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Archive for the ‘CULTURE’ Category

Story #5: Talaq (Divorce)


My daughter often remarks, Men of my generation are better and more supportive than men of your generation. They value their wive’s careers and are less fussy to help them out at home.” 

My response to her almost always is, “There definitely is a section of educated young men who think and behave much different from their father’s generation. Many of them are sons of educated and career women (like me), who raised their sons to respect women.”

The above conversation holds true for only a very limited section of our desi society. Vast majority of men and women are still the flag bearers of patriachy and believe in subservience of womenfolk.
In the pretext of faith or culture, patriachy would not have been so deeprooted, if there were no women allies to it.
Not just allies, women are often the most vocal advocates of ’empowerment of men folk’.

Hear here a recent example of Ms Khan, a renowned matchmaker, who went ballistic on a TV show blaming women for everything wrong in this society:

 

For those who dont understand Urdu, I will translate verbatim the blatantly outrageous statements she makes  in her loud and reprimanding voice scolding young girls:

  1. “DONT use your tongue. Dont wag your tongue. Keep your tongue under control. If a woman controls her tongue, these things( marital discords) will not happen. Things escalate when the woman becomes “moonh zor” (bold) and tries to dominate over husband and mother in law. In our times we were told that when husband comes home, you must take care of his shoes and clothes,  the griddle should be hot to cook fresh chapattis, and the curry should be ready. What is this? “I am not going to cook chappattis?” Why? Then why did you get married?”
  2. She continues in English: “If you are not capable of cooking chapattis, then you better dont get married. If you are not capable of taking care of your children dont get maried. You will have to bear EVERYTHING. Unless and until you are not a PROPER WOMAN…”
  3. “Women should keep their mouths shut in front of their husbands( she puts a finger on her lips). Women are wagging their tongues a lot in front of their husbands, whether they are from rich family or poor or middle class. YOU SHOULD NOT OPEN YOUR MOUTH UNNECESSARILY.” 
  4. The anchor asks, “But Mrs Khan,  it is not always women’s fault if the matter reaches upto separation?” to which Mrs Khan interjects her, “These days it is women’s fault. They watch TV serials and learn from there. I have seen how my maid talks to her husband. Poor husband quietly listens to her. Look how this woman of even LOW CLASS speaks to her husband.”

Not surprising at all, but men were not even part of this conversation on marital discord.

YOURSTORYTELLER

is a social enterprise that creates digital talking comics based on true stories and raises awareness on the triumphs and struggles of common individuals.
We will be bringing digital stories based on or adapted from true stories, highlighting an important social issue in each story.

Coming to #YourStoryTeller, I am sharing here a true story of my own cousin, who followed exactly what Mrs Khan had recommended, “Dont wag you tongue, in front of your husband.” 
She even quietly tolerated a lot of taunts and verbal abuse from her mother in law.  Whenever I asked her, “Tum jawab kyun nahin deti?” (“Why don’t you reply back?” )

Her answer would be, “Baaji, yeh manhoos tarbiyet jo hai ke susraal mein jawab nahin dou.”  (“This damned upbringing that I am not supposed to answer back to my in laws.”).
Thus she laughed off many such bitter narrations of what she went through day in and day out.

The psychological abuse went on for about 4 years….

What happened next?  Please watch the true story TALAQ (DIVORCE):

I am proud of this cousin, who is now an independent career woman.

My advice to young girls would be to:  Marry men who respect and understand gender equity and both spouses need to understand that marriage is a partnership, not a boss-subordinate relationship.  Otherwise follow as Mrs Khan said, “stay single” and focus on your life & career.

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Story #4: Girl Refugees


YOURSTORYTELLER

is a social enterprise that creates digital talking comics based on true stories and raises awareness on the triumphs and struggles of common individuals.
We will be bringing digital stories based on or adapted from true stories, highlighting an important social issue in each story.

Story #4: Girl Refugee

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Girl Refugees  is a fictional story  on female feticide i.e. the termination of pregnancy when it is a girl child.

There are 50 million girls missing in the world due to female feticide.
Girls who are lost in the womb have no voice of their own.

This story is an attempt to give them the voice, and to make people realize, what if they were allowed to live a life everyone deserves.
Imagine as if you are hearing their pain from the skies !

