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For the Love of Learning

Published March 4, 2015 by sidmary

Who among us has never seen or experienced the early morning frenzy that seizes the households where everyone has to leave for some place or the other and reach before a certain time? School students, college students, university students, office workers…it is a routine unmanned by occupation. However early you get up, and however fast you get ready, the clock in the morning ticks at an unparalleled speed trying to make you late.

What if in this situation, in the time it takes you to hear the horn, open the door and move out, your van leaves? What if, even as you stand at the gate, you see the receding behind of the indomitable vehicle mocking you in the face for the one second delay? At least once in a lifetime, this has happened with most of us.

But wait…! What if your wish or need to get to school, or college overpowers the misery and seething anger you are feeling at the situation? What if you get into your car and drive across half the city to reach the institution, only to realize that you are one minute late and cannot enter the premises? Blam! There goes the world crumbling around you; one more morning incident to fire your nerves and heat your blood. You go quickly over the schedule of the day in your mind weighing how important attending classes today was…and you comfort yourself with the conclusion that you will get notes from your friend and all will be fine. Then you go home and plop on the bed, making up for the sleep you lost last night making an assignment you had to submit today.

What a comedy of errors! Or maybe a tragedy? Who knows? However, there is one very important aspect to this not uncommon scenario that it would a tragedy to not explore: the policy of educational institutions to send students back home even if they are half a minute late. Yes, just thirty seconds worth of delay.

Let us look first at the reasons for this strict policy. It is majorly because institutions want to instill the value of punctuality in their students, and maintain some decorum in the school that such strict policies are made; and yet one is forced to question: is all fine with this?

The early schools which were the centers of learning and research were homely places where all were welcome. They were institutes from where learning developed and advanced, and the forbears of the educational institutions we have today. They developed the sciences which are taught in our schools today, but what were their salient features? These were schools which remained open at all times. It was sin to close the doors of learning on those who sought them. Knowledge was sacred, and withholding it from the seeker was blasphemy.

In the modern day, when education has been institutionalized, rules and policies are required to be stricter. Students are and should be expected to adhere to certain norms of behavior, but the strict policy and rule making should follow some rules too. Humans are not sheep- all to be herded indiscriminately by the same stick, and education and learning is not a child’s play to be taken lightly and undervalued by the centers of education themselves.

To instill punctuality in students and maintain the decorum of schools and colleges, penalties are and should be issued to those who undervalue the importance of learning and those who are religiously non-punctual, but to send students home who are late once in a blue moon and with genuine reason is blasphemy! What educational institutions encourage this way is students going home and sleeping the productive morning hours away. Along with the student, they are equally to blame for the loss of precious time and perhaps more for not understanding the value and importance of one whole day of learning.

It is about time that educational institutions make policies with practicality and the objective of learning in their minds. The effort of one who wakes up in the wee morning hours, gets ready and travels a good half hour or more to get to school or college should be appreciated and respected, and more than the clock’s face should be considered when sending one back down the same path they took to learning.

Open-Book

–Sidra Maryam

Forever is a Lie

Published October 8, 2013 by sidmary

( I wrote this for an exam for descriptive writing. so the following tends more towards description that narration. The reader is most welcome to attach to it any story that his/ her mind may fancy 🙂 )

“Forever is a Lie,” they say, but it depends mostly on intention. I look around at the lonely, desolate expanse around me. It is bare and brown as far as the eye can see; varying shades of brown: a dusty brown at the ground; a slightly darker, watered brown near my feet…The occasional color is in the delicately placed flowers in the position afore mentioned- and a dulling, browning green on the few trees scattered here and there. Even the walls of this wide enclosure are brown, and color lives primarily on the sky which, too, now its losing its azure to a stormy gray.

There are mounds here. Human sized, horizontal mounds rising gently from the ground and falling back onto it symmetrically. Occasionally, the eye spots a mound smaller than the rest, and the lonely heart spins another grieving story over my own.

