This blog is best viewed with the latest browser and an open mind!

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 …

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, December 07, 2009

Tie 2 …

1 and a 1/2 month later:

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.

Hmmm ...


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!

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

(By the way, XYZ, that doesn't look quite like a pair of binoculars to me but suspiciously like a Theodolyte … And it may well be one with a crescent painted inside the lenscap that's put on whenever the government wants the mullas to announce the sighting :D

Of course, to XYZ's objections the faithful will retort and say the Qürãn demands that we see it with the naked eye. Ahaaaa ... but it says nothing, does it, about someone else seeing it with their naked eyes and informing us? But, then, we reason, how does a blind person see it? Obviously s/he relies on others? So there is a lacuna that actually allows us to think for ourselves, right? Hey, mullaas - did you ever notice that?

The Qürãn set a principle that, in those days, required a physical sighting … not a law that can't be modified to suit the current situation. Ohhh, so there are exceptions? Yes. Specially to what Mullas think are Divine Laws, rather than Godly Guidelines

Here's a case in point: The holy book also says that during Vüzoo (Vudhoo to the Pakistanis who have difficulty pronouncing Züaads - through a case not of cleft palates but of cleft brains) the faithful must wash both hands. So is the one-armed person exempt because hir circumstances have changed? Should s/he skip the ablution? Or skip prayers (since pre-requisites aren't complete)? I think all would agree that s/he is expected to pray after performing a one-handed ablution. Without even spraying water over a phantom limb, Dr. Ramachandran :~)

So, where does s/he get the right to do that? Hmmm.... Hasn't anyone heard of Reason?"
"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
Nizaamé Aql, anyone?

OK, enough bickering. I shall let the Mullaas fight this out among themselves as they have done in the past. On particularly bad days I wish they'd just kill each other - and the last 24 hours have been particularly bad for me.

Let me move on to the raison d'être for this post: Sharing Syed Mohammad Jafri Sahab's account of the RHC's doings under its friend and master!

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, August 21, 2009

Among the many moments I cherish

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Biology Experts, Please Note …

What more proof does does Dawkins need?

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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!
I passed it on - with just one "huh?" added to it - to some young people with varying degrees of interest in Gender and Sexuality Studies - a subject of great interest these days.
Life in the twilight zone
By Irfan Husain
DAWN | 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.
A few initial comments have been collated here. Other comments are sure to follow and will hopefully find their way into the comments section of this post soon. My intention is not so much to get you embroiled in a debate - though you may, of course, if you wish - but to get people to discuss and debate amongst themselves, on this platform, a subject that many of us need to be enlightened about further. This is specially true in matters related to the usage of LGBTQ terms - many of which have now developed very specific meanings that are different from the way our generation used them, just as the word 'gay' has.

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.

(I do hope that the discussion will not be polluted by people invoking the wrath of God at every step since it is not the Moral/Religious Righteousness (or Wrongfulness) that is under discussion here.)

The first reactions came from 3 young people for whose views I have a great respect, as they are either deeply interested in or are committed students of this and other related topics. They may not even be in agreement with each other, of course.


1. I was stuck on that sentence (Hermaphrodite vaala - Z) too. Doesn't seem very factual. Googling it now.

2. Wiki on Hijras says:
Most are physically male or intersex, but some are physically female. Hijras usually refer to themselves linguistically as female, and usually dress as women.
Most are born apparently male, but some may be intersex (with ambiguous genitalia). They are often perceived as a third sex, and most see themselves as neither men nor women. However, some may see themselves (or be seen as) females,[4] feminine males or androgynes. Some, especially those who speak English and are influenced by international discourses around sexual minorities may identify as transgender ortranssexual women. Unlike some Western transsexual women, hijras generally do not attempt to pass as women. Reportedly, few have genital modifications, although some certainly do, and some consider nirwaan ("castrated") hijras to be the "true" hijras.
This process may culminate in a religious ritual that includes emasculation (total removal of the penis, testes and scrotum in men). Not all hijras undergo emasculation, and the percentage of hijras that are eunuchs is unknown


1. I have a very severe problem with the following excerpt from this article:
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.
One would like to question the author about which universe he is referring to when he refers to the 'gay gene' being a universally accepted phenomenon. He also fails to cite the 'major studies' that show that 'some' people are 'born homosexual'. For someone who takes the trouble to explain the difference between the terms 'hermaphrodite' and 'transvestite' the author fails at using the term 'homosexual' in its correct context, unless he actually believes in the 'gay gene'. I don't know which is sadder - his confusion over what homosexuality means or his belief in the gay gene. And, as always, 'homosexuality' (as you can probably tell I hate this term) in women does not enter the scope of the discussion because...well...women don't really matter.

2. This is not so shocking really, since the reason they have been 'accepted' (read: not stoned to death) in our society is that most people like to believe Heejraas are hermaphrodites, not transvestites. The former being a 'god-given' 'deformity', and the latter a matter of choice. I'm sure if you ask a Heejraa on the street whether they physically 'deformed' or just choose to cross-dress, they will go with the first explanation.


[T]he article goes from talking about hijras to talk about homosexuality. Whether someone is a hermaphrodite or a transvestite (this being a loaded and much disputed term like cross-dresser is) has nothing to do with their sexuality as the latter is a biological sex identity and the former is a gender identity.

