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Category Archives: Straight From The Heart

I Study, Therefore I Am

Last summer, multi-tasking breathlessly between free-lance writing, part-time teaching and being on my daughter’s case, I met a friend who, when I asked her the ritual “what’s up”, told me smugly that she was preparing for her Masters exams from Karachi University. My interest peaked instantly, as I badgered her with her questions: Why, how, what, when, and where. She is the same age as me, same profile, married, teenage kids, happily into the home-maker zone, with a stint or two on the side to ward away boredom for the thrill of it.

“Studying? Now?” I confess, was my response too. Books? Notes? Being thick-skinned and wanting to give exams that require coffee to keep you awake at night and have ink-stained fingers during the day? Between playing mommie, wifey, taking care of elderly parents, the socializing, the cooking, the groceries, the rounds to the tailor, maintaining a home … the best I can do is catch a show on TV, read or write for mental stimulus, and use Facebook to catch up with friends. Studying seemed a far cry. But something on her face told me she was enjoying every minute, even though she complained of exhaustion. She had the glow of forbidden excitement all over her face – an excitement that we often write off way too early in our lives. The feverish thrill of challenging yourself, of having a new dream and the anticipation of accomplishing something you as well as others think you can’t do!

On way home, I kept thinking about it. My inner soliloquies were never-ending. Somewhere after my graduation as a position-holding student with Business Studies and Economics as majors, I had figured out that Business Studies had never been my calling. I was “prone” to literature; it made me happy, while writing provided me with Catharsis and purging of emotions. But back then, we did not have career-counselors, a choice to mix up subjects of Sciences and Social Sciences, and movies like “3 Idiots” telling us that the world is your oyster.

But today, I had a choice to make a more informed decision. And so Masters in English Literature was my new goal in life. Little did I know that this would be a great learning experience, teaching me more than what the Greats have written. My husband was all for it, saying he believes that the role of a parent, a spouse or a friend is to let each other grow, and support them to fulfill their dreams.

The general reaction I got was “Why?”, and “What are you going to do after that?” But then those friends who believed in following dreams encouraged me in ways that I had never imagined – dropping by cooked food, picking up my daughter, leaving a pack of groceries and offering to lend me their driver so I wouldn’t have to drive to the University. In many of my girlfriends, I saw a feeling of living their dream through me.

Standing in queues for the admission process wasn’t easy. I had forgotten how to rough it out in a government institution. No concessions were made for me by the multitudes of students, even though I was older than most of them by a decade. The ride in the rickshaw the day of my first exam when my car broke down wasn’t a joyride. Neither were the long walks to the centre when I missed the university shuttle. The lecherous innuendos of a particular bored male invigilator were disturbing, specially the fact that whenever any student asked him for a B copy, he would say, “fikar mut karo gurya, mein hoon na!” Yet most of the invigilators were cooperative and respectful.

The Masters syllabus was tougher than I had anticipated, and acquiring the prescribed books was not easy. One particular day, after endless trips to Urdu bazaar and still not finding the books I needed, I landed up at Karachi University’s English Faculty’s Photostat shop. Standing in lines in the sweltering May heat, I sent an sms to my daughter saying I think I want to give up, to which she replied, “Come on mom, it’s all worth it in the end.”

From the day I filled out the form, a plethora of happenings has impacted the way I think. I have seen the brightest students coming from the humblest backgrounds. I have sensed how invigorating being competitive is, something that a comfortable and complacent life takes away. I have felt charged by the viable energy that seems to flood an educational institute. I have pushed myself to the limit of physical and mental endurance by studying till late night and waking up at five in the morning and writing till my fingers ached, in a bout of flu. Above all, I am a richer person in terms of knowledge, as a profound study of literature teaches you much about yourself and humanity in general. I fell in love everyday with a new writer. One day it was Keats with his Odes, the other day it was Marlowe dancing his way into my heart with “Dr Faustus”, and yet another day Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” would make me understand life much better.

