Archive for the ‘Scattered Opinions’ Category

Paul: Holly. I’m not gonna let you do this I’m in love with you.

Holly: So what?

Paul: So what? So plenty! You belong to me!

Holly: No. People don’t belong to people.

Paul: Of course they do!

Holly: I’m not gonna let anyone put me in a cage.

Paul: I don’t wanna put you in a cage, I wanna love you!

Holly: The same thing!

I officially no longer know anyone who is not single, like me. There’s something wrong with me.

And not because I’m single. And not because I don’t have a love-life. And not because I’m not in a relationship.

It’s because I want none of the above.

I’ve tried to rationalize it, to understand it. But there’s nothing that has traumatized me. It’s not cynicism. It’s not bitterness. It’s not even disinterest. It’s just something I don’t want or need.

Do I want a relationship for the companionship? No, not really. Other people exhaust me. Even going out with my family is sometimes difficult, because I would much rather stay in my room and read a book or chat with a friend online or watch a TV show.  Meeting friends leaves me emotionally drained, no matter how much fun I have. Socializing panics me, and the nervous hyper energy that results gives the illusion of gregariousness. So no, I’m rather fond of the idea of moving into my very own apartment, living completely on my own some magical day.

So I need a relationship for love? Absolutely not. I’ve made the mistake of centering myself, my life, my personality, my whole being around individual people, attaching all importance to them, and falling apart the second my relationship with those people frayed. It took a lot of hard work to realize and understand that for every single person I lose in my life, there are so many people remaining who love me and would do anything for me that I shouldn’t even feel the loss of that one person. Sure, those people are friends, family, children, cats. But love is love, no matter what. The form changes, but the substance remains. I need love and affection, in no specific form precisely.

And it certainly doesn’t give me happiness. I mean, my personal past aside- some details even I don’t publish online- relationships don’t precisely affect my happiness in any way. Well, they do sometimes make me miserable. Sometimes, they make me cheerful. But happy, no, not precisely, no. Food makes me happy. Writing makes me happy. Winters and rain makes me happy. Relationships, not so much.

Everyone has to settle down some day, you think. Part of settling down is marriage, you think. Yeah, no, not really. That may be the case for some people, but not all. And I’m not some people, not by a long shot. My opposition to marriage has a lot to do with how unnecessary and in a Pakistani context, problematic it is. I do not at all feel safe or secure considering marriage under current Pakistani laws. And if something makes me doubt my own security, then I’m not inclined towards it, obviously.

Children? I’ve done my research. Single women can and do adopt in Pakistan. It’s difficult, more difficult than it is for normal couples but hey, that just makes the feminist in me snarl and say, bring it on. And I actually do want to adopt. I don’t intend to procreate, not at all. I consider procreation to be an extremely selfish act. But I absolutely love children, I think they’re beautiful and amazing and so full of life, and for that reason alone, I want to adopt a child someday, because every child deserves love and family, and many children do not have that, and I want to give such a child a home because I don’t care whose blood she or he is, I’ll love them and they’ll be my children, no matter what our blood says.

That wraps up all the traditional reasons for relationships and marriage. Honestly, I genuinely cannot fathom why there is so much social pressure to BE in a relationship. I feel like I’m living some sort of soap opera where everyone is cool and single, and then suddenly even though they’re still cool, they’re also in a relationship, and I’m the only one who doesn’t conform, who isn’t the way people are supposed to be.

Whether it’s an old girlfriend who’s met her first boyfriend and will typically marry him, or friends in foreign countries with more independent, individualistic relationships, or friends with long-distance relationships, slowly, everyone has “fallen in love” so to speak, if not conformed. I haven’t and I don’t want to. I wrinkle my nose in disgust at people’s stories, because tales of companionship nauseate me. I wonder how people can live together and not hate each other. I wonder why people, especially women who are strong and independent-minded individuals have any need for a relationship in the first place. And how do all these people find the time to balance work and studies with all this love business? Ugh.  My sole priority right now is getting my life together, because it’s been in shambles for too long and I need to fix it because I can’t be one of those people who are miserable and thus lash out destructively at everyone around them.

