Wishing For A Mirage
By Minahil Amin
She pushed the hair away from her sticky forehead for the millionth time in what felt like three minutes or even lesser. Her clothes stuck to her body in the most awkward places, and the annoying buzzing sound which was constantly being produced by the flies in her room wasn’t letting her sleep anyway. After five minutes, she gave up trying. Sitting up in her bed, she fumbled around on the side table for her cell phone. She was startled by a sound that shared several properties with those of a thud. Her hand had caused something to fall from the table onto the carpeted floor of her bedroom. She hoped it wasn’t her phone that had fallen. Relief washed over her as she found the cell phone on the table, and the screen lit up when she pushed a button. The miniscule amount of light that appeared from the screen was enough to enable her to see that the object that had fallen on the floor was one of her favorite novels. Her mother had gifted her that novel on her birthday. Her mother knew all about her likes and dislikes, but even her mother had absolutely no idea of her innermost wishes and deepest thoughts. Her deepest thoughts had to stay hidden and enclosed. Not everyone might agree if those thoughts were exposed, and she did not wish to see what might happen as a result if those secret desires were let out of the confines of her mind. She wished more than anything to get out of the horrible place she was forced to call home. She would do anything to go somewhere without the darkness, without the sweat, without the cries, without the ashes, without the blood. She simply wanted to be free of a place that did not even have the guts to fight for its own safety. She could not live in a place where all every person could think about was his own benefit, his own profit. She just wanted to be free from the clutches of a place where life of a human had not much more value than the life of an animal. She closed her eyes. The phone’s screen had timed out and stopped giving the glow that was tiny, but at least gave a bit of hope that all was not lost, that things might still get better in some way or the other. She opened her eyes again, pushed the phone’s button and managed to find her way out of the room. She tried to be careful about not making much noise. Her father could sleep even without the fan on. She shook her head at the thought. Her father always managed to surprise her, sometimes in the most shocking of ways. She stepped out onto the small balcony. A breeze blew her hair out of her eyes, and she couldn’t help but smile.
She had been standing in the line for more than two hours, and her turn was still far away. She was surprised that even though lopsided, there still was a queue in the bank. She looked at the electricity bill in her hands. The amount written on the bill seemed overwhelming when placed with the fact that there was so much load shedding, almost every single day. She let out a small sigh and looked up to see two teenage boys ignoring the line. They rudely pushed aside an old lady who was standing at the counter, and leaned into the window to pay their own bill first. What the hell! This was so unfair to the dozens of people who had been waiting for so long. What was even more unfair was that several people copied the boys’ actions, and showed complete disregard for the same line they had initially been standing in. She was disturbed to see that even though several people had moved forward, none of them had done so with the intention of helping the old lady. All of them had moved ahead to satisfy their own selfish motives. The poor lady was still standing there, trying to avoid being shoved and pushed. Perhaps the lady was still hoping that there might be somebody who would help her. Just then, a young man stepped forward and gently helped the lady pay her bill. In a deep voice, he requested the people who had broken the queue to go stand at the back and wait for their turn just like everybody else. Surprisingly, nobody questioned him and did as he said. He smiled when the old lady patted his shoulder as an expression of thanks. He then escorted her out of the bank, and came back after a few moments to stand at the end of the queue and wait for his turn. It could not be denied that there were selfish and rude people in the place she was forced to call home. But it could also not be denied that people like that young man were also a part of the place she had to call home. As the line moved ahead smoothly, it was her turn to pay the bill in no time at all. As she walked out the front glass doors of the bank, she couldn’t help but smile.
