Blogs (90)

Haunted in New York

As I walked across the blocks of New York, I knew I was in a familiar place? When the tour operator mentioned it was a city full of immigrants- a city I love is the same. When the taxi drivers cursed the pedestrians, flashed lights and blew horns, there was a similarity. When along with Macy’s and Fifth Avenue stores, there were numerous retail outlets offering massive shopping options – some other city had the same! When during the tour of New York uptown, I came across areas dominated by gangs and haunted by violence- reminded I was of another city.

The city that haunted me in New York was Karachi!  Back home it torments me.

Listening to the story of how to embed Irish immigrants into the New York Society, the Central Park construction responsibility was handed over to 4,000 Irish immigrants – I wondered as to whether you needed a park like Central Park to make you a peaceful city-to embed the immigrants into your fabric.

As I listened to the story of how in the middle of the Great Depression the Empire State Building was constructed by immigrants of different race, ethical background and religion. I wondered as to whether you needed a visionary leader to inspire construction of something that everyone would own!

I wanted to free myself of Karachi in New York but failed miserably. The history of New York, the gangs of New York, the heroes of New York, the violence of New York everything made me ask my Allah if New York despite its failings was still a vibrant city why not my Karachi. How can it be the pride of Pakistan, the dream of investors, of tourists?

I found the answer standing in front of the statue of Abraham Lincoln.

It asked me does Karachi have selfless leaders who can rise above self interests to convert the diversity of Karachi into its greatest asset rather than a lethal liability.

I looked into its eyes and replied Karachi has some of the best brains I know – some of my best friends – very intelligent business leaders, – the statue looked into my eyes and replied calmly – why do these best brains, why do you and your friends not make Karachi the pride of the world, the New York of the world. Why can you not be the selfless leaders Karachi needs?

I looked away and ran as fast as I could from the statue.

Sleepless in New York

I stood outside you.

A day before I had passed by you. I had looked at you with reverence. I had longed to step out of the bus, run, touch you and run back to the bus. After much deliberation I had decided against it.

My day had been spent knowing about how inspirational leaders have shaped the future of nations. In all this I was physically and emotionally tired but that was not the reason that I dare not come near you. In visiting museums, stores, book shops and parks my casual jeans and shoes did not limit my entry but I was scared entering you.

The patriots of my country, the nobles of my native country had blessed you with their presence. Knowing their fondness for perfection in dressing I could not dream of imperfection in the dress that I wore when I an ordinary citizen of Pakistan visited you.

The whole night I pondered over whether to visit you or not. I decided not to visit you but then you see I passed by Pakistan’s embassy. Seeing the green flag waving and madly clicking my camera to capture the sight I decided I need to see for myself the place which the known bearers of the flag blessed with their presence.

There I stood outside you. You were simply majestic! I looked at myself – I looked so simplistic. My heart sank and I turned away. My four year old niece urged me to step towards what to her appeared a fairy’s house. So I moved towards the red carpet and golden wooden doors anticipating to be stopped by the guard but no one stopped me! There were no security scanners no security checks. I passed your door and I stepped inside.

I was spell bound and stunned by the overwhelmingly regal decor and ambience. Everything around me was just so expensive. People were having tea in the tea room in the finest and priceless china.

Thousands of white flowers in vases that were neither crystal nor glass nor china but something truly out of the world. The cakes and snacks were heavenly. The people having them appeared rich and powerful.

My niece wanted to be photographed in the fairy house. I was reluctant but so innocent was her request that I could not say no. My hands trembled as I clicked for the fear of being rebuked. No one shunned me, no one told me to get lost. This was a place which had leaders of the world, the rich and mighty as its residents but it was open to open public. It embraced all irrespective of class or status.

The place is called The Plaza Hotel New York. The splendour of ambience, the magnificence of furniture and crockery and class of service compels (I believe) even the influential of my country to reside there – a place that is situated near the Central Park of New York – a very busy area and open to all.

