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.

The Story of Silences

There is a sound to every kind of silence. This is the story of you learning how to appreciate each one.

When you were younger, silence could be daunting.  It was uncomfortable and uneasy, like a dress that doesn’t sit quite right on the shoulders.  You would want to fill it with gibberish, with talk of the abominable wind chill factor or how choosing ‘C’ as the default option on a multiple-choice test was the way to go.  To get away from silence, you re-played the same Avril Lavigne album until the lyrics were embedded in your mental synapses.  You also figured out how to study aloud.  Even if the only voice you heard was your own, it was still a lot better than no voice at all. You would not even attempt to let silence drop by, let alone linger, because you had not yet grasped the fact that silence could be beautiful.  Back then, you would do all you could to make sure it did not turn up unannounced.  Silence was the visitor you boarded up your doors against.

As you grew older, silence began making cameo appearances.  It took you by surprise, the same way Brad Pitt showed up in that one episode of Friends.  In conversations, silence would creep up and you wouldn’t even realize it because you’d be too busy thinking hard about what to say next.  You began to learn about virtual silences too, the one where you’re chatting on MSN and waiting for the other person to respond and wondering what is taking so long because you can ‘see’ them typing.  It showed up in many a rendezvous as well, perching next to you as your mind frantically wondered, ‘Lean in? Lean back? Quick, do something!’  You soon realized you could use silence to your advantage, practicing it in the car as you looked outside at the city you were about to leave, making the person in the driver’s seat painstakingly wonder what they had done wrong to be deprived of your voice.  Silence even showed up at school, sitting next to your friends on the steps, making its presence known as the five of you daydreamed about the exciting adventures college would bring.  It would linger then, and you began to let it.

Silence took a bit of a backseat when you went to college.  Everything was new, shiny and loud.  Freedom was noisy and you savoured the clamour.  There was a constant buzz the first year, sounds of meeting a new best friend and sharing love’s woes over cold coffee on a sticky table, sounds of new words that you’d only ever heard of but were at last learning about: “Orientalism”, “hegemony”, “post-modernism”, “Foucault”.  You were overwhelmed but exhilarated, and you collected each sound eagerly, using it as fodder for stories you would tell your family on visits back home.  Secretly, you began to crave silence.  There were moments when you knew the sounds but still didn’t understand them, and you would sit on your bed as your roommate slept and you would try to decipher all the new ways you were being taught how to use sin, cos and tan.  The sounds let you down and you failed a couple of courses that year.  You realized then that silence was sometimes necessary.

Life happened with a death and this is when you wholeheartedly embraced silence.  You learnt of new silences: the one that comes with the absence of a familiar voice, the one devoid of thudding footsteps up the stairs, the one that no longer called out “Basmah! Can you please make me some chai?” or “Come listen to my new song!”  You began to seek out silences, blocking out the voices that tut-tutted and solemnly whispered “so young, so tragic.”  You fought against it for a while, the silence of no longer having an older brother, and questioned it endlessly, replacing it with the anguished mental chant of ‘why, why, why’.  This silence did not answer back, and you learned to fill it with distractions.  You went horse-riding at 6 am and took up Zumba.  You developed a love-hate relationship with silence, you both clung to it, and flung it afar.  Sometimes, it was your middle-of-the-night walking companion, and at other times, you would dull your senses enough to not feel it next to you.  You grew accustomed to the silence of waking up out of a nightmare, of struggling to fight away the demons that keep taking you to the same dark place in the past where he is still alive and your joie de vivre is untainted. You learned then that even if someone you love leaves, the void of silence they left would always stay.

