Category: Family

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.

“Jee mujhy qubool hae”

I have never been one for writing about events, but two days ago, my brother got married and I felt it deserved to be written about. I would’ve embellished this post with photos, but it seemed to go against the decorum I try to maintain here on my blog. I sit in my room this evening, relaxed and all done with the wedding rush and reception worries, completely left to myself, free to muse upon details of the event and in a pensive mood which usually means the beginning of a storm in my thoughts, so I seek to calm it with writing. On the 30th of January, my brother got married to a wonderful beautiful girl. I had waited for that day since I was a schoolgirl, and I used to fantasize about my brother marrying one of my friends, and then all of us living happily ever after in one home. I imagined I’d sit with his wife on the stairs of our house and talk about random things all revolving around my brother. I’d tell her his stories and she’d tell me theirs. All of those girly sisterly ideas. Over the years, these ideas matured and I stopped giving much thought to it when I realized just how complex these matters are and that I do not have the complete understanding of them, neither do I have much interest. The dream of seeing my brother married happy and well always remained. And now that it has come true, I do not know how to feel, really. I am immensely happy for them. When I heard my brother say “Qubool hae” (equivalent of I do) over the mic, I was overwhelmed and had tears in my eyes. And then when I saw the couple walking down the ramp, with my brother helping his bride down the way, I couldn’t help but smile like a lunatic. Perhaps my emotions seem like an exaggeration, only I know how true this is.

The wedding was beautiful, everyone was merry, the bride looked gorgeous, and the groom looked dashing (and very much like a groom, which I had previously doubted for some reason). But all of this is superficial. We had a new member in the family. She came home with us. We talked for quite a while, and long after everyone had retired, I lay in bed thinking things over. Hoping and praying they’d be happy together, wishing that my parents would be calm and happy as well, and that everything would remain smooth. I waited for the morning very impatiently. I wanted to see them together. It made me so happy… Alhamdulillah. Now I realize I sound like an obsessed sister, but no. Outwardly, nobody could tell I felt all of this. I guess I didn’t know either- it’s only when I’m writing about it that I know… and writing just this much feels enough.

Here’s to Bhai and Bhabhi, I wish you the happiest, most fulfilling life. I wish you everything good. I wish you bliss and togetherness of forever. I wish you two find the answers to the questions that you are, in each other.

To THE cousin

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You know who you are,

You know how much  I value you. You know how much your support means to me. You know. And guess what? We’re the same age again, for the next eight days. Hugs?

Remember the childhood years? That game of touch-me-not at Barray abbu’s old house, the kidnapping plays at Taya’s house, the monkey bar on his terrace and our antics of climbing it, the cousins who pretended to throw us off the railings there? Do you remember playing hide and seek with the elder cousins? Do you remember all the nicknames I gave you? I’m really sorry for the offensive one, although you did get me scolded for it :p Oh, and do you remember the mummy in my room’s store? 😀 It’s still there. Come visit someday, it has missed you. All those night stays, the pleadings for night stays, the ijtemaai duaaen for my father forgetting to pick me up from your place on his way home from office… and those two times that he actually did forget!! 😮 Oh and remember the times you and your younger sister stayed at my place, and you’d both be sad for the first few hours because…. well, you know why. It was infuriating. Oh well. I loved you then and I love you now. You two were the sole reason I begged to be transferred to campus IV of our school. We fantasized we’d play in the basement in recess time, but school brought with it quite different times.

And then we grew up. There was competition for five rupee coins, there were new friendships and petty disputes over them. I apologize for those, I admit I was incredibly shallow and inconsiderate. And it hurt you. I’m sorry. In that period, there was confusion and lots of changes swimming about everywhere. It changed us as well. And for sometime, our relationship was in the background. But it was revived, no? The bathroom meetings on the ground floor? And… ahem, remember that singular exchange? 😀 Oh and remember the time I got a new haircut and I was so excited to show you, I opened my hair and arranged it in that specific way, outside the bathroom, and Miss Zarqa came along!! 😮 We were scolded. And the spelling bee!!! I can never forget that. I remember how I explained the phonetic symbols to you and Fizza. And how we memorized the spellings for typhoid and haemorrhage, and how much we loved pronouncing hullabaloo and bootee. And all the free periods we got to practice, just the three of us sitting outside to study spellings. I still blame myself for getting that spelling wrong in the regional rounds. I over-complicated it. I remember my reaction when we got our matric results, and I was envious. I admit that. I didn’t even congratulate you, and it brings tears to my eyes. But I did hug you and congratulated you at school early morning the next day. The damage was done and I was extremely in the wrong. Forgive me if you can? For all those times?