I wonder when they stay there do they look out of The Plaza Hotel towards Empire State Building and ponder over its history, appreciate the diversity of New York, reflect on how leadership can make or break the future of nations, look outside towards Central Park and learn the lessons of environmental protection  and most importantly admire equality in access to a hotel that appeared only for rich people, the value of recreation and the reasons for complete absence of security checks.

Contemplating that night I was sleepless in New York! I



The Man at Rose Mall

On the white velvet chair at the entrance of Rose Mall Pittsburgh in the upper class store of Nortsdom he sat alone. At times snoring at times staring in the space, he was frail and fragile but there was a determination in his eyes. What were his thoughts – was he thinking of the days gone by or of the days yet to come? Why was he sitting at the entrance – was he waiting for someone? Where were his loved ones? How did he come here and how would he go back?  I left him in the Mall having lunch at Starbucks and reading newspaper.

You see old men and women like him all over shopping malls in US and UK.  Some of them have their walkers, some have walking sticks, some are in wheel chairs, some on a small electric scooter, some with pipes in their noses. Most are very well dressed. Women mostly have make up on and appear to have visited the salon recently. Their health condition may differ but their determination does not.

They shop, they stand in the queue, they wait for buses, they pay their bills, they bargain, they go to cinemas, they eat out. At Times Square I have seen women with trolleys and walkers making their way to shops through the rough traffic. By  their attitude and their body language the message is we may be nearing the end of our lives but we are certainly not giving it up.

I lived as a paying guest of an eighty year old Irish women in Dublin. The woman’s health condition was just fine. She however used to teach 2 days a week, do social work, would go to church, clean the house, cook herself, stitch clothes, do house repairs, go for holidays, have parties and use bus for her frequent shopping and recreational activities. She believed one must live a life and play their role as active citizens till the last breath. Back home when I would tell her stories to my relatives, they would be interested in knowing about the vitamins she had. Well she had none but her diet was just very balanced.

I have often wondered as to whether our older generation have the same enthusiasm towards life. I sometimes think yes and sometimes no. At times I have thought we make them feel old before they are old. The respect that we have for them makes us do their daily chores making them dependent on us. In our concern for them or maybe because of our social set up and our need to show to the world that we look after our elders we make them reliant on us and house helps.  Maybe as they like making us dependent on them when we are young we like to do the same when they are old. What do you say?



Rain and dogs: Lahore and London

The rain in London is different to the one in Lahore. TV channels air rain news 24/7 making everyone ready for rain! Life continues. Walk continues. Umbrellas come out. There are no pakoras. No holidays. No asking the teacher to give a day off. In the absence of the Oxford street resembling river Thames it is more or less business as usual for everyone except Wimbledon and races at times.

To share with you a few sights that I am presently a witness to- a woman in her thirties pulling two big suitcases to somewhere. Try to do the same in Lahore with or without rain pouring!

Then there are two men in wheelchairs enjoying rain on a busy London street. There is no one to help them none to stare at them. A man is playing a guitar and a woman reading the Holy Quran.

A man in seventies crossing the road with the help of a walking stick- pity that his children have deserted him and in rain he has to get out of home to get milk and food- the Western society and its modern ideals. What- he walks into Café Nero and waiting for him there is a man in mid forties – is him his son? Oh no-was I wrong? Not possible. We Pakistanis may be judgmental but are never wrong.

There is a Chinese with Chinese takeaway, a Pakistani man having wet biryani (his wife must be English not giving him Pakistani food) and then here is a man all charged to run with a dog!

I am scared of dogs of all types and nationalities. Dogs in London are however no match to the ones in Lahore. They are on a leash within a hearing distance of their owners.

The dogs that I encounter during my walks in Lahore are without owners, untamed a threat to my life. I have to carry my blackberry in the fear that the dogs would attack me and I will have to email for help my brother in Finland because he has his email always on- courtesy the free Wi fi the state provides to students.

