Tagged with " Personal"
Feb 10, 2011 - published work    15 Comments

From the French Beach to the foothills of Margalla

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When I first went to college abroad, I was quite often asked if I find it difficult to get adjusted coming from a vastly different background and how “shocking” was the culture shock. Honestly, I never really had any trouble in getting adjusted to life in North West England. I was young, was acquainted with British sense of humour through television, knew the language, made friends very easily and was very keen to learn the slang so that I too can converse in local speak. Slipping into the life of a student was quite easy, especially when everyone else was as unfamiliar with the place as I was. No shock was shocking enough to merit anything more than a raised eye brow. 
After having recently relocated to Islamabad from Karachi, where I have spent most of my life, I am reminded of all those conversations about culture shocks and differences. Islamabad is neat, has a clean crisp air and a relaxed atmosphere bordering on lethargic. Karachi is chaotic with its salty sultry air and boasts of people that are always on the go. Although I just moved cities in the same country, I am more astounded by the differences now than I was back in my college days. 
Before I moved up north, I have been told by all and sundry about the laid back culture of Islamabad but you gotta be part of it to actually know how it works – or not. For instance gentle, reminders like emails are generally ignored, if you want to get things rolling, telephone calls, physical presence or best of all a telephone call from people who ‘matter’ would do the trick . If you are dealing with the bureaucracy, be ready to mouth the word ‘Sir’ at least a dozen times in a single conversation to get to them. If you are from Karachi, you would know how difficult it is to repeatedly say that word.    
In Islamabad, people, at least the ones that I come across to, generally assume that you have a driver and a cook and if you happen to mention that you have neither, they don’t know how to respond Another thing that I have noticed is that domestic help is much more obsequious in the cooler climes of Islamabad than in the coastal shores of Karachi. If we ever had to ask our driver to stay after hours or call him on his day off, we had to tread very carefully to make sure that we do not offend him in any way before we ask for the favour. Here in Islamabad, they throw ma’ams and begum sahibas left, right and centre. After 3 months, I have finally stopped looking over my shoulder every time someone address to me as ma’am.
 
Another thing I found quite shocking was that there are gyms in Islamabad that are not only exorbitantly priced, some of them like to be paid in Benjamins (that’s 100 dollar bills for the uninitiated) and they charge more than my monthly salary to make sure that their clients stay fit. Honestly, if someone is paying that amount of money, they would think at least thrice before putting a morsel of food in their mouth. 
Islamabad is beautiful, and all the more beautiful when it rains. It is quite possible to go out, enjoy the weather and have fun when it is raining, unlike Karachi where everyone rushes to home at the first hint of rain causing crazy traffic jams for the fear of water logged streets. Every generator owning Karachiite also head to the nearest pump to store petrol or diesel to bear the imminent long hours of electricity break downs that follow the first rain drop. But all is not hunky dory in the tree lined lanes of Islamabad. When you go home and you want to enjoy a hot bath and a hot meal, you realize you have to make do without them as gas supply is erratic, at best, during the winters. One is always found choosing between a hot meal or a hot bath. Running heaters before 10 o’ clock is out of question so hiding under the duvets is the general recreation during the long evenings of winter. 
Karachi is probably more overtly religious than Islamabad as one get to see more girls in hijabs/burqas and a lot more men in beards than in Islamabad perhaps because of greater class and ethnic diversity in Karachi.  Something else worth noticing is that more men dye their hair in the capital than they do it in Karachi. If one is perceptive, there is a pattern to be observed. On Monday mornings, men would be sporting jet black moustaches but as the week progresses, their white roots would start peeking and by Friday evening, they would be quite visible, come Monday morning and all the mustaches would be miraculously black again. 
Unlike Karachi, people in Islamabad actually follow traffic rules (though over speeding is quite common) and actually wait for the traffic signal to turn green before they push their foot down the accelerator.  Karachiites, unlike people in the sanitized capital, take pride in breaking the traffic signal and unless a traffic police constable is physically standing in their way, they would not stop when the light turns red. 
Islamabad perhaps boasts the maximum number of four wheel drives and expensive cars for a city that size in the entire region. One run from Kohsar Market to Fatima Jinnah Park and you would get to drive next to one massive expensive vehicle after another.  Karachi though has its fair share of mean machines on the road, is also the city of colorful rickshaws and minibuses. I quite miss checking out rickshaws with funny one liners or poetry over their tail lights. 
Anyone who has ever lived in Karachi would be familiar with flags of various political parties vying for your attention from the maze of electrical wires along with Free Afia Siddiqqi banners. Islamabad, on the other hand, has hoardings with pictures of the Prime Minister and the President along with the recent visiting dignitaries from our friendly neighbours – be it Turkish President or the Chinese premier. Karachiites are used to staying at home because of violent strikes whereas people in Islamabad get a day off when Chinese head of the government address the joint session of the Parliament. 
Islamabad is serene in comparison to Karachi’s commotion. No quacks are selling you quick solutions to regain your manhood or to get back the love of your life. Despite all its greenery and rose and jasmine garden, it is insipid for someone who has lived in Karachi.
View of Islamabad from Peer Sohawa
Rainy roads of Islamabad