The closed windows posed absolutely no threat to the darkness that engulfed the lone figure sitting on the wooden bed. There was no place for anybody in her world. She was alone in the fight with the fears and bad memories that threatened to hold her back, the ghosts of the past that threatened to prevent her from moving on in life, the horrors of what was yet to come that threatened to become a colossal hurdle on her path to achieving her ultimate goals and ambitions. She raised her head to cast a glance at her dark world through her tear stained eyes. When she saw no ray of hope, her head dejectedly went back to where it had previously been sitting on her knees. Deep within the whirlpool of her tormented mind, she knew she had to move on, she knew she had to defeat her fears that had become her most powerful enemies, she knew that if didn’t strive to achieve her dreams, nobody else would do it for her. She knew she had to be brave. She knew that if need be, she would even have to fight with her own self. She raised her head again, but this time she saw a bright world full of hope, instead of a dark, bleak one. She was an ambitious and hard working girl. She had always wanted to do something new, to make her mark in the world. She wanted to make good use of her education and the intelligence that had been gifted to her by God. She wanted to show everyone what a girl could do. She wanted to snub those hapless individuals who were of the view that a girl couldn’t do anything, was of no use, and was a completely useless creature who should probably have been married off as soon as possible. The height of her dreams was beyond the skies, but she wanted to start small. She loved to write, and possessed a creative streak which was simply perfect for a writer. She applied for jobs in numerous newspaper and magazine offices, companies, online writing agencies, and what not. But wherever she went, she had to face negative views and opinions. When male officers glanced at her in a way that was usually reserved for servants and people of a lowly status, her heart would break and she would be extremely upset, for she was after all a human being. But she would just give herself a pat on the arm, would regain her composure, and would just move on as if nothing had happened. She knew that if she wanted to achieve something big in life, she would have to ignore distractions, and people’s views and opinions about her were nothing but a distraction. She continued her endeavors to get a nice writing-related job, but had to face consistent rejection. Every day, she resumed her efforts with a renewed enthusiasm. She decided not only to look for a job, but also simultaneously start a website and social media page of her own, where she would regularly post her new articles, stories and blogs. At first, she did not have many readers, but after some time, the number of readers of her written pieces began increasing steadily. Her popularity as a writer increased so much that she was offered several high position jobs, and was also invited to several high-profile talks as a motivational speaker. It could not be denied that she had to struggle a lot to make her mark in the male-dominated place she was forced to call home. But it could also not be denied that it was the challenge, the wish to prove others wrong about what a woman could do, that pushed her to heights that had previously been deemed impossible to achieve for a girl. As the hall resonated with the sound of clapping after she finished her motivational talk, she couldn’t help but smile.
Her life till now had not been easy. She did not know how much of it was left. But she could vouch for one thing and that was that even if her life hadn’t all been happy-smiley, at least she had been free to live it the way she wanted, and that could only have been possible in the place she had to call home.
Every single day was a struggle. There were a million problems. Load shedding, terrorism, corruption, kidnappings, honor killing, robberies. Every single day would bring its own problems, which never seemed to end. But, in some ways, every single day brought something new, something delightful, something interesting. Sometimes they were noticeable, sometimes they were not, but every single day also brought its own blessings, its own gifts. And this could only have been possible in the place she had to call home.
She agreed that there were times when she could do anything to get out of the place she had to call home. But she also knew that there was no other country, no other place in the world that she could truly call home. Good or bad, it was her home. It was a part of her, that could never really be separated from her, however hard she tried.
She knew that problems were superficial, but even superficial things sometimes manage to block our vision in such a way that we forget to look at the bright and hopeful things beyond. However, that does not mean that we stop appreciating what we have.
She looked out the window to see kids decorating the society with green and white balloons, streamers and tiny flags of Pakistan. However much they might complain, however much they might be troubled by disturbing events that seemed to be a part of life now, they still loved their country, their home. Because no other place in all the alternate universes could provide them the sense of safety and freedom that their own country could. She lifted the small flag that was lying on her desk and held it close to her heart. She had just finished writing a story. With one hand holding the green and white flag of her home close to her heart, she signed her name near the bottom of the page. Minahil Amin. And underneath that she wrote five words.
Proud to be a Pakistani.