Sunday, December 28, 2008

Stop Israel

I feel compelled to share this link with everybody here, out of a sense of duty and humanity. Israel has been exposed, time and time again, but to no benefit of the innocent victims, who can't send off their men to work or their children to school, not fearing for their lives. Blood and gore have entered and raped almost every household in Palestine. This page carries raw footage, so the faint of heart are discouraged from going any further.

The strong Israeli lobby in the US is a secret to none. The US government seems to want to act when Mumbai happens, but it keeps turning a blind eye to what goes on in the Middle East, day in and day out, and in fact, perpetrates the same in Afghanistan and Iraq. They then sit back, pretent to ponder, hold elitist conferences at exotic locations, trying to find out why September 11 happened. The world, at large, keeps questioning why all "terrorists" are Muslims (I must thank them for at least acknowledging that all Muslims are not terrorists, however!).

Do you leave these people a choice?

STOP supporting Israel, for the love of God. Israel and the US remember the mass graves fed by the Nazis, but choose to forget Ariel Sharron's puppetries.


Do you find hope in this photograph? 
Barack Hussein Obama and Edward Said

P.S. I support Mr. Martillo's work here.

Copyright (c) 2008 Saadia Malik

Friday, December 26, 2008

Beg Your Pardon

By Maryam Javaid

Beggary is a problem in the third world, but perhaps, not of the third world alone. Our streets, traffic signals, markets, parking areas and all public places are inundated with beggars of all ages. It is becoming increasingly difficult to sit and wait in the car while a friend rushes to a nearby shop to grab a video. Instantly, there are knocks on the windows. If you dare to ignore, insults are hurled. It is also no hidden fact that there are mafias in action, in our cities. They kidnap little children or bribe those from poorer families, handicap them by severing their limbs, and have demarcated areas where only their beggars can operate. Anyhow, this is a view from Lahore. Here's what a friend has to write about her experiences in Karachi. (Saadia)


The city has been invaded! We’ve been taken over by unnatural forces and there doesn’t seem to be a way out! We are doomed! I’m talking about “the attack of the beggars” (apologies for not being politically correct).

Along with the many major changes that have been happening to the city, including the dug up roads, bad traffic, and the very expensive water fountain that works only when it wants to (sorry, but still can’t get over that), the sudden bombardment of beggars is astounding.

One of the worst things that can happen to a car owner is having to stop their car at a road side, anywhere, for any purpose. Be it to get some groceries, stepping out for dinner etc, or being stuck in traffic, there is no escaping these creatures. Men, women and children of all shapes and sizes, appear at the side of your window, out of nowhere and start their well-rehearsed monologues. Sometimes it is disheartening to see the number of people down and out, but mostly it is just plain irritating. While deciding whether to give in to their miserable stories and help them out to buy a few more trips to junkie-Ville, or to stare off into the distance in order to ignore them, its always mind-boggling to note this sudden breakout.

A relatively new trend is the washing of the cars’ windshields etc. The amount of will power required to keep one’s self from running over these people – who very nicely take it upon themselves to clean your car, whether u like it or not – is exhausting. A year ago, this was a new phenomenon executed chiefly by men only, but now there has been an onslaught of women and young children in this line of work too.

However, the tactic that I find most entertaining and interesting is what the little boys and girls of Zamzama and Khadda market are pulling. Cute little one-liners in English have been given to these children, in order to con any unsuspecting parties. Dialogues like, “what’s up nigger?” and “please baji, don’t break my heart, buy one flower” are all designed to dupe people, especially the gullible and easily amused (I plead guilty), successfully. However, whatever mechanism that is at work behind this fa├žade is very cunning. They manage to snap the people out of their reverie and get them amused enough to happily hand their money out to buy dirty flowers in even dirtier packaging.

