Meeting India

India, You will meet her, not in newspapers nor in a movie, not an idea or fantasy, not in her texts nor what the journalist, moviemaker nor prejudice says, not in fables or documentaries.
You will meet her on the open road, where magic, beauty and dust from the earth, whirl up to collide. You will meet her in conversation with her people.
You won’t find her solely in her famous crowded cities, nor in the disparity of poverty and wealth upon her land, nor in the strange blend of ignorance and knowledge.
You will meet her in the fiery strength that hides in the weakness. In an unknown face that walks in an unknown village in a staggering mountain, deep in the desert wind, by her verdant forest, gushing rivers and her endless ways.
You will meet her if you forget everything you’ve been told she is.
You will meet her when you embrace her with your heart

by Shenaz Wahid

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I silently honor my soul

To only accept that which is born of love and that which is loving,
is a way to honor yourself.

A well must be full to be able to give of its water,
How can you give water or love if you don’t have its source within you?
and while the well within is always full,
it is quite the journey to recognize that it is.
I step away firmly from that which is not born of love, and accept only that which is,
and in this way, I silently honor my soul.

by Shenaz Wahid

Holding the wind

I hold you in my heart lightly my love,
as the fields before me now hold the wind.
I am still without your breeze.
You make me Dance.
You are essential to my existence,
but love you as I may.
I have no reins with which to tie you to me.
No my Beloved, I set you free.
I let you go, not because you mean so little,
but because you mean so much.
My Everything.My Dance.

I let my heart ride upon this wind.
For we are held by the same thing.
The earth spinning within its grand Universe.
A Universe which has love at its core,
which has my faith.
That gave birth to the milky way and to us.
And when it wills,
we will dance for eternity.
Until that moment, I hold you as the wind.

1111

by SHENAZWAHID

Authenticity and Aloneness

Authenticity and Aloneness are intertwined, one often born from the other.                      
By being what no one has been before : You.

Being authentic sometimes means being alone, growing up as the kid who never quite fit in, as the adolescent who didn’t always have the right words to say.
It means being a lost adult, giving yourself a chance to be found.

And when you do find it, YOU and walk along your path, at first you see you are alone, walking as everyone is in large groups to different places together,
But slowly and surely, they emerge from the shadows, those glorious beings who were searching themselves too while you were,
And together they share magnificent mysteries, known only to them.

by SHENAZWAHID

Faith in the Desert

It was of little use to have big dreams in a place with little means to achieve them. It was futile, but Razia’s grandfather had told her otherwise and she believed him.
He was after all a very special man.

The women here are intelligent, ambitious, yet there isn’t a place for them to pour their energy nor exuberance. They are eager to learn that universal language that history and time had chosen, that language that stopped them from being a part of the modern world; English. Their own language of course is rich, the use of which could paint unimaginable poetry and imagery from the soul, but it was only of use to their own. The world would listen only to the voice it understood.
If you were a traveler passing by this village deep inside the desert in Rajasthan, you would smile at their lovely faces and modest clothing splashed with color. The eyes of the women, hiding their vast dreams in the boundless desert of their heart. You may take a photo with your phone, that the children will delight themselves for hours with, should you let them play a few games. You may see them and yet not see them, for if you stop to ask, you will find people eager to dream greatly, to learn, to dance, searching for possibility. One thing you will find undoubtedly here, as you would find anywhere in this world; is the hearts of the young women eager to love.

Every girl had a story, of the boy she adored from the same village or the next one, yet here you didn’t speak of these things openly, you told the other girls, but not the boy and never your own parents. They would chose suitably for you.
Razia was no different and yet she was. She had fallen terribly in love with a young man from the next village. A story doomed from the start, one to be silenced and held only as a great yearning in the heart. He was soon engaged to a woman in his own village and that was that!
Razia’s grandfather was a great mystic and a saint, a title he never bestowed upon himself, but one given to him by the people who so adored him. He himself, was always engaged in communion with God, but when people spoke to him, they found in his words meaningful answers to their questions and so they came from all over the village.
He asked them to reach out to God themselves, but when he had something of value to share, he happily did so. His words were always simple,
“Don’t go searching outside yourself asking this person to that one, about who you are. Believe in the pure open space in the desert. Sit here quietly praying and you will have your answers.”
“You must never seek revenge, If you do so, there will be noise and that will be all. If you have been wronged, seek no revenge and one day God will deliver the truth and it’s echoes will be heard by all.” He had asked Razia to have faith in this pure space in the desert where his body now lay buried. The granddaughter of the great mystic said a prayer. She told God of the great love she had for this young man and
Quietly in the open desert she let him go…

