Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Graduate :)

My schooling began unceremoniously. I remember my first official day. It wasn't exactly my first day. My mother worked in that school, so I ended up doing my kindergarten year twice before I was eligible to start. It didn't feel like my first day of school because I'd been going to school unofficially for ages.

That class-room had hexagonal tables, mini-chairs and colourful walls. The windows were large and let in the little sun-light that was available. By the class-room door were hangers on the walls supporting kid-sized rain-coats, and a shelf with extra sets of neatly-folded uniform. I secretly dreamed of the day I'd get to wear one of them, but that day never came. There was a corner with a sink, and a stool to help us reach the tap. I was always looking for excuses to wash my hands ("Oh, I had to use my rubber, Miss", "I sharpened a pencil", "I touched the carpet strings") because for some reason it was so exciting stepping on to that stool and using the pink liquid soap. Then there was the Reading Corner- a cosy, carpeted area surrounded by low book-shelves, where I spent many hours of my un-official school years napping and flipping through picture-books.

The day I started my "real" kindergarten year, I strolled around the class, feeling in control while kids poured in wailing and clutching their mothers. I finally chose to sit at a table opposite a chocolate-skinned girl with big cheeks and shoulder-length straight hair. She interested me because she was weeping silently like adults do, and she had her hands covering her eyes but I could notice her peeking at me through the fingers. I remember staring at her unashamedly for the rest of the day until we talked. Her name was Ada, and she's a mother to a two-year-old son now, which is both awesome and daunting.


Now I'm done with my university years and it feels like my schooling has ended as unceremoniously as it began. I've spent enough time lamenting the fact that time passes and people have no choice but to grow up. A part of me will always continue to yearn the past. I can't help that.

But I'm looking forward to what's next. I don't have a plan and I don't know exactly what it is I want or where I'd like to land. I do know that the schooling I've spent my whole life at has left me with a load of facts, feelings and precious lessons, and armed with that, whatever I do, I will do it as best as I can. Not change the world exactly, but the bit around me. Cherish my friends, stay true to my principles, live passionately and fully and well. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

For the Love of Words

I recently read a work of pure genius recommended by somebody from my book club.

Ella Minnow Pea (if you didn't catch that: L-M-N-O-P!) is set on an island called Nollop, named after the supposed creator of the famous sentence that uses all the letters of the language:
"The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog"

This sentence is preserved on an important memorial in the island, and throughout the novel, the letters begin to mysteriously drop one by one. The government takes this as a sign that the letters that have dropped must be eliminated from the English language, and bans the use of those letters.

Here's the amazing bit:
As each letters falls and becomes prohibited from use, so do they disappear from the novel.

If you're not shaking your head in amazement at that, I don't know what it takes to impress you.

There are several themes brought up in the novel: free speech, totalitarianism, the sanctification of things. But what got me thinking most was the degree to which letters getting banned affected their expressiveness- their connectivity to each other- eventually, their life. It reminded me of 1984 and the "Newspeak" that the government enforced to take away expression from people.

It shows that words are everything.

What's a life worth when you can't give voice to your thoughts? When you can't connect with the world around you? Sure, there are examples, like Hellen Keller who was able to shake the world being deaf, dumb and blind. But she only started to make a difference when she began reaching out and making herself heard.


But that's not entirely true.

Some people are all talk. ALL talk. Literally.
There are others who do. Have you ever heard the saying, "What you do is so loud that I can't hear what you say."? I love that line.

Also, sometimes you don't need words. Remember that summer in Lebanon when you and I were official vacation buddies? We left everyone with their afternoon tea-cups and water-melon plates sitting under the grapevine, and we climbed up to where there was that cushioned-swing facing Amu's orchard. We spent two hours just sitting there on a swing in a mountain, with orange and apple trees spread like a carpet before us, watching a breath-taking sun set over tens of villages looking like dots from so far away.

When we went back to everyone else, we laughed like crazy because we realised we spent two hours together not saying anything. Weirdly, it felt like we'd had the longest conversation ever.

It shows that words are nothing.


Friday, May 17, 2013

Organised Chaos

“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.” 
- The Bell Jar


There are moments when I can almost hear my brain cells howling in rage and I don't blame them. They are so exhausted of having to analyze my life's past, present and future down to the minutest details. Please, let's just think about something else for a change, they plead in vain.

Here's a morsel of food for thought: What if my life were a movie, and I'm directing it. How am I going to summarize all of that in less than three hours. I guess I'll have to sit down and carefully select the places, events and people that mattered most to me. The ones that played the biggest roles. But how am I going to classify it? What genre of life do I have?

And most importantly, how will the movie's trailer be?


It helps that I have much of my life documented. But sometimes I deliberately skip the moments that I'm sure will be etched in my memory forever. Even memory has feelings: he hates when I don't rely on him where it matters.

