Saturday, May 30, 2009

• • • Junoon's Sociopolitical Music!

Pakistan has had a rich history of alternative sociopolitical music. Right from the it's inception, Pakistan got into a whirlpool of instability, and it saw its very first military rule as soon as eleven years after its birth. Sociopolitical poetry was already being done by the likes of Faiz Ahmad Faiz and other communist poets, but marshal law gave birth to activist music as well. That tradition has been kept alive still because Pakistan, unfortunately, hasn't stabilized yet.

Junoon, arguably Pakistan's biggest pop band to date has done its bit in keeping the tradition alive. I have been a big Junoon fan from very early days, with a special liking for their activist or sociopolitical music, which has more than once lead them to a country wide ban as well. Here I'll list down all such Junoon songs, with a two line description;

1. Ghaflat
Album : Talash

Not a very catchy tune, but with reasonably well written lyrics. The song basically is kind of a 'wake up' call for a nation that they thing is carelessly asleep.

2. Talash
Album : Talash

The title song, with a catchy tune and powerful lyrics. The song talks about the Nation's search for the 'homeland' that they had set out to make. It is among my favorite numbers.

3. Jazba-e-Junoon
Album : Inquilab

Jazba-e-Junoon is a motivational song and was released around the 1996 cricket world cup. It became an unofficial anthem for the whole Pakistani cricket loving nation. It still remains one of the most famous Junoon number.

4. Ehtasab
Album : Kashmakash

The song which led to Junoon's nation wide ban by the Nawaz Sharif government, Ehtasab, literally meaning 'accountability.' It was a very hard hitting song, with Junoon's activist music at its best. This is by far my most favorite Junoon song in this category. It has an awesome tune and even very direct, hard hitting lyrics dealing with a need of accountability of politicians of the country. Its message is actually directed more to the general public who vote the politicians in, rather than an institutional accountability.

5. Mujhey Azad Karo
Album : Kashmakash

Another anti establishment, anti government song with a beautiful tune and amazing lyrics. The name of the song is quite self explanatory, the songs is the nation's lament on being enslaved by a bunch of people, and now want freedom. Ironically, they were banned after the release of the album.

6. Dil Nahin Lag Raha
Album : Azadi

This was Junoon's first album after they were banned, so the name of the Album is quite fitting too - Azadi - Freedom. Dil nahin lag raha is a slow number, with a reasonably catchy tune and apt lyrics. The song explains how 'they' have been disenchanted under the increased oppression. One of my favorite numbers.

7. Kis Ne Suna
Album : Azadi

Another 'Azadi' number, and one of my favorites. It is an 'attack' on the government that how the were going about doing 'wrong' with any apprehension and 'we' were being punished for no reason. Beautiful song, talking about how our governments had no direction or goal and were were living in a fool's paradise, happily obeying 'others.'

8. Kyun Pareshan Hai Tu
Album : Azadi

Third entry from 'Azadi,' a song detesting despair and reassuring that there would be good and better times in future.

8. Khudi
Album : Azadi

A very famous poem by Allama Iqbal sung by Junoon. 'Khudi' or self is the core philosophy of Iqbal's thought, and in this poem Iqbal talks about keeping the self and conscience clean, and that is what Junoon is trying to convey through the song, that their conscience was clearly and they didn't regret what they were doing.

9. Abb Tou Jaag
Album : Parvaz

A Bulleh Shah poem sung beautifully by Junoon. Again a motivational song, asking the sleepy nation to wake up and welcome the dawn. It might be an indirect signal to Nawaz Sharif's ouster by Musharraf. Parvaz was probably the last 'great' album by Junoon.

10. Tara Jala
Album : Deewar

A decent tune, with good lyrics, Tara Jala is a song talking about 'efforts' of a common man for a better future, and hope that the day would soon arrive. Deewar, after Junoon's debut album, was their second completely commercial album and didn't have an impact synonymous with Junoon.

11. No more
Album : Deewar

An anti terrorism song, sung in the backdrop of the incidents of September the eleventh. It was also Junoon's first English solo, which was later included in the second edition of Deewar with a subtitle of 'The best of Junoon.'

