March 20 is World Sparrow Day!

I did not know this when I wrote about my sparrow sanctuary yesterday! Therefore it is most necessary (for our collective enjoyment and honoring of sparrows) to share some stellar photos of our resident nesting couple taken by Amu 3 days ago.

An awful thing had happened while we were in the process of moving out of our home in 2020 and had to remove the external unit of our split AC. A couple of sparrows had made a nest snuggled in a card paper bag I had wedged into the narrow space on top of the unit and there was a little fledgling in there, which tried flying in panic and ended up falling. The man who was doing the AC work seemed to be as regretful and horrified as I felt when I got to know, and it was him who immediately ran downstairs to bring it up to put back in its nest bag. Sadly, baby bird didn’t survive the trauma, and died after a day. The parent sparrows were my friends, and I should have been more mindful and protected their home and lone child, so I carried the guilt in my heart for many days afterwards, continuing to feel the occasional sharp arrow of it every time my mind went back to that incident. I tried not thinking of it as an omen, but everything is, isn’t it?

Fast forward to 2023, it’s been almost a year and a half since we moved back into our old home, and the same split has been put back in its old place. Perhaps it is in the memory of that little fledgling that I crafted a proper little birdhouse. Perhaps it is a full circle moment, now that there are new little sparrow babies, safe and protected in the same spot.

Sparrows tend to live in urban settings alongside humans, but their populations in the world have been on the decline. This thought always comes to my mind when I see sparrows now, and they feel more dear than ever.

I’m not one for proselytizing, but I honestly believe that our lives become so much richer, more in harmony, when we live with awareness of other beings and share an actual space with them. Go buy a couple of cute wooden birdhouses and put them up somewhere high around your outside space, because sparrows need homes too. ❤

Being of this world

I didn’t just turn 50 on the 4th of December, it has been more of a becoming. To become means ‘to grow to be’, and indeed it has been a journey to grow from 40 a decade ago to the place I am at now. Nope, it doesn’t seem like yesterday at all.

I love my birth month so much. It makes me want to hunker down and reflect on the year that has passed, to spend time in solitude, to welcome and enjoy the winter with cozy, warm mugs of coffee, and freshly squeezed orange juice, and carrots that are redder than any other time of year, and to buy salted pistachios and cashews and almonds from the dry fruit store/treasure house.

I want to spend my time being at the beach, going on walks there, watching the seagulls and the waves, the fishermen in boats and the ones casting nets at the shore. To feel the sun on my skin, to let the breeze play with my silvery hair, to dig my feet into the soft sand, to lie back and gaze at clouds, to look at pebbles and admire their shapes, colours and beauty.

It’s a challenge for someone like me to navigate wedding season, which coincides with December (it being seasonally the best time of year in Karachi) when there are invitations to events in settings I’m uncomfortable being in. Being social requires a lot of energy, and a lot of things which entail a lot of time spent in shopping places. And the thing is….I’m quite done with putting so much effort into activities that I don’t enjoy.

At 50, my soul feels wilder than ever, more fabulous and freer than ever, and to be honest, it wants to express its fabulousness now more than ever. But here’s the thing: it wants to express itself on its own time and space, it doesn’t want to spread itself thin. Sometimes I think it doesn’t want to spread itself AT ALL.

I thought a few times over the course of this last year of how I would like to celebrate this milestone birthday, and it made me a little anxious and a little pressured to think of how others would expect me to. The funny thing is, I don’t enjoy celebrations and I don’t enjoy being celebrated either. I almost wished no one would remember, as I didn’t want any birthday wishes. I appreciate seamless transitions, don’t I? But my heart knew what it wanted, and it gave me a nudge…and a very nice visual.

The usual suspects (Amu, Huz and Fatu) made a cute little fuss after which we packed some things and set off for the beach. I think we were all in our own head spaces that day, and that was okay. There was comfort to be had in being together, yet doing our own thing. One of the things I feel compelled to do is to clean up as much trash as I possibly can in the area we set up our base camp, I cannot feel at ease unless I do so. We even had a large rake to make the job a little easier (thanks to Huz, who made it a point to buy one.)

The others helped a little but then eventually abandoned the job to go swim in the sea, or sit peacefully and take in the golden hour. I found a large, torn fishermen’s basket abandoned along the shoreline, and decided to use it as my trash bin, slowly filling it with objects like footwear, empty gin bottles, plastic bags, toothpaste tubes, chip packets, juice boxes, straws, rope, styrofoam and other flotsam. If you’re anything like me, you’d know how committed one can get to a lost cause. And yet, when the basket was full to the brim and I looked around me, I felt and saw such a big difference. Amu remarked amusedly that I must have been a professional trash collector in a past life.

