The Plan Is In Motion

Fate is being kind to me. The plan God has made for me is finally gaining momentum. 24th February is a big day. If I rock on that day, my life will change for the better.

Please send some positive juju this way, I shall be obliged. And if I succeed, I shall tell you all where I will be at this time sometime next year. To all my American friends, it will be somewhere close to you!

May the Force be with *me*!

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Breaking Rules And Protecting Identities

What makes me, me? What makes you, you?

What makes John, John? And Jack, Jack? If John and Jack were dressed identically, would you be able to figure out their personality traits? Both are reserved and quiet. Both walk with their heads down. Would you look at them closely enough to see that the twinkle in Jack’s eyes, is lacking in John’s? Would you want to spend enough time with them to know that John smiles wider than Jack? Would you even give them a second glance if both wore grey coveralls? If both carried subdued expressions? If neither had a single article present on them, that displayed their uniqueness and their individuality?

For me, the hair, the face, the body, the dresses and the shoes, the accessories, mean more than just physical, material things. If I had not dyed my hair red, I would not feel like myself. The red in my hair symbolizes my fiery temper, and my confidence that yes, I can, and do, walk like a queen even when the tips of my hair are a brilliant red (a thing unheard of in Pakistan). Sometimes, I temporarily dye a chunk of my hair green, or magenta, or blue because I  feel like it and to show that I do not shy away from being different.

I have several logical reasons for not wearing a Dupatta, and I compensate covering myself with wearing extremely loose clothes. My family understands that.

I like to wear jewelry. I have drawers full of pieces from all over the world; UK, America, Turkey, Dubai, Malaysia… Jewelry is a form of self-expression for me.

I wear a cross body bag and am the only girl in my college to do so.

The people who are imposing a dress code in my university, have not only taken away my forms of self-expression, but they have also snatched my identity.

My father has never imposed religion on any of his children. We have to make that choice ourselves. The only thing emphasised upon in my family is the pursuit of knowledge and truth, and it is understood that at the end of our journey, we will find Islam. Hence why one of my sisters is a Hijabi, but others are not. Hence why my mother prays five times a day, my father does not. We may have been born namely as Muslims, but we will not be true Muslims unless we, ourselves, find Islam great and follow its teachings to the tee.

Then who is the university management to make that choice for me? I am not ashamed to call myself a liberal, neither is my father. Who are they, then, to turn me into a hardcore Muslim? It is my job to worry about my Hereafter, not theirs.

My hair, my clothes, my jewelry is what makes me, me.

Women of my university, from September 22nd, are not allowed to do the following:

  • Wear jeans. The most bullshit of all rules. No jeans? Where do we live? in Victorian London?
  • Wear tights. Tights are worn under long shirts and frocks in Pakistan. Now, the only thing we can wear are trousers or Shalwars.
  • Wear jewelry.
  • Wear high-heeled shoes.
  • Wear bright colors. Only “sober” colors are allowed.
  • Wear short shirts i.e blouses or t-shirts.
  • No entry without a dupatta around the neck. The proverbial leash that all women in the subcontinent have to wear, so that the men are placated. Frikking perverts.
  • Sit with male members inside the classroom. Females sit in the front, males at the back. Separate, so that not even an accidental touch can occur.

Today, I wore my black dress pants under a knee length Kameez. There was no way I could wear the cotton pajamas girls usually wear. I need my pockets and I’ll keep them, thank you very much!

I wore black, to fit with my mood.

I wrapped a thick black Dupatta around my neck, which kept tangling with my ID badge and bag’s strap, and kept my neck so hot I developed a rash.

I wore sandals with a 3-inch platform, since a “no-platform” rule has not been imposed yet.

I drew the line at jewelry. I wore an onyx pendant bought from an obscure handicraft shop in my city, earrings bought from the leading elite gift shop in the country, bracelets my sister bought for me from Istanbul, Turkey, and a ring bought from a street vendor at the local market. Each piece had a story, and sentiment, behind it. I was ready to say a big Fuck You to anyone who even dared to ask me to take off my jewelry.

Despite the hot weather, I let down my thick hair so that the red tips were glaringly visible.

Today, I changed myself for people who mean shit to me, because at the end of the day, I am a person who follows the rules. With maybe just a toe out of line. It is in my nature to rebel.

Today, I was taught a lesson on How to be a Hypocrite. Because, I threw off the leash around my neck the second I was in my bus. Because, we were told by the new Discipline Head, a person I admire (or admired) a lot, that she didn’t care how we dressed outside the gates, but inside we follow the rules. Is that not teaching us hypocrisy?