12. Zamanay Kay Andaz
Album : Deewar

Again an Iqbal poem, an advice to the youth of changing with the changed times and ridding themselves of the 'bondage.' It was a well sung song.

(Photo Courtesy:

Thursday, May 28, 2009

• • • Ammara asks...

[ Ammara, a friend (actually my wife's, but what the hell mine too :p) raised following questions in comments section of a post titled 'Self Destructive Sub-Continent,' and I thought I'd post her 'comment', as it is, as a new blog entry. ]

Yesterday, another catastrophic event took place at Mall (road), some terrorists (so called Taliban) detonated a bomb and brought the police building to rubble. My office happens to be at Mall View Bank Square so it is hardly a few kilometers away from the disaster site. I can tell you that when the bomb went off my office building quaked such that we thought it is going to collapse; thankfully it did not. At first it looked like an earth quake but we could see a thick cloud of smoke in the sky and my colleagues knew then and there that it was a bomb blast. That was indeed a terrible incident and it shook me deeply and for the first time I was scared, though people around me were joking and laughing about it since this is the 4th time they have witnessed such a mishap.

Anyway, Rehman Malik (interior minister) promptly issued a statement that since Taliban are being defeated in Sawat and FATA this is their way of retaliation. President and Prime Minister as usual condemned the attack (it seems like this is the only thing they are capable of doing). My question here is why have we put these allegations on Taliban? What makes us so sure that only Taliban are capable of carrying out such activity? It is known to everyone that there are many external agencies (Iranians, Russians and others) actively operating in Pakistan these days and the mission is to destabilize Pakistan. So, why are Taliban being blamed for everything that is happening around us? It could be that the government wants people to strongly abhor Taliban and to wipe out any sympathies or doubts people have for them.

As per our prime minister, a recent Poll concluded that 75% Pakistani people voted for the army operations against militancy but we tend to forget that 80% of our population is do not have means or resources to the electronic media so which community does this 75% represent?

Another question is that if we allowed US to carry out drones in Pakistan territory, violating our sovereignty then why not allow Britain, India and others who have been the victims of the terrorist activities to carry out drones? I do not see the logic.

I get to read that Taliban are gathering in Karachi or Lahore so are we the next chosen one’s after Waziristan and Sawat? Do I see an end to the war that has started, the answer is NO, I don’t.

• • • A picture is worth a thousand words...

As I went to my farm this evening, I carried my camera along. On the way I was able to click two very interesting pictures.

1 - We have often heard a phrase, 'in the middle of no where.' The first picture is actually a visual translation of the phrase:

This is a house with no doors, and stands actually in the middle of nowhere. I was wondering how does it feel living at a place like this, where you have no one living around you at least for a good couple of kilometers. The house is on a piece of land right next to where my farm land ends. I'm still unable to understand why aren't there any doors installed.

2 - Second picture the I found very interesting is of a couple walking on a path.

The guy was walking with the help of a stick. He probably has polio, because his right leg looked a little shorter then the left one and his foot was extremely thin. But despite the disability, they guy was walking a couple of feet ahead of his wife. This is a usual scene in rural areas, men walking a few feet ahead of women, even if they are the only ones walking and no one else is around. What I find interesting, or weird is that why can't they walk side by side? Why do the men have to be ahead of women?

Monday, May 25, 2009

• • • Self destructive sub-continent!

As I turned on the TV this morning, the news channels were showing torched cars, burning trains, vandalized shops, blocked roads, and people with sticks attacking buses in different cities of Indian Punjab. Apparently a Sikh guru has been murdered last night in Vienna, Austria and the followers of the guru were protesting his murder by destroying properties of innocent people, who have nothing, whatsoever, to do with the tragic incident, not even remotely. As I write, at least two people have died and several others injured.

The incident reminded me of the protests held in Pakistan against the caricatures of Prophet Mohammad (pbuh), that were drawn and published in Denmark. Protesters burnt dozens of cars, hundreds of motorcycles, vandalized several shops, attacked banks, international foods chains were set ablaze and several people died.

