Stories about stereotypes

Is it a burden to have four daughters in a Pakistani society?

“Four daughters?” the woman asked, her eyes wide with a mix of horror, pity and fascination. Then, “Mashallah!” A sympathetic smile, followed by, “They are beautiful. May Allah (SWT) bless them with good kismet (fortune)” I can’t count how many times I have heard these sentences being said to my mother. Different women, same words, same connotations each time. For most of my life it did not bother me. I took it in stride. After all, it is a burden to have four daughters in a Pakistani society. To find an educated husband for them, to painstakingly accumulate their dowry, to train them in the art of keeping house; above all to ensure their ...

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Why #BanBossy won’t work for women in Pakistan

Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In and the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Facebook is on a mission. A couple of weeks ago, she, in collaboration with a star line-up of women in other leadership roles launched the ‘Ban Bossy’ (#BanBossy) campaign. They argue on their website that, “When a little boy asserts himself, he’s called a ‘leader’. Yet, when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded ‘bossy’. Words like bossy send a message: don’t raise your hand or speak up. By middle school, girls are less interested in leading than boys – a trend that continues into adulthood. Together we can encourage ...

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We’re twins, not aliens!

Being a twin has not been easy for me, especially living in Pakistan. We’ve been stopped at restaurants, airports and even in the middle of the road by well-intentioned but annoying strangers. Some would ask us if we were twins (as if it wasn’t obvious) and would marvel at our likeness when we confirmed it while others preferred to waste our time by playing ‘spot-the-difference’ and bombarding us with irrational, overly-personal and clichéd questions. At the passport and driving licence offices, our National Identity Cards (NIC) have even been locked repeatedly because the computer detected one of us as a ‘suspect ...

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I am not your sister, mother or wife; I carry my own identity

Ripley’s believe it or not (the Pakistani version) A woman physically attacked a man in a restaurant because he intruded her personal space. She tried to make him back down. There was a sense of injustice that spurred this violence because she wanted to drive home the fact that she has the same claim to her personal space as he did to his, both in public and private domains. She too is a human being and her claim to her space remains valid regardless of her gender. It turns out the concept of being human is elusive, almost faded beyond ...

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A Pakistani boy in the kitchen: Chasing my dream with a pinch of salt

Three years ago, roughly around this time of the year, I told my parents what I wanted to do with my future. I still remember that day. My father and I were searching for seafood at the infamous Delhi Colony market. The sun was at its peak and the heat was unforgiving. A’Levels is a crucial time of the year; it is that time when students stress about their future. Thinking about shifting from a school to a university was considerably overwhelming at that time. If I’m not mistaken, it was a Sunday that sparked my realisation of where I ...

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What makes a complete woman?

One of my teenage students stopped me on my way to class, sniffling and holding back the torrent of tears, desperate for help. She said she wished to end her life because, ‘Everyone hates me and makes fun of me because I am ugly and I am not feminine enough’. The girl was a brainy, hardworking young lady; one who would score excellent grades but suffered terrible pressure from peers because she did not dress or wax or style her hair like other girls her age did. I was revolted by our collective inability to accept human beings as they are without ...

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Are you an FSC ‘boi’ or an A’ Levels ‘burger’?

It’s about time we settle a very irritating and time consuming (as well as idiotic) argument. It is one of the most interesting, what I really mean is annoying, debates that I’ve come across in my life as a university student. This is the clash between the two education systems in the country. Somehow it seems that if you’re from one system you become a complete alien to the students of the other. You are viewed as an inferior being from another land that lacks the refinement and civility of your own system. By the way, I’m talking about what people ...

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Why Barfi made me barfy

Last week I watched India’s foreign film Oscar contender, “Barfi”. This is the story of a young man who is deaf. He lives in Darjeeling and falls in love with a girl who he can’t have. He gives up on her and falls in love with another girl who he can have, but not without the requisite twists and turns, including a murder investigation, a kidnapping, poverty, and a lot of singing and dancing.  Oh yes; the young man is deaf, the first young woman is able to hear, and the second young woman is autistic. While the movie was beautifully shot, ...

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My American experience

Before going to the US, I thought that US citizens hate Muslims and Pakistanis and, therefore, considered all of us terrorists. Consequently, I prepared my mind for all the security nightmares that I might have to endure on US soil. However, at the immigration counter of the Washington DC airport, I was amazed when the officer there asked me where I was from and for what purpose I had come to the US. I told him that I was a journalist from Pakistan and was attending a fellowship. “Oh really, you are from Pakistan, Good luck!” he said, while requesting me ...

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So, what do Canadians think about Pakistan?

I was discussing some of my design work with a friend of mine, wondering what the film and design industry in Karachi is like, and how my work could make a difference back home. Considering I have an educational background in film and design, she pointed me in the direction of a video blog post. She sent me a couple of examples of what people were currently doing and I was inspired to do something similar. Having lived in Pakistan most of my life, I knew that most people abroad saw Pakistan through the lens of the media and news channels, and it was not half ...

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