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.

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?

Ice breaker

where did the years go

You spend all your time on this earth searching some meaning in life. And then one day, you find that all this time, life has been staring back at you.
Waiting for you to break the ice.
Sometimes, in fact almost always, all it takes is the first step.
Writings comes easily to me. Like all our other gifts that we are born with, I never really appreciated the joy of writing. Oh I knew I could work my way around a lengthy thesis; get a passable grade on almost zero preparation based solely on my ability to bullshit my way with words. But it’s only with the knowledge of one’s own mortality that one starts taking a more focused interest in one’s inventory.
For me writing enhances a world that otherwise I feel I’m not suited for. I mean it’s not like I feel I am from another planet and ET phone home and all that. It’s just that there are people who are great conversationalist and then there are people like me. We’d rather sit back, observe people, and notice their idiosyncrasies, their quirks.
And of course put in a word now and then, because let’s face it; otherwise we’re just coming across as creeps. I have found that the ability to write helps me become a more functional version of myself. It compliments my other faculties-as in I see more, I empathize more- and in the process, completes me. Countless have been the times when I have found myself in a situation and imagining how I would write that down on paper. I have decided that I will start writing again. The decision isn’t new, I have taken it countless times. Each time, something or the other, usually laziness on my own part, compels me to give up the habit.
I don’t know what I will write about, but I will not let my love for expression be burdened by expectations. For now I will just let my mind wander and my hands gallop on the keyboard as wild horses.
It will come to me..whenever it will.
No hurry.