the reading

November 26, 2016 by

the essence of piousness

his beard flowing in the wind

all white with few strands

of black to show

he was once young

and the ustani aunty

piousness epitomized

who took pains with the girls

as much as the bearded one did

with the boys

even the aunties would ask them

to correct their reading

of the book revealed

so long ago

read duly corrected

unfollowed except to the classes

where the show was about

of who had the more expensive one

lucky were the kids they said

whose house the maulana came to

to teach them that which

between bismillah and aamin

was all that would matter

to be forgotten the next day.

and how great the ustani was

to agree to take the girl to teach

and in her own home too.

little did the kids know

these visits by the exalted molvi

always corrected by an elder to

say moulana sahib

as if this made any difference in the

impish minds of the kids.

or the going to the ustani

the elders always adding “gee”

when she would find it convenient

to teach the girl alone

and then one day while

reading the text divine

the teachers reached across

and kissed the cheek

by way of a shahbash

and benignly smiled

or patted the back of the neck

caressing slowly as the boy faltered

in his reading, to the touch

while with the other hand

they made it a point

to openly scratch between the legs

or brazenly expose the top to scratch

and this became the ritual

daily repeated daily forgotten

and then the scratch became harder

and needed the kids hand

to scratch so the teacher

would feel relieved

and then slowly

the itch became a daily matter

and the kiss moved from

the cheek to the lips

and the hands became

demandingly exploring

one day the kid told his sibling

but was hushed and told

that was the way it was

and the kid next door endorsed it

so the next step was but natural

and so it went along

till one day sooner than later

the itch demanded

that the kids hand

go inside not over the dress

do i need to tell you the rest

another conquest and another

childhood lost to the depravity

of what the kid associated

with the reading of the book

now despised and not revered

and since that time

the hatred for the teacher bearded

deep seated within to this day endures

and when the time

for the kids kid came to read

the kid ensured their kid

were not left alone with the teacher

thus four ustanis and many more months

than the two hundred days or so

is what it took

for the reading to be finished

of the great holy words

that if left to their devices

the teachers would have taken

with half of that time

spent on their lecherousness

leaving the kids scarred for life

but then life goes on

not ready to accept that

the teachers of the book can be bad

we end up repeating

the reading and the rituals

not really bothered

how the kid is scarred

how the life is marred.

and life goes on

as it has gone on

for us and for ours before us

not ready to accept

not ready to stand

not willing to say

things can be wrong

for after all

life goes on!

 

*****

read out at Lahore in a session on childhood abuse

written between March 14-16, 2016

reality – october 05, 2009

June 9, 2010 by

took me almost eight months to sit and write this.

gul rukh tahir was the first victim of the october 05, 2009 suicide bombing in the united nations world food program country office, islamabad, pakistan. this piece has been written by tahir wadood malik her widower on may 9, 2010, at 5:45 pm
——————————————————–

reality

the call called me out
and i ran.
a scene of chaos
before me i saw
no one familiar
no one known
pell-mell running feet
stopping all from going in.

a hand held my arm
i looked at a face
worn and sad
she is taken from here
to the medical centre
or the hospital
hurry sir
he said.

i turned and ran
the medical centre was near,
first there i thought
and walked briskly
a voice called out
i turned
the medical centre sir
she is taken there.

a hop and i was there
running to the steps up
when another voice called
sir here
turning i saw him pointing
he came close and said
be strong sir
and turned his face.

down the slope i went,
entering a small room,
packed full with people
smelling of antiseptic,
gurneys covered in white sheets
a doctor looked at me
i took your name.

she looked at me
sad and sorry
pointing to the nearest
white sheet, she walked to it.
i stood as if riveted to the floor
is she gone i asked
she nodded,
and held the corner of the sheet.

leaden feet one after the other
just three steps
to see your face
drained of life’s color
the smile gone
nothing to give me hope.
just an endless dark tunnel,
with no light at the end.

you had left the world
you had left me, who you said
was your world,
i was left
without a thought
without any idea of next.
looking at your white face
closed eyes, look at me i said.

did you smile?
did you know i was standing there?
did you feel the tear
that fell on your cheek?
did you feel my hand on your face?
could you feel my willing you to wake?
or was it all cold, all dark,
and finished for you?

