Alexander The not-So Great

Often we are told great tales about the teachers and ustaads of days by gone; Of pre-partition time when young boys wearing nothing but shorts and white banayaans (undershirt) sweating in the light of a filament bulb or candle light under the watchful gaze of

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a wise old man with a stick. Those were the days our elders tell us, when teachers or Master Sahibs were respected. With their rigorous and harsh methods they were able to instill in their students the discipline together with knowledge and grace necessary to live a successful and righteous life. Not everyone could become a master sahib, unlike every tom dick and harry who has opened a school inside a house we were told, for to become one was the highest of honors.

Such an esoteric class of teachers, existed in a completely different era in the history of our Indian subcontinent. And our elders were correct in holding these noble man in high regards as we can see what a magnificent job these master sahibs and ustaads of the subcontinent did by nurturing leaders like Mr. Jinnah, Liaquat Ali Khan, Allama Iqbal, Gandhi, Nehru and so many more who received their primary education in local schools.

Much has changed since then. And that esoteric class of teachers has faded away now and can only be seen at best in those who reminisce about the bygone days but lack the aptitude to truly count as true Ustaads. But this blog is not about the glorification of old teachers or teaching methods. Its about one particular tutor I had in high school…

I am a good example of the generation which grew up among issues such as, respect for teachers, say no to drugs, MQM and PPP, nepotism, sexual harassment, passing marks and that ever allusive ‘Garadee’ (which in my opinion by the way has f***** the way the

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children think about studies nowadays). We take our dinners in the privacy of our rooms and take our breakfast in the school bus, we drink water directly from the bottle to avoid wasting time with a glass point being our culture has changed drastically and with it the expectations from teachers including teachers themselves.

I don’t know what an Ustaad is suppose to be like. Lets consider an example of someone, say Aristotle. Here is something I always found amusing: You remember Alexander? The Great one? Yes, well he is often regarded as an epitome of leadership an icon of greatness. Imagine history remembering you as Sid The Great or Faroqi The Great or Zardari The… ahem. Well small wonder, Alexander learned directly under Aristotle the father of rationalism, founder of the western thought… bloody Aristotle! my God. Just think about it, after being taught directly under Aristotle I believe people should have held Alexander accountable had he not lived up to his present reputation and done something ‘Great’. You know Alexander you wouldn’t be so great had you not been born a prince in the most civilized society of the time.

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Now lets consider another example. There was a time in grade 11th when I wasn’t doing well in a number of courses and decided to take private tuitions in a typical Pakistani fashion. We had the usual ‘Tuition Kings’ at the time, De’sarem, De Silva, Handerson and (I hope I remember the spellings correctly) I don’t know if these guys are still in the scene, its been 8 or 9 years since high school. So any how my friend strongly recommended a tutor nobody had heard of who taught in very small groups. Heres a brief anecdote, it might bore you but its very relevant to this post:

As I entered the guys house for my first lesson I had expected the usual middle aged, peppered hair fat ass or a skinny black dude, (no offence my Srilankan brothers its just the way things are) this guy looked anything but; a big 5’10, 200 pound guy with very long hair coming halfway to his waist hahaha incredible! He reminded me of Jack Black with extra long hair.

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But he seemed very chill and poised. And as it turned out was very well learned and informed. Over the course of my tuition I got to learn some very interesting things about him; How he used to do homework for kids in school for money, how he used to borrow books from library instead of buying them, how he had been researching on ‘Number Theory’ since O-levels and when after completion he took his work to Karachi University they didn’t had a department to for his research. He was excellent at mathematics but I ended up taking Maths, Add Maths and Physics from him for O-levels and A-levels later on. Heres the fun part, he was also a doctor by profession completing his MBBS from Sindh Medical College and a member of APMSO! I’ve always admired original people and .. lets call him Sharjeel was one of the most original people I have ever met.

We use to hit Red Apple in those days every weekend after class with him. He was our mentor. Thats who he was. He taught us to look around, observe, learn, ask questions, research and ace our CIE exams……and also taught us gambling, making proper aim while egging and later on which streets around Phase 5 to use while escaping 🙂 I will never forget him.

Sharjeel passed away at the age of 25 after suffering a sudden heart attack. I remember thinking at the funeral, ‘bro, you learned and did all that God had planned out for you in the quickest time, maybe that is why He has called you back early’. He was a mathematician by heart and medical student by profession and I owe all my six As in O-levels and passing grades in A-levels to him. He was a good man. An Ustaad! 

The only thing common between Sharjeel’s class and the class of bygone days was perhaps the shorts and white undershirt he always used to wear however his underlying principle was the same; learning in its essence and hardwork. Everything else, etiquettes, morals, creed, etc is secondary.

