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 Kuşadası, 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 Kuşadası, 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.

 

Kuşadası an offbeat trail

The hotel Asia Apart in Kuşadası 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 Kuşadası, 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

2012 and Gone

Click for source

So the New Year is here in all its splendid glory. “The year 2012”. It has has come with much promise and change regarding our fate as the Human species, the World, us Pakistanis and individuals there is something in it for everyone.

The importance of 2012 is emphasized by the amazing events that have happened in the preceding year 2011. Incredible events, revolutionary events.. mind boggling events so much so that I have been left in a state of utter bedazzlement and quandary under the shadows of times yet to come.

So let us begin: In 2011 the Kepler Space Telescope, which is arguably the most significant scientific experiment ever conducted in line with the Hubble Space Telescope, discovered several planets outside our solar system. Now although discovering planets outside our suns gravity is not a new feat, even though the technology to discover planets itself is a relatively new phenomenon with only a decade since the first exoplanet was discovered and since then close to 2000 of them have been identified, what makes the discoveries so vital is that the newly discovered exoplanets are just the right distance from the sun, with just right size for the conditions hospitable for life to exist.

The Implications therefor are staggering. In our quest to discover life outside our solar system 2011 have been the most productive so far. Scientist are quite optimistic here since in a very short span of time we have discovered Earth like planets and by rational will discover life soon. Alien life! Yes it is no longer a myth we might not be the Asrhaf-ul- Maklookat after all, although the religious community will argue it was already given in the

click for source

Quran and bla bla bla. I am sure when the first life forms are discovered the zealots will claim it as a further glory to God, I really do not understand what they mean by this since they were the ones declaring the superiority of the Human Species. Any way the study of Earth like planets will further verify or improve on the Theory of Evolution and put an end once and for all on the ‘teleportation’ of Adam and Eve from ‘Heaven’ to Earth.

In our friendly neighborhood Earth things haven’t been quite serene. 2011 was a tumultuous year of Natural and man made environmental disasters. Who can forget the Chilean miners, the Japanese Tsunami and nuclear disaster, Hurricanes in United States, Earth Quakes and oil spills in Christchurch New Zealand, more earthquakes in Spain the disastrous flooding in Pakistan, wild winter all across Europe and much much more.

Politically we all know about the wave of protest and revolutions all over the globe no continent has been spared this time. The epicenter of protest was astonishingly the Middle East and the civilized West (who would have thought ey). The Occupy Wallstreet Campaign which started in New York and spread all across Europe. Greece, Spain and United Kingdom. UK saw a week of the most fucked up violent protest in its history I daresay some of my own friends and family were at risk that week.

Middle East came out as a big shock for everyone but its rulers. The melting pot spilled over in a wave of anguish and anger over the status quo. The status quo is the key word for 2012. Rulers everywhere must be pissing in their pants now in dread of changing times and if they are not they should be.

Click for source

My theory on the fall of ruling regimes in Egypt, Tunis, Libya and agitation in Bahrain, Saudia Arabia, Yemen and Syria following their lead is that the rulers haven’t done so bad for the people: they have developed good infrastructure, open their markets to free trade and provided free education to the masses. The people I believe in the Middle East however have evolved beyond the basic necessities of life that we in the subcontinent are still striving hard to get. They have moved up the ladder in the Maslow’s Hierarchy lets call it that and want a better more autonomous life and living standards which is why the oldies need to go.

PAKISTAN.. Pakistan hahah one word that can be substituted for all the ironies of this

Click for source

world. Well, Imran Khan is the man of the moment in 2011 and hopefully will continue till the elections at least. The challenge to the Pakistani status quo which includes all Waderas and pseudo-feudal culture, the Ulema and the false prophets, the Generation X and their obsolete ideals. We have grown up with Imran Khan as our hero in ‘sports’ pun intended and although some might argue that Shoukat Khanam Hospital was a very humanitarian struggle so was the strive of Abdul Sattar Edhi, big hats off to you old man but not everyone is a public administrator or a progressive politician. I will still be skeptical and the reason I will vote for the PTI is for lack of a better option.

..For me personally, this year has been one of soul searching and epiphanies. I got a wonderful job with my own office, a very lavish office if I may add! That was a good learning experience meeting the Governor of State Bank of Pakistan, the President of National Bank, President of HBL and many other whos who of Pakistan. See the thing with my ex-boss is he only speaks to the ‘Man in Charge’ someone who can understand where he is coming from. I was always awed by his influence since the first day I joined when he showed me his pictures with Quaid-e-Azam sahib.

Moving on, 2011 was also the year I finally concluded my two years of research and locked on the programs I need to apply for post-graduate studies. It has taken every ounce of

Click for source

patience and intellect to do this. It was very frustrating and the last few months were critical as I locked on respective colleges and started preparing my applications. But thankfully most of the thinking part has been done and I will hopefully get out of this place this year which, by the way is my number 1 new year resolution.

Something else happened in 2011 which has affected a profound impact on me and perhaps changed me as a person. One day I will get in to the nitty grittys of the whole affair I am still trying to understand some of the things that happened and that will take time.

In a few words.. I went to Turkey to meet someone, someone who I have been in touch with for the past 8 years but only as online buddies. She was an Eastern European (I do not want to name the exact country at the moment) a beautiful, free spirited , crazy person who shared my ideals. We had a strange time, much too strange. I don’t know how to classify this, I felt so many different things in a span of few days that I was with her.Things I have never felt before. It was incredible, it was exciting, it was tumultuous… This also happened to be my first time outside Pakistan… Wow, what an experience it was. I want to say alot more and a few lines is not giving this justice at all. Maybe I will write a book about this, I have a structure in mind but not the time or the wisdom yet. But soon. Will definitely let you guys know when I do.

Click for source

In all 2011 was spectacular for me personally, I have never been aware of myself so completely and feel that I am ready for anything. We are, I mean my friends and I in our 20s; This is the time people live up to their dreams, this is the time we are in our prime, this is the time we are following our passions, facing immense challenges and making our mark in this world before slowly and gradually becoming more stable and settling down after 30s.

All I have to say now is, I have no regrets what so ever about the choices I have made in life and neither should you for it is our very choices so far that have shaped our personality and made us who we are. Do not apologize and do not be harsh on yourself if you are in your 20s. If there was ever a time to experiment, this is it :-)… Happy New Year and God bless you all!