The Dissertation

by Maira Butt

You want to switch from situating your research within the context of neo-liberalism to locate it within a post-colonial framework. This is because your longstanding belief that the world’s problems were solely due to class has been shaken. Your understanding was incomplete without the awareness that racism infused every pore of the arrogance which created the hierarchical divisions you have always resented. You are reading ‘Things Fall Apart’ by Chinua Achebe and your heart is being broken piece by piece.  You walk down the stairs of your terraced house in the middle of a street in Burnley, England and it dawns on you how far you are from the place which gave you your skin colour, your nose, your hair and so much of your culture. The place which forces itself on your tongue even when you speak English; your Brit-Asian accent. For a split second you feel utterly stranded, abandoned and alone. This isn’t your home. Yet you know that Pakistan isn’t home either. But now you know why. And it infuriates and traumatizes your sense of space. Your supervisor accuses you of focusing on your future career over your present study when you propose these changes and cite them as a field you may want to go into in future. You are humiliated. ‘Who do you think you are?’ you think he must be asking. Who do I think I am?’ you ask yourself. ‘I know nothing of the world’s problems. I barely understand anything and I definitely don’t have the courage or strength to venture into this area that feels like a haunting abyss right now. One which thrives on aggression and anger, and to top it off I am soft. I’ve always been soft.’ But you know you are sensitive and you know you are prone to paranoia when it comes to your ambitions. 

Note to Self:

Do not be anxious at the lack of solid ground you have under your feet at the moment, whatever happens I am here for you, even while you are floating. You will always be okay. Only you know what you are capable of. And, don’t you ever feel bad for wanting to fly in idealism and hope; to think that maybe even a lost soul like you can change things. You may be an inexperienced offensive person, but you know your intentions are good. Well you don’t know if they are good, but you know that they come only from a place which lifts the spirit; compassion, justice- Love. You don’t mean to cause trouble, you only want to do your little bit in helping us all live in a world where our souls might have the chance to be completely free. You know you simply want to do something- anything- to assist the most downtrodden and voiceless among us in any way you can. People like your mum, your dad, your little brother Asadullah, your self. Because you live for them. You can do this. You’ll always be okay. Because you are protected. You are always protected on this road.