I've been rearranging letters for recreation and recompense since I was 10. there hasn't been any money yet, but I'm keeping the faith.

Saturday, December 17

Ajab Khel

Zindagi bhi aik ajab khel hai mere dost
Kab chaal chalti hai pata nahin chalta
kab paasa palatta hai, yeh kohi nahin jaanta

Aaj mein apni ek aisi dost se
wapas mila jise meine chaar saal se nahin dekha hai

In chaar saalon mein
mere dimaag nein apni khud ki kahaniyan bicha daalin
mere dil mein aik aahat si bhait gaye..
ke bas..
isi ke saath, isi ke saath marna hai aur jeena hai, isi ke saath
hun mein, rahunga mein
mere dil ne apne aapse baatein kar kar ke, apne aap ko mana liya

aur aaj jab hum mile
itni khushi se mile, itne pyaar se mile
par sirf dosti mein mile

aur aaj mein yahaan khada hun
sach mere saamne
lekin phir bhi munh pe muskaan hai
ek zinda insaan, ek mari hui rooh

phir bhi chehre pe muskaan hai
zindagi bhi aik ajab khel hai doston

Friday, November 26

Round II

What are you mad at? You made the same mistake all over again. Fell in love, forgot to tell anyone, kept silent. Now you must live the consequences. Its all been done, you've seen it all before. Bear the brunt, pay your penance and look to move on. Perhaps this time it'll be easier. Perhaps it won't. But you did it to yourself. No one else to blame.

Wednesday, July 28

Pakistan's long term game

It saddens me to say that there is a lot of truth in reports which say that elements of Pakistan's ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) are working with the Taliban. For years now, Pakistan's reputation in diplomatic circles has suffered from this accusation and it continues to be a thorny issue. With the recent release of American military documents that chronicle the Afghan war, this charge has found renewed support and officials in Pakistan and the US are both suffering a major blowback. As a person who would like to see nothing more than peace in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Kashmir, these accusations are like daggers and their truth is a sinking poison to me.

Without being an apologist for such disgusting tactics, I must say however that their is a method to this madness. Pakistan's relationship with the mujahideen that gave birth to the Taliban dates back to the Reagan days when it trained, supported and handled the mujahideen cause on behalf of the Americans. It funded them financially in America's quest to conduct a proxy war against Afghanistan for years. During this time, many members of the ISI formed strong bonds with their mujahideen friends and those bonds have lasted for many years. But then the Americans stopped funding the cause, they walked away cold turkey and in their absence was a void which had to be filled by someone. That void led to the rise of warlords, of the militia which needed tactical support and yes, funding. The ISI was the only game in town and its covert nature fit the bill. Suddenly, the ISI found itself more powerful than ever before. Fast forward to present times and you have a situation where Pakistan is precariously trying to hold on to its regional strength. It is trying to play a long term game in which it knows that America will not be a player for long.

Today, Pakistan is battling many elements at the same time. People forget that more Pakistani soldiers have died battling the Taliban within its borders than NATO forces have lost combined in the war's nine year history. Add to that a growing insurgency in Pakistan's eastern province of Balochistan, and mix that with the drone attacks being used in Pakistan's northern territories and you can see why the Pakistan government and the ISI is wary of letting go of its ties with the Taliban. For all their evils, the Taliban's vast network of soldiers can be used as mercenary pawns to Pakistan's benefit in fighting proxy wars, in maintaining control in lawless territories and exerting pressure on a historically non-cooperative Afghan government.

In turn, the US is paying nothing more than lip service to such accusations. It can only strong-arm Pakistan to a degree. Pakistan is NATO's only ally in this war and it is doing its part admirably; its army is conducting major operations against the Taliban and has handed that Taliban major defeats in the field, much more severe than anything NATO has done in nine years. This fact is not lost upon the American military and neither in diplomatic circles, no matter how much their vilify Pakistan in the media. But elements of the ISI continue to the help the Taliban in some ways and uprooting these elements from positions of power is very hard to do. Firstly, you are dealing with a group of people that are experts at covert operations– this is their life and their passion. When you create a beast, you need to create a kill switch to destroy it if things go wrong. There is no such kill switch. How do you find these people? How do you take action against them? You need a whole new intelligence unit with contacts on the ground to handle such a task, and how do you do that? On top of that, all this needs to be done while you ask the ISI to provide essential services to the nation? This is an impossible task and no matter how strongly Pakistanis feel about it, it is virtually impossible to see a scenario when this will happen.

It is important to understand that Pakistan still functions like a country forced into democracy. In fact, for all intents and purposes, democracy does not exist in Pakistan, or at best, it exists in certain parts only. Take for example a small village miles from any major city in Pakistan. This small village works off the land and for a landlord who owns enough land to employ not only this village but the twenty that surround it. This landlord (zameendar) is the only employer in the area. He owns everything, resolves disputes in the area, taxes the people of the area and even has his own militia to battle neighboring landlord. Now, when election time comes around, this powerful landlord already has his political affiliations picked out. Some political figure has paid him or promised him something in return for which the landlord rents buses and trucks to transport people living on his lands to go and vote. Now, who do you think they will vote for? They will vote for his man of course. This is the face of modern democracy in Pakistan and when almost 350 million (of around 800 million in total) of your country live in such conditions, you can imagine what that does to a country's democratic system. Add to this the fact that these people are poor, uneducated, have almost no health services and no prospect of wrangling themselves free of the situation and you can see why it is that Pakistan is a nation battling numerous wars at the same time- internally, economically, politically and covertly. There is a chess board, but none of the pieces function as they should. Its complete chaos.

