Dec 31, 2008

Peace for Palestine?

Robert Fisk's article in the Dawn.

Read it and weep. Literally. All of the Muslim fundamentalists and Western democrats. Shame on you all.

We’ve got so used to the carnage of the Middle East that we don’t care any more – providing we don’t offend the Israelis. It’s not clear how many of the Gaza dead are civilians, but the response of the Bush administration, not to mention the pusillanimous reaction of Gordon Brown, reaffirm for Arabs what they have known for decades: however they struggle against their antagonists, the West will take Israel’s side. As usual, the bloodbath was the fault of the Arabs – who, as we all know, only understand force.

Ever since 1948, we’ve been hearing this balderdash from the Israelis – just as Arab nationalists and then Arab Islamists have been peddling their own lies: that the Zionist “death wagon” will be overthrown, that all Jerusalem will be “liberated”. And always Mr Bush Snr or Mr Clinton or Mr Bush Jnr or Mr Blair or Mr Brown have called upon both sides to exercise “restraint” – as if the Palestinians and the Israelis both have F-18s and Merkava tanks and field artillery. Hamas’s home-made rockets have killed just 20 Israelis in eight years, but a day-long blitz by Israeli aircraft that kills almost 300 Palestinians is just par for the course.

The blood-splattering has its own routine. Yes, Hamas provoked Israel’s anger, just as Israel provoked Hamas’s anger, which was provoked by Israel, which was provoked by Hamas, which ... See what I mean? Hamas fires rockets at Israel, Israel bombs Hamas, Hamas fires more rockets and Israel bombs again and ... Got it? And we demand security for Israel – rightly – but overlook this massive and utterly disproportionate slaughter by Israel. It was Madeleine Albright who once said that Israel was “under siege” – as if Palestinian tanks were in the streets of Tel Aviv.

By last night, the exchange rate stood at 296 Palestinians dead for one dead Israeli. Back in 2006, it was 10 Lebanese dead for one Israeli dead. This weekend was the most inflationary exchange rate in a single day since – the 1973 Middle East War? The 1967 Six Day War? The 1956 Suez War? The 1948 Independence/Nakba War? It’s obscene, a gruesome game – which Ehud Barak, the Israeli Defence Minister, unconsciously admitted when he spoke this weekend to Fox TV. “Our intention is to totally change the rules of the game,” Barak said.

Exactly. Only the “rules” of the game don’t change. This is a further slippage on the Arab-Israeli exchanges, a percentage slide more awesome than Wall Street’s crashing shares, though of not much interest in the US which – let us remember – made the F-18s and the Hellfire missiles which the Bush administration pleads with Israel to use sparingly.

Quite a lot of the dead this weekend appear to have been Hamas members, but what is it supposed to solve? Is Hamas going to say: “Wow, this blitz is awesome – we’d better recognise the state of Israel, fall in line with the Palestinian Authority, lay down our weapons and pray we are taken prisoner and locked up indefinitely and support a new American ‘peace process’ in the Middle East!” Is that what the Israelis and the Americans and Gordon Brown think Hamas is going to do?

Yes, let’s remember Hamas’s cynicism, the cynicism of all armed Islamist groups. Their need for Muslim martyrs is as crucial to them as Israel’s need to create them. The lesson Israel thinks it is teaching – come to heel or we will crush you – is not the lesson Hamas is learning. Hamas needs violence to emphasise the oppression of the Palestinians – and relies on Israel to provide it. A few rockets into Israel and Israel obliges.

Not a whimper from Tony Blair, the peace envoy to the Middle East who’s never been to Gaza in his current incarnation. Not a bloody word.

We hear the usual Israeli line. General Yaakov Amidror, the former head of the Israeli army’s “research and assessment division” announced that “no country in the world would allow its citizens to be made the target of rocket attacks without taking vigorous steps to defend them”. Quite so. But when the IRA were firing mortars over the border into Northern Ireland, when their guerrillas were crossing from the Republic to attack police stations and Protestants, did Britain unleash the RAF on the Irish Republic? Did the RAF bomb churches and tankers and police stations and zap 300 civilians to teach the Irish a lesson? No, it did not. Because the world would have seen it as criminal behaviour. We didn’t want to lower ourselves to the IRA’s level.