Thus, the pessimistic view, humbly put forward, is that it seems that begging, in new forms or old, is here to stay. The attack cannot be countered as they are the masses with the weapons of our destruction – their outstretched hands. So, what is one to do? Well, I, do what most people would. I start the car, put on my shades and hum to the tune of Shahzad Roy’s “zindagi maut na ban jaaye”, making sure that my defences are in check – the bored, impassive facial expression – just in case I’m struck unexpectedly.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Missing Person, No Reward

I've been away for almost a week, and it seems, nobody missed me! But the first thing I did when I logged onto my reader today was to go through my favourite bloggers' feeds to see what I had been missing. Thankfully, the internet fiasco seems to have contained none. We struggle and we toil, but we post. It is an addiction. The blogosphere is like a junction of a happy family, every member of which, loves to have his/her two cents spoken!

December 25 does not just mean Christmas for Christians in Pakistan. It is a national holiday here because it marks the date of birth of the 'Father of the Nation', Muhammad Ali Jinnah. For me, personally, it calls for solemnity, everytime I think of my - now late - grandfather. They say, great people are born on the same day!

So, I'll just say a little about why I've been missing. If anybody here has ever wandered over to my profile, it has always been saying: "Not single, not looking. Unemployed, and looking." So yes, I have been chronically unemployed since graduation - partially owing to choice, and partially, to circumstances. However, thanks to a dear cousin (hello, Rabeea!), I've been given the chance of working on a project. It lasts for two months, but what is important is that it is! I had forgotten what organization in life was. I had forgotten the value of passing time meaningfully, and not just looking for endless ways to kill it, which, by the way, I have now excelled at, to the point of considering opening up a consultancy for the unemployed: of course, I'd advice them to stay unemployed and kill time. Killing is a human instinct - one just needs to send it sniffing in the right direction. Suggestions: time, mosquitoes, killers, poverty...

Ah, the project! I need to design a course on Microfinance for both undergraduate and postgraduate students. I've been told there's not a single one being offered on the subject at this time, in Pakistan. So it is exciting to be a part of this initiative taken by the Pakistan Microfinance Network. Has anybody here personally had any kind of experience in the area? It'd be interesting to hear you out.

And my back hurts now, after excessive hours of using the laptop with a bad posture. Aaaa-tichoo!

Copyright (c) 2008 Saadia Malik

Merry Christmas!

To all Christian friends!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Some Ramblings on my Italian Experience: Rome (Part I)




The three cities we managed to explore in the limited time that we had. Rome is rich with history; Florence with art; and Venice, heritage. All in all, Italy is as renaissance as it is baroque! We chose to fly into Italy (via Rome) from Granada in Spain, because rail travel would have consumed a lot of time; time which we didn't want wasted.

The Roma Fiumicino Airport was a good 45 minutes to an hour's train ride from the central Termini station, and initial exposes of the city were drastic and depressing. It seemed as though the slums just wouldn't end. The views from that train ride refused to get better. I suppose that partly owes itself to the preservation of Roman history. Modern trains whizzing through the city would never do justice to its grandiosity, culture and architecture. And that is one major reason why the Romans have not been able to develop a good underground network. Everytime they try to dig through, to expand the system, they hit one artefact or the other, and that means, red lights because excavators take over immediately and it becomes a restricted area.

I had booked our Bed and Breakfast close to the Termini station, for convenient access to the transport system. The city's main bus station hugs the main train station, which came as a pleasant surprise. The area itself seemed to be a rather neglected part of the city. Maybe because there were more desi faces around - Bengalis, Indians and Pakistanis - than the locals. However, the bright side of it all was that I had the best chicken biryani there, and I've lived all my life in the sub-continent! Bengali cooks are known in the world for their culinary skills, and while I haven't travelled to Bangladesh ever, it took me a flight to Rome to be a witness to their art of cooking. For Muslims, good food is a major issue when travelling in the West. Except for sea-food, all meat needs to be either halal or kosher, so this Bengali restaurant was an amazing find. We had three dinners, and I think a couple of lunches there, without a moment's hesitation. It was as if we had struck gold.

Err...not exactly a befitting travelogue on Rome, right? Okay, so here goes. The city's treasures never end: historic sites, churches, fountains, squares... Our first stop was the obvious. The Colosseum or The Colosseo. There is a lot of car traffic around it, but that fails to steal from the splendour of the ruins.

