Monday, June 06, 2005

Only Connect

I start this post by letting my faithful followers know that I am going to be away for the next few days. This should not normally pose a problem as there is usually access to an internet connection and, therefore, the possibility of a blog update. However, the country I am going to has just opened its first internet cafe a few months ago, so I'm fairly unsure about my connectivity. I haven't received my passport from the Embassy involved, so I'm not so sure about travel plans. In brief: if you don't see an update here for about ten or twelve days: DO NOT PANIC!
Back to more important things. At the risk of sounding as though I've been blogging since birth, I once wrote a piece here about how being gay in Pakistan had certain inbuilt advantages. One of these lies in being able to cut through the cliques and groups which constitute Pakistani social life. Married people are usually the biggest defaulters here preferring to cling to school friends and work colleagues. Being gay doesn't mean having to write off the considerable luggage that comes with being Pakistani (third cousins twice removed) but it does allow you to peek outside the confines of The Rules. If you're truly brave, you can even step out.
This line of thinking has its roots in the intermingling that has recently taken place between many of my straight and gay friends. Like many around me, I have compartmentalised my life into "gay" and "straight" boxes out of fear of causing offence. I have tried to shield my gay friends from never ending monologues on the importance of the right school or the best family holiday destination. Likewise, I have tried to protect my straight friends from an off-colour conversation on oral sex or the best crusing joints in town. Sometimes, I have had to protect some of my gay friends from other gay friends. At one dinner, I hosted there was outrage when an outspoken friend went up to a straight woman and said "What does it feel like to be married to the only heterosexual man in this room." The hostility generated by that one remark produced enough energy to light up a large town.
So, given this background, I was practicing some kind of apartheid. And, apartheid, we now know is terrible. I have, therefore, decided to tear down as many barriers as I can. My experiment has been a resounding success. "Who is this guy?" "He's amazing!" "How come you've kept him away from us so long." And so on. I guess the best policy is just to lie back and let people figure things out for themselves. People have to discover their own abilities to connect. If they fail that is their problem. I simply have to stop being quite as protective as I have been in the past.
Back to "connections." E. M. Forster used "only connect" as the tagline (sorry EM, you'd never have used that word) to many of his novels. A theme based around people and cultures struggling to meet against the odds. This cuts against the grain when it comes to the complacency of Pakistani social life with people meeting within rapidly diminishing circles-within-circles. You must remember that there are no bars here or similar meeting places where people can drop their reserves and connect with complete strangers. I often challenge my Pakistani to friends to ask when they last spoke to a complete stranger in a social setting. Heck, when did you last flash a smile to a complete stranger ?
As with all urges, the urge to connect needs to be tempered with patience. One of the most endearing moments this week came from a friend with whom I've been talking, but we've never actually met as yet. In connect-mode, I rushed to make some hasty plan which involved my dashing to see him in between connecting flights. I was politely reassured that we would meet, but that not connecting at all was better than connecting in those circumstances. That he was not running away and that we would meet, when we were both comfortable with it. Deep Breath. He's right.

10 Comments:

Blogger livinghigh said...

beautiful little bezel, by de way. last nite, i actually dallied around in a bombay suburb for ages, till i finally met up with mr x. even before i had a sip of my drink, i knew i had wasted my time, and wanted to run. i did, eventually - fastest beer i ever downed. so, wats dat say abt 'connecting'?
;-)
PS: i like 'sway' too. and i actually had my doubts, when i sent u de meme, abt whether u wud entertain it. hehehe.. thanx.

PPS: enable commenting by non-blogger ppl also, pls.. so then, i can get talkingclosets to leave a few nuggets.

5:26 pm  
Blogger Sin said...

At the risk of sounding like a complete megalomaniac, I'm so glad your friends like me! I'm a huge fan of them as well. That second statement stands, regardless of whether their comments were actually made with me in mind or not. ;)

You do realise that your departure will be mourned tremendously, right? And I want to hear all about (a) the trip, and (b) the rational connection when you return. Safe travels.

10:30 pm  
Blogger s said...

ten or twelve days???!

that's awful!

11:47 pm  
Blogger assiniboine said...

I'll bet that integration (is that the opposite of apartheid as well as of segregation?) is in some ways (or at least in some circles) more feasible in Islamabad than in certain Western cities: try socialising with a bunch of Australian barristers and needing to guffaw at coarse homophobic humour.

No, old Morgan wouldn't have used "tagline"; he'd have used "epigraph" -- but "only connect [etc.]" is only in "Howards End." Oops. That sounded rather peremptory and schoolmarmish -- be assured that if this were a viva voce conversation I'd have delivered that little sally with a smile.

Speaking of whom, though...I wonder how his sales figures are holding up vis-a-vis Ms Woolf and the other Bloomsburys these days. Seems to me his reputation as a novelist was principally damaged by his modest assessment of himself when his reputation as a critic was very high indeed: "Well, if E.M. Forster says that E.M. Forster is mediocre it must be right...." Have you noticed, incidentally, that Kingsley Amis is mostly out of print only a decade after his death?

Tell it not in Gath how the mighty have fallen, eh?

9:15 am  
Blogger Uber Homme said...

living:I thought of opening up the comment box to non bloggers, but then I assumed that the usual homophobic morons would leave their trash there. My jury is still out on that one. Err yes. That is definitely a "fast track connect."

9:55 am  
Blogger Uber Homme said...

Sin: It looks as though I may now be flying directly into Karachi. Will keep you posted. And yes. The mad women of Islamabad love you truly!

9:56 am  
Blogger Uber Homme said...

Sarah: I promise to update if I find an internet cafe at the end of the universe. Hang on in there baby!

9:57 am  
Blogger Uber Homme said...

Mac: You're right (as always!). I can recall seeing "Only Connect" formally appear in Howard's End. What I meant to say is that the theme appears in all of his novels - predominantly in HE and A Passage to India. I suppose being put onto A level reading lists must guarantee some sales ??

9:59 am  
Blogger Sin said...

I too love the mad women of Islamabad! And I'm very excited about you flying directly to Khi. Am looking forward to it immensely.

4:22 pm  
Blogger s said...

alright, it's been more than twelve days - yalla, baby! post already...

2:39 pm  

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