Shaad walked down the serpentine path leading to the Edgeware Road tube station. A lanky Tunisian guy he had met at a Sunday-morning rave sat on a bench smoking a cigarette. Shaad approached him non-chalantly and asked for a lighter. They had never really talked to each other, but they were allied against the world for now. The rehearsed shake of hands swapped cash and cocaine.
Someone once told Shaad that there is never a good enough reason for drug use.
He has two. Self-transcendence and music. He finds solace in music, art and the abandonment of an indifferent metropolis — where public buses have free wi-fi, places serve coffee all night long, and no one has the time to talk about revolution.
If memory is at all reliable, he remembers his first encounter with the waltz of multi-colored club lights. People, young and old, ripped their chests open till the place was strewn with the sound of silence. Night after night, the synthesized tunes of Orbital devoured lonely beings. The dungeons of the underground music scene symbolized the advent of a new religion, a new-age politics that gripped him with a violent peace.
While walking back from Edgeware to his flat, Shaad realized that he hadn’t been home in months. His face, a spitting image of the son his mother had lost.
His elder brother Mir caused a stir when he didn’t come home for three nights. He eventually returned to their house in Balochistan a transformed man draped in a sheet. A hero, a terrorist, a martyr, a separatist — more of a man and less of a man.
Shaad’s thoughts often drift to his mother who suffers from an incurable ache of a soul. The only possibility that interests her mind is one in which she can crawl her way back, inch by inch, to the whispers of the ominous, all too vivid in hindsight.
These are unsafe times, Sumaiya. One cannot just write or say anything.
Haunted by the yearning to see her beloved rise from the abyss of death, his mother spends hours tending to the orchids and lilies in her backyard.
“Our memories keep the pain alive, but they also keep our loved ones alive,” she often says.
Photographs of a political resistance underway in his native land surround Shaad on the rare occasions that he visits his Ilford house. The mounds of Makran, imposing charmers, are spectators to a senseless war announced by the state, socially contracted in all but theory. This certain occupation that Baba speaks of, especially when he’s two drinks up, could be happening galaxies away from London and its imperialism-funded post-modernism.
Taped on Baba’s study, Nazim Hikmet:
You’re my bondage and my freedom, my flesh burning like a naked summer night, you’re my country
Why is going home so awkward?
There are spirits of his land, conjured by his conscience, that haunt him every once in a while.
Drugs take you near God,
But your people,
Their mournful eyes,
Their fables and smiles,
will make you One with Him.
Memory works in strange ways. The drug devotion of the high class and the low class, a crazy-creature class standing in queue to overcome the limits of its wakeful consciousness, reminds him of the mass graves of Balochistan. The dark calm of lines laid out on a coffee table reminiscent of writers resting in the dark tunnels of Quetta.
by Megha Arora