Are you a Kid yet?

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I have always said “let’s grow up to become kids”.

A video that has gone viral reinforces my idea of adults learning about life from kids. Why do we love this video so much?

Some may say that it was ‘cute’ for her to think that her brother won’t ever grow up, but what I see in it, is her ability to know what she actually wants. As she grows up, we will teach her about other desires, those won’t be simple. Instead of wanting truth and freedom, she would start wanting a particular political party to win. We would teach her to desire for iPad, for Gucci, for Prada, for chocolate, for Coke.

She looks like a golden heart that melts with love. Look what she fell in love with, elders? no! she fell in love with another kid. In order for one to be liked by a kid, one has to act like a kid. But imagine if it stays constant. Imagine if I think of my younger sister, and the sheer love that I have for her makes me cry, I have succeeded in growing up to become a kid. If I’m offered free candies, imagine if I pick up a $1 chocolate, ignoring a $10 candy bar, just because my heart directs me to it, then I’ve learnt to grow up to become a kid.

As they say… ‘Don’t grow up, it’s a trap’. I say let’s grow up and become kids.

www.faheemazam.com

2014 has Shaken the Nation

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History remembers or not, I will remember 2014 as the most important year for Pakistan’s future.

This new millennium has brought a wave of fear and violence to the world that we live in. Every year begins with new prayers and hopes that the next will be better than the last. Unfortunately, we’ve sown so much hatred in past century that we can’t escape from reaping its fruits. Pakistan’s story hasn’t been much different; 2014 ended here with the same feeling, again. Most are just relieved that it is over. We’re overlooking something very important here. I’ll skip all that we have lost and damaged in years before 2014, I’ll focus on what we’ve been able to achieve this last year.

The second half of 2014 saw the most important transition of our nation, ‘we woke up’. Waking up is a process that takes a long time and I admit it hasn’t completed yet, but it begins with when a nation decides to rise, ‘we rose’. We’ll have to wait a while to see the whole nation rise together but it starts when a nation decides to stop taking the crap, ‘no more’. We may still be taking a bit of crap and it will take a little more belief to put our foot down on all the crap, but never before were we able to believe in ourselves so much, ‘we believe’.

Rehman_Malik_video_grab_360From Long March to offloading of Rehman Malik from a plane, from Zarb-e-Azb to reclaiming the mosque, this nation may know little but is willing to stop taking any more crap. Mr. Arjumand Hussain’s words, while offloading Rehman Malik, echo in my head all the time “Malik sahab You’re not a minister anymore, and even if you are, we don’t care, we don’t care anymore“. Some may mistakenly attribute all this transition to one party or another but the fact is that we’ve sown this seed of belief in past few years because nothing happens overnight.

The year ended with one of the most horrific incidents that humanity has seen in recent past. There are many other incidents where more children and more people were killed, but the attack on Army Public School closed the chapter of any kind of sympathy we had for barbarism and lust of power in the name of Islam. Yes, it’s true that we brought it upon us by supporting these people for way too long during 80s, 90s, and 2000s. APS was a wake up call and it was awakening as much as it was horrific. The shrugging off of support for Lal Masjid is a prime example of taking no more crap.

54917ad45b1f4Let us open this year the way the children of APS opened their school. The scars, of the absence of their classmates in the same rooms, are far deeper than the physical injuries they got. They may not be heroes as the people call them right now but these kids were forced to encounter an opportunity of greatness; as Shakespeare once said “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them”. One of my online friends, who also runs a facebook page Sarcass Stick, pointed out , let me share her words “some day when we are old.. We will be watching a breaking news about a young man who put an end to terrorism.. He will say ‘Do you remember the Peshawar attack of 2014? I was a part of that.. I survived but none of my friends did.. It was the day I decided that I will put an end to this'”.

We all are scarred, bruised and hurt. Let us then thank God, and use this pain to achieve greatness that has been thrust upon us. Long live Pakistan.

Blame the Poor? why not!

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It looks like a joke but it is not funny. It is just not funny to realize how many people in the world work so hard to remain poor, helpless and clueless. They are being accused for not being “smart enough”. Those who make billions overnight are considered smart and intelligent, and hence deserving.

Modern world rewards those few intelligent and smart people and refuses to take responsibility of suffering caused by the intense concentration of wealth and power. It is very easy in the modern world to blame the poor for their poverty; they aren’t smart enough, they should have done better to deserve the billions. But let me remind what Sahir Ludhianvi once said

نورِ سرمایہ سے ہے روئے تمدّن کی جِلا
ہم جہاں ‌ہیں وہاں‌ تہذیب نہیں پل سکتی
مفلسی حسِّ لطافت کو مٹا دیتی ہے
بھوک آداب کے سانچوں‌ میں نہیں ڈھل سکتی

لوگ کہتے ہیں تو لوگوں ‌پہ تعجب کیسا؟
سچ تو کہتے ہیں کہ ناداروں کی عزت کیسی
لوگ کہتے ہیں۔۔۔ مگر آپ ابھی تک چپ ہیں
آپ بھی کہیے، غریبوں میں شرافت کیسی

How long will we continue to blame the poor for failure of the privileged? We failed to provide them the equal opportunity. Many will argue that this form of economy allows everyone to give it a shot, but what they fail to understand is that equal opportunity requires similar beginning, similar environment, similar training. You can’t expect a fish to climb a tree and argue that the monkey and fish had equal opportunity.

I wish someday we can see the world where hard work is rewarded. Where smart people (don’t exploit the hard working class and instead) lead them to help society progress; A world where everyone has the right to have (if not equal but) a fair share from God’s gifts and the man-made wealth.

www.faheemazam.com

Aik Khat Tumharay Naam (2011)

Letter

Dear Countrymen

I am hoping this letter finds you with great health and hopeful eyes. It is New Year already and we hardly found time to talk to each other since last time. Forgive me for not sharing with you that I have been blessed with another daughter this year. I’ve found the pleasure beyond bounds as I hold the key to our future; the mothers. As they grow up, they are surrounded by the horrendous “Breaking News” and entertainment that was called obscenity a decade back. Innocent dolls are replaced with Barbies and the boys are chasing a boy who can transform into tens of monsters. The teachers are becoming tamers and the workplaces, cemeteries of soul.

I know all this and yet, I smile with hope. It is dark times but I feel it is just a part of the night when we’re having a good sleep. Why pity today when we can prepare for a brighter future? If you’re losing hope, try looking into the eyes of a toddler who had a good sleep. The shine in the eyes is not caused by the uncertainty of the day ahead but it’s the desire to live and learn for that very day. I wish and pray we grow up to become babies who wish to live more and who wish to learn more. I wish and pray for all of us to decode the code of life and start living, for once.

Remember me in your prayers and keep writing to me. I’ll try and take more time out to write to you too. It’s always a pleasure.

Yours truly,

A Father

(I wrote this letter in January 2011 for New Year. It is new year again and I still find it very relevant. A short film was made later this in Urdu. Aik Khat Tumharay Naam (video) can be seen at http://vimeo.com/20093142)

It was a LOL Walay night

10900119_639934129445565_2875516773623036314_oIn short, Wonderful. What a waste of a day if it is spent with no LOL. LOL is a therapy, a medicine and last night we went through a complete session of therapeutic LOL. A team with a bunch of boys brimming with confidence and wit, LOL walay have been doing improvisational comedy for a while now. We reached PACC last night to an almost full house attendance, the popular Theatre Director Nida Butt and the Model/Actor Rubya Chaudhry were also present there to watch the show as the excitement of the unknown could be felt all around. Unscripted, Spontaneous and Wehshi is what they call it and when the show ended, the standing ovation approved of the wehshi part.

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The show is performed on the lines of the popular improvisational comedy show “Whose Line is it Anyway” with completely local flavor and comedy that everyone in the audience can relate with. I felt a few jokes, not forgetting that they were spontaneous, were stereotyping and offensive. But that’s the fun of comedy; our lesson for the day is that you can get away with murder if you’re making people laugh at it. We highlight our differences all day but if we could only do that in a geuinely funny way, maybe we won’t hate each other so much. Last night was a reminder that we are so short on laughing opportunities that it isn’t even funny.

Getting back to the show, the audiences get as much of a chance to be in it as the performers themselves. One of audience member said that a washing machine makes the sound “Oooo”; silly but it made us laugh. Dora got a chance to be helpful with Scooby doo, but the strangest thing that happened was a wardrobe malfunction. Aadi Adeel Amjad, one of the performers noticed a strange feeling between his legs. While the audience laughed at it, he noticed it was his pants that ripped during one of the animated acts. He managed to cover it with a jacket; these things can hurt a performer’s confidence but it only helped Aadi to get the best out of him. He stood out as one of the wittiest performers.

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Those who would like to attend the show can go tonight, and tomorrow is the last day of their performances in this spell. I have no doubt in my mind that it will be a unique experience for those who haven’t seen it before. As I spoke to a few of the audience members, they had one or two suggestions for the anchor but overall it was a standing ovation material and that is what they got. A word of caution though, if you’re not comfortable enjoying a bit of below-the-belt humor with your parents or your kids, don’t bring them along; otherwise it’s a family show (almost). The LOL Walay team includes Zubair Tariq, Aadi Adeel, Sannan Wastani, Syed Kumail, Syed Osama and the anchor/performer Akbar Chaudhry.

Drafting Pakistani Culture?

Designer HSY, Photography, Maison Moulin de L’Est

Our Fashion Industry is big, it is dynamic and it is growing. Our fashion folks have been successfully able to take Pakistani designs to the rest of the world. From FashionTV to Style360, they’re getting coverage, fame and accolades. But hey, while we say that Pakistani culture has gone beyond borders through fashion, the question is, Do we actually have a culture? Many will be offended at this question and will come up with the obvious answers (which are obvious to them only). The (not so obvious) answers are way off from each other though, owning bits from Arab, Turkish, Indian and the (what they call) Islamic culture.

I met a TV channel owner who was, what I can call, Pakistanist. He proudly wanted me to do a show about Pakistani Culture, which we did. But deep down, we both knew that we’re not promoting a culture, instead we’re searching for one. It seemed that jumping from one tree to another, finding a few answers but, sadly we didn’t get all the answers. From politics to education, religion to culture, we’re either polarized, divided or extremists.

Culture is meant to evolve and I don’t mind seeing colors of many cultures infused into one’s own culture. The problem I see with the (so called) Pakistani culture is that there is not one integrated set of elements that can clearly be termed as “Pakistani”. The world easily recognizes Indian, Arabic, Chinese cultures, but when it’s Pakistan’s turn they confuse it with Indian, Afghani, Arabic cultures. While many genres and forms in Music, Dance, Dress, Food etc are shared with other countries, there is one element we can proudly call exclusively Pakistani… “Truck Art”. It will be good to build on Truck Art to establish a set of cultural elements that can be ‘owned’.

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Every nation requires unique elements in Music, Food, Style etc to identify itself and set itself apart from others. Generally it’s evolved through centuries but we’re a newborn nation so we can’t let time decide it for us. Somewhere someone will have to take the responsibility to draft a culture, to debate on it and then to take it to the rest of the world. Some intent by the state authorities could be seen in the first few years of this new millennium, but it has stopped again. Failing to figure out what’s our own and what could be owned, we will continue to fight upon imported cultures and ideologies.

I will find another time to actually identify more elements of culture that we can own, but for now, let us try to understand the value of an owned culture. Something that is derived from an inclusive ideology, something that radiates the diversity of our Indus hospitality, something that is uniquely ‘ours’. That is the only way we will be able to bring people together. If we’re able to sow a culture of inclusion and tolerance, most of our divides and extremes will erode with time. But if we fail to do this, we shall continue to use arms against the ideology and culture of exclusion and hatred.

Once we’re able to do this, the media and fashion industry will soon feel easy and proud of promoting ‘our own’ culture. The confusion is not helping the industries, so maybe, just maybe, (while our state departments fail at it) the fashion and media gurus can join heads and draft a Pakistani culture with intent.

I’ll write more on it very soon. Till then,you can help point out those elements which are exclusively ‘Pakistani’ (like truck art).

Fat Mistake

IMG-20141118-WA0002 Walking on M. M. Alam Road in Lahore is a pleasant experience as it offers a variety of food and shopping options if you are able to make it before midnight especially. After midnight it looks more like a ghetto street in fear. On my way back to hotel I noticed something peculiar while I was crossing Fatburger franchise. But let me first praise the brand owners for being honest with their customers. ‘FAT’burger? I wonder what ‘fat’ means here. One answer can be… “We offer ‘fat’ burgers”. That is what most people would think but maybe the brand wants to tell us something more important covertly. They may want us to know about… *whispers* Bad Fats being used in the fast food industry. And before you think you know it all, you’d realize there is more that they want to tell you. *whispers* Fatburger is trying to tell you that this ‘Fat’ burger made in bad ‘fat’ will soon make you look like a ‘fat’ burger bacha. I always appreciate brands’ honesty with its customers, it’s much more that they can do than any CSR activity. Honesty can cause them loss of business; what great sacrifice! Now let me bring you to what I noticed there. Can you see what’s written in small font under the logo? If you think it says “Since 1952”, you’re wrong. After the investment of dozens of millions and being smart enough to convey secret health messages to their customers, Fatburger has conveyed another secret message “Sience 1952“. Sience 1952?? I mean seriously!! Ye konsi sience hay? I am just thinking about the whole process. Someone must have designed this logo, most probably in the presence of the client. This logo then goes to the vendor, they look at it and feel happy thinking about the payment they’ll get for this. They would have completed producing the signboard, client would have seen it (felt happy). Payments made, signboard erected, business starts, managers pass by, employees proudly look at it, hundreds of customers look at it and wow… what do we get after receiving the passing certificate of thousands of people? “Sience 1952”, Awesome. This is not strange or peculiar to be honest. All day we look at buildings, streets, roads, documents, even books that shout out loud about what have been skipped while proof reading them. This is just one good-looking example smiling bright at M. M. Alam Road at our ignorance we exhibit all day.