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)




Watching Television in Pakistan

We are no strangers to the evolution of Pakistani media. It has come a long way since its inception and according to a unanimous consensus, it is here to stay. What we have also witnessed on the other hand are major bloopers in the form of “leaked” videos that have the likes of Amir Liaquat, Mathira and Maya Khan on tape doing things that are questionable at the very least. Issues like these have brought the fact to light that even though Pakistani Media is progressing – nay, even thriving, it’s not short of its share of loopholes. We don’t even know whether it has a progressive direction. A large majority of the public would like to agree that the focus on the quality of a program’s content has certainly dwindled.

Speaking at the colloquium on “Television in Pakistan”, held at SZABIST this Saturday, Rahat Kazmi, a well known academician and professional actor, talked about where he thought the Pakistani TV is going wrong. Science and technology, he put forth, gets no attention or coverage on the programs that are hosted in local media and everyone in attendance tended to agree. I’d be surprised if they didn’t. When was the last time you watched something on television that motivated you to go back and cross check a scientific fact or made you aware of newer theories and innovations (the ad on Sauna belt aside, of course)? Things like tarot cards, followers of black magic, horoscopes, on the other hand are given endless coverage by the media. You’ll find countless number of people calling in and asking the “guest” of a show to record their personal details on a computer and foretell the rest of their life on earth. The insanity of the situation can’t even be put into words.

We’d like to live in a bubble where facts and theories don’t exist or it is just popularly made known that it’s thought we think like that. We’d rather watch Hamid Mir accusing a new person every week of committing some sort of a sin while we gloat about being virtuous ourselves because no matter what we do, we aren’t stripping for a magazine cover in India. There are hardly any programs on television these days that lead you to question our dogmas and beliefs, which as a result are apparently become narrower and stringent because they are not supported by research and new developments. Around forty years ago people had a problem with women on TV not wearing a dupatta on their heads – almost half a century later, we haven’t moved forward. People should really be judged about the kind of things they have a problem with. What would we be then? The bare head avengers?

The point is, our television industry has tried but not succeeded in making people ask the right questions. Public policies are only made known but rarely ever questioned or argued in the media. Mr. Kazmi talked about how the government had decided to make Chinese compulsory as a subject in schools. Did the media talk about the improbability of such a policy? Do we really have enough teachers teaching the language? Are we well-versed in our mother tongue to start with? These were important questions that nobody appeared on the television with. Having said that, it is important to understand that having these issues recognized is sign that they are going to be addressed in the near future. If the public is aware of where our industry is going wrong, it’s not long before the people running the show will too. As for me, I truly wait for a time when there would be more thinkers, authors, film makers and scientists on TV than failed dentists.

Published in Express Tribune and