Monday, October 6, 2014

Arzhung: Pictures Of A Pakistani Village (IV)

Quack Quack

When I first saw Bhatti, he was reading a women's digest: you know the kind that preach that suffering is a sign of women's nobility  and all men are demigods etc. 

I was suffering from typhoid/malaria/diarrhea or some similar ailment. (Cannot recall the exact circumstances that made the unfortunate meeting inevitable.) He jabbed me unceremoniously with an injection. I shed copious tears  at this inhuman treatment (literally). He guffawed. Insensitive, inhuman lout!

"How old is your niece?" he inquired in  a clearly amused voice from my phupo , the one who had been responsible for taking  me to his 'shop'. (Old enough to know that you are a quack, you moron! I shouted in my head, but remained silent otherwise.) End of meeting no. one.

Let me take you to a tour of his shop first, before I enumerate the miracles of medical science performed there. I vividly recall that during our first fateful meeting his shop (clinic?) consisted of one rickety table, a couple of chairs, one bench and bottles of suspicious looking medicine; all of this in the veranda of a house he was renting at that time. Now he has a proper 'dukaan' of his own/,a bit small but much smarter than the previous franchise. Two small step lead to this altar of medical science. The entrance of the shop is covered with a cloth curtain.Inside the shop, right next to the front wall is glass top table and a chair: that's where our man usually sits while examining his patients. (Otherwise, in leisure time,  he can usually be found hanging around the chowk, inside or outside the local general store). There are 2 long,adjoined benches next to wall on his right side. Over the benches and on the wall behind Bhatti's chair, are long shelves with sliding glass doors that hold bottles and boxes of various description: a veritable hanging pharmacy.Clearly, the guy has done exceedingly well in the last decade or so (since our first encounter).

And  in the above mentioned 3-walled, small area (the fourth side is a cloth curtain,remember?) he offers following services:
  • diagnosis and treatment of all sort of seasonal ailments
  • bandaging minor cuts and wounds
  • treating abscesses, and many infections
  • extract tooth/teeth (whichever applies)
  • removing moles, small cysts etc.
  • circumcision
  • various forms of minor surgeries 
He expresses regret over not being able to perform major surgeries because he doesn't have the required equipment. (Apparently, lack of relevant qualifications doesn't seem to bother him much.) He's pretty confident of his skills. Last year, his wife had a cholesystectomy '(gall bladder removal). For  days, he moped about how he couldn't perform the ritual himself. Yes, you guessed it correctly: lack of required equipment. 

I think he richly deserves his nickname: 'Dr. Don't Worry'. Don't worry is his favorite refrain. No matter how much pain you are in, whether you are suffering from a minor illness or are on your deathbed. Bhatti would soothingly tell you, 'don't worry'. I suspect he's the sort of doctor (that's what everyone in the village calls him so...) who after killing someone by administration of wrong medicine will cheerfully remind you that at least the patient is not suffering anymore. 

I don't recall what his former occupation was. Though one of my cousin claims he used to steal chicken from neighboring village. The cousin's own  reputation is quite questionable. Besides, he loves to troll you so you cannot take anything he says at face value. I vaguely recall hearing that he was an electrician, or maybe a bicycle repair guy?? I fail to spot a connection between any of the aforementioned two professions and medical profession. The people in the village think otherwise. 

He is not the only quack though. The village is swarming with these guys. The other resident quacks are:
  1. Dr. Allah Rakha (though he has handed over his 'consultancy' to his elder son now)
  2. Dr. Saeed, the successor of Dr. Allah Rakha. Dr. Saeed is generally considered to be a very 'wise'  doctor, and a 'specialist' of diarrhea. He also enjoys additional fame because of the scandalous circumstances surrounding his marriage with the lovely L.
  3.  Dr. Gondal. Alas, poor Dr. Gondal is more famous for his polygamy, rather than his healing abilities or poetic sensibilities. Yes, our man writes poetry too. Haven't been exposed to his poetry though, so cannot comment on that.
  4. Dr. Karela (I honestly don't know what his real name is). But he is actually the local schoolmaster, and only a part time quack. And if I remember correctly, acts as the local post master too. All mail, addressed to anyone in the village arrives at his place, which he distributes at whim. Sometimes it takes several weeks/months for the mail to reach the correct recipient. Exactly what takes the mail so long to reach, and what happens to it in the interim is a total mystery.
But regardless of their backgrounds, all of them employ more or less same methods for treating their patients:
Method 1: wrap up an assortment of various coloured capsules and tablets in a small plastic bag; and hope that one of them will cure the patients.

Method 2: If the above method fails, the next step is administration of injections. In fact, the gaonwallahs rather prefer the injections over assortment of capsules and tablets. We are a nation that love quick, short term solutions, heedless to the long term side effects.

Method  3:And if both of the former fail, or the patient insists on an even quicker remedy (usually women) then follows the series of 'drips'. I've always wondered exactly what about the intravenous drips fascinates women so much. Perhaps, it's the brief period of totally being confined to bed,while the drip slowly continues to slowly introduce innocuous looking fluid into your body. Not to mention how you immediately become the focus of everyone's attention. Both of which are rare for women in general I guess.

