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What’s Happening In The World Around Me….Need To Know. Need To Think. And Need To Say What I Think.

Why I shared the #ChaiWala’s picture

Published: October 18, 2016

If Pakistanis want to glam up their timelines with the photograph of this stunning young man, so be it. PHOTO: TWITTER/JIAHPHOTOGRAPHY

The piercing blue eyes. The stubble and the moustache. The attractive indifference. Blissfully unaware of the fact that thousands are ogling at him, he has become the hottest (pun intended) topic of debate, and has taken the internet by storm.

Bad start to the blog? I can already hear echoing disapproving remarks in my head that I have been reading on Facebook walls of friends. We over-read and over-intellectualise everything nowadays. I do too. This is why I thought many times before I posted the undeniably handsome chaiwala’s picture. Should I post it? Or not? And why exactly am I posting it? Am I posting it because he is handsome? Or am I posting it because he is handsome and is pouring chai, as chai is my self-claimed weakness? Or (what most people assumed was the case) am I posting it because he is handsome but is a chaiwala from anunderprivileged background?

Just like everything else, there is no single ideologue behind the phenomenon of the chaiwala. People sharing his photograph are not a monolithic entity. There are different reasons each one of us may cite for why we clicked on the share button. My sharing was initially habitual – I share many things that are trending and interesting. But further contemplation also led me to understand that one of my biggest reasons for sharing it, twisted as it may sound, is that if it’s alright to admire women for their beauty and make it the biggest thing about them, why can a man not be subject to the same?

Objectification of both genders is unacceptable. But if it is something that humanity as a race has not been able to fight back yet, then just like the blame of the original sin is shared, let the burden of beauty be shared as well, irrespective of gender. There is a thin line between plain admiration and objectification.

What I would and do have a problem with is the accompanying surprise that he is a chaiwala. That this is a man from an obviously lower income background, and is yet so good looking. Like all things good in life, somewhere the upper tier bourgeois of Pakistan have come to believe that even looks and God-gifted attributes are co-dependent on money and affluence.

On another note, the chaiwala viral trend reinforces another fact: that our ideas of “beauty” remain euro-centric. The blue eyes, the fair complexion, the chiselled jawline. Makes me wonder if a dark complexioned equally stunning man would have garnered the same kind of attention.

An interesting stem of the chaiwala debates is very relevant: when doing street photography, what line of ethics do we follow? Did this young man give permission that he be photographed? For street photography buffs, if someone is in a public space, it’s alright to photograph them. Others fiercely guard a person’s right to forbid a photographer to take their photograph. This particular debate has grey areas; it’s not black or white, because after all we are photographed in shaadis and functions, with videos being made of our plates laden withqorma. Is that acceptable but this is not? Worth a conversation.

If Pakistanis want to glam up their timelines with the photograph of this stunning young man, so be it. Each one of us has different reasons and intent. Let’s not try to be mind-readers and assume that everyone who shared it is fickle or shallow.

As for the chaiwala, already people are offering him modelling assignments and lead roles in TV serials, thus he by now must have an idea that he has caused some kind of a stir. His giddying rise to fame and the media spotlights will blind him for a while, mess with his head, disrupt the comforting status quo of life as he knows it, and give him unrealistic hopes and ambitions. The hashtag #chaiwala would have already started losing the trend by the time the bullet of his fame hits him. We will all move on towards other trends in a matter of minutes or hours. But that’s just how life is.

Nonetheless, what remains irrefutable is this: nothing unites the Pakistani nation like chai does. So here’s to chai, and to the chaiwala, and to the dangerous but alluring power of social media.

http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/41981/why-i-shared-the-chaiwalas-picture/

 

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Ramazan shows are like a slice of Pakistan: A bit of religion followed by a lot of gossip

Published: June 15, 2016

These shows are a reflection of what is going on in our society. These Ramazan shows are a slice of Pakistan today. A bit of religion followed by a bit of gossip and a bit of extravagance and a bit of unethical humiliation of someone who cannot stop us from doing so and a bit of retail therapy – all in a single breath.

