Ambreen Razia: ‘Show the West the pain they’ve caused…the colonial trauma inflicted on your ancestors’

Monday – ‘I hid his firearms’ she said through her chestnut eyes, her finger tips lightly touching one another, blonde highlights through her Pakistani hair, each strand telling me who she used to be. ‘This country’s failed me’, her words bouncing off her majesty’s walls, I sit opposite her with my name, she sits opposite me with her number, ‘Pakistani Girls ain’t supposed to get arrested’ she said ‘But I loved him’. Women wearing their stories across their faces, a flicker of my mother in all of them. 

I run.

The sun rose on an audition for HBO. Most actors have lines, I had her voice in my head till they called my name ‘Ambreen Razia!’. I carry her agony through every line and it sounds like I’m greatly irritated for the entire scene – ‘Can you tone it down Ambreen?’ ‘I can’t because they’re there’ ‘Who’s there?’ My mothers, my sisters. I left them behind yesterday. ‘We haven’t got all day Ambreen’ they said and the oppressed girl from the village bled out of my mouth.  

I run. 

On Wednesday I couldn’t hear what he was saying, the balaclava containing his words, his jacket over his nose, but in his eyes stood his mother. He arrived home from the countryside on his thirteenth birthday, a self-prophesised ‘older’ knighted him a soldier, enough dark and white scattered – ‘I don’t want to be around ‘Nitty’s’ and trap houses, I want out’ he said, ‘I want my Mum’. He hugged me, I let him go and felt him slip back into devil’s palms, into the world just beneath ours. ‘Ambreen Razia!’ they called, ‘This is a happy character, there’s no need to cry’ ‘I can’t stop because he’s there’ ‘Who’s there?’ ‘My son, my brother, he’s back on the lines’ ‘What lines?’ ‘County Lines’ ‘We really don’t have time for this’ they said, and I put on a happy face. 

I run.

I intended on spending my Thursday in a coffee shop, people watching. Is that really a thing? I wonder if people actually do that? Self-ridicule overwhelms me, and I come to the realisation that I would be terrible at artistically stalking people. So I scrub my bathroom instead, till each spec is clean, scrubbing my skin till my sponge unravels ,the purge of pain, of those I couldn’t save, the cleansing of guilt, the removal of what ifs, false hygiene goals, sterile isolation. 

I run. 

I saw my character on Friday, she was soaking wet, wearing Primark Ugg boots, she’s going through it– ‘Can you come back another time?’ I say, ‘Nah’ she spits before lying on the floor and lighting a fag. I politely tell her that my neck is hurting, ‘I’ve been writing in this bed for four days, how about we pick this up tomorrow?’. She doesn’t move. The smoke clouds, the Allah chain around her neck, her finger tips, the colour of lemon skin, her erratic spirit on my bedroom floor, she wants me to write her till she shrinks, till she’s heard.‘Who else is going to do it?’ she shouts. And I feel like a child again.

I run.

On Saturday voices from the motherland echo it’s stories: Show the West the pain they’ve caused Ambreen, the colonial trauma inflicted on your ancestors, tell them how its trickled down to our men and women of today, those behind prison walls, those who sit quietly in their homes, those who work in corporations with names like Hussain and Malik, receiving daggers if they carry a fitness first bag or wear beards longer than their fist. Tell them Ambreen, tell them how they drained your motherland of its resources, tell them of how your grandmother had to run from her home and come to a country that divided hers, that in the heart of Lahore she was one train away from being murdered, YOU were one train away from being murdered, tell them about the racism she faced, the struggle she endured, the betrayal she confronted.

I run.

Sunday I sleep. 

Sunday I dream. 

Sunday I grieve.

Sunday I move. 

Sunday I dance.

To Erykah Badu

I Eat.

Sundays are for rest.

I don’t rest.

I Question.

I Think.

I Suspect.

I Reflect.

On Sunday 

I move

I don’t stop

And I often wonder what will happen if I do?