part of culture
Now is not the time
to be picky
The job market is tougher than usual but savvy graduates know how to circumvent it
By Jazib Zahir
The global recession may not have resulted in high profile corporate casualties in Pakistan. But graduating students seeking promising jobs in the business sector are finding themselves entering one of the toughest job markets ever.
Mubasher Chohan has just graduated with an MBA from the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS) and is disappointed with the job options available. "In the past, MBAs from LUMS would often graduate with multiple job offers in hand," he says. "The outlook is bleaker this year than before due to the nature of the job market." Only a quarter of his classmates secured jobs by graduation time with the rest still persevering in distributing resumes and series of interviews.
The situation is particularly upsetting for some because many of his graduate mates had left lucrative jobs at home and abroad in the hope that completing the post-graduate degree would expand their career options two years down the line. They are unfortunately discovering that now is one of the worst times to be re-entering the job search space.
Some sectors have been hit worse than others. Financial institutions seem to have suffered the most given that they are held largely culpable for triggering the crisis in the first place. "Few banks are hiring at the moment," says Kashif who studied finance but is opting to work as a sales manager at a small IT company instead. "In fact I think there's only one prominent multinational bank recruiting in some quantity because they generally avoided indulging in the risky operations that have brought other banks to their knees." Apparently local banks are not suffering from the massive layoffs that have afflicted financial institutions the world over but they have chosen to freeze hiring until expansion becomes feasible again.
Shoaib Malik of Mindstorm Studios opines that the entertainment and advertising industries have also been crippled by the state of the global economy. "In times like these, clients will attempt to cut costs by spending less on advertising, marketing and related ventures," he claims. He also points out that many companies in Pakistan serve foreign clients and such outsourcing is heavily affected by conditions in the United States and Middle East. The result has been reduced workloads at advertising agencies and a reluctance to add new hires to the payroll.
Even high-profile employers in relatively stable consumer industries have scaled back recruitment efforts at local colleges and universities. Management trainee programmes that were often targeted by fresh graduates as the best way to gain a foothold in a desired company have been reduced in scale as corporations find that they don't need as many new hires as usual. The chosen few who can boast job offers from the likes of some leading multinationals are finding that the salaries are somewhat lower than the norm as employers remain wary of salary expenses and aware that graduates have little bargaining power at the moment.
In such an environment, foreign recruitment is out of the question. While a fair portion of Pakistani job seekers have landed lucrative stints in the Middle East in the past, prominent employers have not even visited Pakistan this year citing "global restructuring" as an impediment to recruitment plans.
Asad has applied for a three-month visa to Dubai hoping that he can use his time there to network with head-hunters and land a job but he is quite pessimistic. "Now is the worst time to be looking for jobs in the Middle East," he laments. "People are actually getting laid off from present jobs and returning to Pakistan so you have to be quite lucky to find anything in this climate."
But the job market is not completely in dire straits. Success stories do abound that prove that job seekers may be successful if they adapt their strategies. "I've heard of many graduates in the UK needing to accept internships even for no pay to increase their marketability until a regular spot opens up," says one student. He suggests Pakistanis struggling in the job market should adopt a similar approach. "Companies that do not really have openings will usually be willing to take on someone who is willing to work for reduced pay," he says. "If you can prove your value in such a duration, companies are likely to hire you when they can. It also prevents you from wasting time looking for jobs because such blank spaces will hurt your resume in the long run."
Human resource consultants are willing to offer further tips. "Now is not the time to be picky," says one. "You should go with whatever is available in the market right now and re-assess the situation after a year. You will find that the job market tends to be cyclical in nature and things should improve in a year or so."
One strategy being pursued by successful job hunters is to focus on specialisation. "In such times, companies are thinking of short term benefits so have lost interest in generic management trainees," says Ahsan who has landed a job as a sales manager for a fibre optic company in Islamabad. "You need to market yourself as a functional specialist with a specific interest and background in one area. Such positions are still widely available."
Rashid who has accepted a marketing position in a chemical company echoes such sentiments. "I focused on lateral hiring positions while my peers were competing for the limited management trainee positions on offer," he explains. He was able to leverage two years of relevant experience and a freshly minted degree in marketing to angle for his position of choice.
Some feel that while multinationals are not hiring extensively, bold graduates should dabble in entrepreneurship. Bilal who has graduated with a masters degree in quality assurance is applying his skills as an individual consultant to IT companies by operating from home. "This is the year to take a risk for fresh graduates," he says. "I would encourage people to give entrepreneurship a chance if they don't seem to have better options." He also recommends joining smaller companies founded recently by other people with an entrepreneurial bent since they are always on the lookout for competent people regardless of the state of the job market.
