Hidden lessons in a plate of fruit

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Image credit: shutterstock

Originally written for: https://gulfnews.com/opinion/off-the-cuff/hidden-lessons-in-a-plate-of-fruit-1.77506896 (02.03.21)


My Dad could cut fruit beautifully, perfectly and without wasting any of the fleshy bits, he could carve out a watermelon, peel and slice an orange within seconds, or go from a prickly pineapple to inviting slices – and present it on a plate so elegantly you’d be tempted to eat it all up even if you’d just had dinner. And he did this with a smile on his face, humming a tune, turning the fruit and the knife in his hands rather like an expert magician and impressing us with his dexterity, and knowing he was doing it ‘just right’. That, my friends, was when I began learning about excellence, but I just didn’t know it yet. 

So what exactly is excellence? Excellence is when we give things their due, when we pursue something like it should be pursued; mindfully, joyfully and earnestly. The exact opposite of excellence is mediocrity – mediocrity is when you shuffle through life being strictly ordinary and you couldn’t care less. Excellence is when you don’t settle, when you do something – anything – with a desire to make it count. One might think excellence is achieved only if the end product is beautiful. I think differently. 

Excellence is achieved when our thoughts and intentions are pure, when we do things for the right reasons, and we do them because we really care. The pursuit of excellence is usually born out of commitment to a higher purpose or a bigger goal and every step taken on that journey keeping the ‘eyes on the prize’ is in fact, excellence. It’s setting your own world alight, it’s knowing what you want, why you want it and it is taking meaningful, devoted steps towards it.

We typically associate excellence with some people – have you noticed? People who are generally good at something will most likely be good at everything they do, and people who are sloppy will most likely be careless or sloppy at all tasks. I’m not saying that excellence is simply an attention to detail, or a pursuit of perfection, in fact it is far greater. Excellence is an attitude of resilience, of grit, of staying focused, of believing in your goals, in yourself and then daring to be seen because you gave it your best.

This is an attitude or a trait I desperately want to acquire – I want to be someone who’s relationships – every single one of them – is cultivated with care, respect, a fulfilling of duty, sincerity, selflessness, unconditional love and therefore, excellence. I want to be someone who leaves that kind of an impact on the world, someone who lives this life making every second on the earth count. I want to have excellence in the way I use my time, in the way I parent or have conversations, in the way I do everyday tasks because I deserve nothing but excellence from me.

Here’s another thought. Excellence is failure. Yes, you read that right. Excellence is not necessarily beautiful and perfect like my Dad’s plate of fruit, and especially not in the beginning. Those that get to excellence are those who face failure chin up, with a tear and a smile that says: “I’m good enough. I CAN try one more time.”

Sometimes, it’s the process that becomes even more delightful than the outcome. Excellence is not the destination, it is the journey – and because the journey is so meaningful the end invariably becomes wonderful. It is the journey undertaken with a clear vision, with a heart that is filled with sincerity.

The pursuit of excellence can be draining, and there will be days when we mess up and are tied into mediocrity and it seems like there’s no way to get out of the rut we’re stuck in. On those days, it is essential to remember that you can still have thoughts and aspirations that are great, and these will then translate into an excellent reality. Some days, that first step, that painful phone call, or that realization which you’ve been running from could be excellence.

I didn’t realize it then, but those plates of fruit had hidden lessons. While I did learn to cut fruit and present it nicely too – I only wish I can internalize the bigger and more important lesson of excellence in every aspect of my life. 

Of a man called Listen

Originally written for https://gulfnews.com/opinion/of-a-man-called-listen-1.76800751

Published 30.1.21

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Image Credit: Pexels

“Umm, Listen!” I say, and my voice rings across the grocery store. Ten people look at me and I recoil with embarrassment. I look at my shoes instead — the person I am trying to reach seems far from interested. He is busy exploring the car accessories aisle while I am dealing with a shopping trolley and a toddler who thinks that the fruit yoghurt in the cart should be eaten right now. Frustrated, I try again. “Can you hold the baby, please? Listen? LISTEEEENNNN?”

Listen (AKA the husband) walks gingerly towards me, annoyed at being pulled away from all things cars and picks up the baby while I clean her up. That was us, some 10 years ago. I belong to a very traditional family, deeply rooted in desi, Pakistani culture and in my family, none of the women call their husbands by name. In his absence, the husband is referred to simply as ‘Him’ and in his presence he is called either ‘Listen’ or ‘Munnay kay Abba’ (Dad of my child).

