Monday, December 10, 2018

A human who became a rat and died a rat

Labels and tags; are they necessary?
Is it really necessary to compartmentalize the richness of a human being?
Does the efficiency that classification brings really worth the destruction of an individual’s self esteem?  

When you really don't fit into any label. Your definitions of labels are as dicey as the labels themselves. Whether you are a bigot or not, depends on who is deciding. Just as beauty lies in the eyes of beholder, your definitions are always changing. Cutting someone slack, giving grace marks or exception; favors and sides - is that what we have all come to be?

Where you live? What you wear? What you do?
When some of your best sleeps are at worst of places. The clothes don’t guarantee the best laughter. When your work doesn't guarantee contentment.
Why does it matter?

Your personality type? Your skin tone? Your voice?
When there no two identical personalities in the world. When flesh is same, flows the same, behaves same. When the sweetness of your voice cannot take the bitterness of your words.
Why do you classify?

Your faith? Your education? Your occupation?
When everyone practices faith in their own way and sins, and sins differently. When education doesn't guarantee wisdom. When occupation doesn't bring any compassion. 

When these things don’t matter, why are labels still so important? Do they expedite decision making and help us use our time better? Time is money after all! Does it all come down to money? That doesn't appear so smart; the work of the smartest creation on earth. 

So your residence locality, gathering superiority, unworthy popularity, happiness artificiality, power priority. And still nothing?

And then you die. You mean nothing. You are forgotten. 

The tagging game you play every-day; some days you miss and get a prefect and other days a mischief, sometimes noble and other days a thief, some days pretty and other days beef, some days smart and other days jeez!

You are never good enough? For whom though? [Loug (People)?]

Your self esteem is determined by you. Your self worth is what you decide. Be true to you and to the human kind. Dance in the rain, lend a hand and donate your time. Love your family, enjoy the moments and grow things you leave behind.

Voices will fade and the crowd will not look twice.

You are born free, don’t die a mice.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Iss parcham k saye talay hum ik hain? (We are one under this flag)

We have different skin tones, we are different body types, we practice different faiths, we have different beliefs, we have different lifestyles, we have different occupations, we have different challenges, we have different circumstances, we follow different theories, we have different status, we have different hobbies, we speak different dialects, we belong to different sects, we speak different languages; we are different. But we are one.

That oneness is our unity. The oneness of our hospitality, the ones of norms, the oneness of our piece of land, the oneness of our traditions, the oneness of our songs, the oneness of our sports, the ones of our identity, the oneness of our society, the oneness of our systems, the oneness of our economy, the oneness of our people, the oneness of our language, the oneness of our love for the society, the oneness of our pride, the oneness of our air. We are indeed one.

We are different but we are united under our flag, our land, our identity.

Our identity is composed of all the differences that exist in our society. A Muslim economist, a Hindu lawyer, a Christian farmer, a Zoroastrian teacher, a Jewish doctor, an agnostic engineer, a Sikh solider are all Pakistanis. We are one with all these differences. Our identity is inclusive of us all.

We are stronger as one.

We cannot afford intolerance. We cannot afford classism. We cannot afford sectarianism. We cannot afford sexism. We cannot afford racism. We cannot! It hurts everything; it effects us all. It impacts our security, economy, society, politics, development, environment.

Whether we like it or not; Pakistan is not one niche of our society but it us all. We cannot sustain on not employing the minorities, we cannot sustain on making exceptions favoring the elite. We cannot sustain by behaving above the law. We cannot sustain by misusing our privilege.

Its about time we start owning to our oneness. It is about time we forgo our differences and celebrate our similarities. It is about time we play our part to create that balance that provides an equal footing for us all. It is about time; we embrace our differences. 

Friday, July 27, 2018

Even the soul left the body (Short stories)

Thirty seconds remaining before the signal turns green; this dirty boy needs to speed up picking his coconut strips from the road. How stupid does one have to be drop a small tray? That is probably why he is a street vendor. Most likely, he will sell these soiled coconuts to the cars stopping at the signal later. Ten seconds (driver beeping); aww! the poor thing is crying. But needs to hurry up! I am getting late for the fund raiser.

I am so excited to be part of the fundraiser for a primary school, set to be opened by end of the year. It feels great to be part of something that is bigger than me. I am volunteering for this multi-national non-profit that focuses on child education. It's great learning working with them; great network and will help with my college applications.


Tanveer:          Don't you feel it?
Anum:             Feel what?
Tanveer:          The numbness.
Anum:             What numbness.
Tanveer:          This numbness that's growing around us.
Anum:             It doesn't bother me.
Tanveer:          Your life goes on.
Anum:             I am sorry if you have a problem with me being content. I have my own battles that I fight, I have my own struggles and I don't need your approval.
Tanveer:          I did not mean to offend you. I just think sometimes, that we have got the bigger and better share of life than most people. We are privileged in every sense and may be we ought to do more for the lesser privileged. We owe it to others, its our responsibility. We are where we are for a reason.  
Anum:             I have worked very hard for where I am. I studied hard, I spent wisely, I struggled. I am honest and I contribute to the economic activity of the country.
Tanveer:          True and I do too. But we do it for ourselves.
Anum:             Yes, we do it for ourselves because we live in a world that judges’ success by money and power and status. The society designs us to be selfish and not selfless. You may not like to hear it but it is true and no matter how bad it sounds, it is survival. Money defines our social circle, residential area, entertainment, lifestyle... likability.  
Tanveer:          That's not contentment. After achieving that comfort, social approval and likability; would it feel like success?
Anum:             Thousands die everyday; thousands are born everyday. No one knows, no one cares. That's the circle of life.
Tanveer:          Some live forever. They are the outliers. They don't care for status and likability. They are disowned by family and friends. They don't live the easy life but they are the only ones who live life.  
Anum:             I don't mind living a dead person’s life that gives me a pool side view for my breakfast when I am sixty.


