When I was a kid, there was this blockbuster film called ‘It’s a mad, mad, mad world.’ Now, that I’ve grown on… I’ve realized it’s even more so now.
When I was a kid, there was this blockbuster film called ‘It’s a mad, mad, mad world.’ Now, that I’ve grown on… I’ve realized it’s even more so now.
After my fourth visit to the USA, I’ve come back to Pakistan on America’s election day, with mixed feelings. Somehow life in today’s world is rather mixed and transitional.
I visited earlier in winter of 2007/2008. Then again next winter again; In 2009 I went to Washington DC to see preparations to receive Obama then – the first black president.
Distinctly, I remember the bleak times in which Obama became the president. It was one of the deepest depressions in the history of modern USA. After every few weeks people were getting downsized. Announcements were heard like ‘tomorrow names of 3000 or 4000 employees shall be announced – in such and such company to be fired. There was an air of uncertainty everywhere. People (including whites) who had worked for over fifteen years in one company were getting booted out too. The value of property everywhere had reached its all-time low. Persons paying mortgages were paying higher amounts while their properties were becoming lower in value.
Scenes of places around Seattle, when it got heavy snow during winter of 2008
(An article which I wrote while I was in USA in December 2008).
Pakistan. Does the name ring a bell? Does it remind you of something you saw on television? Something which has some other words attached to it like ‘terrorists’, ‘blasts’, killers, Muslims, fanatics’?” You are not to blame if these are the only words that come to your mind. -If any at all. It is because that is all you heard about it. Media made sure of it. You got nothing else from the media. So, how could you think of anything else? So, why do I feel bad? It’s because I know that your information is incomplete, and so far from the target. Ahem, sorry, that slipped out! See, what I mean? It reminds me of that episode of Friends which was filmed just after 9/11 and had not been aired due to the hype of the world. One never knew how it would be taken.
So, I was saying, I’m living in the most dangerous country in the world. And yet I do have a wonderful life there. And I would love to share it with my readers. I’d like to remove their fears about it. Fear only happens of the unknown. When I came here to US, travelling alone, all the way from across the world, I brought my own special brand of shampoo and hair color and medicines. (You’d think I was going to Eskimo land!), but with some things you don’t take chances, and these were of that category. -If you know what I mean.
I feel hurt and sad about my country getting a bad name, because you miss out on that part of my country which I know. And it can be really beautiful. It’s a great country, from a geographical and people point of view. These people are simple, intelligent, not so highly educated, sweet tempered and very hospitable. As a woman, I am educated, I’ve got the right to vote, I have done jobs, conducted workshops, attended seminars and meetings. I drive all over. I’ve driven in Karachi, Islamabad, Sargodha, Lahore, and Peshawar. I drive mostly alone or with my daughters with me. We move around without fear of any sort, as we are comfortable in the knowledge that if anything happens, there will be plenty of people to help us. I know, that if I go and ask for help from any household. Specially, the poorest of the poor, they will take me into their homes and offer me all that they have. This is why, when an American journalist was deported last year from Islamabad, when he was leaving, he said “I hope my wife and I can come back here again, as these are the worlds’ most hospitable people!’And how true it is! You see them smiling, in spite of the hard lives they have, you see them caring, in spite of having very few people really caring for them, you see them hospitable, in spite of such few belongings, and having hardly any food to eat, but still they will offer you all they have for the day, and not mind going hungry.
Believe me, I’ve moved in storms, and late nights in Karachi and found people helping me as they were concerned I was alone with daughters. (not having a man with you seems strange to them!), But they are helpful. Once in Austria, I met an American. When he heard that my husband and I belonged to Pakistan, he said “I’ve always wanted to go there!” We were surprised. He said “My friend went there, and speaks so highly of your country and its people, that I want to go there too!” Yes, that I can believe. When I reached here in US a month ago, I felt safe. And yet not that concerned about safety of my family in Islamabad. As we have been safe all our lives. And one can hope God will continue to be kind. And now, this storm coming up here in Seattle is making me feel more scared than I’ve been in my country. Today, I’m writing this article, when there is this scare of a storm coming up which will have gusts of wind of 90 miles per hour. The electricity will go off too. Now, in my country electricity keeps going off, and its staying on is the big news. But we use gas for cooking, so it does not affect us. The weather is harsh, but tolerable. But here, to have a power failure means, no heat, no cooking, no light. So, this is real trouble. Then the houses here are so fragile. Whereas the houses in Pakistan can usually, bear a big storm. Fire too can do nothing to the structure. So, this is all new to me. It’s scary. And I realize, ultimately, its God who saves human beings where ever you are. And all this illusion of safety is just an illusion really! One is as open to danger here, as anywhere else! Is it mostly in the mind?
