Saturday, November 3, 2012

Designer Bag Heaven

Since my last post was about shoes, I thought it would be appropriate to do a post on the next best thing, which happen to be bags. I love shoes and bags, and felt like compiling a list of which I think are timeless classics in the designer bag world. If one can afford the staggering price tag on these beauties, they are definitely worth buying. For the rest of us, the appeal is still there as these are beauties to look and fun to window shop in themselves.




The first is the Hermes Birkin Bag. With a whooping price tag of $10,000 and going up until $150,000 depending on the material used, this is a favorite amongst celebrities. It comes in different colors and materials such as ostrich, leather, crocodile and lizard skin. The Birkin was elevated to star status after being seen in the arms of countless celebrities such as Kim Kardashian, Victoria Beckham and Lady Gaga to name a few. Being handmade in France, the Hermes Birkin bag used to have a waiting list of up till six years, expressing its exclusivity. The waiting list however ended in 2010, when Hermes announced the bags to be available for anyone who wanted to purchase them. Though not my personal favorite, these are one of the most recognized and coveted bags in the fashion world.




My personal favorite which I would love to own some day inshAllah happens to be the Classic Chanel 2.55 Flap Bag. Ever since it was released in 1955, it has been an eternal favorite amongst fashionistas. The bag was originally designed by the queen of couture, Coco Channel herself. It was reissued by Karl Lagerfeld when he became the creative director of Chanel in the 1980s, in its original form, the only difference being an interlocking CC logo clasp that he introduced. Prices start from around $2000 for the small sizes and keep going up every year by as much as $500 per piece. This bag also comes in a variety of colors, sizes and materials, such as soft lamb skin and tweed to name a few. It is the epitome of chic and sophistication to be seen carrying a classic Chanel 2.55 Flap bag.




The bag that reached iconic fame due to being carried by Princess Diana is the Lady Dior. This again comes in a plethora of colors, materials and sizes, along with a metal charm spelling out 'Dior' attached on its handle. Introduced in the 1990's, it is said to be named in honor of Princess Diana herself, after she was seen carrying it at various social events. Princess Diana was rumored to have loved the bag so much that she ordered more in every color and size. The price range also starts from $2000 and goes up depending on the size and material you desire.



 One of the most iconic Louis Vuitton bags has to be the the Louis Vuitton Speedy. It was launched in 1932 when Louis Vuitton was trying to make a name in the hand bag industry along with being a powerful presence in the luxury luggage market. This is probably the most affordable bag on this list, with smaller sizes starting from around $650 and then of course going higher. It was elevated to iconic status in the 1960s due to the beautiful Audrey Hepburn who loved it so much she requested a smaller version of it to be made. Characterized by the famous Louis Vuitton monogram design, the speedy has been given more variety and creative touches when Marc Jacobs became the creative director of Louis Vuitton in the late 1990s. Although my personal favorite Louis Vuitton bag has to be the Alma PM, when it comes to which one is the most popular and iconic, the answer is the Louis Vuitton Speedy.



I also like the handbags made by Prada. One of their most popular designs is the Prada Saffiano Top Handle bag. It comes in a variety of different colors and sizes. Prices start from around $1500. Made from Saffiano leather, this bag is extremely durable and lasts you many years with the color not fading either, a trademark of good quality.




There are many other great designer bags out there such as those by Versace, Gucci, Burberry, Fendi, Coach and way too many others to mention. This blog post offered just a tiny glimpse of what true designer handbag heaven must be like.

Friday, November 2, 2012

A Shoe Affair

There is something about shoes that enchants women. The reason why shoes can be so captivating for women remains a mystery. According to a survey the average woman own at least nineteen pairs of shoes, though they only wear about 4 on a regular basis. Women have been known to risk foot injury, bear pain and blisters for the right pair of high heels, all in the name of fashion. Maybe there can be more to a lady's shoe affair, as claimed by the glamorous Marilyn Monroe, 'Give a girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world.' 




Though the appeal to certain footwear is innate and may remain a mystery, there can be some logical reasons behind why shoes evoke such passion from women. Unlike expensive clothes, shoes do not go out of fashion so easily. Most haute couture shops provide pieces for a slim clientele, whereas shoes can fit a woman no matter her size. On a bad day, chocolate does provide relief but it is temporary and adds to the waist line so why not splurge on shoes instead. It also helps them relate to glamorous TV personnel, such as Carrie Bradshow who is a self confessed shoe-holic. High heeled shoes provide height for those not blessed with them and help with posture realignment, leading to an illusion of a slimmer silhouette.

Nowadays women are bedazzled by choice in the variety of shoes available in the market. Yet it is important for a true fashionista to be aware of the hierarchy of the shoe kingdom and which shoes are the most coveted. When it comes to who rules the roost, the brands with a cult status following are Christian Louboutin, Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo. One can of course not forget Salvatore Ferragamo, given the contributions he has made to the evolution of shoes as a major fashion accessory in the mid twentieth century.

Salvatore Ferragamo has played a vital part in revolutionizing fashion in shoes for women. He has dressed countless Hollywood stars such as Sophia Loren, Marilyn Manroe, Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly. Not only did Ferragamo study footwear in his native Italy, upon migration to the US he enrolled to study the anatomy of feet at the University of Southern California to understand how to make shoes more comfortable. We owe the comfort of high heeled shoes to him for coming up with an arch steel support system which distributed the weight and hence balance of the wearer more evenly throughout the sole. Ferragamo created the first wedge heel in 1936, came up with the idea of the famous cage heel and also the shell heel. He brought upon a revival of Romanticism in fashion in the 1930s by introducing lace on shoes for the first time. He invented the 'invisible shoes' by using transparent nylon uppers which earned him a much deserved Oscar of the fashion world, the esteemed 'Neiman Marcus Award' in 1947. When he died in 1960, he had made his mark on the fashion world by pioneering comfort of high heeled shoes, innovation of new styles and his trademark business a formidable fashion powerhouse till date.





Spanish shoe designer Manolo Blahnik had his shoes rise to cult fame status being a favorite of Carrie Bradshaw, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, in the hit television series 'Sex and the City'. Blahnik passionately believes his shoes are amazing and he has stated they increase a woman's power of seduction ten times! He thoroughly dislikes platforms and has instead primarily focused on the classical stilettos since the 1970s. Starting out in London in 1972, Manolo Blahnik can now boast of being sold in exclusive high end couture boutiques around the world including New York City and Dubai. One famous quote on Manolo Blahnik shoes comes from the legendary pop star Madonna, who has stated them to be 'better than sex, since they last longer'.