A new year brought with it some significant nuances.  You were a senior at college now, a 20-something on the cusp of adulthood.  It was the end of your bildungsroman, and this stunned you into a whole new kind of silence.  You sat with your friends, on rickety chairs in open fields with playful shadows, in a cult-like circle on pavements flecked with twilight, at a communal brunch table laden with not-quite-cooked pasta and pancakes, wedged in a cramped bus on a trip to the mountains, and finally decked in robes and hats on seats specified by majors.  Each time brought with it a bittersweet silence, one in which you would glance at the person on your right and then on your left and pray fervently to a God you didn’t always get along with for remembrance.  There were reassuring silences too, accompanied by embraces so fierce, they left bruises you hoped would not fade.  Hands clasped together in the dark, in cave-like window sills you would later wish you could retreat to.  There was the silence that came with a series of lasts: last walk across campus, last late summer Lahore rain, last trip to Liberty, last night philosophizing at the bleachers, last dawn spent dancing in an unfamiliar living room.  Silence became omnipresent, and on the plane flying out from your home of 4 years to another you would be forced to rediscover, you realized what kind it was.  It was the silence of goodbye.

You are a working professional now, with a full-time job, a bank account and a vague understanding of what ‘savings’ really mean.  These accessories of adulthood come with their own variations of silences; they make you debate the ‘what ifs’ of decisions you have not yet made, they induce guilt trips when you let the on-goings of your daily life reduce the significance of the big picture you have painted for yourself in your mind, they comfort you when the realities of responsibilities overwhelm and cause hair fall.  The silences are a solace now, and you realize there will always be a new one you have yet to learn about.  Right now, for example, you’re figuring out the silence of allowing new people to intersect the trajectory of your life.  You are experiencing the companionable silence that comes in midst of a conversation, as you look away from a screen to trace the patterns on your rug and watch the black thread merge into the grey, and away from the red.  It’s a silence that revolves around dreams of sun-drenched villas on coastal lands that are oceans away from where you are and you both like and dislike the barriers.  It’s a silence that comes with a certain uncertainty, a knowing that even if you may not be where you want to be in a few years, you know that at least you will not be where you were.  Even though this silence is more unsettling than soothing, you are learning to live with it.  It is the silence of moving on.

There are more silences left to explore, of life, loss, and love.  You are now eager and somewhat equipped to experience each one.

No Culture in Dubai? Come to Emirates Lit Fest. For Ben Okri.

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I’ve been a bit starved for intellectual conversation in Dubai.

Since moving back here 7 months ago, I’ve been on the lookout for anything that can get me cerebrally turned on.  There are some great folks in the city, certainly, but most events in Dubai labelled as ‘cultural’ or ‘artistic’ attract the same type of footfall.  There are only so many vapid, self-involved people you can meet before you decide to give up and just stay in and watch re-runs of Friends.

All hope, however, is not lost. Lo and behold the Emirates Lit Fest!

Granted, I don’t think all the authors invited for it (and the list is rather long) are the cat’s pajamas but I’ll stop nitpicking long enough to rejoice that YES, THERE IS CULTURE IN DUBAI (…only when it is imported, but it’s a start).

Today was the 4th day of the festival.  The venue was crowded, lots of bookworms milling about, hoping to find a last-minute ticket to the Jeffrey Archer session, which was sold out soon after it went on sale. Thankfully, I didn’t even dream of wanting to attend that one.

What I was looking forward to was catching the talk and reading by Ben Okri, and oh, what a delight it was!  The man is a wonderful speaker: soft, thoughtful, and eloquent with words that seem to just glide into the ether and linger there for a while so you can savour them before digesting what they are trying to convey.

His bio is impressive: a Booker prize, novels, short-story/poetry collections, books of essays, even a comparison that denotes him the African counterpart of Marquez and Rushdie.  His demeanor, however, was absent of any grandeur and he spoke about some truly wonderful notions surrounding literature.  From five pages of notes that I was compulsively scribbling down, there are a plethora of things that really stuck with me.

Okri, Ben.jpg

On being called an ‘African’ writer, Okri shook his head and commented that a people and what they mean cannot be confined to simply one place. With literature, geography becomes transnational.  As a teenager, he would devour Plato while his father would often gesture around him with his hands and comment ‘We have our own Platos.’ (Isn’t that just the loveliest image/line?)

