There’s a reason I didn’t blog about KLF this year; I felt that, with the abundance of blogs littering the blogosphere, it would hardly be anything new. And the same goes for SOCMM12 as well, as wonderful (and for many reasons, magical) as it was for me, I simply didn’t see the point in talking about things everyone else has already mentioned. However, I did realize one thing; there are some truly wonderful moments which for some insane reason, no one has really mentioned. I’m taking the liberty of writing them here, so if anyone else considered it to be the favorite part of their day as well, they can indulge in a bit of nostalgia. PS: Since this is mostly my own perceptions, I’m not going to bother with my motto of “use words economically” which I credit to my editor Maryam Piracha at The Missing Slate. Thus. This is very long. 😀

First of all, a warm thanks to the lovely woman in the striped black and grey shirt who gave me my guest pass, and was kind enough not to laugh too much when I wandered up lost, asking where I was supposed to go, and confessing how badly my social anxiety was crippling me at the moment. I walked into the NFP-moderated session Viral Video just in time to catch the end of Osman Khalid Butt’s Humsafar parody, which was being played on the projector. What followed was an animated discussion with Ali Gul Pir a.k.a Wadeiray Ka Beta and Ali Aftab Saeed of the Beygairat Brigade. The one part I want to highlight is the end; Sabeen Mehmud of PeaceNiche teasingly insisted that Ali Gul dance off stage; he retaliated by agreeing to do so, but only if she danced with him. Considering how serious she’s always seemed to me, it was a delight to see her goofing off and having fun. My buddy Wasio has the video on his blog (which the poor chap spent quite a long time attempting to upload)

Next up was Raheel Khursheed from Change.org on online activism. I’m sorry to say this, but the man put me to sleep. I found my attention wandering in a way it only wanders when I’m in a class, or attending a typical delhiwala segregated wedding. What he had to say was of much import; how he delivered is what was lacking. The only reason I managed to pay attention is that the man knows his shit. We often dismiss online activism by saying its of no use, and he pointed out examples where, through online petitions, people actually had managed to bring about social change.

Sabbah Haji was next, and goodness, she’s absolutely lovely and charming. Sweet and soft-spoken, you could see the animation in her expressions and voice as she talked about her school, sharing pictures of her students. It is very important to mention the role social media has played in her school. She talked about how the volunteer teachers at her school were people she had never even met, and they applied via social media. My favorite part was a story she told about how she tweeted that she needed a projector for her classroom, and within ten or fifteen minutes, some people had volunteered the projector, which she cited it as a huge win.

After lunch and some chilling out with the wonderful Nabiha Meher– Yes, I am going to show off the fact that I hung out with Nabiha Meher- it was time for her session Haunted: What You Post Online Never Goes Away. Accompanied by Jehan Ara, the session was quite promising as both women talked about the risks women and children face when posting information online. Unfortunately, the fun was cut short by the third panelist Imtiaz Noor, who for some reason, decided to make the ridiculous, baseless statement that (and this is a loose paraphrase) it is mostly women who say, with great pride, that they are technologically dumb. My mentor Nabiha retorted with “misogynist confirmation bias” which, to my increasing delight as the crowd boo’d him, the man actually did  not seem to understand. I take great pleasure in writing about this, because such misogyny needs to be made public. What’s even more ridiculous is that he actually defended himself by claiming that he has strong opinions and prefers to voice them. Personally, if I even suspected my opinions were flawed and fallacious, I’d keep them to myself.

I spent the next hour or so meeting people and to my dismay, had to miss out on the Maya Khan session due to a family reunion at home (which btw was epic; it was nice to be reminded that my wonderful cousins exist outside of the internet as well, since they’re settled abroad).

Guess how my day began on Saturday. 😀 As I walked around trying to find a friend of mine, I saw this tall, lanky dude with a fro walk in. It was Ramish Safa of Kachee Goliyan!!! 😀 I vaguely knew the guy through a friend, emphasis on vague, so obviously he didn’t recognize me but it was nice to see a famous person I didn’t want to smack (I don’t like everyone on social media, okay!)

