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Being vulnerable…

It’s been quite some time since I posted here. Not that I didn’t have anything to post about.. just that I was too lazy or didn’t have the energy or the inspiration to write. A lot has happened over the past few months. Many items checked off my bucket list. Some life-changing experiences. Since last Saturday, I’ve been under a lot of stress on personal front. Fortunately, my family and friends are there so I’m not alone. Was OK yesterday but am anxious again today. Somehow, this afternoon I started singing Walk on Water by Eminem. This song is so close to my heart. I sing it when I’m happy or inspired.. and when I’m worried or anxious or really scared.. Right now is such a time and this song continues to help. It’s one of the most beautiful and most vulnerable songs (if that’s grammatically correct) I’ve ever heard. Most of the times, when I hear it, it makes me cry. I don’t understand the hate this song received (and continues to receive) from many people. Who would hate such an honest and open song? A fellow human being is baring his soul to us and we reciprocate with hatred? Why? Because it does not have a beat or does not fit our template for what a song should sound like? I don’t understand all this. I don’t understand people. I just know that from the first time I listened to it I fell in love with this song. I made sure that I memorize it so I can sing along.

So, this song I dedicate to all those who may be going through tough times and need a helping hand but don’t have anyone around.. or who do not have the courage to reach out fearing it will make them look vulnerable. Know that you’re not alone.. and that you don’t have to deal with life all alone. It is OK to be vulnerable. It is OK to let people know that you’re not as strong as they may think you are. There are people in this world who are there to lend a helping hand and a shoulder to cry on. Just reach out. I did. And have never regretted it.

P.S. To Em: I hope you know how much your music affects people like me. Whenever I want to go away, I lose myself in your music. It’s something that helps me be at peace. For that, I thank you from the bottom of my heart ❤

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I read about this book in another book and am so glad I added it to my reading list. What an interesting and engaging book it is! The author was a psychiatrist who was at the Auschwitz camp with other prisoners. Being in such a horrible place, he could’ve lost hope but he didn’t and, instead, used his skills to help other prisoners. His reflections from that time give you chills. This is a must-read for those who are interested in the bigger question about life.

My favorite rap duo is back! ❤ Bad Meets Evil reunion. We need a BME album please 🙂

Must admit that I caught Royce‘s flow immediately but just couldn’t keep up with Em‘s speed! Had to ‘study’ his verse at genius.com to understand it completely 😀 That’s what I LOVE about his music. You need to study it repeatedly and pay attention to his words to understand the real genius behind his work. Love the video as well, especially how they stand nonchalantly after delivering crazy bars 😀

P.S. Still trying to find a way to buy Royce’s latest album Book of Ryan. The available sites don’t allow purchase from Pakistan. What. a. bummer.

This share has been overdue for ages! Straight FIRE! Em does it again ❤ Go ahead. Shut them haters up, Em. His flow changes, vocabulary, word play, punchlines, and, especially, the ability to create music inside music through his lyrics is at a level of its own. A special and gifted artist indeed.

A Role Model

“The dream begins, most of the time, with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you on to the next plateau.” (Dan Rather)

To me, every person who has inspired me to acquire a part of them is a role model. I have met a lot of such people in my life. Memories of some of them have become hazy while others are imprinted on my soul. Ms. R. Fikree is one such imprint.

Who is Ms. Fikree? When I close my eyes and go back to my primary school days, I see someone walking toward an exquisite, red Toyota Corolla, which is parked under the shady neem tree. I see a petite lady with a persona that is hard to describe in words. Excellent figure that gave a hint to a perfectly healthy routine; lovely, short hair set in different layers; beautiful eyes behind her glasses that went well with her lovely face; and a perfect posture showing self-confidence. She used to teach secondary classes in the morning shift while I was studying in the afternoon shift. Days turned into years and came the day when I transferred to the morning shift.

My formal interaction with Ms. Fikree didn’t start until I was promoted to the 10th grade. I couldn’t wait to be in her English language class. She was just as I had imagined her – kind and caring. The persona did not disappear with the personal interaction. Instead, it grew stronger. I remember observing her intently during the class. The way she talked, the way she walked, the way she held the book, the way she turned the pages of the book, and the way she explained the meanings of different words. It was magical!

Ms. Fikree had her own style of teaching. She always spoke in a soft tone. I never heard her shout in the class, not even when she needed the students to stop talking and pay attention to her. She used to read a chapter from the book, writing the meanings of new words on the blackboard and explaining the grammatical structures. I also remember doing grammar exercises in her class. She would explain a sentence and then ask the students about the remaining ones. She made sure that we understood the concepts we were studying, careful enough not to spoon-feed us while giving us a push in the right direction.

During her class, we learnt not only about the English language but also about the different things we read about. She kindled my interest in the English language and literature, especially English poetry. I remember her transporting me to the English fields full of daffodils. Through the poem “The Voice of God” she helped me find a path to self-realization. From the trip to the mango orchard to the conversation between the rickshaw driver and his passenger, to the village fair and the glories of the Abbasid dynasty, she took me to the virtual tour of different places during each class.

