“Fret not where the road will take you. Instead concentrate on the first step. That is the hardest part and that is what you are responsible for. Once you take that step let everything do what it naturally does and the rest will follow. Don’t go with the flow. Be the flow.”
I'm still reeling from the shock of Sabeen Mahmud's brutal assassination. In the span of two months, Pakistan's two most prolific progressive arts and culture centres - Kuch Khaas (Islamabad) and T2F (Karachi) - have lost their founders, two incredible women, forces to be reckoned with, who made an impact on everyone they met, even if only briefly. They were friends, understood each other's struggles and dreams. To lose them both so close together... it's incomprehensible for all of us. I feel drained. When something like this happens, it's hard for me to write coherently, and in the last several months it feels like one tragedy has hit right after another, including large scale disasters like the Nepal earthquake...heartbreaking.
Today's rule, however, is a perfect one to dedicate to both Sabeen and Poppy. The courage of taking that first step and pursuing their dream, of standing up to injustice... they were the flow, they created the flow, they changed the tides with sheer spirit and determination. Formidable, remarkable women that they were. The only consolation I find in not having them anymore is that they truly lived, unflinchingly and unapologetically. They loved all people, welcomed them with open arms, and had that enigmatic Shams quality about them.
If either of these women had listened to doubts, had faltered before taking that crucial first step, we would not have Kuch Khaas or T2F today. The steps that followed were not always easy - running an independent non-profit arts centre in Pakistan requires a huge investment, both financially and emotionally. From the outside, the stress on such an organization doesn't show, but those on the inside know too well that each month brings with it new challenges. If you're not about to go belly up, it could be that local authorities are itching to shut you down, or not grant you enough NOC's (legal permission) to hold the events you'd like, or have an objection to the content of your event. It's an uphill struggle, one both these women faced head-on.
They may both have been physically snatched away from us too soon, but the lives they have touched continue their legacies. Sabeen's voice is still loud and clear everywhere on social media, as people ask difficult questions about why, who, what the heck is going on in our own country? Forget being the flow, Sabeen is nothing less than a tidal wave right now. No matter what the opinion or allegation, she would be proud of the fact that people are at least questioning and talking about an issue they hardly thought about before. And, given the chance, she would have been able to win her critics over, of that I'm sure.
I hope that wherever you are, if you have a beautiful dream that can make this world a better or more beautiful place, that you feel inspired and empowered to take the first step, be the flow, and live your dream.