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Thursday, November 29, 2007

For S & D: Congrats, kids!

I recall one of your posts, D, where S and I had commented - not just because it was a great post but because it led to a lil email skirmish between me and my dear niece :-)

Good luck and may The Flying Spaghetti Monster keep you both in joy, always! (Unless, of course, you believe in The Teapot!)


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Wednesday, November 28, 2007


One stupid view raised every time some part of the nation begins to protest against an entrenched despot is: But we don't have anyone to take his/her place.

Dammit, if the Occupiers of the State never allow institutions to develop, or for new leaders to grow out of the population, we'll always be in such a rut. So break the chain, yaar! And, let's face it, the despots did eventually leave. And we have managed (in many cases better than during their periods) to splutter-start-stop-lurch-and-drag our way through for another few years ... at least until someone else spreads UHU over the chair before sitting on it.

This time around, however, there is an embarrassing bit that I have to add, if I am to be honest with you and myself: I do worry about the transition to someone else, sometimes - although I desperately want it to happen.

OK .. Ok ... let me explain before you condemn me.

I am no fan of Musharraf - primarily so because I'd like to see civilian rule (unambiguously real civilian rule, I mean - not the kind we've had since 1953) in my country. Benazir's record is poor on several counts. Her financial corruption - terrifying though it is - is, imho, the least of the problems she brings to the country each time. A lot more happens under her that is far worse. There is no real danger of Imran Khan taking the reins in his hand - his party hardly gets a couple of seats. Also, I really think he makes an important member of the Opposition, from where he can continue to try and keep checks and balances, without endangering us with his born-again rhetoric. But each time I ponder this, I am really scared shitless:

"O Lord, help me to be pure, but not yet."
— St. Augustine —

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2007 and All That

As a child, one of the books in my father's library that was always a source of chuckles and guffaws was Sellar & Yeatman's 1066 and All That, now available again in it's 75th Anniversary Edition. The book spawned as many sequels and variations as did the title itself.

If you like humour, rush and buy it now! I lost the original (with most of my father's books) in a tragedy that I'd rather not dwell upon, so I am certainly waiting to get my hands on a copy soon. It will occupy pride of place on the shelf that houses the Richard Armour and Spike Milligan histories.

Our own history is too brief for such elaborate spoofs, although Ibné Insha's Urdu Ki Aakhri Kitaab does include a short and brilliant piece on Akbar and his Nau-Ratans (= Jewels) as his learned band of advisors was called) that parallel the government shenanigans of Ayub Khan and his advisors. Inspired, I suspect, by 1066 - an acknowlegded classic of the time - Ibné Insha's book, too, features classroom style questions at the end of the chapter[s]. My favourite question: Would you like to become well-educated and be a Nauratan or remain uneducated and become a King?
A word of caution: Someone has translated Insha Jee's masterpiece into English. Please. If you can read even basic Urdu, read the original - for a lot of the nuances have been lost in translation. Sarcasm and wit, like poetry, is the most difficult to tote across linguistic barriers without serious damage.
Unless I am mistaken, it was the Sellar & Yeatman book which stated that the rule of Henry the IV Part 1 was followed by that of Henry the IV Part 2 ... which is what, today, I was reminded of as President Musharraf Part 1 prepares to hand over charge to President Musharraf Part 2. It is important to note that in the case of the Henries, it was Shakespeare and not Schizophrenia that was the coas cause.

Being older than most of my blog readers (many among them are about one-third my age) I do realise that a lot of our national and political history is unknown to them because, for the same reason that they are unfamiliar with even those subjects they once scored A's in, it has been taught at school where the concentration is primarily on dates and stats. Sadly, even that is not laid out in any cohesive manner. To help with that, for starters, I have a chart that (seriously!) could help youngsters - many of whom are out protesting these days - understand at least those aspects. Maybe schools can even put it up in their classrooms.

If you find factual errors in the above (dates, names, parties)
email me and I will put up the corrected version asap.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Predictions 2008

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On Theodore Dalrymple

Theodore Dalrymple is an atheist who is greatly disturbed by 'the new atheists' (Dennett, Dawkins, Harris, & Hitchens). An interesting though long-winded writer - I had enjoyed his Our Culture, What's Left Of It - he is now engaged in an ongoing war of words with Sam Harris, which makes for fun reading.

For the last few years Dalrymple has often written on Islam and Muslims in the City Journal (a quarterly). So, it was bound to happen that the subject of Terrorism would crop up at some point:
"It’s not just Islam, but the tension between Islam and Western modernity, that makes them tick.

