Archive | August, 2011

Pakistani Drivers: The Good, the Bad, and the Rampant

22 Aug

What does first come to your mind when you hear Pakistan’s name, the awe-inspiring 1990s or the helplessness of 21st century; the patriotism-inducing tune of National Anthem or the deafening noise of a gunshot; the melody of a Vital Signs’ song or the mediocrity of Bilal Khan’s lyrics? Each of us has a different perception. Some are optimists; others, excessively pessimistic realists. Everyone is playing a role, but in the end, it all comes down to effectiveness. Anyone can be a baker, but not every baker knows what exactly is the proportionate amount of icing on a cake. Anyone can be a blogger, but not every blogger knows how to write an essay that is reader-friendly. Similarly, anyone can drive, but not every driver remembers (or abides by) the traffic rules.

RAWR.

RAWR.

When I try to come up with the perfect definition of a Pakistani driver, my mind splits into different directions; it gets me confused with contradicting opinions. Some tales are better left untold, and some activities are better left undefined. But then again, I’m a person who doesn’t give up so easy. So what if I can’t really define a Pakistani driver? I can always write a detailed, pointless (or maybe not) blog post.

1. Bald Uncles

These bald law-abiding uncles think that they actually follow the rules, but in reality, they too have their oh-come-on-there-is-no-other-way-than-to-drive-on-the-wrong-side moments. Yes, my dad is 50% bald (I’m good at measuring baldness) and he does that too sometimes. But he is my dad so I must have a biased opinion about him. I’ll criticize the rest of the men instead. Just make sure never to overtake a bald man, especially when you’re on a busy intersection, or you are sure to be declared as na maaqool new generation.

2. Women

I think I should probably dedicate an entire blog post to how much beauty do the women add to our roads, but I’m afraid I’ll be declared a sexist and no man will ever marry his daughter to me for that, considering how wildly popular I already am. (I went for an exam yesterday and some student there recognized me from Twitter.)

I think women need to realise that roads are for driving, not for fooling around, changing lanes as they please because the other lane smells like kitchen. (I know I’m generalizing here, but I don’t really mean offense to anyone. This blog post is meant only for humourous purposes.)

No wonder you're a woman. No wonder.

No wonder you're a woman. No wonder.

I have an aunt who just cannot drive with her shoes on. She always takes off her shoes before driving, and sets herself in a position as if the steering wheel is a plate of gol gappay, being careful that the chutney doesn’t stain her clothes. Yes, this is a true story, in case you’re wondering.

3. Teenagers

“Dad, I promise I won’t drive faster than 50 km/h.”
*speeds up to almost 80 km/h on Ferozpur Road later, ending up hitting his car to a roadside dahi bhallay vendor*

You can never take out the rage, that feeling of intensity from a teenager’s mind. When a teenager touches the steering wheel, he knows that the world is in the grip of his hands (even though in reality, it’s a bullshit concept for every driver). He doesn’t care what on Earth is he on about; he just wants to achieve his new personal best, in terms of speed. (Confession: My personal best is around 115 km/h, and that too on Hyderabad’s narrow streets.) If the car that just overtook you reminds you of your Grand Theft Auto missions, there is almost a 90% chance that a teenager is driving it. Teenagers also prefer insanely loud music in their cars, which mostly is some mediocre hip-hop music that they think makes them cool.

4. Green Registration Plates

A green registration plate indicates a government-owned vehicle. Here in Pakistan, you are immune to all traffic laws if the vehicle you’re driving has a green registration plate. You can take u-turns on a one-way street, break stop-lights as you please, or even drive in reverse (unless you don’t want to look retarded). The drivers of these vehicles are mostly rampant, and the roads are a playground for them. You can’t use the one-liner “Tere baap ka road hai?” (Translation: Is it your daddy’s road?) on them, and I believe you can figure out the reason yourself.

