Sometimes I wonder what the point of anything is. I hope God forgives me for this. It is my middle-aged hormones making everything appear without colour, without purpose. As I sit at the breakfast table, one child emptying the dishwasher, another being an irritable teen, another, for the moment, not to be found, I look out of the window. It is a rainy day. The window is opaque because of a plastic film of some sort that has been stuck to its glass by the previous tenant, or perhaps by the landlord. I have tears in my eyes. I have often seen my own mother just so at the breakfast table. I have felt her loneliness and her longing but not moved a muscle in her direction to comfort her, perhaps with a hug or a caress. I don’t like physical affection except from my husband and my children. I long and ache for physical affection from my husband. But I can’t bear to show physical affection to anyone else. And I am aware all the while that one day, my own turn will come. I will sit with tears at the breakfast table and my children will walk around me, watching me, knowing I need their physical affection, and do nothing. It is what is generally, unimaginatively, called ‘karma’. I prefer ‘makafat-e-amal’.
Outside the window is a rainy day. And vegetation I am well familiar with. If I was not as aware I am of being in Sydney, I could easily imagine myself in Islamabad. I miss Islamabad more than I thought I ever would. We live here as aliens in this land. We operate each day in an alien language, dress ourselves in alien clothes, follow the law, subdue our actions and reactions. We may become citizens here one day but we will never be natives. This gut-wrenching ache I feel for a house on a hill in Islamabad, these tears just below the surface of my consciousness, so ready to overflow, this exile far away from my parents and my siblings…we have to work so hard simply to be in the same place at the same time, with all our spouses and children. What is the worth of this? I do not know but my Beautiful God does. I trust Him. I am so angry at all the scum who have snatched away our simple and undeniable right to live in peace in our own land because of their greed. They enjoy the comfort of their families, their friends, vast properties and riches, to which they keep adding through corrupt and unscrupulous practices. All the while we stay away from our soil, for the sake of peace, for the sake of just normal days where when a child leaves for school in the morning, I feel confident of sending him our with a kiss and an ayat-ul-kursi. We stay away so we do not have to undergo the new normal – checks at hotels, airports, hospitals, schools. We stay away so our eyes are not routinely jarred by the sight of armed men hopping out of the vehicles of the rich and famous when they stop outside our schools, armed men at traffic signals, at the entrance to the streets where the rich and prosperous reside, armed men outside malls, at checkpoints. Weary armed men, bulletproof vests on them, eyes dead, protecting those whose wealth and stature they cannot hope to fathom in their entire miserable lives. I cannot forgive the rats who have swallowed up all our citizen’s rights in Pakistan, who allow, and even support, fanatics to run riot in our country, blowing places, people up. They force us to choose this life, a life where I sit peacefully at the breakfast table with tears in my eyes and pain in my heart.