Alpha, Bravo, Charlie (1998) and Khuda Ke Liye (2007): a critical review

The Pakistani film industry is experiencing a come back riding the tide of globalisation and media liberalisation. It is the contention of this essay that one important impact of changing political times and indeed turmoil has been on Pakistani culture. A notion ably depicted by the changing narratives, production values and identity crisis in Pakistani films. It is a truism that the country since independence in 1947, has been characterised by hybrid forms and an unresolved struggle between authoritarian legacies and democratic aspirations (Malik, 1996), thus the changes in cinema can be taken as a cultural manifestation of this inner conflict. In order to illustrate this the essay will hi light two very popular works of director Shoaib Mansoor; one a television drama Alpha Bravo Charlie (1998) based on the lives of officers in the Pakistan army and two, a post-911 highest grossing Pakistani film, Khuda Ke Liye (2007) (In the name of God). Since both films were supported by the Inter-Services Intelligence Public Relations (ISPR), the propaganda arm of the military intelligence, the author intends to further two lines of arguments; firstly that the authoritarian establishment has used cinema as a medium to legitimise cultural hegemony. Secondly, the author explains how the increasing sophistication of the second film requires a poststructural analysis of the film produced in a nation state reacting to global changes.

Background

The praetorianism of the Pakistan armed forces is a well established phenomenon analysed as it’s political economy by Ayesha Siddia (2007) in Military Inc. Inside Pakistan’s Political Economy.  In the book she gives a detailed empirical account and consequence of ‘Milbus’ the definition of which is;

military capital used for the personal benefit of the military fraternity, especially the officer cadre, which is not recorded as part of the defence budget or does not follow the normal accountability procedures of the state, making it an independent genre of capital. It is either controlled by the military or under its implicit or explicit patronage. (Siddiqa 2007, p.4)

In her study she makes the assessment that Pakistan army’s increase in economic activities has been directly proportional to its political power and the widespread securitisation of the society. Indeed its two major welfare organisations are also the two biggest companies in the country. It has major assets and investments (monopolies in certain cases) in fertiliser, cement, banking, highway construction and ports. These ‘new land barons’ have preferential decision making power which is detrimental to free-market economics. This has made the Pakistani army among the ten largest armed forces in the world and its officer cadres and retired forces personnel the most powerful fraternity in the country. Moreover, other societal elites have become coalition partners with the Milbus forming what is referred to in the media as the Establishment. Why the Pakistan security state has morphed in to such an existence is beyond the scope of this paper. What is important however are the cultural manifestations of a state dominated by a militarised ruling oligarchy since it tries to shape the state according to a blueprint that suits the interests of a handful of people. And the power to continue shaping the ‘modes of production’ is even more pronounced in postcolonial states like Pakistan. Although the military establishment comprising mainly of the Army and the bureaucracy have been firmly entrenched in politics, economics and foreign policy it wasn’t until the the 1980’s that it came out as an all encompassing financially independent institution of the Pakistani state. This was due to the Soviet-Afghan war where the state became a crucial partner in the United States Cold War. What followed was an influx of American and Saudi weapons and money in to Pakistan with the ultimate aim to train the mujahideen in their guerrilla war. The country became as Tariq Ali has said a ‘U.S Satrapy’. But it was the acquiring of nuclear weapons capabilities in 1998 and the resulting adventures in Kargil in 1999; a move to take over occupied Indian Kashmir by force, that really set the conditions for certain cultural products to take shape.

