Thursday, January 2, 2020

On striving for the ever-elusive balance

Life is strange, unpredictable, and yet cyclical. Things crop up again and again, people unexpectedly behave the same way, and there is a perpetual sense of deja vu. Blogs are a curious study in people, and their evolution. Yet the constant factor in all things good and bad is one's own self, in a way. I am so different from the person of ten years ago, and yet crucially the same.  Maybe I myself am the reason behind everything- how can something change in my life when I am the one who perpetuates, disturbs, and records everything?Of course, there are some stark differences. I happen to have lost one of the things I loved most dearly in my life-my hair, yet I am deemed pretty at times. Compliments from the other gender are always suspect, and in Pakistan they can be downright inappropriate, but a random lady at a McDonald's told me that I have beautiful hair and I think she meant it.My relationship with the world has changed fundamentally due to my becoming downright popular as compared to the unknown creature I used to be. Of course, I am nowhere near the end of the spectrum where it would be socially acceptable for me to ignore texts, but let's say that I have had a few chats with a few people who felt like talking to me. As can be expected, this was an entirely unexpected situation for me, and I had no idea how to handle it. I suspect it kind of got to my head, as a little popularity would go to one's who never found a single person interested in listening to her.As with everything else, I have a love-hate relationship with the world. I accept that one can't live without it 24/7. I need people to prepare my food, brew my coffee, drive their car for me and run an organization where I can drop in at 9 and leave at 5 to pick up a pay check and pay the said people for their services along with a thank you and a smile. A tip, if they were polite to me and prepared my food well.Things are stupid and pointless once you start looking at them closely, but this is the idea every seventeen year old stumbles upon as a rite of passage and whines about for the next decade. At my ripe old age of twenty-eight, one gets tired of crying and inevitable asks oneself, so what? What next? The question is hard to answer, but at least it is a step in the right direction. Recently I have started asking this and realized a few things:1. My standards are actually too high, at least in terms of expectations from human behaviour. People are flawed and stupid and selfish. They have an indelible mark of the culture of deceit and scarcity that has plagued our part of the earth for centuries and it is still the way things work here.2. Essentially I am just a small pipe for funneling money, since I just throw away precious hours of my life for one organization and throw away the peanuts I get in the bank account of another. Just moving money around. One does need it for essentials and to have the right amount of money is very liberating but I get sick to my stomach of being a pipe. Of course there is my morning coffee which is often the only source of happiness in my life and I'm probably going out to dine on a whim because I love that place and hate my life but it is all too easy to fall in the trap of bigger and bigger numbers. The idea of dining alone in restaurants in Isb, all dolled up and single, merits an entire post. 3. Balance is the most elusive thing for me-ever. Plus it will probably remain that way. Finding the right amount of world in your life and keeping it there-that is one hell of a job. One I constantly fail at. I tell people that I don't talk a lot, and they are surprised because they find me articulate and talkative. Ah well, some people.I took a 24 hour break and totally lost my train of thought. Apart from my narcissism, the ever-constant factor, I think my lack of stability is a huge pillar of support in my life. Strangely enough, your weakness can be your strength if you are aware of it, take pains to balance it out and utilize it skillfully. If I have learnt anything from my 5-year long mid-life crisis, it is that things are what they are and you can't run away from yourself. My anxiety that destroyed my stomach, spoiled my mid twenties and made me go almost bald was caused by a host of underlying unresolved issues. I think I was trying to run away from them, but I am pathetic at lying-to myself and to the world.My issues still remain unresolved, but at least I have acknowledged them. I still lack stability in my life and I shouldn't be too hard upon myself for it. Acknowledged that I have become fond of dining out and going to the cinema and my career has been on the back burner for quite some time, but hey, everyone needs to blow off steam in one way or the other. My melancholy still lingers, but I have chosen to embrace it once again, along with solitude. Let this be a lesson to me never to start relying on someone else, or to start looking for support from the world, for it will invariably disappoint. I must concede that human contact has a part in civilization and there is a human aspect to life, but it is vital to cede enough place to the world and nothing more. People bring a breath of fresh air in your life, a new and unexplored point of view and in rare cases a modicum of understanding and generosity, but far more frequently they bring toxicity, baseness and mediocrity alone. Maybe it isn't that way for most of the people and maybe they can interact a lot with the world and still stay happy. More power to them, and I envy them. In my unfortunate case, though, I have to guard vigilantly against the world and ensure that my dose of it does not exceed a safe limit. For better or for worse, this is the only way I can ensure my sanity. As Camus said, nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Of existential crisis, and hidden treasures

Life is strange, but I miss poring my heart all over this place. The poor thing is usually kept hidden and sequestered up in a closet, and it gets all too lonely and hidden at times. It reminds me of Iqbal's line

یہ میری خود نگہداری مرا ساحل نہ بن جائے

These days, I am reminded very frequently of this.