Film hoardings at the cinema in Saddar  makes Karachi all the more rangeen

The regular rallies in front of Karachi Press Club

The most awesome rickshaws dot the streets of Karachi

Originally published in The Friday Times.

This screen shot of the page is duly provided by Abid Hussain of The Friday Times

Sep 13, 2010 - Society    15 Comments

The mental map of a lost city

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Many apologies for this month long absence. Those of you who thought that I was in some kind of danger after writing my previous post let me assure you that I am alive and breathing. Contrary to popular belief, country’s premier spy agency has better things to do than follow my ultra boring and mundane life. The reason I was on self imposed hiatus was because I had to leave my beloved hometown and I was kind of sad and suffering from a combination of lack of creativity and supreme lethargy.

It is not like I have never been away from Karachi. I have lived abroad when I went to college and have worked away from home as well. I have done my fair bit of traveling for work and pleasure and I had always been happy to go away. This time, I left the city with a heavy heart, perhaps because I know that I am not gonna be living in the city anymore, a city which is perhaps one of my strongest identities and the city which has helped me tremendously in becoming who I am. I have always been a Karachiite and the idea of developing a new identity was not something I was keen on.

As the plane took off and I bid adieu to my beloved city, I worked the mental map of the city. Ever since I was a little girl, I would wake up and try to imagine how my day would turn out, how bad would the traffic be? What will I see on my way to school, to work, to gym or wherever I plan to go that day? It sounds crazy but I even know the potholes of the roads I used to drive on and would know exactly where to swerve to avoid them. For me, most places in the city have some kind of history attached to it; the roundabout at Dhoraji is where a tanker hit my car and I survived to tell the tale. My school, the roads where I learned to drive, my first car and my first accident. I remember my first day at my first job when I pass by the building where I spent first two years of my professional life. I remember the places where I made my first best friend and the place where I lost a dear friend. The places where I grew up, the numerous trips to the beach, the very persistent camel walahs who offer camel rides at the beach, the parks where my friend and I would go for walks and would give up after 2 or 2.5 kilometers instead of the 5 kilometers we earlier planned on, the famous chat wala, my chosen old book seller at the Sunday Bazaar, the florist who would give me best rates for fresh flowers, my preferred pumping station and my favorite attendant at the station (yes, I am weird enough to have a favorite petrol pump attendant) all make up the beautiful and unique map of Karachi. I was overwhelmingly sad at leaving the city which I have learned and loved over a life time – my life time – for various reasons and was wallowing in self pity.

My bout of self pity ended earlier today when I visited a flood relief camp in Charsadda and met with some wonderful and resilient people who want to rebuild their lives after the havoc wreaked by floods which not only claimed their worldly possession but also some of their loved ones. I met this wonderful woman Meher Gul who lost her daughter-in-law and grandson but is determined to go back and build a life for the rest of her grand children. Here I was lamenting a move I planned with all my worldly possessions intact when there are people who were forced out of their homes with nothing but clothes on their backs and they are upbeat and positive. I still have my city to go back to but they will have to rebuild theirs to regain something of their old lives.

