All is not well, Papa

Published: August 14, 2014
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As my attire fell to tatters, and red stains all over gave away the internal bleeding, I fell.

Dear Papa,

I am told I was born to the call of the azaan, on the most blessed of nights. It was much celebrated, my birth, I am told. I was welcomed as the manifestation of a dream, the fruit of relentless toil, and the sweat and blood of millions of orchard farmers. I was God’s answer to man’s desperate cries for help, I am told.

For years, I stood firm, draped in hope and dressed in faith. I was still in infancy but I was strong, and strong beyond that word. Kids in the neighbourhood never thought I would make it. I proved them wrong. No sooner, however, I collapsed at the thought that my pride was closer to pretentiousness for I was nothing but an elegantly crafted statue that was hollow from the inside – that had come to be, but couldn’t continue to be.

As my attire fell to tatters and red stains all over gave away the internal bleeding, I fell.

It pains me to tell you, Papa, that I have never gotten up since.

The thought of you removing your monocle and hanging your head low to shake it in disappointment as you read these words, crushes me. You, after all, never had to deal with easy forces yourself. They were always insurmountable. But you had ample inner strength.

I, though, orphaned at such a young age and first abandoned, later trampled upon by my guardians, never had the opportunity to build the same.

It is a pitiable condition that I am in.

Often I have sneaked out, bare-footed, clinging to whoever’s fine coat I can, wailing for help. Some of the people here are fearful and powerless, while others just clueless. And eventually, I find myself rubbing my heels on the scorching earth, as I am hauled to the very guardians from whom I had first sought to escape. I am then dragged down dungeons and left to rot in pain and distress, till I can find another loophole and attempt another escape.

Papa, I think my cells have stopped working. Is that even possible? I think it is because every time there’s a wound, none of them step up to fill it. Instead, they retreat, leaving the gash to widen. I am not to be convinced that this is another manifestation of their ignorance. They do what they do, by choice. And when the damage is irreversible, they tell me amputation is the only solution.

Suggestions like that… they send shivers down my spine.

I’d rather die than have another part of me ripped off.

Men in the best of their health do not stand up for me like you did in your weakest times, Papa. Their macho bodies are no match for the impenetrable defence that your frail body erected around me. I feel vulnerable, today. More vulnerable as a grown-up than I did as a child. The fact that I’m considered by most a weight too heavy to shoulder is occasionally slapped into my face. But that is not what bothers me, really. It is the fact that I’m considered a weight to begin with.

Amidst all that, my dream to scale the Everest is still alive. It lives to see the warm sun shine through the dusty meshwork of my windows, every day. I see it in the occasional flickers of light that betray the darkness. Now and then a messenger drops in a ragged parchment with some delightful news – of a milestone in science, a masterpiece in art, a feat in sports, or a triumph for humanity. And it is these that keep me alive.

I am equipped, as have always been, with all the spiritual and material resources to fulfil the dream you dreamed for me. And whereas, I am getting weaker at the extremities, there is an army of cells at the core that is growing exponentially. They are the ones who realise like none before them, that it is I who makes them, and it is they who make me. They work, Papa, like you would want them to work – endlessly. They are still human, though, and they often break down in the face of antagonistic odds and bleed. But they do not bleed red. They bleed green.

Now if you would excuse me, I need to get going.

It is my sixty-seventh birthday and the whole land is up in celebration.

This is one of my days.

I love how fireworks light up the sky at midnight and the air rings with chants of my glory. My glory… a notion long lost in the mists of merciless times suddenly springs up, engulfs all and sundry, and creates the magnificent illusion that it will last.

But it doesn’t, Papa.

It dissolves again. And as the tears of realisation and regret dry up, as molten hearts return to stone and the fervour dampens, they return to being who they were – some fearful and powerless, others just clueless. I wish they wouldn’t.

But pray, wipe the specks of tears you have blinked onto your monocle. They do not befit your immaculate style. I promise to write you a happier letter next time. I promise to soften the tense muscles of your beautiful countenance, to put a smile on those lips that have spoken to the mesmerisation of millions and a spark in those eyes that betray the wisdom of a hundred and thirty seven years. I promise, Papa. I promise to try.

All my love,

Pakistan.

Naima Shahab

Naima Shahab

An undergraduate student of International Relations who loves reading and writing. She harbours a newfound love for social work. She blogs at nbshahab.wordpress.com

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