Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

In the Fatima Jinnah Park

I went to the F-10 park Megazone last night for a bowling session with a colleague. It’s always good to have a little recreation when you’re stressed out and have things in your head which keep pinching you from time to time.

It wasn’t the first time I was going there, so I had a wee bit of experience in rolling that heavy ball down the alley, and hence was confident that I would be able to get a few spares or, if I were lucky, full strike outs. Although there were quite a lot of cars in the parking lot, relatively fewer people could be seen inside Megazone, which is surprising actually because I cannot imagine people having a fun time walking around in this humid weather in the park! But it wasn’t as cool as it should be in Megazone too, probably because of the fact that they’re not entirely running their systems on generators or other energy saving/generating devices.

But before me and my partner started our bowling session, I spent some time looking at a group of little children in sparkling white uniforms and belts of various colors around their waists running about in circles, kicking soft pads, and jumping through rings of fire! Oh yes, these were little karatekas training to become warriors, to get fit, or just to have a good time. All their movements were properly coordinated and they moved in synchrony on their instructors commands. What I loved most about the entire scene was the way they came running towards their instructor when they were called, bowed obediently all together and shouted “Osu”, and then got in the fighting ready stance with their feet shoulder width apart and their fist lowered in front of them. Seeing such discipline and coordination in little children whom one usually expects to NOT listen to whatever their elders have to say was very satisfying.

Here’s a picture of the kids standing in a line and kicking a soft pad which their instructor is holding. It’s obvious that I had to keep my distance to avoid getting hit by those powerful blows:

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After their kicking and punching and kata session was over, it was time for them to practice extra skills. First their instructors made them jump through a metallic ring with a mattress in front of it for them to safely land on. Then they put the ring on fire and made the kids jump through it! Here’s a picture of one of them preparing to jump through the firey ring. A bit blurry, but I guess you can see what’s going on:

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I talked to one of the junior instructors about what art they were teaching. He wasn’t familiar with most of the ‘technical’ karate terms I was talking about, so I asked him in plain Urdu. He told me that their head instructor was a 3rd Dan in Shotokan, a popular form of karate being taught in our country. Karate types like Shotokan stress on repetition, practice, and the importance of kata (a series of movements which are thought of as an encyclopedia of combat). A few older people were there practicing too, but the class was largely dominated by children.

For most people, martial arts are mostly about kicking and punching and maiming your opponent in a variety of clever ways. But above all, it is all about discipline, compassion, patience, balance, harmony, and peace. Teaching your children these important things can be the most valuable gift you can give to your child. So I would definitely encourage sending your children to a good martial arts school in the city. And I would love to see more of these sprouting up in the capital.

Public display of PPP’s flags in Islamabad – Is it a democratic action by an elected government?

Public display of PPP’s flags in Islamabad - Is it a democratic action by an elected government?

Hoisted on the birth anniversary of Benazir Bhutto, yes, PPP’s flags are still ton display in the heart of Islamabad . Some 18 days have already but nobody knows how long these flags  will remian hoisted in the capital city.  These flags are giving Islamabad a look of PPP’s own capital rather than Pakistan’s capital . I wonder if this public display of PPP’s flags is the decision of some bureaucratic ‘chamcha’ who is trying to please our accidental-president Mr Zardari for some monetary gains or is it the decision of the federal government itself ? Well, whatever it is, this is a non-democratic action and could lead to political confrontation. Democracies do not behave in such a manner but such an attitude could be observed in countries where authoritarian rule is in place . Last year, we  have gone through a transition from an authoritarian system of governance to a democrtic system of governance.  Our elected government should at least show some democratic norms if they consider themselves ‘democratic’ or they should stop claiming to be a ‘democratic’ government.

Scavenger Children at Work in Islamabad

Scavanger Children at Work in Islamabad

This is summer vacation time in Islamabad for school going children but not for  Afghan scavenger children who in their ragged clothes, unwashed faces travel long distances everyday to pick recyclable waste in their waste collection bags from waste dumping points located in markets, residential areas as well as hospitals. Their parents are unskilled, illiterate and live in abject poverty. Parent’s poverty forces these kids into scavenging. While other children of their age are going to school, these scavenger children become earning hand of their poor families living in abject poverty. Nevertheless, they are not only exposed to various health hazards but also become victims of sexual abuse. We should appreciate the hard toil of these scavenger children because they, unlike hundreds of beggar children found begging in various markets and roads of Islamabad, are not begging but are earning their living through hard means.

Despite the fact that the Government of Pakistan is a signatory of the Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989, the steps taken by the government to protect children rights are still invisible. I wonder if this is the sorry state of affairs in Islamabad as far as the implementation of Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 is concerned then what would be the situation of child scavengers in other parts of the country. My question to all of you is what our government should do to protect child scavengers from all sorts of exploitation and hazards? Should the government ban scavenging altogether keeping in view the associated health hazards for scavengers and promote a culture and awareness of recycling at the household level as is done in developed countries or should the government formulate a comprehensive policy for the rehabilitation of scavenger children while providing them free education and offering their poor parents some monitory assistance or should the government continue doing business-as-usual?

Security situation in Islamabad

So how are things in Islamabad nowadays? Well, apart from the excruciating heat, the sweaty underarms and the dehydration, there are the really annoying security measures which have been taken up by the authorities in Islamabad, which require every walking/driving/flying citizen to prove his identity anywhere and everywhere. They are annoying, but they are probably the only way the police, and other forces can take control of the situation in the capital. Oftentimes, I am reminded of the enormity of the situation by the policemen themselves, telling me that if I don’t cooperate and go through the hassle of proving my identify and getting my backpack checked every morning three times by three different security officials, I might get blown up like an overstuffed chicken in a microwave by some happy-go-lucky virgin loving bearded buffoon, ready to get his one way ticket to paradise.

The high security areas are particularly the most problematic for the daily commuter. There are places like the Marriott hotel area where you can’t walk down the footpath without a dozen eyes watching you. There are those 360 degree Marriott security cameras, the guards spread out in front of the hotel, illegally occupying the road, there are the Frontier Constabulary guys mounted on their machine guns and blowing whistles every time someone gets too close to their enclosure, and there are the measly police men with their taped AK47’s, their dangling bullet proof vests and their sweat ridden brows. No matter how bothersome they can get at times, I do feel sorry for these people whenever I watch them guarding at their positions. What do they tell their families when they go out every morning to work? How do their children feel about their father who is out there on the road, risking his life to protect others? How do these security people perform their duties knowing very well that there is no guarantee that they might live to see another day? So, I don’t like to argue with them like other people usually do to get past a seemingly annoying security check. I let them do what they want to do.

In a situation like this, how should an ordinary citizen react? Here are a few important points that one should consider while outside:

  • Always carry your ID with you, be it your workplace ID or your Government ID. Keep photocopies of your ID in your purse/wallet for submission where ever required by security officials.
  • Keep your driving license and vehicle documents with you while driving. Always keep an attested photocopy of your vehicles documents to show to security officials on demand. Give the photocopied document first, only show them the real thing if they insist or the situation permits.
  • Do not carry large bags around which might make you look suspicious.
  • Try not to walk around high security areas for too long. Remember that there are quite a number of places in the capital where 360 degree cameras have been installed, and your image repeatedly sent on the security screens doesn’t sound like a very good thing.
  • Do not argue with security officials. Try not to waste time arguing with them particularly at dangerous places like security check posts and road blocks. It is always safe to show them your ID before they even ask for it. Oftentimes they would even let you pass without asking too much details if you show your ID earlier.
  • Stay away from crowds. Even walking in large groups with friends can prompt the security officials to stop you all and question you about your purpose on coming to the area.
  • Although it’s a noble thing to report any suspicious behavior to the authorities whenever you see one, it is wise not to get involved with the authorities at all! However, you should not hesitate to report a suspicious inanimate object to the authorities so that quick investigation can take place.
  • Try not to carry metallic objects or other items that would slow your progress down a security check. Keep minimal items and a handy bag which can be quickly opened and closed when a security official needs to check.
  • Always make sure that your cellphone has credit and that it is fully charged whenever you go out.

These few points and others can increase your safety index, decrease your chances of getting stuck in a security problem, and even more important, protect you from potential dangers like explosions and other acts of terrorism.

(Pleasant) Journey to Islamabad

Some quotes from my heart uttered various of my journeys to Islamabad from Rawalpindi (especially today’s):

  • Setting foot into the territory of the capital city, Islamabad, is getting more and more tiresome, difficult, annoying, hectic, frustrating, exasperating and much more, with each bomb blast (including attempts) that is caused in the country or the city itself.
  • Reaching Islamabad with ease is inversely proportional to the number of blasts taking place in the city.
  • To come to the city of serenity, Islamabad, painlessly is now not more than a sweet & serene dream.
  • Ways to reach Islamabad easily and quickly and are only fragments of imagination.
  • Anyone who boasts of getting inside Islamabad from somewhere out of the city can only be deemed a “Sheikhi Khora”.

Note: I know time of travel is a significant variable but I had to take out my frustration somehow and somewhere. ;-)

From my seat on KFC’s first floor

Well, here I am again in the Super market, wandering around aimlessly and filling my lungs with fresh Islamabadi air (mixed with popular brands of perfume, the stench of garbage cans, the smell of sweaty under arms, and the hormonal discharge of emotionally charged adolescents). Having brisk walked around the area for over an hour, I was beginning to feel hungry, and so I decided to go to the KFC outlet for my favorite snack of a chicken nuggets combo meal with an Arabian rice add-on. I hadn’t eaten something unhealthy in quite sometime, so I thought it would be nice if I could treat my taste buds to something Finger Lickin’ Good.

