Stories about smoking

Ladies, it is not ‘cool’ or ’empowering’ to smoke

I still remember how my brothers would deftly hide their cigarettes when ammi or abba entered the room. Those were the best and worst of times – times of unawareness and lightheartedness, when I’d sit for hours in a smoke-filled room with my brothers – chatting and laughing over senseless things like one only can with siblings. All that while, I was inhaling 250 toxins and carcinogens, quite unsuspectingly. I didn’t know any better and neither did my siblings. We were secure in our belief that we, the girls, were not smoking actively. Fast-forward life. As a teenager, I started interning at a magazine and this is ...

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When the poor pay with their lives for fizzy drinks

Travel through rural Pakistan and two things will strike you. One is heart rending poverty and the other is hospitality. Visitors are greeted with warmth and selfless generosity. The poorest of the poor will immediately call for ‘paani’ for their visitors. Paani means water in Urdu, but in the local lexicon it has come to mean a bottled fizzy drink. And ‘paani’ brooks no refusal. Visitors can demur all they want but the host is not deterred.  “It’s only paani”, he says. “It can do no harm”. But it can and it does. The impression amongst the general public that it ...

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When the song ‘Get Lucky’ is inappropriate only in Ramazan

Around a week ago, as I was listening to the radio while weaving my way through Pindi’s traffic en route to work, an interesting development caught me by surprise. The radio jockey announced the song ‘Get Lucky’ by Daft Punk had been requested but that some listeners called in demanding that it not be played because the lyrics were ‘too inappropriate to be heard during Ramazan.’ The song, which still remains a hit among youth the world over, was not played. For starters, the logic behind the decision was baffling. Ever since the song was released some two months ago, it ...

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A dire need to end teen smoking

While informally talking to a World Health Organization (WHO) official in Islamabad during a seminar, I was told that Pakistan is among the few countries that have taken no serious measures to implement its own legislation to restrict tobacco consumption. She said that despite convincing sessions with Pakistani authorities, no positive measures have come forth to curb the practice of smoking. Instead, the WHO has received reports of increasing number of female smokers in Pakistan, which mainly include young girls at school level, especially those studying in private schools. Teen smoking is a complex phenomenon, which has several causes. Unfortunately, there ...

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Gora complex unabated

George Galloway came, he saw, he conquered. Conquered who, one may well may ask?  Karachi’s literati and liberal elite who intermingle, for one, who fawned over the UK Member of Parliament (MP) at the recently held Karachi Literature Festival (KLF). With high expectations, one went to hear him speak at his first session with Irfan Hussain as moderator. After all, Mr Galloway had no less than three outings at KLF, the last being as being the keynote speaker at the closing of the festival, so evidently even the Oxford University Press was not immune to his galloping charm. Mr Galloway arrived, ...

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Can’t get shisha in DHA? Go somewhere else!

The libertarian and the doctor in me have been at war with each other for some time, generating a tremendous deal of cognitive dissonance regarding the use of shisha. I have recently begun leaning away from the ban. Here’s why, The recent move by the Defense Housing Authority (DHA), Karachi to ban cafes from serving shisha has expectedly drawn some controversy. I’ve personally never smoked shisha in my life (Hi mom! Thanks for reading my blog!) but I still believe I’ve acquired enough information about it to make a case against the ban. The most obvious problem with the ban is that it applies only ...

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Is smoking banned for women in Pakistan?

“Isn’t smoking for women banned in Islam?” asked a friend from the UK. “Are you allowed to smoke in Pakistan, being a woman?” Many times, women in this great nation come across such questions. Having attempted to clear these misconceptions a number of times, it was only pragmatic, if not necessary, to search for the root cause of these misgivings. Is Islam being hijacked by our cultures, traditions and social norms? My answer, plainly, was, “No, smoking is not banned for women in Pakistan.” With his flabbergasted look, I realised that my answer did not pacify the curiosity of this media-influenced gentleman. Smoking in ...

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Can democracy still be unfair if everyone votes?

Mirza is a very good friend of mine but sometimes he just talks utter nonsense. Yesterday evening I was extremely blunt when he told me that he didn’t understand democracy. “Are you in your senses, Mirza?” I was shocked. “Absolutely,” he was calm. “Think again, Mirza,” I couldn’t believe what he had said, “Democracy, which is the best political system in the world; the system that offers solutions to all our problems; the system due to which common people like you reach the corridors of power; the system–” “Yes,” he interrupted me, “I don’t understand it.” My voice rising, I said, “So what do you want, dictatorship? ...

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My father’s battle with Parkinson’s

I still remember the first time I saw a tremor in my dad’s hand; we thought perhaps it was high blood pressure and immediately took him to the doctor. However, the tremors didn’t stop the next day, or the day after that. After a few tests the doctor recommended that we consult a neurosurgeon. Upon visiting one, we were informed that my father had Parkinson’s disease (PD) and his tremors would only grow worse with time – there was no cure. As the doctors broke this news, I tried my best to be strong for my father. Still, when I came home and watched ...

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Why I let my children smoke

 “Amma, you’re very chalaak, sly and cunning too,” My son stood squarely in front of me, his face red with accusation, teenage angst writ large all over it. “Your whole reverse psychology business has made everything unexciting and boring for us. When my friends gather furtively behind an expansive leaf laden tree to share a smoke, I think to myself, big deal, I can do that at home too,” He relayed to me accusingly. “You were always enticing us with the choice of brands we should try, menthol or no menthol. At the same time telling us to make our own decisions and not be ...

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