For those of us who grew up watching PTV, religious shows were an integral and beneficial part of the daily routine. Anything that came on PTV, we watched. As a member of the PTV generation, I grew up watching the daily afternoon show where the recitation of the Holy Quran was taught, and I don’t recall missing Majlis-e-Shaam-e-Gharibaan on any tenth ofMuharram, even as a Sunni.

Religion, as presented on TV back then, was something to be respected and honoured on the media. I recall care being taken even about the kind of advertisements that were run between religious shows, if they were any at all.

But then the Aalim Online era begun. Make no mistake; as an objective bystander I appreciate the fact that Aalim Online was the first show that brought Islamic scholars of different schools of thought on the same podium, and acted as an interfaith forum of sorts. Many similar shows followed, providing useful information.

But then something dangerous happened. These shows started bringing in ratings. And advertisements. And money. Ramazan, followed by Eid is of course heyday for marketeers and consumerists. Therefore, religious shows were morphed into Ramazan religious shows – all in one type – with the azaan, religious scholars and verses of the Holy Quran in one hour and full throttle live entertainment show the next.

Every one followed this trend. Money kept rolling in. Ramazan’s spirit of giving was abused into marketing gimmickry. Thousands of motorbikes are given away to people who are willing to sacrifice their self-respect and let their humiliation be broadcasted for it. Karachi’s legendary killer motorbiker boys keep increasing on the streets of a city where 23 million or more reside, but there is no dependable public transport system.

Sadly enough, these shows are a reflection of what is going on in our society. These Ramazan shows are a slice of Pakistan today. A bit of religion followed by a bit of gossip and a bit of extravagance and a bit of unethical humiliation of someone who cannot stop us from doing so and a bit of retail therapy – all in a single breath. It may be very easy for the affluent upper tier Pakistanis to judge the people coming on these shows for that motorbike and say,

In kee koi izzat e nafs nahin?”

(Don’t they have any self-respect?)

But the reality is that in a society with such drastic socio-economic disparity, we often cannot relate to what winning a motorbike or a mobile-phone means to the masses. They struggle every day and pretend to be carrying on a comfortable life, but in reality are exhausted by financial crunches.

Here we are, witnessing the beautiful spirit of this month being hijacked by money making machines. These shows, for instance, Pak Ramzan Amir Liaquat Show and Jeeto Pakistanwith Fahad Mustafa, in the long run, will have disastrous and sustained effects on our social fabric. Some are beginning to show already. Thanks to the fact that gifts are given even if the person does not know the answer to “which are Pakistan’s neighbouring countries?” the bar for intelligent general knowledge quizzes is not just being lowered but has been smashed. Levels are also being lowered with regards to collective entertainment. Publicly ridiculing others is considered funny, or people pretend that it is funny because the host is often being praised collectively, so that s/he is happy with the audience and gives away a gift.

There is certain decorum – call it adab, if you may – that is required for religious and spiritual messages to permeate a heart. When that is absent, the soul does not absorb the beautiful messages Ramazan is transmitting to it. When a large part of our post-iftar eve is spent watching these shows even though we criticise them, something inside us dies.

What’s worse is that the few genuinely informative and interesting religious shows that are on television in Ramazan, such as Baran e Rehmat with Hamza Ali Abbasi, also lose their credibility due to the blanket assumption of viewers that all Ramazan special shows are just the same sub-standard offering. The genuine scholars are respected less due to those who have not yet embodied the beautiful spirit of Ramazan, and in fact of Islam. Thus, some genuinely good shows no longer get the recognition they deserve.

Do the hosts and producers of these shows realise what a powerful medium they have in their hands, and how productively this could be used to propagate the real ideals of Ramazan like charity, hospitality, simplicity, love and compassion?

Maybe it’s time to make it a regular dua in Ramazan that may Allah (SWT) guide those who have been given this power to use it responsibly.

Why is Pakistan’s affluent class so ashamed of getting extra food packed at a restaurant?