So what do we do now? There is no clear solution I am afraid. This scenario will only work out over time, perhaps decades. But there are some basic steps that can be taken to get the process started. As I see it, the whole world needs to help Pakistan deal with the problem. There is a severe lack of trust to start with, that needs to be addressed first and moving on from there:

  • The world needs to help Pakistan procure arms which can be used against the Taliban within its own lands, most importantly, night-vision weapons. There is a tactical advantage to be had in the field at night and at this time, Pakistan's vast army is unable to utilize this advantage. It is just as blind after dark as the Taliban are.
  • Show Pakistan that is a valued part of the solution and not viewed as the problem. This cannot be done with one speech by Ms. Clinton, it will take time. Building trust is central to getting Pakistanis on side. Most Pakistanis are under the impression that America has designs on Pakistan's land, that they want to break up the country into pieces. How can you expect people to help you when they view you as the enemy?
  • Help Pakistan stabilize its own economy. Only when you have functioning public works, jobs for a young generation and stability for businesses can you expect the country to see a better life for itself in peace and harmony. Until that happens, the whole nation is functioning with individuals looking to make sure that they do well no matter what happens to the rest of the country. How can this be remotely healthy?

I don't mean to say that we should all give Pakistan a chance, that we should trust Pakistan because it is our only option. That is not the way to do this either. What I am trying to say is that we need to support and enable those elements of the country which are looking towards its betterment. But paying lip service to these elements will never do the job. At the end of the day, an MP or political party has to go back into the elections and get votes from a populace that still sees them not having achieved anything. What we need to do is support them and help the country handle its own problems democratically. My mother always said that it takes twice as long to clean a room than it does to dirty it up. The same is true here. For thirty years, Pakistanis have been used and abused by world powers that have left it politically stunted and economically failing; now, its time to invest money and effort into fixing the problem and its not going to be quick or easy. But it needs to be done because a democratic economically viable Pakistan is a much better option than a Pakistan mired in internal wars and facing the gauntlet at every international meeting.

If there is one thing that is abundantly clear, it is that Pakistan is an important ally in every sense of the word. It is placed in a geopolitical location which is central to many different interests- from oil, to trade, to transport, to militancy. Alienating such a country is stupidity at best and downright lunacy at worst. Only when you help Pakistan stabilize over time will you be able to reap the benefits of its alliance. Until then, all measures will fall short of the ultimate goal, which should be propping up a full-functioning democracy that respect the rights of its own people, the sovereignty of its neighbors and provides a safe environment for its own citizens. At this time, none of the measures undertaken by powers inside or outside Pakistan aim to achieve any of these goals.

In the absence of an International plan on how to deal with the growing problem if Islamic militancy in the AfPak region, and in the absence of broad-range support for Pakistan's actions, Pakistan has developed a clear long term plan: to fight Islamic militancy as best as it can within its own territories while also holding on to as many of the chess pieces as possible to utilize them as needed over time to secure Pakistan's interests, interests which no one else is looking after except Pakistan. What the world needs to do is work with the Pakistanis to assure them that their interests are important to the world. Only then can we call ourselves allies to Pakistan and only then can this long road to the stabilization of Pakistan and the region in general work. Till then, we are as much to blame for our selfishness and short-sightedness as Pakistan is for theirs, I am afraid.

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Monday, July 26

War clouds gather over the Persian Gulf

It is becomingly increasingly clear that rhetoric about a strike on Iran is quickly moving into a phase which sets the tone for a military strike; in fact, it seems that important hurdles are being knocked down as we speak, deals are being reached and resolutions discussed which could fundamentally remove legal and territorial oppositions to a strike.

Let’s leave the years of US clamoring against Iran out of the picture for now. I’ll leave it up to your fancy to read up on Hillary Clinton and Obama’s statements about Iran’s nuclear threat and what the world needs to do against it.

What alarms me more than those increasingly hostile statements are rumblings from other, much more astute players of diplomacy. For example, the UAE ambassador to the USA recently claimed at a US conference that the UAE would not be adverse to a military strike on Iran. In fact, he endorsed the idea. He has faced no repercussions in his home country since then. The UAE has just said that the statement was taken out of context, but for a man coming out of secretive Abu Dhabi, these are indeed plain words.

Meanwhile, its is also widely being reported that the Saudis have agreed to let Israeli F16i planes fly through Saudi airspace on their way to a possible strike on Qom and Nantaz, the two Iranian cities which nuclear installations. The rumor has been denied by both sides, most vehemently by the Saudis, something that I find odd, since neither government likes to address rumors in general.

And today, in the clearest signal yet that the United States’ political leadership is getting bolder about a potential strike, a Huffington Post report explains that almost a third of Republicans in the House have signed on to a resolution urging Israel to attack Iran.

Somehow, I don’t think all these events are just inconsequential ripples in the pond. They are vibrations of a sinister kind– war drums are beating with haste now, no matter how foolhardy the call to battle may seem. Asia Times provide a good synopsis on the increasingly louder clamor of war in Weather clears for a US strike on Iran.

And for an in-depth, if not down right geeky and alarming, analysis of how a possible strike may occur, you may want to check out Asia Time’s The anatomy of an attack on Iran.

This sudden burst of considering the military option against Iran is a bit odd though, I have to say. But there needs to be a distinct line drawn between the options being considered for an attack on Iran: one camp purports a ground attack on Iran to overthrow the regime and curb its nuclear activities; the other wants air strikes against nuclear targets within Iran and almost no troop exposure otherwise.

In regards to the first scenario, If George Bush’s fantasies of attacking Iran were thwarted by his military advisors in 2006, then how is it possible that such an idea is more plausible now? Surely America is in a weaker position now than it was then. First, it is still reeling from an economic recession, something that it has not fully recovered from. Secondly, there are less troops in Iraq today, a seemingly natural base of operations were an attack to be considered on Iran. In fact, there is to be an almost all-inclusive troop withdrawal starting in August 2010. So, what has changed? How can the proponents of a military strategy say that it is a better idea today than it was four years ago. The simple fact is that every military leader looks upon a potential conflict realistically; and the reality today is that the US does not have the resources to attack Iran.

Now, in comparison, there is much to be said for a “get in and get out” strategy. This air strike/limited exposure scenario is clearly something that is being discussed extensively. The idea is to sent in a couple of bombers, strike major sites and get out before anyone is the wiser and then sit back and wait for everything to cool down. Going into the future, the US, Israel and its allies would then look to limit damage caused by Iranian covert ops in retaliation for the air strikes.

