He needed to smoke. He desperately needed a cigarette. Would she mind that? "well"......he thought, "it is a little beyond that point now :)". He leaned over his king sized bed and grabbed a pack of his beloved drug, and sat up a little - doing this meant that her head slid from his shoulder. She looked up.
Her expression ..... what was that expression, he couldn't figure that out. Was it an expression at all ? he wasn't experienced enough to know that. He was a "noob", his thought process switched to the good old day's of computer gaming. "the Noob that I am" he thought, "totally pawned by her ...... :)". He was smiling to himself, he swung his arm from beneath her, carefully putting her head on the pillow.
His "Zippo" was a little farther than the pack, and he leaned further to get it. "click" sounded the lighter and he lit up the cigarette. first puff tasted a little of lighter fluid. he quickly took a couple of more puffs to get the "taste" back to normal. He started re-collecting what had just happened. A cold shiver ran through his spine.
He had always observed that jump starting a romantic relationship was governed by the limited availability of options in the person's proximity. He had never observed a relationship starting off with love at first sight between strangers. It was always between people who were forced to be confined one way or the other in a particular proximity. Class mates, co-workers, cousins (yeah he was living in a typical Eastern society), neighbors, and even regular commuters :). That sometime pitted unlikely partners together, and he had seen his share of odd couples over the years. What just happened to him ..... was not only new to him, but felt a little dreamy as well.
"I barely know her .... what just happened here?"....it was true that she gave out an impression of a strong woman - he knew that was his weakness as well - It was true that her unfortunate break-up and subsequent divorce sometime ago was topic of conversation of his household women.
He started to re-collect the events in immediate past. She came in asking for her friend - his sister - who wasn't at home. At that time he was trying to sleep. He knew that electricity won't be gone for next couple of hours, and the air-conditioner would be UN-interruptedly pumping cold air for that long. The temperature will be bearable enough to for a typical afternoon nap, at-least for two hours of electricity and a half hour after that, before the summer heat takes over and he would wake up sweating.
"She isn't here" he had replied, "her in-laws came to pick her up - they are out shopping. there is going to be a marriage in their extended family, and they have invited her " ..... "oh yeah she mentioned that - good for her", her face frowned a little. "Just that I wanted to take her to the market myself - I needed to do some shopping as well"...
"nuhhhh " he thought out loud, a little too loud in fact. That prompted an inquisitive expression from her. "You dont seem like someone who is a shopaholic or some one who likes spending time window shopping or bargaining for hours with shopkeepers without an intention for actually buying, I was trying to convince myself you are not kind" he justified.
A smile broke on her face, a broad smile, the kind that can make someone's day. That was just perfect, arrangement of her teeth, the cut of her upper lip, her high cheek bones were even more prominent and they along with her perfectly straight hair took one's attention away from the light circles under her deeply positioned eyes. "Actually I am not, I just got accepted and need to do some shopping for academy".
"Academy ?" ......
"Yeah, you don't know that? The result for interview has been published. I am accepted"
"accepted to what? "..... What academies did women in Pakistan got accepted to? they started accepting them in Air Force recently, did she got accepted there? but he didnt thought so. She was probably in her late twenties, an age bracket much above the military's recruitment preferance. He knew, he had applied once. What else? Air Hostess ? that would be a shame, the second hand knowledge that he had of her, she was a qualified lawyer, and since now she is divorced, she should have persued a career in law rather than serving food trays on airplane aisles.
"Array baba .... I got accepted in PCS services, I will be a civil servant in an year or so! " she said excitedly. "Ohhhhh " he was genuinely releived. "Thats great, congrats". he extended his hand which was warmly accepted with both hands and an even wider smile. That was a little odd he thought momentarily, women don't get physical with men in this society, especially the ones who are not related. But, guess in her overwhelming happiness she forgot so. "So when does that starts ? " he threw the obvious question "I don't know for sure, but it will probably bew a few weeks, may be a couple of months .... dun know for sure ".
That was awesome. It was absolutely perfect for his image of hers as a strong woman. A career oriented civil servant .... wow !!!! That was good going. Especially considering the fact that in this society with its own peculiarities regarding women( their careers, relationships and marriage) and that too for divorced women, meant that it will be quite sometime before they can steer it to a meaningful direction. She was already doing that. She was definitely a strong woman, a rarity in this society.
