night

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.

Advertisements

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.   

 

Revisiting

I step down the stairs. Slowly at first but then quickly because it is 8:30 pm, way past the working hours and building seems almost deserted. It’s a four storey landing for me—the lifts have been closed too—and by the time I reach the ground floor I am almost panting. I walk from inside the building towards the dark marble floored foyer outside.

I need to sign out from my account and then wait for my car at the entrance office of the campus. I am carrying a brown envelope containing exam papers of my students who—I just notice—are in the foyer waiting to go home too—in groups, some them sitting on the wide black marbled stairs, others lying down on the cold floor listening to their friends while remaining, just standing in groups, accompanying their friends. As I walk towards the entrance office I look at them, nod and smile. While a few kids stop saying whatever they’ve been discussing, others keep on going. Suddenly I don’t want to go and sit inside the office anymore.

Only a year ago, I was one of them, a college student coming out of an exam in the evening, laughing with my friends and discussing how I screwed up my paper. I want to be with these kids, laugh the nervous laugh and forget about it a while later, discuss my questions and get excited if my answer matches others’—simple joys of life—but I move on, and walk into the office.

I am reading a book to pass time, a Neil Gaiman book. But it doesn’t help me turn off the excited voices coming from outside. I am neither an introvert nor someone who likes to sit inside. I’m an outdoor person and so I stand up again and walk out under the clear night full of stars while the cool breeze of fall hits my face. Few kids eye the envelope in my hands and whisper. Few others smile when they see me. I ask them about the paper. They smile and say it was alright. Their smile does not reach their eyes. I have to admit the paper was a little tricky. I already feel bad for them. I make a mental note of being easy on them while marking.

It’s never easy teaching kids who are few years younger than you so you have to be careful. Always. Kids are always one step immature than you (even the brilliant ones).  Kids idealize good teachers (of all ages). I hope one day I could proudly call myself a good teacher but until then I can only try to be one. Being an extrovert doesn’t help. You talk to a kid one day randomly before or after class and they could think they are your favorite. The news spreads like fire. Other kids start looking at you from the perspective of liking that one kid (or those few that you’ve been seen talking to) and as soon as you applaud them in class for their performance (again, it’s routine), you are labeled biased. I have witnessed this phenomenon being a student where teachers are called biased because they are seen smiling and talking to kids outside the classroom, whereas they are only being polite. Which is why I always take caution while talking to my students.

I want to sit on one of the wide stairs (which is empty) and enjoy the loud voices of kids, the cool breeze of autumn and the evening in general—it has been more than a year since I have come out of an evening exam, my favorite shift of taking a paper. But I just stroll for a while and decide to go back to the office and wait. I wouldn’t feel easy being there and not talking to kids, and the kids would be too awkward talking to each other in my presence and deciding that they should move to the far end.

By the time my car comes and I walk towards the gate at the far end of the foyer, I notice a couple of kids walking beside me careful not to walk past me. I look at them and smile again. I cannot help it. They smile back and look at each other. Perhaps communicating silently. I am recalling a familiar scene from not long ago.

An excerpt from ‘The Night’

It had started getting darker already as we reached there. But there was hassle and excitement nevertheless. We had reached the destination where we had meant to be, even though it had caused a few punctured Jeeps, some lost bags of luggage and some cases of cold. Now that I remember, it wasn’t all gloomy, despite the sickening silence only broken by our vehicles with stupid kids singing sick Bollywood songs and the sounds of unnecessary giggling.

Some of us had landed running, trying to occupy better pieces of land to erect the camps. While the ones, laid back, had automatically taken up the duty of unloading the luggage, the only other job left to take care of.

Putting up the tents was a tough job, the land was rough and unsteady, hands were numb and there was no ounce of light. While I could look up and find perfectly shaped galaxies, they wouldn’t help me locate which of the tent was ours.

Making bonfire was even tougher. With no fuel and no lighters, some broken bark of trees and little match sticks were trying really hard to cooperate but were only adding to misery until cooking oil was used as fuel. Rich resource was depleting somewhere, I could see.

The hustle bustle had completely died down by 8 in the evening. You would think it was already mid-night. If we were in Karachi, we would have laughed till we died at ourselves for dying so early. But this was a grave situation. No one was asleep of course –though I am not entire sure saying ‘of course’- but no one was in their senses, they had been knocked by the cold. As one of my teachers has once said, ‘If you peed here, it would turn into ice’, I think the metaphor suited perfectly for this situation.