At the risk of coming off as a morose alarmist, I must say that It pains me to think that another conflict may be on the horizon in the Middle East. And I am no fan of the Iranian regime, just like I wasn’t a fan of Saddam or the Taliban. War, as we have clearly seen, fails to resolve much these days, if it ever did at all. For a species that has lived through two full-scale conflicts (Iraq and Afghanistan) and a major offensive (Pakistan) just over the last decade and continuing, we sure have learned precious little from our engagements with the “enemy”- not only about the enemy but even the nature of the engagement we are undertaking.

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Wednesday, June 16

World Cup Roundup - first round of matches

The first round of matches is over. Its time to take stock of what has passed and what is to come.

Here is my take on the 2010 World Cup till now.

Mentality matters

Two kinds of team come to play at the world cup: one set comes to win the cup, the other comes to show how good they are.

If Netherlands, Portugal, England, and Argentina are to win the cup, this mentality needs to change in their locker rooms. They need to get into a mode which permeates confidence internally, that they are good enough to beat anyone, and that they will beat them. This means shutting up and playing the game, and leaving all other press related stuff to the side. Play the game like you intend to win it, strategy-wise and skill-wise, give it your all, and stop worrying about everything else.

Defense wins championships

This world cup has been a lot more defensive than previous years. I think that this a testament to the winning strategy employed by Italy last time around. It may not be great football, but with the calibre of explosive stars at the tournament, it is a safe and prudent approach for all teams. Even teams like Argentina who can boast a great offense will have to step up their defense in front of teams like South Korea who can explode at any time and change the game with one well-executed play. In American football, hockey and basketball, the adage has long stayed true- defense wins championships. This year, I think we will see it in the World Cup too.

African stars

The two standout African teams have been Ghana and Ivory Coast. Both played excellent football, rolled with the punches and came out unscathed. A lot is riding on their advance in the tournament and I for one could not be more excited. This is not because this is Africa’s world cup and all that hogwash, its just because they have been good for a while and its about time they made themselves world powers to be reckoned with. After this world cup, a leading team should not automatically be favorites to win against these two teams. Ghana won the U21 World Cup last year, so you know they are already building a winning pedigree.

Surprise explosion

Germany looked awesome. Other teams looked like they were sparking (Argentina and England, especially), but Germany caught fire straight up. Simply fantastic football from the stalwarts. They proved at the last world cup too that writing them off is a big mistake- and here, once again, they have stamped their arrival in fine style. I think they are outright contenders to win the tourney. The three basic elements to football are possession, position, precision. Germany showed they have all three in abundance.

The infamous ball

Adidas' Jabulani ball will perhaps go down as the most debated aspect of this tournament. The truth is though that everyone is dealing with the same issues, so you have to shut up and deal with it. There’s no reason crying over spilt milk.

In truth, this is the ball of the future. It is aerodynamic, it is well-balanced in terms of weight and it is tested in every way possible to give the most balanced performance. The mistake that was made was that it wasn’t introduced in leagues last year. It should have been, to give everyone a sense of what it was made of. This will be done from next time onwards. With players performing at such a high calibre, introducing a vital element at the last minute is no longer feasible. Marketing teams cannot worry about secrecy anymore, the players are the key and their performances should not be affected. But again, they have to deal with it this time.

However, dealing with it does lead to some issues. The first is that the ball is hard to keep down, meaning that when someone belts it, it tends to fly over the net rather than towards it. This is clear to see throughout the matches. So, the key now becomes, your ground play, how good is your team at running the ball in and making good plays on the ground, the give and go plays, the long passes etc. Good teams will be able to adjust (case and point, Germany), but teams with singular attacking methods will fall by the weyside. Then, there is the fact that players themselves need to learn to control the ball. If Messi and Rooney’s play is anything to go by, the ball is controllable, it just takes a well-placed, well-balanced kick.

Foul play

If the ball has been one debateable topic then the refereeing has been another. But this is something that can be brought under control and should be immediately. You cannot let flagarant fouls go by without any repurcussions. It negates everything that FIFA has worked to avoid and it will blow up once a player like Ronaldo or Messi gets injured. FIFA needs to standardize its game-calling immediately. I can’t even believe that one of the Dutch players got away without even a warning after he went into a Danish player with both his cleats facing upwards, basically lunging at the other’s feet. It was a straight red card, but play went on uninterrupted. If FIFA does not bring this under control, coaches will just start telling their players to start getting rough. That would be unacceptable. The only one that can change the situation is FIFA.

Lest we forget the unsung heroes

What we see on the pitch is the game. But there is a much larger game afoot off the pitch. From trainers who are dealing with major altitude changes to coaches who are constantly tweaking their plans, from defensive strategies to targeted set plays. A standout team is like a well-oiled machine. It is as much about the players on the pitch as it is about the staff off the pitch. You may not know their names, you may not hear them being hailed, but they are there, and they are orchestrating what you see on the pitch. In a tournament of this calibre, let us not forget that a winning team is backed up by an equally impressive and hard-working team. Their stories go untold, but their impact is telling. Germany, Korea DPR, Ghana, Switzerland, and Ivory Coast are perfect examples- for their strategic play, for their impeccable planning, and for their mental preparation.

This is the birthplace of legends.

Vincent Enyeama, Nigeria’s goalkeeper, put on a majestic performance against Argentina. The score line should have been 4-0 in the end, instead, it was a paltry 1-0 for Argentina. When Lionel Messi uses you as an excuse for the lowly scoreline, you know you have done a great job. Vincent Enyeama secured himself a spot in the European leagues with that singular performance. Simply astounding.

Mesut Oezil, the Turkish born, 21 year old playmaker for Germany dazzled during Germany’s first game. He walked off in the 75th minute without a goal, but his imprints were all over the game. Rarely will you see a young player with such poise, such finesse, such an eye for the game, such simply beautiful playmaking abilities. There once was a man named Zinedine Zidane, and now perhaps, we have found his equivalent in Oezil. I wanted to keep watching him play, I wanted him to score, I sat up every time he had the ball– in short, he is one to watch for, for many years to come. Rarely does a player make you say that, but then again, true legends are always rare.

