The year was 2003. The place was Howard College. The day was no ordinary day.
It was the beginning of a life changing journey. It was the first day of university. With her retro black and white backpack slung over her shoulders and her hands tucked firmly into the front pockets of her washed out blue jeans, Aasia Sami let out a shaky breath. Her heart was racing and her palms were sweaty as she surveyed the campus grounds, shocked at the amount of people gathered in front of her.
Gulping and biting her lip, she took a step forward, willing her legs to carry her into the sea of people but before she could get far, her mother’s voice cut through her nervousness. Turning around, Aasia came face to face with Maya Sami. Before she could ask what the matter was, her mother held her shoulders and gave her a serious look. “Now remember everything that your father and I have told you Aasia. You are here to study, to get a degree so that you can be an independent woman one day. You are not here to fraternise with people and waste time. Do I make myself clear?”
Having heard this speech countless times before, Aasia nodded her head, giving her mother her most reassuring smile. Once Maya was convinced, she hopped back into her car and without giving her daughter another look, drove away. Letting out a breath she hadn’t realised she was holding in, Aasia relaxed for the first time since she had arrived at Howard College.
Though her heart was still racing and though she felt like everyone was looking at her, she felt a little more at ease now that her mother was not around. Putting one foot in front of the other Aasia found her courage and began her university experience at the registration table.
As always, the first week was orientation. It was the week where Aasia memorised every building, every classroom and every route assuring that she would, in her four years at Howard College, never get lost. It was the week where Aasia learnt about which groups hung out where. The engineers, the artists, the wannabe artists, the business students: you name it and she had that group pinned to a certain location.
By day four of orientation week, Aasia knew the ins and outs of the campus all thanks to her intense organisation skills. To some, this would seem impressive but to the class of 2007, it seemed nerdy and borderline weird. Girls sniggered when Aasia walked past them and guys made jokes about her odd appearance. Not oblivious to the teasing, she was hurt but she never retaliated. Instead, she kept her shoulders squared and her head down as weeks turned into months and soon, she had survived her first semester of university.
Aasia’s parents could not have been happier that she had few friends and went on even fewer outings. They were just glad that their daughter had not become one of those girls who went wild with the freedom that came along with university. Maya and Yusuf Sami were controlling parents to say the least and their soft, sweet daughter would never say a word against them.
Aasia had always been a giver. She had given her parents everything they asked for. From having the perfect grades to having the personality of an angel, she was selfless. But there was one thing she selfishly held onto: her dream of becoming a journalist.
Convincing her parents of this dream was the turning point in their relationship. She spent weeks and weeks making her case, fighting for the future she wanted, hoping that her parents would allow her this one thing. And by some miracle, they gave in and let her pursue her dream but it came at the cost of a tense relationship. The once easy-going connection Aasia had with her mother and father turned sour.
There was a sense of disappointment Yusuf Sami felt when he now looked at his daughter. He had envisioned so much more for her. The life of a doctor or maybe a lawyer, but a journalist? He never understood why his rational daughter would want to have a dangerous profession like journalism. And he never stopped reminding Aasia of what he thought was the biggest mistake she was making by following this path.
Maybe that’s why she could easily square her shoulders, keep her head down and ignore the sniggers. After all, what she dealt with at home was worse. So when the second semester of the year began, Aasia once again wore her tough layer of skin along with her retro backpack and braced her self for the unfriendly faces she would no doubt face.
“Why the long face Aasia?” Maya Sami asked as she watched her daughter unlock the car door.
Alarmed at the concern laced in her mother’s voice, Aasia paused for a moment before replying. “Just- you know. First day back after the holidays.”
“Hmm… I see. I guess you would have looked forward to university if you were doing something credible.”
Aasia gulped and bit her tongue. “I love what I’m learning about Mummy. There’s nothing else in the world I’d want to be pursuing. I’m going to be a journalist one day, and I’d really like for you and Daddy to get on board with that. Please.”
Maya Sami’s mouth twitched. Instead of giving her daughter a reply, she leaned across and opened the door for Aasia. “You’ll be late for your lecture.”
Knowing that this was her mother’s way of ending the conversation, she hopped out of her seat but as she was about to shut the door, her mother spoke. “Oh, I almost forgot. I’ll be late today, so stay inside once your lecture is done.”
Aasia nodded her head and shut the car door before retreating towards her lecture room, feeling gloomy and blue. The lack of support and the constant belittling of her degree choice from her parents affected her more than she wanted it to. Were her dreams worth this? Was being a journalist worth the disappointment her parents felt towards her?
These thoughts and so many others ran through her mind and she struggled to concentrate as the professor went on and on about media forms.
That day, Aasia felt low and she would have considered it as one of the most depressing days of her life, if it weren’t for the thunderstorm that walked into her life.
That day, Aasia would have given up on her dream of becoming a journalist if she hadn’t met the curly-haired, brown-eyed, visual arts student who inspired her more than anyone had in her life.
That day, everything changed.
The second chapter of Solo, and what a different one it was compared to the first…
I’m liking this back and forth writing, from present day jumping back to a time when things were totally different.
But let me know what you think: are you liking the flashback writing? I feel like it gives the story a ‘fuller feeling’. Theres more detail, but if you guys aren’t a fan of it, let me know…
Also (on a side note) you may have noticed that the father’s name has changed. It’s no longer Mateen, instead it’s Waseem.
Hope you enjoyed the read! Until the next post…