Now one may ask the protesters that why were they punishing their own innocent country men for cartoons that were drawn by someone living in a different continent? What was the fault of the owners of those motorcycles and cars? Why were the 'Pakistani' shop keepers being hurt? And all these questions should be asked to the Sikhs, who out of anger, have caused pain to fellow Sikhs. Why were they protesting violently against violence? Pictures of young lads with sticks in their hands destroying small shops, breaking windscreens of buses were scary, and unfortunate. I cannot understand how would this help them. I just can't.

Every time an unfortunate incident would occur, either in India, Pakistan or Bangladesh, we'd start destroying things around us and call it a 'protest.' Why can't our protests be civilized like the ones carried out in West? Why do we have to be self destructive all the time?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

• • • Fading traditions!

I was invited today for a small 'wedding date fixing' ceremony by a family residing near my village. In local language it is called 'Gadh Ghatna' or to 'tie a 'knot.'

This is an ages old way to fix wedding dates. All the elders of the family and friends and other respectable people from the area gather, join the family in the decision, and pray for the success of the decision and give their blessings. Men, then, one by one tie a knot each on a 'string' presented to them. After the knots are tied, all the guests congratulate both the families. Everyone is then presented a traditional sweet (mithai), which is followed by a feast. Women sing songs all night, a tradition called 'Jaaga' literally 'staying awake,' which is still an important part of weddings, engagements, child births and other such occasions in rural Punjab.

The knots are later sent, one each, to everyone you want to invite on wedding, by hand. The person who delivers the knots informs the receivers wedding date as well. This is how it happened till some thirty, or may be even lesser, years back.

This was my first ever experience to attend a 'Gadh,' a tradition that is fading really quickly, and my guess is that would be redundant in few years. I wonder why these traditions aren’t important or practical enough for people anymore. I'm glad I got to be part of it, at least once, in my life.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

• • • So thank you Twilight!

It is so weird. I mean you feel everything, you are sure, you have never experienced when you watch the movie, but when it comes to writing about it, you just fail to find words. Yes, I am talking about THEE movie released last year, “TWILIGHT.” I don’t know if I should confess this, but okay, I will in the name of writing, I like vampires, and I watch all the tv series and movies that has anything to do with them. Twilight was one of them, by far the best, so I watched it, some seven times. But when I watched it, it became more than just watching a film. It wasn’t just a vampire movie; it was a whole new realization that we are missing out on so much ‘intensity’ in our lives. Not that I am talking about the traditional vampire fights it had, but I am very sure I felt what every other woman felt after watching the movie. No wonder it became such a huge success. It delivered what everyone wanted to see; Edward Cullen (hehehe - men in our lives believe that he’s the only reason we liked the movie) in reality, he is just one of the many reasons.

I mean, who wouldn’t like a guy like him (Edward) who is not just simply beautiful, but who also realizes the importance of real love, something he hadn’t experienced in so many years, and no matter how much he wanted to stay away, he just couldn’t. In this age u don’t expect your guys to love u like that, do you? Not that my husband doesn’t love me like that but, but that look in his (Edward’s) eyes when he looked at her (Bella), to find watching her sleep satisfying, to protect her whenever she needed him, and to be always thinking for her, about her… hmmmmm... so hey Mr. Husband do u love me like that?

My mind tells me to be realistic, but somehow just like most women, I am not always using my mind. A lot many times, if not most, its just heart. I know it’s just a movie, and its objective was to bank on something they knew women are missing out on. That is the fantasy, undying (in every sense of the word) love that only Bella got to experience. Yes she had to suffer in the name of love too but every woman goes through that without getting all that appreciation, all that love in return. It gave me a belief that we all deserve a treatment of that kind, to be that ‘Bella’ for ‘Edward,’ no matter how many problems we face in our REAL lives, or how long our relationships have been going on for, or how many kids we have. But i would actually appreciate my husband for at least watching it for me (hehe); having said that, the fact remains that humans cannot be vampires. But the message of the film is so simple and profound, the message that ‘love is all we need’ that it may not be that hard to understand. So thank you Twilight, for at least letting us live the fantasy, even for an hour and a half, because this world is becoming a li'l too realistic.

• • • Golden Shower!

Out of all the trees (around 11) that I have planted at my house in last 5 years, the two Cassia fistulas or Golden Shower Trees are by far my most favorite, (along with two trees of a certain kind of delonix regia) and I'm sure seeing the photographs , you'd now know why.