Both my parents called each other Listen. In addition my Dad had some very amusing nicknames for my Mom, including Peahen, which indicated that he was the peacock. So naturally, when I got married, I too decided that the husband was going to be called Listen. I ended up giving him numerous nicknames too, most of them the kind I wouldn’t use in public. So in parks, groceries and with our extended family, he was Listen, and I, the shy, Eastern wife.

My children called him Baba, and then unconsciously I began calling him Baba too. It was easier to use than Listen (random people in grocery stores wouldn’t answer) and it was more acceptable publicly than my nicknames for him. All went well until one day he turned to me and said “But I’m not YOUR Baba!” I thought the guy had a point. But by then I had gotten so used to calling him Baba that I thought a derivative of it would work fine. So, I decided to call my husband Bob. I tend to play with names (I think the readers get that by now) — so Bob quickly turned to Bob-Zilla and Bob-Zola.

Now I should tell you that my husband looks nothing like a typical Bob should so while this nickname stuck for a bit, it didn’t suit him at all, and the person who noticed it most was my dear Father-in-law who was visiting. “You named my son Bob?” he asked serious, incredulous, and amused, all at the same time. “Could you not choose a more appropriate name?” he asked. Out of respect for my wonderful in-laws I dropped the Bob — and just began calling my husband Zola. As I have mentioned above, the full version was Bob-Zola, but now due to circumstances, only the Zola part became useful.

My predicament with the name doesn’t end here. The Zola (as he was referred to in those days) refused to appreciate my depth and creativity with nicknames. “ZOLA? Like seriously?” he said. It was only after this that I gave up and used his actual name to refer to him. When that happened he looked at me askance and said, “Oh, so you now call me by name? I mean, there’s no warmth or personalisation there.” I had let go of the pretence of the shy Eastern wife and it was then and there I decided that I would use his name.

As we finish over a decade and a half by each other’s sides today, I’m recalling all the fun times, the crazy names and most importantly, the companionship that we’ve been blessed with. We’ve both failed miserably at times, but the standout feature has been the vulnerability and the resilience of our relationship.

One of my long standing issues has been perfectionism and I’ve learnt that more than anyone else I will make mistakes in relationships — but I’m still worthy and lovable. I’ve learnt to be self-accountable, not self-critical — knowing the difference between the two is essential. I’m working on developing the courage to dust myself off after every setback, know that I messed up and still say sorry and not hate the ground I walk upon. I have to say that the Zola, or Bob, or Him has been just — phenomenal.

Chai and I – Part 3 (Oh Mugs!)

I’d asked about loyal readers in the last blog and I’m happy to state that I have at least 4. Two of them are me, because I read every blog at least twice to ensure that it isn’t a complete waste of time, and the third is my computer which by default reads everything. The fourth is a dear friend who must peruse everything I write – not by choice but by force (I know, I understand her plight too. She’s probably nodding vigorously over her chai as she reads this).

Which brings me to the topic at hand – it is once more, that rich brown liquid that could keep me up all night (literally, haha). We’re not done talking about Chai people. I realize this is the third part in the Chai series and I wouldn’t have written it unless I felt there is genuinely just so much to be said! For those that are curious here’s Chai and I – Part 1 and Chai and I – Part 2.

You must have heard about ‘judging a book by its cover’ but have you ever heard about judging the chai by its mug? That’s me. Let me explain. So I like to think I’m a minimalist. I don’t own a lot of bags and the only smart bags I have are gifts from people who are tired of seeing my old, battered canvas bag. I wear the same tired-looking sneakers for years and I try and make my devices last forever, long after their accessories run out of the market (this thing I’m typing on is a 2011 Macbook). I rarely invest in furniture or crockery and every time a Certain Someone wants to buy something I pipe up with: “Yes, but do we really need it? Is this necessary?” and if the Certain Someone doesn’t care or doesn’t listen and buys it anyway, I ensure that I drop snide hints about the ‘extra’ purchase for years. It’s strangely satisfying.

