Tagged with " cyber space"
Dec 14, 2012 - Uncategorized    1 Comment

After halal erotica comes halal housing …

As a cataloger of all things Halal, this blog has discussed everything from halal banking & halal wine, halal gripe water to halal kink. In fact this blog has the dubious honor of coming up with the idea of a halal search engine which was stolen by some dude in Netherlands who came up with imhalal but I digress. 

Anyways, it seems that Dutch are the market leaders when it comes to selling all things halal, they designed the halal search engine, sell halal erotica to Muslim brothers and sisters and now came up with halal housing. I was most impressed with this and wanted to research it some more but I was most disappointed when I found out that these halal houses are pretty much the same as other houses save some muslim showers and sliding doors that turn your living room into separate zanankhana and mardankhana. They have not mentioned if they will provide lotas with Muslim housing or if the residents will have to bring in their own when they move in. I actually do see it as a deal breaker. 

People like us have been living in halal housing all our lives without ever knowing it. 

Halal marketing FTW

Social networking is a bitch

Social networking is a bitch. There, I said it.
Let’s admit it. Most of us have a facebook account with around a couple of hundred friends, but we interact with very few of them on a regular basis. The rest are just there to remind us that we have miserable existence; our paychecks are tiny, our lives are grey and our love lives are insipid. 
I don’t know about others, but I have people on my “friend’s list” who are constantly vacationing in exotic locations, land high flying jobs with Fortune 500 companies even in the times of recession, attend exclusive fashion galas, are part of peace keeping missions in remote war torn areas and have flings with extra ordinary and interesting people while they are stationed in those remote war torn areas and … wait for it … walk the red carpet at Cannes Film Festival.
You know what is most ironic? The last status update was from a masochist whose sole aim in life was to get married to a heroin addict and get beaten by him every day when she was 19!
I am sure that I lead the most boring, soul less and miserable life among all the people I know where the most exciting part of my day is watching videos of Faisal Raza Abdi and cats playing with babies on YouTube (at least that’s what I used to do when we had YouTube, I now stare at the computer screen and think about those cat and baby videos). 
At times I yearn for good old days when we had limited access to the web were not constantly trying to prove to others that we matter. The competition between friends and family may remain gentle but social networking at workplace is brutal.
When I started working for a newspaper, we only had access to office email system and no web browsing on our office computers, before anyone screams how we used to get anything done without the internet, I would say the old fashioned way. We would get off our chairs, step out and gather info on spot to write our stories or we do that via phone if we are too lazy or pressed for time. Fast forward a decade and it is unheard of that a decent workplace would be without high speed internet. What’s more, most allow access to all kinds of social networking websites for their employees. 
It’s not that most employers are bursting with goodwill for their employees and want them to have fun posting on wrestle mania’s facebook page or tweeting about the aloo gosht they just had. I have a strong suspicion that the employers are onto something and they want their employees to feel miserable about the better lives of other people, fear impending unemployment and even more misery if they fail to do their jobs. This will keep them in line without using any untoward strategies and ensure productivity. 
In my previous workplace, we had a guy who was supposed to assist us with IT related stuff but whenever you would call him, he would not pick up his phone. When you go to his desk, he would be half lying on the chair with thick head phones on and would be watching something, if not that, he would be chatting with his girl friend. One day I wondered aloud why can’t he do that at home, another colleague told me that his wife and two kids (he had a third kid later) would probably cramp his style. I think employers also allow social networking at work to ensure loyalty and uninterrupted employment of the workers who are cheating on their wives. 
Another reason why employers allow you access to social networking site is that people think that if you are not on facebook, you must be at least anti social or at worst a batshit crazy person. You need proof of that; the dude who shot people after The Dark Knight Rises viewing in Colorado or the Norway mass murderer Anders Breivik, both did not have facebook profiles. 
It is ironic that now both of them have Wikipedia pages and its content cannot be controlled by them. A cousin who wanted to bolster his intellectual credentials by not using any of the social networking websites was told to sign up asap while applying for an FMGC firm in Singapore, they do not hire people without facebook accounts and the HR manager is supposed to have full access to the employees’ facebook pages.
Apart from official prying that HR does on behalf of the employers, colleagues too snoop through social networking websites. Back when I used to work for an international organization, the pay slip for the month of August was the most anticipated pay slip of the year. Out annual increments used to be announced through August pay slip and we would get to know if our increment would be a measly 3 per cent, a respectable 10 per cent or a whopping 18 per cent. We were also advised to not share our financial details with other colleagues but everyone would soon gather all the details. How would they find out; through facebook updates of course.  If the status update is gloomy, it’s likely that the person got the derisory 2 per cent raise and if the person is splurging on a sushi dinner with the spouse, chances are that he is the lucky one who got the 18 per cent increase. 
Some employers discourage the use of social networking websites during work hours, their reasoning is simple. They don’t want people getting wishful and dreamy eyed looking at the photos taken at those exotic vacations by the facebook friend on company’s time. Personally, I would love that, why because slacking is our national method of whiling the days away and social networking just makes it just easier. I want people to make an effort to be slackers, if they cannot put time and energy at their work, the least they can do is make an effort to slack. Secondly, I would love it if people like that IT guy would be caught by their wives.  In any case, with smart phones starting from Rs 9000 and cheapest possible internet rates, slacking  sorry, social networking on your own dime would not you cost you much. 
Originally written for monthly news magazine Pique 

