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Dec 2009
THE STORY OF SARA

Ayad Gharbawi


CHAPTER 2: UNIVERSITY

  
  Well, I did study and, I did pass my exams, and I did succeed in ending up in a decent, upper class school!
  How did I pay for it? I hear you ask me?
  I didn't: I got a scholarship!
  And, what a new world I faced!
  What a totally different society I saw!
  I felt that I was in another country, for I never knew that there existed, from my own people, men and women such as those I encountered!
  My studies in psychiatry really excited me: I thought that I would be able to 'solve' anyone's mental problems.
  All I had to do, was to study and study as feverishly as I could.
Studying furiously, and with love and passion, was the key to success.
  Study, and then you pass your examinations, and then you become a doctor in psychiatry - and I would thereby become successful.
  I would then be someone important.
  I would be respected by everyone.
  My life would have a purpose and a meaning because I would be going in the correct path.
It was simple as that!
  And what was the alternative?
  Not to study?
  And what would I do then?
  Go do a menial, low paying job?
  That was anathema to me!
  It made me sick, to even think about that!
  Why?
  Because, I came from a poor background, and I lived in poverty, and I saw the culture and the people who lived in poverty, and by God, I don’t want to ever live in those circumstances ever again in my life.
  What was poverty to me?
  Your house is ugly; your neighbourhood is ugly; your neighbours are the most indecent people you can imagine.
  The area you live in, swarms with people who live their lives in ‘anti-social behaviour’!
  And what’s ‘anti-social behaviour’?
  That means your community is one, where most people are drunks in  public, where fights, with guns and knives, are an everyday occurrence; where the most filthy language is the norm in public; where ******* covers large parts of the town; where vandalism and damage to cars and property is another daily occurrence; where people play ear-deafening music in the streets and there’s nothing you can do – because, if you call the police, they’ll obey, but then they’ll come back and make hell out of your life – in other words, the gangs rule the community.
  Aren’t those enough reasons to get out of poverty?!
  And, then for me, there are other things that are really important to me.
  For example:
  I mean, who is going to respect you, if you have a menial job? Who is going to look up at you?
  Who is going to listen to your words, when you speak?
  And, most importantly, are you yourself going to be happy with your self and with your life, if you had a menial job?
  Of course not!
  To be a fully satisfied human, you need to live in respectable surroundings with a respectable job.
  Otherwise, there cannot be happiness for you.

  Once I joined my university, I encountered mostly upper class students.
  That’s why, I say it was like ‘another world’ for me, because I had never encountered people like that before!
  Their dress was different; their accent and they way they spoke was different; but what interested me the most, was the fact, that their intellectual interests were extremely varied, as opposed to the people that I had grown up with and knew – those people whose only interests, were getting drunk, practicing promiscuity, crime and drugs!
  Now outside classes, I got began to get involved with different groups of academic students – each group held differing ideas about the world, politics, economics, philosophy of life - and any other subject you can imagine.
  I was never interested in what I called the other 'superficial' groups; that is, those who discussed what I considered to be the stupidities of life, such as fashion, make up, cars, sports and so on. No way; not for me, were people like that!
  For I was far too serious for such mind-wasting people, and, frankly life-wasting people.
  No, I wanted to learn; my God how utterly hungry and thirsty and deadly serious about acquiring more and more knowledge on every 'serious' subject I was - so that, one day, I would be a useful and productive human to society!
  If I was not in my classes, and if I was not listening to those intellectuals, I would sit on any desk and search the internet and read endlessly, on any and every 'serious' subject.

With respect to my classes, as the months rolled over, I began to feel, and think, that my professors were not all that smart at all. I began to feel that they were, in fact, quite ordinary, dull people. But then, I grappled with next obvious question: if they were 'ordinary' and 'dull' people, then how come they were professors – and by 'professors', I mean that they must be far from 'ordinary'? Surely, any person, who is able to be a professor, must be intelligent?
  And yet, the more I listened and took down notes from these professors, and the more I analyzed their words and ideas, the more I became convinced at their emptiness and stupidity!
  My God, you must believe me, for they were talking utter *******!
  Well, who exactly, 'made' them professors?
  I began to dislike them.
  Then, the obvious consequences took place in my mind: the more I disliked them, the less I paid attention to their words and that, in turn, increased my boredom in class!
  No, this was a complete and utter waste of time for me. Yes, I would still need to read the text books given to us by the university, and I would need to understand these books in order to pass the examinations.
  But, I was also determined to do my own independent psychiatry studies, in order to find the ways and means of solving people's emotional problems.