People saw me do this work, and I didn’t give much thought to whether they thought I was a loony, or if I inspired them to do something similar. What mattered was that I left the place better than I found it. There were large craters higher up in the sand, where the Olive ridleys laid their eggs, and there were so many eggshells scattered about. I smiled to think of all the little babies that must have made their instinctive path to the waiting waves, and felt even better about cleaning up. Like I had a pact with the protective nature spirits and the elementals to serve them and the original inhabitants in whatever way I could. I know I felt their welcome as soon as I entered the land of the mangroves, it felt like happiness.

The moon rose, faint at first but grew stronger as the sun went down. I took my rake and drew large concentric circles in the sand, claiming the space. We ate, drank, made merry and I couldn’t imagine a better way to have spent the day. It was perfect, even though Huz had been hangry on the way, Amu had been in a troubled mental space, Fatu had insomnia and missed Hasan, and Lums thought we were all a bit nuts. The sunset was beautiful and the twilit beach still had mysteries to reveal. I pulled a chair right up to the water and watched the shapes of little crabs scuttling along the wet sand. There was movement skimming across the surface of the water which I realized was a little flock of small birds only when they touched down on land. As it got darker, we listened to music and danced in the shallow waves that washed up gently on the shore, the tide slowly being pulled higher by the moon. The waves glowed neon with luminescent organisms.

And this was how I crossed over into my 50’s, loving my gentle, unconventional life more than ever. Isn’t it a miracle to think how rare and beautiful it is that we exist? I’m here for it all, and I will slow it down as much as I can, continuing to create my own reality in my own unique ways, so help me Great Spirit. And it was nice to read the messages on my phone as the day went by, and to remember I am loved and appreciated by humans too.

Whatever catches the light

How do I honour myself? These are the words that rippled through my mind during the course of my day, as I went from one activity to the next. I like to think I move organically from doing one thing to doing another thing, usually based on visual stimuli, and also a little bit intuition….what needs to be done today? So many things need doing, and most things need time, attention, and yes, love.

I made banana pancakes this morning. It may seem like a mundane thing for someone who has made pancakes often enough in life, but I did it differently this time. I didn’t use any measuring cups! A small shift seemingly, but for someone who follows recipes to a T and wastes a lot of time trying to be precise and perfectionist, this was huge. I felt so liberated as I mashed the bananas and whipped in the eggs and the oat flour, using just instinct to get the right consistency. This shift didn’t happen all by itself of course, it happened because I watched a guy on Youtube the day before, effortlessly whipping up a batter, all free and easy and playful, and I LOVED that, and so I channeled some of his spirit into me. Amu wandered into the kitchen as I was in the process of being playful and looked askance at my winging of the pancake recipe. Of late, she has been crowned the pancake queen of the household, or rather, the breakfast queen (that being her favorite time and meal of the day) She interrogated me about my ingredients and urged me to squeeze in some lemon juice, sprinkle in some salt and some cinnamon, use baking soda instead of baking powder, and lastly, would it be nice to add some cocoa powder? Yes, I said, not just because she looked like she needed cheering up after having beaten herself up mercilessly for all the ‘wrong’ decisions she has made over the course of the last four years of her life, but also because chocolate and bananas always taste great, and also because collaboration is the name of my game now that I’m all grown up and wise and realize my-way-or-the-highway isn’t the best way to win friends and influence people. She did look skeptical as I embedded grapes instead of non-native blueberries into the pancakes before flipping them, but the juicy fruitiness tasted wonderful to me.

The next thing was to tackle the daily accumulation of clutter in my room, which often makes me feel a bit like that guy who was cursed with the task of rolling a huge boulder up a mountain, only to watch it go tumbling back down. What was his name now? I recall Camus assigning him with a certain joie de vivre. Certainly not with defeatism!

It’s not that I’m lazy, I’m just not always very efficient about putting things away after I’ve used them, perhaps because I need to use those things every day, and honestly, who am I trying to be neat for? I know the answer, it’s me of course, I do appreciate tidy rooms, with a perfectly made bed, everything in its place, no visual clutter in sight, dust-free surfaces, clothes neatly hung or folded and kept in the cupboards.

It feels nice to tend to my clothes I think as I sort my wardrobe and fold things Kondo style, making separate piles for various items. I had not been paying attention since a few months, allowing everything to get mixed up and so I ended up wearing the same things over and over while other good things stayed hidden and unused. I took time over the task and by the time I was done, I felt nothing short of joyous! The prospect of being able to discern exactly where everything was… felt like pure magic.

Energized by this expansiveness, I wandered over to Amu’s cupboard to create some more magic. Some unworn musty outfits needed freshening, so I rinsed them out in soapy water and hung them out to drip dry gently in the yard. There’s a flow to my day now, and everything I do, it’s happening with ease, the mountain is not insurmountable after all.

