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Sunday, May 31, 2009

An Important Survey

Romulus and Remus are said to be the twin sons of the Vestal Virgin, fathered by Mars, the god of war. Romulus slew Remus over a dispute about which one of the two brothers had the support of the local deities to rule the new city-state and gave it his name. 

As part of our Rewriting History Project, a modernized version of the legend is being considered for inclusion in the Pak Studies Textbooks being prepared for 2010 and, in the interests of our commitment to flirtation with Democracy, a survey is being conducted by the Ministry of Indoctrination Education. Your participation will be appreciated.

You are requested to respond to all 3 items from Section A and at least 1 from Section B.

Section A

1. In the above image, which one is Romulus?

2. Name the local deities who, you think, supported Romulus

3. Who do you think Mars refers to?

Section B 

1. Do you think Mars fathered the children against the Vestal Virgin's will?

2. Was the Vestal Virgin, herself, immaculately conceived?

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Tale of Three Tales

Tale #1

Nuzhat's father, whom I called Mamooñ Jaan, frequently regaled us with amazing tales that were often hilarious and almost always embellished for the sake of the telling, something that a storyteller's craft demands. Also, his stories were never-ending, because - like those of Schehrezade - they always spun off (or had the potential to do so) into several more.

Over half a century ago he once narrated to us how, having had his car hubcaps stolen in Calcutta, he was told by people to visit چور بازار (=Thieves Market). Even before the actual tale began, I seemed perplexed at the thought that a place with such a name, albeit 'unofficial', could exist. Years later, I was even more shocked when I visited Calcutta and heard my sights-guide rickshaw driver point out to a police station as the Chor Bazaar Thaanah!

But, like Mamooñ Jaan, I digress… so, back to his story: Assuming that the area would have a horde of stolen goods in some nooks and crannies, he was amused to find that most shops specialized in specific types of goods and, upon enquiry, was led to the 'motor parts section' and, thence, to the 'hubcaps subsection'! He was disappointed as, not too surprisingly, he couldn't see many Citroën hubcaps around. He was asked by the shopkeeper when the hubcaps had been stolen and when he said "Yesterday …" he was told, "Voh maal to Jum'araat ko aaye gaa" (="That stuff will come in on Thursday").

We found a criminal system being so organized - and so open about itself - really funny. Even at every retelling. (Yes, there were many!)

Tale #2

It was also at Nuzhat's house that I met her 'Sheefi Bhai' - the son of some friends so close to her family that, for all practical purposes, he is considered a cousin. Sheefi - and he was not being satirical - once called Pakistan's Police Force more efficient than those of the rest of the world. The latter, he felt, had to resort to painstakingly track down criminals. "Our police people", he told us, straight-facedly and with obvious awe, "know who has committed the crime. They just are unable to catch them!"

"No Comment" (but only because ROTFLMAO wasn't known then!)

Tale #3

This morning Nuzhat was unable to control her laughter as I read out a front-page story from The News International's City Section.

Here's my annotated abbreviated version (with a link to the full story):

Three die as Bengali gangs clash in Korangi

Two gangs of Bengali robbers clashed with each other in Korangi area late Thursday night over territorial jurisdiction (Interesting that illegal immigrants should fight to death over territories that are not legally theirs, in the first place.) …

According to the police, [two Bengali gang-leaders have] been operating in Sector 50-C, 100-Quarters, Korangi in Zaman Town police limits for the past several years. (So why haven't they been stopped?) …

The area is reportedly inhabited by more than 100,000 illegal Bengali immigrants (Ok, so we now have a load of people engaged in illegal and criminal activities and we have them in one corralled space. So what are we waiting for? An independence movement so that we can arrest them for treason?), but the activities of both gangs had the police chasing after them since a long time (errr ---- but? you mean the police were after them despite their illegal activities? How odd!) …

The police said that when they were informed about the clash, they immediately reached the scene of crime, but due to the narrow lanes in the area, they could not enter. (May I suggest that, next time, we don't send fat policemen?). After several hours, the police managed to enter […] with the help of [an] Armoured Personnel Carrier (OMG: Does this mean that the policemen sent earlier were even fatter than the APC which seems to have gotten through.) …

Officials concerned meanwhile fear that if both these network are not clamped upon (By whom, dear officials? Aren't you supposed to do that?), the area might face a Lyari-like gang war since both Alam and Shakoor commanded the vast support of the Bengalis residing in the area. This apprehension is not [without] reason, as both men had been close friends in the past and used to rob citizens passing through the industrial area together, while also committing house robberies and killing people who resisted. Shakoor Bengali also used to sell narcotics in the area. (Wow! The Police certainly keep a tab on everything. Guess it's needed for their records. No action, of course, was needed to be taken after obtaining all this info.) …

