I’m sorry, but I do not blame Shakeela for drowning her baby

It was an ordinary Tuesday evening and I was putting my three-year-old to bed, praying that her fever does not relapse and that she feels well enough to go to school the next morning. As I watched her gently fall asleep, I felt guilty for scolding her earlier in the day. I love her dearly, of course, but I too am human and have not been sleeping particularly well since the past week because she has been sick. I planned on taking advantage of the Kashmir Day holiday to sleep in late, but her tantrums spoiled all such plans. I took a deep ...

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Drone attacks, Pakistan and its love-hate relationship with the US: In conversation with Noam Chomsky

“Professor Noam Chomsky doesn’t do documentary interviews anymore.” The office assistant told me in her soft tone, pronouncing the alphabet R in a typical Boston accent. She added that they have 500 interview requests already. “Listen. You tell him that I am his biggest fan, and if there is one person out of the 501 who deserves to meet with him, it is me,” I retorted. She laughed and before hanging up the phone said, “Alright, I will tell him exactly that.” Soon after, I received an email from Professor Chomsky’s office confirming the exact date and time of the meeting. Immediately, I flew to Boston ...

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#TherapistDiaries: The dilemma of being in the closet in Pakistan

I was recently discussing with a patient about how in our culture we do not like to disappoint our parents and would put up with any unreasonable demands and rules just to escape an irrational guilt of hiding something from them or revealing our true selves. This overwhelming guilt or anxiety is experienced even in the most casual rules they set early on in our lives regarding food, friends, religion and so on. For instance, in our society, a 30-plus working adult would rarely challenge these irrational rules and if they do, they carry a great amount of guilt in ...

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From empowered to oppressed: Today’s treatment of women contradict our Islamic teachings

The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was considered the greatest embodiment of the principles laid out by Allah (SWT) in the Holy Quran, and he set the finest example for his followers. Hence, the best way to appreciate how Islam empowers women is by observing the conduct of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) towards women. Let us start with a hypothetical question for all the men: suppose you are in your 20s and you received a proposal of marriage from a widowed woman who is more than 10 years older than you, and who coincidentally also happens to be your employer. With ...

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“I was going home after 71 years”: The emotional ‘homecoming’ of an Indian in Pakistan

“I am going home… after 71 years.” I mumbled something along those lines to passengers sitting beside me, while taking a flight from Karachi to Islamabad on Christmas morning. Late in October, a friend of mine who is like an elder brother and a bitter critic of Indian state policies, asked me for my passport. I quickly took some pictures and sent it over to him. A week later, he sent me an affidavit with an invitation to his daughter’s wedding in Karachi that was to be held in late December. And that is how my journey of going home began. It is ...

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#TherapistDiaries: Anxiety, depression and suicide – the realities of forced marriages

She was barely 19 at the time. She sat on a silver throne decorated with floral arrangements with a posture similar to that of a sacrificial being. My emotions in this moment were as artificial as the floral arrangements. I looked over at the 50-year-old man sitting beside her, and could no longer pretend to be happy. Because that’s when it registered – she was getting married to this man. All of a sudden, my conversations with this girl, with whom I had played games throughout my childhood, came rushing to my mind. I also recalled what she had told me just a ...

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The flaws in our education: Why are Pakistani students struggling with mathematics?

Mathematics is perhaps the most powerful instrument of knowledge in the world. History proves that all ancient civilisations emphasised the importance of maths, and it is the one science that seeks to improve one’s ability to perceive and think. Maths may not help teach us how to love someone or how to forgive an enemy, but it gives us reason to hope that every problem must have a reasonable solution. Consequently, maths plays an important role in the development of countries because of its ability to penetrate into all sorts of human affairs, whether social or economic. Students are often weak in maths as ...

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The chai connection: What is it about chai that brings us together?

I see the world in black and white. I see only two types of people: ones who drink chai and ones who don’t. There can be other categories of course, but for me, chai trumps everything else. This begs the question of why chai is such a fundamental part of our culture? In fact, I ask myself why chai is something that never leaves my mind. Chai is in fact so important to me that I ended up going on a photography spree just to analyse the particulars of chai-drinking. Where does a Lahori go to answer questions regarding culture? Naturally, I ...

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Surviving suicide: My journey of grief and bipolar disorder

People most commonly associate suicide with depression, but it’s a misconception that a person can only feel suicidal when they are extremely sad. The first time I was ever suicidal, it was because I was depressed. For days, I drowned myself in tears, praying that either God would take my life or I work up the courage to take it myself. During the moments that I didn’t waste on prayers for death, I simply then switched gears and prayed for mania. I had never experienced mania before, but to my understanding, it was supposed to make me feel happy, energetic and most ...

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What does your cell phone cover say about you?

Back when cell phones were not ‘smart’, they actually had bodies, personalities and opinions. Similar to how Instagram now perpetuates the notion that the ideal human body must be perfect – slim and smart – phones too seem to have embodied these ideologies. For humans, looking their best is nowadays far more important than how they think, act or what they accomplish. Similarly for phones, all that matters is whether they are smart and good-looking. Consequently, most phones nowadays are smart and they all look the same, like models on a Paris runway. That being said, I’m not here to body ...

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