Tuesday, September 14, 2010

idylls of a summer

The other day I caught myself complaining about how chilly it was getting – for the fifth time in one day, quite possibly. It’s an everyday occurrence really; I will invariably lament the waning of summer while simultaneously anticipate the sound of autumn leaves crunching beneath my boots. This happens and then I promptly forget about it, caught up in the meanderings of everyday life and its seemingly endless tasks.

Today I sit at the table looking out the window, as I usually do. But at quarter to seven in the evening, the sky is still blue enough, with enough golden rays hitting the side of the Hilton hotel across the way to show that there’s still a good amount of daylight left. I think about how just a few weeks ago, sunset seemed an awfully long time coming, particularly to those who were waiting to break their day-long fast. Back then, 6:45pm meant a good hour left until a drop of water could touch the parched lips. And yet here we are – the sun is almost disappearing at the same time on the clock. There’s warmth left in the breeze, the rays are no longer scorching but a relief to feel. The expected chill is not so chilly, and summer is gently hanging on by a few beautiful amber threads. I am reminded yet again of just how ephemeral life really is, and how relative time is.

About two and a half months ago, I was in a house full of anticipatory relatives, gearing up for the long-awaited wedding of “the next cousin-in-line,” the one who had already been skipped over once, the one who has already gone past the “prime” time for marriage. Mine. I am sure they all breathed an audible sigh of relief that it was finally happening, and when it finally happened. Back then, I could not imagine the month of September without several knots twisting and turning in my stomach, or without my brain ricocheting off in various directions, wondering if it all really was going to happen. Summertime seemed like a true diamond in the water (it’s besides the point that I don’t even like diamonds) – something to hold onto dearly because I couldn’t tell if a married life of September was really going to appear or some catastrophic situation would ruin everything and render all of this a tottering dream. The season that has always been the sweetest to me seemed even more precious than ever before. It held meaning like it never had before. Every day that passed was another day that would be entirely changed a year from thence. To be sure, June 7th comes around every year – but never again will it come around in this anticipatory state, in a pre-marriage, solitary kind of way. And it was beautiful.

Just like these summer days that are disappearing one by one, that time did too, full to the brim with expectation and beauty. There was a lament of previous days gone by mixed with the anticipation and excitement of what will follow. The colors of fall, the smell and the sounds—they unfold little by little, baring open the full brightness of the reds, yellows, oranges and browns that are sure to paint the landscape. With the change in the wind, will come a quiet and peaceful inner warmth – a feeling of being encased in someone else’s arms when all around feels chilly. And that someone else being my husband – well, that is a wonderful thing indeed.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Of Spirituality and Totem Poles

In recent weeks – or even months – I’ve started to revisit this concept of spirituality, and what it means for me. More so than ever before. I’ve been jaded for who knows how long. A jaded believer, if you will. I’ve been feeling like all this talk of religion and life-after-death and fear-of-God and the neverending list of to-do’s and not-to-do’s have been overwhelming, and consequently, has pushed me away. Who but God should be judging our actions? Why do I need friends on Facebook posting status messages about Ramadan and its holiness to feed my guilt – not my desire – into fasting/praying? To be sure, religion is designed to keep society in check, to keep moralities and immoralities separate, to provide people with “guidelines” on how to live life… But that just hasn’t worked for me. The more I have been told to read and try to understand why I am and am not supposed to do certain things, the more disenchanted I became. To fake faith is the worst disservice one can do to oneself, and even others.

When I sat down to write this, I scrolled down to see my meager previous posts. Funnily enough, the last noteworthy one was about the same topic of religion. And a loss of peace. And I remember exactly how that felt – and still does, most of the time. But here’s where I’ve changed—peace is beginning to come back into my soul. This did not happen through any religious awakening. It did not happen through friends or families’ incessant blateration about religion and religious duties and the wrath of God. It wasn’t a heavens-opened-up moment of revelation.

It came from myself. It came from a realization deep within that self-improvement is not something I should spew in words, but something I need to strive ardently for. It came from the realization that I have the potential to be a good person, and I have not even scratched the mere surface of being one. It came from my own search into myself – brought on my none other than my own self, and the knowledge of how little I have done for those around me, and just how much I have wronged so many who have been dear to me...

