This is the first part of an ongoing series of short stories.
Sharleen was a fine young girl of 18 – a very fine girl indeed. She was the girl next door with her raven hair, porcelain skin and brown limpid pools for eyes, she tried to fit in and be accepted, yet she never really did. She was different. She was lost, and her confusion could only be understood by some or none at all. That’s when she met him. He came and swept her of her feet. Her vision changed – she gained perspective and that’s where her journey began.
Sharleen was born and bred in Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan. Her family’s roots were planted deep in the city of gardens since centuries. Her conventional upbringing didn’t make it easy for her to be herself in the world they lived in. Her free spirit was entangled in a web of social norms and expectations and she yearned to get out of it. Her love for him changed him and his understanding of her depth transformed her.
She didn’t believe in conventional love stories and Disney-esque fairy tales, she was a realist who knew that being swept off her feet meant that she probably slipped on a wet floor and lost balance. Harib knew all her vulnerabilities and still loved her very much. His demons danced with hers to the rhythm of their love.
Sharleen had a rough childhood, her father cheated on her mother and she faced the consequences. She saw her mother leave, her siblings and father in shambles. She followed her mother to her aunt’s house, clenching her dupatta in her tiny hands, wailing, calling her mom “Amaa! , Amaa! Please take me with you, don’t leave me!” Her mother stayed at the aunt’s for a month and a half and returned home, when her father said that he’s a changed man. The Pakistani society wouldn’t have accepted a divorcee at the time and it would’ve affected Sharleen and her sister; Lamees and brother; Azeem’s futures.
Growing up in all the chaos had it’s effects on Sharleen….Harib would bear witness to it.
To be continued….
Disclaimer: This piece of writing and the one following are fictional, any resemblance to any person is purely coincidental.
Are you ready to make the sacrifices and take on the responsibilities that come with wedlock?
Does your partner know and understand what your long-term goals are?
Do you and your significant other have the same priorities/ mindset? You have to know if you’re both on the same wavelength.
Do you want to have kids? Clarify when and how many before committing to each other. If both of you are not on the same page, there’s room for potential arguments.
Expect a lot of pain and resentment in the beginning if you’re both equally affectionate. You’re both trying your best, the two of you will try to simmer down for the sake of the other, you’ll try not to hurt the other and yet manage to do so.
The higher expectations you have the more disappointed you’ll get. Lower your expectations so that nothing surprises you.
Don’t expect Disney fairy tales to be true. Your parents’ house would always be the house you grew up in, everyone has a different lifestyle, just know that you have to be flexible in order to be able to adjust in an entirely other setup that is unlike how you lived previously.
You’ll have to have a big heart. You’ll have to learn to let go of hurtful things – harsh reality checks that you wouldn’t want to but would have to let go for the sake of it.
Lastly, you’d have to focus a lot on the positive and discard the negative before it starts to rot and the stench spreads. You’ll have to make the effort to pull yourself and pull through.
Sometimes, it’s hard to even verbalize your thoughts – what you’re truly feeling. Your heart and head are almost never in the same place at the same time.
One moment your heart is thumping real fast, the next it’s a splitting headache – whatever the brain pleases to focus on.
You can’t remotely imagine explaining yourself to people. You’ve tried hard enough already and it’s an uphill battle every time. No one gets it (except the ones who actually suffer from anxiety themselves).
The “society” is cruel. I’m not jumping the gun, passing judgments and saying that everyone’s alike, I’m talking about a major chunk of the “desi” Pakistani/Indian community that treats anxiety ridden individuals like people who need to be treated for major mental disorders and (God Forbid) see shrinks (like that’s a bad thing?!).
Seeing a psychologist/psychiatrist is perfectly normal. There’s nothing wrong with talking things out with someone who’d be able to guide you better and understand your ordeal.
Do not, I repeat, do NOT let the society dictate what and how you should feel. It’s their fault that they fail to comprehend basic human nature – It’s OKAY to not feel good some days. You don’t owe anyone anything.
If you’re married or in a committed relationship and have an understanding partner, that’s a blessing. Talk things out with him/her. Don’t make the mistake of not disclosing your issues to your partner no matter how much your conventional desi mother or your older married cousin-sisters warned you of disclosing your personal details to your husband since it was bound to come haunting you later on in your married life.
You need to surround yourself around individuals who support you and get you through your phases. Avoid negativity at all costs.
Distract. Distract. Distract!. Distract yourself as much as you can from letting your thoughts get to you. Pray and meditate. Exercise, read new books, unwind and just don’t let your mind go into overdrive. Over-thinking is your enemy, you have to win this battle.
Last, but not the least….stay put, stay positive and keep calm. Just remember that it’ll all be fine. God helps those who believe.
How does one express oneself when they don’t have an outlet to blow off steam? How do you express yourself when the walls are closing in on you?. Have you ever been in a situation where you’re not even sure how you feel about the entirety of it – how did you even get there and why?
