Friday, July 30, 2004


there was a time when he wasn't frowned upon. gentle downturn of the lips, perhaps, but never an outright flexing of those particular 23 muscles that'll transform your face from smooth lines to harsh creases. creases that'll etch themselves into the bone, held long enough, boring deep into your mind and leaving an imprint of what you see before you, now, and leaving it forever as the only image you'll ever be able to conjure up when you hear my syllables uttered.

he was free.

but he lived in a box.

even so, when you're young, and if the box is large enough, you don't even realize it's there. boundaries are far off conditions that can be safely ignored in the here and now, when there's so much else to do. so many people to see, to talk to, so many hills to climb, so many beaches to make castles on, so many roads to bike down, so much air to breathe.

the trouble is, he never really got it. had it. made it. while you were exchanging a walk-on part in the war for a lead role in a cage (thank you, PF), he was idly ambling through crumbling cobblestone roads in the old quarter of berlin. and as it came crashing down around him, he thought 'i wonder if it'll hurt to die?'. that's how he grew up, wondering how it would feel to die. would it hurt? would it burn? and when the final stone hit and knocked him unconscious would he conveniently fall and fill the space in your creases?

dark hair, dark eyes, dark skin, dark room, dark notes hanging in the summer breeze for an instant, before being carried down the way and to the left. blue-white light, burning, brightly, so very intensely underneath a layer of skin, flesh and bone. burning everything around it, neatly enclosed in a little box with a gold clasp and a beautiful silver lock, with no keyhole. curtains drawn, tightly, wrapped ever so lovingly around a shining blue flame. blue. white. blue. white.

he spoke with his tongue, but he implored with his eyes. under carefully arched eyebrows (a maneuver he spent so long perfecting) you could just about make out what he really meant. blue. white.
he told you to move on, but he begged you to dig deep. he closed the front door, but he begged you to find a way through the back. he told you to stay on the warm, safe, sand, but he begged you to feel the water swishing against your ankles. his right shook your hand, and his left held on for dear life.

at night, he was free. at night, he was me. at night, he was alone, and at night he could gently lull himself into sleep, whispering into his own ear how it all wasn't so bad. he didn't have to die today. he didn't have to believe any of it. he couldn't help himself, but he saved himself every night. one tugging, the other pulling. blue. white.

half-awake, he'd walk around the paved roads in your shiny city, whispering to himself constantly. this is where you went to work today. it isn't real. this lamp was flickering earlier. it isnt your fault. she was already gone, you never pushed. he knew what you meant, it's alright. it's not your fault. it's not your fault. it's not your fault. it's not your's not your fault.

alarm clock, the world's coffee black and egg white again. switch. chop, change, don't forget to hear me whispering in your ear. i'm always there. don't forget. don't believe them. they only look at your clothes, the same old threadbare jeans, faded to white, worn away at the knees. don't's's me. trust in me. i believe in you. i have faith. listen to me..i'm your candle flame. focus on the wick..focus........keep watching. it's not your fault.

Monday, July 19, 2004

and will music save your mortal soul? 
funny how it always seems to. carries you, shapes that lingering thread in the back of your mind, toys with it, and gives it a voice to listen to. gives it a thought to latch onto, gives it memories to throw back to, gives it futures to imagine, gives it an empty road and a full tank. 
all i can say is that my life is pretty plain.
i like watchin' the puddles gather rain.. 
and all i can do is just pour some tea for two,
and speak my point of view,
but it's not sane, it's not sane. 
i just want someone to say to me
no, no, no, no,
i'll always be there when you wake.

ya know i'd like to keep my cheeks dry today,
so stay with me and i'll have it made. 
and i don't understand why i sleep all day
and i start to complain that there's no rain
and all i can do is read a book to stay awake,
and it rips my life away,
but it's a great escape escape......escape......escape......  
all i can say is that my life is pretty plain
ya don't like my point of view
ya think i'm insane its not's not sane. 
i just want someone to say to me
no, no, no, no,
i'll always be there when you wake.

ya know i'd like to keep my cheeks dry today,
so stay with me and i'll have it made. 
(i'll have it made i'll have it made
 you know we're really gonna,
really gonna have it made
gonna have it made.) 
No Rain
Blind Melon's an old favourite.. 
and you can't fight the tears that ain't coming,
or the moment of truth in your lies.
when everything feels like the movies,
yeah you bleed just to know you're alive.. 
and i don't want the world to see me,
'cause i don't think that they'd understand.
when everything's made to be broken,
i just want you to know who i am..
Goo Goo Dolls

a roof song if there ever was one..this next one's a gem, too.  
mera pyaar tum hi ho,
tum hi to ho..
meray saath tum hi ho,
tum hi tou ho.. 
nice bass line. simple, strong song. 
ae ajnabi..desert song. train song. a song for the lost, who lived, once, a few steps down the way. silent streets, partings, disconnected reunions, unfinished conversations.  

