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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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

Yoleen and Aaray

When I looked into her eyes, I saw that there in lived a thousand stories of love and war, heartbreak and hope, kindness and disillusionment all whirling around in the same ocean.
Since every young Israeli is bound to go to the army, she found herself posted at the border where she says she saw young Israelis return home from the land called India with ‘shining eyes’. Their eyes made her wonder what lay beyond and in a moment she made herself a promise that she would one day head in that direction.

When we first begin to speak in Manali, it was because Yoleen told the waiter to mash some garlic in warm water to soothe the sore throat and cold that I was complaining of.
A friendship formed slowly and yet deeply between Yoleen and I, as we walk through the pine forests speaking of our dreams. She is a teacher and this is her dream. For the longest time her parents who would rather have her work at the brilliant job she had, found it hard to accept, but Yoleen who loves children, unrelenting became one. And yet she had to come out here because she was journeying, searching for something and quite what she didn’t know yet…..

While she had learned the art of self-defense in the Army she still didn’t know how to defend her heart, wearing it on her brave sleeve. The last year had been heavy on her with her apartment getting burned down and heartbreak, that tricky thing that’s a part of life.

*****

I journey on and so does she and when I meet her again for dinner in McLeod Ganj, there is a man sitting beside her called Aaray, whom she happens to meet by chance. Aaray was here in search of a lost dream. A lost love, an Englishwoman called Dilayla whom he met in the very hotel where he is now staying. He has her number and her facebook but he wants to use none of these to contact her,
leaving it all to fate, but fate was working by the one who created fate.

Aaray does not meet Dilayla….  but he does meet Yoleen living right opposite him as his next door neighbour at the very same hotel. A conversation that starts over sharing a light turns into exploring the mountains together, unravelling the many sights that the magnificent mountains hold.

Aaray is a history teacher most fascinating to talk to with his deep insights on everything imaginable.
I ask them about the strife in Israel and Yoleen is replete with stories.
“When I was a child, they would announce for us to go into the ‘safe room’ in the house and put on the mask, when they knew the missiles were about to be fired. And we would go in there really scared, put on our masks and wait. Our parents who were so used to it, would step outside to watch and point to the missiles flying overhead and say, “No not here, it’s heading across to the other side”.
She says all this in such a humorous way, that ironically we all laugh.

Aaray is losing his eye-sight and this is impossible to tell. I only notice this when I stick my hand out to say goodbye one night after dinner and he does not reciprocate. I start waving my hand about in front of his face, until someone kindly points this out to me. He has been an athlete growing up, running on the football fields since he was a child.
“Yoleen I’m a mess.”, says Aaray who is not coping so well with the fading eyesight.
“All I see is a beautiful man with so much love to give the world.”, comes her reply.

The last time I see Yoleen is with a pink setting sun, a Simon and Garfunkel song to which she is singing along and a cup of cinnamon tea. Tears run down her cheek as she tells me Aaray is leaving back to Israel.
After two weeks it is time for Aaray to head back home and for Yoleen to continue her journey. She says she must journey on because she came here for her.

******

A month after she leaves back to Israel, she writes to me saying,
“Aaray lives an hour away. I just came home after a cup of coffee”,
six months later, “So we’re moving in together” and just a little later, “travelling with Aaray.”
And now 2years later her last message to me goes something like this,
“We’re getting married in the Mountains. You have to come.”

I think of the distances that all of us travel for love and God’s brilliant hand in our lives. If it wasn’t for one cigarette that needed to be lit, they wouldn’t have come together.
The hotel, the cigarette and they themselves needed to be in the space of time.
Even before she met Aaray, she says, “I know this one thing; the Yoleen that came to India is not the same Yoleen that goes back out.”
She tells me that when I finish writing my book, she will read it to him.

by SHENAZ WAHID

The Angels and the omens

I know without doubt that Angels are real.

As we’re both speaking of Angels tonight,
I begin to say that prayer to my guardian Angel written down in the Bible,
but he completes it before I can……
“Angel of God, my guardian dear,
His love has committed me, to your care,
Ever this day be at my side,
To light and guard, to rule and guide.”

My 18yr old cousin who I’m meeting after almost 3years goes on to say, “I use to say that prayer in the 2nd grade and I haven’t said it in so long.”

