March 23, 2012
April 22, 2011
Mukhtar Mai, my heart weeps for you, it bleeds for you. It wept the day I heard of you & what you had been through. It will continue to do until you get justice, which I fear you won’t. For years I have waited for our country to come to its senses & give you the justice you deserve. Instead, we have given you nothing but more pain, more grief.
Mukhtar, I apologise for your plight, a plight that could have prevented, could have been addressed had those in power created just laws. Alas, ours are not just unjust, but divinely so.
Mukhtar, your courage has been inspirational & your strength has been admirably formidable. You represent strength for so many women. We stand by you. We weep for you, we bleed for you. You are our pillar of strength.
April 15, 2011
So you’re getting married. Great! Whoop dee doo. La la la. *rain dance*
Happy? Apparently not… somehow it seems that without a hoard of people clapping them into intercourse, they cannot be truly happy. I’ve had many people try and threaten me with: “I’m not ever coming to your wedding! No one will come to your wedding!” only to hear this reply: “That’s the point, moron!”
Pakistani have perfected the fine art for being constantly offended for one not participating in their month long “oooh my money LOOK! Shaadi shaadi shaadi!” celebrations and Nabiha has perfected the art of sending them excessively sarcastic & rude excuses. Here are some:
- I fell in love
- I fell out of love
- I was about to get my period (PMS)
- I got my period
- I got post-menstrual crankiness after that. The whole month was ruined I tell you! RUINED!
- I chipped a nail & cried for 3 days since I’m a woman.
- Weddings depress me because my aim in life is to get married & pop 20 kids in a row since I am, after all, a woman. WHY won’t anyone marry me, damn it! (wailing starts)
- I’m due for a wedding induced aneurysm that day.
- My waxing lady fell sick. People would have thought a bear in sari has walked in.
- And I also couldn’t get my face waxed. I was shit scared someone would mistake me for a goat and sacrifice me!
- I am allergic to perfume. You don’t want me to die now, do you?
- I have erythrophobia, which is fear of the colour red (via @mahnooryawar)
- I burnt my sari while ironing it.
- I burnt the house down actually.
- I died temporarily. Want a doctor’s note?
- I went into a coma for a few weeks. What a coincidence it was during the mating season…
- I had promised my belly button I’d take care of all that fuzz.
- I have a big date with my toe-nails. They’re very long with loads of dirt. Wanna see?
- You spelt my name wrong. I’m not a Sheikh with an E. If you truly loved me, you’d know that. I’m so offended. I thought we were close. I guess I was wrong. I feel betrayed. You betrayed me! (wailing)
- What card? Something came for Mr & Mrs Shaikh & family. My name is not family.
- You called my mother a Mrs. You are sexist & I a feminist. Conflict of interest here!
- I converted to a new religion & going to weddings is strictly prohibited. You’re welcome to join me in a pork eating ceremony though. Ooops that conflicts with your beliefs now does it? Awww but come on it’s for my happiness, na!
- I don’t believe in marriage. No seriously I don’t & if you don’t know that then we’re not good enough friends for me to attend your wedding anyway.
- I absolutely refuse to reward this shameless display of heterosexuality.
- I don’t attend weddings that don’t invite hijras.
- I’m lactose intolerant. I accidentally ate some cheese and spent the evening farting.
- You’re a firm believer in horoscopes, right? Well, my astrologer told me not to leave the house because I was in danger since Venus was in retrograde & Scorpio was blocking the sun! Apparently an anvil would have hit me on the head…
- I was busy writing a rant about how much I hate you for inviting me to your wedding. Oh, and your present is not making it public by putting it up on my blog.
- Errmm when were we even friends?! Just because I know you, doesn’t mean I like you enough to put on a sari.
And here are some actual conversations I’ve had:
“Oh you see the thing is that I fell off the toilet, hit my head on the floor & got amnesia.”
“But you missed the WHOLE wedding. When did this happen?”
“Errmm what were your dates again?”