It is fascinating to learn that a growing trend world-over is people going back to school at any stage. Mental idleness leads to aimlessness and eventually despondency. To be a contented and creatively-active person, one has to keep doing something that keeps your zest for life alive and inspires you. For me it was a study program. For another, it might be learning a new language, baking or venturing into something entrepreneurial. Who knows whether I clear all the papers this year or not, but I hope to persevere till I do. After that? Well, maybe learning product photography professionally. Whatever makes me feel alive.

farah80

Farahnaz Zahidi Moazzam is a freelance writer.The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

http://www.dawn.com/news/813345/i-study-therefore-i-am

Dementia: Still Ammi

Published: May 18, 2015

“So what exactly is wrong with your mother?”

This is a question I kept hearing for seven years. Initially, I would reply, “She has let herself go after my father’s death” or that “she is depressed.” My responses have kept changing over time, as I learnt, unlearnt and relearnt about my mother’s condition, because what she was going through was much more than just melancholy or depression. The shock of my father’s death had triggered the progressive disease called dementia.

My mother showed no symptoms earlier in her life that could have indicated she could be prone to dementia. All I remember is that in her forties, she developed insomnia and began relying on sleeping pills. She often forgot where she had left the keys. There would also be bouts of paranoia wherein she felt she was being watched by someone or that someone was trying to harm her. My family and I shrugged them off, thinking she was overly cautious. Throughout this time, Ammi remained functional, meticulously managing her home, family and relationships.

Her dementia began progressing after an emotional trauma at a later stage in life, in her case the loss of a spouse and so, the deterioration began. Within months, she seemed to have aged by a decade. She was at a loss for words — literally. Having lost one parent already, we — my siblings and I, all adults — felt a double loss. We kept calling on psychiatrists and urging Ammi to stay strong. But today, we understand that she was never weak —  she was just not well.

Since then, her dementia has drastically progressed. While all the medical information one might require is available on the internet, personal details on how you can deal with dementia are sparse. It is amongst the most common ailments of old age but unfortunately goes undiagnosed and misunderstood in our society. While, I know some of my family members will disapprove of me writing about this private family ordeal, someone must speak out to create awareness regarding this debilitating condition. With this, I hope to offer support to patients, family members and caregivers who share what my precious mother and family went through and are going through on a daily basis. Since knowing Ammi, she would have wanted me to share anything that could help others.

demen

“You say she has dementia but remembers your name?”

How does one explain to an unassuming friend or relative what exactly dementia is. Most people don’t take it seriously unless you call it Alzheimer’s disease. We have all heard about Alzheimer’s so I suppose it rings a bell but in reality, the two conditions are very different. According to the National Institute on Ageing (NIA) USA, dementia is a mental disorder that affects communication and physical performance adversely while Alzheimer’s specifically hampers the parts of the brain responsible for memory, language and thought control.

Memory loss is, nonetheless, one of the main aspects of dementia. It isn’t just the names and faces of people that a patient forgets. For instance, one of the key tests our geriatric specialist (an old age specialist, in layman terms) ran on Ammi involved asking if she remembered which day it was and if she could tell the time on the clock. When she couldn’t, her dementia was confirmed. With one’s thinking affected, basic functions start getting compromised, specially language, vocabulary and communication. A patient knows what an object such as a spoon or a glass is for and uses it as well but has forgotten what it is called. He or she knows if she has a headache but has forgotten to call it a headache. They know what they feel like eating but forget the name of the fruit, vegetable or dish.

But what is truly amazing is that in most cases, the patient’s consciousness does not alter until the very last stages. Even if Ammi struggles with my name, she knows who I am. Social skills remain intact until the advanced stages so even if they don’t recognise visitors, patients generally make normal, pleasant and general conversation. However, they do realise something is not quite right with their memory and try to cover it up with generic responses. Often when someone asks Ammi if she recognises them, she smiles and says “How could I not?” She has forgotten their name but is aware that it is someone she knows and that it would be rude to admit she didn’t recognise them.

In a strange way, it is comforting to know that your loved one still feels the important things in life: a connection with other humans and the Almighty. The ability to laugh, cry and experience pain and joy are blessings that stay with the patient until the dementia progresses beyond limits. 

