Quarantine Reflections from Abroad

June 1, 2020

By Muskan Shafat

When COVID emerged as a pandemic, I was at the cusp of planning my second quarter at Oxford through the Bing Overseas Study Program.

I had had an amazing winter quarter, studying the Political History of my home, Kashmir, along with another course on Eastern Philosophy (primarily focusing on Faiz and Iqbal). The rigorous and in depth academic quarter at Oxford over winter quarter enabled me to grow in my academic pursuit of understanding the struggle of my people, the world of politics and philosophy. Moreover, it helped me grow in my understanding of the role I wanted to play in this world.

Two weeks before the end of winter quarter when Stanford cancelled all overseas programs, I was heartbroken. After a quarter of understanding the overarching problem in conflict torn regions—and more broadly the world—I wanted a rigorous and academically intensive quarter to focus on the possible paths of diplomatic, legal and technological solutions. In my head, I had it all planned out: Another quarter at Oxford, then a summer internship where I could hone skills and discuss pathways I had learned followed by an amazing, on campus, senior year. But, alas! As things changed at an increasingly fast pace, I had to make tough decisions of where I, as a child from the conflict torn land of Kashmir, would best be safe and have an internet connection. I chose against going back to Kashmir or going back to Stanford. I stayed in the United Kingdom.   

In the past three months, I wouldn’t say everything has been easy but I would say, I have learned and grown.

As the world combats an enemy invisible to the human eye, injustices over centuries are contoured in front of our eyes—whether they be based on income inequality, racism or classism—It might feel, so often, that we are at sea enveloped in the darkness of the sky with no stars to guide us home. But it is in such times of despair I believe, we should go back to those before us for wisdom; I say, when looking for hope, strength and light we learn from our ancestors. So, here are some of the writings that keep me going, amidst this chaos and this darkness:

“Tu Shaheen Hai, Parwaz Hai Kaam Tera
Tere Samne Asman Aur Bhi Hain

Issi Roz-o-Shab Mein Ulajh Kar Na Reh Ja

Ke Tere Zaman-o-Makan Aur Bhi Hain” ~ Alama Iqbal 

Translation: You are a hawk / flight is your vocation/You have other skies stretching out before you / Do not let mere day and night ensnare you/ Other times and places belong to you

“Dil na umeed toh nahi, nakaam hi toh hai
Lambi hai gham ki shaam magr shaam hi toh hai” ~ Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Translation: I haven’t lost hope, just lost a fight / The night of suffering is long, but its a night after all

“Ya tuli khanjar ti maray
Nat sanay shabab rozai
Yem zar waen has bardar
Karsana su yar bozai?” ~ Abdul Ahad Nazim

Translation: Either they slay be /  Or they listen to by wailing / I would tell them all my secrets / When will my beloved listen to me?

Muskan Shafat is a Junior studying Political Science, South Asian Studies and Computer Science. She grew up in Kashmir and is currently the President of South Asian Society (SAS). Muskan enjoys reading books and poetry, listening to cultural music from the subcontinent and writing her political and philosophical opinions. 

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