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Life Under Construction: The awkwardness of trying to be someone in an age of confusion

Life Under Construction: The awkwardness of trying to be someone in an age of confusion


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Am I on the right track? What if I take a right and never come back? Does the left make more sense?

I haven’t lived in Pakistan for the last five years. Don’t worry, I am not coming back with citizenship from another country by the end of it. Please refrain from patriotic tirades. In those five years I have visited only thrice; the first time for a summer semester at LUMS, the second for my grandfather’s funeral, and now, most recently– returning (to my baahir ka ghar) just one day before New Years eve with food poisoning, a sore throat, and fever,– to actually go meet my family and beg my old friends to take me back.

Throughout my bittersweet rendezvous with Islamabad, I had the constant dread of the future lurking behind every fully-bloomed tree (a rare commodity in the major cosmopolitan areas in Pakistan) or in this case, behind the hazard lights of the car in front, barely visible through the dense fog/smog. I don’t know. If this was smog, then i’d been inhaling smog ever since I was a child waiting for the bus to take me to school at 7 AM in Sargodha, and then at 6:30 AM whilst in Kamra.

I felt like a poet of a ghazal serenading my future prospects, constantly writing in couplets hoping for a sign.

Am I on the right track?
What if I take a right and never come back?
Does the left make more sense?
Will you give me one more chance?
Or will I be like the rest of them?
Living aimlessly till the end?

I am at that point in my life where I have completed my undergraduate degree in an elitist subject that no one really cares about (in retrospect, do I even? Also, what was my father thinking letting me do what I wanted to do for college? He sure messed up). I am now pursuing a Masters degree in a subject that is even more obscure, exclusivist and honestly, isn’t relevant to our part of the world (lots still needs to be done to make it relevant, and I am definitely not the passionate once-in-a-lifetime individual that is going to be working towards that cause. Again, baba, kya soch rahe they?). But, then again, we only have the holy trinity of relevant studies in Pakistan: Medicine, Engineering and Computer Science, or derivatives of them.

I am constantly asked what my plans are for the future. I constantly ask myself what my plans are for the future. The idealist in me says I want to become a fiction author and maybe a cultural critic, or even a journalist if I can be so far-fetched (Pankaj Mishra bhai, hmu). The realist in me says that (a) either I should start looking for a job or (b) go for further studies and come back to teach. The dreamer in me conforms to what other people– not myself– would consider a disgraceful and effeminate dream, that of marrying a rich partner and sitting home all day; I wouldn’t mind being a househusband, I think to myself sometimes. The nihilist in me says to give everything up and just live at home and contemplate. We’re all going to die someday, aren’t we? If not, then please contact me ASAP!

The thing is, however, that I am a sum of all of the above. I can’t separate the nihilist in me from the dreamer, the realist from the idealist, and all their various permutations. It’s all these different personalities that lend to the cloudy mist I find myself shrouded in which, just to give all of you in similar predicaments closure, I will be thinking about on new years eve with food poisoning, a sore throat, and fever in a foreign land whose inhabitants will be in Pakistan. Crappy New Year!

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