Archive for the ‘City Issues’ Category

It’s time for Lahore’s 4th Critical Mass cycling event

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How much must we lose?

The Long March is imminent now; this country knows no peace in any sector. But never will we stop celebrating, will we?

 

I live in a neighborhood that apparently has a lot of people who have these programmes to celebrate every single festival on earth. Plus, they make sure that every house for miles around will hear every singer they put on their stages. No matter what time it is; if these people have a mind to do so, they will not let us sleep till the wee hours of the morning, and will not let us study during the day. No escaping their music or their qawwali, not a chance. And right now, what I’m listening to is someone shouting at the top of his lungs into a microphone ‘Basant Mubarak! Welcome Basant!’, while I’m sitting in my own house.

 

What’s wrong with us? I ponder on his thought every day, and I get so many answers it disturbs me even more. What is sickening us so much that we just don’t care about anything but our own frivolous, impermanent, and dangerous fun?

 

The boards on the Liberty roundabout are not even partially old yet. They still strike a pang to our hearts and we still crane our necks to see the pictures of the men that died in the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team.

The story of the death of one particular guard on that day is still fresh in my mind. He was lying on the road, trying to make the gunmen think that he was dead, and when they were just leaving, he raised his head. And then they came back especially to kill him. How can someone be so cruel and so hard so as to kill a person who never did him any harm? How can someone come back especially to kill that person?

 

But then, how can a government be so cruel as to allow Basant to take place; an event that kills so many innocent children every year? How can they condone the death of so many people in such a horrible manner; by having strings dipped in powdered glass cut them on the neck?

Forget the government. Why do people do it? Why is there no pressure to stop this event?

We cannot deny that hundreds die on Basant every year. No one can deny that people will use powdered glass and even wires to fly their kites.

 

Most of all, we cannot deny that the frivolous pleasure that people get from it is so blatantly disrespectful of the events in this country, in this very city. Bomb blasts. Price hikes. Unemployment. Attacks on the cricket team. The death of seven young security guards who were only doing the best job they could.

 

One last thing. Has anyone noticed the decency displayed by the Sri Lankan cricketers?

I shudder to think what would have happened if (God forbid) an American cricket team had deigned to come to Pakistan for a tour, and the same thing happened. If some eyebrows are raised at the mention of America playing cricket, it may be well to mention here that the States were very interested in cricket at the time of the last World Cup. So it might have been a possibility. But if what the Sri Lankan cricketers went through had been experienced by most other cricket teams of the world, the result would have been much more disastrous in its impact on Pakistan in general.

Take India, for example. I hate doing this, because I’ve got some very close Indian friends of my own, but the way we are being treated by India now, there probably wouldn’t have been a shred of the decency that Sri Lankans have shown about this incident. For India, we’re the ultimate bombers. They have no terrorists of their own; at least not according to the mass media hype we hear and read about. At the least, I speculate that the airspace restrictions would have been put on again. And if any Americans were there, well, a few more drones, perhaps?

It’s not to say that what has happened is not such a huge deal after all; not to say that it is an incident that should be tolerated, but I merely point out the real gentlemen in the game here. Maybe we’re just not used to be treated politely anymore, but I was extremely surprised to hear that the bus driver who survived the attack has been called by the Sri Lankans for a tour with his family. Additionally, as soon as the cricketers landed and were interviewed in their home country, many of the first comments I read were praising the driver who saved their lives. Not one of them uttered a disparaging comment on the security provided, even though they had every right to do so. On the televised interviews, even though the reporters were trying to squeeze such comments out of them, the most these men would do would be to excuse themselves with a polite ‘thank you’.

 

Decency, people. Just simple decency. Something that we call in Urdu sharafat. That’s what is there in these cricketers who suffered so much at the hands of our country, and still do not say anything. Maybe they respect the deaths of the people who were protecting them. Maybe they’re just decent people overall, which comes to the same thing.

 

One thing I know; they’re showing more decency than our own people. For everyone here, a soon as something like Basant rolls around, nothing matters anymore. Not killing someone. Not feeling guilt for what our guests went through when they tried to save one of our biggest sports. Not mourning the mindless deaths of the countrymen who tried to protect them

All that matters, at the end of the day, is flying kites. But I’m going to skip the sarcastic ending for now and I’m going to plead with you. Anyone who is reading this; out of respect, out of decency, out of your own humanity, do not celebrate Basant. We have no excuse for celebrating anything; if we want to cheer ourselves up and not feel anything about what has been happening recently, we have means other than those which kill even more people. Try to convince your families and friends that such a celebration will be disgraceful behavior, to say the least. We owe our guests and our own people at least that much.