Christian Louboutin started painting the fashion world red ever since he opened his flagship shoe store in Paris in 1991. However he was well known in the fashion world since the late 1970s, having designed shoes for Channel and Yves Saint Laurent. Louboutin is also passionate about his shoes, so much so that he dropped out of high school to instead pursue his passion. Characterized by the trademark red sole that are guaranteed to stand out in any crowd, Christian Louboutins have been described as flirty, powerful, glamorous, sexy and a 'Must have' for any fashionista. In his aim to make women look beautiful whilst elongating their silhouette, he has designed heels up to 12cm tall. His success was recently celebrated by the Design Museum in London which held an exhibition from May till July 2012 to showcase how during the span of his career, Christian Louboutin's bold designs have 'pushed the boundaries of high fashion shoe design'.




It was much later that Chinese-Malaysian shoe designer Jimmy Choo came in to the picture. Based in London, he was hired by a woman Tamara Mellon who launched a shoe brand in his name in 1996. Although Choo had a disagreement with Mellon later, and the company has changed ownership via shares, it has grown in to a formidable name in the fashion industry, coming up with matching bags and other accessories along with the shoes. Jimmy Choo shoes have been said to bring 'good luck' on the red carpet, after many women adorning them won the Oscars including Hillary Swank, Cate Blanchett and Halle Berry amongst others.




Though I do not own any of these very expensive shoes, my personal favorite brand happens to be Christian Louboutin. All these brands are admirable and swoon worthy, considering how shoes are after all, truly a fashionista's 'sole' mate.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Mexican Festival of the Dead

When one starts to peer into the realm of different cultures and beliefs, one can not help but be impressed by the variety of contrasting festivals that are uniquely celebrated across the globe. Some festivals have transcended religion and national boundaries to become cause for global celebration. These would be the well known festivals of Valentines Day on 14th February and Halloween on 31st October. However some of the most interesting festivals are those which are not that well known to the majority of us.




I have come across quite a few festivals which have enthralled me, though I have not had an opportunity to attend them. One of the festivals which seemed really bizarre when I first heard about it is 'The Day of the Dead', celebrated in Mexico on the first of November. The part about it which astonished me was that though it sounds like a morbid, sad affair, it is in fact a bright and colorful time to party in Mexico.

I was flipping channels on the television about a year ago and came across a fascinating documentary on BBC which enlightened me about this event. Though I did miss a bit of it from the start, it was interesting enough to have me completely enthralled till the end. It gave me a glimpse into this festival and what it was like. The day is taken so seriously that it is a national holiday in Mexico. People start preparing for this festival days before it begins, since they believe that their dead relatives come to visit them on that particular day. 

This festival is quite different from the popular Halloween a day before, which though a huge global party event, is actually based on a premise of fear of the dead and evil walking the earth on Halloween eve. The way of celebration is also distinct. Unlike 'trick or treating', people prepare for the 'Day of the Dead' by holding gatherings where they remember their loved ones who have passed away. Grand altars are prepared for the deceased, lovingly decorated with their favorite things including food and beverages. The people sincerely believe that the dead do come to visit their relatives on this particular day and so want to prepare alters which represent how much they are still remembered and cherished. People write poems and give funny speeches for the deceased, keeping in line with the merriment of this festival. Colorful parades are held to celebrate the dead, and parties even take place in graveyards and cemetaries!

What touched me about this festival was that the presenter of the documentary was a complete skeptic when he started off but by the end he was so softened by the genuine beliefs and emotions surrounding the festival that he tried talking to his own deceased relatives and was moved to tears. Speaking from personal experience, I feel we all have issues which need closure with our departed loved ones. Things we should have said, or just wanting to have another moment with them for a bit before they are forever gone. I found the idea of this festival therapeutic. These people genuinely believe that their dead relatives and loved ones visit them on this day, and have an opportunity to say all the things that were left unsaid. If nothing else, they celebrate knowing that at least the deceased person is there with them spiritually. The concept of a ghost visiting someone seems quite creepy and scary but for these Mexicans it is not something to be afraid of, it is just how things are.

In Islam the maximum number of days for mourning a dead person is said to be three days. I am sure there must be ample wisdom in this, such as maybe the dead can see us and don't want us crying over their departed souls. However personally I believe that it is very difficult, for me at least, to mourn three days only and be done. So many things remind you of your deceased loved ones, memories, circumstances where you wish they were still alive. In the first few days when someone dies, one is in too much shock to mourn, or at least I was when I lost my mother and mamo (mothers brother, maternal uncle).

I don't want to sound blasphemous, God forbid. I would also like to make peace with Allah's will and not miss those who are not alive anymore, and I pray I do make that peace. However so far I am still trying. At the end of this blog, I guess I can console myself that though we do not have such festivals, at least I know that death is not the end, it is just another realm or dimension. At the end of the day, those deceased are InshAllah in a better place than they were when they were alive. And that is all that really matters.


Thursday, August 2, 2012

La Marioneta

I stumbled upon a beautiful poem in my email recently. It is a poem that gained fame not only because of how heartfelt it is but also because of a misunderstanding about who had composed it. The Nobel Laureate and famous author of 'One Hundred years of Solitude'(1967) along with 'Love in the time of Cholera'(1985), Gabriel Garcia Marquez was undergoing treatment for cancer in 1999. It was during that time that this poem mysteriously showed up and gained popularity as a farewell message he had penned for his friends and family.




It was only much later that the true author of this poem, called 'La Marioneta' or 'The Puppet' was revealed. It was written by a Mexican ventriloquist named Johnny Welch. He had written it for his puppet 'Mofles' and had no idea how the poem got confused to be penned by Marquez. Obviously he was a bit disappointed that he had written the poem and someone else was getting the credit. Marquez also denied being the author of the work and finally credit was given where it was due. Truly it is indeed a touching and sentimental piece of work, and the kudos for the true author, Welch to have penned such intensity and emotion to reveal his view of life as a gift in just a few scribbles. The translation of the poem is given below:

'If God, for a second, forgot what I have become and granted me a little bit more of life, I would use it to the best of my ability. 

I wouldn’t, possibly, say everything that is in my mind, but I would be more thoughtfull of all I say.

I would give merit to things not for what they are worth, but for what they mean to express.

I would sleep little, I would dream more, because I know that for every minute that we close our eyes, we waste 60 seconds of light.

I would walk while others stop; I would awake while others sleep.

If God would give me a little bit more of life, I would dress in a simple manner, I would place myself in front of the sun, leaving not only my body, but my soul naked at its mercy.

To all men, I would say how mistaken they are when they think that they stop falling in love when they grow old, without knowing that they grow old when they stop falling in love.

I would give wings to children, but I would leave it to them to learn how to fly by themselves.

To old people I would say that death doesn’t arrive when they grow old, but with forgetfulness.

I have learned so much with you all, I have learned that everybody wants to live on top of the mountain, without knowing that true happiness is obtained in the journey taken & the form used to reach the top of the hill.

