Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Remind Me Again

Remind me again, my friends,
What it means to be happy
For I’ve lost my buds of joy and bliss
I’m becoming numb to my pain
And I live to find solace in my own oppression
Among the oppressed,
Among the dead

Remind me again, my friends,
What it means to be blessed
For I’ve lost my everything and more
My people are being plucked from their land
My elders have been slaughtered
My children orphaned
My mothers widowed
And I live to collect the limbs of my people
Among the cursed,
Among the dead

Remind me again, my friends,
What it means to be a citizen
For I’ve lost my home
And I’ve been forsaken,
Ensnared in the shackles of injustice,
My land has been denied to me
And I live to console my people
Among the wronged,
Among the dead

Remind me again, my friends,
How it feels to laugh
For the demoralizing silence of my people’s screams
Has muted me, deafened me,
I am being pushed into the abyss of nonexistence
And I live to hear a song from my people
Among the crazed,
Among the dead

Remind me again, my friends,
What it means to live
For I walk spiritless
In the ashes of each blast aimed at my people
I follow the shadow of death,
Yearning to survive,
And I live to swallow the rage of malice
Among the annihilated,
Among the dead

~ Qrratugai
~ Dec. 27th 2009

Monday, December 28, 2009

Are “Islam” and “the West” Mutually Exclusive?

** Pre-post: A very informal post, but I had to let it out desperately. Bear with me just this once, folks.**

Islam and the West? Why not Islam and Christianity or the East and the West?

It seems as though we Muslims use "Islam" and "the West" in a way that indicates that the two are opposites, as if both are religions or then both are localities. This becomes most apparent in the discourse of women’s treatment. We say things like, “In Islam, a woman is respected and honored, but in the west, she is disrespected and oppressed.” Why “in ISLAM ..., but in the WEST...”? Is there anything about the treatment of women in the west that has anything to do with the perpetrators’ religion? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. So then why?

And then when non-Muslims (or even Muslims) pick on Muslims for mistreating their women, we get all defensive and stuff and say, “No, no, no! That has nothing to do with Islam! Islam is actually COMPLETELY against that! That’s CULTURE.” But why can’t we say the same about the west, that the way they treat their women, however good or bad it may be compared to the way our women are treated, has nothing to do with their religion but is all culture instead?

No religion in the world promotes or even supports the exploitation of women, so when we constantly emphasize that ISLAM doesn’t, it’s like … Well, yeah, it’s not supposed to anyway; no religion does. It’s always the way that religions are interpreted and taught, manipulated by the stronger to oppress the weaker – be that a gender or a group of people - that exploitations are accepted and tolerated.

I know that there are so many differences between the East and the West, but that doesn’t mean we allow ourselves to indirectly claim that what happens in the West is a product of religious beliefs versus what happens in the east isn’t (i.e., again: “it’s not religion’s fault; it’s culture!”). I must also add that when we say, "In Islam," we're talking about how things are in theory, but when we say, "in the West," we're talking about things in practice. Should we really compare the two? Besides, women in the West AND the East are oppressed *equally* but in different ways (I VERY strongly believe this but will elaborate on it in another post). Further, in the West, their (mis)treatment is not associated with their religion at all whereas it's very much associated with Islam in the East.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Asparagus

Imagine that you’re a guest at a dinner party at someone’s home.

Everything is going swimmingly until your host, looking at your plate, notices that you’ve left the asparagus untouched.

“You didn’t eat your asparagus," he remarks. “What’s wrong with asparagus?”

“I’m sure it’s lovely,” you reply. “I just don’t care for any.”

“What? You’re turning down asparagus? Have you ever even TRIED asparagus?” he asks, a little agitated. “Don’t you know that asparagus is the crowning glory of the vegetable world? How can you say you ‘don’t care for any’ – anyone with any discernment would love asparagus! Maybe you just haven’t had it cooked the right way. Try it now. I don't believe you've ever given it a chance, or tasted it the right way.”

You turn to your neighbors at the table and try to steer the topic onto something less controversial than vegetables and their relative merit. But your host won’t let it go.

“I’m serving asparagus because it’s the very BEST vegetable, and I love it, and you ought to love it too! You have no idea how much better your life would be if you loved asparagus!” He says, becoming more agitated. “There’s something wrong with you if you don’t love asparagus. You ought to be humbly thankful that I’m sharing it with you!”

“I’m sorry this upsets you so much," you reply, “but in all truth, asparagus makes me break out in hives…I’m not trying to malign your cooking, I’m sure that for people who don’t have this kind of reaction to asparagus, yours is terrific…but as I said, I get hives from it."

There is a muted gasp from everyone at the dinner table, and then an uneasy silence.

The woman across the table leans over and says, “I have no idea why you’re being so hateful. All he’s trying to do is to share vegetable goodness and truth with you. You need to read The James Beard Cookbook. In the chapter on vegetables, it says ‘Asparagus lovers…devote hours and days to gorging on this delightful green stalk’…and also ‘Indeed there are few food treats to equal fresh asparagus’ and it speaks about the proper relationship between humans and asparagus, too: ‘They even make whole meals of it.' Do you think that it would say that if asparagus weren’t the most wholesome, wonderful, RIGHT vegetable? WHY won’t you accept this gift, this truth?”

“Wait a minute," you exclaim. “I HAVE that cookbook, and I’ve read it many times, and that’s not exactly what it says. You left out the part that…’

“WHICH edition of the Book have you read?” your host demands.

“Ummm… the 1967 printing, I think,” you respond.

There are heads shaking all around the table. You neighbor to the left says, “Well, that explains it. You’re reading the wrong version of the Book – you really need to read the original, the 1959 first edition.” And your host nods his head sagely. "You have to read the right edition, AND you have to be filled with the spirit of Julia Child to guide you in your reading," he adds.

“No, never mind....what difference does the edition make?” you ask, puzzled. “And I don't need any help in reading - I'm literate. Anyway, the fact remains that asparagus gives me hives. I have to go to the doctor and get shots if I eat it, so why are you trying to push it on me? Do you WANT me to get hives?”

Your host gives you a pitying look. “Your hives," he pronounces, “are just a fear reaction to the truth, or a symptom of your wrongful desire to not give up false vegetables. We understand. We were once like you, eating artichokes and carrots and beets and eggplant. We know the lure of those false vegetables. But you have to understand that while they may SEEM to taste good or be good for you, they are not the right way. Only asparagus has the components of a good life. And what you now perceive as tasting good is really ashes in your mouth, and those false vegetables are the path to ill-health.”

“That’s it!” you exclaim, standing up and throwing your napkin on your plate. “Listen, I know it's difficult for you to understand this, but asparagus is NOT right for EVERYONE. Don't you listen at all? I get actual hives from that stuff, I have physical proof of it, and it’s NOT a ‘fear reaction’ or anything like that. I’m not going to eat it, and I don’t want to hear any more about it! And guess what? I eat those other vegetables all the time, and I don't get hives from THEM. As for your quotes...there are OTHER cookbooks in the world, and they are just as valid as James Beards’ book, and some of us even cook WITHOUT a book! And we do darned well without a book! So from now on, don’t invite me to your little asparagus-praise-fests!”