How their ‘coverage’ has exposed the media of the world.
Within the last couple of weeks, so much has happened.
First, Abdul Sattar Edhi – the greatest philanthropist in Pakistan, passes away on 8th July 2016. We were still reeling from that, and we hear on 12th July that Agha Nasir, the great man of Media in Pakistan, passes away. This information wasn’t fully realized when in Nice, France, on 14th, a truck driver killed 84 persons with his truck. We were still reeling from that, and there was this failed coup attempt on the Turkish Government on 15th July, by a segment of the army and the entire people of Turkey stood up in front of the rebel soldiers and tanks, and helped their country regain their Government. Social Media helped most of all. We were hardly recovering from that jubilation and admiration for the Turks, when Qandeel Baloch was murdered on 15th July, 2016. BBC and CNN who didn’t consider Abdul Sattar Edhi worthy of mentioning, wholeheartedly mentioned Qandeel Baloch’s murder.
“Who is Qandeel Baloch?” I asked. When I explored, I realized, why I had no idea even of the existence of this person.
Now, I’m just moving my head side to side, and wondering what all has happened? Why am I feeling all these different emotions and feelings?
Out of all this, something very vital and vibrant has emerged.
The Media, and the social media.
How powerful it is, and yet how it can be manipulated, used, and abused to suit the user’s ‘purpose’ – whatever that maybe. It may be an individual or an organization, government or country.
When Abdul Sattar Edhi passed away, I expected BBC and CNN to make documentaries of this great philanthropist of Pakistan. What to say of a video, not even his name was mentioned- not as far as I saw. I kept switching to BBC, CNN and DW – three of my ‘favorite’ channels! No mention of Edhi in the Western media, because to mention a good man in Pakistan is not their ‘policy’. Thank goodness, in spite of our own rather myopic media, he was given his due place in Pakistani media and the government. A State burial was given to the worthy man.
Then I remembered, when men like Stephon R. Covey and Dr. Wayn Dyer passed away, even then CNN and BBC hardly gave them their due coverage. Men of God, and people who serve humanity are not their cup of tea!
What happened in France was another tragedy. Of course it received its due coverage, I felt like saying to people in Europe “Welcome to a glimpse of life in Pakistan during the last three decades!” After living through so much terrorism, we are also accused of causing it! Why don’t they understand that there is no religion of a killer? When innocent people get killed in a brutal way it is unacceptable. Wherever it happens and who-ever it happens to. Countless numbers of people praying in mosques in Pakistan have been brutally killed. That is what we have suffered. So, we do sympathize with people of France for all they have suffered lately.
We know exactly how it feels. I wish they also know how we feel!
Now, don’t start more bombings on Iraq and Afghanistan, for God’s sake. May I just suggest: STOP IT! That is the only way to tackle violence. Stop it.
– A complete ceasefire is what is needed. All round.
So, back to last few days: Then what happened in Turkey. Pakistan knows all about coups. Pakistan has had several bloodless coups. We are quite expert at the job. In fact, we could conduct workshops on these! Only difference was: Our people were with those who were attempting the coup. – Hence the silence and support to the generals, each time!
Then we come to Qandeel Baloch. Frankly, I’d say ‘no comments’, either on what she was up to on the media, nor of what happened as a consequence of it. All I can say is that it is all a very very sad thing that happened. Can you imagine the trauma that the parents are going through? – That too, at this old age? So, suddenly, their daughter (who was like a son to them) is murdered by a son of theirs. Suddenly, they have no children. All their lives everything that happened, seems to have been in vain. She was a girl who was forced into marriage at an early age. She tried to make a life for herself, in whatever best way she could.
Media played a role in the winning over of the people of Turkey, by its president. Media played a role in the murder of Qandeel baloch. It was what she was putting online, which aggravated her brother to feel justified to do what he did. Media also egged on others …. How the brother confessed on television that he did it. That was it. No remorse, nothing.
The West bombs people in Iraq and Afghanistan, no remorse, no feelings. A saint of a man dies in Pakistan, but the West doesn’t even mention him. – Because, media will not talk about someone who was wonderful and great in Pakistan. So, we know, the news they give is all biased. Who knows, what other ‘policies’ they harbor against which other countries of the world? -BBC, CNN you have lost your credibility!
