I wish you, a power outage. <3

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It feels like it hasn’t rained since Harvey decided to dislodge itself on us. Or rather, it didn’t feel like it until yesterday when a thunderstorm passed over. But it didn’t just rain—the thunder was like gunfire on the battlefield, lightning tore the sky down to the horizon, water was coming down as though it didn’t intend to stop.

And then the lights went out. The stoves wouldn’t turn on. The phones wouldn’t work. The internet was no longer active. It was five in the afternoon which is about as bright as an afternoon can get in these summer days, but the storm clouds had filled the house with dark. I lit our kitchen igniter, mounted a stool, and went on a search for candles. Lighting a few across the kitchen counter, I couldn’t help but travel back to Karachi childhood.

I loved it when the electricity went out. It brought everyone closer. There wasn’t much you could do without electricity, including sleeping because it got too hot without the fan working. The candles would go on and there weren’t even that many, so it just wasn’t an option to take your own candle and do something by yourself—except using the toilet. Everyone sort of huddled in one place, or if it was too hot—retired to the rooftop to tell Jinn stories. It was intimate, cozy, enchanted.

And so I found myself in the same—but different—coziness yesterday. Dad was asleep, Mom was downstairs, and I came upstairs for a bit. I am not a happy camper in the sunlight. The dark clouds had spread a sort of warmth and calm in me. Sitting in relief, I thought about what to do next. The power company said electricity would be restored in three hours. My phone had only so much battery, so I couldn’t read Quran on it for long, in case I would need that 20% before the power came back. That also meant I couldn’t use the internet on my phone. It was just too dark to read otherwise. It was also too dark to work on my current illustration project.

So I sat on the floor and made duaa. In a way, the storm was a weave of so many things at once—the thunder reminded me of Allah’s power, His greatness. The fear and awe of God that is naturally in our souls wakes up immediately when we hear clouds make sounds like that. There was also the appreciation of how much we’re given. People in Pakistan are literally dying from the heat right now in the middle of Ramadan. There’s also a huge, long-standing load-shedding problem and they often don’t have electricity. In turn they don’t have water either. Ours is just an anomaly, and we don’t even have to deal with that kind of heat, or water shortages. And lastly, everything else blacked out—without phones, without light, without distractions, I was able to finally say things I wanted to say, ask for things I wanted to ask. I was able to think.

It was the perfect waking up, the perfect present from above. Ramadan in itself is like a passing storm—when it comes, it pours tons and tons of Rahmah, without limit. All other things get blacked out, become secondary. The only thing to really, truly remain vigilant about is whether we’re being consistent, whether we’re taking advantage of this time, whether we’re asking Allah or not—because Allah for sure, is ready to respond to us.

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Day 23: Sonnet

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(Five days late because sonnets are hard)

Today—April 23rd—on the date William Shakespeare passed away, I attempt my first of his kind:

Dear friend, companion, my love, my night
mind and heart entwine, rather leaping in thrill
—when upon my ears fall tidings of meeting your sight—
nurturing that perfect time, months and months coming still

Friends, then fools, together we remain all year
like lovers writing modern day letters to each other
the stories you’ll tell when we meet, my laughter you will hear
the garden walks hand in hand, hours, days one with another

But meeting in those crowds, what have we found?
Vigilant, watchful, aware of our gesture we must stay
that time with you the whole year round
those few minutes, for me its All Summer in a Day

Like the tree on barren land learnt to gracefully pick up sustenance where it can, as though selecting flowers

Our hearts have found ways to converse without stop, to feel sadness, pain, joy and exclaim, to talk and embrace for hours

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Day 18: Eyes closed at home

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Sometimes at night
I close my eyes
forcing the window to my other side
pretending the ceiling fan noise above
oscillates ’round the room instead

Our book closet in the corner to my left
full of scents from before I was born
and more from all my years around

The white comforter, flora peach and green
I know there’s never been
sounder sleep.

