Stories about history

Love is more than roses: The legends behind Valentine’s day

It’s the same old story every Valentine’s Day. Red things plastered everywhere, sales, advertisements and the omnipresence of hearts. As sentimental music lulls the senses over candlelit tables where love struck eyes caress each other in banal and repetitive gestures, the voice of reason within me asks, “What the hell is wrong with us?” If someone told me February 14 was the day that fat cats from Hallmark and flower tycoons from around the world gather to toast their Dom Perignon and light their cigars with $100 bills to celebrate the world’s stupidity, I wouldn’t be surprised. It is one of ...

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1947: A teenager’s memories of Independence

After all these years I can still smell the stench of death and half burnt timber. I still see mountains of rubble as if it was August 1947 in Lahore. I was 13 years old, tense and worried. I could see columns of smoke rising over the city’s rooftops. Speculations were ripe. They said Lahore was going to be a part of Pakistan but the inclusion of Gurdaspur, the area where my relatives lived,  was doubtful. I did not know what would happen to the rest of the Muslims all over India. My own relatives lived in East Punjab, and I anxiously ...

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Save your breath, PML-Q!

The PML-Q’s disapproval of the present regime’s tactics at placating the ‘religious right’ clearly indicates that politics in Pakistan is replete with irony. Caustic remarks were made with reference to the PPP’s inability to sustain support for progressive and moderate elements within the country and instead succumbing to pressure from religious extremists. Some PML-Q leaders have also gone to the extent of saying that there is no fundamental difference between the current leadership and the autocratic Zia regime. This anti-government tirade appears a tad insincere keeping in mind the fact that this ‘religious right’ were once empowered by the PML-Q ...

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Liberals then, and liberals now

The lack of pluralism within our society is emblematic of our intolerance in general. I hate to be cynical, but it has always been this way and I fear that it shall remain so. There has been talk on these pages of a ‘liberal movement’ or ‘liberal activism’ as well as ‘liberal fascists/ liberal extremists’. The fact of the matter remains that left-of-centre social and political thought has never been the ‘done’ thing in this country. Ghosts of a leftist past In the early 50’s right up to the 60’s and 70’s, this country had some semblance of leftist thinking. There was ...

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Dedicated writers: The bright side

The days of calm and peace lie so distant in our past as to be a fading dream. What we have is chaos and anarchy, loot and extortion, theft and robbery, violence, murder and terrorism. Not many days go by without another blast killing many and causing wives to be widowed and children to be orphaned. It is natural for people in times like these not to take life for granted and for the feeling of transience to be heightened. Such are our circumstances but sometimes one comes across something that makes one wonder how it is that there are ...

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Pakistan (Studies) Zindabad!

“You know what really bothers me about India? Not their stupid ‘Incredible India’ slogan or their weird item songs or that ‘Licence to wear Black’ ad,” says a friend during Pakistan Studies class one day. “The Taj Mahal! Everybody wants to see it. It’s on every postcard. Even that stupid French guy wants to see it. It’s the first thing everyone wants to see!” When I ask why she’s bothered by the Taj Mahal, her answer is simple: “Because it’s really ours.” That is, Pakistan’s. Five years of Pakistan Studies class, hours of learning dates and battle names, of revising lists ...

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Let a photograph familiarise us

They say a photograph is worth a thousand words. A single image is able to portray and capture raw human emotions and project it to a wider audience. Wars, natural disasters, sporting events have all become muses to showcase and highlight the extraordinary, resilient and inspirational moments of the human race. These moments have the power to evoke strong emotions which can prove to be the catalysts triggering political and social change. In times of war, a photograph has the ability to overshadow political speech. Whether it is Capa’s classic shot of the falling soldier during the Spanish civil war or ...

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Intellectual poverty: Troubles of the Muslim world

It sometimes seems like a lost cause – our backwardness as a nation, our never ending cynicism and our victimisation at the hands of the West. What is it that fans all the violence in our societies? Perhaps we never bother to think about that. The only instincts that are left in us are animal. And it’s not only us. It is also the Arabs, the Central Asians, the Persians and others who are scattered across the face of the earth – all, victims of stereotypes and suffering from a chronic identity crisis. It is us, the Muslims, the peoples of ...

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A-levels: Atom bombs, measurements and etymology

One of my best friends is half Sindhi and half Pathan, which means that she can kick, scream and yell in four different languages. How I wished I had her linguistic virtuosity at 9am one morning this week when I turned over my Physics paper to start the exam only to be lost for words. I had no one to blame but myself. This was the subject that involves flipping paper cones off the back of a ruler and going cross-eyed trying to determine the terminal velocity they achieve. In A’ Level Physics, tennis balls feel the need to fall ...

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Dan Brown: A disappointing one-hit wonder

“The Da Vinci Code” hit book shelves in 2003, and went on to become the best-selling English language novel of the 21st century. Very few books dig down into the roots of history, challenge your beliefs and provide food for thought; this one did. Besides igniting some ferocious controversies and becoming a global phenomenon, the book established its author, Dan Brown, as a talent to watch. However, Brown’s next books have failed to live up to the standards that he himself modeled. There’s a blatant sense of repetition and a tone of monotony easily palpable in his novels that followed. Take ...

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