Friday, November 1, 2013

The Letdown- Book Review

Like most non-academic types interested in an occasional dose of literary fiction I chose to pick up ‘The Lowland’ swayed by the Booker shortlisting of a ‘desi’ novel. ‘The Lowland’ is a story of two brothers, Subhash and Udayan, based in Kolkata who end up seeking different paths in life; Subhash moves to the US for a PhD while Udayan joins the Naxalite movement. Udayan marries an independent-minded Philosophy student Gauri but dies soon after their wedding.
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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Interview: ‘The War On Terror Hasn’t Affected Urdu Writing Yet’

Pakistani-Canadian writer and translator, Musharraf Ali Farooqi is the author of Between Clay And Dust (2012) which was shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize. His translation of read Dastaan-e-Amir Hamza is highly acclaimed and he is also a noted children’s author.

The Gang of Three

My grandfather had two friends and he pulled down the drawing room curtains when they came, probably to prevent us ladies from getting charmed by one of the old boys. And, my mother sneaked out the bakery cake, biscuits or nimko from her secret cabinets and put a pot of water for boiling on the stove.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Ejection Commission of Pakistan

What is a Pakistani election without some drama? We love the comedy, the absurdity and the timing. We assume that anyone seeking a political office in Pakistan must be either an imbecile or a bastard. And then we throw him/her at the mercy of the lions.
The latest “lions” are the Registration Officers, popularly known as ROs, without whose approvals nomination papers go nowhere.

Interview: "I went to rehab twenty times"

I was due to meet Jeet Thayil in the Mira Hotel at the Tsim Tsha Tshui area of Hong Kong. And I was a few minutes late already. The glass building of the 5-star hotel glimmered amid the clouds. Tsim Tsha Tshui is the most happening, loud and diverse area of Hong Kong. But inside the lobby it was dark. The Booker-nominated and DSC prize-winning author of Narcopolis was sitting in the centre like the Greek god of the Underworld, Hades. He was fidgeting with his cell phone while his bald scalp shone under the circular (rather abstractly post-modern) chandelier. Behind him was a noisy bar. We moved to a quieter section of the hotel where he ordered coffee and sandwiches.
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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Vulgarity as Censorship

A stroll down the Lahore’s Abbot Road, lined by cinema houses, will reveal what vulgarity is. Vladimir Nabakov put it like this: nothing is more exhilarating than philistine vulgarity. Maybe this intellectual elitism was itself vulgar.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Anoushka Shankar’s brave confession: Moeed Pirzada’s coward rejoinder

While lending support to the One Billion Rising in India---a women rights mobilisation in reaction to the Delhi Gang Rape---, in this video-message Ms Shankar courageously admits that she as a child was sexually abused.  ‘As child, I suffered sexual and emotional abuse for several years at the hands of a man my parents trusted implicitly,’ she says. ‘Growing up like most women I know I suffered various forms of groping, touching, verbal abuse and other things like I didn’t know how to deal with, I didn’t know I could change’, she adds. Reacting to Ms. Shankar’s message, Moeed Pirzada, a noted Pakistani TV anchor, posted the comment below on his Facebook...

Living through the void

As I sit in Hong Kong’s rapid transit railway to move from one island to another, I notice it has a lot of women. Most of them are white-collar workers, menial labourers and students. Like most developed countries, Hong Kong’s women population outnumbers men by a few per cent. And, therefore, you see a lot of them on the streets, working, walking and enjoying equality.
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Friday, February 22, 2013

