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Archive for the ‘Pakistan’ Category

Farewell To My Friend Dr. Syed Fasihuddin


Aah it was a 36 years of friendship in total with 30 years of marital association of two people of opposite personalities.
Fasih was quiet, gentle yet nerves of steel, living in the moment and a fearless risk taker. And despite being not too talkative, he was a people’s person, and a helper.
I am, as always expressive, explosive, yet a loner, super cautious bordering to being fearful, never living or enjoying the present, mind always planning 5 years ahead.
Yet for some weird reason we clicked very well. And clicked so much that both of us did not need to change our personalities. I learned from Fasih how to give space to the other partner. He let me be me and certainly wanted me to let him be him.
But the fearless risktaker that he was, I tried my best to be a check on him. But I always failed. And he always proved me wrong.

Whether it was his decision to marry an Indian and the practical challenges related to it. (This is another story, that deserves another memoir).
Or refusing to hand over his wallet on gunpoint at Sharei Faisal( Karachi) traffick jam in rain and handing that boy a brown envelope with patties saying, “I don’t keep wallet, eat this it must be hard work as there are so many cars.”
T
he guy remarked, “Fauji lagtey ho is liye itni himmat dikha rahe ho.”(You look an armed forces man and hence being so daring). And the boy walked to the next car.
Or whenever we travelled, which were very frequent, he would leave at the nick of time, despite my cries to keep some margin of time, speeding to reach on time. Once when we were travelling from Makkah to Jeddah airport to catch PIA flight for Karachi, the car’s tyre burst and we ended up reaching airport 2 hours late when the counter was closed and they were wrapping the list.
Fasih went straight to the manager desk, who was Manzoor Junior ( A Pakistani Hockey Olympian). He was very angry.
Fasih said, “Sir tyre got burst.”
He replied, “Yes this is an old excuse.”
He was not in a mood to listen to Fasih’s pleas. He then touched the chin of Manzoor Sb, “Sir aap hockey bahut achi kheltey the.” (Sir you played awesome hockey.)
Manzoor SB got even angrier and yet said, “No. Sorry.”
Fasih them told him, “Sir aap tou 1984 olympic team ke captain they. Sir, gold medal bhi mila tha….” (Sir you were the captain of 1984 Olympic Team. You even got the Gold Medal).
Manzoor Junior laughed and told his staff….“Inko toilet ke pass wali jo khali seat hai woh issue ker do. Family for peeche wali row de dou.”
(Give him the empty seat near toilet and the row behind to the family).

I wanted to travel Egypt, as it from his Egyptian experience and stay that inspired my father to name me Ilmana. Fasih suggested we drive by car all along River Nile from Luxor to Alexandria in Egypt, even though there were some news Muslim Brotherhood’s recent surgence in Upper Egypt in 1996/1997. I dreaded and he said, “With two toddlers car journey is the safest journey.”
In the area of Asyut, half way through, the Egyptian Army stopped us. “Pakistani?What are you doing here?”
Fasih replied, “Long drive along Nile al Gameel.” (River Nile, the beautiful)
The armed forces guys were so cordial, they drove ahead of us all along 1200km or more, proudly stopping to show us the historical points. And Fasih said, “See we have free guides. You just fear for no reason.”



Or when he gave up his lucrative job abroad to build a hospital in Karachi Pakistan, when target killing of doctors were at its peak in the city. I lived those years with my heart in my throat. I owe this to one of his politician friends who suggested to him, “Fasih bhai at least in haalaat mein bachon ko tou mut Karachi laao.” (Fasih bhai at least in these risky times dont bring your kids to Karachi). So my kids and I came to Canada in 2009.

In the middle or all forms of corruption and bribery in Pakistan he wanted to do good work. So for approval of his hospital plan, confronting the Director General of Karachi Building Control Authority, KBCA (who is now a fugitive for corruption) in his polite affirmness Fasih demanded, “I want to make a quality healthcare setup that provides honest and ethical care in Karachi but I dont have any money to give bribe. I am a salaried man, not a builder.”
And imagine the miracle, the man famous for not sparing a penny of bribe relented saying, “Pray for me in Haram”.
Fasih then took out a box of Ajwa dates as a reward for him. With his mild sense of humor, he came out smiling from the Director’s office saying, “This ajwa dates will control his hypoglycemia for not have got any bribe.”
He was famous in Building Control( KBCA) that, “ye doctor tou kangla hai.” (This doctor is a pauper). And Fasih enjoyed his nickname.

