Friday, January 15, 2010
Monday, January 11, 2010
Anand Patwardhan - Revisited
Anand Patwardhan made several excellent films, including War & Peace. Parts were shot on both sides of the Pak-Indian divide. Here's a great piece from Lahore Grammar School that some of you may have missed (or even forgotten).
It would be wonderful to have many of our current youth and, even more important, those in the group that were there during the shooting, to see if they have changed their views - one side or another.
Friday, January 08, 2010
The morning after the Blasphemy Laws were introduced by Zia - much before they were made even worse under Nawaz - "Dawn" carried the news item that contained a list of Surah.Aayat (2.85, 2.136, 2.157, 4.65, 4.150, 4.152, 9.61) deemed to be the basis of the laws.
Having read the Qürãn frequently - and intently - while compiling some comparative religion documents and, again, while doing some cross-checking for Ziauddin Kirmani's Seerat-un-Nabi (considered controversial by many), I could not recall any parts that suggested a life sentence or a death penalty for blasphemy which, certainly, is considered in the holy book as a rude and annoying act and one that angers Allah.
To be sure that my memory was playing no tricks, I immediately checked up Abdullah Yusuf Ali's translation into English of each of these references, including the Aayats just before and after them (for they are numbered slightly differently in some translations). Later, just to be doubly sure, I also cross-checked with the very simple and readable translation by Fateh Mohammad Jullenderi.
I did realize, though, that very few others would left their breakfast tables, copying the Aayat numbers down somewhere, to check against their copies of the Qürãn lying (as expected!) in another room. It was, after all, work-time rush hour and, surely, the media was expected to have done it's homework. And, ohh the inconvenience of having to do the vüzoo - (now vüdhoo!) - for the tedious checking up, especially when one has already put on a suit.
Of course, there must have been those who thought of it and put it off till later … but such checking is rarely done once the moment has passed. In fact, being aware of this phenomenon is how politicians and the media often purposefully misquote things and get away with it. (The much-maligned Internet is far superior in this regard because, whenever the need occurs, it can instantly link you to other references.)
To say that I was puzzled by the incongruousness of the claims and the references cited for them would be an understatement. Here they are. Judge for yourself and figure out how they relate to Blasphemy and the Life/Death sentences:
2:84 And remember We took your covenant (to this effect): Shed no blood amongst you, nor turn out your own people from your homes: and this ye solemnly ratified, and to this ye can bear witness.
2:85 After this it is ye, the same people, who slay among yourselves, and banish a party of you from their homes; assist (Their enemies) against them, in guilt and rancour; and if they come to you as captives, ye ransom them, though it was not lawful for you to banish them. Then is it only a part of the Book that ye believe in, and do ye reject the rest? but what is the reward for those among you who behave like this but disgrace in this life?- and on the Day of Judgment they shall be consigned to the most grievous penalty. For God is not unmindful of what ye do.
2:86 These are the people who buy the life of this world at the price of the Hereafter: their penalty shall not be lightened nor shall they be helped.
2:135 They say: "Become Jews or Christians if ye would be guided (To salvation)." Say thou: "Nay! (I would rather) the Religion of Abraham the True, and he joined not gods with God."
2:136 Say ye: "We believe in God, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma'il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them: And we bow to God (in Islam)."
2:137 So if they believe as ye believe, they are indeed on the right path; but if they turn back, it is they who are in schism; but God will suffice thee as against them, and He is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.
(The portion in italic, incidentally, also affirms that the Qürãn lays down no death punishment for apostasy, for Allah Himself is going to dole out punishment for that sin.)
2:156 Who say, when afflicted with calamity: "To God We belong, and to Him is our return".
2:157 They are those on whom (Descend) blessings from God, and Mercy, and they are the ones that receive guidance.
2:158 Behold! Safa and Marwa are among the Symbols of God. So if those who visit the House in the Season or at other times, should compass them round, it is no sin in them. And if any one obeyeth his own impulse to good,- be sure that God is He Who recogniseth and knoweth.
4:64 We sent not an apostle, but to be obeyed, in accordance with the will of God. If they had only, when they were unjust to themselves, come unto thee and asked God's forgiveness, and the Apostle had asked forgiveness for them, they would have found God indeed Oft-returning, Most Merciful.
4:65 But no, by the Lord, they can have no (real) Faith, until they make thee judge in all disputes between them, and find in their souls no resistance against Thy decisions, but accept them with the fullest conviction.
