Posted in Everyday Clutter, Postaday :D

Better Me Than You

I don’t always know who I am. And I don’t know if that’s okay.

I’m about to graduate soon. I don’t have a career path blazing in front of me; I have no idea what I want to do with my life. I don’t have a ‘dream job.’ I have dreams, but I bounce these back and forth like ping pong balls.

I want to be a writer, a reader, communicator, designer, photographer and historian. I don’t know if I’m allowed to have this many dreams.

Mostly though, what I want is to be me. Which again, is an issue because I don’t know what ‘me’ is.

I’ve been part of somebody else for the longest time. I’ve spent roughly 3 years living as a half of a whole. No complaints there, but I’ve become used to always listening to an opinion that’s not mine. Every decision I’ve made, whether it has been my hair color or major research projects, has been shared.

This hasn’t been so bad, simply because I’m used to doing things on my own, with advice from trusted sources. But recently I’ve realised that I’m not a complete person. And that’s a problem that I intend to fix asap.

You have to understand, I’m very used to being just myself. I was never the sort of person who would do things just because other people did them, or vice versa. I never needed validation for my insanity, which was useful because I’d never have found another person who was willing to run out into blazing thunderstorms with me. Or roll down grassy knolls and gather bruises like candy wrappers walking up a sharp hill. I did these things because I wanted to do them; I didn’t tell anyone about them. I didn’t need to.

I’ve been called odd, weird, annoying and just this close to insane. I’ve loved being an odd-weird-annoying-just this close to insane girl. Until I took a good hard look at myself and realised, I’ve stopped.

Relationships, especially modern long term relationships, are as difficult as they are gratifying. Yes, you get the fabulous experience of always having someone to rely on and talk to and what’s more, they’re yours and isn’t that great? But then there are more insidious effects: you become so used to talking to them and relying on them and being around them, that when it ends, you’re left standing, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Suddenly, they’re off your social media; every time you get a text you perk up. It’s not them, though. It won’t be them anymore. And so you feel lost and lonely among cluttered Facebook and Instagram feeds.

“If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger.” Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte

This sort of model doesn’t work anymore. Primarily because if your SO perishes, you probably won’t and inversely, the fact that he remains is sort of an issue and you have to keep yourself away from him/her. Block, delete, whatever. Eat your heart out, Catherine Earnshaw.

Tl;dr: I think I’ve left a lot of myself behind. It’s sitting there, atop the disturbing emotional baggage that’s collecting dust on the other side of a door marked “Never open again, please PLEASE.”

I used to be a lot more insane. I used to be louder. I used to be fearless. I was never a worrier. I stood up a lot straighter. I never had trouble expressing my thoughts.

I don’t blame anyone for beating me down. I beat me down. I thought that if I was just a little more mature, I could figure out why adults act the way they do. If I didn’t dress the way I wanted to, everything would automatically be okay; I’d sacrifice my sundresses and ripped jeans and I’d be golden. I thought I could become stable – a shock absorber – and take care of everything everything everything.

I was trying so hard to be older than I am, stronger than I am; I nearly drove myself crazy but not in the fun, enjoyable way. And none of it, never any of it, was worth it.

Most of my friends have not known me as purely myself; there has always been an added appendage, another soul attached to me. I have always been loyal to a certain human and never fully to myself.

And now that it’s all over, I am coming back to me. I’ve started to listen to myself with the same consideration I have listened to those I’ve loved. I’ve lost a lot of self confidence, but hey, collateral damage is unavoidable.

I am who I am, and I will continue to be me. There is extreme turmoil: graduation, unemployment, heartbreak, reparation and big decisions. It’s a vortex and spot in the middle sits little old me. Confused but soon to be happy.


Posted in Everyday Clutter, Postaday :D

“Another Story I Can’t Tell Anymore”

You were where it all began. Ground zero. Unexplored space. Infancy.

I collided headfirst into you and everything stopped. Everyone feels this, and everyone pretends they didn’t. For a split second, life stops. I see you, you see me; we take in each other: eyelashes, sunshine like crystal shattered in our eyes, frozen dust motes suspended in the air around us. And just as quickly, it begins again.

There were the days of stammered hi’s and hello’s; you didn’t know maroon was your colour, and I was unaware of eyeliner wingtips and MAC NC30. We gradually built our world and everything we had splashed together.

