LUMUN or competitions that turn into a losing game

Published: January 23, 2012

At LUMUN, there were so many backstabbing kids, messing up other people’s resolutions to make their own look good. PHOTO: IJAZ MAHMOOD

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.

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.

  • Ovais

    Meiryam ,, Honestly I never liked your writing before but this time you have a point.. Lumun and stuff like that are still for mature kids . I have seen mothers rushing and shouting at their young 3 -4 year old siblings to compete in a race or art etc .. Lumun and all are for adults , try going to a pre school functions and you will see mothers telling that her son is so good in this while her daughter is so good at that..I am completely against children competing at a tender age..

    Well on Lumun , this was never and will never be beneficial. Its just a way to show the elitie Alevel cult of how good english and debating they can do. But its craze amazes me. after all we have always lived in a superficial society with no care for science, academics , learning , creativity .Recommend

  • menteliscio

    ah what? so for you the whole event boiled down to one fb status and two three quotataions. bibi try to appreciate the good side also, life is already messed up here…ah ok i get it, it is personal!Recommend

  • Sheheryar

    I love how you have kept the whole article extremely objective. You have not expressed your own opinion in even a single line. I don’t know if I should be impressed with your journalistic skills or look down upon them :ORecommend

  • Majid Urrehman

    Reading your articles, I feel that there should be some representation of teenagers at national front . They are bit screwed but give a fresh perspective of usual things.Recommend

  • Ovais

    I dont even get my comments publishedRecommend

  • Torrent

    I don’t know what the hell happened at LUMUN but this article should start with “Dear diary..”
    – why is this on the tribune blog anyways? Recommend

  • Parvez

    Your topics and style are always interesting and fun to read. This time around there are a few minor mistakes looks like you were in a hurry.
    The schools and people that you write about must be doing something right because they appear to be doing well for themselves.Recommend

  • Mustafa Hanif

    “a convergence of some of the country’s brightest, sharpest and most vocal youngsters in one place”

    You forgot a very important adjective. RICHEST!Recommend

  • aisha

    @Mustafa Hanif:
    Disagree! I have seen all sorts of schools being represented at LUMUN! Recommend

  • Salman

    and the bottom line for this article is ?Recommend

  • Justagal (maverick)ooo

    @mustafa hanif,…… nailed it man!Recommend

  • Aymen

    Wonder why we, a government college students, weren’t informed about LUMUN. Recommend

  • Reality

    @ Mustafa Hanif: Nice observations.Recommend

  • Anam

    I agree with what you’ve written but we can’t just ignore the good side of LUMUN..
    btw..the concerts are so NOT free…Recommend

  • apj

    by and large true. especially the backstabbing bit; I was a witness myself.Recommend

  • Anam

    i agree with what you’ve written but lets not ignore the positive side of LUMUN..
    also, the concerts are so NOT free…Recommend

  • American

    The writer is making an observation about the attitude of Pakistani students and parents. That life for them seems to boil down to making a grade at school or winning a school competition (which is pretty meaningless in the long run). Is it a complex/ego problem, or do they really have such a shallow vision on life?

    And if ur wondering – no, as a doctor myself, I harbor no jealousies to any “high achievers”. You should strive to be the best but maintain dignity, stay humble and don’t backstab,

    I’ve been to some of these LUMS competitions. And visiting Pk and seeing desis abroad, I totally get where you (the author) are coming from as I have the same feelings. Sadly it seems like few of ur readers get it and seem to be oversensitive about u attacking their schools.

    Nevertheless, good article. Recommend

  • Khalid

    Excuse me? :\ Lets try not to be EXTREMELY ONE-SIDED? Ive been to about 4 MUNS in my School and College days, I found each and every experience to be absolutely amazing. Now, there are a few problems (alas, whats perfect in this world?) and people with their ego under their beds, but i wont go blasting the whole event …. and concerts? they are NOT free. NOTHING is free. And for the record, LUMUN was the best event of the 20 years of my life.

    Lets try bein LESS INCLINED towards VALUE JUDGEMENTS, k?


  • zeeshan

    the competition is useless……………i mean for one thing the discussion that takes place is useless and futile……………….no body pays attention to what children have to say on issues of international importance…………….even united nations means nothing in the context of world situation…………….Recommend

  • Zeek

    Honestly, for some reason, the title of ur story doesnot even matches a single bit of what u wrote. -_-Recommend

  • Usman Shahid

    A very nice article,
    Competitions are good but the way they are conducted make them useless and bad for the students. Second mentality of our public that make it a race and must win competition loses all the purpose of learning.

    The article had the wornderful ending with the common race word by comparing with someone else

    “Ab tum ney jeetna hay apney falan falan relative ki tarah”. Please let every child live in his own way, do not force them Recommend

  • Undisclosed

    Just because you didn’t win doesn’t mean that the competition wasn’t satisfactory….your performance wasn’t…face itRecommend

  • Aakasa

    I’ve personally been to it once back in my school days and truly speaking I feel it’s a ‘fight for and over nothing’. I learned how to have ‘tafreeh’ but I didn’t get anything winning or losing over ‘absolutely nothing’. Its high time our fresh fruits start looking around what’s happening on our land rather than tiring ourselves preparing for speeches which somehow get absorbed in those four walls!Recommend

  • Usman Shahid

    You have shown a very bad mentality that if someone is showing the bad face of some common events and races, you people claims that he/she is showing because he/she is not won. really badRecommend

  • farigh

    any PELLA SACOOL Ma’m ? :pRecommend

  • Siyab

    I’ve never liked the concept of MUNs. All this talking and the cut throat competition for the “best delegate” prizes mean nothing if these kids go back to school haven’t learnt nothing at all. You really want to bring change? Walk the talk and act! Recommend

  • Haroon

    I am from LUMS and let me sum up the LUMUN ‘competition’ for the majority of people who attend it. 4-5 days of vacationing for high school kids who are looking forward to a good time :pRecommend

  • Asad

    Parents absolutely dont know what goes on at these MUNs. They are told that its a UN sanctioned debating contest…. it is far from the truth. And mostly the boys and girls representing Pakistan come from either the Business or Corrupt Bureaucrat community.
    They make up stories to impress international delegation, mostly about women oppression and religious extremism in Pakistan. MUNs participation has been a big factor for spreading the negative image of Pakistan around the world.

    Its not just the local MUNs, the elite schools send batches of Kids to international contests. The industrialists and corrupt government officers have money overflowing, they send their kids abroad to show society that look our kids are so talented.

    Infact MUNs are partly funded, partly sponsored useless social interactions. A make believe UN assembly is created for a day while rest of the 4 days are for parties, concerts, night life
    But until now it was only an elite thing… for them the above is just normal and they probably know about it already. We can only comment, it is their decision to have their kids participate in such event.Recommend

  • Jay

    What’s LUMUN? :-/Recommend

  • FKazmi

    this sounds like an account from ur journal. it shouldn’t have been published in the first place. Secondly, u need to practice writing. the blog just didn’t connect. goodluck improving!Recommend