Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

For the loves that sustain me; Feminist Ma who anchors my heart to herself to keep me safe, Hammie who allows me to be my incredibly problematic self, Hanifia who shines her sun obnoxiously on me till I begrudgingly admit that I like the warmth of her rays, and Monkey whose beautiful smile lights up my day; you are all my heroes because you saved my life.

Also this is done alphabetically so don’t make a big deal out of it okay.

In 2014, Robin Williams hung himself by his own belt after suffering from misdiagnosed dementia, which caused among other problems, paranoia and depression. Chris Cornell took his own life in an apparent suicide. Months later, Chester Bennington hung himself by the door in his own home. Chris took medication for anxiety. Chester suffered from depression and had also been sexually abused as a child. Robin Williams was a beautiful soul who made us all laugh so hard, we never knew whether he laughed with us or not.

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Martha Wainwright, Bloody Motherfucking Asshole

Out of who knows how many people in this world, three people that a lot of people know about due to their fame took their own lives because of mental illness. This is not an article which will quote statistics or facts at you. This is a blog about lived experiences with mental illness. It’s full of the feelz and not even those closest to me can put up with my constant feelings most of the time. But I do not talk about mental illness a lot, because log kia kahenge. But I have survived through so much pain in my life, that what people say means nothing to me anymore.

When Chris Cornell committed suicide, I was going through a depressive phase. I never realised until this particular phase, that what I described as simply, “going through a rough time” were bouts of depression. I thought I knew my demons; severe anxiety, PTSD, rage control issues. But my personal life had been difficult for months, and I had been strong and stable as I managed all my hurdles on my own; always on my own. Because no matter how much love you have in your life and I have a lot of it, you are always alone when it comes to your mental health. You are always alone when it comes to fighting the monsters in your head. 20170723_215356

Here’s the funny thing though. You can’t tell that I was depressed during that time. Work was going great, I met friends occasionally, my home life is peaceful and happy. Even I didn’t realise I was depressed. I knew that I was having trouble sleeping. I knew that I felt sad a lot. I knew I spent hours at night lying in bed, staring up at the ceiling blankly.

I know that when I cleaned up the kitchen every night, as I put away the kitchen knives in their knife-holder, I would press them against my finger, my palm. My wrist. To see which was sharpest. To see which would do the most damage. To see if I would press hard enough to draw blood. I know that I could not bring myself to even think about how this was not right, and that I could not acknowledge to myself that this was a bad sign.

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Florence & The Machines, What The Water Gave Me

I was well aware that I was surrounded by people who loved me, at home, work, with friends. And yet, I felt so alone and so tired of being alone. At night, when everyone was asleep at home and I was left to my own devices, I would collapse into tears at random times and not know why. I would be watching a comedy show and burst into tears. I would be washing my own dishes and start wailing. I tried to paint my nails but I couldn’t stop crying. I didn’t understand what was happening, or what to do about it, and I am very rarely this lost anymore. I’m someone who is very self-aware, aggravatingly in touch with their own feelings. I’m so introspective that I keep up a running dialogue in my head with myself sometimes, talking myself through various upsetting, anxiety-inducing experiences. I am so strong, and so whole all the time. And yet, all of this was still happening; the crying, the thoughts of waking up in the morning and feeling sad that I hadn’t died in my sleep, of beating my fists against the headboard of my bed because inside my head, there were such chaos that I absolutely had to cause myself physical pain to dull the noise inside me.

I wasn’t doing any of this to get attention because to the world, I was perfectly functional. How can this have been attention-seeking behaviour when no one knew this was happening to me? Nor did I have some well-thought, long-term plan to do all of this so I could write about it; I have better things to write about. I didn’t go through all of this because I’m ungrateful for all the privileges I have, or because no one loves me. I didn’t cry relentlessly because home or work was in bad shape; I have a beautiful family, and colleagues who genuinely love me. I have so much good in my life and I am grateful for it, but at that point in time, I felt nothing but sadness, despair, and loneliness. I did not lie to myself so that I could get attention by talking about manufactured feelings. I don’t know why this happened to me, why it has happened in the past and why it will happen in the future; whether it is genetics, circumstance, chemical imbalances in my brain. But it is not what the stereotypes tell you mental illness is. It’s real, it’s sickness, it’s an imperfection, one I’ll willingly embrace and claim as a part of me because fighting it, is what makes me invincible; and of course I am invincible. I’m still alive, aren’t I?