But I digress, don’t I? So I, the minimalist-wannabe, I err, have a little secret. Mugs. I love mugs. I guess you could say I buy mugs when no one is looking. I stare at mugs when we go shopping and fall in love with them and pick them up sneakily and put them in the shopping cart. When we’re at the counter and the mug will be found in my trolley, the Certain Someone will give me ‘The Look’. I am known to return the favor with equal enthusiasm without wasting precious time while the lady at the counter looks on encouragingly, interested in the drama unfolding before her very eyes. Then that Certain Someone will invariably say –“Oh but don’t we have enough mugs at home? Is this really NECESSARY?”

This certain person is also likely to indignantly mutter something that sounds suspiciously like ‘hypocrisy’ while I quickly pay for the purchase and act as though I really, really need that lovely mug because my last one ‘feels all wrong’ and this baby looked ‘right’.

So, what is it about mugs? What is it about looking right? I think it is safe to say we are all on the same page about the fact that chai and coffee mean a lot to me. Chai and I have sort of been like Ross and Rachel over the years (sometimes on, sometimes off) but the truth is that I love chai (coffee too – I’m promiscuous like that). How satisfying the experience is depends largely on the mug. If you give me a super karak chai in a teeny tiny pretty little china cup and I drink it, I will feel cheated. Like someone bought me a lovely dress but cut off the sleeves or something. Give me my chai in a cup that’s too wide and I will feel like something is utterly wrong with the chai itself and will want to have another one just to be sure (but that would mean too much caffeine – and we all know what that does!) Give me chai in a mug that’s too heavy and I will surreptitiously give you mean looks the whole time as though to say “I want to enjoy the chai’s personality – not feel overwhelmed by the mug, and now my arm hurts!” And if you bring the chai in a mug that’s a very dark color, that too won’t work because now I can’t appreciate the real color of the chai – the dark and dinghy din surrounding it overawes it.

image credit: pixabay

The perfect mug is tall, slim and sexy-looking. Never too white and never too dark but just a neutral color that brings out the hues and flavor of the chai. This tall mug is neither too narrow nor too wide (although I prefer it to be slightly wider from the top and narrow down as we descend). It fits nicely in the hand and has a comfortable handle. It may look like there’s a lot of chai inside it but it’s actually juuuuust the right quantity in there — not so less that you take like a sip and you’re done and left twiddling your thumbs at the lack of chai in your life, and not so much that you think: I’ve been sipping this thing for hours! WHEN does it end?! The mug could sometimes say something wacky like a quote or something, but that doesn’t really matter. I’m not picky about mugs am I? Not me!

Just looking at this tall mug full of chai or coffee takes half the pain away — I am known to look at my mugs, sniff at them (aroma!) and take pictures of them rather like a loving parent or partner. It’s a glorious feeling, to have your fingers wrapped around your favorite beverage in your favorite mug on your favorite swing chair or couch – all seems well with the world in that one precious moment, doesn’t it? In fact, served in the right mug, even sad alternatives like green tea and herbal teas begin to look a tiny bit inviting.

At the moment however, I’m in a slight problem. This lovely tall mug that I’ve loved for years has chipped; I think my dishwasher is quite talented at doing that. But that means the search for the perfect mug continues. Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s this sale on this home store and I think I know just what I need. And while I’m at it, could I get it in two colors? I mean, how do I know if I will ever find the right mug again…? And mugs matter, right? Just don’t tell him!

Chai and I — Part 2

All good things in life that are unhealthy and lots of fun (meaning you should keep away from them or consume them in limited quantities) such as chocolate, coke, coffee, cinnamon rolls, cake, chips, cookies, cigaret —well, you get my point – these things all seem to begin with a C. Chai (tea, but I prefer to call it Chai) also begins with C. It had to. Obviously.

For the uninitiated, I wrote an article titled Chai and I some ten years ago. Loyal readers (are there any? Can you please get in touch? Do you lot actually exist?) might remember that piece where I spoke about how I can’t function without my morning caffeine and how I am hopelessly addicted to caffeine after consuming it ‘every alternate Sunday’.  I also cited research stating how awesome chai is. Ten years later, things look very different.

The love affair has become decidedly troublesome and the relationship has soured. The beverage that I counted on to get me through the day has now become a guilty pleasure – something I look at with glassy eyes and say “No, thanks, I’m good, I don’t want Chai,” in a small, miserable voice if someone asks “Would you like a cuppa?”