Our universe was a free spinning collection of meaningful debris: blood-red lipstick, converse trainers, braces with red bands, half-empty water bottles, vials of perfume, dreams of cars and houses and each other. Sometimes I sit and wonder about how much of my life (me!) is intertwined with yours. And I can’t find an end nor a beginning.

I kissed you and the world spun. Right then, buildings could have collapsed like smattered legos and pavements could have unstuck and twirled in the air like snakes; I wouldn’t have noticed. You were all I ever saw.

And then there were the not-so-good parts. The times when we couldn’t see through the murkiness surrounding us. We tried to decode the future but didn’t realise that the future was a trickster and lived only in our heads. Imaginary monsters made us hold our breaths; all monsters are imaginary after all, even the ones you see in the mirror.

We had become almost the same person. It was shocking to see that you didn’t think like I did. Every time a divergence would come up, we’d stuff it back inside, put a sticky note on it, promising to “come back later.” We never did and they caught up with us, like everything is apt to do. What did we think would happen?

And now I am free-falling through nothing into nothing. I can’t see the ground but I know there is nothing that stops me from splattering straight onto it. I can’t get away; everything I have has you. I had you.

I’ve finally put you to rest. Amen.


Posted in Everyday Clutter, Postaday :D

Exploring Tinderland

Once upon a time, I made a Tinder account.

One dark winter night, my sister and I decided to venture into Tinderland, a place of infinity possibility. The key lay in simply swiping left or right. What could go wrong?

We made the account as a joke, as something to do when we lay in bed together, just before we fell asleep. Men and women advertised themselves to the world like they were competing for some sort of grand prize.

“23, gymmer racer vegan”

“I know you’ll make the right decision. Swipe right now!”

“hi I’m looking for new friend let’s meet up”

And on and on until their faces began to blur into one giant breathing mass of flesh. We were entertained: we found unlikely friends, people we knew. We live in a tight community. It was funny. We laughed, took a few screenshots and moved on.

Anyway, I forgot all about it till recently, a friend told me that she’d joined it. Except it wasn’t a joke. She wanted to meet someone new, she said, and go out on a couple of dates.

I took her phone to check out who she’d talked to so far. They were surprisingly decent guys, not the kind I’d associate with Tinder in this region. My friend had been having good conversations that didn’t involve repeated requests for nudes or obscene language. Shocker.

So I thought I’d explore a little more. I started swiping left and right, picking out potential guys for her. What began as a little experiment turned into an hour of addiction. All I could think about was the next face I’d see and whether he would be worth the golden right swipe.

It wasn’t until much much later that I understood what had really happened. I had gone crazy in a virtual world where men were as varied and easy to come by as handbags. There were all types, shapes and colours to choose from and it was so easy to never settle on just one. You could have them all, no questions asked, no signatures required.

So no wonder we’ve all lost our minds. Why wouldn’t we? In a world where everyone seems to be on the lookout for ‘the next best thing,’ this is where you’d go to find it. Gabriel, 25, from Spain loves to read obscure German novels but Andrew, 24, from Canada writes complex and tragic haiku! However will you choose?

My advice? Only join Tinder if you’re sure you can make a choice and stick to it. And you’re sure you understand that there’s a real human behind the screen name.

And don’t go looking for the next best thing because it might just pass you by when you’re not looking.

Posted in Everyday Clutter, Postaday :D

Shiny Things!

No 2017-specific resolutions here.

Just some things I’ve taken off the shelf and dusted; now they look brand new. You’re welcome to take a look.

2016 was messy… and I think I’ve forgotten how to love people. Still dealing with the fact that 2016 made me “emotionally unavailable.” Ugh how I run from labels and how they chase me. Don’t fear, if you’ve become a reclusive, emotionally stagnant wreck like me, there’s a way to fix this. I’ve decided to invest my time into helping people and here’s how:

  1. Paying sincere compliments. Might sound simple but isn’t really. I’ve seen how many beautiful (inside and out) people undervalue themselves. It’s a cruel exercise. Some do it to fit in. Some complain to appear modest. Too many people don’t realise the goodness and beauty they carry. I’ve made it my personal mission to make sure they do.
  2. Being upfront. As we grow older, we forget how to be honest. Too often, people shy away from confronting others about their behaviour. You can still be kind while calling people out on their shit. Self-explanatory.
  3. Volunteering: I don’t just mean extending services to charities and pet shelters. There’s a hundred different ways to help: see someone having a bad day and turn it around. Or spend time making someone laugh. Or just be there. Offer to help with whatever. Offer. Mean it.
  4. Being kind. As someone who doesn’t always feel super comfortable around emotions, this is key. Kindness is free. But remember, the world can be cruel. It’s difficult to continue being kind, but hey, if it’s worth it…