I found it really thrilling to see so many students having so many ideas about the world, because, for me it was so utterly unusual to see young people actually caring about so many issues in our lives!
  You had the conservatives; socialists; Dadaists, existentialists, communists of every shade you can imagine; fascists, socialists, liberals, Nazis, monarchists, Hare Krishnas, Hindus, Budhists, yoga-followers, animal rights campaigners, environmentalists, religious fundamentalists, anarchists  - the list was quite endless to the point of absurdity for, within each group, there were sub-groups, that ranged from the so-called 'left' to the so-called 'right'.
  However, in all this confusion and chaos, there were, at least two things, that you knew for certain: and that was, firstly; that no group agreed with any other group, whilst secondly; every 'leader' of any group sincerely and passionately believed that, yes they, and only they, had all the answers to all the questions that faced our dear Humanity!

But with time, it dawned on me that that most of these intellectual students were not quite what I expected of them.
They would passionately discuss any subject and in excruciating detail!
  To me not every subject was worthy of being discussed!
  Everything was criticized in university.
  Everything was questionable.
  Nothing was certain.
  On the opposite these students believed that they had a duty to deeply philosophise and intricately analyse and scrutinize from every angle every subject and issue in our planet!
  Nothing was accepted and nothing was taken for granted.
  And it was exhausting to listen to them!
  I say ‘exhausting’ because after every meeting, I would actually feel emptier!
  I simply did not learn or gain anything from all these endless discussions!
  So they would analyse issues like: what is the soul?
  What is the difference between the soul and the spirit?
  Where is the soul located?
  Where is the mind located?
  What is the difference between bravery and foolishness?
  Are mathematical facts like 1+1=2 discovered or created by mathematicians?
  What does the word ‘the’ mean?
  What does the word ‘a’ mean?
  Who has a right to create rules and laws?
  How much taxes should each adult pay?
  Is the universe finite or infinite?

  And so it went on and on until your brain became numb with the deafening boredom and pointlessness of it all.
  What irritated me the most was that with these groups of students, was that nothing was sacred.
  Nothing was certain.
On the opposite, everything was completely uncertain.


  As for myself, I gradually gravitated to the leftists – that mixture of socialists, communists, anarchists and other such-like groups.
  Why?
  Because to me their philosophy was more or less simple.
  There wasn’t all that endless series of critiques and analysis that so nearly damaged my brains!
  Their idea was simple: we had to removed the oppressors.
And the oppressors was anyone who had power and influence.
  And what kind of society did we want?
  A purely egalitarian one where there would be neither master nor slave.
  Simple!
  Here I found that much needed sense of certainty!
  Here was an ideal, a philosophy that had strict rules that we were meant to follow in order to achieve our sacred aims!
  

  I was immediately attracted to one student leader, Tony, who passionately urged his listeners to use any means necessary – except violence –in order to achieve our goals of total equality within our society.
  He was a tall man of average weight, with short hair – actually, let me immediately stop myself here - because actually there was absolutely and totally nothing remarkable about the way he looked; but what really made him so attractive was in his personal charm, and the way he spoke, with such a theatrical ability, that made you unable to move as long as he talked.
  I can still see him, as he gracefully gesticulated in such an animated manner, giving further power and reason, to every word and idea he uttered:
  "Can't you see and feel what is going all around you? My friends, listen to my words, because we are living in a society that is dominated by greed and ultimately misery and death on an everyday scale. Why is the dustman paid any less than a doctor? Aren't we all human beings, born free and equal? And, so, if you, my friends, agree with me that all men, women and children, are equal, then it should make obvious sense to you that we should all live equally. Do you feel what I am saying to your hearts, or not?!" he would thunder at us, with his face contorting from the passion, and with his ability to be so majestic and, yet, so utterly humble at the same moment!
  Yes, I began to think more and more about what Tony had to say.    Why was there poverty in the first place?
  Where was Humanity?


