Drowning

A memory seeps in. Try as you might, it will seep in. Perhaps the cranium isn’t as impermeable as solid metal or stone? Perhaps that’s why memories seep in with as much ease as they seep out.

However, now is not the time to dwell on the past. Now is the time to seek the future. Ah, the future. Bleak, uncertain, unknown. So unknown.

But it persists. The memory. Now you’ve done it. Tried suppressing it, and now there’s a flood? Ha! You wish to be a judge of human minds, you cannot even judge your own. A memory. Memory.

A playground, a funeral. Late night sessions in the kitchen. Putting a baby to sleep. Being put yourself to sleep by a warm, maternal presence. The backyard with girls and laughter. Ice-lollies with a distinct childhood taste, not had in years but still the taste lingers.

Perhaps check the time? The night has progressed. The wee hours will be gone soon. Amd with them your chance to lay the mind at rest.

What an idea! Lay the mind at rest. Rest? That is a notion for the ones who control their minds. You? Your mind controls you. And society controls your mind. You seek rest? Go to an isolated piece of land. A land at rest, devoid of humans. Stay until your mind is cleared. Stay, and you shall see: the clarity of mind got. What a feeling!

But for now; these memories! What to do with them? Unorganised. So many eras, so many feelings. So many thoughts unthought! Leave them be, my dear. Leave them be. Now is not the time.

Oh, do you feel that? No, no, try! Try to resurface once more, try to gain the higher ground. This is your mind, you cannot drown within! The memories keep coming. Store them, sort them. Now is not the time! Dear me, what is wrong with you? Why will you not respond?

Oh dear, these recesses in you… oh, dear! Where do they lead? A road? A road branching off from consciousness? These memories might be the end of you. Hmm, I wonder where they’ve disappeared off too. Wait, let me come! Wait! I was saying…

Fin.

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Two years!

Thank you guys for being so amazing! I see every one of you, even if you think I don’t, and trust me, I appreciate all your support so much! Thank you for inspiring and motivating me, and reading my writings. It really means a LOT! Amd thanks for getting this ol’ place to two years!

Here’s hoping we can keep at it….

(P.S. Happy Ramadhan to everyone fasting! And I shall get back to the swing of things soon…. the posts I’ve been reading by you guys are great! Expect a post soon! Until then, happy blogging! Here’s to all you guys who don’t care about superficial layers and can see deeper than just a being with skin. That is amazing in the world of today.)

A world where writing is banned

This was a prompt.


“Time: half past two in the morning. As today marks the 100 year anniversary of The Writers Ban, I, Mirza, now initiate the meeting of the (banned) Writer’s Guild, Lahore Branch.” Mirza Sahib looked around. “Please, sit, everyone. I realise it is hard to meet at this hour, but today is a special occasion!”

In the corner, the Scribe took down the words with droopy eyes. They usually met on Sundays, but the hundered year anniversary just happened to fall on a Friday. After a full day of intense work, we were all tired. But it had to be done.

“As president, I now call this meeting to order. May I remind you that should a Farangi catch wind of this, we shall all be beheaded?”

An enthusiastic round of applause.

“We are the sole body of people who not only write, but read. I passed by the Qila today. The little kid I met there didn’t even know who Aurangzeb was! We are the only people who hold the key to the past. In this regard, Bano Khatoon and Ram Sahib have uncovered and saved much valuable literature.”

I beamed.

“Without them, a lot would have been lost. Therefore, I now declare them Vice Presidents of TWG!”

Another round of applause, less enthusiastic.

We walked to the front of the room.

“Mirza Sahib, this is preposterous!” All eyes turned to Chaudhary Sahib. “A woman and a Hindu as Vice Presidents!”

“Chaudhary Sahib,” I said. “This is 1870. I’m sure we have bigger problems at hand. The heritage of an entire nation is at stake.”

Chaudhary Sahib continued to glare at me as I fixed my chadar.

