Category: Life

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…

of dotted lines

my bedsheet has a pattern
of dotted lines–
lines going zigzag,
making diamonds,
making arrows,
making beauty.

my mind seeks asylum in these dotted lines–
lines going zigzag (but going haywire)
making diamonds (but closer to coal)
making arrows (but never reaching their target)
making beauty (out of chaos).

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.

dark period within evolution

Everything evolves, sometimes into nothingness, and sometimes into expansive energy which holds power to bring a million dreams to life. Within that process of evolution is a dark period: one in which little light enters, always to be consumed by the darkness. But if we can hold on to that little bit of light, cling to it and climb it like a rope till we can get hold of all that light, well then that energy tantamount a golden wand of granting wishes is ours to claim.

We’re in that dark period. Perhaps all humans are at this age, but WE are in this dark period. Frustrations, greyness, exhaustion, despair, hopelessness, unsettling uncertainty which looms over every single thing; it makes us doubt our very being. We’re alive, we’re not very conscious. We’re awake, we’re not really conscious. We’re breathing, we’re just not really conscious. You without me, me without you, you uncertain of me and me of you, or not of each other but of fate. And of course, fate is something to be uncertain of. It’s that fireball which could either set you on fire and burn you to ashes or set you on fire and light you up into a likeness of a celestial being.

Such a pity, this dark period. Such a pity. You and me, we try to turn it into words; dark words, curling in on themselves, hiding a depth of meanings, curling, curling, curling, like that snake which suffocates. And within those words we lose parts of ourselves and we don’t realize it. Years later, we’ll look at these, gather those scattered parts and hold them close to our hearts. Years later, when hopefully we will have reached that light. Years later when hopefully we will have grabbed hold of that expansive energy and turned it into…. I don’t know what. You tell me.

Love>1094

I’m like that woman sitting on the floor with her hair in her hands, her expression that of a lost baby, sifting through photo albums of the past and present and future, her thoughts screaming in confusing frustration. She does not know where she is, neither can she guess where she is going. She knows not who she is, only has impressions of who she was, and of who she might perhaps be someday. But she knows not when. She’s stuck in a tidal wave. No forward or backward or sideward. No direction. She’s just waiting for the wave to wash her ashore. But this waves seems endless and eternal. She has no choice but to go with it; floating drowning. Toppling, tumbling, trying to carve out a way through the wave. She lifts her hands to separate the waves, the floorboards are solid.

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.

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.

Go now, please.

But that is not how things are. That is not how life is. That is not how people are. And that is not how you should be.

Listen to me. Listen now. Stop whining and lend me your ear – the right one. Now listen, once and for all – though I shall not hesitate repeating it for you all life long, whenever you might need to hear it – and I know you will. As will I. Nasiyaan, yes? So listen here.

Childhood is good. Golden, for most. And they later lament growing up. But dear God, if we were not to grow up, what would we do of our childhoods? We absolutely had to grow up so that our childhoods might be of some use.
For some, it is not good. It turns them blue forever. The strong ones turn the blue into a brighter shade. The weak ones let it dim, further dim, into grey. Even weaker ones ink it black.

Childhood is gone. It had to go. It came to go, as all mankind. We come to go. But between coming and going, there is a lot to be learnt and taught, a lot to do, a lot to let happen. So learn. And teach. And let life happen. Then learn more. And teach more. Learn by evolving, teach by being. Do something. The world will not accommodate you by itself. You have to make your own space. Criticize all thoughts, yes. But do it for a purpose, take something from it. Don’t do it for the sake of criticism, don’t do it for the sake of uniqueness, don’t do it for the sake of rebellion. Do it to actually do something.

And please, do something. You cannot let things be. It is in your power to bring a change. Do something as small as voting, or as big as introducing a reformed educational system. Don’t just badmouth the politicians, or politics itself. Do something about it. We write, we think, and we read. But what do we do? Study, if you’re doing that, but think, and plan on what you’ll do when you’re able to. And take my word for it, you can always do something. You’re small, but you make the universe. It is people like you who do great things, things that impact the world.

You cry about people wronging you. And you cry about people being ignorant of your affections, ignorant of the world, ignorant of people. You cry about people coming and going. Rise above that. Hold your heart. Look to those who are with you, and there are always some who are with you. And when no one is, He is. People are people. For others, you are people. It is okay. Rise above that. Life is about so much more.

You cry about messed up circumstances. Take my word for it, circumstances are so much worse in our heads than they really are. So don’t think too much. You’ll only tangle the wool more. Settle on something which gives you peace, and hold on to it. Faith gives you peace. Hold on to it. Circumstances don’t shape what happens to you, how you deal with them does. So deal. All will happen as you want it to, if you can hold on long enough.

And you. Stop crying. Pull on a strong countenance. Move forward. Flashbacks are flashbacks, don’t let them deprive you of the present. Sad thoughts are your own thoughts. Don’t let them dampen your spirits. Don’t indulge them. Do not.

Take that chair, pull it out, set your head down on it and think hard. Only five minutes. And then leave the seat with a plan. They tell you planned lives are boring. Don’t believe them. You can plan blank spots too.

This is how it is. But don’t believe me. Go now.