Tuesday, December 29, 2009

New Year's Resolutions for 2010 (or Learning to Cope)

1. Try not to get blown up.

2. Give our leaders some respect. After all they work so hard (for themselves), trying their best (to take all they can for themselves). 'So little time, so much to loot!'

3. Learn new games to play in the dark, as load-shedding hours increase. Perhaps purchase night-vision goggles?

4. Purchase warm clothing for the extra layers required when gas load-shedding begins. Imagine camping out at a scenic point (instead of gazing forlornly at all electronic items which are not functioning due to power shutdown)

5. Practice lining up at CNG pumps overnight in anticipation of a tankful, imagining you are lining up for Wimbledon tickets or the Glastonbury festival to make it easier. Perhaps pack a few friends into car, along with various entertainment options. Make a night of it!

6. Learn a few more prayers to say while stopped at check-posts, while shopping, while eating at a restaurant, while...well you get the idea.

7. Discourage HRH from playing games which include phrases such as 'I am a bomber!' and 'That was a huge blast! BOOM!'

8. Control road rage. No swearing at lunatic bus drivers, crazy van drivers, motorcyclists and bicyclists who think nothing of weaving out randomly in front of you, people who want to stop and chat in the middle of the road, pedestrians who wish to walk in the middle of the road (which is for VEHICLES...repeat after me 'I am not a car. I am not a car.') and so on.

9. When stuck in traffic due to a VIP movement, instead of silently fuming, pass the time by coming up with appropriate acronyms for VIP, such as Very Insult-worthy Person, Very Idiotic Personality, Vendetta Is Possible etc (This may conflict with Resolution #2).

Wishing everyone a happy, safe and hopeful new year!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

For A Laugh

There are so many things you recall from your childhood only when you have your own child. Cartoons and TV shows you used to watch, books you used to read, games you used to play, all these memories come flooding back when you see your kid going through a certain age and time and want to share those things with him or her.

I used to love corny jokes. I still do but there was a time when a I had a repertoire of jokes at my fingertips. Some of which I only recalled after receiving the following SMS forward;
Can U Translate the following sntnce in a SINGLE ENGLISH WORD?
'Moti Aurat intezaar kr rahi hai'...

Since HRH is currently going through a knock-knock joke phase (most of whch are not funny) such as
Knock knock
Who's there?
Umm who?

Umm. Ok. You see what I mean?

He knows a few good ones too like
Knock knock
Who's there?
Deceit who?
Deceit of your pants is wet!


Knock knock
Who's there?
Keith who?
Keith me thweethheart!

But there is no such thing as not knowing enough corny jokes. The next few I intend to teach him are:

what did one pea say to the other?'
'nothing..it just muttered'

What did one flower say to the other?
Why do phools fall in love?

What's a vegetable's favorite love song?
Love me tinda!

What did the half eaten naan say?
I wish I was a poori

Why was the banana crying?
Cos he was a-kela!

These should be funny for a 4 year old, presumably. (I was 16 when I discovered these and I still thought they were hilarious!)

I was thrilled when HRH was a little older and I started showing him Sesame Street and all the classic Disney cartoons and movies like Jungle Book, Mary Poppins, Robin Hood and Peter Pan among many others, not to forget Tom and Jerry, Popeye and Pink Panther. The feeling you get when you find your child loving the same things as you did is really something amazing. To be able to introduce him to the joy you got out of reading a book or watching a movie or doing an activity so many years ago is an experience that cannot be put in words (though I'm trying).

That is not to say that I am blind to what's to come. I remember what an obnoxious teenager I was. How I thought my parents didn't know anything or 'understand' me. All that angst which honestly translated to being a rebel without a cause.

I think Mark Twain summed it up perfectly with "When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years."

So while I await the day (Inshallah) that HRH thinks I know nothing, I will make lists of all the things I want him to see, read, watch and hear and hope that he enjoys them as much as I did.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Life Goes On – Amidst the Death and Destruction

In the wake of the bombings in Peshawar, Quetta and Lahore yesterday, 8 December 2009 (yet another bloody day in our history), we are left talking once again. We talk about how awful it is. We talk about how depressed we are. We talk about all those lives lost in the violence. We talk about who’s fault it is. We talk about who the culprits are ranging from TTP to JM to RAW to CIA to any other bad guy abbreviation we can think of. (Geo wanted to talk about the NRO 1.5 hours after the deadly Moon Market, Lahore blast in which over 50 people lost their lives and more than 100 people were injured). Life goes on. Buy some Johar Joshanda. Zong connections are awesome. Do the dew.

