Anxiety

It’s that time of the year again. Summer. Sweat.

And anxiety.

I went to sleep really late last night — half one, or maybe later. Seven thirty I was up again, that weird feeling in my legs back again. The feeling I call anxiety. Oh well, getting up in the mornings is quite refreshing, yes? No. I spent the entire day wasting time. Plugging in my earphones, listening to nothing, wandering from this room to that. I didn’t even clean today, which is unusual. However, I did wash my part of the dishes. But that’s pretty much it.

There’s nothing I did today which would make me proud of myself, or even satisfied. I don’t know why I’m like this. I haven’t been reading as much as I’d like to, I haven’t been exercising, but most importantly, I haven’t been writing. Two weeks I spent in heavenly bliss, each day so inspiring I could’ve written fourteen books, but I was too tired. And now, I’m back home, washing dishes to fill up time, and I’m not writing? If I don’t write then I will forget, if I forget it will be as if I never lived, and that will take me back to depression. Not as a relapse as in the mental disease, but the seasonal uninspired me that visits twice a year.

Anxiety. Of what? Perhaps it is time for me to face it, and I do need an audience, so hear me out. Anxiety of the future. Someone told me not to think of the rest of my life, but just set small goals like five year plans. This, although wise, has triggered off another train of anxiety. What if, after five years, I am as now, a nobody? What if I never accomplish anything in my life? What if I never achieve the one thing I want most in life — influence? As stupid as this might sound, I want to change the way things are. My country has been through a lot, and we are trying to improve the “international image” but let’s face it. Things are far from ideal. We have a long way to go.

As I write this, the ex-prime minister of my country is being arrested at Allama Iqbal international airport. Can you see my point? A thing you should know about Pakistanis — we’re always on the roads. If we’re celebrating, the roads are blocked. If we’re mourning, we are on the roads. If we’re protesting, you get me. The mobile networks have been switched off. The entire nation is glued to the T.V. screens, where no transmission of the arrest is being shown. But we’re still watching, hearing the anchors say the same things over and over again. My country is in chaos. Security personnel everywhere, trying to prevent trouble, trying to keep the peace. There are protestors still, I can see the roads on the tv as I write this, but at least it is contained.

Two blasts have been recorded so far. One in Peshawar, leaving 30 dead, one in Balochistan, leaving 70 dead. I’m not particularly an Imran Khan fan, but something he said has stayed with me. Something along the lines of an increase in terrorist activities every time Nawaz Shareef is in trouble. 100 people in two (or maybe three?) days? 100 is, for us, just a number. A number so meaningless nobody is talking about it. Mubashir Luqman’s saying there’s approximately 7-8 thousand people in protest. Well, I’m glad. We prayed and prayed for this man to face the consequences of his actions. And perhaps this is it? Who’s to know.

What does the future hold? A question that might just give me a nervous breakdown at some point. I could tear my hair out, and not just metaphorically.

What does the future hold? The corrupt prime minister has been flown to Rawalpindi to jail, along with his daughter. So what now? With elections so close, I really do not know. Who can say? But please, please, dear God, make it something good, my people could use a break. Perhaps you’d like an insider view of what it is being Pakistani, in real life? I could give you one.

What does the future hold? For me, I mean. What will I do? A little girl asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I couldn’t answer. All I could think of was my dream of becoming a dictator, but could I really say that to her? I’ve tried talking about this with multiple people, but so far nobody can take me seriously. Lol. Perks of being me.

But now? What does the future hold? Will I make another mistake? Will I regret my choices (provided I get round to making them) for the rest of my life? Will this blog grow? Will people read this far? Who is to know.

Dear God, the world is messed up. My country, which is all I have, is messed up. Life is messed up. So please, please, show us all a way. Give us a miracle. A Quaid-e-Azam-Allama-Iqbal-type miracle.

If I’ve bored you, I apologise. But perhaps you will be excited to know that the Rock in the River went to the River with the Rocks? Not the river that inspired this blog, but any river is love. I’ll come back soon, I hope. But for now, send  me (and my country and the world) a prayer! We must not lose our optimism for the future!

In urdu we say, “Umeed par duniya qaim hai.” The world exists on hope.

I’m off to make some tea, before my mum takes off her chappal (I joke). Who knows, if all else fails, I might just open a dhabba! (Please we all know I make the best chai)

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Remembering

“What does it remind you of?”

The voice was getting irritating. What did it remind her of? It was really impossible. How could this person here… how could it be here? It was a drink, but it reminded her of a smell. Long ago, in the bliss of an ignorant childhood. The crisp air, a warm blanket, the impending sense of doom, voices: loud. How could this person know? More importantly, how could she answer the question? There was so much to it, so many details that could not be left out, yet her head was spinning.

“Here, try this one.” This person whose gender she could not fathom, pushed another small glass with a greenish-red liquid inside.

