Culture

The Malleable Heart

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Yesterday I was reading an article, or more like just a headline and the internet trolls had made a feast out of it. Pakistan dissing, cursing and just your regular internet trolling. They somehow manage to find all that is wrong with country while artfully forgetting they are the root of the problem. Such posts are everyday occurrence they can sour one’s mood like vinegar curdles the milk.

Then today I saw a post about some guy buying his cabbie McDonald’s, because he wanted a snack and did not feel right eating by himself when he had another man next to him.

Yeah we are an economic disaster. And not the most morally sound society but when you see, just tiny gestures like this happening, they give you such a warm feeling that you just want to high-five that person and tell him/her it was not just a kind thing they did because they did not feed a starving man or help out a jobless man. They just gave somebody with less fortunate economic conditions, their due respect which so many of us forget to do everyday.

To all those people who thank their help or by gesture show them that they are not just the serving class but an integral part of society without which quiet frankly we can’t really function. I give you a standing ovation. Because people like you make me feel good. Even though I have no part in your act it still does.

‘Image by Artist Kate Powell’

 

The Coffee House of Lahore: A memoir 1942-1957

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I found this book in library last year, did not read it then but now I have.  I would recommend it to everyone. Here are few stories I have picked to share, I hope they motivate you enough to read this book.

K.K Aziz says about Coffee house. “I learnt how to behave with my age group, how to respect my seniors, how to make friends and keep relationship in good repair. The frequent discussion which I participated taught me the virtues of tolerance. They also taught me how to debate a point without losing temper, to sharpen my arguments rather raise my voice, to understand to understand other person’s point of view and give him right to express it and gain clarity in speech and lucidity in thinking.….There could not have be no better training in human dealings because human beings with whom I was interfacing were among themselves so different of outlooks…. I learnt to become flexible in what I said and what I listened to. Also I had to be patient with suffering fools, because in every society and group there are bores and people with stunted minds. I don’t know to which degree I learnt these virtues and I can’t be a judge of it. But I tried hard and I think I became fit for human company”

In its physical location the house was ideally placed. Within five minutes’ walk from it lay the University, the Mayo School of Arts (NCA later), the Punjab Public Library, the Lahore Museum, YMCA Hall, Law Collage, Oriental Collage and the Government Collage. Islamia Collage, Dyal Singh Collage and MAO Collage were within a 10-minute cycle ride. The House had been put right at the heart of the intellect of Lahore. The language of Coffee house was Punjabi and English purely, Punglish. Though written language was Urdu. It mostly was made up of Leftists but does not mean other were not present. What the Coffee house did have was tolerance.

This was the time period where population of Lahore was around 300,000 not more than 10 million.   

Now this book revolves around 100s of people, who all had one thing in common they loved to read and talk about what they read and drank coffee. The writer K.K. Aziz name which was given to him by Jamiluddin Hasan, who said “You know your first names are too long to encourage intimacy. It takes sustained breath to pronounce “Khursheed Kamal”. So right now, under the authority granted to me by our friendship, I hereby bestow upon you in a perpetuity the much smaller and melodious name of K.K to which I am sure you will get used you soon.”  

K.K entered Coffee house in age of 15 or 16 in 1942. But this book is more about a time period. A different time period a quieter time period. This book is littered with scenes and people most of us have not heard about. Some names are famous others not so much. There few scenes in this book that strike me as they are form another world “My friends and I had bought our tickets and were in a large crowd waiting on foyer for the matinee show to come to an end. When the show ended the audience began to come down the stairs to go home. At the corner of stairs appeared Champa in her white Sari. The chattering crowd in the foyer fell silent. There was a hush until she reached the end of the staircase, turned right and walked out of our sight. The elite was paying tribute to beauty. There was not a single wink, ogle, leer, even an audible breath. Those were civilized days.

Abdus salam a smart man not of science but also was interested in other contemporary subjects. K.K recalls his one meeting “We recalled our government Collage days; Salam Talked about what he had to endure at the hands of Sirajuddin and the officials of the education department. I asked him if all this was due to him being an Ahmadi. He doubted it and pointed out Qazi Aslam too was an Ahmadi and later become Principal of Collage.” A well-known scientist after the death of Abdus Salam commented whom K.K told him his sad tale of disappointed when nobody would sanction a scholarship in name of Salam. “You say the Ahmadis have not done anything to salute Salam. Yes, they haven’t. But aren’t they Pakistani’s too?”  So we are people who are jealous of other people who are better and brighter than us, this jealousy goes deeper, than any religious or cultural bonds what a tragedy.

