Pakistaniism Acting Up – Episode 2

Who are we? Pakistanis!

What do we know? More than you!

It was an ordinary Friday, exceptional only because this one meant I got to stay with my parents another night (several more hours of lazy lounging with nary a care or responsibility), and ended up having dinner with family at my favourite aunt’s. Before I’m judged by dear readers for being childish, let me assure you that I am that and more. The unfortunate highlight of the evening ended up sewing in some more aggression inside, where there were yards of hostility and anger already in residence.

It is a common malady of ours, one where we claim to know more than the next person. Can you imagine telling someone with a failing heart that you know exactly the kind of pain they are going through, and precisely the food they should be consuming in order to combat it?

You can?! Ooh, let’s check your credentials then:

1. Do you have a professional degree in medicine? Not the kind where you grow up around doctors, or have one in your family, but the one where you study hard for years and then some.

2. Did you serve with a medical professional who treated the kind of heart conditions the said person has?

3. If you failed the first two checkpoints above, then this is perhaps your only chance at redemption. So answer us this, are you their dearest friend, the kind who tells you your flaws and you tell them theirs?

4. Now you’re seriously clutching at straws if you’ve gotten to this point without a resounding yes. Are you a nutritionist or herbalist currently serving the community including those with cardiac problems?

OR

5. Are you a meddling relative/acquaintance with no such credentials as the above, but the inherent flaw of getting people to eat more than they have/should? That’s really annoying of you. Why don’t you stop?

That certain Friday, people were advising others (those afflicted with diabetes and high cholesterol) about their food choices and boy, did I see red. How can you, when you do not know any better? We cannot cure everyone. Let us let others be.

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Public Displays of Affection

As the clock ticks closer to midnight and I try to make my brain fall asleep, I find myself with a mounting sense of foreboding… It had never went well before, so why should this night be any different?

I remember when I had had my first encounter with dreadful, noisy midnight celebrations. We were at a relatives’ and dad was concerned about getting home in time. His khala wanted us to stay and spend some more time with them, but abbu was firm about getting home before 12.

‘What happens at 12?’ my bewildered, eight-year-old self (or was it younger?) had asked.

All sorts of wrong, my dad had started to explain. There are hooligans out for some fun, fresh teens wanting to appear cool and unconcerned, and the criminal (s) who take advantage of the raucous situation.

Be it a religious holiday, new year, or Independence Day celebrations, we’re good at creating noise and trash and getting away with it. I remember a friend remarking once about new ways in religion: That’s the problem with weird innovations – where do you draw the line?

Strange, unconventional and downright offensive drawing such comparisons may be to some people, what do you do about their excessive and painful ways of celebration? Why do there have to be two extremes where one end gets injured or flinches at the (metaphorical and literal) gunshots fired by the other end, and the latter claim that the former are not patriotic enough to be ‘celebrating’ with them?

However, the planting this year was super cool.

Back to Basics?

I remember discussing شَعَآٮِٕرَ اللّٰ (literally: symbols of Allah) back from the good old days when I was attending tafseer classes:

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O you who have believed, do not violate the rites of Allah or [the sanctity of] the sacred month or [neglect the marking of] the sacrificial animals and garlanding [them] or [violate the safety of] those coming to the Sacred House seeking bounty from their Lord…
– 
Surah Al-Maidah, Verse 2 (5:2)

Our teacher listed items other than those mentioned in the Quran that qualify as the rites or symbols of Allah, and as it turned out, the items that we wear as part of Islamic modesty (headscarf, outer wear, beard, cap, etc.) also come under shaAAa-ira Allah. Which brings us to the incident at hand: the bearded, capped imam sahib of the nearby masjid, who cut in front of us and brought people pain by driving the wrong way. Yep, everybody does it, imam and otherwise, but your identity bears weight. Thou shalt not judge may sound good in our minds, but actually bears no weight in His court, sans reason.

The class in question took a hilarious turn when I could contain my question no longer:

But we can run in our burqas, right?

The older ladies had a moment of shocked horror as they stared at me, and then burst out laughing.

Me chanting under my breath: Please don’t judge, please don’t judge…

Mukarami B.

Often I find stories around me, shared willingly or unwillingly, that I wish to publish through this online space for their value. These stories will be credited to the pseudonym, Mukarami B.

Ode to Her

Via Mukarami B.

It is easy caring for your own blood.

Difficult as it may be, I found her giving up her life for another’s mother who was bedridden.

It would start in the morning. She would be having breakfast or lying down in bed trying to grab at the last remnants of sleep when she’d hear her name being called. She would go and busy herself in their toilette.

This would be followed by their breakfast. Some would go forward to help, they would. But she would calmly refuse any input from another, and take care of it as a duty assigned to her, a responsibility that was hers to bear.

Then she would bustle about taking care of the household. She would cook for her family, clean and polish till everything shined. She would pamper her kids and her husband, complain of her aches to nobody.

And still find the time to do extra, closing off the day with another’s toilette, same as she did in the morning.

It is easy caring for your own blood.

We know they are our own, we have always loved them, and we always find it in us to care for them. We may have been ungrateful brats growing up, talking rubbish to our parents, uncaring/unseeing of their sacrifices but when we do finally open our eyes, we understand. But caring for others unrelated to you by blood- that’s a whole new ball game. It calls for an inner strength, the molten iron that the strongest among us are able to conjure. The ability to wield the rusting sword that no one wants to pick up, that’s strength.

Is it Smoke?

You cannot know when or where it shall creep in…

Quiet as the softest breeze blowing by, it seeps inside the merest crevice pore, diffusing through until it nips you at your most vulnerable and you realise something profound- you’ve been done for.

What if you put up a fight? Should you put up defences, bar further entry, erect shields where none exist..?

Try as you might, you’ll find it just as futile an attempt as the positive feedback that kicks in upon suffocation. It’ll only envelop you faster.

Embrace me, it whispered.

So what if you did, it cajoled. Let go, and breathe free.

But what if I could never rise? Bound within, writhing to be free?

Love is a smoke and is made with the fume of sighs
– W. S.

Pakistaniism Acting Up

Who are we? Pakistanis!

What do we want? To be treated like VIPs every moment of our lives!

Ever experienced a Pakistani wedding up close? If you look but a little carefully, you will find rifts wider than Karachi, riddled with potholes; each one going deeper than the last. Relatives decide to forego attendance altogether or they will pull the classic long-faced visit, wherein they make sure everybody wonders why that khala/chachi/taya/mamoo was so dour. Why? Well, the actual reasons are beyond comprehension but one may conjecture…

1. Is it because someone didn’t salam right? Perhaps my child did not go purring up to you the moment they clapped eyes on your person..? Of course, a loving correction wouldn’t have done the trick so you had to run me over with a steamroller and conveniently take it out at my loved one’s wedding.

2. Ooh I get it- it must be ’cause I didn’t invite your beloved so and so. Better yet, I did invite them but my smile wasn’t inviting enough, was it? The Dior colour was barely there and the words- didn’t use the magic word, did I? (This begs the question, do share if you know such a word, thank you please.)

3. Didn’t like the food, did you? The hosts should have known you like haleem with your biryani, how dare they serve one without the other! Perhaps you took issue with the dessert and the sheera with the gulabjamun was too runny? Tsk, tsk.

Grievously injured though you must be at the injustice done you in the name of food or invitation, it was NOT your day dear guest. Do you remember the people who invited you? Yes, the same ones whose blood you probably share, and who were crazy enough to have visited your home to deliver their invite in their anxious and exhausted state because they wanted to make you a part of their celebrations- it was their child’s wedding celebrations. Didn’t see that coming, huh? They may have seemed flawless and arrogant to your tiny vision on the big day, but they were actually simply tired and slightly overwhelmed, with their eye jumping from their guests to the food to the staff to their child and back again. Did you actually forget how it was when it was your child getting married? How small of you.

Say, [O Muhammad], “I do not ask you for this message any payment [but] only good will through kinship.” And whoever commits a good deed – We will increase for him good therein. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Appreciative.

– Quran, Ash-Shuraa, Verse 23

What’s In A Name?

