Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Bali an architectural delight!

Streets littered with symbols of devotion, no locked doors, rustic environment and a place where you neither feel threatened nor have a desire to be aggressive. This is how I would sum Bali in a sentence. It is a beautiful island, and humans have fortunately instead of only exploiting nature, let it grow in harmony. Be it the protected mangroves along busy roads; banyan trees protruding around expensive resort walls; intricately designed, devotional pedestals where old ladies burn incense and offer flowers to their god or a friendly stray dog sitting next to you at the beach.

The spirit of Bali has a lot to do with the cultural richness and indigenous construction language. Bali has retained its traditional essence despite the demon of globalization, which appears in the shape of McDonalds or KFC here and there. Nevertheless, the Balinese have not let globalization be their defining characteristic.

A speaker at the ARCASIA 2012 event quoted, "In 1970, a rule was introduced that if you want to build a hotel in Bali, it should not be taller then the coconut tree." It is such rules and regulations as well as the dedication of the people that makes Bali an architectural delight in its truest sense.

A delegation of 28 Pakistani architecture students from 5 universities participated in Bali ARCASIA 2012, numbering the highest among all visiting countries. Out of 28, eight students of Visual Studies Department, University of Karachi participated in the event, making it the first group of students to represent the department after it was regularized by the KU last month. Other visiting delegates include Bangladesh 15, Phillipines 13, Sri Lanka 10, Malaysia eight, Thailand five and two each from India, Japan, Korea, Nepal, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Laos and Mongolia. A total of 15 countries participated in the Student Jamboree and 18 in the ARCASIA conference for professional architects. Again Pakistan topped the list with the highest number of architects, all members of the Institute of Architects Pakistan (IAP). Chairperson IAP Shahab Ghani

Friday, October 26, 2012

Kill or get killed is not the question

Humans are funny creatures. Specially the supposedly civilized ones. Due to the elections in US and near future, Pakistan, the drone debate has been gaining momentum. Incidentally, Malala's case has also provided an opportunity to legitimize drones and perhaps a military operation. While the politicians might have a totally different interest in such 'for' and 'against' debates, the discussions and dialogues regarding the current socio-political conditions in Af-Pak among the 'privileged gentry' is getting more complicated and heated.

If one wants, the drone debate can be broadly divided among three factions. First being the ones who do not support drones; second, who support drones and dump civilian casualties as 'collateral damage' and the last [hopefully] are the ones who support drones, "because there is no other 'immediate' solution". Key word here is immediate, and if you are not proposing an immediate solution, be prepared for ad hominem questions, "Are you proposing we have a round-table conference with the Taliban? How many Malala's do you want shot or murdered before you support drones?" or... "If not drones, what else? A military operation by the Pakistan Army? Do you know how many casualties that would cause?" Once you respond negatively to these questions, next come hyperbolic statements like, "So you mean there should be no 'action' against the Taliban, and we should let them continue in the same manner." Apparently the only course of 'action' is killing, even if it means civilian deaths, which of course are mere statistics when compared with the 'militant deaths'.

For someone who neither supports the Taliban, nor the War on Terror, there are stark similarities between the 'pro-drone-club' and the 'terrorists'. Both support killing people in the name of their cause. Both are imperialistic in nature. It has become a never ending vicious cycle. The need is not to kill but to reverse the radical mentality on both ends of the spectrum. More than a change of faces, there should be a demand for changing the system. A system that does not lead to oppression resulting in the formation of interest groups - where my children don't have leverage over yours because of their nationality, race, ethnicity, class or religious affiliation. Where human rights activists do not support stealth mode targeted killings, death penalty and wars. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Who is the savage?