And then, there are teams. Teams which standout simply because of their team play. Korea DPR (ie. North Korea) wins in this category hands down. They may have lost to Brazil with a 2-1 scoreline, but that is a perfect example of how scorelines often lie. For 56 minutes, Korea DPR put on a defensive masterclass– every shot the Brazilians threw at them was blocked, every pass near the 18 yard box was interrupted and every challenge was fair and well-placed. They worked as a team and forgive me for saying this, for it is far too cliche’, but seriously, the communist wall looked impenetrable. The two teams were separated by a 104 point difference in their rankings; but Korea DPR made it look like rankings don’t matter much either. In my opinion, they showed everyone at the tournament how to beat Brazil.

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Sunday, June 13

South Africans should not be ashamed

There are a lot of news stories going around about how unsafe South Africa can be, how the crime levels are high, and how poor the country actually is etc. Though these news stories are important because you do have to tell the truth and focus on both the negative and the positive, I feel that South Africans have nothing to be ashamed of.

First of, South Africa is a 16 year old nation. 16 years ago, it existed under a brutal apartheid regime which crippled the overwhelming majority of the country. Besides the racists laws and discrimination across all facets of life, the vast majority of South Africans lived in squalid conditions and even worse financial shape. Such economic inequality is hard to address within a generation and impossible to solve within the first fifty years. Just take a look at India, 63 years old this August - for all intents and purposes, it is a burgeoning economy that has steadfastly embraced democracy and has pushed forward ceaselessly, yet it remains terribly poverty-stricken and massively subjugated to both land and upper classes. Such economic disparity is hard to overcome and South Africa is no exception.

Most South Africans live on less that $2 a day. That is a massive crutch for a young country. And yet, they are putting on a show for us. Disregard the stories of theft from hotel rooms, disregard the stories of purse snatchings etc.– these are part and parcel of being in the third developing world, just ask anyone that has visited Brazil, India, or Thailand.

The truth is that this world cup will not do as much for tourism as it will for the people of South Africa; it will, in short, give them the confidence needed to become true global citizens, people that are part and parcel of the social fabric of our political and social world. Few countries get that chance, just a handful, actually.

This is a time to count blessings and to look to the future, with a mindful eye on the past and yes, reality. But it is definitely not the time to mope over all that is wrong, as some news networks are clearly doing.

I say be proud Africa, and be proud South Africa. Be proud, for today, the world visits the Zulu nation and it has come to play the beautiful game.


Wednesday, June 9

Dear Mr. Obama: You lied

I am a Western-educated Muslim who now lives in the Middle East. I am, to put it simply, one of the people who is disaffected by America. In fact, I tend to loathe American policies towards much in the world, including towards Americans. Naturally, American policy towards the Muslim world falls under that same adjective– that was loathe, if you missed it.

I’ll leave all else aside for now and just say this: Barack Obama’s outreach towards Muslims in nothing short of half-assed, hypocritical hogwash.

Consider the following three major points of evidence:

Exhibit A: One month before Obama took office, Israel attacked Gaza and killed 1400 civilians, further strangling and brutalizing an occupied land. Obama never condemned the attack, before or after he took office. This decision remains despite a majority of the world branding Israel’s actions as state sponsored terrorism.

Exhibit B: After taking office, Obama was to make a speech to the Muslim world- a speech that many hoped would heal the wounds that had been deepening since 2001. Obama end up making the speech, but it was a slap to the intelligence of Muslims everywhere. It was not as much about the content as the manner in which it was held. Rather than choosing an appropriate location to reach out to the Muslim world, Obama found it auspicious to speak to the Muslims from Cairo, standing next to the worst dictator in the Muslim world, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. It was, in effect, a message to all Muslims that their democratic strides and democracies hold no value; that America will continue to prop up illegal leaders who support its crony actions; and that more progressive Muslim countries like Turkey, Malaysia, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, are not looked upon as a way to the future– instead America intends to continue to support illegal dictators. Thank you for reaching out to us, Mr. Obama.

Exhibit C: Its been 5 days since Israel attacked a peaceful group of humanitarian activist trying to break a 3-year old Gaza blockade. 9 people were killed, including a dual US-Turkish citizen who was shot 5 times from a distance of less than 45cm– FOUR times in the head, and once in the chest. America has not condemned Israel’s actions. If it doesn’t even care about its own Muslim citizens, how will America care for its Muslim allies and neighbors.

These three events are clear evidence that Mr. Obama’s rhetoric of reaching out to the Muslim world is just that, rhetoric. It holds no water when push comes to shove. It is just well-pronounced words strung together in sweet-sounding phrases which in retrospect have stung Muslims even more than the actions of his predecessors. At least Bush and Clinton and Bush Sr. and Reagan never promised the Muslim world that they would make things right, they just went about their way upsetting all notions of normality held dear by Muslims everywhere; but this man, Obama, he had the audacity to look us in the eye not once but again and again, and in the end, he has cowardly walked away from every promise he has made to Muslims everywhere.

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Saturday, June 5

To my muse

How is it that one smiling emoticon from you can make my day? Just the idea of perhaps talking to you is enough to keep me going for days, is this normal? How is it that one picture of you on facebook can make me smile? How is it that memories of our chats inspire me to no end? How is it that your harshest words resonate like chants of inspiration? How do you cause such a stir in my emotions, make me reconsider my action by just the mere thought of what you would say/think popping into my mind? This is not normal, but it feels right every time.

Greek philosophers, Arab poets, artists of all kinds speak of muses that push them higher, sometimes down darker alleys towards new unknown paths, at other times to the pinnacle of their being. Is this you? Have you passed by me, brushed shoulders with me, just to push me in directions I have not fathomed? It is a cliche, yes, but I have felt a surge in myself since I have known you. Sometimes, it has gone dormant, suppressed by other desires, but all the while, a silent chant hums along in my mind’s eye- be a better man.

Perhaps you shall never know, but I hold you in high regard. This is not some deep, dark infatuation, it is genuine admiration. I’ll leave it all said in these lines, and spare you the face to face embarrassment, for though you love compliments, it is your humility that I most admire.

