Statement of Intentx* – PhD application requirement


*X= an emerging story behind a would be journalist

When we were kids the common wisdom was that the most successful people are those who nurture their innate talent and know even as they are very young what they had to do in life. If I say that Journalism was one of those wonderful things I knew all along were meant for me I would be lying to myself.

Since high school and perhaps even before then, word was that I am going to excel in biological sciences. Whichever counsel I took, be it professors, classmates or family I was solemnly told to apply for med school for ‘this is the Pakistani way’, this is how a man makes a respectable living and to think otherwise was bound to fail. Ever having a penchant to ask annoying questions, to understand what make things tick, a ‘cavalier’ and a ‘confused’ attitude as some high school mentors would remark, these advices given to me went utterly against my views on life.

At the time I was too immature to realize the nuances involved in career planning, ambition, passion and priorities and advertently took up business studies in college due to insufficient grades required to study bio-engineering and limited availability of degree programs in Pakistan. It was a rude awakening; the professions I always thought were meant for me since high school were simply out of my reach.

However, selecting business school exposed me to a fascinating new world with its extremely diversified curriculum. I developed a bond with professors and made friends with people with extremist religious views and others with atheistic tendencies. For the first time in my life I was in an environment conducive to learning in its essence and self discovery; to research before accepting whatever our elders dish out to us, to not accept how things appear at face value but appreciate the subtleties of human condition, to, and most significantly, be rational about my approach towards life and not engage in senseless rhetoric.

Truly, my four year undergraduate program helped me cultivate my better self so that now I knew, that the penchant to ask annoying questions was in reality, the quest to search for the truth and that the ‘cavalier’ attitude was in fact a desire to lead a life that ‘matters’. This was also the time I started keeping track of current affairs in earnest and developed a keen interest in fine arts and sociology. I became an avid follower of Time Magazine, Ted Talks and, an acclaimed blog about art, photography, cinema and design.

Communication Studies first grabbed my attention in an Advertising elective I took in the final year of the undergraduate program. The timing was just perfect. We were taught topics ranging from Targeted Rating Points, Ad Spent and Cultures Inside Advertising Agencies to the ‘rapid growth in the telecommunication sector’, the ‘rise of press freedom’ and ‘corporate communications’ in Pakistan. I was completely hooked and as I sat through these lectures, I realized for the first time in my life the direction my career choices should now take.

Hence towards the end of the business management program I selected Synergy (pvt.) Ltd for my official internship program. The agency’s diverse portfolio meant that I got a chance to understand firsthand the creative processes involved in advertisements, content writing, film production and corporate communications and it was perhaps due to my performance that I was offered employment after completion of this internship.

Choosing Synergy (Pvt.) Ltd as the official internship proved to be a very good decision. It became the place where I began to understand my strengths and weaknesses, my passion for the media industry and my writing potential. But most significant of all I realized that a MBA which I had always planned after completing my undergraduate program and for which I even wrote the GMAT was now incompatible with my career goals.

At this stage I decided to experiment and accepted a job offer to lead the marketing campaign for a not-for-profit organization; Ahmed E.H Jaffer Foundation whose first project is a Boarding School of Excellence, The Hub School. By this time I was writing extensively for online blogs and a marketing publication Synergyzer Magazine. Here I also got a rare and wonderful opportunity to write a first draft of an interview for the Huffington Post.

Now working with this broad spectrum of people in the communications industry over the past two years and the confidence given to me by my superiors for my writing ability, team spirit, commitment to deadlines, affinity to ask questions and a passion for work, has reinforced my conviction for creative writing in the media industry.

Undertaking a journalism program at this stage in my career will be a culmination of all my passions and amateur skills into a professional endeavor.

The media industry of Pakistan and in particular the new media is one of the fastest growing sectors of our economy. Press freedom has surpassed infancy and we are now standing on the verge of a cultural revolution with Imran Khan’s Movement for Justice Party and 2013 elections. However, the sector needs to evolve. It needs best practices; it needs trained and educated people who understand the principles of Journalism, who know the difference between constructive criticism and frivolous debates. These conditions cannot be more perfect for an aspiring journalist to make a valuable mark.

