Unless you’ve been living in a cave or are not related to Pakistan in any way, you would have probably heard about Maya Khan. Just to get the cave-dwellers on the same page, I would quickly summarize the drama that took place over the last couple of weeks. Maya Khan hosted one of the plethora of morning shows that jumpstart a typical Pakistani day. One fine day, the lady in question decided to go on a date-catching spree. Yup, you heard it right. Along with a group of bored house wives, off she went to a park in Karachi to catch unsuspecting couples, who retreated into the park for candlelight breakfast. The episode involves an adrenaline pumping chase of an unwilling couple, reminders about the intricacies of parent-child trust and poignant inquiries into the nature of relationship between couples who inhabited the park’s benches. The highlight of the proceedings, however, was the clever manipulation of a couple to believe that the mic and camera were off as per their request, while actually that wasn’t the case.
The incident set several tongues wagging and many eyes rolling. Some raised concerns over the ethics of journalism and privacy violation. Others questioned slingshotting the relatively submissive middle class love birds while the more privileged lot continues to rendezvous in the Gloria Jeans and Hot Spots of Pakistan with relative impunity.
I believe that the incident scratches the surface of a phenomenon deeply rooted in our national psyche. We, as a nation, love to judge. It could very well qualify as our national sport. To emphasize our ‘rightfulness’, we belittle any behavior that contradicts our notions of piety. In fact, we consider it an obligation to enlighten others about the principles of morality. I attribute this behavior to the desire to simplify the job of our ‘moral vision’. Instead of accepting and coexisting with a variety of ideas, we have programmed our systems to see the world in black and white only. A thing is either right or wrong; nothing more, nothing less. In doing so, we deny other human beings their right to commit mistakes and overlook our potential for being mistaken in defining what constitutes a mistake.
It’s time we stopped getting defensive–and subsequently offensive–because of our propensity to consider any opposing view as a direct threat to our own beliefs. If we rise above our preconceived, rigid notions of morality, then and only then, can we learn to love other people. It is the courage to face and accept incongruent opinions that can open our eyes to thousands of of colors that occupy the space between black and white.
(For reference, here is the video i mentioned in my blog)
You sit by the sea all day long
Sifting heaps of sand,
Through a broken sieve.
You shuffle through the heavens,
And dig down to the earth’s heart,
searching for your own shadow.
You look for what is not,
And that which is,
To you means naught.
Year after year,
Your barren pursuit continues
As I look on with detached amusement.
I am your present;
The future that would never be,
The past that died before it was born.
dwell dreams, tired and stranded;
I walk through these streets
to collect dreams,
Dreams, that I bake in the furnace of my heart,
till the dust of time crumbles down their rusty form
and they are rekindled like the passion in lovers’ hearts.
I set up a stall of dreams, and chant:
“Dreams for sale, dreams for sale”!
“Real or fake?”, Like seasoned appraisers,
Not that I created these dreams,
I merely revive them, and trade in them.
Exhausted, I chant one last time:
“Dreams of gold, for free”;
Customers stop, dazed;
Among themselves they whisper,
“Must be a scheme, and the dreams he sells, all flawed,
Down with the dreams of a blind merchant”!
Lugging a heavy heart and a load of dreams,
I return to my abode,
Muttering through the night
“ Dreams for sale,
Dreams along with their worth,
(Translated from an Urdu poem ‘Andha Kabari’ by Noon Meem Rashid)
When the alarm beeped for the third time, to my absolute dismay, I realized that I was running terribly late for the meeting ahead. I sprang up, transformed into a more presentable shape and left home, sipping away from the cup of coffee on my way. It wasn’t long before I became conscious of the fact that it was Wednesday and the CNG stations would be closing for the next three days, the close-down starting in an hour. I went through the day’s schedule once again in my mind to see if I could squeeze in the gas-filling ritual. The prospect of having to use the more expensive fuel source (petrol) outweighed all other mental argument and I took the turn towards the fuel station.
