Notes from a Gold August

By Sonya Rehman

i. Why does it take the eyes of another to appreciate the beauty within? I’ve been feeling this so strongly ever since Humans of New York’s beautiful posts on Pakistan started doing the circuit online. The trouble is, rejection makes one doubt one’s worth. That’s Pakistan. The misunderstood, the rejected. So many jewels within. Let foreign eyes discover you, let them climb over that fortress and see you for what you are.

Here’s one of my favourites (love it on so many levels), along with this, another gem. Oh, and this one takes the cake. Literally.

ii. Last weekend, a fire broke out in my apartment building’s basement. The incident happened two days after I had the most stunning, vivid dream. Quoting from my status on Facebook:

Early this morning, I had the strangest dream. I dreamt I was living in an old house with high ceilings. In the dream, I wake up, get out of bed, and walk over to my window. I push the curtains aside, and on my little balcony, I see little flowers blooming in flower pots with moist, glistening mud. It’s a sunny day. In the dream, I’m so surprised to see the flowers because my balcony never had flowers. Who put them there? I was so happy in the dream.
Then, I wake up. For real. Just for kicks, I walk up to my window, push the curtain aside, and what do I see? A fat, blush pink pigeon dipping her beak into a plastic bowl of bits of bread I’d left out two days before, along with a bowl of water. My surprise and joy in real, waking life, was exactly the same in the dream. The emotion was exactly the same.

345433-001There was thick, white smoke on the 6th floor. I stumbled out of my apartment. The fire alarm was deafening. The smoke was acrid, burning plastic, metal. We ran down the fire exit, stumbling, almost falling, each floor was thick with smoke. I’m not sure how we made it outside, but in my mind, I’d thought this is it. Scores of us stood on the street waiting for the fire brigade. A concerned couple asked if I wanted to sit in their car till we could go back in. The young husband was shaken up, his wife was a few months pregnant. Outside, a girl in shorts hugged her only valuable; a fat, grey Persian cat to her chest. The cat looked bored. A man infront of me took a grinning selfie of himself with our smoking building in the background. Idiot. Thanked him in my head for the comic relief.

iii. The next day I called the building’s watchman – a sweet chap. He looks like Bruce Lee. Instead of telling him how scared I was on the night of the fire, I said: “Mein bohat khaufnaak hoon.” FML.

iv. Fifth month in this strange, weird, alluring city. An experience with a Pathan cabbie. Told him where to take me. He didn’t respond. Asked him if he knew where we were going. He responded rudely. Told him there was no reason for him to be rough. He shouted and cut a sharp turn. I made a mental note of his cab number from the RTA sticker on my window. The drive, the silence, back to my charred apartment building, dulled my anger. I noticed he was driving while leaning to his left. He looked exhausted. Maybe his back was killing him. Maybe he was sick. When we pulled up to my apartment, I leaned over, handed him the money and said: “I know you’re tired…” “Sorry bibi,” he responded quickly, dry-mouthed, not letting me finish. “I know what you’re going through,” “Sorry bibi, maaf kar do.” He sounded like he meant it. Saw his face – very young, very tired. I got out quietly, a lump in my throat.

v. Saw Abu Dhabi’s Grand Mosque. She doesn’t have a patch on Lahore’s Badshahi Masjid, but her pristine, white, new-ness, was breath-taking. Maybe decades later, her future weathered beauty will garner more admiration. For there is history contained in old places, mystery, stories, the past reserved in the present. No wonder old cities and their heritage sites are so, fascinating. History is tangible.

Long road to You. The Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi.
Long road to You.
The Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi.

vi. In my third new location in my fifth month. At the rate I’m going, I ought to be a fugitive. I miss permanence.

vii. Heavy foot-fall outside my door – an accented, man-boy, virile voice, presumably speaking over the phone: “I spent Sunday with her, but man, she called me today and was like, crying madly…” He was too self-assured to sound in love.

viii. Fast learning: those who bring out the worst in you are your greatest teachers. Not those who bring out your best. It’s uncomfortable. But if you’re aware of how your buttons are pressed and what it makes you do, how it makes you react, you evolve faster. Bumpy ride. Get used to it.

ix. I’m anchor-less. But I’m building a ship.

x. I read somewhere that self-betrayal feels almost like physical pain. In work, in love, in casual conversation – self-betrayal, tune in to your actions and the words you speak, there’s a tangible loss of energy within when you go against your nature. Compromise, the new death. But there’s time, still, to save yourself. Weathered soul, in constant flux, do great things. But first, start with you.



One Comment Add yours

  1. SixFeetFour says:

    Wow! Thanks for the updates.

    1. I love the fact that Humans of New York is in Pakistan covering the stories. I love it that the world will get to see that there are ordinary human beings here who share the same hopes and dreams with the rest of the world.

    2. In my own experience, the 10 years that I lived in the city you are in, I never felt like a true inhabitant. The buzzword everyone loves to use for the city is” Transient. It is just that. You say you miss permanence, and unfortunately, the city you are in, will not offer that. However, I will encourage you to enjoy the ride, and the people you meet along the way.

    3. I am SO glad you are safe sound after that horrible fire incident. So glad you told the guy that you are “khaufnaak!” šŸ™‚ A friend who bought an apartment at Discovery Gardens, a posh area behind Ibn Batuta Mall, had a housewarming party. Soon after, the second her friends came inside the apartment from the balcony, the balcony gave way and fell off the building. Needless to say, the management got hell from my friend and they compensated her monetarily. Just run after them and harrass them! If he’s Bruce Lee, pretend you have a black belt and throw him some kung fu/ karate chops!

    4. I learned a lot when my ex brought the worst in me. It’s a very double edge sword experience. On one side, you realize how evil you can become and you wish you never said or did those things at your worse moments. On the other hand, you realize what you are capable of and helps you become a better person. I never want to be that person who would be in constant anger.

    5. The taxi drivers. They all have a story behind their lives. They are really roughing it out there. Their families are back home while they struggle to meet their daily requirement to earn a certain amount of cash. Long hours, crazy traffic, rude customers take a toll on their health. I am so glad you didn’t react.

    6. Not sure if you read The Forty Rules of Love. It’s a fairly easy to follow book, but the Rules are pretty awesome. It’s all about change and acceptance, and an inner transformation that will ultimately help you transform your views about the outer world.


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