Tag Archives: #life

Wrenched anniversary

“It’s our anniversary,” she says so softly over the phone that I can barely hear her.

“That’s amazing! Are you gonna celebrate?” I ask trying to sound gleeful even though it’s 4 am in the morning, and I’m sleepy.

She doesn’t say anything and all I hear is her uneven breathing. “I’ve wasted eighteen years of my life.” There’s remorse in her voice, the kind you get when someone close to you passes away. She’s been married for eighteen years. Time passes by so fast when you’re not the one suffering.

“Huh.” I try to act oblivious even though I know what she’s talking about. She’s never mentioned it to me, but I’ve eased dropped enough to figure out things that I’m not supposed to know.

“Nothing child,” she steers away from the conversation and asks me about college, and when I’m getting married. I laugh it off and brush the conversation to something more convenient, like the weather. We can talk about things that are unimportant for hours, but when it comes to important things, we either have no words or we lose our voices.

Why is it so hard to say what’s on my mind? I want to press her, ask her for the details but I’m terrified of her answer. Sometimes the words I want to spit out are lingering on the tip of my tongue but no matter how hard I try I can’t seem to say them. It’s like they’re caged behind these metal bars that won’t let my words pass.

I know her because I love her like a second mother, but I haven’t exactly been the perfect daughter. I know the torture she’s been through and it gets me angry every time I hear her hopeless voice. I wish I could do more for her then just listen. But how can I help someone else win their war when I’m losing my own battles.

She seems perfect from the outside. We all do, but no one knows what’s happening behind closed doors. Some smiles are etched with knives of pain. Sometimes devils don’t wear horns, they come to you wearing divine wings. And the worst part is that these devils don’t even know they’re devils because they’re hiding beneath culture, sex, ego and power.

What I don’t get is why we become so afraid to speak? Maybe because we’re afraid no one will listen or understand. Maybe we’re afraid of the gossip. Maybe it’s easier to hide beneath veils then to be exposed.

I don’t know why she stayed. She says it’s because of the culture we grew up in and because she had children and there was no way she could fend for herself in a world where divorced women are considered taboo.

I remember hearing once that her husband beat her up because she left the house without covering her face. I do blame the husband but also the mentality he grew up in and sadly we’re still living in that same time frame.

People around me still have that mindset and no matter how loud I scream or speak, my voice falls on deaf ears. People think it’s better to endure abuse than to unveil that curtain. I don’t blame them because I am not in that position and I have no idea what they’re going through. But not speaking up ruin’s future generations. It creates abusers and victims. I’ve seen way too many women around me suffer in silence and their silence screams in my ears.

She- whose name I can’t mention is still in that position. Her children are a mess and it breaks my heart every time I talk to her or see her. I wish I could do more for her and other women like her.

Photo by Northwoods Murphy from Pexels

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Needing Validation

Why is it that sometimes… no matter how many mountains I climb, or how many oceans I sail, or how many bridges I burn I don’t see myself the way I want to. No matter how hard I try I can’t seem to rise to a place where I want to be. It’s like the mountains keep on growing, and day by day I become smaller and smaller.

It’s like I’m stuck in this little plateau and the only thing I can do is jump off it. I could crash, or I could fly. The latter seems more likely. But I am at that point where pain seems like a better option than this feeling of being empty. At least that way I’ll feel something. The numbness creeps up on my skin and takes a hold of my being, making me feel like a hollow body without a soul.

I feel like no matter how many accomplishments I kiss, no matter how many victories I embrace, I won’t ever be satisfied because my heart is not content. I feel like I need validation from people close to me like a child in preschool needs validation from a teacher. I need the people around me to tell me I’m doing a good job because that’s the only way I’ll be convinced. I need people to tell me I’m good for me to believe it, which is bad because when I don’t get the validation I plunge into this hole of self-doubt.

I can look in the mirror and chant, “I’m amazing. I’m beautiful. I’m awesome,” day and night, but I won’t believe it, not until someone comes and tells me those things. The people around me don’t realize but their words have a huge impact on me. Sometimes their words hit like knives and bullets and sometimes they act as a salve. Even the tiniest gesture or a simple sentence could hit like a bomb and I would find myself thinking about it for the next eon.

A person could come and tell me I’m a psychopath and I would believe them because my brain is wired to listen to the outside voices, rather than the voices in my head. This is one of the most toxic traits you can have because it leads directly toward self-destruction and that’s the one thing I’m good at. Destroying myself. The worst form of abuse is the one that comes from within because at the moment you become your biggest enemy and there’s nowhere to run.

If someone told me I was ugly, I would agree with them and I would feel uncomfortable in my own skin and if someone told me I was beautiful, I would make myself believe that I’m worthy of being on the cover of Vogue magazine. Sounds stupid. I know.

Imagine having a computer and you need to reset it or fix it. The first thing you’ll need to do is turn it off, then take out the wires, untangle them and plug them back in. You might even have to reboot it. It takes effort and time, and fear that your ‘useful’ information will be lost with all the useless information.
That’s how rewiring your brain is like. You have to detangle yourself and, in the process, you might even cause more damage, but the best thing is that every form of damage is reversible and curable.

Rewiring your brain is hard. It’s not, ‘oh let me shut my brain off and turn it back on like a computer.’ It’s more of ‘oh shit, this was wrong’ or ‘oh snap I should’ve done that,’ but that’s how you learn. That’s how you progress. That’s how you break bad habits, by replacing them with good ones.