Now that that’s done, I’ve also found some ways to help myself in the future:

  1. Say bye bye. To you who doesn’t know how to love, and to you who effortlessly takes me for granted, oh, and to you who doesn’t even see me. To all of you, adieu.
  2. Move on. Ah man, this is a big one. My loved ones or at least those I’ve fallen out with have always known that I’ll turn around and come back. I forgive easily. People take advantage. Old story, new headline. Basically, not happening anymore.
  3. Love whole-heartedly. This is probably the hardest one. To all the people I love, you know that even more than being loved, I enjoy loving you. I love buying little gifts, writing whimsical couplets and handing out hundreds of hugs to you guys. Lately, I haven’t been able to do this: I’ve been stuck in a weird emotional rut. But I assure you, it will begin again!

I have many more dusty knickknacks on dustier shelves. Until spring cleaning then.


Posted in Everyday Clutter, London And I, Postaday :D

London and I: A Tragedy (3/3)

If you need to visit post (2/3), here it is.

I mentioned my phone but didn’t mention who I spoke to. It was him: best friend, boyfriend, sanity-saving miracle wrapped into one.

He was working at the time, running in a gruelling 8 am to 7 pm schedule. Our time difference should have been an issue but somehow, it wasn’t. I’m not one to take favours lightly; I don’t like owing people anything I can’t immediately repay. But I’d be a small mean person if I didn’t acknowledge this: he was what stood between me and a desperately early flight home.

Rizu, there is nothing anyone could ever do that would make me forget London. How could I? I remember waking up and texting you, letting you know what I’d be doing that day. I’d send you snapchats daily: my outfit, the walk to the station, my current playlist, new boots, anything and everything that would connect my life with yours. I texted to tell you the most insignificant things, the tiniest details. And you were there, every time. Patient, understanding, loving, more than I’ve now seen is humanly possible.

Do you remember once when I caught the bus, intending to explore a new area of the city? I was scared to go by myself, afraid of getting lost or ending up with a dead cellphone and no way of getting home? You called me, stayed on the phone, talked to me while I roamed around alien shops and ate at a new pub. I was horribly anxious; you gave me your whole day. We talked when the connection was spotty, when it was too loud around me, when I couldn’t hear you properly. I would get mad, scream in frustration, and you stayed, always patient on the other end.

Remember when I actually did end up getting lost? I went too far West, and couldn’t find my way home. And it was raining pretty heavily; I wasn’t wearing a hat or a hoodie. I called you out of the blue (ha, rhyme), and you were there. We spoke the whole way home. I kept checking Maps, which led me in circles but we made it home in the end. We made it.

Remember when I called you crying? And I said I’d had it: fuck the internship, fuck my degree, I’m coming home! You listened and then you told me to keep my head high. You told me I was better than the stupid anxiety, the isolation and the fear. And that you were proud of what I was doing and how I was doing it. You said I should be proud too, that I’d won the internship, that I was doing what I liked. You said, 3 more weeks love, and you’ll be back…and I’ll be waiting at the airport. 

I believed you. I held on to everything you said because it was all I had. For God’s sake, we went to the British Museum ‘together.’ I told you that I’d never been to a museum by myself and I needed you there. We skyped for hours while I roamed around, sending you funny snaps of oddly shaped statues. We came up with memes and you told me historical facts off the top of your head.

And here’s something I will especially never forget. Remember when I visited the World War 2 Museum and saw the Holocaust exhibit? There was a glass fixture filled to the brim with the shoes of Holocaust victims…all sizes, brown and withered. I couldn’t take it and had to step outside; I was so overwhelmed by the magnitude of ancient tragedy. And you were there, on the phone. We discussed it at length, and suddenly everything was fine.

What still astounds me is this: I was supposed to be strong. I never thought of myself as a person who’d need emotional crutches and certainly, no one besides you has ever seen me that way. But I broke in London. And what still surprises me is this: I would talk to you nearly every hour of every day. And you never made me feel like I was clingy or needy or annoying. You dealt with me as if you had all the time in the world to give me. And all the love.

You are why I got through. You are why I made it.

IOU. Forever.

The End.

Posted in Everyday Clutter, London And I, Postaday :D

London and I: A Tragedy (2/3)

If you need to visit post (1/3), here it is.

