Today, it is difficult to imagine a tomorrow that will be just like the many yesterdays we have spent.
This is an unprecedented time in our lives. None of us would have thought in our wildest dreams that life will come to a halt like this—all our plans will be cancelled and everything would shrink to one word: uncertainty.
Places of worship will be closed to worshippers, classes will be moved online and offices will shift to homes. People will get married, be born and die unceremoniously. Even being in the same city and having all the time in the world, you will still not be able to meet your best friend.
But this is not the first time humans have faced a crisis of this scale. The generations before us have lived through wars, plagues, famines and recessions.
A few weeks ago I was studying in Vienna, when the university asked us to pack our bags and leave the country in four hours. That’s the thing about tragedies, everyone around you can be suffering but you only truly recognize the pain when it hits you.
While stuffing my unfolded laundry into a bag, I felt a connection for the first time with all the partition stories of 1947 I had read and heard over the years. They slept in one country and woke up as citizens of another. They had to leave with their clothes drying on the line, their pots boiling on the stove. That upheaval did not come with a fear of the uncertain but also with the feeling of being dispossessed. They had to grapple with losing their homes, connections, friends, family, identity, and everything they needed to survive.
For many years, the literature and memory of people remained fixed in the moment our land was divided into two. It was the poets, the writers, and artists who not only captured the violence of Partition but also gave people hope for a better tomorrow. Even today when it seems impossible to hope, one can find solace in the words of Faiz
Iss waqt to yun lagta hai ab kuch bhi nahin hai
mahtab na suraj, na andhera na sawera
Aankhon ke darichon pe kisi husn ki chilman
aur dil ki panahon mein kisi dard ka dera
Mumkin hai koi wahm tha, mumkin hai suna ho
galiyon mein kisi chap ka ek aakhiri phera
Shakhon mein khayalon ke ghane ped ki shayad
ab aa ke karega na koi khawab basera
Mana ki ye sunsan ghaDi saKHt gaDi hai
lekin mere dil ye to faqat ek hi ghaDi hai
himmat karo jine ko to ek umr paDi hai
In this moment it seems there is nothing,
neither the moon nor the sun,
neither the dark of night nor the glow of dawn
no veiled beauty behind the drapes of the eyes,
no occupation of pain in the folds of the heart
might be an illusion? Might have heard it
that sound of the last round of footsteps in the streets
on the branches of fantasy’s dense tree
no dreams may now make nest
no hostility, no affection, no connection, no relation
no loved one of yours, no stranger of mine.
I accept this desolate moment, is a tough time,
but, my heart this is only a moment
take courage, a lifetime awaits to be lived.
The peculiarity of each moment demands we live it as a new experience but everything that is happening today has already taken place. When people were surrounded by disease, death and despair they only clung to hope. I leave you with the words of Gabriel García Márquez: “You can’t eat hope, but it sustains you.”
The writer is pursuing Masters in Public Policy at Central European University. He tweets @@jasirshahbaz