I’m working on myself, by making amends and filling in holes that I have because I was too busy doubting myself. Too busy looking for someone else’s approval. I’ve started listening to that soft voice in the back of my head now. It’s not always nice, but it’s there… dim… and barely audible.

But I am not God!

But I am not God!

I know, but you can be the answer
to someone else’s call
you can be the net
to someone else’s fall.

You can be the shade
to someone else’s rain
and you can be the salve
to someone else’s pain.

You don’t need to be a superhero
to wipe away a tear
you can be the courage
to someone else’s fear.

Look my love
in a world where you can be anything
I ask you to be strong
put down your ego
and for once be the melody
to someone else’s song.

I know you don’t have powers
but you must save yourself too
because only then will you help
someone else get through
you don’t need to be powerful
to help another soul
but if you can
then I ask you to be someone else’s cure.

Be kind, my love

Photo by Sebastian Voortman from Pexels

Is giving up an option?

Every time I’m at the verge of giving up, my mom slaps sense into me.

Literally.

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

Village life

“Appi,” the little kid calls me out of respect. His name is Aman; he’s as old as my ten-year-old cousin, but he acts and talks like he’s older than me.

“Haan.” I give him a quick glance to show him that I’m listening. All my other spoiled bratty cousins are holding onto juice boxes and bags filled with chips, while his hands are empty.

“Give him a juice box too,” I yell at my little cousin who calls me by my name. He rolls his eyes but eventually gets a juice box and chips for Aman.

I’m lying on the bed upside down, right beneath the fan. It’s so hot and humid that I’m sweating like I’m in a sauna. Thick strands of hair are clinging to my face and my neck. It’s almost 4 pm and I’ve taken a cold shower at least twice in the past four hours.

We’re staying in my grandpa’s house, on my mom’s side of the village. Even after four long years it still feels like home. The orange tree in the back yard, the mango tree in the front yard, the roses and jasmine flowers blooming in the front courtyard all look the same. I can still smell the scent of spices my Nano would use to make curry outside on the clay stove. New York would never beat the taste my Nano had brewing in her hands.

I sit up straight and watch Aman gulp down the juice. He looks at me and bites his lips like he’s nervous.

“Appi..” he hesitates looking at my cousin for support. My cousin just nods his head like a grown-up does when talking to a child. “Can we watch the cricket match on your phone…”

I almost laugh at his innocence. “I don’t have internet or wifi,” I say to him. The one thing I hate about our village house is that we don’t have access to the internet. It’s not bad- sometimes. We play board games, hopscotch, cricket, hide and seek, checho and kish. My mom finds it hilarious how twenty-one-year-old me is trying to keep herself busy. It’s fun though because every game I play with these ten-year-olds brings me back to my own childhood. Where me and my cousins would run around the streets -barefoot sometimes- fighting over sweets or who was “it”. We would climb trees and eat fresh fruits. My scraped knees and elbows and all those scars of falling and rising are proof of a healthy childhood.

“We can go to Aunti Salma’s house.” My little cousin says, tapping Aman on the shoulder for moral support. My little cousin has the bad habit of running away with my phone and draining all the battery. I’m scared he’ll break the screen like he’s done to his Ipad that his father sent to him from England.

I want to say no to them, but I don’t know how to say it. As soon as I open my mouth to argue with them, the fan shuts off. For the first time relief floods my body because of these blackouts. We live more time without electricity then we do with electricity. For every hour that we have electricity, we go through three hours without electricity. It gets worse during the night when we’re trying to sleep. All you can feel is the humid air tugging at your skin, wrapping you around like a blanket. The worst is when we don’t have water. But gladly we have a hand pump in the back which we barely use.

“Oh look. No electricity…. No wifi at Aunti Salma’s house either.” I say pushing my phone under the pillow to make it seem like I don’t have a phone.

“ufff…” my cousin curses out the government, saying that if he was a leader everyone would get free electricity and milk. I don’t know where the milk comes from, but I chuckle at his innocence.

“I don’t have a TV at home… and I just wanted to see the cricket match…” Aman makes a face and I feel guilty. Aman lives in a one-room house with four other siblings. His father works in the fields and his mother sews clothes to make ends meet. My heart melts every time I see him pucker his lips like a small child does when he’s about to cry.

“Okay… how about you watch the match on youtube after the electricity comes back on.” I instantly regret saying those words as soon as I see a spark in my cousin’s eyes. I’m about to threaten him, by telling him that I’ll yank out his eyelashes if anything happens to my screen, but his smile is just too pure.

“What are we supposed to do.” Aman sighs squeezing the juice box.

“You know when I was young we would roam around the village all day. We would play hide and seek, sneak into people’s houses and we would climb trees… Maybe you guys could go play cricket or…”

“Yeah, we should go climb the mango tree in our neighbor’s house.” My cousin cuts me off.

“Yeah but you need permission and that tree is too high… “

“No one cares…”

Before I can stop him, he grabs Aman by the arm and drags him out the door into the courtyard and from there they rush out through the gate. I yell at them to come back, but my voice falls on deaf ears.

The last time my cousin climbed a swing he fell and bumped his head and ended up in the ER. The hospital in the city didn’t have the facilities we needed so we had to go to Islamabad.

I don’t know what I got myself into?

How will I explain this to my aunt?

Photo by Kat Jayne from Pexels