Resumption of writing

I am resuming writing this blog after a hiatus of more that 2 years. The last blog post was written in 2016. I forgot that I have a blog, and only recently reminded myself that I have one. I will try to write stuff but I don’t know whether I will be able to carry on writing as I tend to be very inconsistent, something I am working on.

Inconsistency is one of the major vices that create scores of mediocrities. Becoming better at something requires accumulation of experience and time spent on honing that something. It requires obsession, and if not obsession, at least consistency, as slowly and steadily dexterity builds up.

I know many who started learning how to play a guitar or a sport and then eventually gave up; getting busy in their monotonous life or picking up something easier. Social media is one big pastime engrossing time, interest and attention of so many now. Something easier may also include TV and movies: passive ways of entertaining oneself.

I have myself indulged in these passive modes of entertainment in the past when I would remain jacked up on the computer consuming audio-visual stimuli for hours. Outgrowing that addiction was a bigger portion of coming of age for me.

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Wish Ungranted

I was really happy. Things would have gone smooth. If we lived in a perfect world. But we don’t. The world, especially my world is so skewed, so unbalanced that it will take an Archimedes’ lever to move it to the right place.

And it takes an enormous distraction on my part to forget. Remember the days when I was glued to the radio. Those days and now, the in between hell between them is a dark age in my life. I would call it a very bi-polar period. With massive highs and deepest lows that can ever be. And they used to fluctuate frequently.

And little solace I could find. Possessed by spirits I was.

So here comes the fresh age, but it lacks the magical quality. Euphoria of that time.

What is life like surrounded by unpredictable people, your life becomes unpredictable. You can’t plan because there are a lot of variables that are random, can’t be predicted, too much chance, too many options, the mind boggles taking into account them all and at the end of the day, you’re left as bewildered as you were at the beginning. And people around you leave you to be confused, indecisive, unpredictable. To avoid it all you choose one path, of solitude. Withdrawal. The best way to deal with unpredictability is to avoid flirting with it altogether.

i have been nagged by an object. It shows up everyday. Reminding me of an unfinished business. Of a thing that could have been right, proper, approved, bringing happiness. For approval brings happiness, contentment. Disapproval brings torment, agony.

For a long while I’ve been thinking about a symbol. That symbol that I avoided for almost half a year, and in an unfortunate moment, I drew that symbol again. It could have been bliss without it but that is a mistake to take that symbol again. Now I must forget that symbol because that symbol may drown me in agony again, in torment.

And for that unpredictability might help relieving me from that symbol. The point is you become so dull, you don’t forget the symbol, the symbol forgets you

An email from Ethan Casey

I was just 19 when I got a reply from a published writer. It felt so good. I thought I might share our correspondence.

Hi

Thanks for mentioning me in your message. Actually, I couldn’t help noticing the orientalist interpretation in your book because it was more than just prevalent throughout the whole book. That is why I believe that a true book on a country by a foreign writer is not possible, because they start making contrasts between the country’s culture and their own and in this way they dabble their analyses or more precisely in your case dabble their accounts with certain unconscious prejudices. Note that I am not saying ‘conscious’. Besides, if you read an American’s book on any European country you would find it less tainted by the above mentioned features. That is where the orientalist stuff comes in.

Anyways, I enjoyed the book and was expecting a reply on the group discussion board but I believe its no longer active.

                                                                                                                                                                            Ali



Hi Ali,

Thanks for your note. I’d actually like to create a space online where any reader can write (more or less – so long as it’s not gratuitous or abusive) anything about my book, and I’d certainly welcome a full review from you. I thought your brief comments were thoughtful and interesting. I might not agree with everything you say, but in an important way that doesn’t matter – an author isn’t the person who can or should interpret his or her own writing.

This is why I haven’t replied publicly to your comments (besides the fact that I’m busy, and also that I didn’t see your note until yesterday!). I think that if an author writes a book, he or she puts it out there, and he (I) shouldn’t try too much to influence how readers read it.

