The Brown Belt

My father had a thick brown color belt. It was the only one he had. When it broke or wore out, he would buy the same one. He didn’t care if it matched his shoes. Probably because you could never see him wearing it. You see, he never tucked his shirt. Always roamed around town with his big paunch and oversized untucked shirt with sleeves rolled up to his elbow. The unseen poor belt would lose its shape and tear from within trying to hold up his pants; and his honor.

Not only to save him from the humiliation of dropping his pants in public, but the belt also saved him from the humiliation of having a gay son. The first time he used the belt to hit me was when he saw Sameer in my room, a little closer than a seventeen-year-old boy must be to another. He whipped the belt continuously, not caring where it hit me, till I lost consciousness. The scars on my back reminded me every single day that protecting my father’s honor was more important than accepting who I am. Even after he was gone, I kept the belt in my wardrobe, right next to my brown belt. Over the years, when I thought for even a second that I cannot live a lie for my entire life, I would bring out his brown belt and whip myself with it.

So today, when my seventeen-year-old son stood in front of me wearing a white dress that stopped just above the knee and told me that he doesn’t identify as a male, I had no choice. It almost amused me how the new generation has come up with so many new ways of getting in tune with who they are. Nonetheless, my father wouldn’t have had it. His belt needed to be brought out to protect his honor yet again.

I walked up to my wardrobe, remembering every single whip, every single slang hurled at me by my father, every single tear of my mother cursing herself for not giving birth to a “normal” child, every single time my father warned me to keep my true self a secret. I remembered every single time my father opened the wardrobe and brought out his brown belt. I remembered how I would go numb with fear even before the belt touched my naked skin. So I opened my wardrobe today and took out the brown belts, both his and mine. Only this time, I threw my father’s belt into the trash can and walked over to my son. I handed over my belt to him and told him “this will look good with your white dress.”

Photo by Kat J on Unsplash

 

Of my Aunt’s Bindis, Bangles, and Courage

At the break of dawn, I heard the soft rhythm of the clothes hitting the stone plank at a distance. I lethargically carried myself to the window and peeped out to see Ammu Maasi tirelessly trashing the clothes and then taking a moment to delicately tuck the lone strand of hair behind her ear that dared to escape her otherwise neat bun. Her only two gold bangles made this soft tune that I was so used to waking up to.

I was eight years old when my mother left me with her youngest sister. Then, a newlywed bride who was still getting used to the metti she now had to wear on her toe, Ammu Maasi didn’t hesitate even once before taking me in. She shielded me from her mother-in-law’s taunts, her brother-in-law’s lustful eyes, and her husband’s ignorance.

I wondered why she didn’t hate my mother for making her life so difficult. The answer to my questions lay in Maasi’s stories. They painted my mother as a warrior who escaped this prison of a house where she was only beaten and enslaved by her husband and also saved me from the same life. I didn’t blame mother. I loved being Maasi’s shadow, following her around as she effortlessly handled every single chore of the house. She always made sure I studied and when I told her I enjoyed writing, she would sit next to me and make me recite the stories that I wrote while she looked out the window at the clear blue sky.

But this morning felt different. I felt the need to memorize every single thing that she did. Right from running around the house, cleaning every single corner and then coming to a halt and almost in slow motion, putting that red bindi right in between her eyes with her ring finger. I always believed that no one could do things as she does. That day was the last time she would waltz around the house with her sheer elegance and beauty. She fell down in the kitchen while making chapatis. She could never move the right side of her body after that day.

The first time I saw her crying was when she tried so hard to stand and work with just her left hand but always fell onto the floor. Soon after that, I was married off to the first house Maasi’s husband could find, far away from the village, but her thoughts never left my mind. Every day, every single thing I would do, every single story I wrote had a little bit of my aunt in it.

Then one day, we got a call that her husband passed away. It was my turn now and I didn’t hesitate before bringing Maasi to my house. This time I shielded her from my new family’s taunts and told my children stories of a warrior named Ammu who always believed in herself and lived life with absolute grace. I’d turn to Maasi and see her smile as I tucked the lone strand of her behind her ear.

 

Photo by Rupali Neelkanth on Unsplash

Transforming from a Muslim to an Indian

It is an underlying fact that India is more a home than a nation to the millions of people who live in here and this feeling of intimacy towards one’s home is a characteristic feature of every Indian. The notion of nation was an alien invasion which not only restricted us to geographical entities but also created social, cultural, and most importantly, religious differences in the realm of political agendas. Religious markers were labeled on every individual and one assumed an identity through such constructs. The isolation of minorities from the majority, rift between religions, and domination through power were all resultants of the political dogma. The worst effects were witnessed in the religious scenario as India was perceived, by a few, as a construct of Hindutva. This not only led to the estrangement of rest the society, especially Muslims, from their homeland but also questioned their allegiance and loyalty. The Muslim community was still coping with this isolation when they were distanced even further with the tag of being propagators of terrorism thrust on them, which deeply damaged their sentiment of patriotism. The feeling of being viewed either as outsiders or perpetrators of havoc has intensified over the time and has widened the gap between communities. 

