Hogging Loneliness. [Two]

I can’t remember the inciting event.

Perhaps it was a holiday, or maybe I fell ill. It could have even been a mixture of events, but there was an occurrence that helped me distinguish between solitude and loneliness.

Solitude was a choice. Loneliness was a cancer.

Being by myself was how I always recharged my batteries. Whenever I needed to regain composure, gather my nerves and come up with my creative best, I would look for seclusion. Some people tend to go out and draw their energy from being around others. They actively share their opinion, and as much as I enjoy being expressive, it never was my niche in society.  I preferred to listen, reflect and stay focused on my chosen set of interests, almost naturally.

After being a recluse for what suddenly seemed like decades, I decided that it wasn’t for me.

Being alone became tedious. I started to feel drained halfway through the day without even doing anything. I began to wonder if I had converted to the dark (read: extrovert) side or if I had just become a victim of  self-inflicted social abandonment.

Being alone to ponder over such questions never helped much.

Social engagement became a necessity almost as quickly as social disconnection had become my priority. I reached out to my fellows and colleagues, who seemed more than welcoming to let me in their social circles. I found their company to be almost always one dimensional. It didn’t take long for me to realize that keeping up with this company would be a detriment to whatever was left of my intellect, and that it needed to be cut loose.

In my resolve to not reduce myself to a label, I decided to make the best of my situation, and blah blah blah, here I am. I can’t keep writing about myself. I hate this post and the idea behind it. And I said “I” too much in both part one and part two here, which is killing me. So that’s that.

My life is a series of unfinished thoughts and unpursuable ambitions. This post will just have to be added to that long list of deeds.

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Hogging Loneliness. [One]

I can’t remember how long it had been since I wanted to live alone. 10 years? 15, maybe? As far back as I can recall, all I wanted to do was get away from people.

I wanted a lot of things, as a matter of fact.

I was selfish and confused. I wanted a lot of friends, but I wanted them to never be around. I wanted to wake up alone and I wanted to fall asleep alone. My mother tells me that as a child, I would insist on sleeping in my own room. She would tuck me in and turn out the lights, only to find me standing at her bedroom door in the middle of the night, crying because I got scared. I would wake up the next day in her bed and beg to be left alone in my room the following night. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Flash forward to half a decade later:

Being immigrants who were trying to begin anew, my parents had little time and resources to cater to our growing pains. This is not to say that they didn’t do a fantastic job at it. Growing up, however, meant learning a lot of things before my parents would. At times it almost felt like I was raising them just as much as they were raising me. I also had the privilege of raising my kid brother until he was well into his adolescence. We were eight years apart, and I was barely a teenager myself when I babysat him for the first time. That went on for almost 10 years. It felt like too much back then, but if I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Before I turned 18, I had successfully developed a self-reliant mentality.  I could cook, clean, do my laundry and manage my checking and savings accounts. I kept a regular grooming and hygiene routine almost religiously. I could almost make my bed. My grasp on necktie knots was just as good as my understanding of a credit score and my networking skills were as adequate as they could be, growing up where I did. My first job started when I was 15 years old. I mowed lawns and painted fences until I was 16 and I could change a flat tire under 15 minutes once I got my own car. I tried to be a savvy consumer, but an impulse buy here and there was always cathartic. I worked three jobs, I traveled overseas and I managed a stock portfolio, along with a tiny record label. I had done everything anyone could ever want to do, and I did all that before I turned 21.

With the exception of one thing: living alone.

Fast forward to January of 2010. I moved out of the college dorm and into my own apartment. It was 8 pm and I sat down to eat in the tranquility of my own living room. The plastic furniture didn’t bother me. The unpredictability of electricity didn’t faze me a bit either. I must have had the most impish smile on my face as I raised the first bite to my mouth. The dull crunch of my teeth piercing the roti and kabob was almost deafening. It was loud enough to wipe that smile right off of my face and make me realize that I had never eaten alone before. Perhaps an isolated incident here and there, but never this quietly. Never this utterly lonely. That was the first time I began to build respect for myself. I continued to eat and I couldn’t hear myself think over the sound of my chewing. The loud noise of loneliness.

