Thursday, 17 September 2015

Lies, damned lies and statistics


My brother and I were debate partners in high school in Athens, Greece. We attended the American Community Schools (ACS) of Athens from 1995 to 1998 and participated in various debate tournaments in and outside of Greece. Both of us more cerebral than anything else, debate, the chess club, the poetry club and other clubs were our after school activities. 

We were pretty good as a team but we were also on non-speaking terms with each other for most our time in high school but that's another story.

During a tournament that included debate, oratory, drama and group discussion around the theme of climate change, we realised one of the strongest teams we were competing with kept flinging around the phrase "lies, damned lies and statistics." This was very frustrating because our school had been preparing for a number of months in the library. Our debate coach who was also our chemistry teacher did a great job mentoring and guiding us. So, you can imagine our dumb founded frustration at this team who would elegantly and wittily skirt around our facts and figures with a flamboyant style. And the judges and audience loved them. Their ring leader was this guy who looked like a chipmunk and, was especially a charming and mesmerising speaker. He had our most talented speaker, Demetri Spanos, kind of stumped. 

So, talking of statistics, many of us are familiar with certain famous statistics. We have grown up with them just as we have with proverbs and puns. 

Let's see if I can list some of them:

1) The size of a football field of precious Amazon rainforest is disappearing every day (this I learned in 7th grade, back in 1991). 
2) Six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust (I don't even remember when I first learned or read it, was probably taught it in history class or maybe it was a movie). 
3) There are 9 planets in our solar system (before they demoted Pluto and then promoted Pluto again). I remember learning this in 4th grade at the American School of Bucharest and our teacher made it easy on how to remember the name of the planets by remembering the sentence, 'I don't like soggy waffles.' No, wait that is to remember North, South, East and West. 
4) More bombs and napalm were dropped on Vietnam than in Europe in World War 2. This is not a number per se but a comparison and I think I learned this staggering fact in my first year of university at QMW back in 1998. It was Chomsky, I'm sure. 
5) There are more Muslims in India than in Pakistan. Again, this is not a number but comparison of numbers and, I don't think I knew this until I was an adolescent. I cannot quite remember where I first learned this. This can be interpreted conveniently for folks on both sides of the two-nation theory divide. 
6) About a million folks were slaughtered in communal riots and horrific violence during the Partition. I think I always knew this and again, this number can be conveniently interpreted how ever you want it. You can blame either main group. 
7) More American soldiers died in the American Civil War than any other war since. This we were taught in 9th grade American history. The Civil War period followed by Reconstruction and Civil Rights movement really are a fascinating part of American history.
8) Anything from 10 to 20 million Africans were taken as slaves in the trans Atlantic slave trade. I don't remember learning this exact figure in high school per se but from articles I read later on as an adult. We definitely learned about the slave trade and it was interesting we learned about it in an American Christian school in Dakar, Senegal. Visiting the slave castles in Goree Island really affected me as a teenager. I was deeply affected by it. My friend (Maria Guzman) and I even did a little skit about it for history class, where I was a slave and she was a slave trader. 
9) About 4,000 Jews did not come to work on 9-11. This is a conspiracy theory but it's quite popular, mainly amongst Muslims. 
10) For every USD $ 100 worth of aid, hardly a dollar reaches the ground. This tid bit kind of permeated my consciousness when I started working with UN back in 2002. I don't remember where I heard it first, but it was said many times by cynical types. And, after some time, it is easy to see that most of the money going to poor countries for fancy programmes and projects is sucked into over heads, salaries, expensive vehicles, and DSA. 
11) The Land Cruisers that UN types drive around in cost at least USD $ 50,000.
12) A typical well project that aid folks like to build as part of their WATSAN projects costs USD $ 3,000 (give or take).  
13) The minimum monthly salary in Liberia is USD $ 70.00 or USD $ 75.00. The security guards which are employed by offices and residences of UN folks and NGOs are usually guarded by security guards who make as little as US $ 75 / month.  
14) The Iraq War cost the Americans a trillion dollars and about 1 million Iraqis lost their lives. 
15)  There are more private swimming pools in South Africa than in the United States. I think I read this in Pale Native by Max du Preez.   
16) A Liberian Senator makes USD $ 25,000 per month and more in benefits. This figure has been floating around and used for dramatic dinner party conversations: "Can Liberia afford to pay so much to is senators, being a dirt poor country?"
 17) China lifted about 300 million people out of poverty. Compare this with Europe's development trajectory. This bit of knowledge was picked up during my master's study at SOAS.
 18) The 2012 American Presidential elections cost about a billion dollars. Democracy is expensive!
19) Childbirth is the number one killer for women.  
20) One in four African American males will go to prison. 
21) The US has the highest prison population in the developed world.
22) There are about 2 or 3 million heroin addicts in Pakistan. This stat has been part of my consciousness for the longest time. I don't know where I picked it up from. It's depressing to say the least. 
23) Roughly 1000 women are killed in Pakistan in "honour killings" every year. Well into my 30s, I started taking more of an interest in women's right and the poor plight of women in my own country. I think I picked up this figure last year when I was in Paksitan at length. I was particularly horrified and grief stricken at learning about the pregnant woman who got stoned to death by her family in front of a high court in Lahore, in broad day light.  Wonder if this figure is taught in schools in Pakistan?
24) The number of drone attacks in Pakistan increased during Obama's administration! 
What statistics do you remember from school and later on as an adult?

