My purpleheart bookshelf reflects my life. The human mind is a bizarre place. We like to think our purchases are in answer to our needs but that’s not entirely true, is it? Sometimes we buy things for the sake of buying them. At times, there comes a point in our lives where we impart a silver of our lives to inanimate objects. And suddenly, they’re not inanimate anymore. They mean something to us, they become an extension of our souls. While I cannot describe my bookshelf to hold any semblance of being organized, a stack of books my family jokingly compares to the leaning tower of Pisa, some books shoved into tiny corners with sticky notes, and the ghosts of my unfinished thoughts scribbled upon them, I see it as a parallel reality. With the top shelf bearing home to Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities, F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and the unfortunate reminders of my Physics tests resting forgotten in between their well-written pages, the shelf beneath it holds my constant shots, and misses, at creating art.

Although I’m well aware of the fact that my ‘artistry’ only allows me to paint something as simple as a flower, I usually find myself trying to replicate Van Gogh’s The Starry Night. It goes without saying that it bids awful results, suggesting it to be the work of a 10-year-old but then again, I can’t say I haven’t improved, for in the start it used to suggest the work of a 5-year-old.

The third shelf holds a dozen Kookaburra cricket hard balls. Their worn-out covers serving as a constant reminder of the long days I spent bowling against a wall, urging my passion for the sport to intertwine with my need to be a remarkable sportsman. Other than these cricket balls, the shelf houses a box containing over three dozen movie tickets that I’ve watched with short, hand-written reviews on their backsides. A small reminder of what the films meant to a forgotten version of myself. The box is also home to the very first and innocently sentimental letters my 12-year-old self sent home from the boarding house. Initially, I was embarrassed, mainly because of my idly strung sentences wrought with broken English, when I found out my mom had kept them after all this time. But now, I’m glad she did for it reminds me of the good old days I spent, and survived, in the boarding house. On the other end of the shelf, a large glass jar labeled ‘Money for Tomorrowland Music Festival’ lies unbothered and while my mom sees it as “half-empty,” my optimistic self likes to call it “half-full.”

The last shelf – the very foundation of the bookshelf, ironically, holds the threads to my life’s tapestry. In one corner rests a photograph; therein a young Shahzaib holds his ground, pushing away his crutches, and attempting to stand. The doctors had given up on my legs after a near-death accident. I had not. I was asked to accept fate’s cruelty because “millions of people faced the same, or worse and accepted it.” But I’m not one of them. Get over it, they suggested. I refused to. And so, in time, with all my faith invested in the physiotherapy that was my last sliver of hope, I was able to walk on my own two feet again.

My purpleheart bookshelf, a reminder of what could have been, is also an exclamation to what should have been. It stands with scratches much like the scars on my legs, the wood bending underneath the weight of my books similar to me being burdened with the pressure of performing well, and a weary base akin to my dealings of the ghosts of all I’ve lost to life’s pace. My purpleheart bookshelf reflects my life. And I sure as hell took lessons.