I’m sitting in my aunt’s living room, amidst an ongoing argument on the issue of the electricity and expenses of cooking food without gas, the usual start to my day in this household. Every day, since she returned back to Pakistan five years ago, I’ve watch my aunt wake up to a very typical version of “Pakistani” problems knocking at her door, while her servants have their remedy ready in the form of some morning tea on the side. To her surprise, being home to raise her children has not been as green as it seemed from the other side of the fence. Daily frustrations like these have become quite common for many Pakistani’s returning home after relocating abroad, dreaming that it would provide those homey comforts which the foreign country could not. Unbeknownst to them, that during their time away our motherland has continued to push against the underlying evils of mismanagement, corruption and possibilities that exist in governments everywhere.
The longing, emotional bond with the homeland usually brings the expatriates back after some amount of time spent away, but it has little support to offer those that are returning under usual circumstances. These returning families face a variety of problems, consequently, returning back has its own perks but the fears formulated in the process can make the transition even more challenging.
Cultural shock, or the feeling of being a foreigner in their own homeland, leaves many feeling lost while they are still struggling to relocate back to Pakistan and reacquaint themselves with the new areas, growth, and culture that may be much different than they remember.
Jetlag, however, might still be one of the most difficult things to manage physically during a return home. Taking the biggest toll, and adding to an already stressful situation. Also, the most easily overlooked and underrated part of the trip back, jetlag can not only lead to additional problems but can also compound new problems blowing them way out of proportion.
Initial days are thrilling of course, filled with the excitement of a journey back home and the chance to revisit old friends, but the real deal sets in shortly thereafter. The feeling of being a stranger, sometimes among your friends and family despite the good old lifestyle you once left behind, prevails. Very well leading to confusion, lack of direction, and in the worst case, a mismatch between the dream home you’re searching for and the current transitional phase. However don’t lose hope, there are a number of things one can do to combat these factors that many face.
Pick the most suitable city- For many this is one of the most important aspects. Your new city will be your new environment, and your “ideal” city and what it offers may have changed while you were gone, much like you did.
Weigh the pros and cons- Resources, employment, commute time, and convenience may be just a few to begin with, aside from the presence of one’s family and friends. This makes it easier to adjust as it did when moving abroad.
Enjoy the hunt- While it can be very exhausting, as it is the basis for your new life back home, it can be made much easier by buyer’s assistance companies like Lamudi here in Pakistan. While these new real estate listing websites may have sprung up while you were gone, they walk you through the entire process of this transition, providing paperwork and help along the way.
Your “settling down” phase, and the joy of returning home is one that you have been looking forward to for weeks, if not months. For many it is a dream, and as the pressure and culture shock begin to wear off, you should be able to slowly return to the list of things you’ve put off during your busy schedule abroad. Your home country is glad to have you back, and despite what you remember about the past, it has grown and matured much like you have, and has all the solutions ready to paint the life you’ve wanted to live, in a very Pakistani way – slow and steady.
Education, apart from being the cornerstone of a successful and fulfilling life, helps mold and polish students and Ilmesters Academy aims to make your child shine. The administration, faculty and staff members are pleased to invite your family to the Open House. Ilmesters Academy is an IB World School with the goal to meet the international benchmark by offering unique inquiry-based learning. The school provides rich opportunities for academics, physical-education, artistic and community endeavors and engages in programs, which are offered by University of Cambridge.
If you’re interested in visiting, there’s an open house coming up.
I was talking to a friend a few weeks ago, and over sips of chai, we shared our lives with each other. During our discussion, we realized that so few of our colleagues enjoyed picking up a good novel, and diving into the story it holds.
In elite universities in Pakistan, we hear discussions about how it’s up to our youth to lead the country, and our bright young minds – fostered and developed in the nation’s top universities – are the leaders of tomorrow.
We are expected to lead, and rid the nation of poverty, corruption and nepotism.
But how can one lead without the essentials that literature gives us, without learning the lessons of times past and times present? Can you truly understand the line between passion and obsession without Anna Karenina?
Can you feel an oppressed woman’s pain without Simone de Bouvoir?