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Image credit: https://www.acouplecooks.com/masala-chai/

The problem, dear friends, is that I am highly sensitive to caffeine. For those who know me personally will agree that I am a ball of nervous energy, perpetually excited, over the top, larger than life WITHOUT any caffeine at all in my system. When I was younger I could take it better – but now, as soon as I consume caffeine, I get ‘high’. Like really high.

So a person who is already fairly ‘high’ gets another dose and hits the ceiling. In goes the chai and I become dangerously talkative, crack all the inappropriate jokes you can imagine and generally feel like a million dollars, and then some. I also feel like I can cook, clean and take a class on the side – while calling my aunt in Pakistan and belting out a tune just because. I had mentioned that I can think and write over chai – that’s still true, but sometimes, the caffeine hits me so hard that I actually get jittery and have to run to the loo every few minutes because the diuretic takes effect too. But yes, any kind of creative work on chocolate, chai and coffee is precious.

One could argue that I could simply have decaf or ‘low-power’ chai, but that would be a disgrace. Give me Chai with Zafran or Malbari Masala Chai or desi chaska Pakistani doodh patti and I’ll love you but if you hand me some watery concoction pretending to be chai I shall feel personally offended. My daughter suggested I could go for coffee instead and I rolled my eyes so that they disappeared into my eyebrows for a good five seconds. COFFEE!! Why would anyone even mention that in my presence? It’s like talking about meat in front of a lion that’s on a diet from his favourite food. If chai does all this to me, imagine what coffee might do? A good strong brew, Caffe Nero (one of the best coffees in Dubai, in my opinion) oh my God, here I come…. Sigh.

So as I was saying, the caffeine sensitivity doesn’t end there. Taken anywhere after 3pm the chai (or more obviously coffee) will affect me so strongly I will be unable to sleep at night and will be goggling around the room like an idiot in bed at 10 pm wondering why the bedside lamp is so beautiful and if I could write on all the beautiful colours and hues and how they are made and if I could hold the rays of light in my hand … I think you get my point. So that leaves me with only one option. Cut back on the caffeine.

Dear reader, it breaks my heart into a million little pieces as I inform you, that I, Mehmudah Rehman, the one who happily gulped down her morning chai like a life-giving elixir, has all but given it up. Mornings now begin with a sober cup of green tea (low caffeine) with lemon and chai is reserved for days when I think I will really need it – if I’ve had a bad night, or if I am under the weather, or if the craving gets too bad. Sometimes I’ll have it three days in a row and feel like I ‘cheated’ because the morning high will last well into the evening – so much so that sometimes I’m unable to relax even for an afternoon nap! As for coffee, if it was possible to fall in love after the first heartbreak and get more severely heartbroken again, that’s what our relationship is like. The aroma, the flavor, the high, the LOVE, the froth, the artisan stuff – oh dear – I should stop writing. I want to sleep tonight. Cheers. Keep chugging this stuff people. While you still can. Meanwhile, I will go brew my self a non-caffeinated chamomile tea and pretend to love it.

His Love.

Wallahu yuhibbus Sabireen ❤️
It is narrated in Al-Bukhari in a Hadith Qudsi:
“When Allaah loves a slave, He says to Jibreel (Alayhis Salam)l, ‘I love so-and-so, so love him,’ so Jibreel (AS) loves him and then calls out to the people of heaven, ‘Allaah loves so-and-so, so love him,’ and the people of heaven love him, and then acceptance is placed in the Earth for him.”

Every little step counts

So, sometimes we do stuff, and it’s like we didn’t do it at all. It feels like you made a gargantuan effort, with no yield. It can dishearten you, it can make you feel like “What does it matter if I do it or not, anyway?”

So this is a note to self (and my readers) that don’t give up. Every little bit, every little drop counts. Every act of worship, every act of kindness, every tear, every time you fixed your intentions, every time you gave thanks and for sure, every time you did something for the sake of Allah, is noted, seen and written down.

You might not get a receipt for it but just know in your heart that HE DOES SEE IT!!! And He will allow you to find that which you are seeking. So seeker of love, seeker of truth, seeker of a happy ending, seek! It’s your effort that counts. The effort IS the result. That is the answer to your prayers.

Sometimes results don’t come through immediately. Remember, He is the master of timing. Things will begin to manifest when they’re meant to. Trust me on this one.

