detonation within

FE McWilliam, Woman in a Bomb Blast, 1974, bronze

Today I go about my day
my heart is in a state of explosion
shattering throbbing implosion
my whole body is like fireworks

and no one knows
the detonation within

unlike movie heroines
I can’t faint or cry or scream
because it’s


it’s not a fever or a stroke
a fracture, a cardiac event
it doesn’t register on any scale

it’s unnamed unlabeled and so unreal



Baba Farid’s kafi Kya Haal Sunawan: my English translation

کیا حال سناواں دل دا
کوئی محرم راز نہ مِلدا

How can I tell you of my heart?
I find no one who is an intimate of the Secret

منہ دھوڑ مٹی سر پائم
سارا ننگ نمود ونجائم
کوئی پچھن نہ ویڑھے آئم
ہتھوں الٹا عالم کھلدا

Dust on my face, soil on my head
All honor and repute lost
No one comes to my courtyard asking after me
Instead the world laughs at me

گیا بار برہوں سر باری
لگی ہو ہو شہر خواری
روندی عمر گزاری ساری
نہ پائم ڈس منزل دا

Carrying the burden of Love on my head
I’m humiliated in every city
Spent my life weeping
And still found no sign of my destination

دل یار کیتے کُر لاوے
تڑ پھاوے تے غم کھاوے
ڈکھ پاوے سول نبھاوے
ایہو طور تیڈے بیدل دا

Heart pleads for the Beloved
Grieves and yearns in agony
Endures pain and troubles —
Such is the way of your lover

کئی سہنس طبیب کماون
سے پڑیاں جھول پلاون
میڈے دلا دا بھید نہ پاون
پووے فرق نہیں ہک تِل دا

Many doctors tried their hand
Dissolved hundreds of potions for me to drink
They found not my heart’s malady
And not an ounce of cure

سن لیلیٰ دیہانہہ پکارے
تیڈا مجنوں زار نزارے
سوہنا یار تو نے ہک وارے
کڈیں چا پردہ محمل دا

O Laila listen to Majnuñ!
Your mad lover laments bitterly
Beautiful, just once, would you
Pull the curtain of your palanquin aside?

دل پریم نگر ڈوں تانگھے
جتھاں پیندے سخت اڑانگ
ے نہ راہ فرید نہ لانگھے
ہے پندھ بہوں مشکل دا

Heart is drawn to the city of love
but the route there is arduous
Farid there is no path nor camp!
This journey is exceedingly hard

NOTE: Note: I don’t speak Ghulam Farid’s beautiful language Saraiki. I tried my hand at an English translation from the Urdu translation of the kafi provided on this blog. I also copied the text of the kafi from the blog. So my translation is doubly removed from the source. Feel free to suggest corrections.


last 2 days

My 84 year old mother had a dental extraction today. She had a rough day. I rubbed her soft, frail feet.

I fly back to Chicago in 2 days. It’s depressing. I feel so sad. It’s the unbearable part of every visit.

My heart is outside me, electrically alive to the promise and fading of every moment now. Same for my mother.

I’m struggling to compartmentalize, struggling to set aside my total immersion with family in Lahore, and to accept the return of my U.S. life and roles.

Bruno Catalano’s sculptures, Les Voyageurs (The Travelers)


This perfect moment

I had the sweetest, warmest, most perfect moment. It lasted about 10 minutes.
Ammi has been feeling cold all morning, so I tucked her into a blanket and cuddled with her. She snuggled down, with her face against my shoulder, and dozed off gently.

For a while I shared NASA and cat pics with her and shared world factoids with her (I’m trying to get her to acquire a tablet and learn whatsapp but she declines). Then she asked for a fleece blanket around her shoulders and snuggled down.

A familiar anxiety returned to me (it is a constant companion, that fear of the inevitable, once your parents become frail and past their 70s). But she is so happy, so content, so free of care, so well-loved by literally everyone, she is a truly blessed human being. I’m so fortunate to have her as my mother.



Since I got on the plane to Pakistan, I’d been racking my brain for the title of the netflix series set in the 80s, about the kids in Indiana and the monster. At last I asked white spouse, and have a piece of my U.S. brain back.