4:66 If We had ordered them to sacrifice their lives or to leave their homes, very few of them would have done it: But if they had done what they were (actually) told, it would have been best for them, and would have gone farthest to strengthen their (faith);
4.150 and 4.152
4:149 Whether ye publish a good deed or conceal it or cover evil with pardon, verily God doth blot out (sins) and hath power (in the judgment of values).
4:150 Those who deny God and His apostles, and (those who) wish to separate God from His apostles, saying: "We believe in some but reject others": And (those who) wish to take a course midway,
4:151 They are in truth (equally) unbelievers; and we have prepared for unbelievers a humiliating punishment.
4:152 To those who believe in God and His apostles and make no distinction between any of the apostles, we shall soon give their (due) rewards: for God is Oft- forgiving, Most Merciful.
4:153 The people of the Book ask thee to cause a book to descend to them from heaven: Indeed they asked Moses for an even greater (miracle), for they said: "Show us God in public," but they were dazed for their presumption, with thunder and lightning. Yet they worshipped the calf even after clear signs had come to them; even so we forgave them; and gave Moses manifest proofs of authority.
Nothing so far that even remotely and through serious stretching and misinterpreting can be connected to Blasphemy.
But wait. There is still the last one cited:
9:60 Alms are for the poor and the needy, and those employed to administer the (funds); for those whose hearts have been (recently) reconciled (to Truth); for those in bondage and in debt; in the cause of God; and for the wayfarer: (thus is it) ordained by God, and God is full of knowledge and wisdom.
9:61 Among them are men who molest the Prophet and say, "He is (all) ear." Say, "He listens to what is best for you: he believes in God, has faith in the Believers, and is a Mercy to those of you who believe." But those who molest the Apostle will have a grievous penalty.
9:62 To you they swear by God. In order to please you: But it is more fitting that they should please God and His Apostle, if they are Believers.
Ok. Since there is a link, of sorts, that the italicised part in the above forms - and that was what the two Maulvis we debated the next day at an ICN forum kept coming back to - let's look at four more translations of it:
Khalifa: Some of them hurt the prophet by saying, "He is all ears!" Say, "It is better for you that he listens to you. He believes in GOD, and trusts the believers. He is a mercy for those among you who believe." Those who hurt GOD's messenger have incurred a painful retribution.
Pickthall: And of them are those who vex the Prophet and say: He is only a hearer. Say: A hearer of good for you, who believeth in Allah and is true to the believers, and a mercy for such of you as believe. Those who vex the messenger of Allah, for them there is a painful doom.
Shakir: And there are some of them who molest the Prophet and say: He is one who believes every thing that he hears; say: A hearer of good for you (who) believes in Allah and believes the faithful and a mercy for those of you who believe; and (as for) those who molest the Apostle of Allah, they shall have a painful punishment.
Sher Ali: And among them are those who annoy the Prophet and say, `He is all ear.' Say, `His giving ear to all is for your good; he believes in ALLAH and believes the Faithful, and is a mercy for those of you who believe.' And those who annoy the Messenger of ALLAH shall have a grievous punishment.
Oh what a tangled web they weave … When first they practice to deceive.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
T2F 2.0 is back!
Science Ka Adda — Salman Hameed, from Hampshire College, is here to start the days off with a new lecture on "Humans in the Cosmos: How 400 Years Of Telescopes Have Changed The Way We Look at Ourselves!" … Don't forget to see this startling talk (on December 22nd at 6.30 pm) by a brilliant young man.
Not into Science? Hmmm ... take a trip and see what you'd been missing! There's an exhibit of some of Pedro Meyer's beautiful work. And brilliant Coffee and other stuff. Books to buy … and many even to read at the studio upstairs. Music, too: It's soft and does not hurt your years. Urdu (and English) poetry, literature and more stuff to go. Coming to you soon.
Ohhh … if you are an Entrepreneur, there are seats for you, too, on a short/long term basis (just 5, though). A sponsor? A quick event? There's more … you know!
Drop in …
Friday, December 11, 2009
Bertrand Russell … Mathemagical!
Monday, December 07, 2009
Tie 2 …
OK. So now I am well enough and I thought I'd start writing.
Once a week, though. At least until something really industrious comes along.
To start with, lemme go back to the 24th of October.
The topic: Blasphemy Ordinance - Do We Want Them Removed
6.20: About 10 mins to go
So, there I was.
Nuzhat and Sabeen.
A couple of oddball friends and relatives.
… but then people gathered up and the hall, around an hour or so later, was filling up. Soon, there were enough in the hallway to make sure it was full.
Everyone spoke well … including even the poor 'office' girl. But the delight of the evening was dear old Bhagwandas. Naasikh and Meer and tons more … Yayyyy!
