Friday, October 30, 2009

How can we help re-build our land?

All right, Spogmai Khaaperai. Here.

We need to talk about how we can help our people. Many Pukhtuns are living/studying abroad, and at least a few of us have the means and abilities to help our people.
I'm sure we know better than to depend on the government to help us -- at least not when it has SO enthusiastically killed our people and burnt our homes.

Here's what I think needs to be done (and NOT very easily!). Much of it is about the IDPs, but now that labele can be replaced with "IDPs who have returned home"... yeah?

1. Lots of families have had their houses destroyed. Some of the IDPs are going to go back to Swat/Buner/Dir, but to what? Most likely to fallen roofs and walls, dried wells, broken roads, destroyed fields, and so on.
Question: How can we help them get back on their feet?

2. Lots of our schools have been burnt to ashes.
Questions: How can we help re-build these schools? How can we help school our children in order to avoid another hell from breaking any time soon?

3. Too many families have lost their breadwinners.
Questions: How are they going to live now? Who's going to provide for them? Who's going to look after them? How are they going to deal with their children? Do their children have hope at all?

4. Our children have lost their fathers and mothers in many cases and will most likely be ending up working for themselves and the rest of their families (I'm completely against child labor).
Questions: How can we make sure that our kids don't end up working, as that'll lead to more and more generations of extreme poverty, though keeping in mind what a challenge it'll be to prevent that from happening?

5. All of this is bound to lead to the creation of orphanages :S And we know how children are treated there. I mean, yeah, at least they have SOME place to sleep in, SOME shelter, but ... I'm sure we can do better than let so many of our kids end up in orphanages.
Questions: What can we do to help these kids? Are there more alternatives to providing shelters for these children, or are orphanages the only option? If we accept that they may stay in orphanages, are there still ways we can help them there -- perhaps visit them to read to them, teach them something (maybe even volunteer as teachers for some time?), play with them, etc.?
I know we might think we don't have time ... but really, what DO we have time for if not for the betterment of our own race?

If nothing else, can we help them financially by perhaps forming communities with local Pashtuns (or even non-Pashtuns) and then having a member or two or more of those communities go back to our land and distribute what we've collected?

This whole issue of the IDPs is a humanitarian one, one in which we are forced to depend on the government, NGOs, and donors and other voluntary organizations. BUT I have absolutely NO expectations from or even hope in the government. The government has refused to help better our schools, build or better our roads, and do other absolutely needed things for us (at least in Swat ever since our princely state joined the country), so what will it do now?
Besides, waiting for the government to make some moves is not worth it, honestly. They'll be sure to take their precious time, and, really, WHILE waiting for them to get something done, we can do much on our own without them a well.

But anyway, I think that while we're waiting for others to help us, we should start something on our own. Yeah, it’s not easy, but remember that anything will be appreciated at this point because we HAVE to do something. ANYTHING.

By the way, it's important to keep in mind that whatever we plan doesn't go against the norms of our religion and culture. This is important because we want to be practical and realistic, and we want to implement our ideas in a wise manner. To go against our own people's beliefs will only hinder us from getting everything accomplished AND will produce insecure and bitter thoughts in our people’s minds for us – even though we will mean nothing but good for them.


Now, what I'm most after is just basic education for the kids while we wait and hope for our schools to be re-built (whether by private organizations or by the government). At this moment, I honestly don’t think we should care how the condition of our schools will be. I mean, our children and their parents must have yet to recover from having personally witnessed the burning down of their schools! And these kids don’t have to *wait* for their schools to be re-built so they can start learning again. We can do something for them right now. When I say “we” in this sentence, I mean anyone who is capable of doing so. This has been inspired by all those volunteers who visited the IDP camps and taught our children how to read and write in spite of their painful conditions How honorable!

Education doesn’t have to take place in official schools, definitely not right now in our war-torn land anyway. Nothing would give me more satisfaction and pleasure than having just a few of these children-victims in my own house so that I can teach them for just a couple of hours a day. And this doesn’t require high education – just anyone who can read and write and knows basic arithmetic. It would be informal education, you see. And besides, we’re *all* teacher and we’re *all* students. It would be a perfect start, and as time passes and we are assured that our schools are being re-built, we can move to official schools and professional teachers.