I find it difficult to deal with people’s reaction to my my relationship aversion. If you’re a Pakistani girl, you’re sure to have heard many times, from many people, the typical “oh all girls say they don’t want to get married until their parents make the perfect match for them/until they meet someone special.” I find it exceptionally disrespectful to hear this in particular, because in the Pakistani context, relationships=marriage, and as a feminist, I find the concept of marriage problematic and within the country’s context, patriarchal and highly misogynist as well. I do not at all approve of the idea that I need to tick a box on a religious marriage contract, whereby my to-be husband gives me “permission” to practice my right of divorce; moreover, I find the family and marriage laws of the country quite distasteful and I do not at all, feel safe in signing away my rights and freedoms so easily. When I’m told that I’m just “going through a rebellious phase,” in that condescending, patronizing tone we’re all so familiar with, you’re not just reducing an adult woman to a “rebellious teenager,” you’re also being disrespectful to said adult woman. While I do not respond to such people, only because I feel that if they’re not open-minded enough to be curious when confronted with different ideas instead of just mocking them, then it shows a lack of critical thinking skills, and I prefer to speak to people who speak with logic and rationality, and are not hostile to any opinion or idea which deviates from “normal.”

A friend pointed out that even those who found relationships silly changed their minds because they fell in love. Because love just hits you in the face, this great, fantastic event that happens and changes everything. Well, that’s cute and sweet and all, but I really don’t want any part of it. Neither did I, he said, but then “it” happened. No one wants to be hit by love, specially people who hold similar opinions. And yet, even if you’re not the sort of person waiting to be whisked away into a faerietale, it still happens.

What troubles me is that I actively avoid any situation that requires unnecessary socializing, and that I’m quick to smile and lie with, “I’m flattered, but I already have a boyfriend,” and that too, to guys I actually do like. Thankfully, such occasions are few and far between since I’m really not the sort of girl that piques male interest. But my instinct towards relationships remains one of fight or flee, and I remain determined to be alone for my entire life. But judging by everything I see around me, that’s not how people work and it’s not how I’m supposed to be. It’s troubling and leaves me feeling alienated and out of place, an awkwardness I haven’t experienced much since high school. I’m not really obsessing about it the way this entire blog makes it sound like, but yes, every now and then, I do stop and wonder, and ask myself if there truly is something wrong with me.

My perspective on love isn’t normal. Not what’s acceptable as normal, at any rate. I’m past white knights and happy endings. I don’t believe there are happy endings in matters of the heart, because I believe that love is something so intense, and so violent, that its unsustainable. My idea of love is Satine and Christian in Moulin Rouge; come what may until my dying day oh and oops, it actually IS my dying day. Or Brokeback Mountain, where love transcends the confines of gender and sexuality and yet, you still spend your lives apart and then one of you dies. It’s the Bollywood movies where the guy is racing to the airport and he and the girl are right next to each other in their cars, at the airport, over and over, and yet never seem to catch the other’s eye or see the other, and only, the ending doesn’t have them finally seeing each other, the ending has the girl going off and the guy heartbroken. It’s The Crow: Stairway to Heaven with the girl dead and the guy stuck in a half-life battling bad guys on the earth. Its City of Angels, because I love Nicolas Cage, giving up heaven only to learn that the woman you did it for has died. It’s Cruel Intentions, because there will always be people who don’t want you to be happy. It’s Closer, ffs, I mean you can’t get nearer to a twisted story about love and relationships other than a movie with Clive Owen, Julia Roberts, and the ever spectacular Keira Knightley.