But that aside, for me, the day began with Fight Club: Rise of the Troll. Now I’m not a fan of Mohsin Sayeed, he’s a troll for me but my god, the man is hilarious in real life. He had the audience in stitches with his snappy remarks, which included something about getting to sleep with Kaptaan if anyone built a school. Bina Shah eloquently described trolls and Raza Rumi stood out as one of the best moderators of the event. My only bone of contention with him is that when calling upon the audience for questions, he called on “famous” people first, and saved “normal” people for last, case in point being a scruffy, soft-spoken and mildly hot guy sitting next to me, who kept waving his hand in vain and was called upon in the very end. (I think his name was Abdullah. Remind me to stalk him, he was CUTE! :D)

And then, and then, and then, my absolutely favorite session of the day; the rise of online comics!!! 😀 consisting of Babrus Khan, Ramish Safa, Adil Hussain, Jugul Mody, and some guy from Express Tribune who’s like, famous on Twitter and Facebook or something. I’m amused by how quiet Babrus came across- I late spent time with my friend F who is acquainted with him and the KG team, and barely noticed the guy except for when he was looming over me- and Adil talked about how he used comics to express his political ideas (incidentally my favorite comics are the political ones, as well as the Maya Khan ones). The highlight of the session though, was definitely the stoic-faced Ramish explaining how KG had a team that did storyboards, graphics, etc. and how they were running Kachee Goliyan like a business. The ET moderator guy apparently draws comics too, or did until he retired due to getting married- I think that’s some sort of inside joke or something- and as vivacious as was, I wish he’d have guided the discussion to a more substantial discourse. It was heartening to see though, that the room was packed full of comic enthusiasts. Nuzhat Kidvai actually came up to the Kachee Goliyan guys in front of me to praise them for their efforts. It was obvious to anyone how much the praise meant to them.

The next session was on censorship and the internet economy. While it had activists such as Sana Saleem on the panel, to my surprise, it wasn’t her that stood out for me (and she’s someone I have an immense amount of respect for, she’s really brilliant) but rather, Sher Ali, who came prepared with actual notes. Remind me to start following him on Twitter; very well-spoken, intelligent guy. The moderator however, Yasser Latif Hamdani, was a giant pain. Whoever was in charge of assigning moderators and panelists please for the love of god, keep that guy out of it next time. He was dull, weird, and frankly had nothing of import to say. Yuck.

Next up was Stalkers and Bullies: The Dark Side of the Internet. With an all-woman panel of Jehan Ara, Sana Saleem, Nabiha Meher, Sabbah Haji, and Sabeen Mahmud, the panelists did not fail to deliver at all. Sana Saleem recounted the stories she’d heard from girls at schools and universities where she’s spoken on netiquette, mentioned how it was common for fake profiles to crop up, something I’ve seen happen too often. Nabiha Meher talked about how, during her time at Aitchison, the students actually made an Orkut page titled Nabiha is a prostitute and went as far as sharing her address and phone number. Both of them drove home the point that people simply do not see this as a sign of cyber bullying and harassment. Its okay to impersonate someone, to share personal pictures, to make threats online. According to Sana, at the schools where she spoke, the lowest grade this happens is the third grade. More importantly, they talked about how parents need to be a net nanny of sorts and monitor what their children are doing online, and lamented that those parents who try to protect children from the internet are often under pressure when children ask for cellphones and internet access due to peer pressure.

Lunch got delayed. 😦 I was holding a plate in my hand along with a friend, another friend actually had his hand on the spoon when Mohsin Sayeed marched in on Sabeen’s orders to tell us to cease and desist eating and report to the next session. I degenerated into brat mode and had to be taken aside by a friend and calmed so I wouldn’t throw a tantrum from hunger. Judge me all you want; food before everything else, always. To make matters worst, F had wandered off to Atrium for lunch with her friends. 😦 Upon her return, I had my lunch with her charming, soft-spoken sister and well, Ramish. I think fangirls might be jealous of me but really, he’s like a totally normal guy, nice as he is, I’m not sure why three different friends screeched when I mentioned chatting with him about Game of Thrones and the quality of food.

