Friday, September 27, 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 her, heavy, invisible, eventually coming to sit on her forehead, her shoulders, her chest till finally she gets up and comes to sit on the armchair.

She watches patiently, resignedly, as her insomnia conjures up her past, waving a wand in the air, reconstructing images of her life gone by, Remember your brother who left when you were 12?  it asks, and you wonder if you were 12 or younger, remember when you and your friends were chased by your music teacher all around the school?  and your smile is faint because the pain of it all being over is stronger, because the pain of so much more being over – your children grown up, impatient at best, distant at worst, your husband who lives in the same house in a separate room in a different cloud of dreams and memories. When did you become too old for dreams, for idealism, too old to change the world and make it a better place?

Remember when you used to put your head in your mother’s lap while she was sitting on the jaeye-namaz? Remember when your children did the same to you?  Too tired to fight with the bully sitting on her, she just nods.

They say insomnia increases with age, and I wonder as we grow old, do we start to dream just of our past? The fears of our childhood carrying into our adult life, exams we never studied for, remembering we had to catch a flight ten minutes before the departure, driving a car without brakes, all our teeth falling out, the things we boil over but can never say in real life because we are too prudent, too scared, too nice, too ashamed but in the security of our dreams we shout them out, loud, violent, tearful…

Do the lines between our thoughts, memories and dreams start to blur because the nerve cells in our brain too are aging, associations and connections frail like frayed wires, will insomnia slowly darken into paranoia?

Poor Tara, sitting in the midst of her memories, suffocating in the dusty breath of the past, waiting for the sun to walk up and kick the moon away, sounding the alarms for the birds and the trees, pushing the silence away, sweeping light and noise into her room so she can finally lie down, exhausted, as her insomnia follows close behind, slipping beneath her bed, claws drawn for the time being.

Monday, September 23, 2013

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 people end up making it to their destinations everyday is a beautiful mystery, a middle finger to all the forces that want to crush the city’s boundless, reckless spirit. 

We have the brazen bikers who visualize all bigger vehicles as insignificant beetles to zoom past or edge in front of, delusional about issues of mortality; the bulky buses, metal carcasses painted brightly and cheekily, barreling down narrow streets like the Devil’s personal transport, stopping without warning to pick up passengers in the middle of the road, defying all limits of space, these big bad bullies are second only to the city’s black Prados that move like lions in a jungle, who needs roars and claws when you have big guns and bigger egos?

Magic realism abounds in Pakistan, most obviously on the roads.  There are things people in other countries only do in their nightmares – like finding themselves going the wrong way on a road, headlong into oncoming traffic.  Seriously, drivers and pedestrians often test the limits of reality, making me blink in amazement, scrawling incredulity in thought bubbles above my head.
Too many times I have toyed with the idea of smashing my car into vehicles driven by rude idiots who turn without indicators, honk when I’m actually going the right speed in the right lane, obnoxiously close behind like dogs nosing dumb sheep.  I talk constantly when I’m in the car, addressing other drivers and pedestrians, half believing they can hear me.  The commentary worries my mother who is a calm slow driver very rarely pushed to honk.  I think she rightly wonders if I am not-so-slowly losing my mind when I’m in the car.

And honestly, after Karachi, driving in Islamabad is almost like meditation.  It is also like a two-year-old who knows how to run being placed in a pen full of mild babies who crawl with their seatbelts on.  People in Islamabad wear their seatbelts! They get fined for talking on the phone while driving (whereas in Karachi you are more likely to get mugged than ticketed – also an effective way to get people to stop talking on the phone while in the driving seat?) and the most shocking thing of all, vehicles actually stop when the light turns red.  Not only that, even after the light turns green you have a couple of seconds to change gears, release the handbrake, take a sip of your Coke, without having cars honk at you (the language of horns and honks, from the short bleep of ‘heads up I’m passing you by, wavering car’ to the obnoxious repetitive ‘get the hell out of my way’ and the worst hand-on-the-horn-for-several-seconds that is akin to a string of expletives polluting your auditory environment).

Every time this happens I first resist the urge to honk at the slow drivers of Islamabad who don’t zoom ahead as soon as the light turns green and then quickly remember that this is a good thing and then I nod in admiration.  I had been wondering for a while how traffic became so regulated here and whether Karachi can learn anything from their counterparts in the capital city. 

