Saturday, 4 October 2014

Dreaded Little Monsters

The dreaded little monster creeps me out. It reminds me of shark attacks - unpredictable and outrageous, happening any time anywhere.

Error Picture is too ugly for displayThe scenario worsens when you spot the ugly creature, and then it disappears, out of sight but disturbingly not out of mind!

I find myself frantically screaming, "Where did it go?!"

"Is it behind the door? Or below the table... or in the crevice behind the cupboard?"

As it haunts and plays clever games, we wait in nervous excitement, wondering when and where it would attack from next.

Worse happens when the eminent danger stages an appearance overhead upside down. 

The sickening smart creature is viciously cruel. Why does it have to move against gravity, aggravating the fear of falling lizards.

I can hop about cockroaches, but I hate lizards sprawling on the floor. Flying cockroaches disgust me, and tend to outwit me with their sudden crappy moves, but the wild lizard is even more horrific.

If it weren't an important part of the food chain, I wouldn't have understood its existence around us.

Sunday, 28 September 2014


Yesterday, I watched the Indian change of terrain, Khoobsurat - a colourful, entertaining, fun movie.

It's a combination of Indian Rathore royalty and cute faces with rejuvenating laughter.

The cast is succinct and relevantly selected.

Kiron Kher is irreplaceable. I admire her expertise with comedy characters as in Hum Tum and this one.

Sonam Kapoor aptly matched Fawad Khan. Their acting is commendable despite some affordable overacting by Sonam Kapoor.

Fawad Khan's nawabi role seemed to come easily to him. A neat success story for starters.

Likewise, the Rathore Rani character suited Ratna Pathak's charisma and authoritarian glare.

As the movie began, I felt Rani Sa would jump out of the screen to rebuke me for showing up 2 minutes late.

The uncles suited their assigned roles. And so did the siblings.

The songs were few, but good numbers. Enlivening, vibrant and well-performed.

Not to forget to mention Fawad Khan's distinctly peculiar red pants as evidently intended.

The movie, on the whole, is a good time-pass and light fun to watch with family and friends.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Online Courses on Sustainable Development

I came across the following free online courses on Sustainable Development, and found them worth sharing:
  1. Introduction to Sustainable Development
  2. The Age of Sustainable Development
They tell you about the world, and the management and mismanagement of scarce resources, and how the productivity-drive led by management specialists is taking its toll on planetary boundaries. They stress upon the need to promote endogenous economic growth to enable countries to take off on their own. They also accentuate upon the need for social inclusion so that economic well-being is widely shared to generate a broad-based prosperous, fair, and sustainable social order.

A few centuries ago, the world was equal in poverty. World output was nearly zero till it experienced a sharp surge around 1750 when the Industrial Revolution created economic life. Great inventions like the steam engine made it possible to harness massive amounts of energy economically and efficiently. Gradually, the base of the economy shifted from agriculture to manufacturing and services industry.

However, economic development was not uniform across the world. Parts of the world were left behind to face absolute, abject poverty. Today, 1 to 2 billion people out of the 7.2 billion people on earth are struggling to meet basic needs. People do not have access to basic amenities like modern power, roads, health services, education, safe drinking water, and sanitation. As a result of huge variations in income levels around the world, there is unrest and instability in some countries that triggers protests, violence, and terrorism.

Moreover, with the overwhelming effects of economic development, we are trespassing planetary boundaries and changing basic earth processes so much that the planet behaves differently now. As we affect the world and the balance of nature, we are becoming a threat to ourselves. We affect the water cycle, nitrogen cycle, ocean chemistry, and air composition. We cause climatic changes and environmental disasters like unprecedented rains, floods, hurricanes, typhoons, droughts, force fires, and heat waves. As a consequence, there is massive loss of life and property. We need to respect planetary boundaries, and find new ways to produce and use energy so that we can enjoy the benefits of the modern economy without threatening life and the natural environment.

