Month: January 2011

Mo(u)rning in Karachi

Tomb of Mohamad Ali Jinnah, Karachi
Karachi-home of the Quaid's mausoleum

The Karachi horizon must be filled with wonder and awed by the beauty of the orange sun as it rises above it. The clouds change from silver to streaks of sparkling gold. The azure sky basks in this royalty but are the streets of Karachi lucky enough? I wonder……

Does the sun glow upon the villas along the shore? The sun does gleam upon the sand, I have read, but doesn’t it also sparkle upon the litter speckling the dark grey asphalt of the roads? The sun does mirror itself on all the dirt-streaked and the shiny windows of the high-rise buildings, some of them revealing their patches of cracked beige paint, the sun highlights the moss-covered dripping pipes hidden into the dark ducts, but doesn’t it also warm the starved bodies of the homeless dozing off on the cemented footpaths?

Doesn’t it ponder on the stark contrast in the two sides of the picture-a picture that activates itself into a bustling metropolitan? Beggars lie under the shade of buildings owned by the elite, the villas lie upon the shores of the Arabian Sea but so does yesterday’s garbage. The sputtering rickshaw travels alongside the gliding Toyota Corolla. The homeless orphan, her clothes in tatters, knocks helplessly on the windows of the school bus full of breakfast-fed, bright-eyed ‘students’, Pakistan’s ‘next generation’.

Indeed, the sun must be absorbing all the contrasts so explicitly displayed, how then, I wonder, does it turn into the yellow spot in the sky from the bright, frivolous orange disc upon the golden horizon?

Feminism

Whether it be Asia, Africa, Europe, America or Australia, in every part of the world, a portion of the female population is subjected to violence, terror, cruelty. Everyday in Scotland, more than 50 women, with their children, leave their homes to escape from abusive men. One in four women in America experiences domestic violence. In Australia, women fall victim to homicide after domestic altercations. Asia’s situation is not different. The website npr.org shows how the menace of domestic violence has even pervaded Russia. Honour killings claim lives numbering in thousands in Pakistan. In every society, such a dilemma exists and feminism is what comes to rescue the despondent women, who are the integral backstage helpers in upholding the world’s stage.

Many misogynists may claim that feminism is just a rebellious movement but it is an ideology which is indeed better and more effective than Rapunzel’s Prince Charming. The brave feat of Mukhtar Mai proves that feminism is not a mere belief, but a rallying call for suppressed women. Throughout the world, women are in need of great help, and it is the pro-feminist organizations that lend a helping hand, such as AASHA in Pakistan and globally, the UN Women establishment.

Male domination is a threat to women rights and feminism helps eliminate it. As Estelle R. Ramey has said, “Women’s chains have been forged by men, not by anatomy.” Feminists have succeeded in breaking off the shackles of male domination, such as Pakistan’s first female English columnist, Zaib-un-Nisa Hamidullah in the 20th century and Shirin Ebadi, the first Muslim woman to have receieved the Nobel Peace Prize. Belief in feminism has fuelled such enthusiasm that women themselves have proved that they are a force to reckon with.

Women are not merely the weaker individuals of society, but have the potential to become leaders. Hence, women empowerment is one of the solutions for developing countries to raise their position. Iceland tops the list with the countries having the most gender equality, mainly because it has 50% female parliamentarians. Margaret Mead has said, “Everytime we liberate a woman, we liberate a man.” Benazir Bhutto, Asma Jehangir and Ranaa Liaquat Ali Khan are women leaders who have shown how feminism is the background of the success stories of many women. Benazir Bhutto’s support for women rights led to the rise of the first female parliamentary Speaker in the Muslim world, Fehmida Mirza of Pakistan.

While books such as A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khalid Hosseini presents the plight of suppressed women, Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie narrates the story of a brave woman, showing that feminism has even made its way into the writers’ pen. This ideology no longer remains the topic of a radical speech. Women have adopted it and have earned international acclaim, showing that they can go one step ahead of men, and that religion, caste or colour are just mythical barriers which should not block a woman’s way to the enlightened road ahead.

The above essay was written as part of a homework assignment.

The Blame Game

It’s 9 p.m. Switching the channels, I find almost half of them showing stressed, angry, frustrated faces. One face, one person each. One personality per channel who becomes its identity, criticizes ‘politicians’ and ‘bureaucrats’. I wonder why these critics are given the title of ‘anchors’, ‘critics’ would have been well enough. However, behind all my sarcasm, there is a secret admiration I have for them, for their boldness, their indifference to the presence of different political ‘karkun’ who sit opposite to them; you can almost hear these ‘guests’ grinding their teeth, as the anchor sarcastically introduces the day’s topic of discussion with a smirk on his/her face.

The ‘talk show’ (why not ‘debate contest’?) starts, and as the title goes, it is all a blame game. No solution. No peace. No cooperation. The ladies are in their elegant dresses and manicured nails, while thousands of Pakistanis live below the poverty line, many more homeless, reminiscent of past memories before the floods swept away their homes. Here, people in formal suits and ties, sitting on comfy chairs in air-conditioned studios, argue and reach no conclusion. Sadly.

A viewer is indeed baffled after watching even one show. What were they trying to prove? Confusing indeed. It makes one wish they invested the money they paid for the regional flight to reach the studio in another city, in helping out the neglected and lonely, in donating to a social welfare organization. Instead of the ‘anchors’ buying expensive wardrobes for the multitude of programs they have to do, just cut those three programs down to one, your channel doesn’t stand out that much. For us viewers, it is the same news, the same headlines, the same breaking news.

Sigh. One can just rely on the ray of hope at the end of the tunnel.