With each passing moment, the space around me began to grow vast. I felt myself grow right along with it. I was happy. I was never in bad company when I was alone. I must say, I have never found but one companion who was as companionable as the solitude itself. There came a time when people came knocking at my door, and if I wasn’t in the company of that one companion, I would refuse to answer it in a feeble attempt to convert them to the religion of solitude.

Sometimes, I would sit face to face with myself, pondering over my despair and rejoicing over my achievements. The people closest to me were even closer now that they weren’t actually physically close. The further I kept them, the more I loved them. I guarded my isolation in the cunningest of manners. I belonged to myself. Not like a hermit. That wouldn’t be enough. It was worse. It was almost better.

I strengthened my fortress of solitude to a point that it became impenetrable. I succeeded in being considered totally unworthy of company. People left me alone, just as I wanted. I was victorious. The only thing left to do was develop a capacity for constructive use of solitude. I bought a guitar, and I caught up on reading lists from three summers ago. I started this blog, though I preferred adhering to the more satisfying, micro-blogging platform, otherwise known as twitter. (It provides instant gratification, don’t judge me.) I cooked and maintained my health better than ever before. Being alone was every bit as rewarding as I had expected it to be,

Until recently.

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I’ve noticed that my posts have started to become too lengthy. I intend to be inadvertently verbose, specially when I start talking about myself. Grandeur. It’s pathological. Anyway, I’ve recognized the readers ever so shortening attention span and I decided to address it by splitting my posts into parts. This is only an experiment, and your feedback would be appreciated. Thank you!

I swear we were infinite.

Pardon me for skipping past the usual commentary and jumping right into story mode.

My father invested in our first family computer when I was in 8th grade. This was back in the summer of 2002, I think. (I’m 23 now, stop doing the math.) Everyone had their own thing. I was into MS paint & Delta Force. My mother was in it for the music, to some extent. My father was into news & getting in touch with family back in Pakistan. For this intensive purpose, he brought home our first headset. Unfortunately, he would soon be turned off by the fact that the only people using computers in 2002 were my younger, douchespout cousins. My mother was too busy with her job and my brother was deeply involved in whatever headstart/preschool students get themselves deeply involved in. I wouldn’t know. That part of my life was spent in Pakistan. We have prep and kindergarten, and I can’t remember in which order.

Anyhow, this left me with all the computer time. Then came along a friend who introduced me to the art of piracy & downloading music without paying for it. I still remember that sunny, Sunday afternoon he came by my house to show me how to use Ares lite. To this day, I think of that as the first in a series of events that made me who I am today. That very day, I ended up downloading about seven songs; 56kbps was wild. As fate would have it, I was relatively new to music & didn’t know what I was downloading. I just saw whatever was on top of the ‘most-downloaded’ list & clicked away. What I ended up with was some Lil’ Wayne, some Lloyd Banks and some Eminem.

Now, despite a few scuffles and a stolen bike or two, I grew up in neighborhoods much safer than their’s. There weren’t any shootouts or people slanging cocaine on street corners. Yet somehow, I felt myself relate to the struggle and the culture that their music was all about. As all like minded people end up finding each other, it wasn’t long before I started hanging out with the crowd who had similar sentiments towards rap and hip-hop. I invested in my first MP3 player after saving up lawn-mowing money for a while. It was used, roughed up everywhere and it held 35 songs, with a slot for a memory card I couldn’t possibly afford. My parents didn’t find out about it until much later in time. I would download a few songs a day, and walk around listening to them until I had the lyrics and the beat memorized down to the very snares.

It was one of those days. I downloaded a song, turned off the 56kbps beast & started listening to it. Halfway through the song, it turned into an instrumental with the producer of the song ad-libbing their website and calling for people to rap on the rest of the beat. It piqued my curiosity and that very night, while I was supposed to be doing my homework, I started writing lyrics to it. My dad walked in on me a few times and asked if I was writing a poem, to which I replied in the affirmative & would do so for years to come. Once my “poem” was done, I played the instrumental & rapped over it. I never actually thought about recording because I didn’t think I could afford whatever it was that it took to make songs. Turned out, I was quite resourceful.