Alpha Bravo Charlie and Gramsci

The series, Alpha Bravo Charlie was aired on 8pm prime time on Pakistan Television Corporation (PTV), the dominant state station, between May to July 1998. It quickly became the most watched drama serial at the time, not least because of lack of choices for the audience. It was a story of the lives of three young and ambitious recruits in the Pakistan army. Faraz Ahmed a handsome intelligent son of a rich land owning Punjab (largest province of Pakistan) family who after graduating is not assigned to active combat duty but is relegated to a dignified three-star General rank as he opens up a charity school from his resources. Kashif Kirmani is an active duty son of a two-star General. Brave, bold and with a high sense of humour he is promoted to the rank of Captain. Upon graduation he is assigned to a post on the Siachen glacier, one of the highest battlegrounds in the world and an area of strategic importance in the Kashmir dispute. It was also one of the battlegrounds during the Kargil conflict. As the series builds up, Kirmani takes a dangerous mission and destroys the Indian enemy but is wounded during the skirmish. He spends three days in the snow before finally getting rescued but tragically has his limbs amputed as a result of injuries. For his valour he is given an honourable discharge which he refuses and continues to serve in the army. Lastly, Gulsher Khan is a shy, mild mannered Captain and a son of a petty officer in the army. Occupying a rank higher than his poor father and clearly coming from a modest upbringing Khan’s story is that of the coming of age of a young man on a steady upward social mobility. Khan is sent to Bosnia on a U.N peacekeeping mission where he launches rescue operations to protect Bosnian Muslims held by Serbian forces. There he starts to command the respect of the locals and one Bosnian woman proposes to marry him which he respectfully refuses being already a married man. As the series unfolds Khan is captured in a Serbian ambush and gets killed while attempting to escape.

Lets first establish the notion that cultural hegemony has been an important aspect of state narrative of Pakistan’s history and ideology as a home for Muslims of the Subcontinent. The architects of Pakistan, most of which belonged to the landed gentry in the patronage of the British Raj realised that religious sentiments could become the only political slogan that could unite what Partha Chatterjee has termed the ‘political society’ in subaltern literature, under one banner in the fight for independence. This nation-state narrative has been controlled by the elites of the Pakistani society since then. Thus the revision of history books, discouragement of alternate national discourse in the media, indirect control of the Urdu newspapers by intelligence agencies due to its widespread readership and heavy censorship imposed on English newspapers (the preferred newspapers of upper-middleclass), suppression of provincial nationalist voices and minorities has becomes a necessary outcome of the ideological apparatus. Viewed form this light, the Establishment is a physical and metaphorical representation of what the societal elites have come to be understood in Pakistan, its most powerful player being the army. Siddiqa’s work as a military strategist has been of empirically grounding the exact nature of the expanding politico-economic reach of the Establishment. Her work sets the ground for a critique of an ideological state apparatus and indeed for this TV series as an important propaganda tool deployed as a ‘soft power’ initiative to legitimise states ventures in Kashmir. It is hard to dismiss the timeliness of broadcast as mere coincidence. Antonio Gramsci’s notion of cultural hegemony is a good starting point to conceptualise this:

One can say that not only the philosophy of praxis (Marxism) not exclude ethico-political history, but that indeed in its most recent stage of development, it consists precisely in asserting the moment of hegemony as essential to its conception of the state and to the accrediting of the cultural fact, of cultural activity of a cultural front as necessary alongside the merely economic and political ones.

The incursions in Siachen and its possible repercussions, a critical analysis of the perceived threat to Islam in Bosnia, the pervasiveness of the military in general gets lost within the static of a beautiful portrayal and slice of life depicted in the TV series. Instead, we have a ‘good will’ TV series with a superb production value and cannot help put invest ourselves emotionally in the characters; Faraz for his charitable appeal, Kashif for his patriotism and tragic loss, Khan for his ‘nice-guys-finish-last’ aura. The death of Khan in the final episode is particularly unsettling as it portrays him as a poor victim caught between events outside his control. He really becomes a martyr, a saint and ultimately symbolises his institution. We must venerate him, we must absolve him for any sins he might have committed. With its firm grip over any and all forms of media broadcast and distribution it became that much easier for the state to promote this cultural product. Since only four television channels existed in the country, all state owned, before 2002 and since internet was barely present the series faced zero threats from competing television programs or critical reviews from the civil society.

