5 types of people you meet after you graduate

1. The ones who love to call you a fresh graduate – no matter how many years it has been since you graduated

For them your opinion will never matter until you have grown a few white hair to show that you have aged – doesn’t matter if mentally you are still stuck in the age when you first began watching “Friends”.

2. The ones who will never understand what your majors were or the work you do

They will incessantly ask you to get a job but every time you try to tell them you already have one, they will be like, “oh yeah, that’s good… but get a proper job.” “Okay.”

3. The ones who tell you that you’re making a mistake if you think about quitting your job.

We as a society have a knack for sticking on to things we hate – particularly marriages and jobs that have stopped fulfilling us.  Except when you’re fresh off the boat, you are buzzing with too many ideas & plans to just give up things to the hands of fate.

4. The ones who try to give you work but no money.

These people have grand plans for their business, except they have no money to give out to people who invest their time and effort into helping them. Except they will only tell you that after you have held your end of the bargain. To them, I just say, “The University of Karma has got my back, bitch.”

5. The ones who will tell you that your next goal should be marriage.

These are just my favourite types of people because it’s so easy to scandalise them. You can say anything between “no” or “hmm” and they will give you an equally shocked reaction. “But beta, everyone needs a life partner after some time”. “Great, so I have some time then. Bye bye now.”






No Sweat

We woke to a crisp, sunny morning, with powdery snow which soon vanished – softening the harshness of the nearby mountains. Or so we wished. It was sunny alright but lights had been out for the past eight hours and it was sweltering hot. Occasionally, my brother and I would throw an angry glance at the open windows as if to reprimand them for not doing their jobs right. My grandmother was the most unperturbed of us all and she lay sleeping – interrupted only by her own snores, wherein she’d rub her nose, change sides and go back to sleep again. 

I lazily looked around. We were like pigs basking in the puddle of our own sweat. Normally, I would curse my woeful imagination but there really was no running away from the truth. In fact, if we ran, we’d slip, my mind continued, as if to test my patience.

Lights in Karachi had the knack of going out at the exact moment you set out to do something important. In 7th grade, it had gone out just as I was about to accept a friend request from a high school crush. Yesterday, it disappeared the moment I had written an online note to my brother asking him to order Chinese food.

And today it had darkened our doorstops just as I was ironing my shirt. I had gone to an interview with one sleeve of my shirt ironed flat, the other as if a handful of birds had wanted to build a nest on it. Thank God, I hadn’t started to straighten my hair yet.

This was us, the people of Karachi – always thankful for the crises that we just narrowly escape. People who would buy a UPS, a generator to back up that UPS, a generator for the first floor and another for the second and keep buying them until they were sure they won’t be left in the dark when KESC went missing in action, but they just wouldn’t go through the trouble of picking up their phones to register a complain.

My brother always said that was because KESC kept changing its complaint number but I disagreed.

People in our city had a really weird notion of what was protest-worthy. They would protest in the streets against killing in XYZ country, against films made by ignorant fools but God forbid, if somebody said anything that actually went wrong in their daily lives. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the people had more issues than the city itself and for a city with as messed up a security situation as Karachi, that was saying something.

Besides, who could blame the people? Surely, it’s because of the heatstroke they’re having, I thought as I reached out for the only book lying on the nearest shelf while shooing away a fly. It’s funny how difficult times can make people seek company in the unlikeliest of places but I hoped to God, it wasn’t Fifty Shade of Grey that I picked up because even for a difficult time, it’s way too much of an unlikely company. It actually turned out to be a book of quotes my friend had given me for my 20th birthday, who I hadn’t seen since.

And this is just something else about the city, that you had to get used to once it let you in. People here would tell you, you look great when they need something only to disappear for years until they need something again. They would congratulate you on your successes with the most plastic smile available to mankind and then would ask you to watch out as if to rain on your parade. Never on time, always on the lookout for the next big thing, this was Karachi, the city of doodhpatti since well, electricity has become a rare commodity.

Recovering workaholic

I sit at my desk waiting for words to come out for an article that I have been writing for 3 months but to no avail. This feels as personal as perhaps a man would feel about an erectile dysfunction. Words can only flow when there’s passion and a genuine willingness to write but either of the two have been missing of late, it seems. I’m quick to blame this on my last full-time job which was as taxing as the last government. The job that I loved to hate and had ended up given so much to saw me fretting over things like revenue and business growth like my life depended on it – eventually paving way to a lifestyle that had no room for what I really loved doing.Maybe there should a rehab for people who over-commit with their jobs and then can’t go back to their normal lives. The word vacation looms in front of me like a mirage. Tempting but unrealistic. It lifts my hopes up for a second only to bring them back to the ground when logistics fall apart.

