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.