Friday, April 30, 2010

Karachiwala; a Subcontinent within a City!!

It was busy day at work; T2F is the place that provides food for thoughts . Last evening one of the stand up comedians Sami Shah performed there. I reached half an hour earlier and decided to explore books and then grab sandwich along with coffee.

I was looking at books I came across an interesting cover page, a book written by Rumana Husain, graphically appealing and thought provoking title “Karachiwala a Subcontinent within a City”!! When I flipped few pages I came across an African descendent Baloch woman’s picture, each page had description such as name and ethnic group of the person in the picture. I came across a funny ethnic group name, it described African descendent Baloch woman as MAKRANI.

To me it is funny that people end up writing books without knowing the basics of an ethnic group. However being a Baloch, my forefathers migrated from Makran to Karachi, born and brought up in Karachi, i am a truly Karachiite but deeply connected to my roots.

When one looks at various definitions of ethnic group, it is described as “a group of people whose members identify with each other, through a common heritage that is real or assumed, sharing cultural characteristics. This shared heritage may be based upon putative common ancestry, history, kinship, religion, language, shared territory, nationality or physical appearance".

Markran is a place and people living in that area are called Makrani and ethnically they are Baloch. Similarly I can not call Karachiite an ethnic group, no one describes the ethnic identity of people living in Karachi as Karachiite.

The African convert Baloch were once ethnically from various African origin tribes bought (during slave trade) by rulers of Muscat and various princely states of Balochistan. There was severe drought in Balochistan and African slaves “convert into Baloch; adopted Balochi culture and language” were freed. During 1850s modern port construction work started and most of the slaves got laborious jobs and settled near Liyari.

Unfortunately, we as Pakistani do not interact with each other, don’t understand each others' background, psyche, history, norms, values and to large extent culture and we never try to explore the rich cultural heritage of Pakistan.

At times I feel that in Pakistan we are alien for each other.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Pakistanis; Get More Sex for Healthy Living !!!!

It was boring evening, I was browsing daily times, came across an interesting news it says “Brazilians told to get more sex for healthy living”

The Health Minister advised people “ One of the best ways Brazilians could stave off chronic illness is to engage regularly in physical exercise, especially sex” he further said “ adult need to do exercise, walk, dance and have safe sex”

It is believed that sex helps in keeping blood pressure down and it is alarming that many in Brazil are suffering from chronic illness, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.

I wonder if similar request is made by Pakistani Health Minister in the context of grave health concerns in Pakistan.

I guess sex starved Pakistanis need to listen to Brazil, please for the sake of health ;-)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Civil Servant: Then & Now

Today's dawn, letter to the editor by Haroon Siddiqi made me think that Pakistan was an opportunity lost in the dust of history.

Here is letter;

“Corruption and abence of accountability are the two weaknesses of the present-day Pakistan. The bureaucracy opting for Pakistan at the time of partition was free of financial corruption and vested interests of other kinds.
Except for some civil servants-turned-politicians, like Malik Ghulam Muhammad, Chaudhry Muhammad Ali and Iskandar Mirza, who undermined democracy in Pakistan as did the military dictators subsequently, the rest of the bureaucrats were role models of professional excellence and integrity.
Even the few aberrant exceptions named before had lust for power but did not indulge in financial wrongdoings and nepotism.
My father, the late Shujaat Ali Siddiqiui, was also a high-ranking civil servant at the time of partition in 1947. He opted for Pakistan and was made the Military Accountant-General to function under the ministry of finance, government of Pakistan.
Let me quote an incident from his legacy which speaks volumes about the code of conduct and accountability that existed for government officials when we acquired our nationhood.
Somebody made a complaint to the ministry of finance that the Military Accountant-General made a personal visit to Lyalpur (now Faisalabad) and claimed the reimbursement of railway fare subsequently.
It was also alleged that the office newspaper was delivered at his residence. The ministry of finance sought comments from my father. The reply he gave is reproduced ad verbatim for making a comparison between then and now.
"It is true that the daily newspaper is delivered at my bungalow. This is because the office opens at 9.30am while the hawker delivers the newspaper in the morning by Fajr prayer time. Consequently, I get to read the newspaper at home during my private time for taking notes where necessary.
“I, nevertheless, bring the newspaper to office every morning and have it placed in the library. The newspapers are sold as per standing instructions at the end of each month as ‘raddi’ and sale proceeds are deposited in the chest kept with the cashier, making suitable entries in the cash book which can be produced for inspection on demand.
“As regards my visit to Lyalpur, I may state that being head of the department I am also expected to look after the welfare of my staff. As such, for rehablitation of my staff and their families who had migrated on large scale from East Punjab, Delhi, etc., I went to Lyalpur to see my personal friend who happens to be the deputy comissioner of the district.
“He took personal interest in the matter and, as a result, I was able to secure rehablitation for over three dozen families during my two days stay there. I feel this visit of mine was justified.
“Still, if you choose to term it as unjustified, please say so. I shall not hesitate to refund the amount paid to me in reimbursement of the price of railway tickets purchased from my own pocket. I did not claim any daily allowance because I lodged with my aforesaid friend as his persoanl guest.”

