The Superlative form of Love

by Shadab Zeest Hashmi

And there was evening– you were born (raging like a lioness). A monsoon evening– the window wide and the world awash.

IMG_5201With this, the window in the story of my first hours on earth, my mother conjures a desire for perspective and possibility. I will grow up seeing the veins of history mapped onto this window, equations of math and myth, the teeth of logic, tufts of wisdom, pillars of language roofed by silence— every hue between identification and imagination. This “seeing” will begin from the most luxurious vantage point possible: my mother’s arms.

And it is evening, here in California, evening of a melon-sherbet sky and birds with pencil nibs for beaks. In the ultrasound image, my baby is an amphibious enigma— a riddle wafting in unfathomable love, thumb in mouth, curled like a golden promise, a dreamscape reminding me of a flock of starlings forming a dancing cloud— I shudder at his vulnerability, recall a verse from the Quran:

“Do they not see the birds above with wings outspread or folded in? None holds them (aloft) except Ar Rahman, the Most Merciful One. Indeed He is, of all things, Seeing.”

The word Ar Rahman comes from Raham or "womb," the superlative form of merciful love—the most exalted of the ninety-nine beautiful names of God.

Driving back from the clinic in the fading light, I feel vulnerable and empowered at the same time. Hand on my belly, I imagine the warmth of the womb waters. As my husband opens the door, Yaseen, my two-year old shrieks in delight, arms thrown wide; the sight quickens my heartbeat and baby Yousuf, weeks away from being born, feels my burst of joy and starts kicking in response: Love was never spoken with more eloquence. And I, the poet in the house, had nothing to do with it.