Exhausted. Exhausted so my teeth and tongue ache as badly as my legs and arms. Exhausted so that my brain hurts with the effort of defending what I believe in and my mind is alternately on fire and numb. Exhaustion like a fever, fatigue like a toothache that won't let you sleep. Like thoughts that won't switch off and a forehead which is conscious of furrows. Like toes that move with nervous energy and joints that must be cracked. Like talking to cover up the feeling of impending collapse. Sounds like working at an NGO, sounds like Pakistan. Sounds like a hundred and seventy million souls screaming themselves hoarse and feeling like victims and conquerors.
Listen to me, I'm yelling out for God's sake. Listen, listen, wait I have something to say but don't interrupt me, interrupt, interrupt. Feels like work, feels like home.
At some point the debates, the rationale, the idealism starts fading into an automatic stream of thought, a never switched off conversation of justifying, qualifying, quantifying to prove yourself. Screaming, screaming, screaming to be heard-literally. Switching on the mic, fiddling with the controls, absorbing yourself in lectures and handing out erasers. Write down the answer for me, should we love or should we hate? Was Jinnah right or wrong? Can we protest without killing? Just tell me what you think, there is no right or wrong, there's no correct answer in this abyss, just express, express, express yourself and no copying please.
Folded into a car with seven other tired souls, coming back and logging entries into archives and wondering when they'll be used, dreaming of a day when happy researchers say a prayer for your soul every time they find exactly what you have painstakingly spent an hour typing up. Wondering if the kids forgot what you taught. Telling the reporters no, we are not from the CIA. Telling people not to speak to reporters. Pleasing and thank youing and salaaming to get around roadblocks so that angry parents and principals don't suspect you're from the wrong side of some warped ideology they believe exists. Trying not to be a caricature of your own social class, trying not to fall into the neat little categories the press loves to use. Signing in and out. Twelve hours today, nine tomorrow.
Tomorrow, tomorrow. Tomorrow we'll try again. Tomorrow we'll wait for someone to say hey, maybe you are just trying to do the right thing, maybe you're doing it because you love your country, maybe you're doing it for the kids, maybe you just need to clock a 9-5, maybe you do what you're told, maybe you want to educate, maybe you want to stop shouting shouting shouting shouting shouting shouting shouting shouting shouting shouting shouting shouting shouting shouting
Please, please, be quiet, I'm exhausted.