Published: February 13, 2016

We associate affluence with wastage; wastage that is criminal in a country where 61 million people are food insecure and malnutrition and stunting are common. PHOTO: REUTERS

“You are embarrassing me!”

Said the husband, upset over the fact that his wife asked the restaurant staff to pack the left overs which included one kabab, three-fourths of a naan and a bit of chicken karhai.

“But it will be wasted,”

She smiled and even carried the large mineral water bottle that was almost untouched with resolve.

It was a delightful dinner my family and I were invited to and this conversation between our host couple was all too familiar. There is the “what will people think” attitude associated with carrying home leftovers and in doing so we forget that edible, clean and fresh food will be thrown away simply because we over-ordered. We associate affluence with wastage; wastage that is criminal in a country where 61 million people are food insecure and malnutrition and stunting are common.

The numbers clash and vary, but all surveys and reports point in the direction that millions of Pakistanis live below the poverty line, with a 2015 World Bank report citing that the number is as high as over 50 per cent of Pakistan’s population. Women giving birth suffer from anemia, get too little protein and give birth to weak and often premature children.

On the other side of the social see-saw, privileged Pakistanis continue to pile their plates with food at weddings and buffets or order more than they can consume and end up wasting food, an offence that should be made a criminal offence.

But this criminal offence is not Pakistan specific. According to data released by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, a total of 793 million people world over are estimated to be suffering from chronic hunger, regularly not getting enough food to conduct an active life. Of these, 791 million live in developing regions.

Meanwhile, in every other Hollywood movie, we see people getting up in the middle of the meal saying “I’m done” and emptying half of their plates into the trash bin.

Why did they heap so much food in their plates in the first place? And what precedent are they setting?

The perpetrators of food wastage do so both at an individual as well as at a colossal collective level. Supermarkets and franchise eateries throw away clean food items, even though most items stay okay for a while after the expiry date is over.

A very promising initiative in this regard is Lahore’s Robin Hood Army (RHA). The campaign intelligently used social media to mobilise volunteers and motivate food catering companies and restaurants to bring un-used food to those who needed to be fed.

But is that enough?

Can Pakistan learn from the recent initiative taken by France at the state level?

Recently, France became the first nation in the world that came up with a law that bans supermarkets from wasting food. French grocery stores will now have to donate unsold food to charities. As a result, millions more in need of food will be fed. The law is expected to spill over into all of the European Union eventually.

Yet here we are, Pakistan’s thankless, skimming over pictures of malnourished children with big bellies in Tharparkar dying of hunger, doing the customary “tsk tsk”, and moving on wasting the crust of the pizza slice or throwing away half the meal because it does not taste well. The scourge of hunger is not just limited to districts like Tharparkar.

Adjacent to Karachi’s affluent localities of Defence and Clifton, go visit the kitchens of your domestic help. Stories of malnourished underprivileged children abound. We follow international trends and become vegetarians and vegans for health reasons, but very few are ready to become freegans, or understand how freeganism can help feed more people use consumable food that needs to be reclaimed. We are environment friendly, or so we think, but are okay with writing off good fresh food just because the taste is not up to the mark. Maybe Pakistan needs a Tristram Stuart who comes and gives us a talk on food wastage repeatedly till we get brainwashed into respecting the food on our table.

Our lopsided food choices and unnecessary nakhray (tantrums) are also responsible for this trend of food hemorrhaging. We, as a nation, are getting more and more inclined towards eating more meat. Thus, because of the imbalanced food choices of the privileged, the demand for these food groups increases. This results in a lot of good crops going into fattening livestock to provide more food from the dairy and meat groups. When the balance is lost, the entire food chain equilibrium is lost, with more humans going hungry.

We can’t feed them all, but we can feed some. That packet of leftover food at the restaurant or café can be given to the kids at the signals. We can be more vigilant about giving away and sharing food items in our fridge and pantry before they are no longer edible. Small things will make a difference. But above all, we have to get rid of the ungrateful attitude towards food. We are the blessed ones. Let us be thankful till God is giving us enough food for the fill and share the blessing.

