Monday, February 27, 2012

"You were a wreck back then."

Excuse me while I try to decode realities in my little coffee shop bubble. And not just any coffee shop, a Starbucks- doesn't get better than that. As the days draw closer to the seven years it's been, I find myself dwelling on the way things played out, with a friend's words echoing in my head. Funny I can even refer to him as a friend now, because somewhere in there I remember immense pain, and then another realization- did it matter how it felt then? Does it always matter to feel when you're young, or is there a defined line between when whatever happens in your heart becomes consequential and before that, when everything is as raw as the blacks and the whites of your existence?
What does it mean to get to a place where you look back not only at yourself and your own trainwrecks, but also those of others and think oh, but if only we'd listened, if only she'd listen and save herself the sorrow. Because the tumultuous back and forth between reality and melodrama aside, what always stands out is the immense strength of raw pain that disregards completely how much it matters or whether it even will five years down the road. What makes sense is the indignation when someone informs you that this is all deja vu, and you swear it's different.
It is, and it isn't. Neither here nor there, uncontrollable and just how it is.
So is there an answer to the happiness question? Maybe not, and strangely enough, the more you learn, the murkier it gets. But there might be a certain pride to be taken in pulling yourself together from the worst of times. I think perspective and the acquisition of it is the biggest gray area I know.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

I remember when they inaugurated the activation of this very unremarkable fountain in the middle (?) of the sea. There were fireworks, and the people of Karachi had something to look forward to that weekend. The police cordoned off Seaview. If there's one thing you should know about the security forces in Karachi, it's that they're perpetually found cordoning off one area or another. We went to our khala's place and stood in her balcony on the tenth floor, obnoxious male cousin in tow, watching as the bright lights and smoke filled the air. I remember looking at the the men who were setting these gigantic fireworks off, they looked like ants from that high up. I remember being concerned for their safety and hoping they didn't get burnt. But it was gorgeous, and for those fifteen minutes I forgot all about all the sadness I felt back then.
Too much teenage angst, coupled with feeling betrayed and too saddened for my own good. Those really were the days.
A year or two went by. The fountain no longer worked, and I was probably still angry. No one seemed to remember the fireworks, and in school people cracked dirty jokes about the now inactive fountain, the nature of which shouldn't be too difficult to guess.
And now I'm here, and I remember the fountain and the fireworks, but most of all I remember the sea it was in the middle of.

Friday, February 17, 2012

scrap metal queen.

It's countdown time again, three and a half months and then I'll be in my mother's car on the forty minute drive to our house, and I'll feel the rush that comes from being exhausted and ecstatic at the same time, make the customary joke about Bilawal house and Zardari's inconvenient blocking of the main road, and settle into life at home like I never really left again.

That car, which is more like a pile of scrap metal, is one of the many mechanisms I've somehow learned to use in order to screen people and decide whether they're worth the trouble of keeping or not. One of my friends jokingly referred to my mum as the scrap metal queen once, and we both laughed. I find it hard to be offended by it still, simply by virtue of the fact that she came over one day in her fancy car, with the driver and the works, and accepted those facts of our different lives with an ease that very few people have stomach to digest. She sat on the tiny stool in the kitchen while I poured chai out for her and myself, and told her how my prospects in life were probably better than her's since I can make some damn good chai,and that's what you need to find a great husband. The irony of our shared feminism lingered in the air, a kind of camaraderie that comes from knowing you're sailing in the same boat on a level that most people can't fathom. But most of all, I'm grateful to her and to my friends for making me feel comfortable in my own skin. It's not easy to be poor amongst the rich, and it's not easy to start telling your story from square one. Besides, I never want to tell anyone who feels the need to ask. How are you worth anything if you can't wait?

I have another anecdote about that car. It breaks down nearly every day, by the way. Flat tires, dead battery, something or the other. Sometimes I like watching people's reactions when I step out of that car with my sisters. We don't look like the sort of girls who'd step out of something that dilapidated, but in this case appearances become that hilarious inside joke that makes you laugh out loud at the world repeatedly. Everything is relative, especially appearances, but I digress. That car. When I finally saw him again, it wasn't a face to face encounter, but me staring down from the balcony watching him walk across the parking lot towards my mother's pile of scrap metal (which had a flat tire), and ask her if she needed help with it. And that's when my mother accidentally met him. I suppose that's when I thought he was a keeper too. Different worlds, and he didn't miss a beat there, nor did he ask questions. I guess I can forgive him for not being a chai connoisseur. 

As for that car, I have a feeling that long after these struggles are over, my mother will keep it just for sentimental value. It's a member of the family, 15 years is a long time to have anything. She can swear it listens to her, and isn't just an inanimate object. I don't know the details of their conversations, but I hope they like talking to each other.

I'll keep the people who've made me accept the way things are, and that I don't have to be ashamed.