“I’m not sure I –”

“Shh, take it. Here you go!” The glass was raised to her lips and poured down her throat. She was aware that her senses were leaving her. She thought she would faint any time, but she never did. She was awake, and conscious, with dulled senses.

“What does this feel like?” A funny question, if one thought about it. It tasted like nothing, not even water. How it felt was an entirely different question.

“It’s…” her voice came out breathy, as if she was in a fever. Yet she wasn’t. But how could she tell this person?! A million thoughts circled her mind as the room began spinning. The wooden walls merged with the wooden floor, and she couldn’t remember why or how she got there. Wooden rooms like these were not common where she was from.

“What is it? What does it make you feel?” This person was getting annoying. And persistent. What could she say? Her powers were failing her and nothing, except the truth, came to her mind.

A thousand memories flooded her mind. Some welcome, others not so much. Funny, how she couldn’t remember the main event in any, but remembered all the details. The curves of the inside of that toy car, the smell of baby shampoo, her grandfather smiling, his wrinkles showing grace and a life of rewarding hard work. The taste of the underside of a shoe, the smell of the river Indus, the fear she felt when she was eight. A camera flashing in the face of her new brother, turtles in the nullah by her house. Ice cream dripping across her school uniform, the back of a girl disappearing into the distance, a black bag and a pink one, a box of celebrations on the mantelpiece in her parents’ room, the storm after the earthquake in ’05, the paleness of the face of a woman in death’s jaws. Shifting chairs, smiling, not smiling, sighing, not sighing, she realised she was actually doing this. All these memories, nothing in common except her presence.

“Here, try this.” Again. Her head was splitting. She wished she could somehow faint. The room was getting darker, but she was still there. With this person.

She remembered she had never fainted her entire life.

“What does it make you remember?”

How she wished she could forget.

A Wayward Prayer

I went for Taraweeh today. Not properly; I read my farz at home and had no intention of going to the Masjid. My head was pounding, I thought I would sleep. However, I ended up in the Masjid.

The rows were full when I went. The taraweeh had started sometime ago. I intended to read eight. So I stood at the very back, in a row all by myself. I recognised the surah as one of those which we had to understand as part of our syllabus in school. So in spite of the fact that our old Imaam Sahib mumbled away like a fighter jet, I was able to understand a few words. And that was enough for context.

Two rakahs later, the Imaam said salam, and with it the multitude of women ahead of me began shifting. Until now, the women had been standing as wide as possible, trying to not get anyone between them. It was hot. The fans were limited. I don’t blame them.

It was nice being in the back all by myself. Less distractions, too. For example; when we went into rukooh I was concentrating on the tasbeeh, if someone had been with me I would’ve definitely been thinking of their feet. I don’t know why… I just would’ve.

With the shifting, some women got up to leave. They passed by me. One of them stopped, folding her janamaz, and told me to stand with the other women. I was about to say there was no space, however, I saw the woman ahead of me had shifted just enough to let me stand. The woman who was standing repeated what she had said.

“I was late so–” I was cut off.

“Namaz hi nahi hoti. Mein keh rhi hon namaz hi nahi hoti!” (Your prayers have not been said/prayed/offered idk this is a crude translation.)

I don’t know why this bugged me. But anyways. The woman left, and I did too. The surah had ended, I would probably not have understood the rest anyways.

As I walked home, the road was empty except for the cars. I reflected on my strange behaviour. Yes, I knew the entire time I was acting strange. But I realised that I had got what I wanted.

I wasn’t there for the eight taraweehs after all. Two did me more good as eight had done in past years. I was there because of my firm belief in positive energy–positive divine energy. The place was a Masjid. A place where God’s men came to pray. Maybe not all, but some came for God. I did too. I wanted to be near God. Physically. And even though I am aware that we are nearest to God in sujood, I wanted to go to a place which had been dedicated to His name and His alone. Where everyone faced in the same direction, prayed to the same God. I needed that energy. I needed that feeling. That God was there. That there was a solution. That I was a believer.

And then there was the word of God. I just wanted to hear some of it. I never intended to stand there until my concentration weaned off and I was forcing myself to just stand. I just wanted to hear some of it. And it made me feel better than I had in some time.

With every sajda, my head felt lighter. If I had stayed for two more, perhaps it would’ve been cured completely. Perhaps the heaviness of my head would have been lifted to bestow clarity of mind. It was Ramadhan. The air was somehow cleaner, it would’ve helped me. But I didn’t stay. Why? Perhaps because I just wanted to hear the word of God. And when that Auntie approached me, somehow at the back of my head I was thinking about what these people were thinking of me. That I didn’t even know the fundamentals of praying in congregation! But that wasn’t the only reason. I didn’t know the arabic to the Surah after that one.