"Well best of luck, and may be when you are in that powerful position you can kick your ex husband's b--t .... might even get your son's custody back !!! " ...... that was said in light-hearted way, but, he forgot that it might instill a painful feeling in her heart. That is exactly what had happened. The deep-set eyes started to fill in, she gazed away from him to try and hold them back. He instantly felt guilty ... "I am sorry, I didnt meant that .... all I wanted to say was that what you've acheived is .... !"
She looked back at him, staring square in his eyes ..... he could see that her effort to control her outburst of tears was unsuccessful, she probably thought it was of no use to try to hold'em back as well. She wanted to break down in tears and cry. And as a consolation effort what he did next, gave her pre-text to do so. He gently touched her on shoulder .... "heyy i didn't mean that, I was just saying......" By that time she was practically sobbing which turned into downpour of tears.
He could swear he had never seen such tears. "They are like pearls ... " he thought "I am wicked" he thought to himslef, "She is crying and is hurt because of my careless choice of words, and anything that has my attention are her tears ??? " ... "Listen I am so sorry" ..... what could he do, how to make her stop crying, how does one do that? he was definitely a noob in such matters. If he had to console a friend of his, he would simply pat them on the back or light up a cigarette and pass it to them or turn the conversation to something else and divert their attention. What to do with her ?
Perhaps he could make a physical gesture like holding her hand or wipe the tears of her face .... His mind ws racing, she didnt minded shaking hands with him or when he touched her on shoulder. That can work, that should work........
Wrong move, he realized that as soon as he followed his thinking, the next thing he knew was that she was in her arms, his hands tighly held by her, and she was putting all of her body weight on her arms, holding his hands down in his lap.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
It is as though he has returned from the dead. Just a few days after destiny dragged him through the dark vale of death on the other side of the mountains of the moon, the Lion of Pakistan returned. And he was roaring. In a rare moment of mental concentration, our otherwise punch-drunk nation listened intently and agreed. We are a people who had almost forgotten what it feels like to listen to a leader who truly and eloquently voices our concerns. The all-too-frequent meek howls of jackals and the wily mutterings of foxes – they could never strike a chord with Pakistan’s aspirations. It was in the thunderous roaring of the engulfed Lion, that we finally found vindication for that basic right long denied to us – the right of representation in the highest halls of power.
When Nawaz Sharif came all out with his charge sheet against our praetorian overlords, who have yet again le the nation down, it was a great national cathartic moment. And more than that, it was a moment of destiny. Absolutely unpredicted by anyone. It wasn’t just the self-obsessed khakis who were taken aback. So inexplicable the whole episode was, that even after it has happened, the carrion-eaters who flourish on analyzing our multifarious miseries and misfortunes, the dementors who build personal careers and reputations by feeding upon whatever little is left of hope in our people, and the great political pundits, they are all dumbstruck. Bewildered, they are still trying “to explain the underlying factors” that might have “caused” this “political gesturing.” But they find nothing to support them; this time round, the Lion has roared and there is little that the misery-mongers can add.
The problem with the carrion-eaters is that their theoretical framework cannot accomodate a major factor which drives history - a factor that clearly does not hold complete sway over the unfolding of history but, equally so, can only be ignored at one’s peril. I am referring to the rare emergence of a moment of destiny accompanied by a man of destiny, who work in tandem to make history. This is what explains the roaring of the Lion. And it even offers us a glimpse into our national future – which turns out to be more promising that what the carrion-eaters would allow for.
