“Yo no nací para la soledad.”
– Dimelo, Don Miguelo ft. Wason Brazoban
The River Cam is the life and soul of Cambridge — both the city and the university. In the olden days the river used to be a crucial trade route for the transportation of — regrettably, I no longer remember what, though I’m sure one of my punting guides have told me once or twice. Today it still continues to rake in millions from punting (boat) tours every year, especially in the summer, when the weather is splendid and the city is simply overflowing with tourists from every corner of the globe.
This river is also where many happy occasions such as weddings, birthdays, Eids, and the end of exams, the academic year, or one’s degree are celebrated. Even the unexpected appearance of sunshine on a beautiful spring day such as today often call for some merrymaking, on the riverbank or on a punt. I often like to sit on the riverbank at the edge of Queens’ Erasmus Lawn and observe tourists on the punt looking around in wonderment at the centuries-old student accommodations and the horrible sight of the Erasmus Building that awaits. Often I would catch snippets of the history of Cambridge as narrated by the tourguide, which changes according to whose punt you’re on and who’s doing the punting.
Sometimes I may be doing something as banal as walking home from the University Library when I happen to come across breathtaking views that suddenly grip me, such as the one I have attempted to capture in the photo above. Crossing the River Cam for me is always a magical moment that deserves some serious dedication of my attention to my beautiful surroundings. It is always a wonderful feeling to be served with such calming and spectacular views of the river after a long day of reading continuously in the library, when the only thing that kept me rooted to my seat was the comfort of knowing that Tolstoy or Dostoevsky faithfully awaited me on my bedside table.
Few places have enchanted me as Cambridge has, though I will always associate it as my own battlefield where so many intellectual and personal struggles have been fought. Though I have an overabundance of love and attachment to this place and this university, I make no pretence that my time here has been consistently smoothsailing. There were — and will continue to be — times when I feel myself swimming through mud, when progress seems out of reach and the dark tunnel extends endlessly. Notwithstanding all the blood, sweat and tears that have been spilled, I also recognize this as the place where I have seen unprecedented growth in myself as an individual, a Muslim, an anthropologist, a wanderer, a daughter, a sister, and a friend. I cannot imagine who I would be today, had I not encountered the people, places, and experiences I did here in the past few years.
The best thing about fighting my battles here is that at the end of every skirmish, there are true and loyal friends to sympathize with your struggles, either over a cup of coffee or simply by the banks of the River Cam. Recuperation here is not hard, and in fact a pleasure, when something as simple as taking a brief stroll along the river is already so miraculously remedial. Indeed, I am always struck by how therapeutic this river is, and regret that though I live only two minutes from it, I seldom take the opportunity to see the river for its own sake.
Whether it is healing that I seek, or a brief reflection or a moment of inspiration, the River Cam indubitably gives without asking for anything in return.