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Gender in the Time of #MeToo

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Do you know the Kalasha tribe of Pakistan?

Source: Do you know the Kalasha tribe of Pakistan?

Impact Of Nationalization On BECO And Pakistan Economic Development

Thanks. What a tragedy & what a stupid act by ZBhutto …

Ramblings of a Pakistani Woman.

There had been many times in Pakistan’s history when stupid decisions were taken by the government. Nationalization in Bhutto’s era was one of those decisions. 22 Families lost everything that they had worked  for all their lives. BECO (Batala Engineering Company) is one such example.

Late Chaudhry Mohammad Latif was the founder and chairman of the Batala Engineering Company (BECO). After attending a meeting of leading Muslims in Batala, who wanted to establish Muslim industries in the face of Hindu dominance of retail, that he struck upon the idea of forming BECO.The company was established in 1932. , He sold its first 10 shares to a lime merchant for Rs 10. In the early years, he worked almost single-handedly to build up the company from its first workshop in two rooms and a veranda. Over the course of the next forty years, and in spite of losing much of his business…

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In Search of Birthplaces …





Lahore-Islamabad Motorway. We get off at the Kot Momin interchange and are on the  usual  bumpy country roads. The sun has set,  the moon is up and there is a slight Basant nip in the air. Finally, we  get on to the canal road for  village Haveli Bahadar Khan.  There is an eerie silence on the final few furlongs to the village. . Kinoo trees, actually big bushes, look like scary ghosts. The fields of tall bamboo trees are pitch dark. Village folks have already had their supper, gotten their cattle into the barns and have called it a day. Our loud car horns shrieks  get the servants up, who open the gate. And we are finally into a Punjabi village as it was 56 years ago – or probably a few hundred years ago.


It all comes back to Nand, the Canadian economist, who was born in a small village Kusik, not too far from here, before the partition. He is very observant and curious always looking out for the small details that relate to his childhood. He recalls  the old `loonkee’, a small wooden contraption with compartments to hold spices, which had a sliding  cover on top. He notices the `phoonkee’, near the chuhlas, a small pipe-type contraption used to blow, to light fire. He sees the `Churkha’ (spinning wheel), the earthen pitchers, the low `Peeries’, a low chair without backside. Noticing the different heights of Peeries, he inquires whether it has something to do with the status of person who sits on them. I tell him that ordinary village folks sit on the floor since they can not sit at the level  of  the Chaudhrys. But the elderly or the sick are often permitted and asked  to pull a  Peerie. Nand inquires  why the villagers do not touch feet of the Chaudhrys. I tell him  that they  bend down – but do not touch the feet of the Chaudhrys. At times, they do touch the kneecaps. Probably, it has something to do with religion with  its concept of equality. In India, normal respect to elders is shown by touching the feet. Mostly, the lower caste Hindu  had converted to Muslims. And while the equality syndrome seemed to have been a big attraction –  the strong cultural forces of class-system still lingers on in the village. In the village, each profession is still treated like a caste and is socially looked down upon. I also have some misconceptions about the Hindus. I ask Nand if he eats meat. He replies `very much so’.


The village maulvi is also sitting on the floor. Nand asks him if he knew Persian or  Arabic. He has some sense of  Arabic but does not know Persian. The older generation, which knew Persian, has passed away. Even the old classical Punjabi is fading away. Unlike our mothers and illiterate Punjabi farmers, the younger generation does not use seasons’ sanskrit/hindi names  poh, mah, badroo as known in Punjabi. Nand’s wife, Indu, however, still speaks the old Sargodha Punjabi as village folks speak. She exchanges her notes with my wife on the marriage customs and other village trivia. My wife overloads her with her own fables and stories of the family tree; and how her forefathers had migrated from Garh Ramba, in India, well before the partition. Indu wants Nand  to drink `Adhrirka’ , the semi-churned curd with full butter, next morning. `Saag’ is already prepared for us. And we settle for a simple daal and saag dinner spiced up with village made `umb da achaar’, mango pickle.