The Government of India and various committees have continually worked towards fortifying the Muslim community by providing various benefits and reinforcing their rights in the societal arena. Though the status of Muslims has come under constant scrutiny, it is important to realize that the chaos exists at a superficial level. The problems of communal violence and religious intolerance are instigated by political underpinnings, they have no value in the lives of people, the feeling of brotherhood and oneness continues to exist. People reside with each other in harmony and contribute equally to the growth of India as a nation.

Despite the communal synchronization the condition of Muslims is complicated as the various efforts by the Government lack efficient implementation. The Government has set up schools and other assistance to educate the rural population but the girls are hardly aware of education and the boys dropout after high-school in order to fend for themselves. The role of Government ends at setting up institutions, there is no effort to persuade the masses to make them realize the possibilities that can come up through education. The graph of education in Muslim population is comparatively lower as the family is larger and the parents find it difficult to provide schooling to all, it is rather easier to employ them in petty occupations and help obtain some income for the family. This increases the probability of illiteracy and unemployment among the Muslims and gravitates escalation of the community. 

The religion of Islam is seen as oppressive and domineering, governing the ethics of life. It is argued by many that it is Islam that rules the livelihood of Muslims, who are dictated by a certain set of restrictions and who possess no freedom or integrity of their own. The position of women is even more subjugated as they are expected to function within the framework of the patriarchal setup. There is constant pressure on the existence of women as they are bound to adhere to the imperatives which are translated by the male clerics. The truth remains unidentified that these restrictions are unreasonably blown out of proportion in order to defy the principles of religious conviction. The limitation is a consequence of the misinterpretation of the religious doctrines which is continually promulgated in the mindset of people that reinforce an image of negativity.

The position of Muslims in India cannot be conclusive as the choice remains in the hands of the people. It is our foremost duty to exploit the resources granted by the government for our own progress and development. It is unfair to concentrate specifically on definite castes or communities as it tends to leave out the rest of the society from the view of advancement. Determining the status of Muslims in comparison with others widens the rift and calls for simulated sympathy. The responsibility of building up and fixing a position in India is an obligation of not only every Muslim but that of every Indian, in order to conceptualize the emblem of a free India.

Photo by Julian Yu on Unsplash

‘CRUX’ OF OUR ‘CREDIBILITY CRESCENDO’!


“At times, try as we might, we are hardly ever taken seriously!”
As go voices of a few in a group tackling this issue very assiduously!
Some of these tips here, would guide all along such an arduous pathway
Helping with presence of mind to get led to that ‘path-breaking’ doorway!!
Let’s begin ensuring credibility – through our steady-build-up of ‘assertiveness’
Question-like-statements don’t work – just get caught, with some ‘attentiveness’!
Our Stories influence, create greater impact than “mere reporting”, as they say;
So, let’s come well-prepared; with our homework – on ‘what’ we, on table lay!
Staying informed helps avoid ‘deer-in-headlights-situation’- amid a group
While others’ presentations could well make us feel like a ‘nincompoop’!!
Great are ‘strategized show stoppers’ – like ‘Power-pose’; ‘Dress-sense’
Greater still is our ‘personality-inside-out’; our ‘inner’ magnificence!
Great would it be to have others speak up first; their stories untold
Greater insights pour in as brighter ideas and newer facts unfold!
Grapevine floating around is apparent when we are ‘in the loop’
We’re ‘abreast of what’s happening’; dynamics of the group!
Also, let’s believe in ourselves, a faith no one can ever shake
With our ‘courage’ and grit’ no one can away from us take!
The ‘Respect’ we cherish and seek from all; everyone around
Is more in our heads; “mental constructs” – does this astound?!
We however fail to place ‘respect’ wherever actually ‘due’ from us
As we simply rush to judge, based on our ‘very-first-impression-fuss’!!
So – summing up, ‘self-confidence’ is great; ‘Over-confidence’ does camouflage
Even as we try to begin settling; repositioning ourselves in our ‘Sought-after-entourage’!!