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Sometimes, I write crappy things and call it poetry. This is one such thing.

It was a close shave though, I’ll give you that. By the time I was eventually able to ask for help, at least I knew where to look for it. My friends, my online support group, my colleagues. Help and love poured in, hands reached out to hoist me up on their shoulders for the little while that I couldn’t bear my own weight, even though I didn’t believe I would make it. I believed I was done fighting, and began to fear that this would end in me finally taking my own life just to stop everything I have just described; the tears, the sadness, the excruciating sense of being completely alone, and never being enough for anyone but myself, the overwhelming sense of being a burden upon myself because no one else would have me.

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Avenged Sevenfold, Lost

I once read about the Mona Lisa, about the stupid debate over her smile, and I Googled an image of her. At first glance, she was giving the prettiest smile, but after looking at her for a minute or so, I realised she just looked so sad. She was smiling, but it looked as if she was on the verge of tears. I wondered then, if I was seeing a reflection in her image, if anyone else ever saw what I did; I wondered if anyone even cared how she had felt at that moment, or throughout her life, as long as she kept smiling and looking happy and pretty. I wonder if she ever went through days of feeling like she couldn’t breathe, feeling exhausted beyond measure.

I fought for myself because it is all I know to do in life. I fought because I have learned to do so over the years. I fought because I thought it is what I should do, even though I believed this was the final battle I wouldn’t win. But Chris Cornell is still gone. Chester Bennington ended his own life. Robin Williams no longer makes us laugh in new films because he’s six feet underneath the  cold ground. They fought their last battle, and were possibly overcome by their own demons; or maybe, in delivering the final blow, they actually won the battle by taking their demons with them. Which is not to glamourise suicide at all, but to offer a perspective from this side of the line; to offer perspective coming from one person’s experiences.

Shortly before Chester Bennington took his life, I had an online argument with someone who had Linkin Park in their social media profile ID. The argument began because this person implied that depression was something which happened because people just didn’t try hard enough to fight it; that depression happened because people were too weak or too unwilling to fix it. I wonder how that person reacted to Chester Bennington’s suicide, and I do not believe that person would have changed their mind despite being such a Linkin Park fan. Because people like that exist in this world, people who spread false or misinformed bigotry against mental illness, I know that for those of us who understand mental illness, it is imperative to talk about it.

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Damien Rice, Trusty & True

Sometimes, a person can look perfectly healthy and happy, and yet be fighting mental illness. A lot of times, my friends say, “Why didn’t you tell me? I’m so sorry, I would have been there for you if I knew.” But a lot of times, people are unable to reach out for help because they feel so miserable and alone, they don’t believe anyone is listening, or that their plea for help will amount to anything. Sometimes, people can’t even think about the fact that they need help because they can’t see anything but the darkness. Sometimes the darkness consumes them, and sometimes it doesn’t but it is still always there, and always real. People like Chris Cornell, Robin Williams, and Chester Bennington had fame, family, friends, wealth, and yet they were still driven to take their own lives. It’s not because they wanted attention or were ungrateful for their blessings; they were sick. Same way that people with cancer or heart conditions are sick, same way that cancer and heart conditions take lives.

I have a book cupboard in my bedroom and sometimes, I scribble bits of poems or songs and stick them on my cupboard’s door, so I can look at those words when I need them. They’re very encouraging; feminist poetry, Lorde song lyrics, all meant to lift my spirits. But sometimes, I scribble sadder words. These are the pictures I’ve shared here; a lot of times, these words are how I feel. A lot of times, it feels as if the hardest thing to do in this world is to live in it. I hope against hope that I will continue to live on, that the light in my life will continue to sustain me through the blows my demons deliver against me. But if I do not, it is not out of weakness; it is because mental illness is a terrible, devastating thing, it destroys lives and rips apart your entire world.

