Pursuit of Happiness?

It seemed that the world itself was mourning a great injustice. Dark grey clouds spanned across the sky and the wind howled, fighting everything in its path. Fat rain drops slammed into the windows. Thunder boomed while lightning flashed teasingly, neither giving any indication as to when they would occur. The scent of gloom and depression filled every crevice, eventually making its way into my home.

Baba came home about two hours later than usual and it was obvious that work had not gone well. His movements were slow, lacking both energy and motivation. His eyes, which were always full of warmth and love, now were sunken and a frown was present on his face. A calloused hand, decorated with a river of conspicuous veins rubbed against his temple, a tell tale sign that a headache was occurring. My eyes were drawn to the receding hairline. It had once been a source of happy teasing but now seemed to be a sad reminder of what had been lost. No matter how frequently Baba would dye his hair, it seemed that the grey never left his head. Wrinkles were set deep within his skin, telling a tale of tension; a tale that didn’t seem to be ending anytime soon.  It was these nights, when the sky would darken before my father came home, that his age was truly seen.

“Baba? Is everything okay? What happened?”

“Nothing pottri[1],” he raised his head and forced a smile on his face, “I just got assigned another project to head.”

“Aren’t you already assigned to two other ones? Doesn’t your boss know that? Why isn’t she heading the project?” Red hot anger tainted my words. These late nights would now become normal for months. The nights my family would have spent together playing cards would soon soon be replaced by memories of an empty, quiet house. No longer would our dinners be filled with the sound of excited talking or his booming warm laugh.

“She’s going on vacation and all her incomplete projects are now under my supervision until she gets back.” Again, another sigh.

“That’s not fa–.”

“I know. You want to say that it’s not fair. And you’re right. Life isn’t fair and it will never be fair. But that doesn’t mean you should stop fighting. You keep going after what you want, no matter what. This is America, pottri. Fight for your American dream. You and I, your mother and your siblings wouldn’t be living in a house with a heater or with a fridge full of food if I hadn’t taken a chance to come here. We would have been in a small, one room shack in Pakistan. I know that you hate that I work so late and don’t spend enough time with all of you, but as your father. I have to do what is best for my family. If that means that I have to sacrifice my comfort for your happiness, then so be it.”

With those parting words, my dad shrugged on his two year old black winter jacket and slowly slipped on his worn brown shoes. With one last apologetic smile, he placed his red ball cap, one that he wore everyday for the last ten years, upon his head and headed out the door. He drove towards his second job and another paycheck. He drove toward opportunity and the American Dream.


[1] Sweet Daughter

An Ode to Pakistan


Never leave the house without a prayer.
Nazar lag jayegi*
Say a prayer before starting the car.
        Hareet se ponchna*

Taught at a young age,
Superstitions rule my entire life
Of what I can and can’t do,
Of what is okay and what is not

Don’t go near trees after Sunset
       Maghrib ki baad Jinn hotayhai*

One certainty,
Never go against these sacred words of elders.

Fever and runny nose?
      Garam chese peyo*

But when I told you I couldn’t get out of bed,
When I said the word Depression,
You told me,
Depression aun ki ley hota ha jo kam si dartahai*
Depression ikhlaqiat ki kami hai*
           Pagal na bano *
Chup kar ke moi hath doh or kam karo*

When I started crying,
And said the word Anxiety
You laughed,
You said,
Moi hath do aur kuch kaoh*
    Itney kamzor na ban*

When I threw up, again and again,
You got angry
And
Cursed,
       Nazar lag gaye*
But when I shook my head
    And said the word Bulimia
You glared and yelled
Ye karna thu kahna na ka*
     Konsi harkat hai ye?*

Itch in the right hand?
         Pesa ane wali*
Sneezing? Hiccuping?
  Tumhe koy yaad kar raha hai*

     Nazar lag jayegi*

Translations You will have bad luck from the jealous around you

After Maghrib (Sunset Prayer) the Devil’s servants come out

Drink Warm Things

Depression is for those who fear work

Depression is a lack of ethics

Don’t be dumb/crazy

Go wash your hands and face and do your work without another word

Wash your face and eat something

Don’t be so weak

You’ve been cursed

If you’re going to do this then don’t eat

What stupid thing is this

Money is coming

Someone is thinking of you

You will have bad luck from the jealous around you

Isolation

“I can’t wait until I’m on my own!”

Those words I used to shout, 
heart full of rage, eyes full of tears.
I'd lay upon the ground,
face turned to the night sky,
envying the distance of those
sparkling diamond stars.

My mind would drift,
a happy life I envisioned.
A warm hearth,
a spacious kitchen,
a beautiful tranquility.

Ten years pass till those words
become reality.
The truck discards the worn furniture
in front of a cold, stone building.

There is no hearth,
no spacious kitchen.
There is only a bed,
in a corner,
a closet and a desk.
Judgmental stares from
my college peers,
the only constant.

The tranquility that I had
once desired,
haunted me at every turn.
The silence,
the isolation.
It ate away at my sanity.

Now,
with my heart empty,
I lay upon the ground,
dreaming of the days
when my words
were not reality.

Who Are We?

The minute we are born we are given a name by someone else. We are fed, bathed and taught by other people. We follow laws written by older officials. We believe in what we are told to believe.

Our whole lives are dictated by others.

“You can’t wear that. “

“You can’t stay out that late.”

“You can’t do that!”

But then suddenly, there comes a moment when you’re walking across a stage in a rented cap and gown. Suddenly, you’re posing for a picture with a stranger and quickly handed a case with the gold words “Diploma” etched into the cracked black leather. And then it’s as if you’re free. You’re 18. An adult. You’re responsible for your own life, your own decisions. And at first that freedom is intoxicating.

Your life is finally your own.

But time goes on, and you realize, what exactly does it mean to be “me?” And questions start plaguing your mind,

How do we know who we are? Who we are meant to be? Are we even capable of being our own person?