While I was on a visit to Toronto recently, police arrested 17 men, the oldest of them 43 but most much younger, on charges of plotting a terrorist attack. They wished, apparently, to blow up the parliament in Ottawa and publicly behead the prime minister. Cops caught them in the process of buying three times as much material for explosives as Timothy McVeigh used in the Oklahoma City bombing. Reporting the arrests, the New York Times called the men “South Asians” — though one of them was an Egyptian, two were Somali, and most had been born in Canada — thus concealing by an inaccurate euphemism the most salient characteristic of the alleged plotters: that they were all Muslims. The Canadian police, emasculated and even stupefied by the exigencies of political correctness (the modern bellwether of virtue), said that the 17 came from such diverse backgrounds that they were unable to discern anything in common among them.

Canadians, on the whole, reacted to news of the plot with a mixture of outrage and disbelief. A few responded more vigorously, smashing the windows of a Toronto mosque, which the press swiftly denounced as un-Canadian. But many wondered, why us? when Canada had been among the most tolerant and accommodating countries to its immigrants in the world, and where celebration of diversity for its own sake had been made almost an official fetish. Could it be that no liberal policy goes unpunished?

It rapidly became clear that no single sociological factor of the kind usually invoked to explain outrageous behavior — poverty, say, or racial discrimination — could explain the adherence of all 17 to the plot (assuming that the charges against them are true). The Somalis involved were born in Somalia in the midst of the chronic civil war there and came to Canada as refugees, where they soon fell into unideological delinquency before catching the Islamist bug; they were not economic success stories. Other alleged plotters, however, emerged from the well-integrated middle classes, such as the son of a successful doctor of Indian origin who had emigrated to Canada from Trinidad. The pictures of the houses in which some of the plotters lived and grew up must have made more than a few newspaper readers envious. Whatever explained the resort of the 17 to the scimitar and the bomb, raw poverty or the hopelessness of insuperable discrimination was not it."
The above are the opening paragraphs in Dalrymple's rather long review of Terrorist - a novel by John Updike. Of course, as an alternative to the review and, possibly in the same amount of time, you could read Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist and feel equally bored. However, should any of you decide to read the Updike book, I'd also suggest - preferably instead of it - Doris Lessing's chiling novel The Good Terrorist. Sadly, it is hard to find these days - but try bookshops that sell old books and you may be rewarded.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Rejoice - The Elections are about to happen. Or not.

In an unusual show of unambiguity Benazir Bhutto has made it clear that she may boycott the elections.

Most political leaders say that under the current underta caretakers the elections cannot be free and fair, despite the Election Commission.

International reaction has been positive so far:

George Bush has offered to send brother Jeb Bush to help oversee the voting, given the latter's vast experience of fair and free elections.

• The Japanese Ambassador has stated that his country has always "... had a yen to herp Pakistan with its election plobrems ..."

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Sunday, November 25, 2007


While in Lahore, I wanted to write a longish post for this blog. The internet was 'down' and the only PCs (aaargh!) I had acccess to did not have MarsEdit on them. So I thought I'd start using MS Word - an application that I used to be fairly familiar with until I banished the entire MS Office from my own Macs. I must clarify that I did so because my work no longer required any of its components and not - as some of you may think - in a fit of emotional rage (although I know that, deep down, having to use it for prolonged periods could have been a long-seething factor).

Obviously, when I'd had the Office Suite on my Mac, I'd configured my preferences the way it suited me best. The first thing to be thrown away after any installation of that bloatware over the years has been those annoying lil creatures that the designers (for want of a more suitable and printable word) at Microsoft think are 'cute' ... but on the computer I'd been allocated here, the damned Clippy, something I'd successfully erased from memory, popped up again and spoilt my mood. So the long post - one about a dear old friend and part-mentor, the late Asghar Gorakhpuri - will have to wait.

Oh ... for those of you who do need the Office Suite on your Macs (or are into Masochism), the new version promises to be really cool.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Marching orders

"Left-Right-Right-Right-Right-Halt!" goes the new marching call in my mind.

True Democracy (as much a figment of an idealistic imagination as The Truth) demands that Benazir Zardari, Nawaz Sharif, Qazi Husain Ahmad, Imran Khan, Fazlur Rahman, and General Musharraf be able to stand for elections. The scenario is frightening enough, even if the elctions are "Free and Fair". Add to that a caretaker government that's been taken care of and one soon realizes that, as a Pakistani, one is in a lose-lose situation.

