Love Letters To Icons: Parveen Shakir

There are countless female icons that have coloured our history and left a lasting impression on us with their talent, charisma and presence. Every week, Ammaar – known on Instagram as ammaavocado – will be sharing his letter of love and admiration to some of these inspiring women. This week it’s the woman whose words captivated many and whose name will never be forgotten in Urdu poetry – Parveen Shakir. 

Pyaari Parveen,

I want to start this letter with my favourite part of my favourite poem of yours;

بہت رویا وہ ہم کو یاد کر کے

ہماری زندگی برباد کر کے

بدن میرا چھوا تھا اس نے لیکن

گیا ہے روح کو آباد کر کے

Your poems are not just about sad romantics, even if they’re perceived as such. For me your poems are about the romance of longing for love, of fondling with desire until what we desire is blessed.

Parveen, I am no expert at love. I am no expert at knowing what it feels to love someone beyond measure and beyond anything that we may depend on. To desperately wish them next to us, but I do know that there comes a point in the night, when our heart begs for someone to feel. I know that in that moment, our hearts can feel like a restless child wanting something that it can’t afford, or we can’t afford for them.

I have seen the faces of those who have failed in the faces of those they loved, and those who have found love, and they are both the same. I have seen the bruised hands of a poet and the busted lips of an aching lover and they are both the same.

Love can be suffocating, most times. It can choke every other desire from the heart, only to make room for itself. Which is why when a lover loses his/her beloved, she/him finds nothing else to go back to.

And I know that you know this. I know you’ve felt being stranded and found at the same time. But you also know what it means to be in love; to rest in the arms of a lover as he whispers a ghazal into your heart and how that may feel as if your lover is bleeding a ghazal into your mouth, ending that thirst for love once and for all.

But it never ends, Parveen. That’s the beauty of love, it is forever changing and forever desirable. Love meets love, meets love, anew. Desire meets new desire. If what we love is had then, love will seize to exist.

I have been enough in love to know  that this is all a spiral of continuity. I have been enough in love to know that a broken heart cannot be fixed, but it can live with its brokenness.

I have seen the limits of love, Parveen.

My Father loved a woman once, and when she left, he wrote his aching in a journal everyday, and hid it in a part of our home no one could ever find. At the end of that journal, he wrote a letter to his lost love, saying that if she ever finds this, this should serve as a reminder of their love. When he passed away, I found the journal, I found the pieces of my father no one knew of. And I cried all night reading it. And then I placed the journal back to its original hiding place, in hopes that I will read this to his lover one day. The next morning, as I opened our ancestral writing table, everything was there but the pages of that journal. Termites seeped in and ate pages of the years of pain and heartbreak and hopelessness in a single night. It was all gone.

She never read the letter, she never found out how much he loved her. And the only person that did, was me.

I told this story to someone recently as evidence, to make her believe that love is a miracle of its own, it’s unpredictable. It can exist in pain as much as it can breathe joy.

I was in love in a night once — for once in a memory a night shall always be referred to as a night, no matter what hour the clock was dressed in — I took my best friend to eat waffles at Alam Gir waffle house — couples sharing the only cone they can afford and those who can afford more but decidedly choose to share one waffle —  & we both anxiously awaited for our cones, and then wrapped our hands around the waffle, with a smile spread wide across our face and joy scattered over our hearts. As we were walking out of the store; my friend dropped her cone on the floor — and perhaps not everyone is destined to have their waiting and open mouths, desperate to be filled with the sweet, sticky and syrupy blessing to sit on their tongue in this church of sticky joy and reckless love.

And when she dropped it, I offered to share mine with her —  a sacrifice I decidedly made — on sharing my joy with someone who may have to wait another year for the same joy to arrive. And maybe we were also destined to share one cone and not stand apart, and perhaps we were also destined to kiss that night in the park, with sticky hands cupping the cheeks of one another, and in all this destined series of romantics, perhaps we were also destined to date for 6 months and then never see the faces of eachother again.

Sometimes the things we’re hungry for aren’t served from behind a counter or whisked out of a hot kitchen. The nighttime is overrun with lonely hours — the kind that people run into in hopes to find someone who perhaps is echoing their particular brand of isolation. Even if it isn’t to fit into any greater bonding, but just to know that even in your loneliness, you are not alone.

But in both these stories, Parveen. I found love to be a miracle. I realized that in any version of love, prediction is useless. Anticipating romantics means to live in fear of losing what you may have. It is romantic to stare into a phone screen late at night, talking to someone you wish to be in the arms of. It is romantic to hear a song and know that this song belongs to you and someone you love.

Parveen, I think we both know that, being loveless doesn’t mean we cannot be loved, it merely means that we have to wait in line for our turn to approach the counter with our galloping. I think we both know that this is all tradition. The tradition of love that has been carried to us for centuries, and yet everytime it feels new.

And so I will carry the tradition of writing about love, like you. I will continue hurting all alone, like you. And I will continue to love someone, someday, for as long as love allows, like you.

Love,

Ammaar.

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