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Monthly Archives: August 2014

The hands behind the flags

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Karachi – “I am quite old,” he says, contemplating in reply to a question, as his nimble fingers continue working on a huge Pakistani flag of synthetic material. “May be I am 12?” says the podgy child, sitting on a heap of about a hundred flags. “He is ten years old,” yells out his brother from the other side of the huge room where at every turn of the head, all one can see is flags of Pakistan. Mukhtiyar smiles, clicks his tongue non-chalantly, and goes back to work. There is lots of work to be done as Pakistan’s 68th Independence Day is a few days away. Mukhtiyar and his colleagues work in a kaarkhana (factory) in an industrial area of Karachi. He works on almost a 1000 flags a day in peak season.

 

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Just some eight kilometres away, alongside a main road in an affluent part of Karachi, 15 years old Shazia and her younger brother have set-up a stall on a small table. The national flag in cloth and paper of all shapes and sizes, and many other items that help fuel patriotism are on display. “We buy all of this from lighthouse and sell it. We earn about 200 to 300 rupees a day, that’s all. Is dafa dhanda naheen hai (there is not much business this year),” says their mother Shehnaz who works as part-time domestic help in nearby bungalows. She swings by the stall every few hours to see how her children are doing.

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Hoisting flags around the world

Every year, Pakistan is a splash of green and the minimal white. An entire industry springs into action weeks before the 14 August, and goes back into dormancy after the day is over. But for the workers at Pakistan’s only flag-based company, VIP Flags, flags are made all year round and provide livelihood to around 100 workers and their families. The factory is situated in Korangi Industrial Area, Karachi, and the products they churn out have been record-breaking, literally. “We set the world record of the time for the World’s Largest Flag on the occasion of Pakistan’s 57th Independence day in 2004. The flag measured 340ft x 510ft which is 173,400 sq.ft,breaking the previous American Super flag record, which was 255ft x 505ft,” says Asim Nisar Parchamwala, Director, VIP Flags. The record may have been broken but the pride with which he talks is permanent. From ceremonial and table flags to taking export orders of flags in the thousands that they take from all over the world, this is where most flags are made in the country, including the flags for all political parties. While smaller factories and industries make more economical versions of the banner sporting the symbolic star and crescent, most flags used for official purposes are made here. “Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has commissioned us to make a flag for this year’s Independence Day which will be hoisted on the world’s tallest flag pole in Lahore,” says Parchamwala.

 

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The workers here are mostly young, the oldest ones in their 30s. The volume of work is challenging. The factory is clean and the workers are well looked after. “They get a ten per cent raise in salary every year,” says Parchamwala, talking to The Express Tribune. When asked why he hires such young workers, he replies by saying, “what do you think these children would be doing if they are not hired? They would be running about in the streets or become members of gangs and mafias.”

 

In another room, two young “cutters” are cutting out flags that will later undergo finishing. The weather is hot and humid, but they are not putting on the fan. “Maal urta hai phir (the flags flutter with the wind the fan produces,” says Ghani.

 

Shahid, a 21 years old worker at VIP flags, agrees. “I have been working here for the last three years. My two brothers also work here. Initially I did not know this work, but overtime I have learnt the skill,” he says. Shahid’s salary is a reasonable sum, between 12 to 18 thousand rupees a month. “We make enough to support our family comfortably.”

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A condensed version of this photo feature was published in The Express Tribune here:

http://tribune.com.pk/story/748918/full-mast-the-hands-behind-the-flags/

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Robin Williams and the price of genius

Published: August 15, 2014

Cogito ergo sum, “I think, therefore I am”, said Descartes. We like to believe so. Especially the brainy, creative ones. The thinkers. The idealists. This thought could be translated into political revolutionism or writing or art. The ones who have a lot within themselves cannot contain it. They must share it with the world. Robin Williams was one of these, the extraordinary. He thought. And his thoughts spilled onto the celluloid. He made us laugh for the most part. But those who cared to look beneath the surface cried along with this acting genius. If you looked closely enough, after every joke he cracked in his stand-up performances, he gave a weird smile that reminded one of crying. But in those moments, the camera was mostly focused on the audience in splits.

Robin (and I deliberately choose not to call him Williams here, so that he is not impersonalised) suffered from depression and was identified with bipolar disorder as well as alcohol abuse. With an alcohol hiatus of two decades, his sobriety fell prey to his addictions again.