Yes, Israel deserves security. But these bloodbaths will not bring it. Not since 1948 have air raids protected Israel. Israel has bombed Lebanon thousands of times since 1975 and not one has eliminated “terrorism”. So what was the reaction last night? The Israelis threaten ground attacks. Hamas waits for another battle. Our Western politicians crouch in their funk holes. And somewhere to the east – in a cave? a basement? on a mountainside? – a well-known man in a turban smiles.

—Dawn/The Independent News Service

What the ...

Picture this. 

Picture it all. Good and proper, okay?

Sometimes I think we're born on the wrong side of this century. Or maybe I'm losing my mind.

No. Not the century. I'm definitely losing my mind.

This instance was not only the first but one of the most flabbergasting passer-by moments of my life. 

Shadi shopping is tough, it can take a lotta zing outta you. After struggling for the thousandth time to tell your darzi that a kurta is a kurta is a kurta, you pretty much begin to lose it tenth time around. 

My mom is a slick driver. She thinks she's on a race track when she's on Shahrah e Faisal and when the car hits a speed breaker, it's just something to fidget about. I had always been used to Dad's not-more-than-20-km/h driving, so for the initial couple of shopping trips I don't know how many times I recited the final kalima. Especially when Mom's bp was already high enough for her to hit and run. Really.

So Mom's hungry and irritated because we've already spent two useless hours at Jabeen's, not finding a single worth-it dress, and because I'd made her hurry out of house for the trip, she didn't take lunch either. We stop at Khadda Market's One Potato Two Potato and Mom yelps at the sight of "Fish and Chips - Limited Winter Edition". 

I walk out of the car, as Mom parks in front of Ami's. The road is narrow, there's plenty of rush and I decide to bring the fish to Mom and take a can of Sprite Zero for her from Ami's. Comfortable little dinner eh? 

Life was good until ...

I was standing placing my order at OPTP when a Vitz parks behind me. The driver is a older gentleman and the passenger seat is occupied by a young boy wearing a painter's cap. He's not more than twenty I suppose. He looks slightly familiar. I squint. Then I turn back round. The OPTP window guy has told me to wait for a moment.

Standing around waiting for the fish and chips to arrive, I turn around on my right this time and there's the young boy again talking to the OPTP waiter. Where have I seen this guy, I wonder, and am almost about to turn. Maybe he's a student, I think.

He smiles. Oh. So he's definitely a student. Before I even think of asking him if he'd gone to Iqra or Bahria or if I knew him from somewhere else, Little Gul Jee grins.

"Assalam o Alaikum." He shows slightly big pan-chewn teeth. He's thin and lanky and kinda makes me want to tell him to order a bigger dose of fries.

"Walaikum assalam. Do I- "

"Can I have your number?"

Same grin. I am shocked. No. Too precise an emotion. I wasn't even articulate let alone. Otherwise I would have given him a nice dose of masala to go with those fries. Shell-shocked? No. I didn't register shock of any kind. Flabbergasted? No. I didn't feel anything. Windfallen? No. I knew exactly what I'd run into. A stupid moron who thinks confused signals are a battle cry. Outraged? No. I was too miffed at my own loss of composure.

I turn around, my face burning, I sputter an indignant, "NO!" and feel like banging my head against the glass OPTP window. If the guy was an idiot, or a schizophrenic or a moron, or simply blind to see the dopatta on the head and the back-the-hell-up look frozen on my face, something like this had NEVER ever happened in my entire life. I have never been approached by random strangers like this and asked the number for. And believe me, I was completely haggard, looking like, yes, the hag after shopping for six hours straight. So the guy either had to be on a dare, a patient of hysterical blindness, temporary dementia or some sort of other psychological illness which my limited knowledge has not been privy to so far. Because I see no reason why a young, Himesh-listening guy would approach a random 25 year old woman with a dopatta on her head to ask for her freaking number.

I've stepped into a new world, I have.

