"In many ways writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind. Its an aggressive, even a hostile act. You can disguise its aggressiveness all you want with veils of subordinate clauses and qualifiers and tentative subjunctives, with ellipses and evasions with the whole manner of intimating rather than claiming, of alluding rather than stating but theres no getting around the fact that setting words on paper is the tactic of a secret bully, an invasion, an imposition of the writers sensibility on the readers most private space."
Joan Didion, Why I Write.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Even if you win, you're still a rat

I have a story to tell! A very painful one! My cousin’s son, ten years old, is a brilliant student, always first in his class. He is an unbeatable child. This story begins in his Fourth Grade exam. The impossible happened. He was Second in his class! Another child was first this time by a margin of 0.5 marks. The news hit his mother like a big yellow school bus. She was distressed, incensed and fuming! She could not figure how this had happened, with a hundred reasons going through her mind.

“Had you listened carefully to me before the Math paper, this wouldn’t have happened,” said the mom. The child whimpered. It was the first time he realized that he was loved because he stood first, that standing second was something so bad that his parents had forgotten to feel the happiness of his success, and the festivity after the result that he was used to.

“It must be the teacher. She has something against my son. Just because she’s jealous of me, she did this to my child. She was looking for a weakness, the moment she found one, she availed it, and deprived my son from the First place..” was the second thought. Since she taught in the same school as her child went to, it was the teacher to be blamed now.

God was kind. Last year there was a similar situation with another child who had dropped from first to second place. The child was given the marks. So she went up to the principal, quoted the example. The principal was convinced and the teacher was called, but she refused to change her result. It did not end here. The conflict extended to families. At last, the principal took the result and changed it himself, doubling all the 0.5s in the list. The child eventually stood first. As brilliant as before!!

This is not the only example I have seen of parents unwilling to accept anything less than the best from their children. My classfellow in medical school stood Second in his Second Grade. His father stood up to take his picture, but sat back down when his name was called earlier than expected, that is for the Second position. Yes, he actually did not take the picture! My friend, he still remembers it very clearly, and very very sadly.

These parents are educated parents. Parents we feel proud of. Parents who love us, live for us. But they are not able, or perhaps unwilling, to understand that what is more important is the knowledge and not the grades. That what their child is going to do with the mass of grey material between his ears is going to determine his future, and not what he achieves my becoming the ultimate nerd among all the other kids of family and friends.

I can bet that the amount of things my cousin’s son has heard and seen in the post-result days, he will, all his life, work his head and heart off to stand first. Because he has learnt he cannot afford anything less than that.. anything less than that is a crime. Plus, as long as he will be one notch higher than the rest of the class, he will not care how good he actually is. One day he will be pushed into a medical school, or an engineering school. Amidst all this, he will lose himself somewhere. He will deprive the society of some valuable specie of talent that only he is made of. Unless by dumb luck this is what he wants to do.

It was no different in my own house, becoming a doctor was the only honorable thing to do. I can go on gibbering and complaining about it as long as you are ready to listen. Though I have now rationalized and talked myself into not ranting.

The point I want to make is that this kid is a new generation in making. If this is not the time to make a change in the way we push our kids, when is the time? When will we formulate the plan of action? When and who is going to edify the teachers, and the parents? Who is going to guide the kids, the way they deserve to? Who is going to change the mind-set of our society? Trust me your kid suffers. He aches.

Your child is the best. He is best at what he wants to do. Not what you want to him to do. If he is made for arts, do not expect a wizard to come and hand him the brain for science, and vice versa!

Monday, November 15, 2010

It's religion!!

PAWS Eid Campaign 2010:

For Eid-ul-Azha sacrifice this year, join PAWS and help restore the lives and livelihood of people affected by the floods. Buy a goat – and this year, instead of sacrificing it, send it back to a village to replace what was lost and help people back onto their feet. Goats can provide an ongoing income for families through the sale of milk, ghee, meat and kids, as well as supplement their own diet and agriculture.”

The PAWS campaign has already been hailed with so much applause and praise, and while it might sound like the most convincing idea this time of the year, I would like you to read this:

PAWS Mission Statement:

PAWS aims to create a more just and equitable relationship between humans and animals in Pakistan. We recognize that humans have a responsibility towards their environment and fellow species and aim to preserve and protect animal populations; their integrity, diversity, welfare and wellbeing. We also believe that the natural environment is a shared heritage for humankind and seek to create, promote and preserve ecologically sustainable relationships globally.