“You missed my wedding!” said an indignant cousin. “WHY weren’t you there?”
“Oh sweetie, I’m so sorry. My allergies were acting up. I thought I was going to die! It’s a miracle I’m alive, really.”
“That’s so sad, Nabs. So sorry to hear that & now I understand, you poor thing. What are you allergic to anyway?”
“Weddings and aunties…”
All jokes aside, the people I personally judge the most are those who don’t even consider giving me a break for this very genuine excuse: “it’s exam/essay time. My students need me & I need to mark papers, not shake butt cheeks.” Just the very fact that someone is asking me to sacrifice education for their shameless display of riches in a poor land speaks volumes about their character. Anyone who thinks that their self-indulgent events are more important than education is, frankly, someone I’d rather not associate with. They are not the kind of company I keep.
Furthermore, the next time someone tells me to at least show my face (the moun to dekha do! whine) I’m going in pjs with oil in hair, unthreaded, unshowered, looking worse than anyone can even imagine. Either that or I’m sending this picture:
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 14, 2011
There are loads of students in universities & schools across Pakistan who think it’s perfectly acceptable to email/message random teachers and ask them to do their work for them.
Well, this teacher is getting sick of these people. I am not interested in interacting with people who have no concept of academic ethics. And I’m sincerely hoping that this new section of my blog will act as a serious deterrent to those who think that this kind of behaviour is acceptable. Although I normally don’t even reply, there are some interactions that are worth showcasing.
Here’s a prime example of this kind of shameless behaviour.
Please note the fact that the student admits that he knows this is wrong. And I also don’t like having to reply with a threat to report these kids, but I also know, from personal experience, that they won’t stop otherwise. There have been times when random students have sent multiple emails, effectively spamming my inbox, because they think they can get away with doing so. It’s a sad reflection of our education system as a whole that encourages shortcuts, tricks & gimmicks instead of hard work & critical thinking.
Of course my own students have always tried to pull these tricks. For example, many who can’t be bothered to read the course material, come to class and do their own research think it’s perfectly ok to ask me questions that I addressed oh, I don’t know, about a hundred times while they were snoring. Emails asking me “how to cite” despite being given a workshop, a full class, all material required for citation & internet resources are a source of frustration and leave a very bad impression. What makes this problematic is the fact that there’s a writing centre, open all week, for their use, complete with student tutors. How lazy can you possibly be, I always think. It takes longer to email me this long list of questions than it does to search for the answer.
Who on earth nurtured these kids into believing that it’s ok to do this? The answer: we did.
When I was teaching A level students in Aitchison, I was constantly being pressured to write their college essays for them. When I said I was happy to help by just giving feedback, they would walk in with blank papers, bark a topic to me & expect me to shit out a nice little essay for them, right there and then. When I didn’t, they would, you guessed it, cry & whine until they found another teacher to do it for them. And sadly, they would always find another teacher to do so, which was very upsetting for me to watch.
Yes, upsetting and genuinely unsettling. You see, even though I did go to a private school in Wales, I didn’t ever, even once, consider asking my teachers to do anything like this. Why? Because we knew that we had to write our own essays & asking anyone else to do so would be like cheating. We understood that, and even if we didn’t, not a single teacher would have done so. THAT is professionalism. And when I took a stand to do the right thing, I suffered the consequences for trying to be ethical in an extremely unethical environment. “You MUST help your students!” they would say. See the twisted definition here? It’s synonymous with “do it ALL for them”. And if you then were the one black sheep who didn’t do something most teachers didn’t have a problem doing, then you were the villain. How these teachers sleep at night after doing this all day is beyond me. I ended up quitting because I had a hard time living with myself.
In our schools we spoon feed our students so much that by the time they come to university, they expect the teachers to indulge their brattish behaviour. They think it’s normal to ask a teacher what resources they should use instead of going to the library and researching for themselves. Heck, we don’t even provide them decent libraries in schools! This is just an outcome of what they are already used to, really. We shouldn’t be too surprised, should we?
