It’s Weird Here

It really is. A lot of my friends and family have said “welcome to the club” or something to that effect and I can’t help but wonder if they’re being sarcastic. I don’t know what I was expecting to be honest. Here’s to hoping that my wife doesn’t read this until at least after our honeymoon, but I guess I was kind of expecting it to be worse in some ways and better in others. I suppose you can say marriage didn’t meet certain specific expectations. It hit the spot though, I’ll tell you that.

It’s really, really weird. Basically, I’ve been in all sorts of long and short term relationships, but none of them will ever live up to matrimony. For better or worse. Even if, supposedly, I had to live in with someone, it felt nothing like this. The feels are positive, mostly. The fact that you’re tied down with one woman for the rest of your life tries to hit you every now and then in a negative way, but it’s nothing you can’t shake yourself out of. The worst is when you think of your friends from the opposite sex, and you realize that you had never though of them “that way” before, but now you definitely, absolutely, positively cannot think of them in “that way” at all and you start to wonder why you hadn’t foreseen this thought?

You know how bad things happen when your expect them the least? It’s the same way with thoughts. I’d lay in bed sometimes, after I got engaged in 2011, and wonder what it would be like to be married. I wouldn’t exactly fantasize about it or anything, but I’d just try to inspect how it would feel. I would ruminate over scenarios that will probably never happen and problems and their solutions, and try to get the feel of everything. I would basically try to mentally prepare myself so I don’t get blindsided by a situation I didn’t see coming. The last question I mentioned in the paragraph prior to this did exactly that.

It’s difficult to explain. It’s actually difficult to understand. Socrates would understand. Socrates got married (to a woman at least 35 years younger than himself) and he’s famous for having said one thing about marriage, and I haven’t decided yet if I agree with what he had to say.

There’s only one thing I fear: social conditioning. I mean, Pakistani families are such assholes! I don’t want to get too deep into it, but even when people try to be nice, they’re being complete assholes. I want to take my marriage as far away as I possibly can from people. I don’t want their advice, because if they were so wise and right, more people would be happy. People try to influence other people and I am not the least bit impressionable, but I can’t say the same for my wife. I am the epitome of “in-on-ear-and-out-the-other” personality type, but even I’m not immune to what my subconscious chooses to register. Like earlier this week, someone from her extended family tried to advise us on transportation, and I was half a breath short of telling him to suck my dick. I didn’t because someone from my family had advised her on conservative dressing and she sucked it up. I needed to live up to the example she had, ever so elegantly, set for me.

That’s my only fear as far as marriage goes. I don’t want her, or myself, and our marriage to be influenced at all by this culture. Definitely not negatively, and I couldn’t care less for the positive influences. I mean, if something is meant to be, it will be, amirite?

I have never felt so complete though. I knew that it’d be great having someone to share everything with and having someone I can build memories for the rest of my life with, but I never knew how much I needed it. Putting my head down and soldiering through the thick and thin on my own for the last seven plus years, I was worried about being able to handle having someone with me all the time. It’s unbelievable how much more I’ve gotten out of it than I have had to give up, which is virtually nothing. The void that she filled in my life four years ago when I first met her had expanded infinitely and it wasn’t until she filled it again that I finally found peace & happiness.

It’s too early to say if marriage is everything I had expected it to be. Ask me again when I’m 40, and then again when I’m 60, and then again on my deathbed. I definitely intend to make it everything I ever expected it to be, more or less.

I live on a deserted island.

Not really, but I might as well be. The way I feel right now, a deserted island might actually be a much better setting than my current location. Not only because of my ceaselessly welding neighbor and the loud public transport that runs all night on an adjacent highway; but also because I would like to stare into a deep, blue (or clear) body of water. Stare into the abyss, as they say, and have the abyss stare into me.

This is probably one of the most discussed Nietzsche aphorisms ever. Lost in translation, it is supposed to read roughly like this:

“Battle not with monsters lest ye become a monster; and if you gaze into the abyss the abyss gazes into you.”

In interpretation, the first sentence tells us that we become what we hate. We take on the traits of whatever evil deed or person or habit we pursue. The second sentence tells us how it happens. Some argue that Nietzsche clearly commands you NOT to battle with monsters, but the Hollingdale translation suggests otherwise. According to that, the first sentence says “he who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby becomes a monster.” Followers of this translation believe that Nietzsche is simply asking one to be more cautious when involving himself deeply in a conflict which is evil in nature.

