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, 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!]

Reality Bites

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.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, April 09, 2009

The Shanaakht Fiasco

{I started writing this post before the [heart]Breaking News of the cancellation of the festival hit me. Despite my criticism of some of it's flaws, I think that nurturing it would, over time, have had it evolve into something more sensible and sensitive. The closing down bodes badly for art and many other activities ... but the organizers were left with no options, given the to-ing & fro-ing of the PPP and governmental commitments.}

The incident at CAP's Shanakht Festival yesterday should convince people that all 17 crore hearts do not beat as one all the time. Oh, of course they do, sometimes. But NOT when an identity is being forced, instead of being allowed to develop.

The event - despite my personal objections to some aspects of it - is an effort that needs to be encouraged and guided. The very important and noble task that CAP (The Citizen's Archive of Pakistan - or The Citizens Archive of Pakisan) has undertaken, of gathering oral, textual, and image-based histories of Pakistan,is commendable. Yet, IMHO, the organization should be an archiver, not a view-point creator. Its archives should be resources for some to find their roots, others to understand individual or collective identities, for some to comprehend even the opposing views on numerous topics through the years, and yet others to use excerpts in whatever form of research they are undertaking (and for whatever cause).

In and of itself an archive is not meant to offer a slanted stance, though nuanced interpretations may be derived from it for diverse purposes. For example, a WWII Archive would not be the same as that of the Holocaust Museum, though images from the latter would certainly be part of the former. At least that is how I have viewed CAP's project.

Last year, too, I had questioned the reasoning about the CAP festival focusing on shanaakht and was told that it was "because the young are trying to find their identity". Being not-so-young, I felt that my criticism would be viewed as just another old-person's usual censure of the young, so I backed off … recalling in the process that one of the slogans I shouted in my visible hippie days was 'Never Trust Anyone Over Forty!' (With age, contrary to expectations, I have altered the 'Forty' to 'Thirty-Five' for my occasional talks.)

The festival's opening day - yesterday - had a successful start - 1500 children came for the festival and also participated in art activities organized by T2F. The evening offered some interesting and nostalgic moments for me. Listening, once again, to The Little Master was certainly one that brought tears to my eyes as he recalled the old matches and the tutoring he received from Master Abdul Aziz. He shared the evening with the wonderful commentator, Jamshed Marker, talking about his involvement with our sports and politics. Meeting Lutfullah Khan Sahab, was, as usual a delight. Photographs and images from his vast collection were on display and this energetic young man of 93(!) was there to be part of the festivities. His legendary music collection is now being digitized and, perfectionist that he is, the process will take 3 lifetimes - by his own reckoning - to be completed. Can't wait ;-)

As the evening moved on, the crowd swelled. Numerous strands - exhibitions, chats, speeches - attracted people differently.

The atmosphere was truly festive. Ethan Casey who seems to have a special relationship with our country was there to talk of his last and next book. And he was going to speak at T2F. Yessss! T2F, now. between its own old and new venues, was looking gorgeously cute (if you'll pardon my use of a word that I have all but expunged from my vocabulary since I heard a lady say she thought Zakir Naek was cute) in its little stall and the adjacent speaker's area.

It was during Ethan's talk that we suddenly became aware of a disturbance, followed almost immediately by an aggressive crowd screamin blue murder and ordering us all to close down and get away "before we burn the place down". Soon this led to sounds of firing and some people moving out quickly while others, almost led by Beena Sarwar, trying to 'talk' to the mob to get to the root of the problem.

We soon discovered that the crowd was PPP supporters—  (someone later said it was the PSF but, to me, the two main people were too old to be students. One, in fact, was a journalist I have encountered before) — who were expressing their anger at an obnoxious and meaningless piece of drivel passing off as art. Mind you, all art is subjective and it's drivel-ness (to me) may be challenged by a number of people, just as my disgust at Adnan Sami Khan's music usually is. On the other hand, even if my greatest favorite exponent of Classical Music, Pt Bhimsen Joshi, decided to sing a piece full of obscenities at the APMC, I'd certainly not support it.

The image in question, now sadly all over the internet (and I beseech those bloggers whom I count among my friends to remove it), was extremely offensive to me and objectionable at several levels. I am NOT a Benazir supporter, however immensely pained I was at her death. I am not a member of the PPP, nor have I ever voted for them (or for anyone else from among the menu of crooks, extortionists, rapists, kidnappers, fundos, and murderers offered to us by various parties). 

