My earliest memory is that of when I was three or lesser years old. It probably was my first day at school. I was clinging onto S’s hand and refusing to let go until she showed me a little kid inside and said she had a lollipop and that she’d share it with me. And just as I stepped in and the doors closed behind me, I realized she hadn’t, and when I saw S through the grill of the window so far away, I started crying. But she just waved back.

Fast forward.
One day in the month of December, I released E out to the trees because that’s where squirrels belong. We’d taken him in when he was a tiny baby who had fallen off his nest during a storm. But that day, I watched him as he lifted his body from my hands, leaped onto the closest branch, and skittled away to never return back, ever.

On the last day of school, I looked at all the people who’d stayed together with me for the longest time of my life. Nostalgia hit back and the thought that I’d never find them in the next classroom I’d step into, was devastating. When the last bell rang, it felt like the end of everything.

When it is said that time is relative, I sometimes think how it relates to some people and some things moving on faster than the others.

Maybe that’s the reason why forevers aren’t the same for everybody.

When it comes to airports, I’ve been to more departures than arrivals. The people I’ve met later are always lesser in number to the memories I’ve made with those who have left. I’ve been to enough funerals to think of my own. And I’d say so despite how dark that sounds.

Because I’m told, that everything in the world eventually leaves. And as much I’ve seen it happen, it scares me to think I believe so.

They say there are two types of people in this world. The ones that get over their grief and move on and the ones that descend into some sort of endless misery.
Life’s taught me plenty of things.
I wish I will have learnt enough to say goodbye at the end of it.

© Tabassum Sultana


Urdu: devestation/destruction

Today I caught myself
absent mindedly
humming the tune of my
father’s favorite song.
It was so sudden
And so hurting
That it felt more like an accident
Than a borrowed melody.
I had to stop halfway to see
if I was still breathing.
My father and I do not talk.
My father and I live in separate countries,
in desperate homes we’ve built out of ease.
There is an endless threshold
of silence between us,
a flowing river of breath
that splits our territories apart,
that I wouldn’t dare cross.
Not because I’m scared,
Not because I cannot,
but just because I’ve been there once
and I’ve been back too.
Believe me,
I’ve waded,
through these cutting waters
and reached his bank
quite a couple o’ times alright;
through bleeding wounds
old and new;
And those I didn’t know existed.
And do you know?
always brings about with it
a discovery,
a discovery that sounds
like a song stuck in your head.
And when you visit someplace
with hopes of being welcomed
and all you get is resistance,
you want to go back home
no matter how desperate it is.
When you enter a distant land
you enter it like a distant memory
you enter like a tourist.
Where do you go
when you have nowhere to go?
When I reached his country
my father was taken by surprise.
Or terror?
I do not know.
It was too sudden for him,
probably a little too early.
When I entered my father’s country,
I did not know the language,
which is to say
I entered a strange land
In crisis like this,
all you can do is try
and read in people’s eyes
what they expect of you
and when I tried
to read my father’s eyes
I learnt that they were not
expecting me to come;
is what I did.
But you don’t leave a place
without a memory to live by.
And my father,
he gave me a weapon
as a souvenir.
I took it without a word
and cut the water on my way back.
I cut my back on the back waters.
My father gave me something
that I could harm with,
something that I could use
to inflict pain.
Father I do not know what you wish,
I do not intend to know,
but hear me out,
even if you don’t want to listen;
Some girls see their dad as King
Some dad’s see their girl as Princess
But you are my father,
And I am but your daughter;
We only see this battlefield in front of us
A matter of courage, fear and principles
But it has taken me all my love
to go to go to war
For you?
Without you?
I do not know.
You see?
Some little girls,
Eventually learn to become Queens.
With great power comes the will to destroy;
But I use this weapon for defence.
I only know how to protect.
So I will sing your favourite song,
And this time
It will sound like a war cry.
Do not silence me,
You don’t understand
I only want to build a bridge
with everything they’ve killed inside of us.