Still others have found their calling in research and teaching positions in their alma maters rather than the corporate world. Zainab is planning to teach at a local university. "The education market is recession-free," she claims. She alludes to several peers who have decided to take up teaching positions until they can find an alternative of their liking.
At the end of the day, the job search remains about networking and persistence. Job seekers are thus advised to spread their net widely and seek out contacts through their schools, friends and past employers. They may need to take some unconventional routes at present, but they can rest assured that their efforts will not go wasted.
Man on a mission
By Aasim Akhtar
Born in a remote town in East Germany (in what has now become the Czech Republic), Dr Harald Hauptmann had his first brush with history when he was merely 14 years old. His passion for ancient history and his interest in cultures of the Near East and Central Asia drove him to pursue a career in classical and pre-historic archaeology.
After following an initial career in Aegean Greece for 13 years, he landed at the German Archaeological Institute in Istanbul where he concentrated on Anatolia. In 1985, he was invited by Dr Karl Jettmar to join him on an expedition to the Karakoram in the Upper Indus region. Ahmed Hassan Dani took him around the whole region starting from Chilas down to Baltistan. "I was highly fascinated by the landscape and the monuments," says Dr Hauptmann.
When in 1989, the Heidelberg Academy made the decision to carry out projects in Pakistan; Dr Hauptmann decided to take its leadership. Since then, there has been no looking back.
The following interview was conducted at the PNCA in Islamabad on the occasion of a recent exhibition of photographs chronicling Dr Hauptmann's expeditions through the Northern Areas over the years, entitled 'Talking Rocks'. Here are excerpts:
The News on Sunday: What, in your opinion, is the prime significance of the sites you've covered during your expeditions in the Northern Areas on the archaeological map of the world?
Harald Hauptmann: The prime significance of this region is that it connects Central Asia, even Siberia, with the Indian subcontinent through Pakistan. Since the earliest times of history, this region has not only been an intermediate region where warriors, invaders, etc, came mainly from the North, but also a region from where ideas from the South could be transferred to Tibet. It's a tough area because of the mountains and high passes but has always been the gateway from the North to the South for traders and merchants.
In the 1st millennium AD, it may have been part of early Gandhara period or the Kushan Empire or Kashmir. There were local principalities and tribes. For example, between 6th and 8th centuries AD, there were three kingdoms or principalities: the Little Palur (Bruza in Tibetan) around Gilgit and Ishkoman; Great Palur (Bolor in Tibetan) covering Baltistan; and the Empire of the Dards. The latter's capital was the Shinkaga valley in the direction of Kashmir. Chilas was an outpost on the Indus to secure trade connections between the North and Hazara via the Babusar pass. Salt came from the South but goods such as precious stones, panned gold, animal skins and wood were exported to the South. The emergence of Sogdians and Parthians from Samarkand saw a trade network connecting the Silk Route from China to the Mediterranean coast. The Sogdians left more than 600 inscriptions on the rock faces.
TNS: What were the relations like between these principalities?
HH: Unfortunately, we don't have any local record from that region. The only source is the inscriptions from Daniyor near Gilgit to Hathol near Ishkoman, and another 100 inscriptions from Shatiyal. We can reconstruct a dynasty with names of kings and queens, e.g., the Palola Sahi Dynasty. These inscriptions have been collected from the Upper Indus region. In addition, inscriptions found on the so-called Kashmir Bronzes -- figures of the Buddha and other deities -- bear inscriptions of the donors' names. Their majority comes from the ateliers of Gilgit that may have been a production centre of high-quality bronzes, together with records dating 1st century BC from China. The early monks gave some information on how these states were established but none about their relations.
The local ruler of Gilgit was married to a Chinese princess. There may have been rivalries among the superpowers of the time -- China (Tang Dynasty) and Tibet. The Chinese army went through the Wakhan corridor, entered Baltistan above the Rustak pass, and ended in the Darkul pass in western Karakorum where it entered Ishkoman and threw out the Korean general.
There are a lot of inscriptions in Brahmi including names of the kings of Dards. In the last few years, we have found a lot of images of Tibetan stupas on both sides of the Gilgit river. A note in Chinese signifies that there has also been a fight on the bridge over Indus.
TNS: There were pilgrims, travellers, traders, invaders and historians who came through the Silk Route to the subcontinent. What attracted them to this region and what impelled them to leave their marks on rock faces?