Questions of the Hour

The political ‘kabaddi’ currently going on is not even surprising to most of us as it is just part of Pakistan’s cyclic history. While some optimists did think that things will be different this time and two largest democratic forces in Pakistan will finally pursue conciliatory power-sharing government for betterment of everyone; there still were people, a vast majority, that could foresee this honeymoon, sooner than later, coming to an unhappy end.

Situation in Pakistan is not in any case ready for another upheavel like this. Punjab was so far the only stable government regardless of its unfavorable attitude towards the centre. Disqualification of Sharif brothers from holding any public office for the thrid time can be justified as the honorable court’s verdict but imposition of Governor’s Rule and locking up of the Punjab Provincial Assembly building is surely a matter of grave objection.

However, for a common man, nothing has changed except for long traffic jams due to protests, purposeless damage to public infrastructre for which he had paid from his own pocket and city life coming to an uncertain but grinding halt.

The only bugging question is, regardless of who was right or who is wrong, can we really afford this crisis at this time? Can we bear watching ambulances stuck for hours due to almost daily road block by protesters at the Mall, and for how long? Will restoration of one man ensure speedy justice for a poor peasant? And, finally, do we even deserve democracy or are we just not ready or prepared for it yet?

Critical Mass Lahore

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The last Sunday of the month is approaching. You know this means it’s time for Critical Mass.
Join us at 10am this Sunday 22 February for Lahore’s 3rd Critical Mass cycling event.

Cyclists in China coined the term Critical Mass to describe the phenomenon that takes place when cyclists can take over streets and traffic dominated by automobiles. Critical Mass now takes place in over 200 cities around the world.
Critical Mass is not an organization. It is an idea. Critical Mass is about having clean cities that provide mobility and accessibility. Critical Mass is about clean transport.
Critical Mass is about showing a man on a cycle is the same as a man in a ten lac car. Critical Mass is about democracy. Critical Mass is about having the right to mobility.
Everyone in Lahore knows how bad the traffic is. Critical Mass Lahore is the first step in taking our streets back.
Critical Mass is an idea. Make it yours.

What do I need to participate in a Critical Mass Event?
Nothing but a road-worthy cycle and an sense of fun.

Where and how else to Critical Mass Events take place?
Critical Mass events are typically held on the last Friday of each month in cities all over the world. Get more information at www.critical-mass.info. For information about Critical Mass Lahore, some to Zakir Tikka at 10am on Sunday 22 February 2009.

Al-Mashal

Al-Mashal Welfare Foundation

Check out this video of a free volunteer school that’s doing the most unbelievable work in a working class abadi in Saddar, Cantonment. Watch this to see the amazing philanthropic work of the people responsible for this great school.

You can find out more by visiting the Foundation’s website at http://almashalfoundation.org/

Terrorism Part 1

Terrorism sweeps the country, the city, the lives and the dreams. We flee the country, those of us who can; we slander the city; we condemn our lives and we are afraid of our dreams. And we are so busy doing all these things to escape terrorism that, poor us, we don’t even stop to think what we are running away from.

There’s a brand-new hype around town now…more hyped than it ever was before. Terrorism seems to vastly affect our ‘cultural’ shows in Lahore now, whether they be the Rafi Peer Theater World Performing Arts Festival, or the cultural complex or whatever. Yes, these groups, which are just patriotically producing the necessities or our nation (o should that be in inverted commas too?), are being directly threatened by those extremely sick people who wear beards. At least, those are the people that are arrested if they dare to show their faces.

To clarify, the necessities mentioned above are:

1) Dance shows

2) Music shows

3) Tacky stage shows

But let me tell you what happened, what is happening and in all probability, would happen again.

Firecrackers.

That’s what happened. Outside the cultural complex, outside the Rafi Peer Theater Festival, and well, goodness knows where else. Intense terrorism, my friends, intense. And fully dramatized on that blasted channel Geo.

Forget the girls being raped and murdered every day. Forget the fact that America is bombing us every day. Forget the fact that the new black (but thinks, looks and speaks white) American President is silent on such issues being resolved. Forget that if we don’t know of Shakespeare we are ignorant but if we don’t know of Al-Ghazali it’s not too bad. For the cultural, spiritual, degrading colonization we’re living in. Forget the world outside our bubble. Look! Some people who get offended by the scantily-clad dancers on the LCD screen in the World Performing Arts Festival actually have the audacity to put firecrackers outside!