I tell Nand that except for the salt, the village is self sufficient in every other aspect. It makes its own cloth, bedding, furniture and shoes. Has its own meat and dairy products. Nand is intrigued and surmises that the use of salt by Gandhi in his movement could be due to very this reason. Nand is quick to philosophize and his mind keeps carrying out political analysis. He says that if partition had not occurred, the Muslims would have had a critical mass to be always an unmanageable minority. And the united India would have been perpetually embroiled in Congress-Muslim League communal politics. It was  better to have different countries but keep good terms.    


We call Siddika Mochi (Siddique, the cobbler) to tell us about Kusik, Nand’s village. He is a Paharia, a mountain man, a title given to the locals who come from the hilly Potohar. Siddika knows about Kusik and gives us reasonably accurate instructions to reach there. He also talks about the Katas Raj, the centuries old Hindu temple located deep in the Potohar hill ranges. He tells us that `Katas Raj was Mecca and  Medina of the Khatris’; and there used to be a big annual festival there before the partition. He tells us that Khatri’s used to be the Munshis of the Chaudhrys  at the Haveli and their letters kept coming from India till very recently. On inquiry from Nand, he says that  Muslims and Khatris drank from the same village well. One day, Siddika said, a few trucks came and they took the Khatris away. Nand is surprised that Siddaka is always addressing the Hindus as Khatri’s, a caste, and not as Hindus. Himself a Khatri, Nand says that Khatri was only a  Cast. The only Hindu family living in Sargodha is at a nearby village called `Sahnis de Haveli’. Nand’s wife, Indu, coincidently, also belongs to the Sahni family.


So the next day, we again get on the motorway and climb the Potohar plateau, about 3300 feet above mean sea level. We get off the motorway at the scenic kalar kahar, which has water springs, peacocks and the inevitable local saint. The peacocks are still living in  Kalar Kahar forest because there is a curse by the local saint on any one who harms them. We head towards Choa Saidan Shah. Katas Raj is a big imposing structure  and is visible from miles. The multi-storied temple has a  lake at its base. Al Beruni had studied Sanskrit at the university here for two years. He gives a description of the place in his book Kitab-ul-Hind. A plaque put by some Jhelum Deputy Commissioner gives an idea of the history of the place. According to the story, when Shivajee dies, Parvati cried and cried. He tears filled the small lake at the base of the multistoried temple. Nand does not agree with the story. He says that Shivjee can not die. And the origin of the temple lay in the legendary conflict between the Kurus and the Pandus. Indu says that her mother used to visit the annual Hindu festival here before partition. The building is not maintained well by the Pakistan Government and about 300 Yatris from India are visiting the place the next day for  first time since the partition. We notice a lot of local bureaucracy moving around, getting the place cleaned and doing some choona-pani.


Next we set course for the Nand’s birthplace, the Kusik village. As we cross Choa Saidon shah,  the mountain roads keep getting smaller and the turns keep getting tighter. Nand says that Kusik is on a hilltop and should be visible from miles. He had left it when he was only one year old. Sure enough, as we make the final mountain turn, there is Kusik on the hilltop, visible from miles. The locals talk of it as `Devi ka Mandar’ or `Kusik fort’. A 50-60-house village is located next to the temple.  The temple is well fortified with an outer wall with see-through holes for defense on its three sides. On its back, there is a steep fall of the cliff. It is a unique quiet solitary place in that wilderness of the hills. I jokingly tell Nand that he is lucky to have migrated to be now living in Ottawa rather than in these boondocks. The climb to the top is very steep and only a jeep could go up. The locals tell  us  that during the pre-partition days, Kusik hosted the  biggest market of the area. Gujar Khan and Choa Saidan shah were then only small insignificant villages. The locals’ shepherds tell us that the Khatris living in the Kusik were rich and controlled the entire business of the area. Nand’s father was in the British Army and the old village folk know of Nand’s family but the original houses are no more there.