The bad news is that I am, once again, in the middle of an existential crisis. The good news is that I know perfectly well what I am going to do about it; I just want to remain in the throes of this crisis a little longer.

Being a sample that lies pretty much outside the spectrum of normalcy, I have no idea whether other people my age get drawn into similar storms, how they feel about it and what they do to get over it. I have always been my own person, the most own person I have ever met, and I always run into my own problems and find my own solutions. At 26.75 years of age, I am finally extremely proud of it after embracing it completely as the only mode of life. I don't know about anyone else, but this is the only way I want to live.

And live I am going to.

So this crisis was, as usual, catalysed by a large number of things over time, some of them bitter and some of them sweet. I don't know of any other person in whose life sweet things can trigger this sort of crisis, but transience and entropy are huge themes in my life and whenever I encounter something sweet, I always end up asking myself, how long is it going to be sweet? How long is it going to be? With the maturity of an adult, I finally tell myself that I don't need every good thing in my life to be permanent and I am totally able to handle losses at this point in my life, after a long struggle with the fear of loss. However, the question of sweet turning to bittersweet always lingers at the back of every situation. Mostly I am utterly fine with it. Rarely, but with a probability definitely above zero, it triggers crisis like the current one. Normal people usually can't contemplate the bittersweet taste something sweet is going to leave in their mouth; I perfectly can, and this heightened perception and vision, much like the beauty of a poor girl, almost always works against me.

The answer to the question of bittersweetness is that I don't care. I truly, honestly, really don't care. I am going to leave my greediness, my horror of change, my fear of heartbreak for once in my life. I am perfectly capable of doing this.

Let us turn to the truly bitter things now.

Lack of recognition, rather acknowledgment, is another recurring theme in my life. I thought I had left it in Pittsburgh, but boy, was I wrong! I think I am always going to carry it around with me. However, I have recognized the problem as fundamentally that of having let the world in way too much and way too frequently these past 7 or 8 years. The reality has been gradually dawning on me, and finally the sun is up. I need to stop looking outwards and start looking inwards. Inwards is the only place that has ever made me truly happy and truly content. Happiness is elusive and transient and fragile; a thing for fools to pursue, in short, but contentment and peace of heart are the things that I need to pursue for my mental peace if for nothing else. I have never asked anything of the world, and I hope I never have to. The only thing I have to ask of it is that it leave me alone.

As compared to the 17 year old scared little under-confident me who used to write pretty but pointless things here, I am much more mature, confident and independent. I know how to take care of myself. I know what I want, and I am familiar with the means to pursue it. I have the material means to do what I want, as I want, whenever I want it.

I know that my philosophy smells suspiciously of epicureanism, and I don't think that is a misleading smell. It is just that much like the original epicureans, what I really want to do is sit under a tree and study maths and write literature.

Read and write I am going to do. I am sick of the world, and I am retreating back into my shell. Life is just too short not to spend it on things that would otherwise represent themselves as regrets to you on your deathbed.

Fortunately, this time around, I have learned how to identify people who matter from the mass and mess that is the world. I know how to identify people who matter, and what to do with them. I wish I could go back and advise my younger self to stop treating everyone as The World, because individuals are individuals and there are individuals who understand me, contrary to the universal laws I believed in at that time. I just need to identify them and treat them appropriately.

And treat them appropriately I am going to, with the finesse of a poet and the precision of a scientist.

This brings us to hidden treasures. One stumbles unexpectedly upon them, in far flung places, and is reminded of Tolkien: All that is gold does not glitter. I am not sure how one should handle them: with care reserved for delicate things, reverence for something that is far above one's station, or a fear of being deprived of them all of a sudden? I don't trust my fate to bring me sweet things, or to let them remain in my life for long, or to even let them be as sweet as upon the first taste, but I guess that with my newfound optimism, we'll just wait and see how things go.

That is something no one would ever have caught my 17-year old self saying, but I have learned the need to switch my long-term and high precision vision off at times and accept life with all its perfections and imperfections.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The case of the broken amplifier