Here is hoping that they manage to do that.

Jul 23, 2010 - published work, travel    43 Comments

The perils of traveling by yourself

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If you happen to be a single Pakistani woman traveling on your own, chances are you will get asked questions by fellow travelers, random strangers and at times by the flight attendants that may vary from harmless chit chat to something that would rival a Spanish inquisition.

Once I sat next to a guy with the biggest cowboy hat I have ever seen. He started his inquisition with a Namaste, assuming I am an Indian. Such cultural sensitivity from a cowboy was endearing so I smiled and said hello. If I had known that it would unleash a torrent of questions, I would have stayed quiet.

He asked me what part of India I am from and when I told him that I am actually a Pakistani, he was shocked. His first question was, “You are not wearing a veil, and won’t you be persecuted for not wearing one?”

When I tried explaining that Pakistan is a jumble of contrasts and while in some parts of the country, it is but mandatory to cover yourself from top to bottom, I am spared from that in Karachi but that wasn’t enough and he jumped onto the next question. He asked me if I was traveling for the first time, (It was a Manila to Bangkok flight) and when I told him that I have traveled before, he came to the conclusion that I must have an extra ordinarily liberal father. He then asked me what is it that my dad does for a living. When I told him that he works for a bank, he could not believe it. Apparently my fellow Texan traveler thought my father had to be a doctor to allow me to wander off and that bankers cannot be liberal, at least they are not in America.

On a Dubai – London flight, I had the misfortune of sitting next to a sardarni Aunty. Before I could actually buckle up, she fired the first one, “you are traveling alone?”. To my affirmative answer, she asked me why. I stopped trying to find the seat belt (I later found out that she was sitting on my seat belt) and said, “Because I am going back to college.”

The Aunty was more persistent and asked me again, “but why?” and I decided not to answer that one. Barely two minutes had passed and she got restless again. She asked me if I am married or not. I thought this would be a good opportunity to ask her to let go of my seat belt so I replied, “No, I am not married and would you care to get up a little so that I can retrieve my seat belt.” She got up, not because I asked her to, but because she was shocked that I was an unaccompanied girl, studying abroad who is not even married.

She then asked me with expressions bordering on pity, “You are all by yourself, no friends either.” When I told her that there is absolutely no one I know who is traveling with me she said, “But I am sure someone will pick you up at the airport?” Although no one was coming to pick me up, I said yes, there would be someone who is going to pick me up. I thought that was the end of the conversation, but aunty had other ideas. She pushed her elbow in my ribs and asked me with a wink, “so who is coming to pick you up, a boyfriend or a gora boyfriend?”

Once, I got asked the same set of questions by an aunty from Faisalabad, who then lectured me on the perils of traveling alone and why I should always drag a mehram with me to wherever I go. When I pointed out that I was traveling for work and it would be impossible for me to take anyone with me, she gave me a disapproving look and said, “That is why I am against girls who work. It disrupts the whole system.”

And so the cycle of questions goes on; there can be the standard ‘you are traveling alone? Why? Where are you off to and why are you single – are you even allowed to stay single in Pakistan? What is your caste, where do you work, how much do you earn, and are you allowed to vote?

These type of questions or variations of them are often thrown off one after another but they are each time asked with different expressions and in different tones and accompanied by different gestures, depending up on who is asking them. Is it too much to ask to be left alone by the world and hope to travel in peace for sanity’s sake?

Originally published in Dawn.com
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Jul 4, 2010 - Uncategorized    39 Comments

Thank you for everything


Last year, my father fell severely ill. 
Abba has had a stroke and was not doing too well; he had lost his gag reflex and could not eat or drink anything. He spoke very few words because even the simple act of speaking was too painful for him. Although one is never mentally ready to lose a parent, I somehow knew my time with him was numbered and I wanted him to know how much he meant to me so I wrote a tribute to my dad on Father’s Day. He was too weak to read and asked me to read it out to him. When I finished reading it, both of us were crying and my father just took my hand in his hands and I knew he appreciated every word. He did not speak much after that and passed away two weeks later. 
It is his first death anniversary today.

