Friday, November 18, 2016

Winter is Coming

Actually, for a Karachiite, winter is already here, with temperatures tipsily tipping into the negatives late at night.  I mean, when you feel the need to wear two bottoms, you know it is cold. 

This is always the season when I tell people that we need to invent a nose-warmer because scarves and hats and earmuffs are not enough and for some reason my nose always gets really cold.  It feels as if I have an ice cube stuck to my face.  And the standard response is usually, look it up, it’s probably already been invented, and my dreams of a patented nose-patch are easily crushed and swept away till next winter.

I realized it was time to stop watching Suits endlessly and turn to writing because the leaves are dying, and I hadn’t even typed up my gushing tribute to Autumn/Fall.  I was surprised when the trees started changing color and all of a sudden the palettes had changed from green to yellows and reds.  (Mainly because it felt cold and I thought it was already winter.)

But, the permanent goose bumps and sniffles were a back story to the breathtaking landscape that would run past in the windows of the bus to the city.  God really is the coolest artist – it really seemed to be a careful piece of art with the green trees giving way to a bright yellow, darkening to a burnt orange, russet and then the fiery red that would suffuse the crispy leaves in radiance.  Nothing arbitrary about it – the colors perfectly fading one into the other like a meticulously crafted shade card.  There is something special about trees in so many colors – I mean, flowers are pretty too and Spring is nice when blue and pink and orange and purple all sprout up from the ground.  But when the trees change from their everyday green to russet or red, there is something more majestic about it. 

I find leaves kinder than flowers somehow.  There is something more thoughtful about the transformation. 

It’s time for a makeover, they murmur, stretching and shaking out last night’s sleep as the wind yawns through the branches, should we go with red or a bonfire orange, they whisper, maybe start with a bright yellow, almost the color of the young green when the sun strikes them early morning… and then we’ll take it from there…

And every night when the world is asleep, the tiny painter fairies and artsy elves come, starting from the edges of the trees, and the edges of the leaves – and so we see the magic, leaves that are bordered red, yellow in between and the green still there at the heart … and then just like that, one day the painters go on a frenzy and we wake up to entire trees drenched in bright reds and romantic oranges.

And as the breeze blows, one leaf touches the other, spreading the color, the love, the orange and the red, like a line of children with ink-stained hands holding hands.
Do you think it’s time, they ask a couple of weeks into Autumn, let’s see, and a leaf, one, two, three, flutters to the ground, landing on auburn hair or a child’s hat, startling, surprising, making someone smile as they look up and get distracted from their worrying thoughts of missed buses and overspent budgets, and think, hey, that looks really pretty.
And the leaves sigh and sacrifice themselves, falling in bunches to the ground, carpeting bumpy sidewalks and dirt-lined paths so that little kids in pink boots can run through them and we can walk across the crackling yellow, crunching little bursts of happiness on cold days.

So it’s been a lovely Autumn, and I am sad to see it go.  Already the trees are looking bare, with just clumps of bright leaves left, and the branches thin and stiff, like pouty teenagers just standing there.  The days have become short – the sun is too cold to come out before 7:30 am and too damned lazy to stay up for that long.  By the time its 5pm its dark and you want to be back in your cosy home eating dinner because it feels like 8.

The good thing is I started work so now I have diversified from cleaning the house and haunting the library to actually going in to office.  It’s a pretty cool organisation and I’m all set to learn lots of new stuff and hopefully manage to benefit my employers too.

The bad thing is that it is as awful to wake up at 7:15 am as I remember it.  Except now the world outside of our gigantic furnace-like comforter is cold.  And more often than not, it is cloudy and the sky is being cruel and sending down a fine misty spray on our faces, it’s to wake you up, it seems to say with an evil smile.

But the gooder thing is that it’s part-time so I work three days a week and am supposed to have a long weekend, which feels good (if I can ignore the list of household chores assigned by myself). 

So I guess we can end on the brighter note – here’s to having jobs not (just) because you get to be productive and have an opportunity to contribute to the world, but mainly because now you can really value and enjoy your days off.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

To Make or Not To Make (friends/coffee)

It could be the fire alarm that has been jangling my nerves for the last 30 minutes, even though there is obviously no fire raging (had there been one, the entire building would be ablaze by now).  Or it could be that my hair has been falling like the leaves will fall two weeks from now, or that I have to sweep the house almost every day because of all that fallen hair (enough to make 75 bird nests I think).  It could be the dry skin or the dishes that incessantly sneak into the sink every time I turn my head around.

