The Burgers are extra- spicy

dharna

Let us for a moment, talk like the arm chair analysts that we are and not like the Pulitzer prize winners we pretend to be.
Let us for a moment ignore the precedents it would have set and the precedents for it already extant.
Let us make an effort to differentiate between de-politicising a situation and dehumanising it.
Let us fade out the coloured lines. Forget red, blue, green. Let us revert back to black and white.
Let us all take a collective step back .
Exhale.
Let me tell you of an incident that happened to me, many years from now.
When I was thirteen I got a room of my own for the first time. It was the high point of my existence till then. I was the master of my domain. The king of my castle.
The only thorn in my crown being the other occupant, my two year old brother.
In retrospect it shouldn’t have bothered me. How much space could a two-foot child take? I practically owned the place, as depicted by the posters of my idols adorning three fourths of the room. The only exception being the corner occupied by my kid brother in his crib. For all practical purposes he was a guest in my home.
And yet it rankled me.
As long as he stayed within the confines of his crib, I could tolerate him, for a while. But my mother, astute policy maker that she had shown herself to be over the years, had given me the room with a proviso. The room was mine, provided I kept the other occupant, satisfied.
In plain terms, the room was not mine by right, it was a trust, made on an understanding with all of its occupants, that I would not usurp their rights. All fine and dandy when they were just words that I excitedly kept nodding my head to.
Something had to give.
When my brother started crawling, nobody had been happier than I . Of course that had all been before he took up residence in my den. Suddenly nothing two feet from the floor was safe from his tiny hands.
I tried keeping him barricaded in the middle of the room with obstacles that he couldn’t climb over.
In time he learnt to crawl around them. Things came to a head when he managed to crawl under my study table, the seat of my throne, the Kings Landing to my seven kingdoms.
All attempts to drag him out from under there were met with loud wails and hysterical sobs that brought immediate response from my mother.
I had arrived at a deadlock. Force would only give temporary respite. I might get my room back but for how long?
Mother would not let the wails of her youngest go unheard. And once she intervened the decision would no longer be in my hands.
I summoned a meeting of the elders.
My two sisters had also been given a separate room and my action would no doubt affect them too. So it was only fair that I discuss the current dilemma with them.
The two sat impassively as I presented my case; the study area was sacrosanct, if I let my brother enter it, I would be setting precedents with disastrous consequences. Pretty soon he’d be roaming all over the place.
So? They inquired.
But that must never happen.
Why? They inquired.
I owned the room he should limit himself to the crib! I bellowed.
Owned?! They inquired.
Fine, I shared it with him, I huffed.
And? They inquired.
It was a trust shown in us by our parents and we were both equal parties to that trust, I mumbled.
So is the room yours by right? This was getting annoying.
No, but I was the majority by size and I couldn’t give in to the whims of a smaller party, that would show me as a weakling, I sputtered. He’s a mummy-daddy weakling! I earned this room!
And a show of strength against this mummy-daddy baby will prove your strength? They asked, what’s the worst you can do? Lock him in his crib? Once he has endured your worst do you think you will ever be able to use it again without mother finding out? And how much longer after that will you be able to hold sway over the room? On the other hand, what if you let him roam around? He tears your posters? Stick them a bit higher where he can’t reach.
Let him crawl wherever he wants to, how long do you think will he stay there? What’s the worst that can happen? He can’t possibly take over the room. Most probably he will grow tired and bored. You will still have the aura of being bigger without having to show your superiority and he will continue to look up to you for guidance and support. On the other hand if you choose to show him who’s boss, mother will have no choice but to interfere. She will take away our privileges of being responsible adults and you will have wasted, in a moment of arrogance and high handedness, our years of obedience and diligence which led us to our freedom.
It was an eloquent response, I had to agree, albeit to myself, but I wasn’t ready to cave in yet.
He will always be a mama’s boy won’t he? Calling for her help to get his way.
Weren’t we all, at one stage or another? She smiled.
Yeah but not anymore, this is mothers way of keeping us in check, my tongue was running ahead of my mind now.
And that’s bad because?
Because I’m too old to take directions and instructions anymore! It’s my room I’ll do what I want there, I can’t let mother question me everytime he complains to her! I was losing the argument, I could feel it the balance shifting.
My elder sister stood up, grabbed my younger sisters finger, sighed and said, do what you will but know this, I will not be a part of this, it will define who you are for the rest of your life, you will not have gained anything and your strength will forever be exposed .
With that the two walked off into the sunset of their room.
In the course of time, I learnt to ignore the odd torn book or spilled milk. To say I was happy would be an understatement , I was happy with the status quo prior to the onset of the crawling. But now I realised that change cannot be stopped. You have to roll with the punches and hope to remain standing at the end of it all.
That is strength.
The source of power lies in never having to use it.
I never again had a problem with my brother , who in time has come to be my greatest supporter and defender.