Thinking of the above should be enough for most people who do not share their skin-thickness measurements with hippopotami to lose sleep over. But nothing, really nothing, ever seems to interrupt our stupor. It's alsmost as if we'd swallowed a whole bottle of Valium.

Just this morning I read the following on Dawn's Page #2 (though it was not deemed worthy of space on its Internet Edition, it can be seen in the ePaper version) :
ISLAMABAD, Nov 21: The federal government on Tuesday imposed a ban on open debate on media curbs, suspension of judges and emergency in all colleges and universities in the country.
Unbelievable! When places of learning cease to be - by law (a law promulgated by an 'independent' caretaker government, to be sure) - places of open inquiry and debate, things have sunk to the lowest of depths. Zia had turned our already-weak learning centres into platforms of indoctrination, discrimination, and horror. It had taken several years to see Reason begin, albeit with caution, to knock at those doors again. And now this!

I can imagine His Master's Voice advising, as it always does - primarily because we never tire of asking it for advice (See Manto quote below) - "I've gotten away in this country with a lot more - despite its tradition of perceived democracy. Surely you can do better!" ... And then the chorus of the Chosen Few chime in and chant Jalib's masterpiece: "Advisor" (quoted on an earlier post on my blog).

Aaargh. Where's that Valium?
Manto (Extract from Letter #5 to Uncle Sam)

One day my school-going niece requested me to draw the world map for her. I asked her to wait for a few days and let me inquire from my Uncle Sam which of the countries will disappear from the world map with the use of atomic weapons and which ones will survive. This will make my task of drawing the map easier.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Face the Book!

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Ghalib: Still creating controversy :-)

The two sessions on Ghalib at T2F had gone delightfully well. A true celebration of that genius, with anecdotes, humour, wit, and song that evoked the spirit of Mirza sahab perfectly. EGO, the boutique on ZamZama (a shopping area in Karachi), decided to join in the fun and commemorate the events with a new tee-shirt, displayed on a mannequin placed just after the entrance. The figure looked kinda irreverently funny, in a white underwear and turquoise tee.

All went well until a local TV channel decided to shoot a talk show series there. After the first couple of episodes were shot, I was surprised to walk into another day of shooting and see a pair of trousers being put on the mannequin. I thought they were just trying to be funny but was taken aback when I was told that their censor-advisor had said they could be contravening some broadcasting code by showing a man in just an underwear.
Man? He's an effing 'Manny', yaar. What's the matter with everyone in this country?

"Hello, world. Er-r ... we're an enlightened and moderate people who, er-r, just happened to get turned on by inanimate plastic figures." Guess if Alan Abel had perpetrated his hoax in Pakistan, he'd have gotten a huge following.

For those who haven't seen the tee, up close, here's what it says (and you can enlarge the thing to a poster-print, if you click on the image):

The tee-shirt passed muster with all who attended the two sessions - and that means a total of over 150 people, among them Ghalib aficionados and lovers, old and young. I'd say the crowd was evenly spread, age-wise, and included - at the extreme ends - a couple of high-school students, O-Level Math books in hand, and an 80-year old educationist who is also a Ghalib scholar.

However, last week, as I was settling my bill at the counter, a young man walked up and passed me a small neatly-folded slip of paper and rushed out, without waiting for me to read it, much less respond. I wish he'd stayed - for Sabeen's venture is all about conversation and dialogue. A point of view, however different from mine, would - therefore - have been wonderful to hear and discuss. Anyway, this is what he had written:

Now, of course, he has a right to his view ... and it is, indeed, heartening to see that his objection is to what
he considers 'disrespect' for Mirza Ghalib. Nothing could be further from the minds of those of us who wear the tees, those at T2F who chose to display & sell them, and those at EGO who designed and manufactured them. The 2 sessions - I am not sure if he was among the audience on either - paid Mirza Ghalib much loving respect and made him, as later reactions from many of the younger people indicated, more accessible to many.

