My father was no stranger to heat, growing up in a little village just outside Multan that was not on the electric grid during his childhood. In the dust bowl of Pakistan, he walked miles to the city to go to school. In this part of the world, the hot summer wind has its own name. You could catch it too — you’d then have heatstroke. No wonder my father’s people covered their heads and faces with white muslin. When the wind stirred up dust, it was an aandhi. Like the Farsi saying that goes, Chahaar tohfa-haae Multan: gard, garma, gada, goristan (With four gifts Multan abounds: dust, heat, beggars, burial grounds). My father worked for years in that city, raising his children and trying to make the hot summers more comfortable for his family. When we were young, we had a cooler: a large, square, motorized contraption filled with water and a fan that blew cool air. Its mechanics fascinated me no end. Then, with money, came ACs. My father eventually left Multan, settling in Lahore for work, and researched and installed an Uninterruptable Power Supply system to cope with its wet heatwaves and brutal scheduled blackouts. When my American sister came to visit, he bought a generator. A few weeks before his death, he spent hundreds of thousands of rupees setting up solar panels. I thought he was very cool. When I visited his grave for the first time, my second thought was: isn’t he so hot lying out here in the May heat, my father who could no longer sleep without the AC? My first thought: that’s not him under that pile of earth.
Fatima Malik is a Pakistani-American poet based in New York City. She received a BA in English Literature and Creative Writing from Dartmouth College and a joint MA in Journalism and Near Eastern Studies from New York University. Malik is currently working on her first collection of poems, an excavation of grief after her father's sudden death.