Main naheen manta, main naheen manta

Chotay Mian sahib has got to be the most easily threatened politician in Pakistan.  Soon after the Tsunami Jalsa of PTI in Lahore last year, CM Shahbaz launchedhis facebook page – with all the requisite fan fair of course – to stay connected to people. He also tweets, he may not respond to criticism and allegations of nepotism, but he does reminisce about good old days when his choice in music was more Freddie Mercuryand less Habib Jalib and even his detractors would agree that a man who professes his love for the Queen has got to be endearing in one way or another.  
Though Chotay Mian Sahab has over 124,000 likes on his facebook page, he is not satisfied with the numbers so he asked the top district officials and policemen in all 36 districts of the province, as well as regional police officers and commissioners to join Shehbaz Sharif’s official Facebook page.
Apparently, ordering them to “like” his facebook page was not enough, so he also asked them – politely of course – to remove any PTI-related material from their Facebook accounts. It goes without saying that they are NOT supposed to “like” any PTI page.
Seriously! Looks like our politicians still behave like kids attending grade school and are still governed by the logic that you can’t be my friend if you are talking to that other boy. Most grade school kids will eventually grow up and get over this phase, the same, unfortunately cannot be said about our politicians. Looks like Punjab government officials will have to comply with Chotay Mian Sahib’s wishes; otherwise he may start signing off official documents with “Main naheen manta, main naheen manta.”
PS: The story initially came out on The Express Tribune but was taken of their website after a few hours, fortunately siasat.pkhas cross posted it on their page.

Apr 23, 2012 - Uncategorized    7 Comments

Y U frandshipping me?

Tazeen: Who is Beena and why she wants to be friends with me? Facebook stalking much? 
HBM: huh?
Tazeen:No seriously, why do all your female friends wants to frandship me? Someone needs to tell them I am not a dude :S
HBM: Block and delete her, she wants to be friends with all my friends. Block the fuck out of her. I plan to do the same if she doesn’t stop. 
Tazeen: Btw, how can I block the fuck outta her?
HBM: Who else has added you from my list? I am working on my restricted list and planning to right-size my friends list? Any information you provide will really help give mankind a better tomorrow. 
Tazeen: For starters, I couldn’t care less about the better tomorrow for mankind. As far as your friends are concerned, I have already befriended Sana and Ayesha from your list and they are both harmless but this one is hardcore. She keeps sending requests every other day without even introducing herself. It’s like stalker Shahrukh Khan, from those dysfunctional k…k..k..k..Kiran days, breathing down on the phone, scaring the socks off your feet. 

HBM: Don’t tell her you think she is like Shahrukh Khan, she will probably take it as a compliment. Sana is okay. I asked Ayesha how she knew you and she said she had been commenting on your blog. Beena just got a stern warning from me. I suppose you should see an option to block her when you reject her request next. 
Tazeen: Hmmm
HBM: But wow you are a chick magnet!!!
Tazeen: I know! Just one of those several things that I never aspired to be. 🙁
Apr 20, 2012 - Uncategorized    16 Comments

Five years on ….

