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.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Winter of You

Just a random piece...

Winter in the northeast US reminds me of you. The slanted, heatless sunshine, streaming in through the blinds, throwing a yellowish light over the room, reminds me of you. Through my half-opened eyes I see the dust particles floating aimlessly along the sunbeams shining upon the wood floors, and I think of you… The tree branches, devoid of leaves, shivering in the bitter cold, standing upright against a clear blue sky, remind me of you… The smell of the cold wind nibbling at my ears makes me think of you. Something about the scent of winter days brings you to mind- the sounds of crackling leaves and the feel of frozen ground seem imbued in the air of winter, creating a tangible smell that lingers in my hair... I can feel you in that coldness; that sharpness that bites through my lungs, that stings my eyes into tears, that makes me pause my breathing, and think of you. I wonder if it’s the few ‘comforts’ of winter that remind me of you- the warmth of snuggling up under the covers, of pulling my coat closer, of sitting beside a fire, or near the heater. Maybe it’s the bits of welcome heat in the middle of biting frost, enveloping me into a familiar glow, which reminds me of you… I wonder if it’s the way the sun shines on everything- not the harsh summer glare that makes everything radiate, but a cold and calculating light that covers only in measures; the way the sunshine seems to choose where it will fall, what it will highlight… Perhaps it’s the color of the sky; the way the dirty gray clouds hide the fading sunlight, looking ever so ephemeral, always seeming to hang about somewhere near the horizon, and yet taking forever to set….. Perhaps it’s the desolation in the colors of winter that reminds me of you… the beauty of winter’s solitude.

Most of all, it’s the silence of winter that reminds me of you. That silence that pervades throughout the cold, the silence that responds to all my meandering thoughts… It’s the silence that echoes when the wind drops, when the sun travels across the thinning sky, when the cold and barren branches rattle in the biting wind, when the solitary snowflakes drift downward through the night sky. The silence is what responds to me when I remember you… you were never there when I called out into the cold. There was only that resounding silence- that cold, resounding silence of winter days that consistently reminds me of you.

I never did like winter much at all… But I did love you.

January 24, 2008

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

All is quiet, on New Year’s Day…

December 31, 2007. 11:41 pm. 19 minutes till January 2008. A new year, a new lifetime. It is usually on the last day of the year (or on the first of the new year) that we pause to reflect on the past year, on all the moments of joy, of sadness, of could-be’s, of have-beens, of what-ifs. We use this time to plan out better tomorrows, of more hopeful times, of happy futures. But another year also means more heartache, more sorrows, more deaths. There are some who will lose loved ones, there are some who will fall out of love, some who will have their hearts broken. It is normal to feel melancholy on this day, but it is undoubtedly much wiser to be hopeful and positive… After all, unless we look to the future with hope and a positive attitude, we would all be sitting at home near midnight, crying ourselves to sleep…

Each day we live is a new lifetime. There are people around the world being born, turning 12 years old, turning 50 years old, turning 70 years old, dying. Each day is filled with the flurry of what ‘life’ consists of- turning points, births, deaths. 365 lifetimes in a year. If we lived each day with that in mind- that it is a lifetime we are spending, how would we do things differently? Would we say different things? Could we love like it truly didn’t matter? Could we let go of all prejudices and anger and make the most of the day?... Probably not. We would probably continue to bicker over petty things, argue about our beliefs, create pandemonium for the sake of our own ideals. We would probably continue to create wars, brandishing our swords of religion, of race, of wealth, of so-called justice and freedom. We would probably find a minute to fit in love and peace, but it would be a fleeting moment, and we would immediately be consumed again by the insistence of ‘need’- the need for things, the need for possessions, the need for wars. It has become human nature to guard our material and non-material properties and our beliefs – there is an almost selfish brutishness in how it happens. We will probably continue to live each day submerged in ourselves, with the blinders on our eyes strapped on tightly.

What we ought to do is look around us… Notice the pure delight in the face of a little girl as she chases pigeons around the courtyard. Watch the spreading of simple and unadulterated joy in the face of two friends as they share a bar of chocolate. We should see the bit of irresistible hope swinging in the corner of a woman’s eyes as she sits in the coffee shop, waiting to meet the man she’s fallen in love with. We should watch the grandparents swell with pride as their grandchildren show them school certificates and medals. We should listen for the notes in-between song lyrics that make our hearts surge with something like love, like happiness. What we should remember is the way a person’s eyes look when they are in love; the smiles that light them up. What we should look for is the hope that dangles on a thread in a war-torn country, where the shambles of buildings and dried bloodstains cannot dim a child’s need to play football. What we should look for is the love that passes from body to body as a tight hug is given between two people. What we should remember is the gurgling laughter of toddlers that come without reason, without hatred, without preconceived notions, without prejudices or beliefs… Those are what lifetimes are made of.

…If New Year’s Day was worth your lifetime, what would you do differently today?