Xoxo & Goodbyes

One of my foremen used to wear a premium, jet black baseball cap with silvery bold letters ‘xoxo’ printed right on its front. The first time he wore it to my office, i studied his face for any sign of humor but all I could find was his usual, blissfully ignorant, childlike morning smile. From that day on, everytime he visited me, which was a lot of times in a day since he is my direct subordinate, I would find myself smiling. Our conversations would go something like:

Foreman: Salam Sir

I: Wassalam come sadaqat noticing the silvery xoxo and beaming ear to ear

Foreman: Sir you seem to be quite happy these days. You’re getting married, I suppose?

I: Not really. It’s just your cap. I like it.

Foreman: Sir the moment I saw it yesterday in a jumble sale in Attock, I knew I had to buy it. Looks good on me, sir. Doesn’t it?

I: Yes it does. It does still smiling like crazy

Foreman: But sir you don’t smile like that, I smell something fishy.

I: It’s just that I haven’t seen you wearing anything fancy like that before. You got taste.

The man has just proceeded for retirement a couple of weeks before and the office is not the same anymore. As I go in to work each day and look at the sea of dull, weary faces around, I miss that refreshing child-like grin under the silvery xoxo front of a black baseball cap. I hope that smile, wherever it is, keeps shining through all the dullness around.


Sb Maaya Hai

Yeh ishq bhi ajeeb hai
Kabhi saccha kabhi jhooṭa
Donon taraf se mann mera mann tera looṭa

The song Sb Maaya Hai catches attention with its generous understanding that love essentially remains armed with its characteristic capability to devastate whether or not it’s ‘true’. With it’s rather surprising opening, it calls into question the conventional connotations of ‘true’ and ‘false’ love, tacitly implying that they are but meaningless, irrelevant adjectives that don’t and can’t dampen the severity and vulnerability called love. The song might come as strangely uplifting to anyone who has ever engaged in a love that didn’t eventually turn out to be the ‘ultimate’, and hence what’s conventionally known to be ‘true’, love. The importance placed on the singularity of the beloved in the journey of True Love is perhaps overamplified; love can still be true (or if we discard the meaningless adjective, love can still be love) if each beloved is thought of as a step in a thousand miles journey, a moment in an infinity, a vanishing mirage giving way to a new one in a distance, along the same path.

I like to think I haven’t overanalyzed the lyrics. Here’s the link to Coke Studio’s version of the song:

Baal-e-Jibreel I

Baal-e-Jibreel, put simply, is Iqbal’s monologue with God except that the persona they both take on is not the traditional, master’s and slave’s; but somewhat mystic, lover’s and beloved’s (though Iqbal is not to be confused with Sufi poets). The verses ooze with fierce, unintimidated love instead of respectful, humble worship. The first few odes that basically set the tone for the entire collection come out as quite aggressive. You feel the raging passion of a daring, cocky lover addressing his Beloved, telling Him that the obstacles in the way of love suit his adventure-thirsty nature just fine. If you wish to see how perfection borns out of the imperfect, you need to read the following couplets wherein a weak man can be seen to be begetting strong love. The stark contrast drawn between the guilty self of a man and yet the unapologetic love he is capable to experience is simply awe-inspiring. Understandably, the references to the biblical narrative of Adam and Eve, and good and evil, are numerous throughout the thread.

قصور وار ، غریب الدیار ہوں لیکن
ترا خرابہ فرشتے نہ کر سکے آباد

خطر پسند طبیعت کو ساز گار نہیں
وہ گلستاں کہ جہاں گھات میں نہ ہو صیاد

مقام شوق ترے قدسیوں کے بس کا نہیں
انھی کا کام ہے یہ جن کے حوصلے ہیں زیاد

As you read on, you know Iqbal is not an ordinary lover who is too wasted by passion to acknowledge reality. His extensive use of hyperbole and visual imagery, which is comparable to the ancient epics, does in no way make him depart from the subject which is exploration of self and God. Instead they empower him far beyond this by enabling him to take quick, pithy jabs at philosophical conundrums of his time. For instance, the wonderfully poetic way he addresses the contemporary problem of Zaat (Essence) Vs Siffaat (Attributes) is mind blowing. No wonder his daring takes (بت کدئہ صفات) have oft landed him in hot water with the religious establishment of his time.

میری نوائے شوق سے شور حریم ذات میں
غلغلہ ہائے الاماں بت کدئہ صفات میں

When it comes to ‘yearning’, Iqbal has a lot to say. Man’s yearning, as he sees it, has led to the creation of churches and synagogues and the same yearning has destroyed the idols of Kaaba and Somnaat. In a way, Iqbal is not-so-tacitly coining a similitude between God and Man – each engaged in a passionate cycle of creation and destruction to find the other.

گرچہ ہے میری جستجو دیر و حرم کی نقش بند
میری فغاں سے رستخیز کعبہ و سومنات میں

And here goes one of my most favorite couplets.

متاع بے بہا ہے درد و سوز آرزو مندی
مقام بندگی دے کر نہ لوں شان خداوندی

The universal tragedy of the inhabitants of the gray world that they don’t belong anywhere, could not be better put.

