Verbal tantrums of a writer & an anxious spectator of life.

Category: Socialization of Humanity

“There is a bend in life” said my mother

 

I miss it so much, all of it, my childhood. Playing cricket with a textbook and tennis ball in Bhai’s blue-walled room. When did we grow up, how did decisions and choices shift our lives with such haste, with such grace? As a bright-eyed 13 year old me, I could have never comprehended what it meant when my brother first left for college in 2001. Landing in NY on September 10, 2001, his absence changed our lives significantly. Waiting by the telephone line, tearing up at the sound of his voice – those little things that mattered, you know? When suddenly Skype came to being, seeing my brother on the other side of the world, it was all so sudden and so exciting and it all lead to learning to accept the distance.

Technology didn’t make the distance go away. It just made it acceptable. Now Mum could comfort herself, that she could sneak a glance at her son, thousands of miles away. What a farce, though. Just because there’s a screen that encapsulates pigments of a photograph in movement certainly does not mean the person is there.

But c’est la vie – I move forward but then and now, I can’t resist glancing back at how simply wonderful youth was. The scrabble and ludo games, endless nights of cards resulting in one of us being the spoilt sport, most likely me, because I would brush off all the cards when I’d realize I was losing. Things that make you a child if you succumb to them now, but they were so pure then. Trips to the northern areas of Pakistan, packed in bundles inside of cars. Hissing like fools when one sibling took too much space in the backseat than the other. Asking Pa every 5 minutes “are we there yet? are we there, now?” and him, patiently, gracefully responding “almost there chanda”. The shrieks of excitement this one time a white kitten summoned itself inside our home and my siblings were too scared to touch it so my brother convinced me to fetch it milk and deemed me ‘brave’! I took so much pride in his compliments that at times I was stupid in my actions – anything to please the promise of a family. The comfortable battles with siblings, the ongoing fights over what dress belonged to me and not my sister. Not wanting to have lunch right after school, but becoming a teenager wanting to watch Baywatch instead! Being compelled by my galiant grandfather to eat together when we got home from school. Pleading with Ami, losing the battle, time and again.

Then one day, my sister flew to Ann Arbor. Another limb went missing. Watching her in her dorm – unable to surpress the countless aspirations she had, trying to provide me solace by saying “it will be your turn next year, Aanya” and I took refuge in that statement, that one day, I will be away from home too, paving my own way, leading the excruciatingly exciting college life. Who knew the year would fly by so fast and that I would be sitting in Virginia in the July of 2007?

For my parents, all of their limbs went numb. Their pride and joy, the noisy household became silent all of a sudden. Meals without the demands of each one of us became quietening. There was such a haste to grow up, to move forward that looking back became a chore. But now, all I can do is look back. I wish there were words to explicate the demise of a part of my soul without my childhood but I suppose sentiments felt within will suffice.

One time my brother attempted to sneak my mum’s car out. In what was supposed to be a successful adventure, turned into a traumatic injury of his hand getting stuck in the middle of the car door and the wall behind it. Bleeding finger, stitches — Instead of anger, all a mother could do was hold her son tight. Forgiving him instantly and yearning for his blood to stop dripping. That’s love, I thought to myself, then. I will find that too one day, I said, then.

Now, so far away in a city that never sleeps and most dream of, struggling to find a me in a corner of New York, I find myself wishing for 7 Fazlia Colony in Lahore: my childhood home, where the grass was ever so green, and the ivy on the tall walls formed a sort of security from the world. Where the swings and baby swimming pools were all I would look forward to. The splashing sound of water in that pool still gives me joyful shivers. Water babies, that’s what everyone called Sudaif, Faarya and I. Made to live in water, forever-moving, flowing, sliding and shifting water.

Who knew that would turn into a metaphor for our lives?