Ayy Ishq Humein Barbaad Na Ker…


Several decades down the road, this nazm and this rendition remain my lifetime favourite by Akhter Shirani
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Ay Ishq humaiN barbad na kar, 
O’ Love, smash us not, destroy us not
Barbaad na kar, Nashaad na ker
Smash us not , depress us not
اے عشق نہ چھیڑ آ آ کے ہمیں
Ay Ishq na cheRh aa aa key humaiN
O’ Love disturb us not, again and again
ہم بھولے ہووں کو یاد نہ کر
Hum bhooley huoN ko yaad na kar
Recall us not, the forgotten ones
پہلے ہی بہت ناشاد ہیں ہم
Pehley hi bohut nashaad haiN hum
So disheartened we already are
تو اور ہمیں ناشاد نہ کر
Tuu aur humaiN nashaad na kar
Make us not more disheartened
قسمت کا ستم ہی کم نہیں کچھ
Qismet ka sitam hii kum nahiN kuch
As if the injustice of fate was enough
یہ تازہ ستم ایجاد نہ کر
Yeh tazaa sitam eejaad na kar!
Reinvent not,  this fresh injustice
یوں ظلم نہ کر بیداد نہ کر
Yun zlm na kar beydaad na kar
Inflict not such cruelty and tyranny
اے عشق ہمیں برباد نہ کر- برباد نہ کر
Ae Ishq humaiN barbad na kar, barbad na kar
O’ Love, smash us not, destroy us not

 

جس دن سے بندھا ہے دھیان تیرا
Jis din se bundhaa hai dhyaan tera
Since the day our thoughts possessed you,
گھبراےؑ ہوےؑ سے رہتے ہیں
Ghabraaye huwe sey rehtey haiN
Anxious we remain
ہر وقت تصور کر کر کے
Har waqt tasawwur kar kar ke
Lost in your imagination 
شرماےؑ ہوے سے رہتے ہیں
Sharmaaye huwe se rehtey haiN
Feeling embarrassed (all the time)
کملاےؑ ہوے پھولوں کی طرح
Kumhlaaye huwe phoolon ki tarha
Like the wilted flowers
کملاےؑ ہوے سے رہتے ہیں
Kumhlaaye huwe se rehetey haiN
Shrivelled up we remain
پامال نہ کر بیداد نہ کر
Paamaal na kar, beydaad na kar
Trample us not, torment us not
اے عشق ہمیں برباد نہ کر- برباد نہ کر
Ae Ishq humaiN barbad na kar, barbad na kar
O’ Love, smash us not , destroy us not
راتوں کو اٹھ اٹھ کر روتے ہیں
Raaton ko uth uth kar roTey haiN
Weeping we wake up at nights
رو رو کے دعایؑں کرتے ہیں
Ro’ ro’ kay duwayin kertey haiN
And plead as we snivel
آنکھوں میں تصور، دل مین خلش
Ankhon main tusawwar, dil mayn khalish
With fantasy in the eyes, regret in the heart
سر دھنتے ہیں، آہنیں بھرتے ہیں
Sar dhundtey haiN anhein burtey haiN
Our head throbs( in pain) and heart sighs  
اے عشق یہ کیسا روگ لگا
Ae Ishq ye kaisa rog Laga
O’ Love, what kind of ailment is this
جیتے ہیں نا ظالم مرتے ہیں
Jeetey hain naa zaalim martey haiN
Neither do we live nor we die
Ye zulm tou ayy jallad na ker
Inflict not this torture, O’ Tyrant
اے عشق ہمیں برباد نہ کر- برباد نہ کر
Ae Ishq humaiN barbad na kar, barbad na kar
O’ Love, smash us not , destroy us not
ان خوابوں سے یوں آزاد نہ کر
In khwabon se yuun azad na kar
Release us not from these delusions
اے عشق ہمیں برباد نہ کر- برباد نہ کر
Ae Ishq humaiN barbad na kar, barbad na kar
O’ Love, smash us not, destroy us not 

English translation attempted most humbly by yours truly. Translation of full nazm will follow.

