A Night Like Any Other

last week i spent a couple of nights in the house where i was born. maybe exactly at the place where i was delivered into the world. on the second night in my sleep the impending fever finally set in and i experienced the familiar feeling of restlessness. i could hear three snoring sounds coming from three unique throats. one was definitely my grandfather whose extraordinarily loud sleep-breathing is a family joke. the second was probably my mother’s but she was sleeping a little farther away from me in a bedroom while i slept in the lounge. i could not figure out source of the third sound whose origin continued to elude me in my feverish state of mind. it seemed as if it was the house breathing, but it was very rhythmic and human-like, was it my uncle who was sleeping on the sofa (because there were too many people that night in the house)? was it the refrigerator in corner of the lounge? At some moment during the night, i was confident that it was coming from the sofa but if i moved a little it seemed to be coming from the direction opposite. it was either coming from the side of the lounge in line of my vision which included the refrigerator, the old wardrobe, the pressing-iron stand, the door of the smallest room where my grandfather slept and the newly renovated ceiling. i was oblivious to what was on the other side of my head as i was lying on my back. there was the sofa with my uncle sleeping on it, his feet dangling from the end (though my uncle is characteristically short in height, the sofa was shorter); there was the main electric switch and the double-door to the court-yard which was closed at night during winters. while i had fever, i continued to look for the source of the third snoring sound with no luck. in retrospect, i should have noticed its mechanical regularity, for humans’ snore pattern changes after some interval as he changes the side or responds with a sigh to an unknown dream. the third sound was like clockwork. it could either be coming from guts of a machine, or, i shudder to think of the possibility, from something else. my mother used to tell me about the time when she was afraid to go into the small room where my grandfather was now sleeping because she felt it had a heavier aura. which means to say that the room may have been haunted. this is how my mother, uncles and aunts refer to the places which are supposedly occupied by spirits or more specifically very palpable djinns and witches. the room was heavy. a street, a roof, a mosque were heavy if anyone had encountered a real or perceptual unworldly experience. people’s tales of such experiences were filled with severe chest congestions, someone calling their full name in low-pitched voices and visions of small demon-like creatures with long fangs sprouting from their mouths. one description of a possible djinn was particularly interesting, it head three heads on top of its long body and three more inverted heads at the end of its body, all six of them identical. how did it walk, a child might wonder. but the tales of such visits rarely mentioned a moving figure, they appeared as static phenomenon and probably moved about in darkness and only appeared to the spectator when they had reached the desired vantage-point. one such famous story was told to all the children in the family. it was told to me by my mother and my uncle who was the hero or the victim of the story. as an adult when i sometime sit with children of next generation of the family i am surprised to find out that they want to hear the story of that particular uncle. one winter night long time ago when he was asked to buy cigarettes from the shop for his father he was making the return journey when three small creatures followed and harassed him and made him run for life for what he calls twenty worst minutes of his life. he sped through the narrow streets jumping over the mounds of garbage at every turn and even wailing. he finally came panting into the house where a group was sitting around the fire. he collapsed and was unconscious for an hour. hearing tales like these as a boy i had always anticipated coming across an other-worldly experience myself and had often in summer nights when we slept under the sky in dark shadows of the mosque minarets and in the static silent stray cat sleeping on the wall or in shape of a plastic tub lying against the stairs imagined shapeless creations which had single aim of sucking out human consciousness. the effect was highly exaggerated when i had fever and i was frequently sick as a boy whenever i came to live in the house where my bodily presence first breathed. though as an adult my visits to the house came few and far between, i still get mildly ill whenever i am there.

