It was 1:45 am, dead of night, and Ali was awake trying to pass the night by binge watching and game playing. Tired of the usual practices that night, he decided to go upstairs and spend some time on the terrace. It was a first in his routine that would later prove a life changing event in his existence.
Left his phone in the room, grabbed his cigarettes and went to the terrace. It was a night of full moon and the sky was glittering with stars. Without his smartphone and free of all the noises, the solitude and the setting of the moment sucked him into deep thoughts.
He looked at the sky as he lit his cigarette and kept staring at the moon while he puffed the whole pipe. He took another one out, lit it and manoeuvred his glance to the stars. Within fifteen minutes Ali had smoked half of his cigarette packet while staring, and reflecting on the presence of the moon and the stars.
,The next morning when he woke up and laid his hands on the water bottle and as the first sip nourished his dry throat and smoke filled stomach, Ali paused and suddenly started to reflect on the water he just had. “What if there was no water and what if I had no hands to grab a bottle. What would have nourished me and how would I quench my thirst. Alhamdulilah for the water and for my hands.” he said to himself as he praised God.
He started to notice how people including himself were pre-occupied by things, materialistic things to be precise, and how humans occupied their minds. The constant information and mis-information that people were being fed through their 'smartphones’, television programs and even the educational institutes, that manufactured degree holding animals instead of human leaders.
Almost every other person in the street had his head down as if there was someone inside their phones grabbing them by their neck and spoon feeding their minds. It seemed like everyone had his/her shepherd inside their pockets. He remembered what his grandmother used to say “Asli Shaitan chu yuhai telephone” He used to laugh at her but now he had started to admit the veracity of that sentence.
The next night, Ali accompanied by his packet of cigarettes went up to the terrace. He was amazed to see the sky that night, the stars were so luminous, Ali thought of pulling one out from the canopy. Plato had it right, “you wouldn’t believe in god if there were no stars”, he whispered to himself. Ali’s ability to reflect was getting stronger; he interpreted something very profound even from the smallest events in his life. He reflected on the headlines on the newspaper, the statements of the world leaders, the books he read, the Quran he recited, the breath he took. He had started to read between the lines, whether it was poetry or the statements regarding conflicts across the world.
It was like the masses were being fooled; the war drums, the artillery show, the music show, the fame show, social media content and the global breaking news. The enemies were the friends and the friends were there for benefits. The strategic ties, the economic ties, the defensive ties and the demographic ties, he took them all as lies and in the end what remained as truth were the stars in the nearest heavens and the one they glorified.
Humans had stopped caring about humans and a dead dog made it to news while the slain people were only being counted in numbers; there was a problem somewhere, maybe a leaking bucket, he thought to himself. “Or maybe the people nowadays just care more about numbers than actual beings,” he assumed.
Numbers in the bank, phone numbers, id card numbers, voting numbers, car registration numbers. The last obsession was amazing, they said people now paid hundreds and thousands of bucks to get the number plate of their choice.
But there were other numbers also, which people were obsessed with. These numbers weren’t realistic. They appeared on your smartphone and went like: Number of followers, number of likes, and shares. Humans were crazy over them and kept chasing them.
Nobody saved anybody, and everybody just kept boasting about their numbers. And meanwhile everyone was drowning, there were two sections of people who weren't part of the sinking group. One standing on the opposite bank were those who controlled the numbers and their platforms. On the other bank were those who looked at the stars and gave a thought to everything happening.
Ali while standing on the bank with his feet still wet wondered what if he hadn’t gone upto the terrace that night and reflected at the heavens glorifying their creator. He too would have been among those drowning while chasing numbers.
Boys and girls in their teens and mid-twenties were victims of depression and mental trauma just for the sake of numbers, some made monkey faces, some dog, some took off their clothes while some wore the clothes of the opposite gender to get the numbers. They had been fed that getting a colossal amount of likes and followers was a success and in their virtual journey of the virtual world had turned them patients of depression.
`It was like everyone had gone mad, it was a collective madness where even those designated to treat the sufferers had gone mad. Madness was bombarded into people’s brains. Their minds had been enslaved and what a worse kind of slavery that was.
Ali, while thinking about all the events taking place around the globe, kept looking at the stars praying and hoping that the owner of the great throne will establish justice, save those from drowning and make humanity a mainstream thing for humans again.
We all believe that his hope will be alive and fulfilled someday. As the poet said, “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things and no good thing ever dies.”