To anyone who has felt this way too, know that you are not alone. Know that there is hope, that you are stronger than you know, that you are not worthless or unloved or useless. Hold on to hope as long as you can, and know that you are a warrior for your ability to do so. That is more than enough.

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Glen Hansard, Falling Slowly.

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(I had the idea to do this on Teacher’s Day but then I forgot. I’m going to write a series of blogs about teachers that have impacted my life in a significant way.)

I went to a pretty basic school. It’s one of those old schools that was wonderful in its time, but while I was there, there was a steady decline in its quality. The friends I made there, are the friends who are always there for a chat and never judge me for the person I am now, but really, the place didn’t really do much for me. It wasn’t until college that I experienced what it was like to be in the presence of a teacher, a real teacher.
I had three elective courses, and my favorite one was English Literature. My teacher’s name was Ma’am Kaukab Tariq, she had apparently taught at my school as well when I was younger, and left when it went down the toilet. She was this elegant, classy, amazing lady who was nothing short of magical for her students. My class consisted of nine students altogether, but I’m sure that even if the class strength was more, she’d be on the same personal basis with even 30 students.

Our course consisted of a collection of essays and a play on Abraham Lincoln. I still remember the very first essay we studied with her, titled The Golden Drugget. I don’t think I can ever forget her musical lilting voice, transporting us to that dark night, with a ray of gold shining out of the inn, as if to say, “come in, and I’ll give you shelter from the storm.” She drew pictures on the whiteboard so we could picture it exactly in our mind’s eye. When I read that book of essays today, I wonder how we endured such dry, dull writing, and then I remember. It was Ma’am Kaukab that made them the exact opposite of dry and dull.

Our classes were filled with laughter and eager discussion. We never got any notes or handouts. We didn’t want them; we wanted to do our own research. When Ma’am Kaukab would tell us of notes she had, we would refuse to have them because we were always in this race to have the best research to show her, and come up with obscure facts and impress her somehow. I still have all of my notes, the quotes from war generals illustrating exactly how horrible the Battle of Somme was in The Somme Still Flows, complete with battle strategies and maps, the essays we wrote on various themes, and how could I ever forget the essay Refuge From Nightmare, which I’ve quoted on my blog several times? I can still remember how quiet we were in that class, how depressing it was for a bunch of college kids to read about the same depressing sentiments in post-WW1 era that we felt at the time. Then we reached the ending, that magical ending, and hearing Ma’am Kaukab explain it filled me with such indescribable hope and joy. To this day, I carry that memory with me, and those ending lines, recalling them in my darkest moments.

Not that our classes were formal in nature. Not by a long shot. I would excitedly tell her about my current favorite TV show, Supernatural, how cute the two actors were, how sad I was when their father died, I related anecdotes of my niece and nephew who still pretty much own my soul. I remember once, when I brought my nephew to school, she was the first teacher I introduced him to, because of how much she heard about him.

My school had been so small, and my life so sheltered, that college was an extremely jarring experience for me. Its very size alone had me in the grips of panic attacks several times. In my school, everyone knew each other, it was a small school and we had all been there since kindergarten, I was popular as one of the best writers, the best debaters, the best at English. Suddenly, I was just another face in the crowd. No one greeted me in the corridors, there was no one smiling in recognition every which way I turned, teachers didn’t really know me, and so what if I could speak English fluently, so could the entire college population! But Ma’am Kaukab’s classes gave me something to hold on to, to steady myself and say, “No, I am no longer special, but I am still exceptional and I am still worth quite a bit.” She would refer to us as her gems, and we probably aren’t, but she certainly made us feel that way. I never knew what knowledge was, until I met her. I never understood what learning was all about until I experienced her classes. That one year was filled with magic and wonder for all of us, and the embodiment of all that was Ma’am Kaukab Tariq.