But it is much easier to find Indu’s birthplace in Sargodha. The Kutchery bazaar in Sargodha could not have changed much in the last 56 years. We are in search of  Sita Ram Haveli in Block 5 where Indu was born. The rickshaw driver tells us that first turn left in the Kutchery Bazaar will take us to Block 5. We are soon there and searching for the Haveli. The famous Sargodha Sahnis also had a house near Indus’s house as she tells us. The Sahni’s house has a big gate but it is locked. We peep through a window and ask them to open the gate. A boy inside tells us to approach from the other side. Nand whispers in my ears asking `do all the Hindus living here keep their gates closed’.  I laugh. I tell him that the Sahnis, being the only Himdu family in the area, enjoy somewhat of a celebrity status in the area. We push the gate open but there is no one there except an old lady, who is a little senile.


We return back to the street and begin asking for the Sita Ram Haveli or the house of Kohli wakil (lawyer), Indu’s father, of the pre-partition days. Suddenly, a man comes running and says that he knows the Kohli Sahib and he is the third owner of his house. And the house behind us is that very house. Indu turns back, looks at the house and is speechless with tears rolling down her eyes. Kohli Sahib must have built the house with great love. It was intact to the last brick. Even the wooden doors and almirahs were in an immaculate condition. No changes had been made to the house. Even the electric fittings were the same. The man shows the house to us and invites us to a lunch. We politely decline. Indu immediately calls up her mother in Delhi and tells her that she is speaking from her house. There seems to be an overflow of emotions from both sides.


From Kusik, Nand’s family had moved to Lyalpur, (now Faisalabad) named after a British, whose great grandson, Mr. Lyal is now British High Commissioner to Pakistan.


The house is located next to the Agriculture college, now a university.


I was born in a house a few hundred feet from Nand’s house.



The Middle Kingdom Wallas …

The Middle Kingdom Wallas


Just across the Himalayas, there lies one of the ancient civilizations. The Chinese like to call it the Middle Kingdom or the centre of the world. Like us, they also celebrate the birth of a son and a bride is expected to dress in red. The families are close and elders, dead or alive, are highly revered. They also have something known as `saving one’s face’ or `losing one’s face’ and are shy of opening up with strangers. Wife is considered a property of the in-laws and a master can be very harsh with his servants (and the concubines). Silk is high fashion. Like us, they also believe in superstition, myths, spirits, fortune telling and have a rich folklore. That is where our similarity with the Chinese ends.


To understand the rest, one has to begin with Mr. Confucius (500 BC). The strands of Confucianism run deep through the Chinese history, culture, society and consciousness. Confucianism is all about ethics and earthly matters having nothing to do with the Heavens. Its pillars are the everyday rituals, filial piety, humaneness, mutual respect, obligations and loyalty. Another local philosophy, Taoism, gets a bit closer to the mother nature. Its ying-yang philosophy (as indicated in the picture) is about the opposites in nature – day/night, male/female, white/black, husband/wife etc. The message is that both the opposites are equally important and a harmony is to be maintained between the two. Over this mixture of two philosophies, if we pour in a bit of Buddhism and sprinkle it with some Marxism/Maoism, we get what could be loosely described as the Chinese belief. The Confucianism can comfortably coexist with other faiths and about 10% Chinese belong to other faiths. Religious education is banned until the age 18.


Before we take up effect of Confucianism on the Middle Kingdom, a quick dip into its geography and history. It is fourth largest in size and is the most populace nation in the world (1.3 Billion). Mostly mountainous with high plateaus, its all rivers flow from the West and wash into the Pacific ocean. The South is hot while it gets freezing cold in the North close to Mongolia. It was the heartland of the yellow river from where this civilization began at least 3500 years ago. There were local war lords of the likes of the Shangs and Zhous until Ying Zheng of the Kin dynasty united China. Thereafter, the dynasties kept coming and falling. The Kingdom kept splitting up and uniting again and again. After the Kin dynasty, there were the Hans, Jins, Suis, Tangs, Songs, Yuans, Mings and Qings until the last little boy emperor left the forbidden city in 1912 and China became a republic. Out of the 56 ethnicities, 93% of the Chinese are of the Hans origin. They established Confucianism as the state practice. The Tangs brought prosperity. The Jins, Suis and Songs can be credited with uniting the China after its break ups. The Mongols, for whom the Great Wall was built (3 BC), came via the Gobi desert and Kublai Khan set up the Yuan dynasty. Similarly, the Manchus, who came from Manchuria, established the Qing dynasty (1644) and got assimilated into the Chinese melting pot. The peasants (Mings 1368) became Rulers and eunuchs like Zheng he (1405-1433), a Mongol Muslim, went on naval expeditions with 62 ships, 28000 men and Chinese commodities like silk. China remained the most advanced civilization between the 7th and 14th century and its decay began in 17th century.