Indo-Pak Cross Border Weddings- an Advice to the Bride


 

Many girls from all over India and Pakistan write to me about their love stories across the border and their wish to marry & live happily ever after. Just two days ago we celebrated our 29th Wedding Anniversary. So I think it makes me quite qualified to give some pearls of wisdom to the new daredevils. 🙂

Since in a vast majority of cases it is the girls who move to the other side, here is an open advice to these girls :

My first pearl of wisdom to you:
“If you think there is a genuine love between you two, go ahead and take the plunge and embrace the pain that comes as a baggage. But  before you decide, first meet him in person and ensure he is the same person who you have known on social media.”

Secondly, I want you to know there are realities beyond honeymoon:
“If you will live in India or Pakistan, you live in an alien land where you will always be under moral pressure, simply by default of being a woman, because our societies, on both sides, are swamped with misogyny, just as our cultures and faiths are deeply immersed in patriarchy. In our cultures, we marry in a family, one husband cannot be the only one you will deal with, even if you are his Laila and he is your all too supportive Majnu.”

Thirdly but most importantly be well informed of what you are stepping into: 
“Read and inquire as much as you can about the other side- both pros and cons. Know that the practical challenges that you will have with the bureaucratic red-tape are inevitable even if everything else in your personal life is going like the Bollywood style Veer-Zara. Sania Mirza-Shoaib Malik star couple are a wonderful example, but they are not to take inspiration from. Ask ordinary couples in such marriages of how things are like. But none of their story will be exactly like yours, post marriage. Like any ordinary couple, it will be a constant struggle. Be open to unexpected pleasant and not so pleasant situations.”

However, once you have decided to go ahead, here are a  few tips for your safety: 

1. Try to see his country as your home too. Love and befriend its inhabitants too. Do not live like an alien. Belong there.
2. At the same time do not lose any love and respect for your country of birth. Many will say, “You are still so “Indian/Pakistani”. Tell them “So what? I belong to both the places.”
3. Try not to be cynical about his country. Learn to be objective and honest about flaws and positives of both sides. Trust me, both places are no better or worse than the other. Blind patriotism will not bring peace within your four walls or lay breakfast on your table.
4. Best bet is to make it a taboo in your household to discuss Indian Pakistani political rhetoric in a partisan manner. Don’t expect a man who so loves you today, will not taunt your nationality sometime years down the road and will still not understand why are you so ‘touchy’ about it. So better shut these doors before they even open.
5. Keep yourself financially independent. Do not submit every penny in the name of love and family. Because that will disempower you. Try to keep some money/assets aside( openly or quietly) in your own name.
6. Do not stop visiting your family back home. Visas will be difficult, but you have to be very very persistent and persevering to not give in. Try your best. Ask for help from anyone who can help.
7. When you have kids preach them to be objective and not be partisan with either parents or their families.
8. Keeping a passport of your country is very challenging in India-Pakistan relationships, but in current times, its easier than 30 years ago.
9. Create your own circle of like minded friends in your adopted homeland. Don’t just depend on your husbands friends wives as friends. At some point of time you may feel that your personality, intellect and values are not similar to  your spouse’s, and hence making your own group of like-minded friends will give you a space of your own.
10. Pursue your profession or work and hobbies in your adopted country as you would in your own country. There is no reason to give up work. It will help you build confidence and be financially independent.
11. Keep in touch with groups like Aman ki Asha  on social media and fellow Indian-Pakistanis locally, who will understand your situation far more than the local locals. These friends work as a peer-support group and as a deterrent for abuse and exploitation at home.
12. If possible, and if going gets tough, try to move as a family to a third country, or at least have an additional passport of the third country. It is not the easiest thing to do, I realize, but will give your kids a choice.

Wish you all the best,

Dr. Ilmana Fasih,
A proud Indian-Pakistani.

indopakcake

Old Fashioned Sweet and Sour Pickle


Eons ago as a teenager I had a delicious pickle at an aunts place.
For almost 4 decades I hunted for it in the aisles for pickles in desi grocery stores, searched for it on family or friends tables. I even asked if anyone knew or made it.
Some friends knew about the pickle but I never had the luck to find it ready anywhere.

So one day I hunted for its recipe on the net. And there it was,  at several places.

To my utter surprise the method of preparation was very simple. So there was no excuse left to not make it myself.  So here it is:

Sweet and Sour Pickle of Carrots, Turnips and Cauliflower with Jaggery.