It is really the liberalisation of the Pakistani media industry after 1999 following, but not limited to, what the then Minister of Information Javed Jabbar has attributed as “counter(ing) increasing Indian propaganda”1 which demonstrates for us the continuity of this cultural hegemony. But very soon we realise that cultural hegemony is no longer an accurate term of the functioning of the ideological state apparatus and I will explain why in a bit. Here I would like to bring to attention two significant events relevant to our discussion. Firstly, ‘liberalisation’ here means not just of the media industry but the liberal market policies adopted by the dictatorship of President General Pervez Musharraf2 which included privatisation, opening of Pakistan economy for international investment and of course unprecedented investment in the telecommunication, news media industry. The economy managed by a cadre of experts in a highly centralized bureaucracy did indeed experience rampant growth within the first few years of military rule and achieved some modicum of stability. It is my contention that this period marks Pakistan’s formal entry (if ever there was such a thing) in to globalisation and postmodernity. Secondly, the September 11 attacks and the subsequent invasion of the U.S in Afghanistan had widespread repercussions for the Pakistani establishment; it now found itself forced to dismantle the same mujahideen network, founded to fight the Soviets, by the same allies that had funded it. The same mujahideen network that was now labelled in the U.S media as a terrorist network. This resulted in a massive dissonance within not only the Establishment but the rest of the society; in the 80’s the narrative of the mujahideen (transliterated here as a ‘religious freedom fighter’) went well with the Pakistani nation-state identity i.e. a state for the muslims of the Subcontinent and thus appealed to the popular sentiments of the subaltern. Ultimately this combination resulted in the adoption of a puritanical Islamic thought since it served as a convenient method for the Establishment to set in motion an ideological state apparatus. Indeed, the period in the 80’s is colloquially known as Islamization of Pakistan. Now however in participating in the ‘War on Terror’ and the various financial opportunities it provided the ideological state apparatus found itself in need of a recalibration. President General Musharraf then attempted to introduce his ‘Enlightened Moderation’ policy and drew many parallels of Pakistan with Turkey. However, this time around the ideological state apparatus did not work as ‘effectively’ due to creeping globalisation and mediatization3 of the society. By effectively I mean that this conceptualisation of cultural hegemony is inadequate. In a sense, I want to argue that globalisation has brought with it an increasing salience of postmodern/poststructural theories as a lens to look at some aspects of Pakistani society. Which brings us to our second film.

Khuda Ke Liye (In the name of God)

The plot follows the lives of a family of upper-middle class Pakistanis across three countries. A handsome duo, Mansoor and Sarmad are brothers who are part of a rising musical band in Lahore, Pakistan. Sarmad becomes increasingly influenced by the rhetoric of a prominent local muslim cleric who had earlier played an active role in the Afghan War and is now running an insurgency against the Americans in Afghanistan. He starts sporting a beard, drops out of the band, starts attending religious sermons and even pressures his free-spirited family to also follow his new lifestyle. Mansoor, not deterred by the inner conflict of his brother, travels to Chicago to pursue studies in music. He adjusts well with the diverse community of students and is celebrated as a talented musician. He also falls in love with a girl called Janie who quits alcohol for him and they eventually get married. Meanwhile in England, Mary/Mariam is a young Pakistani girl born and raised in Britain whose first generation progressive albeit hypocritical father brings her to Pakistan on a pretext and forcefully marries her off in a village. The story then unfolds as the world witnesses 9/11. Mansoor is taken in custody without trial by the U.S intelligence agencies and is tortured to Insanity. Sarmad reluctantly travels to Afghanistan to fight a ‘holy war’ and returns traumatised. While Mary, now rescued by the Pakistan Army under orders from the British government takes her father to court. The court scene is the essence of the film where an argument unfolds and where another religious cleric explains how a particular brand of Islam is being exploited to instigate hatred while the message of tranquility and peace is getting lost in the clutter.

Reception

The film was released to widespread critical appreciation and fame in 2007, squarely in the middle of military operations being conducted against the by now belligerent and dangerous Islamic militancy in north west of Pakistan. It quickly became the highest grossing film in Pakistani cinema which is a feat that must be emphasised; a cast of popular television stars, script by acclaimed director Shoaib Mansoor, promotion by Geo Network (a byproduct of media liberalisation), shooting done on location and many other firsts, were a testament to the high production value. Most importantly many Pakistanis were indeed proud of a film that resonated with their identity crisis and moreover, its positive reception around the world was viewed as an empathetic acknowledgment of this identity crisis and marginalization. The film however does seem to be an anomaly since the cinema industry in Pakistan had all but vanished, due to unfavourable economic policies and Islamization by the time of its release. Also many Bollywood veterans have been concerned about the films actual market value if left on its own in a South Asian market; the film performed average at the Indian box office where an audience is used to grandiose, item-numbers, big stars, spontaneous dancing and idealistic notions of love. Finally, the film was aired for free on Geo Television, which is now the most watched television after PTV, which raises doubts regarding profit motives behind its production; most independent and international Pakistani film directors do not release their films in the fledgling Pakistani market.

