Code Red In Red Zone – Reviving Pakistan

Islamabad burns as crowds gather outside the Parliament building in Pakistan. This high security area is called the Red Zone of Islamabad with the Diplomatic Enclave, Supreme Court, President House, Parliament House and many sensitive Government buildings. The workers of two political parties Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) join forces against the ruling party PML-N. To a third person perspective, it is political enmity and nothing more. The brutal and excessive use of force by Punjab police on unarmed civilians and journalists is unprecedented. Watching history unravel itself before our eyes is a sobering experience. I have been witnessing die hard supporters of both sides arguing and counter arguing about the terms and conditions of the negotiations that seem impossible. Neither side is willing to compromise and find a middle ground.  I find myself baffled by the unfortunate turn events have taken in the last twenty four hours. Too much blood is being shed and the sanctity of police and army as institutions, Government buildings and civilians has been terribly tainted with violence. To my irrationally simplistic mind, the entire problem and solution seems far more comprehensible than it is.

We have gathered as a nation for a cause. What do I want as a citizen of Pakistan? Would our lives be better if Nawaz Sharif quits the Government and Imran Khan or Tahir ul Qadri come into power?  If yes, which one of them will be the Prime Minister and who will take the back seat? Who cares? My question to all these leaders, their followers and the neutral rationalists like myself is simple. What are we looking for? We are seeking a refuge from the myriad of problems plaguing us as a nation, individuals matter the least to us. Let us choose the change we need in our country and dictate that code of ethics to anyone who wishes to come into power. No more bigotry, no more deception, no more nepotism, period. Whoever wants to be in power needs to command that position of respect and prove his worth. No rigged elections or random numbers or power play should affect our opinions about our politicians. If they behave honorably, treat them with respect. If they disrespect our civilians and country, they can take a one way ticket to the moon.

I need clean drinking water and food for each and every civilian in Pakistan. The cost of living has to be made bearable for all not just the rich. A thirsty and hungry nation cannot go an inch beyond basic survival. I demand free basic healthcare for all and education for each and every child in the entire country. The judicial system should be impeccable and speedy justice be delivered at the expense of the state. So sustenance, healthcare, education and justice are the first, second, third and fourth requirements of good governance that should never be compromised. This should be followed by transparency of governance. The assets and finances of all elected officials and their families should be accessible to the general public. No elected official should have the audacity to misuse power or misappropriate funds. And if they do, the penalties must be extraordinary and exemplary. An office clerk should have such blind faith in social justice that he can report a bribe acceptance by his officer. We shall drive a hard bargain for our leaders but it also means that as a nation we must be willing to pay dearly. And the burden of responsibility shall be borne by every civilian. And then investing in the roads, bridges, amenities and technology will make sense to the common man. A starving citizen will be forever blind to the brilliance of building metro buses and bullet trains.

The rich must pay taxes according to their worth and make sure their money gets into good use. The landowners and industrialists must ensure the education, health and wellbeing of their tenants and workers. The poor should not be deprived of their share of responsibility either. Each and every man and woman must work to earn a living. No one should get a free ride. Beggars and criminals must be dealt with iron hands. The state must watch over the rights of women, children, minorities, etc. No man should be allowed to procreate beyond his means. If a man has ten children and cannot feed them, he should be answerable to the law and to the society. Every person must have religious freedom provided he does not force his views on anyone else.

We can start this campaign in our own homes, our work places and then, in the general community. The idea is to have a balanced, satiated society. Terrorists harbor in dark cesspools of poverty, illiteracy and deprivation. Remove these and you lay the foundation of a model society. I can already hear the cynics scoff at this utopian model of Pakistan. But I plead to their common sense. Our dreams have to be a thousand percent perfect. When we aim high, we achieve something even when we fail. I refuse to believe that we cannot achieve this tolerant, fair and peaceful country. I know people from all walks of life competing in innumerable professions in every country in the world. That is a great example of what our nation is made of. We have the choicest brawn and brains among us. What if those of us who are extra blessed by the Omnipotent decide to pass on some of our blessings? My dream is to mentor, educate and feed fifty orphans or less fortunate children in my lifetime. When I die, I hope and pray they all have prosperous families and professions. I will only ask them to return this favor by caring for fifty orphans in their entire life. My question is if it is doable, how many of us will take up this little dream and make the world a better place for our born and unborn children. In the end we are not just citizens of Pakistan but also citizens of the world, and we have to start the charity at home.