After they finish reading their Namaz, every Muslim turns to the right and then to the left, to greet their Angels. In the Holy Quran, the Holy Bible and other scriptures, Angels and Archangels are written about as very real forces of life,
but not everyone calls out to them.

After reading about them for the very first time, I light a small-white candle and call out to them on the candle-stand I’d taken from Nana’s attic, I open my eyes slowly to find that grandpa Philip’s old rusted candle-stand is an Angel with wings as if to tell me teasingly, “We’ve always been here, you just haven’t noticed!”

That same book said, “It’s the simplest thing to call out to them, they’ve just been waiting for you all your life. Let your prayer to them be a simple one.
Lead me in all matters of my life, for my highest good. Give me a sign that I can understand that you are here.” It went on to say that Angels are God’s creatures that can’t be commanded for a sign, you have to ask with love!
not something quite like, “hey Angels if you’re real make me fly!”
And then it said that although it wasn’t the rule, one of the common signs was finding pennies in unexpected places, someplace you really don’t expect to see them like your bathroom or your porch! That same day my eyes darted around and well….. nothing, no pennies or anything!

So I stepped out that evening to meet my best-friend for coffee and after some time she pulls out a book from her bag that she opens first and flips around, saying “Someone gifted me this interesting book on Angels.”
“Can I see that?”, I ask her
I open it and a penny falls on my lap from the book of Angels!
I literally jump on her and she has no idea why I’m doing this inquiring,
“Where’d that coin come from?”
That penny is now wrapped in a purple ribbon around grandpa’s old candle-stand so that I never forget they are here!
If you believe in Angels, then they’ll be right by your side.
God loves us so much, to the extent that he made for each one of us creatures of heaven, called guardian Angels to lead us to our highest good! Your highest good is simply that which, will in the end bring you true joy and love. There are paths I’ve chosen that I thought were excellent choices at the time I made them, but nothing made me feel more miserable. The Angels see far beyond what we can, all that’s invisible in the future and all that’s asleep dreaming within our soul. Asking them to show the way, is walking toward love and joy.
After all they come from the one who made us.

The day before I meet my cousin, I asked God and my guardian Angel,
“This stranger I met ‘xyz’ feels so important to me. I don’t know why and all of this just seems so ridiculous. Give me a sign, an omen that I can understand if this person is really that important to my life.”
So the next day, Jovin who hasn’t met me in three whole years, barges in inquiring about this stranger. There are so many things he could ask me first, after all this time, but it’s the very first thing he says.
I hug him for bringing me my Omen and I know that my Angels will lead that stranger, to read the words I now write.

Wait there’s more…. the day after that, my cousin’s dad, my uncle in Bahrain whom I haven’t seen in eons, who has no clue about our conversation and who sends me an email once a year, just to wish me for my birthday or Christmas or new year, sends me a message that midst all the things my heart needs to hear in this moment, says, “There are Angels all around you!”
……………..

by SHENAZ WAHID

Lyra’s voice

Often what Lyra thought was Love, was just an excuse for the word.
Love as time went by, she found was far more than the definitions she had given it in her unknowing youth.

It was more than the romance of candlelight.
Yes that too was an expression of love, but it was also his shadow that fell upon her, on the night she was unwell.
It was the days of laughter and journeying into the beauty of the mountains.
Yes it was walking down the streets with joy upon their lips,
but it was also the days of confusion, pain and solitude where he stood by her silently, as she searched her own soul.

It was the days of celebration, drunken in love with wine laced lips,
of song and dance and love-making.
but it was also the days doing things completely wrong,
to find his forgiving arms embrace her at night.

It was the days spent learning all the good they had to offer each other,
dreaming dreams and igniting a fire in the soul of the other,
simply because of the courage love gave them,
but it was also the days of having hope together, when dreams seemed far away.

It was looking into each other eyes, seeing only what they could see, feeling only what they could feel.
It was kisses and fingers running through each other’s skin and hair.
But it was also the nights when the dark weakness in their soul prevailed,
and even though it hurt to find it,
it was the nights when he held Lyra’s hand to say a prayer to the God,
that had blessed them with this Love.

It was the blissful days spent by the window with the setting sun upon their gleaming eyes, her head on his chest beside the moon drenched waves,
time spent tasting love’s sweetness,
but it was also the nights of agony when Love seemed so confusing.
And yet he was always near.

by SHENAZ WAHID