Today, 23rd October 2020, we have the privilege of visiting LUMS, a university regarded as one of the most prestigious universities in Pakistan. After a sudden rise in Corona cases across the nation, announcing the arrival of the 2nd wave of the pandemic, chaos prevails as Governments are confused about the influx of students on university campuses.
We had planned on interviewing members of the administration as well as students from different schools, to get a fair idea of who’s responsible for the disastrous decision to reopen Campus after the initial announcement to take the whole education system online till the Spring Semester. However, before we could even step inside the campus, the guards who are accustomed to watching me come every day for the past 3 years at this gate, refused to recognize me as I had forgotten my student card at home. Despite even remembering several occasions where I had long chats with him, the guard stood adamant that I won’t be allowed to enter. God Bless Safa who seemingly got me entered after kindly requesting the guard even though I was begging him earlier. GENDER DISCRIMINATION CONFIRMED!
Once inside, we had to cross the Khooka and PDC to reach the Admin Block and we examined how “strictly” SOPs were being observed. After ascending a flight of stairs we finally reached the office where we had scheduled a meeting with one of the administrators and he didn’t seem particularly amused with our arrival.
Me: Sir who do you blame for this catastrophic decision?
Administrator: STUDENTS!! ONLY STUDENTS! 100%! We had announced that we will have our semester online but they created so much fuss. Kya Ghar main unhain rooti nahi milti thi? Protests! Everywhere! First Twitter, then Mall Road, next Shafqat Mahmood and finally, Imran Khan in his latest speech specifically said, ‘Main LUMSU Wallon ko choron ga nahi agar yeh na khulain’. Never knew our teachings on fighting for rights and raising voices would come back to haunt us in such a manner.
Me: But sir the students were also against Fee Hike, which gained attention, and what about SOPs?
Administrator: Remember the time when there was a rumor that Corona is at LUMS? We acted responsibly and canceled all exams with immediate holidays. But the students? They assembled a “Khooka Rave” at 4 a.m where everyone danced and danced as if Corona got canceled alongside the exams. Some of those who expressed utmost concern about their health and safety with numerous Social Media posts and contacting news agency, danced the most on the “SIBI SONG”. I don’t recall any research on obtaining Corona immunity with dance? As far as Fee Hike is concerned, we are very responsible and are a Not-for-Profit………
Before he could complete the sentence, I burst into a pearl of laughter and earned the rage of the person being interviewed who politely asked me to get out of his office.
Since I had told my mom to pick me up by 4 p.m. and this interview lasted only five minutes, I decided to utilize the remaining 3 hours by questioning almost everyone I could find. I saw a lad sitting on the ‘Pundi Benches” and without wasting a moment, I approached him for an interview.
Me: Would you like to tell us how you’re following the SOPs? How’s your experience in the new environment?
The lad took out a bottle of sanitizer, which brought a smile on my face and he began talking.
Amjad Rocky: I have changed and I feel different. I feel like flying. The lockdown deprived me of the regular drugs I used to have and it’s time to live life to the maximum. I am done with the policy of only one “Kush” or “Hash Brownie” per day as you never know which day may be the last day before a new lockdown. But I ensure my safety too. While sharing these things (since some of us can’t afford them regularly) we clean them with sanitizers after someone uses them. I am proud of the precautionary methods I take. You should try it too! PIA can’t get you to Europe but this babe can take you to mars within seconds.
Sensing that I selected the wrong person to interview, I quickly realized my mistake and scampered to SSE, in search of a decent person to interview. Must be my lucky day as the first person at the gate of SSE was none other than Monum.
Me: Monum what do you think about what’s happening here these days?
Monum: Ajeeb Pagal banaya hua hay. I have an assignment due of DS tonight, followed by my quiz on AI, later there’s another assignment of Prob which I haven’t even started, my family is angry that I haven’t met them since more than 3 weeks……….
Me: Bro I was asking about Corona but sure I’ll pray that you get all this done.
After running past Monum, we found a person who usually kept himself alone and we assumed he’s practicing social distancing, therefore we approached him.
Harris: Why are you here?
Me: I was impressed with your social distancing and wanted to take your views on this.
Harris: If this is social distancing, I have been doing it since my first day at school. No one wants to talk to me, I hardly have any friends, I hardly escape this building as the CODES won’t run and I’ll have to waste hours making them again. Koi moon nahi lagata, jo tumhain social distancing lag rahi hay. I don’t even fear Corona as I don’t meet anyone…….
That wasn’t what I had hoped to hear but still, I offered him some support and told him someday you’ll find someone who looks at you the way you want to be loved to which he started telling me about his plans to create an AI girl who’ll serve as his girlfriend. With that creepy remark appalling me to the core, I proceeded towards SDSB hoping that a future entrepreneur would hopefully have better views.
On the way, I saw Harum, a friend I knew through Shehla, and a prominent figure in getting LUMS reopened after tweeting 48 times daily with the hashtag #reopenlums.
Me: Yo Harum! Aik interview day do please?
Harum: Sorry main is time tak Rooz Ghar Chali jati hoon, questions text kar Dena…….
Not what I had imagined but I generally tend to put such incidents behind and finally approached the massive building of SDSB, where I saw Haleema and Saleha exiting the school, headed towards the dorms.
