This is a short story I wrote after hearing how a person ruined his life by making wrong choices and not facing the pressures of life
The class had the usual hustle and bustle. Students sat chit chatting animatedly and gossiping, the girls about the latest fashion and TV dramas while the guys about recently concluded Football league. Ahmed entered and after a general hello to the class he headed towards his usual place beside Sehar and Alina.
“Thank God it’s Sir Ali’s class first, it won’t be a bad start of the day” He said as he fell into the chair.
“You stay up most night talking on phone. Stop doing that and all mornings will be fine” Alina said.
“Sorry, I am not a morning person” Ahmed muttered
“Whatever, at least Sir Ali will keep us awake” Sehar said
“Won’t affect me as I’ll fall asleep” Ahmed said with a smirk
“Stop taking advantage of his nature. He’s easygoing, doesn’t mean you piss him off as well” Alina said exasperatedly
“No need, I’ll just take him off-track again and doze off like before”
“He tells really good stuff, you should listen to him” Sehar said
Ahmed laughed. Alina thumped his head. Both girls knew he was not going to listen. The bell rang and as the class began to settle, the door opened and Sir Ali entered. Thin and tall, wearing rectangular spectacles and tidy hair, Sir Ali seemed calm and peaceful like always as he greeted the class and put his laptop on the table and turned it on. This was perhaps the only class in the university that never required memorizing events and dates in Pakistan Studies course, making it not just easy but interesting as well. The only reason why the whole class found Wednesday mornings refreshing compared to the rest of the week.
“Everyone enjoyed our 1965 War analysis from last week? I hope you guys made the necessary notes, you’ll probably need them for the next quiz” Sir Ali said said.
“Will you be asking us specific questions? I mean like names of battalions and squadrons and all that?” Nooria asked
“I explained that earlier as well. You all need to understand the event AND recall the right names. You can cover broadly but that may not result in better analysis” Sir Ali replied
“That means we will need to remember all the names of pilots of PAF as well? And their squadron numbers too?” Sajjad asked
“Those that matter and the ones we covered. For example, who was Sarfaraz Rafique and why a base has been named after him?” Sir Ali asked
“Best in his batch, top Ace who was unfortunately shot down during 1965 war due to delay in attack clearance and his guns getting jammed. His skills, abilities and caliber was accepted by all and thus a base was named after him” Sajjad replied.
“Precise, to the point and well-worded … that is what I want, well said Sajjad. None of that requires memorizing once you understand from multiple perspectives such as strengths and weaknesses, dots connecting with various events and outcomes of small events that led to the larger impacts in future, you will never need to memorize history. It will become like a map flowing map in your mind where as the date passes, events will unfold and you can actually feel each event affecting the other” Sir Ali said.
“Aren’t you a bit anti-military in your analysis sir?” Ahmed quipped
“How so?” Sir Ali asked
“Even though it is part of history, but what need we have of studying in detail 1965 or any other war. We are not military students, this is a business school” Ahmed said
“True, but without knowing what truly happened in the past how do you suppose you will face the business environment when you graduate?” Sir Ali asked
“It looks less like history and more like you are trying to teach us ethics or morals of events which, even though really interesting, doesn’t really related to history as we know” Ahmed said
“I am ofcourse teaching you history and history is based on facts, verified through different sources which are both reliable and accurate. While teaching history you can include morals or ethics where applicable. For example, the genocide of Native Americans is part of recorded history of the US and that is used for teaching morals and ethics, used as an example of what not to do. They are used as an example to learn lesson in humanity and attempt to curb the brutality man is capable of unleashing” Sir Ali explained
“What about learning ethics and morality from micro level examples, from ordinary lives? Anyone can cite examples from historical events but as you said before, personal examples are the best to teach as they relate to emotions. If so, why are we studying history and not Personal Lives like Biographies?” Ahmed asked
There was a confused silence in the class. Sir Ali looked at Ahmed, frowned, then turned towards his laptop and began the shut off process. Alina leaned closer to Ahmed and whispered
“What are you doing? What kind of non-sense was that?”
“Throwing him off-track. He’ll start babbling about his personal life, and I can sleep a bit” He smirked wickedly
“That’s bad of you. He’s putting effort into teaching Pakistan Studies, not Ethics course” She whispered back heatedly. Ahmed waved his hand dismissively and leaned back in his chair. He had done the same with Sir Ali a couple of times, throwing weird questions and dozing off during the lecture. The last time was fun, he realized when he woke up at the end of the class, as Sir Ali had ended up telling them about his personal life where small decisions led to domino effect and impacted a lot of lives, including an idea to a social worker that turned into a nationwide successful awareness campaign for child education. He wasn’t interested in his teacher’s fairy-tales; he just wanted to sleep it off like the last time.
