Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Begum Nawazish Ali: The Drag Queen of Pakistan?

In the Music/Gender class, we were discussing masculinity this week, and I was able to introduce Begum Nawazish Ali, apparently the most popular Pakistani talk show host who hosts this show called Late Night Show with Begum Nawazish Ali. Begum Nawazish's real name is Ali Saleem, is a male (and man), but enjoys performing femininity by playing the role of Begum Nawazish Ali, a Pakistani middle-aged widow of a colonel. She claims she is just doing it for entertainment, but I think there's much more to it than just entertainment and fun -- and anyone would think this. There are thousands of videos of hers on Youtube, including Interviews and, as of recent, a report of his (Ali Saleem's) imprisonment after he abused his mother.

I prefer to refer to Begum Nawazish in the feminine all throughout this post because I'm interested in her femininity. I refer to her in the masculine only when talking about Ali Saleem, not the character. I avoid referring to her as a dragqueen, which is what her act will be interpreted as in the U.S., because I don't know how dragqueening and dragkinging works in Pakistan--yet. Oh, and at the end of this post, I also share two Youtube videos of hers, one an excerpt from her show and the other an Introduction (teaser, really!) to her appearance on Big Boss, another popular talk show.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Debating Well

(I'm posting this here because it turns out that there's no need for it to be in the top Pages section. If you commented, don't worry - I'm going to copy/paste your comments below in the Comments section. Thanks for understanding!)

I'm not sorry for the length. I believe it was necessary.

Pre-post: This should be helpful most for Pashtuns and Muslims. Why? Because, apparently, one Muslim represents ALL of Islam and ALL Muslims; and just one Pashtun represents everything about Pashtuns! That’s just how life works, especially for minorities (Muslims being a minority in the west, that is).
Before you involve yourself in any discussion, be it religious or political or social or of any other sort, please try to remember that not all those who belong to your religion/race will have the same beliefs as you do. That doesn’t mean you get personal with them or play the role of a judge and decide who’s right and who’s wrong. Also keep in mind that we all need to know how to have discussions before we get into them.Why?
A 9th grade English teacher who wished to make his students fit for healthy and intellectual discussions once said to his shy, uninterested-in-talking class, "I think women lack the intellect of men."
And that got everyone talking. As we talked, he listened to us, would nod at times, and then let another person talks as she/he would raise her/his hand.
Once the discussion was over, he said, "I do not personally believe that women lack the intellect of men; I said that only to push you all to talk, to see if you can support your arguments and views or not. We will do this frequently in this class."

The Purpose of Debates? 
Unlike many people, I do not believe that debating has to always come to "common terms." Why does it have to? Doesn't that mean one side has to submit to the beliefs of the other side, or be convinced by it? If "coming to common terms" means, however, that they agree to disagree while trying hard to understand each other in order to respect and tolerate each other, then good; that's fine. But otherwise, no.

Monday, November 28, 2011

I Miss My Mother.

I terribly miss my mother (no, alhamdulillah, she is alive, but it's just that I'm living about a thousand miles away from her right now). I want to go home right now and hug her tightly and just serve her for the rest of my life. You know how when you're away from your mom or dad or someone else you love too much, you think about all the bad things you've done to them? Yeah, well that's what I'm going through right now. I remember all the worst of worst things I've done in front of my mother. All those times I yelled at her; all those times I expressed my disagreement with her violently and in a loud voice; all those times I pushed her aside when she tried to support me by going to the bus stop with me but I didn't want her to go with me because I was a stupid, selfish teenager who thought she was too good to have her mother by her side, but she stayed there anyway until my bus came and she waved goodbye at me and made sure I was safely on the bus; all those times I denied her something she wanted; all those times I couldn't appreciate her when she took best care of me when I was ill,  ruining her own health by not getting enough sleep just to make sure I'd get my health back.