I retched until I couldn’t stand straight and made my way to the bed, where I passed out for a couple of minutes. I thought I’d called my mother, only to discover that the phone still lay next to my pillow. Laugh if you want, but I actually thought I’d become delirious. Perhaps I had, for a brief second.

My mom panicked when I told her what was going on. But she wasted no time and called her cousin who lived a little outside London. She asked him to come get me. And so I went to the hospital, where a bird-like doctor flitted around me, took my temperature, asked for my symptoms, and handed me antibiotics. Home free!

I stayed with my family for 8 days, always wrapped in blankets, always smelling of medicine. I didn’t eat. Couldn’t eat. But being in a family home helped. I was able to start talking normally and I began laughing at nonsensical things, as I used to. Of course, it had to end and I had to go back.

Once I came back to London, my apartment seemed haunted. I cleaned it from top to bottom, but I couldn’t sleep. I don’t think I slept properly for the rest of my time there. Everything started up again. I took the 8.18 train to London Bridge, got breakfast, went to work, rinsed and repeated.

I had about 3 weeks left when it happened: I had an anxiety attack. You have to understand: I grew up with family and loving friends always around. I was used to sleeping next to and waking up with my sisters. I was used to being in a bustling house with lots of people and constant noise and company. I wasn’t accustomed to walking in circles by myself in a room where my own footsteps could deafen me.

Anyway, I’d never experienced anxiety like this before. I remember I was just sitting, thinking about when I’d go back. I was in bed and half covered by a grey blanket. The pale blue nightlight was on and everything was absolutely quiet. I was thinking about the time left, counting each day, then the number of hours, then minutes, then checking my phone, then counting; it went a little like this:

21 days – 24 hours in one day – plan out every hour – do I have a calendar? – how will I know when it’s time to leave – check phone! – why has no one called? – oh yeah time difference – so 24 hours multiplied by 21 – too many hours – I need a calendar! – CHECK PHONE – WHY IS THE TIME DIFFERENT??! – WHY CAN’T I HEAR ANYTHING – WHAT HAPPENS IF I FALL SICK AGAIN??? – AMA, BABA, BABA

…and then the loudest sobbing you can imagine. I know, I know. It sounds ridiculous to me as I’m writing it now, safe and warm in my bed at home. But right then, I was unfamiliar with anxiety and I didn’t understand how to cope.

I felt my throat closing up and I couldn’t breathe. And I continued to cry, till the bed was shaking with the continued violence. I heaved and cried and couldn’t stop for the life of me. I felt like the world was going to end and I would never see anyone I loved again and I would never leave the dreaded country. I wanted to go home right away.

So I did the next best thing: I called up my best friend. I told him what was going on and cried and cried, clutching the phone to my ear as if it could save me. He knew exactly what to say and I clung pathetically to his words. The apartment melted away, London almost disappeared. I didn’t want the call to end. But of course it had to. And it did.

I came away from that experience a shaky, nervous sort of person. Where I’d had one anxiety attack, I started to confront the emotion everywhere. My sheer loneliness made sure that anxiety remained my only friend. And so I shopped, shopped and shopped some more, waiting for the next thing to arrive in the mail. I delighted in those brief moments; I’d open up the brown packages, my happiness flaring and then burning out, a bright and brief arc of desperation.

And I got through it. Time after all does pass, no matter what you do. Looking back at it now, I don’t quite know how I managed to come back sane and healthy, but a lot of factors went into it.

And one of them, perhaps the most important one, was him.

…to be continued

Posted in Everyday Clutter, London And I, Postaday :D

London and I: A Tragedy (1/3)

I think it’s high time I wrote about this, so here it is.

I went to London in February this year. Before I left, all sorts of people told me all sorts of things. They told me I would gather new experiences, make new friends and discover myself, whatever that was supposed to mean.

I did end up making new friends, great ones, called anxiety and almost-crippling isolation. Sounds melodramatic? Let me explain.

I ended up in London for a 2.5 month internship. I was eager to leave Doha, with its dusty buildings and ever-present sandy winds, excited to trade that in for a place I’d never been to, but read much about. London! Trafalgar Square and Oxford Street and Kings Cross! Wanted to see Monopoly in real life, I don’t know?

My room was perfect. It was a studio apartment and huge, according to London standards. I had a kitchenette, my own bathroom, a full length mirror, a writing desk and a large springy double bed. Plus, it was right next to the building’s entrance so getting in and out took no time at all. The nearest Underground station, Tufnell Park, was a mere 7 minute walk away, which meant I was ideally situated. The commute to my workplace wasn’t bad at all: 30 minutes and no changing trains. I’d get off at London Bridge and walk another 7 minutes to get there at 9 am sharp, every morning. So far so good.