General discussion ended with the consensus that no way does it seem likely to be done away with ... but ... a lot of its integrity can be resolved.
So, around 9+, Nuzhat, Sabeen, and I moved on to our house, ready to change (Sabeen still making up her mind, though) and we decided to have dinner.
Dinner done, I walked up to my room where Sabizak's little note asked when I'd be around. "In a while", I said. Then moved to the bedroom when I 'felt' a little chakkar and decided to lie down. That's when I felt a little more. So I decided to stand up and stay the other way …
… and suddenly I realized I was 'ON'!
In the next few moments I was not quite as conscious - well, kinda - so the events that took place are a bit transfused, but Shamim (the surgeon who lives opposite), Sabeen (who'd phoned up to say she was ready to go and was told to come over with an ambulance), the surgeon's wife, an antihistamine ( Old? Maybe! Let's try it! … No, it didn't do anything!!! ), Sabeen's arrival (still trying to get an ambulance), my insistence that I want to go to NICVD as fast as possible (at Aga Khan I'd probably die crawling under a stampede) … all this was lost somewhere around my constant feeling that I wanted to go to the bathroom.
Shamim had checked out his BP instrument and, as usual, seemed pretty sure that I was not likely to last - something that a pair of good earphones will put right for him. He also felt that my pulse was nearly 'zero' but kept on looking at me and saying 'Forty haé ...'.
But he was ready to stop me from going over to the loo. Nuz, too, had wanted to stop me … but, finally, she forced Shamim and [together] they drove me to the WC.
Lasted 2 mins!!! I was out, cold.
Lying on the floor, I was dragged back to the place near the bed.
Dunno if the closure lasted 2 mins or 5 ... who knows. But there I was … ready, willing, and able! Up again, with my ageless rhythm, it had to be the loo. So, there I was, dragging my feet all across the floor. Twenty feet to the WC, angry, angst, wanting to go, and there I now was. Nuzhat had finally decided to let me go on. On the floor to the commode I suddenly discovered I had enough strength to drag myself and get around to sit. [There was 'much' to be done. Loads of shit. Amples of clearance. Much water. But still …]
The trip to the loo was wonderful. I got up and, partly stretched across Nuzhat's body, I went all the way back to the bed and lay down upon it. On the way I only thought 3 times, in very quick succession, that Ragni should be here to see me go. Or stay. But I do need her.
And then I went back upon the bed and snored.
Down the stairway, down into the parking lot, up into the ambulance … all these passages seemed little until we went up into the hallway where a hundred doctors, patients, nurses, attendants, all created a noise. I reopened my eyes once and was told that the efforts were good. I was very likely going to survive.
(Oh, I did see a rather 'cute nurse' ... but, later, much much later, it turned out to be my friend Insiya.)
Just a few moments, as soon as I was taken into my CMU, I told Nuzhat that we had to call Ragni otherwise she is likely to see this on the net. People were told to stay off the net (including one gentleman who also said that on the net!).
Soon I heard Ragni's voice and was glad …
That was my day!
Friday, October 23, 2009
Never too late ... but ...
Monday, October 19, 2009
Gone too soon …
Salman Mehmood is no more. In my mind he was Little Salman Mehmood, ever since I met him at a Tweetup. His passing away once again underscores the fact that there is no Meaning of Life. But there is (and can and must always be) Meaning in Life.
"@skdev", as Salman's fellow Tweeple knew him, gave his life a lot of meaning in the very few days he was in this world and that is what, apart from his winning smile, I will remember and respect him for. Always.
With many other hearts, mine goes out to the very brave Ayesha (and I use the adjective after having witnessed it in our brief minutes together at AKUH) and to a family that has known more losses than many can bear with such dignity and calm.
Like the numerous legends through time that have been born of our desire to cope with death, these lines from McCreery often sustain me in moments of such losses:
There is no death! The stars go down
To rise upon some other shore,
And bright in heaven's jeweled crown
They shine for evermore.
If they were literally true, Salman would certainly be a bright star on some horizon. And true they are, in a sense that I subscribe to - the one that the last two lines of the poem state.
For all the boundless universe
Is Life -- there is no dead!
So, @skdev, you live!
