An Ode to a Great Teacher

Well I am graduating this year and I have had all kinds of teachers…the good…the medicore….the lazy…the obnoxious…and to be honest am already starting to feel the nostalgia.At this rate i will be needin a tissue box when i graduate.

But where was I? yeah the great teacher part..This semester our Development Economics professor Mr Khalid Farooq was phenomenoal. He actually made us think! And he managed to earn the respect and admiration of everybody in class which is a rare thing.

Studyin US textbooks is great but quite often the relevance is not there for us but in this course we plunged into Pakistan’s problems poverty,unemployment,debt,population,agriculture,education and we tore each issue apart analysed the facts and really discussed the solutions.

It really opened my eyes to what the future holds for us. To say we are in for tough times ahead would be an understatement. Half our popularization is food insecure.This Jan 1 gas and electricity prices increased by 18% an12% respectively. And we have to put up with the load shedding.Our debt burden is increasing and Allah knows how many generations will have to service this burden.

The truth is I read all this stuff in the news we hear it on tv but the impact this class had on me was still great. Listening and watching the news reports is one thing and sitting down and actually starting to think about the ramifications is quite another…

Mr Khalid Farooq shared his experiences from his days in NAB,world bank,telecom sector and his tunnel farming venture and how life in the village is…each anecdote opened doors to new worlds and it truly was an amazing experience

So thank You sir for making me think

It has been an honor.

We need more teachers like you!

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In Search of Greener Pastures

This is an assignment I did recently for my conflict management course.I thought in view of the current scenario it would be appropriate to post online..


Sunlight was filtering into the room. The usual hustle bustle of new day could be seen in the household. Farooq sahib was scanning the newspaper while his Daughter In-Law was clearing up the clutter left by his grandchildren in the house as the maid washed the dishes. The TV was blaring loudly with the ailing sirens of ambulances and voices that spelled panic and anguish.

‘Now who has blown himself up!?’ Groaned Amber
‘It’s a bomb blast in Lahore, near Mall road.’ Sighed Farooq sahib
‘And what is the death toll?’
‘34 and rising. 324 injured.’
‘Good God…do these people have no shame!?’

Outside life goes on as usual. People are on their way to work. A beggar girl taps on a car window pleading for help. A newspaper vendor is calling out the day’s headlines. In the distance a funeral procession is making its way to the grave yard. A bride-to-be steps out of a shop with her mum after ordering her wedding dress.

It’s like a parallel universe. One of chaos and another of utter normalcy.

Amber is really sad by the developments in her country. It deeply disturbs her how the Taliban have taken the country hostage to terror. She is really angry at the way they have acquired money and power for torturing and killing people in the name of religion. She sometimes cries at night when the images of children in IDP camps and death and destruction bought by bomb blasts replay in her mind. She worries about the future of her children. What kind of surrounding we are raising them in; such dark memories will be etched in their minds. It’s very difficult to protect them from the scenes being played on TV as they are on all of the time. Her five year old son was asking her the other day how are suicide bombs made.

She is also angry at the double game being played by the so called champions of democracy who sit on their moral high horse with an attitude of ‘we are here to save this world from terror’. Its history repeating itself, the same tried and tested strategy of divide and rule. In Afghanistan they pitched the Taliban against the Northern alliance and in Iraq the Sunnis against the Shiite. Now it’s the Pakistani Taliban against the Pakistani army. In the Afghanistan war they bombed cities and then had the nerve to drop food packets from airplanes. Here they finance and provide weapons and logistical support to the Taliban and then when it results in a mass displacement announce $5 billion worth of aid for IDPs. No wonder so many people in Pakistan are utterly confused as to what’s going on. It is so hard to distinguish between friend and foe. Which makes the war all the more complicated to understand and difficult to fight.

There are so many unanswered questions. Whose side is the Pak army on? Are the Taliban Muslims? Is it even about religion? Whose interest do they serve? Where are they getting all the financial and technical support from? What do they want? Whose side should we take? Are our leaders capable of dealing with this crisis? When will this end? What did we do to deserve this?

Fawad is a Rhodes Scholar; he got his postgraduate degree in Mechatronic Systems Engineering from Brown University. His stay in the states has left a lasting impression on him and he yearns to go back. America – the land of freedom and opportunity, where everyone can realize their dreams. His class fellows from university are earning neat five figure incomes and one of his friends even recently bought a Ferrari 350z.Something he cannot even dream of buying even if he were to work day and night all his life here. He doesn’t even have a house of his own. He lives with his parents and realizes when property is divided his share in the inheritance wont even buy him a half decent two room apartment, let alone the plush home he lives in right now in an uptown area. Real estate prices have hit the roof and he will be nearing his retirement before he is able to afford a small home half as posh as this one. That too will be possible only if he works really hard saves. And savings these days is something easier said than done. With hyperinflation and prices of daily use items increasing on a monthly basis it’s becoming increasingly difficult to make ends meet. Thanks to his wife who is rather a minimalist and does her best to share his burden and cut costs wherever possible things are bearable. But it is clear to him that with this state of affairs he is not going to get very far in life.