Ingredients:
Carrots: half pound
Turnip: half pound
Cauliflower: 1 pound
Anise seeds(saunf): 1tsp
Black seed(Kalonji): 1tsp
Fenugreek seeds(methi): 1tsp
Mustard seeds(Rye ): 1tsp
Jaggery (Gurr): 1 pound
Mustard Oil: 2 tbsp
Salt, chillipowder, garam masala powder:  to taste

Cooking method is described with the pictures:

Step 1: Chop washed carrots, turnips into medium thickness sticks and break cauliflower into medium sized florets.pic1

Step 2: Mix half a cup of apple cider vinegar and half pound of jaggery in a pan and leave on slow flame till all the jaggery melts.
pic2

Step 3: Boil water in a large deep pan till it bubbles. Once boiling, add the chopped vegetables and cook for 5-7 minutes until vegetables are blanched. Drain off water and spread the vegetables on a kitchen towel till dry. (I did for about an hour).
pic3

 

Step 4: Heat 2 tbsp mustard oil in a wok. Add mustard seeds, anise, fenugreek and black seeds and let them splatter for half a minute. Then add salt, ground garam masala and red chilli powder. Finally added the vegetables. Stir fry them.
pic4

Step 5: Stir fry the vegetables with seeds and spices.

Step 6: Add vegetables mixed with spices  & seeds into vinegar and melted jaggery mixture. Cook till most liquid evaporates.
pic5

Step 7: Once cooked and cooled, store it in a sterilized air tight cannister and leave in the sun for 2 days to pickle well. 

Step 8: Once ready(in my case in 2 days) enjoy it with parathas and hot steaming chai. 🙂
pic6

This pickle is a delicacy prepared in winter in Northern India specially because that is the time carrots are available.

Its easy and very delicious. I wonder why did I just keep looking for it everywhere and did  not try it myself all these years? Do try it out in a smaller amount as a trial. You will not regret it.

Happy Pickling !

Eid e Nowruz : The Persian New Year


The word Nowruz meaning New Day, is the most anticipated and favorite celebration for Persians. It occurs exactly on the Spring Equinox. This occasion has been renowned in one form or another by all the major cultures of ancient Mesopotamia. Sumerians, 3000 BC, Babylonians, the ancient kingdom of Elam in Southern Persia and Akaddians in the second millennium BC, all celebrated this festival. What we celebrate today as Norooz (Also spelled Now Ruz, Norooz or Norouz) has been around for at least 3000 years and is deeply rooted in the rituals and traditions of the Zoroastrians of the Sassanian period.

It’s no secret that Persians love any excuse to celebrate. But of all the many reasons to celebrate, Norouz, The Persian New Year, is by far the most important and dear in the hearts of Iranians around the globe. Literally translating to “A New Day,” Norouz marks the first day of Spring (March 21st) and the beginning of the year in the Persian calendar.

Originally a Zoroastrian holiday, Norouz has been celebrated for at least 3,000 years. The most significant aspect of Norouz is the fact that it is a non-religious and non-ethnic celebration. Norouz brings together several hundred million diverse peoples spanning from Iran to northwest China, India and Central Asian republics,Turkey and Eastern Europe, Iraq and westward to Egypt; all celebrating this joyous holiday which represents new Beginnings, and the start of Spring.

Sofreh Haft Seen

In harmony with the rebirth of nature, the Persian new year celebration starts on the first day of Spring, illustrated by a beautiful spread Haft Seen:

haft seen1

 

A symbolic illustration of Norouz is the “Haft Seen” (Persian translation of “Seven S”), a ceremonial table spread, including at least seven items whose names start with the letter “S” in the Persian alphabet; hence the name “Haft Seen” or “Seven S”. The spread itself is usually a beautifully crafted and decorated fabric such as “Termeh.”

At the specific time of Vernal Equinox (when the sun is observed to be directly over the equator) which varies every year, the family gathers around Haft Seen holding hands. At the moment of transition into the New Year or “Sal Tahvil,” family members embrace each other and eat a sweet…for a sweet year! This is followed by exchanges of “Aydi” (cash gifts exchanged) and having the traditional new year dish “Sabzi-polo and Mahi” (herbed rice and white fish).