I just can’t access my frames of reference across my two homes and two selves.


Gurdwara Janam Asthan Guru Ram Das

En route to Wazir Khan Mosque, in Chuna Mandi, and very close to Lahore Fort, you arrive at the Gurdwara Janam Asthan Guru Ram Das. It marks where Guru Ram Das was born. It is managed (quite beautifully) by the Evacuee Trust Property Board, a government department which administers properties, including educational, charitable or religious trusts left behind by Hindus and Sikhs who migrated to India after partition.

According to the two stewards I met at the gurudwara, prayers are held morning and evening.

We requested a brief respectful visit, and after speaking with a couple of people inside, they happily welcomed us, asking what we’d like to eat from the langar. We politely declined.

My brother at the entrance:

Where Guru Ram Das received his first ashnan (bath) as a baby.

The Guru Granth Sahib:

The walls are painted, but a spot is left to show the old bricks that compose the building. Ranjit Singh built the gurudwara.

I was excited to say sat sri akal, and soon was told that one steward, Mohsin, is Muslim, and the other, Hakim Ram, is Hindu.


Sesame seeds from Pakpattan

We are visiting in Lahore.

A few days ago, my mother suggested I eat sesame seeds for my health. The conversation segued into me and my mother’s two domestic staff women chatting about how we’d love to visit the Sufi pir Baba Farid’s shrine in Pakpattan, and how sweet the people there are.

(Pākpattan is a major center of the Chishti Sufi order (I am a member), and site of the shrine of Hz Fariduddin Ganjshakar, the poet and Sufi saint. So beloved was his poetry that some of it is included in the Guru Granth Sahib.)

Later that night, my sister in law (an OB-GYN) brought home a gift from one of her patients. The patient is from Pakpattan. He gave her a Pakpattan delicacy: mustard saag — plus a random bag of sesame seeds, from Pakpattan.

Bashirañ took the opportunity to tease my mother (who isn’t into shrines or Sufi stuff), “You see, this is how it works for us believers!”


Can Muslim women wear coats? Or, Abu Hurayrah’s ahadith on women

I came across some nonsense on the internet recently:

Some Muslim men/man, likely Salafi, who took it upon themselves to tell Muslim women to quit wearing winter coats and jackets because they didn’t erase them completely. I’m not going to link the twitter thread here but you could find it.

First, ladies, please ditch the preachers who want you to freeze to death without your coats. Be safe, be warm, be happy, be well, and love Allah as free submitters.

As for these men, I exhort them to go hide in mom’s basement where they catch sight of no real-life women. Except on the internet.

Their selective sources re: women are unreliable. See my 🧵 on Abu Hurayra.

Their overemphasis on the Ibn Taimiyah-influenced mufassir Ibn Kathir is also part of their selective narrative.

This blog post largely relies on Khaled Abou El Fadl’s book “Speaking in God’s Name,” specifically chapter 7.

Abu Hurayrah converted only 3 years before the Prophet’s death, but narrated so many hadith that prominent Sahaba rebuked him. Never married, he is the source of many reports demeaning to women.

The sahaba “severely criticized Abū Hurayrah for transmitting so many reports,” and “many traditions that contradicted … more notable Companions.” In fact, Umar (RA) threatened to exile Abū Hurayrah if he didn’t cease transmitting. Abū Hurayrah defended himself by attacking their record of piety.

Abu Hurayra criticized the Companions’ characters, for being involved in business and (in the case of Ayesha) in “beautifying” herself, while he (Abu Hurayra) spent all his time piously with the Prophet. Ali (RA) said, “Abū Hurayrah, since when was the Prophet your close companion!”

Abu Hurayra is the source of many hadith re: women. E.g. wives prostrating to their husbands, angels cursing wives who refuse sex, a woman passing before a man invalidates his prayer, more women being in Hell, and so on.

You get the idea.

For pandemic-era awareness, it might interest you to know that Abu Hurayra is also the source of a report that there’s no such thing as contagious disease.