X University has the capital advantage of being located in a political powerhouse where ‘a story’ is always around the corner. Furthermore the numerous resources at its disposal such as the Reader’s Digest Centre, the Apprenticeship Program and Capital News Online are some features that provide a splendid environmental mix for a practicing and learning journalist.

My decision to apply for Journalism studies was not an epiphany neither was it something I always knew I would take since childhood but something I have actualized over the years. It has been a journey of self discovery and I sincerely hope that the admissions committee will consider my application strongly.


And you know what, they did! :-). Yes, I’ll be leaving for my Masters very soon. I have been meaning to post my statement of intent for quite sometime but I wanted to make sure that I make it in the bloody program first.

Actually.. I have been meaning to write something along the lines of ‘My journey towards a masters program’ but just couldn’t get myself to write one until I knew for sure I would make it in. Well, now I have and I think this Statement of Intent is a very appropriate way to describes one’s journey than the usual emotional innuendos. There you have it. A bona fide, accepted, well researched, well edited etc etc statement of intent.


2012 and Gone

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So the New Year is here in all its splendid glory. “The year 2012”. It has has come with much promise and change regarding our fate as the Human species, the World, us Pakistanis and individuals there is something in it for everyone.

The importance of 2012 is emphasized by the amazing events that have happened in the preceding year 2011. Incredible events, revolutionary events.. mind boggling events so much so that I have been left in a state of utter bedazzlement and quandary under the shadows of times yet to come.

So let us begin: In 2011 the Kepler Space Telescope, which is arguably the most significant scientific experiment ever conducted in line with the Hubble Space Telescope, discovered several planets outside our solar system. Now although discovering planets outside our suns gravity is not a new feat, even though the technology to discover planets itself is a relatively new phenomenon with only a decade since the first exoplanet was discovered and since then close to 2000 of them have been identified, what makes the discoveries so vital is that the newly discovered exoplanets are just the right distance from the sun, with just right size for the conditions hospitable for life to exist.

The Implications therefor are staggering. In our quest to discover life outside our solar system 2011 have been the most productive so far. Scientist are quite optimistic here since in a very short span of time we have discovered Earth like planets and by rational will discover life soon. Alien life! Yes it is no longer a myth we might not be the Asrhaf-ul- Maklookat after all, although the religious community will argue it was already given in the

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Quran and bla bla bla. I am sure when the first life forms are discovered the zealots will claim it as a further glory to God, I really do not understand what they mean by this since they were the ones declaring the superiority of the Human Species. Any way the study of Earth like planets will further verify or improve on the Theory of Evolution and put an end once and for all on the ‘teleportation’ of Adam and Eve from ‘Heaven’ to Earth.

In our friendly neighborhood Earth things haven’t been quite serene. 2011 was a tumultuous year of Natural and man made environmental disasters. Who can forget the Chilean miners, the Japanese Tsunami and nuclear disaster, Hurricanes in United States, Earth Quakes and oil spills in Christchurch New Zealand, more earthquakes in Spain the disastrous flooding in Pakistan, wild winter all across Europe and much much more.

Politically we all know about the wave of protest and revolutions all over the globe no continent has been spared this time. The epicenter of protest was astonishingly the Middle East and the civilized West (who would have thought ey). The Occupy Wallstreet Campaign which started in New York and spread all across Europe. Greece, Spain and United Kingdom. UK saw a week of the most fucked up violent protest in its history I daresay some of my own friends and family were at risk that week.

Middle East came out as a big shock for everyone but its rulers. The melting pot spilled over in a wave of anguish and anger over the status quo. The status quo is the key word for 2012. Rulers everywhere must be pissing in their pants now in dread of changing times and if they are not they should be.

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My theory on the fall of ruling regimes in Egypt, Tunis, Libya and agitation in Bahrain, Saudia Arabia, Yemen and Syria following their lead is that the rulers haven’t done so bad for the people: they have developed good infrastructure, open their markets to free trade and provided free education to the masses. The people I believe in the Middle East however have evolved beyond the basic necessities of life that we in the subcontinent are still striving hard to get. They have moved up the ladder in the Maslow’s Hierarchy lets call it that and want a better more autonomous life and living standards which is why the oldies need to go.