اپنے بھی خفا مجھ سے ہیں ، بیگانے بھی ناخوش
میں زہر ہلاہل کو کبھی کہہ نہ سکا قند

When yearning suffices the yearner, there’s hardly anything of substance that can be snatched of him, least of all, his happiness.

ہر حال میں میرا دل بے قید ہے خرم
کیا چھینے گا غنچے سے کوئی ذوق شکر خند!

And a sweet end to the daring opening part of the book.

چپ رہ نہ سکا حضرت یزداں میں بھی اقبال
کرتا کوئی اس بندہ گستاخ کا منہ بند!

The Grey World – II

I’ll pick up from where I left in my last blog.

The grey world, I’m beginning to realise, is more like a black hole – As vast as a universe in itself yet invisible to the external eye. Those who enter it, never come out. And somewhere along the way, they lose regard for what’s white/ one/ light/ virtue because it holds no proprietary right on the Golden Rule which is quite fair; only too far from what’s conventional and orthodox.

It sometimes puts me in awe how brimming with meaning our world is, or can be if we really choose to notice. There are small truths floating all over in space, conforming or denying each other yet remaining truths in their own right. Think of all the religions as small, contradicting truths, for example, or libertarian vs authoritarian ideologies, republicans vs democrats, darwinism vs creationism, or science vs religion etc. So many of them to put us in awe. So much contradictory to put us in awe. Where do we find the golden rule that weaves them all together. More and more people are realizing that the uncharted spaces between non-conforming truths need to be explored. We can see efforts being made. I just discovered Broadly’s documentary ‘Inside the Weird World of an Islamic Feminist Cult’ which is basically a group of Islamic creationists led by Mr Oktar who claims to be the first Imam to introduce his followers to feminism. People are scared of him; some find him rather ‘weird’ (as the title of the documentary suggests); even I find his kittens hilarious but I appreciate him for exploring the no-go area between traditional Islam and modern feminism, trying to modify each to bring them into harmony.

Clearly Oktar has lost association with and regard for traditional Islam so much as for modern feminism, in hope of finding the middle ground. It can’t be said as of now if he has discovered the golden rule yet but one thing is for sure: he is never going to lapse back to either. So I guess he is a man trapped in a black hole. Kudos to him and everybody else exploring the grey world.


‘Inside the Weird World of an Islamic Feminist Cult’ documentary link: https://youtu.be/7bH21w2R0hc

The Grey World

The concept of the grey world was first explained to me by a doctor of philosophy I came across rather coincidentally, when I was a morbid radical undergrad who had just begun to look for alternative paths to The Meaning. I remember what a pain it was to listen to him the first time. He was surrounded by his disciples who I would later come to describe as ‘cultists’ which held true for every definition of the term except that they would conveniently leave if they deemed it better, and the cult, given its fundamental principle of intellectual freedom, would make no tantrum or effort to hold them back (quite a thing for a radical associated with a highly possessive, volatile organization). I carefully listened to him, disagreed with him strongly and finally gave in to his eloquence, authority, reason but far more importantly, his history. It ‘felt’ like he traveled the same road as I did, only twenty years ahead of me. As i look back, it feels to be the greatest irony of my life that I chose the path of ‘reason’ because an ‘intuition’ told me so. Perhaps it was the first grey of my life, the grey between the black and white of reason and intuition, that eventually opened up the grey universe for me.

It took me quite long to embrace the ideal of greyness that suggests that there exists murkiness between black and white which isn’t necessarily a wrong as opposed to right/sin as opposed to virtue/falseness as opposed to truth/ or zero as opposed to one. In a way, it made the job trickier because it directly implied that if there is such a thing as a ‘golden rule’ in this mayhem of a universe – a rule that would streamline all its contradictions and bring them into harmony, then there is a possibility that such a rule may exist NOT in the light of its whites but the murkiness of its greys.

The grey world, I’m beginning to realise, is more like a black hole – As vast as a universe in itself yet invisible to the external eye. Those who enter it, never come out. And somewhere along the way, they lose regard for what’s white/ one/ light/ virtue because it holds no proprietary right on the Golden Rule which is quite fair; only too far from what’s conventional and orthodox.

The black-hole similitude for the grey world leaves much to say. Signing off for now. Cheers.

A Beautiful Mind

My aunt is a lovely human being who I find smiling all the time. She graduated in genetic engineering from KU with a first-class-first (gold medal) back in ’80s and was appointed as research officer in a top notch government department right after. The tragedy of her life was that one of her series of breakthrough researches on cancer was published by her professor under her own name. My phupho was an empowered, independent and vocal woman who didnt know giving up so she decided to fight back. But when she protested, she was harassed and terrorised by her professor’s hooligans. My papa was a well-built martial artist and remembers having broken quite some wrists when they bullied her with knives. But then papa wasn’t always around, and after a continual torture that lasted for around a year and consisted of phupho been catcalled in the streets when she left for work, physically attacked and harassed, she finally shattered like glass one day and only whithered with time. Now she spends most of her time reading, confined in one of the many rooms of my father’s house. When I was young, I remember having rich conversations with her on topics like plants, God, astronomy and of course biology, her favorite. So this time round, as I got a spare day or two from my job, I came over to visit her and had a nice and warm chit chat. She often trailed off like always, spoke of mysterious terminologies all the while letting a beautiful, beautiful smile play on her lips. So I put it all down on paper to keep it safe, forever.

