Friday, December 7, 2018

Bint e Hawwa Ka NauLakha Charkha



I was recently exposed to a communication, with over one thousand contributions (all by Pakistani women), about 'Working women can't really manage to run the house effectively. It is very difficult'.

It's been a few days, but something or the other keeps popping up that conversation. And for the first time I am aware of how many people ACTUALLY engage in such a topic. I thought I should share my POV here as well. :)

So read ahead at your own risk. #RantAlert.

To be honest, few discussions have made me this angry. I think it is quite unfair (and absolutely unnecessary) to compare the lives of stay at home women and working women. Both have their individual battles. Both have their own demons to slay.

Regardless of how one chooses to define one's "working women" demarcation, what made me utterly upset have been dozens of exhibits of, totally uncalled for, hostility towards the working mothers and I found them utterly embarrassing. I mean what good is your I-the-satti-sawittari claim if all you can do is being riled up when any other woman gets praised for her contributions to her family? Let's keep our moral judgement to ourselves. Apnay ander kay Khadim Rizvi ko qaboo kar lain hum sab tou bahir bhi Khadim Rizvi ko followers nahi milain gay.

Life IS tiresome.

Plan your week - irrespective of your working status. I've been a single parent, a working mom, and a care taker of an old parent. I've run a business, I've worked from home, and I've also done a 9-5 job. I can confirm that life IS tiresome.

The only tool is a positive mindset (WHICH MEANS: FOCUS ON YOUR STRENGTHS INSTEAD OF GLOATING OVER YOUR VICTIMHOOD).

Note down your weekly tasks. Make friends with keeping written notes.

Cut down on needless communication that adds nothing to your ilm or amal or eeman. I repeat - C u t d o w n on bekaar ki jhak jhak. (Every group at my WhatsApp, other than my work group with my offshore team, is at mute. Has been on mute for years now. If that gives you an idea!) This will free a lot of your mental space leaving you less stressed, less occupied. Believe me no one dies by missing on gossip or Why-I-hate-XYZ tales or PCNick-Shadi-Kitni-Dair-Chalay-Gi estimates.

Allot time chunks for things that matter.

AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, learn self discipline.

Find real life examples who spark positivitiy in you; who inspire you to be more; to be a better version of yourself; who fill you with motivation.

Make your craft - however YOU choose to define your craft - a badge of your value, and wear it proudly.

Rab sab ki mushkilain aasaan farmaey, aur humain apnay apnay goals main surkh-roo karay. Ameen.


Image Credits: Momin And Shaista Artworks


23 Principles of Virtue from Maxims of Ptahhotep




Disclaimer: What follows is mostly borrowed text from the textual archives available online. My contribution to it has not exceeded the editing. 


Ptahhotep (ptāħ ħwtp) was a  Vizier in the ancient Egypt. He was recognized as a sage, city administrator, and oldest son of Djedkare Isesi, the fifth dynasty ruler (r. 2414-2375 BCE). The Maxims of Ptahhotep were composed during 24th century BC . These maxims are one of several “wisdom” texts found in ancient Egypt typically composed in narrative form. In this text, a father and famous sage instructs his son. This particular set of precepts, however, stands out because they touch upon the most important aspects of human relations and yet the most central ideals for which members of this African kingdom held in high regard. In that kingdom, members of society were measured by the principles of self-control, moderation, kindness, generosity, justice, and truthfulness (used with discretion), which suggests not harmony but a way of guarding against the excesses of power, ruthlessness, and untruth. These virtues, then, tell us the ideal person was thoughtful, calm, and paid attention to the divine—in fact, the ordered world created by humans in ancient Egypt was a mirror image of the order that governed the cosmos. 