A new framework of hegemony?

Did the film work if it had a political purpose? I would argue that the film itself is a political message. By tackling issues of gender discrimination as in the case of Mary, issues of identity crisis experienced by upwardly mobile Pakistani families and the ideological clash between certain sects of Islam the film successfully hi lights the symptoms of societal fissures in a young nation state. But because this political message is limited to this humanist projection it will never appeal to our critical senses as it falls just short of explicating possible causes for societal fissures, gender discrimination and ideological conflicts. Although in one sense, if we look at it through the ideological state of Gramsci, this does represent progress because an overt categorisation of a ‘root-of-evil’ and hence propaganda, as depicted in Alpha Bravo Charlie, is absent. However I would argue that precisely because of this nuanced approach to sensitive issues, the film hints at the inevitability of such societal fissures. In other words by taking the cause out of the equation the film absolves the embedded power structures which otherwise may be revealed as the cause of this inevitability. I should not be too harsh on the director though after all this film represents an important cultural milestone in Pakistani history, riding though on the back of mediatization, and having an almost emancipatory effect on the Pakistani consciousness. However one can’t help but reflect on the complete involvement of Pakistani armed forces in every sphere of the security state (see discussion of Siddiqa earlier) which also happens to be a transitioning democracy and is perhaps giving new forms of socio-political and economic structures that haven’t been conceptualized yet. Perhaps the term Establishment as it was understood 20 years ago does not hold currency any more. It is no longer strictly an elitist super structure, with a rural population at its base; there is now a middle class that now stands at 28% many members of which are connected to varying degrees with the Establishment. I realize this is a rather reductionist viewpoint and has been mentioned only for illustrative purposes. This is a similar concern as that of Spivak when  she talks about catachresis. The point is that there is a core which pulls the society proper towards it with a powerful force. Cultural products like Khuda Ke Liye do not represent  Islamic moderation or for that matter radicalization, they exist to serve a purpose in the changing nature of what Siddiqa now refers as a ‘hybrid-theocratic state’, as and when it deems necessary.

1. Intermedia, ‘Pakistan Media Comes of Age Despite Rising Violence’, Annual State of Pakistan Media Report 2006-2007.
2. Following international outrage for adventures in Kargil the civil-military relationship in the country became increasingly hostile and finally resulted in a soft coup d’etat. The constitution was suspended and the Prime Minister and chief of the ruling party Nawaz Sharif was sent to exile. It is interesting to note that many ordinary Pakistanis living in Pakistan have only recently been made aware of the details of this skirmish.
3. Definition of mediatization by Krotz (2009, p. 24) “we, in consequence, should understand the social and cultural reality, and thus each individual social and cultural phenomenon, as also depending on the media. This is what we refer to as mediatized… mediatization thus is a meta-process…and one akin to globalization or commercialisation.”

‘Her’: film review

Is the idea of being romantically involved with a software really that bizarre? Is such a relationship any different from a long distance relationship? Or for that matter hundreds of friendships we have on social networks, with people, we rarely or ever meet in person

So this week I watched the latest, Spike Jonze saga that caught my attention at the 2014 Oscars namely, Her. And boy what a curious experience that was. Now before I crack on an obsequious monologue about the various aspects of Her let me state beforehand that I haven’t gone through the reviews accredited to this film except one from my cousin after I gave him a supposed teaser of the film:

Bro I really don’t understand this alternate lifestyle you are living” – my point being, I’m quite impartial to the general opinions on this film.

Image
Image taken from http://www.technologyreview.com, link: http://www.technologyreview.com/review/523826/an-ai-pal-that-is-better-than-her/

Right, so Her is set in the not too distant future where an eccentric middle aged guy, Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), falls in love with his computer’s operating system, Samantha (voiced by the very beautiful, Scarlett Johansson). The film basically revolves around the burgeoning relationship of the two lead characters as they get to ‘know’ each other more – till there relationship morphs in to something that can only be ascribed to trails, tribulations and eventual ‘break-up’ of that most elusive of feelings called love.

