Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Maikada Saaz Hoon Main, Maikada Bardosh Nahin

What follows is a part of a book over Nizam ud Din Aulia - one of the greats in the mystic history & Islamic traditions.

I do not know how many of you may find it relevant, but to me it makes great sense... mainly because I'm a soul always swinging inbetween the sufi & the sharyati aspects of the religion, a lover too afraid to lose to adoration for the fear of committing disrespect ... But yun hosh bhi qaem rakhna, aur dawa-e ishq bhi karna - na faasqi ka lutf, na aashqi ka maza! :)

Coming straight to the point: 

Ps: JazakAllah dear friend HJA for sharing the book!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Rigorous Matters Of Dilbari

Dilbari neest kay dildadah'e deedar tu neest 
Yuk Khudawund nadeedam kay paristar-e tu neest!

The mirth of love games is for the seeker of love; 
How could ye behold God, if ye believe in none!

Verse: Unconfirmed poet
Inapt translation: mine

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

This Is It! :)

You ask me how I became a madman.
It happened thus:
One day, long before many gods were born,
I woke from a deep sleep
and found all my masks were stolen, -
the seven masks I have fashioned
and worn in seven lives, -
I ran maskless through the crowded streets shouting,
” Thieves, thieves, the cursed thieves.”
Men and women laughed at me
and some ran to their homes
in fear of me.
And when I reached the market place,
a youth standing on a house-top cried,
“He is a madman.”
I looked up to behold him;
the sun kissed my own naked face for the first time.
For the first time the sun kissed
my own naked face
and my soul was inflamed
with love for the sun,
and I wanted my masks no more.
And as if in a trance I cried,
“Blessed, blessed are the thieves who stole my masks.”
Thus I became a madman.
And I have found both freedom and safety in my madness;
the freedom of lonliness and the safety
from being understood,
for those who understand us enslave something in us.
But let me not be too proud of my safety.
Even a Thief in a jail is safe from another thief.

~Kahlil Gibran

Monday, December 17, 2012

In The World Of Words

We dwell in the world of words, 
Your sound is the stroke 
painting contours of me,
Each blank space is the pause you make.

Deftly you play 
the play of light and shade,
with silence and syllable,
rendering color and grey.

Secretly I know 
I'm in the frame left alone,
When there's nothing more to say.

- leenah.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Story Of Sight Beyond Sight

How about a li'll story time this weekend night? 

As the night turns cold, have you snuggled well into your blankets?
Well, lets start if you have! You just gotta hit the play button underneath and together we'll weave the sufi magic in a night out of the Arabian Nights ...

Harun al-Rashid [the caliph] gave the order, "Bring this Laila, so I might see why Majnun--out of love for her-- has cast such passion into the world and why from the East to the West lovers have made the story of his love their mirror." They went to great expense, employed much trickery, and succeeded in bringing Laila to the caliph. She was in a private chamber; at night the caliph would light candles, gaze at her for a while, and then reflect for a while. [But he could not see what was so special about her.] He said to himself, "If I get her to speak, perhaps her special quality will become more apparent in her face, by means of her speaking." He turned to Laila and asked, "Laila, is that you?" She replied, "Yes, I am Laila. But you are not Majnun. Those eyes that are in Majnun's head are not in yours. How can you see Laila with eyes with which you see other than her and which you have not cleansed by tears? Look at me with the vision of Majnun!" 

Those who look at the beloved with the vision of the lover are those whom, "He (God) loves..." [referring to Qur'an (5:54) "God will bring a people whom He loves and who love Him"] 'The defect [in most people] stems from the fact that they do not look at God with the vision of the lover; they look with the vision of knowledge and the vision of philosophy. 

The vision of love is something else. 

From the Discourses of Shams-i Tabrizi (Maqalat-i Shams-i Tabrizi)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Of The Gold Coloured Day

One hundred years 
from now,
it will not matter 
what kind of 
car I drove,
What kind of 
I lived in,
How much I had 
in my 
bank account,
Nor what my 
clothes looked like.
But the world may be 
a little better place
I was important
in the life
of a child.