Mouths hang agape. A shocked silence descends.

As you head to the door, you can hear your host exclaiming to his other guests, “How sad! But we must pity that poor soul, not have contempt. There are lost ones in the world who do not know the joy and fulfillment of asparagus; they are not at fault, they just have something wrong with their taste buds….let’s beseech the Great Asparagus to change their hearts and bring them to The Way and save them from the horrible life they will have without it."

The next week, you get a call from a different acquaintance, who is inviting you to a dinner party.

“Forgive me for asking," you say nervously, “but you’re not serving asparagus, are you?

~ Author unknown

Friday, December 18, 2009

My Niiiiiiiiiiiiiiece!

This post won’t be anything like my previous ones, but bear with me. The last thing I will tolerate at this moment is seriousness.

Kha, so, everyone knows I’m visiting my sister, who has a son and a daughter. Let’s call the son “Khaaperay” and the daughter “Khaaperai” :D I TELL you, those names match them perfectly.
k, so, everyone also knows Khaaperay is the smartest, most intelligentest child on earth (mashAllah, mashAllah, tf tf charta nazara na shee) and that Khaaperai is going to be the next one AND is already showing herself to be a strong-headed gorgeous thing :D Wait, I have proof for this.



Doesn’t she look like she’s gonna rule the world? LOL. I mean, just look at her, world! :D

You know, I was the first person on earth she saw the moment she entered the world. Well, a few moments later. I introduced myself to her, told her who she was, talked to her of all the interesting things of this vicious yet fascinating world, taught her about feminism (JUST Kidding! :D haha, gotcha!), and so on.
And so, since I was the first person who held her in my arms and talked to her and whose eyes met mine first thing right then and there, she TOTALLY remembered me when I came to her house last week. When I was in the car, she was sleeping. For a few minutes, she remained sleeping and I was trying my tooo best to wake her up until finally she woke up … and noticed me and looked away and then blinked and then looked back my way :D :D AND guess what! She stared at me the whooooooooole time we were driving back home. I tell you, the girl was trying to figure out who I was ;) And she looked SO adorable and beautiful thinking!! She had her left thumb in her mouth and was looking at me with the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen of a child (mashallah, mashallah, nazara na shee, tf tf tf.). And when we reached a bridge with a top/ceiling (? Someone, please tell me what it’s called) over it and the sun would be hidden, she would widen her eyes to be able to see me! It was sooooooo CUUUUUUUTE, folks! From the way she was looking at me and from the way she made sure she was able to see me even in the “dark,” I concluded that she’s gonna grow up to be one hell of a determined woman, ka khairee :D And, wait, I have proof her determination too. Look at this, kha.



She wakes up in the morning, talking really loudly in a playful manner. She sings so cutely it’s impossible to ignore her. So I get up and lie next to her and then she becomes in a more playful manner and wants to keep me awake so we can play. Mind you, she wakes up at 7am. And, mind you, but I HATE waking up early (I always make sure that my earliest class isn’t before 10am. Well, I try.) And then she takes a nap for a few minutes throughout the day and thinks that the WHOLE world, including sweet innocent me, revolves around HER :S Oooh, speaking of which … some months ago, one of my sisters (not her mom) was telling her, “Khaaperai tror, stop being so cute and demanding, all right? We love you to death, but we can’t be here with you 24’7. Remember, this world doesn’t revolve around you, kha huo!” And my nephew said, “YES! This world doesn’t revolved around YOU – it revolves around ME, the ‘SUN’!” ;) hahahahaha. See?

Khaaperay saab wasn’t worth any less when he was her age. I remember we used to beg him to stop talking because, GOD, he’d talk SO much! (Akhir, khwaraye da chaa dey!) And the more my dad would tell him, “Yara, ta dessi dere khabare key. Bass ka, mara,” the more he’d continue his stories :p

Ahhh.

And I LOVE painting her nails. When she was one week old, I painted them red. Here, I have proof.




Yesterday, I painted them kinda pink-brownish (I don't know what color it is, but it looks good, I swear). Haven't taken any pics of that.

As for my own kids, yeah, if the world leaves them to Qrratugai alone, they’re SO gonna be in the wrong hands. And so!! Our beloved Spogmai – God bless her infinitely – is going to take care of them for me :) And, of course, Khaaperai, when she grows up, is also gonna do it! I mean, I mustn’t let her get away with her ruining my precious sleep, you see! AND, let’s not forget Azad Khel brother! :D I’ll drop them over at his place and have him take care of them ;) … ok, ok, that was a joke, Azad Khela, lol.

k, for NOW, I'm done about the two most preciousest things in my life right now :)

Here's a couple more pics.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Expectations from Children Raised Outside of Their Native Culture

Some time ago, this awesome Pashtun lady friend of mine reported to me that my nephew (six years old then) had called her by her real name. My response: a loud gasp followed by a scolding for my sweet innocent nephew darling followed by sincere apologies to the Aunty.

That didn’t teach my nephew anything.

So the Aunty and I talked about it, and we realized that when our children are being raised outside our areas, we *expect* them to uphold the same values that we were *taught* to uphold when we were growing up. There’s a difference. Back home, parents don’t have to work as hard on their children because practically everyone around them believes the same way; society works together to raise the children of all the families, so the parents aren’t burdened entirely. But when these parents come to the west, or migrate to some other society where their cultures and religions begin to clash, should they have the same expectations of their children that they would if the children were being raised in their motherland?

Pukhtuns living abroad don’t have it easy, especially when they’re born and raised here. There will inevitably come those phases of loss, of insecurity, of identity crisis. Our parents punish us when we do something wrong that we didn’t know was wrong because they never told us that it’s wrong. This is a big mistake on the parents’ side – whether Pashtuns or not – because what’s right or wrong, what’s appropriate or inappropriate (particularly in light of our religion or culture) is nothing “obvious”; it’s something we learn from people around us based on the way they practice or promote/reject what is considered appropriate or inappropriate by them.

Did anyone ever tell my nephew that he’s not supposed to call elders, or anyone older than him by four years, by their real name? No. Has there been a need? Not really. Why? Because he’s not being raised around many Pukhtuns. He knows that he can’t call his parents, grandparents, and teachers by their real names, but he doesn’t know why. No one has told him the why, and no one seems to think he should be taught why. It’s as if it’s “common sense” that all people should KNOW not to call elders by their real names. Yeah, okay, it *becomes* common sense when we’re being raised in a society where everyone shares almost the exact same values and no one's necessarily directly taught how to behave and believe (as it's mostly based on observations and the sort of education we receive both inside and outside our homes), but how can we expect it to be common sense for those who are being raised in other cultures? As I said, I think even when we’re raised inside our culture, we’re not told the *why* to most things. We just know we’re supposed to behave a certain way often without understanding the significance of it. I’m against this no-explanations-provided part of our culture (and religion… that is, when religion is taught to us by those who themselves don’t know what the answers to the questions starting with “why” are) because I don’t think one can really appreciate and wholeheartedly cherish something – in our case, Pukhtunwali and Islam – if one does not understand it. And why should anyone have to go through various troubling phases to finally understand and then appreciate Pukhtunwali and/or Islam?

