What Lies Beneath

You are someone else.

You know that.

In front of this world, there is a mask, (and) you are someone else, someone else.

Why aren’t you what you are?

For the world, don’t you forget yourself and oppress yourself.

Open those ties in which you have tied yourself.

 Speak up, that you are someone else. The faces that you wear, they are not yours..

Come out, open up everything.

Whatever is in your heart, tell everything.

Your paths are your dreams, which have been with you all your life. Embrace them.

Tell them who you are.

 Open these ties.

You are someone else, there are no limits for you, you are sky, you are a thought, you are matchless..

 You are a wave, you are brightness, you are what you wish.

– ‘TAMASHA’ Irshad Kamil.

 

 

On my fourth birthday my grandfather predicted that I would become a government officer. It was an off the cuff observation, given the nature of the occasion and the age/ mental state of the person he was making it about. But my grandfather stuck to his guns; he had seen enough to reach that decision and he was not going to budge. Apparently within the first four years of my existence, I had proven to him that bureaucracy was going to be my true calling.

I wasn’t very talkative and smiled even less and yet, he said my eyes seemed to miss nothing. This was too much information for a four year old to handle let alone understand. All I kept with me were the words government officer and the sense that this entity had some sort of super powers.

It was true that growing up I wasn’t the kid who told the best stories. But I certainly wrote the most imaginative ones. Writing came naturally to me. As if to compensate for my lazy tongue God had given me an over active mind and a prolific writing hand. In order to feed my starving mind, I developed over time a sharp eye for details and a keen nose for plot.

I don’t know if my grandfather’s remark turned out to be a self-fulfilling prophesy or weather he just saw something that was always in me before anyone else but as I grew up I found myself being pulled towards a career in the public sector.

Well, if I am being really honest, like, really reaaalllly-I-hope-my-parents-and-family-don’t-read-this honest, it was more push than pull.

I can still remember clearly the day my dad took me out for lunch when I had come for my O levels exams. By that time I had been in boarding school for three years but this was the first time I was having a one-one-one grown up ‘business lunch’ with my father. Every son worth his salt looks up to his dad and strives to live up to their expectations. I was no different; having endured hundreds of hours slaving over Mathematics (which might as well have been in Latin for all I understood) I had finally succeeded in securing admission in Cadet College Hasan Abdal (one of the premiere boarding schools in the country and my father’s Alma mater). In my adolescent mind, I had finally won, I could now rest.

Then ‘disaster’ stuck in the form of a younger brother forever shattering my ‘only son’ hegemony. Years later, I would realize that although I love my brother but his arrival had activated a medieval button in my mind which had triggered on an eternal quest to always gallop off on another quest to vanquish some foe and redeem myself in the eyes of my father as his true worthy successor. The same has been playing on and on in an infinite loop. It happens in every family more or less to some extent.

And so, back to my lunch with my dad.

As I munched on my chicken cheese burger with fries, my dad asked me about my future career aspirations. Now any fifteen year old will tell you what the standard response to such query when it comes from a grown-up is to be; go for the vetted (read: socially acceptable) career choice. In my case the answer should have been the Army (my father was a proud soldier) or the Civil Services (fulfilling my grandfather’s prediction).

Having already proved my worth three years ago by getting admitted to Hasan Abdal, I had gained enough leeway to let my father know that I just did not see myself in military fatigues. And he, with a father’s intuition (it is a thing) knew not to push. In fact he himself said on numerous times that his father wanted him to go in to the Civil Services too but the entrance exam was just too tough. In an interesting game of pass-the-wish, my father felt that if I cleared the exam and joined the Civil Services, he would in a way be living up to the expectations of his father and my grandfather.

Birds: 2

Stone:1

Me: stone

Little did I know at that time what I was putting myself in for. But then that’s the thing; we never know the consequence of our words until much later. At that time I was much more preoccupied in my chicken cheese burger and proving myself to my father. Both equally important and commendable. So long story short, I knew what my answer had to be; the Army (just to see dad light up) or the public sector).

I said neither, and went for the third option.

The truth.

I don’t know if it was the extra mayonnaise or my new-found ‘adult’ status but the operator inside my head whose duty it was to prevent me from blurting stuff out infront of grown-ups slipped up and I said that I wanted to be either a writer or a professional tennis player. As I was washing down the last of the burger with my Coke I saw my dad give me an exasperated look and with that our first man-to-man ended on a low.

Don’t you sometimes wish there was a chance to go back and rewrite our history? Or at the very least change some of the things you had done? Alas humans are not born with a button that restores us to our factory settings. As the years go by one starts looking backwards more than forward. Like a passenger on a train that is closer to its destination than its point of departure. Once you hit your mid-thirties nostalgia dressed as a ticket collector with his trusty partner Hindsight, starts visiting the various booths of your memory.

Every action of ours has a timeline and if you go back far enough you come to the point where you could have switched the tracks of the train and ended up on a different destination. Hindsight knows those points and once he finds out where you live, he visits regularly and demands that you answer him why did you not push the button. It is better that you have a response ready for he is a persistent bugger and can really get under your skin if you do not block him off at the outset.

