Sunday, June 24, 2012

What Am I?

I am the trunk of a tree!

As the trunk, I mature with age, become stronger over time and if my roots are well grounded, I can weather storms and hold on to most of my branches;

Some of my branches, like people in my life will bear fruit, some will toughen and flourish while others, more fragile may wither away or not be able to withstand powerful winds;

As my roots deepen with age just like my relationship with the whole family, they become sturdy and help keep me standing upright against all odds;

Just like the soil nourishes my roots to help them grow and be anchored, the values and principles I hold strong cultivate me to stay resilient.
Just as the trunk of a well grounded tree, I stand strong,
nurtured by the values of my soil,
powered by the roots of my family,
reaching for the sky with flourishing branches of the people in my life.

I am the trunk of a tree!
and I stand strong!

Monday, June 18, 2012


The world was on fire the year I was built. Smoke hazed the landscape hovering above dreamy eyes. Happiness floated above dancers of love and singers of peace. Bell-shaped pants covered legs and colorful bands covered heads under long hair.

I rose from ground up into a bright pink emblem on the street surrounded by empty plots. My cheery façade welcomed the first family into my warm abode. They walked in with pride through solid rot-iron front gate onto the driveway. My baby guava and mango trees extended their delicate green fingers to invite them in. The petite garden inside the boundary wall boasted bright red roses and saffron marigolds surrounded by lush green foliage. From the lawn, the family took a short one step to give blessings to my verandah, partially sheltered from the elements. I invited them indoors by holding the large wooden door ajar and the family stepped into the cozy square sitting room. A door to its left led to the master bedroom but I chose to take them in there later, when they will be ready to turn in for the night. First, the adults reclined on the rattan chairs placed next to the bay windows while the two children sat on the long divan, their feet dangling in excitement on its sides. Celebratory conversation glided around the room as if musical notes floating in the air to a harmonious piano concerto. Words glued to the fresh paint of my walls absorbing their resonance and excitement which I cherish to this day despite numerous coats of varying colors since the first.

The family, energized to carry on the tour, made their way out of the sitting room and entered the large back room. There was no designation for this area, perhaps an all-purpose room where everyone over the years gathered for meals, children played games, the grandmother told stories, mothers helped the children with homework, women gathered to work on sewing projects or household tasks over juicy gossip. This was one room that went through several transformations from being an open area to housing one large piece of furniture to dine on, to a temporary tiny kitchenette for the grandmother and then back to being an empty open space. Its walls today hold the most words buried deep beneath the paint into the thick cement. They carry squeals of laughter, tears of joy, howling of tantrums, moans of pain, sniffles of goodbyes or melancholy. They embrace the most memories.

The family proceeded to a door to the right entering a tiny room labeled as the kitchen. It was always held at the highest esteem compared to other rooms over my lifetime. In the early days when the grandmother lived, shoes were unwelcome in this sacred abode where artful creations were fashioned by the women. Inside the tiny room, a shelf balanced a gas stove and several shelves higher up supported steel and copper dishes. A sink in one corner had been handy for filling up a pot of water for cooking or quickly washing off a glass or a plate, though the large chunk of the washing and cleaning was always done outdoors under the tap in the courtyard in the back.

Advancing in the same line as the kitchen, the family continued towards my walkout. It was divided by a dark grilled railing separating the indoors from outside. The two children ran their hands through its intricate leafy and coil shapes set within the lattice all the way up until it ended by the far wall. A tiny washing sink balanced inconspicuously in a corner of the wall. Diagonally across the expanse of the nameless room, the family gravitated towards a door welcoming them into a spacious room. A king size bed covered half the floor as its massive headboard proudly stood upright offering a grand backdrop for the equally dignified grandmother who claimed the room for all her living years. She breathed her last breath on that very bed in the arms of her youngest son. Over decades as the wheels of time churned, children of multiple generations brightened this space with their wide eyes, warmed it with their cheerful laughter as they huddled under covers circling around the grandmother and the multitude of stories she always weaved.

As I continued my tour, the family noticed the smaller door by the side of the bed that led to the bathroom. Through this washroom was another door perpendicular to the first one that led into a different room. The largest room in the house, the very same we skipped as we entered into the sitting room, the family had come a full circle back to the front of the house. A large bed and a set of bunk beds occupied the space in here where the first young couple with their two children resided. A window from this master bedroom looked out into the garden inviting rosy aroma and musical buzzing into the room.