I have learned that when a newborn baby holds, with its little hand, his father’s finger, it has trapped him for the rest of his life.

I have learned that a man has the right and obligation to look down at another man, only when that man needs help to get up from the ground.

Say always what you feel, not what you think. If I knew that today is the last time that that I am going to see you asleep, I would hug you with all my strength and I would pray to the Lord to let me be the guardian angel of your soul.

If I knew that these are the last moments to see you, I would say “I love you.”

There is always tomorrow, and life gives us another opportunity to do things right, but in case I am wrong, and today is all that is left to me, I would love to tell you how much I love you & that I will never forget you.

Tomorrow is never guaranteed to anyone, young or old. Today could be the last time to see your loved ones, which is why you mustn’t wait; do it today, in case tomorrow never arrives. I am sure you will be sorry you wasted the opportunity today to give a smile, a hug, a kiss, and that you were too busy to grant them their last wish.

Keep your loved ones near you; tell them in their ears and to their faces how much you need them and love them. Love them and treat them well; take your time to tell them “I am sorry,” “forgive me, “please,” “thank you,” and all those loving words you know.

Nobody will know you for your secret thought. Ask the Lord for wisdom and strength to express them.

Show your friends and loved ones how important they are to you.

Send this letter to those you love. If you don’t do it today…tomorrow will be like yesterday, and if you never do it, it doesn’t matter either, the moment to do it is now.'

God bless.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Islamophobia and Huma Abedin

This article has also been published on the Express Tribune website at the following link: http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/13135/islamophobia-and-huma-abedin/

Islamophobia is mounting in the developed world, with a big contributing factor being ignorance. Instead of looking at the millions of Muslims who are practicing the actual religion, the western media has focused on a fraction of so called 'Muslims' who are misunderstood extremists and believe in the believe in killing innocents all in the name of Jihad. While Jihad is a part of Islam, it is widely misunderstood and killings of innocents is not allowed.




The case of Islamophobia is becoming more pronounced particularly in the USA. A survey by the Pew Research Center shows that only 30% of Americans had a favorable opinion of Islam in 2010, and that number has been declining over the past years. This is not surprising since most leaders of America itself make sweeping attacks on Muslims. A stark example would be how five prominent members of the Republican Party and congress recently sent a letter to the Deputy Inspector General of the State Department, accusing Hilary Clinton's aide Huma Abedin of ties with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Huma Abedin is a Muslim woman, who is deputy chief of staff to Hilary Clinton. From the members of the Republican party who signed this letter, the most prominent is Michele Bachmann, who was being considered by the Republicans as a presidential candidate. The Muslim Brotherhood is a political Islamic organization which was founded in 1928, particularly very active in the Arab world and has been accused of an 'international plot to overthrow governments of Arab countries' by many, including the Dubai police.

According to the letter sent, Abedins three family members specifically her late father, mother and brother were directly connected to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. The inclination given is that Abedin has influenced the softening of policy in the White House towards the Muslim Brotherhood which can produce hazardous for the US since the Muslim Brotherhood intends to destroy western civilization from within.

However, according to Global Post, the US government does not view the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, given that it had not carried out a violent activity for the past fifty years. That said, the US government is very thorough when conducting research on potential employees of the White House, so obviously Abedian was not viewed as a threat. On being asked about Huma Abedin, the Muslim Brotherhood responded with a confused 'Who?'

Not all Republicans have attacked Abedins reputation, with Senator John McCain amongst others rising to her defense. It does seem a bit preposterous that Abedin would be connected to the Muslim Brotherhood, or have an extremist Islamic agenda. The woman dress sense isn't very modest according to Islamic standards as seen by her photoshoot in Vogue Magazine in 2007, where she wore a daring low cut red dress (picture above). She is also married to a Jewish man and has a baby with him. Jon Stewart does a hilarious refute to this accusation by Bachmann on Abedin which can be viewed here.

That said, the issue is deeper than just one person. The letter actually accused quite a few people indirectly, and the reason why Abedin was brought to the limelight is that her name was specifically mentioned. There is an underlying fear that Islam poses a threat to the western style of life without realizing Muslims have been living peacefully in the west for hundreds of years. This is due to ignorance and it is this ignorance about the true meaning of Islam which is in dire need of being addressed in order to avoid such fear and misunderstandings in the future.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Poetry

Poetry is an art form that goes back thousand of years, with one of the first poems discovered around 18th Century BC in ancient Mesopotamia, known as 'Epic of Gilgamesh'. It is an art form that has transcended time, cultural and lingual barriers with many poems forming the basic backbone of folk songs around the world. In the words of the famous poet Allama Iqbal, 'A mathematician cannot but a poet can enclose infinity in a line.'




When looking at the history of poetry of our subcontinent, particularly of the Urdu language, many names of famous poets spring to mind. In Urdu language, poetry is known as 'Shayari.' One of the most popular poets or 'shayars' is Mirza Ghalib (1797-1869). It was during his lifetime that the great Mughal empire fell into the hands of the British. Ghalib wrote about these events, society, and also wrote many ghazals which went on to being sung by numerous musicians.

Sir Muhammad Iqbal, popularly known as Allama Iqbal (1877-1938), was a prominent politician, philosopher and poet who proposed the 'Two Nation Theory' on the basis of which Quaid-e-Azam led the independence movement which culminated in the formation of Pakistan. He is treated as a national hero in Pakistan, has been given the title of 'National Poet of Pakistan' and his birthday on 9 November is a national holiday known as 'Iqbal Day.'

Another great Pakistani poet that deserves mention is Faiz Ahmad Faiz (1911-1984). In 1936, he joined the Progressive Writers' Movement and was a proponent of Marxism, going on to win in 1962 the Lenin Peace Prize awarded by the Soviet Union (USSR). Faiz used his poetry as a non-violent way to encourage the case of Socialism in Pakistan, believing it to be the solution of Pakistan's problems.

Hamds, Naats and Sufi poetry have also formed a popular part of subcontinent culture.A 'Hamd' is poetry sung in praise of Allah. A 'Naat' is a piece of religious poetry which is sung in praise of Holy Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) in Islam.  Sufi poetry is one that concentrates on the concept of Divine love for Allah. Some famous Sufi poets include Bulleh Shah (1680-1758) and Baba Farid (1173-1266). A worthy mention is of Maulana Jalalludin Rumi (1207-1273),  who though of Persian heritage, has captured the hearts of many not only in the subcontinent but around the world.