When we inaugurated the dream of his life, Taj Clinics( now Taj Consultants Clinics) he named after his mother Tajunnisa, and realized the hard work wasn’t yet over and it was now a 14 hour per day job, with no vacations, no salary, not even a car for first 2 years of the startup.
I often joked to him, “Deewane tou pehle hi the, ab aur tarah ki deewangi hai.” (Crazy you were already, now this is another level of craziness).
He just laughed and retorted, “Zindagi kya hai jaanne ke liye, Karachi mein rehna bahut zaroori hai.” (To know what living means, you must experience living in Karachi).
He did not regret for a single minute the U-turn his life had taken from a high salaried Consultant luxurious life in the Middle East, to a life in Karachi far from family, with no rest, no money and loads of sweat, loadshedding, manipulations, navigating a thororughly corrupt system for every paperwork, and most of all never ending expenses in newly begun Taj Consultants Clinics.

At our inauguration of Taj Consultants Clinics on April 5, 2015

In 30 years there must have been 100s of such incidents when I feared but he just kept taking risks but with a belief that he is not doing anything unfair or unjust. And that this is the right way and nothing good happens by being fearful. He kept proving my fears wrong.

Last pic together near Niagara Falls on May 11, 2020

He came for a 2 week spring break to us in Mississauga on March 1, 2020. With blessing in disguise due to lockdown and no flights he got stranded here with us for 10 weeks. He travelled back to Pakistan on May 15, 2020, despite our pleas to not go, as I feared he will risk his life in COVID 19 as a Pulmonologist in a madhouse called Karachi. He said he has his patients, his staff that needs to be paid salary before Eid ( May 23, 2020) and,
“I can’t hide from what I am trained to do. My patients will die. I promise I will be safe.”
He started his Chest Clinic at Taj Consultants Clinics on May 25 and saw tens of patients each day with at least a quarter of them were clinically COVID 19. He used to tell me with frustration that many of them are negative on tests and they refuse to accept and to be referred to COVID Centres. On asked to be tested from a relaible lab one man even said, “Sir I have 3 daughters. How can I label myself COVID 19.”
And I kept worrying yet praying and nagging him across oceans, as usual, to follow strict precautions, PPE and SOPs knowing this time too I will be proven wrong.
But this was not meant to be. And as I always told him, “If any risk goes wrong, we wont get a second chance
Last he saw on Friday 19 after which he developed fever and isolated himself. He was admitted on Sunday. Alas, Fasih lost his battle to COVID 19 on Friday 26 June 2020.

Hisaab e umr ka buss itnaa sa goshwaara hai,
Tumhein nikaal ker dekha tou buss khasara hai
.
(This is the mere calculation in the ledger of my life,
If I see excluding you, it is nothing but a total loss).

Farewell My Friend

Two Pandemics: Domestic Violence & COVID-19


Here is a story:

