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Volume 7

Outside: Looking In - January 2011


Written by
Fatima Hafsa Malik

Currently living in Lahore and working my way towards a post graduate degree in General Medicine, I sometimes feel like I am two people: the doctor and the writer. While I struggle with both aspects of my life every single day, I find that I still manage to surprise myself. And the people that I encounter constantly do the same. Whether they are good surprises or bad ones, one thing about life remains certain: it ain't over till it's over.


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Banal Colloquy


It is raining today; the perfect weather for tea.

I put on the kettle and also decide to make pakoras. I want to alter the classic recipe that I have inherited from Ami slightly. I quickly add the salt, red pepper and zeera from the original ingredients to the gram flour and potatoes.  After a moment’s thought, I also put in some tamarind, chopped green chillies and a dash of rosemary. As I break in two eggs in a separate bowl, remembering some cooking tip buried in my subconscious about how one bad egg can spoil the entire dish, I marvel at what a contrast the bright yellow egg yolk and white make.

And even though their boundaries are so distinct, I am enchanted by their fluidity.

I let the faucet run a little, so that the water comes out cool. As I mix all the ingredients with a wooden ladle, I breathe in the aroma of this new fusion experiment. The batter looks tempting and promises to bring surprising flavors. I can almost taste the smile on your lips. You enter the kitchen as I pour a third spoonful into the scalding oil. A few drops jump out of the pan onto my skin.

You shake your head and wag your finger at me.

I know you can’t resist pakoras in rain.

There are many things that you don’t know; details that you don’t see, because you are not me. We are not the same person despite us both liking Chuck more than Grey’s Anatomy and staying in bed for several minutes after the alarm goes off.

There are so many layers that you must unravel to reach the person that I want you to see; to get to the girl that I want you to love.

I wear black thinking you will notice your favorite color on me. You tug on my hair and comment on the rain instead.

We both dress in silence.  You swap the striped black and white tie that I have laid out with the grey one I abhor. But you don’t know this. I wear some transparent gloss in front of the full-length mirror as you absent-mindedly brush your hair. I curl my fingers into tight fists to keep from touching the nape of your neck in the pretense of straightening your collar.

I hand you your coat and you smile.

I foolishly hope for you to see through my weak attempt at humour while I run through the conversation in my head.

“Can you call in sick today?” Stay and talk to me.

Hope still flickers while you reach out, pull me toward you, kiss my forehead and say,

“You amuse me.”  I want more.

 An instant later it dies, when I realize that you think there is nothing more to be said.

I hear the door shut behind you. I wave to you and you blow me a kiss.

I start getting ready for work when all I want is for you to change your mind and come back through the door.

I constantly tear down walls and constantly rebuild them.

You do not come.

I am examining an old lady with arthritis when you call. I excuse myself and sigh when I hear you say hello.

“I have a meeting that I can’t get out of; rain check on the dinner? You probably have a lot of patients to see; you missed a week when we visited your parents.”

It is our anniversary.

I bite my tongue to keep the disappointment from my voice and try to be playful.

“Another day, another time.”  Another lifetime.

We hang up with the routine I love yous.

I put the phone which is my birthday gift back into my bag. I remember your excitement with the gadget which is hideously expensive. I read the note which came with the phone for the millionth time.

“For my wife,” it says simply.

Yet it makes me yours. Different views of indulgence.

The day goes by quickly as days do when you want to hold on to something and catch your breath.

I return home to find you in front of the TV watching a Seinfeld rerun.

“The meeting ended early but I thought I’d let you get some work done.”

“I’d have liked if you’d called.”

“You said another day and I thought I’d catch some TV.”

Simple, really. Yet not very circumscribed at all.

I shower and change and start dinner while you doze off for a while.

You come up behind me and put your arms around my waist, resting your chin on my shoulder. I lean into you and let go. Just this once, I think.

Just this, once again.



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