So this is just a note to those who are parents outside their native culture and expect their children to behave in a way that they’d be expected back home. Teach them. Help them understand. Try to understand them as well. Try not to punish or blame them when they don’t understand because I swear it’s not easy accepting something that’d make sense in one culture but makes absolutely none in another, and you fall in between, hence being a representative of neither. It's almost like standing between two cities, with one of your feet on the side of one city and the other foot on the other city, with a large gap -- say, a river -- between the two. See? The pressure and pain (the gap) is such that you can literally drown in it.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Childhood Memoires – Part 2

Continued from Childhood Memoirs - Part I

~ There was a pond close to our house, and it had several plants, including trees, in and around it. During Autumn time, it’d be filled with all sorts of leaves, but in Spring time, it’d be all green, so green you couldn’t tell it’s a pond; it looked JUST like a “chaman,” all green and stuff. One day, my relatives were over from another village, and I took some of my cousins to the pond… and the scenery was breathtaking. The whoooooooole pond looked like it was all sheen kabal and you could sit and relax in it. So I told a cousin of mine to jump in it :D:D:D And, mind you, the pond was deep too :O He must have jumped in it because I remember laughing my head off. hah.

(Seriously, that was just cruel. I think they should have a sign there that says “Jawarey uba! Daa kabal na dey; da lobo da para na dey. Mehrabani wakai ao laree te osai!” or something like that.)

~ ALLLLLL the kanzal (profane words/phrases) I know today, I learned from a group of boys who used to play tikaan/marbles near my aunt’s house in this area we called kandar.

~ This one is REALLY bad, and I feel horrible about it today and have repented numerous times and have even repaid the family, but the guilt won't go away: You see, I hated the poor children in my neighborhood because my mother would sometimes take my most favorite clothes and shoes and other stuff and give them to the kids! I’d cry and beg for them to remain mine, and mom would say, “Daa maa manalee dee. Wass ye za da Khwdey na sanga wapas rawakhlam, lewanai.” And I’d cry for hours and hours and hours… and take my anger out on the children who’d then wear those clothes!! One of the girls, I used to pinch her like hell. Like this one time, she was trying to close the door to this house, and I was standing behind the door and as I saw her hand on it while the door was closing, I held her hand and pinched it soooooo hard. She started crying but silently so that no one heard. Her mom had climbed the wall of her house and was seeing me do this. She said, “Zrra de khwashala sho?”

I showed absolutely NO remorse at that time :S (And, Gosh! That family loved me so much. When that woman got a daughter, she said to me, “I was going to name her after you but then I thought your family might mind.” I was about 10 years old, and I thought, “But why would they mind it? It’s not like I’m the only person with this name, or that this name belongs only to me.”
And I still don’t know why some people should take it as an offense if someone’s named after them. Why is it considered a bad thing? . . .)

hah.
 

~ Umm… I hate doing khatmuna and stuff for anyone for any reason! :S On Fridays, the first 30 minutes of our Quran class would be spent doing khatmuna because some family would always send a request to our teacher to make us do khatam on their behalf! So our teacher would use us for it (I was the littlest and youngest student in this group of girls, whose ages ranged from maybe 15 to maybe 35; we were the “advanced” group learning translation, not recitation, of the Quran. And so we were supposed to be able to handle khatmuna pretty much every Friday while the other students didn't have to.). So!!! You know what I’d do?! To resist it, I’d either go like rrrrrrreally late, or then once I’d reach there and start the khatam, I’d cheat soo much… Oh man, how I cheated! I’d pretend to be reading it, but in reality, I’d just be moving my lips really fast and turning pages every now and then and rocking my body back and forth. God. It was totally normal.

Whaaaaaaat!! I was a KID! NO ONE should torture little children with so much burden as having them finish a whole sipaara of the Quran in one setting! Or reading Surah Yaseen ten times in one setting – not when they’re like seven or eight years old, kha huo! So unfair. I actually used to feel really bad cheating, and I’d worry that if the person’s wish didn’t come true, it must be my fault. So to compensate for it, I’d cry to God to fulfill the purpose of the khatam even though I’d cheated on it because I don’t wanna go to hell for it (Oh! The pressures they put on sweet innocent children! May they be forgiven for it!)

I now wonder if anyone else did/does the same! I’m SO never asking anyone to do khatmuna for me. Never. Please, let me ask my God myself what I need from Him.

~ My other favoritest memory: When this ghwaai/bull took my younger sister in its khkaraan/horns and lifted her into the sky and dropped her to the ground. :D I think she hit an apple tree, though something tells me she was stuck in the tree until my grandpa rescued her. But I’m not sure.
So, yeah :D That was fun :D (But at that time, my mom wasn’t present, so I was really, REALLY sad for my sister and even cried with her for her pain. But now … yeah, we laugh about it :D)

~ My Quran teacher had a niece named … Mumlikat? Malkiyat? One of these. (‘s been ten years since I last heard or used these names. My God.) I think it was Malkiyat. Anyway, so she was my friend. Now, I hated and still hate fighting people, but sometimes … people just compel you, you see!! This Malkiyat girl and I started a fight while in the (Quran) class one day, and since I had a rrrrreally good reputation there, I couldn’t ruin it by fighting with the teacher’s niece, kana. So I told her to let’s continue it once class is over at such and such place (the place I told her was, um, far from her house, of course, so that her aunt would never come to know about it, lol). Daaaaamn, man, I tell you! When we had that fight, it was good. I pulled her hair SO hard some strands literally came off, and I punched her eye so hard she cried. And when she started crying, I ran away and went home. The next day, Thursday, we didn’t have class, so on Friday, I was scared to death, thinking that she must have told her family and all and I’ll be punished for it. No one seemed to have known about it :D

P.S. I still do this to people who fight with me. Just a little warning. ;) Men’s/boys’ short hair makes it all the more not only fun but painful as well!

Ahhhh!! Such sweetness from childhood! There are many more, of course, but I should stop here, no? :) There were bad ones, too, though ~cries loudly~ Like that time when my 1st and 2nd grades teacher had me and this classmate of mine (my opponent) slap each other while he just sat there and enjoyed it :S I have no bloody idea why he bloody had us do such a bloody thing like that!! He apparently got pleasure from it! It wasn’t rare that he’d force us to slap each other for hours until we’d start crying and just fall to the floor, begging him to let us stop! When we’d cry, he’d say, “What?!? hahahahha! You’re scared of each other! Such cowards you are!” When we’d stop, he’d say, “Do you want ME to hit you? No, I’m sure you don’t because you know I won’t spare you. Then don’t stop.” When we’d take a break, he’d say, “HURRY! HURRY! Shaabase! No taking breaks, you chickens!” And so we’d continue until we just couldn’t anymore, changing hands every now and then!