Sonia and Vicky( names not real) are both a working couple.
Sonia works as a school teacher. Vicky works in a hotel as a floor manager. He loves socializing with friends and spent at least 3-4 evenings with his friends drinking. Freuently, he comes home drunk, and it just takes him a silly excuse to either hurl abuses or sometimes even physically hit Sonia. Kids are scared of him when drunk. Sonia tries to avoid too. But often questions herself: “Why did I say this or do this to enrage him?”
She has mentioned this to her Mom and her reply was, “Havent you seen your father? How he behaves when drunk?”
She tries her best to not trigger Vicky, but she unfortunately always fails.
Then came Corona. Soon it was declared a pandemic and all countries started to lock down.
Within 2 weeks Vicky was laid off. He was depressed, not just because he had lost his job but also because he could not drink with his friends.
Sonia was asked by school to work remotely and she had to spend extra hours learning the art of digital lessons. Her two kids, 5 and 9 were also home, as the schools were closed. Sonia helped them navigate the digital lessons and homeworks too. Ofcourse cooking, cleaning, washing were part of her responsibilities too.
One day Vicky woke up at 12 Noon with loud laughter from the kids room.
“Why are the kids screaming? Sonia? I cant even sleep?”
Sonia was busy on the dining table with her laptop and preparing lessons for her next class.
“Sonia, why cant you listen? Why cant you mind the kids?” screamed Vicky from the room.
Sonia: “I am working for my lesson. They are on a break after 2 hours of work.”
V
icky: “But I am heaving a headache.”
Sonia: “Yes, I understand. But please bear with it. I will tell the kids to not be too noisy. “
Vicky: “Make me a cup of tea.” ( shouts from the room).
Sonia: “Okay. Just 5 minutes. I am about to finish the work. Just relax.”
In 15 minutes, she makes the cup of tea and takes for Vicky in the bedroom.
Vicky: “Is this your 5 minutes?
Sonia: “I was just finishing the school lesson. I have been up since 7:30 AM. But did not have a minute to spare.”
Vicky: “You want to prove that you that your work is more imprtant than me? Just because I dont have a job? “
Sonia keeps quiet and goes back to the kitchen as she now has to cook for the lunch, during her 1 hour school lunch break.
Vicky( shouts from inside): “What is this? How much sugar have you put in the tea? “
Sonia: “Oh, maybe I put it twice. Sorry, I was just absent minded.”
Vicky: “You are a useless woman. Its like a cold sherbet. I needed a good cup of hot tea for my headache.
Sonia: “You drank a lot late in the night. This is a hangover from that?”
Vicky gets enraged, and slaps Sonia: “How dare you taunt me? You will now question my drinking? Bitch !”

In the evening Sonia tells her husband that she has to go out for groceries.
He shouts again, “So you now want to stroll outside and bring home infection for me and kids?”
Sonia: “So who will get the groceries? Will you go?
Vicky slaps her and shouts: “Shut up you bitch ! You want me to go out and die?”
Now Vicky’s triggers leading to abuses and slappings have become more frequent. Sonia does not know how to change this? She cannot even go to her mother’s home for a respite, and nor can she speak to her or anyone of her friends because of Vicky being around all the time during lockdown.

Sonia has a question for you all: Am I at fault for all of Vicky’s triggers? Do I have to live like this all my life or is there anything that can change my life ?

This is a story not from one country, one community or one faith group. This is the story from all across the globe.

A self explanatory picture of DV during COVID-19 by Nirjhar Som.

Gender based violence aka Domestic violence or violence against women has been a pandemic ever since the human life began. In each crisis or natural disaster it has been a best evidence that there occurs a spike in GBV. So has it happened in #COVID19 crisis.
From Japan to China to Phillipines to India to pakistan to Turkey to France to UK to US to Canada there are reports of increase domestic violence during lockdown.
Public authorities insist people to ‘Stay home, stay safe’.
However home is not safe for many victims of abuse and they are in more vulnerable and exposed to violence during social distancing and lockdown.

Please do leave your answers to the above question in the comments below.
The intent of these stories is to initiate conversation on domestic violence and create a better awareness on this global pandemic.

Here are a few tips for those facing violence at home during lockdown:

Ammi’s Pandaan


I have many pleasant memories of this pandaan from my childhood.
Papa used to eat pan and this pandaan was a functional part of our house.
However it had a different look then. It had a silver qalai(coat) on all the pieces of this beauty, as it sat on the outermost edge of the kitchen slab. Fresh crispy pans that Ammi bought regularly from her trips to Jama Masjid area, wrapped in wet cloth were placed on the top tray. A sarauta (beetlenut cutter), missing here also shared the space on the tray along with pans.
The containers under the tray all had their specific contents:
The two mini handias with the flat spoons were for Choona (white) and katha (brown) pastes. The tiny spoons were applicators for their contents on the pan. I even remember how Ammi bought dry solid katha and then cooked it with water to melt it, which finally was transferred in the little handiya.
The two big canisters housed- chhaliya(betelnut)- one as full rounded nuts and the other cut into small pieces by the sarauta. The third canister contained saunf(anise). The thin canister in the middle contained tobacco leaves.
Each time papa wanted a pan, either ammi or sometimes Papa himself followed the process of ‘making a pan’ applying the contents in the following order- choona, katha, chaliya and tambaku- and finally the whole pan was folded into a conical form called gilori.
Interestingly the only person who ate pan was papa. Ammi made them several times in a day, but I never saw her eating herself. We kids also never seemed interested in trying one.
When I was in high school, papa decided to give up tobacco. He just left it cold turkey. Pandaan still remained functional. But some years down the road he realized pan was unhealthy and he must cut down if not stop it altogether. So the pandaan was wrapped up and he chose to get a single pan in a day from the panwala.
This pandaan from 1930s that came to our household in Ammi’s jahez(dowry) in 1964 was carefully packed in a plastic bag and kept on the topmost shelf in the kitchen.
With tarnished and dull look, the pandaan rested on the shelf for about 25 years. Out of sight is out of mind and we all forgot about its existence.
About 15 years, as my siblings renovated the kitchen, this pandaan again came down on the kitchen slab. I happened to visit them during that period, and the sight of an ugly big ‘thing’ brought back the memories of its heydays.
Seeing my interest in it, I was chosen to be the next owner of this treasure by my siblings and Ammi saying, “You treasure such things.”

