Sunday, August 14, 2011

Jeena Yahan Marna Yahan, Iske Siva Jaana Kahan Ji Chahe Jab Humko Awaaz Do Hum Hain Wahin Hum Thhe Jahan

In a couple of minutes the clock will strike the midnight hour and August 14 will slip into the 15th in the city where I am tonight. And I realize this year there has to be the ubiquitous Jashn-e-Azadi blog post, if for nothing else but to acknowledge that sometimes the very fantastic does not come with fireworks and Mountbatten getting into a carriage.

I guess there are only a couple of you following this blog  who have figured out that I am one half of a Pakistani-Indian or rather one third of a Pakistani-Indian-Australian family living in Dhaka. And it is a sign of our times that the first question I am asked is What Happens During World Cup. 

I know midnight tonight should be a celebration of  being who we are and where we are. But sadly this year I cannot rustle up any excitement. I have not even recycled my standard joke about Churchill questioning giving independence to these rascals, rogues, freebooters (And this without meeting Messrs. Zardari and Kalmadi!) for a brand new audience. And I dont think I will even have the energy to stick the star and crescent and  tricolour tattoo on the toddler and have him trussed up for photographs in salwar kamiz like the Aman ki Asha project people might want him to be. I know, I know, we constantly disappoint people for  living our life in Times New Roman when we could be such an interesting new font. 

Since we have known each other the only project the man and me have got serious about is  getting fat and middle-aged ---with the years briefly interspersed with my getting angsty when days like this roll around and I pester him with So We Should Be Having The Conversation around Big Questions like borders, and statehood and Jinnah Ka Pakistan and Nehru's Tryst and Was The World Sleeping Just Then but that only reminds him he has to sleep as the toddler will be up in a couple of hours and yara sunna hai England me match tha? phir miss hogaya.

And then our being in Bangladesh just makes me more anxious for not composing a theme song tonight. Damn, what if the eyes of all of South Asia were on us just now? Pulling at my sleeve So? So?  Do You Have The Words Yet? A R Rahman ko bulaye? Lets reuse the Bombay theme I say, one adds.

And there is a mother in Assam who cannot sleep, the ignominy, the ignominy. When have you heard of someone going THAT side of the river to work. These are all signs, signs, mark my word, she mutters.

It could be that I stopped engaging with words after realizing that there was little I understood of the semantics Pakistan engages in lately. They bandy about terms like Mubasher Lucman and Sitara Imtiaz and rose petals and smiling assassins and I stare. Bewildered. Even though  growing up we had Gen Zia-ul-Haq teaching us the alphabet. And I look down and realize that somewhere over the years I have also lost the Look East security blanket from my Wonder (of all things Indian) Years. They tell me the past is another country and send me post cards from where they are, and I read the cards and tell myself "No, I dont think they wish I was there". 

And this morning I tuned into the brand new Bournvita Quiz Contest
 (for a significant part of the '80s all I wanted in my Eid stocking was to get admission in Bombay Scottish. I am sure you felt the same, so quit acting judgemental. I also wanted Remington Steele to come down and solve the Hathoda Group mystery but that is another wishlist) 
and realized that the Very Hungry BookWorm has grown out of its cocoon to become a satin gowned co-host who will be teaching Derek O' B Hindi (who for some reason is wearing Aamir Liaqat Hussain's sherwanis) India is shining so I guess that translates as shiny suits for everyone, yeah!

Dhaka stayed quiet for most of the year but the other day the driver grew a bit pensive and asked me
So this Obama he is not American right, 
And I say  "No he is"
but clearly Driverji had been working on his piece for a while So he continues Jo bhee, he was not theirs but even then they were so eager to have him as President .But we, we were yours, why didnt you accept us?

And I ask you Dear Reader, why, why, why?

For you may know something I dont.

And I cant answer such difficult questions as I am only a poor Pathan mother running after a toddler who will only speak to me in Bengali. 

For that is how most stories end.

We fight, we squabble, we kill, we argue, and at the end of the day there is a man who brings back a pot of pulao from work and a black ribbon which he has to wear all week and his wife asks him why and he says Because It is Mourning Day  
(the National Mourning Month to be exact-the Awami League has decided so this year--which I understand for there was a time  stores in Peshawar Hayatabad Bara market closed down for a day as "woh jo Marks Spencer nahi tha bibi wo marr gaya maskeen)

 but my husband is saying"woh jo Sheikh Mujib ko tum logo ne maar diya tha" and I tell him No, Just Because A Man Has to Die Does Not Mean There Was a Pakistani Involved (secretly telling myself to google just in case I have it wrong) and I eat the rice and say a prayer.

Pakistan, India-0
And Kashmir never made it to the table.


  1. *weeping* Kya, bibi, aap ne humein maudlin kar diya.
    Bohut love from Kashmir.
    -Under The Table and dreaming

  2. Beautiful writing, my friend...

  3. Do you find yourself fervently hoping the kids will grow up to be more sensible than our generation has been?

    Talk about the burden of expectations. To think I got annoyed because my dad wanted me to do a doctorate.

  4. What a read, Aneela! This one is to keep forever.

  5. This was a Mantoesque read. I waited to read it a couple of times across weeks before I said so.


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