Can you understand compassion if you haven’t walked 500 pages in Quasimodo’s shoes? An author doesn’t just tell a story – they share a piece of the world as they know it. And aren’t the greatest leaders known for their understanding of humanity?
So I decided to do something about it. My online book sale is a project to bring popular titles to people who might read them. Whether you’re an avid bookworm, a maybe-sometimes reader, or just clicking around on the internet, the book sale is open to you, and I hope you do stop by. We’ve tried to make the books as affordable as possible, to facilitate that bookworm that we know is somewhere inside of you. Our goal is to get you to read more, and develop a love of books.
Some of these books were donated for this project, and most are from my personal collection. There are some new ones, some almost-new ones, and some that have been well-read. These are books that I have loved and learned from, and that I want to share with the world.
How will this work?
A photo album is uploaded on my Facebook page. Each picture is captioned with the name and price of the books shown. Simply pick the books you want, and send an Inbox Message to the page, telling me which books you would like. Those will be set aside for you. Prices are non-negotiable, and have been set keeping in mind the conditions of each book.
All books will be sold on a first-come, first-serve basis. Keep in mind, the quantity of books is limited, so you’ll want to hurry!
How do I pay, and how do I get my books?
Payment will be through online bank transfer, and your books will be delivered to you by post, or in person (if you’re close enough).
How can I help?
Since this is my way of giving back to the community, I encourage you all to help with the effort. Feel free to contact me here on the blog, on on my Twitter or Facebook to donate books, create a partnership, or share your ideas. I would love to hear from you!
“If you are a dreamer come in
If you are a dreamer a wisher a liar
A hoper a pray-er a magic-bean-buyer
If youre a pretender com sit by my fire
For we have some flax golden tales to spin
– Shel Silverstein
There is a way in which the myth of peaceful resistance is flattering to the oppressor and disabling to the oppressed. It’s as much the oppressor’s narrative as anyone’s. “You ought not to fight us with more than the image of your own broken body,” it says, “for we who oppress you are good and rational — most of the time. We have the same interests as you, and understand that you enjoy the same basic rights. We, your rulers, simply need to have our consciences pricked from time to time.” By couching the antipathy as a mere moral lapse, the oppressor is permitted simultaneously to deny the actual material basis of the social division and hence the necessity for a struggle for liberation that is more than merely symbolic, and to perform a mental splitting-off from its own identity of those aspects of itself it can now pretend were inessential deviations from its rational, humanistic core. Just as the United States broadly did with the benighted South of Bull Connor and the Klan. As if the story of American racist oppression was one of mere regional ideological peccadillo and not one of the founding principles of the whole nation’s economic structure. As if the story of Apartheid were simply those nasty Afrikaners and their gauche racism. They’d probably lived in Africa too long and allowed its “tribalism” to rub off on them, and so deviated from the European universalist norm. Still, one of us in the end, eh? – Three Fingered Fox
LAHORE: 18th November 2013 – NESTLÉ Pakistan and Tetra Pak Pakistan proudly co-launched the Pakistan Safe Milk Movement today. The aim of the movement is to educate every Pakistani on the importance of consuming milk that is safe. In addition, the movement also intends to give enough awareness to everyone to be able to understand how milk could be unsafe and the subsequent adverse effects on health owing to the consumption of unsafe milk.
The ceremony was hosted by Sidra Iqbal, leading media anchorperson and development activist. Among other notables from both NESTLÉ Pakistan and Tetra Pak Pakistan, the launch event was attended by renowned philanthropist Syed Babar Ali and also by distinguished writer and respected media personality Anwar Maqsood, the brand ambassador for NESTLÉ MILKPAK, who is also spearheading the movement.
Mr. Babar Ali, as member of the expert panel at the press briefing, said he recognized the movement as an extension of his mission of providing high quality products to the Pakistani consumer. He highlighted the importance of consumer education about the packaged foods industry and underlined that the Pakistani consumer has always been smart enough to make the right decision, once given the right information. He also underlined how this movement will result in improving the overall quality of dairy farming and has the potential of making Pakistan a major exporter of milk in the global market.
