Self destruction

Lately it seemed like she was on a path to destroy herself. To her, it felt like nothing really mattered, but the moment she was in. She had never been the reckless type. Every decision was thought over, every move calculated; the pros and cons measured. But she had changed. In retrospect, her actions frightened her. She didn’t recognise her responses as her own.

Years ago she has always admired people with guts. People who were forever ready, waiting to take the plunge. It seemed she had morphed into someone who no longer cared about the consequences till days after- when her mind had slowly had time to process that whirl wind of thoughts. That’s when guilt began to settle in. She knew she had to re-gain control, before she caused herself irreparable damage.But this path of self-destruction seemed like such an easy escape.. at least for the moment.

nadia nawaz

2015 and the loss of someone special

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Disbelief, followed by complete denial and then shock; a wave of these feelings overtook me. My eyes burned as I willed myself not to cry “Nadia.. He’s gone”. The words echoed in my head over and over. But why so soon? And how so suddenly? He was supposed to be there to watch me get married and have kids. My mind began to yell questions but my mouth remained tightly shut. My eyes met my sisters and just like that we both knew as a steady stream of tears began to fall uncontrollably. Thirty days in and I still can’t begin to fully fathom the loss of my grandfather. The way my world stood still on that night of new year..

It was January the first and I had just come home from work. I received a call from my cousin as I was getting undressed. Her voice was frantic. Give your mum the phone. Nanajee (granddad) is having a heart attack. My mind went numb. I raced down the stairs screaming for my mother as I tried my best to shun all possible thoughts. Dinner was left untouched as my brother drove my parents over. That hour of waiting was one of the longest hours of my life.. A month later yet that day is etched into my memory like it was just yesterday. I cannot forget the look on his lifeless face as the medic’s stood by, finally giving up on their resuscitation attempts. I remember watching my mother kiss his forehead. The pain, the tears the cries in the room. A blur of activities; the ambulance, the flashing police lights, and the family friends who came in that same night, holding us while we grieved. The shock began to settle in..

A prolonged week of complications and uncertainty as we waited for the cause of death to be determined, followed by the funeral. It was an overcast day and the rain fell hard as we drove over to the mosque for funeral prayers. Sleep had eluded me for the past week as the thought of seeing him one last time dawned on me. I couldn’t let him go.. Not so soon.
As soon as I stepped inside and saw the brown box of his coffin, the feelings flooded back. I remember the mahogany colour of the wooden coffin, the golden latch and how the entire thing was draped in a green cloth, embroidered with golden Arabic verses..Details, I remember thinking, I can’t let myself ever forget. It was actually happening. He was moving on and leaving us behind…

I held back my tears long enough for the coffin lid to be lifted. I watched my father, grim-faced and moist eyed as he held my mother while she cried. Her pain was deep and etched into her eyes. As I saw my youngest sister stand up and go towards my mother, memories of my paternal grandmother flooded my mind. My beautiful daadi with her piercing grey eyes and warm hugs. I remember being the same age as my sister when I lost her, my first ever funeral.

It took me a long time to muster the courage to walk up to my grandfather’s coffin one last time. I held hands with my sisters and cousin. As soon as I laid eyes on his face, I was overcome by a loss so deep it felt as though the air had been sucked right out of me. I turned and buried my head in the closest available embrace, an aunty I had never seen before. She whispered words of comfort as I poured my heart out.

I received hugs and condolences from well wishers I hardly recognised. The mosque rooms were full. Soon it was time to take him to his final resting place. The clouds suddenly parted and I noticed the way the sun fell on his face. He looked so peaceful and distant lying there. The pain had finally left him. My brother, father and uncles closed the lid and pushed the coffin out of the room. Once again, we all broke down as the reality of the situation hit us anew.

We stood in prayer then, and I realised it was the first time I was offering a funeral prayer in congregation . People had travelled from across the city to pay their respects. I marvelled at the position my grandfather had held in the community. After we prayed, his friends and co-workers gave beautiful speeches about the role my grandfather had played, his effort as counsellor, his time as deputy mayor and the lives he had affected. Standing there, collectively mourning with strangers I had never before met, I felt blessed to have been such a close part of his life.

Just twelve months ago we celebrated his 81st birthday.. He had gathered us all and made a speech about how lucky he was to have us by his side, to have met two of his great grand sons. Thirty days since he’s gone and I still can’t make myself re-watch that video.

