LUMUN or competitions that turn into a losing game
Two weeks ago, Jinnah International airport was deluged by nervous yet excited parents.
“Kya aap ki beti bhi LUMUN ja rahi he?” (is your daughter going to LUMUN too?) they cried as they bumped into each other.
School teams kept arriving in jam-packed buses, students streamed through security checks in their uniforms and blazers.
They were headed for Lahore University of Management Sciences Model United Nations, an endeavour that consists of night-long research marathons on different countries, eating too much at Hardees, and chilling out at the free concerts. It is also incidentally a convergence of some of the country’s brightest, sharpest and most vocal youngsters in one place. A jumble of them, aged 15 to 23 years, from LGS, KGS, The Lyceum, Aitchison, Iqra, Headstart, PAF-KIET and more are all in it to win.
And when I say to win, consider that an understatement. This is not a healthy competition, though it aims to be one.
“There were so many backstabbing kids, messing up other people’s resolutions to make their own look good,” says Ayla, an A-Level student (not her real name).
It was an oddly bitter observation about the competition that seemed to crop up repeatedly.
As LUMUN wrapped up, someone from the winning team put this victory up as their status on Facebook, which was fair enough – except he included in brackets:
“Phew, thank God the usual schools… didn’t win this time around.”
Competition or the need to come first is not something inherent to particular students, or even to particular localities. It is something very oddly catching on in a set of people whose lives are increasingly being defined by the cut-off mark at universities, the required grades for a course. I understand the argument that we need standards to decide who is fit for what. But explain then a student at a university in Karachi who worries about the difference between 0.5% and 0.25% in a GPA.
Is this a by-product of being desi? There have been a lot of jokes about Tiger moms abroad, about how Asians push their kids far more than other any demographic. The same logic applies here. “No one ever says, beta, it’s OK if you don’t win, what mattered is that you gave 110%,” a friend points out. “It sounds clichéd but it’s worrying when no one says, ‘chalo, koi baat nahin (no problem)’ when you mess up.” We’re turning into pressure cookers.
It’s not even about academics sometimes but more about just the way you can perceive yourselves. One girl who left Pakistan after the ninth grade often compares her current high school to the schools she would have been in had she stayed in Pakistan. “The kids here are maybe even smarter, but not in a way a Pakistani kid would be,” she points out. “A Pakistani kid would sort of just shove his accomplishments in your face, no matter how meagre they may be.”
Wonder where we get that from?
Ayla the A-Level student ended up winning Best Delegate at LUMUN only to come home to find her younger sister had made the school debate team – great news right? That is until dadi offered this nugget: “Beta, ab tumhari bari behn ki tarha tum bhi kuch jeet kay ana.” (Now come home after winning something like your younger sister.)
The game is on.
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