Picture by Amanda Lins (Unplash)

Takbeer


عید تھی ، سوچا عیدی ملےگی
کھ ملی تو تھی، عجیب سی بندوک کی گولی تھی

عید تھی سوچا عید گاہ جاوں گا
کچھ گز زمین تو تھی، پر خاموش سی
کھلا میدان تو تھا
وہ قبرستان تھا

عید تھی سوچا نۓ کپڈے پہنوں گا
کچھ نیا تو تھا
صاف صفید سا
وہ میرا کفن تھا

عید تھی سوچا عید نماز پڈھوں گا
تکبیر تھی پر سجود کا سجدہ نہ تھا
وہ میرا نماز جنازہ تھا

This poem is based on a true event that happened on the day of Eid when a kid walking to offer Eid prayers, was hit by a bullet and died on spot.

The poem starts with the kid expecting some ‘eedi’ (which is a token of love in the form of money given to younger ones on Eid) but gets something strange in return, a bullet in the chest). This kid finds himself in a huge open ground nothing like an eid gah, no hustle and bustle but silence- it was a graveyard (kabristaan).
The kid wanted to wear something new, something clean on eid as it is tradition to do so. He did wear something white and clean-‘ kafan ‘a shroud.
He wanted to to offer eid namaz with every one. They all did pray but no one prostrated( sajdah) but stood and offered it like we do in the namaz janaza ( which is the namaz offered during a funeral).
This kid realised it was his namazi janazah and that he had started his journey for the heavenly abode while his bullet ridden body just lies there.

Picture by Arun Anoop (Unsplash)

sometimes the truth is so simple it hurts


Sometimes the truth is so simple it hurts,
Because your mind wants to believe anything but,
Fabric the ways it could be happening,
The ways you let yourself conjure and create,
Sometimes wishing it we true just so you could breathe ‘I was right’,
Then knowing you’d never want that wish to come true.

Sometime the truth is simple,
Laid out before us in reason and logic,
Leaving no room for your mind to intervene,
But it’s not you mind you’re worried about,
It’s your emotional heart and the nasty things anxiety makes up,
Sometimes the truth is laid before you with nothing to intervene,
Yet you still manage to find ways to match it to your own truth.

Sometimes the truth is simply the truth,
And what you make of it,
Take your truth and make it your own
Stick to it so no other may shake your core,
Because sometimes the truth is so simple it hurts.

Picture by Daniil Kuzelev (Unsplash)

RELATIVE yEARS

We toasted our first year with glasses of tap water
And discussed our plans at length.
We marked our calendar
And wrote down other particulars in our diaries –
Height, weight, Color of eyes at dusk,
The number of finger-steps from your breast to belly button…

You started losing pages
From your loose-bound diary from the second year.
We measured the duration we could stare into the others’ eyes
And made plans to make rose wine.

A very long monsoon set in the third year
It stayed till year five!
You lost a few more pages from your diary
When the river beneath our bed overflowed.
I started to grow a small rose bush.

Fourth year saw our room damp and we burned frankincense.
Small dots of mould grew on the my specks
We skipped breakfast and ate a lot of eggs.
You purchased a new diary –
Meanwhile my roses thrived!

You were away, a lot, the fifth year.
We met in between weekends and beds –
Sometimes between moonset and dawn.
I made the wine mixture and stored it in ceramic jars.

The rains stopped the next year
And you were home a lot more –
We kept bumping into each other
And used the word excuse-me extensively.
We threw out the old bed; bought a new one –
And started to miss the old one soon afterwards.

The seventh year we sipped from the aging wine.
We made short toasts and sat down to long breakfasts
We gazed at each other over plates of pretty poached eggs –
The dark glassy spot in your pupils,
Where once I saw my face was now hidden by
Yellowing dots of drying mould on my specs
While you stared at a bee
Ruminating on my left glass frame; preparing to fly soon.

We had forgotten to turn the calendar
still set on a day seven years ago.

Picture by Eric Rothermel (Unsplash)

Oblivion


Will you forget?
You ask.

Haven’t you?
Already?
All the things we had, all the things we dreamt to be?
But I don’t really say all that.
I look into your eyes.
All I see, is fear. Fear of not being so loved.
Fear of not finding love again.
More so of not being given attention to.

You see,
Memories have been made.
Soon this conversation will be a memory too.
It depends on you, if you want to keep them alive.
Alive?
Our promises?
I’m asking far too much, ain’t I?
You hold me,
In your arms.
Cold heart, but warm arms.
It feels like walking on hot sand,
And freezing your fingers.
You whisper,
It’s going to be okay
I’ll be gone
You won’t remember any of this.

I smile.
Trying to convince me or yourself?
Tell me now,
Tell me quick.
Will you? Forget it all?

I feel your hands turning cold
And my fingers becoming numb.
I ask you,
Should I?
You look at me
Not really surprised,
Smile, as your tears roll down your cheeks.
And whisper,
Oh, I love you!
Damn.
I rephrase my question now,
Shall I?

Picture by Alice Alinari (Unsplash)