Pakistan 7


I wanted to show you what I saw
And heard
And understood
But it was so boring
Like talking to myself
A conversation I had before
Things I already know
And I know you don’t know it
But it was boring nevertheless
Because to explain
I have to say too much
Describe too much
And if I don’t explain
I say

I saw
Wheat fields and corn fields carefully cultivated
Spreading as far as the eye can see
And an area where land was fallow
Because there was a dispute between two people
And the jirgah had suspended rights
To everybody

And I sat in the sunlight
On manjis, basking in the sunlight
And talked to the women
Who said that their village
Would be prettier than Islamabad
And I told them it already was
And they laughed
But it was true
And the women
Were prettier than the ones in Islamabad
Because they were brown
And wrinkled
And sturdy
And self-sufficient
And inter-dependent
And gorgeous

And in the car
The driver told me about the floods
In Nowshera
How his aunt and her village
Went to the building on the highest ground
I think it was the mosque
But am not sure
And how the women and children
Spent the week
On the roof
And the men
On the first floor
And the rain wouldn’t stop falling
And the river wouldn’t stop rising
And the women sat upstairs, drenched
And the men stood downstairs
For a week

And how the batteries
Of their mobile phones
Started finishing
And his aunt,
A lady health visitor
Suggested that everyone switch off their phones
And use her phone to call
Until her battery finished
When they could switch
To someone else’s
And how the only thing
Protected from the rain
Were the mobile phones
Stuck in plastic bags

And how the driver’s mother
Cried for her sister
And begged her family
To go get her
But even trucks couldn’t go through

And at the end of the story
We laughed our heads off
Because the driver said
That even the army
Was stuck in the floods
And people were wondering
Where it was, why it was taking so long
How were they
Supposed to know
That the Army was saying
Someone please save us
And then we’ll see
About saving others
That struck us both
As terribly funny

And how, in Charsadda, the water had boiled up
Through the floor
The family suddenly realized
There was a flood coming
And the women of the family
Being very resourceful
Went and roped the tires of their cars
To two trees
And then sat on the roof
Watching the cars
Swinging in the river
And thus saved some of their property

And the women I talked to
Sitting in the bright sun
Sitting in the sunlight
On the manjis
We have no water
No gas
No electricity
We have a hand-pump for water
And wood for fire
And light
And they mimicked how
The smoke enveloped their faces
And they all laughed
And they insisted we join them for lunch
And fed us the most delicious
Home-cooked meal
That I must describe still
To my cousin, a connoisseur,
To make him jealous

And to the driver I said
In the urban jungle of Peshawar
How I thought many women must die
Crossing streets
In their restrictive burka
And he said that drivers
Watched out for women, slowed down automatically
But he agreed
That accidents happened
And I told him how, when I went to Swabi
With my head covered
We reached an area
Where our community worker
Covered her face
And I did the same, to dress appropriately
But then I couldn’t breathe
So I took it off
And said the head covering was enough for me
And we both laughed
We found it terribly funny

And on our way back
I wondered why
Urbanity was so ugly
Why rural areas
Danced with color
Which receded in our
Drab urban jungles
Did the earth itself
that her children
Dreamt grey dreams
Dreams that banned her
And did she recede
Until, desperate, they would return to her
Of their own accord
Throwing away nightmares of transcendence
Their preconceptions of separation
And become whole?


Mahvesh Khan

Mahvesh Khan grew up in Lahore and Islamabad. She obtained a Masters in Business, specializing in MIS and has worked in various positions, including in different organizations in the Development Sector. She has a deep interest in books and sometimes write short stories, poems & essays.

One Comment on “Inter-Dependent”

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