What was wrong with me? What is wrong with every human who can't appreciate their mother? What the hell makes us think we're too good to take perfect care of the ONLY reason we're alive today? If our mothers hadn't existed, if they hadn't chosen to give birth to us, we wouldn't be here. I don't want to assume (and I don't) that everyone's mother is as wonderful, as amazing, as caring, as beautiful as my one (God preserve her and grant her a long life of good health, happiness, and peace), but I sincerely believe no one has a right to disrespect or otherwise offend or hurt their mother. I don't think it matters how your mother treats you. And, yes, I'm fully aware that there are mothers in this world who abandon their children; I think they're wrong in doing this, but I don't know whether it's still okay for the child, when it grows up, to mistreat its mother. But I'm talking about those mothers who are so good to their children, but their children are so selfish and unworthy of the love their mother gives them. Because I believe in the power of good communication and understanding, I believe our problems with our mothers can be solved if we sit them down and get them to understand whatever it is that we want them to understand. Believe me, I know exactly what it's like to disagree with your mother on virtually every single thing, and I know what the consequences of this may be. But none of that matters even a little bit when you think about how much you owe your mother.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Swati Malala Yusufzai, Child Nominee for an International Peace Award

This girl makes me so proud! I can't wait to meet her one day, ka khairee. Keep it up, guley! Qurban de shama!

She has been nominated for International Peace Award, one of the five children worldwide, and it gives me such pleasure and brings such happiness to me and I'm sure all other Pukhtuns that this girl is from Swat. God preserve her boldness, strength, intelligence, and passion for peace! We love you, Gul Makai!

This video is in Pashto, but I just saw an Urdu version of it as well. Only, that one's not available on Youtube yet. In the video, she expresses her feelings about having been nominated for the award, a friend of hers talks about how happy and proud all her friends are of her, and her father says that she represents all Pukhtun girls, especially in Swat, and that all have the intelligence to be like her, that all are indeed Malalais!

I truly now believe that there's some magic and power to the name "Malalai" because there is (not was; is) the Malalai of Maiwand who fought against the British in the Second Anglo-Afghan War between 1878 and 1880; then we have Malala Kakar who was killed in October 2008 by the Taliban in Afghanistan because she, a police officer,  bravely imprisoned men who beat up or otherwise abused their wives; and then we have another contemporary Malalai, Malalai Joya, an ex-parliamentarian in the Afghan government, dubbed "the woman who will not be silenced," constantly receiving death threats from her own people. 

I am going to name my first daughter Malalai. And her last name will be her maternal last name. For many reasons. Ka khairee.

Now, enjoy the following! And remember: You have a voice, women!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

How I Define the Educated

I've been wanting to write on this ever since the third or fourth week of my Music/gender class, taught by an amazing, generous, and open-minded ethnomusicologist. If you asked me, I still don't know what "open-minded" would be defined as, since I think it can be very relevant at times, but I know what "educated" means now. I know what an educated crowd looks like. I know what what the impact of an educated society would be like. I know what education has the power to do to you and others around you. Of course, I can't explain all of this in just one sentence or one definition--so prepare for another lengthy post of mine, dear readers!

As I may have mentioned in other blog posts, I'm taking three classes. One is the music/gender/sexuality one I mentioned above and that I'm writing the Gender Performance paper for; another's sort of an Intro to feminist/gender studies for graduates; and the last but never least is the Self and the Other one for which I'm writing that Pashtun Identity/Pashtun Nationalism Online paper.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Pamela Geller and the Halal Turkey Issue

Pamela Geller is one of the most ignorant influential speakers out there. It is truly depressing that she's popular and widely-read. It makes me fear the future of America more than the thought that Herman Caine is running for presidency (seriously, who convinced him to run?! What's wrong with you, folks?)  But I'm sure as heck grateful for people like the Keith Olbermann to respond to her ignorance. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Research Methods: Gender, Sexuality in Ethnographic Fieldwork

So! I'd like to share here some questions that I compiled for my Music, Gender, and Sexuality class for tomorrow's discussion. I wish I had the time to share all the other discussions we have in class, but that'll have to wait for another lifetime or something. The texts we're using for this week are cited below (albeit the citation is inconsistent. That's okay - you'll live with it.) Oh, and this week's theme is research methods and gender expression/performativity in ethnographic fieldwork. 

Music, Gender, and Sexuality
November 22nd, 2011
Discussion Questions – Research Methods: Gender, Sexuality in Ethnographic Fieldwork
1.       Warm-up questions/thoughts: current events in Egypt and Pakistan. Recently, 20-year-old Egyptian feminist-activistAliaa al-Mahdy posted fully naked pictures of herself on her blog and incited the anger of not only conservative Muslims across the world but also many liberal and feminist Muslims.
Recently, also, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authorities (PTA) released a list of over one thousand English words and phrases and over 500 Urdu words and phrases that it will no longer permit during Text messaging. For the list of English words, please click here
, and for some news articles on the issue, please click here or here.
The former matter appears to be a response to the suppression of sexuality in the society (for both women and men) and the latter to the expression of sexuality. Discuss.
2.       In “Can there be a Feminist Ethnography?” Lilah Abu-Lughod insists that her essay will not be written in her usual narrative style in which she shares stories and anecdotes from her interactions with Egyptian women. Yet, she shares several such interesting anecdotes and refers to some of them again at the end of her article. Why do you think she does this?
3.       Abu-Lughod points out that to ask the question of whether feminism can make a difference in anthropology provokes “a reconsideration of the problem of ‘objectivity’ since if objectivity is the ideal of anthropological research and writing, then to argue for feminist ethnography would be to argue for a biased, interested, partial, and thus flawed project.” She later adds that “If, as anthropologists, we know what we know through emotionally complicated and communicatively ambiguous social encounters in the field, then certainly objectivity is out of the question and anthropology is not to be likened to science” (10). Yet, anthropology is considered a science. How is science defined, and what makes anthropology one? More importantly, Abu-Lughod writes that “feminist theorists have argued that objectivity within science is both part of a dualism that is gendered and is a mode of power. Some argue it should be abolished, some argue it should be reformed.” To what extent, do you think, is the former statement true, and what is your position on the latter? Moreover, what is the difference between being objective in a science like engineering (or biology) and in a science like anthropology?
4.       What is the (or an?) alternative to feminist ethnography? If a feminist ethnography centers on the lives and experiences of women, what do other forms of ethnography center on? Is the label “feminist ethnography” possibly redundant, when/if feminism by definition or inherently aims to highlight the issues, concerns, and experiences of women and other marginalized groups of people?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

List of Words Pakistan Will Ban in Texting

I'm sure by now a lot of people know that Pakistan's efforts to humiliate itself and its people over and over again won't come to an end any time soon. We kill people who speak the truth, we harass and slaughter non-Sunni people (whether Muslims or non-Muslims) on a daily basis (yes, yes, I know Pakistan is not alone in doing this, but our focus today is on Pakistan, so), we ban music bands that sing songs that show the reality of our government and nation and culture, we forbid the criticism of our inhumane practice of our religion (Islam), we have no electricity and water in many parts of our country even though those parts overflow with rivers,  we don't care that many of our children are being taught in "home schools" because actual schools are unaffordable, we don't give a damn that our bridges in several parts of the country are destroyed and it's been ages and we haven't rebuilt them or made efforts to rebuild them sturdily, we ban Facebook and Youtube and other social (and entertainment) websites because we are too insecure to accept criticism of ourselves AND because we will indeed do anything in our power to suppress our citizens' sexuality, we pass laws that are an insult to the minorities of our country but when those minorities say anything negative about our religion, we have them killed, our leaders can afford to feed bananas to horses while much of the rest of our country suffers from extreme poverty, our leaders enjoy their corrupt selves luxuriously in other countries during times of war, poverty, and enmity among the different ethnic groups of a nation that can't find even one thing to pride itself in -- or one cause to unite for.

And the list never ends! Amidst all this comes the following list of words that Pakistanis will no longer be able to use during text messages. (My, oh my, Pakistanis, what do you guys TALK about in your text messages!) Jokes aside, what a lame, lame effort at diverting its and its people's attention from the real issues the country is facing! Shame on you, Pakistan! Shame on our leaders! Shame on the government!