The African (and here I could easily insert Pakistani or South Asian, and it would make just as much sense) philosophy and way of seeing reality are in the air.  The spirit of a place and its people are not separate from the way in which we live our lives.  Thus, writers who write only of where they are from, or who are labelled as where they are from, pose a severe limitation to the scope of what is being written.  Where you are from is already implied in your writing as a default, there is no need to make a deliberate effort.

This particular idea really resonated with me.  It’s something we often debated in Bilal Tanweer’s workshops at LUMS, the concept of writing ‘ethnic lit’ and representing Pakistan. Making an effort gives you prose that is exoticizing and simply trying too hard, with long English descriptions of the simplest of things such as a paratha (“round, flat bread, fried to a rich golden brown”?) sounding like a justification or an over-explanation for what is normally just a part of your culture that you don’t think twice about. A paratha is a paratha.

Expanding on the burden of representing Africa in his writing, Okri used a great little analogy.  We do not find Shakespeare interesting because of his English-ness, we read him because of his humanity.  When you read a writer, think beyond their identity and their labels. To approach a piece of writing with a set prejudice in mind is to do it a great disservice.  “One of the most effective ways of overcoming prejudice is to write well.  Conflicts of the world would be so much easier to deal with if we just read each other.”

Okri also spoke at length about childhood.  He described that phase of time as an unusual way of seeing significance in insignificance, a teacher of openness. “If you want to know what a nation is like, look at how they treat their children.”  As we grow older, this is what we lose. It becomes difficult to see.

This reminded me a lot of what William Wordsworth puts forth in his poems (Tintern Abbey, and Ode to Intimations of Immortality).  He explores childhood as a time when our connection to nature is at its most pristine.  Equating Nature with the divine also implies that in childhood, our connection to that which is beyond us is unblemished.  Childhood is that idealized state in which a simple sight such as that of a rainbow can excite the mind in wondrous ways.  We lose that sense of awe and wonder as we grow older.  There was this beautiful moment in the Q&A after the talk when a young girl asked Okri, “What advice would you give to children about writing?”  He was flummoxed into silence fro a few minutes before thoughtfully responding, “Read.  Read as much and as often as you can. Write, of course, write but read because that comes first.” He paused to ponder before continuing on, “There are moments when Mom or Dad say something amazing. Remember them.” He settled back in his seat and the audience began to applaud.  He sat up again and interrupted the moderator to continue, with widened eyes and a feigned look of wonder, “You know that feeling when you see something or someone for the first time? Never lose that.”  Needless to say, the entire audience aww-ed and sighed in pleasure.

I also really liked what Okri had to say on ideas.  He likened an idea to a seed, it may be small but it contains the potential to be an oak tree. (A lot like Shariati’s idea of the 0 and the 1.) The logic of your idea pours out once you start writing and that is the best kind of writing, that which calls forth out of your soul.  A novel doesn’t just happen all at once.  “A novel visits you, in a glimpse.  Maybe it’s just a glimpse of a woman walking down the street, but what a woman and what a street!”

He described himself as an obsessive re-writer.  You cannot know, he said, if a sentence works unless you literally and with full consciousness go over every single word.  “The process is sickening.” It requires what Chekhov called the “coldness of the eye”, a sort of distancing yourself from your creation in order to critique it.  But this is far from easy.

Personally, I abhor going back to stuff I’ve written in order to edit or re-write.  What you write is like your baby, you;re protective of it, you’re halfway in love with it, and incredibly resistant to altering it in any way but it’s necessary.  Being secure as a writer is impossible. How can you be secure in a way of being that deals with the most intangible of things? As Okri put it, “Insecurity is a punishment from the gods for the effrontery you commit for wanting to create.”

How gorgeous is that line? Soak it in.

Needless to say, the session was exactly what my soul needed.  There are not a whole of other writers I’m particularly looking forward to meeting and hearing, but Ben Okri was definitely one of the highlights.  Here are a few bit from some of his poems:

We have broken the night.

