Series 1: “Dreams of Lunacy” Part 6 Humans

Published: October 2, 2014

Just as their bodies enter the rain’s domain, a small smile climbs up on the father’s face, while Ghaffar begins to laugh, zealous about the strangeness of their adventure. PHOTO: AFP

Ghaffar was at a restaurant with friends. The food had been devoured, and everyone was awaiting their cars. Somehow he casually looked at his feet and saw a torn piece of paper floating in a puddle some feet away. He looked around, and ensuring no one was looking, he pocketed it carefully.

Once he was back home, he began to read it. It was written with a black fountain pen, the writing was cursive, and from far it looked like one large sentence. It read:

“Often we constantly sketch dreams in the loopholes of our world. We fit them in, often enlarging the holes to wedge our dreams perfectly, neatly, precisely. But we forget that there are too many spaces in this reality, too many dreams to be sown, infinite abysses that stare inside you. So, soon we give up, because we are tired of dreaming and seeing them manifest only in the silence of the nights. What remains at dusk is an individual who picks up the patched and bruised world to find some temporary cure before he could sleep again, dream again. But, it’s only when Death knocks that we drop the world from our shoulders and attempt to disappear inside one of the edges of our dreams”.

Shaking hands turned the paper, and on the other side, it continued:

“Would you not want to talk in eternal words? Would you not want to discuss ideas never discussed before, never seen in light before?

There are these ideas, unbelievable ideas. Unimaginable. Ideas that once enter inside you, race to every part of your body, refreshing it from its decades of buried past, burning petty concerns of the future, and rejuvenating each cell inside the body, so that each single individual part of you transforms and transforms until transformation is the only cycle it can cycle upon. And the pens you use to pen these ideas would dry up writing them, ideas which are so fresh, and larger than this entire universe, because what is the universe but an established idea inside us? And the pen would break trying to capture the depth of the abyss that the ideas contain, and the solidity that is within it. The pen will stop when it pauses to reflect on the bizarre thoughts that it never considered, never could consider. And the mind will burst, like a balloon with too much air, it will burst because of too many ideas, too many potential to actions, too many chances of reform, and too many staircases ahead of humanity. But when the mind will explode, the individual will cease to be, but the ideas will scatter into different bodies, and so the individuals with small bits of ideas will strive to find others who can wedge inside the missing part of their idea. But when, the whole picture will complete inside a single mind, it will burst again, and the cycle will continue”.

There was no name, no signature on any side of the paper. He was fascinated how someone could leave their idea behind, but not their signpost. Ghaffar had always been taught how necessary it was to have a name, to have an unchanging signature, because somehow our identity depended upon them. But this single piece of paper, with these incredible thoughts, put to flames all his concerns about identity.

He felt as if the paper was actually a key in disguise that had opened a room inside his mind, and once he stepped inside, he saw endless staircases he had never imagined before, and his thoughts began to grow, expand and crumble. One thought flew in asserting that there was no such thing as identity, even when people aid someone, they ensure that the beneficiary knows who their saviour is. Saviours without names are so rare. Another thought joined the party and claimed the goal should not be to leave behind your footprints, or your posters, but to leave behind ideas, because the footprints are dead, static entities; it’s only the ideas which throb, and these need to be transferred, because ideas have an infinite life; the bodies decay and slowly rot, but not ideas, their freshness is and will be unmatched.

Thoughts kept on flying in, slowly transforming the base of ideas; signatures are just another way to feel secure about one’s insecurities, just an illusion to keep thoughts of one’s disintegration at bay. Suddenly, a considerably bigger thought tries to enter his mind, and bangs against the sides of his head; the thoughts seem to shout that only geniuses should be allowed to scream. The rest scream from fear, anger, frustration, and desire but the genius screams together with each of these.

He fears for the consequences of the people that surround him, his anger retorts at the absence of elastic minds, his frustration shouts because he feels like a plant from a different planet who is unable to breathe in the air, unable to interact with static ideas, and his desire mixes each of them inside itself before propelling itself into a scream for movement, a scream for progression, a scream for ripping apart the pretentious stationary lives that have been constructed to adapt to the existing structures.

Ghaffar’s whole existence begins to shake, first with a taste of fear, but eventually the fear begins to change into joy, and before long, he wonders at his resistance to such staggering thoughts.

“Ghaffar, one day, you will have a great idea. And if you listen to it, keep your heart close to its whisper, you will hear more…”

“Whose whisper?”

“The whisper of the idea.”

“Why do you bring to life every thought, father?”

“Is it not interesting to you?”

“Yes… but no one else talks this way, it is so hard to understand sometimes.”

“I am sorry; I will make it easy today. Let us go for a walk.”

“But it is raining!”

“Let’s get wet. Just don’t tell your mother. Promise?”

A sense of urgency mixed intensely with excitement arises in Ghaffar’s heart. A child’s first brush with secrets. As the father and son quietly leave the house, closing the door in inches and inches, they finally turn towards the rain and begin to walk outside their house.