I’m not Holly Golightly at the end of the movie. For one thing, I would die before I sent my darling cats out in the rain just to make a point. For another, I certainly wouldn’t do so in the middle of the street, where those goddamned stray cats can beat my babies up. I’m not going to let them go and then have some sort of epiphany about love. I’m going to give a Kif-like sigh (Futurama reference for the geeks) roll my eyes, grab the cat, and scratch her tiny  head while watching cartoons or reading a book. To you, it may sound sad, but to me, its bliss. Holly gets the guy at the end. For me, the story ends at the conversation in the cab. I don’t want to cage you, I want to love you. It’s the same thing! That’s it. That’s where the story ends. Paul gets out of the cab after his tantrum and leaves. And as pretty as his ring is, it’s a diamond, and so much for love, the idiot doesn’t even know that I hate diamonds and would never marry someone who doesn’t even know something so small about me, and I’ll put it away and mail it or something to him later. Thank you Paul, I’m flattered, you’re sweet and nice and all the rest, but so long and good night.

That’s my story, and I need it to remain this way. Right now, I just really, really hope that I won’t look back on this in the future and pity myself, or think I was wrong, or change my opinions because I’m in a relationship. I really don’t. I really hope that if future me reads this, she realizes she’s being an idiot and immediately breaks it off with the dude and remembers the woman she truly is. Knowing that all this negates the norm in so many ways, a norm that can be reformed into something less patriarchal and less dependent, and still wishing to abstain…

I don’t have a word for how that makes me feel.

But I know what my story is, and how it should be. I suppose that’s more than most people can hope for, right?

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As I type these words, the sound of music thuds dully against the walls of my room. Music that has been playing since 11 pm from the house next door.

It is now, by the by, 03:30 am.

Earlier today, my mother apparently got a phonecall from the neighbours. They were kind enough to inform her that they would be having a party in the evening, and could we please excuse them for any distress caused by music? Unfortunately, my mother has none of my rage, and the manners she possesses, I chose to discard a long time ago; what else could she do, but be gracious?

About twenty minutes ago, I went upstairs to peek out the window and see exactly what’s going on. Its hardly a mehndi party, as was implied; more of a concert. Heck, it is a concert, proper band, instruments, etc. The chairs were mostly empty; I glimpsed a row of people, mostly girls I think, sitting on the floor in front of the stage. A man went by, you know the sort that your father points to at weddings and derisively speaks of his boozing tendencies? That sort. Lecherous looking fella, the sort I wouldn’t shake hands with. He seemed quite lost in the music as he danced his way through the rows of chairs, the flabby flesh on his neck visibly jiggling even from a distance. In the back row, I could glimpse a guy and two girls, the back of their heads rather; The guy bopped his neck once or twice, and the two girls leaned close, their arms up in the air as they danced. I caught a flash of silver on one hand, and counted the rings; one, two, three. Immaculately dressed, makeup looking as it were done by a professional, a couple of other girls wandered by, giggling and dancing as well.

Let me add here, that I have a horrendous cold, the sort that makes you bend over double from the force of the coughing, the kind where you feel your chest seize up from all the fluid gathering in your lungs. Despite that, I’m awake, desperately working on a uni project, fighting back flu med-induced sleep. My father will wake up at 07:30 am tomorrow, have his breakfast, check the news, get dressed, and head off to work, as will my brother. My mother will be awake at 06:30 am; I genuinely don’t know what she does at that hour, but it is not in her to rise late- both my parents are of the old generation, so to speak, in their ways.

The reason I am sharing all this is thus; our neighbours do not care. They simply do not care that our sleep might be disturbed. They do not care that we have to go to work or uni tomorrow. They certainly don’t care about my poor tiny cat, who jumped an entire foot as yet another obnoxious song started playing. They do not care that they are disturbing the peace, disturbing our sleep, our daily routine, hell our peace of mind because frankly, this is torture for me. All our neighbours care about is showing their guests a good time, having fun at their party, dancing the night away merrily, and enjoying themselves while the entire neighborhood suffers. This is by no means a critique on naach gana (song and dance) as more conservative people would say; anyone who’s read my previous blogs would know I’m definitely not the sort to be as small-minded as that. I do however, judge people based on selfishness, on self-absorption, on their careless disregard of others.

Oh well. I live in DHA. What’s there to be surprised about?