Today, I realized that survival in this Godforsaken country I call home is fast becoming impossible for people like me. People who are not hypocrites, people who have an identity of their own. People who are, God forbid it, liberal.

Today, I also saw several girls who were not following the dress code and were still allowed to enter the college premises.

Tomorrow, I will also be of them. I will wear jeans, and I will not wear a dupatta. The discomfort and the identity crisis I went through today, I will not face ever again.

I am me.

No matter how shallow I may sound, these are things that make me, me.

And I no longer follow rules that have little logic behind them. Rules made by sick old men who can’t bear to see young girls out in the world, learning their rights and talking to males (oh, the horror)!

Ashes

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…

Ash. It fascinates me. I believe in the principle many religions have in common…

From this Earth we were risen, to this earth we shall return. Form this dust we were sculpted, to this dust we shall return. Everything will, at its end, turn into dust and ash.

Everything will eventually burn itself out.

Even the Sun may, in a cataclysmic event that changes the course of the universe, burn itself and turn into nothing but a suspended cloud of glittering ash, hovering in the vast nothingness we call space.

Everything is volatile. Fate is volatile. One broken thread, one action, one word can change the past present and future of one or many people. Everything is flammable. And its burning is inevitable.

Everything burns.

With the course of time it fizzles out, leaving behind nothing but an acrid smell and a pile of ashes.

Everything turns into ashes.

Ashes. Are they not fascinating? A thing that was once alive, reduced to nothing but tiny particles. All the essence of its life, its virility, destined to be nothing but a grey mound. Is this why it is said that the phoenix rises from its ashes?

I believe it does. To me a phoenix is not a mythical creature, instead it is a metaphor that goes well with my life and I believe, every person’s, life.

Segments of our life start as sparks and gradually turn into small flames. We nurture and feed those flames until a bright, brilliant fire is lit. We bask in its heat. But, as is the course of nature, the brilliance of the flame slowly begins to dwindle. A wind blows. The flames flicker. Raindrops fall. The flames are about to die out. What can you do to stop it? Can you stop the wind that blows? Can you shelter the flames from the torrential rain? Do you add fuel to the fire? One day you will run out of fuel as well. One day the fire will burn out. And you will be left cold and bereft, staring into a pile of ashes and watching the glowing embers as they slowly fade into darkness.

For me, many fires have been extinguished over time. Some had water thrown on them, some became covered with sand over time. Some were stomped out in a fit of rage. And some just burned and burned without being watched over, and died with time.

I have never been able to add much fuel to my fires. After nurturing the flames for a while, I grow tired and bored.

I have lost many opportunities in the past year. Some I gave up myself and now regret, some were taken away from me

I have started many fires in the past year. Some remain lit, some have fizzled. All have been forgotten.

I have started many friendships in the past year. All have deteriorated.

I am, in this vast world full of dust and ashes, a lost soul. An alien that is seldom understood. Whose expectations can never be met.

A lonely existence is deadly. When you keep secrets to yourself because you have no one to share them with, when you yearn to laugh and wander about with friends, but can’t, when you have dreams that cannot be achieved due to circumstance or lack of motivation, when you have goals you cannot accomplish without support, you burn on the inside.

It becomes too much and you turn into fire.

And we all know what happens to fire; it turns into ash.

But from the ash, rises a phoenix. Beautiful, majestic. With wings that span the length of a room, with talons that can cut through the hardest of steels, rises a phoenix. Calm and wise, it spreads it’s wings and soars into the air. Alone, watching, listening, thinking, it observes the people it once called friends from its otherworldly view. It pays them no heed but turns it’s head to the Sun and determines to rise as high as that flaming ball on its own.

A new era has began. I am a phoenix, rising from the ashes of the last three month’s betrayals, broken trusts, lies and hopelessness. From the utter lack of motivation and passion. From the letdown of having no recognition of my talents whatsoever. From the insecurities that have been ingrained into me since childhood.

I have not lived on this Earth for almost two decades only to hide in the shadows and flutter about like blown ashes.

I must rise like a phoenix to blind those who doubt me with my brilliance and my light. A phoenix, a solitary creature, that does not require the fake support of masked hypocrites who only want me to turn into ashes.

