Beads of Prayer

North Pakistan
I found myself staring at those colorful pieces of cloth clasping the branch of the tree that was gracefully sloping upwards like a hand raised in prayer. As if the tree was wounded or poisoned, and the strips of cloth were like bandages wrapped tightly around it to stop the wound from infesting or the poison from spreading. In either case, it was all about ‘saving’. But who needed the saving? And who was the saviour? Tree, the bearer of prayers or the people who tied the knotted rags? I was simply drawn to the mystery. So many pieces. I lost count. Green, gold, white and blue. Aah, a printed one too, maybe torn from the chaddar of a woman who had nothing else to adorn the tree with. Wonder what she asked for!? Colourful, sacred pieces, braided with multiple knots. Knots pregnant with wishes and prayers, desires and ambitions, wants and needs, and a few, with gratitude. I wanted to touch them, and almost did but withdrew my hand because suddenly I felt like an intruder in their world of prayers. Like I would make their wish filthy. I felt like an untouchable. An interruption or destructive force spoiling their communicative gesture to God. Under the swaying rags I saw turbans (the kind worn by grooms). And behind them was a white marble stoned grave. Strange mix of life and death it was. Thoughts spun in my head. ‘Greed. Man is greedy. Lusting for the world. Always desiring. And eventually ending up under the weight of the earth. How many die with a heart full of contentment? “ And then a thought occurred that I was being harsh for maybe this is the driving force of mankind: need. To be in a constant state of need. To pray. To connect. The knots at the shrines, the offerings at the temple, the candles in the church, everything in all these places of worship is about Man being dependent upon God, about the helplessness of Man, about holding on to belief, about love, about submission, about the One who reigns over all. After all , we are all humans broken by fate. All looking for a little comfort from the same Him. And I asked myself Samira, what would you pray for? So I looked up at the sky peeping through the canopy of tree branches and wished for both life and death at the same time. A peaceful life for the living and a peaceful life after death for those that are no more. And I prayed selfishly for my death to be delayed. And I prayed for every knot of prayer to be untied by God. And I don't know how right or how wrong I was in doing so. Panjpeer RocksDecember 2017

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Samira Mumtaz

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