Category Archives: Symbolism

Poison Ivy

I’m hallucinating, today.

Last night I fell asleep under the influence of this strange and sweet liquor, Liquor 43 it’s called. Before I slept, the world was normal, but this morning it was surreal. The window was frosted over so I never looked outside before venturing out.

But I could swear as I walked down Maxstrasse, I saw ghosts. Ghosts strolling through the streets, ghosts whispering together as they walked past me. Something was terribly wrong. I had walked right into another reality – where all of them were dead, these people – all of them were spirits. Life was in monochrome, fading in and out like the reception from a 1986 Sony Trinitron – like the little one that used to sit in the living room when I was four. But in 1986, I wasn’t even born. These must be someone else’s memories.

Lost in thought, I never saw him sneaking toward me – a particularly nasty ghost, grey blood pouring from his mouth and the bottom of his ghostly eyes a well of dried tears. “Whore!” He was screaming. Was he screaming at me? He lunged at me and I braced myself for the charge. But it never came.

He had gone right through me.

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A Story of Love and a Burnt Evening

Sometimes I wonder, I wonder a lot. What do we yearn for? What do we miss the most? Is our love for someone else a reflection of our own need for love?

What do I yearn for, what do I want and what do I need? Is it all too different?

When I think, I imagine him sitting there, waiting for me. I imagine walking in after a warm day (the days are always warm in my mind). I walk in, I’m slightly damp from my long walk, my hurry to reach home. Partly because I want to be in the cool shade of my home; mostly because I know he will be waiting.

I want to see him. It’s harder to wait every passing minute. I want to walk right in, slip off my sticky cardigan, I want to tell him the funny and strange things I saw on my way. He is the one who will listen, I know. He will laugh, as I know he did the last time, he always does. We are one mind after all. I know I will gibber back and forth, endlessly, nonsensical things- a dog grinning, a street performer trying his luck, a chance acquaintance and the bag he was carrying from a woman’s store! What could it mean, the mystery, the gossip, the daily things.

The comfort of peeling back my sweater, slipping off my pumps, and looking in the fridge for a cool drink; that’s the comfort I miss. The comfort of the home I shared with someone. The dusky lights of the approaching evening, the slight talk of what to cook. His stomach may grumble and my instincts will drive me to chop some onions and drop some butter in the pan. Soon, the small kitchen will smell like garlic, like the sharp hint of a crispy memory; tangy and bitter but so much needed and so strong.

But then, the visions will change. The garlic will rot. The pan will burn, the water will bubble garishly, gurgling, ferocious. Like steam bursting forth from a cooking pot, the hurt will wash over, paint my home in red, in rust, in darkness. Each word will be like a slice from a knife, cutting through, peel after peel, chopped up in tiny bits until the truth of what was no longer exists. The food will go stale, the trash will sit ignored. And the ignorance will grow, and it will turn into indifference. One night spent on the couch, one night outside, one night in a different place entirely.

Sooner or later, the visions will change. The smell and sight of a happiness gone by, the feeling of being held will be the grip of talons, digging into my skin. And even in the midst of such wholesome pain, the words will hurt the most.

Why the ‘Burka Avenger’ Sparks Frustration: A Personal Opinion

Burka Avenger

I agree I’m a little bit behind with the news, as I only just found out about this new superhero on the block, the ‘Burka Avenger’. It is the story of a teacher at school, who decides to fight tyranny, crime and the like around her village and will be aired soon on a Pakistani TV channel. So what has sparked debate once again on Pakistani soil, this time about a character in a childrens’ animation? This super-heroine, in order to protect her identity, dresses herself up in a ‘burka’- i.e. the equivalent of the head-to-toe Muslim veil.

Many people defending the ‘Burka Avenger’ claim that ‘the animation effort should be praised’. This argument is beyond me, and completely separate from the issue here. It is supposed to be an animation for children, and for that, the responsibility on the heads of the creators increases. I don’t entirely believe that the creators have some hidden message beneath it all. No, it seems like whoever came up with the name of the show had one thing on his or her mind- ratings. Naming a character ‘Burka Avenger’ means it is sparking a forseeable controversial debate about a piece of clothing, which is controversial. Simply put, the show will have more viewers given this name. It could be for the same reason Veena Malik decided to shock people by appearing nude on the cover of some magazine; to generate interest in controversy, to gain attention and publicity in the media, or simply to earn a living. But, the deeper and more sinister reason could be that the only socially acceptable way to have a female heroine fighting crime is to cover her up in a burka. This is what I initially thought, however, once I watched the trailer, it seemed like the former reason better fits the situation.

