Syria’s struggle

Over the past two years civil war in Syria has escalated, but who really suffers? Is it the government or the economy-when isn’t it the women and children who really suffer? The UNICEF study found that more than 110 teachers have been killed; many teachers have stopped reporting to work; some schools that are still open have attendance rates below 10%; in Idlib 50% of the schools have been damaged or destroyed. There is a need to spread this awareness of the injustices present in Syria. How children lose their entire families and become refugees of countries like Jordan that do not support the influx of refugees and these children are nose diving into a very bleak future. This is the time to be compassionate individuals to show empathy and identify with these refugees, it is important to put ourselves in the shoes of these individuals that have lost everything. They don’t have a cent to their name and are being robbed of an education.

The unrest and political instability has lead to more civilians taking matters into their own hands. However, it is in these troubled times when compassionate action can be demonstrated. An example of this is when a group of teachers in the Kurdish area of Kobane arranged accommodation and means of transport for more than 300 secondary and high school students of Kobane to do their exams for secondary and high school graduation in Aleppo city, north Syria. This illustrates how difficult situations bring out the more altruistic side of people. The teachers that organized this put their own lives in jeopardy because of the high security situation in Syria. It demonstrates how good will can go a long way and how we should be grateful for each and every amenity that we take for granted.

It seems as though the rest of the world has turned a deaf ear to the cries of the Syrian people. The girls suffer the most-in a Muslim society when a female has no male protector she is in store for a very tough life. However, like a phoenix rising from the ashes these Syrian women are a force to be reckoned with. Within this conflict lay stories of women negotiating local cease fires in Zabadani and of removing armed actors from schools in Aleppo; women delivering life-saving medical supplies despite the grave risks to themselves and their families; Stories of women in eastern Syria who worked with merchants to stabilize commodity prices so that citizens could remain in their homes; And stories of women in Latakia who convinced armed groups to permit establishment of a local civil society presence focused on peace-building. Making sure these women are heard will be key to ending the violence. They are taking compassionate action with altruistic intentions and making a difference. They are forgiving the people who have rendered them orphaned and are dealing with them in a just manner, trying to bring about a fair compromise and more over, Peace.

We must give these women their due and spread the word.

Bibliography:

http://blogs.state.gov/stories/2014/05/01/syrian-conflict-through-lens-women-and-girls

http://www.rockresearchgroup.org/2013/03/09/syrian-conflict-disrupts-education-of-children/

http://aranews.net/2014/05/syria-students-risking-life-for-education/

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The Compassionate Karachi Movement

When you think of a Compassionate Karachi, what comes to your mind? A city that is alive – not with the sounds of blaring sirens of ambulances, police cars and fire brigades; not with the wailing of mothers for their children lost to mindless bombing of peaceful places; not of wives mourning their dead husbands and destroyed homes and not of fathers ready to slit their wives’ and children’s throats, because they cannot provide for them. It is a Karachi that is alive with sounds of laughter and joy, that is a city of lights in its true meaning, lit up by mutual love and wellbeing of its citizens and patriotism for this soil that we call our own.

Compassionate Karachi is a movement and it is here to stay. The main motive to launch the Compassionate Karachi initiative is to make Karachi a part of the global Compassionate Cities network and be the first Compassionate City in Asia. Our mission is to start with Karachi and expand through Pakistan, making all Pakistani cities Compassionate.

The objective of this compassionate cities movement is to restore the sense of citizenship and ownership among the masses and build them into change bearers for their respective communities. We believe that this will help us in addressing problems like violence, corruption, illiteracy and poverty at a grass root level in Karachi while fostering the much needed spirit of interdependence within the city.

The movement launched in August 2014 with a theatrical event. With the help of NAPA, a play called “I Am Karachi,” was organized to bring about waves of emotion for the need of change within our society and hence provide a platform to launch Compassionate Karachi. Over 30 schools, 25 organizations and 10 universities were invited in a span of 4 days. 3200 citizens attended the event, which was an overwhelming response that only increased our drive to work harder towards transforming Karachi.