Signing off with one of my favourite duas from the Quran:

رَبَّنَا آتِنَا فِىْ الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً وَفِىْ الآخِرَةِ حَسَنَةً وَّقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ
اے ہمارے رب! ہمیں دنیا میں بھی بھلائی دے اور آخرت میں بھی بھلائی عطا فرما اور ہمیں آگ کے عذاب سے بچا۔
Our Lord! Give us in this world [that which is] good and in the Hereafter [that which is] good and protect us from the punishment of the Fire.(Al-Baqarah:201)
رَبَّنَا آتِنَا فِىْ الدُّنْيَا حَسَنَةً وَفِىْ الآخِرَةِ حَسَنَةً وَّقِنَا عَذَابَ النَّارِ
Our Lord! Give us in this world [that which is] good and in the Hereafter [that which is] good and protect us from the punishment of the Fire. (Al-Baqarah:201)

Thoughts and photos

Subhan Allahi wa bi Hamdihi Subhan Allahil Azeem
سُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ وَبِحَمْدِهِ، سُبْحَانَ اللَّهِ العَظِيم Subhan Allahi wa bi Hamdihi Subhan Allahil Azeem
Translation: Glory be to Allah and all praise is due to Him, glory be to Allah the great
Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) said, “There are two statements that are light for the tongue to remember, heavy in the Scales and are dear to the Merciful: ‘Subhan-Allahi wa bihamdihi, Subhan-Allahil-Azim [Glory be to Allah and His is the praise, (and) Allah, the Greatest is free from imperfection]’.” 2

Hadith about Dunya, 
Abdullah ibn Mas’ud reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, laid down upon a reed mat and it left marks on his side. When he woke up, I started wiping his side and I said, “O Messenger of Allah, why do you not let us spread something on top of this mat for you?” The Prophet said, “What is the world to me? What am I to the world? Verily, the example of this world and myself is that of a rider who seeks shade under a tree, then he moves on and leaves it behind.”

Source: Musnad Aḥmad 3701

Grade: Sahih (authentic) according to Ahmad Shakir
Abdullah ibn Mas’ud reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, laid down upon a reed mat and it left marks on his side. When he woke up, I started wiping his side and I said, “O Messenger of Allah, why do you not let us spread something on top of this mat for you?” The Prophet said, “What is the world to me? What am I to the world? Verily, the example of this world and myself is that of a rider who seeks shade under a tree, then he moves on and leaves it behind.”
Source: Musnad Aḥmad 3701
Grade: Sahih (authentic) according to Ahmad Shakir
I searched everywhere for God, and then I found Him in the tears of the orphan child, in the broken heart of a friend and in the innocent questions of my children.
This is research based. Reminder to self: Be happy with who you are. Muffin tops, mistakes, flaws, strengths and all!
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The Power of Now! I’m happy today, now, at this very moment. As a by product of that, I’m happy with all that happened and I know the future will be right for me.

Foggy morning

For those who read Urdu 🙂

سردیوں کے موسم میں صبح صبح لحاف سے باہر نکلنا اپنے آپ میں کسی جہاد سے کم نہیں۔ اس پر ستم یہ کہ وضو بھی کیجۓ اور پورے خشوع اور خضوع کے ساتھ نماز کے فرائض بھی سر انجام دیجیۓ۔ سچ کہوں تو یہ تھوڑی سی مشقت ان ملاقاتوں کی لذت میں مزید مٹھاس پیدا کر دیتی ہے۔ 

ایک ایسی ہی خوبصورت صبح کی حکایت آج بیان کرنے لگی ہوں۔ میں گرم کپڑے پہنتی ہوں اور جوتوں کے تسموں کو کس کر باندھتی ہوں اور چہل قدمی کی غرض سے گھر سے نکلتی ہوں۔ ابھی کچھ ہی فاصلہ تہ ہوا ہے کہ کسی گلی میں ایک ایسی پگڈنڈی دکھائی دیتی ہے جو میں نے پہلے کبھی نہیں دیکھی اور ایک نیا رستہ مجھے اپنی جانب کھینچتا چلا جاتا ہے۔ رفتہ رفتہ میں لوگوں کی نظروں سے اوجھل ایک پوشیدہ اور نہایت ہی خوبصورت باغ میں خود کو پاتی ہوں۔ 

