creative essays

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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

The Way I see it…

Published January 31, 2013 by sidmary

I was sifting through the pages of my diary, and here’s what I came accross from an entry on the 9th of this month:

(Hoping you’ll like it 🙂 )

…The way I see it Diary, you need to love. You need to love everyone, everything, all the time. You need to love till your heart fills up and you hate no more…because you see Diary, it just occured to me that the more you love, the more you are able to acknowledge. The more you are able to acknowledge, the more you are able to empathize with. And the more you empathize, the more you accept, and the more you are able appreciate. And appreciating Diary, from the bottom of your heart and the core of your soul: loving; makes life eaier and happier…

— 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 -2

Published July 2, 2012 by sidmary

They pulled up at the red signal. A car stopped to their left. They could only see the man, though there was a woman next to him too.

Two men came with guns in their hand, their faces covered. They pulled up the tinted windows, and looked in front of them, immobile. They came to the car next to them. Voices could be heard; then a gunshot.

Aneeta looked up, her eyes wide with wild fear and vulnerability. As the bloodcurdling screams of the woman hit their ears, she began screaming too. Hysteria.

The lights on the signal turned green. They moved forward, his mother trying to calm her down.

                        x——————————————————–x

The next day was Saturday. On Monday, Hamza did not come to school. He phoned him. The incident was more than he could contain. He told him everything he had seen. Then asked him why he had been absent.

“It was my father.” The phone went dead.

                        x——————————————————–x

His parents were separated. Somehow, after five years, they had made up. HE lived with his mother. It was the day they were meeting; they had been going out for dinner. He had remained home.

Everything that happened; everything that was bad; every “just one of so many:” it was always others. Wasn’t it? Just one in hundreds, thousands, and millions- it was never supposed to be him! Then why?

He knew why: his father always kept a gun with him; yet he had not used it this once. He was not going to let such a day come to him. He never would be confounded.

                        x——————————————————–x

“Give me the ball, Aneeta.”

“No, I will not; and you can’t take it from me.”

“Oh yes I will,’ He said as he lunged towards her. She dodged and he fell on his face. He got up and lunged again; fell again. He grimaced as the other children jeered and clapped.

“You are going to pay for it,” He scowled.

“Ahan? What are you going to do, really?” She jeered, encouraged by the clapping.

“Oh, I will get my father to blow up your house. He is in a high office, you see? So he can do it.” He made an evil face.

She froze. The ball dropped from her hand. She started screaming. By the time the teachers came, she was hysterical. Her parents were called. She was sent home early, still screaming.

                        x——————————————————–x

Dear Diary,

I am so worried about my little angel! Things have not been the same since the day we witnessed the accident. I had kept her face down, my hand on her neck; yet in that moment of weakness when my grip lightened, she saw it. I am sure she did! I am sure she saw the blood too.

She has nightmares too. Not a day in the past month have I not woken up at night by her screaming. She does not seem to remember in the morning. Every time, her eyes are glazed and she mutters strange, undecipherable things wildly. Then she begins to shout them, her arms flailing; and then, as if exhausted, she falls into bed again. Next minute, she is snoring.

The first day it happened, Atiq and I stood at opposite ends of her bed. When I looked up, I saw disorderly trepidation on his face. I am sure it reflected mine. We took an appointment the very next day from a psychiatrist at Liaqat National. It is scheduled for the day after tomorrow. I dread it, but I can’t wait for it either. We went to the park last week and Aneeta began raving about peeking eyes in the bushes. We hurried her home; she was panting all the while; we put her to bed.

We don’t watch news in front of her anymore now. Not with the ever disturbed conditions of the city, and the other time she got distraught about it.

I wish God would erase two days from my life: the Friday a month back, and the day after tomorrow!

The school still has not told us anything about what happened the day we brought her back early.

I am so apprehensive about everything now! God bless!

Saeeda

p.s. The accident we saw that day; the man was Hamza’s father. We went in a shock when Asfand told us. We went to pay our condolences that Tuesday. His mother was in a state: I did not know that they were making up. Asfand settled after a week. I hope Hamza and his mother are okay now.

                        x——————————————————–x

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…

Rain

Published June 8, 2012 by sidmary
Rain in Muzahimiyah, Saudi Arabia

Rain in Muzahimiyah, Saudi Arabia (Photo credit: Bakar_88)

Life was never always a dump. It used to be a merry-go-round. And no; it was not a mere childhood, dreamlike perception of things- life really was good. My childish sight saw our cottage a Hansel and Gretel house where mama made the cliched “delicious food.”

All six of our family lived on the farm. There used to be fights and squabbles, but they just added music to our lives. It was soon after that harsh music began to play- very harsh music…

There was a lot of  rain that year and the crops subsequently were badly affected. The water table had risen, and great patches of soil were left saline and uncultivated. There was anxiety everywhere. The crop yield went down; the stress levels went up. Brother came home staggering one day with his nose bleeding. Father scolded him hard. Voices were raised and a few things were smashed. I hid in my room and listened; I did not interfere with the elders. Outside it rained.

Mama scolded us all the time, and even vented her anger on Baby Maya who could not even speak! She only cried harder. I kept away Mama. She did not make all the variety of food that she used to. Brother began staying at home, shouting on everyone. Then Father was kicked out of the farm by the owner, and he too began staying back home. Father and Brother never made out well, and when Brother started keeping out all day, Father sure had a lot to say about it. It rained all the time.

The other day, the sun never did rise. It was dark and gloomy all day. Father went out for some talk with other people. Brother was somewhere out there too: he only ever came  back to sleep those days. My elder sister had to return some clothes she had sewn urgently. She went out. It was nightfall when she returned. She was almost faint and two men escorted her. They said something about injury and the canal. She did not say anything. They had found her there. It had been raining again.

Two weeks later we were all packing and moving out. I asked Mama “Where?”

She said: “Where God takes us.” I kept out of everyone’s way…

It was another gloomy day on which we headed towards Karachi. No one came to wish us away. I had to leave all my toys and friends. I cried, but no one listened. I cried like the sky that cried all the time.

Karachi was a big city, yet there was no place: neither to settle, nor in the hearts.  We settled under a fly over bridge with three other very rude families. Sister and Mama were always afraid to out, but they had to. I wandered everywhere. The food was always as bad as bad could ever be, and the water tasted queer.

Then Baby Maya died. Someone said it was cholera that came from water. I was afraid to drink water now. Mama did not talk to anyone. She did not work either. She just sat and stared. Father becomes very angry with her. He hits her and shouts at her. I hide till its over. Sister lies on the ground all day, her wide eyes always open. When she goes out, she staggers and children throw sharp, slippery stones at her. She screams and keeps screaming till someone brings her back.

Brother left. He went somewhere, and when Mama talks, she says he won’t return.

It does not rain here, but when it does, I hide behind the tent and watch with helpless, furious eyes. I hate him. I hate the Rain. When he first came, he brought catastrophe to our lives- catastrophe that changed our lives forever. Now it clears the roads for us, gives us fresh water and reduces the noise trying to reciprocate our patience; trying to apologize- but I won’t forgive him. Not ever…

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…

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