Feb 4, 2008 - quirky, Society    3 Comments

Identity crisis

One can write a book on the witty one liners and the poetry on the back of public buses and rickshaws in Pakistan. I thought I have seen it all, a truck painted with a roaring lion with Nawaz Sharif’s face (thats his election sign) to another one with “Lakh nakhray dikhao load uthana paray gay, chahay kuch bhi, mianwali tau jana paray ga” to a rickshaw that proudly claims, “Bara ho ke truck banoon ga.” However, this rickshaw is suffering from severe identity crisis and calls itself Prado (for the uninitiated, it is mid size four wheel drive from Toyota), and i thought it was just us, humans, who are frail enough to suffer from identity crisis. Looks like we are not the only ones. Somehow, it does not make me feel any better.

Feb 1, 2008 - romance, Society, USA, women    4 Comments

The Fourth Wave of Feminism?????

If Reuters is to be believed (and they should be believed, they are the oldest news agency), rich older women sitting on gold mines are being paired up with hot young men at a New York matchmaking event next week, Feb 7th to be precise. We have seen rich old and middle-aged men getting hooked up with pretty young things (Donald Trump and Micheal Douglas to name a few), but a New York entrepreneur, Jeremy Abelson, has come up with a speed dating set up where he will be bringing together 20 “sugar mamas” and 20 “boy toys”. Not every run of the mill old woman can be part of it, the “sugar mamas” must be at least 36 and make a minimum $500,000 a year—though $4 million in assets also meets requirements. According to the news, a good 5,000 men applied to become the boy toys, but only twenty had to be selected. The prospective boy toys — who had to be under 35 — were screened by Janice Spindel, billed as New York’s most exclusive matchmaker.

Abelson, 27, calls it “Natural Selection Speed Date II: Sugar Mamas & Boy Toys.” He came up with the idea after drawing criticism from feminists for organizing an event last year that paired wealthy older men with young women. Pocket Change, the company that is promoting this event, is calling it the fourth wave of feminism. One older woman said that she find younger guys more perceptive towards their dates, while older guys will be looking over your shoulder at a younger woman. Honestly, if it requires this much planning and work, it cannot be natural selection, can it be?

For someone like me, raised in Pakistan where a woman’s shelf life is 23 years (you are considered over the hill if you are at least not engaged by 25), this idea sounds, well, alien. Firstly, I think men never really grow up (the addiction to gadgets and video games is but a proof – no matter how old they are, they just want to play) so a man much younger would be more like a kid, what say?

Secondly, the romantic in me cringe at the idea of speed dating in general and this kind of speed dating where they actually go through your bank account to check your eligibility, in particular. What happened to the old fashioned romantic love? Are demands of modern life making the traditional starry eyed love a thing of past?

Another anthropological trend that emerges from this news is that there were 5000 applicants who wanted to be boy toys – that is – they thought a rich older woman would be their meal ticket for life. I am so glad that men are showing their true colors at last. They have been doing it for centuries; choosing to marry for prestige, right family and huge sums of dowry but somehow all of that was deemed socially acceptable, no matter how avaricious it was. Now, men have come out as plain ol’ “Gold Digger” who offer themselves in exchange of a comfy lifestyle, its about time the word gold digger become genderless.

Last but not the least, do cougars out on a prowl represents the fourth wave of feminism? I don’t know, what do you have to say to that?

Jan 29, 2008 - Uncategorized    5 Comments

Invaluable lessons

From my past lives, I have learnt;

  • Love is best practiced online.

  • Most things one want to do are immoral; most things one want to eat are fattening.

  • Lying is an art, there should be schools out there teaching just that.

  • Being a vegetarian is not what it is all cracked up to be.

  • Love handles are essential; when love fades away, you need to hold on to something.

  • There exist something called boredom triggered coma; trust me, I have suffered from it.

  • The only people who support Manchester United are the ones who don’t know much about football.

  • Bananas contain a natural chemical that make you happy. The same chemical is found in Prozac, so bananas can now be substituted for Prozac.

  • The ability to bullshit your way around is handier than the ability to speak five languages.

  • Last but not the least, there is no experience as life altering as death.