God bless you old boy. I think right now the mood and the occasion demands something uplifting, here we go:

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My Love Affair with the Film Industry

I wanted to talk about anything but movies today. I am kinda in a mood where you feel unhappy about somethings in your life but you know you cant avoid the inevitable. Like for instance you have been seeing someone you really like but for some shit reason you two can’t be together anymore; cruel parents, sectarian issues (Yes! that still happens), long distances, trust issues take your pick or some project you have been working really hard on out of a necessity while knowing that it wont be approved at the same time or the fact that one day you will die. Normal people would call these situations tragic.

The problem is, I do not look at these situations as tragedies. I mean I do but not tragedies per se. I believe that it is situations like these that make me who I am and I .. kinda enjoy the feeling of being in such situations. While this may sound very emo and some might even go as far as to call me a masochist, I don’t know, these feelings keep me on edge. They give me the will and determination to keep pushing. Most of all they remind me of the thousands of shades this life has and adds depth to the things around me. I guess I am weird this way.

When I am not personally in a tragic fix I like to look for it in other people or things. Maybe that is why I like to know the people I interact with on a daily basis very intimately. I hate small talk. I like really knowing someone. You know, like where they are from, why are they in a particular profession, what makes them tick, what is their story, what is the craziest thing they ever did, what are their beliefs and values etc.

Maybe this is also why I have found a life long partner in the motion pictures. Films are after all  a portrayal of the extraordinary event(s) in the life of a protagonist. They start from a scratch, build up characters, show their environment, take them through some exciting ordeal and then explain why the people did what they did. Ahh, I just love all of it. An exciting script goes a long way to keep me happy. And I am not talking about action films and the usual Hollywood fluff. Take for example:

The Beach (2000)

One of my all time favorites. Directed by Danny Boyle who will more popularly be known for Slumdog Millionaire (2008) and starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Leo is quite an actor. Give him any role and he will excel at it, trademarks of a good actor. Tom Hanks anyone? The most amazing thing is that the son of a bitch has never won an Oscar! Not yet any way a testament to how messed up the award system really is. Any way, The Beach is a story about a guy looking for something new, something different in his life, away from the sickening mass of humanity. And he finds that thing in the form of a beach, an island paradise hidden from everyone but for a select few.

For those who like romantic flicks prepare to see love and relationships as they truly are in  Blue Valentine (2010). Again, guys, the industry has evolved into something alot more captivating then romcoms starring Jennifer Anniston, Anna Hathaway, Owen Wilson and

Blue Valentine (2010)

Ben Stiller. Nothing against these actors, hell I sometime aspire to speak like Owen Wilson but I just can’t stand popcorn flicks anymore. Blue Valentine, starring a very talented and upcoming actor, Ryan Gosling shows how two people meet and not in the usual cliched ‘extraodinary’ circumstances in usual romcoms either but in simple everyday situations. Something that might happen with you or me. The story goes on to show how they start to really care for each other and get married and then how later on in life their marriage is facing difficulties. Very true to life scenarios without special effects. A must watch and while we are on the subject of romance Paris, Je T’Aime (2006) is another incredible recommendation.

Ok this post is turning out to be a This Weeks Top 10 on HBO 🙂 I just want to impress my hobby of watching films. I watch alota them. and I mean alot!! So, for my final film review and this movie caught me completely by surprise; behold, Solaris (2002) is a remake of Solaris (1972) directed by one of the most influential names in Russian cinema, Andrey Tarkovskiy. The movie depicts the depth of the human conditions, the inevitability, the metaphysical and alternate realities. It challenges what the term ‘reality’ means. For those who are into sci-fi it will be an added bonus. Don’t get put off now I am perhaps trying to sound too articulate but the movie is directed by Steven Soderbergh popularly known for the Ocean’s Eleven series, Traffic, Insomnia and Syriana. Also it might be significant to add that Steven Spielberg together with James Cameron is an executive producer and oh did I mention George Clooney is the lead actor? So… trying to sound articulate? I think not do watch it if you really want to find out.

Solaris (2002)

For all these films I have stated above, if you are looking for a nice cinematic weekend experience over a 60 inch screen or a sunday family time you will be disappointed. Watch them with an open mind, for a quite stimulating time.

Well these are some of the films from my personal must watch list. Perhaps I should make film reviews a regular feature of this blog. Give me your feedback. I am sure Pakistan will have loads of film enthusiast, we are among the few nations who watch alota films; piracy! (one word explains it all). But back to the way I was feeling like today, it is films like the ones I have mentioned above that gives me the solace I require. Its an addiction. And sometimes when they come with just the right soundtrack, its orgasmic. Just like this one from the movie Kaboom (2010):