December 22nd, 2017
There was a time I loved Twitter. Openly. Publicly. But in all the love stories I came to know including the first hand experience, there remained villains. Those agents of violence (تخریب کار) never wanted love to flourish. So love on its own was a very expensive and a bumpy ride. The love for twitter was no different. And once again the agents succeeded and the story ended. Like any good story, this story too had gems of knowledge and memorabilia which I picked up on the path like breadcrumbs of learning. I have always felt as if I am being sent to a wrong place, in a troubled state, in a stigmatized religion, at a violent time etc. The feeling is intense when I compare the privilege of using twitter on the go when no one even heard this name. This made me want to use a more fluid and stable application on a then-considered-smartphone – Nokia N95. At one time I wanted to jump to an iPhone but back in those days I couldn’t make this jump due to a sketchy vendor with equally sketchy after sale warranty. So I jumped to another Nokia which was more polished but came with the same set of limitation. There were no polished apps for Twitter and even for then-gaining-popularity Facebook. One day I got to know of Gravity and it changed my view of Nokia. Even today, after five iPhones and an equal number of droids, I am still in love with the elegance of Gravity on Nokia. That application was simply an alien technology. It made me fear what if the developer abandons it and shifts his energies to a more crowded platform like the iOS. As Nokia suffered it’s demise, I moved to Apple and like all forgotten tales of passion, Gravity went into shadow. I loved the clean and fluid Tweetbot which I use even today. There is something I don’t like about the native Twitter app and I don’t know what that is. Maybe that is just a bias and even in that case, I don’t like it. After many years the developer created a newer app themed exactly like the original Gravity and when I got to know about it, I had to make the jump. So for one app, I moved to Android and got Gravity installed. It was love again. Made me feel younger for a moment. Sadly I cannot tweet again after giving up all my public spaces back in 2014. Hence using Gravity to write short chunks of writings at two private twitter IDs away from the eyes of madarchods and behenchods. Nostalgia is such a bitch. It makes you do things many won’t understand, ever. I have tweeted this line as well. So don’t try to copy and be a madarchod or a behenchod or both.
In the days of Lahore, I had to cross the whole city to reach my academy. I was preparing for exams then. The bus ride was peaceful in the morning. However it was a torture in the evening when coming back in an over crowded bus was a battle itself. I had an iPod back then which was a temporary but a stable refuge. I had a bad internet connection at home so I did not download music from the internet. A small shop near my house was a blessing from where I got many CD’s with pirated music and books. That is the bitter truth of music in the country. I used to get a new CD every Friday, sometimes even two. All the songs ended up on my iPod because it had more memory than even my computer and it looked cool to carry thousands of songs at one time. I loved summer mornings and winter evenings of Lahore. Even today the charm of their magic is etched.
One day when on way back home, the iPod played a song I hadn’t heard before. There were many songs that I had never played even once. So coming across a new song was never startling. But that song was simply amazing. It made me wish that neither the journey nor the song end. I didn’t know which artist that was. Even the file name was showing some website from where the CD’s were loaded with pirated music. That art by an unknown artist occupied my mind for some time in the coming days. I used to sit next to a window and music was an add on drug. The earphones muffled the world around. I felt like watching a film. That song was sheer solace. But we all know that solace like any joy is short lived.
Then I lost my iPod.
Shifting home is never easy. With all the muscle spasms and cranks, one is likely to lose a long list of things every time one moves. I lost my iPod among some other things when I shifted place. And with that I lost a piece of art which I regretted. The price wasn’t the setback. I lost the only copy I had of that song and now had no hope of finding that song again. Shazam was in infancy in those days. I went to a music store but that was of no help. Googled all possible variations of that song’s lyrics but that gave me no results either. The only hope I had was to get back my iPod back and retrieve that one song. Even today I feel that it was some fragment of Lahore that Lahore didn’t want me to take along.
Some days ago an artist released his second album after his first was a failure many years ago. He collaborated some songs with a few artist in the past but had no success. I was just surfing on the internet when I came across him. Then I searched for his album. I listened to the whole album and shockingly, the last song of the album was a bigger shock. It was the same song. There were some modifications to its instruments. But it was the same thing. Even the lyrics. I was having the urge to fly back into time. I put on my headphones and closed all the tasks I was doing. Felt as if I am listening to my iPod again as I look out of the bus window. The winds are hitting my face. These winds of Lahore are magical, just like Lahore itself. A never ending magic. I am on way home, to meet myself.
I am a morning person. Everyday after the morning prayers, I go for a walk. I was witnessing something for the past week. When I reach the park for walk, I find a boy and a girl leaving for school. Their black shoes polished to shine like mirrors and their uniforms and badges are a sign of being in some school. After leaving their house together, they reach one end of the park before coming up to their bus stop. From the past week, I noticed one thing. After leaving home, they do head to the bus stop but after crossing two blocks, they enter a street on left. It is more like a narrow alley. From where I stand it was not visible what they do there. So out of curiosity, I took a long walk and ended on the bench from where I can see them and made sure that I remained out of sight myself. They followed the pattern of leaving the house together, waving goodbye to someone in the window and walking a block towards the bus stand and then turning into the alley. I was watching them. The boy removed his white school shirt. Underneath he was wearing a t-shirt. He handed the shirt to the girl who folded it and put that neatly in her bag. Then the boy crossed the alley and disappeared on the other side of the alley. The girl walked to the bus stop and hopped on the school bus when it arrived. I walked back home for another day.
