Monday, December 28, 2009

Living in a City of Boom Boom

Don't look forward to the day when you stop suffering. Because when it comes you'll know that you're dead. - Tennessee Williams

Whenever their is a suicide bombing in Pakistan, I get a deluge of concerned notes asking about my and my family's health (less lately as its become a daily occurrence, and the realization that I live in Karachi which has until recently, been largely untouched by the terror campaign). 

I appreciate the concern from my friends and I thank god every day for the fact that my loved ones are safe. So far my luck has been exemplary, so I continue praying for the streak to continue (if it ain't broke why fix it). 

One of the questions I got asked a lot was 'how do you live with all the uncertainty, isn't it dangerous and make you feel unsafe?" 

A part of my wants to laugh it off, not deal with the fact that I grew up and currently live in a scary unpredictable explosive city. A part of me wants to shrug it off and be tough about it in a debonair way, but the truth is that Death (not to mention the process of dying) scares me, but oddly enough not as much as it happening to my family and friends. The rest of me just wants to to look them straight in the eye and say yes. 

A suicide bombing is a tragic thing, but as someone said 'If someone wants to trade his life for yours, there is not a whole lot you can do about it'. It is that hopelessness, and the realization in that no matter what you do, short of perpetual house arrest, that there is nothing to do. In acceptance of that reality is where I feel at peace. 

I eventually came to the conclusion that as a nation, Pakistani citizens had inadvertently put themselves through the 7 stages of grief. Obviously, everyone dealt with their own personal circumstances differently, but the pattern was the same, dealing with unexpected losses and the fallout from the mindless destructive taking of lives, perhaps even their own loved ones. 

1. Shock; Terrorist strikes are random, unexpected and in destructive. It befuddles one how a 'religious Islamic war' is fought by killing innocents. It's one thing to attack military bases, but quite another to attack markets, mosques and religious processions. How such warped backward people live in our society is shameful. 

2. Denial; We like to think that its not really Pakistanis that are behind these attacks, that evil crazy foreigners from the middle east and the dysfunctional Stan regions (Afghanistan, Uzbekistan etc) are really behind it. Sadly, for a time, we ignore all evidence to the contrary. There is also the scope where we try to deny that things are as bad as they are. Now that all the terrorists have blown themselves that we can finally live in peace.
3. Bargaining; Our government has tried it, peace agreements, peace talks, tacit agreements all to no avail. It also makes us wonder what we could do to reverse the loss? Distraught family members ask God Why them, and unleash the I wish you would have 'taken me instead' mindset. Unfortunately, God and terrorist suicide bomber do have one thing in common, their is no use for bargaining other than to make ourselves feel better. 

4. Guilt; We wouldn't be human if we didn't feel guilt. I'm sure the establishment that originally set up and supported the terrorist cells in the hope to neutralize India and control Afghanistan experience more than their fair share. One tends to blame themselves in order to reconcile with their loss. Perhaps 

5. Anger; It is unavoidable, and expressing it is a national pastime rivaling cricket. We like burning cars, looting shops, closing down entire cities with our griefs. Say what you will, but Pakistanis are intensely passionate people and inflaming an entire metropolis isn't as hard or uncommon as one would think.  Mostly, its anger at the injustice of it all, after all the people killed are innocents, whether they are in the midst of worship, or buying shoes or even enjoying a night out, there is no justice in their deaths. Whether its anger towards god, terrorists, the government, the army etc, its still pain and economically rather expensive.  

6. Depression; Feelings of hopelessness, it hits us all hard and fast. It comes and goes as it pleases. That sensation of sadness from within is mind numbing and emotion sapping. Nothing will bring those people back, and nothing will deter those maniacs who slaughter in the name of God. I personally think its a fear of the unpredictability and the realization that no one is safe. 

7. Acceptance; After a point, one has to deal with the reality of living in Pakistan. Even if one is lucky and has never known someone to have actually died in one of these horrific attacks, one must learn to live with the reality. Find their own coping mechanism, maybe even joke about it....yes I'm having a Blast...ha ha. At this stage we realize that life will never be the same but we choose to continue to see hope and meaning in the future. not necessary because we believe it, but because we have to have hope in order to go on and continuing to cherish our lives. 

End of the day you keep going, move on, live, laugh and squeeze every drop of happiness life has to offer, because you never know what day will be your last. It may sound a bit forlorn and damning but I'm not, even in the best of times life and it's duration is unpredictable. From the moment we are born to our last breath we put our lives in the hands of God and pray to him to bless us and serve at his will. The atheist alternate of 'well, the idea of dying sure sucks, thank god I have an insurance policy,' does not really seem appealing to me.  

I like to think I've reached the acceptance level, but after every attack I find myself reliving the steps over and over again. Disappointingly, I find myself increasingly desensitized to it all, rushing through the steps at increasingly record time. I abhor that change in myself, suffering and feeling emotions (particularly sad ones) is a part of life. Slowly, I feel that my humanity (which I revere) and compassion is slowly being eroded away by the onslaught. Maybe that's what the real goal of the terrorists is. Once we are all stripped of our humanity, we'll stop caring what they do, we'll just live with it, we'll just want it to stop. The population at large may even elect them (worked for Nepal....sort off).

So the short answer is that it can suck living my city of Boom Boom, but I still love it here. My heart is with my family, friends and my people, as long as they are here, my home will be where my heart lies. That is Pakistan. You live your life the best way you know how and leave the rest up to God.

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