Following are some of his golden principles:


1. Be merry all your life.
2. Toil no more than is required. 
3. Nor cut short the time allotted to pleasure.
4. Don't waste time on daily cares beyond providing for your household.
5. When wealth comes, follow your heart. Wealth does no good if you're glum.
6. Great is Law.
7. If you are a man of authority, be patient when listening to words of a petitioner. Do not dismiss him until he has completely unburdened himself of what he had planned to say. 
8. Injustice exists in abundance, but evil can never succeed in the long run.
9. Do not gossip in your neighborhood, because people respect the silent.
10. To listen is better than anything, from it is born perfect love.
11. As for the ignorant man who doesn't listen, he accomplishes nothing. He equates knowledge with ignorance, useless with harmful. He does everything detestable, so people get angry with him each day.
12. A perfect word is hidden more deeply than precious stones. It is to be found near servants working at mill-stone.
13. Only speak when you have something worth saying.
14. Love your wife with passion.
15. A woman with happy heart brings equilibrium. 
16. Those who continually lust after women, none of their plans ever succeed.
17. Do not blame those who are childless, do not criticize them for not having any, do not boast about having them yourself.
18. Do not repeat a slanderous rumor, do not listen to it.
19. May your heart never be vain because of what you know. Take counsel from the ignorant as well as the wise 
20. He who has a great heart has a gift from God. 
21. He who obeys his stomach obeys the enemy.
22. Teach your disciple words of tradition. Act as a model for children, that they may find in you the understanding and justice of every heart, since man is not born wise 
23. Punish with principle, teach meaningfully. Act of stopping evil leads to lasting establishment of virtue.  



Image credit: Relief from Ptahhotep's tomb, web.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Like An Adult




I was reading this post over givers and receivers dynamics - about the mindsets at play, and was suddenly hit by an avalanche of memories.

The year was 2005. Married for less than a fortnight, had just moved to an apartment in Karachi. The block had a total 8 apartments. Second day at the new place, a child from the neighbours living on the floor just below ours, came to deliver a tabbaruk - dates and zamzam brought from Umrah.

In the evening when the partner was back from work, I prepared for a FIRST ... :)
We went to offer our gratitude and congratulate the family. The 23yo me found it akin to a moon odyssey :). First unsupervised, independent social interaction in an ammis kinda setting, as a married adult!
It was huge.


The gentleman of the house welcomed us. The lady joined a little later and was visibly unappreciative of what she saw. Her daughter, older to me, was an MBA like my partner and our host didn't waste a moment in sharing her opinion over the academic influence on martial compatibility.
"MBA tou MBA kay saath hi acha lagta hai," she commented after learning that I was an engineer.

I learnt, to my utter surprise, that my provincial domicile could be my most significant introduction in the largest city of Pakistan. Having grown up travelling through all the four provinces, it felt strange to be linked to and identified by only one.

"Shadi parents ki marzi say kum hi karti hain wesay Punjab ki larkiaan. Lakh chuppaein jo ghar say bhaagtay hain unkay huliay say bhi pata chalta hai."

She had said looking at my plain baby pink chiffon shalwar qameez. I uneasily adjusted my multicoloured dupatta and moved my hand to draw her attention to the only gold piece I was wearing, a bracelet.

I was discarded. I could see that. :)

This was block 4. She informed me of two other Punjabans in the complex, one in block 6 and the other in 1, whom I could go and make friends with.
"Un main say bhi aik bhaag kay aee thi Lahore say hi. "

You get the idea!

I itched to tell her the count of guests at my shadi which had happened only a few days before, and show her the pictures of my mother kissing my maatha, my father bidding me farewell.
But I stayed put and listened.
Like an adult, I told myself.


Phir, as soon as I got a chance during the domicile autopsy she was mercilessly performing, I congratulated her for the Umrah.
It was only her husband who had performed it, she told. He performed it every year, she informed. And saying that her eyes welled up. "Allah jaanay mera bulawa kab ata hai Uskay ghar haazri ka," she sobbed.
I didn't know what was the right thing to say at such a time. There was pride in the husband's achievement, but there was a sense of loss for her own self and I didn't know how to take away the significance of the loss without belittling the value of the husband's achievement. So I stayed quiet. Sitting next to her, I held her hands in mine and caressed.


