The Great Outdoors

  • 06 Jan - 12 Jan, 2018
  • Ayesha Adil
  • Fiction

The great outdoors; I know its nature but does it always have to be great? I know this would shock some and maybe even squirm others, but honestly, don’t get me wrong. I love nature. Didn’t I come into this world through nature? But do I always have to love it? Always find it accessible? From a distance, I love it. It’s my mother, no? But if I am in the great outdoors, I tire of it too soon. My book comes out. Or my cellphone to listen to some music. I cannot bring myself to love it for too long. Romantic walks by a beach, park picnics, strolling in scenic spots… such recreation loses its charm for me easily. Guess I am not as big a romantic as I claim to be, after all. Eventually, there’s dust in my eyes, flies in my tea and sandwiches, I’m trying to brush away numerous insects from my face. Be done already. I cannot be outdoor for too long.

Fawad, on the other hand, is a nomad at heart. His love for the great outdoors consumes him. He is probably more in love with nature than anything else in the world. All his weekend adventures are outdoors. In the “real wild”, as he calls it.

So obviously, I wasn’t surprised when our next weekend outing turned out to be a picnic. That too at the beach.

I tried arguing, “Fawad, it’s so hot and humid outside. Plus, I have to do some grocery shopping today. I can get more done if we just plan a trip to the mall. Please. And I don’t even like beach. The heat there is intolerable, the smell unbearable and the sand too clingy! The sand keeps shedding from my hair for days.”

I was sniveling like a spoilt teenager but I didn’t care. I at least get to have a say, right?

I could sense Fawad getting testy, “You always find an excuse, don’t you? But it’s final this time. Keep a nice picnic basket ready. We are hitting the beach today.”

“Patriarchy in 21st century? What a shame.” I sulked. Better get used to it.

I busied myself in preparing a picnic basket for us. I quite liked this part. It reminded me of the Enid Blyton stories I read to my students. The characters in them were always munching on mouthwatering delicacies like scones, pies and muffins. The child in me still salivated on reading about their supper and tea parties. How about we eat from this basket at tea time today and not go out at all? A more attractive alternate (for me), but next to impossible to achieve.

But Saima, my inner voice reminded me, it’s the “great” outdoors that your hubby likes so much. Sigh. I was reminded of the proverbial “I do.” Martyrdom also begins with the letter “M”.

I could hear Fawad singing in the shower. He was actually singing. There is something that our gender needs to learn from males; their casual, nonchalant attitude with everything they do. They never overanalyse, they never fret and can shrug away the greatest of thoughts at a whim.

And here I was, constantly struggling with my thoughts on how to get away with this situation while he sang like nothing had happened.

It made my blood boil but had to give in to patriarchy so I just fixed the “pretty” basket and folded our “dainty” napkins.

I was almost done when Fawad came out.

“Aren’t you ready yet?” he asked, quizzically.

“Almost. I’ve packed some egg sandwiches, a couple of kebab rolls, chips and biscuits. I have also turned last night’s roast into a salad. Just putting in some mint and yogurt dip and we are ready to go. Think we can buy some biryani from there only?”

Food planning was comforting; It restores my sanity, makes everything seem so grand and effortful.

“Sounds good,” said Fawad, grinning at the prospect of food. He seemed genuinely happy.

No wonder I melted. His smile always disarmed me and Fawad knew it too well. He always used that weapon to get his way; I would even camp in a jungle for him.

It’s us women who allow and fuel patriarchy. Read the last few lines and you would know how. The power of love always gets the better of us.

We finally left the house with our basket and other picnic essentials. The ride to the beach was pleasant. The traffic wasn’t so bad either. Leaving early and getting onto the road before the rush hour starts is always a good idea. I inwardly thanked god for living in a city where people were mostly lazy. It made things easier for early birds like us. In the car, we talked about our week and I could feel relaxation seeping in. We could not have attained this peace of mind with a shopping spree, I reminded myself.

Fawad’s face was creaseless and I noticed that he seemed evidently destressed. Is this why people like going out on picnics and park excursions? What was predominantly a waste of time near me was a source of channeling sanity for most, away from the buzz of the city and into the serene “nothingness” of the great outdoors.

A quote I read in a magazine a while ago came back to me; being outdoor makes me feel like I am only a piece of cosmic dust in the expanse of nature. It helps me resolve my issues in life because they all seem so minute in comparison. Makes sense to me now.

I was thoroughly enjoying the ride. The breeze was cool with music playing in the background and I was exactly where I didn’t know I needed to be; in the expanse of nature.

On reaching the beach, we found ourselves an empty beach bench and table. I began unwrapping the basket for us while Fawad sat still for a while, absorbing the energy.

“Breathe deeply, Saima,” he instructed. “The salty breeze is good for health.”

I didn’t think that was true but I did as I was told and felt remarkably better.

“You’re glad you came, aren’t you?” Fawad asked, knowingly.

“You know I’m always happy with whatever you decide for us,” I said. “I am sorry for acting like a spoilsport this morning.” We were both contended now and that’s what mattered. Besides, we cannot remain fixated about our own interests in a relationship. When we are together, we should try things that makes the other person happy as well. Isn’t that what partnership is about? Being open to change?

I can’t say that Fawad has turned me into a devotee of the great outdoors but I was undoubtedly a happier person, sitting with him under the expansive sky and sharing a plate of chicken salad. I now understood that we belong to nature and being out there every once in a while is not such a bad idea after all.