It was a slow day at work and I got an email from my friend Asma, sending me the link to her blog which she had just started. It was part funny, part ironic and reflected Asma to the T. 

Next thing you know, I had a blog (being the self loving narcissist that I am, the URL had to have my name – twice) and I started posting. Initially it was an odd random rant or two and I used to force my friends to read it. Somehow along the way, I got readers who were reading, commenting and encouraging me to write more. Here I am five years on and still blogging. 

Here is to all the amazing people who started off as readers and then became my friends and to all the wonderful people across the world who keep coming back even when I am boring and irregular. I am grateful to you all.

keep coming back 🙂 

PS: I am really curious about the regular readers from places like Delft, Hamburg and Finland. Drop in a line to say hello. I would like to put a name to the unnamed regulars. 🙂 

PPS: This is the longest I have been committed to anything. My longest job stint was 2 years and 10 months.

Living with the internet nanny

Pakistan has the dubious distinction of being placed quite high on all the lists that a country must avoid. While it is one the most corrupt countries with bad governance record, it is also the most dangerous country in the world to practice journalism in. In addition, we are not far behind the countries that top the lists for suppressing the rights of religious minorities and have high maternal and infant mortality rates. Despite all this, Pakistan was doing ok as far as freedom to internet access was concerned. Not any more, as the government is just done seeking proposals to build a firewall that will filter and block a whopping50 million undesirable URLs. 
Censorship is not alien to Pakistan. The country has suffered numerous dictatorships and emergencies to be familiar with restriction and suppression. Nor it is the only country in the region that is trying its hand at internet filtering. Burma, Yemen, Bahrain, and Qatar monitor political discussion and access to information in their countries. The “great Firewall” that engulfs over a billion strong China is known to all. Governments in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and UAE also filter content which they deem unsuitable to the cultural and religious sensibilities of their societies. Unlike all these countries which are either monarchies or authoritarian regimes, Pakistan is a multiparty democracy. Paradoxical is the fact that the political party currently forming the government not only claims but also has a history of battling dictators and censorship in the past.
The proposal calls for a blanket ban on pornographic and undesirable content but who gets to decide what will be tabled under the category of pornography? Feminist and gay rights websites have been filed under pornography in the regimes that block cyber content to limit people’s access to gender awareness and alternative lifestyles in the past. Even high profile social media websites like Facebook and Twitter have been called dating websites spreading immorality to curb access to them.
The government has already blocked alternative news websites such as Baloch Hal and others featuring stories from Balochistan that do not get any space in mainstream media, who knows what else will be bracketed ‘undesirable’ once the filters are in place and will be blocked. The centralized nature of the database under the proposed filtering system will enable the government to do it efficiently. It should also be noted that proposal does not call for any oversight or contribution from the elected representatives, rights groups, civil society organizations or any of the consumer groups.
As part of their licensing agreement with Pakistan Telecom Authority, all the internet service providers donate money for the National ICT R&D Fund that called for the proposal. As the ISPs get their money from the users, it will be the users who will end up paying for the cyber surveillance against themselves. How ironic!
In the day and age when most people are moving away from traditional sources of information, entertainment and employment and turning to the World Wide Web for it all, people will find ways to circumvent the government ban and all the money spent on the project would go down the drain.
Life with a firewall which monitors content is just like living with an cyber nanny who has the authority to slap your wrists if you said something or sought information that she does not like, what sensible adult would want to live like that? 
First published in The Express Tribune