This teacher’s name was Asadullah, and I THINK he was from Sirsinrai! Someone, please make him suffer for what he did!!! :@ Or then I hope he was BUTCHERED by the Taliban!!!! Unless he sincerely regretted what he did and spent his life begging God to forgive him for it!!!

The classmate’s name was/is Ayaz Ahmad, and he was/is from Dadahara. One brilliant guy he was. His father and I were SUCH good friends! :D He adored me for no apparent reason. Once took me, my sister, and my brother along with Ayaz and his siblings and cousins to the riverside, near their house (Dadahara has so much water, nazara na shee), and we had this awesome picnic there. We swam and fished and ate and talked and enjoyed – until it was time for my Quran class. The teacher used to take money from you if you ever missed a day, and so I didn’t wanna miss any!

Maaaaaaaaaayyyynnn....!!

~ Ohhh wait! :D Lemme add how this one time ... :D:D:D I fell off this swing :O (I LOOOOOOOOOOOOVE swinging.) My father had, um, tied(?) it. I don't know the English word for it, but in Pukhto, it'd be "taal zaangawal," I think. And it was there for several years until it fell off at last! Then after that, we sisters and cousins would try to "tie" it to the ceiling ourselves, and it was never as stable as it oriignally had been. One day, I was swinging on it, and my sisters were pushing me. I was going SO high that I could see my cousins and aunts faaaaaar below my house. We were on the second floor, and they were far away and on the first floor. And my cousins had all come out to see me swinging so high and I was being all brave and stuff and was waving at them. And then ... BOOM!! I fell!!!!! After a few seconds when they didn't see me anymore, they all ran to my house and said, "DID SHE FALL? DID SHE FALL???" hahahahha ... and I was hiding in the room, lol. I swear I got lucky, man, because I tell you, I could've so easily fallen down to the first floor and broken every bone in my body. But I didn't -- da khwdey loy shukar dey!

Childhood Memoires – Part 1

I started writing my childhood memories, and they got so many I figured I should submit them in two parts :O

I grew up in a village in Swat. A famous village the name of which is now all over Youtube because, thanks to our recent/current war, it has been one of the most-affected ones. It now lies in utter annihilation. Khwdey de ubakhee …
When my mother visited Swat a few months ago, she was telling me how much it has changed, and I don’t and won’t believe it until I see it all for myself. I dream of going to Swat – or any Pashtun region, really – and I imagine that the moment I reach there, I’ll get out of the car and literally kiss my soil. I will prostrate there and open my arms to God and shout my thanks to Him for reuniting me with my land. I tell you, I will not care if people watch with open mouths or laugh at me; I won’t mind if my family/relative who will be with me mock me and feel embarrassed by what I’ll be doing. It’s a dream … and I will make sure it happens whether anyone likes it or not, ka khairee.

As you all know, I’ve been longing for Swat these past few months – rather, since the end of 2007. What is keeping me from visiting/going, you ask? Well, nothing, to be honest. I have absolutely no excuse not to go . . . :S I guess maybe the fear that seeing Swat this destroyed will kill me. I guess I’d rather enjoy remembering everything the way they were ten years ago than to go there and be haunted for the rest of my life…

Khair, lemme share some precious childhood memories here.
~ My most favoritest one: How my friends/cousins and I would pick up chewed gums from the ground and eat them like it was nothing. No one ever stopped us – yeah, we never did it in front elders because we knew they’d beat the hell out of us. hah.

~ In the morning, when my sister and I would be walking to school, we’d come across a lot of butcher shops, you see. They’d have these butchered animals lying on the floor, in different positions, waiting to be chopped into pieces and then sold. One morning, this one cow was lying on her back and her tummy was huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge. Sama parrsedalee wa and stuff, like a humongous bubble. So I thought it’d be absolutely COOL if I just stepped on it to make all the fluids inside it pop out :S I lifted my leg and came THIS close to bursting that bubble ... I was only showing my sister how I’d do it, and then I saw this teacher of mine who was standing there (he had been my teacher some year before that time), watching me and was about to burst into laughter and then I was tooooo embarrassed to do it! So I didn’t… and we continued walking to school in the usual boring way, nothing exciting other than wishing I’d be able to pop the tummy of the next cow I see. Never happened.
hah.

~ I loved, loved, LOVED Wednesdays because I didn’t have sabaq (Quran classes) on Thursdays. One Wednesday, I’d just gotten out of the house of the lady who taught us Quran and was running home. It was just a few minutes before evening prayer, and I was crossing the Mosque. Now, I wasn’t just running but shouting really loudly as well (hey, it was my way of celebrating no-class the next day, all right?) :S This rrrrrreally, REALLY old man, who had just … umm… I shouldn’t say, but basically he was getting ready for prayer. He saw and heard me, and apparently, I musta scared him half to death or something because he cursed me so bad ~cries bitterly~ He said, “ITA KHWDEY DE RRANDA KA!!!” :S And I started crying because I hadn’t done anything to deserve his such evil khairey! Those khairey stuck with me for years because I used to cry that one day, I’ll go blind because an old man wished it so, and old people’s prayers/wishes/requests come true, I was taught (I don’t anymore believe that khairey come true! No one deserves them, k! I was hardly maybe seven years old, and he wished such evil upon an innocent, harmless little girl who hadn’t done anything to him!! HOW CRUEL!!! ~cries harder~)

~ My aunt (tandaar) sews. Often, she’d ask me to buy her nache/threads, and often, I’d return with them. There would come times, though, when I’d just … go to the bazaar and buy me a rupai-waal cake with the money she’d given me for a nacha! (WHAAAAAAAAT! Those cakes were SO GOOD! Do they still exist? I remember how much I longed for them allllllll the time. Each time I won a rupai, that’s all I got me :D) I’d come back home hours later and avoid my aunt for as long as I could, until when she’d ask me herself where her nacha is and I’d say, “What nacha?” I’m not sure how I ever got away with lying, lol.
hah.

~ There was a cemetery right next to my house. In it was a huge olive tree, large enough to have several children climb it and stay in it for a long time and tell stories and jokes and stuff. My cousin and I would climb it and spit on people below us :O We ruled the neighborhood; no one could ever hurt us, lol.

~ There used to be this crazy and weird man in our village; we used to pass his house on our way to school and the chawk. We’d stop by his house, and his door had this big creek in it, enough for us to see what the house looked like, what weird things he had inside it, which trees he had, etc. EVERYTHING was ALWAYS in the EXACT same position; never did he seem to change things around, to change the location of his shoes – which were ALWAYS placed right next to the door on this platform-like area near the door – his beds/katuna (those beds you put in the veranda/courtyard), or anything else. And his door was always locked. He was known to be a crazy man, and we told each other and everyone else that “Never open your mouth when he’s around because he might count your teeth. When he counts your teeth, you’re going to die. Everyone knows this.” So poor man, when he would be near us, we’d press our lips tightly together and stare at him, as if to challenge, “hahhahahaha! You can’t count my teeth now!” But, really, he WOULD stop there in front of us and, without uttering a word, he’d point to our teeth and open his mouth, showing his own teeth, indirectly asking us to show ours as well! So that’s why we were scared, you see!