In case I need to elaborate, PAWS is aimed at looking after the welfare of animals, and killing something is definitely not counted as its welfare. I do not doubt their intentions; I just want the people to think more rationally towards the suggestion.

We celebrate Eid-ul-Azha in the memory of the sacrifice made by the Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH), who was ready to slaughter his beloved son, according to the will of Allah Almighty. It was a test of submission to Allah’s will, which Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) passed. Allah Almighty was so happy with him, that the sacrifice of an animal became a part of our religious rituals, to be performed by every Muslim who is capable of it, from that time onwards.

Qurbani is actually the demonstration of our total submission to Allah’s will. The intention behind a Qurbani is to express our complete obedience to His commands, that we are willing to sacrifice anything for Him, just as Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) did.

So, why on earth are we comparing something which is so dear to Allah Almighty, and is told to be done once in a year, with charity that we can do round the year? Islam does not bar us from charity, does it?

Just think for a while. Are we really disagreeing with Allah’s order of sacrificing an animal on Eid, because we think that we are wise-enough to find a better alternative to something that has been told to us by Allah Almighty? Do we really think that the Qurbani of an animal is an inhumane act, and is against animal rights?

Allah is the Creator. He has created everything; humans and animals too. Who are we to decide that we should not kill an animal because it is cruel, when Allah has ordered us to, and the act of Qurbani is dear to him? Allah, who has even devised the exact way in which an animal should be slaughtered, so it does not cause him pain. He is surely the most Merciful; and He knows what we know not.

If I particularly talk about the present situation, why did we have to wait until Eid to think about the flood-victims, when we could have helped them in this way, or in many other ways before Eid? And while it might sound funny, we could have sacrificed many barbecue dinners which we had, for that reason.. no?

Even during the life of our beloved Prophet (PBUH), there certainly were people who required the animals for other domestic needs, Qurbani was offered. If we are so passionate to do charity, we should, in million other ways, which I don’t need to count, and the reward is promised, but why should the axe fall on something prescribed by the Almighty? Aren’t we making a mockery of this sacred ritual? We are not ridiculing anyone else but ourselves, aren’t we?

It is very sad the way this Quranic verse is being used, which only tells us that out spirit behind the Qurbani is what counts before Almighty Allah, and He doesn’t need the flesh or blood of the animal, which is so easily understandable. I must say, it does not tell us that we can replace the act of Qurbani with something else. And we should not try to change the essence of the word of God. Should we?

Qurbani might have changed from sacrifice to fad, but that also cannot be the reason of replacing it with something else. Allah knows the Niyah, and he knows who has sacrificed in the true spirit of it, and who has not.

Before taking this suggestion by PAWS, and now many writers after this, so seriously, I would just like you to look simply into the matter, you don’t need much brain to do that, and you don’t need much emotion either.

Sacrifice the animal in the will of Allah, eat the meat yourself, give it to your relatives, and give it to the poor, as prescribed. For surely Allah knows best.

I’m not a religious scholar, and trust me, I don’t need to be one to understand this simple thing.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

"Do Deshon Ki Aik Awaaz!"

While it might have sounded like the most touching line we heard on TV in the past few months, let me just try and remind you, they were talking about none other than India and Pakistan.

I’m not an Indian media fan, but their music is my weakness. Though it wasn’t Star Plus or Sony this time, it was our very own Jang Group, responsible for this very convincing line, ‘Do Deshon Ki Aik Awaaz’, as a part of their project, ‘Aman Ki Asha,’ in collaboration with The Times of India. Now that was interesting.

For those who don’t know, I’m talking about ‘Chhote Ustaad’. It was a music competition for children under fourteen and was screened on both Geo Television and Star Plus. It was a team competition, each team comprised of one Pakistani Singer, and one Indian Singer, thereby presenting an example of unity between the two nations. It had two judges. The famous Sonu Nigham, from India, and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, who has conquered Indian Film Music within a blink of an eye, represented Pakistan. I couldn’t watch all the episodes, but I had a favorite team, and that team won the competition too. So kudos to me!

During the shows, Sonu and Rahat expressed their deep wishes, several times, about how much they wanted to stand on the opposite borders and sing for their respective countries. Very touching indeed! Once on the set, tanks were placed on stage on which guitars replaced the barrels. Again, very touching!

While I might sound sarcastic, “peace” is a good thing. If that is the only objective! Who doesn’t want peace? But I want you to see more than that.