I will not reproduce the image here to give it further currency, but it is now common knowledge that it portrayed BB sitting in the evil and mal'oon Zia's lap. My reaction was that this was ridiculously meaningless.
We have seen 'photoons' - photo cartoons - of her being married to Nawaz and Altaf on the net before. I did not take offense to them because they were satirical comments on real alliances. After all, even the textual statements in the press referred to these, at times, as 'marriages of convenience' or 'an unholy political matrimony'. The images only carried the representation further. I admit that I, too, on hearing that JI chief Qazi Husain Ahmad had tried to prevent Mian Nawaz Sharif from forming an alliance with BB, had passed around (among friends) a photoshopped image of the two newlyweds - with Husain Ahmad looking sullen - and captioned it Jab Mian-BB raazi to kyaa karay ga Qazi.
BB & Zia? That cockeyed asshole had murdered her father! She had never ever negotiated any 'deal' with him. So just what DID this image represent? I mean merely the ability to manipulate images doesn't always produce art, does it? And what did the term Stiff Competition  - the title given to the image, signify? I will not repeat the remarks that brought out. 

Several posts/blogs hastily commented on the matter, one 'toning down' the image's offensiveness (and sexual connotation) by stating that it showed an infant Benazir. Not only was this untrue, but even in that case it would have been more suitable to show, as infants, those leaders of today who were nurtured through their political infancy by that bloody dictator. Would that have been acceptable to their followers? I suspect not. I assure you that at least one party would have burnt down the entire area had their leader been shown, even with justifiable sarcasm, in the lap of one of his several mentors. 

Add to this the fact that the Bhuttos bring out emotions far stronger - and the issue is not whether such emotions are wrong or right - among their supporters who have consistently laid down their lives for these symbols and icons. Yesterday one of those leading the mob was in tears as he said he'd spent 11 years in jail protecting the dignity of this woman who was being insulted. You may find such emotional outbursts, and the violent reactions that inevitably follow, condemnable but the problem is that we are a nation among which a large population is easily aroused to such acts. So, a little judiciousness and caution would make sense, too, specially when the creator and the curators of the image are risking the lives and properties of others.

I was mainly offended by it as a feminist. What gives anyone the liberty to do this and display it publicly, inviting the wrath and endangering the safety of others. Would the artist - a woman, herself, I was shocked to learn - be ok if someone put up an image of hers in some insinuating position with any man? (BTW, Insiya also raises similar questions in a piece that presents the views of someone a generation apart. And the comments provide even greater insight into what the younger generation thinks.)

I realize that celebrities are fair game but only if the game is fair! And how far can this go? What if the pose or postures represented become more obscene - never mind whatever that means to different people? Isn't there a self-censorship or restraint that one is supposed to excercise? Do all of those who use a zillion swear words a day use them indiscriminately before their parents/children? Do we walk around naked on the streets because we believe that God created us naked and, therefore, clothes are the work of the devil? Do we shit in public? That IS self-censorship and respect for our surroundings.

Defenders of the terms, 'artistic license' and 'freedom of expression', may insist that there's nothing wrong and the reactions are stupid. I'd like to dare them to display some of the works from an international museum in their own open-to-public galleries. Not that I disagree with them that both freedoms must exist. It's just that there is a time and place for everything. (Pornography is available, including the kind that features hardcore images, in most book and video stores in the liberal West. But it is confined to a separate corner or a high bookshelf, out of the immediate sight of any other than those looking for it.)

None of this is meant to condone the aggressiveness and violence, threatened and carried out (at least to property) by the PPP jiyaalaas. Although they were clearly not acting on official PPP orders, I do suspect that there were other games at play. What was strangely obvious was the absence of the Arts Council biggies making any effort to tone things down. In fact some people among the mob said that they had received calls from the venue officials, asking them to come and see this image - and many felt that the members of the Arts Council were complicit in the planning, since they are having internal political struggles. Another rioter, obviously up in the hierarchy, claimed that they had been told (by whom, was not clear!) that the army had funded the exhibition and 'some Major' had instructed CAP to display the image. Bull!!! We shall, of course, never get to the truth.

Finally, it was the media that - as usual - sensationalized the story. By using phrases such as 'objectionable art' in their headlines they only help the fundamentalists and spineless moderates - both for different reasons - find excuses for not displaying art. DAWN reports PPP Leader Mr Mehdi as saying "controversial art should not be displayed publicly". This kind of statement will promote censorship and, sooner or later, art exhibitions will be asked, to 'clear' their works in advance with 'the authorities'. Following that, we will have nincompoops, with no understanding of art, 'failing' works at whim or 'passing' them against bribes. This is not a fantasy - it has happened before and will happen again.

And, remember, this leads to nothing but fascism in the long run.