Thank you for being there. Even being far away, I am forever certain that I am in your thoughts, and that is enough to keep me on track. Thank you for the faith, the kind words and the scathing ones. Thank you for pushing me, for inspiring me, for correcting me, for loving me unconditionally. You have asked for nothing back in return after having given me so much, for that too, I am thankful.

Wednesday, June 2

hello world

I'm gonna start updating this blog again. I've made up my mind.

Stay tuned.

*cue fireworks*

Friday, July 17

The second coming

It is inconsequential, yes, but I feel I should say it out loud after this long hiatus. I have thought of changing blogs, of starting a new one, but I like this one. It suits me. Its accompanied me for years, sitting there silently like a diary waiting for me to come crawling back- and here I am, much obliged, thank you for waiting, for never complaining, for never asking where I have been or what vices I have been up to. But since I mention it, I should explain: the only vice I have dabbled in since I last posted here is life. Life and life itself, it surrounds me, nay, it is me. And I have dabbled in it like only a lifeless person can, being dragged along by it, rather than living it, but that is about to change. I intend to take it by its horns, like I used to, fuck settling, I am in it for the gusto, the glory, the sheer essence of it all.

So there you have it, the essential- What I am and what I intend to be. Fuck being scared. I am sick of being scared. I want to live. Rich or poor. Alone or surrounded... I want to fucking live.

There, I said it.

Monday, November 24

The sting of insignificance

I remember when I was a teenager, around 15 or 16 years old- definitely less than 17 years old, because the memory is of my Qatar years- there was a certain party I went to. There was always this uncle who would try to trap me into arguing with him, but he was all sorts of fun so many a times, we would duel it out. I would feel like an adult, and my dad would usually feel ashamed by the end of the night.

On this particular day, we got into a heated debate in the room. Not me per se, but the people in the room. I was just in the house to grab a drink but the ferocity of the words being exchanged caught my attention and I stood back and stayed. I disagreed with most of them, in fact all of them, at least in one way or the other. There was a moment of silence at one point, everyone taking stock of what had been said, family relations, professional ties made them stutter for a second.

I spoke up and went on a rant. Perhaps because they had already said too much, they didn't say much. I weaved a tale, and as my own thoughts progressed while I spoke, as they do usually while one is debating off the cufff, I reached a conclusion in my head which I could not ignore. I stuttered, I had to say it, but I didn't know the reaction I would get. I was young- and the emotions of others are usually a passing thought at that ago- so I gave it no heed and said what I thought was logical as per the thought process I had just laid out.

"... we will be lucky if Pakistan exists in five years time"

Out of nowhere, I felt a slap hit my face. My dad had gotten up at some point, had ended up next to me for some water and had listened standing next to me. I remember that slap stinging harder than many others- it had a force to it i had never felt from my dad. The elders in the room started talking amongst themselves, some of the younger kids that had been leaning into the room giggled and I walked away feeling miserable.

Eleven years on, my words still sting. But they are truer today than ever before. Somehow, I do not think I will be sidelined in that room again, or that my dad will admonish me in the same manner this time around.

Its funny that theoretical exercises carried out by foreign governments within the confines of their training rooms wake Pakistanis up more than the truth which is all around us (Link) - that we are disintegrating as a nation, with no one holding us back. There is no unity amongst us, we are Punjabis or Sindhis much before we are Pakistani. I hear Sawat, Parichnar, Hangu, Peshawar, Balochistan, Lahore, Karachi- I never hear Pakistan. I wouldn't have noticed it because I know these places, but ask an Indian or a Bengali or a Egyptian or a Syrian or an Iranian or a Filipino- they will never say Aleppo or Cairo or Kerala or Manila first. Pride has dissipated from our history.

The educated of our nation decide to leave the nation days after they first experience the winds of the West. Back home, these people are derided as having left for women, alcohol and general malaise- but thats not true. They leave because once they step out of Pakistan they see for the first time in their life, the whole world going one way and Pakistan descending into another. They equate themselves with the rest of the world, because just as the rest of the world, they too want to improve, become better. But when they picture themselves with this attitude within their own nation, they are left with no choice but to consider a parting of ways. And so it is that Pakistan has lost its most ambitious people, its most educated youngsters- its promise has left, leaving behind a wilting population too un/miseducated to understand the game being spun around them, too power-less to have their voice heard, and too stupid to realize that someone is stealing from them again and again and again.

Chaos is Pakistan. Even the best of days here is the saddest of days somewhere else in the world. And many Pakistanis realize now that it will become much worse, and no one profers a caveat of 'before it gets better" anymore.

For me personally, this collapse, when it comes - if it comes, because as a human i still do hold a sliver of blind hope- will be earth-shattering. It will siganl the end of everything that has defined four generations of my family. It will be the end of one part of my identity, no matter how many times I will scream it in people's faces, it will not make sense to them, I will be a refugee who got out while the going was good. My children will call themselves Canadian, they will hide the fact that once their families used to belong to a nation that chose to kill itself. 60 years on, we will be whittled down to a paragraph in a history book.

Insignificance- that is why those words stung so hard when they were uttered by a 16 year old to a group of grown men.

They sting me too, I swallow before I say them too, but the truth is we will wither away in history, a blimp in the cosmos, overtaken by time- insignificant in our existence and forgotten in the annals of history.

Saturday, November 15


It is a surprise to myself that I am about to write this, this is a path much less taken these days, but it has to be said, in fairness to my own actions.

This year, I made progress. Amidst the blinding melancholy of yester-year, amidst the sappy funks and the down and outs, I managed, to my own surprise to progress in life. I now have a job I do not hate, am doing well at, and lo and behold, I even feel like I learn something everyday.

27- inches away from death. An inch closer yes, but inches away. I hate stupid questions like what is your birthday wish for this year, but someone asked me this a few days ago, and I had a really hard time answering. I've had enough of asking for world peace, its a pipe dream, I've wasted so many years asking for it, I might as well stop trying. I'd love a DJ Shadow concern though, but still, with no ecstasy around, it would just last for a few hours, and then the memories would fade.

