Open up your mind and your potential reaches infinity…

Archive for the ‘International’ Category

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

:
:
:
:
:
:
:

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 !

Advertisements

BAAJI- the bold and beautiful film


I went to watch a documentary on woman abuse at MISAAF 2019, but stayed on to watch with absolutely no expectations, the Pakistani commercial film BAAJI.
And to my utter surprise, I came back extremely impressed by three components of the film:

  1. Saqib Malik, the Producer Director
  2. Meera ji,  the actor
  3. BAAJI the film in toto.
    And exactly in that increasing order.

The film is a bold and beautiful portrayal of the ugly truth that exists in deeply conservative and patriarchal socieites.

This film does not have a single hero. This feminist film has both its leads charaters as fiercely independent women, Shameera & Neha. Both are extremely hardworking breadwinners for their families, and with dreams to make it big in their lives.
They are hounded by parasitic men, either through relationships ( Rammy, Ajji), as family ( Neha’s pious brother) or proffessionally (Chaand Kamal or Rohail Khan) who have no credentials except being manipulative and being men. None of them earn or contribute financially ( as is expected to be caregivers in patriarchy), yet consider it their preprogative to exercise control over these women.

Shameera represents a female superstar from the desi showbiz industry who is surrounded by patriarchs like her Aapi( yes she is a female patriarch), Chaand Kamal and Goshi Butt, who control her life, her finances and her decision-making.
“Yeh time hai theatre ka, theatre wich apne jalwe dikhane kaa.” 
“Market wich rolla paa deyo, ke Shameera ne theatre da tee lakh(30 lakhs) leya ayy.” 

Rammy, loves Shameera, but also wants her to be fiercely loyal to him, or else this good-for-nothing beau will put her in her place:
“Woh time chala gaya tumhara bibi.” 

Neha is a reality from the working middle class, who toils hard in a beauty parlour, to support her family financially.  Yet the person clearly in control in the house is her conservative nincompoop brother, who cannot even pay the installments of his own loaned rickshaw, but has the authority to be the moral police at home.  She also represents a middle class struggling girl who dreams bigger than her capacity, is intelligent enough to take risks and grab opportunities, yet staying sincere to help the people who trust her- both Shameera and Rohail Khan.
Pardon me, but her third class boyfriend Ajji was an eyesore to me personally, because of being the abusive husband in real life, Mohsin Abbas Naqvi. However, his character  isnt any better on screen as he backstabs the two ladies (How?- You need to see the movie) in connivance with the other two predators in the film- Rammy and Chaand Kamal.

A lot has been said about it being a comeback of the 70s & 80s Lollywood cinema. Pardon my ignorance on Lollywood, and hence will refrain to comment. However, I could relate the story to personal lives of powerful Indian actresses of 50s like Meena Kumari, Madhubala who had to endure a lot of control, betrayal and abuse from their male relationships and families.

Meera’s body language and expressions were incredibly skillful.
For example: He expression of shock & insecurity while noticing her wrinkles in the mirror in contrast to a young Neha’s flawless skin.
So did her dialogues speak in volumes of her powerful acting skills.
For example: Her desperation in her assertion: “Love me or hate me, but you can never replace me.”

This is the first ever Meera ji film that I have seen, and I came out of the film with a changed perception of hers. There is a lot more to her than the petty image of her english jokes by elitist Pakistanis. Just because of her humble background, poor english and B films offered to her, we have judged her long enough. She has delivered a masterful performance in #BAAJI now, thanks to its director who remarked in the comments after the film,  “Either it was Meera Ji or there was no film Baaji.” 

I found Rohail Khan’s character a bit suspicious from the beginning, wondering how could someone be so nice and caring, all of a sudden?

I donot want to give out any spoilers, and hence will restrain myself to talk further about the charaters or the plot.

I loved one specific song from the film, which metaphorically relates a kite to a powerful woman, with strings in the hands of her men. They want her to soar high for their matierial benefits, but remain with their control.

Badlaan:

The other good song, which perhaps relates the film to the 70s is this

Shaam Nasheeli:

All in all, I loved the plot, the way it unfloded, including the romance, the tragedy and the suspense that followed.
Probably those who find this story of the film ghatiya, are reflecting their internalized misogyny.

