Did I ever mention that time I had to attend a literature forum in Azerbaijan during my exams and there were no direct flights to Baku?
No? Let me tell you all about my misadventures in the Spring of 2013 when I did something I never imagined myself capable of doing even in my next incarnation. And no it is not singing in public because trust me THAT is never going to happen. Not even over my dead body, despite the fact that it would be physically impossible to do that actually.
Anyhow, so I dabble in poetry sometimes and given the fact I have a blog set up here I certainly feel myself capable of writing a masterpiece once in my lifetime just like the other 300 million or so bloggers out there. Eventually, some day, maybe. So my attempts at rhyming words was apparently good enough for an old professor of mine to be interested in; the said professor was a poet by passion and an educator by choice and had often joked about being the founder of the Noreen Qayam poetry fanclub…the punchline being that he remains the only member. During one of such conversations he had asked if I would travel for poetry to a far off land, I said sure if there’s a sale on shoes. Ha Ha I crack myself up. Not. This was way back in 2012 while I was probably more concerned about the amount of food left in the cafeteria for me to pay heed to his golden words, because they were going to change my life. Quite literally.
So in early February, the professor calls me up out of the blue with a mischievous “How would you like to go to Azerbaijan?”. Now while I was trying to string together a coherent reply to his very strange question, he proceeded to tell me about having been approached by an international organization who wanted him to nominate a female to participate in poetry forum in Baku. I’m pretty sure he mistook my bewildered “Baku?!” as “Why yes of course I would love to travel to a desolate void on the world map that not many people venture to!”. The very next day I received an email from a representative of the Great Silkway International Youth Union, asking me to send me a few of my details for further processing of my nomination. And so I typed a short response while scraping my jaw off the floor at the sudden realization that the professor was not actually pulling my leg. Thus began a conspiracy to make me have the time of my life and actually do something worthwhile with the pocketful of talents I might possess.
March 29, 2013:
After nearly two months of silence the GSW representative emailed me again, explaining how she had been waiting for the dates of the event to arrive for her to get in touch with me again. She needed me to send in a poem I had written in Urdu, along with its English translation so that they could short-list the candidate. The only poem I had ever written in Urdu was when I was 6 years old and its rough translation in English would be something like ‘I am a Barbie doll and I will eat your food…‘ So being the resourceful Pakistani that I am, I translated one of my English poems into Urdu and sent it off laughing to myself at the silly notion of competing with all the other authentic Urdu-loving candidates who probably quote Ghalib and Iqbal when talking about the weather.
April 6, 2013:
The GSW representative sent an urgent email asking for my passport scan because my poem had been selected.
A poem written by ME.
So in that state of statelessness I answered her email, and while I was contemplating the many ways in which my identity could be stolen, she replied back with the confirmed dates of the event: April 26-29. Basically in three weeks’ time I was supposed to be in Baku.
I was still processing that when my inbox pinged again, this time from IBA with the mid-term examination schedule that I had forgotten about as completely as one forgets the hiding place of the secret stash of money we keep for rainy days.
My exams were going to start in three weeks. The same time as the event in Baku.Things had suddenly gotten very interesting.