Feels like home

January 3

Happy new year, already three days old, tottering off to a fast start but that’s just how it is now. Time hops by like the pink Energizer bunny, too fast to breathe deeply and then just like that, the battery will run out and we’ll be dead.

It’s so good to be home, surrounded by family, in the same time zone as him, knowing when I message him I’ll see you soon, it can actually happen. How long does it take for six days to pass?

It pays to be an optimistic, upper-middle class woman in Pakistan, where bad news is part of your everyday reality, where heart-wrenching sights and sounds wrap themselves around your ankles and arms and drag your stunned, immobile, weak body into a never-ending pit of despair. It pays to be an optimist in a country where heaters flicker weakly and tea takes ages to make because there is low gas pressure, where five people die on a Tuesday in Peshawar in a blast, where the word blast is part of everyday lingo, where the light goes four times a day even though it is winter, where a small, skinny boy refuses to sell you a single rose for less than Rs50 and so you drive away, leaving him at the traffic light on a smooth road in cold Islamabad. It helps to be an optimist because instead of being dragged into the pit of despair you wrench yourself free of the gripping vines of misery and look at the huge marigolds around the corner, the three children clutching boxes of juice as they walk in a park, the happy boys playing cricket with a slab of wood as a bat.

It feels good to be around my people, talking in dialects that I understand, barbecuing chicken and pondering over whether lokki ka halwa can really qualify as a desert, where people call deserts ‘sweetdishes’ or even ‘swee-dish’. Here, shawls signify winter, and everyone, men, women, children drape them around themselves and their loved ones. I like that.

The comfort of being in Pakistan is strange, irreplaceable. And even though I know I can get run over or mugged, or even lose my limbs in an explosion in a marketplace, or leered and followed by greasy men, these risks melt into a hazy nothingness in front of the fact that I belong here.

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