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Archive for the ‘Women’ Category

Tala’a Al Bardu Alaina… by Um Kulthum


It is a myth propagated by the ultraconservatives that music is haram in the faith.

Another myth propagated by the ignorant is that the songs in praise of Prophet Muhammad PBUH are sung as a biddat( innovative distortion) only in the South Asia and not in the Arab world. On the contrary, my favourite naats are in Arabic and they are called Nasheeds.

Having lived in Saudi Arabia, for nearly 2 decades, and travelled extensively in the Arab world from Egypt to Syria to the Gulf, the overload of beautiful music I have enjoyed is beyond the scope of this post.

Here I wish to share the FIRST EVER Arabic song in recorded history which was sung in 622 AD in Madina when Prophet PBUH entered the city, and he was overwhelmingly welcomed by the Ansars ( the residents of Madina). The singers lined up were women, who played Duff( a hand drum) and sang in his praise.

The lyrics say: Tala’a Al Badru Alaina…The white full moon has arisen….

The one shared below is the modern original version sung by none other than my favourite Arab singer, Um Kulthum, for the film The Message.
The video also gives an overview of how the welcome scene may have looked like 1400 years ago.

This is my utmost favourite, and the catchy music still gives goosebumps and serves as a reminder of the hundreds of trips to the tranquil city of Madina from Makkah in our 19 years stay there and numerous weddings we attended in the Arab world.

In a typical Arab wedding even today, the bride-groom are traditionally received in the wedding hall by women singing this very song.

طلع البدر علينا Oh the white moon has arisen over us
من ثنيات الوداع From the valley between hills
وجب الشكر علينا And we owe it to show our gratitude
ما دعى لله داعWhere the call is to Allah
أيها المبعوث فيناOh you who were raised among us
جئت بالأمر المطاعComing with a word to be revered
جئت شرفت المدينةYou have brought to this city nobility
مرحبا يا خير داعWelcome best caller to God’s way


EID MILAD UN NABI

Do listen to the song, the music and the powerful voice.
Does it feel as a beautiful piece of music as it feels to me?

Farewell To My Friend Dr. Syed Fasihuddin


Aah it was a 36 years of friendship in total with 30 years of marital association of two people of opposite personalities.
Fasih was quiet, gentle yet nerves of steel, living in the moment and a fearless risk taker. And despite being not too talkative, he was a people’s person, and a helper.
I am, as always expressive, explosive, yet a loner, super cautious bordering to being fearful, never living or enjoying the present, mind always planning 5 years ahead.
Yet for some weird reason we clicked very well. And clicked so much that both of us did not need to change our personalities. I learned from Fasih how to give space to the other partner. He let me be me and certainly wanted me to let him be him.
But the fearless risktaker that he was, I tried my best to be a check on him. But I always failed. And he always proved me wrong.

Whether it was his decision to marry an Indian and the practical challenges related to it. (This is another story, that deserves another memoir).
Or refusing to hand over his wallet on gunpoint at Sharei Faisal( Karachi) traffick jam in rain and handing that boy a brown envelope with patties saying, “I don’t keep wallet, eat this it must be hard work as there are so many cars.”
T
he guy remarked, “Fauji lagtey ho is liye itni himmat dikha rahe ho.”(You look an armed forces man and hence being so daring). And the boy walked to the next car.
Or whenever we travelled, which were very frequent, he would leave at the nick of time, despite my cries to keep some margin of time, speeding to reach on time. Once when we were travelling from Makkah to Jeddah airport to catch PIA flight for Karachi, the car’s tyre burst and we ended up reaching airport 2 hours late when the counter was closed and they were wrapping the list.
Fasih went straight to the manager desk, who was Manzoor Junior ( A Pakistani Hockey Olympian). He was very angry.
Fasih said, “Sir tyre got burst.”
He replied, “Yes this is an old excuse.”
He was not in a mood to listen to Fasih’s pleas. He then touched the chin of Manzoor Sb, “Sir aap hockey bahut achi kheltey the.” (Sir you played awesome hockey.)
Manzoor SB got even angrier and yet said, “No. Sorry.”
Fasih them told him, “Sir aap tou 1984 olympic team ke captain they. Sir, gold medal bhi mila tha….” (Sir you were the captain of 1984 Olympic Team. You even got the Gold Medal).
Manzoor Junior laughed and told his staff….“Inko toilet ke pass wali jo khali seat hai woh issue ker do. Family for peeche wali row de dou.”
(Give him the empty seat near toilet and the row behind to the family).