I give the following credits to the producer, director Saqib Malik:

  1. Taking upon him a powerfully feminist story and telling it the way it is in a patriarchal society- full of barriers and blackmails for successful women.
  2. Throwing in a queer character in a very subtle, unoffending way( I am not giving out the details).
  3. His bravado to have chosen Meera Ji for a serious and complex role like Shameera.  Meera is popularly mocked more for her english than acknowledged for her acting skills or personal struggles. Few know she began her acting career at the age of 10.
  4. Showing things that may be taboo in Pakistan, but taking away vulgarity from them. The bedroom conversation rather than ‘the sex scene’, showbiz party with local Murree beer.
  5. Remaining very cuturally appropriate to Pakistan, and with no attempts to copy the neighboring Bollywood.
  6. Not just directing his debut film, but producing it with his own 6 crores.

It is so heartening to know that the film is doing extremely well and has crossed 12 crores of earning so far.

Congratulations Team Baaji ! 

Special Thanks to MISAFF 2019 and Arshad Khan for enabling us to watch this and other beautiful films in Mississauga, Canada.

PS: I am not technical film critic, so my blog is purely based on my view of the stories and films with social justice lens.

Story 1: Doll Bride ( Meri Guriya Ki Shaadi)


#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.

Today’s story is:

“Doll Bride” (Meri Guriya Ki Shaadi).

;

;

;

;

;

Question: Do you think the it is alright to marry girls before they are 18?
Please share your response to the question asked in the comments or on the YouTube page if you have subscribed there.

Every year 12 million girls are married before the age of 18. Unfortunately, child marriage is a global problem. Its cuts across faiths, nationalities, ethnicities and regions.

1 in 5 children become child brides and there exist almost 650 million women today who were married before 18 years of age.
Child marriage is detrimental to not just psychological but physical health of the girls.

 

 

Educate a woman and you educate an entire generation…


Recently a photo of a 25 year old Afghan girl Jahan Taab from  a remote poor village Oshto in Daikundi,  went viral when she was taking the college entrance exam called Kankor Exam while breast feeding her child. Later it was confirmed that she has passed the exams and wants to go to college to study Sociology. Photo credits are given to an invigilating lecturer Yahya Erfan. He was so moved by her determination that he posted the pictures on his facebook. Link here

“She got up from her desk when her baby started to get fussy. She sat down on the floor, breastfeeding the infant, and kept filling out the answers to the test.” (Buzzfeed).

She reportedly told the lecturer Mr. Erfan that she is worried about the cost of education and that the University is 8 hours from her residence. It is the power of social media that a Go-Fund was created to support the cost of here higher education.

More about JahanTaab

 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Needless to say, girls’ determination to study is never an issue. The key barrier is the systemic patriarchy in the garb of cultural mores or religious edicts.

Patriarchy is such an omnipresent barrier that hinders women in all communities and all economic strata one way or the other. And here is where the role of men becomes extremely important in bringing about women empowerment by dismantling the walls of patriarchy.

Here I must share my own story too.

(Bear in mind I am an urban educated woman with a strong will power. But even then, had it also not been the supportive men in my life, I may not have sailed through various systemic hurdles that patriarchal infrastructures create at every nook and corner of a woman’s life). 

In the early 1990s, as an Indian medical graduate I had to go through a written and a clinical exam by Pakistan Medical and Dental Council to be certified to practice in Pakistan. I opted Karachi centre. When I received notification for the exam it said the exam will not be held in Karachi as there are no other candidates. The exam will be in Peshawer.

Since I lived in the Middle East, I was supposed to travel with my kids to Karachi where my in laws lived. But before I could even know and panic about how I will travel with kids to Peshawer, my husband first took an emergency leave from his hospital, and then informed me that we are all travelling to Peshawer. 

My husband Fasih and I, with our two kids- a toddler and a 6 month old breast feeding infant landed in Peshawar. It was a 3 day long exam- with a written paper and clinical exam.  From day 1, my husband sat in the lawn of the examination centre, with two babies, as he dropped me for the exam. I would come out to feed the baby every few hours in the breaks.

