Saturday, 28 February 2015

To be a woman in Pakistan

Re-sharing a comment I made on a closed group discussing gender in Pakistan:
Pakistan is one of the worst places to be a woman. Pakistan is first and foremost a patriarchal, deeply conservative society where the average Pakistani woman has to be covered up and plays a subservient, traditional role. This has to be firstly recognised. Even within the rural/urban divide, there is very little difference, I think.
Pakistani women are subject to domestic violence, rape, gang/honourrapes/killings, acid attacks, etc. On top of it, we have these wonderful Hudood Ordinances where a woman's testimony in court is, what, 1/4th of a man? A woman has to prove she was raped?
Last year a pregnant woman was stoned to death because she ran away from home by her family in front of a crowd, in front a court, police, etc.
Minority and "low-caste" women are favourite targets: apparently, at least 1,000 Hindu women/girls are forcibly converted/kidnapped every year. A Christian couple was beaten, dragged, tortured and thrown into a brick kiln where they worked.
Pakistani women are subject of violence because of the hyper religious state and society they are unfortunately part of. Some of the barbarity is enshrined within the modern state and some of it encoded in ancient traditions. Minority women are even worse.
In terms of a class analysis, I think "upper class" women play a huge role in keeping the status quo. They need poorer women to come and clean their kitchens, toilets and take care of their babies while they attend charity lunches. They will also cover up abuse of domestic servants.
Our state, its apparatus, and laws need to be reformed to bring it into the 21st century so that it can protect women and provide them with equal access to education, economic opportunities, and personal freedoms. Social norms will hopefully be overhauled organically too once our state modernises itself.
I also suggest the complete banning of ads of whiteness creams from TV, billboards, and radio.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Good morning

Good morning, let's do this all over again. But not before copious amounts of tea.

Friday, 20 February 2015

12 Years a Slave

have been avoiding 12 Years a Slave because I knew it was not going to be an easy watch. I bought DVD from Video Con in F-10 last year while I was in Islamabad on a long holiday. I thought I would watch it given the right mood. But there is no right mood!

The other day I came home from work and it was on Channel 103 on DSTV and I thought, OK, I need to just get this out of the way. 

There are not that many Hollywood films or TV series about American slavery that actually depict clearly what slavery on plantations was like. Besides Roots or the more recent Django Unchained, how many cinematic depictions of slavery do we actually have? We have many films that portray so-called race issues but not so many about slavery on plantations. Even if there are more than the ones I mentioned above, I feel as if there are not enough films about slavery that form our popular collective conscience. 

Other historical atrocities, like the JewisHolocaust, have a century of film, art, and drama tributes.

have often wondered why watching a film like 12 Years a Slave - provided it is well made -  makes me so angry, bitterly sad and shocked even before I watched it. I wonder why it touches my very core. I guess it is so because our civilised world has not really addressed the wrongs of colonialism and slavery but has for let's say the holocaust. 

Watching 12 Years a Slave was an extremely painful and distressing experience. The film was intense and brutal. Our main character's pain, suffering, humiliation, desolation and degradation was carefully depicted, much of it by silent scenes or very violent moments.   

The whipping, beating and dehumanisation of humans by other humans is shocking. Words fail to accurately describe this part of human history. When they showed the ravaged, bloody back of the slave girl after her own fellow slave was forced to whip her, it made me think of Beloved, whichas now become engrained in our conscience and imagination, as a symbol of what slavey actually was. 

Why is it so important to make yourself watch such difficult films? Since slavery has not been atoned for by most of the civilised world in a very real way, it makes remembrance of this history so very important. We cannot forget that this happened while race issues in America and Europe continue to be seen the way they are. And, we cannot forget that slavery was, as Marx said, primitive accumulation. American and European wealth was built on violent recruitment of free labour. And then on a grander philosophical scale, it is important to know what humans are capable of and to look for the same patterns.

A couple of the striking images from the film are the appearance of civilisation and superiority. The master's wife was an interesting character who would appear now and then to play the role of a jealous wife or politely give instructions to our man to fetcher goods from the shop. At one point we see her peering from the balcony at him hanging from a tree, barely holding on to his life. The other master, one of the few who own our hero, was also a pastor and read out scripture to the slaves, even when one woman was bitterly crying. It made me think of a very refined but savage civilisation, one that justified the subjugation of another human race. 

