When the beast awakens on Eid

Let us ask ourselves this. Eidul Fitr approaches amidst scorching heat and Panama hearings. Gulping down fancy iftars and filling sehris, what have we stored for our Eid?  I will tell you what – the Pret collection of branded clothes, quality makeup kits and tall heels. We’ve fixed appointments at salons and parlours to look our best on Eid day. There are lavish meals planned with family and friends. While festive gatherings are in consonance with the harmonious spirit of Islam, there is a question as to how much we actually recall from the holy month that is nearing its end. While these blessed days are spent in sujood (prostration) and taraveeh (obligatory prayers), how ...

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Why don’t parents speak of the developmental challenges faced by their child the same way they do of their academic achievements?

We all want comfort and happiness for our children. From the time they’re born, we want our little ones to excel in life. In Pakistan, this desire usually translates into a narrow focus on achieving academic excellence, which is typically considered the most widely esteemed cognitive ability. While some parents do realise (and often lament) the potential negative effects of this academic ‘rat race’ on their own children, one aspect they often ignore is the pressure this creates on families of children with special needs – children who may be gifted in one way or the other but may not necessarily have the ability to excel in academics. This ...

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Why do I have to pretend to fast when my “monthly friend” is visiting?

I sit in the room at the end of the hallway. The door is closed. My head is bent. I am waiting to be called. I was six-years-old. I stood on the balcony with my mother, father and cousin as we tried to spot the chaand that would symbolise the start of Ramazan. I was excited. I was thrilled; there was nothing I wanted more than to fast for the entire month. I started singing, “Ramazan ke rozay aye, hum roza rakhna chahain!” (The month of fasting is here, and we wish to fast!) My cousin shared the same enthusiasm; he got up and began singing along with me. ...

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Dear Imran Khan, if you’re going to blame Najam Sethi for Pakistan’s defeats, then praise him for their wins also

I was a teenager when Imran Khan, one of the most famous cricketers our country has produced, lifted the World Cup in 1992. I remember watching the match with my family and how they yelled with joy. I remember the euphoria I felt when I went outside to the nearby liberty market to witness what were unimaginable levels of fervour and joy. People were dancing and performing bhangra. The streets which had been almost deserted during the match, as everyone was glued to their TV screens, had suddenly become overwhelmingly alive. Cricket is such a uniting force in Pakistan and for those brief moments, from Karachi to ...

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Dear abba, thank you for your unwavering faith in women

My parents were faced with a rather arduous challenge when they had children; raising a stubborn young girl amongst three mischievous sons. Naturally, the girl would grow to measure her actions against her brothers’ and compare her privileges with theirs, the only siblings she had, whether her parents liked it or not. Now you can imagine how frustrated an average Pakistani father would be by a daughter that wants to make her own rules and who has a self-worth equivalent to an average Pakistani boy’s ego. However, my father is not the average Pakistani father. He grew up like I did, the middle child ...

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To my three beautiful children, this Father’s Day, please forgive me

Dear Muhammad, Maryam and Zaynab, Life is a system of cycles. One event or historical phenomenon, which takes place, tends to repeat itself albeit after numerous years. Personal histories and legacies are all the same. As we grow up, we love our parents (biological or otherwise) when we are young. This idealism gives way to rebellion once, we as children, start to explore the world around us and subsequently discover boundaries in the shape of rules and limitations set by our parents. The rebellion may or may not increase in each individual case but it is there to some extent. This rebellion stabilises when we are ...

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While a new day yields a new molester, our girls are still told it’s their fault

“It was my first day at work. I covered my head like a good Muslim, didn’t speak to the opposite gender unnecessarily, still somehow by the time I returned home, I had a few extremely vulgar text messages from unidentified numbers on my mobile. It shocked me because only a few family members had my new mobile number and I was 100% certain that it wasn’t a coincidence to receive such messages on my first day at work. I was frightened at the thought of someone at this new workplace having such a perception of me. That someone must have assumed I am ...

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Islamabad’s food is terrible, and posh restaurants cannot fix that

The people of Islamabad are deprived of good food, and as a Rawalpindi-based critic, I promise not to take too much pleasure in this declaration. We are all aware of our guests from Lahore, our undisputed food capital, being notoriously hard to impress with nearly any kind of food found in Islamabad. Islamabad is a young city, and has not had time to evolve its own unique cuisine and celebrated eateries as many other cities like Karachi, Multan, and Rawalpindi have done in the last 100 years or more. Islamabad, true to its modern self, has wholeheartedly adopted the global trend of ‘culinary gimmickry’. We are impressed by burgers ...

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We need to teach our children ‘how’ to think rather than ‘what’ to think

Education, much like everything else in the field of human knowledge, is rooted to philosophy. The curriculum texts, teaching pedagogies and school structures all reflect a particular philosophical premise. Be it the idealist school or the existentialist one, the pragmatist theorists or those who seek to use education for social change in the critical paradigm, education is about ‘wide-awakeness’. Today in education, a crucial issue facing us is the need to find ways of educating young persons to sensitivity, potency, social consciousness and a healthy citizenship ethos. In my journey so far as a teacher, I have been particularly impressed with three schools of philosophy: the idealist, pragmatist, ...

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If you want to survive in Pakistan, don’t stop at the red light!

A few years back, I stopped at a red light and my car was hit in the rear by a taxi driver. A crowd soon gathered and a traffic policeman came over and blamed me for the accident. “You’re not supposed to stop at traffic signals, even if the light is red,” he said. “You should slow down, look left and right and go across without getting hit, or hitting another car.” “But what about the traffic rules?” I protested. He laughed contemptuously. “Rules are made to be broken. If everyone followed the rules, the country would collapse.” By this time, the crowd was baying for ...

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