This leads me to another headache all teachers the world over face: students constantly badgering them to improve their grade for all sorts of ludicrous reasons. I’ve spoken to many at length about this issue. One, my personal favourite, is: “I deserve an A because I am the best. I say I’m the best and I insist I know better than an experienced teacher with an MA in this subject”. I call this the (LGS Defence) Gremlin syndrome, a result of private schools that put their students on undeserved pedestals. Undoubtedly Gremlins top the list of the most difficult students. Oh, the stories so many of us could tell you!
The most common one, however, is “oh shit I fucked up the course by being a lazy brat so now please pity me and pass me for no good reason whatsoever even if I cheated or plagiarised”. With this one comes much begging & crying. And when those don’t work, threats start to pour in ranging from “my uncle works in the ISI” to “I am related to X,Y and Z” and “you know that anyone can charge you with the blasphemy law based on things you say, right?” is now cropping up countrywide.
Again, this comes back to schools, especially private schools. LGS, for example, pressured me to pass all the students I was teaching because they “didn’t want to lose money” (verbatim from the Principal’s mouth). They wanted me to pass boys so weak in English that they couldn’t string a sentence together. It had been decided, in advance, that they would be promoted to O levels just because they parents threatened to pull them out if they were taught Metric. In Aitchison, although the admin did not ask me to pass students unnecessarily, they did absolutely nothing about the physical threats I received. When students call you up and tell you how they will rape you in explicit detail, or when they physically harm you by pushing you around then shouldn’t they, ideally, be punished if not expelled? The answer, in Pakistan, is a resounding NO.
So when students demand that their grade be “improved” I have to remind myself that this is a result of their education. After all, many schools happily change grades for transcript as Aitchison now certainly does. Recently, I saw a real transcript and another doctored one prepared for universities by the admin. I was horrified to see that the student who had been given Ds by me now had As, but let me assert here that Aitchison is not alone. All our “best” private schools happily do so. There are only a handful who don’t. They also don’t check for plagiarism, a common problem the world over, definitely not isolated to Pakistan alone. As far as I know, the vast majority of our schools (and unfortunately universities too) do not use a plagiarism checker before checking essays so sadly, many students get away with it. I’ve had numerous encounters with students insisting they didn’t plagiarise, lying with a straight face which then turns red when a computer generated plagiarism report is shown to them.
But plagiarism almost seems like a mild offense as compared to cheating, which, in many schools doesn’t result in an expulsion, suspension, detention or even a failing grade. My personal view is that if someone is cheating, take the paper away and give them a zero. If the same person repeats the offense, take disciplinary action. I’ve tried to do this a few times. I say tried because the schools don’t let you fail the kid. Oh no, instead they do utterly ludicrous things like “separate” the two whispering to each other, turning a blind eye to this issue. What kind of behaviour does this reinforce? Does it discourage cheating at all? Of course not! When students have spent their entire academic career being moved from desk to desk when they were cheating instead of being punished, they do it with full confidence. They know there are absolutely no consequences other than a few seconds of their time lost while moving. This is so stupefyingly counterproductive and sends out this message: “it’s ok to cheat because there are no real repercussions.”
As I now publicly declare that I’m quitting teaching once this semester is over, even though I really appreciate the completely professional & ethical atmosphere of my current workplace, I leave you now with one single thought, a question I often ponder over: are we really educating or are we creating armies of brats who think it’s perfectly acceptable to indulge in all sorts of academically unethical behaviour? Let me know what you think.
November 25, 2010
I am Aasia and my story has revealed the death of common sense and compassion in my land. I am Aasia who cries at the demise of a once tolerant land.
I, Aasia, live in a land that puts itself on a pedestal, demanding immunity to any criticism of its warped interpretations of religion. I live in a land where everyone colludes to silence those who don’t agree with them. I live in a land where if you don’t agree with inhumane state sanctioned discriminatory practises, then your head is cut off by those who claim they are doing it in the name of a religion of peace.