I have shed my shell and here I am a new being with a new skin. I have learnt to deceive, cheat, manipulate and move on unaffected. I had looked down upon such character traits all of my life and now I have become one of them. It is a survival tactic they say, but I know I had to die partly to survive. The essence of who I was died in the fray and perhaps the biggest torment is the realization that no one noticed how much I have changed. I am numb with pain. No amount of misery makes me cry anymore and no joys touch my heart. Life has drained off and the little color that stains my cheeks is the crimson blood that has leaked into the subcutaneous vessels. No one seems to notice the deadly pallor while the world praises the rosy cheeks. I chuckle inwardly but it sounds more like a cynical snort. It is funny how people notice the slightest graying hair and the crow’s feet beneath your eyes, but when you truly deeply are hurt and tormented beyond belief, they cannot see the shattered glass you walk on every day. Blindness has taken on a completely new meaning. I live in a blind, deaf and mute world. Or so I think. I have ceased to live a long time back; the carcass has just not been laid to rest.

As I think of these dark, dismal thoughts the past year swirls before my eyes. Friends found, love lost, relationships buried and faith annihilated. It was one hell of a year. I started out as a doe eyed, hopeful utopian and ended up as a sarcastic, faithless realist. Everything in the world came with a bittersweet bumper sticker saying welcome to life as we know it. And the best part of the deal is that this transition has given incredible successes and achievements in its momentum and the loss is visible to my heart and soul only. I suffer as the world cheers my triumphs for I alone am aware of the price I paid to get here. It is a lonely place at the top. The view is spectacular though and one can count all friends and enemies accurately down to the last decimal. Unfortunately, this insight highlights an immensely sad scenario. At any given moment in life, the list of true friends will be embarrassingly minuscule and the opponents will be uncountable. People will sell off your interests for a petty price, abandon you in the smallest traces of trouble and disappoint you in ways you never thought possible. And that one person you could die for will walk away without looking back as his promises echo in your mind. Growing up is a painful, miserable process that has the capacity to drain all of your positive energies and hope, leaving behind raw wisdom.

As I begin to attempt writing about my journey, words start pouring out of my mind. There are so many things to say and so many heartwarming stories to share. The long lost friend, who stood by my side when everyone else had abandoned me. The gallant hero, who fought with me at every battlefront and protected me with his courage and wisdom. The simple peasant, who had nothing to share but refused to leave my side in the worst of times. These are people I will love and respect all of my life. Sadly, there is a long list of shady characters who lied, cheated and deceived me. They taught me that it is alright to give them a taste of their own medicine. And then I treated them the way they treated me in my time of need. Even though I am not one of them but I had to teach all of them a lesson so that the next simple hearted victim does not seem fair game to them. The most hurtful stories are of people whom I loved and trusted and they walked all over me. With them I have nothing but silence to share. Their crimes cannot be punished accordingly and the worst I can do is to remove them completely from my life. And thus I vow to hold back my love, concern and presence from them for as long as I live.

I have changed completely. I watch my reflection in the mirror. The laugh lines have been replaced by worry lines. I have a good one thousand one hundred and eleven frown now. I have lost my capacity to smile without a reason. The grays have begun to show and I look more distinguished. I have stopped seeking acceptance and have acquired the devil may care attitude. I look confident and successful in every way. I have learnt the skill of initiating instant rudeness and disrespect and have finally overridden my convent education. I have learnt to weep inwardly and my tears have dried off. And lastly, I have learnt to forgive myself for making human errors and have stepped down from the sainthood pedestal. It is truly liberating to be able to sin and not lose sleep over it. I am sure I have finally grown up and God will understand my need to be human and will forgive divinely.