The next day I visited the website and saw hundreds of versions of that song people had already submitted. I downloaded the top five and although the first couple were quite admirable, I clearly remember scowling at the bottom few. My lyrics were much better and I had never been so sure of anything before.

I started searching the internet (yes, still on my modem) for information. Today, I can still teach you how to set up a home studio without spending a dime. I can show you how to make a pop-filter out of a stocking & a tea-strainer frame. In that research, which went on for several weeks, I learned about pirated software & beat-making. I downloaded professional versions of ProTools, Cubase & FruityLoops. My main software was Audacity though. I can get you a decent static-reduction using nothing but some pillow filling. Hilarious, I know. As I said, I was broke but I was resourceful.  I found my father’s dusty old, walmart headset which he had purchased for $16 and later on declared a waste of money. He didn’t even get around to using it with the Rosetta-Stone CD’s he picked up once. It was a lot of work, but it didn’t feel like anything at all because it put a smile on my face. This work was my play. At that time I didn’t think much of it, but I can’t tell you how proud I feel of my 15 year old self when I revisit those memories.

So, I sat down one lonely summer afternoon and I recorded my very first song. I must have had the house to myself each time I recorded, because I remember being pretty loud and repetitive but I don’t remember anyone inquiring as to what in the world I was doing! I recorded my song and I uploaded it somewhere on soundclick. I went around other people’s pages and practically begged them for feedback. Most of it was positive, to my surprise. Some were very specific about what they loved in my song, and this newfound appreciation added fuel to the fire. The general population usually has rappers pegged as illiterate nobodies, but the constructive criticism they provided was extremely professional. Plus, creating music broadened my horizons to all sorts of sounds. I listened to country, rock and roll, Latin, Arabic, anything I could get my hands on. I found myself downloading more instrumentals and spending more time writing to them.

I wasted a lot of paper & ink. I would write something before going to bed, and wake up to hate it. When I went to record, it would be quite a few takes before I was happy with my final product. I would sometimes record a verse about 17-20 times before it sounded good to my ears. As hard as many may find it to believe, there came a time when I was recording without writing. Given that those weren’t my best lyrics, but I would learn later on that it was a rare talent.

One thing lead to another as time went on. I got involved with other teenagers doing the same thing. We started our own record label. We built a website and we got one of my songs some radio airtime in Chicago & Atlanta. I was maybe 17 at that time. Along the way, I met many people who were encouraging and many who weren’t. I, however, drew more inspiration from the naysayers. At this point, I had about 25-30 decent, studio-quality songs with complete copyrights to the beats & the lyrics under my belt. Me and my friends made CD’s and started sending them out to record labels.

Bad Boy Records got back in touch. As excited as I was about the prospect of being signed to Diddy, an older producer told us to steer clear of the bigger names and find someone who would let us be more independent. Tony Yayo’s cousin in Florida also got in touch, but he wasn’t offering much besides studio time. We thought about being independent, but we didn’t have the capital to take on that task. The only label we found suitable for ourselves was an independent label located in Brooklyn. They offered residence, studio time, production & marketing and only asked for a small share of whatever sells.

It was decision time and it was senior year. I was way out of touch with my high school’s social circles and I barely maintained honor roll. No one in my family knew what I was up to. I’m pretty sure my dad thought I just watched porn all night on the computer when I actually sat there and produced my music. I would rather have him believe the former than the latter. I wasn’t sure of his reaction & I didn’t want the discouragement. Little did I know, discouragement was inevitable.

Lacking the funds and the motivation, I just sort of drifted away from making music. My passion lacked conviction. I was happy that I didn’t have to think about how to turn my hobby into money. I was happy with what I had. 40 some songs. Music, that I created. The first ever form of creative self expression that appealed to me. A year went by, I graduated. My friends moved. One went on to live in Kentucky. The other in Florida. The first one to move called me and told me about “a cat named soulja boy” who came and rapped at the same studio that he was rapping at. Soulja Boy, as you all know, went on to become quite famous afterwards.

