Stories about culture

Religion vs ethics: Who cares where human rights came from?

The election of Asma Jahangir is a welcome development in the establishment of human rights and rule of law in Pakistan. However, the concept of human rights remains one of the most controversial issues in contemporary political and social thought, partly because of the origins and the justifications used in reference to human rights. The case against rights The  grounding of human rights in our respective societies is perhaps one of great concern. Why bother with rights? What gives them legitimacy? Do they even exist? What does it mean to have a right? What about responsibilities? Are human rights universal? These ...

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Pakistan’s Twitterati: The good, the bad and the ugly

I joined Twitter a few months ago after my friends couldn’t stop whining about my absence on the social network. Time passed by and I gained recognition for my pseudo-humour. People followed me and I followed a few of them. The ones that I did hit the green tab on were usually journalists, writers, bloggers or citizens who knew how to use grammar accurately. Then, one day, it dawned upon me: There were several easily-distinguishable types of users in the Pakistani-Twitter sphere. I also noticed how they followed each other almost obsessively and formed mini-clans on the desi world ...

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Using literature as a window to the past

In all nation-states, history is distorted to create convenient narratives. Our country is suffering not only from the usual propagandisation of the past, but also because its fiction is being ignored as a source of both art and inquiry. The truth in the works of Faiz or Manto might be uncomfortable for us to face, but responsible education should be structured around seeking truth rather than obscuring it; understanding history rather than ignoring it. Remembering Jinnah Saadat Hasan Manto is one of the best-known fiction writers from the turbulent period during which the subcontinent gained independence and was partitioned. His stories ...

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Learning to realise we’re all OK

While perusing the best selling self-help book: I’M OK You’re OK by psychiatrist Thomas A Harris MD, one realizes how well the theory of the ‘not OK child’ can be applied to a number of Pakistanis (not only as individuals, but as representatives of the nation). Briefly, the book reveals that there are four life positions that each person can take: I’m not OK, you’re Ok 2.I’m not OK, you’re not OK, 3. I’m OK, you’re not OK, 4. I’m OK, you’re OK Most children initially take the position of” I’m not OK, you’re OK”. They see adults as strong and competent and themselves ...

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All the bad lessons movies teach us

Amidst a plethora of job applications, I decided to take a break and treat myself to a no-brainer movie. It was not much of an endeavor to pick a Bollywood movie for the purpose. I found myself playing Dabangg on my DVD and what a treat it was. Despite taking a break of a couple of years from Bollywood, to my utter amusement, I discovered that Bollywood movies have not changed much. The story line of most movies is the same, where a man is either a gangster or a corrupt official with his own sense of justice and his own way ...

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Ahmadi rights: No grounds for a burial

Politics is a dirty business, be it at any level. Add religion to it and it makes a messy mix. On Sunday night, the body of an Ahmadi citizen was exhumed from a graveyard near Bhalwal, because the graveyard was a Muslim one. The police harassed the family until they acquiesced to the demand. There are only two Ahmadi families in that area, but they have lived there for decades. According to the brother of the deceased, their elders were also buried in the same graveyard. But this time around, the clerics in Sargodha decided that they did not want a ...

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Love in a time of rishta aunties

I am strongly resisting the temptation to make sweeping statements, but as a general rule I find nowhere else in the world is individuality and free thinking penalised as it is in the land of the pure. From school when the teacher frowned at your blatant use of ‘imagination’, to the fear inducing lessons with maulvi sahib, to adulthood when society already has your course of life charted out and heaven’s forbid if you should dare to deviate. Yes, I cannot think of a society that has a more perverted notion of life; fervently abiding to religious practise whilst ignoring the ...

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Women in fear: Rape cases soar across Pakistan

Every morning when I leave for work, I feel uncomfortable. The constant nagging of recent (and increasing) news items of rapes in Pakistan makes me feel insecure. I fear for the vulnerability of my sisters in different parts of the city, attending lectures in college halls, making rounds in hospital wards, traveling in school vans, waiting at the bus stop or spending an evening with an aunt or uncle. And my fear is not just confined to my sisters. It expands its ugly claws for every woman, all over the country. It takes the shape of a pitying monster whenever ...

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Desi bride or geisha bride?

Why do desi brides so often opt to look like geishas on their big day? From India to Pakistan to desis settled abroad, we can’t seem to shed the belief that a bride needs to be painted beyond recognition. I’ve seen make-up artists cake it on by mixing different coloured liquids on what appears to be a painter’s palette and applying it with a thick brush on the bride-to-be, as if she were a blank canvas and not a woman with unique features. The cost of looking like everyone else I’ve seen brides throw away small fortunes on hiring a make-up artist and ...

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It is time for Lollywood to die

We’ve been hearing about Lollywood’s revival for a decade now. Filmmakers and actors have been struggling (read: whining and demanding) since ages. The ministry of culture has given Lollywood the industry status. The government has announced special grants. All the taxes on Pakistani films are waived off. Foreign films are banned time and again to promote local films. All this and our veteran director Syed Noor says Lollywood can’t compete with foreign films. Why? Because we don’t have the finances to match Bollywood films and people should stop comparing Pakistani films with big budget movies, he says. How does one expect viewers to ...

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