Series 1: “Dreams of Lunacy” Part 4 Identity

Published: September 18, 2014
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He headed towards unknown roads, with the intent of getting lost. PHOTO: FILE

“I’m going for a sleepover at Salman’s house.”

“What?”

“Sleepover, ammi.”

“Now? At mid-night?” she exclaimed.

“Jee, everyone is getting together right now, please, midterms just ended today.”

“Okay, but this is never happening again,” she said, as she shook her head.

Ghaffar gave her a hug, and got the keys from Zameer, who was awake, watching a Bollywood movie in the servant quarters. He headed towards his Corolla and was soon on the road. There was no sleepover. He just wanted some time for himself and what better than a drive around Lahore, with nowhere to reach and no one to check upon him.

He opened the window and began to drive away from the streets that had some traffic. He headed towards unknown roads, with the intent of getting lost. As his sense of direction went haywire, he began to relax and lit a cigarette. Once the road and the darkness began to overlap, his thoughts and desires began to emerge on the footpaths, on the road, and inside pockets of darkness.

Suddenly, he spotted a figure near a row of garbage cans. If the clothes worn had not been extraordinarily bright, the darkness would have easily enveloped the individual but he put the pedal on the brake and came to a stop. When he got out of the car, he extinguished the cigarette, his heart had no suspense, no fear, just curiosity, and so he approached the brightness, and saw a woman resting her back on the side of a garbage can.

At the sight of Maida, Ghaffar’s memory suddenly clicked a recent image.

Maida was intrigued at Ghaffar’s sight, at someone approaching dirt amongst dirt and that too in the dark.

“What do you want?” she roughly asked as Ghaffar neared.

“Nothing, I want nothing. What are you doing here at this time?”

“Sorry, but that’s none of your business sahib.”

Ghaffar smiled,

“Can I sit down?”

“Why would you want to sit here?”

Ghaffar sat down with a feeling that this night held a whole bunch of canvases behind its façade of darkness,

“No, I know what you are thinking, I am not drunk. I just want to sit here and talk.”

Maida shrugged her shoulders,

“I am a transsexual, in case you didn’t realise. What do you want to talk about?”

“I know. Talk about anything. I have nowhere to go tonight.”

The night’s intensity seemed to dissolve all norms under its dark covers, and Ghaffar begin to speak,

“What is it that makes you continue living?” he asked her, and the bluntness of the question failed to appear in front of him.

“Why should I take my life?”

“Because people despise you, children taunt you, women are repelled by you, and some men try to touch you to satisfy their unfulfilled desires.”

Maida laughs,

“What do you really know about our lives?”

“I can predict it from how society treats you.”

“Ha! That’s what colleges teach you these days; how to make falsafay (theories) instead of dealing with sacchai (reality) as it is.”

Ghaffar feels speechless.

“You don’t know shit about us. All you know is that you think you know us.”

“Falsafe, sacchai?”

Maida smiles,

“I wasn’t born in a garbage can. I was born in a middle class home. My mom worked shifts as a librarian in a decent school, so when I went to visit her, sometimes I read some books, and mostly listened to conversations. Initially, my feminine acts and whims were ignored as being part of a child, but increasingly, society began its taunts, and they began to grow larger and larger, and when my father found that I used the monthly pocket money to buy lipsticks, I was asked to leave.”

“Just like that?”

“Yes, our household was not ultra conservative, but it was a consensus that I might be more comfortable and free amongst other transsexuals.”

“Are you?”

“I don’t know. I get to be who I am but it never ends at that. I am constantly asked to dress up in f***ing bright clothes, full of glitter, make my parts prominent because that seems to be the only profession we are allowed, and our body, not our face, seems to be the only part people want to see.”

“That’s tragic.”

“Yeah, what do we do about it?”

“Well, your ID cards are now being made.”

“I know, but what’s the point of giving us an identity on paper when no one will accept it?”

Ghaffar gaped at her. He had nothing to say in response, and silence politely entered, and swayed their thoughts to and from, they just sat there, looking at the secrets of the night without understanding them.

After some time had passed, Ghaffar’s curiosity returned,

“So, are all of you born this way?”

“No, some of us are; others undergo operations in order to join us, probably for experimentation or to earn some money. Strange world.”

“Nah, the world is alright, only the people are incredibly strange.”

Maida smiles and sees that the night is beginning to scatter; the darkness is beginning to break up.

“You should be going now, in the light, this world is far more judgmental and cruel than in the dark.”

“I have always been told the opposite.”

“Well, criminals never reveal their true timing, would they?”

“I am going to go; maybe someday we could meet again here, at the same time.”

“Maybe,” she said, without looking at him.

They stood and eyes stood. Stares increasing by the second, curiosity spiralling, sneers appearing, eyes shining, shining with a light holding darkness at its core, and words fell; fell to attack what they had seen, to rip apart that which could not be understood, and finally rest at the common stripping ground.

Maida was at the NADRA office. She had heard ‘their people’ could finally get ID cards. Finally, there was a consensus on granting them a separate identity. She wondered if it took the judges to decide their own identities in so many decades.

“Han, what do you want?” came a question brimming with amusement and disgust.

“We need to get our identity cards made,” Maida shortly replied. The smile she was supposed to offer the official was compensated by Sughra’s enormously beaming face.

“Acha acha, wait for an hour. Abhi some VIPs are supposed to come.”

He dismissed them with a wave, suggesting quick dispersion.

Both of them walked towards a green bench, away from the savages. The bench was decorated with dirt, paan spits, dust and fossils of food once devoured. Maida nonchalantly cleared a small place for herself and sat down.

“I know you are from a better family, but here, you need to be polite, b****.”

Maida laughed, one brimming with disgust,

“I have you for that. Why do you bother with these desperate people anyway?”

“Because I give a damn about feeding this body. There is no izzat (respect) for us anyway, so why run after it?”

“What do you mean?” Maida asked, surprised to see Sughra in a philosophical mood.

“I mean, respect is something always given to the rich, the powerful, and the ones with physical charm. We are neither rich, nor powerful, and our physical charm lies on both sides of the genders.”

Maida reflected, and Ghaffar’s image suddenly appeared near one of the corners of her mind.

“What’s the matter? You’re talking sense today.”

“All your bloody influence.”

Part V of the “Dreams of Lunacy” series will be published on Thursday, September 25, 2014. Stay tuned to see what happens next.

Zain Murtaza Maken

Zain Murtaza Maken

A teaching fellow at Teach For Pakistan, he loves to write and read.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Uzair Ahmed Siddiqui

    Nice read once again!
    Cant you please write all the remaining parts in one go? ;)
    I am simply loving it! :)Recommend

  • Zain Murtaza Maken

    Thanks Uzair!
    Only two parts to go ;)
    btw do you write as well?Recommend

  • Syed

    Good Job Murtaza!!Recommend

  • http://delurk.wordpress.com/ Geekay

    Un Hun, you’re a big talent. Will search for you now. Reading you Manto came to mind. Recommend

  • hayat

    great job man. i had goosebumps. pls publish the entire storyRecommend

  • Abdullah Afridi

    I am totally hooked to this series. Recommend

  • Uzair Ahmed Siddiqui

    No Sir, I cant do marvel with words, but I love to read when someone does it! ;)
    you should write up a novel bro!Recommend