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

A collection of escape routes

from guests in PECHS
you move from the tv room to the second door to the bathroom (the one that was supposed to lead outside before they built the annex). shake it violently a couple of times so that the chatkhani drops, and then sneak into the middle room. keep low, so as to avoid being seen. now, swift as a shadow, bolt from the front door of the middle room to the front door of the house. this is the riskiest moment..don't hesitate, run. out the door, you're home free.

from school
i'm sick..*cough*, *cough*..what do you mean i can stay if i promise not to watch any tv?
honestly, your best bet is to go for a stomach bug, tho. easiest to fake, easiest to get away with.

from studying
lock the door, giant 'do not disturb' sign. put a/c on. snuggle in bed with a good book. keep textbook handy, lying around, in case someone should ever come knocking.

from pain
find a roof. room to walk around is essential. a discman is an added bonus. if you're in karachi, you've always the wind for company.

to blue skies
read above.

from trivial/meaningless/banal/nothing-to-say online conversations
away, away! you have been banished! (name that song..)

from guests in zamzama
make sure you're involved in the design of the house, and then make sure you live in the basement. *evil grin*.

from boredom, blades
"i'm going to go 'practice driving'."

from the roof
route one: get on a chajjha, lower yourself via the wooden jaffri onto the ledge outside the first floor windows. jump onto the top of the boundary wall. be careful, this is tricky. jump down, you're away.
route two: use the cemented top of one of the drainpipes at the back of the house to jump onto the neighbors' ledge. lower yourself onto their back balcony, run down the spiral staircase, and out their front gate.

you can escape from anywhere. almost.

quoting a quote:
"'How do you say goodbye to the peepul tree, Karim? How do you eat your roots?'
you don't. keep me grounded, keep me breathing, keep me standing, swallowing the sky."

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

so..tell me something, do you believe in the basic good in people?
have to.
have to?
no choice..i can't believe anything any other way.
and is everything, eventually, going to be alright?
and do you believe that you're not a horrible person, and that you might possibly not end up as one?
i believe i'm a person..and i believe in the basic good in people, even me.
so then, and why, are you cynical?
here's the really clever for it: I'm not. sometimes what you walk & talk like is secondary to what you feel, breathe.
Do you believe in god?
i have faith.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

ouranophobia - fear of heaven
the large red mark on my left calf burns. friction. tomorrow morning there'll be perhaps dozens of tiny little scabs, formed around pinpoints i can't even see. mmm..
a little further up is a red dot which bled for longer than you'd think before exhausting itself, where i tried a little too hard.

i love how we have this fascination with cuts, bruises, gashes, scabs, burns, wounds. gingerly picking our way around them, examining carefully the extent of the damage just inflicted. even more fun when you've no-one else to blame for them but yourself..that only serves to distract you with anger from where your real focus should lie: another mark.
what doesn't kill you, only makes you stronger.

and i'll always pick away at my scabs..not because they annoy me, particularly, but just because they're there. if you pick at one too early, you can see a pinprick of blood oozing out from underneath it.
i love the taste of blood. not too much, but just a dash..just enough to leave that taste in your mouth.

when i was three i managed to stick a piece of glass into my left knee. they had to stitch it..six, maybe seven. big, gash-like, scar of smooth skin. it's been a constant companion.
speaking of companions, there's a tiny shard of glass in my left hand..just below the base of the pinky. when i ran through a french window. small bump reminds me it's there. always will be.

bruises are always interesting creatures, if only for the constant entertainment they can provide if viewed at regular intervals. it's a constant change in colour, and ,if you move your skin this way and that, shape. they're never the same next morning.

sometimes pain only reminds you that you're alive. which is better than nothing.
what's the line?

when everything feels like the movies
and you'd bleed just to know you're alive...