To protect the planet and achieve sustainable development, we need to develop sustainable energies and technologies.  There is an urgent need to improve food security, and find ways to enhance sustainability. In addition, as people migrate from rural to urban areas, there is a need to combat the stress generated by overpopulation in urban regions. There is a need to develop smart cities with smart architecture and smart transportation systems to cater for the increasing rural-to-urban migration. Moreover, there is a need to develop smart recycling processes, and ways to combat congestion and pollution. Efforts need to be made to move to low-cost and efficient energy sources like solar energy and wind power.

In this global economy, production is affected as supply chains across the world are disrupted by natural disasters and unprecedented environmental crisis. Moreover, environmental disasters can trigger unrest and instability in other parts of the world. Such adverse effects are felt by rich and poor alike. In this interconnected world with integrated global production systems, it is in our collective interest to find ways to unlock economic growth in low income countries as security and prosperity of every country is intertwined with the rest of the world.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Thank God for the Iphone Assistive Touch Button!

Just when you think the world has ended, you get another turn to play on.

Iphone Assistive Touch Home Button
My iphone's home button has been creating problems recently. The home button is pretty essential since it is the only button on the iphone screen!

I feared that the phone would soon become useless without an adequately functional home button. So I frantically googled for help.

I found a list of possible try outs to recover the Home button.

To my surprise and jubilation, I found the Assistive Touch on-screen home button!

Glad that the iphone makers had arranged a back-up for the Home button's deterioration in advance. A lucky escape for the users!

Monday, 1 September 2014

Respect Other People's Way of Thinking

6+3 = 9 
But so does 5+4 ..

The way YOU do things isn't always
the ONLY way to do them.

Respect other people’s 
way of thinking!

Sunday, 31 August 2014

The Sad Face of Political Affairs

Pakistan, PTI, PAT, Nawaz Sharif, PoliticsSupporters of the two political parties, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) have been demanding resignation of the Prime Minister of Pakistan, who was allegedly elected through a rigged electoral process in 2013.

The charged political activists have been stationed in front of the Parliament buildings on the Constitution Avenue in Islamabad since the past 17 days to wage their persistent protest. Meanwhile, across the country, people have been glued to media and news reports to gather the latest picture.

Last night, a change of events was brought about by the use of violent means to curb or provoke activities in the protest zone, ironically officially addressed as the Red Zone.

Talks, words, and actions have already distorted the concept of what is right and constitutional. In fact, all leaders, in power or opposition, blatantly stand in sheer violation of the constitution in one way or the other.

And yet we still stand in frenetic hope of justice and truth. What happened last night was not unexpected. It was though commendable that the same or worse did not happen earlier. There is a limit for patience and despair.

Patience has been tested and lives have been affected to stir a struggle for what might be hope for a better country and a fairer system. However, the struggle does not seem to be working. It is indeed creating factions and disturbing the peace that existed. Now it has further boiled down to injuries and deaths, which raises a dire concern for humanity as well.

The stage is set for a civil war.

Saturday, 30 August 2014

The Gun Game

Spiral Black and WhiteGuns have always scared me. I associate them with violence and danger.

Yesterday, I came across a nerve-racking news story that showed some Afghan people wearing scary all-black clothes and horrific black masks. They were holding huge guns steadily and sternly as if ready to fire away. Their masks depicted possibility of some poisonous gas explosion..

My imagination stream was interrupted as closer analysis of the available information revealed that these people were, in fact, firing paint-balls instead of bullets! What an odd and unexpected relief!

In the desolate setup of Afghanistan, where there is violence, despair and melancholy, it is difficult to comprehend that people with guns can fire fun paint-balls instead of killer gunshotsOne game spills the cheerful colours of life while the other brutally devastates everything.

It is indeed amusing and unbelievable to find that a fun game can be played with the dreaded-weapons-of-mass-destruction look-alike!

The link below leads to the afore-mentioned news story:

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Beauty Bargains

smile you are beautiful - beauty bargains
"Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder."

A relative once whizzed through a photo album that securely sealed my most treasured school friends and memories. To my sheer surprise, she declared that none of my friends were pretty. It was odd for me because I found all my friends to be beautiful.

