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Saturday, November 26, 2005

Le Whore ... she just don't treat me right!

If I survive the next week (and the education conference), I shall be back in the arms of my hometown, that peaceful (ok, so I am pushing it) city of lights, Karachi. I shall, then, have time and the opportunity (and be safely out of reach), to tell you loads of stuff about my experiences in Lahore, a city that constantly reminds me of a passage from my all-time favourite book, Alice in Wonderland:

Alice looked round her in great surprise. "Why, I do believe we've been under this tree all the time! Everything's just as it was!" "Of course it is," said the Queen: "what would you have it be?" "Well, in our country," said Alice, still panting a little, "you'd generally get to somewhere else -- if you ran very fast for a long time, as we've been doing." "A slow sort of country!" said the Queen. "Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place."
Don't get me wrong: The hospitality at the home of my hosts can't be beat. CHILL OUT's gorgeous sugar-free ice cream, in two flavours unavailable elsewhere in Pakistan to diabetics like me, and Shoaib's unique humour are simply amazing, but (a) one does not have access to them everyday (Shoaib strictly forbids visiting him more than once a week!); and (b) I am sure there are harmful side-effects of both. Exceedingly soft-spoken Gulzar's erudite (and well-articulated) conversations are a treat, as is Salima's warmth. But one cannot be expected to tap these resources too frequently. (A secret: it was the possibility of interaction with these two that had made me consider, once, a longish stint at BNU, Pakistan's first Liberal Arts University.) Meanwhile, this is just to tell you all that this blog may be kinda inactive until the 5th ... although, for my own sanity, I will probably add a few lines every now and then. Oh ... a recommendation. Hamza Moin has an interesting site for young Muslims. Khuda Hafiz ...

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The School of Tomorrow: Part 4 - The Changing Scene

The Shrinking World and the New Media

Under a fast-shrinking world, values and cultures are melding, egged on at dizzying speed by the new media. Whether we like it or not, cross-currents of influence are altering our views and ways of life. How will the Education System prepare students for the conflicts that arise from this --- conflicts they will face within themselves, in their homes, and in their society? The impact of media is certainly far greater than it ever was, or was even envisaged, except by visionaries such as Marshall McLuhan, most known for coining the now-clichéd term, "Global Village".

One of his statements that requires careful consideration by educators is: The new media are not just mechanical gimmicks for creating worlds of illusion, but new languages with new and unique powers of expression. Accepting this view, which is both valid and undeniable, we need to be introducing Media Literacy into our curriculu; and soon. Many, around the world, are doing so already, equipping their students with the tools and the grammar of the new media. It is not just desirable but essential that our children not be left behind. With the plummeting costs of cameras and scanners, and the increasing access to computers in schools (the recent MIT unit will accelerate this further), a modest beginning is not as difficult as it sounds.

Podcasts and Blogs must be not only encouraged but be considered natural progressions in Language Arts and other areas of study. They are potent, allow more exciting ways of expression, engage the student, and cost almost nothing. Concepts of Media Awareness have to be incorporated early, too, at all levels of the Education system. After all, children are being targeted unscrupulously by mind-enslaving advertisements for products, while adult minds are continually bombarded with a variety of communication forms that blur all lines between truth, propaganda, and blatant lies - rendering their decision-making capabilities ineffective.

The message being received is, as one activist poster had it: Work, Eat, Buy; Consume, then Die! A great way to keep us all engaged - during the time left between watching megasports, thought-preventing sitcoms, and pseudo-serious 24/7 news about non-issues: after all, how important is it to know which head of state received purely formal - often hypocritical - salutes on arrival in another country?

All this goes on while the establishment slowly takes control of our personal liberties. [Note: Teachers and High-school students must be encouraged to read magazines such as Adbusters - available online.] These, and other related aspects, are being incorporated into the curricula, in the Western schools, from fairly early class levels. Already results show that children can discern such matters far earlier than many parents and teachers imagine.

