A tale of one country and its biggest sin

The epitaph read,

“And she died, because they were too pretentious.”

‘She’ is the country we sing false praises of every year on 14th of August. ‘They’ are us.

Imagine long forgotten, buried nations with tombstones showing how they died. If Pakistan were ever unfortunate enough to be wiped off, it would hardly be terrorist attacks, earthquakes, corruption or poverty. We’ve had these problems for long. There is something else. Something more powerful, sneaky, and destructive for a third world country drowning in debt.  It’s my people’s knack for showing off like there’s no tomorrow.

Weddings. They have boiled down to competition, superiority, and status. Weddings are no longer about love, bonding, and hope. They are about life-choking expensive feasts, clothing, makeup, photography/videography, decor and honeymoons. Seven-day wedding celebrations to perhaps plaster their fairy tale love across the country? Or maybe just to display a lustful knack for bragging. Those who can’t afford without erasing their life savings, think twice, but go ahead anyway. Because hey what the heck, you only get married once right? So why not go all out. Now this by no means accounts for the rising divorce rate in Pakistan.

Birthdays and the likes. If you’re not chalking out the perfect Cinderella-like party for your one-year old daughter, who by now has learned the art of deciphering between mama and baba, then you are at best a nincompoop. The perfect cake, the perfect event planner and of course, the perfect venue. Whatever happened to simple, fun birthdays our children actually enjoyed? I know the argument here. It’s our money and we can do whatever we want. Sure, having too much money gives you the right to rub everyone with it. We are mindless clones. Even if we can’t afford to, we’ll always magically pull out our version of the royal event from torn, disheveled hats. C’mon now. You give a child that young a piece of chocolate cake and a wrapped present and he’ll think you’re God! But I know what you’re thinking, A child’s joy meets no match when he or she sees decked up women and men prancing around in ridiculous attempts to celebrate the ‘fun’ event.

Education. My stomach feels sick just thinking about the extent of the rat race here. The best ‘English-isspeaking school’, the highest fee package, the best-dressed teachers, the most fancy looking textbooks. Sure there are plenty of well-intentioned parents out there who want to send their children to elite schools for quality education. But the rest? The pretentious layers never peel off in time for them to realize what’s happening to their children. They understand only one rule. If the richest kid in class has that gadget, my child sure as hell is getting one! Sure, a five-year old missing out on the latest episode of Paw Patrol is the sin of sins here. You can’t possibly do that to your child. Sadly, this ‘richer-and-therefore-better-than-thou’ syndrome is our plague. We are raising a breed of self-obsessed, greedy children who will never open up their hearts.

Clothes. Sigh. It’s as if I’ll suffocate in the hundreds of yards of lawn/chiffon materials, and pret wear if I write about the clothing menace in my country. Ladies please, if you are so afraid of being caught in last season’s clothing, or you have to secretly compete with your bff for the best dressed award, please try not to infect other women. Because at the end of your selfie-dazed day, you’re tearing away at their hearts and desires, bit by bit. Sure that’s not really a valid argument because you are not responsible for another’s dissatisfaction and lack of privilege. But still. A little bit of humility and simplicity never hurts. And empathy goes a long way. Oh and next time you go out, try not to forget your child’s underage caretaker when you make her sit at another table and gawk at your fancy leftovers. Let’s just keep it at that.

Eating out. I am getting indigestion just thinking about what happens here. Gone are the days when we’d wait the entire year to get permission to eat out with friends at the fanciest restaurant we could afford, a.k.a. Copper Kettle. Also gone are the days when treating your friends and family on special occasions wasn’t so much about where you took them but about the moments you spent together. And drastically extinct and annihilated are the days when breaking or keeping fast at home was about simplicity and gratitude. Now shallowness has overcome this spiritual month. We take more time in dressing up to go out for Sehri or Iftar than we spend in prayer and self-evaluation. God forbid, if our Facebook check-ins at restaurants are less than the number of times we share Quranic Ayats. Pat on the back for maintaining the perfect balance every Ramzaan.

Here’s the catch of catches multiplied by 22 times infinity. Not all rich folk are masters of flaunting their money. Not all privileged people have wealth coming from sinister avenues. There are still some good eggs left. But by some unsaid rule, people with money, and oodles of it, are not allowed to simplify. At least most will not believe or support them. They will either be cousins of the miserly Uncle Scrooge, or not hip and happening enough. Some will limp across their crumbling cave of honour and follow everyone else. A small number will break the mould and do it differently. But that won’t matter because majority will still look up to the gold-studded and uphold disgusting standards. People who can’t indulge in luxuries will continue to swim in their pools of bitterness and skepticism. Their nightly howls of ‘Why us?!’ will haunt them permanently. The injustice forever stinging their open sores. No one is the wiser here.

Now feel free to get me wrong. Feel free to judge me for judging. But I have seen enough to choke if I don’t at least speak up. The fear of what the society will think or say is worse than it ever was. We are accustomed to a crippled thought process that never goes beyond the superficial scabby skin. Everything has an urgency attached to it. Gorge down or die. Slit the other’s throat or die. Encroach their territory or die. Compete or die. Win or die. It’s so much about the here and now that we don’t stop to think about the consequences. And there’s always a dire bunch of those we can’t escape.