  Indeed, aren't we all equal human beings; so why this discrimination? It seemed so sensible to me; and yet, what was I, Sara the Nobody, doing about this problem?
  Nothing, of course.
  Yes, I was just a student – but I was not actively working against the dark forces, as Tony was always talking about.
  Tony would mesmerize his listeners, which were usually held in the evenings, at around eight o'clock.
  He always managed to talk to you directly – or so it felt, despite the large number of listeners.
  "There are people who make millions in minutes – did you people know that?  While most people in our society struggle and sweat not only tears, but, I tell you, they sweat blood – yes blood" he would scream at this point, "day in and day out, and getting paid next to nothing, you also have a minority who make millions in minutes!   How can you, yes you, tell me that that is fair? Why do you, my listeners, why do you lamely accept, that we live in a society that allows conditions, whereby the majority, and I say the vast majority of human beings, men and women, have to bleed to death just, to pay their never ending bills, while a minority lead an easy life overflowing with money, glamour, power and luxuries that are indescribable? I ask you again and again to answer my questions: is that fair? And if it is not fair, then what should be done about this sick situation? Well, clearly, we must use violence to take our rights, because no democracy will allow our party to succeed in any election and obviously the rich will never voluntarily give up their oceans of wealth; therefore, if you ask me, what is to be done, I firmly tell you as my response, that we must fight for our eternal rights, and by using the verb 'fight', I mean we 'fight' with every weapon at our disposal – be they words or bullets!"
  I was simply exhilarated by his symphony of words!
  And yet, I couldn’t help but feel that there was something ‘missing’ in Tony’s personality.  
  He just didn’t have that supreme self assurance that others had.
  I guess that was what was ‘missing’.
  I couldn’t understand why he did have that degree of insecurity – because, it seemed to be a contradiction when you are living your life for an ideal, and at the same time, you have insecurities within your heart!

  It was also at university, that I first met Sanji.
  He was a tall, dark wavy haired man with a dark complexion.  His beautifully oval eyes had a deeply pensive look, and at the same time, they were always somehow mired within a sorrowful gaze.
  Even when he would talk to you, Sanji's eyes seemed to be far away, deep in thought, about God knows what subject!
  Gracing his eyes, were beautifully arched eyebrows and the longest, thickest eyelashes I have ever seen, that beautifully complimented those seemingly lonely eyebrows in perfect harmony.
  He was a quiet, soft spoken gentleman, who was the most polite and sincere man I had ever met – I would forever ask myself, how can this man, be so gentle and compassionate, and without seeming to get distressed, angry or anxious?!
  He had such a depth of serenity in his personality – and that trait was something that made so utterly envious of him; I was constantly wishing and trying to have a millionth of that serenity of his.
  He was utterly sure of himself – and not in any arrogant way. He was completely happy and secure with the ideas and principles which guided him throughout his life.
  He had a complete knowledge as to what the purpose of his life was. As a result he knew exactly where he was going with his life.
  There was no sense of being lost with Sanji; for he knew the endless, twisted, meandering number of Paths of Life ahead of him - and more importantly he knew which path he wanted to tread on in his life’s journey.
  He would never use foul language; and would always listen to you with interest as you talked – which is rare in our world.
  And he had that most beautiful ability and talent to be so extra careful in choosing his words when he spoke, for he always wanted to get his thoughts and ideas properly across to you, so that people would understand him well, and so that there would be no confusion as to what he stood for.
  That's why he was so pensive and why he spoke so deliberately; there was never any impulsiveness on his part; he intended exactly every word, and exactly every phrase, and every sentence he used; there never was any carelessness on his part when he would interact with you.


  I never met a man who was so wholly and totally considerate for the feeling
Written by
Ayad Gharbawi
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