That’s the thing about loss. It’s so hard to describe. Only someone who has been through the ordeal of losing a loved one can truly understand and fathom the amount of devastation a person goes through. How your world is rocked from the very core. How things fails to excite you and mundane issues seem so ridiculously unnecessary.
Day’s pass and life slowly begins to go back to normal. You begin to smile again, laugh even. But then unexpectedly in the middle of a crowd you become overwhelmed by sorrow.The feeling of loss permeates your being and settles inside you. Always there, lurking just under the surface ready to drown you without a second’s warning.

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Footnote:  This has been one of the hardest posts I have ever written to date. Despite being such a private person, I chose to share this as a tribute to the amazing person my grandfather was as well as a source through which I can cherish his memory and remember that day. Nanajee,I miss you with all my heart.


nadia nawaz

Gateways to the soul

Kabul. Afghanistan © Nazir Ekhlass

Kabul. Afghanistan © Nazir Ekhlass

He kicked a stone in the centre of the path he was walking along, and watched silently as it clattered along the alleyway slowly coming to a stop. The sound of it echoed through the night and filled it with life, if only but for a moment.

His face, a plain emotionless mask was etched with layers of soot and filth. His feet bare. His once strong, lean body now weak and worn clothed in nothing but rags, withstanding the low temperature and chilly winds.

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Through his eyes

Source: Afghanistan in Photographs-Facebook

Source: Afghanistan in Photographs-Facebook

He raised his head and looked up at the sky in a desperate attempt to be rid of the hell he was living in. His face a mask of anguish, his eyes brimming with tears as he stared up into the dark night sky. He was not ashamed of the tears that rolled down his cheeks for he had been strong for much too long. His breath caught in his throat as he felt his strength slowly seep out of him.

Mustering all his energy he raised his hands and yelled in frustration. The pain gnawed at him eating away at his insides day by day yet there was nothing he could do but watch. Spread all around him were stacks of dead bodies and human remains, left so savagely in the streets, unclaimed, deserted and unburied.

Bread vendor, Kabul, Afghanistan, 1992 © Steve McCurry

Bread vendor, Kabul, Afghanistan, 1992
© Steve McCurry

The war had taken away from him, the very reason for his existence. His hopes and dreams crushed so brutally, he had become hardened by the physically demanding task of survival.

The human suffering and agony was unbearable to witness, a strong beautiful young man once so full of hope now a hollow mask of ruin and isolation along with the many other children of war…

Source: Afghanistan in Photographs-Facebook

Source: Afghanistan in Photographs-Facebook

Nadia Nawaz

Shackled

Photo credits:Sharjeel Nasir, Location: UAE

Photo credits:Sharjeel Nasir, Location: UAE

From behind the fence of barbed wire he watches the sky as the sun slowly begins to set, ending with it another long tiring day. He rubs his once soft hands, now coarse and hard due to manual work,over his face and tired eyes.Somewhere in the distance, the young street kids bring their ball game to an end as the street lights switch on, brightening the dusky sky with their fluorescent glow.

Photo credits:Sharjeel Nasir, Location: UAE

Photo credits:Sharjeel Nasir, Location: UAE

He takes a deep breath, his face a mask of concentration as he watches the skyline, noticing the rapidly darkening sky and the beautiful shifting of the clouds illuminated by the setting sun. Day after day he watches the setting sun, awed by the beauty of colours splashed across the purpley-blue sky.

Photo credits:Sharjeel Nasir, Location: UAE

Photo credits:Sharjeel Nasir, Location: UAE

Despite his calm exterior and unreadable eyes, a storm rages deep within him. A torrent of emotions kept buried deep within him always so strongly bound, now threaten to break loose. He keeps his eyes transfixed on the skyline.  The rapidly falling temperature and the shadowy patches depict the arrival of the night.

A gust of desert wind blows, forcing him to close his eyes against the dust and sand. It blows over him and his thudding heart, causing him to shudder as the well of deeply buried emotions pushes itself to the surface.

He feels gagged by the pressure, his throat constricts as he gulps down unshed tears. He lifts his eyes so full of anguish,once again to the barbed fence and can’t help but notice the irony. He feels shackled. Tied up and bound by a distance so long, a time so precarious and a soul so lonesome.

Desolation slowly begins to seep through him.

Photo credits:Sharjeel Nasir, Location: UAE

Photo credits:Sharjeel Nasir, Location: UAE