The first time I realised my youth was over was in a dentist chair. It had nothing to do with the procedure, but a TV placed above it, where a news channel splashed blood-red graphics promising a special speech by the country’s military ruler.
Musharraf had assumed power when I had just turned 16. When he resigned later that day of my visit to the dentist, I’d gone through A’ levels, university and my first job. I had fallen in love the first time, I had my heart broken, I had been cruel to someone else. I had made countless pointless gestures of rebellion against the powers that be.
I had learnt apathy and nihilism.
I had bribed policemen, cheated on exams, broken laws.
I had gone through months thinking my life was the greatest tragedy on this planet, and had spent years proclaiming how my cynicism dwarfed all the world’s beliefs.
The next time I felt that great – a cycle in my life had been completed – was when Pakistan won the World T20 in 2009.
Considering that I had fallen in love during a sleep-cycle wrecking tournament in 1992, it felt that life had come full circle seventeen years later. That all the agony, heartbreak, terror and torpor of the intervening years had finally paid their dues and contextualised themselves in the narrative of a timeless Epic.
On Wednesday, I knew for a fact that I had crossed over to another chapter, because I could see so many others be dragged for the first time into the abyss of self-hurt and self-hate, which is loving the Pakistan cricket team.
So welcome, all ye irrevocably scarred.
Welcome, all those who were sucked into the hype, who had known none of life’s tragedies, who previously had never experienced that feeling where everything they ate tasted of sand, every breath of air felt like an exercise in futility, every new dawn only confirmed the seeming eternity of despair.
Welcome to the endless parade of masochism that is supporting the Pakistan cricket team.
As one who has endured this for two decades, allow me to give you some pointers.
You will now be forever besieged by asanine uncles, self-oblivious buggers and self-contradictory ideologues of both the right and left, who will mock you for your love and who will question your faith with sordid tales of matches and spots and fixes. They will laugh cruelly and point fingers at you every time Afridi, or some other mad engima falls to an ugly hoick to midwicket.
You will find now the cruelty of love and its close proximity to addiction. You will know how each time, you will promise to quit cold turkey, to never allow this poison to engulf your life and plague your mind the way it did this time, and how even then, this blasted team of ours will somehow contrive to seduce yourself once more, before leaving you naked and gasping, alone in the desert of your despair.
You will find out now of terrible ideas, substances and practices which you will embrace in a bid to numb your pain. You will turn to harmful habits, psychotic lovers, extremist beliefs. You will immerse yourself in the mundanity of work, or the neo-liberal pursuit of O-level grades and GPAs, or you will lapse into abusive relationships where you lie and cheat. Perhaps you will retreat almost completely into the rational sphere of your brain, where you will try and intellectualise every and anything that you can imagine, to insulate you from the pain.
But let me tell you this as well – it will be OK.
In fact, it will be a lot more than OK. Because unlike all those who mock and abuse you, you will experience love, not admiration. You will experience ecstasy, not Facebook likes. You will experience moments that will show you how time is just a lie we tell ourselves, and that even a second can last for eternity.
You now have an organic, indelible, irrevocable connection with your country that no one can get in between. Even if they mock your for your accent, or your lack of culture, or your ignorance of regional languages or local histories, you have this. Even when they denounce you for your bubble-living elitist life, or your half-imagined middle class fantasies, you have this.
Over time, it will teach you to love but also to evolve. It will teach you of the importance of peaks and troughs, of the necessity of madness to be tempered by sobriety. It will teach you introspection and it will teach you the joy of experiencing emotions you thought you weren’t capable of.
Welcome then, to the greener side.
Article by Ahmer Naqvi
This article was earlier published in The Dawn.