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Kaesay Kaesay Loag - Revelations (2)
Apologies for the delay ... but I did finally find the time to scan and edit things to put up and, so, as they customarily say at functions (but usually before making a long-winded introductory speech - which I've already done via the last two posts, anyway) I shan't come between you and the poet.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Sabeen Mahmud's "Reality Bites"
[Sabeen's own excellent, but rather infrequently updated, blog - Meanderings - is, sadly, down again thanks to the shittiest hosting service I know of … so she posted this well-written piece, following the SaadKhan-Unilever-Mindshare accident, on Facebook where a lively discussion has ensued. However, I think people not on FB ought to be able to read it, too … so, here it is!]
Dr. Adil Najam's post What Happened to Saad Khan, coherently summarizes the tragedy of a young man's death during the filming of a reality tv show for a Unilever product. Farrukh Ahmed's post raises a number of critical questions and has focused on demanding a response, from the multinational giants, Unilever and Mindshare.
I did a lot of multimedia and technology work for Unilever between 2000-2005 and my colleagues and I spent many nights there to get projects completed on time. There was a lot of camaraderie and we got the opportunity to observe almost all the departments in action, practically as insiders. Some of the key people who worked there during that time were fantastic and those were heady days. But I do remember commenting one day, rather wryly, that if someone were to drop dead in the next cubicle, it would probably take a week for anyone to notice.
"The Corporation" is a soulless machine, dedicated to the pursuit of profit. Vision statements, ethical guidelines, and corporate social responsibility programs are merely legal requirements that have no practical bearing on how companies do business. I'll never forget the "wise" words of an intern who flippantly said one day that business and personal life have nothing to do with each other. This is what the kids are taught at business school and this is the dream that plays out in the corporate world.
Some blog commenters have questioned Saad's sense of (ir)responsibility for participating in a potentially dangerous reality show. Others have spun conspiracy theories around the fact that Unilever's Corporate Affairs Manager is married to the head of Geo, and hence the media silence. Facebook groups are springing up each day demanding explanations. A magazine editor has urged people to stop jumping to conclusions and has dissed online crusaders. A satirical comic strip has emerged. Twitter is abuzz with the #SaadKhan hashtag. Irrespective of points of view, people are speaking up and most of them are enraged.
While Big Media is relatively quiet, possibly in connivance with the country's largest advertiser and media agency, the online airwaves are on fire. Hopefully, Unilever will soon have a PR crisis on its hands, because "the people" are only just getting started.
I have a single demand. Multiple third-party vendors were involved in the Clear Shampoo reality tv show. However, the project was commissioned by Unilever, and therefore, they owe the public an explanation, supported by documentary evidence. Once they do that, next steps can be determined. Right now, the facts have to be brought out into the open. The public has a "right to know" and has a responsibility to demand accountability.
It takes a tragedy that affects people personally for a shift in perception to occur and I hope that after this, people will start thinking, even just a little bit, about the "military-industrial complex" and questioning the super-power status of corporations in our lives.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Reason takes a backseat again …
It would be ridiculous for me to even begin a post on this topic without requesting that you read xyz's brilliant and hilarious rant first.
"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use!" — Galileo
Friday, August 21, 2009
Among the many moments I cherish
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Happy Independence Day?
Rather than write about my feelings (actually I feel kind of numb), I would like - once again - to share those of my friend, Naeem 'Warrior' Sadiq, the full-time working arm of the collective conscience of some of us.
I decided not to celebrate the 14th August this year, to record my personal grief, shame and solidarity with the innocent citizens of Gojra, who were killed , wounded and burnt, for belonging to the same God, but a different religion. In my room I will fly the Pakistan flag at half mast, I will put my TV off, have none of those “milli naghmey” and sing no national anthem. I am sad, ashamed and distressed. I will call up all my Christian friends to say I am deeply sorry and I apologise.Pakistan at 62: How different is it from Pakistan at 2?
I do not wish to celebrate the birthdays of a land where the Mullahs spread hate from the minarets of their mosques. Where 20,000 Muslims unite to kill a few hundred Christian men, women and children. Where the administration provides bullet-proof vehicles and multi-layer protection to its leaders but will do nothing to protect the life and property of its ordinary citizens. I am ashamed that not one person, the CM, the PM, the Governor or the President resigned from his job as an admission of failure to perform their primary duty.
There are plenty of flags, parades, speeches and ceremonies, but no real sense of guilt, remorse, or reform. The Dawn newspaper alone has 24 ‘ad’ nauseam ads, sponsored by the government departments, with the tax payers’ money, most carrying the pictures of four members of the same family. All under the garb of a “Happy Birthday to you, dear Pakistan”. The theft and plunder of peoples’ money does not pause for rest, even on the 14th day of August. Should not a state, at a minimum, protect the life and property of all its citizens, to deserve ‘a happy birthday’.