We need to act NOW, if we are not to have this aspect of curriculum also defined by those who neither understand our values, culture, and aspirations, nor can be rightly expected to know what we treasure or cherish and wish to preserve most. Let us be proactive, rather than reactive. As the saying goes, if we don’t take control of our lives, someone else will. Recent memory and bitter experience tell us how educators, by distancing themselves from ICT (through fears, mistrust, and the resistance to change), handed over the reins in this field to technology-centred people and organizations. Soon, we ended up with tons of useless software and numerous proposed syllabi that, at best, revealed the ignorance of their authors, and, at worst, exposed their overarching desire to sell more hardware, with little or no thought for education.

Here's a plea: Teachers, Educators, Parents, please understand that Ignorance is neither bliss nor an excuse if the future of your children is at stake. Please learn about the new media; its power, its impact, its potential dangers, and its numerous advantages. Much of value is available on the Internet, itself. Do not repeat the above mistake by surrendering to a syllabus designed by ‘media specialists’. Certainly not for the K-12 sector. On the other hand, respect them for what they can do for Education. Let them help Vocational Training Centres develop and deliver courses for people wishing to join the Media Sector. Get them to sponsor, or help sponsor through their megabuck clients, community spaces, such as Sarai in India.


Finally, while there are many more aspects which will impact education and need to be considered, I will touch upon just one other matter close to my heart.

Regional Cooperation
In our region, this is a phrase on everyone's lips. SAARC members are constantly looking at the European model, and the Indo-Pak peace process rests a large part of its success on people-to-people contact, at least on paper (Visas are still hard to obtain). Already ideas about a common currency (Sasia has been suggested by SAF founder, Madanjeet Singh) are beginning to appear. All this brings about another set of complexities, but also provides tremendous opportunities. Here are some things that we must begin to think about and do:

• Consider ways in which shared histories can be used in the classroom to show how much more there is in common within the region, rather than always teaching about the wars which highlight only differences. 
• Encourage student- as well as teacher-exchange programmes and SAARC regional scholarships. When youth meet and spend even a short while together, their personal friendships have a ripple effect that is unbeatable. YIP offers several examples. 
• Introduce Peace Studies in schools. 
• A jointly developed course on the Environment (which ignores man-made political boundaries) would not be difficult to put together. SAF is already supporting such an initiative. 
• Sharing the massive expenses needed for developing really useful learning software, that could then be localized for each countries' national and regional languages, is an idea that can be followed up with Roger Schank (who is expected to be at the School of Tomorrow conference). Given the population sizes in our countries, the shared cost (per student / per year) of such courses would be easily affordable. 
• Inculcate truly global and universal values, such as Tolerance and Mutual Respect, through the curricula. Underscore the importance of this through international projects with schools across the globe. Placing more stress on this, than on the differences that have served to divide our world, is an essential first step.
If all this does nothing else, it will at least make schools useful until the real thing comes along.

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The School of Tomorrow: Part 3 - The Religio-Political Factor

An important issue to consider in the face of increasing polarization, but one from which many shy away ... It is no secret that a tussle exists between the religious right-wing forces, on the one hand, and the middle-of-the-roaders (plus the few remaining liberals) on the other. The latter have no clear-cut, or even well-defined, agenda (other than not accepting the views of the right-wingers), perhaps because of the lack of a common platform or coordination among themselves. The former, for all their internal disputes - mainly over aspects of shariah or fiqah, that would primarily affect the teaching of Islamiyaat in schools - are committed to the Islamization of Education, always a puzzling notion to me, since I thought Islam recommended all Education. (Sorry. I must correct myself. It recommended Learning, not Education. Subtle difference, no?).

The process of Islamization of Education, it has often been stated, should cover every aspect: from the educational environment, itself, to the content and the way it must be taught. Among several questions that must be looked at, in this light, should the religious parties come to power (or form an even stronger opposition), are:

• Will Arabic be made compulsory (as some have demanded)? Does that mean our children will - in addition to Arabic - have to learn a provincial and/or community language (their need and genuine right), plus Urdu (the National language), plus English or some other language (as an International language, for Business or Higher Education abroad)? 
• Will Co-Education at any level be acceptable? If women are, eventually, to be excluded from certain jobs or fields, as many Ülema have suggested, will the State stop teaching them those subjects or skills? 
• What limits, if any, will be placed upon the freedom of Private Schools? 
• How will non-Muslim Missionary Schools be affected? 
• Will non-Muslim students (although even the definition of this label seems fluid), in State or all schools, need to sit through History or other subjects where, by implication, their beliefs and heritage are often subject to ridicule, as is occasionally the case now? 
(Download the SDPI Report — Nayyer and Salim’s The Subtle Subversion — on the state of our text books. The report caused much furore, chaos and embarrassment all around.) 
• Even if we 'excused' the non-Muslim kids and sent them off to attend Morality 101, or some other Character-Building class, will not highlighting the differences affect the behaviour of the Muslim children toward them? Even more important, will emphasizing such differentiation (in any way) not make it easier for ‘the enemy within’ to exploit and incite violence among our population? 
• Will access to education via the new media (considering just the TV and the Internet, for now) be curtailed? 
• Will the Media itself — a greatly useful resource in Education — be heavily censored? 
• Will the Virtual University be supplemented or replaced by a Virtuous University?
Further difficulties will arise, inevitably, and will also demand to be tackled. For example, the curriculum will need to undergo a massive change as the objectives of Education are re-defined, or split into two separate objectives on the basis of gender. Even three, if one of the goals is to help the minorities to live peacefully as 2nd Class Citizens. Lest you feel that I am trying to make things seem worse than they would be, this idea of all non-Muslims being 2nd Class Citizens under a Muslim State was introduced by a popular leader in Islamic thought (at least in Pakistan), Dr. Israr Ahmad, during a recent Aaj Islam TV segment.

The Islamization of content and teaching methodologies brings to mind examples from the bleak Zia era, when suggestions, such as those from the Jamaaté Islami run Institute for Policy Studies, included the following. (These and more examples can be found in Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy's book, Islam and Science: Religious Orthodoxy and the Battle for Rationality)
  1. • Teaching Cause and Effect was deemed unIslamic as God was the cause of all. So the correct methodology of teaching such basic facts as 'Two parts of Hydrogen and one part of Oxygen combine to form Water' had to be supplemented by "God willing" or similar phrases.
  2. • Since all laws are God's Laws, it is unIslamic to call them Boyle's Law or Charles' Law.
And we are not even touching Evolution, a subject that seems to annoy many (but, thankfully not all) members of the Religious Right, the world over. The recent Dover School Board Trial in the USA, where Creationism - under the rather flimsy guise of Intelligent Design - was being introduced as Science, represents one end of the spectrum.

At the other end lies this country. It is more likely, here, that it is Evolution which may need to be cloaked in order to be taught. Although no law (to my knowledge) exists against its teaching, chats with numerous students and teachers reveal that this highly important portion of teaching Biology is now glossed over in many classrooms. The reasons include, sadly, the fear among teachers, of being trapped into answering a question that could then implicate them in a long brawl, and even punishment, under Blasphemy Laws.
Commonly known as the blasphemy law, section 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code 1860 stipulates that any person who ‘by words, either spoken or written, or by visible representations, or by any imputation, innuendo, or insinuation, directly or indirectly’ defiles the name of the Islamic Prophet, Mohammad, is liable for blasphemy. In additional to a fine, he shall be punished with the death sentence or imprisonment for life. In 1990, the Federal Shari’at Court ruled that the penalty for blasphemy should be mandatory death sentence, with no right to reprieve or pardon. The decision of the Federal Shari’at Court is binding but the Pakistani Government has so far failed to pass the necessary bill to amend the law. Hence the current situation is that the clause ‘or life imprisonment’ is void, even though the Pakistani Government has often used this anomaly to defend itself against critics of the death penalty. (From:

The final post in this series will cover issues connected with Globalization, New Media, and Regional Cooperation.

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The School of Tomorrow: Part 2 - "Feeding" the Job Market

Before I delve into areas of greater interest to me, I shall give in totally to those who view one of the main roles of the school as that of providing workplace fodder. Crude? My apologies. Feel free to replace it with any euphemism of your choice.

In 1987 a survey in the US showed that a full 63% of Job Titles in use then had not even existed just 30 years earlier. Seemed unbelievable to those of us sitting through the presentation, on October 4 that year. The date was the 30th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik. Suddenly, we all realized that several new jobs had sprung up because of the Space Race, alone, which had really begun in earnest after the Sputnik launch ruffled America's competitive feathers.