Zahid sharab peene de masjid mein beth kar,
Yaa woh jagha bata jahan Khuda nahin..
(Mirza Ghalib)

Masjid khuda ka ghar hai, peeney ki jagha nahin,
Kaafir ke dil mein ja, Wahan khudaa nahin..
(Allama Iqbal)

Kaafir ke dil se aya hon mein yeh dekh kar,
Khuda maujood hai wahan, Par usey pata nahin..
(Ahmad Faraz)

On a personal level, I have always loved poetry. I was probably introduced to poetry through the ever popular nursery rhymes, though I can't be sure. I loved writing poetry when young as well, and still have copies of my poems published in  'The Young Nation', a weekly children's magazine published by the most popular newspaper of Pakistan back in the day, 'The Nation.' I harbor fond memories of reading and dissecting stanza by stanza 'The Dragon Book of Verse' in English Literature class back in fifth grade. Later on in O Levels I was introduced to all the great poetry of the subcontinent, with my favorite being 'Shikwa and Jawab-e-Shikwa' of Allama Iqbal. There are also great memories of my mother who would sometimes quietly sing 'Hamds' (religious poetry in praise of Allah) whilst going on about the usual house work.

I believe there is a poet in every one of us, and even if we choose to ignore that, poetry plays a prominent role in at least one part of all of our lives, be it history, culture, religion or even music.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Guardian Angels

Angels are divine beings which are often, but not only, associated with religion. Guardian Angels are thought to be angels which are always present with an individual, protecting them from harm and death till their decreed time. They can take many shapes and forms to serve their noble purpose, with many people narrating stories of how they were divinely guided or saved from harms way by their guardian angel. An example of such a survey is one published in TIME magazine in 2008, which provides the staggering figures that 55% of Americans believe they have been helped by guardian angels at least once in their lives.




I recently stumbled upon a heart touching story of how sometimes people or animals can appear in our lives and serve the purpose of a guardian angel, guiding us when we really need it. The author of the story is unknown, and I believe something so beautiful and original has to be a true story:

'Just up the road from my home is a field, with two horses in it. From a distance, each horse looks like any other horse.

But if you get a closer look you will notice something quite interesting...

One of the horses is blind.


His owner has chosen not to have him put down, but has made him a safe and comfortable barn to live in.

This alone is pretty amazing.

But if you stand nearby and listen, you will hear the sound of a bell. It is coming from a smaller horse in the field.


Attached to the horse's halter is a small, copper-colored bell. It lets the blind friend know where the other horse is, so he can follow.


As you stand and watch these two friends you'll see that the horse with the bell is always checking on the blind horse, and that the blind horse will listen for the bell and then slowly walk to where the other horse is, trusting he will not be led astray.

When the horse with the bell returns to the shelter of the barn each evening, he will stop occasionally to look back, making sure that the blind friend isn't too far behind to hear the bell.


Like the owners of these two horses, God does not throw us away just because we are not perfect. Or because we have problems or challenges.

He watches over us and even brings others into our lives to help us when we are in need.

Sometimes we are the blind horse, being guided by the little ringing bell of those who God places in our lives.'


And at other times we are the guide horse, helping others to find their way.


If you want to read more about Angels, kindly check out my blog post about them here. God bless. 



Angels

Angels are magical, divine beings that are often associated with religion, dating back to the days of Judaism. The term 'Angels' is derived from the ancient Greek work 'angelos' which means 'Messengers'. Angels have been associated with bringing Divine messages from God, as in case of Islam where the Quran is revealed to the Holy Prophet Muhammad by Angel Jibrael; protection from evil, as in Judaism where Angel Michael is seen as a protector of Isreal and even healing, as in Christanity where Angel Raphael is associated with having divine healing properties.




Interestingly enough, all the three angels mentioned above are common in all three books of all the three major religions mentioned above, i.e. in the Quran (Islam), the Bible (Christanity) and the Torah (Judaism). Angel Jibrael of Islam is the same as Angel Gabriel of Christanity and Judaism; Angel Michael of Christanity and Judaism is the same as Angel Mikael in Islam; similarly Angel Raphael of Christanity and Judaism is known as Angel Israfel in Islam.

In today's time and age, angels are now no longer affiliated only with religion. Angels have been used in powerful pieces of great literature such as 'Paradise Lost' by John Milton, 'The Angel' by William Blake and Paradiso by Dante. Popular literature portrays them as beings of light, with fancy large wings to fly with and a golden halo on their head. They have been subject to many fanciful imaginations, and even resulted in best selling movies such 'City of Angels' (1998).

Angels are associated with a lot of mystical properties and responsibilities. They are also associated with difficult tasks such as the Angel of Death who collects the soul from the human body to return to God. There is also the concept of 'Fallen Angels' which is controversial, with some saying that there is no mention of fallen angels in religion, whereas another minority defining them as those angels who have disobeyed God and cast down from heaven. This view is supported by some adorning to the Christian faith, but not in Islam since according to Islam, angels always obey God. A rather bizarre take on Fallen Angels has been taken in History Channels documentary 'Angels and Aliens' where Fallen Angels are explained to be aliens who have been exiled from their host planet.

Majority of people also believe in the concept of 'Guardian Angels' who are always with an individual, guiding them and protecting them from harm. A survey published in TIME magazine in 2008 gives staggering figures, stating that 55% of Americans believe they have actually been helped by a guardian angel at least once in their life times. When related to religion, Guardian Angels have also been mentioned as in Islam where they are known as Mu'aqqibat which protects a person from death until it is destined for him. The concept is slightly controversial in Judaism and Christanity. The theory of Guardian Angels is most accepted, transcending religious boundaries. A similar notion can be traced back as early as ancient Greece to the great philosopher Plato, who mentioned in his work 'Phaedo' how God sends a spirit to look over each person.

Whether one believes in Angels or not, there is no doubt that they have remained an important part of human history, whether as fragments of imagination, aliens or powerful messengers from the Creator Himself.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Stars

Stars have fascinated humans since the dawn of our evolution. Stars have been used by sailors to navigate their way around the mighty oceans, by the Mayan Civilization to map out a calender for the next few millenia, by numerous astrologers to predict the unforeseen and also by astronomers who have studied them and sent satellites to capture breathtaking glimpses of galaxies many light years away. They have stirred imaginations to pen stories about them, had the roots of mythologies circle around their constellations and made ordinary people gawk in wonder at their extraordinary beauty.



I am one of the people who have always been enchanted by their surreal beauty and luminescent magnificence. As a little child I would run to the roof terrace of our house and just stare in awe at the stars. I used to feel that stars were glimpses of heaven and hence God. I was quite a bookworm when I was young, so read the different stories of Greek and Roman mythology as early as fourth grade. I learned all the constellations of the stars and even figured out how to identify different stars in the night sky under the blind eye.

I was so fascinated with stars in my childhood that I even asked my dad to get me a telescope for my birthday. However I think I was probably too young and telescopes must be expensive and technical so my dad practically got me something else as a nice present. I still want to get a telescope one day, though considering I live in the middle of the city, it won't be of much use unless I travel to relatively more remote areas where the street lights don't brighten the night like the day. One day inshAllah (God willing).