The first week was wonderful, I won’t lie. I loved my morning routine. I’d get up at 7, shower, change and head out by 8.10. Once at London Bridge, I’d grab a cup of oatmeal or an egg sandwich from the deli nearby and head up to work, where I’d settle in, say hi and hello, and get to it. I loved the fresh air and the ease with which I could get around the city. In 3 days, I’d memorised the transport system; I could have led you around blindfolded. It was thrilling, there were so many possibilities! The theatre, the cinema, parks, monuments, castles and pubs.

And don’t get me wrong. I genuinely enjoy my own company. I have no trouble wandering by myself and in fact, I prefer it sometimes.

So I started to roam around the city. After work I’d get the train to Victoria and walk in St. James Park, try to make friends with the geese and ducks. I visited the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace and the British Museum. I did all the touristy things I could think of and then I started to notice it.

I’d been visiting Oxford Street more and more frequently. I’d come home laden with shopping bags. I’d started to think of shopping as a compulsive need, almost like something I couldn’t control. As more time went by, I convinced myself of more things I needed to buy: white eyeliner, leather tights, boots lined with fur, fingerless gloves. The list was endless and I still didn’t stop.

If shopping was one problem, my phone was another. I realised that it had become a literal lifeline. I would open to check for messages every 2 minutes. My phone, the crutch, was what kept me going. When I ate alone in pubs across the city, I held on to it, hoping someone would call so I wouldn’t feel as isolated as I did. I’m still getting used to being away from my phone for prolonged periods of time. I still fear, as I did there, its loss, and consequently, the loss of everyone I know and love.

I was alone alone alone. The 8.18 am train to London Bridge was always packed. I’d squeeze myself into a corner and stand, one among thousands, all rushing to the same place. I was me, a whole world within myself, among people I didn’t know, people who didn’t look or smile or talk.

Points of actual human contact:

  • co-workers who I couldn’t hang out with after work (they drank, I didn’t)
  • the nice woman at the deli who gave me breakfast every morning
  • the occasional friendly train-goer
  • one old friend
  • assorted passersby and shopkeepers

Sad. I went from being constantly cheery to a nervous lonely human who’d dread eating alone. I started talking to myself. Incessantly. I think I was my only friend. I kept counting the weeks left till I could go back, till I could stop walking down crowded streets alone.

And then, London played its last card: I came down with my first ever stomach virus. It started as nothing but a high fever. I collapsed while standing and couldn’t get out of bed for 3 days straight. My throat kept constricting, I couldn’t eat, and I threw up record amounts of pasty grey phlegm. There I was, utterly alone in my springy double bed, sedated with heavy painkillers, drifting in and out of miserable sleep at odd hours of the day. Life went on outside. I heard students walking in and out, people doing their laundry, cooking, etc. I felt wretched.

On the night of the third day, I felt like vomiting, and went over to the sink to do it. It wasn’t until I had dry heaved till eternity that I noticed I was throwing up something bright red and lacy. Spiderwebby thin ribbons of phlegm and blood snaked their way down the white drain. I’d never felt as frightened as I did then.

I called my parents, 3000 miles away and unable to help. I thought I would collapse and no one would find me.

But someone did.

…to be continued.

Posted in Everyday Clutter, Postaday :D

Lover Song

As much as I want to teach you, I also want to learn. There is so much you can show me:

  • how to deflect cruel words
  • how to wrap myself in thicker skin
  • how to absorb criticism with grace
  • how to swallow anger
  • how to bring it back up again
  • how to hurt, on purpose.

     There is so much I admire. I see you with your game face on, morning noon night. I wonder if you ever sleep. I wonder if your Herculean strength will ever run out. How many hours are there in your day? You’re not like us.

     Your brain doesn’t work like mine, I think. I see your thoughts like mini comets, zipping in swarms, back and forth in your skull, leaving trails of light behind. What do you do when it gets too crowded, too bright in there? They say the sun will implode soon.

     You say you’re not hot tempered and nothing fazes you. Liar liar liar. But I admire your restraint. I sense your need to boil over, set fire to the city and black out the skyline. You cannot be larger than life, always.

     But here’s what I wonder: why must you teach me sharp lessons? I thought love was like falling into each other softly, not smashing headfirst into steely concrete and splitting heads open. We’re bleeding all over the pavement, don’t you see?

