Sunday, March 6, 2011

Perspective - The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

By: Shazia Yousuf

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

These were the lines from the opening chapter of the novel “A Tale of Two cities” by Charles Dickens, a novel that revolves around the time of the French Revolution. I recalled these lines while I was waiting for my appointment with a lawyer at the City Court.

It was not at all a pleasant wait. All sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds could be seen waiting in distress, looking up with hope to the person handling their respective cases. There were as many tales of misfortune as there were people present.
And then there was contrast to this scene, when a sleek black E Class Mercedes Benz stopped right in front of the main building. A well dressed driver opened the back door of the car for an elegant gentleman, with grey properly gelled hair, in the usual black and white attire. The quality of his clothes definitely made him stand out from the rest of the gentlemen in the same kind of attire. This was the moment when those lines from “A Tale of Two Cities” suddenly popped up in my mind. It seems they had been written for the present times.
I could see contrasting images of the current situation in which we are, “…the best of times, the worst of times…”, and it made me wonder where as a nation are we heading towards.
The French Revolution was a result of the economic factors that included poverty, hunger, malnutrition, rising prices of bread after several years of bad harvest due to abnormal and severe weather fluctuations, and France’s near bankruptcy due to inefficient and antiquated financial system to manage its national debt. Doesn’t all this sound too familiar?  
As George Orwell writes in his novel The Animal Farm, “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others”. This era might be the best of times for some who are actually gaining all sorts of benefits as a result of their monopoly, but worst for a majority who are suffering at the hands of price hikes, inflation, electricity outages, injustice, lawlessness and a lot more. Every day there is news of assassinations, murders, strike calls and protests.
French Revolution saw a lot of bloodshed; sometimes people were killed for their political opinions or actions, but many died out of mere suspicion or because some others had a stake in getting rid of them. Are we heading towards something like the French Revolution?
We cannot afford more loss of lives, we already have had enough! What we actually need right now is a Revolution within each and every individual who belongs here. We do not need guillotine to bring about that change; we need a revolution of awareness and enlightenment. The greatest revolution is the revolution that takes place within. If the revolution is brought about within one’s soul, change starts to happen like a domino effect.


  1. bravo....when i read "A tale of two cities" as a child, little did i know that it would one day seem as if dickens wrote it for us in the present times...God save pakistan and give us sense before it is too late

  2. Wonderfully related...and so much in depth.

  3. Someone's really addicted and in a good way :)
    A Tale of Two cities is one of my favorites, interesting reflections, I think its Fascism we are moving towards. I used to be very optimistic, but probably for the first time in my life, the enormity of the task shakes my resolve

  4. I see our streets full of people dressed in filthy clothes, deprived of basic necessities of life, deprived of clean water to drink and taking shower is a luxury for them and on the other hand our cities are adorned with billboards advertising designer lawns of exhorbitant prices what a huge contrast !

  5. Only revolution within can fill this part of division in society. Bring changes in our thinking ,living and dealing. God help us.