It’s a start, and I am at the very lowest rung of the totem pole of spirituality, if there was to be such a thing. I am at the Regretful Self level (re: Sufism); I have been realizing my shortcomings and I have the desire to change. The faults are innumerable, and the realization very dim. There is a strong desire to change, but that change is a long way off. I will get there, hopefully not as slowly as I fear. Everyday is a challenge, but everyday is also a chance, to do the right thing.

To quote my recent inspiration, Sultan AbdulHameed, “the controls for changing our circumstances are not in what we see around us, but within us, in the invisible parts of us, where our thoughts, perceptions, and beliefs reside.”

That’s where my search is taking me… to where my beliefs reside.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

i was about to go on a rant about something or other because i was in a foul, foul mood.

but it took me awhile to remember how to log in, since it's been ohhh say, almost a year, since i last updated... and now i've forgotten what i was so angry about. (i just realized the last time i wrote anything was july 23rd of last year; it's june 23rd today)... and what an awful, awful year it's been.

ha.. i've figured out the path to anger management. memory loss.

that makes no sense.

something tells me that the only way to continue writing poetry/stories/the like is to force myself to. i've hit a road block for awhile now. but i'm afraid of losing it. so even if i write crap, i ought to keep writing...

thought of the day: marriage. it's a scary thing. and people are probably better off without it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Loss of Peace

It’s funny that I remember as a child my first memories of God and what He represented were the minarets of Masjid Al-Haraam in Mecca, and then of the Ka’aba. I remember hearing the azan and thinking that was God’s voice; that he was somewhere up in the minarets and was calling everyone to prayer. Soon after, I went from thinking He’s in the minaret to thinking he was in the Ka’aba, and that every time we went to the Great Mosque, that He was watching me from inside… or that somehow, that big black box was Him….. I’m sure such thoughts would be considered idolatry and blasphemous, but that is how I as a child perceived the concept of an omnipotent God. And with this feeling came a certain unsteadiness, a wariness- not exactly fear, but almost a discomfort of knowing He was watching, and perhaps a little malevolently. I’m not sure how much of that had to do with the “fear of Allah” that all Muslim children (and adults) are robotically instilled with. Probably quite a bit, which would explain why I had such strange feelings of unsettledness… But what’s even stranger (or more interesting) is that the older I got, the more those feelings dissipated to be replaced by a sense of calm and peace when I went to the masjid. I would notice more wrongdoings of people around me -- the littering of cups, or the pushing and shoving of the masses, and especially the obnoxious behavior of the police and guards towards women. The older I got, the more these behaviors bothered and angered me, and yet the sense of calmness that I felt within me, save for my surroundings, only increased every time I walked along the cool marble floors, or gazed upon the shimmering black cube. The last time I went there before we moved from the country, I sat in a row very near to the Ka’aba, and held my head up towards it and asked never to forget that image, that feeling. It was nighttime, undoubtedly the best time to be there, and sparse birds circulated the air above the lighted mosque. The ground felt cooler than usual, the grains of the white marble floors glittered more kindly from the reflection of the many surrounding lights than they did in the daytime. I prayed to Allah that I may remember that particular image and hold it dear to my heart forever,… and even now, 15 years later, I still remember it exactly the way I saw it through my 12 year-old eyes. I see the black sheets covering the Ka’aba rippling in the wind, I hear the birds crying above head, and I see my hands brought together in supplication; the lines of my fingers determined to hold every bit of peace and calmness to memory.