In case, the reader is wondering why the village folk don't go to proper doctors when they fall ill, the answer is simply obvious, (or obviously simple??):there are none in the area. Unless you count the ones in Narowal, which physically is not too far away. But keeping in view the perennially broken roads, lack of proper transport, poor situation of law and order which make travelling at night even more difficult than usual;the combined cost of all of the above makes it nearly impossible for poor patients with little or no financial resources except revenues from yearly crops, provided they do well. In comparison, it's much more affordable to just go to the local quack, who for a paltry fee will not only examine you but also handout the necessary medicines. Additionally, many people who cannot afford to pay off even this paltry sum, end up opening a 'debt account' at the local quacks. The easiest way to settle a debt is to bring food-grains/milk/by products of milk. 

The level of healthcare available to people living in rural areas is appalling. If you are lucky enough,and can afford it, you have to run to Lahore for treatment of even minor illnesses.  Our governments have never really invested seriously in the health sector. The healthcare offered in major cities like Lahore etc. in itself is deplorable (talking about state run facilities), situation is considerably worse in the rural areas. 

Loss of life, high mortality rate especially among infants, poor antenatal and neonatal care are norms. People barely manage to scrape by enough to make the both ends meet, healthcare is a luxury to many.In the end, many end up dying for lack of proper medical care. Jokes apart, I am sure,consumption of medicines prescribed by the quacks makes slow inroads into your system, leading to complicated illness later in life. Mercifully, many never even discover it and die quietly at homes, by unknown diseases.

But let me remind you that these concerns don't bother the village folks. They have unflinching faith in the quacks. Bhatti enjoys huge popularity, despite the fact that once he almost killed poor Kubrah Bibi with administration of a wrong injection. Kubrah fell unconscious after this.  Bhatti fled. He's reported to have been asking everyone from the village he met at Narowal's railway station,'Is everything in the village alright?" Kubrah Bibi survived the incident and is still a happy and satisfied customer of Dr. Don't Worry!

Note: Shop*: I've noticed  that not only in the villages but in cities as well, people refer to small, private clinics as dukaan or shop. Personally speaking, I find it oddly apt. After all, for most, medical profession is just a profitable business. They aren't their to heal people, but to sell their wares and services for an agreed upon sum of money. I have even seen rates list hanging in many such shops.

Additional Note: This belongs  to an abandoned series of essays that Beebly had once meant to write, to depict various aspect of rural life. I cannot promise, if the series will now be completed. For I don't want to make promises I may not be able to keep.


Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Battle of Dust: A Short Story by Beebly

This is not my own story. So you have to understand that I cannot answer for all that’s reported in this account. Nor can I vouch for the veracity of the story. I am just reporting, in good faith, the story as it was told to me by Saleem:

My father is the head master of our village’s school. He is a good, capable head master; strict disciplinarian: yes. Very much so. But he cannot  contain the legions of unruly boys of the village otherwise. I have no issues with his strictness at schools. That’s what headmasters are there for: punishing little boys. After all, what can be more dangerous to the fabric of society, than an unruly boy? No, that is not an issue with me. The problem arises, when while leaving school (at at2 O’clock in summers and 2:30 in winters respectively); he forgets to hang his whip at his office’s wall. He brings it all home, the whip and the whipping attitude all.

That makes my life tough. My life is hard enough anyway. You probably don’t understand what it means to be the youngest and the ONLY boy in a family of eight female siblings. They positively smother me with their doting. The worst part is that I cannot even sneeze without having to drink eight cups of joshanda in a row, prepared by eight doting, well-meaning but ruthless sisters.

A boy of eleven or so is bound to get into scrapes, get a few scratches here and there. Throw in a healthy punch or two, and life is all set. That’s what ‘boyhood’ is all about, isn’t it? My eight sisters, headmaster father and authoritarian mother think otherwise. And often I have to face unpleasant consequences of failing to fall under their description of acceptable behavior. I try to take it all in stride, with as much good humor as one can muster after a generous dose of:
a   a) Thrashing by abba ji
b    b) 8 different lectures by eight sisters, all with the same refrain, ‘all our hopes are pinned  on you’ etc.;
c    c) Amma’s silent treatment: that is the most unbearable of the tortures heaped upon me.

Living in our house is like living in a military camp. My mother is in charge of the said facility. Even Abba ji cowers in front of her, whip and headmastership and all!

It is all wake up at this O’clock. Eat at this O’clock by that O’clock. My day generally goes something like this:
Practice writing (to improve my handwriting)
Study some more.
Practice writing some more and so on.

Of course, my father completely overlooks the “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” adage. I know this for a fact because on at least 4 different occasions I have asked him what this proverb means. All he did was frown at me.