A browned, autumn leaf is blown gently to my feet by a highly compassionate, or else greatly sadistic wind. It is hard these days to figure out who is sincere and who makes fun of you- but this leaf reminds me that I have to leave. So I do.

They buried him here last month. My son- who promised that lively summer day that he will stay by me forever. He must have believed, as conventional, that parents die before the offspring- but again: ‘Forever is a lie.’

I am a few feet now from the most beloved mound of earth, but I can not see it except for a blur of brown topped with white, red and green. The leaf chases me with an urgency- the wind is perhaps my friend, after all.

So I carefully maneuver round the other such stories- all colored the same brown now. I step out of the enclosure into an impatiently waiting, black Corolla, and fall limp on the passenger seat. My walking stick rests idly and upright next to the perfect smoothness of the dashboard. Everything here in fact is smooth: the driver’s face, my wife’s expression, the cover of the seats, the rolled up windows- the only exception being my rough, shattered heart…

The road is smooth too, and following it, we head out of the city which I promised my son I would never leave. I promised I would stay here forever, and yet I leave here forever, because forever is a lie.

The graying clouds gather overhead at last. I can not hear them past the closed windows, but I can see them- and they gather, not stormily, intimidatingly, or frighteningly, but gloomily. And I can hear them now, pelting raindrops on the windshield, and the roof, and somewhere deep down, on my broken self…

In this tumultuous monotony, I leave…

–Sidra Maryam

Busy Much…

Published October 23, 2012 by sidmary

Life’s this big dynamic roller-coaster at times. It takes you, and it sways you, then it takes your breathe away; and in the end, it hails you.

So there is a lot going on. Life’s my roller-coaster ride, because maybe it thinks i do not entertain myself enough the ‘normal’ way, so it makes its own ultra-big effort to keep me occupied. I am laden with school-work, deadlines of projects, preparations for up-coming competitions besides this list of extra-curricular that i managed to get my head into. At times i asked myself, ‘Is this too much,’ ‘Am i taking more than i can chew,’ ‘Should i back out?’…but no. I kept through it. And i am glad.

Yes at times it does freak me out: this having such a lot to do. And yes i get stressed out; and the ends of my fingertips tingle; and my brain snoozes and i wonder how i will ever get through…but in the end, ‘it is’ as i told my friend at the end of the scool day ‘good to be busy.’

There’s this sense of purpose that you get, and the feeling that every day is actually a development. I try to maintain a journal (which i don’t update so regularly), and seeing it all there, the memories recorded in words, phrases, notes; the tries, the failures, the insecurities and the accomplishments; i sometimes just sit back and wonder at how long ago it seems. What is trapped there so that i remember it, is a record of all the ‘busy-ness’ of my life, aswell as the mild observations of one who sits back to relax, and the intense observations of one too depressed or too sick of it.

Yet at the end of the day my journal teaches me that life’s only worth it when i have new experiences and adventures to record on its pages every day. It teaches me to take chances and take risks, because tomorrow when i will see how silly i had been, that will tell me how wise i have become. So for now at least, i put my leg in everything that is good enough. I occupy myself at all times because it keeps so much at bay; and it keeps me busy. And being busy, in so many dimensions, is so truly good…

An Obituary

Published September 12, 2012 by sidmary

khoon-e-khak-nasheenan-tha,- sou-rizk-e-khak-hua..

[it was the blood of ashes, so it was reduced to ashes] –Faiz

Two factories caught fire yesterday. One in Lahore, the other in Karachi. Hundreds suffocated or burned to death. The brigadiers reached late and rescue processes were slow.

That’s not the point here. The point is that people DIED. They actually DIED and there was no one to ask for them, no one to take them out, no one to reassure them. Imagine yourself locked up in a room with all entrances closed, smoke slowly seeping in, the slow torturous suffocation, the masses of people trapped and panicky with you, and a death that is unavoidable. That’s how they passed away; almost three hundred people in the factory in Baldia Town as I know from the most recent statistics.