Next up was Gustaakhi Maaf with Sanjay Rajoura and here’s why I didn’t crack a single smile throughout the entire show (please note that this is purely my own personal opinion and does not, in any way, reflect the beliefs of Sanjay Rajoura himself, who does not endorse rape jokes or demeaning women as detailed to me in an email)  towards the beginning, he made a joke about girls who wear shorts in Delhi. At that point, I recall a  couple other women tweeting about it in startlement as well, since it was a bit out of the blue. For me, it just wasn’t funny despite the followup joke; in between, there was a joke about how girls start screaming after getting married, which sounded to much like a rape joke to me. Its a pity because I would have had a good time if such jokes didn’t get to me. He was funny, all the same, and I was amused to find someone who actually speaks faster than I do, but I had a difficult time enjoying the rest of his performance.

Before leaving, I managed to hug Nabiha Meher goodbye, shake hands with Mehreen Kasana (who btw, I’m sorry I dislike reducing a woman to her appearance but her curls are so beautiful!) get in a hug with my friend F and her sister before both wandered off to meet other friends, and even got to say bye to Ramish without getting mocked by him (I get the feeling he has a caustic tongue and I’m quite an easy target for mockery I’m afraid).

Its a pity SOCMM was held on this particular weekend as both days had me leaving early due to family obligations. I heard a lot of good things about Ali Dayan Hassan’s session as well as the last one on the changing newsroom which was madly tweeted about. It was no KLF for sure, but it was still a pretty great event. Considering how powerful social media is specially in Pakistan, it was fairly interesting to see all the things fit into 140 characters discussed at length. I had my fangirl moments in meeting Nabiha Meher and Mehreen Kasana, and for some reason every time I see Mohammad Hanif, I want to screech and jump up and down in excitement which happened at least twice. If you were looking for analysis or critique I’m sorry to disappoint you, this was mostly my reflections on the event and personal opinions/experiences. I suppose I should have mentioned this in the beginning. *evil laughter*

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Comments
  1. The video never got uploaded through my cell phone. Facebook apparently does not accept videos, at least from Nokia S60 devices. Had to do it from home

  2. Anonymous says:

    I like it how I am referred to as F.. *hugs* 😄

  3. Amna K says:

    I would have loved to attend it. 😦

  4. Sanjay Rajoura says:

    Dear writer, this is Sanjay Rajoura, the one you thought took the liberty of cracking jokes on women’s personal choices and cracked “rape jokes”, that left you with bad taste. I stumbled upon this piece of yours and thought, I should address your concerns about “Gustakhi Maaf”.

    Well for starts, with due respect, you missed the title. But never mind. Secondly if you’d have invested, just a small bit of time on doing some research on my spoken and written work, you would have found out that I have been known to speak and write about personal liberties and women rights. So to say that I have no right to make fun of a woman’s choices is out rightly being ignorant of the subject you are writing about. If you had been careful enough and dare I say smart too, you would have noticed that I was indeed making fun their choice, but that of wearing choodas, which is huge symbol of subjugation, and not the shorts. I guess you don’t like ironies in spoken and written narratives. Other than that, I am a humorist. I made fun of myself, my countrymen, my heroes and my family. I guess that’s where a humorist earns his or her right to laugh at anything under the sky. The second part of your criticism is not only callously written but is an out right lie. Just for the records, I don’t endorse jokes and least of all rape jokes. No sensible person will. You mention that I said, ” women shout after marriage” and that to you sounds to be a rape joke! First of all, by what logic? Secondly, and here comes the lie part, I never said those words, on your part its poor intellect at best total fabrication at worst. The recording of my show is available on youtube and also with the organizers of the mela. The writer of this remarkable piece can have a look again. If you had been listening, you would have known that what I in fact said was, ” after marriage we (as a society) make our women so loud ( to specify, with accouterments, just in case you don’t get it) that they can be spotted from Google Earth. As I said, you may check with the video. Normally if you have to explain you stories, then either they are bad or the audience is dumb. You take your call since I am going to explain it to you. What I was emphasizing was how, society collectively burdens women with obscene display of her marital status, while men go scot free. Now if that’s a rape joke, then either you or rest of us are from an alien planet.