All of this complicated my life further when I was challenged to a ‘battle of dust’ by Suffiyan – The Ruffian. Wait a minute. You don’t seem to know what a battle of dust is. Let me enlighten you. In simplest words, it’s a ferocious battle between two bands of boys, who try to outwit and outsmart their adversaries by throwing fistfuls of dust, or sand’ whichever is readily available, at each other. Until one group is completely overcome, or forfeits.

Suffian-the-ruffian is no ordinary scoundrel. He cheats. He steals. Gets you framed for his own misdemeanors, and smirks while you are being penalized for a crime you have never committed.

This Particular battle of dust was imminent. Not too long ago, The Ruffian had sent a cheesy love letter to Amna Ashfaq: the daughter of deputy headmaster. And the cutest, snootiest, prettiest-snootiest girl alive on the face of earth. Between you and me, I confess that I have a huge, secret crush on the aforementioned Amna. Somehow, as it turns out, the crush was not so secret after all. The Ruffian suspected it. Naturally, since I was after the girl, it was a given fact that The Ruffian would also covet her. The Filthy pervert! (As if Amna would even care to look his way). But his goal was to get under my skin. And so he sent a cheesy love letter to her, as I already told you. The filthy villain, scum of the earth, worm signed it off with my name!

It was not a stroke of particular bad luck that that piece of paper fell into the hands of the deputy headmaster. The Ruffian had designed the events in a way that ensured the letter reached the deputy headmaster alright enough. The deputy headmaster is by no means humble, meek or faint hearted. He could easily have flogged me publicly. As deputy headmaster, he enjoys the privilege to flog boys at whim and get away with it. But perhaps he thought the better of it. Like a typical South-Asian man, too sensitive about his sense of honour, he simply brought the letter to my father. He merely came to our house in the evening, just as my father had returned from the Maghrib prayer. He refused to drink tea or lassi.  Just handed the piece of paper to my father, who was sitting on a charpoy, apparently hanging his head in shame at the alleged shame I had brought upon him.

I didn’t  mind the flogging that followed, or getting no dinner afterwards. These are minor things, a routine part of growing up. What incensed me was the news that Master Ashfaq had beaten Amna and locked her up in her room for over a week, as a punishment for the ‘crime’ of receiving a love letter.

All that week I suffered from an unprecedented rage. The Ruffian had crossed the invisible line. He must be taught a lesson:
a      a)     For daring to eye my girl
b      b)    For getting her beaten up and locked in a quest to get me beaten up and locked.

It was only natural that I beat The Ruffian up at the earliest available opportunity. We were prevented from beating each other into a pulp by untimely intervention of Master Karela. (I swear everyone in the village has literally forgotten his actual name. Though it’s pretty obvious why he’s been named karela – a bitter gourd!)

The Ruffian had gotten the shorter end of the stick in the fist fight, and the ensuing reprimand by Master Karela. Naturally, he had to salvage his damaged reputation by challenging me to a battle of dust: the ultimate test of who ruled the turf. I accepted it instantly. There was no time yet to think about the consequences that would follow if my father found out about it. And he was bound to discover it sooner or later. At this point, I couldn’t care about that though. The thought of unjust  beating of Amna was enough to make me determined.

We decided to meet outside the main part of the village, in the fields near Amman Daro’s house. Amman Daro is a miserly old lady. She is so careful with her money that it is said about her that when her clothes get dirty, she wears them inside out, to prolong their ‘usability’ and thereby has saved untold amounts of washing powder.

Amman Daro is also notorious for being no-fun-party-spoiler. The sight she hates most in the world is little kids enjoying themselves. She regularly tell us off for making too much noise or for having what she thinks is too much fun. (How can you  have too much fun, I ask you?)

Anyway, even the danger of being thwarted by the have-no-fun-Amman Daro didn’t waver me from my resolve of avenging Amna’s beating and crushing The Ruffian. I suspect he had been hoping I would turn down the proposed challenge  because of the arena being in the vicinity of Have-No-Fun-Amman Daro’s house. He clearly underestimated the extent of hatred he had ignited in my heart by hurting the prettiest-snootiest-girl in the world.

All afternoon, I fretted about exactly how I would manage to hoodwink all 8 of my sisters, give them a slip you know. When the appointed time actually arrived, it was a kind of relief. The worst part was over: the waiting, worrying, mulling over needless apprehensions part.

Baba Fika was constructing the outer walls of his haveli, to stop the way farers and other village folks from casting an evil eye on his beloved Rano: the queen of all buffaloes in the world. (That’s solely Fika’s point of view. I’ve no interest in contesting the claim.) Anyway the construction of an outer wall to preserve the coveted Rano worked out really well for us. We, my friends and I, had managed to sneak many ‘shoppers’ of sand and cement from the construction site. (What! You don’t know what a shopper is! Shopper = a flimsy plastic bag, usually employed for carrying the highly priced groceries you buy from the general store. There. Hope now you know what a shopper is.)