I could be wrong, but I felt that she probably didn't like her having put a weaker self on show in front of me
So with a change of expression she concluded that this delay in her haazri must be because she still has the responsibility of marrying off her daughter. I agreed.

We left after a little while.

I called my mother that night, ecstatic. I was on cloud number 9.
I had been a perfect adult.
I had been like her.

She listened to the story and unlike how I knew her, she grew angrier by each moment.

"How dare she!" Amman was breathing fire.

"Tum sunti rahi? At least you could've told her that you've performed hajj. Na deti koi shut up call, at least should have embarrassed her at having constantly belittled you."

Oh Amman ... I groaned. How could she not see that this was the entire point!

The lady was unhappy. She was trying to project that unhappiness on me, drawing joy out of insulting me.

I let her have that joy, without feeling the insult.
Like I had witnessed my mother doing.

Like an adult.




Friday, November 30, 2018

متّاں مینہ تھیوے


تیڈھی اکھ دے عاشق بدّل ھن
ساڈی جھوک تے آ، متّاں مینہ تھیوے

ایس سُرخ گلابی چہرے توں
چا زُلف ہٹا، متّاں مینہ تھیوے

کہیں جھیل دے وانگ ہے اکھ تیڈھی
ساکوں سیر کرا، متّاں مینہ تھیوے

اساں شاکر منگ منگ تھک پئے ہاں
منگ آپ دُعا، متّاں مینہ تھیوے


I've been smitten so bad by the headiness of this kalam of Shakir Shujabadi, that couldn't help taking liberties with it.

Countless nights I've spent staring at the black chest of the sky,
Waiting, pinning ...
 
ساڈی جھوک تے آ، متّاں مینہ تھیوے

Life is barren, but for a vision of your locks that cloud your face.  
O my love ...
چا زُلف ہٹا، متّاں مینہ تھیوے

Take me away from where I do not belong!
Take me to the world of you ...
ساکوں سیر کرا، متّاں مینہ تھیوے

My prayers have weaved a rosary that chants only your name
Now you, my darling ...
منگ آپ دُعا، متّاں مینہ تھیوے


Image credits unknown. The phenomenon, however, is known as dharolyuo - n. "a joyous veil of rain that bridges sky & earth, drawing life from dry land," in the language of Thar Desert, Jaisalmer district, India. 

Saturday, November 10, 2018

حاشیہ



‏زندگی تو بس یاد کی ایک چوکھٹ ہے. 
رابطے کی ایک سبیل.
آنکھوں کی نمی.
ہونٹوں کی لرزش.
طواف کا دورانیہ. 
سجدے کا طول. 
تنفس کے چاک پر نقش ہوتی کوزہ گری.

حرف و صوت سے ماورا. بیان و ابلاغ سے بےنیاز. 

اپنی ذات کے اندر کسی اور کی کھونٹی پر ٹنگے وقت کی کیفیت.



Image by Mobeen Ansari

Monday, October 22, 2018

What Is The Flavour of Death


Have you ever come across a situation in which you found yourself at the brink of nothingness staring blankly in your face?


Do you remember feeling scared? alarmed? mortified? Or was it just an indifferent iciness?


I've, now, come across the situation twice in the last ten years. 


The first time was a good chunk of years back. It was a car accident. 

The car got hit so bad, it actually went up in the air. 
I remember aligning myself from behind the steering wheel so as to form a human shield for the pre-schooler son sitting beside me in the passenger seat. I wasn't panicked. I was thinking, reflecting very lucidly. In those few moments when the car wheels were not in touch with the ground, I had tried to estimate the impact and pushed son down towards the leg room. I remember very clearly, making a balance sheet of life in my head. A balance sheet, that since then, remained a reason of solace in my dark moments. I remember the epilogue of all those of major and minor moments that flashed through my head: "It wasn't perfect, but it was my all." There were no regrets. I recall asking myself that question categorically. 
Basically, there seemed to be a lot of time in those moments. Lots of time with hitherto not experienced sense of clarity.

