17 years and counting…

Today is 28 December. 17 years since the fateful 28 December of 1994. For you it might be just another day, for me it is life changing milestone.

It is the day my family decided to move back to Karachi, Pakistan from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the move itself being the most marked event in my life.

Interior ministry offices - Riyadh

I was brought up in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.I had a very fun and fulfilling life there.  My turning point was our move back to Pakistan. Facing bad times after good times is always hard. In these 17 years I have faced a lot from severe financial crises to dual faced people, from exhilaration to extreme depression, from moments of illogical optimism to days of pessimism, from peals of laughter to many tears of pain.

I have learnt a number of lessons from this move. I have learnt to accept circumstances. Most of all I almost learnt to cope with the sense of loss.

I used to feel hurt by even by the minutest possible offense and cried for hours. I held grudges against some people who were directly or indirectly responsible for my family’s move. I considered them to be enemies of the first order. I felt dejected and I wanted to be avenged. Remember those childhood stories where the bad is always punished by the Superior? I somehow wanted something like that to happen. I guess I wanted reassurance from God that I had been wronged, that I was suffering others’ wrong decisions (On a side note: That’s not how God works. If it was on our whims, the world would definitely be a mess).

And then I learnt to let go, to accept the facts and be strong, whatever the circumstances. A friend taught me to forgive. I learnt that forgiving someone brings freedom. I have learnt that people will act they way they like and complaining never changes situations. I have been at peace since the day I decided to forgive, the day I decided that I am no more anguished because of my self-appointed enemies’ attitudes and behaviors, thanks to the friend (May Allah bestow upon him the best of both worlds, Ameen).

I learnt that whatever wrong goes in my life, somewhere somehow it’s my fault. If I feel hurt, it’s because I gave someone/something the space to hurt me. I can’t control others’ actions, but I can control myself, and not let happenings and words penetrate my layers of defense.

I learnt a lot, I moved ahead. But… I can’t let go of Riyadh, even though it should have been my first lesson.

I can still smell the jasmine air freshener my mom used in the house. I can feel the smooth texture of the living room door at my house. I can recall the red roof of some office I saw from the grilled windows of our apartment. I remember my room with my study tables, a corner for me to play in and the other for my brother. The sound of the intercom and the doorbell still rings in my ears. I can see my Barbie house setup in complete glory in my playing corner.

Above it all, I remember our yearly road trips to Makkah and Madina. I can see the deserts. I can see the desert night, the sky laden with little lanterns, the stars. I even counted them when I lay down on the car seat to sleep during the journey. And that’s where my love for deserts comes. I simply love them, and I find them romantic in a very unique way. I remember the last visit to Makkah and Madina. I recall packing up everything at home to be sent to Karachi.

Riyadh Airport
Riyadh Airport

I still remember standing at the Riyadh airport for the last time. Then the boarding time came. It was farewell to home, farwell to my first love i.e. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It was farewell forever. I entered the plane with my family, and my ears still hear that sort of whistling sound indicating the plane is ready for flight. It was a turbulent flight, maybe a sign for the turbulent times to come.

Everything Riyadh comes like visions, vivid and real. For some moments it feels like I actually am there.

And then… realization hits hard. The vision is beyond reach.

It is this moment I find hard to breath, no…not just hard…I just can’t breath.

And… I was naive enough to think that I can go back.

I can’t forget that bleak day of December when we moved back to Karachi. It’s 17 years and counting, and it still hurts deep. I still miss Riyadh, and I still want to go there. For me it’s synonymous with home. Riyadh is everything for me that Karachi can never ever be. I can let go of everything, I can forgive everyone, I can cope with everything; I just can’t let go of Riyadh. I can’t let go of my happy place. I can’t cope with this loss.

Maybe my lessons aren’t complete yet. Maybe they aren’t meant to be complete…

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