We had duly filled many small ‘shoppers’. We had also brought our slingshots and the mud ‘pellets’ too. Just in case. The Ruffian is notorious for playing it dirty, so we didn’t want to be caught off-guard.  It was a good thing that we did too. The Ruffian’s gang had brought the guns they had bought at the recent village fair. You know the ones that use those small, plastic balls as ammunition; that continue to sting long after you have been hit by one – even though it’s just fake, you know.

And then the battle started!

The battle was fierce. You bet! We managed to repulse the initial attack successfully by pelting them with our slingshots and handy fistfuls of sand, dust and cement alternately. My best friends Aamir-the-wanderer (for he loiters all over the village); and Vicky the Vivacious (always bouncing on his feet, for there is boundless energy in him that he can hardly contain)  stood their ground bravely while being mercilessly hit by the shots of stinging plastic balls.  We were gaining ground fast – Akka-the-laggar-bhagar (nicknamed so because of his hideous laughter and   his uncanny resemblance to a hyena) ran away. Akka is the right hand of The Ruffian, mind you.

All was going well when trouble started.  It all began when a ‘shopperful’ of cement hurled by Vicky the Vivacious landed squarely in the handi of have-no-fun-Amman Daro! She had slaughtered her ancient, much beloved rooster today, because he was too sick and was going to die in a few hours/days (who knows?). Amman Daro had been very fond of that rooster. But shrewdness dictated that she should not let all that ‘good’ meat go to waste, should the rooster die of natural causes. Thus the beloved rooster was sacrificed at the altar of frugality and miserliness!

The howls she raised when the cement filled ‘shopper’ landed thud in the pot of about-to-die-rooster curry were enough to raise even the dead sleeping in the nearby cemetery.

Fleeing was the only option left to us. With great regret we’d to run away from the battle we were clearly winning till now. Vicky the Vivacious managed to hit the enemy with a few pelts from the slingshot as parting shots, even while retreating from the crime scene. That’s my boy!

Though I got another session of flogging by Abba ji (naturally); I report with great satisfaction that The Ruffian was caught by the scruff of his collar, by an infuriated Amman Daro!”

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Let The System Continue?

I cannot count the number of times when I have heard the so called ;intellectuals', 'liberals, journalists and other proponents of democracy saying, "Let's not derail the system. Let it continue to work and it will right itself." And I am just left speechless. This system has not achieved anything in the last 67 years or so, except for making the rich very rich, and the poor even poorer; and giving immunity to the biggest criminals in the nation.

This system is corrupt, this system is decaying, this system is rotten; they all agree but at the same time remind us not to topple the system. Why?

My only question to these 'lovers' (read beneficiaries of a corrupt,rotten system) of democracy:
How would a corrupt, festering, dysfunctional system correct itself, when the interest of the people who are running it (parliament, judiciary, bureaucracy and to some extent even army) lies in its perpetuation? Would they cut the branch on which they are sitting? How can we expect a criminal to sign his own death warrant? How can we expect, fair, unbiased input from these inept people: had they been really that just and fair, we wouldn't need redress anyway.

And for those crying themselves hoarse over 'why couldn't Imran Khan and PTI stay within the system and raise their issues in the parliament', well hadn't they exhausted all available forums before hitting the road? If even now, when a great number of people are chanting go nawaz go, and demanding electoral reforms, and their voices are (deliberately) unheard. Then How can we expect the govt. to respond to the 35 odd MNAs of PTI?
P.S As for the 'anarchy' argument, all I have to say is: people in a civilized democracy have the right to assemble and protest peacefully. If you deny that right to them,  nay you actively and in most brutal manner try to stop them by teargassing them, firing at them, arresting political  opponents without any solid legal ground, and at the same time still hope that people would want this oppressive regime to continue, then you live in fool's paradise.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

For those familiar with the Urdu language, here's  my latest piece of poetry:

میری تازہ  ترین   تخلیق، آزادی مارچ  کےنام انتساب کرنا چاہتی ہوں۔

تبدیلئ  حالات کی امید جواں ہے
آزاد‏ئ   جمہور کی تحریک  رواں ہے

بےربط خیالات میں پوشیدہ مضامیں
تقریرسے قاصر نہیں،  پابند زباں ہے

حاکم کوگوارا نہیں حق گوئی یہاں پر
سو شہرخرابات میں ہر سمت دھواں ہے

احباب میرے لہجے کی تلخی پہ ہیں برہم
غاصب کی خطا معاف کہ وہ شیریں بیاں ہے

جمہوری کرامات کی  یہ کیسی عنایت
ہردورمیں جمہور ہی بے مول یہاں ہے


Or you can visit my Urdu blog here:

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The ghazal in text form

خواہشوں کے بند سے، اجتناب، اور کیا
دل کی رہگزر پہ بس، اضطراب، اورکیا

ظاہری وجود کے، جمود پر نہ جائیے
دل کی بزم میں بپا ہے، انقلاب،اورکیا

آرزو کے دشت کی، خاک چھان کرکہا
ہمسفرتوہےفقط، اک سراب،اور کیا

زیست کی کتاب سے، چن کے لعل وگہرسب
اس کے نام کردئیے، انتساب، اورکیا

اتنے بے خبر نہیں، جانتے تو تھے سبھی
صحن گل اور بہار، اک خباب،اور کیا

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Bitten with the poetry bug

Okay, since Beebly's officially out of hibernation now, might as well write some poetry. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

