Sunday, December 25, 2016

The louder, the better?

Loudspeakers have been a part of our daily lives for many decades now. Their usefulness for
Azaan or call for prayers only increases with the passage of time as the cities grow in size and population.

Interview: There Is No War Against Islam

Dr Daniel N.Nelson and I
Dr. Daniel N. Nelson holds a doctorate from John Hopkins. He is the CEO of a consulting firm and 

the Dean of College of Arts and Sciences in the University of New Haven. He worked with the U.S Government on several issues like the National Security, Disarmament and Foreign Policy. He has written six
 books and taught at many universities. He recently visited Lahore and was interviewed there.

Boating in Ravi

Almost all great cities came into being because of a body of water—London, Paris, Budapest, Heidelberg, Rome, Cairo, and so on. The reason why Lahore is where it is on the map is because the River Ravi flows here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Enemy Within

In 1953, President Eisenhower initiated the "Atoms for Peace" programme, thus introducinghuge amounts of information, training and nuclear aid for civilian purposes. Countries like Canada, UK, France and USSR followed. In 1957, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was formed to promote peaceful
 nuclear applications. An autonomous UN agency, the IAEA reported to the UN General assembly and the Security Council. Countries which accepted the nuclear aid had to open their nuclear installations to the IAEA review. Once they had this foreign nuclear aid coming, there was a threat -- the shut-down or embargo on all nuclear dependant industry in case of martial hanky-panky.

Happy Mother's Day

Today, 11th May is Mother’s Day. It is almost absurdly romantic that a country like Pakistan would celebrate a day like to honor mothers!

The day has not much to it other then romance and advertisement (Good day for milk and baby care products, plus some phone companies taking ring tone requests).

Let’s throw some light on what mother’s are going through in Pakistan (other then providing Paradise to their children from under their feet.)

The Four Year Itch

The chief minister of Punjab recently announced that 32 universities in Punjab adopt the four years honors system.

For the first fifty plus years of its history Pakistan offered a Bachelors degree that required two years to be cleared, except for engineering, law, medicine and a few other degrees. 

The Fall and Fall of Pakistan's Film Industry

It is an old story now that cinemas across the world are thriving, especially the Indian and Iranian ones. It is no news either that Pakistani cinema is on the verge of extinction. Pakistani cinema is confronted with several problems but here is a fresh analysis of what they are.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Common Art

What would it take to make Lahore like Paris? Certainly, a lot of hard work on sculptures and buildings, neater roads and street-side portrait makers. Painters and portrait artists all over the world sit by roadsides and draw portraits at subsidised rates. This is not as common in Pakistan, but the artist

Shahid Furqan is an exception.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Short Story: Laddo ki Parhai

The sky had a fistful of flickering stars that Maula Baksh didn’t notice. He was thirteen and looking for a doctor. There was none, and his mother succumbed to cholera.

Today, on this starless night, he was about to enter a door, which reminded him of his lost promises. 

Like the Prime Minister of Pakistan

When I applied for a visa to Delhi this January, everyone warned that it would be rejected. "These are volatile times," they argued. But despite the volatility, my visa was approved.

We walked across Wagah on the Indian Republic Day, January 26 -- when India got its Constitution. I was relieved that it wasn't some war victory celebration.

Short Story: Laddo Ki Shadi

Bride's Toilet by Amrita Sher-Gil
The day hadn’t been as long as it seemed. The moon shone, reminding the lonely how lonesome they are.
Rasheeda had lived in Lahore for two decades. She had come here at fifteen, for work. She did not know this because she did not know the counting and the dates. It was a blessing she never recognized.

Cyber Love

If you are sitting by your Messenger waiting for a Cinderella or Prince Charming to pop up, you might hit the jackpot any moment. But hitting the jackpot is not the end. It is the beginning of what may be and mostly is a bumpy ride. 

The Internet has been around for more then a decade. In the past decade 2 million American lovers tied the knot after meeting online. Such unions became a part of the Western culture and economy (dating sites made big bucks).  According to the Wall Street Online Journal many of these marriages are going downhill now. The first decade was of excitement, the second one is of consequences.

Short Story: The Hen Chase

In a faraway village on a day long forgotten some events stirred the life from normal to chaotic. The village was under a spell of boredom that had never been broken - till this day. 

In the fields, Farkhanda was busy tying and retying her hair when her first cousin approached her with a letter for her second cousin. Innocent as she was , she accepted the letter and went on with her hairdo. The author of the letter was Hamid who had been haunted by the elementary school teacher ever since she came to return their lost lamb. 