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Kitchen tales

Who knows, maybe one day, I'd like to remember what my kitchen in Monrovia looked like?








Rainy Sunday

After brunch at the Royal today, we drove up to Duccor Hotel to take a view of the stormy sea. 




Tuesday, 1 September 2015

The Weekly Round Up

Folks,

See a round up of all that I've been reading online. The Weekly Round Up is an amalgamation of all that I read on line for the past couple of months.

Read what I read and go forth and be wise! 


What's in your glass?

According to one of my favorite columnists, the glass is half full when it comes to Pakistan's overall state of affairs.  See  IRFAN HUSAIN's Glass half full :
The Rangers-led operation in Karachi has greatly reduced violent crime, while the military operation in the tribal areas has neutralised the militant threat to a great extent. The $46 billion Chinese investment in infrastructure could be a game-changer. Foreign exchange reserves are above $18 billion, and the stock market is humming along. Oil prices are down. And let’s not forget the wonderful performance of our cricket team in Sri Lanka.
Adding to all this was the death of Malik Ishaq, the head of a faction of Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, together with his sons. This dreaded militant had the blood of scores on his hands. And then there was the arrest of the gang that killed dozens in a bus at Safoora Goth in Karachi. Saad Aziz and his henchmen have also confessed to the murder of political activist Sabeen Mahmud, apart from many others.So high-fives all around? Not quite so fast. The reality is that many of the changes that have occurred are due to the rare harmony between the civilian government, the army and the judiciary.
In a country that has been tending to move towards fundamentalism since Ziaul Haq, no politician wants to take on our clergy. With the space for rational debate shrinking rapidly, we seem stuck in our trajectory.
The main thing to worry about still , though, is that fundamentalism is going unchecked in the Land of the Pure. And, of course, we refer to the our hyper religious society, our identity as a nation founded on the need to create a separate homeland for Muslims (which types, you might ask though given all the sectarian violence), the blood shed by one sect of another, the free reign of hatred - spewing mullahs, the treatment of women and minorities, and so on. Our good columnists all really point to the dangerous space religion occupies in our societies. May I venture that they just shy away from saying that religion is for all purposes a destructive force.

Of course, great strides in art, music, science, architecture and language were made by the great Islamic Empires, the societies under the height of the influence and power of the Church but these civilizations were not made by throwing rose petals around. Civilisations, the hegemony of one society over all others, came at great costs. Yes, religion has inspired thinkers, writers and poets but at a time of great civilisation. We can look to history with a rosy and nostalgic sense but let's get real. Africa and Latin America were conquered literally in the name of the Church. The Arabs did not spread Islam by argument.

