March 26, 2011
March 21, 2011
I must say that Newsweek Pakistan has outdone itself with its list of the 100 Women Who Shake Pakistan. Never has such an extraordinary list been created. I bow down.
Some of the women listed here have “shaken” Pakistan on such a large scale that it’s a wonder that they haven’t had a street named after them yet. The most commendable of the lot, also very well known to all Pakistanis as our very own Estee Lauder, is Mehrbano Sethi, who introduced cosmetics in a country where makeup was largely unavailable. Her contribution to Pakistani womanhood is unparalleled in the history of the country. Let’s bow down.
Sethi has, incredibly, shaken Pakistan with lipstick unlike the no make-up Hina Jillani who was left out of this list for surely a life-long, country-wide, feminist struggle is nowhere near the empowerment women get from layers of foundation. Nothing feels better than sticky lipgloss which gets stuck in your hair. Undoubtedly, nothing is more empowering than nailpolish. Pretty hands stand above and beyond women’s shelters & justice. Only a “jealous” non-elite fool would deny that.
And the women agree. Women from all over the country travel to our major cities where it is available, often in droves, cleaning up shops as they go along. News of Luscious has spread so far & wide in the land that poems based on the products are being memorised in order to advertise to the illiterate. Women in Thar dance to the tunes. Activists have volunteered hours of their lives to translate them into all our national languages. They are jingles so powerful that Abida Parveen herself wouldn’t be able to do them justice. Near eid, our shopkeepers can hardly keep up with the large demand. Medora, Swiss Miss & all the other local beauty brands are seriously considering shutting down. “Even though we’re cheaper, poor people are more than willing to spend money on a product that puts Estee Lauder to shame,” said an employee with tears in her eyes.
“It’s true,” said a woman in a store in Peshawar who had come all the way from Waziristan looking for things she could use to empower the oppressed women of her area with. “We are willing to spend more. Look it’s simple. Medora nailpolish chips in 2 days whereas Luscious lasts me 2.5 days.” In front of my very eyes, she bought everything in the store. “This is the best present I could give to the women living under the Taliban. I don’t care about these rights groups or shelters etc. Women aren’t interested in this funny concept of freedom or equality you silly city fool! They want to look pretty. Don’t you know that’s the only way to feel good?” I hung my head in shame & instantly decided to get a manicure. It didn’t make me feel better, so I’m wondering if I should get my sex changed to male officially…
But in all seriousness, although what Sethi & the other women who I don’t think should be on this list have achieved is commendable, and should indeed be lauded, they are not a patch on the worthier ones who were left out. I admire them for their resolve, but they are not known to most Pakistanis. The only ones who do know them well are those who are catering to their own elite crowd through a publication. It’s something we’ve all witnessed before: sycophantic elite self-love, giving each other way more importance than necessary & making an erroneous assumption that they can speak for Pakistan without knowing the ground realities. How many people even know who Selina Rashid is for example? I do but only because she happens to be related to me & knows the same tiny circle. Much as I admire her & laud her for creating a company that is definitely praiseworthy, I do not think she has “shaken” Pakistan. Her market is a tiny elite circle or those who can afford her services. What she has done is commendable & I sincerely hope more women follow in her footsteps instead of sitting home or baking cupcakes. What I object to is the fact that too many worthier women, who actually represent Pakistan, were left out.
Honestly, I often wonder what planet our elite live on in general, but that’s another story.
And let me state here, again, like I have so many times in the past, that the elite self-love circle will probably be out for my blood for even daring to say this. And I will indeed report all their hilarious comments back. I will be accused of being “jealous” & “insecure” (which is basically the following wail: “WHY DON’T YOU LIKE ME DAMN IT?! WHY DON’T YOU LOVE ME BLINDLY LIKE YOU SHOULD?!”) because, after all, who on earth would voluntarily make the decision to be a low-life teacher? This is the only way they know how to deal with valid & logical criticism which makes me sad, especially as a teacher, to see so many parhay likhay jahils. What makes this whole song & dance the Lahori elite and I have going is the fact that the more they hate me, the more confident I become as a writer for, after all, being detested by those who lack brains is sometimes a bigger compliment than critical acclaim. I won’t deny that I find it all terrible amusing and when they do the whole drama, I thoroughly enjoy watching them drive themselves up the wall for no good reason whatsoever. It’s comical, really.
Let the witch hunt begin. I’m quite used to it and I have elephant skin. But first let me bow down to this shameless display of irresponsible “journalism”.