To give ownership of the movement to the citizens of Karachi we have initiated our 5 Vision Campaign. In this campaign we ask the citizens of Karachi what they envision a Compassionate Karachi to be. This campaign targets different strata’s of Karachi; the youth, working class, unemployed, retired, and so on. The movement will target 500 schools, 100 organizations, and 40 universities from Karachi. Targeting this many citizens will give us sufficient data for us to create a charter.

Based on the visions shared by all, our advisory board of prominent citizens will draft, “Charter for a Compassionate Karachi. ”The charter will be based on the 5 most popular visions we receive from the 5 Vision Campaign. The charter will be used as the blueprint of a Compassionate Karachi, the visions being the facets of Karachi that need to be improved. With the charter drafted we will commence our One Million Signature campaign – the charter will be unveiled to the public, which will mobilize all stakeholders on a common vision. The citizens will once again be called upon to learn about the charter and to sign off on it, giving their support to the visions. An Oath-Taking Ceremony will then be held in which all civil society and city leaders will be invited to declare Karachi a Compassionate City. This is where the real work starts; implementation of the charter will be through the partnership created throughout the movement. The citizens from various schools, universities, businesses, and associations, along with the government will work together to implement and adopt compassionate actions that will work towards the visions from the charter.

The movement will overall help us spread the word on compassion and engage all the city’s stakeholders to advocating and engaging in compassionate actions.

We call upon you to join hands with us in making Karachi the city we dream of.

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Compassionate Karachi

Have you ever noticed the little flower that grows in the garden behind your house? The little flower that goes unnoticed by so many people, have you noticed it, as it lays its scented petals wide open for the bees to suck the sweet nectar from the sweet nectarines? That’s been part of the beautiful world. That’s being part of humanity. And you know what a synonym for humanity is? It’s compassion.

Have you ever understood the feelings of the newspaper man while delivering the early morning newspaper without which you can’t start your day? Have you seen the way his eyes squint when the bright sun shines on his face? How the slight curve on his face causes him to look up to the sky to thank his God for such a beautiful day? It’s the love that He feels towards his Creator. It’s the compassion he feels for his Lord.

Have you noticed the children playing on the streets, with that one ball that always seems to go to the wrong side of the field? How they share their little treats with the savings that they did for days and have a small celebration of their day’s happy play? You know what sharing is? It’s compassion.

Every day when I drive around in my car, I see millions of examples of people showing love and concern towards each other, that makes me think over this fact that a US magazine ‘Foreign Policy’ has termed Karachi “the most dangerous megacity” in the world.

They surely haven’t seen the other part of the city. Compassion is in our roots. Compassion is in our rusted and infertile soil that lets those money plants grow. It’s in the sky that has a masked colour of pale blue because of the pollution in the city, but yet it lets you have a faint glance of the little stars that are fathomed in our constellations.

Compassion, is that farmer from the northern areas who comes to Karachi every winter to sell sweet potato, because the city pays him well. Compassion for us is the Edhi Foundation who says that it will be give kafan and transport to the same robbers who stole money from them, because they don’t discriminate.

Compassion for us is the mazdoor (laborer) that works in the scorching heat of the sun, digging in the ground, at the construction site, for nothing but a day’s food for his family and enough savings for his daughter’s education. It’s in the contented look on an old man’s face, as his son gives him support while walking on the busy streets of Saddar.

We have compassion in those little things that we ourselves sometimes fail to notice around us. We Karachites breed compassion in every walk of life. It’s that one plate of biryani that a group of three college students share and the distribution of food packets every Ramzan.

It’s not the feeling of compassion that is lacking but our failure to observe these little acts of kindness around us. So today when you step out of your houses, your offices or your schools, look around you; those shimmering skies and the people around you. Look at their faces and try to understand the sentiments behind their actions, and you will find it there, the compassion we all are looking for.

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Bursting bubbles: One Rickshaw Ride at a Time

I close my eyes, trying to mask my worry. A million questions erupt in my head. Should I be doing this? Is this right? Is there a way out?

A way out. Of course there is. But I’m already too deep in the maze to back out.

My friend signals me to go ahead, but my nervous smile says it all.

He rolls his eyes, clears his throat and bellows “RICKSHAW”. The loud voice dissipates amongst the noisy I I Chundrigar road. Nevertheless an obedient dealer comes to the call.

“You ready?” This time the question is not the one in my head.

“No. Let’s go.”

My first ever rickshaw ride. I can only hope Karachi is nice to me.

*************

Living in a bubble has its perks. You can sit comfortably in a furnished air conditioned room, and blog about how wonderful Karachi is. When talking about Karachi, we limit ourselves to a few posh areas of the city, feeding our own insecurities with an elegant image of an expanding metropolis, and side lining the negative details of this decaying Asian Tiger.

But even in this bubble, we are aware. Aware enough of restricting our lifestyles to a few “Phases” and “Khayabans”, and aware enough to maneuver our way out of any horrific situations that can victimize us ad turn into those unknown names mentioned in the daily newspaper. We’re afraid to give the city a chance.

But talking about insecurities isn’t my objective. Ranting has never gotten anyone anywhere.

I had never sat in a rickshaw until about two days ago. Yes, I’m immune to the raised eyebrows and the condescending reactions by now. After my confession to the crime in front of my colleagues, they were adamant to have me take a rickshaw ride, and I was adamant to try my best to decline the offers.

The universe turned out to be on their side when I had to go on a lunch plan one Friday afternoon, and faced a conveyance problem. Naturally, everyone was quick to suggest a rickshaw to accomplish their mission. That was when the stereotypes and scary stories started circulating my brain and voicing themselves out.

A girl. The city of Karachi. A rickshaw ride. The million question marks.

Luckily a friend decided to accompany me (One less question mark). As for the other worries, I was told how the rickshaw’s security arrangements start and end with one jumping out of the doorless vehicle in case of an emergency. Fool proof.

So how was that rickshaw ride? For starters, I didn’t get mugged. I was tightly clutching my purse to my chest, because that always stops robbers from committing the crime.

Alarmingly however, the most preoccupying part of the ride was not my fears about conquering me. I faced different challenges that ranged from the verbal battle that sparked from the driver saying he’ll charge us 500 to an impressive settlement of 150. The settlement was reached after many “Baji’s” and “bhai’s” and “Itnay main done karain”. From I I Chundrigar Road to Boat Basin, my hips hurt because of the hard seat and the incessant bumps that the tiny yet determined vehicle faced along the way.

I learnt many new things that I’m sure I’ll only find in Pakistan. For instance, how a rickshaw ride from one destination to another will cost us the same price as we settle for regardless of whichever route the driver takes. That’s so convenient if one gets lost and needs to try multiple routes to reach the desired place. Or the emergency tool kit that every rickshaw driver keeps next to his seat. Our driver had to use his because our tiny vehicle stopped in the way.

It was that brief, bumpy and enduring rickshaw ride that made me experience a glimpse of Karachi. And contrary to popular belief, this non superficial glimpse actually made me smile. I felt closer to the city than I’ve felt since all the years I’ve been living in it.

What I had done right there was popping a bubble; one out the several more that stop me from exploring the beauty of the city. And these bubbles need to burst. Because Karachi’s beauty- the one that is lost somewhere amidst the skeptical questions- is worth saving.

And so, I’m geared up for another journey, another bump on the road (pun intended). Next on the list: bus ride.

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School Visit – Compassionate Karachi

As part of the team approaching schools for Campaign “Compassionate Karachi”, this is my first visit to a Government School. Actually, this is my first ever visit to a Government school.

The Intelligence Government Girls School, misspelled “intalligence”.

My team and I wait in the principal’s office till they allow us to talk to the children. There is a picture of the Quaid hanging behind the principal’s desk.

We are finally allowed to go into classes and speak to the children about the concept of a Compassionate Karachi.

In classrooms with peeling walls, doors hanging on their hinges, sitting on rickety wooden chairs, the children listen while I speak, about making Karachi a better place. They look at me wide-eyed, and their faces full of hopes and dreams.

