Today, I'm wondering whether totally erasing my digital footprint is still an option. Or is everything that I was archived in some giant machine somewhere forever to inform a total stranger at one click of a button? Worse still, I'm the one who has voluntarily decided to put my life on display to anyone-who-happens-to-have-the-authority. Or who knows their way around the world of information decryption around the internet.
I'm not entirely certain what (if anything) can be done about the whole internet-privacy-conundrum in retrospect (now that all this information is out there and saved somewhere), but do watch the film if you can get hold of it.
This letter, written by a father to his daughter, made me stop and think a little bit about the future of the land-of-the-pure.
It's strange how even the shortest separation can make you re-look at things you used to call your own. I have lived in the motherland most of my whole life, give or take a few years spent here and there. I've survived countless tragedies, some at the epicenter, others standing at the sidelines. I've witnessed injustice and cruelty and a callous disregard for humanity all the while knowing that while I mourned today there would be another tomorrow - one where the latest tragedy would overshadow the one we were struggling with today. In a world where something bad happens every day, something worse makes the earlier injustice milder by comparison. And while I know that it might be the worst possible kind of coping mechanism - this gradual transition to utter numbness - it is all that most of us have.
Because what else will we do? Will we stop driving our cars, visiting our friends, frequenting the malls for fear of bomb-blasts, gun-shots or kidnapping followed (if we are lucky) by death? Will we hole up in our houses, hold our breaths and hope - if we don't move too fast - we will escape what the denizens of the Islamic-Republic have in store for us? Will we stop identifying with our religious beliefs because we're fairly certain someone will take offense and in an effort to attain a privileged afterlife feel like it's their duty to shut-us-down? Will we forget how to speak our minds and instead begin to conform mindlessly to what is dictated by those who pretend to know more, but instead jealously try to hide their own ignorance? Will we also, forget how to breathe?
You think just because you know the lyrics by heart, because they evoke strong feelings, because they describe what-happened-to-you and and exactly-how-you-felt, because there have been times when songs have been there for you when people haven't, because you hummed them when you were at your highest or lowest, because you love them, they love you back.
And they never-really did. Instead, they sold themselves over and over to anyone who happened to be out there feeling-the-same-way-that-you-did. They didn't ever respect your sentiments. You were never, ever the only one.
And you need to remember that the next time you decide to fall in love.
It's a strange sort of feeling, when you realize that you have given-way to much mental atrophy. When you open the GMAT books and realize from math to logic and even the grammar seem to be a little much for you. So much so, that you (once-again) succumb to intimidation and put them books away in favor of another mind-numbing television show a'la Netflix. It's too bad the GMAT doesn't feature TV-show trivia. You are fairly certain you would pass that exam with flying colors. Not so much anything to do with books. Despite a bursting bookshelf and a brand-new-Kindle in your life, you have barely turned a page in the last three months.
So what have you been doing with your life? A little bit of this, a little bit of that. Maybe more of that than this, but no one's complaining (yet). Determined to maintain the pretenses of your career when you came to the-land-of-the-free, you soon decided to leave the economic development of the land-of-the-pure to its own devices in favor of learning how to cook. And it doesn't help that cost of labour in this part of the world means that one has to do ones' own vacuuming. And laundry. And bathroom cleaning (yuck). And pretty much everything else.
It's interesting how easy it is to get caught up in household what-have-you's and realize that it's the end of the day and you have: cleaned your room, sorted out the clothes, bought some groceries, prepared the food and in-between a couple hours at the gym trying to prevent yourself (not very successfully) from becoming a blob-with-a-big-tummy. And every once in a while (maybe more than once, in that while) you shop-a-little-bit just for the barest of life's essentials, you know like clothes. And shoes. And more clothes. And did I mention shoes?
So there you go. The mindless consumerism combined with household bits-and-bobs soak up most of the hours in the day. Which explains what I've been doing all this while. But it does not explain the regression of mental function. I'm not sure if anything does. I'm also not sure why I decide to pass up TED Talks in favor of Grays Anatomy. Okay, maybe I can explain the Grays (old addictions die hard), but there's Private Practice, and Twisted, The Secret Circle and a whole other host of inane shows some of whom would be better off not watched. Seriously. And of course there is the absence of anything even vaguely academic or career-oriented in my life. There are days (like today) when I feel like my brain just decided to go off all alone on its honeymoon, and is sipping a mai-tai on some beach somewhere amusing itself with fancy math and lots-of-logic while I sit here, bemoan its absence and make myself feel better by indulging the stupid.
And of course, it does not help that I'm married to a man who does Linear Algebra for fun. Say's he, one evening, 'Do you want to help me with a math problem?' and then proceeds to explain that there's an X, Y and a Z axis. And he wants to project something to another X, Y and Z axis (or some such) so how would one built the coordinate transformation matrix (forgive my untutored translation, maybe he wanted to ask me something else altogether). Fun times!
Maybe I should just get him an "I'm with Stupid" T-shirt, say good-bye to the brain that seems to have abandoned me, and just find-me a new TV-show to watch.