i stood there,
suddenly tired and racked with sobs
no one to hold me
no one to console me
no one to say hush
all alone.
not even you to say i am here.
together we will overcome.

and then the haze
people coming and going
a leg lay on the table next to you
supposedly of the bomber
people came and looked at it
no one bothered about us
but that leg was it for all then.
and i was frozen in pain, anger and angst.

formalities
ambulance ride
people gathering
crying.
wailing
intruding in my feelings
despair, grief, anger,
and a loss infinite.

rituals,
more people,
waiting for the inevitable
arrivals
more and more
but where in all this are you?
lying cold and unconcerned in a bed
draped in a white coffin

i looked at you
wanting you to smile
wanting you to open your eyes
desperation
wishing for the noise of the wails
beating chests and prayers
to wake you
from the depth of death.

but your face
serene, calm
without worries at last
fresh like the morning dew
not even lines of any hue
eyes closed,
even the white cloth,
pale against your skin.

and they came also
who had not come before
all standing
some silent
some crying
all sad
all lost
no words no actions enough.

and then it was time
picking you up
one on each of the four posts
reciting the oneness of god
who had taken you from me
so cruelly,
still being exalted and called to succor,
knowing i had but to suffer.

and then the prayers,
and a ride to the last resting place
a pit dark and dreary
i shuddered
you would hold my arm
even to step a step up
and this was so much down!
how could i hold you now?

and it was all over
dust to dust
prayers
consoling words
a dirge
another prayer
dispersal
how could i leave you?

but i did leave you
alone
in a pit covered with fresh dug soil
put on there with my own hands
my prayers mixed with the rest
a feel of death, a pain, a void,
in my heart
where you lived.

and food was served
people forgot death
food, the source of life
for the living was being taken
no one bothered to say
sorry
the food was important
my loss was reality and not.

and then they left
leaving me to my self
my thoughts
my feelings
my emptiness
my fight with my god
my forlornness
and my grief

and good too that was
for there was too much
going on in me
fears
feelings
remorse
thoughts
nostalgia

and the night passed
just as you had passed from this
to another world
just as i had passed
from a happy man
to a sad being
wondering why
this had come to pass?

but then life reared its head
wanting to extract its pound of flesh
not wanting to wait for the next
but wanting me not to rest
and i shrugged
and i looked
and i picked up the shackles of life
and i went to put my shoulder to the plough.

petrichor

July 24, 2017 by

that look of concern
or mocking perhaps
in the thought that it all
was a made up farce
a story or nothing at all
just an attempt at
seeking attention

slowly the smouldering depths of eyes
that did not
reflect the smile
on the lips
awakening to a new
understanding

that the drama played
may not be a farce
no masks no direction
just a flow
going where the flow went
and in that brief instant
he caught the curtain shift
to glimpse a fire
deeper than the
earth under the feet
and then
tottering on the corner
of the eye
a tear
enough to wet the
eons of dried earth
and
petrichor

22.07.2017
00:09 hours lahore

today i cried

June 24, 2017 by

today i cried for the 22 loved ones lost in manchester

today i cried for gul rukh tahir

today i cried for the 70,000 loved ones lost in pakistan

today i cried for my helplessness

today i cried for having lost faith in a fate fated

today i cried as i sat looking at the blank tv screen for i did not have the strength to reach for the remote and see manchester

today i cried as i saw my reflection in the tv screen juxtaposed with scenes from 10/05-09 till today

today i cried at not feeling sad, angry, mad, crazed, but at just sitting numb – living the moments with the loved ones left to mourn the 22 of manchester

today i cried at the agony of those waiting for news of their loved ones in hospital.

and today i cried for i do not know what.

tahir wadood malik

23/24.05.17 midnight till 01.00 hours

triumph

November 26, 2016 by

The easiest thing for us all to do is to sit and morosely say I have nothing!

And when I saw Triumph as the topic for The Missing Slate’s open mike session, I said here is a chance to think of the other side of sitting and thinking I have nothing.

So triumph it is!

Let me delve a bit in to the past.

