A group of 15 writing enthusiasts gathered in the basement of the main Liberty Bookstore on the afternoon of Saturday, April 02. Everyone was there for the Writers’ Guild Workshop: an attempt to promote love of reflective reading and writing amongst a cross-section of writing enthusiasts in Karachi. It was a combined effort by Liberty Books and AKU to enhance the learning and writing process for students and professionals. The participants were encouraged to then submit their own brief narratives consistent with the ‘Ordinary Encounters –Extraordinary Narratives’ theme of the workshop. Here’s an ordinary encounter shared by one of our workshop participant “Haya Fatima”.
AN ORDINARY ENCOUNTER
I think everyone in the 21st Century, who uses social media, daydreams about having conversations inspired by the Humans of New York blog posts. That is exactly what I had in mind when I was working for my university’s magazine. What I wanted was to give an insight of the people working at the ground level on my campus, who go unnoticed and unappreciated every day. This would be a way to introduce them to the university masses in a different light. The idea was, thus, to show them asbeing more than just librarians, gate keepers and laboratory assistants.Little did I know I would find way more than what I had first set out to find.
And so, one fine morning, my interview panel and I entered the library, looking for our middle aged librarian; his receding hairline and his tired eyes gave away his age. Dressed in a shalwarqameez, we saw him sitting by the main counter. I was worried how the interview would go about; he had never seemed like a chatty guy. Upon approaching him, I elbowed my friend to initiate the conversation, I couldn’t in a million years have known that in a minute or two I would be the one dying to get him to talk some more.
The interview began; I placed the recorder between us. He introduced himself and went on to tell us about his life unenthusiastically.He went on to tell us how he disliked the job, how the students were on their worst behavior with him, how life wasn’t going as he’d planned. His opening sentences were enough to explain the general sadness that surrounded him every day. We all have our five-year, ten-year life plans laid out. At least I do. Not being able to plan that would drive anyone to the brink of depression.
I asked if he’d always been a librarian; that is where the conversation took a turn. He replied saying that he used to write out billboard advertisements, but was forced to quit after the new age printing technology took over and any hand written advertisements that ever existed had to be hushed down the drain. My next question was, obviously,if writing billboards what he had always thought he would do, to which he answered, “No”.
“So what was it then?”
With a little smirk he said, “Poetry” and to my surprise, bent down, took out a green–colored, hard-cover book, and placed it on the counter between us. Now this man was smiling like he had just shown me one of the medals he had won at war; there was a shine in his eyes that told me that there was so much more to him than what the world could see.
He explained to us how he had typed the book himself and got a copy printed, with hopes that one day he might have enough money to get it published. The little girl inside me was doing cart wheels because I knew I had just found sometreasure thateveryone around me had missed.
It was not long after that it hit me: this was just one man I was fortunate enough to meet.How many more writers, musicians, story-tellers do we pass by every day? How much creativity do we kill in order to survive this dying economy? How many people do I sit beside every single day without knowing what they are capable of? In less than five minutes, that man had taught me how to see the world differently — how every person I pass by had a story to tell, a gift to share and a lesson to teach.
I went home that day, and the only thing I could think was the man with the unpublished book is his hand, and I just had to do something about it. I wish there was a grander ending to this story — how I helped him get the job done, how I would pull out the published version from my bag to show to you…-the truth is that there isn’t one, yet.
My story leads me back to a point that I desperately try to make: the importance of letting the younger generation carve its path according to its set of passions, dreams and creativity – how a degree, no matter how valuable, is a mere degree if there isn’t any passion behind it. Notions like ‘there is no demand for creativity in a particular environment’ do not exist; creativity finds its audience no matter where it is. Most importantly doing what you love brings you more contentment and joy than any amount of money could ever do. You can easily pin–point people who are following their dreams, for they are the ones hustling and bustling, leading others to greatness.
‘You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.’ – Maya Angelou
That wasthe day I decided I would write no matter what life tells me to do, no matter how plain my words may be, no matter where I am. This is what makes me happy, and so I choose to write some more.