~ anon.

The day was the first of the last month of the year and we were sitting in the front garden of the National Lace & Textiles, Mill. The sun beat down fiercely and for some time it was difficult to imagine it to be winters already. Apart from the few hiccups that are a part of the routine, it had been a smooth visit to the facility; perfectly drawing to a planned closure. ‘Alhamdolillah’, I thought with a sense of relief, ‘Another milestone successfully completed’. It was the moment when Col. Obaid Zia, CEO of the facility was winding up his farewell address to us: “Forgive me for taking so much of your time in narrating my journey of success. You people must not be enjoying the strong sun. But let me assure you once again, that it was a sheer pleasure to meet you, and host you.” Colonel sb. had been extremely gracious.
I looked at the mentors on my either side and glanced at the mentees in front, ‘Are we done?’ I thought. “Does anyone of you want to ask anything from Sir?” I probed the mentees, a group of almost 60, 15-years old girls visiting the Textile mill as part of an Exposure Trip of the Rahbar Cycle. To be honest, while relaying in my head the words of gratitude I meant to deliver on behalf of the visitors, I wasn’t really expecting to hear a reply to my question. Hence, it took me by surprise when I saw her rising from her seat among rest of the 9th graders. 

"Sir, you just mentioned about taking our time... I want to let you know that the ten minutes you've taken of our time are the most profitable investment we've made today. Years from now, when any of us would've exhausted completely and could be thinking of calling it quits, be it any field, these ten minutes would not let that happen. We will survive. And grow. And shine. Thank you for taking these ten minutes from our time."

She sat down. 
Colonel saheb was beaming, placing his hand over his chest he bowed his head in humbleness; while my spirit soared with pride! 
Nothing that I was about to say could have been more meaningful and more genuine than what had just been said.

As numerous hands automatically moved to clap, I did not know if there was a single thing I was clapping for. The inspiration in the form of Col. sb., the young mentee's honest (& eloquent) words, the gist of the entire excerice that had so well been recieved, the future that sounded so promising, and the realization that we are the today of such a bright tomorrow... it all combined to interweave an overwhelming sense of thankfulness.

The winter sun was blazing uncharacteristically, but what I'll remember this day for is the warmth of heart felt gratitude that filled the air and turned the afternoon a blissful gold.

PS: All conversations have been translated from Urdu with as much closeness to the actual as possible.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Guest Post From The Blog 'Tangled Up In Blue': "...Of The Voice Of The Rohi"

I've no words to describe the beauty of the following post. 
If anything, it's a treasure trove for anyone in love!

It is of the voice of the Rohi! 
It has the essence of Rohi, in various different voices carrying it over the sound waves...

Don't trust my word, just click on the link, and find for yourself!

Tangled Up In Blue: ...Of The Voice Of The Rohi ": If you stopped me on the street tomorrow and asked, "What's the proudest day of your life?" I wouldn't hesitate a second before answerin...

Saturday, November 24, 2012

I Sent A Letter To My Love

... And on the way I dropped it!
I dropped it, I dropped it
Yes, on the way I dropped it

The following talk touched me on so many levels... primarily because of the speaker's passion for her simple labour of love, and secondly because it reminded me of my mother - one person with whom I relate the word letter to. She wrote letters to her parents, her sisters and brothers. Laced with prayers and an oozing sense of warmth.

When I initiated this blog a couple of years back, it had the same underlying motive.
But she is right, nothing compares to that personal statement of affection, that comes from no where and asks nothing in return ...

To all you beautiful souls spread across this planet, trying to chip in their share of love ... Hats off to you! 
Much love & respect!

Monday, November 19, 2012

کھوٹی کھوج - Khhoti Khhoaj

Aik bazurg thay jo har jumay-raat ko bazar jatay thay. Mashhoor tareen kothay par ja kar, wahan ki shoala-jawala ka intekhaab kartay thay.

