Tagged with " ponderings"
Jan 27, 2010 - Society    29 Comments

The disease of docility and deference

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I read Arvind Adiga’s Booker prize winning novel “White Tiger” last year. Adiga has written at length about the subservient attitude of the people living in the ‘darkness’. The protagonist in the book repeatedly said that the desire to be a servant had been bred into him and hammered into his skull, nail after nail. In another chapter, Adiga wrote that hundreds of roosters and hens are stuffed into wire cages in meat shops. They see the organs of their brothers and sisters lying around, they know they are the next, yet they cannot rebel and how the very same thing is done with humans in this (India) country.

Like most things India and Pakistan, I started comparing the situation in Pakistan and came to the naïve and extremely biased conclusion that things are not as bad. Yes, we have bonded labour in parts of Sind and Southern Punjab but Pakistanis, in general, are not afflicted with the disease of docility and deference. I was wrong.

Yesterday, I was watching a TV report on Shazia Masih’s murder case. Our domestic help Parveen sat with me and watched the whole report. Once it was over, I switched off the TV and we both sat in silence thinking about the poor little girl who lost her life in such a gruesome way. Suddenly Parveen stood up and asked if Amanat, one of the accused, who was responsible for the Shazia’s employment at Advocate Naeem Chaudhry’s was really related to her? As there were conflicting reports, I said I really don’t know. He could be related to her or perhaps he was just an acquaintance. Parveen, a Punjabi Christian like Shazia, said that if he was Shazia’s uncle, he should be hanged in public view. I was surprised by her reaction, not only because Parveen is one of the gentlest souls I know but as far as I am concerned, the main culprits in this murder case were Shazia’s employers, the state and all the people who hire under age children to do domestic chores and ill treat them. When I probed a little further, Parveen said that one cannot trust the employers, most of them would want to discipline the maid by slapping her but if the guy who got her the employment is her uncle, he should have ensured that the employers would not beat her. The first thought that came to my mind was Arvind Adiga’s iron wire cage and the people in it, unwilling or perhaps too afraid to question or point fingers in the right direction. For Parveen, it is but acceptable that employers may want to use physical force to discipline an underage child.

While every politician from Nilofar Bakhtiar to Raja Reyaz and Sharif Brothers are using the murder as a godsend photo-op, and members of the civil society and intelligentsia are crying hoarse over lack of implementation of labour laws, is there anyone paying attention to the inbred servility of people, which in a way corroborate such heinous acts again and again?

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Sep 2, 2009 - Uncategorized    49 Comments

hmmm

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Last night, I discovered that one of my friends work for porn industry.

I mean I knew what she was doing all along, I just didn’t know that she has been doing it for the aforementioned industry.

So what if she is just a computer programmer who works for a company that caters to adult websites. Porn is still porn even if it means that she writes software codes and all. I think having a friend who works for porn industry makes me way cooler than I am.

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Apr 30, 2009 - Uncategorized    81 Comments

A conversation that is haunting me

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Everything that can go wrong is going wrong with my life right now and I honestly do not notice/read/watch much these days except for what’s going on around me, but there is one news item that kinda caught my eye. The Taliban in Orakzai Agency have razed 11 houses belonging to the local Sikh community after they refused to pay jizya (a tax that early Islamic rulers demanded from their non-Muslim subjects to live in Muslim countries).

It reminded me of a conversation I had approximately 8 years ago with a ten-year-old boy. I was working as a research assistant to a professor working on Madressahs along Pakistan Afghan border and I was assisting him in the field research. I used to take field notes, record the proceedings of focus group discussions and community debates and made sure that everything is stored and recorded in chronological order. As we had to speak with a lot of kids, we made sure that we take, along with us, a lot of sweets and some cheap toys from Karachi for madressah students and it helped tremendously in breaking the ice. Zar Wali was that ten-year-old boy I mentioned earlier; he grew quite fond of me and would always tag along asking me a million questions about the camera I was using, my ancient recording equipment and a laptop that weighed just a little less than the CPU of a desktop.

One afternoon after a meeting with administrators of two madressahs, I was writing my observations and Zar Wali was sitting by me when we had this conversation, here is a brief part of that conversation.


