Tag Archives: Bawaqar Pakistan

For my Baba, with Love

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When I was a little girl, I used to write on my Dad’s birthday cards which I probably copied from somewhere, ‘A father is someone we can look up to, no matter how tall we get’.  Today, as I write a post dedicated to my dad on his 60th birthday, I realize what it really meant….

All of us owe our existence to our parents, and it is the way they bring us up that defines not only our personalities but also a reflection of their own. A father is someone we always look up to, yes, no matter how tall we get and how old we feel, and how many children we have of our own.  Our parents are there to remind us that we are taken care of and that we will always be loved, unconditionally.  As my father turns 60 today (MashAllah, may he lives a long, happy and healthy life), I am thinking of all the truly wonder years spent with him, and all that I have learnt from him, and most importantly, how much I have always loved him. 

Actually, I wouldn’t be writing this blog if it were not for my father, because he was the one who encouraged me to write my first article for a newspaper and posted it himself.  He used to make me read editorials of newspapers and rewrite them during my summer holidays! He would even cross question me to know if I am keeping up with my newspaper reading! I now realize how that grilling actually helped me improve my writing and my interest in catching up with what’s happening around me. He used to take us to the library, every Sunday, unfailingly, and soon we were all able to graduate to the ‘grown-ups’ section because we had read all the books in the children’s section! He would guide us and taught us how to look for books, going through catalogues and looking for the information we needed.  It is always a very proud moment for me when I interact with professionals and they hold Baba in such high esteem for his knowledge and technical know-how. Baba, I owe my love for reading, writing and the quest for knowledge…all to you!

Baba always taught us to think, debate and reflect on issues and while it helped us immensely to interact with any group of people, we were almost always in ‘compliance’ with instructions passed by our dad.  The way we upheld our parents’ wishes and advice upon our own choices stands in strong contrast to when I see kids of today as I cannot relate to them and perhaps this is what is referred to widely as the ‘generation gap’.  But I can happily and very proudly declare to my dad that I have always remained in close compliance to everything he ever asked me to do.  I may not always have liked it, but I appreciate his wisdom and his unconditional love for me.  Specially now that I am a mother myself.

My father was the one who took me to the swimming pool when I was four and I have never been afraid of water since then. Now I show my son all the tricks Baba taught me, how to ‘stand upside down’ in water, how to ‘float’ on water, my son giggles and looks at me in awe.  I remember I used to be very scared of jumping in water. I would almost always use the steps.  One day, my dad called me at the deep end and before I knew it, I was ‘thrown in’ at the deep end of the pool! And that was my last day of being afraid of jumping in water.  I remember he had given me a task of doing 50 laps in a stretch and the incentive was ice-cream of my choice in the same hotel where we used to go for a swim.  Through our years of swimming in the same pool, I was learning the important lesson of fighting my fears, never giving up, and most importantly learning to ‘celebrate’ the achievements, even if it is only meeting the 50-lap milestone.

Baba is a people’s person, and loves his family and friends and is always there for them.  I can never emulate him enough and his dedication for reaching out to such a vast group of people with unmatched generosity at the same time is remarkable.  It is when you give of yourself that you truly give, as Khalil Gibran reminds us. I have learnt the importance of keeping strong bonds with extended family and friends and of helping out people in their hour of need.  He is perhaps the reason we are a very strong-knit family.  And lets not forget that behind every great father is an equally great mother and together they complete my world. 

So Baba, today on your 60th birthday, I really wanted to tell you how much I admire your resilience, your sense of values for your family, friends and your country. I wish you many more years of health, happiness and may you continue to help others and bring smiles in their lives! Knowing you, I am sure you have more milestones to meet until the golden jubilee and here’s wishing more excitement and success, InshAllah!

Thank you Baba for everything and for just being you!

