Doubt and Reflection in March 2016

Another month is gone! This was another month of doubt and reflection.

Life not only passes by like a flash, it is full of many distractions. It is also mostly cruel these days. In a world that floats in mindless bloodletting and heartless dehumanization, it is increasingly difficult to go on and find purpose in mundane routine of your daily life. I am sometimes made to wonder that I am perhaps too indulgent in a passion that disassociate me from reality. People often ask me, “why do you write?”, and I am left wondering how I should respond to this question. I figure that this is just a polite way of telling me that I should stop.

Sometimes, I am so tired of my critics that I just want to tell them, “I write because I want to and I can, don’t read if you don’t like it”, but then it sounds very rude to my own ears, so full of me. I find it better to stay quiet and just smile at them in response. That actually feels like stupid, really.

Not a day goes by when I am not burned out by so many distractions, and by my own moments of self-doubt. There is so much to do, and so little time. There is so much stress. Sometimes, my mind feels like breaking down. I feel so exhausted that I just don’t want to do anything. I just want to lie on my favourite couch and watch Doraemon or Tom and Jerry. At such times, the dominant thought in my mind is that perhaps people are right about me; I am eccentric, and self-indulgent.

In a month full of such thoughts, Jaime Wallace came to my rescue once more. I have been reading her blogs for past several months now, and I have come to appreciate a lot that I have learned from her mindful, thoughtful, pieces. Over the weekend, she wrote about her own moments of self doubt.  I may not be as bright as her, but I face such questions all the time. I often ask myself, “what purpose does my writings serve?”, “who reads it anyway?” and “what am I doing to make a better world?” – and the bigger question that I have spent my life searching an answer for – “what is my purpose in this world after all?”. There are, as Jaime Wallace has put it, Big Problems out there; challenges so scary and overwhelming that gives us sleepless nights.

I have struggled with these questions all my adult life, and with growing age and the scepticism that I receive, these questions have made my life a lot more uncomfortable.  I wish most of the times that the real world was like a fairy tale; a peaceful land in a perfect harmony, full of happy and loving people and singing birds. But the real world is not a happy fairy tale, rather it is full of dark creatures; banshee and demons, gorgon and ghouls.

I try to be a normal person, give appropriate attention to my professional and personal commitments, as well as relationships. But unlike Jaime, I loose my balance more often than not. But in the end she teaches a very important lesson. She emphasises that no matter how humble or modest person’s creative efforts are, they are the best contribution that person can make for a better world. She gives hope to desperate people like me in this part of the world which is more devastated, to continue with their efforts without fear or favour. It is heartwarming to read a wise woman say these words of reassurance.

Scott Fitzgerald once very wisely said:

Writers aren’t people exactly. Or, if they’re any good, they’re a whole lot of people trying so hard to be one person.

Writers have the ability to see the world not only from their eyes, but from the eyes of their characters or “subjects”. And they have the ability to transform into a beacon of hope and purpose, they not only enlighten themselves but they enlighten their readers in the process. Their thought processes and their written word have every capacity to contribute in building a better world like so many writers have done so since the dawn of civilisation. I am not sure if I am any good, but I am sure that I am on the right path to find the purpose not only in my work, but in my life as well, and in return someday I will make a contribution for a better world, no matter how modestly.

And I must thank Jaime Wallace to keep reminding people like me through such inspiring writing. This is an example of a writer’s contribution in helping another person find his purpose; that’s what writers can really do.

Then there is Dalindcy Koolhoven; a dutch beauty who is as classy as a sage when it comes to writing. But she is not just a beauty with brains, she is sensitive and compassionate. I have been following her crisp and spot on writing for some time now, she writes small and precise pieces with metaphoric splendour.

In her piece on the Brussels attack this month, she reflects on how all lives should value equally; be it a Belgian life or a person somewhere in Middle East or Africa where such killings are a daily reality. Good writers like her make us realise that as people we have a lot more in common, and had it not been for the discrimination that we have been taught, unbeknown to us, the world would have been a peaceful and better place.

English: Kaaba at the heart of Mecca. As the n...

