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Showing posts from September, 2011

Bedbuggered

September 29I woke up that day adrift in a sea of blossoms, pale pink, delicate, silent. Except they didn’t smell like flowers, more like mothballs or dust and then when I leaned over, closer, the blossoms turned out to be scrunched up paper, I barely touched one with a finger that the entire sea shook, shuddered, rustled and it sounded like rain or a child beating on tin sheets, and the papers unfurled, words poured down, catching in my hair, bruising my skin, scratching, tearing. I woke up one night to find myself standing on a bridge made of playing cards. It was dark all around me so I couldn’t tell if I was surrounded by water or fire or a just a deep abyss. I’m afraid to move because I fear the bridge might collapse so I continue to stand, gingerly, terrified and stuck. I hope the sun rises soon so I can see clearer…Thoughts can sometimes be like bedbugs. They make you twist and turn and roll around, they yank sleep away just as it starts to settle on you like a film of dust on …

Wise pillar-less

September 25My favorite photograph of me on my wall is the one with you. Well, all three of them. Thinking of you is like listening to good music while walking – everything looks better, feels better, the grays in the sky are infused with lavender, the taller treetops are able to reach out and grab on to – for a while – the fleeting sunrays. Of course sometimes the distance kicks in and then it’s like the battery ran out or I took my headphones off. And all of a sudden the world is ordinary again. It’s really quiet except for the rush of traffic in the background, and I no longer feel like I’m on the set of a TV serial. I’m going to take the liberty and blame you for the most recent holes in my self-esteem. Or rather, the lack of you. In other words, I really miss you.I go through memories like a stack of photographs, bagels and cream cheese, three is the perfect number of cigarettes, the comforting patterns of chauvinism and punches we would follow, how can you eat Chinese food witho…

Untied

September 24A week later I’m already scaling boulders and rocks and whitewashed walls. Not. But I have moved to three sets of arm exercises – today I did it twice. That’s six sets. Wow. Stronger arms and math skills, I’m on a roll!I’m also drinking milk. I’m half a half-a-gallon down in three days. That’s the beauty of blogs – narcissism at its shiny fake silver peak. Everything you do is worthy enough to be penned down because you are essentially just writing as you think and so Alice is in wonderland, slipping down dark green leaves and into pasta bowls. Sometimes your brain feels like a slippery fish, you try to wrap your fingers around it but it slips out again and again, slopping sloppily all over your fake wood floors. Or like overcooked spaghetti. Are you happy, you ask, peering down into the gray-pink folds of your mind. Are you sending the right messages out, connecting the dots and nudging the neurotransmitters that can keep you happy? Dopamine that is. Something doesn’t fee…

"On, climb? Climb on!"

September 20I have always loved movies about sports, my heart goes out to the underdog/s and I urge them on in their practice routines, as they drive or are driven hard, beyond the endurance of the average and then how in the end they always win while emotional music plays in the background. Even movies about dying children and women with cancer don’t make me cry but when the star basketball/hockey/football player is lifted up on the shoulders of his ecstatic teammates, my eyes tear up. Human psychology is incredible and the lengths to which people are able to push themselves go beyond the imagination (or at least right up to the edge of imagination). The catch is, of course, you don’t really know if you’ll be able to lift that car debris off your kid until or unless the actual moment comes. And while in theory and movies it seems like almost anyone (and maybe they can) can have the determination in a given situation, say a 100-metre race and they’re in awful shape (as in the most exe…

Tangents

September 18I have a tendency to get lost in lists; what with Japanese drummer girls, baby giraffes and hot air balloons all within reach, I think I kind of strayed too far away. And then a slight tug around my ankles, a vague fretting sensation, the beginnings of melancholy. Fears, anxiety, nostalgia, longing for someone you’re used to being part of your daily grind. A happening, happy life brimming with awesomeness? According to whom? For whom? Is someone really watching and measuring how cool you are; does anyone care? Is it really sad if nobody really does or does it work the other way around too? When do I stop being an insecure 16 year old?Remembering your self-designed purpose in life can be difficult in these fast-paced times where it feels months pass like minutes, calendar pages whirring away in the kind of blur they show in movies to show time’s passing by. I put up so many little post-its and daily planner pages that the larger picture is completely covered up – the real r…