Robin’s death makes me wonder if ‘thinking’, emoting, feeling and leading life as a more evolved human is worth it. While depression has chemical causes that affect the brain and is genetic a lot of times, there is no denying that certain personality types are more prone to it. It is not necessarily suicidal depression, but one that shows self-destructive tendencies.

Yet, with all the pain they endure they choose to live a difficult existence because one cannot deny one’s calling.

Robin, and all those geniuses who have gone before him, was not so different from us. As his character says to his students in the immortal movie, Dead Poets Society, while talking about boys who attended the same school 60-70 years ago: “They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilising daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? – Carpe – hear it? – Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.”

Published in The Express Tribune, August 15th, 2014.

Sufisticated: Celebrating Amir Khusrau via Saami

Published: August 21, 2014
tribune.com.pk/story/751231/sufisticated-celebrating-amir-khusrau-via-saami/

The Saami Brothers qawwal group is presently performing events that are thematic tributes to Hazrat Amir Khusrau. PHOTO: FAISAL SAYANI

KARACHI: Guftam ke Roshan az Qamar/Gufta ke Rukhsaar-e-man ast/Guftam ke sheerin az shaker/Gufta ke guftaar-e-man ast.” (I said: What is bright like the moon? He said: The cheek of Mine. I said: What is sweeter than sugar? He said: The talk of Mine.) The lights are dim. The voices and clapping resonate across the hall. The crowd is almost mesmerised as this beautiful bit of Amir Khusrau’s Persian poetry is performed by The Saami Brothers.

“So, who is the speaker and who is he speaking to in this nazm?” is the question a listener poses to Rauf Saami, the eldest of the brothers. “Nazm nahi, bibi. Ghazal,” he points out and goes on. “On purpose, this has not been spelt out here. Hence, this can be interpreted in more than one way,” he smilingly says that not all of Amir Khusrau’s poetry was for his spiritual master. “Where he wants it to be understood as specifically for Khwaja Ghareeb Nawaz, he takes his name.”

In a later sitting, Rauf’s father sheds more light on this. “Some people are given so much in so many aspects. They are God’s special people. Amir Khusrau was one of them. A linguist, a scholar, a poet, a mystic, an advisor to kings, the devotee of his Peer-o-Murshid Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya and a musician,” says Ustad Naseeruddin Saami.

We are sitting in his spacious apartment in Garden Town with two of his sons sitting around him. Two tanpuras named Saawan and Bhaadon sit majestically in the room; they are some 430 years old, passed on through generations of the Saami family as heirlooms.

Ustaad Naseeruddin Saami’s four sons and a nephew make up The Saami Brothers group of qawwals. The troupe is currently performing in events that are thematic tributes to Hazrat Amir Khusrau, the father of qawwali and a 13th-century Sufi musician, poet and scholar, and a spiritual disciple of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya.

Titled Kalaam-e-Khusrau Ba Zabaan-e-Saamat, their next performance will be held at T2F on Thursday afternoon after a successful event at the PACC auditorium. They are doing this to celebrate the Urs of Hazrat Amir Khusrau.

While other qawwals, even in their own family, have experimented with fusion and innovations, this group remains more puritanical in its approach. They safeguard their link to their ancestor Miyan Saamat, who was both a student and colleague of Amir Khusrau. “They were peers. Miyan Saamat was already doing zikr in the darbar of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. But when Khusrau entered, the two started working as a team. They experimented with it and the name ‘qawwali’ was introduced for this art form,” says Ustaad Saami.

Talking about the many languages Amir Khusrau wrote poetry in, the conversation wanders into the makings of the Urdu language. Urdu, the language symbolic of pluralism, has words of Arabic, Turkish, Hindi and Persian. Khusrau dabbled with all of these languages in his poetry. “The purpose of the Urdu language was mingling and communication of the many races here. Music is also a means of communication and nothing else. And Khusrau was the master mingler,” says the maestro.

For Saami, music is about “invoking in yourself and your audience the correct kaifiyat (feeling)”. Ustad Saami, for whom his close students use the term of endearment ‘jaan’, has a deep attachment to Khusrau. He had travelled to India on what one may call a ‘study tour’ to search his roots to Amir Khusrau. “Qawwali kiya hai? Kisee achhay qaul ko logon tak pohnchana,” says Saami. “The divine words given to us by those who were directed by Him.”

Published in The Express Tribune, August 21st, 2014.

