By Fareeha Qayoom
ou know what? We are frustrated, depressed and fast becoming a negative bunch of people (if not already) as a nation. We spend too much time focusing on the negative, complaining about things – on television, on newspapers, in our lives. This is toxic and should be stopped ASAP. We need hope, optimism and an attitude of can-do to move forward.
I got this sudden insight because it was a weird kind of day (Wednesday, Jan 25, 2012…). If I understand Hawkins correctly, according to one law of (Quantum) physics – apparently, what’s true at sub-particle or at the tiniest level of particles (molecules to the atom to the sub-atomic particles which are apparently bigger than these smallest particles) is true for the whole universe.
First thing in the morning (between 6:30-45 AM or thereabouts); I heard this sudden loud (series of) noise – I was in the upstairs lounge, enjoying the quiet of the morning, the heat from the gas heater (gas is running at full pressure at this time) and no demands; the noise was the sudden sound of a speeding vehicle, tires screaming; screech of sudden brakes; a collision and a crunch of an impact with glass breaking; you know, like an accident happening with full sound effects but no picture – and then a series of gun shots. I wasn’t scared but I thought it prudent not to step outside to see what was happening until the gun shots died down.
In the meantime, my brother woke up because of the racket. I was already at the window trying to catch the action from the first floor – we saw the tail end of a police truck speeding away….God knows what really happened but Adnan thought it was the police truck speeding away, taking the corner too fast, banging in to a tree and because of the impact of the bang, the gun(s) going off because some poor chap had his hand on the trigger and then embarrassed with the whole thing, they ran away! I thought they were chasing someone and actually caught up with them at the corner because we heard gun shots again sixty seconds later even though they had moved on…(Couple of days later, I found out that it was a high speed chase, they actually killed a man and two got away…they were apparently some kind of alleged criminals and it even made it to the news.).
A few hours later, I arrived at the workplace after dropping my brother off and spending 45 minutes on the road already, in plenty of time for my weekly conference call (that could and should have been handled by my colleague who is supposed to handle production – it was mostly about production issues (95 percent) anyway but my boss insisted I had to be there to hold his hand.). Originally I had been planning to leave at 9:30 AM from HQ to handle two pre-production meetings at a denim plant. The factory is at a two hour drive from Lahore. Four hours were to be spent on the road. I wanted to come back in plenty of time and do my emails as well but no dice. My boss made me change my plans for this call. Anyway, she’s the boss so I changed them and rescheduled my appointments to accommodate her and my colleague. Two other colleagues were also supposed to go with me for this appointment – they got impacted too. They had to wait for me at the HQ till I got there so we could all travel together in one car.
My computer as usual started acting up. So I called for help – twenty minutes wasted in getting things fixed. By the time, I start reading my emails; it was time for the call. The whole morning was spent in frustrating delays, waiting, not getting through, finally getting through and listening to various complaints from various people about all sorts of things which actually had nothing to do with me; I finally made it to the HQ – one hour late for our appointed meeting time – we met, I listened to some more complaints; this time about the one hour delay to our plans, then finally we were on our way to do some real work on our own behalf; by the way, beautiful road- the M2, even though, it’s more than ten years old now.
We passed the River Ravi– it’s totally dried up – we discussed this fact. One of my colleagues told me India is planning to dam up River Indus now and very soon, we will be a dried up; shriveled desert country and our economy managers are too corrupt because they know about it but plan to do nothing at the appropriate international forums because they are getting money under the table from India to keep their mouths shut. So he spent a few minutes complaining about that…
The guys stopped for a quick takeaway and one of them complained about my forethought in bringing my lunch to work! I do that every day. It’s called organization and forward planning. I called my other vendor while I waited for the guys to come back. Finally got through; spoke to him for ten minutes. He was not in his office either. I thought I might be able to speak to him in the evening to catch up on all the deadlines and we broke off our conversation with this hope.
We got there at 3:00 PM and didn’t waste a single minute; we did two Pre-production meetings, back to back and picked up our counter samples even though our dear vendor tried to wriggle out of it; (yes, I listened to complaints here too) – we left the factory around 5:15 PM. Got back to Lahore around 7: 15 pm. During the two hour drive; we talked shop to fill the silence – what bonded us together was of course the negative – (we talked about one of the complainers). I signed off at the HQ and then hit the road again.
The Ferozpur Road is blocked for construction so had to use the underpass to get home which actually took me slightly out of my way. I decided to be constructive and drop by at Readings; picked up two more books. Had a chance meeting with a business acquaintance from Valuemag days who told me I should befriend her on Facebook to keep in touch. I decided not to go back to work even though I was planning to do so earlier…that one hour delay had ruined all my plans for the day besides, I was too tired and demoralized to put out some more fires at work (emails). It had been one long day already…the constant complaints all day had been atrocious and there was still no let up.
