The Idea of Seeking Randomness

I had no plans of going to Taxila that day. In fact, my friend and I spontaneously planned a trip to the nearby mall. I was done praying and was waiting for my friend to get ready but then I got a call from my family.

They were wondering if I’d like to go to Taxila with them. I  had initially told my cousin how I wanted to see Taxila as he usually frequents the place but I didn’t think he’d actually plan it. So, there I was at cross-roads. I wanted to spend time at the mall and explore the city but at the same time, I wanted to see Taxila.

So, I cancelled my initial plan and hopped onto the next Metro Bus to meet the family at a mutually agreed point. This was also my first time travelling alone on a Metro Bus in Islamabad which was a bit liberating.

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The fun bus ride

We booked an fx taxi and manage to cram 7 people in it including the driver. We can do all sorts of things in Pakistan. It was a bit painful physically but all’s well that ends well, ain’t it? We finally reached a place in the outskirts of Taxila.

We stopped by at a friend’s house for some chai and then off we went. One of the residents of the city bought off a huge piece of land back in the 90s and planted all sorts of species there. It eventually became this beautiful sanctuary that is a haven for all sorts of animals. We were fortunate enough to get access to this cordoned off area and even got a quick tour of the place by someone we will call Baba jee here.

I write this for one simple reason. Seek randomness. Some plans might not work out and others (that you don’t want to attend to) may just shift your thinking framework. I had never imagined kindness of this scale. An ordinary man bought off a huge piece of land decades ago just because he wanted to preserve its integrity and make it safe from the fast encroaching settlements. If you think about it, this is thinking exponentially as it is not limited to benefiting your kin or even those of the same species as you – this is thinking interspecifically, beyond your own species. Encompassing everything and everyone.

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All of this greenery plus much more that you can’t see is the result of one man’s intentions

Seek randomness. Open yourself up to new ideas. Appreciate their beauty by reflecting upon them.

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The Art of Staring – Part IV

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While living abroad, rarely do we experience the problem I am about to highlight in this article. As soon as I got out of the airport, I could feel it with such intensity  that I wished people who did this had better things to do with their lives. Maybe over time I could have gotten used to it just like Pakistanis living in the country don’t often realize it, but I subconsciously felt it every single time I was in public. Pakistani men can’t help but stare at women without any hesitation or shame – anyone and everyone is their victim in public. Whether you’re wearing an ‘abaya, covering your face with a niqab, or out in plain old shalwaar kameez – you’ll be stared at regardless of what you wear.

Pakistan is a good place to live in but I won’t hesitate to outline the problems that exist within our cultural fabric, especially when they can be eliminated with good focus and an open discussion. Perhaps people who live in that system don’t realize it – I thought to myself – but that’s completely untrue. Family members and cousins narrated experiences they have had with men when they are out in public – from being followed by men upon returning home from college/work to men touching the small of your back in a crowded area assuming that you did not realize the assault. These are just a couple examples of the many stories I listened to.  

If all of these men had something productive to do with their lives, this problem would have diminished by now. The roots of this issue manifest itself in excessive free time and faulty upbringing of boys. If they were rebuked for their actions by their parents every time they eyed a woman as if she’s just a piece of meat, I wouldn’t be penning down this issue right now. If all of us had surrounded ourselves with productive work and recreational activities, we wouldn’t have found time to do a “sit & stare” session. 

The religion we so passionately follow paints quite an opposite portrait of a Muslim who carries himself with dignity and honour. Perhaps if we analysed the Islamic code of public conduct from the lives of our Prophets (peace be upon them) and the great scholars that came after, we would be better off. We need to move beyond gaining knowledge and towards implementation.

Through some discussion with family and friends, another reason was brought into perspective. The cultural fabric of western societies is quite different, in that men and women can be alone together anywhere, have a casual conversation and it won’t be looked down upon. It is a cultural norm, nothing out of ordinary. However, in our society casual relationships between men and women outside of family are restricted and for a good reason. I personally don’t agree with this being the reason why Pakistani men act the way they do because staring at anyone to satisfy your desires is never the solution. Also because present universities in big cities in Pakistan have provided platforms where men and women can interact professionally. Also, this can be purely co-incidental but there’s a huge difference in regards to this problem between cities like Islamabad and Chakwal where people of the latter are more conservative in their lifestyle.