Calling out the real bullies

Bullies; we have all heard of them at some point in our lives, the more unfortunate ones amongst us have faced the wrath of bullies at no provocation at all. However, very few of us stand up to them. In fact people who get bullied often lash out at their well wishers who either point out the fact that they are being bullied or tell them to give it back to their bullies. 
Something similar happened with Najam Sethi on the eve of February 7th. In his TV show, Najam Sethi ran a clip of Maulana Fazlur Rehman alluding that Imran Khan of PTI is politicking at the behest of some nameless and faceless Jews. He also ran a clip of Mr. Imran Khan saying that Maulana Fazlur Rehman is one of the three people who are responsible for the mess the country is in. Sethi later on said that Imran Khan should have been more vocal in his defense and should have denounced Maulana more vociferously than he did because Maulana will not let go of Imran Khan’s Jewish connection (Khan’s ex-wife and mother of his children is of Jewish, Catholic & Protestant heritage) and will use it again and again during the elections later this year.
Jemima Khan, Khan’s ex-wife, heard the words “Imran Khan, Jewish lobby, conspiracy” and without actually watching the programme or asking anyone with a better grasp of Urdu, jumped to the conclusion that it was Najam Sethi who was stirring up trouble for Khan. She was never considered particularly bright by anyone of note, and now even less so when she took to the microblogging website, Twitter, to start a personal attack on Najam Sethi (She wrote that Mr Sethi has always been critical of Imran Khan except when his wife and Mr Sethi wanted an invitation to dinner with late Princess Diana) perhaps undermining the credibility of Mr. Sethi as a journalist.
What followed that was just as crazy as any other war of words on social media is, but it is significant in revealing that politics based on religion is not just here and now, it is flourishing with every passing day. No one is willing to take on this issue head-on, instead they either try to shoot the messenger – in this case Najam Sethi – or join forces with the forces spreading vitriolic hatred against the other.  It was Maulana Fazlur Rehman who first spoke about Khan’s Jewish connection but it was Sethi – an easier target who can perhaps only retaliate with arguments instead of something more sinister or dangerous – who got burned for just pointing his fingers to the bully in question.
Some really charged up PTI member even started an online campaign for Sethi to be removed from the air for “making some immoral remarks about Imran Khan’s ex-wife Jemima Khan.” The fact that the campaign has received 631 signatures as yet tells us a lot about how people form opinions – divorced from reason, nuance, logic – and choose their candidate based on that very opinion come election time.  
In past, Imran Khan has been roughed up by the goons of Islami Jamiat Talaba in Punjab University but we have not heard such vehement condemnation for them, either because of political expediency or because of the fact that PTI was afraid of a repeat performance. Whatever the reason is, no one is calling out the real bullies who are getting away with all kinds of transgressions. 
An edited version was first published in The Express Tribune
PS: I guess Jemima Khan is quite fond of picking up fights with random people on twitter, sometimes they are famous journalists like Najam Sethi, sometimes they are nobodies like me. Hereis an account of Jemima Bibi calling me names for questioning if hers is the real account before she got verified.
Dec 17, 2011 - Social Media, Society, travel    5 Comments

Social Seating! Somebody kill me already

Anyone who has had to travel with KLM repeatedly would agree with me on three counts. Firstly, their seats in the economy section are a little too close for comfort. Secondly, their crew wears a hideous blue uniform – your eyes actually hurt if you look at that colour for more than 1 minute and 34 seconds. Lastly, the crew is geriatric enough to make you feel guilty if you ask for a glass of water twice. 
At one point in time, I used to travel to Netherlands pretty frequently, after traveling with them a few times, I decided to change airlines. It’s not like I get a direct flight (Pakistan unfortunately is NOT te choice destination for most Western airline companies) and if I have to change a plane at Doha or Dubai, I might as well fly an airline with better seats and in-flight entertainment program. I am sure there must have been so many other passengers who decided not to travel with KLM for the very same reasons – unless they are masochist who like cramped leg space or midgets – or both.
According to rumors, in order to win those and some other new – read desperate – passengers; KLM is introducing a new service called “Social Seating.” The Dutch airline is developing a service that will allow the travelers to find the most compatible person in the flight to share their journey with, based on their social media profile. What the fuck! I will now have to share my facebook and LinkedIn profile on the counter before I get my boarding pass!!!
Forget catching up on the movies that you have missed in your local cinema and are too lazy to download, forget reading that trashy novel that you wanted to get hold of but did not do so at home because you were too afraid of being judged by your sibling, husband or cook. Forget catching up on the lost sleep on that 7 hour long flight, you will be sitting next to the most compatible person on the plane who probably would want to chat with you about the existentialist angst in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road that you have listed as your favourite book on facebook. Never mind the fact that you probably clicked ‘like’ on it 4 years ago to impress a chick in grad school; social seating would not care for your intellectual pretense, it will punish you for it.
Being an anti social being, I couldn’t care less about social seating. Any airline that wants to win my business needs to provide me with two services and I would be their most loyal customer; more leg space (yes, tall people are obsessed with more leg space) and an assurance that I will never get to sit with parents who travel with crying babies and nosey toddlers they can’t control.