Alam Bengali is said to be very close to Rehman Dakait [=Dacoit] of Lyari, who used to support him on various occasions. Most arms used by Alam Bengali were provided by Rehman Dakait, which included rifles, Kalashnikovs and repeaters. Whenever the police conducted an operation in Lyari, Rehman Dakait used to send his men to Alam’s den in Korangi for shelter. Similarly, when the police operated against Alam Bengali group, Alam and his accomplices found refuge in Dakait’s dens in Lyari. (I REPEAT LOUDLY: Wow! The Police certainly keep a tab on everything. Guess it's needed for their records. No action, of course, was needed to be taken after obtaining all this info.) …

Police officials had decided to launch a grand operation against the criminals, but on late Thursday night, a fierce clash erupted between the two notorious gangs (ANOTHER REPEAT: errr ---- but?) …

The area remained tense till the filing of this report. (I am tense, too, as should all peace-loving folk be. However, I am ambivalent about who worries me more: The gangs or the police. That is, of course, if they are different entities.)

But, seriously, what could be the reason for this confusing state of affairs???


Oh ... and Sheefi: You win!

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Friday, May 29, 2009

For Maleeha Azeem

Faiz sahab would have loved it.
Will celebrate when you get here…
Nuzhat & Zaheer
PS: Hope your own "More" makes it up there, too!

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Ad Nauseum …

Today, like almost every day, I received an email that was highlighting the plight of the Swat residents who have lost their homes and more. The mail, like others of its ilk, also suggested one of the numerous agencies that were engaged in relief work as a possible organization to which I should donate funds. Noble, no doubt. And who could ever fault the sentiment? But, nonetheless, I let off a silent scream … Why? because the To: field contained the names and addresses of 32 people, including mine. And, as if that was not stupid (and dangerous) enough, the main body contained all the headers of the 17 other people who had Forwarded this. Totalling the list of people whose email addresses were now available in this one document, I reached the diabolical number of 666 (Hmmm!). I am sure you, too, receive such stuff almost everyday:

Whether the body contains the occasional serious matter, such as today's email re Swat, or the usual, generally yechhh joke, there is - at the very least - the inconvenience and annoyance of having to scroll down a long, long document to get to the meat. And, in the largest number of cases, the end is a let-down, anyway. 
Worse, the same mail has, in all probability, been received by you minutes earlier (or soon will be), forwarded by one of the people among those listed. Six Degrees of Separation can be a pain!
Such inconveniences, I guess, one should not have to live with - and those who inflict this upon you are rarely worthy of being called 'friends'. However, the dangers that such idiocy by the 'forwarding friends' poses is not that easy to deal with. What are the risks? For one, you can lay the blame for an increase in the SPAM that you now receive, directly or indirectly, on this brainlessness: • Directly, because any one of the recipients can (and frequently do) add all the people in the email to his SPAM list and use it to sell you products, send you unfunny jokes, preach, or provoke. And if he, too, leaves the list exposed, there will be a multiplier effect. • Indirectly, because many unscrupulous people scan such mails (manually and through software) to gather all the email addresses and add to a database - which is then 'sold' to allow other unscrupulous buyers to use it for the puroses listed earlier. For another, such lists are also used to 'track' large numbers of emails and mine data like Phone and Credit Card, Account Numbers, Passwords - that, despite warnings, some people do transmit. ----- Ok, so you receive a really important message, such as the Swat Relief thing that you feel MUST be circulated. What do you need to do? 1. Click the Forward button 2. From the body of the email remove ALL traces of previous 'forwards' and email addresses 3. Add your list of friends you wish to send this to in the Bcc: field 4. Send! On the off-chance that the mailing program you use does not send out email unless there is at least one address in the To: field, add your own in that space. You will receive the email, too, of course, but consider the bright side: you'll know for a fact that your mail did go through! My mail program and the filter (SpamSieve) are set to send all such emails to the Junk folder … one that I check every few days to see if something has been wrongly sent there. After 'training' the filter I have discovered only 3 mistakes in months. Good going, Apple Mail and SpamSieve!!! ----- While on the subject of Compulsive Forwarding, here are two old posts that you should take a peek at, when you find the time:

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

FeelGood Product of the Year

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

DAWN gets it "101%" right!

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Friday, May 08, 2009

Arundhati Roy drops in …

She was scheduled to deliver the Eqbal Ahmad Memorial Lecture in Lahore, along with Eqbal's close friend, Noam Chomsky. The event got postponed because of some reason or the other and AR decided, on a day's notice, when requested by Women's Action Forum, to utilize her visa and fly over to take part in WAF's event at the Karachi Press Club: Women Reclaiming Public Spaces

