Life.

I am writing after so long that the feel of my laptop’s keys seem unfamiliar to my fingertips. I am making a lot of typos, pressing ‘t’ instead of ‘y’ and writing ‘og’ instead of ‘of’. The layout of the laptop which was ingrained into my muscle memory now feels cold and foreign to my touch.

My head is stuffed with questions and answers; answers which ignite more questions and the cycle continues to spin around and around and around until my mind feels it has been through the spin cycle of a cranky old washing machine.

The month of December 2014 was a nightmare; for me, for my family, for my friends and for my countrymen. Illness, blood, violence, loss; both loss of life and material, followed me like a perverted shadow. I went through a phase of extreme procrastination and depression. Even music, my saviour, lost its charm; King Crimson started to make me physically sick. I have already talked about my phases on my blog and those who are my loyal readers will know.

Oh, my loyal readers! Half the reason I did not start writing again was due to my shame of facing those I had forgotten about. How I had made friendships and left those sweet people hanging, never even reading or contemplating on their own words of woe. For that, I am very sorry.

Every time I return to the world of writing after an unannounced hiatus, I promise my readers I’ll continue writing regularly now. But this time, I will not make another hollow promise. I may not return to the world of WordPress for another two months, for a year, or forever; I do not know.

As the year drew to a close, the nightmare began with the martyrdom of more than 141 students and teachers whose only fault was to attend one of the most prestigious schools in the country. The sentiments of each and every Pakistani were hard to understand. We all felt guilty, angry, depressed and helpless.

It continued when all educational institutions in my country were closed down due to the looming threat of similar attacks. My own university which was founded by our Army’s welfare organization, Fauji Foundation, had received such threats. The last time I was on university premises was on Friday, the 19th of December. We have not been allowed to even step foot inside the college building since then. While us students stay at home and “enjoy”, my university is being renovated into a fortress for our protection.

I have had all the time in the world to contemplate on what was happening around me, and my thoughts dragged me down into a black hole.

While all this was going on, I fell ill and during the course of three days I had had my share of 13 intravenous and 6 muscular injections which my father administered twice a day. For more than four days I did not eat a single bite or took a single sip of water. I spent New Year’s Eve staring at the ceiling of my mother’s room which had been turned into a temporary hospital room. And at the end, it turned out all the medication was just a precaution and a result of misdiagnosis. I had only suffered a severe case of vertigo which had unsettled my stomach, while I was treated for complete intestinal obstruction!

While I was ill, my chronically ill paternal aunt’s condition also worsened. Her kidneys were failing and she was rushed to several hospitals during the course of 5 hours by my brother and cousins. My siblings and my father simultaneously took care of two severely ill loved ones, and I shall never forget their dedication.

As I recovered, my father’s health dropped. At the age of almost 7 decades he has no chronic illness except a deficiency of B-12 and the tendency to stress over things, resulting in higher blood pressure. It was my fault that he had high BP during the course of my illness and days after that. He says he is better now, but the doctor will determine that tomorrow.

I caught up with numerous semester final projects which were due in 3 days.  I slept at 3 AM and woke at 9 AM to try my best to save my 3.8/4 grade point average.

On the 10th of January, I turned 20. Two decades of my life closed among chaos.  But it was not complete chaos. As with every dark cloud, the silver lining had begun to emerge a few days before my birthday. One of my sisters got the job she always wanted while the other had a substantial pay raise which had her dancing at regular intervals during the day. They are also upgrading their car. My father’s business is booming. My aunt, after finally agreeing to dialysis, is now successfully on the road to recovery. She visited on my birthday and brought balloons and gave me cash. She looked groomed and healthy and was even talking about getting a new haircut.

My personal silver lining happens to be the existential crisis I am going through. It may seem like a conundrum to some, and yes it is terribly tiring to think so much, but introspection is something that was required. Ignorance is bliss until you get yanked out of it by a series of unfortunate events. Nonchalance never works out in the long run. Writing, what I had been calling ‘passion’ for lack of a better one, might not be after all. ‘Art’ which I had pushed away indifferently may as well be. But that too, does not make my eyes shine anymore so I am looking for something that does.

I am looking for my ‘calling’, a purpose of existing. For a dream, an aim, which will turn my humdrum existence into what we call life. I finally understand that to live and to exist are two very different things, and I am tired of simply existing like a leaf blowing in the wind.

To life; I hope it comes to me soon.

Advertisements

Mama, I’m Still Trying!