Posted: October 17, 2012 in Feminism, Uncategorized

I’ve never shared this publicly for some reason, even though its a blog I frequent often. This is my favorite go-to website when I want to explain feminist concepts to people but don’t know how to simplify it for them.

Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog

Short answer: Slut-shaming, also known as slut-bashing, is the idea of shaming and/or attacking a woman or a girl for being sexual, having one or more sexual partners, acknowledging sexual feelings, and/or acting on sexual feelings. Furthermore, it’s “about the implication that if a woman has sex that traditional society disapproves of, she should feel guilty and inferior” (Alon Levy, Slut Shaming). It is damaging not only to the girls and women targeted, but to women in general an society as a whole. It should be noted that slut-shaming can occur even if the term “slut” itself is not used.

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I normally tend to avoid blogging about the trending topics of the week, because I prefer to avoid jumping on the bandwagon. But I’m making an exception for once, to talk about two very important little girls; Malala Yousufzai and Laiba Khan.

Malala’s story begins in 2009. As the Taliban took over the Swat valley, they closed down schools for girls, forcing women and young girls into their homes with threats and coercion. It was then that this small little 11-year-old, enraged at her education being snatched from her, decided she wasn’t going to stand for it. This was when she started to keep a diary for BBC Urdu under a pen-name, in which she described life under Taliban rule. In an interview, Malala expresses herself more eloquently in her early teens than I can today at 23;  “I wanted to scream, shout and tell the whole world what we were going through. But it was not possible. The Taliban would have killed me, my father, my whole family. I would have died without leaving any mark. So I chose to write with a different name.”

This would prove to be her crime. According to the Taliban, they were “forced” to go against tribal codes which forbid the killing of women because Malala was speaking against them. This attack comes after years of terrorizing Malala’s family, slipping death threats under her door, leaving dead bodies near her house, but Malala just ignored each threat and continued on her campaign.

Then there is Laiba. Her picture was circulated after Malala’s attack, mistakenly referring to her as a victim of a drone attack. This tiny little seven-year-old was buying herself socks for Eid when a convoy of FC troops mistook their car for suicide bombers, and opened fire, resulting in poor little Laiba losing her left leg. Her family is unable to bear the cost of buying the growing girl a new prosthetic limb every six months as required, and only ask for justice for their daughter.

I’ve seen a lot of pessimism on social media regarding Malala. A friend who’s an entrepreneur and marketing student was blunt enough to explain his cynicism. His view is that Malala is simply the Lady Gaga for Pakistanis, meaning that she is just another big brand for people to endorse. Just like people don’t know about indie alternative bands, they also do not know, do not care, about ordinary girls who lack the courage to fight for the right to an education, who are sold off into prostitution, used to settle feuds and debts, raped, murdered, honour killed. Malala is not the first girl who has been attacked by the Taliban. She is not the last. But she has become a famous brand for people to speak about for the sake of their own image.

Yes, my friend’s comparison is callous, but I can’t help but agree. I knew who Malala was before the attack. I also know about the crimes committed against women in Pakistan. I try to help when and where I can. I know other people who do. But how many of us are there, who really care? If you keep company with activists like me, you would feel, quite a few. But the reality is, we’re a small, teensy minority. This country, these people, they just simply do not care. They’ve become desensitized and lazy. All they want to do is sit and complain about the media sensationalizing news, excessive coverage of violence, the army, American imperialism, drone attacks, but no one is willing to do anything. And it is frustrating and depressing. When I see people making status updates about their anger at people getting outraged when they had no clue who Malala was, I have to agree with them. I would like to say, but no, now they know, now they will demand change, now they will see that the struggle for women’s rights, the feminist struggle is here for a reason. But I know my people. I know that they will clamour and rage, then forget it a week later. Every now and then, when Malala or Laiba come to mind, they’ll mutter angrily and shake their heads. That’s just how it is.

Ironically enough, the only people I see being hopeful and optimistic are the expats, sitting in their cosy homes outside Pakistan, speaking of how it hurts their hearts to be far from their homeland, to see what is going on in their country, though they still have hope and pray for change. It is so easy to say all of this when you grew up surrounded by privilege, encapsulated in a comfortable little elitist cocoon. Sure, your love for your country is real, but your judgment upon those who are despairing, who are seeking to build a life outside Pakistan, reeks of hypocrisy.