I brought it with me and it became a part of our desi decor in Makkah. As we moved from there it was dumped in a carton for almost a decade. Periodically I looked around for a trusted person who would repair it, refurbish it and can bring out it’s original copper instead of the silver enamel.

Today, on the last day of 2019, the person who agreed to follow my instructions, and did this job chose to come himself with the finished form and proudly present it to us, tell us how precious this piece is, and most importantly to inform us how much personal efforts he has put in to bring this pandaan to a new life.
The sight of this sparkling gem not just made my day, but also made me feel accomplished in life. 😀
I hope the next decade also brings such wonderful outcomes and happiness for us and for you all.
Happy 2020 folks !

Story #8: Good Touch Bad Touch


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 #8: Good Touch Bad Touch

Do you think it is right to inform children about ‘Good Touch’ and ‘Bad Touch’ at a very early age? 

We teach our children to be safe from fire, from falls, from strangers, from other hazards, but we often fail to teach them how to be safe from body harm( from sexual abuse).
What is really worrying is that the statistics of sexual abuse in children are high- 1 in 3 in girls and 1 in 6 in boys before 18 years of age. Scary fact is that 90% of the perpetrators are known to the children.
Sexual abuse is a confusing concept for little kids. They feel awkward of certain actions of adults, but do not inform their parents/loved ones about them. Long term xhildhood sexual abuse has devastating consequences as they grow up as adults.
Why do parents avoid sharing with children the idea of body safety? Most think it is too early to tell them about sexual abuse without realizing that this is the age when they are the most vulnerable. Also, not teaching them skills to protect themsleves from abuse actually makes them more vulnerable for sexual abuse. It is never too early to empower children on how to confidently stay safe from sexual abuse.
This story is a small attempt to empower children in simple and easy way on body safety.

Amrita Pritam- the Legend Lives On…


Amrita Pritam turns 100 yrs old on August 31, 2019.
She lives in her poetry and in her two love stories- Sahir Ludhianvi & Imroz.

These was the last words in the form of a couplet (shair) Sahir said to her as they parted:

Tum chali jaaogi, parchhaiyaan rah jaayengi,
Kuchh na kuchh Ishq ki raanaaiyaan rah jaayengi.
When you leave, your lovely silhouettes shall remain,
Memories and traces of love will refresh me time and again.

Amrita wrote an ode to her love for Imroz as her last parting poetry:

“Mayn tennu pher milangi….” Link to my blog on this poetry is here

Imroz, who’s love for Amrita Pritam remains unmatched, is alive at 91 years and still refers to her in present tense. After her passing away he started to write poetry and called his book: “Jashn Jaari Hai (The Celebration is on).

One of the verses he wrote for Amrita are:

Main jab khamosh hota hun
Aur khayal bhi khamosh hote hain
To ek halki halki sargoshi hoti hai
Uske ehsaas ki
Uske shayron ki…Whenever I am quiet,
And so are my thoughts silent,
Then happens very faint whisper(babble)
Of her being
Of her poetry

However my favourite of Amrita Pritam remains her power poetry “Aaj Akhan Waris Shah Nu” which deserves its own blog and will share one in days to come.

 

This was Google’s tribute to Amrita Pritam:Amrita

Story #6: School Shoes (School ka Joota)


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 #6: School Shoes (School Ka Joota)

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According to a report by World Bank, in 2016, a total of 263 million children from ages 5- 16 years did not go to school.