Anwar Maqsood highlighted that as Brand Ambassador, he has learnt new facts about the safety of milk – of how NESTLÉ ensures that pure milk is protected throughout their value chain from sourcing till the point it is consumed in households. He emphasized that understanding this process is key to ensuring that we consume safe and healthy products and lead a healthy lifestyle.
Representing NESTLÉ, Mr. Roland Steiger, Business Head of Ambient Dairy added that “NESTLÉ as an organization has over 140 years of global experience in ensuring that consumers get a delightful experience through the use of NESTLÉ products owing to high quality standards and safe handling of milk right from the milking shed to the pack of milk in the consumer’s hand”. He highlighted that as a result of adherence to these values, NESTLÉ MILKPAK, with a heritage of more than three decades in Pakistan, holds strong brand equity with its consumers and enjoys market leadership in the UHT all-purpose milk category.
“NESTLÉ is involved in numerous initiatives to create shared value, including farmer development, training of female livestock workers through external dairy development projects and model farms, among many others” said Mr. Waqar Ahmad Sheikh, Head of Corporate Affairs at NESTLÉ. “Over and above, by purchasing milk on a daily basis from more than 190,000 farmers, NESTLÉ is contributing positively to farmers’ livelihood and hence, rural development”.
Tetra Pak, the world’s leading food processing and packaging solutions company, has partnered with NESTLÉ to create awareness about milk safety. With presence in over 170 countries across the globe, Tetra Pak comes with the expertise on processing and packaging solutions best suited for the local market needs. Tetra Pak’s motto, “PROTECTS WHAT’S GOOD™” reflects their vision to make food safe and available everywhere.
Speaking for Tetra Pak Pakistan, Osman Bucha, Director Marketing, said, “With over 30 years of experience in the Pakistani market, we realize and appreciate the need for creating awareness about milk safety. Through an integrated awareness campaign supported by seminars and other direct consumer engagements, we see NESTLÉ’s Pakistan Safe Milk Movement as a platform for helping consumers in making informed decisions about what constitutes safe and hygienic food”.
The panel also consisted of Mrs. Ghazala Pervaiz (RD), Head of Food and Nutrition Department at College of Home Economics. She shared facts with the forum on the nutritional significance of milk intake in the daily diet and also highlighted the possible adverse effects of consuming unhygienic / adulterated milk and associated gastrointestinal disorders. She stressed the importance of choosing milk that is safe and of high quality.
The consumer awareness campaign will be seen on mass media as well as on key digital platforms. NESTLÉ Pakistan and Tetra Pak urged the Pakistani consumer to search for more information and enhance their understanding on the subject, and to join them in their mission of consumer education… Socho, Samjho aur Phir Piyo!
For more information on Pakistan Safe Milk Movement, search for:
The last few months have been tough for me, and I’ve been stuck in a bit of a rut. It’s as if the heavens have aligned, all planets carefully synchronized, to bring me misery. Maybe I’m being a bit dramatic, but we’ve all been there, haven’t we? When you’re feeling lower than low, and if you’re anything like me, you turn to romantic comedies and whatever the refrigerator is able to provide, and those mindless rambling Tumblr blogs with their emo pictures about love and believing and cherries-on-top – Instagrammed and strategically blurred to perfection – make you feel soft and fuzzy on the inside.
Reality check: Life doesn’t go away. After your movie ends, and Channing Tatum gallops into the sunset, you have to go back to whatever it is that’s dragging you down. For those who are particularly lucky, your problems may just fly straight into your face before he can rescue the princess from the tallest tower in The Land of Fairy Giggles.
What is a poor wimpy kid (or housewife, or pot-bellied news reporter, or a grand combination of both) to do? Well first of all, even though you’ve got that special, unique, one-of-a-kind, major problem that’s way way worse than anyone else’s anywhere in the world, remember that the world has over 6 billion people in it. Some of them are bound to have the same problem. It’s simple statistics, people. And before you start to emphatically deny me the pleasure of being completely right, No, no! You don’t understand! It’s worse for me because I lost my pet donkey! let me just share with you this wonderful quote:
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”
It’s one of my favorites. And why not? Plato was a smart guy.