So phupho, when did you graduate from KU?
We simply count LITE. It is said that in calendar, there are impacts with different worlds like shaker, anti-aging English world. Salts can favor us regarding this world. They say if you are load conservative, they will only tell you about calendar year. For example, you’re following blade platinum, press, brass or bronze plate which can also peep in your grid planted at your residence. If you are load conservative, reflecting yourself as a symbol, we will count you that you are represented by calendar of brass, bronze or simply paper telling you about either advertisements, sceneries, transparencies and different historical spots. Tourism too tells us about different spots for tours. Then we will tell you symbol is introduced with calendar i.e brass, bronze or paper. Usually on calendar it’s given that this calendar is produced with association of chemicals.

If you get a choice to live in either Karachi or Rahim Yar Khan, what would you opt for?
Admirably we would want to live in Karachi. Its a city of lights. Karachi is a city of lights (sparkly eyes). While RYK is z-cap.

Where did you get your primary schooling from?
I was first admitted into Presentation Convent School, Rawalpindi. Later the school was converted to Cantonment Public School. Rawalpindi was a source. From there we had previously planned to shift to Karachi. We planned to move to karachi because it was the city of lights. (Sparkly eyes, again)

How old were you when you moved to Karachi?
Rawalpindi simply counts how you stepped on this planet. Chemicals are volatile, they favor you, considering us age-less. They always ask us if we have knowledge about calendars, clocks, watches; i can favor you. You must learn about magnetic fields, watches, clocks, calendars, horsepower. For reading calendar, you have to have knowledge about working on barrels. For reading clocks, you have to learn magnetic fields and horsepower.

Where in Rawalpindi did you live?
We lived in our own palace; Paramount Palace. At sources there was only Paramount Palace. Later, there were many people who introduced their chips at Rawalpindi.

Potato chips?
(Smiling) No, chips of different planets.

Okay, so how far was Saddar from your place?
Sorry, i don’t quite remember.

Do you remember anything about Rawalpindi?
Any type of research which was related with recent hapenings alongwith need or requirement. We used to open our showrooms. There we used to sit for research and also used to collect our needs and requirements. Later after collecting it, we used to lock our showroom.

How was Rawalpindi back in 1980s?
We have not visited Rawalpindi. Once there was a tour, managed by university. In those days, i had viewed Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

Do you have any memory about the twin cities?
No i just viewed the city from bus. We visited University of Islamabad, i just recalled.

Why couldn’t you remember it for the first time? Was that a faint memory?
University said that tour bus would give you a ride through the city. You could only view the city from the running bus. Later we went to the univeristy. It will entertain you and give you hints for charming a bright future, will also give you hints of enchantments which can grab you if you strike them. It will favor your bright future but you must not forget that we will not tell you about any hymn or prayer or any type of words given by scientists or monks and nuns but tell you about chemicals, dessicate high chemicals which are evaporated due to heat. This heat can grab you, will reflect itself as a disease like heat stroke as that you can simply follow your laboratory research. When you have knowledge about dessication of salts, how can we collect volatiles in laboratory? How can we consume volatiles for research? Someone had expired because her spirit had left her body. Instead you worked on dessication of high salts and absorb yourself as a student.

Did you watch television?
In those days, we have memory about channels simply on letters, codes, literature, mining and music. They usually tell us that it looks that each and everything is in our hands but it itself is simply a box, music box.

Where Earth meets the Sky

Three kilometers into the x-country, i decided it was time to gear up the pace. I looked up at the pacer to my left to check if he was ready for the blast. Raja had just taken his shirt off letting the September sun wash over his sculpted torso, his abdominal muscles gleaming like rippling waves of bronze and his pace perfectly locked with mine with the kind of natural synchronicity that I had doubted before could even exist. In the agony of a race, it was a delight to look at him – his body leaning forward, neck craning slightly ahead of his shoulders and gaze fixated firmly on the dirt ground that rolled beneath us in a flurry – he was strong and steady and didn’t seem like giving up anytime soon. Neither did I.

Ever since i had discovered him, Raja ran like that. And I have always marveled at his style which is beautiful, child-like and allows him to run fiercely fast. Out of hundreds of people I have run and competed with over the years, he seems to be the only guy who reminds me of Pre. The same lightning quick starts, mid race burnouts and the devil-may-care attitude once the race gun fires. But so long as he is running, there’s no denying the fact that he is a moving, huffing and puffing masterpiece.

I am a big believer in the fact that where you look at in your run tells a great deal about who you are in life. And if it’s true, Raja, with his eyes always dug into the rolling dirt trail beneath him, in fact, is an earthrunner. Humble, generous, caring and easy to be friends with. I, on the other hand, am a skyrunner. Cocky, cold, private and aloof. And how the two of us can get along so well in a x-country run is a fascinating mystery that I might never be able to solve.