I am sure I have whined about my internal amplifier before but here it goes again: it is broken, and in an extremely weird manner.
See, some things I feel exponentially, and some things I do not feel at all. All this is, as is everything else with me, internal,  so the world goes on calmly, oblivious to the tempests that rage inside yours sincerely.
The re-reading of stormlight archives is getting to me, you see.
This does not serve as a prelude to my story, but this is just a note of caution that should accompany every piece of my writing.
Amreeka has given me many novel experiences and the cruel hands of time have wrought a large number of changes in even this slow and steady human being to the extent that my mother is going to have trouble recognizing me, but all of this was mostly expected. You expect to come across new things when you are shipped off to CMU and you expect to change when you start living by yourself and for yourself.
On occasion, I have felt tired, frustrated, depressed, alone and estranged. I have also felt happy, optimistic, content and confident a very large number of times but being a follower of Mir's tradition dictates that you do not talk about this kind of stuff.
So I will ignore the kindness that has been lavished upon me by my fellow creatures, both known and unknown, on numerous occasions and just note that an acquaintance just walked by and ignored my wave most probably due to a pretty golden haired girl who was walking with him, but I do not care.
I need not mention that it made me re-realize that I am dark skinned with frizzy hair and non-pretty features and can never compete with a golden-maned beauty, but I will do anyways.
People somehow detect my preference for honesty and never ever lie to me by telling me that I am pretty. My mom and a couple of girlfriends are the only ones who ever do this and I recently complained about this to my mother, to which she replied that people value their lives and do not want to get shot.
Which, I concede, is true, but the admission does not help my existential crisis.
The only unexpected feeling was that of stupidity. It used occur in connection with ML, but now only occurs where algorithms are concerned.
I strongly believe it would be in the interest of me as well as the rest of the world that I simply get thrown off a bridge the next time I dare utter the word 'algorithms'.
They have been the bane of my existence here ever since first semester, and I fear they will continue to haunt me for the rest of my life.
I suspect that it is very much a case of the bad boy syndrome, something which I have never experienced with humans: I like algorithms, but they don't like me back.
Okay so this is just the public statement, and the truth is far stronger: I love algorithms, and they despise me, and think I am not worth proof-reading the angraizi in their books.
During my first semester here, I flunked a course in algorithms, which lead me to, you guess it, picking another algorithms course during my second semester.
Which I, as you can guess, flunked.
As can be expected, I picked another algorithms course for my third semester.
The normal human being can see a pattern here. The normal human being has the capacity to make mistakes, and learn from them.
I, however, am not a normal human being by any definition or test. I am definitely not normal, and people who are close to me often suspect that I am not human, but that is another discussion.
I make mistakes, only to repeat them for as many times as the system allows.
This algorithms course I happen to be in the middle of flunking, and today marks an important milestone in this regard.
What was supposed to happen today was my presentation for course project: something grand that I was supposed to do by myself.
What actually happened was that I sent out a carefully worded email to my professor in the morning today to which he replied, where are you? Can you come by?
I would have replied, by the bridge, but I have overgrown that.
So I went and explained to him that I won't be presenting today, because I do not have a presentation and more importantly, I do not have a project.
Not that anyone appreciates it or anything, but my only redeeming quality is my honesty. Not that it is redeeming enough, nor will I deny that I am getting thrown out of a window by a Pakistani guy precisely because of it [I have no idea about the identity of this guy but if we condition on the fact that he exists, he is throwing me out of a window with probability 1, most probably within two weeks].
I don't know, but I suspect that it makes things difficult for other people. I like to believe that it makes my life easier.
So I outright stated that I haven't done any work, I don't have any understanding, I possibly can't present and that my comprehension lags so often behind the professor's that I have real trouble catching up with his analysis.
So I stated everything, short of saying that my trouble is that I actually have an order of magnitude fewer neural circuits as compared to the rest of the class and I was marked with 'Not the algorithmic type' on the forehead on the day fates were written.
I only stopped short because I did not want to embarrass him, but I hope he deduced the rest of it himself.
I also did not want to embarrass myself in the first place, because I am quite probably the first Pakistani he has met and almost probably the first Pakistani khatoon and while I would love for everyone to know what a piece of highly compressed trash I am, the fact remains that I am one of the very rare samples of my country most people are ever going to come across.
So I just told him that I can't present today, at which the poor guy was flabbergasted at first but we finally decided that I will present next week.
I think I have an inherent tendency for drama, and it goes everywhere with me, whether I will it or not.
I also suspect that he is really enthusiastic about the idea, the mathematics for which he worked out entirely by himself within ten minutes and which I do not get a single equation of.
The trouble with this drama is that I have involved two of my professors here, and this guy's enthusiasm about the idea is something beyond me. He wanted to involve this other professor immediately, whereas I am scared that seating both of them at the same table would only expose my level of ignorance in both their fields.
Now that I remember, this is a pattern with me, and I recall proclaiming to a very nice professor that I just did not feel like working on my digital design project.
Right now I have two projects that I am going to not work on.
The changes that I did not expect? Discovering that I am a very stupid person, as far as CS theory is concerned, and not the smartest person in the room.
And that I can actually go on an entire day without remembering to eat.