And thus I need to ask you all. Have you men grown extra pair of ... pituitary glands to secrete excess testosterone? Or are you people completely devoid of keeping it in ... Okay. I'm displacing my anger, but honestly. Seriously. Give me something here, I cannot understand the weirder sex anymore, I am out.

What does a girl have to do to tell you that I am the FUCK NOT INTERESTED?

Dec 28, 2008

Prologue: Happiness and Romance.

"Romance takes place in the middle distance. Romance is looking in at yourself, through the window clouded with dew. Romance means leaving things out: where life grunts and snuffles, romance only sighs. Does she want more than that - more of him? Does she want the whole picture?
"The danger would come from looking too closely and from seeing too much - from having her dwindle and herself along with him. And waking up empty, all of it used up - over and done. She would have nothing. She would be bereft.
"An old fashioned word."


"Happiness is a garden walled with glass: there's no way in or out. In Paradise there are no stories because there are no journeys. It's loss and regret and misery and yearning that drive the story forward along its twisted road."


Okay, so this is good business. You take a movie that's already done well, hire a popular actor, someone with halfway decent principles (which in this world means an actor who refuses to dance on Dard e Disco or Ishq Kameena type item numbers), for a halfway decent script (which in this world means sweeping away a script of a critically acclaimed movie and giving it the desi touch) and lo and behold. You've got a brand new standard of what people like. Movie based on another movie that wasn't popular enough to the general masses.

Ghajini, ladies and gentlemen, and Memento. May God give peace to the soul of Christopher Nolan and more sense to Aamir Khan. Not surprised at the swipe, though would've expected something better from the Khan.

Dec 26, 2008

The Him part 1

The wall sprang up again.

I don't know from where.

You were right there when it happened. I saw you. I saw you looking at me from the corners where you stand while waiting for the turn to confess.

Okay so maybe I know you don't confess truly. It is a show you put on. Like your toothbrush and your smile and your dainty fingernails. Isn't it odd how much effort women put into things that are either dying or already dead?

They should spend their time on the living. The way I do. I infuse myself inside you, like blood and carbohydrates. What? I can sound funny too. Every once in a while. If I want to. When needed ... ?

You said you'd tell me a story today. The story of the night and the tale of today. Isn't that right, my dear? Haha. I like the way you cringe when i say that. Makes me feel I have some kind of power over you, albeit small. Albeit insignificant. I'm still there. Blood and carbohydrates will come too.

Fine. Don't laugh. I'm done being the comedian. A bad one. I'll sing you a song. Write you a love letter. Stand by your window and compose a sonnet. Why do girls prefer a guy with a sweet tongue than a guy who can narrate facts, hard facts? A guy who can tell them EXACTLY like it is? You're all silly, the whole lot of you. Hold me, thrill me, kiss me. Why not teach me, objectedly respect me, reverently reason with me? Oh because it's more romantic? Romance is overrated. Like happiness, like life, even suicide. See? Now I've made you cry.

There, there. It's not the end of the world. Men will be men and women will be women. I'll never understand your sudden saline springs and you'll never understand my requirement to pull things apart just to see how they work. Right?

Here. Here's a hug. Stop crying. This hug should solve everything, make the hurt go away, make you feel whole again. Right?

Who's to say what's tomorrow? Why think about what you'll think about me then, rethinking this moment, reliving this hurt. See, that's another thing girls should be warned about.

Alright, alright, FINE. Let's talk about sunsets. Okay?

Dec 21, 2008

The once upon a time.

I am trying to let go.

I dreamt of him today, and I am trying to let go.

We were standing on the top of a tall, green building. Green because it had shrubs growing everywhere, plants going everywhere; flowers and carved bushes and red-brick pathways. The stuff you see in movies. The stone statues were there, the heart shaped fountains and the fairy lights that blink when it's just the right time of dusk. He was there, standing tall and erect. I seemed out of place, out of sense, out of self. But he didn't notice. He just kept smiling the way he did when he knew I didn't know what to do with myself. I never found out if he did that out of habit or out of understanding. It made me feel my nervousness found an antidote of some kind. I want to believe he did it after much thought and deliberation. Makes me feel good about myself. Makes me feel important. Of significance.

