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.


Mafia Wars

I woke up to my cellphone’s call for attention – the occasional ping of a social media website that sends a shiver of excitement down anyone’s spine each time it’s heard, only to often end up being an invite from a food group that they had forgotten to unlike.

With partly open eyes and a mind still clouded with the last night’s episode of Game of Thrones, I clamored to find the phone from under my pillow – my hands reaching out as if a drowning man calling for help – frantic and all over the place.

“Fauzia Arif,” the notification read, “has completed 56 levels of Candy Crush. Post on her wall to congratulate her.”

“How difficult is it to have a life these days?” I questioned angrily before, logging in to Sims Freeplay to check if my Sim was well-hydrated after the hours of virtual gardening I had put it through.

Now that I was finally up and getting my daily installment off the newsfeed, I scrolled down to spot familiar faces doing things that I only wished I could.

Sofia “Princess” Mir, the first update read: Just got updated to an iPhone 5, thanks to my hubby to be <3.

This was my friend from school who I had lost touch over the years and what remained of her memory were just the ugly bits that still stung like an evil bee. The status, as if spiraling me back to that time had me wanting to reply, but I couldn’t just comment on her status. That would just prove that she had my attention, which she didn’t of course.

I decided to update a status of my own.

“How cute. People are just beginning to get an iPhone 5. Steve Jobs is dead, folks!” I wrote.

And just as I was thinking my passive aggressive rant was done with, a new notification checked my smile that hadn’t fully appeared on my sleepy face.

“Don’t compare yourself to me. I’m someone they couldn’t even dare to be.”

“Whoa! Who is comparing who? Wait, where is that picture of Ali with that goofy smile of his where everyone thinks he resembles a deer?” I thought immediately scanning my desktop for saved pictures from yesteryears.

I had posted of photo of Ali and I at our best. The caption read, hubby already. It was the only picture of him where he hadn’t lost those few extra strands of hair covering his forehead and when his smile was just a genuine show of good countenance and not a silent question of “What’s for dinner?”.

The photo even though misleading was gold. Contented, I thought this would shut her bitch fit up but here’s the thing about social media: You can never be too sure – about anything.

And sure enough, a new status update from Sophia had followed: “I pity my friend who ended up with someone who has such an ugly face.”

My head was now reeling. I felt betrayed, backstabbed, insulted – all at once. This person, who had more asterisks in her name than my computer password was actually having fun at the expense of me? Me? Who had always scored the highest, got the better job, gotten the guy and had real friends for a change.  Who does she think she was?

My mental blabbering was interrupted by another ping from my cell phone.

“What? Is she not even going to wait for her turn now?”

It was a notification from my high school’s principal who thought tagging both of us in a status would be akin to calling us in to the principal’s room. She had proceeded to give us an online scolding – caps lock and all and said something about how our failed attempts at trolling still gave her nightmares.

If our online spat with each other wasn’t embarrassing enough – well, it wasn’t quite embarrassing, I am known to be more challenging on Facebook, that tagged status took the cake.

I quietly switched my phone off, pretended the online me was going on a hiatus and proceeded to tend to my real life responsibilities – the first of which included me getting out of the bed.

(This was done as part of a creative writing course at SZABIST)



Part of the problem


A lot of women have internalized gender discrimination. Tell them that they deserve more and you will be met with shocked eyes – tell them their daughters deserve better and they will shoo you away. What with all the blogs and articles on feminism pointing out how it is the men who perpetrate sexual discrimination, I’d like to say that I have seen more women who do.

“Are you insane? Girls don’t play sports.”

“It’s in a sign of religious devotion for women to work in the kitchen even if they lose the skins on their hands.”

“Using a woman’s money to pay for utility bills takes away the barkat from the house.”

“Don’t raise your voice in front of the men in the family.”

“Just get married.”

“What was she wearing? She was clearly looking for attention” [When news about sexual assaults appears]

These are all the things that I have heard friends’ moms and female relatives say – not just the men.

While it’s true that the kind of family you’re brought up in is different for everyone, I think it’s unfair that it’s only the men who are assumed to be sole perpetrator of sexism. If it was a first-person account I’d say my dad has never disallowed me from studying (I have quite a knack for going the extra mile), or working (At one point, I was working at two places), I have never heard male colleagues or classmates ever discriminate against me because of my gender. In fact, I have seen more men being vocal about crimes against women. I have seen them drive women around to help them out with assignments, household chores – just because of the fact that they are men and have internalized the fact that they are supposed to be facilitators in certain situations.

Even when certain households have men that are clearly domineering and have “rules” about who gets to do what, I have not seen a lot of women questioning the “status-quo”. Challenging, arguing or asking for a reason are practices that are looked down upon. Even when women are presented with outlets or opportunities to take their rights, they feel it’s inappropriate to accept it. Several take discrimination matter-of-factly with “this-is-how-it’s-supposed-to-be” kind of an attitude.

The womankind have been struggling to get gender equality for years and to be honest, there is so much “talk” about it that I’m afraid it’s not taken as seriously as it should. But why are so many people just talk and nothing more? Why is it that we have been unable to get what we want? Equality is not something that can be handed over on a single platter and yet, what is it that’s stopping us from attaining it?

In my opinion, part of the problem lies in identifying who perpetrates the gender inequality that exists. Just because it’s rights of the women that we are asking for doesn’t mean every women has worked to get it – a lot of women in our society are actively involved in fostering environments where their daughters, nieces and so on won’t feel comfortable asking for it at all.

This is not supposed to be a blog bashing women – I have heard a number of feminists say that that’s the last thing we need.  I just think that under the “woman deserve equality” banner, a lot of women who are actually contributing the problem are given a free pass, while men, regardless of their views on the topic are termed as the enemies.

As mothers, mothers-in-law, aunts, teachers, or any other influential role women play in society, if they are perpetrating women inequality in their own ways, they should also be called out as part of the problem- I think it’s only fair.


KIBF – The Book Affair

Just when I had become accustomed to feeling that something related to books would never let me down, it did and I have to blame the Karachi International Book Fair 2012 for it. I stood there, pretty much unable to believe my eyes. For yes, there were books and lots of it but none of them seemed to have gone through any kind of screening. It was like somebody had emptied their bookshelves of the kind that they were no longer interested in reading and held a book fair for it. And for someone who has been a frequent visitor of old book shops, the disappointment at beholding such a sight said something.

The joy of  being in the company of literature is unexplainable. It’s like meeting an invaluable mentor, someone you have looked up to for years and someone who can instil in you a sense of  awareness without batting an eyelid. Going to KIBF 2012 was akin to having a fan of The Beatles over at a gig by One Directions. Painful.


The classics, meekly tacked

Thronged heavily and yet lacking in substance, the Fair had little to offer to someone who was in search of a variety of not only books but of publishers, of stories and of languages. The sheer joy of coming with books that you will be hard pressed to find in any of the mainstream shops was missing. Liberty Books probably had the most happening stall but with shops in every nook and corner of the city, does one really need to wait for an annual event?

An entire hall and majority of the rest of the two halls were devoted to religious books and while it doesn’t really make sense to criticize that but again it defeated the purpose of bringing in inter-cultural diversity, if I am not mistaken in believing that the I in KIBF actually stood for International and not Islamic, that is.

Liberty Books at KIBF 2012

Liberty Books at KIBF 2012

The Dickens, the Tolstoys, the Eliots and the Hardys consumed barely half a shelf at Liberty and books like Kaala Jaadoo and Aik Mohabbat, entire stalls.

The Book Fair might have been an enjoyable experience for people who were looking for widely available books at slightly reduced prices but for me it was just plain unfair.