“I have forgotten how to walk!”

In the advanced stages of dementia, things start getting serious with various symptoms (sometimes irreversible) manifesting themselves. For instance, one morning Ammi stood up and wouldn’t walk forward. “I don’t know how to walk,” she kept repeating while we urged her to take a step, eventually giving up and letting her return to bed. Ironically, the next morning, she was walking again, with support as per normal. The doctors attributed this to a “mini stroke” which admittedly frightened us but we were assured that such episodes are common during old age. Over time, we learned to watch out for sudden changes in Ammi’s personality, behaviour or body language for possible signs of mini strokes and to deal with them accordingly.

A patient suffering from dementia often forgets how to chew and swallow. They can no longer gulp down food and water as normally as they used to. The result can be not eating enough, which may lead to wastage and eventually starvation if nutrition is not given to the body by alternate means. Another complication of this is Aspiration Pneumonia, which happens when food particles enter the lower airways, causing repeated bacterial infection. The patient can also lose bladder control and forget how to exercise basic functions like passing stool or urine, which we take for granted. The result is urinary tract infection, among many other, related problems. 

The caretakers, in this process, learn new concepts, and their vocabulary increases. Words like dignity sheets, silicon catheters, zinc oxide and peg tube are new to us. Before my mother went through this, I did not know who a geriatric doctor was. A more difficult word we learnt is “Palliative care” which is specialised care for serious patients with ongoing illnesses. Some doctors will, when you ask them what it means, say that it means “end of life care”. But that is not so in all cases, and many patients successfully come back from the palliative care stage to rehabilitation. In Pakistan’s urban centres, certain hospitals have begun home based geriatric and palliative care systems so that the patient can get the best care at home.

“But life goes on.” Or does it?

Life does not go on — at least not for the caretaker of someone with a progressive mental illness. Just recently, I texted a friend who has experienced a similar situation with a loved one and although we hadn’t spoken in months, she immediately understood how I felt. I told her that I was breaking and she said, “It does things to you. It alters you in strange ways.”

Truer words have never been spoken. The helplessness of a parent — someone whom you have grown looking up to — is perhaps one of the worst heartaches in the world. Not only must you watch them suffer but the child inside of you dies bit by bit, no matter how old you are.  Accepting that the person who raised you is no longer functional or needs an attendant or a nurse for the most menial of tasks is extremely difficult. Accepting that someone who loved food will never again eat by mouth due to the risk of aspirating and must be fed via a feeding peg in the abdomen is tough. Accepting that they will be bed-bound and catheterised for their remaining days takes a toll on you too.  In the midst of managing nursing staff, memorising sheets of medication and managing doctor appointments, one forgets that life was ever normal.

There is also that unsaid fear when a voice in the head whispers: What if you inherit your mother’s condition too? Over time, you learn to not dwell on the thought, pray to God that that does not happen, and move on.

It took me a while to accept that in so many ways, my mother is exactly like an infant. We make her do exercises and play games with her that will improve her motor skills. We sing her nursery rhymes and songs that she enjoys. Her eyes light up when she sees us. Her needs, now, are very basic, just like a child’s. But through it all, she still is our Ammi.

A few silver linings and things to do 

Here is what you can do to help yourselves and your loved ones through their illnesses: 

•  Balance and manage your work and families well and take care of yourself physically and spiritually, otherwise you end up being of no use to your loved one.

•  Breaks are a must, as is taking turns if there is more than one caretaker. It is at times like these that one thanks God profusely for the family values that help us stick together.

•  Try to spread awareness about dementia and similar disorders among your social orbit. There is still a general lack of knowledge and social attitudes need improving. For starters, tell visitors, politely, that they cannot discuss the patient’s condition in front of them.

•  Choose good doctors who can be reached at any time. Have numbers and contacts of nursing staff ready. Emergency medicines and numbers of ambulances are a must.

•  Try and develop an inclusive culture when it comes to older people in society. They need not be isolated and confined to their room.