that night i had smoked too many cigarettes despite my already sore throat and the fever was inevitable. growing up, my immunity had naturally increased but i am still what is called ‘of sensitive constitution’. my body, my house that is the abode of my consciousness, and i have a complex relationship. i have failed to be good housekeeper. i have had a rebellious attitude towards it. my question to it has always been simple, why aren’t you naturally strong. i have not been realistic. throughout my adult life i have associated most of my mortal problems with the garment of my soul, even the problems of will and morality. the idea entrenched in my mind about my body is that of a balloon filled with less than ideal levels of air. the idea of treating the body as a vessel seems flawed to me. there is talk of resurrection after the end of human life where the bones and flesh will reassemble and be given life again and the uncaused-cause speaks of knowing about the unique fingerprints of each human who ever lived. if such important task of identification of humans for setting up of court of divine justice lies in a component of human body why must it take a back seat. and if the current garb of humanness will be reconstituted and might potentially be the only level of identity by which we may identify ourselves, the body is supremely important. why we disregard the body from the intellectual perspective is only understandable because the mystery of the mind is far superior to mystery of the body. if humanness was constituted of more than one I’s, more than one center of consciousness in the mortal frame, the body would get more respect. if the material of consciousness was suffused throughout the body, in the knee and the foot, in the loins and the chest, instead of just concentrated in the brain, we would regard the body highly. A human can live with amputated legs and arms and still be called a human. it is the instrumentality of the body which has given it its subservient status in the cosmic theater. the body is seen as the means to an unknown end. but we cannot discount the reverse effect of the means on the end. the organic nature of mental neurotic or generic phenomenon is a popular concept. that night while i tried to establish the source of third sound, the material of my consciousness broke on the shore of my mind in now violent, now calm waves. the tumultuous of the shore had pushed the waters away but water being water continued to find its way. and in midst of investigation i felt the disintegration of my consciousness. this breaking down is the most characteristic feature of my fevers. i always feel that there are more than one me and every time the disintegration takes a new and interesting shape and form. the best way to explain is to imagine a long wooden log which represent the core I, the real me. then gradually branches sprout out from it from various places and points of origination keep moving slowly across the longitudinal lines of the log. each branch has a life of its own with a remnant of the mother-consciousness. at the height of disintegration the mother dissolves and the branches are the only real manifestation of life, sustaining on their own. the complete view will look like a futuristic screensaver on a computer screen of which a normal mind will make no sense. the sum total of mind- body interactive maps could become subjects of a talented painter or a mystic writer. a mild illness or exhaustion of the body is the easiest way to access the treasure of such maps.

i could sense the morning approach through the narrow spaces in the closed window. the third sound was as present as ever. my consciousness was back into the log there were no more branches. i stretched back my head to look at my uncle sound asleep on the sofa. i realized it was very cold and pulled the thick white blanket over my head and tried to sleep. only a little while later i felt a hand on my head over the blanket and heard my mother’s voice, ‘do you want tea?’. She went out towards the kitchen wrapped in a thick black shawl. I sat up feeling very tired and had a sip of cold water from a glass on the window ledge. it was very cold. silence pervaded the entire house broken only by my grandfather’s deep rumbling breaths.

Lost & Found

once again i journey eastward

to recollect the shattered pieces

of my grace

and make out of them a beautiful vase

which it could always be

they lie, those pieces, like dead flowers

callously plucked and thrown

unsmelt, unacknowledged

verses from a revelation, those pieces,

strewn bits of unread letters

from dead beloveds.

I go on and on to bring back atoms

To rekindle the glorious moons

eclipsed by lusty earths,

the wind will carry me






The Gift

i cant unentangle me from me to be able to give individual existence to the the sound of rain-drops nor to the drenched bird in the window. pitiful though it seemed but a pity which wants to get rid of the ugly sight to be at peace only, a pity that cannot imagine hunger and thirst but only beauty. i wished that the bird would fly and become a cloud, merge with the rain and be beautiful. i was thinking about you and the bottle of earth-scent you had gifted me with directions to rub a drop everyday on all the moles of my body. that way i would smell like rain you said. what was that strange potion? every time i followed your instructions, i fell into deep slumber and awoke in the middle of a storm with no signs of my body. one time i awoke a worm and another a butterfly and one time a man too. but every time there was someone else. someone like me who would find me magically in the storm and say in different languages to go. it was always you, i would recognize you by your being. you were a worm when i was a worm and a butterfly and a woman. you’ll drag me with you towards a great big ark towards which all the species of creation were running in pairs. while a big old man looked at the first migration of the chosen ones. the captain of the ship, the prophet of god oversaw every little thing embark upon his ship. you and i were all the pairs of created beings. what was in that bottle? i should receive your gifts with caution. after the rains when every thing was clean and green, the pale hills were sharper and clouds sighed, i walked towards the gurgling streams to feel the softness of flowers. the earth was a glowing virgin and i felt that god might make me a witness to the creation of first man forming out of the earths womb right there. while i was thus praying, i had not realized the strange silence. the stream had died. the clouds were choked and the buzzing insects and fluttering birds were no more. suddenly, i felt thousand little needles in my feet which came upto my head in no time and i was no more. all i remember is silence. nothingness. then the earth rumbled at the foot of a nearby hill i sensed the soil shifting. i crawled towards the hill painfully nearer to the rumbling. it stopped as i reached the mound of fresh earth beyond which i saw two soft brown bodies joined at ribs slowly coming apart. our faces were covered by a thing golden membrane but i could see the protruding noses and ears and depressions of the eyes. were soft like freshly baked bread and we glowed like an eclipsed moon. we were lifeless dolls. dummies of human beings. we were slowly coming apart at ribs. i could sense that our creation must have begun in one fistful of earth which grew in the outward direction taking shape of sternums from which grew the entire bodies, bone and flesh together. i was formed from your rib and you from mine. what was the chemical composition of that earth-scent you gave me? you with your bony small hands brought me that gift of infernal substances with sly smile and such trustful eyes. little rain-scented woman, bring me more of your gifts.