5 reasons I still support Imran Khan

It is sad that even the brightest of us have so resigned to the fact that the system in Pakistan is corrupt that it has, over time, become a non-issue. For me, integrity is a huge issue. And that is what is unquestionable about this man.

At least once a day, I am asked,

“You support Imran Khan? Seriously?”

It is mainly because I do not fit the stereotypical image people have about PTI people. Emotional, young, immature and what we call “trolls”. I like to think I am none of these. Very few in my field of work are open about their political tilts, if any. Maybe because there is a remote chance it may interfere with journalistic objectivity. However, I have been very clear since day one. Anything I report will say the truth and nothing but the truth. Even if it goes against the Khan. Blogs, tweets and social media are based on purely personal opinions, and hence are a different matter.

The next remark usually is a grin followed by,

“Aah. You are one of Killer Khan’s female fans smitten by him.”

While I do not deny admiring Khan as one of the most charismatic men in Pakistan, this is certainly not the reason he got my vote or why I support him. People have to start giving people with differing views more credit.

The last week or more has been a trial for Khan’s supporters, me included. His very off-beat brand of politics has had Pakistanis who were never in favour of him smugly say,

“See! We always knew it would come to this.”

Jokes about his questionable political wisdom (I can already hear readers saying “does he have any?”), the “unusual” jalsas with an aura of festivity, and Khan’s very ad hoc, and at times incoherent and repetitive, speeches have not made it easier for supporters like me. It is not easy explaining why someone has moved from believing in PPP as the party that deserves the vote to PTI. But that debate is for another day.

As regards this man, undisputedly a national hero, there are very few who have centrist feelings. People either admire him to an extent that they become rude “trolls” in his defence, or write him off and are so put off by him that they react by laughing at him and at everyone who supports him. It is doubly difficult for his supporters who continue to support the man but question and disagree with certain decisions he has taken. I am one of those many. And openly so. Others from Pakistan’s intelligentsia prefer to stay under cover, because the amount of mockery you get from non-PTI trolls for being a PTI supporter is immense.

I disagree with Khan on many grounds. I disagree that he and his ministers resigned. I disagree that he is not budging on his demand of Nawaz Sharif’s resignation. I disagree with the words he sometimes uses, in a spell of euphoria and emotion. And these are just a few points.

Yet, I continue to support him and trust him.

All the mockery has not made me give up on him and his vision. The reasons are many, but here are the five major reasons why Imran Khan is still the only politician I continue to believe in.

1) He is not after the money

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is no mean feat. We, as a nation, are unfortunate that we are in a system that is steeped in corruption and bribery. That is a critical and basic problem with what’s wrong with Pakistan. And this attitude of “le de kar kaam chalao” starts from the top and trickles down at every level. A wonderful journalist friend who is very anti-Khan politically, but has worked with him on projects regarding Shaukat Khanum, once said,

“I will never vote for Khan. But I would trust him blindly with my money.”

For how many politicians in Pakistan can you say that?

It is sad that even the brightest of us have so resigned to the fact that the system in Pakistan is corrupt that it has, over time, become a non-issue. For me, integrity is a huge issue. And that is what is unquestionable about this man.

2) He is who he is

I admit that the man is not perfect, like all humans. He can irk the best of us the wrong way with never-ending cricket analogies that sometimes backfire. But he is who he is. Call it naivety, but how does one trust the “seasoned politicians”? Either you love Imran Khan, or you hate him, because at least you know what he is. As a voter, I have a connection with the political leader I vote for. I must know what he stands for and who he is. For someone who has little patience for hypocrisy, Khan is a natural choice.

3) His is not the politics of violence

Khan does not have a history of having had people punished brutally or beaten or attacked. The worst mudslinging his opposition can come up with is that he has been a ladies’ man, and that they don’t cease to remind the world about. But this man has not been involved in any indirect or direct criminal activity that ever harmed or took another human’s life.

4) He leads from the front

Khan’s courage is unquestionable. Barring a bullet-proof jacket, the man hardly has any security. His well-wishers often worry about him for this reason, but he is the fearless man that he is. This faith gives his supporters faith. Those who would use others as their shield do not inspire me to support them. He also is always the first to walk the talk.

5) He has truly served the nation

This one man has helped saved millions of lives in this country. Is that a small thing? People criticise him a lot for what they call his “self-absorbed” behaviour. Yet, this man has selflessly and tirelessly worked for public health and education of the under-privileged. For that, not only is the nation indebted, but I know what his priorities will be if he gets the reigns of the government of this country for an undisturbed five years.