Abba has had an eventful life. A few years after Pakistan came into being, he, a mere teenager, decided to move to a new country on his own when he realized that my grandfather would never leave India. He got admission in GC and supported himself by living with a family as a live in tutor and some other odd jobs. His early life taught me the importance of independent thinking and the value of hard work.

Fast forward a few years, Abba was working for State Bank and was posted in Dhaka when Pakistan army surrendered the Eastern half of the country. A day before Dhaka fell; Abba had to go to Rajshahi to attend some business and he left his young wife and little daughters – my mom and older sisters – in Dhaka. Mukti Bahini was on a revenge rampage and was killing any non Bengali person on sight. My dad’s colleague – a Bengali man – hid him in a barn in for a few days to keep him safe. When he came back to Dhaka, he saw his house taken over by a member of mukti bahini and his family was nowhere. He later found out that they were taken to India as prisoners of war. He crossed the border to India on foot, managed his way up to Nepal and was flown to Karachi with assistance from Red Cross. It was after many months that he found out that Ammi & my sisters – along with my maternal uncle and grand parents – were in Meerut as PoWs. My parents were reunited after 22 long months (thanks to Shimla Accord) in 1973.
I was born many years later, but I had always been fascinated with this story and made my parents repeat it again and again with all the details so that I can visualize about times and lives that were so different from my life of typical urban middle class monotony. Although both my parents had lived tough lives, lost everything they owned except for clothes on their backs, lost their way of life and had to move to a city they both never lived in before and spent so much time apart in anguish, not knowing whether the other person is alive or not, but they never said anything bad about Bangladeshis. My dad just remembered that one act of kindness and was forever grateful of his colleague who hid him in his barn and spoke fondly of his time and his neighbors in a place that is now called Bangladesh. Needless to say that it was my parents who taught me the value of optimism. Now that I am older and both of them are gone, I feel so blessed that I had such wonderful parents who always saw the best in everyone, who remained upbeat against all odds and lived a happy fulfilled life.

Generally, my luck is horrid, but I know I won the ultimate lottery in the parent department by having been blessed with Abba and Ammi who were both such good natured, loving, decent people. They taught us the value of human life, importance of patience and tolerance, the ability to laugh at oneself and that respect has to be earned and cherished when it is earned. I never had a chance to tell my mother how grateful I am for everything she had done for me because she passed away when I was just a teenager, but I am glad that I managed to tell Abba what he meant to me while there still was some time. My heart still aches terribly but I am also happy that they have had a good time here and left a legacy for us.

Jun 8, 2010 - Uncategorized    20 Comments

A Reluctant Mind Wins an Award !

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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.

Feb 14, 2010 - travel    31 Comments

Getting some glove love

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I never knew that a bottle of Tylenol had the power to terrify the living daylights out of you but if they are in a hand sheathed in blue rubber glove along with your passport, even the bravest of all would tremble a little.

I have heard stories about racial profiling before but it was the first time I actually encountered it. I flew in Netherlands last week and suffered one indignity after another at Schiphol airport. I was the only desi person in the non EU passport line. When I presented my passport, the immigration officer asked me to step aside and disappeared with my passport. All other people in the lane were Americans who were breezed through the immigration. After about 15 minutes, the immigration officer returned with my passport and asked me one gallactically stupid question after another. I think there is a universal code that every government will hire the dumbest people to work at the immigration counters. After a while I was so pissed that I told him that I will not respond to any of his inane question because his country’s embassy has cleared my visa, if he has issues he should refuse me entry and inform my hosts that he was unable to do so on whatever grounds and I will take the first flight back. I think he has had his fun with me so he decided to stamp my passport and let me go. He obviously was not threatened by my outburst.

