Friday, August 24, 2007

Man in the mirror

I first heard this song as a 12 year old in 1990. This song had an impact one me back then and does so even now. Great lyrics (incidentally it is not written by Michael Jackson), which I feel people should take seriously in not just philanthrophy, but every sphere of life.

Rosh, this entry is dedicated to you, hehe.


I'm gonna make a change, for once in my life
It's gonna feel real good, gonna make a difference
Gonna make it right...

As I, turn up the collar on my favorite winter coat
This wind is blowin' my mind
I see the kids in the street, with not enough to eat
Who am I, to be blind? Pretending not to see their needs
A summer's disregard, a broken bottle top
And a one man's soul
They follow each other on the wind ya' know'
Cause they got nowhere to go
That's why I want you to know

I'm starting with the man in the mirror
I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change

I've been a victim of a selfish kind of love
It's time that I realize
That there are some with no home, not a nickel to loan
Could it be really me, pretending that they're not alone?

A willow deeply scarred, somebody's broken heart
And a washed-out dream
They follow the pattern of the wind, ya' see
Cause they got no place to be
That's why I'm starting with me


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The chief, courage and the charming!

My honorable lord, the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, continues to resurrect the dead-and-almost-out insititution of the Judiciary in Pakistan. Today, the Attorney General of Pakistan magically reproduced missing persons after the unrelenting and sustained pressure from the Chief Justice and Supreme Court of Pakistan. This is followed by the release of PML's (Nawaz Group) political activist and president, Javed Hashmi, who was jailed under a concocted case of treason. These are major slaps across the face of the Pakistani establishment!

This is unprecedented in the history of a major Muslim country! I have a feeling that if Pakistan develops an independent judiciary, the effects of this will ripple across all of the Muslim World as an independent judiciary automatically takes care of political representation, autonomy of different components of a state, rule of law, an understanding of due process, fair and free elections, empowering the weak, and most importantly the resurrection of diminishing institutions of a state.

This is why I have always championed the seemingly harder route of principles over pragmatism. Yes, it is dicey and by no means a walk in the park. But, the end results are always fruitful. People who compromise over principles soon lose their identities. Look at the pragmatic champion, Musharraf, today. Where have all his U-turns taken him? Today he is so desperate that he is willing to shake hands with his sworn enemies - pragmatism having fragmented and fractured him.

If there is anything more dangerous than courage to a feeble dictator then it is contagious courage. Dr. Sher Afgan of all people is coming out now and vehemently attacking the foreign policy of the government!

Special mentions needs to be made of Imran Khan here who has become the "voice of conscience" of Pakistan. He is the only political leader who feels the pulse of the nation and speaks what the common man on the streets is saying. It is very hard to find such leaders; even in the "civilized" West! His party may not be as popular as some other political parties, but I feel it is the courage that he showed that acted as a catalyst to everything happening today. CNN ran a short documentary on him and not only is he strikingly handsome even at 55, but the man is inspirational. I recommend that you guys watch this documentary. The ladies love this man!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Reality or dream?

There is no set definition of ‘dreams’. The more I try to understand the role of dreams and why we see what we see, I get all the more confused. Modern science – the little that I have read of it – is far from convincing in explaining the reality of dreams. Islam seems to answer this mystery the most convincingly and for brevity’s sake I won’t try to explain it here.

These days I have a major disagreement with my parents over a future decision. I have found my parents very stubborn and unwilling to listen to me. Of all the people, I would have least expected my parents to be so rigid and uncompromising. So much so that my relationship with them is being affected and things have reached such an impasse that at times I really don’t know where life will lead me from hereon.

Last night I was on the internet reading random stuff when I fell asleep at round about 10:00pm. My eyes opened after a couple of hours and this waking up was triggered by something I saw in a dream that felt like reality. The experience was so real that I don’t even know if this was a dream or if there really is a parallel world (in Islamic terminology referred to as “barzakh”) that I had just been to!

In this dream, I saw myself sitting on a bench in a big park. I had my head in my hands thinking about this disagreement with my parents and thinking who, what or how can I convince them to understand my position. I feel my mother is the key player and if somehow I could convince her everything would automatically set in place. I sat there thinking with tears in my eyes thinking who in this world would help me out? Just then someone came beside me and held my shoulders and exclaimed, “Naati!” It was my late maternal grandfather (whom we used to call “Nana Abbu”). He used to call me and my brother “Naati”. I couldn’t believe he was standing in front of me and I was confused out of my skin because he had expired about 2 years ago!