Sir Ali had packed his laptop and was now looking at the class, arms crossed at chest. His eyes seemed distant as if he could see something in the air others could not. The students had slight unease at the way Ahmed asked the question, but almost everyone now knew what he was up to and no one bothered to interrupt him.
“Are you going to listen or sleep while I talk?” Sir Ali asked, his eyes focusing on Ahmed
“I am alert like a soldier, Sir” Ahmed said
“You said the same last time and look what happened” Sir Ali said. Ahmed smiled guiltily.
Sir Ali unclasped his arms and put his hands in his pockets as he slowly began to pace in front.
“Do you know there are two wolves in every person?” Sir Ali asked. No one replied, all listened carefully instead. Sir Ali often asked questions but never to hear answer, only to build momentum.
“One wolf represents the good of humanity. It reflects ethics, morality, generosity, love for others, kindness, gentleness, loyalty and similar traits that make us good humans. The other wolf represents the darker side of humanity. It represents greed, animosity, hatred, self interest, vengeance, brutality, lust and similar traits that bring out the worst of us.
Which wolf is the bigger wolf? Simple, the one you feed.”
Sir Ali stopped pacing, looked at the class and spoke firmly.
“For the next few minutes listen to me carefully. What I am about to say may end up making, or breaking, your life. You are all young adults and this is something that you have either faced or about to face, therefore choose wisely”.
Sir Ali took the chair, sat down in front of the class, took a deep breath and began to speak.
“The wolves in us have certain affinity with our personality. They thrive on our emotions and as we grow up, so too they with what traits we adopt. Some traits we cannot control, they are part of our core personality and thus unavoidable. A person can be really kind and generous but may have feelings of vengeance against anyone who speaks badly about him. There is a great need to realize what traits you have and which wolf are you feeding, both consciously and sub-consciously, since they define how your life will take shape.
The greatest example is the person’s circle of friends. Your friends define who and what you are, what company you keep and which wolf is potentially dominating you. I have friends who are book lovers. They read volumes I have never even heard of and authors so obscure that it takes them months to track down at old bookstores and dusty library shelves. I have friends who love going to parties and restaurants so much, they spend a significant part of their salaries eating at new places, experimenting with food recipes and enjoying any decent party over weekends and holidays.”
“I also have friends with strong taste for alcohol and equally strong craving for prostitutes.”
Ahmed suddenly felt wide awake as he stared at his teacher. He wasn’t alone; practically the whole class was singularly focused upon Sir Ali. It was hard to believe that a simple guy like him could speak so boldly to the class.
“Your friends circle defines who you ultimately are. When your circle has book lovers, you get to know about facts and figures, fantasy stories and inspiring biographies. You get to meet great writers on their book signing ceremonies, know the best places in town to search for certain books or simply to sit down and read while enjoying the scenery. You also get to know about book clubs, discover people who also love books just like you, go deeper into the storylines and interpret them at a wider-scale, realize the reading habits, judge value of individual books and how the culture being impacted based on recently published literature. You understand the importance of classics and how they shaped modern education, language and even affected society and customs. In effect, you categorize your life, your environment and your neighborhood based on books. You even interpret your country based on books, your friendship value is also based on books and you even base your future decisions based on the books you read.
But on the other hand if your circle has those who crave for prostitution, you would know the location and rates of the best prostitutes in town. You would know how to avoid police or get rid of them when caught, you would know who to rely upon from the underworld gangs to secure time of luxury, to get invited to best private parties with plentiful booze and women to enjoy. You would know the best ways to gain physical satisfaction, experiment with sexual life and easily locate best spots in the city. You will judge friends based on how easily they can find best prostitutes along with alcohol and drugs of best quality at minimum price or even for free. You will also categorize your life and even the whole country based on availability and enjoyment factors of prostitutes. In short, your whole world will be based on those criteria.
If the two people, one who loves books while the other enjoying prostitution, were each other’s neighbors their lives would be totally different. Their friends circle, style of living, how they spend their day, their indoor and outdoor activities, how they spend their 24 hours in general, how they speak, what they say, future aspirations, past experiences, current prospects … all would be different. Even their personalities would be world apart. If they were to be class fellows, even within class they would be different with a distinct circle of friends.”
There was unease amongst the students. A few shot quick glances towards Ahmed. He only hoped that Sir Ali won’t realize the reason behind those glances. Instead of reacting to those glances, Sir Ali stood up and once against began pacing in front of the class.
“It may be that the wolf you fed compels you to seek out company you naturally enjoy. Wolves, in essence, feel secure in packs. A pack of wolves is like a cohesive unit that thinks and acts alike. A murderer would prefer a company of secrecy and solitude, with those equally secretive and solitude lovers. A generous person would also like company of another generous person due to shared interest. That is why many poets that greatly contributed towards the creation of Pakistan were actually friends and spent considerable time in each other’s company at academic institutions or tea houses.
