I would see the boys of Public School Skardu striding in their bright uniforms at the day-off with slung bags over their shoulders and colorful ties swaying, I used to think that I would never be one of them. How could I when I had failed my 6th standard twice in consecutive years from two different schools- Haji Gam and Tameer-e-Millet. One teacher of mine was ready to swear that I would fail in my subsequent exams as well. So now when I look back at that mischievous, academically poor child I was back then, I do feel pleasantly surprised and happy at how far I have come along since then.
I believe that all this would not have happened if two turning points had not swayed my life. The first was the admission in Public School Skardu even when I was not even fulfilling the minimum requirement and the administration were not even giving me the admission form. The principal had kindly overlooked this deficiency back then on my behalf when I had requested him personally. The second was the experience at FM 99 Skardu where I was selected for RJ, the long commitment which I had not forethought in the least when I had walked up for the interview at the very last moment.
These two breakthroughs had set the tone for my subsequent journey. These boosted my confidence and raised my morale when I had none. I fought the challenges of both health and wealth with vigor and conviction then.
When the doctors at Skardu had suspected typhoid for the three months stomach pain of mine back during my intermediate, I had flown to Islamabad and affirmed that it was a minor ulcer not typhoid that I was suffering from. I had then gone to Karachi for completing the FSc which I had to leave in the middle by supporting myself from working at Shangzella Catering. I used to work by the day and study by the night, trying to rub out sleep and exhaustion with failure often resulting.
After that I had come right home for doing BA with Sociology and Geography majors but it was at FM 99 where I was concentrating more. By mastering how to talk as an RJ, I had learned how to think, how to view and how to learn itself. I met friends there who were more ambitious, learned and passionate than I was, thereby raising my standards as well. Therefore, after graduation I wasn’t settling for something minor. I was dreaming big as well. I had applied and was selected for NUML to study Mass Communication, a much related field to my work at FM 99.
Right around the same time when I was enrolled at NUML, I came to know of a scholarship program with the name of Community College Initiative Program (one year study program in any US college) which my brother Ilyas urged me very much to apply for. I gave out the tests even though I believed my English to be not as proficient as I would have liked. So after a week of university, I was informed about my short-listing for the program with the stipulation that I forego my degree program because it was specifically aimed for non-enrolled students. And when I was submitting my clearance form to the USEFP (US Education Foundation Pakistan), I was in a great distress and dilemma for taking such a big gamble with my life because I had to go through further tests for selection. I was notified of my selection in a very short while though. I took a huge sigh of relief and patted my luck.
The United States was an experience of a whole new world, comprising of a diversity of cultures ranging from every corner of the world, both similar and different at the same time with their insistence on American values of liberty and freedom but their local flavors still distinct enough. I tried and failed to take in and comprehend the vastness of experiences that was America. Although the primary things that leapt out at me during the first year were the shock of scantily clad women, the unsavory taste of chlorine water, the bland taste of all the food varieties and the opposite working principles of everything from buttons to steering wheels to road lanes.
But what struck me the most were the friendly teachers who preferred to call themselves by their own names, always encouraging, helping and supporting us in a way that I was never used to back at home. During my stay, I did internship at VOA, learning all the mysteries of pre-production and post-production activities besides volunteering 170 hours work for Red Cross and other charitable organizations.
The idea of accomplishment and success is illusory with no end to human ambitions, but I can safely say that I am extremely satisfied at what I have achieved till now. All this would never have materialized if my parents had not expended their unending love, tireless efforts and relentless devotions on me.