I hand them a sheet of paper and ask them to write down their vision of a Compassionate Karachi. I collect them when they are done and read a few out loud and I am amazed by the depth of their thoughts. These children talk about better healthcare, they talk about better education, they want a clean pollution-free environment, they want safe streets to play in, they really want a better Karachi, a compassionate Karachi.

One of the girls asks me, “Ma’am, do you really believe we can make Karachi compassionate?”

I look at her and say, without a second thought, “Why not?”

She smiles at me and repeats “why not?”

Another girl says, “yes, why not?”

And I say, “It is your responsibility and it is my responsibility to make Karachi a compassionate city. You girls are the future of this city and this nation. You play your part and then see the magic happen.”

As long as they believe they can, they will bring about a change.

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Being Human

Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child, as it is to the caterpillar. — Bradley Miller

Why is that so? Why is it not okay for a child to squish the caterpillar to death and then go on with life as normal? Why is it not okay for a child to step on ants knowingly and deliberately? Why is it not okay for a child to relish this?

Because this is exactly the opposite of compassion. It is the opposite of being human.

A child needs to be taught that every life, be it human or animal, is valuable. And if you hurt them, they feel pain. And hurting someone deliberately is not a good thing. A child needs to be taught that she is strong but she also needs to be taught when to use this strength.

Therefore teach your child to be strong but also the times when to use this strength.

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Compassion in Education

Education is the process of learning and is the basic right of every individual. It makes a nation strong, plays an essential role in the progress of a nation and is responsible for its advancement towards success. It is the most important aspect of any nation’s survival today as it builds a nation and determines its future. Islam also tells us about education and its importance.

The education system in Pakistan is divided in three stages: primary, secondary and tertiary. Each of them has a huge impact on the lives of the students and the country.

First we have the primary education system in Pakistan is inspired from the British system which starts from nursery and ends at 8th grade. The curriculum is subject to institution and usually varies in each institution.

Next, we have the secondary system which starts from 9th grade and last for four five years depending on the examining body. It can either be Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education’s (local) Secondary and Higher Secondary School Certificates (SSC and HSC), Cambridge International Examination’s (British) Ordinary and Advanced levels (O-level and A-level) or North American Examination Board’s Advanced Placement depending on the parent’s financial stability.

Similarly, we have the tertiary or university level of education which awards a bachelor’s or master’s degree in your field on interest after completed four or five years of education in that discipline, but everyone is not so lucky as only 6% of Pakistanis(9% males and 3.5% females) are university graduates.

The government of Pakistan is bound by the constitution of Pakistan to provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age group 5 to 16 years. Here is where the main problem lies as we all are familiar with the stories of corruption in the government offices and organizations. Their greed for money and power don’t come off as breaking news to us yet we vote for them but that’s a topic for another time.

Only 2% of the GDP is allotted to the educational budget and even from this amount most is spent on the ghost schools (schools which exist only on paper) or in other words goes in the pockets of the people we “elected” as a result of which the literacy rate of Pakistan is only 60%(including the people who can write only their names). Due to the shortage of quality education the private sector had to step in to provide education to the Pakistani “awaam” (public) because no one will miss such a huge business opportunity.

Private sector schools have the best facilities and education curriculum as most of them follow the British GCE system. Nothing is free in this world applies to these “businesses” as the monthly fee of these schools start from PKR 5,000 which is more than the monthly income of most families in Pakistan. They can’t afford to send their children to these schools neither can they send their children to government schools which exist just on paper. Due to the growing inflation these lanterns are extinguished before being properly lit and sent to earn the basic necessities for their families.

The government schools and colleges that do exist have poor equipment, shortage or poor quality of teachers, outdated curriculum which is being followed since the 80’s, cheating in exams and overcrowded classrooms.

Apart from low educational funds, corruption, poverty, deprivation of quality education and inequality between public and private education sectors the problems our country’s education system is facing are gender and regional disparity.

Schools in Punjab are far more developed and up to date in all aspects compared to the schools in Baluchistan due to different educational boards, allotment of funds, awareness and provincial governments’ reforms to promote education in their respective provinces.

Apart from that, we have the issue of gender disparity which is the major problem in Pakistan. It is too dominant in the poor households of Pakistan due to which only 18% of the women have had 10 or more years of schooling. To this already low number of educated women a nuclear bomb was dropped in the form of Taliban who imposed a complete ban on women’s education in northern areas of Pakistan. 400 schools providing education to more than 40,000 girls were shutdown and 10 schools were blown which did not adhere to the deadline.

The private schools aren’t perfect and have some major flaws unlike the public school system these problems aren’t administrative. Parents enroll their children to popular and expensive private schools for social status so that they can boast about it. Instead of becoming a beacon for enlightenment and providing quality education to turn their students into better human beings schools are more concerned with upgrading their social lives. The difference between these students and the illiterate people is just that they can read and write. Apart from that they even use the same language and lack courteousness, tolerance and compassion.

The education system of Pakistan is almost non-existent and has so many issues but when there is a problem there is always a bunch of solutions to solve it.

First and foremost the education budget should be increased from 2% of the GDP to 7%. Instead of spending almost all of the money on military expenditures we should concentrate on developing the country and boosting the economy through a larger number of educated people. Only increasing the funding won’t lead towards effectiveness, a proper check and balance system must be adopted to prevent the leaking of these funds from the future of Pakistan to the pockets of our “leaders.”

It is ironic that even after 67 years of independence we are controlled by the British, not physically but mentally as we are following their system of education and paying huge amounts of money for that. Instead of developing our own system we welcome CIE to conduct exams in our country and give it more importance than our system. It is a fact that it is far better than our education system but that’s just because of our inability to produce one. We have great thinkers and highly educated people in our country we can utilize their expertise and work out an extraordinary syllabus. Hence, we’ll have a better education system.

Consequently, a uniform curriculum should be maintained throughout the country and the gap between public and private schooling systems should be eliminated. There is discrimination that private school students are more capable and knowledgeable than the public school students which is true due to the lack of resources in public institutions. After the same curriculum and educational system is followed that issue will also be resolved and the both the rich and the poor will have the same standard of education.

After all the above things are done we’ll have an issue of the shortage of trained teachers as there are not much incentives and fringe benefits to attract the educated youth in this sector. This could be fixed by increasing their salaries, teacher training workshops and making it compulsory for all the university students to teach for at least a year or two to get their degrees or graduate.

As for the women, education is not provided to them because of this false Islamic ideology fed into the people due to lack of understanding of religion that women shouldn’t step outside of homes, they aren’t the bread winners and are made to bear children and look after them. To increase the number of educated women more educational institutes should be set up, a campaign to spread awareness among the people for the importance of women’s education should be started and they should be told that Islam treats both men and women equally and orders both of them to get education.

The lingering issue of “educated illiterates” is far more severe than having illiterate people. Schools’ responsibilities are not limited to just teach the syllabus, their main focus should be to make them a better human being. This can be done by training them to be tolerant towards each other, show courtesy, be empathetic, forgiving and compassionate towards their fellows. In order for them to follow these rules the teachers and parents will themselves have to practice them. Here, we can bring in NGO’s like charter for compassion to train the parents, teachers and the students for the betterment of the society.

These are just basic reforms, not rocket science which is too difficult to understand. We are a country with NUCLEAR ARSENAL yet we lack behind from the rest of the world in terms of education. Education in Pakistan just needs to be taken seriously by the government. They should focus on the future, that is to resolve issues by the use of pen and dialogue rather than sword, that’s why military budgets should be decreased and that amount invested in education. More educated Pakistan will be more prosperous Pakistan.

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Politics & Compassion

Since 1947 Pakistan has always been in a state of political turmoil. The last government (PPP) was the only democratic government to complete its tenure and handover the power to the new government (PML-N) “elected” by the people. Although, it was claimed that these elections were the most free and fair elections conducted in Pakistan, there was a controversy mainly due to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s (PTI) claims that the elections were rigged.