PAKISTAN.. Pakistan hahah one word that can be substituted for all the ironies of this

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world. Well, Imran Khan is the man of the moment in 2011 and hopefully will continue till the elections at least. The challenge to the Pakistani status quo which includes all Waderas and pseudo-feudal culture, the Ulema and the false prophets, the Generation X and their obsolete ideals. We have grown up with Imran Khan as our hero in ‘sports’ pun intended and although some might argue that Shoukat Khanam Hospital was a very humanitarian struggle so was the strive of Abdul Sattar Edhi, big hats off to you old man but not everyone is a public administrator or a progressive politician. I will still be skeptical and the reason I will vote for the PTI is for lack of a better option.

..For me personally, this year has been one of soul searching and epiphanies. I got a wonderful job with my own office, a very lavish office if I may add! That was a good learning experience meeting the Governor of State Bank of Pakistan, the President of National Bank, President of HBL and many other whos who of Pakistan. See the thing with my ex-boss is he only speaks to the ‘Man in Charge’ someone who can understand where he is coming from. I was always awed by his influence since the first day I joined when he showed me his pictures with Quaid-e-Azam sahib.

Moving on, 2011 was also the year I finally concluded my two years of research and locked on the programs I need to apply for post-graduate studies. It has taken every ounce of

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patience and intellect to do this. It was very frustrating and the last few months were critical as I locked on respective colleges and started preparing my applications. But thankfully most of the thinking part has been done and I will hopefully get out of this place this year which, by the way is my number 1 new year resolution.

Something else happened in 2011 which has affected a profound impact on me and perhaps changed me as a person. One day I will get in to the nitty grittys of the whole affair I am still trying to understand some of the things that happened and that will take time.

In a few words.. I went to Turkey to meet someone, someone who I have been in touch with for the past 8 years but only as online buddies. She was an Eastern European (I do not want to name the exact country at the moment) a beautiful, free spirited , crazy person who shared my ideals. We had a strange time, much too strange. I don’t know how to classify this, I felt so many different things in a span of few days that I was with her.Things I have never felt before. It was incredible, it was exciting, it was tumultuous… This also happened to be my first time outside Pakistan… Wow, what an experience it was. I want to say alot more and a few lines is not giving this justice at all. Maybe I will write a book about this, I have a structure in mind but not the time or the wisdom yet. But soon. Will definitely let you guys know when I do.

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In all 2011 was spectacular for me personally, I have never been aware of myself so completely and feel that I am ready for anything. We are, I mean my friends and I in our 20s; This is the time people live up to their dreams, this is the time we are in our prime, this is the time we are following our passions, facing immense challenges and making our mark in this world before slowly and gradually becoming more stable and settling down after 30s.

All I have to say now is, I have no regrets what so ever about the choices I have made in life and neither should you for it is our very choices so far that have shaped our personality and made us who we are. Do not apologize and do not be harsh on yourself if you are in your 20s. If there was ever a time to experiment, this is it :-)… Happy New Year and God bless you all!

Alexander The not-So Great

Often we are told great tales about the teachers and ustaads of days by gone; Of pre-partition time when young boys wearing nothing but shorts and white banayaans (undershirt) sweating in the light of a filament bulb or candle light under the watchful gaze of

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a wise old man with a stick. Those were the days our elders tell us, when teachers or Master Sahibs were respected. With their rigorous and harsh methods they were able to instill in their students the discipline together with knowledge and grace necessary to live a successful and righteous life. Not everyone could become a master sahib, unlike every tom dick and harry who has opened a school inside a house we were told, for to become one was the highest of honors.

Such an esoteric class of teachers, existed in a completely different era in the history of our Indian subcontinent. And our elders were correct in holding these noble man in high regards as we can see what a magnificent job these master sahibs and ustaads of the subcontinent did by nurturing leaders like Mr. Jinnah, Liaquat Ali Khan, Allama Iqbal, Gandhi, Nehru and so many more who received their primary education in local schools.