So, here is the English list of words/phrases Pakistani mobile companies will censor soon. Oh, and kindly note the following words (which have nothing to do with sex or sexuality):  Jesus Christ, Athlete's foot, Devil, Fairy, Hostage, Retard, Harem (LOL! Okay, this might!), and Slave! The "Jesus Christ" one is so, SO sad. I hope people do something about this! What are Christians to do now? They can't express not only their sexuality but also their religiosity? Go to hell, lawmakers!

Friday, November 18, 2011

On MeherJaan - Part 2

So, in my last post on MeherJaan, I provided a summary of the film and promised to write more on it eventually. Here, I hope to continue my rant. Thanks for reading.

The actors' performance:
I found the "actress" Sarah (the daughter of one of the raped victims) to be completely un-talented, lacking all skills of acting and performing. She made the film almost unbearable for me to watch. I wish I could show you a clip of the movie with her in it. She does a horrible job. Most of the rest of the performers are not too bad (Jaya Bachchan, as we all know, acts quite well, and she plays the role of the old Meher Jaan, who's telling the story to Sarah).

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pukhtun Hospitality - Best Thing Ever!

So, as some of y’all know, I spent this last Eid at a Pukhtun friend’s hous. We met on Facebook some years ago, and we’ve been in touch ever since. When I told her I’m moving to this state, she and I were really excited about finally meeting! (You know how you’ve got lots of Internet friends now, and you know that most likely, you won’t ever get to meet a majority of them? The feeling sucks, I know.) Maybe we can talk about Internet Friendships some other time, but for now, lemme talk only on the famous Pukhtun Hospitality, something that Pukhtuns are universally recognized for and something I live every day of my life—and happily so.

So, my friend, whom we’ll call A., had been telling her family I’ll be coming over one of these weekends, so they’d been waiting for me to visit them ever since I moved here (August 20th-ish). I just had to find a friend who lives there and goes home for the weekend so I could accompany them.  That way, I wouldn’t be inconveniencing anyone by asking them to take me. A couple of my friends are from there and go home regularly or visit friends/families there.

My God, when I got there, I can never forget the respect they gave me! It was beautiful!  A’s mother is so sweet and beautiful and kind, and, yet, her extreme generosity and love surprised me! And her dad, too! It was like talking to my own dad. I felt comfortable and happy, as if I was at my own home, you know. A’s mom was really excited and talked about all that she wanted to cook the next day and the day after and where we’ll eat and how it all will be :) I was so happy that I could bring excitement to someone else’s life just by existing.

My Take on "The Kite Runner" - Part I

For my Identity: Self and the Other course, we were asked to think of and discuss something, preferably pertinent to our research interest if not to the course readings we've done so far (all of which have this idea of a Self and an Other, often a Western other, one of which is better and the other not; one's the ideal, one's the reality; etc.). Immediately, I thought of the Kite Runner, one of my favorite novels. I loved the book. I loved the movie, which I watched last night to prepare myself for a discussion on the story. In this post, I won't talk about who the Self and the Other are; I might do that some other time, especially because I've a lot to suggest for Pashtuns as I see their negative response to the book. In particular, we had a discussion on it over a year ago on an online Pashtun community, and the sort of responses received are very interesting--but intellectually empty: No one answered my questions of why they didn't like the book and how Hosseini represents Pashtuns. I won't say the "debate" was a waste of time, since I'm gonna paste my responses to that thread here, but I do think it's silly when people talk about a book they actually haven't read -- and claim they don't want to read it because "It's not worth reading." If it's not worth reading, why are you debating about it, then? How do you have an opinion on it, then? I still cannot forget an epic line from that discussion: "Qrratugai, here, please read this article written by my friend, a Pashtun with a PhD in Chemistry, who is saying how stupid the book was." Or something equally silly. The message I was supposed to get from that "argument" was this: "Qrratugai, you and all of us need to follow the opinion of this guy who has a PhD in Chemistry." I still smile when I think of this. It's such an innocent thought. Since when did people with PhDs gain authority over Qrratugai? Since when did I ever give them the right to think for me, to tell me what's wrong or what's right or what kind of an opinion I should have on a book?