I, on the contrary, always felt that this quote should be openly interpreted. It has always allowed me to learn something about someone from their explanation of it.

I never got past basic Philosophy in college, primarily because other disciplines closer to my career goals required my attention, but it will always hold a special place in my heart. Philosophy is practical poetry to me. I don’t think of things in the same terms as I once used to. Not when I’m in Pakistan at least. Burdening myself with my own thoughts is the last thing that I need. Recently, however, I haven’t been able to stop thinking of this quote.

Battle Not With Monsters:

I won’t bore you with too many “when I first came to Pakistan” stories, but this is sort of important. When I first came here, I was repulsed by the general insensitivity I witnessed everywhere. Now, this may in part be due to my particular location and company. I didn’t realize that until at least two years into my stay.  I have seen the softer, much more elegant and humane side of this country now that I’ve been here for almost four years. When I first came though, and my friends would testify to this, I was on a never ending roll about how cold hearted and thick-skinned the people around here are. The incident involving the brutal deaths of two Sialkoti boys, for example. Don’t even bother looking it up. It’s too graphic. Just take my word on the fact that the murders were public and absolutely barbaric.

Anyway, when I first came here, I fell sick a lot. I made appointments with the best doctors available and I was appalled by the lack of compassion they showed towards their patients. Something about walking into a clinic and speaking English with an American accent gets their attention, but those who don’t, basically get shafted. I often found myself in situations where I would have to take a relative or a family friend to the doctor with me. They admitted that the doctor never bothered to pay that much attention when they were being chaperoned by just a regular chap or by themselves even, for that matter. I was flattered, pleased and overwhelmed with frustration at the same time. I promised myself over and over again, that when I start practicing medicine, regardless of my demographics, I would be as generous as humanly possible towards everybody.

I am now four years into my medical education. Two of which involved actual interaction with patients in a clinical, hospital setting. Our professors don’t practice what they preach. I doubt they even consider doing so. They will tell us to be extra courteous and attentive towards the patient, the bedside manners they teach are commendable, and 10 minutes later they’ll be examining a patient while chatting on their cell phone. I should state that it’s a government hospital. Patients are provided with cheap healthcare at the cost of quality. Not to be confused with proficiency, which is still quite high, to my surprise.

I have yet to speak up against that nonchalant attitude. Whenever I witness it, I stand there and wonder why the attending would tell us something and do the exact opposite. I wonder why no one in my batch is even considering the idea of speaking up against it. In my head, I imagine telling one of my professors off and then I remember how some of them have a tendency to hold grudges against students and screw them over when exam time comes around. So I stand there, quietly. I scowl, sometimes. And while scowling, I wonder if I’ll eventually justify their behavior in my head & become what I hate.

Abyss Gazes Into You:

When we see something, we see it through the lens of our own mind. In the example above, a friend standing next to me might be perceiving the situation in a completely different context. He might be admiring the doctor’s ability to multi task, or he might be condemning the doctor’s inattentiveness to his wife on the phone. The fact that me and my friend are both perceiving the same situation differently suggests that there isn’t anything there at all. The doctor, and the patient, are a part of a void. A vacuous space which drags you in to itself. You empathize with the nothingness, you begin to fill it with things only you can comprehend and thus, you begin to view yourself through the eyes of that void. The abyss, the emptiness, stares back at you. There is nothing scarier than what it sees, because you see it too.

I just want to be myself when I get out of medical school. I want to remain in the same spirits that I came here with. I will battle not with the monsters, for I do not wish to risk becoming one. I will continue to gaze into the abyss. The abyss will save me.

Pakistan Day: 66 Years Later

How often does a Pakistani citizen contemplate the status quo of the state?

Every passing second.

The unsubtle reminders of a nation in turmoil are rather obvious. From the mystery surrounding the alleged suicide (alleged being the keyword) of an investigator from the National Accountability Bureau, to the relentless rolling blackouts, there is not a child in this country unaware of the current state of affairs. Corruption has been widespread. The media gate scandal, the Ephedrine quota case, the scams surrounding the rental power projects, the disappearance of NATO supplies, the railway fund embezzlement, the steel mills frauds and the list goes on. All that, with the exception of one, just last year. As corruption sees record highs in the country, the backlash is felt by the people. As unemployment rates rise with the inflation, one begins to wonder how far we really are from more cases of self immolation?

