No, this post is not about some dream man, a fantasy, a hidden desire or a sacred passion! Yet, still it concerns all of the above, and so much more besides!
See, thanks to a very special some one in particular, I’ve been forced to contemplate the recipient of this title and my resulting affections quite allot lately, and as I’ve nothing in particular to blog about these days, I’ve decided to indulge myself by writing about some aspects of this love, and just why it is so special, so beautiful! Some of this will be familiar to you, if you’ve been reading the blog for a while, or if this is a love that you and I share!
Let me try to identify where it began! Not that this is easy for me, for this love feels older than me, so elemental, so much a part of me that it resonates in my heartbeat, pours out through my every breath! But though its familiar, it remains exotic, captivating and entrancing, so that no matter how much I try to shelf or contain it, the intensity only returns to me with force, dragging me from categorising it as a guilty pleasure, and recognising it for what it really is! When did I first fall in love? That’s the thing, I really don’t know! Maybe the first time I wore glass bangles, the first time I dreamt in Urdu (when I was 6 years old), or the first time I heard Radio Pakistan! …, not what you were expecting eh? Well, that’s the whole point about this love, the whole charm of it lives in its spontaneity and its ability to keep its admirer on the edge, adoring the unexpected! I envisioned Karachi long before I ever visited! The city used to call to my subconscious through Radio Pakistan and the long hours I spent in my room as a kid, listening to Tahira Saeed gazals and dreaming of a world that was unknown, yet somehow part of me. I was given a salwar kameez when I was 9 by my uncle who worked in India at the time. I’d wear it, lay on my bed, listening to spoken Urdu. If I closed my eyes tight enough, the sounds of the cars on the newly built slip road below my bedroom window almost mimicked the waves on Clifton beach. I’d stretch my arms wide to touch each of the walls that imprisoned me in the tiny space my parents had given me, and wondered why I was here and why I was such a misfit in this family, this realm that had been chosen for me; such a small child, asking such big questions! Things didn’t make sense to me then, any more than they do now! But I knew one thing for sure; one day, I’d visit that place, I’d make it home! And though I didn’t know how I was going to get there, I made it my business to make the dream a reality by learning Urdu, studying Asian classical Music, filling my wardrobe with more salwar suits and glass bangles than I knew what to do with; and insuring my music collection began and ended with Vital signs; exclusively! People often ask me how I ended up in Karachi? And my stock answer is always something like; well, I went on Holiday; got a job, and never came back! …, this is true, though there is a bit more to it than that! See, we plan, and Allah (SWT) plans! Karachi rescued me at a time when I was truly drowning! The seed was planted on the 14th August, 2003! Pakistan Independence day, 2200 hours, GMT! I was alone in my office at the BBC. I’d been sort-of living there since my husband had divorced me only 2 months previously. I couldn’t quite get my head around it; here I was, not even 21 and divorced, with my dream job coming to an end in less than 4 months! What would I do? Where would I go? How would I survive? To make matters worse, my landlord at the time, who was a relative of my former husband, informed me that as my x had no more use for me, he had no need of my rent either, and wanted me out! In those days, the BBC was still in its former home in the West End of Glasgow! We occupied an old, eccentric charming building with character and sanctity in equal measure! Security was lax for staff and it was perfectly normal for the anoraks among us to spend days and nights there! I kept a bag of clothes under my desk and slept on one of our meeting room sofas. I showered before any one came in; and no one even noticed I’d made the office my home! But on 14th August, I had a 10 PM moment! I stood by my office window which looked down upon Kelvin Grove park. Couples walked hand in hand under the trees, talking, loving, laughing and living! People wandered casually home, picked up bottles of wine and pizza for a quiet evening by the fire. I surveyed the scene; and wondered what had happened to my life! Just then, the phone on my desk rang! It took me by surprise because as far as I knew, no one had any idea I was still at work! I didn’t want to talk, but still, the journalist within was already imagining the potential story lead which might just bag me a BBC Contract extension! My friend and colleague Ali was on the line, all the way from Karachi! I was in shock; it was 2 AM his time, why was he calling me