It’s one of the few times – beyond form-filling and direct or indirect racist comments made in my presence, because people are occasionally unable to grasp my ethnic makeup – that I’m forced to confront the fact that race matters a lot more to other people than it does for me.
Since she began recounting her life, she’s been having dreams of her youth.
She dreams about 1930s Sindh, in what was still India, and not yet Pakistan.
In them, she recalls the freedom of childhood and being a child: how she and her friends ran races, played games like dog and bone, how they roamed the streets of Hyderabad – courageously, in all their urchin-like temerity.
She remembers fearlessness: her father never scolded her so she was very brave; her mother would back down whenever Nani stood up to her – which was often.
There were neither borders nor obligations; no boundaries to be afraid of crossing.
Most of all, she remembers the freedom.
Were you happy, Nani, we ask.
“Khush,” she says, spreading her gnarled fingers in an expanse of expression. Happy.
“Ma free has; ma sochandas ma free aayah.”
“I was free,” she said. “I would think then, ‘I am free.'”