Someone to blame

September 14It seems like just a few months ago we were trying to come up with a different way to layout the “flood stories” (a deluge of stories about storms in those months) so people would still pick up the paper and read about other people whose lives were streaming away from them in muddy, brown waters. When you work for a newspaper, news becomes old really soon. The tragedy of a city like Karachi is reflected in a city editor who has been in the business for 10 years and when there’s a bomb blast, what comes to her mind first is: what will the headline be this time? “I’m running out of ideas and new angles…” she would puff out exasperatedly. Just halfway through our first year publishing news, we started taking things in our stride: ‘okay, so we don’t need to worry about page 2 and 3 because there are so many flood stories; the building collapse in Lyari comes with a really good photograph so that’ll be all of page 1 anchor (bottom part)’.The tragedy of a country like Pakistan i…

Candles

September 7 & 8 A new pair of shoes that finally fits right and you can stuff your foot in without untying the laces yet the shoes are still not loose, or a pair of jeans fresh out of the dryer that’s just a little tight but then a couple of hours later it’s perfect. It was like hopping up and down, trying to prop myself up a ledge and today I finally managed to get up there. It’s a cute little niche and guess what I found there? Indian food, coffee chocolate cake, a strange drunk man, a really cute black coat and my first birthday hug in St Louis. --What a randomly adorable day. If you manage not to miss home on your first birthday in a foreign place, you have to think about how lucky you are. St Louis is really starting to grow on me and of course, it’s the people around you who make the connections in your brain that spell out the beginnings of love. So when we’re born, all our neurons are just unwired and there are a million different ways they can be connected, forming behavi…

To feel or not to feel

September 6 It’s there in the motivational songs that get you pumped up for almost seven minutes at a time, the quotes you sometimes rip out of magazines and put up on your mirror and occasionally in the speech of people wearing rose-tinted shades. But perhaps for the first time in my life, it is everywhere. It is in the conversation of young women sitting at a bar, on T-shirts, posters – and in textbooks and lectures. You can help change the world; you must help change the world. If you’re lucky and you end up choosing to do your masters in something you believe in, it is an incredible experience. I am surrounded by people who share my passion and it is a different reality from the one I am used to. It is not idealism but practical implementation of how things can be better. It is learning how to be a better person, and yes, sometimes it is tedious. There is a thing as being too nice and I do sometimes wish to punch the person who continues to ask me how this or that obviously annoyi…

Miles and minutes

September 3A hundred small boats slowly, cautiously set out together in their solitary confinement. Their lone passengers hold fishing rods and soon, they start casting their nets out. “Where are you from?”“Texas!”“Oh me too!” The fishing lines entangle and the two boats are pulled closer to one another. Words like nametags are put up on shirts and chests, attempts to introduce, make friends or just conversation. Gaps close up for the most time but some widen, just like the physical distance from your home, this one stretches thousands of miles between cultures.Grad school is like other starting points in your life. You set out alone in your fishing boat and although it can be comforting if you manage to look outside your little sphere and notice that all the other lonely boats are wafting alongside, at the end of a night, you just wish somebody already knew what your favorite movie was and what you did when you woke up late on a Saturday morning.It’s mildly amusing that the loneliest…

Stripping stereotypes

August 29One of the stereotypes that young, college students and graduates in Pakistan wield around and agree on is how Americans can be so stupid. They’re too wrapped up in their nice, first-world lives with automatic cars and blue nail polish and have absolutely no clue about what’s going on in the rest of the world and the many people who live in shacks with tin roofs or the diversity that exists in countries they have simply labeled with one photograph, maybe of a starved African child or a woman in a veil. Well, if you ever came to the school of social work, your comfortable cloak of righteousness would be ripped off within minutes. Two things that I have realized about myself: I’m not as liberal as I had imagined about people’s freedom to live and do as they please. Neither am I as compassionate as I have been trying to be all my life. I’ve met Americans (albeit mostly females) who have travelled all over the world, worked in orphanages in India and clinics in Kenya – when they …

Whiners whine

August 28At the end of a fruitful day and a Nepalese meal, I miss my friends. The night sky is bright and the breeze is perfect for a brick ledge and maybe a smoke. I miss the comfort of old friends who know all my stories so I really don’t need to talk.