Me: Haleem and Saleha, what do you think about the Corona crisis at the university? I mean share your views.
Haleema: Can’t say anything about Corona but if you’re going to get this interview aired, could you help us out? You remember we were going on a trip pre-COVID and it got canceled? They still aren’t refunding the money and maybe this could help us get a refund.
After pity for them, as even nine months into the future couldn’t help them get a refund, I remembered how my Mummy would take my Eidi in my childhood and always changed the topic whenever I asked for my Eidi to be returned. I never got my Eidi back, maybe I should just tell her to consider that money as ‘bad debt’? Nah, I won’t kill her hope. Next, I turned the mic towards Saleha
Saleha: *not even a single word*
Remembering how she earlier refused to give an interview for GEO NEWS, my brain suddenly recalled that she’s an introvert and wouldn’t like giving an interview. However, I’m fairly over-dramatic and announced,
Me: As you can see, ‘SILENCE IS THE BEST ANSWER’ and her silence shows the anger and frustration she has towards the decision to have everything back to normal. I’m impressed with the way you answered Saleha!
I was done asking the smart pupils who were more concerned with their matters and therefore, strolled towards the shady area of LUMS called “New Amsterdam”. Over there, I closely examined most couples and approached a boy whose girlfriend had just left for her class.
Me: Sir what do you think about a potential lockdown and SOPs?
Raju Romeo: I can’t tell you how strictly I follow social distancing. Previously, she would sit on my lap but now I’m very clear that we can’t do that and we usually wash our faces with Dettol before smooching. A man’s got to be serious about his health. Plus I hated the lockdown! I couldn’t meet her and all we could do was text or video call her by hiding from the family. But there were times when I would be video call and mummy would scream ‘Raju yeh Gandi socks utha Liya Karo Aur Phuppo ki beti Ruksana kaisi hay?’ and that was enough to trigger her. For the next four days, we would be playing ‘Guess why I’m mad and make up for your errors’ where she’ll continuously send coded messages that she’s still pissed and I would have to find ways to make her happy. Plus, she was also very pissed as her parents had nothing to do and made an account for her on shaadi.com and every desi boy would send her cringe-worthy messages.
With a painful reminder that no one texts me, let only calls, I decided it’s better to stop this interview before I get emotional over my loneliness. Wiping a tear from my eyes, I headed towards Chop Chop, where Usama was having Chicken Chilli Dry for the 895th time since his arrival at LUMS.
Me: Usama are you scared with the recent spike in Corona cases?
Usama: Everyone has to die someday. Why should I be scared? Better to spend time here rather than sitting at home with nothing to do.
Me: So you’re indirectly telling me ‘Rull tay gayay hain par chass bari aayi Jaye’?
Usama: Exactly my friend!
Like any professional journalist, I forgot the main reason why I came here and grabbed an extra fork to salvage all the chicken that Usama had on his plate. While enjoying the oily, slightly undercooked, full of spices Chicken, I remembered that Abdullah Shehzad would serve as an ideal candidate for the interview as he was one of those day-scholars who loved staying late at LUMS to enjoy. Therefore, I headed to the Khooka where Abdullah was losing another Rung match.
Me: Abdullah should there be another lockdown?
Abdullah: Array tum jaisay loog hi dartay ho. Yeh Corona Kuch nahi. Jab tum Quarantine main thay, main itna ghumta tha aur Rooz Deli Daily say burger khata tha. Awein dartay ho tum Mummy Daddy bachay.
While saying these, he got up from his bench and exclaimed, “Mera Abu mujhay lenay aa rahay hain chalta hoon”, and at that moment my reaction was similar to the guy standing behind Asif Ali when he dropped the catch.
My last stop was to be the benches outside LAW School where I was greeted by Safa, Aamna, and Aamna Asghar.
Me: Hello! What do you think about the Corona situation?
Safa: Yar Friez ab aisi baatain to na-Corona
Everyone else started laughing
Aamna: Oye! Main Prince hoon! Machiavelli walla Prince! Mujhay Corona say nahi dar aur waisay bhi main aur Safa weekend par Ghar ja rahay hain
Safa: Faaiz sympathize with Aamna Asghar
Aamna Asghar: Yar Faaiz soocho mainay Aaj kya Kiya? Sab CP day rahay thay for the Baqar course that I am TA’ing and I LOST ALL THE PAPERS THAT WERE RETURNED TO ME!!!!!!!!
So the last hour was spent telling Aamna Asghar that this isn’t the end of the world until she felt better. Once she felt better, the sympathies turned into brutal banter as everyone attacked each other for the blunders they earlier made.
In the end, all I would like to say is that stop attacking others for not agreeing with what you have to say. I disagreed with some friends by claiming that I’m not in favor of reopening LUMS and was treated most disgustingly by being labeled someone who promotes abusive households and ignores mental health issues. I never support such issues but some of us have their concerns and reasons which make us select sides. At the end of the day, if the pandemic situation deteriorates, no one would claim responsibility for reopening LUMS and we would witness a typical blame-game where the keyboard warriors, who are currently enthusiastic about getting campus reopened, might be the first to protest for campus closure.