And, look about you, today. What dreams and visions are zealots following today?

What does a primitive brain have to do with politics and the masses? 

I really enjoyed reading eminent PERVEZ HOODBHOY's Herd mentality in politics. It was a "aha" moment for me, this linking of biology with our reading of politics and how the masses get swayed by destructive leaders and ideas. See the opening paragraph:
HUMANS are smart enough to make it to Pluto. But that’s only if we use our brains well. At the instinctual level nature condemns our species to conformity and uniformity. Our brains are hardwired in a way that belief often gets precedence over reason, and conformity over individual judgement. Clever experiments in social psychology and cognitive neuroscience are now confirming this. Amazingly, neuroimaging techniques can even identify parts of the brain responsible for group behaviour.
It just gets better and better, the whole article. It is high time we analyse politics, human behaviour in terms of our biology. We are a highly evolved and sentient being but we are also an animal with primitive brains. We can reach Pluto yes but we also behave irrationally, violently and are happily destroying our humanity and environment. We still operate on instinct. We are animals, but the only ones who are so self destructive. In this sense, we are the most inferior of all of them. 

It is interesting that humans like to separate themselves from animals because they think God has chosen them as His medium because humans are superior to all other life. But they cannot explain all the suffering and violence committed in God's name by themselves or others even though humans are supposed to be superior creatures. Furthermore, when it suits their religious framework, the human being also becomes a lost, inferior creature that is lost and can only be saved by God. 

The irrational hold of religion and all its mumbo jumbo is one contradiction of the human condition. One could understand the human ego, its fear of its own mortality and its sense of superiority over all other that inspires it to reach for myths and beliefs that humans are a higher being's creation and will enjoy a life hereafter. But how can this same set of beliefs also inspire humans to create hell on earth by all these divisions and eternal wars on who knows the real divine truth? 

A detailed reading of history, the history of ideas, political events, socio economic conditions, the political economy, and all the rest of the glorious branches of academic study are so useful in understanding our world.  What causes wars? How do we make sense of violence? How do we explain racism? A good student of history and politics will make sense of today's violence and events by going back to history and find a longer view of things. Even poverty and slow development in poorer countries is meant to be explained by taking a long view of history rather than base our ideas on prejudice and propaganda by more powerful and wealthier countries. 

Despite this approach, we still might be left guessing as to why the human being is such so destructive being. Despite everything, how does a human being learn to dehumanise others, separate him or herself from his or her fellow human based on race, religion and creed? We do it because of our herd instinct. 

At the end of the day, we are animals and we need to link our biology with understanding the human condition rather than being delusional about our greatness. 

What does this entail for our modern societies? HOODBHOY says:
When people are like sheep, a democratic system cannot function well.
But at least sometimes we snap out of it and, as we do, it gives way to change and even revolution. 

And, I love love HOODBHOY's last line from the conclusion:
Men go mad in herds but recover their sanity one by one. 
Humans of New York came to Pakistan

This made delightful waves on the Internet. I really came to appreciate even more the appeal of this immensely successful and inspiring site. The way it shows people of a city helps to 'humanise' the city by relating their most personal stories, habits, and anecdotes.  I really loved the stories from Pakistan, all of them.

This story of a grandfather is particularly one of my favorites:

We lost their mother to a heart attack recently. And their father is overseas trying to find a job. So I’m currently Grandpa, Grandma, Mom, and Dad. Luckily I have five children and eighteen grandchildren, so I’m very experienced. There’s actually one more child at home—he’s eight years old. And none of them can fall asleep unless they are lying next to me. So I have to put the oldest one to sleep first. Then I get up quietly, and lie down between the other two. The only problem is sometimes they fall asleep on top of me.” (Passu, Pakistan)
I guess I love it because of the proud grandfather and how he talks about taking care of his kids despite everything and of course for this cute kid, posing in her red shalwar kameez.

