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.

Image

Fall

Part of a series on "An Abstract View of Fall"

Part of a series on “An Abstract View of Fall”

Today, an unexpected cold wave hit Rawalpindi, Pakistan. I was wearing light summer clothes and open sandals. I shivered and my toes felt like ice-cubes. And I enjoyed every second of the teeth-clattering, toe-curling icy wind.

Here is a photograph taken last year, with my old Sony DigiCam for my Photography project , as a tribute to fall…

Bang Goes The Country

Oh you pretty Chitty Bang Bang,
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
We love you.
And, in
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
What we’ll do.
Near, far, in our motor car
Oh what a happy time we’ll spend.
Bang Bang Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Our fine four fendered friend.
Bang Bang Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Our fine four fendered friend.
Chitty Bang Bang
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Chitty Bang Bang
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Chitty Bang Bang
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Oh you pretty Chitty Bang Bang
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
We love you.
And, in
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
What we’ll do.
Near, far, in our motor car
Oh what a happy time we’ll spend.
Bang Bang Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Our fine four fendered friend.
Bang Bang Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Our fine four fendered friend.
Your sleek as a thoroughbred.
Your seats are a feather bed.
You’ll turn everybody’s head today.
We’ll glide on our motor trip
With pride in our ownership
The envy of all we survey.
Oh Chitty You Chitty
Pretty Chitty Bang Bang
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
We love you.
And Chitty, in Chitty
Pretty Chitty Bang Bang
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang what we’ll do.
Near Chitty, far Chitty, in our motor car
Oh what a happy time we’ll spend.
Bang Bang Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Our fine four fendered friend.
Bang Bang Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Our fine four fendered friend.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Fine four fendered Chitty Chitty friend

My fine four-provinced friend. My love. Pakistan. Going CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG. There’s a bang here, there’s a bang there. Our enemies are eating us from the inside. Making us hollow. Killing our youth. Our officers. Our workers.

All over the world, people think that we are the enemy! But the world is our enemy. They don’t see what we, the people, are going through. Some have fattened up these so called religious extremists with their funds and their guns, and now their making us go up in flames.

I say if they (the Taliban) make us go bang bang, then we should make them hang hang!

Our fine four fendered province-d friend.
You’re sleeks strong as a thoroughbred.
Your seats  grounds are a feather bed.
You’ll turn everybody’s head dead today.
We’ll glide on our motor trip mother ship
With pride in our ownership
The envy of all we survey.
Oh Chitty You Chitty
Pretty Chitty Bang Bang
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
We love you.

Change

First published on 23rd December 2013. Reverted to draft as it was sent to Express Tribune Blogs sometime in early January. Re-published on 24th February 2014 after being kindly rejected for ‘not being the type of posts published in ETB’ and the writer ‘should write something on another topic and send it again…’

Change – the slogan of many political campaigns of the world. They all say they will bring change, but can anyone, ever, bring change? Is change a glass of water, of what you can just say that bring me a glass of water? If I tell a politician, bring me change, will he pour it into a crystal glass and present it to me on a silver platter?

If that is what change is, then why have we not changed?

Why are we still the same as always?

Why are our minds still narrow, our eyes still closed and our hearts still black?

Why, still, do we sneer at Shias, laugh at Christians and scorn the Ahmadis?

Why, still, do we beat our women, ridicule our sons and shun our daughters?

Why, still, do we not love our country, cherish our country and idolize our country?

Why do we still look at America and England with envious eyes, why do we still worship Indian actors, why do we still prefer Chinese products?

Why is that we want our children to be raised in the western countries?

Why is it that to better our children’s future, we move to England?

Is this change? Can a single man bring change? Can a single man fix billions of hearts? Can a single man change the mind of a whole nation.

Although Mr. Imran Khan, a person I hold in high regard, said he can and he will, he never did.

People say they will, but they never do. That is a paramount cause of where we are now.

I am also guilty if this social evil. I say I will, but I never do.

I have to remedy this soon.

I must change myself, because I believe that change starts from within, radiates out and ultimately changes the people we are surrounded with.

A single man cannot change a nation, but a nation can change a single man.