right now? He said he’d been calling my house for days in the evening, and had a horrible feeling that I’d rather moved in to the office; as I appeared to only be returning work related Emails! Ali and I had worked together for 2 years prior to this point. He was with Geo Television at the time, and had become a great friend, skilled colleague and serious inspiration in my eyes! Just like me, he was a journalist without all the necessary letters to his name, but his passion and incredible film skills had earned him a production job way above most of his counterparts! Ali had helped me secure recordings in Pakistan, leading interviews for my programmes and had, most significantly for me, taught me so much about the city of my soul and how it had raised/nurtured him. I admitted I’d been living up there on the fourth floor, and confessed to him that I had absolutely no idea where I’d go or what I’d do from here! He calmed my nerves and if I remember correctly, distracted me by talking about the day he’d spent recording a video with Noori! I ended the call and went off to make some coffee to get me through another restless night of faked sleep and fretting! But when I came back to my computer to log off, Ali had Emailed! His note said “Roshni, I don’t know what you are doing there and why you are doing this to yourself! I don’t know if I can help you but …, Come to Karachi! You have a home here, I can find you work if work is what you want! There is clearly nothing keeping you there, and you are so obviously not happy! I know this man has hurt you, but I wonder why you are hurting yourself like this? think about it …”. His words shook me to the core! They were all true, but so obvious I’d only seen the abstract till then. Why was I hurting myself, and why was I staying! His words haunted me constantly over the following few months, during my 21st Birthday and my frantic job search. Ali mentioned Karachi a few times, and I always said I’d (probably) come for a holiday or something, but I remained non-committal! I’d come out of such a huge trauma, I felt too weak, too incapable of making another life changing decision that could go so wrong, just as my marriage had done! I got myself another job; and managed to secure another apartment in the building I’d lived in before! So, I was settled; or so I thought! The fact is, I hated the new job! Even on the day I accepted it, I cleared out my BBC desk in floods of tears, and even told my producer I knew I’d made a big mistake! But there was no going back; my contract was going to end any way! by the end of the first day, I knew I couldn’t stay! The workload was impossible, the manager was evil; the environment was stifling! This was not a place of late nights and creativity; and the stress of it seemed to drag out the pain of my divorce and situation; things I’d kept well controlled till that point! I sensed my loss of control over myself, my reality; of all that mattered to me; and I knew I had to act fast! Strangely, while all this was going on, Karachi began to play an increasingly significant role in my life! I was writing for 2 Karachi lifestyle websites, was editing a chat forum about Karachi and interviewing artists for a Music column on Pakistan for the Scottish addition of Eastern Eye! These distractions kept me sane; and I took a month or so sick leave from work to relax and concentrate on the fun stuff which paid little and brought great pleasure! As my sick leave ended, the boss from hell began a manic phone campaign, stocking me to try and ascertain whether or not I was going to return! I had no where to go, but going back wasn’t an option either! And so, on the last day of my permitted sick leave, I washed, dressed, and went to the Asian Travel Agency near my house, and bought a one-way ticket to Karachi! Why one Way? simple; that’s all I could afford; …, but maybe not that simple! Maybe there was wisdom in all of it; maybe, if I look back on it now, the message about where I should be was clear! I bought my ticket, dropped off my paperwork to secure my visa; and went to pray Jummah at Glasgow Central mosque, for the last time in my city! I went to the library and did some writing, including printing out my resignation letter! 2 weeks later, I’d emptied my flat, given away all that I owned bar a box of sentimental items which I left at my parents, and the suitcase I took with me! Very few people knew I was leaving! And as far as my parents knew, I was going for a month or so, for vacation, and I’d be back! That’s what I believed then, and that’s what I told myself! I didn’t know where I was going; what I would gain or what I was leaving behind! All I know is that nothing has ever felt so right as the moment when I waved my bangle covered hand behind me, and, dressed in a dark purple salwar curta; stepped on to PIA flight 787 for Karachi; leaving the past behind!
***To be continued in the next post! ***