Jan 28, 2008 - Society    8 Comments

The Myth of Pakistani Stud

So along with a million and one Indians, Shobha De (yes, the one who write ultra trashy novels that get published and I cant find editors for my 1000 word articles) also jumped in to discuss the myth about Pakistani studs (for full story, see ). Ever since Britney Spears started hanging around that shady character (can’t dignify it by calling it dating) Indian newspapers went in a tizzy about Pakistani stud muffins and how they woo the fair ladies from the far far away lands. The earlier examples cited were Princess Diana and a very irritating Jemima Khan (cant make up my mind, who I find more irritating, Jemima or her ex).

First of all, I want to know what is wrong with Indians? What fascination they have about romance with Pakistanis, be it men or women (we have seen enough of Veer Zara type films to know that the fascination just does not end with any specific gender).

If you ask me, I would say that Pakistani men are NOT wonderful at all, perhaps with exception of a very tiny minority, the rest are worst than their counterparts in other parts if the world, India included. Jemima and Lady Di fell for them because they did not know any better. Diana (God rest her soul in peace), did not live to regret her decision – thank heaven for small mercies – and Jemima has wizened up after 9 long years and left our pathan bhai ji for an equally unimpressive Hugh Grant (some people just never learn).

Like other Britney affairs, including her two marriages, this too shall not last. Waisay bhi, we have enough problems of our own, we sure as hell, do not need another train wreck.

Ms. De goes a little further and says that the mem sahibs in question sought salvation of some kind, when they hooked up with Pakistani men. I beg to differ and think that they just were looking for something different; like an evening out to eat curry after eating Yorkshire pudding and fish and chips for sooo long.

She further went on and said that the next stud (!?!?!?!?!) to attract a foreigner is Asif Zardari. Even the most ardent admirers of Mr Z would find it unpalatable that he be called stud. STUD!!!!!! Some people have started using the words soooo liberally. I don’t think Mr. Z is in the market for a wife, mem sahib or otherwise, for the time being. Unless, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari comes back after finishing his degree and Mr. Z hands over the party reigns to his son, he will watch his steps very carefully and play the dutiful widower who will be sitting beside the picture of his more dynamic deceased wife.

In any case, you only get lucky once.

As for Pakistani studs, I am yet to see a genuine true blue one.

Jan 23, 2008 - rant, Society    4 Comments

The weird co worker

Everyone has their fair share of weird co-workers, I just happen to get twice as lucky as most people on this planet. The amazing variety of people I have had the chance to work with is astounding. Who else can boast to have worked with just about every clichéd office character under the sun; ranging from narcissistic jerk of a boss to the regular run of the mill slacker, the office stud, the office tart, the gossip, the manipulator, the eater, the people pleaser, ass kisser, whiner, over committed company man to … my personal favourite, the sarcastic under committed slug.

I once had this co worker who epitomized Protestant work ethics of 19th century Americans (even the Americans have slackened down a bit since then). It was impossible to indulge in a bit of harmless normal workplace slacking such as surfing the net, making a few personal phone calls or reading some newspaper in her presence. She would eye you silently, berating you for doing the sinful act of reading the newspaper at the workplace. If her workload is a low, she would sit in her chair and do nothing – like staring the space or her computer screen. I mean I am all for meaninglessness in life, I think it is very important but staring space when you can actually read about Britney Spears life online and feel good about yourself. 

Of course, we all have the ‘70 hour a week guy’. He lives, eats and probably sleeps at work. He’ll be in when you arrive and still working when you go home. He’s often in on the weekend and before you can say the word ‘Bingo’, the management starts encouraging you to follow his example and sacrifice your personal life, provided you had one to begin with. The management would probably throw in the incentive of paying for every third angioplasty, if caused by work place stress.

I am off to have my first angioplasty, paid by my hard earned money of course. Let’s hope that I survive to have the third one on company account.
Jan 21, 2008 - religion, Society    3 Comments

Blue Monday

If ananova is to be believed, today has been officially declared the gloomiest day of the year. http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_2691471.html?menu=

Psychologist Cliff Arnall, an expert in depression, (what a sad sad man he is, an expert in depression!!!!) has used a mathematical formula to pinpoint today as Blue Monday.

It is the day when six factors come together to leave us at our most miserable, reports the Daily Mail.

