Stories published in July, 2011

Inside Africa: Why the Indus is longer than the Nile (for some Pakistanis)

Pakistani expats are a strange breed. Their passports are as green as yours and mine but something still sets them apart: their perceptions. Their comparisons between Pakistan and their country of residence are more objective and less cutting. Expats are essentially loners, travellers permanently stuck in places, who still attend functions thrown by the Pakistani embassy, but speak the local language more than Urdu. They’re not amusingly confused like American desis and they won’t bring you back gifts from airport duty shops like your Dubai cousins. The only thing they’re good for, in fact what they’re best at, is breaking ...

Read Full Post

Karachi violence: Murder on their mind

Several decades ago I read in an issue of the Time magazine about a murder in the woods somewhere probably in Ireland that frightened the song birds into silence. For nearly ten years no bird was heard chirping in the forest. For some days now I have been haunted by the report which I mentioned in a column in the good old days. When I visit Lawrence Gardens, the city’s central park, in the morning the thought that the birds continue to sing despite the many murders all around us is disturbing. Could it be that the birds here have grown ...

Read Full Post

Drones at the science fair

I see that generally people are not happy with the situation in the country, especially with what those at the helm of affairs are doing. One may easily notice that every second SMS is based on an effort to ridicule some of our “statesmen” and when the senders of these SMSs cannot name these Lord Voldemorts they use the terms like “you-know-who”, as done in Harry Potter. But in the sea of all this hopelessness we have been thrown into by these ‘civil and military’ parasites, there are some islands of hope. Recently, one happened to come across some innovations and ...

Read Full Post

Do Facebook friendships mean anything at all?

OK, let’s accept it. We are all addicted to social networking sites, especially Facebook, in one way or another. Social networking has not only altered the way we live, it has also changed our relationships and interactions with each other. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Foursquare, Yahoo 360 and many other social networking sites are the projectors of our self image and define our relationships. The pages we ‘like’, the groups we join, our activities and interests, the thoughts we choose to share on Facebook – all work to make us a part of a subculture that is still in its infancy, ...

Read Full Post

How my driver said yes to contraception

My driver, Qasim, beamed at me in our car’s rear-view mirror. “Kara liya! Hum nay baccha band kara liya! Main nay apni biwi ka bachadaani operation say nikalwa liya” (We did it! We got permanent contraception! I got my wife to get an operation to get her uterus removed). I beamed back – the two of us, partners in glory. Strange conversation with a driver indeed. I settled in to my seat and thought back over the past few years. My mother was the first one to tell me about Qasim’s wife – pregnant with their eighth child, her listlessness and apathy had scared ...

Read Full Post

Delhi belly: Bollywood’s successful attempt at adult humour

Much has been said about the expletive filled language used in Delhi Belly. However, there are very few films which make you cringe with delight, and this movie happens to be one of them. In Aamir Khan Productions’ latest venture we meet three roommates, living in the filthiest bachelor pad ever in Delhi: 1. We have journalist Taashi (Imran Khan), who is stuck in limbo and has to decide whether he really wants to marry his annoyingly shrill OCD airhostess girlfriend Sonia (Shenaz Treasury) and sought after by his sexy co-worker Menaka (Poorna Jagganathan). 2. Photojournalist Nitin (Kunal Roy Kapoor) who suffers one ...

Read Full Post

10 things I learnt as an intern

At some companies ‘intern’ is just a word for ‘sastay mazdoor’ or cheap labour. So  interns, you should be glad if you’re given some decent work to do. Or else, you might have to go pick up pastries from the bakery for a newly promoted employee. Here are a few facts I learned during my internship 1. The photocopier is your best friend. 2. Cafeteria food will always taste bland and yet there will be a mad dash for biryani every Friday. 3. While interning, nine to five will be the only time you will get to do your home work, assignments and ...

Read Full Post

Islamabad Diary: Socialite ambassador and diplospeak

The US embassy held a preview performance of the Neil Simon play ‘The Odd Couple’ last week and made sure that there would be no couples, odd or otherwise. The invitation for the play, which was directed by the US cultural attaché and featured an inaugural speech by Ambassador Cameron Munter, expressly forbade any plus-ones. Predictably enough, Munter had lots of fun comparing the title of the play to the relationship between Pakistan and the US. Munter’s other big outing for the week was the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the opening of the Hardees’ fast-food restaurant near Jinnah Super Market. The ...

Read Full Post

An obsolete colonial relic

I do not trust the commissionerate system or the commissioner. I am not saying I trusted the elected representatives either – I’m Pakistani, I don’t trust anyone. But at least I knew where they came from. We knew which ones would steal our taxes and which would build our flyovers. For the good people of Sindh, this means that the image of Syed Mustafa Kamal valiantly trying to rescue people trapped under a bridge will be a mere memory. The man of the people, by the people, for the people is to be replaced by a faceless Muhammad Hussein Syed appointed by ...

Read Full Post

The cheeky little roseboys!

A majority of us have experienced children on the streets of Karachi, pestering us to buy things from them. They seem to attack us in herds from the moment we step out of a shop or a restaurant. You say you are not interested, but they try their luck over and over again. My visit to Pakistan a few summers ago was an eye-opener. Instead of the usual ‘Baji ek lay lo’ approach, they were using English to target locals and foreigners. While shopping in Defence, I was approached by a boy who tried to sell me a rose. I tried ...

Read Full Post