2006 rolled around. I moved on with my life. I focused on my education, and didn’t look back again until recently.

It is with a heavy heart that I begin this paragraph. I’m not sure if it is my desire to create, once again, or the fact that life was so much easier back then that it is now, which leads me to feel this way. Or maybe it is the fact that none of the music I once made still exists, except for four songs that I left up on my label’s myspace page. You see, all my music was stored on these websites or with my friends. I didn’t keep any of it on the hard drive. I was too young to know any better. Since 2009, I have been trying to get in touch with those friends. This year, in 2013, I have practically begged the folks at Soundclick to retrieve my songs from their archives, but they refuse ever having encountered my email or my username. I find that hard to believe, but I don’t know how to prove them wrong.

My myspace is still there though. I don’t share it with people. They will taint my memories with their comments. Ever since 2009, I have only shared those four of my songs with 5 people. These five may have gone on to share it with others, or I may have  inadvertently posted a link publicly, but at least these were the only 5 to direct their comments at me.

I left a lot of my story out. It’s hard to condense 5 years of your life into one short blogpost, specially when you’re a terrible story teller. I tend to embrace verbosity, but I really tried my best to squeeze in as much as I could with as much brevity as the context would allow. I don’t know how else to end this. It seems like a dream unfulfilled. If not the main, then perhaps a part of the root cause of this occasional feeling of dissatisfaction. Yet I still feel like me and music will cross paths once again. I don’t think this blogpost ends here. I think I’ll be coming back and editing it every now and then. More for myself than for the readers, but I will be adding to it.

Perhaps, had I ended up downloading Kenny Chesney on that one summer afternoon, I would be a different man today. That, however, isn’t how it all worked out.

A million dollar idea

Are you sick of all the bad music going around?
(Well, you shouldn’t be. You should only be concerned with what you like. Another’s preference in music is not your choice to make.)

How about the bad haircuts?

And I’m sure most female readers can relate to the fashion trends?
(You’ll have to excuse me. I’m too oblivious to provide specific examples of what women are wearing.)

Sandals and socks, anyone?

Perhaps a visit to this post will add a desirable note of specificity to our topic.

Think of the trend you hate the most. Anything. Justin Bieber, One Direction, the hipster frames, converse shoes, baggy jeans, YOLO. Anything! Now what if I was to tell you that a small monetary contribution could escort your least favorite trend into the pits of obsoletion? Would you dig deep in your pockets for a little change? How deep?

Here’s the idea:
We will have dedicated trend-unsetters peddling the streets, engaging in undesirable behavior while promoting specific trends so people would develop a natural repulsion to the aforecited fads.

With the exception of YOLO, because most of those people do something stupid before or after the exclamation anyways.

 

Punk’d by the Mayans

I’d like to take a timeout from my books (read: naps) to issue this statement of elucidation.

It worries me to see how many people were not only anticipating, but actually excited about the world’s end. After careful contemplation conducted during a hot shower, I have jumped to the conclusion that everyone’s excitement about the world’s end was directly proportional to the amount of misery in their lives. Either that or boredom.

This, of course, includes me. I was actually counting on it. The end may not be nigh but my exams are awfully nigh and no one likes academics unless you’re one of those fuckers. In which case, I take this space to instruct you to do something which is anatomically impossible: fornicate with yourself. Stop studying! You’re making us normal people look bad.

I am not as disappointed by the world continuing forth as I am about being wrong. I have many acquaintances and young, impressionable cousins whom I may have awed with my unlimited knowledge of galactic alignments and geologically rapid polar shifts as predicted by Einstein himself. Then I proved them with magic videos from youtube (before it was banned in Pakistan) which are never wrong and the absolute authority on everything. The aforementioned people will be blowing up my celly (ebonics for a wireless device) either asking me why the world didn’t end or mocking me for being wrong.