Contrary to the Bard’s opinion, quite a bit. Something more than a shadow that makes your person, it truly sticks to you until death, and after, if you’ve been clever. If you’re Sarah, you are going to find it truly hard to make yourself feel like Saba. Is that why they change names for a role play, huh? It would be easy to slide into a Samantha or Sophia. If Sarah isn’t stubborn, Sophia can be as mule-headed as they come. Maybe Sarah follows the latest trends, but Sophia doesn’t care if the colour of her shirt stopped being popular last century. A name is for ownership and cannot just be let. The spelling is their own too. You can’t just spell the Sarah I know without an H and expect to get away with it. Nor can you add an H to the other Sara and think there won’t be repercussions. No sir. You better respect the spelling I own that was given to me by the parent/dada/mama/chachi/preschool clerk/government official/aunty next door/whomever because funnily enough, it now becomes me. Or so I say so. Besmirching a name? That is probably only as true as the strongest memory, and the meanest intention. Changing it? Well, it would be quite weird/unnatural to call a rose by any other name, despite what anyone may say. Wouldn’t stick either, so why would you?

Riddikulus!

Like everything else in the magical world of HP, being able to banish the manifestation of your fear is very cool indeed. How does it go again? Concentrate on adding a comical aspect to your fear, scream an incantation whilst in possession of a twig, and voila! The deed is done.

Could we employ that bit of hocus pocus to our lives? Our fears may range from the infantile to the worldly, but they are quite real after all. I remember reading in a book once, how the author banished his fear of ‘big’ people. He was in the real estate and when he had to talk to these individuals in intimidating positions, he would imagine them in their worst state of dress. A person dressed in a shabby undershirt and knickers would be easier to talk to! Interesting how it’s always been about power, isn’t it?

However, what if it’s bigger than one? What if your fear is actually of people? That’s a lot of individuals. Dubbed log kiya kahengay (what will people say) to the layman, this fear is tangible I tell you! You can smell it in the wary hesitation of a newbie upon induction, taste it in the murky waters of chit-chat, and hear it in the furiously working minds of those still wet behind the ears.

Then there are those fears we nurse quietly and hide from our own shadows, lest they slip and make us a laughingstock. We fear being accused of changing tradition, of choosing economy over the runway, of hightailing it to greener pastures, of telling disbelieving truths, of doing more, of knowing more, of curiosity and wonder, of appearing less than we are, of caring more, of not loving less enough, and of finding our fears laid bare in this list. Although, that would be hard to bring about since the list can continue ad infinitum.

What if they don’t (laugh at us)? How would we know if we’ve never tried? All these self-conversations fail to serve any purpose except bringing us ulcers. But then, log kiya kahengay.

Hoses and Cannons

If only living were as easy as following instructables on the internet. For instance, how many times have you read about tips to keep on top of your game (read: priorities), getting in control of your temper, or having better conversations? Yet if you were to rate the practical outcome of the reading to your life on a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is nil and 10 is mastery, would you be in the second half? Me, I know I’d fall shy (read: very, very shy) of even 5.Similarly, time and time again we read, watch or are told about how we ought not to discriminate on colour, caste or the degree of curvature of someone’s waistline, but have we put it into practice or tried to? Wonder why it’s shalwar that easily goes in and out of fashion for ages at a time, yet demeaning jokes about said curvature or the intensity of melanin have been here since time immemorial. Why else would RasulAllah have spoken about it in the last sermon? Why indeed.

Ever thought how impossibly dull life would be if everyone had the same perfect (whatever goes for one’s haughty definition of perfect) shade of skin; an even, model perfect waist to hip ratio; and the right kind of accent? How would we ever tell Americans from British, Karachi from Lahore, Indian from Pakistani? It’d be robots all around. And that would not be God’s green Earth.

Let’s look for cooler topics to talk about, shall we? How difficult it is for people to have access to necessities and what we can do about it, how we can improve upon conversations to win hearts all around, how a greater tolerance for accents would raise our ranks in His sight, and how we should truly stop advising people on getting fairer or thinner or fatter. Don’t do it even if it’s well-intentioned. Do it when they ask you.

In this age of visuals, most people aren’t living under rocks. Which implies that many of them are already probably, possibly, maybe battling with body image-an issue so obscure to most of us on our high horses, but nevertheless true. Girls crying through childhood and beyond, men succumbing to all that looks green, and depression- all sound cliched as anything, but merit repetition for it is oh-so-easy to forget.

Ignore all the random barbs you say? Grow up already, right? Hmm, let’s just ask the clouds not to rain for it may bring floods and plates to stop moving because they are going around causing earthquakes, shall we? For we still got to litter, baby. We’re humans.