All this brings me as usual, to myself; do I have hope for change? Honestly speaking, most of the time, I’m in in denial, and forcing myself to believe my own lies. I do not think change is possible. I think one of the most historic times of my life would be watching the Arab Spring unfold, seeing the youth, the revolutionaries take to the streets. But realistically speaking, I don’t see an uprising in Pakistan, or any kind of change. Yes, there are many people working towards the goal, and I count myself among them, but I feel that the contribution we make is too miniscule to matter. And it probably won’t, for the next couple of hundred years, or however long the world lasts, what with all the environmental degradation and exploitation of resources. (And no, I don’t believe in magic stories about faeries in the sky bringing about the end of the world, so yes, this is how I believe the world will end). So no, I don’t believe in change, but maybe, even if I can’t lay the foundation for future generations, I’d be putting my life to good use.

Malala and Laiba represent all the other nameless, faceless women and children who are victims of drone attacks, of extremism, and misogyny. All the people outraged right now, do not know or care about the children who are killed by the Taliban, by drone attacks. They don’t care of all the girls schools bombed because they didn’t bow to pressure and shut down. They don’t know that girls are reduced to property, subjugated and forced into slavery, into submitting to the patriarchal structure. And when or if they do, they simply do not care, unless it’s from their AC’d mansion in America or Europe, listening to desi music on their top of the line sound system, dressed in designer PJs. But for those of us who are still fighting against the despair and bitterness, who refuse to give in to truth, we know, we care, and we won’t forget. And that isn’t enough; we’ll do something about it. It’s easy, really, start from home. Educate your maid’s children, your driver’s kids. Volunteer and donate to orphanages. Raise money for learning materials for underprivileged children. Help where you can, when you can, and don’t think about making a change. You won’t. You’ll help a few people, and that has to be enough until the current generations die out, and the country deteriorates into a bigger mess than it is now, because maybe, by then, people will be willing to take a stand like Mohamed Bouazizi and Abdesslem Trimech did. And yes, I know none of you know what that name means. And none of you will follow the link to try to learn. But it’s okay. I’ve learned to shove down the anger and trudge on. We do what we must, after all.

POST UNITED NATIONS-SPEECH NOTE: The views expressed here are regarding the average Pakistani’s “Malala represents hope, now lets slump back into slumber again” views. They are not in any way, criticism of Malala Yousafzai. I consider Malala to be a strong, feminist figure, an exceptional role model ,a humanist, and the only hope left for the other young girls who still go to school in fear of the Taliban. This is not criticism of Malala. Its criticism of the people who share videos of her speech and yet, still do nothing to impact change, while one little girl bears the burdens we should collectively share with all Pakistanis.

I just love how pretty this is. 😀

 

 

 

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 8,100 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Somewhere out there, there are bloggers and journalists furiously typing up a passionate, outraged, intellectual rant about this.

I am not one of those people.

I do not have that kind of courage or calm. Honestly, I’m speechless.

So I’ll say this. RIP Saleem Shahzad. We won’t forget you, and we’re grateful you upheld the values of journalism and spoke the truth, even if it got you killed.

That is all I can manage without weeping.

When I was in tenth grade, the Vee Incident occurred. I have a habit of naming objects, events, people, etc. in my life. A fight with a friend becomes The Great Silence. A major issue with mom becomes The Incident. And so on. So The Vee Incident is pretty interesting because it’s a perspective on the way I used to be.

In tenth grade, as I mentioned, the principal decided to do away with dupattas, and bring in vees. No oen would protest in a girls-only school, you’d think. But we had peons, and every teacher refused to let us go to the computer lab if only the male teacher, renowned for being touchy-feely was there, so some of us, including me, were mildly miffed. I particularly remember one friend, who shared my point of view, was pleased because she wore the gown of the English secretary, which covered up quite nicely.

