DAWN The Review, November 1, 2000


Shifting Sands

By Maheen A. Rashdi

Poets have expressed it in verse form; authors have written reams on it and dramatists have formed endings around it; but ‘partings’ and the ‘appointed hour of separation’ when it arrives for every individual, brings with it its own sense of woe, never precisely expressed before. Flashes from time well spent are solely individual experiences, stored in one person’s memory, private and intimate, not comprehensible to another being.

Changing times demand alterations. They may be in intimate relationships, in family units or in careers. And ‘moving on’ is part of the circle of life governing our existence. Difficult as it may sometime be, reason needs to outweigh sentimentality at times. But how does one strike a balance where pragmatic reasoning does not turn into callous self-indulgence, scorning norms of civility and morality? When is it logical to break out from old ranks and join the new? When should one decide to call it a day in a relationship, which, though beautiful and long standing, gives more heartache and misery, than it gives solace? When is it the right time for such pivotal decisions to be made?

The right time is not an appointed time, I have discovered. It is simply an elusive moment which catches you unaware, and one fine day, you realize that your life changed somewhere of its own accord. You either discovered love where you were not looking for; you ended a friendship, which was just someone else’s selfish need, or you were given resources by a source least expected. When the first whiff of change came your way, you will never know. But yes, you must know how to translate chance into destiny.

If Thomas Hardy is to be believed, chance plays a very important role in an individual’s life. It is chance which shapes destinies. The decisions made at a particular point in time, are what determine the future and the end, and those decisions — at least according to Hardy — depend more on chance than anything. So if that were true, say his critics, where does the ‘will’ come in? That supreme will of human beings, ruled by reason and logic — a purely human trait. But that is where the thin red line is — the decision is human but the consequence is chance. The endeavour to identify that ambiguity is perhaps what our lives are all about. And in the mean time, till we reach a conclusion — if we ever do — we will need to deal

with the emotions which ensue as a result of our ‘chance’ judgments.

My melancholic discourse at this point is a direct result of one such revolutionary decision I have been moved to make. And while I deal with the resulting contradictory feelings of hope and sorrow — hope for a bright future and sorrow at the leave-taking from so many friends and colleagues — I wonder whether my decision (borne out of chance) will lead me to the destiny meant for me. But I also believe that the human will can truly make mountains move; it can turn any tide in its favour if it so desires. And if that conviction is strong, no decision can really turn out to be the wrong one. The travails on the way become part of experience, the prelude to knowledge and the best tool for success.

But try as we will changes are definitely knotty times. They give you knots in the tummy because of fear of the unknown; they give you knots in the mind because you can’t stop thinking about the pros and cons and they give you knots in the heart because of the pain of leaving a safe and cherished existence. And at this point in time I am one knotty person, droning on with my maudlin thoughts. But I know that it is only a matter of time when newer challenges — once they get the adrenalin pumping — will be bringing out the killer instincts in me and the fond memories that I leave behind will become a source of strength and make me smile in times of pressure.

I will smile as I remember the pressure of newspaper workings and The Review’s deadlines. I will smile while recalling our desperation and how my team and I actually willed time to slow down because ‘Khurram’s’ or ‘Ishtiaq’s’ article had not arrived in time, or the photographer had done the usual disappearing act, leaving us with an amazing interview but no face to go with it. I will smile and remember the illustrator’s wrath, because we were asking him to do the impossible — create an image without giving him the article. I will smile at my colleagues’ frustration at my delaying the production schedule because of my perpetual tardiness in delivering my column. I will smile while remembering the perpetual tussle of the editorial team with the production team. I will smile at the many heated arguments we all had as a team on our varying ideologies on politics or on the dispute over the looks of Keanu Reeves or Dennis Quaid. I will also (try and) smile remembering my editor’s rage at the publication of ‘provocative’ material.

Yes, I will smile and draw immense strength from all my experiences. I will also remind myself that chance pits us against all kinds of odds — emotional; professional; financial — and we need to find stable ground at such times by drawing strength from within. Any task that ‘chance’ appoints us, has to be executed to the best of our abilities by exploiting every virtue within us.

That is the role as defined by destiny; that destiny which is outlined by the Almighty.

And it is for us to know how to shine in any role defined for us — by chance or otherwise.

...and I actually willed time to slow down because ‘Khurram’s’ or ‘Ishtiaq’s’ article had not arrived in time, or the photographer had done the usual disappearing act...