Here’s my list of top tips for those insanely mind-blowing problems we all have to learn to deal with:
1. Find a ‘safe’ buddy
We often feel like there’s no one we can talk to. Maybe sometimes we feel that we shouldn’t share our problems because it will reflect badly on us, on our husbands, on our wives, on our families, on our friends. Sometimes we feel ashamed – what will people think? We don’t want to appear vulnerable, stupid, insecure, the neighborhood basket case. But just think about Desperate Housewives – those women have got some serious issues, but in the end they all get together for a porch-and-martini powwow and learn to deal. I am not endorsing the use of alcohol for getting over those bumps in your road. I am simply saying that having a group of – or even one – ‘safe’ friend(s). Someone who may or may not be able to take any concrete steps to help you, but that you can call and whine to. It could be a work buddy, an old friend, a loved one – or a random stranger. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is that you get your frustrations out there and not only lighten your emotional load, but talk through them and figure out how to move on. And if you can’t talk to anyone, write. If you have a God, write to him – long letters, emotional prayers, it doesn’t matter. If you wanna write to Santa Claus, or Hermoine Granger, do that. Write to Britney Spears. Just write. Put your feelings on paper. It’s catharsis. It helps. And if you’re super paranoid about privacy, just burn it when you’re done. Press the ‘Delete’ button on your keyboard.
2. Try to find a solution.
Try to analyze the situation. No one understands it better than you. Why is this happening to you? When will it stop? How can you make it stop? If you can’t change it, then change yourself. What can you start doing so that you don’t feel so hurt anymore? How can you protect yourself from your surroundings? Who can help you? Or how can you help someone else to make your situation better? Find your salvation – whether it is personal strength, art, feeding the homeless, whatever. Find your inner truth, and hold on it. Harness your strength and energy. Believe me, you can do it.
3. Run Away/Take a Vacation
I’m not joking. It may sound terrible, selfish, rude, irresponsible, immature and a host of other unflattering adjectives, but it’s a good fix. When everything’s getting to your head, you might need to take a break. I’m not saying abandon your three-month-old baby and run to the Bahamas with a dapper young gentleman, but what I am saying is ‘running away’ doesn’t have to mean shirking your responsibilities. Maybe I should say ‘take a vacation’ instead. Don’t call it a break. ‘Break’ has negative connotations in our minds and it implies that we have something to get back to, pronto. Treat yourself to a vacation. If it’s your kids driving you crazy, use their at-school hours to treat yourself to something relaxing – whether its an hour at the spa, or a warm cuddle with your newest novel. If your friends are working on your every nerve, say you need some ‘alone’ time, or come up with some pressing matter you must deal with. The point is, remember to breathe. You’re allowed to chill. You can use it as re-charge time.
The point of all of this is 1 – to survive, 2 – to learn from the experiences you’re having, and 3 – to find a way to bring positive change. Positive change is key, and once you’re determined, nothing can hold you back.
So how did I deal with it? (Disclaimer: This section is a personal account of how my religious beliefs helped me conquer my problems. Everyone has a right to their own beliefs, and in the following paragraphs I am in no way trying to impose my views on anyone else. If you find you may not appreciate my personal story and beliefs, feel free to stop reading beyond this point.)
Well I’m a Muslim, and as I’ve stated countless times before, that’s an extremely optimistic term to apply because it implies that I might be a good Muslim – which, unfortunately, I have not always been able to live up to. Anyways, since I’m Muslim, I think I may have got the easy way out of it. Ramadan is here, the month Muslims believe to be the holiest, filled with opportunity for bountiful blessings. I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve completely ignored the last two or three Ramadans. This year, however, my life’s been looking down more than up, and I decided I wanted change.
Who better to bring change than God? And how better to ask for change than by praying? All religions all around the world acknowledge the power of prayer. It’s silly how we say we believe, and yet we ignore God most of the time, and only turn to him when our own efforts are useless. It’s like we treat him as our second best option. And that’s a darn shame.