Surprisingly, when the car had landed back and rammed into a tree trunk just beside the road, son and I had both remained unharmed in the completely smashed car. The vehicle insurance team, later, found it implausible that anyone could have survived the accident, let alone unscratched. 


That was my first brush with death. A glorious, calming, well aware sense of fulfillment. I loved it. It made me, in a way, look forward to it. 

Yeah, that good!

And that was the basis of my hypothesis that the final moments of life come with utmost clarity. They make you objective, and let you have a bird eye's view of all that you'd lived through. I thought that staring into the abyss of nothingness, you realize, probably for the first time, of the richness you've possessed. And the worth (or lack thereof) of all that you're leaving behind. I felt that in the final moments you have a direct connection with the Ultimate. You could see, and be dazzled, by the grandeur of what you were about to meet. 


At least this is what I thought.


Yun na tha, main nay faqat chaha tha yun ho jaey!


Some six years later, was the second time! This wasn't a car accident. 

This situation of standing at the cusp of hast and neest was triggered by unwellness. And I discovered the dark side of nothingness. 
It was a case of food poisoning due to some infectious fruit I consumed in the morning. Only it wasn't just that. Somewhere, it teamed up with an abnormal rise of blood pressure, that had somehow been brewing there all night and which I am not accustomed to experiencing. The two worked together to the point where I lost all sense of time and being. My only awareness seemed to stem from my editor's instincts (a job which I took rather too seriously, I realized), in trying to find the perfect adjectives to describe my situation. Everything was hazy. I could feel the outline of things, people floating away. There was noise, a lot of metallic noise. And amidst some smog I had a dim realization that I had to see if son had had lunch. I called out to him. I remember struggling for air, and thinking if this is the end what is it called ... Death is a cold word, I deserve a better word ... A warm, soft word. My mind was a game of chess gone bonkers. Thinking of it now, it was as suffocating as one's thought can permit. Perhaps more. I forced myself to think of the Ultimate I was about to meet ... the end of a struggle I had so passionately embraced. However, with the metallic noise in my ears, and the choking shortening of breath, I didn't know what to think. I tried to recall Ayat Kareema, my favourite wird. One I only stop reciting for teesra kalma, if ever. And it seemed like so much effort. The smoke was just too much to breathe, too much to let words take a form. The mind was a mesh of chaos and panic. And a loud speaker somewhere yelling possible scenarios of the situation the son would've to deal with afterwards. I hated it. I hated it all.

Eventually it all faded into blackness.


This was my second brush with death. Yeah, I know ... it's not as dramatic as a car ramming into something solid, nor is as thrilling. But the doctor, whom I got to see some seven hours later, thought it to be enough dramatic for me to confirm that it was indeed my second chance at surviving the obvious ordeal.  

You know what did I realize now?


My new hypothesis is that one's own mind could be the worst company to have in the final moments of departure. When the chemicals inside the body are having a world war situation, there's only chaos. Imagine the scene of a nuclear explosion ... the hysteria, the frenzied panic, the madness, all accompanied by dark blinding clouds of stifling smoke. There is nothing kind about it. No nice adjective to associate with the experience. That is how an unwell person feels when sliding down the abyss of nothingness. There was nothing glorious, nothing clear, no recollection of any worth ... This was grim.



I
have come to learn that death does not have a monotone. 

I have also come to realize that the raging war of chemicals within humans is hardly ever visible. I, too, was my wholesome looking self when undergoing this intimidating encounter.

Probably there was a lesson in this entire episode. Who knows? We often demand logical explanations of behavior from people we deal with. Who knows how many of them are struggling with existence beyond the realm of reason. Who knows how they keep listening to the deafening noise in their ears day in, day out. 

Be khudi aaThoN pehar ho, ye zaroori tou nahi!



So what I really want to say is ...

Be kind when there is still life!


Monday, October 1, 2018

How to ...



All this evolution, the specialized fields of education, the enlightenment & the knowledge age, yet no one teaches you 
how to love; 
how to allow yourself to feel loved; 
how to identify abuse; 
how to not make the bond a bondage; 
how to nurse a broken heart; 
how to rise in love. 

