Saturday, 5 May 2018

Thoughts of being home

I've been in Pakistan since the first week of April making it just over a month since I've been away from my apartment and office in Monrovia. Poor Haresh is back in Liberia running the company, dealing with day to day headaches, and surviving on sandwiches.

The past few days in Islamabad were rainy, cool and extremely pleasant. Yesterday I enjoyed the weather on one of the television channels: "mausam khushgavar hai...jurva sheheron mein rim jhim baarish ho rahi hai aur thandi havaaon ka silsila hai." Dislocated and rootless Pakistanis like me cherish the sound of weather being described in poetic Urdu.

Trips home in the last 5 years or so have have deepened feelings of rootlessness in me. Having grown up as privileged brats of a diplomat, my siblings and I grew up in various countries 'abroad.' We were not immigrants seeking better economic fortunes but moving from one capital to another, floating from one diplomatic mission to another. We were clearly Pakistanis but we were not schooled in Pakistani schools but mainly American ones. We did not grow up in a Pakistani city but one in Europe or West Africa. I don't remember, though, being connected to any city we were in. I didn't experience the reality of the people living there. Our school friends were from a host of different countries and, our teachers were American. Except for the odd school trip here or there, we lived in our own little safe bubble. So, what does that make you?

It's only as an adult that I've actually lived at a stretch in any one city and that is Monrovia, Liberia. During the first few years, I was safely cocooned in my UN life but since running a business, I have started to understand what the ups and downs are of living and working in a city as they really relate to that specific city. I can sketch improvements or challenges over a period of time that are part of Monrovia's fabric and history as I have experienced them.

I come and visit Pakistan really only as a visitor and 'tourist'. I don't enjoy coming home because I do feel disconnected to anything that is real.

In fact, when I was purchasing some items from Khaadi, the fellow at the counter smirked when I asked him whether I could use the loyalty card. It was no longer in use and, that was more than a year ago.

Liberia doesn't offer a long-term residence status to anyone who has lived for 5 years or more let alone citizenship. (Never mind George Weah's attempts to address this delicate minefield in his inaugural address) I will mostly likely hang on to my Pakistani passport for many, many years but what meaning does it really hold if I don't have a stake in my own country? And, what stake do I have in Liberia, for that matter, even though I have a business there and have spent most of my adulthood there?

Pakistan is really an Islamic Republic

The anti-Ahamdi rhetoric and agenda is at an all time high. A resolution was passed in the National Assembly, declaring that the Dr Abdus Salam Centre for Physics should be renamed "as al-Khazini Department, a little known Byzantine-origin astronomer who according to many historians lived and researched in late 14th century."

It is shocking and enraging that our National Assembly has no other fish to fry.

And, at the same time, an assassination attempt was made on the Interior Minister. The suspected gunman claims the Minister and ruling party committed blasphemy.

Stepping into Pakistan, where one sees mostly veiled women in public spaces, where religious naats are being played even in ultra fashionable boutiques, where 20 loudspeakers are blaring the azaan in a 1-KM radius, where one is hard-pressed to meet anyone else from any other faith, you can't but think that we really are an Islamic Republic and nothing else. And, what concerns our National Assembly members? Erase all memory and respect for our Noble Laureates, simply because they belonged to a different sect (Dr Abdus Salam) or spoke against extremism (Malala).

It's quite telling that opposition in India is using 'Don't become like Pakistan' card to oust the BJP! I read a headline that Prakash Raj is touring Karnataka and, advising the public they shouldn't given into the ruling party's tactics of mixing religion and politics. What a shame for Pakistan that we are a warning metaphor.


With Facebook's Cambridge - Analytica - related - so-called - breach, it seems a few people on my "Friends" list are slightly disturbed by the revelations. I have 900+ "friends" but only about 2 people actually posted about the issue and, debated for an instant what they should do.

I myself will continue with Facebook, posting articles, sometimes getting into debates but I have less and less of a fascination with posting pictures. I've always enjoyed sharing photographs of Kavita's life (she has so many family members eager to see her pictures), my evening walks, the city, my travels, etc. I hardly post pictures now and, if I do, they are of the scenery or something really interesting. I avoid family pictures, now.

Of course, there's a certain amount of showing off for posting pictures with clever captions. You get a certain high but of late, I wonder what is the point of sharing one's pictures on Facebook? Does it hold any other value than narcissism?

I am not particularly paranoid about sharing my personal details with Facebook (I'm just 1 out of a billion plus Facebook members) but I don't care for sharing personal photos any longer. Perhaps it's a phase but for now, I don't have the energy to curate, peruse and go through my photographs to post about my fabulous life.

I'm using WhatsApp for sharing photographs with very close friends and family members.

