Posted in Nostalgic

20 years ago, to the month.

Speaking of serendipity…..

A couple of months ago, the chowkidar of our building rang the bell to inform us worriedly that we should take a look into our servant quarters to see if everything was okay. We’d been using the space to store our extra stuff downstairs, and he thought there was a strong possibility of some kittens or mice having died in there.

Huz immediately went to check. Everything appeared to be fine, albeit very dusty and cobwebby, thankfully nothing had crawled in and died, so the building jamadaar was paid something extra to clean up and dust everything and Huz was instructed to instruct the jamadaar to carry up some cartons that had been languishing forever.

The cartons are full of old letters, files, memorabilia and stuff I’ve kept for years because I don’t have the heart to throw anything away. The files contain almost every drawing Amu ever made since she was very little. There are reams of notebooks scribbled with Huz’s prolific poetry from way back when he dreamt of being a poet. There are letters in there written to me by friends when I was away in college, or by Huz before we got married.

Treasure, basically.

A couple of weeks ago, while Amu was taking a break from studying hard for her exams, we were sitting by the window and talking about boys. Something reminded me of my younger school-going self, and I recalled an ‘autograph’ book I had kept from my last week of A level days….

Amu goes to the same school where I did my A’s, so she can relate to some of my memories from there, though admittedly, my memories of KGS aren’t quite as happy as hers.

I didn’t have a very good time there. I felt mostly lonely and depressed because I had a hard time fitting into ‘groups’. A few of my closest friends from my old school adjusted to the new environment way better than I did, and happily went about making new friends and finding their niche. I felt a bit abandoned, and completely lost….I struggled with my studies feeling rather friendless for at least a year. My self esteem was at an all-time low because I thought I must be very uncool…..It was 1992 then.

It is 2012 now, exactly 20 years since those miserable days. It is pure coincidence that I chose this time of all times to share with Amu a particular autograph written for me by a boy who was actually a year senior to me. I remember he had written something almost as a confession of a crush he might have had….I remember how my stomach had kind of plummeted when I read what he had written.

So I went over to fish out the old autograph book from the dusty old carton.

As Amu and I sat by the window and flipped through the pages of that book, reading the things people had written for me, I felt surprised all over again.

It seemed as if people had liked me….

Mysteriously, the particular autograph I wanted to show Amu wasn’t there. It seemed as if it had been removed….making me wonder if it had ever existed…? I knew it had, because I vaguely remember what had been written. I could even almost see it in my mind’s eye. Where on earth did it go..?

Moving on, here are a few samples of some of the thoughts penned by people about me. Don’t judge. Please?

someone i reconnected with after 18 years…
page two of her text! 😀
umm….I have no clue what Hammad’s talking about….:P
another of the very few I got back in touch with 🙂
Sohail even left a phone number!
🙂
this has got to be my favourite 🙂
no, i guess i didn’t fit into the nerd category either
Babar was speechless I suppose…
seems Ayesha had a peeve 😛

Looking back at these autographs made me think about the strange dichotomy between the pathetic image I had of myself during those two years as an unsought-after, unpopular, freakish girl (that nobody wanted to invite at parties…then I remembered….I was never allowed to go to any by my strict mother) and what people may perhaps actually have perceived me as.

Amu laughed her head off at some of the autographs, as did I, and we had a rollicking time. Then she looked  speculative, and remarked….’I wish  I knew this 19 year old you.’

———————————————————-

p.s. Here’s what the school yearbook said about me……(I still wonder who wrote this)

Munira joined KGS in 1990 and quickly became known for her cheerful nature. A lively and talkative person, Munira got along well with everyone. She was recognized for her immense artistic talent and worked for the art section of the Pulse. A free spirit, Munira was always willing to plunge into funfilled adventure. She is planning to continue her studies at either NCA or the Indus Valley school of art.

that’s me…standing third from left 🙂

It doesn’t seem like I was such a loser after all.

Posted in Books and reading, Stuff I like

don’t mean to be pretentious or anything, but…..

Yes, two months went by without a peep on my blog. I did continue to read posts by my multitudinous bloggy friends though, sometimes leaving a comment, sometimes not.

As for me, I just felt I didn’t have any words, though sometimes my mind would register something as blogworthy, yet writing about anything seemed superfluous, not to mention time-consuming. I guess I was allowing myself to revel in laziness and not beating myself up about it.