     Abrasive, difficult, hard-headed boy. Would I have it any other way?

Posted in Everyday Clutter, Postaday :D

Inside Jokes


i miss your stupid dark grey sweatshirt;

it was a little too baggy but the pockets where i warmed my hands

they felt like home.

i miss your mountain dew eyes;

remember how i could stare at them for nine long seconds?

inevitable: the furious blink-and-blush

couldn’t look for too long.

i miss all the secret places i found;

you hid your scent in intricate hideaways

in the palm of your hand or the back of your ear

or, the triangle-hollow in your neck

my thumb fit perfectly; custom made.

i miss the things you told me about:

black-and-white documentaries and space exploration stories

places you wanted to see and games you wanted to play

oh, and books you wanted to read;

you were never Edgar, my love

i was just looking for you in all the wrong places.

and so, i want you to

just for now,

come home.

Posted in Everyday Clutter, Postaday :D

Dear Abbu, Thanks for the Feminism

I just read this fictional open letter written by a Pakistani daughter to her father. His blatant sexism has made her into a strong and proud woman today. Everything he did to try and bring her down has only ended up giving her more self worth, or so she writes.

I’ve read a lot of pieces like these: reactionary columns about the obscene sexism and misogyny that does exist in our culture. So I wanted to write my own. About my real father and the real things he did that made me into the real person I am today.

Dear Abbu,

Thank you for raising me like you did. I know it wasn’t easy; when you have three daughters, people invariably ask you this: “but, don’t you want a son?!”, as if the lack of one is a mark of humiliation. Thank you for always politely and firmly saying, no.

Thank you for my name. You named me, you said, after a heroine you read about and fell in love with, in one of the Urdu novels you were always poring over. Her name was Nayab and she was headstrong, impulsive, loud, courageous, impossible and intelligent. A real ball-buster, you said. Ah baba, that is who I’ve grown up to be.

Thank you for listening to my childhood problems. You’re the only one who knows when Zara and I fought about something inconsequential and you’re who I came to for advice. You asked me to call up my friends and talk it through and I did. When I was six and ten and now, at 22. I still do it.

Thank you for guiding me through my awkward teenage years. I remember once when I was 13, I started crying in the middle of the mall. You panicked.

I told you, “I don’t look beautiful. Why didn’t God make me pretty?”

And you stopped dead in the center of the atrium, took my face in your hands and said, “You’re the most beautiful girl in the world.”

And I never doubted it again. To be fair, I had a startlingly thick unibrow, an awkward coltish face and no breasts to speak of. I thought I’d been kicked off the beauty train unlike all the models in all the magazines. Never again.

Thank you for buying me books. I remember once when I was upset because I’d read all my Enid Blyton stories and needed something new. You walked out to the bookstore nearby, wrapped up in your overcoat, in freezing December, and brought back two new books. Baba, I have never loved anyone more than I loved you then.

Thank you for reading all of my angsty poetry and short stories. You’re the first person I bring my written work to. I used to be embarrassed when you’d share my poems with your friends and put them up on the walls of our house. You still tell people, “my daughter will be a famous writer one day” and I believe you, baba, I believe you. Because you believed me.

Thank you for my self esteem. Whenever I walk into the room, you tell me you have never seen a more beautiful person anywhere. I see people now, whose self worth depends solely on what other people tell them. Mine never had to, because you built me strong. You built me right.

Thank you for everywhere I’ve been. Haye baba, I remember when you told me, “don’t settle for anything till you’ve seen the world,” and I haven’t. You sent me to India by myself when I was 11, then San Francisco, then New York, then Dallas, then Chicago, then London, then Beijing, then Dubai, then Montreal, then Paris, then Minneapolis. And you’re always asking me to do more, be more, go more places. Thanks to you, I’ve learned how to travel by myself and navigate whole cities in two days.

And, thank you for letting me know that my self-worth does not lie in men’s hands.

I have some Pakistani guy friends who on the surface appear to be educated, polished, but now and then, let slip horribly sexist remarks that I balk at. I’ve been told to not wear sleeveless clothing, that there’s a problem with my makeup, my breasts, my butt and how all of these are just so out there. I’ve been told I’m not the right kind of Pakistani girl, because I travel alone, because I do not wear a dupatta, because I do not apologise for myself. None of this has ever mattered to me. Baba, you’ve taught me how to tune out nonsense sexism very well.