Since I’m a regular KFC customer and keep ordering those nuggets at my place whenever I feel like getting my arteries blocked with cholesterol, the delivery guy wandering around the counter recognized me and made sure that I got my order in time. And soon my hot star shaped nuggets came sliding down their delivery cabinet and were served in a disposable paper plate along with the unusually salty fries by their side. Since the lower floor was being renovated, I had to go to the first floor to have my meal.

What I have felt during my three year stay in Islamabad (my personal observation) is that people here like going to the KFC outlet more than McDonalds, whereas in Lahore McDonalds is far more popular than KFC as you’ll usually see every McDonalds outlet in Lahore spilling with people who are dying to sink their teeth in a juicy slab of chicken or beef meat (stop drooling, you’ll short circuit your keyboard). Accessibility maybe? With McDonalds far away in F-10 near that park thingy (Fatima Jinnah probably?), people would rather prefer going to the more accessible KFC in the Super, a market place where people are found anyway at any time (except for later in the night after 11, which I think is quite sad). I would personally rate the McDonalds Big Mac more chunkier and juicier than the KFC’s Zinger, the latter having tarnished my image of the much likened burger after I received it in a messy condition at my place. And for some reason I have this feeling that food served at the KFC is more unhealthier than that served at McDonalds.

No comparing McDonalds fries with KFC’s though! Nicely served, crisp and hot and appropriately salted, the McDonalds’ fry is the perfect sidekick to an equally good Big Mac burger, unlike the KFC fry which is a bit more oilier and inappropriately salted. The taste of the fry should be uniform; it should penetrate the flesh of the potato and be homogenous throughout the fry. Because if you chew on a piece of fry with a non-uniform taste, you would see that it is saltier on the outside, but not as salty on the inside, giving you an incomplete taste in the mouth. When you bite a fry, your brain expects the same lovely salty potato taste on the inside too, and when your tongue does not find it, the brain is disappointed. And that’s why McDonald’s fries are better than KFC’s… they just have a nice uniform taste in addition to the crispiness and freshness.

I guess we’ve dissected the fry a bit too much than was necessary.

The first floor of the KFC outlet seemed like a children’s area with balloons everywhere and lovely greeting cards self-made by children pasted to every window of the outlet. I found some of the cards very very touching. Here’s a window covered with cards the children made for their mothers, probably for mothers day:

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There’s all sorts of lovely things written on them. The kids have been very creative about expressing their love for their mother in these cards. There was stuff like: There is nothing more comfortable in this world than a mother’s lap.

But I find this quite strange. Not that the kids are expressing their love for their mothers, but that a multi-national fast food outlet that serves fried chicken with potato fries and a soft drink in a disposable glass has children’s emotions splattered all over their walls. Why is a fast food outlet stressing so much on a child’s love for this mother? Is it because they want to improve their sales by attracting more children? Is it because they are using the cover of Mother’s Day to get more customers? Is it because this outlet is in a way educating these children to respect KFC more, and by doing so are preparing them to be KFC addicts in the future? Or does KFC truly and honestly respects a child’s love for his or her mother and is proudly displaying it on their windows with these cards that the children made? Quite strange if you think of it.Image045

It didn’t take me much time to finish what I had in my plates, but what I usually look forward to eating at KFC is the Arabian Rice. I often find myself ordering two plates of Arabian Rice, one as an add-on which costs Rs. 40, and one separate, which costs me Rs. 75 I believe. It’s that combination of the rich chicken flavor with the capsicum, the peppercorn and the green chilli that makes this rice so irresistible. I tried making it at home but wasn’t very successful with it. The only difference was the absence of chicken; I had put chicken stock in it instead. But it did come near to the real thing.

Image046With plenty of time to waste I thought I should send up a few tweets through my cellphone. But then I wondered if there was a WiFi internet connection in the outlet. Quite a ridiculous thought, but when I scanned for wireless internet I found a LOT of them! And everytime I ran the scan I found new ones. The first one in the picture on the left gave me 100% signal strength, so that probably was the KFC’s connection. There was another one for the Chopsticks restaurant right next to the KFC outlet, and this too was an unsecured open connection. The others had either WPA or WEP encryption, so I couldn’t get through them. But I spent my time there comfortably tweeting through the KFC and the Chopsticks WiFi connection. So if anyone of you is on the move and is looking out for a good internet connection to post a blog, check e-mails or work, then just sit around the KFC area and you’ll get a good signal.

