Fragrance of Friendship
15th May 2018
Rabia says Salam to Dervish!
Rabia seeks pardon for a late reply. She was trapped in useless and futile obligations that neither have any bearing on life nor with the death…
Dervish’s question about wisdom first brought a smile on Rabia’s face. Then she recalled an anecdote attached to Socrates. Its authenncity is unknown, yet she found it interesting. Someone asked Socrates as what the secret behind his wisdom was. Socrates suggested the man to visit Socrates’s home someday. As advised, one day, the man went to Socrates’s place. No sooner the man reached at Socrates door, he heard a female yelling abusing and uttering the foul. Stunned with surprise the man returned. On another day, as the Socrates was lecturing his students, the man walked to Socrates and disclosed about his trip and yelling inside Socrates home. The great philosopher said: “She is my wife and that is the secret of my wisdom”. Similarly, if there is an iota of wisdom about Rabia, the secret might be dwelling in her surroundings.
Rabia wishes to tell Dervish that she believes in the myth of spirits’ tribes. She must have already met Dervish in the world of spirits. Rabia also believes that their spirits come from same tribe. That’s why there is no estrangement and a sweet fragrance of friendship is felt by both. All over the universe, the creative people belong to the same tribe. Moreover, Rabia has a gut feeling that she was a wandering soul in the realm of souls. That could be yet another reason for not feeling unfamiliar while meeting new people on Earth.
Like Dervish, Rabia always wanted to travel, not only on Earth but into the skies. It has not been so far possible physically, but she always travelled intellectually. She is subconsciously on a flight to unknown destinations while watching trees, doing household errands sipping her tea or coffee. Rabia is on a journey of soul since her early childhood. When she was a small child she used to catch glowworms from the plants grown in her garden and watch them for long. In moonlit nights, Rabia used to go on roof top or sit on stairs and count the galaxies of stars spread in the sky and sometimes watched three in-line stars on eastern horizon and wonder as where Sun could have reached by that time and there would be clouds also wandering in certain part of sky. Such was her journey of thought and intimacy with the nature at that age.
Rabia was a sole sister with no age fellow male or female child to play with. She was alone but never felt lonely though she grew as a taciturn child. She felt a whole world travelling around her seclusion. She did not like any interference in her small world. Rabia was annoyed with even a small intervention into her seclusion. Rabia could only overcome this habit with passage of time.
Then Rabia recalls the story of her intimacy with her father. She was only eight when her father had to proceed abroad. Rabia fell sick. She suffered from chest pain. The doctor’s efforts were bearing no fruit until a chest specialist asked her mother about her father. When he was told that Rabia’s father was out of country, the doctor advised her mother to urge Rabia to start writing letters to her father. Rabia complied with the doctor’s prescription did work. Her innocent letters were collected and posted by her mother to her father. She slowly started to recover, and her chest pain was completely subsided. She kept writing even after arrival of her father. But the writing now turned into diary writing. To start with she wrote her daily happening then she shifted to dream-writing. She used to keep her diary hidden, may be because of her tiny age. Then on one fine morning Rabia started to paint. She perhaps acquired this habit from her father who himself was a painter. She won all the painting contests in her school and college days. She wished to become a painter. She wanted to join National College of Arts, but she was denied the opportunity.
Badly hurt Rabia decided to quit education but things have their own dynamics. As the fate would have it, her painting talent continued its manifestation in the form of calligraphy. She taught calligraphy to Montessori classes besides continuing her education. On another fine day Rabia landed into Government College Lahore (also called Asian Oxford) as student of Urdu literature. . By that time, she had become an amateur writer. She wrote light poetry and sent her essays for literary pages of various newspapers but had yet not authored a book. She was inducted into literary society of GC and ended up co-author of The Ravi, a literary college magazine. It enhanced her literary passion. When it came to final year thesis, Asghar Nadeem Syed was appointed her supervisor. Rabia wished to write thesis on male characters. To this end she went to Sohail Ahmed Khan for guidance. Sohail Ahmed advised her: “If you wish to write on male psyche you need to first create those characters.” But till then she had only read secondary class of male characters. However, she succeeded to write on Ahmed Qasmi’s few characters. By then Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi had passed away but his famous magazine Funoon was still publishing.
Since Rabia had to write her thesis, she met all writers associated with Funoon. Qasmi Sahib’s close associate Mansura Ahmed became a close friend of her. She encouraged Rabia to write as she had the potential for that. Then Amjad Islam Amjad, who had read her amateur poetry also encouraged Rabia to write prose. The work on thesis was still in progress when Mansura Ahmed called Rabia to send a story for the magazine every week. Rabia wrote somewhat comic story based on an eye witness account which was accepted with a little change. One day, Mansura advised Rabia: “Gurya! (Rabia’s nick in college days) Get married, this world is too cruel for delicate people like you.” At that moment, Rabia just laughed off the idea, but in later years she admitted the value of an experienced advice. But again, the marriage is an accident. At times, it suddenly occurs on others it does not happen at all.
Rabia successfully did her Masters from Asian Oxford. She now dreamed of joining actual Oxford. Once again, her dreams were buried like living *Anarkali. It reminds Rabia her College’s annual musical program. She appeared on stage wearing skinned color spiraled pajama, red shirt and a dupatta. After the function the student had named her Anarkali of the GC (Government College Lahore). Rabia on that had not imagined that she, like Anarkali would be buried into brick-line of the wall erected by the family taboos. Rabia’s kind teacher Asghar Nadeem Syed wished to see her a lecturer in GC. But by then the ‘walls’ had been surmounted much above the head of Anarkali. On Syed’s suggestion Rabia cried. Syed forcefully echoed into her eardrums: “You have only one way left, write, write and write till your words start to speak.”
Now Rabia feels the force of that moment that turned out as benediction. Baba also wanted her to become a writer. He used to narrate to the Rabia the tall stories of the female writers of his time. When she was only thirteen, Rabia occasionally stole the books from his library to read in a hideout. As the luck would have it, the first book that she could lay her hand was Khalil Jibran’s. Rabia did not understand what she read yet enjoyed it. Then she read Yousef Zuleika. She fell in love with Yousef to the point that she used to see him in her dreams, stars and the moon. It was like teenager’s one-sided love.
In the mythological love story of Yousef Zuleika, Yousef was considered a coward by a people of certain mindset. Notwithstanding, Rabia considers him the bravest man. The same mindset calls Zuleika a crazy woman due to her lustful advances towards Yousef. But Rabia views Zuleika helpless and mesmerized by the handsome Yousef. Rabia opines that these two historical characters did not depict common man-woman psychology. They were different. Their psyches were different. Another letter is needed to write the complete account of Rabia’s love for Yousef.
The rainy wet night is about to pass here. As the stars prepare to welcome the next day the clouds after shedding tears all night, have gone to slumber. Before the sky gets whiter like the blood of selfish people, Rabia is hurrying to have a word with her Creator, therefore requests a leave from Dervish.
Fi Ammaan Allah
* Anarkali was a beautiful singer / dancer who performed in the court of Mughal Emperor Akbar. Prince Jahangir fell in love with Anarkali and wished to marry her. The King opposed it, and as the story goes, buried her alive in the brick line of the Fort.