•  Spend as much time with them as possible. Company, care and encouragement can result in surprising improvement.

•  Learn to retain the good counsel and support you get from understanding friends and relatives. Ignore patronising attitudes and unsolicited advice. Each patient is different and each family’s situation varies.

•  It helps to stay positive in such a situation and remember the good times. Keep telling yourself that your loved one has, for the most part, led a full life and that their present state doesn’t define who they are or were. Faith and prayer helps you stay strong.

•  Talk to others who have been through the same. You will realise that many other people have gone through this and you are not alone.

•  Cherish this time. It will pass, as will the exhaustion. Enjoy the physical warmth, love and the prayers of your parent.

•  Most importantly, do not give up on someone just because they are old. Even if you cannot cure the disease, there is so much you can do to make them feel comfortable and feel loved.

Understanding dementia 

Dementia is caused when the brain cells fail to communicate with each other. Damaging of nerve cells that may occur in several areas of the brain is why dementia affects people differently, depending on the area that is affected. However, even though the symptoms may vary, some of the common ones include:

Cognitive changes:

– Memory loss

– Difficulty communicating or finding words

– Difficulty with complex tasks

– Difficulty with planning and organising

– Difficulty with coordination and motor functions

– Problems of disorientation

Psychological changes:

– Personality changes

– Inability to reason behaviour

– Inappropriate behaviour

– Paranoia

– Agitation

– Hallucinations

Published in The Express Tribune, Ms T, May 17th, 2015.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/886462/dementia-still-ammi/

Real men do(n’t) cry

Published: November 16, 2014

Long before the Madhuri-fame advertisement, as part of a campaign against domestic violence, reminded us, we had all heard, “Larkay naheen rotay.” PHOTO: VIDEO SCREENSHOT

He was sharing some of his deepest secrets about his childhood; his fears, his regrets, his loss – of a loved one, of dreams, of time lost that could have been utilised better, of a life that could have been. I witnessed this man break some barriers in those moments as he dared to bare his soul, something men in our society are not taught to do.

But most importantly, this man dared to cry, that too in front of a woman.

In those moments, I saw bravery. Because he kept saying,

“See? I’m crying. I didn’t even know I could cry so much. Don’t tell anyone I cried, okay?”

This “he” is not any particular man. And the above lines are not any one particular incident. I have witnessed it more than once. And every time I have realised that for a man to cry in our society is a difficult boundary to push. We associate manliness with certain outwardly signs, like physical strength, like a temper bordering on rage, like earning a lot of money and like being not very in touch with one’s emotions.

Emoting and crying is something that is considered an aspect of femininity. We grow up listening to maxims like,

Mard ko dard naheen hota”.

(Men don’t get hurt)

Long before the Madhuri-fame advertisement, as part of a campaign against domestic violence, reminded us, we had all heard,

Larkay naheen rotay.

(Boys don’t cry)

So men eat, laugh, sleep, feel happy and sad, but are not supposed to cry as that is seen as a sign of weakness. Generation after generation of men grow up with this pre-conditioning. When a natural outlet of grief or frustration is not allowed in the form of tears, the next best bet for men is either cruel silence or anger. We keep talking of rights of women, but usurp men of this very basic freedom to express emotions without both men and women not even realising it.

The most courageous of men ever are my role models; the Prophet (pbuh) and ‘Umar (ra) and ‘Ali (ra), and their peers. They changed the world. They won hearts and they won territories. They fought bloody battles like lions, with bravery unrivalled. They buried their loved ones with their own hands, and went back to the work of serving the cause of upholding justice. And through it all, they dared to cry, unabashedly. We have all read accounts of how the Prophet (pbuh) wept profusely, sometimes on the death of a loved one and at other times for the fear of Allah (swt) and for concern for his people. We accept that, and love that, and idealise that.

But today, a man who is moist-eyed is often seen as a weakling.

