27 April, 2009

The Fire That Plagued Our Lives Forever

5th November 2007, it was 9:00 pm when I, along with my family, watched an Indian soap opera. My house had been undergoing renovation since 15 days. From furniture to wall paints, everything was being changed. Recently it was the lounge which was being painted, so the whole house appeared messy and disorganized, which irritated me! And to add on to my frustration, I hadn’t learnt a word of the test I had the next day. It was the 3rd hourly of my community service course which had a lot of theory to memorize. So, as a trailer broke the continuity of the show, I left dad’s room; where everyone was watching TV, and headed towards my own room. The internet was not working so I had to feed all the test data onto my cell phone. My frustration was growing proportionally with the passage of time - after all I was a 'freshie' first year student, and the number of competitive cells in my blood still outranked the number of slacking cells within me. I was trying to learn the hourly content from my phone when mum came to my room to give me dinner. It was mince meat; I didn’t like it. I made a face which showed my distaste and refused to eat. She forced me that I had to eat some of it, and placing the plate on my bedside table, she left. I went back to reading the text on my phone.

I could hear the twins in the kitchen, asking mum if they could eat their Cornetto’s then. I didn’t hear mum’s reply but I am guessing she must have agreed, for the next thing I heard was mum blaring from the kitchen, asking me if I wanted my ice-cream now or latter. I replied that I didn’t want it now. The soap opera had ended till that time and I could hear its ending melody loud and clear. I also heard dad asking mum for a cup of tea. It was a conventional practice in my house to take tea after dinner, though there were only two people who would consume it at that hour, and it was me and dad. Mum never asked me for tea; the muddy beverage was what coursed through my veins, she knew very well. Yet she came, to see if I had eaten. Her face fell once she saw the untouched plate.
"I dont want to eat!" I shouted, irritated, "Leave me alone!"
"What’s the purpose of making so much food when no one wants to eat it?" She mumbled, taking away the plate. I made an I-don’t-care face as mum left my room. Really, if you ask me now, I really don’t know what was wrong with me; evidently I was mean and self-centered, but more than that, I was a person who took everything for granted. At this point, let me assure you, it was not a war-like situation there. It was normal; I skipped meals all the time, so it wasn’t something unusual. As she left the room I continued to stare at my cell phone. I had an earphone plugged into one of my ears whose other end was attached to my brand new radio device which mum had gifted to me. As soon as the Bryan Adam’s ‘Summer of 69’ ended, the next thing I heard was a blood-curdling scream from a voice which was doubtlessly my mother’s.

If memory serves me right, then I’d say that only half a minute must have passed from the time mum left my room to the time I heard the scream. The voice grew louder as I jumped to my feet– dropping my phone on the floor, separating its battery and back cover from its thick black body. I didn’t stop to pick it up, I just ran out of the room, and as I reached near the kitchen, it seemed like my heart stopped at the sight before my eyes. What happens with me is that my mind tends to stop working in traumatic situations. I don’t understand, don’t register anything at all. So for 2 seconds I stood there absolutely numb! My body was rock hard and ice cold; as if I was paralyzed. Then suddenly I felt my senses rushing back to life. Clearly, my dad and my brother had responded to the screams quicker than I had, as they had reached before me. I saw three people in that place, just outside the kitchen arch. The air was thick with carbon, and a massive fire was smoldering before my eyes, burning the flesh of my mother. I still remember what she was wearing that day. The blue-coloured nylon surrounding her body was melting away quickly; like plastic. My brother and dad were trying to extinguish the fire with a huge red velvet blanket. I hastily grabbed one end of the blanket and helped in putting out the fire which was spreading quickly through out my mother’s body. At that moment, I saw from the corner of my eye that my eleven-year-old twin sisters were trying to approach us. I shouted at them to get back. At the same time dad also ordered them to stand far away, so they did as they were asked to do.

The fire was uncontrollable but after constant struggle of the three of us, we were able to snuff it out. As soon as we did that, mum collapsed on the blanket that we just dropped on the floor. She was silent but conscious. I saw myself falling on my knees, uttering incomplete questions, one after the other, in such urgency that it was incomprehensible. My brother ran downstairs to back the car out of the driveway so that we could go to the hospital, while dad reached out for his phone to ask my grandparents to urgently reach at the hospital where we were headed. The only hope which filled my heart at that moment was the idea that my mum was conscious and speaking to me. She didn’t answer to any of the questions I had asked, instead she told me to bring her a night suit which was loose enough to not touch her damaged skin. I ran into her room, towards the closet, but none of my senses were functioning properly. I was looking straight at the night suit section of her closet but I could not seem to spot any. I repeated again and again, ‘I can’t find it… I can’t find it’, until I found one. I then helped her change in a sitting position at the very place she had falled; under the archway of my kitchen entrance. The parts of the nylon dress which had caught fire appeared like remains of melted plastic, so hard and stiff on her skin that I had to use a pair of scissor to separate it from my mother’s body. It was the last time I felt my mother's fragile body, the last time I helped her in a task, a task which was ever so painful. After I changed her, I helped her up on her feet to leave for the hospital. She placed her hand around my wobbly shoulder and we walked the last walk of our lives, together. I thought to myself; it was wrong, she was too young, young enough to stand on her own feet and guide me through life. she still had a long way to go, I would always be there for her but right now she had to be there for me. Indeed she was damaged; her skin was torn in patches, exposing her bare, skinless, pink flesh. It was bad, very bad, but not so bad that I would even think of questioning her survival. I was absolutely sure that she is going to recover from the burns and it’s just a matter of time till everything is back to normal. I was not being hopeful, I was being realistic, because from what I saw she was superficially burnt but her internal organs appeared fine.