Love languages, I thought, as I chopped the lettuce, washed the bokchoy, sliced the spring onions, grated the carrots, marinated the chicken, sauteed the green bell peppers and made a sauce for the wraps I wanted to have for lunch. Lately I have been noticing how my body seems to crave fresh food, literally rejecting anything it doesn’t agree with anymore and in a variety of alarming ways. Post-thyroidectomy me is learning to listen, and the message is loud and clear. Eat more plants, it says.

My windows face west, so I cannot witness the rising of the sun, but I sometimes get up to look out and see the tops of the trees across my window catch the first beautiful, golden rays. I’m grateful for this, and also for the resilience of Jimmy the unfortunate cat, who sits in the sun when he is struggling with a respiratory infection, soaking in all that solar medicine when there is nothing to do but try and breathe as well as he can, and also for the guidance that appears when I surrender control, when I unburden myself from the responsibility of keeping a creature alive and allow the Mystery to come into play, to recognize that in the world of magic, things happen when I am quiet and still. Jimmy lives!

Sisyphus, that was the name.


This morning, I thought I’d expand the readership of my post of yesterday by sending it to a few of my cat-loving Instagram friends. As I scrolled through my DM’s picking out a handful of contacts to send the link to, I came across a friend I had messaged a couple of months ago. Out of curiosity, I opened the message to realize she hadn’t even seen it yet, let alone replied to it, which made me wonder whether she was active on Insta at all. Or had she ignored it for so long she didn’t even know it was there anymore?

The message I sent was a post by a woman we both follow, whose account is a documentation of her experiments in ice crystallography, a most fascinating and mystical glimpse into an awareness of the consciousness of water. The woman’s name is Veda Austin and she is a water researcher, author, artist and photographer with over 16.000 followers. She believes water is not a resource… is Source. Her book is called ‘The Secret Intelligence of Water’.

The post I had sent had struck me to be of significance, not the least because Veda revealed that she had been struggling with issues regarding her thyroid gland. It felt so strange and weird that I and Veda had something in common. The image accompanying the post was of a petri dish (with water from a glass she had drunk from and frozen using her special technique) showing crystals formed in the shape of a butterfly.

The thyroid gland is always described as a butterfly-shaped organ in every article you will ever read about it, and Veda didn’t understand why the frozen water showed her a butterfly until she found out that her health issues at the time involved a malfunctioning thyroid. The water knew…

My friend, let’s call her Enn, is the one who first brought my attention to the work of Masaru Emoto. It didn’t really capture my imagination back then, but it just went to show how long Enn had been aware of these concepts. Lately though, my relationship with Enn is on strange ground. I’m not sure where we’re headed, not least because she often doesn’t bother replying to my messages, or if she does, they’re often monosyllabic. The deep connection we had mutually decided we had seems to get repeatedly called into question as we both re-navigate our boundaries after years of knowing each other. Sometimes it looks an awful lot like we have lost that sense of connection. And yet…

Thirty two years ago, we had two classes in common during the two years of our A levels (Art and Business management) and even though I did not know her very well, the simple fact of us being fellow Sagittarians was enough to create a bond. She was one of the very few new people I tentatively befriended, with whom I felt relatively more at ease, and not so self-conscious, someone I could more-or-less comfortably be my middle-class self with. Those days, my solar plexus had taken a big hit, and I navigated my late teen years with the knowledge that my well-to-do friends didn’t even realize they had privileges I simply didn’t. I suppose that’s what made me hold myself a little apart from everyone, unable to reveal myself completely out of a sense of shame.

We never kept in touch after parting ways post-A’s, only to somehow re-connect in our 30’s. She had been married and divorced and was living with her parents again, while I lived with my husband and had a daughter. The re-connection brought with it a renewed sense of kinship and affinity and I loved that she lived walking distance away. Our friendship grew over the following years as we hung out, shared meals and talked over chai. I bore witness to a tumultuous relationship she went through, and I hope I was a good shoulder to cry on during those uncertain days. They broke up ultimately, she left the city and moved back to the US to pursue a masters degree, he went on to marry someone else. It was a sad time, full of heartbreak, misunderstandings and broken friendships. We didn’t speak to each other for a couple of years and lost touch again.

I’m no stranger to lost connections. Over the course of my twenties, I wrote off a bunch of friends I spent a lot of time with in school. In retrospect, using the language of today, I think I had abandonment issues. All of my friends moved away from the city, while I remained where I was. And life went on for all of us….for most of my batch-mates it was full of new experiences, new friends, new environments, new opportunities for growth. Yet they were all in other countries, where things were just….different. Better of course, I thought. I stayed in the same place, and my life didn’t change in the way it did for others. Once again, I felt less-than, unable to relate to anyone as there were no shared experiences to bind us. So I went under the radar, and stayed there, feeling happier being a loner than risk having friends again.