There is no doubt that women, biologically, are more prone to crying, as testosterone prohibits crying to some extent and that is the hormone that almost defines men; this is perhaps why, on an average, men cry once a month and women about five times a month, especially during the premenstrual phase and after their menstrual period. However, culture and allowances of freedom of expression also have to do with gender disparity when it comes to crying. While excessive crying can be symptomatic of other psychological issues, there can be considerable long term harmful effects of not allowing someone to cry.

Parents, and especially mothers, need to understand this when bringing up boys. Crying is a natural, organic form of human expression and is a right if carried out in moderation. When we stop men from crying at any age, we deprive them of a natural human catharsis. We also rob them of a certain sense of empathy that helps them understand why women or children cry. This is precisely why many men, unable to handle a crying woman, end up getting up angry and ask her to stop crying or ask in frustration why she is crying.

Any human emotion, if stifled unnaturally, will have harmful effects, and will end up being channelised into other negative emotions like anger or emotional disconnect.

Manliness, often translated as strength, is not just about not crying. Some of the things we see as signs of strength, like violence, anger and yelling, are actually signs of inherent weakness. Strength is about a certain amount of emotional intelligence and the ability to communicate with one’s self and with others. It takes strength to show that you are vulnerable. This is what makes us human.

Imran Khan’s Followers — His Weakness or His Strength?

Posted: 09/09/2014 5:00 pm EDT Updated: 09/10/2014 12:59 pm EDT
FARAHNAZ ZAHIDI

Pakistan’s political frenzy is continuing as the world looks on. It is almost a month since the wave of protests began in Pakistan’s Federal Capital Islamabad. Thousands have left their homes at the call of Pakistan’s most popular political figure, Imran Khan, and the relatively progressive cleric Dr. Tahirul Qadri. The demonstrators have camped outside the Prime Minister House and Pakistan National Assembly, demanding their voices be heard. The protests are in essence against Pakistan Muslim League-N’s elected government and the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who both Khan’s party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awaami Tehreek (PAT) wish to oust. Their reasons differ, but the end goal of both parties seems the same: “Go Nawaz Go” is the resounding chant in Islamabad, reverberating across Pakistan. Whether Sharif goes or not remains to be seen, as for now, democratic forces have saved him from a forced resignation. Khan and his followers believe that Sharif came into power through heavily rigged elections, and so it is not a democratically elected government in principle. Evidence supports Khan’s claims, but heated debates continue whether democracy should be “derailed” or should Sharif be allowed to complete his term.

Through it all, Khan, already the nation’s “national hero” has emerged as a populist leader. Cricketer and philanthropist, Khan is undoubtedly one of the most followed leaders Pakistan has seen. His integrity because of his past record is unquestioned. Pakistan’s disgruntled masses love him even more for being non-political and non-dynastic. Khan’ s charismatic good looks and his image as one who leads from the front has added to it. He gives his supporters the much-needed hope of freedom from the clutches of dynastic politics, nepotism and corruption. His followers believe he will eventually be the prime minister of Pakistan and solve all of Pakistan’s problems and create a just, fair and secure Pakistan, which he calls the Naya (new) Pakistan.

It is natural then that parables are drawn between Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Khan. Bhutto was a revolutionary and mobilized Pakistan’s masses politically. His daughter, Benazir Bhutto (BB), carried the torch of democracy after her father was assassinated, and was eventually killed at the hands of extremists. Yet their political party, the PPP (Pakistan People’s Party) remains a major political force in the country.

While the mass appeal is similar, Bhutto and Khan have many differences. If the Bhuttos were leftist in their ideology, Khan is considered right off centre. His ideology, his background and his political prowess differ from the Bhuttos. But there are, ironically, jarring similarities.

Let us take a look at Bhutto. Some 35 years later, Pakistanis still remember Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in an awe-struck manner. They never got over Bhutto, whether they agreed with him or not. Bhutto was charismatic, a visionary, one of the proverbial leaders who “come along in centuries”. He connected to the awaam (masses) and his voice resonated with them. His manifesto addressed the pains of the people. He seemed God sent. The way he was snatched away from this country made him an even bigger hero. And Bhutto is that point in the history of Pakistan where the Jiyalas (staunch loyalists) were born. Infact, the term so effectively described the state of mind of Bhutto’s followers that the word became synonymous with his loyalists. His were a breed of loyalists who were ready to protect their leader and to die for him because they believed in him blindly. Rich and poor, urban and rural, illiterate and from the intelligentsia, these loyalists were varied in many ways but common in their reverence for Bhutto.

