Thoughts on Khayaban-e-Nowhere’s birthday

Published: December 1, 2011

The comments I get online are like a window to me; whether good or bad, they help me improve my writing

This week, Khayaban-e-Nowhere turns one. Some of you will applaud while others (particularly a segment of The Express Tribune’s online readership) will repeatedly smack their foreheads against a wall, wondering what the state of Pakistani English newspapers has come to. But we will come to that in just a bit.

Khayaban-e-Nowhere has in its one year covered a strange multitude of topics. The great thing about Khayaban-e-Nowhere is that it has absolutely no particular regimen, plan or focus. It is essentially a writing space for anything under the sun. When you write about pretty much anything you begin to see – through emails and online comments, what works and what does not – what will be ignored or what will instigate a furious debate. Pakistan, cricket, religion, and (I think this is a function of it being a particular type of newspaper) women’s rights. And then, the oddly surprising ones – Pakistan School subjects like Pakistan studies and Islamiat, which a student like me takes for granted, is a fascinating topic for several. An article about a girl wanting to be an air force pilot, another about Harry Potter and one about a certain locality of my city Karachi – worked too.

And then of course, because these articles were uploaded onto the newspaper’s website, I got online feedback too, straight from the net. Here is where we come back to address that particular phenomenon.

I have been told online that I am insensitive, immature, a waste of digital space, a terrible writer, not particularly funny – and then lots of absolute class comments too:

“For the love of God, something new please”

“This should not be the personal ‘dear diary’ of a 17-year-old”

“This girl must have relatives higher up in The Express Tribune, there is no other way her work gets published.”

To which I can only say -  I wish man, I so wish my chacha (uncle) owned The Express Tribune so I could change their online comments policy, but alas…

Even when I am not checking comments religiously, friends and classmates do.

“Why are anonymous people so mean?” said one of them.

They help me catch up on things I sometimes wish I’d miss -  one person commented on my picture on how he liked “chicks with glasses” (how enlightening) and another who on an article about my best friend wanting to be a pilot wrote back “Please tell your friend I am single”- much to her horror, and my entire grade’s amusement.

And yet, there is something so brilliant about online comments. They are a window into a world of anonymity.

If someone saying I am good, and does not know me from the next person on the street, well I better be amazing. And if someone says that was the worst thing they have ever read, well it is time to drag out the pen and paper and write something else.

This article is not about whether I am so bad that I cannot string sentences together or I am so good I’m the next J K Rowling (by the way, the person who commented that, I took a screenshot of that comment and it is now my screensaver. Yes, I am not afraid to admit that anymore.) The point is that if there is one thing I am glad of it is of these very extreme reactions. The best thing anyone can tell an 18-year-old is that the world does not revolve around you. People tend to think that I do assume the world revolves around me, because I am, whatever I may write about, an A Level student and this carries some heavy ‘she is too young’ connotations. This means that there will be those who comment on every post “I hate this teenager’s personal diary”, no matter that this particular personal diary is interested and has written about hypocrisy, racism and politics. And there will be those people who shall be extremely nice, but in a slightly condescending way, “Hey guys, be nice, she is only a kid after all.” If only I were middle-aged with a quiet unassuming job like marketing manager at X company, who blogged occasionally on the weekends. Sadly, however I am columnist who is trying to get into college and with a smiling, glasses wearing, picture to boot. (And to those who comment on my picture, I…I mean…just…stop).

Ah well. Here is to the new kid in school who goes “Are you that writer?”- thank you for your appreciation, it means everything. And here is to all those who raise their eyebrows and scoff when they see the column in the paper, or the link on the website – thank you for your criticism, both constructive and odd.

You keep me sane and wanting to write better, one star rating and all.

Meiryum Ali

Meiryum Ali

A freshman at an ivy league school who writes a weekly national column in The Express Tribune called "Khayaban-e-Nowhere".

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=647842094 The Reader

    Hey easy girl easy, have you ever seen me say anything bad about you despite the fact that things you say sometimes swoosh right over my head?