HH: This question may also be true for rock carvings in the Sahara, Australia and India. The fact is that it's the rock face patina that seems to have attracted people to record their beliefs and conquests because to make sculptures with granite would have been a lot more difficult than to scratch their ideas on stone. It started in the late Stone Age when hunters did not only hunt to kill the game like markhor and ibex for their survival but also wanted to show that they are a part of their environment. And we know from later regions that ibexes belonged to the fairies that lived behind the mountains. This humanistic belief still exists in some parts of Chitral today.
From later periods, we have some 70 representations of giants from Shatiyal in Diamer district. They are 2 metres high, naked male figures without a face. Some of them seem to wear a mask and may represent local demons and deities. The use of masks is a widespread phenomenon in Siberia. This goes to show that these influences came from Central Asia. When the climate ceased to remain consistent in these regions, such as in Caucasus and the Alps, people moved down South.
After the invasion of the Okunev people of Siberia in the 2nd millennium, new ethnic elements came in such as chariots, carts and horse breeding. The next in row were the Sakas from Iranian Pasargadae followed by people from Gandhara. And then came the White Huns or the Hepthalites who represented the principalities. Besides these, there were Parthians, and the Iraninan Achaemenite groups -- Parthians and Sassanians -- who came as merchants from Samarkand. The latest group to arrive was the Turks.
TNS: How would you identify the series of monoliths arranged in a circle?
HH: The grave circle found in the Yasin valley at Seleharan is a round structure. It is monumental at 11 metres in diameter and 2 metres in height. We called it the 'Stonehenge of the Northern Areas' when we recorded it around 1996 and made a topographic plan of it. About 10 years later, a member of the Agha Khan Foundation who made a visit there found it completely destroyed. The stones were lying around but the site was looted for grave goods. This appears to be the grave of a local authority, and its megalithic arrangement is typical of this region. These types of gravesites are also known from around Ishkoman, and there is one of a different shape near Peshawar.
TNS: What exactly is the agenda of the Pak German Archaeological Mission? How is it being implemented?
HH: The main aim of the Mission has not changed since I took its leadership, i.e., systematic documentation and publication of the rock art galleries in Northern Pakistan. The first set of publications has been put together featuring the area between Shatiyal and Alam Bridge. Diamer district is completely surveyed and we are going to publish our findings by volumes. Surveys are going to be conducted in other parts as well, starting with Gilgit, Ishkoman and Baltistan. That's the real aim of the Heidelberg Academy. My commission at the Academy has to look for the establishment of a Photo Archive with more than 50,000 photos, drawings and descriptions as to where it could be finally located where every scholar has access to its material.
The political situation is secure as far as we are concerned. At Karakoram International University, there is no branch teaching history or archaeology, and there is no museum either. It is my personal challenge to start such an initiative. We have to look for support. I think with this exhibition 'Talking Rocks', we have taken a very important step in getting institutions interested.
The only thing, which is truly sad, is the ongoing destruction caused by a lack of awareness of the rich cultural heritage of the region. Antique dealers want the cemeteries to be plundered. The other thing is the necessity of socio-economic development that may lead to the construction of dams. The upgrading of the KKH is another danger. There should be a Northern Areas Cultural Centre in Gilgit, Chilas and Skardu to preserve some of the historical/archaeological heritage, with a library, an archive, a conference centre and an exhibition hall showing the ancient environment, the local geology and wildlife of the region -- the missing awareness of what we are going to lose eventually.
Just how the new parameters are affecting the making and teaching of art everywhere in the world…
By Quddus Mirza
The debate on what to teach in the courses of art history is common in every art school, whether autonomous, state-owned, private, or affiliated with a university. The discussion mostly is about how to uproot the established canon of Eurocentric art history, and to incorporate knowledge of other cultures, for instance Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Islamic, African, Aboriginal Australian and Pre-Columbian American.
On surface, this shift in focus may seem refreshing, even revolutionary, within the norms of art history which is structured around a detailed study of Western art and society. One is aware of the context in which the art schools were established and curricula were introduced; it was what we now know as the colonial period.
It is because of this colonial past that a notion of quality is attached to Western art, literature and other means of creative expression; something that has been accepted by academia of colonised nations. Thus the art produced in their own regions is judged inferior in comparison to the Western examples. This notion extends to the world of literature, painting, sculpture, architecture, design, fashion and theatre. So the indigenous practitioners relied upon the visual and formal solutions adopted in the Western situations. This was especially true of mainstream art.