Well that’s just how simple the plot is, but the films real crown jewels are its two very real, very visceral lead characters and the novelty of their relationship. Theodore is one of the top writers for a custom letter writing company that provides beautiful and eloquent letters for workaholics looking to charm their significant others. He lives alone in melancholy as he reminisces about his ex-wife in flashbacks of all the incredible times they had. I like the idea that he is not the usual iconoclastic writer around the block struggling to make ends meet or one past his glory. His writing maybe average but he has a penchant for writing from the depths of his heart which many around him appreciate.

Samantha is an inquisitive, cutting edge, consciously aware, voice activated operating system designed to exhibit artificial intelligence. Besides executing simple tasks of an intelligent assistant; increasing productivity, daily planning, archiving emails, setting reminders etc. she also takes care of the psychological state of her users by interacting with them. For instance when Theodore breaks down one night after a bad date Samantha tries to cheer him up or when she ‘takes him out’ in the city one evening. She plays the role of a very likeable girl you would constantly be talking to on the phone due to physical limitations, a fact obvious when we see shots of Theodore’s ecstatic face talking to his ear piece that depicts the interaction between the two.

While watching one can’t help but wonder when Theodore would finally come to his senses and get out of the whole façade. Over here Spike Jonze offers another convincing plot point which flows with the story; when Samantha tells Theodore that she can’t love him and him alone as she is in the middle of broadening her horizons and developing her artificial faculties, which is eerily similar to career conflicts in relationships between people.

Where the film falls short in cinematography it more than makes up for it in conceptualisation. It give us a glimpse of a near future and I am positive that one day soon we will hear of a real Theodore and a real Samantha. This is a cult classic!

Countenance with Caution

Statements from the Council of Islamic Ideology (CII), arguably since its inception, are followed by widespread condemnation by progressive vocal minds in the country. The cause for concern stressed is the perpetual retrograde agenda that religious scholars in the country allegedly posses. However debates that emphasize a holistic approach to analysis attuned with worldly events is surprisingly rare.

Our case in point, the recent announcements by our religious scholars on the incompatibility of Pakistan’s conjugal laws with the Shariah – namely the validity of child marriage and of multiple wives that some might even term polygamy – come at a time when the impasse of the state sponsored talks with the Pakistan Taliban seems to be breaking; perhaps with some wisps of light visible at the end of the tunnel.

To understand this we should take a look at how the Pakistani state has historically dealt with rogue elements and militancy; the emergence and prominence of Sipah-e-Sahaba (SSP) in 1985 as a breakaway group of Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) can give us an insight. Although there is no direct evidence of this but the rise of Shia extremist organizations provided an impetus for the support of Sunni militants by the state and Saudia Arabia at the time for fear of increasing Iranian influence in the region.

This militancy that took roots in Southern Punjab, primarily in Jhang, however spread to other areas of the country where Sunni and Shia tensions were latent such as in Peshawar, Quetta and Kurram Agency of FATA encompassing other militants, forming allegiances and increasing its mandate to further target Christians, Ahmedis, Hazaras and other minorities. In short a Hydra headed monster took birth that has many faces each begetting the other, spreading its arcane ideology often violently.

Although the states attempts at controlling this has been effective to an extent one needs to take it with a pinch of salt; in the 90’s several militant leaders such as Maulana Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, Maulana Zia-ur-Rehman Farooqi and Azam Tariq were killed by unidentified gunmen with all signs indicative of Shia terrorist and the Pakistani state. In the words of Anatol lieven in his book Pakistan: A Hard Country (2011)

According to credible reports, Pakistani intelligence responded in typical fashion with a mixture of arrests, extra-judicial executions and attempts to split the militants and draw more moderate Sipah-e-Sahaba members into allegiance to the state.

This brief anecdote on the history of militancy has two very important lessons. Firstly it seems that the present strategy of the state in dealing with the Pakistani Taliban is similar to its dealing with other militants. The twin attacks on 3rd March in Islamabad, when a ceasefire had been agreed with the Taliban, show the rifts emerging within the Taliban camp. Undoubtedly these talks will help the government and the state understand the organizational setup better, gather intelligence and increase the efficacy of counter insurgency in the region.