"Standing on the edge of a revolution" - Politicization of Beebly

When I was born, Pakistan was ruled by late General Zia ul Haq. I grew up in a household where General Zia was revered as a national hero. Abba ji (my paternal grandfather) was  so devoted to him, that even many years after Zia's death, he used to go to Islamabad to pray at Zia's mausoleum year after year for as long as his health allowed him. We didn't understand politics at all, but just aped the political views of our elders. I remember me and my cousins chanting:

Mard e momin, mard e haq
Zia ul Haq, Zia ul Haq

(Man of faith, man of truth, Zia ul haq, Zia ul Haq)

We even shed dutiful tears when Zia's plane burst into flame. We were told it was a great loss for the nation, and we didn't question it.

My next 'political' memory is chanting 'Wazir e Azam....Nawaz Sharif' when I was with my side of the family, who supported Nawaz Sharif. While when we visited my cousin's nanhyaal, we chanted 'Wazir e Azam....Benazir". That was in late 80's. (Apparently lack of conviction didn't bother me much at the time). Benazir Bhutto won the elections and became the first ever female PM of the country. I felt a slight twinge of guilt,  perhaps I had chanted 'Wazir e Azam...Benazir" with too much fervor?

Benazir was dismissed in 1990 on charges of corruption. Fresh elections were announced.

I am told (by an uncle) that I used to do great mimicry of Benazir Bhutto at the time. I honestly cannot recall any of it. The only crystal clear memory I have of the time is: my best friend and me praying religiously for Sharif's win. My friend even pledged 100 nawafils of shukraana in case of Sharif's win. He won and became the Prime Minister of Pakistan for the first time. I still remember my friend offering the shukrana prayer. We were a little over 10 at the time.

Since I have been a very 'apolitical' person almost my entire life, I don't recall many important incidents from the time after that. Another memory that stuck to my brain, which I recall with remarkable clarity now is a girl from our school commenting "Even since I have heard about Nawaz Sharif's corruption, somehow I don't have the same regard for him". We used to go to school in the same school van, she was younger than me. (Chotti, I wonder where you are now and whom do  you support now!) My family was (and still is) a staunch supporter of Nawaz Sharif. The stories about his corruption perturbed me, but I was still in denial. They are all rumours to tarnish Nawaz's image, I assured Chotti.

Fast forward a few years and Musharaff packed Nawaz to Jeddah in 1999, during his second tenure. I remember feeling overjoyed at Sharif's ouster. Though I don't quite remember why I felt so happy. My family was still supporting Mr. Sharif religiously, and since I didn't have any political views of my own, I had merely towed the line so far. I think I was unhappy with how he handled the Kargil issue.

Throughout all these years, we had heard Mr. Sharif hurl all sorts of allegations (mostly true) about corruption during Benazir's tenure; about mansions in England and so on. Zardari (who later became Pakistan's president) was known as Mr. ten percent. So when Nawaz Sharif took a 380 degree turn after signing of NRO and 'Meesaq e Jamhooriyat', and began calling Benazir Bhutto 'my sister' etc. I was totally stunned and confused.

Later on, Zardari (Mr. ten percent,can you believe it!) became president of Pakistan after Benazir's assassination. Nawaz Sharif couldn't contest elections at the time, but Shahbaz Sharif bagged CMship of Punjab. I was surprised and dismayed to discover that Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif continued to support Zardari despite raising hue and cry that he was epitome of corruption. I asked abba ji why they weren't as vocal about Zardari's corruption now as they were previously. Abba ji said that if they create too much trouble in NA (national assembly) then they could be ousted from provincial govt. in Punjab. This didn't impress me very much. I was completely disillusioned with the Sharifs.  I felt they were sacrificing national interest for personal gain. For a long time after that I remained completely apolitical. I wasn't interested in the politics at all because I felt all politicians were corrupt to the core, and politics was a cesspool.

My husband used to support PTI and Imran Khan (still does but that didn't seem to interest me much.  Deep within me, discontent with the current political system grew. Back then I didn't even realize how frustrated I was. I recalled how patriotism was promoted so much in Zia's era. But during Musharaff's regime, many private channels sprouted up like mushrooms. Now the media was absolutely 'free'. So we even  began to hear people debating whether Pakistan should have been created or not. Some even openly called partition of India and creation of Pakistan a blunder. This made me extremely unhappy.

In the meanwhile, inflation, unemployment, poverty, terrorism all became totally out of control. Law and order situation became a complete nightmare. I am no scholar. Nor do I rely on statistics to tell me whether Pakistan is progressing well or not. Lives of people around me were enough to illustrate one sad reality: Pakistan wasn't heading in the right direction. Corrupt politicians were systematically bleeding the country and common man had to pay the price. Yet, I stayed aloof. What can a poor soul like me do to right all the wrongs?