It is sad that as a nation we have become so used to being led by people that lack these qualities that for us, dishonesty and corruption is acceptable, but a straightforward and sincere leader with much less serious mistakes is lambasted. Our leaders are a reflection of who we are. Time to choose our loyalties carefully.

Would you vote for Imran Khan?

  • Yes, absolutely (83%, 1,578 Votes)
  • No, not a chance in hell (11%, 208 Votes)
  • Maybe, I don’t hate him… yet (6%, 116 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,902

http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/23771/5-reasons-i-still-support-imran-khan/

Published: A

Worries pile up as waste grows in Pakistan

Pakistan generates about 20 million tonnes of solid waste annually, and its dumps have become a hub for child labour.

 http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/08/solid-waste-pakistan-karachi-2014867512833362.html
Last updated: 11 Aug 2014 

Some four million children, die each year from waste-related diseases in Pakistan [EPA]
Karachi, Pakistan – In the economic hub of Karachi, Ali, an 11-year-old child, awakens at dawn while the rest of his family sleeps next to burners and barrels that will be used to disintegrate metal waste.

The barrels contain acid, and wires and circuits will be burned in the open air, releasing harmful emissions. But Ali’s impoverished family needs whatever money they can get from this dirty business.

Muhammad Ishaq, 12, is another child hostage to the rubbish he collects for a scrap dealer. In return, the scrap-dealer gives his parents fixed Rs 2500 ($25) a month.

“My shed broke in the recent rains. Where will I live now?” is his recurrent concern, as he refers to the shed made also of, ironically, pieces of wood and cardboard he finds in the trash.

These children get food and clothes from NGOs or common people… They eat at charities and bathe in mosques. They are very susceptible to scabies and infected wounds. They suffer from diarrhoea all year round.

– Rana Asif, Founder of Initiator Human Development Foundation

A waste of a nation

Both Ishaq and Ali are among thousands of Pakistani children who work as scavengers, combing through piles of rubbish for a daily pay that maxes out at about $2.

Besides being out of school, these children face severe health hazards from the unsafe handling of waste.

“These children get food and clothes from NGOs or common people… They eat at charities and bathe in mosques. They are very susceptible to scabies and infected wounds. They suffer from diarrhoea all year round,” said Rana Asif, Founder of Initiator Human Development Foundation, that works for the welfare of street children.

Copper remains the most lucrative find for these boys. It is sold at Rs 500 ($5) a kilo, and aluminium at Rs 100 ($1) a kilo, and all of this is found in electronic waste.

These children – 95 percent of whom are male – are often found at Karachi’s biggest markets for e-waste in the Shershah, Lines Area and Regal neighbourhoods.

“We find computer monitors, and buyers buy them from us for a pittance, but sell it for much more. We get nothing,” said Yaargul Khan, 14, older brother of Ishaq.

Even as child labour remains rampant in Pakistan, almost 5.2 million people; including four million children, die each year from waste-related diseases in Pakistan.

A report by Triple Bottom-Line found that globally, many people did not know their old computers and televisions were shipped to countries such as China, India and Pakistan for “recycling”.

Manually dismantling electronic devices comes with a slew of health hazards, including exposure to toxic substances called furans and dioxins.

Burning these materials is even worse: A burning computer releases dioxins, lead, chromium and other toxic substances. Ali has no choice in the matter, and no gear to protect him from the fumes.

Pakistan generates about 20 million tonnes of solid waste annually, according to the country’s Environment Ministry, and that number is growing by about 2.4 percent each year. The waste management methods in Pakistan, however, remain poor.

The country’s most populous city, Karachi, generates an estimated 9,000 tonnes of waste daily, and garbage collectors cannot keep up.


Recycling is not widely practiced, and in many urban areas, dumping and trash burning are daily occurrences.

Asif Farooqi, the CEO of Waste Busters, a Pakistani waste management and recycling firm, says a big part of the problem is improper waste collection.

His team goes door-to-door collecting garbage bags – in Lahore alone, the company services 70,000 homes – and repurposes the contents. From inorganic trash, Waste Busters derives a form of fuel; from organic waste, they create compost.

Sadly, no organised or satisfactory system of solid waste management has been developed till now. The facilities are much too few compared to the waste generated.    

– Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui ,Commissioner of Karachi

“What we need from people is to stop open dumping and use garbage bags,” Farooqi told Al Jazeera. “And from the government all we need is administrative support. They should at least not create hurdles for us.”

Shifting the blame

While the administrator for the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC), Rauf Akhtar Farooqui said the solid waste management is the responsibility of the District Municipal Corporations and not of KMC, the Commissioner of Karachi, Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui told Al Jazeera that it was, in fact, very much the responsibility of KMC.

“Sadly, no organised or satisfactory system of solid waste management has been developed till now,” he told Al Jazeera.

“The facilities are much too few compared to the waste generated.”

Siddiqui expressed hope that things will get better as a result of the recent formation of the Sindh Solid Waste Management Board.

“This applies to e-waste management as well,” he said.

In neighbouring Punjab province, where over half of Pakistan’s population lives, the Environment Protection Department openly acknowledges the shortfalls, stating on its website: “Environmental legislation is still not well developed in Pakistan, especially in comparison to the developed world. For example, there are no National Quality Standards for [solid waste management].”

Still some hope

The situation has created openings for environmental organisations such as Gul Bahao, which literally builds homes out of rubbish, using materials such as bubble wrap and thermocol.

“Attitudes are changing,” Gul Bahao’s Nargis Latif told Al Jazeera.

“Youth have joined hands with us. Students help us collect funds for this. I am very hopeful.”

Even as the south Asian giant struggles to manage its solid waste, its children continue to scavenge trash for petty income at the cost of their childhood, health and education.

Names of some children have been changed to protect their identity.

Follow Farahnaz Zahidi on Twitter: @FarahnazZahidi

“OMG, is #ImranKhan getting married?”

Published: August 7, 2014

Imran Khan Niazi, even at age 60 plus and a divorce later, is considered one of the most eligible bachelors alive.

Those alluring eyes and that almost shy, sheepish smile; a self-assured gait of a true sportsman; a naive idealism that one can disagree with but is charming nonetheless. Add to it that tinge of genuine humanity and a good heart that the world has seen in his philanthropy and an overall drop-dead gorgeous personality despite the wrinkles that give away his age.

Imran Khan Niazi, even at age 60 plus and a divorce later, is considered one of the most eligible bachelors alive. May be that is why the news that he is under pressure from his family to remarry made front page news. Across the border, Indian tabloids are also animatedly talking about whether ‘The Khan’ is ready to bite the dust yet again. The Twitterati, of course, are feverishly hash-tagging the guy once again who has bigger issues to worry about, particularly right now with August 14 days away. Yet, the obsession with the eternal hunk’s marital status and romantic liaisons (or their absence) seems related also to a dirty culture of mudslinging fuelled by political agendas.

While Imran has paid a price for his ‘popularity’ since his cricket days, he is not the only politician who has come under attack of political opponents who believe in tabloid tactics. Back in the day, Benazir Bhutto’s pictures with friends, in modern attire, from her Oxford University days were plastered all over Karachi as a part of a campaign to smear her name. In true dynastic tradition, the young Bilawal Bhutto Zardari suffered the same fate.

Imran’s first marriage to Jemima Khan, in fact, also suffered due to constant paparazzi attention, calling that woman of substance a ‘Yahoodi ki beti’ among other choicest titles.

What I truly respected was how the couple parted ways. He never badmouthed his ex-wife and in fact took the blame on himself, if at all there was anyone to blame.

But then, it is not just limited to character assassination. A photograph allegedly from Imran’s visit to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Bannu, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) in early Ramadan in July made rounds on social media. The picture showed him drinking a glass of water, with the glass circled in read, and fascinating cheesy captions implying him to be a bad Muslim, and thus a villain who could never do anything good.

The picture from Bannu had credibility issues in any case. It was released many days before the date mentioned on the lower left side of the photograph.

With fame of any kind, one’s private life does come under the spotlight. But a line has to be drawn. While we, the awam, don’t necessarily cook up these stories, masses have been known to let their opinions and votes sway as a result of rumours. But in all honesty, more than being an interesting bit of information about a politician, what difference does Imran getting married make to our lives? It didn’t make a difference what Pervez Musharraf or Asif Ali Zardari or Shahbaz Sharif did in their private lives or how many times they married or who they were seeing. All we knew about them were ‘unconfirmed reports’ which didn’t matter. What mattered was whether they made a difference to the country or not; whether they served the nation or not.

