Sunday, August 14, 2011

Happy Independence Day Pakistan

This article has also been published on the following website:

Today is the 64th Birthday of my beloved country Pakistan. This is a day of celebration for all Pakistanis, whether at home or abroad. I recently came across a term earlier this month, 'Pakophilia'. Pakophilia is a term used to describe love for all aspects of Pakistan, ranging from its culture and history to its food and people. I can proudly say I have quite a few Pakophiles in my family, the most 'Pakophilic' being my two younger brothers Mustafa and Mujtaba.

I got an email today from my aunt Dr. Tahira Jabeen. She had sent me a very interesting and informative forwarded article about the history of our country. The original email is from a person whose father in law gifted him a 1948 copy of Life Magazine. The contents of the email, without editing at my end, are:

'Article on Pakistan from a 1948 copy of LIFE Magazine that my father in law gifted to me.

Some of the key takeaways from the article on Pakistan

-          97% illiteracy rate.
-          Only 26,000 people working in industry
-          All professionals left for India and Pakistan inherited 6 million impoverished peasants who had left their land behind.
-          No real leaders besides Jinnah (interesting that LAK was not even mentioned at that time) – was it an inevitability that Army filled the void an started a cycle of producing corrupt politicians?
-          The magazine suggests Pakistan needed a commercial rapprochement to India if its citizens were to be clothed.
-          At the time of partition all important businessmen migrated to India with all the gold bullion and other liquid assets of the country.
-          US$ 450 mln in income vs US$ 800 mln of expenditure – and of course LAK pursued borrowing /aid over investment (freedom was mortgaged right from the start)?

After reading this article, it seems that in 1947, Pakistan was further behind India than it is now. It is a miracle that the country survived even with a continuity of corrupt leaders, feudalism and radicalization of general public. The only thing that kept the country going at that time was the zeal, positivity and unity of the people. This article gives me hope that all’s not lost yet for our country. We have been called a failed state before and we have survived. All we need is a leader, a direction, faith and tolerance.

Happy Independence Day.


The original copy of the 1948 Life Magazine is also included in the email. I can't figure out how to attach a file that can be downloaded on my blog, so I will do it the hard way, copy the images from the pdf file on paint via print screen and attach the main contents of the article on Pakistan. If you want the original copy of this particular 1948 Life Magazine, let me know and I will forward it to you.

I remember reading an article few years back which had a few lines that really touched me. I do not recall the name of the article or the name of the author. I do recall the lines very vividly, and they are perfect for ending this article:

'Ask the Chechens, ask the Palestinians, ask the Kashmiris how precious freedom is. Even an imperfect one.'

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Qixi Festival

One of the admirable qualities of London is that it is a very multicultural city. One comes across many different people from all corners of the world, all in a normal day out and about in this busy, bustling city. Learning about new cultures, interacting with different nationalities, being exposed to new thoughts and ideas arouses a long forgotten childlike curiosity deep within our nature.

I have always been fascinated with history, culture and mythology. I have fond memories of how enthralled I was by Greek mythology while growing up, having read quite a few books on the subject. Mythology is extremely intriguing, with how it focuses on explaining the creation of the universe, the beliefs of the ancients and the occurrence of certain events to appease the curiosity of the locals. I enjoy how it is a play between vivid imagination and creativity that is so surreal yet believable by a few that it has survived hundreds, even thousands of years to be told to this date.

I happened to cross paths with a Chinese friend on one such fateful day a year or two back. My friend was all dressed up and excited, and enlightened me about the Qixi festival, which derives its roots from Chinese mythology. 'Qi Xi' means the 'Night of Sevens' and it falls on the seventh day of the seventh month of the Chinese calender. It has a very captivating story behind it. Chinese legend says that the seventh daughter of the Goddess of Heaven whose name was Zhinu was bored, and instead of conducting her duty of weaving colorful clouds, came down on Earth looking for some fun. There she came across a local cowherd Niulang. The two fell in love and got married. When the Goddess of Heaven found out that her daughter had married a mere mortal, she was consumed with anger. She took out her hairpin, and scratched a wide river in the sky, thus forming the Milky Way and exiled both of them to the opposite sides of the Milky Way.

Chinese Mythology has it that the two stars in the sky, Vega which lies on the east of the Milky Way is Zhinu while Altair on the west side is Niulang. Zhinu sits on the east side of the Milky Way, sadly weaving the clouds and conducting her duties while her husband Niulang waits for her and watches her from the other end of the sky. However when the Goddess of Heaven sees how true their love is, she takes pity on them and allows them to meet once a year on the seventh day of the seventh month of the Chinese lunar calender. From an astronomical point of view, the two stars Altair and Vega are also said to be nearest to each other on this night, despite this myth being approximately two million years old.

The Qixi Festival is the equivalent of the western Valentines Day, and because it is calculated using the Chinese Calender, falls on a different date each year. This year it falls today, on the 6th of August 2011. So it is these different cultures and traditions whom we should thank for making us appreciate just how much beauty and legend can lie on an otherwise ordinary day of the year.