They make a formidable pair. Nostalgia has the ‘good cop’ part down pat. He will show clearly how there had always been two passengers on the train, the part of you that you were always meant to me and the one you decided to be. There’s no malice or animosity in nostalgia’s mannerism when he exposes how you trapped the real you in the basement, sneaked food down to him but never let him out in to the light. Nostalgia just lays it out in the open.

Hindsight comes with the fangs. He sinks them into the flesh of your memory to lay bare the wound that had healed the first time you decided to suppress your true self. And he will not let up unless you have an air-tight case. For if he senses even the tiniest hint of regret on your part, Hindsight will not let you rest until you have resolved the issue or gone made tearing your hair out.

And so it was that time and time again, just when I had thought that I had learned to play the part of the government officer, I would look down at my official note pad and see the prologue to a story involving three brothers born in three different decades, while my boss would be giving me dictation on a letter to be written to the Agriculture department for the latest import procedures for cotton. As much as I tried or ignored, I could not kill him off. Over the years he kept planning his escape route through the various tunnels in my personality. Like Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption the writer in me has never given up on the dream of crawling through rivers of shit and finally walking out clean. Since I did not kill him off completely, I guess that makes me Morgan Freeman’s character. There isn’t much I can do besides silently hoping for the best.

For we are told that once the train leaves the station, whatever and whoever you decide to become is what you will be. There are no refunds or change of destination. In time I will reach my destination and then there will be no one to remember the stowaway I have been carrying with me.

He has been a good companion. Through him I have made sense of the world. Of love, life and everything else in between. So this is to you old friend; who knows what the future holds.

For now, scribble away.

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Life’s a road trip, no need to ask for directions, just enjoy!

It truly is, even though it might not appear so sometimes. But amidst all the lying, deceit and disappointments, there are moments that need to be cherished like a bright little flower bursting through the cracks in a hard sun backed earth..It is these little things that make living worth it.

For as long as I can remember (read : ever since i started listening to songs) I found something so timeless in Baz Luhrmann‘s ‘Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)’. As i grew older and, hopefully, wiser, I started paying more and more attention to the words behind the song, and it was as if i could finally make sense out of the chaos going all around. Without fail, its been one of my most reliable feel good strategy. The original text that the song uses is from an article published in the Chicago Tribune by Mary Schmich titled ‘Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young’…(how true..:P )

To me personally, the words sound like  a sorta personal narrative and makes me go back into the past and hover over different times and places that i have so far seen in my journey through life. And its not such a bad journey, ofcourse there have been the occasional bumps and flat tyres but then who hasn’t been there? Isn’t  that part of the fun in a road trip? That’s what life is, just one big road trip..And its best traveled with the music blaring full blast and the wind blowing in your hair…

So….without further ado, here it is, hope it cheers you up too. * I’ve added images because they help me in letting the message sink in better and relaxes me..*

“Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it.

The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience.

I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth.

me and farooq tahir at the annual wah gardens picnic at hasanabdal 1995..siiigh good times

Oh, never mind.

You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded….

But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked.

How ya doin :p

You are not as fat as you imagine.

carrying a bit of summer holidays fat

Don’t worry about the future.

Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum.

The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.

theres actually a logical story behind that too as long as you’re unaware of my driving prowess

Do one thing every day that scares you.

Sing.

Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.

Floss.

Don’t waste your time on jealousy.

Sometimes you’re ahead,

sometimes you’re behind.

The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.

atleast thats what i told myself …

Remember compliments you receive.

Forget the insults.

If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters.

Throw away your old bank statements.

Stretch.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life.

The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives.

Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.

interesting is a judgement call though in this case..

Get plenty of calcium.

Be kind to your knees.

You’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Maybe you’ll marry..

maybe you won’t….

Maybe you’ll have children..

technically my niece but thats only a minor technicality:P

maybe you won’t….

Maybe you’ll divorce at 40..

maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary.

just in case, you should know how its done

Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much,

or berate yourself either…

Your choices are half chance…

So are everybody else’s.

Enjoy your body….

Use it every way you can…

Don’t be afraid of it or of what other people think of it…

It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

close competition with Blue thunder though, tht baby was a tank…miss you thunder

Dance..

in my defense, those were craaazy times..

even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions.. even if you don’t follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines…

They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents…

You never know when they’ll be gone for good.

Be nice to your siblings…

it might not seem like it here but i AM a nice brother, i think i am..i must be …

They’re your best link to your past

and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go…

but with a precious few you should hold on…

 

Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle…

because the older you get…. the more you need the people who knew you when you were young…

i get by with a lil help from my friends, Aurangzeb wing 42nd entry

Live in New York City once…(how about lahore?)

but leave before it makes you hard…

Live in Northern California once..(thats definitely Islamambad)

but leave before it makes you soft….

Travel…

Accept certain inalienable truths:

Prices will rise…

Politicians will philander.

You, too, will get old….

Abba at Cadet College Hasan Abdal , i went to the same college and sat in the same seats 30 years later

And when you do..

you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble …and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don’t expect anyone else to support you….

Maybe you have a trust fund…

Maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse….

But you never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your hair or by the time you’re 40 it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy…

but be patient with those who supply it….

Advice is a form of nostalgia…

Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal..

wiping it off..

painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

siiiiiiiighhhhh ….