Monday, October 27, 2008

The Change We Need

First of all, this post has nothing to do with Barack H. Obama, or the Americans for that matter.  

It so happened that I was switching channels the other day and I caught Rang De Basanti, the Indian movie, being aired on the network’s local movie channel.  I locked it there and watched it again.  For the 13th time, that is.

I hardly watch one or two movies a month and this number includes English, Indian and some very rare Pakistani ones.  The movies that I watch are not just-randomly-chosen-off-the-rack ones but are either highly recommended by friends or have splendid ratings from critics. So, it’s not hard to guess that I am not a huge movie fan. Even then, I can’t resist watching this flick whenever I catch it.  In my opinion, this movie is, by far, the best of Indian cinema.

This post is not about the movie and how great it is either (it’s awesome, btw).  It's about its message. It's about Pakistan and the transformations that we need as a nation if we want to get out of the mess that we are in.

Just to bring everybody on board, the movie is about a group of young university students who are very carefree and indifferent towards their county and the system initially.  But they later try to change the system for the better after a series of events leave them at the receiving end of its cruelty. 

The indifferent youth, the corrupt politicians and the flawed system portrayed in the movie are so similar to what we have in our country.  The young cast of the movie resembles most Pakistani students of today. The kind of apathy that is shown in the characters is also akin to what we have in our youth.  They are smart, they are talented but they want to take the first flight out of the country.  They are indifferent to whatever is going on around them and think that their only responsibility towards the country is to blame the system for everything.  But does that help?

Kuch to karna hoga.  Hum sab ko kuch karna hoga. Yeh loag aasman say naheen utray.  Hum main say hain.  Hum nay chuna hai inhain.  Yeh loag corrupt hain tou hum bhee corrupt hain.  Kuch badalna hai tou khud ko badalna hoga.

Something needs to be done.  We all need to do something.  These politicians haven’t come from space or anything.  There are from us.  We have elected them.  If they are corrupt then we are corrupt as well.  If we want to change something, we need to change ourselves.

This system that we live in, as cruel and as fraudulent as it may be, is created by us.  Our leaders are only as good as us.  We have elected them; they are our people.  If we are sincere to our country and we try to be responsible Pakistani citizen, then there is no reason that we get leaders that are sincere and responsible in their efforts towards Pakistan and who get us out of this mess.  But we need to change ourselves first before hoping that any of that could materialize.

Koi bhee des perfect naheen hota, ussay perfect banana parta hai. Police main bharti hoangay, military join karaingay, politics ka hissa ban kar is des ki sarkaar chalayen gay.  Yeh des badlay ga.  Hum badlain gay issay.

No country is perfect; it has to be made perfect.  We will enroll in police, will join military, will take part in politics and will run the country’s government.  This country will change.  We’ll change it.

Can we have a realization of this sort?  We definitely need it; that is for sure.  We need to change things.  Can anything change?  Can we change ourselves?

We should all examine our own personal lives. What is it that we are doing wrong as a nation that we are in such a mess? Are we irresponsible citizen? Do we not fulfill all our responsibilities towards other human beings and our country? Do we try to find short cuts? Do we break laws? Do we pay all our taxes honestly? Do we lie and bribe to avoid getting a 200 rupee ticket? Do we stand up and fight for our principles? What is it that we are doing wrong and how can that be avoided?

Zindagi jeenay kay do hee tareeqay hotay hain.  Ya tou jo ho raha hai ussay honay do, bardaasht kiye jao, ya phir zimeydaari uthao ussay badalnay kee.

There are only two ways to live life.  Either keep enduring whatever is going on or take responsibility to change it.

Think about it. If we can’t do anything else, we can at least mold our personal lives into those of good Pakistanis. We can all play our respective parts and hope for a collective better future. We need to change ourselves first before expecting anything to change around here.

Khuda nay aaj tak us qoum ki haalat nahi badli, Na ho khayaal jis ko aap apni haalat kay badalnay ka.  -- Allama Muhammad Iqbal

Thursday, October 23, 2008

New Presidential Candidate

A funny thing happened at work today.