It would be an outright lie to say that I am still as religious (or even close to) as I was 15 years ago. And yet, my faith in God never falters. I cannot fathom a world without His existence, and every birth, death or the smallest experience of love or pain, only confirms to me that He must and does exist. I cannot explain my faith or the reasons for believing such, but all I know is that I derive a sense of peace and unity from such faith, and that is justification enough for me….. What I wonder is how to hold onto that peace, that sense of calmness, when everything else in life is so obviously trying to uproot every fiber of calmness that one can possess? I don’t find that solace in the motions of prayer anymore… at least not the motions that I ought to follow in accordance with the religion. I find a semblance of it when I close myself off to everything else and try to think, perhaps ‘meditate’ would be the word…or pray in my own way… but it is not good enough. Peace, as I have known it, does not exist within me anymore. I can look out onto a lake, or over mountains, or upon a bridge and feel that semblance of peace again, but it is always fleeting… and worst of all, any meditation upon life leads me to become more distressed, more often than not. Perhaps that ideal of peace and calm is only a childhood ideal; perhaps as adults all we can hope for is bits and pieces of peace here and there, to be uprooted by the disaster and distress of everyday life. Or perhaps, if I were inclined to be a little more optimistic, it has been a year so very devoid of inner peace and calm that any other year that is to follow will only be better…. In any case, what I wonder is where does one turn to for that peace of mind when religion simply cannot offer it anymore, when prayer is not enough? Blasphemous these thoughts may be, but in the midst of mental turmoil, the search for oneself or for peace of mind doesn’t have room for such distinctions. They are all questions that need answering… if only I knew how to answer them.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Wish You Were Here

As the candles dance in the forced breeze coming from the frantically spinning fan, I sit on my narrow bed and wonder about the concept of nostalgia. At any given point in time, we may experience a number of different triggers that take our minds through a silent film of moments in our lives. The flames flickering might remind me of my Stony Brook dorm room, Arnob’s music in my ears might remind me of hazy winter mornings in Dhaka, the touch of the wind on my bare shoulders might remind me of someone hundreds of miles away… and yet, all these distant or disjointed memories come together at the same time, making a whole new memory. Not just a whole new memory, but a cacophony of sensations: different languages colliding and conglomerating, colors, smells, touches, emotions, all of them crashing one after the other upon the mind, vying for dominance. What does one do with all these decapitated memories? Do we let them build upon each other and create a veritable monster of nostalgia? Or do we brush them off, throwing them in a pile of Unwanteds and just keep looking for newer memories? Is it possible to simply have a memory and not feel nostalgia? Is nostalgia the thing that makes a good memory good?

I would have no problems with nostalgia if it didn’t have the feelings associated with it; if it didn’t have that which defines it. Why can one not listen to a song without feeling one’s insides melting vein by vein, tearing away all shreds of sensibility? Why can one not smell something without thinking of nothing but that certain someone’s fingers, entwining and caressing, tugging at the heart? Why do we fall prey to such emotions when memories are really nothing but neurons and nerve impulses? It would be pointless to wonder what our worlds would be like without memories; but what if we lived without nostalgia? Would that make us more efficient at planning our present and our future, since we would spend less time upon the past? Would it not make us happier in a way, since we wouldn’t be spending any time or emotions on feeling sad or lonely or depressed? Technically, perhaps that could be the case. But something tells me that life would lose all its hope, all its charm, all its indescribable bits of honeyed happiness that we hold so dearly to our hearts. That must be where nostalgia lies; that must be the purpose of nostalgia. To remind us, with not just a small stab at our hearts, that those fragments of memories that float to us on lonely, hot nights like tonight are actually proofs of life’s cruel beauty. They come to us to make us pause in our mindless days and nights and remember things that once made us love life, or gave us hope, or gave us the reasons that we needed to get through our days. The after-effects of nostalgia are a bit harder to deal with, but I suppose if we can sort through the collage of memories one by one, we might come to look at them pleasantly, and stow them away for another day when we might need that memory… Perhaps I can yet learn to pick and choose my nostalgia. Until then, it seems appropriate that I’ll keep echoing Pink Floyd: How I wish, how I wish you were here….

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

the distance between 'love' to 'lost love'...