Khabar shehar main phelnay lagi, tou mureedon ko bhi tashweesh hoi. Kuch ne sunn gunn lenay ka irada kia, apas main bahmi mashawaret se te ye paya kay aik mureed agli jumayraat ko Sheikh ji pe nazr rakhay ga. So saheb, jumayraat aee, dars ki mehfil khatum hoi tou sheikh sahab ne dastaar sambhali aur niklay bahir ko.

Peechay peechay sharmindagi main gharq hota bechara aik mureed. Sheikh saheb k liay tou rasta shayed meel bhar ka tha lekin Mureed becharay ki zindagi bhar ki aqeedat lutt gai iss safr main! 
Khuda Khuda kar kay wo bazaar pohanchay. Kothay par Sheikh saheb ko hathon hath lia gaya. Mureed chehra aur gharqshuda emaan chuppaey peechay dabka raha.

Maloom hoa kay Sheikh saheb ne raat bhar k liay waheen qayyaam karna hai. Ab ye nai museebat! Aakhir kuch koshish k baad Mureed ko un kay kamray ka pata tu chal gaya, magr ab sawal ye peda hoa kay dekhnay ko hai kia? 
Aqeedat aur eemaan tou us becharay ka pehlay hi doob chuka tha, ab ander jhaank kar aankhon ki sharam se bhi jata! 
Wapis loatnay ko tha kay khayal aya kay aik baar jhaank zaroor lena chahiay. 'Kia pata Sheikh saheb ki mujh par nazr par jaey, aur aj ki raat wo iss gunah se bach jaen.' Bus yehi soach uskay pairon ki zanjeer bun gai. 

Mohabbat kitni zalim cheez hai na :) na-ummed nahi honay deti! 

Acha khair, kahani kahan tak pohanchi thi? 
Mureed bazurg ka peecha kartay kartay us kamray tak ja pohancha tha jahan bazurg khareedi gai khalwat main aik khatoon kay sath thay. 

'Modesty be damned', yaqeenun Mureed ne socha ho ga. 
Ab jo manzar us kay samnay tha, us se uskay rongtay kharay ho gaey. 
Sheikh aur wo larki pehlo ba pehlo juray bethay thay, is tarah kay larki kay ghair malfoof badn aur sheikh sahab kay darmayan se hawa ka guzar tak mumkin na tha. 

'Illahi, ye din bhi dekhna tha' Mureed ki aankhain bhar aeen. 
Uska dil, Maulana, mazhab, aur mohabbat, sab se yukbaargi uth gaya! 

'Hunh! ye hai haqeeqat! do kori ki tawaaif kay qadoom main apni bazurgi ka imama rakh dia hai!' us ne bari karwahat se socha!

Aray, magr, Sheikh sahab tou abhi tak mastoor thay! Mureed tootay dil kay sath phir se darwazay ki darz se jurra. 
Sheikh sahab na sirf mastoor thay, balkay larki kay sath sath wo bhi bay-his-o-harkat thay. 
'Ye kia tamasha hai?' Mureed ki nigah ne phir un dono ka pushtt se bharpoor jaiza lia. Larki malboos na thi, lekin Sheikh sahab mukammal mastoor thay. Waqaee, wahan kuch harkat na thi.

Achanak dekhtay hi dekhtay, Sheikh sahab kay badn main larzish si hoi. Aur Mureed ne dekha kay wo yakayuk bijli ki si taizee kay sath chhalaang laga kar uthay aur qibla roo lapkay. "Allah o akbar" ki awaz aee, aur wo mehv-e namaz ho gaey .... 

Mureed phatti phatti ankhon se dekhta reh gaya. 
Ye kia hoa? Ye kia tha? Ye kion tha? 
Iss main se kisi bhi cheez ka jawab uskay paas na tha. 