The word 'hippie', to this young man, probably has the connotations that the establishment of the time had managed to imbue it with: a good-for-nothing, unkempt, drop-out. Skip Stone's The Way of the Hippie offers this:

"... let’s see what defines a hippie. Some say it’s the way people dress, and behave, a lifestyle. Others classify drug users and rock 'n' roll fans or those with certain radical political views as hippies. The dictionary defines a hippie as one who doesn’t conform to society’s standards and advocates a liberal attitude and lifestyle."
Ghalib was, by all reckoning, a non-conformist ... and as great an advocate of the liberal attitude as any. And so, dear young man, Mirza sahab is truly worthy of being called the original hippie (pre-dating , as he did, the 'movement' by over a century). And I - a very strong believer in the hippie philosophy, myself - am proud of having him linked to the movement that began in the 60s and continues to live - in various forms - even today.

If Ghalib were to hear of all this, he'd just smile and say:
Gar ke hae kis kis buraaee say, valay baa eeñ hamah
Zikr mayraa müjh say behtar hae keh, 'T2F' meñ hae!

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Justice - Saudi Style

A rape victim was punished for violating Shoddy Arabia's laws on segregation that forbid unrelated men and women from associating with each other. She was initially sentenced to 90 lashes for being in the car of a strange man. On appeal, Arab News reports, the punishment was not reduced but increased to 200 lashes and a six-month prison sentence.

The 19-year-old woman was gang-raped 14 times in an attack in Qatif in the eastern province a year-and-a-half ago. The BBC has a report.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

TechSupport 101 - Cleaning Computer Peripherals

Things are getting really dangerous these days, so I thought I'd blog about something that would not put me at risk under today's rapidly increasing laws and ordinances. Also, trying to pre-empt what gets 'banned' or becomes labeled a 'criminal' act, next, isn't easy because - so far - I have found no method in this madness. I have discovered madness in the methods, but that's another matter!

Wracking my brains for topics, I though I'd try something that would be of use to computer-users, since we have been kinda left alone, so far, by the mushtandaas. Not wanting to go too far out out on a limb - for who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men - I thought a little product review would be useful and safe. So here's one of a product I could not resist buying as soon as I saw it. (The Meanderer who was with me was skeptical - as usual - and insisted that I was buying it for the packaging, alone. That's so-o-o not true!)

What is true, however, is that the first thing that does catch your eye is the packaging: The description of the product was too intriguing for me to pass up. Good marketing, guys!

(You may need to click on the image to read the details,
if your eyesight's like mine.)

The box contains a small brush for cleaning between the keyboard keys and a bottle of fluid for spraying on to the special cloth provided.

The cloth is high-tech according to the manufacturers and comes with its own instructions.

Also supplied is a little rubber thingy, with a suction cup (the kind you use to stick things on mirrors/walls) on its behind. I am still trying to figure out a use for it. It's not a squeaky toy ... coz all it does is hiss through the tiny aperture in its nose ...

... and it looks like one of Gary Larson's cows has mutated.

The bottomline is that the cloth and liquid work. Though I am puzzled about why the liquid is included when (presumably talking about The Cloth they seem to treat as if it came from Turin) the box says that it has "Same effect after using with water."


Does anyone think I've broken any laws even with this?

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Who seems more worried, you think?

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Just thinking out loud...

This is a kinda personal post directed to those who commented or communicated about my earlier post that featured poetry.

I am trying to figure out what route to take from these 4 options (and am looking for better suggestions to comes out of this post):

1. Shall i go back to that post and provide audio links? It means that many who've read it already won't come back and know if it has been done and, so, won't be able to hear the audio.
2. If I add to that post it'll all have to be done at the same time (aaargh!) ... for the chance of anyone coming repeatedly back to check is nil.
3. Just put them all in one new post, list style, and link the intro to the old post for those who want to know why this odd slection.
4. Really go to town and do separate brief posts on each of the poets and include the poems mentioned as examples.

Helllppppp ...

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sunday Rants

Yesterday I saw a sign that some young people were carrying at a 'flash protest' (a delightful peaceful-protest phenomena that lasts long enough to register an opinion but disbands quickly enough to not be infiltrated by elements that wish to turn every protest into an ugly event).

"WHAT THE FUCK?", said the tiny sign in red. I can understand their sentiments. They're young. They're confused. They're puzzled by the irrationality of recent events. So they are using a phrase that, along with its acronym, WTF, is commonly encountered on their most common forms of communication: Text Messages and Internet Chats. And let's face it: Expletives used at the height of frustration offer a darn sight more relief and peace of mind than even a spiritual invocation.

No 'officials' around stopped the kids from displaying that sign ... but that could be as much a sign of their 'tolerance' as of their 'illiteracy'. However, photographers and reporters from the popular press did ask for the sign to be placed out of their camera's sights as they could not carry an image so vulgar on their hallowed pages. One reporter told me, when I suggested they let the youth express their sentiments, that it was not his policy, nor even that of his newspaper, but a government policy by the Censors, PEMRA, or whoever rules the various roosts involved.