In the words of a Pakistani rock band, Noori:

“Tum Badlo

Badlain Dil

Badlain Log”

You must change, hearts will change, people will change.

As Pride Runs Through My Veins

On 21st January 2014, I wake up ealry with the intention to revise for my major exam, Introduction to Mass Communication.

As is the rite of every teenager, I lie in bed bleary eyed and switch on my cell’s WiFi to scroll through the social sites.

A Facebook page has posted a ‘meme’. I am ecstatic at the news it points to. But I am also skeptical.

Rough translation of second frame: Look who's coming!

Rough translation of second frame: Look who’s coming!

My exam is in the afternoon, so I decide to switch on the TV.

Radio silence.

The vast number of privately owned media channels are mum. They are only sensationalizing mundane news items. Even the 9 o’clock bulletin has no mention of what my brave fighters have done in Mir Ali, North Waziristan, in the silence of the night and the pure light of dawn.

Not losing hope, I Google the news. “Air strike on terrorists”, “PAF strike on NW” and such related queries yield no result at 0930 or 0945.

At 10, I strike gold. Al-Jazeera, Reuters our local Dawn News has finally reported the news.

I post proof on Facebook ASAP...

I post proof on Facebook ASAP…

Pakistani bomber jets have annihilated known Taliban hideouts in North Waziristan.

By doing that they have effectively broken the ‘pact’ made with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan elders in 2007, that the Pakistan Army or Air Force will not bomb terrorist hideouts from then on (in return for what favor, I have no idea!).

PAF shoved that pact right up those extremist’s arse, adding in a few missiles for a bright, dazzling effect that left those bastards reeling and us Pakstanis feeling, finally, hopeful!

This is where I feel so proud of my Air Force, as does my father, a former Wing Commander of the PAF…

They, the TTP,  think that they can outright kill  and blow up our soldiers, our officials, our women and children and that we will not retaliate? Well, unfortunately for them, there are still some upstanding elements in our country!

And they have bombs!

I Am Pakistani

Violence.

Violence that I was not a witness of, but violence which has sparked another onslaught of protests in my country.

For those who do not know about the sects people have made in Islam, I will tell you, there are many. They are pitted against eachother due to the minute differences in their faith. But the two sects which exist in majority, the Shiyas and the Sunnis, have been at loggerheads for as long as anyone can remember.

The recent scenario in my city of Rawalpindi is responsible for the start of a series of killings. A bloodbath has ensued due to the stupidity of one ignorant ‘scholar’.

In the view of this tragedy and others before it, I want the world to know that at this time I am not a Sunni. I am not even fit to be called a Muslim. But there is one thing I am. There is one thing my Shia brethren are. There is one thing my Christian brethren are.

We are all Pakistani.

We were all born on this land and we will all be buried under the dirt of this land.

I condemn the Sunnis killing the Shiaas, I condemn the Shiaas killing the Sunnis. I condemn the Jihadists killing my Christian brothers and sisters.

I am Pakistani.

They are Pakistani.

We at Foundation University, condemn sectarianism and firmly believe that we are one!

One nation!

One Pakistan!

A dire time for all Pakistanis to unite…

Crossing Borders And Resolving Prejudices

October 27th, 2013.

An ordinary Sunday.

I wake up late and in my hazy, bleary-eyed state, I’m aware of my father handing me a newspaper and saying something about application forms.

After waking up a little more, I look at the page and an advertisement glares back at me. It’s from the United States Educational Foundation In Pakistan (USEFP) about their Global UGrad Program 2014, urging participants to apply before the 28th of November.

In simpler words, I might just be a cultural exchange student somewhere in America next year.

My ordinary Sunday turns extraordinary. My father and I discuss the technicalities and print out the forms. I am told to keep the news to myself for now to avoid any negative energies from seeping into my wonderful plan. We briefly discuss my portfolio and I finally decide to tell my father about my elusive blog to detemine whether or not it’ll help me in the selection process.

I email him a link and after getting some amazing feedback, I realize my usually sullen Sunday has suddenly become one heck of a day.

The next day, a friend who is a YES (Youth Exchange and Study) alumni, hurries to tell me about the UGrad program and that I absolutely must apply for it. I assure her I will. She sets up a meeting with a UGrad alumni who’s a senior at my university.