My shoulder/neck problems stemmed from over-usage of my laptop. Even the physiotherapist told me this. And of course, it should have been obvious that I needed time off from sitting propped on an elbow while lying in bed.

So I ended up reading a lot, sitting up straight, wearing my reading glasses. Finally finished ‘The Corrections’ (by Jonathan Franzen) and I have to say it was absolutely brilliant. It took me a long time to read it, firstly because it is more than 700 pages long, and secondly because it was having a strange intense effect on me. It was just that good. Far be it from me to give you a book review at this point though. Just, trust me on this….read the book if you can. You listening Harsha? 🙂

I’m happy to report a most strange yet delightful series of coincidences too, the first of which is this.

Since some time last year (or perhaps even the year before) I have been feeling the urge to read Urdu. You might think it strange that I’d say something like this, being a Pakistani, having lived here all my life, speaking the language. You’d think I must have read Urdu books all my life, but no, that is not the case. My knowledge of Urdu writers and poets amounts to a big fat zero. This is a sad consequence of having studied under the Cambridge board of education.

I have grown up reading English literature only. Perhaps that is why I have always felt like an alien, an outsider in my own country. I don’t/can’t identify completely with the greater Pakistani/subcontinental culture, observing things around me with somewhat of a sense of detachment..it never helped that I belong to a communal sect that encouraged the speaking of Gujarati over Urdu, which was doomed for me to be not a second language, but a third language. It didn’t matter while I was growing up, except that essays in Urdu didn’t exactly trip off my tongue, but I felt a sense of quaintness in being perceived as something other than an Urdu-speaker, just by the way I pronounced the Urdu ‘r’…..the one with the ‘toi’ on top. I never got that right until someone pointed it out to me, and since then I’ve made an effort to pronounce it correctly.

So you see dear readers, I live in a bubble within a bubble. But I am mesmerised by the fluidity, the ease, and the complete unselfconscious assurance with which pure Urdu speakers wax eloquent. I know I can never be like them, but despite the tiny eye-straining font, and my debilitating lack of understanding of a lot of Urdu words, Project 2012 was to educate myself in my own language and I would do so by starting off reading the Mantonama, penned by the controversial and highly acclaimed Saadat Hasan Manto. (A good friend was kind enough to loan me his copy 🙂 ) 

Mantonama is a compilation of short stories and happens to be the first proper Urdu book I have ever read after the textbooks we did at school. I have already read a few stories and been surprised at the ease with which I could read them. I didn’t need to consult the dictionary even once!

But here’s the strange coincidence. 2012 has been declared the Year of Manto and marks the centenary of Manto’s birth, celebrated not just in Pakistan but also in India.

I had no clue about this when I decided to start my Urdu book-reading project with one of his books. 🙂 

Perhaps listening to the articulate and erudite Ayesha Jalal, Manto’s niece, at the Karachi Literature Festival earlier this year had something to do with piquing my interest further, because really, I didn’t know much about Manto or his style of writing, or his subject matter, or even the fact that he was prosecuted for writing ‘obscene’ things. Ayesha Jalal says ‘He wrote what he saw, and took no sides.’

I was warned by my friend that reading Manto will have a strange effect on me and he was right. After picking my way through a few stories, I was decidedly disturbed.

I had to lay the book aside for a bit, and pick up another book that I thought looked intriguing, and was also being highly acclaimed these days in literary circles.

‘The Wandering Falcon’ has been written by Jamil Ahmad, an 80-plus year old man. Here’s something about him.

It was a relatively quick read, being only 180 pages long, but it had my imagination completely captivated. I still feel in thrall of the harsh beauty of the world he has described in his book, a world not too far from my own….

The Wandering Falcon reads almost like a collection of short stories too, woven through with the story of Tor Baz, an orphaned boy, who wanders nomadically through the borderland between Pakistan and Afghanistan, those forbidding tribal areas that seem to have defied all attempts at being governed.

This book is a must read. It is written simply, but with attention to detail, and is sure to leave a lasting impression on your mind. I can’t recommend it enough!! 

And now that I am done with it, I shall go back to reading Manto…..with perhaps a bit of Jaun Elia thrown in to liven things up a bit. Maybe there will come a day when I’m very very old, that I shall be able to quote poetry with flair and construct complex sentences and speak them the way they should be spoken.