Then something happened in the year 2013 that proved to be the final straw on the proverbial camel's back. Just before election 2013, the Punjab Text Book Board published some Urdu course books,  which had only pictures of Iqbal and Hali etc. on the cover page, but many of their great poems were removed from the course. This was a dismaying news for me. I was already displeased with all the changes in the books of Punjab Text Book Board. It's my personal opinion that the quality of their text books has deteriorated a great deal over years.

My husband used to listen to Imran Khan's speeches/interviews avidly. He used to tease me by telling me tales of Sharif's corruption,knowing fully well that my family supported PMLN. Suddenly I found myself researching about everything related to Sharif's corruption. I began to follow Imran Khan's speeches more closely and felt that he was speaking from the heart. Change was certainly in the air and I couldn't help being 'infected' with it. Since then I have become:
a) a die-hard Imran Khan supporter
 b) very vocal about political issues

Imran Khan has politicized an entire generation. People are more aware of their political rights now and aren't afraid to raise their voice for it. He's made us realize that the  power lies with the people and not with the corrupt politicians. If we want to change the country for better, we must change ourselves first. Each and everyone of us is equally important. It's also a sad realization that our disinterest in politics has allowed opportunist to manipulate the system to their advantage. Education system has crumbled, health facilities in state run hospitals are deplorable, there's no law and order, terrorism has enveloped the entire country; and while half of the nation is reduced to poverty our rulers shamelessly keep accumulating wealth through misuse of power. But it seems our nation has finally risen to the occasion. And that alone in my opinion is a clear victory for Imran Khan.

As I write these lines from the comfort of my home, Imran Khan and thousands of people from all over Pakistan are staging a protest in Islamabad, right in front of the Parliament of Pakistan. They have braved the stifling heat in August; have been tear gassed and fired upon; are currently pitted against the weather again, what with torrential rains and flood in other areas of country but they are not giving up because they are:

"Standing on the edge of a revolution
(Chorus) No, we won't give up, we won't go away
'Cause we're not about to live in this mass delusion
No, we don't wanna hear another word you say
'Cause we know they're all depending on mass confusion
No, we can't turn back, we can't turn away
'Cause it's time we all relied on the last solution
No, we won't lay down and accept this fate
'Cause we're standing on the edge of a revolution"

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Tale of Two Envelopes

We had checked in on the flight well in time, checked our baggage in, gone through the immigration process without a hitch, and now all we had to do was to just cross the ‘security clearance’ hurdle, and we could finally go and sit in the international departure lounge.

We means me, my sister and of course lil Zee. I was exhausted because I had been alternately running after and carrying the almost 2-year old Zee for well over half an hour now, my hair looked disheveled (as always);  on top of that I was carrying a heavy pink+grey coloured baby bag and my hand bag on my other shoulder. My sister constantly complained about having to lug the blue bag which contained all of  lil Zee’s clothes and other accessories,  and of course lil Zee, despite the fact that it had wheels!  Well, she was carrying her own handbag and a leather jacket in the other hand, and I totally empathize with her. It was too hot indoors, despite the chilly January winds outside, so she was lucky that she could afford to take the darned thing off. I couldn’t afford to take off mine, no matter how hot I felt. What if I forget the jacket at the airport lounge, I dreaded. There’s nothing in it that would identify it as mine, nor enable anyone to find and return it to me, presuming an honest person found it.

“Please put your hand baggage on the conveyer belt for screening”, the security official said as he directed us towards the small cabin where ladies are ‘bodily searched’ in such a cursory manner that I doubt they have ever caught anyone through this method. My heart skipped a beat. What if they can see what’s in my handbag? Will I be stopped and questioned? Or worse still, what if they just see it and decide to filch it while I am being searched by the bored looking ladies, who invariably ask, “where are you travelling to” in a manner that clearly says that it wouldn’t matter whether you were going to Timbuktu or Swaziland. They just have to ask a routine question, answers do not count.

The lady inside the small cabin seemed too diligent to me this time, or did I only feel that way because I had something to ‘hide’. It’s inside the left pocket, on the inner side of the jacket, a tiny voice kept repeating in my head and my heart thudded loudly. What if she can hear the tiny voice in my head? I had been carrying Z. on the left shoulder, and she insisted I put him down so she could search properly. She searched me up and down and groped at my jacket pocket. “Is that a mobile phone?” she asked casually, even though she had groped at it long enough. I heaved a sigh of relief and said yes. I couldn’t possibly tell her about the envelope that was also in the same pocket. 

I stepped outside the blue curtained cabin, feeling light headed and sore shouldered (because of carrying Z, not because of the search!) The man sitting next to the screening machine said in loud, gruff voice, “please search this handbag” and my heartbeat stopped for a split second. Had I been found out then? Now I regretted my decision of not even telling my sister about those two envelopes. I wished I had listened to A. and handed over one of the envelopes to her. But I had wanted to be the sole custodian, not trusting anyone else. Now all the news bulletins about Rahat Fateh Ali Khan came back to my mind.