Baba, how can I ever thank you enough for telling me I can’t even consider marriage until I have started to make enough money to keep myself happy and comfortable? I remember when you told me to never stop working, even if I marry a millionaire. You want me to want my dreams.

And I know, when it’s all said and done, and I have my book published, there will be no one prouder than you.

So thank you, abbu, for making me into the unapologetically loud, ridiculous, well read, career driven headstrong woman that you did.

Whenever a man (especially a Pakistani one) or a woman even, tells me “you’re not like any of the other Pakistani girls I know,” I glow with pride. Even if they mean it as an insult. Because baba, in a country often overwhelmed by grossly sexist attitudes, you’ve raised me to be me. Unapologetically. Thank you.

Love, Nayab.

Posted in Everyday Clutter, Postaday :D

Interested Applicants Must Shower and Apply

I realise I’ve been writing way too much about weird, pseudo-romantic issues that I may have in real life or in my head. I’m sorry. I understand there are better things to discuss out there, but this is a phase I’m going through so please bear with me. Okay so here’s another one:

“Mismatched relationships?”

I’m always curious to know what it means when opinionated people, or let’s be real, the Internet diagnoses two people as ‘mismatched.’ I mean, there are definitely things that don’t work well together: apples and oranges, hot cheese on ice cream or like, me and pigeons.

But…people? I think I have enough carefully constructed self-knowledge to make a list of my worst mismatched nightmare:

  • Someone who has never heard of deodorant. How will I give you hugs and affection if I have to hold my nose when I’m around you…one armed hugs? Okay.
  • Someone who has picky food choices. I can’t. Please be ready to eat and enjoy every and anything. I can be okay with them rejecting odd food combinations, even though come on, ice cream and french fries is heaven.
  • Someone who thinks astrology is made-up nonsense. Listen to me, I don’t sit and predict my day through horoscopes, but I love reading up about star signs and natal charts and if you make fun of me, bye bye bye (you’re probably a Taurus or Capricorn anyway tbh)
  • Someone who can’t flop down on the floor and be comfortable for hours. You look down at me because I sit on grass? I look up at you as you walk away. There are no sofas on the beach; my floor-sitting skills are valuable!
  • Someone who doesn’t believe in checking on social media. You’re telling me you won’t stay updated on my life? My Snapchat stories don’t exist just for you to not-look-at.
  • Someone who thinks make up is only for special occasions. You, I don’t need your negativity in my life. See you in another life, in Sephora probably.
  • Someone who doesn’t care about period films about the 1950’s-70’s. You don’t have to be in love with them, but do try to watch and discuss them with me.

So now, if you’ve read through this list, you probably have a lot of opinions such as: why are you so shallow? or these are horribly mundane things to care about! 

No, I do know that there are deeper, more problematic things that can create a mismatch. Serious issues like religion or values or goals or morals 0r families or lifestyles. But here’s the key to those: they can be worked out. Those are not things that can ruin relationships if both members are equally committed to making it work.

I believe in nurturing strong relationships. If I didn’t before, I mean I do now. As long as there’s a sufficient level of hard work, it can be done.

And in the mean time, there are tons of still undiscovered odd food combinations.

Posted in ...Meanwhile, In Lahore, Everyday Clutter, Postaday :D

Shut Up Fahad, You Know Nothing: are you a ‘real’ Pakistani?

There are quite a few things that make my blood boil: child molestors, people who abuse animals, playground bullies, girls who wear foundation several shades lighter than their skin, and so on.

However, nothing annoys me as much as a certain class of people I’d like to call “Pakistan snobs.”

I can explain. If you’ve ever had an experience like the ones below, you’ll understand automatically:

(Scenario 1) Let’s call our two characters ANUM and FAHAD:

FAHAD: Hey, what did you do this winter break?

ANUM: Nothing much, went to Dubai with my family, did some touristy stuff. It was great.

FAHAD: Oh, that’s cool man. I went to Kashmir, spent time with the people there. There’s so much natural beauty.

ANUM: Yeah I know; I’ve always wanted to go up there! But it hasn’t been very safe so my parents aren’t okay with me going just yet.

FAHAD (smirking): Oh, right. But they’re okay with you going to Dubai and stuff. I guess you guys aren’t into Pakistan a lot.

ANUM: No, that’s not what I said. I’d love to go up north but my family’s worried about the safety issue. I love Pakistan.

FAHAD: Ha ha. Man, you can’t call yourself a true Pakistani. If you were, you’d see the whole country, no matter what. Tum jao Dubai (you go to Dubai).

