Balochistan – The Scariest Place

I always received questions on social media from people who lived in other provinces of Pakistan asking me weird stuff about the province I live in. Like “Oh so you are from Balochistan, so do you guys have Wi-Fi there?” Dude, how am I online then!

I ignored such questions because I thought it is just the people who live in the fantasy world of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and knows nothing about the real world out there. Nevertheless, people’s ignorance really came to the fore when I joined university in the capital of Pakistan.

The journey started when on the first day of my university, I went to the administration office to receive my university student card. The women in the administration office who was distributing cards asked me “where I was from?” because I looked different. I told her “I’m from Balochistan”. She looked at me “Oh so is Balochistan a part of Pakistan?” I was utterly shocked at what kind of question is this. I stammered “Yes”.

All she said was “okay don’t mind I was just checking.” I did not get her point of what does that word “Checking” meant there. I found that later when I properly joined university and face more pathetic questions like
“Oh so does people kill each other there?”

well then I might be a ghost here!

“Why do you guys want to be separated from Pakistan?”
like seriously, who says!

“OMG how did they let you come to another city all the way from that backward province?”
No comments!

“Wait so you are not Baloch? Then why are you from Balochistan?”
why you no watch TV girl!

“So you guys hear bomb blast and stuff. How do you live there?”
well you might have mistaken Afghanistan for Balochistan!

“I have heard all the terrorist organizations live there, why you keep them?”
Well what can I say we have plenty of space, you know, being the largest province area wise!

“So you came here because there are no universities?”
Someone please kill me!

At first, I felt irritated and answered the questions anyway. I felt alien living alone in the new city, which these questions made more difficult. Sometimes they asked me the same questions and sometimes there was a new version to their weirdness.

Nevertheless, the irritation turned in to pity soon when one day I met a friend who had a presentation on cultural show, where her group had to perform the Sindhi culture. She asked me for help I told her I would help her. She showed me the material she had collected; I got confused and asked her again if which culture she has to perform and she again told me it is Sindhi. I was devastated when I saw the material she had collected seemed to depict Punjabi Culture.

Her knowledge about culture made me feel terrible, and that was where I knew that Balochistan is not the only place they know nothing about but they do not know their own roots. Who is on the fault? Parents, Society and Media. The three pillars of the modern age on whom kids these days rely on and get their information. How would kids know about their roots when their parents themselves do not know about what culture they belong to and how enrich our culture is?

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Pakistan is one of the countries who have the deepest, enriched and colorful culture and needs no words to describe. In this busy day life where people barely find free time and in that free time their source of entertainment are all type of media, whether its TV, Radio or connection to social media. These mediums are not fulfilling their duties, as they are the only source of information for new generation. The duty of reviving our long-lost culture falls on the shoulders of media.

I miss the time when PTV national used to have specific slots for people of all cultures and provided the relevant information. Everyone knew what our regional languages are and what thing belongs to what culture. Our News channels brings in the news, which benefit them in terms of ratings and social media engagement metrics. Our TV channels only play dramas, which bring in the ratings and advertisements’.

TV is only source of passing time for consumers and source of money for marketers. It is a pity that our new generation knows nothing about its culture and we are letting our culture die. People, who live in the same country, share the same sentiments for their country but knows nothing about what is happening in the neighboring province.

How can we say we will make this country proud and give it the place it worth is when we do not have proper knowledge about the surroundings of our country?

Faryal Jogezai

Also published on Daily Pakistan.

Book Review: Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie

A novel with great scope ranging over a vast sweep of modern history, written with great warmth and understanding.The novel describes three sections, first is in 1945 Hiroko Tanaka has become engaged to Konrad Weiss, a German living in Nagasaki. He is killed by the atomic bomb tragedy of Nagasaki and she is injured. Following her recovery, after 2 years she goes to India to see Konrad’s sister Ilse, who is married to an Englishman, James Burton who is a lawyer and rather upper middle class. Where Hiroko meets one of James Burton’s employees Sajjad Ashraf. They fall in love and marry; travel from Dehli to Karachi after partition.

The second part moves to Pakistan in the early 1980s. The story here revolves around Sajjad and Hiroko again and their teenage son Raza and James and Ilse’s son Harry, who is working for the CIA.

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The final section is set just after 9/11. Harry and Raza are working together in Afghanistan for a private security company, whilst Ilse and Hiroko are in New York. Harry’s daughter Kim plays a central role.

A novel which seeks to cover the historic tragedies like the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, the end of British empire, partition of subcontinent, the cold war of Soviet Union, the CIA supporting the mujahedeen, 9/11, the Taliban, the fear of terrorism and the war in Afghanistan. The themes run around love, family, trust and betrayal, friendship, religion and a clash of cultures. The novel leaves a deep impact on the reader, with emotions ranging from tears and sorrow to anger.

An excerpt from the book: “…countries like yours they always fight wars, but always somewhere else. The disease always happens somewhere else. It’s why you fight more wars than anyone else; because you understand war least of all.”

Book review: The Upstairs Wife: An Intimate History of Pakistan by Rafia Zakaria

The Upstairs Wife is a wholesome narrative of Pakistan and life in Pakistan, more so of life in Karachi, via the eyes of a 3rd generation. It is a memoir of Pakistan’s unsettled history and a family’s polygamist marriage. The women’s stories of their uncertain future woven with the transparent selectivity of history of Pakistan from 1947. The Upstairs Wife gives context to the life of women behind the walls of a middle class Muslim home in one of Pakistan’s great cities, where men make the decisions and women accept the consequences.