It is also possible to seek out some other company under emotional pressure, as I have learned over the years. True, I may not seem like it, but I have a considerably large social circle which enables me to know more than I should. With that, let me share something with you all.
My primary circle of friends is indeed that of book lovers. We read all kinds of stuff, from fantasy novels to politics and biographies. I have atheist friends who provide compelling arguments against religion and I have feminist friends who point out best literature in support of women rights. It is a quite healthy friends’ circle that shares plenty of information, as some of you may have noticed on my Facebook Timeline.
One of my friends was in love with a girl for a long time and they dated for few years. A few months back the girl got engaged to another guy and my friend, a brilliant researcher, had his life upside down. A guy who was not just an avid book reader but was halfway through writing his own novel was now devastated man. He stopped meeting us and even seldom interacted over phones calls or text messages. Sometime later we realized he was now spending considerable time with a local gang leader, an alcoholic and womanizer who had gained considerable influence in the underworld. We managed to drag him back into one of our regular coffee house meet up and were shocked to realize how much he had actually changed. He was barely interested in new developments in literature and the taste of coffee was ash to him. He knew names of the best alcoholic beverages, described their taste with vivid details and even told the best places to procure them at reasonable rates without police catching them. He had a way of talking that was completely different, not suiting to that of someone once considered an intellectual.
On our way back he asked to stop at the old bookstore. I felt relieved; at least some part of his old self was with us. I enthusiastically drove and parked close to the old bookstore. We entered together and he asked me to calmly look for books I wanted, no hurry. That is how we usually shopped, slowly and carefully analyzing volumes and taking our time in buying the titles we really wanted. I spent a good twenty minutes going through the collection and finally selected about half a dozen books which I brought to the counter. I hadn’t seen him around, thinking he must be in the other section. It wasn’t until I stepped outside that I saw him exiting the staircase beside the shop. It was the first time I discovered that the apartment above the bookstore was famous for extremely private endeavors and he had set a quick appointment with them. He left a satisfied man, and I disillusioned. Our circles were completely different now, the radars in our heads pinpointing targets that were world apart despite in the same geographic locality and activities that were extremely different. While I stand here sharing this story, for the first time, with this class, my friend has shared his sad story over countless bottles of liquor to unknown figures.
The wolf in him had shrunk and the other gained strength and power. He was no longer the person he used to be. He is no different than any other person, be it in the past or present or even in future. But his choices and his wolves shaped his life in ways that has completely different outcome. This situation is not unique, everyone faces them. What if Jinnah had stayed away from the company of Muslim League leaders? What if he had never joined politics? His circle of friends and acquaintance led to the creation of Pakistan, but what would have happened if he was a closer friend of Maulana Azad rather than Liaqat Ali Khan? What would have been the impact on subcontinent then? What if Jinnah had a lust for power and chosen to become Governor General of United India rather than rejecting the proposal and choosing Pakistan?
If that is too big an example for you, Ahmed, then how about we talk about your wolves?”
Alarm bells started ringing in Ahmed’s head.
“M-my wolves, Sir?”
“Yes, yours … which wolf you feed?”
Ahmed said nothing. There was pin-drop silence in the room, all eyes either on Sir Ali or Ahmed. Even the ever critical Alina and the optimist Sehar were looking at Ahmed uncertainly, and they were his closest friends at university. He had no idea what to say or do.
“I do not know myself that well sir”
“Are you sure? What are your routine activities and behaviors?” Sir Ali asked
“Ah-well, for me it is university during day then some fun driving in the evening and home after that” Ahmed replied
“Alone or with friends?” Air asked
“Usually alone sir”
“Before or after?”
Cold shiver ran through Ahmed’s spine. He knows, shit. How is it even possible? The class was looking at him. This was the first time his life was being dragged out into the open, and it was scary. He decided on defiance rather than cooperation.
“It’s my private life sir” He said angrily
“So it is, and as you said that micro-level examples are best to teach, therefore I asked you question about it.” Sir Ali said, then looked around the class and asked, “Can you identify your circle of friends in this class, Ahmed?”
“The whole class” He snapped
“Really?” Sir Ali looked around and pointed at the corner student.”Mr. Asjad, can you please describe us the circle that includes you and Ahmed?”
Asjad looked around bewildered at first, he was shyest person in the class, then mumbled “Our university?”
“I asked about real-life friends circle, not Google+ Friends Cricles” Sir Ali said with a smile. There were some sniggers in the class. Most had no idea about Google+ in the first place.
Asjad kept silent. It was clear he had no answer to Sir Ali’s question. He shot a couple glances in Ahmed’s direction, possibly for a hint but none was available. Sir Ali simply turned back towards Ahmed, then looked at Alina and Sehar.