After getting my luggage, I was passing through the green channel thinking that my ordeal was over when a policewoman stopped me and asked me if I had anything to declare. I told her that I had nothing and started dragging my suitcase when she put her hand on my arm and asked to come into an area where there were a few other people – all Asians, from Jordanians to Indonesians to Sri Lankans – standing with the contents of their suit cases wide open sporting harassed looks. She asked me to put my suitcase on the counter and open it. In that split second I realize how humiliating it is for an adult to realize that the other person, especially an authority figure, is not willing to believe his or her word. I opened my suitcase and she wore those dreaded blue gloves and looked through my stuff. Even while she was going through the my luggage I had this look about me which said that you are making me go through this tribulation but I am clean and you are just wasting my time when she got hold of a packet and asked me what is inside. Call me a typical desi paindoo, but I do travel with tea bags if I know that I would be away from home for longer than two weeks. In that pack, I had my tea bags and a bottle of Tylenol, an over the counter painkiller. She asked me to give her my passport and disappeared again with the bottle of Tylenol, teabags and my passport to check if these items are allowed to pass through the customs. I wanted to scream – hello, this is Amsterdam, the weed capitol of the world. People would want to take stuff out of the country, not bring it in by putting it in teabags. She was only gone for 5 minutes and she did apologize for putting me through all the trouble and helped me pack everything back, but the experience was extremely traumatic and those 5 minutes that I waited for my passport were perhaps the longest five minutes of my life.

I have travelled to Netherlands a few times in the past and immigration was always swift and efficient. I don’t know if I should blame the increasing paranoia in Europe against the Muslims for it or crazy people like the good ol’ panty bomber, the Nigerian who attempted to detonate an explosive in his underpants, on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on Christmas Day from Amsterdam for the special treatment that I got, but I do know that I am not the same person any longer. Once you experience that kind of fear, something inside you dies. Suffering indignity is definitely more harmful than facing a bullet, the harm is more long lasting.

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Jan 20, 2010 - rant    51 Comments

Going back to journalism!!! (updated below)

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If I had a penny for every time someone asked me to go back to journalism, I would be fairly well off if not down right rich. Someone I value very highly recently asked me if I ever planned to go back to earn my living through the written word. Honestly, I don’t mind going back to journalism but the problem is that my skills are not valued much by the decision makers in the print world. A couple of months back, someone I know who works for a media organization mentioned my work to her employer who called me in for a chit chat (as he labeled it). I went in, had a “chit chat” with him and it was very nice and cordial. He asked me what position I am aiming for. Ideally I would want to work as a staff writer who would just write, but as most Pakistani papers do not hire writers, I said that I would like to work as an Assistant Editor. To which he said that he does not know if his newspaper would have that particular post and he does not know how a newspaper works so I will have to come back and speak with his editor. A couple of days later, I got called and went to meet the executive editor. I was called for an 11.30 appointment and being a stickler for punctuality, I reported at 11.27am.



I was made to wait for one hour and 15 minutes. After waiting that long, some guy came out and called another girl in who entered just five minutes earlier. When I said that I should be called in first because my appointment was for 11.30, he blinked his eyes at me for a full thirty seconds and then asked my name and vanished. The same fellow came back after five minutes and profusely apologized to the other girl (who was a hot babe by the way) that she will have to wait. I looked at him incredulously; he made me wait for 75 minutes, he was rude to me and he is apologizing to the other girl! I made a mental note to tell the editor about the incompetent HR staff. I was in for the shock of my life when I was introduced to him and found out that he is the EDITOR.



As if this was not enough, the interview was a bigger ordeal. The editor and the executive editor did not have my CV and were not familiar with my work so they asked me what have I done with my life. It was like a contest; market yourself best in 3 minutes, your time starts now. I started telling them about myself (or what I could have remembered because I managed to pack in a lot of useless shit in my life) but was getting distracted because the editor was writing everything down in a notebook with a bloody PENCIL which was making a scratching sound. They called me twice, they made me wait for eons, the least they could have done was to print out my fucking cv.