Like every birth, mine has come with equal portions of pain and joy. When a child is born into the world, we forget amidst our celebrations that the fetal world was annihilated to make the transition possible. Somewhere in our genetic memory we know that the cycle of life and death is continuous in nature. The colors of fall commemorate the dying process of fauna and flora but they are not less beautiful than the blooming hues of spring. While my transition is being silently mourned by my soul, I know Providence has a journey planned for me for which I have been trained. Without this amount of anguish I would have never known my inner strength and resolve. Without being surrounded by traitors, false friends and selfish people, I could never appreciate the unconditional love of my true friends. And if I had not been manipulated and cheated in love, I could never find such liberation in uniting with my soul mate. All of the tribulations I have faced, even though they will sting time and time again, I am deeply thankful for. I may never be the same person again, but I know I can fall and rise every time life betrays me. My new skin changes colors but my core remains constantly good and I am forever indebted to God for testing my mettle and proving my worth to me.

The Battlefield

Life is a battlefield. I am an ancient warrior overlooking the vast canvas before me. One battle is over for now, but peace has yet to come. The war trumpets and bugles are silent but the wind echoes with the moans and screams of yesterdays. The deceased litter the landscape till the distant horizon. Life falters on unsteady feet as the injured crawl to safety. Stories of valiance and honor will be recorded by both sides and some of them will be true. Some heroes will be worthy of the commemoration given to them postmortem and many cowards will parade wearing colors they do not deserve. Life will smile upon the fearless and the fearful with equal grace. No one walks off this stage without a trial. Victory and defeat will be decided only when the war is over. The rest is just a bunch of numbers.

I am morose today. The end of a journey is a painful precipice. Struggle marks life and stagnation is death. For now I am stagnant and the stench of decay is numbing the senses. I need to keep on moving and finding more battles to fight, winning has ceased to matter. The adrenaline rush, the inner peace of valiance and the joy of the strife keep the senses motivated. As I watch life unfold before my eyes, I make a mental note of everything substantial. Friends who stood in the face of tribulation are separated from the ones who fled in times of need. One milestone covered. Enemies who showed honor, mercy and chivalry are kept in a higher order than the ones who stooped to any and every level in malice. The former may have a chance at redemption even friendship but the latter deserve complete hostility. An eye for an eye keeps the unworthy counting. The lowest forms of life are the traitors who betray us and reciprocate every act of goodness with vindication and venom. Enemies may be forgiven, cowards may be forgotten but death is the only reward of a traitor. Nothing less will suffice.

With my third eye I can visualize myself pondering over the eternal mysteries of the Universe. I am so many people in the same skin. A sage, thinking endlessly over infinite questions. A child, awed and baffled by the smallest observations. A lover, whose heart is brimming with fiery passion. A maiden with naive hopes and dreams of a happily ever after. A gallant soldier with the sword drawn and spirits ablaze, ready to take on every challenge. A healer, bubbling with compassion and empathy for the ailing and the needy. A mother with a gentle, protective maternal instinct. A poet intoxicated in the love of written and spoken words, playing incessantly with a pen. A lunatic rebellious to all other forms within me. I am lost within my own skin, I do not know how much of each I am. But every ounce makes the amalgamation unique and I know I will leave a mark on the battlefield of life.

Reflections On Life

What is life? An existence, an experience or a journey? It is perhaps an amalgamation of all three. One breathes, eats, sleeps and procreates for a basic survival. It is done by every living thing and has no higher purpose in humans than the lower animals.One can enumerate all the facets of merely living but that existence is not even a dot in the grand scheme of life and thus to me, just living is not much of a life.

Along the years one meets illness and health, birth and death, victory and defeat, war and peace, etc as unique experiences that mold and shape who we are. If any one pivotal moment is altered in our life stories, we will become different people. Every miracle and every tragedy plays a role in making or breaking our inner selves. I often imagine human lives as projects in a potter’s wheel. The invisible hands hold us gently in one cycle while they smudge our very forms in others; as the wheel turns, we take on the final shape that we were meant to be. While we mourn and lament over our losses and celebrate our successes we forget that the cycle is never ending and the ones who are below will be at the top, it is but a matter of time. All we need is the sight to see what the eyes cannot and the wisdom to understand what makes no sense at the moment. Perhaps madness is the best way to look at everything, the only way to undo the spectacles we are forced to see life through as we grow older. A little game of seeing the world topsy turvy by standing on one’s head comes to mind. The same view can be so different. Only children and a select few lunatics like myself have the capacity to change the perspective from public opinion.

