Mother Knows Worst

He now had a piercing on his eyebrow. The slim metal ring stared at Talal’s mother, taunting her. He shaved the beard the first chance he got, it said. He had sex with girls and boys both.

It was strange for a boy like Talal to act out like that. Hadn’t his parents given him everything? His father had never objected to his interest in music. They even got him a guitar which he took with him to New York. Their boy was studying journalism in NYU. The Abids were proud even if it wasn’t the same as Talal getting into some medical university in Lahore. Of course kids should pick their own careers. Some kids pick software engineering. Gulshan Khala’s son? He went to some great university in Germany on full scholarship. He is even engaged to be married in a year or so. Is there a girl you like? Talal’s mother hoped, more than she hoped for anything else, that her son still liked girls.

Talal had gotten silent ever since he came back home to visit. His eyebrow piercing, ripped jeans and fiddling thumbs seemed to do the talking. His mother asked if he’d like to have his favorite brown daal with rice and he said yes. He only ate a few spoons of it and she saw him munching on Doritos later.  That was alright. His younger brother liked those too.

Something was different about Talal. He was shy around his mother but nervous around his father. Every time she saw them having a conversation, his mother hoped to god Talal wouldn’t say something which would ruin them all. His father would ask, “What are your future plans?” Talal would shrug. He didn’t know. He still had a year of undergrad left. He was looking at some jobs. His mother knew that wasn’t what Talal’s father was asking. She wondered what Talal really wanted to say. Did he plan to get married to a girl? Did he plan to get married at all.

She had a terrible scare on the breakfast table. Talal’s father remarked, “There’s some change in you. I don’t know what it is…”

The piercing smirked at Talal’s mother. That’s it, it laughed, he’s caught. She held her breath. Talal swallowed his bite of paratha and waited for his father to complete his thought. “Did you get a haircut?” His father asked.

Talal’s mother didn’t understand if her fears made any sense. She had been hearing too many things. Of course her son was the same. A bit foreign, yes. A bit strange. But more or less the same. Still, she told him she had found someone for him. Her friend who lived next to Barkat Market? Her daughter is the perfect girl. He’ll be happy with her. Talal nodded and his mother felt better.

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Bad Men’s Night Out

Who was onto whom; that was the question.

There was an accident. The bus driver drove into the rocky hill. The bus was empty except the driver and the conductor, only one of whom had survived. No injuries. Not even a crease on his forehead. The conductor got off the bus and contemplated setting the whole thing on fire. The road was empty. It was the road leading up to the Postal Colony. No one was going to be caught dead on that road. Except the driver, of course. He was going to be caught very dead.

The conductor hadn’t thought the whole thing through and before he could decide his next move, Zakir heard sharp whistles from around the corner. The sound cut through the foggy air and stabbed Zakir’s throat. The young man stood petrified, thinking he had been caught. Caught before the crime was even over. Zakir’s father would have had a good laugh.

Anjum was preoccupied. He was thinking of his victory tonight, the euphoria of it so strong it made him fearless. He could do anything in that moment. Even be the king of the world like Shahrukh Khan in Om Shanti Om. Anjum laughed, imagining himself holding his trophy, the young boy’s decapitated head, in his right hand and a microphone in his left hand. “Itni shidaat se main ne tumhe paane ki koshish ki hai, ke har zaare ne mujhe tumse milane ki” he paused and smiled, “saazish ki hai.” He shook his head, as if he realized how silly he was being, and looked up really focusing on the world around him. Under the single flickering street light, moved a shadow. Someone was hiding behind a bus that had hit the rocky hill.

The illusion of invulnerability was strong. It made Anjum cocky. Instead of minding his business and walking as far away from the scene as possible, he decided to play with the obviously scared prey. He darted towards the bus, purposefully clapping his chappal against the heel of his feet. Quick hard steps were meant to inspire fear of a confident predator, brave enough to venture-actually stroll-in the dark night on the scariest road in Chabhri.

Zakir entered the bus quickly, hiding behind one of the chairs. He wasn’t sure if the stranger had noticed him but he hoped the man would find the dead driver and run away out of fear instead of trying to probe further into the matter. He heard the approaching footsteps and wiped the cold sweat off his forehead.