All I can say to that is: "WHAT THE FUCK!"

You and I have seen umpteen images that are in plain and simple bad taste, displayed on ALL our newspapers - and I am not referring to just the manhoos faces of our politicians that ruin my morning coffee as I plod through the useless ragsheets (which I do merely because of the fact that I really can't take a morning dump without reading a paper). I am talking of all sorts of protest scenes where everyone, from Beardos to Weirdos, is very frequently seen with a placard proclaiming "Death to [insert flavour of the month here]" or demanding that the mob, or whoever will listen, kill someone, somewhere for having said something that has offended the said lout.

This reasoning has me confused! Why is the obnoxious act of incitement to one of the the most violent of acts - murder - or the 4-letter word k-i-l-l, considered ok for the front pages? Why, on the other hand, should a word that has no literal meaning at all within the protest cry of the youth --- a word that could, ostensibly (gotcha, Sab!), in quite another context, signify an act of love --- be so offensive to society? Why should it be acceptable for some maladjusted wart on earth to scream "Kill the President!", but not a jubilant and smiling 20-something to shout "Screw the President!"... ? Although the raisers of former slogan have insane followers who, in the past, have taken the call literally enough to attempt the ghastly deed, I am sure that most would consider the latter phrase a mere empty threat.


By the way, the F-word did manage to establish legitimacy during the dotcom boom/bust days through a website that reported on the companies that floundered.


Having spent 25 years at sea, and as you may have gathered from the above paragraphs, I am no prude, specially when it comes to the matter of using language. After all, there's very little that could make a sailor blush.

So, I guess, you'll just have to call me old-fashioned, when I say that I found offensive The Daily Telegraph's use of unbecoming language for Pakistan's President (yes, the same chap whom I criticize, because I feel I have a basic right to do so - but that's an internal matter, as the President would agree). I had heard the same remark a couple of years ago on Fox News - but I was not expecting to see it in a UK paper. I guess times change.

In contrast, despite the well-deserved contempt that Bush - genuinely a Son of a Bush - is held in by our vernacular press (as by every decent human being in the world), I have yet to see in print anyone calling him what he really is.


All this is not to say that I am going soft on Mush. How could I? Even those who manage to find some outlandish arguments in his favour must smack their foreheads each day as he comes up with yet another inexcusable law, ordinance, or pronouncement. Today, it was the news story about the amendment to the army act that sent a tremor through the nation. Where will all this end? Will times get worse for true patriots under this local version of the Patriot Act?

Years go, a great mind got it right:

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

In the bgng wz the Wrd?

A matter being debated yesterday (Yes. People are talking about other things, too!) at a T2F table, among a group of teachers, was the spiralling "horror" of the ways in which Internet Messaging and other Social Networking tools were corrupting the English Language, especially in countries where ESL teachers and schools were already struggling hard to impart the rules of good grammar and correct spelling. "The worst is SMS'ing ...", said one one, moaning that "... many students are now writing those crazy expressions like '2 u' for 'to you' in essays." --- "Gawwwd!", groaned another, "I am running out of red ink, circling 'dat' and 'woz' and 'bcz' and '4ever'. Laughter and snorts all around.

I joined in the conversation (not uninvited, I assure you) and pointed out that this unnecessary worry about "texting" - a new word, itself, that had one teacher politely trying to cover her wince by altering it into a patronizing smile - has been going on for years. I shared with them a printed copy of an ESN article from 2003, as one example.

Many others, too, have debunked this view over the years.

I take the stance that this is an evolution in spelling and, while it seems as horrifying to us - just as current spellings would to Chaucer, or the US variants do to people educated under British systems - it poses no threat to the actual purpose of language: Communication. In fact, it furthers it.

A piece in The Guardian that opens, with the line, "It's gr8 news for skools", goes on to say:
A study comparing the punctuation and spelling of 11- and 12-year-olds who use mobile phone text messaging with another group of non-texters conducting the same written tests found no significant differences between the two. Both groups made some grammatical and spelling errors, and "text-speak" abbreviations and symbols did not find their way into the written English of youngsters used to texting.
And even the conservative TimesOnline informs us that texting teenagers are proving 'more literate than ever before'.

