Stories about ideas

IDEAS 2016: For the elite, by the elite

Like every year, a proud tradition has come about again; one where government officials and army generals hold highly sophisticated weapons in their hands and pretend to target invisible enemies – so the foreign dignitaries they are trying to entertain are impressed enough to purchase the firearm in question for big bucks – because, well, these steel toys do not come cheap. The place is flocked by bureaucrats, generals and a whole lot of politicians in one place having a good time and appreciating the deadliest weapons produced by a third world country. Although this is seen every year under the name of International Defence Exhibition ...

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This Independence Day, it is time to let go of Quaid’s 14 points

In 1929, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah gave the Muslims of India his 14 points, in response to the Nehru Report which was published in 1928 as a memorandum outlining a proposed new dominion status constitution for India. These 14 points became the cornerstone of all our SSC and HSC Pakistan Studies examinations in post-independence Pakistan and every youngster to date has read and memorised these points. However, I have always wondered why learning these points were so imperative. Are they still valid today? Surely not. They were a rebuttal to the Nehru Report, outlining what Muslims of India demanded from ...

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Beauty

 “What is beauty, father?” “What do you think?” “I don’t know. I look at this glass in front of us and my eyes spot the reflected light from the glass on the table, and I’m baffled by these patterns, by this beauty which is perfectly still, perfectly independent, and calm.” “So, is beauty only in still and independent objects?” “I don’t think so. When I see the sea or the water inside this glass if it were to be shaken wildly, my eyes start to float along the waves, and I’m once again mesmerised by the water’s endless movement, its indifference, its power, and ...

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Carcass on display

This piece is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. She was backstage, about to start her show depicting her ideas to the audience. To benefit millions of listeners, the director had claimed whilst widening his hands, fitting the million in a pocket of air. Suddenly, the assistant event manager ran to her with a tension that was coming out of its disguise. “Please enter exactly after five seconds.” “Okay.” She looked at her watch and time looked back, scanning her without moving. She began to sweat, waiting for it to budge. Just as a small smile climbed down time’s lips, ...

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Revival of baithak culture

Those lamenting the loss of the Pak Tea House in Lahore, look around you. The baithak culture is back. Baithak: a place to sit, eat, share ideas, create change, and most importantly, a place to just be. The trend is not just to have a restaurant, a cinema or a book store, but to have an amalgam of these under one roof. They are not exclusive clubs but open houses, requiring no membership, nominal, if any, entrance fees and operating on a first come first serve basis. Designer outlets like Melange now house cafes on the side, as do art galleries like Nomad; similarly, ...

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Lessons from a soap box factory

Here in Pakistan, there is a famous fable about a soap factory. Several stores in a wealthy country complained that they had ordered soap but had only received empty boxes. Recognising that they had a problem in their factory, the management thought long and hard to find a solution. In the end, the company purchased a machine worth a million dollars, and hired an employee to observe the boxing process. Problem solved. Soon after, a Pakistani company ran into the same issue.  The management thought long and hard to find a solution.  In the end, the company purchased a big fan and placed it ...

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A discourse on creativity

Writing fiction is akin to erecting a temple of consecrated ideas which, like religious convictions, should be sacrosanct for the author. However, it is disconcerting to note how this analogy can be brazenly distorted to signify that the essential quality of a literary work is in the framework of ideas inherent in its plot. Such a line of reasoning casts aside the importance of stylistic merit and hence, it can be argued, that literature which presents strong ideas without much sophistication, is a weak portrayal of the author’s flair for creativity. Literary creativity is a two-pronged concept that entails ...

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The more opinion the better: A blogger’s defence

Blogging is a good democratic avenue for self expression. Some find a blogger’s desire to write offensive, and that is fine. I’d like to turn their attention to their computer’s ‘Shutdown’ setting. If one doesn’t like what my blog or any particular message board they stumble across says, then by all means, don’t participate. Because it is the ability to participate in the debate that makes the blogosphere democratic and unique. Blogging, is a right. If I or any other member of the blogosphere decides to express an opinion then that should be lauded (I laud myself all the time!). It is ...

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The common thread of genius at TEDx

This week, the city of Lahore got under my skin. It wasn’t just the idiosyncrasies and beauty of the city that crept into my resolutely Karachi-heart, but the people that I was able to meet. I was attending TEDxLahore, and in the lead up to the conference on July 31, I tagged the team for three days, meeting a rag-tag group of individuals from various backgrounds who had little in common besides their unwavering belief in the ideas they wanted to present to Lahoris (and Pakistanis) via the TEDx platform. In the absence of local arenas to showcase developing research, ...

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Milan Kundera: high peaks, deep chasm

Who’d have expected an author’s fortunes in Hardywood to fluctuate so much with a single novel-screening? In the past, popular authors have been dumped unceremoniously, but has there ever been an author who, in a single novel-screening, has impressed the viewers greatly, and then, only a few hundred or so pages later been discarded with unspeakable disgust? Indeed a high peak, and then a deep chasm. Milan Kundera’s novel “The Book of Laughter and Forgetting” was the first translation screening in Hardywood; in that sense, his debut was historic: Hardywood has always been hesitant in allowing translated novels, believing that in ...

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