Statistics. That’s all that everything reduces to in this world. A number, a graph, that no one bothers to interpret. Yes, they probably are going to record the effects too. The number of families left totally unsupported; the increase in depression, in families going unfed each night; the number of houses mourning deaths of 2,3 up to 6-7 deaths in an instant. Yes they are going to record it, and yes we are going to read it and we will say ‘how sad’ and ‘how tragic’ and then we will tend to our meals.  And then at the end of the year, there will be a short paragraph as an event review for the year.

Our own lives are not statistics or numbers to us. Why, oh WHY do we fail to understand that each number in those statistics was a being of dreams and aspirations and an un-achieved future!!??

The workers were all poor, and no one asks the poor how they fare in this world. They ask the rich ‘Howdy-do’ because they are already faring well, and won’t plead to them for help, but the poor are not asked, nor truly sympathized with. So for we can do now, lets close our eyes for a minute and grieve for them, and pray for them and our country; for the dreams we all have and the futures we all want. They may be fickle things, but they make life. And next when we are position of action, let us do something for our country and for our lost dreams; and let us do something for the poor who need the justice that is all spent on the rich…

–Sidra Maryam

Anomaly

Published September 9, 2012 by sidmary
Earth and atmosphere cutaway illustration

Earth and atmosphere cutaway illustration (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

anomaly- an odd, peculiar or strange condition, situation, quality etc.

It struck me today, as I was browsing the formation of tsunamis, how strange everything is. For long we have known that fire and water are enemies; that the stronger always always eats up the other, and precisely that they cannot co-exist.

What struck me was the formation of Earth, and no, I am not roving. The thing is that Earth is all fire beneath and all water above. You know that already, of course. Now look at at this way: the fire underground is so great, it can eat you up within milliseconds. Its miniature spurts cause huge volcanoes and terrible catastrophes. A mere crust away, life is all water. The Earth is~72% water; you yourself are 70% water; you and no other life can survive without water, and yikes! There WOULD be no thing without water!!!

And what is the crust but a thin layer compared to the core and the magma inside and the universe outside! And to think that all life depends on this crust! If this was just to disappear, would the Fire eat up the Water first, or will the Water extinguish the Fire?? (Oh, by the ways, this just reminds me of a poem by dear old Frost):

Fire and Ice

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

I don’t know how this relates, but somehow I feel this just does.

So lets end these musings with a concrete statement:

 He it is, Who has made the earth subservient to you, so walk in the path thereof and eat of His provision, and to Him will be the Resurrection. Do you feel secure that He, Who is over the heaven (Allah), will not cause the earth to sink with you, then behold it shakes (as in an earthquake)?Or do you feel secure that He, Who is over the heaven (Allah), will not send against you a violent whirlwind? Then you shall know how (terrible) has been My Warning? (Surah e Mulk: 15-17)

–Sidra Maryam

Closed Eye: The Breaking of a Heart

Published August 2, 2012 by sidmary

I meant this blog for creative words. Words that form beautiful pictures, serene sounds and soft smells…

I meant this blog to write about a dewdrop on the petal of a flower and the tear drop between the lashes of an eye…

I wanted to write about the delicate being and the delicate feelings of those homo sapiens…

I wanted to write about children and laughter and happiness and nature…

I wanted to write about the musings on ordinary things and the making of extraordinary ones…

I wanted to write about my city, and my country, and my history, and the people of my world…

I wanted to write about everything I love…

But this world is a cruel world that I live in:

It breaks into my dreams and my musings and my passions, and robs from them all the delicacy and innocence that hang on to…

This world has double standards for everything I love…

It treats the powerful with more honesty than is honest, and the weak worse than animals…

Its authorities fuss over things that hardly matter and ignore massacres and genocides…

Its Ambassadors of human rights play chess pieces for the Veto powers and silent audience for Muslims…

Its Buddhists who preach that no ant be killed murder thousands rendered more helpless than ants…

Its NGOs which fight for food, shelter and safety for all sleep tight when comes the call to fight by the people at this side of the world…