I haven’t really had the chance to get around to writing on the entire Maya Khan issue, and frankly, as much I was would love to verbally eviscerate her, I don’t see why I need to bother after reading Mehreen Kasana’s excellent blog on the issue. While I may or may not do so, I feel it is imperative to speak on the topic of the apology issued by Samaa, and the smug in-yo-face self-masturbatory bs from Maya Khan, which we are to believe is meant to be apologetic.

I have always been deeply bothered by inaction. One of the reasons I’m so passionate about journalism is because , even though I am only blogging as a student right now, I know that I still have a voice, that I can use it, and that my indignation will not be confined to just Facebook status updates.

And when it comes to the unethical practices by our media, I feel that there is great inaction amongst the masses. Whenever there is a class discussion on such a topic, my teacher always laughs and says, to every question, “because the media thinks the people are stupid.” And the fact of the matter is, he’s right. People prefer to sit and bitch about unethical practices in the media, but that is where their diatribe stops. (I refuse to use the cliched drawing room comparison, because, it is, to put it quite simply, disgustingly cliched and over-used). What people do not understand is that it is quite easy to take the media to task, but that can only happen if you take action. The sort of action that people took over Maya Khan’s outrageous, downright blasphemous breach of ethics. From comments on Facebook, to letters, to phonecalls, to texts, heck, even an op-ed in ET, people, for once, demanded that Samaa take responsibility, that they be held accountable, that they acknowledge what a huge mistake they made. And the result was successful. Whether Maya Khan means her apology, half-assed as it is or not, is not what matters. What matters is that now, not just Samaa, but other news channels also know that people are not stupid. People do not like being treated like sheep. People do not like being manipulated. And that if you try to do any of the above, then people are going to be very, very, very angry.

And this is actually how, in my humble opinion, the relationship between the media and masses works effectively. When Janet Jackson had her little wardrobe malfunction on the Super Bowl, it was the people who, in outrage and indignation, filed complaints. In fact, the Parents Television Council, a media watchdog group filed a complaint against the incident. The senator of Georgia spoke in the US Senate about how it displayed the declining morality in America. (Not an opinion I support btw-there is nothing immoral in a woman’s body, when it has been objectified and sexualized by the very society that then demands that she covers her shame. I agree that it was media irresponsibility only). The result was that the FCC fined CBS for the show, and MTV was not allowed to produce any future half-time shows for the Super Bowl.

Even Adam Lambert’s sexual performance on the AMAs, where he grabbed his crotch, shoved a dancer’s face in his crotch, and kissed one of his male band members on stage was criticized. Again, being pro-LGBT, it really isn’t something I agree with- frankly, I was too busy laghing hysterically at how bad the song was, and how desperate Madam Lambert seemed to salvage his performance somehow to care about who he was kissing- but what must be noted here is that the television viewers actually bothered to complain about the incident. They did not sit and bitch about it to their friends, their family, their co-workers, etc. for a couple of days and then forget about it. They. Took. Action.

I find it very frustrating that our people seldom do the same, even though they know that there has been a breach of ethics in our media. Our broadcast media specially, has allowed this perception to settle into people’s minds, that its useless to say anything, because the media just won’t change. But if that is the case, explain why Maya Khan and Samaa have been forced to apologize for lying to people on television, and then broadcasting such an assrapery of ethics. I’m sorry, I’d really like to talk in a more sophisticated manner, but assrapery is the only way I can describe such a murder of media ethics.

I think its a crying shame that our media is allowed to get away with murder, specially considering how many noble and brilliant journalists there are in the world, who risk their lives, who work so hard at their job. I genuinely beliee that journalism is a noble profession, no matter how bastardized its been throughout the world. Don’t even look to Bob Woordward or Edward Murrow or Anna Politkovskaya. Look only to our own journalists. To Saleem Shahzad, to Wali Khan Babar. That, in my opinion, is the true face of journalism, however distorted it might have become from the ethical violations and downright stupidity from the likes of Meher Bokhari or Maya Khan.