And then I almost got my first ticket when I made a U-turn a split-second after the light had turned red and was politely ushered to the side of the road by a young cop.  Maybe it was my totally bullshit argument about the motorbike on my side who 'confused' me or the fact that my license told him I’m from Karachi and thus new to a traffic system that is actually imposed (most likely it was my mother’s respectful apology and assurance that we never break the rules, which is 89% accurate). 

Regardless, the almost-ticket was/is a warning good enough to keep me in line (pun intended) for a while.  It also makes me realize that we don’t really need a new moral conscience or a social revolution to improve Karachi’s road experience.  We just need an efficient traffic police department that is paid well and provided incentives to do their job.

I educated myself by browsing the Islamabad Traffic Police (ITP) website.  Apparently the department was revamped and inaugurated in 2006, and there is actually a mission, vision and set of goals! My favorite is ‘to achieve the target of zero tolerance with firmness but politeness’.  According to the department, many of their goals have been achieved, including the ideal of fining even politicians (former prime minister Gilani’s son being one of them powerful people chosen as an example of equality).  Cooperating with other city government departments, using media tools and awareness campaigns, introducing a complaint/helpline and digitalizing the driving license system appear to be some easy-to-replicate ideas.

Maybe one day we can revert to the fabled days of the past when law enforcement was a practical reality and not just a slogan scrawled as graffiti on the walls of our city.  

Monday, September 16, 2013

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 me to notice them so they can shine, glitter in the acknowledgement of my heart. It is like being at the mercy of invisible forces that wear the guise of my own mind, my own thoughts, fooling me into believing that this is how I am, how you are, how they are, this is what we are. Throwing me off a cliff and I drag you with me, falling, flailing, dying in a simulation created by the tiny deep blue imps, so terrifying in its fabricated reality, so real in its effects on me, on you, on us, blurring all lines between reality and fears, seeping into our world, our love.

It is like being in a dream, watching myself in a car without brakes, cruising off towards a broken bridge, it is like trying to wake up, in vain.

And the worst is when I don’t even realize it is a dream, when I’m not even trying, when I’m so far down that I can’t even tell I am kidnapped, cornered, at fault. The worst is when the window of realization is so small it snaps shut before I can climb out, when the lines are so blurry that I can’t tell which way is right, when I am so tired because it keeps happening that I give up, that I fall still, motionless, quiet, resigned to the evil that stirs awake at the slightest provocation, accident, the tiny deep blue imps that hop into my mind, clawing, heavy, swift and wicked.
I wonder what it is to be diagnosed with a personality disorder, if insanity can always be caught with the help of a DSM-IV/V.

I wonder at the power of our minds and our unconscious, the unconscious that friendly psychologists claim forms the larger base of our thoughts, actions, beliefs, behaviors, that remains untapped, slyly making us think, do, dream, see, nonchalantly, casually pervasive, omnipotent.

I always used to roll my eyes at the helpless heroes and heroines of mediocre novels who hurt people they loved, or who wallowed in the misery of their own weaknesses, scoffing at their inability to change, their failure to become master of their own emotions; a firm believer in the phrase ‘master of one’s destiny’ and other such trite, semi-motivational idioms. If you want to do it, do it, I would say impatient at the fictional characters. But even though I still believe in self-determination and will power,  I understand the difficulty of blowing life into them. It is one thing to hang a bright-colored sign above your desk and a completely different story to dive into the truth of words. Wise words can only be true for you if you dive into them, it doesn’t matter how many times other people tell you to ‘man up’ or ‘follow your dreams’ or ‘make the right friends’, it doesn’t even matter how many times you tell yourself. Or I guess it does matter, I just have to set myself up for inevitable failure before I can succeed.

It is like someone tells you ‘don’t look to your right but there’s a couple--’ and it doesn’t even matter what the couple is doing, you have already turned your head in their direction. Or when a disgusting image gets stuck in your mind (I have this mental picture of a face covered with dry alligator scales or crusty patches of snakeskin that keep peeling away and falling, to be replaced by more scales, and this image comes suddenly, passing on the insides of my eyelids when I am trying to fall asleep, unbidden, a cruel gift of the unconscious and try as I might, it persists, a one-image video-clip on repeat…).