Me on the other hand? Well. I was always fat, and always very conscious of my body. Its how I was raised after all, to cover my sattar and the like. It wasn’t fundoo-pana at all, but just a moderately conservative upbringing. Be that as it may, I was outraged and refused to wear the vee. One day during assembly, the prefect forced me to fold my dupatta in a vee, and I remember that the pedophilic computer teacher was standing before me, I remember burning with shame and fired up with anger at the smug look on the prefect’s place; one of the girls I shared a mutual dislike with, because as I’d put it in later rants, “at least no one can tell the exact design and colour of my bra through my clothes without even squinting.” I remember folding my arms around my chest, pulling my sweater tighter, and staying in class all day out of misery. I remember going home and sobbing to my mother about it, about how embarrassing and horrible it was.

I wrote a strongly-worded letter to the principal the next day, and though that did not exempt me from the rule, for whatever reasons, I still got away with wearing my dupatta. The prefect was told off by the congenial head-girl in my presence, “No, why are you pulling Ghausia out of line, she gave her letter, she can wear the dupatta.”

I found out something about that years later. My best friend at the time told me that at the time, everyone was saying, “Why is Ghausia making such a huge fuss? Its not like she’s so shareef after all.”

Your ears perk up. If you’re a lurking troll or hater, you rub your hands in glee. You sharpen your fangs. Finally, some dirt on me! You think. Think again. Until I got to uni, I was only friends with two guys. Hell, in school, it was just the one. (Let me add that I’m not saying its a bad thing to have guy friends, that was how I, and most girls, thought back in my school days, and being friends with boys was grounds for being shame-shame) As mentioned before, I was strict about my dupatta. I did not make friends with girls who wore jeans and tshirts and who danced at weddings. I didn’t even look at girls who went out with boys on friendly trips. I say this unashamedly, because I’m no longer that person, and there’s no shame in being honest.

So, why wasn’t Ghausia back then shareef? Because, Ghausia didn’t read Danielle Steele to understand ‘dirty things.’ She looked up R-rated fanfiction and read erotica. And by tenth grade, she’d tried her hand at writing it too. Hardly that shame-shame huh? Not to me at least. Because they have whispered about what I read, but they came to me with their questions anyway. They may have sneered at me, but I wasn’t the one carrying out an affair with the peon, or whose 22-year-old artist boyfriend  picked her up from school and (as rumor has it) made out with in front of everyone, I wasn’t the one chatting with boys on Pakistani chat forums at 2 in the night. Hell, considering the shit kids these days get up to at that age, I’m glad all I did was read and write.

Anyway, the point is, apparently I had no right to speak up for my right to wear what I want because according to them, I wasn’t shareef.

But who the fuck are they to decide that? They of the see-through shirts, the tight tops, the too-high capris, the deep backs and necks? Mind you, I’m not being judgmental here, but pointing out a simple fact. If I wasn’t shareef for knowing that it was called a penis, not a pigeon, on what grounds were they judging me when they themselves apparently, by their definitions, weren’t shareef either?

Why do I rant out about this? You wonder. Because. No one had the right to tell me I couldn’t wear my dupatta if I wanted to, school rules or not. No one has the right to make me wear my dupatta now. Do I still wear it? Yes. But not out of a desire to. I believe that I’m only responsible for my sins, and if the book tells you to cover up, it tells men to lower their goddamned gaze too. No, I  wear it out of respect for my environment, and my family. It is my choice, whether I wear it or not. I could stop wearing it. No one would say anything. But I know it pleases my dad, so I do. Plain and simple. Of course you can spout some bs about how it isn’t a choice and how sub-consciously out of a desire to please my patriarchal fascist family and my oppressive tyrannical dad, I wear it, thus it isn’t a choice. Stfu okay? If I’m saying it’s my choice and I can quit wearing it if I want without any consequences, then you bloody well believe it, or quit reading my blog if you want to be skeptical. See, you have a choice there too.

This has been a subtle way of discussing the burqa debate. I have been up since 06:15am. I’m going to go have dinner now. Please to not be leaving unpleasant or rant-ish comments. I find them distressing.