March 13, 2011
“Come participate in my happiness!” they all say to me, over and over again, the same fucking phrase so oft regurgitated that it has lost all power, all meaning, becoming a string of words that go in one ear and out another.
“Your happiness is my misery!” I tell them, the same fucking phrase of so oft regurgitated that it has lost all power, all meaning, becoming a string of words that go in one ear and out another.
Your happiness, my misery; it’s all one & the same when it comes to wedding related ostentatious “look at me I am Punjabi loin ROAARRR!” events that I can’t stand; these “functions”, these displays of wealth, these symbols of power make my blood boil.
I am not interested, I maintain, over and over again, in wasting my precious time with something that will upset me, aggravate me, and make me angry & venomous. Weddings turn me into Euripides’ Medea, an untameable, outraged virago, ready to sacrifice her own for a betrayal. And what a betrayal you are dear DNA sharers! What a betrayal!
When you say that my misery makes you happy I feel betrayed. I feel cheated on. I feel like I’m being reduced to insignificance while you place yourself on an undeserved pedestal. I feel like I’m being asked to sacrifice MY happiness for yours for no good reason other than the fact that you want to show off your popularity. “Look at me!” these weddings scream. “I am so rich, so popular!”
No, thank you, but I am not interested in helping anyone perpetuate a myth of family unity. And I am not willing to sacrifice my mental health for you, even if I do love you. Love & misery go hand in hand in seems, for me, the Punjabi wedding avoider. How can it not when it seems that they revel in my misery.
Your misery is my happiness is what you seem to be telling me, illogically.
Shall we deconstruct? Let’s.
“Share my happiness” they say, as if happiness is something like a candy bar we can split into two. The message this sends me is one of conformity. Don’t dare to be different. You will not belong. Happiness should, apparently, mean one and the same to everyone.
Disagreements are not tolerated it seems. The right to define what happiness is for me isn’t tolerated it seems.
“I do not ask you to eat pork!” I once yelled. Asking me to come to a wedding is like asking me to shove aside my principles for one day. How convenient that it’s ok to ask me to do so, but if asked to do something they detest for me, I wonder if they ever will. I will not try to even find out because I do not think that those who revel in my misery have any real love for me.
It takes a particularly sick & twisted, sinister mind to revel in my misery, declaring it happiness. I can’t help but question this weird definition of love. What kind of love is this, this oppressive emotion that relies on my misery in order to define the opposite?
From now on, no more. No more will I indulge any more of this “share my happiness” bullshit. For you see, your happiness is my misery.
July 21, 2010
I applied for my British visa in the beginning of May and have, like many others, yet to receive it. What’s most frustrating and worse is the lack of cooperation from the British US visa office. First of all, it defies the senses that the visas are sent to Abu Dhabi to be processed. It feels racist really. Although Gerry’s, the courier office, happily responds to phone calls etc, they are thoroughly useless and politely say “we don’t know” to anything and everything anyone asks. Eventually, hoping to find out something, anything, I emailed Abu Dhabi only to get a reply saying they’ll get back to me “soon” but never replied. Irritated and desperate, I sent many sarcastic emails, which I cannot reproduce here just in case they decide to sue me or something. As a Pakistani citizen, I have no legal recourse as we are all well aware. I shall just reveal the delicious tit bits that got their attention.
I received my first positive response from Abu Dhabi (since “soon” had come and gone) after sending them the following email: I would REALLY APPRECIATE and love a reply to my query. I’m willing to even donate you an ovary and piece of my soul for this precious information.
They asked me for additional information which I sent them instantly. And then again, I waited in vain. Finally, I sent this: Really would be most grateful and appreciate a reply. Would mean a lot. PLEASE.
Followed by this a few days later: Do you require anything else? If no, A REPLY WOULD BE REALLY NICE AND APPRECIATED. It’s been 2 months. Thank you very much for inconveniencing my life sooooo much. I’m very grateful. Your instant replies must be lauded. And I sincerely thank you from the BOTTOM OF MY HEART for making us Pakistanis look polite and super efficient.
I’ve asked before: do you need an ovary for this precious information? If so, I’ll make arrangements to send it if it will get me a response. I have plenty to spare since I’m not even 30 yet.
Much regards and appreciation for the constant anxiety and migraine.
They replied the next day, on July 15th, confirming that my documents have been processed and will be sent “soon.” Of course, this rather cryptic message wasn’t good enough for me, now fully frustrated at the fact that terrorists are issued visas and us, the secular people who are constantly getting threats for standing up against religious extremism are being denied. Are they trying to push me into the arms of those who happily create ludicrous conspiracy theories? Because, at the moment, they seem comforting.
