Stories about identity

Living in online filter bubbles

On December 4, 2009, Google’s corporate blog released a post that did not receive much fanfare or attention but made sweeping changes in the landscape of the internet bringing about a paradigm shift in its nature. The post’s headline said ‘Personalized Search for Everyone’. This meant that since the very next day, Google would use 57 signals to guess our identity and produce search results on that basis. A race to know as much as possible about you has commenced amongst not just Google but all internet giants. Behind the sites we visit, there is a huge new market of ...

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My birth was an ill-fated ugliness

The kiss from the scorching sun was now a routine, For there was no shelter that could block it from me; Ugliness not just defined my face, As my birth was no less than an ugly fate.   Amidst the chaotic environment, I was trained, And repeatedly told that it was no shame, Because survival on your own is something only the bold can do, And if I resist, then society would crumple me, like a toy of play dough.   The countless tears I hid silently, Were considered useless and unworthy. The smile I gave with a one clap gesture, Had unknowingly become my unique signature.   A thick coat of red ...

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An open letter to the world from a hijabi

Writing this letter was hard. I didn’t even know where to start. I guess my life and this letter are quite similar in this regard. I know what some of you might be thinking – “what is this girl blabbering on about, and why are we even reading this?” – but it’s important for me to explain to you and make you understand where I’m coming from. I need to salvage the last bit of hope I have remaining. You don’t know me personally but I am a Pakistani hijabi. I have two of the most deplored identities in the ...

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Do you joke about “looking like a maasi” or “acting like a bhangi”?

I love what I do for a living. I love flaunting it and I proudly call it a part of my identity. Imagine if a part of your identity was a derogatory term used to cuss, insult or degrade someone? Imagine if the words “you look like a banker/teacher/accountant/marketer” generated feelings of disgust and repulsion. Back in college, I remember casually exclaiming, “maasi wali haalat hori hai” (I look like a maid) on my way to an exam, since I hadn’t changed my clothes nor brushed my hair. At the same time of my, rather crude, exclamation, one of the maids in the hostel ...

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16 photos that prove India and Pakistan are just the same

Conflict isn’t the only thing common to India and Pakistan. We are just like neighbours who might quarrel but always have each other’s back. We are like neighbours who may not be too happy with the noisy parties the other throws but who would still like to be a part of each other’s happiness. This article is an attempt to focus on the everyday, the little things which unite us as a people. Forgive me if I come across as stating the obvious. But sometimes, the best of us tend to forget the obvious. And then it’s always good to remember, and to ...

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Series 1: “Dreams of Lunacy” Part 6 Humans

Ghaffar was at a restaurant with friends. The food had been devoured, and everyone was awaiting their cars. Somehow he casually looked at his feet and saw a torn piece of paper floating in a puddle some feet away. He looked around, and ensuring no one was looking, he pocketed it carefully. Once he was back home, he began to read it. It was written with a black fountain pen, the writing was cursive, and from far it looked like one large sentence. It read: “Often we constantly sketch dreams in the loopholes of our world. We fit them in, often ...

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7 types of Pakistani immigrants you’re likely to come across in Canada

It’s been a little over a year since my immigrant status got confirmed in Canada and I have met some interesting kinds of Pakistanis. Immigrants who tend to fall in a certain ‘type’. Even I fit in there somewhere. This is based solely on my observation and interaction. At the risk of over-generalisation, here goes: 1. Perpetual Complainers Inc. (PCI): ‘I complained in Pakistan. I’ll complain here. Stop me if you can.’ In Pakistan, they complained about the skin-sizzling heat. In Canada, they complain about the mind-numbing cold. Back home the hoard of house helpers was too much to handle. Now, they whine ...

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It’s just a Pakistani thing…

Distances don’t matter if there is true love involved, I strongly believe in this. I may not live in Pakistan anymore but that doesn’t mean I don’t love it or have forgotten my country. I have been wanting to write about my country for a while now. At first, I was confused about what to write on. I wasn’t sure if it should be a motivational piece quoting oft-mentioned things about Pakistan, or a letter to Pakistanis discussing their woes or a bunch of stories of people who had left India for Pakistan. What makes the perfect write-up for Pakistan? After ...

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Why the French burqa ban upsets me as a secular feminist

The European Court of Human Rights has weighed in on the face veil ban in France and, in a flagrant exhibition of institutionalised bigotry, has upheld the government’s decision. As goes France, so goes Europe. The verdict breathes fresh air into an old debate, in which the opposing sides had begun to take comfort in the thought of this restriction being a French anomaly, not representative of the general European psyche. But we’ve faced disappointments before. We’ve been led to believe that we may choose either one of the two positions: – Burqa is benign, and must be allowed – Burqa is a harmful, patriarchal icon, ...

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From Pakistan to ‘Survivistan’

You make a football for the world to kick (even though we don’t play football) and I cheer you on! You give a speech at the United Nations (UN) and I cry tears of pride and joy! You win a cricket match and I clap till my hands hurt! You get nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and my chest bloats with pride! You discovered the Higgs Boson and I am enthralled! Proud is too small a word! You take the first Oscar for your country and I scream out the news to the world! You produce the most divine mangoes in the whole wide world and ...

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