Memories, Dreams and Reflections of PakistanWhen I travel it is never a linear, satisfying whole, but a splattering of waking and sleeping randomly, having intense dreams and longing to both “fit in” and to “return home”. As trips continue I realize that I am afraid to really experience that place.Well, in this case, that place is Pakistan.The place my father and his family moved to from their original home in India. In 1969 my father came to America, married an Irish/German born American woman and had a family. I traveled there twice that I remembered. I had not been in over ten years though. I speak no Urdu and barely know my family that lives there. My father and I went to attend my cousin’s wedding in Islamabad. We also spent some time in Lahore to visit my great uncle. When reflecting on how to present this strange and beautiful trip, I decided that my journal gave a clearer picture than my memory could. I only included a few entries so it wouldn't get too boring. As I read these now, I see that I was afraid to experience Pakistan fully, often wondering what real relationship I even had with this strange and wonderful place.
I did not sleep at all on the plane ride. When we finally arrived in England I passed out on the bus. This has all been a half awake/half asleep stupor. On the plane I tried to meditate and say silent prayers as we were about to land. I prayed that my heart be opened on this trip and experience all the complexities of this place as best I could. My eyes filled with tears and gratitude and I realized how little time I spend actually going deep enough inside myself.
My father's classmate who picked us up at the airport was reminiscing with my father about old friends and teachers, many of whom are now dead. When speaking of his medical practice in the car he told my father, "What does paperwork really mean? What does any of it really matter?" I wondered if this affected my father.
Finally I arrive in Pakistan and a certain fear, perhaps of letting go of myself has appeared. It felt good seeing uncle Zika and Jawad at the airport. Being in the house with the other relatives is strange though. There is a disconnection from normal life here that scares me and certain "worldliness", though maybe that's not the right word. Everything is extravagant, yet across the street there are tiny shacks and stores. I want to empty myself and just experience this place. I don't know if I can though. Awareness is the key, so I must stay aware of both the "beautiful" and "ugly" here in order to move beyond both. ___________________________________________________________
Dream: I'm with a few friends and my professor from school. We're at a gas station about to pray jumma. Someone in the group's family ruins this place. The professor suggests we pray in the bathroom, which I find bizarre. I see a small room to the side with a patch of carpet. It seems perfect. As I awake, there is an infinite echo of the call to fajr prayer like two mirrors facing each other. _______________________________________________________
How can we bow to our shadows
and drink from decay
When light and wine can spring from ashes
and forests grow all night
There are only a few days left before we leave Pakistan. Many feelings have bubbled to the surface in me lately. First of all, there is this strange quenching for "safety". Today when my cousin was telling me about people being robbed and killed I felt very uneasy. I thought of my own safety and that of my family. I realized that many times I try to imagine a safer place wherever I am. As Sheikh Bawa says, "The only safe place is in the heart with Allah and the Rasul." The outside world always contains danger. I feel this fear is a reflection of inner turmoil which I have trouble controlling. ___________________________________________________________
As an experiment
I tried to seize this smooth pebble
That proved instead to be
a Mughal palace
Unfolding like a makeup box
Colliding nooks and panels
With tops like sculpted nipples
Gold leaf painted ribbons
Singing sitar notes
Which meet unfurled fingers
Smooth, red digits extending
Extensions of whispers
Full like bird nests
On top of eggs
Where eyes meet a dull light
Exposed to be
Expected to be part
Of an experiment
To smear landscapes
Today was a nightmare for millions, and I am not far from this disaster enjoying a day with my family.Peace to all souls that are departed. Peace to all families that have lost loved ones. My being plunged into a spontaneous prayer of the heart after hearing this. I felt myself crying "Allah...Allah" with no other words or prayers coming.
We are so fragile.
-I'm in a fancy, comfortable house my family moved to in Pakistan. It is connected to an expensive, westernized mall. There is little here of the real Pakistan. It is nice but I don't belong here.
-I walk along a dusty road in Islamabad by myself. A group of young teenagers see me. They are poor thieves who decide to rob me. I have nothing to give. I have no possession but they still approach threateningly. We are next to a cliff. To prove that even my own life is not mine, I jump and land on the edge of the cliff. I then jump again on the other side with my eyes closed. I land and continue jumping as the thieves look on horrified. I then go back to them. They accept me as their brother, and only then did they see that I really have nothing that's my own.