Imagine if God had totally delegated the design of our lives to us. Or better still, imagine if we were each given a random person's life to layout. If people had a say in who their architect would be, they'd be avoiding me like the nonathletic ones are when it's time to pick teams.

I would try to organise that life so methodically it would kill with its boredom. When I was a kid, I tried to do that with my own life. I'd write lists after lists on the pretext that they'd contribute to some kind of standardization. It started with lists of 'Places I've been to' (with sub-lists of continents, countries, cities, peoples' homes, restaurants, supermarkets) and began to progress to 'People who have died' (which was three-quarters names of peoples' grandparents). I stopped trying when I began to list 'People I know' and I was beginning to get distressed because did the old lady who we wave at but never talk to on the way to school constitute as someone I know? And what about that strange woman who my aunt got home the other day because she needed someone to talk to an official for her?

We've made such a mess of our world when we're not even completely in charge. What would we do if we were.

Things may seem chaotic from our side, but trust me, everything is more organized than our minds are capable of perceiving. It's just that we're only looking through a peep-hole.


Monday, May 6, 2013

Weep the World

When life catches you cry
Tell your tears, as they pour
How noble it is to do so for much more

Like, you could cry
On behalf of every boy brought up thinking it isn't man to
For every face and body scrutinized to be "approved"
For every slashed wrist,
forced puke
and pill misused
For the tonnes of powder and pencil helping to disguise
tired and insecure skin and eyes

for the kid whose mother's too busy to raise
and the parents on their child's life missing out
for hearts of house-maids far away from home
and the scarce notes they can't do without
for ignored questions
untold bed-time tales
and drawing-less fridges
for couples biting their nails in fertility centres
and for babies left under bridges

for all the unnoticed flairs and potentials not harnessed
for every time a human heart was demeaned
and every time an ego-injury wasn't spared
for miscalculated rejections
and unprecedented afflictions dealt
for every swear word told
and every insult felt

for a disease with no cure
and the time-tickers over homes looming
for all the beautiful minds
that are destined for grooming
for emptying bank accounts
and bills demanding to be paid
for skills on stand-by
and economies swayed

Dali's "Pool of Tears"
for bullets in innocent heads
and buildings in shreds
for homelands destroyed
and the high price of diesel
for rivers turned to mud
and the cheapness of blood

for every lie conveyed
and every dark game well-played

No misery weighs more than the other
Everybody has their own story to tell
So weep for yourself
But while you do,
Weep for the world as well

Friday, May 3, 2013

A Love Letter to my Library

Dear UOWD Library,

The moment I set my eyes upon you, I knew. It was love at first sight. I remember that moment like it was yesterday: it was a thirsty day, the second or third of Ramadan. But it was also one of the few rare times that I can count on my fingers when I'm in that mood of getting impressed.  A lone, peach building stared back at us and it was difficult to imagine it holding something like a library inside. The dimly-lit staircase that echoed our footsteps back at us made it seem even more implausible. And then a single turn at the first floor and there you were.

The shy ground had itself all covered up in carpet. An information desk hid everything but the faces of the two librarians seated behind it, staring at the screens in front of them wearing blank expressions. The phone rang and one of them picked it up mechanically without a flinch. Murmurs of toned-down discussions rose from the large tables on the left. Someone sitting alone opposite those desks closed his eyes briefly in annoyance and went back to his book. A girl hurried across towards the glass doors, the hand over her mouth not enough to muffle her giggles and animated Russian. Beyond them, a rectangular window revealed another room, stuffed with the breathing of twenty computers, most of them occupied by pimply teenagers in hoodies sporting over-sized headphones. I looked to the other side and there were many more identical rooms, this time with circular meeting-tables surrounded by empty chairs. And then I turned around and there were shelves, shelves and shelves of books.

I'm not going to lie and try to force this into being a Titanic-y romance by claiming you were the most beautiful thing I had seen. On the contrary, you were nothing like the library I grew up going to, with its endless rows, high ceilings and large windows that lit up the cosy reading area. I thought about that library for a second before deciding I was going to love you then. I smiled at the modest shelves as I walked along them, thinking You have so much to do. 

Over the four years I've known you, you've been through a lot of changes. I want you to know that I loved you before you got your make-over. I loved you even before it became the cool thing to do. I loved you through thick and thin. I loved you while I walked along your shelves before, after and in-between classes, sometimes to pick out a new book to read, and sometimes just for therapy. I loved you with your extensive collection of research books, journals, magazines, fiction and DVDs. I loved you as I browsed those pages and flipped in those disks. I loved you as you helped me finish my essays and homework, and as you never ignored my book-requests.

Thank you for being my shelter all those days. There are many things I'll miss when I've left this place, but what I'm sure tops the list if You- in all your entirety, with your red-painted walls and wooden shelves and all the printed pages I haven't had the pleasure of meeting yet.


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