PS: Before anyone goes on to judge me for keeping my distance from messy toddlers, they must read this horror story from hell. 

Jun 24, 2011 - published work, Twitter    13 Comments

You want a picture? With me?

When I was asked to attend Pakistan’s first ever social media summit earlier this month, I jumped to it. Because not only it gave me a chance to visit the old country (for me, Karachi would always be old country), it also gave me the opportunity to meet some old friends and make some brand new ones.

VJ Mathira (Baji Online) with one of her admirers

The organizers held an informal dinner for the participants to mingle and get to know each other before the summit. Though stand up comedienne Saad Haroon made us all laugh, the star of the show was VJ Mathira who was there in all her sartorial glory including blue contact lenses and leopard print wedge heels. Most men wanted to get their pictures taken with Mathira and she graciously obliged. (The men must be all be silently thanking Tristram Perry for inviting Mathira over)

The summit started next morning and during the opening session, US Consul General in Karachi William Martin said Pakistan is one of the fastest-growing Facebook- and Twitter-using nations in the world but he also lamented the fact that a lot of Pakistanis love to come up with conspiracy theories implicating US in all kinds of wrongdoings in Pakistan which makes his job a tad more difficult.  

The opening session was followed by 3 panel discussions on ‘Education and Good Governance: Going Digital’, ‘Women and Social Activism in the New Media Era’ and ‘Monetizing your Social Media Space.’ Knowing that no matter what I do, learning to monetize my social media space is something I won’t learn in an hour and half, I decided to attend the panel on Education and good governance because it has some relevance to my day job.

There were several breakout sessions following the panel discussions on various topics. One of the sessions that I was looking forward to attend to was on “Humor in cyberspace” but the speaker pulled a joke on us and decided not to show up. As we were waiting for the speaker to show up, Jahanzeb Haque of Jay Toons got up and decided to talk about how he started his xkcd inspired stick figures cartoon strip. When he introduced himself, there were audible gasps among the female audience with “OMG, you are Jay Toons guy?” He drew a couple of his strips, including one of his self censored cartoons for the participants and discussed whether art should be created just for the sake of art or does it has to have a higher message. Jahanzeb Haque, or Jay Toons are he was called during the session, was obviously the rock star of the summit. At least I have not heard girls gasping and going breathless at the mention of any other name.

What did I take away from the event? Even though I have been blogging for 4 years now, I never took my blog seriously; for me it was a place where I vent without any editorial guidelines and delays. But the response by some of the participants at the summit made me realize that there are people who not only care what I write, but they do attach a lot of importance to my opinion and I am truly grateful to all of you guys. I am still reeling from the fact that a very smart and intelligent young reader of my blog wanted to get his picture taken with me. I now know how Meera feels and can empathize with her.

PS: Must thank Raza and Tristram publicly for inviting me and giving me an opportunity to feel like a celebrity. 

PPS: A special shout out to @pishipotty for his twitter handle.

PPPS: I made it to the Tribune’s twitterati of Pakistan but they called me brainchild behind A Reluctant Mind. I thought A Reluctant Mind was MY brainchild.

Find the complete version on The Friday Times
Jun 8, 2010 - Uncategorized    20 Comments

A Reluctant Mind Wins an Award !


If I had a penny for every time I heard, “For a girl, you are very funny” or some other version of the same line, I would be able to buy the new iPhone4 that Apple is introducing. Why is it odd that a girl can laugh or make people laugh? Are women born without the proverbial funny bone? Christopher Hitchens in his very famous essay “Why women aren’t funny” for Vanity Fair said that men are funny because they need to be funny to attract women whereas women never needed to be funny to attract men, they can attract the male of species by just being their feminine selves. According to him it is a matter of evolutionary biology that men are funny and women are not.

I am very happy to share it with my readers (at least those who are not on twitter) that A Reluctant Mind has won an award in the category of Humor by Pakistan Blog Awards. I am honored (and flattered) and want to extend my appreciation to the organizers for putting the show up. Much gratitude for Faisal and Zeynab for nominating me and for Karishma for getting all her friends to vote for me.

I quite like this badge that I got to put on my blog.