And then school ended, college distanced us. Your anxiety in those two years, and my depression; we bonded differently. Different colleges and different subjects after having studied the same subjects together, for six years, our desks almost always near, for there wasn’t much space in the classroom either :p I missed you.
Remember that one crazy night at my place when our fathers went out of city? We watched a movie, and then theorized every lunatic idea that came to mind, lying beside my bed on the carpet in the dark for so long, we ruined Einstein, and made a joke out of philosophy where everything was nothing and nothing was everything and bananas and feet and darkness and Lord knows what. Conclusion? Birmingham Asylum. Electricity went off, my mother came to talk to us, and we sobered up.

Sobering times followed as university came along. Same institutions again, we began to meet almost everyday, and found the solace of silence in each other. We found colliding and conflicting passions, favourite spots and baffling philosophies. As different and as similar as we continue to become, you still are the best cousin, and my rock. We have something different, don’t we? That kind of comfort, I can never find with anyone except you. Too sappy? But i’m being honest. See, I even wrote you a love letter 😉

We’ve changed drastically, and we keep talking of changes. All the changes aside, you need to hear what’s coming. You are a fantastic person. Your thoughts, your words, your strokes, your expression of everything and your extraordinary ability to feel (reminded me of the theater society, and need for “empathy” :p). Whatever life may have brought, you’re still that amazing person. You might not see it, but everyone else does. Have faith in yourself, as I do in you. Love thyself, as I love thee.

We believe in the process, remember? 🙂

Yours,    
Moniba.

Notes to People of the Past

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Respected ____________,
You were right, I did it for attention. But it offended me deeply when you said it, when in fact I should have realized you were giving me an easy way out. Almost six years later I realize this and find closure. I’m sorry for the way I reacted. I am indebted to you.
~Moniba.

Dear ___________,
I think of that day every day. It has been almost nine years I think. I’m burdened with guilt. The fact that I can never apologize sickens me. You were my best friend at that time. I should have known better. I hope you’re happy wherever you are now.
~Moniba.

______________,
I forgive you. I know why you did what you did. I understand, although I obviously don’t approve. I forgive you. I hope you’re doing as well as you seem to be doing. I hope you understand my reaction as well.
~Moniba.

Dear ___________,
I don’t know you anymore. I just remember your name, your face, the time we spent together, and the monkey-bar incident. I hope you think of me too.
~Moniba.

___________, ___________, and ____________,
I was a child. You shouldn’t have done what you did. Every day I think of it and try to justify your actions, and I often succeed although I know it was wrong. I can’t say I forgive you. I don’t know if there’s anything to forgive. I don’t know what that constitutes. Just know, it affected me deeply. I would’ve been an entirely different person had it not been for you.

~Moniba.

Very dear _____________,
All of us miss you. I wish I could’ve thanked you when you were still here. I have fond memories with you. I still haven’t thrown away your gifts. I don’t know if I ever will. You’re missed, but you don’ need to worry. We’re all okay here. I hope you’re in peace.

~Moniba.

 

