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Many books have I devoured, being the proud book aficionado (Yes, a book-worm in simpler words) I am, but I can never be grateful enough to a friend of mine, for introducing me to Kartography, by Kamila Shamsie, a book so relatable; the greatest merit of which is it’s realism.  In this book,  Shamsie takes a detailed look at the impact of historical events on even the best-intentioned people. How people you think of as pillars of inspiration may turn you down in the worst way possible. Karma, history repeating itself, an un put downable masterpiece, indeed. Here is a list of quotations from Kartography, I compiled:

‘There’s a ghost of a dream that you don’t even try to shake free of because you’re too in love with the way she haunts you.’

‘So she became a woman who held her head high, not in arrogance, or contempt, but because she knew that it was a form of cowardice to make a choice and then pretend you didn’t really make it.’

‘How do you measure love? How do you separate it from selfishness? Think of all the futures that could have been, all the pasts we’d never understand, everything in the present we keep hidden from one another and ourselves, all the futures that still might be. Is love strongest when it holds on or lets go?’

‘It made us see what we were capable of. No one should ever know what they are capable of. But worse, even worse, is to see it and then pretend you didn’t. The truths we conceal don’t disappear, Raheen, they appear in different forms.’

‘… and that’s why they leave, isn’t it? Because they have to see themselves in the context of something larger than just the two of them. It’s like that Faiz poem, you know, mujh say pehli si muhabat, when you’ve seen the sorrows of the rest of the world you can’t go on pretending none of it matters, you can’t pretend two people can really live in isolation telling themselves their love is all that matters in the world. And that two of them, when they come back to the city, that’s when they find out that their love was imperfect because it couldn’t bear the knowledge of everything that lies outside…’

‘If I wasn’t me, you wouldn’t be you.’

‘For a second I was almost jealous of the clouds. Why was he looking to them for an escape when I was right here beside him?’

‘Those Genes Could Have Been Mine’

‘I’ll fall.’

‘You wont fall.’

‘I’ll fall. I’ll fall and I’ll die.’

As I said it, I could see it happening. The foot stepping on air, pulling the rest of my body with it, tree limbs breaking as I plummeted down.

‘No,’ he said, his voice assured, ‘You’d never do that to me.’

‘Somewhere deep within the marrow of our marrow, we were the same.’

‘This is the worst of our ways of remembering–this tendency to prod the crust of anecdote in the hope of releasing a gush of piping-hot symbolism. ‘

‘How do you measure love? How do you separate it from selfishness? Think of all the futures that could have been, all the pasts we’d never understand, everything in the present we keep hidden from one another and ourselves, all the futures that still might be. Is love strongest when it holds on or lets go?’

‘I didn’t tell him that I grew up in an ugly city that taught me how to look between dust and rubbish and potholes to find a splinter of glass that looked like unmelting ice, beautiful in its defiance of the sun.’

‘Electricity failures and water shortages. Humidity that sheened my skin with sweat, seconds after I stepped out of an air-conditioned car. What water there was, was warm. Electricity repairmen needed police escorts to guard them for Karachiites living in the dark and heat for days at a time. But what of those areas the police dared not to go for fear of being attacked themselves? To counter the electricity shortage, there was a ban on neon lights. Driving home from the Club at dinner time was like driving through a ghost town – darkness everywhere save for traffic lights, and who wanted to risk stopping at a red light in those days?’

‘When we do refer to those events, it’s as personalized stories – about that time after the air-raids when we said we’d go out as soon as it was dawn to inspect the damage that bombs had done down the street, but we sat and sat an dawn never came because the oil refineries had been bombed and a cloud of smoke covered Karachi; about that Tony Bennet impersonation whatshisname did that night we sat on the roof, sipping whisky and watching the dogfights in the sky and the fires from the distant areas where a bomb fell on something combustible; about the time she decided to see how fast rumors spread so she started one about plans to bomb the National Assembly in East Pakistan and next thing she knew there were soldiers at her door, ready to take her in for questioning. We tell these stories and make war personal – but not in the way it should be; not in a way that makes it touch us personally. We make it personal in a way that excludes everything and everyone who was not part of that four-line story about the war days that we tell over tea and biscuits.’

‘‘When did love become so dependant on geography?’

‘When personality started to change with location.’

‘And yet. When I read the Dawn on line and then looked around me to the pristine surroundings of campus life, I knew that every other city in the world only showed me its surface, but when I looked at Karachi I saw the blood running through and out of its veins; I knew that I understood the unspoken as much as the articulated among its inhabitants; I knew that there were so many reasons to fail to love it, to cease to love it, to be unable to love it, that it made love a fierce and unfathomable thing; I knew I couldn’t think of Karachi and find any easy answers, and I didn’t know how to decide if that was reason to go back or reason to stay away.’

‘Yes, I’d still have Sonia. And Zia. And so many other things that Karim no longer had. I’d still have the Arabian Sea and Sindhri mangoes, and crabbing with Captain Saleem, who had the most popular boat of all because his business card promoted ‘Garunteed no cockroach’, and, yes, there’s still be those bottles of creamy, flavored milk from Rahat Milk Corner and drives to the airport for coffee and warm sand at the beach and Thai soup at Yuan Tung; yes, Burns Road nihari; yes, student biryani; oh, yes, yes, yes, and all that, and all that again. So why complain? Why contemplate words like ‘longing’?

After all it was just the ends of my sentences I was losing; it was just my antidote to loneliness that I had lost.

That night as I cried myself to sleep I knew that, somewhere in the sky, Karim was doing the same; and some of my tears were his tears, and some of his tears were mine.’

‘Sometimes you hear the voices of people whose every cadence you think you know by heart. By heart. But then sounds emerge from their throats, sounds that you want to believe cannot belong to them, but it’s worse than that because you know that they do; you hear the sound and you know that this grating cacophony belongs to them as much as does the music in their voices when they call you by nicknames that should sound utterly silly but instead are transformed by affection into something to cherish. I heard Aunty Maheen turn on my father, and I knew one day, not today perhaps, not even next year, but one day people more familiar to me that the smell of sea are would become strangers and I would become a stranger to them.’

‘I recalled that Zia’s brother had been killed by a stray bullet when he was a toddler, back in the days when stray bullets made front page news.’

‘Come on! Think of Miandad hitting that six off Sharma. If he could do that, you can do this.’

‘Miandad wasn’t thirteen, and Chetan Sharma wasn’t his mother.’

‘Ami crooked a finger near the cuff of Aba’s jeans. I had asked her once if she ever minded the absence of romance in her life, and she replied that her definition of romance was absent-minded intimacy, the way someone else’s hands stray over to your plate of food. I replied: no, that’s just friendship; romance is knowing exactly where that someone else’s hands are. She smiled and said, there was a time I thought that way too. But at the heart of romance is the knowledge that those hands may wander off elsewhere, but somehow through luck or destiny or plain blind groping they’ll find their way back to you, and maybe you’ll be smart enough then to be grateful for everything that’s still possible, in spite of your own weaknesses – and his. I scrunched up my eyes at her and shook my head, and she said, one day I’ll sit down and tell you the whole story. But I hadn’t been confused by the absence of narrative. I just wanted to know what she meant by ‘his weakness.’

‘I love this place, Karim, for all its madness and complications. It’s not that I didn’t love it before, but I loved it with a child’s kind of love, the kind that either ends or strengthens as understanding grows.’

‘I can see you, out there, reading between the lines. Come home, stranger. Come home, untangler of my thoughts. Come home and tell me, what do I do with this breaking heart of mine?’

Kartography, Kamila Shamsie.

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