Funniest incident in the whole saga was when my daughter cried, “Papa potty.”
He ran with the baby in one hand and the toddler in another to the washroom.
As he entered the male washroom the guard said, “Take the girl to female washroom with her mother.”
“BUT mother is busy in exam.”
“Then wait.”
“But this baby cannot wait. She has to go urgently.”
So the guard let him take her to the washroom. And while holding the infant in arms he helped the toddler finish the job and clean her. 
Finally they came back to play and sit in the lawn again. 
And then he smelt the baby has soiled his diaper. He ran again to the same wash room.
The chowkidar got annoyed, “Ap pher se as gaye?” (You have come again?).
Fasih: “Smell this diaper.”
The guard laughed and commented, “Aur parhao biwi ko.”(Let your wife study more).

After day1 the entire examination team knew about my family and when I went from each viva and clinical exam, from Internal Medicine to General Surgery to ENT to ObGyn to Ophthalmology, first thing the professors asked was how are the husband and babies doing? 
Second question they asked was, “Where have you graduated from?”. 
On reply “Lady Hardinge Medical College in New Delhi” every single one of them began the viva with the comment, “So do we really need to test your knowledge?”
No bragging but I passed with the top position. 

The head examiner was Prof Zakaullah Beg who was my husband’s professor in his postgraduate life. He himself called Fasih on phone 2 weeks later in Karachi to break the news.

Moral of the story: Empower a woman and she will make her husband, family and entire community proud.

Ashure’ : Noah’s Pudding


Ammi called me early in the morning on Friday, the day of Ashura( 10th Moharram). Ashura commemorates the day of the battle of Karbala for Muslims.
I knew why did she call that early, as it has been a regular practice since years, I have lost count of
“One request beta.”
“Yes Ammi.”

I knew it but still wanted her to say it.
“Please don’t play music today on Ashura.”

This is all she expects from me. But she does a bit more than just not listen to music. One of her routines is to cook a pot of Khichra( Haleem) and not let anyone touch it, or munch any of the ingredients till the Niyaz is done.

South Asians make Haleem on Ashura, a complete food with multiple ingredients in one: whole wheat, lentils, rice, barley, and meat with a host of rich spices in a lengthy procedure.

Along the same lines, the Turks make a sweet Haleem, called Ashure or Noah’s Pudding. The ingredients vary from 7 to 10 to 12 varying from whole wheat, beans ( red and white), chick pea, to dry fruits including figs, peaches and nuts like almonds and raisins.

There are multiple legends associated with it.

It is cooked on the day of Ashura ( 10th Moharram) by all communities in Turkey across different sects: Sunnnis (Balkan Sufis), Shias, Alevis and Kurds.

Ashure is then distributed to all in the neighborhood in small bowls, after performing prayers for health and harmony.

Alevites fast for 12 days, and break it on Ashura with this special dish Ashure. Alevis prepare it with 12 ingredients in their version of the dish. They refrain from killing animals or eating meat in these days of fasting.

There is also a different but popular legend of why it came to be known as Noah’s pudding. According to the legend, it was the day when Noah’s Ark came to the banks of Ararat and Noah’s family cooked a dish from all ingredient leftovers in the Ark.

.
As I asked a Turk friend to confirm my list of ingredients, she added:
“The most important ingredient is the ‘Intention’ and the ‘Will’ to make this dish. In Turkish we say ‘Niyet Etmek.’

