What’s Left Of Us

And then it came to an end
An era it had seemed,
An age had passed us by
While we were together,
We had aged also though we felt it not
Because time stood still
When my hand was in yours.
Ordinary in real life
I was beautiful, I was magic
For your eyes only
That is how I saw myself,
Cherished.
And so life played it’s card
And we paid the price
Gladly we will pay it again
My heart on the counter,
Bleeding and beating,
Branded with your name on it
No one wants it now, it wants no one else.
And so it was the sweetest goodbye,
A poison welcome only from your lips,
Coping. Thinking. Learning. Mending.
That’s me, that’s you, what’s left of us.

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My Invisible Prison

Bound to the ground with chains of earthly scents

I feel like an outcast and I’ll never be let out again,

I saw the eagle soaring high above my head,

I wanted to get to it but it just fell down dead,

Why is it that whenever I’m alone, there is no one to be with me?

Why is it that wherever I go there is no one to come with me?

 

So let me go, just let me go,

I want to fly away like a bird,

I know I can’t but soon I would.

 

Fallen from my high perch in the clouds, I drift among the undead,

So I raise my hands in supplication but they cut off my wings instead,

 They want to make me their queen; they push me onto this throne of gold

I am shocked, I am scared and I have nowhere to go.

Why is it that whenever I’m afraid, there is no one to comfort me?

Why is it that when I feel so powerless, there is no one to fight for me?

 

So let me go, just let me go,

I want to sing a song like the thrush,

I part my lips but I’m silenced with a hush.

 

The creatures here are alien to me and  I am an alien to them,

They have never seen someone like me and eye me like a gem,

These are people with no god, no one to call their own,

These barbarians are feeding on each other’s flesh and bone.

Why is it that when I feel so lost, there is no one to show me the way?

Why is it that when I feel so overcrowded, there is no one to fly me away?

 

So let me go, just let me go,

I want to live my life as happily as a lark,

But here I am weeping, stumbling in the dark.

 

They see me crying and wonder what is wrong with me,

Any longer here and I will be questioning my sanity,

My heart aches and I’m homesick for the home is where the heart is,

I ponder over my imprisonment and wonder why I even exist.

Why is it that when I feel so isolated there is no one to give me company?

Why is it that when I’m bruised and injured no one has a remedy?

 

So let me go, just let me go,

I want to be as peaceful as a dove,

Not a cruel, heartless beast without love.

 

You wonder why I’m crying out from an unseen malady,

the reason being that I was a bird not that often seen,

the barbarians I speak of are the human to whom I was something new,

they captured me and tortured me till I was black and blue.

Why was it that when I cried out in despair, they called my cries a lovely song?

Why was it that I was made a prisoner in a cage for no fault of my own?

 

I no longer cry for my freedom for I have found it now,

have many questions unanswered for you to find out.

At this moment though, I chose not to dwell on my horrible past,

I do not wish to look at my mangled corpse that my spirit has sideways cast.

(Note: Published in the D.A. College official magazine ‘Sahil’ in 2006.)

better than perfect

There are no straight lines

in nature, nothing so smooth,

nothing so sharp as what I make

repeatedly, every day, every hour

because I seek to perfect

that which already is.

Casting moulds to clone the self

in the class, on the board

drawing straight lines again

and again the rest follow.

There was only one Adam, as was Eve but

all are Adam and Eve today,

not the children, mind, we believe

we are those sinners flung from heaven.

Such arrogance as that of the sea

consuming, raging, all of this

inside us, you and me.

Spheres, so compact, so efficient,

but no, cubes we prefer

because they fit in everything.

Viewing life upside down

through a teardrop, do you think

maybe it is right side up instead?

But I hold melted sand in my hand, glass,

wavering my vision, it is perfect I say.

So let it be, I am right

only in this world, to think

I can make the mould better again.

To have you

To have you would be awesome,

he said, to have you for real

my wishes would come true,

he said, everything I feel

will come to life, just a fantasy

no longer will it be.

To have you for good,

he said, if only you agree

I will spread my riches for you,

though little they may seem

to you, but if you would be mine

then no power could stop me

from loving you, holding you,

believe me you will see

that to have you would be awesome

he said, and I will make it real.