C'mon, R&J … need your comments!

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, June 04, 2009

True or False?

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, April 04, 2009

The Jihad to end all Jihads?

On most days, Jigar's shayr 
جہلِ خرد نے دن یہ دكھاےٴ 
گھٹ گےٴ انساں بڑھ گےٴ ساےٴ 
comes to haunt me each time I switch on the TV or read the news. Today, however, this ad caught my eye:

Even to someone not 'into' the Sufi 'system' this seemed innocuous enough, especially given that the alternative being offered to the world is the mad and cruel Talibinized version of Islam and it's equally insane counterparts in other religions. (Well, in most of them, coz I'd really be bowled over if I met a fundamentalist Parsi!)

I mean, imagine, IF all the religions could merge into one big happy family, towards a peaceful unity! No Jihads. No Crusades. No Gujarats. No Pogroms. Wouldn't we - or at least the humans among us - be all for it?

But following the link led me to this fantasy…

one that is crying out to be placed on a pedestal, alongside L Ron Hubbard's con and that of Ramtha, one of the nuts in the group that gave us that well-packaged DVD set of half-truths ('What The Bleep…')

There really IS one born every minute.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Monday, February 23, 2009

We Interrupt This Blog For Some Breaking News ...

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Yayyyy. It's Darwin Day!

This blog is not to enter into the age-old controversy. It's to celebrate the birthday of one of the greatest minds that ever lived.

Happy Birthday, Charles!

One hundred and fifty years after the publication of one of the most important books in human history, the debate rages on.

The criticism or fear of something, without having even tried to understand or know about it, is hardly a POV that needs to be even considered worthy of discussion or debate. But it deserves a mention, only because it turns up often enough.

The best (and most recent) example I have come across of this stubborn and disturbing attitude - disturbing because it was voiced by someone I thought was a sensible person. This is what she said: I really haven't given too much thought to this theory, I just firmly don't believe in it!

Wow! I guess this is the kind of person Oliver Wendell Holmes (Jr.) had in mind when he wrote, "The mind of a bigot is like the pupil of the eye. The more light you shine on it, the more it will contract."

Then there's that delightful 'just-a-theory' brigade.
JUST A THEORY? According to the United States National Academy of Sciences...
Some scientific explanations are so well established that no new evidence is likely to alter them. The explanation becomes a scientific theory. In everyday language a theory means a hunch or speculation. Not so in science. In science, the word theory refers to a comprehensive explanation of an important feature of nature supported by facts gathered over time. Theories also allow scientists to make predictions about as yet unobserved phenomena.
A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment. Such fact-supported theories are not "guesses" but reliable accounts of the real world. The theory of biological evolution is more than "just a theory." It is as factual an explanation of the universe as the atomic theory of matter or the germ theory of disease. Our understanding of gravity is still a work in progress. But the phenomenon of gravity, like evolution, is an accepted fact.
The other big issue - at least among many of the people around me - is the feeling that, since many of the atheists must believe in Evolution (after all, they have no one else to credit for Life), the whole Evolution enterprise, itself, must be an anti-God, anti-religious ideology and needs to be shunned offhand.

Hmmm. Most atheists I know also believe that the world is round, but I don't see anyone refuting that. Well, almost anyone.


Larson's excellent book, Evolution - The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory, opens with this quote Darwin.m4a and, thus, sets the tone for what follows in this up to date and wonderfully readable work. Listenable, too: an audio-book version is now on sale at T2F. Do buy it. And if it's sold out by the time you make it there, order it from them. It's worth every penny.

But, if you are unfamiliar with the theory (10-to-1, it's not what you've heard it is!), Google Charles Darwin and get to know more about his dangerous idea!

Among those who deny Evolution, there are Creationists, in various flavors. Some believe that Earth was created 6000+ years ago, some who think that humans and dinosaurs lived concurrently and even interacted, and some who believe that fossilized bones were 'created' as is, in order to test us.

None of these clowns, however, convinced me of the flaws in Darwin's ideas as did this part of an email from someone (who, admittedly, reads a lot of Harun Yahya): The question I have is then for all Darwin's greatness and stories why has this evolution stopped all of a sudden? If it was a continuous process then that factor should not have gone away - it should have kept occuring. Then why do we see natural births and not have babies coming to us as apes or from apes ????

Damn! Damn! Damn! Why didn't I think of this? 

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Na hota T2F to ...

Read Bina Shah's piece in the Dawn
(Karachi Metropolitan)

Or read it on the net ...

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Hitting the ground running ...

Please pass on the url of this post to your friends - Zak

A direct message from Sabeen Mahmud

17th January 2009

Dear PeaceNiche and T2F Community,

612 days ago T2F opened its doors to you. Our vision was lofty, and frankly, a bit mad. Who would walk up to the second floor of an office building on Khayaban-e-Ittehad to listen to a poet rambling on about revolution, or a scientist arguing in favour of evolution, or some kids playing drums? Well, as it turns out, thousands of people ...

In these 612 days minus Mondays, our tiny space has hosted over 150 events featuring thought leaders, artists, poets, musicians, scientists, magicians, writers, philosophers, dancers, actors, lawyers, and activists. Hundreds of you have written in to tell us how much T2F means to you and to the city of Karachi. Every e-mail, snail mail, text message, and Facebook Wall post that you have sent has given us the strength to carry on. Many of you have supported us through your donations and even helped us replace our stolen Mac. We can't thank you enough.