You know once a dog had jumped on me. I had fallen on the ground and had it not been for a passer-by who had dog biscuits from Tesco with him and was kind enough to feed the dog- I would have died! He left me with a useful tip. Dogs in Lahore love to eat English food – always have something on hand from England for them. They will spare you mesmerised by made in England stuff.

This incident had impacted me so much that on another occasion when a dog had barked at me in Dublin I had climbed a pole – risking my life thankfully it was not a Wapda pole.

This Sunday in a park during my walk a dog barked – I ran into a cyclist making him fall down. I remained unscratched but he was bruised. Thankfully it was London and having listened to my apology and explanation of how traumatised I am by dogs – the man kindly went away to nurse his injuries. Imagine this happening in Lahore- I may have had to call my entire family to save me from the onslaught of the cyclist.

Where am I right now- wet and drenched having a cup of coffee sitting in the park in a corner trying to avoid a dog – I am reading and blogging. On a board is a quote- When someone is tired of London, he is tired of life.

I can say the same about Lahore – the love of my life but if only the love of my life would at times mind its own business and let me be myself at times without passing a judgment – my love for you at times would have no reason to ask questions?


Tweets from PK 757

I am thirsty. Repeatedly asking for help but PIA crew busy implementing water conservation to ensure water availability for Pakistan 2050 population of 335 million! Keep it up!

I am cold and shivering! Can I have blanket please- walk up to air hostess and get one- should I tell her to give to others- what-they must fight their own battles!

Bumpy flight but captain says he has averted all clouds! Why do I see clouds must get my eye sight checked when back!

Water_70 minutes gone. Would have gone to get a glass of water but woman next to me refusing to get up!Water saved will not be added to Indus river?

No perfume in the mini perfume PIA gift-it is empty! Who took the perfume?

Have breakfast tray but no water too exhausted to ask again!

I have breakfast but no spoon or fork to have it-what to do?

Alleged chicken nugget is mixed nugget!

I have to get water – the lady not getting up. Alright jump over her and do not look back! Vow-what a jump impressed-if I had gone to Olympics would have made Pakistan proud!

Excuse me-can I have water -am handed 2 litre bottle – vow what happened to water conservation plans!

The lady next to me gets up-asks me am I a sportswoman or a teacher. I reply no to both and she replies then how come you are good at jumping why are you not sleeping and reading books. Switch off the light.

Lunch being served. Very bumpy flight. Water makes it to glass somehow but in less than a minute is everywhere but not in glass.

Soup served. Hats off to air hostess for her persistence in serving liquid in face of turbulence. Soup left alone is less stubborn. Quickly everywhere   except where it should be!

Lunch eaten- time to land. Well timed no one gets a chance to go to wash rooms.

Heathrow- the discipline and politeness of my countrymen is worth clapping for!




You agree definitely!

He shouts at all and sundry but especially the janitorial and clerical staff. He throws his weight around at all occasions but especially at airports, golf courses and guest houses. Age has dampened his physical capacity but not his capacity to demand unquestioned obedience to even unreasonable demands. He is usually accompanied by a woman who is either too meek to utter a word or too embroiled in her own world of fashion and beauty to say a word. His children (if around) are too indifferent to his idiosyncrasies.

The victims of his high headed behavior are fortunate for no longer can his signature seal their future, bring their families to the brink of starvation or even death or compel them to beg for his mercy at times granted at times not.

There was a time when his words were the last words which no one dared to challenge or change. His phone calls could reverse careers. When if his car was not cold enough before he stepped into it, the helpless driver would be abused and terminated. If he had to stand at the check in queue for two seconds his poor PA would be fired! Traffic rules could be violated by his off springs but rules would be bent to accommodate them. Why?

