The why behind the me.
by Aanya F Niaz
Written in June, 2012.
With Preston Reed’s fingers hard at work in the background, percussive guitar-playing just hit a new note for me. Settled onto a mattress bed, any movement is devoured by the bed as if I’ve set sail by the edge of the world. The waters underneath only speak to my current state of mind: serene with scattered bouts of flinching imagination on where I am and what will be for the next two years. A teacher. To teach. Teaching young minds how to rise when they falter and to never fear faltering. It’s the status quo of life; unrelenting tides of temporary bliss and gloom. It’s a delectable combination.
Pursuing that combination, I’m on the other side of the globe now. In New York. About to become a teacher in a charter school in Brooklyn. I’m here because it seemed like the next step to take, not that I thought unrelentingly on this step, or attempted to gather too much meaning on why I was flying across the world to New York to spend my mid-twenties. Glimpses of Papa’s white kurta pants and Ma’s ever-so-elegant shalwar kameez, both seated across the television in the living room, commenting insight-fully on the political dilemma of the country, sway into my mind, back and forth, back and forth, as if the ticking pendulum speaks to the dissatisfaction of being away from them. It’s like a time-bomb. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. The truest form of life I have ever known is embodied by my parents, and as they age, I am so far away? Time speaks to this emotion stronger than any other.
However, the serenity of being in a place where my individuality remains on a pedestal is too valuable to by pass, at least at this moment in time. Thinking of home, Lahore, my city of lights and dusty miracles is a force of calm but what it took away from me is unforgivable at many levels. The ‘me’, and the ‘why’ being the ‘me’.
Questions directed at me of my own virtues and vice became increasingly infrequent, as if any mere assumption in regards with my being was the norm. One’s persona and character is automatically related with one’s family, wealth and socioeconomic status and being a believer in psychological contexts, freeing myself from the chains of how everyone wanted to connect the dots, all the time, became my pursuit. With respect for such connections and bond, I could not understand why every gesture, action and voice was taken not as a singular one, but as a product of his/her status in the society. These chains are gruesome, and have left many to adopt the “normalcy” in our society. What’s ironic is, it’s the farthest away from being normal. It robs them of their vivacious personal growth, of any unique thought processes or dreams they may have and worst of all, happiness is defined within a box and soon after, they only rejoice once they are inside this box and feel disillusioned if placed outside of it. This scared me. It was traumatizing to come to such a realization: my surroundings could bury any aches of who I truly was. Not that other parts of the world don’t do the same, but knowing that even the core value of joy would be written for me by others and I would be constantly measured against it rattled my bones, shook my core and quietened my desires.At this point, it is important to note that this entire journey had zero to do with familial and traditional bonds with my beloved homeland.
Nothing has or could ever dampen the glistening, scorching sunlight on my skin, or change the way I have viewed the clouds that bring delicious monsoon rain into Lahore. The charisma of Pakistan is ingrained in me and at times is my only oxygen. I learned soon after it was time to find a solution, to form a bridge over troubled waters and adopt a dynamic that gave me the best of my Eastern identity, but did not step on my wings when I wanted to fly.
Gradually I became happily distant from reacting to such an enclosed society, whose vision certainly differed from mine. Although now I am far away, I realize I will never be fully isolated from the eastern dilemma’s of existence and identity and in fact, I have come to share a healthy relationship what with I have left behind. I suppose in my heart of hearts, I know I did not abandon what was but I realized how monumental it was to take my heritage with me, upon my shoulders and follow along the patterns of life devised by my decisions and actions. It is easier to see the middle-ground from here. How ironic and unsettling, though, that the comfort one seeks doesn’t always come from where they belong. I suppose distance does make the heart grow fonder. I did not choose this distance to be how I would find solace in the dynamics between the east and the west. I gradually found that away from societal implications, I could breathe better and hence carry out informed thinking. It’s almost as if your best friend and you spend too much time together and familiarity does not want to breed contempt, but begins to irrationally and rationally create boundaries. If you do not take a step back and let the air in, the fragrance of contempt will take over the blossoming flower of a friendship. I suppose this analogy is apt when it comes to me separating myself from Pakistani society in order to find myself again, and then to return, with clarity and a vision of hopeful admiration. The same way you can never forget your friend and never watch your friend bleed, every single day, Pakistan breathes in me.
(Life has continued to evolve, and mindsets have been shaped by differentiated thought and experiences since this was written.)