Asure – Noah’s Pudding
Ingredients
(can be found at any Whole Food Markets or Middle Eastern Store) –
• 1 cup of barley whole wheat
• 1 can of chick peas,soaked & boiled
• 1 can of white kidney beans
• 3/4 cup of black dried currants & raisins
• 3/4 cup of almonds/pistachios
• 6 dried Turkish Figs – cut into small quarter
• 6 dried Turkish Apricots – cut into small quarter
• 2 cups of brown sugar ( or plain white sugar)
• 1 lemon zest or orange
9– 12 cups of cold water/4 tsp rosewater(optional)
Condiments: salt/cloves/cinnamon sticks
Garnishing: Fresh pomegranate

Preparation:
One day Before: Soak 1 cup of barley whole wheat in 3 cups of water the night before. This will allow the barley to soften.
Day of:
1. Drain the soaked barley, pour into a deep cooking pot fill with 8-10 cups of cold water leaving about 2-3 inches of the top. At this time add in, sprinkle some salt, add in the cloves and cinnamon sticks.
2. Over a medium to high bring the pot to broil fior 30-40 minutes. The barley will have cracked open and have become white and soft to touch and taste.
3. In the mean time into a small sauce pan, boil the black currants and in a cup of cold water. Once the color of the water turns dark, drain the currants through a sieve.
4. Once the barley has softened, add in the washed chick peas and kidney beans and stir.
5. Add in the rest of the ingredients – the drained currants, raisins, apricots, figs, and almonds, stirring each time you add in an ingredient. Let this mixture boil for 8-10 minutes.
6. To thicken fast, in a cup of cold water mix the 4 tablespoons of corn starch, leaving no lumps. Add the corn starch into the boiling barley mixture and give it a thoroughly stir. *the corn starch will act as a thickening agent.
7. Add brown sugar to your liking, and again stir thoroughly, continue cooking over medium heat and allow the sugar to dissolve.
8. Finally add in the zest of the lemon or orange and the rose water and let cook for a 5-7 minutes.
9. Let cool for about 15 minutes, ladle into serving bowls. Top with cinnamon, nuts and pomegranate seeds.
Ashure can be served warm, at room temperature or cold.

Ashure is a vegan dessert too.

NoahPudding1Noah's Pudding2

Ashure served with a traditional touch:

NoahPudding0

Negative Stereotypes


Think Norway. What occurs to your mind?
A beautiful country up in the north, where it snows, its all peaceful, no crime. No?

Think Africa. What crops up in the same  head?
Poverty, AIDS, famine, a picture of a starved kid pops up in imagination, and for some well informed perhaps they think of it’s corrupt leaders. Yes?

BTW, don’t  you know Africa is not a country but a second largest continent?
It comprises of  57 countries, each with a distinct culture, language and of course like any other country, each of them have their distinct problems.

So will it  be  justified to summarize all these sovereign states with just  four or five issues, that too very negative.

Why did this stereotyping occur?
The answer is simple. Disinformation.

How?
Of course through the various advertisements from the social sector, that with all their good intentions wish to collect funds for development in the continent. And the media, that through its good intentions tries to highlight to the world the grave  issues they face. However, despite their good intentions, they end up creating a negative stereotype.

Ever thought what must Africans be thinking or feeling of this stereotyping of  them?
It is not that such issues do not exist,  they do, but then this is not all, about Africa.

To highlight this negative stereotyping, without  lashing out in anger, a group  has come out with an extremely creative and cheeky parody called “Africa for Norway” with the message:

“ Imagine if every person in Africa saw the “Africa for Norway” video and this was the only information they ever got about Norway. What would they think about Norway?”

Also imagine if they also used  picture of a Norwegian child shivering in cold, without permission from those concerned?

Here is the parody “Africa for Norway” :

What message do they want to convey through this initiative?
1.Fundraising should not be based on exploiting stereotypes.
2. We want better information about what is going on in the world, in schools, in TV and media.
3.Media: Show respect.
4.Aid must be based on real needs, not “good” intentions.

For more details on the brilliant project click>>  Radi-Aid .

Coming closer to home, who would know more about stereotype than Pakistanis and Muslims with a “My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist.”  being their holy passport to the outside world.

On a personal note:

Growing up as a minority Muslim in a metropolitan New Delhi, India, I came across some curious stereotypes:

  • How many wives  does your father have?
  • Why doesn’t your mother wear a burqa or why doesn’t your father have a beard?
  • Is you father a professor of Urdu in Delhi University?
  • Do you eat Biryani everyday?