It was short and fleeting, trite and simple. Our love, I mean. Do you understand that?

If we can only dream the dreams we dream and not the waking-ups, the rude shouts of tomorrow, if we can just wait for the good to come, it can still be simple. Do you see?

You probably don't want to hear my questions. You probably just want me to get over with this.

I do too. And I am trying to let go.

But he's still around. He's still there. I look everywhere to find a place where I can stop thinking or feeling or sensing him - he is there in camouflages, you know? I can dream of a movie star or a musical legend and I feel him in my bones, in someone's eyes, watching me. He isn't going away, you know. He doesn't go away. I think he doesn't know how and a part of me thanks him for that.

Hah. Do you miss him, you ask.

Of course I miss him. How can you not miss someone who hasn't left you alone in ages? 

That's what it feels like. Ages. Have you ever stood in front of a window and stared out without purpose and lost the track of your thoughts and while coming back to life wondered what it would be if you could've written everything down and seen the pattern, the ideas, the thoughts, all grouped and you realized you could've made a fantastic story? But you didn't because when you're staring at a gorgeous horizon, you don't sit down and record stupid details, you go out and drink everything in. You just watch it and sense it and breathe it.

That's what I did when I was with him. Trite and simple, I told you.

His hands never touched mine, I only saw them. In fear. Like I'd break them if I touched them or something. You know? Haven't you ever gotten that feeling?

You haven't, I can tell by the look in your eyes. I know what you are thinking. How can you be afraid to touch someone you love like that? With so much fire inside your soul, how can you stay out in the cold?

I can. Pa taught me how and I never had any friends to teach me otherwise. So I kept admiring the things I loved. I never bought anything I loved because I was afraid of losing them. The hurt is too much. You know?

He was so smart, he guessed it right from the beginning. He guessed it right, he always did. Even when I didn't want him to. I'd turn away my eyes and he'd try to lift my chin with his forefinger. I'd shove it away, minimum contact of skins, the least interaction. No one can understand the elevation of the moment where distance creates the momentum, not contact. No. Not even you.

Are you bored yet? I like being reassured I'm not boring my audience. You seem awfully sleepy.

You should dream more. I don't like the way you look at me when I tell you about him. You have never dreamt. You've loved people in reality too much that's why. What to feed them, how to dress them, how to comb their hairs and send them to work or school or the park. You've never seen what they could be outside your spheres of routines and the mundane that you call life.

I have. It was once upon a time on that green hill.

And many times on many hills and in valleys, in Malam Jabbas and Swiss Alps and lands unknown. I have known him where worlds don't exist anymore. There is no sky or the earth, there is just us.

See. There is that look again. Like you think I'm crazy.

I'm not crazy. I just know him. I know he's out there. And I don't want to let go.

I am trying.

But I don't want to let go.

Can you understand that?

Yes. That you can understand. I think you see what I mean by this division. This wear and tear of the insides that is self-propelled, even gratifiying, no? How you understand it, I cannot tell. But you can.

You've been worn. You haven't loved, but you've worn yourself out. 

You haven't let go either have you? 

That's okay. 

I know how it is okay. It is okay because you can dream. You don't always have to let go. You don't always have to give in to what you cannot control. I can create stories, you know? I can create places where I cannot be and people I cannot touch. They can call me crazy if they want to, I don't. I know what I am doing. They think I will be cured if you teach me how to let go. And they don't know I'm cured because I can dream. Of onceuponatimes, of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of sky-less earths, of him, of us. He knows. He exists. He breathes like you and me. I know what I am doing, you know that, don't you.

You know. I can see it. You are already dreaming. 

Dec 20, 2008

I'm not an addict - K's Choice.

Breath it in and breath it out 
and pass it on it's almost out 
We're so creative and so much more 
We're high above, but on the floor 

The deeper you stick it in your vein 
The deeper the thoughts there's no more pain 
I'm in heaven, I'm a god 
I'm everywhere, I feel so hot 

It's over now, I'm cold, alone 
I'm just a person on my own 
Nothing means a thing to me 
Oh, nothing means a thing to me 

Free me, leave me 
Watch me as I'm going down 
Free me, see me 
Look at me I'm falling 
And I'm falling......... 