© Tabassum Sultana



I’ve been thinking about variety in similarity.
About how things can be synonymous to each other but different in their own way.
For instance, the string that is used for flying kites isn’t ideal for tying up a paper package.
The yarn that can be knitted into a sweater isn’t the same one that can sew up and embroider a wedding dress.
The twine that can hold papers together does not qualify for suturing up a wound. There are ropes for mooring ships and there are lines for drying clothes.
The former for securing weight, the latter for carrying some.
Small and long and thin and plump.
Strong and weak and somewhere in between.
Some for this and some for that.
Some this, some that.
And yet, they’re all part of the thread family. They’re all of some purpose.
Altered, and yet, each contributing a cause.
Each identified for what it can do and given a responsibility per se.
Every stitch and every knot, just as essential.
Every twist and every weave vital on its own accord.
All these threads with their varied colors and strengths and stories.
Each given the importance and recognition it deserves.
And I wonder, what would happen if people could be perceived this way too?
What kind of tapestries would we be?

©Tabassum Sultana


urdu : companionship

A little past midnight, when bee asks me if I’m happy, I’m tempted to spill the beans the traditional way.
If bee hadn’t been so close, I would’ve settled with a lazy laugh.
But that’s just a worse case scenario because in a time where people are busy living their own lives, nobody is conscious enough to question about happiness.
When people have enough on their plate already, they may forget to check on what the others are getting.
But it was bee.
Bee who didn’t question my ‘yes’ like she knew.
Knew what I knew.
When there’s common knowledge between two people, and a proximity so intense that only a mere cell phone separates them, they eventually feel the connection of knowing the same thing.
When you’ve known something for so long, and have protected it all this while, it’s natural to think you’d still hold it so.
But it doesn’t always work that way.
With the threshold of having hidden that knowingness and a piercing silence at stake, it is hard to cook up and serve fresh, a false story to a stranger as much as it is difficult to deliver, to a known friend.
Yes it is easy to complain about life, it’s easier to come up with excuses,to keep ready blame tactics.
When the questioner looks like they already know the answer, one is compelled to give it to them as such.
But all these rules collapse when it comes to her.
When she asks me if I’m happy, she does not expect me to explain my reasons and I know this.
It’s her afterall.
Bee who knows,
who has always known.
Mutual knowingness is, in a way, an unspoken blessing in our relationship.
Bee and I share our gossip, and finish our conversation in a comfortable silence.
We’re satiated,
and it’s quiet,
and we’re happy,
and we know.
Name a better combination,
I’ll wait.

© Tabassum Sultana


urdu: footprints

Before you know it,you’re
turning twenty-five
Panicking about life
And there are nineteen
Year olds going to
Ivy league schools
And ex-classmates
In college who look
Like they’ve already figured out
How they’d want to retire
And girls your age
Whose hair still has
The perfect bounce
Their manicured hands
As soft as petals
And suddenly
You’re caught in a
Rat race, where everyone
Is competing for
Gold medals :
Well paid jobs
Foreign degrees
Perfect spouses
A house you own
Traveling the world
And two babies before you’re 30
And there you are
Wondering if you’re doing enough
Or worse
If you’re even living enough.
You think that
Just because
You couldn’t study abroad
like your junior did,
or brag about your accent
like your cousin does,
that if you don’t have a job
that you worked hard for
or backpacked around Europe
with your friends
while you were studying,
That you’re living under a rock
That your life isn’t fulfilling or real
Unless you do everything
that kids from your school
and college are doing now
You’ve always got this fear
that you’re not doing enough
with your life because
ever since you were a kid
you were told to bring home gold medals
and ever since you went to school
you were told you weren’t less than a boy
and ever since you realized
it wasn’t all that simple
you were told to hustle
as if time was running out
and that you hadn’t already done enough
Do you think people like us
will ever learn to be satisfied?
Or content?
To tell our blood
to stop gushing so fast
through our hearts?
Thumping to do more?
And more?
And just bloody more?
Or will we sit in our graves
After we’re dead
And pull out our achievements and certificates and pay checks,
Finally be content?
That we’ve done enough.
Finally calm our minds
That we’ve fullfiled our father’s wishes?
Or will we realize now
After we’ve read this rant
That the only thing that
That the only thing
that will ever matter
After you’re dead is
If you were a good person
And if you were loved.

© Tabassum Sultana