Equally ridiculous questions were asked when I came two decades ago, as a newly married immigrant to the megacity Karachi in Pakistan:

  • Are you a Hindu? (On wearing a saree and bindi together, and being of Indian origin).
  • Did you have Hindu friends?
  • Did you ever eat food in Hindu households?
  • Kya India mein VCR hota hai? (Are there VCRs in India?) ( The last curious query  sounds hilarious 😀 now, but it almost got me crying as a new immigrant. Those were the days when India had only Fiat, Ambassador or Maruti cars,   no Sony TVs and yes, not even StarPlus channels 🙂 ).

Not sure if these stereotypes were also created through media !

Whatever IS will be WAS.


The above heading is a Buddhist saying by Monk Ñanamoli. The  in depth meaning of its essence could not be more powerfully conveyed than by an ancient  Buddhist ritual called dul-tson-kyil-khor ( Mandala of colored powders).

Sometime ago in search for an idea for silk painting I accidentally bumped into a beautiful  handmade creation, which in first hand looked like an intricate colorful geometrical design, called Sand Mandala.

As the name implies, it is a creation made from colored sand. Mandala means a palace. There is much more to it than the eyes can see.

From the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, this is not just a creation of a beautiful sand castle, but a spiritual journey, for which requires a great practice and meditation before embarking on it. Even during the creation , which usually requires 4 monks (bhikkus) who keep chanting hymns and focus all their minds and actions into its creation.

The sand mandala for them is a three dimensional Palace of Imagination in which they enter, and each dot, line, shape and color that they create in it stands for a specific aspect of Buddhist Philosophy. There are many types of Mandalas, and each stand for a unique symbol.

The creation has to be accurate, and the work  between the 4 creators, working on each quadrant,  has to be well coordinated.

Billions of grains of colored sand powder are carefully and accurately placed in its specific location, using two copper conical pipes called chapku, which are gently tapped over the other, to release controlled amount of sand.

The colors for the painting are usually made with naturally colored sand, crushed gypsum (white), yellow ochre, red sandstone, charcoal, and a mixture of charcoal and gypsum (blue). Mixing red and black can make brown, red and white make pink. Other coloring agents include corn meal, flower pollen, or powdered roots and bark. In the ancient times they used colored dust from the lapiz lazulli, emerald, ruby, and corals and other precious stones to get colored dust powder.

It takes from few days to few weeks to create a mandala.

However, the most mind boggling part arrives when the whole intricately built sand mandala is undone ( yes, you read it correct) from outside-in in a rotas wheel movement, never to exist again, by the very monks who created it. This metaphorically implies the impermanence of things.

The dust collected is immersed in a flowing water ( river nearby) symbolizing the transference of the energy of goodwill ( imparted to it during its creation)  and compassion, to the rest of the world. {The whole idea gave me shivers and goose bumps}

Hence, when even  at first look it appears to be an end of a creation, but in the real sense, nothing is ever destroyed forever, just that it is returned to the nature, to rejoin elements.

And this does happen to all animate and inanimate objects on earth, be they complicated  humans,  simple plants, soft clouds or  even lofty mountains.

When Buddha passed away, one of his disciples remarked:

Aniccaa vata sa”nkhaaraa — uppaada vaya dhammino
Uppajjitvaa nirujjhanti — tesa.m vuupasamo sukho.

Impermanent are all component things,
They arise and cease, that is their nature:
They come into being and pass away,
Release from them is bliss supreme.

It compels me to be reminded of Kabir’s doha:

Mati kahe kumar se tu kya rondey mohe,
Ik din aisa ayega main rondoonga tohe.
(The clay says to the Potter: What will you maul me, a day shall come, when I shall maul you).

Or yet in another doha he reminds:

Kaya nahin teri nahin teri,
Mat ker meri meri.
(This existence isn’t yours, don’t call it “It’s mine, it’s mine.”)

And of Bulleh Shah’s kaafi:

Na Kar Bandeya  
Meri Meri
Na Teri Na Meri
Char Dinan Da Mela
Duniya Fair Mitti Di Dheri.
(O people, why  be obsessed with me, mine. Its neither yours nor mine. Its for a while, then we all shall be but a pile of dust).

Indeed, “from dust we were born, and to dust we shall return.”.