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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The Waiting Game

It was to be the perfect farewell.

I had the best heading in my mind for how I would write about it;

The Seven Year Bitch

It was going to be catchy, it was going to be poignant. And it would be killing two birds with one stone. I was getting out of a job that I knew was killing me, day by day, minute by minute. And I was getting out of it via the love of my life, writing.

And then I hesitated.

And another year passed.

The Eight Year eye-sore?

I didn’t quite feel the same pull. Let’s give it some more time, it’ll come to me.

And another year passed.

The Nine Year niggle?

When did the job go from becoming a bitch to just a niggle?! At which point had I finally given in to the inevitability of my fate? Was it when I ordered the second plate of oily samosa chat and wiped the stain off of the file which my senior had sent back with some minor (read: hair-tearing) corrections? Or was it the day I found myself finishing a sentence with the words, ‘For your kind approval, please?’ at home?

Whatever it was one thing had become certain, my mind had grown tired of dillydallying and decided on my behalf that I wasn’t going anywhere and so had thrown away its jeans and designer shirts and instead had let the gut hang out in the sarkari baboo suit. I was now institutionalized. No question about it

I am no longer the twenty year old who had the world at his feet. I have responsibilities now that prevent me from taking spur-of-the-moment decisions. And the cold hard facts are that after almost a decade in government service I am still not sure as to what additional capacities I have which would appear promising to a potential employer. The bureaucracy is a glorified post office and the best officers, the ‘shining stars’ are those who are able to ‘network’, move the letter quickly along. And that’s pretty much it, from what I have seen so far. But I could be wrong. I want to be wrong. That is perhaps the only reason why something holds me back. Maybe I am being myopic in my skepticism.

This too shall pass. And maybe I just have to ‘pay my dues’ until one day it will all come together. I can always quit, nobody’s holding a gun to my head.

And so another year passes.

The Ten Year Trauma?

Roadside Buddha

 

060What is the meaning of life?
How is one to attain happiness?
These are the type of introspective questions that are bound to pop up in one’s head from time.
I am no exception. Both in terms of thinking about life as well as in coming up empty handed.
Travelling by bus during the afternoon as the sun is a sullen red ball about to dip over the horizon, is perhaps the best time to indulge in actions lazy cousin; introspection.
And you just have to get a window seat or else all is lost.
As the bus meanders through the city and makes its way to the countryside the sea of humanity starts petering out until you catch a weathered old man reclining on a rickety charpoy puffing on a hookah, surrounded by his meager wheat field. A toddler crawls at his feet, probably grandson. There’s a look in the kids eyes that sparkles in anticipation of the stories that he will listen over a crackling fire under a starry sky.
In the background smoke rises from a mud house. A muscular and younger version of the old man carries a pail of milk to the open kitchen.
As the bus passes this scene I lock eyes with the old man. He nods.
I nod.
Is his life easier, more comfortable than mine? Not likely.
Is he happier than me? Perhaps, yes.
Would I trade places with him? Absolutely not.
What did I just see in those few seconds? Happiness? Maybe, sure why not.
Contentment? Absolutely.
And there it is. The meaning of life is what one chooses to make it. Happiness is not a path that one stumbles upon or finds through the sayings of a sage. In all probability these sages lived lives which were harder and troubled than we can imagine. But they learned to savor the few fleeting moments of happiness in between the troubled seas of life.
And so it is my friend. Happiness is cherishing those fifteen early morning minutes spent with your child before heading off for work. The meaning of life is fleeting. It changes as you change. Don’t beat yourself too much about it. Just find your source of happiness and hold on to it. Life will find its meaning accordingly.

Blink before you peak

where did the years go

Where did the years go?
One day you wake up and realize you are closer to 40 than to 30 and the sinking feeling in the pit of your love-handled-surrounded stomach lets you know that the net balance of those years is showing a deficit. You have nothing of significance to show for the decade since you stepped out of college, full of promise, hopes and dreams.
Now what?
Is it too late?
Should one give up? Reconcile with fate and trudge on towards that ‘elixir’ we have been spoon fed on; pension?
Don’t kid yourself, you know the answer. You always did. You were aware from the first day of the creeping vine of complacency as it twinned itself around your ankles and immobilized you one muscle at a time.
You are being fed, just enough to ensure that you can still nod when spoken to and sign your approval if and when required.
And that’s about it..
As the years go by, your body and mind develops a taste for this feed. Those organs that do not adapt to this sort of nourishment are atrophied and fall away by the wayside. Foremost among these is creativity and independence of thought. Once you find yourself starting every sentence with a ‘Sir if I may’ and ending with a ‘you are absolutely right Sir’, it is time to burn all your childhood photographs, for that person is gone, lost.
So, is there hope? Animals raised in captivity are not always able to survive once they are released in the wild. It all boils down to who you are and who you were before putting on the collar. You already know the answer to that, it is not important. What matters is what you are willing to live with. Freedom with the chances of being your own boss and enduring bleak days of famine and rejection, or servitude with a steady feed of bare essentials and an assurance of being put down humanely once your use is over. So which one is it?
You already know the answer.

Subah ho gayee maamoo..

That would’ve been so cool if I had been woken up by that text would’nt it?

But your mom, sadly lacks a bit in the sense of humor department, as you will, I am sure soon find out when you pee all over the carpet or her clothes and she does’nt find it as funny as you did. Ok on second though the humor might even be lost on you, but trust me, it WOULD”VE been cool, cuz you see there was this famous bollywood movie, Munna Bhai..and..hmmm siiighhhh…never mind yaar, just trust me on this one.