Mr Mehdi went on to say, “The sympathisers protested to the Arts Council representatives and the organisers (the Citizens Archive of Pakistan) and asked them to remove the offensive picture. However, they refused. It was a peaceful protest, but there was some tension because of the refusal. People got emotional as the organisers refused to take down the picture.” If that absolute lie is what was conveyed to him, his statement should have begun: The sympathisers 'claimed' to have protested ...

I decided to withdraw from my sessions at T2F - scheduled for the 9th & 11th - in protest at the insensitivity of the organizers in including such an image. Despite being opposed to accepting the artificiality of the identity the festival was bent on creating, I had felt that such festivals and events would familiarize the younger audiences with various aspects of their free-flowing identities. So, I was there as a T2F board member and had planned a tribute to Urdu prose and poetry (under the title of Sheereenié Güftaar) and was, in the second session, to join Asif Farrukhi in a romp through Pakistan's history through Urdu shaaeri

Guess that'll now have to wait until T2F re-opens. (A small selection from what was going to be played will be on this blog by Sunday.)

A sad end to a great opening day … but, "We are like that only!"

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

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A treat for Karachiites & visitors

They have many fans in Pakistan and overseas. They take qavvaali festivals by storm everywhere they go - and, boy, do they go everywhere! (See the embedded video at the end of this post.) Yet, it's surprising how many people in their own country have not yet been exposed to this amazing troupé. The Qavvaali Ka Safar concert on 28th March provides yet another opportunity for the uninitiated to change this state.

All of us qavvaali lovers in Pakistan have, in our collections, loads of Sabri Brothers and tons of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan ... but of the gharana that boasts of being the direct descendants of Saamat bin Ibrahim, the ace shaagird of Amir Khusrau and the head of the Qavvaal Bachchaas that Khusrau trained in this genre, we have precious little. 

One possible reason, I am sure, is the lack of audio and video recordings released by this group locally, something that I intend to help rectify over the course of the year (specially through the release of rare private recordings of their father, the incomparable Munshi Raziuddin). I also hope to convince the families of Munshi Ji's illustrious cousins, Manzoor Niazi sahab and Bahauddin sahab to let me include some of their recordings for the planned archives and special releases. Both these cousins' parties, too, being part of the same heritage, shared a fair amount of the repertoire but delivered the individual items with their own distinct flavours and each had a title or two that became associated with them forever: Manzoor Niazi's Naseema Jaanibé Bat'haa and Bahauddin's Kaesa Naach Nachaaya come immediately to mind. Both of these are available on the Citibank-sponsored set that is now a collector's item due, in part, to the wonderful notes that accompanied it. The audios were pirated (naturally!) and are available easily in most seedy CD stores. 

While Fareed Ayaz, his brothers - the amazing Abu Mohammad, among them - and the generation coming up (keep your ears open for Moiz and Hamza!), continue to preserve the tradition of rendering qavvaali in its purest classical form - they are at their best in samaa environments - those who have heard them in concerts know that their range extends way beyond that. Because their musical heritage includes, and is greatly influenced by, the famed ustaad Taan Ras Khan sahab, court musician to Bahadur Shah Zafar, they tackle shudhh classical raags - be it dhrupad ang or the more common khayaal form - with as much ease as they do pieces from today's popular repertoire.
Once in a while they have been known to include qavvaalis popularized by some of their well-known peers, although this happens only when the audience requests it - which is, thankfully, rare. C'mon, concert attendees … you've come to hear what these guys do best, so listen to their specialities. (In any case, how can one listen to a Sabri cover, however well sung, without Ghulam Farid's booming "Alllaaaaaah", or watch it without the silent qavvaali bit that only he could get away with by accompanying it with a twinkle in his eyes and a mischievous smile?)
They delight their fans with the works of Rumi, Hafiz, Khusrau, Bulley Shah, Kabir, and the later poets - such as Jigar Muradabadi (whose Saraapa never fails to entrance the listeners, even non-believers, with the sheer beauty of its words). They glide from Arabi to Farsi, Hindi, Poorbi, Punjabi, Seraiki, and Urdu smoothly. They sing modern foot-tapping qavvaalis and the traditional haal-inducing ones, but also inject the khaanqaahi slow, langurous melodies (such as Har Shab Manam Fataadah) into the performance, some - like Teree Yaad Hae Mann Kaa Chaen, Piyaa - transporting lovers into another time and place. But it is their sazeenaa, bahlaava, payvand-kaari, and the weaving of sargams and taans seamlessly into their performances that I enjoy most of all.