If Imran marries, good for him. And I wish the national hero all the happiness in the world. If not, it’s his life. As a Pakistani, my concern and prayer is that he is able to contribute to the betterment and progress of a nation that needs hope and inspiration. The rest is not my business.

Are Pakistani women clinically obsessed with clothes?

Published: July 29, 2014

The women of Pakistan, it seems, have found the reason as to why they were created – they were created to make, buy, sell, maintain, wear, show and love clothes. PHOTO: STOCK

Every evening after iftar they storm the streets in flocks, like contingent troops, with one and only one purpose alone – they want clothes, clothes and more clothes. The women of Pakistan, it seems, have found the reason as to why they were created – they were created to make, buy, sell, maintain, wear, show and love clothes.

And this sad obsession is across the board.

From lower middle income groups to the elite, they spend big chunks of their valuable time in bazaars and malls, and unanimously spend more than they afford. And Eid season sees this obsessive compulsive behaviour at its peak.

But then, can we really blame them?

At every turn of the head are billboards of women; beautiful, stick thin, photo shopped women, wearing dresses to kill.

The biggest viewership of Pakistan’s thriving morning show industry is women. Millions of Pakistani women, every morning, lap up the mostly unintelligent and fake conversations on these shows and take them as gospel truth. They also absorb each and every attitude and trend being presented by the baajis and even the bhaiyyas who are the hosts. Thus, they have started believing in a culture of collective gushing and adulation of people on the basis of what they wear, not who they are.

If they can afford the exact thing the host is wearing (even though hers might is most probably a borrowed dress – one that she will never wear again), they will get it from the same designer. If not, the women will use every ion of creativity God has given them to dojugaar and copy the design, almost flawlessly.

Women from the elite have their own issues. They are also obsessed with clothes. Only, the taste (acquired) and the social circles are different. They will kill themselves over clothes that are original, exclusive, subtle and elegant. They may not be as tacky as others and may look down upon other women, and ridicule their showy dress sense, but eventually they are equally consumed with the idea of the “I am what I wear” syndrome.

The only difference is, the elite do it in more innovative ways. They make politically and socially correct statements with their clothes if they are the activist types and use pure cottons, vegetable dyes and the works. If the social circle involves kitty parties and the trophy wives club, the style changes considerably.

Women see, breathe and dream clothes. It is no wonder then that not only is there a never ending demand for clothes, but also an incessant chain of supply in the form of dress ‘designers’; couture designers who have actually studied the art and also those who become designers by default – because… well it comes naturally to them after thinking about clothes 28 out of 24 hours a day. And then there are those who don’t really design anything but just have a darzi at home in the basement.

The problem is not with clothes. The problem is with the shift in values that is coming with it. Slowly but surely it is becoming such a big priority for women that the way they see themselves and others is changing.

I noticed this the other day when I caught myself not saying “you look very nice in this dress” to a friend, but saying “your dress is very nice”. The person was taken away from my compliment.

All that remained was the dress.

If women start viewing themselves in light of the praise their dresses get, they will continue to be preoccupied with their appearance. And this is an expensive preoccupation as well as time-consuming. I know families where a driver is employed for the sole purpose of taking baaji toGhousia market, Aashiyana and Raabi Centre.

Wardrobes are so important to females that in order to make unnecessary clothes that will keep hanging in their closets, untouched for a year, they want to earn and for that, voila, they become dress designers.

Being engrossed with clothes to a disturbing extent is an attitude that other women observe. If they cannot afford to do the same, there is an underlying resentment and unhealthy sense of competition in society. The more we raise the bar of our wardrobes, the more the economic disparity in our society.

While dressing well and looking good is actually an admirable thing, anything that crosses limits becomes toxic. Overdoing one thing means you will end up under-doing something equally or more important. The time one could spend reading, doing some form of community service, or spending unhurried moments with one’s family is spent getting exhausted, carrying bags and bags of stitched and unstitched fabric, and still worrying whether everyone will like it or not.

The next time you exhaust yourself over clothes, stop for a minute and think: Is this really worth it?

Women are naturally very good at time-management. And Pakistani women are an amazing potential work force for Pakistan. They are talented, intelligent and hardworking. If the time they put into clothes is utilised for other more productive things, it would make Pakistan a much happier place.

The spirit of Ramazan and then Eidul Fitr is all about taking away materialism from our hearts and reviving a culture of simplicity, giving and sharing.

It may be time to sit back and rethink what Eid is all about.