The Capital Vulture: Shali and me - A short-lived romance
It was early March - the beginning of a brief love affair with Shalimar Cricket Ground.
I thought I’d found my deliverance. F-6/3 saw me fall to my knees in gratitude when I saw Shali: this circular expanse of empty, grassy land with a track and white fence. After the horrible winter, here was a prospect for serenity; total peace; just me and my iPod.
It was the beginning of a brief love affair with Shalimar Cricket Ground, my Shali.
It was early March. The days got so nice I decided to see Shali in the afternoons. This is usually when I got her all to myself because a good chunk of our population worries about getting kala under the sun. Just me, a few cows and close-knit families of mountain goats (they stare while you make rounds).
Obviously my running shorts got shorter because there wasn’t anyone around to judge me (the animals don’t count unless they are secret perverts, bovine voyeurs); all I got was good weather, spring winds, and plenty of sun on the limbs. I’d roll my sleeves all the way up too.
Occasionally a gora or two would spring by, swift and dainty as a gazelle in shorts just as small as mine, tighter even; we’re talking full on spandex. I tolerated this with no little jealousy but acknowledged that Shali and I were in an open relationship. It’s just a few people, I told myself. No biggie she’s still mine.
Soon it became clear she was never mine to begin with.
It eventually got too hot to go out and my hours at work changed. One day I managed to drive over to see her in the evening only to discover that Shali had turned into a treacherous little socialista, lavishing her charms on the masses. They flocked to her in the dark like jinn, avoiding the sun as vampires do. I was forced to navigate between these swirling black kamizes (kamizi?) and nikes white enough to be radioactive.
You have no protective amulets against their jinn-spawn either and can’t banish the eerie sound of shrieking child, that mummy soo-soo, in the dark. Consequently, in the coming weeks my forty-five minutes sprinting turned into a daily Odyssey.
Draconic (hopefully retired) gentlemen, flapping their arms at strange angles, eat your soul with their eyes and you’re made self-conscious to the point when you wonder if your earphones are blaring Lady Gaga’s “Judas” at a frequency high enough to alert these Deatheaters. There are also thickly moustached weirdos (they could be smugglers or car salesmen or some terrifying combination of the two) who look like they travel with machetes stashed in their shalwars. Apparently Shali was open for business for every badmash worth his chakoo.
How could Shali allow this? The majority of these fools aren’t exercising at all; they’re just prepping themselves for their next caloric nightmare, that salan meal that’s going to drip off their chins soon as they get home.
Things got worse. Open relationship or not, Shali had taken to way too many young men, most of whom were bigger, stronger and faster than me. This made me sad and crazy.
Sometimes evening barbeques would send smoke and the smell of some acrid, grill-charred piece of chicken-tikkah my way, nearly knocking me over. That was it. The chickaan boti was the final straw and heralded the end of our bad romance. I felt terrified and insecure; couldn’t spend time alone with Shali. Even my running shorts got knee length; the sleeves rolled down. It just didn’t feel right anymore. I was her boy-Lolita no more. She wanted me to play well with others; I told her to get buried under a landslide and walked away for good.
It’s been tough but I’ve got another thing going. I’m considering getting serious with Trail 3, who is twisted, dangerous, complicated- she doesn’t just let ‘anyone’ in or get all the way to the top.
Published in The Express Tribune.