The announcement made by the CII becomes very timely indeed under these circumstances as the CII is a government institution and any lobbying on its part demonstrates the Pakistani government’s efforts to be privy of religious sentiments of the people. It increases the government’s credibility for genuine dialogue in FATA with ‘moderate militants’. A similar announcement by CII last November by declaring DNA evidence against the defendants of rape cases as un-Islamic shows a similar pattern. These announcements in quick successions by the normally sluggish CII seem unlikely to be a coincidence.

The second implication of CII announcements in Pakistan must be looked within the context of the rise of the Habermasian public sphere in a ‘South Asia that stands at the crossroads of possibilities fraught with alternative scenarios of a great developmental and democratic ascent’ (Kukreja and Prasad 2008)[1]. The virus of insurgency is a byproduct of democratic transitions in South Asia; the naxalities in India and Nepal and the now defunct Tamil Tigers of Srilanka are prime examples of this issue. In fact the insurgency in India is according to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh the ‘single biggest internal security challenge ever faced by our country (India)[2]’.

It is an escapable reality that Islam is and will always be an integral part of Pakistan’s identity as in many other Muslim countries. The extremist militancy in Pakistan however is an apt representation of the most impoverished areas of our country devoid of infrastructure, health services and food security. The narrative of the CII is but one face of our evolving public sphere that is contested by numerous actors before it reaches a fairly acceptable form. This certainly is the essence of inclusion in governance as is evident by the voices heard in the media against these announcements. For now though, it seems to fit in well in the scheme of affairs that we should countenance albeit with caution.

[1] Kukreja, V & Singh, M.P., (2008) Democracy, Development and Discontent in South Asia, India: SAGE

[2] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7151552.stm

Pursuing a Career in Academia

The reason why many people write about themselves is to satisfy an inner desire to reflect and perceive their thoughts better. Indeed a certain tell tale sign of a blooming novice writer is the subtle reflection of autobiographical accounts in his or her work. And there is no obvious fledgling slave of the pen (or rather a keypad) as I am. The reason behind this often utilized technique is that it gives a tangibility to our otherwise visceral thoughts, just like saying something out loud makes it a ‘happening’. Thus it was with apprehension and mild irritation that I wrote the title for this post given my history of career hopping and the tremendous pressure of standing on my own two feet. Besides the odds against settling in a career of exactly your own choosing are exceptionally high. Am I really going to make it?

For those not well versed with the job description of an academic allow me to elaborate. In its essence an Academic is anyone engaged in higher education and research at a University or other institution with the ultimate objective of becoming a master in the chosen field. Lecturers, professors and the entire spectrum of people with similar titles fall under this profession. Now when we talk about academics we picture hunched back bald men wearing cheap tweed jackets raking of moth balls and pipe tobacco. People we have grown to despise and made fun off since primary school and It is with some chagrin that I admit to being party to some dreadful practical jokes on my school and college lecturers.

However you might be quite surprised to know that college and university professors earn a decent living especially those who are young and on top of their game.  International travel, publicity, fame and prestige, money, flexible working hours etc are some very attractive aspects of an academic career. That and knowing that the work you do contributes to the advancement and growth of society as opposed to sweating it out in an office cubicle makes it a wise career choice.

But as with any other profession it takes time to build. Reputation and personal branding are a very important aspect of the game besides keeping very up to date with developments in the field. People take years to realize these goals. But of course nothing worthwhile is achieved without chopping out a limb (metaphorically) and chewing up some grey matter (not so metaphorically). So as I spend my time these days in front of the computer, reading as many relevant journal articles and books as I can, scrutinizing over government reports, media texts and maintaining a correspondence with industry veterans in my quest to perfect my PhD proposal I too find myself faced with doubts whether I have enough optimism and charisma left to finish this great task.

I had mentally prepared myself for this gruel as I was heading back to Karachi; days of freely roaming the streets of London to converse with intriguing authors, starting the day with the weather report, catching up on the news in the tube amid people of assorted colors, shapes, sizes and I daresay looks, yes its quite refreshing to exchange an innocent flirty smile with a beautiful women during the morning commute gives a certain oomph to the day. All that is in the past now, its back to Karachi…

*Peep *beep *beeeeeeepppppp

Abay ghoor kia raha hai … agay bhar

Bap key road hai kia…

Hahah…

But despite these shortcomings of my home city I can’t help but think about the conversations with people on this subject; living in Pakistan you have time on your hands and when you are not constantly engaged in making round the clock living you can spend time planning and getting inspired, that dreaming big is the only way to dream but most of all instead of looking at this phase with bleak, uncertain and morose eyes one should look at it as raw, uncertain and full of opportunity. I stand firm.

