I made up for yesterdays missed walk by giving in to Huz’s insistence that I join him today. I had two reasons to whine and complain before doing so, however.
Reason 1: my legs felt like lead.
Reason 2: i hate bats (those creepy blind flying mammals… not what you use to play cricket with)
The park we go to walk is just a few metres down the road from where we live. It is named after Amir Khusro, scholar and mystic, writer of beautiful verses in Persian and Hindvi, the father of Sufic qawwali from the 13th century. He wrote (and I quote)
Ze qaid-e dojahan azad baasham;
Agar tu hum-nashin-e bandah baashi.
Barindi-o bashokhi hamcho Khusrau;
Hazaran khanuman barkandah baashi.
‘I shall be set free from the bonds of the two worlds
If you become my companion for a while.
By your wanton playfulness you must have destroyed
Thousands of hearts of lovers like that of Khusrau.’
Perhaps the spirit of Khusro lives on here in this well-maintained park in Old Clifton, that we often see couples (presumably from the nearby Neelum Colony) sitting together on the grass, holding hands, away from the walking track and prying eyes, or sitting on a secluded bench under a gazebo, giggling and speaking in hushed whispers, the more besotted lying in each others laps, looking adoringly into each others eyes. A rare sight in our country, where public displays of affection are met with incredulous and prolonged staring by passers-by, enough to daunt all but the most intrepid of lovers.
(an aside: I feel self conscious if I so much as poke Huz in the arm with my finger in public, let alone hold his hand, let alone lie with my head in his lap in a public park!)
Stifling my whining when I remembered the extra kilos I seem to have added to myself over the course of winter, I resigned myself to walking 10 laps around the park circuit, albeit with a slower pace than usual (since my legs felt so very reluctant to comply to anything faster), while Huz just laughed at my plodding and gamely kept pace with me. Moments after sunset, when the azaan for maghrib rings out over the falling dusk, and the floodlights are switched on to bathe the park in a cool white light, sure enough, the bats come fluttering out of the surrounding trees.
I remember being around 12 and opening the balcony door one evening to have something hairless and non-feathered fly straight at me and attach itself heavily to my arm. I don’t think I even waited long enough to make eye contact with the creature to determine what it was, before I let out a piercing shriek and went completely ballistic, flailing the attacked arm and swatting at it with my other hand, jumping up and down at the same time. Whatever it was, I’ll bet it was just as horrified at the reception it got, as I was at finding it attached to me. My guess: it was a bat.
The bats look ditzy and aimless as they search for god-knows-what, navigating their way blindly while emitting high-pitched squeaks I can’t even hear; all I’m scared of is one of them accidentally flying into my face, while I make an inevitable ass of myself repeating a similar melodrama to the one I enacted all those years ago.
So it came about, that I was to be seen walking in Amir Khusro park by my husbands side, every so often ducking my head and pulling closer to him, with the ends of my dupatta periodically held over my face. By the time we began our eighth lap, however, I had relaxed sufficiently to stop flinching every time a bat flew by, as none had inadvertently collided with me yet. Moreover, my legs had stopped feeling so tired and achy, and so, finally, we picked up the pace for the home stretch.