In-between was the news of passing away of Agha Nasir. A man who worked in Radio Pakistan, and later headed Geo TV. A man who brought out writers like Haseena Moin, and spent a lifetime devoted to media the way it should be: telling the truth and promoting the talent that needs to be promoted. Geo TV was shut down many times, due to its truthfulness. I met Agha Nasir, at the book launching of Uxi Mufti’s book on Allah, in Serena, a few years ago. I asked for an interview and he gave me his card, so I could interview him. Somehow, it never worked out.
So much that is important in life, somehow never gets worked out, while so much somehow gets worked out, which should never have worked out.
It brings me to realize, how alone a person is. How friendless, and how much without protection. The Turks realized this, they did not wait for any ‘outside’ help. Because none would have come anyway
Observing all this that happened in this world in the last few days, I’m realizing everyone (and every country) is actually very alone.
When we in Pakistan, were going through all this terror, no one was with us. In fact we were being blamed for it. When we were helping millions of Afghani refugees, by giving them a shelter, we were alone, (I do confess, many people in the West came and gave us aid to provide for them.) We suffered heavily for this gesture of providing refugees a place to stay indefinitely. We are doing so, to date.
As individuals and as a country, we are alone. It is up to us to become economically strong. Do not expect any ‘help’ or even media coverage for anything good happening here. Just understand that it isn’t anyone’s ‘Policy’.
However, as far as our own ‘policy’ is concerned, let us be guided by our Allah who tells us: “O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for Allah, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just: that is next to piety: and fear Allah. For Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do.“ – Surah Maida, Ayat 8.
This is what should define, our media policy. To be fair and just, as writers, editors, film-makers and channel owners.
Stay blessed and watchful.:)
As a kid aged nine, I remember standing outside my gate, in Lahore’s Cavalry Ground, waiting for the newspaper man to bring the latest magazine of ‘Bachon ki Duniya’ and ‘Taleem-o-Tarbiat’. Mom made sure I read these to improve my Urdu. I don’t know if it improved, but my friends and I loved the stories.
One of us would read out while the others sat around and listened. Yes, it was the time before the internet. – Television had only recently come. These fairy tales, and the Enid Blyton adventure series and comics were our favorite past time.
Hours were spent with these ‘far-fetched’ and ‘unnatural tales’. Most of them were full of mean witches, like the Snow White’s step mother, and cruel step mother of Cinderella. Many had dragons in them which flew and threw fire at innocent people. One cringed at the horror stories, and specially hated that cruel woman who locked Hansel and Gretel in that cage. There would be stories of cruel people sending off the helpless man to the river with a sieve to fetch water. If he didn’t do it, then he wouldn’t get his freedom.
Many a times, the hero had to go through the dark and scary jungle and fight many cruel animals to reach the top of the mountain where the fair maiden lived. Of course, in that jungle was the hermit who lived alone, and was very wise. Somehow, that wise man would give the key to saving the damsel in distress. Through it all, the hero would win the fair maiden and live happily ever after.
The best part of all these tales were the happy endings.
These days, children have the video interactive games where they fight creatures and aliens from other lands. Yes, these are like those fairy stories too. You have to fight unknown creatures, and go through battles to win your ‘rewards.’
A childhood spent with these stories, filled with grown-ups telling us “these are so ridiculous, real life is different. There are no dragons, witches, unicorns, fairies, gnomes, aliens
and so on”.
Now, as an adult in this world – especially in Pakistan. – I’ve made a discovery; “All these fairy tales were actually true!” Perhaps the endings were not quite like those ones but the main story was definitely true.
Just keep exchanging the ‘dragons’, ‘witches, with ‘legal systems of Pakistan’, the ‘red tape’ found in every office of Pakistan, ‘cruel people’ found among many relatives and people, and even the ‘wise old man’ found among total strangers in Pakistan. ‘Dragons’ are found in the form of many close or distant relatives, spewing fire at their innocent victims! – In one case, it was also a lawyer. The lack of ‘system’ found in most offices where you have to go and ‘get water in a sieve’ from the nearby ‘river’, before the work can get done!!
The endless phone-calls, the stamp papers, the attested copies, the ‘running after a ‘laal batti’ which is the ‘norm’ in every office all this is true. The dishing out of colossal sums of money at every step of every ‘system’ all are the true real life fairy stories of our grown up world.
But the classic one of all was the one I heard last week.
“Who do I ask to be my ‘witness’ “ I ask the gentleman who was going out of his way to be helpful.
“Anyone!” he says.