And in that hallway lined with doors
where once I ran up and down in glee
and once prayed for my mother’s life
I still feel my steps on those nightly strolls
the carpets I touch, the turns I turn

The white kitchen light that folds on
Red digits on the radio clock
green on the microwave
The patio where once jasmine grew.
Where seekhs were grilled.
Gaze longed for that chick I loved.

Eyes still closed, how I wish I could
wake up to that corner outside my room
where the first light of day comes raining through
that canvas atrium, Heaven above.

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Day 16: A Poem by Dr Shaik Ubaid

The following is a poem written by Dr Shaik Ubaid in light of the rape and murder of an eight-year-old Muslim girl in India’s Jammu/Kashmir state, allegedly to drive out Muslim nomads from the Kashmir region of India. Read more here.

Why didn’t you fore warn me about the monsters mama?
Who clawed my face and ripped my clothes to tatters mama
You always said, “dont be afraid child there are no wild beasts in Kashmir” mama
But you forget about the followers of Veer, mama
You couldnot ‘Ve been more wrong mama
Im sorry I could not say “So long”, mama
No Tigers or hyenas live here you said
No lions, no wolves not even sloth bear you said
The snow leopard went extinct long ago you said
Tis safe to graze the horses in the Valley and Jammu you said
But you forgot about the beasts in human stealth mama
Monsters with scary eyes and stinking breath mama
More cruel than the wild dogs more repulsive than the vultures mama
Who hate diversity in religion and in cultures mama
They hurt me bad even though I plead mama
I cried, apologized and I begged mama
I called for you and for dad mama
I prayed long and really hard mama
But it was all in vain mama
Only death did end my pain mama

Day 15: Where it began

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Thinking last night, I realized my first ever exposure to poetry I can remember was through my dad—the mention of a poet by the name of William Wordsworth.

It was when I was very young and looking up things on the internet hadn’t landed into the everyday. It would be years later that I actually got to read his actual work, realizing albeit nowhere as eloquent, some of my own poems share a similar style.

So today I’d like to share a few pieces from Wordsworth that I found particularly moving. And of course again, thank you Abbu 🙂

 

Lines Written in Early Spring
By William Wordsworth 

I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.

Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.

The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure:—
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.

If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature’s holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?

 

The Complaint
By William Wordsworth 

There is a change—and I am poor;
Your love hath been, nor long ago,
A fountain at my fond heart’s door,
Whose only business was to flow;
And flow it did; not taking heed
Of its own bounty, or my need.

What happy moments did I count!
Blest was I then all bliss above!
Now, for that consecrated fount
Of murmuring, sparkling, living love,
What have I? shall I dare to tell?
A comfortless and hidden well.

A well of love—it may be deep—
I trust it is,—and never dry:
What matter? if the waters sleep
In silence and obscurity.
—Such change, and at the very door
Of my fond heart, hath made me poor.

 

I Travelled among Unknown Men
By William Wordsworth 

I travelled among unknown men,
In lands beyond the sea;
Nor, England! did I know till then
What love I bore to thee.

‘Tis past, that melancholy dream!
Nor will I quit thy shore
A second time; for still I seem
To love thee more and more.

Among thy mountains did I feel
The joy of my desire;
And she I cherished turned her wheel
Beside an English fire.

Thy mornings showed, thy nights concealed,
The bowers where Lucy played;
And thine too is the last green field
That Lucy’s eyes surveyed.