No one teaches you 

how to bear disappointments without brewing bitterness;
how to grieve without hostility; 
how to seek help; 
how to offer help; 
how to not make guilt your home;
how to forgive;

how to take care of relations without sabotaging self; 
how to keep in a state of gratitude. 

No one teaches you 

how to read eyes & find the fractured fault lines; 
how to stand over the pyre of ego & build bridges; 
how to hold together a broken person; 
how to dress heartless rationale in kindness; 
how to bring value to the sufferers of self esteem; 
how to be without war.


No one teaches you 
how to open arms for a bullied child; 
how to be gentle to the damaged adult; 
how to caress; 
how to console a mourning person; 
how to listen to the stories of a mad man; 
how through those stories trace the path to his sanity;
how to be home to the lost souls. 

No one teaches you 

how to not be deterred by the dark; 
how to believe that the sun rises anew each day; 
how to hold your ground; 
how to know the way back home; 
how to fight when the demons get you; 
how to understand the difference between surrender and pause; 
how to start again. 

No one teaches you how we turn into monsters witnessing life diminishing around us each day, while we hail our enlightened selves.    


- written by leenah.

Image credits: The Hands by Michelangelo 

Saturday, September 22, 2018

When the Lilacs Kill


It rained blood that night. The sky, like a wounded metador, gushed to no end a redness fresh and warm. And sickly scented.

Recalling it she winced again. Her pain had only been mounting since. Wincing, tossing, turning, not a moment had gone by when she wasn't hurting. Every stab of memory brought another bout of pain, and each time it hit her so hard she vomited

She threw up again. Floating in the pool of bile, there was that name tag again. Her whole body convulsed with the empty heaving, yet she noticed the tag even with her half shut eyes. Without reaching for it, she knew what that chit carried. 
"This won't end", she thought ruefully.

Closing her eyes she wished for her mind to go blank. The agonizing plight of her loss was too much to bear. She had undergone a miscarriage that night, the night it had rained like a wounded metador: A miscarriage of hope. 

Silent sobs raked her body. 

She had been writing odes to her unborn hope. 
There was one she had even ventured out to share with the world, beaming with pride, a hand over her swollen belly pregnant with the possibility. 
The words rang out in her head:

In all the languages you speak,
in all those I remember,
No word contained the texture of kiss. 


Of all the ages you've travelled,
of all the times I've existed,
No moment froze the scent of lilac.

Under all the nights, through all the days,
In maps traversing land and milky ways
No star shone so bright
like the sun that rises
every night when I make my home
along the shores of your heart beat.
There, nestled under the open skies
of mating want and surrender,
At the cusp of divinity and earthiness,
I smell Lilac.
I say your name. 


"Your name", she repeated. She had made love to that name. Her heart felt another tremor rising. She felt it contorting the muscles in her chest. This time she wailed like a banshee.

All she had hoped for was to receive the same lilacs; to taste the same love draped around her name. Hungering for it, she had trampled over her pride, even begged for it! But her name wasn't a part of the present. 


"Keep the hope, nurture it. Wait!" she was told each time.
She went back to living wait. Went back to feeding the hope, the hope of savoring love. 

Thinking of how it'd feel like made her swoon every time.

That night, when it rained like a wounded metador, her name became a part of the present without a warning. It occurred and reoccurred, and then occurred some more. There was no texture of a kiss, only pelting bullets. Spitted out with venom, hitting each time with the ferocity of a meticulous executioner, her own name became her butcher. The sternness of it held her in place while every blow landed on her heart.  

Till her pregnant belly echoed with hollowness.

Too foolish to care to protect themselves, those who bare their pregnant bellies often get killed.

"My name", she thought wistfully and felt again the bile rising in her throat. 

She was sick of throwing up her name since that night. The longing for the lilacs she had nurtured, killed her. 


Saturday, September 1, 2018

Which, then, of your Sustainer's powers can you disavow?