It is like you tell yourself you will be constructive this weekend, you will get things done, but you don’t, you just watch bad shows or documentaries, playing some video game (or worse, Candy Crush), and honestly, there is no reason for being lazy, you’re simply fooling yourself into believing you’re not doing it because you don’t feel like it, and we shouldn’t do things just because there is pressure to do them? That, I fear, is bullshit.  

I wonder at our minds and the nature of the human brain to ignore facts of life, to forget realities like death, destruction, poverty and hunger and instead fixate on stupid grudges, petty complaints and unhealthy obsessions, to make the same mistakes over and over again, at its ability to go off on a tangent.

The important thing, of course, is to hold oneself accountable. For one’s own happiness (unhappiness) and for others, for trying to overpower the imps that will run haywire if given free rein. For writing, over and over again, I will be … (insert whatever adjective you wish to be). To not let your mood overpower you and make you forget – even for that instant – that life is seldom one shade of color, life is seldom all horrible, that a person is very rarely as cruel as you think.

I remember a line from a book I read once, something about ‘no longer being a rubber duck bobbing on the waves of my emotions’ and how true that is, how important that is. Don’t underestimate the power of the unconscious, but at the same time don’t underestimate your own perseverance and ability, and never stop giving yourself second (million) chances. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

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 in Karachi, my siblings back in North America, and of course, the biggest freedom of all – not having a job. The gift of time, thrust into my lap, and even though I kicked it away initially, eventually I exhausted all my excuses (jet lag, Ramazan, trip to Karachi…).

So now that I have all this time I have… started drinking milk. Eating fruit. Volunteering at the orphanage/school near my house and, and even more amazingly, going to the gym!

It’s called ‘Fit ‘n’ Flex’ and is near my house. It’s small, faded carpeting, congested with equipment, and has pictures of fit white women flexing their muscles pasted as wallpaper. If you didn’t know, in Pakistan, photographs of white people always make a place feel like it’s legit.
The office smells of food around the time I go (between 1 to 3 pm), unsurprisingly because of the food that the administrators are eating. And the other day I saw a Persian cat sleeping majestically on a fluffy green pillow in the office; it was such a surreal sight I had to look twice.

I guess I can venture to say the gymming experience is different here compared to St Louis. I can still remember filling out the registration form, pen poised over the question ‘when was the last time you went to a gym?’, and again at ‘how many times a week do you exercise?’, so embarrassed at my answers I almost wanted to run away but the personnel there were too dauntingly in shape, smiling their perfect white smiles.

Despite the portraits of its muscular white women, Fit ‘n’ Flex (FNF) has a more …um, relaxed atmosphere.  

One of the biggest differences is the gym attire. At FNF, people are so good they can work out in jeans, or shalwar kameez (my personal favorite to date was this auntie wearing a sweater vest over shalwar kameez and puffing away slowly on a treadmill). Then there are the multipurpose PJs you can sleep and workout in!

And for some reason, most people in the gym here are on the heavier side. You know. Like fat women working out. Which, I don’t know about you, inspire me more than the skinny, toned crowd at Club Fitness who I feel should have their separate gym.  

We also don’t have intimidating staff like I did at Club Fitness (the gym I went to in St Louis) who are either making other people sweat or chiseling their own perfect bodies further. The ladies who work at FNF don’t want you to feel bad so they either sit behind the counter or paint each other’s nails. Sometimes they get a sudden bout of energy and come sit on a treadmill, checking Facebook updates on their phones.

And sometimes, just to show you they know how to operate the machines, they hop on to the elliptical or the treadmill. If I was impressed by the women who work out in jeans, Sumbul the lead staffer lady, bowled me over with her stylish top, slim fit pants and flip-flops. Yes. She was that good.

I think the most popular machine there is this strange platform with a vibrating belt that you put around your waist/hip and then just… stand. While it vibrates, making your booty move like Rihana. Apparently you can get thin just standing there. Technology these days!

