I gazed around my room, trying to piece together why everything felt so different.
Light seeped through my drawn blinds and illuminated the room in a shade that I had seen so often but couldn’t recognise. The cold air-conditioned room did little to prevent the sweat that crept down my brow as I got out of bed, unnerved and perplexed. I raised my blinds and looked out of my window at the cloudless sky. Blinding light blanketed the ground and the sky.
I walked out the door and was immediately engulfed by the infamous Lahore sun, threatening to undo the shower I had just taken with its glaring heat. Driving on the way to my office (where I am interning these days), I looked around the streets and roads, the earlier feeling of oddity vanished. But as my eyes scanned the vicinity, the same question came back to me. What is going on?
I had passed this street countless times before but today it seemed off.
I realised there were no children playing cricket in the street, like there used to be. The street was empty and there was a lack of arguments and exclamations that was so common to street cricket. I passed by a park that was uncharacteristically devoid of life. There were no families spending time together or children playing sports. A light breeze blew over the park, moving the leaves around.
I reached work and greeted the security guard of my bank, who smiled at me with pale blue eyes. They looked lifeless; as if they had lost the spark that I had seen so often in the eyes of my countrymen. I looked around and noticed a general sombre attitude amongst people walking around. People were greeting each other without any real enthusiasm and talking to each other without any real emotion.
There were still no children anywhere. The sun bore down on me, ordering me to go inside. I wasn’t one to argue so I entered my workplace and sat at my desk. One of the service boys walked in, reciting a dialogue from a movie.
“Kabhi movies se hut ke bhi baat kar liya karo,” I remarked.
He gave me a smile that was undoubtedly copied from a Bollywood flick and said, “Bhai, asli zindagi mein agar dukh aur takleef ho toh filmon ki hi baat karega banda!”
I wasn’t sure whether he meant this as a personal anecdote or it was another dialogue from a film, but his words resonated in my head, highlighting everything I had seen so far during the day.
I tried distracting myself with work but the fact of the matter was staring at me in the face.
Outside, I spotted a man brawling with a roadside vendor over the high prices he was quoting for grocery, shouting that he couldn’t even afford to buy bread for his family with these costs.
There were policemen nearby watching the whole scene with amusement, before deciding to break up the fight lest it would blow out of proportion.
I shook my head with disappointment and returned home, disillusioned with how everything was around me.
That night, I went to a restaurant with my family, still processing the day’s events. We entered the place to find a completely different setting. There were people chattering amongst themselves and eating with merriment. The solemn environment had become a vibrant one. It was almost as if nothing had ever happened, as if there was no reason to be worried or upset. I was perplexed. Is it better to choose the easier reality or the actual reality? I thought to myself.