My name may strike fear into the hearts of human beings and cause grown men to soil themselves. My voice may be amplified, telegraphed and telephoned into TV screens, projectors and PA systems mounted alongside otherwise crowded streets, continents away. I may be a playback singer par excellence, bar none and without peer for miles around. I may also be the world’s only armchair insurgent, a drawing-room separatist, an expatriate nationalist and a budding hedonist. I may be the bestselling author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To W-11 and Other Bus Routes, among other masterpieces. I may be retired patron of a selfless social and political organization with roots in philanthropy, operating soup kitchens, homeless shelters, free-of-cost transportation services and protection rackets in the world’s third largest city (proper). I am living in sin, the life many only dream of, and I’m not even into my forties yet. Alright, alright, maybe I’m a tad older than 40, but I’m still young at heart and – now that I’m retired – I have all the time in the world to enjoy the finer things in life.
But that doesn’t mean I enjoy my retirement. Quite the opposite actually, I hate it.
I hate being cooped up in this birdcage these Brits call a house. I hate not being allowed to install a Muslim Shower and I loathe these slimy handkerchiefs these white people call Toilet Paper. I’d rather wipe myself with the PPP’s election manifesto; its texture is less surprising than most Toilet Rolls here. I hate that there’s not a single proper biryani place in the Greater London area. I hate that my backyard is overrun by overzealous members of the London Metropolitan Police carrying pitchforks and spades, looking for mass graves. I hate that all my friends are dead, dying or in parliament. I hate that upstarts and old farts are running a country that obviously needs younger blood. I hate that my beloved Karachi, er… I mean Pakistan, has fallen into the hands of beard-toting, gun-slinging, grenade-popping vermin: the Taliban. I mean, it obviously belongs in the hands of clean-shaven, pan-chewing, cap-popping badasses such as my unit commanders. After all, they get the pick of the lot in everything: animal hides, extortion slips, ballot papers; you name it, they’ve got it.
There is nothing I love more in the world than women. Women are the apple of my eye, the jewel in my crown, the icing on my cake and the cherry on top of my ice-cream sundae. They are the philosophy on which I have penned several volumes. These wives, mothers, daughters, sisters and mistresses are what makes my world go round. I cherish their company and long for the days when I was a heartthrob at my alma mater. While photos of my youth still adorn walls, street corners, bathhouses and barber shops; the women don’t really go weak in the knees for me anymore, at least not for reasons I’d want. But my attractive qualities aren’t just limited to women. Many men have confessed their undying love and devotion to me, mostly as I have been fighting back crocodile tears of rage and despair. These twenty-to-thirty somethings come to my house, lean in my ear and whisper sweet nothings, like, “The job’s done, guv’nah!” or “Luca Brazi sleeps with the fishes”. But that doesn’t excite me, it’s not the same as when a nubile young thing slithers up to you and nibbles your earlobe while informing you that your closest confidant has been put on ice. Much like those two boys from that film with Priyanka Chopra and Desi Girl, I’m just looking for love in all the wrong places.
But my professional accomplishments more than make up for my personal regrets. I am the only clean politician in Pakistan, because I bathe in Dettol every day. My credentials are impeccable and verifiable from fellow snakes-in-the-grass Hameed Gul and Aslam Beg. In the words of Mark Knopfler, “I love my ISI, my army and my MTV”.
Behold, for I am a legend with songs in my name (and my name in song). A butcher, a baker, a king-maker! Rub a Dub Dub, three men in a tub. I seek and destroy logic, fire heat-seeking missiles at Talibanisation, have the ANP’s rogues flown in for supper and then have their leftovers for brunch the next day. I walk with Johnny, I sip Bacardi, I sleep with Kahlua and I make sure my men have their merry way with anyone who dares cross their paths. I can swat right-wing flies with my morning edition of the Daily Mail and can put out the lights of any household, anywhere in Karachi, with the press of the ‘Send’ button.
I can be an indispensable ally, all I need is asylum. I can see reason, as long as there’s a cut for me in it. I can be a persuaded to see things your way, all I need is cash-in-a-bag. I can be gracious and let you live. I can be magnanimous and let you die, painlessly. But most of all, I can be myself. There’s no one like me. And there’s no place like home. You may confiscate my passport, but you will never take my cell-phone. A.H. will phone home!
P.S. Will allow unconscientious multinational companies to operate with impunity in Karachi in exchange for an apartment in Manhattan. I’m quite bored of living in the outskirts of dreary London-town. The cold weather hurts my hip.
Sincerely,
Your man in
Scotland Yard’s backyard

The writer is a former journalist currently working in the development sector.

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