By 18th century, familiar colonialist like the British, French and Portuguese were eyeing the Chinese riches. The Japanese and Americans were not too far behind either. But just as the Chinese have a periodic urge to unite, they also get a periodic urge to purge themselves of the foreign influence. They restricted the colonialists to the Eastern China only. And during the boxer’s revolution (1900 AD), both the Christian missionaries and the converted Chinese were massacred. It is anybody’s guess what a sizable Christian minority in the East could do to China. The Muslim 

Uighers in the West are proving to be an headache. Anyway, both Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalists and Mao’s communists got together to get the Japanese out (1931-1944). By 1949, the Mao’s communists drove out Chiang-kai shek to Taiwan and there came the peoples republic of China.   


It was Confucianism that kept China together making it the longest living civilization whereas its compatriots like the Romans simply vanished. There is a concept of immediate family and extended family. And all the rest non-Chinese are considered `others’. The `filial piety’ is stretched to the extent of `ancestor worship’. The Chinese diaspora display a stronger bond with homeland than others. The deep One China ethos has resulted in the continuity of the civilization. Hong Kong re-enters as “one country, two systems’’ and Taiwan is only a `renegade province’.


Another of Confucianism’s pillar, `Loyalty’, is also seen in the context of a Ruler-Subject relationship. The Ruler is deemed to always have a `mandate from heavens’, a concept readily accepted by all rulers. It is believed that when a Ruler becomes unpopular, he loses the mandate until a stronger Ruler replaces him. In the absence of any Devine or Dogma, the `mandate from heavens’ comes as a handy filler. There is another corroborative theory that says that the Chinese society is inherently instable and, thus, very dynamic and creative. But it requires an `external Force’ to prevent it from going into a chaos and let it play to its full potential. With an undisputed Ruler at the top and a basic family unit at the bottom, the void in the centre is filled by an efficient `civil service’ and the Chinese were conducting civil service examinations centuries before the others picked up on this practice. The `civil society’ was always kept week because a strong civil society diluted the power of the Ruler. 


Confucianism’s another pillar, `humanness’, makes the Chinese what they are – humble, modest and polite. You may like to count out the expatriates like the New Yorkers and Singaporeans. The Chinese do not like to insult, embarrass or shame others. They bow from the shoulders unlike the Japanese who do it from waist. A Chinese nod does not mean an `agreement’. It only means that he is understanding you. There handshake is with interlocking fingers and waving up and down. The Chinese diplomacy is without any abruptness, theatrics or dramatics. They convey the intent through subtle shades and innuendoes like the Mao’s `great leap forward’.


The `great leap forward’ was about rapid industrialization (iron industry) which backfired and caused a famine (20 million died). The decadent West and the Russian revisionists were conveniently blamed and Mao thrust China into the cultural revolution – to purge itself of bourgeoisie. Mao glorified poverty – `poor the better’. Luckily, Deng came along who said `It does not matter what colour cat is, so long it catches mice’ and began opening up the economy. With that, China also began the policy of `peaceful rise of China’ which meant playing down the differences with other states and not messing up with America which it considers not to be a declining power yet. Its disputes with its 14 neighbors never make a headline. If the `peaceful rise of China’ has been a success story, so has been its ethnic cuisine available all across the world.


