Math + Me = ??

Math and I share a complicated relationship.  One defined by non-existence.

It’s a common complaint by many: i just don’t get numbers, I can’t do math.

But it’s more than just a complaint for me, it’s a legit fact, as factual as those horrendous equations I never understood the point of.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure math is great.  There are many people i know who excel at it and think it’s the bee’s knees.  I look at these people, these Russel-Crowe-A-Beautiful-Mind types, with awe and respect.  They can decipher numbers and functions and matrices and all that jazz. Good for them. Kudos to them. Let’s give em all a big cookie.

It’s the complete opposite for me.  I was 6 when we moved to Canada, went into grade 2 and, for a while there, I was the “smart kid.”  Okay, I’ll stop being modest, I was pretty smart at school, but I think it had a lot to do with the fact that the intensity of what was taught at school in Canada was nowhere near the stuff I had been learning before.  It’s pretty ironic; in Grade 2, I remember being grouped with a couple other kids (brown, obvs) and given stuff like long division to do because what the rest of the class was doing was just not challenging enough.  Things continued in this vein for a while, another 5 years till grade 8 and  then BOOM! We moved to Dubai and I was stupid again.

Amen, sister

Amen, sister


Geometry, algebra, multiple choice quizzes and tests every week! The dramatic shift in what I was learning and how I had to learn it was unsettling.  Gone was the emphasis on personal development and creative growth through fun projects, and in was adopting a new way of memorising as much information as possible. It took ages for me to catch up with what everyone else was doing.  The school I went to, there was no such thing as a stupid person, academically.  While there was no encouragement to develop your personality or figure out where your strengths lay, there was plenty of pressure to outdo yourself and those around you in every quiz.  I remember distinctly liking science at school in Canada (experiments ftw!); fast forward a couple of years in Dubai and I’d developed a deep abhorrence for anything formulaic.  At college, I cried great big tears of misery after the calculus midterm.  Needless to say, I did not do too well on that course. I wonder now if my mental block towards Math & Science (yes, to me they form one big, evil union together) was merely a result of the change in learning environment.

Perhaps, it’s not an inherent quality lacking in me that prevents me from grasping such concepts now as well as I used to.  Had I maybe stayed in Canada and continued school there, I wouldn’t tear up now at the sight of numbers.  There is the obvious flip side to this argument as well: loads of kids who went to the same school I did flourished at all things math-y and science-y, including others like me who’s moved to Dubai from Canada.  Whatever the reason may be, the fact remains: I’m no good at that stuff. Furthermore, I have no particular interest in trying to be. I have my words.

I’d often wonder aloud in class when I’d ever need to use the Pythagoras Theorem later on in life.  Five years out of high school, my thoughts remain as they were. Numbers and formulas are great at helping you figure out how something works, but words can elucidate why.  So, to conclude with a fancy justification of my weakness, my strength lies not in thinking of the “how” of life, but rather the “why”.

See? He thinks about the 'why' too.

See? He thinks about the ‘why’ too.


‘A Canadian is someone who knows how to make love in a canoe’

So recently, there have been all these little signs that remind me of Canada. I’ve spent some of my best years there, and no matter how long it’s been since I left the country, or how radically different my surroundings are now, there’s always going to be a part of me that wants to go back, even if it is just for a visit.

I found out Tim Horton’s is planning to open over a 100 branches all over the GCC. For those who don’t know or haven’t ever heard of Tim Horton’s, I pity them. It is THE place to get the best, cheapest, yummiest, frothiest coffee. A Canadian morning is just incomplete without a regular French Vanilla and a toasted bagel with cream cheese. YUM! And let’s not forget that the only way to feel better in the summer is by downing an Iced Cap. Don’t be surprised, summer DOES exist in Canada; just because the temperature only goes up to 25 degrees and doesn’t reach demonic levels of 40 and 50 does not mean Canada doesn’t experience all 4 seasons of the year. So anyways, hurrah for Tim Horton’s finally budging and agreeing to expand into the Middle East, I can’t wait to get my cup of joe in Dubai.

Then, the other night, I was whiling away my time in the common room (yes, it’s sad I know) because I couldn’t sleep and there was this really old episode of HIMYM on. I think it was from season 3 and it was all about Robin reliving her Canadian past because an old friend from Canada was in town. There were a bunch of jokes aimed at Canadians in it, and I loved that I actually understood them! For example:

Marshall Eriksen: Did he – and I’m trying to put this as delicately as possible – did he take your maple leaf?
Robin Scherbatsky: No, nothing like that.
Barney Stinson: Did he give you your first O Canada face?
Lily Aldrin: Were the two of you really Inuit?