A year passed when her father brought to her door a wedding proposal.
Razia rubbed her eyes in utter disbelief to see her love standing before her. Her father had never known. For a reason unknown, the engagement had been called off and Razia’s father who travelled to the next village thought the young man would be a perfect match for his daughter. Faith paved her path. In the traditional Indian wedding, a few tears are shed when the girl parts with her family. Razia couldn’t help not caring for such tradition and no-one smiled and laughed greater than her.

by SHENAZ WAHID
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Love, pride and fear

“I believed in love. I put all my faith in it and I’ve been completely disappointed, hurt and humiliated. I can’t possibly put myself through it again. I’d be foolish to risk my heart, sanity and everything that I am all over again.”, uttered Kris

“I should be practical now. Focus on my dreams, build my career, after all it’s more reliable than another unpredictable human being. I can be wealthy, travel, spend time with friends, have fun, make something of myself and surely enough I will have someone to share life with.” he says, his eyes betraying the words his lips just uttered. He wants to share life with someone, but he’s tired of love’s heart-shattering complexities.

And then Kris shared his story. “It’s been three years she’s been on my mind, but I just can’t tell her. I was at work when someone had baked this amazingly delicious cake. I took a bite and asked every one who made it. They all pointed at her. When I saw her for the first time, I stopped in my tracks. I’ve seen a lot of women but this was different. What I feel just being in her presence……. She’s kind, radiant and like no other.”
” What?? Three years and you haven’t told her, why?? you have to tell her.”, I say unable to contain my expressive self.
“No, do you not remember how it ended with my last girlfriend? What if she doesn’t feel the same way? What if she says no? I don’t want to hear it. What if she has someone one else? I really can’t put myself through the pain or rejection again. Then again not everyone gets what they want.”
“No,you get what you ask for and what you believe you’ll get, if you risk everything to get it, and that includes your heart.”, I say.

I sound so confident, so full of faith but I’d be lying to him and myself if I said I hadn’t experienced the same stone-cold fear, deep aching hurt and terrifying confusion after my first heartbreak. I was 21, my heart ripped open that I turned over to God who with time and his majestic love, made it whole again. He taught me that only those who had the power to touch our soul, had the power to break it open in such a way, that only then could we ever peer into it and slowly over time discover it’s power, magic and love. Only then would we listen to its dreams, truths and what it yearns for. Only retrospectively can I understand that it was a blessing I had deemed as a curse.

Consider this my dear friend, God does with the human heart what he did with the world’s most magnificent mountain ranges, The Himalayas; the earth lay low, resting blissfully in the sun and for no particular reason, He decided to disrupt the peaceful lands with a mighty earthquake. The earth would have let out a long terrified cry, confused as it trembled, but from it was born the world’s mightiest mountains that towered into the sky. Only such utter disruption could allow the earth’s mighty heart to reach into the clouds. I know you’re afraid my friend. Believe me in one way or another we all are. I sure as hell am for my own heart, but there’s an awesome invisible hand leading us through the mystery, that we must trust.
You have but one life (one that you know of anyway) and you must express the love it feels, no matter the outcome. If you believe, you will one day triumph.
Tell her Kris, tell her!!

by Shenaz Wahid
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The bar dancer

She looks at me from the seat beside mine and asks if I have any cotton as the flight is about to take off to Delhi.
“Kow-tun hai kow-tun?”, she asks in a heavy accent.
“Nahi hai. No I’m sorry” I smile at her.
She smiles back, “What do you do? Where are you going?”, she inquires.
I tell her that I love to travel and to write and that I’m going to the mountains.
“What do you do?”, I ask her.
“Dance.” she whispers softly.
“Oh I love to dance. I’ve been learning different forms since I was seven.”, I say animatedly to which she reacts with a quirky funny smile and says, “No, not that kind of dance.”
“Like Bharatnatyam?”
“Like Mujra and bar-dancing.”,she says softly. “Don’t tell anyone.”, she adds.

