Saturday, April 9, 2016


I spent last week in Neverland. If you fly over Lahore, you can find it near Sherpao Bridge, and it is populated by some of the people I love the most. My personal happy place is one full of joys and shadows, where I am eight and eighteen and twenty eight all at once, where I can hear the echoes of growingupsounds clearly when I pass the windows or cross the lawn to settle my son into the faithful green swing.

That swing is one where epiphanies frequently occur.

Swinging in it this time, toes grazing the clothes line, I didn't experience any wonderful ideas. Instead, I noted mundane details about the moment and the place: the brown patches in the grass, the fading paint of the building, the plates of half-eaten food my son had abandoned on a lawn chair. I caught myself before it was too late. Here I was, almost a true adult, breaking all the rules of Neverland, noticing things that don't matter, shouldn't matter; not awash in the beauty of swinging outside on a beautiful spring day, but thinking about goddamned dirty dishes. When did I get this new way of seeing and being? I like to pride myself on being someone who is pretty good at enjoying the moment, but this was a travesty.

I distinctly remember the day the magic faded. We were eleven years old, converging for a summer of endless play, blissfully immune to the oppressive heat, making plans to make our game of ghar ghar last for two months at least. We went through the usual motions: assigned ourselves grownup names, careers and different corners of the lawn, collected knick knacks from the kitchen to decorate our houses, decided who would be the person responsible for starting the game by crowing like a rooster to signal it was pretend-morning. And then...nothing. We didn't know where to take the game from there. It usually happened organically, instantly, days stretching into weeks with our game constantly ongoing, except when we joined the adults for meals or trips to the zoo or Lahore Fort. Instead, this time we looked around the lawn and I, at least, saw only plastic bowls and other junk littering the grass, looking decidedly stupid. That was the last game of ghar ghar we ever tried. We ended up passing the summer quite happily with a couple of badminton rackets and bickering with the younger kids, unaware of what had just happened to us, unaware that the ache for our secure pretend-homes would settle into our souls fifteen years later, unaware that we would return to that lawn again and again to try and recreate, just for a moment, that total immersion in the feeling of endless possibility.

Because it is Neverland, the magic isn't dead for good, it is just out of reach, tantalizing us with the hope and promise that some things won't change, that the achey parts of us can be cast away long enough for us to be at home in ourselves. It still smells like champa, frying-sounds from the kitchen still crackle across the grass, the screen doors slam open and shut reassuringly often, the neighbours and their servants wave and their children use the swing set. When Nano dispenses life advice, this time, I listen. I even take notes. I don't call her my grumpy Nano and giggle at her stories; I say please, please won't you write a book so I never forget how wise you are? And she says "agh" and mumbles "you girls" and says she's not the writer in the family, but you can tell she is pleased. My son runs around the place like a small wild animal, stark naked, waving around the water pipe and shrieking, and I take comfort in the fact that he, at least, doesn't notice the abandoned dishes at all.


Meher Ali said...

Neverland is the perfect word to describe 29a!! But Im wondering, do you have moments when you actually revert back to childhood self there? I always throw at least one five year old tantrum when I'm there, and I would like to blame it on the neverland effect, but maybe I'm just immature and looking for excuses to act like a baby. I do totally get the moments of "when did i become like this?!" though. Not always in a negative way, but being there makes you feel like a kid again except then you have a thought that is so annoyingly adult and its jarring.

Ayesha Ali said...

Soo speciallll and infinitely blessed is Neverland29 !!! Mehru Amal Sarah Maryam Sana Zoya Wasif Sachal Veecee and then Ali Amar Armaan and now Reza and so many lil frendz inbetween !!! But Sarah I still dont notice the dirty dishes and only feel the magic of 29 ��������

Ayesha Ali said...

My smileys at end of comment !! Not questions :)

Ayesha Ali said...
This comment has been removed by the author.