If you have not heard the full range of this troupé's capabilities, come and be converted. Bring others along, too, not just for a very enjoyable evening but one which will enrich your knowledge as Fareed Ayaz, Abu Mohammad, and others - (expect the unexpected!) - trace the development and growth of this all-encompassing genre. If you are already a fan, we'll see you there, anyway, but do bring friends to introduce them to this bunch of wonder-weavers and the genre ... and to financially support T2F in its shift to the new, expanded premises. That's very important, too.

(Thank you, Fareed & Abu, and everyone else in the party, for donating the proceeds and supporting a space that has helped enliven many of our evenings).

Here's a real first!

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

Thank you, T2F supporters ...

You have been marvelous in your messages of love and affection and support. It's overwhelming to hear people talk about what T2F has, in less than 2 years, come to mean to so many.

There were several people present at the second event yesterday who offered us words of cheer, some responding actively to Sabeen's call for help. Email is pouring in from people, some of whom live abroad and have never even visited the place. Some have heard of the space and the philosophy from friends, have subscribed to the mailing list, or are on FB. A handful have left comments on the official post, itself.

My own morning - full of resolve made stronger by your words and deeds, opened with a copy of The News ... and, lo and behold: not one but two stories related to T2F. How wonderful.

Labels: , , ,

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The 'Other' Heresies

Mexican photographer Pedro Meyer is as renowned for his powerful and provocative photographs as he is for his pioneering work with digital imaging. Meyer’s photographs consistently test the limits of truth, fiction and reality. With the advent of digital photography in the early 1990s, Meyer evolved from a documentary photographer who created so-called “straight photographs” into a digital-documentarian who often combines photographic elements from disparate times and places to arrive at a different or higher truth. Pedro's oft-expressed contention that all photographs — digitally manipulated or not — are equally “true” and “untrue” has been labeled “heretical” in the orthodox documentary photography community.

While fellow Apple-user Pedro Meyer (one of the first to adopt this platform and launch the very first intearactive CD-ROM!) may have his exhibition - Heresies - opening in 60 museums in almost as many countries (we are thrilled that T2F, where the exhibition opens on 21st October, has been selected as the Pakistani venue) there are others, like me, whose photographs have also made it to some of the greatest (virtual!) halls in the world. Here are just 4 examples.

"Happy viewing", as the Senator said!



Jehan Ara


See you at the real Heresies, where a selection of large original museum quality prints of Pedro's works will be displayed and changed almost weekly!

Please do keep checking out the schedule at T2F's website for the exciting related events, like workshops, talks, discussions, and presentations during the weeks that this unique exhibition is on, unless you're on FB and already visit T2F Pages for updates.

Oh ... did you know that you can also subscribe to T2F's Events RSS Feed so you get the news automatically? And, as the icing on the cake, sign up for SMS alerts and get timely reminders too. This saves you the task of 'remembering to remember' to go to the website and saves me answering calls - usually when an event is actually happening - Maddy, please note ;-) - about when and what time it's happening.

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: , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

And now hear this ...

A couple of years ago a visiting friend (who has asked to remain anonymous) played me a 'boot-leg' copy of a speech. As far as I could make out - the recording was an excerpt that was missing the beginning an the ending - the theme was was Liberal Education . It was a delightful lecture and I always wished we could have heard the whole thing. Unfortunately, we knew not where the speech was given nor, even more of a plight, who the speaker was ... such is the tragedy of poorly pirated material ;-) I even took a sentence or two from the speech, at random, and tried to Google it ... but nothing was found at that time.

Last week I was gifted "The Philosophy of Religion", a course recorded by Professor John Hall for The Teaching Company (TTC). Impressed by the simple lucidity and tone of the very first of the 36 lectures), I searched for him on the internet and was delighted to be led to his homepage, which, in turn, led me to the Convocation Address delivered by him at The University of Richmond in 2005. And that's the one we'd heard!

While I suggest that you download and read the entire lecture (it's only 3 pages long), along with the Collegian piece, I would like to quote one of its sections here with permission from Professor Hall.
Liberal Education and Impracticality

One of the hallmarks of liberal education is that it is does not have immediate applications, results, or investment returns. This is what people mean when they say that it is impractical. But is liberal education really impractical?

If the desired outcome of schooling is job-skill, then Strayer would be the model school. My wrestling with the ambiguities of Ionesco, studying the complexities of natural selection, trying to figure out what the American Civil War was really about, and exploring the mathematics of musical key transposition, are not likely to increase the GNP or lower the CPI overnight, if at all. On the other hand, my learning to keyboard data into a computer, take accurate telephone messages, keep a double-entry ledger, and figure profit margins, might. Indeed, I could measurably increase my disposable income simply by addressing envelopes at home in my spare time. (Many matchbook covers tell me so, and I believe them.) But who will write the programs for me to keyboard? Who will leave a message worth my taking down? Who will create the business that needs me to keep its books? Who will invent a product that will generate profits for me to calculate? Indeed, who will create something worthwhile to put in the envelopes I address?

