Friday, September 28, 2012

What the Pakistani Government Does not Want You to Watch

Two years back I went to Dubai to intern for a month. While doing so I one happened to surf across Pakistani TV channels and man! I felt like Pakistan was nothing but an apocalyptic land where nothing other than violence, bloodshed and destruction happened. These channels portrayed our country like it was a habitat of civilian and political beasts.

Being a resident of Karachi I have a relatively balanced perception of what happens in it and what does not as compared to those who live elsewhere. But even my perception is greatly biased - thanks to the inaccurate way in which the media decides to select and deliver messages to the entire world. And this inaccuracy is not entirely accidental.

Recently my friend, whose relative works at a very popular news channel, shared a sad fact. She said her relative told her that the channel had direct orders NOT to show any peaceful protests that were carried out to condemn the film made humiliating the Prophet. They were strictly ordered to show violence only throughout the day.

While this news hardly comes as a surprise, it does make me sad because of the considerable influence media has on the average citizen. The media is our eyes and ears to the world and what it shows us significantly alters the way we perceive, think, dream and act. In such a state of affairs, instead of wasting time on condemning the government for creating (or following) such heinous schemes and the media for obeying it, we all should go back and do what we can do to spread the truth in a balanced way.

While the internet too is not entirely un-moderated, we still enjoy freedom that can be used for the betterment of the society. So please, share what is true and what does good to others.

Friday, September 21, 2012

How I came to Wear an Abaya

I have been wearing the headscarf since 2005 when I was 15. Later, around in 2007, I learned more about the Islamic dress code for women and realized that an abaya was an essential garment. But it wasn't until 2010 that I actually started wearing one. It took me three years to prepare myself for I knew wearing an abaya is no easy task. Some of the issues that I had resolve before following my religious ambitions were...

1. I Will Have to Wear it EVERYWHERE!

Once a woman dons an abaya, she endorses it in totality. Hence, whenever she steps out of her house, the abaya accompanies her. However, there are times when a woman might be tempted to take off her abaya just because of the glamor around her, such as in weddings and parties.

Bringing myself to the resolution of wearing an abaya everywhere, including weddings and parties, was a tough decision but I think it was worth the while Alhamdulillah.


2. Breaking the News - Anticipating Heart Attacks

My parents and relatives have significantly contributed to my life. Hence, they have expectations from me in return. Since no girl in my family is a hijabi, breaking the news to them that I will be wearing a boring black abaya to weddings was an upheaval task. I was apprehensive that they would reject my plan outright or make negative remarks.

But fortunately, my mother supported me. Even though she doesn't wear an abaya herself, she thinks that I have made the right decision. As for my father, having lived in the Middle East for around three decades, he is culturally attuned to the outfit and the only problem he has is the 'plainness' of my abayas.


3. Carrying it in the Professional World

I also wondered how my abaya will affect my profession. I believed that my impression before my college professors, interviewers, colleagues at my workplace would be radically altered because of my abaya. And this was yet another challenge that I had to prepare myself for.


4. The Heat

During summers Karachi can get really hot and that's when men loosen their ties and undo their buttons while women resort to wearing lighter fabrics. But if one is in an abaya, there isn't much choice. You can't wear a fabric as light as 'lawn', you can't take your headscarf off or do things that let air touch your skin. Although, most of the places I go to on a routine basis have airconditioning, there are times when I do feel terribly hot and I knew this would happen before donning the abaya. And it was another hurdle that I had to brace myself for.


5. My Personal Commitment versus My Temptations

Being a woman, I have never been too fashion forward, but I haven't been behind the times either. Like other women, I know the therapeutic effect of dressing up. Just by wearing a certain color can entirely change one's mood. And the joy of wearing new clothes to college or wearing a certain outfit that you know is going to turn heads can be an uplifting experience. Committing yourself to an abaya means saying good-bye to fashion in public. It means that you have to shift to a completely different alternative universe when it comes to dressing.

This has the potential to create a desperate desire in a hijabi woman to wear what non-hijabis do in the public, to feel joy of people praising them for their styling sense and beauty. And many actually give in to this temptation by unraveling themselves at weddings and other events they consider 'important'. This was the part that I had to mentally prepare myself for most before donning an abaya.

For a long time, I had been gathering courage and faith to execute what I had been wanting to do for so long. But it was a video I watched that finally pushed me to practice what I preached to myself.

It was an interview of Shabina Begum. Shabina is citizen of UK who sacrificed two years of her education fighting for her right to wear an abaya at school. She thought it was more important to practice her religion than anything else. MashaAllah, her family supporter her in her cause and she fought a legal battle with her school for letting her wear an abaya. Watching this video, I thought - there is a Muslimah, in a non-Muslim country, sacrificing so much just so that she can practice Islam. While here I am, with these minor challenges not doing what I should have right when I reached puberty.

Hence, finally in March 2010, at the age of 20 I started wearing an abaya to every place I went. It has been a very fulfilling journey since then alhamdulillah.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Strange but True - Story Series

Okay, so I have been away from this blog for a very long while. My job nature literally drains all my literary energy (I write for a living). But there's one thing that can make up for my frequent disappearances - the Strange but True Series.

The Strange but True Series will be blogposts about real life incidencts I witness or come to hear of from neighbours, friends, relatives and others around that are just too weird to be true. If not weird they are too dramatic. So I've decided to put them here on My Other Facets. Most of these stories will be from our Pakistani society so in a way the blog posts will serve as cultural archives too.