For two days I research and think about it.

And I become indecisive.

A number of cons attack me like a buzzing cloud of angry bees. For a moment I am in danger of being swallowed up by those bees and then spat out like a doubtful, useless mess of flesh and bones.

Fortunately, I have enough strength, determination and parental support to swat those bees away and spray them with poison for good measure.

After emerging unscathed from my heap of dead bees and dusting myself off, I go to my father and assure him that I will apply for the program.

I then sit down and think about where this program will take me. I think of what I’ve done with my life up till now, which is, regretfully, not much. I then think of what I can do with my life. I realize that this program will elevate me to the point of reaching one of my life’s goals. A goal that is also a driving force behind this blog.

I want to build a bridge between the Pakistanis and the Westerners, specifically the Americans. I want to quietly slide aside the opaque curtain of negativity and disdain most Americans see us through, and show them who we actually are.

My blog, which started as a diary, turned into something else just after two or three posts. When I saw how many Westerners read and appreciated it, I thought why not show them that us Pakistani are also humans. Us Pakistani teenagers also have high school dramas. Us Pakistanis also fight for our rights. Us Pakistanis also condemn terrorism.

Now, I’m putting all my efforts into getting selected for the program. I have chosen my field of study to be journalism. I have started visualizing already what I will and won’t do while in America. My six-months worth of efforts in America may only effect a handful of people, but at least I’ll be starting somewhere.

To all my American readers and ‘followers’, if all goes well, then this time of next year, I will be on your side of the pond!

Ali’s Personality Quiz

While going through Ali’s epic blog once again, I decided to finally answer the questions she had asked for her personality quiz. I hope the deal’s still on Ali, and you will leave some wonderful feedback for me!

I want to keep it short and not give too much insight on why I chose my answer, because that’s what Ali will figure out herself! Let’s hope I can keep to my promise…

1. If you could be a flower, which one would you choose and why?

A dark purple tulip. It is simple, yet it symbolizes royalty.

I actually wanted to be a thorny, majestic, purple rose. Until I found out that it is artificially synthesized. For me, that symbolizes the fact that I want to be or have become what society wants me to be.

I will never be ‘man-made’.

2. If you could be a living creature (animal, bird, fish, reptile), which one would you choose and why?

A fly on the wall.

I think the “why” is self-explanatory!

3. Which season of the year suits your personality best and why?

Winter.

It is not only my favourite season, it is also, quite simply, me!

It is misunderstood. People think it is frigid and unrelenting. Cold. Hard. But they do not know the hidden joys of winter.

The hot chocolate, the warm quilt, the family around the fireplace and the warmth at the core underneath all the ice…

4. If you could choose a birth-sign/birth month, which one would it be and why?

I would never change my birth-month even if I had the opportunity to, although I have always liked the star-sign Leo. A lion. A leader.

But unfortunately birth-sign and birth-month go hand in hand.

So a stubborn old goat it is!

5. If you could be a tree, which one would you choose and why?

There are not many trees I know about. But I would like to be one of these two:

An old and mighty oak. Who has seen and garnered the wisdom of centuries. Or a papyrus plant in Ancient Egypt. It’s not technically a tree, but I would really like to be one of the mediums on which ancient knowledge was written!

6. If you could be a planet, which one would you be and why?

Earth. So I could provide life to billions of lesser beings. So I could be the medium on which God decided to exile his man.

Yes, humans would ravage me, but I will still try my best to sustain them and I will suffer the pain quietly.

7. If you could go back to the past, which period of history would you choose and why?

Early 19th century England. So I could live in the Victorian Era without wearing petticoats and lace gloves.

I would want to spark a women’s right movement there so that in an alternate universe, men would be the one treated like property, not women.

Also, I have a thing for gowns, Jane Austen, and the Scarlet Plumiere…

8. If you could be an item of clothing, what would it be and why?

I’ve been stuck on this question for the last 10 minutes! I have no idea what I would be. Maybe a simple pair of jeans? Reliable, sturdy, practical. Not pretty at all, but definitely useful!