Its people who raise the dead protesting against breaking of idols opt silence as lives break away from the tentacles of this world…

Its saints who don’t eat meat for fear of hurting animals disown, dislocate, starve , torture and rape people helpless…

This world has two eyes, and ones remains eternally closed…

A massacre continues in Syria as a massacre inaugurates in Burma…

It leaves me desperate…

It leaves me exhausted…

It gives fire to my passions…

And power to my pen…

I have a big heart- It shelters the whole world…

And my heart is breaking into bits…

NOTE: Please raise a voice against the genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Burma (Myanmar). When the media and authorities opt for silence, it becomes a duty unto every citizen- every “citizen of the world” to speak against oppression. Don’t keep quiet. It was them this time, and “you” are a “them” for them…It could be “you” next time.

–Sidra Maryam

 

White Noise -1

Published June 29, 2012 by sidmary

(White Noise-

  • Noise containing many frequencies with equal intensities.
  • Such noise as used to mask other noises: “a white-noise machine”. — Wikipedia. Dictionary.com )

“What is the noise, Baba?”

“Shut the door, sweet.”

“What is happening, Baba?”

“Pull the curtains, sweet.”

“But the noise is deafening, Baba!”

“Pull the curtains, sweet.”

“The noise is going to kill me, Baba!”

“Cover your ears, sweet.”

“What if they kill me, Baba?”

“Go to sleep, sweet.”

x——————————————————–x

He was trying to study; he couldn’t. There was just too much distraction: inside, outside; he was unable to concentrate.

The day’s events were revolving in his mind: another fight. He sighed. His ever short-tempered best friend never seemed to get enough of those quarrels these days. This time it was at the water cooler. One of the junior boys had been drinking water. His friend came and apparently told him a huge big joke. All the water sprayed out of his mouth.

His name was Hamza. He turned around, his face livid. What followed was a blur. Loudly uttered, hot words were lost in the action. He tried to stop him, but to no avail. In just five minutes, a crowd had formed, hooting and screaming. A few brave people had tried to intervene; he pushed them aside from his friend. The junior was lying on the floor, curled up, face contorted in pain. He clutched his stomach and his nose bled.

Hamza was standing aside: face haggard and breathing ragged. He made him sit down and brought him a glass of water. He jerked it harshly away with a wave of his hand.

The head teacher came round, a baton in her hand. She puffed and her face was red.

The junior was escorted to the nurse. Hamza was suspended for a week. He got away with a detention.

He sighed again.

His sister entered the room. He searched her face for tell-tale signs of disturbance. She showed none. All sympathies aside, she now seemed intent on disturbing him. Squatting in front of him, a glint in her eyes, she began his most hated nursery rhyme in a high pitched squeal:

“The wheels of the bus go round and round,

Round and round,

Round and round…”

He felt a surge of anger. “Shut up!” “SHUT UP!” he shouted.

She began louder:

“Round and round, round and round,

All through the town.”

He made as if to stand up. She squealed as she carried her wobbly legs out of the room. He bent over his math again.

When his teacher checked his journal the next day, she accidentally opened the last page as she hastened to close it. It was filled with the words of a nursery rhyme she vaguely remembered, written over and over again.

She shook her head in disbelief and despair, and marked the page with a huge big question mark.

x——————————————————–x

–Sidra Maryam

Spring Cleaning

Published June 25, 2012 by sidmary
Nederlands: bookshelf

Nederlands: bookshelf (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Clearing my cupboard and making place for new books and exercise books is a yearly ritual; and its never too easy. Its a time of special spring cleaning, and brings forth all the dried flowers and weak thorns pressed somewhere way way back in a magical realm. I did my “spring cleaning” a few days back. Its just a cupboard or two, and less books than in a library, yet it takes the whole day; even two days at a time.

There is a lot of shifting of books to do. One pile sorted out takes the place of another. Many books that won’t be used again, and exercise books that won’t be used and won’t be referred to are piled in a corner to be given away for recycling. Heated debates are carried out about whether a book needs to be kept or not. (These are course books, not the ones we buy out of choice.)