Not very much, I guess, in matters that really matter. From Leaders to Facebookers, from the Steeple to Tweeple, everyone is still asking others to do something for Pakistan, even if it is just to superficially 'go green' by changing your display picture.
In 1949, when I was almost 9 and Pakistan had just turned 2, Abi (my father, Azhar Kidvai) wrote a poem that he read out on at a small mushaaerah celebrating Independence Day. While the rest of the poem was simple and understable enough at that age, too, it was the brief section of it that contained an anecdote I found very amusing and read it often enough to have it permanently etched in mind. Listen to me reciting it for my daughter, Ragni, a few years ago.
Random thoughts that occurred as I read about the Jaswant Singh book
• As I commented on Fawad Zakariya's FB, the one conclusion that I strongly subscribe to - and have always held - is that the Muslims of the subcontinent have been the greatest losers because of the Partition of India.
• It is obvious that had Pandit Nehru and others accepted certain demands, the Quaid - with his fairly strong commitment to Hindu-Muslim Unity - would not have had any reason to press on for Pakistan.
[BTW, I have never quite understood how one can support the concept of Democracy and, then, expect a larger than democratic share in the cake.]
• Pakistan was forged out of the fears of a Muslim minority. Whether they were real, perceived, or instigated (by the Pakistan Ka Matlab Kyaa brand of sloganism that introduced religiosity into the equation) is of no consequence.
[Incidentally, this is one of the the major reason for the tragic state we find ourselves in, because those who have attained security (the Feudals, the Rich-by-any-means, the Theocracy, and others in power deceptively usurped) have no more 'fears' and, so, are no longer concerned about the needs or insecurities of the rest.]
• Much as the Two-Nation Theory may have attempted to shape them artificially, this 'nation' (and a separate State for it) were certainly not created on the basis of common aspirations - the key ingredient that defines real nations.
[Had the usually touted ingredients for nationhood - the commonality of religion, language, heritage, culture, and, preferably, geographical contiguity - been of any real consequence, there would have been one large Arab state, or, at least, an attempt to push for one.]
• Nations (the American Nation is just one example) continue to exist, despite their many diversities in these matters, as long as they more-or-less share the larger vision for a common future.
• I anxiously await a book from a Pakistani writer that re-visits Gandhiji in the same way: criticism, yes - demonization, no!
Sunday, August 09, 2009
The Sunday Sermon: Free Will
The first thing in the morning that popped up on my computer this morning was an email with a link to the Quinn vs Dawkins mini-debate. Although it is obvious that I am - in most matters - on Dawkins's side of the divide, I cannot deny that he has more or less earned the wrath of the believers. And he enjoys it! A quick look at his [in]famous (but hilarious, as the audience's reaction testifies) response to fellow-atheist Tyson - at an all-Atheist conference - is proof enough. (Btw, RD - who has been caricatured as a warrior may not accept this but he has taken a bit of Tyson's advice to heart for I have begun to notice a great deal of mellowness in his tone in many recent debates, including this one. On the other hand it could just be age :-)
Thursday, August 06, 2009
Biology Experts, Please Note …
Sunday, August 02, 2009
What the hell is wrong with our people?
The Gojra killings, in which the Christian minority has been targeted, are not an isolated incident. The fascistic attitude of several religious groups has become a scar on the face of Pakistan and, if not checked, will disfigure it beyond recognition.
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Despite the best of intentions, dear Irfan …
… you've obviously hit some wrong nerves, too. Your article was forwarded to me by a friend, J W Zubery, with these positive words:
I was quite pleasantly surprised to read Irfan Husain's column this morning in Dawn. Why dont we have more like him? sanity is a rarity now. Intolerance is the order of the day. I wonder why do we always shy away from reality.. It is so rare to see someone accept the truth and speak loud and clear. We have built huge walls of umpteen taboos around us and believe that by looking in the opposite direction, reality would just disappear as if it never existed. In the midst of all the nonsense we have to hear and read, there is some freshness also ... Bravo Irfan Husain!
