Disaster At Room 108

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Disaster struck today. Not the grand-stage Hollywood-type global tsunami or a continent-sized asteroid hurtling towards mother earth makes men and women at NASA and CNSA cry ‘mummyyyyy’ and soil their pants. No, no. It was much more subtle than that. It certainly wasn’t enough to cause the bedbugs infesting the resident halls around here much discomfort, let alone reverse the spin of our planet. But it was still, by all definitions of the word, a disaster!

There’s this thing about me, it’s a blessing and a curse all at once. When I commit to doing something, I won’t be willing to let the world see or hear of it until it is by my standards, absolutely perfect…or thereabouts. (For in stance I’ve been editing this post for almost a week now, so you know what I mean) So when I was presenting in class today only for a slide with but a half-finished sentence to pop up, It’s safe to say, my world came crashing down.

Alright, I hear you complain, what’s he rambling about? Maybe a little backstory would do us good at this point. There was this ‘group’ assignment we had to do. We kept pushing it back because procrastination is just fun. It was really because we prioritized other assignments and projects over this one owing to the fact it looked menial compared to the others (it wasn’t). On the eve of presentation day, everyone in the group panicked, but no one was really doing anything meaningful, so I took it upon myself to play ‘hero’.

I spent the next four hours scouring through the depths of online libraries and ebook shelves for content, came up with a neat little report, complete with well cited references and then sent it to my team members who were to take over from there and create the final presentation. And so, my heart content and my head swimming in pride, I bedded down for a well-earned shut-eye. Cue in this stranger lady, who then decided to call me at the stroke of midnight. Thank God, I can sleep through a band parade that can be heard for miles around…except unfortunately I can’t. So I was violently and inhumanely jerked out of sleep just in time to see the phone’s screen turn off. Sleep ruined and I couldn’t even give the person responsible a piece of my mind because she hung up and never called again. Until next morning that is, when my mood was better and all I could do was respectfully let her know she was calling the wrong number.

I arrived at class only to find the fella responsible for creating the presentation had made a hash of it and created a mishmash of poor graphics and meter-long paragraphs. So, I decided to touch it up a bit to make it more presentable, but with the teacher soon calling us up, there’s not much I could really do. Time’s up.

Halfway through the first slide, our presenter craned his neck in my direction and told me he couldn’t do it because apparently he never read the assignment I sent to everyone’s email. Good grief! I therefore took up the mantle and stood there in front of the class, fifty-some pairs of eyes assaulting me with glares that seem to pierce through my head. After a minute of clearing my throat, I got on with it…quite well actually. Until the half-sentence slide popped up.

My mind went blank. I began perspiring in places I didn’t know could perspire. I tensed up like a wildebeest crossing the Mara. There’s this deathly hush in the whole room. What better time than right then for the stranger lady to call again. No, really she couldn’t have timed it better because, with the class distracted by my phone’s ringing, I slipped my hand into my pocket to hit the reject button while the other hand jumped to the keyboard to skip the presentation to the next slide. First landmine thankfully evaded. Of course, I wasn’t so thankful the next three times she called while I went on with the presentation.

I stumbled and stuttered my way through the rest of the presentation and was duly surprised when my lecturer actually applauded it at the end. However, since I presented the whole thing by myself while my team members stood idly by, the lecturer caught up very easily on our lack of preparedness. The jig was up!

He asked me to take my seat while he assaulted my team members with highly technical questions whose answers I had but my teammates obviously didn’t. This time around there was nothing I could do, and although the lecturer never revealed what final mark he gave us, I knew it wasn’t good.

It felt like a crushing defeat. Despite all I did and how I did it,it turned out it wasn’t enough. So I decided next time, I would just sit cross-arms like and simply watch my team crash and burn while I employ my most villainy most uncanny laugh. Of course those of you who know me, know that am too gullible to do that. Bummer.

What I have observed about these ‘team projects’ or ‘group assignments’ is that you’ll almost always be faced by one of two scenarios. You’ll either meet these really splendid teammates who work like well-oiled machinery, real high-flyers, and you wonder, ‘Boy, what do I bring to the table here. I’ll have to really step up.’ Or you’ll be teamed up with disheartened unmotivated members who are probably more brilliant than they realize themselves and you know here you’ll have to step up in a different way and help them get their heads in the game and possibly produce the best underdogs comeback story ever, and have people write books and make movies about you and…errr excuse me, I get carried away. For what it’s worth, at least I know what scenario am faced with so I know what I need to do.

Then again, my observation could be wrong entirely.

Or not…let’s just end this on a positive note, yeah?

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What’s In A Legacy?

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“If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”

-Benjamin Franklin.

 I’ve come to acknowledge the fact that there is no good time to receive bad news. But boy, there are times worse than others. For instance early in the day when you’ve only just shaken off morning nerves, or late at night when you’re so deep in sleep a horde of mosquitoes couldn’t possibly get you to wake.

A few months before the turn of last year, I received such kind of news just as I was bedding in to milk those final few minutes between pre-morning prayers (Fajr) and when I finally get ready for school. One of my cousins had been involved in a fatal accident and had died on scene. He was one of those cousins who seemed half a generation older than you so he was in fact succeeded by a wife and a couple of (very young) kids. Like my father, he spent most of his days on the road, driving cargo trucks to Uganda and back.

We had never spent a lot of time together, truth be told, just the occasional visits to their home during Eids and most recently a few months before his death while I was travelling with my father. My dad on the other hand, seemed to know him like the back of his hand. Which is why it puzzled me how calm his voice was, in the face of such tragic news, when I talked with him later that day. So I, indirectly, put the question to him and he simply sighed, ‘That’s just life.’ That’s just life. Life. Death. And a string thinner than silk strand to hold one aloft and keep it from plunging into the other.

Just imagine that! One moment someone’s here, the next they’re gone! Adios! Goodbye for good. Whatever brilliant ideas they held in their brains, whatever beautiful thoughts they once conceived gone with them. That life force and energy is no more, we can no longer tap into that and share stories, concerns and laughs with anymore. A few months later no one will even remember them…unless of course they left behind a legacy.

When most people hear the word legacy, thoughts of heroic acts, juggernaut corporate empire, a mind-numbing scientific discovery or a large estate including mansions in different countries springs into their minds. Sure that’s one way to etch your name in the minds of people for as long as there is an earth to live on, but the truth is, a legacy can be much simpler than that.

The purpose of life for those of us who are religious is simple: worship God. And while this may sound a bit vague for the not-so-religious, there is actually a lot that is entailed within that single statement. It includes doing right by oneself by leading a good healthy life, reaching out to those around with an open mind and a clean heart, helping those in need at the expense of one’s own comfort, inspiring others to improve themselves spiritually and otherwise, in other words being the best possible humans anyone could ever be. That’s the bare minimum legacy we should aim for.

The opposite of that is what breeds wars among men. Sure we’re humans, we’re prone to err. We step on people’s feet every once in a while because we are not perfect. Once we decide to do it purposefully however and make a habit of it, that’s when we create a legacy that leaves much to be desired.

Over the past two years, i’ve had to attend funerals of friends and relatives who were more or less my own age. But if there is any lesson I learned from that, it is not that we should fear death, for it is inevitable regardless of age that but we should worry about the legacy we want to be remembered by.