I am amongst those Muslims whose association with Islam has been more by chance than by choice. 


I have spent years (upon years) parroting the same short verses; managing an annual Ramzan marathon through the Quran, least concerned about the chance of communication the Book offered generously. And in my ignorance finding this enough. Enough to claim having responded to the divine call: "Read in the name of your Lord."



Then somewhere along my dark years, I came across a reference of Muhammad Asad's The Message of The Quran. I laid my hands on the electronic version and was hooked to it. The commentary, for the first time in my life, seemed to prove to me that the Book is grand. That it's pages hold more than my intellect can grasp. And this realization was humbling. 

To be honest, my understanding of life has been that submission makes one more self aware. 

I began searching for a hard copy of The Message. Couldn't manage to lay my hands on any. Even Amazon turned me down saying that it had gone out of print. 

Years slipped by. Yearning silently. Craving quietly. One day forgetting the desire completely, and the next night waking up for midnight prayer and staying up all night longing to read it on paper.

In the Ramzan of 2017 I followed Nouman Ali Khan's lectures for the first time. I hadn't followed him before, I couldn't manage to do so later as well, (except for in Ramzan again, in 2018).

That seemed to be the crack, the kind Quran calls "Falaq". 

It was @DramaMama page that presented an introduction of Abdel Haleem's The Quran. 

The translation as I understood was exactly how I wished for my child to get acquainted with Quran.

Charged over these two new additions of "rizq" I had availed through facebook, now, for the first time in my life I looked forward to build a relation with Quran which went beyond the literal translation of a foreign text. This scripture with its claim of being the divine book, seemed to make a demand that it be studied with the maximum degree of mindfulness and aliveness, so that it could be appreciated befittingly. So that one could engage in the window of communication that benevolently opened through its words!

While in quest of my favourite translations of the scripture, I got a chance to take part in two Quran comprehension courses this year: First with @hast.o.neest in January, and then with @Bayyinah institute in April. 

I remember documenting my take away from the Hast o Neest course by borrowing botanist Robin Kimmerer's explanation of the experience of flying:

"Between takeoff and landing, we are each in suspended animation, a pause between chapters of our lives. When we stare out the window into the sun’s glare, the landscape is only a flat projection with mountain ranges reduced to wrinkles in the continental skin. Oblivious to our passage overhead, other stories are unfolding beneath us. Blackberries ripen in the August sun; a woman packs a suitcase and hesitates at her doorway; a letter is opened and the most surprising photograph slides from between the pages. But we are moving too fast and we are too far away; all the stories escape us, except our own."

This learning to look for stories, meanings unfolding while we are in a suspended animation, had been my take away of the course. 

And now, after having explored resources in every corner of the city, one fine Friday I walk into Readings to get books for some friends. I'm picking, piling, moving ... and lo and behold!

Abdel Haleem's The Quran sits there. Like a majestic lord. I grab the copy and ask if they've another copy. This was the only one, they tell me. 
I almost danced my way out of the shop.

Cometh the next day, on Saturday, I walk in to Ferozesons to explore what more could I pick for the friends. The basement, the area of my interest echoed with the noise of too many restless children. I decide to wait it out and go to explore the Quran section upstairs instead.

Guess what?

Muhammad Asad's The Message of The Quran sits there in an empty rack. Like a king. I am in disbelief. It has been 5 years of looking for it. I grab the copy and ask if they've another copy. This was the only one, they tell me. 

I almost cried my way out of the shop.



Friday, August 24, 2018

نعرۂ مستانہ


اسکی آنکھوں کے سیاہ حجرے میں جب میں اعتکاف بیٹھا، تو دل کے ہر معبودِ دگر، ہر خداوندِ کہن سے ابراہیم آ بھڑا. 
ان نگاہوں کے میخانے نے جب میری بادہ پیمائی کا بھرم توڑا تو اب جام میسر آئے نہ آئے، میری مستی کی چھلکن کم ہو کے نہ دیتی.
اسکی چشمِ ناز کی جنبش جب میری ہستی کا کُل مول ٹھہری، تو میں اسکے دربار میں بک کر یوسف بن گیا.