I really really admired this story too:

“I was walking to court to attend a hearing against a kiln owner when suddenly I was surrounded by a group of men. Everyone ran away except for my brother and me. The men told me that I better drop the case. I told them I would not. Then they knocked me to the ground, pulled back my leg, and shot me in the knee. Afterwards they did the same to my brother. We thought we were dead. I was taken to the public hospital but was turned away. Politicians from the local ruling party had forbidden the doctors from treating me. The assailants were never prosecuted. I had to sell my house to afford treatment at a private hospital. But the brick kiln workers came together to try to help me pay for my treatment. Despite their poverty, they gave 5 to 10 rupees at a time. And they lined up to donate their blood.”

(3 of 7)
(Lahore, Pakistan)

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This is the third post in a series on Syeda Ghulam Fatima. Known to her admirers as Pakistan’s Harriet Tubman, Fatima has worked tirelessly to eradicate bonded labor—one of the last remaining forms of modern slavery. She has been electrocuted, shot, and repeatedly beaten for her activism. Despite her outsized impact, she operates on a very small budget. So we are raising money to help her in her mission. As is clear from her story, Fatima puts 100% of her own resources, both physical and financial, into her activism. Every dollar donated will have significant impact. There is no better way to impact the battle against modern slavery than empowering one of its most forceful opponents: http://bit.ly/1N9W3Ts

(3 of 7)(Lahore, Pakistan)
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This is the third post in a series on Syeda Ghulam Fatima. Known to her admirers as Pakistan’s Harriet Tubman, Fatima has worked tirelessly to eradicate bonded labor—one of the last remaining forms of modern slavery. She has been electrocuted, shot, and repeatedly beaten for her activism. Despite her outsized impact, she operates on a very small budget. So we are raising money to help her in her mission. As is clear from her story, Fatima puts 100% of her own resources, both physical and financial, into her activism. Every dollar donated will have significant impact. There is no better way to impact the battle against modern slavery than empowering one of its most forceful opponents: http://bit.ly/1N9W3Ts
But why aren't our politicians working day and night against this slavery??

And, guess what, there's also a Humans of Karachi.

Can't WAIT to see this, when ever it happens:


An inspiring story about a Good Doctor, The Good Doctor:
Kidney disease is a huge health issue in Pakistan compounded by poor diets and sanitation. In 1972, Dr Adib Rizvi set up a small urology unit in Karachi, the capital of the southern Sindh province, to deal with the issue. Inspired by the National Health Service of the UK, his goal from the beginning was to offer this treatment absolutely free to everybody. Many patients also come from Afghanistan to seek treatment. SIUT has grown from just eight beds to over 650 beds at nine separate centres across Pakistan and today is the largest health organisation in the country.
Stephen Ellis passes away: "Leading historian of Africa, Stephen Ellis, dies

This was sad news indeed.  May his soul rest in peace. Mask of Anarchy is a starting bible for everyone who ever came to live and work in Liberia and, we all benefitted from it. Stephen Ellis, your work, including Season of Rains, will long be read.

How much do Africa's heads of states make? See this interesting article "What African presidents are paid, why it matters." Guess what the conclusion is?
Overall, it appears that leaders of poor countries tend to pay themselves more than those in higher-income countries.
End of Capitalism?

I don't know how convincing this piece from the Guardian is but take a look: "The end of capitalism has begun:"
New forms of ownership, new forms of lending, new legal contracts: a whole business subculture has emerged over the past 10 years, which the media has dubbed the “sharing economy”. Buzzwords such as the “commons” and “peer-production” are thrown around, but few have bothered to ask what this development means for capitalism itself.
I believe it offers an escape route – but only if these micro-level projects are nurtured, promoted and protected by a fundamental change in what governments do. And this must be driven by a change in our thinking – about technology, ownership and work. So that, when we create the elements of the new system, we can say to ourselves, and to others: “This is no longer simply my survival mechanism, my bolt hole from the neoliberal world; this is a new way of living in the process of formation.”I believe it offers an escape route – but only if these micro-level projects are nurtured, promoted and protected by a fundamental change in what governments do. And this must be driven by a change in our thinking – about technology, ownership and work. So that, when we create the elements of the new system, we can say to ourselves, and to others: “This is no longer simply my survival mechanism, my bolt hole from the neoliberal world; this is a new way of living in the process of formation.”Today the whole of society is a factory. We all participate in the creation and recreation of the brands, norms and institutions that surround us. At the same time the communication grids vital for everyday work and profit are buzzing with shared knowledge and discontent. Today it is the network – like the workshop 200 years ago – that they “cannot silence or disperse”.
Chand Nawab