I do not know why but my guess is that he is fortunate to belong to a country that is still not able to break free the shackles of mental slavery and subversion. In that he has a role – he has kept the majority of its population backward, uneducated and ignorant of rights and obligations. Unaware of how far the world has traveled on the path of self respect and human respect… they tolerate his ridiculous merciless authoritarian behavior.

Is this man not educated, not exposed to the enlightened world? My guess is he is but so are we. Who is he? I know we know him but we the educated enlightened one do not question him. We encouragingly tolerate his Godfather like ask no questions violate all rules behavior. In authority or out of authority, he abuses our people and our religious and social values of human respect but we remain selfishly silent.

Who is to be blamed – him or us?

PS: This blog was written while waiting at the Lahore airport. It was inspired by a man in late sixties, who had stormed into the lounge demanding that he wants to sit in the business class lounge even when did not have business class ticket. He blasted the staff that refused to give him and his young wife a place to sit. Call your boss or I will send you packing away- he screamed and the staff succumbed. Why did you? I asked them later. They kept quiet but looked at me accusing? Why me – what have I done? By being a silent spectator to an issue that had nothing to do with me. I was doing the right thing- certainly you agree definitely!

Wajeeha: the little Qinqi girl

I read your story in the newspaper today. I did not know whether to cry with shame or to beam with pride. What forced a nine year old to drive a Qinqi rickshaw in Charsadda district– death threatening poverty or the overvaulting self-pride to save your family from begging and charity? Words fail me in praising your current determination but worries seize me in predicting your future happiness.

Sadly you belong to a society that would generally support a girl as long as she is dependent on the society. The moment however a girl, especially of the section of the society, to which you belong decides to become independent and hunt for employment opportunities beyond teaching, nursing and beautifying. She becomes the object of society’s contempt and disrespect. Her desire for a decent respectable independent life becomes an unforgivable crime.

A 9 year old girl struggle for survival has to be scorned upon. You are apparently being made a laughing stock. This must be hurtful. My heart bleeds for you. Hundreds of dangers you face. I wish I can protect you from this society.  You are too young to be on the road. You are too young to be working for sustaining yourself and your family. You should be playing with dolls and dreaming of their weddings.

I can only pray that Allah guards you and gives you a bright future– I wish I could do something for you but other than wishing I cannot help you. I belong to the middle class that is too busy in sustaining itself.

You go to school. This is heartening. You dream of being a teacher one day. Wajeeha, my wish for you is that among the many glorious achievements of your life; you do become a world class teacher. Do teach your students to respect those whom life has given only two options – to be receivers of whimsical charity or to be creators of a resourceful life and they dare to choose the latter option!

Source: In the driving seat-


Boys at Mall Road

I had reached a conclusion some time back that our youth in general are aimless, without direction and bored. Thus recently at the Mall Road Murree as I saw boys indulging in shameful activities, I disdained them.  Embarrassed I looked away towards my family -uncles, aunts, cousins, their spouses, nieces, nephews and my parents and then the penny dropped!

Here I stood surrounded by a highly educated family where there were always people to tell me tales of their journeys, of inspiring experiences at work and universities, of personalities who have invented enterprises and empires, of books that nurtured dreams, of movies that generated aspirations. There was always a shoulder to cry on and a pat on the back urging to go on and hunt for more dreams. Flexible but essential discipline, the sense of right and wrong, human respect-I learnt observing my elders. There were never any barriers only values.

My family is my greatest asset. For the boys on Mall Road were their families an asset or a liability? Did they appreciate their values or abhorred them? Could they relate to their families conversations, expectations and matters? Were they at Mall Road because they were running away from their families and aiming for a complete disconnect with them? Probably yes.

The challenges of coming from a family where education is an exception not a norm must be onerous. Managing the complexes, conflicts and self limiting beliefs must be overwhelming. Frustrations may come out in shameful acts like the ones on display at Mall Road.

But who is to be blamed for their shameful acts, for gifted youth going waste – ME or the boys? Blessed with all the capabilities to positively change the lives of these boys but selfishly only changing my life, I needed to be blamed and disdained for not only my inaction but for being judgmental.

