There’s this gullak in my brother’s room. It’s made of rough brown clay, unvarnished, pink and blue flowers painted on it. The slit in it is hardly wide enough to slide a coin in. I wonder who made it. Who was the potter? Was it an old, withered man with permanently muddy fingernails and a family to support? Or was it a young amateur boy looking to earn some roti for his orphaned siblings? It could be an old potter’s little boy, continuing the family profession and carrying on the legacy. The gullak has an imperfectly embossed bottom half. Whoever made it, is he still alive? Or maybe it was a she. Maybe it was a woman with soft, unaccustomed hands trying to shape the gullak, her first gullak, because she needed the money to buy rice she could boil for her baby who needed to start on chewy food. I wish we had the power to touch an object and be able to see who sweated to create it. It would make us so much more grateful.
There’s almost always an empty mug on my side table. I drink tea twice or thrice a day and then forget to pick up the mug. And it’s always a mug. I can’t drink in cups. They’re too small. And the tea can never have too much sugar. It makes my head spin. The mug is usually blue. Blue happens to be my favourite colour- along with dark green, bright yellow, and orange. I don’t really believe in favourites. I like all colours in different shades and contexts. When I was young, I hated pink and everything girly. I scorned at every girlish activity which people expected me to take part in. I rebelled against almost everything my elder sister liked. Now, pink fills up at least quarter of my wardrobe. I find I’m interested in jewellery, pretty clothes, bangles, knitting, cosmetics, and even cooking to an extent. But I’m most interested in writing and reading and the question of identity. A friend asked me a few days back, why are you so obsessed with identity? (The question of identity in Pakistani novels happens to be my research topic this semester, and I have a related topic in mind for my dissertation too, hence the question) So I found myself telling her about my imagination games in my childhood. My cousin and I used to talk for hours on the phone, sharing our “imaginations”. We had whole imaginary worlds made up in which such interesting things used to happen. They were more exciting and more fulfilling and perhaps more distressing than our real lives. I suppose everyone has these imaginary worlds with imaginary friends and even foes. Mine had a huge all-encompassing organization which used to authorize and facilitate numerous identities for one person. The bathroom mirrors were the operational screens for this organization. It was a whole complicated world. I had many different identities. And then in that imaginary world, it eventually got too difficult to manage all identities. So I killed off one, gave retirement to another, imprisoned another eternally, and had one married off and away. A few just vanished on their own as my interest in them dissipated. Perhaps that is the root of my obsession. Perhaps it goes deeper.
They say decentralization is one of the key themes of the postmodern world. We have no centre anymore since denouncing God has become a popular trend. Everything else that tries to be the centre fails. There’s a problem in everything. I’d say having so many problems with every problem too is a key theme of postmodernism. It’s a strange thing, this postmodern era. Everything is fragmented and disconnected. The means to find connection too are disconnected to no end. We float, our ideas float, our problems and their solutions float, all looking to find a centre when the centre never vanished.