Khair, I'll post here my thoughts. They haven't changed since then -- in fact, renewing my thoughts on the Kite Runner have strengthened those previous opinions I expressed in that "discussion."

Post 1: Question for those who didn't/don't like Hosseini's The Kite Runner: Can you give specific examples of how the author presented Pukhtuns in his book?

Every author writes what she/he *believes* is true, or what makes sense to her/him. Hosseini had his reasons for writing that novel and for giving the view of Pukhtuns that he did. If it was a Pukhtun author writing it, it would obviously have been a different perspective. I don't think it's fair to condemn him for his view at all. The portrayal MAY have been his personal experiences, it MAY have been based on his observations, it MAY have been what others told him -- it was certainly inspired by *something*, whatever it was.

To those Pukhtuns who don't agree with it, I suggest this: Write a novel in which you -- a Pukhtun -- give a better view of Pukhtuns. How many contemporary Pukhtuns have published any novels? How many of us find our representation in other people's novels/books intolerable? And how are we responding to it? How many wars have we witnessed? How much suffering have we lived and tolerated? And how much have we written on it? What have we told the world *about* ourselves? It's not Hosseini or anyone else's responsibility to write good things about Pukhtuns; it's *ours, the ones who ARE Pukhtuns and live Pukhtun lives and know Pukhtuns better than any non-Pukhtun ever might.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

It's Raining Here!!!

You guys!!! Rejoice with me! 'Cause it's raaaaaaaaaaaaining in this stinky old ever-dry, ever-humid state!! First, it stopped raining in my home state for several months - then I go to Pakistan, and God forbid it rain there when I was there :@ Lotsa tease-storms, though. Teaser storms or whatever - you know, like when God just sends these seductive winds and you get ALL happy and excited, thinking it's gonna rain, and then it actually doesn't rain? Yeah, like that. Then I go to Jordan, and, again, God forbid it rain there while innocent me is there. Then I come here, and - you guess it - God forbid it rain ANYWHERE where I am! I sometimes feel like God really enjoys teasing me. It's okay, though, I suppose.

I tell friends that when I grow up, I'm going to live in London, Seattle (Washington, USA), or Malaysia because it rains there alllll the time, almost every day, I hear. (NOTE: These might be stereotypes, eh.) And I mean this. I'm going to live somewhere where it rains a lot, ka khairee inshaAllah.

So, thankfully, it's raining at last! I am so happy!!! Alf alhamdulillah (a thousand times alhamdulillah!)! I love rain so much! The last time I visited home, I tried to book my flight for a weekend when it was supposed to rain, but -- that's right! -- it didn't rain, damnit. Khair, I'm enjoying it now. It's so beautiful, so peaceful, so romantic. I don't even use umbrellas when walking in the rain. This morning, when I was leaving for school, my roommate is like, "Do you have an umbrella? It's gonna rain today." And I brightened up and said, "Ohhh! I'd forgotten it'll be raining today! No! No, I don't have an umbrella, and I don't use one :D." So while in class, we heard thunderstorms, and... omgosh! Everyone was so scared and excited, LOL. I mean, it hasn't seriously rained here for the last several months, so no one knows how to respond to it :p You'd think we've forgotten what it feels like to rain, what we're supposed to wear, what we're supposed to do. But me, I had this huge smile on my face and walked from class to the bus stop, intentionally taking a long route so I could relish in the delight! Ohhh, it's so beautiful! My favorite kinda weather is this, and couple it with threatening skies and ohhh you've given me heaven! I'm sure I look crazy (in a good way, of course. You understand) smiling like that while walking in the pouring rain, but heck if I care. Rain truly makes me happy. My heart feels lighter, my mind's at ease, my soul literally feels purified. It's as if the rain is literally washing my tension, problems, whatever else away, cleansing me of all the dilemmas I always find myself in. It's as if my heart is enclosed by the dirt of these petty issues, and the rain washes away this dirt, literally cleaning my heart. And so, when it rains,  I'm like, "What? What problems? I have no problems. I was born a happy person, and I'm going to die a happy person." And next thing I know, I'm smiling and everyone walking by smiles back, and I feel even more content with life and everything around me. Really, rain is SO beautiful.

k, I have to go to class now. Enjoy the rain if you're being blessed with it as well!