I found it amusing and a bit annoying that the friends who went away didn’t bother to write to me or stay in touch, but wanted to ‘meet up’ when back on home ground. I remember writing long, newsy emails to my best friend from school, only to get a short paragraph in reply. It was disappointing, and it rankled. My emails petered out, and the girl I used to talk to for hours on the phone, who warned me never to drift apart (in the last birthday card she gave me before she went off to college in the US) drifted apart.

Perhaps it’s all a question of styles of communication. I’m a dedicated communicator, a person who wrote six-page letters with paper and ink in those years without computers. I wanted my people to feel connected to me through my descriptions , and I expected the same in return. If there’s anything I adore, it’s the ability to be articulate. Of course there’s a lot more to it, time and attention being two things you can only feel in your heart, evident from the ways you are communicated with.

Now I know these are my boundaries, a much over-used word in today’s lingo, and one that has a bit of a negative feel to it, as if one must put up walls to push people away. These boundaries would perhaps be better defined as rules of engagement with others. Everyone has different rules, different deal-breakers. For me, it used to be inadequate communication, where I’d be left floundering in the dark. Tell me what’s going on with you so I can understand you, or don’t talk to me at all. Ask me questions and listen actively, and you can count on me doing the same for you. Unless of course I don’t want to.

Lately though, my boundaries are defined more in energetic terms. I feel things more in my body and i pay attention to my triggers, knowing they’re there to teach me. Ironically, it is Enn who first pointed me in the direction of not just energy work but also shadow work, her thesis for her masters degree, all such new realms for me at the time. Now, I’m a lifelong practitioner.

It’s interesting that while writing this post I have gone from doubting our friendship over unreplied messages to realizing how valuable her presence has been to me over the last six years, even though she lived in New York and I in Karachi. When we were done sorting our differences we managed to reconnect once again over long conversations on Whatsapp. I couldn’t always latch on to some of the cryptic things she said, and it frustrated me, but it always prompted me to do some research. It was the only way I could keep up with her and I learned so much as a result. She’d scoff at me if I told her she was one of my teachers. She firmly believes I am an empath with far more skills than a licensed therapist.

It is apparent to me that our connection is a psychic one, as well as a cosmic one. Fellow Sags after all, ruling planet being Jupiter and all. Jupiter, known as the planet of luck, its placement in your natal chart pointing to the area of life where you’re granted gifts and blessings, indicating your philosophical and spiritual world views, perception of wealth, and your experiences of travel and long journeys.

She once had a dream in which she saw that I had been given seven gifts by a neighbour. We still haven’t figured out the significance of this dream, but once, I had a strong craving for a Magnum, and that same night something made her get out of bed, walk to the nearest store and buy herself some. And she doesn’t even particularly care for ice cream.

Both of us have been on our own separate journeys of spiritual awakening, and both of us have embraced our natural streaks of silver hair in our individual quests to be ourselves and stand our ground. We both speak to animals, grow plants and thrive in Nature. She often messages me just when I’ve been thinking about her, and what happened this morning was no different. Within an hour of wondering why she hadn’t seen my message on Instagram for so many months, she finally replied.

I can hear you laughing, Spirit. Maybe you’re reminding me to not take things so personally? Or perhaps that our friends are really stars in our constellation. 🌟⭐✨

Under the net

“There’s something fishy about describing people’s feelings,” said Hugo. “All these descriptions are so dramatic.”

“What’s wrong with that?” I said.

“Only,” said Hugo, “that it means that things are falsified from the start. If I say afterwards that I felt such and such, say that I felt ‘apprehensive’–well, this just isn’t true.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“I didn’t feel this,” said Hugo. “I didn’t feel anything of that kind at the time at all. This is just something I say afterwards.”

“But suppose I try hard to be accurate,” I said.

“One can’t be,” said Hugo. “The only hope is to avoid saying it. As soon as I start to describe, I’m done for. Try describing anything, our conversation, for instance, and see how absolutely instinctively you….”

“Touch it up?” I suggested.

“It’s deeper than that,” said Hugo, “The language just won’t let you present it as it really was.”

“Suppose then,” I said, “that one were offering the description at the time.”

“But don’t you see,” said Hugo, “that just gives the thing away. One couldn’t give such a description at the time without seeing that it was untrue. All one could say at the time would be perhaps something about one’s heart beating. But if one said one was apprehensive this could only be to try to make an impression–it would be for effect, it would be a lie.”

I was puzzled by this myself. I felt that there was something wrong in what Hugo said, and yet I couldn’t see what it was. We discussed the matter a bit further, and then I told him, “But at this rate almost everything one says, except things like ‘Pass the marmalade’ or ‘There’s a cat on the roof’, turns out to be a sort of lie.”

Hugo pondered this. “I think it is so,” he said with seriousness.

“In that case one oughtn’t to talk,” I said.