There are times when we may feel that we can never distance ourselves from our lost loves, the once-love-of-our-lives. Hopelessly, we may feel that we will never stop lying awake for hours on end, wishing wistful wishes,... staring blankly at our phones, twirling them in our hands, waging wars in our minds, fighting the desire to call our lost loves. We might think that the day will never come when we stop hearing the lost love’s voice when we hear a song, or that we could possibly not look at a hill of daffodils and not think of his smile, his touch, his unending love…. We stand convinced that the day will never come when we stop thinking of the way sunlight highlights the irises of his eyes, making them glint green, orange and brown simultaneously… or the way those eyes, swimming with love, look adoringly and intimately, willing to forgive mistakes, to forgo misunderstandings…

We think such things… and then distance sets in, etching its footprints deeper and with certainty….. Soon enough, we realize that somehow we have indeed managed to distance ourselves. We realize that the hours between those moments when his eyes intrude our thoughts are longer and less painful than before… Eventually, distance has done what it excels at—it has dulled the pain, blurred the edges of the love that was, making it a relic, a memory… It has taken from us the sharpness of heartbreak and replaced it with the numbness of acceptance,… or perhaps of regret. Distance has wedged itself between the crevices of memory and willed the mind to replace, if not forget….. Consequently, our lives take up new plans, new emotions, and lost love dwindles to the bottom of our hearts, to the back of our minds, stored away gently, to be kept only as a fond relic.

What we are never prepared for, however, is the sudden upturning of those memories… of a sudden feeling -fleeting or otherwise- which assaults us, catches us unawares. When lost love suddenly resurfaces, and our minds are left in turmoil. Perhaps all that was needed to jog the senses in the end was just a song, or a word, or a concept,… or a hill of daffodils. Whatever triggers it, we find ourselves immersed in a spiral of memories, where even the way he always cocked his head to the side and smiled in pictures becomes a haunting recollection, at once too painful either to dwell on, or to try to forget…. We find ourselves unable to think of much else, as our minds become fully immersed in digging up old and forgotten feelings, emotions, desires….. It is at that point we realize that we can never fully escape lost loves….especially if we are the ones who let our loves become lost. Until distance again takes up its task of burying memories, all there is to be done is to simply watch the yellow daffodils swaying in the breeze and remember those eyes for what they were…and always will be.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


February 7, 2008

Stationary objects…. Sometimes, when the light shines just right upon them, they seem to have a distinct life of their own. It’s a sedentary life, which isn’t entirely unenviable. I sat on the couch in the sunroom and stared at the opposite side of the room, at a white bag bearing a massive red star with “MACY’S” written across its side, sitting slanted on some books, and overflowing with leftover mail, flyers and random papers that might or might not be important. The ironing table next to the pile of papers and bags stood cross-legged and lonely, with a defiant looking iron sitting on top. As I watched these objects, they seemed to stare back at me with a steady, uncompromising stare. The muted yellow light peeping from the broken lampshade across the room shone just enough light onto the blue plastic hanger that stuck out of the box to make it look a little sinister. Looking at these objects, I found myself feeling envious of their aloofness, of their ability to remain detached and yet surrounded by the chaos of life. I find myself consistently unable to detach myself from people and events around me- whether they personally involve me or not. The world of stationary objects makes me wish I possessed those very enviable qualities some people have of detaching themselves from things around them to the point where they remain unfazed regardless of what happens. They live happier lives, I think.

As I sat there, all the objects began to glow in their stillness. They mocked me; reminding me of the tangled mess that is my life, of the continuous struggles and conflicts I’m forced to face everyday. They rejoiced in their sedentary ways; showing me how much better it is to simply be in the background, as the sun reached out its fading light across the bold letters on the side of the bag. I sat there listening to the voices around me, watching the invisible words coming at me, becoming absorbed into my skin, watching it turn varying shades as the words churned into emotions inside me. I sat there, watching myself becoming angry, becoming sad, becoming happy, and ricocheting through numerous emotions. Slowly, a sentence wafted into my head from somewhere (or someone) -- “it’s your choice.” I thought about what that meant, and realized that unfortunately, it’s really not my choice. If I did have a choice about it, I would choose the sedentary life; I wouldn’t choose to have these emotions, these feelings, these obligations and expectations that seem to drive our lives. I think I might have to disagree with Shakespeare at this point in my life; I would definitely much rather have never loved (or felt) at all.

What it comes down to is that I would much rather be a paper bag advertising for Macy’s than who I am… at least then I would be recycled, reused… replaced. I wouldn’t mind being replaced under those circumstances. I wouldn’t mind one way or the other, which is the exact point of it all.