm/moniba-mehboob/episodes/Ill-Meet-You-There-2020-e15t0li

Poster from https://illmeetyoutherethefilm.com/

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.”
– Rumi

I doubt there is anyone who hasn’t read the above quote by Rumi. With this as its titular phrase, the recently unveiled movie I’ll Meet You There sure had big shoes to fill.

Written (with contributing writers Rajeev Dassani and Uttam Sirur) and directed by Iram Parveen Bilal, I’ll Meet You There is a confusing movie about confusions between the past, present, and future intermingling with themes of identity, hybridity, and faith in the context of immigration. All of the actors have done a fantastic job of their given roles, the direction is good enough, the setting and the dressings are all as they should be. I found nothing lacking in those aspects. However, when it comes to the plot, the themes that the movie tried to tackle, the character development, and the dialogues, I felt there was a lot of room for improvement and clarification. You can leave loose ends when your characters have been developed well enough for the audience to reach its own conclusion, but when your plot and dialogues leave so much unsaid…

Watching this movie was like watching a beautiful abstract painting come to life and eventually end up as a muddy mixture of several different colours standing out, as they so often do. I can say both good things and bad things about the movie, but let’s start with first impressions.

The movie began with intriguing parallels between the movements of salah and ballet. The protagonist, Dua, is shown dancing gracefully as in other frame, Muslim men pray in congregation in a mosque. To a Muslim, these parallels can be irritating as they were to me, but perhaps this is what the movie tries to do. It tries to blur the lines. It pinpoints some burning questions, brings them forth for examination, and just when we expect the flames to go off, it pours water on them. I say this because I honestly felt the movie had great potential. It addresses some scathing issues of the immigrant communities in America and elsewhere, but it just seems afraid to bring the address to its deserved and needed climax.

Some of these scathing issues are of the Muslim communities facing a lot of unjust judgment, interrogation, and hurdles after 9/11. Some are of parts of Indian / Pakistani cultures melding together and being minterpreted. Some are of love and modesty in modern life. The movie also addresses some feminist questions: What does Islam say about how men should treat women? What does Allah say about how we should dress and conduct ourselves? It mainly tries to talk about intentions. The bottom message in the paraphrased words of the character Baba: If your intention is clear, then do whatever you desire. This message is what confused me the most. Since the movie seems to set out to correct the representation of Muslims in mainstream media, I feel the movie should have stuck to that and seen it to an end befitting the religion and culture it was trying to represent. Instead, the movie resolves upon what seems to be a sufistic ending which I don’t want to spoil for those who haven’t yet watched it.

I admire the writers for showing clearly the prejudice Muslims often face in foreign countries, especially after 9/11/ I admire them for showing the repurcussions of that, for holding the system responsible, for showing that a man does not go against community for duty, and does not cower from duty when it clashes with community. I admire that they had courage to show how teens go exactly towards what you try to fiercely “protect” them from, and how good parenting always gives reasons for why something is being encouraged or discouraged. I do feel that some parts of the movie could have been excluded, for example the romance between Shonali and Majeed seems to contradict the representation of Muslims. I also feel that Dua’s mother shouldn’t have been kept an ambiguous figure.

One thing I’ll give a lot of credit to this movie for: It made me think. About a lot of things. For a lot of reasons. Perhaps not in the line the movie tried to take its audience, but it made me question numerous things, and for that, I’m grateful.

Demise of Creativity

It is my master; it eats me and knaws at my sanity
It is my servant; it serves me if I want it to fuel me
It is my muse; it gives me something to write about
It is my passion; it makes me feel wise and alive

I know I exist because I know it died
I know it died because I knew it when it was alive
I knew it when it was alive because I held it close
And because I held it so close, it died when I let it go…

Out of the blue, into the blue.

Who knew life could change so much in a year? 2020 has been a wild ride for everyone, yes, but the whole year from last June till now has been especially revolutionary for me. From moving to another country to getting married and starting a whole new life to getting a dream job (almost-dream-job; we humans can never be completely satisfied) to overcoming my fear of solo international travel and learning to live in and manage home away from home… From learning financial management and creating+implementing meal plans (the latter is way more difficult), creating new bonds with a new, wonderful family, and also adjusting to a very different (and very loved+loveable) partner… this year has been a different level of evolution. In every way. Mental, physical, spiritual.

Along the way, I’ve learned and achieved so much that I never thought possible. No, I’m not going to bore you with my newly acquired wisdom, but I might in the future. For now, I’ll just leave this here as my re-entry into the blog world.

Point.

I’m sleeping on your side of the bed because it smells like you, wearing the t-shirt you wore last Saturday, inhaling in its scent – your scent.