I wanted to travel Egypt, as it from his Egyptian experience and stay that inspired my father to name me Ilmana. Fasih suggested we drive by car all along River Nile from Luxor to Alexandria in Egypt, even though there were some news Muslim Brotherhood’s recent surgence in Upper Egypt in 1996/1997. I dreaded and he said, “With two toddlers car journey is the safest journey.”
In the area of Asyut, half way through, the Egyptian Army stopped us. “Pakistani?What are you doing here?”
Fasih replied, “Long drive along Nile al Gameel.” (River Nile, the beautiful)
The armed forces guys were so cordial, they drove ahead of us all along 1200km or more, proudly stopping to show us the historical points. And Fasih said, “See we have free guides. You just fear for no reason.”



Or when he gave up his lucrative job abroad to build a hospital in Karachi Pakistan, when target killing of doctors were at its peak in the city. I lived those years with my heart in my throat. I owe this to one of his politician friends who suggested to him, “Fasih bhai at least in haalaat mein bachon ko tou mut Karachi laao.” (Fasih bhai at least in these risky times dont bring your kids to Karachi). So my kids and I came to Canada in 2009.

In the middle or all forms of corruption and bribery in Pakistan he wanted to do good work. So for approval of his hospital plan, confronting the Director General of Karachi Building Control Authority, KBCA (who is now a fugitive for corruption) in his polite affirmness Fasih demanded, “I want to make a quality healthcare setup that provides honest and ethical care in Karachi but I dont have any money to give bribe. I am a salaried man, not a builder.”
And imagine the miracle, the man famous for not sparing a penny of bribe relented saying, “Pray for me in Haram”.
Fasih then took out a box of Ajwa dates as a reward for him. With his mild sense of humor, he came out smiling from the Director’s office saying, “This ajwa dates will control his hypoglycemia for not have got any bribe.”
He was famous in Building Control( KBCA) that, “ye doctor tou kangla hai.” (This doctor is a pauper). And Fasih enjoyed his nickname.

When we inaugurated the dream of his life, Taj Clinics( now Taj Consultants Clinics) he named after his mother Tajunnisa, and realized the hard work wasn’t yet over and it was now a 14 hour per day job, with no vacations, no salary, not even a car for first 2 years of the startup.
I often joked to him, “Deewane tou pehle hi the, ab aur tarah ki deewangi hai.” (Crazy you were already, now this is another level of craziness).
He just laughed and retorted, “Zindagi kya hai jaanne ke liye, Karachi mein rehna bahut zaroori hai.” (To know what living means, you must experience living in Karachi).
He did not regret for a single minute the U-turn his life had taken from a high salaried Consultant luxurious life in the Middle East, to a life in Karachi far from family, with no rest, no money and loads of sweat, loadshedding, manipulations, navigating a thororughly corrupt system for every paperwork, and most of all never ending expenses in newly begun Taj Consultants Clinics.

At our inauguration of Taj Consultants Clinics on April 5, 2015

In 30 years there must have been 100s of such incidents when I feared but he just kept taking risks but with a belief that he is not doing anything unfair or unjust. And that this is the right way and nothing good happens by being fearful. He kept proving my fears wrong.