Her favourite sound in the entire world

Maleeha grew up without a father. On a cheerful, sunny afternoon of her fourth year, her father had passed away silently, in his sleep. The doctors said it was a painless, natural death.
Maleeha was sleeping between her parents at that time, under the single, whirring fan of their bedroom, on a lazy Sunday. The echoing sound of Azaan for the Asar prayers roused her from sleep and she blinked to adjust to the sunlight filling the room. She tilted her head slightly and reached out to tap her father’s shoulder. Her father was a light sleeper and usually a gentle tap on the shoulder was all that was needed to wake him up. When he didn’t open his eyes and squint at her in that usual, funny way which always made Maleeha laugh, she hopped on top of him and kissed his cheek. Surely, that would rouse him! And then when that didn’t work either, she decided it was time to pull out the bigger guns. So after stealing a quick glance at her oblivious mother, Maleeha started jumping up and down on her father’s tummy. A few seconds of that woke her mother up, but her father remained asleep. Suddenly, a wild thought came into Maleeha’s mind and her eyes widened mid-jump. She stopped and leaned down. She put her head on her father’s chest, where just two days ago he had told her his heart was. At that time he had pulled Maleeha close, her head on his chest, so she could hear his heartbeat. She had told him that it was her favourite sound in the entire world and asked if he could please record it for her so she could listen to it on their new computer. And he had laughed heartily. Then he had told her she could just put her head to his chest when she wanted to hear it. But at this moment, when she put her head to his chest, she heard nothing.

After listening to silence intently for a few seconds, she asked her mother if hearts stopped beating when people slept. Her mother told her she was probably listening at the wrong place and called out to he husband that it was time for Asar and he needed to wake up. When he didn’t stir, she called out again and shook him. Still no response. That was when she became worried. She pulled Maleeha off of him and put her own head to his chest. No heartbeat. She checked his pulse where there was none. She called out to him again and again, in disbelief and panic, frantically. She shook his arms. Tried again in vain. After a few minutes of this, she just lay there beside him, holding a weeping four-year old Maleeha, trying to think. But what does one think and how, when their husband just dies all of a sudden, after a promise of taking them out in the evening after waking up?
Eventually, Maleeha asked her mother what they would do now. Her mother got up and called her brother, told him, and then lay back in bed with Maleeha snuggled close to her. The child showed more maturity than could be expected of a four-year old. Her father had died, and she was trying to be brave about it. But for several years after that, all she could think about was that she only got to hear her favourite sound in the entire world once. And that she could never hear it again.

~Moniba.

You only die once

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.

http://www.teenink.com/fiction/realistic_fiction/article/615853/You-only-die-once/

“Don’t cry, mommy…”

She was here just a minute ago. And now she’s gone.

I called out for my little girl. But got no response. She had a habit of hiding from me, whenever I left her alone even for a little while. I never understood that. I looked under the sofas, but I knew she wouldn’t hide anywhere that obvious. She was clever that way. I checked in the kitchen cabinets, but there was no sign of her there either. I looked out of the window, but couldn’t see her in the garden. She wouldn’t go there anyway, the wet grass bothered her. I didn’t look for her outside, because I was sure she wouldn’t go out. She never did feel comfortable out on the streets. She was never the adventurous type. Then I looked for her in her own bedroom, but she wasn’t there. I checked her favourite hiding spot in the wash basket, but she wasn’t there either. Now I was starting to get worried.

She’d usually giggle from her hiding spot, just for the fun of it. But today, I could hear no giggles. I’d looked in every room, and every one of her past hiding spots. She was only six. Where else could she hide?… I called her name again, and again. And then rechecked all the rooms. Seriously worried now, I ran to my room to call my brother. And just when I stepped in… I saw her, getting up from the very tiny space behind my bedside table. She was rubbing her eyes, and not looking at me. I called her name, she still wouldn’t look at me. She never avoided or ignored me. Circumstances hadn’t allowed her to. But she seemed lost at that moment. As if she was looking for something, but had just realized that she would never find it. My little girl looked so lost… I knelt in front of her, and forced her to look at me. She just stared back. It was a very mature look for a six year old. I asked her what was wrong, only to be met with silence once again.

I looked at her carefully for a long while… And then hugged her tight. I wanted to comfort her, to take away whatever was troubling her. She wouldn’t tell me what it was, she had gone mute. But I saw it. When I hugged her, I saw her hiding spot behind her. Behind the table, lay a picture frame. Her father. The little girl had hidden behind the table, and that photo had fallen on her. The photo of her deceased father. Tears rushed to my eyes. I hugged her tighter, this time more for my benefit than hers… I pulled back and looked at her again. The troubled look was no more there. She actually smiled at me, “Don’t cry mommy, I’ve cried your share too…”

And so you burnt for me…

Her: Hey, you there?
The Other person: Yess. What’s up?
Her: Nothing..
The other person: Something wrong?
Her: You know it. I think.

