Arif Bashir

I see you smiling!

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Illustration By: Basharat Bashir

You stopped talking, just like that, without even letting us know the reasons! It was like the entire world had become quiet. And, as we would do when we were young children, we clinged to your bed waiting for you to hum that indigenous tune, that hymn of love we would laugh and rejoice over. Remember-you would, sometimes, terrify us with your silence only to tease us and see our faces turn pale- and then you would relax with a gentle laughter making faces and mimicking emotions- your eyes would turn lively and your face radiant.

Was it for the same amusement? Well, we knew it wasn’t and that, this time, you were ill, very ill! But we so wished that it was the same old trick or, atleast, it ended like that! We waited and waited and ultimately gave up!

One full week without a single morsel, without a drop of water- you were floating over and above the canvas of your memories and imagination and your body had begun to lose essence! I could feel it every time I touched your feet, your fingers, your forehead! You were slowly and gradually moving beyond time and space.

But you were still the same person with all the sensibility and humbleness with which you had lived all your life. Whenever someone came to see you, you would feebly move your hands to ensure that your head was covered properly and no hair visible!  I remember that you would always sit in a humble posture indicating your submissive nature and your politeness, not straightening your legs even when your knees pained-“it isn’t good manners,” you would say and tell us the story of your life when you were just eight years old:

“I was barely eight years of age and had been jumping around my father and my uncles who were discussing something quietly. I sat alongside my cousins and leaned against the wall straightening my legs for a while. I didn’t notice that one of my uncles had stood up and, in a jiffy, hit me on my knees with a stick. I began weeping and he took me in his lap-kissed my forehead and whispered in my ear that one should sit in a humble posture. That way you show your regards to those sitting alongside you and to almighty as well”.

A lesson you never forgot. I saw even death couldn’t tyrannize you a single bit in being what you had been!

But even in such a state of being, your motherly affection kept your heart wondering for all of us- when I would come close to your ear and ask you whether you were feeling alright, you would nod in affirmation! By now you had closed your eyes too! I knew you wanted to console me by gesturing that you weren’t feeling any pain!

You were listening to everything and I would like to believe that you didn’t want to speak anymore and that you were in peace with perennial silence and eternity. Somehow, I was increasingly feeling that the departure was nearing and I was whispering to your ear something- something that came to my mind:


Talk to me in fables and metaphors

Talk to me through the mirror of the folklore

The mirage of the myths

The fantasy of the legends

For words may taste no longer the same

The flavor of reality smells so hideous

Talk to me of the whispering woods

The singing birds

The gust of the breeze

The murmur of the brooks

And the thunder and the rain

Talk to me of the blossoming flowers

Of vast colors

Of speckled shades

And the touch of the grass

The shine of the dew

Talk to me about the smell of the earth

The thundering of the clouds

The blowing of the winds

The lightening, the light, the day and the night

Talk to me of the stars and sun

The moon and the sky,

The confines and the infinite

Talk to me of life and death

I wish you had said something-anything!  But this time you were ill, very ill!

“How can one claim to be unwell while consuming food like normal”- you would say whenever you were unwell previously and, at some occasions, hospitalized too. You regretted such a state of physical condition and referred it to be a weird curse, a demon of slothfulness that conspired to keep people away from work!

Remember, about a few years ago, when the doctor at the local hospital saw your X-Ray and found out about the spine injury-“the injury is fatal and she can’t survive,” he had pronounced in bewilderment after which we broke into laughter! The injury was forty years old. And after hearing this, the doctor was immediately reminded of almighty and the miracles that can happen. Since then the doctor had become friends with you!

Amma! we would have grown bereft of many stories had it not been for you to share a treasure of them effused in the warm fragrance of your breath- I wish you knew that the stories were, and are, incomplete without the fragrance of your breath! When I look back, I recollect that there were so many other gifts that you brought into the lives of many people, particularly your grandchildren.

You were subtle in teaching us the generosity of mother earth and the bounteousness of the nature. You were a perfect gardener, a farmer, a florist and a self taught naturalist. You could name the changing seasons by the chirping of the birds and forecast the rains and the sunshine by the shades and glow of the flowers. You knew about crops and vegetables and fruits and smell the aura to predict the quality of the produce. All this because you had done it all- you had worked hard all your life. Very less people take such pride in sharing as you did- serving all the relatives, packing fruits and vegetables delicately and asking us to deliver the same at various addresses.

I would often observe you in the fields and would tell myself- here is this old lady who loves earth like she loves her children. You would use spade, a shovel and other tools with such motherly affection when sowing seeds and water the seeds with divine patience staying there for hours kneading the soil, softening it with great care and tremendous grace. You would later appreciate the sprouting of vegetables and flowers just like universe does. You have always treated the earth so well-I am sure it will treat you the same way! I pray!

You had a life-long love affair with nature and thus befriended earth at an early age. The sheer joy that you would find in gardening and the enormous love with which you observed the entire process of it is unexplainable- I can say that you loved earth so much that you ultimately sowed yourself! She, thus, is no stranger to your body. I am, like my parents, siblings, friends and relatives, shattered by your physical absence but I am also consoled by the fact that you left in peace. It was neither raining nor scourging heat- exactly the day of your choosing, the day you had wished for the separation of your body and soul.

I somehow knew that you will leave in your own season- in the season of the farmers!

“Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as separation”- Rumi

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