Someone suggested orphanages. I’m all for it since, though the kids will not have as good a life in the orphanage as they will if inside a home and a regular family, they have at least SOME shelter, SOME food, SOME clothing, SOME love, SOME care … SOME home. But I sometimes wonder … if those of us who believe in adoption and are perfectly okay with it and have a longing to raise kids and educate them our way, why don’t we do it? I have absolutely no right to tell people to adopt these kids who have been orphanned by a brutal war due to which they not only lost important family members but perhaps the faculty of hearing/vision – if not some limbs as well. BUT I think that it’s not considered something...I don’t know, “good” to adopt a child?

What is it that we have against adoption? Or am I wrong, because I’m saying this just ‘cause I know of no one from our culture who has adopted a child or two (other than their own relatives)? Perhaps I’m wrong, yes, but ... I would rather those who are okay with adoption and can afford to feed an extra mouth and educate an extra mind in their family, do so … instead of leaving the kid to an orphanage. See, if we were in these kids’ parents’ shoes, what would we think once we find out that our kids have been abandoned? Or even left in an orphanage with scores of other children and not given enough attention that a child should be given?

But I understand that perhaps I am making a silly demand, or even a silly suggestion, by saying that. So I’ll let it go.
At least with orphanages, we can serve more children at one time than we can by adoption.

Importance of helping the IDPs.

We have explain to our people WHY it's important to help these IDPs get back on their feet. Searching for sympathetic and passionate (and, more than anything, sincere and honest) people who can help will be a problem as well. How many such people do we know? :S But we mustn’t lose faith in humanity; they exist, of course, and we’ll find them, one way or another.
At the moment, I think we need people who have worked with/in orphanages or who know people who have connection with orphanages themselves, and I think this should be our main goal for the moment -- getting in touch with folks like these.

Types of people we need.

We also need (honest) people who have the leadership skills to form a group and initiate fund raising activities and collect enough donations (of anything – clothing articles, food, water, money... doesn't matter; we can never have too much of these). Then we need people who have the gut, confidence, and passion to temporarily go back there and distribute these collected items there. This way, we can know for certain that our hard work paid off and that the items were bestowed upon our target.

Then, of course, we will be needing those strong people who can go back and help with the schools and education. Not necessarily “real” (official) schools yet, but just volunteers who can go to the orphanages and teach the kids there. OR even someone who can have enough passion to gather a group of kids at least every now and then, if not daily, and teach them reading and writing and arithmetic and whatever else is necessary for living in today’s world.

Also, people, let's forget what *others* can do for us and/or these IDPs. Let's ask ourselves what *we* can do for them/ourselves first If WE ourselves are incapable, then it makes sense to turn to others or expect something from others, but unless and until we help ourselves, we must not fool ourselves into thinking that others will care for us at all or feel our pain and loss.

Why "discussions" about this are important.
(It's a response to someone who said, "Facebook/etc. are NO means of getting constructive things done. If you wanna do something for Pukhtuns, go to their land and do it."
Well, I strongly disagree.

Of course, just sitting here and having discussions is not as useful as we might want it to be, but the whole point of my bringing this discussion up was to *gather* ideas in the first place. I don't necessarily call for Pukhtuns who are living abroad to go back to Pukhtunkhwa or Afghanistan and save our people. I wnat us to come together here and figure out ways to help our distraught people back home even without having to go back to our land. We don't have to be physically there to help, you know; we can still manage to do a lot even while away from there.

You can be where you are and gather a group of Pukhtuns (or even non-Pukhtuns who believe in serving humanity) to collect donations for us, and then find out some organizations that can help you send it back to our land and distribute it in an honest way to those who need it. Perhaps there's one person who can go there him/herself to watch it being distributed so that he/she can be assured that their hard work paid off and that the donations reached the right people.

Or then, perhaps you are a businessman/woman or know someone who is, or then know someone who has connections with people who own orphanages. Or perhaps, in a near future, you can viist an orphanage yourself, one with tons of Pukhtun children-victims of this brutal war we just witnessed and suffered, and see what you have that you can offer to these potential future leaders of ours.

Or perhaps you might marry one day and decide that you want to help a child or two and adopt one or two and/or properly educate and feed as many as you can afford so that you can rightfully claim that you are giving back to your own race, that you have done something good for humanity, that you have done something the effects of which are going to last till eternity.

