My Mother is a Sultanate


*This is dedicated to all the women and the mothers in Pakistan whose strength, patience and efforts go unacknowledged and yet they refuse to cease. You inspire me, and you make us all.

I watch Turkish dramas.

Especially the one on the Sultanate of Women. You know, the ones on Hurrem and Kosem Sultan.

It’s a subject I’ve long been fascinated by.  It is fascinating, how these slave girls rose to become sultanas that more or less ruled the Ottoman Empire.

Most of it is fiction in the show, but if you’ve read actual history, it gives faces to the names; it gives a life to history.

Life wasn’t easy in the harem, there was struggle, there was conflict, there was suffering, there was love, there was loss, there was death.

I’ve read about these sultanas, their lives, their reigns and I have always been left enchanted by their intelligence, their strength, their beauty, their courage, their power, their triumph against adversity and difficulty; their fight against fate.

I read about these women in history and it gives rise to a strange feeling: a pride that the womanhood I possess has been shared by such glorious women; and a realization that inside every woman, there is a capacity for the things they did.

But I wonder if there are more of their kind.

I wonder if I was in their position, would I have survived?


As I am forced to venture further into adulthood, I find myself absolutely fearful not of what the future holds for me, but what this society holds for me.

There is so much that is wrong in it. So much to battle against, so much to resign to.

I don’t think I have the patience, the tact, the strength in me to deal with the pressures and expectations of our culture and society. As dramatic as this sounds, I fear for my survival in it because I don’t think I’ll be able to put up with what it throws a girl’s way.

Then there are times in my life during which I am struck and seized by a moment of sheer marvel and awe at my mother.

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This is a woman who seems ordinary. She has a life and story shared by perhaps millions across Pakistan.

She’s a homemaker.

20170514_135739She was married fairly young, and she has devoted her entire life to her family, the family she was married into, and the family she raised of her own. She has two grown kids now, a few strands of gray in her hair, and yet even today, from the minute she wakes up to the minute she shuts her eye at night, her day revolves around me, my brother and my father. Us, our needs, our demands, our joy, our utmost dependence on her from the smallest thing to the biggest pareshani. We frustrate her, bother her, test her. We are not easy people.

And yet, it is almost as if we’ve usurped her life from her as a right of ours.

She’s the most beautiful woman I know. She’s the woman with the most melodious voice, that I often wake up to, hearing it hum along or rendering a rendition of a classic Indian song.

She’s the woman whose every word, expression, gesture and effort is a lesson in compassion, thoughtfulness and selflessness.

She’s the brightest woman I know. The strongest woman I know. A shelter in storms, a shade to rest against amid scathing heat, a breeze amid the stillness and silences of the night.

She amazes me, and yet she frightens me because God knows, the sort of strength, patience, the ability to sacrifice, the ability to endure, to overcome, to love, and to forgive, that she has, I would never be able to muster even in a thousand years.

She’s been put through a lot, she has endured a lot.

She’s a warrior.

I know there have been times that if I had been in her place, I would’ve given up, let go or collapsed.

I falter at the thought of it. I am nothing like her, not even a mere fragment of her self.

And yet I wonder how much I have still taken from her; her health, her youth, her time, her individuality.

She’s fought for me in ways I know and know not. She’s suffered and been hurt because of me, in ways I know and know not. After all, I am a hot-tempered child to have (all of them say it is “meray naam ka asr”) and often an ungrateful one too.

And yet she’s lifted and moved mountains for me.

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I love looking back on the Sultanas, and I wonder if there are more of their kind. Yet I need not look far in books, in dramas, to history, to different times and spaces.

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Because at home, with the cracks on her feet, the sweat on her brow; with her strength, her patience, her sacrifices, and her beauty, my mother stands. Holding our worlds by her very existence.

My mother stands. Not as a sultana.

But as a sultanate on her own,

To which I bow.

-Hafsa Khawaja

~ Conversation


 

Drowned from the crowd,


Delivered from the clamour,
 

A moment of peace,

Between You and I,

Not a sound,

Head to ground,

The world at a stop,

Blurred and withered,

The soul spills and scatters to the Will,

Nothing else matters,

Still. Silence. Submission.

For the heart is in conversation with the Creator.
                           ~ H.K

~ On These Roads, Flowers Sell


To the beautiful children of Pakistan; a future forced to be spent on the roads of today.