Alice in Blogger-Land

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My first interaction with the fascinating world of blogging was through my friend and ex-colleague Raza Ahmad who had initiated his blog on wordpress and I used to get SO amazed at how he ever finds the time to work fulltime, manage his very active social life in addition to ‘writing articles’, my first take on his very regular blogging.  Little did I know that my orientation was to grow more with time and that the world of blogging and those of the bloggers is fascinating, addictive and a whole lot more! This post is just to give you an idea of what it is out there, from someone who has just stepped in this wonderland only recently.

So what is a blog in the first place? It’s a contraction of the term ‘weblog’ and is a type of ‘website’ that is either maintained by an individual, a group of like-minded people or even organizations.  Many blogs are ‘theme-specific’ and provide commentary and articles on related topics while others can just be online ‘diaries’ of individuals.  A typical blog would have narrative, images and might even have links to other related sites.  What makes a blog more interesting is the nature of interaction with its reader: you can leave a ‘comment’ to share with the author what you feel about their post. Some blogs provide help and advice to those in similar circumstances and serve as discussion boards for key topics such as parenting. According to an Economist article, quoting Mr. Bhatia who helped start hotmail, ‘Just as everybody has an e-mail account today, everybody will have a blog in five years’.  Need I say more…

Blogs come in all shapes and sizes.  The collective community of all blogs is known as the blogosphere! Yes, it has a life of its own indeed, with its own set of vocabulary, search engines and the networks that connect the proud citizens of the Blogger-Land. Blogging is also termed as the easiest, fastest and the cheapest ‘publishing’ tool ever. There are personal blogs that are maintained by individuals, and are perhaps the most common kind.  Then there are corporate blogs that are likely run by businesses, and then there are blogs by genre or types:  travel, fashion, musical and ofcourse the rather widely known photoblogs.  And then, lo and behold, there is even something called a moblog, a blog that is maintained via your mobile phone!!!! I even read a term ‘blooks’, books from blogs, and cheekily enough, there is a Blooker Prize for the popular books!!!

The west has experienced the strength of blogs in their political and public lives and there have been numerous studies and research to analyze how this medium is increasingly becoming popular with the masses.  International media such as the CNN uses stories from readers/users who can upload their stories on the IReport link.

Blogging in Pakistan has seen an upward surge in popularity with the educated elite, with mushroom growth of many blogs in the last couple of years.  Sites such as the wordpress have made it easier for upcoming bloggers to have their personal space only a click away.  The scribe is but a prime example of the same! Of late, DAWN group of newspapers in Pakistan has also initiated its own blog space and a recent article on a subject as popular and controversial as the blackwater can attract as many as 77 comments! Alternate media is definitely here to stay!  

Some skeptics might argue exercising caution in maintaining your own blog, as prospective employers might at some stage check your cyber content and may not accept your candidature as ‘appropriate’ based on your opinions cited freely and publicly earlier on.   Bloggers of the world, beware! Your blog is now officially the window to your soul! Others might even question how much of cyber footprint are we willing to leave behind anyways, as the cyber social networks experience an exponential growth and as users increasingly become wary of over populated social networks. 

There is increasing skepticism over the role of mainstream media and how our national media is increasingly resigning to promoting catfights among politicians and fuelling fights and grudges by highlighting pedantic issues with a potential to create disharmony among provinces (recent case of disagreement over citing of Eid moon is a case in point).  So while we ponder over the importance of responsible journalism, perhaps it is also prudent to start thinking about the importance of responsible blogging as well. News, especially in a medium which is one’s ‘personal space’ and therefore can encompass biased opinions, false or inaccurate information, can also spread like wildfire.  The domino effect of links and cross-links can be just as misleading on blogosphere as anywhere else. Granted that your blog is your personal space, but does that give an individual the right to air their opinion on any subject? In this age of information, and perhaps information overload, how does one go about ‘filtering’ the ‘right’ information?  What remains ‘right’ in such an information-clutter anyways?