ANUM feels snubbed, and sad.

(Scenario 2) ANUM and FAHAD are sitting looking at rainfall: 

ANUM (contentedly): Man, I love monsoon rains in Lahore. It’s a beautiful time.

FAHAD: What’re you talking about? You’ve never even experienced Monsoon properly!

ANUM: What do you mean by that?

FAHAD: Well, the thing is, to really experience it the Pakistani way, you should go out and dance in the rain like little kids do in the villages. That’s real freedom.

ANUM (confused): Hmm, I’d love to, but the thing is, I don’t live in a village. But I can dance in my garden! I love doing that.

FAHAD (smug): Anum, you haven’t lived Monsoon the true Pakistani way. I mean, it’s all well and good to live in a house in a fancy colony, but the real people don’t live that way. They’re living in the true spirit of Pakistan!

ANUM: So by that logic, should I just go out and dance in the streets? Will I be a real Pakistani then? What if I can’t do that, because people will stare and it’ll be weird?

FAHAD: Well then, you’re not a real Pakistani because that’s how you should be enjoying Monsoon. Like the real people do.

ANUM is confused and feels bad about living in a house, and not a village with small children.

(Scenario 3) FAHAD has asked ANUM to meet him at a dhaba somewhere in old Lahore:

ANUM: Fahad, I can’t stay out too late. My parents are a little worried about me being in that area after 7 pm by myself.

FAHAD: Anum, why are you being difficult? It’s still a part of Lahore. You’ll be fine.

ANUM: Yeah but my parents are concerned because it’s not as safe as Cantt and there have been these kidnappings recently.

FAHAD: Please yaar, nothing will happen to you. And plus, you’re not even living in the real Pakistan if you’re living in Cantt, or Defence or whatever. It’s all fake.

ANUM: What do you mean?

FAHAD: Well, you think that true Lahoris live there? They live in the old city. I mean how can you say you’re Lahori if you’ve never prayed in Badshahi Mosque or had lassi at ____’s dhaba or run through the narrow old streets? The place you live isn’t truly Pakistani at all.

ANUM (a little tired of Fahad’s shit): Listen, Fahad, I’m Lahori. No matter where I live, I’m still Pakistani and just because I don’t do these things you keep going on about doesn’t take my identity away from me.

FAHAD (unperturbed): Whatever, you’ve never lived in Lahore for real. Please don’t act like you know the real Pakistan.

ANUM walks away.

Okay, I was trying to point out two things.

First off, Fahad’s bitch-ass needs to calm down, excuse my French.

And secondly, Pakistan belongs, at once, to none of us, and all of us.

I didn’t grow up in the old city. I’ve visited it, but by no means have I done things that people constantly categorise as being “truly Pakistani.” I haven’t prayed in Badshahi Mosque, neither have I run around in a sea of swaying mustard, or forded River Ravi. I haven’t driven a tractor, plowed a field or lived in a village (at least not for too long).

Does doing all this make me less of a Pakistani? Bull.

Here’s some of what I have done. I’ve woken up before sunrise, to watch the skies glow purple, then pink, then bright eye watering blue. I’ve slept on the roof of my house, counting stars till I dozed off in jasmine-scented night air. I’ve rung doorbells and raced away, heart thumping, flush with illicit excitement. I’ve made friends with a stoic buffalo who wandered away on Eid-ul-Adha, and then cried as it was slaughtered. I’ve whispered secrets to my best friend atop a parked car, watchful for the owner who remained blissfully ignorant. I’ve walked barefoot in the earth, captured grasshoppers and earthworms and sung stupid melodies to my ladybird friends who I’d look out for every spring.

I’ve kissed a boy in my garden, under the pitch black mantle of night, and giggled with my sister all night afterwards. I’ve had my heart broken and put back together in the arms of this city. This has been my Lahore.

And yes, I have travelled abroad. Unashamedly. I even live in the Middle East now, a land that’s slowly becoming familiar. But every summer or winter break, I rush back home, to the country that birthed me, and the city I love, with stars in my eyes. Because no matter where I live, or what I do, this country is mine, my home.

And tomorrow, on Independence Day, all the Fahad’s need to take a seat. Because Pakistan belongs to you, you who lives in Defence or Cantt or Model Town; you who travels to foreign lands but cannot access Kashmir, you who knows in your soul, that you will always be, irreverently, unabashedly, Pakistani.

Pakistan Zindabad.