Life in the twilight zoneBy Irfan HusainDAWN | Saturday, 18 Jul, 2009 | 04:21 AM PST |Just last week, the New Delhi High Court ruled that homosexuality was legal.To mark this historic judgment, Jawed Naqvi wrote a wonderful column in this newspaper in which he gave cultural and historical references to establish that traditionally the subcontinent has been hospitable to alternate sexual preferences. It was only the hypocritical Victorian colonists who imposed laws criminalising gay sex.Reading his article, I mused to myself that it would probably take Pakistani courts years to reach a similarly rational conclusion. How wrong I was. Now, our Supreme Court has observed that being equal citizens of Pakistan, hermaphrodites must have equal benefits and protection under Articles four and nine of the constitution.Although the plea to constitute a commission to study the plight of these unfortunate people, many of them also grappling with issues of documentation when it comes to their identity, continues to be heard, just the fact that the three-member bench headed by the chief justice appears to be sympathetic is encouraging. I use the word ‘unfortunate’ to describe them because in Pakistan, those who publicly deviate from usual behaviour patterns do so at their own risk.For years, hijras have existed on the fringes of society, occupying a twilight zone few of us would like to explore. Abused, ostracised and shunned, they are barely visible, caricatured and mocked by men and women alike. For no fault of their own, they have been forced into prostitution and dancing for a living, unable to get an education and become productive members of society.The prejudice and the confusion that clouds public perceptions are evident in references to them as hermaphrodites and transvestites, as though both terms are applicable.In actual fact, the term ‘transvestite’ refers to people who dress as members of the opposite sex, while hermaphrodites refers to people born with both sexual organs. In the latter category, the male organ is often under-developed. Hijras are almost invariably hermaphrodites.Surely differences in appearances and sexuality should be accepted. Why are people who behave and dress differently ostracised? Surely we cannot blame them for the difference in their genetic make-up over which they have no control.Unfortunately, over the years, Pakistan has become an increasingly monochromatic culture in which any deviation is frowned upon. In dress and outer appearance, there is growing pressure to conform. The space to explore alternate lifestyles is being relentlessly squeezed by the morality brigade in the name of faith.While the ongoing court hearings relate to a specific community, it is high time we questioned our attitudes towards the larger picture. The same law that was struck down by the Delhi High Court is applicable in Pakistan. It continues to destroy lives decades after similar discriminatory laws were deemed unconstitutional in Britain.Apart from the letter of the law, our hypocritical society prefers to hide any signs of differences under the carpet. Which family would wish to admit that their children were gay? And yet we all know that every social class and category, and every ethnic group has its share of gay members lurking in the closet.But in a country where so many groups suffer from discrimination and oppression, I suppose those with different sexual orientations in our midst must bear their cross in silence. Minorities and women are generally treated as second-class citizens. In religion too, different sects deem the other as being outside the faith. So it is hardly surprising that people with a different sexual orientation should be targeted.Appearing before the Supreme Court, two hijras described the harassment and abuse they often had to endure. The police as well as their ‘gurus’ exploited them. They had been abandoned by their parents as infants, and brought up by strangers who then forced them into prostitution and begging. Surely none of this is in accordance with the tenets of the majority faith.It is now universally accepted that homosexuality is most often the result of genetic differences, and not a personal preference. Major studies have shown that two to three per cent of the world’s population are born homosexual. In Pakistan, this translates to roughly four to five million men and women forced to conceal their sexual orientation for fear of persecution by an intolerant society. That’s a lot of people in the twilight zone.In more civilised countries that have finally come to accept alternate sexual preferences, those subscribing to the latter variety have joined the mainstream, and are contributing to society in many creative ways. In the arts, fashion and the media, in particular, their impact has been massive. But they are accepted in all professions, including the armed forces. In Mohammed Hanif’s wonderful novel The Case of the Exploding Mangoes, the author has described a gay relationship in Pakistan’s air force academy. While this is a work of fiction, I am sure it is a reflection of the reality at some level.In a country beset by so many problems, it may seem odd that I have chosen to write about this issue. But a major reason why we are caught up in an unending series of crises is that we are becoming an increasingly intolerant society. Instead of seeing the threats facing us as simply physical, we need to step back and examine ourselves as we truly are. More and more, we demand conformity and reject any attempt by individuals to be themselves when their lifestyle goes against the norm, whatever that is.Until we can learn to respect differences, even if they offend us, we will continue to be our own worst enemies.
Newsbyte: Bindiya - an admirable hijra activist (she was the subject of my daughter Ragni's short documentary and was at T2F to discuss the problems the community faces) - has just informed me that Pakistani ID Cards now allow 3rd Gender to be written on them instead of the previous forced binary option of Male/Female. The new term, like 6th Sense being used for everything outside the 5 senses, obviously encompasses and clumps together all other genders beyond the two.
Thursday, July 02, 2009
For Neda …
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Sharing a piece from The Fezana Journal
I thought that since the journal itself has a very different readership from people visiting my blog I'd share a piece I was invited to write for it. Don't know if this is infringing some copyright … but if it is, I apologize. The reason I want to do this is so that people outside the Parsi community can read about this, too — specially the younger Karachiites. Also, the Fall 2009 issue of the journal is still not on its net archives.