Nana Abbu calmed me down and took me on a walk around the park. He seemingly knew that it had something to do with my mother and I started giving him the entire background as we walked around the massive park. Just when we had covered the distance of the entire park, we came back to the same bench where we had started from. The end of my story, which I was narrating to Nana Abbu, coincided with us reaching this same bench. During the entire walk he mostly kept quiet at times showing his displeasure at what my mom was doing. I looked at him and asked him, “But Nana Abbu, how can you help me when you are not in this World anymore?” He looked at me with an expression that seemed to say, “I can talk to your mother just like I am talking to you”. With that look he told me, “Don’t worry, Naati, I will talk to her and try my best.” With that he hugged me and just left.

Right about then I woke up from my sleep and noticed the time on my laptop: 12:28 a.m. The next thing I saw was directly related to something I was discussing with my Nana in my dream! I am still trying to make sense of this all, but the experience felt very, very real. Did my Nana Abbu go and meet my mother after this? I don’t know, but I am hoping he did.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Principles versus Pragmatism

With the reinstatement of the honorable Chief Justice, backed by the power of the people, a new chapter in Justice has opened in Pakistan. The courage of one man to say "no" to a dictator without fearing the consequences proves how being firm on principles pays off in the longer run than short-term gains offered by pragmatism.

The Chief Justice is back with a bang and just today a 5-member bench of the Supreme Court has issued arrest orders of local village elders in Jacobabad, Sindh. The case involves the inhuman and regressive "tradition" of handing over minor girls of a family to the victim's family in "compensation" for their injustices on the latter. Such practices have been going unchecked for the past 60 years and womens' rights champions such as Asma Jehangir and even Musharraf have done nothing more than lip service to protect people from such injustices.

For the first time in our history the Supreme Court is working with complete autonomy and not as a marrionette of the government. Now that the legislative body of law is independent and bold, it is only a matter of time that its executionary body - namely, the police - also becomes independent of societal and governmental pressures.

To the anti-Islam brigade on blogosphere: Let's see you comment on rulings such as these where the true face of Islam is presented. Or will you conveniently look away? Please take note that this change has come from within the Muslims and from people whose names you probably haven't ever heard. We have our problems and we have their solutions, too. All we ask from you is to stop meddling in our affairs - we can do without your unsolicited advices and stupid "roadmaps".

Now if our Pakistanis could muster enough courage to call the American bluff and give a big "fuck you" to their so-called "war on terror"...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Tragic Romances: Sohni-Mahiwal

The subcontinental folklore is accentuated by 4 tragic romances: Heer-Ranjha; Sassi-Punnu; Mirza-Sahiba; and Sohni-Mahiwal. Each of these stories is about the unwavering love between 2 individuals. All of these stories end tragically, but the victor in all 4 stories is love. Since love is one of the strongest (if not the strongest) emotions, sufi masters of the subcontinent set out to explain the relationship between God and slave as that of love. These poetic masterpieces make for excellent reading and if I were to trace its roots, I would say Jalaluddin Rumi's "Mathnawi" was the inspiration for such writings. However, that is a seperate topic altogether.

My personal favorite is the story of Sohni, the potter's daughter, and Mahiwal (whose real name was Izzat Baig), the rich trader from Bukhara. Mahiwal came to India for his business as usual with pockets full of gold coins. He set out to the Punjab where at the banks of the Sindhu river his eyes spotted the beautiful Sohni selling her pottery. Mahiwal was enchanted by her beauty and very soon he made it a habit of coming to her shop to simply catch a glimpse of her. He would religiously come to her shop and buy something she made every day!

Soon it became clear to the villagers that they both liked each other and Sohni was forcibly married to someone else. Mahiwal was heartbroken and started living like a hermit in a small hut across the river. He had forsaken his own people and family in Bukhara for the love of Sohni. In the darkness of night, Sohni would come to her side of the river and Mahiwal would swim across to meet her. He would always bring roasted fish for her as a gift. One day, due to high tide, Mahiwal was unable to catch any fish for his Sohni. Being the true lover that he was, he cut out a piece from his thigh and brought it roasted for her.

