Many have lamented about the dying interest in reading books but interestingly, at the same time, we see a cropping of some innovative ideas around making reading a bigger, more inclusive, activity. There are online bookshops, reading groups that have become more flexible to accommodate readers from around the world and you can even just listen to the audio version of a book if you’re not much of a reader. So, there’s really no excuse to NOT reading, anymore. But once in a while, some book comes along that really hits home and relates to your life so intensely that you really end up learning about yourself so much, because of it.
This book about life, love and living in Lahore as a college student is exactly the kind of book that hits home for a young reader
‘The Still Point of the Turning World’ might not be your quintessential page-turning thriller that you’d want to finish in one go. For me, it was much more than that. It has been the first step towards untying the convoluted knots in my head, towards figuring out my existence and towards mending my heartbreaks. The book is written by a former LUMS Professor Shehryar B. Sheikh and it’s set in Lahore.
It is about college romance, love in general, life and the disintegrating country that is Pakistan.
Before I delve deeper into what the book is about and why it’s so close to me, I find it important to shed some light on my connection with the author.
Back in my second year at LUMS, Shehryar Sheikh offered a course titled The Rhetoric of Quality: Creating Selves Through The Narratives of Craftwork. I couldn’t really understand what the course was all about initially but given its outlandish name and my inclination towards anything and everything that people might call ‘intellectual’ (always seeking for social validation, you see), I had to give it a try and so I did eventually.
The course revolved around all of us, the students, picking one craft of our choice (it could be anything from photography to knitting, singing and whatnot) and helping ourselves grow through the help of that chosen craft. We would meditate in class, write journals about our experiences with our craft, attempt rather unusual assignments and just be ourselves.
I was so scared of confronting my inner self that despite Sir Shehryar’s vehement efforts, I could hardly connect with my deeper self that is until almost three years later, I read The Still Point of the Turning World.
That course, despite all my superficial tendencies, saved me in my sophomore year and this time around, it was the book that took on the role of my ultimate savior.
The story is about university students Omar and Sara who despite being two separate people, are fundamentally the same.
The engaging aspect about the book is that every single person will read and consequently interpret it in his or her own way, as it goes with books, but what stands out here is the fact that it’s about living and learning to navigate life, as a college student in Pakistan.
It’s just not any other love story; it connects to you at a much deeper level. We are all Omar and Sara in our own ways. We all overthink, we all harbor our own insecurities, we all cry for help at some point in our life and we all have our own still points in this constantly moving world. These still points could be anything; from people we love to call our own to our intense passions and the trivial things we generally connect to, in life.
The reason I am so attached to the book is the fact that it normalizes things that we might consider crazy otherwise.
Omar and Sara met in their first year of the university and the entire book revolves around them evolving as people not only on their own but with each other’s help as well.
Through Omar, Sara, their divergent yet converging paths and their recurrent thought patterns, we are told that it is okay to perceive things in a way that people don’t normally do. It is okay to say things that irk us, it is okay to let the toxic people out of our lives no matter how long we have known them, it is okay to just give and give, it is okay to feel vulnerable, it is okay to love Pakistan despite its failing and flailing state and above all, it is okay to suffer loss and heartbreak.
The story doesn’t have a very happy ending or beginning, to be honest, but the meat is the journey of the story where the substance is.
It is where the first step towards figuring out your life lies and it is where the normalization of our crazy selves happens. Above all, the book provides a glimpse into LUMS’s university life, its inner jokes and the LUMS life in general.
So even if you’re not a LUMS student, you can still connect to it if you’ve ever been a college student in Pakistan or want a glimpse into the life of a college student in Pakistan.
You can get the book from any leading bookstore in Lahore.
Cover image via: Big Upstairs Films