Once upon a time, there was a girl. For convenience sake - and to uphold the illusion of anonymity - let's call her blah-blah. So blah-blah was a regular-kind-of-girl. Those of us who choose to remember her kindly, think about how she was fun-loving, loyal, generous and generally one of those girls you wanted to have in your corner. She had a close group of boys and girls at the university that she called friends. You know, those kind of friendships that are forged of many, many nights spent together going into minute detail of every single tragi-comedy. The kind of friendships that are difficult to have once the protective bubble of always-togetherness created by life-on-campus comes to an end. The kind of friendships that, typically, last.
So blah-blah was a basically happy girl, with good friends and a good life. She was also a typical girl in the Islamic-Republic and as soon as she hit the last year of her four-year university stint her parents started making rishta-murmers. Which was only to be expected, most of us were going through similar situations and with starry-eyed dreams of PhDs in our eyes not a lot of us took it seriously. That said, we were happy for blah-blah when she announced rather out of the blue one day that she had met this guy - lets call him blob - and her parents were really pushing for her to get married to him. To no one's surprise really, a few weeks later blah-blah got engaged to blob, who happened to be studying-abroad somewhere.
As long-distance relationships are prone to do, blah-blah's social life was affected by the necessity of spending many hours glued to the internet in an effort of communicate with her husband-to-be. Nobody really grudged her the time, but she was kinda missed during what seemed to be an end of an era. What they did grudge, however, is how quickly blah-blah changed into a different person. In an effort to make blob feel happy and secure, blah-blah decided that she would spend less time with her friends, and more with him. Which we all took in good grace - because what else could we do?
Retrospect, is interesting. When you look back at broken relationships through an unbiased lens, it's surprising how easy it is to identify the moments when the little breaks happened. You know, the cuts that let to the crack that destroyed the glass forever. Because even the most fragile things take a little bit of time before falling-apart, and the kinds of friendships that we had - well they were certainly not fragile at all.
So the first cut, if you will, happened when blob decided to become threatened by this one particular boy who was somewhat close to blah-blah. I'm not sure what exactly (if anything) happened between them to create the insecurity that blob felt, but I'm told that it was created as a result of some sort of picture of many people lazing around in the sun for an impromptu picnic. Blah-blah and the boy were in some sort of close proximity, and blob had the proper Pakistani-male reaction to the lack of appropriate distance from his wife-to-be. That the boy's girlfriend was in the same frame looking not-at-all-unhappy or insecure mattered not. Blah-blah's appeal to blob naturally made him think that all boys had no choice but to look at her with carnal intent. Or some such.
Point is, boy, who was a very pivotal part of the friend's circle that blah-blah inhabited, was frozen out and no longer welcome to spend time with her. Which was strange, and a little uncomfortable and unnecessary (we thought) but we recognized that given the nature of their relationship perhaps it was inevitable that blah-blah gave in to blob. So much so, that boy was not invited to blah-blah's wedding. A fact that caused some stir, and much comment, since he was the only one excluded in what was a grand affair that immediately followed graduation, and therefore 'everyone' was there except for him.
Everyone, included a couple of girl friends who happened to have been very close to blah-blah. So much so that they had supported her, looked out for her and kept her confidences through years of friendship all the way through to her wedding. These girls, naturally, though of themselves as bffs, and thought that there's was a friendship that would last forever. Except forever happened to be a few days after the wedding, which was when blah-blah no longer picked up phone calls or returned them. Natural, the girls thought, after all blah-blah was enjoying her 'honeymoon' with blob. Not the time for friends to be a pest. Except those days turned into weeks, and then months until the girls realized that they no longer had a friend in blah-blah.
And that's how the urban legend that marriages destroyed friendships took root. Blah-blah became an example for marriages that followed when we cautioned each other against doing the same thing. We were hurting, certainly, but we also believed that the fault was not blob's (a man who we could never respect, or like) but blah-blah's because she had refused to make the effort to keep her friends in her life. Or worse, perhaps she never really thought her friends were that important to begin with. I'm not sure which conclusion made us feel worse. But we resolved, over and over again, that when it was our time, we would not make the same choices that blah-blah had.
Which is why, it stings not-a-little, when a friend turns around and rather glibly says to me, 'why you've pulled a blah-blah on us' haven't you?
It's like a leaf falls over your head, and it's light, and leafy, and generally not a very big deal. I mean, is a leaf ever? But then two fall. Still not a problem. Then two hundred. And before long you're buried in an avalanche of leaves. And you can't breathe.
And you wonder why you ever thought Autumn was colorful-beautiful-warm, but ultimately harmless.
Once upon a time, somebody asked me if I could have any super-hero ability I wanted, which one would I choose, and why. At the time - I remember we were walking down a cold-rainy-path - I had no real answer. Today I know. For my super-power, I would want the ability to disappear at will. Picture, if you will, a mix between the Harry-Potter-esque invisibility clock and a Hiro-Nakamura-teleportation ability. To close my eyes, screw up my nose and snap my fingers twice and *poof* I'm gone. Far-far-away where no one can find me, until I'm ready to be found.