And after having my meal, I walked back home, made two glasses of nice salted lassi with a kulcha, and went to bed with the thought that by the time I wake up in the morning, my body would have had absorbed the proteins from the nuggets and patched up my muscle tissue with it, the fries would have provided the much needed carbohydrate, and the rice a truckload of calories to burn on another walk on a Saturday afternoon.

in the age of geting sweets from the world…

he is selling sweets to the world…..

…..

Celebrating Earth Day

So how can we actually celebrate Earth Day? Should we take out a group of people and chant slogans in favor of the environment? Should we put up colourful posters in our offices, homes or even streets? Should we send e-mails to everybody in our contact list to tell them of this day?

Well the above will surely attract attention of a few and they will at least know that it is Earth Day but that would not be fruitful. And it would be much better to do something productive than just do something that doesn’t count towards anything. Here is what I suggest that we should so:

  • Let’s be extra careful about the light bulbs and electrical appliances we turn on today. It would be good to turn off one or two (or few) if we can. Turning off all lights and electrical appliances when leaving a room, even if it is for 15 minutes, will surely be a good deed.
  • Let’s be extra careful about the tap water we consume today. We should turn off the tap while brushing our teeth or putting soap on our face. We should also keep it turned off while doing kitchen chores (unless off course washing dishes). We should use lesser water to wash the dishes and clothes.
  • Let’s be extra careful about the fuel we use today. Let’s turn off the ignition of our cars on all signals and walk instead of taking the car where possible.
  • Let’s be extra careful about the paper we use today. Reading e-mails, articles, journals and documents etc on the computer screen is as good as reading a printed version. If we have to print, lets use both sides of the paper. If possible let’s recycle all the waste paper that is around us (we may use services of a “raddi wala” since recycling facilities are practically non-existent).
  • Let’s be extra careful when we consume eatables while being on the move. It would be polite as well as environment friendly to keep the fruit peels, wrappers, disposable glasses/plates, bottles and packs etc with us, possibly in a bag, instead of throwing on the streets & roads. Those items can be disposed off when we see a bin or reach home.

This was just a very tiny list of the possible things we could do today to celebrate Earth Day. But I also wish that we would do all this and more every day, irrespective of it being a special day or not. We are all responsible human beings and it is our duty to keep our environment clean and safe. We need to conserve and preserve the existing resources and the environment. Let’s do it for the betterment of our future generations, if not for anything else.

April 22, 2009: Earth Day

Today is just like any other day. It is bright, it is shiny and it is slightly hot. The trees of Islamabad are green and the flowers, that have sprouted almost everywhere, are colourful. The only difference between this day and any other is that it is Earth Day 2009. Earth day is celebrated to spread awareness about taking care and preserving the environment. It also inspires appreciation in the people about the environment of this wonderful plant that we live on.

It was the year 1970 when this day got recognition as Earth Day. The founder of this day is considered to be Gaylord Nelson who was a US senator from Wisconsin at that time. He proposed a nationwide environmental protest that would bring the attention of the political higher ups of that time towards this issue. He also hoped to create a strong awareness among the masses that would in turn bring this environment issue onto the national agenda.

Started out as a national protest in the US, this movement of awareness spread among other nations as well. It was 1990 when it went global. That year Earth Day was celebrated by many countries throughout the world. Since then this tradition is being followed regularly, each year.

Even though I have not seen any posters advertising this day on the streets of Islamabad, nor have I yet seen anything related to this in the newspaper, but I believe that out nation is also among those celebrating this day. I, for one, am fully up for it. What about you?

PS: I am not only up for celebrating days but i believe in action as well. Hope you all do too.

More information:
http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/Regional/Islamabad/21-Apr-2009/World-Earth-Day-tomorrow
http://www.earthday.net/node/77
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_Day

Islamabad 2109

When cities age, every piece of architecture, marketplace, garden or park, face, road, etc… everything begins to exude the essence of the bygone years, and the impact those years have made on the particular city. In the case of Lahore, one can see the remnants of the colonial era on the Mall road, and in the architecture of the buildings. In places like the Shalimar gardens and the Lahore fort one can see the grandeur of the Mughal empire and can easily envision their lifestyle. The Lahori culture and tradition, the mannerisms of the people, the dynamics of the Lahori people, everything has been created over a course of hundreds of years.

Islamabad being a relatively younger city has a long way to go in creating it’s own ‘history’. One can think of this city as morphing into a concrete metropolis with skyscrapers crammed up together on every major road, flyovers flying over our heads, millions of cars plying the erstwhile empty roads, and more places of amusement in every major sector. One can even think of it as turning into a highly industrialized city with smoke spewing out of every building in every corner, with a plethora of cycles and cheap broken rickety cars creating havoc on the mismanaged roads, and with people walking around with gas cylinders mounted on their backs and gas masks on their heads.

Ok that was just an exaggeration… but how would YOU like the Islamabad of the future to be? What changes do you think are going to take place in this city over the course of the next one hundred years?

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