I'm not an addict, I'm not an addict, I'm not an addict.

Dec 18, 2008

The Teacher Known as Lady Snape.

The following is the text of the memento I received from one of the students today.

'This is an appreciative souvenir that I would ilke to give you which I believe would be on behalf of the batch of oral communication students that you so merely taught in an exemplified manner.

Your teaching methodology this fall has left a deepening impression on all of which has enabled most of us to grow in personality and stature. This fall of oral communication has been all about change and you certainly have embedded that in most of us.

Its been one 'fun roller coaster ride' and it amazes me to say that how much I would miss your vibrant presence at our campus.

As you set forth into the future and Ying away with your Yang to Yemen, I would ike to thank you with utmost honesty and sincerity for providing us the opportunities to explore our strengths and let us have teh time of our lives.

This is become far more of a cliche but, "Lady Snape", you are one hell of a person... You Rock!!!

Thank you.'

Dec 13, 2008


The world is alive with the sound of war. Do we see another 65 or 71? Or another cold war with both countries gearing up their nuclear weapons on the opposite sides of the border?

Geez. Just when Indian movies had begun to come to Pakistani cinemas.

Even though a majority of us think in that aforesaid shallow manner, I was very happy to read the following article by Karamatullah K. Ghori who has struck gold yet again. This time he seems angrier than you would want to see a veteran diplomat which is pretty cool actually. Sometimes life's better when it's out of the natural order of things.

You can read the entire article here. The following are my favorite points of the article.

  • ... what was so sacrilegious to suggest that Manmohan Singh saw in the Mumbai drama the chance of a life-time to shore up his electoral fortunes? Did he have a divine revelation that told him the terrorists had come from Pakistan? But a section of the Indian intelligentsia isn’t prepared to countenance the possibility that their PM took them on a flight of fantasy and was guilty of triggering a schizophrenic hate campaign against Pakistan.

  • Take, for instance, the mystery surrounding the actual count of the alleged terrorists involved in the episode. The official brief says there were only ten, out of which one — still alive and in captivity — was overpowered at the railway station. That leaves nine of them. Two are said to have held the inmates of Nariman House, the Israeli enclave. That leaves just seven. These seven must have divided themselves into two groups. Let’s assume they split 4:3. It couldn’t be 3 ½ for each of the two giant hotels invaded and occupied by them.

  • Can anyone in their right mind perceive, for a moment, that three or four people could hold up a huge 600-plus room hotel like Taj, and an equally cavernous hotel like Oberoi, for more than 60 hours, fight off hundreds of counter-insurgency commandoes, terrorise and kill scores of their hostages, trash the hotels from inside (as subsequent television footage so graphically displayed for the world)? They had to be supermen to accomplish all that.

  • Independent analysts and terrorism experts are at one in their prognosis that to carry out so many tasks simultaneously, over such a long period of time, there had to be at least 50 to 60 terrorists actively engaged in this episode. The question that India’s self-righteous intelligentsia refuses to answer is, who were the people assisting the impugned terrorists? They had to be local facilitators and accomplices, if they had not descended from the ethereal world that vanished in a UFO as soon as the job was done.

  • But they close their eyes to the stark reality that for well over the past two decades the Indian polity has been sliding, at an alarming pace, into the abyss of Hindutva, which not only pursues a philosophy of unremitting hate toward all minorities — exceptionally the 180 million Muslims of India — but also subscribes to the use of force as part of their dharma or belief to achieve its goals. It should be a matter of shame to most Indians, intellectuals or not, that their commitment to the ideals of a saint like Mahatma Gandhi is now only skin-deep. In actual fact, the heroes of many Indians, Hindus in particular, today are persons like LK Advani and Narendar Modi — with the latter’s hands soiled with the blood of thousands of innocent Muslims of Gujrat. What else could explain the rise of BJP, VHP, Bajrang Dal and such others of their ilk in a supposedly secular India?