Uskay pass tou ab kuch bhi nahi tha. Na aqeedat, na ehtaraam, na mazboot yaqeen. Na andhi mohabbat. 
:) Becharay ki aql lay doobi usay .... 

Sheikh sahab fajr tak laraztay badn kay saath  masroof e ibadat rahay. Larki unki namaz shuroo karnay par malboos ho kar sonay lait gai thi. 

Kis ki raat sohbat main guzri; kis ki mehroomi main, kaun jaanta hai? 

Haan ye raaz zaroor khul gaya kay Sheikh sahab apni battery ko sulf kesay detay hain. Lekin is raaz ne Mureed becharay ka tamaam safr khotta kar dia!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Too Beautiful To Put Into Words

If you need something badly enough, it finds you. They say.

Look, what I found just now... Both things simultaneously flowed into my domain, as if on their own, just when I needed them the most... We all need assurances, don't we?  

"In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary." Said Aaron Rose.
If they make sense to you, be sure your need got addressed! :) 

  1. "No one believes the sincere except the honest." - Kahlil Gibran

Fools Rush

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,

Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,

Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,

And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can

Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this is if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

'Leisure' by William Henry Davies

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Zero Sum

(Original draft of October, 2010)

There was once a man; ah well, he thought he was. A man. 

As he grew, smaller, his cowardice blossomed. And in no time he was a young man ready to make a life under a thoroughly branched, shadowy and strong trunked mohagany of spinelessness.
We all know cowardice in a man is what shamelessness is in a woman. 

So that was like what it exactly was: Changing costume after costume, putting on layers of make-up, to hide beneath one form or the other. 

Every night he donned a new attire, a new avatar: One that could earn him the most applause for that night. One that could steal the show for that night.
Every night he played a different man.
And his life, thus became the sum of the shows he put up, night after night.

Till he remembered only the applause.

And forgot who he was.

What is worse than being a man who can not belong to any one? 


Being a man who can not belong to his own self!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Magic Moments

Have you ever noticed the magic in prayer, 'dua'?
The dua that someone makes for you. A genuine, sincere dua.
That is magic.

As the car moved close to his shabby bicycle, the silver bearded baba peddled it faster. The small tiffinbox and a dirty tool bag hanging from its handles, jolted violently. The car window rolled down, someone gently called out, "baba ji, sunnain!"
Baba looked away, clearly terrified. The car, with its hazard lights blinking now, kept its lazy pace beside his cycle. Baba peddled still harder. 
Another window, this time in the rear, rolled down. A six year old's innocent voice rang out most passionately, "baba ji, please baat sun lain!"
This worked.

The cycle slowed down, and the hazard lights parked in front of it on the left of the road.

Baba parked his cycle over its stand and walked to the car. Out of the window in front, emerged two bags weighing not more than two kgs. "Ye qurbani ka gosht hai, ye lay lain."

Unlike majority of the recipients of the evening, he didn't rush to grab the bags. He made a very slow, deliberate move. Held the bags in both hands, and peeped inside the window.

His eyes looked most earnestly at his new friends, fully aware of their interest in him, and equally reciprocating. He looked too tall to be doubled over by someone's kindness. The man knew that he was fully capable to acknowledge the kindness and return it in kind. The dignity with which he expressed his gratitude was astounding. 

And that's when the baba donned a magician's hat in place of his white namaz wali topi. His duas, murmured between his lips like a secret spell, wrapped my heart in a rainbow. 

The magician smiled a smile I'm still in trance of.
It was the smile of pure happiness. Such happiness that is a rarity to find in adults!

Every year around this time, carrying out this same simple ritual driving for a few hours, I meet a magician. A magician who gives me a few magic moments that keep one going till the next Eid arrives. 
Such simple pleasures. Such genuine expressions! 

Incidentally those were the last two bags. The job was done. All the meat had been distributed.
The hazard lights switched off and quickly the car's back lights diminished into the fast approaching night.