Who are savages? And no I am not talking about the Taliban. Let's start with what is the meaning of 'savage'? Here's what Google has to say:

Everyone is a savage. We are getting closer to being 'savages' or the 'savage idea' and the 'vigilante' mentality. Hence for us deaths are mere statistics, collateral damage or just necessary wrongs. We live in a world where people get killed on being 'alleged terrorists'; where 3 million people can be displaced on the basis of a video; and a country could be ravaged with a war, killing and maiming thousands on an 'allegation of owning Weapons of Mass Destruction'.

What really is the difference between the Taliban and the imperialists or the people who send jobs to poorer countries to have greater profits, while their own people survive on social security? How can we justify one act of oppression in the name of profit, and term the other brutal? Basically rendering thousands jobless is as brutal as killing thousands. Difference is that one use the Muslim or Jewish way of slaughtering (slow painful death) and the others slaughter a bit humanely.

End of rant!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Fighting 'Taliban' ideology

Apparently this whole Malala thing has created a schism. If you support her, you have to pick between drones or an operation in North Waziristan, if you don't you are being a conspiracy theorist and a Taliban Apologist or better still an ImmyK supporter. Really, it’s quite annoying! It is as if questioning anything with an element of ‘individual’ human tragedy is equivalent to blasphemy among liberals. I have to be very defensive. So here is my defence. Questioning the incident, does not translate to doubting she was shot, but that there is something dodgy in the whole incident.

Let me spell it out. I am skeptical of the interest our army and media are showing in the whole incident. It is becoming obvious that the Pakistan army with the help of the media is interested in launching an offensive in North Waziristan, and that is why a lot of hype is being created. Malala has become just a weapon for twisting the public opinion in favour of a re-run of ‘Operation Rah-e-Nijat’.

Have we forgotten that since 2005, we have not yet recovered from any of the natural or man-made disasters? Pakistan has not completely recovered from the October 8, 2005 Earthquake which left 70000 dead and displaced 2 million people; April 26, 2009 Operation Black Thunderstorm that displaced another 2 million people; July 2010 flood that displaced 3 million people and this does not include the current year. This year alone as per the National Disaster Management Authority [NDMA] heavy monsoon rains beginning late August have triggered flooding in Pakistan, resulting in 430 deaths, affecting nearly 4.8 million people, and damaging or destroying more than 402,000 houses as of September 28.

While these are the major events from the past few years, we have those ongoing events, namely, Shia, Hazara, Ahmedi, Christian Genocide; desecration of churches, temples; karo-kari; vani, sawara; child molestations in madarsas; target killings of Pakhtun, Urdu speaking, none of which are happening in ‘North Waziristan’ alone. Rather these incidents occur all over Pakistan, from Gilgit-Baltistan to Quetta, Peshawar, Lahore and Karachi.

And here we are with people who are lobbying for yet another man-made disaster to exacerbate the already dilapidated state of Pakistan. One must not at this stage forget the ‘pro-drone’ lobbyists, with whom I beg to differ too. Drones are not a solution either. For this monster there are no quick solutions, and the sooner we accepted that, the better it would be for us. Because once we have realized there are no quick-fix solutions, we can actually get involved in a long term procedure to sort ourselves out.

The Taliban are not the only bogeymen here. It is the mindset - legacy of Mard-e-Momin Ziaul Haq and our imperialist allies in ‘War on Terror’ - that we have to fight. And mindsets cannot be fought with stealth technology, bombs and imposed conflicts.

PS Oh and just for the record. Malala was shot in Swat, where the Pakistan Army already conducted Operation Black Thunder to get rid of the militants. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Petition: Unblock Youtube

With freedom of expression comes responsibility. Governments and states that indulge in censorship not only are going against fundamental civic rights, but also by virtue of their action declaring people (viewers, readers) incapable of being responsible. The banning of youtube because of a badly made film trailer 'Innocence of Muslims' by Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has declared Pakistanis as an irresponsible bunch across the world. A people who have lost their right to decide what to watch and what not to. Along with 'Innocence of Muslims', we have also been deprived of watching old documentaries on religion, science, history, private vlogs by activists from Gaza Strip or revolutionary speeches by religious scholars and politicians.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Ethereal flute

Sometimes music leaves us spellbound and lost in another dimension. Disconnected from the present. These lines just started flowing of their own accord while I was listening to Raga Bhimpalasi by Hariprasad Chaurasia. An Indian classical instrumentalist from Allahabad. 