Lately he feels suffocated in the country .Everything bothers him. The heat, the long hours of load shedding, the dirty streets, the water shortage, the law and order situation, the political instability, the ignorant people, the garbage on the streets, the broken roads, the beggars, the corruption, the nepotism and the injustice. He is fed up with it all and it is really getting to him now. Most of all it is the half-baked conspiracy theories of news analysts and random opinions of the man on the street that irk him. The crux of it all is that all our problems are because of the involvement of a foreign hand. Whatever goes wrong blame it on CIA, RAW or Mossad. And to think that there are Taliban sympathizers in the nation well that’s telling of the future of this country.

Two of his brothers are settled in Canada with their families and are doing very well for themselves. They urge him to come whenever they talk citing the worsening situation at home and telling him that things in Pakistan are going to get worse before they get better. Clean air, greener environment, quality and free education for the children, better lifestyle and freedom to break away from outdated customs and do your own thing – that is the lure of the foreign land.

Fawad feels a great future awaits him and he is missing out on a great deal. His parents are not so keen on letting him go as he is the only son left in Pakistan. His wife is not warming to the idea either. The events unfolding have made him all the more determined to shift abroad.

‘Care for some lassi, I made it for abbu as he is distressed by the heat, maybe it will do you good too.’
‘Forget lassi, there is something important I want to talk to you about.’
‘Wait, let me tuck the kids in or they will be up forever.’
Amber brings a glass of frothy lassi and settles down on a couch facing her husband.
‘See it’s the kids that I am worried about.’
‘But they have been angels today. And you didn’t even get to spend times with them today.’
‘It is their future I am worried about, the fear-stricken environment that they are growing up in, the uncertain future, the lack of resources and opportunities we can provide them.’
‘This is the way the world is today and we must realize that we cannot and should not try to protect our children from the thorns while they pick the roses. As far as providing for them is concerned we do our best….just like our parents did for us.’
‘How can you be so indifferent? Doesn’t anything bother you? Do you realize that any day it could be one of us who is a blast victim. Or the Taliban moral police come to the city to destroy life as we know it?’
‘How can I not be concerned, it is something that I worry and contemplate every single day. My beloved country is torn and in pain.’
‘It doesn’t have to be this way if we move abroad. Look how many of our friends and family has shifted recently. Things are getting from bad to worse here’
‘I don’t see how that sorts problems. Running away from them is hardly a solution.’
‘Its time we recognize that its time to leave the sinking ship’
‘I cannot believe this how can you be…be so?’
‘Un-patriotic?’
‘No…but so skeptic and dejected…’
‘Its simple we have to come to terms with the bitter ground realities, we cannot close our eyes to the sad truth staring at us.’
‘Look agreed that it is getting really rough but if we lose hope then there is no moving forward. As clichéd as it may sound we owe our existence to Pakistan. We need our country and our country needs us. We owe it to our children to stay put and do our part in helping the country through this crisis.’
‘Are you even listening to what I am trying to say? What’s so bad about wanting to secure a better and brighter future for yourself? For wanting peace of mind?’
‘I am trying to listen. Keep in mind a new set of problems awaits us. It not all that wonderful in states there is the discrimination and racism, the recession and settlement problems.’
‘You know I have a good job offer at Boeing and my brothers are there to help me in the transition. Besides I am no stranger to the place.’
‘You know I remember this little couplet from the time I was in college. It goes like this;
Mid pleasures & places though we may roam
Be it ever so humble there is no place like home.’
‘Well if you are so keen to stay then suit yourself. I will go and make myself useful. I will miss you and the kid and worry about you all. But hopefully you will miss me enough to change your mind.’

Amber has a strong attachment with her homeland. The people, the places, the rich traditions and colors are all a part of her. Her family, the celebrations surrounding Ramadan, Eid, Weddings, and spring are an elaborate affair and something she enjoys thoroughly. She is not willing to trade it all for Fawad’s version of ‘a good life’. She is welcome to the idea of going to new places and meeting new people and gaining an insight into their culture. But the idea of settling in a foreign land always makes her cringe. Whenever she imagines herself in such settings she feels like an intruder and misfit. But despite it all her she tells herself that ‘my home is where my husband is.’ The idea of split families does not appeal to her. It’s deeply ingrained in her value system that families belong together and should stick together come what may…

Book Review: The Reluctant Fundamentalist


I recently finished reading ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ by Mohsin Hamid.To be honest the book wasnt upto my expectations.I have previously read ‘Moth Smoke’ by Mohsin and that book was a real treat.

A young Pakistani man narrates his story at a chai khana to a forigner about his life in the States. How he was a top student there and later got picked by a top form for a job.However after 9/11 he started feeling an identity crisis and felt lost.

Although this book is interesting but it is not as insightful and engaging as Moth smoke.There are lots of angels and issues that could have been discussed with regard to Fundamentalism and the western phobia with bearded men in general and Pakistani men in particular.
If you are a Mohsin Hamid fan skip this book!