While this topic has gained more prominence in the face of the physical Taliban onslaught in our villages upcountry, the space has certainly been shrinking over the years, since the even more dangerous onslaught in the cities. of the creeping fundamentalist mindset. This warped system has been busy scoring victories over the brainless since Soddies, Farhat Hashmi, Zia, and his spiritual son, Nawaz Sharif have been helping it along, with the help of some sections of our shahaadat-seeking javaans.
Arundhati, of course, was here to talk about the more broad- based scenario and her experiences in India where the Hindu Taliban (aka RSS) are trying similar tactics, as the recent anti-women incidents in Bangalore have shown. She is, of course more fluent in English than in Urdu, a language that she picked up in Delhi when she moved there from the South. In fact, last night she told us that the only sentence in Urdu that she knew to speak, when she arrived in Delhi, was a strange line from a story she'd learnt in school: Jab sübah aankh khülee to daykha kütyaa maree pa∂ee haé. I suspect she could not have used that in her conversations too often.
It was, therefore, a delight to hear when she prefaced her talk today, by describing a TV interview she had seen, that she has improved her vocabulary considerably. Sabeen has put up the full video of AR's talk. (Were YOU there?)
Arundhati - as anyone who has met her will testify - combines simplicity, warmth, grace, charm, vivaciousness, radiance, with an intellect and passionate activism that is extremely rare.
For some reason the only other image that came to more than one mind last night, during discussions over dinner, was that of Nandita Das.
Everyone knows AR for her novel, The God of Small Things, later political writings, her fiery speeches, and the espousing of causes that fight social injustices. But many may not be aware that ND is not just an actor (and Director of Firaaq), She, too, is a strong feminist and activist, as I learnt when she gave me her short public service clips. Take a look at Car Park, Jalebi, and Roll Call - three very short videos (around a minute each!) on Education.  I found them extremely moving.
PS: 8th May was also our 39th Wedding Anniversary - so we couldn't have asked for a better gift!

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The Secret Ingredient - Live & Let Live!

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Educators/Parents: It's Your Call

Web Wise Kids, Verizon, WILL Interactive, and the ESA Foundation have created the game “It’s Your Call” for schools, law enforcement and community organizations to teach teens about “sexting,” cyber-bullying, academic cheating and related issues. Launched in the Los Angeles Unified School District at Sepulveda Middle Schools in North Hills, CA, the game aims to help over one million students in the U.S. learn about safe cell phone use and Internet responsibility. Users of the game become live action characters that “play out difficult situations in the safety of cyberspace before they live them out in real life;” the game also offers guidance about responsible cell phone behaviors and how to stay safe. FROM: Tech & Learning eNews - May 5, 2009

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Sunday, May 03, 2009

A Tale of Two Anthems

Aé sarzameené paak
Zarray teray haéñ aaj sitaaroñ se taabnaak
Roshan haé kehkashaañ se kaheeñ aaj tayree khaak
Aé sarzameené paak
اے سرزمینِ پاك
ذرّے ترے ہیں آج ستاروں سے تابناك
روشن ہے كہكشاں سے كہیں آج تیری خاك
اے سرزمینِ پاك
O' pure land,
your every particle is more luminous than the stars.
Your dust is brighter than the Milky Way.
O' Pure Land
These are the only lines I can recall from Pakistan's FIRST National Anthem. It was written by the then Lahore-based poet, Jagannath Azad, in response to the Quaid's wish that our Anthem be written by a non-Muslim to underscore the vision of a secular Pakistan. The current Anthem (which includes the phrase Saayaé Khüdaaé Züljalaal that, now, apparently bristles some) was adopted just a few years later.
Can anyone help dig up the rest of the original?
While on the subject of the Anthem, people around my age may remember its majestic sound from the days of our youth. The richness of the band due so much, I guess, to the sounds of the instruments of that time - as well as the chorus version - has long disappeared, to be replaced by a relatively uninspiring re-recorded sound that leaves me cold.
Thanks to our finest composer-arranger-musician Arshad Mahmood's direction, and a brilliant recreation by the children of Karachi High School, you can download and hear that majesty again in this recording. 
I'd like to direct you to two of my earlier posts (this and this) that are linked to this topic.

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Saturday, May 02, 2009

Laugh a while ... there may be a lot to cry about soon!

1. Each time I hear one of our boozing, womanizing, murderous, hypocritical leaders speak of Islam I am reminded of Dilawar Figar:
Agarcheh poora Musalmaan to naheeñ laykin
Maeñ Apnay deen se rishtah to jo∂ saktaa hooñ
Namaaz-o-Rozah-Hajj-o-Zakaat küchh nah sahee
Shabé Baraat pataakhah to chho∂ saktaa hooñ

 2. Alexandre Dumas provided the perfect reason for voting PPP or MQM (or even, horror of horrors, JI and JUI) instead of Imran Khan &c or Nawaz Sharif &c when he said, "Rogues are preferable to imbeciles because they sometimes take a rest."

3. T2F's ex-Landlord is, like many of my friends, a mohaajir Pathan from the UP, so I've been wondering if the current situation in Karachi demands that he shoot himself!

4. I close with another Dilawar Figar gem of which I was reminded by the recent arrest of 'miscreants':
Iss khabar par to naheeñ müjh ko ta'ajjüb, Ae Figar:
Ayk ghündah halqaé Lahore mayñ pak∂aa gayaa.
Haañ, agar tho∂ee si haerat haé, to voh iss baat par:
Kaésa ghündah thaa ke jo iss daur mayñ pak∂aa gayaa?

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