Even money can’t make the mare go!

After a very long hiatus, I’m back!

This is a story of a renowned private hospital. I was admitted as a private patient – meaning that I was paying for everything. I preferred the hospital because 1) being on TTS (tenure track system), I have to pay for my medical bills; 2) and when I am paying, why not to go to a renowned private hospital; 3) I have a close relative working there, whose presence is a blessing in my life. Because of my close relative, I was admitted quickly- she took blood samples for labs and got other tests done as well. I was given a clean room with a very loving and caring roommate, also admitted for the same surgical procedure.

I had a good night sleep before the surgery. In the morning, I was taken to the OT. I was welcomed by fresh, smiling, and friendly OT staff and doctors. I was already famous as a “very happy patient.” I was chatting with the doctors as they were injecting medicines via cannula. The last question I asked was, “how long does this surgery take?” and the anaesthesia took control of my brain and body.

Now, I was hearing voices- two known and others unknown. The actual story begins here. I slightly opened my eyes. I saw two familiar faces of my relatives and then closed my eyes – couldn’t resist the need to sleep again. After couple of minutes, I woke up again- still under anaesthesia effect and asked if I were in ICU (intensive care unit) as my brain wasn’t sleeping and my head was pounding because of loud noises. My relative responded, “Yes, you are in ICU after surgery.” I requested her to ask the nurses and a young doctor there to keep their voices down. I also heard that they needed a bed for another surgery patient. I volunteered immediately and requested my relative for shifting me to the room (that caused bleeding in one of the incisions). Remember, patients are usually kept in ICU till they come to their senses fully. I couldn’t bear the loud talk, the clatter of utensils (as the nurse was eating) and her munching. Then another character entered- the support staff. As my relative was helping me to get up, she asked her to leave and said, “patients are more fussy when relatives are around.” Still not fully recovered from anaesthesia, I told the support staff to stop passing judgements as she didn’t know me and I also asked the nurse to stop talking as we were in ICU. The support staff added couple of additional words (derogatory) to communicate to the talking nurse. I again told the support staff not to miscommunicate.  I remember visiting my mother’s hospital in 90s and I had another surgery in 2004 in another private hospital. ICU is one of the quietest place in hospitals. The purpose is to comfort patients coming out of anaesthesia. The nursing and support staff are one of the relaxing agents in ICUs.

To cut the long story short, the money sometimes doesn’t make the mare go! I opted for a private hospital for better facilities, professionalism and ethical behavior. It is not just medical, I see same lack of professionalism in other professionals too. We have either lost these somewhere or have left professionalism, empathy, etiquette, gentleness, etc., somewhere deliberately.  The icing on the cake is that many of us seem to be okay with or take pride in our non-professional behavior. Being brought by professional parents, it disturbs me a lot. In today’s world, no nation can grow without these very basic dispositions. Since the day of my surgery, I have been asking myself this question, “Where are we heading as a nation?”


Banos Around the World

I’m using the name “Bano” to represent women and does not refer to any person living or dead. During a talk by my friend from Michigan, USA about ‘Culture, Gender, and Education: Perspective of a Teaching Father’ brought back memories of a chapter in the Urdu textbook. The chapter titled “Bano ka Ghar” (Bano’s home), depicts a girl named Bano, who works with her mother at home, while her brother goes to school. Many educationists have tried hard to send Bano to school too (changing the story of the chapter), but I think Bano still stays at home. How social roles are depicted in the textbooks, is another long debate.

Around the world, we might see Banos  who stay at home, who go to school, and who work in different fields.

Banos who stay at home, some are dearly loved and enjoy rights and there are those as well who are abused by their family members, who treat them as servants and consider them as a burden on the family.

Banos who go to school, some might be dearly loved and cared for by their families, yet some might be treated differently by their families, where they go back home and do household chores to help their mothers. They might go through hell of a time just because they chose to go to school during the time when they were suppose to take care of household responsibilities.

Working Banos can be educated or uneducated. Educated Banos, like me, are considered professionally accomplished. There are educated Banos, who work as typists and secretaries. who along with their work might be harassed by their bosses or male colleagues. Besides dealing with all the crap in the offices, Banos’ working hours do not end with their male counterparts. When they reach home, they might have to prepare food, teach kids, entertain guests, iron clothes for the next day, etc. Uneducated Banos who might work as maids or even street beggars, they go back home, only to work more along with being abused. Banos who are professional escorts may or may not have the same home-life as Banos from other fields.