Edge of comfort

August 26My eyes open. The alarm rings and I roll over in bed. Ramadan in St Louis is lonely and I battle instinct to get out of bed and make my way to the kitchen, the corridor dark, the AC humming lullabies the rest of the world is still sleeping to. Monsters come to mind, girls with fangs and crazed eyes and I recite tasbeeh.Wash my hands, look for the frying pan, drink water from the tap and debate over the three options I have for food. I break an egg open into the pan and my heart drops when the egg yolk spills sideways. I need for the yolk to be perfect and round and just slightly pink so when I touch it with my toast, it spills dark yellow. My mother would make it. And if the first time it wasn’t beautiful, she would put it aside to eat it herself and then just fry me another one.I eat my broken, imperfect egg and with a smattering of salt and pepper, it tastes just fine. --St Louis is imperfect. The blocks of granite that make the curb jut up and down, like a stationary model…

Now you have it, now you don`t

August 21 It’s like that arcade game in which you stand with a hammer in front of a field of holes and you have to bang the little moles or mice or whatever rodent pops up. Except you don’t know where it’s going to come from and as soon as you hit one down, another one jumps out. I’ve thrown a huge black blanket over my mind and I’m holding it down, on my fours, trying to keep it from slipping off and exposing the truth: I miss home; I don’t know what I’m doing, was it the right decision?Of course there is no one moment at which the decision stands right or wrong and it will play out gradually and it depends on how I see it and how I deal with it. Right now, it’s play-doh in its little cute plastic box.Making furniture, buying hooks to hang blue clocks on, trudging up a creaky staircase with bags from Walmart and Target and then spending the lonely hours in the night putting up photographs of all the people who aren’t with me. It’s interesting to manage my religion in a place indiffer…

Two-way streets

August 17I had forgotten the liberating feeling of being on your own. Words have paths forking out in all directions, and so, right now, if I look to one side, the lane stretches beneath shady green trees and the sun sparkles gold like a child peeking out from behind curtains, racing ahead and stopping every now and then to look through the leaves, blurring edges in drops of gold. Freedom, independence, solitude.The other path twists and turns, dim, dark and dinghy: alone, lonely, sad, without. I had forgotten the sense of standing on your own. And yes, I'm not even on my own yet, I have people helping me, appearing out of the smallest doors and unnoticed corners to tell me which bus to get, how a student ID works, picking me up from the airport. But the small pockets of friendly comfort can't be there - and they aren't there - all the time. I lay awake on the sofa, thinking of time zones. Did you know travelling to America from Pakistan is like stepping back into the past…

Plane panic

August 16It's a small tear, like when you try to stand up and your shirt gets caught under your foot, a tiny rrrr-rip sound and you stare down and there is a black hole in your heart. You skip a beat, try to catch your breath and notice the hole has widened. Panic. It is the fear of the unknown, of having left all your friends and family behind - who will call me brat, fat, love? How will I know who to call depending on what the weather and my mood is like? Not a single person will know who I am, how I am, that I dye my hair black every month or that I should never wear red nailpolish. The fear spreads like an inkblot on thick paper, a dark stain that's really hard to erase. A sinking feeling begins, like a baby elephant is stepping on my heart and I can't breathe. Is it normal to be so frightened, so lonely? I guess I miss everyone. Why can't at least one of them be with me? I space my breathing, control the rhythm, recite tasbeeh and a few minutes later, it is possib…

On my way

August 11The trees are planted at regular intervals and trimmed in near-perfect symmetry, the houses are colour-coordinated and every pink tricycle or oak rocking chair placed in the porch seems to have been arranged as if on the set of a movie. Even the houses where the shoes are not lined in neat rows but scattered near the door, even they seemed to add to the perfection of the neighbourhood.I sit on a rocking chair, holding a round, warm mug of tea and if this were a painting it would be serene, good enough to hang in the guest bedroom. But I take a sip and the tea is awful. You can never seem to make it right here, is it the water? the absence of the correct milk powder? The silence is overpowering and I cannot concentrate on my book. Trust a city like Karachi to make peace seem surreal, difficult to feel at home in. Trust distance to make you miss the noise, the sky, the clouds, the wind, the mess. It's always too easy to scribble a litany of melancholy, nostalgia, things you…