Sohni saw the bandage on his thigh and wept as Mahiwal told her what he had done. The following nights, Sohni, who didn't know how to swim, would take a large pot, which she used to hide in a bush, to help her float to the other side of the river where she would meet Mahiwal. The news of their romantic rendezvous started spreading like wildfire. Sohni's sister-in-law followed her at night and saw how these 2 lovers were meeting one another. The following night, she replaced the hard baked earthen pitcher with an unbaked one. As their meeting time approached that night, Sohni grabbed the pitcher from the bushes and set out into the river to meet her lover. The fiendish eyes of her sister-in-law looked on in anticipation...

Half way through the river, Sohni's unbaked pot broke open in the river and she started drowning. Mahiwal spotted Sohni drowning calling out for help and with his heavily bandaged thigh jumped into the river to save his love. Having chucked his thigh muscle out, Mahiwal was unable to swim for too long and watched helplessly as Sohni drowned to her death. Mahiwal gave up his effort and drowned to his death as well. Death, perhaps, did not do them apart, rather brought them together for eternity!

Painful, yet beautiful at the same time. Here is a song by Mekaal Hassan on the tragic romance between Heer and Ranjha. I highly recommend that you guys hear this brilliant song. It is a fusion of classical eastern vocals and flute with jazz-style drumming, bass and rhythm guitaring. These guys are my favorite band these days and as an ex-musician I understand the musical genius in their composition. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


So, it's the 14th of August and Pakistan is 60 years young. I started my day today getting SMSes from friends wishing everyone "jashn-e-azadi" (celebration of independence). One of my good friends (that many bloggers commenting here might know), AD, brought up a valid point that prompted me to write this...

Apparently, a lot of Pakistanis see our independence day as us Muslims gaining independence from "India" (which didn't exist back then!) or the hindus. I didn't study in Pakistani schools to know what is being taught there, but talking to most Pakistanis it seems that this is the general belief. However, the fact of the matter is that India and Pakistan both gained their independence from the British Raj! For some weird reason, Pakistani history paints Indians and Hindus as the "bad guys", which I feel is pretty unfair and not exactly the true depiction of events.

My guess is that this theory of Pakistanis gaining independence from India started gaining currency due to the bloodshed that accompanied the migration of Muslims and Hindus. So Pakistanis started seeing Hindus/Indians as their enemy. Add to this the fact that right after independence, Pakistan and India fought a pitched battle against each other over the disputed territory of Kashmir. At this time, Pakistan did not even have an army, let alone the equipment to fight with. So, the warrior tribals from Pashtoonistan (who had just joined the Islamic Republic of Pakistan) sent in their people to liberate Kashmir. The ensuing battle saw the Pathans gain tremendous ground and capture/reclaim (depending on your perspective) 1/3rd of Kashmir, which is today known as "Azad Kashmir" under Pakistani control. Had there not been a ceasefire and the UN stepping in, the Pathans were poised to run through and take the entire of Kashmir!

But, all idiosyncrasies aside, I think Pakistanis need to come to the realization that our independence was actually from the British Raj. Unfortunately, just as Sir Syed Ahmad Khan was in favor of British Raj and opposed to Hindu rule, our liberals from the Muslim League have painted the Hindus as the "bad guys" and continue to be subservient to the West. The difference today is that we have found a more supreme white race in place of the Brits: Amreeka Bahadur!

So, yes, Happy "Independence", Pakistan!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Vomit for thought?

Spiritual and supernatural experiences are something that scares us. But, most of us would like to go through some supernatural experience just to confirm our belief in all that is unseen. Experiencing a jinn, for example, would be something that would make most of us freak out, but in a way it would satisfy us in that we would have confirmed a bit of the supernatural and spiritual realities that the material world likes to call “blind faith”.

However, I will mention a more closer-to-life experience I had while I was at University in the US. I feel this experience of mine will help Muslims (who believe in the Unseen) and non-Muslims alike. The experience centers on Allah being The Sustainer for all of His creation and also gives some insight into how Allah’s creation of evil is part of His design to run the affairs of this material world.

