Thursday, March 20, 2008

Dawn Op/Ed

I leave you with my op/ed for the 14th...so you have "food for thought" in the days ahead.


National priorities of another kind




By Aneela Babar


AS March madness descends upon Pakistan, our nation watches our politicians (and a prominent gatecrasher) occupied with a round of Mad Hatter tea parties. Somehow the moment of sanity and national pride that Feb 18 had brought along seems just that — a fleeting moment. What is tragic is that as our politicians dither, the crisis that has engulfed our country continues to spiral beyond control.

Our previous regimes had distorted the classic ‘guns versus butter’ equation that forms a part of a responsible economics of defence. Sadly, even their emphasis on the gun at the expense of our bread and butter did nothing to secure external or domestic security. For today we are living in a time when our land seems to produce more suicide bombers than the grain that feeds us. The prime minister who takes charge next will be required to have as his first priority the matter of food and water security.

Pakistan, like the rest of South Asia, is reeling from global and national forces that have not only influenced our agricultural sector’s productivity but also left us with few policy options to cope with the impact of food pricing. So as a matter of urgency the government has to bring on board researchers and members of civil society to review specific aid and policy initiatives that can redress the current situation, identify a policy that can assure rural livelihoods, reduce the impact of food insecurity on Pakistan’s poor and vulnerable, and analyse the dynamics of the country’s trade in essential food commodities.

When it comes to the matter of ensuring that our taps do not run dry, I have to confess it is dependent not only on responsible government policies but also water-efficient practices amongst us ‘mere mortals’. Water scarcity is a way of life for South Asia today and households all over the world have to watch how they consume their water. When it comes to Pakistan, sensible water consumption has to be in place irrespective of whether dam levels are high or low.

One fails to understand why there is no advocacy programme in place to explain to our populace what should be their ‘rational’ water consumption per day. According to the Sphere Project guidelines that identify minimum living standards, an individual needs 15 litres of water to fulfil essential requirements of daily life. Anything over that amount is just frivolous use of a vital resource in today’s precarious water situation. This is where the real crunch is, to instil good water-saving habits in our nation.

With summer on the horizon, what this plan needs to succeed is public trust, a feeling of community. However, what is more important is a change in perspective towards Pakistan’s shared natural resources and the country’s sustainable future. It is very difficult to do that when we still believe in the unit as in our chardevari and what lies beyond our four walls as definitely not our problem — the average Pakistani would rather expect of the family next door to conserve water for Pakistan if that is what they want.

It is also very difficult to expect the larger public to save those three buckets of water every day when they see other sections of society maintaining their ‘spendthrift’ lifestyles. So unless GHQ and the Prime Minister’s Secretariat decide to forego washing their fleets of cars every day, one shouldn’t be expecting the average Malik sahib to keep a watchful eye over his water tap.

Last year we had shuddered at the possibility of being regarded as the most dangerous place in the world and discredited all reports that suggested that we were living in a failed state. But as a populace that sees angry queues breaking into daily violence for their daily handful of grain, how long can we ignore the ominous clouds on the horizon? Add to that the grim probability that the next round of violent conflicts would not be over oil resources but rather water.

Are the honourable members of parliament that will be sworn in on March 17 prepared for these very real challenges ahead? Any bright spark who suggests building more dams has to be cautioned about the number one criterion for a failed state, namely ‘demographic pressures on urban centres and the massive movement of refugees and internally displaced people’. Any government should think twice before displacing more villagers from their lands or stirring up new inter-provincial tensions and ‘group grievances’ in the country. As it is our track record in compensating for lands and livelihoods lost due to development projects is not brilliant.

There has to be some personal responsibility on our part as well. Denise Leith, editor of Bearing Witness, comments: “Through our actions and inaction — even inaction has moral and political consequences — we make statements every day about who we are, what we stand for, and for what sort of world we wish to live in. Our silence, our indifference, and our apathy become the slow poisons we feed our beloved democracy daily”.

These are words which should strike at the heart of many in Pakistan who have developed apathy when it comes to civil society. It is up to a responsible civil society to think of more efficient ways to live within our ecosystem to ensure a secure future.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Sacred Life-Day 14



I am grateful for the gift of mobility...being confronted with people and life stories of having no "official papers" or a country to call home, every day I thank the Almighty for the accident of my birth.

On a separate note I will have intermittent access to my blog for the next couple of weeks for work and personal reasons...but do keep visiting as I am hoping to update it whenever I can.

Sacred Life-Day 13


When the going gets tough the tough (or aspiring towards) get going....therapy can be just a walk away. It may be only for a couple of minutes of your day but go out and actually "smell the roses".