Commonly known as Amaltas, it is a medium sized tree, usually above 10 meters tall when fully grown. It has a bright yellow beautiful looking flower, blooming in late spring, usually early May, and in abundance. The whole tree is covered by the pleasant looking flowers, and it does extreme justice to its name, ' The Golden Shower Tree.'

Seeing the successful growth of the two golden shower trees in my court yard, I'm now thinking of adding at least a couple of more to the landscape, alongside my Gul-e-Nishtar, Gul Mohar and couple of other flower bearing trees. It's a pity that the flowers are only there for a couple of months.

I always dreamt of living in a house surrounded by flower bearing trees, and now I am almost living the part of it. In another 5 to 10 years, I am quite sure, that I'll be able to accomplish the dream, hoping that all the trees that I have planted would fully grow in this time.

My other family members, especially my mother insists on shady trees and I'm more into pretty looking flower bearing ones, so I try and find trees which meet both the criterion. But just for my mom's satisfaction, I have planted 3 shesham trees too, and I'm glad I did. Shesham is an excellent tree to sit under in hot sunny summers. Another 'safe' tree to sit under is Alstonia. I call it safe because it has been observed that birds usually do not sit on it. So it is virtually a 'dump free' zone.

I would suggest everyone, if they have any space, to plant a Golden Shower tree. It remains green the year round, and the only time when it shed leaves is when it is raining gold. It is a beautiful tree to have in your court yards.
We need 8 trees per person to compete with per-capita pollution, so go and plant if you want your generations to come live in a clean and healthy environment. All of us should make it a point to plant at least one tree every year, and watching those trees grow is a wonderful feeling. I can tell that by personal experience. So lets work together for a clean, green earth.

(All the picture used here are taken by me, and haven't been copied from other websites)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

• • • A gem by Jalib!

Zulmat ko zia, sar sar ko saba, banday ko khuda kya likhna

Deewar ko dar, pathar ko gauhar, jugnu ko diya kya likhna

Hashr bapa hai ghar ghar mein, dum ghut’ta hai gumbad-e-bedar mein

Ik shakhs kay hathon muddat se, ruswa hai watan duniya bhar mein

Aay deeda-waro iss zillat ko, kismet ka likha kya likhna

Zulmat ko zia, sar sar ko saba, banday ko khuda kya likhna

Logoon pay hi hum ne jaan wari, ki hum ne inhi ki gham khwari
Hote hain toh hon ye haath qalam, sha’ir na banain ge darbari
Iblees numa insanon ki, aye dost sana kia likhna
Zulmat ko zia , sarsar ko saba banday ko khuda kya likhna

Haq baat pe korray aur zindaan, batil ke shikanje main hai ye jaan
Insaan hain ke sehme bethe hain, khoon-khwar darinde hain raqsaan
Iss zulm-o-sitam ko lutf-o-karam, iss dukh ko dawa kya likhna
Zulmat ko zia , sarsar ko saba banday ko khuda kya likhna

Har shaam yahan shaam-e-weeran, aaseb zada raste galiyan
Jis shehr ki dhun main nikle thay, woh shehr dil-e-barbad kahan
Sehra ko chaman ban ko gulshan badal ko rida kia likhna
Zulmat ko zia, sa sar ko saba, banday ko khuda kia likhna

Aye mere watan ke fankaro, zulmat pe na apna fan waro
Ye mehl sara’on ke baasi, qatil hain sabhi apne yaro
Wirsay main hamain yeh gham hai mila, iss gham ko nayaa kia likhna
Zulmat ko zia, sarsar ko saba, banday ko Khuda kia likhna


[Habib Jalib (1928-1993) was one of the most renowned Pakistani revolutionary Urdu poets of 20th century. A left wing activist and politician, he was a staunch democrat who opposed martial law, authoritarianism and state oppression.His poems have become today anthems of change among the youth of Pakistan.This particular poem was written against Zia Ul Haq, a military dictator.]