According to the report, among the first to be left outside school are those already in a vulnerable societal position because of gender, disability, caste, or belonging to a certain ethic group. Poverty is still one of the biggest obstacles to a child going to school.
The quality of education plays a part as well. If the quality of education is seen as poor, parents may not be ready to send their children to school, says the report.

According to UNICEF, #Pakistan has the world’s second-highest number of out-of-school children (OOSC) with an estimated 22.8 million children aged 5-16 not attending school, representing 44 per cent of the total population in this age group (Link 1).
India has 17.8 million Out of School Children between in ages 5-13 years. ( Link 2)

Education offers children a ladder out of poverty and a path to a promising future. 

Education is not a privilege. It is a human right.

Every child has the right to an education regardless of who they are, where they live or how much money their family has. 

 

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.

Will India Pakistan Feed Their Hungry with War & Nuclear Weapons?


Poochhna hai ab mujhe yeh Hind-O-Pakistan sey,
Peit bhookon ka bharogey kya jang ke samaan sey?
(I now have to ask this from India and Pakistan, 
Will you feed your hungry with the weapons of war?).
~Kunwer Mahinder Singh Bedi Seher

India and Pakistan, both nuclear nations, have been embroilled in conflict over the territory of Kashmir since 1947. Several times in past 70+ years have they come very close to war.

However, their human life indices tell a very sordid story.

Global Hunger Index for past 13 years has been ranking countries based on four key indicators — undernourishment, child mortality, child wasting and child stunting. Zero is the best score and a reading above 100 is the worst.
You can see the detailed list here: https://www.globalhungerindex.org/results/.

Out of 119 countries ranked on global hunger index,  the countries ranks in South Asia region in 2019 were as:

  • Sri Lanka- 62
  • Nepal- 72
  • Bangladesh -86
  • India- 103 (was 100 in 2017 and 55 in 2014) (Score= 31.6)
  • Pakistan -106 (Score 32.6)

Together between these countries, there are over 1 billion children and youth whose lives are at stake because of warmongering, which is unnecessary and unwarranted.

Here are some pictures of children from India and Pakistan:

Hunger

Hunger 3

hunger 5

hunger 4

hunger 2

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.

Can Pakistan be Polio free?


 Published: July 31, 2019 here: Express Tribune Blogs

A Pakistani health worker administers polio vaccine drops to school children. PHOTO: GETTY

People who know me well know that I often compulsively compare and contrast India and Pakistan by virtue of not just their close proximity, but because I consider both countries as my home.

When the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared India polio free on March 27, 2014, after it had not had a single case since 2009, I was filled with great pride. Knowing that Indiais densely populated, afflicted with poverty and has poor access to healthcare for millions, polio eradication was indeed something to celebrate. But as in every such situation, I naturally wanted to know how long it would take Pakistan to reach this milestone.

As India has put an end to the polio epidemic, its neighbour Pakistan remains one of the three countries in the world that are still trying to eradicate the disease. I thought to myself, four times larger in size than Pakistan and more populated, so if India could do it, why can’t Pakistan?

With fingers crossed, I have kept my eyes on the numbers ever since. Polio cases dropped in Pakistan from over 300 in 2014 to 54 in 2015. This gave me hope. In 2016, polio cases further went down to 20 and then to eight in 2017.

It must be said here that it is remarkable how the entire world of healthcare had come together, spending $16 billion in the global polio drive over the last 31 years, to eradicate a disease that has in the past left many children disabled for life.

So I was certain in my heart of my hearts that Pakistan would get there.

Pak Fights Polio@PakFightsPolio

Hats off to the polio workers who carried on with their duties in the scorching heat of Baluchistan and successfully vaccinated about 33,000 children in District Jhal Magsi to in Pakistan.

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

PTI

@PTIofficial

Meet the 25 year old girl, who sets the perfect example of strong will and commitment. Role model for every woman, nothing can stop Shizza Illyas as she goes from door to door on her motorbike to help @Pakfightspolio end polio in Pakistan. 1/2

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But it was not meant to be and there are a confluence of factors that have prevented polio eradication from becoming a reality in Pakistan.

Amidst the politicisation of polio vaccines, not just polio workers, but the police officials accompanying them continued to be gunned down. Yet this still has not deterred the brave health workers from taking risks, high up in the mountains in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) or in the ghettos in Karachi, from ensuring that children are given proper and timely access to vaccines.

