Day 4

Dear Gandalf,

It’s only 5 pm right now but I have a lot of things to write about. You must be sick of me writing daily by now, you fidgety old man. But I intend to keep writing to you as long as there is anything to write, and being MY imaginary friend, there’s really not squat you can do about that.

First, some things I need to get off my chest. I’m growing uncomfortable with Khan again. You know (being me) that I had a long period where I entirely loathed him, and then an apologetic one after where I wondered where all that hate could ever have come from. Facets of his character still remain fundamentally unappealing to me, though, and they’re bringing back a familiar resentment, albeit for different reasons.

For one thing. He paints himself as a progressive or at least a misguided but would be progressive who cares about rights and oppression and all that tosh. That’s great, I think everyone should at the very least be a would-be progressive (probably selfish, since that’s as far as my progressiveness actually ends up going in the real world). He seemed very interested a month or so ago when I started telling him off for using sexist language and began moderating his speech. But now? He’s right back to it. We were playing DoTA a couple of days back and he’s going on and calling the other team “bitches and pussys” and honestly it made me see red. I blame people heavily for committing wrongs when they have EASY access to rights. Especially ones like these which don’t even hamper their quality of life in any meaningful manner. It implies one of stupidity, laziness, or intentional hurtfulness. I don’t know that in this scenario I’m all right with any of those. Add to that his perennial self absorption (am I peering into a mirror?), and his inability to connect on any subject but that of himself. Maybe it’s one of my greater failings, but that doesn’t mean it’s an excusable one in anyone else either.  I really and truly hope that this dislike goes away, because I know that my dislikes are wont to fester, and that’s the last thing that needs to happen right now. I need to master this and use it in a way which brings out positive energy.

Khan out of the way. Now Amnah. I’m not angry at her like I am at Khan, Gandalf. The dynamic here is entirely different. It’s about the issue of us not meeting up. Yes, I know you haven’t seen your friends in a thousand years, shut up, this is about me, not you. Her reasons are perfectly valid : she’s busy and tired and keeps hanging out with people and doesn’t really want to meet as a consequence. I can’t fault those because they’re legitimate. But at the same time, I think it’s possible for me to accept that she doesn’t want to meet right now and still have my own whining session about it. Listen up, Mithrandir. This is not boring, and you are going to gaze at me rapt with attention while I tell you. I haven’t met Amnah in something close to two months now, I think. We didn’t meet last time I came back from Lahore because she was in an asocial mood and not up for it, and I’ve been back two weeks now without us having met. We are best friends, and I guess what bothers me more than not meeting is the concept that it’s possible for us not meeting for two months + me having been here for two weeks not bothering her at all. I don’t wish we’d meet as much as I wish she’d want to meet. It’s an irritating dilemma, not in the least fixable by perpetual insecurities. If there ends up being a plan to watch a movie this weekend and she does agree to go to that, it’ll just bother me like it always does because I’ll wonder if she said yes because other people were going. I sincerely hope that it doesn’t happen, and if it does, that I’m more mature and capable of dealing with it. I wish she were more vocal.

That’s individual people out of the way now, Gandalf. Let’s talk about what I saw today and why it bothers me as well. I went to the Islamabad branch of Pakistan Sweet Homes today; an orphanage set up by prominent PPP politician Zamurrad Khan to house and school children who have lost their parents to terrorist attacks, army collateral, and drone strikes. Consequently, the bulk of the student population derives primarily from FATA and KPK and secondarily from Balochistan. 

My mother and I went there today, given my interest in doing some volunteer work that I may feel like less of a parasitical leech upon humankind. (Do you know how liberating it is to use this kind of language when I talk to you, Gandalf? Very liberating. I get to be pretentious and self deprecating all at once and there’s nobody at all to judge me. Don’t look at me like that. Shut up. Your hat is bent, fix it up.) So, the orphanage. It’s received accolades from the Italians, the Americans, the British, even our own esteemed Mr Edhi. And while it may be one of the most tremendous housing and charity projects I have ever seen (and for that I greatly admire it, it is a labour of LOVE), I will not blindly sing its praises. I was troubled by several things I noticed while being given a tour of the orphanage and provided information on it.

1) Schooling appears to be segregated by sex

2) Schooling and living in general appears to be carried out in a claustrophobic and oppressive religious atmosphere.

3) There seems to be a constant reminder in the air that these children are not just orphans but war orphans, and a subculture has been deliberately inculcated about that.

It’s on this last point that I really want to speak, Gandalf. They showed us a documentary, I expect it’s for potential donors. I loved the project up till that documentary, but after, I wanted nothing more than to gag. The video fetishized the fact that these were war orphans, it stripped them of their humanity, individuality, childhood. It was full of (obviously dictated) speeches by the children about their experiences. There were reporters who would invasively ask tiny children of the manner of their fathers’ deaths and then theatrically hug them right after. 

But most terribly of all, it was clear the direction that these children were to be bred in. Sure, you’ve saved them and housed them, and the thanks for that are endless. But every little child is one day to grow up, and the socialization they are to experience here is what will transform them. Why then did Sweet Homes think it was alright to militarize war torn orphans? Why do they celebrate Defense Day with a zeal greater than Eid, dressing 8 year olds up in military gear, enacting faux pas battles with black terrorists, making them sing songs about the beauty of their martyrdom, glorifying, praising, loving the Pakistan Army? They know full well that these children are vulnerable and that they are the sole authority currently in their life, taking on the dual role of parent and teacher. It is disgusting that this power is used to either transform children into the pawns of an authoritative regime, or, given the event of a military death, to merely postpone their passing in wartime. It is not all right, and is a matter which disgusts me deeply. I intend to volunteer there, and during such time that I am volunteering, I intend to change the minds of as many of the children as I can. The last thing we need is more people going to the Pakistani Army.

Adios!

P.S. I survived yesterday. I was scared and all, but I made it out fine, if slightly glum.

P.P.S. I don’t know that I will let Amnah read these after all. Torn on the matter again. Honesty vs vulnerability.

P.P.P.S I’m trying to think of catchy lines for your ballad, don’t fret about that.

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