 

But somewhere there was life. Because I remember us playing cards in one of the tents- all cuddled up with a phone-torch hanging up at the ceiling of the tent, flickering its light to and fro like a lit-up pendulum, cards laid down on the mat- making little noise (as our faces too were covered), dropping the cards after every other pass as they kept slipping from woollen gloves, only trying to sound normal under the circumstances. And that was the moment –only one of those moments- when I thought ‘This is real life. This is the life when you say YOLO.’

Faith had been restored.  

 

(Oct 27, 2013)

 

Girl with a basketball

It was 2 am,

Of a December night.

One could only hear the sound of her Jordans, or the dribble of her ball, or her deep breaths that would echo in the field which whispered with the trickle of her sweat draining from her body.

Damn, she was athletic, you would say. Or some would call her hot, though she didn’t look at her that way.

Rather, if you ask her, she would tell you of a story when her coach in 2nd grade had told her, ‘You could never play basketball.’ That was the beginning.

Although that was ten years ago but the memory still lives, haunts her every time she fails to shoot straight into the hoop.

She ran, dribbled and shot and if the ball did come back once not making it to hoop after ten good dunks, she started all over again.

She was tall and slender and if you looked at her you would tell her to do ramp-modeling or ask her for cheer leading, but that was just the outlook of it. If you looked at her hands, her hands were dirty and frozen, with blood that had frozen down the cuticles. I had told you it was a cold December night at 2 am and she was wearing a basketball jersey.

And her legs had drenched in sweat for running for hours, and if you ask me, I’d tell you that she’d fall of fatigue right there and then, but the good shots made her come back in the game again, with the same level of energy with which she had started.

Her brown hair pinned tightly in a long braid, were all wet turning into a shade of black; she had wanted them cut short so as not to bother much, but she remembered her mother had told her in 4th grade to keep them long so she could touch them and recognize her. You see, her mother could not see or she would have come to all her games.

More running, more dribbling and then a slam dunk.

‘This is what I want’, she would tell herself. A Euro step, and a double pump, bam! She got it in there.

She could hear their whistles and shouts and her Mom and Dad cheering her name. She knew they were not far enough.

152 shots today.

With a bow at the bleachers, she picked up her hoodie, put it on covering her face and left the outdoor court, whistling and dribbling.

 

(Aug 20, 2013)

The night

The cold breeze that touched his face was harsh, almost like a sandpaper; it reddened his cheeks and froze his nose. But he kept walking. Today was unusual unlike other days. The leaves under his Sneakers rustled the same way as they always did on every other cold December night. The fog that engulfed his surroundings at this time of night always bothered him, but today it did not. Rubbing his hands together and digging them in his pockets he headed towards the frozen lake. It was more than a coincidence that it was full moon tonight. He smiled to himself. Too many reasons to smile at oneself, he thought. Tightening the muffler around his neck, he dropped another gaze to his shoes whose laces had been tied twice in one day, something that he had been doing only once in day for 10 years no matter whatever happened. It had been a lovely gesture; something he had never expected.

He had reached the edge of the lake now. He looked at the thin frozen layer, and put one of his feet firmly on the surface of the lake which had now converted into a perfect layer of ice. Without any further thought he started walking towards the center of the lake. It had never been so easy. Either the layer had been too solid today or he felt much more confident; only two minutes and he had reached where he always wanted to be. The power of determination, he thought. Covering his neck once again with the muffler, he tapped the ice underneath him and lied down on the icy surface. It had been a great day today. The night being celebrated this way was to honor the day. He was never a person who partied when happy, since partying was too main stream. It was the company of himself alone that he yearned when he wanted to rejoice his own moments, ponder upon what’s been happening and decide where and how to move on. He knew getting away like this in the middle of the night was not easy and his friends would soon find out and say as always, ‘That lucky son of a gun got away again’ but he really needed his time to decide for his life tonight.

These times had not been easy but perhaps lying under the Milky Way, above the frozen lake had its own pros. He knew when he would get up later, the stars would be replaced by the bright sun that comes out from the other side of the mountains (that he’s been witnessing for the past four years), and he would have made the most beautiful decision of his entire life.

 

(Dec 12, 2012)