And I'm going home from Karachi tonight to my building in Islamabad, minutes away from Margalla-that-fell. Minutes away also from the sector-of-the-shootout. But strangely, I'm amazingly calm on the inside. Death and I have come to an understanding of sorts. I'm not afraid of dying because I truly believe that when death comes, it comes. It's the associated pain I'm not too thrilled about (but what-can-one-do-except-smile-and-bear-it?).
Over the past five years, I've been more intimately acquainted with death than ever before. It started with Salman, who-fell-when-margalla-fell. His death punctured all our bubbles and the world was never the same again. I re-thought most things. Fell apart. Went just a-little-bit-wild while embracing the philosophy that life is much-much too short to be sensible. I have no idea where I would have ended up if N hadn't caught me and forced me to slow down. To walk by his side for-as-long-as-we-walked. For that, and much more, I shall always be grateful to him.
Then my grandfather (my mother's father) died. A slow, natural death that claimed his deteriorating body. He was ninety-six, in India, and victim to the debilitations of old-age to a point where he could no longer move beyond his bed. When we went to see him in 2005 (almost a year before he passed) it was difficult to make sense of what he said, largely because he had no teeth to support the movement of his tongue. When he died, I mourned for the man who had taught my brother and I to sing the Indian national anthem way-back-in-the-day because he knew it would annoy the Paki side of my family. I mourned for the man who used to play with us for hours when he came to visit. I mourned for my mother who had lost both her parents now. But I could not mourn for him. Because a part of me felt like death, in this guise, had been a blessing.
And then, my father was killed. He was shot while at his office on August 4th, a year ago. I was at home sleeping, intending to wake up and go find my parents, hang out and have something to eat-drink, as was standard behavior whenever I was in Karachi. I never got the chance. I woke up to a phone call from my mother where I could barely register what happened because she was having trouble getting the words out. I just knew that something that happened to my father and that I had to go to Aga Khan where he was. And I did. But somewhere along the way to the hospital I felt my heart sink in a way it never had before. In that strange, inexplicable moment I 'knew' beyond a doubt that whatever had happened was very-very bad. And it was. I have not - and perhaps I will never - recover from the awful-awful pain of losing my father. I lost the center of my world that day, and it's been off-kilter since. Nothing will ever compensate any of us for what happened. Nothing will heal the wound that opens up fresh every time we think about it. Nothing will fill the large, clawing, gaping, vacuum inside our souls. And nothing will stop the tears from falling as I remember, like I'm remembering now.
Death doesn't bother me anymore. Quake's don't bother me anymore. Shoot-outs don't bother me anymore. I just hope that if anyone else I love has got to go this way, it's after I'm gone. I would much-much rather die, then have another vicarious encounter with death. Because then I join the ranks of people waiting-on-the-other-side and no longer remain amongst the ranks of the wounded. Amongst the living.