These are simple ideas, and my hope and expectation is that others will also contribute their own thoughts and suggestions of what we can do. What we suggest doesn't necessarily have to take place right now or in the present; it's all right if they plan to do something in the future. BUT I'm not very supportive of that idea because I strongly believe (and this has been proven to me) that we can do a LOT even while growing up ourselves and while planning and building our own personal future. Meaning, we don't have to wait till we are teachers, engineers, lawyers, doctors, etc. to do something constructive for those who need us most right now. And what we do doesn't have to be something big; every single effort counts, even if it is buying small games for kids that will encourage them to go to school or help them learn their ABCs and 1, 2, 3s.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Embracing Your Identity

I always knew that the way we carry ourselves reveals volumes about us, our identity, our beliefs, and everyone whom we represent, but it is only recently that I started understanding and believing this wholeheartedly. Everything is about how we present ourselves to our viewers, to our audience – whoever they may be. If we are ashamed of who and what we are, we will shy away from talking about ourselves and hence misrepresent our culture, religion, people, families, and – most importantly – ourselves as individuals. It is outright pitiful for us to portray ourselves as such. Every culture has its faults, but those faults should not become a source of shame for us and create fear in us of admitting who we are, whether to ourselves or to other people. Instead, the faults should encourage us to unite so that we can work on improving ourselves as one entity.

Let me attempt to give some examples. Some years ago, when Aishwarya Rai had just gotten engaged to Abhishek, the world was told that "Bollywoord Star Marries a Tree!" (obviously intended in an insulting manner). At that time, I myself thought, "Wow. How backward! Why would you marry a tree? What’s the point of this?" Even though I knew that their Hindu beliefs are such that if the believer’s astrologer tells her/him that "you should not marry ~such and such person at such and such time~," but the person still wants to, then this person will be cursed. And the only way to remove the curse is for the woman to marry a peepal or banana tree before tying the knot with her husband. (Of course, it’s much deeper than this, and I’m giving you only my understanding of it, which may not be the correct one, but I hope it’s at least close to correct.) Anyway, so I’m saying this here because I wanna say that I’m VERY proud of Aishwarya for doing this, even if her reasons were different than her desire to represent her Hindu identity – even though feminists in India rose against her, saying, "We’re trying to fight for your rights so you can be a free woman, but YOU! Of all the Hindu women in the world, YOU, a ‘forward-thinking’ woman, are doing something this backward, imprisoning yourself by marrying something as ridiculous as a TREE?!" It just shocked everyone that someone as educated as Aishwarya would do something as "backward" as that. No one stopped to think that perhaps she found nothing wrong in the practice, that perhaps it was her way of connecting with her religion and deeply-rooted culture.

Oh geez, so much for being feminists, yeah? Whatever happened to giving the woman the right to choose for herself? If an individual chooses to do something that’s not going to harm anyone else, why should anyone be against it? And why SHOULD we see her marriage to a "tree" as "backward" in the first place? I mean, who are we to decide that it’s backward? And what the hell does it mean to backward in the first place – doing something that the Western world doesn’t approve of? Good God! Must we really have other culture’s permission in order to carry out our own customs?

Now, I said that I’m proud of Aishwarya for having done this. Why, you ask? Well, because she dared to stand up for her beliefs that are not accepted as "modern" or
"progressive" and chose to stick with her tradition. (Sure, some may argue that she’s not the most traditional Indian woman there is, and I understand that, but right now, I’m talking only about this “barbaric” marriage of hers.) She basically uplifted her traditional values and taught the world that “NO one has a right to define the concept of ‘backwardness’ and ‘progression’ for you if you wish to remain true to yourself, your people, and your culture.” Were it something that would place her or someone else in danger, then, yeah, okay, that’d be a problem, and I’d understand why the world would try to raise a hell over it, but that wasn’t the case. Something like Swara (marriage through blood money, sort of), for instance, is something that doesn’t need to be practiced because it involves the forced marriage of an innocent victim.

