You walk through the door which opens up the tiny world of Bagh-e-Jinnah and stroll along the roads, paths and causeways, aimlessly looking around and waiting for someone to come. As the sun veils behind thick smog and goes down into the burning waters a million miles away, you zip up your jacket and observe the apparitions of trees through the foggy glass spread everywhere in the air. Despite the cold, enough people have come this Sunday with their families in clothes bought from supermarkets, road corners and stuffed dark shops in the station. There is a vulgar, perhaps sensual pleasure in observing people, not like some voyeur or a peeping Tom, and definitely not like a preacher or a prattling critic that sees everything as wrong and ugly, but like an empty man whose gaze carries no value on its threads and unfurls no judgement where it falls as he observes lavishly and uselessly. As you walk, you see different faces along the way that you cannot know by mutual consent, save that you can stare at their faces as long as you do not evoke their alarm bells and harass them. What are faces? Thick coloured clothes that are dyed differently and carry the history of individuals in miniature or arbitrary distributions of DNA, which bless and deprive people in different ways no matter how much they criticize and chase away prejudices based on colour and countenance. Some would say that faces are masks that people wear as the occasion and company suits them, and add that the truths of heart and being are hidden deep beneath this deceptive skin clothing stretched over their skulls. Still, others would claim that faces reveal truths that our tongues try to hide and repress. You observe a husband and wife sitting close on the grass turf while their two boys play football on the green patch. They keep kicking it around without following any rules or goals. Doesn’t life do the same to all? Even though people pretend, and crave to believe, that there is direction and control until some shocking event knocks off all the pillars which supported their ground and they find themselves tumbling down, trying to catch at every little hand, hook and straw. You stand for a while and watch the children giggle and play with immense pleasure in a haphazard game of their own. Last night, a friend of yours who generally stands up well to his circumstances came to you and talked passionately about how he wished his parents hadn’t given birth to him. It moved you too when you notice how forcefully he has sucked back his tears and talked in angry, manly words. These children, so happy today, you try to imagine them fifteen years later. How arbitrary! As you walk, you notice the wood-made nests set up for birds in trees by the garden authorities. It gives you a warm feeling and a memory back into childhood when you used to sit around the fire in tin-made hearth in mother’s room and narrate childish events of your day at school. Beatings from teachers alone used to raise laughs. You remember mother always pretended to be busy embroidering the clothes while you and your siblings shared your daily incidents, but she listened with more attention as compared to everybody. How soon one grows old, out of mother’s love into other kinds of affections! You think about the nests and then different animals and birds, some of which live in one place while others move like nomads. You think the same about souls. Some souls choose homes for themselves while others keep wandering because they are never satisfied in one place. And if you ever make a soul settle in one place, they slowly stagnate within, grow cold and morose, and die. There is one dream which has been haunting you for months. You dreamt that you are going home, sometimes in a flying coach, other times in a car and once funny enough on a donkey. You pass through unseen villages, mountains, and cities and, before you wake up, you find out that you missed your home and left it somewhere far behind without a map in your hands to find your way back. Perhaps, your amateur theory of souls owes its origin to these slightly disturbing and haunting dreams. As you sit there looking around, you see a middle-aged man with beard grown over since two days and a smoky look which evinces sadness and frustration together in confused form. He comes nonchalantly and sits close to you, which makes you wonder. He asks you if you want to work in the fashion industry as a model. You look at him momentarily to see if he is joking and notice that he means it for some absurdly strange reason. You anticipate that he is just another disappointed man who wants to shower his regrets of life and memories of youth over some stranger’s face as happens at tea stalls all around. You tell him you do not like the fashion industry. He repeats his question with an offer and you wonder what has happened to the fashion industry that they’ve come to hire young people in public parks and gardens. You tell him again you are not interested and get up to walk away. He offers to show you a group of bird nests up in the jumbled trees on the little mountain. You do not freak out and excuse him for his frustrated intentions with a hand waving aimlessly, and walk away. Later on, you think of telling your friends about this strange incident, but choose not to and cast away this experience into your chest-bin. There is an old couple sitting on the next bench. The woman is wearing white clothes and has her face decorated all over with powder, oils and sticks as if she was accidentally transported from a wedding across time. The old man eats peanuts from a cone-shaped container made of old newspaper, and later, reads what is written on it. For a moment, you feel the urge to call them simple and ordinary beings but then you curtail your urge and wonder. To a fleeting eye, an individual might be ‘simple and ordinary’ but if you tarry a little longer, even the simplicity carries beneath itself places which one might never guess. All people might not be successful but they embody stories of their lives which makes you wonder as they terrorize your certainties for some time. People are like towns and villages you do not understand all at once with one binge drive on the well-worn roads, brief stays in hotels and shopping sprees in markets. They reveal themselves ponderously, bit by bit, across months and years, and there is still so much more left to discover. However, our demands of love and expectations and all other calculations and prejudices with wax-made values limit our intercourse with them and hold us back from venturing forth through fences, broken buildings, forsaken yards, and unvisited paths. You think momentarily about the word ‘intercourse’ and doubt its intended use but the dictionary assures you it is sanitized. Across the mini road, a boy and a girl walk close by. It seems like they have skipped classes to share an afternoon together. The girl wears a black dress and a wide gleaming smile on her face that keeps lighting up the more she talks and expresses, while the boy, meek and sullen, listens to her with rapt attention. A few other boys with bracelets on their hands and scarves thrown around their necks observe the couple, whisper to each other, and laugh. There are crows gathered in the big tree, crowded by black crows in large numbers. How strange that Lahore has more crows than any other kind of bird. If a bird is made the emblem of a city, crows will speak the essence of life in Lahore. Dark, lonely, clamouring with noise and wanting in all music and emotion. Oh! You forgot to mention that you came to Bagh-e-Jinnah to meet someone. All along while you observed people with extravagant attention, you hid from looking inside yourself. No message came. With hope having died and mingled with the cold evening breeze, you return to yourself with closed windows and doors, for where else do you have to go. The writer is a student of English Literature at Government College University, Lahore and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Published in Daily Times, December 3rd 2017.