The second issue, I guess, are the two groups arguing for and against the burka. The first one that asks, ‘Why cover her up in a burka at all?’; and the second one that says, ‘It’s a good show with a good message, never mind the burka’.

It is certainly distressing to see the latter argument, again and again; to stop complaining; to hear the same opinion that Pakistani liberal fascists are on the warpath, always criticizing etc etc. and so forth. But the fact remains that for one, burka has nothing to do with Pakistani culture, especially not the type the super-heroine is wearing. It originated and always was a part of Arab culture. Now again, this is quite a recent thing to try to do everything the perceived Arab way; to pronounce our ‘s’s like ‘th’s and replace ‘z’s with ‘d’s. We are not Arabs, note. We are South Asians, we are Pakistanis, enough with this identity transfer. I reject this notion of ‘pan-Arabism’. I reject the imposition of Arab dress, ideology, culture and language on Pakistanis. The thing is, if people are so intent on following this code, then the men should also wear checkered headdresses, yet it is only the women who are keen to garb themselves in this Arab garment. It is not the law of our country, it is not the dress of our country. It should, therefore, not be the dress of (probably) the first Pakistani-born and bred super-heroine.

The problem is that the people designing these concepts, on the lighter side of life, maybe do not know the power of mass media; and on the darker side, they are fully aware that the best way for acceptance of a certain thing is to put it on television and feed it to the masses. In any case, whatever the message might be- the girl fights crime, teaches all the good lessons to children- she is still dressed in a garment, which is the symbol of subjugation of women around the world, accept or reject this fact, or swallow it with a bitter pill, this is the truth.

I want to believe that the creators, instead, used the burka as irony; a woman who fights the patriarchy in the same costume intended for her submission. I think that underlying it all, this is the better message.

To many readers who are already aware of the ‘Burka Avenger’, it may seem like this piece of writing is another one by those so-called liberal ‘fascists’ who make up a small proportion of Pakistanis. Ever since the elections in May, there was a lot of criticism about the ‘Burger Bachas’ and the like, who were accused of supporting Imran Khan, being a part of the ‘band-wagon’, carrying DSLRs and so forth. A noteworthy observation would be that it was these same ‘Burger Bachas’ who took to the streets 2 and a half to 3 years ago in a cleaning initiative, where they tried to mop up dirty, trash ridden parts of the city of Lahore. It was a project done under the name of Zimmedar Shehri, as far as I can remember, meaning ‘responsible citizens’.

I see nothing to joke about in this constant criticism of the youth who end up going to the few good colleges and universities in Pakistan. It is the result of their hard work, most of the time. The University where I studied was giving many scholarships to many, many students. In fact, some of my friends studied their entire time there on fully-funded scholarships. To mock this intelligence is wrong, to mock these kids is also wrong. In a counter argument, I would ask the critics to think if it was better that the regular kid spent all day on the street, smoking cigarettes and hollering at girls going to the market, or spend a few hours hitting the books to improve his future. The story seems to be one of those ‘sour grapes’ type to me.

We do not study to Westernize ourselves. We have no liberal agenda, in fact, to fight for human rights is not a liberal agenda. If anyone insists on calling it an ‘agenda’, then better call it a ‘human agenda’.

Anyone looking for the Burka Avenger can watch the trailer (in English) here on YouTube. I do admit I was impressed, but I really wish the avenging angel was dressed more feminist-ically.

Inspiring Revolutionary Posters from the ‘Istanbul Resistance’

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Three days ago, the city of Istanbul made belated headlines in media around the world. What started as a peaceful protest to save a park escalated into a demonstration in which the Turkish police used brutal and excessive force against protestors, environmentalists, libertarians, students, and the young and old residents of the city who had gathered together to save one of the last snatches of greenery in Istanbul. The news made it to the front very reluctantly because most of the mass media in Turkey was censoring the protests. By this time, the protest had already gained full-scale social media support, which aggravated the Turkish Prime Minister considerably. It has been four days since then and Turkey has erupted into clashes in over 40 cities.

I saved some of the posters which appeared online as part of the social media revolution to publicize the harsh reality of police violence and repression. These posters depict the right of freedom of speech, the right of liberty for the Turkish people, and their struggle to be heard worldwide as a struggle of the people against an oppressive government.

Here are a few of them which are truly inspiring.

From the page Diren Gezi Parkı on Facebook

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From Bır atın yalnızlıgı on Tumblr

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From Pckolog on Tumblr

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From Vangapo on Tumblr

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“Most of the mess that is called history comes about because kings and presidents cannot be satisfied with a nice chicken and a good loaf of bread.”  –Jennifer Donnelley, Revolution