Everyone we meet, the good, the bad and the inconspicuous; are all a part of our journey towards the divine.The people whom we place in the grand central positions of life; who mostly fail us but sometimes the idols are kind enough not to shatter before our eyes. The people we are born into as family and endure the worst character traits of without questioning their presence in our lives. The near and dear ones we let go of when they hurt us so irreversibly and repeat the torments without remorse. The cracks we carry within our hearts for people we have loved and lost. This is the inner circle of our hearts and souls. The ones who enter them are few and far between. The second halo is of friends, the family we hand pick and decide if they should see our inner selves without the camouflage and protection of our hardened wiser appearances. The ones who will love everything in us that is not bright or beautiful. Once again, the count is miserably low and most of the friends we form will be for a reason or a season and very scanty for a lifetime. The outer circle is the world at large. The people we work with, meet in random places and interact while we are going about our own private lives. We often search for people to transfer into the inner two circles that have such a great want of replenishing. We are all a part of each others journey and the load is made heavier or lighter by the companions one finds in life. And needless to say some of us are lucky enough to find that one soul mate who was made to fit every facet of our existence.

While we suffer and endure all the hardships and savor in the gifts of life, we seldom remember the unseen hands that scribble judgments on deeds carelessly done and words randomly spoken. I am perhaps one of the crazy few who contemplates about the chance encounters and heartfelt moments. But i know somewhere in the unseen someone smiles at my deliberation and strife for a life less ordinary. I need to share the concept of writing our own life stories: picking and choosing the hallmark moments and the pivotal people. And dropping acts of kindness in the way to be later retrieved as spiritual breadcrumbs when lost in the enchanted forest of life. If the journey ends in a six by six hole in the ground, the very fact that it was thoroughly enjoyed makes it a success. However, if a proclamation is held at the end and we are to be rewarded for the lives well lived, i would like to face my judgment smiling at all the things everyone thought silly and frivolous

Tragic Stoning Of A Pregnant Woman

I cringed as I read the newspaper today. A pregnant woman was publicly stoned to death by her family outside the Honourable High Court because she had the audacity to marry for love. With one swift peristalsis I had regurgitated my entire breakfast. Wonderful start of a beautiful day in a great country! The court premises are bounded by some of the most important buildings in the provincial capital of Pakistan. The mall road is the centre of many government buildings and prestigious offices. The huge High Court structure appeared before my eyes as I tried to imagine how someone managed to commit a crime as heinous in such a crowded and high security area. The road is infested with police officials, traffic wardens, lawyers and litigants. It is impossible to find a parking spot or run a traffic signal here. How many people must be witnessing this cruelty? In my estimation no less than fifty bystanders watched the barbarity. The question is not why those people killed a pregnant woman on the street. There are criminals in every inch of the globe and our country is no different. The most painful realization is that not one person in the spectators had the moral courage to even attempt at stopping them. I am truly beyond words and disgust.

My medical knowledge fails me when I wonder how much time it would take for a pregnant woman to be killed by stoning. It would be a matter of how she was cornered, pinned to the ground, where the stones hit her, if she lost the child in her belly or if she was simultaneously kicked and punched. To her, time must be infinite and endless as her body is battered and she is begging for help while the crowd watches her ill fate. To the murderers, it must be a matter of minutes until all their anger and hatred is imparted in full proportion to their own daughter or sister. To the crowd it must be another quick spectacle in a very busy world, something to gossip about later how they saw it all happen. The reporters reached in time to take the right shot for the newspapers. The policeman intervened quickly enough to handcuff the murderers and get their picture taken. The Edhi ambulance arrived in time to clad the poor, devastated body in the coffin garb. Everyone had a perfect timing except the small irrelevant detail that no one could save her life. I have a good mind to send a brand new set of glass bangles to the Chief Justice and the Inspector General of Police along with all their brave brigades. With women publicly stoned, someone has to wear the symbol of innocence and fragility.

