“England! Ireland! Wales! Inside, outside ON THE ROPES!” I won! Those words held
the same meaning as goo gaa and poo. In our eyes they were made up sounds for the purpose of
playing a game with a skipping rope. Peering from the gate of our house stood my watchful national
guard, an army of women standing by the door, one hand held a cup of chai while the other lay
firmly on the cheek of a misbehaving child. As the sun came down, there wasn’t an inch
of the ground that wasn’t covered with a sleeping body. I never understood why we didn’t
we get to live in the big house next door. They only had four people in the whole house! I
resented any one with an ounce of comfort. Life wasn’t fair.
Time passed, and our fate started to climb uphill. We moved to a more comfortable living situation.
My new fancy school had taught me the meaning of England, Ireland and Wales, so that game wasn’t
fun any more. We were slowly becoming the people in the unnecessarily big house now. I was
confused again. If like everyone was saying, I was the one with the comfortable life then why
did I have to wear the uncomfortable overly starched frock with tight black buckled shoes when
the masi’s daughter got to wear my old soft comfy clothes? Though confused, I felt secure
in the level of power that I had in situation. I felt in control and at level with most people
that I met.
That all changed when I moved to Indonesia.
My superiority complex was built up just to be shattered by the first day of school. I looked
around and started to cry so hard that I couldn’t breathe! I just wanted to go to the
bathroom! But these ladies were so mean! I kept asking them where the bathroom was and they
kept making sounds at me! They are so big that I couldn’t see the sky, and they are all
dressed like some one had died! Maybe I had died, they did look like ghosts. I started to cry
Still sniffling at the end of the day, I saw my Mama. She looked out of place. I knew she
wasn’t dead because unlike all the other ladies, she wasn’t pale as a ghost and
dressed like she was at a funeral. Her bangles and anklets chimed in unison with the click
clack of her heels. A train of flowing cloth followed her as she walks towards me. I thought
she looked like a movie star! She was here to save me from this scary place!
“Stop crying all the time! I like this place! they’ll take us to back if you keep
crying!” my sister yelled after witnessing my parents arguing about my first day at school.
“But Appa, I had to sit with dead ladies today and they wouldn’t take me to the
bathroom.” Her laughter comforted me just as much as it confused me.
“Those ladies aren’t dead! They are born like that! And they probably told you
where the bathroom was in English. They don’t speak Urdu!” Confused I asked why
on earth someone wouldn’t speak Urdu. “Don’t you know? The rich and cool
people never speak in Urdu, only in English like this!” She started to teach me phrases
she had learnt. “Fasten your seatbelt please…No smoking allowed…Exit to
the right.” Though neither one of us knew what they meant, we were now rich and cool
now that we were prancing around our rooms speaking in English.
Days went by, and I learnt to speak real English. I became more and more aware of the people
who waited on me. I felt like I was the queen. I forgot that this was an acquired power; to
me it was my birthright. I lived among only those who were like me, the royalties of the world.
I was special – that’s why I was who I was. Those who served me were obviously
lacking and unworthy.
Our car windows were tinted, the seats were made of pure leather, the AC was refreshingly
cooling while the bulletproof exterior kept out the poverty. Driving through the riots I saw
a child screaming in the middle of chaos of angry people mobbing. I saw mothers scrambling
to get their children to safer areas. I saw how injustice had forced the humanity out of decent
Yet all I felt was anger and annoyance. Who were these people to disrupt my life? Illiterate,
good for nothing rats being ungrateful and not knowing their place. That was my last thought
as I got onto my private helicopter to fly to wait the rioting out in a five star suite.
In Turkey, I was the elite of the elite, and I knew it. But I started to feel the thorns on
this rose of wealth. I was exposed to the world of flashing lights and smoke that masked the
smell of underage drinking and drug dealing. As twelve-year-old children we lived the lives
of twenty year olds in every possible way. Sex was another game. Drugs were candy. The world
gave us no rules and we didn’t make any for ourselves.
We didn’t have morals. All that mattered was maintaining our privileges. God forbid
the day should come when we couldn’t freely do as our heart desired. Mental games couple
with sexual abuse went by silently to this day in order to protect our precious world. The
true cause of the death of a friend was buried by the silence of the five pre teens standing
around her grave. Her eyes that were shut, had been rolling back in a terrifying manner as
alcohol poisoning started to become evident. We had sat and watched, knowing the number to
dial for help, but not having the courage to do so. We found comfort in the only place we knew
had unconditional happiness: the shiny world of nightclubs, the same world that had just taken
one of us down.