I found this book in library last year, did not read it then but now I have.  I would recommend it to everyone. Here are few stories I have picked to share, I hope they motivate you enough to read this book.

K.K Aziz says about Coffee house. “I learnt how to behave with my age group, how to respect my seniors, how to make friends and keep relationship in good repair. The frequent discussion which I participated taught me the virtues of tolerance. They also taught me how to debate a point without losing temper, to sharpen my arguments rather raise my voice, to understand to understand other person’s point of view and give him right to express it and gain clarity in speech and lucidity in thinking.….There could not have be no better training in human dealings because human beings with whom I was interfacing were among themselves so different of outlooks…. I learnt to become flexible in what I said and what I listened to. Also I had to be patient with suffering fools, because in every society and group there are bores and people with stunted minds. I don’t know to which degree I learnt these virtues and I can’t be a judge of it. But I tried hard and I think I became fit for human company”

In its physical location the house was ideally placed. Within five minutes’ walk from it lay the University, the Mayo School of Arts (NCA later), the Punjab Public Library, the Lahore Museum, YMCA Hall, Law Collage, Oriental Collage and the Government Collage. Islamia Collage, Dyal Singh Collage and MAO Collage were within a 10-minute cycle ride. The House had been put right at the heart of the intellect of Lahore.

This was the time period where population of Lahore was around 300,000 not more than 10 million.   

Now this book revolves around 100s of people, who all had one thing in common they loved to read and talk about what they read and drank coffee. The writer K.K. Aziz name which was given to him by Jamiluddin Hasan, who said “You know your first names are too long to encourage intimacy. It takes sustained breath to pronounce “Khursheed Kamal”. So right now, under the authority granted to me by our friendship, I hereby bestow upon you in a perpetuity the much smaller and melodious name of K.K to which I am sure you will get used you soon.”  

K.K entered Coffee house in age of 15 or 16 in 1942. But this book is more about a time period. A different time period a quieter time period. This book is littered with scenes and people most of us have not heard about. Some names are famous others not so much. There few scenes in this book that strike me as they are form another world “My friends and I had bought our tickets and were in a large crowd waiting on foyer for the matinee show to come to an end. When the show ended the audience began to come down the stairs to go home. At the corner of stairs appeared Champa in her white Sari. The chattering crowd in the foyer fell silent. There was a hush until she reached the end of the staircase, turned right and walked out of our sight. The elite was paying tribute to beauty. There was not a single wink, ogle, leer, even an audible breath. Those were civilized days.

Abdus salam a smart man not of science but also was interested in other contemporary subjects. K.K recalls his one meeting “We recalled our government Collage days; Salam Talked about what he had to endure at the hands of Sirajuddin and the officials of the education department. I asked him if all this was due to him being an Ahmadi. He doubted it and pointed out Qazi Aslam too was an Ahmadi and later become Principal of Collage.” A well-known scientist after the death of Abdus Salam commented whom K.K told him his sad tale of disappointed when nobody would sanction a scholarship in name of Salam. “You say the Ahmadis have not done anything to salute Salam. Yes, they haven’t. But aren’t they Pakistani’s too?”  So we are people who are jealous of other people who are better and brighter than us, this jealousy goes deeper, than any religious or cultural bonds what a tragedy.

This book is filled with old Lahore and lives of writers, poets, artists, photographers, lawyers. People who with exception of few were poor but rich in culture. I would completely recommend this book. It is a very personal account of lives, might be one-sided in many cases. But this book is highly underrated and unknown. I mean a book about book lover 100s of them who got together on daily basis to have meaningful conversations. Is not that every book readers dream?

This book is filled with old Lahore and lives of writers, poets, artists, photographers, lawyers. People who with exception of few were poor but rich in culture. I would completely recommend this book. It is a very personal account of lives, might be one-sided in many cases. But this book is highly underrated and unknown. I mean a book about book lover 100s of them who got together on daily basis to have meaningful conversations. Is not that every book readers dream?

Lets talk about our I’s and isms.

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I am so bloody angry. I feel like am I am going to suffocate under all the hate that we have for each other in this country. I don’t know where the idea of Pakistan went so damn wrong. We might as well just nuke each other off. Its not we are doing anything with our “atomic” abilities any way .

First there are our “I’s” Pathan, Pashtun ( mind the difference) Punjabi, Sindi, Balochi, once upon time there were Bengali but now they have their own country.

I have seen more tolerance in street dogs when a another wanders in their territory than I have seen in most Pakistani’s for one another. Every single one of us is convinced that they have got it right. “12 kitabain parhta hai aur Aalim ban jata hai saray paraha likha jahil”.