Then I sent this: Does that mean that I’ve been granted and blessed with a visa or have I been rejected? Would love a reply again since the rejection rate from Abu Dhabi for Pakistani citizens is an astounding 47%. Secondly, could you please define “soon” and please let me know if they have been sent. Because sometimes it can take a very long time. The acceptable definition would be 3 or four days, but please let me know soon so I can book my ticket.
Abu Dhabi replied saying they couldn’t tell me anything due to the Data Protection Act. My reply: So you guys can’t even define what soon is? Because, according to many experts in the language who I have consulted regarding this matter, they say that your use of the word isn’t right. Soon would have meant I should have received it today really. It’s not like Abu Dhabi and Lahore are that far really. I’m not asking you to send me my documents to Mars. So I feel rather deceived. This isn’t soon. I feel lied to. Not nice… Do you perhaps put our documents on a ship, send it to Antarctica and then send them to Pakistan? That’s what it seems like. Again, thank you very much for this distress and the constant headache. I may be Pakistani, but I’m a human being.
And since this was a few days ago, I just sent them the following email:
Dear nameless, faceless visa officers,
Again, my kindest regards for making us Pakistani look efficient. It continues to defy my senses what your definition of “soon” is. I shall have to start teaching my students that they must learn a different definition of soon from now on if they ever apply for a British visa. But they’ll probably give me the standard reply: “but ma’am visas are issued by people playing eeni-meeni-minie-mo with our passports!” I’m afraid, at this point, this joke doesn’t seem like a joke, but a bitter reality.
According to many conspiracy theorists, you do indeed ship our documents to Antarctica before sending them back to Pakistan. They believe that since we are constantly denied visas and our passports are often hijacked for month on end, a few sympathetic White people decided that our passports should at least be allowed to travel. Now, since it is going to make a stop over in a land full of penguins, I was wondering if you could please send me a pair along with my passport. However, since penguins also have homosexual members, could you please ensure that one is male and the other is female? I only say this because it would be nice to have a family of penguins as a souvenir for my passport’s holiday since I doubt I’ll get my passport in time to go on mine. I have absolutely nothing against homosexuals; in fact my biggest desire is to produce a gay son one day.
Again, thanks for the wonderful treatment and the delay has just been the most wonderful thing ever. I missed my 10 year high school reunion. I cry every day when I see the pictures. I’m desperate to go see my friends, but why am I telling you this? You obviously don’t care…
February 25, 2009
“You need to let go of the past! You are too rigid. You need to move on,” he said as soon as he displayed my cards. “Put it behind you. You need movement.”
There were many things he told me, the tarot card reader who sits in a gypsy van at the Brighton Pier, that were eerily accurate. Or was it because they were ambiguous? Isn’t that what this is all about? Like horoscopes that can apply to a variety of situations? Or is it because we want to read into it; we want to believe that the person sitting across from us is like a celestial human being?
The truth is that I am a rigid person. I am indeed a person who was (at that point since this was in December) hanging on the past, enraged by it, irritated by my inability to deal with many things that I thought I had left behind despite the fact that I had moved away and changed my life. But… aren’t we all always haunted by our pasts in some way or the other? I know I am not alone. I know he could have said the same thing to many other people and it would “fit” for them too.
What I do know is that if any of the shamans I have encountered in my life are to be believed at all, my life should have taken various multiple turns by now depending on who I believed to be most accurate I guess. (Does that make any sense?) One man did my entire astrological chart three years ago told me things that I hope not to be true. He told me I wouldn’t be published until my 30s (not that they’re far now!) and that I would get married soon. That was then. Still not married (thankfully) but still not published. Another person told me I would get married twice; the first would end in my early 20s. Well… 27, almost 28 in fact, has proved that wrong. Out the bin quack! Oh, and apparently I’m psychic (some “cross of venus” nonsense), something that I have convinced a few people of. I know the trick… it’s not about being psychic at all− it’s about memory, it’s about knowing information they think you don’t know. And it’s fun to fool people for sure (especially students). This is especially easy in Lahore since it is a city filled with gossip where no one can have any privacy and everyone is connected.
Irrationality is part of the human condition. I wish I didn’t believe that to be true, but I think this because I too have fallen victim to this. It’s all too easy to believe that a series of coincidences have some spiritual purpose or force behind them: people don’t realise the strength and power of self-fulfilling prophecies. Perhaps like Macbeth’s witches, we are our own demons.
PS: I’m only writing this because I wish to understand why so many intelligent people I know fall victim to this nonsense!