By now you are probably thinking that we're closing down and that this is a goodbye note. No such luck :D But there is some critical news that we need to share with you.

We called our landlord the day-before-yesterday, to ask him when he was going to get the lift fixed. He was non-committal and then said he wanted us to vacate the premises. The initial shock was soon replaced by calm determination and optimism.

At yesterday's literary event, we broke the news. Practically everyone came forward to express solidarity and support. Some of you graciously volunteered your offices, houses, gardens, and basements for us to conduct our events till we find our own space. And one of you, a volunteer/student/journalist, kick-started the donation drive with a contribution of Rs. 5,000. Thank you Batool.

So, here's the plan:

We plan to vacate the current premises by early February 2009. We have already been offered several temporary spaces to conduct our events until such time that we find a permanent venue. We would like to move to a new space - a home we can call our own - as soon as possible. It's going to be tough and we can't do it alone. We simply don't have the funds. As you know, PeaceNiche is a non-profit organization and we have meagre funding. We are reaching out to you to help us in any way that you can. We will be writing to you again with specific requirements, but in the meanwhile, please spread the word about our need for a permanent, rent-free space so that we can get up and running without losing momentum.

Over the next few days, please come to T2F as often as possible - we'll recreate the magic wherever we go but this is where it all started. Thank you Karachi for believing in us.



Sabeen Mahmud

PeaceNiche / The Second Floor
Phone: (92-300) 823-0276 |

About Us

The Second Floor (T2F) is a project of PeaceNiche, a not-for-profit NGO committed to becoming a vibrant centre of Pakistan’s developing civil society. T2F is a community platform for open dialogue and features a coffeehouse, bookshop, and exhibition gallery.

Only around 10 days ago I had spoken with the landlord regarding the elevator that has been out of commission for a while, as a result of vandalism, and during promising to arrangethe repairs soon he had mentioned how much - with our association of several years (he was also the landlord of our office,  b.i.t.s., in the same building for years) - he would like us to stay on in the present space "for 10 years if you like". Now he was suddenly asking us to vacate and, while there was no direct threat that he was making, he certainly wasn't dropping big names, from A to Z, needlessly and without rhyme or reason during his conversation ...

باغباں نے آگ دی جب آشیانے كو مرے
جن پہ تكیہ تھا وہی پتّے ہوا دینے لگے

All my friends had told me not to be hopeful about there ever being any changes in the way this country runs. Being the optimist I am, I chose to not lose hope ... a hope that was bolstered further by one particularly important person in our politics, who had expressed over several mail exchanges that "this time it will be very different". HaaH! 


Sunday Update: Dawn Metropolitan carried this piece today. Thanks a million, Bina.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sheer Magic

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C. Clarke

The Saturday T2F session by Jahanzeb Sherwani was a bit like its Science Ka Adda evenings. Despite the apparent geekishness of the topic, the non-techs who were there - because they owned an iPhone or iPod Touch - enjoyed it thoroughly, thanks to the lucid, layperson-friendly, informal style of the presenter who understood something most do not: he - not the Powerpoint or Keynote thing on the screen behind him - was the presentation.

The story of the development of Jaadu, the first iPhone/iPod application by a Pakistani, was almost as magical as the software itself. The timeline from the first 'proof of concept' to what it now is - an application that was selected by Apple for its What's Hot section at the App Store - was amazingly short. Equally fascinating was the way the business itself developed for his company - Jugaari

I really wish that more young people would realize what Jahanzeb did: You could be sitting in any remote corner of the world today and, like him, and many others - singly or in very small groups - have access to the markets of the world. All the opportunities are there and, generally, barring the cost of a computer, they are all FREE (rhymes with "Wheeeeee!"): Free wifi and a working table with an electrical outlet nearby { if you are in Karachi, come to T2F :-) }, free access to information, free-of-postage email, free voice calls and video conferences via iChat or Skype, free access to other developers and techie support groups ... what more can you ask for? And remember, developing a product with a coffeehouse space as your 'office' has some advantages: Caffeine Boosts Creativity ;-) as Delicious Library shows.

On the geekier side, of interest to many was the comparison between the development platforms under different OSs. Jahanzeb had been using Windows for a long while and even developed the first versions of his iPhone application using that environment but has now switched to a Mac ... so his comments on the development and usage sides for both platforms was informative.

The discussion on comparative use of Apple's App Store to market an application versus direct sales to the consumer was interesting, too, since most had felt that Apple retaining 30% of the sale price and giving the developer only 70% was a bit unfair. The argument for it, as enunciated by Jahanzeb - who made the switch to Apple's way after being on the other side (distributing the precursors to Jaadu through other sources) - rested on the number of people Apple gave him exposure to. Everyone with the iPhone or an iPod Touch was certain to visit the App Store, making for an outreach to several million potential customers. The fact that Apple also took care of several other factors that indie developers would rather not have to bothered by was a bonus. We also learnt from a member of the audience who had the experience of developing for two other mobile phone brands, that the others paid developers a much lesser %age because they had a larger market share.

Thank you, Jahanzeb, for a lovely evening. Hope to see more apps from you soon.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

If Apostasy didn't carry a (disputed) Death Penalty

... I'd have switched to FSMism and become a Pastafarian. Yes, that's not a typo. I said Pastafarian!