Beauty has always been a puzzling concept for me. Some consider you to be pretty. Some treat you as if you are too simple. Some say you are beautiful. Some appreciate beauty in simplicity. Some are too used to make-up adornments and glamorous displays to associate beauty with that only.

In my teenage years, I could not decide what people meant by a person being beautiful or not. I heard vague references of so and so being beautiful. Yet, I could not find any objective standards to assess and evaluate beauty. I wondered what beauty meant to the world. I saw Miss World and Miss Universe images, and yet arrived at no convincing conclusion.

Physical appearance is always a matter of concern. It is, after all, the first and foremost visible trait that a person can gather about another person. As combinations of different physical features constitute different faces and individuals, physical appearance becomes a distinguishing identity characteristic that can tell apart one person from another.

Physical features are open to subjective judgement and evaluation when compared with other physical appearances. This subjective judgement determines a relative scale of beautyThe idea of beauty has developed and evolved through millions of comparisons and assessments, and it will continue to change from people to people, culture to culture, and place to place.

While physical appearance is responsible for the apparent outlook of beauty, I believe that true beauty emerges from inner happiness and outward smiles. For me, beauty is what each of my loved ones entails. My friends and family make me smile. I feel secure and happy to have them around me. We share likes and dislikes, understand each other, and can depend on each other. We click! That is what makes them beautiful for me. I know their inside. I see their beauty. And that inner beauty of their souls reflects on their faces, and I find them to be beautiful.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

True Today Too

Dwight D.Eisenhower - US President

The quote in the image above is by Dwight D.Eisenhower, who was the 34th President of the United States from 1953 to 1961.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The Freedom that Speaks

A recent news story revealed the existence and survival of a Hindu community in a remote region of Pakistan:

It's rejoicing to read about the peaceful existence of a religious minority in Pakistan after witnessing a scary multitude of minority intolerance issues and disturbances in this 'peace-loving' country.

Peace and freedom feel so good. If only they were possible always.
Malcolm X Freedom and Peace

Sunday, 24 August 2014

The Journey from Tea-with-Sugar to Without and Back

Marriage is about companionship. Yet, it is also about making choices and compromises.

I boarded the marital status with no notion of what was going to come forward. I cherished and celebrated solely one concept: the idea of companionship.

I looked forward to share my life and experiences with someone, and simultaneously experience and share someone's life with me.

Walking together called for several changes. While some assimilations happened unnoticed, some traits stayed starkly different. Yet, there were a few attributes that were located in middle ground, and could be worked around.

One amusing small change happened to concern tea. Before marriage, I used to have tea with milk and sugar. My husband, on the other hand, enjoyed sugarless tea with little milk.

I found that to be peculiar. I could not comprehend dull, sugarless tea. My husband justified his liking by saying that sugar, in fact, spoilt the taste of tea, and camouflaged its actual essence.

I wanted to earn the satisfaction of doing the same thing. Inspired to try the change, I started having tea without sugar. I grimaced grudgingly in the beginning, but gradually developed a taste for sugarless tea.

Sugarless tea was also motivated by the lesser-sugar-lesser-calories argument. Further, the simplification made tea preparation more quick and convenient with no sugar input or stirring needs.

After settling into married life and getting better accustomed to major and minor changes, I started to miss the sugar in my tea together with scores of habits that I had to forgo. This one, however, was sweetly reversible. After all, I still believe that some sweetness in tea makes tea more pleasantly drinkable.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Assessing Superiority: Verbal or Written Communication?

Communication Skills Effective communication indicates strong, coherent thought processes. Verbal communication gives the speaker lesser time to organise thoughts, and present them to the audience, while written communication provides the opportunity to deliberate and refine a written draft till perfection before making it public.

While it is true that written communication is of utmost importance in framing policies and constructing accountable documentation, it would be unfair to give verbal communication any lesser significance. Both forms of communication play crucial, though different roles.

I feel that good verbal communication depicts a stronger, more coherent, and better organised thinking process. Verbal communication is also more efficient as it saves time and energy squandered while waiting for people to respond via emails or other written communication forms. Of course, verbal communication can be converted into an accountable written statement for official or unofficial recollection later.

Let me illustrate this with an example. I am managing Human Resources at a software start-up company. To schedule HR interviews, I can either email the candidate a list of possible timeslots, or call him up to check suitable timeslots regarding when he can come to the office for an interview. While the former procedure seems more proper and professional, it is more time consuming. If I email the candidate possible timeslots, I will wait for him to firstly read the email, then deliberate over what timeslot he should choose, and then hit the reply button to let me know about the selection. Sometimes, candidates even do not acknowledge receipt of the email till days after the interview.

So I prefer the second method. I call up the candidate, and present a possible timeslot for the interview meeting. He quickly calculates his commitments, and lets me know if it suits him. Otherwise, I give a few other options. In a matter of few minutes, the interview is scheduled. I send out a confirmation email to announce the interview schedule referring to my earlier telephonic discussion, and also furnish the email with details like the office location, interview composition, test details, and so on. This way, verbal communication via phone makes the interview scheduling a quick and happy process, while the email that follows confirms the scheduled interview in a professional, recordable, and accountable manner.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Defaulters in the Prime Minister's Office

The image reproduced above is obtained from the website of Lahore Electric Supply Company (LESCO), the electricity distribution company that supplies electricity to the districts of Nankana, Sheikhupura, Lahore, Kasur, and Okara in Pakistan:

The displayed list shows the top 200 defaulters of LESCO as of 31 July 2014. At No.9 is listed Ittefaq Foundries, one of the largest steel mills in the country led by Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Evidently, Ittefaq Foundries has not paid PKR 40 Million to LESCO for using electricity in the last 103 months. 103 months account to more than 8 years, long before Nawaz Sharif became Prime Minister in 2013.

Article 63 of the Constitution of Pakistan states: (1) A person shall be disqualified from being elected or chosen as, and from being, a member of the Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament), if (o) he or his spouse or any of his dependents has defaulted in payment of government dues and utility expenses, including telephone, electricity, gas and water charges in excess of ten thousand rupees, for over six months, at the time of filing his nomination papers.

Isn't it amazing that a defaulter was allowed to contest elections, and ironically holds the office of the Prime Minister of Pakistan today!

Keep Moving


Wednesday, 20 August 2014

A Culture that Defames Women

Women Rights, Defamation, DisrespectI offered voluntary services at Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital for a few weeks in 2012 in the Materials Management Department.

The Head of Department got to know that I was married. He asked me what I was doing there, and why I was not managing 'handi roti' at home instead. The bearded fellow believed that married women should be home looking after household chores, and should not be working outside home. He blatantly showed no respect for women's education or learning and development.

If such is the situation of a creditable organisation established by Imran Khan, who is in political limelight these days, is there any hope to expect security for women rights and freedom in Imran Khan's "Naya Pakistan"?

On the same note, is there any hope for bringing change in Pakistan with Malala's and other people's efforts when the inherent culture and mindset of this male-dominated society largely defames women?

Pakistan's founder, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah is reported to have said: "I have always maintained that no nation can ever be worthy of its existence that cannot take its women along with the men. No struggle can ever succeed without women participating side by side with men."

Yet, our people and institutions never fail to disappoint.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Civil Disobedience and the Political Slip

Leader - Wrong Direction
For more than two years, Imran Khan had captured Pakistan's audience by promising hope for a new Pakistan - a country that would safeguard the rights and interests of the people.

However, last night, the Khan man dwindled hope for even a better leadership for the country as he launched a civil disobedience movement.

Civil disobedience of the right laws in Pakistan - where there are already few law-abiding citizens - is blatantly not the right thing to do.

If Imran Khan was any hope for the people who trusted his ability and judgement to lead a better Pakistan, that hope has now been put under question.

Not a great move, Khan. Good luck Pakistan!

Social Media and Empathy

EmpathySocial media has played a revolutionizing role in lives of zillions of people across the globe. It has woven for us a precious interconnected world, making information exchange quick and possible. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter have enabled people to associate with different cultures and religions.

Centuries ago, messengers used to physically deliver information across hundreds of miles. With nerve-racking technological advancements, now continents have been connected electronically to transmit information within milliseconds. My salutation goes out to all the people who made this dream a reality. Yet, every good thing has a dark side to it to. Increased engagements with social media platforms have reduced users’ capacity for empathy – the ability to feel for the other as one would feel in the same situation. 

Social media and other lifestyle changes have revolutionized lives. Habits like reading literature, and engaging in physical and spiritual tasks are being replaced by text messaging, social networking, and spending more time over the internet. There is less time awarded to leisurely thought-stimulating discussions, cultivate deep connections, or reflect over profound subjects. As life has become quick and time invaluable, the trend has shifted from engaging in slow laid-back activities to delve into fast-paced vibrant actions. As our minds get lesser insight into the lives and experiences of others, our capacity to understand and empathize gets debilitated.

EmpathyFeelings like compassion and concern make us human. One tends to have compassion for people who are less fortunate or have been stricken by trauma. However, in this racing world, it is not feasible to stop and place ourselves in the other person’s shoes every time.

Life is indeed becoming superfluously superficial. In this animated sprint, there is little credit given to feelings and originality. With information sharing taking place without borders and restraints, caring has become redundant. Comments on social media are becoming expendable. Every baby picture is ‘cute’ and ‘adorable’. Even birthday reminders have become superfluous. There was a time when remembering a birthday showed that you were remembered. Now the date pops up all over the social media. People give heartless comments spontaneously without reservation or restraint. They make hasty judgements, throwing out words and thoughts without waiting to understand the other person’s perspective. No wonder social media is widely acknowledged to be a devastator of empathic feelings.

Social media has generated a fake world. With feigned appearances, people have built a social life of their own. They take great care in maintaining their stature, and are concerned about what their ‘Friends’ think of them. Social media has also become a popular platform for breeding fickle and hollow relationships. Online meet-ups and breakups are equally frequent. Amusingly, the modern breakup declaration is simply the change of the Facebook status from ‘Committed’ to ‘Single’.  One wonders whether social media is promoting social connections or whether it is improvising social isolation – a cruel juxtaposition. With increasing independence, people cannot tolerate interference from others. As they mark their preference for social isolation and subsequently fragmented lives, their ability to empathize also diminishes.

The electronic world is often vastly accessible and conveniently affordable. As the eye ball swirls from one news story to the next, there is a bulk of information sifting through the human brain at an intimidating speed. Life has become so quick that pictures adorned with phrases are now used to represent a whole idea, a whole theme - internet memes like those shared on Reddit and Facebook. They are quickly becoming popular as they communicate an idea more quickly and succinctly than text-based articles and news stories. However, though the quantity and frequency of information dissemination is on the rise, the quality and innate eminence of information is devaluing.

The evolutionary theory of ‘survival of the fittest’ continues to apply. Everyone wants to make the most, gather the most, and seek the most. Everyone wants to be smartly different, and grab that extra skill that would make one stand out from the rest. There is an insane competition for attention. People are competing to be the first to share interesting pieces of information to win appreciation and fame. People are striving to attract a larger audience and make the most ‘friends’. This competitive streak is making life needlessly burdensome. In addition, since we have gotten used to a quick happening life, any unforeseen hurdles tend to make us frantic. We get bored quickly, and get frustrated and depressed when things do not go according to our plans.

Humans need to empathize to identify and understand each other’s values and needs. It helps people in building true and deep relations, and also guides them towards personal and professional success. Empathy also bestows inner happiness and gratification. Lifestyle choices influence empathy. If empathetic feelings can decrease with changes in lifestyles, suitable amendments in routines can pump them up back again. Extremities are typically not healthy. With technology, the world is on your fingertips. That should definitely be used to one’s advantage. However, there should be a careful balance struck between the electronic world and the real world to set things right.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Diplomatic Enclave Gate 5: A Non-Existent Entrance

On the occasion of Imran Khan's protest in D-Chowk Islamabad on 11 May 2014, all entrances to the Diplomatic Enclave Islamabad were sealed due to security reasons except one: Gate 5.

Diplomatic Enclave Islamabad
Gate 5 of the Diplomatic Enclave is approached from the 3rd Avenue - the road from where the Shuttle service for embassy visa procedures starts - and from the opposite side from Quaid-e-Azam University and Bari Imam.

As we drove in the dark of the night, we spotted the well-lit security barriers of Gate 5 from a distance. They were similar to the other Enclave gates. However, to our bewilderment, we could not make out the entrance to the Gate. We drove back and forth several times searching for a road that would lead us to the gate.

Finally, we drove towards Bari Imam. A couple of policemen stood on the road side. We told them that we wanted to enter the Enclave through Gate 5 but we mysteriously could not find the entrance to the Gate. One policeman asked us to look for water tankers and a broken road with huge potholes.

Had the policeman not indicated what seemed to be a track heading in the direction of Gate 5 of the Enclave between huge truck-like vehicles, we would never have undertaken the dark scary journey on the literally non-existent road with massive mud lumps and potholes.

Relevant authorities should pay a visit to the mentioned area especially in the dark of the night, and construct a road and fix lights to make it look like the Diplomatic Enclave Gate 5 entrance.

This was also published in the Dawn newspaper on 23 May 2014:

Thursday, 15 May 2014

The New Pakistani Currency

Last week, I received a butterscotch candy in lieu of the remainder change at the local grocery store.

CurrencyIn most countries across the world, shopkeepers return the exact change, nearest to the hundredth of a dollar or pound or whatever currency it may be. That would be the right thing to do.

Pakistani CurrencyHowever, in dear Pakistan, most shopkeepers conveniently decline returning the small change especially when they do not have required coin currency.

Amusingly, where the tagged amount is Rs. 1,995 or Rs. 999, several shopkeepers treat the rounded figure to be the total price, staying coolly indifferent about any change due at their side. They probably think who would bother with the feeble change - a minuscule amount compared to large tag price paid by the customer. Though small it may seem, there still is a difference which should be respected and recognised instead of callously being ignored.

Some grocery shops and departmental stores have come up with the idea of giving candy equivalents when they do not have (or so we think) the required change. This introduces the ludicrous notion of 'candy currency' in Pakistan! Imagine purchasing things with candy currency... that would take us back to the barter system. I wonder if such shops would allow me to make a purchase with say 50 butterscotch candies to honour and test the new Pakistani currency!

Candies Butterscotch PakistanOn a serious note, this 'forced sale' of candies is sheer violation of business ethics. The customer is 'forced' to purchase butterscotch candy from the money that he has handed over the counter. Moreover, whether the change due at the shopkeeper's end is rupee 1, rupee 2 or rupee 5, all the customer gets is a single butterscotch in returnSo much for fairness and business ethics in this part of the world, let alone any attempt to boost customer loyalty and welfare.

Cadbury Perk PakistanThe most amusing and unexpected of such instances happened when a highway toll returned a chocolate in return for the 5 rupees due at their side. If every vehicle received a 5-rupee retail price chocolate in place of the 5 rupees change, the toll would be making a decent amount of indecent profit with hundreds of cars moving through the toll either way. What a shrewd business strategy!

To check for such unfair business and trade practices in the economy, there should be strict overseeing authorities and regulations in place to ensure that cashiers everywhere have adequate change in hand in the form of both paper and coin currency. If cashiers attempt to go without returning the due change or in other words try to 'rob' their customers, they should be penalised in a predetermined way.

Even if shopkeepers run out of change, as courtesy and part of basic business ethics, it would be appropriate for them to give the higher rounded version of the money that they have on them. Giving such 'benefit of the doubt' advantage to the customer would help build customers and develop a loyal clientèle while simultaneously honour business ethics.