In this fake, unbalanced world we’ve created, wide chasm between the rich and poor, the aware and ignorant, the humble and arrogant, the sane and insane, is increasing. Just beyond this skeletal existence we’ve become used to, is the point of no return.

And by the looks of it, we are damn proud. You and I together will continue to throw our country to the shredder…or at least till the ink on the tombstone dries up. Pakistan Zindabad (Long Live Pakistan)!

image credits: sameen khan

His Happy feet will always be remembered….RIP Robin Williams.

Remembering your happy feet Robin Williams.

“I grew up watching his movies. I grew up watching his magic. If ‘passion’ had a face, it would look like Robin Williams. He showed us humor. He showed us grief. He showed the world his happy feet, his happy hands and his happy eyes. Who knew he had the world’s grief bottled up inside?”

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My heart lurched as my brother told me Robin Williams was gone. His goofy yet warm smile, scrunched up eyes and gorilla-like arms flashed before my eyes. He was my favorite. All time favorite.

I grew up watching his movies. I grew up watching his magic. If ‘passion’ had a face, it would look like Robin Williams. He showed us humor. He showed us grief. He showed the world his happy feet, his happy hands and his happy eyes. Who knew he had the world’s grief bottled up inside?

A lot of celebrities and famous actors have passed away before him. In Pakistan, Hollywood and the world over. I have felt sorry for many of them. And I never thought I would write about an actor. The act altogether seemed irrelevant. Especially when so much is going on in the world. War. Chaos. Hate. But today I thought to write…

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Quetta bleeds, remembering tainted memories.

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It’s a startling world we live in. Places, people and memories are more likely to be associated with blood-chilling incidents than peachy, frolicky wonder years of the past. Dejavu is no longer a pleasant subtle whiff of a relived moment. It’s a creepy nightmare we’ve all had over and over again. It is in-our-faces rude, unpleasant and obvious.

Bomb blast in Quetta. And not just anywhere, at a hospital. This is not a memory I want to associate this beloved land with. More than seventy defenceless souls blown to shreds. This is not a moment I want to remember when I think of Quetta.

 I want to think of its abundant fresh produce, its delectable weather, rosy colored parched cheeks of local children, mighty mountains and luscious lakes one can’t stop seeing.

I want to think of it as some of the best years of my life where I made friends for life and discovered lifelong traits.  But blood? No that is not a memory I can keep.

But it doesn’t matter what I want or what any one of us wishes. What matters is that we can’t stay distant anymore. Our aloofness is shedding itself like post-bruise crusty skin. We can’t stand watery-eyed and pouty-lipped at the outskirts anymore. We can’t shake our heads in disbelief and then get back to grocery shopping, because it’s as easy as turning off wifi. We can’t disconnect ourselves.

These tattered memories of paths we once walked on, or soft hands we once shook, or history-soaked houses we once lived in, are all on route to extinction.

The children of tomorrow will have different memories of this place we call Earth. The children of the future will smell a most repugnant odour, taste a most putrid flesh, and touch a most prickly thorn. Our children will not have it easy.

So what if you live in Paris? Or the United States? Or Germany? Or Turkey? Or Bangladesh? Or Saudi Arabia? We are not all different. Schools, hospitals, religious institutions, nothing is a safe haven, nothing is off-limits. Soon recalling moments of the most romantic city in the world, or the bluest of blue heavens in Turkey will not be possible without dodging a hard, painful lump in the throat. This disease where rabid humans tear each other to bits is spreading faster than wildfire. This plague is affecting every single nook and cranny of our bruised planet. And we are fast running out of band-aid.

I like writing about hope. I like looking at the positive side. But sometimes I need to write it like it is. Only then does that help me cherish what I still have, while I still have it. Memories are precious.

The luxury of an untainted memory safely twirling like a sleek ballerina in a jewelry box is slowly slipping away. It could happen to you. It could happen to me.

So hold on tight while you can, to the loved ones, to the opportunities that come your way, to the faith, to the hope. Most importantly to the hope. Because more than anything it will prepare our indifferent minds to the reality of death. It will help us see a world where every day mothers bear children no matter how fiercely the clouds of misery burst. It will help us retain our compassion where all that prevails is mistrust and deceit. It will help us pray with truth and love, for people who suffered in Quetta today, for the countless lives before them splattered all over the globe, and for the ones who will bleed again, cry again, die again.

Kind of a big deal

Living with someone who makes you be a better version of you, is kind of a big deal.

Living with a person who can catch you at your lowest and help you bounce back,is kind of a big deal.

Living with a person who helps you look for inspiration in the everyday nothings, is kind of a big deal. 

Living with someone who makes you want to keep the mask off, is kind of a big deal.

Living with a voice that knows how to kick the crazies in your head, is kind of a big deal. 

Living with constant hope when no one else sees it, is kind of a big deal.

You my dear, are kind of a big deal.