Whether Bano goes to school or stays home or works as a maid, enjoys high social post, or is an escort, the question is what rights she has and how protected she is within the boundary walls of their homes or offices or on streets? I can’t answer this question.

In our society, every day no matter where Bano is or what she is doing, she is stared at, abused mentally, emotionally, physically, and sexually. Two days back, in the morning while driving to my university, at DHA main checkpoint a taxi driver slowed down, just to give me a look from his side mirror and of course Banos like me, do give them a piece of their mind. Many argue that it is the way of dressing and make up that women wear. Well, how can a driver know what a woman in the car behind is wearing unless he has Superman’s x-ray eyes? It is not so much about the dressing but rather it is the mindset that needs to be changed. Many say that women should be kept within the boundary wall, but for a change can you teach men to behave and can you guarantee safety of women within the boundary walls?

I have become verbally abusive and physically aggressive. I have actually beaten up three men at three different times and I plan to do it whenever I have to. But is this the solution that we train our females to hit hard when filthy looking men dare to abuse them and don’t tell our men to control themselves? I can’t walk alone in my neighborhood just because the laborers might say nasty things when you walk by.  Why didn’t I feel so unprotected and vulnerable in the five years I spent in the US? I walked in the street at 2 am, but never was scared. I am not implying that angels live in the US and that there are no crimes against women there. Of course, there are. But I still felt safe when I went out for my 3-5 mile walk daily, when I greeted an unknown face on my way, stopped to take pictures, sat alone in a bus/ cab in the middle of the night, or called an unknown number to get some information. Why can’t we give this type of peace of mind to our females?


Limit Your Altruistic Habits – A Lesson Learned!

It’s been the story of my life. I have seen my parents do it, my siblings (not all of them) do it, of course I myself have done that too. What? Helping others financially!!! Well, one may think that what we did or still do is an excellent example of altruism, but I do now believe in setting up a limit, especially when your close family members (siblings) are involved.

I have learned that the more you put others (especially your siblings) before yourself, the more you will be emotionally abused by them. They will become more dependent on you and most of the time, you will have to sacrifice your needs to fulfill theirs. I’m not at all suggesting that helping others is some sort of a crime or a bad habit. What I’m suggesting relates to the famous air plane announcement, “Should the cabin lose pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area. Please place the mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting others.” 

The rule is simple to apply in your life. If your own life in under debt or you are going through rough times, put your own family’s (your own, wife, and kids) needs first. There is nothing wrong in being a little selfish, because your family is your responsibility. No one else will ever take that on their shoulders. After that, if you have left with enough funds to help, sure but not on the cost of your own desires and needs. Think about limiting your altruistic habits to a reasonable level. It has helped me, it might help you too.

Fifty Shades of Grey- Trilogy by E. L. James

Main Characters: Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele

Genre: Erotic Literature

I was told by few people not to read the book (what fun it is to read stuff that you are told not to read, right?). A friend of mine was appalled when I told her that I was reading Fifty Shades of Grey. Her instant reaction was, “Don’t read it. The book is CRAP.” Of course, I knew why. I replied, “I know. It’s like porn.” She said, “Exactly!!!” And then I explained her what was so compelling about the book, which is what I will be writing about today – Why I liked Fifty Shades of Grey- Trilogy.

Let’s begin by confessing that yes, the book has a lot of sexual content- little too much for my taste. You can shout back by saying, “Don’t you see the genre of the book before reading?” Yes, I do. I mentioned that just below the names of the main characters in the very beginning of this post, haven’t I? 😉 . I think that many people were put off because of it’s sexual content or it’s prose and they didn’t read the whole book. I don’t understand how good or bad prose is written in the book, because that’s not my area to comment on. And then not every reader gets involved with the characters like I do.

I was intrigued by Christian Grey’s character and wanted to know about him and his story. There were times when I actually skipped pages explaining what he did with Anastasia in the “red room or the bedroom” (as I said before – little too much). Yet there were times when I read the beginning and end of the scene to understand what changed in Christian’s character. For me the book was not about sex, even though Christian Grey’s sexual orientation and preferences were a huge part of his character, but this was not what kept me turning the pages.

