Away from the ‘homeland’
In the past one month, my friends and associates from across the globe have reached out. I am grateful to them. Now that I am out of Pakistan I am safer. This is a trade-off. Choices. Again. Security versus identity. Belonging or choosing a migrant’s life. I have yet to think about these issues and hopefully the mist will clear itself.
I was deeply touched by what the eminent poet and my friend-muse Fahmida Riaz wrote in her commentary on the recently held Islamabad Literature Festival:
…It is no ordinary city or town, our capital. Only weeks ago there was a blast here that killed many people; and just last month, one of its prominent citizens, Raza Rumi, barely escaped death in a car attack. Last year Rumi was the life and spirit of the festival, moderating many sessions, but this year he was nowhere to be seen.
And then this email that pierced into a corner of my being:
Yes, I heard about it. Yes, I also read about it. Quite honestly, I didn’t know how to react to it. Should I pick the phone, say a few words of concern and take a sigh of relief? Or should I sit back, grim and bear it? It took a long time to sink in despite the fact that it sounded familiar. I’ve lost friends (we all have lost friends at some one point in life or the other) but I really can’t afford to lose another. Each time I hear the sound within earshot, I am shaken. I feel weak in the knees while writing this!I called you today – your number was powered off. I was looking for you at the ILF 2014 but couldn’t see you anywhere. Where are you? How do I connect with you? …Meanwhile, take everything easy. I can’t stop thanking God for returning you to us. Looking forward to hearing from you.Best, ….
My friend the journalist Raza Rumi narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in Lahore in late March. He threw his body on the floor of his car, and the attackers, mistaking him for dead, finished off his driver. The night Raza was shot at, I went to a shaadi. I arrived late, at 1 am, to a house glittering with beautiful people. Shehrbano Taseer, the assassinated governor’s daughter, stood in a corner talking to friends. When I saw Bano, I broke down in her arms. “It’s so ugly,” I cried, surrounded by a few perplexed guests, and trees strung with fairy lights. Bano hugged me tightly, silently. A few weeks later, Bano and I were talking on the phone. She told me that she had been taken aback by my tears, because, she said, they reminded her of how numb she had become.