It is Sunday evening in Georgia and I am back from Istanbul. Maghrib Salah and dinner with the family is over and we are in the living room with cookies and fruit catering to the palates across the generations.
I keep the large part of the living room clear of furniture and it has transformed into a creative, versatile space that has seen many seasons and many emotions ranging from: Quran reading, gatherings of “The Quran for little hearts” kids, gathering of Tariq’s friends in good times and regrouping her with family at his funeral, Quran Khatams to remember anniversaries and birthdays, children’s Roza kushais (opening of the first fast in Ramadan), children and grandchildren’s bismillah ceremonies on starting the Quran, random congregational prayers with family or with grandkids, dancing at mehndi with eid or weddings and now dancing with the grandkids to introduce them to folk music and dance fromPakistan.
On returning from Istanbul when I first entered my home and went into the living room the large rug from Pakistan seemed to say “Everything and everyone is waiting for you”. ( David Whytes poem).
I remember the first time I saw the rug. It was hanging on the top floor of the Pak Persian Rug company in Lahore.
It all began when I took my husband and my two year old daughter to see my Grandparents home in Lahore, many eons ago. To my consternation the place was unrecognizable, The old traditional red brick mansion and the two level garden with the cascading jasmine and rose bushes lining the ling drive had been razed to the ground and replaced with a high rise building. It was in one of the elite historic residential sections of Lahore and I had many memories of long boring but inventive afternoons during my preteen summers with my grandparents. It was now transformed into a commercial hub for businesses.
Everything and every one is on a time clock and its time for departure is fixed and it is best to let it go and to remember with gratitude only the beauty without the grief of loss.
Quran [3:145] Ahmed Ali
No one can die before his appointed term except in accordance with the law of God. And to him who desires a reward in this world, We shall give it; and to him who desires a reward in the life to come, We shall do that. We shall certainly reward those who are grateful.
I stumble upon the huge oriental carpet store close to where my grandparents home used to sit in Lahore. I walk in and am astounded by the lush beauty of the Pakistani oriental carpets in the store. I find to my surprise that they parallel if not exceed the Persian rugs in quality, beauty and durability.
As my two year old daughter ( the ones whose kids are playing on the rug today) is climbing the mounds of rolled up rugs and then skipping on the top most one. My husband asks her to get down and behave. Immediately the store owner kindly states that these rugs are made to last many generations, and to let her enjoy playing on them.
“Do you have something larger in size” asks my husband. The store owner thoughtfully states “we have a very large one but it is not yet ready, it has been completed but is awaiting the final finishing steps. it has been washed and is drying in the sun upstairs”
Even today sometimes I inhale the fragrance of the Summer sun of Lahore from it.
We climb up to the roof of the store and there in all its glory is the carpet. Its dimensions seem huge to me. It hangs from the wall that encircles the roof, almost down to the first story. It looks shaggy as its fine fibers have been roughened by the harsh soap used for washing. She looks very much like a young innocent girl in the raw with hair tangled but whose pure beauty shines through the tangles and unironed clothes. I learn that rugs after being woven have to be hand washed, dried, trimmed and then ironed.
As she hangs there in her raw untouched beauty, through one could have bypassed it for a finished product, it is beautiful. I am glad we saw its inner intrinsic beauty through the fibers that were roughened by the washing.
When the rug along with other smaller ones arrives at the port of Savannah Georgia by ship, the customs man asked my husband why he has bought so many rugs and such a large one, was he going to sell it? My husband smiles and replies tongue in cheek. ”we have a very large house”.
Every now and then I have a sudden fear that my next generation will not learn the exotic deep, rich and beautiful Pakistani culture that is an essential part of the beauty within me and has deep roots in spirituality, faith and its many forms of expression. I have a sudden intense urge to pass it on to the next generation.
When ever I get into this mode I try to introduce my culture to the kids first to my kids and now to the grandkids I decided that before they are pulled into the hypocritical and corrupt culture of Bollywood which is two faced they should be introduced to the innocent part of pakistani culture. Bollywood distorts reality to a great degree by showing Indian women as free, independent and self improvising which defies the truth
It is only when a brutal gang rape surfaces into the western media that statistics define Delhi as the rape capital of the world, propelled by the belief that women are markedly inferior fed by the unhealthy caste system that pushes women to the very bottom of the tier and ironically forces the responsibility of maintaining the very caste that oppresses them called “Dharma”.
I decide that I would introduce them to the traditional songs and dances of Pakistan based on sweet pure sincere romance and steeped in the ethics and tradition of honesty and reverence of our faith.
Thus after cookies the strains of “lathay di chader……..” fill the room.
Both the children respond by running in circles on the rug. Suddenly Rehan stops in front of the bookcase and picks up a red electronic tasbeeh counter which is still in its packaging unopened and brings it to me with a question in his eyes “ what is this Nano?” “ It is a tasbeeh” I reply and I open it and show him how to count “Subhanallah” with each click. It is a gift from a friend who brought it to Medina, it is red and it is now in the hands of one who loves both of those things.
Sitting on the carpet all dancing forgotten, he begins counting his tasbeeh of Subhanallah head bent over the red electronic counter perhaps transporting him to the city of the Beloved Prophet peace and blessings be upon him, oblivious to the Pakistani wedding music playing in the background.
I feel a lull of beauty hover in the room, the angels unseen but definitely felt sit around him and watch him as he thoughtfully and slowly clicks each “Subhanallah”.
Lena Who has been running around the carpet stops twirling, comes to look at the red electronic tasbeeh, wants it and when Rehan is too engrossed to grant her wish she goes to the table with the other tasbeehs and Rehans white Kufi. She puts on the white kufi, wraps her wrist with the beads of a tasbeeh and comes to me and says “Nano can we go round” she holds her hands out, crossed at the elbow for “kikli” which I have taught both of them in an attempt to inject the joy of friendship, love, romance, beauty and tradition of Pakistan in that one innocent movement.
Those of you who are unfamiliar with the term ”kikli : t is a unique act of friendship and joy when two people hold hands crossed over at the elbow dig in their toes, rising on them to maintain fluidity and twirl as one.
I am dizzy from the “kikli” done to the tune of “lathay di chader. I feel I have done my duty to Pakistan and the rich culture it holds in its heart, extending it across the ocean to me and my grandchildren bringing much joy, beauty and friendship.
I am filled with a deep sense of happiness that each child has found his/her own expression of spirituality on the intergenerational carpet…………..
And this for the modern revamping of traditional songs:
A FLASHBACK FOR MY CLASSMATES: