I wish I was there ..

After the match against NZ, I had a very strong feeling that Pakistan would win the Twenty20 world cup. I went around telling everyone who cared that we were going to pull this one off. Why? Because we needed it. It was not about cricket, rather, it was about a nation that had been surrounded by difficulties from all sides, a nation that needed some good news.

When Afridi ran the winning run, I was surprised by my own reaction. I did not feel the euphoria that thousands of Lahorites felt; the overwhelming joy I had expected never arrived and a sadness took over me which was inexplicable.

I followed the match by devouring every article on cricinfo on the win, the feeling of sadness intensified. Then I called my friend, who like me is living away from Pakistan, and when I spoke to him I realized what had happened: we wanted to be there, wanted to share these moments with our fellow countrymen. We had suffered as much as they had back home. Every piece of bad news had been a blow and we had looked forward to this moment. This small piece of good news.

I wanted to watch the match on a crowded bazaar in Lahore. I wanted to cheer every fall of wicket when we were bowling and every run scored while chasing. I wanted to believe that like our team with no one willing to back it up, we too, as nation, would rise to face the challenges as a team, and pull through.

But I wanted to do all of this with thousands of others who felt the same way.

May Allah bring ease for the people of Pakistan.


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A beautiful story about Allah’s love for us..Scars of Love

Taken from http://qisas.com/

Scars of Love

Some years ago on a hot summer day in south Florida a little boy decided to go for a swim in the old swimming hole behind his house.

In a hurry to dive into the cool water, he ran out the back door, leaving behind shoes, socks, and shirt as he went. He flew into the water, not realizing that as he swam toward the middle of the lake, an alligator was swimming toward the shore.

His mother, in the house, was looking out the window and saw the two as they got closer and closer together. In utter fear, she ran toward the water, yelling to her son as loudly as she could. Hearing her voice, the little boy became alarmed and made a U-turn to swim to his mother.

It was too late. Just as he reached her, the alligator reached him. From the dock, the mother grabbed her little boy by the arms just as the alligator snatched his legs. That began an incredible tug-of-war between the two.

The alligator was much stronger than the mother, but the mother was much too passionate to let go.

A farmer happened to drive by, heard her screams, raced from his truck, took aim and shot the alligator. Remarkably, after weeks and weeks in the hospital, the little boy survived.

His legs were extremely scarred by the vicious attack of the animal. And, on his arms, were deep scratches where his mother’s fingernails dug into his flesh in her effort to hang on to the son she loved.

The newspaper reporter who interviewed the boy after the trauma, asked if he would show him his scars. The boy lifted his pant legs; and then, with obvious pride, he said to the reporter, “But look at my arms. I have great scars on my arms, too. I have them because my mom wouldn’t let go.”

You and I can identify with that little boy. We have scars, too.

No, not from an alligator, or anything quite so dramatic. But, the scars of a painful past. Some of those scars are unsightly and have caused us deep regret. But, some wounds, my friend, are because God has refused to let go.

In the midst of your struggle, He’s been there holding on to you.

This teaches us that God loves us. But sometimes we foolishly wade into dangerous situations. The swimming hole of life is filled with peril -and we forget that the enemy is waiting to attack. That’s when the tug-o-war begins – and if you have the scars of His love on your arms, be very, very grateful. He did not – and will not – let you go.

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Yours truly interviewed ..

Here is a small email interview that the people at the Spectator asked me for.

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My fav poem these days :)

Let Me Not Forget

If it is not my portion to meet thee in this life
then let me ever feel that I have missed thy sight
—let me not forget for a moment,
let me carry the pangs of this sorrow in my dreams
and in my wakeful hours.

As my days pass in the crowded market of this world
and my hands grow full with the daily profits,
let me ever feel that I have gained nothing
—let me not forget for a moment,
let me carry the pangs of this sorrow in my dreams
and in my wakeful hours.

When I sit by the roadside, tired and panting,
when I spread my bed low in the dust,
let me ever feel that the long journey is still before me
—let me not forget a moment,
let me carry the pangs of this sorrow in my dreams
and in my wakeful hours.

When my rooms have been decked out and the flutes sound
and the laughter there is loud,
let me ever feel that I have not invited thee to my house
—let me not forget for a moment,
let me carry the pangs of this sorrow in my dreams
and in my wakeful hours

Rabindranath Tagore

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Blackouts in Lahore

More on growing up in Lahore here

Lights are ‘out’ these days oftener than ‘in’ ….

Soon, my thoughts settled on memories I have not visited in years. Memories I have unsuccessfully tried to evoke before but they proved to be elusive, leading me down dark alleys and then disappearing into thin air. I am convinced that navigating your memories is not like getting from A to B using your SatNav, with a voice – that irritatingly reminds you of somebody in your family – telling you to take a left after a hundred yards. It is more like getting from R to S in an urban jungle: an overpopulated city, bursting at its’ seams and a complex network of winding streets with no names tattooed across its’ bloated belly. Equipped not with a SatNav but a mind dizzied by the frenetic pace of the city’s life and vague directions gleaned from inhabitants who are equally dazed. Your best bet in such cases is to walk aimlessly in the hope of spotting a familiar landmark that will help you navigate. In any case, as soon as I was plunged into total darkness, something lit up in my head. As if the darkness was the landmark I was looking for. Everything miraculously fit into place.

Memories from a cold winter night that had us huddled together, wrapped up in our chadars. We sat down in the glow of a solitary candle – only one burned because my grandmother was averse to wastage – huddled together, around our grandmother – the repository of enchanting tales, and family history. In addition to my parents and my grandmother, two of my paternal uncles lived in our family house.

I was the youngest and my grandmother’s favorite grandchild. My spot was in her lap, wrapped up in the warmth of her chadar. My grandmother’s affections were offered too widely, and when they extended beyond my brother, on account of my possessiveness I would get restless, eventually finding reassurance during our ‘light out’ ritual. I had often gone to sleep perched comfortably on her lap, slowly tuning out of her stories, into dreams populated by images inhabited by the enchanted beings of her tales. But that night I resisted sleep.

Conversation settled on life during the war with India, two decades earlier. This was fascinating stuff and I was hooked. I asked my uncle how it was like growing up in such circumstances. His face lit up and his eyes glazed over as he revisited his youth. They had to evacuate the city, he said, to live in sparsely populated areas outside the city. These areas were considered safer because they made unattractive targets – a bomb would kill fewer people in such areas, and would not be a good return on investment. At night at the sound of a siren they would hasten to the makeshift bomb shelters, and spend hours cooped up in these cold subterranean enclosures.

The light used to go for at least an hour. After about half an hour my uncle’s would declare that a cup of tea would be much appreciated. I was not allowed tea by my grandmother, but was allowed to have two biscuits, and if my uncle let me, I could dip them in his tea. I loved my two tea-soaked biscuits.

The single candle accompanied my aunt into the kitchen at the back of the house, leaving the rest of us in complete darkness. I was scared of darkness and once the candle was gone I retreated deeper into the folds of my grandmother’s chadar. She knew my fear and held me tighter, but she never let anyone else know I was scared. I closed my eyes and let my head rest against her chest. Listening to the gentle dhak-dhak of her heart, feasting on the familiar scent that emanated from her. As was her habit, she felt the back of my head with her hand; firmly pressing in places where she felt it did not make a perfect shape. I was later told that I owed the odd shape of my head – very much like an inverted letter ‘L’, traditionally thought to be the most desirable shape of a man’s head – to the attentions of my grandmother during my infancy.

To keep my mind off the darkness, she started asking me about school. She was very conservative and would have been happier if I were attending an all boys school, that I was not weighed heavy on her heart. She asked me if I was talking to too many girls – this she did very quietly fearing a reaction from her sons – no, Ammi, I said, I do not talk to any girls – this I whispered in her ear so no one else would overhear and I know she smiled. We were in the middle of our secret conversation when the tea arrived, and with it the solitary candle. With the room dimly lit again I wriggled out of the folds of my grandmother’s chadar, ready for my biscuits.

Tea was enjoyed in silence punctuated by sounds from the neighborhood. In those days Lahore became very quiet at night. Voices and sounds from outside softly floated into our living rooms, they were guests I met with warmth and familiarity. The sonorous voice of the chowkidar (watchman), who rode his bicycle in the streets after dark, brought with it a sense of safety. The street hawker’s earnest urgings followed those of the chowkidar’s. His “Garam Anday” (Boiled eggs), started at a loud note, and by the time he reached the ‘day’ of the ‘Anday’ the note became much softer, and his call seamlessly merged into the silken silence. Then I heard the aunty next door calling out to her son in for dinner. He was my age and we played cricket in his backyard on Sunday mornings. They owned a VCR and color TV, whenever I was allowed to, I would go and watch cartoon videos in color. These interesting sounds were intermingled with the continuous chirping of the crickets infesting our backyard.

We had a small backyard. My grandmother would rise with the sun and after praying and breakfast would head out to supervise the old mali, who tended after our small garden. Although, my grandmother doted over me, the irreverent manner in which I made use of her garden had led to a few fights between us. I remember, once, curiosity got the better off me and I decided to pull out one of her favorite rose bushes. She ran after me for a good two minutes, that was all her old age allowed, and then she sat down, breathing heavily. After regaining her breath she started sweet-talking. I was young and naïve. My miscalculation got me a good beating. Feeling betrayed I decided to leave her house. I packed up the few clothes I had and walked over to my maternal aunt’s house. Later that day when she came to get me I hid under my aunt’s bed refusing to come out. Eventually, I did come out when she made me an offer I could not refuse – a five-rupee note. My grandmother never carried a handbag, instead, she would fold a few notes in a corner of her dupatta (a piece of cloth used to cover the head) and secure them with knots, that day as a goodwill gesture, she even allowed me to untie the knot and extract the note myself.

I ate my biscuits and reclaimed my favorite spot. My grandmother wrapped her arms around me, and held my small hands in hers. She had beautiful hands, with soft, smooth, milky white skin – warm to the touch.I let my mind wonder away from the candle lit room. In no mood for adventure, my thoughts did not venture into the vivid world of my imagination, instead they lingered on the upcoming weekend trip to my maternal uncle’s house. My mother’s family all lived in a single neighborhood. I had three cousins my age from my mother’s side, and with my brother and I, we added up to five. Like the famous five we had our little adventures, the most exciting adventure at the time was roof crawling. After dark we would sneak to the roof of my uncle’s house. From his roof we could climb over to our neighbors’ house, from there a three foot leap would get us onto the tin roof of a factory, on the other end the tin sheets led onto the roof of another neighbor, and that was our most favored destination. There we would sit together, pockets full of pine nuts and peanuts, telling each other ghost stories. For this weeks’ adventure I had spent hours fashioning a firefly-powered candle. The fireflies communed around the row of guava trees that lined the eastern wall of our house – I had often scaled these trees to retrieve my grandmother’s afternoon snack. I had five of them in a small glass jar. For three days, I had donned my overcoat and the wool cap my grandmother had knit, and hunted for them after sunset. I had rigged holes into the jar for air and left a small piece of bread for food.

I was drawn out of my reverie by the voice of my aunt, who had asked my grandmother to tell us about her husband. She loved talking about her husband. She told us about his early success as a movie producer and how later he had faced one setback after another and virtually lost all the money he had made. I listened attentively, through her stories getting a glimpse of the grandfather I had never known. Our lesson in family history was interrupted midway when the lights returned; the candle was extinguished, as a hundred year spell is undone with the gentlest of kisses, so was the magic of our family ritual.

Lights are ‘out’ these days oftener than ‘in’ ….

In these precious moments of darkness I had traversed years of my childhood. A childhood that reminds me of a scene from a place I visited a few years ago. The small chamber was lit by candles burning silently in niches, the light from one candle spread for a few feet, reaching out as far as it could and its’ dying light embraced that of the next candle, forming an intricate pattern of light and darkness throughout the chamber. The life of my grandmother, and through her that of others before her, embraced and enriched my life, weaving itself into mine through stories – some remembered, but most forgotten. My life too, reaches out to weave itself into another’s – seeking a candle that will burn ever so slightly brighter with the little light I may bequeath to it.

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Leadership risk or failure?

This morning I woke to the news of another political leader getting shot in yet another developing country. The question that comes to ones mind is why does it happen in developing countries only? Words like corruption, poverty, illiteracy and hopelessness in society come to mind. I don’t think it happens due to any of these particular reasons but rather its either risk that leaders take or failure of leadership on the part of the leader.

Lets start with hopelessness. In my opinion, disenfranchisement/hopelessness is not the reason why miscreants/rebels kill these leaders. If it was true then who can challenge the hope that likes of Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Mujeeb-ur-Rehman gave it to their people. All three had a dream….for two of the three it was to win independence for their countries and for third it was to eradicate discrimination from one of the most developed country of the world. Sadly, all three of them met the same fate as some of the less respected leader like Benazir Bhutto or Rajiv Gandhi. If it was corruption then how come people like Robert Mugabe, Pinochet and Suharto get to die natural death. I can continue to analyze each factor and provide a counter example to refute the claim but its not purpose of my article.

I want to analyze the leadership failures of some of these great leaders. Most of us only know successes of these great leaders but we never reflect on the issues or instances where they may have failed and failed miserably. I believe Gandhi did great things throughout his life and his all famous non-violence movement achieved for Indians what was considered cowardly/docile in those days. Freedom struggles in 19th and 20th century meant war and loss of hundreds of thousands of innocent lives. He decided to go against the conventional wisdom and achieved the same outcome without

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Some thoughts – by Fiza

In 2006, Israeli indiscriminate use of several million cluster bombs against Lebanese civilian population raised much outcry across the world. Most of these were fired in the last seventy two hours of the conflict. UN officials estimates claim that southern Lebanon is saturated with 1 million unexploded bomblets, far outnumbering the 650,000 people living in the impoverished region of Southern Lebanon. This devastation against humanity, which led to many Lebanese wounded, homeless or dead, galvanized much public and diplomatic opinion.

Cluster bombs are volatile explosives dispersed in tens and hundreds of lethal bomblets over a wide area either via aircraft or in a land-based system via rockets. Many of these bomblets do not even explode on impact, hence remaining fatal for the civilian population, particularly for the children who may mistake these lethal explosives for innocent toys. Michael Slackman of International Herald Tribune, when speaking of the Israeli usage of cluster bombs in Lebanon, quotes on October 6, 2006 “They are stuck in the branches of olive trees and the broad leaves of banana trees. They are on rooftops, mixed in with rubble, littered across fields, farms, driveways, roads and outside schools.”

At this moment, right now, more than 100 world leaders, collected in Dublin for a diplomatic conference, are negotiating over the details of a ban on cluster bombs. For over four decades, these explosives have been used by industrialized nations in “wars” against poorer nations spreading from Laos to Lebanon, causing much devastation amongst their civilian populations. Representatives from countries like UK, France, and Germany along with others from around the globe are deliberating over the details that a cluster bomb treaty should cover – they are wondering whether cluster bombs should be banned fully or not.

Not surprisingly enough, influential powers like Britian, France and Germany do not want to see a “complete ban” on cluster bombs! The British Government is calling for a ban but is asking for some exemptions that would allow it to retain some cluster munitions in its arsenal.

If a treaty is formed calling out for a comprehensive ban on cluster bombs, countries with clashing interests like Britain have the option of walking away from signing the negotiation. Although every country has an equal vote, Ireland, the chairing country, is faced with the challenge of balancing the interests of the majority smaller nations versus the major users like Britain, whose signature will lend a sense of legitimacy to the treaty. Furthermore, there is nothing to stop the more powerful countries, in the future, to undertake coalition operations in partnership with the United States for example which is not signing the Cluster Ban treaty.

The treaty scheduled to be signed in November this year will be the most significant step since the Mine Ban treaty signed ten years ago. Despite the fact that the United States, Russia and China have not signed the Mine Ban treaty and will not sign the Cluster Ban either, they will find their future actions affected by the outcome of this Treaty.

Treaties like these are highly influential in manipulating the mind-sets of the public at large. Just as land-mines are derided the world over today, cluster bombs have and will become more detestable by the masses. A survey by coalition group of Oxfam, Amnesty, and Landmine Action disclosed that eight out of ten Britons believe that cluster bombs should be banned. Organizations like these, Human Rights Watch, Handicap International and others have combined their energies to resound the voices of the millions around the world calling for a comprehensive and hence complete ban on cluster bombs. These humanitarian organizations coupled with the power of the public, will make even the most powerful country think twice before using a menacing weapon like cluster bomb against innocent population of a country. This is the lesson learnt from the process leading to the ban on landmines that came into effect in 1997.
We need to realize that what we want is a complete ban on cluster bombs – no exceptions. We have to make a resolution for a more peaceful today and a more secure tomorrow for our children. Public outcry, like the one that followed the bombing of Lebanon, can combine to create unstoppable momentum. We don’t want the influential powers to undermine moves towards a total ban on the use of cluster bombs. With our voices combined, and our hands joined, together we can make the painful memory become a distant fact from our history!”

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London’s day of innocence!

Guardian article:

After reading this I wish I was not stuck outside London. I have been living in London for a few years now, and yearned to see a different side of the city.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

“For a day at least, Londoners returned to a forgotten innocence. Yesterday the headlines howled about how £2bn would be lost yesterday thanks to public transport disruption. Two words: So. What. We’re in the middle of a credit crunch and £2bn is the sort of money a hedge-fund trader might find in the lining of his Armani suit. Yesterday we stopped measuring our lives in coffee spoons, overdrafts and balance of payments deficits. It felt good.

We needed the snow to remind us of that innocence. We needed it to remind us of who we are. We are not just homo-economicus, we can’t be defined by the size of our negative equity, the burden of our personal debt, or numbers of en-suites. We need something more this winter than cowering at home noting down how many times Gordon Ramsay swears on Channel 4. Our new year resolutions are broken, our jobs insecure, our pensions worthless, our spirits crushed by January’s post-Christmas gloom. We needed something to lift our spirits, to give us the excuse to play to no discernible economic benefit.

And yesterday here it came, free as air, falling on to my bare head as I walked down the canal towpath. I was doing what a human being should do now and again: stare. A Spanish man and I watched a heron dive from the ice into water that is starless and bible black. Would it ever resurface? What could it find down there to eat? We did what London hardly ever allows: exchanged the conspiratorial glances and then resumed the satisfyingly economically unproductive business of staring.”

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Growing up in Lahore in the 80s ..

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this on the Tech Lahore blog. It brought back fond memories.

Read in full here

Related posts: here, here and here 😉

To start off, I am incredibly lucky. I was born to a privileged family in Lahore, Pakistan. I attended the best schools around (Yes, a proud Aitchisonian!) and was exposed to people from all parts of the world at a very early age. My parents were more focused on making sure their kids got the best of everything – including their own time – than on anything else. They always had time for us. My father would spend hours upon hours painstakingly explaining arcane concepts to me, narrating ancient history, telling us stories from the Quran or explaining mechanics, physics and math for which I really had no grounding. But because I asked, he humoured me. And I did pick things up.

My mother encouraged me to be as curious and creative as I wanted. Even in the days when the latest LEGO sets were hard to come by in Lahore, she would have a friend or an acquaintance somehow arrange to send my favourite pick from the catalog; even if it had to be shipped from London. Yes, like I said, I was (and am) extremely lucky. My childhood was, in many ways, absolutely amazing because it was so comfortable, stimulating and love-filled that I really never even dreamt about wanting to be in someone else’s shoes. And it was this feeling… of NOT wanting to be in anyone else’s shoes, the sense that I would never ever want to change who I was or where I came from, that was the seed of a sense of self, and a sense of identity that I have built myself, and my life around.

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How the city effects the brain

This is a thought provoking article on the effects of city life on the human brain. I am sure equally heavy cost is paid in terms of the changes city life brings about in the way we think and feel (emotional and spiritual changes).

I am not saying mass migrate to non-city areas, I just want to emphasize the need to have a balanced ‘environmental’ diet. As I have mentioned in one of the earlier posts, our city of Lahore, is a place one should venture out of very regularly.

The article

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