life

Black, White and Gray

Crossroads

Roads closed

Dreams of faceless people.

Darkness,

Or absence of light,

Tests that determine nothing that was mine.

Patience,

Endurance,

All that false pretense,

Of things that would be,

and people who will change.

Everything, that has been,

Is a mass of contradictions.

Love what we trust, or trust what we love?

It’s a shame it’s all come down to it all over again.

 

 

Hopeless patterns

There was a pattern,

always a pattern

In the books read, recent playlists played,

Colors of weather and unwritten letters,

Badly scribbled notes under the mattress of the bed.

There was a pattern in the first said words of that broken conversation—if only you knew

Those tucked away pictures hidden from the world,

And tickets that were never used to fly 7000 miles away.

There was a shameless pattern in all the words unsaid, all the endeavors to make you break away

In the first days when seasons changed—the leaves falling off or turning green,

There were patterns in the first fall of snow and my perfect summer dream,

There were patterns in the waves of the ocean that connected lands in between.

There were perfect patterns in the winds that blew; signs if only you knew.

But oh well, never mind

Why did it matter?

When our minds were always a mess, a hopeless clatter.

 

It’s a mirage

There are songs that you listen to, that shape your memories; there are people who constantly make their way towards you—directly or indirectly, sometimes even forcefully—to shape your lives, both positively and negatively, even so that they might be the force of a constant distraction in your lives, but you need to focus. You need to focus on good things, the positive energy that comes from waking up early in the morning to pray fajr, even though you might have slept at three in the morning—for you need to realize that you’re not doing it for the sake of making the Almighty happy, you’re doing it as much for yourself too.

Our jobs suck most of the times, we don’t get along with a lot of our colleagues, but we need to find that one ounce of motivation that makes us go to work gladly every morning—be it the smile of the guard who greets you at the gate or the lady guard who you sometimes help financially to make her ends meet, or that one colleague who brings you video games that you could play when the boss is not around, or that group of people who you have your lunch with.

Life is not always easy as we might like to think for other people who always have their way. You would look at their social media and find them smiling and having fun but no one knows if they’re doing it for public validation or a general show off, none of which is healthy. Adulting is a tough task—for people like me it’s a 24/7 job that you’re constantly struggling with, trying to ace it following the ‘fake it till you make it’ mantra. And s much as I would want to deny it, we are not young anymore. We are neither fresh-out-of-college-graduates nor 22-23 looking forward to settling. And although we are still looking forward to settle, we are basically nowhere. Our dreams are yet to be fulfilled, love of our lives to be found, careers still in a phase where we are in a dilemma of whether to switch or to get going with what we have. We are so confused. And while we are acing some of the job interviews and getting into that school for post-grad education we’ve always wanted to get into or getting told in some family gathering by teenagers that we are their inspiration and asked by some youngsters to speak at their college as a motivational speaker, we still tend to underestimate ourselves. Why are we so confused?

Is it a quarter-life crisis? Our parents are our friends but sometimes their wants and our needs don’t match. The books we read inspire us to write but what we don’t have is time—no time to catch up with friends from college who we miss constantly but are embarrassed to admit because what if they have moved on? We don’t have time to listen to that song that friend the other day recommended us to listen or that article they shared with us thinking we would appreciate the genius of it, the book we borrowed from that friend who never minds is still lying on the bedside table because ‘who has time?’

Why has time become such a lMirage.fulluxury all of a sudden that we don’t have? We have money but no time to spend that money, and honestly when I say this, I’m not exaggerating. We keep on procrastinating, on planning that trip, reading that book, cooking that great recipe, baking that cake, eating healthy and working out, gifting that whatever our friend liked the other day but couldn’t buy, what do we have if we don’t have time to give ourselves and our loved ones?

We are going after all the wrong things for all the wrong reasons. Most of us. Career plans. New job. Progression. Happily ever after. It’s just a mirage. What we are, where we need to be, is here. Right where we are. And that is where we need to make amendments.

 

 

 

PS: It’s a rumbling, only a slight reflection of a chaotic mind. 