A walk through Washington

Washington Monument through the Cherry Trees
Many European national capitals can give you a history over-doze. Yet Washington DC is less because of its heritage and more for being the capital of the World’s only super-power. The fact that US is relatively a recent empire is deeply embedded in the city which sadly has little heritage. 

Revisiting Lolita

Adrian Lyne’s 1997 adaptation
Lolita is tragicomic literary classic, a novel written by Vladimir Nabokov and first published in 1955.

The story is narrated by Humbert Humbert, a middle-aged British literary scholar who is obsessed with girls aged nine to twelve. He uses the term “nymphets” for them, a term actually coined and made popular by Nabokov himself. 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Happy Birthday Bhagat Singh

Two days before my grandfather died, we brought him home from the Punjab Institute of Cardiology (PIC)which is located on Jail Road. The Jail Road is named after the Central Jail Lahore, where Bhagat Singh was imprisoned. And behind the PIC is the roundabout where Bhagat Singh is said to have been hanged. Our car stopped at that roundabout to get some fruits and my grandfather once again narrated his favorite tale of heroism, this time in his weak, sickly voice. The story of a young Bhagat Singh who inspired everyone in pre-partition India. Most people now don't understand how atrocious and organized the British were in India, and how Bhagat Singh's unapologetic and brave reaction energized the Indian Freedom Struggle. 
Today is Bhagat Singh's birthday and I mourn him, my grandfather and the fact that Pakistan couldn't do as little as name a roundabout or road after him.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

‘I wanted to change the lack of knowledge about Partition’

Dr Guneeta Singh Bhalla, a physicist from Berkeley and founder of the 1947 Partition Archives project talks about why she started this organization, how she runs it and what she hopes to accomplish through it

Monday, August 15, 2016

Replug: Letter from Pakistan on Independence Day

Photo by Margaret Bourke-White
Nearly 20 years ago, my parents and I were returning to Lahore from Islamabad, on the glorious M-2 Motorway. A long night of travelling was ahead of us and Pakistan was about to turn 50 the next day. My father had bought an audiocassette of “qaumi taraane” (patriotic songs) for us to listen to in the car, many of these songs were sung by Noor Jehan during the 1965 War.
Ironically, we were returning from Islamabad after spending that rainy day in a queue outside the Canadian Embassy for an immigration interview.

Replug: The nostalgic train to Pakistan

“Not forever does the bulbul sing
In balmy shades of bowers,
Not forever lasts the spring
Nor ever blossom the flowers.
Not forever reigneth joy,
Sets the sun on days of bliss,
Friendships not forever last,
They know not life, 
who know not this.”–Train to Pakistan 

My grandparents were from Amritsar, and migrated to Gujrawala in 1947. Throughout their life they have had a longing to revisit their “homes.” But they could not. It was a dream they were reluctant to realize. Not because of the visa hassle or the political turbulence but because of a latent fear that the home they were forced to abandon might not be there at all.

Letter from Pakistan on Independence Day: A thought for Partition survivors

For me, the story of Pakistan’s Independence is my grandfather’s story of survival. My grandparents brought my twin and I up because my parents were overwhelmed by the unexpected, simultaneous arrival of two girls. My grandfather was born in a village in Tehsil Batala called Fatehgarh Churian, which is in the Gurdaspur district of Indian Punjab. His life was pivoted on the memory of Partition: the exact number of days he spent in Lahore’s Walton refugee camp before his brother-in-law’s father discovered him, the number of annas he had in his pocket the day he escaped for his life alone, and the name of that Sikh neighbour who saved his family.

Replug: Pakistan’s history is not just about ‘glorious Muslims’

Amrita Shergill in her studio in Lahore
March 23 is recognised as Pakistan Day because of the Lahore Resolution, although the resolution to seek a separate country for Muslims was adopted on March 24, 1940. March 23 is significant for another reason, which Pakistan and especially Lahore should recognise. This is the day on which freedom fighter Bhagat Singh was hanged in Lahore.

4 things you need to know about Congo Virus in Pakistan

You might have read the news that Crimean–Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF) or Congo virus cases have emerged in Pakistan.
There is news of the virus spreading further up north, to Punjab.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The new chapter

This blog is a decade old now. I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been reading, editing and appreciating my work. You make this process a lot more exciting and memorable.
Though this blog has helped me gather my published writings, it's original purpose was to help me assemble my thoughts and feelings, no matter how absurd or mundane they happened to be. 

