Are We There Yet?
Karachi Scribbles I
It’s hard to tell when you’ve really, truly entered adulthood. Even the definition is somewhat ambiguous: fully grown – physically or psychologically? Mature – that’s definitely relative, and my favorite: of age.
I know for sure I didn’t feel like an adult when I turned 18. How can anyone feel like an adult in college where jeans, sneakers and t-shirts rule supreme and irons are unheard of? Where cooking two-minute ramein is a skill and bed sheets are optional, where you feel independent and free – from authority, responsibility and worry. Where you stick your head out of the car window and feel happiness tug at your hair, where music can never be too loud and where your youth is tangible, in the way you walk and talk and breathe and laugh.
Did I feel like an adult when I turned 21? Not quite, because I came right back home. Starting a job? Nopes, still living with my parents, although ironing slowly wormed its way into my life and closet.
I felt a semblance of adulthood rear it’s scary head when I went for my masters. I was living with two housemates but I had an internship which was essentially an unpaid job, school work and then the tedious job of cooking for myself and sweeping the living room floor.
Cleaning a bathroom – and I mean really cleaning, getting on your knees and scrubbing with a brush, wondering how does one clean a toilet brush and how frequently does that have to happen? Those days were definitely gentle nudges towards adulthood.
But the realization that this was just a transitory period in my life, funded by a scholarship, eased my shoulder muscles a bit, allowed me to sit back and muse over the birds and changing colors of trees.
If going for masters abroad was a small push towards adulthood, getting married and moving (back) to Karachi was like a hard shove that careened me over the shifting borders, into the land of grown-ups.
Now I have no excuses. We have adult jobs and we live in a house with bills that actually lie on the table till you pay them, a fridge that empties out if you forget to do your grocery, A.C.s that break down and cars with busted tires you have to spend your Saturdays getting fixed.
Is this what my parents were doing all the time? I wonder sometimes, more bewildered than tired, amazed at the list of things to do that never end and then slightly freaking out, am I ready for this?
I think back to my parents, and their mountain of responsibilities was much higher, in fact the odds they faced and conquered make our life seem a casual walk in the park, where the biggest worry would be to swat a butterfly that flew too close to us. They had their parents, siblings, and at our age – their kids – to worry about and take care of.
So I agree, the arena of adults that I’ve rolled over into is an easier landscape. But it needs getting used to. Especially if you happen to live in Karachi, a city that exhausts you because you skip from hating it to loving it and back to hating it within minutes, an emotionally taxing city that can drain you out with just a 20-minute walk or the gesture of a man in a four-wheeler as he rams his way past your insignificance on the road.
The idea of waking up to a job five days a week, coming back and putting away your laundry, of waking up in the middle of the night with a toothache and having to make a decision yourself – go to the doctor or take a painkiller and cry? It’s those little things, the broken appliances, the daily grocery lists, the termites, the light bulbs, the water pipes, the shampoo that finishes every day, those little things that our parents – like magic elves – would fix for us so smoothly that I barely noticed. These little things that prick and prod reminders: yeah, you’re there now.