To a curious eye, the neighborhood Chinese restaurant has a lot to tell. The red ambiance conveys happiness and gold colour is considered imperial. The paper shades and lanterns that you notice is an ancient Chinese art. Paper was invented in China (1 AD) and later the printing technology. Silk is a Chinese invention that was kept secret for some centuries. The figurines on the walls may include dragons, bamboos, pandas, jade – all very Chinese in essence. To me, the Chinese songs and music (mostly string instruments) always sounds soft, little high pitched, sad and romantic. The aroma of soy sauce and Chinese salt wafts in the restaurant. The food has the inevitable rice and noodles with an emphasis on vegetarian. The Cantonese style is carbohydrate based and the Sichuan style of cooking is spicy and meaty. The art is in fine cutting and preparation, little oil and ginger and garlic. The Chinese like to drink warm water and soup is served last. Chop sticks are used since placing a knife on food table is considered barbaric. Tea also means the dim sim tidbits. The top delicacy is old eggs, 100 years old. Luckily, delicacies like the snakes, dogs, rats, silkworms and beetles are confined to only die-hard locations. And the reptiles scamper into their holes because of the Eastern men’s obsession with aphrodisiac. Feel free to belch, slurp or talk while eating but it is rude to pour your own drink. Similarly, pointing fingers and whistling is rude. The Chinese language is a monosyllabic language – meaning each word describes one idea or object with no inflections like run, running, ran. But a change in the tone (rising or falling) can completely change the meaning. Only the Chinese write with brush and, that too, from top to bottom. The cashier may have an ABACUS, another Chinese original. They also created acupuncture, gun powder and cross bow.  


Confucianism may not have created a Divine but the Chinese folklore does have gods, ghosts and spirits. A saying goes – `A god in need is god indeed’. An older person gets a ceremonial burial; and a child is buried in silence. In fact, birthdays are celebrated after 60 years. There are also superstitions like the crow cawing in the morning indicates coming of gifts. It is a taboo to marry with same family names. Being pregnant is auspicious and a pointed belly means a boy. Widowhood is considered noble.


I visited China a few times in the 70s and witnessed the cultural revolution where the entire China was draped in grayish bush-shirts, trousers and Mao’s caps with Red Book. The guests were treated to the red flag waving musical operas by the peasants and workers. I could never imagine that after 30 years, China would be hosting the world beauty contest of women who have undergone plastic surgery. China has become the second biggest economy with a purchasing Power Parity (PPP – $ 6.449 trillion), second to only the United States, with a GDP growth of 9%. But with a per capita of US $ 1000 and 10% of population below the poverty line, it is still a poor country. The process of political liberalization has not yet begun. 63 million strong Chinese communist party rules with a tiny opposition like the Falun Gong (spiritual movement) and a few pro-democracy parties kept under a tight lease. A party political officer is posted in each army unit and he reports directly to the party. Periodically, the national people’s congress meets and selects the new Ruler. The power transfer seems to be remarkably peaceful. Press is under control and no foreign media is allowed to operate freely.


In a nutshell, the Middle Kingdom is unique in three aspects to the other ancient civilizations. It did not produce any God. It has been the longest continuous civilization. And it has yet to have the bitter-sweet taste of democracy.


I wish it well when it has to cross the last bridge ……


CIA Country Fact Book (China)

Provinces : 23 provinces. (China considers Taiwan its 23rd province)

Autonomous regions: 5 (Guangxi, Nei Mongol, Ningxia, Xinjiang, Xizang (Tibet)

CDP purchasing power parity – $6.449 trillion (2004 est.)

GDP per capita purchasing power parity – $5,000 (2004 est.)

Investment (gross fixed) 43.4% of GDP (2004 est.)

Inflation 1.2% (2004 est.)

Budget Revenues: $265.8 billion

Expenditure: $300.2 billions

Industrial growth: 30.4% (2004 est.)

Oil production: 3.3 million bbl/day (2004 est.)

Oil consumption: 4.57 million bbl/day (2001 est.)

Gas production: 30.3 billion cu m (2001 est.)

Gas consumption 27.4 billion cu m (2001 est.)

Foreign exchange reserves: $412.7 billion (2004 est.)

Foreign debt: $197.8 billion (2004 est.)

Military expenditure $60 billion (2003 est.)

Military expenditure percentage of GDP 3.5-5.0%


 Through the MidWest….

Vacationing in the American Midwest —
being edited…..