  • In the latest bout of chauvinism and skewed nationalism, these NRIs in the US have embarked on a campaign to enlist official American support to sponsor a resolution in the UN Security Council to grant India a carte blanche to strike Pakistan’s alleged ‘terrorist sites’ if Pakistan fails to act on the Indian diktat.

  • As per India’s own statistics, eight Kashmiris have been killed every day over the past 18 years since they rose in revolt against Indian hegemony of their land. This makes it a cool 55,000 Kashmiris — at the very least — killed at the hands of 600,000 trigger-happy Indian soldiers encamped in the valley. The mahan Indians are wailing to the world for the loss of 170 lives in Mumbai. But why haven’t these mahan people ever shed a tear for the Kashmiris murdered in a blind frenzy of arrogance of power by India’s ‘brave soldiers’?

  • The Pakistanis are not a mahan people and don’t claim to be one. They have umpteen weaknesses but have at least one great quality: they never hide or cover up their appalling weaknesses. It’s hard to come by a Pakistani intellectual that would be condescending to the rise of militancy and fundamentalism in their polity. There is zero tolerance among the Pakistani intelligentsia for a militant Islam or its purblind practitioners.

  • The Pakistanis may be nationalistic but they aren’t chauvinists and don’t take the words of their leaders for gospel truth. In fact, Pakistan’s ruling elite have an abiding grouse against their intelligentsia for being their harshest critics and detractors. Just take the recent example of a dictator like Pervez Musharraf who was chased out of his powerful niche by the combined strength of the people and what he and his cronies disdained as the ‘chattering class’ of Pakistani intellectuals.

  • Thank God the Pakistanis, in general, aren’t self-righteous like their eastern neighbours. A self-righteous people are niggardly and self-centred. Pakistanis give credit, generously, where it’s due and admire India’s great achievement in consolidating democracy and democratic institutions, something they haven’t been so successful at themselves. But that doesn’t mean they will take Indian dictation or accept Indian hegemony, physical or intellectual.

Dec 2, 2008

The Story of Amreeka Palat.

Once upon a time a strict, Hitlerish Sociology and Psychology teacher was handed a course that was known for partying and high profile events. The kids didn't know what to expect and frankly neither did the teacher.

After a couple of classes, she realized she wasn't going to live up to stereotypes. Her target was to oppose them and so she did. She decided to do the biggest, bestest, baddest play in the history of the university.

So now when you cross the Baloch Colony bridge onto Shahra e Faisal, take a sideways glance at Iqra University and see this:

The story of "Amreeka palat!" is the story of culture, language and barrier-breaking all at the same time. It revolves around the maid Neelo and Professor Mudassir (loosely structured on Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins, minus the chemistry) and her transformation from the uncouth maid to the lively, sophisticated babe of the modern era with a highly polished linguistic talent. He changes her world and life takes a new turn when Arsalan Mirza (pictured), the American-return Pakistani comes back to fall in love with the brand new Neelo.

That is scratching the surface by the way.

Beneath the plot, the big banner, the million rupees, lies a lot of blood, sweat and toil. A lead actress running out five days before the play, Karachi erupting in riots, tickets getting stuck in the printing house, friends fighting, scandals, auditorium bookings, faculty grumbles ... you get the picture.

But the good news is. We're almost there. We're almost through.

I'd love to invite my readers but this play is restricted for Iqra University students only. The only non-IU crowd will be the guests, who have agreed to come to honor the ceremony: Anwar Maqsood and Azfar Ali. 

So pray for us, we're still wondering if the show must go on in the city of firing flies and saddened skies and terrified traffic and closed colleges (I realize I'm losing that poetic touch or maybe I'm sucking at alliterations right now). Doing something big and bureaucratic in Karachi is like stepping into quicksand without any idea if it's supposed to suck you in gradually or all at once. We have no idea how we are going to stage our show 3 days from now with the city conditions with the way they are. Thankfully, as I noted on the streets today, life is going back to normal but this is Karachi. No Pakistani or Amreeka-palat can expect anything normal for long.