All in all, I am still confused. Still not clear. Still unsure. But I feel better, more at peace. He put a smile on my face, one of contentment. I know that whatever will be, will be for the better. I know that there will be a solution to everything. And why did I do this? I’m not sure. But anyways. Better get back to praying the rest of my nafl.

I realise this isn’t spiritually uplifting (as I thought it would be). But I just wanted this to be out there. And I wanted you to pray for me, too. This is quite a long post. Perhaps I should sign of here.

Remember me in your prayers.

Drowning

A memory seeps in. Try as you might, it will seep in. Perhaps the cranium isn’t as impermeable as solid metal or stone? Perhaps that’s why memories seep in with as much ease as they seep out.

However, now is not the time to dwell on the past. Now is the time to seek the future. Ah, the future. Bleak, uncertain, unknown. So unknown.

But it persists. The memory. Now you’ve done it. Tried suppressing it, and now there’s a flood? Ha! You wish to be a judge of human minds, you cannot even judge your own. A memory. Memory.

A playground, a funeral. Late night sessions in the kitchen. Putting a baby to sleep. Being put yourself to sleep by a warm, maternal presence. The backyard with girls and laughter. Ice-lollies with a distinct childhood taste, not had in years but still the taste lingers.

Perhaps check the time? The night has progressed. The wee hours will be gone soon. Amd with them your chance to lay the mind at rest.

What an idea! Lay the mind at rest. Rest? That is a notion for the ones who control their minds. You? Your mind controls you. And society controls your mind. You seek rest? Go to an isolated piece of land. A land at rest, devoid of humans. Stay until your mind is cleared. Stay, and you shall see: the clarity of mind got. What a feeling!

But for now; these memories! What to do with them? Unorganised. So many eras, so many feelings. So many thoughts unthought! Leave them be, my dear. Leave them be. Now is not the time.

Oh, do you feel that? No, no, try! Try to resurface once more, try to gain the higher ground. This is your mind, you cannot drown within! The memories keep coming. Store them, sort them. Now is not the time! Dear me, what is wrong with you? Why will you not respond?

Oh dear, these recesses in you… oh, dear! Where do they lead? A road? A road branching off from consciousness? These memories might be the end of you. Hmm, I wonder where they’ve disappeared off too. Wait, let me come! Wait! I was saying…

Fin.

Two years!

Thank you guys for being so amazing! I see every one of you, even if you think I don’t, and trust me, I appreciate all your support so much! Thank you for inspiring and motivating me, and reading my writings. It really means a LOT! Amd thanks for getting this ol’ place to two years!

Here’s hoping we can keep at it….

(P.S. Happy Ramadhan to everyone fasting! And I shall get back to the swing of things soon…. the posts I’ve been reading by you guys are great! Expect a post soon! Until then, happy blogging! Here’s to all you guys who don’t care about superficial layers and can see deeper than just a being with skin. That is amazing in the world of today.)

A CATastrophic Meowsing on Life

I sat in the moonlight today for about five minutes. As cliched as it is, sometimes I like to just sit outside and think nothing. The absolute worst thing that can happen in a time like this is that some human decides to join me. Or calls me.

But that’s not the point. The point was today. It was rather therapeutic, as always, but five minutes is a short time. The reason I went outside was to look for a red sock. But then I saw the clear night and decided to stay a little longer.

There was nothing fresh about the outside. It is hot. The air smelled stale and horrible, perhaps because the kitchen door was a few feet away and right outside it lay a bag full of very garlicky garlic. And it was too early in the night to be peaceful. The azaans for the night prayer, isha, had ended and the men had come back from the Masjid. You could hear people talking and shouting– tv or otherwise– how delightful it was to live in these flats. And of course, that one kid who was always crying. Always.

But even all this is not the point of this writing. There came by a cat. Sniffed the old bowl, found nothing. Looked at me but probably realised my non-cat-friendly nature. I kept looking over my shoulder to see if it wasn’t getting too close. You see, there was this other one called Rani that my sister had befriended, and she was faaaar too clingy. Always trying to rub against my back as I sat on the floor. And I would always push it away.

But this cat, this was the Egyptian. We called it that once, and the name kinda stuck. This cat was different because it never even cared what we did. I could stroke its back and it wouldn’t matter to her. I could ignore her and it wouldn’t matter. It could be starving, dying but it wouldn’t matter. Eventually I stopped looking. Then I realised I couldn’t hear it anymore. I turned around and what do I see? It was sitting beside me in complete silence, careful not to touch me but still as close as possible. When it saw me looking, she started licking herself. And it felt nice.

It was nice to have her by. It felt like this unspoken bond formed by the sheer force of my overactive imagination. A quiet sitting together. Two souls, conflicted in themselves, finally resonating with another mortal and this universe. I wish all cats could be like her. And all humans too.

