There are some songs that bring the 1990s rushing back to me.
In the 1990s, I was newly independent, living in Islamabad away from my home in Lahore for the first time ever, and working at the International Islamic University.
For the first time, I had my own social life. Don’t get any ideas. My social life was still structured around religious and spiritual passion. I’d chosen to work at the Islamic University, where I sought an emotional home along with faculty and staff that had chosen to be there as well. I had scholars and students of Islam in my network beyond anything I’d ever experienced, and beyond anything experienced by anyone I’d ever met. Chinese, Albanian, Afghan, Arab, Central Asian, African Muslim women, and we were praying, eating, chatting, learning together.
I also found Sufism.
And around that time I also realized that I yearned to love someone and be loved. A person.
When I hear the song ae meray humsafar, with a great rush of post-adolescent fervor, I remember attending evening weddings, and feeling the blossoming of romantic possibility in my heart, as a live band played and sang the song. You will laugh, though, as I explain that I was usually dressed in a silk outfit appropriate to weddings, topped by a large, opaque, matching scarf to cover my body, head, and face, with only my eyes showing. As love swelled in my heart and I wondered if someone would fall in love with my covered face, and send the requisite mother to my home with a proposal. It’s a funny image. 🙂
And when I hear Buhut pyar karte hain tumko sanam, I am rushed back to dusty rides in a mini-bus, my heart bursting with Love. Every word rang true for the One Beloved, and nothing for anyone else.
Before that, I’d spent several years choosing, with great difficulty, to completely cut myself off from popular culture, especially movies. There are still gaping holes in my knowledge of 1990s culture. But I don’t remember once thinking, God, I wish I could watch movies. My heart was much too full.
I am sad to have lost that, and sad that most of us don’t have that fullness.