I also love the musical element at FNF. They play Bollywood songs all day and not only can I jog to the upbeat tunes of Punjabi love songs, I can be on the lookout for the perfect wedding entry/exit songs (yes, that’s a thing. The ‘entrance’ of a bride/groom requires thought and effort). Also, seriously, if I could dance with that much gusto, I wouldn’t need to go to the gym.
Which reminds me of another difference, in America, skinny people go to the gym all the time (in fact, more so than their stockier counterparts) but in Pakistan, if a thin woman mentions joining the gym, she will most certainly get the astounded ‘but why?!’, which I think, is a pretty interesting look into our thoughts about physical fitness and health.

I don’t need to harp on about the benefits of daily/weekly exercise (at least 30 minutes every day or alternately, thrice a day for an hour).

Another embarrassing question I filled out in the States, and which I would slyly encourage you to answer is, how many hours a day do you sit? Do you want to know how many hours is too much sitting? (you don’t but I’m going to tell you anyways). According to a study, people who sit more than six hours a day are at a 40% greater risk of DEATH (!) than those who sit for less than three. For more scary things that are associated with too much sitting, check out this article.

So I guess I’m glad I’m finally bored enough to start looking after myself. Not to mention entertain myself every time I frequent FNF (which btw is more expensive than the much bigger and better equipped Club Fitness; I paid $10 per month for that while the monthly fee here is almost $35. Another insight into how common exercise is here).

And a small suggestion? Don’t wait for time to slow down and come sit in your lap. Do the important things now, or at the very least, pause for long enough to remember what these things are. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

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? married to your cousin? 12 years old and pregnant?

I have been slowly training myself to at least hide my surprise at how different others can be, to understand that if two siblings raised in the same home and environment can stand next to each other to demonstrate opposites, then yes, all people are not the same. To not get overly embarrassed when I reach out to hug someone I am meeting for the first time and they extend their hand, yeah it’s awkward (less so than accidentally kissing an old aunt on the lips, but wait, that’s actually quite ordinary to do so in some cultures!) but so what? This is the beauty of life, it keeps things interesting, making us raise our eyebrows, poking holes in the plastic bubbles we unconsciously and persistently keep constructing around ourselves.

Everything is relative, warns the annoying righteous little Aisha inside my head when I widen my eyes at a co-worker’s choice in clothes, men, food or any other thing that I have already formed opinions about, good, bad, pretty, wasteful, selfish, eew! The objects stay the same but the words describing them change, sweet girl, boring girl, handsome man, too-skinny man… sunny days are lovely in Seattle, we Karachiites call thunderstorms ‘good weather’.
Words like big, small, tall, beautiful, they all depend on an individual’s perception – at that point in time. You know that distant uncle who seemed so BIG when we were 8, but years later when we finally meet him again at some obscure event, we wonder, did he shrink or do we just remember it all wrong? Childhood favorite movies seem, well, childish when we are 26 – unless of course we’re watching Mulan. Or The Lion King. Or Aladdin.

I went shopping for shaadi clothes (definition: fancy clothes to wear on other’s weddings or post your own wedding because it is cultural norm to pretend to be a bride even after the main events are over, for an undetermined period of time) and was bowled over by the prices. Rs30,000 for clothes? Something that I’ll wear like, three times, maybe, if I’m really determined? I can remember my first paycheck and it would’ve helped pay just for kaam walay palazzos. “That’s not expensive these days,” females will state matter-of-factly while I would gawk at them, struggle with myself, think of the Afghan street kids I scold for sticking to my car window, and finally yield. (Expensive, cheap, important, I can’t live without air, food, Gucci?)

There has to be a balance, is my mantra, my life’s more boring but useful and essential motto. I can’t give up all material things and forgo ‘expensive’ clothes, but I can’t be so flippant about a shirt that costs a family’s monthly grocery. So I try to tread a fine line, feeling uncomfortable with the money, time and energy I spend on things my more noble side deems frivolous, evanescent (but everything is evanescent!) and using that discomfort to limit it, keep me on my toes, remind me of the larger world that exists, at the fringes of society, smack in the middle of our markets and even our homes (ever wonder what our domestic help thinks of our consumer choices?).

And if I used to think that striking the right balance would feel better, I guess I was wrong. Walking a tightrope is less than comfortable – it requires constant thought and effort, and as many times as I fall, I know the line is there. All I need to do is haul myself up and keep going.         