I have harbored many souls, warmed many bodies, cheered many faces. Several generations of the same family have walked within my walls or run through my doors and I carry their legacy, their memories and their love in my hearth. Having stood tall for over forty years I have extended to new heights, cleansed to fresh looks but my foundation remains grounded to the original roots. I will welcome several more generations from this line of family, invite them in to rest, to stay and leave behind a piece of themselves to be ingrained in my walls forever.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

True Friend

My dog looks at me with questions in his eyes
I look back with an attempted smile,
he paws me with encouragement
I sit still staring up at the ceiling,
his nose nudges me to rise higher
my mind melts deeper into the dark abyss,
he gently rests his head on my lap
my hand absently pets him, absorbing peace

he nuzzles his warm body close to mine

I feel my spirit float above me
lifting the dark cloud into oblivion

My dog sits up to look with his knowing eyes

I look back and smile with gratitude.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Forgotten Heroine - Conclusion

Malalai stood ready by the water containers, strips of cloth and a bowl full of brown paste in hand. Bitter, intense odor from the concoction emanated throughout the tent before she covered the bowl with a thick cloth. She had helped her mother grind the sun dried leaves and added the formulaic ingredients into the mixture to make a smooth soothing remedy.

The men outside the pavilion gathered in the open, armed and ready. Malalai heard her father speak in his calm and commanding voice, catching only parts of his speech amidst excitement all around her, inside and out. Gathering from the words she heard and after piecing them together she learned that the British army was marching towards them, charged and ready to attack. Wedding festivities aside, the tribe had to fight, to preserve their honor at any cost. Abandoning the welcome preparations for the groom and his tribe, Malalai’s family geared up to face the attack and defend their land.

The battle was brutal against the British army’s guns and precise strikes. Honored men fell to their knees continuing to fight till their last breath. Under the scorching sun, Malalai went out with a few other women with water and to help the fallen, the injured, and the broken. In the middle of battle, she saw her groom arrive with his large clan, regal on his white horse. Discarding their wedding wares, he and his tribesmen brought out their swords and fell right into step to fight. The British army was now furiously outnumbered, faced by strong Afghan men led by two strong leaders – the chiefs of two prominent tribes.

The fierce sun had started its descent behind the far off mountains. The dry landscape blew dust clouds all around them shrouding the warriors with the earth’s blanket. Blinded in the midst of battle, Malalai ran from one wound to another, applying her paste, soothing the dying with her words, offering the balm of her presence.

In the midst of the heat of the battle, the call of a wounded leader echoed in her ear. Turning around she saw her father fall to the ground and she rushed to his side. She saw hope in his eyes before he closed them forever. The battle carried on with full force and a cacophony of gun fire, steel hitting steel, shouts of commanders, calls of the angry chargers, cries of the wounded, howls of the dying reverberated in the battlefield.

Within hours of her father, Malalai witnessed the massacre of the second chief, the leader of the tribe that she was to be married into, father of her groom. Not long after, one of the wounded informed her of the demise of the man who was to be married to her. Without shedding a drop of tear, she carried on helping those she could and praying for those she could not.

The sun winked before descending further down, leaving a glimmer of light before preparing to rest for the night. Malalai saw the scene before her in the soft light, her tribesmen standing tall but unwilling to carry on, despair painted on their faces. Slowly she saw them begin to fall off like flies dejected and disheartened. Vision of her father’s hopeful eyes swam past her and she stood up. She stood tall as a woman of Afghan and reprimanded her tribesmen. She pontificated on what it was to be an Afghan, to be of the tribe who was led by a great chief, to protect the soil that was their home, to fight until death. She shouted and commanded and led the men of his tribes to charge and drive the foreigners away. She reminded them of their honor. Inspired, the tribesmen rose once again ready to fight until death. Before darkness engulfed the land, whatever was left of the British army had to retreat back across the border, their guns and strategies in tow.

The morning sun shone upon the field and bathed the sea of bodies with its harsh rays. In a constellation of beige uniforms and white loose shirt pants, clusters of army helmets next to tribal turbans, men of all shapes and sizes lay in contorted forms, their bloods mingled overnight. Among the scattered bodies the sun’s rays gleamed on a long red scarf. Shrouded under it lay the form of Malalai, her bowl of medicinal paste still in hand. Her body stretched and hand reaching out as if trying to apply the balm to the tribesman next to her, even after her death.

Women and the surviving men of the two tribes buried their fallen, shed tears for their loved ones, honored them for their bravery and took pride in their victory. They honored those who lost their lives by keeping them alive through stories passed down generations. Legend of the losing battle which was saved by a brave and honorable young woman was told and retold across the land with pride.