It’s difficult writing for several audiences at once, and that’s why I tried to do in Alive and Well in Pakistan and am trying to do in my blog and in the new book I’m writing. I want Pakistanis to recognize an affectionate outsider’s experience of their country, and I want Westerners, and Americans in particular, to have an accessible literary document that will show them the human and “normal” side of Pakistan and Pakistanis.

I’m doing lots of public speaking to American audiences these days, and I have to tell you – I stress this strongly whenever I speak to Pakistani audiences – that the proverbial Mr and Mrs America have *very* little understand of, or sympathy for, Pakistani perspectives, and they begin (in their conversations with me) by asking usually challenging and unsympathetic questions. I have to have something that I can come back to them with, to say, “It’s not all about Osama bin Laden, or Taliban, or oppressed women, or nukes.”

Anyway, I’m writing back to you at such length because I can tell you’re a thoughtful person who thinks seriously about things. You might well be right that there’s unconscious orientalism in my writing. Other Pakistanis have not thought so, but whether there is or not is something you could debate with them – not with me, because I can’t understand my own writing properly from the outside, because I’m not a reader but the writer. I believe in the usefulness and importance of *subjective* writing, from any perspective, and I think an honestly personal account such as mine is more useful than the more common “objective” account that many Western writers – journalists and scholars – often lay on Pakistan and other Asian countries.

At least I’m admitting up front that my perspective is partial and personal and incomplete – if that makes sense to you. If it’s orientalist, well then maybe it is, but that’s something I kind of can’t help, to an extent, simply because I’m a Western person. I can try to factor that in, and I hope I do, but I can’t not be who I am.

The other thing I would say is that – as far as I’m concerned – you’re very welcome to come to my country and write about it, any time! I wish, in fact, that more Pakistanis would experience America at first hand and write about it – whether appreciatively or critically.

I’m writing a fortnightly column for Dawn, and I think you might appreciate the latest installment, which is online here:

http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/in-paper-magazine/books-and-authors/overtaken-by-events-easier-said-than-done

Anyway, it’s all about having an ongoing conversation. I’d like to be able to create a space, maybe on www.aliveandwellinpakistan.com, where any reader can write anything he or she wants about anything I write. The current Facebook group is not officially inactive – it’s just that most people don’t post it but just passively belong to it. Anyone is welcome to post on the wall any time. For my part, I’m trying to create and develop as many effective vehicles as I can for fostering a good, mutually respectful, and productive ongoing conversation between Pakistanis and Americans.

Thanks again.

Best regards,

Ethan

 

Resignation Mantra

This is an article I wrote on 6th September 2014

In Politics, particularly in Pragmatic politics, all legal options to resolve a conflict are open to consideration. Moreover, politics is the name of mutual concessions, of compromise. Whenever there is a dialogue between two conflicting parties, a side has to surrender some of its demands and accede to some demands of the other party. But if one or both sides remain adamant and do not budge, it results in a deadlock. Today in Pakistan we are witnessing such a political impasse. When all other demands of the PTI have been accepted, it is still adamant on a single point: the resignation of the Prime Minister.

In a show of great flexibility, the ruling party PML(N) accepted  five of the six demands of the PTI. Not all demands of a party are supposed to be accepted. If it were that way it won’t be a compromise, it would be acceptance of all demands on gun point as the recent metaphor goes. The PTI instead of showing flexibility to end the deadlock has just been repeating the mantra of resignation.

After facing such a situation, the Prime Minister has found allies in the parties which were past adversaries. The opposition parties which consist of the likes of PPP and ANP have unanimously supported the Premier. Khursheed Shah, leader of the Opposition, called the Prime Minister not to resign under pressure. He committed the Opposition’s support to the Prime Minister in the face of recent street protests and sit ins.

But why is the Opposition so supportive of the government in the current imbroglio? To save democracy? The Opposition has realized that the best policy is to let the government complete its term. The members are old enough to remember the short-lived governments of 90’s didn’t contribute much to the sustainability of democratic set-up. Javed Hashmi, a veteran himself, owing to similar concerns distanced himself from the PTI leadership.