For individuals and their communities to thrive, people need to know more than the answers to familiar questions. They need to know what questions to ask, and that means that they need to be inventive enough to come up with new ones. They need to be able to make judgments without bright-line criteria, and that means that they must be able to wrestle with ambiguity without having a panic attack. They need to be able to make informed political decisions, and that means that they need to understand historical connections and the difference between appearance and reality. And they need to be able to function in a complex society that divides its labor, which means that they need to have some understanding of what everyone else is doing, even if they don’t have to do everything everyone else does themselves.

And this is where a liberal education is most liberating. By freeing us from the expectation of an immediate payoff for each thing we learn or do, it opens us up to learn and do things that, while they may lack an immediate payoff, may have long-term potentials that we cannot even imagine in advance. This is why a highly placed corporate officer once told me “when we want worker bees, send us trained technicians; but when we want leadership send us people who have studied history and literature and science. We can train new hires to run the machinery if we need to; but we are not equipped to teach them how to use their minds.” So the “impracticality” of liberal education is not necessarily impractical at all. By allowing students to go beyond job training, it encourages them to stretch themselves to the absolute limit of their potentials and, unhampered by external or artificial constraints, to be flexible and to grow.

[I am not sure if the good professor will be willing to talk to a T2F audience in far away Pakistan via Skype - but I'd love for him to spend a few minutes with us during a Science Ka Adda evening on another topic he enjoys: Pseudoscience and the Paranormal.]

I had, very recently, finished listening on my iPod - overflowing with several audiobooks and brilliant podcasts - to Professor Esposito delivering his balanced and very informative TTC lectures on Islam (as a part of The World's Great Religions series). The Philosophy of Religion course promises to be an even more enjoyable learning experience.

The range of subjects that TTC courses cover is extremely vast. I wish Dr Atta ur Rahman (HEC) or Dr Naveed Malik (VU) would strike a deal with those guys and make several of these courses available locally at subsidized rates. I'd be willing to enroll, even at my age (and with the way I feel about educational institutions), in a college to take advantage of such a deal, if it was required.

Postscript: Lest some of you worry, no, I am not about to be 'born again'. Religion has always been a subject of great interest to me and the current revival (in its worst forms, I might add) and its political impact, globally, has just re-kindled that. But next on my course list - if I can raise the money (HEC/VU are unlikely to even consider this one) - is Professor Greenberg's How to Listen to and Understand Great Music. 48 lectures of 45 minutes each. I can't stop drooling.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Twain Meet

Waiting for Professor Aslam Farrukhi to show up for what became, in his delightful retelling, a grand - almost visual - tour of Karachi, 1947, I was fortunate to be to be at the same table as Yusufi Sahab, who, with just 4 books pubished, is arguably the finest writer of Urdu prose today. 

Apologizing for a really pita hua question, I asked him whom he read and was influenced by. I am not sure what name[s] I expected ... but without a moment's pause he surprised me by saying "Mark Twain", which - in retrospect - doesn't seem so odd. He also went on (with almost childish awe) to describe his recent visit to Twain's hometown and the house he lived in.
I hope that T2F will, one day, be honoured by an evening of Yusufi Sahab's readings. How we'll accommodate the hundreds that will turn up, I don't know. Guess that's reason enough to increase the space, Sab ;-)
As a possible result of our colonization, older readers in this part of the world were traditionally more familiar with writers from Britain, as compared to those from the USA, a legacy they passed on via textbooks and home libraries to their young. Over the years, the one good thing to emerge from the Americanization of Everything, is that we have all become familiar with several new and powerful authors from the other side of the Atlantic. In fact, one has to look really hard for good British, non-desi authors in our bookshops!

However, Samuel Longhorn Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, is still not as commonly read in this part of the world as he should be. Here's a piece by him that is as relevant today (and to us) as when it was first published as part of a short story.

O Lord, Our Father
by Mark Twain

O Lord, our father, 
Our young patriots, idols of our hearts, 
Go forth to battle - be Thou near them! 
With them, in spirit, we also go forth 
From the sweet peace of our beloved firesides
To smite the foe.
O Lord, our God, 
Help us to tear their soldiers 
To bloody shreds with our shells; 
Help us to cover their smiling fields 
With the pale forms of their patriot dead;
Help us to drown the thunder of the guns
With the shrieks of their wounded, 
Writhing in pain.