The book for me is about relationships; about family and friendships; about love, desires, trust, hate, betrayal, jealousy, anger, distrust, child abuse, fear of loss, self-loathing, self-control, power, parenthood, expectations, resentment; about poverty and wealth, and much, much more.  The author has knitted all these emotions so well in different characters and made connections to their social conditions in which they lived or grew up. Within the web of emotions, I found myself entangled. May be because my area of interest is relationships. I enjoy reading stuff that helps me to understand ways in which relationships form one’s personality and informs one’s behavior/ attitude, OR may be many of these emotions related to relationships and social conditions resonated with my inner core and I understood Christian Grey’s emotions. There were many times when the inner dialogues of Anastasia were prolonged and torturous. But those prolonged and torturous dialogues helped me to understand her emotional state and her emotional bondage with Christian. Sometimes I got a feeling that I was reading some adult fairy tale – you know there’s a working class girl, meets a rich guy, falls in love, had problems but eventually all sorted out (hm, well not all in this story), got married, and lived happily ever after. But then, I (still) like fairy tales.

If you are a person who can look beyond the sexual content, the book is for you to read and to enjoy.

Food for Thought

The article “A Wishful Thinking” written by Dr. Afshan Huma is really interesting and very close to my heart. The article brings two worlds that she and I have experienced as female graduate students in the US, and highlights several forms of harassment a female might have to face. I could relate to the things said with my experiences as a female in Pakistan as well as in the US.

Dressing Harassment:   As a Christian female, I’ve heard it so many times “Your religion allows you to wear whatever you want to.” Well, I doubt any Ibrahamic religion to be that liberal. People tend to relate culture with religion. And their judgment is not limited to other religions, they judge all females by their dressing. If someone is wearing a hijab/burqa, she must be very religious, poise, and having a good character (GOOD as interpreted by the society). Women like me who do not wish to wear burqa are shameless women (SHAMELESS as interpreted by the society). Adding to the misery –  if along with being shameless, I talk to men, then most probably, I’m a characterless and cheap woman too (as interpreted by the society). The desire to wear what I want to, relates to my basic right as a female to be independent, rather than what my religion and culture tell me to wear. As an adult, I can set my dressing limits based on my religion, but not what the culture wants me to.  Burqa or no burqa has to be my choice, not because men will stare at me.

Sexual Harassment: Going out for a walk alone or going to work by public transport should not imply that I’M AVAILABLE. This is the peace of mind I too wish for females. I have never experienced a car stop by and the driver opening the front door and asking me to go with him, even though I sometimes walk late at night in the US. In Pakistan, in broad daylight, this happens. In the US, I have never heard a single remark from either male or female about my physique or as you said, about what I was wearing, let alone the sexist remarks men pass in Pakistan if you’re walking/traveling alone. More importantly, no men have ever tried to touch me, the fear every female has who travels alone to jobs and to do other chores. Sorry to use the word, but I’ve not seen the filthiness in the eyes of men I pass by when I go out for a walk or sit outside to enjoy weather. In last 5 years, I haven’t beaten a man or was involved in a verbal fight because he had passed a remark or had touched me.

It is not because that you and I lived in a university city and I’m not saying that USA is free of sexual harassment. There is but most of the time I feel safe. Of course, there are neighborhoods that are not considered safe, but mainly for everyone, and not related to gender. I have traveled to almost 15 states and so far I haven’t faced a single threat to my safety as a female, even though I smile and greet all males (and females) I meet anywhere. What a lovely experience to be greeted by a bus driver with a smile while getting on to a bus,  or a cashier in a grocer shop, or a teller in a bank, or a cab driver, and I smile back. I even ask how s/he is doing. They won’t think that I’m hitting on them or vice versa. This is what I too call “liberty.”

People who argue that sexual harassment law was implemented in countries where it was needed, I think Pakistan is THE country that needs to realize and recognize that sexual harassment is prevailing in the society and laws should be strictly implemented and followed.

Harassment related to being Judged: I loved the idea of “assassinat[ing] one’s character.” People here are actually least bothered if they see me in a theatre or in a grocery shop alone at night or with men. They don’t bother if everyday a male gives me ride to and from different places. Yes, I agree, people might judge because they are humans, but they won’t call me characterless.  More importantly, I agree with you that being a SINGLE FEMALE is not a THREAT to me most of the times.