Deviating or deliberately choosing to not take part in the rat race is not easy. If you’re not running, you are automatically assumed to be sitting it out – even if you’ve your eyes set on a different track. 

In an environment where everything is pre-planned for you, in a city that doesn’t accommodate the deviators it’s hard to just pick up your laptop and walk out – even if just for a stroll.
But the thing with life is, you just gotta keep moving, I think, as my fingers pick up their pace on the keyboard. 

The Fresh Graduate Problem

I have not been made to feel angry in a while. That must be because I was studying. A university no matter how much it says is trying to expose you to a number of different things, is still a protected environment. Teachers can be mean but they can’t be that mean, you can get really low marks but it’s really unlikely that you will fail. Barring your first semester, you come to know that there’s a limit to what you will be made to suffer, that there’s a line that doesn’t get crossed.

Now that line soon evaporates as soon as you graduate. I have been working since my A Levels and have always been aware of the so-called cut-throat environment that exists out there, where you’re the only one taking care of yourself, where you’re not always given groups to work on presentations.

I have been through the process of professional hazing – where they only give you menial tasks to do before moving you on to the real job. I have seen my fair share of office politics, the grapevine at work, promotions being announced and falling apart, projects being announced and falling apart – sometimes all because of that last-minute word of “caution”. It could be anyone and you learn to watch out, learn to curb the funny one-liners that would otherwise be really entertaining but would put you in the bad books of someone who leads the grapevine. You don’t want to talked about like that.

And then after a while, you get used to it and even start enjoying it. It puts you on edge but also keeps you coming back. You’re in no one’s protection anymore. Your actions now have serious consequences. No one likes playing a game where they know they will always win, for too long. You do at some point want to go up against the big guns and a work environment lets you do that.

However, nothing irks more than being unfairly judged, particularly if you have your monthly income and job description on the line and here comes the fresh graduate problem.

“What does he know? He is a fresh graduate.”
“A fresh graduate should…”
“This fresh graduate came up to asking for 50k (laughter)…”

And this incessant comparison between you and a freshly baked item of a bakery goes on and on. It doesn’t matter if you have a substantial work experience or have mastered certain skills (with things to show for it) if you just graduated. You might as well be a fish in an aquarium trying to make your point but all anyone else sees is an inaudible mouth gasping for air.

What all of this does is basically send the message that not only does acquiring education not guarantee jobs, it downright lowers the chances of you getting a decent one. Skills and work experience are definitely important but the fact that you just got out grad school doesn’t mean that you’re devoid of them. A lot of people opt for acquiring degrees at a later stage in their life instead of just starting right after high school.

The term “fresh graduate” has been too loosely used to account for those exceptions and that’s just really unfortunate.

Adolescent Musings

Sometimes there’s this strange sense of familiarity in being ordered around – in being told what to do. Reminds you of school or when you were a kid – when everything was simple and you weren’t responsible for your actions. The person ordering you was.
As an adult it’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting that. Of having someone else to take responsibility in your stead. Being ordered makes you feel as if you have found it but it’s only in flashes that you realise that you’re no longer a child and have to learn to say you want something different. That someone else can no longer make decisions for you because it’s you who have to live with the consequences. The decisions could be as simple as choosing what to wear and who to be friends with. But they should be yours.
That’s a really important part of being a grownup. Knowing when to say what you want and knowing when to say no.

Karachi, on guard

Ayesha Salman grew up listening to tales of her parents’ childhood – of them cycling to the nearest shops to get baked goodies and playing cricket on the streets with the neighbourhood kids. Her parents grew up at a time when words like ‘terrorism’ and ‘suicide blasts’ were not in one’s daily dictionary. But a great deal has changed since then, and Ayesha is well aware of the harsh reality that her life and that of her children could never be the same.

Karachi, which was labelled as the world’s most dangerous mega city by a US magazine Foreign Policy for its high rate of homicide, may pose extraordinary challenges to its citizens looking for security, but from self-defence training to installing safety checks, it’s also fast coming up with ways to address them. However, one thing’s for sure complacency has long stopped being the answer.

Life in the country’s financial hub now has transitioned to employing private guards, installing security systems and coping desperately with rising inflation just to make ends meet. How did we end up in such a situation?

“It starts from recurring news reports of street crimes – you hear of a relative or of a friend whose mobile was snatched and you get scared. As the frequency of the stories increase, you begin to flinch each time someone on a motorbike passes by your vehicle,” says Ayesha Salman, a resident of Defence Phase VIII.