February 6, 2008
No matter what one feels about a teacher, pushing one is totally unacceptable. Sure I had teachers I wanted to hit, throw shoes at and push off cliffs. But I didn’t because that would just be heinous, despicable…
Today one of my students shoved me more than once. Actually he’s no longer my student. My class had seven bad eggs who were pulling the rest of the class down. At first, the school wasn’t too bothered until one day when I just lost it. I was ready to quit. When I gave detention, they pet the kids and told them to behave. When I insisted, they told me not to because it would make me unpopular. Like I’m there to make friends. When I issued pink cards, they would, again, give the kids a warning (pink cards are complaints that go on their permanent records). Once I insisted upon issuing the pink card and it was given to the kid who in turn went home and wept. He created this whole fuss about how I was targeting him. So his mother refused to sign it and sent it back. The result? He was free to do as he pleased again.
Actually this student is quite a conniving little fellow and his parents let him get away with murder. At the parent teacher meeting, I expressed my concern and told them that he had a behaviour problem. They refused to believe me. They kept implying that I was lying and kept defending him. “You’re the ONLY teacher that has a problem with him!” they declared. I was left stupefied. If my teachers had said something like that about me, my mother would have hung me upside down from a fan and then switched it on full blast. In fact, they were so clueless and delusional about their child that they kept telling me how all the other teachers loved him and how he was the best thing that could ever happen. They told me to adjust my behaviour and they implied that I deserved what I got. What really pissed me off was the fact that I had heard three other teachers complain to them in front of me. I have severe issues with parents like that and I’m very glad I don’t have to deal with them anymore.
So, at the beginning of this term, I kicked out 7 boys. I was more than happy to be rid of them. It’s one thing to have a bad student, but it’s quite another to have a bad person as a student. They’re still royal pains in the behind though. They make a huge effort to disrupt the class and take ages to leave when I walk in. But today just took the cake…
I walked into class. The sports teacher gave the kids permission forms for something or the other. I don’t really care. The offender- the one who pushed me- grabbed all the forms and started pretending to distribute them. In reality, he was causing a ruckus and deliberately stalling. His teacher, for reasons unknown to me, doesn’t care if they show up late, so they feel free to wander around at will. That’s why they deliberately cause havoc and make a huge show out of leaving. They take ages to pack their bags. The kid with the delusional parents always yells and makes one hell of a lot of noise. Today, when I complained about that, he lied with such a straight face that I was left amazed. And I completely blame his parents.
Anyway, the violent child who was pretending to distribute the papers, had to be told off. He absolutely refused to leave. I took his bag and was going to put it outside so that he wouldn’t make a big fuss about the bag. He often takes about two whole minutes to hoist it on his back. He saw me take the bag and he grabbed it. Knowing that I had a firm grip on it, he grabbed it and started shoving me. I managed to hold on to the bag and I put it outside. Once outside, he started shoving the door into me. He knew I was standing behind it since it is mostly glass. He could see me quite clearly. He repeatedly shoved the door into me. Then he left.
I was livid. I couldn’t believe that a student would ever resort to physically abusing the teacher. Never did I think it would happen to me and I truly hope it doesn’t happen to another teacher. The Principal was very understanding. She gave him a tight slap, which was really quite satisfying to watch. Then she suspended him for 2 days.
The people who know me are as livid as I am about this. In fact, a few have suggested that this punishment isn’t enough. I don’t know what to think anymore. Private schools are equally to blame for this terrible attitude. They cater to the parents and the result- not to the actual development of the child. I don’t think they educate in the true sense. Yes, they are a far better option than our local government schools, but that’s not enough. It’s not enough to get good grades. A good education should teach you respect for humanity and the environment. I feel damn lucky to have been part of UWC for I truly got a wonderful overall education there. We need schools like UWC here desperately. I aim to open one as soon as I can save enough money. It’s a long way off, but I am adamant about making it happen some day. I certainly don’t ever want to see my siblings’ kids in any school that doesn’t provide them with a comprehensive education. The O level system is ridiculous. It’s based on gimmicks and points. I have personally taught kids who can hardly speak English, yet they got A’s. The system has been cracked and the leaks are soon going to burst. Anyone with me?
January 15, 2008
This is a post by Nuhzat Saadia Siddiqui from her blog “hooray for the 21st century;” (The blog is on my blogroll) I loved what she wrote, especially since her expression beautifully conveys what so many people are feeling at the moment. What is really pertinent about this is that Nuzhat is not a political person, but has, like most of us, been sucked into the current political situation and the many questions that come with it. I hope you like it!
