Stories about culture

The Fair and Lovely effect

I recently saw Killing Us Softly 4, a documentary in the Killing Us Softly series by Jean Kilbourne, acclaimed author and filmmaker. Although the movie centers on the image of women in advertising, as submissive and obedient to their male counterparts, it brings to light the importance of race and the appropriation of the Caucasian look — something that has assimilated into Pakistan’s mainstream and popular culture. Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad are bombarded with billboards advertising skin lightening techniques, creams and makeup that are designed to enhance the tone of your skin. Ironically, women of all socio-economic backgrounds in cities like New York and London, frequent ...

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Expat bhai, Pakistan is Pakistan yaar!

I feel sorry for Pakistani kids who grew up abroad. I realised this when my nine-year-old cousin was doing a heritage project in school, about Pakistan. She had to talk about her ancestry and how she ended up in America. It was going to be a typical project. She was going to narrate the cliché, sappy story of how her parents were looking for a better life for their children and thus migrated to America. Then, she would talk about how when she was three she visited her grandparents’ farm in Pakistan. Over there, she saw cows and hens ...

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War of the words

In 1948, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah said (in English, most ironically): “The State language, therefore, must obviously be Urdu, a language that has been nurtured by a hundred million Muslims of the sub-continent, a language understood throughout the length and breadth of Pakistan and, above all, a language, which, more than any other provincial language, embodies the best that is in Islamic culture and Muslim tradition.” In 1957, a decade after the partition of India, author Qurratulain Haider published her epic novel Ag Ka Darya (‘River of Fire.’) In which she stated, “In the demand for Pakistan, Urdu was most thoughtlessly ...

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Female anchors, wear a dupatta for your own safety!

In a country plagued by many menaces – exploding sectarian violence, common man struggling for food, electricity and gas – the government has once again done an exceptional job of prioritising and combating the nation’s problems. The National Assembly Standing Committee for Information and Broadcasting recently expressed their concerns over the danger of female news anchors not wearing dupattas on air. Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira stated that, “Journalists are in trouble and we are ready to provide them with complete security.” I’m all for journalists’ rights and protection but I highly doubt a dupatta would act like a shield or a bulletproof ...

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Why not now?

Fifty, sixty or above? Widowed or divorced? The time has come for you to give up on your life, look after the kids and prepare for the end. More often than not, a person loses the tug of war between age and will. Marriage is a decision taken, or on occasion, even forced on you when you are young and outgoing and discovering the difference between what you have been and what you can be. So, what happens when, in either cases, the marriage comes to an end? What happens when the person you were once so in love with is ready ...

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Comic relief: A day at the circus

Mounting security concerns in recent years have meant fewer opportunities for citizens to leave their homes without fear and festivals that were once a part of Islamabad’s culture have been far and few for these reasons. A few winters ago, a traveling circus came to the capital, bringing with it some comic relief and affordable entertainment.  Here are the most memorable moments: A vendor lures customers to his gol-gappa stall at the Saanwan Mela. A young female acrobat is seen elevated in the air during an act. A girl watches in rapt attention as the circus performances commence. A lion parades lazily around a ...

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Why I fell in love with Saudi Arabia

Moving to Saudi Arabia was such an incredible culture shock. Having been accustomed to a really open way of life in Barcelona, I just did not know what to think. I kept telling myself not to panic and that in time, I would adjust… Eventually I did. Aside from the restrictions I had many wonderful experiences. Saudis are such friendly, hospitable and generous people. I was constantly being thanked for coming to their country and educating their people. I remember one man in particular saying, “I would like to thank you on behalf of our people for coming here and educating us. We need ...

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A Bangladeshi perspective on Karachi

I had been in Karachi for six days a couple of months ago. Looking at Pakistan from the outside, we usually perceive this country through what the media portrays it to be – a gory place full of violence. Thus, I already had a picture in my mind about Pakistan – but the image I had and the image I discovered there, were remarkably different. I am a 29-years-old Bangladeshi banker, working in one of the leading Pakistani banks in Dhaka, Bangladesh. When my department head told me that I would have to go to Karachi for training purposes, I was glad because ...

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Pakistani dramas: Are women really less empowered now?

Pakistani drama culture is back with many brilliant writers and directors entering the industry and producers investing generously. However, recently it seems that our writers have run out of ideas. It is like our society has no other issues other than ‘khandani’ politics and scheming in-laws. To quote the way my brother puts it: “The women are always the most innocent creatures while men are vile, cruel and evil and are always lured away by the evil sister or evil friend and eventually they realise their loss and end up sorry. The end.” Sadly I have no choice but to agree ...

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Confessions of a non-hijabi

As a teen, a couple of years ago, influenced by society and culture, I decided to wear a scarf over my head whenever I went out. Then, as the wheels of maturity turned, I wriggled out of the cocoon of ignorant following and started to question myself. Why exactly did I cover my head? Was it because some of my friends had adopted the practice and many people I knew did the same? I stopped. That was it! Guilty as charged. As expected from any mother who took pride in the fact that her daughter had become a ‘modest little lady’, my ...

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