Stories published in February, 2014

Am I a ‘ganwaar’ if I speak in Punjabi?

Over the last few weeks, I have been meeting children from different parts of Punjab. They ranged in age between three and five years and included children of my friends and extended family. I was pleasantly surprised to hear these kids speaking in Punjabi. Some of the phrases that I recall hearing them use are, “Kithay chalay o?” (Where are you off to?) “Aa ki aey?” (What is this?) “Ki karde paye o?” (What are you doing?) Punjabi is the most widely spoken language across Pakistan. However, from what I have seen, most of the people in Punjab – especially those living in the urban centres – do ...

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Umar Akmal: A great player but a bitter citizen?

Umar Akmal became the subject of much debate because of his recent run-in with the police. He violated traffic rules by going through a red light and when stopped by the police, he tried to bully the traffic warden by flaunting his stature of being an international sportsman. Yes, he is a talented player but in this one incident, he proved himself to be a careless and nasty citizen. As a result of his actions, Akmal has been booked under Sections 186, 279 and 353 of the Pakistan Penal Code. According to police reports, the 23-year-old Akmal did not stop at a traffic signal in ...

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Rahul Gandhi versus Bilawal Bhutto: Who is the better politician?

Bhuttosim and Nehruism–Gandhism share some political traits that have blended the mainstream politics of India and Pakistan for quite a while now. The common one amongst them is, unfortunately, the politics of sacrifice. The Bhuttos and the Gandhis have given up and surrendered their lives in the South Asian region to preserve democratic norms and traditions. During ‘Operation Blue Star’, Indira Gandhi, the third prime minister and the first female premier of India, was assassinated. Her son, Rajiv Gandhi, the sixth prime minister of India, also died in a well-plotted bomb blast while campaigning in Tamil Nadu. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (R) and Indira ...

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10 ‘argh’ moments with a Pakistani tailor

You’re a Pakistani and you’ve never made a trip to the tailor? I find that hard to believe. Whether it’s a job interview or a high school farewell party, tailors are the ones who can make every little occasion of a typical Pakistani woman’s life either completely miserable or an absolute fairytale. You stand in front of a full-length mirror and study your newly stitched dress like a hawk. You look at the loose side fittings and feel aghast. The long, loosely dangling sleeves feel out of place. You swear to yourself that the deep neck you see in your reflection ...

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Don’t label me ‘Mohajir’

Being a first generation Mohajir might have felt like stepping into an exciting new territory full of adventures in reassertion of identity, a deeper assimilation into the national fabric and finding a voice in a country teeming with provincialism. However, as a second generation Mohajir reflecting over the three decades that have transpired since, it seems that these were nothing short of a fool’s dreams that at least I could have survived without. Objectively, I feel that having chased these dreams has actually left me more devoid in numerous avenues than empowered. Retrospectively, I find it hard to understand why we ...

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Maqbool Butt: Kashmir doesn’t want any of it, no Indian rulers and no Pakistani generals!

Kashmir is the epicentre of Pakistan’s foreign policy in the region. The state of Pakistan continues to take pride in portraying itself as the most prolific advocator of the freedom for Kashmiri people.  But the harsh reality is that the establishment of Pakistan is very selective and biased in portraying the freedom movement of Kashmir to the Pakistani masses. If you belong to the right-wing militia and equate freedom of Kashmir to annexation with Pakistan, only then will you be projected as a ‘freedom fighter’ and a ‘hero’ of Kashmir in Pakistan. Otherwise, your struggle and sacrifices for the freedom of Kashmir are going to ...

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Books, cooks, schnooks and more at the Karachi Literature Festival ’14

The Karachi Literature Festival inaugurated in 2010 and in five years has become the leading cultural event in Pakistan. A literary spectacle. I throng in with an assortment of school children, aging grandfathers and what seem to be ramp models only to run into four journalists lounging at a table and discussing media studies at a local university. The conversation is stimulating but my eye catches a glimpse of a well-known writer. A quick chat and she’s surrounded by eager little fans. Another breezes past and announces that she is moderating a book launch and needs to meet the guest, a budding ...

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Four things in Saudi that remind me of Pakistan

Al-Khobar is the most modern city in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). It is a bustling economic centre and is home to two of the biggest shopping malls in the kingdom. I have been living in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia for about a year now and interestingly, there are a few Pakistani-like things that I was surprised to find here. The majority of the city’s population consists of expats from the East and West alike but the latter is provided with a better standard of living in compounds. Since I am from Pakistan and I don’t live in a compound, I have ...

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A wedding game… a game no more

Fairy lights flicker near her bed and her face is aglow. Hues of green and yellow set the room ablaze but the fire is melancholic. These festivities are not of happiness, they’re the kind you see before a tortuous ritual. The fairy lights make my tears glisten and the mirror in front of me shows a woman aged beyond her years. I shake my head and continue to focus on the palm held out in front of me. I love applying henna. I love the patterns I can make, the unpredictability of my own mind is almost shattering. I know I’m ...

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Saying ‘That’s just the way it is in Pakistan’ is not going to help bring about change!

Jonathan Lethem is a renowned author and a fellow alumnus of Bennington College. In 2005, he advised the graduating class to ‘abandon Rome, if you think you can’. These words may just be the remedy to most of our problems. I’m a complainer – everything from poor driving etiquette to bad grammar irks me rather consistently. Over the past few months, I have muddled through offices in Islamabad looking for work. On a warm November morning, I put on a nice outfit and drove 40 minutes into town for an interview only to find a clueless receptionist on arrival, who informed me that ...

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