Media Trials

Image by Majid Tamoor
I am deeply disturbed by a televised sting operation conducted by a TV anchor on a massage centre in Punjab Society in Lahore. If I feel that drug smuggling or prostitution is happening near my house - can I conduct an on-camera raid there?
Firstly, a police raid shouldn't be televised because the accused and the arrested can be proven innocent. Secondly, a television anchor cannot lead a raid instead of the police. The woman anchor accused the staff at the centre of running a "sex centre" several times, interrogated them, and even searched their private property.
In what capacity did the television anchor do this? Legally, only the police can search my property and that too with a search warrant. Why should I be violated on camera, interrogated and accused before I even get a lawyer to defend myself? Will any cameraman barge into my house today and question why I have a condom or a pregnancy test kit, and search for my passport and professional licenses?
The women were foreigners, shocked and unwilling to come on camera, and couldn't even speak English or Urdu. Being foreigners they can legally buy alcohol. Merely possessing a condom or a pregnancy test kit doesn't make anyone a prostitute or adulterer. A drug inspector was named and accused for coming to this centre as a "client" and seeking a "monthly". This was open defamation of the drug inspector.
Police officers, the workers' parents and the clients were speaking to the anchor. Instead, they should have questioned the legal authority of this moral policewoman armed with a mike.
The entire country was shocked when a woman in Swat was flogged by the Taliban. How is this televised raid any different?
PEMRA did not take any action against a similar TV show in which the anchor harassed young people in a park and accused them of immorality.
I strongly recommend that this channel should be fined and the show should be discontinued immediately. I also expect PEMRA to ensure that our right to privacy is protected.
This letter was first published in the Friday Times. 

Let's send chocolates to LeJ

Lashkar-e-Janghvi must accept my heart-felt best wishes for successfully killing 84 Hazaras in Quetta within 40 days of January 10th, when almost 100 Hazaras were killed. This couldn’t have been achieved without the full cooperation of the Pakistani media, politicians, establishment and the civil society of course. Hopefully, they will also accept my accolades.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Malaysia bracing for change

It was January 12. The Merdeka Stadium in Kuala Lumpur was swarmed by thousands of Malaysians in yellow, green and blue shirts---waving flags. The rally was called by the Opposition to protest against the ‘illiberal and undemocratic coalition government’.
The ruling party, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO)---in power since 1954---has become a symbol of corruption, oppression and censorship. The rally, on the contrary, mirrors the reality that Malaysia is on the threshold of change. 

Exploding the myths: Truth about gays

This sounds quite ridiculous but gays are often imagined to be promiscuous, irreligious, lacking any commitment, sense of responsibility and family values. Nothing could be far from the truth
There are many anti-gay myths prevalent in Pakistan. Following are just a few of them. Substantial evidence, empirical data and scientific studies also suggest that these myths are ill-founded.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Hide your condoms, Dr Maria is coming

My name is Dr. Khan and I am a morality terrorist. I drop into massage centers with a microphone and the police following me like a puppy. I am so convinced in my pants that I can single-handedly interrogate people who are apparently running a “sex” centre. Don’t you dare tell me that you don’t know what a pregnancy test is because I am a medical doctor, certified to be rude!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

When Junaid met Aamir

Junaid Jamshed, singer turned maverick televangelist, went to perform Hajj (Pilgrimage to  Mecca) last year along with his Tablighi mentor, Maulana Tariq Jameel. And the team Karachi ran into none other than Bollywood’s cerebral Khan- Aamir Khan. You can hear the effect this meeting had on Junaid Jamshed in this video:
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"Censorship is an obsession in Malaysia"

Steven Gan is a renowned Malaysian journalist and co-founder and editor-in-chief of the political news website Malaysiakini, Malaysia’s first independent news source and one of the first online news magazines in the world. In 2000, he was awarded the International Press Freedom Award of the CPJ for braving the Malaysian censorship and authorities. The website is now subscription-based and a model for journalists in conflict zones and authoritarian regimes. Following is what he shared with TNS.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Shaheed Bilour: immortalized, not silenced

The greatest victory of a politician and activist like Bashir Bilour is to be known for his cause during his lifetime and afterwards. Peshawar, where Shaheed Bilour was based, had been rocked by more than 400 blasts last year alone. This was an attempt to rock the provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, defame the ANP government and intimidate it into submission. Yet Mr Bilour visited the families of terror victims and martyrs regularly. Just before his death, he had visited the houses of the slain polio workers. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Villages in Hong Kong

Hong Kong has many villages. Some of them are walled, all of them are very old and most have been partially or completely demolished. The villages,we visited were Cha Kwo Ling(one of the last squater villages in HK), Tai Wai Village and Nga Tsin Wai Tsuen. Out of this only Nga Tsin Wai Tsuen was walled.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Smoking for Equality?

Photo Courtesy
Smoking in Pakistan has always been a complex issue. It has never really been a taboo. Despite the now-proven health risks and increasing costs, more and more Pakistanis are turning to cigarettes. 
Women smokers are not as welcomed as men - but why is that?This is perhaps the only kind of discrimination that is beneficial for women, if they don’t smoke.
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