freedom is the freedom to choose whose slave you want to be.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

16th July 2006


From the moment I land in Karachi I am waiting for it, for the tectonic shift inside that brings me calm.

The crazy wind whips around me, destroying my carefully straightened hair, and I can’t help but smile. We run from mall to Gulf to wedding to visiting friends to mall in the ever present salty wind, the wind playing havoc with my carefully straightened hair. I can't help but smile. I am in Karachi.

But I am also alone. In these four days it feels as though somehow my loneliness from home hid in the empty curves and corners of my suitcase and travelled with me. It creeps in at the oddest of moments. Standing on the roadside outside at night waiting for the driver to show up, headlights blinding and sweat and salt mixing plastering my hair to my forehead I am small and alone. In Liberty books loneliness is in the space between my hands reaching out to touch and the covers of the books and I retract. I carry a gulf around me, something separating me from everything. I am walking around aimlessly, cluelessly.

Little by little I get caught up by the speed of the city. Life flows here, and if you try hard enough, you can lose yourself in its momentum. Things don’t stop and start, life is not hesitant here. It is assertive, and it keeps going on. That is what I love about this city, that is why I return. I never leave unsorted.


I meet Bilal Bhai’s wife, the IV person now in Gulshan out of choice, Karachi is a place of diversity. Two weeks ago I sat with him in our drawing room for four hours talking non-stop and easy, the first real conversation I had had in weeks. We vowed to nurture our dreams, promised we’d start a crazy venture in the next five years, felt sad and happy for our generation and I meet his wife. I marvel at the dynamics of love.

I meet Insiya and Khizzy in a Dunkin’ Donuts full of Chinese people and a girl sits with her head on the table. The traffic flows outside and Insiya insists upon paying for my food. There is warmth and genuine interest in her eyes. Khizzy joins us. We talk. They talk and I listen. Khizzy says eggs are the perfect thing when there is no dinner at home. I have a flashback of myself eating cold alooqeema with bread in the middle of the night in F-8 in A-levels. We’re talking about marriage, relationships. I tell them about Saba. I am aware of my smile, at the lack of discomfort I feel. The ever-present discomfort I feel around people is oddly missing when I am sitting with two quasi-strangers and I am happy. I drop them back. I want to hug Insiya for making this possible, but there is no time. They don’t realize what they’ve done. I spent an hour and a half with strangers just now and I am happy.

We’re on our way to Park Towers and I tell the driver to turn around for the seaside. It will be dirty and crowded but it won’t be any less the seaside. I am hurrying out of the car, too impatient to wait for a parking spot. On the sand I am quiet and Ammi is giving me my five minutes here. The wind is almost water and angry and friendly at once and I can hardly stand against its push but I do and there is sand between my toes and later on in my stylo chappals and the sky and the water are grey, angry and friendly at once.

My hair stays miraculously straight all along. Could it be that the city has embraced me, I wonder with mild amusement.


It is night and I am alone on the terrace. One, two, and three a.m find me outside. The wind is invasive, laden with salt and vapour. There is an ocean here and I find it marvellous that I am facing in its direction, this crazy wind is touching me everywhere and on my lips I kiss the salt and I am here. I’m in Karachi.

This is the first time I am by myself, and I know this will be enough. In my head I come to conclusions. Conclusions that make perfect sense, are perfectly logical in my sleep-deprived, heightened state of being. I know I will still have to think about everything in the morning, when all of my logic will seem incredulous, but for a few hours this will buy me quiet.

Things are sorting themselves out. I know this will hurt. The deepest most intimate most urgent of my feelings comes out in a text message wrapped bundled hidden away in a layer of words which crumples my feeling into a tight little unidentifiable ball of nothing bruised and battered and I send it out. In a few seconds I feel guilty and I send it out twice more, to different destinations. Everywhere it is translated differently, and the responses that do come interpret it in a way that offers relief, occupies my mind.

Somebody’s servant is sleeping on the roof next door. I turn my back to him, stand against the concrete railing. My eyes are not working. The moon has several blurry halos around it, but it’s all right.

Just before our departure I am treated to a light Karachi drizzle. The flight is delayed, too much rain at Chaklala. I stand outside on the tarmac on the edge of the runway, watching the droplets on the screen of my phone, unable to decide whether I want to sit inside the lounge and ignore this ache or to be outside and experience it. I stay outside.

Gently, the tectonic plates click into place. I go inside the lounge and fall asleep on the sofa.


Blogger insiya said...

larkee. yay tum nay kiya likh diya. uff. bohat aala. and right about now i want to say something but... i'd rather sms you. :)

7:35 PM  
Blogger Khizzy said...

this is a beautiful piece azka!
you've captured everything so well, i feel like a character out of a book.
i was totally lost!
it was amazing meeting you, and im glad insiya is this persistant little mosquito, becaus eother wise i never would have showed up!it took alot of begging my collegues!
but TOTALLY worth it in the end!

i was letting y bro text from my phone and he got into my inboz.
"who's azka?"
"this blogger friend of mine."
*standard brotherly question coming up...*
"is she hot?"
"she's beautiful.a beautiful person in totality"
*another brotherly statemeny coming up...*
"i asked you if she was hot...dont get all bloggy on me!a yes or no would have worked!"

11:03 AM  
Blogger mercury said...

Insiya, Khizzy, thank you :)

12:12 PM  
Blogger mercury said...

And Khizzy, that is SO predictably brother-like LOL!

12:13 PM  
Blogger maryamj said...

:)i was just wondering how your trip to karachi went.

btw, this really is a great piece, i like it.

3:43 PM  
Blogger insiya said...

i am a "persistant little mosquito"- wah! :)

i still think you're lovely! :p

8:44 PM  
Blogger mercury said...

Hehehe in my defense: those were not *my* words!
You guys are lovely too na!! Ab buss mujhe sharam aa rahi hai.

9:02 PM  
Blogger bluecheese said...


1:50 AM  
Blogger cheesoo said...

yaayyy.. i love how blogger is making all us laedeez come together, in different ways, different places at different times


5:45 AM  
Blogger mercury said...

Blue and Cheesoo, by the way, if it weren't for you guys I wouldn't even be on blogger, let alone meeting bloggers.

9:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

chanced across your blog quite randomly I suppose. love the way you captured that feeling of returning to Khi's beach... very nostlagic...made me yearn to do the same... one day...one day ....

1:08 AM  

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