To Friends, Estranged & Others

do not be misled by the title through which i crown this elegy. by estranged i do not imply that it was you who actively went away from the circle of my consciousness, it is possible that i may have pushed you myself towards those outer regions of existence where undestined things merge with other fates. what i intend to do is to look for that exact moment in mortal time when the estrangement began. the later events are just fallen leaves, in which the decay had already germinated. i believe the moment of birth is given undue importance and the moment of conception does not get its share of limelight: the first stir of your microbial cell, the moment you became something from nothing.


many a evenings we spent looking at the breaking waves after hours of tiring study. amidst prosaic discussions about the intricacies of economic theories, you would utter half-lines from Yeats’ poems. you would startle me by stating meaninglessness of your own ambitions. ‘let’s say by my efforts and hard work i am able to save new-borns from not dying prematurely, so what? what difference am i making? that baby will grow up to be another normal person, where is the miracle?’, you would say neither dejected nor morose but as a matter of fact like an angel might ask a god when he plans to make a man. then you would also cry when you had to see ten still-born humans in a day. so isn’t life the miracle? the mere fact of being, the rhythm of your heart? the new-born will grow up and love and i am only repeating your words when i say that no love is normal. similarly no life, no person is normal. it is only a matter of befriending a man or a woman. she is normal when you don’t know her. he is special when he is your friend. so how thin is the wall between miraculous and mundane, it falls down with a whispering act of friendship, with a faint breeze of empathy. you would show me the shapes in sea-foam and the shapes of clouds and I with my cold heart would acknowledge the similarity but ask you with words made of stone: ‘so what?’ , a curve of my lips mocking the uselessness of your imagination, successfully concealing my intention to push you towards that state of your mind when you unknowingly compose odes to imagination and art in the course of normal conversation, in defense of a careless remark by your philistine of a friend. ‘art begins in the palm of your hands. you give meaning to the random lines etched in your flesh. that meaning is your work of art. you see it in the composition of matter, the neither/nor of atomic nature is art. Heisenberg was an artist. your cook is an artist. the grains of rice, i have observed how you look at them, each grain has my name etched on it and it shall come to no one but me. there is no one who does not create art, the foremost being our dreams. the coldest rationalist must be having most fluid of dreams.art is life. we are born to compare things and the final comparison is with god.’ you did not know that i secretly recorded your ramblings with the intention of writing them on a birthday card for you when you would be having one of those mid-life crises. but for you i am no more. after your estrangement which later became mutual, during some summer nights when there is nothing to do and the heat in the city by the sea is suffocating, i step out of my little apartment to catch some breeze and ponder over us. i pick my digging tools like a laborer and sit by the roadside in hope of some reason to hire me pay and me the wages of understanding which I could bring to your shop and buy your forgiveness but I remain unemployed. on one such night i stumbled upon something in my memory which was covered with webs spun by time. it was an event where there was a party at your home and many people were invited. we had a good time and when much time had passed and most of the guests had gone, some of our other friends, you and I sat on the rooftop around the pretentious fire in the city of flimsy winters and talked into the early hours of the morning. somewhat under trance and somewhat exhausted, we spoke of thousand things the center which was the myth of reincarnation and the circle of life. you were silent and listening to our ignorant, yet dipped in the wisdom of drunkenness, mythologies. from the corner of my eye I figured that you were looking at me like Brutus may have looked at the dictator of Rome the day before assassination. I turned my face towards you and looked at your features that I had never encountered before. Your contorted face with deep frown and the passion of abhorrence in your eyes looking right into mine. Sometime later you withdrew to your room and the party disbanded after an hour and i drove back home, forgetting about the entire matter. that’s it. that look was the culmination of whatever had been brewing in your great mind. i will never know. i believe we met after that a couple of times and wrote each other some insignificant emails then your frequent travels began we lost touch. my specialty faded and i became just another normal person. ‘so what?’  i wish we had quarreled over something tangible. over money for example or mutual love interest or prestige or any other important thing. but now time has passed. the moon has waned. the night has fallen. blame lies with me too, i should have tried to speak to you. may be i am equally guilty. Here is some Yeats to whom you introduced me for which I shall be ever grateful to you and for many other things:

far-off, most secret, and inviolate Rose,
enfold me in my hour of hours; where those
who sought thee in the holy sepulcher,
or in the wine-vat, dwell beyond the stir
and tumult of defeated dreams; and deep
among pale eyelids, heavy with the sleep
men have named beauty.