Photo credits to Maryaa Sajjad on Flickr

          

Weary faces,

Crushed fragrances,

Shoulders small but burdens big,

Tiny hands, roughened and stiff,

Not a wink of sleep and undreamt dreams,

Wilted before they bloomed,

For on these roads, flowers sell.

~ Hafsa Khawaja

~ Tyranny of Everlasting Sorrow


On 16/12/14, to which it has been six months yet nothing has changed but the deepening of 141 wounds inflicted upon every single Pakistani till the end of time.

On the mother in a bloodied and tattered green and white.

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Oh beloved mother,

Bloodied and bruised,     

From the tyranny of misfortune,

Your children wished to nurse you tomorrow, 

Yet what trampled you forever, prevailed yet again;

The tyranny of misfortune triumphed,

Into the tyranny of everlasting sorrow. 

~ Hafsa Khawaja

~ Every Inch of This Land is Soaked with the Blood of its People


*Don’t usually prefer penning such despondency but this was written right after the Karachi Airport Attack; with a seared heart:

Every inch of this country is soaked with the blood of its people,
Every corner with fear and ordeal;

Peace left long,
Abandoned us with scorn;

From death and violence there is no respite, pakistan-unrest-karachi-airport-1
Helpless screams our plight;

Bodies pile in heaps,
From this land of green, only red seeps;

Grief marches,
And suffering strides,
But bravery reigns,
And resilience still resides;

The sigh between mourning,
The breath between cries,
The time between two calamities;
Is the only peace, out of life, that we can now prise;

They say there is a world beyond,
They say there is a heaven,
And we believe, for we’ve seen our heaven thrown to hell;

For every inch of this country is soaked with the blood of its people,
Every corner with fear and ordeal.

~ Hafsa Khawaja

~ Enamoured


 

 

To those afar, she appears the pompous plump;

Her bearing ostentatious,

Her voice piercing;

Her beauty mendacious;

 

But to those who opened their eyes to her dazzle,

She is a goddess,

Of vivacious manners,

Under whose spell fell numerous warriors and rulers,

Adorning her with the jewels of their civilizations,

They sought to bring her under their own banners;

But history took to unsheath her mercilessness,

And withered all Maharajas, Rajas and Emperors,

Yet she remained unblemished,

Bestud with all the kingdoms’ splendour;

 

 view of Historical Badshahi Masjid lahore

 

With the richness of diversity her bosom swelled,

Sikh, Muslim, Christian, Hindu or Parsi – all to her embrace were impelled,

Her body became the canvas of cultures,

And her gardens accomplices in forbidden meetings of lovers;

From her veins the poets drank to intoxication;

In her company philosophers and thinkers indulged in contemplation;

 

 

The winds of time have rumbled past since,

But even today,

Infront of her majesty and grandeur,

Can dare not stand a rival or contender;

 

She throbs with life, with no blink of sleep,

Pounding with vibrant resilience as the heart of a land whose wounds are deep;

 

A part of me, she has become,

I dwell in her, and she dwells in me;

There is calm in her clamour;

In which whirls my soul,

As I love her for her all madness; enamoured.

~ Hafsa Khawaja

 

Before You Speak to Judge.


*Written back in 2010.

Before you cast a look of disgust on my face,

Decree my value by it, that too in haste,

Ever do you wonder, what made it lose its grace?

 

 

From the abundance and lack of crisp paper,

The fortunes I posses, you suppose,

To where it really lies, you fail to peek and know,

For it is the heart in which wealth is held, sole and alone,


By how I walk, by what I eat,

How magnificent my abode is and in which street,

You draw a conclusion of what I am,

Not by my deeds but all these?


All my actions,

You examine and dissect,

 What forces me to inherit these ways, do you ever check?

The scars it left,

The bruises it gifted me and of much it made me bereft,

With your hands tied to your back,

In one glance, from the unfathomable depth of my painful past,

 You think the real reasons you can fetch?

 

Deeming me a sinner,

Declaring others future inhabitants of heaven,

Who are you to say?


Because when open will 
crack the grounds,

And swallowed will be mankind,

With each’s souls by the Angel of Death, impounded,

On our bodies will lay the same single cloth of white,

No riches in hand, no tongue to speak,

Time would’ve crumbled to dust with and with no second to contrite,

So remember the Last Day,

And through what you’ll trudge,

When you speak to judge,

As we have our own paths to pave,

For at the end we’d have separate graves.

~ Hafsa Khawaja