There was pin-drop silence and then the clock chimed thrice. As if on cue, a hand appeared over my shoulder with a warm glass of milk. This is the same hand that rocked my cradle, when I was an infant, not entitled to autonomy. This hand was of the same person, who stayed up for nights, only to look after me, like a veracious guardian. This was the same hand, that helped me in times of severe jingoism, between my outer self, and my deep-rooted ego. This was the same hand, that occasionally found it's way over my head-as a soothing gesture-to pacify my insatiable soul. As I found myself interspersed between an array of thoughts, I realised that this hand was of the same person who often said " Beta don't worry: everything will be alright".

My relationship with my mother-which I never truly embraced-was one filled with a plethora of apices and troughs. In times of uncertainty, I'd always turn back to my mother because she understood me like no one else. She was someone who could distinguish between my highs and my lows. I still remember it like yesterday, when my mum would stand up against my father (who was initially against the idea of me pursuing tennis), to assure everyone how important it was, to allow the children to grow with a free mind. In times like these, I can only imagine how hard it would've been, for a single person, to metaphorically fight these fisticuffs against an insular and patriarchal society. I could probably jabber on for ages, but the point is: my mother was always a vehement supporter of allowing her children to excel in whichever field they desired.

Minutes turned into hours, hours turned into days, and days turned into years. Eighteen years, and here I am; the world record holder for the most number of A*s in O levels-a feat previously perceived as "impossible". It would not have been possible, had my mum not spent countless nights tutoring me, pacifying my agitated soul.

My dad was always an academics fanatic, and so, expected me to live up to his expectations as well. Initially, he would get upset when he would compare my academic performance with that of other students of my age. This feeling was, however, ephemeral. With persistent efforts, I was even able to convince my dad, to let me play tennis.

My parents have always acted wisely, in times of uncertainty. It would not be wrong to say, that they used tennis as my weakness, to positively exploit my untapped academic talents as well! I still remember how my dad would tell me that he would increase my lesson time with my coach, if I attained certain marks in certain subjects of mine. Consequently, I did work hard to get those marks, so I could play tennis. It is more like I earned the hours that I spent on the court.

As I grew older, I started to appreciate the path that my parents had chosen for me. After my trip to the junior tennis champions centre in America, I could quite clearly discern that my parents would never let me leave behind studies-even temporarily-to pursue tennis. This was by far the hardest time that I have ever seen. I cried a lot, for I had been an artisan who had carefully woven a dream. And to watch that dream slip away from my hands, like water-without any control has been the gloomiest and the most disparaging scene that I have ever seen.

The good part is though, that I have learned to accept things just the way they are. I always wanted to be a tennis player, but so what? It is not the end of life. I have learned to face life with a new burst of zeal, regardless of whatever it throws at me.

Even though I gave up on a big dream, what I learned from my experience overall, was far superior to what I had ever imagined to learn. I did not let go of the dream to make myself exceptional, so that my name would echo on the streets of Pakistan, long after I have departed.

Dear readers, I would not be wrong in saying that I've tried my best, to make a mark. I have tried my level best to promote the reputation of our beloved country, to higher levels.

Last month, when I got the award of excellence from the British House of Lords, it was a dream-come-true sort of a situation for me. It was ethereal; I was uniquely elated to a level I never thought was even possible. However, I realised something more important that day; I realised that whenever someone would call out my name, the chants of 'Pakistan' would always cling to it. At this moment, I was proud, now more than ever, to be part of a nation as great as Pakistan.

Dear readers, although I hope that my future career is in medicine, the journey has already be extremely wonderful. Achieving the impossible has become the spark of my intellectual curiosity. My parents, my family, my friends and my teachers are highly revered. I am what I am, due to their persistent  and conscientious efforts.

I have made a mark; I have at least tried to pay a millionth part of what Pakistan gave me, back to it. So, dear readers, are you ready? Are you all ready to help your country out in austere times like these?

This is future of our own Pakistan that we are talking about. No excuses.

by Talal Almas 
Harvard University
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