So alhumdolilah (thank God), this year I’m using this month as an investment. Islam teaches Muslims that Ramadan is a microcosm for the rest of our year. Since we believe God makes it easier for us to be ‘good’ in this month, and helps us fight our evil alter egos, I saw it as a wonderful opportunity to take some positive steps and improve my life. As one of my teachers always used to say, “Got a problem with God? Talk to him about it. Need something? Just ask. All you have to do is try.” So here I am, trying. I hope I am able to change my life for the better, just like I hope all of you find solutions to your own problems, and start smiling a little brighter every day.
Disclaimer: I am NOT being paid to write/tweet about any of this. I am NOT employed as the official NUST Spokesperson. I am a student at NUST School of Social Sciences & Humanities, and I am a proud NUSTian, who wanted the world to have all the facts before it formed opinions.
For a complete and detailed live-feed of the Rector Speech, please visit my Twitter timeline, where I tweeted directly from the meeting, by clicking here. Search my tweets that are hashtagged #NUST and #RectorSpeech.
September 2013: Old students return for their 3rd, 5th and 7th semesters, and new students enter NUST as part of the 2014 batch. Old students see that some things have changed. New rules have been instated. New students see that there are a lot of rules they weren’t used to in their A Levels or F.Sc. schools and go through the period of “man, this is weird” that all new students feel in the first few weeks of university.
What were the new rules, and what were the old rules:
NEW RULE: 3 roommates per room in the hostels for both boys and girls because 450 students were accommodated over capacity.
NEW RULE: Of the three cafes students used to visit, one (called NG Cafe) was now off limits to students, because it was built specifically for university staff, and they complained that students always filled it up. This made the students sad because NG has the best lassi.
NEW RULE: Of the two remaining cafes, students were free to use both during the day (before 5 pm) but after 5pm, one cafe (Concordia 1) was off limits to boys, and the other (Concordia 2) was off limits to girls. So there was some co-ed time at the cafes and some segregated time at the cafes.
OLD RULE: For students of NUST Business School and the NUST School of Social Science & Humanities (NS3H students are currently housed in the NBS building while their state of the art structure is being built, and so must abide by NBS rules) jeans are not allowed, as the NBS dress code calls for “formal dress”. This is only for NBS. Girls must wear a dupatta as part of a three-piece shalwar kameez suit. They are not under any compulsion to wear a dupatta on their heads. This dupatta and jeans rule applies only to the students of NUST Business School. All the engineering schools within the H-12 campus (SEECS, SCEE, SCME, etc.) have no suh rule. Students are commonly found wearing jeans. SADA, the architecture school, has NO dresscode. Students are often dressed in very Western styles that are not found in any other school. Sheer/see-through clothing, provocative art or imagery on clothing that may offend others is also not allowed, shorts and skirts are also not allowed.
OLD RULE: Speed limit within the NUST H-12 campus, to make roads safe for walking students.
OLD RULE: Must always have NUST ID card on your person while in the university, so that when passing through any of the external or internal gates, you can prove your identity. And that’s what a student card is for.
OLD RULE: Curfew for male hostelites to get back to campus is 11 pm. Curfew for female hostelites is 9.30 pm.
RUMORS THAT SPREAD LIKE WILDFIRE:
1. NUST will impose a 7.30 pm curfew on the girls. This did not and will not happen.
2. Uniforms will be introduced at NUST H-12. This did not and will not happen. This is a semi-civilian campus. NUST runs a tight ship, but only in the interest of peace and orderly activity.
3. NUST is a nest of Taliban wanna-bes who are converting Pakistan‘s youth. NUST is the largest and one of the most prestigious universities in the country with more state-of-the-art facilities for its students than any other. It is NOT against Western thinking or knowledge. In fact, students are encouraged to go abroad for competitions, etc.
WHAT WAS ALL THE FUSS ABOUT?
A lot of new rules were suddenly implemented and the reasons for them were not clearly communicated to the students. This resulted in misunderstanding and frustration. The new rules, such as the post-5 PM cafe segregation made it difficult to work in groups, hangout with friends, etc. and students grew angry.
New students at NBS were used to wearing skinny jeans and dressing any way they wanted, and didn’t think a university would have a dress code that limited them in any way. Keep in mind, these kids wore uniforms all throughout their A Levels, so why this was such a big deal to them all of a sudden is kind of a surprise.