It could be that I just want someone to make some daal chawal and put on Downton Abbey for me.  In any case, it just happens that I’m going to be blue for a few hours (before I decide to get out of bed and just vacuum the entire 400 square feet of our apartment).

I’m generally an introvert (no way, really!).  I enjoy solitude and I start getting antsy if I’ve been chatting on the phone for more than 30 minutes.  I mean, one of my favorite things to do in the world is to read, which is a solitary hobby by definition.  So when we moved to Nottingham where my avenues for socializing were going to be limited, I was prepared. 

And it has been quite lovely so far.  Every now and then I get an itch to have a conversation with a woman (considering my only two companions in this city are guys – husband, cousin, thank you both, you’re priceless but still) but other than that, it’s sweet.  It is only scattered moments like running into a neighbor staring at the psychotic alarm clock and having a two minute conversation to realize oh, hey, that’s not so bad.  Talking to another human being, that is.

The trouble with moving to a new place (and especially if you’re not the one starting university or work) is that it takes a lot of effort to make new friends.  And when you’re 29 years old (I am so dreading the day I have to start using 30-year-old …!) you have less motivation to go through the earlier awkward small talk phases of friendship. 

Blessed as I am, I have a few really good friends and yeah, they’re kind of all over the place (as if God just rolled a bunch of dice on the globe and beamed as a few landed up in North America, one in Canada, some in the UAE and the one that keeps rolling on and on in Europe… ) but in this digital age it’s not so bad.  I mean you can send them pictures of coffee cups that you would have loved to share with ‘em and flaming red trees that some of them would sigh over and the others roll their eyes at (and both reactions are delightful to you).  

When I was younger I reveled in the idea of ‘being different’… being unique, not fitting in, the idea of loneliness was romantic.  But as we grow up, I guess we realize how much better it is when we find people who share our likes and dislikes.  There are few delights greater than shrieking ‘me too!’ over something small like polka-dotted mugs or vintage notebooks.  And then, when you find a small group of people from this wild jungle of humanity that makes you feel like you belong, that doesn’t make you wrinkle your nose or roll your eyes or think “really, you want to spend that much money on a hat/bag/shoes?”, it feels great. 

When you have your comfortable circle of buddies, you’re less likely to judge others because hey, to each their own.  Whatever makes you happy, as long as I have someone to go to bookshops and make detailed itineraries to see the world with. 

The best part about old friends is how there are no pretenses.  There’s something black stuck in your teeth; I think next time you shouldn’t cut your own hair; are you really going to go out in your PJs okay then so am I

And you accept their faults and they accept yours and occasionally you make a video montage of all the imperfections together with a suitable soundtrack.

You’re really slow/OCDed/controlling/scatterbrained/ALWAYS LATE!

And you can call at any time and just hearing their voice makes you feel grounded.  And you can be misfits together – I said something awkward to my boss again … I really do not want to go to another shaadi today … wait, are there going to be PEOPLE there?

Once you find that, it is really hard to look for replacements.  Strike up conversation with a stranger in the hopes that they too will think the current music on the radio is trash?  Uhhh.  Or just wait a few hours till the time zones make it possible to call someone who already knows I straighten the cushions every time I get up from the sofa…

I mean I did it during my college and then again in the US.  Initial agonizing ‘hi, what’s your name, where are you from’, progressing to talk about the weather and the courses, awkward pauses, making plans and then realizing they’re kind of ummm  and you’d rather be in bed …
But at the end of the few months’ social trying, you can make some actual friends.  People who make you smile whenever you think of them, honest-to-goodness sweethearts that will share their closets and their food and trips to the park and try out all the vegetarian new cafes with you even if they’re not vegetarians. 

And those are for life.

The trouble is, the more of them you have, the less inclined you are to look for others in the new phases of your life.  And so that’s why I’m still in bed.  And not likely to look up book clubs or local societies for gems that might click into place perfectly.

The argument is similar to having to get up in the morning from your cozy bed to make a cup of coffee.  The bed is super warm and it is cold outside the blanket world and it just seems stupendously difficult especially when you’re not getting paid to do it … once you battle through the laziness and actually make that cup of coffee, it is (usually) worth it.  Of course, if someone made that cup of coffee and brought it to you while you stayed in bed… now that. That would be pretty awesome.