Sunday, August 23, 2009

From Disquietude to Madness

A little more on Peshawar’s madness. I called it disquietude in an earlier post, but it has now graduated to madness. Not the usual madness; not the endearing madness we sometimes call ordered chaos, or the untamed organics of a city that functions according to its own, unwritten rules, not, in a word, eccentricity. No, this madness is more clinical. It inspires pity, and maybe even a small amount of fear. It is not the madness of saints but the madness of kings.

I feel it, in the same way a person feels the sudden attack of cold diving into the sea, before his body adjusts to the new environment. I don’t want my mind to adjust; I’m struggling against it. I want to understand this madness, not share in it. Is that possible? Perhaps it’s inevitable that I’ll end up adopting some of it, slipping into insanity’s shell to protect me from reality.

And that reality is something to be feared: the reality of never-ending despair, of absolute hopelessness, of waiting, waiting, waiting…for something to happen, anything. The reality of prison life, stuck in this sordid place without even the hope of a fantasy of escape.

Yet, I’m not stuck here. I have a home, somewhere, multiple homes in fact, in Canada, Turkey, Costa Rica…I can leave, anytime I want. This is why my experience with this city’s madness will always remain externalized. I can’t adopt it as my own even if I wanted to because it doesn’t belong to me. I have no claim of ownership over it.

Peshawar’s madness is for Peshawaris, and I get the sense they are jealous of it, they guard their madness, hoard it for themselves. “You can never understand what it means to live in this city,” Aftab, my fixer, told me last night. “You are only a Peshawari when you cannot leave.”


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