But then I thought about it, and then some more. Finally, on my way back home, I hit upon it, something that I have always wanted but never been close to. Now I am closer to it than ever before- a house of my own. A place which I buy, decorate, and which houses my memories.

A home, my birthday wish this year is to buy a place of my own in Toronto. I'd like to give it on rent, let some other sucker pay for it.

Its probably not going to happen this year, but from this day on, that is my birthday wish for every year. A place which I can buy and where my parents can live when they grow old. And I ca grow old. In the next three years, I'd like to do that, take advantage of the bad economy and get myself a place at a nice price.

And so it is, I will spend this year just like I did the last 26, wishing for something beyond my reach, failing at times, succeeding at others, all the while living this life, inches from death.

Tuesday, October 28

The allure

To start again..... is impossible. The thought caresses my membrane everyday, and everyday I shove it away as impossible. Yet, it keeps coming back- an incessant fly bent on wrestling with me. Its unnatural, this thought, of leaving behind all the emotions, and striking a bell to sound the advent of a new day- ground zero. No etches in the sand, no scars on the mind, just the bliss of the beginning... unnatural these words that even consider it, unnatural this thought that even entertains it. How can one emotion forget the last, be unaffected by what came before? Impossible.

Yet this buzzing around my mind continues, a droning echo, it leaves me restless all night, leaves my lips dry in the morning, a cold swet of possibility lines back at all times. I am famished by its hunger, I yearn for its arrival. But there is nothing more to come other than the sad thought that will build upon this sad thought. With each hopeful breath, the wall becomes ever-harder to climb.

Dubai: Part 2

I come across men everyday, men I do not know, will not see again. Taxi drivers. Sometimes, they are quiet timid types, sometimes boisterous and curious. They drive me to work and back from work. They wear the same shirts and always call me before they get to my house, unable to read the directions on the screen- they call me and speak in a broken tongue of Hindi, Pashtu, Urdu, Arabic and of course English to get the directions. They are uneducated most of them, those that are not are just victims of cruel old fate. They hail from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and a myriad of Arab nations.

We talk of many things. They speak in plain tongues, its no holds barred once they establish I am not an undercover out to get them. They all speak of the same thing, though none has yet come out and said it plainly- their own souls. They are the drivers to the world, they see it all, the bad, the ugly, the disgusting, and sometimes even the good.

They see men slime on women, they see women slime themselves, they see life at its most base. They speak of their dying souls indirectly, using cliches to hide their anger, to deflect any thought that they are way too human for this, that this is killing them, that if they were not here, they would be happy. Anywhere, but here. Fate, once again.

Some are impervious to the soul drenching around them, some are way too aware. They mutter prayers under their breath, hope that the next ride will be a quiet one, that they will get to say a few kind words, and hear perhaps just one in return. In this way, their life continues, the pendulum swings on. This city keeps on breathing, a manic breathing in the daylight, a slow painful heave at night.

I gain a silent faith from these men. They may seem fearful, but it is only because they value their own sanity, they may seem weak but its only because they are cowed day and night by the worst of what this city has to offer, they may disparage other cultures and peoples, but its only because those people have shoved them hard. They may seem strange, but its only because they have dealt with society at its lowest, and who would be normal after that, day and night of that?

They work 14 hour shifts, each and every day of the year, bar none. If they fall sick, they have to go to a company doctor, if the meter in their taxi busts up, they have to sit at home and wait for it to get fixed and then make up the hours. They get 30% of their daily earnings, the rest is taken by the company. They live in labor accommodations, five to a room. They drive people from Five-star hotels day and night to executive meetings night and day, and if at the end of it, someone, some kind soul slips them an extra five for their troubles, you should see the smile that creases their pained expressions. 14 hours days, each and everyday, at the end of the year, they get a month off to go home- broken men, returning to realize that all they do is not enough for their family, that they must work harder. But how?

In the taxi, I sit silently in the back seat, usually prodding with questions here and there, and I let them talk. Sometimes they ask me where I am from, and sometimes I lie to that question. I told an Indian once that I was Indian, he told me how horrid Pakistanis can be. I told a Pakistani once that I was Egyptian, he didn't say another word the rest of the trip. Yet, I gain from them. It is their experiences in this city, in this world that shapes their actions.

Its a strange feeling to get out of a cab at 8:50 am and know that you have acquired one man's thoughts, you have read a book that will haunt you the rest of the day. They speak in plain tongues, they hide behind cliches yes, but their words pour plainer than all the people around them, that lie and claw all day.

I gain faith from them, perhaps because there isn't much else these days.

Friday, October 17

Dubai: Part 1

People come to Dubai with eyes wide open. They are on vacation, they are buying second homes, they might even be here for business, and all the while, they are wowed. Everything is big, its clean, its beautiful, its safe, its all impressive from beginning to end.

But just as they enter city through the airport gates, get whisked by in the airport's especially allocated, clean taxis, just as they race towards the west end, close to the Marina, the golf courses, the western restaurants, the delectable cuisine, the money-making companies, the yacht clubs and the five-stars, just as they zip by the rest of the city, they leave behind the truth. The darker sobering truth about this place which once someone knows about, they are most sure not to return to their original opinion of this pictureque place.

This is the world that lives between the highways, the one that has constant traffic, the one that has men living in close quarters, sometimes 8 to a room, a world where food costs a pittance to make, a world far off from the glitz and glamour of Marina Walk- where 60 dirhams will buy you a feast for you and your friends, while it would barely have got you fries with your burger in the west end. This is the side of town where people are driven from their homes on a daily basis, because as they do not get paid enough, they have to share rooms and bathroom, unsafe according to the government, which runs them out of this situation to save them, but leaves them destitute without a place to stay, and a whole world to support back in their home countries.