The show projected one thought several times, that the lifestyle of the people of both the countries are ‘the same’, and everyone was so awed all the time, and seemed so surprised about why there was even a need of partition. They never failed to make me feel how dumb our heroes were.

On a show telecast on 14th August, a formal congratulations was said to Rahat Fateh Ali, by Asha Bhosle, who was a guest that day. And the show went on like normal, while there was a special ‘Azaadi Show’ on 15th August. It was elimination day, but there was no elimination because it was ‘Azaadi ka Din’. Shows kept going on, till it was Eid. It was the elimination day again, and how surely I knew there was not going to be any elimination, because it was ‘Eid ka Din’… Alas! I was wrong.

On one occasion, Asha Bhosle took a promise from a Pakistani female participant, to come back to India every year to perform the “Rakhi” ritual, for her male Indian counterpart. Many times you will find Pakistani participants, touching the feet of judges and guests, a Hindu tradition.

A proud father of a Pakistani participant was asked to express his feelings with regards to the proceedings of the show so far, and his stay in India. He addressed the guest, Asha Bhosle, and said, ‘Coming all the way from across the border, and seeing you, is equivalent to my performing the Hajj.’ Even if he was that ignorant, I wish Geo Television had had the foresight to censor it. Just the way they had censored the gifting of a little idol by an Indian participant to Asha, while her Pakistani counterpart was singing the song.

It was the grand finale now. An Indian kid won the ‘Sound of the Subcontinent’ award. He said that he had enjoyed his time with Pakistani kids, and would cherish their friendships for years to come. It was all well, until he said that he didn’t understand why they had to pay the price for the ‘mistake’ of partition that took place sixty years ago! I wonder how a ten-year old can come up with such a ‘deep’ thought.

These are just a few examples from the few programmes I watched. I’m sure there must be many more.

I don’t mind what Indian media has to say, but since Chhote Ustaad was a collaborative project, I am concerned. We need to be more responsible about certain things. We should know where to draw the line. We cannot say or let say anything just for the sake of saying. Don’t we realize how many times we killed the purpose of Two-Nation theory via the words uttered in this particular programme? We want peace, but not at the cost of our ideology. And specially, in a programme involving children, where the target audience will include children for sure, what on earth are we trying to inculcate in their minds?

Yes, I hope for peace! But I want to make sure we don’t forget that we got this country because we believed that Islam and Hinduism are not only two religions, but also two social orders. Despite living together for more than a thousand years, we continued to develop different cultures and traditions. And in case we have forgotten, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan began the period of Muslim self-awakening, Allama Iqbal provided the philosophical explanation, and Quaid-i-Azam translated it into a political reality.. with the help of countless sacrifices made by our forefathers.

It’s my humble request to Jang Group, to be careful in future, and make sure nothing is said or done, that attacks the ‘reason’ we are ‘Pakistan’. We need to resist any attempts by Indians to absorb our individuality, as much today, as we did sixty-three years ago, maybe more.

Let’s not make a mockery of ourselves. Let’s not let anyone do that!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Inside Out

‘What do you want to become when you grow up?’

‘A writer!’

This was my singular answer to this question, even when I was a ten-year old. My mom used to laugh it away. I felt that she thought I was cute. I was wrong. She thought it to be foolish, and immature, and I was completely unaware of her feelings.

I was brilliant. My teachers called me an ‘Unbeatable Child.’ I sailed through school and college with flying colours. And it was not long before I entered medical school. Yes… Medical School. Do they build writers in medical school? Certainly not. They make doctors. And since I was a bright student, I had to become one, else, how would the world know how bright I was?

No, I wasn’t there by choice. I needed to study literature. I told my mom outright. She brushed it off with a carefree air. I didn’t want to join. I did all I could to convince her.

‘Mom, you don’t know what I need.’

‘You need a shrink,’ was the reply.

I was drained and disillusioned. She thought I was crazy, or maybe had a brain tumor. For me, it was hard to believe that I couldn’t choose my career, harder to believe that my own mom was the wall in the way. The mom who was herself a literary example, it was her bad gene that I had got. And yes, she didn’t have the right to trample on my feelings, had she?

‘Study!’ Never in my lifetime had I to hear this from my mom, as much as I had to now. The reason being obvious, I stopped studying once I got into the medical school. Sometimes while I was in class, I wondered, how in the world did I get myself into this situation? It made me sick, physically, mentally and socially. I can tell you from my knowledge of medicine that this is the definition of Disease.

