26 June, 2008

"Time doesn't change things. Doing things changes things. Not doing things leaves things exactly as they were."

Dr. Gregory House

24 June, 2008

Read my mind

This song, like Mr Brightside, is not only powerful because it evokes a strong sense of transience, a sort of yearning, hopeful and resigned at the same time, existential... but also in how it's sung. The video seems to have nothing to do with the song, which of course, is really cool!

23 June, 2008

News from the Battlefield

The uncertainty of the visa process is unbearable. To remain positive I have to keep acting. I went to the France consulate in Karachi today. It was very different from the nightmares I had had of me trying to explain my plea, trembling and incoherent, to a harsh faceless entity.

The whole street was blocked off by police barriers. There was barbed wire on the boundary wall and a small but clearly distinguishable French flag. The guards outside were friendly. I asked to meet with someone and strategically handed them my Princeton ID and three letters to take inside: the email from Dr Caddeau at Princeton, Luis' letter (Luis Simon-Perez is a Princeton alum, a professor at the Sorbonne, and a very generous and friendly man), and Mrs Caseau's letter in french (also a Princeton alum). It worked. Later the guards congratulated me for getting permission to enter - many before me, including messengers from courier companies, had been denied entrance.

I was searched with a metal detector, asked to leave my bag outside, and led in through a very heavy metal door with an electronic lock and an intercom. And now I'm wondering if this might be considered unsafe to put on a blog, so I won't describe anything else I saw.

I could not meet today with the Consul General, Pierre Seillan, but at least they heard me out, advised me to send letters to some people in Islamabad, and said I might be able to meet M. Seillan tomorrow. So tomorrow I shall call and see.

There was a tall, young French security person, who looked like he could be a super hero in some children's movie. He was dressed in a smart, crisp uniform. Though I didn't really talk to him, his intent look, sincere tone, and friendly (but broken) English really made me feel welcome at the place.

Meanwhile I got email replies from Princeton officials - it seems a lot of people there know about this and are trying to brainstorm how they can help. I also found the address of Mrs Phoebe Beliard who I have been meaning to write to about this. I sent four A-4 sized envelopes marked URGENT through courier: to M. Seillan, to the ambassador, to Sylvia Fernandez, and to M. Brocard. I met with the director of the Alliance Francais. He was very friendly and empathetic, but told me he could not interfere in the process. He was very welcoming of the idea of exhibiting my work at my return to Karachi, at the AF.

A week to go till July 1st 2008.

22 June, 2008

Have you ever felt, when you listened to a song, that, though the words don't even make sense precisely, it captures exactly how you feel? And then have you kept listening to it again and again until it made you really, really, happy (or sad)?

21 June, 2008

Dear customer, your visa application is under process at the embassy....

When Uday didn't get his Pakistan visa in the winter of 2004, I wrote to the papers, to government officials, made phone calls to important people, friends, relatives - I think it's called pulling strings - and lo and behold, he got it just in time!

Now I am hanging in the air, with a prestigious award from Princeton (to fund an independent panting project in Paris and Delhi), with airline bookings and room reservations paid for, on the brink of departure, with no France visa. It's a small battle of its own kind. I wrote to Princeton. I wrote to all my French friends and professors. I searched Tigernet for French Princeton alumni and emailed them. Several people have written requests to expedite the visa process. I keep sending explanations and request letters to the embassy in Islamabad. I wrote to the editor of Dawn again. I keep calling to track my passport and every time I hear the same thing "Dear customer, your visa application is under process at the embassy...." My flight leaves on July 1st.

I have the worst kind of creative block and all I can think about is my non-existent visa. I jump to answer phone calls.
I am reading The Brothers Karamazov. We walked into a movie store and the guy there asked me what it was and was horrified when I said it was a novel. He said his parents have forbidden him to read novels because "you get lost in them." This guy watches Indian movies every day and fears he may get lost in a novel.
One day, walking into the Fitzrandolph Gate - according to legend you can only walk in through the gate and not back out, or else you put your graduation at risk - I told Andy about something that had been bothering me. It wasn't a great philosophical idea, just a more vivid realization of a great tragedy. There are so many people in this world who don't have the things we do, and that's sad, but the saddest thing is that we have those things and how can we be happy knowing that others don't. Does that make sense?

Several Months Later

Four excellent Princeton courses later, a semester serving with SVC later, several hundred pages read in Starbucks later, a few novels and architecture books later, tearful goodbyes and joyous reunions later, several thousand miles away, here I am back in Karachi. How can I now recount all that has happened. Can I even put it all down here and thus rob its of its intensity and worth? In recounting it to myself, I have to watch out not to fall into the habit of pondering endlessly over hurdles in life while forgetting the good things as soon as they are realized. Unfortunately if you are out there at all, reading this, I am afraid to tell you that in the last month when I had time for indolence, and hardly an internet connection, I started writing on my own, on the advice of a friend. I could have copy all that here, but I do not think this is the place for it. I should really delete this blog...