We often use the concept of civilisation to set us apart from what we think is inferior: village versus city, white versus black, West versus East, educated versus illiterate, and modern versus traditional. While civilisation also refers to the beginning of humans settling down, building cities and farming and has a very technical sense, it is usually a judgmental sense of things. 

So, that's that, my thoughts after watching 12 Years a Slave. 

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Weekly Round Up

have not updated my Weekly Round Up since forever. At least since October. So, here goes! 

Jon Stewart leaves the Daily Show

This is fitting tribute to the contribution Jon Stewart made to satire: "No more late nights: " Few genres on television are more reliably disappointing than cable news and the late-night talk show. One delivers very little news; the other delivers very little pleasure. Yet when, sixteen years ago, the comedian Jon Stewart took over “The Daily Show,” he did something radical: he took the two formats and reformatted them, creating a series that was not merely useful and funny but emotionally powerful.

It made me think of recent discussions and debates everyone has been having since the Charlie hedbo attacks and the limits of expression and, difference between satire and racism. 

The value of humour and satire in society is intrinsic and absolutely necessary. But satire needs to be seen as fair and not attacking those who do not control power, influence and wealth. 

Beghairat Brigade's new video

And, it is fantastic: Paisay Ki Game

Coming out

My dear friend posted posted a video of her coming out at the Sparks Talks and particularly her experience as an NGO worker. It is truly inspiring and I think my friend is brave, so articulate, passionate, and sincere. 


The Universe

I love this view on the meaning of life by none other than Neil deGrasse Tyson. Actually, I love how it so eloquently demolishes the logic of a universe with a purpose. Please see it, it is brilliant. 

How to identify a potential Jihadi

The French came up with a brilliant chart to help you find out if you have any Jihadi tendencies. See here:  "Chart: Are you a jihadist? The French government made this checklist." I reserve my comments. 

Punjabi poets

Every time I read about the Partition from the other side, any time I see a non-ideological take on the Partition,  I get an ache in my heart. Read this "The feminine metaphor:" 
Punjabi poetics is unique in adopting the feminine metaphor. From our classics to contemporary poets, the most intimate and challenging verses resonate in this naturalised voice. Female protagonists of our Qissa (epics) poets from Damodar Das to Ghulam Haider Mastana are not only self-assuring and assertive but are full of defiance against male authority and a martialised society. 
Najm Hosain Syed summed up this power of choice and rejection assumed by women in a striking one liner: “She stands outsides the cycles of time and society”. 
Punjab owes all the beauties and colours of its folklore exclusively to its womenfolk. This was the art that kept us enriched and sustained us through centuries of compressions, invasions and annexations. Those nameless women poets of the Punjab narrated our collective consciousness and protected our native identity. 
Punjab owes all the beauties and colours of its folklore exclusively to its womenfolk. This was the art that kept us enriched and sustained us through centuries of compressions, invasions and annexations. Those nameless women poets of the Punjab narrated our collective consciousness and protected our native identity. 
Pain and agony of all these uprooted daughters of the West Punjab was captured by Parbhjot Kaur in one of her remarkable poems. She was born in Langrial, district Gujrat and earned her graduation from Khalsa College for Women, Lahore before partition. Her poem Janam BhooN di Yaad Vich (In the memory of my birthplace) opens with a whimper...

Sindh bleeds 

Once again, a horrific attack on worshippers in a mosque, a so-called place of peace and harmony, has filled the headlines leaving us feeling angry, helpless and even  more jaded.