Despite all its legendary values, Champs Elysee of Paris turns out to be just another brick-lined road surrounded by old buildings; if you can not speak French. In fact, for a lazy vacation, entire Europe is a bit too stiff and unfamiliar. The Far East gets on your nerves soon enough with of its loud colours and shrieking languages. Even the swaying palm trees and sea waves of Bahamas and Bali’s become a monotonous bore after a while. For a friendly economical get-away destination, few places the can match the timeless beauty and the easy charm of the American Midwest. Midwestern states like Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky have an old fashioned and a cozy environment unique to them. Their lush green undulating country side has the right blend of both an agricultural and an industrial society. It is an artist’s mosaic filled with forests, lakes, farms and big cities like Chicago, Indianapolis, Detroit, and Cleveland. Then there are smaller cities like South Bend and Ft. Wayne. Finally, there are those heavenly small towns like Angola, Goshen and Nappenee that no one has ever heard of ; but are right out of the story books of the American folklore. They have a dreamy everlasting allure that is hard to resist and difficult to forget.
But first, a quick dip into the Woody Allen’s explosive world of Manhattan, my first stopover. After landing, the first feeling is of a relief of getting free of that invisible cloak of `religiosity, political-correctness and hypocrisy’’ that we refuse to let go within our own country. Soon after, the body begins to feel the strong energy waves that the city radiates. It takes a little while before you even get used to the open easiness in body behavior and dress. Automatically, your pace of walk becomes faster to keep in steps with others. Then Manhattan takes you deeper on a ride into the realm of the unknown. Many beliefs and pre-conceived notions of the conditioned-mind begin to collapse one by one. An inevitable realization dawns that entire mankind, after all, is just comprised of fallible humans beings interacting with each other either on a biological basis or on economic terms. The peep into city’s inner culture further blurs the vision and erodes that thin line between the conscious and the subconscious mind. On live TV, Howard Stern, the media Satan incarnate, eulogizes a woman’s butt and proposes sex. In that hyper pace of living, sex and seduction are just fleeting unemotional moments; only fulfilling the social, biological and physical needs. Jerry Springer’s talk show goes to the extent of showing competing lovers throwing chairs at each other and having boxing bouts. Meanwhile, the sophisticated world of Time Square’s theatres rolls on side by side with flash dancers, seedy Single’s bars, stretched Limos and horse-buggies.
But the signals are mixed. Neat structures like the Rockefeller plaza, skyscrapers of the big publishing houses and the Wall Street make the Queens and Bronx look like a junkyard. On roads, there is horn honking, cutting of traffic lights and rubbish littered in open. But law and order has improved because booming American economy has sucked out the jobless from streets. Meanwhile, you are never far away from coffee or burger of some kind. Coke also contains caffeine, just in case. Ears get tuned to different languages and you bump into skin shade of every colour. The Deli culture sells food per pound and fast multiplying steaming kiosks of poor immigrants, with aromas of Sheesh Kabaabs, pull long queues. And with China pumping in 70% of the low end products, inflation is low and a Dollar takes you very a far. One dollar to fetch a burger, another dollar to wash it down and a third for a bus ride back home. But sadly, the New Yorkers have no time for politeness, thanks largely to the Italian, Sicilian and mixed blood of many races. Are you really rude or from New York? the saying goes.
It is time now to move on to the green pastures of the Midwest where you meet the politest people on earth. Syracuse is one such small town in North West Indiana. Debraw, our waitress at the “The Frog’’ chats us up and explains what `Karaoke’’ means – when volunteers are allowed to sing on stage. When we try to pay for our drinks, she smiles and says “It’s on me’’. These are those one-main-road type towns with the typical American skyline of Gas station, McDonalds, Taco bell, Wall Mart, Col. Sander’s Kentucky and so on. Every one drives as if they were on a driving test. The country roads are surrounded by scattered farm houses, grain silos, cows grazing and auto plants. A sprinkling of the Amish people with their horse-drawn carriages, and covered heads, provide an interesting relief. It is the summer time, when skies are clear, new leaves sprout, temperature hovers around 15 C and people fall in love. Summer time also means good times, holidays, pleasant memories, outdoor BBQs and cold `Coors’ beers. And as if that was not enough, it is also the season when women shed off their superfluous clothing to add further radiance to the environment. Summer time in the West carries the same nostalgia that the winters carry in the East. People are simple, traditional and innocent much like the days of our great grand parents. You begin to hear words like `Honey, Sugar, Sweetie’’. Even local songs, unlike the meaningless noise of MTV, convey feelings and have a poetic touch. “When you meet her, tell her that I miss her….’’