We like happy endings. We like seeing the good in the society. We like consuming stories that inspire us; stories that feature extraordinary people. It gives us the comfort that there are such courageous, brave people living among us that save the day. We believe keep the balance in the world. Those people are not us and we don't try to be them. We are viewers, we are comfortable in our seats and we like that. We forget that these people are among us and they are decreasing in number. If these individuals, these mavericks disappear we will have nothing but tragic endings and darkness to experience.

Source: Movie, "Khalil Gibran's The Prophet", screen shot

Friday, March 9, 2018

Yayy!! International Women’s Day!

International Women’s day may be over but the conversation it started is not. That conversation is an opportunity to have that uncomfortable discussion that everyone avoids or hesitates to participate in fearing everything from being judged to being challenged on the status quo; that holds true both for men and women. But isn’t that the point?

In a patriarchal society like Pakistan, its an even harder conversation to break; men don’t want to be labeled sexist and women don’t want to be labeled prejudiced. The underlying understanding, however, may even be the same at times. Although it is part of a much larger topic of ‘diversity and inclusion’ which is very close to my heart and people are generally more receptive to that over anything women...

If I’d a dollar for every time someone told me I am wherever I am, is because I am a female, I would be a billionaire (And I would move to Themyscira, for those of you who don't follow Marvel comics, google it). Me? who spends most of her time with privileged, academically trained social niche but still feels this way; this ought to be discussed. So, at the risk of my social likability, I will try to share some logic, debug some misconceptions and jot down some suggestions.

Diversity by definition is ‘being different’. It means people from different backgrounds, sexual orientations, cultures, age groups, religions, gender identification, race etc. When they come together, there is usually a majority and several minorities. In a truly diverse place there will be equal representation of all groups. But as long as there is a majority; most of the policy, environment, norms, culture would have been designed and shaped as per their needs. The largest population diversity that's a minority at our workplaces is women. (There are even smaller representation from other minority groups i.e. religious, geographic, differently abled etc. but for this piece, the focus is on gender, specifically female, diversity)

Now! Why is it important?

Diverse workforce is better representative of the population it intends to serve. It enables the workforce to deliver to the needs of the population. Therefore, putting organizations in a better position, economically. A study by American Management Association states “more accurately the senior team of a company represents the demographics of its market, the more likely it is that the company will design products, market services, and create ad campaigns that score a hit….. diversity interacted with business strategy in determining company performance as measured in three different ways: productivity, return on equity, and market performance[1]
Diverse and inclusive organizations are most likely to attract the best talent, making it their competitive advantage. Positive correlation between diversity and share value has also been established through research.[2]
Therefore, leaders, think tanks and policy makers introduce special interventions like quotas, trainings, institutional focuses, special accommodations etc. to promote and facilitate participation of minority groups in, controlled, environments. Case in point would be increasing gender, specifically female, diversity in workplaces. Well everyone responds differently to that; below are some real-life permutations:
1.     Some men in majority feel threatened; they fear discrimination (ironically).
2.     Some women in the minority are not ready for that change either, they are accustomed to the status quo.
3.     Others, both men and women, take the harder road and pave the way for many more to come. I will call these men and women agents of change. They choose to take the tougher road with their own ways, capacities and intentions.
4.     The society largely is not an early adopter to social changes making it tougher on agents of change. (I, literally, just defined agents of change in the last bullet so this bullet could sound better)
5.     Policy makers and leaders have to work even harder to get successful results from these interventions while brining a balance to the understanding and tolerance levels between the majority and minority group(s).  

What role can we play towards making this journey easier? These are some of things I, try to, follow:

1.     Respect. Always!
2.     Be an agent of change.
3.     Listen. I think this is most important! Don't sit in a conversation with a conclusion and closed mind. Be open to listening. Just listen! Even if you don’t agree. We live in a society where the social structures and roles are so ingrained in us that anything challenging that status quo; we not only resist it, we deny it. And listening each other’s point of view is the first step towards a more inclusive environment.
4.     Know that you could be wrong.
5.     Support each other.
6.     Share opportunities, be more inclusive.
7.     Avoid making discriminatory jokes, comments or questions.
8.     Respect. (I know, its already in the list, its just that important)

We are just touching the tip of the iceberg; this journey is much more then just female inclusion in the economic activity of the country. Imagine double the current population pushing the economic wheel forward, what wonders would that do. But we are far away but moving there. I just hope that we take more steps forward then backwards.

In the end, I would like to really thank men and women, and people of other genders, in my life who have shaped me to be who I am. I can not thank you enough for shaping me and supporting me. We are one society; lets be there for each other. 


[1]“Diversity Boosts Performance,” HR Focus, May 1999, p. 5.
[2] Joan Crockett, “Winning Competitive Advantage through a Diverse Workforce,” HR Focus, May 1999, pp. 9–10; Kevin Campbell and Antonio Minguez-Vera, “Gender Diversity in the Boardroom and Firm Financial Performance,” Journal of Business Ethics, Vol. 83, No. 3, 2008, pp. 435–451