Next. We stumbled upon the Basilica de San Giovanni, the official ecclesiastical seat of the Pope. Be prepared to stumble upon a million points of interest in Rome. There is history and heritage everywhere you look. These are memories I am beginning to treasure only now, because when I was in the city, I complained constantly. Bad, hot weather. Stuffy, congested buses (we actually missed a few bus stops we needed to get off on, because we couldn't make our way to the doors of the vehicle!). Dingy, smelly tube stations. Bad publicity for Rome? No, the net-verdict of all memories is sheer fondness and the will to return some day. Culture encapsulates. I often wonder why people love coming to Lahore again and again. Its got the same problems of weather, transport and dirt, minus the tubes. Yes, no underground networks in the country. No public transport worthy of a traveller, except for taxis. But I suppose, it is the culture and the history which leave an imprint on the mind.

Next. The Fontana de Trevi. My favourite 'pit stop' in all of Rome. We had a fun time walking through the streets of the city, a map in our hands, like thirsty nomads in search of cool, crisp water. As we seemed to be closing in on our destination, I saw images of the fountain that I had earlier picked up on the net, resonating in my head. I had memories of a considerably big structure with tons of tourists thronging it, some relaxing, some enjoying Gelatos and yet others, throwing coins, in the hope of returning to the site some day. The streets we were treading were, however, narrow and closely-knit. Confusing. And then, as if from no where, crowds began to come into view, the sound of cold water, gushing and splashing against the pool, and snap, we were there. We did it all. Sat. Relaxed. Watched people around. Saw two newly-wed couples come down from nearby churches to have their photoshoots, people cheering them on. Had gelato. But we refrained from devoting precious euro coins to the calling. The Pakistani rupee exchange rate made sure we were stingy when it came these frivolities.

Next. The Piazza de Spagna to witness Rome's famous flirting ground, the Spanish steps. For Indian cine-goers, this is the place where Raj was recently ordered, "I'm bored. Dance for me!". The Spanish Steps were plenty, but if you've done the Batu Caves in Malaysia, this shouldn't be any cause for concern. I think we were quite tired of all the walking, earlier on in the day, so we felt heavily taxed. On the top deck, sits the Trinita dei Monti, a twin-towered church, which gives a reasonable aerial view of parts of the city.

More on Rome later...

Copyright (c) 2008 Saadia Malik

NB: Alex, the link to The Colosseum will take you to A website you might enjoy!

Happy Hanukkah

Happy Hanukkah to all Jewish friends!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Gulliver's Travels

I travelled to Mumbai last night and instantly headed towards the Taj Mahal hotel. What grandeur. I recall seeing the structure on TV when Josh, an awesome Montreal-based Pakistani-Indian fusion band, came up with the video for their song, Mahi Ve. For some strange, odd reason, I decided it looked like a Belgian building. I had obviously seen the video in bits and pieces. Unfortunately, it took the massacre on November 26 for me to discover what it was and where it was. Quite naturally, on entering Mumbai then, I was, first and foremost, drawn towards it. There were so many locals sitting around the building, just watching it, as if in awe and in shock. I hesitated, went up to them, and introduced myself as a Pakistani, not knowing what to expect. To my pleasure, they smiled and offered to click me into a postcard for Mumbai. I then went inside the hotel, where I ran into four Indian movie stars on a single table: Salman Khan, Shahrukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Arjun Rampal. I had the necessary gadgets (digital camera and a volunteer photographer) to do the needful. My excitement knew no bounds. In another section of the hotel, I encountered whirling Turkish derveshis. Strange, I thought, but no complaints, for it was another lucky chance to snap away! More strange things followed. Outside a spacious room, people were switching off their mobile phones, lining up, observing pin drop silence, gradually walking into a room; a second door, leading them out. The preserved body of Mao Tse Tung lay inside. I recall casting a look at him and thinking to myself, I had visually embraced monumental history. Then, I woke up.

Dreams. What are they? I usually dream a strange cocktail of disconnected things, people and events. My sister too. She says she always walks into one house and out of another.