My favorite memories of stars have to be from a trip I took with LUMS Adventure Society (my university's adventure society) to Hunza in Pakistan. Hunza lies in the majestic himalayan mountains of Pakistan. Due to the high altitude and lack of lighting there, during the night time the stars appear as if they are huge bulbs hanging from the sky. I was so 'star struck', pun intended, that the first night there whilst we were walking over a hilly area, I just kept looking up in awe, with friends nudging me to concentrate on the rough walk instead. I have never seen stars like that, it was as if God had lifted us up to the heavens.

Mortal as I am, I know that I am born for a day. But when I follow at my pleasure the serried multitude of the stars in their circular course, my feet no longer touch the earth.Ptolemy.

I still believe stars are one of the wonders of life, God's master strokes in his universal painting. I am sharing below a beautiful timelapse which has captured the night sky with its star embellishments in full glory.


video


Night time has always been my favorite part of the day. Since as Stephenie Meyer puts it so beautifully: “I like the night. Without the dark, we'd never see the stars.” 



Roller Coaster

Life is a roller coaster ride, not just in a one dimensional sort of way but from every perspective, ranging from the emotional to the physical. Although its always suggested to focus on the positive, and appreciate the wonderfully weird ride which is a 'gift', sometimes the journey through the lower realms of darkness can play havoc to the senses, lulling them into a pseudo calmness which is actually apathy. The pseudo calmness results from the mirage that time stands still whilst in reality life goes on and as your roller coaster drags on, you just feel as if you are falling, further and further down into an endless abyss yet it doesn't frighten you because you have already succumbed to apathy.




Though I desperately grabbed onto the ropes of hope to maintain my sanity during the difficult episodes of last year including my mother's demise, I am human after all and sometimes one gets so tired of holding those ropes, yielding instead to the pain from the blisters in ones hands from the friction between gravity and salvation. Yielding, and letting go, falling in to oblivion or so you hope though the memories fall with you.

God is kind making happiness a relative concept so this too shall pass. Till the mean time, one can just continue with the roller coaster ride and continue doing things they love such as writing and blogging. InshAllah (God willing) I shall make a deliberate effort to be more regular in my posts from now on. Everyone is on their own wild roller coaster ride which are all different but eventually at the end of darkness there is light (or so we hope) if we take care to hold on during the bumpy parts.

Music is a medium that portrays emotions very well. This is an old song by DJ Tiesto called 'Close to you' that explains the apathy feeling and is a really good listen too.


video


'I wouldn't call it time well spent,
Repeating to myself again,
Find comfort in an endless stream of moments.
I don't even care, about the way I feel today,
Because it changes anyway,
Something will make me cry or smile,
Another picture on my pile...'


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Support

The terms 'Help' and 'Support' are often overrated. By saying one has supported another in any way seems to signify that the person has sacrificed something of certain significance or gone out of their way to help. The truth can actually differ, and there are many examples of people helping others without much effort involved at their end.




Support does not necessarily involve aiding someone physically, financially or in a movement. Support can also involve emotional empathy, an encouraging word or even just a simple smile. And regardless of how inadequate and negligible it may seem to you, it can have an incredible effect on the person at the receiving end.

Take the example of someone being sick. I am sure almost every one has suffered from a cold or fever at one point or the other in their lives. When your sick, one tends to feel downright miserable.At times like this, some simple phone calls from friends and family, asking how you are feeling tend to make you feel much better and supportive. Having someone lend an ear to hear you vent makes you feel better also. The other person is not really doing anything very difficult, just lending a supportive ear or making a simple phone call. Yet it can really uplift one's mood up.

There are people out there who are suffering from diseases or illnesses which do not go away easily, and sometimes require a battle throughout their lives to keep them at bay. I am in awe of such people, the strength they portray, the courage they uphold. My heart prays for them and their families. I have seen some groups on Facebook showcasing their support for such individuals, especially children. I have joined a few and it is so heart wrenching to see the daily struggle that people with cancer have to go through. Yet they share their stories on their blogs and Facebook pages and when they see the support from strangers, it encourages them to move forward with their struggle. After all we are one big human family, all bound together in a bond called humanity.

I recently came across a brave show of support from sixth grade students who shaved off their hair so that their classmate who was suffering from cancer could find courage to shave off hers. We can learn a lot from these children, who are truly heroes.


video


There are many ways to support a person and yes its great if you can do something more, such as support financially or devote your time. Instead of just dismissing helping another due to thinking you can't do anything of significance, keep in mind that even the smallest deeds can have a positive impact. If you are in Pakistan, it can be something as simple as sending a blank SMS to 7770 to donate Rs.20 (excluding tax) to help cancer patients at Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital.

For those who are on Facebook, you can lend emotional support to pages such as 'Prayers for Emma' and 'Lillia's fight with cancer' to name a few. There is also a website of a 6 year old battling cancer: http://www.torigaga.com/p/what-is-neurofibromatosis.html. There may not always be a happy ending such as was with Oliver's case (RIP) Oliver's Journey, yet the family is still fighting to spread awareness about childhood cancer and that is commendable. And once awareness is spread, there can inshAllah be many happy endings.

If nothing else, at least you can support by your prayers. God bless.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Happy International Women's Day

Today, 8th March 2012, is the 101th birthday of International Women's Day, which was first celebrated in 1911. I had been planning to blog about International Women's Day 2012 since this month started. However that could not happen due to my being viciously attacked, completely unguarded, by the merciless flu bug on the loose.  However I have come across some lovely sayings and stories about women which are worth sharing.


I love the idea of a day devoted to celebrating woman. Being a woman is something special, and last Women's Day I dedicated one of my favorite poems 'Phenomenal Woman' to all the women out there. I would like to do that again this year. I would also like to share this touching story I came across via a friend today.

"Mom, why are you crying?" he asked his mom.

"Because I'm a woman" she told him.


"I don't understand," he said.


His mom just hugged him and said, "and you never will." Later the little boy asked his father, "Why does mother seem to cry for no reason?"


"All women cry for no reason" was all his dad could say.


The little boy grew up and became a man, still wondering why women cry.


Finally he put in a call to God. When God got on the phone the man said, "God, why do women cry so easily?"


God said:


"When I made women she had to be special. I made her shoulders strong enough to carry the weight of the world; yet, gentle enough to give comfort.


I gave her an inner strength to endure childbirth and the rejection that many times comes from her children.


I gave her a hardness that allows her to keep going when everyone else gives up and take care of her family through sickness and fatigue without complaining.


I gave her the sensitivity to love her children under any and all circumstances, even when her child has hurt her very badly. This same sensitivity helps her to make a child's boo-boo feel better and shares in her teenagers anxieties and fears.


I gave her strength to carry her husband through his faults and fashioned her from his rib to protect his heart.