Tuesday Bloody Tuesday

When I was in college, a roommate of mine introduced me to the music of U2. One song of theirs that instantly intrigued and captivated my attention was ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ and I looked up its origins. Absent mindedly I used to imagine other such titles based on the rest of the days of the week.

On the 16th of December 2014, Pakistan got its own version.

Two days ago I would have come up with some statement full of bravado and resilience. Two days from now I will in all likelihood be sprouting venom against these barbarians projecting their band of religion.

Today is not that day.

I have had my legs shot out from under me. I have had the wind knocked out of me. I have had the blood drained from my body.

I have failed.

I am tired.

I am lost.

As a Muslim, Pakistani, Father, Brother, Husband, Son; take your pick.

I let this happen.

You let this happen.

We let this happen.

There are those among us who have already started pointing fingers at some party’s ‘dharna’s’ or another’s inability to govern. There are those who have already started the age-old mantra of us being victims of our military’s doctrines. There is always the usual us-being-the-pawns-in-a-greater-game and of course our neighbor state that always has evil designs on us.

I know all the arguments. I have heard all the conspiracy theories countless times.

They are all true.

They are all false.

So what?

What are you going to do about it?

Black

I’m not going to blame the government, the forces that be. This one, I am keeping for myself. This one is all on me. There is no fate, no religious punishment, no global conspiracy in this.

All. On. Me.

Today I am unable to look myself in the mirror. The face that leers back at me is grotesque. It is numb. It is cold. I may profess to be a Muslim but what that may mean, I have long since forgotten, in my heart of hearts, I know that I never knew what Islam is.

Will this ever end?

I would’nt hold my breath.

I know will get over this in a day, max a week.

And this will happen again.

I’m just hating myself for knowing that I’m used to all this and for that part of me that is secretly grateful that I’m still away from all this, for now.

Having worked in a national level counter terrorist organization that never got off the ground owing to the inflated egos and turf wars of our leaders, I am no longer as naïve and idealistic as I was when I decided to serve my country.

I now know myself.

I  am not resilient, I am cold, numb. I am opportunistic. I am a terrorist. Not the one that wields a gun and straps on a vest. A much more harmful one. One that talks, and talks and then gets on with his life. I hold a soft spot for killers, because I feel I can discriminate bloodshed. I feel I can justify some of it.

How do I come back from this?

I  don’t.

Where do I go from here?

Downwards, and onwards in my journey towards my personal hell.

 

We who are about to die, salute you…

Whenever we are at a family gathering or an occasion and the conversation is starting to get stale, one of my uncles or cousins winks or prods me. And that is my cue to launch into my favorite topic:

Army bashing.

And the target is always abba, who after some 30 plus years of following his passion and serving at all terrains in uniform, never fails to rise to the occasion, and defend ‘my second mother’ whenever anyone dares even raise a finger to it.

I follow a typical set procedure of nudges and pokes. One of my ‘accomplices’  joins in, by saying something like, ‘We sure wish the Army would take over the government, look at the haalat these days.’

Abba  perks up, and then composes himself again.

These Army guys are nothing if not adaptable. He knows by now that Im just trying to provoke him into an argument for the sake of the gathering. Like a wizened and battle scarred veteran that he is, he ignores my jabs and feints, while I play for the gallery.

He chuckles and sighs, and once in a while i detect a slight sympathy for me, as if saying, you don’t know what you’re talking about son. And that condescending look ALWAYS eggs me on. Like a fool I mistook it for weakness.

I have my usual arsenal; the countless marshal law tenures , the rampant corruption in the system, how every soldier that takes the oath in the academy to defend the constitution, ultimately breaks it by coming in to power, and the other rabble rousing material that is being thrown about in the media.

Most of the time, they work, and I get what I want; a charging soldier, bayonet pointed straight at me.

My supporters, the relatives and cousins, sit up straight and order a second round tea, now we’ve got a party.

My father, a typical soldier, is easy.

He charges straight at you.

No deception, no trickery.

I have always considered that a folly, one other reason for ridiculing the military and its outdated system.

My new fangled ideas of intellect have clouded my reasoning and I mistake chivalry and bravery for simpleness. All these years, I have been ignorant, but now I see.

If my father refuses to take the bait, I always have one last card up my sleeve that makes him livid.

The defeat at East Pakistan, and how we surrendered half our country.

My father literally jumps from his seat; he gets livid and animated, all at the same time.