5. Life is a Tortoise Race

Some drivers seem to be over-influenced by their kindergarten experience. I can’t think of any other reason why they drive so slow (other than that they might be talking on phone). Well, I don’t mind as long as you are driving slow and leaving me space to overtake you, but if you are driving slow and not leaving any space for me to pass, I simply hate you.

6. Your Road is My Parking Lot

The biggest issue that Pakistan’s highly mismanaged roads face is that half of them are covered by parked vehicles, even when there is a No Parking sign. Some people are lucky enough to get their cars attacked by the forklifts but mostly you’ll see helpless traffic wardens trying their best to manage the traffic on what is the remaining part of the road. In rare cases, I have seen people parking their cars in the middle of nowhere as if they’ve run out of fuel or just got bored while driving so they decided to have a casual walk around the market.

7. Five Seconds Remaining? GO!

Almost every Pakistani driver possesses this quality, except me because I’m scared of the cops. If you are waiting for the green light to show up and there are still 10 seconds to go, don’t be surprised by the people who already start moving their cars slowly past the zebra crossing. When there are five seconds remaining, they’ll push their accelerators full, because that’s how they roll. These are the very same people who are responsible for most of the heaviest traffic jams on busy intersections.

By now, you might be thinking that I missed out the motorcyclists (and rickshaws). But I believe they are an entirely different topic. I’ll write a separate blog post dedicated to their mad skills.

Rawr.

Rawr.

I didn’t cover bus and truck drivers because I think they’re cool.

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The Significance of Decision Making

17 Aug

Life is like a one-way street where you can’t take any u-turns, or like a pencil without an eraser. Every decision you make and every path you take, profoundly affects not only your future, but also the lives of the ones around you. Most of the times, we end up making quick decisions that almost always bring out a negative side of us, causing regret and great amount of stress. Sometimes, we make wrong decisions because of our dependency for decision-making on people who fail to understand our actual situation, for example, our life’s most crucial decisions mostly rely upon our parents’ wishes.

But mom, I don't think I'm ready for marriage yet.

But mom, I don't think I'm ready for marriage yet. (Photo credit: Arvind Balaraman)

There’s no point in living a life in which you do not make your own decisions. Letting others decide things for us is a very unhealthy exercise. And in a country like Pakistan (or any other Asian country for that matter), deciding something for your career without consulting the elders is considered a sin, even when the elders mostly end up ruining our lives because they wanted us to be doctors, engineers or architects.

“But dad, I’ll do better if I go for accounting.”
“Oh, you little! You know nothing about these things. You must go for engineering if you want a good career.”

And that’s when we lose ourselves. Our purpose to live a life truly based on our own choices immediately goes to waste when we choose a path that is not ours; a path we never pondered upon. That’s when we live a life where one would kill for a chance to turn back time and make the right decisions.

“Are you applying to AMC?”
“No, my mom won’t allow me to go so far away just for education. My best bet is Karachi.”

You know you are in trouble when your parents put a limit over your career choices. Pakistani moms often have this insecurity that if they send their children too far for education, they will end up getting into drugs and alcohol, or get kidnapped for ransom. Actually, most Pakistani moms can’t help their negative assumptions. Sometimes, they also have superstitions.

“My brother took dentistry and he died shortly after. I won’t let my child get into dentistry too.”

This is what makes me sick about Asian parents. I’m fortunate enough to have parents who don’t take decisions that are mine to make.

Apart from typical Asian parents, another drawback of our society is that we think mullahs are some kind of heavenly creatures who can never be wrong. For us, a mullah is above law and order, and every word he utters becomes a golden word for us. “Because Maulvi Sahab said so” is becoming a widely used answer to all the religious (and sometimes even non-religious) arguments. I don’t mean to spread hate, but these are the same mullahs whom mosques are powered by stolen electricity. Country’s law doesn’t mean anything to them; the only law that they care about is their modified form of Islam. Many of us consult mullahs when we are in trouble, because we think they can give us the right guidance.

Maulvi Sahab told me that viagra is a shortcut to hell, so I rather grew a beard. Sexy, ain't it?

