I scare me at times. I had taken Woolf too literally when she had said that a woman must have money and a room of one’s own if she is to write fiction. I threw three cats and no fiction into the mix and am living my own interpretation of her famed essay. Though I’d like to think I’m living a beautiful Austen story instead, except I’m not. I am yet to master the art of silence, of punctuated breaks and articulated thoughts. I pour my heart out over texts, essay after essay sent to his inbox. And before he has the time to read the love letters imploding his phone, I send another one for silence scares me. I try to fill it, the harrowing silence, with words. Words upon words. And let me tell you a thing about words. They become meaningless after a while when you use them to fill voids. They abandon you. You’re left with empty syllables, a pinning heart and emojis for answers. These late night blunders, words thrown into black holes are coming back to haunt me. Even the cats are judging my sanity now.
If I look back, it is obvious that I had my head in the clouds when I rolled my bags across the Pearson International Airport. It was a crisp summer morning in Toronto and yet the universe got into action like it usually does, my flight got delayed thrice. But then I am a desi through and through and reading signs just isn’t my thing. I went on to board that flight and then another and then another and landed in the ‘Land of the Pure’, my eyes set on a bright future. I was going to live alone in Lahore and take rickshaws at 4 in the morning to go watch sunrise from the minarets of Badshahi Mosque and do reporting for a kick-ass newspaper.
I ended up renting a room in a crumbling old building in the poshest area of the city, working as a content writer and coming to terms with my limited access to public space as a girl . Life as a single girl living independently in Lahore isn’t Saba Imtiaz’s ‘Karachi You’re Killing Me’ after all. Here I was relying on male friends to drive me around the city (pre-Uber era), getting pinched in the markets now and then by perverts and finding out that a good sized water melon shouldn’t cost me Rs.1000.
But after three years of living alone in this city, fighting with landlords and dealing with broken water motors and moody circuit breakers at three in morning, I’ve come to realize that Lahore’s home now. Of course, I can’t go for a run on the streets or lay down with a book in a public park. I can’t roll up my pants and dangle my feet in the nehr at night or walk into a market without being ogled from head to toe. But it is in Lahore that I truly kicked off a budding career in communications and community management. I found my path in the yellow woods. I met the most important people in my life along with the most helpful strangers. The city sucked ego and cynicism out of my chest, shattered me more than once and then let me rebuild myself. I’m still in the process of learning to look for solutions, jugaads instead of complaining and crying. I’m still in the process of learning what is socially acceptable and what is not. Wrapping up three years in this city seems like a feat and just about the right time to go from being the ‘New Girl in Lahore’ to just ‘Girl in Lahore’.
They have it easy, the ones who can mourn the dead
– Kamila Shamsie
I wonder sometimes, where would I be now, had I seen his body cough up his soul free. They tell their versions of his death. The dead body she saw on Skype, he bathed, she kissed…the dead body. Soul-less, stiffened, cold.
What if I had my own version? What if I had seen life gather itself out of the moles on his soles? Had I seen life make that bitter escape from his body would I have mourned his death altogether all at once?
It’s different now when the mind take its liberties. He is out there somewhere, perhaps. Hope is a creepy little thing, I tell you. Hope. Aasha..
What’ll you do when you get lonely
And nobody’s waiting by your side?
You’ve been running and hiding much too long.
You know it’s just your foolish pride.
Layla, you’ve got me on my knees.
Layla, I’m begging, darling please.
Layla, darling won’t you ease my worried mind.
Khan Sahb and I lost our Layla on January 22, 2016.
I wish I could talk about it more, come to terms with the loss. There are no words though. Heart mourns..
This is a personal post.
I have strung each post in this blog with personal experiences, snippets of what goes on in my life and yet I’ve never used it as a medium to voice out what hearts only tell paper.
I was drawn to the anarchy and unpredictability of Lahore and more than that I was drawn to its people who manage to stay calm in the whirlwind of restlessness that it is.
It’s only after this calm has become a part of me that I have begun to look at it with something other than admiration.
This ability to remain calm in the storm is really immunity bouncing off the wall, creating an illusion of courage and inner peace.
I didn’t come here wanting to become immune. Lahore was supposed to be a refuge, a meditative journey, a city that brings me closer to me. And yet I find myself..immune! Yun na tha maine faqat chaha tha yun ho jaye…
Perhaps, I’m mistaken.
Of course, I am!
All it has shown me has been the best in others. It has only acted as a mirror, reflecting my own numbness back to me. How can I then blame it for the just discovered immunity?