Thursday, October 13, 2011

Aitchison Days - Junior School (ii)

When we were kids ..... During my days in Gwyn House, there were other Ali Raza s as well. They were S.M. Ali Raza Gardezi, Ali Raza Sukhera, Rai Ali Raza, Irfan Ali Raza and Ali Raza Qureshi. So most of the time, for clarity, we were called by our surnames like Qureshi, Gardezi, Sukhera, Rai and maybe Irfan Ali Raza. The friendships that we developed back in that stage are still thriving now. We are still in touch to the most extent even though our responsibilities have increased ten folds.

K-1 was so much fun to be in. There used to be only a handful of boarders, like four or five, and mostly day scholars. Normally we were good friends with everybody. But since boarders used to eat, sleep, play and do everything more often than with the day boys, so they used to drift together in the classrooms as well. Therefore, they got isolated and day boys did not seek friendships or study partners with boarders. And slowly but surely it was seen that boarders are on different mental level than the day boys. Boarders thought that day boys were 'mummy - daddy's ' since they talked about tv shows, video games, eat burgers and stuff from the canteen, have fancy stuff etc. And boarders, not having access to the television and their parents, were mostly of playing field games like football and hockey, were more like outlaws and all. The day boys didn't quite fit in the friendship profile for boarders and vice versa. But I think they were all misconceptions. After all these years, I am still very good friends with many of my day boys and I hardly see any difference amongst any of us.

For K-1 boys, emphasis was normally on grooming good habits. Like we had ayas and helping bearer. We were told to call our bearer and the security guards 'chacha'. Our clothes were checked regularly for cleanliness. We were taught how to make our beds, take showers, and polish our shoes. And our nails were cut, hair were trimmed, the khaki shorts in the summer were creased etc. So there were all sorts of things that we had to do to meet the higher standards of discipline. We were shown an English movie once a week, normally on Friday evenings. So I never became a tv junkie like other kids because I didn't have access to tv shows and cartoons.

I was lucky that the Junior School has ample grounds. So we had all the space to play any kinds of field games we wanted to play and there were always plenty of kids available to play with. Cricket was the favorite one not only because Imran Khan was the captain of the Pakistani team in those days but also because we needed only a bat and a ball to play this game. We used our brick walls as the wickets and put something to mark the bowler's end. And played this game for hours. Second best was hockey.

More to come...

Aitchison Days - Junior School - (i)

I remember it was a cold evening on January 17th, 1986, when I first entered into the Gwyn House. In those days, Blue Wing was for boys in K-1. I was put into D-2, if I remember correctly. Mrs. S.S. Baig was our head house mistress and Ms. Aniqa was our house mistress. My dad and grandfather had come to drop me at the school . There were other boys' whose parents and family members were there to drop them as well. But I think since it was going to be everybody's first day away from their parents, nobody cared who was there and not. I still remember when my dad and grandfather were leaving me back in my dorm, I got pretty emotional and hugged my dad. I think my dad also didn't want to leave me. Anyways, they both were gone in next few minutes and my life in Aitchison College started.

After everybody was gone and I had put my stuff in the cupboard and arranged my bed, I stepped out of my dorm. It was late in the evening and a bit cold. This one guy came up to me and asked me if I was new there. I replied yes and he said that his name is Omar Jamali. He was senior to me and welcomed me in Aitchison. So anyways, I remember these first few things because they, somehow, are stuck in the memory.

Next morning, we were all uniformed with the help of our "nannies" or "Ayas". The dress was pretty formal. White shirt with gray shorts. A scarf and a blue blazer with socks and shoes. All the young kids were lined up and taken to various sections of K-1. I think sections ranged from A to G. So there was K-1-A, K-1-B, C, D, E, F and may be G. There was another Ali Raza in that line up too. It was Syed Mohammad Ali Raza Gardezi, abbreviated as S.M. Ali Raza Gardezi. There was some confusion of which Ali Raza was going where. He was placed in K-1-B and I was put in K-1-A. As long as I stayed in Junior School, I stayed in Section 'A', K-1-A, K-2-A, K-3-A, K-4-A, and K-5-A.

Our usual routine was getting up early in the morning like 6 am in the winters, wash ourselves, get dressed. Normally, our uniforms, nails, hair, shoe polish, they all were inspected before the breakfast. Later on, we were off to our classes. We had one break in between where the boarders were provided a fruit or a snack back in the boarding house. The break lasted about half an hour. After school, we would change our dress and get into blue shorts for the lunch. There is a big dining room where all the classes in the Gwyn House gather for the meals at a same time. A small nap followed lunch. In the evening, there was a game time, may be an hour, or little more than that. Then we would change into white shalwar Kameez for Maghrib prayers. Only Maghrib prayers were the formal prayers offered by all the classes in Gwyn House.  And after Maghrib prayers, it was prep time or study time. During this time, we all were suppose to finish any of our daily assignments, read or prepare for our tests and exams. Prep times were observed in the prep rooms.  After an hour of prep time, dinner was provided in the big dining room. We all would go to bed soon after the dinner. Since we were in K-1, the routine was strictly observed for us to get accustom to the routine and develop healthy habits. The older classes were given some leeway in this daily routine. But they were still accountable for not following the routine.

I would imagine how young kids are tucked away by their moms and dads in their cozy homes in winters. And there we were, who were away from their homes, parents, siblings, preparing for the 'Real' world.

Look out for follow-ups. This is only the first in the series of Aitchison Days...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Moving to Pakistan (2) Part-1

It was back in 2009 when I started thinking seriously about moving back to Pakistan. At that point, I had a very good job and was getting two to three job offers every week. My small family, wife and daughter were doing great in Madison, Wisconsin. However, the mind was stuck back in Pakistan.

In the meantime, whenever I had a chance to talk to older Pakistani Americans, who have lived in that country for a long time, with their kids grown up, college bound or married, they also thought of going back to Pakistan. I was surprised because they were doing so great financially and socially that I couldn't imagine how they would adjust in our culture anymore. Some of them even talked about participating in the general elections to bring change in our culture. This was quite surprising.

In the U.S., our folks do things like running a gas station, may be establish an IT outsourcing company, jobs, desi grocery stores, etc. Their kids would yearn to become doctors or lawyers to become prominent in the community. For me, I am an engineer. I know my field is specialized and not everybody can do the job I can do. So professionally, I felt pretty secured and it was a matter of choice of working in the U.S. But at times, it made me feel that there is so much more that I can do in life which I may not be able to accomplish if I stayed in the U.S. I know U.S. is a great country and provides opportunities to people who wouldn't get the kind of opportunities in their homelands. I thought that I have a professional ceiling which I wouldn't be able to cross. Secondly, I am an agrarian and I may not be able to make a good businessman and be able to run a gas station or a grocery store if I chose to leave my job.

Life is like a plant seed. Once it is sown and left in one place, it grows with deep rooted roots, strong trunk, branches and leaves and it gets to become a very strong tree as the time passes. If it is uprooted and moved to a different place, the process starts all over. That is exactly what happened to me in Pakistan. Even though I was son of the soil, I had to go through the process of acclimatizing in this culture. Pakistan is one of the best places to live. But it still requires the effort and sacrifice to adjust.

To be continued....