The book is a tapestry of histories of the writer’s family, of her grandparents, Said and Suraya. Who migrated from Bombay, builds a life in Karachi, of her parents’ lives, of her own childhood. Moreover, of Aunt Amina who is given in marriage by a contract negotiated by her male relatives, who did not think to inquire about the possibility of her spouse acquiring a second wife. Her Husband Sohail marries against her wishes with another woman, and when Amina tries to return in protest, she is sent back to the husband who divides his time religiously between the upstairs and downstairs wives. Amina is forced to live a half-married, sequestered into the upstairs portion of the house and entitled to only half of her husband’s time and attention.

The book has a non-linear nature of the narrative, jumping around in time from snapshots of Pakistan’s history intertwined with family history in an episodic manner of approach which makes the book work more precious, it sets the reader in a roller-coaster jump from highlight to highlight to reminisce over the past. The book is the perfect and devastating blend of tender and brutal.

LET US BE WHO WE ARE

Mirror, mirror on the wall who is the fairest of them all?

Sara get up and brush your teeth, you have school tomorrow so sleep early. Mansha told her 6 years old daughter while taking the remote to turn the TV off where Evil Queen was still ordering her magic mirror to show her the fairest person. After Mansha tucked Sara in her bed to sleep, she turned the TV on while waiting for her husband to be home soon. When she turned the TV on it was still the same cartoon channel where now the Evil Queen was now plotting to kill Snow White because she was fairer then her.

She changed to another entertainment channel where an ad was playing telling all the women out there that they need to use their cream to gain confidence by getting fairer, then she skipped to another channel where again a fairness cream ad was playing telling how a problem of having dark complexion can be lured away in only a week by using their cream, as if dark complexion was a disease that needed to be cured as soon as possible.

Mansha getting annoyed by all the fairness creams ads turned the TV off and took a magazine that was lying on the coffee table. The tagline on the cover of the magazine said “BE WHO YOU ARE”. Mansha felt confident in the tagline and flipped the page to read further, on the first page what she saw was a make-up ad with the tagline “BE BEAUTIFUL”, she ignored the ad and flipped through some pages to read any article and what she found was “Don’t like being fat here are 7 ways to help you get slim”.

Mansha getting annoyed flipped through some more pages and there it was again “Get rid of the dark skin here are natural tips to get fair and smooth skin”. Mansha was a dark skinned woman in her 30’s began reading the article as deep down she also had raised an urge to be the snow-white in her story, to be the Fairest of all.

No matter how hard you try to be yourself the airbrushed and photo-shopped models and celebrities making the front page of magazines and newspapers, TV and social media platforms buzzing with news of how flawlessly beautiful this celebrity is and how fair skin she is. The advertising agencies, fashion and media industries has turned the coins a long time ago and has changed the beauty standards of this world.
The highlighted part is where they had destroyed the self-image of females from teenage girls to older women, who strive hard to meet that beauty standard made up by the advertising agencies. If you are black you are considered ugly so the lighter skin you have the more you are beautiful, the countless ad campaigns in the shape of stories are subconsciously fixed in our minds.

We’re provided an endless stream of beauty products which tell us what we need to “fix” in ourselves from our hair, our complexion, our height and our shape. The concept of having white skin has prevailed to an extension where we are subsequently persuaded by ads that if we need to have flawless skin in order to compete with the women in our lives for success and love.

The prejudice about the skin color had existed since a long time in our society but what is it that made that skin color to be the only wall around us which protects us are the Advertising agencies and Fashion Industries. Once that wall is constructed all we do is keep plastering and white-washing it with all the beauty products and tips.

To make your face look in a shape that is defined as perfect young girls go to an extent of crush-diet and which is why we see so many young girls lying in hospital beds as a result of anorexia as they tortured their body into being slim, girls disfiguring their faces to make it look more model-like. In other cases, when they can’t reach that beauty standard they fell into depression which could lead to more severe mental cases.

According to specialists, in efforts for long-lasting beauty women are burning their skin from noxious acid peels and even suffering life-threatening side effects from steroidal creams. They are using lesser remedies for fair and fresh skin which contain large amounts of ammonia and hydrogen peroxide that can cause irritation, redness and skin ulcers.

For instant beauty girls bleach their skin, rubbing steroids and acids on their faces to get a fair skin overnight and compete in the beauty world. These fairness creams contain irreparable damage like acne, facial hair and wipe off epidermis completely, making the skin more vulnerable to ultraviolet rays of the sun. To make themselves more beautiful, more deserving and gain confident, many girls consult dermatologists to enhance their skin tone.

The mindset of the girls is created in a way that they should rule the world of fantasy and fable. Because all the fairy tales, requires the heroine to be the SNOW WHITE. The only way for the cure this hideous complexion complex, we need to be conscious of our discriminatory attitudes and teach our girls to wear their skin with pride because that it is the image God has designed for them. Each one of us beautiful and equal.

As Khalil Gibran said “People of Orphalese beauty is life when life unveils her holy face. But you are life and you are the veil. Beauty is eternity gazing itself in the mirror. But you are eternity and you are the mirror.”

Pc: https://www.facebook.com/shehzilmalikart/