The night yields in the rock.

Night leaps out from our hands.

The night has left the sky

As fire and power in our hands.

As a strong shape.

The world is ours at last.

 

We are as the gods dream.

Haven’t we broken the mountain

And shaped the world

In our own hands, to bend and crack

And change it into form and dream?

 

We have become more than we seem.

 

Not sure which poem this was from, but I loved this particular stanza.  Made me think of Karachi:

Our future.

Who can read it,

save the Gods.

But they are quiet now.

They are quiet

now.

 

And this one:

I held you in the square

and felt the evening

re-order itself around

your smile.

 

I could keep gushing about Okri. So I’ll stop now and start reading the collection of his essays that I bought today, ‘A Time for New Dreams’. Indeed.

The Perks of being an (Employed) Bum, and Pakistan of the Past

Oh how I’ve missed this blog!

Now I won’t lie and make excuses about how I’ve been strapped for time or topics to write about. On the contrary, I’ve had plenty of both but there’s been this one, omnipotent, evil force preventing me: lethargy.

Today marks one month of returning back to Dubai; one month of being a newbie graduate, one month of waving goodbye to Lahore, LUMS, and all the lovely people I’d gotten to know in my 4 years there.  This one month has been…interesting, to say the least.  During my first week back, I felt what I reckon almost every fresh grad feels upon returning home: RESTLESS.  I needed something to do, and I needed it yesterday!

I’d figured applying for jobs would be fun.  After all, all it takes is a few clicks of uploading a CV and writing a cover letter, and lots and lots of praying and hoping something turns up.  And turn up it did, faster than I could say ‘LUMS grad’.  What with all the commuting back and forth on the metro (NOT as fun as it looks) for interviews and assessments, I was exhausted and the thought that ‘This is what I’ll be doing from now on…everyday’ wasn’t great motivation.  But I suppose the gods up there had mercy on me and my prone-to-blisters feet, and all the paperwork and logistics involved in starting a new job have granted me a few days of leisure and laziness.  It is bliss!

So how have I been spending my time? I’ve re-done my room, nearly revamped my wardrobe and refreshed my workout regime.  I’ve also started and finished a series (Breaking Bad – HIGHLY recommended!!) and read tons of stuff online.  One of them is a blog series on Dawn.com by Nadeem Paracha titled Also Pakistan.  As a writer, going through these is an absolute treat.  It is full of images of an alternative Pakistan, a Pakistan that was, up until the 1980s.  There are snapshots of hippies smoking up, Hollywood starlets filming in Lahore, NYE parties at the Metropole in Karachi, posters of crazy movies and soundtrack albums (might I suggest ‘Miss Hippie’ (1974) for your next film club meet?)  – all ripe fodder for a short story!

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Hippies enjoying hash in Peshawar – oh and look at that, no one is stoning them!

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Dance up a storm at the Metropole

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No important relevance to the post, just some eye candy

The best part about it is that it is all real.  It all happened, it all existed.  Yes, the booze flowed freely and not all women covered up, but how is that different from today’s Pakistan, you ask? Back then, the society wasn’t repressed.  There may have been vulgarity but that exists today as well, it was just that, back then, there was perhaps more tolerance.  The blog series, Paracha writes, is

an attempt to chronicle social and cultural shifts and trends in Pakistan before the years when Pakistan’s cultural and social evolution began to become ruddily ridiculous by a quasi-Orwellian ‘Islamist’ dictatorship

It does that, I believe, quite successfully and is really a must-see.  Personally, I had only heard of such a Pakistan and never quite believed it, because it stood so starkly against everything it appears to be now.  For all those who perceive it with a tunnel vision of the created persona thrust upon it by the world’s media, I strongly urge you to see the blog series.  As a Pakistani, it is perhaps an inherent trait within me to love my country, but seeing it through these images has sweetened that love and made me wistfully wonder if maybe I’ve just been born a few decades too late.  Check out Paracha’s blog series here.