Monday, November 27, 2017

The curse of loneliness and stupidity

Man, I am one recluse.
Also, I am one lazy sloth.
I have lots and lots and lots of things to do, and too little time, and I am trying to stay away from facebook and not call my mother as I got a REAL dressing down from her this morning so this blog is the perfect hiding place.
I don't know what I was searching for, but I landed on this fellow-man's blog who studied at UWM and man, was it full of juicy snarky commentary on people's lives even though he claimed to be such an introvert and a pursuer of literature and philosophy and poetry (duh!).
It also set me on the path of reflection about my life, my current situation and my metamorphosis that happened in Amreeka. Which isn't much, except that I told my friend that if I ever go for a PhD and feel that I need someone in my life, I will formally ask folks out.
As I see, I am destined to remain a spinster who writes 3rd class poetry all my life, a very weird amalgam of East and West who doesn't fit anywhere nor ever will, and who will only be left with Mustafa Zaidi's line as one of the precious few people and ideas that remain true:

آندھی چلی تو نقش کف پا نہیں ملا
دل جس سے مل گیا وہ دوبارا نہیں ملا
ہم انجمن میں سب کی طرف دیکھتے رہے
اپنی طرح سے کوئی اکیلا نہیں ملا
These eternal lines have stuck to my mind for a very long time, and I have always wondered, did Zaidi actually feel this? Because this is just what I feel. Can two people feel the exact same thing, with such high accuracy?
A couple of weeks ago, I read another nice work by him titled 'barafbari' that mentioned:

زندگی اک بے وفا لڑکی کے وعدوں کی طرح
آنسوؤں کے ساتھ آئی، آنسوؤں میں بہہ گئی
This, again, rings so true. So damn true.

Anyways. He was obviously a very talented man and his ghazals were way better than mine. The way the society treated him makes me sad, man.

I am going to read more of his stuff.

Back to my life.

I have mentioned quite a few predictions about myself, but they don't bother me in the least. 
The only thing that gets me is that I am never, ever, ever going to get how matrices behave.

The semester is ending, and I am wrapping up my life, my MS and my graduate applications. I have eliminated nostalgia and regret from my life completely [except for regret minimization, an interesting technique it seems] and if someone would ask me how I was feeling, my reply would be, 'meh'.

There are a lot of conditions for this to happen. Someone must care to talk to me, care enough to ask this of me and then have the courage to ask this to my face. No one fulfills a single one of these conditions, let alone all three. There is something in my demeanour that used to make people behave in a very cautious and reserved manner with me, and it has come to Amreeka with me. It lingers in the background in every encounter, even though my outward appearance has turned by 180 degrees[ something on which a guy much higher than me in my ex-office was quick to comment on, and something for which I will get back to him one day] with my truly few zulfain flying loose and what-not, and me as sweet and smiling a thing as ever, but I guess I don't deceive anyone.

I don't wish to deceive people, but I wish everyone was not able to see so quickly through me, or through my poetry, but duh, and whatever, and I really truly don't give a damn.

The extent of me not giving a damn is one of the very few things that scares me. As I have often told an acquaintance, I don't approve of women being called bitches under any circumstances, but I guess I have the liberty of proclaiming that I have the ability to be such a cold hearted bitch at times that it frightens me and I wonder if I should really feel bad about it. To be clear, this is not my default mode, not even with random guys since coming to Amreeka, and this is something that I try to control. It is extremely difficult to provoke me, and very time consuming to do so. When I like people, I simply adore them. I go out of my way to make them happy, and since I am observant on a level that very few people are, I do it on a very micro as well as macro level, and never expect anything in return. Their happiness means the world to me, and I gladly sacrifice my own for theirs, and I never take them for granted. They can hurt me, and I am willing to forgive that, and not even in a teary-eyed broken-hearted 'x hurt me but I love x' kind of way, but in a very grown-up 
x was tired and did not really mean it, duh!' way.

