Monday, September 6, 2010


It was Nano's house, but it wasn't really. I only thought it was. It's important that I thought it was, because I wasn't the only one-we all thought it was. My aunt was making us sleep on a gigantic psychedelic blanket. It was tacky and fuzzy and had Disney characters all over it and I thought it was odd that she gave a strange, high laugh and said almost manically, "How cheap!" even while she asked us to like it. She pointed out Mowgli, from Jungle Book. There were so many guests-all my parents friends, even though they didn't belong at Nano's house at all, and one carried around a baby and asked me about daycare practice. When the table was laid for dinner, there was a secret plate of biryani on a chair, just for me, just because I had asked for it. Suddenly, I remembered I needed to go to class and ran to the kitchen with my plate of food to hand it back to the cook. Everything in the kitchen was black and white, no colour at all after the insanely bright colours indoors, but I cheerfully foisted my plate on the grouchy cook and continued running. "Class" turned out to be geology class, and it was inside a salt mine. I had a long, long conversation with a science student who asked me about my research. I told her finding original sources for history papers is basically time travel. It was a while before I remembered, with a kind of longing, that my biryani was still waiting for me at home, that Nano's house was full of the people I loved. I ran again, this time through Mount Holyoke. Ran through the familiar campus, ran past the familiar buildings, ran smelling the familiar winter-smell. I stopped only to appreciate the familiarity and laugh at the sheer brilliance of running in the cold through a place that feels like a home. I wondered what it would be like to be a horse.

The inside of Nano's house was black and white, but I was in colour. I was real. The table was still laid, but abandoned. It's then that I realised everyone is dead. Everyone died before I was born. The people I loved only existed in time travel; they had lived and died and I had never known them but through my sources. The chairs were really graves. My brother's grave had his face on it and I almost died of shock. It said 1947-1955, and for some reason I thought, so he died only five years before me. I woke up, but I remained insane for the rest of the day.

Disclaimer: I had this dream in April. Please don't worry about my mental health.


I've been asked by a non-Pakistani to give American college students a reason to care about Pakistan. A reason to care. A reason to care? Can you give anyone a reason to care?

The fact that this is considered a legitimate question is disturbing. This is not to say that it is an irrelevant question: on the contrary, it is one that people around the world are asking so often we have become used to it. People need a reason to give a damn about Pakistan. Why Pakistan, they ask, when there is so much need in so many places around the world?

I admit this initially left me stumped.

Then it hit me that the reason I am stumped is not because there is no reason to care, but because apathy is not something that can be addressed through logic. I can make any number of political arguments as to why the average American should consider donating to the cause of flood relief, but this is not a political crisis (for once). It is not connected to the war on terror (for once). Therefore, it logically follows that neither of these things should play a role in one human's desire to help another.

I already said there was no point in logical arguments though. The only plausible reason I can give would-be philanthropists is this: if your parents had drowned, your home had collapsed and you were watching your child die a slow death because you have no money left to afford malaria treatment, you would hope to God someone would help. You would hope to God that someone wouldn't waste time asking why they should. You would hope that someone wouldn't think twice about giving your child a shot at life because your president is an asshole.

Did anyone ask why they should care about Haiti? Sri Lanka? Kashmir? Russia? None of these states have avoided either corruption or political instability. It seems there are only questions in response to this question. They are disbelieving questions. I can't believe the world has come to a point where humanitarian aid is considered on the basis of the strategic value a country has.

On a different, but important note, the argument about terrorist groups winning hearts and minds if the United States does not step in is overrated. I think it is extremely doubtful that if Mullah Omar inadvertently saved my life by donating a pack of biscuits when I am starving, I would join Al Qaeda. I think it is even more doubtful that flood survivors who are being forced to fast and pray by relief organisations will be inclined to become suicide bombers. I won't even try and make that case for Americans to care about the crisis in Pakistan. I don't think I ethically can. If winning the war on terror is the only reason you have for donating to a cause, please don't.

Which leaves me with nothing to say again. Need I try and say more? Your question is offensive and if you are asking me to give you an antidote for apathy, I'm afraid nobody has found one so far.