‘like you cannot step in the same river twice, you cannot meet the same safdar twice, for every time i see you, you are a different man!’  i do not remember when you said this to me, nor this: ‘a paragon of courage on friday, a bag of sorry bones on tuesday’ or this: ‘you cannot even laugh properly’. you have said so many things to uplift me and so many things to throw me down. i first saw you at some leadership conference where you spoke about a popular theory while the audience, bunch of bored teenagers, had chicken soup for the soul. you have frequently accused me of mixing fact and fiction all the time, let me tell you this: there is no fact, all is fiction. after beholding you for the first time, I didn’t see you again for an year or so. i did not know if we were in the same college. then one day i saw you in the library, you were walking quickly with that determined step and bold gait of yours, like a person who means business and doesn’t have time for mindless reflection. later on i realized that our predispositions are very different and i felt a little intimidated by you. surprisingly, the day next we spoke for the first time at another event of insignificance for a selected audience of which you and i were coincidentally a part. the first thing i noticed about you at lunch was that you ate a lot. not that there is anything objectionable in this but i am just stating my impression of an observation. afterwards, we had silent conversations in pockets by mutual lifting of eyebrows while entering a common lecture hall or waving at each other from afar and some times by an occasional exchange of verbal pleasantries. one day I asked you if you knew the name of an orange-flowered tree outside building and you said you had not seen it. I think it was these inconsequential exchanges which constituted the early foundations of our friendship before it matured into a real one. oh it is talking and talking and philosophy and exchange of weltanschauung which makes people into friends in most uneventful, unadventurous and tritest of circumstances. i remember the most prominent feature of your face when you smiled were your eyes in fact you had your entire face in your eyes and I read in them everything you thought about me. ‘what is this strange fellow like?’, crossed across the expanse of your mind so many times. initially, i believed that our friendship was a friendship of convenience but gradually when the stories of our past were narrated in private conference, it grew stronger, the cement dried over countless cups of coffee and many of my shakesperean monologues and your hemingwayean statements. but i remember that there was a certain aloofness in you all the time and at times i found you a little vain and pretentious. i read some sort of a conflict in you and tried to have you confess it but i failed and i accepted you as were and associated many of your acts to your nature and naivete. but then again that is what made you stand out: your own individuality and uncompromising strength of character which i utterly lacked. you were so sure of yourself and so confident of your opinions and views while i was a wavering shrub bending at the slightest gust of wind. so naturally i admired you and attached qualities to you of which some you really had and some, in retrospect it seems to me, i invented. gradually i made out of you a friend who had two sides (all this was in my mind, you always invariably had one side: your own true self). and so I started making demands out of your imagined side which in my naivete i thought you will fulfill as my friend and confidant. strange and confusing, right? it is because i am really trying to think what happened and why due to my own act i lost a friend like i had never before. life went on, we were deeply aware of each other’s consciousness in matters big and small. i made a mirror out of you, though you were younger than me, your stolid character made me do this. i believed i had someone whom george bernard shaw would really call a friend: the only service a friend can really render is to keep up your courage by holding up to you a mirror in which you can see a noble image of yourself. this was it i think. in my mind’s eye i had thought that i could see every aspect of my reflection in the mirror. i would not expect a mirror to break on a bad hair day or a bad face day or a bad conscience day. a mirror is the most objective object. you see what you are, it tells you honestly of your affairs. tell a lie, eat your dead brother’s corpse, adulterate, love, love, love, sin, sin, sin, the mirror will tell you that the color of your eye is still beautiful or your bulging forehead is still the apex of ugliness. ‘people like you shouldn’t worry about such things’,  i remember when you said this to me. ‘i personally don’t think anyone is going to hell’, this conversation runs in my memory as well. ‘i don’t have the courage to experiment like you, i am not like this’, one of the best conversations we ever had, i remember this too. in this case the matter is simple, out of human frailty, that universal culmination of all things criminal, that adam’s curse, that consequence of the fall, that misery of existence, out of this human weakness, i confess that i crossed the bounds of liberty which should never have been surpassed. was it a premeditated act? no. was it a thoughtless act? yes. i have stated the rationalization of my act before the confession of it, this does not in any way mean that i put you in the error. unfortunately, not wanting to, i let you go. so this was a story of two failures, the burden of both of which falls on my dreamy shoulders alone. if you could be so magnanimous as it lies in your character, forgive me.  the day could dawn. the moon could wax. i write here for you a passage from muhammad asad’s the road to mecca which reflects how you liked your coffee:

on my return to our camping palace, i make the camels kneel down and hobble their forelegs to prevent them from straying at night. zayd has already lit a fire and is busy making coffee. water boils in a tall brass coffeepot with a long curved spout; a smaller pot of similar shape stands ready at zayd’s elbow. in his left hand he holds a huge, flat iron spoon with a handle two feet long, on which he is roasting a handful of coffee beans over the slow fire, for in arabia, coffee is freshly roasted for every pot. as soon as the beans are lightly tanned, he places them in a brass mortar and pounds them. thereupon he pours some of the boiling water from the larger pot into the smaller, empties the ground coffee into it and places the pot near the fire to let it slowly simmer. when the brew is almost ready, he adds a few cardamon seeds to make it more bitter, for as the saying goes in arabia, coffee in order to be good, must be ‘bitter like death and hot like love’



that night i understood how gregor samsa must have felt when he found himself metamorphosed into a huge insect in the morning. i had a malarial fever which was coming and going in waves, taking me through and playing with my mind in mysterious ways. my consciousness transformed into a two-dimensional plane and i was a solid net of squares, like a chess board drawn on paper but with no enclosed boundaries. All the lines which crossed each other had open ends, like a big tic-tac-toe matrix with not nine but twenty, twenty-five cells. i felt i was that solid geometrical web and my consciousness blinked at the cross section of lines, as if there were bulbs placed on these nodes. i have never experienced such a transformation of existence, it was not a dream, i could feel myself. after recovering from my illness, i realized the strangeness of the phenomenon even more. i recalled the time when you and i had experienced the effect of mind-altering materials on our brains. my fever-dream closely resembled that, but it was more of what we could call a bad trip. you were my first travelling friend. in a way i owe my life to you: while we were walking to our rooms during the early hours of the morning in the deserted streets of the city where that sufi jew, baruch spinoza lived centuries ago, in a state not suitable for carrying a responsible activity, you saved me from acting rashly with a body which though mine was going through so many new novel experiences. you remember those two drunk russians whom we met on the way and with whom i almost picked a fight, i would never know how or why. you made me run and we ran and ran and those russians shouted in their alien language things undecipherable but definitely heavy with profane curses. ‘next time do that when you want to die’. friendships born out of such events and begun in adult life are more durable and exciting because they are not based on naive sentimentality and are usually life lasting. while travelling, you meet people with their best sides on and you never see any other side of them. but you and i hailed from the same city, naturally we had to be friends. besides we had so much in common. both of us love walking and i recall we walked for hours and hours. you were a seasoned traveller and i loved your tales of which i am sure some were highly exaggerated. i could believe that you came across george clooney walking around the streets concealing his real identity but i could not believe the story which you presumable heard from a travelling group staying at the same place as you and if you yourself believed it then god bless your naivete. all of your tales were exciting though. but i think the most important thing that bound us together was psilocybin. i recall what you told me about your one such experience and i was very moved by the clarity and strange method to this madness: ‘i had ingested a modest amount of mushrooms and then walked towards the park. it was in the afternoon and the sun was, the atmosphere was very pleasant. i did not feel anything while we walked towards the spot of our choice with best visual stimulation in form of flowers and trees and chirping birds. i had with me my friend whom i had asked to look after me and notice my behavior. gradually as the elements in my stomach hammered the magical contents into my blood stream, i started to feel things move. the physical phenomenon started to alter and slowly i was perceiving everything around me very intensely. the colors were richer and brighter, the sounds were sharper and more pleasant, the humdrum of the park was easy and likable but i started to notice less the physics when my sort started to take me in the past to the time when i was deciding after finishing university whether to go back to my parents or work where i had graduated. then my mind shed all the events of the that particular period in time and focused on the people involved in that decision making that is my parents. i suddenly felt emotional about my father and my mother. i recaped all the arguments in favour of going and in favour of staying. after apparently a long time under this reverie or whatever i began to cry the faces of my parents came before my eyes and i became worried. back in the plane of normal consciousness i tried to tell my friend that i wanted to get out of this situation. so we went to the nearest burger place and ate to our fill. only then did my despondency lose its grip on me. later i asked myself why did my mind take me to that particular point in time and not to anywhere else?’  compared to your profound and meaningful experiences i recounted to you my own experience which was without any dilemma and was therefore plain reverie. ‘i consumed a very small quantity of mushrooms at around sunset near one of the canals with a couple of friends. we then walked towards a cafe which was at some distance. on the way, one of my friends simply got mad and started laughing. when we reached the cafe, we sat down on a table for six. there were only four of us. few minutes passed, nothing happened to me. then a boy and girl of around twenty came over and sat with us. my mouth went dry and i music playing in the background sounded divine. and then i experienced the full effect. my hearing sharpened. i felt as if everyone, near and far was speaking in ear and i believe i could tell at that moment that i understood what they meant. it came in waves. the girl sitting opposite me looked like a character from a victorian novel. and another of my friend who was not mad sat opposite me too. he had a full bushy mustache and beard and he hailed from sindh. my mind began sketching in my eyes what must my friend’s dad looked like. the lights were brighter and music angelic. this stayed for a long while but no morose thoughts entered the sphere of my senses. the most beautiful feeling was hearing all voices together. my friend who had gone mad, slowly came to and brought food. which gradually brought us to our senses and we stepped out.’ now since then i have read aldous huxley’s the doors of perception which is a beautiful account of a similar nature but definitely more profound and enlightening. his primary observation is that such experiences could help us see the mystical side which in totality could be a life-changing phenomenon. for every experience in the normal sense there is another experience as its antipode in the induced but very real other world. it has been six months since we have met and talked about matters sacred and profane. there is no estrangement between us and we are as much friends as when we first met. I am writing here a passage from the book i quoted above to induce your intellectual mind to arrange a meeting:

From the records of religion and the surviving monuments of poetry and the plastic arts it is very plain that, at most times and in most places, men have attached more importance to the inscape than to objective existents, have felt that what they saw with their eyes shut possessed a spiritually higher significance than what they saw with their eyes open. The reason? Familiarity breeds contempt, and how to survive is a problem ranging in urgency from the chronically tedious to the excruciating. The outer world is what we wake up to every morning of our lives, is the place where, willy-nilly, we must try to make our living. In the inner world there is neither work nor monotony. We visit it only in dreams and musings, and its strangeness is such that we never find the same world on two successive occasions.What wonder, then, if human beings in their search for the divine have generally preferred to look within!


My First Friend

It happens that certain events are created in the memory from the tails of half-truths. The memory tends to use bits of happening and form a rational event out of them. It is enticing to believe what it tells but I still make an effort to snatch entire truths from memory’s forgetful claws. I am standing on a narrow road outside our house in the naval housing colony. The road is an off-shoot of a main drive way and ends outside our house into a large boulder. I walk towards the boulder and look around it in search of something, confused and sad. As I keep searching, I heard a voice take my name to which I respond by nervous jerk of my head. It was Ali who lived in the sixth house next to ours. My memory tells me that I looked up that moment towards my first friend in the life. He is holding the two-rupee blue note in his hand which I had lost. Ali was the first friend I made, actually he made me, it was a passive act of friendship where I was acted upon by a friendly act. I do not remember any individual outside my family whom I could refer to as my friend before Ali. This may not be how I met Ali for the first time but when I search my memorial archives this is what I get. All memory is fiction. As we age reality fades and fictional clouds of events rain upon our consciousness. Ali thought and expressed that I have funny hair. He had a pear shaped head and soft expression in his eyes. He was fair-skinned and my memory pushes me to say that he was a beautiful child perhaps because I think his facial features and skin tone resembled those of his elder-sisters who later tutored me on various subjects for my school. They were four siblings and this group of children had taken after their father whom I remember and associate with black Honda 70 motorcycle with a tapered exhaust silencer. The fourth child, Hamid resembled their mother whom I recall as a very lively, jovial lady with a nickname resembling resembling that lemon (nimo). Hamid had a thin voice and brown skin with prominent fleshy cheek bones. Although they were brothers, my memory tends to call Ali my first friend and not Hamid. I must have been not more than five years old at the time of beginning of my first friendship.