However. However. However.
If I ever suspect that X does not want to have me in X's life, then it is story over, the end, the game is done.
And at that particular instant.
No, there is no breaking of the heart, or welling of the eyes. No ideas for revenge, for getting even. No considerations.
I just stop caring for that person, completely, in an instant, and I don't feel anything about it, because what has to be, has to be.
I have done this quietly to three very important people in my life, in the recent past. One of them I'll probably never see again after a month. One of them I have met a very few times. One of them I'll have to meet after one month.
None of them practically did anything to me, they just said things that made me realize that maybe I wasn't as important in their life as I thought I was.
Maybe is my life, and might prove to be my bane. I don't care; skepticism and incessant questioning are the essence of my being and intellectual honesty is one of the rare things I believe in.
To be clear, this did not happen the exact same moment or the week or even the month they said those things. It happened much later, when I was cool and calm, I like to think.
By all usual markers, my life is sedlyfe but duh, who cares.
The sheer enormity of my not caring, again, gives me pause at times.
I change. Like a lot. I laughed it off when my FPGA professor from 1st and 2nd semester mentioned it to me twice or thrice but my mom has been telling me since forever and I think my derivative is really, really high here. 
When I came here, I was quite obese and had all the usual troubles like not being able to fit in the right dresses and the right chairs and the right circles. In retrospect, I had some nice curves, but you can never control your fat deposition and consequently burn-off pattern.
So I did not like it and tried to alleviate it, like half the population back home always seems to be doing and only gets ridiculed, instead of being guided and motivated.
I haven't ever been ridiculed, but neither do I want to be guided.
So one day I saw this cute Chinese girl in the university center in a grey crop top and with a very nice mid-riff and I decided it'd be nice to wear a crop top and that I wanted that sort of midriff.
Of course I can't ever have that exact type of mid-riff, because duh, genetics! Somehow I never get exactly what I hanker after in life, but I am cool with that, like I wanted to go to MIT but I was sent here to Carnegie Mellon, and now I absolutely love Carnegie Mellon. 
Must be the arranged-marriage enabling gene that runs in mashriqi khawateen.
Anyways, I can have a nice though different midriff, and I tried for it, and it payed off far more than my efforts, although there is still some work to be done, which I'll have to defer to a PhD.
My weight is still exactly the same, though I can do stuff like push ups that I only could dream of. Deadlifts and squats, again, I have deferred to the future, if ever there is one.
Strength training changed my life. It changed my freaking life. I don't use obscenities, because I don't like them, but it took away the fat from my midsection as well as my personality. The scientific aspect alone deserves a blog post of its own, which I'll probably never do out of laziness.
It is kind of addictive, though, and easy to overdo so be careful, my dear reader.
I don't think I have ever been inspired by anyone in Pakistan and definitely not by a scientist but here you come in touch with people who have pioneered fields and won Turings and Nobels and who are an authority on their subject. This makes you think about the state of your ignorance and stupidity.
Till yesterday, I had too many discussions with people about the sheer idiocy that was happening back home and finally I had enough and I decided to shut my mouth once and for all and to focus on the stuff that matters.
So even here, you come across different categories of people, and when you meet someone who is a class apart from their peers even in the CMU CS department, you can easily tell.
One such poor guy, who has something of a skill with-you guessed it-matrices-landed here after some adventures post-MIT and landed in the spot of my teacher for a particularly beautiful but strong-headed course.
My observations:
-His luck MUST have run out. No other explanation.
-I would KILL to have his level of skill and knowledge. I honestly suspect I can NEVER match the level of his intellect, or talent.
-He makes SUCH an effort to make me understand stuff that it moves me to pity. Like really. You can tell that he loves his stuff, and teaching it to the world.
-His level of sweetness is something that I don't want to match, ever. Still, when he finds an idea bogus, he says that outright, with no mincing of words.
-I suspect he encourages me in some part due to the women in STEM thing. I am one of two girls in his class, and the other one is one parhi likhi larki, whereas I struggle and struggle and struggle and do everything much later than the deadline. Outside the academic environment, I guess he wouldn't even talk to a girl of IQ level when highly intoxicated.
-If I live and work in some area with focus for fifteen years, I should revisit thus blog and comment here about whether I have achieved 20% of his level or not.
-I really really really wish I had a paper with him.
-He emailed me to ask if I wanted to discuss my project with him after the usual office hours, since those are often crowded, and I went and wasted his two hours straight, and honestly it is a crime against humanity.
-I suspect I am actually too stupid for algorithms, and have often exclaimed that I should be shot if I let their name come to my tongue one more time.
-I absolutely love CMU.

In conclusion: 
- I am going to die a friendless spinster after spending my life writing low-class poetry. Fine with me.
-I am going to die without sound knowledge of algorithms and linear algebra. Not fine with me.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have two projects and one application process and one winding up of life in a lovely, lovely city where I spent a lovely, lovely time to do.
My mother says that I should look forward to spending some lovelier time in the future in a lovelier place but I don't think that is possible. Luck runs out, and I for one always expect the entropy to increase with time.
I used to be a cynic, man. Hell, strength training has cured that to an alarming extent.
Most importantly of all, I have to make a phone call to my mother. 
I never grow out of my habits, do I?

