By Dr Saba Shafi Makdhoomi
It’s been a while since we last spoke. I don’t know where the entangled mess, those threads laid threadbare lie anymore, but I attempt nonetheless. You must be wondering why the silence? I know you had been meaning to speak with me. I also know you believe me when I say I needed to speak with myself. And so, I write. And as I put to paper whatever has been roaring inside, waiting to gush forth, I take a conscious breath. Just the way I had been taught. I notice myself from a distance. I move beyond myself, far far away, and observe myself observing myself. Do I sound funny to you? I know you will smile ‘with’ me, and not ‘at’ me. And here it makes me smile again! See? Can you see that in this letter? Can you see that smile stealthily appearing in the curves of my words, peeping over the corner of my sharp edges, and settling in the creases of me eyes and in the tiny sparkling dots of my ‘i’s?
Why do I write to you? Why did I write to you then? Why do we wish to drown and still hope to be saved? Why can’t I simply sit by the banks of the river and feel the icy coldness playfully touching my feet, one sensuous ripple after another? Why do I fling myself, heart and soul, immersed in those waves, hoping to somehow be carried onto another shore? And the pang of losing an old home revisits me again. Yet, it does not, in any way, deter me from jumping right in. I rush and rush and rush at dizzying speed to reach the very heart of the ocean, hoping to either be lost forever in its dark depths or float gently, weightless and bouyant.
As I pack boxes again, placing bits of my life in it, I know I must learn the trick all over again. It does discourage me sometimes. To have thought that you had come a long, long way. And learnt a few lessons too. To then find yourself quivering all over again. I weep as I see myself weep. I rock, nurse and console the child inside. I embrace vulnerability. I snuggly wrap it around myself, wrap myself around it too, deriving comfort in the thought that this would be my only light on days not half as bright. This would be my only home, my only refuge.
You know, I have always wondered. Where is that point where one’s softness, fragility or vulnerability ends and brokenness, disarray, damage and derangement begins? When is it your strength and where does it become an unbelievably unbearable pain? As you swing from one extreme of the pendulum to another, you forget this completely.
You forget that you are touching, kissing, feeling the centre, albeit transiently, but it’s there. Yes, it’s there! In that split moment, when you are there, aligned, directed, present, but also more fully when you begin describing yourself in terms of the distance from the centre. That becomes your locus….all the various points that exist between you and your home, you and your centre. All that- the darker nothings in between, the concrete somethings, the half despair, half hope, the silences or the songs, the destinations and the paths-all that becomes home.
There is merger, dissolution, formation and assimilation in it. It starts, it peaks, it plateaus and then it dips. See, the smile? It dips, yes it dips. And there we are wet all over again, awash with a new set of fleeting, evanescent emotions, ready to be flung away from the centre all over again, our distance increasing our yearning, our love solidifying, cementing, flowing, rock solid, sweet as honey, a bitter poison, wildly enthralling and excruciatingly exacting! I am learning the drill, am I not? But just when I think I know, just when I let my body ease up, slowly uncurling my arms, feeling the breeze kiss my neck, just when I think I have learnt enough to let each tiny molecule resonate in tandem, coherently with my external, I face a churner. I clasp my heart wildly, in earnest, in desperation, in a maddening moment as I realise no cushion could cushion it ever! It has to break, grow, mould and molt all over again.
I keep staring at what is shed away, with no thought to spare…lonely songs sung in the dark, unfinished poems read in a delirious haze, sudden surges of tender love, sunny bursts of smiles captured in broken silver mirrors, tears smeared on dimpled, soft knees, the full arc of bright rainbows locked away in the arches of the lovers’ feet.
It is from underneath this brilliant awning, that I write to you. Of love and lost homes. Of sanctuaries and deserts. Of drunkenness and desertions. Of aimless drifting and firm anchorage. Of breaths exhaled softly in the nights and the poems woven thereof.
I write to you from a place of love.