While the magic of gratitude remains in the air.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Cup of Coffee On The Wall

Following is the most beautiful thing I came across today (thanks to facebook :) 

I sat with my friend in a well-known coffee shop in a neighboring town of Venice, the city of lights and water. As we enjoyed our coffee, a man entered and sat on an empty table beside us. He called the waiter and placed his order saying, ‘Two cups of coffee, one of them there on the wall.’ We heard this order with rather interest and ob...served that he was served with one cup of coffee but he paid for two. As soon as he left, the waiter pasted a piece of paper on the wall saying ‘A Cup of Coffee’.

...While we were still there, two other men entered and ordered three cups of coffee, two on the table and one on the wall. They had two cups of coffee but paid for three and left. This time also, the waiter did the same; he pasted a piece of paper on the wall saying, ‘A Cup of Coffee’.

It seemed that this gesture was a norm at this place. However, it was something unique and perplexing for us. Since we had nothing to do with the matter, we finished our coffee, paid the bill and left.
After a few days, we again had a chance to go to this coffee shop. While we were enjoying our coffee, a man entered. The way this man was dressed did not match the standard nor the atmosphere of this coffee shop. Poverty was evident from the looks on his face. As he seated himself, he looked at the wall and said, one cup of coffee from the wall. The waiter served coffee to this man with the customary respect and dignity. The man had his coffee and left without paying. We were amazed to watch all this when the waiter took off a piece of paper from the wall and threw it in the dust bin. Now it was no surprise for us – the matter was very clear. The great respect for the needy shown by the inhabitants of this town welled up our eyes with tears.

Coffee is not a need of our society neither a necessity of life for us. The point to note is that when we take pleasure in any blessing, maybe we also need to think about those people who appreciate that specific blessing as much as we do but they cannot afford to have it.
Note the character of this waiter, who is playing a consistent and generous role to get the communication going between the affording and the needy with a smile on his face.

Ponder upon this man in need….he enters the coffee shop without having to lower his self-esteem…he has no need to ask for a free cup of coffee…without asking or knowing about the one who is giving this cup of coffee to him…he only looked at the wall, placed an order for himself, enjoyed his coffee and left.

When we analyze this story, along with the other characters, we need to remember the role played by the wall that reflects the generosity and care of the dwellers of this town.

- Writer: Anon

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Of The Wounds Of The 'Beautiful Soul' (Final Part)

(Part I can be found at Of The Wounds Of The 'Beautiful Soul' )

Charged over the discovery, I darted in to the store looking for her. In a heady rush I must would've missed some basics, because the counter clerk came to me. As per the custom, I had to submit my earlier made shopping at the counter in return of a token. I gave him the shopping bag, and he handed me a token. It was marked 8.

I glanced around. My sister, holding my child's hand, joined in. We took opposite ends of the floor and dived in the racks.

She wasn't there.

We went to the first floor, consciously not taking the elevator. Climbing through the stairs meant to be able to keep in check the ground floor as well.

Strange as it may seem, so is life... Fast paced progress often blinds one to the roots. Ain't it so?

Peeked into the book shelves, in to the secluded prayer area... No luck.
The speeding troupe then made to the top floor. This was Children's reading area & Cafeteria....

All empty.
Had she vanished or what!

Dejected, we finally realized the dead end we were facing. The frenzied search had come to an abrupt, and blue end.
This time we took the elevator. The descend was quiet and heavy, to the the extent that it made the elderly store employee accompanying us in the lift, look burdened.

"Does Roohi Bano come here often?" I asked.


"Roohi Bano, from TV". I said, though the hope had died.

"No, I don't know. I don't watch TV, you see", answered the red-bearded baba patting my child's cheeks as the lift touched ground.

Once at the Ground floor, I suddenly became aware of the watchful eyes of the Store management. I could've shamelessly relaid my question to the Store Manager at the counter, but the disapproving look in my sister's eyes kept me. After all, I too, could not explain the point of such abandon ....

