Self Compassion

Why Karachi Needs Compassion

Karachi is a city. A city is made up of humans. Karachi is human. A human filled with passion, desire, hope, drive and courage. Yet Karachi is in constant chaos. It is slowly seeping into chronic depression. Each sunrise brings with itself a new set of horror stories. Karachi, the city of lights, is now synonymous with danger, extortions, target killings and so on. With each passing day, Karachi suffers deeply. The city is undergoing all this turmoil and; needs to be hugged tightly, not pushed away. Karachi needs compassion.

The Oxford dictionary, describes compassion as a ‘sympathetic feeling and concern for the sufferings and misfortunes of others’. But compassion is so much more. To be compassionate is to be courageous, empathetic, forgiving, humble and filled with gratitude. It is to be patient and loving. It is to understand that everyone is equally important in the grander scheme of things and needs to be treated the same way.

Karachi needs to stop labeling. Karachi is not Shia, Sunni, Pathan, Muhajir, Sindhi, rich, poor and so on. Karachi needs to learn to live with diversity. It needs to accept everyone as humans and not differentiate between who is more pious or who is whiter or who is richer. It needs to recognize all as equal individuals and not have labels divided and arranged in a pyramid with some on top for being better than the rest. Karachi needs to be humble.

Karachi is one city. The difference between this side of the bridge and that side of the bridge should not exist. If in one city there is a Lyari which is a ‘no zone’ and there is Defense which is ‘the zone’ than Karachi needs to reevaluate its humanity. It needs to work hard to make Lyari and Defense the same and that does not happen by just painting Lyari or building a shopping mall in it. It happens by invoking empathy into the people who make Karachi. It happens by making the child and adult from ‘the zone’ understand that no one from the ‘no zone’ is beneath them or less than them in any matter. It happens by making ‘the zone’ join hands with ‘no zone’ and work together to mobilize the ‘no zone’ into ‘the zone’. Karachi needs to be empathetic.

Karachi is stuck in a vicious cycle of violence and revenge. It is stuck in the past where someone was harmed and revenge becomes the word of the day for a week or so, every few months during the year. Tomorrow could be another day for revenge, but it does not have to be. In this cycle of revenge the city will burn and come to a halt. Schools and windows will be shut down, roads and streets will be empty and people will silently huddle around the television waiting to see how much the city will burn this time. Karachi needs to be forgiving.

Karachi is not a city for people anymore. It is a military urban city. Its children are growing up amongst terrorist attacks and target killings. They wonder if school will be on tomorrow; will they reach home safely; will their cell phones work; should they take an alternate safer route. They flip the channel reporting casualties in a blast without batting an eyelash; they have become immune to violence. This needs to be changed. Karachi needs to be more loving.

Karachi with its jam packed roads, its sudden rain, its hot chai (tea) and spicy chaat and its cool evening breeze is bleeding and dying. But there is a chance to save it. The humans of Karachi need to be reminded about compassion. They need to practice it naturally. They need to be grateful and patient. They need to help when they can, however they can, because only then Karachi will survive. And its survival is our survival. After all; Karachi is you. Karachi is me. Karachi is home.

Categories: Compassionate Skills, Courage, Empathy, Forgiveness, Gratitude, Humility, Mindfulness, Self Compassion | Leave a comment

Taking compassion to a new level

While some of us strive to be as compassionate as possible – a kind word here, a helping hand there, perhaps a smile at a stranger passing by – others aim to encourage acts of compassion in others, perhaps through campaigns in schools, discussions in homes, teachings in places of worship. We often find ourselves limited in our reach and the kindness we can bestow. So, to develop an entire compassionate village would be taking compassion to a whole new level and not to mention an extraordinary feat in itself – something Naween Mangi has managed to achieve  through the collaboration of the Ali Hasan Mangi Memorial Trust and the people of Khairo Dero.

Khairo Dero is a village near the city of Larkana in the province of Sindh.  Like many other villages in Pakistan, Khairo Dero lacked the basic facilities which most urbanites take for granted, such as clean drinking water, electricity, basic healthcare, infrastructure and other necessities.

Naween Mangi, a financial journalist, set up a trust – the Ali Hasan Mangi Memorial Trust, a nonprofit organization – in the memory of her late maternal grandfather, Mr. Ali Hasan Mangi, a philanthropist, businessman and politician. She took the initiative of developing and transforming Khairo Dero through compassion; highlighting the principal that lies at the heart of all religions: to treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Keeping in mind this golden rule, Khairo Dero has now become the first compassionate village in the world.

What is most commendable about this effort is the fact that development also targets the mindsets of people. Very strategically, in every phase of progress, the psyche of the villagers has been kept in mind and issues have been addressed accordingly. This is where true compassion lies, as it provides sustainable development in the lives of the villagers.

The first phase of development focused on providing clean drinking water, which was nearly 80 to 100 feet below ground. To tackle this situation, hand pumps were installed in 150 households, followed by a water purification unit. The villagers were asked to provide food and shelter for the workers who came to install the hand pumps. This way the villagers learnt that they would have to put in some effort in order to get what they want, rather than expecting free gifts or favors; they were taught to be self sufficient.

The next phase focused on sanitation. The Orangi pilot project helped design a wastewater treatment unit to handle sewage. As waste used to be collected in a pond, it would flood into people’s homes when it rained. Now, the water is purified by the villagers and, due to its fertile nature, used for irrigation and farming.

Khairo Dero Photos

The Citizens Foundation (TCF) is running the primary school, which was set up (funded) by Ali Hasan Mangi Memorial Trust (AHMMT). One government school is run by AHMMT through an adoption program. These schools have been managed with the right teachers and the right structure. For higher education, funds are provided to interested students. Moreover, an adult literacy program has been introduced that initially only attracted women, but has now managed to grab the attention of men as well.

Khairo Dero does not yet have sufficient hospitals, but volunteers in the village take patients to nearby cities for treatment. Serious patients are taken to Karachi for treatment.

Khairo Dero is a work in progress. Despite the work already carried out and the compassion that villagers show towards each other, there is still room for improvement, especially in the mindsets and behaviours of the villagers. Recently, a small park was built to tackle the issue of lack of compassion in the children of the village. As children are the building blocks society, it was decided that compassion should be taught in schools and the local community centre. One of the initiatives includes a journal maintained by the coordinator at the community center. There are sessions where children relate their acts that are recorded.

Naween Mangi deserves great credit for setting up the Ali Hasan Mangi Memorial Trust, and taking this initiative of creating a model village based on compassion for the people of Khairo Dero. She believes in improving the lives of people as a whole. While NGOs usually provide certain facilities in different impoverished areas, they tend to neglect the other deeper issues. In Khairo Dero, however, Naween plans on tackling the deeper issues of the village and their root causes as well, ultimately making the villagers self-reliant, content and, ultimately, compassionate.

Khairo Dero Photos 2

Naween often talks about feeling overjoyed when she saw a grown man holding a pencil for the first time in his life and drawing a line. She also quoted a lady in the village who was really satisfied with her progress in life and believed that she had reached great heights of success which couldn’t be compared to the greatest of rulers of our times.

Real compassion lies in practicing compassion as well as encouraging others to act compassionately and making a mark on the world; much akin to a tree which benefits all those who seek its shade or wish to enjoy its fruits. Naween’s act of compassion has not only changed her life, but has also managed to involve countless others to show compassion in painting a whole village with the colours of compassion.

Categories: Altruism, Compassionate Skills, Courage, Gratitude, Humility, Mindfulness, Self Compassion | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

Compassion – as Farhat sees it

Farhat Rasheed is one of the most inspiring individuals I have come across. The confidence, compassion and courage she embodies and exhibits are remarkable; her passion for the betterment of society is truly commendable.  Her positive attitude and drive is what sets her apart from the masses. She is making ripples all over Karachi, aiming to bring about a wave of change in the mindsets of Pakistani society. Representing all the qualities that define compassion, Farhat is our compassionate personality for this month.

*Beep beep* went the metal detector when my colleague and I entered the Unilever office, located inside one of Karachi’s most prestigious hotels. We told the receptionist the purpose of our visit and within a minute we were shown to a quaint little conference room.

Farhat, Assistant Brand Manager soon wheeled in with a welcoming smile. Farhat has Cerebral Palsy by birth. As we started talking, she explained Cerebral Palsy children can be mentally and physically challenged. In Farhat’s case, however, it has affected only her movement and it is managed through regular physiotherapy.

Farhat Collage 1


Though she has been through much, she is kind and gracious; grateful for the support of her family, friends and all the people who have encouraged her. Farhat studied at the Centre of Advanced Studies (The C.A.S School) until she completed her O-Levels. She fondly recalled the teachers and classmates who helped her through her studies. She told us how the school had been accommodating enough to schedule her classes in one classroom, located on the ground floor, for four years due to her condition. When she required extra time in class and academic help, her teachers had been very understanding and facilitating.

For her A-Levels, Farhat had wanted to go to the prestigious schools like Lyceum, Karachi Grammar School (KGS), but because of lack of accessibilities in such high profile institutions, she was not able to find her place.  She courageously tried school after school until she finally got admission into Foundation Public School, where she finished her high school studies very comfortably.

Two years later, applying for university, she again found herself faced a new set of challenges. She applied to Karachi’s finest business school, the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), where, once again due to lack of facilities for the wheelchair access, she could not attend. Unwavering, she applied to the Institute of Business Management (IoBM) which had ramps and lifts in every building, where she learned much more than just academics. Farhat gained even more confidence; the shy little girl became talkative and learned to fend for herself. She equipped herself with the skills to face life’s challenges and fight her battles. Once again, through her compassionate nature, hard work, dedication and passion for life, she won the hearts of her peers and teachers, who ended up supporting her and guiding her wholeheartedly through her university years. During her studies, Farhat managed to earn herself a place on the highly-coveted internship program at Unilever’s where she eventually landed herself a job after graduation.

Through her experiences and achievements, Farhat has always remained humble, carrying herself with humility, dignity and grace. Farhat understands that she has been one of the few lucky ones in our society: she has been given the right kind of exposure; her affluent background allowed her to attend some of the best institutes; and not to forget her family’s constant support and encouragement for all her personal projects and initiatives. Farhat’s experiences have transformed her into the epitome of compassion: she now personifies traits of courage, empathy, humility, gratitude and a passion to make the world a better place.

In a society like Pakistan Farhat has had to fight hard for the basic rights of people with disabilities. She has a full time job, does physiotherapy every day, leaving her with barely enough time for herself. And yet, she still manages to fight for causes, raise awareness and help others.

Farhat practices what is termed as ‘altruism’: the practice of selfless concern for the well-being of others. She does so by counseling people with disabilities and anyone who comes to her for guidance. She is a person so compassionate that anyone can discuss their troubles and concerns with her.

Farhat also manages an oragnisation called Show-You-Care (SYC). SYC is an organized society of young people working towards addressing the concerns of physically challenged people. SYC aims to impress upon the concerned authorities the need to provide proper accessibilities for the wheelchair bound people in public places, such as ramps and elevators. Through (SYC) she hopes to change the mindsets and attitudes of Pakistanis towards special people, especially since our society still has a very conservative attitude towards people with disabilities. She believes special people are not “Disabled” but rather “Differently Able”.  SYC has also made contributions twice to the flood victims in Pakistan (more information about SYC can be found on her website:

Farhat Collage 2

Recently, Farhat applied pressure on a number of restaurants, shops and malls to install ramps so as to make public places more accessible to special people. She was succesful in making ramps at: Pizza Hut (Mohammad Ali Society Branch), Shoe Planet, Chen One, the new Naheed Store, Gazebo, Hardees, Café 76 and Pond’s Skin Care Centre and Tony & Guy Salon at Dolmen Mall.

Farhat’s is a woman on a mission and her fight has not been easy; she requires all the support she can get. She is truly a brave individual with a desire to make a difference in her community. We support her and wish her best of luck in her struggles for this noble cause.

Categories: Altruism, Compassionate Skills, Courage, Gratitude, Self Compassion | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

A Journey to Self-Compassion

It was a warm, sunny morning the day Sarah woke up to her phone blinking, beeping and vibrating incessantly. She had just received a text message from a dear friend, Aqsa, saying:

“Missing you and thinking of you this morning- sending a little love your way.”

Sarah suddenly felt overwhelmed. That short, thoughtful message stirred a myriad of unexpected emotions in her. It seemed as if Aqsa had known, almost telepathically, that Sarah had stayed up all night listening to her mother cry herself to sleep the night before. Aqsa was like a sister and she understood her dire need for the love and support of friends and family, for she was one of the few who had accompanied Sarah through her painful journey battling with acute lung cancer.