Here's an English teacher who uses the text messaging phenomena to advantage in class, while maintaining her view of it as being a bad thing.
While critics of the cellphone revolution say the phenomenon is destroying English, in Mrs Dawson's class, texting is used as a tool for learning Shakespeare, reports the New Zealand Herald.

"In her junior classes, the lines taken from Macbeth are transcribed into text language by students, while in other classes, students compose poetry and messages on cellphones.

Her innovative use of texting in the classroom may soon spread, as Mrs Dawson has been asked to speak about her novel study unit, which includes composition of a text, at the New Zealand Write Conference in Palmerston North in September.

Using texting as a medium in class captured the students' interest and inspired them to do better work, she said. "
The counter argument, that literature would lose out if this trend were left to grow is only relevant if what is defined as literature is a narrow band. Even the unconventional punctuation, or the lack of capitalisation, in e. e.cummings's poems still upsets many. A teacher of my acquaintance in the USA was puzzled by the "warped logic" of including of a poem by e.e. cummings in a textbook, saying that it undermined his efforts at setting down writing rules in his class. I wonder what he would think of this, if it made its way into the syllabus.

Dunno about your reaction, but I would, of course(!), suggest that students be offered the book - provided it is suitable in terms of school policy on content - as 'suggested reading' . I'd then ask to submit 2- line reviews via text messages! Sure would beat that stupid precis writing that we went through ...

E-Learn recently featured an article on the 'Story-Centered Curriculum' by Roger Schank. It was particularly amusing to see the following comment (quoted verbatim from the website). I am sure it would result in a 'conniption' for some members of the ELT group I referred to in the beginning.

(Note: The identity of the commenting teacher has been removed in my blog).
From: xxx xxx
Teacher . xxx . pakistan(Multan)
The Story-Centered Curriculum
Date: 07/07/2007 03:51:45
i just wanna say tht i have gone through one of the story of your story centered curriculum bcz of ur visit to lahore recently(18th april). i have just read this article n i cd say for sure tht this really works cz as being a teacher i still cd recall all tit bit tht i hve learnt through tht simple story was fun learning!!!! i hope one day actual learning will occur which will last for long ....
I wonder if someone can tell me whether, now that real Urdu texting (not just the Romanized version) is here, what are some of the abbreviations being used.

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Election Commission issues Guidebook

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Scoop of the Century!

On a recent visit to the Karachi Freepress Club I noticed a pile of newspapers hidden in the corner. Enquiries revealed that The Daily Noise - the one with the motto, "All the news that fits, we print!" - had brought out an edition on the morning after the President's address to the consterNation ... but it got banned and could not be distributed. Reporters sneaked a few copies for their posteriors posterity. I have photographed one since KFC would not allow me to take one away (Chicken, you think?).

Here, then, dear readers, a Collector's Edition - typos and all - just for you! (Tell 'em you read it here, first!)

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A long night and a riot of memories ...

Two nights ago I lay down and listened to some old müshaaerees - as Asghar Bhai (Reminder to myself: I need to do a Podcast on him soon!!!) and I used to call the little impromptu sessions we held at my house in the post '71 days. The following couplet from Athar Nafees's amazingly poignant ghazal seemed so relevant after having spent the day thnking about the General's latest faux-ly:

dam-ba-dam ba∂h rahee hae yeh kaesee sadaa
shahr vaalo süno

jaesay aae dabay paaooñ saelé balaa
shahr vaalo süno

I stopped the tape right there and whisked out an old vinyl of Julie Felix to hear, after a really long while, that beautifully powerful voice sing just this verse].

And then I went nuts - shunting between the protest songs of the 60s and 70s (Seeger, Dylan, Baez, Zappa, Joplin) and the Urdu poetry recitals from
Müshaeraas and Müshaaerees. I revelled in the voices of:

Aesay dastoor ko, sübhé bay-noor ko,
maeñ naheeñ jaanta, maeñ naheeñ maanta
(On Pakistan's constitution)

Jalaa ke mish'alé jaañ, ham jünooñ sifaat chalay
Jo ghar ko aag lagaaey hamaaray saath chalay

and the lilting ghazal tüm say ziyaadah that is one of his most popular pieces.

Ham to shaaer haeñ, ham sach naheeñ boltay
(A brief nazm that is also part of his commercially released album).

Maeñ raat aesay jazeeray mayñ tha jahaañ müjh ko
Har ayk talkh haqeeqat milee gümaañ ki tarah
(Along with Professor Shoor Alig's "Mayra Maahaul", this nazm tells it like it is!)