The Dilemma of a 90’s kid and responsibility

This twenties generation of nowadays—the 90’s kids that we also like to be proudly called—is such a stuck up generation; stuck up between things that we’ve seen and lost and thus missing them, stuck up between seeing a generation that was hip and classy at the same time, that we used to idealize and a generation that is following us (read the teenagers), making us cringe, what with their music tastes and fashion sense and their cell phone apps that we’re too old to use; we are a stuck up generation because we’re perhaps too wise for our age and too young to think if can make a change—we’ve seen an entire world change before our eyes. In our short lifespan of twenty something years, we have experienced drastic temperature changes that even though we were too young to feel when we were children, we can’t nevertheless forget how cold our winters used to be, how we would actually enjoy our monsoon rains rather than worrying about an onslaught of floods every year, how we could visit the bank of Indus and boat and have picnics in summer there and eat Pallah fish without worrying about the dangerous heights of water that take away lives of little children every year these days.

We are the poster children of climate change, there’s no doubt about it. We’ve been witness to more earthquakes and hurricanes around the world in our lifespan than any of the older generation. We have been spectators to conflagrations overnight burning the entire forests in summers and deadly snowstorms in winters handicapping the entire life of metropolitan cities (in North America) all within the same climatic year. While the climate in our childhood was more predictable, pleasant summers with a heat wave in May usually (specially referring to Southern Pakistani summers here) followed by a two month monsoon season bringing consistent clouds of rain one after another, to chilly winters beginning from October and ending by the end of March with enough cushion of Spring in between to distinguish between a winter and a summer night without muddling them together unlike today. You would never see an unexpected snow in Islamabad in the middle of February and while Lahori winters have always been famous for being foggy, you would never come upon a road accident on Motorway in the beginning of March because of an intense foggy morning. These are signs—signs that climate change is here and is going to ruin this planet, not just our generation, if we don’t do something about it.

We don’t have to look at facts and figures to realize the gravity of the situation, we just have to look around us to see how our lives in general have changed. The good news is, since most of these changes have taken place while our growing up, we are the most ‘adaptable kids’ in the words of Darwin and thus can be the force of change. It’s not just our responsibility but this planet’s right to be duly given to. The bad news is, if we don’t, it will be a little bit too late.

So let’s not get stuck in the earth’s nightmare. Let’s work one step at a time, conserve our resources, not waste water, go for resources that are recyclable, reduce Carbon consumption, recycle more and consume less of everything so that it’s not just our generation that could live more, but so that our own generation is alive to tell the tale.

3 am

Have you often wondered about that middle hour of the night, when it’s only you and your silence to accompany?

Have you wondered why you feel so connected at this time of the night? What is it about 3 am, when it’s neither the beginning of the morning nor the end of the night? It’s when you can’t decide what you want to do with your life.

3 am is when you listen you to those songs that haunt you during the day, full of memories you’re afraid to replay. 3 am is when you think of replying to some texts, those emails that you’ve been ignoring since God knows when. It’s the hour when courage comes from within, for it’s the time when you’ve applied to that school you’ve been dreaming about, registered for that course you’ve always wanted to be a part of, filled that job application, wrote that short story that has always been at the back of your mind but could never come out.   3 am is that time which always cries, ‘send away that text, we’ll see what happens next.’
3 am is when a movie has just ended and you don’t know what to do with your life anymore, so you try to listen to the silence around, breathe and take in everything that is around in that odd hour of the night when even the early birds are sleeping.
3 am is when you have conversations with people in other time zones, mostly because you can’t ignore them or because they are too funny to be ignored.

3 am is also when you recognize your true friends. An hour more needy hasn’t been discovered yet.
3 am also brings upon conversations with God, about life, and things that you’ve been trying to understand but failing. It’s the time when heartfelt prayers are made, listened and answered to.
3 am is the hour that is mostly deserted yet always awaiting guests who are either smiling at the past day or crying for the pains tomorrow brings. It silently blankets the drunk, the homeless, the artists, the depressed and those who are preparing for an exam tomorrow and haven’t studied a word before.
3 am sounds really late and perhaps a lonely time of the night but it really is another world altogether waiting to be discovered where the best secrets are shared, the best conversations take place, the best books are read, the best bars, the best friends and the best people are found.