This video of a Pakistani TV reporter trying to capture the Eid atmosphere at a train station is so funny and endearing. It made me want to do one of folks leaving Monrovia to celebrate 26 July. Maybe I'll do it one of these days. 

Development


Development really is a loaded word, concept and industry.


And see how the world in which international development flourishes is depicted in photography in this piece #DevPix: 5 things that can’t be ignored about development photography.

British Slavery

The history of British slave ownership has been buried: now its scale can be revealed tells us, amongst other things that: 
■ When the Slavery Abolition Act was passed, there were 46,000 slave owners in Britain, according to the Slave Compensation Commission, the government body established to evaluate the claims of the slave owners■ British slave owners received a total of £20m (£1.6bn in today’s money) in compensation when slavery was abolished. Among those who received payouts were the ancestors of novelists George Orwell and Graham Greene.
Serena Williams

Serena Williams has really been celebrated recently : touted as the greatest athlete of our time, as a model for women and of course also as a model for black women. 

See Serena Williams transcends sport. We're lucky to be living in her time:
Which is why Serena Jameka Williams, now beyond any reasonable dispute the greatest ever women’s tennis player after capturing a sixth Wimbledon title and 21st major championship overall on Saturday, is transcending sport into a space we’re only beginning to reckon – past the Jordans, Gretzkys and Messis into the rarified air of Muhammad Ali and Jackie Robinson.
I really love this piece for its glowing ode for Serena.

But there are also a lot of idiots out there who cannot provide the due respect to women and especially to black women, even though they are the living legends in sports. 

This  J.K. Rowling serves an ace in response to comments about Serena Williams' appearance was an amusing moment. Not only are we grateful to Rowling for the world of Harry Potter but also for using her fame to speak up. 

Beautiful trains

I am in love with these paintings. See  A ticket examiner captures the beauty of Indian Railways in these colourful paintings.


Brief religious harmony:  US Muslim groups launch fundraiser to help rebuild burned black churches

Why are mainstream films so white? And, can we measure it?

See this to see how racially non-diverse most mainstream Hollywood films are.

Very depressing facts about Gaza

See 100,000 still homeless one year after Gaza war:
At the current rate that materials are entering Gaza, it will take over half a century to meet housing needs
One year since the beginning of the last war on Gaza, which killed over 2,000 Palestinians, tens of thousands of people are still homeless, waiting for reconstruction to begin in the blockaded enclave.
None of the 12,600 houses destroyed a year ago has been rebuilt, leaving up to 100,000 people still displaced, with many of them living in makeshift tents or struggling to earn enough to pay rent in an economy shattered by 8 years under blockade. An extra 83,977 housing units are still waiting for repair assistance and people continue to live in homes that bare gaping holes from the bombardment.“A clear plan for reconstruction is essential, but we also cannot lose sight of the root causes of this conflict. Peace cannot be built on this rubble,” Egeland added. “Unless the blockade and occupation of Palestine are addressed, we are bound to see this senseless cycle of destruction and reconstruction happening all over again, as we have seen over the last seven years, with catastrophic consequences for Palestinians and Israelis. A seven-year-old child in Gaza has already witnessed three wars in their lifetime. This is unacceptable and international donors and governments must demand that Israel commits to protecting civilian infrastructure – particularly water infrastructure, schools and medical facilities –and that the blockade of Gaza is lifted.”
Don't punish your kidsWhat If Everything You Knew About Disciplining Kids Was Wrong?