Last pic together near Niagara Falls on May 11, 2020

He came for a 2 week spring break to us in Mississauga on March 1, 2020. With blessing in disguise due to lockdown and no flights he got stranded here with us for 10 weeks. He travelled back to Pakistan on May 15, 2020, despite our pleas to not go, as I feared he will risk his life in COVID 19 as a Pulmonologist in a madhouse called Karachi. He said he has his patients, his staff that needs to be paid salary before Eid ( May 23, 2020) and,
“I can’t hide from what I am trained to do. My patients will die. I promise I will be safe.”
He started his Chest Clinic at Taj Consultants Clinics on May 25 and saw tens of patients each day with at least a quarter of them were clinically COVID 19. He used to tell me with frustration that many of them are negative on tests and they refuse to accept and to be referred to COVID Centres. On asked to be tested from a relaible lab one man even said, “Sir I have 3 daughters. How can I label myself COVID 19.”
And I kept worrying yet praying and nagging him across oceans, as usual, to follow strict precautions, PPE and SOPs knowing this time too I will be proven wrong.
But this was not meant to be. And as I always told him, “If any risk goes wrong, we wont get a second chance
Last he saw on Friday 19 after which he developed fever and isolated himself. He was admitted on Sunday. Alas, Fasih lost his battle to COVID 19 on Friday 26 June 2020.

Hisaab e umr ka buss itnaa sa goshwaara hai,
Tumhein nikaal ker dekha tou buss khasara hai
.
(This is the mere calculation in the ledger of my life,
If I see excluding you, it is nothing but a total loss).

Farewell My Friend

Shadeism is rooted in anti-Black Racism


Have we not heard over and over and over again, one of the first comments we often get to hear when a new baby, boy or girl is born:
“Iska rang itna gehra kyun hai. Kis per chala gaya?”
(His/her skin color so dark. Who has he/she taken on.)
“Arrey iska rang tou itna saaf hai. Bari sunder hai”
(Wow, she is so fair, she is so pretty)
Matrimonial Ad: “Chahiye, ek PhD larke ke liye ek gori, lambi, parhi likhi….”
(Required for a PhD boy a girl fair, tall, educated…)
Don’t fail to notice that fairness is emphesized before the qualifications… 😀

This list can go on. Majority of our conversation on looks hovers around complexion.
Our Bollywood superstars, including top actresses including the so called ‘intellectual’ Ashwarya Rai have adverstised for fairness creams. #Fair&Lovely

Not just women, Bollywood men, even superstar #KingKhan have also been complicit in shamelessly endorsing bleach creams for men.
#Fair&Handsome

It is estimated that in India alone, over $430-million worth of skin lightening products are consumed annually.
This is not all. In a brown-skinned India, you hardly see a dark skinned girl as a heroine. Of course unless you have to show her as an ugly or a destitute.
Here is an Ad from Pakistan by a senior icon, who is herself pretty wheatish branding her own fairness cream. Don’t miss how dusky girls are portrayed as sad, depressed and unfortunate.


We even make fun of the skin tones, hair textures, names and language of African black people, calling them derogatory words like #Kaala #Kalia #Kallu.
A couple of years ago two Nigerian black students were a target of violence in Greater Noisa, near Delhi. (Link: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-39482239)
In defence to that one of India’s Federal Ministers remarked:
“Indians are not racists. We have been living with South Indians, black people around us.”
How tragically comical can that statement be.
(Wonder if this is for real? Here is the link: https://www.thenewsminute.com/article/racist-tarun-vijays-we-have-south-india-we-live-black-people-comment-sparks-row-59990

#YourStoryTeller developed a story called Shade ( Saanwali) based on a true story:

World has seen enough racial prejudice. It is not just for Black people to rise and protest against anti-Black racism. South Asians too must stand with them in solidarity, and also wake up and rid ourselves of anti-black prejudice and internalized racism in the form of shadeism.