دنیا ابھی پوری طرح بیدار نہیں ہوئی، سورج طلوع ہونے کا ارادہ کر چکا ہے مگر ابھی دکھائی نہیں دے رہا ۔ افق پر دور کہیں صبح کی پہلی روشنی خراماں خراماں آسمان پر چھاتی جا رہی ہے۔ میرے ارد گرد سبزہ ہی سبزہ ہے، یوں معلوم ہوتا ہے کہ کسی اور ہی جہاں میں قدم رکھ دیا ہو۔ 

باغ میں داخل ہوتے ہی سردی کی شدت بڑھ جاتی ہے اور میں منہ سے گرم ہوا نکالتے ہوۓ ہاتھوں کو گرمانے کی کوشش کرتی ہوں۔ منہ سے ہوا نکلتی ہے تو گویا معلوم ہوتا ہے کہ میں نے سگریٹ کا ایک قش لیا ہو۔ میں اپنے ہی منہ سے نکلتے دھونوے سے کافی دیر تک محزوز ہوتی ہوں اور پھر جب سر اٹھا کر آسمان کی جانب دیکھتی ہوں ایک سرخ دائرہ آنکھوں میں چبھنے لگتا ہے۔ گویا طلوع ہوتا ہوا آفتاب یہ کہ رہا ہو کہ لو ہمارے بھی کچھ مزے اٹھا لو، ستاروں کے لا محدود جہانوں اور قمر کی چاندنیوں سے خوب مزے لے لۓ۔ دائیں جانب چاند شرماتا ہوا دنیا سے رخصت ہو رہا ہے۔ غور سے سنوں تو یہ کہ رہا ہے میں اپنی پوری شان سے شب بیداری والوں کو ہی نصیب ہوتا ہوں۔ 

چڑیاں بھی جاگ رہی ہیں، ارے کیا یہ ہدہد نہیں؟ اور وہ سبز پرندہ تو یقیناً طوطا تھا۔ واہ! آج پہلی بار کسی طوطے کو بنا قید کے یوں موج مناتے دیکھا ہے۔ بوگن ویلا اور پیٹونیا کے پھول سینکڑوں کی تعداد میں میرے سامنے ہیں اور یقین جانۓ اس کا اثر میری آنکھوں اور میرے وجود پر نہایت ہی لطف آمیز ہے۔ اونچے اونچے درخت ہیں اور ان میں سے کچھ جاڑے سے بیزار معلوم ہوتے ہیں۔ پتے جھڑ چکے ہیں لیکن امید ابھی باقی ہے۔ کہیں کہیں سبزہ پھر سے سر اٹھاتا ہوا دکھائی دیتا ہے۔ 

میرے والد صاحب اکثر جوش ملی آبادی کا یہ شعر پڑھا کرتے تھے۔ 

ہم ایسے اہلِ نظر کو ثبوتِ حق کیلۓ

اگر رسول (صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم) نا ہوتے تو صبح کافی تھی

میں نے ایک موٹا سا نہایت ہی بدصورت کوٹ پہن رکھا ہے اور گردن اور سر کو ایک عونی اسکارف سے لپیٹ رکھا ہے۔ سچ کہوں تو سردی میں مزہ آ رہا ہے۔ ہاتھوں کو جیبوں کے تہوں میں ڈال کر دنیا کی تگُو دوہ سے بے نیاز و بے خبر میں اپنے خیالات میں گم ہوں۔ 

میں خود کو اللہ کی وسیع و عریض کائنات کا ایک چھوٹا سا زرہ محسوس کر رہی ہوں۔ میں صرف ایک چھوٹا سا زرہ ہوں مگر میرے اندر اپنی ہی ایک دنیا ہے۔ اور اس باغ میں مجھ جیسے کئ زرے ہیں اور ہر زرے میں اپنی ہی ایک کائنات پنہاں ہے۔ اس پاک اور بے عیب ذات کی تسبیح بے ساختہ منہ سے نکلتی ہے جو سب کا رب ہے۔ وہ خود ہی بہتر جانتا ہے کہ ازل تا ابد اس نے کتنی ایسی کائناتوں کو تخلیق کیا ہے اور مزید کتنی آنے والی ہیں۔ 

وہی انہیں پالنے والا، ہر چیز کو سنبھالنے والا، رزق پہنچانے والا، راستا دکھانے والا، ہںسانے والا، رلانے والا، زندگی اور موت کے فیصلے کرنے والا اور تمام نظام کو چلانے والا ہے۔ وہی ذاتِ پاک جس کیلۓ میری خوشی بھی بے معنی نہیں ہے اور نا ہی میرے آنسو اس کی قدرت اور نظر سے باہر ہیں۔ سبحان اللہ وبحمدہٖ سبحان اللہ العظیم! 