Another example.
Ghani Khan loved us (:D:D We're SO lucky to have had him!) in spite of our faults. He wrote in The Pathans, “I love them in spite of their murders and cruelty, ignorance and hunger. Because he kills for a principle and cares not who calls it murder. He is a great democrat.” (Oh my God! Ghaneeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!! Come baaaackk!!) (I read this book online, so I don’t know which page number it’s on, but it’s in the Conclusion section.) How can you love something in spite of its fault? Oh but you can! It’s a matter of appreciating your own self first. It’s a matter of publicly representing yourself and your people to the world.
It’s wearing your own traditional outfits and going out in public in them with a smile of pride on your face.
It’s, in case of Muslim women who cover their hair, wearing the hijab and saying with a smile, “This is who I am. I have nothing to be ashamed of, and I love myself this way. I’m comfortable with myself this way. I feel better with my hair covered, and even if I may look ugly to others, at least I look beautiful in the eyes of my God, my Creator.” It's, in case of some Muslim women, covering your face because you *believe* it's your way of feeling closer to God or attaining the highest form of modesty, and as long as you are happy doing it, no one should object to your right to cover up that way.
It’s, in the case of devout Muslims, praying five times a day even when in the company of people who fail to understand why one would prostrate to an Invisible Being, and saying, “My God comes before everything else. Praying is my way of disciplining myself, my way of managing my time, my way of reminding myself that life is ephemeral.”
It’s, in case of devout Christians, going to Church every Sunday and saying, “My God deserves at leas this much attention from me; it is my obligation to make Him see that I have no one else but He to turn to in times of suffering, and this is how I thank Him for being there for and with me during those times.”
It’s, in case of Hindus, waking up every morning to perform pooja, knowing that this practice defines who they are, gives them hope, and adds meaning to their lives.
It's, in case of Jews, not performing certain activities on Saturday because it's the Sabbath Day and certain rules should be adhered to on that day -- it's doing it without a problem, knowing that you have just as much a right to do as your religion command as everyone else does with theirs, whether the rest of the world thinks it's fine or not.
It's, in case of the Amish people, not using certain (or is it all?) technological items because you simply don't believe in it, and telling people, "I can do without it. It's not a problem for me. And I'm perfectly okay with this. You don't have to try to get me to do it your way!"
It’s, in case of females who wish not to show any skin, going to a public swimming pool while fully dressed and not feeling awkward about it.
It’s, in many people’s cases, accepting and appreciating the idea of arranged marriages, knowing that they have more benefits than harms (for the most part, for many people – not for everyone), in 2009 and beyond without feeling as though they must give in to other forms of marriage just because everyone else around them doesn’t accept arranged marriages as the norm anymore.
It’s a matter of letting people know that you have NOTHING to be ashamed of, and you’re going to embrace your identity as it is; it’s about letting the world know that you represent someone, something, and are going to do it proudly and perfectly – that you’re going to be the example that later generations will want to look up to.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Clarion for Pashtuns

This is something I wrote some months ago (in April, I think) in hopes that it'll increase love and sincerity in our hearts so that we will stand up as one and, instead of just complaining about everything that's wrong in our society, start *acting* towards a better future. In it, I define what it means to be educated, as I often come across Pukhtuns who claim to be educated and all they are best at is complaining about how pitiful Pukhtuns are. My response is that, "Well, you say you're educated. How about helping them instead of considering them as the other? How should an educated person deal with her/his own people, who happen to be less fortunate than those who are educated?"
But anyway ... sorry it had to get so long! I swear it wasn't intentional. :S
But then again, when was the last time I wrote something short? LOL. (k, no, that's NOT funny.)

Dear Pukhtano!

The last two years have been among the worst this Pashtun generation has ever faced. We lost thousands, if not more, of Pashtun, and it did not just start last year; it has been happening for quite a while now. We have been slaughtered, bombed, and maimed. Our properties, both public and private, have been destroyed. Our children have been denied the right to education, play, and even fresh and clean air. Our women have been harassed, tortured – both physically and mentally – raped, and butchered. Our progress and development have been blocked, and we are constantly being pushed towards the ages of darkness.

But have any of us been doing anything about it, whether as individuals or as groups? I don’t mean just prayers; I mean real action – which could be in any form. For example, arranging and/or participating in rallies against our genocide; writing to important news sources, online as well as print media, to give us full coverage in their news; arranging and participating in talks about Pashtuns to raise awareness about our sufferings; contacting humanitarian organizations to help us with foods, water, shelters, etc.; and doing whatever else we may have thought was important during our time of anguish. The problem is that many of us stayed healthy and in peace in our houses outside our war-torn land while our mothers became widows and our children became orphans in Pashtun lands, and this continues to happen on a daily basis. There’s nothing wrong with our being healthy ourselves, of course, but something goes wrong when we ignore our oppressed people back home.