Almost like a child

Like a child he was

So innocent, so sweet

No person like him

Did I ever meet

But they spared him not

They took him away

So quickly they went,

Not a word he could say

All the hurt they caused him

Its scars were there

They wouldn’t leave him,

A never-ending nightmare

Like a child he howled

Writhing in pain

His blood showered on me

Falling like rain

Like a child he wept

As his shell fell apart

The capture of his freedom

Was a stake through my heart

Like a child he lay,

On my lap was his head

Like a child he cried

Fighting to come back

Like a child he grew

Afraid of death

As the angel of darkness

Silently swept

‘Go away!’ I cried,

‘To the farthest shore,

Go! Let my darling

Sleep some more.’

But his soul, black death,

Wrenched away from me

And his unseeing eyes

Lay for all to see…

Only A Moment

It only takes a moment

to stop a beating heart

for happiness to leave us

for lovers to part

 

and it only takes a moment

for good times to pass

when memories are erased

and the end comes atlast

 

and it only takes a moment

for joys to turn away

when doom walks in

and life walks away

 

and it only takes a moment

for the men to fall

as the women grieve

for they’ve lost it all

 

and it only takes a moment

for the walls to collapse

as the roof caves in

dust fills in the gaps

 

and it only takes a moment

as blood runs like water

the mother mourns her son

the father, his daughter

 

and it only takes a moment

for a child to pick a gun

when his toys have been destroyed

his heart burns like the sun

 

and it only takes a moment

of sheer insanity

for you to lose control

and your humanity

 

and it only takes a moment

for brothers to be divided

as the protectors face

all enemies united

 

and it only takes a moment

for the first arrow to fly

and so it begins

when innocents die

 

and it only takes a moment

for your city to burn

the roads become deserted

and ghosts haunt every turn

 

and it only takes a moment

when all you knew was gone

all you had, you lost

nothing has been won

 

and it only takes a moment

for evil to reign supreme

when the good has fallen

your soul you can’t redeem

 

and it only takes a moment

for darkness to descend

the spark of life extinguished

we meet the fated end…

 …but it only takes a moment

for a young heart to start beating

the spark of life is ignited

witness a new beginning

(Note: This poem and its Urdu translation were presented at the International Forum of Youth Poetesses, 2013, held in Baku, Azerbaijan by the Great SilkWay International Youth Union.)

A Comedy of Errors: The Baku Edition – 3

Did I ever mention that time I had to attend a literature forum in Azerbaijan during my exams and there were no direct flights to Baku?

April 25, 2013:

In the previous post I talked about the preparing for the exam which I gave in the evening, that ended by nightfall and wearily made my way back home. After passing a cursory glance at my packed up suitcase, courtesy Mother Dear, I collapsed on my bed from sheer exhaustion after four consecutive days of cramming and giving exams while trying to get the travel arrangements done with due approvals for the event I mentioned in the very first post.

I barely heard my father talk about back-to-back flights and the need to be quick on my feet. My last thought before dozing off was that “tomorrow is going to be a long, long day.” For the first time in my life I was dead-on correct…on an unrelated note, perhaps more sleep leads to such epiphanies. *scribbles furiously on random piece of tissue*

April 26, 2013:

Here is where the fun begins…all incidents in local times.

11:00hrs:

Got up, put on the first T-shirt and jeans I could find, had breakfast and was driven to the airport where my dad handed me the tickets and all travel documents with another packet of the same travel documents and their 4 copies. Fathers, they just don’t trust you with the originals, do they? As a final precaution, he put a tiny padlock on my suitcase because he also doesn’t trust anybody else.

13:30hrs:

I had gone through the airport security checks, cleared the immigration line and had finally checked-in, sitting in the airport lounge answering my parents’ various queries about how I had fared so far. Yes, I am a mature adult. No, I cannot stop the parents from worrying. My Emirates flight was at 14:15 and I figured I had plenty of time to reach Baku.

Until I checked my ticket. Approximately 11hrs+ travel time. Why you ask?

BECAUSE THERE WERE NO GODDAMNED DIRECT FLIGHTS TO BAKU. BECAUSE I HAD TWO STOPOVERS AND THREE FLIGHTS TO BAKU. THAT’S WHY.

15:15hrs:

My first stop was Dubai, where I cried over my empty bank account for 4 hours or so at the luxurious and completely out-of-my-budget duty free airport.

dubai2

 

18:45hrs:

Then hopped on a plane to…guess where?

Tehran. Yes because there were no bloody direct flights to Baku, that’s why. And guess what happened when my plane landed at Tehran airport?