I write this message for the banner holders of humanity in Pakistan. It is not a single murder outside the High Court. Your sue motto notices makes no difference whatsoever to the victims. The dead are long buried and the living are following closely in their footsteps. It is just a turning point where justice has failed in such a great degree that anyone can commit any crime anywhere and know they will get away with the right legal representation. The stoning of men and women carried on inside these legal premises is a far greater curse. People have no faith in justice because in our great country justice is not only delayed, it is adamantly denied. The system is filled to the brim with sleazy lawyers, palm greasing policemen and arrogant, power hungry politicians. And the cherry on the cake is that we have the ignorance to pretend that all is well in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. We will make several hundred roads and bridges, start a new bus or train service and will pretend to have achieved great goals. We need roads and railways too, but not when the people starve and suffer.

The country that has no legal system, where no life, property or reputation is safe, is not much of a country. It is a sordid reality and to every patriot this realization is a torture. I am putting in my word for what I believe can turn things around. We need education for every child irrespective of his economic status. An ignorant nation cannot help itself in any way. We call for speedy justice that cannot be jeopardized by political influence, power or money. We require a good healthcare system with impeccable standards and health for all. One, two, three and prosperity will follow. Is it so unachievable that we cannot find a few hundred thousand honest, capable people in Pakistan? What if we start off with a few honest teachers, lawyers, doctors, architects, scientists, etc and encourage them. Pass on the word when a good person outshines for his brilliance and service. Let us refuse nepotism and bigotry. Maybe this is just a dream, but what if enough utopians dreamed the same dream and made it happen. Let us do all of this and keep on adding our little voices to the song of prosperity. Let us scatter the mindless crowds and recreate a nation of moral, good people. Let idealism meet practicality and find the greatness that we all love to claim in our rhetorical speeches. Let us drop our stones and feel ashamed for the woman who died outside the biggest court because our national pride has died.

The Moral Compass

Life has taken a circuitous route and all roads seem to lead to the same destination. I have been blessed in many ways in life and I am ever grateful. But the hardships seem to follow endlessly and I am doomed to constant problem solving. The battles are never ending and yet every time I win, I know the war is not over. Like a philosopher king, I banish my pride to let in humility and humanity. I kneel where my soul suffers, so that I may reap the sweet fruit of rendition and wisdom. This lifestyle has taken a deep toll on my senses and here I weep with joy as the pain seeps down to the farthest recesses of the mind. I have met men of all variations along the way from the mental midgets to the intellectual giants. Some I have learned to respect for their virtues and many I have come to abhor and eventually pity for the pettiness of their minds. The smallest of them all had the highest opinions of themselves. And the most blessed creatures were blissfully unaware of their inner beauty and charm. Like lone reeds these few people stood stoically in the midst of obstacles and eventually made inhabitable the marshes they were doomed to live in. And I leaned towards the ones closest to my own reflection.

This mental exercise makes me tread on the philosophical tangents unexplored by my own intellect. I measure and weigh all the trivialities of life around me. As I pick up my pen to write, my thoughts wander to human interactions and our basic concepts of morality. We all eagerly applaud the epic examples of humanity and chivalry like Buddha, the prophets, apostles and saints in all their glory. We make demi Gods out of ordinary, humane people who lived their lives with impeccable principles and grace. And yet, when common people attempt at godliness and virtues in the real world all our collective moral canvasses fade in the background and we look upon them as simpletons or fools. Why is the moral compass so distorted in the twenty first century? Since times immemorial men have faltered and failed in their attempt at nobility and those who succeeded were burnt at the stake in their lifetimes and commemorated post mortem. I wonder if it is a genetic imprint passed on from Adam to his sons, the vanity that leads to self destruction.

