The beginning of the story

by michaelhodges3

I’ve become tired of saying that I’ve had a strange day, or a strange week, because these days, things are always strange.

Today, I’ve been looking for advice on the web on how to campaign.  One thing I remember from what I read is the importance of presenting the story, or narrative, of the cause in the right way.  The problem with that is that my mind tends to hop from one thing to another like a monkey in a tree.

Nevertheless, I’ll try to impose some sort of structure by telling the story of how I first came to get in touch with Shehrbano Taseer.

In 2010 I was psychologically unwell, and had been living like a hermit in my bedroom for several years.  However, in the autumn of that year our house became connected to the web for the first time.  It was a lifeline for me because it was a window on the world at a time when I was too unwell to actually go out into the world.

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), as computers tend to do, the laptop soon developed a problem and became unable to connect to the internet.  My brother went and bought himself a new laptop within days, but the family laptop had to wait six months or so to be fixed.  So no internet for me in the meantime.  I compensated by writing a list of things I’d look up when the web was available again.

In early 2011 I happened to tune in to Riz Khan’s show on Al Jazeera.  Shehrbano happened to be one of the guests, talking about her father Salmaan’s recent ‘assassination’/murder.  It would be fair to say that I was mesmerised by her, to the extent that I had trouble taking in what she was actually saying.  However, I did notice that her eyes periodically filled with tears, and I had a strong feeling that I would like to wipe them away.  Both metaphorically and literally.  In hindsight, this was a huge, mile-high neon warning sign, although I didn’t realise it at the time.  I wrote down her name on my internet list.

The connection problem was fixed around about June 2011, and after a few weeks I emailed Shehrbano.  However, I couldn’t just email her for no reason.

I remembered that a couple of years earlier I had had a dream in which a female South Asian journalist died in particular circumstances.  As Shehrbano was the first female South Asian journalist that I remembered coming across since having that dream, I figured that maybe it was a warning, and that maybe I should tell her about it.

So I did, along with some kind and understanding words.  She messaged me back, and my life started to go horribly wrong (or even more wrong) from there.

The moral of this story is: be wary of contacting strangers, even if they’re beautiful and even if you’re lonely or isolated.  In fact, be extra wary under those circumstances.

16th April 2014, 7pm, Exeter, England