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.
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.
The ‘I need Feminism’ campaign at LUMS has propelled me to think about a lot of things that I feel are wrong or inappropriate in our society. No, they do not pertain to the status of women in Pakistan, or anything that has to do with what feminism stands for, but it is about the way a certain ideology is being propagated in a medium.
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‘.