Kher, among other things, I told them that I have monitored general parliamentary elections in a couple of countries as an international observer. In response, the editor asked why did I leave that job. I wanted to scream; “Hello! Election monitoring is NOT a job,” but I smiled and very patiently explained to him like you explain to a fairly dull five year old that its a gig that you get when you are extremely lucky and it is done voluntarily, no one makes any money out of it and while its all glorious and noble, you need to make money in order to live a decent life.



In addition, I mentioned all my writing experience and all my international publications and the editor goes, “But what about subbing. Have you ever done subbing?” For the uninitiated, sub editing in newspaper lingo is generally referred to as subbing. It is the most thankless and tedious job in the world and I have done it for quite some time and would not like to go back to it.

I told him that I have done it in the past. He then wanted to know what kind of subbing I have done so I told him about it all; I have done hard news, reports, features everything. He then wanted to know who did I report to in the newsroom, and when he failed to recall my old boss, he looked at me as if I was lying. Mercifully, the executive editor knew my former boss and intervened.



By that time, I gathered that the interview was not going anywhere so I mentioned that I also write a blog which does get some hits (a big thank you to all my readers). I told them that my work has repeatedly been reviewed by Press Trust of India and is published in numerous Indian newspapers and websites which I might add does not happen with a lot of writers of either new media or mainstream media, so if I join their newspaper, I will be bringing in my own readers from across the border and USA … and that’s where the internet based ads money is. I also told him to ask dawn.com’s editor about the number of hits my work has generated, how much it was linked and what is my google search value.



In response to my tirade – for someone who sucks at self promotion, my performance was Oscar worthy – he gave me a blank look and said, “But working in a newspaper and writing a blog are not the same.” I honestly did not know what to say to that and then he went on and on about my lack of subbing experience. As I was at the end of my tether, I said, “I don’t know how old do you think I am, but I am fairly experienced and I am NOT really looking for an entry level subbing position.” I was politely told that the interview was over and I will be notified soon. Six weeks later, I was sent an email which told me that I could not compete with other ‘more competent’ applicants.



For starters, I never applied for any job in their organization. They are the ones who called me so I was not competing for anything with anyone. As far as the level of competence is concerned, it was rich coming from a guy who is not even conversant with some of the people in politics and have made some serious mistakes in the past. If I recall correctly, he mixed up Mahmud Ali Durrani (former National Security Advisor) with Mohammed Ali Durrani

(PML – Q Senator and former minister) when he wrote a piece for Hindustan Times, a faux pas par excellence.



I guess I am fairly lucky that I was not competent enough to actually get that job, imagine what it would have done for my sanity.





(I know, it’s a fairly long personal rant).

Update:



Something pleasantly surprising just happened. The publisher of the aforementioned media house just called me to express deep regret for the way I was treated. To say that I was shocked would be putting it mildly. It was not only unexpected but also unprecedented. He said that he will ensure that incidents like this would not happen in future.

I thought if I can share my grief with everyone here, I should be decent enough to let people know that may be things are not that bad and some kind of professionalism is creeping in our beloved industry.

Thanks a lot Mr. Publisher; it was really nice of you.

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Oct 24, 2009 - terrorism    32 Comments

My finest hour

A few months back, I started teaching at a local university as visiting faculty. The reactions I got varied from extremely flattering to downright insulting to my decision. One foreigner I know mocked it with a very derisive “So what will you achieve by teaching rich kids in air conditioned classrooms?” Honestly, at that point in time, I had no idea how to respond to that scathing comment. I seriously did not know what I am supposed to do as a teacher apart from imparting knowledge on the subject I teach.

In the past three months that I have been teaching, I have had my highs and lows. I have had some very good days and some not so good days, but one remarkable change that I have seen in my students is that they want to discuss issues instead of just going through the lectures like they did in the first couple of weeks. They question, they debate, they ponder, they contest, they deliberate, they argue and they have learnt to respect different views even when they don’t agree with them. This is something that we don’t often see in Pakistan and for a teacher, it is one of the most encouraging and heartening sights.

