Tuesday, May 10, 2011

of the burden

He described it particularly well, or maybe I was overly fond of the route-cause analysis he employed in his arguments. He would go back in the sequence of broad truths and challenge each one, smallest first.

It probably wasn't the lateral thinking I've been trying to pair with someone other than my Corporate Strategy Professor lately, though I do think it was a rather intelligent technique. It was very effective in the short-run and it was as if he was massaging thinking capabilities I seldom used. It was a pleasant change.

But I have my own process, and it is fast, though, owing to the speed I may just conclude that it is imperfect.

And what a perfect illustration the above serves of said imperfect process. The self-doubt that leads to the ability to consider and accept, to a large extent, any unorthodox line of reasoning.

Because suddenly I'm not sure any more. Not because of this occurrence, but because of that dreaded fork in the road looming closer than ever now. The wait is driving me insane, and I fear that I will find it hard to truly believe in what I choose. Commitment is a hardened but jolly matron in an all-boys school dormitory.

So I find myself listening to these tunes, rationalizing and systematically taking apart a few lost ideals swimming wantonly in my fish-bowl of a head. The logic we hold dear to our hearts, and the ability to communicate with each other by assuming so much.

These assumptions are a privilege, not a birthright.


Hope is something that I believe we are born with. It is strengthened by the fairy tales that fool us as children, and it is the adhesive to a strong family unit, that interdependent system of hope-junkies.

It is fostered, and nurtured. It is protected. Forced smiles and excruciating small-talk at the dinner-table are commonplace because the sum of the whole is greater than the parts. If everyone pretends to be happy, then there is hope. I guess it is true. If everyone is willing to make that effort...

But back to those whose fantasies have been irreparably shattered by life-changing events or by the continuous, low-impact bludgeoning of higher, more unpleasant truths. Poverty, Illiteracy, inequity and injustice to name a few!

The nomad and I concluded at some point that the newer generation of aware publics was now attached to nothing. They are a lonely bunch with the burden of fixing accumulated wrongs spanning half a century. The pressure is on us, now.


I am concerned that a large part of us will give into the old norms. They will succumb to the greed that they have no control over, because they were never taught to question. They were never given the choice.

I talk of girls being raised in fear of dishonour and shame.

A conservative father would use an emotive appeal to reason and if you have a sister, this is enough to silence you. This silences me, but is it right?

Girls of seemingly impeccable character who independently decide on sticking to the path of virtue and chastity. Do they really have a choice in the matter? I wish to state here the classical comparison between economic power and political power. The former uses positive, tangible economic benefits for a course of action while the latter uses a negative threat/fear of punishment or reprimand. These girls are brought up in a culture of fear; it is the kind of fear that takes a back seat as meeting mommy's expectations becomes an automatic function.

I speak now of limited, if not completely non-existent, freedoms and liberties. I speak of rights.

But educated mommies raise privileged girls who tend to enter more efficient markets, where pricing is on the core business and not on the archaic premiums on desirable traits. Of course, from the other side of the fence these girls are troubled girls of loose moral character. And the grass is always greener on the other side!

Perhaps these girls are subject to just as much coercion as the prudent lot.

In any case, I am interested in studying the apathy that defines the prudes, because they tend to be apathetic, apolitical, and lacking in their sense of civic responsibilities! I believe it may be a gross generalization on my part, but save for a few outliers this is what I've seen and known.


We are losing people; valuable minds who could have been shaping the much-needed reform in this country. Educated girls get married young, hedging the risk of spinsterhood. They fear this state, because of their fear of judgement. What will people say?

Let us reconsider education:

My wandering mind makes a dangerous comparison between these purportedly educated young women and those lost youths who, for lack of other options, exchange their lives for family insurance packaged in explosive, deadly jackets. Free size.

I believe both are equally helpless.

We are left with little competence, and we must in our limited capacities slave away at removing the grime of our fathers, who compensated for their inadequacies by competing aggressively with the proverbial Joneses.

Just a few hapless souls weighed down by a large mass of cultural primitivism, we are those enslaved children of Israel under the rule of whips.

Do we have a Moses in the building?

Saturday, May 7, 2011


Industrialized society has ensured that I have spent most of my life in institutions surrounded by people of my own age. As I start de-constructing the various groups of comrades I've known, I can make bubbles within bubbles to arrive at a respectable amount of people with pretty much the same socio-economic background as mine, though other regressors like education of parents and major life experiences will vary.

This sample makes up the demographic to which I belong.

Things now begin to get complicated. The word under scrutiny today is premium.

There are perceived premiums on certain attributes that we possess as individuals. These premiums are relative, of course, but for the purpose of understanding, we will assume a set of generally accepted traits and talents that are valued by our society at large.

We'll consider only a few of these, though in my opinions there can be millions if one were to truly codify the world in ones and zeroes.

Consider beauty. It is relative, but in my sample, there are individual features that hold premiums. In fact, beauty is too vague a term and to remain objective and proper let us use the term physical attractiveness. It is a disgusting notion that we harbour innate biases but we are generations away from being free of prejudice. A thick set of curls on a fair-skinned, slim torso is a pleasing sight to us lowly ethnic groups/populations. I choose my words carefully, because:

"...the term 'race' is not applicable to a species as genetically homogeneous as the human one"
- UNESCO 1950

Great. That makes life simpler. We are all governed by the same genetics and subsequent drives. What turns us on may differ, but the fact remains that we get turned on.

For me, recently, a half-Egyptian with features previously described did the trick. Damn, you should've seen the hair.