In my defense, I’m not the guy responsible for the world’s end-type affairs. Seriously.

Here’s a potato to help you grieve. This potato is an asshole. You can tell just by looking at it.

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Prelude to a sabbatical

That time of the year has come again. Where as most of my readers will be celebrating thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, or the winter itself, I’ll be spending my time buried amid books pertaining to human diseases and the medicines we prescribe to correct them! Well, for the most part at least.

One thing is for certain: I will be taking a short leave of absence from social networking of all sorts. I wanted to leave my blog with something extraordinary before I left and as I was contemplating what my last words should be, I stumbled upon the idea of sharing with you the last words of some of my favorite people in history. After you read about their death, do remember to read about the lives they led. Inspiration is guaranteed.

1. Voltaire: “Now, now, my good man, this is no time for making enemies.” (Said to have spoken when he was asked to renounce Satan on his deathbed.)

2. Henry David Thoreau was on his deathbed when his aunt inquired:
“Have you made your peace with your God?”
“I never quarreled with my God.”
“But aren’t you concerned about the next world?”
“One world at a time.”

3. Karl Marx: “Go on, get out. Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough.”

4. Dr. Che Guevara: “I know you’ve come to kill me. Shoot, you’re only going to kill a man.”

5. Vincent Van Gogh: “La tristesse durera toujours” (“The sadness will last forever”)

6. Mozart: “The taste of death is upon my lips…I feel something, that is not of this earth.”

7. Napoleon Bonaparte: “Josephine…” (It’s what he used to call Rose, the woman he loved. She hated his guts.)

8. Winston Churchill: “I’m bored with it all.” (Slipped into a coma that lasted 9 days before he was finally declared dead.)

9. Alexander the Great: To the strongest! (When asked which one of his generals will control the Empire)

10. Groucho Marx: “Die, my dear? Why that’s the last thing I’ll do!”

Thank you, Malala.

“I dreamt of a country where education would prevail.”
said Malala Yousafzai, a 14 year old campaigner for human rights & education.

Her dream was finally realized after UN’s Special Envoy for Global Education, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, handed a petition to the President of Pakistan this Friday. The petition, which was also signed by the president during the Waseela-e-Taleem initiative in Islamabad, was carrying more than one million signatures of the people across the world to show solidarity with Malala and support for every child’s right to education. As a result of her courage and perseverance to stand in the face of adversity, 32 million girls like her around the globe who are denied their right to school have finally been brought into the lime light.

President Asif Ali Zardari also announced on Friday, that poor families will now receive $2 a month per child in primary school, which is the bare minimum fee of a child attending a subpar, government supported educational institution in Pakistan. It may not be much, but it’s an incredibly progressive step in the short 65 year history of Pakistani independence. If Waseela-E-Taleem brings about what it promises, 3 million children will be in school by the end of 2012 and this is just for Pakistan. Many of these children will be girls.

As a religion, Islam has always been an advocate for women’s rights. Before came the fundamentalists, there was no acid throwing, no poisoning of girls for attending school, no stoning of women and no burying alive. All these issues were aroused by a lack of awareness and illiteracy, and could just as easily be eradicated by providing education to the masses. Starting with the backbone of a family, the woman, we seek not only to educate the mother of her children but rather an entire generation. This is what Malala Yousafzai had been hoping to achieve via her campaign against the insurgents who wanted to keep a region of people oppressed by keeping them uneducated.

You took a bullet for your nation, there is nothing more patriotic than that. Whatever future Pakistan has, you put your life on the line to mold it into something beautiful. For that, we’ll be forever grateful. Not everybody will approve of your actions, but don’t worry, ignorant people hated Muhammad (PBUH) and Jesus as well. It didn’t stop them from conveying the right message and I’ll be damned if it stops us. We are with you every step of the way. Thank you, Malala. Thank you for being the voice to 32 million children across the globe who are deprived of their right to education. Thank you for doing what none of us could and asking for nothing in return. You are forever loved and appreciated. Today on November 10th, we celebrate your bravery, courage, and vision as well as pray for your recovery & safety. Amen.