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Showing posts from September, 2013

In the Company of Insomnia

September 28
Tara sat in the armchair by her bedroom window, unable to fall asleep.  The evening had slipped into night, exchanging her lavender gown for a black velvet cloak, switching on tiny lamps in the sky because she is afraid of the dark, nudging the moon with her toe, slowly rolling it to the top, from where it shone whitely onto Tara’s window, where she sat with her insomnia in her lap.
The silence stands just behind her, softly breathing melancholy thoughts into her ears, like a selfish lover whose love has atrophied into jealousy and insanity, no longer warm and comforting, instead distant, foreign, painful because of the memory of their closeness that now taunts.
It is when her house falls quiet and the neighborhood too crawls into bed, when the eagles are swaying in their sleep on tall coconut trees, when the crickets have exhausted all conversation, it is in the blaring quiet of the deep night that Tara’s insomnia sidles out from under her bed and comes to lie down with …

Red Light, Red Light

September 23
I think the first and last time I have heard my father curse (and by curse I mean a whopper of an expletive) was in our car.  I remember being more stunned by the fact that he cursed out loud than the mad bus driver who had almost run us over like we were in a cartoon movie (in which when you’re run over you simply stretch thin and then shake yourself back to normal size).  Driving in Pakistan is an incredible phenomenon.  It defies all rationality and once again, if we were cartoons, just a couple of minutes out on the road would make our heads explode in a burst of disbelief.  But of course, since our heads stay intact – physically, usually, - the disbelief gives way to frustration, anger, temporary insanity.  Especially in Karachi, a mad city bursting with machismo that erupts out on the roads.
In Karachi, we don’t believe in traffic rules.  We like to think of them as suggestions, something to follow occasionally, almost accidentally.  Just like the city itself, how p…

Wicked Forces

September 16
They are insidious creatures that hide in my pillowcase, crouch behind my ears, hang on to me with their nails digging into my scalp, tiny deep blue imps, conjured in times of idleness, times of distance, powered by the insecurity that courses through my veins. They carve messages into the walls of my brain, paint my emotions a heavy gray that overwhelms, drowns, dives from my heart to the bottom of my stomach, billowing further down my legs, disappearing and leaving a deep vacuum, an absence like a whirling vortex, a black hole that drains me of energy, rationality, thought, that drains me of me.
It is like being kidnapped, overpowered, blindfolded and thrown into the back of a moving car, like being shoved into the corner with a vise around my head so that I can’t turn away, can’t see the light filtering in through the curtains behind me writing messages of love in the dusty script of sunrays, so that I can’t see the signs of love that float around quietly, waiting for …

Let’s Get Gymin’

September 12
Since we never have enough time in today’s world, we always put insignificant things like physical health, social obligations and childhood dreams at the backburner, promising ourselves that one day we will join the gym, start swimming, incorporate sports into our lives, one day we will call that old aunt who sits in a dusty corner by the window, lost in the past because the present is the same day after day, colorless, melting into an unending strip of melancholy, one day we will give ourselves the time and energy to pursue dreams of writing a book, painting murals in dilapidated government hospitals, opening a café that specializes in cheesecakes and good conversation…
Right now we have more important things to do, office work, house work, repetitive weekend plans with friends/co-workers, and of course, Candy Crush. (or if you think you’re cooler, then FIFA).  
And then I came back to Pakistan, to this sweet sterile valley of Islamabad, my friends in Karachi, my fiancé i…

A Fine Balance

September 10
Words may have clear, neat meanings in dictionaries, but in real life the finite explanations tend to lose their distinctions, they move away from their specified, alphabetized places, and float smugly coyly, changing in front of our eyes, elusive, vague. And the most elusive of all are adjectives that we use to understand and color our worlds.
Humans are selfish (I want to say ‘by nature’ but my social work training is preventing me from doing so). We are silly, shortsighted; tickled by how other languages sound, that’s a funny word, it rhymes with something dirty in my language, shocked at ways of living that are different from ours, you mean getting married to someone you have never dated, you mean adopting a child as a single woman, you mean sending your grandparent to an institution, you mean to say seven billion people living all over the world don’t see, hear, breathe and act like me? Confused, disgusted, even angered and indignant, female genital mutilation? marrie…

Looking for Rainbows

September 3
If the sun is out and bright, and you can feel a drizzle, it is your job to position yourself such and look for the rainbow that fifth-grade science books will tell you, is somewhere up in the sky.
I remember being on the mumti once, it was a bright early morning and Annie and I had not slept the entire night. (Those nights when sleep was like a secretary we didn’t have any need for, so we would always send it packing on a vacation, those summers and winters of unbridled youth, that were too petulant, too bored for slumber). We had seen the sun rise imperceptibly and stretch its yellow arms all over the eastern sky and it seemed like a clear day till I felt a cold drop on my arm. “I felt a drop! Did a bird just pee on me?” (Do birds pee while soaring in the blue heavens? I know they poo while flying; quite gracelessly too, I feel). But then Annie and I both felt more scattered drops and we looked above in surprise, rainclouds camouflaged in the morning blueness above.
And I…