“Long ago, I jumped off my ship which caught fire. Not a bruise or a burn on my body. I swam to the shore. But the land didn’t agree with me.”
As Khan uncle sat against the blameless blue skies on an extraordinarily beautiful sunny morning with that charming smile, it was difficult to agree with what he said.
“You know, beta… I am so full of steel implants in my body. Here, there, everywhere… I am just out of a major spinal operation. I am the Iron Man, you see?”
After soulful laughter tinged with an unmistakable glint of pride in his eyes, he switched over to his favourite topic: plants and birds. He explores every inch of our garden every day and comes back with a wholly different observation on every leaf, stem and tree.
His list of home remedies is endless. So is his enthusiasm to explore the same tiny herbal patch dotted with green chilli, thyme, rosemary, mint, lemon grass, etc. A few days ago, he got so excited to see white mint flowers and said: “I had never seen it in my life! Beautiful!”
It’s a heart that sees beauty in a dying leaf and feels the pain of it being swept away by a ruthless broom. How could the land not accept it or agree with it? Ever? Perhaps, it’s the sea that didn’t have in it to embrace the beauty and benignity of that smile despite its impossible depth and vastness.
On the day when the Gaza Strip began burning, his smile disappeared slowly as an oceanic emptiness filled his eyes. His voice quivered and thoughts became impenetrable. “What can I say?”
A bulbul flew by… A brief interlude.
When I marvelled at its lightness as it perched ever so delicately on the tip of a tree, he said: “See? Just now you offered a prayer to the Almighty. When you praise nature—His creation—you move closer to Him. This is the most powerful prayer. You should do it every day.”
An extraordinary sense of immensity of life and death. And everything that happens in between…
Eid mubaarak, Khan uncle! May your smile light up many hearts.