In the moment of self discovery I looked around myself- how can I positively excite the boys, utilize their energies? Murree desperately needed a clean-up, should I motivate them to do that? In eagerness I took a step but a dinner, family video and family talk awaited me – some other day someone else better than me will certainly do it!


Dreams: unlimited


Shahid Khan Afridi -in bidding a conditional farewell to you, I am tempted to draw parallels with a man you idealised – the legendary captain and player Imran Khan.

You are the embodiment of today’s Pakistan – self destructive, self contradictory,  crying conspiracy, yet immensely talented, gifted and emotionally energetic. The potential to achieve wonders is tragically inhibited by myopic vision and self limiting beliefs. You could have been Pakistan’s second World Cup winning skipper had you dared to dream beyond the semi-final.

Wish you had turned to history – how your super hero Imran Khan had inspired the down to dumps team to an impossible stunning World Cup victory. Between despair and celebration the decisive factor was one man’s obsessive ambition of  relieving the sufferings of thousands of cancer victims of his country.

Afridi – you would argue you were not driven by any such obsession but if you had the vision, focus, discipline, rational patriotism of Imran Khan you would have realised at stake was not the World Cup but the future of Pakistan.

Had you lifted the World Cup in India, not only would have millions of tragedy struck people danced and laughed endlessly, inspired by the reality of an ordinary Pakistani from a mediocre background lifting the World Cup, they would have positively changed Pakistan. They would have at last believed that if we rise above the challenges, politics and so-called conspiracies we can make Pakistan the country we would be proud of.

You blew it all – but you do have a chance of redemption. You owe it to the common Pakistani to come back overpowering all the obstacles and then win each and every game and score a century in each and every game. The next World Cup has to be lifted by Shahid Khan Afridi.

Impossible – but then everything you have done in retrospect has been impossible   – so like a true hero dream on unlimited and do the impossible for the sake of the country that loves you blindly and give them dreams unlimited!

To blog or not to blog!

As people around me became bloggers, I did not feel left out. I very much appreciated that despite their extremely hectic schedules they had the commitment and energy to express opinions on matters they felt passionate about. I was content with commenting on their blogs and inviting them to events about which they could blog. My friends are business thinkers. They want Pakistan to have business culture and governance that attracts investment and growth.

This is exactly what I wish but if I was to blog I knew it would be for reasons something beyond better businesses. It would be for telling stories of hundreds of Pakistanis who may never make it to top 100 most powerful Pakistanis lists but would one day be influential in making Pakistan a country that we would be proud of. Through their selfless relentless efforts at education for all, justice for all, better environment, leveraging information technology for social and economic development, mentoring –eventually they would make Pakistan a country which would be a celebration of equality, justice, fair play, diversity of opinion and beliefs and peaceful co-existence. Their smallness of means would pale in comparison to the greatness of their sincere ambitions.

I knew if I was to blog it would be to share these stories of triumph of hope over adversity, of action over talk – stories, nationalities, characters that have left a lasting impression on my life – have helped me remain positive and hopeful of an enlightened future.

My blogs would inspire dreams – something I reckon in the clutter of distractions, destructions and delusions we have forgotten – nothing is more destructive than bored purposeless youth.  To blog I thus had to convince myself that the blogs would inspire dreams, nurture ideas, incite discussions, disagreement, ideas exchange hopefully leading to positive actions. They would have to be entertaining, making people smile, think out of box and positively reflect.

If I blog… would I be able to achieve all that I wish my blogs to achieve? Are my objectives unrealistic? Maybe yes maybe not. In this predicament having spent many months I have decided to give blogs a try. I may fail but that is the impossible least. I may succeed and that is a maximum must. I may never inspire anyone but I visualize I may. One has to dream, take a risk to achieve something.

So I blog …… infrequent they would be but reflection they would definitely compel.
Talk to you soon!