Alternate Relationships

Growing up we had such mystical illusions about love and sex especially if you were a South Asian. There is this standard model that our parents, forbearers and ancestors have raised us to live by, a code some might say; grow into adolescence where puberty is a topic that men are left to figure out on their own and women are told is a scared biological process that marks their transition into adulthood. In our twenties men are left to conquer the world, make their mark and stand on their own two feet with the added privilege of experimenting, breaking hearts and dealing with their libidos by any means necessary with the understanding that when the time comes the code of their fathers and their fathers before them must be observed by settling down with a mate till death do them part.

Women get a slightly twisted version of the same fate. In their twenties they are meant to concentrate and focus on completing their education, be bastions of chastity and be holier than thou as  they are the pride and honour of the family. They are taught to master their impulse and to conquer their libido for it is forbidden to indulge on those vile carnal desires.

Do we South Asians really know what it feels like to be free? To do what our hearts tell us, to trust in fate and take a leap of faith, to believe in something more profound than what we are taught as children. I don’t know how you will explain this, some may say we are brainwashed, some might say its just a matter of following our traditions while others might argue that its just a matter of listening to alternative opinion or justifying actions by experimenting in adulthood and honoring the code when the time comes to tie the knot.

The questions remains however, how many of us have what it takes to respect our own life choices and go all the way? How many of us want a successful husband with a house and two cars or a beautiful wife in the prime years of her biological clock to achieve happiness? Ok maybe most of us want the latter but is that the only successful path that life has to offer in its quest for culmination?…

AND THEY HAD THESE WONDERFUL CHILDREN WITH WHOM THEY LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER …even reading this sounds banal isn’t it?

For me a relationship is something that fulfills a need; it supports us emotionally, physically and serves as a base camp to climb on towards our intended goal. Thus the best relationships are those which have a common agenda and work towards a common life purpose. But once that purpose is achieved what is next? The rational answer would be to move on to the next goal and start afresh. Our South Asian morality dictates however that we must hold fast to those commitments and carve out a way through the challenges. The truth is when we grow up we are foregoing all our rights of choice and personal happiness, those quintessential traits required to explore our truest potential as sentient beings.

Can you imagine what you wanted to be when you were growing up? An Astronaut? (ok that was a bit cliched) but how about an air hostess or a nurse or a veterinarian or even a soldier? I won’t ask about your vocation right now but imagine if you went through all the various financial and familial hurdles in your quest to realize your dreams. Maybe you didn’t become an astronaut but that was probably because you weren’t meant to be one, however you did became an astronomer and discovered the next Earth like planet! Maybe you didn’t become a veterinarian but that was probably because you weren’t smart enough however you did become a wildlife photographer.

The point I’m trying to make is that maybe life is not written. Perhaps there are no paths that you need to follow but ones that you create in your quest to realize who you are. And you do that by never wavering from your desires and having a laser sharp focus. If what I say right now makes sense then its important to understand that relationships should also be dealt with in the same manner as you do your dreams. To talk about divorce or open relationship or a trail separation would be disgustingly simple. But I believe that it is possible to fall in love with someone and wanting to spend the rest of your days with them but at the same time giving priority to your personal development; loving more than one person at the same time. There are varying degrees of feelings and intimacy a person can have for people.

Maybe this all seems a bit idealistic heck if it were up to me the world would be full of artisans and scientists. No one would be ordinary. All the constructs that we have created about society as we know it; religion, order, government, politics and financial markets would become defunct. Pedophiles and mass murderers would be in abundance while naked couples would be running around shanty towns chased by bearded men armed to the teeth with AK47s. A dystopian future where the assumption is that man’s soul is always open to corruption. This is most likely to be true I mean without restraint we are more likely to succumb to our most sadistic desires right?

Then what the heck am I talking about when the probability of us screwing things big time if left to our desires is 99%. But just for one second think and imagine that there is a 1% chance that a society where there are only artisans, poets and scientists forms a reality utterly fascinating. A world where there is no meaning of the word crime, disease, fornication and hatred. A world almost mystical where innocence is the most sought for, most commendable most rewarded attribute. Where relationships do not exist as we know it, where the more people you are intimate with the more love you spread and feel good about.