Signmund Freud's contribution to the area is perhaps the most significant. He introduced the world to psychoanalysis, focussing study on the subconscious human mind. His Interpretation of Dreams offers a method of free association to arrive at an interpretation of the symbolism of the images in our dreams: which wishes we want fulfilled and which inner conflicts we need resolved.

While I am obviously not urging my readers and fellow bloggers to interpret my dream for me, I think it'll be an interesting exercise if people could relate any incoherent narratives of their own. All the better if they've had any of their dreams successfully psychoanalysed the Freudian way.

Copyright (c) 2008 Saadia Malik

Monday, December 15, 2008

Dubya gets the Nobel Prize

I went under the weather last night. Seasonal flu. I hadn't read the morning paper today, nor did I have any intentions of logging on to the PC, but I got so excited with this peculiar piece of news, that I thought I just had to! Minutes ago, I came over to my parents' place and they exclaimed, "Bush is being given the Nobel Prize!"

"What? The Nobel Prize for spreading terrorism, violence and hatred in the world?"

"No, for Peace!"

"Can't be. They would have to be out of their minds."

A little corner in my mind provoked me into stupidity. It reasoned that if a saviour of humanity as great as Pakistan's Abdul Sattar Edhi couldn't so much as qualify for a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize, then there was something lacking in the system, and maybe the lobbies in Washington managed to exploit a loophole. Crazy things do happen!

I was pointed towards the newspaper, and the headline read:

"Alwidai Bosa! Bush ko Baghdad mein jootay parh gaey."
(Bunny hug! Bush gets shoe-smacked in Baghdad.)

Urdu readers are encouraged to come up with better translations.

Although I realise that the journalist behaved rather indecently, but kudos, it took guts! I do think, however, that Bush deserves these kinds of accolades, after the kinds of 'face-lifts' he and his government have given the world. I suddenly feel a lot better. Do you?

Copyright (c) 2008 Saadia Malik

Friday, December 12, 2008

Such is Life

I first held him in my arms, when my nephew was barely a few minutes old. Two years later, I experienced the same thrill while embracing my niece. There were nights of ecstatic sleeplessness when I'd sit on a sofa for hours, laying them face down on my chest, so that their cholic exasperations would wither away. From then on, there was hardly ever a day when I didn't get to see the two of them; any day missed was a day wasted, a night melancholic. Gradually, however, as my sister got busy with the kids' schools and household chores, gaps began to spring up. Then I got married and those gaps fanned out a little more. At times, we'd meet every day, and at times, there'd be a lull for a couple of days, when she could have been making the kids study at home for upcoming exams, preparing for a dinner party at her place or I couldn't make it to our parents' house (where we always get together). Naturally, it took time but we've all gotten accustomed to the changing facets of life and times.

A few days back, I was at my parents' and my sister called to say that she and the kids would be coming over. I waited eagerly for the little monsters. Eventually, when she arrived, my nephew was missing. He chose to stay back home to savour his latest birthday gift, Sony's Play Station 2. How mean, I reacted, with a combo of affection and disappointment. My father began reminiscing about how that is the story of every relationship. As times change, and as we grow up, we find new things to keep us busy, by choice or by compulsion, and the focal points of our lives remain each other no more. He warned that that was life. That as the 6 year old would grow up, he'd discover new hobbies and begin enjoying meeting people other than good old me!

I agreed, because it was so obvious. Industries are built on these lifestyle patterns. How our parents watch our every move, as we grow from infants and toddlers to young and independent-minded individuals, and how we fail to offer them the same kind of attention. We may respect and love them, but we gradually grow distant. Some children move away for education or livelihood, some for their marriages to survive. Or worse, that love and respect withers either in the face of utter abandonment or we try to convince our conscience by telling ourselves that old peoples' homes are better equipped to take care of them.

I feel sad. Do you? This blog entry, deserves to be read.

Copyright (c) 2008 Saadia Malik

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Eid Mubarak

Eid Mubarak to all Muslims!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Bourn Supremacy

Red alert, do we have an identity crisis?

Imagine a world full of people, demonstrating identical faces, synonymous dressing senses, communicating in the same language. Heck, there wouldn't be room for any imagination! Dullness. Boredom. Monotony.