New jobs were, over the next 30 years, not confined to the Space industry and its fallout (which varied from the manufacture and sale of Superglue to research in extra-light construction material). Many other undreamt of wonders, such as the one Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were to pull out of their garage, suddenly altered entire lifestyles in homes and workplaces. This new personal computing industry created an immense need in the suddenly mushrooming software programming sector. Soon, Desktop Publishing and Desktop Animation triggered off their own offshoot industries filled with new job descriptions. And that was just one sector.

Tim Berners-Lee, the man responsible for the miracle that is the WorldWideWeb, was hardly 3 at that time. The bio-tech boom, poised to be “the next new, new thing”, to borrow a phrase, was not even the subject of discussion for the vast majority. Had people on October 3, 1957, been asked to predict the next 30 years, how close would they have got to the scenario that unveiled? As we look at the next 30 years, in this world of accelerating progress, how many of us can predict what the Job Market will be? And, of those, how many can work out the curricular needs to cover the shape of things to come? Of this handful, how many will have the ability to support and train teachers who will, in turn, be required to mentor the students, some of whom will even be born a quarter of a century from now?

More pertinent to our debate, will the majority of the skills needed in 2035 be best taught in a school environment? Even the most diehard defender of the school system would find this hard to believe in, let alone predict the changes required for the school to meet these demands.

When reading or hearing about the future of Education in Pakistan, I have generally found that the articles or talks relate only to those matters that are deemed to be connected directly to the education area, such as Assessment, Curriculum, Syllabi, Literacy, Teacher Development, and the physical school itself. Rarely, if ever, have I found references to 'external factors' that could and, doubtless, will have great impact over our learning and education environments over time. A few that come to my mind will be considered in my next post.

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Monday, November 21, 2005

The School of Tomorrow: Part 1 - Problem or Paradox

[This post is part of a series that, together, forms my response to the School of Tomorrow conference being held Nov 30 to Dec 2, in Pakistan, this year.]

Learning, as I understand it, is a spontaneous and on-going phenomenon that lasts through life. By that definition, Education is its very opposite: It is neither spontaneous, nor does it assume itself to be an continuous or on-going process. In fact, it places milestones that define when a person is ‘educated enough’ to perform certain tasks or to be certified as possessing a certain degree of knowledge.

Education is also, increasingly, an amalgam of (among other things) indoctrination and vocational training. Talking to academics over years, one cannot help but notice phrases from Business and Industry creeping in with speed: Students are referred to as Products … to be delivered to Industry, the End User ... ! The Education Market is said to be very competitive! Educators have begun to use terms that, until a few years ago, would have been considered downright insulting by a true Taalibé Ilm (or Seeker of Knowledge). ‘Travel to China to seek Knowledge’ seems to have been replaced, in the minds of educational institutions, by ‘Travel to the USA to seek jobs.’

Following the above line of reasoning, it is only natural that I would consider it impossible for "The School" — an institution, designed for the very purpose of serving and furthering Education — to alter its character to that of a Learning Evironment, without rebelling against its own raison detre.

Admittedly, from time to time, the school system has made concessions to ideas that feed the irrepressible human desire and impulse to learn. But such concessions have been quickly followed by labeling those ideas as a sort of sub-class (Montessori Schools, for example). Later, when societal pressures, commercial aspects (not to forget advantages) necessitate it, these ideas are subsumed by the system ... and then destroyed, by being reshaped into just another bland, mainstream process!

The most recent example of this is the delightful world of computers in learning, as envisaged by Seymour Papert and others. It only became acceptable after had been turned into boring subject, taught in classrooms where students are made to chant Excel Commands in unison and tested on their remembering the exact year Charles Babbage was born. But that’s a whole different debate … and a very touchy one.

The matter being addressed at the coming BSS-sponsored conference is The School of Tomorrow. Most discussion and conversation (but certainly not all, considering a few of the speakers invited) is expected to centre around how to improve the school system. I must state at the very outset that I don’t think such a thing is really possible, even if it were desirable. A friend, who also supports and helps run a chain of schools under an NGO, expressed a view that I encounter very often in response to my criticism of school systems. “The school,” he said, “is the only place we’ve got for learning, so why knock it? Do something constructive: Help us tweak and fine-tune them and put them right.”