Students started calling NUST a “madrassah” and making creative memes that were almost all based on the 5 PM segregation of cafes. At this point, boys and girls were still hanging out together OUTSIDE THE CAFES, WITHIN THE CAMPUS. They are allowed to sit on the grass together, walk together on the roads, watch the football teams practice, etc. Inter-mixing was not banned. These memes caught fire. Students were used to cribbing about not being able to wear jeans. We all know we love to whine about old rules. So the media picked it up and blew it out of proportion.
The real issues that students were frustrated with were not about the jeans or the dupatta. What was much more pressing to them were the cafe segregation, the curfew rumors, the problems at the hostels – they were crowded, the warden didn’t care about their issues. There were issues to be addressed about the vans that take day scholars home after classes, etc. The media chose one of the smallest aspects and turned it into primetime news. The real issues that students wanted to discuss were all brought forth by the students themselves at the Rector’s address.
MISCONCEPTIONS PEOPLE HAD BECAUSE OF THE MEDIA BLOWOUT
1. Girls are forced to wear dupattas on their heads.
2. Girls cannot leave hostels without mahrams.
3. Girls and boys throughout the 23 schools that are part of the NUST cannot wear jeans or tights.
4. Boys are not allowed to talk to girls in H-12. Girls cannot talk to boys. No inter-mixing is allowed.
5. NUST has put in place a very strict authoritarian regime and is force feeding extremist religion to the kids.
1. Dupattas on shoulders, for NBS and NS3H students only.
2. Girls can leave hostels at any time. Vans are even provided on the weekends to take them out to popular shopping centers so they don’t have to spend money on cab fare. They just need to be back by 9.30 PM. The curfew were set to keep security in check. NUST has a lot of undeveloped land around it, which has been known to be dangerous open abadi. Attacks have taken place in the past and that is why the curfews are now in place.
3. Jeans only not allowed for NBS and NS3H students as they are expected to dress business formal. Tights not allowed with short shirts.
4. Intermixing is allowed and does occur. Only two isolated spots – the cafes are segregated AFTER 5 PM. Some other areas of campus are off limits because they are far-flung and not well-lit, for the students’ own safety. Keep in mind, NUST has a 4 square km campus. It’s huge and not all of it is paved and lit up like a Christmas tree.
5. NUST is a Taliban foxhole? Seriously? In my third semester, I had a teacher who asked us to prove the existence of God as a theoretical challenge. We have speakers from around the world (Western world included) come and deliver seminars and conduct workshops. NUST sends students (including girls) around the world for competitions. Bangkok, the US, etc. We hosted the South Asian Youth Conference 2012 and the World Engineering Congress 2013. We hosted an international model United Nations (NIMUN) last year, and have plans to expand it even more this year, calling in even more foreign delegates. I have heard of three kids who call themselves athiests and study at NUST. You think the Taliban would let them just hang out at the cafe with everyone? Christian students study at NUST and are open about their faith.
HOW THE UNIVERSITY RESPONDED
The Rector (which means the head of all the schools of NUST – there are over 20) held 2 meetings – one with the girls yesterday at 3,45 and one with the boys this morning. The reason these meetings were segregated was because there is no one auditorium big enough to fit all students and because girls wanted to discuss issues like the dress code, the hostels, etc. and to have the boys present would have made it possible for rude commentary to pursue and girls might not feel completely comfortable discussing everything openly. Same idea when it comes to the boys.
Keep in mind, you may have a very confident approach to life and may be very liberal and open about discussing male and female issues but NUST has an extremely diverse student body, with students from Islamabad and Lahore and Karachi who are well-off and confident and very modern in their thinking, and students from Pishin, interior Sindh, the Frontier, etc, who have much more conservative values and patterns of thought. There is a need to create balance and harmony within this student body and the rules in place are a compromise – a half and half to get both sides to calm their bananas a little bit and learn to get along and cooperate.
WHAT DID THE RECTOR SAY ABOUT ALL THE ISSUES?
