Category: My View. My Voice.

Acceptance

You are struck by the force of something big. You are struck brutally. The force of it sends you reeling. You sit, your ears buzzing with a deafening silence. You can’t believe yet you have to. You tell yourself it happens. It happens, with everyone, it happened, remember with that relative? It has happened to you now.

You were previously so scornful of all the inspirational quotes that would come up on your home page. You now find them so relevant. You realise. You are guilty of so much. Yet you find yourself crying. Crying of guilt, of sorrow, of repentance. Was it the page you ignored? The questions you left? The confidence that had just trickled up your brain? You search, and search, and search, for reasons.

Destiny. Blessing in disguise. Terms and consolation that you understand, that make it better for you. You now accept it. Yes, it was Allah’s wish.

And then comes surrender. Sweet surrender. To that Being who create this beautiful world in 6 days and did not glance at it thereafter. To His plans which escape our imagination.

Thank you O Allah, it is You who knows what is best. He alone gives you patience, guidance and realisation.

Ameen.

A shout-out to the friend who shared this with me:

The dying habit

‘J.K. Hollywood’. When a ten-year-old student distorts the name of the beloved author who introduced you to magic and worlds of infinite imagination, you feel like screaming endlessly. However, all you can do is express anger by telling him off rudely about the complete absence of any awareness about the outside world and just let it pass. Welcome to our current system of rote-learning, where students learn only what they want, seek information which will get them the highest grade and sit smugly with smiles on their faces, flaunting the ‘rank’ they achieved in school.

This post arises from a dire need to write about what I’ve been thinking for quite a long, long time. Ever since I’ve started teaching a few primary-school and lower-secondary school students as a part-time activity, I come across a range of intellect, imagination, creativity. Those who achieve the ‘1st position’ would have the answers, imagination, creativity, you’re looking for, you might say. However, I find  the scenario alters for every child.

We have an eight-year-old coming at my home for tutoring – attending an institution par excellence but achieves average marks in subjects like English Language. Ask him to write a composition on describing how he spent his vacation, and he’ll use words, ideas, imagination that is brilliant. The sentence structure might not be perfect, but his creativity with words is impressive. Yet, he gets marked on the exam he attempted on a certain day, with a certain topic, under the stressful influence of his parents to give that perfect exam they want him to. His mother questions why he couldn’t score well in his exam when he can write such essays at home. My mother explains how she should be thankful that he has some talent, regardless of whether it gets him an impressive end-of-year report. But the other person isn’t ‘satisfied’.

Then come students whose parents wish to ‘improve their English.’ Their parents want spectacular improvement within weeks as if it’s a diet-plan. They seem to think language and expression is learnt by rigorous filling of lines and notebooks. However, they don’t understand the value of reading. Whilst discussing with my teacher, this issue, she remarked, “Language isn’t taught, it’s caught.” And it really is. I do not intend to belittle those who can’t express really well, I wish to say how parents should understand that wider reading, exposure to ideas and creativity is what matters. My own mum would encourage us to read anything and everything when we were in that phase. Attending the annual book fair was a must for us. I wonder how people throng the ‘Lifestyles’ exhibition but not this one.

I have two students who achieve the top positions in their class, yet answer me that Pervez Musharraf is the Prime Minister of our country. They produce rote-learned essays, where at every occasion, they are consuming ‘pizza and coke.’ Parents are asked to subscribe for the daily newspaper – a wealth of information and reading material at your doorstep – but we get back the reply they don’t want to ‘waste’ their money. Mind you, they are always ready to provide the latest edition of the ‘PSP’ for their child or any other video game. Reader’s Digest or the annual book fair or the annual Karachi Literature Festival becomes out of the question. Watch channels like BBC, CNN, Discovery, we advise, as listening helps. However, their mother doesn’t wish to allow them to watch when it’s time for her favourite T.V. soap. And here we are in this world of ironies.

It is natural, therefore, for the child to revert to endless games, while all the resources he could have used go waste. Reading thus becomes the ‘uncool’ habit and knowledge of the world around you doesn’t matter anymore. Rote-learn, give your exam, get full marks. After all, you ARE achieving that gold medal in front of your parents and that’s what matters. 

An indelible passion

As a teenager who harboured a love for books, for words, for the smell of pages inscribed with stories, splashed with imagination, opting for Literature as a subject in school was an assured choice. Yet, there were people who questioned  my choice, who warned that achieving a grade might not be easy but I wouldn’t make a retreat. Where else would I get a chance to write about how beautiful Dover Beach was in its message, study how elements in poetry-writing made a few lines carry infinite meaning? Came college and I faced a choice again. Would I opt for the same subject that required double the effort at this stage?  First, it was a no. Why risk my other grades for this subject’s sake? Forgo your interests and be practical! But a few weeks went past and I was looking earnestly towards that classroom where minds secluded themselves from the outside world and pored over characters, plots, meter and form. There I was again. Back with the same subject, ignoring the advice of a few, welcoming the encouragement of others.