We (me and a dozen other colleagues of mine) got this email from another colleague that carried the title ‘New Presidential Candidate: It’s Someone We Know’. It appeared as if it was a spam but we all opened it anyway (yes, we work a lot), only to find out to our utmost surprise that a friend and a colleague, Bashir Phaddu (not his real name, if someone is snooping), is coming on strong in the US presidential race and might even end up being the eventual winner.

Here is the excerpt from the webpage, which can be reached here.

Two weeks ago, a caller to an online talk show complained about the limited political choices. After lamenting about having to vote for the "lesser of two evils," the caller said you could probably pick someone at random who'd be a better choice for President. A short time later, another caller said, "I've got this friend, Bashir Phaddu who'd be perfect as president... sharp, level-headed, and a great decision maker!"

Things have exploded since then, thanks to the power of the Internet. People embraced the idea of picking a political outsider at random, and they began calling it the "Phaddu Factor." In more than half-a-dozen metro areas, signs are going up, all promoting Bashir Phaddu for President.

Unfortunately, no one knows who it was who suggested this random nominee... and no one is sure where Bashir Phaddu is. Several groups have hired private researchers to find the real Bashir Phaddu. It's going to get interesting!

The news website also claimed that a total of 14,972 articles had been written on the mystery candidate Bashir Phaddu, more than double than that written on Joe, the plumber. It also included a clipping of one of the news reports (which I missed initially as it was a bit too embedded in the web page and looked like an ad) on Bashir Phaddu that showed how quickly Phaddu Mania was catching up and how there were ads everywhere on billboards, buses, taxis (and other very less likely places) cheering this anonymous contender.

All this, of course, was very surprising brand new information for us all, including Bashir Phaddu. What made it even more shocking was the fact that it could have been a mere coincidence. We all knew that there could be a million Bashirs in the world but there was only one Bashir Phaddu. How the buzz got generated was the million dollar question.

When dug into, it was found out that the story was initially spotted on the Internet by some university classmate of Bashir Phaddu and he had sent that on the class emailing list from where it got to our colleague. The information didn’t help much because Bashir Phaddu couldn’t find out about the person who actually called Amaireeka up and shared the Phaddu legacy with them.

Anyways, we all had a very good laugh and one hell of a lunch gossip session with The Honorable Mr. President To-Be. Bashir Phaddu, on the other hand, freaked out for some not-so-obvious-reasons and he didn’t want to discuss the matter in public. He feared that the waiter at Roll Corner might be an Al-Qaeda activist or a CIA agent (he always got our bill wrong) and his name might end up in that notorious missing persons list. And as we all know, there is still no Iftikhar M. Chaudhary, so the guy had a point.

I hadn’t seen the video by that time. So I tried to catch that when we got back from lunch. I also wanted to read more about Bashir Phaddu (after all, there were 14,972 articles about him online). To my surprise, googling Bashir Phaddu didn’t return any results.

This was suspicious. You know what they say, “if it’s not on Google, then it doesn’t exist”. I browsed to the link sent by our colleague again and saw the video. There was definitely something wrong. The whole video clip never actually narrated Bashir Phaddu’s name and it only appeared embedded in the video stream. I had seen this kind of stuff before so I instantly knew all this was fake, which was further verified by the following text (and the link) present at the end of the same page that nobody had bothered to pay attention to till then.

Computer programmer reveals that this website is a practical joke, and that you can make a version with your friend's name on it to trick them.

When clicked on the link, it takes you to a form where you could enter any two words (for first and last names) and you can have a website like that erected in an instance, which you can later use to freak people out. Well, it doesn’t actually erect a website; it actually just puts the two names in the URL’s (the long text that one writes in the address bar to go to a website, for the uninitiated) query string in parameters altf and altl for first and last names respectively and presents you that. To hide the obvious, it also encodes the parameters a little by replacing each character with the one succeeding it in alphabetical order (Bashir becomes Cbtijs and Phaddu becomes Qibeev; the character z is replaced by 8). When the link is browsed to, the web-server (the computer that handles requests for the webpage, for the uninitiated) does some tag replacements on its end (among other things). In the end, you get the web page with text, the video and the embedded name. Feel free to try it here.