میری سانسوں کی رفتار کچھ بڑھتی ہوئی معلوم ہوتی ہے اور یکایک میری توجہ میرے منہ سے نکلتے ہوۓ دھوںوے کی طرف جاتی ہے۔ اب یہ سگریٹ کا ایک قش نہیں لگ رہا بلکہ منہ سے اڑتا ہوا دھواں گویا ایک لمحہ، ایک سانس ہے جو گزر گیا۔ یہ اس اساسے کا ایک دینار ہے جو مجھے اس دنیا میں دے کر بھیجا گیا تھا۔ وہ خزانہ جس کے دینار دراصل وقت اور سانسیں ہیں اور میں خود بھی نہیں جانتی کہ کل کتنے دینار میرے نصیب میں ہیں، کتنے خرچ ہوۓ اور کتنے بقایا ہیں۔ اے کاش کی میں اس خزانے کو بیچ کر اس وحدہࣿ لا شریک کی یاری پا لوں! 

Last year was the best one of my life

Originally written for: https://gulfnews.com/opinion/off-the-cuff/last-year-was-the-best-one-of-my-life-1.76373157

Illustration 2020 looking back

There could be plenty of ways by which I could remember 2020. I could remember it by the pain and helplessness of seeing my father unwell and his subsequent passing, I could remember it by the fracture of my foot and the agony of not being able to walk, and I could of course remember it by the fateful pandemic that took over all our lives.

I could even remember it by some of the most challenging struggles I have ever faced on a personal level, and difficult questions I have had to ask myself. While the opening of this piece feels contradictory to the title, please bear with me. 2020 really has been the best year of my life so far. Let me explain.

It is true that I lost my father (and that void shall never be filled) but I also realised what a beautiful legacy and what lovely memories he left behind, and what a life he lived. I realised how much of him lives on in me, and ironically, in this year of social distancing, I found some of the most precious souls I am lucky to call friends and mentors.

2020 for me was a year of not just realisations, but actualisations. If the last three years were the onset of a journey, 2020 helped me catch a glimpse of the destination. 2020 was all about learning (formally, due to a parenting course I enrolled in) and informally too, because life happened and lemons, lessons and blessings all tumbled forth.

The fracture had seemed like the end of the world; a bathroom trip meant a laborious struggle with my hated metal poles and while the upper body workout was excellent, my morale wasn’t. Slowly but surely I began to accept what had happened (without questioning fate) and then I began feeling gratitude for the arms that did work, for the hands that carried me everywhere, even for the crutches that bore my weight without a whimper.

Standing on my own two feet again without a cast or a boot felt like a blessing I cannot quite encompass in words — I’m eternally grateful for the tears that expressed my feelings.

Emanating from heart and radiating outward

Another very important change that 2020 marks for me is the realisation that happiness does not depend on our circumstances; in fact, it is a state of mind, a feeling that emanates from the heart and radiates outward into the world.

I had consumed quite a bit of literature on positive thinking but it was this year that I learnt to be truly content and grateful, and found a sort of sanctuary within myself that softened my heart and made it aware of the blessings I had previously overlooked.

Where I had earlier doctored happy thoughts inside my head in order to attract goodness I now find myself being optimistic and content from within because I truly feel there could be no other way to be. I am debating whether contentment or clarity is more important — but the truth is that 2020 has offered both in very satisfying quantities.

Yes, the pandemic has been alarming, but it’s also made me focused on what actually matters and how short life really is and that I should try and make every moment count.

I’ve never been a compulsive shopper (malls make me palpitate with stress) but this year was instrumental in helping me figure out the difference between needs and wants. I now think hard before heading out to the mall — the mad consumerism culture has finally been questioned.

I do need to buy groceries but I can certainly do without dinners at fancy places and a new dress. If we focus on our needs and use our funds in a beneficial way — rather than just feeding our never-ending wants, surely, this will translate into a life better lived.

In 2021 I shall take a moment to cherish the wonderful year that 2020 was for me, the lessons it taught, the insights it offered, the relationships it rescued, the people I gained, and most importantly, the finding of that one person who hitherto had been pretty elusive. Myself.