 

It Was An April Morning: Fresh And Clear
By William Wordsworth

It was an April morning: fresh and clear
The Rivulet, delighting in its strength,
Ran with a young man’s speed; and yet the voice
Of waters which the winter had supplied
Was softened down into a vernal tone.
The spirit of enjoyment and desire,
And hopes and wishes, from all living things
Went circling, like a multitude of sounds.
The budding groves seemed eager to urge on
The steps of June; as if their various hues
Were only hindrances that stood between
Them and their object: but, meanwhile, prevailed
Such an entire contentment in the air
That every naked ash, and tardy tree
Yet leafless, showed as if the countenance
With which it looked on this delightful day
Were native to the summer.–Up the brook
I roamed in the confusion of my heart,
Alive to all things and forgetting all.
At length I to a sudden turning came
In this continuous glen, where down a rock
The Stream, so ardent in its course before,
Sent forth such sallies of glad sound, that all
Which I till then had heard, appeared the voice
Of common pleasure: beast and bird, the lamb,
The shepherd’s dog, the linnet and the thrush
Vied with this waterfall, and made a song,
Which, while I listened, seemed like the wild growth
Or like some natural produce of the air,
That could not cease to be. Green leaves were here;
But ’twas the foliage of the rocks–the birch,
The yew, the holly, and the bright green thorn,
With hanging islands of resplendent furze:
And, on a summit, distant a short space,
By any who should look beyond the dell,
A single mountain-cottage might be seen.
I gazed and gazed, and to myself I said,
‘Our thoughts at least are ours; and this wild nook,
My EMMA, I will dedicate to thee.’
—-Soon did the spot become my other home,
My dwelling, and my out-of-doors abode.
And, of the Shepherds who have seen me there,
To whom I sometimes in our idle talk
Have told this fancy, two or three, perhaps,
Years after we are gone and in our graves,
When they have cause to speak of this wild place,
May call it by the name of EMMA’S DELL.

 

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Day 12: Secret to Prayer

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One late night in the month of May
I found a squirrel sitting still

So I asked him, can you say
how to be better when you pray?

And he said good prayer occurs
when I can focus well
So I try my hardest
on not straying here and there

If something bugs me
I tell myself Allah can solve it
—then I focus on where I am

If something excites me, distracts me,
pulls me away
I remember I have it because of Allah
—then I turn my thoughts to Him

The squirrel skipped off
not knowing at all
Till this day I stand still and tall

humble and silent, quite appalled:
how simply,
how softly,
through this squirrel
God showed me the key to prayer

all I did was ask.

 

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Day 11: Home

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Heart in knots
arid eyes trapped
In vivid memory
Wave after wave erupts in my head

I’ve struck cures for some nostalgia yes
but for some things I’ve simply found no end:

When I walk up that carpeted ramp,
and into the first burst of AC current
Officers speaking arabic, like lullabies on my ears
Signs in yellow script, fruits for my eyes

And finally I’m free, on that escalator down
All chains around me quickly turn to dust
The first glimpse in this new world
is the airport musallah
where always a man or two, bows down to God

And all in a moment, I’m out in the air
that all of America cannot possess
Hazy under the tall, white street poles
Humid and heavy but oh so light on the soul
It travels inside
mending cracks that have grown

The scents just from here to the car
are precious, familiar, same as before
Checkpoints and gas tankers
Datsuns and fancy cars
Gas burning at distance, dancing hello

Now I see why when I first went away
Autumn seemed not pretty at all
The desert had my heart—
Its skies! Its expanse!—
since the day it cradled me in its arms

Where can I start on the wonderful things—
the upright palm, the frangipani of Singapore
Petunias chattering on every lawn

Al-Marai juice, exquisite
milk flavors—banana and…biscuit?
Lipton Iced Tea and Shani to drink
Zaatar, falafel, on visible flame

Beetles, bugs, lizards and moths
friends not foes, welcoming grass
Where the ants reroute or climb your arm
No sign of red, no fear, no harm

Walls, some made of little stones
And others with texture that demand your touch

The sun at its crown is ever refined
The sky so pure like it’s never seen a cloud
Buses stream up rolling hills
like a river of green through desert sand

And so I wonder whatever for
would I be foolish and search for a cure
When I have a place that pulls at my heart
pokes through my soul
pulses my blood, colors me like milky tea
lets me breathe in so many ways

This ache has no end
only room to be sustained

And the only, only way
to begin—

is to build
a mountain of Praise.

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