At times like these, the professional cynics are left with little to say. By all rational calculus, the Lion of Pakistan had everything to gain by making his peace with the khakis, just like all the other political stakeholders did, even if this meant being treacherous to his temporal political sovereigns – the People of Pakistan. Only a few weeks ago, as the Lion waged a personal battle for his life in a hospital in London, swinging every hour between life and death, back home, the carrion-eaters were predicting his political demise. And it was quite clear that the forces-who-must-not-be-named were making every possible effort to unite all those who stood against the Lion – so as to deny him an other expected landslide electoral victory, whenever the next elections are held. And yet it is that just two weeks later, when destiny offered the Lion a perfect chance to oblige the khakis for ever by saving them from the wrath of the plebians, he just wouldn’t do it. Right at a time, when the olive branch would make the greatest personal sense for him, risking further enmity and embracing political isolation, the Lion, true to his instincts, decided to roar. Some of his own aides tried to pull him back. But he went all out. Thankfully, the nation has listened, and stands mesmerized by this man of destiny.
The critics cannot make any sense of this because in their profane calculus, there is simply no room to account for a man of destiny and a moment of destiny, even when they do encounter one. This has happened before. It was not too long ago, when another man of destiny, surrounded by five towering men in uniform, trapped deep in the lair of the khakis, simply refused to bow down. He stood. And the my people stood behind behind. That day, and long after that, the carrion-eaters couldn’t explain what was afoot. Yet, the man of destiny has not ceased to perform his daily share of miracles.
No less a man of destiny is the Lion. The People of Pakistan cannot agree more with him. He has taken a difficult stand and he will have to fight for it, paying a heavy price of blood, sweat and tears. Yet the People will stand with him, just at they stood, and even marched, not too long ago.
The critics still stare with disbelief. In the year 1999, the Lion took a stand. And then, in his hour of need, when he looked back, he found that there was absolutely no one standing behind him. He suffered long years of solitary imprisonment, exile and deceit. By all calculations, he should have learnt his lesson. And after all this, somehow he has again found the courage to become the Lion that he now is. What could possibly explain this? Destiny is one factor, clearly. But so, I dare say, is death.
Isn’t it amazing just how many times has death, both physical and political, engulfed him, and yet been turned back. In the early years of this decade, he seemed destined for the gallows, just like the equally popular and courageous ZAB before him. But in the last hours, destiny saved him. Then, in the opulent surrounding of a posh Jaddah neighborhood, isolated from his soil, he seemed destined for a slow political death – like a flower plucked from its roots. And yet destiny saved him. When the late Mohtarma returned to this country and made here NRO-guaranteed peace with the general and imperial powers, the Lion seemed destined for exclusion from the political process. And yet, just a day before the last date for filing nomination forms, riding on the wings of destiny, he touched Pakistani soil. Still, in the aftermath of Zardari’s election and being played around by the Dogar Court, under whose directions Shehbaz Sharif was disqualified, it again seemed that political death would finally get its long sought target. And yet again, he emerged unscathed. Now, just a few weeks ago, his failing heart seemed finally to be giving in to sorrows that surround my people. His enemies were multiplying, conspiring and consolidating. Yet, there he is. Back in the game. Repeated encounters with death have transformed him. And this is why, today, he is roaring. But where is destiny driving the Lion of Pakistan?
Here I can only share glimpses into the future which in the eye of the heart I beheld, even as I heard the Lion roar. This is the year two-thousand-and-fourteen. For all the critics’ warnings, Pakistan is still very much there. It has a more vibrant Parliament that ever before, now led by the Lion and his compatriots, both the young and fierce and the old and mellowed. Pakistan has the most civilianized executive it has so far had, and, in the wake of their embarrassment after the OBL debacle, the khakis are retreating, bit by bit, to their barricks, doing only that which they do best, leaving everything from governance to urban planning and education to those better suited for these jobs. And we also have the most independent and honest judicial system that we have so far had, since the cursed imperialists stepped in. I look back at 2004. Whatever I see there - a spineless judiciary, a corrupt executive led by khakis who worry about nothing more than their institutional interest, a pliant, King’s Parliament, a nation qietly digging itself a political and economic hole which it would soon plunge into – all of this seems history, by-gone, almost forgotten.
As the Lion roared, in the eye of the heart, this is the Pakistan I saw. The return of truth and courage in politics is an earth-shaking development. It is not just that we are seeing destiny at work, only amidst individuals and moments. My people are all a people of destiny. And it is their dawn, the spotless dawn which they are destined for, which has drawn nigh. Those ofus who can see things, can see it already. It is that close, I tell you.
Posted by Umer Gilani at 9:25 PM