Student politics: a view from the other side of the bridge

Karachi, Oct 2: My friends and I always discuss the sheltered lives we have led. Born in a privileged and over-protected environment, I have mostly taken things for granted. Be it the air-conditioned classrooms or the well stocked cafeterias, everything was always handed to us in a silver platter. After all, it was my parent's hard-earned money.

While I never let these things get the better of me, there were others who did. Driving off in their big SUVs and the latest jeeps, flaunting their parent's large bank accounts was how they spent their time. Yours truly, on the other hand, led a more passive, 'chilled-out' existence, happily enjoying my life while drowning my not so sad sorrows in a regular Café Mocha (fancy, expensive but delicious coffee).

As is obvious, I have lived a life filled with warmth of cocoon-like proportions. Recently however, I was forced out of my shell to actually view my city and the youth in it for what they are.

What compelled me to rethink my lifestyle is the on-going violent happenings at some educational institutions, which some of us colloquially refer to as being on the 'other side of the bridge'. One gets to hear about the many protests and rallies that occur in University of Karachi (KU). The number of student protesters that take it upon themselves to ban classes from continuing and the sheer gall with which they stop teachers is appalling. However, coming from a place where the only fights or brawls that take place are ego-driven, it's almost (oddly) admirable to note the kind of fervour demonstrated by the students of KU.

Having said that, one cannot help but wonder what the rioters think the innocent students and teachers could possibly gain from bans on lessons. It is one thing to passionately display intolerance in the face of injustices, and quite another to force others to comply with something that they do not necessarily believe in. More shocking are the planned attacks that take place in and around these campuses. The violence that emanates from such unions engulfs students and protesters alike. It is horrifying that human life does not seem to mean a thing to these people.

It seems that these protests are a desperate attempt at getting some respect or recognition, which the rioters think will not be given to them by any other method. However, speaking from experience, respect is a hard thing to come by, especially for students. No one takes us seriously - no matter which side we are on. While one group combats this by living in denial, the other tries to make a mark by screaming its lungs out. These extreme behaviours are not helpful in any way.

So whether we sit here in our scenic bubbles of oblivion, or tear each other apart, our city and country are going down the drain, sucking our lives along with them. When did the divide between one side of the bridge and the other create such a vast difference in our outlooks? Why can't students - as a group, as one voice, as a majority - tackle those who undermine us? The answer that comes to mind is strangely cynical, but one day, hopefully, someone will have the courage to fight against prejudices and help take a desperately needed stand along with their peers. Till then, I'll pay the Rs200 and seek contentment by drinking coffee, thank you.

By Maryam Javaid (The News)

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