Who, after all, can resist such clear-headed thinking as that of Bobby Henderson, Founder and Prophet of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The Gospel of FSM, which Bobby also authored at the peak of the Evolution vs. Intelligent Design debates, is one of the most hilarious spoofs of the generally unspoofable. Here's an excerpt from the section Towards a New Science:
... [S]houldn't we endeavor to give scientists the largest collection of tools possible? No one is saying that they have to apply a supernatural explanation to any particular phenomenon. Only that the supernatural be available if nothing else works, or if it is convenient for deceptive political purposes. And remember, this is not a radical new idea. In terms of years in use, supernatural science - SuperScience if you will - has the edge on conventional science. Conventional, or empirical, science has been in use for only a few hundred years. Obviously there must be a reason supernatural science lasted so long, before this empirical-science fad began. Could it be that supernatural science is more productive than empirical science?
For those skeptics demanding evidence in support of such a seemingly outlandish assumption, the Gospel offers many examples. Here's one!

The book is hilarious - but, not too deep under the surface, it offers a scathing criticism of the kind of crap that the ID proponents resort to. What else, after all, would you expect from a book that starts with this disclaimer:

Labels: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Absolut Joy!

You deserve a really big round of



Also, a big
who helped

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Day of Days

This is not a frequent happening.

The festivals of several belief systems and cultures have come together on March 21, 2008: Good Friday, Holi, Nauroz, and Eedé Meelaad-ün-Nabi have all fallen on the same day as World Anti-Racism Day, beckoning everyone of us to live in Peace.

In a saner world - considering that the event could have been reasonably predicted years ago - we would have made this a special international day of celebrating our diversities. Here's hoping it'll happen the next time around.

Until then, the least we all can do is

(The graphic has been taken from some website. Can't recall origin. Z)

Labels: , , , , , ,

Monday, October 15, 2007

Today's the day ...

Perhaps you have a friend, a work colleague or even a family member who still isn’t convinced about Climate Change? Well help is now at hand!

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Rejoice, Bloggers and other Pakistanis

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bloggers ... October 15th is coming!

Labels: , , , , , ,

Friday, September 21, 2007

Creative Thinking and The Creation

You may believe that the present is the key to the past, but what if The Present has been 'created' as is, and there is no such thing as The Past?

For those of you who need a nudge from your science-infested arrogance, to return to belief, the Institute for Creation Research offers a great deal of information to counter the propaganda spread by such ignoramuses as Charles Darwin, Julian Huxley, and the evil-mouthed Richard Dawkins. Here's an extract from an article by Andrew A. Snelling, Ph.D., of ICR, that finally trumps all the fallacious logic which has resulted in conclusions based on faulty extrapolation of evidence.
The Appearance of Age at Creation

At the marriage feast in Cana (John 2:1-11) Jesus commanded servants to take huge water pots and fill them with water. He then told the servants to draw from the pots and take it to the Ruler of the Feast, who deemed it excellent wine. However, the Ruler of the Feast had used the assumption that the present is the key to the past! He used his own reasoning based on what he knew happens in the present. He assumed, based on everyday experience, this wine had come from grapes grown on vines, grapes that had been harvested and crushed, fermented, and bottled. He thought it had taken a long period of time, but he was wrong. Jesus had, in fact, created this wine. This then is the characteristic of anything God does in creation. From our experience it has an apparent age, an appearance of a non-existent history. And why did Jesus do this? He did it to meet an immediate need.

When God commanded the fruit trees into existence He created them already bearing fruit. If we went back in time, we would have looked at those trees and would have said that they had taken years to grow and mature. But God created a mature, fully-developed creation, because it was meant to be in existence immediately so that when Adam and Eve walked the earth three days later, their food needs would be met.

What do many people say today? They say the world "looks old," therefore the Bible is wrong or God has deceived us. No, God has not deceived us, because He told us what happened in His eyewitness account in Genesis 1. God saw what He made and said it was very good. He was present. He was fully capable of recording and preserving for us His eyewitness account so we would know what happened at creation with absolute certainty. The Gospel accounts give Jesus' stamp of approval on Genesis 1 as the historical record of the earth's beginning. God's timetable for the creation was that He spoke the earth into existence.

Yes, the earth has an appearance of age. But if we use the wrong assumptions to interpret the evidence, we come to the wrong conclusion that the earth is very old, when God clearly says it isn't.
Evolution is not the only misleading theory under attack by the people at ICR, which claims that its "articles are written by top professionals in the fields of geology and biology."

"Global Warming may affect some parts of our society negatively ... but would likely benefit others. In fact, the current warming trend may be returning our global climate closer to that prevalent in the Garden of Eden...", says Larry Vardiman, Ph.D., also of ICR.

Hmmm ...

Dr. Snelling bases his conclusions on the Bible, but what about Dr. Vardiman? I searched and searched ... and finally found the book from where he got his great insight.


Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Years ago, while teaching at Hamdard University's HIIT in Karachi - set up by friend, Samir Hoodbhoy (the elder brother of Physicist-Activist Pervez H.) - I was also provided an opportunity by an older 'friend', Syed Mumtaz Saeed, who then headed the sister-institute, HIMS, to address its students for a few weeks and to introduce them to some modern thinkers in a few areas of my interests. My choices included Edward de Bono, Alvin Toffler, Ray Kurzweil and Timothy Leary in the list of the 8 or 9 people and ideas we discussed.