She comes by every now and then. Sometimes I don’t see her for months. But I rather like it — the presence of either one of us has no effect on the other. We can see each other and not be emotionally attached. It’s quite liberating to have a like minded cat stroll by every once in a while.

Oh, you thought this was an intellectual piece? I beg your forgiveness. I really must stop rambling. I say, where did my meds go again?

A world where writing is banned

This was a prompt.


“Time: half past two in the morning. As today marks the 100 year anniversary of The Writers Ban, I, Mirza, now initiate the meeting of the (banned) Writer’s Guild, Lahore Branch.” Mirza Sahib looked around. “Please, sit, everyone. I realise it is hard to meet at this hour, but today is a special occasion!”

In the corner, the Scribe took down the words with droopy eyes. They usually met on Sundays, but the hundered year anniversary just happened to fall on a Friday. After a full day of intense work, we were all tired. But it had to be done.

“As president, I now call this meeting to order. May I remind you that should a Farangi catch wind of this, we shall all be beheaded?”

An enthusiastic round of applause.

“We are the sole body of people who not only write, but read. I passed by the Qila today. The little kid I met there didn’t even know who Aurangzeb was! We are the only people who hold the key to the past. In this regard, Bano Khatoon and Ram Sahib have uncovered and saved much valuable literature.”

I beamed.

“Without them, a lot would have been lost. Therefore, I now declare them Vice Presidents of TWG!”

Another round of applause, less enthusiastic.

We walked to the front of the room.

“Mirza Sahib, this is preposterous!” All eyes turned to Chaudhary Sahib. “A woman and a Hindu as Vice Presidents!”

“Chaudhary Sahib,” I said. “This is 1870. I’m sure we have bigger problems at hand. The heritage of an entire nation is at stake.”

Chaudhary Sahib continued to glare at me as I fixed my chadar.

“In the event of a raid,” said Mirza Sahib, “These two are our only hope. The British shall never arrest a Hindu and Bano Khatoon has— err—“

“A very pro-ban influential grandfather who would never let them touch me,” I continued. “So really, Chaudhary Sahib, would YOU like to keep the Sandooq with all our writings in it?” I couldn’t help keeping the bitterness out of my voice.

“I shall not allow my own people to argue amongst themselves, Bano Khatoon.” Mirza Sahib intervened. “Times are tough. We must cooperate. Now, let us commence. Rana Sahib, would you like to read out the twelfth chapter of your book, “The Collapse?”

Rana Shaib took centre stage. Imagining myself to be in a theatre, I glided to my usual seat and begun my weekly night job: critically analysing the best of the writers’ work, to protect the only literary heritage we had so that when we would hold the rebellion against the Farangis, we would have something. Something to denote our existence in this era. Something that would save us from oblivion.

I wrapped the pages in a silk cloth and tied them. It was time for the regular TWG session, and I was to read my piece, “Behind the Red Chadar”. I hurried out the gate, careful not to wake my Abba. He would’ve killed me if he found out. Our headquarters were situated in the basement of the Masjid at the junction of the Mall Road and the Canal Bank Road. Outside, there wasn’t a single light.

“Hello, princess,” I heard the drunken voice of an English soldier. “What might a pretty lady like you be doin’ out here.”

I wrapped my chadar tighter. The manuscript was concealed underneath.

“The people of God know no time. Shall I smite you with the power vested in me by the Masjid?” It was a long shot, but the soldier was drunk. He staggered backwards and I ran into the Masjid. I saw the flickering flame of a candle on the stairs, but there was no one rushing in or out. No hushed whispers. A shiver ran down my spine.

Slowly, I went down the stairs. My foot slipped on something. I didn’t dare look down. The big oak door was slightly open. I knew what this smell was. I opened the door with the last bit of strength I had.

I couldn’t even scream.

Three perfectly symmetrical rows. Walls painted red. With blood.

The rows were heads. Mirza Sahib and Chaudhary Sahib taking centre stage. Their lifeless eyes staring at me.

But it didn’t end here. On the floor, a folded piece of paper. As I picked it up, I recognised my grandfather’s handwriting.

“This is the fate of those who rebel against the state. Whosever conseals the Sandooq shall be caught and bestowed a worse fate.

— Commissioner of Lahore,

Bakhtiar Ali.”

And then the signature.

I realised I was the only writer in the whole of the subcontinent. The heritage of an entire nation rested on my shoulders.

And Ram Sahib.


NOTE: this is historically inaccurate. The British took over in 1857, so it hadn’t been a hundered years in 1870. And there was no writing ban either (of course) however, the British did arrest anyone who wrote against the crown.

Farangi means the British in Urdu.

Aurangzeb was a Mughal Emperor. The decline of the mughals begun after his death.

I’m not sure the Masjid ever existed.

No, women were not granted this much liberty at that time. But since this is fiction — why not?

Abba means father in urdu.