Though my page-long 'memoir' is about the Parsi community, in general, it does mention a few people by name, among whom was my friend, Munchi, to whose memory I would like to dedicate this.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
His name is Ezra Nawi!
Saturday, May 30, 2009
A Tale of Three Tales
Nuzhat's father, whom I called Mamooñ Jaan, frequently regaled us with amazing tales that were often hilarious and almost always embellished for the sake of the telling, something that a storyteller's craft demands. Also, his stories were never-ending, because - like those of Schehrezade - they always spun off (or had the potential to do so) into several more.
Over half a century ago he once narrated to us how, having had his car hubcaps stolen in Calcutta, he was told by people to visit چور بازار (=Thieves Market). Even before the actual tale began, I seemed perplexed at the thought that a place with such a name, albeit 'unofficial', could exist. Years later, I was even more shocked when I visited Calcutta and heard my sights-guide rickshaw driver point out to a police station as the Chor Bazaar Thaanah!
But, like Mamooñ Jaan, I digress… so, back to his story: Assuming that the area would have a horde of stolen goods in some nooks and crannies, he was amused to find that most shops specialized in specific types of goods and, upon enquiry, was led to the 'motor parts section' and, thence, to the 'hubcaps subsection'! He was disappointed as, not too surprisingly, he couldn't see many Citroën hubcaps around. He was asked by the shopkeeper when the hubcaps had been stolen and when he said "Yesterday …" he was told, "Voh maal to Jum'araat ko aaye gaa" (="That stuff will come in on Thursday").
We found a criminal system being so organized - and so open about itself - really funny. Even at every retelling. (Yes, there were many!)
It was also at Nuzhat's house that I met her 'Sheefi Bhai' - the son of some friends so close to her family that, for all practical purposes, he is considered a cousin. Sheefi - and he was not being satirical - once called Pakistan's Police Force more efficient than those of the rest of the world. The latter, he felt, had to resort to painstakingly track down criminals. "Our police people", he told us, straight-facedly and with obvious awe, "know who has committed the crime. They just are unable to catch them!"
"No Comment" (but only because ROTFLMAO wasn't known then!)
This morning Nuzhat was unable to control her laughter as I read out a front-page story from The News International's City Section.
Here's my annotated abbreviated version (with a link to the full story):
Two gangs of Bengali robbers clashed with each other in Korangi area late Thursday night over territorial jurisdiction (Interesting that illegal immigrants should fight to death over territories that are not legally theirs, in the first place.) …
According to the police, [two Bengali gang-leaders have] been operating in Sector 50-C, 100-Quarters, Korangi in Zaman Town police limits for the past several years. (So why haven't they been stopped?) …
The area is reportedly inhabited by more than 100,000 illegal Bengali immigrants (Ok, so we now have a load of people engaged in illegal and criminal activities and we have them in one corralled space. So what are we waiting for? An independence movement so that we can arrest them for treason?), but the activities of both gangs had the police chasing after them since a long time (errr ---- but? you mean the police were after them despite their illegal activities? How odd!) …
The police said that when they were informed about the clash, they immediately reached the scene of crime, but due to the narrow lanes in the area, they could not enter. (May I suggest that, next time, we don't send fat policemen?). After several hours, the police managed to enter […] with the help of [an] Armoured Personnel Carrier (OMG: Does this mean that the policemen sent earlier were even fatter than the APC which seems to have gotten through.) …
Officials concerned meanwhile fear that if both these network are not clamped upon (By whom, dear officials? Aren't you supposed to do that?), the area might face a Lyari-like gang war since both Alam and Shakoor commanded the vast support of the Bengalis residing in the area. This apprehension is not [without] reason, as both men had been close friends in the past and used to rob citizens passing through the industrial area together, while also committing house robberies and killing people who resisted. Shakoor Bengali also used to sell narcotics in the area. (Wow! The Police certainly keep a tab on everything. Guess it's needed for their records. No action, of course, was needed to be taken after obtaining all this info.) …
Alam Bengali is said to be very close to Rehman Dakait [=Dacoit] of Lyari, who used to support him on various occasions. Most arms used by Alam Bengali were provided by Rehman Dakait, which included rifles, Kalashnikovs and repeaters. Whenever the police conducted an operation in Lyari, Rehman Dakait used to send his men to Alam’s den in Korangi for shelter. Similarly, when the police operated against Alam Bengali group, Alam and his accomplices found refuge in Dakait’s dens in Lyari. (I REPEAT LOUDLY: Wow! The Police certainly keep a tab on everything. Guess it's needed for their records. No action, of course, was needed to be taken after obtaining all this info.) …
Police officials had decided to launch a grand operation against the criminals, but on late Thursday night, a fierce clash erupted between the two notorious gangs (ANOTHER REPEAT: errr ---- but?) …
The area remained tense till the filing of this report. (I am tense, too, as should all peace-loving folk be. However, I am ambivalent about who worries me more: The gangs or the police. That is, of course, if they are different entities.)