They are: the weather; Christmas debt; a feeling of monotony after the Christmas cheer has faded; broken New Year’s resolutions; low levels of motivation; and a desperate feeling that you need to act to improve your life.

Blue Monday may be compounded by the fact that, according to other research, many people get their worst night’s sleep on Sunday because they dread the prospect of going back to work the following day.

Well, if you ask me, I find almost all Mondays blue; or at least in varying shades of blue. For us Karachiites, it is also bluer than others because we lived in constant fear of yet another bomb blast during the Ashura weekend. Now that we have survived the weekend peacefully, we have to deal with ‘Post Distress Depression’ (if there ever is a depressive state with such name). For me, it was the added worry of all the CCTV cameras that are lined across the major arteries of the city. As soon as the police vacate the streets, the CCTV cameras would get stolen, heck, the police might steel the cameras themselves. After all, we are the nation where heroine addict steal ‘gutter ka dhakkans’ to feed their addiction.

Here is to a true blue Monday.

Jan 1, 2008 - rant    3 Comments

Gaddi Nasheeni of a new kind

As a rule, anything written at the beginning of year is usually optimistic or it should be full of hope. This rant of mine is neither. It is a reaffirmation of the fact that we may speak fluent English and want democracy, we live in a feudal/tribal society where anything populist and democratic would stay a distant dream.

On December 30th, we saw the coronation of a 19 year old “prince” (Bilawal Bhutto) who was appointed successor of a political party (Pakistan People’s Party) that is supposed to hold “democracy” dearest. It was a macabre ceremony that humiliated democracy most; perhaps more than the military boots. It looked more like a “Gaddee nasheeni” ceremony than the “election” of the head of a national political party working for, what else but, democracy. It was the Gaddee Nasheeni of a new, albeit a very young, Pir.

A few weeks prior to that, retirement of an army general (Good ol’ Mush) and appointment of another(the new pervez, Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani), also became a scene of royal coronation where the symbolic baton was handed over to the new general with much pomp and solemnity like a vanquished head of state submitting to a victorious general.

These people, the so called leaders, are a disgrace to the country!!

Nov 30, 2007 - religion, Society, women    4 Comments

If it is polygamy for New York, what about polyandry for San Jose?

Being single and not 19 anymore, everyone assumes that I am desperately seeking matrimony. One of my very good friends who believe that it is impossible to find decent men in Pakistan and has been urging me for soooo long to pack my bags and move to North America (She alternates her time between Vancouver and Seattle and has been trying to sell to me the virtues of living in a city where it rains 360 days a year). She just sent me this article that actually has top 5 cities in US where women can find young, healthy and straight men. She actually believed that a lazy being like me, who has so far not budged, despite wanting to live in a more civilized, more tolerant and women friendly society would actually consider moving across the world to look for men!!!!!

They actually crunched some numbers on seven categories that have a bearing on how great a city might be for finding guys. They are: ratios of single men to single women and of gay to straight; divorce rates; fitness; philanthropy; education; and the thrill factor places where guys and girls do the kind of fun stuff that makes hearts race and bonds form.

The city that came on top was … San Jose, California. Apparently, the city has the greatest concentration of single, intelligent, physically fit men who love high-adrenaline activities. The article said that “San Jose is the heart of Silicon Valley, and technology is notoriously male-dominated. There are literally throngs of guys in striped shirts and khakis on every street corner.” So all the women who want khakis clad me with well paid jobs, head to San Jose. On the contrary, my only friend who has lived in San Jose for two and half years think the city is full of weird people and has recently moved to San Francisco. The other top five cities are Salt Lake City, Arlington (Texas), Raleigh (North Carolina), and last but not the San Francisco, which according to the article has surprising number of straight single men.

Dr Zakir Naik (of QTV) was the first person I thought of after reading this. Remember, he said that there are 300,000 more women in New York than man and there is a sizeable gay population, hence those men who can afford it should all take another wife to save the 300,000 New York girls from impending spinsterhood. Would he recommend polyandry for San Jose or Alaska or North Scotland and our own Malakand Division where men outnumber women by great numbers?

I for one am too lazy to move out of my extremely polluted comfort zone (Karachi) but those of you who are brave and active enough to relocate, San Jose is waiting for you.