“I think perhaps one oughtn’t to,” said Hugo, and he was deadly serious. Then I caught his eye, and we both laughed enormously, thinking of how we had been doing nothing else for days on end.

“That’s colossal!” said Hugo. “Of course one does talk. But,” and he was grave again, “one does make far too many concessions to the need to communicate.”

“What do you mean?”

“All the time when I speak to you, even now, I’m saying not precisely what I think, but what will impress you and make you respond. That’s so even between us–and how much more it’s so where there are stronger motives for deception. In fact, one’s so used to this one hardly sees it. The whole language is a machine for making falsehoods.”

“What would happen if one were to speak the truth?” I asked. “Would it be possible?”

“I know myself,” said Hugo, “that when I really speak the truth the words fall from my mouth absolutely dead, and I see complete blankness in the face of the other person.”

“So we never really communicate?”

“Well,” he said, “I suppose actions don’t lie.”


“All theorizing is flight. We must be ruled by the situation itself and this is unutterably particular. Indeed it is something to which we can never get close enough, however hard we may try as it were to crawl under the net.”

(The ‘net’ in question is the net of abstraction, generalization and theory.)


In my need to chronicle time, a memory or an event, an emotion or a feeling, I sometimes cringe at the idea that I’m playing to a gallery. How much of what I bother to write about is an accurate representation and how much is written for effect, I don’t know. The above passage from Iris Murdoch’s ‘Under The Net’ encapsulates my vaguely formed thoughts about the subject so beautifully and with such economy.

This is the reason I think I fell silent on my blog for so long. Perhaps this is why I find words to be so inadequate to describe the upheaval, the turmoil, the confusion, the ferment that my brain has had to wrap itself around in the recent past. One wants to make sense of things, one needs to write to gain clarity, one needs to SHARE to find support and validation, to reach an understanding audience….yet…..I wonder how much one manages to convey is raw truth and how much comes across dramatic. I write for the most part, I hope, without guile, I often say too much in my need to communicate. But very often I say too little, due to inhibition, or due to the sheer impossibility of finding the language to describe feelings that at the moment were simply an intimate knowledge of one’s heartbeat.

I had a strange out-of-body-like experience the day after I wrote my last blog post. The baldest possible way I can say it is, Hasan visited me. I can’t say it was a dream because I have never had a dream like this…and I am known for the vividness of my dreams. This felt too real to be a dream. If it was a hallucination, this was a first for me.

The context must be made clear first, if I am to chronicle this event at all. I was absolutely alone at home for the first time in ages. There was no electricity and I was struggling to sleep despite having been sleepless for two days. It was too warm under the blanket but I had to keep myself covered as there were a couple of errant mosquitoes in the room trying to bite any exposed skin they could find. My eyes felt strained from being trained on too many screens for too long. My mind was full of Hasan as I had spent most of my time replying to comments and thinking about all the things I could say but didn’t. I had also had an eerie conversation that night about ghostly visitations with a dear friend who lost her mother seven years ago. She often tells me I will see signs that Hasan is still around.

In retrospect, I must have fallen asleep around 5 am or so. What I remember is being awake in the dark stillness and reaching out my arms. And then I saw Hasan, and he was with me, and I have no words to describe what I felt in my heart. I just held out my arms and he came over and gave me the biggest hug I ever got from him and I kissed his forehead, and then he was lying down right beside me, and I just stared at him in what felt like wonder and disbelief. I remember being overwhelmed with a feeling that can only be described as happiness. I think we talked in telepathy. Time had stopped… could have been a short while or it could have been hours. But what seemed like too soon, he got to his feet and was standing at the foot of my bed and I thought, “Where are you going Hasan?” And Hasan had that usual nonchalant yet reassuring look on his face as he replied, “I just need to go out for a bit,” and he gestured toward the door, but then I watched him as he went out of the window and stood on the ledge right outside before walking along it and disappearing. I got up to see where he had gone to, and my window was the window that was mine when I lived with my parents. I couldn’t see where Hasan had disappeared to but when I looked down, I saw a stray dog sitting calmly….and I think I felt reassured.

Dawn had broken when my eyes opened and I lay absolutely still, listening to my heartbeat. If I use language to describe what I felt at that moment, I would say I felt confused, fearful, happy, horrified…and so bereft. I felt so aware that Hasan had been with me just now, that he had just left the room. I half expected to see him climb back in when I looked at my own window, but the blinds were down and the curtain was drawn. I can’t describe the physicalness, the intensity of what I went through then. Deliriousness mixed with pain. Convulsive sobs. I’m thinking hard right now, to be accurate about then.