But anyway, back to the story, so yeah, that was’t what the text read that woke me up at 9 in the morning-late, I know yaar, but as you grow up you will realize that all your hatred for early morning rising and going for work was justified, it DOES suck- but the message was pretty much the same, malik saab, a.k.a the latest addition, thats you by the way, was on the way!!

So while the rest of the womenfolk, that is meme, saadia,your hira aapi and your dadi hovered around mano and did the things that women do-whatever it is maan, i still don’t know- I spent a restless day at the office, just waiting for some news, and your parents will tell you i HATE office, so yesterday was even more awful.

I felt like the minutes literally dragged by on this hot, sweltering day, by the way, great choice of month maan,i mean cmoon!! If you HAD to choose the summers you could’ve picked late July or August, then you and I would’ve been Leo buddies…and meme…and Baati..and Hajira….and Ayesha…ok fiiiiine!!! so there are a LOTTA Leo’s already in the family??? So? you can’t ever have too much of a good thing can you?

But anyway, you could’ve done much worse, atleast you’re a Gemini, thats a pretty neat thing. Abba is also a gemini, I know, technically he is your nana, and you don’t quite get how everyone calls him abba, even meme..yeah our family is wierd that way, welcome to the gang!

But yeaah, so when i realised you were going to be a Gemini and all, i read up on your horoscope just to get a few tips on how to bond better with you (oh yeah, heads up, I’m going to be your FAV mamoo, no second options there). So, here’s what we’re looking at:

Your birthstone is pearl-Thank God you’re not a girl, cuz im NOT getting you any pearl necklaces man! And you’re flower is rose…hmmm odd choice but i guess they do smell nice, and thats all im sayin..hmm what else…ok here:

“If You Were Born Today, June 20:

As gentle and likeable as you are, there is a resolute part of you that is unmistakable. This combination of heart and courage almost guarantees success. You are also have a strong belief in yourself. Love and relationships are very important to you, and you will go to great lengths for a person you love. Famous people born today: Nicole Kidman, Lionel Richie, Chet Atkins, John Goodman, Errol Flynn.”

Hmmm not bad maan, Nicole ? You should get some of those old classics-im figuring DVD‘s will still be around by the time you’re old enough to appreciate Nicole Kidman- hmm sounds all good, I think we’re going to hit it off pretty nice.

Hehe ok this one cracked me up, listen to what this says about your year..

“2012 is a Number Four year for you. Ruled by Uranus. This is a year of work and development. It’s “nose to the grindstone” time. It’s a time to deal with practical matters, and it’s not a time to be lazy or especially gregarious. Sometimes, it can be a year that feels hard, monotonous and routine, and/or lonely. Advice – get yourself organized, work to build your resources, keep busy.”

Hahahha…this year is going to be ruled by Uranus…(get it?) *siiiighhhhh* never mind..but that much was pretty straight forward, obviously its going to be ruled by uranus since you’ll be pooping most of the time, besides sleeping that is…That also takes care of monotony and routine…poop,sleep,feed,repeat..on endless loop..and thats not such a bad lifetstyle too if you ask me.

So, lets bring you up to date, with whatever else has been happening around on the day when you finally decided to grace us with your presence.

The PM FINALLY decided to leave the office after months and months of crap talk that i seriously don’t pay much attention to, but just for posterity this guy, the ex-PM Yousaf Raza Gillani was once held in jail and your nana ji, my father and the universal abba actually handled his case, a fact that the former even mentions in his memoir.

So abba was pretty much hooked on the whole escapade..and so was meme…so thats that.

Hmmm and what else? The Euro’s are going on, didnt get much time to watch most of the matches but the smart money is on Spain winning their third consecutive major trophy. And Wimbledon starts from Monday..(just making sure you get a headstart on having the same interest in sports as I do).

On a sad note, you missed meeting your Sherry mamoo by a couple of months, you would’ve liked him…

Anyyway, i got held up by babys sitting duties, looking after your cousins fateh sher and hajira-asfand and baati were back at the farmhouse playing Xbox ALL day…i really hope you are more outdoorsy like me- which is why i was’nt there when you finally arrived.

sorry bro, it was fifa 2012, couldnt miss that, hope you had an awesome homecoming

And then there was all this confusion about when to go where to go, you know how it is with women and giving directions and making up their minds? Well, you’ll find out soon enough. By the time i got to the hospital, you were already fast asleep and i could only sneak a couple of peeks before Hira bossed me away from her ‘new buddy’.

You looked happy and content and a LOT like your father. And from what I heard about the ‘ghutti’ incident where you seemed to LOVE the honey, I have a feeling that you have inherited his love for all things culinary and gastronomical, which is great, cuz i LOVE food too.

did somebody just meniton chicken karahi????

But we’ve gotta burn that off too, I’m going to teach you tennis and football, don’t get fooled by what your dad tells you and believe that cricket is the only sport in the world. I mean ok its fun to watch and all, but wait till you get the ‘polo bug’…

Thats something else maan…( I know i keep calling you maan, its a guy thing, you’ll get it later, plus mano and fawad are waiting for your dada ji to come back from Brazil to finalize your name, although i hear the frontrunner right now is Rafay, although Hira seems to like Ibrahim..so for now, we’ll stick to maan or dude-even that went out with the teenage mutant ninja turtles- or something or the other)

Anyyway, I see that I have started to ramble, thats another thing you’ll have to excuse us grown ups for, we have sooo much to tell you that we don’t know when to stop. But inshallah , we have time to make so many more amazing memories..

So…here’s looking at you kid..