Anjum sprung on the bus and let out a playful “aha!” He saw the driver with his head down in the front seat and before he took another step, he knew the man was dead. He could smell the blood. Anjum walked towards the dead body and took a closer look. Blood. Too much of it. An accident doesn’t cause that kind of blood loss. He grabbed the dead man’s shoulder and pulled him back. Blood sprouted out of his jugular and Anjum jumped back in time to avoid getting any of it on his kurta. Someone had cut the driver’s throat open. The accident was a set up.

Suddenly realizing that the shadow could not have been of the driver and that whoever it belonged to was likely the murderer, Anjum turned around. Spotting Zakir wasn’t hard. The young man was shaking too hard, all the while being visible from above the seat.

“Oye!” Anjum called to him. “Get out. I can see you.”

Used to following orders, Zakir got out immediately despite his fear. He had been caught. There was no use of fighting back. Anjum leapt towards Zakir and got a closer look.

“Look at me,” he said and Zakir looked up, still trembling. Anjum saw the blood splattered on Zakir’s face and almost laughed but controlled himself by biting his lip. Zakir saw the blood on Anjum’s teeth and the nail marks on his cheek as if someone had tried to push him away.

There were two murderers in the bus; Zakir, the eighteen year old bus conductor, and Anjum, the thirty one year old pedophile. Before the two could acknowledge their identical situations, they heard a car speed up to the bus.

It was a small Mehran with two giant men sitting in the front seats. The two popped out of the car to look into the bus. Sajid and Wahab were notorious robbers, always looking for buses to loot in the dark of the night. The second they walked into the bus, all four men’s fates were sealed.


Foreplay

The new boy met Paras in the courtyard everyday after school. They discussed the latest Game of Thrones episodes and ate roasted nuts together. Sometimes they played badminton. The new boy wasn’t that new anymore; he had admitted into the eighth grade three months ago. He promised Paras they’d study together for the mid terms.

A week before the exams, the two met at their usual spot. Paras greeted him with enthusiasm that hadn’t vained over the past three months. Every day, Paras would notice something new: his dimple, his thick lashes, his confident eyes, his coy smile. Every day, he’d look more beautiful. And then he’d rub his hand against hers or pick a flower and bring it for or quote Rupi Kaur. Today, she noticed his smile become suspiciously more coy, his confident eyes hooded, a crease on his forehead. He looked intense. She got excited.

He led her to the library. The school was out but they had a few hours before the library shut down. The librarian sat in the corner paid no heed to the young couple so they found a spot in the far end and got to work. Hamlet had never felt so arousing. Paras didn’t understand why she couldn’t focus, why her face felt hot and her stomach felt heavy.

He noticed her excitement and he toyed with her, touching her on purpose but without any purpose. Slight, soft touches. A flick of the finger with hers, a slight rub on the arm, a breath on her cheek.

Then came the hand on her thigh. She closed her eyes, blushing, and letting her pencil roll over from her open palm on the table. He picked the pencil up with his free hand and found her index finger. One hand on her thigh, unmoving, the other holding the pencil and pressing the nib on the tip of her finger. Her eyes stayed closed while his were wide open.

This was what all fifteen years of his life were leading up to. This was the foreplay to his late thirties when he would live with his wife in a four bedroom house, each bedroom witness to a new kind of violence. The pencil pricked her skin and she bled but Paras didn’t budge. She couldn’t, until he moved his hand from her thigh. Only then did she feel the sting, and retreated her finger. She didn’t understand what had happened. Her eyes had watered and she gave him a questioning stare. Why?

The boy only shrugged. Did there have to be a reason why? He let the pencil go and rubbed his sweaty hands on his pants.

The moment passed.


The End of the F***ing World: I Know James

Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD!


Much has been said about the Netflix show The End of the F***ing World. As someone who read the graphic novel and recently finished the mini series, I thought I’d give my two cents and try to locate the character of James in my own context.

James is troubled. His mother kills herself in front of him in his childhood. His father is never able to directly deal with the psychological impact this incident has on James. Instead, his father avoids the issue altogether which makes matters worse. He doesn’t notice how James starts to slip away and recedes into himself. James finds solace in killing animals (not surprising behavior for most kids growing up). This becomes problematic as he starts enjoying afflicting violence even when he’s old enough to know it’s wrong. He’s not high on self harm but he puts his hand in a deep fryer just so he can “feel something.” At 17, James is ready to kill a human being. He is convinced that he is a psychopath.

This description conjures up the image of a Jeffrey Dahmer in the making. Dahmer, too, like James was a child who suffered through abandonment. He indulged in animal violence. He was a loner. And he was horrifyingly self aware (at least after he was caught for killing and cannibalizing a number of men). Dahmer’s case is a bit extreme but it’s fair to assume that if James is a psychopath, he could one day become the next Dahmer. Of course, that’s not what happens. James does end up killing someone but he does it out of apparent necessity, and he doesn’t enjoy it. In fact, it shakes him to his core (even though he gets over it rather quick). James realizes he is not a psychopath.

The mini series simply documents the coming of age of James, a troubled child who starts to understand himself and the world around him as he embarks on a dangerous journey and finds love in a questionable place. For what it’s worth, I’d recommend watching it. It’s smart, witty, edgy, and deeply emotional.


Do I know James? 

Yes. And I think you do too. James is that edgy kid who listens to the old school music and tells everyone he was born in the wrong generation. He wears lots of flannel, works hard on his hair but acts like he couldn’t care less. He quotes racy poetry and thinks he’s deep because he read Machiavelli’s The Prince. He’s just a high school kid who thinks he has seen it all, done it all. Heavily delusional, tragically misguided, and intriguingly dangerous: James is a sad boy. But he’s also a rad boy.

I think the important thing to take away from the show is that James exists everywhere. It’s not a far fetched character. Sure, not every James might think he’s a psychopath but this sort of delusional outlook on life is very common in adolescents. Especially kids with problematic childhoods.  I loved the fact that James wasn’t a psychopath. He’s a lost kid. And, honestly, so are a bunch of us.

So, yes. I know James. And I’m calling him out on his bullshit the first chance I get.


The Patriarch Said: “No, Son”

This is inspired by the famous Bollywood flick Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham.


The mother stood bewildered-no-shocked. Alarmed. The patriarch said “no” and that was that. Now the son wasn’t permitted in the house anymore. The son had betrayed the family, the family name, the family morals, the family traditions. The son had done the worst even though the patriarch had said “no.” The son wasn’t permitted in their lives anymore.

Capture2

Get out of the house, son.
Married the maid’s daughter? What a joke, son.
Living under this roof? Me funding your MBA, your cricket games, your wife’s obsession with laddoos?
Like,
Me paying for your cheap thrills, her father’s pills, her cousin’s delivery bills?
No, son.

Capture

You’re out of your depth, son.
Her eating in the same plates that she washed twice a day?
And her sleeping on sheets she scrubbed every month?
Like,
Her blood running through your child, my glory grandson?
The heir born to household care, no way, son.

Capture3

Get out of the house
Just walk away
Don’t look back
You’ve broken my heart
Broken your vows
Ripped apart
Whatever we had.

Capture1

No, son.
You must go, son.
You’ve proven today
You never were
And never could be
Worthy of being
One of my own, son.


The mother is shocked-no-heartbroken. Crippled with grief.

But silent.

She thinks to herself: I wish you didn’t have to, son.


February Reading Challenge

I’ve been meaning to make this post for a while but I’ve been delaying because university is quite tough right now. I guess there’s no right time for it.


I’m starting a reading challenge. I’m a week late to post this but I’ve decided to list 4 books (1 per week) anyway. I’m writing down specific titles I’ve chosen but if you wish to tag along, it’s not necessary to follow the titles’ list so long as you follow the category that precedes it.

  1. A literary classic you’ve read before and want to reread: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  2. A book you’ve been gifted: We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
  3. A book from a writer you’ve been wanting to read: Factotum by Charles Bukowski
  4. A book from a writer you’ve previously read and liked: Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

If you’re planning to embark on this journey with me, for the month of February, let me know. It’s not a means to enroll you or ask for strict commitment, but just a rough estimate of people who genuinely wish to read with me. Feel free to comment any titles you might find interesting.


My Creature D, D for Depression

My creature lives with me, breathes with me, sleeps with me. Most days it’s blue but some days it’s grey and those days everything feels black. It smells like sweat and rotten yogurt. Its hair are coated with dirt and stuck together in an oily tangle. It’s slightly balding from one side but that doesn’t matter because it doesn’t see many people. Its favorite food is my self esteem and happiness, and it prefers to gulp down my energy for desert. I’ve grown quite fond of it, quite comfortable with it. I can’t even remember life before it.

My creature lives with me. I think it’ll die with me.


And lots of chocolate too.

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