My child had already stepped out of the store, when an idea sparked...

"We haven't checked the basement!" I called out to Mani, my sister.

There was hope!

We hurried down.

Basement was a quiet place; almost a floor out of the Sleeping Palace.
There didn't seem to be many people on the floor either: A visibly bored, salesman behind the counter, and another in the corner of the store. And with him in that corner was that lusterless bleached head that had, probably, once been a canopy to a rainbow no one could paint the colors of. Probably. I mean if it was her... If!

My steps grew heavy. I reluctantly followed my advancing sister, suddenly very unsure of the point of this whole exercise.

We advanced.
The woman was holding a soft, dressed in red cabbage patch doll; asking something softly from the sales boy at her side who didn't seem quite keen to be engaging with her.
Reaching close, and rounding off from her backside to her front, I looked at her face.
And saw her.

I couldn't deny it anymore...

It WAS Roohi Bano!

Something in me snapped. Loudly. And painfully.

Mani stepped to the other rack. I followed involuntarily. The possibility of an upfront encounter, now becoming a reality, was no longer exciting. I grew weary.

"Why!" She asked..."Don't you want to talk to her now?"

To be fair, I no longer did.

There was a woman who had once ruled over media, and people's heart for decades! Her charisma, her style was that of a born diva... Who was, and remains to date, the ultimate reference of class in her field of arts.
However, what I had in front of me was a famished ghost of her! I didn't know this ghost. No one did. The store boy had no idea why he would be entertaining begging ghosts. The costly toy she had in her dirty, paint stained hands, seemed to be growing indignant over such disrespect... A mother who has no family left to her... why must she be here?
This was no place for grubby ghosts.

"Now, this is funny!" My sister was visibly irritated. "At least ask for an autograph, we've been running after her like loons!"
I looked back at her. The surge of remorse for the woman who was an absolute stranger, was astonishing for even my own self ...
"No," I heard myself mumbling, "... I'll ask for a hug. She may be missing some."

I saw Mani smile. We know each other.

Roohi Bano, that's who she was, had put down the doll and was now holding a stuffed white dog from another rack. The sales boy at her side was signalling to his colleague at the counter to call him back.
I cleared my throat, and moved towards her.

"Excuse me, ma'am!" ... She looked at me and there was an awkward smile... "Are you Roohi Bano?"

To my surprise, she didn't react with a shocked "Oh, you recognized me!". Trying at a faint, yet very self conscious smile she nodded, all the while trying to make up her hair with her free hand.

I moved ahead... "Ma'am ... Can I give you a hug please?"

And I took her off guard!

Her old eyes stared at me in disbelief, but she quickly resumed charge of herself. Her wrinkled face laughed a hollow laugh. 
"Of course!"
She was distinctly polite for her utterly uncouth demeanor, and the feigned superior manner in which she gestured her hand filled me with even great remorse.
Why is she taking so much pain? Why act to be grand? I mean how burdensome it is to drag along the corpse of a status that has died since long. And no one even cares about it anymore! 

I moved close to her and in the moments that I was raising my arms to wrap around her, I wondered if I had lost every thought even remotely sane!

Her brown T had innumerable tiny holes... and there were fleas... on her shirt. On her wrinkled neck. Over the right side of her face, beneath her ear...
In those last micro seconds before I touched her, when my embrace could have turned cold, I thought of running away almost a thousand times! 

But nothing happened.

And I embraced her. 
With my arms around her, I squeezed her a little. That old, unkempt, frail woman, who probably had no one to herself... There was this sudden pressing desire to make her feel loved. Owned. 
Even if for a few fleeting moments!

My hug grew longer. She stood still. Her arms by her sides. She didn't try to respond the warmth. And for once I felt like the ice was breaking somewhere. She was not acting to be on the higher platform now. She just received.

A few seconds later I released my grip, and looked at her face. The pale of her face retained its paleness, exactly the tint of of her bleached hair. Maybe this could impart her a rosy memory in her forlorn seclusion. I thought.