Replug: An ode called Amritsar

If you live in Lahore and choose to go North-West, you will be in Gujranwala in about an hour’s time. And

if you move from Lahore to the East, on the same Grand Trunk (GT) Road which Sher Shah Suri, the Afghan Warrior-King, carved out, in about the same time you could be standing in Amritsar — except for the ordeal of crossing the Indo-Pakistan border.

Replug: My school years

My first school on the Zahoor Elahi Road in Gulberg Lahore
“School failed me, and I failed the school. It bored me. The teachers behaved like Feldwebel (sergeants). I wanted to learn what I wanted to know, but they wanted me to learn for the exam.” — Einstein
I changed three schools. The first one was a renowned girls’ school in Gulberg, Lahore. It was famous because of its eccentric sari-clad (quasi-feminist) owner, Victorian-style vigilantes and supplying fodder to institutes like Kinnaird. But by the time I reached it, the decay had begun and the ship was falling apart. 

#IndiaHellForJournalists was a trend…in Pakistan

A few days ago, a hashtag appeared on Twitter in Pakistan: #IndiaHellForJournalists. Yes. That happened. The trend was apparently a reaction to the murders of journalists Ranjan Rajdev and Indradev Yadav in Bihar and Jharkhand within a span of 24 hours. Now, there is indeed a report by Reporters Without Borders, which places India as the third-most dangerous place for journalists in 2015, just after Syria and Iraq and ahead of Pakistan and every other Asian country. This is because five journalists were killed in India in 2015, as compared to two in Pakistan.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The PML-N’s New Template?

Mumtaz Qadri’s execution is an indication that something has changed in Pakistan, even if just at the state level, thanks to the callousness of the Taliban and perhaps a nudge from the army. But has the ideology of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) undergone a sea change as well?

Read More: 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Pakistan’s history is not just about ‘glorious Muslims’

Graphic by Newslaundry
Pakistanis — particularly those who admire cities like Lahore, Multan, Taxila and Karachi — should understand that what they admire today represents the cumulative efforts of different communities and individuals over thousands of years, and not just those of “glorious Muslims”. Otherwise, a bunch of goons will always be available to destroy boards, steal statues and rampage through anniversary ceremonies.

Why Pak TV channels were advised to black out the funeral of Salman Taseer’s assassin

Graphic by Newslaundry
On January 4, 2011, Salman Taseer, then the governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, was shot dead by his own security guard, Mumtaz Qadri. Five years later, after Qadri was hanged, approximately 30,000 people gathered on the streets to pay their respects to a man they’d dubbed “shaheed” (martyr). If you were watching Pakistani television news, however, you’d never guess there was this groundswell.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Portfolio: Lush reveries

The Banyan by Michelle Farooqi
Artist Michelle Farooqi’s exhibition titled A Walk in the Park might be considered an effort to escape the city’s tortuous concrete jungle, a symbol of mankind’s primeval search for paradise or an aesthetic manifestation of what she calls “active meditation” in the parks. The exhibition took place in Lahore’s Alhamra Art Centre recently and exhibited 18 of her landscapes done in pastels, either in Lahore’s Race Course Park or in Canada.
Afternoon under the Tree by Michelle Farooqi

Read More:

Saturday, January 9, 2016

A debate, assassination and escape

Benazir Bhutto
Just after Christmas in 2007, my best friend and I received a call from Kinnaird 's debating club. Everyone was away during the winter break and a surprise debating tournament had come up. We were new to debates and very keen to participate, so we readily agreed.

She dropped by at my place from Valencia, a suburb of Lahore. My grandfather was supposed to drive us to Government College University (GCU), on the other side of Lahore, but our car broke down on the University Road near the Punjab University.

Monday, January 4, 2016

The subcontinent’s syncretic religious identity

A painting said to be of Mastani

Mastani’s character in the latest film, Bajirao Mastani, is fascinating not just because of her beauty, wit, and bravery - but also because of her syncretic religious identity.
Mastani, as historian Kusum Chopra asserts in her book, was a Muslim princess from Bundelkhand, the daughter of Maharaja Chhatrasaal, who was a believer in the Pranami, a faith that brings Hinduism and Islam together. Consequently, Mastani was a Krishna bhakt, who sang bhajan and offered Namaz


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