Maulvi Sahab told me that viagra is a shortcut to hell, so I rather grew a beard. Sexy, ain't it?

What I want to point out here, is that we should learn to make decisions by ourselves, not base them over others’ wishes. The day you start thinking by yourself instead of asking others to think for you, you realize the real capability of a human brain. And even if you make wrong decisions, you won’t have anyone to blame, and eventually, you’ll learn to focus on your needs, instead of your wants. Take advices from everyone, but don’t let them overcome you. Being dependent on others earns you nothing but regret. You were born to be independent, and you are living this life to make this independence survive, for as long as you can.

Dear Imran Khan, You Clearly Nailed It!

15 Aug

Lahore never disappoints,” said Alam, as he searched for actual fruits from his cup of Fruit Trifle, at dinner last night.

Alam's Fruit Trifle was fruitless

Alam's Fruit Trifle was fruitless

It’s not even been a month since I moved to Lahore, and it already feels like I have always somewhat been related to this city. Lahore gives me space to breathe, to take my imagination far beyond the limits (and come up with an evil plan to invade Russia… errr… and maybe, maybe Britain too). When one roams around the city, it seems like an endless drive. By now, you might be wondering what the heck has Imran Khan got to do with all of this. Well, practically, nothing. I only wanted to write an introductory paragraph about Lahore, actually. Let’s come to the real thing now.

Yesterday, it was Pakistan’s 65th Independence Day. (Now you might come up with an argument, saying it was 64th. But no, you need to get your logic straight. You already know the facts. Oh well!) We have come a long way since 1947; from government offices in tents, to huge ‘multi-million-dollar’ structures built for nothing but indoor corruption games (which might even involve Cricket sometimes, i.e., Ijaz Butt and company). But there still exist lots of people like you and me, who aren’t there only to watch and let things happen. One such person, is Imran Khan.

Gotta admire Ijaz Butt. He's older than Pakistan itself.

Gotta admire Ijaz Butt. He's older than Pakistan itself.

Now, a lot of people would bring in arguments here too, criticizing Imran Khan’s anti-extremism policies, his political campaigns, etc. But we aren’t exactly discussing politics here. We are discussing humanity.

Imran Khan has already done more than his part for this nation,” emphasized Miss Naila, as she wrapped up her presentation on Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital’s progress, leaving the Lahori bloggers inspired, motivated.

Imran Khan, world's hottest man since 1992.

Imran Khan, world's hottest man since 1992.

Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital (SKMCH) is a living example that anything can be done when one dedicates oneself for a cause; an example of overflowing love for one’s country and nation.

Yesterday, Badar Khushnood from Google, organized a meetup for Lahori bloggers at SKMCH. As you enter the hospital’s limits, you can clearly notice that it’s not just another conventional Pakistani hospital. The finely designed structure of the building captures your attention at the first glance. When you get inside the building, it gets even better.

Now let me be honest here. I had an impression that I would get to see patients lying around the hospital’s floors, with a dejected look on their faces, unmaintained corridors (and dirty nurses). But the actual case was the opposite. I was highly impressed by the level of maintenance of the hospital, and the eloquence of staff (and air conditioning that left me shivering). Unfortunately, I forgot to take my camera along with me, or I would have shared lots of interesting pictures of the interior (hospital’s interior, that is).

We were given a tour of the hospital and its facilities. A representative informed us that everything is done on computers, that a doctor logs every single information about a patient on a computerized network. Another impressive feature is that there are no means of finding out whether a person is paying for his/her treatment or is being sponsored by the hospital and charities (unless you’re a good judge), so every patient is equally treated. Some of us also brought gifts for the cancer patients.

While we were being given a presentation. Photo copyrights, Haris Nadeem.

While we were being given a presentation. Photo copyrights, Haris Nadeem. (I'm the one with striped shirt and dark blue jeans, sitting alone in the second row.)