This same man would visit the cemetery each Sunday at 9:00. He’d sit by this small grave that was right beneath the olive tree and pray. Then he’d leave a few rupees on the grave and get up to swing on this big branch of the olive tree for a while. All us kids would be watching him from a distance, and once he’d leave and be out of sight, we’d all rush to the grave to get the money he’d left :O

Up Next: Childhood Memoirs - Part II

Saturday, November 21, 2009

"Would You Permit Me?"

I think this poem is a perfectly perfect representation of what Islam has come to mean, especially today and especially with the type of people who are accepted and authorized as our leaders and scholars.
It is written by Nizar Qabbani, a Syrian poet who died in 1998. His other poetry can be found at this link. God bless humanity as long as we have men like him existing and doing what they believe is a productive means for the liberation of every silenced heart, mind, and tongue.

In a country where thinkers are assassinated,
And writers are considered infidels
And books are burnt,
in societies that refuse the other,
and force silence on mouths and thoughts forbidden,
and to question is a sin,
I must beg your pardon, would you permit me?

Would you permit me to bring up my children as I want,
and not to [let you] dictate on me your whims and orders?

Would you permit me to teach my children
that the religion is first to God,
and not for religious leaders or scholars or people?

Would you permit me to teach my little one
that religion is about good manners,
good behaviour, good conduct, honesty and truthfulness,
before I teach her with which foot to enter the bathroom
or with which hand she should eat?

Would you permit me to teach my daughter
That God is about love, and she can dialogue with Him
And ask Him anything she wants,
Far away from the teachings of anyone?

Would you permit me not to mention the torture of the grave
to my children, who do not know about death yet?

Would you permit me to teach my daughter
The tenets of the religion and its culture and manners,
Before I force on her the ‘Hijab’?

Would you permit me to tell my young son that hurting people
And degrading them because of their nationality, colour or religion
Is considered a big sin by God?

Would you permit me to tell my daughter that
Revising her homework and paying attention to her learning
Is considered by God as more useful and important
Than learning by heart Ayahs from the Quran
Without knowing their meaning?

Would you permit me to teach my son
That following the footsteps of the Honourable Prophet
Begins with his honesty, loyalty and truthfulness,
Before his beard or how short his thobe (long shirt/dress) is?

Would you permit me to tell my daughter
That her Christian friend is not an infidel,
And ask her not to cry fearing her friend will go to Hell?

Would you permit me to argue
That God did not authorize anyone on earth after the Prophet
To speak in His name nor did He vest any powers in anyone
To issue ‘deeds of forgiveness’ to people?

Would you permit me to say
That God has forbidden killing the human spirit
And who kills wrongly a human being is as if he killed all of humankind,
And no Muslim has the right to frighten another Muslim?

Would you permit me to teach my children
That God is greater, more just, and more merciful
Than all the (religious) scholars on earth combined?
And that His standards are different
From the standards of those trading the religion,
And that His accountability is kinder and more merciful?

Would you permit me?

*Nizar Qabbani*
*Born: 21 March 1923, Damascus, Syria*
*Died: 30 April 1998, London, England*
*Occupation:diplomat, poet, writer, publisher*
*Nationality: Syrian*

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Gup Shup

Kha, warho ... ache baare lag gup owahu. I'm sorry for my previous long and painful post! hahaha. I should've prepared y'all for it, kana? Kha, za, bya ba na kom.
Zai ... lag okhandai wass, lol.

P.S. OMG! This is the SHORTEST post ever! :o

Monday, November 9, 2009

On Feminism

Pre-script: This may not be your favorite topic to discuss or read about, but bear with me. I have a point somewhere in here, I promise!

We all know that feminism is looked down upon, so much that many people are intimidated by the mere mention of it, and anyone who is up for the “rights” of women is labeled a feminist. Whether feminism is a good thing or not depends on those who are carving the label on “feminists” and those who are receiving the label.
People have this negative view of feminism, as if it is the idea that women want to take over the world and rid it of men – or that feminists hate men and spread hatred of men all over the world. Perhaps that’s true for some extremist feminists, but it’s certainly not true for most. Some people also think that feminism means letting a woman go half (or all) naked in public and having her abandon her family (husband and kids and parents) for selfish reasons that have to do with her desire to be free. This is what a lot of people are basically indicating when they call you a feminist in an insulting manner. (Note: I don’t think it’s an insult to be called a feminist at all; I see it as an honor, and I’ll explain below.)

Nonetheless, if women have been treated worse than animals throughout history, should we really blame many of them for the negative attitude they hold towards men? I can't.
Feminism is just the notion that women are just as human as men are, or – as other feminists say – it’s the radical notion that women are people. (No, seriously. Believe it or not, but there have been major historical debates over the argument that women are people! You'll be surprised to know how many people (scholars, in fact :P lol) DON'T think women are humans!... but anyway). That's all it is. But many people misunderstand it and due to this sad misunderstanding hold a negative attitude towards those who label themselves feminists, as though it is a sin to be one. This is not true if one really studies the concept of feminism.

My sister interviewed some women, here in the U.S., for a class about their thoughts of women in the 70s, 80s, etc. and their opinions on the basic rights of women. Every single one was all for women's rights (e.g., rights to education, vote, divorce, marry, and so on), but when my sister asked them in the end, "Would you classify yourself as a feminist?" at least 90% said, "Oh God no! Never! I'm certainly not a feminist!"
I thought it was amusing because on the one hand, they say exactly what the feminists say, but on the other hand, they hold a very negative notion of the group. Interesting, no? Maybe it's the label. We don't wanna be associated with a group if it's got an overall really bad reputation.

I say that because I really don’t know what people think feminism is. If you believe that women are just as important as their male counterparts in a society that they run together and that women should not be treated as lesser humans than men are just because they’re not men, then – oh my God! Believe it or not but – you are a feminist! (I hate placing labels on people, especially the label of feminist, so I should make it clear that I'm making only a general statement here and nothing personal at all.) Oh, and I should mention that feminists aren’t just females; there exist many, many male feminists as well.

What’s more, feminists don’t just focus on women all their lives; they focus on humanity. To be a feminist is to recognize and react (or simply respond) to injustice in any society against any individual or any group of people. Thus, feminism acknowledges the oppression and sufferings of all people, not just women’s. I’m a part of this Women’s Group at my university called “Feminists in Action” (FIA)), and I tell you! These feminists have to be the best group of people on earth. Their openness to differences amazes me, their attitude towards those who don’t believe their way (be they anti-feminists!) relieves me, and their knowledge in different fields impresses me. In our last week’s discussion on feminism and women, one of the members said, “You know it’s natural for women to stay at home and cook, clean, take care of her babies and all because she was born that way. And it’s natural for men to be the breadwinners of the family and to be outside the home more often.” Now, to be perfectly honest, I was shocked to hear a member of the FIA say that out loud, but then I remembered that this group is all about listening, understanding, and respecting: they are not the type to attack or abuse anyone just because they disagree with the majority of feminists might say. And you know how everyone responded to her? With such decency that I’ve never seen before! The first person to express disagreement raised her hand (yeah, we raise our hands before we speak, and each of us lets the other speak before we speak ourselves) and said, “It’s interesting that you should say that because I don’t see anything natural about a woman’s ability to cook and clean and being inside the home all the time. I think society has made us see it that way, that the man belongs outside the home and the woman inside...” and she went on to finish her response. A male member raised his hand to express his view, and other members expressed theirs, and so on.

I am totally respected for saying that although I believe every woman should have the right to work if she wants to, even if it calls for her leaving her home, I would prefer to be with my kids all day long because I don’t trust people around me to raise them the way I think they should be raised. (BUT!! If I'm FORCED to be at home and clothe and feed and raise the kids myself while the hubby darling wanders off wherever and for however long he wants and *I* am expected to cook and clean and all, then we're gonna have some problems - BIG problems. In that case, I'll purposely resist in my own ways. Yeah, I expect Hubby Jaan to share domestic responsibilities with me :D I sure as heck am NOT doing all the cooking/cleaning/etc. I know, I know, I pity him more than you do.) But anyway, so yeah, these people are not the type of feminists who will say, “What kind of a feminist are you then?! How can you call yourself a feminist and prefer children to work?!” They understand that every feminist is different and has his/her own preferences.

The reason these people aren’t like that is that they know what feminism really is about: choice. We believe the woman should be allowed to do what she *knows* (or even believes) to be best for her and others around her, and no one has any right to disrespect her for her choice.

In the same group, I’m part of the “’Zine” committee (I found out only a couple of weeks ago that “zine” is like a tiny magazine), and when the other members and I were planning how it’ll be run during the school year, we decided that we’re going to cover a lot of issues, not just the issues that have been and are haunting women. Sure, we’ll feature stories that deal with injustices and discrimination against women, but we’ll also deal with war victims, children, intersex people (those who are born with both male and female reproductive organs; they’re commonly referred to as “hermaphrodites” but since this term has been used in a rather debasing manner for a few centuries, they prefer to be called intersex), physically/mentally disabled folks, and others who are mistreated only because they are either born a certain way or choose a certain lifestyle that society disrespects them for.

As for my view ... well, I think feminism is good for humanity because it acknowledges the sufferings of all people, especially women, and actually does something about it. It doesn’t let people just complain about what’s wrong in society and how much people are suffering and leave it to God to rescue us from our miseries but actually says, “Okay, now that we realize what’s wrong, let’s unite and fight these injustices.” It’s not easy being a feminist. In the U.S. even until a few decades ago, feminists were imprisoned, if not killed, for openly fighting for their basic rights – especially to vote. Feminism is the reason that women in the west can now earn PhD’s, vote (and even run for office), speak freely in the media, and so on. And forced marriages are certainly not heard of anymore because of feminism.
Of course, nothing comes without a price, and – Alas! - feminism doesn’t seem to be an exception to that universal rule! So it’s got its ups and downs, and perhaps it has ruined the west in many ways, but its positive consequences have outweighed its negative consequences.

So I don't think feminism should be feared at all, nor should anyone be intimidated by feminists. They happen to be among the most misunderstood groups of people on earth, and I understand what has brought about that misunderstanding. But I want people to realize that not all feminists are man-haters or wanna dominate men or wanna leave their children behind and be free outside their homes and dress however they want and do whatever they want even if doing so will mean breaking society apart. Believe it or not, but there exist feminists who would very so enthusiastically spend their lives worshiping (not literally) their husbands, ONLY IF the husbands are just that good to them. Why not? It is a relief to feminists to see that there are actual male humans on earth who would respect and appreciate a woman for who she is rather than for what she is expected to be by society.

It should also be noted that, in general, women instead of men are the main reason that the position of women is low in many societies; it is women who abuse and insult each other more than a man ever abuses/insults other women. (I'm not referring to domestic abuse here.) What I mean is that feminists realize that the strongest enemy of feminism is generally the woman, not the man. While society has a large say in how women are treated, women often bring it upon themselves by not standing up for themselves. They're a very powerful breed of people IF only they would let their power come out for once. If only they spoke up for themselves on their behalf and stood up against the abuses (especially physical abuses) against them . . . This goes for every society, including the western.

Anyway, I can go on and on about why things are wrong in every society and what women and men need do - both as individuals and as each other's sisters/brothers - to move towards a healthier, more secure, and friendly-towards-both-men-and-women society.
But let's not get there right now. You know what I find very interesting? ... When Muslims stand against feminism WHILE talking about how Islam has liberated women!! lol. I mean, Islam really IS the only religion that’s over 300 years old and actually gives women quite a few rights: women are free to be educated (in fact, they must be), they can vote, they can reject and accept marriage proposals as they wish (and forced marriages are NOT recognized by Islam, though they’re the norm in many societies with majority Muslim populations), initiate a divorce (though the process is rather difficult, not at all as simple as it is for the man), have custody of her children in case of divorce when the kids are young, and so on. If these aren’t women’s rights, then what ARE they? If this isn’t feminism, then what IS? Just because the word “feminism” didn’t exist until some decades (or centuries?) ago doesn’t mean it’s a new thing. The concept has ALWAYS existed; just the term for it is new.

So I’m interested to hear how you guys define the following terms: feminism/feminists, oppression, and liberation. It'll be interesting to see what you think it means to respect women as well. Perhaps other people's understanding of respecting females is different from mine (it actually is, lol). Yeah.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Forbidden Thoughts: "Lord My Beloved" by Ghani Baba

Ahhhhhhhh!!! The forbidden thoughts and fantasies verbalized! That Ghani would do that, wouldn't he :D
This poem is simply too good for words! Sam zrra me khushala shee che da Ghani Baba leek wenam. Sharam hum raazi lag lag, LOL! How can one ever get such strength, such boldness to speak his thoughts this openly?! May he rest in peace and be blessed with the "eternal youth" the concept of which raised a million questions in his beautiful Ghani-like mind (if he changes his mind about not wanting it, that is ;)! lol).
Pukhtuns should never forget him. He was a hero! May he live forever, aameen.

More of his poetry can be found at this link. (EDIT - July 2012: This poem is a rough English translation, albeit done very beautifully!) of Ghani's Pashto poem "Che masti we ao zwani," which can be heard here.)

Lord My Beloved!

Would there be elation and youth, the beloved and a chalice full;
Several flowers and a few friends in a mellow evening.
Passion be light and fire, and the heart a flaming tandoor;
I would gladly give up your heavens to embrace such a life.

I’d far prefer this gain because no color is at rest;
Each moment, each hue of life, is your time’s helpless slave;
And the mullah says, in paradise, time would be my slave –
If he were somehow undone, all my troubles would end.

If I find eternal youth, it would become a curse;
I cherish it now as its beauty is soon consumed.
An eternally full moon, an eternal sweet sixteen,
Eternal youth, a river of wine, is it a reward or hell?
I’d weep after this world, and yearn for the night’s crescent,
And remember everyday, the thin mist of eventide.

Sick of faithful houris, I’d seek a fickle beloved;
Man is a hunter by nature, and revels in hunting.
I would fast on revelry’s riverside,
And sulk after the cupbearer’s half-full chalice.

Anything eternal becomes a curse and a catastrophe;
It suits only you, this eternal beginning and end.
Man seeks in each new palace a new beloved;
Seeks red flowers in a wasteland, seeks lighting at night;
He is the child of change and cannot stay the same.
If you took him to heaven, this nature and this being,
He’ll soon be searing and weeping with sore eyes.

lord of great bestowal, turn this world into heaven!
The formula is simple, comprising these three things –
As I’ve said before, a beloved, youth, and a chalice,
So that my silly head is amused from time to time;
And after this worldly death, endow me to the Mullah,
If the wretch would be appeased by mere dreams of houris.

Give me a houri here – lively, full, and fair –
A loving white candle, which burns and flames
In her glance myriad colors; in her nature myriad moods;
With manners such as spring – now sunshine, now rain;
Would she be under one skin, a harem of women;
Now brimming and vivacious, now quiet and retiring;
And in my tired heart, kindle restive flames,
Blazing like fire and dancing like a rill,
And with one impatient glance, intoxicate me so
As to leave everyone amazed and the cupbearer envious.

In place of those thousands give me one here;
Turn my eternal youth to a few years’ rejoicing;
If you cannot do this, lord, keep your fat houris;
I neither need them there nor miss them here.

Those fat and fair ones who yield without entreaty;
Wide and hungry eyes, wallowing in malmal.
Lord! My beloved lord! Just grant this one prayer,
Or else, your Ghani would pine away in love.

- Ghani Khan

Friday, October 30, 2009

How can we help re-build our land?

All right, Spogmai Khaaperai. Here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Education.

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

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

Orphanages.

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

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

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

Importance of helping the IDPs.

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

Types of people we need.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Embracing Your Identity

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Clarion for Pashtuns

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

Dear Pukhtano!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also accessible here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dear Swat

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

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

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

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

~ Qrratugai
~ 14th October 2009

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Let's Write OUR History *Ourselves*

What Pashtuns just went through needs to be heard by the world -- from *our* perspective. It's a part of our history, and it should therefore be told from our view, not from the view of those who only read and heard about it. So I strongly urge every victim, every survivor of war -- whether from Swat or any other war-torn zone, female or male -- to tell her/his story. History is recorded by the victorious and is then interpreted and re-interpreted by those who were never there to witness any of what has been recorded. Let's stop letting outsiders (invaders, spectators) write our history; let's write OUR history ourselves. I don't worry that our recent genocide will get lost in history, but I worry that the facts will be twisted (mostly by the Pakistani government) because we are not speaking up as openly as we should be. Let's then keep this very important part of our history alive. If we don't do it, no one else will... no, wait, others WILL do it (heck, they always do!), but no one will tell it the way we will. No one will tell it from a Pashtun mind.
Let's reveal what we are going through for the sake of our children. Maybe they will learn something from us. Let's not be ashamed of who we are (yes, we made mistakes, but which group of people is faultless?), but let's tell the truth -- about what both the Pakistani army AND the Taliban have done to us and continue doing to us. Let's tell the world what they did to our grandmothers and our fathers; let's tell of how BOTH of these forces have beheaded and butchered and kidnapped our loved ones and made our children orphans and our mothers widows! Do not be afraid of speaking the truth, be it against the army or the Taliban. The ONE thing that can further destroy our promise of a stable future is our SILENCE today, people! Silence.

Tell your story (or stories) as you'd want them told eight hundred years from now. Remember: Our silence today will speak against us tomorrow. Writing just might prove our only weapon of justice (I hope?).

So, get to writing :) If you don't want to write it or don't know how to, then tell your story to a trusted friend who you KNOW will write what you dictate to him/her. Don't use real names and certainly don't use your own name, if you're afraid (I would be, too), but be SURE to pen the reality.

Good luck! And you have our support and our ears!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

SAHAR Magazine

SAHAR - The Voices of Pashtuns is an e-magazine produced and edited by Azra Nafees. It consists of writings by Pashtuns, regardless of their age, location, creed, etc. Its first issue was out in June and can be accessed through here; its second issue was in July and can be accessed, along with future issues, through this link.
Further, Azra's message to Pashtuns regarding Sahar can be seen at this link. (The magazine was formerly called Sabawoon.)

Now, as we are fairly new, we need more writers and readers. I'm writing this here to ask my readers to spread the word around. If you know any (Pashtun) writers or are one yourself, please have your piece(s) sent to Sahar at editorsahar@gmail.com. It is a great way for Pashtuns to come together for the same cause, to get a good start towards uniting our race, to raise our voices loud enough so that we can be heard universally, and -- last but not least -- to discover talent among Pashtuns! :)

As for the topics, as long as they are related to Pashtuns (our history, politics, geo-politics, economy, society, current affairs, culture, war/peace, leadership, etc., etc.), they are more than welcomed and appreciated. Pashto writing is also encouraged, whether written in the Pashto alphabet or transliterated. All forms of writings are acceptable as well, from articles to essays to poetry to prose. If you can think of something else, that'll be fine, too, I'm sure ;) Of course, it would have to go through Azra, who'd have to okay it, but as long as it's well-written and is "appropriate" enough for the magazine, it's all good. And if it's not accepted for one issue, it's most likely because it was turned in too late for that issue and will then certainly be considered for the next one. But in Azra's words to me, "Everyone is going to get their turn."

Anyway, Sahar thanks you in advance for your support and contribution! We look forward to hearing your voices, Pashtuns!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

My Perception of Happiness

Some days ago, I met with a good friend, and we had a blast talking about what it means to be happy. You see, I have been questioning the concept of happiness for quite a while now, like REALLY questioning it, you know? And I am confident that I have FINALLY settled on my own concept of it. Or perhaps it is contentment I have defined? No, it can’t be since contentment would be more like just being satisfied with what I have and is included in my definition of happiness, but happiness goes beyond what contentment is. Yeah, so, either way, let’s just please talk about happiness, k?

We often hear people saying, “Will I ever be happy?" or "I need peace!" Well, if we wanna live a life of happiness, we must first define happiness for ourselves (and the definition is bound to vary from person to person). If we wanna live a life of peace and satisfaction, we must first define these as well then -- i.e., what makes us happy, and are those our needs or wants or what? Can we be happy without them, too? When do we feel at peace? And, most importantly, how can we tell when we are at peace or are happy?

~ What is Happiness?
According to my new thoughts, happiness is a mental state in which our mind and heart are most at ease. We create this happiness ourselves, though with some outside influence (such as life circumstances and other individuals), but it is how much of a say we let this outside influence have that determines our happiness – or the lack of it. The happier we are, the more we're proving to ourselves that no one and nothing else controls us, that we can be happy in spite of the illnesses (sick people, sick ideas, etc.) that prevail all over us. We don't need anything or anyone else to make us happy, and IF we believe we do, then we'll never achieve full and sincere happiness; we'll always be unstable. And IF we choose to let others decide if we'll experience happiness or not, then we must be careful in WHOM we give that right (or privilege, I shall say) to. This is when choosing our circle of friends carefully plays a vital role: if we're with the wrong people, we'll never allow ourselves to be happy. Now, if there are circumstances in our lives that are causing our unhappiness and lack of satisfaction or denying us peace, then we should do something about it and try to get out of it. If there is nothing we can do about it, however, then we should just stay with them an find happiness within the confines of those circumstances. We should live up to them, unless we can do something about it, and all shall be well. It may sound too impractical or unrealistic and all, but that's where inner satisfaction / happiness lies. And, actually, no, it’s NOT impractical or unrealistic because I myself am feeling on top of the world right now for having decided that I am in charge of my own happiness; no one will do anything to take MY happiness away from me, and never shall I ever do anything to take someone else’s from them.

~ Giving Others Power Over Us
I have also gathered that happiness and inferiority go hand-in-hand. In one of the Princess Diary movies, this guy tells the princess, "Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent." (I believe this quote was originally told by Eleanor Roosevelt.) I think it was from that moment (which was like, what, three or four years ago when I watched the movie?) that I started wondering if I give others the consent to make me feel inferior. When we let others make us feel down, we are submitting to other people’s wishes and expectations and thereby suffering from an invisible form of inferiority complex – yes, which would be that they don’t realize that they have the illness.

In essence, when we are happy – and I mean REALLY happy, like when both our heart and mind are at ease and relaxed – we have won the battle against those who think they have power over us, since the more unhappy we are, the more authority we have given others over us. The important thing, therefore, is to never let anyone – or anything – else have ANY power over us. Things will go wrong in our lives, and people will hurt us (but the secret is to just laugh at them for being such asses, LOL. k, sorry, that was a joke.), but it is how we interpret these happenings that can decide whether we'll be happy or not.

~ Sorrow and Happiness
However, I think I should also mention sorrow here since both sorrow and happiness go hand-in-hand, and we can’t expect to be happy all the time. Yeah. Well, let’s see. If we ALWAYS interpret our surroundings circumstances I mentioned earlier in a way that'll ALWAYS make us happy, then that's not real happiness, either. In order to feel real happiness, we must feel sorrow so that we know that happiness is basically the lack of sorrow. Naturally, there will come times when no matter what we do or think, sorrow will be taking over, and there’s nothing wrong with that except when we let it take control too much, too many times.
But ultimately, we all have our own source of happiness, different for each person. What makes one person happy may not make another person happy, or at least in the same way or to the same extent. Similarly, the way we deal with our happiness, as with our sorrows, differ, or even what gives birth to these two. So it's just a matter of figuring out what those sources and ways are and then learning to deal with them in a way that will give us some power in our feelings.

~ Summary
All in all, our happiness is up to us, and if we let others define or decide it for us, then we're in a way submitting to their will; and when we submit to the will of others (unless it is to God's, of course), we'll never find the ultimate state of happiness. And this is achievable because – as I shared earlier. Still, we should try to balance our feelings and emotions, however, so that it's not JUST happiness that is ruling our lives but also some sorrow. After all, how can we know we are happy -- or appreciate it -- when we have never felt its opposite?

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

When I Look in the Mirror

What, or who, do I see when I look in the mirror?

This is a question that I think everyone should ask him/herself at different stages in life. Maybe it would teach us who we are, who we want to be, what is wrong within us, what is right within us, and how to work on bettering ourselves.

As for me, when I look in the mirror, I think to myself, "Yeah, okay, I’m not the most beautiful woman in the world, but I am not ugly either. Not at all, in fact. And that's all that matters." Obviously, my face is the first thing I notice, and what defines external beauty is much of what is found in the face, not exactly the rest of the body. If I didn’t think I was beautiful, I would not be the person I am right now because I can imagine the many problems that would be glued to my lack of self-esteem. Thinking I’m not ugly at all solves my problem of self-confidence as well.

But the first and MOST important person I see in the mirror is ... a Pashtun female who is frustrated with several of her traditional standards. These standards don’t affect me personally or directly, but they affect other women of my race, and the frustration has predictably evolved into a smothering disturbance that is compelling me to speak up for those whose voices have been silenced for centuries, if not millennia. The woman I see in the mirror is a potential reflection of the woman whom my culture may breed were it given permission and provided opportunity, by women and men both, to do so; unfortunately, society is not given this permission -- yet. I see myself as another burden on my Pashtun society, a burden like Malalai – an Afghan female police officer who imprisoned and punished men who abused their female family members; she was murdered by the Taliban in October 2008. But I am convinced that only through females like Malalai will our society be able to become tolerant towards outspoken women, and what better way to see that happening than to be such a woman myself?

I see a confused student who is unsure of what she wants to do for life – become a lawyer, a journalist, a women’s studies professor, an Islamic studies student who would study Arabic enough to be able to interpret the Quran for herself, a researcher on Pashtun women, or all of these (maybe at different stages).

I see a Muslim female who is more than certain about her religious beliefs, which are extreme neither in the liberal nor the conservative sense. I a Muslim who has developed, constructed, and embraced her own conception of the Invisible Divine Being she calls God and couldn’t be any happier regarding her relationship with Her God.

I see myself as all of these above anything else because my race and religion are the most prominent characters that make up who I am. Realizing this now makes me feel like an ingrate for not mentioning the many other things that help complete my whole being, such as my being able to walk, talk, think for myself, see, go to school, and so on. It is as though these latter points are a given, as though I have to be able to do these anyway. This is not the case, though, practically speaking. There are many people worldwide are denied the opportunity to be educated, many religious believers are forbidden to ask questions and/or think, and many humans lack the faculty of seeing or hearing or some others. Is this why a physically disabled person is looked at as a different being, and he/she has a different place in society (and usually low one in eastern cultures)? Yes, the difference between "normal" and "abnormal" people is evident and should not be denied, and I’m not implying that there should be no such gap, but perhaps we take our privileges and rights for granted sometimes? Maybe not necessarily on purpose, as privilege is invisible, but without realizing it.

A few months ago, or actually a year ago, I would not have seen myself as a Pashtun woman because I denied myself this ethnic title of mine, this blood. But as I learned, read, and pondered over my history and culture and people, I realized I had nothing to run away from and that the problems that my people are facing can only be solved by those who realize and understand them and plot practical solutions for them; running away from them and denying my own identity was not the solution to anything but would only keep me a confused woman for the rest of my life, until I accepted who I was. So what has changed that today, the first thing I see in the mirror is a Pashtun? I’m not sure. Does one have to know what one really is, or is not, in order to see, like, and appreciate oneself? Do people who think they are ugly see themselves as ugly first, or do they consider their other qualities as well?

Yes, it would do most of us much good if we asked ourselves this question more frequently, just to appreciate who we are and to work on bettering ourselves when we are displeased with the person we meet in the mirror.

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