August 15th, 2018

Monk Knicq!

Posted: November 26, 2005

I have obsessive compulsive behavioral disorders…if that is the term I am looking for. For years, when my mother and I were closer than we are today, she would stop me early, hence ensuring it did not become a habit. There are scores of habits that she saved me from, and there are still scores that she perhaps did not even know of – most of the latter ones plague me today. I have lost count of the relatively innocuous ones like nail biting, clicking my tongue, plucking my eye-lashes, and making a deep squeaking sound that could easily be mistaken for a stifled hiccup, every now and then . There were more serious ones at all times, but they kept changing (because mother would pounce on those more aggressively than she did on the other ones, and left me with no option but to invent new ones) and that is why it is easy for me to not remember them, especially when I do not want to.

I remember when I first saw episodes of Monk, I was terrified, excited, and amused all at the same time; because I knew exactly what was happening with him, I could identify with his compulsions out of personal experience. Thankfully, my compulsions were not that intense, and unfortunately I was never that brilliant, or anything close. But, I had my problems.

I could not look at a fan, when I was about five years old. It made me dizzy, and it frightened me. I distinctly remember going back to Pakistan from here when I was about 6 years old, and not going in to meet my relatives when they came visiting, because the fan in the room they were sitting in was revolving so slow I could follow each of its blades, and I did, and that made me dizzy. You would think a smart kid would figure out that part and not look at it again, but once I knew that it made me dizzy, I could not ignore it, not even if I forced my eyes shut, and then to be on the safe side looked at the floor with my closed eyes. Actually, I could not look at anything that was revolving, so for obvious reasons, merry-go-rounds were not for me for a long long time. By the time, I was over that fright, I was too old to be seen on one of those rides. Who knows the latter might just have been the very reason I was able to overcome that fright.

A fly hovering too close to a dining table was enough to kill my appetite, which in itself was not a very pronounced entity. Actually, I did have an appetite as most growing children do, but there was little that I ate. I did not eat most lentils, rice in any form, meat that came with a bone and most of it did come with a bone, and anything remotely green or classifiable as a vegetable.

Walid Sahib loves food, and relishes it in all forms. He also has a deep, personal disdain for anyone who does not share his love of food. Mother, though not entirely taken with food in itself, eats everything and anything that is halal, and edible. They were like that quarter of a century ago also, which I think is about the time I must have started acting up. Ours was a house where not eating food served on the dastarkhwan was tentamount to nashukri – unthankfulness to Allah; you could have your preferences, you could also keep something really low on your preference list, and if something figured low on everyone’s list, it was seldom cooked or served, but if and when it was, it was to be eaten. Now, factor in the fact that I did not have a preference list, I just did not eat anything that was not curd, cheese, jam, or chapati with butter on it. Sometimes, I ate a few varieties of lentils, and that was that.

My parents’ initial strategy was the “take it or leave it” route, which failed to yeild desired results, since I would finish my chapatis/rotis dry, or by pressing them against the curry served to absorb the spicy oil from the plate. I do not remember how we ever managed, but as far as I can remember I was not eating what was cooked and getting scolded for it. Sometimes, they would give in, and allow me to eat with cheese, and when I say cheese I mean Kraft, and jam. In these moments of dastarkhwani bliss, all could be spoiled by one housefly hovering over any of the items served – even if I were not going to be eating those items anyway.

I have spent night after night plotting to wipe out the entire housefly population from the face of earth. My disdain for houseflies was not without reason – Pak Railways were to be blamed for breeding that hatred, because it was on one of our journeys aboard one of the tezgaams/expresses from Jhelum to Karachi when I had seen the flies covering a pile of dirt on another train next to our train at the station. The image stuck, and to me every fly was dirty, and anything they sat on was dirty, and utterly inedible.

Speaking of nights, I would not go to sleep for what seemed like hours after we were put into bed. It was a combination of fear of darkness, and over active imagination that kept me awake, and often got me into trouble. For when you are a seven eight year old, one of the most difficult tasks in the world is lying still in bed. It becomes an impossible task, when you have to lie in bed, petrified by the ghosts staring at you from all corners of the room, and insects crawling up and down all over you.

When your father is as light a sleeper, as Walid Sahib used to be in those days, all these factors can lead to a lot of trouble for you. Walid sahib found it difficult to go to sleep if the little green light our air-conditioner used to emit were not covered with a piece of cardboard…the little green light that indicated that the compressor was active. He could be startled out of his slumber by the noise of a television being switched on in the neighboring room…needless to say the volume on that television used to be turned down to zero. The best part is that the television used to be in the same room in which we used to be sleeping, because for a long time one room used to be all we used to have, and when you have lied down fidgeting in your bed for two hours, you finally decide to watch some cartoons! The peculiar thing about cartoons is that they are quite bright, and are set to a super sonic pace. When I think back to it, I realize Walid Sahib must often have woken up thinking he was on the dance floor of a disco; all that flickering lighting. The rest as they say is history, and I am not complaining it is.

Those days are long gone, Walid Sahib sleeps like a child under flash lights and with stereos blaring under his pillow. This has a lot to do with the fact that after 30 years of a 7-1 government job, he is putting in twice the physical effort running his gift items shop; and with the fact that he has lost hearing in one ear, and strains a little to listen to what is being said normally. But my habits are coming back with a vangeance.

No, I am not an insomniac, on the contrary, I am a hopeless hybernating animal. But, I am getting those little unsettling habits, new ones and hordes of them. The other day, I found it difficult to fall asleep on the couch because I knew my glasses were lying under the couch. I could feel them under me, and even though I was as sleepy as I always am, I had trouble dozing off…the presence of those glasses under the couch poking me in a remote area of my warped brain. As if that were not enough I could not lie down and watch the match the other day, because the remote control of the VCR was lying at a rather non-complimenting angle to where I was lying down – across the room on the table!

I had to get up, and correct its angle. Increasingly there are things that I do not really have to do, but I have to do, and vice verca.

I am headed the facility way….the mental facility way. Promise you will come visit…?

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