Zar Wali (ZW): Will you see me if I come to Karachi.
Me: Sure, do you plan to come to Karachi?
ZW: May be I will get a job there when I finish with the madressah.
Me: (although I knew about the curriculum, I just wanted to know what he thinks about his education and asked.) So what is it that you study at the madressah that will get you a job in Karachi?
ZW: I only memorize Quran and learn to use some light weapon, but you know that already, you ask everyone the same question.
Me: So you don’t study Mathematics or Science, right?
ZW: Of course not. They are the teachings of infidels.
Me: Really? Who told you that?
ZW: My teacher at the madressah, who else?
Me: Do you know that there is a branch of mathematics called Algebra and it owes a lot to a Muslim scientist called Ibn-e-Musa al-Khwarizmi? He was a mathematician and a Muslim.
ZW: I don’t know, I just know that my teacher says that it is for infidels only.
Me: So what will you do when you graduate from the madressah?
ZW: I will go for jihad.
Me: Where?
ZW: I don’t know? Afghanistan or Kashmir.
Me: If you have Islamic governments in both, Afghanistan and Kashmir, then what will you do, you can’t fight jihad all your life?
ZW: I don’t know, I guess they will send me to fight somewhere else.
Me: Ok, suppose you have conquered the whole world and everyone is living under Muslim rule, then what? You have no money making skills and you will not be able to land a job. What will you do then, should you not learn something other than learning to use light weapons?
ZW: No, I will continue with jihad.
Me: (Exasperated) But who will you fight against?
ZW: Men who do not keep beards and women who do not observe purdah.
Me: I do not observe purdah; will you kill me as well?
ZW: If I am told, yes, I will do it.

I was laughing when I asked this question and was expecting a vehement head shake with a “No, I will never kill you” kind of response. Imagine how I felt when the little boy who told me, repeatedly, that I am best girl in the world apart from his mother because I gave him a plastic scooter would feel no compunction in killing me if instructed. I did not take the extent of his indoctrination that seriously in 2001 but now, this conversation keeps haunting me. Every time a school got blown, every time a man was beheaded or a girl was flogged, Zar Wali comes back to haunt me and ask me, “What were we all doing when they were training our children to become terror mongers and killers.

Mar 17, 2009 - Uncategorized    23 Comments

Honest opinion

There is something new that I learned today.

To give an honest opinion in today’s world is SO last century, its not even funny or tragic. As a certain Mr Shaw rather correctly put it, when people ask for opinions, all they want is praise.

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Feb 6, 2009 - Uncategorized    18 Comments

You

You are the authority, you are the culture, you are the past.

You are a postmodernist masterpiece of nature – the greatest artist of the universe!

PS: These are not my words.

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Jan 4, 2009 - rant    50 Comments

Updating your life – online

If I were a pop psychologist I would say that the constant status change on facebook/gtalk/similar-social-networking-websites-that-I am-unaware-of is attention seeking behaviour of the worst order. I have no problem with people seeking attention or basking in the glory of self love, but if you change your status five times in a day, especially with open ended and ambiguous sentences like ‘Nishi is still looking …’ to ‘Rizwan is trying hard, really’ then I think a call to local shrink wouldn’t hurt. The more ambiguous the status is; chances are that you get more responses. The more naïve ones in the friend’s list always respond to such cries of help with, ‘Oh Nishi, what is it that you are looking’ to ‘I hope you find what you are looking for’ to best wishes for Rizwan who is trying really hard. Come on folks, what do you know? He might be constipated and trying really hard and updated his status while trying to take crap. Now would you normally go sending best wishes to people who are tying to take crap? No. But on facebook, it is the order of the day.

The funniest thing is, if you do respond honestly to any such status, it can lead to disastrous consequences and can jeopardize your relationship with your acquaintances – for life. Someone I know have recently gotten married and have changed her status very frequently but they were always about how deliriously happy she is now that she is hitched (the word hitched was mentioned in at least 5 of her statuses). After one such nauseating declaration of love and coupledom, I commented with this line: “I hope you are ready for the life long monogamy ahead.” She deleted my comment and went ballistic afterwards, calling me names and what not. She even asked some of her friends to socially boycott me. She wanted me socially boycotted because I warned her about monogamous married life? Facebook can do that people.

