Good Afternoon, 2017

From where I’m standing
Right now,
It’s not really clear;
I see some clouds
And a grey fog

Perhaps I can lean over
And draw
Some silver linings
The dark

A box of crayons
Always by your side
Reds and blues and greens
And the brightest yellow

And while it may be
Too easy
To let the box drop
And drown
In the gray

It might be better
To lean over
And draw silver
The dark.

Hello, new year, another year.

I think at some point I stopped owning the years – you know, how when we were younger and in school, we’d start off the new year by always writing down last year in the blue and red margins of our notebooks – but then eventually, we’d grow used to the actual date and our margins would stop being all smudgy. 

For some reason, now when another year steamrolls into me, there are two thoughts that come one after the other (like a race between two close runners, with one leading and then the other overtaking and you don’t know who will win till the very end) – what happened this year? why does 2017 sound so foreign, as if it’s not the year that’s just started but something that is from the future, four, five years away?

Sounds absurd, I know but as I grow older, my comprehension of time seems to get more warped and confusing.  If I didn’t have a score of low-quality camera photos (taken and shared through our new best friend WhatApp) collated helpfully with dates for names, I wouldn’t really be able to remember what happened all throughout the year.  It’s too easy to mix up 2016 with 2015, or the year before…

I don’t think it is wise to romanticize the past (at least not too frequently) and remain drenched in nostalgia, and I don’t want to be a pessimist but sometimes the direction we seem to be collectively headed towards does appear dim.  And when I think of last year being difficult, I don’t just think of David Bowie or Mohammad Ali, Junaid Jamshed or even Edhi’s death – I think of how this is indicative of the years to come… when old age, poor lifestyle choices, and misfortune combine together in different measures to result in the inevitable exit from this world, not just of celebrities who impacted our childhood or teenage years, or simply formed the backdrop of life as we grew from chubby toddlers to gangly teens to slightly rotund adults, but of people closer to our hearts and our lives.  It’s a thought that grows heavier each year and clings to our neck and shoulders, tightening muscles and creating knots that ache throughout the day, it’s a thought that weakens the soul and terrifies the heart.

It was a year that struck blows to our beliefs about what we’ve already accomplished and where we are in life, a reality check that we kept averting our faces from, like ostriches with their heads stuck deep in sand, till our necks were pulled out and blatant racism, fierce nationalism, and cruel extremism raged around us like a firewall that we seem to be unable to extinguish or jump out of.

I don’t want to start the year with such thoughts pulling me down, but neither do I want to stay with my head stuck in the sand just because the winds are too fierce and burning to face.

Maybe I’ll spend some time digging through 2016 and pull out the snapshots of happiness and hope and pride– TCF opening its first college in Karachi and starting an ambitious partnership with provincial governments to revamp the education system, traveling to Hunza after nine years and basking in its therapeutic miraculous breathtaking beauty, meeting some awesome new people and strengthening old friendships over countless cups of tea and coffee and old books, speaking of tea – the first tea festival in Karachi under canopies of fairy lights and dunking naan khatai  in cardamom chai to the sound of music, and speaking of music, attending small, low-key concerts outdoors at the Arts Council and the Alliance de Française, Fahad getting a scholarship and us moving to the UK, and hey, apparently tigers are increasing in number after several years, and people seem to be taking climate change more seriously, and Pakistan passed legislation against honour killing, and sometimes the sun comes out and paints the sky in Nottingham a beautiful blue.

So here’s hoping this year will make us stronger, happier, braver, wiser, more patient and open to the beauty that sometimes needs us to turn our heads a bit, or maybe lift the curtains higher. Here’s hoping we do go to the gym and write in our diary about all the things we’re grateful for – at least for the first five months of the year! And that we reunite with family and friends and make some new ones too, that we try good food and read a lot of books and admire some art, go to a concert and watch plays and finish scores of emotional TV shows.  And that we travel and meet great people and be great people that others remember and write about at the end of 2017…

Happy new year.  


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