Friday, December 30, 2005

Amassing losses

So another year closes and I sit back to take stock of what has happened in my life, this year. Not much I’d say. I have lost on so many fronts to lose count. If I thought I was a fool as 2005 rolled in, I proved myself wrong; if I thought I was too much of an optimist for my own good, I need to think again. Such fool I be, I amaze even myself. And that pretty much sums up everything. I don't really look forward to what the new year has in store for me, I have a very good idea and dread it. Fatalism? But you aren't in my shoes.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

There is hope

At times I feel I have sold out completely. Where are all those ideals and noble plans to fight for people's rights, where is that burning spirit, where is that quest for rights' advocacy...all squandered in the name of career, all lost in the prusuit of a fatter pay-check. The saddest part is that I sold myself very cheap...what was I to do?
وہ لوگ بہت خوش قسمت تھے
جو عشق کو کام سمجھتے تھے
یا کام سے عاشقی کرتے تھے
ہم جیتے جی مصروف رہے
کچھ عشق کیا کچھ کام کیا

Anyways, I am proud of Htoo Chit, one of the crazy band of HR defenders I met in Bangkok in 2003. He took the French company Total for a law-ride for the HR violations it had been carrying out againt the people of Burma/Myanmar. Here is the text of his press release:
Grassroots Human Rights Education and Development Committee (Burma)
Press Release 18/12/2005
Official Statement by Grassroots GRE on the settlement of the court case against the Total Oil Company

The French oil company Total has been operating its off-shore gas infrastructure since 1990 in Tanintaryin division in accordance with the agreement signed between the company and Burmese military junta. The large scale of human rights violations including rape, murder, torture, forced labour, forced relocation, and confiscation of land and properties has been the daily life of the vulnerable ethnic groups living in the area along the pipeline. The Total Company, the blood-supplier of the military regime, has turned a deaf ear to the complaints of Burmese people as well as to the outcry of international human rights groups for more than a decade as its only interest has been the company profit.
Grassroots HRE, a NGO promoting human rights of Burmese people, has long been collecting relevant documents, photographs, evidence and others necessary papers as proof of the human rights violations by Total's engagement over the local ethnic population. Finally, as the result of the support and encouragement of Grassroots HRE, a lawsuit against the Total Company was successfully put forth through the France judicial system in 2002. U Htoo Chit, the director of Grassroots HRE, has already given his witness testimonies in court in 2003 while two of the plaintiffs have given their accounts in court in 2004.
From the very beginning the lawsuit was aimed to obtain the compensation for the loss, destruction, and suffering caused by Total infrastructure. The lawsuit was done by the freewill of the plaintiffs and victims of the gas pipeline areas without any intervention or pressure of any Burmese political party or organizations affiliated with the party. Therefore, the acceptance or rejection of the compensation in the settlement solely depends on the free choice of those people themselves and has not been influenced by Grassroots HRE. In fact, the company's decision for the settlement is the admission of the human rights violation by Total over the innocent Burmese people.
Even though we, Grassroots HRE, have agreed principally on the final verdict of the French court, we do not give our consent to this sort of out-of-court settlement. However, we are human rights defenders and are pleased with the compensation that the victims justly deserve.
We firmly oppose any form of human rights violations over our people as well as any form of destructions of our environment. We are committed to follow up the evolution and the development of the resettlement program very closely and we are determined to stand by our vulnerable victims in all walks of life.

For every sell-out like me, there is a Htoo Chit to carry on the noble fight. And as long as we have people like him, there is hope for this world.

Friday, December 23, 2005

I have been reading Rageh Omaar's Revolution Day: The Real Story of the Battle for Iraq for two days now. It is a book to be read slowly, taking in each and every word as Omaar paints a painful picture of the pre-post and war days in 2003. Sterile news reports with casualty statistics don't move one as much as his account of how a family in Baghdad clung onto hope as they shifted homes just days before the war began in March 2003.
I read Salam Pax's Baghdad Blogger last year...a war account very personal, witty and incisive at times...I scoured news media during those days in a case of typical media induced 'Information anxiety; passivity; and the classic well informed futility' ...but nothing was like reading this account of a BBC journalist right in the midst of a war...reading of his interactions with ordinary Iraqis and their concerns and at times disdain...
But that is not what made me open up blogger. In the book Omaar writes:
Saddam Hussein liked to portray himself as a leader for all Iraqis...appearing in posters around the country in a variety of costumes according to local faiths or ethnic and class backgrounds...
The country's been in an uproar ever since our very own version of Saddam Hussein, Pervez Musharraf woke up one day and in a Dubya fashion (talk of East-West fusion) started talking about Kalabagh Dam like God-as He frequents Bush's dreams- decided to pay Mushy, Bush's best friend a visit as well.
And to attend to Sindh's concerns on the issue, Mush came down to make life hell for Karachi'ites, this morning his pictures were plastered across papers...see that ajrak on shoulders? Such stereotypical behaviour... I did not know if I should laugh at his obvious desperation or wait for the paper to get a day older and spit on it. I am not that politically naive to not know what image-making is all about...but somehow just a day after reading Omaar's words this did strike as odd...