It had all started when my husband told me to bring some cash with me (in USD too). He had told me to keep it in two three different places, and if possible give some of it to my sister. I had listened to him only partially, it was in two different places but both of those things belonged to me.

 I could already imagine the breaking news headlines on the sensation loving news channels. “A lady caught red handed trying to smuggle huge amounts of cash outside the country”.
“We became suspicious because she looked flustered and tense throughout. The screening machine gave it all away”, some security officials would be telling them. “Oh, she just coolly lied to me when I asked if it were a mobile in her pocket”, the lady in the blue curtained cabin would chime in. While fellow passengers would be too eager to tell their part of the story, “We also were very suspicious from the start, especially after she kept running after that poor kid”.

“Oh yes”, another passenger (most likely a lady) would quickly offer, “she probably stole the kid too. He looks too cute to be hers anyway. And he was trying to run away from her all the time, kicking and thrashing all the time”. Another woman would shake her head sadly and say, “These people are very cruel and heartless. They would use anyone, even a little kid to distract the law. But you cannot always get away with these sort of tricks.”

They would probably want to search through my entire luggage now. And imagine what would my sister say? “Thank god I went to the trouble of ironing my clothes and piling them neatly in the suitcase!” She would have said triumphantly. She had spent the good part of morning and half the afternoon ironing and neatly putting them in the suitcase, making sure the nicer and newer ones were on top. “Just in case they want to open it for searching”, she had said. And I had just thrown my stuff in, haphazardly. “They are going to be in a mess anyway, when I would go and open them at home. So why should I go to the trouble”, I had reasoned.  Oh dear!

 “The pink one,” he added. I was confused, but how can that be I wondered to myself. The other envelope is in the black handbag and not in the pink one! Ah, so I escape the shame of being detained, questioned and also of having my “un-neatly’ packed bag searched. I try to remember if I had done any good deeds lately. The pink bag has nothing but knickknacks, Zee’s dirty clothes, the ones which he took off just before leaving the home; then there was a bundle of diapers, baby powder, Vaseline, two bottles of cough syrup; er, a bar of soap wrapped in a purple Lux wrapper. The lady searching the bag gave raised a brow. Look here lady, I wanted to say, I am not cheap enough to carry soap bars around. For one, I don’t even remember putting any soap bars in. Secondly, this isn’t even a Lux bar, it’s a special soap for lil Zee as he gets rashes from standard soap; but was wise enough to keep my mouth shut.

She rummaged some more, ah what’s this, Tibet powder! The lady raised her brow even more; it seemed she thought I was the weirdest person on earth. Look, I tiredly thought in my head again, my aunt insisted on giving it to me; we used to be enveloped in it as babies, and it brings back many childhood memories; my late mother was fond of it; once again I kept my mouth shut.

My sister just couldn’t stop frowning. “why-am-I-travelling-with-this-idiot”, I could see it written all over her face. “What’s this”, one of the ladies rummaging my bag found a jar of body butter. “That’s body butter”, my sister offered helpfully (as if it wasn’t written in bold letters all over the jar). “It’s used to moisturize body”, she explained patiently, as if she were talking to a very slow child. The ladies looked slightly annoyed. “We know what it is”, on e of them said haughtily. Then a long, heated debate sparked over the weight of the body-butter jar. Was it or was it not above 100 ml. In the end, one of the ladies, who was somewhat nicer than others (the-Tibet-powder-and-soap-bar-finder lady) settled the debate by saying it’s less than 100 ml. They stamped our boarding passes and we were allowed to move on to the passenger’s lounge!  And throughout, no one found about the two envelopes or they would have stopped me, just as they had stopped Rahat Fateh Ali Khan.

But when I told all of this, somewhat breathlessly (due to overexcitement) to my husband, he simply brushed it off. “It’s perfectly legal to take out that amount out of country”. Even telling him about how uncomfortable it was to keep wearing the leather jacket, despite the fact that I was boiling wrought no empathy from his stony heart.  And I dared not debate it any further, lest he repeats the historical line, “Gosh, you are so melodramatic, I could write a thousand episodes soap about you”. Well he should, as I am too lazy to write one myself.

