Snapshots of Fall

I

Applause greets me. They have been waiting for me and even though they do not yet know how to pronounce my name properly, one or two of them exclaim a butchered interpretation of it.

"You're here!"

"We were beginning to think you'd never show up."

"I'm so glad you finally made it."

Grinning, I take a seat as the class resumes. Yes, I have made it.

II

It is the time of the day when it's hard to tell if it's too late in the night or just too early in the morning.We sit cross-legged on the floor, each facing the other two, the points of a triangle, each representing one of the religions of Abraham. In hushed voices we speak, talking about the small, isolated differences in beliefs and practices, rites, rituals and stories amid a sea of many, many fundamental similarities. There is little doubt that we swim in tributaries of the same river.

We speak into the night.

The girl who has been working quietly at the table shuts her laptop purposefully, edges a chair towards us and sits down, chin resting on palm.

"This is just way too interesting."

Conversation continues. The girl's eyes move to follow the flow of words, spectators to a three-way tennis match.

A lull. Someone yawns. I check the time on my phone. It's late; I have to be up and about in a few hours.  Begging leave, I rise to my feet. The triangle breaks. One of the two gives me a sad smile and apologizes for keeping me up late. I wave the apology aside.

"This was important."

III

Lightdarklightdarklight. Music. Bad music. The only constant sources of light are the glowing bands around everyone's wrists and necks. People surround me. I can't really tell which ones are just staggering around and which ones are dancing. 

I stay for a while but it soon gets too crowded and hot and sweaty. Grabbing some like-minded people, I leave in search for something that fits my idea of fun. 

IV

I'm out in the city on my own for the first time. Even at half past four in the evening, downtown Minneapolis is pretty deserted. With hardly a car or a soul in sight, it seems like a scene out of some post-Apocalyptic movie, especially to someone used to the hustle and bustle of Karachi. The only person around is a middle-aged woman smoking on a bench next to the bus stop I'm standing at. 

I have one hand huddled in the pocket of my jacket and the other clutching my phone. I alternate hands whenever my vulnerable hand starts going numb. It's cold. 

I'm lost. I had not anticipated that the bus drivers would only mumble the name of each stop and, so, stayed on the bus much longer than I was supposed to. When I realized that, I panicked and got off at the very next stop. 

I check the time on my phone and then look at bus routes and timings on Google Maps. The bus seems to be late. 

In an attempt to stamp the cold out of my feet, I decide to walk around the bus stop. It is only then that I spot the bus I had been waiting for stop at a traffic light on the opposite side of the road. I've been waiting at the wrong bus stop. 

The traffic light turns green. 

My heart sinks as the bus jolts into motion. 

I break into a sprint. 

V

Chicago. H&M is a madhouse but my friends want to stay a little longer. Tired of awkwardly standing around, I walk out into Michigan Avenue and drown in a river of sights and sounds.  

People, hordes of them. Families. Couples. Businessmen. Window-shoppers. Women obscured by shopping bags. Hipsters. Accents. Hairstyles. Scarves worn in at least seven different ways. A sprinkling of Halloween costumes. A bride with her bouquet and groom and bridesmaids carrying the train of her white dress. Tourists with DSLRs for masks. So many iPhones. 

Fascinated, I try to guess the age, the gender, the sexuality, the socioeconomic standing, the religion and the ethnicity of everyone who walks by. I like putting things in boxes; boxes are easier to stack and organize. 

Lately, however, people have developed this tendency of not staying in the boxes I put them in. 

VI

I am terrified. I have no idea what had come over me when I decided to do this but here I am, at the gates of the Jewish Community Center. Apprehensively, I enter and find my way to the seminar room. 

Everyone here seems to know everyone else. With nobody to mingle with, I quietly take a seat. Part of me finds interest in the fact that I did not feel this alienated during my first few weeks at college, in a completely new country, far, far away from home. 

But then the lights dim and the speaker I came all the way here to listen to begins to speak. He's a Palestinian doctor and speaks of the loss of his wife and daughters due to bombing by the Israelis. He speaks, also, of forgiveness and understanding. He speaks of peace. 

We all melt together, differences set aside, into pure humanity. 

9 comments:

nuclearbattery said...

lovely. you need to write more.

nsky said...

^agreed

nuffsaid. said...

Loved this!

Roshni said...

beautiful!

Amna Siddiqui said...

'Lately, however, people have developed this tendency of not staying in the boxes I put them in. '

That, was phenomenal!

Aaishah said...

The way you write is so BEAUTIFUL, so heartfelt that it's like flawless. Too often I've been scared of posting a comment here but appreciation was long overdue. :)

Anuradha said...

Asadi. You so full of win. :D

Komal Ali said...

'Everyone here seems to know everyone else. With nobody to mingle with, I quietly take a seat.'
I love such moments because then I can sit back and observe.
Downtown Minneapolis? Chicago? You have mentioned both the cities I have been to but didn't like in one sense or the other. You should visit Boston. [in reference to your other post]

I love how you write. It is very attention-calling and simplistic at the same time. :-) Post more often, please.

Asad said...

I have visited Boston. [The voice that had been to Boston in the other post was mine.] I love it.

And thanks. I try to write as much as possible but very few pieces actually pass my rigorous quality control testing.

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