Stories published in August, 2011

Libya — beginning of the end

As the gunfire reaches Colonel Qaddafi’s compound, it seems as though ‘the end is near’ for the longest serving dictator in the modern world. However, since neither was this a Libyan-led nor a Libyan-owned war, one may argue that this is only just the beginning of the end. When we might get to see Qaddafi creep out of his compound or get killed in the process cannot be foretold; however the situation in Libya does seem to be more fluid and ‘complacency,’ a by-product of winning the war, may get the better of everyone. As his regime fades into the background ...

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Slavery: constitutionally forbidden, socially accepted

On Friday, 11 bonded labourers were freed from a brick kiln in the outskirts of Islamabad. They had been crowded into squalid pens and were forced to live in inhuman conditions which earned them a princely sum of Rs 300 per week. That’s Rs43 per day. That’s less than many of us spend to get to work.  That’s less than the price of a plate of daal chawal. That’s less than a human being needs to survive. Slavery is abhorable, but in Pakistan, it is also an unavoidable fact of life. Or is it? How often do you hear anyone praising slavery? ...

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Dil Dil Pakistan

My nephew living abroad is a hip-hop fan, who has hardly listened to Pakistani music, but he knows “Dil Dil Pakistan” — a song that even I grew up listening to. That’s the transcendence of what I believe is Pakistan’s most favourite patriotic number.  Its journey from generation to generation is what makes it different from many other patriotic numbers that turned into instant hits, but faded away after some time. So what is it about “Dil Dil Pakistan” that makes it such a classic? Russian thinker Leo Tolstoy found patriotism both stupid and immoral, promoting one’s own country as the ...

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Jinnah, minorities and cake

After four years of celebrating Pakistan’s Independence Day on foreign soil, I finally had the opportunity to celebrate the 14th of August in Pakistan. As with most celebrations in Pakistan, this celebration too inadvertently revolved around food. On this momentous occasion, one of my cousins baked a cake that looked like the Pakistani flag. As I was staring at the appetizing green and white cake, I was reminded of a fact that my teacher once told me of how the green in the flag represented the Muslims in Pakistan, and the white the non-Muslims. I smirked to myself and thought ...

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The five things Pakistanis need to stop complaining about and embrace

Growing up in Karachi, I was just another average teenager. I went to school in the morning, I would play cricket in the afternoon, play some more cricket in the evening, and then round the day off with a good book. Ok, well, maybe the last part doesn’t fit in there, but you get the point. Like any other teenager, I would pride myself on my ability to talk and talk some more on pretty much any given topic. While I was more than eager to adorn my house with the Pakistani flag come August 14th, I was equally ...

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Lessons for Ramazan

Ramazan is a month that is big on beginnings and ends. We anticipate the birth of a new moon and then we watch the glowing crescent orb slowly dissolve as the nights pass. After our final sip of water in the morning, begins a period of anticipation, waiting for the sun to kiss the horizon, thereby signaling the end of our fast. In this holy month of worship, patience, and curbing of all desires, I’m sure we’ve all spent a sizeable chunk of time hungrily reflecting. Here’s what I’ve come up with. Naturally, some reflections seemed revolutionary, while in the ...

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TV hypocrisy: Conveniently religious

The newfound piety of morning show hosts and other television anchors during Ramazan is annoying, to say the least. Why have female anchors started covering their heads in the ‘spirit of the holy month’? Considering that many of these hosts only gingerly place veils on their heads (probably to prevent their backcombed hairdos from getting ruined), this effort at modesty appears rather contrived. Also, why have singers and entertainers suddenly transformed into naat khwaans, who solemnly give spiritual advice and efficiently relay religious maxims? I fail to understand why Ramazan must precipitate such ostensible religiosity on Urdu television every year. The ...

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Islamabad diaries : Get over your amnesia, remember the 90’s

As a recent transplant from Karachi I invariably have to try and answer what is becoming everyone’s favourite question: just what is happening in Karachi. I furrow my brow, put on my best serious expression and, with lots of emphasis, say, “Things are really bad down there.” The problem is that I have no clue about what is happening in Karachi and neither, it seems, does anyone in Islamabad who wields any kind of power. Talk in recent days has centred on deploying the army to Karachi, a strategy that is only seriously being considered by those who have amnesia and no ...

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Fat people have feelings too!

It has been observed that obese individuals are the last people on Earth you can make fun of without a strong legal or social backlash. I concur with that observation. Having a weight problem myself, I understand what it’s like to be at constant war with one’s own physical form. My day starts with me standing in front of the mirror, and staring at a round face, wearing an expression of sheer disappointment. I suck in my tummy hoping that it improves the way I look. It does not. On my way to my university, I can sense hundreds of judgmental ...

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Fasting in America

Ever wonder what Ramazan is like in America, with 14-hour long fasts, and store-bought parathas? Here are the three things on my mind this Ramazan, and what I miss most about home: 1. Mothers From the first sehri of the first roza to the final iftaar before Eid, I see my mother everywhere. As a child, I always woke up to my mother’s soft nudge an hour before sunrise. I vividly remember avoiding the cold tiles of the kitchen floor by wearing bright, layered socks, with Mama shouting in the background, “put on your shoes, you’re going to get sick!” Mama embraced the schedule ...

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