She says these words, “Don’t tell anyone” in such a soft shy way in my ear that it is almost impossible to forsee the crazy, dramatic, exhilarating next two and a half hours that will follow me on board.

In an endearing way, she is completely oblivious to social etiquette. She talks about her birthday aloud animatedly and the customer who showered two lac rupees on her “like rain” in a matter of half an hour. “Mere janamdin pe naa woh phool waali mombati jalaaye the aur aise paise udaaye mere upar ki barish jaise.”
“They love my dance.”, she says proudly and in the next instance says, “Let me show you.”, dikhao mein aapko? before I can reply she pops out her phone, plays a song and starts moving her hands dramatically.

My embarrassment quickly turns to pure amazement, that life put her my way, her eyes and voice overflowing with laughter as she tells her story.

“I’ve traveled the whole country, but my favorite part is Delhi.”,
“Delhi??”, I ask with questioning eyebrows thinking of the chaos in contrast to the peaceful villages and mountains.
“Yes Delhi. Where I live it’s beautiful. The neighbors are like family, the women laugh and cook meals together sharing stories. My family is kind and loving. I feel blessed coming back home to them. They don’t know what I do. They’d feel bad if they did. Bura manjayenge. They think I’m a make-up artist. I support the whole family from my sisters to their children and my parents, so we’re all happy.”, she says with pride

“How is it dancing?”, I ask trying to be as subtle as I can.
“It’s so much fun. bohot Mazaa aata hai. ” she says to my surprise
” I never let any man touch me at work. I dance because it helps me take care of the people I love and honestly dance is my passion.” Believe me it is, because even a flight full of passengers wouldn’t stop her from playing her tunes out loud and dancing. Everyone including the crew is too amazed and stupefied to stop her or say anything.
“The people I work with are like my sisters and dear friends. Also nothing else pays this well.”, she adds. Her last sentence gets me thinking of the irony of the price sexuality sells for and how an artist who makes beautiful music or the incredibly talented painter will have to fight it out to make ends meet, until they make it, but that is for another story.

Her appreciation for deep friendships and bonds seem much deeper than most people caught up living their busy lives. She pulls my cheek tightly with gleaming eyes and says “Aapse milkar bohot khushi hui mujhe.”

“I’ve loved only one man in my life and he passed away a year ago. I miss him a lot, after which its never been the same. He was the captain of a ship and to think of it, I wouldn’t be doing this if he were still alive. I would still be dancing, but not for others.”, she trails off. She plays a Punjabi love song that reminds her of him and translates it for me with intense emotion.

Here’s a list of endearing downright funny things that she asked me,

“Bangalore se Dilli tak teen Ghanta lagta hai. Yaha se foreign jaane ko kitna der lagta hai?”
“Eh chai de, aur Chinni aur dood theek se de abbey.”, to the purser.
“Aapka koi hai?” she raises her eyebrows naughtily, questioningly and adds “lover??”

by Shenaz Wahid
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Hiding

Let’s hide dear friend, all the questions that torment our soul,                       those questions of life and love whose answers we don’t already know.

Let me hide all my wounds, any hurt or any pain, just as you do beneath your smile.
Let’s hide under the curtain of the dark lonely night and pretend there’s only the moonlit sky with stars that shine. Let’s forget it is the darkness, which holds the stars in its vast bowl because they aren’t afraid to embrace it, like you and I.

Let’s hide the sadness that wonders why it was ever there and raise a toast in celebration and laughter.
It’s been said that the deepest laughter comes from those who aren’t afraid to cry, like a well carved so deep that it can hold the rain’s song, like secret twins dancing in the night, but let’s forget and pretend we’ve only ever known one of those two twins; joy.

Let’s hide that all we need is a silent embrace from another who knows exactly what it feels.
I know you know just what I mean, but let’s not be so weak to show the shadows of our soul. Even the sun moves and dances with the shadows through the day, but let’s pretend the sun of our hearts never a cast a shadow upon a single stone, and should that wretched shadow ever appear, let’s hide it beneath a velvet blanket where no one can see.