It was so obvious that Ms. Fikree enjoyed teaching! I cannot recall a day when she was not there in the class. She made us feel at ease when we were with her. Our repetitive mistakes and silly questions did not seem to tire her. I never saw her getting angry at a student, not even when she caught one of them cheating in the exam. She did not believe in using harsh words for the students. The most important thing that I learnt from her was the meaning of the word “dedication”. She was a teacher par excellence. She always tried her best to provide us with enough information to quench our thirst but, at the same time, increasing our thirst for more. She also taught us about self-respect and respect for others.

During Ms. Fikree’s class, I learnt how to find alternative solutions to a problem. I remember, one day before our exams, there was going to be a special full-day transmission on the national TV channel (it was way before 24×7 channels). All of us were excited about it. The only problem was the tough exam scheduled on the next day.  Young minds are very productive in such situations. So, we ended up thinking ‘what if we could get some other exam rescheduled on that day’. Started the English language class and someone mentioned the exam. That was our cue. Everybody started talking about the TV programs and the cruel exam. I think Ms. Fikree knew what was coming. We asked her if the exam could be rescheduled and she agreed to it immediately. By listening to all of us and by appreciating and understanding our needs she taught us how to appreciate others. It is events like these that have shaped up the way I am. Ms. Fikree’s positive influence inspired me to become a positive person. Some people might find it trivial but to me she has always been an inspiration.

I had not met Ms. Fikree since the time we passed 10th grade. I wanted to see her again but some dreams remain dreams until one day (or night, in my case) you realize that those dreams must be turned into reality. That is why I decided to go to my school and get her contact number. The trigger behind this decision was an incident that took place 15 years ago. This event had a lasting impact on my life.

It was a usual day at school except that we had a test scheduled for Henry Longfellow’s poem titled “Children. I was not in a good shape. I had tried to go through the questions related to this poem but somehow all the ideas and questions related with it looked the same to me! Needless to say I scored badly; 4 out of 10 – what a shame! Even that wasn’t bad enough. The worst part was to listen to what Ms. Fikree said while handing me my test paper. She didn’t get angry at me or use any harsh words. I don’t even remember her exact words but I remember that she was disappointed in me. I wanted to tell her about the reason for my bad performance and that disappointing her would be the last thing I could ever think of doing in this lifetime. But I couldn’t. I just sat down without saying anything. Maybe I thought that she wouldn’t find it a good enough reason for such a low score. Maybe I wasn’t satisfied with the reason myself. Or maybe the shame of being a source of disappointment to her didn’t let me speak. With just one simple sentence, she gave me the zeal to work harder and perform well in the future tests and the board exams. Despite the benefits of this experience, somewhere at the back of my mind the thought of not letting her know about the real reason kept pinching at me, until the day I finally decided to contact her. I asked her if I could visit her and succeeded in that. The day I met her again was a very special day. I got to know that she and I share the same alma mater. I had a chance to talk with her as a student and as a grownup. I told her about the things I had always wanted to tell her about and asked the questions that had been on my mind for so many years.

Some people think that the way a teacher can inspire their pupils is limited to what they teach in the class. Some talk about the importance of the way things are taught while others emphasize the things a teacher says. But, as Henry Brooks Adams put it, “a teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” Even though, on an average, a teacher barely has a minute or so to spend on a student during class, they can still have a great impact on an individual’s life. To me, each and everything a teacher does or says is equally important; the way they dress up, the way they talk, walk, stand, sit, play and express their feelings – not only within the realm of the class but also outside it. My request to all the teachers: be conscious of your importance in a student’s life. With your words and actions you can serve as a true role model for hundreds of individuals, for you communicate with them even when you are not talking. Ms. Fikree has been a living example of that! Through my experiences with her I understood the importance of being able to speak up. I learnt how to plan for my tasks and to be ready for the consequences if I fail to have one. She taught me the meaning of appreciation – to let people know how special they are. And, above all, she taught me to believe in my dreams and work hard to turn them into reality.

My sincere advice to the young lot: love your teachers.  Know that sometime later in life, when you sit and think about your experiences, you’ll find tiny candles burning with great brilliance. The candles that have kept your soul illuminated through the darkest and the brightest periods of your life. And when you try to see the people holding those candles, you’ll most probably find a teacher’s face smiling back at you.

Blessed am I to have walked on the path where my teacher once walked.


Note: I wrote this piece over a decade ago. My feelings are still the same and my respect for Ms. Fikree has grown manyfold. Finding her number was a task in itself but meeting with her was a blessing! 

Project Manager Woes

True that!

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50 Cent – Crazy

So, Fiddy shared one of his new songs and it’s straight fire, and I ❤ it! Beautiful song for sure. We need an Eminem & 50 Cent collab. It’s long overdue.