For me, That day has not come yet. When it does, all will be earth to earth, dust to dust and ashes to ashes…

Thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. – The Bible, Genesis 3:19

From the earth We created you, and into it We will return you, and from it We will extract you another time. – The Quran, Taha 20:55

My Photographic Woes

Now that I am pursuing subjects I love to study, I have found that I am somewhat of a nerd. After receiving grades of three out of six of my mid-term papers, I was so happy to find that I was scoring above 85%, all ‘A’s.

Except photography. Oh I got good grades alright, a 23 out of 30 on my portfolio of 30 photographs. But that does not make an ‘A’.

A click I took for my photo essay with my Sony point-and-shoot camera.

A click I took for my photo essay with my Sony point-and-shoot camera.

The nerd in me is devastated. The demon in me (the name I call my aggression) is mad with rage. I spent four days with little sleep toiling over these photos, and in turn I get a measly ‘B’?

Photography was the subject I was looking forward to the most. Emphasis on ‘was’. Now I want to run away as far as I can from this expensive, time-consuming task. Which requires one thing in abundance that I naturally have little of; patience.

Now I am sitting here ruefully thinking of my next assignment.

If there is a God of Photography in Greek Mythology, please shine some light down on me!

Element of design: Color. I do better at this type of abstract photography...

Element of design: Color. I do better at this type of abstract photography…

The Art Of Being A Braggart

If there’s one thing that I know is annoying about me, it’s that I love to brag.

It comes naturally you know. I’m not a vain person. But I do like to tell people about my and my family’s achievements. Subtly of course, while not straying far from the topic.

This post is all about me and my brag-worthy traits/experiences/achievements. At least I think they’re brag worthy, I’ll leave the rest up to you!

  1. I am responsible. Well according to my sister I’m not. But at school, well college now, I am very responsible.
  2. I have leadership qualities. Actually that is a better way of saying that I’m bossy. Is being bossy a good thing or not?
  3. I have an imposing personality. At least I think I have. People do notice me. Maybe it’s because of my… ah… size (I’m a size 14). Or my dressing style. Long shirts (not shorter than mid-thigh) mixed and matched with pants and sturdy sandals. Or my nerdy cross-body bag with all kinds of supplies from notebooks to band-aids. Or my women’s rights badge. Or my purple glasses. Oh well whatever it is, people do listen to me! And now that I notice my own description, I guess I look like a stereotypical journalist. All that’s left is a recorder and a camera around my neck.
  4. I am fluent and articulate in the English language, oral as well as written. And English happens to be my third language. The first being my mother tongue – Punjabi, that I unfortunately know very little of. Second is Urdu, our national language. My skill level in Urdu is almost as high as in English. But the pictures I paint in English are way, way more detailed than those in Urdu. And finally, the love of my life, English! If someone banned me to write and speak English in Pakistan, I would probably seek asylum in some other country…
  5. I am not afraid of lizards, cockroaches, moths and all the other creepy crawlies that girls are so afraid of. Whenever such creatures invade my and my friends’ surroundings, they run away shrieking, while I stay behind and laugh at them. And, I loved dissecting cockroaches and frogs during Biology! I was going to post pictures here, but I didn’t want anyone to lose their breakfast/lunch/dinner.
    My dad has rapid allergic reactions to histamine, as do I. So I do try to avoid wasp or honey-bee bites. That will cause my blood pressure to drop in a couple of minutes and I’ll black out and have to be taken to the hospital ASAP if I want to avoid brain damage. That is what happened to my dad many years ago, fortunately it happened on the sidewalk right in front of the PAF hospital. I have avoided bee bites until now. My dad told me a trick: Don’t provoke them, they won’t hurt you.
  6. I cook and bake yummy ‘Western’ things like casseroles and cakes. But only sometimes. On special occasions. Or when there’s Sarson Ka Saag for dinner. (Foreigners, please open the link to see what that is and fun fact: “da” is the Punjabi version of the Urdu preposition “ka” which means “of” in English).
    My family says I have a natural ‘gift of taste’. But I think they’re just trying to butter me up so I cook for them more often. Ha, in your dreams familia!
  7. I’m physically fit. My breath doesn’t get short even after 10 kilometres in 30 minutes on the elliptical trainer and my blood tests are always perfect. So being ‘fat’ has nothing to do with being unhealthy! Loving food is not a crime, it’s called enjoying life…

Well I think that’s about it. If I think of something else I shamelessly want to brag about, I’ll let you all know!

Yet To Wake Up

Remember that dream I mentioned in my earlier post? The one where I was on cloud nine and I was so excited to go to university? Well, I still haven’t woken up!

