Tag Archives: love

Marriage…

I attended a wedding last weekend. It was cool- they had food. They also had music so loud that I was afraid my ears would pop. They kinda did.

The bride was draped in her beautiful God-knows-how-much-dress and the groom was dressed in a tux. They looked cute together- I think. I wasn’t wearing my glasses. I would’ve paid more attention to my surroundings, but my heels were killing me or maybe I was killing them: either way it was terrifying.

I’m not the type of girl who likes to dress up, sit still and look pretty. I’m more of a comfortable, laid back, jumping-off-a-cliff type of a girl. I don’t know how to look elegant or sway people with my beautifully-unnoticeable lashes, but I do know how to build forts with pillows. I don’t know how to put make-up on, but I do know how to stuff crackers in my mouth without swallowing them.

The point I’m trying to make is that after attending the wedding I realized something important. I realized how socially awkward of a person I am. The fake smiles, the giggles, the anxiety, the wanting to run-away was all bubbling inside of me. I was consciously playing with my fingers and my dupatta and praying no one would notice me, but everyone did. I was self-conscious the whole time, wondering if people saw what I see in the mirror every day.

Being the bride is nerve-wrenching, not only because all the eyes are on you but because there is so much expected of you after the marriage ceremony. Be a good daughter at first, then be a good daughter-in-law. Good wife. Good mother. It’s hard to keep up with everything. And if anything goes wrong all the blame is thrown on the girl- as if the boy’s infidelity is her fault too.

I’m not saying marriage is captivation; sometimes, for some people, it can be liberation as well. I have a friend whose parents refused to let her go for a study abroad program because she was a girl, but now that she’s married she’s all over the place – enjoying the world by herself and sometimes with her husband. I know parents want to protect their daughters, but by doing so not only are they hurting them, but they’re pushing them away from themselves. In this, overprotection, they’re breaking beautiful souls. Sometimes it’s not even about protection, it’s about ‘what people will say.’ And let me tell you people don’t give a damn. They have their own issues to deal with, their own battles to fight. And if you do have the time to listen to what other people have to say, then you my friend, need a new hobby.

“Do this after your married.” I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard this phrase. I want to travel – do it after your married and when your married – you should’ve done this before you were married.

I want to climb Mount Everest – do it after you’re married. I want to start a YouTube channel – do it after you’re married. I want to die – do it after you’re married. I want to conquer Bulgaria – do it after you’re married. Please explain this logic to me!

I have another friend of mine, who was carefree but now she’s confined to her house by her husband. She loves him a lot, and he loves her too, but if love could solve all the problems in this world then we wouldn’t have problems. Too much love is an obsession. It’s a problem in itself.

Life is a compromise and so is marriage. Sometimes you’ll have to bow, and sometimes you’ll have to rise- regardless of gender. Sometimes you’ll have to give up, and sometimes you’ll have to fight. You can’t choose your life or what life throws at you, but you can choose how you wish to react to it. Choose your battles wisely, or life will choose them for you. I wish I could say the same thing for life-partners but in this choosing process the heart screws us over.

Don’t smile at me like that…

Because looking into the depths of your eyes
makes the sky look so small
that I can measure it with just a glance
the way your lips part when you smile
makes the oceans melt
and I find myself sinking in your tides
the way your cheeks shine
make the stars blush and they disappear from the sky
the way you speak
makes all the languages of the world seem insignificant
the way your disheveled hair falls on your forehead
makes all the jungles in the world insecure
the way your lashes collide
makes the earth’s heart skip a beat
and the explosions puncture wounds through my chest
I am just a human
but if you could have that effect on nature
what will happen to me?
don’t smile like that
don’t look at me like that
because the day you do
I’ll disperse into a thousand tiny pieces.

The Honor Killing

“They killed my brother,” Nano says it so softly that I can barely hear her. Her glassy eyes lock into mine and she half-smiles. I cuddle next to her in her cot and the warmth of her body spreads around mine. It’s cold outside and we don’t have a heater. We don’t even have electricity. The only form of light that is illuminating the room is coming from a gas lantern Nano placed on the table so we wouldn’t kick it when we’re running after each other. It’s so cold outside that my fingers become numb and the tip of my nose becomes stiff. The stars twinkle in the night sky, then disappear beneath each other. We usually bury ourselves beneath layers of quilts and blankets and lock ourselves in Nano’s room because it’s the warmest.

Nano is my maternal grandma, and in Urdu, we say Nano Ami- and I call her Nano for short. She’s beautiful and she has long hair which I cut because Mama told me to do so, and Nano never forgave me for that. But she loves me the most out of all her grandkids. She once told me that my features sometimes resemble her brothers.

“He was tall and handsome and he knew how to do almost everything. When he walked people would stop and stare at him.” Nano heaves in a breath and turns around to face me. I’ve heard the story a thousand times before and I can’t seem to take her seriously. But I know one thing for sure, Nano loved her brother more than anything in this world.

Nano’s older brother was young when the British took him to England. He worked there, and he occasionally came back to visit.