There are some facebook statuses that are less of a status and more of a declaration. For instance the politically inclined Muneeb Ahmed thinks the infighting has already begun amongst the Democratic majority or the arty Shamil Shams is of the opinion that Anand Bakhshi was one of the most underrated lyricists of Indian Cinema.

There are some statuses that include another person and can lead to interrogation of the worst order. For instance, this is the status my friend A had before she left for Italy last month: “A can’t wait for Italy! esp. since Tazeen has raised her expectations about the oh so orgasmic species of Italian men.” You can so imagine what must have happened afterwards. Common friends ganged up on me asking me why such delightful details were kept a secret and why only A was privy to that information. The most delightful thing I have experienced in Italy was the Italian Gelato (ice-cream) and I only wished I had such ‘oh so orgasmic’ encounters with Italian men. The interrogation sessions I had after wards would have put the interrogators at Gitmo (Guantanamo Bay) to shame.

Another thing I am absolutely sick of is the honeymoon related status updating. The past three months have been the extended wedding season in Pakistan. A vast majority of Pakistanis goes to Malaysia for honeymoons and I get status updates like A & B or X & Y are honeymooning in Genting or in Langkavi? Honestly, who gives two hoots if you are honeymooning in location A or B.? In any case, if you are busy updating your status on facebook, you obviously are not having the honeymoon you should have. Something is definitely missing.

So far, the most original facebook status I have seen has come from my friend Zoe. It goes something like this: Zoe is gun powder, treason and plot.

Dec 2, 2008 - travel    46 Comments

Does it happen outside celluloid?

The first time it happened, I took it in stride. After all, if there are 16 twenty something- college going girls in a room and you announce to them that you are going away for a snow covered weekend to the Scottish highlands, it is but natural that they scream, “How Romantic,” but when normal adult people (men and women both) go gaga over holiday destinations and tell you how incredibly romantic that particular place is, you just look at them in wonder (at least I do) and think if they have lost all their marbles (or if they had any marbles to begin with)?

I remember the first time I went to Paris. I went there on a longish bank holiday weekend (those who live in UK or have lived in UK in the past know how very often you have bank holidays) and was looking forward to doing all touristy things like taking a cruise on River Seine, a walk across Avenue des Champs- Élysées and visiting Louvré Museum and Notré Dam Cathedral. Before I went there, I called my sister who was living in a shit hole called Swindon at that point in time and the minute she heard the word Paris she went into a state unadulterated glee and shrieked, “PARIS!” and went on and on about how romantic the place is and how wonderful it will be for me and maybe I will find someone to fall in love with. A friend back home literally broke down in tears and said that I have to do all things romantic on her account in Paris. I was flabbergasted at that request but I decided not to question that statement at that point. Don’t get me wrong, Paris is ok, in fact it is better than ok. It’s just not what everyone has painted it to be. But then what place turns out like its post card version with a promised dash of romance on the side?

Those of us who grew up on the staple diet of Hindi cinema in the 1990s do harbor similar romantic thoughts about the whole country of Switzerland. I mean Switzerland is a fine country if you appreciate good cheese, good chocolate, sheep, cows and United Nations, but romantic is not a word I would ever use in connection with Switzerland. In any case, if you are a student traveling on a shoestring budget, all romance will fly out of the proverbial window while you are trying to manage expenses in a city like Geneva.

Venice, perhaps, was the biggest let down of all the supposedly romantic cities. I mean everyone I know went bonkers the minute I said the word Venice. It was neither magical nor romantic. It turned out to be smelly, over priced and over crowded, in short, totally oversold to the tourists.

How in the heaven’s name can a place be romantic? A place can be beautiful, aesthetically magical and stupendously out of this world but romantic? Are people supposed to go to these romantic destinations with their loved ones only? What if they are eternally single like me? Are people supposed to fall in love with random strangers in these ‘romantic’ destinations? According to the film industries across the globe, strangers do meet and fall in love in such places, but how many people actually get to live their version of ‘Before Sunrise’ where they seek and find self-fulfillment and self-discovery through a significant other? There is nothing wrong with the idea of finding romance at unexpected places and with unexpected people but why limit that idea to a particular city only? In my opinion, it’s not the place but the people and circumstances that are romantic.