9. If you could be a smell/taste, what would it/they be and why?

If i could be a smell, I would be that delicious earthy scent of the wet dirt after rain. I have heard my UK relatives say that there it isn’t as potent as in Pakistan. But I would like to be that smell because it’s fresh, natural and it just makes me happy.

If I could be a taste, I will definitely be salty. Being sweet is oh-so-very cute. But after a while, you get tired of sugar and need to eat a little bite of something salty to get the balance back.

10. Which country/town/county/state is most YOU in the world, and why?

Moscow, Russia. Cold, colorful, historically and culturally rich, modern. A wonderful blend of history, skyscrapers, wealth and nature.

If only I could see it…

11. If you could be a slab of chocolate, which one would you be and why?

Just plain milk chocolate. Simple, smooth, delicious.

12. If you could choose a name for yourself, what would it be and why?

I love my own name very much. But if I ever have to change it, I will choose Aaliyah. It means, exalted; rise; ascend in Arabic and also in Hebrew.

Over to Alienora for the verdict!

The Art Of Being A Braggart

If there’s one thing that I know is annoying about me, it’s that I love to brag.

It comes naturally you know. I’m not a vain person. But I do like to tell people about my and my family’s achievements. Subtly of course, while not straying far from the topic.

This post is all about me and my brag-worthy traits/experiences/achievements. At least I think they’re brag worthy, I’ll leave the rest up to you!

  1. I am responsible. Well according to my sister I’m not. But at school, well college now, I am very responsible.
  2. I have leadership qualities. Actually that is a better way of saying that I’m bossy. Is being bossy a good thing or not?
  3. I have an imposing personality. At least I think I have. People do notice me. Maybe it’s because of my… ah… size (I’m a size 14). Or my dressing style. Long shirts (not shorter than mid-thigh) mixed and matched with pants and sturdy sandals. Or my nerdy cross-body bag with all kinds of supplies from notebooks to band-aids. Or my women’s rights badge. Or my purple glasses. Oh well whatever it is, people do listen to me! And now that I notice my own description, I guess I look like a stereotypical journalist. All that’s left is a recorder and a camera around my neck.
  4. I am fluent and articulate in the English language, oral as well as written. And English happens to be my third language. The first being my mother tongue – Punjabi, that I unfortunately know very little of. Second is Urdu, our national language. My skill level in Urdu is almost as high as in English. But the pictures I paint in English are way, way more detailed than those in Urdu. And finally, the love of my life, English! If someone banned me to write and speak English in Pakistan, I would probably seek asylum in some other country…
  5. I am not afraid of lizards, cockroaches, moths and all the other creepy crawlies that girls are so afraid of. Whenever such creatures invade my and my friends’ surroundings, they run away shrieking, while I stay behind and laugh at them. And, I loved dissecting cockroaches and frogs during Biology! I was going to post pictures here, but I didn’t want anyone to lose their breakfast/lunch/dinner.
    My dad has rapid allergic reactions to histamine, as do I. So I do try to avoid wasp or honey-bee bites. That will cause my blood pressure to drop in a couple of minutes and I’ll black out and have to be taken to the hospital ASAP if I want to avoid brain damage. That is what happened to my dad many years ago, fortunately it happened on the sidewalk right in front of the PAF hospital. I have avoided bee bites until now. My dad told me a trick: Don’t provoke them, they won’t hurt you.
  6. I cook and bake yummy ‘Western’ things like casseroles and cakes. But only sometimes. On special occasions. Or when there’s Sarson Ka Saag for dinner. (Foreigners, please open the link to see what that is and fun fact: “da” is the Punjabi version of the Urdu preposition “ka” which means “of” in English).
    My family says I have a natural ‘gift of taste’. But I think they’re just trying to butter me up so I cook for them more often. Ha, in your dreams familia!
  7. I’m physically fit. My breath doesn’t get short even after 10 kilometres in 30 minutes on the elliptical trainer and my blood tests are always perfect. So being ‘fat’ has nothing to do with being unhealthy! Loving food is not a crime, it’s called enjoying life…

Well I think that’s about it. If I think of something else I shamelessly want to brag about, I’ll let you all know!