Sadly, citizens of Karachi have lost the sense of security they were accustomed to till a decade ago. The small things people took for granted, such as walking down the street without fearing for one’s life or valuables is now a distant memory.

“It is a growing fear that something might happen to you if you don’t take necessary precautions,” Ayesha adds.

Dressed in uniform or plain shalwar kameezchowkidars stand on duty at many houses in Karachi. Earning anywhere between Rs10,000 to Rs20,000 the presence of a chowkidar is expected to serve as a deterrent to possible break-ins.

In many cases the chowkidars are none other than the relatives of housemaids or are drivers who are given the additional responsibility of serving as guards. Meanwhile, there are others who prefer hiring private guards but some people remain sceptical of their usefulness.

“Employing guards certainly gives one some peace of mind but stories of crimes committed by armed guards continue to haunt as well,” Ayesha says. “In such cases, it also becomes necessary to stay vigilant about the people you employ for security.”

Chief executive officer of Aftershock CEM, a freelance security consultancy, Naveed Khan agrees with the need for people to be vigilant about their safety. While people are spending, and in some cases significant amounts of money, on security they are not going about in the right manner, Khan warns.

Khan, who has assisted various multinational organisations with a crisis management programme, says he has yet to meet a trained security guard for a private or corporate security firm.

“If people were serious about safety checks, they should inquire about prior training and experience of a security guard before employing him but that doesn’t happen,” he says.

“Even corporate clients who pay as much as Rs18,000 to Rs 25,000 don’t make an effort to find out if the guards have had ample training. They just want to get the guy as long as he is in uniform and has a weapon,” Khan explains. After a brief pause he adds, “If he (security guard) looks scary, that’s a bonus.”

However, Khan may be a bit simplistic in his definition as security officer at Aqsa Security Guards Mohammad Asghar explains. “There are procedures in place before recruiting guards such as verifying their CNIC details,” he says adding, “Their information is corroborated by two witnesses and someone physically visits the address they provide to make sure everything checks out.

Speaking about guards’ training he says, “They are trained to handle a weapon once they are employed and most of their other training revolves around tackling various situations depending on whether they arise at home or on the street.” At this point Aqsa Security Guards does not provide their employed guards any training on first aid.

According to Khan, security in Pakistan is a ‘numbers game’. Security companies are ranked not by the services they provide but by the amount of manpower they employ, he claims. “Basically a company that employs more guards will be ranked higher,” he says.

Additionally basic life security and lifesaving skills are also found lacking. These include first aid, victim transportation, patrolling, reporting, conflict management and resolution and marksmanship.

Another popular precaution taken by individuals and businesses is setting up security systems. Installing panic buttons, motion detectors and round-the-clock monitoring by security firms are among the most common services.

When deciding between employing a guard or installing a security system what do people prefer? Ayesha relies on both a home security system, as well as the services of an unarmed guard and says, “Installing a home security system sometimes is much cheaper than employing guards and also allows you to feel more secure.”

Meanwhile, the Farooqi family residing in North Nazimabad feel that though a security system sounds more reliable they prefer hiring the services of a guard.

“People residing in houses instead of apartments might be prone to install a security system. But in our apartment building families prefer to hire a guard to oversee the neighbourhood and we collectively pay the guard’s salary,” says Ahsan Farooqi.

Residing in Soldier Bazaar, Zeeshan Ali feels differently. “Seeing guards everywhere is terrorising in itself. I prefer installing a security system which is less frightening and more efficient.”

Meanwhile, there are also some companies who exclusively deal with ‘security fencing’. While there is debate on this service being more effective, home owners and small businesses continue to largely rely on the services of security guards.

Saad Amanullah Khan owns a fast food joint, Big Thick Burgerz (BTB), in Defence says, “There is no proper way to handle the security challenges that exist today.” He strongly believes the only permanent solution is for the government to address the security concerns of the city and take concrete remedial measures.

Small business owners can mitigate some precautionary measures but all these efforts can be easily compromised, Saad Khan explains. Further, even if they do prove effective they end up significantly increasing the over heads.

“The cost of doing business in Pakistan is going up by the day,” Saad Khan says. “It is worse for SMEs and start up business owners, as they are already working with limited resources.” The opportunity cost for businesses remains high as the deteriorating security situation affects them from various directions. People avoid going out now and delivery staff are often robbed, on the other hand during strikes businesses shut down early or for an entire day which also disrupts the supply chain.

While a fool proof method to ensure security is yet to be devised, some organisations are offering self-defence classes. Specialised classes for women to deal with gender-based crimes such as sexual harassment are also available.

Published in Dawn on February 5, 2013.