Oct 8, 2007 - religion, Society    1 Comment

Madrassah education from hell

Considering the fact that I live in Pakistan get to see some really bizarre things, nothing should be shock me but then things happen which are so crazy that you left wondering what is the point of even trying to straighten things up.

Sundays are never dull and lazy for me and crazier than usual in Ramazan when everyone who comes looking for alms knows that Sunday is the day when I would be home. Most people would come with really inventive stories like this woman, who comes off and on for financial help and has just had her 9th heart attack and wanted me to pay her hospital bills. She must have the sturdiest heart in the whole goddamned world that is still working after so many attacks.

At time it irritates me that they think they can take you for a ride, but at times, I don’t question their dubious stories for the effort it must have taken them to come up with such amazing pieces of fiction. Anyways, this old woman, who comes every month, came yesterday. After receiving her monthly stipend, she lingered on and asked if I could help her with some extra money as she needs to get her two grandsons circumcised. From what I know of her family, I knew that she has two grandsons aged 10 and 8 and thought they were circumcised like all the other Pakistani Muslim boys. Turns out that they were not circumcised as newborns and now that she wants to get her grand sons admitted to a madrasah, it is one of the pre conditions of the admission in Madrassah that all boys must be circumcised. Not only they insist on giving admission to circumcised boys only, they physically check them to ensure that the parents are not lying about such vital information. What a novel way to discriminate! Why the hell would they be so interested in the private parts of their little students, what’s that got to do with the madrasah curriculum and student performance. The parents are either ignorant or too poor to raise voice against such practices which violate their little children. I know that circumcision is recommended in Islam but is it THAT important?

I advised the old lady against getting her grand sons admitted to that madrasah and promised to pay their tuition fee if she gets them enrolled in a regular school and she relented. I had such a bad day afterwards and conjured up all kinds of scary scenarios where young pre pubescent boys were being molested by their faculty in such institutions. I tried to save two boys but who will save those hundreds of thousands little boys who are either studying in such madrasahs or will be inducted there in near future.

Sep 28, 2007 - published work    3 Comments

A Welcome Islamism

Friday, September 28, 2007
Tazeen Javed

Since Mr Abdullah Gul became president of Turkey last month, talk of rising Islamism (which has become synonymous with obscurantism of late) in Turkey has dominated many think tanks, They are linking it with the global political Islamism and they also believe that it can be replicated in other Muslim countries, especially those where Islamist forces have been politically active, such as Egypt and Pakistan.

Egypt may have a chance in replicating something like the success of the AKP, but it does not have much of a chance in Pakistan. The religious political parties are either under hereditary leadership or political opportunists with hardly any educated religious scholars to develop political alternatives to battle the current chaos. In order for it to work in Pakistan, the religious political parties would be required to take a 180-degree turn and rewrite their manifestos, which usually start with US-bashing and end with Israel-bashing, with women-bashing thrown in the middle for good measure.

Neither President Gul nor Prime Minister Erdogan are Islamists, they both started their political careers with the Welfare Party, but their politics have always been secular. Yes, they are Muslims and their wives wear headscarves, but to equate the personal choice of a spouse to the religious right in other countries is far-fetched and has little credence, if any.

The policies of the AKP, since it assumed power in 2002, had been miraculous. For instance, the 2004 reforms to Turkey’s Penal Code, which were passed by an AKP-dominated parliament, have been revolutionary in granting women personal freedoms and rights to sexual autonomy. A Berlin-based institute, European Stability Initiative, in its report earlier this year said that the new penal code eliminated all references to patriarchal notions that are restricted to women alone, such as chastity, morality, shame, public customs or decency. The new penal code also treats sexual crimes as violations of individual women’s rights, and not as crimes against society, the family or public morality. Perhaps the biggest achievement of the AKP is that it criminalised rape in marriage, something which the secular Turkish establishment never bothered to address and which is absolutely impossible to address in other Muslim patriarchal societies such as Pakistan. In addition, the new Turkish penal code eliminated sentence reductions for honour killings, ended legal discrimination against non-virgin and unmarried women, and criminalised sexual harassment in the workplace and treated sexual assault by members of the security forces as aggravated offences. A landmark legislation has been an amendment on the penalty of sexual abuse of children because the possibility of under-age consent has been removed.

