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.