“In the event of a raid,” said Mirza Sahib, “These two are our only hope. The British shall never arrest a Hindu and Bano Khatoon has— err—“

“A very pro-ban influential grandfather who would never let them touch me,” I continued. “So really, Chaudhary Sahib, would YOU like to keep the Sandooq with all our writings in it?” I couldn’t help keeping the bitterness out of my voice.

“I shall not allow my own people to argue amongst themselves, Bano Khatoon.” Mirza Sahib intervened. “Times are tough. We must cooperate. Now, let us commence. Rana Sahib, would you like to read out the twelfth chapter of your book, “The Collapse?”

Rana Shaib took centre stage. Imagining myself to be in a theatre, I glided to my usual seat and begun my weekly night job: critically analysing the best of the writers’ work, to protect the only literary heritage we had so that when we would hold the rebellion against the Farangis, we would have something. Something to denote our existence in this era. Something that would save us from oblivion.

I wrapped the pages in a silk cloth and tied them. It was time for the regular TWG session, and I was to read my piece, “Behind the Red Chadar”. I hurried out the gate, careful not to wake my Abba. He would’ve killed me if he found out. Our headquarters were situated in the basement of the Masjid at the junction of the Mall Road and the Canal Bank Road. Outside, there wasn’t a single light.

“Hello, princess,” I heard the drunken voice of an English soldier. “What might a pretty lady like you be doin’ out here.”

I wrapped my chadar tighter. The manuscript was concealed underneath.

“The people of God know no time. Shall I smite you with the power vested in me by the Masjid?” It was a long shot, but the soldier was drunk. He staggered backwards and I ran into the Masjid. I saw the flickering flame of a candle on the stairs, but there was no one rushing in or out. No hushed whispers. A shiver ran down my spine.

Slowly, I went down the stairs. My foot slipped on something. I didn’t dare look down. The big oak door was slightly open. I knew what this smell was. I opened the door with the last bit of strength I had.

I couldn’t even scream.

Three perfectly symmetrical rows. Walls painted red. With blood.

The rows were heads. Mirza Sahib and Chaudhary Sahib taking centre stage. Their lifeless eyes staring at me.

But it didn’t end here. On the floor, a folded piece of paper. As I picked it up, I recognised my grandfather’s handwriting.

“This is the fate of those who rebel against the state. Whosever conseals the Sandooq shall be caught and bestowed a worse fate.

— Commissioner of Lahore,

Bakhtiar Ali.”

And then the signature.

I realised I was the only writer in the whole of the subcontinent. The heritage of an entire nation rested on my shoulders.

And Ram Sahib.


NOTE: this is historically inaccurate. The British took over in 1857, so it hadn’t been a hundered years in 1870. And there was no writing ban either (of course) however, the British did arrest anyone who wrote against the crown.

Farangi means the British in Urdu.

Aurangzeb was a Mughal Emperor. The decline of the mughals begun after his death.

I’m not sure the Masjid ever existed.

No, women were not granted this much liberty at that time. But since this is fiction — why not?

Abba means father in urdu.

Slumber

It was the only day of the week where she knew she could sleep with the gas heater on. Not because this was a weekly suicidal ritual that she religiously performed, but because she knew there would be someone to turn it off.

Tonight, she was tired. With lights turned off and the blaring noise of the television in the next room, she was aware that she only had a few hours to sleep. Come, sleep, come. Come before the night has faded and trials afresh await my doom. Come.

It came, but in slow, unsure steps. Like the carbon monoxide that slowly filled up the room as she awaited her half death. Perhaps it was not sleep, but this gas, which slowly suffocated her to slumber as she thought of the exact time required by the gas to fill up this room and deprive her of air. How odd.

The slumber now surrounded her like the stars that never shone in her sky anymore. She was losing herself, and she was aware. A conscious unconsciousness. Collateral beauty. Her eyes gently closed as the warm orange rays lit up the room to a comfortable resting place. A comfortable last resting place, as they would’ve said later.

Who was to know if this was a half death, or slumber in eternity?