The beauty of the world lies in its diversity.

Every region across the globe, boasts its own history, heritage, culture and language. In our part of the world, the moghul empire still resonates proudly in the mind of the average sub-continental dweller (for reasons ranging from aesthetics to grandeur to unity to pluralism); our poets and writers have been the brains and blood behind reformations and revolutions; our regional dresses and the arts and crafts behold traditionally conservative values but vary in form from province to province; our languages both national and regional, have a wealth of literary works to back their profoundity.

While a lot can be said and mourned in the wake of the globalisation of more than just economies, it is our languages for which I fear extinction the most. A sad trend seems to have engulfed our schools, colleges and households. While Punjabi (the regional language of the Punjab) has since long lost its battle against the throngs of Westernization, we are now keen on annihilating the urdu language too. It is not being argued that everything West is evil-incarnate; rather, it is the sheer ignorance of valuing a beautiful culture, that is worrisome. The urdu language is a powerful one, but it is saddening to witness our toddlers being warned in school against speaking either their mother tongues or their national language. They are expected to communicate in English alone; uttering a word in Urdu warrants a punishment. And in our middle and upper classes, Punjabi is regarded as a language of the poor. People who converse in Punjabi, are derogatorily labelled paindus (roughly, villagers). These are the languages hosting sufis like Bulleh Shah and Waris Shah, sung by legends like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Jagjit Singh, weaving magic through the words of GhalibIqbal and Faiz.

It is hard to understand then, why our people prefer to speak phrases in broken English with "lofty" accents than to speak good urdu or punjabi. An inferiority complex has killed the spark that a proud nation arouses; instead we seem to want to prove our modernity through the acquisition of the English language. Its significance is now much more than being a universal mode of communication. For us, it is to make a statement: we are modern, progressive and educated.

Sadly, we end up making only one statement: we are ignorant fools. Paindus!

Copyright (c) 2008 Saadia Malik

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Guest Post: The Singing Mullahs

Singing and musical instruments are categorically deemed prohibited by most, if not all, of the traditionalist Muslim scholars. Such vices could only be enjoyed by no less than drunken reprobates, and good Muslims, we are told, would do well to poke fingers in their ears on hearing the voice of the devil or the sound of the satanic inventions. I will not attempt a rebuttal of this position but my view is diametrically opposed to the traditional view. There is plenty of research to suggest otherwise. The concern of this post, however, is not juristic wrangling, not that I am qualified to set foot on such a terrain, but to point towards a menace that is as unsettling as it is contradictory in nature.

In most parts of the city of Lahore, and more so in less developed areas of Pakistan, one is frequently forced to hear the singing voices of mullahs emanating from mosque-speakers whose loudness and fidelity would even put Bose to shame. The content of their offerings varies from time to time but the common denominator is the beauty, sonority and musicality of their voices that can impel Ustad Bare Ghulam Ali Khan to sit up in his grave and take notice. The content with which our ears are treated includes some formulaic invocations before the Adhan (call to prayer). These invocations are used to bless the Prophet Muhammad (sws) and one school of thought in our part of the world has made them mandatory to recite before the Adhan. When Arabic words flow from the tongue of Punjabi, nay, thoroughbred Punjabi, mullahs, whose silky voices resonate with the piercing sounds of car-horns, the melody that emerges is nothing short of ethereal.

The repertoire of our pulpit-singers is not that miniscule though. Another genre that lends itself to perfect abuse is Naat (a devotional and usually rhymed poem in praise of the Prophet Muhammad). There is no specific time of the day that one can look forward to for a riveting experience of Naat recital, so if you happen to be in Lahore, you’ll have to count on your luck and most of the time, you won’t be disappointed. With a little help from destiny, you might even be amongst the “listening audience” of a Naat competition amongst children. Some of them have such an astounding vocal range that the Guinness record of six octaves would pale in front of their virtuosity. These Naat recitals assume farcical dimensions in the religious gatherings of a well-known Islamic group in Pakistan. In order to rein in the recalcitrant proclivities of its adherents, the group’s “experienced” members suggest that they adorn the Naat poetry with tunes of Bollywood songs, as if shorn of satanic content and bereft of musical accompaniments, these tunes will become “born-again” concoctions fit for consumption of the pious.