    No true artist is closed to criticism. Because that will be the failure of his or her craft itself. I would have appreciated your criticism if you’d said that my work is not good, or funny. But what you reported is a bunch of lies which are a result of being not attentive, lazy and plainly unethical. Please don’t try your hands on journalism. I hope you understand that your irresponsible lies and poor judgment could seriously dent reputaion as a liberal activist and performer. As you said, you would have enjoyed more, but only if you had payed attention.

    Warm regards (clarification, I don’t consider warm regards as rape jokes!)

    Sanjay Rajoura

    • Ghausia says:

      Hello,

      Thank you for taking out the time to comment here. First of all, while you have every right to defend yourself, I don’t understand why you feel the need to do so with ad-hominem attacks. You seem to possess the ability to speak rationally and logically, and I don’t personally associate those qualities with a person who’d make ad-hom remarks in any kind of debate/discussion.

      Secondly, I did pay enough attention, just because I didn’t review your entire performance doesn’t mean I wasn’t listening. As I said, I’d have probably laughed at a lot of your jokes if I wasn’t annoyed at the ones that bothered me. For the record, it was difficult for me to fight a smile a couple of times.

      Lastly, would you mind if I respond to the rest of your comments after I’ve seen the video? I genuinely don’t remember that weekend clearly anymore, and I’d like to take another look at your performance, so that if I did mishear your jokes, I can issue an apology right here on this blog. Since I’m excellent at journalism, I know that is the ethical thing to do, to respond to your parting ad-hom remark. 🙂

      • Sanjay Rajoura says:

        Dear Ghausia,

        It takes a lot of courage to do what you have just done. Salute. But again you are putting words in my mouth, please go and check the video. I never used those words, what you are putting again and again in my mouth, “women shouting after marriage”. That’s what is still bothering me. ITS FACTUALLY INCORRECT! Please do check. That you found me boring is perfectly acceptable. But please check facts. Your blog was pointed to me by my manager who is a woman of some academic credentials. She was raging with anger while I tried to tell her, I can’t be worried if my performance is not liked. And it was she who said, can’t you see what is a written here is not true and is contrary to what you stand for? I am generally a very angry person, because I have certain politics and I take stand. I have gone with pains to lengths to argue against gender stereotypes. I still stand by my statement. I did not say at all, what you are attributing to me. Its not even my words against yours. There is a video proof. Even with the proof pointing to the contrary, if you insist that you and your other “feminist” friends are right, I don’t want to further waste my time with this.

        I wish you all the best for your future career and I am sure you’ll do great. Stay in touch and come to Delhi sometime. Feminism is just not an “ism”. Its not even a movement. I think the true essence of feminism lies in understanding the history of gender politics and gender stereotypes and symbols of these sterotypes. To me chooda is one such symbol and has to be attacked. Its a smart game that market forces, capitalism and social structures/forces are playing where in capitalist market forces are maneuvering social structures/forces. Can’t you see the picture here? So our women can now wear shorts but can’t get rid of the chooda? Because this image of women suits the market. Again reducing women to a perfect object as dictated by market parameters. It is even bigger and more obscene objectification of women. I find it repulsive and its a pity that some “feminists” can’t see through it. If you and your other feminist friends cant see through it, its a pity! I suggest you read this brilliant book called “The Female Eunuch” by this absolutely brilliant woman Germaine Greer. Perhaps you may then see where I am coming from.

        Enough. I wish you all the best! Feel free to right back on anything. As for my angry rants, I am angry but a fair guy. Neither do I take credit nor do I take a fall when I don’t deserve it!

        Regards
        Sanjay

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