These are the places where the poor live- they are paid a pittance, some as low as 700-1000 dirhams in a month, in a country where the monthly payment on a bottom-line Toyota Yaris is no more than 900 dirhams. These are the people building this nation, they slave 4am-4pm, and so does the next shift, they work through sun and heat, they have sand blown in their faces all day, constructing multi-billion dollar development, then at shift end, they pack into TATA buses by the scores, sit 3 to a seat and are hauled away to labor camps to sleep, sometimes seven to a room. Any curspry conversation with any of them will tell you this, but who is asking- no one. These are the poorly fed, the forgotten of this land who are yelled at like dogs, treated like chattel and deported if they so much as say a word.

People who come here are first filled with wonder, then they start questioning why their nations are not able to do this, then they justify that with the same reason that has been given the last ten yars- it must be the oil, everyone is using it, and these people are making money from it.

Sadly, thats not true. This country, like others in the region keeps growing because it is still allowed to treat some people like cattle. It has a hidden underclass of immigrants who have nothing, will have nothing, and thus will keep working till their backs break. Consider this, in a three year period, a whole building can be raised from the ground up- during this time, the cheapest expense to the builder will be the labor cost, not the rented machines, not the concrete or the fixtures, the labor, human capital willing to do anything for a morsel of money, which allows them and their family back home to claim that they live, albeit one day at a time.

That is why this country keeps progressing, its not the oil- its the fact that they can still treat people like shit. This stopped long ago in other places, and hence those place are prone to progress and recession, prone to middle-income homes etc. This does not happen in the Middle East, there is no down, its always been up and up, from the first moment of independence till now, this place has never seen a recession.

Take a detour into Deira, Bur Dubai or Satwa and you will see the real Dubai. This is where the city breathes and sleeps. Stay on the other side and you'll bre amongst the leeches, the people that feed off the others, living a pricey, comfy life at the expense of others.

Sunday, October 12


I'm not sure what to write. I just want to. What, I don't know. Words, my only solace. I actually want to scream, but at whom? Me probably. The love of my life, married. The guy next to her, luckiest man alive. She, stunning in her pictures. Me, shattered by my own inadequacy.

You can live your whole life declaring you're the shit, you can live a false existence in your own mind, pigeon-hole yourself into your own world of comfort, but someday, you will be snatched from your sorry, stupid dream-like trance and your reality will be bared naked in front you. Somewhere a relationship status will change, and you, a month later will moan in agony at your utter stupidity, at your complacency, even as you sit there, doing nothing but typing.

That is life, a sad life, yes, but its life. Now you have nothing to think about but settling. Fuck fate. I hate fate. Fate makes me sick to the core. It is the vile pill I believed in falsely, that bored itself into the recesses of my brain, even as she went on with her life. It disgusts me, I disgust myself for having taken fate as my saviour. I hid behind it like a man afraid of seeing himself in a mirror and now, I look at the man in that picture, envious of him, unable to blame him, it is me he smiles at, he taught me a lesson without meaning to, he snatched what was dear to me, without ever knowing that I had once wanted to claim it.

I feel sorry for myself. I am so stupid, so utterly stupid. All those years I allowed myself to languish, I found reason after reason not to tell her. And now, the inevitable has happened, she is married and I, well I the fool I am wish her nothing but happiness. How chivalrous, how grand, how fucking stupid.

The love of my life. In another man's arms. I am not jealous, no, I am infuriated. All those nights I cursed my inability to tell her have come rushing back. I have no one to blame but me. No one to live with, but me. No one to share this with, but these words. No one to talk to, but scream at myself. I want to scream, but my throat is unable. I want to cry too, but my eyes continue to blink in fury. I am unable to show emotion, once again.

Love of my life- There is a song that encapsulates this moment, but even that eludes me. There is a book that tells this story, but I don't remember it touching me as much. There is a tale of woe that has been told like this before, but in it the maiden was not as fair and the lover was not as sad. I am distraught. I cannot sleep tonight, I don't think- or perhaps I can, just as I have before.
I thought I had more time- what a fickle notion. September 6th, worst day of my fucking life, without me even knowing it.

I used to say I don't regret. Now, I cannot help it. I regret it all. I regret not telling her I liked her. I regret not screaming it from the rooftops. I regret not being a better man. regret every moment I spent in her presence, because as such, it was a moment wasted. She was perfect for me, I regret not telling her. I regret that I have nothing but words. I regret putting myself in this position.

You stupid stupid man, you inadequate son of a bitch, you did this to yourself.

Monday, August 11

I'm sick of this echo

Loneliness is a creeping disease. You don't see it coming, one day you're the belle at the ball, the next day, the whole house is empty, all the drunks have left and you are by yourself, your own house echoing the screams of your heart.

How do you even come to terms with it? Who would you even admit it to? Yourself? But that is the problem in the first place. Someone passing by, a kind soul could notice your pain, they could offer you some aid, but by now, you, the lonely soul have become so used to your loneliness, so utterly useless at being good company to others, that you will drive them away y your sheer inability to be pleasant in polite society. On the other hand, the person heping you could be a particularly kind person, and they could stick by you even though you act a mute in their company- but that, that is just pity on their part- and not even lonely souls like to be pitied.

So here you stand, unable to embrace because you have only heard your own ideas float your mind for so long, unable to understand because you have spoken only your own tongue for so long, yet fully aware that you are lonely- its a vicious circle that keeps your thoughts.
You stand at the cusp of panicking, imagine yourself screaming your secret from the rooftops, holding back each time, lest your own voice break the silence you have grown so comfortable in.

Whose to blame? You. Who can change it all? You. Who is too comfortable? You. Who is too afraid? You. Whose to blame? You. Who can..

Saturday, August 9

This shall remain un-posted

Dated: Aug 3/08

As I have grown older, its been to my own surprise that I have become more set in my ways- where I used to be all over the place, I am now happy to be where I am. I have not given up mind you, not at all, there has been nothing to give up, I have merely just become older, perhaps a bit more stubborn in my ways.

This too is a changing state, I know. Thus, a yearning has crept in, a yearning to record this too, to chronicle these days as I have my flexible past, to talk of this rigidity with the vigor that I still possess, lest it too leaves me behind.