The dream is soft. Like those you have where you smile in your sleep. You wiggle. You snuggle your comforter closer around you, sigh happily, and continue dreaming the dream.

That is the dream I am part of nowadays.

Although at the beginning I wasn’t that happy. The dream did start off as a nightmare. Not of ghosts behind the curtains or monsters under my bed, but of disappointment. Complete disappointment. Hopelessness. That I couldn’t go to the university I wanted to go to.

Now, I’m glad I didn’t go to that gray, serious, ‘proper’ university.

Now, I am at the unversity I needed to go to

Now I get to sit on the grass with amazing new people and talk.

Now I get to study from wonderful teachers with radical views. Views that seem are taken from my own mind. They aren’t from that common mould of boring professors. They’re fun, lively, and excellent teachers!

This smaller university is so much better. The teachers are better, the staff is better, the students are better. The environment is like in any Western university, where students, regardless of their gender, are sitting together on the grass and on the stairs, studying, talking, people-watching, laughing.

Laughing.

The sound of laughter is resonant around the grounds and in the corridors. It makes me happy. It makes my heart swell with joy.

Even the seniors daring us to sing and provide ‘entertainment’ for them was not disheartening. It was all in good fun.

The lecture our teacher gave us on Pakistan Studies today was magical, biting, truthful. There was a moment when I had tears in my eyes.

I have made new friends. Five excellent new friends.

We are all eccentric, whimsical characters. We are all unique.

We have the resident mystery-man. The slightly over-aged yet experienced professional. Who is here to study for the sake of studying.

We have a Radio Jockey among us. Who started her RJ-ing when she was only 16.

We have a looks-like-a-little-boy-next-door friendly guy. I have yet to know him well.

We have a very able take-charge girl as well. Serious. Studious.

Lastly we have me. I cannot explain myself as I have explained my new-found friends. They are the ones who must describe me.

I, myself, do not know what I am.

But if there’s one thing I do know, it is that I’m happy!

Breathe Raiha Breathe!

It’s seems as if I’m floating in some kind of dream world.

It’s perfect, exciting, adventurous.

I have new clothes. I have a new very expensive, black, bag. I have many new colorful (pink, black, red, purple) notebooks. I have a cool dark pink and black file folder. And I have a dark pink and black pencil-case full of lots of new pens and pencils.

My dad was making fun of me that you’re over prepared for university. That this isn’t school anymore. All you need is a pen and a notepad. But what can I say, I’m a weird mixture between nerd, class president and queen bee. I need to be prepared. I want to take notes and do that while being fashionable and color-coordinated!

I left a very prestigious university behind and opted for this relatively unknown, smaller one. The reason: finances and logistics.

I do not want my dad to give 1,19000 PKR (approximately 1135 USD and 719 GBP) for just the first semester (there are 8 semesters in total) only so I can quote a name and get Oooos and Aaaas from silly society ladies. Add in an extra 30,000 PKR per semester for transport charges, since that university is very very far. Urban campus, my foot!

That’s why I let go of ‘the name’ and chose this university instead. It’s run by the Fauji Foundation, the business/welfare section of Pakistan Army. It’s up and coming, the teachers are good, it’s nearby and it’s affordable!

I am a little sad though. That I got selected in that one but left it for this one.

And that’s why I made up for the melancholy by shopping! And preparing. And hounding my seniors in the same university to give me tips and tricks to avoid ragging etc. And researching like crazy about my course subjects and stuff.

My orientation is tomorrow, and I’m finally on cloud nine. I can’t wait to live a life of freedom and friends.

Although I do have to work very hard if I want to go abroad for my Masters degree. That is a decision still in the making! To leave and never come back? Like many other Pakistanis. Or to stay and do something good for my country? My original plan. Now my excitement is waning and I’m getting disheartened by the corruption prevalent in every single aspect of Pakistan.

Back to my university obsession; I have even revised the admission prospectus! I know the names of all the Administration people, the Rector, Director, Student Affairs Officer etc.

Now all I have to do is iron my clothes, again. Set out accessories. Clean shoes. Check my bag, again. Check accessories once more. Put a few funky badges on my bag. Iron a few more creases, again. Take a shower, condition hair. Check my nail varnish, again. In the morning I’ll take another shower. Check my bag, again. Probably iron my shirt once more. Dust my shoes, again.

God. I have OCDWGC. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder When Going to College.

I’m going to go now and check whether I’ve put post-it notes in my pencil-case. Again.