Tales of a Sunset

As we were leaving Islamabad, it was almost maghrib. I had been dreading the long journey ahead. Tedious hours of just sitting in a car! Drivers everywhere, travelling, travelers, stressed about their destinations. The road between Islamabad and the M-2 was still under construction. For a split second, my gaze wandered to the sky. The split second turned into aeons. It was a watercolour painting. A perfectly blended painting; yellow gradually fading to pale yellow, pale yellow turning to a forget-me-not blue. Red streaks across where the clouds were closest to the sun, reflecting fury and rage. Grey streaks above the red, where the clouds were impermeable to the ferocity of the sun. A tiny silver crescent just beginning to peek out shyly.

Amongst angry drivers and big machines drilling away noisily, there was a calm. Amongst the chaos that is found on these roads on a Sunday night (as people return after the weekend), there was a sort of serenity spread out on the world. For a moment, I forgot my stress. Everything that had made me so tense this weekend, and that everyone had told me to let go of, I now realised was worthless. I “lived in the moment”, as my sister had been telling me to. Traveling never brought out the best in me, but today nature itself brought me relief. My face relaxed. Although there was no one I had to convey my joy to, although all this was just a feeling in the very depths of my heart, a tiny smile took over. Since winter departed two days ago, and spring had not yet entirely come, the trees were still dried up, leafless, lifeless. Perfect against the backdrop of the sky, a postcard.

We were now on the motorway. The red streaks were fading away as the blue slowly took over. Here, trees lined both sides of the road. The trees had leaves. Green fields spread out for miles on every side. It like was one of those expensive paintings one would expect to see in a huge victorian mansion. It was getting dark. The sky was always the hero. Trees silhouetted against a sky so intricate. Sometimes a hill came, sometimes a huge rock outlined against the sky, all seeking attention, all failing against a sky so beautiful.

Every second looking out of a moving car changed the scenery. Every second the sky and the fields and the silhouetted trees made a new masterpiece. Every second it showed the craftsmanship of the One behind it.

It was Him. Allah. He was the Artist. He was the Art.

The shy crescent now shone quite boldly. The red disappeared entirely, the wrath of the sun wrapped up by the gentle blue of the night. In the distance I could now see lights; villages and small towns located at intervals. Eventually the light blue turned to a rich, royal blue which had no place for yellows and oranges. Only the silver of the moon or the distant stars could conquer a sky so overpowering.

It was strange to think of this sky. The same sky shone over refugees, over starving, diseased children, over mourning mothers, over depressed and oppressed people. The same sky shone over crime, hate, injustice and intolerance. And yet, it was this same sky that painted a picture for me, for my peace, stretching for miles and miles across. It was this same sky that inspired poetry.

And I rested my head against the window; once again worries returning to my tired head, dreading all that was to come, the night clouding my thinking and wrapping around my head.

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A Wish.

In a land of absolute normalcy, and nothing out of the ordinary, there was a girl. A girl who was completely normal, ordinary. There she was, in class that day, the 20th of October. The professor droned on and on, but her fragile mind was on other unnecessary and unimportant things. The girl was nostalgic. With her heart split across three continents, this wasn’t an infrequent condition. There were smells she longed to inhale and voices she wanted to hear. There was a certain temperature of the air she wished was there.

She thought of waffles and shortbread. She thought of flavoured yogurt and freshly made finger fish. With beans. And sweet corn. And flavoured water.

She thought of a house that would be warm and comforting against biting cold winds. She thought of the maternal presence in that house. She thought of the last time she had hugged her. The way her short plump figure had completely encompassed her entire being in a split second. Perhaps she had not realised what she was to the girl. If she had, she would’ve held on longer. She thought of all those times she had woken up from unpleasant dreams to find a familiar, comforting snore gently rock her back to sleep. She thought of all the times she had been fussed on upon, the many summer holidays spent in ignorant bliss. The way her grandmother had tried to make the most of the every meeting, to somehow cover the distance of an entire continent.

She thought of a tiny bundle of joy, blessed with the most beautiful smile, barely a year old. She thought of her niece, the way she giggled when she was thrown in the air. The way her smile melted the hardest heart, the way she spread love and joy indiscriminately with just her presence.

There came to her mind an old, fragile-looking man too, with endless grace and dignity. A man who was a living miracle (literally). A man who was the most splendid example of resilience, hardwork, determination, and above all, will power. A man loved and respected by so many, but she considered herself so lucky to be loved by him. A man she looked up to, her grandfather. Countless times that old wrinkled face had smiled upon her, as if her insignificant being was actually the source of his pride. A brown face, sometimes appearing in her memory sitting in an intense Punjabi sun, other times laying on a pillow, sleeping in front of the fire, cozy against the frost outside that so many Punjabis yearned for but never experienced. Most of the times, though, he was either dressed in a three-piece suit, or a crisp shalwar kameez, actively pacing about, never a dull moment. The best storyteller.

There were other memories on this continent, some personal, others not as much. Her wandering mind, however, moved to another continent, one she had never been to, but which contained a piece of her heart. A family, more beloved to her than belgian chocolate, if chocolate was a scale. A family she hoped to see again, soon. But the prospects looked dim.

Finally, the third continent. The continent she currently found her physical being on. A land containing almost all her memories, some sweet, some sour. A land where she was thankful to still have some of the people she loved and cherished. Her paternal grandfather, a man with unwavering faith in Allah. The most patient man she had seen in her life. Born to be great. And that was what he had achieved. Though not as expressive as herself, he had loved them in his own way and shown it. She knew him by the words: bravery, wisdom, chivalry, gentlemanliness, discipline, tolerance and trust. A man of endless dignity and grace, a man she looked up to. A man was respected greatly and deeply by everyone. A man who taught how to respect, simply by showing it. A man who led by example.

She was still nostalgic. She wanted to have everyone and everything within her grasp. She wished it was so. But at the same time she knew she could not be ungrateful for all that God had already blessed her with. So, she said a quiet, heartfelt prayer and thanked Him for all the blessings she already had.

The bell rung. She was forced back to Earth.


This prompt came along at the right time.