When he came to Pakistan one time, he fell in love with a girl, whose family was culturally strict. They refused to get their daughter married outside of their cast. Nano’s older brother didn’t have a choice, so he ran away with her. They got married and moved to England.

The girl’s brother filled with rage came after Nano and her other brothers. Nano was safe because my grandpa wasn’t someone you wanted to mess with. He kept a revolver at home and my mother and her siblings weren’t allowed to leave the house alone.

But unfortunately, Nano’s younger brother got caught in the middle and he was shot in the stomach. He died on the spot. He was married, and he had a daughter, who now lives somewhere in England and I’ve never met her. She could pass me by on the streets of NYC and I wouldn’t know it’s her.

Nano’s older brother and that girl who ran away got a divorce after a year. Nano’s brother later married ten other women. How romantic!

Nano never really let go of her brother. Even when she had Alzheimer’s she would repeat the story again and again as if it happened recently. At times when I would sit with her, I would see thick tears drop from her brown orbs.

“My brother was very caring,” she would say again and again. Nano passed away this year, but while doing so, she transferred all her stories down to me. Unconsciously I think of Nano’s brother I had never seen. I try to imagine what he looked like, but my mind gives up on me. He was killed for no reason. He was trapped in someone else’s love and hate.

That girl’s brother killed Nano’s brother for his pride. He did it with a smile and he had no shame. Did he not realize that by doing so he wasn’t just ruining one life, he was ruining many? There are so many people out there that die because of someone else’s hate and ego. Why? Can human life be measured in terms of love and hate?

That man who killed Nano’s brother is old now, and he’s probably on his deathbed.

To my unborn daughter:

To my unborn daughter:

Never shall I tell you
That you belong beneath someone else’s ego

Never shall I tell you
That your worth is lesser than any other person’s

Never shall I tell you
That you are not capable to dream for yourself

Never shall I tell you
That you are comparable to the beings around you

Never shall I tell you
That you should mend your ways to impress a cruel world

Never shall I tell you
That you should give up your desires to gain someone else’s approval

Never shall I tell you
What you should and what you shouldn’t be

Never shall I tell you
That you need to follow trends to fit in, buy brands to be loved.
Layer yourself with makeup to be accepted

Never shall I tell you
To listen to the voices of others because you have your own opinions to voice

Never shall I tell you
That you are weak because out of all possibilities, you fought to exist

Never shall I tell you
That you should stay in a home that degrades your value

Never shall I tell you
That you need to compromise your worth for someone, or something else

Never shall I tell you
That the path you will take will be easy because it won’t

Never shall I tell you
that you are not ready

But I will tell you, my love,
Each and every day
That you are a gem for me
That you are beautiful inside out
You are smart, brave and courageous.

I will tell you
with tears spilling down my cheeks
That the world is unkind, unjust, and cruel.
I will tell you with a lump in my throat
That the world will break you every chance it gets.
I will tell you with an embrace, that those closest to you
will take advantage of your kindness.
I will tell you with my hands shaking,
That you won’t be rewarded for your hard work
and you will be made fun of.

My child, my love
I will tell you again and again
That you will fall,
you will crash
and you will burn
But
you will stand
You will rise
and you will reform
And at the end
When you’ve reached those mountains
And when you’ve crossed those seas
You will wipe away my tears
And you will tell me, with a smile,
“Look I’ve made it.”

How many people will you save? (Pakistan trip-2016)

I’m standing on the balcony of my uncle’s house in our village, staring at the mountains far into the distance. Over there, close to the horizon are the lush valleys of Kashmir. The white clouds, above me, seem to be colliding with one another as if playing a failing game of tag.

“Salina, take the cots inside.” I hear the old woman next door scream in Panjabi to her daughter. Salina, a beautiful girl with long shiny hair comes running out into the Veranda and drags all the cots inside. I watch her in amusement.  She’s my age, and she lives in the village but she’s more active than I could ever be. Her strength probably comes from working in the fields all day. Surviving here, in the village is a workout on its own.

People here rarely have phones and apps, but they know what the weather would be like just by looking at the sky. It’s a talent that’s been passed down from generation to generation and unfortunately, it’s a skill I haven’t acquired.

Wifi here isn’t common either. But those that do have wifi don’t know how to use it and because of that, they don’t have passwords on it. Sometimes my phone catches signals and I find myself on Instagram scrolling through pictures of people who are pretending to be happy just like me.

Somewhere in the distance, someone has a cassette player on- that’s playing those Hindi and Pakistani songs people played when they lived in black and white. The same few songs are playing on repeat. I’ve memorized the lyrics by now.

Our village is pretty old. It probably has a story of its own.  From the balcony, the view is breathtaking. On one side of it, the mountains are visible and on the other side, the little village houses create a mosaic. The wind tickles you on your skin as it passes by. The fresh scent of jasmine is lingering in the air.

The houses in the village, except for ours, are all joined. The roofs and some of the balconies connect. All you have to do is jump over the railing and you’ll be in the next house. People here don’t mind because everyone knows everyone. To the villagers, I’m the granddaughter of Droga-the girl who came from America for her summer break.