All those books of the self-help variety should’ve been the least bit “helpful” when they reiterated and underlined the “no regrets in life” extracts. You’re thankful for one thing at one moment and the next, you’re just wondering where you went wrong. Is it wrong to love thyself and perhaps also another – the unforgivable, untouchable, alas! unattainable?
Perhaps modern day Shakespearean tales persist amidst the mundane, and maybe, just maybe some of us will always be misfits who shall for most parts of their lives remain a tad bit crooked to fit the puzzle. Transitioning to new dimensions is as good as your next delusion about the fairytale you imagined would embrace you at the edge of it. If only we could pick and choose our metamorphosis, fight and win these battles for ourselves and not let others decide our fate. In the end we’re just horses running in the race against time and space, ponies charging against the wind, winning battles for the sake of it.
Marriage is one of the most important decisions in life. It’s a decision that has the ability to steer your life in an entirely new direction. It’s so important to be in the right frame of mind before you take the plunge. No matter what anyone says, the decision solely lies with you, you alone. Your parents or any other family member cannot dictate you. Desi families don’t make it easy for their kids to choose a path of their liking, they subliminally imply what they want and pressurise their kids into giving in to their idea of a perfect marriage (Dhol, band, baaja, biryani included). Whatever you do, just make sure you don’t crack under pressure. Here are ten questions you need to ask yourself before you decide that you’re ready for the long haul.
1. Have I lived a fulfilling life?
Ask yourself if you’ve done everything you imagined you would by this age. If you’re too young (18-early twenties) then you may have experienced very little by now. Think this through.
2. Have I reached my personal/professional goals?
Let’s say you’re a complete workaholic who is dedicated to his/her work – so much that its almost an adrenaline rush for you. Do you think you can shift your lifelong priorities and make room for more in such a short span of time? Ask yourself if you’ve reached your full potential.
3. Have I explored my options?
Are you having doubts about your potential life partner? Do you think you need more time to widen your horizon? Are you sure this is the perfect person for you and you’re not just being pressurised into making a commitment?. It’s very important to be able to imagine your whole life with someone, marriage is no joke.
4. Do you feel comfortable with the idea of a lifelong commitment?
Before you say “yes” make sure you’re mentally prepared to take responsibility. When you get married, it’s not just about you, it’s about your family, your spouse and his family. Don’t do something you’ll regret later on in life. It will only make you and the people you love miserable.
5. Do you feel attracted to the guy/girl?
We’ve all heard the phrase “Beauty is only skin deep” but it’s only human nature to look at someone’s external appearance before you judge their personality. No religion denies a person the right to choose their significant other. If you don’t like the person your parents are getting you married to for any given reason, make it a point to address the issue. Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT be unfair to someone by pretending to be something you’re not. If you’re not feeling it, then you just aren’t. Let it go.
6. Do you need more time?
Counsel yourself. Self-therapy is key. Marriage is a gamble, there’s no hard and fast rule that applies. If you’re getting married, let the idea gradually sink in. Think about it, don’t panic. Everyone’s afraid of change, specifically those who love their free will a tad too much, and it’s fine. Nobody has the right to judge you for being you. If you’re not prepared to take the step so soon, then give it some time. If you can find your happiness along the way, that’s great, but if you can’t it’s alright. Don’t rush it, if you’re not happy.
7. Do you, and your significant other share the same fundamental values?
The key to a successful married life is clarity in communication. It’s vital to know if you and your significant other shares similar interests, morals and values. You (girls) just can’t be arguing about what you should/can wear and what not after marriage or whether you can get a job or do household chores or not. Make your priorities clear. It’s important to get married to someone who has the same mindset as yours. If you’re somewhat liberal and perhaps she/he isn’t – it could potentially be harmful in the bigger scheme of things. While it’s essential to compromise in any relationship, it’s good to remember to not lose yourself while doing so. If your spouse truly loves and respects you, they’d support and build you at every step of the way rather than bringing you down.
8. Is he/she ready to take the plunge?
In most cases, both the people involved are not at the same wavelength. The families love each other, but the boy and girl don’t. Getting married without contentment diminishes the whole purpose behind it. If the boy or girl isn’t entirely sure of it, or happy with it, they shouldn’t go ahead with it. However, if you’re sure that this is what you want, just make sure that the other person feels the same way too. You owe this much.
Making an informed decision before taking a giant leap in life is very important. If you don’t think things through, you’d not only be unfair to yourself, you’d also be unfair to everyone else associated with the decision. It’s never too late, to stop yourself from a life full of regrets or take a step towards immense happiness by embracing the change. The choice lies within you, choose wisely.
“I don’t want you to this.” “I don’t want to do this.” There’s a massive difference between the two. The former is an imposition of your beliefs on someone else, the latter addresses you. We humans have the innate ability to take ownership – we want ownership. We want to call something or someone ours, we want to put labels on what’s ‘ours’ and what’s ‘theirs’.