Reached home by 8:45 – 9:00 pm, listened to yet more complaints, tried to unwind but only got fifteen minutes for that (I read the first chapter of my new book) and then again had to hit the road, we had to pick drinking water from H Market and groceries…when we got there, there was this one guy who had hogged the whole parking space in front of the shop by parking his car at a weird angle – I made do by parking my car in this narrow space left over by him. We picked up the water and started reversing – this same guy suddenly took off even though he could see I was backing my car, then right in the middle of the road, he stopped and gestured away, blocking my exit – I thought he was gesturing to the Gourmet Waters serving staff because one of them moved to speak with him; the space he’d left at the parking was quickly filled in the meantime while this drama was taking place…I was blocked at the front and the back and don’t forget I was reversing and assimilating all this unexpected movement at the same time – all of this happened in barely sixty seconds…I don’t even understand why he stopped in the middle of the road suddenly if his business had not been concluded yet, shouldn’t he have remained at the parking space like any normal person?
By the way, I was not even speeding while I reversed…my back bumper tapped into this guy’s car gently (and I braked immediately!). He got down– blocking the whole road and jamming the traffic even more to complain about my behavior! In fact, he left his car parked in the middle of the road to do that. He also wanted me to get down. I refused gently and told him I had expected him to drive away, not suddenly stop in the middle of the road and then start gesturing! He told me the gesture was intended for me – apparently it was a signal for me to stop. Well, obviously I misunderstood. I didn’t know he was signaling to me. Besides, you don’t stop unexpectedly in the middle of the road in a high traffic area where cars are coming and going from all directions and especially when you can see this car had started reversing before you sped in to block its exit…it was bound to cause some unexpected problems. He ended up with a scratch on his car. I ended up with a giant headache at the end of a fairly long day which was not getting any better…
We came home; I made it back to my room, started reading again, and dropped off to sleep without realizing it. Suddenly I woke up because of another loud noise – it was around 1:00 AM. Apparently, my little nephew had a nose bleed because sometimes he scratches his nose raw in his sleep so Adnan and Shela woke him up to stop it and made him more comfortable and that’s what all this commotion was about. They were awake and trying to watch shows before the next power outage (the shows were on a memory stick); fortunately, they went in to check up on him between shows and discovered all this blood on his pillow…
And that reminds me, this is another major cause of frustration that’s making the whole country irritable – no electricity or gas in the country! All of us have to fit in our work, hobbies and leisure activities around the electricity and gas timings unfortunately – our operational costs are running high and not everything can be run on UPS indefinitely…hence, the deluge of negativity…
Since I was already awake now, watched one show with them; they went to sleep and I remained awake. I read for a while – (I was still wide awake and it was already 4:00 AM). I got out of bed.
A brand new day…I decide to write…the electricity went off – I let it and continued writing; yes, I was using the UPS to finish my post…Funny thing was; this freakish asymmetrical day started and ended with a loud noise but it was actually a kind of normal everyday thing – you know, just another day in Pakistan…
The other day, my sister told me my problem is that I don’t complain and I never explain! (I was telling her about my day.) I apparently only observe and comment and that too, only sometimes.
One of my co-workers had also given me the same advice, though, his words were slightly different – he had told me I didn’t have to take on everyone’s workload even if it was being forced on me; I should quietly shed it ASAP and just concentrate on mine; learn from his example, he had successfully got out of those extra jobs that were being thrust on him by our mutual colleagues – my team could and should carry their own load as clear lines were already drawn and there should be no confusion who was supposed to do what. He also told me I should stop shouldering blame for other people’s negligence as well by never complaining or explaining myself because those people were quite adept at maneuvering me into doing their work and then taking credit for it and shifting blame to me for all the bad stuff while I played fireman on their behalf to the senior management – in short, they were starting all these fires and keeping me busy in putting them out and using that time constructively by muddying the waters to defuse and confuse things with senior management and customer by presenting me as the fall guy and I was letting them because I never complained or indeed explained! Talk about dumb blonde syndrome! 😀
There’s something rotten in the state of Pakistan and it’s definitely not because of the 20 percent who are actually too busy to complain or indeed explain what’s really going on! It’s the 80 percent who are actually creating the false impression. Unfortunately, perception is more important than reality. So the real question is: Is the glass half full or its really totally empty?
Working Girl (1989) – Let the river run