The left parties, human rights activists and others are not inspired by the love of Nawaz Sharif to support him in this political crisis. They only want this democratic system to survive; the system which is still nascent and devoid of much precedence and tradition. If Nawaz Sharif yields and resigns, it will give the impression that it just takes a dharna for political opponents to make a PM resign. If Imran Khan becomes Prime Minister in the future, couldn’t he face similar tactics to make him step down?

The argument by the PTI is that Nawaz Sharif could influence the inquiry of rigging accusations if he remains seated as the PM. Ex-Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani was sent home by the Supreme Court. In the capacity of Prime Minister, he could not influence the court. So, how would it be possible that the current Prime Minister could affect an inquiry by the Supreme Court now?

PTI’s stance for the resignation has become obsessive, tenacious and inflexible. It does not show political maturity, the acumen to step back to avoid a deadlock. It is just fixated on a belief that getting the resignation of the Prime Minister would be its political victory and not getting it would be a political defeat. Maybe its leadership is not aware that there is no ultimate victory or defeat in politics. Their stance is not about political idealism. It is just political obstinacy. Had the PTI leadership been so keen about political idealism Imran Khan would not have gone to meet the General which is head of an apolitical organization. Moreover, the PTI would not have made an alliance with the PAT had it been so keen about political idealism. The PAT is at best vague about democracy and at worse rejects it altogether.

It is now the responsibility of the PTI to break the deadlock. Nawaz Sharif’s resignation would not serve any purpose. It would only hurt the PTI itself when it would come to power, if ever, and chickens will come home to roost. The ruling party and the opposition seem to have exhausted their efforts to end this impasse; the buck now stops with the PTI.

It is now the responsibility of the PTI to break the deadlock. Nawaz Sharif’s resignation would not serve any purpose. It would only hurt the PTI itself when it would come to power, if ever, and chickens will come home to roost. The ruling party and the opposition seem to have exhausted their efforts to end this impasse; the buck now stops with the PTI.

Intezaar

I couldn’t find an exact translation of the Urdu word, ‘Intezaar’. The word means waiting, but waiting does not capture the nuances of the Urdu word for it. ‘Intezaar’ has romantic undertones to it. It has both the elements of patience and impatience in it. Patience because the person waiting is exhibiting restraint in what he doesn’t have power over, and impatience because the very term ‘Intezaar’ shows a feature of a disturbing feeling.

Why is a person waiting? Does it feel good to wait or does it feel bad? If you ask the person waiting, he will obviously tell you that he wants it to end as soon as possible. It is like negative reinforcement, one wants something to stop happening to him. Waiting in this case. Intezaar.

But what are we waiting for? It could be for someone. Or some for information. We are uncertain about that information. And we want that uncertainty to end. However, bad it maybe but it shouldn’t remain uncertain. Because we cannot wait. Be uncertain. Do ‘Intezaar’.

But doesn’t that uncertainty gives you hope! Isn’t it better to stay quiet and be thought of as a fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt? You can use your imagination in that period of uncertainty. Enact best case scenarios.

And these periods of waiting. These are the ones which can help us reach the depth of our own selves. What we really want? I remember one quote which said something like when you’re unsure about two choices, just flip a coin for it and during the brief time when the coin is in the air, you will realize what you’re really wishing for.

Fear and Loathing in Lahore

It is a struggle for me everyday. A struggle against human stupidity. And my own sloth. I have become highly social in the past few weeks. Meeting old friends and making new ones. And the most horrible experience is I am coming across a lot of people I have known in the past. And when I come across them I have to meet them. It is a price to stay in a city for so long that wherever you go, you come across someone you know. You cannot ignore them. Either they will come to you or you have to go to them. I am thinking about making them come to me if they want to. Because I don’t want to go to them at all. But it has the cost of being thought of as someone vain. I’d like them to think of me as indifferent, not vain. But that won’t make me indifferent if I want them to think in a particular way. That only suggests that I am not indifferent. The question is do I care? No. So I shall be indifferent from now on. I remember a trip to the Capital. I walked around the city with a friend. And I recognized no one. And no one recognized me. It felt good. I felt free. Free from the trouble of unwanted social interactions. It was fear. Fear of people that you loathe for no good reason. And the only qualification for being in the club of loathed is to get acquainted with me and then show up somewhere along my way.