In 1990, at Punjab University Lahore, my first year MA (English Lit) results were very average, totally lackluster. My BA results, just a year or so before, had earned me a gold medal for being top in the province.
It didn’t add up.
Shopping for shoes in Liberty Market, one day, I bumped into one of professors, a woman and feminist, who enquired about my results. When I told her, she raised her eyebrows and said:
نہیں آپ نے کسی کو ناراض کیا ہے
“No,” she said, the result wasn’t accurate. She knew my work. “You’ve provoked someone.” Annoyed, vexed, irked someone who had screwed with my grades.
She was right. The then department head seemed to resent me, my burqa, and my outspokenness.
The professor’s comment could be a motto for my entire professional life. I’ve never wanted much, just to work honestly, do my job, serve my students, survive. I absolutely suffer in conflict. I don’t want to get entangled in workplace politics. But I can’t lie. I can’t suck up to unethical colleagues and pretend that they are OK. I can’t participate in dishonest practices, leeching off universities and students, failing them. But there are lots of hustles going on in every institution, in plain sight. To say that the emperor is naked, is to fail to be a team player.
It’s a deal breaker, whether in Pakistan or in the US.
I’d thought that moving from the postcolonial context would bring a measure of rules, ethics, transparency. And yes, there’s some. But there’s a whole lot of crooked academics and the industry is exploitative and crooked.
Everyone, someone is annoyed.