But we are complex beings. My generation and newer models are much sharper than the antique processors of our fathers. We are also more complex, and demanding. We aid our arguments with research, such as:

"...it was found that physically attractive men and women were perceived as more sociable, dominant, sexually warm, mentally healthy and socially skilled compared to unattractive people."
- Perlini, Bertolissi and Lind, 1999)

As we drove towards the edges of the city, and into the heart of Sindh there came a point where she remained quiet for a few minutes, staring at the desert landscape rolling lazily past. I could hear her nails rhythmically tapping her can of Carlsberg to the beat of typical sunday classics. The baron was playing for us melodies from simpler, happier times.

I glanced frequently at her tresses and the bright rays of Karachi summer amplified her beauty. From beyond the golden-brown, I could make out the orange from her imitation wayfarers. This was enough, and I should've soaked in the image for longer.

Instead, I asked her what she was thinking.

'Do you really want to know?" she asked.

I persisted.

"I was thinking about time and space."

She didn't need to. She shouldn't have. I had already accepted her premium as one of those fleeting good things that happen to a person- a delightful experience that I would cherish just for the aesthetics of it all.

It is shallow, and this simple, primitive drive makes for a flawed reasoning system. So are we really better off with our i7 processors? I'm pretty sure this is a truth that my father realized at the same age, with little mental distress.

I can assure you that this truth distresses me greatly. It has been my belief that it was intellect feeding my ego all these years, and fuelling my arrogance and disdain for all things normal.

But things are becoming clearer of late. There is nothing intellectual in reserving big words to impress hot chicks.

I want a perfect body, and I don't believe in the soul. So I want a perfect mind, instead.

Except I realize that the soul is nothing but an irrevocably imperfect mind. If you are able-bodied (if not beautiful), think vertically and grew up with people in a society of more than just a few, you are not you. You are them. Every me, and and every you.

Those of us who fight to suppress our natural drives are fighting a noble cause. Keep it up, find a partner fighting for the same cause and start a brave new world on an island.

The big question, though remains: what will guide your actions? Is the pursuit of physical perfection enough? Is gymming a religion?

Or can the pursuit of knowledge be an end in itself?

What's your premium?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


I was conceived out of passion. My mother was cruel and didn't want me. My father died when I was a babe and left me in the hands of friends and followers. He was a wise man, but I cannot say the same for those who came after.

I was beautiful, and I was valuable. Kings of distant lands sought my favour, and I realized early in life that I was very special. They all seem to have my best interests at heart.

She paused, and a sad smile passed her bluish lips. She took out another Morven cigarette and lit it with the remains of the last one.

Corrupt uncles fought to be my guardians. They would contest in public and tell the people their plans for me. Some would take over by force.

Some of them dressed me up and took me to parties where I mingled with the finest of dignitaries. I would stay up late and my education was largely ignored. Others were unbending and harsh, and I was not allowed to do much except follow rules.

I forgive their shortcomings, and I forgive their inadequacies. I appreciate that they tried to the best of their abilities, or if they didn't, I appreciate that they pretended to.

I'll even forgive them for being weak. They never realized their own strength, and their own courage. Instead, they give into pressures from foreigners, or succumbed to greed.

I began to slowly understand my guardians for what they really were.


Her voice was getting shaky, and she paused for a while. I got her water, and she gulped it down before continuing.

Would you do that to your daughter, your imaanat? What about to your mother?

She reached for her pack of cigarettes and found it empty. She scowled, and I offered her my imported Dunhills. She saw the fancy packaging and jeered a bit.

Do you have a daughter? You do? Haha okay. This might sting a little bit, then.

She went on to explain her theory on how we all pimp out our daughters.

I'll admit that she made me uncomfortable. It wasn't her speech as much as her weathered face and sunken, somnolent eyes that gave me chills. She was beautiful, and I could not look at her for too long. I tried to focus on what she was saying and stared down at my notepad.

...and then you send them to college, still monitoring their every move. Be home by this time, be chaste. Do well in college. Who will marry you?

And you sell them of to the most eligible bidder. You celebrate with grandeur beyond your means as she leaves your house and gets into the bed of another. Oh, but you're progressive, and you smoke smuggled cigarettes. Maybe your daughter sleeps around and offers a trial run to potential breadwinners?

On the surface she was tough and unshakeable. She was like a stone. But as her eyes began to water I realized that she had never had the childhood that she deserved. She did not get the love and education that should be every child's birthright.

I have been ravished by my own and by others. Who will have me now? Sure, they still come because I know many secrets. They have their way with me, and they leave. They all do. Who would make this illiterate their own? I have borne many, many children, but they do not think I am their responsibility, for there are other bastards who have benefited much more. What can I teach them, given how little I was taught? I feel like I am beyond repair. I feel forsaken, and worthless.

I am Pakistan, and nobody will fight for my dignity.


I write this emotive and somewhat childish piece in the light of OBL's death. I am awash with mixed emotions, the net of which is overriding fear and indignity at being Pakistani. As our government remains quiet, I can only hope that this is not taken as an admission of guilt.

Whether Osama has been dead for a while- and there is enough evidence to support this- is now inconsequential and subsequent surfacing of proof to support this will be suppressed. It is no secret that in a set-up, the better (read: richer) lawyer wins.

Maybe we should be glad of the intellectual incapacity of the average american, but who will quell the reservations of prosecutors at the US Dept. of Justice? Who owned the land? How was the land acquired, and from whom?

There is general agreement as to the best course of action for Pakistan: to deny any involvement in, and knowledge of, OBL's whereabouts.


I leave y'all with a question:

So how many of you of you get up and leave Packistan if given the chance? That is, if you weren't weighed down by that little green booklet that signals red for most international authorities, and suggests that you shouldn't be passing through any ports.

I'd like to sign off with a noun, but given my location, any geopolitical pundit would surely consider this a pun.