One crisp winter morning, mom bathed me and applied Surma (kohl) to my eyes. She tried to dress me up in brown pyjamas with long yellow stripes. As a kid, I was only used to wearing Shalwar Kameez. So, I resisted every bit.
“If you wear this, I will ask your dad to buy you a cycle!” she said.
“You have been saying this for a long time,” I said.
“Today, you will get it for sure. I promise.”
I reluctantly wore pyjamas and waited at the door for many hours until dad arrived on his Vespa carrying a tricycle. When he unloaded it and gave it to me, I immediately jumped on it. My tiny legs pushed the pedals attached to the front wheel so fast that I reached escape velocity and left the planet. The whole world spun around me in a blur. I was a bird that had been growing feathers all his life but had never flown before. Now I soared high up in the sky and marvelled. The tiny tricycle gave me wings, and I got to taste freedom for the first time in my life.
Early in my life, I made many bicycle trips from Layyah to other cities without telling my family. Then, in the year 2002, before I landed in Germany for studies, I had decided that one day I was going to travel from Germany to Pakistan by bicycle. It took me 13 years to fulfil that dream.
Afterwards, I made a spontaneous decision to cycle from Argentina to Alaska. I was broke only two months into my journey. But somehow, I was able to finish this journey despite many setbacks.
Did the universe set up this plan? Was it my free-will or destiny to choose this way of life? What is it that we call freedom?
Destiny is a call one must obey. Freedom is the choice to respond to it.
If we distance ourselves from the call of destiny, the voice inside us becomes fainter day by day, and there arises a feeling of longing that questions the meaning of everything. But, if we pay attention to our inner voice and do what it asks us to do, life becomes a play. There is joy even in the suffering. We are not afraid of anything, and questions stop bothering us.
We may not be completely free after all, but by making choices in life, we can come closer to our destiny, our purpose and hence become who we are—one pedal at a time!