Saturday, May 16, 2009

• • • Nusrat and I

My oldest memory of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: It was 1986, I was just 6 six years old and it was my first year at Sadiq Public school. I had just gone back to school after summer vacations. One fine afternoon my maternal uncle visited my at my boarding house at school and took me back home for a weekend leave. I was really excited. But instead of heading home, we went to Bahawalnagar, a border town in Punjab and also the district headquarter of the Bahawalnagar district. On the way I was told that we were going to attend the annual horse and cattle show there, and it was going to be a fun filled weekend. I was even more excited. Anyways, we reached the town and went straight to my maternal grand father's official residence as he was the elected head of the district government, and the horse and cattle show was being organized by him.

That evening I saw a man sitting in the drawing room of the residence and I was really confused tosee him there. I had seen him earlier on television singing qawwalis, and I had never liked them. I was more into film songs back then. I had no clue how giant of a musician this rather humble man was. I remember shaking hands with him on my grand father's behest, and sat there, rather bored, for half an hour. That 'man' was the legendary Ustad Nusrat fateh Ali Khan, and this was first and only time I ever saw him in person. He was there to perform that night, but cannot recall attending his show. I must have, but I just don't remember.

... when I first started enjoying his music: 1991. It was around 6 am, and I was sleeping in my car on my way to Bahawalpur. It was a Saturday morning and I was being driven back to school after spending a weekend with my family at my village. Friday used to be the official holiday n those days. While I was sleeping, my driver put on music to keep him up and in process woke me up to. It was Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and I still remember the qawwali. It was 'Jai tu rab nu manuna pehlay yaar nu mana,' [if you want to appease God, appease the beloved first]. I loved it. I was actually enthralled by what I was listening to. I fell in love with NFAK that very moment and thought to myself that next time I go home, I got to buy and listen to his music. And since then I've been a die hard fan.

There came a time that one third of my entire music collection was NFAK's cassettes and CDs. My Nusrat collection was popular among not only my boarding house mates, but my class fellows from the other boarding house used to come and visit me to listen to Khan sahab as well. It was 1997, the same year Khan sahab died. BBC broke the news, and I wept. It was in August, during my summer vacations and I was glued to the tv the whole day. It was a very sad day, but what Khan sahab had achieved at the age 49, it would take most multiple lifetimes to achieve even half of that. He was a maestro, often referred to as King of Qawwali, but he didn't limit himself to just that. His fusion albums were as popular and as amazing as was his sufi music. He sang all types of songs, composed all kinds of music, but never did he look out of place.

His international collaborations are as popular in west as they are in Pakistan, or even in India. He was one musician who put Pakistan on international music's face. A lot of his qawwalis and fusion albums are still part of my music collection and probably will always be. One album of his that I can't just get enough of is 'Night Songs,' which he did with the famous Canadian musician Michael Brooke. A song or two from the album are always a part of my play list. I wish he had lived for a few more years, and we would have gotten a few more memorable tunes from the legend. He may have left us, but his music is alive, and I'm sure will stay alive for decades to come.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

• • • Swat deal, A clever tactical maneuver ?

Swat peace deal with TNSM was met with mixed reactions. Some breathed a sigh of relief hoping for revival of peace in the valley, some reacted very strongly against it saying that it would do no good, and rest were clueless. The West and US had very strong reservations of the peace accord and they opposed it vocally. Still government of Pakistan went ahead and got it passed from the parliament. After a couple of months of signing the deal and a month after enforcing the new Nizam-e-Adl regulation, we can now judge it, more objectively.

First of all let's see what were the immediate outcomes of the deal, first the positives;

* Swat became relatively peaceful.
* Most of Pakistanis were finally happy that government listened to their wishes and gave peace a chance.

Now, the negatives;

* Militants started over estimating themselves.
* Rest of the world started accusing Pakistan of surrendering to the Taliban.
* Incidents like flogging girls in public started happening.
* Taliban started to move into other areas of Malakand, like Buner and Lower Dir.
* Finally, a military action in Dir.

Now the question that arises in my mind is that could the peace deal actually be a clever tactical maneuver by Pakistani military establishment, namely General Kiyani, to expose Taliban's true face and intentions and go after them with full force? The government has killed 3 birds with one arrow by signing and exposing the evil militants; 1- got the much needed public opinion swayed in favor of military action, 2- isolated Taliban from any political support that they had like Nawaz Sharif, Imran Khan and Qazi Hussain Ahmad, and, 3- revived army's lost support in general public.