I really didn’t understand how someone’s peace of mind and heart could be less important than what a distant relative or some family friend thought about you. Maybe your kid is more important than your status quo, maybe!

After one year, I’ll be a doctor. It has been a long journey. A really really long one. The time that was supposed to be the best time of my life, was the most painful. But life has moved on and so have I. And by now, things are suddenly less difficult. The feeling that I get when I wear my white coat is unexplainable. All of a sudden you feel superior than rest of the world. You’re one of the best people the country has. You’re the hope of the sick and dying. I’ve come across many poor, miserably sick people who look at you as an angel from heaven. And many times I was forced to think that there couldn’t be a better profession on earth.

After years of confusion and disorder, I have the things less confused now. Literature is my passion, and medical, my profession. So what if I went into the wrong university? My passion is right. And it’s never too late to follow your dreams. Maybe that won’t make me a brain surgeon, but trust me, even my knowledge of medical school won’t make me one either.

This time, my mom will have to understand. The way she always understood what food I liked, which clothes I wanted, what colour my room should be, the exact same way. I’ve decided to choose literature as my specialty. Yes, another school after my medical school, but a different one. My soul deserves it. I’ve managed to piece it all back together again, and I can’t let it fall apart now.

My mom is my best friend. But her reasoning about my career has always been three million light years outside my scope of understanding. Maybe one day I’ll understand her better. Not today, not now.

Maybe one day she’ll understand me better. Maybe one day I’ll make her proud, in whatever way I want. Maybe!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Jis Din Tera Viyah Hovay Ga...!!

People get married all the time, right? So why is it suddenly such big news? Never in my lifetime has any wedding earned as much popularity and speculation as the Shoaib-Sania wedding has. Either the media has nothing better to offer these days, or indeed this wedding requires this much attention, worry and concern.
Since the day the news broke, so much has been said and shown that it becomes difficult to judge what actually the issue with the world is. I understand how the news can surprise us, but I don’t get how it can confuse us. Be it the Ayesha story, or the incompatibility of the couple the subject of debate, media has never been crunchier. The news certainly has high entertainment value.
Enough heard about Ayesha Siddiqui. Why on earth has she created so much fuss and hype? If a divorce is all she wants, she could have gotten it without letting the whole world know. For me, she does not exist.
Coming to the compatibility factor, Sania is the heart-throb of many. It is a fact. She’s popular, she’s successful, she’s pretty; she’s got ‘The Thing’. But does Shoaib Malik stand no where near her? Is he a total jerk who has won a lottery or a jackpot? Come on, he has played for Pakistan. He has brought pride to the nation many times. And who doesn’t have skeletons in their closets? Who doesn’t have weak moments in life, in faith or in career? We know about Shoaib, so we talk about it. We don’t know as much about Sania, so we don’t. If Sania is the Tennis Queen of India, then Shoaib is the Former Captain of Pakistan Cricket Team. Does it really not level even a bit?
Sania is risking her career, popularity and nationality. It’s a big thing! And marriage is not a decision that you take just like that. She must have calculated. She’s no child. Apart from that, just like so many people fall in love and decide to get married, why can’t she? Why is it so unbelievable? …Pinch your self, it’s real and it’s happening.
And then, this wedding won’t last, yeah, everyone has got a hunch disease in our part of the world. If it is so obvious for the people witnessing the scenario, then it must be more than obvious for the ones in the scene. So if they’re ready to take the plunge, why can’t we just wish them good luck?
The problem actually with us is that the couple broke the news all of a sudden. We weren’t ready. The two celebrities didn’t follow the pattern. No one had the slightest idea. No pictures, no scandal, no gossip, in other words, no prior warning. So the news was hard to swallow for a nation like ours.
Whether it is the heart, or the head, that has decided the things for both of them; the two stars are, after all, humans. They have a right to breathe like all other humans do. All the more reason this debate is pointless.

Have a heart people, and move on!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

IIMC Spring Festival '10

After a gap of four years, IIMC Spring Festival was finally held on March 27th, at Al-Mizan Campus. It was an all-girls function, which is certainly not a surprise for anyone of us. There was excitement all around.
The function started off around 9:30am. It comprised of three main components: A Fashion Show, Stalls and a Variety Show.

There was an entry ticket, worth Rs.30, for the fashion show, directed by Amna Ejaz. It was held in the famous Lecture Hall 3. To everyone’s displeasure, only a couple of striking dresses could be seen. No exceptional jewellery, make-up, hair-do or theme existed. Choice of music was awful. Lack of practice and directing skills were evident from the ramp. Audience actually felt sorry for their money.