Ammi’s Pandaan


I have many pleasant memories of this pandaan from my childhood.
Papa used to eat pan and this pandaan was a functional part of our house.
However it had a different look then. It had a silver qalai(coat) on all the pieces of this beauty, as it sat on the outermost edge of the kitchen slab. Fresh crispy pans that Ammi bought regularly from her trips to Jama Masjid area, wrapped in wet cloth were placed on the top tray. A sarauta (beetlenut cutter), missing here also shared the space on the tray along with pans.
The containers under the tray all had their specific contents:
The two mini handias with the flat spoons were for Choona (white) and katha (brown) pastes. The tiny spoons were applicators for their contents on the pan. I even remember how Ammi bought dry solid katha and then cooked it with water to melt it, which finally was transferred in the little handiya.
The two big canisters housed- chhaliya(betelnut)- one as full rounded nuts and the other cut into small pieces by the sarauta. The third canister contained saunf(anise). The thin canister in the middle contained tobacco leaves.
Each time papa wanted a pan, either ammi or sometimes Papa himself followed the process of ‘making a pan’ applying the contents in the following order- choona, katha, chaliya and tambaku- and finally the whole pan was folded into a conical form called gilori.
Interestingly the only person who ate pan was papa. Ammi made them several times in a day, but I never saw her eating herself. We kids also never seemed interested in trying one.
When I was in high school, papa decided to give up tobacco. He just left it cold turkey. Pandaan still remained functional. But some years down the road he realized pan was unhealthy and he must cut down if not stop it altogether. So the pandaan was wrapped up and he chose to get a single pan in a day from the panwala.
This pandaan from 1930s that came to our household in Ammi’s jahez(dowry) in 1964 was carefully packed in a plastic bag and kept on the topmost shelf in the kitchen.
With tarnished and dull look, the pandaan rested on the shelf for about 25 years. Out of sight is out of mind and we all forgot about its existence.
About 15 years, as my siblings renovated the kitchen, this pandaan again came down on the kitchen slab. I happened to visit them during that period, and the sight of an ugly big ‘thing’ brought back the memories of its heydays.
Seeing my interest in it, I was chosen to be the next owner of this treasure by my siblings and Ammi saying, “You treasure such things.”

I brought it with me and it became a part of our desi decor in Makkah. As we moved from there it was dumped in a carton for almost a decade. Periodically I looked around for a trusted person who would repair it, refurbish it and can bring out it’s original copper instead of the silver enamel.

Today, on the last day of 2019, the person who agreed to follow my instructions, and did this job chose to come himself with the finished form and proudly present it to us, tell us how precious this piece is, and most importantly to inform us how much personal efforts he has put in to bring this pandaan to a new life.
The sight of this sparkling gem not just made my day, but also made me feel accomplished in life. 😀
I hope the next decade also brings such wonderful outcomes and happiness for us and for you all.
Happy 2020 folks !

For Manila with Love


“Hello Ma’am your seat is 47E. Not good. Can I give you an aisle or a window seat at a better location?”
Me: “Oh that would be so kind of you for going extra mile even though I had booked online and this is the seat I could book last minute.”
Him: “Maam here is 17A. Window and front seat with extra leg space.”
Me: “You guys are amazing. I loved every day of my stay here.”

As I check out at immigration after a 45 day stay in Manila, this favour without even asking for one makes me overwhelmed with gratitude and would love to pay tribute to Phillipines and its lovely, hospitable people aloud on social media.

Right from the moment my husband and I landed at Ninoy Aquino International Airport at Manila till exit today, and from immigration officers to taxi drivers to house nannies to senior executives in MNCs to doctors to nurses to porters to managers to ordinary street vendors to jeepney drivers to tricycle drivers to kids playing on streets Phillipinos are an epitome of politeness, etiquettes and culture. Please, thank you, sorry, are spoken with as fluency as our desis hurl gaalis.

It’s not that their lives are easy or comfortable but they have the exemplary patience to stay calm and sane, without honking horns or getting jittery in hours of traffic jams.
Most Philipinos are extremely sincere, hardworking and professional in their work.
Another huge quality in mostly all Philipinos I met is humility. They are also wonderful at enjoying their life the most with whatever is available to them.

