Forgetting

She looked out the window and tried to imagine herself in a movie. It was cold, and Lahore was supposed to be smothered in fog. Her head was spinning. She wished she had had some sleep the night before. But all this traveling, it made her anxious. And then she hadn’t been in Lahore in so long. Well, people in movies don’t have headaches like mine, she thought. She sighed out loud.

The family sitting in her compartment had been… well, entertaining for sure. Two old obese women travelling with six children, the oldest of which must’ve been an 15 year old boy (who wouldn’t stop staring at her) and the youngest just a baby, barely five months old, crying continuously. One of the women loved paan, and punctuated her chewing with periodical spits in one corner. The other tried to feed all the kids, taking out cold parathas with achar that filled the entire compartment with a weird smell.

The kids were bored, mischievous and entirely misbehaved, she thought. It hadn’t been easy, the entire journey from Karachi to Lahore. She would’ve never come if it hadn’t been her sister.

She was still anxious when she got off on the platform. She didn’t have any change so she didn’t get a quli (porter). Stumbling, she tugged her luggage as she went out of the station to look for a rickshaw. She knew this station very well. It was associated with warm memories of going away to the village to spend her holidays as a child. She thought of her grandma now: widowed and broke, she had to sell off most of her cattle and property to come live with her son in the city. The land she had left now was only a fraction of her inheritance and dowry combined. Still, it brought enough income for one old lady to shop her heart out, when her health allowed her to do so, that is.

Lost in thought, she had barely noticed the young man standing next to her. He cleared his throat to get her attention. Startled, she took a step back. It was not proper for this young man to stand so close to her, she didn’t even know him! There was something odd about him; he was young and in good health, not particularly muscular, and still appeasing to the senses. He was smiling like he knew her, but clearly she didn’t. But it was changing now, his face… a sort of rapid metamorphosis. He was still young, still a man, but different entirely.

“Would you like to come?” He asked, beckoning to a rickshaw behind him. Inside, there was a young woman, dressed in a plain shalwar kameez and wrapped in a dupatta, but still very beautiful. She seemed vaguely familiar. Unthinkingly, she started walking towards the rickshaw. The fog had covered everything else except for that one rickshaw. She climbed into it as the young man took her bags. The young man got in and rode it into the station, onto the railroad.

As the rickshaw zoomed away from the station, away from the city, all she could do was watch while the young man put on a Nur Jahan song and the girl hummed along. She looked around at the green fields, at the passing villages, at everything.

She saw a train coming right at them. Perhaps two feet away, now one feet away….


Perhaps the prologue toRemembering . Tell me what you think!

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Dentists Should Not Have Long Nails

I know you’re thinking, she’s come back after ages with promises of intellectual stuff, and throws this at us? Yes, my dear reader, exactly that. Why? Because it’s true. They should NOT.

I’ll tell you why. There’s the obvious; hygiene. But there’s another, less appreciated reason. There’s nothing more painful when your mouth is full of sharp pointy tools and you are at the mercy of the beholder of all the tools. And then at the exact moment you decide to trust in Allah and the dentist, there is this excruciating pain in your gum. Exactly at that moment, your dentist, concentrating elsewhere, subconsciously puts immense pressure on your gums through their…. nails? If you try to cry out in pain, the dentist will still be unable to see the source of pain and you will look like a yelping idiot.

Everyone says dentist appointments hurt. True; but what ACTUALLY hurts are AFTER-appointments. You know the feeling; that feeling as if all your teeth are about to fall out.  You can’t eat anything, you can only swallow. You look at food longingly, dreaming of the days you used to eat freely. And then you see something utterly despicable and entirely unacceptable: your sibling does not finish their plate of food at dinner. Those lowly peasants, so ungrateful! Finishing food being a sensitive subject with you, you unleash your ultimate weapon: The Death Stare. It is conveniently ignored.

Such acts take you back to your childhood; a space better left unvisited. Remembering dinner times reminds you of all the unresolved trauma you have deep inside you. The times when you would chew for hours on end long after everyone had left the table. You’d still be chewing when the table would be cleared and cleaned. You’d still be chewing when the dishes were being washed, dried and put away. That would be when the Punishment would be ordered: “Ab tum apna khana kitchen mein kharay ho kr finish karo gi.” (Now you will stand in the kitchen until you finish your food.)

A tear stained face (yours probably, although it’s best for you to tell others this vivid memory is rather blurred), looked up in the face of this merciless oppressor: thy mother. Whining and crying only strengthened her in her oppression. There was no other option. Chew in the uninviting, cold kitchen and hear the news in the other room as your siblings laugh and play amongst themselves happily. Your mother is probably secretly crying too about how you never seem to eat, but you don’t find that out until years later.

Years later, someone seems to make fun of the way your plate of food is polished and looks so clean it’s as if you didn’t even eat. Look thoughtfully away out of the window of the café and let that feeling of eating alone standing up in the kitchen let a shiver run down your spine. Then look towards them and smile and tell them to stop wasting their food as rudely as possible. That is the only way to not let anyone ever know of your torturous past.

Years after that, you stand in the kitchen cleaning up, and laugh about the whole thing with the merciless oppressor; thy mother. It sounds absurd (though it is still traumatizing) and you wonder what other absurd moments in life are you classifying as traumatizing at the moment? It is with this thought that you enter the dentist’s clinic, and as she begins, it clicks. You might be crying like an idiot as the pain intensifies, and the dentist scolds you for it, but deep inside, there’s only one thought: Dentists Should Not Have Long Nails.

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.