    I always like reading you tidbits. (Don’t read them as tiny-bits or you’ll think I picked at your age again ;))Recommend

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=647842094 The Reader

    Err, I hate you ET for deleting half of my comment and making it look so bald! :/Recommend

  • OompaLoompa

    Good or bad. It takes alot of guts to a) publish an article online b) with your full name c) and a picture (if it wasn’t too specific already). So for a 17 year old you have alot of guts, which those anonymous commentators hiding behind their acronyms do not!
    I have already noticed the irony in publishing this comment anonymouslyRecommend

  • rajab

    Hey! it’s the ‘ first time ‘ I’m encountering your work,you are not that bad actually :)
    here is a nice piece of advice for u ( I guess I can being a year or two older than u ) ” DON’T SEE YOURSELF INTO OTHER’S MIRRORS…”
    the rest u r aware of….!Recommend

  • Sikandar

    Utterly disconnected….You should stop wasting online space and focus on your studies….If someone has told you that you area good writer, who has amusing things to share….believe me they were just kidding…..oh and yes…..step out of your bubble…..grow up……Recommend

  • an A level student

    i think u r amazing. . . i wonder if u got a distinction in ur Gcse Olevels english language paper .. . Recommend

  • Parvez

    You have to be joking. Has it been one full year since you came out with that piece of rowing on the Chinna Creek ? Amazing !! You are at your best when you just write about this-and-that.Recommend

  • Zehra

    The ET readers sadly contain a lot, too eager to dissect every single line by the authors, until they find something to make fun of, a creepy lot too conspicuous to ignore. But the thing is you’re surely one of the most natural writers, ever stumbled across. Picking topics from the common most stuff around and giving trivia such a splendid make-up, thumbs up! Your write-ups speak of the talent too ripe for your age. Bet you’ll go a long way, girl.Recommend

  • Banker

    How about you step out of defense once in a whileRecommend

  • Joginder

    A nephew of mine who’s in college also has a flair for words and being a thoughtful type, occasionally knocks those thoughts off on the keyboard. I’ve advised him a number of times to look up ET and read blogs by Meiryum Ali. Told him they’re good (age and gender no bar) and as a student he will be inspired by them. I don’t know if he’s taken the advice or even remembers the name (he’s in Jalandhar). But i hope he does.Recommend

  • Umair Tariq

    You just got that I even got hate mail from readers and, well, on my own blog I get these kind of comments everyday… SO Maryam, those people who would mock you by laughing and saying things related to your personality or probably calling you names are those who have been actually amused by your work and they couldn’t do anything better so all they did was belittling you… Well, that too is their failure and they belittled themselves!

    Adioas!Recommend

  • http://pioussluts.wordpress.com EoH

    As a writer of comments we can say the same. Many of us defend the stance of writer and express our free will but all I can say is that you must not take criticism to heart just think that you infuriated reader so much that all the did was burst into insults… It shows their upbrining :)Recommend

  • Ahmad Mirza

    I would agree to Sikandar do as he says … focus on your studies and next time publish your result so that People can see you are not a dumb student. People who just mock people who are more brilliant and courageous then them are simply afraid of them. Stand up keep grabing those opportunities But i request you to please extend your knowledge by reading more to improve your standard; this may seem like a personal diary but i give you credit for documenting your thoughts. Remember dont be disturbed by people because they are afraid of what they dont understand; you will learn with age, develop your senses, your point of view on observation as well. Good Work but kindly dont go random choose a direction and stick to it.

    I REALLY HATE ET FOR NOT PUBLISHING MOST OF MY COMMENTS !Recommend

  • Nandita.

    @Sikander – Has anyone told u that you are vile ? believe it
    @The reader – Cut the sarcasm / leg pulling or whatever it is.

    Seriously cant figure out why people bully her. she writes pretty well.Recommend

  • Saba

    the fact that fifteen people commented on this peice, out of which a bunch just made fun of you shows how popular your column really is!Recommend

  • http://tasmeena-m.blogspot.com the last time i checked, the earth revolves around the sun :)

    iv read meiryum’s work. most of it is pretty good, and i agree that the rest of it seems pointless at times. but that’s just my opinion. if u think an author is really that bad (or that ur such a pro), help out. if u disagree or find the article offensive: justify ur point.
    but if u dont like it…dont read it…i mean after wasting five minutes reading nonsense i dont see why anyone would want to waste another 5 on bad-mouthing useless comments, most of which won’t even be read! i bet if she’s just some ‘little girl” she cant possibly threaten u to read her stuff.
    at the same time…the author needs to cool it!

    :)Recommend

  • sajid

    @the author
    btw what happenend to your friend who wanted to join the airforceRecommend

  • A.S

    @sajid: she got glasses :’(Recommend

  • A

    She probably did friend…@an A level student: Recommend