So starts this log again, unsure of itself, finally put into words after months of turmoil.. shall I write? shall I not? Do I dare? Do I dare not? The doldrums have become unsettling, the clang of the written word harps to my soul, and here, slave to my own unspoken thoughts, I write.

I see that I have already weaved a tale with nary thought yet said.

So it begins..

Friday, August 8

Just write, don't stop.

Dated: Aug 1/08

A harmony of pen and thought, disrupted by the gloom of the everyday. Yet, force myself I must. Imagine these keys are portals to my blood, tapping my veins for its thoughts. This page might fly in the wind, but these words are bonded by my inner being.

Thinking is too much right now, too tenuous, too unfulfilling. Too much clouds my mind for there to be any thoughts streamlined. So I write, anything, just words to fill the void- a stutterer who has much to say, but no one stays around long enough for him to utter a syllable.

Has it been that long? That long since I wrote a full sentence to make a point? Has it been that long since I poured my soul through a funnel of words? These fingers are moving faster now, proof that they too have been kept captive- getting used to the satisfying drone of keys clicking again, how easily they can fall into a rhythm of their own making.

This dam is about to burst again. Its waiting to spurt a hole. This is not a journey begun anew, just one after a long respite. Silence has been my companion through this time. I have been my own silent diary, keeping meticulous notes, lingering in my stares, hushing my own thoughts dead- but I am alive, my mind buzzes.

Sunday, March 23

Dear Govt. of China, Go frack yourself.

Before I begin, I'd like to state clearly a realisation that dawned upon me a few days ago. It is as much a societal observation as it is a critique of my own way of thinking in the past.

I for one, have been so consumed by utter hatred for American foreign policy in the decade where I have held the wherewithal to understand it, that I have focused on far too narrow a foreign landscape. American foreign policy has been the primary focus of my wrath, because it has affected me the most. My people, whether that group comprises of Pakstanis, or Muslims have been so negatively affected by America that at least till now, it has been impossible to come to grips with the sheer breadth of their injustices against us.

I have spoken out on other issues, indeed I would even say that I have informed myself about them. But admittedly, and much to my own chagrin now, I have ignored much else in the world, instead opting to focus my loathing, my toungue lashings for the one country that has destroyed this world more than any other.

But this state of affairs is about to change. No longer am I letting other nations have a free ride because they seem like a better alternative. Because no one, repeat.. no one in power is better than the one before. Pax Brittanica was just as bad as Pax Romanica (sp?), and American hegemony is just as bad as any notion of Russian hegemony.

Which brings me to China. Needless to say, China is on the cusp of global power. This power will most definitely not fall into China's lap as easily as everyone seems to think, but it will happen sooner or later. Once this dying economic giant that is America whithers away, having grasped at every last strand of power it can, it will be China's turn.

And since that day seems closer today than ever before (see: 9/11 and everything after), it is high time that we stopped giving China a free ride. I have made this mistake, and so has the rest of the world. We have been critical, yes.. but only tangentially. Only once in a while, when a particular notion of Taiwanese nationalism pops up, or when the issue is tabled by a Hong Kong grievance, or perhaps when the Dalai Lama comes along to make a spiritual speech. Or maybe we do read the BBC everyday, and have seen the Human Rights Watch reports and the please by Amnesty International for intervention, regardless, our focus has been sporadic, far too lenient for a country so entrenched into the global economy, and too mild mannered for any change to actually come along.

This nonchalant attitude towards China, whether it is because we are unaware of its inner workings, or whether it is due to the fact that they are not ruling us yet, therefore we have more important things to focus on, or whether it is because we can't afford to make them angry at us, has to stop. They need to stop getting a free ride.

I cannot understand (and perhaps this is why I am spurred on to write this out) how the world can sit idly by when clearly China is breaking every rule in the book when it comes to Tibet. Tibeatans have been peaceful, willing negotiators since 1959. Other than sporadic outbursts, they have been the calmest of protestors, the most peaceful of dissidents, and still, they have been trampled upon, their economic rights have been squashed, they are denied their rights time and time again. Whats more is that China has done nothing to resolve the situation for almost 50 years and now, has the audacity to declare that the Tibetan movement is being facetious, that the Tibetan leadership is orchestrating a sabotage!

So what? Who the frack said Tibet could not become an issue in 2008? What makes your Olympics so fucking sacred that no one can air a grievance. Why should Tibet not raise the issue now? This is the most coveted time in China's recent history, it would be utter folly not to publicly shame China now. I can't understand why even one world leader has not stepped upto a podium and actually asked China why they continue to oppress a people even though they claim to uphold Olympic ideals on the other hand.

Yes, this is sabotage. Yes, this is a conspiracy. Yes, we are doing this on purpose. Aren't you? China should get off its high horse and actually do something about the aimless lip service it has provided to the Olympics, nay to the world.

The Dalai Lama has given up claims to Tibetan independence, he asks now for autonomy. That too, through negotiations. Tibetans have lived under oppression for nearly half a decade since they laid down arms in 1959, they have recieved nothing but shame since.

So what I don't understand is how we can continue to allow China to release this obviously bogus press statement, this editorials in their Communist rags that clearly falsify the issue, and yet we let them blame one of the few people that actually stands for hope and peace in the world.

For far too long, the world has allowed China too much of a leash, and it is time we tighten our own belts and decide whether we too are going to stand up to the bullshit, or whether we wish to have the other side lie to us on our faces without doing much about it.

Negotiate Tibetan autonomy now.Address the plight of Muslims.
Apologise for the massacres of the past.
Free the thousands of illegally arrested protestors in Chinese jails.
Free the hundreds social workers who have worked to better the lives of Chinese people, from one-child policy activists to farming representatives.
Release all illegally detained prisoners.
Stop killing thousands of your own people for petty crimes against an unjust state.
Allow journalists to access all parts of China, all the time.
Meet every standard expected of a Olympic hosting, developing nation.

And then, perhaps you can save face at these Olympics. Otherwise, you can make as many beautiful stadiums as you want, have as many fountains in your Olympic village as you want, you don't impress me.

Your size, your might, your economic potential means nothing if you cannot meet the basic quality of life expected for a human.