I gave her wisdom to know that a good husband never hurts his wife, but sometimes tests her strengths and her resolve to stand beside him unfalteringly.


I gave her a tear to shed, it's hers exclusively to use whenever it is needed. It's her only weakness; it's a tear for mankind."

International Women's Day is now an official holiday in a number of countries such as China, Russia, Armenia, Mongolia and Afghanistan. Although we should appreciate the importance and necessity of women in our lives every single day of the year, it doesn't hurt having an official Women's Day to add a festive flavor to the celebration. After all, where would we be without the help of all the phenomenal women in our lives, ranging from our mothers, daughters, wives, sisters, friends and teachers to name just a few? So lets get into the festive mood of the day, loud and proud baby!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tiger

I was going through some poems today, and I came across an old poem which I used to enjoy as a child. I have decided to share it on my blog. It is called 'the Tiger' and was written by William Blake. I love animals, especially cats of all sizes. Big cats in particular are getting more and more endangered due to illegal poaching activities. According to WWF, there are now less than 3200 tigers left in the whole world. We all need to take responsibility and play our part in saving these magnificent beasts. A first step can be as simple as getting to know the facts and joining the WWF Tiger site where one can find more information on how to help.




TIGER, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies

Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder and what art

Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?

In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,

And water'd heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?

Tiger, tiger, burning bright

In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry? 


Oscar Fashion Musings

The highlight of the 84th Annual Academy Awards has to be Pakistan's first Oscar, brought home courtesy of Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy. Chinoy has the whole country brimming with pride, and with the documentary 'Saving Faces', she has highlighted an issue which needs to be tackled with utmost importance here in Pakistan, that of acid attacks on innocent women.




The fact that Chinoy wore traditional Pakistani attire to the ceremony makes her dress, and yes you can call me biased, one of my favorites from the Oscars. Chinoy sported an ivory outfit designed by Bunto Kazmi. I also loved the gold jewellery adorned by Chinoy at the event, designed for her by Kiran's Fine Jewellery. The gold handcuff band had a Pakistani flag attached to it made of Diamonds and green Sapphires. We at Surreall Jewellery love the patriotic flavor added:




Now moving on to the other fashion personal favorites of Oscars 2012. A lot of dresses made news and were praised on the red carpet, but here I will just list my own personal favorites. I loved Natalie Portman's Vintage Christian Dior gown, along with the jewellery she was sporting:



Penelope Cruz kept it classic with her outfit on the red carpet. I absolutely adored her hairstyle, and her choice of jewellery kept in line with the whole classic appeal. The color of the dress could be improved on though.



I loved the vibrant rich red gown worn by Emma Stone, along with her Luis Vuitton bangle and clutch.



I also liked the vibrant outfit adorned by Ellie Kemper.



Last but not least, is Octavia Spencer, who rightfully won 'Best Supporting Actress' for her role in 'the Help', a movie which I thoroughly enjoyed. Spencer wore a beautiful, elegant silver dress by designer Tadashi Shoji, although her choice of accessories could have been improved. Spencer has worn dresses by Shoji before, and the designer knows very well how to complement her body shape without compromising on the style level.




Others who made headlines include Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Lopez and Stacy Keibler. The above however, happen to be my own personal favorites in best dressed for Oscars 2012.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Rebuttal to TIME Magazine's Cover Story on Pakistan

On 16th January 2012, TIME Magazine featured a cover story on Karachi, terming it as 'Pakistan's Dark Heart'. Upon reading it, one is given the impression of a city torn in civil war, instability and on the way to destruction. If I had never been to Karachi, or did not have good friends living there, upon reading this article I would perceive it to be a highly dangerous, volatile place on Earth, where the fashionable thing to own is weapons.




Karachi is definitely facing some problems, but the impression portrayed to the world by TIME magazine is highly negative and one-sided. I am a Pakistani, and I will obviously have many reasons and justifications on why Karachi and Pakistan as a whole is not the dangerous state portrayed by the story. However, to make the argument more balanced, I will instead give examples of what Non-Pakistani's have to say about this particular story.

The following is a letter written to TIME Magazine by an Australian in rebuttal to the article. I came across it via my brother on Facebook. 

'Dear Editor,

I recently returned from a charitable trip to Pakistan, whereby I visited both Karachi and Islamabad. I spoke with several universities, key businesses, prominent business leaders and several religious people from all generations….


On the day I returned to the office, someone had placed your magazine (January 16, 2012), on my desk. I read with interest your article on Karachi and the city in doom. For a person to have just returned from the very same place that your magazine described was somewhat bizarre, so I read with great detail your writer (Andrew Marshall’s) account.


Let me begin by saying that I often flick through your magazine and find the articles of great interest, but on this particular day and this particular article, I found certain comments to be both one sided and indeed very negative. I say that because I saw a different Pakistan to what was portrayed in your article. I do not and will not comment on the political or religious problems that the country faces, but I will go so far as to say that not everything is as bad as the image that your magazine paints.


Sure there are deaths in the cities. Please show me a city in the world that is free from political fighting and unrest.


Sure there are differences in the political party opinions. Please show me a country in the world where the political parties agree.


Sure the innocent are suffering. Please show me a country in the world where wealth and power is equal and the innocent don’t suffer.


Sure corruption is in Pakistan. Please show me a country in the world that is corruption free.


My list could go on, but my point is that Pakistan does have problems…but so does every other country in the world in some way or another. However, in the case of ALL other nations, there are often good things to report and the media goes out of its way to promote these good things across the globe, whenever possible. The ridiculous amount of shootings in the USA is balanced off by the success of Google, Microsoft and Apple. The financial dilemmas of Greece are lost in the marketing of the Greek Islands as a holiday destination of choice. The child slave industry of India, is brushed under the carpet in favour of the nation’s growth in the global software boom. What I am trying to say, is that someone needs to look further into Pakistan and see that there are millions of great stories to write about, which would portray the country in a different light, to that what is being portrayed by your article.


When I was in Pakistan, I visited a towel manufacturing company (Alkaram Towels). They produced some $60million in export in 2011 and are aiming at $85million in 2012. A substantial increase in sales…in a recession I would remind you. The company was started by the current Chairman, Mr. Mehtab Chawla, at the tender age of nine, after his father passed away. Today the very man employs 3000 staff. Now that’s a story.

 
I visited universities of NED, Hamdard, Karachi, Szabist and NUST. The students are unbelievably intelligent. They spend their spare time developing APPS for android and apple. They are involved in cutting edge technology and no one in the world knows this. Why not send a reporter to Pakistan to look into this. Why not research good things in this nation, rather than just the bad things. At NUST (National Institution for Science and Technology – Islamabad)) there were 38,000 applications for medicine. There are only 83 seats for the medicine course on offer. The competition is unbelievable. In short it pushes the best to be even better. But the world doesn’t know this. Why? Because no one wants to report on it, or no one knows about it…or both!!