Imran Khan and his supporters believed that these elections were rigged and demanded a judicial committee to be set up but the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) ignored their claims and didn’t consider PTI to be a serious threat. In response of being avoided for more than a year Imran Khan called for a march to the capital.

On the other hand, Pakistan Awaami Tehreek’s (PAT) leader Tahir-ul-Qadri was upset with the model town incident in which several PAT workers were killed and injured by the police. He also led a march to the capital to demand a FIR against the corrupt government officials and Chief Minister Punjab – Shahbaz Sharif who ordered these killings.

Similarly, the people who took part in these marches and rallies apart from the party workers were the civilians who were discontented with the PML-N government due to its inability to prevent violence, abuse, social and religious intolerance, power surges and inflation.

Nawaz Sharif ordered roadblocks and containers to be placed on entry routes to prevent the protestors from coming into the “red-zone.” The protestors halted just before the red-zone and carried on with their peaceful demonstrations. Protests were carried out in different parts of the country including Karachi.

PTI was demanding the PM’s resignation and a caretaker government to be set up until the re-elections. There were traffic and security concerns due to the roadblocks and protests in the country but the people who weren’t participating in this political melodrama kept calm as they knew somewhere in their hearts that it’s being done for the betterment of Pakistan.

Imran Khan’s deadlines kept shifting to later dates every day and no consensus with the government or any kind of result achieved which was acceptable to PTI. Even though the government offered to set up a judicial committee to look into the matters of rigging and conduct re-elections carried out once its report confirms the rigging allegation, it was unacceptable to PTI and they wanted Nawaz’s resignation. A diplomatic deadlock was reached.

But all hell broke loose when the protestors armed with wooden clubs tried to force their way into the red-zone and the prime-minister house. The police responded by “attacking” the protestors with batons, rubber bullets and tear gas injuring more than 400 people. The next day Pakistan Television Corporation’s (PTV) office was attacked and taken under siege which forced the military to take action and the building was reclaimed peacefully.

PTI and PAT are still protesting against the government by their sit-ins on the D-Chowk which has caused the country a loss of more than Rs. 1000billion. These politicians continue their fight for the “kursi” while the Pakistani Army is waging an offensive against the Pakistani Taliban militants and many areas of Punjab are destroyed due to floods.

All the major stake holders whether it’s Imran Khan who is afraid of not gathering any seats in 2018 elections once this government completes its term, Tahir-ul-Qadri the Canadian resident who comes once in a while to spread insurgencies in Pakistan or Nawaz Sharif who is glued to his seat and is in love with his position and power lack empathy and compassion for the people of Pakistan except the Leader of MQM Altaf Hussain and his party who are willing to give away their seats just so that this problem is resolved even though he was accused of murder and other offenses by Imran Khan. Even during the protests carried out in Karachi security was provided by the workers of MQM and they prevented mishaps or any kind of problems in these demonstrations.

In my opinion Imran Khan should call off these protests and accept the government’s proposal for the JC to look into the matter of rigging, so that full attention could be given and necessary measures could be taken to help the flood victims and restore their villages to get their lives back on track. Instead of scoring points against one another these parties should refrain from using harsh words against one another, be empathetic to each other, discuss their grievances, listen and resolve their issues with a neutral mediator like MQM, PPP or a council consisting of members from different parties. At this stage our country needs to focus on helping the flood victims and IDPs rather than creating more issues.

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Compassion Beyond Ramzan

Sitting in my dad’s office for an hour or so, bored to death, I plugged in my earplugs and was busy listening to songs when somebody passed a comment as to why was I listening to songs in the month of Ramzan. I stayed quiet and ignored that person. Well this little incident got me wondering that why is it that we leave doing all the inappropriate things for just one month and as soon as the month of Ramzan ends we resume all those things. Isn’t it wrong? At the end of the day, you will reap only what you sow.

Come to think of it, we never get tired of telling others that Ramzan is the month when we’re supposed to work on your spirit of charity, devotion and compassion, but as soon as its over we turn into inflexible fanatics.

So, as the spiritual month of Ramzan arrives, we are reminded of devotion, abstinence and compassion. People around the globe observe fasts, help each other and try to show their best conduct. It’s a month during which we try to come close to Allah, seeking his mercy and forgiveness by offering prayers five times and reciting the Holy Quran. We see people doing compassionate acts throughout this month. Right before iftaar time we see the most horrible road traffic, people rushing to their homes to have iftaar with their family but that is also the time when we see volunteers standing by the roadside throwing in packets of dates and fruits in the vehicles for all those unfortunate people who are unable to reach home on time. They help clear up during the mad rush for iftaari.

Nowadays we are sucked into the materialistic world of selfishness, corruption and greed, so we forget to focus on the deeper meaning. It is easy to be generous for just one month, but we need to strive in order to continue our generosity throughout the year. We celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr, marking the end of the spiritual month of Ramzan, but even though the Islamic month is over its actual purpose should not be advertisement, but a permanent change.

Most of us like to treat the month of Ramzan as a spiritual bubble that serves as a retreat away from the world. But we must keep in mind that whether its Ramzan or not, being in real state of fasting should make us more sensitive to the realities of this world. Therefore it is time that we start questioning our motives, spread compassion and live for a higher purpose and observe each month as if it were Ramzan, understanding that we are more than just vessels to be filled with food and drink.

 

 

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The Irony of History

“History repeats itself.” Sometimes we are observant enough to notice the repetition or too ignorant to realize it. In any case, I am a firm believer of the statement; now I am not aware of the history to know exactly what happened, but something got me thinking.

So I am flipping through channels to kill time, trying to find something decent to watch. I come across a movie I’ve heard a lot about but never got to watch it for various reasons (one being that Aamir Khan dies in the end): Mangal Pandey.

This is how the scene goes: the ‘farrangee’ has had a long day, he is tired from hunting in the heat, screaming at the sepoys for being lazy, riding through villages collecting dues and at the end of the same day, there is a huge ball that he is attending; wearing an uncomfortable formal attire, tending to ladies with a bow, smiling at other farrangees, and occasionally dancing.

A local who works for the farrangees is serving drinks, going around the ballroom to all guests; when suddenly he comes across a lady standing next to our farrangee and somehow trips. Now visualize this: the drinks fall on the lady’s dress, the farrangee is enraged, the local is flabbergasted, the music has stopped and everybody is staring. The poor local with a very apologetic expression grabs a napkin and starts wiping the lady’s dress. Our farrangee goes bollocks, he grabs the culprit’s collar, screaming in rage ‘How dare you’, ‘You lowly piece of nothing’, drags him out to the porch, beats up the poor guy with kicks and punches; then snatches a whip and made ample use of it till our hero Mangal Pandey takes the poor guy away, constantly apologizing on his behalf.

Now if we take a step back and observe, our farrangee had nothing compassionate about him. His actions were aggressive, tone arrogant, attitude egoistic, behavior merciless and apathetic, anxious to take out his anger, a coward to be so cruel with the weak, etc.

Consider this: He could have just accepted the apology or dismissed him from the job, or if he had the courage to be a little compassionate, he could have just helped him clean up and paid attention to the wound that had resulted from the accident. Or maybe he could just let the party continue and ask him to leave the hall.

But he did what he did. And we all know these small spiteful events led to the greatest mutiny that headed towards the all-knowing revolution of the subcontinent.

Coming back to the present. Consider this scenario: You had to skip breakfast because you were getting late for work, the meeting that started at noon gobbled up your lunch break, your boss wasn’t too happy with the outcome of the meeting and took it out on you, by the time you head home, the roads are packed with cars honking and you are stuck in a crisscross traffic jam for an hour.

You are just one signal away from home, you stop at the red light and a street child comes, without your permission starts cleaning your windshield.

What is your reaction?

Go back to reading how I had described the personality of the farrangee, his reaction and the possibilities of his reactions. Are we at the brink of a revolution?

A little humility, empathy, forgiveness, courage even mindfulness can change our everyday and tomorrow.

Farrangee: foreigner

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