Sunday, April 18, 2010

LUMS Dramaline; Fun, Frolic & No Substance!!!!

It was warm evening, exam pressure and day long study but late evening fun filled dramas/skits were respite. It was wonderful to see students using various platforms to express themselves. Dramas are one of the creative means used across the world and various themes talk volumes about issues or events happening across the society.

First day, four dramas were presented, performances were wonderful, creative vigor and talent was worth noticing. They made everyone laugh and walk away with fun.

However, as LUMS student, drama themes disturbed me a lot and made me think.

All three dramas were fun packed but them talked about drinks. One drama was about a gay, it was neither ridiculing nor demonizing gay or supporting but performance was more of physical nature. Gay character was getting closer or sitting on the top of other guy, wearing female nightwear etc.

Second drama was about junior student ragging, a student from Karachi facing seniors. It was shocking to me once senior asked naïve junior about his academic profile, reply was “Mein Nay Inter Ka Course Kia Hay”. It was way below the belt; I could never expect this from LUMS student.

Lastly, a drama on Sawat Taliban was presented; they depicted the other side of the story. A guy visits Sawat with his wife, forcefully abused & wife gets killed.

One thing always comes in mind that everyone knows about Sufi Mohammad (Taliban Leader in Sawat Valley) and it is obvious the way our security establishment propped Taliban to get foothold in strategic tug of war in regional geo-political milieu.

Drama depicted Taliban as heroes; the extreme actions against women were the result of US drones. Furthermore, it was never realized that Sawat had always been a tourist resort, a tolerant society but messed by Taliban.

Talibanization is neither Islamic nor Pashtun culture it’s the result of geo-political tug of war hurting men, women and innocent children.

Performances were no doubt fun watching but lack of substance shows dismal state of our society. To me it’s the by product of our academic system, we teach distorted history, de-intellectualization is eminent, biased media and dominance of right wing forces in security establishment of Pakistan is deeply hurting our progress.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Diamonds are Forever!!!

Diamonds are forever, an advertisement tag line of DeBeers, a famous Diamond mining and marketing firm.

No doubt, diamonds are precious, show uniqueness, relationship, love and bonding. A diamond as present always brings happiness.

However, Chinese women segment surprised me, today I came across an interesting advertisement, to Chinese women it is an insult or considered rude if a guy gives them diamond as present and to them its vulgar display of money and power. Chinese women think that they are capable of buying expensive and precious things themselves, no matter how rich or poor a girl is!!!
They want to be successful, independent and treated equally with respect.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Good Bye Kissing !!!!!

Kissing is officially banned by ethics committee at one of the leading business schools in Pakistan. This picture speaks volumes about the Public Display of Affection & societal response. Seems like our society is at crossroad.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Cultural Revival in Karachi; Musical Base Rock Café, Artistic Koel & Intellectual T2F

During 70’s Karachi was the cultural capital of Pakistan. Road side Coffee Houses used to provide a place for intellectual tête-à-tête .Over the period my city has evolved and at the same time global political issues & dynamics have also changed. After passing through transition, today Karachi has engulfed with range of cafes.

Surge of cafés is not all about coffee and sandwiches but a new form of culture and entertainment is evolving. There are three cafes playing a pivotal role, THE BASE ROCK CAFÉ, CAFÉ KOEL & T2F. When I think about these three cafes, music, art and intellectual quest comes in my mind.

I remember my Tokyo journey, while walking through upscale Ginza; I saw young girls and guys desperately waiting for local stars, right in front of a theater, similarly my New York trip to Broadway theaters and cafes talked volumes about the taste and artistic flair of the people. I could see intellectual artistic persona effect both in Tokyo & New York. When it comes to Karachi, I used to feel that my city is culturally dead, tasteless, heartless and completely de-intellectualized.

After the influx of cafés in Karachi I am optimist & have strong belief that these cafés would eventually lead to the revival of 70s coffee houses with contemporary taste of music, art and intellectual freedom.

Base Rock Café (BRC) is a café cum musical oasis for culturally starved Karachi, BRC is not about coffee and music but it offers a launching pad for under ground music talent in Karachi. With best music system, it brings Karaoke, tribute to music icons along with live bands and music competition for music freaks.

Café Koel adds an artistic flair to café scene in Karachi, a café evolved from Noor Jehan’s artistic quest for traditional crafts. It lead to the revival of hand block printed fabric mainly Ajrak prints of Hala Sind. Café offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, one can enjoy meal under a tree or air-conditioned artistic indoor. There is an art gallery along with a boutique of exotic hand block printed fabrics.

The Second Floor T2F is a café that provides food for thought besides coffee & sandwiches, an open place for intellectual tête-à-tête. It is run by Peace Niche, an NGO, and brain child of Sabeen Mahmud. It frequently arranges discussions, invites brilliant guest speakers, provides space for book launches and also house range of books available for reading and sale.

I would love to see my Karachi, transforming from violence ridden chaotic city image to a fun filled, intellectual & artistic persona.