Sep 8, 2011

Personal Statement

By Misal Shujjat

My mother almost died when I was nine years old. I’d had a very adventurous childhood before that; I fell down the rabbit hole with Alice, flew on a broomstick with Harry Potter, climbed the beanstalk with Jack and solved mysteries with Sherlock Holmes but this particular event was like a lightning bolt of reality in the rains of my imagination. It pulled me out of the pages of my books and led to the painful discovery that waving my pencil would not cast the spell I needed to clean the dishes or silence my crying four year old brother when both our parents were at the hospital. But it also led to my discovery that the best way to express all my frustration, fear and helplessness was through creating whole new worlds and characters and burying my problems and beliefs in their speech and actions. It was liberating, therapeutic, addictive.

That was the year I started writing in earnest. Literature had been part of my life ever since I was old enough to listen to my grandmother’s folk tales; her voice willing away the hours of heat filled summer power outages in Karachi with tales of flying carpets and the cool wind in our hair. The rest of my childhood years in Canada, I immersed myself in books, identifying with characters, diving into their worlds when my own got dull and loving the fact that anything seemed possible with them.

Moving back to Pakistan after a decade of living abroad wasn’t unlike being struck by lightning again. I was immediately singled out, teased by my peers for being a bookworm, for having a different accent and an over imaginative mind and the resounding thunderclap came in the form of my father’s nearly life robbing heart attack.

Through the struggles of adjusting to a familiar yet altogether alien culture, dealing with the threatening possibility of losing a parent again, and coming to terms with the realization that reading and creative writing were just not given the same level of importance as the more ‘hardcore’ subjects in my high school, my connection with books and my passion for writing gave me the fire I needed to light the fuel of my determination to prove myself.

I learnt to fight for what I believe in, a trait that later awarded me Prefect ship for three consecutive years and the title of President of Literary and Debating Club. There were always parallels to be made between my world and my beloved characters; the societal norms I was expected to act on were similar to those in the worlds of Jane Austen’s heroines, the political mayhem around me poignantly Shakespearean. I didn’t lose myself in these fictional worlds, falling out of touch with reality like I was accused of on so many occasions; I learnt from them and used my knowledge to shape my own unique views.

My craving for a formal classroom environment where I could hone my talent wasn’t satisfied until I transferred to college to complete my A levels and was presented with a faculty devoted to literature. I could finally stretch the canvas of my imagination further than I’d been able to before when I was surrounded by people who understood and shared my passion, added their own coloring to my interpretations. I was still fighting for what I believed in but instead of fighting for literature I was arguing about it; from history to politics and philosophy. Their company was like the first rain after a tiring dry spell; refreshing. That’s how I imagine my university life to be like.


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