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Soles for Syrian Souls – An interview with Sara Obeidat

While in Jordan this summer 2012, Sara was, like many Jordanians, facing the reality of chaos in Syria first-hand. Thousands of refugees have settled in Jordan to find shelter, leaving behind any sense of home they had in Syria. Here is an interview with Sara Obeidat and the campaign she lead “Soles for Syria” to help the lives of Syrian refugees in Jordan.

Sara Obeidat is a 22-year-old Jordanian dedicated to human rights. She grew up in Jordan and then moved to the US where she studied Foreign Affairs and History at the University of Virginia (UVA). She also focused on theatre.  She was quite active in various student groups on campus as well as the arts. She has also worked in various places around the world including Lebanon, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and New York. Obeidat graduated from UVA in 2012 and went back to Jordan where she worked at the Syrian refugee camps and founded Soles for Syria, a drive dedicated to helping the Syrian refugees. She currently lives in New York.

 

Soles for Syria

Background:

If you could summarize the events that have taken place in Syria, how would you do so?

 Syria is no exception to the Arab Spring, very few Arab countries are.  Bashar Al Asad, and his father Hafez al Asad have ruled Syria under emergency law since 1963. When a country is ruled under emergency law for so long, one can only imagine the standard of human rights within that country, especially with respect to freedom of speech, freedom of association, and the right to have free and fair elections. It was therefore inevitable that the the Arab Spring would reach Syria, and it did. An uprising began in the Southern governorate of Daraa and was crushed immediately in a disturbingly brutal fashion. The regime showed how willing it was to attack its own citizens. Murders by the thousands and massacres that included children, torture, and  thousands arbitrarily detained by the regime. The protests have not stopped since last March due to the regime’s brutal crackdown. Despite the fact that the government has tried to pass some reforms, the protests have not stopped due to the degree of violence the regime has adopted. The regime claims to be fighting terrorists. There has also been a denial of medical assistance to many of those who have been wounded. Refugees by the thousands have fled into Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and other parts of the world. At this point I believe there is no turning back, the government has shown how far it is willing to go by expelling, killing, and torturing its own citizens- no legal reforms can change that.

Foreground:

What role is Jordan playing in alleviating some of the obstacles that the refugees are facing?

Jordan is a small country with limited resources, yet when it comes to refugees it has opened its doors to its Arab neighbors time and time again. Jordan does not only have Syrian refugees, it also has the highest percentage of Palestinian refugees and Iraqi refugees. As a country undergoing economic strain and considered to have one of the highest levels of water scarcity in the world, the government can only do so much. Many countries have set a limit for the amount of refugees they can take, but Jordan continues to receive refugees every day. Jordan has set up refugee camps for the Syrian refugees, whose number has risen to around 210,000 as of today and are expected to reach a quarter of a million by the end of October. It has set up the Zaatari camp which is not home to around 33,000 and is planning the opening of a new camp as well. Many Syrians have also been taken in by Jordanian families- some are related while others have no relation but have been able to form a brotherhood through a concept of Arab unity that has died out with our governments but lives within our people. The government has set up special organizations and is working with collaborating with UNHCR and other NGOs, but a government whose own citizens are starving can only do so much to help the refugees of a neighboring country. The tents in the refugee camp are expected to be converted into trailers by the end of the year, and the government has also set up medical aid within the camp, but the situation is still in dire need of emergency assistance.

Sara’s story:

What inspired you to establish your own cause and campaign?