Help us to lay waste their humble homes 
With a hurricane of fire; 
Help us to wring the hearts of their 
Unoffending widows with unavailing grief;
Help us to turn them out roofless 
With their little children to wander unfriended
The wastes of their desolated land 
In rags and hunger and thirst, 
Sports of the sun flames of summer 
And the icy winds of winter, 
Burdened in spirit, worn with travail, 
Imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -

For our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, 
Blast their hopes, 
Blight their lives, 
Protract their bitter pilgrimage, 
Make heavy their steps, 
Water their way with their tears, 
Stain the white snow with the blood 
Of their wounded feet!

We ask it in the spirit of love - 
Of Him who is the source of love, 
And Who is the ever-faithful 
Refuge and Friend of all that are sore beset
And seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts.


Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Biting Apple Back

The Apple-Microsoft wars are, now, nothing but infotainment ... or, at least until very recently, were just that. They helped sell magazines (Steve Jobs had only to sneeze to be on the covers of Time, Newsweek, Fortune, even The Maori Tribal News!), newspapers, books, TV spots. Even a movie or two. (Watch out for the September Screenings at T2F!) Let's face it: how could there be a real fight among a 2% market-share holder and someone that, once, all but held the remaining? (Yes, there were other OSs around, too, guys, like the OS2 ... just like there are Linux and others today).

Some, of course, found in this unequal battle the symbolism of David slaying Goliath ... an image that Apple's 1984 SuperBowl Ad (Thank you, Lee Clow!) planted by equating IBM with Big Brother. Others continue to see it as the battle of two young hippie kids in a garage taking on a big corporation despite the fact that Apple, itself, has become one. No surprise there, for - in any battle, large or small - you eventually become what your enemy is.

The "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" ads were satirical, hilarious, even lovable. OK ... that's how most Mac lovers felt. To many, and not PC users alone, they were 'rude'. But that's a matter of taste, I guess. I love irreverence and black comedy, grew up on sick jokes, chuckled at the macabre cartoons of the totally brilliant Gahan Wilson and still rotfl (admittedly with an occasional wince) at the grotesqueness of JoeCartoon.

Did I say 'were'? Once I used to download every one of them as soon as they aired. I admired the fact that they didn't resort to outright lies ... but then why would they? One could never run out of material while poking fun at the real flaws in Windoze. Lately, though, I don't even click to view most of them with anything remotely resembling my past urgency. In fact, I am sure I've missed watching many. No, they haven't lost on quality, or humour, judging by those I have peeked at ... but, in terms of quantity, there have been just far too many of them! Why didn't anyone at Apple say "Enuff already!" ... ? (Of course, those who know Steve Jobs know why.)

"All is fair in Love and War" goes the cliche ... and Business, now, is War! So the Apple ads got noisier and noisier and more and more aggressive and while Bill Gates poohpoohed and chastised them for their attitude and Microsoft turned up its collective nose at them, the strategy made waves. The brilliantly simple iPods and the simply brilliant much-in-demand iPhones (13000 orders per second in the UK alone today!), working in tandem with these ads in a 3-pronged attack, have helped Apple's market share grow beyond the industry norm.

[Click image to enlarge]

Finally, the company I love to hate for its awful OS and bloatware (but thank, genuinely, for having made computing accessible to millions) has taken notice.

As a lover of humour, a keen follower of the art and science of Advertising, someone who spends a lot of time with technology ... and a dedicated Mac user (until something better for my way of life comes along), I am excitedly looking forward to this counter-campaign. Let's hope it's as funny as the early Mac/PC ads were.

Let the games begin ...

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, June 12, 2008

An unforgettable hour

Events at The Second Floor have featured many well-known and some not-so-well-known but exciting personalities. However, some very out-of-the-ordinary people drop in for coffee and conversation on non-event days, too. Ardeshir Cowasjee, Tina Sani, Asif Farrukhi, Attiya Dawood, Sheema Kermani, along with several popular young musicians, writers and artists are frequent visitors. Seated at other tables, the many students who gather here to prepare for their exams and take advantage of the air-conditioning and free wi-fi, get a surprise opportunity to interact more closely with such luminaries than they could at large gatherings.

Yesterday, however, was a really unforgettable treat for me when Asif Farrukhi turned up with Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi Sahab and Zehra (Nigah) Apa for an hour-long chat over coffee.

My association with the latter (Zehra Apa, not Coffee!) goes way back to my childhood when she was a teenager. This young girl had just exploded into the universe of Mushaeraas, with her scintillating ghazals, coupled with a tarannüm that became the talk of the town. "She has upset many poets who, at her age, used to get their ustaads to write for them ... and especially those who still do", said my father once, naming 2 poets as examples. But I shall disappoint you and refrain from such gossip ...