The division in Pakistan is far more complex than most complex chemical formula. We just don’t have a sectarian problem in this country if we only had the sectarian problem life will be half less complicated than it is at the moment. We have a theism and atheism problem. We have liberal and conservative problem. We have a problem with the rich and we have problem with poor. We have a problem with elite culture and we have problem with middle class culture. We have problem with army and there are the ones who happen to worship it. We are democracy lovers and what we love more is making it fail. We have an obsession with freedom what we can not seem to get is freedom does not mean a license to act like wayward imbeciles. Then we have a problem how people dress, women who wear burqa or do niqab are “fundos” and who wear jeans and tees are “baegairat”. The “modern educated class” call the people with beards “taliban” or “harbourers of taliban” either as joke or seriously .You freaking assholes that is insulting! You do know that your Prophet(S.A.W) had a beard? Even Hazrat Issa (A.s) or Jesus Christ had one!

The other class call them moulvis or hajjis either as joke or so seriously that they think these people might be personification of angels (that is a exaggeration but lower income class trust in people with beard is quiet misled) and leads to things which are too shameful and screwed up to even imagine.

Then comes the “-isms” bane of our lives. There is Wahhabism, Sunnism, Shi’ism’, Barelvism, Ahle-hadith, Isma’ilism, these are the ones I know. Not to mention few whose correct spellings I am unaware of or am forgetting them. Honestly there is just not enough land to give everyone their own separate state.

But then came the educated class who love to talk about things they don’t really face. Some how we love our stereotypes. Extremist exist everywhere, in every single kind of sect, ethnicity and culture or what ever separation you happen to believe in. lets not even mention the role of electronic media whose sole job is to provide the news that really does not exist or to blow things out of proportion to a scale that out smarts most of the showbiz tabloids.

In our country the new popular culture and favorite status update seems to be of bashing religious people. On other hand we have the ones who happen to think “facebook” and “twitter” are the platforms to preach religion.

Seriously people wake up thanks to you all we have “Sunni-Islam” and “Shia-Islam”.

Here is a hint for everyone whatever you say won’t change the thoughts people who are prone to think you are a infidel. “itna naaike ka bacha hota na tum saab, tu facebook pa status upload karna wala halaat nae hota”.

So in good nice words get over your self and stop wagging your tongues on each and every incident and stop giving them shape they don’t really have. “khala ka ghar tum logo ka?” Freedom of speech ki maa behan aik kar ka rakh dye hai tum logo na.

There are things you say among friends. That is voicing of unformed ideas. That is thinking brainstorming. Printing your brainstorming for the world to see is really ridiculous. And more over they come off not liberal or cool but as naïve and prejudiced. You are not young enough to come off naïve and not old enough to be forgiven for your prejudices. Imagine every writer starts publishing his or hers first idea of novel? that would suck wont it. Even if it was Tolkein or Rowling or Grisham or who ever. You are neither of those people so imagine how much you suck.

Next time you feel like bashing anyone by that I mean anyone (excluding ISIS only people who no one have enough words to describe) just think that some one is dumping a bucket full of rotten eggs on you. The smell is disgusting just like your words who hurt people who feel insulted by them when they are being blamed for things they never did and never even thought. You with your “honest saying” and “so called truth” are brewing same hate and intolerance which is done by ISIS rockets and AK47s.

This post is for all the wanna be revolutionaries and liberals and free thinkers and smart people and conservatives who think social websites are perfect place for verbal vomits. Congrats facebook and twitter activists and the flag bearers of truth you have out done yourselves once again.

How it happened this is the funniest book ever :)

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HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
Do you have grandmother? a brother? a sister? a father and mother? a sister in law? a brother in law? are you a Pakistani teenager? do you have relatives? do you belong to a Pakistani Muslim family? are you a girl? do you have a village where your ancestors came from ? a caste? are you syed? are you shia? are not thin? are you really good looking? are you not good looking? have you studied arts or science?
If you do have half of the given traits in you or a quarter. then you can relate to this and laugh at this cunningly crafted satire of our good, weird and sometimes quiet senseless culture. Which manages to revolve around matrimony a bit too much.
even if you don’t support any of those traits laughs are granted.
You can find a way to make this about you and even if you don’t you might know few people in it.
Shazaf haider writes this book in easily crafted English which i term as desi-english which all the subcontinent readers or people who once belonged to this region can easily understand and enjoy. Sit back and be ready to be entertained by this 300 some pages of really bold writing ….