I am Aasia. I believe the blasphemy law is nothing but a force to silence any voice of reason. The blasphemy law is a force of control. I do not believe you have the right to declare me a lesser person based on my religion. I do not believe you have the right to demonise me or call me unclean while claiming to practise a religion that doesn’t discriminate. I am Aasia, your ehle Kitaab, a woman any Muslim man can even legally marry. I am Aasia and I question your audacity to treat me as an outcaste.
I am Aasia for I am used as a pawn: a target used to demonise when you don’t want to listen to your own bigotry, your own hypocrisy. I am Aasia and I reject your intolerance, your hypocrisy and your infliction of your persecution complex upon me.
Forgive me while, I, Aasia, ask you why YOU think you have the right to say what you will about me, but not even tolerate a word from my perspective? I ask what gives YOU the right to judge me while insisting that I dare not judge you. Forgive me while I point out to you just how nauseating your double standards are. Forgive me while I ask you to hold up a mirror and take a long, hard look at yourself.
I am Aasia, yet another fashionable cause. Those of you who can make a difference have done nothing but give me lip service and I’m afraid it’s not good enough. As long as this law exists, Aasias will proliferate the land.
I say this because I am Aasia, the most disenfranchised of you all. If you can read this, you are probably sitting very comfortably in front of your computer screens, safe from mobs, guarded from the reality of poverty. Most of you are too busy leading your rich lives, deaf to my pleas, deaf to my cries, comfortable in your homes with your cupcakes everywhere. And I know some of you might appropriate my pain, my misery and exploit it for your own elitist benefit. I fear you will reduce my suffering into a cause that you can fight with fashion, the way you say you fight terrorism with tank tops.
I am Aasia. Silence me if you can. I am Aasia for I, too, shall not be scared to challenge discrimination against me.
April 21, 2009
On my way to Pakistan for Easter break at the end of March, my watch (yes, my watch) got stopped at security. I took it off to put it in the scanner, and as I was gathering my things, I realised that it was not there. I panicked and looked at all the Bresis (British desis) around me suspiciously. When I asked the quite clearly Muslim, Brown Bresi (because they all look alike for some weird reason! I mean really. They do. I often see couples who could pass off as each other if they changed clothes, which is quite sick) where it was, he told me to get it from the main security desk.
Horrified with my ingrained racism against my own diasporic race, I went to the desk to pick it up. It was manned by lots of Bresis. When I asked for my watch, they asked me the most ridiculous of questions.
Bresi: Where did you buy this watch?
Me: In Lahore. In Pakistan.
Bresi: When did you buy this watch?
Me: Sometime last summer. Probably August or September.
Bresi (holding watch from me suspiciously and concealing it): What brand is it?
Bresi nods: Yes. Now why did you buy this watch?
Me: Why did I buy the watch?
Bresi: Yes, why did you buy the watch?
Me: Are you serious?
Me (now exasperated and feeling more racist than ever against Bresis): Is this because it’s a Brown watch?
The watch was meekly handed over. On my way back, I requested to be seated next to Pakistani passport holders. I mean really Bresis! When will you become normal people?
And now here’s a rather terrible but relevant poem by an exasperated person who is aspiring to be a Bresi. They’re quite clearly trying to copy my style as you can see, but falling flat on their face. [Please note use of the singular they− I am not referring to multiple people and deliberately concealing the gender of this wretched soul. Do you think it’s a male or female? I think it’s wonderfully androgynous.]
Rejected and Deceived
Rejected and deceived,
We are told not to enter because
We will never leave.
This is the sin
Of being a Paki.
This is the crime
Of being brown.
This is the retribution
Of being victims of the Taliban.
At home I’m an infidel,
One who refuses to conform
To this Shariah created
By the Wahabis,
Sitting comfortably on thrones
They are the ones who are responsible for this,
This militant brand of Islam.
They are the ones who are pouring money
Into tribal ignorance.
They are the ones.
They are the ones
Encouraging these men to behave
In a manner so horrifying,
That it makes you want to kill them
Get out of my country.
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!