Please do not get me wrong. I understand that news is news, but it is high time that the western world stopped promoting these terrorists and political wars in Pakistan and started to write something that would help the nation. Something positive. If we really care about global partnerships and economic growth, then I suggest we try and give Pakistan a helping hand. There are 180 million people in Pakistan, 65% are under the age of 25. The youth of Pakistan is its strength.. it is like a sleeping giant. If you think that India is a booming nation. I suggest you stop a second and look at Pakistan. Given a little help from the western world, Pakistan can become a dominant economy. She doesn’t want aid and she doesn’t need money… she just wants the chance to be seen in a different light. I believe we have a fundamental obligation to assist. The only question is, who will reach out first.


Warmest regards,


Tony Lazaro

Managing Director
Rising Stars Management Group
Tel: 02 8824 7000
Fax: 02 8824 7766. '

I did double check before posting and yes there is a Tony Lazaro of Rising Stars Management Group who wrote this letter.

Another rebuttal I would like to share is that of a Sikh who came to visit Pakistan recently. The whole article is published in the Asian Journal here. I am going to copy paste the important lines below:

'The trip, which started on a positive note, was however dampened when I stopped to pick up a copy of Time magazine at the airport with the lead story about Pakistan titled: “Pakistan’s Dark Heart.” It is these perspectives that I wanted to escape after being so bombarded with negative sensational stories about Pakistan in the West and India. Also, the constant warnings here in British Columbia that Sikhs are not safe in Pakistan, that I should not travel with a Sikh and that I am crazy to travel there added to my panic. 

But once in Pakistan, I found the opposite to be true. This piece illuminates, not the dark heart of Pakistan, but the kind, generous and sincere hearts of the Pakistani people in general and the respectful treatment of Muslims towards Sikhs and Sikh shrines in particular. 

IN closing, I did not see the dark heart of Pakistan. I did not see a fanatical, irrational and violent Pakistani people, attributes that continue to be generalized to the entire Pakistan community and nation. On the contrary, on this trip, I saw a deeply spirited, non-pretentious and kind people.'

Videos on youtube have also sprung up by foreigners who have actually seen Karachi and Pakistan against the one sided article by TIME Magazine such as the one found here.

If you want to read a copy of the article published in TIME Magazine, a copy was also published on this site since I do not subscribe to TIME Magazine. 

An article published in Telegraph UK also rebuttals the TIME Magazine Cover Story:

'Indeed, the Pakistan that is barely documented in the West – and that I have come to know and love – is a wonderful, warm and fabulously hospitable country. And every writer who (unlike Hitchens), has ventured out of the prism of received opinion and the suffocating five-star hotels, has ended up celebrating rather than denigrating Pakistan.  

A profile of Karachi – Pakistan’s largest city and commercial capital – in Time magazine earlier this year revealed that more than 1,000 people died in 2011 in street battles fought between heavily armed supporters of the city’s main political parties.

But isn’t it time we acknowledged our own responsibility for some of this chaos? In recent years, the Nato occupation of Afghanistan has dragged Pakistan towards civil war. Consider this: suicide bombings were unknown in Pakistan before Osama bin Laden’s attack on the Twin Towers in September 2001. Immediately afterwards, President Bush rang President Musharraf and threatened to “bomb Pakistan into the stone age” if Musharraf refused to co-operate in the so-called War on Terror.  

Many write of how dangerous Pakistan has become. More remarkable, by far, is how safe it remains, thanks to the strength and good humour of its people. 

...the Daily Mirror had the inspired idea of sending Botham’s mother-in-law Jan Waller to Pakistan – all expenses paid – to see what she made of the country. 

“The country and its people have absolutely blown me away,” said the 68-year-old grandmother. After a trip round Lahore’s old town she said: “I could not have imagined seeing some of the sights I have seen today. They were indefinable and left me feeling totally humbled and totally privileged.” She concluded: “All I would say is: ‘Mothers-in-law of the world, unite and go to Pakistan. Because you’ll love it’. Honestly!”

Mrs Waller is telling the truth. And if you don’t believe me, please visit and find out for yourself.'

I will like to end this article by mentioning the last example, of an American who lived in Lahore and claims 'Pakistan saved my life.' 

'About a year and a half ago, I made the decision to move to Pakistan.  Since then, perhaps the most popular question my local friends ask is, “Were you scared to come to Pakistan, because you thought we were all terrorists like the Western media portrays us?”

Honestly, no, I was not, and I did not.  Even before coming to Pakistan, I found the notion that all 180 million people residing in Pakistan, the sixth most populous nation in the world, were terrorists or had extremist tendencies completely ridiculous.  I figured that, as in every country, Pakistan had people from all walks of life with different creeds, hopes and dreams, opinions, and lifestyles.

So, to answer my friends’ questions: No.  I cannot readily and honestly answer that coming to Pakistan drastically changed my opinion of the country—you see, it was never negative in the first place.'

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A tyrant caught red-handed

I have come to the conclusion that one just can't watch television news anymore without being shocked. Case point what I saw today. I was sitting bored on the sofa, flipping through news channels when I stopped to linger on Geo News. They had big flashing signs coming up every few minutes about some breaking news. Intrigued, I watched on. What followed has left me feeling appalled and indignant.




I have tried to google the story so I could share it with my friends, but I guess it is too recent, so haven't found much online. The Geo clip is not available on youtube yet either. Hence I decided to write this not only to vent out the feelings of shock and horror conjured up after watching this clip but also to use it as a platform to share the news with others.

A Pakistan People's Party (PPP) candidate for the Sindh Assembly seat beat innocent women at the polling station. The candidate's name is Wahida Shah and what makes the video so shocking is the fact that she suddenly lashes out and hits the women in the polling station! Not only does she hit one, but there are clips of her hitting multiple women who were just standing there, just brutally slapping them for no apparent reason. From the video clip, she first talks furiously to the security man near the ballots, and then without any warning turns out and slaps the poor lady sitting innocently nearby. The woman starts to cry. Shah is then also seen lashing out at other women, all of whom seem poor and helpless and did nothing to incite her anger.

The fact that Shah has lost her temper, is very fat compared to the thinner women around and is putting all her energy in her slaps and punches makes her look highly scary and honestly reduces respect any one must have had for her to below zero. Shah is apparently a powerful woman according to the locals, since when the cameraman asks the women victimized, between their sobs they say nothing happened. It was just a misunderstanding, Wahida Shah did not do anything. The poor women were too terrified to speak the truth.

Geo goes on to highlight how the poor woman must have thought that Wahida Shah was their one hope, a representative who can bring their plight and highlight their oppression. Little did they know that the very person who symbolized a light in the tunnel would make the journey all the more terrifying by showcasing her true colors as a tyrant.

