Saturday, July 15, 2017

Chapter 10: Innocence and Foolishness

Battle of the Heart and Mind
Author: Rizwan Ahmed Memon

After a few days, the hostel management provided me with a basic room. Like many such rooms, a small cot stood by the wall instead of a bed, along with two broken desks and chairs, two energy-saving light bulbs that dimly illuminated the room, and an old, wooden two-drawer wardrobe that hardly seemed adequate for three students. Without enough drawers to keep our books and clothes separate, I kept them together in a single drawer. When I slept on the ancient cot, I felt as if I had fallen into a ditch. Moreover, water was often unavailable in the dilapidated bathrooms.  I tried my best to somehow adjust to university life, with its conflict and turmoil. In fact, I had already decided in my mind that the allure of the big university could never win over my heart. I struggled to focus my attention on my studies while longing for my family, friends, and the routine of my village all the time. Jamil happened to visit me after a few months, and he was amazed to see young men and women sitting together on campus. He expressed a deep seated concern that one of the girls might catch my eye and distract me from my studies. His main fear was that I might do the “unthinkable” by marrying someone without telling my family.

At the end of the first semester, I felt very glad to return home.  Hugging my dear mother for the first time in months, tears welled up in my eyes because I had felt so lonely. Her loving embrace always comforted me, regardless of my age. After such a long absence, I had a wonderful time with two village friends, reminiscing about our youthful days. We often went out for walks together, played a board game known as Ludo, and swam in the Indus River.

When the second semester was about to start, I could no longer stay in the village. The comfort and security of family and friends was ending and the unpleasant reality of the world once again beset me. One balmy, early August morning, Jamil took me to the bus station on his bike. During the ride, he started to talk about my future marriage prospects. “Would you marry Seemi?” he asked.

I stammered, “What? Seemi is my childhood friend—I can’t possibly marry her. And, she is . . . is . . . engaged already.”

“She is not engaged,” Jamil replied. “She’s a good girl, and you, as her friend, must consider what friendship means to you.”


I forcefully said, “Jamil! Hold on! Wait a minute. When I asked you to talk with the parents of the girl with dimples and ask for her hand for me, you ignored me! And now that I’ve entered university, you want me to get engaged!”

Avoiding my eyes, he said, “I’m your older brother, so I can decide what you should do and when you should do it!”

“Ah, stop trying to control my life!” I protested.  “Now I want to complete my education before thinking about the next step. And if I do get married somewhere down the road, she most definitely would be the girl with dimples.” I felt that my marriage should be my decision to make. No one else, not even my loving mother, should attempt to make that decision for me.

Jamil looked at me sternly. “You’re old enough now to understand that marrying this girl is just a foolish dream.”

“Whatever,” I murmured, rolling my eyes. “You’ve never done anything to make my ‘foolish’ dream come true,” I replied bitterly. “Please, I don’t want to talk about it anymore.”

“Mother and I have come to believe that Seemi would be a good companion for you,” said Jamil biting the inside of his lip.


We reached the bus stop, and I got off to get my ticket. “I’ll wait for your reply,” Jamil said as he was leaving.

“Oh my God! What’s happening to me?” I sighed as I sat in the seat of the coach. I kept thinking about Seemi and Jamil’s words.

For several days a conflict raged between my heart and my mind.

My mind said, “She’s not an educated girl.”

“She’s a pure and innocent girl,” my heart replied.

“She’s not the one you’ve dreamt about.”

“At least you know her better than the girl with dimples.” This sort of internal dialog rambled ceaselessly.

The next day, in our Java programming class, the professor asked us, “How many of you chose this computer field because your heart demanded it? Raise your hands, please.” I didn’t raise my hand. I thought if I were to raise my hand, my signal would be a lie because my heart had always yearned for a bachelor’s degree in English. Pursuing Computer Science was a decision of my mind.

“Those who have chosen this field with their hearts will not only succeed in it, but will also be happy. Always listen to your heart, students!” advised the professor. The battle between my heart and mind raged on for days.

My mind said, “You love one girl and want to marry another.”

“How can you call it ‘love’ when the girl with dimples doesn’t even have a clue about your feelings?” my heart asked. “Your true love is Seemi. You haven’t realized this obvious truth because you have never given it any thought.”

“Marrying the girl you spent years yearning after will give you lifelong happiness and a sense of accomplishment.”

“There’s no guarantee that your life will be peaceful after you marry the girl with dimples.”

“You’ll regret it. You’ll always have a desire, a wish to marry the girl who was your first crush.”