In the winter of 2003, I was busy designing a 16-bit processor. I was on my way from my home towards my computer lab, which was hardly at a distance of 200 meters. I set out at around 1:30 at night to program the whole night since it was a weekend. A fraternity happens to come in the middle of the way from my residence to the computer lab. Since it was the weekend, the guys at the frat were partying away – boozing, dancing, women and all the other usual vices of University life. I ignored them and was engrossed in my own thoughts of how I would survive the next semester as I was very low on cash.

As I approached the entrance to the fraternity, I saw a group of 3 girls trying to control a fourth girl who was terribly drunk. These other girls were drunk themselves and the scene was pretty ugly. This terribly drunk girl was on one knee and her friends were holding her arms so that she wouldn’t fall flat on her face. I was at a distance of about 4 meters from her when she looked at me. I could swear I saw her eyeballs twirling round and round as if she was about to pass out. Just then she threw up! All that she had eaten prior was all over the floor and I jumped to the side to avoid her puke soiling my clothes! I got absolutely pissed off at her and everyone in that frat who were partying.

Just before I had left the house, I was watching on CNN how Iraqis in their own country were being slaughtered by American forces in their bid to oust Saddam and his “weapons of mass destruction”. This compounded my anger and I remember thinking to myself, “Why does God let these guys have all their fun while they are going around killing innocent people half way across the globe!?” I was sad, frustrated and livid at how these guys and girls didn’t give a damn about the misery in Iraq and were busy boozing and throwing up food whereas people in Iraq, Africa etc were finding it hard to have a day’s meal!

I got to the computer lab and started doing my work, but I couldn’t concentrate because of what I had just witnessed. I somehow managed to complete one module of the processor and it was just about daybreak outside. I prayed the morning prayer and set off back home with my eyes half closed. From a distance I could see the fraternity, which was by now silent and deserted from the outside.

As I got closer to the place where that girl had vomited earlier in the night, I saw little birds feeding off the vomit of this woman! Looking at these birds I broke into a smile and whatever that had transpired last night made complete sense to me! I remember saying, “Subhan Allah!” and thinking how that apparently ugly episode was something Allah had ordained to happen to feed these little birds the next morning!

For the first time in my life, I understood how God works in His own ways that may not make sense to us because we are not privy to His plans. I also came to the realization how God is not bound by the boundaries that He has set for us. I was so touched and moved by this sight that I stood there for a minute watching those birds feed on the vomit. I thanked God for all the favors He has done on me and also put my trust in Him that He had something planned for me the following semester. Suddenly, I wasn’t so worried about how I would finance my last semester at University.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Tin-pot dictators of a Banana Republic

So, the people of Pakistan have been spared a “state of emergency” for the time being. Perhaps this may be the calm before the storm. I hope you could sense the sarcasm in that statement? A “state of emergency” would mean denial of basic civil liberties to Pakistani citizens and a de facto Martial law across the land. So why am I treating this apparently good news with suspect and the proverbial pinch of salt?

With the enforcement of “emergency” the citizenry loses out on basic rights, which basically translates into the draconian situation where every citizen becomes a threat whom the military can abduct and prosecute on mere suspicion. It goes without saying that such a scenario is never favorable to the people at large. So, in theory, one would deduce that General Musharraf and his clique would have had a change of heart due to public opinion on the matter.

However, leaders of the Muslim world today are least bothered with public opinion. Our leaders have become so American-centric in their policy chalking that they even put their own skins on the line to accommodate the powers-that-be in the ‘land of the free’ – freedom obviously being an exclusively American right these days.

This reversal came about not due to the public opinion – don’t fool yourselves, dispel the thought – but because of 2 phone calls made by that drop-dead gorgeous secretary of state, (ana)Condolezza Rice and our trigger-happy Texan, George “Dubya” Bush. When asked if Ms Rice’s telephone call had influenced General Musharraf not to declare a state of emergency, Mr. McCormack (spokesman for the state department) said: “I'll leave it to Pakistani officials to describe President Musharraf's thinking and how that thinking may have evolved.” You can see the whole article here.

God save us from such pusillanimous leaders!

Tailpiece: Just as I had closed the file on this post I came across this. Sigh, I rest my case!