The poor women who were beaten were innocent government employees, many of them primary school teachers. They did not deserve to have someone lash out at them so rudely. Not only has their respect been compromised, they have also been traumatized mentally, emotionally and physically. Even if they were the employees of this tyrant, no one deserves such treatment. The government should take this into view and Wahida Shah should not be allowed to run for office again. An example needs to be set. People deserve to be treated equally with respect, regardless of power, creed, race and money.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Once Upon A Basant

The following article has also been published on the Express Tribune website at the following link: http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/10314/once-upon-a-basant/

It’s that time of the year again. When the frosty blues and grays enveloping the surroundings start to disappear and in their place awakens a plethora of colors, fresh and vibrant as if after a long hibernation.




As if by magic, peoples spirits start to soar, life starts looking more, excuse the pun, ‘sunny’. This was especially true when I was growing up. Since as soon as the flowers started appearing, so did simultaneously kites all over the sky, with people getting ready for the much awaited Basant festival.

I used to love Basant when I was a kid. My Khala (maternal aunt) would have a huge Basant party on her roof top. Family and friends would dress up in bright yellows, with the guys busy on the rooftops, and the ladies in the kitchen busy conjuring up some of the most delicious food for lunch. Everyone would have the yummy food on the rooftop, and everyone would spend the whole day on the roof top, just simply enjoying life. People would engage in friendly competition with the neighbors, and literally have conversations over rooftops. The skies were full of kites, laughter, music and shouts of 'boo-kata'. Basant was an event that brought the whole community together, something that is very rare in todays time. Basant was special since it was a festival for the rich, the middle class and the poor.

I would have taken more pictures back in the day, had I known that Basant would one day be banned. I have some amazing memories of Basant. My Khala was an amazing cook, and my elder cousins would go hunting some days before. My Khala would cook Murghabi (wild duck) and on some rare occasions venison (deer) meat curry also. When I was a young kid, I would go ask my elder cousins to fly me a kite and then hand it to me when it was in the air. Once it started going down, I would call on them to make it fly higher again. We would chase after kites, and overall the day is associated with laughter, joy and fun.

Some people however decided to take the friendly competition a little too far. They started making chemical dors (strings), which turned out to be lethal and claimed innocent lives. The kites also started getting better, due to which the string got thicker and similarly lethal. This whole turn in kite flying claimed a lot of lives, which led to Basant being banned in the year 2005.

I am totally against anything that would claim so many innocent lives, particularly victimizing the poor motorcyclists. However I wonder if lives could be saved, without sacrificing a Pakistani tradition as old as our country itself.  

I wish the courts had focused more on what turned an otherwise safe event into a dangerous life threatening one. Instead of taking the easy way out, maybe if we all had taken responsibility of what was happening, Basant would still be here. I believe a better solution would have been the regulation of kite sizes and especially string types, so that dangerous string that can claim lives not be used. Harsh fines and punishments should be linked with breaking these regulations, which can literally fall in the grounds of potential murder. Some people would raise their eyebrows on how this would be implemented. I feel that if the legislature has so far quite successfully managed to keep a curfew of 10pm at an emotional affair such as weddings, this is very possible too.

If the courts do their part to bring back the festival, then the citizens must do theirs too. Our media is playing a powerful role, and it can help spread awareness of the dangers of Basant, so Pakistanis start to take a responsible approach towards their lives and that of their fellow citizens. It can highlight how carelessness can cause deaths on Basant by falling over rooftops, how chasing kites is not half as important as saving your life and how people should explain safety to their children before the festival.

Everyone who has seen the true spirit of Basant misses it to this day. I believe that instead of being overwhelmed by withdrawal symptoms, there is another safer, rational way out which can save lives and at the same time return a much cherished festival. The verdict lies with the Pakistan courts.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Dark Justice

This article has also been published on the Express Tribune newspaper website at the following link:
http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/10288/why-arsalan-was-arrested/

The Pakistani media is playing a proactive role in bringing forth cases of victims who have been dealt with unjustly or have been ignored due to many reasons such as them being poor and not having the power or means, which are usually taken for granted by our elite, to rectify a wrong.



I have seen various cases being brought forth by television media and the ever popular talk shows, which highlight the plight of poor people who are suffering from some health ailments which can easily be cured if they had the resources. By putting the spotlight on such issues, they have treated certain such individuals due to the out pour of funds by their TV clientele and sometimes even the government stepping in. In other cases they have highlighted the stark contrast in how justice is delivered to opposite ends of the rich/poor spectrum.

One such episode which would have left many an audience watching highly indignant would be the one I saw last night on Dawn News. It was an episode of ‘News Night with Talat Hussain'. This particular episode showed two very different sides of justice, one of them being the Prime Minister’s indictment for contempt by the Supreme Court. Gillani has the resources to hire the best lawyers and even if the court does find him guilty, he can still walk away using the ‘Presidential Pardon’ which is allowed under the Pakistani constitution. 

At the other end of the spectrum we have a young boy from Gujranwala called Arsalan Latif. Arsalan was innocently playing, and running after a kite which had been cut from its string. He caught the kite. He had some ‘string’ or ‘dor’ with which he decided to play with the fruits of his labor. However, the police came and caught him and he had to spend the night in jail.

I understand kite flying is banned in Pakistan. The fact that makes this story so incredulous is that the boy arrested was just 13 years old! That would make him a minor, and yet he had an FIR filed against him which has in a way impacted his whole life by creating a criminal record.

The young boy got so scared when the police came that he ran and hid in his bathroom. The police came and took him from the bathroom. His parents were not home but his younger sister and baby brother were. Amidst their howls and sobs, the police beat up poor Arsalan up, handcuffed him and took him to jail.

The whole family was traumatized by the incident. Arsalan had an exam the next day, which the police agreed to let him sit, but nonetheless he had to spend the night in jail. His family had to bail him out despite them being poor and him being a minor and even the offense, excuse the pun, being very ‘minor’. Unlike the PM, these people did not have money to hire a lawyer.

Being sent to prison brought shame upon the family in their neighborhood, and traumatized their young children. When Talat asked the younger 9 year old brother about the incident, he started crying uncontrollably. Arsalan himself could not help crying and feverishly repeating between sobs that he would never fly a kite again. He said he was beaten up again in the police station and spent the whole night upset and crying. Considering the horror stories we hear of what goes on in jails nowadays, I sincerely hope he did not have to put up with anything else. The trauma and stress of this incident has marred this young boy’s life forever.

This is absolutely outrageous. How can the police take such an irresponsible stance on something like this? I am sure there are many children out there like Arsalan. It is time our society stood up against the abuse of power and the ‘dark’ side of justice delivered that remains largely ignored. I thank and encourage our media to bring forth such incidents so we can live in a more transparent society where justice is delivered more equally.