He was very open minded and let the students speak. The question and answer session was over 90 minutes long. He answered each question, apologized whenever he heard individual stories of wrongs students suffered and changed a number of rules. The presidents and principals of each individual school were present and several were held accountable on the spot. It was clear that the meeting was held in good faith and that there was a positive want to improve and change for the benefit of the students.
For a complete and detailed live-feed of the Rector Speech, please visit my Twitter timeline, where I tweeted directly from the meeting, by clicking here. Search my tweets that are hashtagged #NUST and #RectorSpeech.
As summer 2013 rolls out, all fiery hot sun and sponge-cake skin, it’s easy to want to curl up with the latest thing to hit the shelves, a light, feel-good with red high heels on the cover, and a spicy rebel inside, but we all know that summer is about adventure. Whether it’s trying new things or getting better at old ones, summer is about throwing your heart out there into the world, and the perfect way to do it is to pick up Maps for Lost Loversby Nadeem Aslam. The man is an artist with words. This sentences are crafted to contain the most dense imagery I have come across in a long time. It’s easy to pack high-power intensity into words – shock, strain, burn, pain, breaking, shattering – but to wrap delicacy and beauty in words depicting pain and heartbreak – well that is something Aslam masters, and that I hope I can one day learn to do.
“The neighbourhood is a place of…intrigue and emotional espionage, where when two people stop to talk on the street their tongues are like the two halves of a scissor coming together, cutting reputations and good names to shreds.”
The story is torturous, without ever stating its trauma in open words. The subtlety and elegance within which desperation, pathetic feelings, and the grungy, small blaze of love are given to the reader is beautiful. I found myself, highlighter in hand, running a neon stripe across twistings of phrases, uniquely designed sentences that I had never read before. Adjectives strung together to describe a world I had never ever considered to be there. It wasn’t London, it wasn’t England – it was the hearts of Aslam’s characters, fused together, their feelings and wounds used to create a reality.
“He would drift through the house in search of the coolest spot to read through the long summer afternoons that had a touch of eternity to them, altering the arrangement of his limbs as much for comfort as for the fear that his undisturbed shadow would leave a stain on the wall.”
Most reviews on this book talk about the issues discussed in its pages – fundamentalist Islam, backward thinking, ignorance and arrogance molded into a lifestyle that causes many great pain, sin and tragedy, punishments and murders – and it is through this plot line that the author really reaches into your heart and seems to clench a fist around it, but what really stole my attention and earned my admiration was the way the linguistics help to accomplish this goal. Often, when reading a “pulling my heartstrings” kind of novel, we are drawn to a s specific character, we can relate to something they are going through, we sympathize with them, and come to detest who we identify as the “villain character”. But in Maps, I was taken to a world I knew nothing about. I did not grow up semi-impoverished, feeling like an alien in a white man’s world. I was not bound by strict social stigma or the prying eyes of whispering aunties. So for me, Maps was an unknown land.
“Shamas stands in the open door and watches the earth, the magnet that it is, pulling snowflakes out of the sky towards itself.”
Despite that, Nadeem Aslam gave me a story that reached right into my core. There was no single character I could hate or love. There was no one I could specifically champion – because these characters weren’t “good” or “bad” guys. They were human, and like all of us, they had evil and goodness shining out of every pore. For each characteristic that I loved about one, there was also some element that I wasn’t very comfortable with. This 4D character personality effect, combined with the inspiring use of language to lift and carry the story, to pause it when the reader needs some time – the balancing of passive passages and dramatic sequences – was astounding.
I was gripped the whole way through, my heart in shambles when it was over. Bravo, Mr. Aslam.
I’d like to end with another quote from the book:
“All great artists know that part of their task is to light up the distance between two human beings.”
And this act, this reaching across to his readers, Nadeem Aslam achieves perfectly.
We’ve all heard plenty about the United States when it comes to matters concerning Pakistan. Drone strikes, political restrictions and policy influencing. A day doesn’t go by that we don’t blame the United States for the state our country is in. A few months ago, however, I got a chance to meet a helping hand from the States, someone who’s been working on an aspect of our society that either we’ve forgotten about, chosen to overlook or are just too caught up in our everyday lives to remember.