I am the same as everyone else. I love to talk too. And like everyone else, I too am getting increasingly paranoid. Of course the feeling of paranoia also comes and goes. It will peak when something happens in my city. After a few days I’ll stop thinking about it. After all how long can a human being sustain being on edge?

Almost every day there is a bomb that goes off somewhere in Pakistan. No city has been safe from Peshawar to Islamabad to Lahore to Quetta. No location has been safe either from police stations and intelligence agencies buildings to mosques and markets being targeted. Every few days we are on ‘high alert’. Police at their checkpoints become a little more vigilant and apart from peering into your car may ask you to show them an ID card too. We worry about what will happen if someone decides to blow up that particular checkpoint.

The truth is I am scared. Every time I send my kid to school I say a little prayer. I worry about seeing him safe and sound (especially when I am crossing Bhatta Chowk on the way to his school, where I feel extra paranoid thinking this would be a crowded enough place for anyone who wants to cause some carnage). I go to work and try to forget how many minutes it will take me to pick him up from his school in case there is an emergency. (Provided I will be able to considering in the case of the Sri Lankan team shooting at Liberty Chowk, Lahore, HRH was less than a kilometer away from the scene at school and I couldn’t pick him up until nearly 3 hours later as everyone was scared psycho terrorists were on the loose…which they were and we still have no clue where they are).

What can I say? That I have nightmares of suicide bombers? Or that every time I am in my car and I stop at a traffic light, I look around to see who might be a potential ‘shaheed’? Wanting to take down as many ‘infidels’ as possible or exact revenge for whatever distorted, warped brand of ‘religious’ belief he/she has.

I, along with many others, am sick of having to live like this. Thinking ‘OK during this drive if someone or something was to blow up what would I do? Would I fight or take flight? Would I die instantly? Or would it be a slow-painful-soul-sucking death?’ Perhaps I should just live obliviously and ignorantly and assume nothing will happen to me? Is this how we will all live? In fear? For how long? Pretending to lead safe and fulfilling lives? Always thinking it could be over in a second (or if you’re unlucky perhaps some painful minutes?).

This is not how I want my kid to grow up, with HRH knowing that ‘Taliban are the bad guys’ and asking me to explain what a bomb is or if the army is in his school playground (don’t know where that one came from). Or why there are men with guns standing outside his school gate, inside his playground and on top of his school rooftop.

“These men with guns are here to protect us.”

“Protect us from whom?”

“From the bad guys.”

“Will the bad guys come to my school?”

Not if they had half a brain between them. Or a conscience. Or a soul. Oh but they do apparently have some god and some half-baked interpretation of paradise. And we must not forget the ‘x’ number of virgins.

I believe in God. I pray every day. Though not in the five times a day we are supposed to perhaps. I believe in being as good as I can be. But no I don’t cover my head. I don’t pray in the manner prescribed. And no I don’t lose any sleep over it either. I also don’t believe that it is the be all and end all of being a ‘Muslim’.

No one buys into the warped brand of Islam the suicide-bomber squads are pushing and we all unanimously think that something needs to be done to stop them. There is a consensus on that at least. However, no one seems to know how or what to do.

So while our cities burn and we count our dead, life goes on. We send our kids to school. We go to work. We hang out with our friends. And we talk.

Getting a Grasp on God

A conversation HRH, my 4 year old son, had with me the other day regarding life, death and God.

HRH: Ammi, what is 'dead'?

Me: Umm..dead is when you go to sleep for a long time.

HRH: On a bed?

Me: No, you go to live with Allah.

HRH: Where is Allah?

Me: He's really high up and no one can see Him

HRH: Is Allah a boy?

Me: No..He's not a boy

HRH: So why do we say He?

Me: Err...we just do. (Standard parental response to anything that requires too much time to explain or to which you don't know the answer)

HRH: Does Allah wear clothes?

Me: No..

HRH (looking surprised): Is he naked?

Me: No He isn't a human being so He doesn't need to wear clothes.

HRH: So what does He look like?

Me: No one knows what He looks like. He's not a boy or a girl but we just say 'He'.

HRH (looking unsatisfied by response but lets it go):So dead people live with Allah?

Me: Yes

HRH: Does Allah play with them?

Me: No because they are asleep.

HRH: When will they wake up?

Me: There's a day when everyone who is dead wakes up.

HRH: Then what happens?

Me: Then people who were good go to a really nice place to live.

HRH: In a house?

Me: Maybe. It's a really beautiful place with delicious food.

HRH: Like chocolate cake?

Me: Yup. Lots of chocolate cake and other things too.

HRH: And the bad people?

Me: They go on a time-out. Forever.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Lead The Way. Someone? Anyone?

