17 June 2015
Rummaging through some old stuff looking for an important document i came across some of my old ‘autograph books’. Remnants of the seventies, they brought back those last months of ones high school year which were spent collecting signatures and quotes from friends, peers, classmates and teachers. Great care was taken by the owner as well as the one who wrote in it to ensure that this sentimental memento of school life was special and unique. Close friends composed funny limericks on you, some sketched and wrote small verses, still others filled up pages with maudlin stuff and decorated their writing with pressed flowers and leaves (one of mine has some dozen pages of those!!). And we all looked forward to what the teachers would write, for sometimes they surprised you with interesting lines so different from the cryptic best-wishes, Godspeed and good luck messages they usually scribbled.
Our history teacher whom we all admired a lot for her i-brook-no-nonsense-from-anyone attitude and perfect mastery of her subject had autographed all our books with this famous couplet of the Urdu poet Iqbal…
Khudi ko kar buland itna ke har taqdeer se pehle
Khuda bande se khud pooche bata teri raza kya hai.
A loose translation would be…“Elevate yourself to such heights that even God, before issuing every decree of destiny, should ask you: Tell me, what is your intent?”…not that translations ever do justice to the rich nuances of poetic utterances!!
For all of us ready to step out and carve our own place in the world they were exhilarating lines…very powerful, very motivating, very inspiring. It was heady to know one could be the master of ones own destiny. The doubts came in much later…are we really in control of our life’s events or just puppets in the hands of fate? That opens up the old philosophical debate of free will versus a pre-determined fate…a vexing complicated issue that needs to be discussed another time, another day!