He felt the nib of his ink pen scribbling against the rough smoothness of the paper. It gave him a sense of freedom. He was just another ragged entity inching his way forward into the cruel world with quintessential dreams to aspire and inspire. To the people around, his fate seemed nothing but drowning into the remote depths of the whirlpool of life with no hope of resurfacing. But to his own self; he was an immortal, a creation turning into a creator.
Staring at the starlit sky, running her fingers through the damp earth she marveled at her ability to weave words in to rhymes and odes effortlessly, she was overwhelmed with perfection. The goddess of words, the legacy he had left behind.
The enchanting lore he wrote,
The enigmatic tales he told-
A pity, he remained no more.
If having great friends, supportive family and money were enough, she would’ve been the happiest person that walked the Earth but she wasn’t. She had everything but not nothing- So, she grieved for ‘All’ wasn’t in its entirety.
A couple of years back when we still lived in Islamabad, my sisters and I used to take long walks. Going from one street to another we’d keep on talking, unmindful of the time or the people around. From those idle hours of late summer nights, I got to know much about my sisters because at home we rarely talked. In our story of a happy family, God assigned the role of introvert to me. My childhood days went by reading ‘Family Atlas’ and ‘The Night Sky’. But at nights, I used to hop along my sisters flaunting about the Great Sahara or the constellations they would simply interpret as baskets or bizarre flowers.
The sector’s marketplace used to be our starting point. That jammed up street next to the ‘muhallay ki masjid’ fascinated me a lot. Although there wasn’t much save for a few inadequately supplied shops huddled together, but that street hosted life to say the least. People going on and about their daily routines, stopping only to share a word or two on weather or politics. The lingering whiff of crisp naan coming out of tandoor – so fresh that you could almost taste it, the snipping of the barber’s scissors – the way hair fell down, the clicking of the calculator keys – the sound of cans protesting against each other in plastic bags. There was a perfect tune to all of it…
One night, my sister said, “Several years from now we’ll all grow up and leave this place only to come back and realise how much everything has changed. Maybe these shops get replaced by a bigger and better mall. How much different everything would be then. We might not be able to even recognize this place.”
Today standing in the same street, I realize how much my sister was wrong when she was right. Everything is the same but everyone has changed. There is no big mall; in fact all the shops are still there, but the people aren’t. For better or for the worst everybody has moved on. Even I’ve grown as a person. I recognize this place, just not the people I see. The only thing I know is that everything eventually changes even if apparently all remains same.
The sun had set long ago. Even the last streaks of hue were blending into an impenetrable darkness of the approaching night. But she had no plans of heading home early. Done with her usual rounds of jogging, she sat on an ice cold bench. Engrossed in her own thoughts, she didn’t notice when someone took a seat beside her. Moments later she looked up to see a feminine face beaming at her.
‘Nice weather, isn’t it?’
‘It’s cold’, she stammered.
‘Obviously, it’s December. What did you expect?’ The lady chuckled.
She shrugged. She had never expected much from her life or she thought so. What was December to her but just another month on the calendar? She retracted into her invisible shell once more.
‘Nice hair you’ve got.’
‘Nothing..I was just complimenting your hair. Good texture… In fact I’d call it Perfect considering mine.’ Saying this, the lady motioned to her frayed hair bun half hidden beneath a wool muffler. ‘Anyway it was nice talking to you. I’ll leave you be.’ With that the lady buttoned up her coat and departed into the velvety night.
If not more, she was acceptable. A fine young lady- tan, slender, 5’7’’ crossing into 8’’. Her features made it easy to fit into her surroundings. Her friends, on the other hand stood out with but she didn’t mind. Complex of the sort never found way to break into her sky high confidence. She had other accolades, ones she deemed worthy of her interest and energy; a mere tag of miss pretty wasn’t among them. In her opinion, beauty was a nuisance. Like all the things in life, it also came with a price – Something she would never settle for, so she learned to do without it and succeeded too, though briefly.
She ran a finger through her hair absent mindedly. ‘Perfect’, she heard herself repeat and smiled. The ice queen was melting. It wasn’t long before the dread of losing her only perfection gripped her. Fear was the price she had to pay for what she had been permitted.
And once again they were laughing. She regretted the moment she broke into a chortle but it was no use now. She was with them from dawn to dusk, working here, aiding there. She could not help but ignore the growing intimacy. After all how could anybody blame her? She was apprehensive about the idea in the start but then she succeeded in drowning her instinct. She had taken the wrong turn for the sake of killing time. She came to know this soon enough but the damage had been done. For one, she might’ve messed with the wrong nerves and secondly, an adventure of the sort may cost her much more than the change she craved. She could try breaking those bonds of friendship, ones she had so carelessly yet deliberately built. It would take courage and indifference on her part. A lot more this time. Breaking away from this lot won’t be much of a hassle, for indifference was her alter-ego. A reassuring smile crept across her lips washing away all anxiety. ‘In due time’, she heard herself say. ‘In due time’.
It was her way of socializing. Always had been. Sometimes, even she marvelled at how easily it came to her – the skill. Making people stop and then moving on herself, as if it didn’t matter. It didn’t, not to her at least. She would let them in, all sorts and ages. Friends – that was how she introduced them to her own self. Then after some while, as swiftly as they had entered, she would move out in search of something new, something better. Like a child who loses interest after playing with the same toys. The killing mundanity.
But nobody complained. Maybe it was the feigned sincerity with which she depreciated her own self, her humble accusations of being selfish, of being aloof to other’s needs and demands. It was this demeanour of her that bewitched people into thinking she was just being hard on herself and that she wasn’t a monster – a bitter loner, she claimed to be. Or maybe because nobody cared either…Life is a search. You waste your time looking for people – both friends and partners,who idealise the things you do and then getting along perfectly. But the world isn’t a perfect place dear, they added. You’ll have to make compromises all the way. She wanted to tell them how flexible she was but didn’t bother. Compromise was but another shade of indifference. She had no problem with it. It was the monotony of having the same people around that drove her insane. So she sought a solution – a math logic, one that could be applied on people. A harmless game she loved to play – of substitution and elimination.