Until and unless you act, there is no point in whinging about the state of the media. If we do not react appropriately, our media is going to keep continuing with such practices, and what’s worries me is exactly how far they’ll go. Maya Khan already showed us how far she’s willing to go for her 15 minutes of fame. May the magic make-believe man in the sky or the flying spaghetti monster help us if the entire media industry goes Maya Khan on us. But as worrying as that thought is, remember; they will only degenerate further if we allow them to, and if we do not hold them accountable. Do not let our reaction to Maya Khan be a one-time incident. Make it a habit to demand responsibility from our media.

And if you’re too lazy to take action, fucking stop whinging to me about how horrible my future fucking profession is because really, I don’t give a rat’s ass and you’re annoying me, which is always a really bad idea.

ETA: Someone commented on Facebook saying, “Finally we have a voice and we have power thanks to the internet”. But it must be pointed out that the masses always had a voice and they always had the power to hold the media accountable. This is just one of the rare times they’ve bothered to actually utilize said power, and demand media responsibility. Congratulations sheep, your baaing got Maya and her team of morons fired.

The letter which says Maya Khan’s services from Samaa TV will be terminated has been circulating on social media websites and is reportedly signed by CEO Zafar Siddiqui.

Dear All

Your feedback is appreciated. As a responsible corporate citizen, Samaa TV did what was required under the circumstances. We do not and have not in the past or intend to in the future to take our viewership or reporting requirements without the seriousness that they deserve.

You would appreciate that as an organisation with a functioning management team, we had to conduct certain legal requirements over the past week and internal review processes (which are operational in nature) before procedding further.

As a result of which I can inform you:

  1. We asked Maya to apologise unconditionally which she did not.
  2. The CEO asked her to do that on Friday which she refused.

As a result of which the following will be put in place on Monday, Jan 30th.

  1. Maya and her team will receive termination notices.
  2. Her show is being stopped from Monday morning.

Our deeds and actions taken since this episode occured are there for the record and hope this will settle issues as far as the station is concerned.

A lot has been written about the race for ratings. Well, we do absolve such behaviour irrespective of ratings that the show was getting.

With best regards and thank you for your understanding.

Zafar Siddiqi

Chairman CNBC Arabiya

Chairman CNBC Africa

President CNBC Pakistan

“I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is:  I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a door mat or a prostitute. ”

Rebecca West.

I’ve never understood the rationale behind it, but I’ve always been referred to as the ‘gharilo’ type. It’s pretty baffling because I’m far from it. Maybe it’s because my family’s so conservative and traditional that it makes me the ‘mummy daddy’ type. Maybe it’s because I’ve been cooking since I was about 8 or 9. Be that as it may, it’s a stupid stereotype and one I’ve always hated.

However, due to this misconception, I’d often draw the ire of feminists telling me I was shackling myself by cooking and I was too subservient to men and needed to stand up to my father and his patriarchal values. Due to a few random experiences along this vein, I had an abhorrence of feminists. All I want is to cook myself or my family a meal, do we really need to psychoanalyze that?

But within the past year or so, I’ve realized that I do have a lot of strong feminist ideals. I actually had no idea that some of my beliefs constituted as feminist, to be honest, maybe it’s stupid of me but I don’t sit and think about why I think what I think. And as someone with strong feminist beliefs, I am apparently a constantly PMSing nutcase.

A blog I wrote previously about my school- a school which remained unnamed by the way, because I did not feel it ethical to name it- garnered me a lot of criticism from old classmates. I was bombarded with abuse and death threats. And one comment in particular stood out; “You think you’re so smart well my school taught us to be good girls, not feminists like you.” So apparently, feminists that speak up on your behalf, enabling you to attend universities and mingle with boys are the wrong kind of women?

Yesterday, a guy on my timeline tweeted about how there weren’t girls on Twitter because 140 word limits were too small for them. It’s an offensive thing to say, stereotyping women as airheaded chatterboxes, and I called him out on it. He responded with statements about how such women need to be controlled, and that they should’ve been smacked when they were little. Later on he claimed he meant such kids should’ve been smacked, not girls, if you really want to believe him. Obviously, I told him off. He then went on to bitch about me to his female friends, who flocked to his defense and they all sat and mocked the crazy chick who was probably on her  period. (I’m awara because he said hormonal issues like a good little boy, and I’m being blunt and using bad words like period.)