Three days ago, while on my way home from work, I saw a banner in Model Town congratulating the ‘Lion of the Land’ (Musharaf) on saving the nation and the country with a sensible decision to impose state of emergency. For a second, I paused and wondered whether to take the garishly bold text seriously or to dismiss it as sarcasm. These days, everyone’s a cynic with his or her opinion about the current political upheaval in the land, so I tend to take every statement condemning or praising Musharaf with a massive pinch of salt. But this banner got me thinking: would it have been allowed to stay up if it condemned rather than praised Mr. General President? Maybe, maybe not. I have seen instances of tolerance and moments of impatience in the man who made a brand out of Enlightened Moderation, so even now, I am rather confused about how to comment on his mercurial behavior.
To be absolutely honest, my apathy kicks in when I hear about political fiascos these days. It is my version of Ginsberg reaching for his feather boa whenever he heard the word ‘democracy’. I don’t care about political tantrums and intrigues. I could not nod twice about the hypocritical, manipulative scheming of the likes of BB, Main Mian, The General President and Ran Khan et cetera. All I know for sure is that I am a citizen of this country. I am the common man everyone wants to talk about but not to. I am a part of the nation that has very spectacularly been look over than looked at by verbose but lacking civil and military dictators. I am the ‘awam’ that has been let down so many times it has mastered the art of passive aggressive nonchalance. So what do I understand from the current situation? What do I want?
I want a revolution. I want the inside of our heads and hearts out, finally, for good. I want the hungry to be fed and the naked to be clothed. I want the shamed to be awarded the grace they deserve. I want promises fulfilled. I want my say in the ideals that should be making a better future for this country. I want those who toil twelve hours a day, bare-foot and thirsty under the sun in the fields to have the same right. I want us to be informed about our rights and then be allowed the freedom to exercise them as well. I want to fulfill our duties and I want everyone in the football team in Islamabad to do the same. I want water and education, I want light and protection. I want doubt, religious paranoia and fear of every stranger to be exorcised out of me by some sensible souls who do it in halves, but hope to make it a whole one day. I want to not be trivialized by the world community and the government, and I want to not be the sensational piece of breaking news for the local media. I want some piece and quiet, and I want my damn country back.
Enough, as they say, is enough.
They are surely wiser than us. Look at them burning gold into their history pages while we collect the ashes.
I want the flame, not the residue.
January 10, 2008
Last night, my friend Amina and I went to the Avari bakery to buy a cake. All the cakes we liked turned out to be dummies. There were only a few cakes for us to choose from and they were actually quite disgusting looking. One was a honey cheesecake. Since we’d never heard of such a thing, we asked him:
“Is cheesecake mein kya hai?” (What’s in this cheesecake?)
He replied: “Jee cheese.”
I burst out laughing and had to leave the bakery, leaving poor Amina stranded, trying to keep a straight face.
October 24, 2007
I went to Islamabad and Changla Gali last week. Although it was great to get away from Lahore, there were a few things that disturbed me. On the motorway, on my way to Islamabad, I saw that a vast amount of Punjab’s green fields had been stripped away to make room for concrete jungles. The whole motorway, in fact, was much less green than I remember it. Admittedly I haven’t been on it for years, but it was a huge shock.
Then, on my way to Changla Gali, I noticed that whole mountain – technically foothills, but taller than most mountains- have been stripped bare. There are no trees; they are completely and totally barren. All the pine trees have been cut down, for what I do not know, but it is shocking.
I remember the Muree hills as mountains that were lusciously green and beautiful. There are now also quite overcrowded. The house I was staying in was made after cutting down only 3 trees whereas many houses in the area, belonging to well known individuals, have been made after cutting down many, many trees and much destruction. The dark nights, which used to provide me with much solitude as a child, are not dark anymore- there is a lot of light from the numerous houses. I wanted to sit outside and gaze at the stars, and yes there were many more than one can see from Lahore, but it’s not as much fun as it used to be.
The trees need to be replanted. Those hills cannot remain barren. We cannot do this.
August 16, 2007
I’m very anxious about the current political situation and well, just about everything else. I’ve even lost my appetite. Those who know me will know how strange that. Also, I’m going to be doing two jobs until the end of this month and I have to try and finish my online course. I also have vocal training classes for two hours everyday. I wish I had more time! But my friends do tell me that it’s all my fault for taking on too much. It’s strange that when I do have some free time, I feel anxious about not doing anything. I know there’s some writing in me, dying to come out, but I need some uninterrupted hours to write. I think I’ll have to disappear for a little while. The blog shall also have to be neglected.
I’ll be back.