. “When we met in a moonlit night…’’. The beauty of the American Midwest is also in its grand emptiness – little traffic on roads, single story scattered houses and certainly no avalanche of people bumping and stepping over each other’s toes.
And when you find life getting a bit too quiet, just tune into one of those 100 TV channels that no one has time to watch. The greatest world event on tube is `Monica Lewinsky’; someone with whom the President did not take the relationship to its logical conclusion because of `legal implications’’. Meanwhile, the episode seems to have added a few useful words like “blow job’’ to the vocabulary of our sedate uninitiated oriental women. But we were too busy enjoying the luxuries that the local took for granted. Luxuries like bump free roads, no power break downs, telephones working, no killing, no corruption and plenty of water. Every day was some kind of day – mother’s day, father’s day, valentine day – good marketing ploys to suck the extra cash out of pockets. Who can resist marketing pressures like – “Buy one, get one free’’. “45 day free trial, no questions asked’’. But still the people seem to live their entire lives in denim shorts, T-shirts and joggers. Some times a bit too casual requiring stores to put a notice `shoe & shirt required’. The same easiness makes you notice more and more obese people. But unlike our fat men and women, they are active, walk fast, drive and do all kinds of work. It was during this time that two little kids called India and Pakistan had a cracker firing competition back in the Subcontinent. The immediate fall out of this mutually coordinated atomic orgasms was that my cab driver instantly corrected his “Packistaan’’ to “Pakistan’’.
Finally, the graduation ceremony of my son, Zafar, goes smoothly at the over hundred years old private Tri-State university, strong in Mech. Eng. Majors and founded by the three big car giants of Detroit. A few weeks before the graduation, he is already picked up by an automotive multi-national. Such is the tightly knit relationship between the universities and industry. The ceremony has the usual mix of functions, fanfare, protocols, tuxedos, scholar hats, emotions, nostalgia, parents, old students and laughers. All speeches revolve around education, humanity and the search for knowledge. There were no echoes of religion or patriotism, the two over-beaten themes that we love to beat the moment a mike is handed over to us. One professor, author of an Encyclopedia, had just three simple moving advisees for the graduating students – “always go an extra mile in your task, do not compromise with your conscious when you confront the real outside world and enjoy yourself’’. My other son faisal, who had accompanied us, and had gone through the rough and tumble of our aimless Pakistani education system, clearly realized as to what all he had missed by studying locally. Half the fun was getting the Visa for him to visit the graduation. He had only one minute to convince the Visa consular about his strong social and economic bonds with his motherland. Visa counselors, trained in the fine art of interrogation, rarely make a wrong assessment. No sane settled Pakistani would like to undergo the ignominy, hardships and frustrations of an illegal immigrant.
With all those goodies of the America Midwest, by the third week, I began to miss my servant. Carrying out the black garbage bag gave me creeps; and I had never realized how tedious could be the routine of carrying shopping from car boot into the home. No one would ever pick up a fallen spoon for the next century if you did not. And as one slumped into the sofa after a hard day’s routine, you thought of Pakistan where someone would automatically bring you a cup of tea. And, God forbid, if you fall sick in the US, doctors could wipe off your life’s saving in one clean sweep. Worst of all, there are no idle people to get into an idle gossip in the evenings. So while I would love to enjoy the pleasures of the American Midwest for a month a year, I would rather spend the rest of time back home among flies, mosquitoes, dust, power failures, uncles, aunts, nephews, family feuds and hypocrisy; not necessarily in that order. The God has ordained that I must suffer that way……
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