Among the 'Futurist' sessions - possibly the one in which Toffler's concept of Waves was discussed - we looked at what the shape of Education, Business, Health Sciences, Communications and much else would be at some well-into-the-future date. Discussions and questions about post-Humanism and Singularity intially shocked and then intrigued many of the students who, apparently, had rarely been exposed to such 'open' and sometimes 'controversial' discussions. But when I went on to Religion (for which my strength - and you do require some bravado to teach anything sensibly these days - came from my initial interactions with Hakim Said, which I shall blog about soon) and posed the question of what Belief Systems would look like in situations resulting from the above, there was confusion, to say the least. Someone rather angrily (but not too angrily) shouted "Islam Is Forever". I said that that was an acceptable response and we should then try to extrapolate what the practice(s) of Islam would be like in the future ... after all, who a thousand or so years ago, would have predicted the varied ways in which Islam is practiced today. That not only lowered his boiling point but led to our very enjoyable discussions, later, in the cafeteria.

I have often wondered if anyone in the class at that time - a violent one for Karachiites, but not because of religious differences - could have envisaged the veiled threats that we witnessed during the Lal Masjid crisis. Or predicted the international scourge of the fundamentalism of today as the imminent future of religious societies. Or how this violently divisive trend would be affected way into the future after possible encounters with a different set of little green men.

And speaking of extremism and its consequences, those of you who have seen the film, Jesus Camp, or watched with horror the videos of how almost every religious creed seems bent on destroying the minds of its young may even ponder - like many did in the late 60s and some are sadly voicing now - if it's sensible to bring children into this world today :-( Reminds me of the scene in Quo Vadis, one of finest film epics ever made outside of Cecil B DeMille's kingdom, when Petronius, sickened by Nero's burning of Rome, decides to end his life and sends his last letter to the emperor (super-superbly played by Peter Ustinov), that states, "To die in your reign is a pleasure. To be born in it, a miscalculation."

Hindsight tells me I should have run a joint session (and I do not mean that kind of joint!) with HIMS & HIIT students and explored the possibility of an OpenSource Religion. Does that seem crazy? Remember Haldane's Law - 'The Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we CAN suppose!' - as you explore Yoism.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, June 30, 2007

No Comment

Former member of the Islamic Ideology Council of Pakistan Haji Mohammad Haneef Tayyib [said]: “After the 1965 war, Indian General Arorah visited Pakistan. During his visit, the general met Maulana Mawdudi. Arorah told him that he didn’t understand why so many Pakistanis had survived the war, especially since Lahore had been bombed so heavily. Mawdudi asked Arorah what he thought was the reason. ‘Our fighter pilots reported that whenever they tried to bomb Lahore, they saw a saint catch the bombs in his green kameez,’ Arorah told him.”

Such miracles have been mentioned in the Holy Quran and hadith, but [because they] are not found in textbooks in school and colleges[,] “The new generation is skeptical of this knowledge,” lamented Jamiat ul Madina Hadith Teacher Maulana Asad Madni.

Madni quoted an incident of Syedna Ghousul Azam, a saint buried in Baghdad. Azam was once addressing a very large crowd when it began to rain heavily. He is said to have looked at the sky and said: “All these people are here to glorify You. The rain is bothering them.” After which, rain fell everywhere but over the crowd.

Read full story in Daily Times and weep.

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Pervez Hoodbhoy, SuperStar

One problem of being associated with T2F is that I have been hesitant to blog about the events too frequently, lest it be seen as a 'plug' for Sabeen's café-plus-mind_share_space. but I guess it's ok as long as I stick to the event and make it anecdotal and talk less of the ambience. In fact, I think I'll try and recap some of the earlier events in my next few post[s], since there's an audience outside of Karachi that may enjoy hearing about them, too.

OK. So, this one's about the recent talk by Pervez Hoodbhoy, part of a monthly series to be hosted at T2F under the title Science ka Adda (SKA from now on on this blog). You can read more about the series at the site, so lemme move on.

The space, usually laid out café-style, seats 44 ... though events have always required creating more room by moving things around. Tee-M's 60's rock evening and Saad's OpenMic night shot the audience to around 100±. But that was to be expected. It's a 'Pop' world. However, Pervez Hoodbhoy's audience surpassed both evenings. While his youthful looks still draws sighs from young girls (I heard two that night!), the majority was there for the love of the subject.

You may wish to watch a small-sized QT-based slideshow featuring that evening's guests ... or prefer to click the image above to see the crowd, made up of young and old, artists, singers, dancers, architects, writers, conservative, rebellious, religious, atheists, fundos, freethinkers, doctors and students.


Yes, Science can be fascinating, if the issues are seen in the context of our lives, away from the technical, jargon-filled research that most of us realize is essential but find incomprehensible. Like many who attended, I am certainly looking forward to hearing others - after PH's illuminating talk (From Quarks to Humans) on the Origins of the Universe and his 'attempts' to answer a range of questions. We need to have public discussions on Science and Ethics (questions of Stem-Cell research, Genetic Manipulation, Gender Manipulation, Euthanasia, GM Foods --- all are in the news these days) and a lot more.

