Its my last week in the US and I’m spending it in New York with the people who for the last seven years have been my family away from real family. Its bittersweet. I’m excited about going back to Pakistan but sad to say goodbye to the people and places I have loved so dearly. I’ve begun to catalog the things that I will miss the most when I leave and I realized yesterday that one of them is going to be spontaneous excursions in the middle of the night leading to much fun, adventure and fond memories.

Over the last few years, I’ve seen the safe and sleepy little town of Islamabad turn into a war zone, complete with checkpoints, bunkers and armed military men at every street corner. It’s no longer possible to drive down the wide and beautiful expanse of Margalla road at the base of the Himalayan foothills without a care in the world and your car radio playing your favorite song. You have to be careful while zigzagging around all the checkpoints, and the bunkers made of sandbags taking up space on the once idyllic stretch of road.

With mullahs on the loose and dacoits and rapists not far behind, spontaneous middle of the night plans have to be thought through many times before being executed rendering them unspontaneous and then unnecessary. Why risk your life out on the road when you could stay at home? Fear and anxiety have locked us into our houses and taken away simple spontaneous pleasures like going for a drive on Margalla road.

But in New York, the city that never sleeps – you can make all kinds of plans at all times of the day and night.

As Abbas and I devoured some delicious Thai food, Abbas asked if I was up for seeing Inception. And I, being the enthusiast that I am for all things fun, agreed. We found a theater close by and ran to make it to the 11:00 pm show. When we got there we found out that the show was sold out. 

But we were not to be deterred by this small inconvenience.  We found another theater that was showing the movie at 11:30. Not deterred by the fact that this was across town – we decided to walk to it. Actually, Abbas decided to walk and I just followed while I complained. My shoe hurt and it was giving me blisters. But we kept walking. It was exceptionally hot and humid and we were sweating like ice cubes on a roasting pit. But we kept walking.

We cut through Central Park and as the noisy city evaporated into nothingness in the quiet green of the park, we sang out loud a favorite noori song. It reverberated all around in the still of the night and the quietness of the park. It was kind of cool!

And eventually as the park fell away and we got back onto the streets of real New York, where it despite being 11:30 seemed like it was only 8 or 9. People of all shapes and sizes were out on the streets and no one cared to look or pay attention to anyone else especially not to one really good looking Pakistani boy (Abbas forced me to write this) and a hobbling pakistani midget trying to make it to a movie on time.

And it struck me that it wasnt just the spontaneity but the anonymity that was also cool. I could be a sweat drenched hobbling midget singing Noori songs and no one cared. It was kind of cool. When we finally made it into the movie, the movie was mind-blowingly spectacular and worth every painful step that I had walked to it.

On the way back, even though we could have taken a cab, we walked down much quieter New York streets figuring out the puzzle of the movie we had seen. We were completely absorbed in figuring out the puzzle of the movie. And it reminded me of older times in Islamabad when you could take endless car drives all over the city unhindered by bunkers and check points and philosophize about love and life or just gossip or disect the movie you just saw. I might not  be taking leisurely walks at night in Islamabad any time soon or making spontaneous movie watching plans at night either. And I’m not hoping or expecting to do that any time soon either. But I do hope that we, the residents of Islamabad will once again be able to go on spontaneous unhindered drives along the beautiful Margalla road just like we had always done in the true spirit of Islamabadi fun.

Oh! and anonymity is VERY overrated!


2 Responses to “Spontaneity”

  1. Sam Murphy August 28, 2011 at 8:15 pm #

    so new york is safer than islamabad, i am surprsied


  1. Things Come (Almost) Full Circle | Sehar Says.... - March 1, 2016

    […] Spontaneity […]

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