There was an awkward silence, and suddenly I realized I've been acting too bizarre for her old nerves! We needed some cliche's! 

I offered her a few sentences on the lines of "Ma'am, we've grown up watching you. All these years we've associated the word drama with you", I gestured towards Mani and myself. She beamed. 
"So, you still watch my plays?"
I affirmed enthusiastically, and to my horror, I realized I couldn't recall even a SINGLE play of hers. Before she could ask me the inevitable question of which play I liked the most, I looked for an escape! 

Distraction! We needed distraction. 

Image By The Blog

"Are you painting something?"

"Your home?"

"So you are doing it white?"
She smiled a little and nodded.

I have to cling more, to make her feel owned. I thought.
"Can I have a picture of you?" 

She agreed.

After a little awkward silence I asked

"Are you buying toys?" silly question!

She smiled.

"For whom?"


I realized my mistake. All know that Roohi Bano had only one son, who moved to the other world in the prime of his youth when she was under treatment in the Fountain House. I had no business poking into a make believe world if she had any.

"I meant, what age group? Maybe I could suggest you some toys. Are you looking for toys for young kids?"

Her eyes welled up and she looked away. "They've grown up... "  Pause "But I will give them." 
"They will keep these. Or they will not."

"These are beautiful toys. They could keep a good cuddly company"
 I had touched a raw nerve. This wasn't what I had wanted. 

Stepping back a little I asked her if there is anything I could do for her. This was a genuinely well meant query, but seeing her formal decorum, I knew for sure that she would turn me down.

"Please talk to SuiGas walas. They don't listen to me." 

I blinked. She had proved me wrong. There was a dent in that seemingly concrete indifference!

"What do they say?"

"They just tease. They say you first clear your electricity bills"

And in that moment of complaining, that lost soul of an old, seasoned actress, transformed into a frightened child of tender years. The look on her face was that of a child who has just found his mother and hasn't been over the trauma of having been lost. Such a child doesn't seek facts. 

"This is very unreasonable! Don't you worry, I'll talk to them."

"You will?"

I nodded. 

"Give me your number. I will call you when they will pester me next time"

I was perplexed for a few moments. Then I opened my bag, and found a pen; but I didnt have a piece of paper. I turned to Mani if she had any. She produced her hand-carry baggage tag from her flight earlier during the day. With a purple pointer I wrote my cell number on a PIA baggage tag. 

"Whats your name?"

I wrote that too next to the phone number. 

She wore the tag in her wrist already full of multitudes of colorless bangles.

"I will call you. Will you talk to me?"

"Sure. Just drop me a word when they come and bother you. I'll get it fixed for you", I assured her. Falsely.

"I'm a little short of money, could you buy me this?"
And she picked that red dressed cabbage patch doll we had earlier seen in her hand.

The sales boy, now realizing that finally there is a scope of some business in this ridiculously awkward meet up, showed up on our side. I handed him the doll.

We started moving. 

Mani ahead of us, keeping my son with her.

"Buy me this dog too ... Look, it doesn't have legs," she said. And she looked pained.

I picked the toy up. "Its very cute".

"No. It's disabled. I like disabled people. Special people."

Do you see it? The irony.

She made various stops on our way to the counter, picking up toys: stuffed as well as mechanical. Always asking me if the toys were expensive.

When we reached the counter, we had a number of items on us. There was an old looking child accompanying an emotionally charged me.

While the bill progressed, she took a full look at me for the first time.

"What do you do?"

"Umm... I work in marketing"

"Oh ... what do you market?"

"There are many things. People, items, companies. All need marketing."

"I'm writing a new play", she informed me.

"I'm sure it would be awesome. Can't wait to see it"

"But, you seem to know interesting things ... Whats the most IN business these days? The one that gets you lots of money."

"Which one do you want to do?"

"The most IN one. Would you do marketing for me?"

I agreed. 