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

اگر اور جیتے رہتے یہی انتظار ہوتا

زندگی بڑی عجیب شے ہے اور حیرت یہ ہے کہ انسان اس پر حیران ہونے سے بھی باز نہیں آتا۔
خود ہم نے بھی ایک عمر گنوا کر کچھ سیکھا ہے تو یہی سیکھا ہے کہ بہت کچھ تبدیل ہوتا رہتا ہے مگر بہت کچھ دراصل وہی رہتا ہے۔ شاید آج کل ہمارا سوال یہی ہے کہ انسان تبدیل ہوتا بھی ہے یا نہیں یا یہ سب فہم کا دھوکا ہوتا ہے اور ذرا سی تیز ہوا چلنے پر تجربے کا پردا اڑ جاتا ہے۔
یاسیت پرستی اور قنوطیت سے ہماری پرانی یاد اللہ ہے اور وہ ہمیں رہ رہ کر سمجھاتی ہے کہ دنیا میں کچھ بھی کرنے کا کچھ فائدہ نہیں اور زندگی کے اختتام پر انسان کے ہاتھ میں خسارے کے علاوہ کچھ نہیں ہوتا اور یہی یہاں کا نظام ہے۔  ہم ناکامیوں کے موضوع پر ایک مدلل تقریر پہلے کر چکے ہیں لہذا یہاں خلاصہ بیان کرنے پر اکتفا کریں گے۔ ہمارا ایمان ہے کہ عمر کے ساتھ ساتھ ہم ناکامیاں سمیٹا کرتے ہیں، اور کچھ نہیں۔
کبھی کبھی ہم غور کرنے کی کوشش کیا کرتے ہیں کہ کہیں کوئی غایت دکھائی دے مگر نہیں دکھائی دیتی۔ ہماری فہم کا ضرور کچھ قصور ہو گا اس میں مگر ہم کبھی کبھی بے طرح جھنجلا اٹھتے ہیں اس بات پر کہ ہمیں محسوس تو یہی ہوتا ہے کہ ہمیں کبھی کچھ ملتا نہیں، نہ تو بقدر آرزو اور نہ ہماری پسند کے وقت پر۔  سچ ہے کہ زندگی میں انتظار کے علاوہ کوئی خاص کام نہیں ہمیں اور قسمت نے ہمیشہ اسی پر لگائے رکھا ہے۔ کچھ اس میں مسئلہ اس فلسفے کا بھی ہے کہ ہمیں اول تو کچھ پسند نہیں آتا اور اگر اس پر ہمارا لیبل لگ جائے پھر تو ہم اسے صرف ہائلی کمپریسڈ کچرا ہی کہا کرتے ہیں۔
لیکن اپنے ٹیڑھے پن سے آگاہ ہونے کے باوجود ہم بری طرح بیزار ہیں آج کل کی تاریخوں میں اور وجہ اس کی یہی جو ہم بیان کر چکے ہیں، یعنی ہمیں کبھی کچھ ملتا نہیں ہے۔ یہ ضرور ہے کہ اگر کبھی کچھ مل ہی جائے تو ہم اس کے معیار پر مشکوک ہو جاتے ہیں اور پھر اپنا سنگ میل اٹھا کر ایکسپونینشئل فاصلے پر نصب کر دیتے ہیں۔ ایک زمانہ تھا کہ ہم اس بات پر رونا دھونا مچاتے تھے کہ ہم اپنی انجئنئرنگ کی  کلاس میں احمق طالب علم ہیں اور سرکٹس ہماری سمجھ میں نہیں آتے اور تیز بچے سمجھ لیتے ہیں۔ پھر گریجوئیٹ ہونے کے بعد ہمیں یہ تکلیف تھی کہ کوئی ہمیں نوکری کو نہیں پوچھتا اور سچ میں اس وقت نہ تو کوئی ہمیں جانتا تھا اور نہ ہم کسی کو۔ اب اندازہ ہوتا ہے کہ ہمارے حالات واقعی میں خراب تھے اور ہماری ایک دوست کو خدا کروٹ کروٹ جنت نصیب کرے کہ جن کی سفارش کے مارے ہمارے سابقہ دفتر والوں نے ہمیں جگہ دی۔ یہاں اور کچھ نہیں تو متعلقہ جوتوں کے ساتھ ہمارا شمار شمشاد قدوں میں ہو ہی جاتا تھا۔
ہمارے طرہ پر پیچ و خم کے پیچ و خم نکلے یہاں پٹسبرگ پہنچ کر اور یہاں ہم پہلے سسٹمز میں نکمے رہے، پھر مشین لرننگ میں اور پھر ٹھک کر کے سی ایس کی تھیوری میں آ گرے اور اب تکلیف یہ ہے کہ ہم وڈرف جیسے کبھی بھی نہیں ہو سکتے۔
یہاں بیان کرتے چلیں کہ وڈرف ہماری زندگی کی گنتی کی انسپریشینز میں سے ایک ہے اور اس میں تھوڑا بہت حصہ اس بات کا بھی ہے کہ کل اس نے صاف صاف ایک کام پر بوگًس ہونے کا الزام لگایا جس سے ہم چھ مہینے سے سر مار رہے ہیں۔
وڈرف کی طرح تو شاید ہم ساری زندگی گزار کر بھی نہ بن سکیں لیکن ابھی ہم کچھ تو خواہ مخواہ ہی موازنہ کرتے ہیں اس سے اپنا۔ وہ دس سال تو ایم آئی ٹی کی سی سیل لیب میں رہ کر نکلا ہے اور ہم ہنوز وہاں کی راہداریوں میں جھاڑو لگانے کے قابل نہیں۔ پھر ہمیں پہلے تو اپنی کلاس کے چھوٹے بچوں سے موازنہ کرنا چاہیے اپنا جن کو اوسطا بھی ہم سے دس گنا سمجھ ہوتی ہے لینئیر الجبرا کی۔ 
تو اب تو ہم یہ اقرار کر ہی لیں کہ لینئیر الجبرا کے باعث آج کل ہماری زندگی میں انتظار ہی انتظار ہے، یعنی اس میں مہارت کا۔ معاملہ وہی ہے جس کی بندی اردو غزل میں کی جاتی ہے، یعنی کہ ہم ہیں مشتاق اور وہ بیزار۔ ہمیں الجبرا پسند ہے اور کسی زمانے میں اسے ہم پسند ہوا کرتے تھے مگر اب نہیں اور ہمارے بیشتر غم اسی کی وجہ سے تھے پچھلے ہفتے تک جب تک کہ ہم نے شیشے میں اپنی زلفوں کا بغور معائنہ نہیں کیا تھا اور جس کا رنج تو ہم فی الحال بیان کرنے کی تاب نہیں رکھتے۔
شاید، شاید ہمارا مسئلہ یہ ہے کہ ہم کبھی کہیں ٹک کر نہیں بیٹھتے اور ایک معاملے پر توجہ نہیں دیتے۔ میر کی طرح بننے کی کوشش بھی کرے انسان تو اس میں کچھ تو کام کرنا پڑتا ہے اور کام سے ہماری ابھی تک جان جاتی ہے۔ کچھ بھی سیکھنے کے لیے اس کو توجہ دینی ہوتی ہے اور الگوردمز میں شاید ہم میں کچھ اینٹی ٹیلینٹ ہو مگر اور کچھ معاملات تو نپٹا ہی سکتے ہیں ہم۔
خلاصہ یہ کہ زندگی بڑی ہی احمق شے ہے اور ہم شاید مہونے کی طرح کبھی بھی نہ بن سکیں۔ کیا کرنا چاہیے ہمیں، یہ ایک اوپن کوئسچن ہے۔