BTW, when I said PH's attempts at answering questions, I was in no way implying that he was unable to do so for lack of knowledge. Some - on the more specific technical areas - required more time (and, a few were answered post-talk in small groups); others - such as those grounded purely on religious dogma - require an eternity and a more tolerant society.

For those who lingered on after the event for their own friendly discussions, over coffee and snacks, there was a special treat:

The fabulous Tina Sani decided to delight her self-confessed-fan Pervez and the rest with an impromptu rendition of Rabba Sachcheya - one of my favourites. The absence of any intrusive musical accompaniment made it all the more beautiful for me. I captured it on a small handheld recorder and sent the file to her last night, seeking permission to share it on my blog. This what she sent by SMS today: "Seriously? What Fun! It's Faiz ... Let it roll!"

Thanks, Tina.
Oh, and Sheema, since you are at these evenings often, don't forget to carry ghungroos in your purse the next time :-)

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, September 02, 2006

There's life in the old dog, yet!

Labels: ,

Friday, August 25, 2006

Farewell Friend!

Full story

Labels: ,

Sunday, June 18, 2006

What was that question, again?

Some questions are technically (in terms of language rules) correct. But they cannot be answered, since they are either meaningless or there is NO WAY that anyone can really, really answer them.

What Colour is Round? Where does Love go when it Dies? How long ago, exactly, did the Universe begin? While these range from the silly to the seemingly scientific, they have one thing in common. They can't be answered conclusively, ever! The problem is that some people answer them and do so with necessary authority.

Why necessary, you ask?

Well, the rule I have postulated is: If you ask an Unanswerable Question, you invite an Unquestionable Answer.

Think about it!

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Once upon a midnight dreary ...

(On the midnight of 06-06-06, actually) there was a knocking and scraping on the door. Looking through the peephole I found this strange being.

He (it's always a he, isn't it?) let me in on the secrets of the Universe. If you need to be in on them, too, please meet me at the Zamzama Espresso on Saturday at 8.00 am and pay for my breakfast.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, May 21, 2006

A gift idea!

"It goes to the heart of who we are and where we came from. Our human ancestors were still interbreeding with their chimp cousins long after first splitting from the chimpanzee lineage, a genetic study suggests."

The whole story, featured in the May 17th edition of The New Scientist, is one of many that this amazing magazine offers each week. No time to read? Here's a sample podcast from The New Scientist. Put it onto your iPod!

I have yet to come across a single issue that hasn't held me glued ... and, lest you think it's for oldies or science-buffs and geeks, my copies are constantly in demand by absolute non-science types who are less than half my age!!! Of course, you have to be Bright, Aware, and Inquisitive. So, be warned: You may be at a disadvantage if you've been through formal education which has taken the sheen off all these qualities you were born with. (To be fair, I've known even some of those to enjoy the magazine.)

So, why am I plugging the magazine? Well, it's part of my life-long passion to unzip minds. And I really think some parents should consider a year-long subscription as a gift for their kids on graduating. (They just lose those frigging expensive pens you buy them, anyway!)

Labels: , , , , , ,

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Just a thought...

'Aziz calls for rain prayer' reports the Press. Right! And if that doesn't work, maybe he can lead the whole Cabinet, in his Armani suit, into a Rain Dance! Other Native Americans tell me it is effective. Honest.

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, May 04, 2006

And he's not even a Syed!

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Letter to a well-wisher(?)

Your mail (portions quoted in red, below) arrived on my desk as a 'Forward'. I hope the reason for not including me on your original list wasn't that you considered me expendable, and thus decided that I need not be warned, but was just due to your suspicion of my usual cynicism in such matters.

To be fair, the report did raise some questions in my mind which, I am sure, must have also occurred to you as a lawyer. My comments are in italics.

This was on Pittsburgh's WTAE Channel 4 News.
A few days ago,
Actually in 2004 (in some Indian backwater) as Googling the incident revealed
a person was re-charging his Cell Phone at home. Just at that time a call came in and he answered it with the instrument still connected to the outlet.
After a few seconds
How did anyone establish the time frame
Electricity flowed into the Cell Phone un-restrained
How is this deduced? It could have been that the batteries had been heating up (known to happen with many faulty batteries, including in laptops - several of which have even exploded or caught fire)
and the young Man was thrown to the ground
Would 'fell' have not described it adequately? 'thrown' would indicate force ... difficult to ascertain by one not present, unless the man was thrown a distance away ... one wonders if he was still holding on to the phone after this?
with a heavy thud.
OK. So that's why ...
His Parents rushed to the room only to find him unconscious, with a weak heartbeat and burnt fingers. He was rushed to the nearby Hospital, but was pronounced dead on arrival.
Glad they did not do what many could have accidently done under the circs: Pick up the phone! Strangely, the story - wherever it, or its variations appear - contains no information on whether the phone was found burnt, whether the charger was checked, nothing - in fact - that would make sense if such a warning was to be really helpful and not just a scare.

BTW, the Pittsburgh broadcaster's English is pretty suspect, but at least they pronounce their capital letters clearly!

My conclusion: 'Answering' the phone would have nothing to do with it. Just picking it up would have been dangerous enough! Like picking up any electrical object that was short-circuiting. In which case it must have happened the moment he picked it up!!!