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

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 told Annie, we had to look for a rainbow and sure enough, within a few minutes we saw an arch spreading from one end of Islamabad to the other, a band of pastel colors, God’s magic.  It might have been the largest rainbow I have ever seen, documented in a photograph of mediocre quality, before the digital era, in some flimsy Kodak album. 

More often than not, I find rainbows when I look for them. Whether I have to cajole a driver into stopping by the road and craning my neck out from the car window, or climbing up the staircase/fire escape in my dorms and standing on a two-foot square space, you need faith, and some degree of childish stubbornness. And when I spot it, a pale blue, yellow, pink fluttering like a mirage, I always feel a flutter of pride, a comforting feeling that I am special, that the rainbow is there just for me.

My trip to Karachi was quite perfect; after spending almost two months in the boring, lovely Islamabad, where people follow traffic rules (if you disagree, take your car out on the roads of Karachi and rediscover the meaning of natural selection), the roads stretch black and clean, the mountains loom impassively gorgeous in the background and all men stare as if there is no other expression worth forming, Karachi hit me like a wave, drenching me in its overpowering, salt-scented energy.  The breeze was lovely, tireless like the city, dancing carelessly, unstoppable, through the lofty coconut trees, ruffling the orange, pink and white of papery bougainvilleas, and flirting with girls, tugging at their hair, pulling their long kameezs.

There were the customary stories of new robberies, brazen bandits who don’t care to hide their faces, young boys toting guns at traffic signals, calmly taking your watches, jewelry, expensive phones, and there was the panic of parents calling intermittently, trying to convince their grown-up kids to come home on time, the cordoned roads and lanes, the rude black pajeros and prados and the oily-mustachioed security guards of invisible politicians, the rise in extortion, the daily killings that we take with our breakfast and evening tea, as normal as butter cookies in a bakery. There was the barely suppressed panic when driving at night and a motorcycle with two men showed up in the rearview mirror, there was the regular depression that engulfed us when we thought of who is ruling our city, what is being broadcasted in the mosques… but all the time, I was on the lookout for rainbows. Because would you believe it, even in the darkest, rainiest, murkiest cities and villages, when the sun comes out during a shower, there is a band of colors waiting patiently to be seen.

Every time I was maneuvering a tight corner and a passerby would pause and motion for me to turn, back up or keep moving, I would see the seven colors of a rainbow at the back of my mind; anytime a car stopped for me and gestured that I could go first, after the initial amazement I would nod internally, understanding that this was one of those moments we stop looking for when living our everyday lives, lost in the confusion of what to have for dinner or wear to work. And just like that, the entire stay in the city I counted the stars I saw shining on the ground and pocketed them for future musing (and this blog). Late night couples at Seaview, sharing secrets and mundane stories brightened up by the love they shared while the waves came and went, endless, beautiful, dark, their loud murmurs blending with the music of the wind; the man who stopped in midstride to catch a boy about to fall off his bicycle, righted the bike and slapped his back in the camaraderie of a stranger in Pakistan; the journalists who continue to work despite all odds, who innovate, think, crib, love; the new Chinese restaurant with yummy beef and chili; a tea place with a motto I want to steal – live life, love tea – and the yummy disco chai they served; the story of a policeman who shared a cigarette with a young man on his way home from work who he had initially stopped to ‘investigate’; the Sitar night at my favorite café; the glow-in-the-dark rickshaws I saw in Defence…

The shopping! Even though I fall at the bottom of the girly scale of shopaholics, I had a great time looking at all the colors and textures, all the price ranges for a bustling city like Karachi. The chocolate fountain at Park Towers, the sunlight that lights up the entire ground floor of Dolmen Mall, the plays I couldn’t see, the new movie theater I will try on my next visit, the stories I see in old buildings, retired sufis sleeping on the roads, dusty corners, bright streets, everything makes me want to go back and live in this scary, lovely mess.

And then, there are the people, the fabric of Karachi, its trouble, its beauty, its hope, and my friends. I count myself as fabulously, guiltily fortunate when it comes to knowing awesome people, who can support me, my thoughts and dreams, back to back, providing the strength and connection we all need to survive in this world, to make us feel like we are not alone, to challenge me, give me new ideas, egg me on so I can be bold, and most importantly, to make fun of me so I don’t take myself too seriously, laughing right next to me, shoulders shaking, breathing in the content that wafts from true friends.