The ‘rule’ of ‘left and right’
The earliest memory of my childhood was with my mother, holding her hand and going to school. She sat down on her knees and I could look directly into her eyes. She said in a deep voice “Ali, always look to your left and right” and I started looking to the left and right, she was also saying something about roads, cars and accidents but I was too excited to listen.
This was the first and the most useful advice that my mother ever gave me. I used it in preschool, always looking to the left and right before hitting a girl. In school, before starting a fight so nobody could tell who threw the first chalk and mostly at home before eating the last slice of pizza ….
It wasn’t until I placed my first step in college that I realized the true worth of the rule. I entered into the premises of my college fighting with a bag heavier than me. Searching for a helping hand I looked to the left and right and saw a boy in a more dreadful expression them mine, dressed like he was going to meet the president of America. I walked towards him and said “hello I am Ali and you…”, and he said “hi, I am Omar, starting this year, and I am so glad to see you” and this was the beginning of a friendship that had no end.
During the initial days every senior of the college was looking for students of the new entry to make them do tasks that cannot be mentioned here, and those who didn’t had the talent and creativity were made a frog and them asked to jump in the green herbal water to purify their souls. I was always very meticulous, having seen what the herbal water had done to my classmates I was always on the watch, looking left and right and if I even saw a shadow of a senior I would run for my life. But on one cursed moment I was going to the supermarket carefully looking to the right and left that I forgot to look straight and bumped to a senior, grasping my jacket he smiled at me and my whole throat went dry….. And at last I also cleansed.
A hostel has its own set of rules. Everything in the closet is private property and once it gets out is a public asset. This applies to everything from toothbrush to a shirt. So those who get up early in the morning have a whole wardrobe to choose from, but for some poor souls it was difficult to cover our bodies. Omar always said “Ali world’s fashion has developed from hostels, for example one day a thin boy can only find an extra-large pair of jeans, so he wears them to college and the next day the fashion of baggy jeans is born.”
Every time Omar went home his mother would say “I will not pay your mass bill next time, you don’t eat anything” and when I went home my mother said “I will not pay for your mess bill, you have enough stored for a lifetime”. And she was right every time I went home I had to buy new clothes. The old ones were too tight. I realized that it was also due to the rule. Whenever anybody was eating anything I would reach there in a nanosecond, and when I was eating nobody ever joined me, because I was always looking left and right.
When I was young I hated to get up in the morning, brush my teeth, wash my face, wear a school uniform and go wait for a bus. It was like being prisoned. After coming to college did I realized that if school is a prison then college must be called Guantanamo bay. You have to get up at 6:00 am even if you couldn’t sleep at night doing the 1000 word assignment. You have to wash and shave because the guards will simply declare you a terrorist and shoot you. You don’t have to wear a uniform but instead you have to find, wash and iron your clothes. Omer thought of hostel as a place where men could find their hidden talents. Who could have thought that Bilal (our next door neighbor) could cook so well or I was a master of washing clothes. In the hostel I was fond of aimlessly wondering in the corridors looking left and right. Soon I knew everybody’s gift and contacted them on need.
On my first day to college I bought a new pen and register, sat on the front bench, 15 minutes before teacher came. The teacher came, look at the strength of the class and said “1st day” smiled and started a lecture on statistics. I could only listen for 5 minutes and then on my left a girl stated telling her friend about her cat. After I had wept on the death of her cat with her another girl on my right started telling the statistics about her dog……. And so I kept listening left and right until the lecture was over……
Now after a few months in the classroom I either sleep or look to the right or left. Even when I was sleeping I could tell what was happening at my right or left.
On our last day an annual dinner was organized by our class. All the teachers, faculty members and students were invited. I was sitting with Ali that I noticed someone with large piercing eyes was continuously staring me. I was about to shout and run but Omar stood from his chair and started greeting the man as Sir Rizwan. And so I realized that i am so busy looking left and right in class that I forgot to look straight. It didn’t took me long to disappear to the left, right away from SirRizwan.
Time passed by and the most difficult time or exam days started. Mostly Omar and i stayed in the study room. He had his eyes glued to the text books while I was busy viewing left and right.
The final assessment test for our first semester started. The hall was packed with students. Some were writing with such speed and concentration that I was sure they have to catch a plane and meet the president. Others style of writing made me recall when I was writing my first love letter. Cutting a single line hundred times never satisfied. I was busy looking left and right asking answers, eyes on every invigilator of the class.I was only half way through my paper that an invigilator came from the bathroom. I was unaware and busy copying from the right that he came, put his arms on my shoulder and ordered to come sit in the front seat with him. On the most uncomfortable seat of my life I looked up for inspiration looked down with desperation. I now knew that it was time to finally let go of my rule and started writing…..
Written by: Ghazal Zaffar, Medical Student from Army Medical College