Letter to a Stranger

Dear Stranger,

I would like to tell you about a tendency that I have. Somehow words come naturally to me when I am speaking to someone. It has happened quite a number of times that I am thinking about a particular matter and if it remains unresolved and if I happen to meet a friend in this state of uncertainty and if our conversation moves on to what is happening in my life I put my thoughts about that particular matter so smoothly and effortlessly as if my tongue was waiting for a listener to finally open the knots in my thoughts. A listener opens the gates of my speech and a considerate one like you encourages me to put to this page the state of my mind, heart, soul or whatever is the real origin of human thought. What do you understand from the term ‘primal consciousness’? I have told you some time that the word ‘consciousness’ is always on my mind. I call it the basic unit of life. It is that which directly emanated from the actual source of life. It exists in all living things in varying degrees of sophistication. When I look at a cat or a monkey, I say to myself look this consciousness is unaware of itself whereas my consciousness is superior and is aware of itself. It is like this: if my consciousness stands in front of a mirror, it might see some vague shape which would be sharper if my consciousness is individually superior, but if a cat’s consciousness passes a mirror by chance, it would not find any distinguishable form in the reflection because there is none. And by primal consciousness I take it back to the time when it began appearing on the earth for the first time. In those days it existed as a form of potential energy. Primal consciousness was not like your or mine, it was like that of a cat or a monkey but with some germs of awareness, with a capability to develop into a self-aware consciousness. I do not know how it reached its current state. Maybe it grew parallel to the evolution of physical existence of life. A discussion on this front would take us to the theories of creationism and evolution, to the stories of original sins and artificial ones and I know in whose favor you would ridargue. I want to tell you that it is this strange thing called consciousness that I share with you. Your true being and mine emanated from the same source. You have your body which is exclusively yours. I have my body which is only mine. But if the lines on your hands are drawn to infinity, they would touch mine at some point. Imagine the longest line on your hand and stretch it in space until it touches my similarly stretched line.



A Street in Kamber


All that lives is holy, this line from a Steinbeck novel has stayed with me and has pushed me to think about primal consciousness. There is another word in Sindhi language which comes closest to what I mean by consciousness. It is Saah. It is pronounced Saa-hu, the hu is not with emphasis, the sound of u is only shallow. Saah literally means breath. I do not know its exact etymology, but I associate very deep meanings with this word which are more metaphysical than physical in nature. Last year when I was in Berlin, I was looking for bookshops which sold German books in English. I was roaming around in the streets. I stopped at the pavement for a while to smoke a cigarette and as I inhaled, I spotted an old man standing beside me at some distance with a walking stick in his hand. It seemed as if he was also looking around for some place. Suddenly I felt a very strong human connection with that old man. It was not because, based on my assumption, we were both looking for something or because I felt pity for his frailty or meekness. I felt that connection by virtue of a single thought, which was this: our source is one. The deep-rooted religious myth of us and them vanished and I did not feel myself estranged in the new city. It is this same connection that I feel for you, a primal human connection, disregarding your gender, untainted by prejudices of language, religion, race, sect, nationality, unaffected by desires of the body, a pure, virgin, human connection. But I would not hide one true thing which I felt when you asked me to write. My organism treated your request as a sapiosexual command, and it told me that the obeyance of the order would give me pleasure. The place where I am writing to you from is my birthplace. These days, with the summer at its peak, the streets seem to be made of fires. The eye of the sky is ruthlessly looking at the inhabitants. There is no solace even in shade. I would say though that looked at objectively, the shade heat could be compared to embrace of your lover. My father often jokes about mechanics of relationship that a person might have with his aunts. He says if your maternal aunt kills you, she would throw your corpse in the blazing sun but your paternal aunt if she kills you would throw your poor corpse in the shade. Only after six in the evening does the sun sheaths its weapon.  O Fire! be thou cool on Ibrahim becomes O Fire! Be thou cool on Adam.  Most people here sleep in their courtyards under the open sky. The sleep comes slowly as people lay in hopes for a cool breeze. The breeze comes in like a reluctant harlot and abhorring its suitors runs away. I stare at the sky thinking what will happen to this consciousness when God has wrapped this universe like a newly cleaned sheet and put it in the wardrobe until the limits of my mind take me to sleepland with their hopeless lullabies. I am and will be a sharer of