Although the U S Consumer Product Safety Commission does not identify using a charging cellphone as an unsafe practice in its recommendations, here's some serious advice based on the incident (since it's always better to be cautious):

1. Switch off the socket power where the charger is to be connected.
2. Insert charger lead into phone

3. Insert charger plug into socket

4. Place phone away from self

5. Switch on socket power


1. Switch off power to charger
2. Disconnect charger from socket

3. Disconnect charger from phone

4. Use phone

The SECOND (in order to avoid the above 4 steps):

Get the nearest available mulla to pick it up and pass it to you


Labels: , ,

Sunday, January 15, 2006

"... and reas'ning but to err."

When I was the Master of a ship - in the Merchant Navy, not in the killer kind! - I once asked a group of cadets, who had been on board for a month or so, to describe what they thought a Shipmaster did: his duties, responsibilities, authority, and so on. Apart from the obvious ('head of the ship', 'in command', and other generalizations) these boys, only 7-10 seafaring years away from that position themselves, understood nothing about the role of the Master.

In a Catalogue produced by aliens, there'd have been little or no difference to be seen between them and me, just a dozen or so years their senior at the time: Human, Male; mainly dressed in white; Habitat: metal floating homes. Maybe the physical charactersitics would have been noticeable (if far enough apart) and recorded as digital values of Height and Weight.

The fact that, despite such minor differences between us, the cadets were unable to comprehend a Master, got me thinking: What if the aliens had captured an Ape and a Man. There is a possibility of putting a selected specimen of each beside one another, and, through alien eyes, being unable to discern too many differences: Hirsuteness, maybe; and Tails. In some cases. And, with even such a small difference - albeit a major one in the eyes of humans - can the Ape comprehend or understand what Man is?

On further extrapolation, I thought: What if the aliens put an Ant, a Dog, and a Man in a lab and studied them? Size differences would be obvious. And some physical characteristics. Depending upon their interests in the three samples, and the purpose of their research, they may even jot down 'multi-sized carbon-based life-forms' ... and pass on to more interesting tasks at hand.

Does the Ant comprehend the nature of the Dog or the 'debatably higher' form of life that Man is? Is the Ant even aware of my entire being, as I stand towering beside it? Does it cross my foot, stinging me as it passes, and is aware of my feelings (pain, anger, whatever) at what he considers to be an innocuous natural act? Is it even aware that the piece of flesh he is 'located upon', at that moment, actually is part of a larger being who is aware of the Ant, a being from a species capable of everything from the sadistic torture of fellow humans to the most intense examples of selfless love and sacrifice? Does the Ant have any awareness of his own death as my hand picks it up and I crush it between my fingers? Does it 'know', or presume to know, my feelings or motives? And, can I presume whether or not Ants presume?

And we know how much of a leap in differences it is between the Cadet example and the Ant one.

Yet, we have a whole bunch of people who are so sure of not just that 'God' is but also of what He is ... and wants! His capabilities and desires. Even His future (as in, what He would do if such-and-such happened). I am not even getting into the obviously different answers they all get; that's a minor quibble. I am merely wondering about the basic assumption that they not only comprehend but can speak for a Being who, by their own definitions, is not a carbon life form, does not exist in any state similar to ours (or even theirs), shares none of our characteristics in terms of the 5 senses or physical necessities that we could not exist without, is constrained neither by space nor time, does not need to 'think' - for He 'knows' - and, is infinitely more different from us than the Cadet from a Shipmaster or even the Ant from Man.

To assume, for example, that a God would cause Sharon to have internal bleeding in the brain because he was about to politically divide up the His land - a claim that Evangelist Pat Robertson has just made - truly amazes me. [And to think that Pat was once a US Presidential Candidate.]

Don't forget, even a Pope (Alexander!) has suggested the we 'presume not God to scan' ;-)

Graffiti in the 60s: And God said unto them, "And who do you say that I am?"And they replied, "You are the eschatological manifestation of the ground of our being, the ontological foundation of the context of our very selfhood revealed." And God said unto them, "Huh???"

Labels: , ,

Monday, December 05, 2005

Pappu, yaar .... buss kar!

This hilariously idiotic message has been doing the Muslim rounds lately. I have removed the sender's name as I believe the identity of the insane must be protected at all times. The full version contains supporting quotes from religious texts.
From: x
To: mail_list2

Subject: Interesting phenomena.

Date: Thu, 1 Dec 2005 19:04:37 -0800 (PST)

Sun Will Rise From The West One Day..!!! (Scientific Proof)

As the strong belief of we muslims is that when the sun will rise from west rather than east, that time will be the biggest identity of The Day Of Judgement (Qayamah). And the door of Forgiveness will be closed on that day.

The science of astronomy states that the speed of planet Mars has been decreasing in its course towards the eastern direction in the few past weeks to the level we notice the "waver" between the east and the west..and on Wednesday the 30th of July the planet movement stopped going toward the eastern direction..!!!

Then in the months of August and September...Mars changed its course in the opposite direction to the West- and that until the end of September..which means the sun will rise now from the west on Mars!!

And this weird phenomena of the opposite movement called "Retyrograde Motion" Most scientist state that all the planets will go through the same once at least and our planet Earth is one of them.