Tea is lonely without you. I try to shoo the feeling away by making my tea in the Capricorn mug you got for me when you were at Archie’s buying a present for a colleague and I asked you to get me something too. Every sip brings back a memory. I sit on that sofa where we usually sit every night and catch up, except there’s no you to catch up with. And I cooked nihari while missing cooking daal chawal for you.

And I can’t ride the taxi for free anymore, no other taxi accepts kisses as fare, nor will I give any to anyone but you.

I feel strange when I speak these days because at home I barely ever produce sound, because why would I? I miss your constant singing, humming, making those annoying sounds. I keep praying for days to go by quickly so that I get you back. Not-so-dear September, please hurry away. I can resonate with the song Wake me up when September ends now.

No FIFA to complain about, no Yes Boss to make faces at, no lame movies to criticize. What world is this?

My point is, I can’t find a point in anything when you’re not here.

From my drafts (1)

We keep rewriting our story

Sometimes in red, sometimes in blue ink, and sometimes with water, sometimes, salty water

Each revision in different calligraphy

Short, stout letters or looped, elegant letters; hurried and dragged handwriting or deliberately hung alphabets

And many parts of the story remain unwritten

Whatever the reason, some things we don’t want to record and so only the stars know and our hearts know – because the heart goes on feeling and the stars have no choice but to observe.

I walk slowly…

More silent than my shadow, I pass through the loftily covetous multitude.
They are indispensable, singular, worthy of tomorrow.
My name is someone and anyone.
I walk slowly, like one who comes from so far away he doesn’t expect to arrive.

Jorge Luis Borges

If I had to put my most internal state of mind into words, I couldn’t choose better lines. This morning, I opened Anita Desai’s book The Inheritance of Loss and came across this poem Boast of Quietness by Borges, prefacing the novel. It has been several hours since then, and I haven’t been able to move to the next page.

The past few days have been an amalgam of events, emotions, emotional wrecks and peaks, and journeys. I first travelled from Karachi, Pakistan to Dubai, UAE. Then from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, where I am now, for several days to come. And after a few days, I will be embarking most probably on the biggest journey of my life with my fiance, Hamid, who will then be my husband.

Dubai, I never could have imagined I would one day settle into your busy arms.
Karachi, I couldn’t in my wildest dreams have imagined myself leaving your homely arms.

As exciting as this journey seems to be and inshaAllah will be, a part of me cannot accept having left my family. Maybe it never will. I’m told I shouldn’t look at this as a farewell, rather just a short interval. However, I know it is not just a short interval. At the moment, I’m not missing my country, or my city, or the house I used to live in. I only miss the friends and family I had to leave. My children, most of all. And by that I mean my nieces and nephews. They are and have been my life, so far. It’s difficult seeing them on screen and not being able to hug them. And it’s difficult for them, I know. And my siblings and my bhabhis and my closest friends. I didn’t want this to be an apology, but I suppose I do owe you one.

And then to cheer myself up, I think of the adventure up ahead. Please don’t mistake me for an immature girl hoping for rainbows and unicorns in her marriage, but I still am very excited for what I like to call a never-ending adventure. And of course, like all adventures, this one will have its ups and downs as well. And inshaAllah, we’ll maneuver through them all, together.

I haven’t written anything in the longest time, but I just had to write this post. More for my own benefit than anyone else’s. Again to quote the fore-quoted poem by Borges, Sure of my life and my death, I observe the ambitious and would like to understand them.

Excerpt from To each his own decay

The air was heady with the stench of decay. A line of ants was crawling towards an open hut of mud. Another line of ants was crawling towards another hut opposite the first. The ants did not differentiate. Decay to them was only a feast, whatever its colour or culture might be.

People held their noses when they walked by, unfailingly amazed at the bizarre situation. The situation concerned a cow. A cow sawed in half and that too unevenly. Trails and splatters of blood could still be seen leading from one hut to another. It always looked like either a slaughter house, a sacrificial platform, or a war zone. Older people often looked at the scene and sighed that clichéd sigh with an “Oh, ‘twas once upon a time…”

The ants were now crawling in circles between the huts. Perhaps they couldn’t decide which decay was bigger and more worth their journey.

….

He rose to his feet and gathered himself, turning his pockets in and walked out when a knock resounded. It was a knock too familiar to his ears. The neighbour was asking about his cow. How is it doing today? Do you need some water to replenish the decay somewhat? Have the ants finished it off yet? All the questions mocking the situation, when ironically, the neighbour was part of the situation. Iqbal always asked after the neighbour’s cow as well. The two were obsessed with each other’s half of the cow. Never had the world seen two people more obsessed with a rotting cow; a decay of more than 6 decades.

The Blue Poem

I pull those petals off the blue flower
one by one
they fall
on the blue grass
of the blooming blue garden
of this blue, blue city.

The blue birds chirp gaily
a blue song which
turns my blue heart indigo
and the indigo begins to dance
to a rhythm of blue love
in this blue, blue poem.

~Moniba.