I partially blame my own conditioning to a rigorous, convent education and an overzealous exposure to the fourteenth century European literature. I grew up believing in a utopian civilization that had no foundation in society. The first encounters with the real world were harsh and cruel at best and the rainbow tinted bubble burst with the maiden prick. With time and age my character took to its formative mould and no amount of tampering changed the hardened form. I decided that if cloud nine exists inside my mind only, I will adamantly refuse to step down. If I am the last person on the planet practising the moral compass so enthusiastically applauded in scriptures and fiction, then I may very well stick ardently to the creed. My disbelief will make the last traces of this element disappear from this sordid world. Despite this chivalrous claim, I know I have met many others like myself preaching humanity and compassion. It is up to each and every one of us to keep the torch ablaze and to pass on a kinder, more considerate culture to the next generation. All the tortuous journeys seem to end at crossroads where the same choices present themselves and I choose the ones that seem right. No one has a claim to absolute wisdom but the inner voice knows the basic difference of good or evil and right or wrong without fail. And it is in that childish simplicity I hope to breathe my last and join all the heroic martyrs of yesteryears.

He Said, She Said

We met after three months at the Annual Parents Day in our daughter’s school. I was wearing bright, gaudy colours and high heels contrary to my usual conservative dressing. My best friend said it would make me feel better. I let my hair fall loosely on my shoulders and chatted with an old time friend. People may have gossiped but no one knew we had separated. He was wearing the navy blue striped suit he wore the first time we went out for a formal dinner. My heart froze when I saw him approaching and the first thought in my head was please God don’t let him make a scene in front of all these people. But he was smiling with a strange dazed expression on his face, very close to when we met for the first time. I smiled back and greeted him like it was actually the first time we were meeting. We strolled off to a far corner of the arena, perhaps I wanted to be alone with him or maybe I was just afraid of being overheard by other parents.

‘I never knew you were this beautiful. You have changed immensely’. He said.

I smiled. ‘I was always a butterfly, but you never noticed. I just unfolded my wings now and you think I have changed. I had all these colours wrapped up in my cocoon all the while we were together’. I said.

He looked away with a distant expression. It was as if a trance had been broken. He wanted to make things right but I started off at the wrong foot and his ego took over. It seemed like the world had frozen and I was reliving old moments over and over again. The last arguments spun inside my head.

‘I have never known a woman like you; if I had I would have known how to handle you’. He said.

I replied. ‘What makes you think you can handle any woman at all. We are people not things that can be handled or manhandled. All you did was show your character and that was the end of our relationship. What makes you think you can do it right by manipulation.’

He winced visibly. ‘I was just trying to say I miss you and you are lashing out at me.’

‘Then say it in simple plain words, my dear. We women are simple straightforward creatures. All we need is a man to say ‘I love you, I am sorry, I will be there for you, do not worry while I am there’ and mean all of the above. Is that too much to ask?’ I sighed.

‘Women and simple don’t go together. You cry at the smallest things, make an issue out of absolutely nothing at all, love people who hurt you all the time and take everything at a magnanimous scale no matter how minuscule the problem. Look at us, you overreacted to everything I said, did, didn’t say and didn’t do!’ he yelled.

‘Oh, I see. Just because I skipped the expected drama and told you to be honest, your volume has gone up by several hundred decibels. Excellent! How many issues are small for you? Adultery, lies, dishonesty, manipulation and eventual absentia in the most critical moments are small matters? What is a big deal with you? Your favourite team winning the game, the new car everyone is talking about, your android phone or your weekend buddies and their rhetoric?’ I retorted.

‘Goodness! There we go again. You hate everything that I love in my life. What has my buddies got to do with us not getting along?’ he said.

‘See what I mean darling. All you heard was the last few words. And that is the bottom line. I tell you what I want of you to make me happy and you turn a deaf ear to it. The only time you listen is when I am yelling and making no sense what so ever. Why can we not have a casual conversation without the darned self mutilation?’ I screamed.

