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The sound of Silence

A short story by Hamdan Ali Khan, 1st Year MBBS

The old man sat on the beach, barefooted and alone. Silence reigned everywhere except the occasional thrashing of waves which disturbed the acoustic equilibrium. Night it was, the sky filled with a million lanterns, the birds dozing off quietly and the sea like an old pirate sang a silent shanty. Oh! He missed his youth, when he could swim to the Black Rock without drowning, when he could shout at the vast ocean, his resonant voice fading upon the edges of horizon. But all good things come to an end, the voice that once resonated; now a husky whisper. The man who was the fastest swimmer; now an ancient remainder of time and its echoes. The doctors said he had terminal cancer that he would die in a week. He didn’t fear death, he had no family, nothing to lose except maybe the sight when someone would break his 50 years old record. The silence of the calm sea nurtured in him a desire to swim to the Black Rock once again, one last time. He …

YLC Saga Continues - Go Green - Day 2 (Part 1)

By Farkhanda Qaiser
Day 2: Environmental Leadership
6:30 AM Yoga exercise
8:00 AM Breakfast
9:00 AM Understanding environmental degradation with Tofiq Pasha Mooraj
10:30 AM Panel discussion
11:30 AM Tea time
12:00 PM Shehzad Roy and Djuice Team
1:00 PM Lunch and Zohar Namaz
2:00 PM Activity time
3:00 PM Breakout sessions
4:30 PM Session with Dr. Nadeem Abidi
6:00 PM Asar Namaz
6:30 PM Corporate Kacheri
7:40 PM Maghrib Namaz
8:00 PM Environment friendly dinner and Isha Namaz
10:00 PM Breakout plays
11:00 PM Capacity Building with Sohail Zandani
Walking bare foot; silently raising hands instead of clapping and hooting; eating environment friendly food and doing khamoshi ka boycott, that’s what the YLCians did on day 2, the day of environmental leadership. A day that began as early as 6:30 AM. Unfortunately I was in too deep a slumber and slept all through breakfast as well. Much to my distress, later I was told by my teammates that I had missed an excellent session of yoga and an even better breakfast by the best chefs of Sheraton. So for me the day had started with plenty of guilt and anger at my lazy self. To add salt to my wounds, my sweet YF just shook his head to show his displeasure and not a single harsh word! God! Was I wallowing in self pity?! At that time, Tofiq Pasha Mooraj - The Environmental expert- was on stage and trust me he wasn’t making things any better for me. So, I got talking to a team mate who was very enthusiastic about joining army in the near future. Nevertheless, my Kemcolian germs would not let me rest. So I’d keep jotting down interesting points that I’d catch from Mr. Pasha’s discussion. I know he did say something about fossil fuels being limited and the fact that water conservation must be encouraged. But more than anything he said, my focus was on that cute grey pony tail of his. Pardon me for this insignificant observation but that grey lump of hair tied neatly into a few inch ponytail sure is a rare sight in Pakistan. My emphasis is on grey here! Okay I know I’m rambling but deal with it. I’m no environment freak so I would generally not even understand half the discussion that went on even If I had been listening. Yet, I do believe in cleanliness and no littering around. My friends and family are quite fed up of me as I even force them to tuck the garbage in their bags until they find a dust bin. But a little tidbit for the environment freaks, Mr. Pasha has had 30 years of experience in horticulture and water management. He has even introduced high revenue crops alongwith judicious use of water in different parts of Sindh. So he is something of a revolutionary in the green world. Do Google him out and learn about his various works. Get inspired. And get working!
Thankfully by this time, I had shaken off my sleep and was actively listening to and participating in the ongoing discussion. The representative of PSO was elaborating upon the new fuel - E 10 – that PSO had introduced to minimize environmental pollution. However, we, the youth of Pakistan would not buy anything so easily. We questioned him thoroughly on the quality of E 10, its price difference from the normal petroleum and how it would be environment friendly. Another panelist of this discussion was Mr. Rabnawaz, an American convert who had been living in Pakistan for almost a decade so he was aware of the ground realities. While answering one of the queries, he made an offhand remark that Pakistanis should stop consuming Chinese goods to penalize China for its non-environment friendly habits. I’m sure he was caught off-guard by the strong reaction that his remark evoked among the general audience. Many participants were of the view that America is a bigger contributor of global warming and pollution so if anyone must be boycotted economically, it must be America. Moreover Chinese goods are of much cheaper prices and thus their popularity among the majority of the poverty and inflation stricken Pakistanis. Therefore there is no way that we can support the ban of Chinese products. We must approach the developed countries on other platforms like UNFCCC to emphasize the importance of green measures. So overall this was a very fruitful and informative discussion that we had. It sure proved that the Pakistani Youth are very much aware of the world around them. They may be the products of the rote learning education system but they’ve certainly not limited themselves to their textbooks. The best thing about YLC was that it had stirred our inquisitive nature. I remember by the last day, there were so many people with questions that Kambha literally had to wrest the mic from them due to time constraint.