Pashtuns have the potential to be geniuses; our great, honorable leaders of the past have proven that to us. We are an intelligent breed, and we can do so much for our own people as well as for the rest of the world if we try, but I am disappointed to see that most of us are not making any effort to help solve the dilemmas that are polluting our Pashtun soil. We abroad are doctors, lawyers, businessmen/businesswomen, professors, teachers, engineers, etc., but what we should be focusing on is: what good has our being so successful abroad done for Pashtuns in Pashtunkhwa and Afghanistan? I have actually started believing that education should not be measured by the amount of years we go to school, but it should instead be measured on how well we can use that education to do something productive for humanity, to bring a positive change in a place where it is severely needed. And as they say, charity begins at home – which, for us, is our Pashtun brothers and sister. If we haven't done anything for our people, I believe that we are worth nothing no matter what our profession is and how successful we may think we are. What is the purpose of education if it is not used to serve those in need? Unfortunately, quite a number of us tend to complain about the status of Pashtuns but are not providing any helpful remedies. We already know what problems we have, but we need solutions and action, not to hear anymore sad complaints from our own Pashtuns.

We all should be asking ourselves how we can make a difference in our lands. If our people are uneducated and poor, what have we done about it? What have we done to better our status nationally and internationally? We study abroad, we work abroad, we live abroad, but what good has any of it done to our people who are stuck in a land seized by the clutches of war?

Let us unite together and recognize our problems, discuss them with other Pashtuns, and figure out ways to bring us back to life. Let us make our language a priority among all the other languages we are living with, including English; let us not give our children the option of speaking either English or Pashto at home but practically forbid the usage of other languages in our homes so that they will learn Pashto. They are guaranteed to learn English – the current international language – as they grow up, anyway, and they can learn other languages on the way as well, but Pashto is our identity, and we must not let it be forgotten. In fact, if I may have the honor to admit so, I believe we should refrain from calling ourselves Pashtuns if we do not know our language.

Let us emphasize education and head on towards various different fields, instead of limiting ourselves to just one or two. We need variety, and having Pashtuns involved in many different professions will be useful in solving the problems that we face in many arenas of life.

Let us heavily focus on educating ourselves, other Pashtuns, and especially our youth about our history, our culture, our heritage, and the importance of all of these. Too many of us are proud of who we are, but do we know why? We need to ask ourselves what makes us a proud race, and if we cannot explain it to ourselves or to someone else, then that is a mighty sad sign that we lack knowledge about our own people. We have a beautiful history, and we should make sure to pass it on to our children so it can be kept alive; so our later generations avoid repeating the mistakes that we are making today or made in the past; so that we can successfully move towards a healthy future for ourselves, knowing that we are carving our footprints in the stones of our present while studying those of our past.

It is time to act and time to wake up. It is time to get united. It is time for us to use all our energy to help our Pashtun brothers and sisters in this time of depression. It is time to provide support in any way possible to our oppressed people in need. It is time to write, to get involved, to donate, to help, to provide support, and to do anything else we can to get ourselves out of our miseries.

May peace and prosperity be upon us all along with the rest of humanity; may we be successful in using our means, knowledge, and time in helping those who need us when they need us. Aameen!

Also accessible here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dear Swat

Ey Zama Hewaada, zama Janata, kala ba de yaadegama!

Like a bird on the wing
In my own lightness and glee
Let me fly to my land of serenity
For, solitary among the throng,
I am smothered,
Smothered in a land of tall buildings
And fine homes and baths
In a land of empty, starless skies
And sights of a tired and frustrated folk,
Hurrying about swarming streets,
Watering the soil of the land of those
Who water the roots of my people’s demise!

Let nostalgia seep into my veins
And take me away, take me home!
Take me to the land of my people
Where my sighs will become clouds of serenity
Where the loud gushes of my rivers
Threaten for justice for my people
Where only my sweet-scented soil
Has the power to rekindle my being

Take me to the popular lush valleys of Swat
To the sights of green fields,
Encircling me in their treasures of emeralds
To those gardens of mint, those gardens of flowers!
Oh! Their liberating scent in the evening air,
In the wake of dusk, at the rooster’s call
To those modest houses with their mud walls!
Where the music of children’s innocence
Empowers the clear skies of the village,
Their laughter clinking in the air
Take me! Take me to those spacious courtyards
With trees of bounties in open yards, open skies
No fogs of suffocation
Take me away

~ Qrratugai
~ 14th October 2009

Related Posts

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...