Category Archives: Of Reading and Writing

An Eventful Start to the ELP 2015 US Visit

NYTWA

New York- A City Full of Diversity and Colors

New York – a city full of diversity and colors is home to innumerable cultures and a variety of restaurants. In a very short span, you get an opportunity to experience so much life and activity that going anywhere else may seem dull and boring. That is the one downside, if any, of experiencing New York City.

The fast-paced life of Manhattan, where everybody seems to be on the constant move, appears quite an attraction. The incessant stir and pace gives off a clear message to keep up, to build and work towards the next big thing, otherwise you will be destined to fall behind.

The First Formal Meeting

Preparation for the Emerging Leaders of Pakistan (ELP) fellowship’s formal meetings proceeded with many expectations and preconceived notions.

The very first meeting of the fellowship creates an excitement and curiosity that touches the sky. Out of utter inquisitiveness, you start visualizing the characters you are expected to meet. You picture individuals dressed in tuxedos, with a classic look straight from the 1920s, flaunting neat hair and an elegant persona, and possessing a capitalist and domineering attitude. To ones utter surprise, however, the reality of ELP’s New York City visit is the complete opposite.

For the first meeting, we were greeted by a grey-haired man, flaunting a ponytail, neck imbued with huge pendants, fingers assorted with a variety of gemstone rings, and dressed in jeans and a t-shirt that read, “JUSTICE.  RIGHTS.  RESPECT.  DIGNITY.”

NYTWA2

Shattering all our preconceived notions, this very man is one of the most prominent rights activists in New York City. With a solid and assertive voice, he talks not about Adam Smith or Milton Friedman but about Marxism and Lenin as his mentors and Fidel Castro and Che Guevara his inspiration.

This man is Mr. Tariq Javaid, the Co-Founder of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance (NYTWA). His story is indeed inspirational, overwhelming, and a result of many years of untiring and dedicated efforts. His struggle is quite exemplary. However, his life before being a taxi driver is quite eventful.

From being a political party worker in Pakistan to working as a DJ in Germany, Mr. Javaid then worked as a photo journalist in New York City before he started driving a taxi.He forewent all his ambitions and aspirations for the cause and thus, has uplifted the lives of New York City’s 50,000+ taxi drivers through his non-profit union.

NYTWA’s latest tremendous achievement was the passage of legislation  safeguarding the rights of taxi workers. Through Mr. Javaid’s efforts, the taxi drivers have been heard from the JFK Lot to the Mayor’s Office!

Despite all odds including acts of harassment, robbery, and assaults on NYTWA and its members, Mr. Javaid is determined. He stands tall and firm to ensure and protect the rights of taxi drivers in the future.We learned from his example, it takes courage, patience, and perseverance to achieve what you believe.

The inspiring story of the NYTWA Co-Founder’s struggle rejuvenated the spirits of the ELP fellows and sent out a strong message to continue working for the respective causes, against all odds, with renewed commitment, zeal, and vigor. The meeting help hugely in setting the stage for the upcoming meetings, since it shattered some of the stereotypes linked to social and economic penchant of American people. It also helped us feel comfortable at the rest of our meetings. Most importantly, the meeting consolidated the idea that people in the United States are open to difference of opinion and diversity of thought.

The Article originally appeared Here on ELPAK.ORG

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I can’t rhyme anymore

“You’re the reason I can’t rhyme anymore.”

I always keep repeating to myself that I shall not write about you, not any more. But the moment I stop writing – I have realized – I stop writing at all, once and for all and I write none.

I write about you. I write about it every now and again, and keep it deep secretly under the closet.

I can’t understand whether I am too afraid to say this all in your face. And I can’t fathom, if that insinuates my cowardice or my excellence in keeping secrets.

I have started loving similes since I created them in bulk, unheard and unsaid; and a million metaphors that end up nowhere – unseen and unread.

Similes and metaphors describing your smoggy eyes and wavy hair, memories and distance – distant memories to be precise, delusional hopes and everything else cherished and regretted.

Certain tales are better off unspoken, and unheard. Or at least our parable is the one.

You always said it out rightly from the very outset. And you jazzed around your point of view straightforwardly. And you danced around the truth so convincingly so you never have to break anything – or anyone.

But even then – you’re definitely not the one to blame – my parts and pieces feel bent and broken, at the mercy of 24/7 harsh weather in my mind, and scattered to whatever the rains and storms happen to pass. I feel like a building standing without the firm base ready to fall apart without anything holding it up.

