Tuesday, August 24, 2010


There's a place in my head that is much nicer than the place we are all in now. I like to believe it's the remotest place on earth, although the actual remotest place on earth is an island somewhere off the coast off South Africa, and this place is not that island. It is simply antithetical to the place Pakistan is today, and it's a lovely place to create, to add details to, to colour in. It makes me wonder what kind of a place the country has become for it to be antithetical to an imaginative ideal. Watching Pakistan spiral out of control is like watching a close family member slowly wasting away. The waiting. The waiting for something to happen. The waiting for death. The guilt. Is this a genuine concern for the world, or is it a failure of my imagination? Is it a failure on our part to not be able to see a way out of this dark hole in our lifetimes?

People say that a new era will come. People talk about revolution, about glorious change, about an awakening of the masses. People talk about great progress around the corner. It makes me wonder whether it is only possible to imagine such brilliant outcomes from a position of privilege. From a position of being Sunni Muslim, wealthy, secure. When our great awakening happens, will it happen to all of us, or will the poor and the disenfranchised lag behind a century or two, as always?

Pakistan is a place where the social contract between citizens and the state no longer exists. This country has failed its Shias, its Ahmaddis, its farmers, its Hindus, its Christians, its women. An allegiance to the state from these groups can be either sentimental (I was born in this country and I love it) or defensive (just because I am not a Muslim doesn't mean I am disloyal). It is heartbreaking that this should be the case. It is heartbreaking to think that anyone should search for reasons to feel like their own country still belongs to them. When people speak of a day that will come when our country is on a better path, I want to know who this day will include. The top-down system of governance/wealth distribution/general privilege has grown tired and is creaking under the weight of injustice. Politics will continue, governments will come and governments will go, but the Proud to be Pakistani stickers that pop up around 14th August will remain a commodity of the wealthy, educated, clothed and housed population. People talk of how much this country has given us, how far behind we would be if we had not had it. This is true. Perhaps we would be far behind. Perhaps we would be persecuted. But it is difficult to rejoice in "our status today" as a DHA signpost proclaims, when our privilege is at the expense of everyone who is not exactly like us.

Forcing myself to imagine an idyllic remote island in place of this nation of tragedies is a failure of the imagination. Believing that great progress will occur and it will not be either bloody or unfair is even more so. Blessed are those who can afford to ruminate about change at a time like this, or escape to better places, even if they are only psychological. Unless our discourse about change and overcoming hurdles includes those citizens who have been traditionally disadvantaged as the foremost recipients of this positive change, our hopes will always be hollow.


Writing one hundred essays in one hundred days is like chemotherapy for writer's block-it forces it out in the most aggressive way possible. Sometimes it has painful side effects (self-doubt, blank-page syndrome, obsession). Sometimes, it doesn't work. I think that's called writer's block. While I was worrying about this creative dead-end and my goal of ninety-one more essays, it occurred to me that the only logical way to treat writer's block would be to write about it.

I suppose not knowing what to write for a little while is not necessarily a terrible thing. It makes you notice things you might not have otherwise. Over the course of today's stupor, I learned that my living room fan is very noisy, I need to file my nails, there are some great recipes for cookies online, my blue kameez needs to be fitted, there's a lizard behind the picture frame near the computer, Thomas Jefferson was a Deist and it is possible for me to hum distractedly and loudly enough to get glares from my neighbour at work. Normally, when there is a blank page in front of me, I am too busy writing to observe, think or look up these things. It's amazing how much you learn when there is nothing else to do.

Ironically, writer's block has also given me something new to write about. When you really stop to think about it, the frustration of not knowing where to begin or how to say something is as describable as anything else.

It feels like having your head wedged between two rocks. It feels like one of those nightmares where you have to take an exam and realise you haven't studied. It feels like spending the whole week looking forward to Sunday and then having to cancel all your plans when it finally arrives. It's like rain at the beach, like wet sand and a cold breeze that makes your teeth hurt. It's a sinus infection that leaves you unable to move your head because of its heaviness. It's a mosquito bite on your ankle when you're wearing skinny jeans. It's a ketchup stain on your favourite white T-shirt. It's sitting down to watch a movie and having the cable go off. It's like a math test you don't understand.

It's the feeling that everything you want to say has already been said. It's the tea-coloured hue of life that's no longer interesting. It's the toe-curling irritation of wanting to write about something so badly you just can't. It's having a tune stuck in your head and not being able to remember where it's from. It's that face on the news you don't recognize. It's having something to say to someone you love and not knowing how to start. It's finding out your brother ate the last bit of Jell-O in the fridge. It's the now-what? feeling before graduation. 

It's about 600 words of revelation. It's a kick-start to writing about more important things than the inability to write. It's the frustration that makes you want to do better next time. I suppose it's an essay in itself.