These people have gotten so much sympathy, so much coverage…because they deserve it! After all the odds, they went back and performed, and will perform again! Because their art is so much more important than lives in Waziristan y’ know. That’s why Geo dramatizes this and not that.

The lives of the non-elite, the non-monied don’t matter, of course. Your countrymen die by the million and all the elite, the newspapers, and the universities think about is how and when and where and what is that amazing new musical called Chicago? How brave of them to perform in smaller and smaller clothes and how nice of them to come to Lahore! After all, firecrackers are no small thing, because they have started hurting the dancers and singers now. Never the mind the generations of children killed by firecrackers in the past, not even to mention the jugular veins cut by the strings of Basant. No. We must celebrate our life, because we have the money and we have the channels. Why represent the poor? We have our tacky stage shows to perform. We are the brave ones to perform at such a time, and then flee the country as soon as we get a third-rate citizenship anywhere. We have to present the faithful dog-image to America so that it will give us citizenship. Poor, brave elite. Eight people injured by firecrackers versus a hundred thousand dead by the American bombings.

Bravo, Chicago, bravo…go, Chicago, go…you’re what we need, you’re it, you’re the man (or the two leading women)…our saviors the elite….save us…save us….

Masked Men of the Mall

 

A man selling pollution masks on The Mall

A man selling pollution masks on The Mall

Once found only in operation theatres of well-sanitized hospitals and medical facilities, masked men can now easily be seen roaming the main roads of Lahore selling an easy but effective solution to the city’s alarming pollution problems.

Our guardians against pollution and related diseases; saving many lives indirectly, they are our heroes too! :)

Wapda; only a secondary option

'G' for Generator; 'W' for Wapda

'G' for Generator; 'W' for Wapda

 

Although the incidence of unannounced loadshedding has been reduced since Mr.Zardari chaired a meeting  in near past over rising public unrest; things are still worse for business and end consumers.

Most of the shop owners, who could afford one, have installed Generators who are now their primary source of power putting the Government utility, WAPDA, only as an occasional, optional way of lighting bulbs…

BAY RANG: A Documentary So Hot, No One Dares to Air

Some time back, around 2 or three years, I remember reading few books on suggestion from a very close friend of mine. we were discussing diversity at that time. That dear friend not only gave me a reading list but was kind enough to share two books with me. One was Taboo by Dr. Fouzia Saeed and the other was Between Chaddor and the Market by Jasmin Mirza. Book Review here

My first reaction was shock. yes, shock is the word that almost defines what i felt for days after reading those books. During my 8 years in corporate sector, I had an opportunity to live and work with people from different parts of the world. I attended training and seminars on issue of workplace diversity and gender issues. Even then this was too big a cultural shock for me to absorb.

Can people living in the same city  be so different and isolated in their values? Can all of this still be happening in modern times? Questions, questions and more questions I was left with. The adventure boy inside me wanted me to check out the Mohalla first hand. And I did. not once but three times but in none of those trips, I was able to verify the detailed descriptions of the sub-culture as defined in the books.

First trip was during day time and second one was in Moharram, so the bazaar was not open and all i saw was just the shops and ordinary people. I was impressed with the architecture of inner city though.  In the last trip, I got a glimpse of reality. It was at perfect time. 1 A.M. and I saw the same visuals as described in the books and as you will see in the documentary below. Since, I went alone, I did not dare to enter any of the so called “Office”.  Only few friends know what happened that night.

This documentary came as a surprise. It verified the contents of the books above and contains real truth about the people who frequent these tawaifs. the interview of the police office in charge is really interesting. This documentary was originally made for TV One but they did not dare to air it. so some one published it on internet. It is a real eye opener. It shows a face of our society, no one even wants mention. Download and save this as PTA might ban these URLs too. as it contains some politically radioactive content. Here is the excerpt from the blog where I originally found the links to these Youtube.com videos.

These book can be bought from here or here, both books were published by Oxford University Press and thus they should be available at FerozSons on The MALL.

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LDA in action ;)

Guys, MM Alam Road is cleaned up by LDA, finally. Here is the complete story.

One of the busiest roads in Lahore, MM Alam, is now in a better shape as LDA stepped up and took some action on Monday i.e. demolished different structures, which were constructed illegally. We Laaahooreeeeez know how difficult it is to get parking there due to these encroachments all the way from Hussain Chawk to Mini Market. Different areas in Township have also been cleaned up….so guys, go there without fear of traffic hazard, shop around and enjoy a tension-free parking.

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