She walked till the car, all the while talking to me, she was breathing fine and nothing internally seemed to be wrong. We reached the Agha khan hospital and she was taken inside the ward in a wheel chair. Every passers by was staring at her. My mother, who was the pageant of beauty a few hours ago, was being stared at for the artifical ugliness of her burnt skin. But that was less heartbreaking than what I overheard a doctor say to another. According to him, that day was a drama day, as their hospital was receiving so many dramatic cases. That smirk which the two doctors exchanged forced me to believe how my mother was being an object of entertainment for others. Anyway, my fingers were burnt too, from snuffing out the fire that plagued our lives, they did not look as bad as my dad’s fingers though. Those fingers were swelling quickly, and so was my mother’s body inside the emergency ward; unattended and alone. It was after several hours that the hospital management told us that they don’t have a burn’s unit, and all this time, they were just providing my mother a mere first aid. Furious but helpless, we shifted her to Patel Hospital, which we later discovered specialized in treating burnt patients. My mother was unconscious by that time and was transported to the other hospital in an ambulance. I sat at the front seat of the ambulance with my mother laying at the back. Everything had settled into my mind by then, I was prepared for what was coming; which according to me was dressing and undressing my mother, helping her eat, drink and walk all her life. I was prepared to give up on everything, whatever it took, to help her get back to life again, but I never got that chance. She passed away after struggling for a day and a half at Patel hospital, where we were told by the doctors that the internal burning of my mother’s lungs was supposed to be stopped right away. Had we not wasted precious hours at Agha khan and brought her straight to their hospital, a life would have been saved, my mother would have been saved, but we wasted a lot of time and it was too late.

Ever since the night I left my house, with my mother’s hand on my shoulder, I don’t find any traits of my old self with in me. After the funeral when I came back to the house, I realized how much everything had changed. I felt like a stranger in my own house. I didn’t know anything, yet I was questioned for everything. I had no idea how to react; the sudden change from being a kid to being a motherly figure didn’t seem to settle in my mind, although the circumstance made sure that it settles in my mind rather quickly. My little sisters looked up to me and from being a person taking everything as granted, I found myself being taken as granted. I was transformed completely, from being loved to being an embodiment of love for others, from being selfish to being selfless, from being careless to being a care giver. The minced meat dinner which was handed to me in my room was the last of its kind. After that day, all my dinners were cooked and severed to me by myself, and I was sure to hear no voice forcing me to have my dinners, even if I starved myself to death. My mother’s death reshaped my whole life.

23 April, 2009

“We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another.”

I was actually thinking of writing about the upcoming shape of Pakistan under the rule of half baked barbaric alims commonly termed as ‘Talibans’. In case you are not following, I shall tell; considerable changes, for worse, have occurred presently. Here is a proof for the heart that beseeches truth, and that is; as I spell taliban in lower case on Microsoft word, it instantly showed a red line and gave me the corrected version of this word, which is with a capital T. ‘Taliban!’—So, even Microsoft word acknowledges them! Isn’t that a message?
The internet sphere is chock-full with a little more than a gazillion number of articles which have talked about the miseries that the outbreak of talibans in Pakistan would cause. That is, if it manages to exist—I mean the country itself! But that’s another story. So, coming back, is there any good in writing about them, the talibans? After all, my babbling about them would just add on to the number of those articles published every minute. I see you nod in agreement... good choice… so I’ll stop right here. No purpose after all. However, since I have already wasted some time here; taking out my inner frustration about them, I would like to proceed for a few more lines. At this point I should tell you; the music I had been listening to for quite sometime has already reduced to something more like noise, and my day which started off pretty well has pulled me down as it growing darker here, so I guess no more harm can be done. The worse is already here! Anyways, so there is a question that’s irritating me. If anyone could explain it to me or just explain it to themselves! The question is that if our day of dying is written by God; like they say it is, and if we are to leave everything on God, then why is that He, our God, has chosen an average life span of 90 years for people living is Japan, and just about 40 years of life for people living in Afghanistan? Why so much… errm, should I say, inequality?
Yes, now you are seeing it right; indeed there is something tremendously wrong in our perception. What we are making out of this very best of religions is definitely not what it stipulates. We have surely messed it up, or should I say, they, the interpreters have messed it up?