Circumstances in our lives and my 5-month disappearance from blogging lost me many of my regular readers, like Elk and Alienora; two people whose opinion meant a lot to me, and who were with me from the start.

They would have known that I do not get along with my mother. At all. I have mentioned this in many of my earlier posts. Now, however, I’m too lazy to go back and dig through everything until I find them. But here’s one, if you’re interested.

So, to any and all new readers, I do not get along with my mother. At all.

In our somewhat segregated society, it is usually the norm for mothers to be their daughters’ confidantes, their best friends and their stylists. Contrarily, from the beginning, it has been my father who was my friend. Any and all advice I received from him, even to the point where I get him to chose between two outfits I want to wear some party! However the dynamic relationship between I and my father is not relevant to this post.

Recently, clashes with my mother have been reaching an all time high. Yesterday, I reached my breaking and snapped at her to “just stop it”.

Still, every night, I lay awake and think about all my friends who hang out with their mothers and snap funny selfies, and who sleep with their heads in their mothers’ laps. These girls think I have the perfect life. I have a supportive, liberal family, a 3.84 CGPA, a laptop, a phone, a car whenever I need it. I’m good at almost everything I do, teachers love me, I make my own living and the list goes on and on.

Little do they know how much I envy them.

They have the one thing I’ve never had; so I try. My siblings have long since stopped trying. They no longer get hurt when Mother ridicules them in front of servants or taunts them in front of guest.

I however, still try.

Sometimes at night I just want to go and hug her tight. But I don’t, because I can never be sure whether she’ll push me away, give a scathing remark or hug me back.

Sometimes I just want to talk to her. Really talk to her. And find what goes on in her head that she resents us so much.

Sometimes I just want her to say she’s proud of me.

So I try.

I tell her about my Computer Graphics assignment and show her the designs I made. She nods. I tell her about how girls had dressed up today, skipped class and hung out because the weather was nice. She nods. I tell her about how my teachers said they were proud to have me as a student. She nods. I tell her about how a famous political analyst is my teacher at college. She nods.

I say something about the maid. She explodes. I say something about food. She explodes. I say something about my maternal relatives. She explodes. I say something about her favorite child. She explodes. I say one ordinary word out of context and she explodes. She mocks me.

I cry. My sisters ask me why do I still care? Why do I still try so hard to be her daughter? Why do I still take what she says to heart?

I have no answer to give them.

Except the fact that she’s my mother. A mother’s love is supposed to be unconditional and all-consuming, is it not?

Is it so wrong of me to want that?

Gratefulness – An Analysis

Executed in a typical college assignment format…

Introduction:

My father, ever the philosopher, starts different ‘happiness’ campaigns around the house from time to time. This time, he posted a paper saying ‘I am grateful for…’ in our living room.

It was a little offensive as it suggested that we were not thankful to dad and others. But still some one or other did make some additions to it.

I however, have decided to numerate here some (slightly mundane) things my family members have done for me over the past few weeks, just because I want to tell myself that I am grateful for even the smallest pf things!

Things my niece (age 23 months) did for me:

  1. Made me smile.
  2. Made me laugh.
  3. Shared her candy.
  4. Hugged me.
  5. Bit me on the cheek (it’s her way of a kiss).

Things my sister-in-law did for me:

  1. Made me breakfast numerous times during the holidays.
  2. Brings me my fresh laundry every day.
  3. Sorted out my clothes and cleaned my closet for me. That was probably to make me ashamed, but still…
  4. Makes lunch everyday

Things my sister  did for me:

  1. Made me tea numerous times.
  2. Possibly made me a sandwich when I came back from college. It was either her or my sister-in-law!
  3. Helps me find freelance work because she has contacts.
  4. Is having a trouser specially tailored for me.
  5. Is very patient with the mess I make in our shared room.

Things my other sister did for me:

  1. Brought me ice cream.
  2. Gives me pocket money.
  3. Takes me shopping.

Things my brother did for me:

  1. Picked me up and dropped me without complain several times.
  2. Helped dad find and buy a laptop for me.
  3. On my demand had an awesome custom sticker skin printed for me for said laptop.
  4. Possibly remembered my favorite color (purple) because he selected that instead of pink for the laptop’s edging.

Thinks my oldest sister did for me:

Fucked up my family life and ruined our trust for eachother 3 years ago.