Saturday, November 18, 2017

On being handed a vial of sulphuric acid

Life, somehow, always finds ways to one-up me, and always throws balls at me that I can't play.
I've gotten plain tired of the strategy of giving up but my fate knows how to trigger my existential crises.
See, there are things I think I foresee. I worry about them, I mull over them in my mind all the time. They keep me up at night and melancholy during the day.
Or they did for a long time. Then, quite recently, I decided to send them all to hell, because I do not care, and I realized that my happiness was my own and not to be affected by anyone or anything outside.
Thing is, these things usually never come to pass. My problems, when they arise, are quite different.
My mother calls me a chameleon and I had it recently stated to me by my first-semester professor that I have changed quite a lot (twice) but even my transformations can't help me escape my fate.
Fate is all-reaching, and I guess that is why it is called fate.
So today, on the 18th of November in the year 2017, I got up in the early noon of a Saturday, feeling like a queen because
1. I had cleaned my room the previous night
2. I had had a bath last night!
3. It was early noon and I have been rising at 6 30 in the morning for quite some time. Early rising is good in the long term but lazy lounging feels nice from time to time.

I am behind on a project report but I was happy nonetheless. I am doing the project by myself and I don't know if I am going to complete it at all and the professor refused me a LOR and I might lose my only nice grade because of the report being late and the assignment that I submitted last night being incomplete (I didn't do the extra credit thing) and I screwed up the last assignment too but-I was happy.

I was happy because I figured that yet another B grade or a C-school only acceptance list or the fact that the boyses in my linear algebra class have ten times my level of understanding at minimum (God knows what the infinity norm is) and my poetry is third-grade and the set of my real friends is really small, a singleton set these days I think and that I am going to be homeless and jobless come January 2018 and that I never, ever, ever fit in anywhere be it East or West or that people always find me intimidating and way-over-the top serious even though I only talk to them on one subject out of that weird list of poetry, politics and philosophy and then they don't talk to me about that either-don't matter at all.
No one loves me and no one cares about me. That does not bother me in the least, because at the end of the day, I believe even my mother isn't obliged to love me. I might write stuff about it that people like but really I don't even give a quarter of a damn about it.

People never ever understand me, and that still rankles me to quite some extent, even though I try to keep a lid on it. People so rarely bother with listening in the first place, and I so rarely condescend to talk out loud but when I do, I feel that I am speaking a different language altogether. I suspect that the longing to be understood and to connect with someone on an equal level is a primal instinct of the intellect and it'd take huge amount of effort on my part to overcome it.

The need to be understood. Duh.

Maybe, maybe I should focus on my writings for this reason alone. People do get it when I say it in the form of poetry, and they don't need to be good friends with me to get this. it has happened twice in the recent past with two different people and I guess it does soothe my burnt ego to some extent.