I shared my findings with others (except Bashir Phaddu, of course). He was left hanging out there to dry up. He ended up calling his friend that initiated the link, only to be embarrassed and to find out about the trick from him. Relieved that he was under no immediate threat from the CIA or the Al-Qaeda, he then sent us the page again with a different name thinking he was the first one to crack the thing. Of course, that didn’t help much with the humiliation.

To be honests, we all ended up being the losers here, the biggest being Bashir Phaddu. After all, it’s a shame that it took more than 5 minutes for around a dozen software engineers to figure the whole thing out.

And to my surprise, some are still clueless.

It was quiet a fun day at work, though.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hello, Gorgeous!

It seems that not everybody in Pakistan is annoyed with or making fun at Zardari's famous flirting attempt with Palin. Apart from giving the whole world a good laugh, the whole nation a good humiliation, and earning Zardari a fatwa, some people also find it encouraging and heartening, apparently.

Here is a letter from a reader that was published in Dawn on the 17th of October, 2008.

IN her column, ‘Hello, Gorgeous’ (Dawn Magazine, Oct 12), Anjum Niaz has noted: “Ever since she (Sarah Palin) won the beauty contest way back in 1984, she’s had men telling her how gorgeous she is. The latest being our president”. In the end, she has written: “A piece of advice to the men in this country: stop calling women ‘gorgeous’!”

I am afraid she is being a spoilsport: why deny our men the few opportunities they get to vent their feelings? If Mr Zardari wanted to call Ms Palin ‘gorgeous’, or felt like hugging her, it was a normal male instinct, wasn’t it?

This reminds me of an incident from long ago. During my first visit to the West, which occurred when I was a youth, one evening, while strolling back from the Eiffel Tower, I encountered a charming young Parisian woman. When our eyes met, she smiled. At the time I didn’t know it was common courtesy in the West for strangers to smile if their eyes happened to meet.

I thought that since we didn’t know each other she must have smiled at someone else who may be walking behind me. So I turned around to see who it was the damsel was so pleased to see, but found nobody.

Belatedly I realised it was only me that she must have smiled at. Feeling very elated by the thought, I quickly glanced in her direction and thought I should let her know how much I, as a friendless man in a foreign land, appreciated to be smiled at. Also, could I please be smiled at by her for the remaining few weeks that I was going to be there?

However, lack of courage, or inexperience, kept me from doing that. I am about as old as our president — give or take a few years — but, to this day, I haven’t forgotten that incident, nor have I ever been able to overcome my cowardice. But, Mr Zardari’s example has given me courage enough and the next time I come across a pretty lady in the West (but never in Pakistan), I am going to tell her how gorgeous she is, regardless of what my better half or anybody else thinks about it!



Well, the guy certainly hasn’t gathered enough courage yet to sign the letter with his own name for his better half to know about his intentions. I, thus, find it a little hard to bet on him fulfilling his childhood obsessions at this age.

Thank you Shairani for sharing this. I wouldn’t have found it myself in a hundred years. :)


Monday, October 20, 2008

Home Alone

I had been home alone.

My parents were out for vacations lately. Well, in fact, I had gone with them but had to return earlier because of office and all. So, I had to spend a couple of weeks alone, all by myself.

I assume that most of my readers (just like me, myself) live in a society where people usually stay with their parents till death do them apart, there will be plenty who haven't have had this experience ever. Let me share mine with all those (un)lucky ones.

Well, I spent the whole time in my living room. I didn’t even unlock the doors of the other rooms of my place. Neither did I unpack my travel bag.

The TV, my laptop and the Internet were my lifeline most of the time:

The sofa that was used as a bed:

This is a view of my pressing table after week one. And we don’t even put the worn-out-clothes-ready-for-a-wash here:

The dining table, where I had been having all the meals:

OK, enough for the pictures. Let's list down the pros and cons of living alone.