Just as their bodies enter the rain’s domain, a small smile climbs up on the father’s face, while Ghaffar begins to laugh, zealous about the strangeness of their adventure. They walk in silence, Ghaffar looking here and there and there and here, surprised by the sudden explosion of colour in the leaves, in trees, feathers, walls, on roads, as if the thirst of every living and non-living thing was fulfilled. The rain seemed to have dropped right into their open swaying throats, and those with bowed heads, the rain had landed softly on them and then quietly made its way to their shy mouths.

“You see that uncle,” he points at their neighbour, a retired army officer in his late 70s, attempting to walk upright on his covered terrace.


“He has a great heart. But his time in the army sowed so many fears and complexes on the fertile soil of his heart that now he is suspicious of even his own self.”

“Father, you are doing it again.”

He laughs softly, and the roaring rain is not able to drown the soft pitch.

“Okay. Let us break the thought up into small pieces and then we will piece them together.”


“So, this heart that you have, it is really soft from the core, but the edges are really strong. Okay?”


“So, this soft centre is easily changed by what you hear, what you see, and what you don’t hear what you don’t see.”

“Okay, I think I am following.”

“But behind the softness of the heart, there are some basic conditions.”

“What conditions?”

“These conditions are more or less in every heart of the world.”

“But father what are these conditions?”

“These are the feelings and tendencies that everyone has, wherever he is, whichever class he is from, and whatever he believes.”

“But I thought every man is different.”

“He is.”

“But he is also the same?”


“I don’t understand.”

“Ghaffar, opposites of anything are always side by side. If one of them were to disappear, then there would be no reason for the other to exist.”

“You’re confusing me further. So that means happiness is always side by side with sadness?”


“But if they were always so close, then would it not be easy to jump from one to the other? Why then would people ever be sad?”

The father smiles widely, and the width permeates quietly into sadness, delighted by the quiet explosion of his son’s imagination.

“Yes, Ghaffar.”

“So, why are people not always happy then?”

Because too much happiness becomes a bore.”

“What, father? I don’t understand. How can happiness ever become boring? Is it not the goal of all of us?”

The father’s tongue feels like a car stuck on an winding empty road, knowing that if he went ahead, the child might grow up forever surrounded by melancholy, suspicious of happiness, and if he were to reverse, then he would be taking him away from reality.

“I think we have had enough serious questions for one day. Look at the birds there,” pointing to Ghaffar’s right, “see how they sit drowsily, close to each other, enjoying the warmth more because of the cold breeze…”

Before the sentence finished, Ghaffar wraps his arms around him, and the father lets speech rest on the wet and cold sidewalk, and walks along with Ghaffar, finally feeling the warmth of the birds.

When Ghaffar wakes up, his hands are in the position of an embrace, and somehow he continues to lie in that position, substituting the emptiness with a dream. Suddenly, he hears a knock on the door and Zameer’s voice trails inside indicating a doctor’s appointment.

On the way back from the hospital, the car stops again at the same signal. Without knowing why, Ghaffar asks Zameer to head home and gets out of the car, slowly walking away from the signal. Once the signal opens and Zameer races away, Ghaffar increases his speed, and catches up with her. Maida, who by now had slowed down after having seen him coming, gives him a mischievous smile.

“Are you chasing a transsexual?” says Maida and laughs heartily.

Ghaffar tries to muster a smile,

“No, I’m not chasing you. Is there some place we can sit?”

“Yes, the same garbage cans, but they are some miles from here.”

“No problem, we’ll walk.”

“Are you sure? There is still light, people are not used to seeing a male taking a walk with a transsexual.”

Ghaffar looks at the passing cars, and sees that almost every eye is glued to both of them. Some eyes are just curious, others are dripping with astonishment, judgment, ridicule, and disgust.

“I don’t care, let’s just walk.”


Once they reach the cans, Ghaffar explodes,

“What the hell is wrong with people? Why can’t they let others be? You are not some animal at a f**king zoo that people can look at you.”

“I am an animal at a zoo; people pay us just because of that.”

Ghaffar looks hard at her. How easily she can brush aside the society’s treatment, like squatting a housefly.

“But what I’m more curious about is why you would come to meet me?”

“I’m not attracted to you; I just want to know how you live and how you think.”

“So what am I, your lab experiment?”

Ghaffar laughs,

“Aren’t we all lab experiments? Some force from outside influences us and we react and try to influence the force. And so, from our reactions, we make rules about how the other animals along us should live and survive, and we keep on running here and there, confined in a lab, mistaking it to be our whole existence…”

“Where do you know all of this from?”

“From my father, I think.”

“What does he do?”

“I don’t know; he is no longer with us.”

Maida looks at him, and despite her manly voice, her look of concern is more soothing than a thousand condolences uttered by his relatives,

“You see him in your dreams?”

Ghaffar looks at her incredulously,

“How can you possibly know that?”

“I know that because I dream of my parents too. And in them I am again a part of the household, and I’m still the way I am, but their love is not polluted by the society. Dreams are what help me survive. They are the real reality, this reality,” she extends her hands outwards, “this is actually a nightmare.”

Ghaffar casts his eyes downwards, and a smile appears in his eyes. Human beings will always remain out of reach of his understanding.


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Zain Murtaza Maken

Zain Murtaza Maken

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

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