“It’s not necessary that all of our dreams should come true. Sometimes some dreams, which remain only dreams play an important role in our lives making us organize ourselves better. Some wishes unfulfilled, some songs unsung, and some stories unwritten can save us from the disturbance of our minds,” my heart explained.

“Don’t be silly, Rizwan! Do not compromise on your dreams for others!”

“The happiness that comes after the sacrifice of our dreams and wishes for our loved ones has a different charm and taste,” said my heart.

“You want to escape from the stark reality of your life and want to take refuge in mere consolations.”

“You need to learn what makes you happy in every facet of your life. Seemi is that part of you which will make you complete,” advised my heart. The controversy between my mind and heart continued all month long.


On one unusual evening, with a cloudless sky, and not even a hint of breeze, I was looking for a serene place to resolve my internal battle, and perhaps, to find some divine guidance. I went to the roof of the hostel and sat alone for hours listening to the argument between my heart and mind about Seemi and the girl with dimples. I remembered the moment years ago when Seemi’s parents were leaving the village. I remembered her sad eyes, and the heartfelt promise that Seemi had made to me that she would come back one day. Her sorrowful promise had built a stronghold in my mind, and no matter what happened I could not erase that memory. Oh, how I longed to see her dark eyes, the gaze that would melt my heart, and hear her contagious laugh when we had those joyful childhood times together. I thought about my mother’s statement: that marriages are predetermined by God. I felt that perhaps Seemi and I really were made for each other. I felt that my heart wanted me to live with Seemi more than with the girl with dimples, so I decided that I would listen to my heart. I realized that the girl with the dimples was just a fantasy, a phase a young man goes through in life. However, the girl with dimples will always hold a special place in my memory.

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Rizwan' book "The Reflections" is available at the following bookstores:

Larkana at:
• Sagar Book Depot, GPO Road Larkana
• Mumtaz Bookstore, Lahori Muhalla Larkano
• Rehber Book Academy, Bunder Road Larkana
• Afnan Super Mart, Galib Nagar Larkano
• Abdullah Bookstore, Bunder Road Larkano
• Rabel Kitaab Ghar, Station Road Larkana
• Noorani Bookstore, Bunder Raod Larkana
• National Book Store, Bunder Road Larkana
Khairpur at:
• Khairpur Book Stall
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Copyright © 2017 by Rizwan Ahmed Memon

All rights reserved. No part of this story may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author.



Thursday, July 6, 2017

Prologue

One day I brought the short story “Eleven,” written by the American writer Sandra Cisneros, to my class to help my students practice their reading comprehension. One of the assignments I gave them was writing short stories about their past experiences, just as Cisneros did in “Eleven.”
 The students enjoyed reading the story, but most of them got stuck trying to write their own stories based on their life experiences. In order to get them started, I tried to motivate them by telling them some of my own past experiences. I told them that they could write about anything that had happened in their lives at any point, whether at school, home, or somewhere else. After listening to a few of my past experiences, they had an idea of what to write. However, they were still unsure and asked me to tell them more.
 The next day, I went to class with a story I had written about one of the experiences I had talked about the day before. The students were really excited to read it! They could relate to it because almost all of them had grown up in a similar culture. It appealed to them even more than Cisneros’ story. Once they finished reading, I asked them again to write their own, personal stories. This time, they did so wonderfully!
 To further stimulate their creativity and boost their interest, I wrote the second story about another incident which I had already told them about. As before, they expressed real interest in it! After that, they asked me nearly every day to give them some more stories based on my own experiences; after I had finished writing three stories, the idea of making them into a novella came to me.
 I told my students that I was going to turn my writings into a novella: the first three stories would be its first three chapters, with more chapters to come. My novella, which I chose to call “Innocence and Foolishness,” appealed to them so much that wherever they saw me they asked, “When’s the next chapter coming?”
 I used the chapters of “Innocence and Foolishness” to create different activities, so students not only practiced their reading skills, but also speaking, writing, and listening. They focused on vocabulary, pronunciation, spelling, sentence patterns, punctuation, and many other language-related topics.
 Though this novella contains many things about my life, I feel like I have left a lot out—unwritten and unspoken. I have never been able to put on paper exactly what I had gone through; it is just a kind of summary of my life, with a little bit of embellishment and creativity. Life is like a big ocean, with many wonderful, but sometimes scary things in it. It takes courage to open your life to others; at times, the task is beyond the capacity of words to express the full range of emotions inherent in all of us. “Innocence and Foolishness,” to me, is like a cemetery with graves of words in which I have buried some of my memories.
I hope that you enjoy the story and learn something new, and that it brings a positive change to your life.