This is a very good piece about parenting and guiding, teaching and caring for children. See excerpt:
How we deal with the most challenging kids remains rooted in B.F. Skinner's mid-20th-century philosophy that human behavior is determined by consequences and bad behavior must be punished. (Pavlov figured it out first, with dogs.) During the 2011-12 school year, the US Department of Education counted 130,000 expulsions and roughly 7 million suspensions among 49 million K-12 students—one for every seven kids. The most recent estimates suggest there are also a quarter-million instances of corporal punishment in US schools every year.But consequences have consequences. Contemporary psychological studies suggest that, far from resolving children's behavior problems, these standard disciplinary methods often exacerbate them. They sacrifice long-term goals (student behavior improving for good) for short-term gain—momentary peace in the classroom.
Under Greene's philosophy, you'd no more punish a child for yelling out in class or jumping out of his seat repeatedly than you would if he bombed a spelling test. You'd talk with the kid to figure out the reasons for the outburst (was he worried he would forget what he wanted to say?), then brainstorm alternative strategies for the next time he felt that way. The goal is to get to the root of the problem, not to discipline a kid for the way his brain is wired.
Indian Literature from Africa Indian writing from Africa: the diasporic literature you didn’t know about

Note to self: must get all these books to devour! There must be so many fantastic stories here.
The Indian presence in East Africa predates the arrival of colonial settlers by decades and centuries.  Mainly a trading presence at first, Indians soon made up large numbers among the workers (in the railways), petty merchants and shopkeepers, and increasingly, lower and middle level bureaucrats.  From their ranks came writers like Peter Nazareth, a novelist and a much-feted professor at the Iowa Writing Program, who worked first in the Ugandan bureaucracy till he became one of the many Asians ordered to leave by Idi Amin’s infamous order of 1972, and Abraham Verghese, who lived in Ethiopia as a teenager. Verghese’s parents were teachers there but the family left following the instability that followed the collapse of Haile Selassie’s monarchy in the early 1970s.
While their fiction has also been about the marginalised, as Indians felt their “outsider” status keenly despite years of belonging, it is also one that has seen, in ironical ways, the overarching influence of the master Kenyan novelist Ngugi wa Thiong’o.
Swara

Did you know about the practice of swara? This is where a daughter is given away as compensation for a crime. Swara happens mainly in poor, rural areas.

Filmmaker Wants To Stop Fathers From Giving Up Their Daughters highlights the work of Pakistani filmmaker Samar Minallah Khan.
 In 2003, her documentary Swara — A Bridge Over Troubled Water, profiled victims and their families.Khan went into rural regions and spoke with men who had been forced to give a daughter or sister away as compensation for a crime or to settle a family feud. Her work challenged the norms in very traditional areas of Pakistan; she faced intimidation and death threats. And she still does. Most of the initial footage for her most recent documentary on swara was unusable because the cameraman was shaking from fear.Those challenges have led Khan to find an unlikely protagonist for her documentaries. Over and over, she was impressed by the men who opposed this practice."Men, too, face hurdles for speaking up and for challenging norms," she says. "Standing up in the face of society and country expectations, that takes a lot of courage."
In 2004, in response to her documentary, Pakistan officially outlawed swara. No longer can women legally be given as compensation for crimes. The punishment for offenders is three to 10 years in jail.

Against Colonial Rubbishing is a good personal muse of a professor at a University in Australia. It caught my attention on my Newsfeed. See an excerpt:
I did tell the organiser of this conference that I don’t feel I should be giving a keynote on ‘Palestine between dependence and independence’, that I am hardly the most empirically knowledgeable person in this field. But he insisted. ‘Everyone says you make people think outside the box. That’s what we need’ he said. I was flattered. But one day of experiencing the ‘settlements’ and the wall has already so fundamentally disturbed me. I’ve read all that can be read about the Wall and the settlements and I was still fundamentally shocked… How is this possible today? It is like a colonialism running amok with power. Walling people as they please, mistreating them as they please, building colonies high up on the hills and literally shitting on those living down the hill by letting their sewer come out outside the settlements for others to cope with it. How heroic is it that the Palestinian people are still managing to squeeze a bit of life in the midst of this? and what is there more to say that does not sound cheap? I seriously am not enjoying the prospect of presenting this keynote.
A Brain Picking

I love this quote from one of my favourite sites:


And a wonderful post May 20, 1990: Advice on Life and Creative Integrity from Calvin and Hobbes Creator Bill Watterson is about the author of Calvin and Hobbes.