So someone told me that a shiar of mine was super awesome, and that he could relate to it:
اک تبسم کو نظر انداز کر دینے کے بعد
اک تکلف تھا کہ میں نے درمیاں رہنے دیا
This is, to be honest,  what I call a sedlyfe shair. It is very honest and that is why he was able to pick it up I guess but it depicts a life I wouldn't wish on anyone. A life where you maintain a distance with everyone by choice. The distance is visible to anyone who cares to look a bit carefully, and your facade of rakh-rakhao and worldliness and girlish smiles can't deceive everyone. When someone tries to come closer in the metaphorical sense, you grow stiff and snub them and put them in their place instantly, even though you might spend hours whining about the lack of interesting people in your life, later.
I don't think I'm talking to him, again, ever.
Another incident was something that happened when I tried to show someone how to incorporate an idea in a shair. Another thing that I appended to the entire ghazal was:
سننے کی تاب ہے نہ سمجھنے کی آرزو
بہتر ہے میری بات یہاں ان کہی رہے
I thought of it as just another thing that I said but this guy called me out on it and he was like, pointy point! Again, this is very true, and equally sedlyfe. I think I appended it because I don't even expect people to understand this , though now I see this was naive of me.
Anyways, this time I gave my frank opinion that this is a sedlyfe shair.
I think my writing are the only way, ever, through which I might hope to get some understanding from the world.
Though I still don't see why this matters to me.
Oh, the existential crises. So I saw a couple of white hair on my head and I think this signifies that the end of my life is very, very near. I think I should keep this in mind, from now onwards.
I have learned to live without love, empathy, understanding, money, people, and most importanly, grasp of linear algebra. 
I guess I'll have to learn without a mane of beautiful hair, too.
Life is cruel indeed.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Of unrequited love, and the sister-zone, and on becoming a ten-minute-being

Today I received the perfectly non-shocking news that my GPA might make me eligible for cooking rice but it definitely does not make me eligible for grad schools, at least the ones I dream of.

Okay the cooking rice part is an embellishment of my own but the gist of the matter has been captured correctly.

On hearing this , I felt down for , like ten minutes max and then I was like, duh.

It was then that I realized my transformation into a ten minute human being was complete. Once I read a nice short story by the name, chalees minute ki auraat. or 'Woman for 40 minutes ' . I imagined I was going to be like her, but I have turned out to be radically different.

If I had a heart I could love you, if I had a voice I would sing.

I am going to quote this at a man one day. I do not know who the poor soul is going to be, but he will be capable of comprehending this.

Happiness, I have re-discovered, is a function of your innards only. At least this is the way I am. I do not need anything or anyone to be there in order to make me happy.

This hasn't turned me into the snow queen I admire in my low-class poetry. I love people, and I love things, but I do so on my own conditions and by my own conscious decision.

Conscious decision is the main ingredient here, the secret sauce as a really nice professor says in his class. He exclaimed twice or thrice today that I have changed a lot, and finally added that it is a change for the good, and that I used to be so quiet in his class during the first semester. This still makes me happy in the evening, after a soul and backbone crushing day.

After the night when I wake up, I'll see what tomorrow brings.

Once upon a time, I grew scared of loss. It was silly, and pointless, and it served no purpose. You can never be sure of something or someone sticking around(my ex-zulfain being a case in point) and really, why do you need something or someone, when life is wondurful and brimming with opportunities and new ideas and things and people are always popping in your life and when you can think and read and write beautiful poetry?

As for needing something or someone, I have very strict rules. The other day someone pointed out something that happened to my taste because of reading too much Iqbal- he thought I'm inclined towards heights. I think I've become a very independent person in the past few months in every sense of the word and a more fiercely independent thinker would be difficult to find.

Another thing in which I identify with Iqbal is the duality he mentions in his poetry, and I am tired of running dimensionality reduction algorithms on myself in order to make people understand me. I have vowed never ever to do that again , under any set of circumstances whatsoever.

Plus, the kud-dari. I hate being indebted to people, and don't like accepting favours from them.

One thing that I am good at is adaptation. I adapt slow, but I adapt like a lot. Like A LOT.

One thing that I am going to miss back home are interesting conversations. These I would die for, and I have such a dearth of them in my life. I am even willing to accept disjoint sets of folks for discussing politics, poetry, science, philosophy and then life stuff but each of these should ideally be non-empty.

If I had a heart. Sigh.

My poetry has definitely deteriorated.

Still, when all is said and done, I guess I am glad to have recovered from mid-life crisis by 26. It has made me realize that nothing can be taken for granted, and anything can disappear, but anything can appear, and in the end the self-styled importance we attach to everything is just silly and childish.

My GPA might be pathetic, but I am going to own it, and my life does not end with it.

I absolutely love Carnegie Mellon, but interestingly enough it has thrown more failures at me than successes, and shown me gently that failure is all right, and the important thing is to keep trying.

Unrequited love should, however , be a cause of concern to any poet, and I am a poet after all.
See, I love linear algebra with all my heart but it does not love me back. Painful? You bet. Am I going to falter? No.

The sister-zoning[that happened recently] is not something that I object to in the least, but it happened without warning and left me disoriented for some time. It was an interesting experience and God knows I have a dearth of people to talk politics to and I'm simply not going to let up such a person.