“What about you two? Please describe the circle you share with Ahmed”
“We, err, argue a lot and he kind of keeps me entertained with his snappy remarks. Plus he takes insults really well and listens well too” Alina said
“I asked about the circle and you explained your friendship with him. Very well, we’ll consider that for now. And you Sehar?”
Sehar looked at Ahmed, then turned towards Sir Ali “We belong to Gaming Circle”
“That sounds pretty generic to me”
“It’s true sir”
“Well, we have been friends even before we came to this institution. I met him online while searching for Starlancer’s full game torrent. He not just provided me the whole game we even played multiplayer for some of the missions. We ended up being in each other’s clans in online games like World of Warcraft and League of Legends and sometime play Dota 2 as well”.
Sir Ali looked at Sehar as if seeing her for the first time.
“I am … impressed that I have a female gamer in the class. Which server of LoL you play on?”
There was a loud crash as Ahmed’s cellphone fell on the floor. This time it was him seeing his teacher in a completely new light. “You play LoL too?”
“Indeed. Western European Server, the least with Ping problems and free from Russians that troll the Eastern Server” Sir Ali replied with a smile.
“How long have you been playing sir?” Sehar asked astonishingly
“Past 6 months actually. Not regular player, just occasional. No clan yet. I didn’t play WoW but Starlancer is one of my favorite games. You have a good choice in classic space games” Sir Ali said.
“What other games you play?” Ahmed asked
“Mostly RPG ones like Dragon Age and Elder Scroll. Tried Dungeon Siege 3 but didn’t like it”
“Good graphics, crappy controls but little relation to Dungeon Siege 2 storyline” Ahmed said.
“Completely agreed, they could have done a much better job with the sequel. In any case, can’t waste time on RPG games alone, so I play Modern Warfare as well and the 3rd installment was …”
“AMAZING” Sehar and Ahmed said in unison.
“The storyline was great”
“And the fight in front of white house”
“And the action sequence at the end”
“I played the end part twice, I wanted to hang that creep so badly” Sir Ali said and all three laughed. Murmurs were exchanged between students as they saw their teacher chatting about video games with two students. Realizing the change in the class environment, Sir Ali moved to the center and asked without looking.
“Felt any affinity yet?”
It was clear he was asking Ahmed, and this time Ahmed felt calm. “I believe so”.
“As part of a pack?”
“You were feeling threatened by me few minutes ago, your reaction is completely different now. Which wolf are you feeding?”
“The right one, sir”
It was an obscure answer. Sir Ali looked at him but didn’t ask anything further, only smiled.
Sometime later it was time for a break. As the students exited the room, Ahmed chose to stay back and asked
“How did you know sir?”
“Grapevine … apparently your class knows it, some students from other classes and also a couple of faculty members. Suffice to say I confirmed from multiple sources” Sir Ali said.
“But how did you found out in the first place?”
“It wasn’t hard, your appearance and body language had given you away right in the first class. I have observed my friend closely these past few months, so I know what to look for”
“I keep a low-profile”
“That’s why the whole class knows?”
Ahmed felt sheepish. He had mistakenly boosted to a couple of classmates and the info spread like a wildfire in the class. Except Sehar, he never felt any connection with anyone in the class since everyone kept their distance.
“Do you know the name Michael Jordan?” Sir Ali asked
“Yes, Basketball legend”
“Do you know he once gave in to despair? He couldn’t make it to his school’s Basketball team, so he went home and cried. Can you imagine how big his wolf had become that time?”
“I don’t know. Maybe not so big because he became a really good player later” Ahmed answered.
“Maybe true, maybe not … most people give up, prefer staying second grade and be part of the failures who couldn’t make it. Their wolves become so large and powerful, they prefer to stay part of the pack … the pack of failures whose biggest traits are fear and despair. Jordan chose to not feed that wolf and instead fed the other, became a hard worker and gained his place and respect through sheer force of will and dominating performance. He chose to be leader, a successful player and he became what he “could” have become … a term that we would have used if he had chosen to leave the game instead.
Do you know what other trait he has?”
“Loyalty. To this day when signing in or out from a hotel, he doesn’t sign his name. He writes and signs the name of his old Basketball friend, and he does it because their bond of friendship is so strong that even fame and money couldn’t overcome it. Do you believe you can become like him?”
“I don’t know sir”
“Think on it. You now have fair warning. Choose wisely the traits you want to adopt and the wolf you wish to feed. Do something positive and make your life worthwhile”.
“Why are you helping me like this, sir?”
“That’s what packs do. We look after each other” Sir Ali said with a wink and smile.
Understanding what he meant, Ahmed smiled too and exited the room after thanking Sir Ali. Sehar was waiting for him outside the class. They looked at each other and all of a sudden identical grins appeared on their faces. As they walked the length of the corridor, Ahmed realized that being part of Gamers pack was not such a bad idea.