So if it was actually a calculated, planned strategy, then well done Pakistan! I just hope that the military action this time is decisive and result oriented.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

• • • Attitude Polarization and the future of our race !

Attitude polarization, also known as belief polarization, occurs when people who have a belief or attitude interpret evidence for or against that belief/attitude selectively, in a way that shows a bias in favor of their current view. If they are given evidence that agrees with their belief, they accept that it supports their position. If they are given evidence that contradicts their belief, they either ignore the evidence, criticize it, or reinterpret it so that it also supports their original view. According to Cordelia Fine, a Research Associate, at the Center for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, belief polarization can explain why we don't seek out views that challenge us. -- Wikipedia

It means that learning behavior is likely to be influenced by 'myside bias 'or irrational belief persistence' as opposed to learning behavior based on objective data, according to Ludwing's and Zampler's research on the subject. In even simpler words, you are most likely going to stick to your point of view or belief even if you receive evidence contradicting your views. You would either out rightly rejected the evidence or would reinterpret it in a way that it would support your views as well. And if you would receive an evidence supporting your views, you'd accept it without further inquiry, and as a result your point of view would become even more intense.

Another example of this phenomenon that I read at another blog suggested that people would become even more steadfast on their views if provided with either contradicting or supporting research. So in any case views are likely to get extreme.

This makes me wonder that what is the future of human race going to be? Will we be able to get out of the conflicts that we are in, and not just the physical one but the intellectual conflicts as well? Will we be able to, ever, bridge the differences between two extremes? Will we be able to bring two opposite views on table and form a third, more amicable, view? In Pakistan's and Muslims' context, will we be able to convince the ultra extremists and ultra liberals that there's a balanced, central path as well? Will we be able to ultra nationalist Indians and Pakistanis that India and Pakistan can have friendly relations too?

If this phenomenon of 'Attitude Polarization' is actually as influential as the research says it is, I really wonder what would the world be like a few decades down the lane.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

• • • Get aside, get aside !

This happened twice within ten minutes. I got off to canal from Jail Road towards the Punjab University. As I reached the FCC underpass, an elite force mobile van came rushing from the behind with the hooter on. It was escorting a black Toyota Corolla with a 'Government of the Punjab' plate and a Pakistan flag on the left side, probably a provincial minister traveling in it. Two epolice officer almost hung outside from each side of the van, with a gun each in their hands, pointed at cars traveling along, shouting, 'gaari side pai karein.. gari side pai karein,' "get aside, get aside. " As if there shouting wasn't enough, they made rude gestures with their hands with an even ruder and uglier look on their faces.

I moved to one side of the road, in fact almost off the road, with loud swears on my lips. Only a minute or two had passed that a similar incident happened again. This time gesturing and shouting got even worse. I felt humiliated and disgusted. It felt as if I was some second grade citizen, ruled by these high head opportunist politicians traveling in black Toyotas, who claim to be my 'servants' with their chief minister calling himself 'Khadim-e-Aala' or 'Chief Servant' of Punjab. Here are his ministers (khadims), traveling in a fast lane with literally no regard for the people whom they serve, or at least that's the claim.

When I was about to get off from the campus bridge, I saw another such motorcade coming, but thankfully I wasn't to be insulted this time, but others would have to bear what I had gone through, twice, all in the name of 'VIP movement.' In the process, we the 'aam awam' or the common people are made to feel our actual status, NIA, Not Important At all.

Somebody I know who lives in the DHA narrated another similar incident, this time involving the 'Khadim-e-Aala' himself. Khadim-e-Aala or the Chief Servant sahab resides in DHA, and every morning when he travels from his residence to his office, the roads of DHA give a picture of an active battlefield, with personnel armed with G3s covering almost every inch of the vicinity. The motorcade consists of innumerable number of vehicles, with Khadim-e-Aala sitting in one of the several bullet proof Mercedes cars, surrounded by elite force and his personal security guards. The whole area is literally cordoned off, allowing only the 'Khadim-e-Aala' sahab to travel and any cars that come in the way get heavy doses of shouting, gesturing or even rude knocks on the hood of the car. If that is how a 'khadim' lives, I wonder what would than a master's life be.