Dr. Sarah Kureshi, a community health activist from the United States, is currently in Pakistan as part of the American Speakers Program Series and I was lucky enough to get the chance to sit down and discuss her time and efforts in Pakistan, what they may culminate into and what she’s taking away from her time here.
Dr. Sarah Kureshi
“I’m here as part of the American Speakers Program Series”, said Dr. Sarah. “It’s all about exchange. We bring different speakers from the United States to different countries (and vice versa) with the aim of educating and exchanging ideas through two way open dialogue.”
Dr. Sarah Kureshi graduated from medical school in Minnesota where she worked with Somali refugees and got her first taste of community health and awareness. ”During college, I loved working with the community. I knew my strengths lay in sciences and I was thinking about medicine. I read a book titled, “Waking up in America” by Dr. Greer, a doctor in Miami who opened up clinics for the homeless in his van. This was the first realization that I could combine my interest of medicine and community health”
“I completed a fellowship in community health after my residency, and then spent another year being a doctor again, working in a clinic in Northeast DC. It has a largely urban population, underserved; most people haven’t seen a doctor in at least 10 years”
Dr. Sarah teamed up with the American embassy in the American Speakers Program Series to come to Pakistan and highlight key issues regarding community health and work towards solving them. She aims at connecting with people, working with them to highlight and discuss various issues, especially when it comes to sensitive topics such as gender based violence and sex trafficking.
Talking about her prior experience in the field, Dr. Sarah mentioned how her Masters in Public Health focused on sex trafficking and how it eventually led her to spend two months in India living in a shelter with women rescued from the heinous trade.
“Initially, the School wanted to send me to Geneva, but I wanted some experience on the ground before I went into policy matters and so, I went to India. I found an organization I wanted to work with and the School helped fund the program. The organization I worked with and the work they do, is still used as a model till this day.”
Coming to the issues relating to our very own homeland, Dr. Sarah is currently working with organizations around Pakistan, looking to work on joint projects and ventures that aim at improving human rights and their development. “Most human rights violations are affecting women and children negatively than men. When it comes to partner violence, sex trafficking and child abuse, the brunt of the trauma and majority of targets are usually women and children.”
When talking about Pakistan, the cultural boundaries that a victim must overcome in order to simply talk about what they have experienced or are going through are immense. The question rose in my mind, “A lot of times when violence is committed against women or children, the culture is built as such that they don’t want to communicate about their experiences. How do you overcome things like that?”
“One of the most common problems in cases such as that is that the victim doesn’t identify themselves as a victim. It’s normal. It just happened. It’s all about changing the mindset to such actions. Educate, educate, educate. A common tool used when encountering such cases is health worker role play. Since victims aren’t comfortable opening up to the first person they see (a professional), we have to open up a dialogue. Connect with them while not forcing any questions. Talking at a steady pace, making sure they open up and speak about it when they’re comfortable.”
“If the victims aren’t forthcoming, how do you find out about such cases?” I asked.
“ We look for what we call red flags; indicators of abuse. Every type of abuse has certain indicators, all you have to do is ask he right questions when you see them. The indicators usually have hidden meanings.”
Talking about solutions to violence against women, Dr. Sarah said, “Sports can be used for peace building, development and preventing violence. They can be used to empower, open up a communication bridge, change gender norms and roles. Sports is a global language that helps personal development, instills leadership and teamwork skills, enhances confidence, a sense of agency and discipline while bringing people together. It’s also a great way to let loose and lose frustration”
Community health in Pakistan, when it comes to women from rural areas, is supported by the Government through lady health workers. The program was started by Benazir Bhutto and recruits women from communities that they are then tasked to provide healthcare to. This removes any stigmatization of the health workers while allowing the women of the community the comfort of opening up to someone trusted and known. The health workers are trained by physicians and conduct regular visits every month. They return to their healthcare units and are provided with monthly training sessions, medical supplies and anything they may need to ensure the provision of much needed healthcare.
“This system is prevalent throughout Pakistan. Since the women are from the community, they know to work within the boundaries and dynamics of the community” said Sarah.