We are the mashup of all the things we let into our life.

We are the mashup of all the things we let into our life.
The music in my heart I bore, Long after it was heard no more ---William Wordsworth

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Music from the dying embers

The pen danced away, writing and re-writing the same paragraph again and again until it smote his heart and rivulets of tears rolled down his cheeks and trickled down on his paper. Deeming this as an appropriate ending, he folded the paper and kept it in his breast pocket.
 Wiping his eyes with his frail, wrinkled hands, he stood up from his chair and approaching the dusty, grimy window of his room, peeped out. Watching the din and tumult of the crowded street in the high tide of its occupation was a  favorite past time of the old man and he loved the myriad of sounds which eventually blended themselves into a fugue of excitement. That constant pacing to and fro, that incessant tread of feet wearing the rough stones smooth and glossy --is it not a wonder how the dwellers in these narrow streets can bear to hear it! Throngs of people hurried by in opposite directions, with no indication of stopping or exhaustion, intent upon their own affairs, the roar of carts and wagons and the stamping of horses' feet upon the greasy pavement, all pointed towards the approach of dusk, which meant the shops were to be closed.  Watching the faces of those who passed by was another favorite amusement of his. Some frowned, some smiled, some made slight gestures, some wore a cunning look of plotting, some were anxious and eager and some were dull and slow. Startled by the sound of the clock as it struck the hour was like a departed sound to him, and sighing explosively, he walked towards his arm chair and sank in it. Outside, the wind began to moan in hollow murmurs, as the sun went down carrying day elsewhere, a train of dull clouds followed it and heralded the coming of thunder and lightening. 

The bright fire in the hearth cast a glow upon his face. The unkempt, fuzzy hair, wrinkled face with a prominent mole on the chin, eyes that were half closed and numerous lines scattered on his forehead completed the picture of a man who loved solitude and seldom interacted with anyone. Gazing into the fire, he started humming a half-remembered tune as if he pictured a scene from his childhood. An unexpected knock upon the door shattered his reverie into thin wisps of smoke.

"Confound you! Who is it?" bellowed the old man, craning his neck.

" Its really cold and damp outside, sir, and i have no lodgings for the night, can i stay here please? If you would be so kind." 

Spoke a tremulous, meek voice from the half opened door, trembling entirely. Straining his eyes and observing a childish figure clad in tattered, wet garments, he corrected himself and calling her to himself, gave her a few warm blankets to wrap herself in, and made her sit on a chair near the hearth.

"My apologies, ma'am. i'm not accustomed to invite strangers into my house", said the old man in a friendly tone.

"Its quite alright, sir, my name is Nelly", came the reply from the girl, a faint smile spreading on her face at the old man's hospitality.

Gaining his former position on his chair, he resumed staring into the fire -- with an attention of fixed earnestness. The puzzled girl, being sufficiently warmed up by this time and yawning prodigiously at intervals, ventured to break the deafening silence which had reigned in the room and inquired about his strange manner of looking into the fire. A deep frown spread on the face of the old man at this interruption and he turned towards her in vexation, but his frown soon relaxed into a cheerful smile as he thought of the child. Bending forward, he shifted the coals in the hearth with a poker and spoke in a soft voice, " nobody likes me and leaves me to myself. They know my humor  See over there -- that's my friend.".

"The fire?" said the child.

"It has been alive as long as i have", the old man made answer, "we talk and think together all night long." 

The child glanced at him in bewilderment but he kept looking in his former direction, musing as before.

"Its like a book to me", he said, "the only book i ever learned to read; and it tells me many old stories. Its music, for i should know it's voice among a thousand, elevates my mood and makes me happy. It has it's pictures too. You don't know how many strange faces and different scenes i have seen in the red-hot coals. It's my memory, the fire, shows me my whole life."
The crackle of the coals being engulfed by the fire and the glow from the dying embers brought a smile on his lips, and his eyes sparkled with tears. On turning towards the child and seeing that she snored peacefully in her calm repose, he chuckled discreetly and added, "oh yes, many an old story it tells me, does the fire yonder." 

Here, the old man closed his eyes and reclined in his chair, enjoying the serenity in the music from the dying embers, a faint smile still lingering on his lips.