English: Kaaba at the heart of Mecca. As the night goes on pilgrims visiting the Holy House. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, there are always those who are more equal than others!

Some people like Donald Trump are manifestations of one of the nastiest kinds of bigotry; racial and religious hate mongering. Islam bashing is a popular trend these days, and it is not limited to some Western elites or “experts” on Islamic world, it is common among common people as well; many within the Islamic world.

When George Bush initiated the “War on Terror” based on “with us or against us” , he necessarily created a world where they were only two extremes. And when you divide yourselves in two mutually exclusive extremes – coexistence becomes impossible and conflict is the only logical result. The “blessing” that the “War on Terror” has given to us is the endemic growing ethnic, sectarian and religio-political divide which has created and still creating sanguinary conflicts.

People on the political or religious extremes are statistical outliers. Most people live somewhere in the middle of religious and political extremes, but when a conflict is initiated based on “with us or against us”, this majority is forced to make a choice. I see people choosing sides everyday in my social media feeds, and I don’t know how many realise how ugly and dangerous this is getting.

I see people criticising the “Maulvi” (clergyman) but most of the times what they really are doing, they are attacking the religion.

Juan Cole is a prominent political blogger and historian. He writes this month in his another exceptional essay on how acts of terrorism should not be associated with Islam. He underscores that criminals of all kinds exist in all faiths and all varieties of human society, and how media profiling affect our worldview and our biases. He also stresses how media projects such acts committed by the members of the Muslim community, but conveniently ignores many similar or worse acts by others. And he statistically establishes the fact, which should go without saying, that majority of Muslims are perfectly normal, compassionate and kind people.

Many people who while commenting against the “Maulvi” are actually targeting “Islam” either intentionally or unintentionally and the gullible general public accepts the disguised attack on the religion itself as just an attack on the “corrupt clergy”. This is what the power of stereotyping and selective profiling can do.

On a personal level, in this month of doubt and reflection, I have continued on my own path of finding purpose in my writings. I came upon a character who prostituted at night, and begged in light of the day. Then I asked myself where did she come from; and the answer originated into the small story; The Plucked Little Girl. The story of a little girl who is orphaned, and sold in to beggary and abused while still a child. The story became the top post of this month on this blog.

The post In Love with a Ghost is a slightly modified version of a true story which is narrated in the first person without any particular chronological order. I wrote this piece partly as an experiment; trying to test a new narrative style. And to my surprise, it was very much appreciated. I received a strong feedback from you all, and thank you very much for it. This became the second most popular post of my blog this month.

I have also managed to continue my efforts to develop my interviewing skills, something I would rather also need professionally as a researcher. I interview people I find intriguing or inspiring, and this month I came across a young man who grew up in a slum and now pursuing a research degree in one of the top universities of the country. The Slumdog Social Scientist was the third most popular post this month, and people I know gave me a strong feedback on the interview. Some even wished to know more about this young man and meet him personally.

All in all, this was a month which gave me a somewhat consistent streak of writing, as well as it has helped me find newer ways to narrate ideas. I do hope that you have all enjoyed these humble efforts on my part, found something useful and relatable, and we have mutually learned something. So, please continue with your kind patronization, and keep providing me your generous feedback so that my writings are more purposeful and precise.

Happy reading!


  1. Bilal,
    Thank you for sharing your experience and for being so generous with your words about my post. I am so grateful that there are writers out there, yourself included, who are willing to join me on the weekends for a little virtual musing on this crazy writing life. Each of us has moments of feeling alone and lost and even despondent about the path we have chosen, but there is great strength in community – in our ability, thanks to the magic of the Internet, to connect across space and even time to share our thoughts and reassure each other that we are never, ever alone.

    Thanks also for the links to the two essays you mentioned. I am looking forward to reading those soon.

    Have a great weekend, Bilal, and happy writing!

    • Thank you very much Jaime, and you so very right. It is indeed reassuring, I really enjoy reading your posts and find that they are motivating and educating at the same time. I have learned many things from you. So, keep up writing such good pieces.

      A nice weekend to you too 🙂

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