My response to him came only weeks later, when he wanted to ‘computerize’ his garment factory: I sent him my broken down and battered (once-trusty) Commodore-64 computer from the 1970s, to "tweak and fine-tune" for his purpose!

Sorry, friends; but that’s how broken I think this system is!

So … is there an alternative, as another friend asked just today? An alternative? The use of the singular struck me as particularly strange, when the one-size-fits-all approach by schools is one of its major drawbacks. There are many solutions. Some are being tried out; others researched upon. After all, replacing an on-going system, which has entrenched itself into society slowly, cannot (should not!) be replaced overnight. But the thinking to do so needs to be put in place. NOW!

That the School System is failing is apparent by the hot topic 'School Reform' has become, from Pakistan to the shores of its current Ideological Twin (No points for guessing who that is!) ... A solution to such a vast problem requires more than a discussion among those who helped get us to this stage without heeding the obvious signs along the way. A much larger public discourse and debate would be ideal. But, for it to be meaningful, the public would have to understand the problem and the nature of the questions being asked. The media could play a great role in this.

We will have to re-identify and spell out the aims of education, consider the ways in which schools are unable to meet those needs, and structure the next system accordingly, if that is what can help. This process will need to be invoked time and again over the coming years. Revolutions are incomplete and pointless if counter-revolutions are suppressed. To stay relevant, all systems beg the classic feedback loop approach. We would do well to remember that the school system does not exist by Divine Edict.

Our allegiance needs to be to our children, not to an archaic idea that, however wonderful in its time, is now just short of useless when it comes to helping them with their future.

However, given that the replacement of schools is not happening any time soon, and while the debate for and against the system and its alternatives progresses, let us also ponder over the scenarios and problems. My own views on some of the forces that Education will need to reckon with will be part of the next 2 posts.

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Sunday, November 20, 2005

Mark NOV 25 on your Calendar

Intrigued? Check out this link

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

An Earth-Shaking Tale

This happened almost 6 weeks ago ... A doctor friend approached me for advice on an ethical problem he was facing: A middle-aged widow, a long-time patient of his, wanted an abortion to be performed on her young, un-married daughter. In Pakistan, as in many countries, this is illegal — although the laws, despite being vague, are not as harsh as many within Pakistan imagine due to the lack of awareness.

Note: The difficulty of spreading awareness about any matter connected with sex, without being accused of promoting promiscuity and immorality, is another widespread problem and has been a deterrent in running effective campaigns about birth control or AIDS.
Abortion is an even more difficult decision for a practising Muslim, since it is also considered sinful, as in many parts of the Christian world. Add to this the ghastly fact in Pakistan that, if discovered, the girl would be deemed guilty of an act punishable by 100 lashes of the whip under Pakistan's controversial Hudood Ordinances.

The decision had to be taken quickly. While within the safe zone at the time, the girl was fast nearing the cut-off date, after which an abortion would be almost certain to result in complications beyond control. The doctor, moved by the story the woman had told him, was willing to help on humanitarian grounds, despite the 'illegality'. What was bothering him, and holding him back, was the aspect of Sin. He needed to understand what Islam really said about this. Given that he is well aware of my views on such matters, I found it odd that he should have come to me for this aspect of support, but promised him that, after hearing the full case, I would give him my personal views on what I think Islam expects in such cases. But I did clarify a few things at the outset:

One: I strongly support all moves to make Abortion legal, if the reasons are sensible and valid (in the minds of the parties directly involved and/or the doctors).

Two: A woman's body is not a field to be used to fight political battles! I believe that the only person with an undeniable right to make the decision, unless incapacitated, is the woman who wants to have the abortion.

Three: Qür'anic verse[s] that are generally mis-used to oppose Abortion (and Birth-Control) do not support such a conclusion and refer to an entirely different context. I am of the opinion that Islam permits abortion under all reasonable circumstances. This view corresponds with that of many scholars of Islam. I am, of course, cognizant of the fact that certain scholars are extremely rigid about the opposite view and consider it haraam (forbidden).

Four: After years of reading, I have concluded that Muslims, are required - by their own Faith - to use ONLY the Qür'an in such matters. The Book describes itself, and no other source, as Al-Fürqaan (a word that means 'The Criterion' ... to be used to differentiate good from evil).

Five: My views on many subjects (such as Euthanasia) very often fall well outside those of the mainstream, as a result of not being burdened by any religious or sectarian thought. (The last makes it possible for many to pre-judge all my views as being immoral or, at least, a-moral --- although I consider myself to be a strongly moral person and try as hard as I can to live by my principles. Admittedly, I frequently fail.)

This is the story I was told.
The widow also has a daughter who lives happily with her husband and children outside Pakistan. On a recent visit her son-in-law stayed at her house for a few days and, finding an opportunity, raped the younger daughter (his sister-in-law). Having done so, he feigned an urgent call from his overseas employers the next day and left immediately.
The girl, understandably, hid this from her mother for a couple of weeks and then, unable to bear it any more, broke down and narrated everything. The poor Mother was torn by anguish and confusion. If she accused the son-in-law, what would it do? While it is easy to say, as advisors often do, that reports must always be filed (making it possible for the criminal to be traced and punished) if we are to rid our societies of such crime, other considerations must have intervened: The almost-definite resultant divorce of the other daughter and her ensuing misery; her two grandchildren being brought up motherless (should the court decision grant the husband the rights for whatever reason); the stories the young ones would be told as they grew up
The widow decided to advise her daughter to remain quiet and live with this burden ... after all, the world was a rotten place and such tragedies happened everywhere. Soon, all this would be a sad but distant memory. Time, of course, was the healer of all wounds. But, some wounds fester with time! Life rarely conforms to a Script. And Happy Endings are not even expected of Hollywood anymore. A few weeks later, the girl informed her mother that she was probably pregnant. Medical tests confirmed this.
If things were now brought to the fore, a new set of problems would present themselves: The possible counter-accusation by the culprit, that the young girl had had an affair and was covering up the real cause of her pregnancy by blaming the brother-in-law and hoping the family would be forced to resolve this internally; the rapist's very likely claim that the young girl had always tried to seduce him and was now getting back ... The variations and possibilities were endless. And the threat of the Hudood Ordinances even more real.
The only solution I could think of: Abortion!

So, I suggested that my friend consult, for greater peace of mind, the views of a few religious scholars of his own sect or preferred school of jurisprudence, but also that he never lose sight of Bertrand Russell's advice: Remember your Humanity and forget the rest.

I also advised my friend to get a gynae, one he knew well, to perform the deed. After all, as far as I was concerned, alternatives simply did not exist. All I could see in the girl's future was death, either by judicial edict or suicide. "No God", I said, trying to convince him within his frame of reference, "could be unhappy with him for lessening the misery of another one of His creations."

He spoke to a gynae. A staunch Muslim herself, she thought that the deed, under the circumstances, would be considered a kaaré savaab (an act worthy of the Lord's Grace). She agreed to perform the act as long as he (a surgeon) also remained in the room, thus ensuring that they were 'partners in crime'.

With the date set, my friend still decided to talk to various religious people, ranging from the garden variety of mulla to an aalim. The responses he received, shocked him. Despite the differences between what they profess on most issues, and the fact that many even consider the others to be 'outside' the world of Islam, they all agreed that Abortion was not acceptable and was, in fact a grave sin. Even in a case involving rape!

I was less shocked than he, having known that many hold this position. The most prominent among these being Maudoodi, the founder of the Jama'até Islami.

What hit my friend hardest was that the youngest of the mullas held the most disgusting of views that even infants got raped "as part of God's greater plan. And who are we to interfere with that?" ... (I wonder if, under this line of reasoning, all forms of medical treatment become questionable. Aren't other crimes and problems, then, also part of the same plan and should be left unchecked or unsolved? It was just this kind of ridiculousness, propagated by the Church, that led Galileo to say that he found it difficult to accept a Creator who would give humans a brain and forbid them to use it!)

The following week the ground shook beneath our feet as the Earth vomited at the thought of such people trampling upon her bosom.

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Friday, November 04, 2005

It's that time of the year again ...