21:25hrs:

They didn’t let me off the plane because my head wasn’t covered. I couldn’t step on Iranian soil because my head wasn’t covered. This was their law and because I had no clue what was going on with my life I obviously also had no clue that foreigners had to cover their heads even at the airport as well.

So the embarrassed Emirates flight crew comforted an even more embarrassed me and held me back till everyone left so they could sort out the problem. Then they asked if I had a scarf. No. A jacket? No. Could I take off my shirt maybe and put it on my head? No biraather no. So they took out a blanket and the flight attendant taught me how to wear a it over my head like I was a retard who hadn’t worn a chaadar before in my life. They joked if I would pay for it. DO I LOOK LIKE I’D PAY TO PUT A BLANKET ON MY HEAD? I would’ve if I had the cash, but I didn’t. Eternally grateful to the crew though. Respect.

22:00hrs:

My next flight was at 23:10hrs but at the Tehran airport I couldn’t find a transfers queue, there were just two long immigration lines and I ended up one of them, when my turn came about twenty minutes later I told the guy I wasn’t really going to Tehran, I needed to go to Baku. he looked at me funny then called an airport security person who took me to a military guy, I mean he looked it, can’t think of him being anything else. So a soldier took my passport and told me to wait on a metal chair in this sad little corner where everyone could see the weird zombie wearing the blanket turban. While my flight was in an hour. Apparently I had to wait for the soldier to get me my boarding pass. Like I don’t even…a soldier. I can’t get my own boarding pass, the soldier will get it for me. I can’t move from the chair they put me on.

22:35hrs:

Hallelujah the soldier came back…and yelled NOREEN QAYAM! fml x 2.He handed me my ticket and passport and escorted me to the departure lounge. ESCORTED, because of course I would have the sudden urge to roam around the single corridor and get lost somehow, right? I was actually more worried that my plane had packed up and gone.

But flight delayed. By about an hour.

April 27, 2013:

00:30hrs:

So on Azerbaijan Airlines I went and came close to my destination.

01:30hrs:

The plane landed at the Heydar Aliyev airport in Baku and being so late already, at the immigration counter they stopped me. Asked me numerous questions which I could not really connect. They couldn’t understand why I came from Tehran.

They called the head of security who asked me the same questions. They couldn’t understand why I, a Pakistani, would come to Baku via Tehran. Honestly bro, if I had a choice I wouldn’t go to Tehran either, blanket or not.

But then suddenly he smiled and let me through. The person waiting for me outside holding a very nice banner with my name on it drove me to the lovely Radisson hotel and deposited me in my room with my luggage. I had a roommate. A Bengali girl. She was asleep.

It was 2am on Saturday morning now. THE Saturday morning. The event was in 6 hours. The Bengali girl woke up, said hi, told me to put on an alarm then fell asleep. In my haste to answer the luring call of the soft and comfy bed I tried to unlock my suitcase and yank out my pyjamas. I broke the lock. At 2am in alien territory I watched the springs and pins and tumblers of the tiny lock fly over my head and spread all over the floor. The lock was beyond repair. I collected the tiny parts and dumped it in the dresser drawer, changed into my pjs and drifted off to sleep.

6:00hrs:

I woke up, got dressed in my smart formals, had breakfast in the swanky hotel lounge, introduced myself to everyone who I found had already been introduced to each other at the dinner the previous night. Which I had missed. Because there were no direct flights to Baku. So then we climbed the bus and reached the convention center.

9:30hrs:

As soon as we were seated in the concert hall, a bombshell was promptly dropped on me that since I was representing Pakistan, I had to recite a piece of my poetry in Urdu to an audience of over 500. On stage. On national TV. And since I had missed the welcome dinner for the participants the previous night, I also missed the rehearsal that everyone else got to do right then. How bloody golden enh?

So I was handed a printout of my poem that I had emailed them back when I expressed my interest in participation, and I noticed something funky the minute I started reading my own poem’s Urdu translation. To those who do not know, written Urdu’s orientation is from right to left, similar to Arabic, even in the script. The version on the paper printed in front of me was left to right. Apparently my translation was reversed due to a glitch in the Microsoft Word version and now I was looking at my poem that sounded quite retarded to my own ears as I read ‘moment a takes only it’ in Urdu which sounds even worse. So what does one do? One reads backwards. So I tried and waited for an opportunity to rehearse on stage before the guests arrived.

