THE AMAZING RACE

The thing about unpunctual friends is that despite the fact you’re convinced they’ll be late, a part inside you feels hopeful that maybe they will change themselves and come on time, leaving you embarrassed for being too cranky. However, my friends never disappoint as on a cold night of October, I was walking around Admin Block, fearing that maybe we will be late again. “Do you always wait like this for her?” asked an intrigued Abro. Despite giving Safa a time of 6:30 for the event to begin, at quarter past seven, I was waiting for my partner on a cold night where the brutal wind made it almost unbearable to sit in the open air. However, the waiting time was made bearable with the company of my friend Ibrahim Abro, who was also competing in the “LUMS Amazing Race” but seeing me alone on a bench compelled him to sit and give me company. While we were busy talking about cricket and the upcoming series, my partner finally decided to turn up almost fifty minutes late from the time I gave her. Since I was accustomed to such delays, we skipped the apology session and got straight to business, talking about our plans for the event. All of a sudden, Safa started complaining about how cold it is and it’s “killing me”. Firstly, I fulfilled my duty of being the day-scholar, who acted as a part-time parent for my friends living on campus, by pointing out that wearing a windbreaker given by the school isn’t the perfect thing for such weather, and later offered my jacket. Honestly, I was hoping against hope that she says no or shows some attitude as I was in no mood whatsoever to let go of my favorite jacket in such tormenting weather, and was delighted when she refused. I think this was the part where I was meant to insist and convince her to take it but Nah I am selfish and was delighted she didn’t take my jacket.

Now we were seated in the Auditorium with the instructions being announced, and the soft tone of the speaker made it difficult to understand as Abro and we had to ask each other for help as it was so confusing. We were handed a piece of paper with scientific questions written on them which we were meant to solve if we had to find the relevant rooms where the Amazing Race’s games were to be played. Since both of us were from HSS and Abro was from SAHSOL, neither one of us had any idea how to solve these questions. Nevertheless, to show Abro that we were going to win, Safa asked me to act all confident, pretending we solved all of the five questions. Therefore, as soon as Hamza Ather signaled the Race to begin, we immediately got up from our seats and ran as fast as we could out to the courtyard of Admin Block. When we were out of sight, we started to analyze the questions we were handed over. Our first attempt proved to be fairly disappointing as the questions revolved around Science and we were clueless. However, Safa started running towards an auditorium and I had to stupidly follow her. Have you seen Jimmy Neutron? So the scene was similar to that cartoon where Jimmy comes up with an idea, doesn’t tell anyone while Carl and Sean run after him. Yeah, I was Carl……

A-10? Why did we come to this place? There wasn’t even a single person there but Safa was oozing confidence and pointed out that one of the questions had the word ‘A 10’ and that was the clue. Apparently, her hunch was spot-on as the door opened and we were greeted by a similar face. Omair Faqah! The lad from my school was in charge of the first challenge and with a sigh of relief, I stepped inside and patiently waited for another team to arrive. So our first challenge looked fairly simple. We had to place cups upside down, blow air inside balloons, and use that air to blow the cups off the table. Omair was the referee and our opponents soon arrived. The competition was super tough and competitive. Every breath counted as we were toe-to-toe. “Stop! Stop! Stop!!!! Time’s up!” shouted Omair as he began counting the cups and awarded 20 points to the opposition as they edged past us with a final score of 10 to 9. Safa was dejected as she believed we deserved the victory but she wasn’t aware of one fact that she overlooked during the match. I DON’T KNOW HOW TO BLOW A BALLOON!!!!! YES, I’M 21 BUT I CAN’T! I even tried to cheat by subtly pushing the cup with my hand but Omair forgot all our years of friendship for his rules and ethics (army background coming into play) and didn’t count that cup. Safa thought I sucked at this and only managed like 2 or 3 cups but the reality was that all 9 successful tumbles were a result of her efforts. Yet, I managed to beautifully lie that I had 3 and it was months later I told her the truth. “Don’t worry you already suck in many things, won’t hurt to add another one in that list”, exclaimed Safa after expressing uncharacteristic amazement as we began looking for more clues to our next stop.

One of the main reasons why I opted for this event was to support my friend, Samar Afnan, who was Convener of the Amazing Race. While brainstorming ideas to figure out our next destination, we were lucky to find him strolling nearby. “Yar Samar madad hi kar do”, I innocently said. Samar replied, “Jaani sab SSE ja rahay hain shayad wahan hi ho Kuch, aur lift say Jaana”. So in a very classy manner, Samar generously told us where to look for as we began sprinting towards SSE. The worst thing about running is that if you aren’t in practice, it can prove to be a menace as we were hardly near the SSE lawn when Safa and I unanimously decided to take a break. One of the perks of befriending friends from SSE is that I knew SSE from the back of my mind and we didn’t waste any time navigating our way to the destination where we realized it’ll take way more time than expected as the whole room was full of participants. All of them were queued in line for this next task. The task looked easy as all you had to do was make a paper plane and fly it through a hollow cube and the first team to achieve three successful flights was to be declared the winner. “Safa chillings I’m an expert in this”, I enthusiastically told her and deep down hoped to make up for my error as she continuously embarrassed me. Safa replied, “Ummmm Faaiz…… I don’t know how to make or fly a plane”. Are you kidding me? I mean I did that before I even went to school? But I don’t deserve to complain as I didn’t even know how to blow a balloon properly. “Oye jaani tum yahan?” I turned my neck to find an ever-smiling Ibrahim Abro. Our unexpected meetup brought a smile on my face as he even gave tips to Safa on how to fly a plane properly. But what was to follow was unexpected. WE WERE TEAMED UP AGAINST ABRO IN THIS ROUND! We decided that I’ll make the planes and Safa would fly them as she couldn’t make them properly. Once the match began, I quickly made one of the most beautiful planes and Safa committed the basic error while sending it across the room. SHE APPLIED TOO MUCH FORCE! While I was aware the first attempt wouldn’t be spot-on, this was miserable as the plane crashed without even reaching the hollow cube. On the other hand, Abro gave us the perfect sucker punch by beautifully gliding his plane past the cube to give his team the lead. SECOND ATTEMPT! We were unlucky as the plane crashed at the border of the cube and fell as Abro doubled the advantage for his side. So it all depended on the third attempt, as they were to be granted an automatic victory after a difference of three points. “STRIKE 1! STRIKE 2! STRIKE 3! You are out!!!!!!” shouted an overly-joyous Abro who couldn’t hide his happiness.