Let’s hide dear friend, anything that they say shouldn’t be. The deepest fear or doubt, for to show ourselves completely as we are, is shameful we’ve been told, So let’s dress those fears in beautiful robes woven with silken thread,                          
So that we may never know the beauty of being human or the magic of unveiling a glimpse of the mystery together
Or know that wondrous secret, that we’re all the same darling friend,
Stars so brilliant, that just need to know how to embrace the night,
for us to see our own hidden light.

All the same, you and I and everyone,                                       
And all we need is a silent embrace from another who knows exactly what it feels.

by SHENAZ WAHID

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One mask remaining

“Most people die with one mask remaining, wearing one last mask on, never knowing what it is to be fully loved, for who they really are.”

says Joe.

It is the person living the dream that others imagined for him, rather than the ones his own heart longs for. He feels the burden of following his own path and so he sticks to the one carefully paved by society for millennium & so one mask remains.
It’s the lover trying hard to be what the one they love wishes them to be.
And in doing so, often changing who they really are. One mask remains. It’s rare that people stop to ask them self, “Who am I? What do I really want from life? What do I dream of being and what do I long for?” They might ask the question but take everyone’s thoughts into the answer.

What would happen if we first fully see ourselves unmasked naked and then show ourselves to the ones we love, just as we are. That kind of sky-like freedom is what we all long for,
And yet, we hold back this freedom from our self and from the ones we love. Why? I’m not really sure. I do it too, consciously and unconsciously.

If I gave myself that freedom, I would travel deep into the world’s heart, love fearlessly regardless of the outcome, dance in wild abandon, live with the Sufi saints, Buddhist monks, Christian monk to feel life and God from everyone’s eyes. To arrive at the same space through different ways, write not just about the light but the gray shadows of my soul of which they are many, the doubts and the questions.
More and more, slowly I’m about to gift myself this freedom. A simple freedom of just being me.

“The only book truly worth reading is the book of your own life and rarely does anyone do so. Some one stops to read the book of his own life, seeing the beauty of it all, and he turns into a famous teacher, a saint or wise man. When in truth, everyone carries these great men and women within themselves. It’s just that we never stopped to the read our own book.” says Joe who is loving these cookies the most.

These cookies are strange. They’re filled with things that are making the people around the table far too intense. And of course we must talk of love.

by SHENAZ WAHID

What would you do if you had no boundaries?

“What would you do if you had no boundaries?” asks Mia the blue-eyed girl sitting in front of me.
It is one of the most important questions any one has ever asked me.
She means to ask, What would you do if you had no boundaries from your mother, father, lover, friends, brother, sister, neighbor, from the boundaries you impose on yourself and the ones imposed on you. What would you do?

We are talking about choices and I am sitting there contemplating which path I should choose to tread upon, what is right and wrong, what I should and shouldn’t do, when Mia looks me in the eye and asks me that one simple question,
“What would you do if you had no boundaries?”

It suddenly became easy to answer what had puzzled me. I start answering her with excited little heart of a child speaking withou care.
I think of my dreams and what I would do with life, if the only thing that steered me was the mast of my soul.
The answers that came was the naked voice of my heart, stripped bare of anything superficial, of what another thinks I should be and who I wish to be in front of another and who I’m supposed to be for another.
The voice that answered was my own. It was me being me.

Where would I go? What would I do? What would I say to another and to myself? Who do I love?

What would you do if you had no boundaries?
Who makes these boundaries but us, for ourselves and for each other?
Any one who truly listens to his own soul, could never go wrong because our souls are the throne of God, where his voice guides our feet.
If you listened to that voice, would you choose a new dream? Where would you travel and who would you meet? Perhaps you would meet yourself on a foreign street. Who would you say the deepest words of your soul to? Which friends would you hold onto for ever and who would you let go of? What would you want to see and what would you to do to go there, just to glimpse at yourself.

“What would you do if you had no boundaries?” If you listen to that answer, you will hear your heart speak.

by SHENAZ WAHID

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.”
Rumi