Overcoming the Ego:

In the end, we need to overcome our ego and consider this a problem that predates our society. To become fruitful members of our communities, we need to constantly engage with people who are already higher up on the ladder in improving their surroundings.

Learn to improve. This should be our motto. To join and build organizations and institutions wherever one finds a good niche. To keep doing good work. Anything and everything that helps you become a better as a person and makes your surroundings better is the solution here.

The more occupied our minds are with matters of akhirah and death, the more conscious we will be of our actions in this world. These are just some thoughts on how a society can improve itself and they may seem too broad but they have implications that far supersede the results of the issue aforementioned.  

This piece is a part of my multi-series blogposts on My Impressions of Pakistan. Here’s Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

 

A wholesome experience without the internet – Part III

While I was preparing for my trip to Pakistan, I was thrilled about the idea of having limited access to internet. I had planned how I’d benefit from not being able to pull up my phone every 30 seconds out of boredom. While this is much easier to do on vacations, it can be a bit challenging when you have important job-related work to do. Nonetheless, it turned out to be in my favour.

I’d like to borrow this idea from Scott Young’s piece on ‘What if this were your only chance?’ This is exactly what I did. Given that I will have plenty of opportunities to do whatever I want to do on the internet – I will never again have a similar opportunity where I can freely enjoy a month in Pakistan. After my last year of university and no academic responsibilities in the short-term, this trip couldn’t have come at a better time. I think this is what motivated me to do what I did. I visited lots of places (more than I had hoped for), met lots of different people and overall, engaged with places by just being present in the moment.

Had I been glued to my laptop/phone every few minutes, I would have returned dissatisfied with my trip. Perhaps, I would have blamed other people or the circumstances (e.g. Political events) for not being able to enjoy the trip.

To stay true to myself, I’d say this was the first time in many years that I availed my time to the fullest. Without any regrets. So people, go out there and act as if this were your only chance.

This piece is a part of my multi-series blogposts on My Impressions of Pakistan. Here’s Part 1, Part 2.

The Silence at Nights – Part II

img_20161011_181106I hail from Chakwal but most of my upbringing was done in Islamabad. So, technically Islamabad is my hometown. It is much different from Chakwal – very clean and green. However, dust pollution is common everywhere you go in Pakistan because the climate generally stays dry in fall and winter. A little fact here: The whole time I was in Pakistan it did not rain. The one thing I was dying to experience. Sigh.

Back to my observations – The first couple days I was in Chakwal, I was just like a kid who’s been left on his own in a candy shop. I stared at everything as if it’s the most beautiful sight in the world, I absorbed my surroundings and experienced the moments with an ever-present state of mind. Or maybe it’s just because I didn’t have any internet for two days. Hah!

I had become alive to the extent that I didn’t even experience any jetlag. You may feel it’s an exaggeration, but it isn’t. Or you can just relate it to my exceptional physiology. I adjusted to the Standard Time without any problems. The proof? I was up at the rooftop for the first couple weeks to see the sunrise – bright and early.

And my God, the city is so silent at night. It is scary to some extent. Our western lives are so machine-like, 24/7 kind that we will never be able to experience pure silence of a dark night that you would if you were in a desert. Silence predominates to the extent that you wonder where is all of mankind hiding away. You can hear the dogs howling at night from miles away. This is also the first time in 8 years that I experienced pin-drop silence at night. It’s a melody in and of itself.

It could all just be a result of my personal liking of such environments that I began to appreciate even the silence at nights. But when you sit there under the starry sky, you can just be in awe of the One who created our surroundings so intricately. It makes you steer away from narcissism and climb levels of appreciation and gratitude to the Creator – where it’s all due.

This piece is a part of my multi-series blogposts on My Impressions of Pakistan. Here’s Part 1.

Impressions of Chakwal – Part I

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This wasn’t the first time I visited Chakwal. I have been there many times before but this time around was different – much different.  After all, I was visiting Pakistan after eight years. Viewing the city through an adult perspective had me analyze everything deeply and feel a profound connection with the land – my homeland.

I had spent years wondering if visiting Pakistan after all these years will change my perspective on this country that had a bad reputation in international media. In fact, it did. The moment I stepped out of the airport, I was surprised by this first incident that will forever be etched in my memory. The plane landed safely and on time in Islamabad – what more could I ask for?

All jokes aside, when I entered the public washroom at the airport, I saw this lady in blue uniform just sitting there. This was strange for me because I didn’t expect the caretakers to just be sitting there in the washroom while on duty. I smiled and said salam. She responded back and continued to ask me where I came from? “Are you from Saudi Arabia?” No. “Abu Dhabi?” No. I was surprised by their curiosity so I just asked – “why are you asking?” The woman smiled and said, “no reason in particular. May God keep you happy and may your destiny be a good one”. Again, I was a bit surprised at her willingness to strike a conversation with a stranger and end it with a sweet prayer for me. We ended the conversations with salaams and parted ways.

This was my first impression of Pakistan after 8 years. I fell in love with it again. That lady who had no relationship to me, who did not know me was willing to pray for me. That small act of sincerity won my heart and mind. It was in this moment that I realized that this 13 hour long crappy PIA journey was all worth it. I had become alive after 8 years.

(Picture: Overlooking the city of Kallar Kahar, Chakwal. 2016.)

Museums and old places.

I have always been quite intrigued by museums, history and cool artefact. Reading history books has become a casual spare-time hobby (though, I am slow at finishing them -_-). But it has been growing in me.

I never loathed the grade 7 – 8 Social Studies classes where we were made to memorize dates and numbers that were useless to some extent. Over time, this interest has reached its peak. Living in those times would have been different. I think I’d have loved it. Oh well.

Through the generous support of Aga Khan foundation a few years ago, the Toronto community was blessed with a museum highlighting the rich Islamic history. Being originally from Pakistan, I had only been to cultural museums but never saw something of this level. Something that displays Islamic history.

While the museum itself has 2 full galleries which can be toured in detail in about 4 – 6 hours, they host different cultural and historical events on a regular basis.

From body armour, bowls, plates to wall panels, there were quite a variety of things on display. Every single artifact was so beautifully made that it just baffles the human eye. How could someone put so much effort into making something that is used as a bowl for a drink but is so intricately designed that you wouldn’t even want to drink from it. It will serve very well as a decoration piece in our drawing rooms nowadays, haha.

 

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Armour used during battles with “Shah Sultan Hussain” inscribed in the middle.

While it is a little limited in terms of the number of artefact on display, I think they are onto a good start. With time, they will be able to expand and perhaps, include more cool things that reflect the rich Islamic history.

Through this visit, one idea has been reinforced and drilled deep into me. Whatever the Muslims did back in the days, they did it with such beauty and excellence. Hence, we should strive for excellence and go above and beyond the expectations.

The spiritual aspect of Western medicine

When the decision came in the favor of the 11 year-old whose parents did not want her to undergo chemotherapy, I was slightly confused. This 11 year-old is an indigenous living in Canada who has Acute Myeloid Leukemia which can be easily cured nowadays. However, the family believes that traditional medication can heal her without any suffering that she will otherwise go through in a hospital. At the end of the day, it all boils down to your beliefs and how they dictate your life. Jehovah’s witnesses aren’t allowed to get blood transfusions but when it comes to children, Children’s Aid Services (CAS) makes sure that the transfusion is done because it can be life-threatening. However, in this case the CAS let it go and sided with the family stating that it’s their choice.

I understand that people have different belief systems; some are more overt than others. But something like this should have been stopped by the CAS when it’s clearly life-threatening. According to McMaster Children’s Hospital, the child will heal with time if she undergoes chemotherapy; otherwise, there are no chances of her survival (minus luck). Western medicine focuses more in the physical aspect of health and completely neglects the spiritual health which is an important aspect for many people. But that doesn’t mean that one should be able to neglect a treatment that can potentially be life-saving. It is completely out of my mind. I just hope and pray that the child survives.