But, seriously, what could be the reason for this confusing state of affairs???
Oh ... and Sheefi: You win!
Friday, May 29, 2009
For Maleeha Azeem
Friday, May 22, 2009
Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Ad Nauseum …
Today, like almost every day, I received an email that was highlighting the plight of the Swat residents who have lost their homes and more. The mail, like others of its ilk, also suggested one of the numerous agencies that were engaged in relief work as a possible organization to which I should donate funds.
Noble, no doubt. And who could ever fault the sentiment? But, nonetheless, I let off a silent scream …
Why? because the To: field contained the names and addresses of 32 people, including mine. And, as if that was not stupid (and dangerous) enough, the main body contained all the headers of the 17 other people who had Forwarded this. Totalling the list of people whose email addresses were now available in this one document, I reached the diabolical number of 666 (Hmmm!).
I am sure you, too, receive such stuff almost everyday:
Such inconveniences, I guess, one should not have to live with - and those who inflict this upon you are rarely worthy of being called 'friends'. However, the dangers that such idiocy by the 'forwarding friends' poses is not that easy to deal with.
What are the risks? For one, you can lay the blame for an increase in the SPAM that you now receive, directly or indirectly, on this brainlessness:
• Directly, because any one of the recipients can (and frequently do) add all the people in the email to his SPAM list and use it to sell you products, send you unfunny jokes, preach, or provoke. And if he, too, leaves the list exposed, there will be a multiplier effect.
• Indirectly, because many unscrupulous people scan such mails (manually and through software) to gather all the email addresses and add to a database - which is then 'sold' to allow other unscrupulous buyers to use it for the puroses listed earlier.
For another, such lists are also used to 'track' large numbers of emails and mine data like Phone and Credit Card, Account Numbers, Passwords - that, despite warnings, some people do transmit.
Ok, so you receive a really important message, such as the Swat Relief thing that you feel MUST be circulated. What do you need to do?
1. Click the Forward button
2. From the body of the email remove ALL traces of previous 'forwards' and email addresses
3. Add your list of friends you wish to send this to in the Bcc: field
On the off-chance that the mailing program you use does not send out email unless there is at least one address in the To: field, add your own in that space. You will receive the email, too, of course, but consider the bright side: you'll know for a fact that your mail did go through!
My mail program and the filter (SpamSieve) are set to send all such emails to the Junk folder … one that I check every few days to see if something has been wrongly sent there. After 'training' the filter I have discovered only 3 mistakes in months. Good going, Apple Mail and SpamSieve!!!
While on the subject of Compulsive Forwarding, here are two old posts that you should take a peek at, when you find the time:
Sunday, May 17, 2009
FeelGood Product of the Year
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Friday, May 08, 2009
Arundhati Roy drops in …
She was scheduled to deliver the Eqbal Ahmad Memorial Lecture in Lahore, along with Eqbal's close friend, Noam Chomsky. The event got postponed because of some reason or the other and AR decided, on a day's notice, when requested by Women's Action Forum, to utilize her visa and fly over to take part in WAF's event at the Karachi Press Club: Women Reclaiming Public Spaces.
PS: 8th May was also our 39th Wedding Anniversary - so we couldn't have asked for a better gift!
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
Educators/Parents: It's Your Call
Web Wise Kids, Verizon, WILL Interactive, and the ESA Foundation have created the game “It’s Your Call” for schools, law enforcement and community organizations to teach teens about “sexting,” cyber-bullying, academic cheating and related issues.
Launched in the Los Angeles Unified School District at Sepulveda Middle Schools in North Hills, CA, the game aims to help over one million students in the U.S. learn about safe cell phone use and Internet responsibility. Users of the game become live action characters that “play out difficult situations in the safety of cyberspace before they live them out in real life;” the game also offers guidance about responsible cell phone behaviors and how to stay safe.
FROM: Tech & Learning eNews - May 5, 2009
Sunday, May 03, 2009
A Tale of Two Anthems