Incessant Dreaming

It had been a few days. Hunger and lethargy floated somewhere amongst these transitions of conscious into unconscious, reality into dream, clarity into haze. A constant thump thump of the raindrops on the tin roof could be heard. A fragile hand tried to move in the darkness of the shabby hut. Was this real? Was it a dream? Everything seemed a dream these days. How long though? How long had this incessant dreaming been continuing? Who knew. And who cared. Because it was true! An insignificant being dying in a dismal hut of hunger and starvation. It didn’t alter the course of the universe. It didn’t hinder the path of the sun. And it didn’t stop this monsoon rain.

The much needed rain. The rain prayed for, the rain begged for.

Yet what good did it do to a dying being? A dying being incessantly dreaming. For the world refused to acknowledge the being as human. But even so, the being had no control over its being. The rain drops seemed to be getting bigger and bigger now. The humidity was suffocating. Soon they were as big as that listless hand. The humidity might turn solid any moment now. The rain drops were bigger than the cars by now: every single drop fell as if a bomb attempting to destroy everything on the face of the earth. And then amongst all the chaos: a thunderous knocking. The door was weak, perhaps weaker than the inhabitant, but it put up a good fight. The inhabitant swore and tried to convince his brain to convince his body to move. The pounding on the door increased, the rain drops got bigger, the humidity got more humid. The being was gasping for air, all the while thinking why was it so difficult to breathe when there was a deprivation of food and not air? The door must’ve opened. The being heard a loud bang where the door hit the wall. Or maybe the door fell down. It was so difficult to tell what was going on. Was this even real? If only reality and dream would distinguish between themselves! Even vision was a burden. And then it was no more. Black.

The being gasped for air until it gasped no more.


Writing prompt:

Incessant dreaming (day 8)

Musical Undertones

Basically I have been attempting the November prompts, I just haven’t been posting. I don’t know why but anyways, here’s today’s. Even if I’m not writing a novel or anything. It’s just that I enjoy them. Anyways.


They tried to take her with them. They tried to drag her away from what would be her destruction. They all tried. She saw them, and heard them, but did not understand. They were vacating the mountains and moving to the plains.

The mountains would be bombed.

They wanted to save her — a fragile soul, delicate skin, big dreamy eyes, face like a nectarine. However, she wouldn’t have any of this. The threat of the air strikes did not worry her weary mind. She had worried too much for her young years. Father, mother — all gone. She had been alone for a long time now. The mountains were her security. She could not leave them. The souls of her family traversed these paths with her. She knew they were there.

They tried to console themselves. Her delirious mind would bring about her destruction, they said. She laughed at them as they turned around to leave. Destruction? No.

Her bare feet led her to the river that ran between the two mountains that constituted her village. She decided to go up to the bridge. In the middle of the bridge, with the river roaring furiously, she stood and stared. Eyes fixed on this massive water body, mind racing with thoughts better left alone. She remembered everything. Her father taking her hand, telling her not to be afraid as they crossed the bridge. Her mother, scolding her and sending her outside the house in the cold as a punishment. The men that came. The way she hid, paralysed with fear, behind the bush. The way the house was set on fire. But what stood out the most — the screams. She wished she could forget. But they never did stop. Bloodied screams in a blazing fire.

She saw the river. How beautiful! Her internal conflicts resonated with the rage of the river. Her heart was at peace at last. It seemed to her as if the river had turned stationary, and she (with the bridge) was accelerating backwards. She felt an odd sense of calm and serene descend upon her as the river dissolved her identity. She was losing herself, she was aware of that. But she wasn’t afraid. The river — a massive body of rage and fury, but with musical undertones. Blue and grey on the surface but concealing all colours in its cold depths. Apparently indifferent, but actually holding the secrets to all of human history. How could she be afraid? What had sounded like the wrath of the river was a melodious voice singing to her.

Yes, she was losing herself. But to her Beloved.

Her beloved embraced her with cold, open arms.


Writing prompt: Musical Undertones (day 5)

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.