Zehra Apa has promised not one, but two sessions at T2F ... so, if you have not yet subscribed to its mailing list, the time to do it is now! The first - scheduled for the 18th of June - will focus upon her own works and life. For many it may well be the first experience to enjoy her delightful retelling of anecdotes. The second - at a date to be announced later, when she returns from her trip abroad - will have her reading and reciting her favourite pieces of Urdu prose and poetry, paying homage to works of others - including her contemporaries - something she does with a style all her own. Anyone who has heard her recite Faiz Sahab's Heart Attack on my Aaj Kay Naam CD-ROM, or her stunning unforgettable rendition of Nasir Kazmi's poignant '... kidhar say aaya kidhar gayaa voh', recited to a thoughtful sitar accompaniment by Ustad Kabir Khan  - a far cry from the mauling of recitations by other similar efforts - will vouch for the fact that these examples remain unsurpassed.

Yesterday's hour was spent with Asif, Sabeen and I in guffaws as we heard stories about Saqi Farooqui, Jaun Elia and others and enjoyed the barbed wit of arguably the greatest satirist Urdu prose has ever had. Here's a page of timeless prose from Aabé Güm describing Pakistan's politics. Penned years ago (and sent to me only last week by fellow sea-farer, ANL, from the UAE), this could well have been written today.

While discussing people who 'read' well, the conversation moved to examples of great readers (Gielgud, Guinness, Burton). When I pitched in with my criticism of someone who, generally a brilliant and respected performer, often imbues pieces with unnecessary drama, Yusufi sahab agreed and added: Achchha pa∂hnay kay liyay laazmi hae keh mazmoon iss tarah pa∂ha jaae jaesay müsalmaan Qurãn pa∂htay haeñ ... yaani baghaer samjhay! ("Good reading requires one to recite texts, like Muslims recite the Qurãn: Without understanding!").

Let me end by sharing one anecdote about Jaun Elia that was new for the 3 of us in the 'audience' and embodied that unique man completely (requiring no embellishment on the part of either Zehra Apa or Yusufi Sahab). Sorry about not translating the punch-line ... it just would not work in anything but Urdu:

At the airport, Jaun sahab raised his little finger and excused himself, promising to return in 2 minutes. When he arrived, more than 15 minutes later, a worried friend asked him if all was well and what the cause of the delay was. "Bhai maeñ do minat mayñ aa jaata, laykin vahaañ Urdu Qadamchah daykha to ekhlaaqan küchh dayr aur baeth gayaa", replied the inimitable Jaun.

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Looking Back / Looking Ahead

Prof. Niaz Zaman (of Dhaka) and the multifaceted Asif Farrukhi (of Karachi) have jointly edited Fault Lines, a book of excellent short stories centred around 1971. Many of these stories were translated from Bengali, Hindi, and Urdu into English for this publication from Bangladesh, now available at T2F courtesy OUP.

Along with respected Urdu writer Intizar Husain - flown in from Lahore by T2F to attend the launch of the book in Pakistan and a later evening to be devoted to his writings, alone - both Editors, whose own stories also appear in the collection, were present on the evening of the 11th May for an event that was the first of a series of happenings to celebrate T2F's birthday. 

Reading Fault Lines was not easy for me, partly because it brought back so much to mind. Actually, the very first time I opened it to a page at random, I was confronted by a few lines that made me put the book down, numbed.
"Baby, there's blood on your finger. Did you hurt yourself?"
"No ... I did not hurt myself", the little girl says.
"Okay, but let me wash it away."
"NO! I won't let you wash it! It's my mother's blood."
It took me a few days to muster enough courage to start reading it again. And those opening lines from Masood Ashar's Versions of Truth still haunt me.

While Bangladeshi writing is full of references, in works of fact and fiction, to those horrible days Pakistani prose has been very skimpy on the subject - with the occasional story sometimes being treated allegorically (e.g., Forklift 352 by Asad Mohammad Khan - included in this book and read out in the original Urdu by him at the launch). Admittedly, references in poetry from Faiz, Jalib, Faraz and others have been more direct.

The question that is often asked - and was brought up again that evening - is how/why did people in 'West' Pakistan "let it happen" and "not raise a voice". The stock answer has been "We did not know..." (an answer that was also partly supported by Shuja Nawaz during my interview of him about his intriguing book, more about which later in this post). So, Muneeza Shamsie's statement "We knew - and said so to others. But nobody wanted to hear..." came as a twist that led to numerous discussions within smaller groups after the event. (One of many interesting discussions on 1971 by today's youth has been also triggered through Jamash's coverage of the launch.)