In the current crisis it is all the more important to share the image of an enlightened Pakistan, while all the others hear about are Taliban, widespread corruption, disasters and the ongoing conflict in the country.  Our blogs must reflect our sense of responsibility towards building a better image for the country in these stressful times, highlight the earnest efforts of the few among us who still upload the sense of patriotism closer to their hearts. As Raza Rumi points out, ‘Fighting intolerance and forces of retrogression is of prime importance in these troubled times and nobody can do it for us. We will have to undertake this Jihad – albeit of another variety – ourselves!’. 

There are two blogs that I would refer to my readers, who are doing their bit towards a more aware Pakistan:  Dr Awab Alvi’s Teeth Maestro and Faisal Kapadia’s Deadpanthoughts.  They are prominent among Pakistani bloggers for their genuine writing style and candid disposition. The duo has recently launched a podcast, a web-based media production so to speak, with a tongue-in-cheek name, ‘The Laidback Show’.  I suggest you watch it on this link, as it opens new horizons to the alternate media in Pakistan.  A candid, casual, open discussion focusing on the online community in Pakistan, its informal style making it most watchable….Not a single dull moment indeed! Although they can definitely improve on the sound quality and perhaps even on the duration of the episode itself.  From what I can tell from the site they have received raving reviews already and there is great excitement on the second show, which is hopefully uploaded tonight! The Laidback Show only reinforces the belief that the social networks and interactions are only to grow, hopefully stronger and with a focus that gives a new gateway to the world into Pakistan: the land of promise.  The show, due to its online presence and the medium of language, has the potential to reach out to the world and perhaps play its role in changing global perspective about the country.

I hope this post has given a fair roundup of the blogging 101 for Pakistan…that is, if you have had the patience to make it all the way down here! I am remembering Star Trek’s opening lines as they seem very apt for the Blogger-Land in which I am still trying to find my way around…

 ….the final frontier….to explore strange new worlds…to seek out new life and new civilizations…to boldly go where no man has ever gone before.

Let us all be Worthy of Pakistan

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Friends, Bloggers and Countrymen….lend me your ears (and eyes):

A few hours ago, I returned after a traditional trip to the heart of the city to watch the ‘lights’ in celebration of the 62nd independence day of the country and it warmed my heart to see people dancing and cheering with joy.  Later in the night, I switched on the TV and all across the country I could see men and women cheering and celebrating their independence day with infectious zeal…all for one cause: Pakistan.  And that left me wondering: what makes the love for one’s country all encompassing and so overwhelming despite one’s crisis, problems and challenges? More importantly, why do we need to ‘go green’ and wear the Pakistani flag only around the month of August? Is love for one’s country limited to only as far as waving the flag is concerned or is it much more? Why can our hearts and minds not remain for and on Pakistan for the rest of the year too?

62nd year of independence and still standing, as a friend stated on her facebook page.  I also heard many stating with a tongue in cheek: Na bijli hai na paani hai, phir bhee dil Pakistani hai (there is no electricity, no water, but my heart still sings Pakistan!). Perhaps it is time to really and practically realize what we can do for our country, rather than fret over what our country can do for us.  I do not have a long wish list to share with you all, just a few contributions we can all make.

For starters, maybe all of us, and I really mean each and every one of us, make a very conscious decision not to clutter the parks, markets and places we go to, just as much as the effort we put in cleaning our own home!  If Pakistanis can abide by the law outside Pakistan, they can be conscious citizen back here too. I see no reason why not. We may not have implementation of laws in place, but at the end of the day, it is us the citizens who make or break the law too.  So why not start from today and really make an effort to keep our surroundings clean.  Teach our children to pick up the litter after a picnic in the park, tidy up after a birthday party at a public place and definitely not throw anything outside the car window!! Small steps but they bring great changes!! Think Clean. Think Green.

Respect the individual, especially those at the bottom of the food-chain so to speak. Respect the policeman who dares to stop your car because you do not have your seat belt on.  He has been standing in the heat all day long, but it is the gentleman sitting in the air conditioned car who fumes up with rage because he has been stopped by the policeman! The poor man is only performing his duty.  The least we can do is to comply and to respond with respect.  Respect the cook who stands in the melting heat to cook food for you and your family, while you slouch and chatter away in the living room.  Ask the value of house-help versus self-help to all your family living abroad, most of whom do not have the luxury of affording house help and need to do everything on their own, starting from cooking, to cleaning, to washing to running around and finish their daily chores.  Thank your lucky stars for living in a country that still provides you with the luxury of having more support staff than the number of people living in the house! That’s a royal lifestyle, just in case you are missing the point.

There is no denying the fact that our country is currently in one of its biggest crisis, ever.  It is important for an average citizen like you and me to stand up and be counted.  Being the silent minority of patriotic but indifferent citizens will not help us, will not help raise our concerns over things that are close to our heart and history will definitely not forgive the silence of the educated, enlightened and conscious minority of this country.  Instead of constantly complaining and grumbling over the failure of the state and its machinery, perhaps we should keep doing our bit by enacting the change we wish to see around us.  Perhaps it is time we start justifying our own job descriptions, start delivering at our own micro units because every little drop counts!

And last but not the least, lets us not, for even one second doubt the integrity of Pakistan or the future of Pakistan.  It is heart breaking to see how convenient it is to declare Pakistan’s disintegration in one random rush of moment by average citizens like you and me.  Let us not forget that we are the future! We are the ones who will make or break the country, not the circumstances.  Let us make peace with the past, and on this 62nd birthday of our country, let us all do our own bit to be able to tell our children in the future what role we played in the current crisis. 

 Let us finally be worthy of Pakistan.

I am remembering Shakespeare’s Mark Antony as I mourn the loss of true patriotism in our country and only hope for people to rise above all differences and celebrate this Independence truly green from their hearts, not just appearances!

 O judgment! Thou art fled to brutish beasts,

And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;

My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,

And I must pause till it come back to me.

Be the Change…

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They say that if you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem itself.  How long can we all sit and watch our country constantly being referred to as the most dangerous place on earth? How long can we watch our own people killing each other and being killed, all in the name of religion which seems remote to those of us who see our religion as a religion of peace, promoting harmony and a religion that teaches you tolerance? While we cannot remain indifferent to the current crisis, we should stand up and be counted as the conscious voice in support of our country and in support of those few brave individuals who are still upholding the spirit of one united Pakistan.

We should be the change we wish to see in the world.

Each year as mid-August approaches, we should all remind ourselves what it means to have our own country, a place to call our own. Maybe it is just a random observation but each year the zeal to ‘celebrate’ our one national day seems to diminish.  The month of August is not just about buying some extra flags (that lay cluttered on the ground next day unfortunately), listening to old national songs or enjoying another public holiday.  It is about reflecting back on the essence and core values that became Pakistan.  It is an opportunity to tell our children what they can and should do for their country. 

Unity, Faith and Discipline sound like a far cry in the current situation when all you hear about is more killings, another blast, another attack on innocent lives, in addition to the ongoing energy crisis.  And if all that was not enough, ongoing riots, sectarian killings and increasingly minorities coming under fire too.  It is perhaps time to remind ourselves that our national leader and founder of Pakistan strongly believed in the concept of social cohesion.  Social cohesion is the ‘glue’ that binds people together in a society, particularly in the context of cultural diversity. Jinnah was a strong advocate of an inclusive and impartial government, religious freedom, rule of law and equality for all.  While Jinnah’s portrait seems to adorn every government department and office, his words seem to have lost their way in the crooked corridors of history.  The least we can all do this August is to catch up on our Jinnah readings and remind ourselves of the true spirit behind the creation of Pakistan. 

It is ironic that the most contentious issue when it comes to the Leader of the Nation is his vision as perceived by the common man, and the real vision he had for Pakistan as clearly echoing from all his speeches.  I quote one from his Presidential Address to the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, August 1947, as a reminder in the context of the recent Gojra violence.

‘You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place or worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed that has nothing to do with the business of the State.’