They don’t tell you that no matter what your age, you feel 80 during the rains. Though the torrents of last week have abated, the air is still like a sauna and I wake up every morning bent over double, clutching my back as I limp to get my coffee fix because every injury I’ve ever had seems to have held a meeting in my pain centers at the same time. It’s unfair that wounds my body healed years ago still have guest-starring appearances in my life. I’m told that this is because of the ‘mausum’ — that wonderful amorphous thing responsible for the termites in my bookshelves and the dengue in my garden and the myriad cultures of fungus growing on my walls (I swear a few have evolved so quickly into mini-cities that they’re five minutes away from discovering fire).
“It’s all downhill from here,” my parents joked about my aches and pains. I’m assuming that dictum will only hold true until I get better after the monsoon, but my heart goes out to my fellow army of zombies whose bodies are betraying them with muscle spasms and fierce reminders of mortality. If anything, I finally understand the short-tempered octogenarians I’ve met here my whole life. It never really occurred to me that they are in pain pretty much all the time, and I give them full credit for not shooting someone in the face as a reply to the question “How are you?”
I’ve been meeting many a geriatric recently, on account of the community effort in my little dead-end of Lahore to fix the damage from the floods last week. As many of you know, I am the youngest inhabitant of this little colony that houses mainly retired army widows. These women are old, bored, dripping with prayer beads and dying for gossip. The sinkhole was like their Lewinski scandal and they could talk of nothing else for days. Their community organizing skills are, unfortunately, sub-par and other than a barbed comment between sips of tea, they couldn’t quite get their act together: it took a week for the electricity to come back, it should have taken a day. Part of the reason it took that long was because someone refused to pay 1000 Rs for additional workers, despite every other house having contributed. When I heard this and offered to pay the sum for convenience’s sake, those people became offended, told me they could take care of themselves, and then made everyone wait anther five days for a working socket.
But not every desi-bourgeois community is so slow to achieve its goals as my Colony of Colons.
[quote]Mr Malik endeared himself to me when he almost fell into Begum Nusrat Bhutto’s grave during her burial while trying to stay as close to the action as possible[/quote]
I am thinking of an incident pertaining to my favorite mistake, Rehman Malik, erstwhile Interior Minister of Pakistan under the PPP and all-around Godsend for Public Gaffs. He first endeared himself to me when he almost fell into Begum Nusrat Bhutto’s grave during her burial while trying to stay as close to the action as possible. But I became a true fan of RM since he described the terrorists who attacked the naval base in Karachi several years ago as “star wars characters.”
I mean, how cute is that?
RM is now back in Paki pop culture, and thank god for that. A video went viral this week showing a bunch of PIA passengers getting very, very angry that their flight had been held on the runway for more than two hours with no explanation. PIA initially said that it was due to a technical fault. Someone found out that this was a cover-up, and that the plane had actually been detained for Rehman Malik.
This is where our lovely video starts.
The guy taking the video is waiting at the open plane door, saying to the camera “I’m going to grill him, don’t you worry, don’t you worry” while a bunch of other voices are shouting indecipherable abuses. There is a uniformed man trying to keep the passengers inside the plane.
“We’ve taken this for 68 years, we are not going to take it any more!” the man shouts at the officer trying to calm things down. The camera pans to the walkway attaching the plane to the airport and there, in all his purple-haired glory, comes Rehman Malik. It’s like watching a political Candid Camera.
“Salam Malik sahib!” the rockstar cameraman shouts. “Why have you kept this plane delayed for two hours? EXPLAIN YOURSELF MALIK SAHIB!” Rehman Malik walks around the corner, sees an angry mob, and with scarcely a facial expression turns right around and walks the other way. The passengers walk after him and to his credit, he comes back and begins to engage with them, but the people are too angry. “You’re not even a minister anymore Malik!” says one guy (ouch), while another just starts shouting “b*****d!” really, really loudy. RM claims it wasn’t his fault but the passengers are having none of it. “You are not allowed on this plane! Sir, this is your fault! No, sir, you can’t. Leave now sir! GET OUT!”
The video ends with the passengers, having chased RM as far as his legs could carry him, walking back into the plane with a slight swagger as they tell the PIA people that it’s time for the pane to take off now. “They can’t get away with this. We won’t take this abuse anymore…”
PIA released a statement saying it was their fault, and not RM’s that the plane was stalled. This could be, given that RM would likely not have come early if he knew the plane wasn’t working and would have been informed when it was. Still, I find it hard to believe.
We have all gone off about the dharnas and protests and sit-ins in the last month, ad nauseam. The positive that has come from all of this hyperventilating is an increased consciousness about the role of people in affecting change in Pakistan. I felt it when parliament came together a few weeks ago, and I felt it when the nation said a collective “As if” to the idea of another military takeover. It may not have been the change Khan wanted (since it doesn’t include him) but it’s here.
To see these passengers embody that impulse of collective change, or protesting for their rights — one that has for so long been dormant inside Pakistan — was very impressive to me and probably the most visible social change we’ve gone through in recent years as a nation. Ten, even five years ago this video would not have existed. Thank God it does now.
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