There were, as was to be expected, conflicting views. While most of the audience generally felt that the Army had been brutal, there were still a few - including a conscientious objector from the armed forces who had refused to fight and returned to 'West' Pakistan - who believed that events before the 'army action' (what a mild euphemism for a bloody genocide!) had reached a pinnacle with the merciless killings of Biharis (someone suggesting a figure of ten thousand in a single incident). It was this, they held, that had resulted in the violent (though regrettable) reaction of the Army. Khalid Ahmad, of stage and TV fame, was not willing to buy this and countered with an argument: If the lives of Biharis were so important, why has Pakistan not ever considered accepting their repatriation? The reasons, he felt, were entirely different and pre-planned. This view was partially reinforced when Prof. Niaz - a Punjabi who lives in Dhaka with her Bengali husband and, thus, with access to the thinking of both sides - said that contacts in the army had told her, well before that tragic March, that war was on the cards and preparation were in full swing.

Will the truth ever be known? The question falsely assumes that there is one single truth. There are, always, several truths - and glimpses of them are found in books safely labeled as Fiction. Truths are rarely, if ever, found in History, which, as Will Durant (and who can be considered more qualified to make a statement on the subject?) says, is 9/10th conjecture and 1/10th bias.

Having very close contacts in the army is one of the advantages that Shuja Nawaz holds over many others. His easy access to the military top brass adds dimensions to his research generally not found in other analyses.

A seasoned journalist and member of several Think Tanks in the USA, where he lives, Shuja Nawaz has recently authored Crossed Swords — Pakistan, its Army and the Wars Within, a book that is making waves everywhere even before the launch. Internationally, leading publications are showing exceptional interest in talking to him and in reprinting extracts from the book. A big launch is scheduled in Delhi soon. In Pakistan, the media is battling for time with him to conduct one-to-one interviews during the 2 days he is in Karachi.

OUP is holding a large launch on the 15th - which is also T2F's birthday and where we hope you'll join us on one or more of the sessions scheduled - but, for a more intimate (albeit brief) conversation with Shuja, you can come to T2F on the 16th. If you buy a copy of the book at T2F you will also get a free Audio CD of an interview I conducted with him over Skype.

I am not usually interested in reading books about the Army but, I admit, I couldn't put this one down. The breadth of its scope is matched by its depth - a rare occurrence, indeed. To younger readers I would certainly recommend it strongly since it spans the entire history of the country and is filled with 'inner' anecdotes. You can hear two clips from the interview here: One deals with the MQM and General Asif Nawaz (Shuja's brother, whose controversial death - or was it murder? - is also dealt with in the book). The other shows his current state of optimism.

Excerpts from my interview on other topics, including Kargil, can be heard on the OUP website. Such additions make the book much more interesting than the drab text books that turn Pakistan Studies into an almost detestable subject for many.

On a related note, Shuja Nawaz has been following the dynamic blogging community in Pakistan and has expressed a desire to meet some of its members during his visit. So, fellow Karachi bloggers, do come! 16th / 7 PM. Be on time ... he only has an hour in his very hectic schedule.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Absolut Joy!

You deserve a really big round of



Also, a big
who helped

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

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A great leap forward

When my daughter, Ragni, screened her very first short film (Bindiya Chamkay Gee) - during one of T2F's Cinema for Change sessions - the star of the documentary was also the star of the evening, answering questions and countering comments (some rather accusatory) with a confidence that many had not expected. But then they had never met a Hij∂a like Bindiya!

Among the post-event post-Q&A discussions that followed within small groups (and the place was buzzing) there was one recurring thought: Given the scale, number, and variety of problems developing countries face, it was a wild fantasy for Bindiya or her supporters to imagine that the difficulties encountered by such a small subset of the population would even be on the radar of the governments of any of the countries in the majority world (to use Shahidul Alam's term of choice). Some felt that the vote-bank was not large enough for any politician to try and woo. Others, that any decent politician (yes, it is possible, though admittedly rare) who truly wished to support such a cause would be mocked so much that he would lose his general credibility.

It was a joy, then, to see this news item from our 'neighbouring country' (a euphemism that our state media uses for India, lest the invocation of the actual name result in that evil genie materialising and devouring us).
DISCRIMINATED AGAINST and forced to live in secluded communities, India’s hijras have always had to fight for basic entitlements. Two weeks ago, however, a major victory was achieved when Tamil Nadu added a third gender to ration cards. Hijras may now enter a ‘T’ (for transgender) in place of a ‘M’ or ‘F’ on ration cards. The move makes Tamil Nadu the first Indian state to officially recognise its hijra citizens.
Incidentally, the article is by Morgan Harrington, who was at Hampshire College with Ragni. Read the whole story

Labels: , , , , , , ,