Stories about culture

You Like me, you Like me not

“Man kills sister on court premises.” 9 people like this. “Explosion in Peshawar mosque, 3 dead.” 28 people like this. “Twin suicide attacks at Abdullah Shah Ghazi shrine.” 230 people like this Doesn’t this appear disconcerting to you? It was alright if you ‘liked’ my pictures or comments. But must you like everything? Is that the only form of reaction left online? Yes,I know you don’t really like it, in the true sense of the word’s meaning. You hit the only button available for appreciation (besides the one for tweets). But that’s how it appears to readers. Am I the only one ...

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If Donald Duck is not a threat, why is Hanuman?

It seems like banning things is the only form of productivity we have mastered so far. A resolution calling for a ban on Hindu cartoons was proposed in the Punjab Assembly last Tuesday. Those calling for the ban should, for a second, try going back to their childhood. They might find an idealistic time, when they had an unsullied and vigorous imagination. Even ignorant old grannies understand the importance of stories for the young mind. They would narrate stories of kings, princes, dwarves, magicians, palaces, far away wonderlands, jungles and mysterious dens, while children lay next to them, eyes wide ...

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Islam and secularism: imagining new realities

Given the recent attacks on the shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi, questions about the nature of our society, politics and religiosity are being raised again. A rallying cry for secularism is being raised-and rightly so. Secularism and Secularisation Secularism is often confused with multiple concepts. The term ‘secularism’, in its semantic journey, has grown in association with ideas of modernity, humanism, rationalism and democracy. It has acquired diverse meanings in this process. Let’s make some basic distinctions. Secularism, as a political paradigm about the relation between political and religious institutions, is a valid and healthy discussion, especially in religious societies like Pakistan. The ...

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Wanted: Trophy wife/millionaire husband

I have this strange habit of reading while sitting on the toilet. It doesn’t need to be anything in particular; as long as there are words to read, anything will do. In a hurry, I often pick up the nearest piece of newspaper on my way to the washroom. While that may sound gross to some, what I read in today’s early morning ritual is much more so. The reading of choice today was the last page of the classified section: the page that contains the “Matrimonial” segment. In the neatly divided “Bride”, “Groom”, and “Marriage Bureau” subcategories, were entries that ...

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The ugly face of distorted religion

Translated from the German ‘Die Religion… ist das Opium des Volkes,’ philosopher Karl Marx said that “religion was the opium of the masses.” While this statement is extremely applicable to Pakistani society, religion is more than just the ‘opium’ of the people. It is now being used as a weapon; their excuse and justification for everything including things which are not very pleasant in nature. The most obvious example of this would be the “extremists” and their code of conduct, which they attempt to justify in the name of Islam, which has in the process literally distorted the religion’s main ...

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Granta: Pakistan through a literary lens

The latest issue of the noted British literary journal, Granta, was devoted to writings both on and from Pakistan. At a time when the country has been swept up in a spate of bad news, ranging from tensions with the United States, drone attacks and the devastating floods, to the distressing allegations of match fixing by the national cricket team, this collection of essays, poems, vignettes and even artwork is a welcome reprieve. The collection is true to Granta’s justly-famed reputation and does not serve up an anodyne collection of writing. Instead, several of the essays are quite provocative, the ...

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Dear elitist, don’t take away my vote

Musharraf’s return to politics and the MQM’s land reform bill has brought the ubiquitous villain, feudalism, to the centre of political debate. Hand in hand, a view that has been aired vociferously is the notion that “illiterate” and “poor” people waste their votes. It’s the fault of those “damn illiterate people” who choose the wrong people, some say. Others have argued that it’s a shame that “A PhD and an illiterate farmer both have an equal vote”. In a nutshell, it seems that a strand of the urban English-speaking elite believes that the electorate doesn’t know what’s best for them; that they are responsible for bringing in the current “democratic dispensation” of crooks ...

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Lollywood lies

Most of us are film-watchers. We love commenting on and reviewing every movie we see. However, locally-made movies seem to suffer from a set of idiosyncrasies which can observed in nearly all Lollywood films. Singing Songs are the soul of a film. No movie is a hit without good songs, right? It logically follows that if one can’t sing well, he or she is incapable of being a good hero/heroine/lover.  The ordinary-looking poor girl knows the ragas, sur and taal of music so well that even a qualified singer couldn’t hold a candle to her. Where do these people pick up ...

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No room for ugly leaders in Pakistan

The other day I met someone (a prominent bureaucrat) who gave much credence to appearances. He insistently equated good looks with competence. Although he did not say his opinion was swayed by colour bias, his comparison of top Pakistani and Indian politicians makes me think there was a prejudice favouring our “tall and handsome” leaders against gnome-like ones across the border. This form of judgement, in my humble opinion, is a typical Pakistani trait. It shows that we still regard someone with clear skin and certain facial and physical traits as fit to lead a nation. Unattractive but effective Consider the founder of ...

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The importance of being heard

“And you’re listening to FM 100… “Aapka apna radio station… “The heartbeat of Pakistan… These tag lines sound familiar to all of us. Because at some point of the day, most probably while driving, we have all tuned into our favourite FM station. Whether you are enjoying the ride back home while listening to music or catching up on breaking news, it is quite common for these teasers to resonate in your car. Over the years, radio channels have saliently impacted our lives -not just for their entertainment value, but in the case of the recently mushroomed FM radio channels, by providing a ...

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