Triumph for ma as a kid was associated with the famous Arc de Triumph in Paris, which was built over a hundred and eighty years to commemorate the French revolution and Napoleonic wars. The tall big gate like structure, on the end of the Champs-Elysée in Paris, which of course any French person will correct you to pronounce as Parree, with its night illumination was more than enough to impress a young tourist kid of the majesty of being triumphant!

Fast forward to final year in school and bicycling to school like most school mates and grudging a couple of school mates who came on Vespa’s, till one day a class fellow came not on a Vespa but on a motor cycle – and that too not just any motor cycle but a brand new shining full of chrome Tiger Cub, yes a Triumph Tiger Cub!

And triumph took on the meaning of a shining roaring beeping motorcycle.

And as is said there is many a slip between the cup and the lip.

These two triumphs were not the end of triumphs in life but as I look back now just the beginnings.

The seasons changing from May to June many years ago in Peshawar was close to unbearable, but I was happy that soon this heat would be lessened by the pleasantness of Abbottabad. And Abbottabad it was; only the regimen made life tough and the weather became secondary to survival.

However the Pakistan Military Academy gave new meaning to life, I found that I could do things better and that gave me an impetus. The desire to triumph this time in perhaps the actual meaning of the word.

And I got down to the serious business of winning. Going the extra mile, working, physical fitness, drill, and what have you led us to the day when we were all gathered in the Ingall Hall to hear our fate, and my name was called out last.

I was to pass out with the top honor.

I had triumphed.

And then life started in earnest. The triumph as is said cost me dear (mehangi pari). The bar had been set high for me by none other than myself!

And everyone expected me to “do better” than the rest. And luck played her innings on my side of the fence, and I did not let myself down.

And then the second call came. I was on the Siachen glacier, and in a glacial valley 18 of my men got buried under an avalanche.

Those of you who remember the Giyari incident, with the search operation undertaken with machinery and implements, can not imagine the back breaking search for the buried men, with each dig with picks and shovels, and often with bare hands almost getting frozen to the point of breaking off form the wrists, the danger of getting buried alive like those we dug for looming on our heads.

And finally on the 14th of August just as luck would have it, I asked the team to change the direction of the search in a 180 degree turn. And 20 yards of tunneling under snow and three hours later we managed hit the feet of the last soldier, another two hours and we had retrieved the last of the bodies; the sky shattering Allah ho Akbar still reverberates in my mind and gives me goose bumps almost 28 years later.

That was nothing but the tenacity of the troops and their will that made us work for over a month in the most hostile of conditions to not leave a fellow soldier behind that led to this triumph. Although it was counted as a notch on my totem pole, this triumph truly belonged to the men under my command.

And I sat and relaxed, having had my fair share of wins, I started to live life as a normal human being occasionally talking of the good and the triumphs, and tribulations of life, I saw myself joining the ranks of the veterans!

Till the 5th of October of 2009 when I joined the ranks of the ordinary Pakistani in the street!

That Pakistani who you see on your television screen after the breaking news flashes and live exclusive coverages of a terrorist attack – standing arms akimbo crying, hurt, not sure what happened to him and why he was one of the people at the venue of another bomb blast!

That Pakistani who you change the channel on.

The loss of a loved one in a suicide bomb attack is something that cannot be explained or talked about. It is something that only the one who goes through the catastrophe can understand!

I felt that all that I had done in life, everything I had worked for achieved and triumphed over, was taken from me in the flash of the exploding explosive of the suicide jacket!

And then I got an opportunity to speak about my loss, and I realized that I had to become the voice of the survivors of terrorism in Pakistan. And I started to look for and meet survivors and talk to them so I could share our grief.

The first time I met a widow, she just sat there and looked at me, I could feel her look pierce my body, go through my heart and reach my very soul.

I sat silent, while all round thee was sounds of sorrow.

Yet we sat silent, shallow breathing and blank stares, as blank as our minds and hearts.

And then she sobbed, and started to speak. Everyone all round fell silent, twenty days she had stoically braved the loss, putting up a brave face, and finally she broke. Her husband was all she had and now she did not have him.