Dance

See this beautiful photograph of Odissi dancers at the Asian Festival of Classical dance:



Egg or the chicken/religion or politics

It’s not the religion that creates terrorists, it’s the politics is a good article to think about Islamophobia in Europe. I personally have a problem with religion but we'll keep that aside and quote the first and very well written paragraph of this piece. Wish I could write like this: 
The word “radical” has always been an overly capacious term, easily filled with whatever meaning the speaker wants to pour into it. There is the radical right, the radical left, even the radical centre, whatever that means. Traditionally associated with the 18th-century English struggle to extend the franchise and with the cause of freedom, it has been one of those words no modern politician can do without. Google any of the current crop of parliamentarians adding the words “radical vision” and see what I mean. They’re all at it, all claiming it. Unless, of course, you put the word Islamic first. And then it immediately becomes a bogey word.
Don't call your daughter a princess, you idiot

Amy Schumer Shows Why The Internet Needs To Get Over Its Disney Princess Obsession is hilarious:
Sure, Disney movies and their characters are sanitized versions of classic fairy tales by the Grimm Brothers and Hans Christian Andersen, but when all the adventure is said and done, being a princess is actually all about being married off as an underage teenager, and hoping you can produce a male heir.
I don't even know why a woman or a girl would want to be called 'princess.' Call me astronaut, president, CEO, tech wizard, engineer, maker, supreme leader but not princess.

In Karachi, a Fatal Mix of Heat and Piety is by Mohammed Hanif, author of “A Case of Exploding Mangoes.” I had read a couple of articles in Pakistani papers about the deaths caused by the heatwave in Karachi but not such a critical piece what was also exacerbating the situation. That because of the so-called holy month of Ramadan, poor folks had no access to public drinking water. It really made me sad and angry thinking about it, which is the helpless state of the arm chair thinker, I suppose. We are constantly angry about the kind of world we live in and are so stuck in our little lives we can't take action:
But it really wasn’t the lack of electricity or even the heat that killed these 1,000 people. What killed them was the forced piety enshrined in our law and Karachi’s contempt for the working poor. These people died because we long ago removed any shade that could shelter them from the June sun and then took away their drinking water. When they were about to die, we rushed them to hospitals in ambulances paid for by charities and gave them medicines paid for by charities. We gave them white sheets to recuperate in if they survived, and when they didn’t, those white sheets became their shrouds. Karachi’s hospitals are now awash with chilled bottles of Nestlé water donated by the kindhearted people of the city, but you still can’t get a drink of water on the streets.

This is quite an unbelievable story, that a Frenchman is writing short stories in Urdu. What really inspired and moved me even more is this bit:
“Learning new languages, may be, is due to my ‘languagelessness’. Provençal was our emotional language that I was not fluent in and French is a kind of national language which was never really ours so I felt ‘in-between’ and I belong to the last generation feeling this way,” he says about his own language.“My language, Provençal, endangered when I was a kid is now dead. I learnt it to communicate with my grandfather and never wrote it again after he died. He was the last person I could speak Provencal with,” says Julien, adding he would not even call it his mother tongue because he spoke it only with his grandfather.He says he is one of the last persons who can speak Provencal. “When you are the last speaker you don’t really know what to do with it. The last speaker of great Andamanese spoke her language with birds as the Andamanese believed that people got reincarnated into birds.”
Islamabad the ugly?

So, yes, Islamabad is beautiful but I wonder at what social cost have Pakistanis made it their perfect little capital?