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Perhaps, this reverence and love for Literature as a subject is due to the way my parents and teachers cultivated our mind to enjoy the texts we studied, to feel the characters’ joys, misery, happiness and suspense. I can never forget how reading Macbeth one night for class the next day had scared twelve-year-old me, making it difficult for me to fall asleep. The Yellow Wallpaper was a haunting story in grade ten, giving me a literal nightmare after I had studied it for days. Even when I was reading it for perhaps the twentieth time, the ending gave me a chill down my spine. Advanced Level brought with it the disturbing character of Blanche in The Streetcar Named Desire. Analysing her motives, her actions was as complex as she was. The story of how Vivian Leigh became a bit deranged herself after enacting Blanche is now understandable.

Indeed, studying what great minds have written lets their words, their characters enter your lives like Capricorn does in Inkheart, they become a part of you. You learn more than scansion and literary devices, you learn how humans have different facets to their personalities, you learn that sometimes the flaws in us are what make us human, you learn to put yourself into others’ shoes, you learn to empathise, you learn that sometimes the most cruel of all villains are people wanting to be understood by a kind heart.

As my Literature teacher assures us, ten years down the lane, we will probably forget our Physics formulae but the values and understanding that these texts teach us will remain forever.

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Proud to be a Pakistani: Elections 2013

May 11th, 2013 – The Pakistani equivalent of Tahrir Square.

The preceding election campaign, however chaotic, has made me realise that at any point in life, you can do something valuable for your country, that even in this world of stringent customs and norms, you can do your bit. From Saniya Naz, a 26-year-old woman standing against tyranny in chaos-stricken Lyari (Karachi), to Bindia Rana, Pakistan’s first transgender candidate, we all can see how Pakistanis are moving forward. The media has mobilised voters like never before and it has been an adventurous pathway that Pakistanis had never traversed together. We sat together in front of our screens to watch jalsas, to sigh over motivational speeches, to pray for Imran Khan’s health, to bite our lips over countless streams of ‘breaking news’.

For me, today’s morning was reminiscent of Eid mornings, when my father and brother return from their Eid prayers and I hug them heartily, wishing them Eid Mubarak. At 8.30, my mother’s voice woke me up today; she informed while going out, “We’re going to vote, stay safe.” But I wouldn’t just doze off while they were away. I wanted to be as much a part of this frenzy, this josh and jazba as they were. So I sat in front of the TV, my eyes glued to the screen, watching people cast their votes throughout Pakistan. I sat there praying that all would go well at the stations, that everyone’s families would return home safely. And once mine did, I felt a surge of victory, the sudden urge to hug them and cry out, “Yay, we did it!” As my mother recounted all the neighbours she met there, plus old friends who had come from different areas to cast votes, I was proud. Proud of being a Pakistani, proud of being part of a nation that has realised that these elections matter, proud to say that the whole nation united to perform a national duty.

A reporter on BBC showed how a long line of women were waiting to cast their votes in a village outside Islamabad. She congratulated them, “Shabaash!” And when an elderly woman hobbled in, supported by a man and a cane in the other hand, the reporter herself was amazed by the determination and spirit that is running through Pakistanis. It is as if it’s the World Cup finale, we have entered the arena and we will make sure we win this time as a nation and show the world how powerful we can be.

Each one of us knows that these oncoming hours will reveal our fate for the next five years, let us all pray it is a good one.

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 http://dawn.com/2013/04/19/the-daughter-of-lyari/
http://www.indiatimes.com/news/asia/meet-bindia-rana-pakistans-first-transgender-candidate-76634-4.html#photo

disturbing thoughts & hidden reminders

blogpic“………for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.”

-Mathhew Arnold (Dover Beach)

With the recent phenomena of bomb blasts, massacres, destruction, taking place every day, Pakistan has become a war zone of sorts and Pakistanis have been transformed into a nation of desensitized individuals. During my childhood, I unconsciously  learnt how to distinguish between the sound of a gunshot and that of a firecracker, when idle men in the locality fired away. If gunshots reached my ears, I would, and still, run to a family member, my heart beating faster by the second.

But during the recent months, things have been happening such in Karachi that I have now come to distinguish the sound of a bursting tyre from that of a bomb blast. Just writing this down gives me goosebumps. Last year, when I heard a dull throbbing sound far away, for the first time, I ignored it but later got to know that it had actually been a bomb blast.

And then, a few days ago.

Right in the heart of bustling activity, a nearly 150-kg, explosive laden bomb blew up at Abul Ispahani Road, robbing people of their homes, their belongings, their loved ones. And a few kilometres away, I had just finished my Maghrib prayers. I heard the exploding sound, so hard and dense, that the curtains fluttered slightly and the windows shook. While outside, the birds began twittering louder. This is how things happen here. This is how we get to know something has gone wrong, that someone inhumane, someone driven with madness has done something or the other.