The AKP has broken the myth that only liberal and secular forces can safeguard women’s right. On the contrary, it was the 1924 constitution of Ataturk which stated that women’s bodies were the property of men, and that sexual crimes against women were in fact crimes against the honour of the family. The AKP reforms are supported by efforts to empower Turkish women and minimise the gender gap. According to the ESI report, a new liberal and Islamic feminist movement is gaining momentum in Turkey. Effective campaigns have been organised for the education of young girls in rural areas and shelters have sprung up across the country for women threatened by domestic violence or honour killings. (A very interesting statistical figure on the social change in Turkey is that between 1997 and 2004 the percentage of arranged marriages fell from 69 percent to 54 percent.)

The AKP proved its commitment to its electorate and moved beyond the traditional notions of what constitute women’s rights. It achieved this by working closely with Turkish civil-society and women’s groups, something which we don’t see happening in Pakistan. Here, the religious right is sceptical of civil-society organisations and terms many of them agents of West. The situation has deteriorated in the NWFP to the extent that for the ruling religious alliance the word NGO is now synonymous with immoral. The idea of working with women’s group to bring about constitutional reforms to achieve greater personal liberty for women is preposterous for such politico-religious parties.

Another factor that distinguishes the AKP from other religious political parties is that it has never been involved in West-bashing. For instance, Mr Gul, in his capacity as foreign minister, was responsible for the initiation of negotiation of Turkey’s entry into the EU. The massive penal and constitutional reforms were also brought forward to comply with EU demands. President Gul and Prime Minister Erdogan believe in the importance of engagement, especially economic engagement, rather than that of confrontation. Such common sense or sagacity is not prevalent in countries like Egypt or Pakistan.

Compare this to Pakistan, where religious groups force women to stay at home during elections in the NWFP. People like Mullah Fazlullah (of Swat) forbid parents, via illegal FM radio stations, to send their daughters to school. It is the MMA and its cohorts, such as the Tehrik-e-Insaaf and the PML-N, that first opposed the women’s protection bill, which does not grant any groundbreaking freedoms but just redressed the grievances that they endured since promulgation of the much-hated Hudood Ordinance, and were later responsible for watering it down. In addition, it is the same set of parliamentarians that has consistently rejected moves to toughen sentences against honour crimes.

One cannot deny that overwhelmingly religiosity is gaining ground in Pakistan and no political party which is overtly and vocally secular can hope to gain much, hence the need for moderate Muslim voices is greater than ever before. Gul and Erdogan belong to that group of reformers who wanted to break away from the rigid and dogmatic. Similarly, reformist members of the famous Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, who are disillusioned with their leadership, have been trying to form a new party. We need such forces in Pakistan to bridge the gap between various political groups at both the ends to encourage the spirit of democracy and harmony. Ironically, despite creating the country through a democratic process, most political parties in Pakistan are undemocratic in their own structure and only surface during elections. They do not have honest Islamic scholars amongst their ranks who are in sync with the voice of the common man and can provide with the intellectual framework under which political and social action can be taken.

In short, the AKP won not because of its Islamic leanings but because it practiced liberal democracy. It replaced a more authoritarian character of the government and made it more inclusive for weaker groups such as ethnic minorities and women. Easing curbs on the Kurdish language, which was previously considered a threat to unity, perhaps won it lasting sympathy in the Kurd areas. In addition, the AKP delivered economic reforms which resulted in high growth rate and improved infrastructure, employment and services with equitable distribution. The AKP won because its achievements during its first tenure outweighed the achievements of its many Kemalist predecessors.

With the recent reforms and the promise of some more, Turkey has emerged as a post-secular, post-patriarchal democracy which is a lesson for leaders of the struggling Muslim world today. The so-called “pro-deal” liberals in Pakistan should learn a lesson or two from all of it. Instead of branding their own countrymen bogeymen, to seek international legitimacy, they should respect democracy. Instead of shunning the Islamist forces, one should work with them, not for temporary political gains, but for lasting social justice, rule of law, development and democracy. Just like Turkey, the educated middleclass in Pakistan must reclaim its place in politics. It is this class that was instrumental in creating the country, it should also be a torch-bearer in bringing about the much needed social and political change.

originally published in The News http://thenews.com.pk/daily_detail.asp?id=73815