Can there be any better surprise for a Gold Medalist sister than her brother’s captured pictures of her convocation to be selected for one of the world’s most prestigious international photography competitions, Leica Oskar Barnack Award 2012?
In 2012, only two Pakistani photographers made it through this exalted competition, one of which was my brother, Muslim Ali. He captured some moments from Convocation of University of Balochistan 2012 and submitted it for the competition. One day he asked me to visit this website. Upon browsing the website, I could not believe my eyes when I saw my convocation pictures there. The feeling was so immense indeed. He states, “If we have any spiritual roots, it is oriented in women’s respect.”
While looking at these pictures, memories from university life flashed back and took me to 2007-2008. It was a time when the security situation had started getting worse in Quetta. Despite the grave law and order situation, many students including me decided to continue studies. This commitment ultimately bore fruit on 21st January 2012 at the 10th Convocation of the University of Balochistan. It was a very cold day and the sky was overcast with thick clouds. Dressed up in formal attire for convocation I was too excited. The Governor of Balochistan arrived and awarded degrees to students and gold medals to those who attained 1st positions in their respective faculties. Right after the ceremony when graduates came out of the Convocation Hall, the joy was beyond expression. It was snowing outside, the first snowfall of the season. What an exquisite blend that was—blissful hearts and snowfall!
In fact, nature was too kind to me on that day as it also wanted to add to my delight. For me, there is a good deal of reasons for being too excited; the foremost is being the daughter of a daily wage-earner who never had the chance to go to school and had no hope for a better future. To him, life was an endless struggle for subsistence after the early death of his father. Thus, the economic condition of his family never allowed his dream of studies to come true. After half a century, every piece of the universe assembled to conspire for the realization of his dream. It was the day when he witnessed his daughter receiving a gold medal and so was his happiest moment of life. He looked at me and said, “I may never experience zeal of the sort in my life.” What pride for such a father! As it was snowing that day, the photographer has aptly captioned the picture; “Educating daughters is like snowing which is soft, fairly absorbable, and hope-giving.”
Above and beyond what this achievement meant to my father, yet another aspect of pride sources from my community, Hazara Shiite. Prevailing instability in Balochistan speaks categorically of the massacre of Hazaras. Targeted killings, suicide attacks, bomb blasts, harassment and so on are daily occurrences which mean nothing to the government. From Olympian to educationist, from trader to peddler, from octogenarian to a four-year-old girl—no one’s life is spared. If you look like a Hazara, you may not return home alive. In such a scenario, news of a girl bringing honor to the community is a sigh of relief and a hope for strengthening one’s resolve for life.
The third reason for my excitement in this instance pertains to the gender scene of Balochistan. Despite the freedom to get education in general, it is still very difficult for a female to decide on a challenging career. Though my community has shown exemplary progression in this regard, the overall picture in the province does not support evolution of the sort. Opting for journalism at first and then media-related field work in such a volatile situation was a real challenge for me. It goes without saying that the decision to opt for journalism changed my life forever. Standing in the scorching heat, getting the gold medal, initiating activism, helping launch a community TV channel, and being selected as an Emerging Leader of Pakistan is just the beginning.
I strongly believe it was only possible because of the education my community and my family enabled me to receive—the light that struck inner dust, lit the intellect, enabled us to see the real beneath and say a strong “no” to prevailing clichés. My brother aptly captions his photo, “education is the enduring revolution for generations.”
Are you a blessed sister like me?