This is what I believe: Hasan came to give me a good proper hug because we had been awkward about hugs. That was one of the first real regrets that tugged painfully at my heart when my brain tried to comprehend reality. I also believe that he was on the verge of turning into a young man who was okay with hugging his aunts, me in particular. I think I can live with this. My sisters and I have had the whole metaphysical conversation about the deceased visiting those who have let go. Fatu is jealous because Hasan seems to be visiting everyone in their dreams except her. But then, she has had her own share of Hasan-related ‘signs’. I want to write all about those too. Closure? I don’t know what that means really. But there, I said it. I’ll still wish we could have danced the awkward aunt-nephew dance some more.

To talk or not to talk? That is the question.




42 days on

I’m sitting alone at home on a bed that needs to be made, Ms. Murdoch’s first novel (Under the net) lying face down on the fourteenth page beside me. I have possibly just drunk the most delicious mug of tea ever made by myself, preceded by a rather satisfying bhutta….zapped for 3 minutes, sprinkled with lemon, salt and chaat masala. Minnie has just joined me and my warm laptop, depositing herself in what I would deem an awkward position, but then who can question Minnie and her ways?

She has spent most of the afternoon curled morosely on a cushion on the settee under the living room window and I have been pussyfooting around her. I’m feeling anxious as she has been behaving strangely since the last two days, hissing and growling if I dare to move when she’s snuggled next to me or on my comforter. I first felt a weird lump on her soft underbelly when I tried to scoot her off my bed and into her basket in the middle of the night, when the need to turn over overcame the fear of disturbing her.

She doesn’t let me touch the lump and today I observed her as she sat growling to herself, unable to jump on to the window sill when I pulled up the blinds. It seems something is hurting her; she also feels feverish. She is not jumping on and off things with the graceful agility she normally displays. This is so worrying. I’m writing this post because I don’t have a cat support group. The other day my father told me to stop this cat nonsense now, it isn’t good for my health and who knows if the cats even care about me, I should start caring about humans more. Lately I have been hanging out with stray puppies and their moms, adding to his concern.

Of course I’ll have to take her to the vet tomorrow. I’m just anxious about how I’ll get Madam Teeth and Claws into her carrier, that’s all. Today I thought about the handful of vets in Karachi and wondered if there were any young people studying veterinary medicine these days. It seems so unlikely. <Irrational fear of something happening to current crop of vets and no one left to go to anymore>

I may not have mentioned this before, but I have been busy letting go of one maid after another and quite at peace, happy to clean the house the way I like it, no longer getting unnecessarily annoyed at the various ways hired help tends to annoy.

This morning I had set the alarm for 6:30 am, but continued snoozing for another 15 minutes, and then another 15 minutes, managing a quick horrible dream in the process. It was a dream in which huge cows were being tortured in some unseen way by some shady-looking humans sitting by the road. And then I found myself dissecting a little animal that happened to be a furry brown baby bear that didn’t bleed.

My subconscious is a frightening place.

The thought of being amongst people I know (apart from immediate family) makes my heart beat faster. I feel reclusive and justified in being so because being social for the sake of being social, or even because I-am-invited-therefore-I-must-go makes no sense. I’d rather be quiet than talk, and I have no taste for being talked ‘at’ either, any sort of unsolicited advice about anything at all. Often, I don’t even want to listen and I’m wondering….what’s going on? How long will this last? Do I need to make a conscious effort to shun my natural instincts?

I am reluctant to join my friends for lunch/dinner dates. I know they care and want to make me feel better and I know I eventually will. I DO like being with people who have felt deeply and who aren’t unwilling to wear their vulnerabilities on their sleeve. For now, I think I’ll continue feeling more lost than is usual, a little unfocused, a little distracted, a little irritated, quiet but belligerent. Honestly, I just need one person to do quiet things with, and one of those people is sitting in Laos at the moment. To tell the truth, said person and I often don’t really like to do the same quiet things anyway, so life can be difficult in that sense.

Found great satisfaction in scrubbing floors with an alkaline solution and a brush today. Then my mother in law dropped in, and though it was nice to have her company for a bit, I didn’t want to be told that I need to let go of some things because there are better ways to spend one’s time and no one needs to hurt their back.

Just let me clean things up after myself, won’t you world? That’s all I feel capable doing these days and not only do I enjoy the quietness it brings, I’m burning a lot of calories.

It has been a month and 12 days since my nephew died. I have regained my appetite and he isn’t the first thought that pops into my head when I wake up anymore. I’m not crying last thing at night either. Is this a good thing? Perhaps so.

For the last three Sundays I have visited and sat with him for some time, once with just Amu, then with just Fatu, and then with Fatu and Sax both. It was a different experience each time, and each time I have been struck with interesting thoughts, about life, and about death.

The first time, Amu and I watched the bees as they were attracted by the roses, the eagles as they glid over the graveyard, the butterflies that fluttered by, two cats that hid among the graves….and suddenly, the cemetery didn’t seem so…dead…anymore. Amu and I then wandered about and explored, reading out names of people long gone. And as we left, I noticed that Hasan’s marble name plaque had already been stuck to his headstone. I cried as we walked back to the car and drove home.