Vaheedah Naseem:
Abhee to aashiaanay jal rahay haeñ aatashé gül say
Sabaa yeh aag daaman tak teray laaee to kyaa ho ga?

(How many today recall her Ayub-defying political verses? or have even heard of her? The aatashé gül phrase is a reference to Ayub's election symbol - a Rose - and the fiery rampage his son, Gohar, created in Karachi to celebrate that dictraitor's victory ... an incident also captured inimitably by Faiz in two of his very moving pieces.)

and the two wonderful Mohsins:
[M] Bhopali:
Güzray thay isee tarah kabhee daar say khüd bhee
Daykhayñ yeh khayaal aap ko kab tak naheeñ aata

(A shayr he had addressed to Bhutto when, as Martial Law Administrator, ZAB had started arresting dissidents. Mohsin Bhai later dropped reciting this shayr, saying that the 'daar' reference made it painful after Bhutto was hanged.)

[M] Ehsan
Faqeehé Shahr nay kaaghaz ki kashtiaañ day kar
Samandaroñ ke safar par kiyaa ravaanah hamayñ

and, of course,
Faraz, reciting his superb classic, Mohaasirah:
Meray ghaneem ne müjh ko payaam bhayja hae
(Uff. Who could listen to this amazing bit of poetry then, without wanting to be part of the heroic defiance it portrayed?)

Maybe I shoud digitize some of these and provide audio links to this post soon? Is there enough interest?


Oh ... here's the opening shayr of Shoor Sahab's nazm, in case some of you are unfamiliar with the works of that radical poet:
Payambar Ahraman-zaadoñ say larzaañ haeñ jahaañ maeñ hoon
Yahaañ Laat-o-Habal kaa'bay ke darbaañ haeñ jahaañ maeñ hooñ


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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Installation Art?

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Is this in abeyance, too?

Oath of Members of The Armed Forces
[Article 244 of the Constitution]

(In the name of Allah, the most Beneficent, the most Merciful.)

I, ____________, do solemnly swear that I will bear true faith and allegiance to Pakistan and uphold the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan which embodies the will of the people, that I will not engage myself in any political activities whatsoever and that I will honestly and faithfully serve Pakistan in the Pakistan Army (or Navy or Air Force) as required by and under the law.

May Allah Almighty help and guide me (A'meen).

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Ab aur kyaa kahayñ?

kab tak yooñhee zülm saho gay? kab tak khaer manaao gay?
baahar bhee niklo gay yaa bas ghüt ghüt kar mar jaao gay?


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Monday, November 05, 2007

The Zookeeper & the Kangaroo - from "A Sap's Fables"

The zookeeper was surprised to see the latest addtion - a kangaroo - standing outside the barbed-wire surrounded space built for him. "Damn!", he thought. "It can scale a 10-foot barrier." So, the barrier was raised another 5 feet that night. The next morning the kangaroo was seen loitering around outside again. "Hmm... raise it to 20 feet," the zookeeper told the contractors, "and put sharp spikes on the top edge." He smiled at the possibility of what those spikes could do: He had always, secretly hated kangaroos because they reminded him of courts for some reason.

They worked all night ... but, once again, the kangaroo was found sleeping under the shade of a tree in the nearby garden the next afternoon. Mediapersons, excited by the novelty of it (and short of content, as usual), filmed him, made him pose for shots, and splashed his pictures all over the press, tv, and the internet. (Yes, it's a fairly recent tale.)

This made the zookeeper even angrier. "Barnshoot!", said the keeper, whose dad had served in the British Army. He ordered ISPs to block Google. Announcing a state of emergency, he enlisted other contractors to pool in their labour forces. "Raise the wall to 40, no - wait - 50 feet!", he bellowed. They worked all through the weekend while the kangaroo rested in his space, peering at them from under his copy of The Frightening Times, with occasional looks that alternated between 'bemused 'and 'bewildered'.

Come Monday, local and foreign reporters all began to gather at a really early hour at the zoo. They were greeted by a smiling kangaroo, chewing upon a gladiola stem. "Wow!", said the mediapersons, in unison. "How high, sir, can you actually jump? And from which Madrassa did you obtain this training?", asked Nudge M. Seth of The Delhi Times. "You don't really believe you can keep fighting the establishment of the zoo forever", chided Ameet Aaron from the Daily Yawn. "You certainly can't be expact to jump ower valls of 100-100 feet?", the lady from Naa Aae Vaqt - whom everyone loved to hate - wanted to know.