Friday, July 02, 2004

it's time for a lesson in family history.

my grandfather was born july 1st, 1919, in Agra. he was the son of a powerful man in the city..the mayor, in fact. there's a road named after him, runs near (or nearer than i am, at any rate) the prison where my father was put in solitary after he tried to escape from a prisoner-of-war camp.
this is true.
he was an electrical engineer. worked in the telecom industry, and traveled to europe to seek his fortune. was hired by ericsson, and with them he stayed for the duration of his working life. worked in sweden, england, iraq, lebanon, syria, oman, saudi arabia, pakistan..all over the middle east. eventually he was made the head of middle-east operations for them. he took his family everywhere with him: my mother had studied in 9 different schools by the time she eventually did her A levels, from kgs, in fact. his son studied in boarding school in england from grade six, or thereabouts. he hasn't come home since.
he was known to be kind, but forceful. he smoked a pipe, in his day. was the picture of the successful man..sitting in his chair, reading the paper, one of the very first models of the TV running in the background while he chewed meditatively on his pipe.
he died november 28th, 2003. Karachi.

my grandmother was born in Aligarh, on christmas day not sure. in the 20s, i think. she completed her primary and secondary education in the same city. a normal household, they were middle-class at best. i don't know this, exactly, but i can feel it, sense it, from who she was and what she did.
she did her B.A from government college, lahore. studied at the same time that mr.iqbal was involved with that college. she knew him, in passing. she married, and moved to karachi..where she did her B.Ed from karachi university. later, during their travels, she did her M.Ed from the american university at beirut. she's taught all over the middle east, and in pakistan. my grandfather didn't like her working. i imagine it was because of his pride. but i wouldn't rule out the fact that he wanted her around more. he had twin personalities that ran more or less parallel to each other, doing the same thing for different reasons.
she was an exceptional woman. one of the most well read (in both languages) people you'll probably ever come across, she had a certain air about her of knowing so much more than you do, but keeping quiet in order to let you ramble and figure it out on your own rather than having had it told to you. she was a tall, very thin figure. short, curly hair..which she'd maintain meticulously with the aid of plastic curlers, and a round brush which i always found fascinating. she was always got the feeling that you could blow on her and she'd fall over. later in life her arthiritis would limit her movement, and that's another thing i'll always remember.
she was singlehandedly responsible for my learning, both reading/writing and appreciation, of urdu. we would sit for hours and pore over mahawaras, grammar exercises, writing exercises, letters, essays, literature. she was my best friend, alot of the time. and my room-mate..i shared a room with her for alot of my life. we would play rummy endlessly, almost every afternoon.
she was also a talented artist..scattered around my house are all sorts of things she'd made. vases, painted tiles, paintings, ash trays..i'll point them out to you next time you happen by. we would make flower arrangements together. and i remember one arrangement we created out of dry flowers that we were so in love with we didn't take it down for months. lay in the entrance of the house in islamabad for ages.
when i was down with a flu, she'd make me methi ki chai.
she died December 19th, 1997. Karachi.

i never really knew my other grandfather. at all, really, and the only person i could sit down and grill about him is..lets say unavailable. he worked in the civil service, both pre-partition and post. provided for his family of seven, they lived in north nazimabad for most of their time settled in karachi. later, they moved to a house in PECHS (my house) which he'd constructed and given out on rent to foreign diplomats and businessmen.
he died sometime in the 1950s. Karachi.

his wife was left to fend for herself, and her five children (the youngest an infant, the eldest 13yrs old). i have limitless respect for this did so many other people. ever since i'd known her she cut a very frail figure..very weak and bent-over, but a lifetime of struggling will do that to you.
she was from Faizabad, lucknow, btw.
for the longest time she was the head of our family...the eldest survivor of that generation, she was Amma to not just us, but to a whole swathe of people. inner strength..if there was one trait she personified, this was it.
for years she would make us unday ka halwa and pooris every friday (do you remember when friday was the holiday?). before she died, she made sure to teach me how to make it myself, because she knew how much i loved it. she taught me much, much more.
she died December 19th, 2003. Karachi.
around so many syllables.
knots remain unspoken.


speaking around each sentence,
words wrapping themselves,
around my eyes.


and for those, in here
out there,
who feared,
we are merely *misplaced*

i can't explain, you wouldn't understand,
this is not how i am..

but then, who are you? sometimes..sometimes if you walk, talk, smell like something, it doesn't matter what you feel, breathe. it's no better now. waiting for a miracle...always hae been. how long can you drift before you die?
how many hands will you grab along the way, greedily? and how many will you drag down? and how long till you realize you're just a pile of mud, wrapped up in a sickly skin, thrown out there to the blind, for them to fool you into believing, for that moment, that you are worth the air that you're breathing at this very moment?

so which is it..breathe, or die?