By the way, how many WhatsApp groups are you part of?

I have started using Twitter but don't know what's the point of it, still. 

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

A walk in the neighbourhood

Sunday, 15 April 2018

HUM TV is one misogynist media outlet

The Sunday night HUM TV play shows a man abducting a woman who rejected his brother and, about to force her to marry his brother (who apparently wanted to commit suicide because the girl rejected him). Talk about openly showing violence against women on prime time! In a society, country and region where women have been known to suffer acid attacks by jealous men, it's shocking to see that such a scenario is shown as entertainment in TV play. HUM TV is one misogynist media outlet. 

It turns out (you can tell the whole damn story in a single episode) that the fellow who got rejected by the girl only met her once and once again at tea when he came with him his elders to seek her hand in marriage. Apparently, they used to talk for hours on the phone. This again shows love and relationships in a twisted, unhealthy manner - romantic relationships cannot be honourable or dishonourable. They cannot be obsessions or polite telephone conversations. Extremely unhealthy way to depict love. 
I watch HUM TV plays now and then, and, almost every single one is extremely problematic in how it depicts women.

Friday, 6 April 2018

Winnie Mandela passes....✊🏿 πŸ‡ΏπŸ‡¦

I must confess I had no sense of Winnie Mandela other than being Nelson Mandela's wife. My knowledge of her is extremely limited. I only remember photographs of Winnie and Mandela's walking together, one set of hands holding each other, and the other set of hands held up in the air triumphantly after Nelson walked out of prison. The only other thing I remember is that she was linked to controversy. I don't even remember exactly what but it was definitely negative. It's too bad I didn't know more about her at all but since her death a few days ago, have read a few tributes and, social media posts that have put me to shame. Why don't I know more about her? 

I wish my ex/dead South African boyfriend and I had talked more about her while we were together! 

Anyway, these are a few solid pieces I have read:
  1. Winnie Mandela’s legacy: A renewed militancy in South Africa | Sisonke Msimang | April 4 | The Washington Post: "Winnie Madikizela-Mandela died Monday at age 81. As she is eulogized, there will be many who point to her perceived failures. They will call her a “firebrand” and point to her “radical” political views. Most damning, they will say she was a convicted kidnapper, a corrupt politician and an adulterous, violent woman. Many will compare her with her ex-husband, Nelson Mandela. He will be cast as an angel, while she will be painted as the she-devil who almost took him down."
  2. ‘Winnie’ — a portrait of South African masculinity and its discontents | Sisonke Msimang |  An in-depth look at the life and times of Winnie Mandela largely in her own words | Africa is A Country : " Winnie tells a different story however. The film provides a feminist context for the events that ultimately neutralized Winnie Mandela’s potency and undermined her leadership: her personal relationships, the murder of Stompie Sepei, her separation from Nelson Mandela and her testimony at the TRC, which prompted Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the commission’s chairperson, to “beg” her to “say sorry.” While others have defended Winnie Mandela on how she relates to internal ANC politics and made the case that other comrades were scrutinized less because they were men, Winnie provides an in-depth look at the life and times of Winnie Mandela largely in her own words and in the words of people with tremendous respect for her. Spanning fifty years, and using archival footage, extensive interviews with Mandela herself, her daughter Zinzi, and a range of confidantes and experts, the film provides a lucid and sympathetic portrait of Mandela. " 
  3. Madiba Is Dead: Condolences to Heroic Mother Winnie | EZILI DANTO | LA Progressive : "Nelson Mandela and the South African people’s long struggle is reduced to a celebration of one man who spent 27 years in prison, doesn’t hate his white oppressors or wish them the violent deaths, deprivations and grief they meted out to millions of South Africans.  The same white supremacist, profit-over-people system that pronounced Black Haiti was not ready for independence in 1804, also nearly 200-years later in 1994, opined that Black South Africans were not ready to rule themselves without the colonial white minority’s economic, cultural and social controls and conditions. The oppressors still point to Haiti and Zimbabwe as failed states for kicking them out. Still use all their Ndoki forces to angelize whites and demonize Blacks. The colonial narrative proclaims the colonists’ benevolence, innocence and blamelessness while promoting Black guilt and responsibility for the poverty and instabilities in Haiti and Africa. Will the corporatocracy ever give up its monopolies, its gated communities built on genocide and death of mostly non-whites and the poor worldwide? Atone for the crimes against humanity since their new world began? No. White domination has no conscience. Haiti’s current occupation by the US/Euros behind UN guns and the white saviors’ charitable industrial complex, evidences the Western powers continuing 500-year-old international crimes."
  4. Winnie Mandela was a hero. If she’d been white, there would be no debate

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