However, once you stop to think, you realize that through everything, citizens of Pakistan have stood tall in the face of adversity. Day after day. Fighting. Persevering. Flexing to the country’s needs, but never bending to the powers that be. Not always due to the lack of another option neither. Although it holds true that a few who couldn’t take it anymore chose to establish themselves anew in foreign lands, for which they can’t be blamed. There were those who left better lives to come back and help fellow Pakistanis shoulder the burden. Never has there been a nation more resilient, more supple, yet more adamant than that of Pakistan.

On this day in 1947, the first constitution was adopted, thus declaring the state a republic. Today, 66 years later, Pakistan sees its first democratic transition of power. A silver lining in the thick smog. A step towards progress. Hope, to be taken with a pinch of salt.

When in Pakistan…

Marry something.

Seriously! You have to. It’s our tradition. Plus it’s the law! Our land, our rules. Just do it. Something. Anything! Preferably, something educated. As a matter of fact, the higher this subject is educated, the more negative characteristics we’ll be willing to overlook.

For example: we’ll tolerate a unibrow for an intermediate education. We’ll take bad teeth, body hair and halitosis for a bachelor’s degree. Obesity and old age for a large inheritance. And obesity, unibrow and bad manners for an adult, well established, expatriate sloth. Unibrows, of course, count as a strength in certain parts of Pakistan. Specifically at and around 32.49722°N 74.53611°E. They’ll never figure it out.

That’s just the gist of our trading system. Please rest assured that the finer points are calculated by complex mathematical formulas, stored safely in the heads of our elders, and only brought forth by the twisting of a mustache in the presence of chai and absence of logic. You are in great hands. Literally, hundreds of them.

What’s that you say? You don’t want to get married? Why? Didn’t you know God sent everyone on earth as a couple; though precisely 3-6 years apart? There are other reasons too and if any one of the following reasons fit, we must not acquit.

It’s time:

We seldom abide by the rules of nature. With evolution, God bestowed upon us these amazing life clocks which we drilled into an area between our two cheeks and tethered to our brains. They’re quite simple. You are born, you are educated (or thrown into child labor), you maintain a presentable reputation and then BOOM! It’s marriage o’ clock. Sometimes, this hour of dread is preceded by gossip about how you’re still not married, but that’s not always the case. Also, you want to avoid the too-late-to-get-married o’ clock, which we will let you know of once it’s too late. Never before. Unless you have the aforementioned inheritance, by the time you finish reading this sentence, it’ll be too late.

Marriage O' Clock

It ticks for thee.

A chef & a maid:

Are you too busy (read: lazy) to feed and clean up after yourself? Perfect! The only logical solution we can think of is marriage. It’s not a man’s job to make his own bed in the morning and wash his own dirty underwear. There’s an app for that. It’s called a wife.

“Look at all these rice that aren’t my mustache.” Sorry.

Babies:

That’s right. Your parents are bored. Entertain them with grandchildren. Also, teach your kids at least 15 new tricks every day. Such as manners and not getting sick. If it can self-heal, we’ll be slightly impressed.

Desi baby

“I a make a you a baby. Take.”

Something about land:

In a society where wedlock becomes a trade and nepotism is promoted, consanguineous marriages are a big seller. It’s not only about inbreeding, it’s also about keeping the family heirlooms in the family. By family heirlooms, we mean assets. Anything capable of being owned, tangible or otherwise. Most of the time it’s land and property, but saying that “you’d be surprised” is an understatement.

Roughly the effect we’re trying to achieve.

Boredom:

You haven’t been married until you’ve gotten married out of sheer ennui. You’re done with your education, you’re making money (or sitting at home, as is the case with many females) and you don’t have much else to do. Before you go out and find love on your own, God forbid, we would like to do it for you. We’ll find you something you can love for the rest of your life due to a lack of awareness and a hint of insecurity.

“Mom! I’m bored. Rishta me, thanks.”

Fascism comes to Pakistan

I’m no Sinclair Lewis, but I’ll say this now just because I know no one else will:

“When fascism comes to Pakistan, it will be unshaven, wearing a turban, shooting at children and forcing people to blame America for everything.”

It’s only a matter of time, before the government wants to listen to your private calls and monitor everything you do inside your home. It starts here, Pakistan.