The next week, it was Valentine’s Day and on an impulse I bought heart-shaped balloons from a vendor. We cried as I drove to the graveyard, tying the balloons to stones on Hasan’s grave when we got there. Then we sat in the shade of an umbrella that I had brought along and read out passages from Camus’ ‘Youthful Writings’, and that helped stem Fatu’s tears temporarily for which I was grateful. She showed me videos she had taken of him just days before he died. He was so alive. He was just here. And now we were leaning against his grave, and all we could do was watch him on the phone screen. It didn’t make any sense at all. We stayed there for a couple of hours, talking and reminiscing, listening to Adele, (she finds her voice to be very soothing) making potpourri from dead flowers. Some people passing by stopped to see Hasan’s colourful grave, especially the children, who looked transfixed, solemn. Unlike the white marble structures all around, this one stands out, being covered in painted pebbles, loving words inscribed on them by friends and family.

As we left, the balloons waved in the breeze and Fatu said, ‘look, he’s waving bye.’

Heart broke, once again.

The third visit, we swept away all the accumulated dead flowers with a broom Fatu had brought along, wiped all the pebbles clean (are we going to clean up everywhere we go?) noted that some had been stolen, probably by the kids from the colony, who wandered around the cemetery. There were three little girls hanging around, watching us from behind a bunch of graves, probably amazed at the sight of three women in hats and umbrellas, how outlandish. They inched closer, curiosity overcoming shyness, and we decided to share our oranges with them. ‘Girls always did like hanging around Hasan,’ Fatu commented with amusement, tearing up almost immediately.

It was quite a social event, there were so many visitors quietly doing their thing, washing the dust off marble, dotting the graves with fragrant red roses, the sun already making its presence felt. Summer would be unbearable here. A goose dunked its head repeatedly in a pool of water from a flowing tap, fluffing its feathers out, flapping its wings.

I realized that this place had a life of its own, that it didn’t end here, it went on. It went on for all the people who continued to love and miss and remember all those who had passed on, and they turned up here with love and remembrance and a strong need to continue to be connected long afterwards. For us, this is a new beginning. This is a new life, and it is one without Hasan in it. As Sax said, we were all living in a sheltered bubble before, death had not touched us this close. All around us we had seen other people grieve for their lost husbands, their wives, their mothers, their fathers, their daughters, their sons. We are just scrambling to understand, no choice but to feel all our individual feelings of grief and loss at losing Hasan, our son, our nephew, our grandson, our almost-14 yr old cousin.

It has been an intense month, and I am just coming out of it, still mourning. It is too soon to ‘move on’, to resume ‘normal’ life just yet, I’m not even the same person I was two months ago. I’m looking at the recent past as ‘before Hasan died’, or ‘after Hasan died’. I don’t know when this will stop being such a jolt to the brain. I can’t even look at little boys without a sinking feeling in my heart.

Time is a healer, is what they say. Who knows, that might even be true.









Song triggers

Stories of my annual October allergies have become old hat now, so I won’t say much about it except that it’s been a miserable week…or two. Flu rendered me more or less useless, so I wallowed in listlessness while it lasted. On top of all that, Zahooran decided to celebrate Eid back in her hometown and has been gone for…you guessed it…two weeks.

I have been mostly ‘sensible’ about the layers of dust and cat hair piling up, and only tackled the housework when things got too bad. Today was one of those days. Happily, I felt more energetic today, so it must mean I’m better now. A few puffs of my inhalers (I have two different kinds) before my morning mug of tea, and I’m good to go.

My days start late, since I am an owl, and today was no exception, but come hometime, I must drop whatever it is I have belatedly embarked upon and dash off to pick Amu from school.  Sometimes it gets a little crazy. Like today, I had been cleaning out my front balcony in a grubby tshirt and shorts, sweaty and a bit out of breath from all that dust, just 5 minutes before Amu had to be collected.

Jumping out of work clothes and into respectable outdoor attire is a challenge I rise to most admirably, I feel.

Huz had warned me about the main road next to the Mazaar being cordoned off for a couple of days for the Urs of Abdullah Shah Ghazi. Every time this happens, all the traffic gets diverted to a parallel street, which in our case happens to be the one that passes right next to our main gate. Craziness.

I cranked up the volume as Prince wafted out of the radio and sang along to ‘When doves cry’ as a couple of pigeons flew up and out of my way, over the windshield.

…..’maybe I’m just like my mother….’

The song ended and the RJ mentioned that the song was from ‘Purple Rain’, which was released in ’84.

What was I doing in 1984….?

Well, I was 12 years old then and that time of my life can only be defined by where we lived.

It was a rented apartment in a complex meant for retired army officers, but for me and my sisters it was a bubble. We were completely self-contained there.

