Each year towards the end of the spring semester, seniors huddle in front of the iconic, immemorial academic block at LUMS. Each year, the academic block witnessed something surreal. Students, having evaded each other’s gaze for a good part of four years, now come together, eye to eye, shoulder to shoulder and look up towards the sky. They want to get a picture taken. The camera man stands and signals on the second floor of the PDC, and almost instantly, the chantings begin. It’s a countdown. Ten…nine…eight…and just like that, the picture fails to capture the nostalgia, the depression, the ecstasy, the gloom and other innumerable feelings that hundreds of people are going through or have gone through, together. These people are all joined in unison by the colour they are celebrating. For the years they went to the same university together, they enjoyed the liberty of not dressing up in uniforms. After all, university is not like school. It is something much more special. These colours – blue, white, yellow, red, green, orange, purple and some more – are uniforms they wish they never wore. For four years, they wanted out. The sleepy 8:00 AMs, the exhausting evening classes and all-consuming stress of examinations and grading instruments: my people thought they would have it better once they leave. No heed is paid to accumulating suggestions from the batches above them repeatedly saying that good-byes are not so exciting once you come closer to them, even if they are beautiful. Why would a freshman, a sophomore or a junior occupy his mind with the end-of-days festivities? It would not make sense. Anticipation cannot do justice to the moment felt in time, and every batch lets that moment come to it at the time it is due. Today, as I look around my peers all dressed in the same colour, much like a uniform, I understand that the time has finally arrived. If you look closer, the eyes reflect a weariness, a gloom that the rest of the body is oblivious to. It has not been stirred just yet. The good-byes are dormant but they will be ceremoniously performed, and that realization is starting to dawn upon everyone.

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Beer in Berlin

My parents tap into a mysterious inner reservoir as soon as they land on a foreign tarmac to become shopaholics. You won’t find these things back home, they say. I agree, just a little differently. I have never been fond of scouring streets one after another to satisfy my shopping demons. I am not fond of trying to locate and fall uncontrollably for an exotic item, a skinny jean (available back home), those 5 Euro tee-shirts on sale and souvenir refrigerator magnets. I am a sucker for museums, trying to find meaning for myself and the life of things around me in abstract art. Food is also of paramount importance. After all, my parents are right; there’s nothing like what you eat here that you will eat back home, so no foreign experience is complete without my palate divulging in alien cuisines. On a tight budget, it does not make any sense to stroll into a Michelin star restaurant and order a 50 Euros upward fancy lunch or dinner: it suffices to pick out the odd Vapianos, random street gelatos that also sell wood-oven pizzas with halal meat, and the infamous Turkish doner kebabs stalls. Berlin is not short of options when it comes to cuisines.

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Meaningless Ascent

A few minutes ago, I was climbing up the stairs to the first floor of my house. The endeavor is banal and meaningless, but it oddly resembles standing in a hot shower with lots of time on your hands. Thoughts pour in as a new altitude is broken every second until the mind becomes fixated on just one, and today, my thoughts got stuck on my experience (or the lack of it) in hiking up to a mountain. It’s not fitting, to say the least. The comparison appears to be shoddy at best. Climbing a stairway should not remind you of climbing a dangerous mountain capable of terraforming its own weather. The allure, however, is too leechy to pass away.

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Small Struggles

I hate emotional triggers that are evoked instantaneously. I hate the way this activity induces unwelcomely symptoms, which later or immediately manifest physically. My professor returned an assignment today and despite the awareness of all the flaws it carried as well as the weak spots I could have worked upon, I expected things to go better. Writing is cathartic, but it can still inflict an anxiety that speaks violently inside my head throughout the day. I fear that poor writing may not be the culprit; my struggles with life on a daily basis keeps me on my toes and stifles my brain power in unexpected ways, at moments most monumental.

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Writing Daily Prompts

I am slowly being consumed by an obsession to write with heart, clarity, longevity and precision. The obsession is fresh and subtle, hovering above me and poking my conscience to screen words across any screen I encounter for the purpose of eliciting a judgment. Time will help me determine if feeding to such an obsession is optimal, but for now, it has prompted me to take measures – or think about them at least – that I would otherwise not be interested in. I want to find my lost voice in the classroom, participate in a discussion and make it meaningful. I want to engage in reviving this blog and write something of worth every day. I want to pick a book and smash through it in a matter of few days. I want to develop a voracious appetite for greatness with an increased intellect.

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Waking Up Alone These Days

I miss the annoying Guns N’ Roses’ song bellowing out of my cell phone in the morning around 7. It’s my mom calling me. She worries I may just skip my class that’s due to begin at 8. I have to possibly iron my clothes, get on that green shitter attached to my room, bathe, brush my teeth, comb my hair, wear clothes and attempt all the mundane things that makes me no different from any other college going boy in this country. Dilawar will honk my ass off a little late as usual so I do not check the clock and frolic with unwelcome panic. Let the hot shower run and let me dream about knocking down opponents inside an octagon fighting pit. Choking necks and cashing cheques is alluringly hypnotic. There’s always something to shake me back into the real world as soon as I craftily – in my mind – bend down and grab the lead leg of my opponent, lift it up and trip the other leg. Awais, you can’t even stand straight in front of a fucking dog, so shut the fuck up. I wonder how many fighters think about jiu jitsu while sneaking in a few streams here and there and pretend to shy away from it as if it were a crime scene. The mirror appears foggy now, so I bend forward a little and wipe it clean. I swear tomatoes aren’t as red as the shapely round distortion in the space time continuum visible in that mirror. Weren’t long, hot showers good for sinking self-esteems? Are those long hours of aiming mindlessly and shifting weight in the swimming pool and of tolerating filthy, smelly guys in the gym worth anything at all? Time is now beginning to creep in, so I pick my toothbrush and crusade against stinking gums and chewy leftovers. After a ritualistic re-entry into the shower, I think twice about rolling the knobs and then just go with it.

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After countless nights of reading, writing, memorising and struggling, you have arrived today at the top college in your country. This college is also one of the world’s best, and simply an association with an institution like this are ten points on your semi-constructed resumé. Your self-esteem has never been higher, and as you enter the gates of the college-bubble, an invitation is swiftly delivered to you, brazened in an artistic envelope, that a party for the freshmen awaits your presence tonight. The word around is, that people who attend these parties have an impeccable academic record, with achievements to pale anyone stacked against them. These people, you hear, are also aesthetically beautiful with an exceptional taste in fashion. So, if you are to attend this party, what questions do you think you’ll encounter from your peers?

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There is nothing more profound, yet misunderstood as much as “happiness”. I would not go on and claim that “over the centuries people have wondered about the secret formula to achieve happiness”, but there are in-fact, a few interesting anecdotes that I have managed to come across by going back in history – very recently – that speak volumes about what happiness really means. The reason why I elected to go back into the times, perhaps the times of the Greeks as you would later discover, is because they had not the means of wealth, technology, education, opportunities and accessibility that a layman today would be exposed to. Their analogies are ‘sweet’ and apt to their times, and even if there are no complications of the present world to influence their understandings about the important aspects in life, the explanations afforded are equally applicable to those times, as well as times that we live in. To find what “happiness” meant then, would truly be of moment.

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