Alrite, I finally have some time on my hand: the choice was between watching a few episodes of an old Pakistani Drama or writing this; a brief feeling of laziness almost tipped the balance, but here I am, writing away.
You are thinking what a stupid name. But this is not his real name, he is also known as soota and mucharr, for obvious reasons. Back in the day while the rest of us were still getting used to the high status of a tie – compared to the stupid scarf that tortured us for three years in prep school; while we were still dreaming about shaving off our boyish stubbles, because the clean look was in (this more effeminate look had replaced the mucch nahee tay kuch nahee look); mucharr was smoking away and wore an impressive moustache.
I only got to know him properly during my final two years in Aitchison, details of his earlier days are sketchy. But I do remember him carrying the tires of a teacher’s car to the nearest service station, after he was caught red handed flatting them.
In any case by the time we became friends he had an established reputation of a bad boy. I do not know why he took me under his mentorship, because I was kind of a nerd-wannabe-bad boy, but he did just that. I would tag along with him wherever he went; while he smoked in the washroom I would stand guard; later on I was promoted to lighting his ciggys for him. He was not interested in grades and therefore spent most of his time wandering about. I remember walking around college, taking regular breaks so he could have a fag in obscure places – near the samosa canteen, behind the chemistry lab etc, – and then we would continue aimlessly, chatting shit all day. The chemistry lab used to be our favorite spot, we would often have long lab sessions, and we never bothered going to those. Instead a bunch of us would just slip out and wander about the college or sit behind the lab.
Very soon I realized that he was gifted with an above average intelligence and more than his fair share of rebelliousness. His intelligence was put not to academic pursuits, but rather he spent most of his time reading urdu literature and sufism. I admired his intelligence and his disregard for grades – he did not feel the need to prove his intelligence and was content on enjoying it privately.
I don’t want to go on about his intelligence, but I want you take note of his extraordinary ability, and the fact that he never showed off, avoiding such discussions in public.
He had a very good sense of humor and I was glad that I never was at the receiving end of his sharp wit. I have seen him working mercilessly, tearing apart nerds and bad boys alike.
It was always fun to be with him, he introduced me to a way of being that was not fake; he was the real deal, what he had was authenticity. He eluded all kinds of classifications. By that I mean that even most of the bad boys in our batch were show offs, who wanted to gain respect from their attitude: it was an act; deliberate and aimed towards instrumental benefit. But he was not like that.
Back in the day not many of us were allowed out to chill with friends, and for us tuitions provided that opportunity. After tuitions we could often go out to eat and chill on the pretext of ‘study sessions with friends’. And that is exactly what we did, we had a reasonably large group and after Khalid Iqbal, or Zaka Shbs tuition classes we would head out to the nearest tikka joint to have some fun.
Anyways, back to Aitchsion, with mucharr I started crashing other classes. Rather then going to Jafri Shbs urdu class, we would often end up in Kunwar Shbs urdu class. He was a new teacher and we loved messing about in his class. Mucharr was the most daring of the lot and would really irritate this teacher. Once I remember he really irritated him and Kunwar decided to intimidate him; but when he did, Mucharr retorted: “Oyay baray haath chalanay seekh liyay hain!”. Another fun teacher was one of our 13 chemistry teachers; mucharr got him into singing and everyday he would coax him into singing old songs for us. We would all sit around him and laugh away.
He was also a man of loyalty. Once we were smoking away in the rec room and playing table tennis, when somebody locked us from outside. We got a little unnerved thinking it was a peon who would now ring along Mr Kashmiri. He had a very thin frame and was athletic and slipped through a broken window. The next person in line had a bigger behind and could not go through. Instead of leaving he slipped back in, to face the consequences with his friends. Eventually, we found out it was nothing serious and no damage was done.
These incidents may seem insignificant but they were not. If one contextualizes these acts of rebellion, one can see what he was rebelling against: the childish competitiveness, the stupid grade fixations, getting into a decent University syndrome. In short the way the macro socio-economic structures played out at the micro level. He was sensitive enough to feel it, without probably reflexively knowing the causes for his behavior. He stood up to the banal lives we were all dreaming to live.
I have known him for almost 15 years now. What saddens me today is that he has unlearnt the lessons he taught me. After rejecting the banalities of the average Aitchisonians’ life, today, he has allowed the system to force him into such a life. I can only imagine what he feels: it probably feels like wearing shoes that are a few sizes smaller – the pain must be excruciating and constant.
He is living a life a few sizes smaller. I pray that he is able to live a life that suits his personality, which is a few sizes larger than us.