I would go to school in the morning in a van with a bunch of other kids and return in the afternoon, tired and hot and hungry. After the noise and the traffic on the roads and a commute interrupted by multiple stops, our huge compound felt quiet and peaceful, though I still had to climb three flights of stairs lugging a heavy bag.

My mother would have lunch ready and we would all eat together, except my father who would be at work. My eldest two sisters shared a room, while I shared with my younger sister/arch nemesis, Fatu. It was not easy. Those were the days when I simply hated her, and I’d fly into rages if she bugged me, which was pretty often. She was 7 years old then, and the boys in the compound had nicknamed her ‘aunty’. I have no idea why.

Eldest Sis was 19, and was engaged/romantically involved. On top of that, she was busy with her studies and I thought she was very brave and independent as she used public transport to get to and from college. She even knew how to drive and had been doing so for a couple of years, since my father firmly believed that his daughters should be bold and confident, like boys, and furthermore, not depend on him to go anywhere.

This was also the time when Eldest Sis began to beat her stammer.

Since she led such a full, busy life, Eldest Sis had the remarkable ability to fall asleep anywhere, even in seemingly uncomfortable places. She would cajole one of us to scratch her back as we watched tv in the family room while she sprawled on the floor on her tummy, or curled up with a cushion. She had long straight hair then, a figure to die for, and beautifully manicured hands. Pedicures were her particular hobby, and the rest of us watched her, fascinated, as she groomed herself.

She also paid me to iron her clothes sometimes, a few rupees perhaps, but in those days it would be enough to buy me an ice lolly or a packet of chips from the corner store.

Eldest Sis and Sax, the second after the Eldest, had always been thick as thieves since they were little. They share the most history, and remember the most about our collective past.

Sax was 16 then, had just begun college, and seemed to manage to have lots of fun.

Now that Eldest Sis was in a relationship, it also seemed that she was preoccupied, or on the phone, or out a lot. So even though they shared a room, Sax could not always count on Eldest Sis for company.

So it was that she began to notice my existence, and my status went up a notch. I was now old enough to have the honour of ‘hanging out’ with her, be a companion for a walk around the block, could be told secrets in confidence as well as be a worthy opponent for evening badminton matches under the streetlight.

It was also around this time that I began to have problems with my breathing as the winter months approached, and my father started to worry about my health…

(to be continued…)

Sensations in my body right now

Today’s writing prompt prompted me to write, only because my body has run such a gamut of sensations all evening.

And anyone who knows me knows how descriptive I can get.

It started with a heavy feeling in my head, (which is a natural consequence of fasting) around 2 hours before the Maghrib call for prayer, the time Amu and I wait for in anticpation and spend a little bit of time preparing for.

It has been four days since Zahooran’s untoward departure, and after ignoring it all this time I vowed last night to do some housework today. Even though I knew it would make me expend lots of energy and make me very thirsty indeed. But I ignored the hunger cramps and stopped myself from dreaming of a cold glass of water as I vacuumed and washed and mopped, sweaty and dehydrated. I fought the lethargy I knew would creep in and take hold of me if I stopped working…’s so easy to curl up with a book when you’re low on energy, then doze off….

A shower set me right, refreshing me from the outside, and a little snuggle in Huz’s arms soothed my head, as it always does.

I wore a bright pink shirt (the color is such a pick-me-up) with my baggy brown fisherman’s trousers from Bangkok, and I marched into the kitchen to chop pears, mangoes, bananas and grapes and apples for a delicious fruit salad, whipped up a batter of gram flour and spices for aaloo pakoras (potato fritters) and made huge glasses of Rooh Afza with lemon. The perfect iftaar in Ramadan.

We prayed, then took a little pinch of salt to break our fast and then….it was time to eat and drink.

I can’t describe the euphoria I feel as I take that first sip of cool, sweet-sour sherbet, the first bite of ketchup-dipped pakora, perfectly crisp on the outside…..soft potato inside. We’re silent as we slowly but inexorably munch our way through a whole plate of these, sipping our drink, feeling the food in our tummies after 14 and a half hours of nothing, letting the endorphins kick in.

The fruit salad tastes fresh and varied in its multiple sweetnesses, so much healthier than the pakoras, but hey, we deserve a bit of decadence too. I focus on how good it all tastes, and feel a bit numb and brain-dead, which is a signal from my brain to pour myself a mug of hot, strong, sweet tea, that delivers a kick like nothing else can. And I feel my body flooding with joy…

Tea. The one thing I crave in the evening. Gets me out of a stupor in a jiffy.

It’s strange that I hate fasting, yet I love how great it feels when I stop. There is no other way of experiencing this. You can only feel it when you have purposely deprived yourself. I’m not a religious person, and I don’t feel holy or spiritual, but I fast because it is a tradition. I fast because I have been culturally conditioned to do so.

And I sure as hell feel good when I stop.