I watched as he walked from one side of the room to another, getting his steps in before this was ever a thing.
There was a calendar on the wall behind him. I can still picture it; an image of a bird, in flight, above the clouds.
There was something written in Urdu across the image.
I looked at it, realising that it had been years since I had attempted to read Urdu.
As I struggled to decipher what was written, I felt a hint of disappointment; disappointment in myself for not making the effort to stay fluent in reading Urdu, disappointed that I relied so much on ‘Roman Urdu’, where the Urdu language is written with Roman script.
So deep in my own thoughts, I didn’t realise that he had stopped walking.
He took the calendar off the wall and handed it to me. It felt like he could read my thoughts; like he knew I was struggling to read what was written.
He smiled, took the calendar from my hands and began reading the words out aloud:
“Tu shaheen hai parwaaz hai kaam tera, tere saamne aasman aur bhee hain.”
He asked me if I knew what this meant. I didn’t. And so, he went on to translate what was written:
“You are the great Falcon, your passion is flight. Look ahead, there are more skies to transcend.”
These were the words of the great Allama Iqbal, a famous Urdu and Persian scholar and poet. This was an extract taken from his ghazal – a poetic expression of both the pain of loss or separation and the beauty of love in spite of that pain – “Sitaron se aage jahaan aur bhi hai, abhi ishq ke intehaan aur bhi hain” which roughly translates to: there are many skies beyond the stars, there are many trials still to be conquered in the path of love.
He told me there were many interpretations about what this couplet on the calendar meant. He believed it was about freedom.
“After all, what is freer than a bird soaring in the sky?” He asked. “What is a better dream to have than all of the skies in your feet?”
Literally translated, it means flight.
Metaphorically speaking, it is an expression for the highest form of human ambition; daring to reach for the skies.
He told me how he believed this was intended to be a reminder to overcome our fears and allow ourselves to explore our Parwaaz.
“We are scared to dream of our skies. Partly because we are afraid we will never make it. And partly because we know we might.”
Years later, I start every notebook with this couplet and I have this as an image on my phone, reminding myself of it time and time again.
I have it engraved in my heart and soul, and today, on my father-in-law’s first death anniversary, I say a little prayer for him and whisper thanks; thanks for giving me one of the greatest gifts I have ever been given.
Parwaaz reminds me that we choose to be who we are. That the limits of who we can be, and what we can do, are imaginary and imposed by our own fears.
It reminds me that regardless of who we are, where we have come from and what we have been doing, Parwaaz is always a moment away; if only we dare to stretch our wings.