Much has changed since then. And that esoteric class of teachers has faded away now and can only be seen at best in those who reminisce about the bygone days but lack the aptitude to truly count as true Ustaads. But this blog is not about the glorification of old teachers or teaching methods. Its about one particular tutor I had in high school…

I am a good example of the generation which grew up among issues such as, respect for teachers, say no to drugs, MQM and PPP, nepotism, sexual harassment, passing marks and that ever allusive ‘Garadee’ (which in my opinion by the way has f***** the way the

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children think about studies nowadays). We take our dinners in the privacy of our rooms and take our breakfast in the school bus, we drink water directly from the bottle to avoid wasting time with a glass point being our culture has changed drastically and with it the expectations from teachers including teachers themselves.

I don’t know what an Ustaad is suppose to be like. Lets consider an example of someone, say Aristotle. Here is something I always found amusing: You remember Alexander? The Great one? Yes, well he is often regarded as an epitome of leadership an icon of greatness. Imagine history remembering you as Sid The Great or Faroqi The Great or Zardari The… ahem. Well small wonder, Alexander learned directly under Aristotle the father of rationalism, founder of the western thought… bloody Aristotle! my God. Just think about it, after being taught directly under Aristotle I believe people should have held Alexander accountable had he not lived up to his present reputation and done something ‘Great’. You know Alexander you wouldn’t be so great had you not been born a prince in the most civilized society of the time.

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Now lets consider another example. There was a time in grade 11th when I wasn’t doing well in a number of courses and decided to take private tuitions in a typical Pakistani fashion. We had the usual ‘Tuition Kings’ at the time, De’sarem, De Silva, Handerson and (I hope I remember the spellings correctly) I don’t know if these guys are still in the scene, its been 8 or 9 years since high school. So any how my friend strongly recommended a tutor nobody had heard of who taught in very small groups. Heres a brief anecdote, it might bore you but its very relevant to this post:

As I entered the guys house for my first lesson I had expected the usual middle aged, peppered hair fat ass or a skinny black dude, (no offence my Srilankan brothers its just the way things are) this guy looked anything but; a big 5’10, 200 pound guy with very long hair coming halfway to his waist hahaha incredible! He reminded me of Jack Black with extra long hair.

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But he seemed very chill and poised. And as it turned out was very well learned and informed. Over the course of my tuition I got to learn some very interesting things about him; How he used to do homework for kids in school for money, how he used to borrow books from library instead of buying them, how he had been researching on ‘Number Theory’ since O-levels and when after completion he took his work to Karachi University they didn’t had a department to for his research. He was excellent at mathematics but I ended up taking Maths, Add Maths and Physics from him for O-levels and A-levels later on. Heres the fun part, he was also a doctor by profession completing his MBBS from Sindh Medical College and a member of APMSO! I’ve always admired original people and .. lets call him Sharjeel was one of the most original people I have ever met.

We use to hit Red Apple in those days every weekend after class with him. He was our mentor. Thats who he was. He taught us to look around, observe, learn, ask questions, research and ace our CIE exams……and also taught us gambling, making proper aim while egging and later on which streets around Phase 5 to use while escaping 🙂 I will never forget him.

Sharjeel passed away at the age of 25 after suffering a sudden heart attack. I remember thinking at the funeral, ‘bro, you learned and did all that God had planned out for you in the quickest time, maybe that is why He has called you back early’. He was a mathematician by heart and medical student by profession and I owe all my six As in O-levels and passing grades in A-levels to him. He was a good man. An Ustaad! 

The only thing common between Sharjeel’s class and the class of bygone days was perhaps the shorts and white undershirt he always used to wear however his underlying principle was the same; learning in its essence and hardwork. Everything else, etiquettes, morals, creed, etc is secondary.

God bless you old boy. I think right now the mood and the occasion demands something uplifting, here we go:

My Love Affair with the Film Industry

I wanted to talk about anything but movies today. I am kinda in a mood where you feel unhappy about somethings in your life but you know you cant avoid the inevitable. Like for instance you have been seeing someone you really like but for some shit reason you two can’t be together anymore; cruel parents, sectarian issues (Yes! that still happens), long distances, trust issues take your pick or some project you have been working really hard on out of a necessity while knowing that it wont be approved at the same time or the fact that one day you will die. Normal people would call these situations tragic.