To 2012: Till 30

For a few weeks now, I’ve had this nagging feeling that I’ve been wanting to express.  It’s a feeling that can’t quite be contained within just one word, or even one blog post, for that matter.  It’s a feeling of limbo, of being in a phase of transition between two dimensions of life, of waiting in a playground before being tossed into the middle of a busy highway.  It’s a feeling you try to mask up as excitement but in its raw form can be easily classified as fear. It’s a feeling of uncertainty laced with anticipation so intense that the butterflies in your stomach have now been replaced by bats, blind and raging, flapping about without direction.  It’s a feeling that’s shared by the entire graduating class of 2012.

I’d been toying around with the idea of verbalizing this feeling sometime soon, maybe just a day before graduation.  But now I feel strongly compelled to do it tonight, because, once again, I was reminded of the brevity of life.  I heard about another young death today, another life full of potential extinguished out of the blue, another bundle of hpes and dreams saved for the future and cultivated over time to bring to fruition later.  Because that’s what we tend to do, isn’t it?  We hope, and we dream, and we wonder, and then we gather all these musings up in a box and store them away, thinking “Later, I’ll do all this later.”  But that’s where the error occurs.  That’s where we foolishly get ahead of ourselves.

I wouldn’t say I have experienced a whole lot in my 22 years, but one thing I’ve learned the hard way is this: as easy as it is to think that we will always have time to do things later, it is just as easy for that time to be taken away from us.  It has nothing to do with who lands the dream job first, who gets into the competitive post-grad program, or even who gets married off first.  The simple, honest, and brutal fact is this: EVERYTHING matters.  By everything, I mean, every single moment you spend mulling over life choices and moaning about what’s fair and what’s not and what you could do as opposed to what you should do; these very moments are the ones people take for granted.  This is not a ‘carpe diem’ message or a shout out to motivate people to live life to the fullest.  No, it is a simple call for people to just be aware. 

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My brother died at the age of 30.  Being just some years short of that, I try to wake up and go to sleep with just one thought in my mind: I may have just 8 more years to live, I have to make them count.  My brother led a good life: he lived abroad, he traveled, he loved, he worshiped, he worked, he sang, he created more life.  I can only try to do all these things by the time I am 30.   If there is one graduation lesson that I would like to communicate to everyone, this is it: Live as if you just have till 30.  Don’t wait for a life event to bring you to this realization like I did.  Make everything count, and always, be kind.  Power, fame, and wealth are all great and worth coveting, but the most lasting thing you leave in your life in an impression.  Your legacy will not be what you leave in your will, it will be the amount of goodness you spread, the wisps of memory you leave behind in each person you met.  And you don’t need to be a saint to do it; heck, I’ll be the first one to admit that I’m not always the nicest person around.  But once again, all you have to do is be aware.

All those dreams, hopes and wonders that you’ve got tucked away in a box saved for the future, take them out.  Look at them closely, and think hard: are all of them really what you want or just what you thought you wanted before?  Surround yourself with them, and one by one, go for each one.  It ceases to matter whether the end result is failure or success once you become aware of the magnitude of your actions: you’re pursuing phantoms, and eventually, they will become real.  Live in the real world, and don’t box up things that you think don’t match it.  It IS possible to do both, and I know that for a fact.  In the one year following my brother’s death, I chased dreams into reality: I designed my own clothing line, I interned at a corporation, I wrote a novel, and I traveled to a new place.  On its own, each achievement is unique, but together, they form a bundle, one that I had once labelled as “To do in future.”  My bundle turned true, and the main force driving it is the same thought that I share with all of you again: Live as if you just have till 30.  You will be amazed by how much better you will become.