Missing someone, they say, is self-centered. I self-center you every single second of every single day.

Every single piece of fiction is a reminder of thee and I want you to read; every second note of poetry – merry or melancholy – makes me crave to read it aloud to you, out rightly ignoring the very fact that it could pretty much be a nuisance on thy part.

So what am I left with? Build a sand castle along the shore, transcribe everything I wish over the sand, graffiti my thoughts in invisible ink on every wall around, build the virtual bridge and forget what I left underneath.

Even if it means, I am the one drowning under there in waters which are dry and lifeless enough not even capable of an absolute kill.

Anyway, all that is happening is for your good. You don’t have to watch me fall apart, and I don’t have to let you hold me together. And I am not falling apart either. So you don’t have to hold us together.

But I wish you would. Though, it’s a lot better that you aren’t. And it’s a lot better that you won’t, and very importantly for your own good.


And I write and erase and…

I do have to start writing about you. And I do write and erase, and write and erase and write and erase or throw it away into trash and dump it away in a quagmire of nothingness.

That’s where it all including the scribe, that matters not, belongs – an absolute oblivion and hollowness.

Before it all meets its ironic fate, I have written innumerable blogs, scores of broken poems, beautiful little stanzas, dirty half a dozen passages, cents of dreamy essays, fairy-tallish stories and spell-binding prose.

Magnificently bewitching, maddening, marvelously magical, magnetic and mesmerizing.

Self-praise may not be a recommendation in the world of sanity. But my dearest one… all that is about you, and all that is about me thinking about you, is majestic beyond bounds. And I need no judge, not at all, without any doubt.

I have to have a means of expression, for the best of intentions, in all your admiration that to you again matters not. All that I do is all I have to do and I do it for myself and nothing more.

I write and annihilate a big assembly of phrases, crush a crowd of courteous clauses and sentence to death an emotional mob of sentences, and I know what I am doing.

At least, it makes me realize where I am heading. What keeps my existence where it belongs is dumping it all away. And I know what I am doing.

Singing an invitation of insanity with the flames I find at your door, I write and erase.

The door that gets farther the closer I move while the flame gets nearer than ever. And the warmth do I savor. But I am not a moth meant to burn and blaze. And cast the flames of your door any blame.

In a losing race as the scribe would put it, the writings and scribe keep draining, dripping through the ink, streaming, flowing before eventually getting sunk, numb and lifeless.

That’s how it works; self-annihilation to be precise.

And it hurts, and it hurts, and it hurts. But still, I write and erase and I write and erase… everything that I am supposed to say… and nothing that I am supposed to say… nothing.


The moon, the sun, the ocean, the moon and I

Sometimes, you have no idea whatsoever of how a simple conversation with one of your very good friends would turn into something like this. It all started with a “Kese ho? Hua kia he? [How are you? What has happened?]” and here is what followed; a dialogue on a force that binds and the irony of being.

Me: Kese ho? Hua kia he? [How are you? What has happened?]

Mira: I’m fine. Nai muje kuch nahi hua. Kyun? [No. Nothing has happened to me. Why?]

Me: Matlab [I mean] why are you so down?

Mira: How do you know?

Me: Aiwen ee, I know. Konsi sochain hen? [Oh forget it. I know. What’s on your mind?]

Mira: Ever heard of a Rumi’s quote that I love:

“Anyone who knows me should learn to know me again. For, I am like a moon. You will see me with a new face every day.”

Samjho moon ka abhi crescent phase hai. Wese he. Random sochen. Tanhai mode. Nothing much. [Suppose, it’s just a crescent phase of the moon. Just anyway. Random thoughts. Seclusion mode. Nothing much.]

Me: But crescent is just a display for the world. In reality, the moon is always moon. Splendid. Unique. Beautiful and whole.

Mira: This is yet again what’s usually on display. In real, it’s hollow empty with no light of its own.

Me: Find your sun then. The moon is never hollow by the way.

Mira: A borrowed light is never your own. Once it’s full and bright. Next is full darkness.

Me: Even when it reflects no light during the day, it looks unusually beautiful.

Mira: It’s the light of the sun that makes it “the moon”. What a pity. Had he not been there, the moon would have gone in oblivion.

Me: What if the sun might be craving to lend some light? And feel blessed and endowed for the companionship. And the bond may be a favor to sun rather than the moon herself.

Mira: The sun is never alone. He has lots of moons at his mercy. Each conferred with his light and each thinks [ironically, that] it complements the sun.