The reality of Pakistan through Brandon Stanton’s lens

Published: August 1, 2015

It’s about time people start seeing Pakistan through Brandon’s lens. PHOTO: HUMANS OF NEW YORK FAECBOOK PAGE

While Pakistani fans of Brandon Stanton were posting warm and welcoming comments on the Humans of New York (HONY) Facebook page, the power of pre-conceived notions and assumptions about Pakistan was evident in the contrasting rude and dismissive comments. Some of them called Pakistan “that wretched country” and threatened to give up on being fans of Brandon if he visited Pakistan.

Photo: Screenshot

And so it has been. Pakistan, a beautiful country, inhabited by a vibrant nation, is often seen globally as a monolithic entity in which only extremists and bigots live, and where only bad things happen. It is seen as not just the land of the 2005 earthquake, the 2010 floods and the 2015 heat wave, but the land where these natural disasters could not be handled and too many precious lives were lost. It is seen as the land of the patriarchal man who throws acid at the woman who rejects him, and the country where schools are bombed. This is how Pakistan is seen by many who have a simplistic and, unfortunately, a binary world view. They have seen that side of Pakistan that makes headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Pakistanis, thus, find themselves in a situation where people of the world are not willing to visit it, and they cannot really be blamed. Who would want to plunge into danger knowingly? If at all they do, there are very typical places they will visit, amid caution, fear and high security. They will experience the beautiful but sterile (parts of the) federal capital, Islamabad, and take selfies at the Mughal and colonial architectural sites in Lahore. They will give a talk at a university campus, eat at Cuckoo’s Den, and rush back home at the earliest. In doing so, very few visitors of non-Pakistani origin really get a flavour of what the real Pakistan is. Karachiites, in particular, have even forgotten what a non-Pakistani taking a walk on the streets of Karachi looks like.

In such a situation, while as Pakistanis we are grateful that brave and unprejudiced visitors like Brandon and the players of the Zimbabwe cricket team took the risk and cared enough to see what Pakistan actually is, a part of us is saddened. Our excitement and hash tags like #cricketcomeshome or #HONYcomestoPakistan express how starved we are for such cultural interactions. We wish that it was just a given that people from all over the world would visit Pakistan for its natural beauty, its cultural diversity, and as one of the most interesting places in the world.

Why I will never forgive Shonda Rhimes for killing Derek Shepherd

Killing the man with those melting eyes, Dr Derek Shepherd aka McDreamy, is beyond it all.

The previous episode of Grey’s Anatomy had hints that this may happen, but I said to myself that Shonda Rhimes, the writer, cannot do this.

Meredith has already been through way too much. Name any tragedy and mishap in the world and she has been through it. Mom had Alzheimer’s, dad was an alcoholic. Her best friend George died. The plane crash killed her sister Lexie and friend Mark Sloan and mangled Derek’s hand, and he was unable to do surgeries for months. Before that, in 2010, Derek was shot in the chest. And Meredith nearly died so many times and had a near death experience and gave birth to her baby boy in candlelight under very unusual circumstances. And you took away her person, Christina Yang. Tragedies make the best stories, but even Shakespearean tragedies have limits.

Killing the man with those melting eyes, Dr Derek Shepherd aka McDreamy, is beyond it all.

Smug Facebookers and weeps who need a life went on about how they had moved on fromGrey’s to Game of Thrones and Sherlock Holmes etc.

“I gave up at Season 10.”

Then why must you, oh kill joys, confirm to the world that you are inherently evil by giving outfeeling-less spoilers that Derek had died? We would have found out eventually, but may be the next many hours or even a day could have gone by without knowing that he is gone.

While I have moved on to watch other shows too, I have loyally stuck to Grey’s since 10 years. It is something me and my daughter bond over. The characters have grown and so have we. Some seasons have been amazing, others have been mediocre. But the quotes, the symbolism and the evolution of the characters has kept us glued. But today, I am not so sure.

Shonda, I will never forgive you for doing this.