OR! You could read this old poem of mine and see how much more I love the rain!

Videos of Kashmala

Dear everyone! :D

So, per the requests of some, I decided to go ahead and upload Kashmala's videos to Youtube and share them with y'all :D I'm still in the process of uploading them, but I have about three so far that are ready for your viewing.

In one of my favorite ones, she talks about how she said bye to the cat, but the cat didn't say bye back. My favorite part is when she's asked, "So, did you run away from the cat?" And she says, "No, Kashy didn't run away - she just came and sat here." And so, then he says, "hahaa, liar!" And she says, "No, I'm not a liar. Should I go get Mijee [my mom, her grandma]?" (I assume that's because my mom's been teaching her that lying is bad and stuff, so she wanted to tell her that she's been accused of lying, LOL.) This one's the most recent of all the ones I'm showing now. k, here:

And in this one, she sings a couple of lines from the Hindi song "Kaha ho tum (Zara avaaz do hum yaad karte hai)." Watch her laughing her head off at the mention of "bulbul," LOL.

And in this last one, she gets really excited about a school bus (she loves school buses!) and, by the time my nephew (her brother) shows interest in her mention of the school bus, it's apparently gone, and so she says, "School bus laaro - school bus Pakishaan ta laaro" (School bus is gone; it's gone to Pakistan), lol. And listen to her saying, "holaan" (hold on) ... It's so cute!!! Oh, and she also says, "Shake booty" in here ... I came from Jordan to hear her saying this, but fortunately, she's stopped now -- but, 'cause it's embarrassing, I cut that part off.

Anyway, more another day. Feel free to look for updates yourself on the channel.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sre Mangwaley Raghle: A Favorite Pashto song!

Dear people,
I looooove this song! My favorite line is when the female singer says, "Raghlama janana sta ledalo ta me zrra usho, satar nan la taa na maatawalo ta me zrra usho!" (Translation: "Here, Sweetheart, my heart longed to see you, so here I am, breaking traditions of covering my face from you!" ~blush~ (Hey, I never claimed to be a translator, k? But that's the gist of it, yeah.)

Enjoooooooooooooooooooyy!! The music is also very, VERY beautiful!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sta pa Chaman ka pa Gudar Ujaram - a sung poem on the recent predicament of Swat

Sta pa chaman ka pa gudar ujaram ...

The parts of the poem I'm transcribing below name some of the villages in Swat. I'll translate it some other time, ka khairee.

For a better understanding of the poetry and the images (re: Taliban/Pakistani army destroying Swat), please click here.

Sta pa Khwazakhela ka Bandai ujaram,
Sta Gul-e-Bagh ka Baghderai ujaram,
Za pa kabal au Shaderai ujaram,
Ka pa Munja ao Sirsinnai ujaram,
Shakardara ka Kharerrai ujaram,
Za pa Smbat ka pa Wenai ujaram,
Pa Alabad ka Ningwalai ujaram,
Za pa Chuparyal ka Shangotai ujaram
Sta pa Charbagh ka Manglawar ujaram,
Sta pa Chaman ka pa gudar ujaram

Pa khyal che zama Mingawara rashi
Pa tan me zorawara rashi,
Alta sa dasi hadisey wenama,
Che bunyadam tukrre tukrre wenama

k, I'll transcribe the rest another time. It takes time, gosh.

Disclaimer: Some photos may be disturbing for some viewers.

