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My Heart Lives in Pakistan

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You slip into the comfort of your own country so seamlessly you don’t even notice it.It’s like wearing your favourite sneakers – you don’t realise how important they are till you buy new shoes and have to break them in. We landed at the shoddy little Islamabad airport – Daewoo bus stations are better than the Islamabad airport, as my uncle put it – and I walked out into the crisp cool morning of home,donning on a coat of smug confidence that was held up by invisible fairies right outside the plane door.
It’s that confidence which makes you stride with your head held high, pushes you to say “exCUSE me!” loudly and indignantly to the aunties and uncles that try to cut the line in front of you, that helps you strike a conversation with a stranger on a bus, or offer help to a young mother with her antsy baby without blinking.
It’s the confidence of belonging to a place without filling out paperwork and supplying bank documents and paying thousands of dollars in fees, of belonging utterly and…

Digressions & Confessions

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I love Netflix. 
I love that feature which makes the next episode come on right after one finishes –  and in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 – before you can finish the thought “should I watch another episode?”, the theme song is already playing.  A computer code has helpfully made the decision for you.
If you believe in signs, the fact that the next episode has already started – well, that’s a sign as clear as the neon one screaming ‘SALE SALE SALE!’ in a trendy shoe shop.
It tickles me how our minds work.  Unconsciously always on the lookout for affirmation for what we want – like a text message from JustEat (a life-altering food delivery app in the UK) asking you to “put your feet up and just order in!” – just what it takes to assuage that tiny bit of guilt about eating unhealthy or overspending on food.  “But it’s a sign!”
I mean, of course, not really. It is more of a marketing gimmick but then we’ll believe what we want. 
While I’m confessing, here is another admission of guilt: I sometimes only re…

Norma in the Snow

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Snowflakes, light, uneven, like god shredding cold clouds up above, they fall, almost like a dream that evaporates when it touches your skin –
The asphalt is covered in sludge, ice and mud, people catching hold of one another as they hurry across, slipping out of their thoughts and into the present before they hit the curb.  The buses are running late.
The sky has been white all day, like a blank canvas – no paint, no inspiration, it’s all been done before and maybe god doesn’t feel like sketching a replica today.  It’s darkening now and the street lights switch on, automation, magic, call it what you please.
An old man wearing a navy beanie sticking like a gnome’s hat on his head rolls onto the bus stop.  He is sitting in a scooter, a grocery bag stuffed in a small black basket on the front.  His eyebrows are bushy, sticking out in all directions – with eyebrows like that, his expression was forever a scowl.  “Greg died five years ago, Norma!” he says, his voice half a decibel away fro…

Sunday Mourning

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Sunday morning dawns tentatively, gently, like a mother with her fingers on the curtains around her child’s bed in the hospital.     
The market square is deserted – last night’s revelry discarded like clothes at the beach. Broken glass from friendly bottles of yesterday catches the sunrays, breaking into spots of rainbow.  The trash cans are overflowing, there are stains you don’t want to identify on the cobbled stones of alleys, dried rivers of joy that cannot be contained in a human body.  A few unashamed pigeons peck away at the remains of late night burgers, cold fries, sticky mayo, brown vomit.
The sun suddenly breaks free of the clingy, gloomy clouds and there is a break in the gray – the blue of the sky almost golden with the sun which is but a blinding smear you can only look at with your eyes closed.  It lights up the fragile leaves that stick out plainly on the branches of trees. 
That is just how Autumn is – a tragic mad brilliant artist who creates the beautiful magical hu…

The Unbearable Grandness of Being

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Sometimes it is really hard to break out of your own self. 
Maybe humans are selfish by design, maybe it tickles god to see us so wrapped up in our little lives and our even littler thoughts while the great oceans flow far and wide, waves cresting and falling like the even breath of a sleeping baby, regular and peaceful, or toiling and rolling angry tumultuous dark like a heart broken by someone you loved more than perhaps you should have. 
And while we huddle in our beds, worrying about bills and wrinkles, about how staidly tiring it is to have to think about what to make for dinner every day, the world goes moving on, revolving at a tilt, careless and nonchalant, beautiful and grand and terrible... And while we drive to work every day, stuck in our personal webs and mulling over everything from the mundane worries of piling laundry to the more grave fears of our parents growing old, from the little irritations of overbearing bosses or stains on the table mat that won’t wash out to t…

Hey, Karachi

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In the morning when I wake up staring at the white ceiling with its Ikea paper lamp, I think of the teal blue of my cotton curtains back home, and the sunrays giggling just behind them, like children playing hide and seek.
When I leave for work, letting the heavy door of our building close with a disgruntled thud, I look up at the English sky suffocated with sad gray clouds, I pull my jacket closer, and I think of the bright blue of the sky back home, where in late September it would only be in the early morning that the air would feel cool on my arms and face.  The trees in my street would be bright green, and I would be able see the sun, with the customary stray clouds strolling along the expanse.
I miss my office, I even miss having to wear shalwar kamees with a dupatta every day (I’ll take it over the three layers I wear everyday and the mind-boggling choice between short boots, calf-length boots and the simpler close-toed loafers with worn out soles). 
I miss the sound of people ta…

The Big Three Oh

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I can feel its presence, just around the corner, always a few steps ahead of me but in the last few months, slowing down, letting me get closer, turning back every now and then to assure me that it’s there, and eventually, I’ll be right beside it.
I can see its shadow from where it stands today, just around the bend in the road.  I can feel its eyes on me – the number 30, waiting patiently, knowingly. Is it smirking? Will it greet me with a consolatory arm around the shoulder and a “it had to happen, mate” or is it going to utter a smug retort – “remember when you were 20 and in college, walking around campus like you owned it, like you owned the world, barely smothering your giggles at the older men and women who sat in close-knit circles on the grass, seemingly always singing With or Without You by U2, always playing an acoustic guitar? Remember how you thought they were just so lame?”

Yeah I remember, I’ll tell 30. I just didn’t realize then that those Masters’ students didn’t care w…