Its a cheap trick on my part, he always falls for it. I throw in Musharraf and countless other examples to stoke the fire.

All in all, its a great discussion, and people thank me for entertaining them. I walk away smug and content.

Abba just looks at me and smiles, its a sad smile.

‘If only you were not my son’ he says.

I shrug and tell him something along the lines of me being more educated and upto date and just pointing out the facts which he is choosing to ignore; that it is not the same Army anymore.

He does not seem to hear anything, just takes this long deep sigh and says, ‘How can you hate the army, when your father, and  your grandfather served in it?’

It always rankles me, in the deepest recesses of my heart, even though on the surface I don’t let it show. I have  resigned myself to the fact that I don’t like the Army that much. It seems like the simplest and most easiest answer at the time.

But sometimes, whats simple and straight forward may not be true. And if there is one thing that you can count on in life, its that sooner or later you will have to face up to the truth.

It has happened with me.

Last night, I found out that a senior of mine at Cadet College Hasan Abdal,PA-39548 Maj Zaka Ul Haq 41st entry, Iqbal Wing, has been trapped under an 80 feet avalanche at Siachen along with more than a 100 of his brothers in arms.

Since then, I have been unable to sleep in peace.

It is true that death teaches you a lot about life. This is the second one in a short span of time. First it was my cousin, Shehryar Noon. His death has made me realize the fleetingness of life and all things material.

The second one has made me question my own heart; about courage, devotion and commitment.

I remember Zaka. We were not friends. He was my senior. From Iqbal Wing, I was from Aurangzeb wing. We have always been rivals in all competitions. We tend to consider ourselves as the better sportsmen, us Zebites. It always rankled us because Iqbalians always won more trophies. We found them arrogant and aloof, just as I guess they found us.

And yet, even at that time, Zaka intrigued me.

He was not naturally gifted, yet he played all sports and was a member of all wing teams. So i got to personally know him as i faced him in our do-or-die football matches. He had no talent, but what he lacked in skill, he more than made up with a heart that was huge. You had to be willing to get your legs broken if you planned on getting the ball past him. Because he would rather die than let his team, his wing, his brothers lose.

Off the field, he was gregarious, loud and ALWAYS smiling, with a joke. I remember his debates in English. He had no prior debating experience but he shouted and he waved his hands..and the crowd responded! We were up on our feet in the Abid Majeed amphitheater, cheering him on wildly.

Thats what i remember of him.

Those are the type of people who go into the Pakistan Army.

I am reminded of this sentence in the movie ‘A few good men’ where one of the protagonist asks the other ‘why do you like them( the Army) so much.’

And she replies something along the lines of ; ‘ because they stand on a wall, and they say nothings going to happen tonight, not on my watch.’

I always figured myself to be the smart one, for choosing not to go in the Army. I was a color holder in sports at Hasan Abdal, I could do it all. I figured joining the Army to be the easy way, and I opted for more studies and a career in the Civil Services.

The truth is I was scared…

I was selfish…

I could not imagine committing myself to such a tough life, for a cause I did not understand. I was not ready to put my country before myself.

I know better now.

I don’t hate the Army, abba. I LOVE it. I grew up idolizing it through you. I was there with you when you were at Sukkur during the Anti-Dacoit operations. I watched the ‘jawans’ , putting their lives in your hand, and you reciprocating their love and devotion.I was there when you came home with blisters on your feet from the 30 mile walk.The countless exercises in the desert, when we’d sit by the phone waiting for a call. I grew up watching all that.

I have seen my room-mate at HasanAbdal and one of my closest friend Major Noman Shiekh come back from Siachen, a mere shell of his former self. And i wondered, what makes a person go through that for something so abstract as just a piece of land. I remeber him at Hasan Abdal, and I look at him now. I still see the gangly boy, but I see determination and a steely resolve now which we only saw once when he led our Wing to the runners-up trophy in the Obstacles Course competition. Those are the sort of people in the Pakistan Army; men of honor.

Men of steel.

Somewhere along the line, I grew up and saw the Army not as you had shown it to be, and I was dis-illusioned. I don’t hate the Army, I felt cheated out of my dreams. I felt that some elements  were maligning the Army from the lofty place it deserves and holds in my and I’m sure every Pakistani‘s hearts.

I feel so much better now, because I finally know that I am my father’s son. An Army officer‘s son. My army bashing is infact, my anger at us, as a people, a society having lost our way.

Today as I along with my fellow Abdalians, pray for a miracle to save our friend, our brother, I also pray for my valiant Pakistani soldiers and I salute them for being more man than I could ever be.

Hehe you thought I could never say it abba, so here it is ;

Pakistan Fauj Zindabad, Pakistan Paindabad!