The pathetic part is that all these people are studying at one of the top medical universities in the city. These girls are Pakistani women, who have access to higher level education, who can mingle with boys, who can have guy friends, and yet, these girls are the ones who were making statements such as “she should meet that girl from our uni, they can make their so-called women’s right group”.

These so-called women’s rights groups are why you’re in a medical university. If these women did not speak out for you, who would? The men, rooted in their traditions of patriarchy? The women, standing in their kitchens because they don’t know they deserve better? Because of women who constantly break boundaries and just by their very existence, prove the worth of women, who by example, show that women deserve equal opportunities and rights, we now live in a society where at least a minute percentage of women have some sort of freedom.

It’s so much fun to roam around at night with guys and not be beaten for dishonoring your family. It’s wonderful to wear jeans without censure. It’s fortunate that you get to study as much as you want without anyone trying to take that right from you. It’s great to be able to have the freedom to make your own choices in life. It’s great that you are allowed to actually work, and to have a career, and to not have a life that’s confined to cooking and taking care of the children.

But when the time comes to think, your mind shuts down. When the time comes to recognize why you have such a great life, you instead, revert to mocking the very people who made it possible for you to have that life. You mock them, censure them, call them insane, say they’re surely on their period, mock their attempts to provide equal rights for women.

We live in a society where we ridicule women, and then exclaim, “Take it easy, don’t get hyper it was just a joke!” We stereotype women as vapid chatterboxes but it’s all just in harmless fun. We state that girls who use slang should’ve been smacked when they were little, and then try to pretend we meant all kids, not just girls. And what’s worse, we live in a society where we support misogyny, the ridiculing of women, where we agree with men and mock anyone who dares to have a strong-minded opinion as a nutcase.

Is it so insane to stick up for my own sex? Is it so crazy that I want women to be on equal footing with men? Am I really just some loony who should be institutionalized? Sometimes, I feel like I have no other solution other than screaming long and hard every time I encounter such parhaylikhay jahils. Men shun me and those like me, women mock us and consider us unnatural- my previous blog had one girl calling me a frustrated lesbian- and where does that leave us? In the institution for women with independent minds and strong opinions, being taught how to submit to a man that can control us.

(Title of my blog lovingly adapted from Helen Ruddy’s song, “I Am Woman.”)

Every single person throughout the world has a nationality. We all come from somewhere other than the womb, after all. Some are African, some are American, Some are Mexican, some are Lithuanian, some are Greek, some are Portuguese. And some are Pakistani.

But the different between Pakistanis and all the other nationalities is this; for citizens of countries throughout the world, their nationality exista all 365 days of the year. Pakistanis on the other hand, exist only in August. The rest of the year, we’re the same scum, the same cockroaches that the world knows and loves.

For eleven months of the year, we steal electricity, we beat our servants,we rape women and children, we burn our daughter-in-laws for more dowry, we murder people based on their religion, ethnicity, political affiliation, or sexuality. Hell, we even have no qualms about menacingly brandishing rocks and sturdy sticks at a young woman and a child still in his school uniform. In short; we’re absolute assholes.

Come August however, we’re fucking saints. We’re all about the country. We love our fellowmen. We organize events for setting a world record for the most people singing the national anthem. We suddenly respect the flag and want to save it from being dishonoured, for which purpose we organize flag recollection drives.

And then, the minute August ends, its over. We take off the flags on our roofs and fold it up, putting it away for next year. We pack up our pennants, forgetting about them till the next time we need to decorate the garden with them. We forget, in essence, that we are Pakistani.

What about the rest of the year, I ask you? Where is the respect for the flag when our minorities face countless discriminations, many supported by our own constitution? Where is the love for our fellowmen when we jeer at rape victims because they go to 2 am parties and live with a partner? Where is our nationality, where is our pride, where is our self-respect when a female curator is beaten for wearing a sleeveless dress? When we think its perfectly acceptable to enforce our beliefs on others? When we mock and abuse someone if they don’t fast during the so-called holy month?