Till this point, it was all good, and natural. Except for one thing. These staunch supporters, somewhere, left their sense of judgment buried behind their admiration for the messiah. The purpose and the vision of democracy and equal rights to all citizens of Pakistan became packaged in one and only one package. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Without him, they were lost.

Fortunately for Pakistan, the reigns of the PPP were taken over by the defiant, strong, politically groomed and well-meaning BB as her father’s political heir. The military dictator General Ziaul Haq’s era of oppression and the fact that BB was a woman fighting a dictator further brought out the protectiveness in people. What came out of it was not just a belief in Bhutto’s ideology, but also a belief in the Bhutto dynasty being saviors and almost infallible. They, and not the vision, became the focus.
Sadly, this is what was exploited by those with hidden agendas. Absolute adulation corrupts. This is what many good leaders have fallen prey to in human history. Their followers stopped seeing their leaders’ shortcomings. What remained of a brilliant ideology were slogans and a reactionary brand of personality-worship.

BB’s widower Asif Ali Zardari made an entrance as a non-Bhutto yet the closest in line after BB. He may have successfully completed five years of a democratically elected government, and is today being lauded for his political wisdom, yet his very advent into politics was dependent on this unquestioned adulation. BB’s son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is the coveted political heir of the dynasty, ultimately expected to take over, whether he is deserving or not.

Let us come back to Imran Khan. People either follow him with absolute conviction or are against his fiery, often agitational brand of politics. But undisputedly, Khan’s biggest strength, like the Bhuttos, is supporters who are ready to lay down their lives for him. They believe in his sincerity of intention and his integrity when it comes to money matters. He has proven his persistence. And he is the one man who has the guts to challenge the status quo to the point of dismantling it. This is all good and all true.

However, the flip side is that the pitfall is ironically the same as what the Bhuttos faced. While the PTI is a completely non-violent party, members are known be hasty and reactionary if anything against Khan is pointed out.

As one who believes that Khan is well-meaning and can do a lot for Pakistan, the one thing I wish I can say to him would be, “O captain, my captain, the last thing you need is blind following. What you do need is a sincere following.”

The state of mind being pointed out here is not just limited to followers of Bhuttos or Khan. We see the same in other political parties in Pakistan as well, where a hushed silence ensues when the leader speaks, and there is no allowance for disagreement with the leaders who are seen as saints. Till now Khan has done well, because his followers love him despite knowing his shortcomings. The “human-ness” owing to these shortcomings either increases people in his love or his opposition.

For Khan, it is just the beginning. While he does need the sincere support of his followers, he needs, as a part of that sincerity, that they point out where he goes wrong. He needs to develop a culture in his party where the people who are his support are tenacious enough to stand by him, but awake enough to alert him to his mistakes. This will help Khan be the change he promises. A welcome fact is that Khan has repeatedly said that if hypothetically he were to be Pakistan’s prime minister, he would want that his faults be pointed out. Will that actually happen remains to be seen.

The hope is that the great Khan remains under check and balance. Only then we can hope for great things from him. Otherwise, it will be de ja vu all over again, where a good leader would fall prey to being idolized.

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

Love in the time of Marquez

By Farahnaz Zahidi
Published: April 18, 2014
http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/21945/love-in-the-time-of-marquez/

marquez

I woke up today and switched on my cell, a morning ritual. The first ping was a WhatsApp message from fellow journalist and dear friend Shai Venkatraman,

“Marquez is dead!”

It was followed by an emoticon denoting sadness. I sat up, partly due to disbelief. Illogical disbelief.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez was 87-years-old. He was sick and frail. Reports of Alzheimer’s pointed in the direction that the beautiful mind that had given us works that pulled us through our years of solitude had exhausted its reservoir of memories. He had done his job. He had given enough to this world. It was his time to go. Yet, a strange sense of loss hung in the air.

