Friday, 13 July 2018

Begging girls

Kavita has been going to Rung School of Music and Arts for the past 2 weeks. Rung School is located in F-8 Markaz. I saw the flyer for it during one of my evening walks.

After dropping her at the school, I would usually spend the early afternoon at the Red Door café next door.

At least twice a day, I would be accosted by the begging girls. Are they children of children of Afghani refugees created by the civil war in the 80s? Are they children of internal refugees from the north western areas?

The girls are clad in colourful shalwar kameez, their heads covered. The faces are angelic but they cling to you, follow you, their palms facing you, asking for money. They don't leave your side.

They laugh, make faces, and ask for money.

"But who leaves these small girls here"? I asked shopkeepers around. They say, cars leave them and then pick them up. "The parents are bad."

I saw some women give them bags of crisps.

People become apathetic over time at seeing begging children. It becomes part of the scene. And, this is only Islamabad, a small artificial city. In bigger cities, begging is more visible and in bigger numbers.

The linger around in the plaza all day long, sitting and playing on stairs following people around.

There are some tiny little girls and, then older girls who, I saw, get into scrapes with each other.  I saw one girl make a mean face at another one and, then I started imagining their street lives.

One girl followed me into the car and, I frustratedly gave her 10 rupees, knowingly that one should not give money to begging children. Another one followed me and, then she was hit by another car in the car park, by the side mirror. She wept and we came out to see and then we drove off. I was extremely angry, helpless and sad. Should we take her to a doctor, I wondered.

The Careem driver said the father must be on drugs and forces his children to beg.

What kind of society do we live in? Do we have any programmes to rehabilitate the population which is forced to beg? Who is there to protect these children from this harsh life?

How does one feel, leaving one's child to attend an air conditioned school where she will learn music and art and, where, small girls are left to beg in the sweltering heat, often without slippers, following people to beg or playing on the dirty floor and stairs? What kind of moral universe do we exist in where such inequality and random luck dictate lives?

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Does Imran Khan have any shred of dignity?

Imran Khan is playing some real dirty politics and, has been for a while. He's got the ordinary folks on his side with 'end corruption slogans.' He's got the upper middle class from the the beginning because of his sexy, glamorous and patriotic career as a cricketer, playboy and philanthropist. Bro politics gets him the support from ignorant celebrities. The past few years, industrialists and political turncoats hopped on as his party finally started to gain muscle and seats. The common theme through out has been his born-again Muslim persona as a good Muslim and, for that he's spoken in favour of the Taliban (although he claims he was always against the brute military flattening of the north western areas). Who can forget his container politics and his thuggish occupation of Islamabad in 2014 for example? He snuck in smooth-tongued snakes like Aamir Liaqat in his batting order. Now he's throwing around #khatmenabuwat and openly practicing hate politics against a minority. (And, how do explain #khatmenabuwat to the uninitiated ?) Folks say he's "cleaned up" Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and, it's a model for good administration. Is it true? But all in all, we are, for sure, seeing first hand how bigots, sexists, and populist leaders come to power. 
Since George Weah (ex-footballer and loved by the public as they relate to him, he who also came from the slums) came to power in Liberia, I've been thinking a lot about how ex-sports figures can rise up in politics. What parallels or common themes are there, if any, in George Weah's and Imran Khan's lives? I was chatting to a friend of mine, together with him, we endlessly obsess over international politics and films, and she said a good starting point to assess political figures is whether you believe they have personal dignity or not. Does Imran Khan have any dignity when he panders to hate mongering?

Friday, 6 July 2018

Yoga And The Maintenance Of White Womanhood

Fantastic read: "Yoga And The Maintenance Of White Womanhood" - a very good personal account of yoga and, analysis of how yoga has been commercialised/appropriated by upper class white women. I completely agree with 2 points:
1) " .... redefining of racism, a mechanism by which White people can claim they are free of prejudice by performing progressive, multicultural politics in public, while continuing to harbor and even voice deeply disturbing prejudices and resentments in private." Too often you will have people whisper something inappropriate to you, confide in you comments/observations which are clearly racist. Racism is also deeply embedded within class inequality. So, all privileged folks have something shitty to say about poor people in their own country or abroad.
2) "What these definitions miss entirely is that “culture” is not something material that exists separate from actual human beings. " When I first started working in the 'international space', a professional space where co-habited with folks from everywhere, I would often think: why are 'progressive seemingly-woke' Westerners so obsessed with the outer aspects of different culture? They love the food and clothing but do they actually have friends from different cultures, countries? Of course, this can be applied the other way round, too. How far did I have to walk to be able to make friends with someone from Europe or the US? How much do I have to accommodate that friend and their ignorance? I have always enjoying wearing shalwar kameez and cooking desi food for parties. These aspects were appreciated but it also felt like these were consumed but not much more was understood about where this culture/identity comes from.

Thursday, 5 July 2018


At the flower market in F-10 MARKAZ. Bought some tuberose flowers for the house. The fragrance of these flowers fills the whole house. And since smell is so closely connected to memory, one feels nostalgic for this moment already before its over. #Islamabad 💐 💮

Evening walk