These 'stories' will be based entirely on the truth. No mirch masala will be added to excite the readers. The characters' real names will not be disclosed for reasons related to privacy of course.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My 3 Favorites from Hobnob

NO! I am not a brand associate of Hobnob, nor have I been paid by them to write this post. It’s just my love (leaning almost towards lust) for the goodies at this bakery that has driven me to share the top three things that I simply can’t say no to.
A few days back, a bag full of Hobnob goodies inspired me to write about them. So I took some photos. Here we go…

Item # 1 – Death by Chocolate

Yes, if you are a normal human being, you’ll probably feel overdosed till the point of death, after having this block of rich, creamy, chocolaty, *insert appropriate adjectives here* pastry. This little piece of chocolaty bliss is just for 55 rupees. You can slightly warm it in the microwave and enjoy with vanilla ice cream or chill it and enjoy the gooeyness. Also, if you are health conscious, the small-serving-size-trick is very much implementable here. Cut the pastry into 8 pieces. And BELIEVE me, even that one piece will be pretty fulfilling.

Item # 2 –Cheese Cup

If you are sad, this is probably the quickest thing that can cheer you up. Too bad, the cup in this photo is almost empty. The cheese is dressed with strawberry jam, chocolate sauce and tiny bits of fruit cocktail at different layers.Once, it got melted by the time I reached home with it in my hand. Kept it in the freezer and viola! The resultant was some awesome ice-screeammm!!!
Price: 74 rupees

Item # 3 - Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have had chocolate chip cookies from a lot of places but this one surprised me because…
i. It was very reasonably priced
ii. It made me feel like I was floating
Price: 100 rupees for 250 grams. Store them in a jar and hide them in your cupboard because no sane person in your home will spare the cookies once they know the magic these cookies can conjure up.

Note to the Critics…

My love for Hobnob has at times been disdained given ‘that there are way better bakeries in the city’ such as Pie in the Sky, Art of the Tart, etc. Well, there plenty of reasons why Hobnob is a favorite.

Firstly and most importantly, I love it because its branches are so strategically located. Once, I happened to come across a Pie in the Sky outlet in side a not-so-prominent lane in Gulshan. Went in and bought some croissants and Alaska brownies. Well, the stuff was really good but sadly, it was stale. Reason: bad location, less customers, stale items.

Secondly, the prices are truly reasonable. Enter any other generic bakery in town and the prices will be almost the same with nothing even near the same quality to offer. So, Hobnob gives you value for your money.
Thirdly, the customer service is not bad either. Once, a friend and I had to arrange a treat for around 20 people and the customer rep helped us make our decision and even gave a bulk discount.
And of course, there are a few things the place could change to become even better. Delivery is the first thing it must make sure it does. I know people who are ready to switch brands and even pay extra to get that amazing moose cake to their office. Secondly, the air conditioning could also be improved at the outlets. Sure, you want me to know that your cookies are oven-fresh. But I don’t make me enter an oven for that. Thirdly, the salesmen can do with a bit of Redbull. Its is good of them to calmly bear with their customers but when there are three in a row, tapping their feet, the men should know when and how to ask their customers to make their decision  quickly.

So next time, you see a Hobnob outlet, I’ll consider you sinful if you don’t glance an eye of love (read: lust) towards it.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Pleasure Centered?

Yes, it’s been almost a year since I last posted on the blog. Reason? Well like I mentioned earlier, blogging is more like a way of relieving myself from mental stress. Having graduated from school and working nine to five doesn’t let me be in that situation any more. It feels numb rather than stressful. And this numbness apparently feels cured only with a bit of ‘entertainment’ on Sundays. The more entertainment one indulges in, the more bearable corporate numbness feels. Or so it was until I came across this paragraph in Stephen Covey’s book a moment ago that I am going to discuss below.
He speaks about factors that determine our life – wisdom, security, guidance and power. Covey explains how these life-support factors and the lives of people often revolve around certain centers. Some of the centers that most people let their wisdom, security, guidance and power depend on include spouses, families, money, work, possession and – it was rather surprising when I came across – pleasure.
The surprise was partly because pleasure centeredness is something that I feel guilty of being a victim of and that too unsuspectingly (which is even worse). So without further ado, I’ll share the paragraph that speaks of Pleasure Centeredness in Stephen Covey’s book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

‘Another common center, closely allied with possessions, is that of fun and pleasure. We live in a world when instant gratification is available and encouraged. Television and movies are major influences in increasing people’s expectations. They graphically portray what other people have and can do in living the life of ease and ‘’fun’’.
But while the glitter of pleasure-centered lifestyles is graphically portrayed, the natural result of such lifestyles – the impact on the inner person, on productivity, on relationships – is seldom accurately seen.
Innocent pleasures in moderation can provide relaxation for the body and mind and can foster family and other relationships. But pleasure, per se, offers no deep, lasting satisfaction or sense of fulfillment. The pleasure-centered person, too soon bored with each succeeding level of ‘’fun’’, constantly cries for more and more. So the next new pleasure has to be bigger and better, more exciting, with a bigger ‘’high’’.
Malcolm Muggeridge writes ‘’ Twentieth-Century Testimony’’
When I look back on my life nowadays, which I sometimes do, what strikes me most forcibly about it is that what seemed at the time most significant and seductive, seems now most futile and absurd. For instance, success in all of its various guises; being known for and being praised; ostensible pleasures, like acquiring money or seducing women, or traveling, going to and fro in the world and up and down in it like Satan, explaining and experiencing whatever Vanity Fair has to offer.
In retrospect all these exercises in self-gratification seem pure fantasy, what Pascal called, ‘’licking the earth’’.’

Given my current state of affairs, I can’t agree with this excerpt more. May be instant gratification has become necessary for those trapped in money-churning lifestyles to prevent them from becoming robots, to let them remember that they are humans. Perhaps it is an extreme that has evolved to cure another. But is the cure permanent? I wonder if I will have thoughts at the end of my life similar to those of Malcolm Muggeridge.