By: Hiba Khan
Competition Year: 2012
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My childhood was infused with the royal virtues of science.
And the uselessness of everything else.
There were enough writers and historians and lawyers.
Plus, who needs them anyway?
Ideals imported from the Indian subcontinent,
Perhaps birthed by Imperialist days of old
Generations planted them firm, to be caressed and revered.
Mealtimes were the perfect platform for NHS propaganda,
Till these royal virtues broke my circuit of attentiveness.
Till evolution rendered me deaf to their claims.
Till every cell in my body rebelled against this dictatorship,
And every atom in my being refused to conform.
I turned with full force towards art and philosophical debate
Satisfied myself with politics and prose.
But during my excursions into the handiwork of poets,
I found myself questioning whether Byron’s stars truly did wander in eternal space.
As Mughal miniature paintings transported me to ancient India,
I could only focus on how the colours clung to the paper
And wove around each other and bled into each other at all the right points
And why some parts sparkled and some parts seemed flat.
I realised I may have been rendered deaf but not blind.
My attempt at rejection of what I defined as science spelt out irony,
In flashing neon letters, almost crude against the fragile antiquity I surrounded myself with.
My denial was denial of myself.
I tried to separate the inextricably linked.
I had seen science and the rest of the world as parallel lines.
They would only meet at infinity, and I had to take my pick between the two.
But then the light which I see by began to whisper to me.
In hushed, urgent electromagnetic tones.
It told me a secret. A secret our forefathers had uncovered many years ago.
The royal virtues cannot be filtered off from the ‘uselessness of everything else’.
They work together, they are intrinsically integrated, they are each other.
I can suddenly see so much further.
As my two worlds merge and gush into each other, my altitude changes,
I’m giddy up here, the air’s different, it’s moving faster.
Spinning and streaming and melting and freezing and melting again.
I can see so much further, I look down,
And see that I’m standing on the shoulders of giants.
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