S was playing his guitar, as we all gathered around the fire in the TV lounge to sing along. The lead singer of his own band back in the day, he played the guitar most of his college life; he was he one who introduced us eager 7,6 and 4 year olds (respectively) to Elvis, La Bamba and Dire Straits. Not looking a year above 30 (he turned 40 this year), he was happy, with his two beautiful kids and his college sweetheart wife, whom he thought looked like Jennifer Connelly (hence the black and white poster in my grandmothers house in his bedroom, when we were too young to realize what love was). He probably still thinks she does, and she gives him every reason to believe so.
J, his wife, a bit tired from whipping coffee and brewing Kashmiri chai for the Malik clan, reclined on the sofa with her 6 year old S junior in her lap. She confessed over the kitchen stove, in the presence of her 14 year old, that she hated kids. She never wanted kids and made no bones about it, not even in front of N. But her husband did and so she went along to have a family. She’s a wonderful mother by the way. S junior sang along to most of the songs on the nights request list, although I have never heard him speak a word of Urdu. He’s one of your confused desi types, who only speak in English, almost as if his parents are trying to prove a point. That’s another story though.
Next to him sits C, a bit grey and tired, perhaps from the journey from Pindi this morning. Her brother also passed away so we should give her the benefit of doubt. (I’m not so sure about ‘benefit of the doubt’ it sounds wrong to my English ear, somehow). Oh well. P1 sits beside her on the same sofa, recently reunited with her son after over a decade, she has never looked better. She celebrated her 60th birthday 2 weeks ago.
MP is on the chair next to F. She married for love, but never had a child. Sitting quite comfortably in her night suit, she seems relaxed after putting her year old adopted daughter to sleep.
F was a handsome man and quite used to being the popular kid in school, as well as amongst the women. He married later than average (his elder brother did at 23!) to a remarkable woman, but somehow, always felt something lacking. He made the perfect life decision, but sometimes wondered what if he had married someone else, maybe of his choice.
His uncle, even more handsome than him, was the playboy of his day. We grew up hearing stories of his Vespa scooter in Murree, and how he was seen giving rides to a new girl everyday. He was more of a cool elder brother than an uncle, and in some way, still is even today.
While nostalgia plays off the guitar chords, P2, A and Y sing word for word, Kabhi Kabhi, Dheere Dheere Se Meri Zindagi mai Ana, Jab Koi Baat Bigar Jaye, Shaam se Pehle Ana et al. with an ironic sadness, as if the words are lost on them. A always said to me as a child, I wouldn’t know, I’ve never been in love. And now decades into their marriages, these women can only sing hollow lyrics of feelings they have probably never really entirely experienced.
Who wrote these songs, and for whom? Sitting amongst 3 generations of family, I couldn’t help but ponder over each and everyone’s life story. It is stuff of movies, unrealistic and make-believe. This was real life, and these were real life stories, all that I saw tonight. Sometimes I feel like I’m stranded in the wrong time, where love is just a lyric in a children’s rhyme.