... and I am inundated with text messages on my cellphone, instant messages on chatware, eMail, eCards, snail-mailed cards, print ads, and billboards screaming out EID greetings. Yechhhh! I hate it! No, I am not referring to the Festival, but to what has happened to the spellings and usage of our words over years.

Some of you old enough to recall the period may remember that the Brits - and this may offer a clue to why it rhymes with Twits - decided to spell all our words any which way they wanted. Part of the arrogance of being rulers, I guess. Some clown among them started to call the festival "Id" and that became the de facto English spelling. Greeting cards, on both sides of the line of partition, until the late 50s, predominantly used this spelling, and, in India, many continue to do so, as a quick googling of "Id Festival" will show. The Hindu has a story today titled KALAM, MANMOHAN GREET PEOPLE ON ID.

Around 1947, some people decided that independence meant all old things had to be changed ... and added another D to the word. "Idd Mubarak" was soon seen on many cards and banners, as it still is. (Yes. You can google that, too). Eid, the more common (though equally painful and incorrect) form really seems to have caught on like a blaze after the UAE and Saudi Arabia opened up job markets and many people from India and Pakistan used the opportunity to establish new links with imaginary roots. Some day I'll write about that, too.

The correct form, IMNSHO, should simply be Eed. Here are 2 arguments:
1. Which form (among Id, Idd, Eid or Eed, ) will help a person, used to any Western language, pronounce the actual word more correctly?
2. If Seen + Aen + Yay + Daal = Saeed (please picture this in Urdu) then dropping Sa (Seen) would leave Eed. As a corollary, adding Seen to Aen-Yay-Daal would turn Eed to Sa+eed or Saeed
(I am certainly glad that the festival is not as commonly referred to as Eidé Saeid as it used to be.)

Since our contact with the Middle-East ... and our concerted efforts to move away from the cultural heritage of pre-partition India, seen as much in our text books as in the increasingly guttural sounds some of our newsreaders and comperes produce, our language and culture have slowly been undergoing changes that are often unnecessary, if not ludicrous: Ramzan has become Ramadan ... and will soon become Ramadhan (which, to be fair, is closer to the original than Ramadan).

I am told that this is so because that is the correct Arabic pronunciation. OK ... but the word had become part of Urdu, na? So why this going back? Does just pronouncing a few words in the original Arabic form make us holier?

Will we, in the immortal phrase coined by P G Wodehouse, go totus porcus and change Majeed Lahori's delightful character Ramzani's name to Ramadani. Will our 'dameer' allow this? I'll emigrate, I swear, if Farida Khanum ever sings Aaj Jaanay Ki 'Did' Naa Karo ...

Jokes aside, there are real reasons to worry. For example, when the parents of an unmarried girl are told that her 'mard' requires immediate treatment, they may kill her on the spot, withut understanding that the Doctor was a rather religious man and used the word correctly!

Another offshoot of this mindset, even more difficult to argue against because the supporting arguments from the other side emotively invoke Islam, is the insistence of a growing number of people that the correct form is Allah Hafiz ... and, that Khuda Hafiz must be done away with. Can't both forms co-exist, as they have done for years? At the end of my last flight from Islamabad to Karachi, I responded to a steward's Allah Hafiz with an instinctive Khuda Hafiz (entirely due to my almost 65-year-old habit). I was informed, in an unmistakable Liverpudlian accent, by a young person - sporting a beard that reminded me of an Edward Lear drawing - that this is a 'minor küfr'...

Unable to argue with Aalims Offline (Why do they always tend to be bigger built than I am?), and desperately wanting to be on the Right Side of something in my life, I am currently considering a petition to alter the offending line in our National Anthem to read " ... Saayaé Allahé Züljalaal". Letters of support may be emailed to me.

Duaaé Maghfirat for Hadrat Hafeez Jullandhari, who wrote the now sinful Anthem (and, as a concession to the minorities and immigrants, included "ka", the only non-Faarsi or non-Arabi word in it) may be offered in private, since his current address is not known.

Legend has it that Noel Coward, having been tortured all evening by an American visitor's constant pronunciation of Schedule ... "Skejule", as opposed to the British "Shedule" ... just could not take it any longer. He walked up to the visitor and said: I think, Sir, you are full of Schitt!

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