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.
I began to feel a pinch of discomfort in my eyes so i blinked. Upon blinking more than once; i opened my eyes to see. Blackish gray painted on the graffitti walls glowed as i stood feet away. There she was, swaying with strokes of her brush, like a puppeteer handling her manequin, paint swiivelled across the huge canvas; imagination pouring out of her consciousness. Behind her was a grand facade of arched windows, remains of burnt wood along the sills, a piece of steel net hanging out from between two bricks higher up. The wall was standing, just freely standing there; a backdrop for her strokes of genius. There was overgrown vegetation peeking out from the gaps of the red brown wall. White pebbles graced the ground it stood on. It looked so unreal, almost smelled beautiful but i knew that had to be untrue. She slowly moved away and turned herself towards the glass on her right. A divine light seemed to somehow pierce through the thickness and through the inverted jagged lines of its top between and beneath the glass, making its way to catch my attention. The inside of a studio space, visible from the glass; the curvature of the opposite end, although static; was everything that seemed just out of reality. Though the walls remained in that space in time; i was uncertain of mine. A drifting passage of harmony so oblivious to my becoming became the only source of support for someone like me. I stayed. I dreamed. I admired. I felt it. I could just stay there for yet another moment before folding inwards.
“I swing open a hollow wooden door with force. I walk in. I glide with persistance. The emptiness of the room; so vivid; begins to fill my heart. I take a deep breath and move forward. Dark. So very dark. I believe but begin to question myself. I let myself a little lose trying to feel something; anything. The huge rounds of the shadow begin to approach me; nearing me with motive. I feel cautious but somehow manage to catch myself. There are broken pieces of glass scattered randomly like blood in a crime scene. I move forward but slightly towards my left this time and stop. A mirror. A perfect yet insignificant mirror stands a few feet ahead of me. It shines. I can see myself. The wounds of my past have healed; leaving behind obscure scars on my cheeks, forehead and parts of my neck and hands. I feel empowered by the idea of saddness and i feel it; preserve it; and adore it.”