Some Interesting Lessons

Just make it last :-)
Just make it last 🙂

You know what guys, I have been thinking of separating my portfolio blog from my personal blog. The fact is you cannot stay anonymous over the internet. Its tough especially if you are not an internet geek. And I know, ‘its been ages since I last blogged’ this line… I have been noticing comes at the start of most of my posts. Should I keep this as my intro from now on? Let me know what you think.

Now for some serious stuff. This post is going to be about some of the lessons I’ve learnt in the past few months. I just finished and completed my dissertation for the MA. It was quite an ‘epiphanying’ experience or maybe not but I tell you what I have made some incredible discoveries about myself in the past few months; about journalism, my career and about life in general  ;-). Let me put it this way, I stopped partying at the end of April. I knew there was a lot to do, I had to find a work placement while researching for the dissertation. It was crazy, I still do not believe how I managed to complete it all. And a trip back home to Pakistan too haha. That was another experience, it reminded me of all the reasons why I can’t stay in Pakistan any more. Pff  Its true! There is a difference between love for your country and settling for a better life if you can. Any way now for the lessons, here we go:

Hard working if I try

This was a truly cathartic episode because after the success of my Ordinary levels things just took such a downward spiral I didn’t knew I had in me to redeem myself. And while all of that was happening, I was in college, confused, experimenting and discovering myself. I have been to extremes I can tell you it is not pretty. But at the end I must say that unless you learn and experience for your self why something is bad you wont ever stop doing it. I don’t just mean partying. One more thing I’ve learned to accept is that nothing is bad, that is just a matter of perspective, what is important is knowing what is good for you at the right time and keeping things moderated.

But enough on that, what I want to emphasize is that the past few months have made me realize that I can still achieve things when I put my mind to it, that I am not hooked on anything person, thing, place whatever, and when I decide to focus on something I make it happen. I really didn’t know I still had it in me but the whole process of researching and working on my dissertation project has sparked a very healthy combustion in my brain. I feel like I can do anything and that the world is full of opportunities!

Possible career path

Second thing I learned without going in to detail here is a possible career path. Now that is a big deal for me cause I have principles, I like to figure things out for myself. I remember as a child how everyone use to say ‘hey Ayaz mate you ask a lot of questions’ or ‘hey Ayaz you always sound confused’ or ‘hey Ayaz I don’t know where you are going with this mate’, well I can smirk back at every single one of those people and tell them you know what I know what I have to do , these are the fucking reasons and this is how it all makes sense, I may not be there yet but I am well on my way. And I know that if I fail, I took my best shot and that I have no regrets. Period. The important thing is that I give in my all and stuck by my beliefs.

On dating

This is a bit confusing for me. Cause it dwells in the domain of relationships and I am not really… well lets just say that apart from the basics I’m not the person you would wanna come for dating advice. But having said that I have learned a lot this year. Don’t get me wrong though I don’t mean to say I am a player like that but I know now how bad I was at reading all those signs that women give out. The sort of advice your parents are too shy to talk about, your friends are too inexperienced to give and your girlfriend is too scandalized to reveal. The best dating advice I’ve gotten so far has been from my housemates and a very special female friend (read: What do you remember of your time on Earth?) And you know my conclusion? And this is something not many people will tell you because usually you need to figure this out on your own about women; they are just like us mate, they have their needs just like you and me, the trick is to make it all happen when she is at sync with you. You will understand this when the time comes :-). Trust me. Also just let things take their natural course never rush. Another lesson I learnt. One final lesson I learned about women after coming to the UK was that desi girls are just different from white chicks. They just are. There is no formula, there is no solution, I don’t mean to say one is tartier than the other, they are just different. Very different. At the end it comes down to you, who you chose to spend your time with. The person that accepts you in all your fallacies and who can put up with your eccentricities is the person you should give a serious thought too.

Living the East Meets West Dream

One of the many assignments required of us in my MA program was a feature that had to be of a publishing standard. The intention naturally was to pitch and try to get it published in a commercial UK based publication. My piece was on my experiences in Turkey in the summer of 2011.

