I don’t like to boast about menial things- momentous things, maybe, but certainly not ordinary things. I went through my fair share of breakups in and around the time I was in college. It had an overwhelming, almost addictive effect on me; one day I’d be lost in innumerable hours of intimate conversation, and the next- well the next would entail a cyclic melancholy I soon became vigorously attached to.
Musical allegiances would change overnight; From Portugal. The Man to Neil Young. From Noori to Tina Sani. My mind reacted almost preemptively, all set for a week of brooding with a hint of revelry as I blasted tunes; decibel counts increased as every track repeated itself, once, twice, and then if I was feeling extra miserable, a third time. I’m sure it must have been torturous for my neighbors, but I never quite heard from them- or rather, heard them- during these stints; I’m sure people plotted my eviction. But I was an island by my own volition, and quite happily so, as contradictory as this may sound. How could I do justice to someone’s effect on me if I did not mourn them?
My choice of literature also three-sixtied. Perhaps I was always attracted to nostalgic accounts of lovers in great cities, but I sure pretended that I wasn’t when things were honky-dory. I’d put the half-read Salingers and Miranda Julys down and pick up thumbed-through Nerudas, Kunderas and Murakamis. They too, it seemed then, were happy to entertain my sudden revolts. It could be that I simply read them because I missed them, but I’d like to think it was something more than that, something innate. For a short while, I’d be the guy on Facebook putting up deep and heavy statuses. I’m sure I was a bore.
I’d become calmer, less like myself, perhaps more like myself- one never knows with these things. I have to say I liked myself a bit more when I was muted. Arrogance, and the desire to appease bled right out of me. For a few days, I became tolerable. I think young love is a beast of its own and it seems socially adequate to appear grim in times of apparent turmoil. Human emotion is relative after all.
Maybe I now long for the day when this distinction between the real me and the true me becomes as binary as it once was- but maybe this is just fine.
I met Jane on a clear Saturday night, weighed down by a combination of blended scotch and homegrown marijuana. She sat on top of a stone ledge that overlooked a fire pit in the patio, legs tightly crossed. It wasn’t her beauty that got my attention, but her expression; a hybrid of sullen and calm. Almost as if she knew she was being watched, she kept her eyes discreet and focused on the flames. When I eventually made my way towards her general direction, she looked up instinctively and readjusted the hem of her silk dress, her freshly polished nails gleaming in the firelight. We locked eyes for a fraction of a second, and just as her face lightened up I stopped in my tracks. I drew out a cigarette from my pack. Turning to face the other direction after lighting my smoke, I pretended that I was just people watching.
The maulvi’s in the mosques around my house have five competitions every day. They try to one-up each other at the crack of dawn for about fifteen to seventeen minutes, and then pretend like it never happened. This goes on till right after sundown, after which I imagine they drink honey-lemon-water and rest their throats for the next showdown.
I see them on the streets outside strangers’ houses, discussing community betterment and righteous living, but when it’s time for the Azaan, they sneakily retreat back into their domains, rubbing their hands and clearing their throats. You can see that their eyes narrow, their pace becomes brisk and they only have one mission- to scream as loudly as they can into their microphones so people take notice.
Not to say the Azaan isn’t a calming and rejuvenating beckon. It’s harmonious and allows even the most occupied person the opportunity to self-reflect. It’s a glorious proclamation. But over where I live, some shit isn’t right.
I’d understand if there was a solitary call to prayer for a neighborhood. We would enjoy it, open our windows to hear it better even. Or even if multiple mosques did want to have separate Azaans and they coordinated so that they wouldn’t overlap. Maybe they could be spaced out at four minute intervals. Maybe they could all have walkie-talkies and start at the same time, making one synchronized mega Azaan that would rock the neighborhood to the core. I’m sure they’d like that more anyway.
I saw them carry in a stereo system into one of the smaller mosques this morning. Not just any stereo but one that you see at weddings and high-budget parties that purposely make it harder for two sane people to have a conversation. The ones that if you go close enough disrupt your heartbeat and jumpstart your system. I saw two little girls in the house next to the mosque crying as they peered over from their terrace into the mosque’s courtyard and said goodbye to their peace of mind. Doomed before damnation.