Ziarat Residency no more

(Originally published in Us Magazine, The News International
July 5, 2013)

Dear Unknown Sadist,

 

I never thought I would actually be brought to this level of despair and that I would be writing a letter to you and venting out my frustration through a paper but, as they say, desperate times call for desperate measures. You really did it this time – You struck gold, you did. I must say, whoever makes the plans in your group regarding where to strike next must be a genius. If your purpose was to make us all feel helpless and destitute, well … you did it all right.

 

It had been raining that day, the day when you had done what you did and what shattered my heart into a million tiny little auricles and ventricles. I had woken up to the rhythmic sound of rain pattering on leaves, on trees and on the windowsill next to my bed. It seemed a beautiful morning – only it actually was not. I was still under the influence of sleep when I made my way into the T.V lounge; languidly, I saw the TV tuned into one of those news channels which have been lately bringing nothing but bad news to the masses. What bad news was it conveying this time? I had thought.

 

Well the joke was on me I guess.

 

I could not believe my eyes; it couldn’t be – it wasn’t possible! But it was true … because you had done it. On the screen, I was looking at what used to be a beautiful building turned into this burnt shambles. The firefighters were spraying water on whatever remained of the building. For reasons which might be beyond your comprehension (but not mine), it hurt. It had hurt too much, so much so that when I went back into my room, I cried. No, not like you would have wanted me to cry of course; I cried silently. I could feel the tears edging their way out of my eyes but they never made it to my cheek; you see, I wasn’t sure if you were viewing me at that instant with those super-advanced devices you people own and if you were, I wanted to give you a clear message that I was strong and resilient. Only that it took a long time to reassure myself that I actually was. Strong, I mean. 

 

I had always wanted to go there, you know. I wanted to give Ziarat a ziarat, if you know what I mean. But you have made that impossible now, haven’t you? The government has announced that they will rebuild the building in three months, but you and I know that the damage is done. You, Mr. Sadist have, as I have already mentioned, struck gold. Nothing is going to be the same again. I mean, sure they can re-build the building but what about the artifacts that were present inside the building? And I really do not blame the newly elected government for the whole incident which took place either; they’re already distressed as it is, so blaming them would not achieve anything. At least, I think they are and that thought will help me live in my cocoon for a while longer. Back to the incident, well for the next three days I would sulk in misery thinking about the incident and the height of your evilness. I would think the same things over and over again – I would not able to go there now. I would not see the original building, the building where my Quaid, Muhammad Ali Jinnah lived during the last days of his life. I would cry from the inside. I would wail at my helplessness.

 

And then I went to college the next day. And everything changed.

 

See, as depressed as I was, I had also become pessimistic (and possessive) regarding the whole event.  I had thought that I was the only one who had been hurt by all of this, and no one really cared about what happened. I am glad I was wrong. Everyone talked about the same thing, about how this was bad, how this shouldn’t have happened and how it hurt when they saw the building blackened by the fire. And it was at that point that I realised we would survive. I mean, sure it hurt, it hurts even now, yet I have a feeling we will wade through this sea of sadness and see the light of happiness.

 

And that is why I am writing you an open letter. So that you and anyone else who shares the same views as you know that I, for once, don’t care what you do. You burnt his house. You kill his countrymen. You shed blood in his country’s rivers but you can never ever erase his persona from our minds, and from our hearts. Jinnah lives in my heart; he lives in every Pakistani’s heart and will keep on doing so until the Day of Judgment, and that day, my friend, we’ll meet. You will not be unknown anymore. And then God knows what will happen to you because with more than 17 crore people testifying against you, the odds of you surviving a bitter punishment are zero to millions. So, come prepared, because I know what I’ll do.

 

With this, I end my letter. I hope you change your ways but you and I both know the damage is done. Your soul is tortured and twisted now with the murder of millions of people on your hands.  Still, things can change. You never know. And with this note I part with you my friend, my enemy, hoping that one day you’ll regret what you did. And I hope I get to watch it while you do.

 

Long live Jinnah. Long Live Pakistan.

 

Sincerely,

 

R.T

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Brother… don’t bother!

(Originally published in Us Magazine, The News International)