The next dawn I altered my entire route. I was not in my workout clothes. The other end of the alley opened to a link road which connected to a main road. I reached the main road and sat on the bench of a bus stop. The other end of the alley was not visible to me. But if that boy follows his path, he was naturally to reach here. Sitting by road side and watching early morning crowd rushing to reach their battle-stations was thought provoking. There were so many characters for any story that I write and in all sizes and shapes too. It was the third day of my adventure. I looked at my watch again and again. I had assumed the time in which he would reach here. And my calculation was right. He reached there. He waited for a bus which when arrived, he climbed on it and was gone. The next day I went to the stop on time and waited for him. I signaled a rickshaw and settled a deal to follow someone. The driver was an old man. He agreed with no questions or hesitations. The boy came and boarded a bus. I signaled the driver. In no time we were tailing the bus. After half an hour we reached a place nicknamed for being the edge of posh area. It was a scar on the face of a planned neighborhood. Most of maids, servants and security guards working in the houses on the posh area lived in this neighborhood. There were meat shops, washing machine repair shops, vegetable and fruit shops etc. Flies were everywhere. I was praying deep inside that the boy doesn’t take us deep into this shitty neighborhood. Thankfully he didn’t. He went to a pharmacy and when he came out he had keys in his hands. He jumped on a bike and started it. My rickshaw was naturally a slower medium but against all odds, we tailed him to a park where he stopped his bike and went inside. There was a security guard at the gate. I pulled out a fifty rupee note and handed it to him and went inside. It was a girl he used to meet. At the far end of the park, under a tree they were sitting. Their bags lying next to them. Under that shade they must have made a hundred promises, maybe a thousand. They might want to relive this moment in years to come. Or they might regret this moment. Either way, this moment would carve something on their souls. Yet the kids don’t know it yet. Like a million ephemeral love stories, this one would be forgotten by it’s characters. But I won’t. It’s not my love story though it is my experience. Was it lust? Was it hormones? Was it really love? I could not tell just by looking at their smiling faces. I looked around. There were many more pairs of school and college bags in that park. It was startling only when a thought it him that does it mean many others like me were there too who skipped their morning walks and have stalked someone to reach here. I scanned around. I could find no one. I grabbed a bar of chocolate and headed home.
I still remember the day when a friend said:
It’s the first semester, nine more. How will time pass!
And here today I am writing this and thinking of all the moments that passed in the blink of an eye. It was surely a long way but full of colorful bends, some wanted and some unwanted and all in the end have left their scars of memories. They should stay lessons for life to pass on. It was winters when I joined college and it is again the same season. I am drifting off to that time recalling all the minute details of how friends were and what they ended in becoming and how things progressed over time. A few lines and a few paragraphs can never do justice to the moments that I lived. My last semester in this institute just begun. I fell in love with this place. I have a hope to relive the nine semesters in this one over again assuming beauty on the ugly faces that were hidden in the early days and to create records of these memories in an amount that I can relive moments again. Someone told me that hope is a good thing.
It was dark all around. And it was raining very heavily. I was running. I don’t know why. All I could see under my feet was the bricked path. The rain had muffled all the sounds. My heavy breaths and the thumps of my shoes were the only sounds I could hear. The think curtain of the darkness was continuous. I could not see anything except for a small light in the distance. I had a feeling of being chased or I needed something. There was a reason of why I was running. There was urgency and with every moment I was getting more breathless. The sense of pain accumulating in the muscles of my legs was growing. My throat was drying too. Somehow I knew that I had to reach that light. But a fear of someone or something behind me existed.
What if that light was a trap? What if someone knew I were reaching there?
But what if not!
And then there was thunder. For a moment I saw the path ahead of me. I picked up the pace and continued to ran. The discomfort had already started to climb up to my chest and crawling into my lungs. I didn’t look back and kept running. The distance was closing but slowly. The fear of the unknown was rising. Eventually I reached the light. The was a tall wall. The light was mounted on top of the door. There were no windows in the wall. I could not make the height of the wall because of the dark and the downpour. The door was bathing in the yellow light. Strangely there was no knob or any handle on it. It was completely blank except for some square patterns on it. Suddenly the wind blew stronger making the raindrops hit the door and the light above it. The steel shade covering the light made a sound as the drops hit it. Whoever or whatever was behind me won’t be far now and might reach here any moment. I stepped closer to the door and decided to knock. But as soon as I was about to, someone grabbed me from behind.
“Utho Beta…. It’s iftaar time.”
I could still feel the water droplets on my face.