The Innuit’s a classic one *snort*. And of course, in the Canadian flashbacks, Robin had a ridiculously exaggerated accent which totally thrilled me. It’s strange though, everyone says Canadians have a funny accent, but I don’t recall ever saying the word ‘about’ as ‘aboot’.

I suppose the Cricket World Cup had a lot to do with it as well. Canada qualified for it (big shocker, I admit) and it spread this warm and happy aura over me. Granted, the team just has about 2 actual WHITE Canadians and the rest are all Sri Lankans, Indians, Pakistanis, and Bengalis but hey, a team is a team! And sure, they’re not the most likely candidates to take the cup home, or even get through the first round, but I am proud of them nonetheless. In their match against Sri Lanka, their fielding wasn’t too bad and yes, they were all out for 122 but the positive part about that is that it was a huge improvement from when they last played against Sri Lanka. In 2003, Canada had been all out for 36! What I am really looking forward to, though, is the match on March 3rd: Canada vs Pakistan. I’ll be rooting for Team Afridi but I’ll still cringe and wince everytime a Canadian wicket falls. I am a living paradox.

I don’t wholly and completely support Canada in the World Cup; ultimately, my blood is green. Sure, I know the Canadian national anthem by heart and not the Pakistani, but at the end of the day, singing ‘Dil dil Pakistan’ will get my heart rate going and my pulse racing faster than when I hum along to Bryan Adams. Yes, I took this oath: I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind. (From the Canadian Bill of Rights) but what I really believe in are the exact same rights and privileges that I have, or should have, as a Pakistani. The exterior and the accent are reminiscent of Canada, but the soul’s all Paki, yo

My Scattered Soul, Part 3

I think I was about 10 years old, in grade 5. It was a weekday, and I hadn’t gone to school because I’d been down with a fever the night before. I don’t remember it being cold, so it wasn’t winter. Perhaps Fall or Spring, I’m not sure. I wish I could remember it all.

There was no one home except for Bhai. Mom was at work, sister at school. I can’t remember why exactly he was home, it might have had something to do with skipping college or being down in the dumps after a rough break-up.

We lived at the intersection of Hurontario and Burnamthorpe, minutes away from Square One, a sprawling mall which I’d only gone to with my mother and sister to buy groceries and house-hold things.

Out of the blue, Bhai asked if I was hungry. Of course I was, at that age and weight, I was ALWAYS hungry. He suggested we go to Burger King, which was inside Square One. My eyes had lit up at the thought and I became really excited. Fever forgotten, I quickly got ready and as we were leaving the apartment, Bhai asked how I want to go there. Should we take the bus or walk?

I remember feeling very grown-up at just being asked for my opinion on this. I also remember very very clearly that I pretended to think about it for a moment as we rode down in the elevator together, and making up my mind, I said, in the most grown-up way I could imagine, “I would raaaaather walk.”

We’d been reading something in school that had the word ‘rather’ in it and I loved how it sounded. I remember Bhai looking very amused at me using the word, and he replied “Well, okay since you’d ‘raaaaather’ walk then let’s walk!”

We walked to the mall, and at the intersection, he held my hand and told me very sternly to ALWAYS remember to look both left and right before crossing the road. I’d nodded seriously and to this day, I always look both left and right before crossing.

At Burger King, Bhai surprised my by getting me my own Combo Meal. This was another new and grown-up experience. With Mom and sis, I had always ended up sharing a burger, and being told how to hold it so that the condiments don’t fall out, and then being scolded after getting ketchup on my shirt. Not this time, though.

I sat there, happily chewing on my very own burger that I didn’t have to share. We didn’t make much conversation, I think I must have told him a story or two about school and he had probably made fun of me somehow but it was generally a happy time. We sat in companionable silence, and I felt amazed that he was treating me like an equal.

On the way back home, we sang songs. Or rather, he sang songs and I listened, trying to hum along to whatever Junoon or Vital Signs track it was. At that age, it all sounded the same to me.

I fell into deep sleep, right after reaching back home. It had been a happy day and I remember always trying to skip school again whenever I knew Bhai would be home. I have always wanted to re-create that blissful afternoon.