It isn’t easy. Going back to writing after a two-year quelling block stamps out every fiber of creativity in you. The writer in you will demand that you compose – even paltry little – to keep the stream from drying out but the block is quite literally a sudden wall and that wall has no mercy. So, for two years I didn’t write like I used to and barely found the witty spirit to doodle. It was as if trying to stand up again after being hammered with ennui.
But here I am, again. To those who kept checking this space for updates, I wish to do two things: Thank you and seek your forgiveness. Thank you for being concerned readers and forgive me for my absence, it wasn’t according to my own will – at least most of it. To those who stopped, I completely understand.
So, updates first. I began blogging in my freshmen year without any idea that I would gain popularity from it. Little did I know that I would be named in Guernica’s “top” South Asian bloggers in 2010 or was it 2011? I barely remember. Four years and a few months added on the top and after a resounding Hajj and another dozen equally important experiences socially and politically, I graduated from university in Lahore with a degree in mass communication while working for The Nation in Pakistan as a staff writer. It was an educating stint for me, those months. I applied to graduate school in the field I wanted to pursue in order to enter academia and perhaps one day, write a book. I was accepted on scholarship to my school of choice in New York. I am writing to you all while sitting in a wonderful friend’s spacious apartment overlooking a park and picnic area where underpaid nannies and shrieking children punctuate the audio card of my day. There’s nothing to complain about. I take in everything as I explore the city.
New York is no Lahore. New York City is crowded and anonymous. Lahore is crowded yet everyone knows you. New York has no maternal warmth to it, and that’s fine. Sometimes it’s important to leave the nest and learn to fly on your own. Lahore glows, New York glowers. When I first came here on May 17, I was coming back to the United States after 15-16 years. People usually assume I am undergoing ghastly currents of nostalgia but for now, I am decidedly neutral and calm. Somewhere in the underbelly of my observation, a part of me knows that I am back where I was raised and it is still attempting to understand how to receive – or even reject – this old-new change. I thank New York for giving me the time I need to decode its urban psychology, which is of a myriad of colors. Some dark, some bright, some utterly grey – always visible and coeval in the best and worst ways. Several things I noticed once I moved here: People walk very fast and for someone who already has a brisk and long-striding gait, it is pleasant to walk here (not that the idle sauntering in Lahore was bad). The weather is a lot cooler than Pakistan (and I know the comparison doesn’t fit most perfectly) but when it gets humid, it certainly does drive you crazy – and July isn’t even here yet. Class and class-based racial differences along gaping chasms are most visible here through the window of the subway, and yet politely avoided in discussion if you’re sitting with the wealthy. Sometimes a complete stranger will be kind to you and the trick, as an elderly New Yorker confided to a “bright transplant” like me on the train, is to know where that kindness is coming from. Sometimes kindness has an unkind goal.
It feels strange writing like this; I am more accustomed to addressing you all in satirical tone and silliness and through the stage of doodles and what not. I have been asked if I’ve “changed.” It’s a big question. The answer is cradled in yes and no. I am still the young girl who posted hysterical doodles after consuming raw chocolate powder in her dorm. I am still the same person who doodled ridiculous caricatures of personality types (and ended up making a remarkable lot of passive aggressive enemies – which is fine). I am still the nine-year-old girl who left America and spent well more than a decade in Pakistan, growing up to love it and hate it and love it even more and who, now, is back in the United States. But that isn’t important. What’s important is that you all were generous enough to accompany me in this journey and with now a new chapter opening, I want to thank you for wishing me good luck and for patiently watching me grow.
It isn’t easy returning to writing. It takes courage and consistency to walk through the terrain of your thoughts and gently weave them into a coherent account. But it’s happening finally. And it wouldn’t have been possible without your encouragement.
Thank you for being.