The other person: Is this about your friend?
Her: Her too.
The other person: Marriage?
Her: I lost interest.
The other person: What is it?
Her: I Slipped. Into. Deep….
The other person: Drugs?
Her: Depression.
The other person: Ohh..

Her:  I can’t eat. I don’t feel like going anywhere, not upto seeing anyone. Just tears. All the time, whenever no ones around…
The other person: Hey. Let me tell you something. We cannot change the cards we are dealt, but we can choose how we play the hand. You can choose to return to being awesome. You just don’t want to.
Her: I can’t…
The other person: That’s crap.
Another thing. Two things are infinite; The universe, and human stupidity. In your case, i’m not sure about the universe. 
You must stand up. That really is an option.

Her: I tried…
The other person: 
So what? You fell while trying to climb the wall. Why do we fall? So we can choose another path and start climbing again.. 
Her: I can’t…
The other person: Psh..

Her: And since when are you so wise-ish?
The other person: I’m wise?
Her: -ish.
The other person: I picked it up from someone else.
Her: Oh.. who would that be?
The other person: You.
Her: Lies..

The other person: Haha.. Sure, sure. You were my idol.
Her: Lies..

The other person: Hah. You don’t like admitting the truths.
Her: Lies..

The other person: Look, I love you. Don’t disappoint me.
We share blood. If you can’t do something, I can’t either. But I know you can. I will not disappoint you again. You can’t either. 
Talk to me. I stopped talking to someone important so I could talk to you.. So worth it.

Her: Now you’re just saying things to pull me out.
The other person: I swear. I speak the truth.

Her: Okay. Fine. Please talk to the other person..
The other person: And No thankyou,  I’d rather talk to you. It’s been a while..
Heyy.. Are you still there??
Her: Yeah.
The other person: Say something.. Have my words had any effect on you? They were true. All of them…

Her: Yeah, they made more water and salt come out of these things I see with. 

The other person: If not then I’ll try again. I won’t give up. Because I know you won’t either.

Her: I’m okay.

The other person: You will be soon. Keep healing.
Her: I’ve stopped praying… 
The other person: What good did that accomplish?
Her: None, but I stopped.
The other person: Lost faith?
Her: No…  I don’t know. I stopped doing pretty much everything.
 
The other person: Tell me.
Why did the chicken cross the road?
It’s a serious question.
The answer is a logical one.
Think about it.
  
Her: Just to get to the otherside.
The other person: But why??  
 
Her: Because she thought she wanted to. 
The other person: Alright, it’s a he, not a she.
Her: But he died on the way. 
The other person: No, he didn’t. Think again.
 
Her: He wanted a change of scenery.
 
The other person: Close, but no. Survival of the fittest in a way. He did it to escape.
He was tired of living on the other side.
And he was down on himself.
So he crossed the road..
To prove he wasn’t a chicken.
 
 Her: And died…
 
The other person: Wrong , hmade it.
 
Her: No, he died.
The other person: It moved on… You will too.
 
Her: I dont see it
 
The other person: The road? You’re right in the middle of it. You don’t understand.
The road represents difficulties.
 
Her: Then i’m gonna die, because i’m not moving.
 
The other person: Start praying again.
This time,
Don’t pray for an easy life.
Pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.  
You see, some humans, are the light that separates everything else from the darkness. You 
shall be the light.
Her: And you already are. Thanks.
 
The other person: I’m just the flame. You’re the candle itself. All you needed was a little energy.
Her: And so you burnt for me…

The second bundle of joy

I love babies. My sister just had one. A baby girl, she’s adorable. We’ve named her Soha. Babies are wonderful creatures… It’s amazing watching them grow and develop. And it is unbelievable how fast they grow into fine, walking talking human beings. They’re so delicate, it’s scary holding them… In fear of doing something wrong. I wonder how first-time mothers feel… I get scared when I hold them, I worry about their uncannily soft heads and small features, such delicate, thin skin… And it is very puzzling when they cry, after having been cleaned and fed and well-rested. My mom says that’s how they communicate, and that crying is good exercise for them.. And I get that. But it’s still…crying and wailing!!

Note: The pic isn’t of my sister’s baby, I just picked it off google 😉