Distant Together

At the crack of dawn, far across the river, Ahiya can sense the microphone turning on in a mosque near her village. Within seconds the Azaan will start, the early morning call to prayer.

She lightly rubs her eyes and leaps out of bed. It’s Eid today!

Ahiya goes out of her bedroom cheerfully, half expecting to see her parents in the living area. She gives herself a low-spirited smile when she finds no one in the house. It was her decision to move to a new country, not theirs.

She has set up a cozy home for herself in a faraway Western land. All her life, she was told to educate herself and be successful. Success was to move to a first world country to fulfill your dreams. This was considered to be the ultimate achievement in life. People who get a job and move to the West were revered by families in her home town.

Ahiya grew up with the same dreams and hopes that some day, she will make herself and her family proud by chasing those dreams. Now, her dreams have come true. Then, why is she not happy? Nobody told her that life would never be the same. Nobody told her that the sense of belonging would be lost. Nobody told her how lonely she would feel and that she would be thousands of miles away from her family.

Ahiya shakes her head and dismisses away the thoughts. Today the distance will not come in her way of celebrating one of her most favorite festivals. Eid is the day on which loved ones come together to pray and embrace each other. It is the day of charity, of being grateful, and of forgiveness. Also of course, it is the day of feasting on exquisite, delicious food.

Enthusiastically, Ahiya starts prepping for the day while eating her morning oatmeal. She glides through the kitchen, gathering all the ingredients that she will need for today’s elaborate feast. She turns on the radio, listens to songs and starts chopping vegetables recalling the pleasant childhood memories.

There is always incessant chatter and sound of music in the air during Eid in her hometown. Kids run around the house, grandparents talk loudly on the phones wishing relatives, ma is always busy in the kitchen preparing multiple dishes, and baba does all the other house chores while also entertaining and taking care of the children. In the background, the tape recorder fills the air with music from Sabri Brothers and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.

Ahiya’s fond memory of this day is peeling off mehendi from her palms. The first thing to do on every morning of Eid. A curiosity to find out how dark the color of the mehendi on her palm has turned out to be. Once all the mehendi flakes were off, she rubbed coconut oil on her palms and went up running to her amma and baba to show them her orange-colored palms. More than the color she enjoyed watching their faces light up with pride and joy.

Back in the kitchen, Ahiya hums along with the songs on the radio and marinates the chicken, roasts dry fruits in ghee for the dessert, and grinds spices in a mortal pestle. The rising aromas in the kitchen leave her grinning from ear to ear. Light on her feet, Ahiya is focused on getting all the flavours right.

After spending hours in the kitchen, Ahiya finally steps out feeling like a conqueror and rushes for a quick shower. She offers her Eid ki namaz, filled with gratitude and thanks the Lord for all His blessings.

It is time to set up the dining table with the lavish food, Chicken Dum Biryani, Kheema Kababs, Harira, Sheer Khurma, and Phirni. Ahiya dresses up in a traditional lehenga and kurti and sits down on the dining table to video call her parents.

“Eid Mubarak!” she says and beams happily upon seeing their loving, smiling faces. Excitedly she narrates the stories of her day and patiently listens to theirs. An hour long conversation and greetings leave Ahiya content.

Blissful.

 

On the Streets of Paris

‘Twas the wretched dream again.

Reminding me of a glorious day,

A time that my memory refuses to forget.

‘Twas a balmy summery day.

I wandered the streets of Paris again.

Where the trees bloomed decorously

Casting shadows on empty lanes.

There were bustling shops selling

Tiny trinkets and many souvenirs.

Parisian buildings were everywhere.

With the prettiest-looking artistic balconies

I stopped a moment to absorb the view

Then, ended up clicking just a photo of you

– A fallen abandoned leaf by my feet.

Kidding,

Mrs. Weatherbee..

Mrs. Long Weatherbee,

While rummaging through her old closet

Found her good-old pink lingerie.

With a smile on her face

Along came good-old memories.

 

In her teens, Mrs. Weatherbee,

Had stolen glances from nearly-naked chiseled boys

Girls ridiculed her, many laughed at her stupidity.

“Oh, how silly of me to wear this pink lingerie to the beach!”

 

To escape the humiliation,

Mrs. Weatherbee had dived into the sea.

She swam long and hard,

Suddenly the currents became strong.

Pulling her deeper into the sea.

That’s when she met the man of her dreams.

 

Mr. Weatherbee,

Saved Mrs. Weatherbee from drowning

& instantly fell in love with her in the sea.

Now, they’ve been married for many years.

But Mrs. Weatherbee still holds on

To her good-old pink lingerie

With all its bittersweet memories.  

A simple chai

A misty morning.

I watch Ganesh get out of his gunny sack and stretch. The streets are wet due to the mist in the air. It must have been a pretty chilly night, I wonder how Ganesh manages to sleep every night on the street and wake up with a smile.

His wooden cart is always parked right by his side. Ganesh wakes up every morning and makes Adrak wali chai and hot badam milk with honey in his chai thela. I can never miss his garam chai every morning and on rainy days. We all have fond memories of drinking chai in the rain and I guess this is one of mine. Every time it rains, I run across the street to his thela and say,  “Ganesh, one hot ginger tea please..” and hand him ten rupees. He smilingly nods and gives me my sweet cup of tea which I sip and enjoy while watching the rain.

I do not know much about Ganesh, I’ve never given it a thought. I have always seen him selling chai opposite my house and all I know is that I associate my fond memories of growing up drinking badam milk and tea in the rain under his chai thela. He must be everyone’s favorite in the neighborhood, rich and poor stop by his stall to drink his tea. I wonder why I am giving it so much thought? I guess I am only thankful because every time I look at his stall I subconsciously smile. The little pleasures in life come from the simple things that people do towards humankind.

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