History Revisited:Saqoot-e-Dhaka


Today is December 16th.On this day 38 years ago Pakistan was dismembered.Its important to revisit our history.Unfortunately today we wish to turn our eyes away from the bitter past.A proof of this is the fact that our national curriculum does not give an account of the events that led to the east west Pakistan divide.An entire generation is growing up unaware of the circumstances and the events that led to the fall of Dhaka.

An interesting insight on learning from history is present on the following link.

http://bangladeshwatchdog.blogspot.com/2008/12/fall-of-dhaka-we-must-learn-from.html

Currently Pakistan is facing political and economic turmoil and now more than ever there is a need for national unity.This year on Pakistan’s independence day our fellow countrymen in Balochistan chose to raise black flags.

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=20098\12\story_12-8-2009_pg7_9”>

Our pathan bretheren are not too happy about the developments in NWFP either.

Thankfully the government is taking some interest in uniting all the provinces.The NFC award whereby all provinces agreed to share resources is a heartening development.As is the tabling of the Balochistan package in the National Assembly.But there is a long way to go.The sentiments of ethnic divides and grudges run deep and will take more time and sincere efforts to erase.

We need to learn from the mistakes of our past. We have to face the dark chapters of our history and not forget them when recounting the glorious eras of the past.

Long Live Pakistan!

Time to Give Back

There are lots of people who make something for themselves in  life.

But few people do something for society.

Let’s ask ourselves

What can we do?

How are we going to do it ?

What are we waiting for?

Rest in Peace?

rest-in-peace

Do these fellows get to rest in peace….

quaid

Inside Quaid-e-Azams Masoleum

maocoffinMao Se Tung

people swarming their final place of resting ,these places have literally become tourist sites…i kind of feel sorry for them!

Aalim Online

With the advent of Ramadan all these programs have cropped on tv with religious scholars giving advice and sharing information.The trouble is they represent so many different shades of Islam that the average viewer is confused as to whom to listen to and follow.
But our ever-trusting nation chooses to believe what it hears religiously.
TV is a n excellent medium to propogate religious knowledge but it has to be authentic.It would be so much better if the anchors of such religious shows gave references from Quraan and Ahadeeth instead of voicing their personal opinions and observations.

I am personally at a loss to decide whether i should tune in to such shows and if so which one?

Our Fourth War

Its time to acknowledge that this is our country’s fourth war.We all need to unite against the common enemy without any ifs and buts.If we are going to win this war then this nation has to offer its unconditional support to the troops-no strings attached.Yes…the army has made mistakes in the past,they are no angels but the fact is that they face a tough task.They are really stretched and are facing an enemy that has state-of-the -art weapons,logistical suppport and the camoflague of the mountainious terrain.

Charity

We Pakistanis are one of the most philanthropic nations in the world and there is doubt about that! As in the Oct 2005 earthquake ,Balochistan earthquake 2008 and again now with the IDP crisis everyone is coming forward to help and is keen to do their part.

Its good to give but if we do so for allah’s sake and not just because we think ‘its the right thing to do

‘Umar b. al-Khattab narrated that the Prophet (S) said: Deeds are [a result] only of the intentions [of the actor], and an individual is [rewarded] only according to that which he intends.Narrated by Muslim & Bukhari

Some of the Islamic Etiquettes and Manners of giving charity

  • Must be given from hilal income

‘O ye who believe, spend from what you (lawfully) earned’ (2: 267)For the will of Allah Sincere intentions

  • With heartfelt pleasure
  • After giving sadqa do not waste it by
  • a) Showing off
  • b) making the person feel obliged
  • c) by giving them grief (physical/emotional)
  • Give only of what is good and what you like for yourself

‘By no means shall you attain righteousness unless you give (freely as a charity) from that which you love; and whatever you spend Allah knows it well.’ (3: 92).

  • Sadqa can be anything ;

Good advice, a smile, visiting the ill,donating blood,condoling the grieved, removing a stone/glass shard from the road, giving our time and resources in Allah’s way, sharing your knowledge with others, helping someone whenever we can in whatever way.

Since its summer it is a good idea to offer cool drinks(lemonade,sharbat,even water) to people braving the heat on the roads.Particularly the guards and traffic police.Keep those pepsi pet bottles and fill them with the prepared drink along with paper glasses.Its the effort that counts.

Also since we dont always give money to beggers we can keep packets of biscuits or other such edible items in the car to give.That way at least we know that the person got to eat something.

There is plenty of information about how we can help the IDP’s  http://changinguppakistan.wordpress.com/2009/05/06/the-status-of-pakistans-idps/

Holidays are not the solution!

We have a holiday for everything.Now granted that the May 12 carnage was a tragic event and a black day for Karachi but announcing a holiday on its anniversary is hardly sensible.

Karachi is the financial lifeline of iur country and we are facing hard times as it is. The last thing we need is to reduce productivity what little we have.

Instead those who are sincere in their grief and concern for the horrific turn of events on that day should launch an inquiry into the perpetuatirs of the crime and bring them to task. The investigation findings should be made public and the guilty punished.

But in a country where even high-profile murders remain a mystery this maybe too much to ask for.

May Allah protect our country and may peace prevail.Amen

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