Later, we gathered inside a classroom where we were given a presentation on SKMCH’s progress, ever since its inception. Running a cancer treatment hospital in a country like Pakistan is certainly a remarkable achievement. According to the figures shown to us by Miss Naila, the institute covers 51% of all its costs, as of now, and the rest relies on donations and Zakaat. We didn’t get to see the figures in detail because we only had time till Iftaar (and everyone was starving). Some smiles were passed, some opinions shared, some points raised, some Samosas eaten; overall, it was an inspirational experience to hang out with Lahori bloggers at SKMCH. Every reader is highly encouraged to donate as much as possible, to help treat the cancer patients.

Ramadan Special: The Mufti Effect

2 Aug

As soon as the news of the holy month of Ramzan (Ramadan for Arabic-speakers) start kicking in, everyone starts coming up with their own philosophies regarding how to keep your patience while fasting. On the other side, some insane people like me start to notice the shortcomings and humourous sides of people’s behaviour during the entire month (while munching a 10-rupee Kit Kat).

One of the most amazing aspects of the month of Ramzan is that it creates dramatically awkward changes in everyone’s psychology. One of them is called The Mufti Effect. (Actually, I have just named it this way because it sounds cool.)

The Mufti Effect

What exactly is The Mufti Effect? To put it in simple words, it’s basically bullshit. The greatest but most unknown characteristic of human psychology is that one can ACTUALLY believe anything he/she wants to believe. That’s when The Mufti Effect kicks in.

At the time of Sehr, people try to eat as much as possible so that they face least amount of weakness and/or hunger during the fast, but from the inside, they know it’s useless. As soon as the local Mullah/Mufti (I prefer the word Mufti) announces the closing of Sehr time, people automatically start getting thirsty, so they gulp in loads of water but in the end, The Mufti Effect dominates and they have nothing to do but give up.

The Mufti’s announcement somewhat forces people to believe that their stomach is an endless cave and a trillion miles deep well. It’s basically only the fear of starvation which gets woken up further by the Mufti, hence The Mufti Effect.

*applause*

Atheism: A religion in itself?

1 Aug

An atheist is a person who simply denies the existence of God. Even in a country like Pakistan where a vast majority of the population is highly religiously conservative, atheism continues to slowly grow. In societies like these, most of the atheists decide to remain closeted because their lives would largely be at risk if they publicly announce their beliefs. However, in developed societies, such as Europe, being an atheist is usual practice now-a-days.

Atheism, in general, doesn’t sound objectionable but there always is an inevitable drawback of every belief, culture, society, or anything for that matter. In a normal society, you will find doctors, architects, lawyers, bankers, writers and many worthwhile personalities, but you will also find thieves, robbers, critics, pedophiles, sexists, etc. Similarly, there are a lot of atheists who will try their best to give you a headache, or according to them, try to bring you to the ‘right path’. In this post, I have tried to explain different kinds of atheists and their behaviour, based on what I have been observing lately.

Textbook Atheists – “I don’t believe in the existence of a god.”

The pure form of atheism, in my opinion, is when a person only minds one’s own business. “I don’t believe in a god, but I won’t force you to do the same.” Some of these atheists are closeted; others would openly express their views, but none of them would try to shove their belief down your throat. Even if they argue, they would try their best not to break the ethical barriers. These are the respectable people; the sort of people I would more than happily befriend. (P.s. I do have some atheist friends.)

‘Extremist’ Atheists – “There is no god! You just can’t prove it.”

Basically, atheism is NOT a religion, but some atheists treat it as one, without even realizing it. Most of them cross the ethical limits and clearly start insulting other faiths; some would do so to try to change your mind and turn you into an atheist too, others, only to ‘piss you off’ because you are a ‘bloody conservative’. They run after ‘logic’ so much, they don’t even realize they’ve broken their own logical boundaries. I call them extremists because just like the religious extremists, they are doing no good to humanity, only destroying it. Not to forget that they mostly spend their time surfing the internet, polluting websites like Reddit with their ‘pick up lines’ and anti-religious ‘comics’ that they take entire nights to figure out. Such type of atheism is totally unacceptable and should be strongly discouraged by every sane human being.

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