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.
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.
It seems to me that every developing country has a similar story about the priorities it has for arts and humanities. A lot of people in Pakistan, for instance, disregard any career associated with art as “thoughtless” and “suicidal”. Sure, the market is a little tough. Artists aren’t exactly in great demand. Its the engineer and the doctor, the computer scientist and any other type of scientist that inspire great respect amongst the individuals in our society. If you want a shot at getting rich, don’t waste your time with art. Art is for losers. Go to a science school, graduate with flying colours and you may have your chance. There is still no guarantee, however, for you see, the market isn’t changing so much. My experience in taking courses from the School of Science and Engineering (SSE) at LUMS has been brilliant. I have dared to dream, aspire, and all that jargon the school promises. More importantly, I have felt the yearning for creativity and art to be completely side-lined, as there is always a desire to produce the next big app, product, start up and all the other ways to “truly make a mark”, as they say. This is the place that tells me, “hey, you can be rich”, and to be honest, I see all other motivations pale in front of this tantrum.
After an enthralling comedy night at LUMS, I wondered; what is my strong suit? How can I stand out? How do I distinguish myself? The people on that stage possessed a surreal amount of talent. To appear unnerved in front of a crowd that can berate you there and then for a slight gaffe, how do they do it? How do they maintain such composure, yet come out on top? And that’s not it; they make people laugh, consistently, from joke after joke that are all improvised. That’s brilliant. Thinking on your feet and then bellowing out a witty pun for the public to appreciate; this is a very unique form of art, one that often goes unappreciated in Pakistan.
I inject disappointment into my soul at times; to be very honest, college life hasn’t turned out as great as I expected it to be. The people are okay. I’m gradually getting to know them better now but no one has the time to really stop, and care for the intellectual, artistic aspects of life. No one seems to care about genuine creativity and learning, and more or less, we all are focused towards scraping a grade. I can’t blame us now, can I? After all, we’re paying quite a lot and we need to score good ‘to fit in‘.
Is there a solid reason to believe in ‘reasoning‘?
Sure, it does help us understand the world around us, but from the very same logical channels, there are other understandings that eventually commingle to reveal a very distasteful, perplexing concoction. To agree with this, you need to agree with the fact that every discipline we demarcate today to suit today’s world’s context, has been fashioned from the annals of philosophy. The philosophy of politics, the philosophy of science, the philosophy behind reasoning and so forth; you get the point, right?
I stumbled onto a proof that defies the static state of life. Its called ‘letting go’, and there are times when someone eventually, painfully, decides that somethings in life that they once loved, or may be love in present, needs to be ‘let go’ of. That something loved could be writing. That someone could be me. Just kidding. It is writing and it is me.
Life is absolutely turning horrible as each second passes away in anticipation. I wonder what people awaiting death think of, but I can imagine. Their whole life would be flashing in front of their eyes, all their mistakes and all those nitty gritty moments that they thoroughly enjoyed.
I wonder what the difference between me and those people is. I’m thinking about all the things I have done; all the mistakes I’ve made…and regret. But yes, there is a difference. I can also think of a future in a dual beam. One of these beams where my mind naturally inclines toward is the compelling rage of serenity followed by a life of chaos, of uncertainty and absolute dejection. The other is, however, rosy. Despite it’s good nature, there is something wrong with it, I feel. I dream of all those things that my life has dreamt of achieving in the last few months. I can vicariously transport myself into the life of another – a person walking down on a road leading to the academic block at SSE. The person who later, after attending an intriguing Calculus class, goes on and takes a dive at the cappuccino bar at Gloria Jeans. I wonder if one day, that person would be me.
The problem with thinking all of the ‘good stuff’ is that it doesn’t put a smile on my face. It fails to ignite me. It fails to latch me onto the banter of a glorious upcoming. Instead, it makes me cry. It kills every time I think about it. Perhaps, it’s not a dream people aspire towards because they have greater goals. But one thing I have ended up realising from all this traumatic experience is that a dream, no matter how small or big, is still a ‘dream’ and there is a lucid impossibility factor that makes it what it is – a ‘dream’.
However, no matter how I think, it will be insignificant tomorrow. Either I am going to bask in some form of self-constructed and returned glory, or it will be the final nail in the coffin of shame. Otherwise, it will be a world on fire. Where my eyes would lose the capacity to discern. Where the people around me will no longer matter. Where everything will be lost. What a strange thing this is – you see, now I know why JK Rowling incepted a creature called the ‘Dementor’, the ‘happiness absorber’, the creature that sucks everything good out from you. I feel that these conditions are no different.
I have to brace what is coming for me. And I feel like I have all the time to do that, but I won’t like to think this way at all. I want to get this over with; I want to live; I want to live without any kind of fear of the future. Sadly, fear doesn’t always come with your permission. It’s something I’ve grown to accept as integral – a beast that whips me across a narrow tunnel, beating me to death, but knowing that with every time he hits, I grow stronger.
Tomorrow approaches, my friends. You can live your life the way you live it right now or you can change it. I envy all of you at this moment, because I cannot change anything now.