By Rehman Faris
I sit behind the wheel, dipped from head to toe in greyish gloom. The music in my Silver Santro is mellow but melancholic. The tune, however, fails to amuse me.It’s one of those twining twilights when emptiness fills my existence, ringing around me chimes from the church of silent sorrows. The Firdous Market traffic light is as red as a ripe strawberry. I apply brakes as my Santro screeches to an agitating stop. Centuries of evolution pass before the ripe strawberry turns into an apple – green in color.
As a reflex action to the green light, I hit the accelerator and take a right turn, though it doesn’t feel much right to me. But suddenly, I sense a strange feeling of elation. An unknown euphoria, to be more ‘dramatic’. I look straight and behold the cause of my exhilaration. Sprawled right in front of my eyes is the elegance named M.M. Alam Road – as sophisticated as a charcoal sketch by some post-renaissance French maestro. The immaculate divide of the road reminds me of a school-girl with hair neatly-combed and divided in the middle. Street Lights, bright and cheerful, twinkle as glitters sprinkled in the school-girl’s hairdo. I next see advertising Neon Lights playing hide-and-seek with my curious eyes. They’re here this moment, gone the next and then here again. I almost hear them whispering “Peekaboo” to me. Designer brands smile to me through glass windows of the showrooms. I smile right back. “Just do it”, a brand pumps me into action. “I’m lovin’ it”, another one proudly announces. “Eye it, Try it, Buy it”, yet another one lures me into a deal.
Before I cross the first half of the M.M. Alam delight, I have been allured, enticed, tempted and seduced to eat, drink, and wear brands from all over the globe. To top it all, a blood-red neon announces with confidence, “Diamonds are forever”. Like hell they are. I thank my lucky stars that my bullying better-half isn’t around to read it. My salary, unlike the damned diamonds, is not forever.
I drive slow enough to lose a race to a tired turtle. As I go along, I savor the sights of delights, left and right. I see seemingly-content families walking on the foot-path. Infants coo. Toddlers chuckle. Teens trot at breakneck pace. Parents pant and puff to keep up. Grandparents stroll in cinematic slow-motion. I glance over my left shoulder and watch an adorable couple. “Boyfriend, Girlfriend”, I bet myself. They seem, to say the least,absolutely carefree. He’s holding her manicured & nail-polished hand in his. She, the dark-goggled, rose-cheeked girl, is giggling her heart out. Her giggle looks and sounds so contagious. The passers-by start giggling too. I grab my share of the giggles and move ahead. It’s a complete world out there, a world that is Pakistan.Perfect peace is in the air. I think of Louis Armstrong’s soothing voice, “And I think to myself, What a wonderful world!”
Before I reach the end of the road, something has changed in me. I have just soared through an island of happiness and I decide to change my perspective about life. We cling to our worries as if we have been permanently glued to them.We treasure them as pearls from a far-off exotic land. Like mushrooms, they multiply in our hearts. We get sad quicker than we can pronounce the word ‘sad’. What’s worse is that for days on stretch, we remain ‘blue’ on non-issues. To happiness, however, we are horribly hostile.
Let us, for a change, just admit that we don’t actually like to be happy. Pleasures come to us begging and leave without being experienced. Delights fight for their rights to live in our hearts. We make sure that they are always exiled. ‘Out you go’, we scream and slam shut the doors of our souls. Pessimism has become our national pastime. “But not anymore”, I vow to my heart. Let me bury the worries deep. Let me breathe with ease and see the glass as half-full. Let me live while I’m still alive. I take a U-turn from the end of the road. Sprawled before my sight is the road to happiness.