As the plane landed in Baltimore, the sun set. A brilliant fiery globe, fiercely yellow against the red sky. My first thought was ‘Wow, this means something.’ A new start maybe. The sun setting on my old life and a new dawn breaking. My second thought was to dismiss this — I have often chided myself for my romantic notions, my silly thought process, my living life as if it is a novel or a movie. Yes, my romanticization of things has gotten me into trouble a lot of times, and yes, my life does have more drama than most. And yes, I do not think I would have wanted it any other way.
I actually do not think there is a better candidate for a novel than my life, an extended epic starting from a paternal grandmother’s migration from India to Pakistan and a maternal grandfather’s journey from China to Pakistan. This epic has all the literary elements — the meeting of the two families, the happy coincidence of a marriage, the drama of the extended family, a prodigal son, tragedies scattered here and there, lives filled with the coexistence of regret and fulfillment, laughter and tears, the birth of, well, what you would now call a Zubia Hasan. And here we are. The epic continues, features relationships that broke, hearts that mended, friendships that lasted, a pandemic that raged and an extremely silly girl struggling with her romantic heart (that’s me by the way).
But just for today, I want to give in. I want to give into my silly, foolish romantic heart. I want to entertain all sorts of irrational thoughts, foolish ideas. I want to be naive and not of this world — because that’s really what romantic means, to be not of this world. I want to look at the sunset and think it symbolizes the twilight of my old life. I want to see new beginnings in dawn and closing chapters at midnight. I want to romanticize the heck out of my life and argue that perhaps everyone should romanticize their life just a little bit more. Who else is going to be the melodramatic hero in your story if not you?
So grab a seat, collapse on the floor, think of your past loves, your future beaus, shed a tear or two and just give into the drama for just a second while you read about the romantic moments in my life.
It’s afternoon, and I’m at Hopkins. After feeling this emptiness in my heart, I go up to the rooftop of my building. I cross my bare legs on the chair, and I sit and feel the sun warm my skin. Hopkins looks breathtaking from here. The wind caresses my hair, and I listen to music, and my heart swells and swells until there is no space for emptiness anymore. It is filled with the beauty of this moment. I know I have much to be grateful for.
It’s evening, and I’m in Karachi, Pakistan. After having missed my flight to the U.S. because of apocalyptic rains and a severe case of gastroenteritis, I’m at my friend’s house nursing my wounds. I join her on the rooftop as the sun sets, the pollution making the sky an unnaturally romantic hue of orange and pink. Suddenly, Karachi is the most beautiful city in the world, suddenly the events of the past few days don’t matter anymore.
We listen to Rahat Fateh Ali Khan on speaker, sometimes Atif Aslam — but always Urdu, always a melody that speaks to the heart and always Karachi and Urdu that hold me down, anchor me, ground me even when I’m anchorless, floating and lost. I feel like I have no purpose other than to be present now. I was born just to experience this moment.
It’s night, and I’m in my bathroom. I gaze at the reflection I have always been so critical of. I know myself so well, know each pimple, each pore, each grain of texture which has somehow been packaged to be flaws — but now I gaze with love. My eyes are alive, wide and bright. My nose is bumpy and curved, evidence of my Pashtun heritage. My hair is wild as always. I take rust orange liquid eyeshadow and smear it on my eyelids. It’s creamy like butter, spreading easily. The orange is beautiful on my olive brown skin. This is beautiful. I am grateful for my face and my body which do so much to house my soul.
My life is a movie. It is a novel. Better than Jane Austen’s, more complex than Zadie Smith’s, more tragic and heroic than Mistry’s, more complete than what anyone could have written. Because after all, there is no better writer than fate, and there is no better character than me (in my own story, of course).