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Not so Sacred Life


Lately there has been so much emphasis on how one should detoxify one's life...cut away from modern technology that is messing our lives....but with the season of discontent that has ravaged my home town the knowledge that Im constantly on call is the only thing that keeps me sane.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Sacred Life-Day 11




I realise when it comes to a love of neon tube lights there aint much that differentiates the guys at Pakistani highway truck stops from those at Melbourne City Council..well at least it keeps me from being homesick.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Sacred Life-Day 10


1960 (Kohinoor) : Dilip Kumar fools the drunk baddie pretending to be his reflection in the mirror
1977 (Amar Akbar Anthony): A drunk Amitabh Bachan consoles the "twin" in the mirror
2008-- Pesho discovers the cat in the mirror--celluloid dreams? probably. Drunk? noooooo

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sacred Life-Day 9


Our household is no ancient Egypt but when it comes to the cat she is our domestic goddess.

Sacred Life-Day 8



Funny, that for a significant period of our lives we have been hassled by moms to oil our hair or take a bath, and today what is our idea of relaxation and destressing? TO DO JUST THAT !!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sacred Life-Day 7

This was an impulse buy I have yet to regret...sometime in 2006, images of a Palestinan woman crying over olive trees bulldozed by settlers(I have been trying to search for them online, no luck...though sadly there are countless others of similar "clearing up" Israeli projects) had me running down to the store to buy an olive tree for the yard as "compensation" for the one razed... I know it doesnt make sense, but somehow there are times you feel so frustrated , so helpless that its a random act like this that puts matters into perspective. Over the past two years the olive tree has survived droughts, pest attacks and Pesho who is hell bent on digging out the roots, but it continues to occupy a spot in the corner (though many joke it is ready to be turned into toothpicks)... there are some promises of the heart that just cannot be broken.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sacred Life Day 6


I have never been a fan of the 'maintenance' bits of living on my own....especially when it comes to the cleaning up after myself chores. I would constantly complain about spending a better part of the weekend slogging around and Gman had designated Sundays as 'house cleaning'' afternoons with a passion-- this sob story continued until my mom exasperated by my constant grouching on a visit here decided to teach me about the beauty of disciplining one's life. Shortly afterwards Madhu Kishwar, a visitor to our centre at the uni, told us about a project she was running in Delhi and how it involved respect for the "not so pretty" chores et jobs...so for a project involving street vendors she initiated a JHADU POOJA, to view the profane with respect...well Im not reaching out for the tasbeeh any time soon but the two women together have taught me to introduce a daily ritual in my life of treating my house with respect and it has paid back considerably. Every morning for fifteen minutes I clean up the courtyard and use the time to breathe in the fresh air and reflect on the day ahead...it sure beats mindless breakfast TV!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Sacred Life-Day 5

(Pesho is a 'guest blogger' for today's post)





Pit'r Pat, say it soft and it is almost like a prayer.....if it were not for these 'happy pills' I couldnt survive a day in my crazy household.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Sacred Life-Day 4


This was a tactic I had developed during the dissertation years...I would concentrate on Picasso's idea of 'beauty in repose(!)', over time she was joined by a Saraswati mobile, somehow the idea of remembering the feminine divine in knowledge (which is soooo overlooked today) gave me the necessary kick-start when I felt uninspired.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Sacred Life-Day 3

Growing up in the land of manicured lawns and flowering pots, I would mumble excuses as my mother despaired of my never taking any interest in her " horticultural" efforts. One day as she was sighing about my shortcomings, I heard our gardener assuring her that when Aneela bibi is a Begum, everything will be OK. Well, as we all become our mothers at some stage (probably as they are only ones who show us how * grown up* is done ) I found myself pottering about with the pots as well. Perhaps because Im not quite the BEGUM (and never will be fingers crossed) therefore I didnt get the whole nine yards ...however my small courtyard is a continous reminder that I am my mother's daughter no matter how much I protest and that it all works out for our mothers at the end of the day!!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Sacred Life Day 2

When Gman and me met, well meaning friends and family members worried about other obvious differences that could pose as "forbodings" of tough times ahead. However, over the years none of them mattered as much...except ONE...Gman was a rice eater and I couldnt live without my wheat. In the early years it would pose as a comedy of errors when a concerned Gman (sympathizing about my umpteenth tummy ache) would say something like "probably its because of all the wheat you eat" or when I would make kichdi for him when he had the runs and he would say "Noooo.. we eat bread or roti for a funny stomach". Over the years we have kind of grown into each other's daily bread et rice. He makes a mean chapati (I have yet to tackle that) and I can only feel full when Ive had my plate of rice.

