(a poem depicting the first time I left my country and went abroad with my school to attend a prestigious conference at the United Nations Head Quarters in New York City)
I’ve known small taxis and broken houses
I’ve known a small city within a small world
I have however, never until now seen,
A land full of buildings touching the clouds
With elephantine parks and loud car horns.
I’ve always been the girl who’s dreamt
Dreamt of travelling half way across the big blue marble
In August last year, I was the girl
Who did just that and landed in the place of big dreams
It’s not really red and sweet and nutritious
But they call it because they do; they call it the Big Apple.
The air felt fresh and light
The Sun somehow was not the sun I had been under
Foreign soil, for the first time touched my shoes
I was surprised to know that until now
I hadn’t once sung, the homesick blues.
Bright yellow, like the disk florets of a daisy
Zoomed past us what the American tongue termed as “cabs”
The chaperone waved and whistled on the sidewalk to hail one
While we, nine youngsters stood inside the JFK airport.
Smoke, black and acrid smelling puffed out from a worn out one
Like a cigar being freshly lit
The driver gestured us to sit down at the back
And four of us did just what he said
The five left behind waited patiently for another cab to come along
But all that became futile because as we covered distance,
A sea of skyscrapers emerged
With grins on our faces we sat
Ready for this once in a lifetime adventure.
My heart raced and tears welled up in my eyes
The pictures in magazines and scenes from rom-coms
All came to life and I even today am at a loss of words.
The streets were wide as we approached our hotel
Shops and shops and shops lined all sides of the Avenue
With a welcome and slight tip of the hat from the concierge
We were ushered towards an elevator
That took us up 25 floors!
The rooms were small and cozy at once
Large windows looked over the buildings around.
The next few days were like a storm,
But the kind with rain that comes down softly and thunder that rumbles slowly
The kind that brings out the sweet smell of soil and not the fear of children
From a ferry ride over blue clear crystal water of the River Hudson
And pictures with the towering green lady on her island,
From going up, to the very top of the Empire state building
And spending a raging night out, around lit up screens
From eating a 99 cent delicious cheese pizza
And surveying supermarkets for American junk food
It was all a blur in the city
As lights infused into our carnival of laughter.
Among all these things, that my eyes witnessed
The one thing that shook my bones and rattled me into counting my lucky little stars
Was the visit to the center of world decision making
To the one building where history was conceived
Yes, indeed yes, the United Nations Head Quarters.
A strip of waving color stood outside the famous mirrored building
But as we all saw the white star and crescent
Flipping about in the soft breeze
A feeling of pride completely took over
And my thoughts came together to say “Pakistan, my Pakistan”
In that moment, a home sickness did, fill up inside.
As we entered and passed the security guards,
In all corners were a plethora of statues
Given as gifts and tokens of peace from global leaders.
The inside was paved in cream tiles
And the general assembly Hall was draped in warm spotlights
At the front was a green rock podium
Desks and microphones were arranged with consistency
This was the hall where Maya Angelou risked her life
And where Bhutto ripped apart the policy.
Everything took off quickly from there
Surrounded by philanthropists and humanitarians
My mind couldn’t cope
Shaking hands with Mother Africa
And for the first time seeing the glow of dark skin in person
Opened up a side of life that I had never ever known
I discussed issues and became a pioneer in my own right,
And just like this, the days dwindled by.
On the last day, New York City said Goodbye
And I, going home, felt as though I was leaving one behind.
Time spent there had been so dearly precious
The hotel, the cabs and finally the United Nations itself
Are all a million miles away
But still, even today as I formulate my experience into flowery words
My mind thinks over all the times the place of big dreams
Took me, by surprise.