Talking to a CEO of a company in a party she asked me how i found Manila.
I replied, “It is very similar to Delhi in terms of rich poor divide, high density population and horrid traffic, but Manila and Philipinos are way ahead in cleanliness. I did not see any litter even in poor localities.”
The lady smiled with pride and replied, “Yes that is true. We feel shame in littering. But let me tell you it was not like this 35 years ago. Manila was dirty. I remember in my youth there was a huge campaign against littering all over from city govt to schools. It took us almost 20 years to get here.”

Another interesting fact I learned about Philipines is that it was a matriarchal society before it was colonized by Spain and patriarchy was imposed. However, it is still known as a country of strong women. Two of past Presidents have been women. Even though still under colonial patriarchal influence to a great extent, one third of businesses are owned and run by women.

Below are some of the scenes from the old district of Quiapo in Manila which houses the largest and oldest Quiapo Church and the largest mosque Golden Mosque and a huge vegetable market in between.

I am extremely thankful to my daughter Fatima Fasih and her husband Abdullah because of whom we could visit Manila and learn so much more about these wonderful people.
I know Phillipines is not a common choice for tourism, but if one gets a chance please do visit to see their level of exceptional humility, politeness and hospitality.
I know I am going to come again to explore less metropolitan areas especially Mindanao and other islands in coming years.
Thank you Metro Manila for a wonderful experience !


Amrita Pritam- the Legend Lives On…


Amrita Pritam turns 100 yrs old on August 31, 2019.
She lives in her poetry and in her two love stories- Sahir Ludhianvi & Imroz.

These was the last words in the form of a couplet (shair) Sahir said to her as they parted:

Tum chali jaaogi, parchhaiyaan rah jaayengi,
Kuchh na kuchh Ishq ki raanaaiyaan rah jaayengi.
When you leave, your lovely silhouettes shall remain,
Memories and traces of love will refresh me time and again.

Amrita wrote an ode to her love for Imroz as her last parting poetry:

“Mayn tennu pher milangi….” Link to my blog on this poetry is here

Imroz, who’s love for Amrita Pritam remains unmatched, is alive at 91 years and still refers to her in present tense. After her passing away he started to write poetry and called his book: “Jashn Jaari Hai (The Celebration is on).

One of the verses he wrote for Amrita are:

Main jab khamosh hota hun
Aur khayal bhi khamosh hote hain
To ek halki halki sargoshi hoti hai
Uske ehsaas ki
Uske shayron ki…Whenever I am quiet,
And so are my thoughts silent,
Then happens very faint whisper(babble)
Of her being
Of her poetry

However my favourite of Amrita Pritam remains her power poetry “Aaj Akhan Waris Shah Nu” which deserves its own blog and will share one in days to come.

 

This was Google’s tribute to Amrita Pritam:Amrita

Story #5: Talaq (Divorce)


My daughter often remarks, Men of my generation are better and more supportive than men of your generation. They value their wive’s careers and are less fussy to help them out at home.” 

My response to her almost always is, “There definitely is a section of educated young men who think and behave much different from their father’s generation. Many of them are sons of educated and career women (like me), who raised their sons to respect women.”

The above conversation holds true for only a very limited section of our desi society. Vast majority of men and women are still the flag bearers of patriachy and believe in subservience of womenfolk.
In the pretext of faith or culture, patriachy would not have been so deeprooted, if there were no women allies to it.
Not just allies, women are often the most vocal advocates of ’empowerment of men folk’.

Hear here a recent example of Ms Khan, a renowned matchmaker, who went ballistic on a TV show blaming women for everything wrong in this society:

 

For those who dont understand Urdu, I will translate verbatim the blatantly outrageous statements she makes  in her loud and reprimanding voice scolding young girls:

  1. “DONT use your tongue. Dont wag your tongue. Keep your tongue under control. If a woman controls her tongue, these things( marital discords) will not happen. Things escalate when the woman becomes “moonh zor” (bold) and tries to dominate over husband and mother in law. In our times we were told that when husband comes home, you must take care of his shoes and clothes,  the griddle should be hot to cook fresh chapattis, and the curry should be ready. What is this? “I am not going to cook chappattis?” Why? Then why did you get married?”
  2. She continues in English: “If you are not capable of cooking chapattis, then you better dont get married. If you are not capable of taking care of your children dont get maried. You will have to bear EVERYTHING. Unless and until you are not a PROPER WOMAN…”
  3. “Women should keep their mouths shut in front of their husbands( she puts a finger on her lips). Women are wagging their tongues a lot in front of their husbands, whether they are from rich family or poor or middle class. YOU SHOULD NOT OPEN YOUR MOUTH UNNECESSARILY.” 
  4. The anchor asks, “But Mrs Khan,  it is not always women’s fault if the matter reaches upto separation?” to which Mrs Khan interjects her, “These days it is women’s fault. They watch TV serials and learn from there. I have seen how my maid talks to her husband. Poor husband quietly listens to her. Look how this woman of even LOW CLASS speaks to her husband.”

Not surprising at all, but men were not even part of this conversation on marital discord.

YOURSTORYTELLER

is a social enterprise that creates digital talking comics based on true stories and raises awareness on the triumphs and struggles of common individuals.
We will be bringing digital stories based on or adapted from true stories, highlighting an important social issue in each story.

Coming to #YourStoryTeller, I am sharing here a true story of my own cousin, who followed exactly what Mrs Khan had recommended, “Dont wag you tongue, in front of your husband.” 
She even quietly tolerated a lot of taunts and verbal abuse from her mother in law.  Whenever I asked her, “Tum jawab kyun nahin deti?” (“Why don’t you reply back?” )

Her answer would be, “Baaji, yeh manhoos tarbiyet jo hai ke susraal mein jawab nahin dou.”  (“This damned upbringing that I am not supposed to answer back to my in laws.”).
Thus she laughed off many such bitter narrations of what she went through day in and day out.

The psychological abuse went on for about 4 years….

What happened next?  Please watch the true story TALAQ (DIVORCE):

I am proud of this cousin, who is now an independent career woman.

My advice to young girls would be to:  Marry men who respect and understand gender equity and both spouses need to understand that marriage is a partnership, not a boss-subordinate relationship.  Otherwise follow as Mrs Khan said, “stay single” and focus on your life & career.

Story #4: Girl Refugees


YOURSTORYTELLER

is a social enterprise that creates digital talking comics based on true stories and raises awareness on the triumphs and struggles of common individuals.
We will be bringing digital stories based on or adapted from true stories, highlighting an important social issue in each story.

Story #4: Girl Refugee

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Girl Refugees  is a fictional story  on female feticide i.e. the termination of pregnancy when it is a girl child.

There are 50 million girls missing in the world due to female feticide.
Girls who are lost in the womb have no voice of their own.

This story is an attempt to give them the voice, and to make people realize, what if they were allowed to live a life everyone deserves.
Imagine as if you are hearing their pain from the skies !

BAAJI- the bold and beautiful film


I went to watch a documentary on woman abuse at MISAAF 2019, but stayed on to watch with absolutely no expectations, the Pakistani commercial film BAAJI.
And to my utter surprise, I came back extremely impressed by three components of the film:

  1. Saqib Malik, the Producer Director
  2. Meera ji,  the actor
  3. BAAJI the film in toto.
    And exactly in that increasing order.

The film is a bold and beautiful portrayal of the ugly truth that exists in deeply conservative and patriarchal socieites.

This film does not have a single hero. This feminist film has both its leads charaters as fiercely independent women, Shameera & Neha. Both are extremely hardworking breadwinners for their families, and with dreams to make it big in their lives.
They are hounded by parasitic men, either through relationships ( Rammy, Ajji), as family ( Neha’s pious brother) or proffessionally (Chaand Kamal or Rohail Khan) who have no credentials except being manipulative and being men. None of them earn or contribute financially ( as is expected to be caregivers in patriarchy), yet consider it their preprogative to exercise control over these women.