And in that moment, I swear I was finite

We all try to live beyond our boundaries sometimes, do weird things just to please the inner child of ours—things that are neither too adventurous nor too scary but they give us a sense of exhilaration anyway.

It had been some time since I’d done something that made me feel like a I was still in my early twenties and not an old mid-thirties hag that had nothing to do in life but follow the same old job routine and read a book every week or watch movie or meet a few old friends and discuss how boring life could be and well, you get the idea.

So this one cold night of January (as cold as it could get in Karachi) on the deserted roads of DHA Phase VIII, around mid-night, while we were riding back home in my friend’s Vigo, she suggested we go sit at the open back of the vehicle to get the feel of winter. We did. Now since the driver had to do some chores from here and there (in Defence), the total ride duration was about half an hour to forty minutes. I had no idea it could get that long. The problem was, I was not wearing anything over my thin chiffon shirt (considering the Karachi weather) and as soon as my friend suggested to 9523-traffic-in-a-foggy-night-55ef158009896sit at the back of the vehicle, I had the fleeting imagine of Emma Watson from Perks of Being a Wallflower—where she stands up at the back of her pickup in flying posture with blaring music in their ears and Charlie looks at her and everything around him and says those infamous lines, ‘and in that moment, I swear we were infinite’—and I thought maybe this could be my chance of being infinite in those empty roads and sodium lights and good company and pleasant music that blared in our ears, but well, this was real life and nothing turns out right in real life, does it? I realized I had more pressing problems at the moment, for instance that the driver had suddenly started speeding up (probably just to give us a feel of what it feels like to have hitting the bloody sea winds in your face when you’re driving parallel to the sea) and was crossing 100 conveniently; my hands were suddenly too numb to hold on the fat iron pipes and my phone at the same time while my friend was shrieking with cold; my delicate glasses which had come loose these days and would fall on the tip of my nose before me realizing they were slipping down on dangerous levels would fly miles away had I even dared to move my face teeny bit here or there rendering me almost blind on the lovely night like that. But most importantly, what spared me from standing up and doing the Emma Watson stunt was the situation of my bowels which had filled me with the pressing need to use the washroom (which I’d been delaying for hours now), what with the cold wind bellowing at me from all directions and the driver’s insistence on continuing with the current speed. Needless to say, I thought I’d pass out of all the stress of gripping the fat cylindrical iron pipe with one hand while clutching my cell phone with the other (I swear at one point I thought I might get thrown away by the wind itself), at the same time focusing on not moving my head or my glasses would fly away and resisting my bowels not to give away at this crucial time or my friend would hate me forever for ruining her brand new Vigo.

Thank God, I didn’t pass out at least. But I didn’t enjoy the cold Karachi night by the sea either. It was such a bloody relief when I saw us entering the gate of our plaza and ran all the way towards the elevator up till the 13th floor straight towards the washroom.

The lesson of the story is that kids, it does not end like the movies. It never ends like the movies.

Author’s note: However, gladly, in between everything that was going on with me, I succeeded in making a small of video of us enjoying the little ride. So at least that’s a pro.   

 

Microsecond

 

You know that part of the second, when a sight of long lost someone reminds you of a memory buried deep in the past, a glimpse from the future, a lovely combination of things said and done, of things that might have been said but thought better of them—all those feelings in one part of the second. The feeling of loving and being loved, the feeling of being needed and needing someone and the force of attraction that stretches that one part of the second—slows it down, repeats those conversations, makes you smile and cry and hates you for feeling so much. That one part of a second—when it becomes more than a lifetime of living.

 

On living more existing less

I was reading Marina Keegan’s story today and how the book ‘The Opposite of Loneliness’ (her collection of essays and short stories) came into being after her death, and realized how we romanticize death and the dead. They are the same people living amongst us, talking to us, hanging out with us, probably even being ignored by us right now. Hell, they are totally us, but we wait for them to die in order to appreciate their living.

In their passing, we mourn the death but not the dead. Would we be doing the same things, talking about them, thinking about them the same way, were they with us? There’s your answer.

It’s not just one story to be told, one book that needs to be published. It’s everyone’s story, everyone’s life. I think for that, we need to write more, communicate more, celebrate more—the people we love, the people who are around us and ourselves.