Shivers run down my spine,
As I sit mesmerized by the music
Emanating from this piece of wood,
Which at some point,
On a given day,
Must have been a part of some tree,
A tree that might have given shade to some school children,
Or may be lovers who were never meant to be!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Be one, not more

Twitter fights,
Silly rights,
Cyber farts and dummy brights,
Open your eyes,
Look around,
World is outside virtual bounds,
Round and round,
In this circular town,
Where there is hunger,
And death roams around,
You talk of stupid Tinseltown,
Wake up,
Some are dead, or dying tonight,
Rest are frightened of the light,
Knock at their doors,
Make them bold,
Bring them out of their moulds,
Make them fight,
Strive for right,
Shoot prejudice,
Clear the divide,
Wipe out the boundaries,
Be merry or contrite,
Bring a change,
Murder vain,
Make it happen,
Till all is ordained!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


Hungry eyes,
Barren soul,
Lost within times untold,
Toiling the earth,
Breaking stones,
Making food for ones who store,
Oh please share,
Not charity, alms or wares,
But what I made for you and I,
The woven cloth,
And gilded book,
A roof of peace,
Hammer and sickle!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Mürvet ya Ali - generous one

Hüseyin & Ali Rıza Albayrak ( Aynur Doğan) - Alemin Nuru

I do not understand Turkish, but this is one of my most favourite Sufi kalam by Şah İsmail Hatayi, or as known in Persian Abū l-Muzaffar bin Haydar as-Safavī. Founder of the Safavid Dynasty. I discovered this poetry by accident while searching for Alevi, Bektashi music. The following version is by Hüseyin & Ali Rıza Albayrak, who you can follow on Facebook.

After several attempts at searching for an English translation and trying Google Translate many times. I decided to try and translate it myself. Using several different Turkish to English dictionaries, as well as, of course Google, I was able to come up with something that might be considered close.

Hasretinden yandı bağrım hiç görür müyüm seni
My yearning to hold you to my bosom,

Umarım Hak divanında yad eyleyesin beni 
Is as great as wanting the Elysian Fields,

Sana cömert gani derler mürvet ey keremkânı 
Your generosity is renowned,

Alemin nuru Muhammed.. Mürvet ya Ali mürvet 
Muhammad’s light of the universe, Ali the generous one,

Sana benzer bulamadım şu cihan-ı vahdette 
There is none as great as you to follow in the whole world,

Göster mah-ı cemalini kalmayayım hasrette 
Reveal to me the beauty and not let the yearning wither away,

İsmini zikreden kullar mahrum kalmaz ahrette 
Name me among your slaves, do not leave me destitute in afterlife

Alemin nuru Muhammed.. Mürvet ya Ali mürvet 
Muhammad’s light of the universe, Ali the generous one!

Bağışla bu günahkarı yüz sürdüm dergâhına 
Bestow forgiveness on me for peace, for I am a sinner,

Ruhum küfr içinde kaldı kalma bu günahıma
Essentially a selfish soul within,

Sığınıp gelmişem ben bu risalet penahına 
You are my only logical refuge,

Alemin nuru Muhammed.. Mürvet ya Ali mürvet
Muhammad’s light of the universe, Ali the generous one!

Hatayi der ki; "Ya Ali dolu günahla tenim"
Hatayi say, "O Ali you are within me",

Alemin nuru Muhammed.. Mürvet ya Ali mürvet 
Muhammad’s light of the universe, Ali the generous one!

By Şah İsmail Hatayi

Monday, October 1, 2012


Turn me to stone,
My heart to ice,
Eyes to glass,
And mind to rock,
For I live in pain.