Stories published in June, 2011

A 55-year-old security guard with a big dream

Sitting at the entrance to the computer lab, at the Aga Khan University (AKU), seemingly like the many other guards around, he wears the usual uniform as people passed by him. What not many notice is that on his desk sits a copy of Thomas Hardy’s “Far from the Madding Crowd” and during the breaks he gets, he sits and reads voraciously. Saleem Akhtar, 55 years of age, has picked up his books again, and he is on his way to becoming an Intermediate graduate. Standing at about five feet four inches, sporting a henna-stained beard with half-rimmed reading glasses ...

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Samina is waiting for a miracle

Samina, my maid’s daughter, is being forced to get engaged to a boy, who she has never seen or spoken to. When she asked her mother about him, she found out that the boy was a 12-year-old child. Frustrated, Samina tried to cut her wrist with a blade, but all in vain – she will be engaged on the coming weekend. I could sense the remorse in her voice, when she told me about this, as she was not prepared to face such a responsibility. Samina’s dreams were to go to school, read the Holy Quran and learn English – all ...

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Peshawar: City of death and hope

There was a blast in Peshawar Khyber Supermarket on June 11, 2011 at approximately 11:45 pm, killing 40 and injuring around 100. It was supposed to be one of those peaceful weekends when I’d be chatting with family over a meal or engrossed in an inconclusive talk-show on television. I recall sitting at home, watching television with my family when the sudden sound of an explosion shook us all. It was terrifying and distressing at the same time. Who was at the blast site? How many lives might have perished away in this blast? Many questions rose in my mind but were silenced by ...

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Why should feudals apologize?

I have grown up hearing all the stereotypes on television in newspapers. Feudals drive big jeeps (who cares how many books they read?). Feudals are the reason the country can’t prosper. Feudals abuse people in the name of tradition. But this ‘wadera’ boogeyman image is not accurate. I’m not saying that exploitation of the poor does not exist in rural Pakistan, but the facts that are often ignored are: Exploitation is not exclusive to the agricultural community. For every landlord who mistreats the people who depend on him for a livelihood, there are at least three who are actively working to provide services (services that every ...

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Taking the ‘bad’ out of Nazimabad

At a gathering in DHA a girl walks in. “Hey, how come you’re so late?” I ask. “I just came from… well, really far away,” she says. “How far off?” “You wouldn’t know where it is,” she dismisses in an ugly voice and with an embarrassed face. I press on. “Like what, Nazimabad?” “Yeah, how’d you guess?” She tries to laugh it off. I guessed Nazimabad because I’ve stayed there and I know the ‘distance’. And I wanted her to stop acting weird about it! I should have yelled at her but decided to leave her to her own paranoia. A boy listening in to ...

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Partying with pistols

It was an ominous day for the attendees of a dance party taking place on Khayaban-e-Rahat in Karachi.  I can imagine the scene: alcohol was ample, the DJ was working the crowd and amongst this unsupervised and posh array of people, a shoot out took place. Firing outside the gates of prominent parties is a common occurrence in Pakistan and not a lot of people take it seriously. In fact, in my experience, if there was a shoot out at a party, it was usually preceded by an exchange of threats and followed by a phadda or an altercation. The ...

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Saudi rights: Driving as feminist expression

Do the ladies who drive around in fast cars in Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi have any idea of the day and age they live in? Let them just visit Saudi Arabia and see how every woman found driving a car gets arrested for it. The Arab ladies, however, have chosen to make a women’s liberation issue of it. They are not stopping. A feminist acquaintance of mine, who had always greeted me with some taunt or other about ‘your male chauvinist Pakistan’, told me today she was so happy with how liberal the country was. Alarmed, I asked for an ...

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Ready to die for a life of freedom

Since my last post about the fight of the Salarzai tribe against militancy and the death of their tribe chiefs, a lot has happened which needs to be conveyed to everyone. We have been tightly enclosed in a cube that is inaccessible to the outer world and I guess this is why we too have been kept in the dark – far from education and modernity. If you have ever been to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), you must have read the signboards prohibiting foreigners etcetera from entering there. The spectrum of the word ‘foreigner’ has now very cleverly been ...

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Yank-bashing over a cup of tea

Our pancakes had just arrived when we heard a loud: “Who do you think you are, you bloody CIA agent?” This was followed by a chuckle in a male voice and an accented: “What makes you think I am CIA? How can you even be sure I’m an American?” What followed was a ten-minute long loud rant, in the first hoarse female voice, complete with expletive ridden language and name calling. My mother instantly guessed it was Dr Shireen Mazari. “Who the f*** do you think you are? How can you treat a Pakistani this way? Get this man out of this restaurant or I ...

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Wimbledon: Has the US dropped the ball?

American tennis is a shadow of its former greatness. At Roland Garros in Paris, no American woman was seeded anywhere. The top seeded American man was Mardy Fish. And nothing against Fish, but I doubt anyone is betting that he will win a Grand Slam anytime soon, or even in his entire career. The last man from the US to win a Grand Slam, Andy Roddick is fading, and has just exited Wimbledon. In fact, for a very brief period albeit, but earlier this year, for the first time in the 38-year history of the world tennis rankings, no US man or ...

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