Here are the pros:

  • One doesn't have to worry about getting home late. In fact, one doesn't have to worry about getting home at all.
  • One can have friends over for days (and nights) without any hesitation and have console wars with them on the wackiest titles and watch movies with them with the highest volume.
  • One can do stuff they couldn't do with people around (omitting the details of that intentionally).
  • One saves valuable seconds not worrying about closing doors behind while using washrooms (this could be a life saver, believe me).
  • One can sing as loud as they can while bathing.
  • One can sleep anywhere, anytime, in any way they want.

That is pretty much all that I can think about right now. And now, the con list:

  • One has to manage everything by themselves; even the petty-little chores (like the availability of milk for a cup of tea) that they thought were being taken care of automatically. It gets annoying at times.
  • One has to live in a dirty place if they don’t know how pocha and jhaaru work.
  • One is all alone and there is nobody to take care of them (this could be dangerous if something serious happens). This also results in missing meals (and other stuff) at times.
  • One has to spend money on socks (among other things) just because the all existing pairs stink badly and need a wash.

In a nutshell: It’s awesome on one hand, it sucks on the other.

My parents are back and life is back to normal now. I kinda miss living alone but am also a bit relieved. After all, I couldn’t keep spending my hard earned money on socks and I was about to run out of clean shirts as well.

I had plans to post this earlier but I didn’t. I had read somewhere that there had been incidents of people being robbed because they had shared too much information about their whereabouts on social networking websites. So I held it back till the return of my family.

So all you robbers and thieves out there reading this, you missed your chance. I am no more alone. Better luck next time.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Birthday Bling

Yesterday was my birthday! I turned [bleep] this Thursday, the 16th of October.

Well, I have been home alone lately.  So, I wasn't really expecting a blast at this birthday, certainly not a big one.  Still, my day didn’t go well by any standards.

The celebrations started fine.  I received a call from a friend fifteen minutes before the clock ticked midnight (and my day).  Apparently, people felt sleepy and they wanted to wish me and hit the bed.  I accepted the wish graciously.  I had to; I didn’t have a lot of choices. 

I then received another call from another friend ten minutes before time.  This time, the urge was to be the first ones to register their wish with me.  Sweet!  But of course, they weren't amused upon knowing that they had been beaten to it.  I tried to cheer people up by telling them that had they even won the rat race, they would have still been a rat. No, that was something that I said to some other friend some other time at some other place.  But I said something on similar lines here, which I can't exactly recall right now.  And as far as I know, it worked (this might change when the friend reads this).

The trend caught on and I received another call around midnight.  And then, another friend called five minutes after midnight, talked for another couple of minutes and then wished me thinking that the clock had just changed dates and they were in fact the first ones to wish me. I had to correct them that it was actually seven minutes into the day and their watch needed repairs.  All this was also said in a very grateful tone, of course, and I wouldn't have made the correction had I not been asked whether they were the first ones or not.

And that was all.  That was all I got before I went to sleep, waiting.  I know it sounds lame, but I expected a lot more people to remember it.  Anyways, I thought sleep had gotten to people and I should go to sleep myself.  That is exactly what I did.

I got up in the morning by a congratulatory call from one of my fellow gangsters.  There was also a message lying in my inbox from another one.  There was still light, I told myself and headed towards my office in a joyous mood.  But it was short-lived.

It was a suprise to see that nobody in the office knew that it was my birthday till after noon since that is when birthday wishes publicly appear on our company’s local portal.  A farigh (free) few, that actually go to that portal in the middle of the day (the rest do it first thing in the morning), caught that and spread the word.  But I didn’t get a lot of wishes, even after that. 

My team arranged a small surprise birthday party for me after lunch.  It was actually a surprise, a very pleasant one for that matter, since I was having a dismal day.  It was, in fact, the most enjoyable thing that happened on my birthday, barring the usual lunch gossips, of course. 

Even my siblings forgot to wish me on time.  Wish accuracy was only 33% for my 3 younger ones, which is pretty disappointing.

People have been wishing me all day long on Facebook (boring!) but that doesn’t count, does it?  Everybody wishes everybody else on Facebook; it’s not a big deal.  And besides, good friends either congratulate you in person, at best, or via a personal message, at worst.  So, I didn’t include Facebook wishes here.

Well, all is not bad.  The good thing is that my ice-cream list for tomorrow (it’s a stupid tradition at our office) is very small, which means far less money spent than last time.  Plus, all my close friends are gonna realize that they missed wishing me sooner or later (I’ll make them, if they don’t; this post is gonna help) and that is when I get my leverage and use this to taunt (and haunt) them for the rest of their lives. 

All in all, I had never had this many friends of mine forgetting my day altogether as I have had this time.  So, it’s kinda disappointing.  And as much as I tell them that it’s OK, it's actually not.  It sucks!  Damn you, all-my-so-called-friends-who-forgot-my-birthday!  :P

Na, just kidding, I love you all!  It’s just the recent solitude that’s getting to me.  :)

And for all the people who did manage to remember my birthday, thanks a ton.  You guys really made my day.  :)

And that’s all for my rants for today.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

And We Lost Again

In case you didn't know, Pakistan lost to Sri Lanka in the final of first ever Al Barakah T20 Canada Championship 2008 last night after staying unbeaten in all the group matches of the four nation tournament.

This is the third time in a row that our team has fallen in a final after playing splendidly in the group stage. First it was the Twenty20 World Cup Championship 2007 where Pakistan lost to India in the final after being unbeaten all along, and then it was the Indian Cricket League last year, where Lahore Badshahs went down in the finals after thrashing almost every team.

Like, WTH? Should we stop watching T20 cricket tournaments after the group stages?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Me And My Photography

As I had stated here, photography was one of the two things that I had been trying lately.  If you are reading this, you probably know about my blog already (and are a fan, I hope).  Let me tell you about how photography has been working out for me.

After I had decided that I would try out photography, I needed a camera.  I already had one but it wasn’t advanced enough for professional photography, just a simple point-and-shoot thingy.  I needed a better device.

I have this friend.  I had thought of better names but he wants to be credited as Hungry Joe here.   Anyways, Hungry Joe had this camera, which was pretty high-tech.  The camera was so good that even Hungry Joe, with all his hunger, was able to take commendable pictures at times.  I had always envied his camera and the attention he got at flickr because of it and wanted to have my share.  So I came up with a plan. 

I convinced Hungry Joe that his camera sucked and he sucked even more with his camera than without it and he should let it go.  I also told him that I was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice and would bail him out and buy his camera so that he could buy himself a newer model from the proceeds.  I, in-turn, had plans to sell my own not-so-high-tech camera to Sheikh Sahib, another colleague of mine, to get some refund on my investment. After all, I was just an amateur to be spending this much on photographic equipment when I didn’t even know what aperture was and how shutter speed affected photos.

After a lot of convincing, harassing, and emotional-blackmailing, Hungry Joe finally agreed on getting rid of his camera and selling it to me.  He gave me the go-ahead to close the deal with Sheikh Sahib, which I did successfully.  Of course, my convincing, harassing, and emotional-blackmailing skills came in handy there as well.

Everything was going according to plan until the day Hungry Joe was to deliver me the camera.

And that eventful day, Hungry Joe, instead of delivering me the booty, told me that he was forbidden by his parents to sell his camera.  You know, the typical ‘ammi nay mana kiya hai’ (my Mom has forbidden me) excuse!  Well, it’s amazing how it works even at the age of 25.  I myself successfully used it later for bailing myself out from my commitments with Sheikh Saahib, but that’s another story all together. 

Hungry Joe thought that he had betrayed me (the good guy that he is, he was still under my convincing, harassing, and emotional-blackmailing trance) and as a remedy for what he had done, he offered me to buy me some equivalent equipment from the market on similar rates.  We went to the local camera market with a friend that evening and were successful in finding a piece which, if the shopkeeper was to be believed, was a genuine, seeing-is-believing kind of thing and was both tried-and-tested and untouched at the same time. 

After some negotiations (from our side mostly as we suck at bargaining) I got myself a Canon PowerShot S3IS which was incidentally the same model that Hungry Joe had.  It has a 12x optical zoom, is semi automatic (or semi-manual, whatever that means), has a retractable LCD and can capture images up to 6MP. 

I have been trying it out lately.  And I have a page of my own at flickr now.