I was quite excited when HuffingtonpostUK accepted my pitch and asked for a copy. Although it did not make it to their website I can hold my chest up high knowing they considered my story. Following is my final copy:

 

Setting foot outside my country for the first time to a place as wonderful as Turkey, to meet a girl I have only known through the internet seemed like a great idea when I was planning this vacation five months ago. Now punch-drunk-love for real on a bus to KuƟadası, my mind was exhausted from traveling and the experience of landing in Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen international airport.

After 20 hours of cheap airline food and excitement if you find out from a local travel agent that Bulgarian girls are known to con men to get their money, nobody can blame you for having thoughts of just dropping the façade and going back home.

I had simply taken a leap of faith and set out to find my free spirited friend from Bulgaria, our rendezvous point Istanbul! But now that I had made it to this rock, conquered the finances, navigated through the visa issues unique to Pakistanis, taken leave from work, now what? Will she even come?

I was going to spend four days exploring KuƟadası, an offbeat resort town on the western coast of Turkey before returning to Istanbul to meet her. Why couldn’t I have just gone to Dubai or Bangkok instead? As comical as my predicament sounded, especially being a Pakistani, it seemed too late to turn back now.

 

KuƟadası an offbeat trail

The hotel Asia Apart in KuƟadası didn’t look much and was the cheapest single room I could find on Expedia.com. But to my intense surprise this fact worked out for my benefit, for being small and family-run meant that the patrons were treated warmly as if guests in a household.

While visiting historic sites like Ephesus, St John’s church and St Mary’s shrine in the dry-sunny Mediterranean weather was something I had never done before, enjoying a cold lager by the harbor close to sunset and reflecting on these visits was truly an out of world experience for me (alcohol is prohibited in my country for all practical purposes).

Thus after the hectic events of the past few days it was finally beginning to feel like a vacation.

I have known Gergana for 10 years. We met in an online chat room and continued to stay in touch over emails. Skype came later on. We practically grew up together and even though we haven’t met I knew so much about this person at the other end of the world.

After four days of enjoying a utopian time in a rustic KuƟadası, it was time to return to Istanbul and pick my friend from the bus station.

This was it.

 

Feeling Just Right in Istanbul

Now Istanbul with its unique geography has an exotic aura unlike any other cosmopolitan city center in the world. I remember being nervous waiting in the arrivals section but when our eyes met, the abstract nature of our relationship vanished. We hugged and exchanged formalities, a bit dumbstruck at first that this was finally happening.

After freshening up we had a nice dinner in an upscale restaurant that had a magnificent view; facing the iconic Istanbul skyline, above rows upon rows of city lights, in the distance the two mosques shimmering in their mighty splendor and the Bosphorus strait separating Asia from Europe. Some blessed soul out there was blazing fireworks which were periodically lighting up the night sky next to a full golden moon. I hungrily absorbed every bit of it and realized that our story was turning out to be a blend of ‘East meets West’ in every sense of the term.

She told me she had just two days before returning back to Sofia or before her dad who was already apprehensive about the mysterious Pakistani phone codes in the bills discovered where she had been. Often at times I would guide her about in places we would visit, pay for her bus fare and among other things look after her. There were many amusing similarities between my strange European friend and Pakistani women. Nevertheless our odd combination would often raise eyebrows.

At other times there were small things about her that were both annoying and fascinating; like a strong distaste for throwing cigarette butts on the road or leaving empty bottles behind.

By far our best moment together was walking hand in hand, over the Galata Bridge when the weather was a nice blend of chill and sweat of a sleepy Istanbul summer night. And though our parting was rather prosaic, both of us having accepted the magic of it all lay in the moment, I had an emotional breakdown when I returned home.

An Afterthought

My family has a construction business back home and does rather well. I however have always known that my future lay somewhere else. Taking this vacation gave me the strength to leave it all behind and pursue a career in creative writing.

As for me and Gergana, it does not matter what happens next perhaps we will meet again perhaps we won’t. The important thing is that we shared some incredible moments. Our relationship is pure and free from deceit something only a lucky few get to experience in such a grand fashion.