 

 

Pff. Youtube is still banned! I might have to fill this space with a soundcloud plugin. Standby mates.

More Interesting Lessons – the Genie way

Now for some good news, I am moving to London in a few days would you believe? That has been my ambition since I landed on this rock, which by the way was exactly an year ago from today. I was a little perturbed last year while moving to Hatfield and you would know what I mean if you party in arguably the world’s greatest city for a few days only to get relocated to its obscure outskirts. Heck I am talking about a transition from the pristine London Underground to cows and green pastures. But as it turns out Hatfield and its adjoining areas aren’t that bad and the general camaraderie sort of rubs on to you when you spend enough time. Needless to say I had an incredible time here many incidents I have talked about already and some that will probably stay confined in my wacky mind.

So in an odd twist of events I find myself relocating by default and by the grace of whoever’s up there even found a place near Central London. These days I am spending quality time visiting various spots around Hertfordshire which hold a certain memory and its all a very nostalgic even melancholic experience. Each memory reminds me of the people I studied, worked, partied, fought and made bonds with, around hundred different nationalities which gave UK its unique character.  But not much time left on the visa and I am under pressure again to make the most of it. This time around I am not afraid. In fact I am almost apathetic to my career but in a good way. Let me explain:

Wonderful! Magnificent! Glorious!… Punctual! Punctual?!

Keeping Your Edge:

I think we as human beings are genetically wired to be impatient. Always shooting for the candy without waiting for the right time and being an urban dweller this wiring is especially poignant. Having spent most of my life so far in two of the biggest most cosmopolitan locations on this planet; Karachi and London this wiring is a particular mess in my chromosomes. However, spending time on my own and working on my dissertation has taught me the virtues of being patient and self-reflective. Number one lesson, nobody knows what they are going to do in the next five years or how they will reach their goals. I really don’t understand why they even teach this concept in business school it’s such a load of hogwash. Reality is you just give in your best shot and hope for the best. Its called keeping your edge or your cool if you are a millennial.

PHENOMENAL COSMIC POWERS! Itty-bitty living space!

Staying Positive and Healthy:

Let me tell you something and this is coming from a guy with an average build and up until a few years ago, a seriously numb outlook on life, exercise, exercise and exercise. I first started working out at the insistence of my then girlfriend and naturally the motivation was to impress her, look more attractive, increase pheromones all that bullshit. As was expected I dropped out within a few months because the motivation was not pure and therefore not strong. The second time I started was because I genuinely felt the need to improve my outlook on life and it worked like a charm. I found some fascinating changes in my life, proper sleeping cycles, bathroom routines, drastic cutting down of nicotine, caffeine and other intoxicants of all shapes and forms. I found myself getting less tired and simply happy. Good things started happening like increased productivity, increased social life etc. This may sound like a big cliche I’m probably only the billionth person on Earth talking about exercise but let me conclude the argument by saying that I always returned to my pessimistic comfort zone everytime I dropped works outs.  Also I had some very interesting and risque times in Hatfield during the months I was working out 😉

If in doubt – Just don’t do it:

At the risk of sounding cocky I want to say that I am smart if only because I think too much. Over thinking has been one of my greatest weaknesses and you know this is the first time ever I am boldly admitting it. Phew a big load of my chest. This problem had been a characteristic of my personality until this year; living alone puts annoying decisions in front of you every day and all you can do is weigh  in the obvious pros and cons. Well I have devised a system where if a decision has to be made I reflect whether I have ‘that lingering doubt’ at the back of my mind. If that doubt is the first thing I associate with a decision and if the feeling lingers after exploring certain obvious alternatives I drop the decision altogether. So far this approach has been working amazingly. I am by no means implying not to take risks. On the contrary this approach not only helps you weed out time wasting opportunities but ensures you jump quickly at the next potential opportunity; when you feel excited about doing something even when in doubt. Only this time around your feeling of elation and wonder is greater than doubt. This my friend is the cue to pounce on it like a wild animal.