Me: Oblivion is inevitable, one thing. The sun and the moon we talk about complement each other. No second moon I have ever seen around. The details will get us lost into the Milky Way and multi-million galaxies. No?

Mira: The sun has a whole galaxy for him [at his disposal]. The moon is just a figment in the illusion of being bethroned. Yeah it will. I can go on forever because I don’t know what I’m talking about.

Me: The sun still shares intimacy with the moon despite all those more significantly huge stars in the galaxy the sun boasts of. The kinship they share has no parallel. The cronyism is just perfect.

Mira: Don’t you think an ocean complements moon better? At least moon doesn’t need a benefactor here. And feel powerful. With nothing borrowed.

Me: They make each other look beautiful yeah. Love triangle.

Mira: Ocean mighty and arrogant. And moon helps him to become what he wants to be. An affinity unparalleled.

Me: I so much wanted to oppose this just for the sake of it. But I am so much in love with the ocean that I couldn’t.

Mira: I just love the independence and the uniqueness of this relationship. Mysterious and play full on equal grounds.

Me: The moon makes him [the ocean] look powerfully pretty; and the sun its accomplice. This calls for an idea of interconnectedness.

Mira: The sun just lends reflection to give moon a face. The ocean lets the moon exert her own little force to make her feel powerful.

Me: Individuals, separate, deserted, oblivious, dark, bright powerful or powerless. All interdependent. One complementing and complimenting the other.

Mira: It all ends where necessity ends and complementing each other begins.

Me: Nobody does the other any favor. They just are what they are. And still complement each other. “And still, after all this time, the Sun has never said to the Earth, “You owe me.” Look what happens with love like that. It lights up the sky.” [Hafez]

Mira: Sun loves to own. His throne is the galaxy with thousands of his moons but will never tolerate another sun. This is what the moon tries to get from the sea.

Me: The sun never tells the moon that she owes. Neither does moon. Does moon ever tell the ocean that she makes the otherwise dull and dead existence of ocean awesome and majestic? They just stay the way they are. Powerful, majestically beautiful yet humble, always.

They just cherish each others’ company ever since the times immemorial and shall keep doing so until an eternity.

Mira: Certain things are never told. Every time the moon has to get lost in oblivion, it knows it’s reduced to nothing. Then it’s exalted before being pushed again into darkness. The sun has his ways to tell. How unfair! Never lets the poor moon forget that he still owns her.

Me: There is a reason behind this humility. The sun knows its limits. It knows it has nothing unique about him, and that it’s just another star in a constellation of millions of other galaxies.

He has no reason to be vain. He has just got some set rules to follow and the moon is bound by birth programmed to disappear.

Mira: Then maybe moon does to the ocean what sun does to moon? To feel power, strength and independence? Is this the irony of being?

Me: Interconnectedness is what keeps them going. Kinship is what makes them special.

Mira: This kinship is what binds them. With poor moon sandwiched between the two lol

Me: [laughs] I believe, the sun and the ocean both die for the moon. Such is her grace and beauty and light. The light of the moon is more beautiful than the light of the sun. It’s the same light though. But it’s the fiery touch of the moon that makes it magical, soothing.

When the same is exclusive, nobody even dares to look at it, abhor it, shifts eyes to avoid its mere sight. The moon makes it soothing.

Mira: This is the reason why the moon survived for thousands of years. The idea of being loved despite all the painful phases she has to go through.

Me: See we come to the conclusion that moon makes light of the sun watch-worthy and makes the ocean look majestic. And is still an object of love, desire and envy.

Mira: Lol At last. If that gives enough reason to the moon to forget her own vulnerabilities.

Me: Nobody is free from vulnerabilities; even the indefatigable and infallible sun or the mighty ocean. The idea is to survive with vulnerabilities. And survive beautifully, gracefully.

And I’m surprised and awe-struck at same time to know that the moon turns her vulnerabilities to make them look most coveted traits.

Mira: True. Maybe these vulnerabilities are what making it look beautiful to both of them. Making them realize their strength? Giving them sense of being?

Me: A big No. It complements them both. The sun light all by itself is a nuisance, an irritation, pain. An ocean without moonlight is dull and dark.

Just look at how in a full moon the ocean exerts all his force just to touch her [the moon] for even once by creating the longest currents possible. In vain though. The moon for him is but a desire. Unmet. Unrealized.

Mira: The moon might complement them but she herself survives on them. Complete dependence on sun and self-assurance from moon. This is what makes it less equal. I just wish the moon remains moon even if the sun changes his mind.

