In response to Word High July the snippet below is inspired by the Filipino word ‘kalinaw’ or ‘serenity’. It’s part of a series charting the impact of the discovery of intelligent life in space on five ordinary people over the course of a month. Enjoy!
Image taken from Buzzfeed: “36 Of The Most Beautiful Words In The Philippine Language”. All credits goes to them.
The streets of Karachi were busy, despite the violence of the morning.
Maliha watched from the car window and ignored the blare of her driver’s radio and beeping horns surrounding them. News about the signal had been received with wary suspicion by some, and as outright blasphemy by others. Her organisation had already received word of a blogger stabbed in the street for an article challenging the existence of God in the wake of the discovery. Maliha’d spent the morning talking to politicians and officials, trying to get a sliver of truth to share with the rest of the world. There were likely to be more attacks to come, and her heart ached for the Pakistan that she loved, for the people and the culture that have not been consumed by greed veneered with zealotry that seemed to infest the government.
That love is why she’d come, why she telephoned her parents every night, listened to her mumma cry and told them she couldn’t go back to Canada yet, there was so much still to do. She’d worked all her life to reach this point, to join the fight to reclaim the streets that had been her family’s home for generations before the death threats and the break-ins drove them away. Information and education have become her weapons in this war and she won’t be swayed from her course as others have been before her.
The car pulled through the gates of her grandmother’s compound, the guard nodded in greeting, and Maliha felt the tension begin to seep from her bones. It had been a challenge, adapting from a generic middle class existence to an estate house with guards and a housekeeper. A little piece of her culture she’d forgotten growing up in the West. But this place had become a sanctuary from the harsh reality of the city beyond its walls, quiet and secure. It was where she retreated when tragedy struck, at first upon her parent’s insistence and now because it was the only place where her soul felt unburdened.
She thanked the driver and took her time wandering through the house. In the distance her grandmother called a greeting, but Maliha barely stopped to reply, she had a special place in the shadow of a barna tree in the garden and it was calling to her. The moment she sat, and felt the cool of the grass under her fingers, was like a moment of perfect serenity.
Maliha had no interest in Buddhism, but she could imagine how a man might find enlightenment in the cooling shade of a beautiful tree. The world was quiet once again, the air warm and shade refreshing. Tomorrow Maliha would have to face the streets again, but for the time being she could rest undisturbed in an all too brief instant of tranquillity and until she found her strength once again.