Stories published in June, 2017

96 children from three fathers because birth control is a “heinous sin” – do you understand what’s happening, Pakistan?

When I read about Gulzar Khan, Mastan Khan Wazir and Jan Mohammed, the three Pakistanis that fathered 96 children, I was reminded of a man in our neighbourhood who had 17 children (from one wife) in the 1960s. Most men in those days had six children, though one sometimes did come across couples with 10 or 11. In fact, I know a few even today who have nine or 10 offspring. Now these are not average illiterate Pakistanis. Some of them are engineers and doctors; one is a chartered accountant, while the rest are executives in banks and offices. If you ask them why ...

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In Ramazan, the piety curtain falls and the ratings go up, but not for Mansha Pasha

Aah, Ramazan. Shaan-e-Ramazan. Ehtram-e-Ramazan. Naimat-e-Ramazan. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Hold your horses. Because in few minutes it will be, “Moti moti auntiyaan kidhar hain?”  (Where are all the fat aunties?) “Aam khaye ga aam?”  (Do you want to eat mango?) And my personal most favourite, “Who are you to question Jinnah?” Pakistani television shows during Ramazan are complete madness. And anyone who has had the displeasure of watching these shows would agree that each year they try to outdo their own madness and each year they succeed. From giving away children to planes, Aamir Liaquat is on some kind of unreal dare to prove that shock value generates money. Forget ethics or standards of ...

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Impress your guests this Eid with these scrumptious yet easy mini kebab rolls, achari chicken, mango sawaiyan and ginger peach drink!

For a month that was perceived to be extremely slow, Ramazan sure flew by. The one Eid I got to celebrate in the UK was surely a memorable one. Our desi crew went to the campus mosque, offered prayers, then headed back to the dorms where we all had doodh patti (milk-based tea). Later on, we all dressed up in our desi attire and went to watch Salman Khan’s Kick (not a memory I cherish). Afterwards, we headed to Akbar’s for some good old desi splendour. It’s funny and maybe it’s only me, but Eid abroad feels more like Eid. I still have not been able to pinpoint exactly how or why, but ...

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A victory for Pakistan does not necessarily mean a loss for India

Ever since I can remember becoming zee shaoor (in possession of one’s full mental capacity), my household has been a hard core, absolutely bonkers, completely ridiculous, and rowdy cricket fan. It runs in the genes, so they tell me. My father often tells me how my paternal great grandfather used to listen to the English commentary of cricket matches on the radio in the 50s, where he was one of the few individuals in my rural hometown of Hala, Sindh, to own a radio. English commentary? Rural Sindh? 50s? What am I saying? But yes, he had received a scholarship of Rs5 before the Partition from the ...

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What better way of diverting attention from Donald Trump than by blaming Pakistan for all the ills of the world?

The world awoke earlier this week to another one of Donald Trump’s controversial insinuations. I call this an insinuation because the American president didn’t make any official statement himself, but had senior members of his staff hint at the possibility of his administration “hardening the line” against Pakistan. The revelation made to Reuters comes across as nothing new. Pick up any article printed in any paper from any country about the US-Pakistan relationship and you will find the exact same content, phrases, threats and arguments. It usually revolves around the US lamenting that Pakistan is not doing enough and is in cahoots with militant groups that are bent upon hampering the ...

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Why do I have to pretend to fast when my “monthly friend” is visiting?

I sit in the room at the end of the hallway. The door is closed. My head is bent. I am waiting to be called. I was six-years-old. I stood on the balcony with my mother, father and cousin as we tried to spot the chaand that would symbolise the start of Ramazan. I was excited. I was thrilled; there was nothing I wanted more than to fast for the entire month. I started singing, “Ramazan ke rozay aye, hum roza rakhna chahain!” (The month of fasting is here, and we wish to fast!) My cousin shared the same enthusiasm; he got up and began singing along with me. ...

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Victoria and Abdul: An enthralling story of Victorian taboos and secrets of love, race and class

In most biographical dramas, the notion of adaptation is never fully exercised; it is often an amalgamation of history, art, rhetoric and entertainment. Every once in a while, filmmakers craft their historical and biographical pieces very critically; filtering factual bits and pieces to create rigorous dramatic composition that eventually gives superlative performances. For instance, Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List, Roman Polanski’s Pianist, Tom Hooper’s The King’s Speech, Marc Forster’s Finding Neverland, Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, James Mangold’s Walk the Line, and Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor. Dangerous Liaisons (1988), The Grifters (1990) and The Queen (2006) famed English director Stephen Frears’ freshest project is also a carefully crafted realistic biographical drama about the ...

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Dear Rishi Kapoor, before pointing the “terrorism” finger at Pakistan, please take a look at your prime minister, army and country

Dear Rishi Kapoor, As a Pakistani, I am not ashamed to admit that I have grown up watching Bollywood movies, I have been entertained, and I have also questioned the integrity of the industry where ageing actors such as yourself would still get lead roles as heroes. Maybe it reflects the Indian mindset, maybe not. However, do you see how such a small detail can have such a lasting impression?  One of my favourite songs is ‘Dil lene Ki Rut Aye’, with you and Madhuri Dixit (an amazing actress and definitely one of a kind). Moving on, this is not about your career or acting abilities, rather it’s about ...

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Raabta fails to connect with viewers with its nauseatingly bad ‘been there, done that’ story

It is extremely amusing when movies have ridiculously high levels of disconnection with the audience, especially when its title and tagline state the opposite. Raabta, the latest punar-janam (rebirth) absurdity to come out of Bollywood, is so shamelessly dedicated to its primary theme of reincarnation that it doesn’t even mind taking elements already used in a vast number of movies to fill its 150-minute long run time. It has an uncanny similarity to the absurd concoction of Befikre, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset (in reference to a fledgling romance in an exotic European locale). From the opening parts right down to the cringe-worthy climax ripped off from Titanic, and a weird combination ...

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Remembering the king of qawwali: This world is a hollow and soulless place without you, Amjad Sabri

This Ramazan, we witnessed emptiness on our TV screens. You could just tell something was missing, and that hollowness is because of Amjad Sabri’s untimely and heartbreaking death last year. His regular appearances on TV helped him popularise his Sufi renditions. Sabri changed the face of qawwali, devotional music, and other Sufi renditions permanently. He spent his life singing praises of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), continuing a centuries-long tradition of musical veneration up until his assassination. He was a sincere performer and perfected the art of holding his audiences’ attention, a skill that is rare in today’s world. He had an unmatched ability to establish and maintain a genuine connection with ...

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