Friday, February 17, 2012

On Gift Giving: Do's and Don'ts

Now I know that gift giving is no 'science' and I can hear your collective sighs and empathize with you too, but I believe it's time I write an official guide on gift giving. More for the sake of my own reference, sort of like charting down a rule book for myself. So brace yourselves and face the horror (er, I mean read on if you will please):


  • Try to give  a gift that is practical and useful in the long run (I am guilty of not minding this rule often enough!)
  • BUT at the same time try to concentrate on the spirit in which something is given, rather than focusing (all the time) on what has been given. Stuff isn't important, it's the sentiment that should count. So focus on that and not on the material value of a gift. 
  • Accept a gift with a genuine smile (not a fake one please, they are too easy to spot!) and make sure to thank the person who has given it to you. Even if you don't like it/ don't need it/ have a hundred thousand duplicates of it already. 
  • Remember that a gift is a token of love, and not necessarily a means of providing someone with the stuff that they lack// need. If that were the case, we would only be giving gifts to those who are in dire need. A gift after all is not 'charity'. 
  • Try to give something which you know someone's going to like, but if you cannot figure out or choose, it's fine. Remember, it's the spirit that counts.
  • Go the extra mile and write a thank you note/ email/ SMS. (Sometimes I don't, out of sheer laziness, need to work on this area too!)
  • And of course do give gifts as often as you can:D

  • Upon receiving a gift, please do not say, "iss ki kia zaroorat thi" ("you shouldn't have"). That's just such a big no, no. Again, it's like saying that a gift should only be give if someone's in 'need'. 
  • Even if you don't need something/ you think the gift is ridiculously useless/ ugly/ cheap/ not to your taste; don't decline it or embarrass the 'gift giver' by saying stuff like, "Oh I already have a bunch of these..." blah de blah. Because, if giving a gift is meant to increase love among people, imagine what turning down would accomplish. (BTW, this has happened to me. And I felt so embarrassed, insulted, and of course hurt. It sort of made me wonder if it weren't good enough or was awfully bad. And unfortunately, when it comes to slights, I have an 'elaphantine' memory; I never forget.) I think in case you don't like something, or feel that you don't need something because you already have enough of something, you always have the option of accepting a present graciously and pass it on to someone else. Because there might always be people who might like it, or have uses for it. Point in case, a friend used to give dolls to me  when I was like past my teens already. So I gave them to younger kids, friends or neighbourhood kids. The end result was very satisfactory, the kids were delighted to have the dolls and I am sure it provided them with hours of pleasure, whereas if they were just sitting with me, they would have only collected dust. 
  • BUT make sure that when you 'forward' a gift, you don't accidentally return it to the same person.:-) I have heard so many amusing stories of 'chain-forwards' of a gift, where it keeps getting forwarded until it comes back to the person who originally gave it. As an aside, I wonder if there are some gifts which just continue to be forwarded and are never really used??
  • Also, don't forward something which you really hate, as that's not nice either. The true purpose of forwarding a gift is to give it to someone where it could be useful, and not to get rid of unwanted stuff.
  • Think you have to keep a scorecard, where you have to match a gift by something of equivalent value. It's amusing how some people still keep written record of exactly what was received on a wedding, and then they faithfully return exactly that. 
  • Wait for a certain date or event to give a gift. You don't have to give a present to just fulfill a social obligation, or to mark a certain date (say a birthday, or valentine's day, or mother's/ father's day etc.) Do try to gift spontaneously.
  • Think that you have to break your bank to give a gift. It should be according to your budget, not  based on the recipient's! Everyone doesn't have the same income. Simple rule. At the same time, don't give cheap gifts to someone just because they are poorer. (I need to work on that too!!)
I do believe I have covered most of the points. If you think something's missing in the list, please send a word to me and I would insert that in the list.

Friday, December 23, 2011

This is beyond hilarious

(I know it's dreadfully late and I should be in bed but...) I was reading my Urdu blog and don't know what motivated me to click the translate to English button, but I did. And here's the result:

More to the Planning

 پتا نہیں کیوں آج کل مجھ پہ تک بندیوں کا دورہ سا پڑ گیا ہے۔ بیٹھے بیٹھے عجیب وغریب ہونق قسم کے آئیڈیاز کی بھرمار اس کے علاوہ ہے۔ بہرحال، مزید تک بندی حاضر خدمت ہے، تاکہ عوام الناس کو اس قدر پریشان کیا جائے کہ وہ جملہ مسائل زندگی وغیرہ، جیسے بجلی کی بندش، سوئی گیس کی کمیابی، ضروریات زندگی کی گرانی وغیرہ بھول جائیں اور سر پکڑ کے رہ جائیں کہ یہ نئی افتاد کہاں سے آ پڑی۔ سوچا جائے تو ایک طرح سے یہ بھی ایک عظیم سماجی خدمات which we are free to perform. So in the words of Ibn ansah, "Sir, our qdrkru". 

Words do not speak for all
The heart is not so evident

Tell the narrative down to the heart
Do not trjman gyrku

The sanctity of the place does not have
Do not like the pasban

We knock but it is understandable
No animal by asman

When the heart of the matter is hidden
When it does not razdan


Planning for

Heart to hear what
Who let the heart

No one is loving you
How to smjhayyn

Sir, who have spent the night in 
How can we repeat it

Love, love, love, loyalty, all
Bring them to find lost

Gill is a lamp of hope
Jlayyn blood from the liver

We were luck to have pain
Let's celebrate it together

For the original version, please see the following. I am literally ROTFL.

I must say it's a vast improvement on my original poetry. Very impressed by google!