Every time I’m at the verge of giving up, my mom slaps sense into me.
Her hand is so heavy that she could send me back to Pakistan with the flick of her finger. But every time I say, “I can’t do this.” She makes that face where she clenches her jaw and her eyebrows knit together and she shakes her head.
“A warrior riding a horse has the ability to fall,
not an infant who’s barely learned how to crawl.”
She says the quote in Urdu with such authority that I get goosebumps. I try to argue with her, but she whips out another quote or poem that gives me a surge of confidence, but it lasts as long as her words do. I get the poetic genes from my mom and the storytelling genes from my dad. It’s a weird combination, but it works out for me.
Every time I fail, mama tells me the story of Queen Saleena. I’ve altered the story so many times in my mind, to fit my needs, that I can’t recall how the original one started.
Queen Saleena, the Fifth Emperor of Halacin was a tough leader. She would make the earth rumble with her presence. People feared her, but they wanted her throne. They believed that a woman was incapable of ruling a kingdom as big as Halacin. But the Queen held so much power in the tips of her fingers that everyone feared her.
One day, all the emperors of all the other Kingdoms came together and decided to overthrow Queen Saleena. They gathered their armies, collected their soldiers and went straight for the palace. Queen Saleena was taken off guard, her advisors turned against her and fought her out of her kingdom.
Queen Saleena being brutally wounded and hurt fled from the battlefield and ran into the deadly forest. There she sat under a tree and tended to her wounds. She couldn’t believe what had happened. How could someone a strong as her, be subjected to such weakness. The Queen wanted to give up, so she decided to leave Halacin and settle down in the mountains of Alani.
But as soon as she rose to her feet to flee, she saw a little bird with a broken wing, sitting on a tree branch, with a lion cub lingering beneath it. Every time the poor bird would try to fly, she would lose her balance and scurry back to the tree. She was afraid that if she fell the cub would eat her. The bird tried to escape, ten times, and each time she would give up and hide behind the branches.
The eleventh time, the bird didn’t care. She flew as high as she could, even though she squeaked because of the pain that her wing was causing her. But her flight didn’t last, and she was slowly descending to the ground. The cub saw the opportunity and leaped into the air to eat the bird. This time the bird didn’t run away, instead, she came down with force and slammed her beak into the cub’s eye with such intensity that the cub started bleeding. The cub became blind in one eye and ran away, disappearing into the forest. The bird then flapped her wings and with hustle reached her nest.
The Queen, seeing how brave the bird with the broken wing was, rose to her feet, took her sword and raced back to her kingdom, where she fought and won.
Queen Saleena does not exist but her story is powerful enough to shake mountains. My mother always says that giving up is never an option. Take another route, build a road, swim and drown, fall and crash…. But don’t ever give up.
Not now. Not ever.
Picture from Pexel