PS: I haven't the time to research and offer my own learned opinion on the issue, not that GoP eagerly awaits it, but here are two schools of thought:

If you have the time read through this:
Skardu-Katzarah dam best option: report

Also see how the links relate...and paints me as an obsessive compulsive mush-basher?
And yes, I have read through the report.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Highly combustible

It rained cats and dogs last night. By morning they morphed into human form and thronged bus-stops. As I rely on all forms of public transport imaginable – rickshaw, bus, rickshaw- to get to work, I was considerably miffed at having to wait for a good 40 minutes for my route bus to arrive with a respectable seat vacant for me to rest my seething self on. Each time I gnashed my teeth in a wait-induced frenzy, I reminded myself to calm down and took a deep breath. And I thought bad, terrible thoughts. I cursed my bro sleeping at home, I was riled his being an absolute lazy bum in not attending to the winter-striken excuse of a car we have parked at a jaunty angle at our gate, I worked up an anger at him and myself for not taking driving classes; him for not letting me enroll in a driving institute to learn how to get the hang of a manual gear car, and myself for listening to him, when both of us are absolute sloths…then as I ran out of people to get mad at, I raged at ma and pa. Fortunately no one was around to get a full treatment of my morning wrath. And I am so forgetful I would forget it by the time I reach home. The return journey is another task to be lived through.

The other day we were discussing if we should get our car, the same excuse of a vehicle that’s gone on hibernation, converted to CNG. And then mean bro said Pakistan would run out of gas by the year 2008/9. I asked him if we should put a hold on our plans. He told me he and others of his ilk, the biradari, could always wile me up and work out a way to convert my anger into a sustainable energy resource for vehicles. That should make our family millionaires and put me to some good use in the bargain. Pity he was too fast for the cold water I threw at him that landed at ma’s feet. I wonder if the anger-energy conversion scheme would work on ma as well. We do flare up fast in our family.

In the meantime there's all this talk of the GoP not passing on benefits of the international petrol price decrease to customers. Such meanos, ungrateful oafs these media-walas are. Of course us serfs, the citizens of Pakistan, the wretched don't want a relief, we want to bend our backs, hack off our limbs, sell off our kidneys, lungs and whatever can be sold, to finance another consignment of luxury vehicles for our representatives in the Parliament. They are doing such a good job at licking the armed seats, making our lives hell as they thunder through our cities in their motorcades, making token media appearances...

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Hand it to me for being the mistress of trite. I’d thought of titling this post as Oops! I did it again…simply because I missed out on the day this blog completed three years. Three years and as disappearing acts. And no title to this post. Yet.

Anyways, there was a book fair in town and can it be in anyway that I not visit it?

I did of course, but it was such a quick, hurried and harried visit that I could not buy as if there was no tomorrow, which there wasn’t as I’d gone there on the last day. It was however heartening to see so many Karachi’ites turn up at the Expo Centre. Mean bro said it was mostly sight-see-ers, and I was adamant I saw a shopping bag in each visitors hand. True to his being mean, he said people usually collect brochures and pamphlets from such fairs. 'How can you be sure it was freebies, besides I saw and got none,' I made an attempt at winning the argument. 'How can you be sure they did actually buy books,' pat came the reply, 'besides it was such a crowded affair people could have taken an empty shopping bag and stuffed it with stuff unnoticed.' Such optimism, what can I say?

Back to what I bought. I got Raageh Omar’s Revolution Day for S. Edward Said’s Out of Place, Orhan Pamuk’s Snow, Anita Desai’s Voices in the City and Edward deBono’s I am Right, You are Wrong. I soo looked forward to replenishing my supply of chick-lit with The Devil Wears Prada but it was selling like hot cakes and wasn’t available at the time. So, I got meself no chick-lit.

Some days back I had discovered the Bargain Basement at Liberty Books. I go crazy every time I go there, which is frequent, considering it’s just a PKR 20 + 20 rickshaw ride away. And then I deposit my latest accumulations at work or plead a colleague to take it with them, collect it the next day and smuggle my horde home, book by book, trying to ward off Mom’s wrath.

I email myself links and neatly organize them all in a separate folder marked ‘Reads’. My desktop is pock-marked with .pdf files which are various other downloaded reads. I book mark webpages into folders in hopes of making good use of them all one day.

I should either hibernate away in winters, mild as they are in Karachi, or there should be more hours to a day. Or I could simply do with trying to be more organised, methodical and all that boring stuff. Yawn.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Anglo-Saxons had some real brutal ways of punishment. One of them being to tie up the limbs of an accused and weighing him down with a stone and then throwing him in water. If he managed to stay afloat, it was assumed he was guilty, fished out of water and boiled in oil. If he drowned, well, he was innocent and could not summon all those evil powers to rescue him. The dead body was then taken out and given a proper burial.

One of Aesop’s fables is about an old man and his son taking their donkey to the market. Trying to appease all people they meet on their way to the market-place, they end up tying the donkey to a pole, the end result being that the poor ass manages to break free and drown himself conveniently in the river they were crossing. I am that donkey. I am a lot of things at the moment. I just hope I remember what frame of mind I am in these days to prompt such a gruesome re-telling.

It says something for the sorry affairs you have landed yourself in, doesn’t it, when your inbox announces new emails in excess of ten and all of them useless updates from sites you are not even remotely interested in, not now anymore. Nothing at all from people you once thought you can’t live without. Well, you can and are. So there.

What else was there I wanted to kvetch about? Laters. Then.

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