So maybe we could smile more, laugh more, be kinder, lend our stationery at work, compliment others (and mean them), argue less, discuss more, talk about abstract ideas, perspectives, points of view, agree to disagree openly and make others comfortable with it. And yes, maybe we could be more vocal but more tolerant of others, excited about our ideas but more willing to listen to others’ perspectives, and maybe if we judge less and appreciate more, we’d enjoy what comes across and be open to change more often.

And lastly, to constantly remind ourselves not to be too critical of ourselves. We really need to give that habit a break. Not be too buzzed about that missed job opportunity, that extra money spent on shopping when we could have saved, that conversation that could’ve gone right, that presentation that could’ve persuaded our boss, that offer that might have helped somebody but didn’t, that unreplied text, that book we couldn’t buy—things come and go and this stuff we worry about would not matter in the next year, perhaps even the next month or week. These are things we constantly need to remind ourselves; even better, that nobody is a better friend than we are to ourselves. Gosh, who would even endure us 24/7 if he/she could listen to what was going on in our minds? Even your significant others need a break.

So let’s cherish ourselves while we’re at it, and those we love. And let’s try to bear those too around us who get on our nerves all the time.

Oh Chicago

Oh Chicago, do you see?
You hold my heart
And it kills me.
For when birds fly, you give them the sanctuary
For the ones who’ve lost love, you give them the heart to flee.
But for me, there’s a special grudge,
For how much I await you, you turn away,
you shelter your breed.
The more I miss my love
The more you attract them to thee.
You call them, you kiss them, you engulf them in glee.
And and I, a person of shattered spirits, have nothing to offer, nowhere to retreat.
Oh Chicago, do you see?
How my love is lost in your city?

Book Review–Ashes, Wine and Dust

“There are no plans, just people fooling themselves by attempting to design their fates and futures. It makes them feel invincible, even if it’s for a transient period of time.”

Ashes, Wine and Dust is the debut novel of Kanza Javed, which was shortlisted for Tibor Jones South Asia Prize 2013, making her the youngest and the only Pakistani writer nominated for the prize that year.

Set in Lahore and Washington DC, Ashes, Wine and Dust is a journey of a young girl, Mariam, whose childhood experiences of loss of loved ones and memories associated with them make her feel everything a little more deeply. Thus, since her childhood, she feels more connected with the memories of her dada (paternal grandfather) and less with the rest of the family.

Memories of her childhood friends and confidants 10403138_1186536494695904_912160836046943541_nstill haunt her when she decides to leave for the US for further studies and in search for self-exploration. Thus, America awaits her with the mysterious art work of her uncle who had left her family years ago, his family who no longer cares for his work, and an unexpected incident that leaves her vulnerable in an estranged land. And while Mariam is figuring out on how to cope with her current situation, she finds out about the disappearance of her younger brother, Abdullah.

Alone in a foreign country with a brother missing, she blames herself for Abdullah’s disappearance and eventually travels back home in search of clues which might lead her to him.

As the family goes through the trauma of loss of a loved one and ultimately decides to move on albeit slowly, Mariam hangs on to the clues that Abdullah has left and vows to unite him with their family.

Javed’s Ashes, Wine and Dust is an excruciatingly beautiful read with strong characters that are often difficult to find in a debut novel. The story is gripping and engulfed in such an exuberant tone of despair and desolation of the protagonist that it keeps you in the mood even after you’ve finished the book.

The imagery of Lahore with its canals, food, colourful bazaars (markets) and backdrop of Badshahi Mosque in several scenes brings back the love of Lahore for those who have visited the beautiful city and invites those who still haven’t.

While Ashes, Wine and Dust is a powerfully gripping read till the end, it did let me down towards the end. And although the book ends with a closure, tying all its loose ends, I would have been happier had it ended on a brighter note. Nevertheless, the book is a must read of 2015.

Javed has done a wonderful job writing a novel that is unswerving, profound and painfully beautiful till the very end. Ashes, Wine and Dust would be available across Pakistan by the end of November, so get a copy of the book for a reading full of feels.

 

Average rating: 4.7/5

(This review was first published on ETribune)