Then comes the most debated issue of exercise books. Each person is left with his own to take care of. “Sort out.” I open each exercise book in this process. These are of the just past academic session, and of every year before that. I slowly filter the pages of each notebook for any hastily scrawled memory, any note passed in the class, any hilarious or downright depressive sentence or drawing made when studying was just not looking so appealing…I grope desperately to hold on to every thread of memory…

I find jokes, verses and small autographs in the notebooks. One said:

                              “Promise Promise one two three,

You will not forget me…..” Then the friend had signed her name.

Scrawled on the another page was “I would die for happiness… only, it would be no use.”

The first page of a copy from class five said that:

                  ” They say this time won’t come again, therefore enjoy,

I say do something worthwhile for the time to remember you by….”

An answer to a question in grade three about my favorite color was written that I like every color because they make the world beautiful.

I value in my heart each star, each smiley face and each compliment written on those papers. I value each innocent notion, and each petty complaint. I hold on to the time that is gone. I hold fast to every shard of memory that my slowly filling mind and cupboards can contain. I yearn and I long to keep them to myself forever, yet every year, some stock is cleared away to make room for new things, new memories…

There is a glow of pride and pain as I empty bits of my cupboard. There is still years old stuff that I visit yearly at spring cleaning, and keep back in the shelf as something sacred. Probably next year, or the year after that, or many years hence, I will clear that all out; create a larger space for everything new…but till then? Till then, each year at spring cleaning, I will take them out, moist my eyes, touch them to my heart, and keep them back…

Themes of Rebellion in Modern Literature -3

Published May 26, 2012 by sidmary
English: Mainstream march, part of the October...

English: Mainstream march, part of the October Rebellion demonstrations against the World Bank and IMF in Washington DC. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Conclusion:

Having determined this much, let’s come to a conclusion. Firstly, that most of the acclaimed contemporary fiction has an element of fantasy in. Take Harry Potter with all the magic and the world of Hogwarts; or the vampire fiction raging the bookshelves; or the all time popular series of the Hunger Games, not to forget Artemis Fowl and the Eragon Series… Why is fantasy becoming so popular these days? Here’s a suggested answer:

Fantasy is a way of creating a new separate reality from the world we live in. It is a way to escape the really pressing real life problems, which cannot be run from living in the same world (thus a separate world.) With the world fast reducing to a global village, and problems being intensified and projected more than ever, the instinct to escape is becoming stronger day by day. However, literature does not work like that. All that is written, is in some form or the other, inspired, combined and exaggerated till it gives a sense of originality. The human mind is quite incapable of creating something out of nothing; thus even the most out-of-the-world fantasy has its roots, somewhere deep down, in the world we live in. A review claims “The Hunger Games” to have “unsettling parallels to the reality,” and no surprise, as it can easily be related to the manipulations of reality TV shows, the barbarous wars in Palestine and Afghanistan, the human survival instinct, and the successions of power in the world. So however much one tries to escape, one is always led back into this same confined space. Fantasy just catches a larger audience to make aware in the subconscious, and provides an illusion that is clearer than reality.

Thus, when we see such a constant trend of themes of rebellion in contemporary literature, and more so in fantasy, we are forced to think where in the society is its origin. There is no trouble answering this. Rebellion is everywhere in the society. It is in the “new wave” and the turn towards liberalism. It is in experimenting new things, seeking adventure, venturing into untrod parts of this earth, divulging into the deep seas and exploring the extra-terrestrial world. We live in an age where people want to see logic in age old traditions and practices. There have been times when people have been dominated for centuries by oppressive monarchs; now, they don’t bear it more than 20, 30 or 40 years. A tide of rebellion began in Tunisia and has spread to Syria in less than two years. There is an identification of “self” that is gaining ground now. With the increasing of human knowledge, is coming the increasing of human wants; wants of freedom, liberty, expression, an own personal space etc. etc. When the world seemed big, people were content with it; but now that it seems shrunk, people crave for a greater space…All this, and perhaps more factors contribute to the rebellion in the society.