Not all the houses are made of bricks and cement, a few, deep in the belly of our village are still made of clay. They don’t have bathrooms and like people in the olden days, they have to go out into the fields.

To my right I see a young boy milking a cow. He takes the cows otter and squeezes milk into his mouth. That seems like something I would like to do. Probably something, I will do.

On my left side, I see a woman gathering cow dung. She mixes it with hay and later on when it’s hardened she’ll use it as fuel to cook outside on the clay stove.

“Maybe we should help them,” I talked to my mom once. “The money I saved for camping-we can give it to Nilya and her family, and they can make a toilet.”

Even though I lived seven seas away, these people where what shaped me. They mended me into what I was and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get them off my mind. Most of my years in Pakistan were spent in the city, but the village was always like an empty home that my heart ached to know more of.

“How many people will you help?” my mom said frowning. She wanted to help them too, but we weren’t of the elite class. We barely fed ourselves in a capitalist society. We were all from the lower class, the only difference was that these people were from the lower class of Pakistan and we were from the lower class of America, but compared to them we were well-off.

“Everyone mama,” I tried to get her attention. Thick drops of sweat trickled down her cheeks and disappeared into her clothes. The heat was getting to her. Load shedding was so common that I lost track of when we had electricity and when we didn’t. We would often sit outside on the veranda, with hand fans cursing the government for their failure. At times it would get so hot that we would sit under the shower with our clothes on and when we had no water, we would use the hand pump.

“Your dads a taxi driver in New York City, we’re six people living in a two-apartment bedroom, with a tiny kitchen and a small bathroom. This is why I want you to graduate from College, become a doctor and help these people…” she didn’t stop talking. She gave me an entire lecture on how I needed to keep my GPA high and get into med-school to fill her dreams. To become what she wanted me to be.

A few rain-drops gracefully cascade down my cheeks. It feels good. When I was younger the rain was the only thing that bought me comfort. Maybe because I made myself believe, that in it was purity.

I look down at the veranda. My grandma is sitting on the cot drinking tea from a bowl. She has Alzheimer’s and she thinks I’m here to kick her out of her house. She’s been paranoid since we came here last week.

My cousins who live in the city also came to meet us. They’re playing cricket in the veranda. The youngest one calls me beautiful girl. He’s seven and he thinks I’m a doctor and I work in a big medical clinic in NYC. I never lied to him, but I didn’t correct him either. At least someone has a positive image of me.

The villagers are doing their daily duties. They know I’m watching, and they’re annoyed. A young girl nearby is making food outside on the clay stove. She’s making chicken curry. I know this because I can smell the spices she used. Another woman is warming the tandoor to make roti. My aunt knows her, and she’ll make roti for us too.

I gaze down at the rocky narrow pavement outside our house. Young kids are playing cricket on the road and among them, I see a woman slowly walking to our house. She’s wearing a blue shalwar kameez and she looks very pale. Her bones are showing as if she has no flesh on them. For a moment I stare at her, trying to remember who she is, and then it hits me. She’s Nazia, my mom’s second cousin.

I smile at her from above and run down the stairs, but I don’t greet her. Instead, I stand on the side and wait for her to recognize me. She was the one who would do my henna and design my hair. Every time we would come to the village from the city we would go to her house. She was like an aunt.

The door opens and Nazia walks in. She goes and hugs my mom and sobs into her shoulder. I stare at them, trying to make sense of the situation.

“Phophoo,” she calls my mother with love, ” I’m dying,” she chokes almost laughing. I cringe at her words, wondering why someone would joke about death.

Nazia looks over my mother’s shoulder and her gaze lands on me.

“Aashee,” she squeaks my nickname with love. I awkwardly smile at her, but she doesn’t smile back, instead, she walks over to me and embraces me into one of the warmest hugs I’ve ever felt. Her seven-year-old son straddles beside her. He awkwardly glances at me and I do the same.

Mama leads Nazia into one of the rooms with the AC- thankfully the electricity is back on. I trail behind them. My Aunt, who came from France to look after my grandmother, walks into the room with five cups of tea and biscuits. Tea in Pakistan is a symbol of affection and kinship.

“What do the doctors say?” Mama asks Nazia as she squeezes her hand.

My eyes flip up and all I see is Nazia shaking her head in disapproval. “I only have one kidney, which isn’t even working properly. The doctors say that in another month or so I wouldn’t be able to use it and I’ll have to go on dialysis. But tell me phophoo, how can someone like me afford that. How am I going to live?”

“Have faith,” Mama comforts her. Mama’s lips are moving but I can’t make sense of her words.

The only thing I could see is Nazia’s son playing with my little cousin.

What would happen to him if something happened to her? I lean back on the sofa and close my eyes, but the only thing I can hear is mama saying the same words over and over again.

“How many people will you help?”

Update- Nazia’s sister, donated her kidney to her; both are doing well (2018).
Nilya and her family finally have a toilet in their house (2018).

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