How to tell a horse from its sh**

This is me, with an ominous hand over my head. Back then I didn’t know the many meanings of sh** that I do today.

I was born in Dubai, though not my homeland it was home for me. I didn’t have any relatives per say there as the bulk of the family lived in Pakistan; the motherland. Though I suppose your motherland should be where you are most at home, at the time it was Dubai, over the years it became Pakistan to some extent. Obviously it’s a different dynamic having spent half your life in one environment and then the other in a totally opposite world, but you get used to it mainly because you have people around you who try to make you feel ‘welcomed’.

But do they really mean it? I remember growing up in a home foreign from home, whispers of memories with my parents always pressing the notion of family. I remember growing up with this image of these concentric circles in my head on how family functioned, the centre of the circle being you and the closer shapes being your immediate loved ones dispersing out slowly into distant cousins and relatives to that quarter-and-a-half aunt from God knows where trying desperately to wed you off somewhere.

As I grew older I realised I could not have been more wrong with this arrangement in my head. Being so far away from the motherland you tend to create wistful imaginings of it, you build upon these dreams from past memories or stories related to you by your loved ones. Images of a world that exists sadly only in your head and the heads of like minded cattle that are closest to you.

The ‘you are one of us and therefore welcome among us’, dialog that ensues between parties that have met after many a sunrise, I understood over time to be a farce. One that pushed you off to the side.

Humans tend to enjoy the subtle art of nitpicking.

When you fall off a horse there are two things that run through your mind:

  1. The ground is coming at me at an alarming rate therefore I should probably brace myself for impact, and
  2. I hope I don’t get trampled over.

What you don’t think about is that when you fall off a horse—in this case one you’ve groomed so well for so long—you raise your chances of falling not only on the ground but also on to a world underneath the horse full of horse manure. You see the world for what it truly is, and as you sit there on your newly acquired mushy throne of flies picking out bits from your hair you lift your hand in hopes to find something reaching out to you and see your majestic stead galloping off into the distance.

I refuse to believe the horse is unaware of its lost passenger, I wouldn’t be surprised to know that they secretly smirk at our unfortunate demise. Perhaps they do it on purpose, but horses aren’t people. I know that from observation, and also I understand if you give a horse an apple he’ll love you for it whereas humans tend to enjoy the subtle art of nitpicking.

No, this metaphorical stead in the shape of all your worthless imaginings of relations that you think you can count on when the time is rough not only throws you down when you least expect it, but it also makes sure it leaves a long and wide trail of feaces for you to land on; and being a very tricky beast it also manages to trample over you at the same time.

This is me later, when I used to give a sh**. See how it’s written on my face?

It was around the time I was in mid gallop upon my stead that the ground suddenly looked up at me and said, “Hello! We need to have a chat”. The air rushed by me as I saw the horizon tilt to an angle I was certain it shouldn’t, my crash was of course cushioned by the bed of leftover memories and yesterdays. I realised then these elusive creatures I had grown to accept as relatives and otherwise family members were not concentric circles that supported each others shape or were fashioned out of one another. No, these were like bubbles that popped up around you at random mostly when you needed them least and then burst into a kaleidoscope of colours that skittered away instantaneously leaving the world empty, barren, and monotone.

The world always was that way, it’s just the fake lens they placed before you that tricked you into imagining it different.

When family deserts, you’re left with an odd expression on your face. It’s half between a look of abject confusion and what I understand to be best described as ‘oh no you did not’.

There is a looming threat of anger with the occasional vein popping somewhere on your body. Once you’ve gathered the courage to stand up from the now evident forever on-going road of sh** that they’ve left behind you force yourself to come to terms with this revelation.

It might seem like the end and there’s always the whole, “I’m ending this chapter once and for all!” moment you go through, but sadly from then on it’s not necessarily smooth sailing.

This is me laterer than later, as you can see it’s both fifteen past six and a quarter to eight. I clearly do not give a sh** here. It’s the subtle things that make the difference you see.

Through my years of observation I’ve also come to conclude that relatives have an inherent ability to poke and pry in your business. I’d love to write on the Art of being a Twat someday, but I’m afraid in order to go into the details of how one comes around to becoming said abomination, I’d have to spend a whole lot more time around said people in order to study them some more, and luckily I’ve grown weary of all forms of twatery that humans have proved themselves capable of.

They poke, they pry, they stick their nose in and rub it around sniffing out what they can. They throw words at you which form mystical sentences a kin to advice, yet you never asked for any. They paint magical worlds in your head where actions no longer take shape the way they did in your memories but instead act out a new script, to you the audience in this theatre of the absurd.

In short, they decieve.

Perhaps they think over the years your distance from the motherland makes you easy to manipulate, that you can’t counter their sorcery. Little do they know that as you grow up and see them leech your parents and other less fortunate loved ones, they’ve taught you valuable lessons. Coupled with the drama of dismounting the stead, you can see the wisps of their sorcery a mile away.

You’ve now strategically placed spikes around you. You’ve come to enjoy the world in monochrome, maybe even started adding your own colour in places. You’ve made your own throne now of gilded moments forged in the fires of tomorrow to become shimmering memories one day. All the while you sit there and admire the dance of your spikes poking out the many translucent cages that your would-be loved ones have around them.

They plummet into the abyss as you sit and smile for a change.

My advice to whoever is reading this is, when you get the chance to have that smile make sure you savour it for you’ve earned it. Be weary of that sudden shift in the air when the horizon starts to tilt, it comes when you least expect it. We’ve built magnanimous realms in our heads with thrones and plinths for all of those who we assume love us, those who we assume are our well wishers, who we assume wouldn’t harm us. But this throne room of ours is mostly full of empty vessels that shatter to the tiniest prick.

Fill your thrones with those who truly love you, who would leave you with fond memories, and hopefully have a seatbelt on the saddle. Don’t fill it with relatives who can never relate.

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Design Futurist, Printmaker, nerd, and occasional writer interested in the interconnectivity between empathy, memory, and the digital world.

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Haider Ali Akmal

Haider Ali Akmal

Design Futurist, Printmaker, nerd, and occasional writer interested in the interconnectivity between empathy, memory, and the digital world.

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