(Okay, so maybe not that last one. But you get my point.)
This past Saturday, Mogadishu was wracked with a massive truck bomb that detonated in the district of Hodan. The bomb killed more than 300 people, and injured over 500 others. That’s far more than the death toll of attacks in Boston, Fort Hood, San Bernandino, Quebec, Paris, London, Manchester, and Barcelona combined. Even now, scores remain missing. The bomb caused a hotel to collapse, demolished nearby buildings, and crushed vehicles that were parked on the street. It was followed by the sirens of ambulances, international pleas for help, and a death toll that kept on rising. It was met with several perfunctory news articles, a smattering of tweets, and a hailstorm of images that were difficult to look at.
When I think of Pakistan, the noise rises up too, all at once. I remember the rhythm of easy, rounded vowels hanging in lucid sunlight, as chai was poured and platters full of food were passed around. I remember the clamoring of rickshaws and shopkeepers in the bustling streets of Lahore. I remember the full houses of my aunts and uncles, the chaos of a seemingly never ending stream of family members. I remember my churiyan [bangles], purple and gold and jangling on my wrists.
Our room was crowded, but we found enough space for each of us, whether that meant making time for a college football game, displaying the Constitution on the wall, or playing a Kanye album on repeat. Over the course of the year, I got used to the rhythm of Arabic every night and hour long “libertarian rants” almost as often. I got used to 2 a.m. conversations where we learned more about each other. We compared our mother tongues of Arabic, Romanian, and Urdu to find commonalities—some of which, like the word for “enemy,” proved helpful when we were around others. We went to Harvard-Yale together, and later in the month, attended the Harvard Islamic Society’s Fall Dinner.