Our third challenge was a relatively easy one as all we had to do was act in a way that our other partner could figure out what was written on a card we were handed over. Since I flex about how able I am as an actor and overly-dramatic, we sailed through this challenge with a landslide victory. Moving on to the fourth challenge, it was a dream come true! First up, the person-in-charge of this challenge was none other than Eesha, a friend I had known since the first year at university, and secondly, all we had to do was play tic tac toe with ping pong balls. Considering the passion I possess for every sport that involved balls, I didn’t even reconsider my decision for a moment to step up for the task. We got off to a flying start as within twenty seconds, I had dunked five balls into the closely arranged plastic cups and all I needed was one more success to win this competition. However, the tide had turned against us as after a whole minute, we stood at the same spot and there was a fear that it may end up as a draw in case I fail to complete the pattern. You could see the nervousness on even Eesha’s face and immediately Safa became the mentor we all look for. Turning me aside she calmly said, “You got this! Tension nahi, just do your best”. David Warner must be proud of my jump as I punched the air in delight after I finally managed to complete the task before the opposition. WOW! Sometimes all we need is someone to tell us that they believe in us and the results validate the trust they bestow upon us. After thanking Eesha, we rushed out of the room and headed upstairs to the first floor of law school for our second last challenge.

“ABBAY MANHOOS! TUM NAY PEHLAY KYUN NAHI BATAY KAY TUM BHI YAHAN HO?” we shouted as we were surprised to see the figure who stood in front of us. MONUM! I don’t know but i always felt that the lad from SSE gives away mysterious vibes and surprisingly he didn’t even tell us, despite knowing we were competing. I mean, we need to credit people for such honesty in their work as he placed his responsibility towards the SPADES Society before giving his friends an unfair advantage. The challenge Monum had in store for us was inspired by the Television show, “Minute-to-Win-it” and was tougher than what meets the eye. There was a tub of water and a paper plate was placed in the middle of the tub. We were meant to stack cans of COCA-COLA on them and the team who stacked the most or stacked quicker was to be declared the winner. Monum started the timer and both teams began stacking the cans. ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR. “I would suggest you stop stacking as it will get unbalanced”, suggested Monum in an unfashionable formal tone. Safa and I both stopped and pondered over his advice as two years at LUMS were enough to realize that our ZAMBEEL a.k.a Monum was never wrong and always gave genuine advice. We turned our necks to observe what the opposition was intending to do. They were taking the brave step of stacking the fifth can and if they were successful, we would’ve needed to stack six cans for the victory. I’ll admit, I was silently whispering abuses at Monum as I feared that his advice would cost us the 25k that I had my eyes on. “Deekha? Mainay kya Kaha tha?” murmured Monum as he headed towards the other two lads for a closer inspection as to why their tower collapsed while awarding us the victory.

“SAAAAFFAAAAAAA HUM SUSHI KHAIN GAY 25,000 MAIN SAY!!!!!!!!!” I shouted as we were inching towards victory as one last obstacle stood between us and a possible victory. We strolled/walked/ran from the LAW SCHOOL towards the Business School. Even in pre-nursery, I hated the activity we had to repeat. Do you remember how there would be some circular rings which would be arranged in ascending order from top to bottom (sorry I don’t know the name. Pyramid Rings maybe?)? We were meant to rearrange them on another stick without placing a bigger ring on top of a smaller one. I instantly refused to attempt this as Safa told me to relax, she’ll handle it. She carefully examined every single player who attempted it and figured out the method to ace it without facing any hurdles. “Hold my mobile while I do this”, and she handed me her belongings while heading towards the challenge. All I had to do was to act as the unpaid cheerleader/locker and watch her tackle the last challenge. “AND YOUR TIME STARTS NOW!” WOW! She was motoring through this task without breaking a sweat. She was the fastest one I saw and had compiled two rings while the other person was trapped in a web of complexity. Suddenly, my hand started vibrating. I do know my hands and legs vibrate at times when I’m extremely tired or exhausted but this vibration seemed awfully unfamiliar. “Safa your dad’s calling”, I informed my partner and she instantly grabbed the phone and started talking to him (must be important). What we forgot was that the task hadn’t been completed yet and I had no clue how to solve it, therefore, was hoping that Safa ends the call quickly but by the time she could say “Allah Hafiz”, the referee declared the opposition to be the winners.

After a comedy of errors, we potentially lost 25,000 Rupees that we had planned to waste on food and food only. Although the result may not have been what we had hoped for, this event, to this day remains one of my favorite memories of my time at LUMS as the fun and banter we experienced far outweighed the grief of losing the cash prize. After all, most people do agree that it’s not about the destination, it’s the journey that matters.

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Faaiz Gilani

Faaiz Gilani

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An aspiring writer, with no prior writing experience, talking about his experiences to help others getting bored in Quarantine……….enjoy my short stories!