The first reason is simple – you could have done away with Derek’s character more creatively. After all, you are the person behind one of the world’s most watched shows. You creatively designed the life and times of these doctors and came up with amazing stuff. Where was your sense of novelty when you decided it was time to let go of Patrick Dempsey? As my daughter rightly said,

“So disappointed in Shonda Rhimes! After 11 years of showing us the constant ups and downs of Meredith and Derek, this is how you choose to end it? This was by far the most disappointing episode I have ever seen. The writing of the episode was purely lazy and everything went by too fast.”

But more importantly, Ms Rhimes, you have made it hard for us, the viewers, to continue believing in the fact that good things happen to good people. The character you killed off was a good person whose mantra was

“It’s a beautiful day to save lives.”

He was saving lives and you killed him off. You killed off the hope in a world that is becoming too cynical already that a love like Mer-Der is too good to last. They were meant to grow old together. Their marriage vows included

“We’ll take care of each other, even when we’re old, and smelly, and senile.”

We wanted to believe that it still happens.

McDreamy is no longer there to make us believe. He said,

“I’ll be back before you know it.”

But he won’t.

Serial shows, when they lose the punch and creativity, and stop understanding what the viewers want, should end gracefully with finesse.

You could have done better, Shonda.

What is Abdul Sattar Edhi going to do now?

 

Published: October 21, 2014

And so it goes. Edhi abbu he is. A father figure for Pakistanis. PHOTO: Screen shot from ‘Seerat 4: Philanthropist – Abdul Sattar Edhi – by Ali Kapadia’

There’s something about Abdul Sattar Edhi that makes Pakistanis feel safe… almost protected, like a child feels with a parent around. He is old and frail and sickly. But he is there. He is alive. And till he is alive, we have hope. We have hope that goodness prevails, and that there exist those we can look up to.

With Edhi around, we have an elder.

This August 14th, I happened to celebrate Pakistan’s Independence Day with children from the Edhi home who were attending an event held for them.

“Edhi abbu got us these clothes for Youm-e-Azadi,” said a 14 year old, smugly flaunting a bright green shirt and white pants and shoes, the pants with bits of grass and soil smudged on to it as the kid was sitting on the lawn.

And so it goes. Edhi abbu he is. A father figure for Pakistanis.

The man is one person the country’s leftists and rightists and centrists agree on. Thus, Edhi has done more than raise abandoned babies and feed the hungry and lift laawaris laashain. He has not built bridges – he IS a bridge in an otherwise exceedingly polarised society. Pakistanis are like estranged siblings a lot of times; we are united in our gratitude towards Edhi abbu.

The common responses to Edhi and his staff being held on gunpoint and looted of gold and cash worth around Rs 30million had reactions that went like this:

“Speechless.”

“Don’t know what to say.”

“Edhi hum sharminda hain.”

“ Edhi Sahab we don’t deserve you.”

“May those who did this to you rot in hell.”

The most heart-wrenching was him saying in an interview,

“I am heartbroken.”

The nation’s intelligentsia and literati are still reeling from the post-Noble Prize discussionsover whether Malala deserved the prize or not. And those who were from the Malala camp saw this as an opportunity to even scores with those who had dared to question the young girl’s win and had dared to say that Edhi would have been a more deserving candidate.

“Why don’t all those who wanted Edhi to win make up for his loss now?” was a common sentiment on the vent-ground called Twitter.

But then, what do we expect from a people that have been through what Pakistanis have?

The marauders, mind you, were a sample part of the whole. And the whole has suffered, and continues to. There is corruption, insecurity and a lack of governance and that is costing us lives, honours and sanities.

A few examples stating the obvious: we lose 92000 children annually to Pneumonia because they do not have access to a vaccine that can save them. In the last one month we have seen40 plus new cases of Polio. In 2013, 1600 plus Pakistani women were killed in the name of honour. Just last month, a girl withdrew charges of gang rape against a minster’s sons. Ourmaternal mortality rates are almost the highest in the region. Some one million IDPs have dimming hopes of returning home before harsh winter sets in. Our mothers kill their childrenand commit suicide as the hunger is too much, and at the other end our affluent class bathes in wealth. Our politicians continue to pledge service to the masses in public, and continue to spew powerful narratives that fuel anger. Ironically, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s Karachi jalsaand the promised historic speech was hours ahead of Edhi Sahib being looted, and was a case in point.