 

The End

Diagnosing the ‘Mella’ in Me

Growing up there was a lot of buzz around a concept called ‘Mellas’, specially in junior high and even high school where the social class system was rigidly defined among the kids (including myself!). In school we would stay away from ‘Mella-speak’ or ‘Mella-ttiquetes’ or risk catching the cooties. It was quite an interesting phenomenon which now that I am 25, think was ridiculous and cruel as with many other social norms of the teenage. As we moved on to higher grades and became more socially aware, hormones raging, overtly conscious of how people were looking at us specially that of the wonderful opposite sex , the fear of being labeled a ‘Mella’ or ‘Gay’ took epic proportions, where guys would label one another, come up with the latest trends in hairstyle etc etc… it got to point where the most stereotypical of the so called ‘Mellas’ stood up, sick of being labeled they lashed out so that now our entire batch was divided in to ‘Mellas’ and ‘Burgers’ hahhaha crazy

The whole facade seems so naive now reflecting on the challenges and complication of a responsible adult when in school our biggest concern was not catching the cooties….. infact  I find that all guys inevitably end up doing all those ‘Mella’ things at some point in their life, hell most of them do it all the time .. that is just how us guys are. Having a little bit of ‘Mella’ in you makes you a complete guy!! (For those of you who do not know what ‘Mella’ is; Mella in Urdu slang means an uncouth, stereotypically male, horny asshole who has a fantastic vocabulary of curses. Though it is a word that remains in the domain of MEN, some Women also qualify for the title)

Seriously, it doesn’t matter what the guy does, how much money he makes, what social strata he belongs to, what has been his upbringing, there is alota ‘Mella’ in him which likes to come out from time to time. And nothing turns in to bigger fucking ‘Mella-fest’ then when a bunch of guys meet up over the weekend. Its a sight to behold I can tell you. When me and my buddies catch up over the weekend it is always a crazy crazy night. Of course I can’t tell you some of the nasty shit that we talk about and enjoy and NO, if any of the readers here are committed ladies,NO!! you do not have ANY IDEA what your guy talks about when he catches up with his mates. Cause see it is like this, when we were young having a girl was the height of being cool so we had no choice but to be as nice and decent as possible, i mean we were nice and decent even when we didn’t wanted to, you remember the time you said “Oh my man speaks my language”, Hell no, the only time a guy speaks his language is when he is among other guys.

So now, it seems like being in a relationship seems to be getting a bigger hassle by the day, whats with all the emotional baggage, constant pacifying, ‘sorting things out’ and the always hanging guillotine of marriage which being a Pakistani everyone at our age hangs around our necks. In a relationship we spent 90% of the time trying to please you ladies and 10% talking romance, I have yet to date a girl who I could just be myself with completely! And I know it aint gona happen, women and men are just too different. And with that whole ‘Cool/Mella’ phase long   gone us guys have developed a very interesting way to get over this whole relationship dilemma,

Option 1: Get Married Asap

Option 2: Be in a fling

Option 3: Stay single

Dating a girl and knowing her and taking it slow.. I don’t think that works any more when you are in your 20s.

Now ladies, please do not get me wrong I have no problems with the nagging, I understand that is in your nature to do so, playing hard to get , always complaining, the whole routine and to be honest us guys do it too albeit at a very toned down level. What does gets to me are the interruptions when a man is having a boyz night. You do not seem to realize how sacred a boys night is for us. It comes once or twice a week and is our sole chance to revive, be as ‘Mella’ as we can be, smoke or smokeup (whatever suits) and feel completely at ease scratching our ba**s in open. What? oh you are probably going ewwwwww! right now but thats exactly how us guys feel when you talk about getting the ‘upper-lip’ done or yes the PMS when we are ‘supposed’ to be kind, caring and understanding anything otherwise will get a big OH YOU ARE SUCH AN INCONSIDERATE BASTARD! 😛 don’t get me wrong again this is not who is the superior sex blog post,  hahaha im just highlighting the facts of life as Chris Rock says most admirably here: