The element of surprise is what I love about the older parts of cities.
Chaotic little gullies, far more populated streets, jharokas of the old Sikh and Mughal buildings peeking out at you, tea stalls, food kiosks (dhaabas) at unexpected nooks and rickshaws and bikes honking at the passerby are just a few of the spectacles.
You just never know what awaits you right around the corner.
We had the most delicious tea at the Bhatti Tea Stall, and accidentally went into a narrow street that led us straight to the Shrine (Mazaar) of Bibi Pak Daaman.
The constantly apparent animal-like greed of the workers at the shrine was the highlight of the day. The women at the security check wanted chandaa (money) for tea, the men taking care of our shoes, that we took off outside the shrine out of respect, also wanted chandaa for the food that was going to be distributed later that night. This money seemed more forced out of the crowd that given out of real respect and deference.
It’s quite sad to see these places deteriorate so rapidly. You can no longer feel a real spiritual essence in the air around you. The world is commercializing around us; does it make sense for these special little places to become commercial hubs as well?
On one of those hot and humid scintillating days on the streets of Lahore, an ingenious Rickshaw wala devices a way to keep the scorching sun out. Works for me. The temperature of the picture says everything that there is to be said about the heat that day. It also says a whole lot more of the increased fierceness of the sun expected in the upcoming days. Damn. Hold on tight, Lahoris.
There was anxiety.
It was vicious. I couldn’t understand what it was about. I was sinking; into a well so deep, it seemed impossible to come out. Underwater. Breathless. I kept trying to bring my head out to the surface to catch some air. My lungs were under a penetrating pressure.
I thought I was underwater.
That’s exactly how it felt.
I felt stuck, so suffocated, so trapped. Yes, trapped. That’s what I felt. There were moments during the day when I tried so much to move, to get up and on with life. But I didn’t have the strength to do anything.
I wanted this feeling to end.
I felt irrelevant. I wished I didn’t feel this way.
The world around me silently kept telling me to not worry. This feeling wasn’t going away any time soon. What I wanted was irrelevant. My infinitesimal dreams of existence meant nothing to the Lord up there.
Or was there even a He up there?
I clasped my hands, the pressure was so intense, I didn’t even feel it. But it hurt. I wanted to know where the hurt really was. The sting was deep, it stabbed right through the rib-cage and made my entire existence tremble with its force. I didn’t even know what I wanted. What would make it go away? I wanted the universe to tell me. What would lessen its power? What would give me the strength to be myself again?
I wanted the universe to just tell me.
There had been moments in my life when I had been the person I loved being. The happiness then had been so easy, almost natural. Now, the present numbness was my only natural. Had I ever been happy? Felt impossible. The life around me was a blissful life. I should be ecstatically smiling for the camera. I was smiling, only it wasn’t real. The sting down there made my sheer existence an act. Why did I keep sneaking away in corners to catch a deep breath and shed that weight that had been hanging over me for an hour? I couldn’t let anyone see it, they wouldn’t understand. How could they, even I didn’t understand myself. I knew there was something that miffed my existence. I felt like someone had pushed their hand through my chest, grabbed that pumping heart and was now squeezing it with such intensity that it made me dizzy. I felt a black cloud coming down around me. I wanted to be able to breathe. But that darkness just kept descending.
It will not end. It will not end. It will not end.
It was a rebellion.
A rebellion against humanity.
A rebellion against life.
A rebellion against what I thought the world was and what it turned out to be.
I thought about it long enough. Everyone thought I was over reacting. Maybe I was. But I really wasn’t.
I was reacting. I was genuinely reacting against the false impression I had had of life; the thoughts, the aspirations, the hopes, the desires, the failures, the heartbreak.
It was like a blackout for the longest time. I tried hard to understand what was happening, what had happened and what was going to happen. But it refused to make any sense. It was as if someone had wiped the chalkboard before I had had the chance to note it all down. Almost like a dream, it was unbelievable that circumstances could alter so fast. It was fleeting, boundless at one moment and a joke at the next.
I could feel someone standing there, pointing a finger and laughing at me. “Did you really think that would last? *laughter* Did you really?” I didn’t even know who that someone was. Or did I? Maybe I did at some point and now I didn’t. It was all so fleeting, so unreal. Someone standing in front me now had a solemn expression, giving me an unsaid lesson with those earnest eyes, so intense it sent me shivers through my body. I could also hear the raindrops. Fat little drops of rain falling on the shed, fat little drops of rain falling on the shed, fat little drops of rain falling on the shed. I had made a song out of it and hummed along. Suddenly, that was a moment that made me forget about my very grave thoughts, moving with the hum of my new song. It was a hit on the head when I got back, realized what I had become.
A hymn for the universe; the highs and lows; I was coming alive to being human, I was coming alive to it all.