That’s what makes moon feel powerful. Somewhere to mirror what the sun does to her. The fuller the moon the more enraged the ocean gets due to his helplessness. This is what is so appealing to the moon.

Me: Nobody owes none, I repeat. The moon is still the most coveted. Still the best of the three despite all its imperfections and vulnerabilities. And it’s not just the sun and ocean, I got a feeling I am in love with the moon too.

It has no match. It’s simply perfect with all its imperfections.

Mira: Haha. So lucky! The moon has a third contender lol.

Me: An admirer. Not a contender.

Like they have lived for millions of years, you see. They must be generous enough to accept the forth one too. If they were contenders, life would be hell you know.

Mira: Maybe that’s why they are still alone. And maybe that makes this whole thing going on and on and on since times immemorial.

Me: And maybe that is why love is still lasting. Kahin parha tha [had once read] love has nothing to do with keeping those you love around.

Mira: True. If moon rejoins any of them, it will result in its own end. Moon is so coveted because it’s alone and mysterious.

Me: And that love is a kind of a link between two souls that makes them blossom. The full blossoming asks for that link to be severed.

Mira: While both the sun and the ocean will remain. Might fall for some star.

Me: Now that must be painful. It always is. Imagine anything getting severed.

Mira: True. I think love thrives in separation.

Me: The idea of love is to take one beyond the realm of separation.

How about some assumptions? What if the sun and ocean never fall for any other star?

Mira: It has to be in the soul. Not in essence.

Me: Quite possible. Love that is not linked with soul is mere preoccupation, pretext. Illusion.

Mira: The sun will remain the king of millions of other moons, while the ocean might just get gloomy at times. Isn’t it the moon which has to pay the biggest price?

Me: “If moon rejoins any of them, it will result in its own end.” Right?

Mira: Maybe that’s why it chooses to stay alone. Knowing that the same admirers are very capable of its destruction.

Me: Not necessarily. It can result in consummation too. Resulting in the one whole and united. Perfection maybe.

Mira: But the identity of the moon will be gone forever. Self annihilation is always in the fate of moon.

Me: When the parts meet, the whole exists. It’s not necessarily the annihilation. The rainbow is one despite having seven colors.

Mira: Rainbow is the new being. All part of the magic. The sun will never accept a new identity at the cost of his own. While the ocean is not capable of making anything new. Everyone chooses the moon to sacrifice.

Me: And by the way, let’s not confuse love with possession. The later is ‘wajibul-qatl’ [kill -worthy]

Mira: [laughs] Sometimes the ways of the world tie the toe and the rest of us end up searching for love in the later.

Me: Consummation of souls and existence is important. When souls consummate, the existence gets elevated, nobody perishes.

Mira: That’s hard in practice.

Me: Hard is not synonymous with the impossible. Love that asks for sacrifice is no love at all. Love empowers.

Mira: Rare is the word. Very low chances. Till then shine like a moon lol

Me: Always shine like a moon. True love parts its ways when feels like casting shadows rather than light.

Mira: Remember, the moon still doesn’t leave her sun even in the shadows to keep things going. This is how it’s expected of her.

Me: We have a scenario; ‘true love parting ways to keep her beloved shining and in return isn’t let go of by the beloved.’ Isn’t that perfection?

One forsaking for love. And the other committed companion holding onto love no matter what. Despite all odds.

Mira: Right. Once the moon learns that this is an exclusive special bond between the two, it might even head for its own annihilation of self into the sun.

But it knows, it’s not “the one” but one of many.

Me: haha perfect. Here we had been talking about adding celestial bodies into the solar system. And the astronauts discovered two more planets in the Solar system. How did they find out that we were discussing the same? Wasn’t that quick?

Mira: That shows, the sun plays its cards quite well. Jabhi moon ne ek option rakha hua hai ocean ka. [That is exactly why the moon keeps its option of the ocean open]

Me: [laughs] The moon is a loyal companion. The sun loves only her. The ocean is their rendezvous. All other stars and planets are mere translations. Truce? *winks*

By the way, let alone these two more newly found planets and multi-million other bodies being part of the sun, the relation that the sun shares with moon, such a beautiful relation can be shared by none.

Mira: Perhaps that is why it’s still going.

Me: And shall keep going. Until an eternity. Never together yet never separated.

Mira: That is the beauty of it.

Me: So Consummation of souls is possible, right?