Fortunately,  the first task Save the Children gave the volunteers was to fill out a survey which assessed the needs of each tent. The first tent I went into had a three year old boy who was limping, his foot was wrapped in a plastic bag. When I asked the parents about the cause of this, they explained that the child had scratched his foot while playing in the sand, and the scratch eventually turned into an infection. When I asked the parents why the child did not have his shoes on, they explained that they did not have time to put his shoes on before running for their lives.  Because this was the first family I met at the camp, the observation stayed at the back of my mind and I made it a point to notice who had their shoes on and who did not. After only a few hours at the camp anyone can notice that most of the camp is in fact barefoot.  The sand in the camp is incredibly hot and the environment is rough and is basically a desert, making it very difficult to walk outside barefoot.many people would get burns on their feet, or get an infection because of a small cut from walking barefoot, and because there is little follow up for such minor injuries, their whole foot becomes infected eventually. A lot of people were also sharing a slipper between a family of 6 for instance which would limit mobility. Some women would need to wait to use the bathroom because they were waiting for their turn to use the communal slipper. There were children being cooped up in tents because their mothers could not let them leave the tent barefoot.

The work I had to do involved speaking to a lot of people, to a lot of the refugees, which was great because I got to know what they needed and what their problems were first hand. There’s nothing like understanding a problem from the very person going through it. I started coming back from the camp every day feeling quite depressed because I noticed that there were a lot of issues that could be easily solved (i.e., being barefoot). These are the frustrating issues- the ones that can be avoided through a simple solution and yet are unattended to causing a lot more problems throughout. Sometimes I would meet a child with a huge infection that could have easily been avoided by something as simple as rubbing alcohol, so I would go ahead and buy it and deliver it the next day- but this was an unsustainable approach tha caused me more frustration because I felt limited in my capacity to help anyone.

The project began as a small drive with a facebook page. We were surprised at the resposes and how much it grew. People in Jordan, particularly Amman really wanted to help. There were also may people outside of Jordan who wanted to help as well. We began involving the private schools, and partnered with 6 local schools in the country and one school in Qatar in order to collect donations from students. The results were remarkable, and sometimes overwhelming. The community responded very positively, and with only an effort of a month and a half we managed to collect six thousand pairs for Syrian refugees, and also allocated a separate portion (not including the 6000) for Jordanians in need as well. I think what made our project special was the quality control. The team was small, and the girls working with me were brilliant. We literally checked every shoe donated to us for quality, and would specifically make sure that our specifications were met. Closed shoes, good condition, fit for the desert and the rain, that was our criteria. In this project it wasn’t “good enough” to donate, we collected way over 6000 pairs, but we only chose 6000 because of the quality of the shoes. We also handpicked each shoe bought from the funds we collected and ensured they were the right quality.

Soles for Syria:

What did your cause accomplish?

Besides the shoes collected, I think we raised a huge awareness about the camp in itself. Amman is a great place with so many generous people who are willing to help, but sometimes people forget that they have a responsibility. I think we served to many members of society that there is something expected of them to do. We got the schools involved which reached a huge amount of people, and we raised awareness about the camp. So many people called me to ask me for NGOs they could volunteer for in order to help the camp. I think we also showed people that you do not have to be affiliated with an NGO to make a difference- the initiative was run by girls who had just graduated from university or were still at school.  I think we also set a standard to what qualifies as a good donation and what will be used and what you cannot donate. Many people have the conception that a donation means giving away your trash- but a donation requires some form of sacrifice, something that you can continue to use and are willing to give to someone else- that’s how you make it count.

Inside the Refugee Camps:

Could you share some of the life-stories you heard/shared in the refugee camps?

There stories are too many, you hear so many every day that after a while its hard to believe that so many people go through something like this.

There are so many women who have fled Syria and have not heard from their husbands for over a month or two. They fled with their children and do not know wether or not their husbands and eldest sons are alive. One woman fled barefoot and in her nightgown and has not been able to aquire clothes since.

The resources are so scarce that there was a family of 12 (a mother and all her children) living on one  bottle of water for 2 days.

The amount of people in the camp with physical and mental disabilities is surprising, these families have no way to aid these children, they need to carry them for long distances in order to help transport them to the so called bathrooms in the camp.

There was a family with four children, one with cerebral palsy, the other one was hearing impaired, and one was mentally disabled. These children do not belong in the camp.

What is the environment of the refugee camps like?

It is a desert, with incredibly hot and sands. The environment is rough and during the summer it is incredibly warm in the day and very cold at night, which is why a lot of the children get sick.

It is also a very dusty environment because of the amount of sand, and so many people with asthma suffer, and almost everyone is suffering from allergies and lung infections because they are breathing in so much dust.

The camp is huge and it is also very easy to get lost for a child. It’s a tough environment, especially for people who aren’t used to this terrain. The area round the camp where Jordanians live is also not much better, it is considered to be one of the poorest parts in Jordan.

When these refugees come in, what type of shelter are they provided?

They are provided with tents. Now they are slowly converting these tents into caravans in order to prepare for the rough winter conditions.

A Jordanian Perspective:

As a Jordanian citizen, what makes you feel close to this cause?

The issue of refugees is very close to my heart because as an Arab, and particularly as a Jordanian, I grew up hearing about the refugee situation time and time again.  By the time I was born Jordan had a huge amount of Palestinian refugees, and I remember very specifically the US invasion of Iraq’s consequences as Iraqis came in to Jordan and I saw my country change.  On a personal level, many of my friends are Palestinian and their own grandparents may have been refugees at a certain point, it’s an issue that makes it emotional for me because you can put a face to the situation. You can not be Arab and ignore the refugee issue, it’s a central part of many political discussions – and you definitely can not be Jordanian ignore the issue because whether or not you have compassion for them or share the same heritage as those refugees, their status affects Jordan’s status and its resources, which basically affects every citizen in our country.

I feel close to this cause because I spoke to people in the camp, their faces are in my mind and it is something personal for me. Being a refugee is not something that happens over night, these people were not poor, they were simple. They were not starving back in Syria, they had their lands that they farmed and their vegetables that they grew and ate. The are simple but not poor, and for them to get used to living in such circumstances.

Saving lives:

What does the word “Save” mean to you?

My notion of the word “save” has actually changed a lot after this project. In almost every tent I walked into and sat down with the family, I was offered food. These people were starving, and with the few boxes of food they received every day from the WFP they would offer me biscuits, rice, or tea. Some would insist and not allow me to leave the tent until I had something to drink because “it is too hot outside and I should not get dehydrated.” You can not think of someone as “helpless” after that, you can only be humbled and slightly feel ashamed. These people do not need to be “Saved”- they need to be aided. When I spoke to the refugees many of them actually had great ideas and knew what they needed. When we talked about the problem of trash accumulation all over the camp, they offered to have each “Street” in the camp (two rows of tents) responsible for its own trash collection, but they needed actual TRASH BINS (that’s where a good donation should come in). When I spoke to women about the uncleanliness of the bathrooms, the ladies said that all they would want are hygiene kits for them to clean the bathroom themselves. When I asked if they would be willing to take turns on a day to clean the bathroom almost all of them agreed. They need to be supported, they need to be aided, their circumstances need to be made better, you do not need to do it for THEM, you are not “saving” them.

 

How YOU can help:

How can we continue to aid the refugees?

By aiding SPECIFIC CAUSES. By not donating money simply to an NGO, but by paying attention to the specific programs they have and taking the time to invest in their donation. Money is great but sometimes the problem is not a lack of resources but rather a lack of proper distribution.

 

Where do the children play?

Pen down your ideologies, and the child of your pursuit will carry the torch of your dedication.

What dreary lives are we leading where our mothers, daughters and sisters are being shot in the head? They point their guns and the target is shunned. What remains is the voice behind, but if we falter in raising that, we’ll lose the battle completely.

It’s no secret that without women, there would be no national development. Why? Mothers raise, educate and set priorities for the children. Mothers ensure health and wealth for their children. Mothers manage the households so her sons and daughters can go to school and become something, one day. Mothers sacrifice their own visions, career aspirations and professional dreams so that her children’s mouths are fed. How do women do this? They are biologically inclined to tend to the needs of human beings; their emotional sensibility has ingrained in them a sense of sheer humanity males do not possess. Everywhere we go, we see women catering to the needs of homes, communities and jobs. If the woman is isolated and kept in the dark, so are the children. If a woman is robbed of her right to be informed, her children are highly likely to remain illiterate. Women are the reason our societies prosper and grow into dynamic nations.

Pakistani women are in no way behind: Benazir Bhutto, Fatima Bhutto, Um-e-Hassan, Ayesha Jalal, Madiha Lodhi, Mukhtar Mai, Malala Yousafzai, to name a few of the prominent names we have seen in global news. These women have been the movers and shakers in both political and social spheres of Pakistan, striving to shake the unequal ground we stand upon. However, these are only the most prominent names, the list is never-ending when it comes to young and adult female minds that compromise their livelihood to strive for equal rights for women. Those who want to educate, those who want to illuminate lives, those who fight crimes, those who shelter rape and acid-burn victims, those who remain quiet when their husbands beat them to pulp just so her children always have a roof over their heads – The mothers, daughters and sisters of Pakistan, despite the extremely conservative and at times, devastatingly oppressive regimes in some of the Tribal Areas, remain alive in their pursuit of equality and keep our heads high.

In a most recent event, a young activist and education-lover, Malala Yousafzai was wounded by the Taliban. They said she spoke for the West and against the Taliban; she wanted to go to school and educate herself and that was no place for her. Her place was at home, beneath the shadows of male figures surrounding her. Her only right was to pay heed to what the Taliban required. This young, courageous and mighty young woman resides in Swat, one of the tribal regions of Pakistan and also one of the most beautiful mountainous regions, might I add. Amidst the quietening gloom of religious fundamentalists, she wrote, she spoke and she took a pen and began to share her story. She spoke of the hopeless environment enveloping her; she spoke against illiteracy and stood up for female education. She almost died because of this. Today, she lays in a hospital bed, struggling for her life. How often do we find such vibrant young women who reside in some of the most oppressive surroundings? Some say in Pakistan, women only come third; that is after men and even some animals that aid men in carrying out their work. But guess who always shines like the brightest diamond? Women such as Malala; alive, breathing and believers.

 

Beacon of Hope – Hosting a paradigm shift for women in Pakistan. 

 

The purpose behind this post is not to repeat what many already say: women are the dynamic of prosperity, but to address a most fundamental matter at hand: Today we remember Malala, but tomorrow when the load-shedding takes over, and the weather changes to blistering cold, when a friend of ours visits us from abroad, when we lock our eyes with our favorite tv shows, tomorrow – Who will remember Malala’s voice?

What You Can Do To Make A Difference:

Donate and/or volunteer with:

The Citizens Foundation

Shirkat Gah – Women Resource Center

Women’s Rights Association

10X10 Educate Girls. Change the World.

Save The Children

The why behind the me.

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.)

It aint the 1970’s anymore.

 The New Beat Generation.. Beating to someone else's Rhythm

Although I wish it were; but I’m just a 20 some year old living in an old town called Lahore, where water, electricity are obstinate and the sun god isn’t with the plummeting heat showers that descend upon us. My mind is crowded in an evolution of thoughts. Most girls my age are getting married or promising themselves to men, who are seldom lovers, but you know, they give them security and what not. I often wonder whether I’m an anomaly not venturing into that world, but then it’s comforting to know I’m different. Or am I? In just a few weeks, I’ll make a cliched journey to the city that never sleeps. The funny thing is, Lahore doesn’t let you sleep any way. It poses such conflicting dynamics of existence that even resisting them is deemed a crime. A woman here must choose one path or the other. Yes, yes, I can hear all of you screaming at me, declaring freedom for women in Lahore unseen before but come on, even being a feminist (if I was one) is advantageous for the men. There’s definitely a difference, a certainty of empowerment in that professional women are not abandoned and isolated into gender-biased time capsules any longer.

But what women are being robbed of is dreaming. Dreaming to speak loud on subjects rendered controversial and often times scary. If you stand your ground once, you’ll be remembered for all times to come but not with a positive flavor. Rather, you’ll be ostracized and all that’ll keep you company are your down-trodden dreams. Freedom to work and make a career are definitely achievements that females have made around here, but there’s still no freedom to let your thoughts wander. A differently styled outfit is enough to get the public glaring. It’s most fascinating, this struggle against time and reason in Lahore. The 2000’s have brought with them winds of change; often times liberating the poor souls incarcerated in dreamless realities but also in the number of girls seen smoking or drinking. We’re trying so hard to catch up with the West that we don’t remember our own East any more. In the Mughal era, there were glamorous and progressive poets who wrote on female empowerment and even homosexuality. On how a woman’s ability to carve her dreams into the world made it a better place; on how the art to dream was a right; almost as if the child born into this world had a right to his/her Mother’s milk along with the capacity to dream. Poets converted kaleidoscopic thoughts into words and any woman was free to read, breathe and believe. The imposture, the sexist police, weren’t dramatically active and the dreamers were free to roam the streets of Lahore, garbed in the richest of silks and the poorest of rags. All that mattered was the matter in their head. Now, now look at us. The generation of the 2000’s; utterly confused, easily baffled, conveniently objective; jack of all trades but master of none. If we don’t fight the constraints the societal police has stapled into our bodies, we’ll seldom, rather never find solitude in our thoughts and come up with something gruesomely beautiful. Freedom to dream. That’s what I’m after.

Sleeping in Life’s Waiting Room

‎”I had a friend who once told me that the worst mistake you can make is to think you are alive. when you’re really asleep in life’s waiting room. the trick is to combine your waking rational abilities with the infinite possibilities of your dreams because if you can do that, you can do anything. did you ever have a job you hated, worked really hard at? worked really long hours, finally get to go home, get into bed, and close your eyes and immediately you wake up and realize the whole day at work had been a dream. it’s bad enough you sell your waking life for minimum wage, but now they get your dreams for free.” Waking Life.

Fostering the Eastern Empire

A triumph or two, this one has me wooed

Estranged from one’s own land, only a portrait that the mirror reflects can speak louder than the noise of demise. Society is holding you by the neck, one falls into deep, resonating sleep. Once awake, you can breathe again and here’s a worthless tale of  how she found her lungs again. It’s rather overwhelming, returning to one’s soil and identifying with the past since those are the only elements with which one can acquire solace through familiarity. The familiar is no longer familiar, however, other than the promising sincerity of family and dusty roads that lead to the structure of our houses. The serene sound of the Azaan and questionable legitimacy of the food street hold us tight. Above and beyond there has been chaotic change; men trying to acknowledge the empowering sensibility of females and females trying to identify with their own newly-found freedom. Smoking in public and never being caught in eastern attire is no longer condoned, but in fact encouraged. Alcohol, which was rarely available openly at weddings is now being served at open bars here and there. Life has been garnished with scattered thoughts of liberalization and many, those who return from abroad, are caught in a temporary glee of sorts. Fleeing the suffocating eastern empire has become an option less cultivated – or at least it appears that the society has devoured the ancient inculcated values and stepped out to meet the modern world, with a torch of the west in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. But the truth is very different, my friend – and there’s far too much than what meets the eye.

What is an average woman to think or do with herself? Should she hastily make her way to the modern horizon or still think thrice before wearing a cropped shirt because even though her friends won’t judge, their friends will. Should she not care at all or should she care a little? Well if you only care a little around here, it counts for nothing so the glass must be measured appropriately, and with a microscope in hand because if she chooses to surrender to societal modes of life, then she must pursue her dreams of domesticated existence, otherwise she can be rebel and scream out loud in the open and claim the world to be her oyster. The trouble is, you see, that even though there has been change, there hasn’t been enough to change the mentalities and mind sets of the people. Well not enough people, any way.

You see, even though not everyone will stare you down, some will and those still host murderous intentions and that’s enough to kill a woman’s stride in our society. There’s no middle ground any longer; no place between the east and the west essentially. Either you’re with them or you’re not and there’s a clear distinction, sadly. Let me explain this further. If a girl wants to wrap up in a shawl, sit on a terrace restaurant and occasionally sip a glass of wine, she is no longer part of the decent crowd; she has been eyed with vino in hand, and that’s that and will not be forgotten. Her taste for life or eastern traditions along with her sturdy familial relations will be forgotten and only the silhouette of the wine glass and her face will sharply be recalled. There is no peace, you see, in being who you want to be or who you need to be. Even though Pakistan has began to expand its horizons, the mentalities compel women to remain in the shadow, or else the light will ruin their dreams. It’s not a sexist approach, really but more of a realistic one where the patriarchal system of equity and justice in the homeland has been too deeply ingrained to be diluted, even slightly. Men will share their dreams and miseries with you and promise to host futuristic aspirations but in the end, a woman will emerge of no consequence and that will be the gruesome consequence for the poor girl who befriended the male first, but her sin was occasional drinking and cropped shirt-wearing. Don’t get me wrong, not everyone thinks this way but again, not enough think otherwise.

I must commend the efforts of the society, though. Love marriages have surely been on the rise but so have arranged and irrespective of status and socioeconomic backgrounds, respect and honor in their essence is preferably offered to those that have settled in quiet arranged relationships and have not seen the madness of life yet. Women silently burn in their own dreams of liberalization, and when they attempt to host ideas of revolutionary extents, such as dancing with their beaus at a get together, or walking down the street holding hands – their egos are crushed and they are left alone to reep what they have sown.

Change will only come from within; when educated minds will begin to differentiate between extremism and balance and recognize that an ‘in-between’ woman can exist. Speaking of balance, it is a very fine balance indeed; where a woman is afforded her right to hold political views, opinions and assumptions and express them at her leisure. When her craving to smoke a cigarette in public and sip on something illegal will not be categorized as indecent, but simply as a choice of life for her. A choice she has a right to.

Lets remember what change means. And then claim we’ve achieved it – or not. 

Somebody That I Used To Know

Edited by Dilsher Dhillon

 

Keep swimming. I keep swimming; through the tornado of rising tides and what not. In the end, I’ll become somebody I knew, a shadow of what could have been but never was. Constantly provoked by society to indulge in an idea or two, I must not forget my own. But in the end, we all become a tasteful sample of who we could have been but never should have been, because the world would not have it any other way. It’s not your fault, nor mine, nor can I raise a finger or an eyebrow and quiz the world. At last, I’ll leave it to my brain cells to absorb what will conquer the sins of my past and the vigor of my future.

Our desires can be replaced, at best. Not just by what they tell you to do or be, but through the therapeutic cycle of saturating them. The inner voice claims a curious and puzzled emblem of what I want to be and when the confusion sets in, so do the delectable suggestions of others who appear to know you better from the outside than you do from the very inside. I’m not claiming a discourse over a tragic existence, but merely embracing what I feel is the truth, at this very time. How much advice can we take and give? They are simply recycled thoughts and experiences we wish we had dealt with better but the cards have been dealt and your thoughts amalgamated with theirs and mine and what is mine becomes yours and yours becomes mine. No longer is your sole propriety a matter of yourself but that of where you live and their thoughts of it. Curiosity killed the cat – The cat being me, the cat being you.

Honey and the Black Balloon

I am vintage; because nothing conforms and nothing confirms but the tasteful illusion of what could have been and that is old, ancient, my friend. It’s the era of what needs to be, not of one’s desires, which at best are prurient. But am I the same as I was yesterday? I am the same as I am today but not always and what is left behind eludes to a travesty of what could have been, and there, my friend, there I smile with a dozen colorless balloons tied to one index finger and the sun is as black as the night sky and the moon is what honey tastes like and honey tasted better yesterday any way.

Kiss the Truth

I cannot think, I cannot be free.

 

It’s all about being something you’re not. It’s a game we never learned how to play, but were thrown into the sea and expected to parallel the skill of the fish. The world is spiraling downwards, into a raging motion of what can be. But what is it now? We commend technological advancements, the longevity of batteries that run our lives; whether it be a laptop, mobile or a an iPad. We engage ourselves in the motionless existence of a screen, a light glaring back at us and encouraging us to remain addicted. The less the emotion, the better is what they all claim. The softer you are, the weaker is what they all claim.We’ve turned into a robotic existence where declaring your love has become a sin, and the overuse of the word ‘friend’ has become despicable. Slow down and carry on, they claim. In fact, they beseech you to hide beneath the soil, amidst the grime of a thoughtless perserverance of not who you want to be, but rather who you should be:

If it is to be you to scream out loud in the middle of a dinner party because what someone said pierced through your soul and grasped onto your heart and twisted it in circles you never thought of before, remain silent. Do not show, do not feel, do not believe in what your intuition claims. The show must go on and you must not delve into the trivial journey of investing in mankind, or sharing with them the secrets of your heart and mind. Neither can you confess that you host persistent thoughts of holding someone’s hand, or telling them off, or telling them that you care. Do not care, they plead. Because caring is defeat, it is merely a characteristic that belongs to the defeated. If someone lends you a hand, hold back and think twice before reaching out for their fingers, for they may sting and the scar will never erase. If it’s pouring outside, hesitate before calling a friend to share their umbrella with you because they will want something in return. Turn off the voice, which is internalized within your system, which is the reason why your heart pumps blood following a rhythm no man can re-create because if you begin to hear the music, you will silence out the world and become obsolete. Don’t be too nice, or too sweet, or too polite – Don’t say yes to the first invite you receive by a friend or a foe, and never, ever be caught laughing too hard because they will glare at you and deem you unworthy of time and value. Run away from the screams inside of you that tell you to inform another of your love for them, because loving is for the weak. Silence the racing hearts that commend that you are alive, for to feel emotions is to feel the opposite of victory. Never let go, because if you do, you will get so carried away that you will forget the purpose of your robotic survival and be the best in quiet thought, and keenly observe and forget that the Lord gave you a tongue. Be a man or a woman of few words because that has become the most valued treasure of all times. Do not dance while you are driving, do not sing aloud, do not smoke a cigarette in public and never, ever smile unknowingly because someone will catch your moves and devour your reality with their own gruesome ideologies. Give time, test and break others because that’s the only way you will find the truth. If someone hurts you once, run as fast as you can because no one is worthy of your pain and if they follow you, run even faster because it is a shame to expose your vulnerable humanity. Never touch someone’s arm in affection, and never give them a kiss on their forehead because they will harass your eyes with their devilish thoughts.

What has the world come to? This is what we are being taught day after day, night by night – To escape from the sole biological reality that science has discovered yet: that of humanity; that of sentimentality and emotions. It is what differentiates us from an inanimate object. We are not objects. We are living proof that there is a bond in the universe that wants us to speak, to feel and to believe. Our feet are better than any engine in the world; they can take us places we never imagined and they can feel the pain or the joy of a long distance walk; they can sense the morning dew and they can caress your heart. Your mind is your only God, it is what has no limits, it has no edges, no corners, no circular motion of process. In fact, it is as limitless and free as the wind, intangible yet powerful as it can sweep you off your feet. Why are we turning into wooden sculptures? Why are we shattering the very pieces of our glassy existence, each piece of glass reflecting on our souls and why are we so bent on forgetting that we are alive, and that we have senses that can ensure we are so?