While the Q & A session was going on, I noticed that Shehzad Roy - the famous singer - quietly entered the hall and sat on one of the front chairs. His entrance had largely gone unnoticed as all were deeply engrossed in listening to Mr. Rabnawaz’s clarifications. I, on the other hand, had gone near the stage to take pictures of the speakers and thus knew that a renowned celebrity was now among us. It was very hard to contain myself from shouting out loud because I’ve been a huge fan of Shehzad Roy since time immemorial. I had grown up with his songs and could never in my wildest dreams, have imagined that I would one day see him live. Moreover I was deeply impressed by his humble entry and that too without shoes! (Remember we were celebrating bare feet and no noise pollution day) So as soon as the seat next to him was vacant, I jumped onto it, which made him jump too…! His innocent reaction made me smile and I thought I should apologize. But then my mouth went dry. All the million things that I’d wanted to say wouldn’t reach my lips. Even my vast debating experience could not come to my rescue. Just then, my friend whom I’d asked to take my picture with Shehzad Roy, popped up with the camera and asked us to say cheese…! Click! And my time with my dream celebrity was over! I was shoved away to make space for the long queue of awaiting fans with cameras. You see, now everyone in the hall knew about his presence. Not long after, he was called up on stage by Bilal Nazar Sibtain – one of the YLC champs. Mr. Roy was wearing a black djuice shirt with the slogan, “I’m Armed and Dangerous with my words and with my voice” written on the front. He had come as a brand ambassador of the djuice - khamoshi ka boycott - programme. So he also expressed his personal attachment to this programme and how this was much needed for the social conditions of Pakistan. He further said that he had been directly affected by the recurrent loadshedding which had blown up his costly musical instruments just a few days ago. Most importantly we came to know a fact that no amount of googling would have provided us. The fact that Mr. Roy usually wears torn socks! However luckily for him, that day his socks were perfectly whole. Then on audience demand, he also sang a few verses of his famous songs, ‘Tera mukhra’ and ‘Laga re.’ After that the participants who had been sponsored by djuice were given exclusive time with the legendary singer. All the others were turning green with envy and fighting with Maddy - a YF - who was guarding the gates. But as soon as the gates were opened, the more enthusiastic of us rushed forward only to find out that Shehzad Roy had left. But we weren’t ones to give up. We ran all through Sheraton, bare foot, to reach the entrance where some people were still taking pictures with him. Under normal conditions, we weren’t allowed to cross that doorstep but now was the time for extreme measures…! So we went for it and there we were, for the first time in our lives, standing on the pavement with no shoes, eagerly jumping to take photos with The Djuice guy aka Shehzad Roy. I had already taken a picture with him but my cousin hadn’t been able to so we had gone through all this exercise for her but sadly to no avail. Because just then, his car came and he had to leave! I really wish he had stood for just a few more seconds, but then I guess he must have some important place to go to as he had already been held up for quite some time. So I forgive you Mr. Shehzad Roy. I hope my cousin does too…! And all those people who hadn’t been able to capture him in their cameras do so as well.
Aah celebrity life must be so hard. You can’t seem to make everyone happy yet you try.
Thinking such heavy thoughts, we proceeded towards yet another delicious lunch. After lunch, Urooj Mazhar - another YLC champ - explained the ‘Tanzeem activity’ that we’d be doing now. In this activity, every team consisting of 20 members were required to stand on 4 chairs and a chartpaper placed on the ground. Not only were we to stand but also to move around and complete the circle without stepping on the carpet below. Our YFs were going to judge our progress. The activity did seem impossible but we believed that nothing is impossible if given enough time. So we began stacking the chairs in every possible formation to ensure that maximum number of people could stand on it and also move around. After that was the time for the balancing act. And finally to complete the circle in a disciplined way. And VIOLA… we had done it…! During this activity, we learned to trust our team mates that they’d not let us fall and if we did fall then there’d be lots of hands to catch us. This was faith. It taught us unity that we can achieve anything if we are united. And last but not the least; discipline is very important for success. So there you go, we had lived the YLC slogan, Imaan, Ittehad, Tanzeeem and Inqilaab…!


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