Also published on Chowk.
Bahot bay-aabroo ho kar teray koochay se hum niklay
– Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib
Don’t look at the policeman taking bites of the chicken leg. Look at the TV above him instead. The vultures are feeding on the dead zebra.That won’t make you as angry. Anger is not good. Remember how your paddar got shot when he spitted in the Soviet soldier’s face? Though to be honest, you can’t do something like that, you can’t have that kind of pride left in you after spending two decades living here like a criminal. Let him have his chicken. It hardly costs two hundred rupees, and he’ll probably catch bird flu and die. Poetic justice or something. If you displease him, it’ll cost you much, much more than the chicken.
No, your Afghan Card means shit. They don’t need any particular reason to take you to the police station. And let’s just not talk about your Afghan Card – the only recognition you finally got after twenty-three years – for other reasons, it just makes you all the more nervous. It expires in a few months. Your right – though they can pick you up and take you to the border any day they feel like – to stay here ends. They’ll probably really send you back to Afghanistan this time, to make you an emigrant all over again after two decades.
He is done with the chicken, now he is going to pass in front your counter. Don’t show any signs of annoyance. Just ask him if he’d like a kettle of qehwa. With a smile. And if he asks for the bill, though it’s quite unlikely, you do know that he doesn’t mean it. It’ll be the biggest shock of his life if you do actually present the bill. Now you don’t want a policeman fainting in your restaurant, do you? Just laugh and say, “Why would I take money from you. You are my friend.”
You can fantasize about torturing him in many different ways later.
That’s more like it. He’ll be here again next Friday. Maybe with his friends.
Change the channel to something cheerful to make you forget about the policeman. The highlights of a cricket match. Afridi is hitting the daylight out of the Indian bowler!
Looks like the policeman has spoiled it for you. You feel an idiot for cheering the Pakistani team, don’t you? Change the channel. No, don’t stop at an Afghan channel. No real need to make your Afghan identity conspicuous. Don’t stop at any of the countless bollywood channels either. A news channel it is then.
Time to go home. Go through the back alley to reach the road, you don’t want to come across them policemen again on the main street, do you? Get into the rickshaw. Wonderful places these rickshaws are for anxious people like you. The shaking and the terrible noises of the the rickshaw overcome the turbulence inside your head. It’s a perfect therapy. A ride inside a rickshaw from Khyber to Karachi will kill all your anxieties. If the police doesn’t stop you in the middle and rob you clean. Haha.
Right. Stop at the grocery store. Get your kids some milk. They need all the energy to cope with their statelessness. And oh, when will you learn to use the local version of Pashto properly? Be careful when talking to the shopkeeper. Use more of ‘khay’, less of ‘chay’ and ‘sheen’, and pepper everything with plenty of ‘marhas’ and ‘yaar’. Not so much to make you look a weirdo. But it’s a tough task, speaking one version of the same language at home and trying to speak it with some adjustments outside, isn’t it?.
Right. You are home. You don’t have to worry about your language. The feelings of guilt, gratitude and resentment will fade a little. Zareefa’s tea is more of a potion.
I see, you’ve brought a newpaper with you. What is it to you what happens in this country. Let me tell you something. There is an Afghan newspaper called Wahdat. Why don’t you buy that instead of this Urdu newspaper. Learn something about Afghanistan. Do you know the name of any Afghan political party? Or the date they celebrate their independence day back there? Wait, I forgot that you can’t really read Pashto to buy Wahdat. Haha.
Your eight year old is here. Isn’t she a bright child? Ask her about her day in school. All that she has learned about Jinnahs and Iqbals. Crap. She wants to know where does she belong. Alright, it’s time for a fairytale.