I was sitting in the balcony writing a poem, and I remember it was drizzling. At 7 am on the 1st of March 2005, Karachi looked beautiful in the surreal way it does when it's raining. That sounds pretentious, but is exactly how it was. Calm in a way that felt like a silence had descended on the otherwise loud streets around our house. I sat there with my cup of tea, the psuedo-intellectual wannabe poet at 14, trying to pen down some words that would save the day in my memory. And I won't ever forget it. Not because of the poem itself. I wrote many of those, and somehow forgot when or how or why or where I'd written them. But the time I wrote this one poem became a day that would forever stay in my life.
I didn't know what to think, because I had thought they would bring him back. He always came back. I knew he wasn't well, but I never knew how unwell he really was. So I thought it was just another day like the ones we'd been having for the past year and a half. Hospital, home, hospital, home, hospital, home. I sat there writing and thinking about what to cook for dinner, because Mama was too tired to do it after she came back from all those hours in the hospital.
She came back home for a few hours, and then returned. Her mind was somewhere else, but then again, where could it be with her husband in the hospital? She was always distracted in those days, so it wasn't out of the ordinary. She was lost more than she had been before, but I didn't see it.
At 11:30 pm S aunty called, telling me that he was asking for us. I was going to find out later that he hadn't been asking, or rather, couldn't ask anymore. But you tell a little white lie to children, because you want to spare their fragility. She came to get us, trying to make small talk awkwardly. Baita khaanay mein kya khaaya? Poora dinn kya kiya? School kaisa jaa raha hai? She seemed intent on erasing the time and the situation. Just your usual 1 am drive with a family friend four times your age, happens all the time.
I walked in and they were all there. Mama was leaning against the wall outside the CCU, crying. I didn't know what the acronym stood for, and I was too distracted watching my mother in tears. I had never seen her cry before. The moment I walked in, I saw him lying on a bed looking helpless and vulnerable; two things I had never thought Baba could or would ever be. I didn't even know the disease that was killing him. The shock of it was more for me than his imminent death. I broke down, but more out of the stress of the situation than grief. They were asking Mama to sign away his life, and I could see her battling with her heart over it. She wasn't even sure if his life was hers to give away. But they told her that it would save him pain, because he would never come back the way she knew him.
Then he was gone. The four of us stood there as they loaded him into a van. It still wouldn't hit me, not for days. Then one day it would, and I would blame myself. Mama would blame me sometimes too. I couldn't understand that she did it from a place of loss herself, because my poetry hadn't achieved the depth that had the ability to grasp those emotions yet.
I've been told there is nothing poetic about death. But the only one I knew had all the drama of death as I thought of it. The skies wept, and I couldn't muster a tear.
That night we were torn apart, and we have spent the years since trying to piece ourselves back.
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
I have been tired.
of your ways and the
slow toll that being part of you
takes when I try my best to
I have been tired and beaten
snd weary and nearly
broken by the way you are cruel,
the way you seem not to care
because you go on and so should i,
And there is no room for those who try
to Wait and Watch.
you have moved me to poetry
and you have moved me to tears-
almost convinced me that I would
not look back again
that I could walk away from
nostalgia strewn in the lanes of
these things have an uncanny knack
of being utterly wrong because
what doesn’t start in my gut,
a notion that will not tug at
the strings of my heart
will hardly change what is
in my blood.
these smells, these trees,
still alien, still unknown.
you refuse to make room
and I cannot coerce you.