Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Pulling the Reins on 2015


Karachi Scribbles VI

Many, many years ago, time used to be slow. Like an old goods train that ran on coal, chugging forward at an agreeable pace and sometimes breaking down, creaking to a stop, catching its breath, letting everyone else pause for a bit too.

I can still recall the phrase “I’m bored” – but barely; a time when when computer applications were restricted to Paint and that mines game which I never understood but continued to play; when the summer days would stretch in front of us in languid luxury, the total number of TV channels under the count of five, when there was actually so much time that I would do my summer vacation homework: which was to buy stickers of fruits and vegetables and paste them neatly in ‘scrapbooks’ (the term scrapbook had a different meaning then – multicolored pages inside an ugly cover of a thin notebook), not exactly an exercise of critical thinking. I mean seriously. Fruit stickers?

We had so much time we would make up races like the Titanic race (in which two people are required to run while observing the Jack-and-Rose at the helm of the ship pose) and the Kaho na Pyar Hai race (doing the dance step that became so famous back in the day).

The days when nobody ever used the phrase: “I just don’t have the time for it…” but still managed to do so much more.

When a year would end and the next would come up all bright and shiny, it would take several weeks to get the date right on our notebooks. Now when I think back to how old I am, it takes me a minute to remember, or when I’m talking about my graduation day I pause and wonder, was it 2012 or 2011? It was one thing when days would pass by so quickly they would start to merge into one slightly longer period than individual periods of time, to be spent and felt individually. Now years pass by at the same speed, blending together, making it difficult to remember how old nephews and nieces are at present, what really, he’s three! It feels like yesterday that you put up pictures of his first birthday…! When did we get married, what year did Grandpa die, how many months...no wait its been two years already?

When we do so much in one year – get new jobs, promotions, travel to Thailand five times, meet up with friends over endless cups of tea and wedding celebrations (wait did Azeem get married this year or last? Do you know Bina actually has a baby now! What, didn’t she get married six months ago… oh wait, we don’t have time to actually pause and think back now, let’s watch a movie instead.), eat too many nachos, spend too many hours being stationary and watching TV – but since there’s so much to do we forget to pause and take it in. And which is why we forget.

On the last day of 2014, I was driving back and the idea of a new year was bringing me down. It had been a sad December for all Pakistanis, but there was also a stirring panic about how quickly it had ended. I like to be prepared, and I love making to-do lists so new year’s resolutions are always fun for me. Just another opportunity to pen down bullet points on a cute piece of paper. But nothing was coming to mind. The sky was so pale, the buildings shrouded in a strange, surreal mist.

That night, however, the sky cleared up. Bright stars and twinkling lights all over buildings, marking weddings, the new year, and Rabi-ul Awwal, while the distant sounds of sirens pre-empting raucous revelries echoed in the cold winter air. A calmness settled slowly, the airy feeling of having reached a decision. This year, my resolution is to slow down time.

I’m going to try and really live each day, but more than that, at the end of the day I’ll take out a few minutes to think about it. How’d it go? What was fun? What was kinda not fun at all? Just a few lines in my journal about what made this day different from the one before, so that they don’t all just merge into one another like ink stains, indistinguishable and messy, easily tossed into the dust of yesterdays.  

And so far it seems to be working. I’m on Day 22 and I can remember that I sang along to Wonderwall on the first day of the year as I drove to work. That yesterday, I met Dija over a cupcake and Belgian Chocolate coffee on a noisy cafĂ© terrace. And last Thursday, I went to my Zumba class against all willpower odds. That the weekend before last, Fahad and I went out for breakfast then watched too many movies all day.

I’m not saying I’ve developed a photographic memory and each day is a clear snapshot in my mind, but at least I somewhat feel the passing of days, the recognition of dates, like I flip a calendar page every day (if calendar pages were of days instead of months). It also brings into perspective what I’m spending more time on– am I brawling too much over late dinners? Do we need to eat out more? Less? Watch more TV shows instead of movies? Do I like my work? How long will it take me to take out time and watch the sun rise?

I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to keep this up but so far, it feels good to have some sort of a grip on this new year.  Maybe this year while living it I’ll actually remember it. You know, just take some time out of our busy schedules to realize what the heck are we so busy with anyways.

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