The Most Common Haft Seen Items: 

Sib (Apple): Red apples representing health and natural beauty.

Sabzeh (Sprouts): Wheat, barley or lentils sprouts growing in a dish,
symbolizing the fertility of the land in the Spring and the rebirth of nature.

Samanu: Common wheat sprouts are transformed and given new life as
this sweet and creamy pudding, representing the reward of patience.

Sir (Garlic): Displayed in beautifully decorated dishes, garlic represents
good health, and is believed to chase away evil spirits.

Sumac: A popular Persian spice used as a symbol to wish for some zest
in life in the new year.

Senjed (Oleaster): The Senjed or wild olives represent love and compassion.

Sombol (Hyacinth): Hyacinth is placed in the Haft Seen to signify the beauty
and fragrance of Spring, and the rebirth of nature.

Sekkeh (coin): Coins representing wealth and hopes for prosperity.

Serkeh (vinegar): The vinegar also placed in a beautiful bowl or decorative
container is a symbol for maturity, and the wisdom and patience that comes
with age.SONY DSC

Other items not starting with letter “S”, but included because of their symbolic
meaning and cultural significance include:

Mirror: The mirror is usually set at the top center of the Haft Seen,
representing self-reflection.

Candles: Lit candles are more commonly set on each side of the mirror
and represent enlightenment and happiness.

Gold Fish: One of the most fun traditions of Norouz is buying the gold
fish for Haft Seen. The gold fish are used to represent joy and movement.

Holy or Poetry Book: Religious families will often place their holy book
in the center of the Haft Seen. Others opt for famous poetry books such
as Divan of Hafiz or Shahnameh.

Eggs: Usually, one for each member of the family, artfully decorated eggs
are used to represent the human race, as well as, fertility.

Sweets: Traditional Persian sweets are another popular item for the Haft Seen.
The pastries are a symbol for a sweet life and are meant to be eaten
during the celebration.

Seville orange: Floating in a bowl of water, it represents the earth
floating in space.

(Credits: The above text and pictures are crossposted  from here: http://www.partybravo.com/Norooz-Persian-New-Year-Haft-Seen).

Other traditions of Nowruz:

Hajji Firouz:

Haji Firouz (Persian: حاجی فیروز / هاجی فیروز – Hāji Firuz‎‎) or Khwaja Piruz (Persian: خواجه پیروز – Xwāje Piruz‎‎),[1] also spelled Hajji Firouz, is a fictional character in Iranian folklore who appears in the streets by the beginning of Nowruz. His face is covered in soot, and he is clad in bright red clothes and a felt hat. He dances through the streets while singing and playing a tambourine, and is the companion of Amu Nowruz(“Uncle Nowruz”).
(Source & further details: here >> https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hajji_Firuz).

Lyrics:
Beškan Beškan
Beškan beškan e, beškan! (It’s a snap-snap, snap!)
Man nemi-škanam, beškan! (I won’t snap, snap!)
Injā beškanam, yār gele dāre (If I snap here, this one will complain)
Unjā beškanam, yār gele dāre (If I snap there, that one will complain)
In siāh e bičāre če qad howsele dāre! (How patient this poor man is!)

Bonfire:

People traditionally jump over bonfires, shouting “Zardie man az to, sorkhie to as man,” which means “May my pallor be yours and your red glow be mine.”
The flames symbolically take away the unpleasant things from the last year.

Nowruz fire.jpg

Following is my favorite song  Nasim-e-Farvardin( The breeze of Spring) by Marzieh , an ode to arrival of  Spring:

The Flawless Purse: Dilemma of Consumerism


In style she clutched a glossy purse,
Tight between her hand and her chest,
Protecting it from falling or
From being scratched,
From the pointed necklace
Around her own neck.
She had saved for years,
And dreamed of even longer
To own this branded gem.
She holds on to it firm,
Yet all tender, all protective,
Like a beautiful relationship,
Between two souls,
Knowing how hurt,
The purse can get,
When there are bruises
And that the purse
shall never be the same,
if held back after it falls.
So precious, and so priceless,
She finally owns a flawless dream.
But oh for the flawed souls,
They come and go in our lives.

ClutchBag