The problem is, I do not look at these situations as tragedies. I mean I do but not tragedies per se. I believe that it is situations like these that make me who I am and I .. kinda enjoy the feeling of being in such situations. While this may sound very emo and some might even go as far as to call me a masochist, I don’t know, these feelings keep me on edge. They give me the will and determination to keep pushing. Most of all they remind me of the thousands of shades this life has and adds depth to the things around me. I guess I am weird this way.

When I am not personally in a tragic fix I like to look for it in other people or things. Maybe that is why I like to know the people I interact with on a daily basis very intimately. I hate small talk. I like really knowing someone. You know, like where they are from, why are they in a particular profession, what makes them tick, what is their story, what is the craziest thing they ever did, what are their beliefs and values etc.

Maybe this is also why I have found a life long partner in the motion pictures. Films are after all  a portrayal of the extraordinary event(s) in the life of a protagonist. They start from a scratch, build up characters, show their environment, take them through some exciting ordeal and then explain why the people did what they did. Ahh, I just love all of it. An exciting script goes a long way to keep me happy. And I am not talking about action films and the usual Hollywood fluff. Take for example:

The Beach (2000)

One of my all time favorites. Directed by Danny Boyle who will more popularly be known for Slumdog Millionaire (2008) and starring Leonardo DiCaprio. Leo is quite an actor. Give him any role and he will excel at it, trademarks of a good actor. Tom Hanks anyone? The most amazing thing is that the son of a bitch has never won an Oscar! Not yet any way a testament to how messed up the award system really is. Any way, The Beach is a story about a guy looking for something new, something different in his life, away from the sickening mass of humanity. And he finds that thing in the form of a beach, an island paradise hidden from everyone but for a select few.

For those who like romantic flicks prepare to see love and relationships as they truly are in  Blue Valentine (2010). Again, guys, the industry has evolved into something alot more captivating then romcoms starring Jennifer Anniston, Anna Hathaway, Owen Wilson and

Blue Valentine (2010)

Ben Stiller. Nothing against these actors, hell I sometime aspire to speak like Owen Wilson but I just can’t stand popcorn flicks anymore. Blue Valentine, starring a very talented and upcoming actor, Ryan Gosling shows how two people meet and not in the usual cliched ‘extraodinary’ circumstances in usual romcoms either but in simple everyday situations. Something that might happen with you or me. The story goes on to show how they start to really care for each other and get married and then how later on in life their marriage is facing difficulties. Very true to life scenarios without special effects. A must watch and while we are on the subject of romance Paris, Je T’Aime (2006) is another incredible recommendation.

Ok this post is turning out to be a This Weeks Top 10 on HBO 🙂 I just want to impress my hobby of watching films. I watch alota them. and I mean alot!! So, for my final film review and this movie caught me completely by surprise; behold, Solaris (2002) is a remake of Solaris (1972) directed by one of the most influential names in Russian cinema, Andrey Tarkovskiy. The movie depicts the depth of the human conditions, the inevitability, the metaphysical and alternate realities. It challenges what the term ‘reality’ means. For those who are into sci-fi it will be an added bonus. Don’t get put off now I am perhaps trying to sound too articulate but the movie is directed by Steven Soderbergh popularly known for the Ocean’s Eleven series, Traffic, Insomnia and Syriana. Also it might be significant to add that Steven Spielberg together with James Cameron is an executive producer and oh did I mention George Clooney is the lead actor? So… trying to sound articulate? I think not do watch it if you really want to find out.

Solaris (2002)

For all these films I have stated above, if you are looking for a nice cinematic weekend experience over a 60 inch screen or a sunday family time you will be disappointed. Watch them with an open mind, for a quite stimulating time.