Lying in bed, Sarah stared up at the ceiling thinking over the past few years of her life. She was only fifteen when she had been diagnosed. Her treatments had cost her parents most of their savings. They were not only financially depleted, but also physically, emotionally and now spiritually. After a roller-coaster of highs and lows, nearly three years later, Sarah’s condition was now taking a dip towards the worse.

The buzzing of her phone pulled her out of her thoughts. Aqsa was calling now. But she just did not feel like answering. “Let her call,” Sarah thought to herself. After all, what would she say if she answered? Sarah knew that Aqsa was only trying to help her face another day, but to accept her help would be to admit that she was helpless. She had stopped going to school. She felt guilty for the pain she was causing her parents. She was no longer in touch with most of her friends. Although Aqsa never showed it, talking to her would feel like burdening her with the problems of person who is suffering – always suffering, and only suffering. Sarah was indeed suffering, but she wanted to suffer alone.

Sarah had once again let herself get dragged down into what Aqsa called ‘the dark abyss of self-loathing’. Sarah knew the symptoms well enough by now: self-criticism over something she could not help; the desire to be alone; the inability to forgive herself; anger and frustration; and the most awful – the contemplation of hundreds of what-if scenarios.  After letting the phone ring for several minutes, Sarah eventually replied with a text: “I want to be alone.”Aqsa would understand.

That finally stopped the infernal buzzing and vibrating. She decided she would apologize later.

Looking through her window, she realized she now felt guilty for having tried to avoid Aqsa for the past few days. She tried to push the feeling to the back of her mind. But it seemed to keep nagging at her until she decided it was time she just dealt with it. Closing her eyes, the sun warm on her face, she decided she would not fight her emotions any longer. She will let herself feel everything her heart and mind wanted her to feel: anxiety, anger, depression, helplessness, love. She would just let it all wash over her. She recalled an exercise Aqsa had once taught her – an exercise on, in Aqsa’s words, self-compassion’; but Sarah had never taken it too seriously. Now would be the time to practice it.

Sarah pulled out her diary from under her pillow and wrote down these emotions. With each one she made a note of why she was feeling this way: “guilty because she had been rude to her friends; angry because she was the cause of her family’s pain; scared because what if she never got better; depressed because she was missing out on the experiences of normal kids her age…” Her list went on and on.

As Sarah wrote, she felt hatred for herself: surely there were others in far worse situations than her. Although the words she told herself were cruel, part of the exercise was to write these down; to face them. This was her inner voice and it was harsh. As she scribbled, she realized she had started to cry. She had not cried in months. Her bottled up emotions were starting to pour, but she continued.

It seemed like hours had passed. The next step was to deal with each emotion and internal conflict in a way that Aqsa would. Aqsa called this step ‘What would Aqsa say [to help Sarah feel better]?” This voice – the voice of reason, the gentler, calmer, softer voice – is the one that Aqsa had told Sarah time and time again to adopt for herself. This voice was sympathetic and kind, it helped find solutions, it helped Sarah feel better. The first thing it told Sarah: “Forgive yourself. This is not your fault. Make the most of your time here. Seek forgiveness. You’ll be okay.”


Sarah filled page after page, frantically writing and writing. She wondered why she had never done this before. Compassion towards oneself is vital, she realized  She knew Aqsa practiced this often; she had seen Aqsa’s diaries and often caught her in quiet contemplation. No wonder Aqsa always seemed to be at peace; she had found a way of dealing with her negative emotions so she could radiate such compassion and positivity towards others, especially Sarah.

Sarah wondered if with time and practice she would ever be able to make peace and deal with her troubles like Aqsa did with her own.  Whether or not she had time, she decided that this would be the voice she would listen to. She had once been much like Aqsa, years ago, before her diagnosis: kind, thoughtful and compassionate. She had to go back to that for whatever time she had left. She decided she wanted to be remembered for the good heart she possessed, the good deeds she could still do, the kind words she could say to others like her; and not her illness, her suffering, or her helplessness. And she would start by being less angry, resentful and bitter towards herself and more compassionate towards herself and others around her.


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