And this started my crusade to speak truth to terror, and try to bring succor to others like me crushed under the burden of the will of God and culture of silence prevailing in our society.

And this ability to emphasize and make people speak of their loss has been my greatest triumph.

Finally as Nelson Mandela said, I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

 

16 -06-2016. Lahore

on quetta

August 8, 2016 by

poem by a friend on the carnage in quetta today!

Back Home Blues

April 27, 2016 by

An essay i read on 27 April 2016

A hectic week of buying, sorting out and ticking off of the list, and packing; with farewell dinners and teas thrown in for good measure; found me sitting in the GTS bus for a journey to Abbottabad, with the proverbial pae’tie (tin trunk) and canvas bistar bund (bed roll) loaded on the top of the bus – yes in those days of non AC Foton and Daewoo busses the luggage was carried on the roof top rack!

And so on the evening of 4th June 1969, I reached Abbottabad, got into a waiting military truck along with a few other gangly kids for the 15 minute or so ride to the Pakistan Military Academy.

The next many years were spent serving between Somiani on the Arabian Sea to Siachen, the highest battle ground in the world and having the best of times.

Home was the sarkari ghar allotted – setting it up, decorating it, living and entertaining in it, till the time came to pack and move and the process restarted.

In all this setting up homes and moving from city to city, somewhere at the back of the mind was the picture of “back home” – the home I left in 1969 and visited once a year every year, meeting the permanent inhabitants of that home, my parents.

Welcoming us as they would do guests – who would soon go back to the alien world they came from and life would come back to the normal without such intrusions.

Of course there were unscheduled visits back home also, deaths and marriages called for our presence – obediently following the rituals returned to our life outside this cocoon of our youth!

In all these changes the only constant being a flower pot with a money plant planted in soil which like the money plant was taken from the flower bed back home.

And then as they say life came full circle and it was time to finish the business in alien lands and return home.

Roots tugged, I now wonder if it were the soil calling the money plant or home calling me?

Visions of walls with antiques, paintings, artifacts and rooms large enough to accommodate the whole house that we had lived in flashed in my mind. An empty nest was easy to pack for having lost my better half and knowing back home was also without the mother was hard; yet knowing I would be welcome to the home of my youth, missed for forty seven years but not acknowledged for fear of nostalgia intervening and making life difficult.

And then the off white walls of the house and the memories, and the laughter of days gone by, and the mischief filled hours, all started to pale before the reality of life back home; where once my youth thrived now lived a lost in nostalgia old man who responded to my calling him Daddy with a smile, and occasionally with stories of an age gone by.

And “back home” was no longer the colorful and joyous memories kept alive for forty seven years, but back home was blue.

I could not sit and enjoy things happening around me, because nothing happened unless I did it. Reality.

Reality also was that now I was no longer the same gangly footloose and fancy free boy of 1969, but a weather beaten experienced and rubbed on the wrong side by life garrulous, grumpy getting on in years man.

Reality was being called uncle or sir gee in shopping malls as I took time to read labels to see if the ingredients were good for me or not.

As I sat and thought about rediscovering home, I wondered if I was somehow thinking of and writing about what a few years from today my children would be experiencing when they came “back home” from their sojourns in foreign lands?

And I cringed, and wrote about rediscovering home.

Only this became back home blues.

Blue Ice

tears are of the same color

March 6, 2016 by

irrespective of whose tears, mothers, husbands, sons, fathers, brothers, tears are of the same color!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robi-damelin/our-tears-are-the-same-color_b_9196712.html

The Lahore that lahore Was

September 10, 2015 by

my last blog about Lahore

I wish I could say “Lahore Lahore aie”, but then I would be unfaithful, both to Lahore and my memories of that city of my childhood

If soldiers get paid ‘to be killed’ what should be the fate of ‘non-productive’ entities in other sectors? – blog after a while

August 5, 2015 by

getting paid – should those who do not deliver be handled differently!

blog – politicians and managers

June 12, 2015 by

new blog in the Nation Lahore

Our politicians, and often the government, is shifting from working in the public interest to working for special interests. This leaves the electorate frustrated and disappointed with the political system, leading to the power and greed of a few taking an edge over the needs of the many.

new blog – after a break