Well these are some of the films from my personal must watch list. Perhaps I should make film reviews a regular feature of this blog. Give me your feedback. I am sure Pakistan will have loads of film enthusiast, we are among the few nations who watch alota films; piracy! (one word explains it all). But back to the way I was feeling like today, it is films like the ones I have mentioned above that gives me the solace I require. Its an addiction. And sometimes when they come with just the right soundtrack, its orgasmic. Just like this one from the movie Kaboom (2010):

Zia’s Spawn: The Generation X

Wow you must be wondering that the title looks like it came straight from a WWE match and whether this post will stands up to its claim. Well this will be my first serious (well partly) post and I hope it will shed some light about our parents. Yes you heard correct. Parents 🙂

What is the Generation X? one may ask. Although there have been debates on the exact definition of the term most people regard Generation X or Baby Boomers as the people born in the 60’s and the 70’s. You can find out more about them here. You might recall this era in North America and Europe as one marked by extreme changes in social order,mistrust of the government, the Vietnam war and the hippie counterculture which bloomed as a result among other things. In the West this generation thus became very open to change. Our dearly beloved Steve Jobs was attending college at this time.

In Pakistan at the time there was a sense of security, yes it was from what I have heard through popular accounts minus the one shameful war in ’71. There was another phenomenon taking place in Pakistan one which would have disastrous consequences for us. The Afghan War. We found ourselves caught up in the fight of two most powerful countries in the world.

Everything seemed to be going right for us, Aid came pouring in from USA and Saudi Arabia, Pakistani’s felt that they were the sole guardians in the fight between God believing ‘good’ and UnGodly communist ‘evil’. Massive petrodollar came from Saudi Arabia due to fresh job opportunities and the heavy industries which Bhutto had founded had matured now and Pakistan moved from a basic agrarian economy to a manufacturing economy.

The Dictator rose in Popularity, massive popularity non of which I believe can be truly credited to him. Sharia laws were imposed, Pakistani scientists were asked to conduct research on ‘jinns’ and holy spirits and the influx of foreign Aid was proclaimed as the Dictators success in improving the economy. Truly the fortune of God falls on those who lead their lives according to the arcane and outdated rules of the Holy scripture. The Jihadist were considered as indispensable national assets able to infiltrate the enemy in Afghanistan, in Kashmir and in India.

Now had the Dictator been wise he should have dispensed with the Jihadist once the war was over. These guerilla soldiers are undisciplined, brain washed and treacherous. They believe in a delusional and fantastic ideology which is very dangerous as it draws strength from, poverty, illiteracy and as of late the phenomenal success of the Jihadist dictator in filling Pakistani begging bowl with cash! The Generation X became the pious Muslims they always thought they were. Even people who believed in freedom, human rights, democracy etc realized that maybe there is something ‘Magical’ about ‘Leaving Everything to God’. Thus the foundation of a misinformed guardian of the universe Islamic state were laid down.

And then Aid was gone. The war was over and there was no more middle eastern oil boom. The Generation X realized that they will actually have to work to make a living. The decade that followed is known in economics as The Lost Decade. The ’90s was the most f*****up time in Pakistan’s history. Maybe all the problems can’t be mentioned here but I will summarize it all by saying that The Generation X got confused as hell. Their unwavering faith in God as they had been led to believe was perhaps wrong after all or was it? This is also the time when hippocrisy grew in earnest. We learned to survive the 90’s by cheating and squabbling while having a firm faith in God. We blamed the world for our problems while ignoring fundamental flaws like pseudo-feudal culture, high illiteracy rate, poor law and order situation, extremism and intolerance.

All was not bad though, another dictator came to power. This one was brighter then his predecessor. And knew what was going on with our society. He even made a solid effort to try to change the direction the nation was following. But I think by this time our Generation X had gone beyond repair….

Please don’t get me wrong. I love my parents and I know you love your parents as well. I get my mom flowers every now and then and help my dad with his work anytime he asks for it. But we need to realize that their believes are outdated. Their version of Pakistan and society is very twisted for the reasons I have shared above. They did what the thought was best for us maybe we would have done the same have we been in their shoes. But that doesn’t make it right yea? They are the spawn of General Zia as I like to call them.

A feeling of change is in the air now. I think the worse mistakes and their consequences are over. Our time is here now, we are the Generation Y. My only hope is that we do not repeat the mistakes our parents and others their age made. That we give priority to education, freedom, human rights, women empowerment rather then the teachings of the shariah which are open to thousands of interpretations. That we renounce the Jihadis once and for all. That we quit this hippocrissy plaguing our daily lives. That we stop blaming the world for our problems and just think logically to their solutions.

I will end this post with a classic rock anthem from The Scoropions: