Tuesday, April 29, 2014


http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/21755/forget-polio-pakistan-is-bigger-than-india-and-size-is-all-that-matters/  29 April 2014

Forget polio, Pakistan is ‘BIGGER’ than India and size is all that matters!
Pakistanis, although not polio-free, are happy because of a research which confirms racial stereotypes in the matter of size with regards to a particular part of the anatomy. And in this, Pakistan beats India - which is all that matters. PHOTO: AFP/FILE
A few days ago, a leading British newspaper carried a news story that stated:
“The World Health Organisation certified the south-east Asian region – which includes India but excludes Afghanistan and Pakistan – polio-free after three years without a single new case being reported. The WHO said this meant 80% of the world’s population lived in polio-free regions, an important step towards global eradication of the crippling disease.”
It is a massive coup for the people of India, for the people of those other countries now free of polio and for the world in general, for achieving an 80% eradication of the disease. ‘The world’ includes the people of Pakistan as well but instead of being upset about their stark exclusion from the polio-free list, they actually seem terribly chuffed – for a different reason.
The people of Pakistan, although not polio-free, are happy because of another, older piece of news based on a research conducted by the Ulster University. This research apparently confirms racial stereotypes in the matter of size with regards to a particular part of the anatomy. This difference in size has become a matter of great importance for Pakistanis, even greater than the presence of polio in their country.
In the study, India ranks fourth from the bottom, below Pakistan, and that’s all that counts. Of course, as long as we beat the Indians in such important matters – as we apparently did in a stiff competition – all else remains insignificant.
Richard Lynn, professor emeritus of psychology at Ulster, carried out the research referred to and it has been published in a scientific journal. Subjects from 113 countries were studied and the conclusions, such as they are, were arrived at. Let me point out that the research in question is being strongly criticised everywhere but there are few naysayers in Pakistan.
The mind boggles at the methodology involved in the collection of data for this study at Ulster and the sheer magnitude of the variables that must have been accommodated in the process.
But what the heck – the mind boggles at many things in these parts where, for example, workers administering polio drops to children are regularly shot at and killed. The mind boggles simply trying to encompass the mentality of the people trying to hamper the anti-polio campaign. After all, who would wish to prevent children from contracting polio? What kind of thought processes must such people have, not to mention motives?
If the people, who kill polio workers, indeed consider themselves to be acting on religious grounds, which religion is this that calls for people to lead a disabled existence, in pain and discomfort, unable to function as every human being has a right, a birthright, to do so?
And which religion calls for murder?
But of course, these things are not important to the larger section of the population, particularly that section which takes pronouncements made by the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) seriously. They, after all, must believe that their religion allows underage children to be married and its women to have no say in important marital matters.
So let there be disability, misery and illness; let Pakistan marry off its underage population; let its men take as many wives as they and they alone like, and its women wither away in misery. And let its mothers have no say in matters concerning their children’s health, such as whether or not their children should receive the polio vaccine.
Let’s make sure that Pakistan remains amongst the countries that play host to the polio virus, since God forbid that any Pakistani should be vaccinated by anything that has even an imaginary chance of threatening fertility and related parts of the anatomy, however unconnected the vaccine may be with this threat.
There is only one thing that matters and we say that loud and clear: we must remain ahead of India, by whatever means possible.
It’s very confusing folks; it’s all jumbled together in our minds, just like this blog: anatomy, religion, patriotism, size and fertility, suppression of women, evil polio vaccines, America, and Zionist intrigue.
Long live Pakistan where it’s all okay, even polio, so long as Ulster tells it like it is.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014



April, 2014

Back to the future
Speaking to the Times of India, Kamila Shamsie said that it was not easy to compare the writings of the various writers of Pakistan in terms of style or form, ‘except we’re writing about Pakistan.’ She also said that many of Pakistan’s English-language novelists are looking at history or politics in their work.
Three of Shamsie’s previous books were political. Clearly, Shamsie has a good grasp of history and a knack of weaving it into a story.
Kartography, her third novel was about Karachi and the recent history of Pakistan.  Her fifth book Burnt Shadows was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction and it went from Nagasaki to Delhi to Karachi and back to New York ‘binding elements of history and humanity that are both distant and seemingly unrelated.’ (Huffington Post).
A God in Every Stone, Shamsie’s sixth book is set in the pre-partition sub-continent, in the region that is now in North West of Pakistan, and about its ancient roots. It speaks of empire and the meaning of friendship, love and loss set in Peshawar, near the ancient Casatyrus, where every stone tells a tale.
Viv Spencer, a young Englishwoman, peers out of the window of her train while travelling to Peshawar in the year 1915 and spots a dolphin leaping in and out of the water along the borders of the Indus and Kabul rivers which run parallel to each other in a single body of water.
She muses that the dolphin is like a needle stitching the two rivers together. It is a superb piece of imagery.
Change the water to the passage of time for the theme of this novel, and, like Burnt Shadows, it stitches the past and the present of this region together with the story of Scylax.
Scylax, a Greek explorer and writer, lived around the 5th or 6th century BC. He was sent by the Persian King Darius to follow the course of the Indus in an attempt to discover where it led. Scylax returned almost three years later to report his findings to Darius. What is not fact is that Darius presented Scylax with a silver circlet to mark his honour, a circlet that disappeared in 334 BC, was found and lost again rather like the dolphin that disappears beneath the waves to re-emerge again and again. 
The story weaves through Alexander and the British colonial years to resurface in the 20th century via the First World War. In fact it spills out of the novel and into the present given the immutability of history, thumbing its nose at its manipulation and the destruction of historical artefacts, the stupas, statues of the Buddha, and of the historic site at Shahji ki Dheri now a slum near Peshawar.
Viv had been working at an excavation site in Peshawar. However, when the World War I starts, returns to England to work as a VAD in London. But she soon returns to India, fleetingly meeting a young Pashtun by the name of Qayyum, who is also returning to Peshawar.
Like the dolphin Qayyum stitches together the past and the present. He has served in the British army just as Scylax has served Darius who, like the British after him, went on to conquer India. Numerous Indians were injured and killed in the War against the enemies of the Allies in the First World War. Qayyum himself lost an eye in Ypres before returning home, just as Scylax returned home after charting the Indus. 
Scylax, for all his service of Darius, was not on the side of his emperor when his people, the Carians, rebelled against Darius and the Persians, Scylax sided with the Carians. And Qayyum? He joined the Khudai Khidmatgar Ghaffar Khan’s non-violent Red Shirt movement against British rule realising, ‘if a man is to die defending a field, let the field be his field, the land his land, the people his people.’ Ironically, this inspiration comes when he met Viv Spencer, once again.
Shamsie has explored a new style of writing in this book, one that was also used by James Joyce in Ulysses and by several others, more recently by Frank McCourt in Teacher Man, she has dispensed with quotation marks which is something not everyone will appreciate. I’m not sure I did myself because it made it harder to review the book. Checking to see who said what felt uncannily like searching for the circlet at times.
Surprisingly it turns out that quotation marks were only first used in the 16th century, so perhaps this is all part of Shamsie’s scheme of turning history around and bringing it into the present which for readers today might be rather unsettling, if appropriately evocative.