Perceptions and biases!

  • May 25, 2015
  • Blogs

As I got on to the train for Moscow at St. Petersburg station, my mother sent me an SMS that read as follows:
So you are on the train, must be full of suspicious people. I am so worried!

Mothers do worry. As I looked around, the train did not have a single suspicious person. They were people like me. Most
of them busy with their electronic gadgets. Some already asleep, some getting ready to sleep.

The train crew did not understand what I was saying but was willing to do anything to make me comfortable. I had the
most memorable journey.

Mothers worry. If they did not, they would not be mothers.

It is not only my mother. I have discovered that my fondness for Russia has invoked quite a few questions from my
friends too. Most of them have been unable to comprehend my fascination with Russia.

When I went to Russia the first time, I had expected men and women in dark fur coats who did not smile. I had expected
frowning and screaming people. I had expected immigration people who would not look at me, but would deport me.

I had expected the hotels to be dark and without much food. I had thought a walk in the town was unthinkable. I also
imagined that the shops would not have anything. Taxis were not to be trusted but then no one was to be trusted in

Politics were not to be discussed. American and European channels were banned. Everything would be black or red!
I was proved wrong. You can walk in the middle of the night in Kremlin and no one will say anything. You can discuss
politics in cafes and you are not arrested. You can find any type of shops in Russia. It has every colour building. It
is like a fairy tale and not a ghost story.

Its people just like many other people want to get on with lives, want a future for themselves and their children.
Does it sound familiar? Does it sound like a story of Pakistan or any country in war with perceptions?

I could feel an empathy with the people of Russia. Just like us, Pakistanis, they need a visa for every place in the
world almost. Just like us, they are misunderstood. Just like us they are interrogated at the immigrations around the
world. Just like us, their whole country is considered dangerous. Just like us, they are fighting a battle against
biases and perceptions.

And yet I went to Russia with my perceptions and biases.

So may years of living in a country that has battled perception and biases, I should have challenged perceptions and
biases. Wonder why did I not?

Sabeen; the dream!

  • May 3, 2015
  • Blogs

I did not know Sabeen Mahmud, just like I did not know the school children of Peshawar or the thousands killed in target
killings and Shia-Sunni sectarian conflicts in Pakistan.

What I do know that they all were senseless killings!

All done by men who would not be able to live in peace with their conscience and if they are able to live, then there is
a Divine Justice.

Ever since the massacre of school children massacre in Peshawar, I have spent hours trying to rationalise how could
someone, who could be a father, a son, a brother, kill innocent children. There is no rationalisation. They are mad

Sabeen’s killing last week shocked me, even when it should not have shocked me. By now I should accept, in Pakistan no
one should dare to speak the truth, no one should dare to dream, no one should dare to challenge the status quo, no one
should dare to have a difference of opinion. No one should dare to think of a better enlightened Pakistan!

In fact, in Pakistan of today, thinking should be banned! For if you think, then you may not live!

Sad, unfortunate, devastating but that is the truth!

And yet why do I not accept the truth. Why inside me somewhere, there is always a voice urging me to think positive. To
dream of an enlightened Pakistan that will emerge out of discourse, discussion and diversity.

To work for it and that voice at times rebukes me for being thousands of miles away from Pakistan, for being a deserter!
Pakistan for me is my pride. It is my identity. I have returned to Pakistan every time with a dream of doing something
for my country.

Has it become a crime to dream in Pakistan? I think it has but it is a crime worth committing.

I wish Pakistan was all gloom and doom but it is not. It is a country, for which people like Sabeen have given their
lives. If they were alive today, would they have given up on Pakistan! I do not think so.

Just because some senseless men killed their dreams, should we stop caring for Pakistan and living a life that would not
be a tribute to their legacy.

If Peshawar was devastating, Sabeen’s killing was wrecking, if this is how I feel, what would be the loved one of those
dear departed be feeling. If not for those gone, but for those living, we still need to dream and care for a Patient

Hard but Achievable!