Your Consciousness,




Stairs in Kamber

On How I Walk

In retrospect, I have often tried to repress some of the views I have had. I have tried to deny that I ever subscribed to them because they now seem archaic to me. I also feel that they were not my real views but acquired by my impressionable naive mind. But isn’t all knowledge acquired? Isn’t original creation rare? It is acceptable that I discard some views because they were old-fashioned but I should not disregard them simply because I got them from someone else. The only thing I like about the social platforms is that I can use them as a projection of my stream of consciousness. Especially twitter where I do not have many followers and which is not in vogue in my circle of offline friends, acquaintances and co-workers, therefore there is no risk of being pretentious.  I blurt out whatever comes to my mind but then I tell myself I can do that on my phone’s note taking app as well, why do I have to project it on a social site. I have come to the conclusion that I want limelight on my thoughts. I consciously I want that but since I am very careful about appearances I do not want people to see me as pretentious, so Twitter is the answer; my thoughts lie there on the world stage and a stray limelight can pass over sometimes, they lie in the vicinity of attention. But over the last year I have not been satisfied with this condition. I should be content with my thoughts gestating in my own mind or offline until they are mature enough to be expounded. I have realized that the continuous use of the social media applications has made me impatient. No sooner does an interesting thought appears in the space of my mind than I think of sharing it online. There is nothing wrong with this but it puts an end to the curiosity. It gives finality to the thought, it doesn’t push me to think further. It does not let me wonder about the origin of that thought or the reliability of that thought. The first reaction to any thought is whether it would impress people, whether the ingenuity of these words would garner appreciation from my friends. This is not conducive to my efforts to think through, to think deeply, to analyze, to be curious. I am just like any other teenager who is obsessed with putting up her face and food and pet and everything else on the social sites. I would not be concerned if I were actually doing some deep thinking. I am concerned because nothing is happening. I am in a limbo. I strayed off to uses of social sites because I wanted to mention that I once put up such a thought about my life right after it came to me on my Facebook feed. It was this:

my autobiography

                                                                  0 to 19: oblivion

                                                                 19 to 22: mimesis

                                                                 22 to 24: delusion

                                                                 24 to 26: pretense

At the beginning of this monologue I was referring to the views which I held when I was in the delusion phase of my life. I was happy that I had split my life so far in such distinct phases. I keep thinking about these categorizations and I have realized that post-26 I keep moving on this spectrum of mimesis-delusion-pretense. What I am now into is a mix of all these. But one thing that I am confident of is that I am not in oblivion. I am very keen to know more and more every passing moment. But this triptych is still following me. Do you know who you really are? The person that you are is made of many identities which have developed over time. If you start analyzing all these identities you would find that they are made by acquisition and adaptation of ideas which were not really yours. You either unknowingly adopted them or were forced to. When I did this I asked myself what is my real identity then? In the movie Doctor Zhivago based on an epic novel by Boris Pasternak a character proudly exclaims: ‘scratch a Russian and you’ll find a peasant!’. I asked myself what would I find if I scratched myself. Metaphorically of course. What if I find nothing and I am afraid that I might find nothing because I know myself to be a mimic. I copy others so unconsciously I do not even realize. One interesting example is my gait. I am sure nobody has noticed my gait but if an interested observer might look into me she would notice that my gait is a combination of the people around me whom I meet daily or whom I work with. When I realized that I have been unconsciously following how other people walk and copying them I was shocked. Why would I do that. I am not impressed by those people. My single criteria of regarding people as impressive or not is the quality of their minds, I am very confident about that. But copying people’s gaits? Really? I could not reconcile my unconscious actions with my known conscious convictions. Like one person I copied walks slowly as if with some effort and he slouches a little. Now why would I mimic such an unattractive style of walking. I know that when I am walking consciously I am very quick and take hurried steps because someone had told me once that’s how you look important (again an acquired idea).  I also remember that I have unconsciously copied hand gestures and some phrases from other people too. The point is that this mimicry of physical attributes is not that important, the intellectual, moral, and mental attributes are. There I should be me. What that me is I am still thinking about. But I also understand that the definition of me does not have to be constant. In fact in the modern world, the more fluid it is the more antifragile it can become. I am still learning what that definition is. So, scratch and find.









Cosmic Shadows


blood moon

Lunar Eclipse ~ 27th July 2018 ~ As observed from Hingol National Park, Balochistan


Thy shadow, Earth, from Pole to Central Sea,
Now steals along upon the Moon’s meek shine
In even monochrome and curving line
Of imperturbable serenity.

How shall I link such sun-cast symmetry
With the torn troubled form I know as thine,
That profile, placid as a brow divine,
With continents of moil and misery?

And can immense Mortality but throw
So small a shade, and Heaven’s high human scheme
Be hemmed within the coasts yon arc implies?

Is such the stellar gauge of earthly show,
Nation at war with nation, brains that teem,
Heroes, and women fairer than the skies?

Thomas Hardy




All that lives is holy

We look for light in the

heart of darkness

We believe it resides

in opaque wombs

waiting to be born

by those who wish to see

like the promise of life

 in ornamented tombs

Light of heavens and earth

in a niche with a lamp in a glass

lit from the oil of a tree

neither of east nor west






you witnessed your creation

organ by organ,

sense by sense,

as bone fused into bone

godly matter filled your vessel

like water flowing downhill

as nerve merged into nerve

consciousness was formed

like a frictional spark

as gene ate a gene

destiny drew its maps

it was the best dream