Stories published in February, 2014

Ladies, don’t opt for abortions!

Florynce R Kennedy once said, “If men could get pregnant, abortion would have been a sacrament.” My maid refuses to take any birth control measures because her husband considers them to be a ‘yahoodi saazish’ (Jewish conspiracy) to sterilise the ‘flourishing’ Pakistani nation – just like the superstitions concerning polio drops. However, she doesn’t mind going to the local dai to get an abortion – illegally of course. When I admonish her and tell her that she will get herself killed, she replies, “Baji aap ko kia pata… woh bari tajrabakar hai. Bohat aurtain aati hain us ke paas aur bus kuch ke ilawah kabhi koi mari nahi hai.” (Ma’am ...

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Inside Llewyn Davis: A brilliant psychological voyage

After the success of their big budget western True Grit in 2010 and the pseudo-biblical dark comedy A Serious Man in 2009, the Coen Brothers have now released a surprisingly low-key film. In fact, the likes of Inside Llewyn Davis are something that we have not seen from them since Fargo, released almost 20 years ago in 1996. Why did the Coen Brothers feel the need to go back to the basics of storytelling and small-scale production? Whatever their reason was, they have managed to produce a marvellous rendition of the 60s American country music scene when every folk musician was trying to make his mark during the early years of country music ...

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Down memory lane: Peace talks have never been ‘peaceful’

“The Romans never allowed a trouble spot to remain simply to avoid going to war over it, because they knew that wars don’t just go away, they are only postponed to someone else’s advantage.” These wise words were spoken by Niccolò Machiavelli – the Italian historian, politician, diplomat, philosopher, humanist and writer based in Florence during the Renaissance. According to historical documents, when the Jews revolted against the Roman Empire inspired by ‘religious fervour’, the Romans responded with an intensity rarely witnessed in ancient history. The campaign against the uprising reached its final stage in AD72 in the province of Judaea with the Romans advancing ...

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Flappy Bird: The next Angry Birds?

Unless one is living under an omnipresent rock these days, any tech-savvy or a casual mobile gaming enthusiast with internet access would have heard about this new mobile game for Android and iOS called Flappy Bird. Even though it is touted as the ‘next Angry Birds’ by some, what defies sheer logic and common sense is the prevalent spread of this game on both dominant mobile platforms app stores, iOS Appstore  for iPhone users and Google Play for Android users. It is painstakingly frustrating and difficult, that too is putting it mildly at best, coupled with retro late 80’s Marioesque and Nintendo graphics to boot. Suffice to say, ...

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Metro bus service in Rawalpindi and Islamabad: A blessing or a curse?

The Punjab cabinet approved the extension of the metro bus service to the twin cities of Rawalpindi-Islamabad in its recent meeting. When the PML-N won the elections back in May 2013, I had hoped that this was one election promise that they wouldn’t fulfil since the intended goal can be achieved via several alternative solutions. However, I guess since they couldn’t deliver on their electoral promise of ending power outages in six months, he has decided to give the twin cities a metro bus service. Politics aside, it makes little sense to have a mega project like the metro bus in Rawalpindi-Islamabad. According to ...

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Lessons from a halaqa in the US: There is more to Islam than we ‘think’

A couple of months ago, I was invited to attend a halaqa (Arabic for group study) at a university in the US where I was a visiting medical student for my elective. The halaqa had been organised by the Muslim Student Association (MSA) of the university. I was curious to attend it for I had never been to one before. The concept seemed a bit unusual; it was not supposed to be like a dars, a lecture on any Islamic topic, but more of an open discussion. Moreover, the discussion was to be held under the supervision of a mentor who had the proper knowledge ...

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A woman’s perspective: Pakistan must not negotiate!

As a woman, you grow up under the shadow of men. You look up to them to make important decisions for you. Ranging from how you have to eat and address your peers to what you should be studying, who you should be marrying, how to protect your body, your offspring, what’s the appropriate time for you to hang up the phone to how fragile your reputation is in a patriarchal society such as ours. Your self- worth becomes a bit of a joke – a paradox and a concept that Pakistani women, quite obviously, are still struggling with. Are we ...

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Pervez Musharraf: Defending a patriot from cowards and liars

Many people like to ask me questions about why I support former president Pervez Musharraf. As part of the questions, they like to pepper in the misinformation that the Pakistani media has presented to the public for consumption. During one such discussion on Facebook, I was asked the following: The question cum comment “According to you, Khalid Muhammad, what were the positives and negatives of Musharraf’s tenure? People consider him to be the reason for drones, missing people (Aafia Siddiqui), Bugti murder case, Lal Masjid, all that happened to Pakistan after 9/11 (and) the current shortfall of electricity and gas. Suicide bombing took ...

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Do you know where ‘chai’ came from?

The food we eat today is influenced by several cultures. I learned this after reading the highly informative book called Curry: A tale of Cooks and Conquerors by Lizzie Collingham. The historical references in this book are elaborate and provide an insight into our cuisine. Take spices for instance. Isn’t it almost impossible to fathom the idea of Pakistani and Indian cuisine without the use of different types of spices? But before the Portuguese entered Goa, our part of the world had never seen a chilli. And when the Europeans travelled to India, their aim was to increase trade, but as a result of this trade, new ...

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The right to write: Denied!

Journalism – a profession of disseminating news – has attained the status of an endangered profession globally. Incidents of violence and state sponsored prosecution attempts against journalists have become a de jure way of life for many. Prosecution and persecution to some degree, comes with the territory, if you will. This is unfortunate considering the burden that falls on a journalist’s shoulders. On January 29, 2014, there were several news stories of the Egyptian government’s decision to file charges against 20 journalists working with Al Jazeera on the pretext of risking national security. In my opinion, suppressing the voice of one journalist is akin to suppressing the ...

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