Friday, November 11, 2011

I Saw Him, and I Saw God

Pre-post: The title's currently under construction. Not sure what to title it, but your suggestions are welcome! :)

Good Mourning to You

There’s this longing in my heart that won’t go away
I’m drenched in my tears and pain, in a mourning of you
There’s this pain in my heart that won’t go away
And I’m tearing apart, without you
Once, I was yours, you were mine,
There was lust, there was passion, there was love
You were my God, I was your Goddess
I was the melody, you were my voice
You were the body, I was your soul
I was your moon, you were my glow
And in sweet, eternal nights, we lay in love,
Veiled in waves of passion and of longing
Surrounded by sacred aloneness
And there was peace, peace in my heart
I'd see you, and I'd see God
I was complete in your being
I lived inside you, you lived inside me
Had I known our last kiss would be our last,
I would’ve held on to your lips till the death of eternity
Perhaps eternity has died
Because there’s this longing in my heart that won’t go away
And I’m smothered in a mourning for you

November 10, 2011

... This is volume two of Exodus of the Wretched Souls

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Pictures from Swat: The Waters of Swat

So, this is a continuation of my pictures from Swat, which I promised to share with my viewers a long, long time ago but haven't been able to do it consistently. For the first part of these pictures (which were the houses of Swat), click here.
For some videos of Swat, including ones that capture some rivers/watery areas of Swat, please click here and here (this one is specifically of the Kanju bridge). Otherwise, enjoy the following photos.

Also, some of the pics aren't clear because they're taken from a distance and/or from a moving car. There are several reasons for this, among them: it's difficult for a female to take pictures (imagine taking pictures covered from head to toe, with your face covered as well); and most of the following photos are of rivers and other bodies of water that are currently dangerous due to fallen bridges--and reconstruction is taking forever to be complete, and so there's a ton of traffic on these bridges, which means you can't just get out of your car and walk across the bridge just for photos. Basically, forgive the bad quality of some of the pics!

Oh, and lemme just say that I actually didn't take photos of the rivers in other Swati villages/towns, like Dadahara, Khwazakhela, and Kabal (in Kabal, I didn't get to go out much; in Dadahara, I was with family friends, not with family or friends, so we didn't stop by the rivers to enjoy the cool breeze and scenery; in Khwazakhela, we were only passing by it on our way to and from Baghderai (pictures below) so didn't stop for pics or enjoyment. I do have videos of the Khwazakhela bazaars and some rivers, though, just no pics), or even Madyan/Bahrain/Kalaam! The day we'd planned to go to Madyan, my mother's aunt passed away--God bless her soul--and so we didn't go anywhere for the next three days. Ka khairee, next time I go to Swat, it'll be for a much longer period of time, so I'll go all over ... or maybe this time I'll just relax and actually talk to people, no? I will be sure to let you know whatever I decide then (lol?).

The point is: I hope you enjoy the following - and learn something from them about the valley called Swat, also commonly referred to as Heaven on Earth or the Switzerland of South Asia. I'm gonna go with the Heaven on earth title, 'cause I don't think Swat can be compared to any other part of the world, not in beauty, not in hospitality, not in love, ... not in destruction! And, yes, it's still as beautiful as ever despite the recent war there. May it live forever and forever! Aameen.

Da Hazaare Pul (Hazara Bridge - Hazara is the name of a village in Swat)
About the picture to the left: My maternal aunts had come to our village to welcome us, and when they were going back, I decided to go with them. It was at least 20 of us in one sozakey (an automobile the picture of which I'll show in another blog post soon, ka khairee), and so on our way, hagha sozakey penchar sho! (It got a flat tire, haaaa haaaa!) And it stopped working right in front of this bridge, so we decided to take a walk and I took this picture. It was my first one in Swat - and this was after having been in Swat for a few hours. This bridge is the connection among several villages, of course, and it (the bridge) has suffered so much - first during the Taliban (where an uncle of mine was shot right below it because he was in a car with a lawyer friend; the lawyer friend got killed at that same time), and then during the floods of Summer 2010. It was shaky a year later as well - not, of course, that the government has made any efforts to rebuild it. You'll see pictures of the bridge in Kanju as well, which is even worse, since that river has expanded so much.