My Scattered Soul, Part 4: Dubai

When people ask me where I’m from, I have a hard time answering.  I hear people around me passionately defending their hometowns during never-ending Islamabad vs Lahore vs Karachi debates, and I can’t really participate because I’m not from any of those cities.  I never lived in Pakistan prior to LUMS; I grew up in Toronto but even with a blue passport and remnants of a Canadian accent, I’m not quite from there either.  It has, after all, been nearly a decade since I left Toronto. As for Dubai, I’ve always treated it as a stopover of sorts, not wanting to reveal it’s where I’ve lived most recently, unnecessarily adding in a little tidbit that its simply where my family resides.

Lately, though, I’ve started to really wonder about that.  I have to head back to Dubai after graduation in a few months and, even if it was, in my mind, simply just a place where my family lives, it will now be a place where I live as well.  I went to high-school there, suffered through the various stages of teenage angst in the sandy city, rolled down sand-dunes the same way I tobogganed down a snowy hill, rebelled and tested boundaries and made a whole bunch of startlingly diverse friends in the 5 years I spent there.  Surely, that makes Dubai a little more than just a stopover?

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Articles about the monstrosity of Dubai are a dime a dozen; from UK’s Guardian to Pakistan’s Tribune newspapers, there have been features about the lack of soul in Dubai.  It’s known as an oil-funded Las Vegas on steroids; a wasteland of a city whose main attractions are not its history or its people but its tall, shiny buildings and ‘world’s largest’ everything.  Google ‘dubai’ and the images that come up are all of a metallic haven of spires and palm-tree shaped islands. But does the fact that everything about the city has something to do with pushing boundaries necessarily a bad thing?

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Think about it: Dubai is a city where you can ski in the middle of the desert and go to the beach in the same day and on a desert safari later that night, audition to be Paris Hilton’s new best friend, shop at any time because there is always a mall around the corner, see every top DJ/band/artist live more than just a few times a year, go sand-surfing and miss school when it rains, earn without having to pay taxes, etc.  The mere wonder of these things gives the city a diversity that it is so often criticized for not having.

But then, there’s a flip side as well.  And this is one that I feel quite passionately about: the attitude that all this opulence imbibes in Dubai’s people.  You meet a range of people of various ethnic backgrounds, and as great as that is, it bears no reflection of the fact that Dubai’s own locals, the Emiratis, are generally known to be rude, arrogant and above and beyond the law.  Some of them are genuinely nice and down-to-earth people, but the majority, those who we read about in news articles regarding car accidents and speeding instances, that majority is the one that vexes me to no end.  Their regard for the law is non-existent, and no fine or penalty will ever be high enough because of the wealth they have at their disposal to use as pay-offs.

Just another Lamborghini. A comment from the blog where I got this pic from: "I know the person who was driving the car. Nothing happened to him. They have many other expensive cars…"

This assurance that nothing can ever happen to them translates into an ugly arrogance: they go by without ever really studying or working as hard as any others because they’ll never get kicked out or fired simply because of their nationality.  Because their father or uncle or cousin owns the city.  Of course, I;m just making a broad generalization here that in no way reflects how ALL locals are, but this is the general dominant viewpoint of them.  It just doesn’t gel with me, this devil-may-care attitude that translates into other people being treated unfairly.  Dubai may be the city of wonder, but it’s also the city where most people don’t clean up after themselves because they’ve got a maid to do it for them.  Yes, I had one of those too.  It spoils you, this city.

I don’t want to simply resign myself to the fact that I HAVE to move back to Dubai and I HAVE to work there.  Most people would be overjoyed at such an opportunity, but my excitement level hasn’t really reached that height yet.  People stare at me wide-eyed and ask “You came to PAKISTAN from Dubai?? WHY?” and my answer’s usually the same: Dubai’s a great place to visit, but for living, not so much. But I’ve realized this dual nature of the city, its charm and arrogance both, is what, I suppose, really makes it whole.  Because, really, what city, or person, or even thing, is entirely good or entirely bad?  We all have a flip side.