Things my mom did for me:

  1. Gave all of us money from the inheritance she just got from her brothers.
  2. Made me Parathas even though she wasn’t talking to me.
  3. Fought with me.
  4. Ruined my self-confidence.
  5. Isn’t talking to me since one week.
  6. Said she is only ‘tolerating’ me until I fuck off somewhere.

Things my dad did for me:

  1. Bought me a new laptop.
  2. Is going to buy me a new smartphone soon.
  3. Bought me new headphones.
  4. In my whole life he has done uncountable things for me; he used to dress me for school when I was a child, before going to work himself. He taught me the Namaz and Wuzu. He tutored me. He took care of me, and still does, when I’m sick.
  5. Makes me breakfast every morning and has been doing that for the last 8-9 years.
  6. Is at the gate seeing me off for college still.

Conclusion:

I have a lot to be grateful for. And a little to be mad about. I am not ungrateful. I am a spoiled brat. I don’t get along with my mother. I have stopped censoring the word ‘fuck’ into fudge or duck.

And I fucking feel great!

The Ice-Breaker That Is My Name

In response to the Daily Prompt

Raiha. Ra-ay-ha. Not Ray-ha. Not Ra-hay-a. Just Raiha.

In Pakistan there are some very common names. Like Ayesha, Maryam and Sara. Everywhere you look you’ll find an Amna or a Hina. According to a famous Punjabi (my mother language) proverb: “Itt chukko thallay Amna.” Well the proverb can be used for anything really, since it basically means that lift a brick and you’ll find whatever underneath. Literally, “itt” is brick, “chukko” means lift and “thallay” means beneath, underneath or below.

My name however, is very unique. Only about 10% of Pakistan’s population would have heard of it. Proof of that is Facebook. I’m one of two Raiha Akrams on the popular social site. And as for just Raiha, it’s apparently a Japanese name, for men! Sensei Raiha, it does have a nice ring to it. I myself have only met one other Raiha in my lifetime, she’s a kid, and I’m pretty sure she’s named after me!

Whenever I meet someone, a dentist, a dentist’s secretary, the people at the Identification Card office,  a new teacher, a new class-mate, anyone, here’s how the conversation goes:

Them: “Name?”

Me: “Raiha Akram.”

Them: “Huh, Ray-ha?”

Me: “No Ra-ay-ha.”

Them: “Like Raita?” They snigger. (Raita is a yogurt dish in Pakistan. Yes, yes laugh it off!)

I roll my eyes and laugh sarcastically. My quick temper is coming to the surface…

Them: “Oh well it’s a beautiful name.”

Me: “Yeah thanks.” I’m impatient for them to get on with what they were supposed to be doing.

Them: “So is it Arabic?” Majority of names in Pakistan are Arabic, as is mine.

Me: “Yes it is.” Why can’t people figure out when the other person is being impatient?

Them: “Do you know what it means?”

Me: “Yes yes I do know what it means. It means Fragrance. Can you give me my ID card back now?”

And that ladies and gentlemen, is a five-minute process I have to go through every single time I meet a new person.

I love every single second of those five minutes.

Yes it’s pretty irritating when you want to get something done quickly, but seriously who doesn’t love the attention?

It is a great ice-breaker. I’m sure there are going to be many such interviews and conversation starters once I start university (college for the Americans and wanna-be American Pakistanis) next week.

Enough of my name’s uniqueness and my attention problem for now.

Here’s how my name came into being:

I have three sisters and one brother. My eldest sister is named Sitara (star). After that my brother is Rizwan (named after an angel that is said to guards the gates of Heaven in our religion). The twins follow. Saira (wanderer – in Quranic context it’s meaning sounds better) and Saba (morning breeze).

Now I’m not sure anyone would have noticed, but all my siblings’ names start from the letter S except my brother’s. He was thirteen when I was born. he demanded that his (unborn as of yet) sister had to have a name starting with R, because everyone else had an S name. And so began my father’s extensive search of the perfect name starting from R. Numerous baby name books and finally The Quran went through his scrutiny. He found my name in the Holy Book, and it was accepted by all my siblings.

So here we are now, three “S”s and two “R”s!

I believe that a person’s name does effect his/her personality. Call it Kabbalah, call it superstition.

But I am Raiha. Raiha Akram. My name is like me. Not easily understood. Unique. Strong sounding, but when you look at the meaning, it is as fragile as can be.

Although my name did come first.

So I am like my name.

Fragrance.

To be diffused around those who smell not quite right.

A fitting metaphor, is it not?