“Ok, then I’ll ask my mother and father to do the needful.” I say, about to get up to walk away.
“Oh no, not your mother! You can ask your batman, if you like,” says the gentleman, “Not a woman, it has to be a man.” He explained, as he turned to get on with his work.
“How would you feel, if someone said that to you?” I felt like asking him.
For once, I shut up. I decided, to keep my blood pressure as normal as possible. After all, this is the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The country where Islamic laws are in order! I mean all those Islamic laws which sound fine to the men. Because no woman of Pakistan has been allowed to formulate or enforce or interpret Islamic Law the way it is, for a woman. In Islam, the woman has 100% complete use of her own money. She can own property, have her own business and do a job. In spite of all this, she is not obliged to pay for her own upkeep, as that is the responsibility of her male relatives – which is why they are given larger portion of all properties. A widow, is to be provided for one year at-least, by her husband’s male family members. Here, all her funds are closed the moment the man dies. Everyone is ready to grab. But not to do what they are supposed to do in Islam. So, the Islamic law is conveniently interpreted to suit their own precious selves, and women left out to fend for themselves. While they cannot even speak out for the rights that Islam has given them. – Only for these rights to be usurped by the Muslim men around them.
Every law that is being enforced is from the man’s point of view. – Because he read it, purely from his own perspective. Where the interpretation of ‘spouse’ in Holy Quran, is written as ‘wife’!
Hence all forms of ‘justice’ is completely from the man’s point of view. Where the calculation of 100% of woman’s own earnings , cannot be calculated by their male-chauvinistic mathematics, but the 1/8 share after 32 years of marriage is easily calculated.
After all this we have to listen to how much Islam has liberated the woman. Yes, it had. It still does, only if its interpreted and practiced the way, it is meant to be. Not the selfish, cruel and mean manner in which it is being done in the present day in most countries, specially in Pakistan.
But I told myself to stop. This man had not made any of these rules. Nor, has he interpreted them. Islamic Sharia law in Holy Quran is about the ‘right way’ in a given situation.
Not this interpretation where an uneducated batman’s signature is more valuable than an educated woman’s (she may be a double MA, for all they care!) And in this case, two women’s signature could have done the needful. But no, here, we are more holier than thou!
So, as I was saying, all the Fairy stories are true.
– Especially in my country.
Thank God, my Allah is not a Pakistani, following Pakistani scholars’ interpretation of Islamic Shariah law. Islam is all about justice and benevolence. Here, things have nothing to do with justice.
Don’t worry, dear reader, yours and my God is above all of them. Hence, we haven’t much to worry about. This is just the stuff that fairy stories are made up of.
Luckily for us, Allah comes into our lives, in His shining armor; He says “And He provides for him from (sources) he never could imagine. And if any one puts his trust in Allah, sufficient is (Allah) for him…”
Stay blessed, my dear Reader.
Going with the flow, and learning to enjoy it.
As a kid, climbing trees and roofs was my passion. I absolutely loved it. The moment we came to a new house (my father, being in the army, we shifted to many places….) I’d size up the roof. The trees outside were checked out for ease of climbing. The idea was to get to the highest point, to enjoy the view. That was my childhood. It also included playing Robin Hood with my friends, often I’d be Robin Hood as I was good with hitting the targets! Climbing up on a tree, reading a book while munching an apple was my favorite thing to do. I was nine years old. It was a phase of life, which I loved. There was a pattern in life then: School, rest, home-work, parks, pets, family, travel and homes. Yes, and many good friends. Shib was one of them.
As a teenager, I still climbed the trees of my college. I would climb up a drainpipe in my two inch heels too. I could play cricket, ‘pithu garram’ (seven-tiles) and ‘dodge the ball’ with kids. Participating in college plays, debates, poster and food competitions. I was an all-rounder, and was good in studies too. Running in college corridors and purposely skidding. Yes, another phase in life. Another pattern of life. I’m still in contact with those friends. Many I’ve just got reconnected with, after so many years through Whats app and Face book. I’m still looking for Mahira Khan Rae who left for Calgary, Canada.