I could figure out long queues of cars even from distance. While waiting for my turn, I could hear people discussing the tidal wave of inflation that had rocked the nation. I learnt that petrol price was speculated to be raised by 10% the next week while gas would cost 8% more than its present rate. Things proceeded at a gingerly pace and by the time I reached my office, I was positively 20 minutes late. Climbing up the stairs, my mind leaved through a compilation of exquisite, hand-picked excuses that I have maintained for such occasions. The moment I swung open the door, I could feel all eyes in the conference room rivet on me a while longer, silently demanding an explanation. ‘I am so sorry, my car broke down on the way here ’, I said sheepishly. ‘In that case, you should have probably left home a bit earlier to accommodate your car’s rather predictable mood swings ’, lashed out my boss. The rest of his talk emphasized on the importance of the project, the monetary stakes that were in it, that we were paid to dedicated ourselves to the project and so forth.
Meeting was followed by work and in no time, it was lunch break. When I handed 85 Rs to the cafeteria boy for my favorite burger, he gave me a wide grin and announced that the burger was worth 100 Rs now. I gave him a look of surprise, ‘…but its price went from 70 Rs to 85 Rs only two weeks ago ’. ‘Inflation, ma’am’, came the prompt response, ‘Fuel price shoots up, transport charges shoot up, Bread price soars, Meat becomes more and more expensive, so the poor burger has to act accordingly too Baji, we can’t help it’. His words sank down and I decided that I had to let go of my favorite burger, saving it for the days when I really wanted to give myself a treat. I ordered a plate of sabzi with naan and contented myself with the fact that I had saved 50 Rs. Over lunch, my colleagues chattered about the increase in the price of electricity and household gas bills that was to be in effect from the next month. Honestly, I was no longer stirred by these disclosures as they had become more of a routine. Commodity bills swelled on monthly basis, followed by media frenzy, followed by the indifferent inaction that is so typical of our national disposition.
Lunch was followed by more work. By the time it was time to go home, I was completely drained of all my energy. Exhausted, I drove out of the parking lot eager to reach home, force some food down my throat in the name of dinner and catch some much deserved sleep. ‘Salam ma’am’, I heard the watch guard of the office parking lot through my car window. ‘Walaikumassalam, chacha, how are you’, I stopped my car near him and said good-naturedly. ‘I am fine, beta. Just wanted to let you know that the monthly charges for car parking will increase by Rs. 100 from next month’. I wanted to engage in a furious argument about how unreasonable and unfair it was to do this when the charges had already been raised by 50 Rs only a month ago. However, I could barely summon enough energy to whisper a half-hearted OK.
On my way back home, I could see invisible dollar signs falling from the sky, followed by a downpour of question mark signs. The moment I took the turn to my street, I saw a sight so beautiful I had to pull up the car by the roadside to fully appreciate it. The pale, crescent moon was perched quietly atop tall pine trees. Being a late winter evening, there was no sign of life whatsoever on the quiet street. And yet, the surroundings seemed to have come alive to celebrate the splendor of the magnificent moon. I feasted my eyes on this perfect picture of serenity for a while and moved ahead. When I lay myself to sleep at night, the last thought on my mind was: What would be the cost of moon if it were in the discretionary power of us, humans, to put a price-tag on it ?
The other day I had the chance to look at a friend’s CV. By the time I was done with the first page, I was so turned off that I refused to read more. To my absolute surprise, the CV mentioned religion, domicile and—-wait for it—-marital status. I think she did not mention gender presuming that her name will reveal it any way. Excerpt from the conversation:
Me: “Why should a prospective employer be interested in that kind of information?”
Friend:“This is vital information, you see, says a lot about a person.”
Me: “I suppose that’s right, says a lot about the employer. Asking about religion implies that he/she is a religious fanatic, domicile implies racism, gender and marital status fall under sexism .”
Friend: “There. Marital Status. Nobody wants to hire married women with families for serious business.”
Me: “@#%^^&*( ^&*((((( @@@@@@.”
We are all guilty of harboring some level of racism or sexism, consciously or subconsciously. Perhaps, it might sound a little crazy, but requiring people to mention religion in CV’s is the modern equivalent of the ‘yellow badge’. Also referred to as the Jewish badge, the yellow badge was a patch of cloth that Jews were required to sew on their outer garments to identify them in public. As per recorded history, this was practiced in both Christian as well as Muslim countries. In more recent past, it was revived by the German Nazis who forced Jews to wear an armband with a blue Star of David on it saying the word ‘Jude’ (the German word for Jew).
If our opinion of a person is influenced to any extent by his religion, race or sex, perhaps we should question our impartiality and sense of equality. Talking of bias, have you watched the 2004 movie ‘Crash’? If you haven’t, you must. I’ll leave you with a clip from the same movie.