In any case, I want all my readers to answer me honestly if they have fallen in love with someone while traveling/vacationing/holidaying. It does not have to be a so called romantic place, but I would love to know if it happens outside celluloid.

Nov 29, 2008 - Uncategorized    31 Comments

Homogeneity is over rated.

In another life when I was a journalist, I had an intern named Nadir. Anyone who has ever held a responsible professional position had to endure an intern or two in their lifetime. Some interns are bright and promising, some are average Joes and some are downright dreadful. I have had the pleasure of working with all types and more. In addition, I have had the distinct honour of having worked with over hundred intern/volunteers at one point in time, so I am quite an authority when it comes to working with youngsters.

The reason I have singled Nadir out was because he was not like any teenager I have ever met in life, For starters, he had a really cool dad who goes by a single name, Danishmand (The IBA grads might know him. Mr. Danishmand is the director of Pakistan’s premier business school IBA). I don’t know anyone apart from Madonna, Bono and Queen Elizabeth who goes by a single name. He was the only teenager I know who reported for work in a business suit. No one in the whole editorial section of the newspaper ever wore a suit in the two years I have worked there. It was funnier because I am the queen of casual and would go to work in red trainers and fluorescent yellow socks. But these were the minor quirks, what fascinated me about Nadir was his ethnic and racial background. One of his grandmothers was Burmese and the other one was Kurd. His own mother is African American. His brother in law is Irish German and his sister in law was Latin or something. He looked African American but spoke perfect Punjabi which he learned from his father’s servants.

I recently met Aanya and she truly is the citizen of the world. Not only she has travelled extensively, her ancestral background covers six continents (no one lives in South Pole anyways). Aanya’s heritage should be recorded by Anthropologists across the world. Her ancestry is as diverse as it gets and includes parents, grand parents and great grand parents from places as far as Fiji, India, Russia, Brazil, Ireland, Lebanon and Kenya. She herself can pass as Eastern European, Turkish, Iranian, Arab, Indian or Pakistani depending upon her clothing and speaks 6 languages. For someone like me whose four grandparents were born within the radius of 150 kilometres and who only dreams about learning a foreign language (For Indians and Pakistanis, English is not a foreign language), that’s fascinating like hell.

I think people, at least those who come in contact with people from other countries and races, should be open to idea of falling in love with people from completely different background. Not only it would lead to genetic diversity, it would lead to a relatively more harmonious world, something we all crave at this point in time.

In any case, homogeneity and racial purity is over rated.

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Nov 13, 2008 - Tina Fey, women    16 Comments

How Tina Fey saved me from irreversible brain damage

Watching TV is painful. As a rule, I don’t watch much TV, but one do lapse into the mindlessness of it from time to time and then live to regret it.

Last week, I saw TV for about half an hour and lost it – completely. I caught one of the episodes of a soap on one of the local channels. It had a domestic servant who was first harassed by the younger son of her employers and then later raped by the older son. Because she was a lowly employee, she kept quiet and did not tell anyone about the crime. There was another track where they showed a mafia boss having hots for a middle class behenji type working girl. Instead of befriending the girl, he sent his mom with rishta (formal proposal of marriage) to the girl’s mom and threatened her on the side, that if she refused to marry him, bad things will happen to her family. How did her family reacted to it, instead of reporting the incident to police or something, the daddy asked the girl to quit her job and stay at home otherwise people will talk?

What subliminal message did this half an hour long episode convey, that it is easy to push women around, whether they are illiterate domestic servants or educated and financially independent girls. Men are licensed from God/society/law/whatever to harass/stalk/rape women and they will get away. After all, what rights do second class citizens have, NONE.

I was so annoyed after watching that soap, I wrote a page long letter and emailed it to the channel that was airing it and copied it to at least 4 women rights organizations. I got a letter of thanks from one of them and they said they will take up the matters with the said TV channel. Irony was, the soap was named ‘Tair-e-lahooti’ which literally translates in to ‘a bird with limitless flight’.

