Baby got back

Fayes T Kantawala had one hell of a roller-coaster ride

Baby got back
Back in the proverbial day I bought an ill-advised ticket to one of the world’s oldest wooden rollercoasters. I hate roller coasters; always have, always will. I hate them almost as much as I do bungee jumping, car racing, Anna Molka Ahmed’s art, skydiving, dressage, or similar near-death experiences. But young and foolish as I was, I boarded that wooden hell-train, and a part of me never came back. My awful seven minutes on that satanic death-track (I can be endlessly inventive about this) left me with whiplash, displaced vertebra and chronic back pain that would bother me like an ex with issues for years to come. Were I litigious and/or American, I would have sued the amusement park for mental and physical damage, won my case, written a book-cum-movie about overcoming trauma and taken an early retirement on an island off St. Barts. But, being a trauma-accustomed Pakistani, I didn’t do any of those things. That my severe and often debilitating back problems can be traced back to something as embarrassing as a wooden roller coaster is my shameful burden to carry. I don’t do it well. This week, for example, I managed to tear several muscles in my back and spine while trying to get out of bed. Out. Of. Bed. Go figure. I took it as a sign to crawl back under the covers and marry a muscle relaxant, a thus-far deeply fulfilling and emotionally supportive relationship.
I should have sued the amusement park for mental and physical damage, won my case, written a book-cum-movie about overcoming trauma and taken an early retirement on an island off St. Barts

When I was finally able to move I realized there wasn’t much point since the entire country had run out of petrol. Obviously it’s not a surprise that while the price of oil is falling to record lows all across the world, Pakistan is experiencing its worst shortage in years. The petrol station around the corner from my house had a line of cars (and motorcycles, and rickshaws) that extended almost two kilometers around snaking roads. It took seven hours to get 500 rupees worth of oil.

We should be forgiven for looking to PM Sharif to solve our newest/oldest crisis. Poor thing. Now that I know the joys and ticks of relaxant medication, I’m convinced he has to be on some kind of pill. I saw him on TV the other night talking about how he was going to punish those responsible for the petrol shortage (I know you know he doesn’t mean the Saudis, because, c’mon…). As if he isn’t the person in charge of the country. (Shout out to General Raheel ‘Bobby’ Sharif: Holla!) The PM looked dazed and tired. His eyed were unfocused and his jaw somewhat slack. If I didn’t have so many anger issues over his lack of governance I’d have felt sorry for him. He looked like a round, burned, extremely stressed out bun, bobbing up and down without purpose in the oily gravy of his failures.

As well he should. Observe: a neighbor of mine runs a hospital. The reason I know this is because she used her ambulances to move in her furniture recently, but don’t hold that against her. She told me that out of the seven ambulances her hospital runs, only one is currently active because of the petrol crisis, and she was quite blasé when telling me how many people may have died waiting for emergency services all around the country. This is quite literally a matter of life and death. But really, what isn’t nowadays?

A fair number of our countrymen have distracted themselves by protesting the Charlie cartoons, because what else are you going to do with no petrol and a day off from the seminary? You can actually see the glee returning to the marked faces of the radical right. Briefly chastened by the enormous PR disaster that followed the Peshawar massacre, the right-wing mullahs were on the defensive. Since then the French have given them a perfect opportunity to change tack and stage a comeback. The result was that on the one-month anniversary of the Peshawar massacre, most crowds were out protesting the French cartoons rather than the Taliban.

Speaking of protests, while convalescing I saw on TV that some of the parents of the children killed at the school in Peshawar came out to protest Imran Khan when he went to meet them. I’m shocked! is what he apparently said. Why would they want to protest me? I had nothing to do with it! My party is merely in charge of the province. The army ran the school, not us.

There isn’t much one can add to that kind of ambitious and deeply rooted idiocy. They are protesting you because your party runs the province and didn’t do jack; because you spent the last few years defending the lunatics who sponsor these kinds of attacks; because you are egotistical and your party has yet to do something except get you married to a woman everyone is hell-bent on making Pakistan’s Amal Clooney.

I want to address this because I think it’s important. Reham Khan is pretty and accomplished, but she is not Pakistan’s Amal Clooney. The biggest reason this is true (and I hope this would be obvious to many) is that Imran Khan is not George Clooney. George Clooney is intelligent, subtle, nuanced and charismatic and makes movies about important things, like outer space and Kosovo and elections. Imran Khan is a jock with commitment issues who is friends with Charles Taylor, the Liberian dictator. George would never be that. Ever. But Khan’s people want you to make that comparison, want you to wonder about Reham and her dressing choices and her thoughts and her hair. If you didn’t, you’d have to think about her husband, which is like riding a wooden rollercoaster: exposure to both causes long-term damage and requires powerful medication and/or therapy. On that note, I wish you all muscle relaxants. Love them, and they shall love you and together you shall love the world.

Write to and follow @fkantawala on twitter