I have two sisters. Both of them are married, and the eldest has two kids, a 7-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl. If you’re on my Facebook, chances are you’ve seen them in pics. Aren’t they adorable? Anyway, my sister comes to visit us every Wednesday and Saturday. Since my classes end early on Wednesday, I pick up my nephew on my way home.

Yesterday was no different. I picked up my nephew, listening to his inane stories about school and McDonald’s toys, when my driver muttered about something happening at the traffic signal ahead of us. He showed me a CNBC and Samaa van standing by, a camera set up near a normal van, we were pretty far back and couldn’t see what was happening. My driver’s an absolute coward, so I decided to get out and go see what was going on, despite my driver’s protests. Before I could open the door though, my nephew clung to my hand, begging me not to leave him; “Haven’t you noticed that I’m a big scaredy-cat too?!” We finally managed to maneouver our way out, and saw that there were lots of angry people and cops milling around, you could have sliced through the tension with a knife.

A quick text to my brother-in-law who works at a TV channel revealed that this was yet another case of people pissed off at KESC. My driver started going through the inner galis since the road was blocked; all of a sudden, this woman holding a tree branch with twigs and leaves still attached to it steps out. “Hello crazy person,” I said, thinking she actually was some lunatic.

Then another woman holding a bigger stick stepped out. A man brandishing a huge rock popped up right in front of the windshield. That was when I shoved my nephew down, telling him to duck behind the front seat. I’m grateful he’s such a brave little boy, and stayed relatively calm. My drier suddenly got out of the car, and I could hear him cajoling the three assholes, saying he had a little boy and we were just one car; frankly, it was a stupid thing to do, considering he’s a scrawny little bugger and the car keys were still in the car. In the midst of yelling at him to get back inside and keeping a hand on my nephew’s head, making sure he stayed down, I could feel fear coiling in the pit of my belly. Its not an alien feeling to me; I feel a milder version of it every time I have to speak publicly; I feel it every time I’m in a fistfight with a guy (which ironically enough, had happened earlier yesterday; a classmate said I looked like a pig, and I got pissed off and swung at him)

What is alien to me, is being afraid for someone other than myself. I  can handle myself just fine; I’m not dumb enough to get into a fight I don’t think I can win, and I can manage just fine. But this kid, well, how I feel for him isn’t much different from how I’d feel for my own kids. Amidst the fear, I was pissed off that they’d dared to frighten my little dude. More importantly, this was what my baby was learning about the world, because of them. You know the first thing he said when he popped back up? “That’s it Ghausia khala, I’m coming with you to America now!” Its a little joke we have where I try to convince him to come to the US if I ever manage to make it there. How was I to explain this to him? He kept asking questions like, “But Ghausia khala, we’re Muslims and Pakistanis like them too, why would they hurt us?” What do you say to that? How the hell do you muster up the courage to tell a kid that the identity that defines him is a farce? That there is no such thing as being Muslim or Pakistani, because neither form of identity has any meaning anymore?

I live in a big house in DHA. We’re on rent here because we’re in the process of constructing a permanent house in phase 7. But you know what? When I was growing up, I lived in a tiny room with two of my sisters. I’m not going to go into a self-masturbatory pity party about how we were poor and had no electricity and generators and money as well. I don’t see the need to go into burger-boy revolutionary mode and extol my virtues of patience and understanding. What is suffice enough for my point is that I understand the frustration and anger of a country that doesn’t give you shit.

The difference is, I learned to struggle on, to have faith in God, in life, in luck, in my family, hell, everything and anything. I didn’t take to the streets threatening young girls and small boys still in their school uniforms. The glorious irony of this is that the women threatening us probably had kids of their own as well, maybe my nephew’s age. But then again, why should I expect humanity from a nation of cockroaches?

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