And therefore, what, I ask you, is the point of 14th August? What is the point of all the celebrations? What is the point of hanging up that poor, assraped flag up on my roof? What is the point, when all I can remember is Bangladesh, when all I can think of is all the nameless, faceless Asia Bibis out there, when all I can hope is that no one attacks my sister when she goes out in public wearing a sleeveless dress, when all I can do is mindlessly shoot off texts to people asking if they’re safe because someone’s been shot in so-and-so area?

Fuck this shit. I will not be a part of your hypocrisy.

If anyone needs me on the 14th, I’ll be watching Bones and eating cupcakes.

I have two sisters. Both of them are married, and the eldest has two kids, a 7-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl. If you’re on my Facebook, chances are you’ve seen them in pics. Aren’t they adorable? Anyway, my sister comes to visit us every Wednesday and Saturday. Since my classes end early on Wednesday, I pick up my nephew on my way home.

Yesterday was no different. I picked up my nephew, listening to his inane stories about school and McDonald’s toys, when my driver muttered about something happening at the traffic signal ahead of us. He showed me a CNBC and Samaa van standing by, a camera set up near a normal van, we were pretty far back and couldn’t see what was happening. My driver’s an absolute coward, so I decided to get out and go see what was going on, despite my driver’s protests. Before I could open the door though, my nephew clung to my hand, begging me not to leave him; “Haven’t you noticed that I’m a big scaredy-cat too?!” We finally managed to maneouver our way out, and saw that there were lots of angry people and cops milling around, you could have sliced through the tension with a knife.

A quick text to my brother-in-law who works at a TV channel revealed that this was yet another case of people pissed off at KESC. My driver started going through the inner galis since the road was blocked; all of a sudden, this woman holding a tree branch with twigs and leaves still attached to it steps out. “Hello crazy person,” I said, thinking she actually was some lunatic.

Then another woman holding a bigger stick stepped out. A man brandishing a huge rock popped up right in front of the windshield. That was when I shoved my nephew down, telling him to duck behind the front seat. I’m grateful he’s such a brave little boy, and stayed relatively calm. My drier suddenly got out of the car, and I could hear him cajoling the three assholes, saying he had a little boy and we were just one car; frankly, it was a stupid thing to do, considering he’s a scrawny little bugger and the car keys were still in the car. In the midst of yelling at him to get back inside and keeping a hand on my nephew’s head, making sure he stayed down, I could feel fear coiling in the pit of my belly. Its not an alien feeling to me; I feel a milder version of it every time I have to speak publicly; I feel it every time I’m in a fistfight with a guy (which ironically enough, had happened earlier yesterday; a classmate said I looked like a pig, and I got pissed off and swung at him)

What is alien to me, is being afraid for someone other than myself. I  can handle myself just fine; I’m not dumb enough to get into a fight I don’t think I can win, and I can manage just fine. But this kid, well, how I feel for him isn’t much different from how I’d feel for my own kids. Amidst the fear, I was pissed off that they’d dared to frighten my little dude. More importantly, this was what my baby was learning about the world, because of them. You know the first thing he said when he popped back up? “That’s it Ghausia khala, I’m coming with you to America now!” Its a little joke we have where I try to convince him to come to the US if I ever manage to make it there. How was I to explain this to him? He kept asking questions like, “But Ghausia khala, we’re Muslims and Pakistanis like them too, why would they hurt us?” What do you say to that? How the hell do you muster up the courage to tell a kid that the identity that defines him is a farce? That there is no such thing as being Muslim or Pakistani, because neither form of identity has any meaning anymore?