Nonetheless, this kind of “liberty” is a mindset, and as a society unknown to many of us.

Women, Kitchen, & Professions

Today’s blog is in response to a statement by a Pakistani cricketer Shahid Afridi Khan during an interview for a local channel. Why does it matter what Shahid Afridi says? Well, he is considered a national hero, followed and cherished by people of all ages and all walks of life- both men and women. His opinion can be idealized by many, and anything said by a national hero, people have a tendency to appreciate and follow it without giving it a second thought, regardless of how pathetic that opinion is. Here is one example, where a female author tried to explain why she won’t be cheering anymore for Afridi and was shunned by males and females equally. Here is the story!

The interviewer asked Afridi’s thoughts about the women selection in his city Peshawar for Pakistani Women Cricket team.

Afridi replied, “Our women have great taste in their hands. They cook very well.

The interviewer said that he was asking about the selection, and

Afridi said, “You got the answer.”

What Afridi was implying that women should not be playing cricket, rather they should stay home and cook. What’s wrong with his comment, when this is what most females do? It matters because women can do much more than cooking and his comment undermines the potential females have. It undermines the women’s right to do what they want to and also it shows lack of respect for women who are working in various professions.

I’m a very optimistic person, but after reading comments … What a pitiful state of mind and I don’t think education can change anything, at least not in the near future! Men with Afridi’s mindset want female doctors, nurses, teachers, etc., for their wives and daughters. They don’t think for a second before opening their mouths that if women are confined to kitchens, they won’t be able to have female doctors, teachers, nurses, etc., for taking care of their females. I think that female doctors should refuse checking wives and daughters of men like Shahid Afridi so that they may acknowledge professional women. I felt sad when I read comments of females- so demeaning. They also don’t think about what he said.

A student of mine recently said that we should motivate our men to share household responsibilities too. It is of course possible, but it will take a long time to change. Our mothers do and teach the same to their daughters. We don’t teach our men to share household responsibilities… they are the LAAT SAHIBS (bosses) of our society. A mindset transferred from generation to generation. Working women after office hours, take care of household chores too. Basically they work more hours than men. And I’m not blaming females. I have done that to for so many years. But I realized what was happening.

The first step, I believe is the realization that something wrong is happening and acknowledging that there is a problem. Unfortunately, looking at the comments, we are far behind from realizing and acknowledging that there is something wrong in what Afridi said.

Is Education an “investment?”

Someone posted job advertisement on “PhD in Pakistan” Facebook page (seriously, don’t we have something better to do, eh?) highlighting that a driver’s salary is equivalent to that of a researcher. Of course, others (educated people) jumped in to show their concern about the injustice.  I wrote, ” I see it as valuing the professions equally. Every profession requires different set of skills and knowledge. Though I’m educated but I consider myself unfit for other jobs. That said, in my opinion, requiring less education or no education does not mean that those professions are less demanding or should be given less respect or salary. The job of cleaners, gate keepers, drivers, plumbers, etc is as challenging as teachers, doctors, and lawyers.”

Another person in reply to my comment said that education is an investment for future and why would she invest in her son’s education if he would earn the same amount of money as an illiterate driver, or a plumber, or a cleaner. She also added that “education is the only key for upward mobility for middle class.” The comment reminded me of my first assignment as a grad student and also made me think about my own perspective about education.

The idea of education as investment has a negative connotation for me. It makes education equals to money-making. Education is much more than that. It means to have a whole new perspective about life, about the world, about the people, about the happenings around you, and most importantly about your own self. Education makes you a better human, which is way better than money-making machine. I earn less money than any of my siblings, yet education was/is my priority.

But alas, as I wrote in my first assignment “Commoditification of Education” in which I argued that education has become a commodity available in the market. People can purchase it  or invest in it depending on the money they have, people who can’t are most welcome to window shop. I also disagree with her about education being the key for the middle class to move upward. When did that happen? When did education become the property of the middle class? Isn’t it the basic right of all humans? Don’t cleaners, plumbers, drivers, etc. want their kids to get education and move upward in the society?

Courtesy: Google Images

Courtesy: Google Images

Yes, education is the future,  everyone’s future!