Chains Of Days and Nights: A Review

So there is this common misconception people often have about LUMS, that its a university which mainly just focuses on teaching ‘practical’ subjects like engineering or accounting or business management. I want to set the record straight and make it clear that this isn’t the case. One person to whom I refuted this claim shot back with “Well it IS called Lahore University of MANAGEMENT SCIENCES isn’t it?” It is, and certainly LUMS did start off as just a business school initially but it has grown to be so much more than that. No, I am not going to shamelessly promote the university, its 25 year celebration video has done more than enough of that! Quite cheesily too, might I add. You can find the video here

Sure there are plenty of science and engineering nerds on campus, and others still who devote their time to studying numbers and graphs. But like any other place, you’ll also find dreamers in LUMS. Daytime dreamers, afro-ed hippies, frolicking flower-children, fearless and brazen mountain-climbers, environmentally-conscious tree-huggers, you name it, LUMS has it. There are artists and writers, who create masterpieces in print and in video. There are philosophers who can avidly and heatedly refute and then defend the claims of great minds from Socrates and Ibn Khaldun to Kant and Imam Ghazali. These people are just as much a part of the scholarly and academically competitive atmosphere of LUMS as the 4.0-ers. Many of these could actually give the university-toppers a run for their money.

To quote Iqbal:
Love is infinite time that’s beyond the cycle of transient time.
Be it painting, architecture, music poetry or calligraphy,
all these arts thrive on the intensity of love!
The intensity of love turns a stone into a heart
[and] it’s love that bestows depth of feeling, exhilaration and melody to the voice.

We've heard of his philosophy on life, love, death and religion. But did you also know he was enchanted by the mosque of Cordoba?

Everyone has their own area of expertise. I may be good with words but I’m horrified by numbers and charts. One of my closest friends is studying law but is just as passionate about photography. Her pictures speak out and with the right camera, she would be a genius. I also know plenty of other writers like myself who manage to capture so much in a short story, and do justice to representing the local context; given the right opportunities, they could all be bestselling authors. Yet another friend who happens to be an Economics major could very well be a leading philosophical mind of South Asia in the next couple of decades. LUMS caters to these minds, most students who are inclined towards the Arts have the option of pursuing a Humanities degree and though that opens the doors to so many possibilities, there are some people who take that extra step forward on their own to pursue their dreams.

I recently watched a movie that I found posted repeatedly all over my Facebook newsfeed. It is called ‘The Mosque of Cordoba’ and it is, as the Youtube caption says, “about a boy who discovers the true gift of Iqbal and the magic of poetry.” It’s a final project of two 2nd-year students at LUMS for a course on the history of Spain, and even though that makes it sound dull and boring, the movie is captivating. One of the two students is an aspiring film-maker, and also co-founder of his very own video production company, EmKay Studios. I know him personally and I’d heard from mutual friends that he’s good at what he does but after watching the movie, I know it to be an undeniable fact. Considering that this is the work of students who are just about 20 years old and can’t get enough of ‘that’s what she said’ jokes, I was seriously taken aback by the sheer maturity of the work. It would appeal to people of all ages, and is actually something I would gladly show to my parents. It’s an impressive piece of work that focuses on Muhammad Iqbal’s description of the famous mosque of Cordoba, and it actually inspired me to pick up an Iqbal book or two just to read some more of the breathtaking poetry on my own. The narration is done beautifully, and the acting’s as good as it can be, given it stars students who are also part of the Dramatics society at LUMS. I would urge anyone who has any sort of interest in history, poetry, or Iqbal to check out the movie online. It’s also a great way to kill half an hour when you all you want to do is procrastinate.

EmKay Studios, the student project movie and my opinion on all comprises to form just ONE example of the brilliant things students at LUMS do, outside of the academic domain. I know many more such people and I seriously cannot wait to see how they all fare in the next few years to come.

Links for the movie: http://www.youtube.com/user/TheEmkayStudios#p/a/u/2/j0kcgE9Ukt0
EmKay Studio’s Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/EmKay-Studios/109172555804354
More info on Iqbal and Cordoba: http://www.allamaiqbal.com/webcont/406/web_pages/cordova_mosque.htm