“There is always something left to love.”
-Gabriel Garcia Marquez
I never knew love could exist in such unique and unusual forms; forms which the common man will always fail to sense. I never even thought if it could exist in a world like ours. To me, its rightful place had forever been shelved in the dynamics of magical realism. Yet, its prime example stood in front of me, testament to the reality that such exotic forms do exist, defying all barriers which fence passion to a preset limit. More often than not, we fall prey to the belief that passion can be tamed, which is pitiful, since passion and love have never been concrete or restricted to certain lengths. Rather, they’ve always been abstract, free from any sorts of prejudice and absolutely independent from all kinds of boundaries…
I first saw her on my third trip at the facility. Having just lost my husband in a terrorist attack, I was seeing a therapist there. In a frenzied moment, I had taken one wrong turn and entered a room located in the psychiatry ward. She was screaming and wailing at the same time, intermittently shouting, “Don’t you dare take your country’s name in front of me ever again!” The amusing thing was that this jibe wasn’t directed at anybody; the room was empty except for the nurses who were holding her. Upon inquiry, I found out Safia had lost her only son in the same terrorist attack which took my husband from me. It left me in an uncharacteristic melancholy. I shouldn’t be meddling around this ward. A thought passed my mind. But there was something about her which intrigued me. Maybe it had something to do with her eyes; they had an opaqueness to them which was unsettling. Ours was a mutual pain, a pain which tempted me into learning more about her.
I didn’t care if others said her mental condition wasn’t stable; to me she was the most intelligent person I’d ever come across. Hers was a wounded soul; losing your parents to the merciless fires of 1971 and then your son to the fires of the present, can do that to people. We bonded over our shared anguish easily. I was the lost sailor in need of direction; she was the beacon I’d been searching for. As I got to know her better, I perceived she had an immense hatred for the country. She wanted to leave, badly. Her solemn sadness, opaque eyes and tragic story … all pointed in the same direction; to run and never come back.The only thing is, my theory was wrong…
A white envelope was on my car dashboard, with ‘To Nazia’ neatly written on it. I realised who it was from, and in a fleeting moment all that had happened in the past few days came rushing back to me. I gritted my teeth in fury. A letter. Could it suffice for the tons of questions which her sudden departure had created in my mind? Dejected, I put it in my cargo pocket, to read later.
It wasn’t until six months later when my visa application had gotten accepted that I decided to read it. It was time to close that chapter once and for all. The first page read, “I always knew you were a desperate soul; too keen to leave. You said you were ‘intrigued’ by me but you never wondered why I had not packed my bags and left after going through so much! The reason was simple: love. Love for a place which has always been my home. I have never hated my country. It was for this very country I endured everything! My wrath is for those who maltreat it. Those who rip apart the dream my country really is. I am not crazy because I have lost faith in the country; rather, I am mad because I’ve lost faith in the people who reside in it. And that is why I chose lunacy over consciousness. I never left because I wanted to fight those who ransack the promise of my homeland… and because of this slipping in the covers of madness is my only refuge, because in this bizarre world, madness is the only sane thing left. If you’re hoping that I’d tell you if I was real or just a figment of your imagination, then you’re in for disappointment. That is for you and you alone to decide. But I would tell you this: one day you’ll not need me anymore. One day you’ll decide to stay back and fight for this country. And you’ll get so engrossed in it that, you’ll end up falling in love. You’ll find love in the smiles of little children and in the breeze of the ocean. In the light of the sun and in the serenity of valleys. In the stillness of Zhob and in the songs of Thar. In the heights of north and resilience of the south. And when you’ll do all that, you would not need me anymore. Because at the end of the day, I am a Pakistani, just like you. And in loving Pakistan, you’d have found me. So I’ll bid you adieu in the hope that you’ll stay back. I hope you will embrace the love for your country which you’ve always bottled up inside you.”
And at that very moment, amidst tears in my eyes I collapsed.
There are some people who’d do anything to hold on to their beliefs – who would hold on to love when in all rationality it wouldn’t be advisable to do so. Nazia, my patient, is among one of these souls. She is someone who has lost a lot. From her adolescent years to the days of her marriage, everyone she has ever held near and dear, became victims of burning hatred. Most people I know would try to run away as far as possible in such circumstances, but Nazia’s love grows every time tragedy knocks on her doors. Until I met her, I never knew love could exist in such unique and unusual forms; forms which the common man will always fail to sense. But then I met her. The vagaries of her beautiful mind have no idea that Safia is nothing but result of her own resplendent imagination. Her mind resonates with the notion that Safia’s story was something she had never heard of before. Yet, it had never been Safia’s story to begin with. It was all hers. She states it is Safia who has taught her to forgive, and to never stop loving; in reality, however, this is her feat alone. She thinks she read a letter on the day when we’d found her, half dead while she’d saved a baby girl, almost killed her abductor and got shot in the process, that it was that letter which prompted her to believe in the power of love. The truth is, no such letter was ever found. “You don’t see it with my eyes, doctor.” She had replied then, when I’d told her there was no letter there. And so the cycle of her quotidian largess continues, with each day teaching me that patriotism isn’t always about decorating your homes on 14th August or wearing green clothes on 23rd March. In fact, real love comes in simply believing. Believing that one day, everyone will open their hearts to forgiveness. That one day, hate would finally die. That one day we’d all resurrect the fire we had all collectively extinguished.