Some years ago I got a chance to go to KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) for a short time period. It was a good place to live in but we had to move back after a while. Unlike many kids, I didn’t feel any difficulty in adjusting back to the desi lifestyle. The way I see it; I was, even then at the age of six, the patriot-to-the-core-of-my-heart, which I am today.
Now almost a decade later, I feel I am suffering from a very-very long delayed attack of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Don’t get me wrong, I do love my country. What compelled me to hypothesise that I am a PTSD sufferer, though, is a different story. I hate the lame theory of ‘Brothers are our saviours’. I am the eldest of three sisters and it irks me when people look at me sympathetically if I tell them that I don’t have a brother. It amazes me how, in our part of the world, a brother has so much importance.
Almost everyone in our society has this irritating habit of peeping into others’ lives. They think that they have a born right to decide whether the other person’s happy or otherwise. It is like tagging someone without his or her permission. Or coming to someone’s wedding uninvited.
Wherever I go people – especially aunties – wonder how I move around in this society without a brother (to protect me) and some even have the guts to say it out loud. I remember the time when my math teacher asked me how many siblings I had. I told him we were three sisters and no brother. The moment I uttered ‘no brother’ I instantly realised I had committed the mistake of the century! What he did next was expectedly agonising. He made this really strange face; it looked as if he was trying to convey his condolence to me. For your information, I didn’t appreciate this ‘condolence’ – at all.
I thought that it’s just the generation difference and with more education and time, this perception would gradually evolve and then diminish. You know what? I was wrong. I was bewildered that my class-fellow, who was of own age, thought the same way as my fifty year old aunt. She asked me if I felt sad that I don’t have a brother. I replied that I didn’t and she wasn’t able to understand my point of view and hastily concluded that when I’ll grow up I’ll feel the difference… yeah right!
Sadly, brothers are mistaken as superheroes in our misogynist society and many think that without them a girl would not be able to ‘survive’ in this cruel world. There is another notion that girls without elder male siblings tend to become spoilt, and are more likely to fall prey to bad company.
I disagree.
I am a teenage girl and so far the experience, they call life, has been great. Sure if I had a brother I would have loved him like I love my sisters – maybe even more, but now that I don’t have one I can’t complain, can I? We, the humans, cannot do anything but be content with what He has blessed us with. Not everything we want or plan materialises. There are no guarantees in life, only promises and hopes. And in the midst of it all, we can only count on ourselves neither our brothers nor anyone else.
A sincere friend once taught me a great lesson. She didn’t have any mamu and I asked her, sheepishly, if she regretted having none – oh wait, or was it khala? Honestly, I don’t even remember now. But she said that she didn’t think about those whom she didn’t have in her life. She was right. Thinking about people and things you don’t have will only make you envious of others. Crying and whining about what you don’t have will just make you depressed. It may even cause you to forget about those you hold close and dear.
If we amend our ways and try to be better humans, we won’t need anyone else to rely upon. All the girls out there without brothers… don’t feel miserable. Now that I think of it, it’s common knowledge that daughters are more obedient than sons. I am not saying that sons aren’t compliant but it’s just that girls tend to have more emotions than boys. So girls… don’t worry, be happy! Oh and if you’re one of those 20th Century aunties (or their ally) I have got one small request, please get yourself engaged in some constructive activity, and stop bothering people around you.

To be or not to be

(Originally published in Us Magazine, The News International
2nd March, 2012)

Did you ever have a bad day when you think you are not good enough for a task or an activity while others are? Ever felt jealous of another person, thinking he/she might be ‘cooler’ than you? Ever tried becoming a person you’re not?

Okay let’s come straight to the point: Have you ever had an inferiority complex? Most of us would first go ‘huh, what’s that?’ But a split second later we’ll all come back to our senses and some of us (well, considering the amount of letters coming to Guru from the ‘Depressed Souls of the World’ these days, I should have written ‘most’ instead of ‘some’) will at once realise that they have an answer to this simple yet deep question… yes. Yeah, yeah, I understand, it’s hard to admit this fact so most of us would prefer to shut up, leave the topic and never try to unlock our personal Pandora boxes ever again rather than admitting it and coming clean. We’d just calmly close our eyes and pretend that our lives are going very smoothly and that’s the way it should be.

See, I thought the same way too. My life was going perfectly well until one day I realised I hated football but still watched it to impress my friends. I hadn’t been able to realise and ‘admit’ it myself though, my father pointed it out. He used to be very amused when I asked him about different football players and leagues, and then out of nowhere, he once asked me why the hell I was asking him so many questions when I didn’t even like the sport.

The question made me think. Apparently when you put your brain at standstill for a long time and then suddenly turn it on, the brain is stimulated faster than the microwave that warms your last night’s left over daal chawal in no time. Anyway, let’s come to the point; so my conscience (yeah, it never lets you sleep does it?) began torturing me until I decided that it was time I start looking back into the past. As I jogged my memory, things, apprehensions, complaints, ideas… all started to become clearer. I had a better perception and understanding of what you can call “mistakes and their causes”.

I suffered from inferiority complex when I was around twelve years old, and boy, did it cause me problems. Weird and strange ones. I wasn’t a very popular girl in class and I tried making friends with the popular lot; something that didn’t always work in my favour.

I started trying to do what my friends did, if they liked football I also pretended to like it. If they watched some TV show, I watched it too, irrespective of the fact that I hated the cast or the story. If they wore jeans and tops, I decided I wanted to do that too, and during all of this my studies were badly affected. In short, I continued feeling inferior to them in one way or the other.

Now, I know I had been an idiot, and you don’t need to say it out loud to me, but the point is that I have realised the fact and admitted that I had been totally wrong. It was not my friends’ fault, either. In fact they are the best things that could have happened to me; let me tell you they are great but it was I, who was at fault. I was the one who should have understood that living according to one’s own will and wishes is the most important thing.

I succeeded, but nowadays I see so many young people trying to commit exactly the same mistake that I had committed. I cannot understand why we have to do what others do. Let them live their lives and let’s live our own life with full dignity and honour.

Even right now, while typing this article, I see through my window and find a teenage boy in front of a restaurant offering shisha to his friend who is not very welcoming towards the idea. He might be afraid. He might not like smoke. There could be many reasons. What will happen if his dad finds out? The father who has worked so hard for him so that he goes in the best institution of the city for the best education available. He wants to say no but he fears if he refuses he’ll get deprived of the friendship of one of the coolest kids in class. He says yes, so that his friendship with the ‘cooler’ lot is safeguarded. An image of his angry father comes to his mind but he manages to ignore it, after all what’s more fun than hanging out with the cool guys…right?

But that’s where he’s wrong.

We all are special in one way or the other. If your friend’s an athlete doesn’t mean you have to be one too. If you love watching ‘Humsafar’ rather than ‘Glee’, it’s okay. Because at the end of the day, it’s you who have to decide which ice-cream you want, vanilla or chocolate, not your friend. It’s you who have to make all the decisions of your life on your own and take responsibility for it. You can always get inspired but first, own yourself and be proud of it. Make friendships, be loyal, respect one another but never lose self-respect and will power. Always know your goals and objectives. Consider your priorities and work on them because that’s the life you REALLY want to live so why waste fretting about your friends’ approval for every little thing. Be yourself and enjoy life!