How would we survive otherwise? God forbid! if you’d ever have to be seen sitting alone, basking in the solitude. What would all of them think? The society? You can’t possibly be seen reading a book with earphones in your ears, away from all forms of social interaction.
Those people you call your friends wouldn’t associate with you now would they? The group of four or five that you fostered for the last couple of years, went out of your way for in the most literal sense and bended over backwards if all else failed, would disown you if you ever indulged in antisocial behaviour.
Hey, it couldn’t possibly be that you enjoy your own company or could it? That you wish to disassociate for some time, unwind. You’re not the kind to break off ties on the basis of mood swings, you’re just finding solace in yourself. You’re keeping to yourself, doing your own thing.
You’re looking at things from a fresh perspective and have realised that you don’t need to wear a tag around your neck to have a sense of belonging and neither do you wish to add tags to your prized possessions to claim ownership.
What’s yours will remain yours, without the tags and labels, and what isn’t will never be no matter how hard you try. The only way you can truly be at ease is when you’re happy by yourself. It’s unfortunate that there are times when people find it intimidating, they take it as a blow to their egos that a person is perfectly capable of standing alone.
Some individuals just don’t need the big social circles and mindless babble around them to survive, they can do it without any of it or just with a few likeminded individuals whom they know would be there – no strings attached.
J’adore is french for I adore you (for those of you who haven’t already googled it). In France, I adore you is considered more powerful than Je T’aime, which stands for “I love you”. On the contrary, in Pakistan none of these matter. This isn’t one of those rants where a girl talks about how the world has betrayed her and men are all dogs (dogs are lovely creatures, just saying) but it’s more of a reflection on the society we reside in. The Pakistani mentality, the deep rooted desi-ness ka tarka (a garnish of onions and garlic fried in oil) that is even stronger than the pungent smell of that lassan (garlic) ka tarka in the daal (lentils) cooking in your kitchen.
I’m a proud Pakistani myself, a patriot and not of the “Hey look at me I wear green on Independence day” variety, but I choose to voice my opinions on subjects that resonate with me on a deeper level. When I speak of the “Pakistani mentality” I do not in any way wish to demean my country or its people’s beliefs, I merely wish to question them, to reason with them.
The books I read while growing up weren’t of the “happily ever after” category, in fact, I was a comic book kid, and I loved reading literary classics. I never had unrealistic ideals of finding ‘the one’ or riding off into a mystical land with my knight in shining armor (no seriously, what if that armor is covered in algae and all sorts of sludge? my O.C.D would go through the roof!) but growing up in a quintessential conservative desi family, I took my father and my brothers as my ideal and I still idealize them. I looked at the world through their perspective, it was my vision, their lens (pretty normal eh?).
A person who envisions her father as a role model, how can she settle for anything less? (I say this on behalf of all women living in the Pakistani society). There are times in life when we’re faced with tough choices, an intersection, a fork in the road that doesn’t define the wrong or right, and we find ourselves standing there scratching our heads in contemplation, that is when we really need to ask ourselves if choosing the path is even worth it? You could just abandon that direction completely and take another route, you’ve got GPS, use it wisely.
The Pakistani mentality when it comes to prepubescent men and women and some who unfortunately stopped growing after they hit the big two zero (20) is a mesh of confused emotions, it’s like your mommy issues and daddy issues reproduced in America/any other influential foreign country) and gave birth to a thing called your “mindset”. Whatever happened to sticking to morals and principles? Oh wait, they flew out the window when you left it open while sneaking out in the middle of the night. I’m all for living and letting others live, the only thing I feel our society lacks is tolerance. Acceptance towards each other and each others shortcomings.
Whatever happened to old-school courtship and romance? It died a slow painful death. Men take women to be fools and manipulate them like tools and then discard them like damaged goods, women pretend to be saints while hiding a dagger behind their back. Why the hell would you do that? Why have we become so sadistic? Do you have any idea what kind of an impact the pain you inflict on someone else, can have on them? You could practically ruin their life because not everyone is as thick skinned as you presume, not everyone can laugh things off like you, not everyone will sit with their friends, smoke a cigarette and laugh at the misery inflicted on someone else.
If you succeed in misleading somebody, do not think of him of being a big fool, rather think about how he trusted you. -Imam Ali (A.S)
Just pause for a moment and reflect on your life, ask yourself “Am I living it right?” have some compassion, don’t take words as hollow sounds escaping your throat, take them for what they could mean to someone else, don’t take anybody for a fool, because a) you’ll get screwed by Karma, and b) That person might just be a better individual than you – who even after knowing that you’re a complete moron, keeps giving you the benefit of the doubt, keeps letting go of things only because they value you and wouldn’t want to lose you even if the mountains crumbled. Word of advice: You’re gonna be one heck of a unfortunate bum if you lose this person. This one’s a keeper! Get your J’adore and Je T’aime together and make it count, before fate plays one on you. Life’s too short to be meaningless, earthquake or no earthquake.
Thoughts on life, love and everything in between.. transcribed by a self proclaimed bleeding writer.