The tears came and then I just didn’t want to say anything at all. There was no point in telling him what I felt. It happened every time I tried to talk to him. Either he would stomp away angrily and be distant for days or he would cuddle me without really understanding what I was saying. It was never about winning an argument. All I want is for him to understand me the way I understand him. I know he doesn’t litter on purpose, he is too tired and lazy when he gets home from office and he is used to his Mom picking up after him. So, I bundle up his shoes, socks, tie and shirt from different parts of the house and put them in place. I know he cannot decide if the shirts need to be ironed or washed so he leaves them on the sofa. I pick them up and sort them accordingly. I know he loves the spicy fried food when it’s raining so I make him a special treat every day if even I don’t have an ounce of energy. I understand that he ogles at beautiful women so I dress up for him with utmost care even on days when I want to roam around in my pyjamas. When I do all of this and so much more without him asking why cannot he take the extra effort to find out why I am sulking today. I know he has trouble remembering anniversaries and birthdays but he can put up an alert on his cell phone like he does for all of his friend’s hangouts. He can randomly get flowers from the street vendor on his way home and just whisper I love you when I am feeling low. Is that such a difficult thing to do?

We parted without a single kind word or goodbye. He left early for work and i drove back home. I went quietly to bed and he thought I was angry. The next day I woke up at dawn and made him breakfast with a smiling face. Being hurt does not mean I love him any less or I would stop doing everything I do for him every day.

‘I love you darling.’ He said kissing me goodbye.

‘I love you too hubby.’ I smiled.

He drove off but his mind was a haze. ‘I will never understand women. What does she want anyway? Last night it was like we have come to the verge of insanity and now she is pretending to be an angel. Why can she not understand that I am not one of her girls? Guys will always be guys. Big deal I forgot our anniversary! We are still married aren’t we? It’s not like I forgot she is my wife. I lied to her last time because I lost track of time playing poker with the guys and I thought she’d be mad if I told her. So I said I was working late and she chatted with my colleague’s wife and found out. Why should she interrogate me or other people about my whereabouts? I am a big boy and I can stay out if I want to. If we were better friends I would have easily told her I was out with the guys. The only thing she thinks about is me having an affair. Why would I want another woman in my life, I am sick and tired of just one! She wants to change everything about me that she used to adore. She nags like a grandma and then insists that she is doing so for my own good. I wanted a wife not another mother. And then the tears! No matter how illogical the argument, the last resort of winning is tears. If I give in immediately, it saves the next few days of headache. And if god forbid, I yell back, she will be a nun for the next two weeks. Why can’t she be the same innocent dear girl I met and fell in love with? She never argued, talked back or yelled. Has she changed or was all that an act? How in God’s name can anyone be happy in a marriage like this?’ He pondered.

‘Hey, I am working late at the office today. The boss wants some work done speedily. Please have dinner without me.’ He said as he drove out of his office to the club.

‘ Oh honey, I was hoping we could go meet Mom and Dad today. It is Dad’s birthday.’ I pleaded.

What the heck, he thought. She must have called her Mom and shared all the details and now she is trapping me into a lecture by her parents. ‘I am sorry, but I cannot leave work commitments. Why don’t you go ahead and I will see them some other time.’

I called Mom and said I am not feeling well today. We will come by this weekend and celebrate Dad’s birthday. The truth was too embarrassing to share. How could I tell my parents that the man I defied everyone to marry doesn’t love me any more? He came home very late and I had already gone to bed. He fiddled with his phone while I pretended to sleep. He was upset why I didn’t greet him and make him feel better. I was angry that he had missed such an auspicious day again. Like every anniversary, birthday and Valentine’s I was still alone trying to keep the romance alive. Our marriage breathed its last today. It may linger on for years but the silence will grow exponentially and love will wither in the same proportion.

Somewhere along the way, in what he said and she said love was lost and forgotten. Two worlds that merged out of adoration emerged lost and barren. The backlash of spoken words hurt deeply and somewhere along the way things were misunderstood in abundance. We forget that men and women are just different. They have to find a common ground and build a system of communication. Nothing less will work. What holds marriages together is not romance, it is understanding and compassion. I hope this little piece helps people think what their spouse is thinking before they react or overreact to anything. The rest is a smooth drive downhill.