I was talking (or rather tweeting) with someone some time ago and there was a discussion (of sorts in 140 characters or less) on the lack of leadership in Pakistan and what characteristics an ideal leader should possess.

Here's a list of attributes that I feel would be of great importance in anyone leading our nation:

  • Honest

  • Educated - at least a Master's degree (a real one)

  • Professional - doctor, lawyer, engineer, IT professional etc

  • Work experience of a certain number of years at least

  • International exposure in education/professional career - studied or worked abroad

  • Foresight to see what needs to be done long term in all areas

  • Courage to stand up to landowners, fundamentalists, all other groups with vested interests in all fields whether in civilian organizations, military, politics etc

  • Strong enough to stand up to outside powers ie the US

  • Supporter of secularism - leave religion out of the country's running and focus on the real issues

  • Capable of understanding and promoting the importance of education, literacy, accountability, women's rights etc

  • Not surrounded by ignorant henchmen or yes-men but with a council of similarly educated professionals who can advise and counsel honestly without fear

  • Two Muslim countries we should look up to and try to emulate are Turkey and Malaysia.

    Will the Pakistani Mustafa Kemal or Dr. Mahathir please step forward?

    The Case of Imanae Malik – How one person CAN make a difference

    The loss of a child is something no one wants to even begin to imagine. Being the mother of a 4 year old I certainly don’t. My son, who I refer to as HRH (His Royal Highness), drives me up the wall, as children of this age are wont to do. Endless questions, mind games and battles of will combined with the displays of love and affection which comes spontaneously, makes it all worth it (as clich├ęd as that may sound).

    So when you hear of a child’s death, however old the child in question may be, it is a tragedy. A tragedy for the parents who invested so much love and care into the upbringing of a being that they would have molded to ensure that he or she was the best they could be, and a tragedy for the world, for having lost someone who may have one day had the potential to change something for the better.

    The death of 3 year old Imanae Malik on 29 November 2009, on the second day of Eid, was such a tragedy. Only this tragedy was all the worse for it could have been avoided.

    The facts are such:
    Imanae burnt her fingers from some hot water. She was in pain. Her parents rushed her to Doctors Hospital, Johar Town, Lahore. The doctor on duty then gave her an injection which also did not help for she continued to cry and complain of pain. After that she was given another injection, used as an anesthetic for patients who are to be put on a ventilator. She was not put on a ventilator and must have passed away within minutes. On realizing Imanae had no heartbeat the staff started CPR. The hospital staff then insisted she be taken elsewhere as they did not have a baby ventilator and they could not treat her further. They claimed they had no ambulance to provide them and refused to send their doctor with Imanae’s parents. Instead a ward boy was sent with them. Imanae’s parents then took her to Children’s Hospital in their own car, where she was pronounced dead on arrival.

    Who is to blame?

    The doctor on duty who was on a locum and turns out to not even have had an authenticated medical degree? Or the hospital administration that allowed such a person to work in their hospital knowingly or unknowingly? What is the level of scrutiny for medical staff before they are unleashed on unsuspecting patients (read victims)? What is the appropriate punishment for the level of negligence shown that day?

    Nothing can change the fact that Imanae is gone and cannot be brought back. This is something her parents will have to live with for the rest of their lives. However we can all ensure that her death was not in vain.

    Aqeel and Maheen Malik, the parents of Imanae decided that while they may have lost their beloved child, this should not and would not happen to anyone else’s loved one. With the support of many others who mourned the loss of this young child, and others who had also suffered at the hands of the so-called healers at Doctors Hospital, they have started a campaign to inform others of the atrocities committed that day and on days past. Through widespread awareness they managed to get the Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif involved who constituted a committee to investigate the case. This committee then presented some recommendations which included that Doctors Hospital be shut down and the administration of the hospital be charged with criminal negligence. This fight for justice is far from over. It has probably only just begun. With the support of the public and the media, we can ensure that the outcome is one which we can all benefit from.

    We all sit in our drawing rooms, wring our hands, have heated debates over our dinner tables about what all is wrong with our country. Then we sigh ‘Ah well what can you do?’ Well we can do something. Aqeel Malik has shown us that we can.

    All our prayers go out to the little angel Imanae, who has gone where all angels go, and to her parents to have the strength to make it through this tragic event. The courage and resilience shown by Aqeel and Maheen should be applauded. What Aqeel Malik has displayed to all of us is that one man CAN make a difference. We should all take heart in this achievement and support him in his on-going battle, while thanking him for trying to make this city a little safer for all of us.

    Please support this cause and visit http://www.imanae.co.uk/ for more details.