There are many who have lent their beautiful voices to the sublime words of Naat poetry and have left an indelible mark on this genre, but for taking the craft to its zenith, the credit goes to the singing mullahs!

Copyright (c) 2008 Razi Allah Lone

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Why Americans Don't Get Soccer

Just to lighten up the mood a little, here's a funny piece I found on the net. If you follow football, or what is known in the U.S. as soccer, hopefully, you'll find this entertaining too. This is humour in good vein. Hopefully, it'll be consumed in that spirit!

Copyright (c) 2008 Saadia Malik

Monday, December 1, 2008

Believe Me

Truth be told. Honestly speaking. To be very honest. This is the truth and nothing but the truth.

Each one of us has encountered these phrases innumerable times. They serve as prologues to forthcoming statements. That they are said and heard so much, is an indication that we do not trust each other to be always telling the truth. Or in the very least, that we are so weary of being smothered with propaganda, exaggeration and lies, that we need that extra nudge to believe. Naturally, cynicism - the art of casting doubts on the intentions of the other - is a by-product we are all suffering from today.

It all starts with a few innocent lies, which one thinks, can do no harm. And due to the lack of snubbing it at the point of inception, it spreads, making it impossible to pull the plug. It is a cancer, I believe, which has infected you, me and them.

On a very personal level, we lie to ourselves when we blame others for our short-comings. If we fail to balance our professional and personal lives, we blame our spouses for not understanding, rather than trying to better the balance. Or if we see him/her trying their utter best, we frustrate ourselves all the same. If our children become too temperamental, we scold them viciously, not ready to accept that we ourselves set the wrong precedent when they were impressionable tiny tots. When financial hardship rears its ugly head, we refuse to share the pain with anyone because of our huge egos, and instead, become the terminator with misdirected anger.

As social beings, we would rather make up an excuse for not being able to attend an important function we were invited to. Why do we find it so hard to say that we were in a bad mood at the time, or that we forgot, or simply didn't feel like it. And why do we have this urge to always compliment another person on how they look or what they're wearing, even when we silently process shock over their choice of shoes. If the truth is too hurtful, why can't we simply refrain from saying anything.

Professionally, we are constantly bombarded with unethical advertisements. Unethical not just because a woman's body is used to sell everything from clothing to car tyres; but unethical also because they are misleading. When prices are quoted, there are always hidden charges. When they do claim that there are no hidden charges, there is always another catch. Maybe the deals are time-specific, maybe something else. When we look for jobs, we garnish our resumes to sell a mechanic as an engineer, or an assignment as a research project.

Political lies are unknown to nobody. Nixon rewards the American people with the Watergate, and Blair conveniently sells WMDs in Iraq to his countrymen.

So deep-rooted is dishonesty in all of us, that we do not even care to spare the spiritualities of others. Believers of one religion will look upon the believers of another in a holier-than-thou attitude. Atheists will claim superiority of reason and enlightenment, blaming the prostrating many of cruelty, inhumanity, superstition and uselessness.

But of course, not everything is as simple as black and white. Some tricky situations call for "creativity". In fact, it might even be dangerous to speak the truth in times of war and captivity. I leave you hence, with a beatiful anecdote from the life of Propher Muhammad (may God's blessings be upon him).

He was migrating from the city of Mecca to Medina, following the persecution of the Meccan leaders. With him was one companion, Abu Bakr (may God's blessings be upon him). The enemies sent out men in search for Muhammad. One of these men met with the Prophet and his companion while they still hadn't reached their destination. He asked Abu Bakr who his friend was. This was a time of war, but the servant of God chose not to lie even at this point. He replied, "He is the one who shows me the way!"

Quite beautifully, Abu Bakr answered with the truth, for Muhammad was his religious and spiritual guide. In the deserts of Arabia, however, his statement was construed - as it was hoped - as literally showing the way.

So yes, there is a path of truth and honesty, whatever the circumstances be. It is ours if we choose to tread it.

Copyright (c) 2008 Saadia Malik