We are an angry, intolerant nation. And those dacoits were a part of us. Why, then, the naive surprise? They saw money, and they decided to loot it. It was may be too trusting of Edhi Sahab to think they would not do this to him. He should have learnt a thing or two from our political leaders and kept the money somewhere no one can touch it. Money is money. It’s tempting, everyone wants it, and is out to get it. And in this quest, they are not even going to spare a man who is an emblem of humanity.

So what is Abdul Sattar Edhi going to do now?

Well, he is going to do exactly what he has been doing. He will pick up the pieces of a broken heart, and continue to try and put in his share of healing the aches and pains of humanity, as a good Pakistani and as a human par excellence. If we have any respect for him and have learnt anything from him, then we must do the same. We cannot let hope wilt, and cannot become jaded cynics saying “nothing’s going to get better”.

I can make myself better, can’t I?

http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/24492/what-is-abdul-sattar-edhi-going-to-do-now/

Flight PK-370: Opposing VIP culture costs man his job

By Farahnaz ZahidiPublished: October 1, 2014

http://tribune.com.pk/story/769523/flight-pk-370-opposing-vip-culture-costs-man-his-job/

769523-arjumandhussain-1412144760-164-640x480

Gerry’s official who filmed video of Rehman Malik dismissed from job. PHOTO: ARJUMAND HUSSAIN FACEBOOK PROFILE

KARACHI: That day, he went to work as usual. What he didn’t know was that by the end of the day, he would be without a job or a car, contemplating taking a rickshaw home.
“I packed everything up in my office and a colleague offered to drop me home,” says Arjumand Azhar, a man who calls himself an ‘ordinary citizen of Pakistan’. On September 16, a video Azhar filmed on his smartphone of irate Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) passengers forcing Senator Rehman Malik off the Islamabad-bound flight after his late arrival reportedly delayed it went viral.

While he was praised widely for ‘standing up to VIP culture’, Azhar was fired from his job at Gerry’s International (Pvt) Ltd, where he was employed as vice president.
“I was requested to resign, so I wasn’t really fired,” says Azhar calmly. He says he was not given a reason for the request, nor was he offered a compensation package or a notice period.
Gerry’s issued a statement early on Tuesday saying Azhar was terminated ‘purely based on merit’ and not for his involvement in the PIA incident. A message posted on the company’s Facebook page said the decision had been in the pipeline for some time.
“I have no regrets,” Azhar says, referring to the video he shot. “I was very polite, but I had to tell Mr Rehman Malik to leave PK-370. He is a very pleasant gentleman and I have nothing personal against him. He just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Staff at airports across the country have reported that many ‘VIP’ passengers, particularly lawmakers, have been extra cautious about arriving for flights on time and not cutting queues. “This is such a refreshing change,” an official at Karachi airport said.
Azhar reiterates that he is not affiliated with any political party. “I am not a political worker. I am a follower of Mohammad Ali Jinnah. My worry, right now, is my next salary, as Eid is coming up. I have a family to look after,” he says. He adds that his family has been very supportive of his decision.
On Monday, members of civil society in Karachi gathered in protest of ‘VIP culture’. PTI MPA Samar Ali Khan commented on Azhar’s video, saying, “Even though he has no political affiliation, we stand by him and all those fighting such injustices.”
Within hours of his dismissal, Azhar found a surge in support on online platforms and hashtags such as #ShameOnGerrys went viral on social media sites. Rehman Malik commented on Azhar’s dismissal, saying on Twitter, “I am upset to know that Arjumand has been fired by his employer. I strongly protest and appeal to his employer to restore him.”
Gerry’s is owned by another senator, Akram Wali Muhammad. However, Azhar said, “I will never go back to Gerry’s. .”
Published in The Express Tribune, October 1st, 2014.