Marriage, and life in Air Force as an aero-space engineers’ wife was amazing. “Be yourself” mom said to me when I got married. My husband also wanted me not to change. Our life had plenty of travel, adventures, friends, and fun. So many shifting of homes, packing up (around sixty paintings,) and hundreds of books along with computers, laptops, tool boxes, my husband’s inventions, toys, cats, dogs, furniture, gadgets and what not. Soon three children were added to our family. The best part of married life has been the children. How they completely change one’s perspective and view of life. You enjoy their childhood. My mom always, said “make your children a part of your life,” and that is what I did. Each morning enjoying the beautiful sunshine – The rain was awesome too. My husband and I loved driving in the rain. I love walking in the rain with my rain-jacket too. My husband believed in umbrellas, so he would come along with his umbrella. My children were with me through all the exhibitions, paintings, picnics, walks, schools, jobs, interviews, everything.- Another phase of life, with its own patterns and phases lasting decades it seemed.
Life is beautiful in every phase in life, it is full of fun, adventure and thrills… if you know how to find it and enjoy it. Otherwise, there are regrets, miseries, depressions and boredom. It is my choice to make life as thrilling and exciting as ever. After all, I believe these are all blessings of God/Allah.
Every phase has its own pattern and you can put in the fun parts .
“God has kept something very special for every phase in one’s life.” My Mother says. “and grandchildren are the best gift for the middle and older age!” Surely agree with her.
Would you believe it, that I’ve read that one is happiest around the age of seventy? Because by then you have ‘been there, done that,’ and most important of all, you have managed to have a fairly good life in spite of all the hardships and challenges you faced through-out life. Your children did come out right in spite of all your apprehensions. Everyone is still healthy and fine, and doing even better than expected.
During each pattern and phase in life if you want to give it your best shot here are some points to make the best of it:
Warts and all – don’t tell me you actually expected life to be perfect???? So, accept it. Enjoy the good parts. Forget or ignore the bad ones. Do plenty of good for others, and make the best of it. Believe me, later you will even remember the ‘bad’ parts! So enjoy it while you can.
2. Be yourself. (- yes, that same sixteen year old self! )
Don’t try to be someone or something you are not. It is ok. No need to try to be like someone whom you can’t emulate. Be true to yourself. And be proud of what God has made you. You are a piece of work of His. Be your best self. Also, forgive yourself if you slip up.
Honestly, as you go along living, there are some such beautiful moments in life. It may be a moment, a sight, a sound, like the sun rays slanting down on your loved one’s face, or on your child’s hair, the smile, the sparkle in her eyes. A mischievous moment shared with a friend. That very funny scene that you witnessed. Just relish it. Enjoy it. Treasure it. Hold it. It won’t be there forever, so just love it and memorize it. It could be the feel of your furry cat snuggled up to you. The sight of sparrows eating food outside the window giving pleasure. The blue sky these days, the sight of mustard flowers in a field. Snow clad mountains, or sunsets and clouds.
Having parents with one seeing them growing old with you. Taking care of young ones. So much to value and to appreciate. The maid working in my home, in spite of being pregnant. The cook coming all the way, just to cook food for me. Sooooooo much to appreciate and thank God for.
It is interesting how people talk about the past with nostalgia. ‘everything was perfect’, it seems. When we all know, it wasn’t. Perhaps at that time that person was cribbing too about that ‘present’ and being nostalgic about the previous past! So, take it with a pinch of salt. All times have their good and bad parts. That’s life. We just have to learn to make the best of it all. Some things are better, some are worse. Why harp on the worst parts? So, accept that you did the best you could. If you didn’t, learn the lesson and stick to the present now and work for a better future. That is all that can be done anyways.
This too shall pass, so make the best of the best in your life right now. The family members, friends, colleagues, and whoever you come in contact with. Be proactive and make time for people who make you feel happy. Run from people who confuse, irritate, pressurize, monopolize, manipulate, exploit and try to trick and use you. Block them out of your life forever. That is what they deserve. Block and delete them!
Work on giving yourself some special treats in life. Remember, the treats must be as big as the stresses that are in your life. I love flowers. Instead of waiting to be gifted flowers, I just go out and gift them to myself. Usually, I get as big a plant as my problem at hand. The whole stress gets transformed into something beautiful and growing into something more beautiful.
In life there comes a time when you want to just detach yourself from everything and everyone -to get your own perspective.
Perspective of what?
Life. -What else! To find out that after all that running from and running to different things, where exactly am I in life. As in RIGHT NOW. Am I really going where I want to go? Or not. How come, after nine years of starting my book on Time Management, I’ve not got the time to complete that book? Well. I was busy, changing houses, cities, circumstances and yes, my perspectives. So, how could I? So, I went and started four more books. In fact completed one too! Got it published. It was more like a miracle. Sort of. Not so much because of me, as because of them. The publishers told me flatly, that either I do it now, or they ditch the project. So, of course, I did it.