Start Walk    

In the Background
by Zoha Ahmad

Spring came upon us suddenly and vividly. I think of how Orientation Week whizzed past us, transforming into a semester of sweaty evenings spent cooling off in the hostel’s common room, early September mattress fights, navigating to classrooms where the floors still confused me, nights spent at the khoka, and groggy 8 a.m.s chugging on chai to wake us up. It was beautiful—everything I could’ve hoped for and more.

Fall was, however, enormous. It gulped all of us up. From signing up for too many societies, enrolling in the wrong courses, the ambition to not miss a single campus event and the all-nighters — I had drowned in the background of it all.

Spring is to re-adjust. To reclaim all that I had thrown away as an enthusiastic first year, adjusting to a life that was to be mine for the next four years. And all I want is to be more aware of my background noises, and not be submerged in them.

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[4.07 pm]

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We trace our fingers across engravings on this deep green table where I’d once fallen asleep after a late class last semester, exhausted from a night of doing everything but doing what I should have been doing: sleeping.

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The background of the khoka is a soft lullaby: a shaggy haired boy playing “Laree Chootee” on a guitar with his group of friends singing along out of sync, a broken speaker at a society stall that blares music loudly for twenty seconds before coming to a resounding halt, wails from the society members trying to figure out who brought this malfunction upon them, ten, maybe twenty, people standing not too far from where I almost lie asleep, joking loudly about someone’s Mehran, a girl that is shrieking, running from table to table, as a friend chases after her, the sound of wheels against concrete as the one guy who likes to skateboard post classes follows his daily regimen, the thumping of a fully functioning speaker installed next to PDC, the loud cackle of a group pressed into a PDC window, the low roar of engines as cars pull up or pull out and the ever existing resonance of voices, laughter and groans tie together with it all.

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Right now, it is much quieter. I can make out the conversation the girl on the next table is attempting to have silently, but failing. The khoka is relatively empty on this side with many having fled to the front of PDC to either participate or witness the senior batch theme day. The theme of choice for this Thursday: pajamas. It had taken me a minute to figure this out, having spent the entire morning confused about why this girl had put in so much effort to do her makeup but not her clothes. The distant sound of chanting and horrible pop music was today’s lullaby.

Khair, I, now, can only think of the burgers that we sat waiting for. From afar, I spot a friend carrying our bags of food, walking towards us from the in-gate. Next to me, a stomach moans.

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[7.08 am]

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A laptop open in front of us, a calculus question weighing heavy on my mind. I ask my friend to explain again and he sighs. His do-over is better than attempt five, worse than attempt two. I wish I hadn’t pulled an all-nighter, my brain failing to cooperate.

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At 7 am, IST Lab 2 is almost empty. No one can muster 4 am energy anymore. Upon being asked if I got it now, I say yes. I am not sure what I have gotten but I have gotten something. The laptop logged into my LMS is almost about to sleep and I wish I didn’t relate so heavily to a machine.

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I turn to my friend who is now busily responding to a text message on his phone and ask if we could go get coffee. He smiles and I understand the gesture. We race through the IST lab corridor and down the stairs. I win, he scoffs. Then we both laugh.

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With The Bunker as our nightly rescue, I immediately feel awakened by the similar scent of toasty tea as we walk. Upon walking out with our steaming coffee cups, the morning sunlight almost blinding — I think about the next calculus question that weighs heavy on my mind.

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[4.36 pm]

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I think of the Calculus exam I just gave, suppressing a half giggle, half cry as I walk out the building. It would have to wait until I meet my friends. We liked to perform these after exam rituals together at the khoka.

I always thought that the SSE entrance where we sat was something out of Greek mythology. Not that I know much about Greek mythology, but the long, white columns and shiny marble floor reminds me of something I imagined was mythical like that. We enjoy sitting here on the cold marble, doing absolutely nothing at times.

Today, I was alone and it was as bright as could be. The sky clear, my head foggy from the dense all nighters I had pulled for this exam only to barely scrape by. My extended humanities background really did not serve me well during mathematics. I like not to breed regret so it seems a brighter idea to appreciate this clean, beautiful day — finally free from the concept of limits among others. I never quite liked the idea of limits anyways.

I slowly walk through the garden on the left, the boys' hostels somewhat in sight, somewhat concealed by a thick cluster of evergreen trees. It sometimes amazes me how green LUMS was. It was a shade that was unique to LUMS and its nature altogether that emerged to full bloom during Spring. We rushed by too quickly to appreciate all that was around us because it was always around us.

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[5.05 pm]

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A favourite place of ours is the cricket ground. We have laid large leaves at the foot of the cold, wet bench in order to sit somewhat comfortably.

We have to sit — one simply does not enjoy the cricket ground without sitting on one of the 8 benches littered on one side of it. The grass is shiny wet, the pink blossoms having gone to sleep after a long day of socializing. We guess how much longer they’d take to finish painting the building almost attached to the boundary walls of LUMS.