|Uncle and cuz and beer, a Sunday afternoon tradition|
This was my house indeed. They live where I grew up, not my official home, but the one where I spent most of my time. Being there this time was a double mind-bender: first, I could still see my seven year old self playing teacher in this hall, burning rotlis in this kitchen, playing kho-kho here, house-house there, hide-and-seek, hop scotch, cricket, that game with the elastic bands that exercised your gymnastic skills- what was it called? Where was it from? The photo above is taken in a room where we acted out pivotal scenes from Hindi movies we'd seen the night before, me in my Nani's sari, my cousin stumbling around with a bottle of Johnny Walker (filled with water of course), pretending to be a sharabi (because those 80s heroes always were).
Second, so much of this house and this city has worked its way into my writing that being back there was like visiting the set of my novel- Mohatta Palace? You mean chapter 10, scene 4. Saddar? Oh boy does my character get in trouble there. And then, in that same musty dusty bazaar, I heard the vendors, "Madam, madam, come, come, t-shirts, branded, Gucci, Polo, come come." They said the words, my words, which were in fact their words, scratched into my notebook on my last visit. Art imitating life imitating art in an unbroken, mind-bending loop.
I attended the Karachi Literature Festival and the Lahore Literature Festival. They changed my life- my writing life, so yes, my life. Seeing Pakistani writers onstage day after day, discussing issues I myself had faced or was facing or would face one day, I felt myself tearing up at every panel. Because even though I am as yet unpublished, I am a writer. I am relating to writers. Not buddy-buddying with them, that will come later, but when they spoke at the panels, they spoke to me.
|Sadly, this photo, part of the KLF's official FB collection, captures me not|
intellectually considering whatever's being discussed or even shedding a graceful tear but puckered up and bawling.
I've blown it up extra large for your enjoyment.
My favorite writers were there, writers I had discovered on the impersonal Amazon recommendations page, now before me in the flesh. Writers who had nudged me, unknowingly, to write my own novel, sure you can set it in Karachi, yes, pepper it with Urdu and Gujarati, it's what we speak here. Of course it can just be a story, not a Story With A Political Message That Must At Least Twice Mention Drones/Taliban/BinLadin.
I tried my utmost to be Pakistani. To speak Urdu. Not gape at things. Undo my accent. I went places alone, places they'd never let me go alone before. I felt a certain thrill. Like I belonged. Then I'd come home and hear about a bomb blast or attack and feel just so naive, so out of my league, an outsider after all.
Not only did I speak Urdu, I was spoken to in Urdu. They thought I was one of them. Then, on the plane from Dubai to SFO, the Indian air hostess greeted passengers, mostly in Hindi, row after row until she reached me. "Is everything okay, ma'am?" The wall clanked down. I was back to being racially ambiguous. It pinched my insides.
|The gorgeous Mira Nair|
In my next entry, we will talk about the man I love:
|Bonus marks if you can tell who he is from this bad picture of a picture|