I shared this photograph that shows the irony of the CDA's brutal clearing of 'katchi abadi' while the elitist Islamabad club pays little to nothing for leasing a large portion of prime estate. See:

The Islamabad Club pays less than a mere Rs.700,000 a year to CDA for a whopping 244 acres of prime real-estate. That too is something Islamabad Club has often evaded. And when a poor family builds 4-square meters of mud house to survive, you send All the King's Horses and All the King's Men to rain hell over it because "Law!"Because unlike shelter for the poor, a tennis court for the elites of Islamabad is a basic necessity of life this city can't do without. If "Law" can lease Islamabad Club one acre of land for Rs.2800 per year, it can do the same for impoverished men, women and children being tossed out into the streets. 
Vintage cars in beautiful Isloo

By the way, Islamabad is apparently one of the best cities to live in and I wholeheartedly agree:



I couldn't resist sharing the photograph from Dawn on my Facebook page:


It seems vintage cars make a tour in Islamabad every year. See this photo from my visit to Lok Virsa last year:


Bechara kabootar

Whether or not this is true, the headline alone is a tragic symbol of how bad relations and propaganda is  when it comes to Pakistan versus India or vice versa.

See the photo here.

Puraney ganey

I listen to classic filmi, classic angrezi and classic naghmey all the time, at the office, at home, all the time but ocassionally I also share some links to some of my favourite songs. Just to spread some links to some beautiful, soulful music on social media, music that will make your heart break, miss your childhood, your parents, and make you misty





High Heels

It is always, always interesting to read a feminist reaction in my quest to better understand feminism as it lives and breathes. 

Indeed, the high heel—as the Brooklyn Museum’s Killer Heels exhibition revealed—is fraught with historical baggage.
From Chinese women teetering on foot-binding wedges to Marilyn Monroe wiggling in her stilettos, high heels have symbolized femininity, sex, power, and submission—sometimes all at once.
They can never be neutral. Women who wear them know this, whether they do so to express their own feelings of power and control or to look and feel sexy.
Mecca-hattan

City in the sky: world's biggest hotel to open in Mecca is another reminder of how much Mecca has changed from its humble origins. But then again, Mecca always has been a hustling and bustling centre of commerce and pilgrimage. A history of most religions show that commerce, wealth and materialism co-exist, nay, drive  places of worship. 

See an excerpt:
“The city is turning into Mecca-hattan,” says Irfan Al-Alawi, director of the UK-based Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, which campaigns to try to save what little heritage is left in Saudi Arabia’s holy cities. “Everything has been swept away to make way for the incessant march of luxury hotels, which are destroying the sanctity of the place and pricing normal pilgrims out.” 
The list of heritage crimes goes on, driven by state-endorsed Wahhabism, the hardline interpretation of Islam that perceives historical sites as encouraging sinful idolatry – which spawned the ideology that is now driving Isis’s reign of destruction in Syria and Iraq. In Mecca and Medina, meanwhile, anything that relates to the prophet could be in the bulldozer’s sights. The house of Khadijah, his first wife, was crushed to make way for public lavatories; the house of his companion Abu Bakr is now the site of a Hilton hotel; his grandson’s house was flattened by the king’s palace. Moments from these sites now stands a Paris Hilton store and a gender-segregated Starbucks. 
“These are the last days of Mecca,” says Alawi. “The pilgrimage is supposed to be a spartan, simple rite of passage, but it has turned into an experience closer to Las Vegas, which most pilgrims simply can’t afford.”
The other thought that crosses my mind - angrily - is that there exists enough wealth in this world to ensure that the most dire poverty is eradicated, that the lack of health care and education is addressed, and basic human rights are provided to all. If billions of dollars can be spent on building tall buildings, reaching for the stars, why not on alleviating suffering?

Marriage Equality

Ireland becomes first country to legalise same-sex marriage by popular vote - as it happened was great news back in May. And to think a couple of months later, the US Supreme Court followed suit. The United States kind of had to force marriage equality as opposed to people supporting it unanimously which goes to show that popular opinion and sentiment is not always the right one, legally, philosophically, or morally.