  1. Some real, raw, talent here! Enjoyed the read as much as I did the thought of how you've grown.

  2. "enjoying the serenity in the music from the dying embers"

  3. This is quite delightful reading, the details with which you have sketched the character of the old man and his loneliness looks very crafty. I personally feel that writer turns subconscious into consciousness while inking out words, the inner awareness of the writer counts more than what he actually witnesses, because writing is more about seeing and less about looking. Great debut!

  4. A Dan Brown in the making ;), only in terms of writing skills i mean, simply amazing :)

  5. I always think about you, because of Dr sahab, and because of shayan and because of yourself. Any one who has ever lived close to shayan is so dear to me, like you. I have your one picture with me, you & shayan playing together with some thing on the wall, in your small 1st CAS campus. Today, I am so relieved ,to see that you have grown , your thoughts are developed, so mature that I can not tell. I knew you are like this , always.

    1. Really appreciated your feedback. Thank you :)

  6. This was a really interesting read. The depth with which the characters were described was beautiful.

  7. Like father like son.............. Amazing. May Allah (swt)accept your efforts

  8. Great job Azzaam. It is a unique style that you have demonstrated in this piece here.

    Fire, usually a negative symbol has been made a soothing and comforting one here. The Fire is also a symbol of light and warmth which you have used here. Also "the dying ambers" is pointing towards a need to rekindle the fires and keep a relationship with past going.

    The girl to me is a symbol of future and a crucial fact that the future must remain connected to the past (not necessarily dwell upon it) is depicted here. The serenity and calm of the last scene points to this fact.

    The girl could be a boy too but then the continuity and fertility of the concept could not be communicated as effectively.

    I did not mean to dissect the story but I needed to confirm to myself that the SOIS sessions and Iqbal's thought has had the right effect on you.

    As for your writing my dua is Allahumma zid-fazid.


  9. Really appreciated your comment and analysis on this piece. You have made an excellent and a correct interpretation of what i have written. Thank you very much for your feedback :)

  10. To me, it is more poetic. Beautiful blend of diction and literary devices for a smooth train of thought! However, I wonder why the writer went for a genre of prose.

    Let me share some information for all young writers. They may do a course on creative writing from international universities and further prune their skills up. Here is the information:

    1. Stanford University is offering a free online course of 'Crash Course on Creativity'. Click on http://venturelab.stanford.edu/creativity

    2. Oxford University offers a course of 'Getting Started in Creative Writing'. Click on http://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/courses/online/short/subject.php?course_subject=Creative_Writing . Its fee is 310 Pound Sterling.

    3. MIT offers a free online course of 'Reading and Writing Short Stories. Click on http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/writing-and-humanistic-studies/21w-755-writing-and-reading-short-stories-fall-2006/

    4. You may also join the group 'LUMS Young Writers Workshop and Short Story Contest'. Click on http://lums.edu.pk/event-detail/creative-writing-workshop-569 .The deadline has passed though. I think they are organizing it in 2013 again.

    All the best! Wassalaam
    Wajdan Raza

  11. Thank you very much for this information :) i went for prose because thriller and suspense stories are too mainstream and i wanted something new, plus descriptive stories like these which involve past reflections and a deep story line have been running in my mind for a long time.

  12. Great piece of writing. Rhythm of words and continuity of story is amazing. Choice of words and description of characters is marvelous. I am hoping there will be something new amazing and refreshing like this from you.
    Best of luck and keep writing.

  13. Love your writing style. I call it, for personal reference only, "the elegant old English writing style". I found this style inspiring and difficult not just to read and understand, but also to write. Being an avid reader like yourself, I know the vast variety of styles used nowadays and the comparison to those of the old writers.

    Dr. Irfan used to encourage me a lot when I was his student - he had a liking to my style of writing, he said. He must have been delighted to find his own blood had so much more creativity than he probably may have seen in other people. I was. =)

    I'd thought that the old English style was difficult to read and write, but hadn't the faintest expectation that I'd see it reproduced in such manner - it is quite perfect in it's own way. For a boy of your age, this is a great achievement.

    I hope you have plans for the future. Pakistan could use your talent to show the world what it really is, instead of what our immature media tries to depict to the world. There are lots of choices for you out there, a few of which are mentioned in Sir Wajdan's reply above. If I were you, I'd have the British and Americans scrambling for my talents in their institutes. ;)

    Best of luck either way, may you succeed in whatever path you choose, and may you choose the path best for you with Allah's guidance. Ameen.

  14. Andaywalaburger12 April 2016 at 13:21

    Love it!


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