Stalls were the most regimented and captivating part of the festival. A lot of hard work and effort was put into them. Aisha Saeed deserves most of the credit.
• IIMC Merchandise Stall was the most artsy and inventive block. Haleema Saeed’s designed key chains and stickers caught everyone’s attention. The backdrop of the stage was also her design.
• Food-Court did great. Almost all stalls gained profit. Madiha Sadiq did a lot of effort in this sector.
• There were other stalls that deserve credit too. There was a Mehndi Stall, a Handcrafts Stall, a Clothes Stall, a Mask and Jewellery Stall, a Nail Art and Hair Streaking Stall, a Lemon Soda and Drinks Stall. Every stall was the best its own type, well thought-out and well done.
• Game-Zone did the worst. It was not in the main lawn, but in the adjacent lawn. It was isolated, deprived and disadvantaged. Those who entered the main lawn forgot that anything existed outside the area. There were two speakers, both placed in the main lawn, so the DJ (me) could only be heard in the main lawn. Ayesha Jabeen, the incharge of that zone should have reminded Aisha or me to make an announcement to the people, telling them to visit that lawn as well. I consider it negligence on her part.
• The Jail Stall… well, as soon as I sat on my seat, on the left of the stage, Yumna, Shurooq, and another girl (don’t really remember who she was), came up to me and said, “Someone paid us 300 rupees to put you in Jail, you’re under arrest,” Ayesha explained to them that they couldn’t take me as the show was about to begin. But they were not bothered. I also wanted to go and see who exactly loved me to the extent that she paid 300 rupees to get me into trouble. When I was behind the bars, they refused to tell me who it was. They didn’t even have any proof of anything. I needed someone to pay 600 rupees (double) to get me bailed out. A friend did it for me. After that, I received many complaints from many people who were put in prison like that, and released on payment of large amounts of money. Complaints were transferred to Dr.Fazaila. No action has yet been taken. The stall was a fraud. Yet it made the greatest money that day.

The most interesting event of this festival was the variety show.
• The first skit was stopped as soon as we hit the administration by playing the song “Paisa”. Whether the music was the issue or this particular song, I don’t know. Dr.Fazaila told me to call the skit off. “Cant you see their (Chief Guest’s and Crew’s) faces,” she frowned.
• Another interesting segment was ‘Back to Basics’. You know how teachers always say, “Oh you don’t know this. This is so ‘basic!’” So Amna Mirza came up with this idea, and I asked four teachers some basic medical questions. Being doctors, they were more than expected to answer.
-My first question was for Dr.X. I asked her the management of Anaphylactic Shock (which is a grave medical emergency) – She could not answer. She was perturbed.
-Second question was for Dr. Shazia. I asked her to define Community Medicine. She tried, but she was wrong. And whoever has been to a CM class, must be aware of the fact that you cannot even change a comma or a full-stop in any CM definition.
-Third was AP Anatomy Department (I don’t know her name). I asked her to tell me something about First Pass Metabolism. She didn’t know. I asked her about its site. After a lot of thinking (or may be it was the audience help), she came up with Liver.
-Last question went to Dr.Y. I asked her the names of the Mixed Cranial Nerves. I was expecting her to at least take one name out of four. Disappointed, I asked her to tell the names of all the Cranial Nerves in order. I changed the question for the third time now. I asked her Eclampsia. She said, “A person goes crazy.” I said, “How? It happens to someone just like that?” She replied, “Gynae.”
After the segment, I went up to each four of them and apologized. Everyone sounded cool. AP Anatomy Department was very sweet. (It was my first interaction with her) Dr.Shazia hugged me and said, “I love you even more today.”

• In the last segment of the show, The IIMC Awards were held. Dr.Amna Tariq, Dr. GM, Dr.Shazia, Dr.Sajid and Dr.Sammiya won the Best Teacher Awards.

Verdict: All in all, it was a successful event. Mrs.General Zulfiqar (The Chief Guest) and the VP were full of praise.

All hails Aisha Saeed, whole 4th Year and the CM department (Specially Dr.Farah and Dr.Fazaila)

Before I sign off, I so want to share this with the readers. Dr.Y came in to the class the next working day, and said, “Asking me Cranial Nerves? I obviously know. One goes upwards, one goes downwards, one goes left and one goes right. One should have the concept.”