"Oh,", said the kangaroo, "I really don't give a shit how high the walls these guys build are". Then he winked and added, "As long as they keep leaving the door open."

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Karachi Protests Launch Today

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Speech

Waited, despite being immensely tired, only to discover that it lacked even the sound and fury ... and ended being just a tale told by an idiot. Signifying nothing.

Aah, well.
To sleep, perchance to dream - ay, there's the rub.

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Friday, November 02, 2007

aaj ki shab jab shama'a jalaaéñ, ooñchee rakkhayñ lao

Yesterday, at T2F, the Citizen's Campaign to Reclaim Karachi, kicked off with Sabeen reading blogger Salacious Samosa's wonderful "Ode to Karachi, My Love". Although her blog (The Nightly Narrative of a Nervous Nomadic Deep-Fried Canuckistani Super Hero) is password protected, she was kind enough to permit me to share her post with the public - (S: I think you might as well un-protect this particular piece, considering several people really enjoyed it yesterday and the 'reading' got taped/video'd/streamed, too). UPDATE: Done! Thanks, Samosa.

Following Sabeen's brief presentation of what the campaign is about, the young, brave and passionate reporter, Urooj Zia, of Daily Times, talked in detail (often gruesome) about the harrowing experience of the Oct 18th Benazir rally. She was up close to all of it and helped with the efforts to do whatever one can in such moments - and went on to tell us what a reporter's tasks and duties should be, in her view.

Two members of the audience pitched in with horrifying and moving accounts of the blasts. Sophia Hasnain stopped mid-story, unable to carry on describing the smell and sights of charred burning people and scattered bodyparts.

Of course, what would such an evening be without the usual cynics? ... Among them was Yusuf, still a friend despite his messaging me a joke a day :-) Y was of the opinion that the blasts were choreographed by BB herself. C'mon, yaar. BB may be corrupt ... laykin stupidly suicidal she's not. These blasts were too close for comfort.

The star cynic of the evening was, naturally, Karachi's second most well-known icon after Jinnah's mazaar: Toga-clad Ardeshir Cowasjee. He suggested that if people at the meeting really wanted to save lives, they should do what he did: He saved a life on the day of the blasts by convincing a friend to not go!

I interjected to say that I was getting sick of people on TV and in the press harping on about the government's failure in not stopping the rally, arguing whether BB should have postponed it or moved the rally at a faster pace, or even blaming the victims for the "stupidity" of going to the rally despite known threats. Are we all to sit at home while, slowly, political rallies, cricket matches, social gatherings, school-houses, markets and other public places become dangerous? By the way, considering the number of mosques that have been blown up, I don't see too many people advising against heading out to Eed and Jum'a prayers. And for how long do we stay locked in? Until 'they' come to our mohalla and we cannot get out of our homes (something that has happened in parts of Karachi in the past)? Or until 'they' come knocking on my door? And, by the way, aren't some of 'them', 'us'?

At this point, AC moved out of the meeting space to the area outside - near the elevator - and held court with all the smokers who had stepped out, regaling them with tales more of his interest. He re-joined us for coffee an hour or more later, after the main program was over, and was - once again - as much fun to talk to as an intelligent cynic can be :-D

(Let me add that Ardeshir is a frequent visitor at T2F and very willing to engage with everyone in conversation. Particularly the young. So if you spot him on your next visit there, head for his table. He's very approachable! Of course, if you are a prude - as far as language is concerned - you are advised to steer clear.)

Bloggers were represented well at this really lively session. They included Photo-blogger Jamash, activist Awab Alvi and the visiting Sabahat Ashraf who - on the spur of the moment - decided to stream the event live. Isn't technology just lovable? There were also the usual suspects, part of the growing T2F regulars who, to my delight, include students using it as their study space (the free wifi is a factor, I guess). And there were many new faces, too.

It is most pleasing to see how the new young bunch of journalists (in the print and electronic media) interact across competing channels and publications, helping each other feel their way across new territories. Dawn TV's Khawer A Khan was there and enlivened the discussion with questions and comments that, perhaps, only a journalist could think of.

Much after the presentations and the structured Q&A, which went on for a lot longer than anticipated, and once the coffee-house was re-opened for service, the energetic discussions and loud arguments could still be heard raging at tables and in corners ...

Great start! Log on to the T2F website to see where this campaign is headed. And please add a link to your site, if you can.

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