Stories about class

Chinese new year, leftover women and the custom to rent-a-boyfriend

Along with the dumplings and yee sang (raw fish salad deemed to bring about good luck; usually eaten on the seventh day of the festivities) the very coveted Chinese new year brings with itself the dilemmas of ‘shengnu’ – otherwise known as the ‘leftover women’ in china. Particularly, at this time of the year, being single is abhorrent for the shengnu’s parents as well as their extended family members. As disparaging as the word ‘leftover women’ sounds (read: ‘leftover food’) the All China Women’s Federation website has taken lengths to define it. Officially, shengnu is a term used for educated, rich and professional females who are single at the age ...

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Cyber love, Skype affairs and affection that kills

“Hi, would you like to become friends with me?” “Well, you are a stranger and I am not allowed to talk to strangers.“ “If we talk, we can get to know each other, then we won’t be strangers anymore.” And that is how it all begins… just some ‘harmless fun’. Stories of rape, blackmail and abuse have become quite frequent of late. These tales are not limited to any particular class or strata of our patriarchal society. To quote just one personal incident, my maid’s daughter, a girl who was hardly 17-years-old at the time, eloped with a relative’s acquaintance and was recovered from another city. The ...

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‘Abay yaar’, who betrayed Urdu?

There is a large number of modern, educated people in Pakistan that are blind to an entire area of literature, beginning with the first Urdu novel written by Deputy Nazir Ahmed back in the 1800s to anything written in the Urdu newspapers today. Not only are they completely oblivious, but this educated class also looks down upon the mother language and anything associated with it. To me, it seems that it’s not their fault. For every one of them, somewhere along the line, Urdu lost its value and respect in their eyes. This is how I experienced it. I remember very vividly the day I first used the word ...

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Rich people, doing rich things in poor Pakistan

It has been 65 years since Pakistan’s independence. During this period, Pakistan has seen a lot of transition. From Ayub Khan’s industrialisation to Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s socialisation, to Ziaul Haq’s Islamisation to Musharraf’s enlightened moderation and war on terror, we have had our fair share of ideologies and doctrines. Being a 22-year-old, average Pakistani guy who hasn’t seen most of these periodic transitions, I can naively (and safely) assume one similarity between all of them – the class divide in our society has remained unchanged throughout these six and a half decades. Every now and then I come across drawing room discussions where people, ...

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Mr PTI Chairman, we have a problem

Dear Mr Chairman (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf), Your meteoric rise as a powerful alternative political force in Pakistan was a reflection of the belief of the educated middle class in your slogan of ‘change’. For the first time, in recent history, our people saw a ray of hope against corruption, nepotism, plutocracy, injustice and entrenched hereditary politics. You mobilised the sceptic and the idealist, the old and the young, the religious and the liberal, the elite and the poor, by your strident call, ‘Tabdeeli aa nahi rahi, tabdeeli aa gayi hai’ (Change is not yet to come, change is already here). Men and women flocked to your jalsas in millions to ...

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ADHD: Why can’t you sit still kid?

While growing up, in school, did you ever notice that distracted, uninterested class mate, who would just not sit still, was annoyingly talkative and almost always failed in studies? Did you follow up as to what he managed to do later in his life? From my experience, most of these students either leave school at an early age to do something else or are sent abroad to study and work. Though some of them do very well later in life, a majority of them have problems in their social and financial matters soon after. Most of us are so busy in ...

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Thoughts on leaving Pakistan

The last time I put thoughts to paper was a year and a half ago, when my husband and I moved back to Pakistan from the US. It happened very suddenly, under very sad circumstances, and there we were – thrust into a disorienting new life, filling roles we had never anticipated, never wanted, inhabiting, once again, the cloistered, uninspiring world of Lahore’s privileged class. Much elapsed during the past 18 months in Lahore – much to rejoice and remember. Engagements, bridal showers, weddings. Baby showers, and babies! Farewell parties and welcome-back parties, birthday parties and Pictionary parties. PTI fever, elections, and Pakistan’s ...

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‘Halal’ education in Pakistan: When ‘pig’ in a nursery rhyme is taboo

As certain words and concepts in English are out of their range of experience, my students, coming from an underprivileged background, find it difficult to understand or accept them. With English nursery rhymes for example, since Jack was remiss enough to break his crown, the girls thought he and Jill were king and queen, until I explained otherwise.  Humpty Dumpty on the other hand continues to be viewed with deep distrust, however much I pleaded his cause. It isn’t, after all, normal to be an egg person. The resultant doubt of his being quite kosher creates a degree of disquiet. If ever Humpty wanders ...

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Another Ahmadi venture under fire: When will we learn?

Teacher to Akram and Aslam: You both failed the test because you were late for class. Why were you late? Akram: Sir, I was busy looking for my atthani which I lost on my way to school today. Teacher: What is your reason Aslam? Aslam: (Sheepishly): Sorry sir, but I was standing on top of his atthani, hiding it. Reading such knock-knock jokes on the last page of The Lahore is one of my fondest memories of growing up in Lahore. At the age of ten, honestly, I could not comprehend the literary, cultural and political content of the magazine. So of course, I was surprised to read that such an innocuous magazine ...

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Why do you hate me, mother?

Today: 14-year-old Sarah high-fives her best friends as the tenth grade final exam results are announced. Her grin could not have been wider when she hears her name being announced as the second place position holder. She could see flashbacks of the midnight alarms she had set all year round so that she could wake up to study and the gruelling extra sessions with her teachers. They remind her of the colossal amount of work she had put in to accomplish this feat. As she runs towards the stage, she feels like she’s on top of the world. Sarah reaches home, her arms swinging ...

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