I switched channels and saw discovery doing a crazy scientific study about which part of body hurts most when it is pinched and I was like WTF? I was so fascinated with grown men doing ‘ooh’, ‘aah’ and ‘ouch’ after every pinch that I watched it till the end. Apparently, the back of human arms is the most sensitive area. So if you want to pinch someone really hard, aim for the back of their arms.

Among all that crappy TV, I stumbled upon good ol’ Liz Lemon at her old address (30 Rock) and what a relief it was. Where else do you get dialogues like ‘Hugging is so ethnic’ and ‘you are choosing a sandwich over a guy, that’s less cliched’ to a boss who is as adorably insufferable and screwed up as Jack Donaghy.

Here is an exchange between Jack and Liz that reminded me of … me.

Jack: So what are you gonna do with your money? Put it into a 401K?
Liz: Yeah, I gotta get one of those.
Jack: What?! Where do you invest your money, Lemon?
Liz: I’ve got like twelve grand in checking.
Jack: Are you an immigrant?

Believe me, I have had one of these conversations, and I don’t even have the excuse of being an immigrant. The only difference is that the guy I was talking to was not as fat, old or fabulous as Alec Baldwin and I probably would have a lot less than US$12,000 in my checking account.

The reason I love Tina is that she made edgy neurotic acceptable. Take Liz Lemon, her character in ’30 Rock’ is as real as it can get in network television. She strives to be a better, more honorable, more down-to-earth person and gets diverted by her own shallow, petty urges. She knows who she is and occasionally tries to assert that her rather mundane desires and limitations are perfectly acceptable. She wants a husband, sure, but she doesn’t want anyone to be the boss of her. She wants to get ahead at work, yes, but she also wants to skip work and watch a rented movie in bed. She has made it absolutely normal for women to be single at 37, wear glasses, eat Chinese food out of take away box, attract losers or conflicted people, work with losers or conflicted people and deal with a boss whose ego is as gigantic as Grand Canyon, and still be friends with him. The best thing about Tina Fey is that she can be screwed up and likeable at the same time without being over the top, unlike the clinging, coy and clamoring for attention Jennifer Aniston in Friends.

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Oct 26, 2008 - Uncategorized    30 Comments

What makes me awesome?

“I don’t like myself. I’m CRAZY ABOUT MYSELF!”

Hang on people, these are not my words, good ol’ Mae West said them over half a century ago. The reason I am repeating them is I have had a massive writer’s block for past four days. I wanted to get some serious writing done this weekend and all I did was waste time in facebook and commented on everyone’s status. While looking for inspiration to get going, I checked out Sunday Scribblings. It’s a blog that generally gives out a topic that people can write on. “I don’t like myself. I’m CRAZY ABOUT MYSELF!” is their current topic. Yes, those who choose to write on it are requested to brag about what makes them proud about themselves.

Barney from ‘How I met your mother’ generally introduces himself like this: “Hi I am Barney, I wear suits and I am awesome.” I am not Barney and I don’t wear suits but I sure like to think that I am awesome on the following counts:

I have not written a Pulitzer Prize winning book (yet), nor have I won a Nobel for Peace but what I have done all my life is that I have pushed boundaries and I sure as hell will continue to do that. If anyone asks me what my single greatest contribution to humanity is, I would say it is pushing the socially accepted norms and doing things that people said I couldn’t‎ do. I have also not done things that people said I could do, so yeah, I am a bit of a non conformist and am quite happy about that too.

Some may call me flighty, but I would like to say that I have varied interests. I have done everything from retail sales to journalism to copy writing to hardcore activism to teaching to television production to painting and pottery to amateur theatre. And that’s just the beginning; I am open to all new things and have my heart set out on a couple which I am going o try out next.

Among other things, I have managed to make some truly wonderful friends along the way. They are my biggest treasure and even if I feel down at any point in life, they make me feel wonderful about myself. I can’t take all the names here because there are so many fabulous friends I have, but I would like mention three of my friends who have loved me warts and all and at times, they have loved me precisely for my imperfections. If I am not in the best of spirits, Leena would tell me I am the smartest one, Erum would tell me I am the hottest one and Sohnia would tell me that I am just plain awesome. If I have managed to convince these three absolutely wonderful people that there is something special about me, then there must have been something special. I can safely say that I am awesome, in any case, humility is over rated, way over rated.

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