"I'll meet you again. Give me your address."

I asked her to give me a call and I'd come to visit her. 

"You would? Promise? You will come to meet me?"
And the lost child beamed.

We began climbing the stairs.

"You know what? Now I will need a pretty phone... 'cause I will have to call you", she said.

"And you know what, people as beautiful as you, don't need pretty phones. Whatever they hold, they do, becomes beautiful." I replied.

I saw her going quiet. 

She remained quiet for the rest of the climb. 
When we reached the ground floor, she turned to me and with her first full smile of the evening asked me, "Acha?"

I laughed. "Of course!"

At the main cash counter while I made the payment, she kept playing with my son. 
I heard her laugh.
She poked at his belly. Tickled him. And laughed. 

"He is so cute!" and added hurriedly, "MashaAllah". And then giggled like a carefree teenager ... "motoo!" 

The counter guy looked at us aghast.

She took all her bags, far too many to hold in two hands.

"It was very nice meeting you", I initiated the ending.

"Will you talk to me, when I will call you?"

"I will."

She flashed me the most brilliant smile and made to the exit door. Mani and my boy had already exited.

I followed. A store clerk rushed to me holding a bag ... 
"Baji, your items! You had submitted this bag with us. You have the token."

I had that token still in my hand. Number 8 token. 
A twisted closed circle. Eight.

He gave me the bag and said, 
"Baji, whats her name?"

"Roohi Bano"

"What has happened to her?"

"I don't know."

I walked out. 

Mani was waiting outside. She saw me coming and extended me a tissue. 
I was about to cry.

We know each other.

(The End)

Following is an excerpt from an article that published in Dawn shortly after this post. I felt it might be relevant to share it here for people interested in knowing about Roohi Bano. Source: http://dawn.com/2012/11/01/crazy-diamonds/

Roohi Bano

A 1975 portrait of Roohi Bano.
‘A real genius,’ this is how famous author and playwright, Ashfaq Ahmed, once described Pakistan’s TV and film actress, Roohi Bano.
Bano was the most sort-after TV actress in the 1970s. Along with Uzma Gillani, late Khalida Riasat, Madeeha Gauhar, (and, to a certain extent, Sameena Pirzada), defined and almost perfected the art of serious TV acting for a host of Pakistani TV actresses that followed.
But Bano remained to be the finest in this league because even though she acted (as a heroine in a few films), and also took some light roles, producers and writers struggling to bring to the mini-screen plays by intellectual heavyweights, always chose her as their leading lady.
The reason was simple: She could seamlessly immerse herself in roles that were constructed to express awkward psychological and emotional complexities.
That’s why her most compelling moments can be found in TV plays scripted by Ashfaq Ahmad in the 1970s – a time when the author himself was struggling to come to terms with his own intellectual and existential crises, trying to figure out a path between the free-wheeling liberal zeitgeist of the period, populist socialism and Sufism.

A video grab of a 1974 Roohi Bano play on PTV.
Very few of Bano’s fans knew that the psychologically scarred roles that she was playing so convincingly were also reflecting what was going on in her own life.
By the early 1980s, Bano, who had been such a popular and respected mainstay on TV in the 1970s, was only rarely seen on the mini-screen.
It transpired that she’d been having serious psychological issues throughout the 1970s and had to be committed to a psychiatric hospital for treatment.
She was still only in her 20s when she began suffering serious psychiatric problems that hastened her disappearance from the screen.
Her condition only worsened when TV plays began facing heavy censorship during the Ziaul Haq dictatorship and she kept turning down ‘sanitised roles.’
And when (in 1988), she did return to the screen (after the demise of the Zia regime), her fans could hardly recognise her. She seemed to have aged rapidly and looked exhausted.
Her great comeback never materialised. After just a few plays she went back on heavy medication and suffered another series of breakdowns.
Today, she leads a reclusive life in Lahore, while her fans still long for that great comeback that she was expected to make many years ago.