Category: Bigger than us

The Door Stays Open

Fear saunters in like that uninvited guest
who wants to be centerstage at every party.

Constantly sniffing for food,
it wonders where the joy of the party went,
and while pestering the host for drinks,
it cajoles your intestines out and becomes

the manifestation of your worst nightmares,
alive only inside your consciousness
but consciously everywhere you look.

Fear saunters in and refuses to leave.
The door always stays open…

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.

Void: filled with emptiness

If you feel a void inside you, He can fill it. And only He can fill it. Some of us go through our entire lives trying to fill that void. The world tried to replace God with nationalism back in the 17th century. It has been a void in itself since. 

The dictionary defines a void in several ways. The most fitting being “a completely empty space”. How does a void feel? It feels like a million holes drilled into your being, your soul and heart and mind and organs (and for me, especially my eyes and feet). It feels like this filling heaviness which makes you drowsy and keeps jolting you awake too. It feels like those holes are overflowing with black substance ( I feel we’re unfair to poor black, it never did any harm but always has negative connotations). It feels like… depression, perhaps? But not the clinical depression. And it always leaves you wanting more of everything. Perhaps not in a materialistic way ( personally, I always want more food, more stationary, more time, more contact, more words, more books, more leaves and more stones).

This void… How is it so completely empty and full a the same time? It’s full of emptiness. But the moment you prostrate, the moment your forehead touches the ground, the moment your soul turns back, trust me, you’ll find the void gratified. For that moment, it ceases to exist. It’s like Mrs. Ramsay’s moment of clarity and certainty. But better. And it doesn’t have to be fleeting.

If you feel a void inside you, touch your forehead to the ground and talk to Him. He’ll respond no matter how long it’s been.

Life’s a metaphor; give it meaning

pixlr

If given the opportunity, I would dig a well with my bare hands tonight. And it would be better than facing the possibilities that loom ahead.

How would it be better? Wouldn’t it really be the same? You’d have to face the consequences of that; Dirty fingernails, stained hands, lost mind, hallucinations in the soil. It might even become a grave instead of a well.

You posed my dilemma better than I did. It’s death either way.

It’s death every way. But there are better ways to get to death than digging a well with your bare hands.

Pray, do tell. And the well was metaphoric.

Even so. Even more so. Buy a spade, get some appliances to help you dig, and then dig. Take your time, let the digging soothe your mind. Then begin placing bricks and make the boundary. Place the bucket, attach a rope, let it swing. Go get your water.

Hah. Okay… And what if the spade is bent or breaks half way through the digging? What if the appliances are excessively slow? What if the digging destroys my mind? What if, in the end, the well never takes shape?… What if, by then, all water dries no matter how deep I dig? What if, when I’ve built the well, the water never comes, or I’m not alive enough to fetch the water?…

If we were to “what if?” so much, we’d sit still and just breathe in one place because what if we’re not able to savour the next breath? What if our next movement kills us? What if? Well I’d at least die content if I had tried to build the well. Death will come every way. Go big or go home.

Our mind is confined to the what ifs. That’s the reflex arc of human mind. We’re trapped. We just go round and round in the whirlwind of what ifs, and it often ends up destroying us. It’s only when we’re through the storm that the wind settles, and even then, new winds begin to rise almost instantly.

We confine ourselves to the what ifs. We can go past them and actually solve problems. We don’t have to keep on banging the latch when there are ways to open the door ourselves. We just have to get up. Go through the door if nothing else is possible. Because in the end, it’s more about our own determination and strength rather than the opportunities we were given and resources we had.

It’s easier said than done. Uplifting words make situations seem brighter than they are when really; the sun isn’t rising anytime soon.

Uplifting words do a lot. Let them affect you. If you’re deflecting positivity, chances are you’re deflecting most good things when they’re trying to get to you.

So… No well?

No well. Go book your tickets.

November Winter: Inevitable Revolution.

May you become.

It was a cool November night, unusually mystical atmosphere. The universe seemed anxious and excited. It was apparent in the restlessness of the wind, the impatient tremors of the leaves, the contrasting stillness of the sky. Nature seemed to be waiting.

Oh look. Look at that woman stepping out of the car, sporting a swollen belly with much difficulty, but oh look at her radiant face! Look, oh look! The universe is holding its breath. It seems to be in sync with the woman’s breathing- as if already treasuring the baby she holds in her womb, already cherishing him in a veiled cocoon.

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.

Do you hear that? A baby’s wail. The mother’s sigh of relief, her silent tears streaking her face, the sheen of perspiration on her forehead. See? That woman gave birth to the universe’s gift. The nurses smile. The father rushes in. The baby acknowledges his mother and father with a curious, quiet look. His eyes. They are a microcosm of infinite hopes and dreams, of simmering passion and smoldering determination, clashing with fate. They hold wonder and greatness within, colliding with all odds. See that look. His parents are gazing at the baby boy in wonder, and he bears that look, as he would for the rest of his life. A faint smile plays on his pink baby lips, so subtle, as if he hides the secrets of the world in the void of his mouth. The universe smiles back, a slow and rueful smile. Nature had been waiting for this baby. He shall be a great man, insha’Allah, but greatness does not come easy.

Happy new year, Baby. May the 22nd be the best so far, but lesser than the rest. May you get everything you wish for, everything that is good for you. May the world become your canvas, may you write the stuff of eminence on it, may you change lives. May you find your purpose and fulfill it.

May you be a revolution.

c.i.r.c.l.e.s

Her: Try again.. try to sleep.
The other person: I cant.
Her: Try. At least your eyes won’t hurt.
The other person: What about the heart?
Her: It’s not broken.
The other person: Are my eyes broken?…
Her: *silence*

The other person: I feel like giving up on life.
Her: Why so?
The other person: Such depressing feelings..
Her: So you feel like giving up? Because you’re depressed? Because of that one incident?
The other person: No… It has nothing to do with that.

Her: It began there. Deny it all you want.
The other person: It began there, but it’s not because of that.
Her: Just like life began with birth, but that’s not why you want to give up on it.

The Sun and the Moon and the Stars and the Sky

A magical blanket which changes colours with the passage of time is our sky. It has sequins and a crescent embedded on it. The sequins are of all sizes, but there is one that is bigger than all others that are visible. They glint and they squint, they blink and they wink, down at the wearer of the magical blanket.

The crescent, and the big sequin, they glow fiercely, and continuously, no winks nor smiles, they seem angry and sorrowful. They hold secrets unkown to the world. The secrets could kill, the secrets could put the human race in permanent shock. The sun and the moon are the keepers of those secrets, helping each other stay alive even when the burden grows too great.

The secret: This blanket will one day be folded. And before that, it will throw out its stuffing, the stars and the moons will vanish. Then as it folds, it’ll leave the human underneath in whatever state they occupy, but vulnerable and unable to fend themselves.

The sky will deceive the very ones that it gave shade to, for as long as it existed.