I live in a big house in DHA. We’re on rent here because we’re in the process of constructing a permanent house in phase 7. But you know what? When I was growing up, I lived in a tiny room with two of my sisters. I’m not going to go into a self-masturbatory pity party about how we were poor and had no electricity and generators and money as well. I don’t see the need to go into burger-boy revolutionary mode and extol my virtues of patience and understanding. What is suffice enough for my point is that I understand the frustration and anger of a country that doesn’t give you shit.

The difference is, I learned to struggle on, to have faith in God, in life, in luck, in my family, hell, everything and anything. I didn’t take to the streets threatening young girls and small boys still in their school uniforms. The glorious irony of this is that the women threatening us probably had kids of their own as well, maybe my nephew’s age. But then again, why should I expect humanity from a nation of cockroaches?

I have a nephew. He is an absolute darling. My sister visits twice a week and her hubby is often away on business so she spends a few days here while he’s off so I see him quite often. He’s this 7.5 year old little cutiepie that’s obsessed with Marvel Superheroes and loves collecting the various McDonald’s toy series.

Yesterday, he was hanging out in my room when he suddenly squealed and grabbed a book off my bed’s headboard/shelf. It was The End of India by Khushwant Singh, I’d been reading it a while back for something I had to write for class. He opened it and read the first line, something about 1947 he claimed, but his joy at the title bothered me.

“Why does the title make you happy?” I asked.

“because it means India is finished,” he said happily.

“But why is that a good thing?”

“Because Indians are bad!”

“Why? Why are they bad?”

“Because they beat us at the World Cup.”

“But that’s just a game, its not reason enough to hate a whole country, is it?”

“Plus they’re not of our religion either!”

It was at this point, that for the first time, I was actually disappointed by my Little Dude. The world cup thing, fine, he could easily pick that up from his family, hell even I was bummed out that we lost to India of all people. But the religous discrimination, that I’m certain he could not have picked up from his family. I know he’s just 7, but he’s a really precocious kid, so I knew he’d understand what I was about to say to him. I explained to him, in simple terms, that its bad to hate people because they’re of a different colour or religion. “Look at your khala for example,” I told him. “I don’t pray, I don’t follow religion, I’m not a proper Muslim. Do you hate me now?”

“But you pray, nana tells you to pray so you do it,” he said innocently.

“No, nana tells me to pray and I lie to him and say I did,” I explained, feeling mildly guilty at telling him that.

“But why don’t you pray? Don’t you fast?” he asked, blinking up at me with those big eyes of his.

“Because, I don’t want to, so I don’t. Does that mean you hate me too, since I’m not of your religion?” I asked him again.

“Nooo, you’re my cutiepie cool khala!” he said, hugging and kissing me.

I used my own example to explain that religion is not enough grounds for hating someone, and that Islam actually teaches you that all humans are created equal and you’re not superior to anyone on the basis of which book you follow or what colour your skin is. I mentioned the US civil rights movement, telling him about segregation and signs that would say, “No animals or blacks allowed.” This is the kid who actually understood the entire history of the Iraq war when I explained it to him, trust me, it wasn’t too much for him to take in.

“So what have we learned from khala today?” I finally asked him.

“That we can’t hate someone because they’re of a different religion, colour, or country, and the people who we should hate and fight against are the people that take away our rights and freedom,” he said hesitantly.

There are few moments in my life when I’ve felt like I’ve been worth something but at that moment, my heart swelled with pride at my Little Dude, for understanding the bigotry he’d been indoctrinated with, and at myself, for being able to teach him this.

I remember the day after Salman Taseer died, my journalism teacher took me aside and told me to lay off discussing topics like blasphemy since people were far too extremist nowadays. Faced with my despair, he told me that the only way a change can come is if we talk to people and explain them how and why they’re wrong, and that it would be a battle lasting years even, but this was the only way. “I don’t have to be here right now,” he told me solemnly. “I could easily be sitting inside an office right now. But I choose to be here, because I want to teach. That’s how you’re going to bring about a change.”

I remembered these words yesterday, and as my nephew giggled at the Bugs Bunny cartoon I’d put on for him as a reward for being a good boy, I prayed that I would be in his life long enough to protect his innocence, and from the poison that is spreading throughout our society today.