But still.....the man cant be a connoisseur of bread ..well not the way I am. So when he travels it is time to do my rounds of the bakeries and gorge on only bread and cheese come dinner time. So every evening I close my eyes and say a little prayer as I breathe in the aroma of the best that Vic Markets can offer.And for the rest of my evening savour what the good Lord REALLY meant all of us to eat!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

My not-so sacred life day 1



I have to confess...despite my disclaimer in the blog post, there are some things that are sacred to me...Gman thinks its my obsessive compulsive disorder, but Im pretty "religious" about my books or classification of. So when you enter my house the first thing that greets you are books and other objects that are sacred to me...an encyclopaedia that was a hand me down from an aunt (which is a time capsule of its own as I wonder of what was "true" circa 1950s and still made some sense in the 80s) and other inheritances over the years, Pesho's food dish, the "nazars" I collect, a witch (goddesses are soooo over rated), the Buddha that caused a run in with the customs for Gman in Indonesia...all my Heralds, Newslines, Friday Times that are my "letters from home".

The "real" books are in the living room...and the "jazbatee" novels in the spare room. Hell hath no fury as an aneela scorned when an over efficient Gman slots them in the wrong spaces.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Decisions , decisions

a friendly voice from the past commented that it appears that i care more about the cat as compared to the partner...so became a bit more serious about organizing the getaway im planning for later this month...rather than ships that pass in the dark, ive decided to steer things so I can catch up with him in transit and spend a week together before I get to work and he returns to Melbourne.
so at the moment I have been emailing him ideas (he is in Geneva and "its not lost on me" that I might have spent my whole life consuming Yash Chopra and he gets to enjoy the vales before me and without me)...so THOUGH it is his home ground and he should be able to guide me, I have been trying to suggest different "packages"....it has to be around Mumbai and Kolkata (where my work takes me)...and we have to decide what/who we are on this trip:
1) Are we the chill out cool cats...than Goa it is for some cheesy Sun Sand package?
2 Are we the heady adventurers? than we could go to the sunderbans and if we are very lucky I can better the tiger poop that was all I saw earlier(circa a failed tiger search in Nepal)
3)Are we the romantic honey mooners..than we could do Darjeeling and I could buy shawls and go for treks and watch a sun rise...sounds romantic.
4) Are we the McDhekris? (dhekri is a lovely asameese word that means something like the Sheedas but slightly better driving sense)..we could do the "bengali family outing" package: there is a place called Bakkali and Digha (which from Yellow Planet sounds like a lot of places in pakistan) and there is Puri which has an interesting temple and something i would be interested in but a very polluted beach ..so we could do "religious tourism" and eat hard boiled eggs and oranges and buy rubber chappals and incense sticks.

There is another "crisis" developing...the trip coincides with Easter weekend which means all the catteries I called were booked out and cat-sitters who had earlier volunteered their duties are now travelling...good friends Sups and A-man have now stepped in but subject to a trial run this weekend as they have allergies...Pesho was sitting in my feet all saucer eyed trying to make out why her name was coming up in the phone call and a later one I had with Gman..he thinks I should save the coronary as OUR pesho is such a sweet heart anyone would be lucky to have her, unka dil jeet leygee..we are such the proud father.

So Ive been telling Pesho to boost up her resume' if she wants to do well in the trial round this weekend...she does sweet stuff, lately she has started juggling a toy mouse, but nothing to make it to video and win 10,000 dollars in Funniest Home Videos.
So wish us luck...I so want her to be safe if I am to take this trip.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The return of fun aneela

I have decided to emulate the unpredictability of someone else and have thrown myself into having a ball this time around (rather than putting on the tight lipped "I am coping" long suffering act ...which got me fantastic pressies considering Gman got a couple of guilt trips)...so I decided to make the most of living in the city and tried to be friends with the old aneela...Im glad bad aneela is back, she was fun...and the behenji routine didnt suit her.

Im glad this reincarnation coincided with the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival...this afternoon they had a choc and coffee gala at the Docklands which frankly is my porn....I was a blubbering junkie by the time I caught up with Rads in the evening and now have a bad case of caffeine withdrawal symptoms but soooooo worth it. Pesho could smell the choc on me when I returned and was very ticked off. She is now sitting at the window staring at people in the street and giving me THAT look...(as in you were one of the peeps on the road right, I saw you...you harlot while I was stuck in this room..DONT EVEN BOTHER). Anyways at the coffee thingie I saw this stall for a really cool coffee St Ali..and of course I was curious about the name...apparently St Ali is a figure from Yemen and more or less a patron saint for coffee, I said for us he is the patron saint of all things brave and courageous and we call upon him in times of crisis...I guess it was all that and now taking care of the coffee, quite a full plate..