Stories about stereotype

Why are husbands generally so unromantic?

He comes from the office, and has not brought flowers or any small gift for her. She smiles quite genuinely and gets a half-hearted and fake smile in return. Once he is settled, instead of spending time with his wife, he sits in front of the TV and starts switching channels. He seems so engrossed in the TV that his wife has to call him several times to even evoke a mundane response like “hmmm”. After managing to evoke a response, she tries to stir up a conversation and fails. She asks a question she has asked a million times ...

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KGS isn’t perfect but it isn’t quite as bad as you may think either

To some, Karachi Grammar School (KGS) is a name as synonymous with snobby elitism as it is with academic prestige to others. On the one hand, those enrolled in the school make us proud with an impressive list of notable alumni and achievements, in both national and international competitions. The same students also warrant spite for their reputation of being overly westernised, entitled and completely out of touch with the society in which they live. But the question is, how did it get to this? To understand that, we have to go back to colonial India in 1847, when the school was first ...

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In Italy, I was asked why I was not wearing a Burqa

It was our last day in Rome. My friend and I decided to spend it at our two favourite places in the city – Piazza Navona and the Trevi Fontana. It was almost noon on a pleasant day with the brilliant autumn sunshine warming the cobble-stoned square and illuminating the magnificent Roman sculptures in the centre of the piazza (city square in Italian). It was as if both of us wanted to take a part of Rome away with us in our hearts as we sat quietly on the stone bench simply absorbing the relaxed Italian life around us. I had my camera ...

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What happened to being just ‘Pakistani’?

Today, my country, Pakistan is more divided than the subcontinent was in the 1960s amongst Hindus and Muslims. Today, people call themselves Balochis, Punjabis, Pashtuns and Sindhis instead of just Pakistanis; they put their provincial ethnicity before their nationality. People consider people from other provinces – who speak different languages -as their enemies; they forget that they all belong to the same country! Pakistanis blame the government for all their problems, but they refuse to consider their own wrong doings. They litter and then they complain about how dirty the city is. They bribe the police officers and then complain about the police force being corrupt. They carry guns and ...

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Of cricket and Slims in the US

On September 30, Pakistan will play against India in a cricket match. As in any other life defining event such that this will be, I will spend my Sunday glued firmly to the television and dressed as if everything green and white in my cupboard threw up on me. I shall fight over the bowl of popcorn or chips passed along the row of friends as we alternate between offering shukranay ki namaaz every time Pakistan hits a six, and yelling slurs at the Indian team, everything from their hair to how they bat. Except for the fact that I’m not actually in ...

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‘Pack-is-tan’ stereotypes in the US

When I was 12-years-old, I visited my aunt in the US. During this trip, I tagged along with my cousin, who is barely older than me, to participate in a very American pastime: we hit the mall. There, we bumped into his desi American friend and I was introduced as the cousin from Pakistan. His friend turned to me and said, “Aap ko angrezi ata bhi hai? (Do you even know how to speak English?)” He enunciated every word loudly, as if I were deaf. I was 12, and this made me bristle with anger. “I’m not stupid,” I replied very stupidly. The boy ...

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No homosexuality in Pakistan, and other lies

While visiting Karachi University a few months back for a fieldwork assignment, I had a rather peculiar run-in with a group of clinical psychologists. All of them were involved in clinical and rehabilitative projects and had recently banded together to start a small forum to teach people aspiring to enter mental health and also to disseminate specialised information among professionals. They felt that such knowledge was largely disaggregated in Pakistan.  This meeting was atypical for me since it was one of my first encounters with a group of well educated and professionally active psychologists who wanted to inject some vigour into the ...

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Some generalisations about the French just aren’t true

Before I left for Paris this January, a horde of advice was thrown at me from aunts, uncles, cousins, friends – almost everyone had an opinion on how I should handle living in France. I got all sorts of cautionary remarks such as: “Un se ziada dosti mat kerna, boht racist hain.” (Don’t be too friendly with them – they are very racist) I was repeatedly warned about the language barrier, and how the French are very arrogant about their language. A lot of friends advised me to learn some basic French before I left. “The French are very unfriendly and they won’t ...

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Fresh Off the Boat: Why shouldn’t I like curry?

Brown:the colour I was assigned once in Canada. Never in a million years had I imagined that I would be considered a colour just like the black, yellow, white, peach and pink people around me. If we get deep down into it though, just to set the facts straight, I am not brown. I am a darker variation of ochre. No, I did not come here on a boat nor do I ride camels as a means of transportation in Pakistan unless it’s a family outing at Sea View beach, where camel rides are forms of entertainment.  Yet, they insist on ...

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Profiling and personal fatwas

We, Pakistanis, are an opinionated lot -that much is certain. But, when criticism turns in to censure then soon enough we see personal fatwa machines, depicting yet another poor prognostic sign for Pakistan. Muslim-Americans fume at being profiled and singled out for scrutiny at airports, but happily join the melee of labeling people based on appearances – a hijabi is purity incarnate and only the morally corrupt wear shorts, don’t you know? Prejudices are transmitted and bolstered by parents and families, and a good number of unfortunate people go through life not examining the outlandish mindset, let alone the fact that they ...

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