“He introduced me to the wonders of literature, of the world he wrote about. No one has written quite like him… (experiencing) a sense of loss.” wrote Shai to me.

And I knew what she was saying, exactly.

Marquez came into my life much too late. Like a lot of the best things that have happened to me, he happened to me when my teens were over and practicalities stared back at me. I always pacify myself that I got to read him when I was ready for him. But I envy people like Tooba Masood, a young brilliant colleague who shared today at work that the first time she read One Hundred Years of Solitude was when she was in grade six. She said,

“And I told myself this is how I want to write one day.”

“But nobody can write like him, right?” I retorted.

She agreed saying that the reason she wanted to visit Colombia was that she dreamt of meeting the man. She even had plans of storming into his house. Mournfully she said,

“Now I will have to visit his grave.”

Tooba and others like her must have had the liberty of revisiting just the right Marquez works when things happened as they grew along in life. I did not. Even now, I do not know his works as well as I should. I cannot talk about his work or quote him from memory, but I know enough to feel his books etched on me. I know some of the nuances will dawn on me after I have read his books more than twice, have dog-eared them, have marked the quotes I love best, have left my fingerprints on them. Not via Sparknotes or Goodreads quotes, but the real books.

And I must. How can I not read and re-read the man who managed to see magic in the mundane?

Living in a world where one is compounded by pragmatics; where even dreams are calculated; where the mundane threatens to take away remnants of creativity and desire, Marquez helps us fantasise but within the framework of the real and the physical. His world is the world I want to live in while I live in my actual world. He has given me and so many of us a doable way out.

Like the clouds of yellow butterflies heralding the arrival of a lover as Shai reminded me today.

Maybe the magical realism came easier to him due to his ethnicity. He himself had once said,

“It always amuses me that the biggest praise for my work comes for the imagination while the truth is that there’s not a single line in all my work that does not have a basis in reality. The problem is that Caribbean reality resembles the wildest imagination.”

It may be that cultures that have disconnected with mythology will have a hard time understanding Marquez. To me and others from cultures like mine, I believe understanding his work comes naturally.

He wrote in Spanish. And Spanish does not come naturally to most of us. I recall a moment in Rome where I was attending a journalism course, and we met an amazing Brazilian colleague. During a tea break in freezing Rome, we gushed about how she speaks Spanish and how lucky she is,

“Fernanda, that is the language Marquez wrote in!”

So one inspiration for a distant dream of learning Spanish is that maybe one day I can read his original words.

Marquez is an inspiration of sorts. He was a journalist yet, he produced these fantastical works. When cynics try to tell me that day after day churning out uncreative journalistic reports and editing them will rob me of chances of ever writing fiction, I will remember Marquez and silently ignore those cynics.

He also inspires me in his relationship to Mercedes, his wife of 50 plus years. They give me hope. With a man of his mind, it must not have been an easy ride. But Marquez makes me believe that relationships of creative people can be magical yet real. They can be sustained.

And one day, just maybe, one day, if I go searching for ancestral roots both in Jalandhar, India and Khairpur, Sindh I will be carrying a copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude in my hand while I dig into my family tree.

Timelines of friends, even unexpected ones, are filled with sad updates about Marquez. Some have used the word ‘mourning’ for what they are experiencing. But his life needs to be celebrated. And it will. As it always happens, sales of his books will go up. People who have never read him will talk about him. And that is a good thing. For whether you read him or not, you already know him, because he essentially wrote about love, the truest kind.

He wrote in his book Love in the Time of Cholera,

“The only regret I will have in dying is if it is not for love.”

I am sure he died a satisfied man, sans regret.

I hope to do the same because as he wrote,

“There is always something left to love.”

Serenade me, my love

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Put me to sleep with a serenade of togetherness. Wake me up with an aubade that is one of joy. Let the rays of sunlight touch us together. Leave not. Go not. Stay. Here. All we need is us.