See this Dawn editorial "An expanding war:" 

AS though caught in a grotesque time loop, the same spectacle plays out over and over again. This time in an imambargah in Shikarpur, where yesterday’s bomb explosion after Friday prayers killed around 50 people and injured scores, many of them critically.It is also damning evidence of how misgovernance compounded by state inertia can provide space for extremist elements to insidiously widen their influence. Over the past few years, critical, telling signs of the drift towards radicalisation and religious disharmony in Sindh have been ignored.
A number of Hindu temples have been desecrated and there is a rising crescendo alleging forced conversions of Hindu girls. Deobandi sectarian groups have become increasingly assertive in what is traditionally a Barelvi ethos.Exploiting the wilful neglect of the education sector, madressahs have proliferated, enrolling droves of children from poor families and enabling them to absorb their divisive ideologies. The vacuum of governance that exists in Sindh does not bode well for controlling the sectarian forces that have entrenched themselves there, and the Shikarpur bombing may mark the trajectory of a yet deadlier chapter in extremist violence in Pakistan.
Pakistan's Ideology

Read Rusting anchor: The creation & mutation of a national ideology by Nadeem F. Paracha.

The Logical Indian

I love the Logical Indian's page on Facebook. See this post which turns common notions about masculinity, rape and sexuality on their head:

Violence against women in pop lyrics

I am really glad to read this piece, Watch this college student blast Honey Singh's misogynistic lyrics with her own rap, because there are more people out there who are disturbed and disgusted by not only how cheap Bollywood's film's music has become but also how it seems to celebrate misogyny, stupidity,  and materialism:

Verma takes on Honey Singh's catchy tunes with some rap of her own, using his own lyrics to assert what she isn't: "I am not an afterthought, I am not an overpriced sweater in Zara, I'm not an ambraan di queen or a kudi namkeen... I am not blue eyes, hypnotise. Mein choti dress mein bomb nahin lagti, yaar. I am not a woofer and you sure as hell ain't my amplifier, what are you a f***king transformer? And dear Honey Singh, if you feed my dog a nashe-wali biskoot, I will cut you up."


Ebola - why are we blaming the victims? was very interesting because it related to the social mobilisation project that I am involved with at Mercy Corps:  
“African culture” – cute if you’re a tourist, catastrophic when you want to put a lid on Ebola, or so some international health experts and media coverage of the outbreak would have us believe.
Why do people persist with risky funeral rites, eat Ebola-harbouring bush meat, and occasionally attack the very health workers sent to help, the news reports leave us wondering. What is the value of “traditional beliefs” when they are harmful: why can’t people just act more rationally?
We need to revise our sense of collective history

….and acknowledge other atrocities than just the holocaust. When are we going to start acknowledging colonial atrocities? 

Read "The Bengal Famine: How the British engineered the worst genocide in human history for profit": 

Winston Churchill, the hallowed British War prime minister who saved Europe from a monster like Hitler was disturbingly callous about the roaring famine that was swallowing Bengal’s population. He casually diverted the supplies of medical aid and food that was being dispatched to the starving victims to the already well supplied soldiers of Europe. When entreated upon he said, “Famine or no famine, Indians will breed like rabbits.” The Delhi Government sent a telegram painting to him a picture of the horrible devastation and the number of people who had died. His only response was, “Then why hasn’t Gandhi died yet?”

Apartheid Wall

As the world celebrates the fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago on 9 November, let's not forget the wall the apartheid state of Israel erected. 

The Berlin Wall was 96 miles long and the average height was between 3-4 metres. Do you know Israel’s Wall is more than 4 times the length of the Berlin Wall, standing at almost 400 miles and in some areas it is twice the height?

Nobel Peace Prize

It looks like the Nobel Peace Prize committee finally got it right. One could gush about the joint prize on and on: that it was won by a young brave girl and a middle-aged man who had fought for children's rights all his life, that it was won by a Pakistani and an Indian, that they both independently were working for the most important beings in our world, children. 

My heart really was bursting with pride knowing a fellow Pakistani was going to be honoured with one of the most prestigious awards in the world. 

Cricket and parathas

In our house, if your country won the highly anticipated, highly fretted over cricket match, you had to make breakfast! So, Haresh made parathas. We ran out of atta, so we added pancake mix to the dough and guess what we got? Naan.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Good morning dough nut!

Gooooood morning sweet dough nut!

In case you have not tried Liberian dough nuts, you are missing out! I've been munching on them as long as I can remember. In my UNDP days, I used to gobble on 3-4 of them every morning. 

Since I joined the Mercy Corps office I mentioned to one of my national colleagues that I love dough nuts. Lo and behold, he brings them every other day. What a treat!