However, now that it has seeped into literature too, it has become a formidable trend. Literature, besides reflecting the society, has its way of affecting it. I personally can hardly name a book that has not affected me in one way or the other.  A writer, when he holds a pen, writes the future of the world. He is said to be one step ahead of time. Why? He does not (usually) have a crystal ball to help him in that? What he does is that he brings out, emphasizes and exaggerates something already present in the society; something that affects him, clicks to him, or maybe just registers in his subconscious. In print, that written theme or idea is caught up by others. The circle of effect of the “idea” increases, and it becomes more prominent in the lives of each of the individuals reading it. What is in the mind, finds a way out into the action of a person. When (as usually is), there is a writer among the readers too, the idea spreads further. From a single person to many, and from many to many more: a single “idea” becomes a dominant one. Gradually but eventually, the whole world takes its effect. That is why what a writer writes is so important. That is the reason that holding a pen is a sacred job; and that is the reason that trends in writing cannot be ignored!

When we find a trend of rebellion in the themes in literature, we have cause to be cautious, for this is the same very thing that our future holds for us. We don’t have crystal balls, but we have our pens and we have our minds. After we put them to use, there is only waiting and hoping that whatever sorts and causes of rebellions there be ahead of us, they be good…

Themes of Rebellion in Modern Literature -2

Published May 26, 2012 by sidmary
English: A picture of a mockingjay from the no...

English: A picture of a mockingjay from the novel “The Hunger Games”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Hunger Games:

Next you may come to the Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins. Here no doubt, the main and the dominant themes is rebellion and Katniss Everdeen is its symbol. Here, its about breaking laws for what you believe to be your right, as in entering the jungle for hunting. Katniss stepping up to save her sister is another act of defiance of fear. Love defies fright, and so the whole story builds on this. Its love for her sister that propels Katniss to keep moving, keep defying, keep challenging. Thus its no wonder that when Prim dies, all Katniss’s energies seem to be drained away. After that, its Peeta’s loves that helps her keep afloat, but her defiant, rebellious, challenging personality is lost forever as she fears for her children and their safety. Perhaps this helps determine that often its love that calls for rebellion, and often its love again, that withholds one from it?

In this series again, the “good rebellion” and the “bad rebellion” are emphasized again with reference to objectives. Katniss’s objectives are pure and inbred, while those of Coin are well thought of, and cultivated over a length of time. Katniss, a symbol of the “New Blood” cares for a revolution that benefits all; while Coin only thirsts for power. Her personality can easily be related to: Its about the succession of power in the world. When people get fed up of one tyrant rule, they bring another to lead them, who promises them a better rule but who, when his turn comes up,  turns out to be as much of a tyrant. The oppressed, having gained power, becomes the oppressor. This is how for ages the world has been ruled, and all the while, some Katniss Everdeen is used, and some Katniss Everdeen is waited for…

The Twilight Saga:

If we move further to “The Twilight Saga” perhaps, rebellion is hard to pinpoint here, but present nevertheless. It manifests itself in Bella’s unexplained attraction towards the vampires, and Edward specifically. She finds love where all others find repulsion. She doesn’t fear what she is  supposed to fear. Its defiance of the normal course of things, but then, the presence of vampires and werewolves themselves is a defiance of the normal course of things! Reciprocating this, is Edward’s liking for her. There is an incessant breaking of rules of the Volturi and the rules laying down the level of intimacy between vampires and humans. There is breaking of the truce between the vampires and the werewolves, which is made to appear justified, and acceptable this once. Over here, its rebelling the rules; traditions; natural, instinctive feelings and emotions- all in a very natural, in-artificial way. The defiance in Bella is an innate part of her-something that is totally natural. This hints perhaps, at the new generation, defying the principles of the older one.

So what can we conclude from this?

(Part 3 coming up 😛 )

–Sidra Maryam

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