Planet Earth will move in the opposite direction some day and the sun will rise from the west!!
This might occur soon and we are unaware when it'll happen.
Real Retrograde Motion has obviously not been understood by the author of this piece of nonsense. The only other retrograde motion is the one that is, sadly, taking place in the minds of the Muslims of today. Is there no way we can stop these rectoids from having an entire community become an object of ridicule?

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The School of Tomorrow: Part 4 - The Changing Scene

The Shrinking World and the New Media

Under a fast-shrinking world, values and cultures are melding, egged on at dizzying speed by the new media. Whether we like it or not, cross-currents of influence are altering our views and ways of life. How will the Education System prepare students for the conflicts that arise from this --- conflicts they will face within themselves, in their homes, and in their society?

The impact of media is certainly far greater than it ever was, or was even envisaged, except by visionaries such as Marshall McLuhan, most known for coining the now-clichéd term, "Global Village". One of his statements that requires careful consideration by educators is: The new media are not just mechanical gimmicks for creating worlds of illusion, but new languages with new and unique powers of expression.

Accepting this view, which is both valid and undeniable, we need to be introducing Media Literacy into our curriculu; and soon. Many, around the world, are doing so already, equipping their students with the tools and the grammar of the new media. It is not just desirable but essential that our children not be left behind. With the plummeting costs of cameras and scanners, and the increasing access to computers in schools (the recent MIT unit will accelerate this further), a modest beginning is not as difficult as it sounds. Podcasts and Blogs must be not only encouraged but be considered natural progressions in Language Arts and other areas of study. They are potent, allow more exciting ways of expression, engage the student, and cost almost nothing.

Concepts of Media Awareness have to be incorporated early, too, at all levels of the Education system. After all, children are being targeted unscrupulously by mind-enslaving advertisements for products, while adult minds are continually bombarded with a variety of communication forms that blur all lines between truth, propaganda, and blatant lies - rendering their decision-making capabilities ineffective. The message being received is , as one activist poster had it: Work, Eat, Buy; Consume, then Die! A great way to keep us all engaged - during the time left between watching megasports, thought-preventing sitcoms, and pseudo-serious 24/7 news about non-issues: after all, how important is it to know which head of state received purely formal - often hypocritical - salutes on arrival in another country? All this goes on while the establishment slowly takes control of our personal liberties. [Note: Teachers and High-school students must be encouraged to read magazines such as Adbusters - available online.]

These, and other related aspects, are being incorporated into the curricula, in the Western schools, from fairly early class levels. Already results show that children can discern such matters far earlier than many parents and teachers imagine. We need to act NOW, if we are not to have this aspect of curriculum also defined by those who neither understand our values, culture, and aspirations, nor can be rightly expected to know what we treasure or cherish and wish to preserve most. Let us be proactive, rather than reactive. As the saying goes, if we don’t take control of our lives, someone else will.

Recent memory and bitter experience tell us how educators, by distancing themselves from ICT (through fears, mistrust, and the resistance to change), handed over the reins in this field to technology-centred people and organizations. Soon, we ended up with tons of useless software and numerous proposed syllabi that, at best, revealed the ignorance of their authors, and, at worst, exposed their overarching desire to sell more hardware, with little or no thought for education.

Here's a plea: Teachers, Educators, Parents, please understand that Ignorance is neither bliss nor an excuse if the future of your children is at stake. Please learn about the new media; its power, its impact, its potential dangers, and its numerous advantages. Much of value is available on the Internet, itself. Do not repeat the above mistake by surrendering to a syllabus designed by ‘media specialists’. Certainly not for the K-12 sector. On the other hand, respect them for what they can do for Education. Let them help Vocational Training Centres develop and deliver courses for people wishing to join the Media Sector. Get them to sponsor, or help sponsor through their megabuck clients, community spaces, such as Sarai in India.


Finally, while there are many more aspects which will impact education and need to be considered, I will touch upon just one other matter close to my heart.

Regional Cooperation

In our region, this is a phrase on everyone's lips. SAARC members are constantly looking at the European model, and the Indo-Pak peace process rests a large part of its success on people-to-people contact, at least on paper (Visas are still hard to obtain). Already ideas about a common currency (Sasia has been suggested by SAF founder, Madanjeet Singh) are beginning to appear. All this brings about another set of complexities, but also provides tremendous opportunities. Here are some things that we must begin to think about and do:
• Consider ways in which shared histories can be used in the classroom to show how much more there is in common within the region, rather than always teaching about the wars which highlight only differences.
• Encourage student- as well as teacher-exchange programmes and SAARC regional scholarships. When youth meet and spend even a short while together, their personal friendships have a ripple effect that is unbeatable. YIP offers several examples.
• Introduce Peace Studies in schools.
• A jointly developed course on the Environment (which ignores man-made political boundaries) would not be difficult to put together. SAF is already supporting such an initiative.
• Sharing the massive expenses needed for developing really useful learning software, that could then be localized for each countries' national and regional languages, is an idea that can be followed up with Roger Schank (who is expected to be at the School of Tomorrow conference). Given the population sizes in our countries, the shared cost (per student / per year) of such courses would be easily affordable.
• Inculcate truly global and universal values, such as Tolerance and Mutual Respect, through the curricula. Underscore the importance of this through international projects with schools across the globe. Placing more stress on this, than on the differences that have served to divide our world, is an essential first step.
If all this does nothing else, it will at least make schools useful until the real thing comes along.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,