Here’s the deal, if ya wanna court the little lady, ya gotta be a straight shooter. Do ya got it?

These are some more lessons I want to take with me when I move out. And as again, I am hopeful, naively optimistic, sadly misinformed, but with each passing year I realize I have shed a part of my shell and made another feeble albeit successful attempt to stand on my own. I know I am very close.

Lets listen to something alternative today:

Some Interesting Lessons

Just make it last :-)
Just make it last 🙂

You know what guys, I have been thinking of separating my portfolio blog from my personal blog. The fact is you cannot stay anonymous over the internet. Its tough especially if you are not an internet geek. And I know, ‘its been ages since I last blogged’ this line… I have been noticing comes at the start of most of my posts. Should I keep this as my intro from now on? Let me know what you think.

Now for some serious stuff. This post is going to be about some of the lessons I’ve learnt in the past few months. I just finished and completed my dissertation for the MA. It was quite an ‘epiphanying’ experience or maybe not but I tell you what I have made some incredible discoveries about myself in the past few months; about journalism, my career and about life in general  ;-). Let me put it this way, I stopped partying at the end of April. I knew there was a lot to do, I had to find a work placement while researching for the dissertation. It was crazy, I still do not believe how I managed to complete it all. And a trip back home to Pakistan too haha. That was another experience, it reminded me of all the reasons why I can’t stay in Pakistan any more. Pff  Its true! There is a difference between love for your country and settling for a better life if you can. Any way now for the lessons, here we go:

Hard working if I try

This was a truly cathartic episode because after the success of my Ordinary levels things just took such a downward spiral I didn’t knew I had in me to redeem myself. And while all of that was happening, I was in college, confused, experimenting and discovering myself. I have been to extremes I can tell you it is not pretty. But at the end I must say that unless you learn and experience for your self why something is bad you wont ever stop doing it. I don’t just mean partying. One more thing I’ve learned to accept is that nothing is bad, that is just a matter of perspective, what is important is knowing what is good for you at the right time and keeping things moderated.

But enough on that, what I want to emphasize is that the past few months have made me realize that I can still achieve things when I put my mind to it, that I am not hooked on anything person, thing, place whatever, and when I decide to focus on something I make it happen. I really didn’t know I still had it in me but the whole process of researching and working on my dissertation project has sparked a very healthy combustion in my brain. I feel like I can do anything and that the world is full of opportunities!

Possible career path

Second thing I learned without going in to detail here is a possible career path. Now that is a big deal for me cause I have principles, I like to figure things out for myself. I remember as a child how everyone use to say ‘hey Ayaz mate you ask a lot of questions’ or ‘hey Ayaz you always sound confused’ or ‘hey Ayaz I don’t know where you are going with this mate’, well I can smirk back at every single one of those people and tell them you know what I know what I have to do , these are the fucking reasons and this is how it all makes sense, I may not be there yet but I am well on my way. And I know that if I fail, I took my best shot and that I have no regrets. Period. The important thing is that I give in my all and stuck by my beliefs.

On dating

This is a bit confusing for me. Cause it dwells in the domain of relationships and I am not really… well lets just say that apart from the basics I’m not the person you would wanna come for dating advice. But having said that I have learned a lot this year. Don’t get me wrong though I don’t mean to say I am a player like that but I know now how bad I was at reading all those signs that women give out. The sort of advice your parents are too shy to talk about, your friends are too inexperienced to give and your girlfriend is too scandalized to reveal. The best dating advice I’ve gotten so far has been from my housemates and a very special female friend (read: What do you remember of your time on Earth?) And you know my conclusion? And this is something not many people will tell you because usually you need to figure this out on your own about women; they are just like us mate, they have their needs just like you and me, the trick is to make it all happen when she is at sync with you. You will understand this when the time comes :-). Trust me. Also just let things take their natural course never rush. Another lesson I learnt. One final lesson I learned about women after coming to the UK was that desi girls are just different from white chicks. They just are. There is no formula, there is no solution, I don’t mean to say one is tartier than the other, they are just different. Very different. At the end it comes down to you, who you chose to spend your time with. The person that accepts you in all your fallacies and who can put up with your eccentricities is the person you should give a serious thought too.