Reading Elif Shafak makes me feel like I’m frequenting a world that is not mine and it makes me miss my real place. It makes me look at people and situations I’ve dismissed, with fresh light. And it makes me wonder why I’m chasing the ones I am. I’m whirling.
I feel listened to, between the stories of an unwed mother, a talentless poet, a tattooed nihilist, a Sufi mystic and a bored housewife. These are the people I have been, will be, the selves I am. While life goes on endlessly barrelling forward, I skid, screeching brakes, pause, stop, slow down to correct that thought and say, no it does not go on endlessly. It stops. It crashes. It fades.
I pick out a description of a smoky cafe with a pretentious name, a meeting with an authority figure interrupted by a wandering dervish. And I choose it over the conversation about price points at the neighbouring table of the coffee shop I’m at. I carry it with me as I navigate booking a cab on an app, ordering dessert on another, and swiping my train card. At least the last feels closer to the world I have in my head than the other things my eyes and ears feed me.
There is love outside the paan-spattered Bollywood posters and wannabe posers I pass. There is joy beyond the neon lights and darkness past the black humour being traded for attention at open mics.
Can I still seek God where religion interferes with architecture, where faith determines politics? I must. How else can I breathe? Even as my words dance around the easily angered, the quick to violence, I realise this churning, this silent yearning, this is, after all, my whirling.
I look away from my book. The image takes a few seconds to fade away. The mood, long after. The whirling, I hope never. Then I remember, nothing is endless.