And after we have watched the countless flashing red news bulletins, heard all the stories, shared all the depression and skimmed through endless statuses and tweets, I sit back and some thought crosses my mind. Nowadays, a strong realisation keeps sinking in – that all the worldly things that we run after, that all the wealth that we fight over, that all the clothes that we gloat over, are finite, as mortal as we are. We don’t know when we might lose all these things that we guard and boast of, as much as we can’t guess when we’ll die.

We work so hard at getting all the things that will make us popular and satisfied. But have we really thought about working to become better Muslims in the eyes of Allah? A momentary lapse in our cardiac routine, and there we go. All things gone and only our deeds remain with us. The sad and depressing events taking place around me continuously remind me how with a jolt of the earth’s crust, the spark of a huge fire, we can lose all our belongings that we guard and collect so wishfully.

These disturbing events remind me that I need to spend time striving in the way of Allah, that I have to become a better Muslim. When I am ready to work hard at my grades, why not at my deeds? These events strike me with the reminder that on the Day of Resurrection, all our belongings will be absent, and only our deeds will be present. And here we are, spending far more time on accumulating wealth than we spend on gaining Allah’s rewards. Even though we know that Allah helps out those close to Him, makes them loved and appreciated in the eyes of others, we still wonder why we face problems, we still wonder why we aren’t famous.

May Allah keep us all safe. And may He guide us all towards the right path. (Ameen)

The Power of Faith

“Bear in your mind illusion deep-engraved-

If you would weigh your worth at its true rate,

Never will ill-faring or ill-doing be your fate!”

– Allama Iqbal

In the past few weeks, I have grown to realize that belief in God and belief in yourself, can indeed work wonders. The mere thought, that yes, you can do it, can be an invincible barrier against failure. As soon as you let this strong dyke crack under doubt, failure comes washing over, making you just a spectator; you are no longer a participant in constructing your own destiny.

The belief that God will help you, that He is there to lend a hand when in need, makes one more steadfast, more headstrong in achieving a goal that once seemed impossible. With faith, you can overcome hurdles as if they were simply mirages and nothing else. Belief in yourself is a key element in beginning your journey towards success. Belief in God is something that should always be there throughout, because He is Eternal and All-Powerful, and His power is unquestionable.

There are a million stories that speak of how belief, hope, faith are all ingredients of a strong and stable foundation upon which success is built. Abdul Sattar Edhi is one example. He believed he could do it, he ignored all the doubts voiced out by his friends and colleagues, he carried on with faith in God and in his abilities. His success in developing a world-famous, accessible and true welfare organization is now evident. When I watched the movie Kung Fu Panda, I was struck by the message it relayed. Through the humour and action, it showed how faith conquers all. It can turn illusions and castles in the air into reality.

I still remember a story a read many years ago. A girl believed that a pair of shoes were special because her brother told her so. She believed running in them would make her win a race. With the belief in mind that she was destined to beat her opponents, she ran with all her might and came out victorious. A parallel can be easily drawn up. Just as life is a race, belief in oneself can make us conquer so much, can make us exceed boundaries and achieve heights we could never even have imagined before.

Doubt and hopelessness, dejection and despondency are obstacles that will be and should be broken down by strong, firm belief. It is this belief that will prevent dreams from blowing away like clouds. It is this belief that can make the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow turn into reality from a mere illusion.

“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.”
– J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Revival

The sky is blotted with grey as heavy clouds gain dominance and everything goes dark and cloudy; everything, from Karachi to its charm, to its people, to its aura has gone dismal. Fires burn, some for revolt, some attempts at arson, but endless are the fires that burn in the hearts of people who have lost their loved ones in this ongoing, never-ending craze, the craze of intolerance, the craze of ethnicity, and thus, the craze of violence.

It relents, the sky surrenders and the pitter-patter of raindrops fills numerous ears just like the terrifying sound of gun-shots now interrupts their dreams. It seems as if the sky is shedding tears, tears of consolation, tears to show the grieved that their gloom will not go unnoticed. The sky seems to speak. It speaks of the grief, the desolation of the Karachiites.

Candle wick burning.

It shares the emotion of loss, as raindrops touch the parched lips that continually move in prayers for peace, for security and safety. Moreover, it sends out a message of hope, of resurgence, as it extinguishes the flames upon the roads, the asphalt, the footpaths that have been burning overnight.

This time, the rain doesn’t arrive amidst thunder and lightning, but softly introduces itself as a companion in the time of sadness would. It arrives as a friend, willing to share the burden of loss, willing to extinguish those fires that burn in their souls. It calms and comforts, soothes and pacifies the storm of emotions raging in Karachi’s soul. The runoff washes away the blood upon Karachi’s surfaces, the blood of the innocent. Ash and bullets are taken away by this tide of renaissance. It arms the people of Karachi with hope, with optimism and desire so strong and passionate that I hope will one day, relight the lamps in their very own City of Lights.