Shameera represents a female superstar from the desi showbiz industry who is surrounded by patriarchs like her Aapi( yes she is a female patriarch), Chaand Kamal and Goshi Butt, who control her life, her finances and her decision-making.
“Yeh time hai theatre ka, theatre wich apne jalwe dikhane kaa.” 
“Market wich rolla paa deyo, ke Shameera ne theatre da tee lakh(30 lakhs) leya ayy.” 

Rammy, loves Shameera, but also wants her to be fiercely loyal to him, or else this good-for-nothing beau will put her in her place:
“Woh time chala gaya tumhara bibi.” 

Neha is a reality from the working middle class, who toils hard in a beauty parlour, to support her family financially.  Yet the person clearly in control in the house is her conservative nincompoop brother, who cannot even pay the installments of his own loaned rickshaw, but has the authority to be the moral police at home.  She also represents a middle class struggling girl who dreams bigger than her capacity, is intelligent enough to take risks and grab opportunities, yet staying sincere to help the people who trust her- both Shameera and Rohail Khan.
Pardon me, but her third class boyfriend Ajji was an eyesore to me personally, because of being the abusive husband in real life, Mohsin Abbas Naqvi. However, his character  isnt any better on screen as he backstabs the two ladies (How?- You need to see the movie) in connivance with the other two predators in the film- Rammy and Chaand Kamal.

A lot has been said about it being a comeback of the 70s & 80s Lollywood cinema. Pardon my ignorance on Lollywood, and hence will refrain to comment. However, I could relate the story to personal lives of powerful Indian actresses of 50s like Meena Kumari, Madhubala who had to endure a lot of control, betrayal and abuse from their male relationships and families.

Meera’s body language and expressions were incredibly skillful.
For example: He expression of shock & insecurity while noticing her wrinkles in the mirror in contrast to a young Neha’s flawless skin.
So did her dialogues speak in volumes of her powerful acting skills.
For example: Her desperation in her assertion: “Love me or hate me, but you can never replace me.”

This is the first ever Meera ji film that I have seen, and I came out of the film with a changed perception of hers. There is a lot more to her than the petty image of her english jokes by elitist Pakistanis. Just because of her humble background, poor english and B films offered to her, we have judged her long enough. She has delivered a masterful performance in #BAAJI now, thanks to its director who remarked in the comments after the film,  “Either it was Meera Ji or there was no film Baaji.” 

I found Rohail Khan’s character a bit suspicious from the beginning, wondering how could someone be so nice and caring, all of a sudden?

I donot want to give out any spoilers, and hence will restrain myself to talk further about the charaters or the plot.

I loved one specific song from the film, which metaphorically relates a kite to a powerful woman, with strings in the hands of her men. They want her to soar high for their matierial benefits, but remain with their control.

Badlaan:

The other good song, which perhaps relates the film to the 70s is this

Shaam Nasheeli:

All in all, I loved the plot, the way it unfloded, including the romance, the tragedy and the suspense that followed.
Probably those who find this story of the film ghatiya, are reflecting their internalized misogyny.

I give the following credits to the producer, director Saqib Malik:

  1. Taking upon him a powerfully feminist story and telling it the way it is in a patriarchal society- full of barriers and blackmails for successful women.
  2. Throwing in a queer character in a very subtle, unoffending way( I am not giving out the details).
  3. His bravado to have chosen Meera Ji for a serious and complex role like Shameera.  Meera is popularly mocked more for her english than acknowledged for her acting skills or personal struggles. Few know she began her acting career at the age of 10.
  4. Showing things that may be taboo in Pakistan, but taking away vulgarity from them. The bedroom conversation rather than ‘the sex scene’, showbiz party with local Murree beer.
  5. Remaining very cuturally appropriate to Pakistan, and with no attempts to copy the neighboring Bollywood.
  6. Not just directing his debut film, but producing it with his own 6 crores.

It is so heartening to know that the film is doing extremely well and has crossed 12 crores of earning so far.

Congratulations Team Baaji ! 

Special Thanks to MISAFF 2019 and Arshad Khan for enabling us to watch this and other beautiful films in Mississauga, Canada.

PS: I am not technical film critic, so my blog is purely based on my view of the stories and films with social justice lens.

Indo-Pak Cross Border Weddings- an Advice to the Bride


 

Many girls from all over India and Pakistan write to me about their love stories across the border and their wish to marry & live happily ever after. Just two days ago we celebrated our 29th Wedding Anniversary. So I think it makes me quite qualified to give some pearls of wisdom to the new daredevils. 🙂

Since in a vast majority of cases it is the girls who move to the other side, here is an open advice to these girls :

My first pearl of wisdom to you:
“If you think there is a genuine love between you two, go ahead and take the plunge and embrace the pain that comes as a baggage. But  before you decide, first meet him in person and ensure he is the same person who you have known on social media.”

Secondly, I want you to know there are realities beyond honeymoon:
“If you will live in India or Pakistan, you live in an alien land where you will always be under moral pressure, simply by default of being a woman, because our societies, on both sides, are swamped with misogyny, just as our cultures and faiths are deeply immersed in patriarchy. In our cultures, we marry in a family, one husband cannot be the only one you will deal with, even if you are his Laila and he is your all too supportive Majnu.”

Thirdly but most importantly be well informed of what you are stepping into: 
“Read and inquire as much as you can about the other side- both pros and cons. Know that the practical challenges that you will have with the bureaucratic red-tape are inevitable even if everything else in your personal life is going like the Bollywood style Veer-Zara. Sania Mirza-Shoaib Malik star couple are a wonderful example, but they are not to take inspiration from. Ask ordinary couples in such marriages of how things are like. But none of their story will be exactly like yours, post marriage. Like any ordinary couple, it will be a constant struggle. Be open to unexpected pleasant and not so pleasant situations.”

However, once you have decided to go ahead, here are a  few tips for your safety: 

1. Try to see his country as your home too. Love and befriend its inhabitants too. Do not live like an alien. Belong there.
2. At the same time do not lose any love and respect for your country of birth. Many will say, “You are still so “Indian/Pakistani”. Tell them “So what? I belong to both the places.”
3. Try not to be cynical about his country. Learn to be objective and honest about flaws and positives of both sides. Trust me, both places are no better or worse than the other. Blind patriotism will not bring peace within your four walls or lay breakfast on your table.
4. Best bet is to make it a taboo in your household to discuss Indian Pakistani political rhetoric in a partisan manner. Don’t expect a man who so loves you today, will not taunt your nationality sometime years down the road and will still not understand why are you so ‘touchy’ about it. So better shut these doors before they even open.
5. Keep yourself financially independent. Do not submit every penny in the name of love and family. Because that will disempower you. Try to keep some money/assets aside( openly or quietly) in your own name.
6. Do not stop visiting your family back home. Visas will be difficult, but you have to be very very persistent and persevering to not give in. Try your best. Ask for help from anyone who can help.
7. When you have kids preach them to be objective and not be partisan with either parents or their families.
8. Keeping a passport of your country is very challenging in India-Pakistan relationships, but in current times, its easier than 30 years ago.
9. Create your own circle of like minded friends in your adopted homeland. Don’t just depend on your husbands friends wives as friends. At some point of time you may feel that your personality, intellect and values are not similar to  your spouse’s, and hence making your own group of like-minded friends will give you a space of your own.
10. Pursue your profession or work and hobbies in your adopted country as you would in your own country. There is no reason to give up work. It will help you build confidence and be financially independent.
11. Keep in touch with groups like Aman ki Asha  on social media and fellow Indian-Pakistanis locally, who will understand your situation far more than the local locals. These friends work as a peer-support group and as a deterrent for abuse and exploitation at home.
12. If possible, and if going gets tough, try to move as a family to a third country, or at least have an additional passport of the third country. It is not the easiest thing to do, I realize, but will give your kids a choice.

Wish you all the best,

Dr. Ilmana Fasih,
A proud Indian-Pakistani.

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