21 April, 2009

“Courage is the power to let go of the familiar.... The normal”

‘Don’t you sometimes think you are not…umm… all normal?’ she questioned slightly hesitating. I unleashed an agreeing grin, because I knew I was not normal in that very moment. I was happy; after all, for once in many days I was being myself; which is anything but normal. It came as a surprise to myself as well, for how comfortable I felt in her company-- contrasting a great deal with my conventional self which is pretty uncomfortable with people I don’t get to meet often. That’s one reason I hate public gatherings, weddings and places where I am required to meet or communicate with people in order to please them or please myself. They are right when they say ‘everything considered, work is less boring than amusing ones self!' It puts you in that pressure situation where you try hard and sometimes too hard to fit in, that you make a fool out of yourself. Generally, people do like fools, so in a way you have succeeded at your attempt of fitting in! Nobody likes to be left out anyway, I wouldn’t like it too. So here you see I am in a state of confusion. But I am not going to reach at a final conclusion to place myself into the confined periphery of a small word like ‘unsociable’ because I am not one! I do just fine at gatherings as any other sociable person would do. I see I have confused you, so let’s give you a word to live with, just for now; so call me ‘moody’— but don’t settle yourself with this word, as I assure you, it’s something greater than mere mood swings.

So we were talking about normality which if you ask me superficially, is lack of passion, enthusiasm, and eagerness. Normal people are bound by the laws of sanity, and for myself, I would like to be free in a world which is constantly trying to limit ones freedom from every possible angle. So much that our conscious mind doesn’t even realize it. Being normal it self is restricting our individuality in order to fulfill societal expectations of ourselves. Everywhere, every single place we go, our minds are dressed with the idea of being accepted. We want to be accepted so we kill ourselves, kill our identities and are reduced to the idea of being normal, likeable people. If Darwin’s theory of evolution is to be true, then I can safely say that our minds, due to the lack of its individualistic use, have lost its special ingredient. It has become so ‘used to’ of working with the presumed in-built commands that it is reduced to a deal where it has lost the unique ingredient with which it was furnished previously. But that’s only if the theory of evolution is true, so relax you guys!

So, Am I advocating here that being normal is bad and being weird, defiant, and strange is good? Am I saying that conforming to societal values which bind us to the laws of morality is bad? And sharing other people’s line of thoughts and making them laugh at social gatherings is absurdly humiliating ones own self? No, I am not advocating any of that. All I am saying is to not waste your lives taking yourselves as normal people, because that will take you nowhere. Discover yourself and the first step in doing so is to have the courage to expose your ‘not-normal’ self to at least yourself, if not others.

“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” – Oscar Wild

19 April, 2009

“She laughs at my dreams, but I dream about her laughter.”

‘Dreams’… we all have them! It acts as a driving force which gives us reason enough to look forward and start a new day. Dreams can’t be just random fantasies which lay there, in the back of your mind and you pull it out every once in a while. You need to closely dichotomize the two of them. Fanaticizing is more like a shot in the air. If it reaches the target- good enough, and if it doesn’t, in that case, your fantasy either fades away or you find a new one. But dreams are different. Fulfillments of dreams mean hitting the bull’s eye not by chance but by sincerely working out your way towards the objective. It needs courage, persistence and a God-like passion for your dreams to materialize. Make sure about passion and the rest two will join you in the way.

“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” Oprah Winfrey

Three years from now, sitting with a bunch of friends under the roof of a much loved institution I spoke out about one of my dreams which then; being so impossible to turn into reality, was practically laughed off on my face. I didn’t mind though, because I was aware of the impossibilities… but I still headed towards it, because that was all I had to ask. I didn’t want anything else... it was just that...impossible but irreplaceable too. I believe that an action separated from its cause is not only useless but also meaningless, and my every action had its root in the cause; which was her. What I am advocating here is not chasing impossibilities, but knowing that you are passionate enough to take your dreams forward on your own, which means to fail a million times and to look into the eyes of rejection and aim to try again not because you are persistent, and irritatingly selfish about your dreams, but because your whole life is about this! Yes, I know what I am saying here, I am prioritizing passion over persistence.

‘Above all, be true to yourself, and if you cannot put your heart in it, take yourself out of it.’-Anonymous

Knowing her was the major premise of my dream which had many offsprings with time. I got to know her, and then one after another my dreams associated with the offsprings of the mother dream started to turn into reality. All this wasn't as easy as it may sound now, but if anyone wants my word here then I’d say passion, persistence, patience and honest devotion are the key elements which if stirred together, with all your heart, will surely turn your dreams into reality.