Stories about tradition

The road not taken: Going to Cambridge or getting married

In Pakistan, and in my native language Urdu, woman translates into aurat, which comes from the Persian awrah, meaning “parts to be protected”. Literally, too, in my present Muslim, closed-knit, patriarchal society, women like me are guided — by their fathers, husbands, brothers, sons — to be protected from threats against their body and family honour. While these men encourage “western” trends to an extent — like education at reputable schools, recreational sports, or even temporary employment — cultural traditions halt these prospects after marriage. You are born, our men tell us, to marry fast, and vouchsafe both yourselves and your future daughters ...

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Thanksgiving with a Pakistani twist

While living in America, I have experienced many amazing festivals and holidays that have their own unique significance and symbolism. Amongst all of them I enjoy Thanksgiving the most, which is celebrated by everyone regardless of their faith or tradition. Thanksgiving is a feast, something that people enjoy all over the world. However, for me, the importance of this celebration is how Americans come together to express what they’re grateful for. It is a celebration where family bonds are reaffirmed through breaking bread together. My teenage children enjoy this celebration as they grow up and partake in aspects of both American ...

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If you think Eidul Azha in the US lacks spirit and tradition, you couldn’t be more wrong

Born and raised in Pakistan, one can only imagine Eidul Azha being celebrated one way, with the sacrifice of an animal in the front or backyard, right? But there are other wonderful ways to celebrate it, ways that an immigrant is familiar with, understands and appreciates all too well. I have lived in the US for over 20 years, hence I am only speaking from my experience. I have come to appreciate the festive and philosophic spirit of Bakra Eid in ways that are essential, which are maybe less obvious to some, but certainly very pertinent to the spirit of ...

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5 reasons why every Pakistani family will love and relate to ‘Aangan’

Pakistan’s flourishing drama industry is touching on a lot of stereotypical and taboo topics lately, proving that it is making strides in the right direction. We have produced dramas such as Kankar, Udaari, Zindagi Gulzar Hai, Khaani and Baaghi to give centre stage to issues that remain hidden behind closed doors. However, stories depicting traditional joint family system were missing from our TV screens for quite some time. Writer Faiza Iftekhar noticed this fact and tried to fill the void by scripting the drama serial Aangan. Though Aangan is just an ordinary story of a traditional joint family, but the way it is portrayed is what gives it ...

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Chai please, it’s not coffee

It all started with the Nestle Nescafe advertisement. The obvious commercial interest was to drive the conversion from tea to coffee. That too, to an instant coffee mix. To me it looked more like a quick brazen attempt to drive convenience. Tea requires ritual and hard work to get the right cuppa. Instead go for an instant coffee mix, which will give you a quick strong fix. Notice no comparison of taste or tradition. This is the modern quintessential person, who has no time or interest in the softness of palette. He or she is in a hurry to fix it with a strong ...

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He was only a Buddhist by salutations, just like we are only Muslims by virtue of rituals

If you visit the Tiananmen Square at any given day, you’ll see hoards of people flocking around in large groups. Some can be seen led by a guide, others trying to find an inlet to the tunnels that lead to the main square, turning the entire landmark into a beehive. Besides being the womb of the People’s Republic of China where Mao proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949, the square also houses the Chairman’s mausoleum. On my 10 day visit to China, I found the Tiananmen Square to be the most religious of all spaces. It ...

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An Indian in Pakistan

A simple white shalwar kameez, a pair of traditional Peshawari shoes and a black jacket. The packed hall of about 900 people exploded into thunderous cheers and a standing ovation. Young boys and girls jumped up with excitement, thumped their tables and filled the air with whistles. The welcome befitted a rock star. The man in white moved to the stage and commenced speaking. He spoke clearly, simply and in elegant Urdu; every member of the audience could understand him. His thoughts were crystal clear; he stood for a multi- cultural and secular framework, believed in a corruption free society, ...

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Why Aitchison?

“Don’t you realise this behaviour is unbecoming of an Aitchisonian?” Mr Zafar Ahmad stared at me. Stress on the word Aitchisonian caused extra ripples of guilt. There is a reason Mr Zafar Ahmad, my housemaster, was stressing on the Aitchisonian angle; he knew it would make me feel like a downcast in my own eyes. And it did. Both of us knew I would not repeat that adventure at least. Aitchison College is in the spotlight these days. Pakistani press is not alone this time because The Guardian, one of the leading British dailies, has also covered the latest issue surrounding the institution’s policy regarding ...

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Let the Aitchison legacy prevail!

Aitchison College has boasted its majestic red brick buildings and traditions for over 125 years now. As we all know, generation after generations have followed the footsteps of their fathers and matriculated from the college. Recently, the new rule approved by the Board of Governors (BoG) of Aitchison College states that kinship has been abolished, so that merit may be ensured during the admission process. In my opinion, abolishing kinship is completely absurd. I, as an old boy (a term we use for ourselves after passing out from the college) think that the college builds pedigrees. Aitchison is not just an academic ...

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Pakistan, the illusions of a glorious past and kafan chor

Times don’t really change much over the centuries. Or so I felt after reading one of the aphorisms or ‘hikayaat’ of one of the medieval times poet and thinker, Sheikh Saadi. It goes like this… Once upon a time, there used to be an evil, wretched man in a small town, who used to steal ‘kafan’ (white cloth used as a shroud to wrap the dead bodies) right after burial from the local graveyard. His means of income, therefore, involved opening up fresh graves, desecrating the dead for a meagre amount of money that he would get by selling the white cloth in the ...

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