لوگ کہتے ہیں وہ زندگی کا در پار کر گیا. میرا محبوب، نیست کی چادر اوڑھ گیا. میں پاؤں زمین پر مار کر پھر سے ناچ اٹھتا ہوں. میرے اندر کا اکتارہ ایسے گونجتا ہے کہ لوگ میرے گھنگرو بنے وجود کو حیرت سے تکتے ہیں. جو مجھے اور بدیع العجائب، دونوں کو بھا گیا، اس نے مجھ خاک نشین کو کیونکر ہمنشینِ رب نہ بنا دیا؟

جس کی فرقت تک خدائی نواز دے، ایسے محبوب کے مسلکِ عشق کی خیر!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

This Is What Starting Small Looks Like


Want to make $1 million in sales?
Start small: sell a $10 item to one customer.

Want to create a podcast?
Start small: record a voice memo on your phone.

Want 1,000 true fans?
Start small: do something that gets you one true fan.

Want to build a profitable startup?
Start small: build a basic web app in a weekend and get 10 users.

Start small.
Show up every day.
Keep refining your craft.
Take risks and get uncomfortable.
And most importantly:

“Embrace feedback as a gift.” – Seth Godin

Repeat these steps for days, months, and years, and you’ll become the person you aspire to be.



text source: Justin Jackson

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Survival





"In the years that I've known you there's been one remarkable transition."

Reluctance dripped from his anxious voice. Like the waft rising of his mug of coffee, he left the sentence hanging in air; as if embarrassed for blurting out involuntarily.

The conference had come to an end. The meetings had been done. The work part of the trip was over. They were now left with a moonless October night, spread out on an open terrace of a rented accommodation. There were a little few hours before their early morning flight back, urging them to face harsh Koh-e Chiltan mountains in the distance and play with the restless what-ifs at hand.

She turned her head towards him, leaving the star filled sky on its own for a while. 
"And what'd that be?" she asked gently.

"You were always the nucleus. Always the gravitational force holding a gathering in its place. You filled eyes, even when they hadn't been looking for you. You didn't leave room for anyone else to be noticed. It was impossible to not find you in the heart of anything. Everything!"
He looked away, as if seeking inspiration to carry on. Once again leaving the sentence hanging in the air, heavier this time.

"And ...?" 
Her smile was not visible in the pale streetlamp light barely offering them respect, but the gentleness of it drizzled in her voice. Her nail traced the rim of her empty mug, as if in sync with Nusrat's 'Mittar Pyare Nu Haal Mureedan Da Kehna' she could listen to even while sitting there.

"Your irises black as space, rendered one weightless. Do you know that? You made people fall."
His voice rose a few notches, and surrendering to the chaos inside he stood up with a jerk. A few moments silently crunched under his steps as he paced the length of the terrace. Her gaze followed him like a dutiful sentinel. 
His back towards her, he dropped his voice to a wistful whisper, "you made me fall!"

She kept looking at the shape of his shoulder weighed down by his honesty they both had meticulously managed to avoid before. Work ethics were supreme, and mutual respect even more, so they never stepped in what could have caused difficulty for the other. 
This time when she spoke her voice wasn't laced with a smile.

"Are you recovering now?" She paused tentatively, "is that what the transition is about?"

He whirled towards her, his coffee spilling a little over his dark dinner jacket.

"You've done it on purpose, right? You knew it! You knew it all along!"

Her eyes assessed his face and moved to caress the formless dark at his back. His pain was disarming.

"What's the transition?"

"How could you do this? You've taken back your gravity. You make yourself invisible in a room. You no longer fill eyes. You no longer allow free fall. The black hole of these irises is now the Eridanus Supervoid. You are no more in my plane!"
His voice cracked.

Her lips pressed, she kept looking ahead as if making out the harsh features of the mighty Koh-e Chiltan.

"Survival has a cost." Her voice was clipped.


Artwork: Francoise Nielly