Early this year, rumours made rounds on social media that children were dying as a result of polio vaccines, thus creating a panic among the thousands of households whose children had been administered these vaccines. In retaliation, health centres were set on fire. It was also reported that a man had divorced his wife after he found out that she ensured their family was administered polio vaccines.

A video also surfaced on social media recently, where children were made to pretend to be dead by a man who wished to prove how dangerous polio vaccines are. Given the spread of such misinformation in the digital age, the proliferation and rise of such videos is deeply concerning and could prove to be a serious roadblock.

omar r quraishi

@omar_quraishi

The news that some children fell ill after being administered the polio vaccine in KP yesterday was fake – see it for yourself here – including the man who instructs the boys to feign illness and lie on the hospital bed

This man should be arrested immediately & prosecuted

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If all this wasn’t bad enough, just a couple of weeks ago we heard news of fake polio markersbeing sold in Pakistan, which parents were using to mark their children’s finger to make it seem like they have already been given those ‘dangerous’ two drops. This only further compounds the already arduous job of Pakistan’s polio workers.

What also damages the effectiveness of Pakistan’s polio drive is when polio workers are unable to reach certain localities. It has been reported that 37,678 children missed a recent special immunisation drive which was conducted in Bannu, Lakki Marwat and North Waziristan. While many children could not be given polio drops because their parents refused, 11,853 children could not be reached altogether. An inability to get access to these children will only further complicate an already difficult task.

I have never, and will probably never be able to understand the reasons as to why parents choose to ensure that their children are not given polio drops. Why can’t these people understand how detrimental this kind of rumour mongering can be?

Pak Fights Polio@PakFightsPolio

Parental mistrust & refusal to vaccinate drags 8 months old Imtiaz into lifelong pain & paralysis in District Jaffarabad of Baluchistan. His sorrowful father, holding himself responsible, appeals to parents to learn from his example and say yes to vaccination against polio.

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The push-back against polio vaccines stems largely from a whole host of myths which have been floating around for years. From people claiming that the drops are being used to sterilise Muslims, to the campaign being part of a ‘western agenda’, to stories that children have died because of polio drops. The only valid criticism I have come across is the one pertaining to the Shakil Afridi case because it did indeed damage the trust of the communities to a great extent. However, very few know that he was part of the hepatitis vaccine campaign, not the polio vaccine. 

The New York Times

@nytimes

Polio vaccination teams are frequently targeted in Pakistan. Islamist militants and hard-line clerics say the vaccination drive is a foreign plot to sterilize Muslim children and a cover for western spies. https://nyti.ms/2XDqREm 

Security officials investigating an attack by gunmen on a polio vaccination team on Thursday that left one woman dead in the town of Chaman, in Pakistan.

Polio Vaccinator Is Shot and Killed in Pakistan

The woman was part of a vaccination campaign. Another worker in her team was injured. A total of three polio workers have been killed this week as unfounded rumors against vaccines spread.

nytimes.com

In contrast to 12 cases in 2018, there have been 47 reported cases of polio in 2019 so far. It is likely that this number will have gone up by the end of the year.

With every case of polio paralysis, the virus spreads to 200 more children in the neighbourhood. As a result, the virus has been found in multiple sewage samples in Karachi, Sindh, Balochistan, K-P and Punjab. Not just limited to Pakistan and Afghanistan, the same strain of polio virus has even been detected in sewage samples in Iran and in the Xinjiang province in China.

It seems that the polio virus is here to stay in Pakistan for much longer than we would want it to.

All the kids afflicted with polio paralysis, if they survive, will grow up to be adults on crutches and in wheelchairs. Many of them may not even be able to afford crutches and will be dragging their stick-thin, polio-afflicted limbs along the ground. Will they be living in abject poverty, dependent on their family, or will they resort to begging on the streets?

What about those hundreds of children who will be affected in the years to come?

As a Pakistani, as a doctor and as a mother, I am pleading with all the parents: please let those two drops help save your children’s future.

ilmana.fasih

Dr Ilmana Fasih

An Indian gynaecologist, married to a Pakistani, Ilmana is a health activist, and m-Health entrepreneur, who writes on social and health issues as a passion. She dreams of a world without borders and wars.

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