Mira: Of souls, yes. Otherwise I doubt the other one which DH Lawrence calls “star equilibrium” in “Women in Love”

Me: Agreed. Ab tension ko maro goli, ‘melancholy me’ ke badle ‘toofani me’ bano. [Kill tension. Be a “stormy-me rather than a melancholy-me”]

Mira: Wo bhi phase ayega. Coming soon. [That phase shall come too. Soon] We all women are like moon. Our phases. So it’s natural in a way. There are reasons to denote moon with feminine traits.

Me: But moon is never melancholy. Is it?

Mira: Each one is different. Andhery raat k baad chodhvy ke chand ki trhan chamakte bhi hyn hum. [We shine too like a full moon after an eclipsed one]

Me: Is that why I have always loved the moon? Feminine traits?

Mira: Maybe. I always loved moon myself. The moon is my ascendant anyway

Me: Yeah. It’s beautiful. Let me reiterate, and magical. I love it even more now.

Mira: So do I; feeling more kinship towards it now.

Me: Exactly. Now we have the moon, the sun, the ocean, the moon and I.

Mira: Lol. Lots of friends we made today, already.

Me: Lots of unfailing friends. Hope to keep them for good.

Mira: Don’t worry. They’ll outlive us. They are free from time and space and mundane affairs.

Me: Point. They’re free. We’re not. We’re who the trouble lies with. Mortal. Short-lived.

(To be continued)


A Broken Birthday Wish

“Happy Birthday.” Yes. Happy Birthday!

I realize. Yes I really do the degree of emptiness this short phrase contains. It is an empty wish. A broken birthday wish. Full of nothingness. How naive!

Has nothing unique to say. Just another commonplace wish; asking for a reaction maybe, already foreseen. A real turn off? A genuine mood swing?

For, a traditional flowery jargon of lies put together might be awaited. And lame exaggerations. But unusually plain words and simplest tone being the message?

Unacceptable. No figures of speech.

No mention of moons and meadows and mountains and valleys. No analogies of pigeons and peacocks and reindeer and butterflies. Why?

No predicative adjectives like starry and shiny and smoky for eyes. No promises for joys and woes and festivals and funerals and life and death. No way?

No Gibranish metaphors of comparison with dew-drops on petals of winter morning rose. Just imagine! How couldn’t you?

No similes to suggest if their eyes looked like mist and fog. You simply failed. Didn’t you?

No personification whatsoever of cuckoos singing to compare their voice with. No poetic portrayal in some of an amazingly extraordinary works of art. Disappointment, right?

No mention of rivulets and streamlets dancing and winds entrancing the trees into a dance of ecstasy at their mere sight. You didn’t? Fine.

No exaggerations like “the light of the moon is ashamed before the light of the candle you lit.” WOW! [Sachi? Lulz]

Let’s get realistic! Notwithstanding, idealism is beautiful! Shouldn’t we?

Wait. No hyperbole like “if all the oceans turn into ink, the trees into pens and the land into paper; yet to write a [birthday wish] for you requires more. Sigh!” [Literally? hah]

I mean, if someone were to write such a wish, wouldn’t that sound absurdly funny? No way. It won’t. It’d sound so damn romantic! I mean pragmatism is something.

A genuine, honest word is far better than p.s. this is a lie, indeed a stolen gem of a couplet, an extract or an axiom. Not so?

Why compare the incomparable, amazingly whimsical, weirdly unique gem of a one-of-its-own-kind person, with anything?

So? Happy Birthday!

P.S. II. If you would want to write me a wish, ever, please keep it flowery and figurative. *winks*


An enthralling sight

Sunset by the Serene Rawal Lake Islamabad

Sunset by the Serene Rawal Lake Islamabad


Could man ever find a sight more enthralling than:
A glittering sun that soothes his sight,
A caravan of dancing clouds that mesmerizes his mind,
A dazzling drizzle that bathes his soul,
A towering Margala Hill that lifts his spirits high, or
An enlivening serene lake that spellbinds to ecstasy?
And the moment when this is all combined?
Just imagine!

Snapshots: Do You Deserve what You Desire

Few snapshots from one of the articles “Do you deserve what you desire?” authored by Mr. Anwar Iqbal published on May 24, 2014 on Dawn.com

Dance of Fire

Dance of Fire

Without you, the City suffocates me

Without you, the City suffocates me

What I cannot find is what I desire

What I cannot find is what I desire

The dance, the ecstasy, the pain

 The dance, the ecstasy, the pain

Sar-e-bazaar me raqsam

Sar-e-bazaar me raqsam