A portion of the Kanju Bridge (Swat River)

Portion of the Kanju Bridge (there used to be fields (and buildings, even homes) on both sides of the river. Gone with the floods now.
A portion of the Kanju Bridge
This picture right above is another portion of the Kanju Bridge - aunts and uncles were telling me this is an expansion of the river as a result of the floods (Summer 2010). There used to be a madrasah, an Islamic institution where the Qur'an and hadiths were taught. The madrasah, along with all the hotels and other buildings surrounding this bridge, was destroyed by the floods.

So, this picture to the left is what a long part of the bridge looks like. As you can see, it's made of metal. Click here for a video of it as I rode through it. During evening time, say around 3-6pm, this area becomes deathly dangerous: Strong, ominous winds begin to blow, and there are long lines of cars/automobiles waiting to pass the bridge, as it's the connection between major towns/cities of Swat (e.g., Saidu and Mingawara (Mingora) on one end and Kabal, Bandai, Kotlai, (Mata, too?) etc. on another end). So if you get stuck on this bridge during that time, you have only your God to protect you. I went shopping with my aunt and by the time we returned, it was evening-ish. We were sitting in a rikshaw and it was the scariest moment of my life. I was willing to throw all the clothes and other stuff I had bought as long as I got home safely. The worst part of it was that the river, huge and flowing so fast, was to our left and right, and had our rikshaw blown off (since it's really light, the chances of that happening are very high), there's no doubt we wouldn't have survived. My cousins often narrated stories to me of people falling off the bridge, and there's no one to help pull them back out. Silly me didn't take a picture of the Fizagat area, which is a touristy town near Kanju that many Swatis visit regularly, and another major part of the river flows there as well. The most disturbing thing? There's NO railing there!!!! There was one, but it was washed away by the floods, and a new one still hasn't been built. Also, the river has expanded to the pedestrian area so that the trails are much narrower now than before. Fizagat is also very busy during night time. When I was there, it was night, say around 9pm. And it killed my insides to think that anyone could fall off that trail into the river and die instantly with the extremely fast pace of the river's flow.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Society's Slave No More

 Um. I wrote this poem in 2005, so no judging, kies? The idea is the same. I was going through some old poetry of mine and decided this wasn't too embarrassing and might be worth sharing.

Society's Slave No More

Take your hands off of me and just let me be
Don’t pressure me into feeling what I wish not to feel
Society’s slave I cannot be just for you
As I wish to continue doing the things I normally do
Who I am now I wish to forever remain
You may continue judging me, but it’ll pay off in mere vain
For I enjoy doing what I do, as I enjoy being me
Who I am now is who I’ve always wanted to be
So let the antagonism in you stop flowing
As I let my determination keep growing
Let me keep walking on the path I’ve chosen
As I pay heed to the green gazes of no one
You’ve never let me express to you what I feel
Because, for you, the true person in me is too surreal
Thus, you’ve wanted my feelings to be suppressed
While deep inside, I’ve had the burning desire to confess
That I have started to open my once-blind eyes
And let me tell you what I’ve just realized
I’ll disregard your criticism and continue being myself
Because my heart may burst if I change into someone else
And I refuse to let you keep me in distress
For it’s my real and true being that I wish to attest
So, let me finally open the lid to breathe some fresh air
Even as you continue your vile and odious stare
Because now, you see, I’ve started not to care

~ Me, 2005

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pictures from Jordan - Part I: Um Qais

 For a history and geography of Um Qais, one of Jordan's most historic and cultural cities (heck, I think all of Jordan's cities can be considered historic and intellectual and cultural!), click here. My favorite part of Um Qais is this picture below, not just because of its view but more importantly because of its significance and status.

I'll try to add captions to the rest of the pics later or something. 

This is the spot that exiled Palestinians (1948) living in Jordan come to visit on Fridays and other holidays/holy days to look over their lost homes. In front of me is Israel (the Dome of Rock can be seen from here, though not visible in this photo), to my left is the Golan Heights (the Sea of Galilee can be seen from this spot), and to my right are Syria and Lebanon.

an ancient Roman theater in the city

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