On Wednesday, I got an email from my student Bemisal saying that the student body is extremely distressed at the twin bombing incident at Islamic International University. What irked them most was the government’s cavalier attitude towards the safety and security of the students and the fact that most provincial governments refused to provide security to the institutions of learning and closed them down till October 26th. They wanted to protest against the acts of terror and government’s apathy towards its citizens. They also wanted to show solidarity with the students who died at the twin blasts on October 21st 2009.

In two days time, they managed to not only mobilize other students and made their presence felt with out any prior activism experience; they did so in face of opposition from their parents and families who tried to discourage them from stepping out of the secure confines of their homes. They did it when a local tv channel aired the news that a suspected bomber wearing a suicide jacket was seen in the vicinity of the area of protest.

Seeing my students at the protest, demanding their constitutional rights with a consciousness and confidence not common amongst most Pakistani, was perhaps my finest hour as a teacher. Arfa, Sabah, Danish, Hiba, Umair, Bemisal, Farwa, Aqsa and Ahmed, you guys made me proud today (most of them are girls, so double hurrah for them). Looks like all those debates in the class and gargles I took after every three hour session were well worth it. If anyone mocks me any more and say what have I achieved by teaching rich kids in air conditioned classrooms, I would say that I played my tiny little part in bringing them out on the streets. They don’t need to be out on the streets but they decided that they don’t want to stay apathetic and stepped up to claim their right and space. How is that for an achievement?

PS: Those who want to support their efforts in future can stay connected through their facebook group

Sep 13, 2009 - Uncategorized    19 Comments

Is swine flu haraam?

Amna: Tazeen, Is swine flu haraam?

Tazeen: depends … see, if it is contracted through a halal source … then it is Halal, but if it is contracted through a haram source then you know what it is …

Amna: Well the Dutch search engine may not acknowledge your contribution, but you do know your halal from haraam.

Tazeen: *blushes*

Jul 13, 2009 - Uncategorized    132 Comments

Life, as I have known it, has come to an end…



Life, as I have known it all along, has ended for me last week.

From the day I was born, my very first identity has been that of a daughter. Even before I acquired my name, the baby wrist tag that they put on soon after the birth said that I was my parent’s daughter. I am no longer a daughter. My father passed away last week after succumbing to cardiopulmonary arrest. I have already lost my mother to cancer in my teenage years and now I am all by myself. I missed Ammi desperately every time things got a bit tough, but I got through it because I had Abba. Whenever things overwhelmed me, Abba would calmly tell me to not worry and say, “Beta, this too shall pass, you just need to hang in there,” and I would feel better and would somehow have the courage to take on the world. A couple of weeks before I lost my dad, I was told by my employers that they will not renew my job contract. I was depressed as hell and told my dad that I was about to lose my job. Abba was very ill and had several tubes going in and coming out of his body. He just held my hand and told me not to worry. He said that something better will come along, it always has and no one can keep me down for long. The minute he said it, I felt on top of the world and stopped thinking about the bad job market out there and minimal demand for my particular set of skills.

With Abba gone, I feel this acute loneliness; there is no one who will now call me beta and tell me that things will get better for me because I deserve all the happiness in the world, there is no one who will share my joy, my sorrows, my achievements and my failures with me.

All of a sudden, I have discovered that world indeed is a lonely place. With Abba, whatever part of the world I was in, I knew I had a home; Abba was my home. Whether I was in Tbilisi or Trincomale, I had to call home to let him know that I am still in one piece. Abba’s phone number was my emergency contact number no matter where I was. I traveled across the world and took on unnecessary adventures because at the back of my mind, I knew that there is someone who will take care of me if anything happens and even if I break an arm or two, I would be welcomed when I come home because there is someone who loves me unconditionally – even without the arms. That stability is gone from my life with Abba, there is no one in the world who loves me unconditionally anymore and it is perhaps the scariest, and loneliest feeling in the world. With Abba gone, I feel sapped of all the energy. I am limp and find it difficult to get by. I miss you Abba and I wish you were still here with us. 
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