The world could use a little more love— especially with the collectively tumultuous and scary year we’ve had and might never recover from. I delved deep into my shoebox of handwritten letters and ticket stubs which is the only material thing I will take with me if my house was on fire (sorry thesis draft and my ginormous pile of unread books) to find moments that remind me of how deeply and sometimes silently I have been loved, and have been loving for the past twenty-four years of my life.
The first thing was a peel-off sticker that is on fruits and vegetables.
I have a baby nephew who is on the autism spectrum and is not very expressive with his affection, but when he’s tired, he places his feet in my lap asking for a massage. He calls vegetables his babies and is passionately protective of the aubergines that can be often found under quilts.
My best friend is not the most eloquent with words but would send me pictures of clouds because I mentioned that I missed open skies in quarantine and that the first-floor apartment in an urban sprawl couldn’t afford me the view of cloudy skies and sunsets. My father was a gruff, loud man who had never experienced affection before he became a father to three girls and was forced to improvise. He wishes to pave a red carpet for his baby girls to the best of his abilities and this task is impossible anywhere in the world let alone Pakistan, which has never been particularly kind to its women. He hoards OTC painkillers for period cramps, his wedding wear coat pockets are full of hair ties and forgotten lipsticks and a food group mentioned in his earshot will always have a permanent place in the pantry. The first boy I loved could not tell apart daisies from pansies but would call me Nargis (daffodil) because it is to date the flower I love the most.
Mothers take the mantle for this. They are maddeningly selfless when it comes to silent acts of love. Relationship therapists say there are five love languages namely; acts of service, physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time and receiving gifts. Moms do them without asking. I have taken for granted finding birthday notes in my lunchbox and my bottle of water. washed and filled on my side table.
I was a spoiled baby who refused to eat eggs unless the eggshell would be washed, painted and crafted to look like Humpty Dumpty. I know no other way of parenting where the weekends are not devoted to building pillow forts and bedsheet tents with tea parties hosted with my grandfather.
One time I burnt my eid clothes a day before eid and spent the rest of the day scouting for the best eid dress I could find without care about the cost and fatigue of my parents. In retrospect, they must have had a hundred other responsibilities to tend to, they must have been exhausted from keeping fasts and it is something that I myself would never do for anyone, but it was unthinkable for them to say no to my tear-stained face.
My friends say I pray for you or I made dua for you and I am rendered speechless, how do I accept this kindness that you have gifted me with. I know no currency that could ever equate to the worth of this kindness and sometimes it is more of this kindness that we need in this world.
I am lucky to have been loved in abundance and to have loved with all my heart. I had a stray cat Badri, he contracted rabies and eventually had to be put down and even when he was rabid he would recognise me and my sisters. He was slowly losing his mind and to his last breaths, he fought off the haze of the disease and would attempt to be affectionate. It defies science and all logic, but I was there and while his eyes were glassy my darling baby would rest his head gently on my leg or tried to bring me his stuffed toy when I was crying.
Loving others exactly as they are is the loudest way of loving them. It is the bonds we form based on love, kindness and affection that make life worthwhile.
The joy of laughing with your friends while tea simmers on the stove in cold winter evenings, the exhilaration of holding someone’s hand for the first time, the agony for the distance to end for you to hug them again, the jubilation of dogs getting excited to see you, the warmth of hugging your sleeping siblings, the hope for a just tomorrow in lighting a candle at a vigil, and the accomplishment of making your grandmother chortle with a joke you memorised in school.
To stretch out a hand in need, in hope, in desire, and in prayer knowing it will be held. If this hope, unseen, but felt is not love, then nothing else is.
Cover credits: Buzzfeed