Not to be so. Pakistan starts with the 16th letter in the alphabet, and it was probably by the time Miss Moldova stepped down that guests started filling in. I was so going to be so royally screwed. While I was silently rocking in my seat like a condemned prisoner, guess who shows up to meet me? THE DEPUTY AMBASSADOR OF PAKISTAN. He wished me well, said he was proud of me and completely ignored the silent calls for salvation I was trying to send him by blinking rapidly. Suddenly I realized I couldn’t go ahead with my plan to recite gibberish because obviously he knows Urdu.

12:45hrs ~

So I sat waiting for my turn and then climbed up on stage and “Salam from Pakistan”. For some very odd reason the crowd loved that. I then proceeded to recite my own poem’s Urdu translation to foreign dignitaries, Azeri government officials and famous poets. Once that was done I tottered back unsteadily on my heels to my seat and pretended I hadn’t just done the bravest thing ever in my life.

Nobody told me they were recording it on camera, as I later found when they emailed the link to my shaky, trembling performance. NOBODY is watching that I guarantee you. That’s me, third from left.

baku2

14:00hrs onwards:

Once that was done we were taken for lunch which was awesome possum. Then back to hotel to change for dinner which was also awesome possum. And then I mingled with the girls from 19 other countries and somehow they thought socially awkward was acceptable. I do love them for that. Here I would like to mention that my numerous flights to Baku had resulted in my ears popping so many times that I had become nearly deaf. Some ppl probably still think the poor girl from Pakistan is deaf. And that is how I spent my weekend in Baku. Feeling like I’m underwater. I think a blog post is due on what we did in Baku itself. I’ll think about.

April 28, 2013:

18:00hrs:

So  the event wrapped up, I had to pack up my suitcase and suddenly I remembered I had no lock. My delicates could be easily be seen by anybody who bothered to open my suitcase on a whim because people like to do that sometimes no? So began a quest to find a lock. Asked the hotel reception, they said this was the Hotel District, no such markets around, will have to walk far. So Miss Bangladesh and I set off to find it a lock whose Azeri name we did not know, ignorance on my part as I realized when I made some apparently indecent gestures at shopkeepers while asking for a lock. Someone realized I wasn’t actually asking for strange favors and exclaimed “Achaar!” so we started running around asking for an achaar and the shopkeepers still thought we were stupid.

At one newsstand the guy handed me a bunch of keys and I looked at stupidly for a while till Miss Bangladesh said asked for the lock which the keys go into. The guy exclaimed “Kiffel!” so basically we had been asking people for keys and not locks which are called kiffel and obviously that was terribly stupid of us. Long story short, nobody had a kiffel anywhere nearby, but people had lots of achaars which were completely useless for me of course.

April 29, 2013:

00:00hrs:

I was dropped off at the airport for my three flights back to Pakistan, beginning with the one to Tehran in half an hour. I got my suitcase plastic-wrapped and because I’m smart, I kept a scarf this time.

01:10hrs:

I was prepared for Tehran, I even smiled at the soldier like he was my chacha ka beta. He obviously didn’t believe we could be related. But this time I had a stayover in Tehran for four hours, so I found my way into the Emirates lounge and failing to connect to the wi-fi, went and drowned my sorrows in free orange juice till my 5am flight to Dubai, occasionally dozing off and waking up to different people sitting on my table every time I opened my eyes.

06:35hrs:

The flight to Dubai was a breeze. It also landed half an hour away from the main airport where I had to go for my next flight in an hour and a half. I believe I found a hidden talent of biting my nails while maintaining my balance in that flat bus-shuttle thing that takes you from the plane to the terminal.

7:00hrs:

My flight to Karachi was at 8am. Obviously I’m no Rehman Malik for whom the plane could wait, so like Anjali in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, I ran to my bullet-riddled Shahrukh Khan, i.e. the plane.

anjali

I was the last passenger. I was also late. And I was also too embarrassed to travel with Emirates ever again in my life.

11:00hrs:

I was completely deaf when I landed in Karachi. I was high on orange juice and air pressure.

Happily ever afterwards:

 

I didn’t have to give the exam I missed. The teacher said he didn’t have time to make another paper so he would give me the class average score coupled with my overall marks in quizzes and assignments. I would’ve declared my undying love for him but the thought of his wife and daughter stopped me. Yes I’ve stalked him on Facebook.

So then people asked me if two days in Baku were worth it. I say hell yes and I would do it again because once in a lifetime bro.

So who wants to go to Baku with me?

*the end*