The late twentieth century witnessed another phenomenon -- a growing sense of grief and guilt about the past among people of former colonial powers. They appeared embarrassed on the atrocities of empires, not only in politics, but in the realm of art and culture too. Hence the term "politically correct" became popular, which serves to absolve the collective crimes of a nation against subjugated societies. So artists, critics, collectors and connoisseurs from the Western world are keen to revise their standard of aesthetic judgement. Now they try to include art and craft from other regions, which was considered unrefined earlier on.
The correction and amendment in the historic comprehension of art from outside Europe, which could be seen as a cultural compensation for states' political plunders, has had a deep impact on the 'subjects' of the past. They also started to view their own works according to the new parameters of political correctness (like they previously perceived their creations as 'crafts', 'imitations' and 'primitive art').
With the new concept of multiplicity (another name for political correctness) turning into a fashion in the present world, several exhibitions have been arranged by the West to represent East in the centres of mainstream art. One of the most ambitious earliest efforts of this sort was the group show 'Another Story', held in 1989 at Hayward Gallery in London. That exhibition included artists from Asia, Africa and Caribbean. Following it, there have been a number of events, which invited artists from marginalised nations, mostly on sympathetic grounds. Little wonder, artists participating in these shows did not survive for long.
Alongside this trend, the last years of twentieth century and the new millennium witnessed another development. A few artists are now recognised as part of mainstream art, but not on the basis of their domicile or national identities. They are not showing in the 'region restricted' exhibitions, since their work is placed and presented out of geographic confinements. These individuals are making their mark in the world art, like any other artist, who holds a passport, but that document/fact is not determining his destiny in a positive or negative way. This shows a change in the usual and expected order of things.
The new history of art in many schools and institutions is upgraded by inducting art and crafts of African tribes, Asian communities, Australian aboriginals and pre Columbian cultures. In some places the ratio between the Western and non-Western art is distinct and uneven (favouring the first). The main focus is on European art history (tracing it from Mesopotamia, Egypt and Greek periods, then Roman, Christian, Gothic and Renaissance and latter schools, and continuing till the contemporary art); whereas the art from China, Japan, Korea, Africa, indigenous America and Australia is especially included, though in a cursory manner.
For some cultural enthusiasts from post-colonial societies, this division is unfair. For them, the fact of being from a particular region requires a shift in the existing order, hence the art of Gupta period in India deserves equal (if not more) time and attention than the Gothic Art. Likewise Sultan Bahu must be studied as thoroughly as Shakespeare. According to them, we need to teach students the art and artists near home than the art produced in other places and eras.
The political correctness when transposed from the pages of art history, and performed inside a gallery space, demands that an artist who is from a specific region deserves much praise, or even more, if he or his area were neglected before. For example if a painter emerges from Pindi Bhattian he must be given more importance, attention and admiration than an artist from Lahore or Karachi, two art centres that have dominated the Pakistani art from its beginning.
This is happening on a larger scale in our art institutes, where we may end up teaching art from the margins, more than the mainstream art -- in the name of nationalism, societal responsibility, cultural harmony and political correctness. Without ever stopping and bothering to realise that the fittest must survive in art too, depending upon its formal qualities. This conception of survival of the fittest requires a greater attention towards the study of mainstream art, and to question the relevance of concentrating on the art from the margins. An approach that is well described in Saul Bellow's statement: "When Zulu have a Tolstoy, then perhaps I shall read them".
A syncretic, catholic and inclusive way of looking at the problem of culture and thereby music
By Sarwat Ali
'The active participation in music by the Muslims of subcontinent has unfortunately sat uncomfortably with both the scholars and musicologists with a partisan outlook on our culture. To those subscribing to the pristine nature of Indian music, this millennium-long interlude has been a corruption of the musical system as ordained in the shastras, and to those in Pakistan anything to do with the arts, particularly the performing arts, has been handled with a pair of puritanical tongs.
But there have been some scholars like Achariya Bharaspati and Madhu Trivedi who have acknowledged the evolution and growth of culture and its practices in response to the changing realities over a period of time. They did not subscribe to the narrow vision of faithfully tracing a continuity in line with the basic tenets of the civilisation and crying foul, calling for a purgation of all else that may have crept in. Actually the growth and development of culture is the first sign of the strength of a civilisation, the ability of being absorptive without in the process losing the fragrance of the original bouquet. It announces the resilience of a growing culture.
Madhu Trivadi in his talk/paper included in the "Sufism and the Bhakti Movement" edited by Fatimah Hussain had developed a more realistic approach to the whole question of artistic expression especially music. He too traced the patronage that was extended to musical forms of expression by the Sufis, especially those early mystics who had come to India and were in the process of finding a home for their words and deeds. One of the first lessons that they learnt was to be as close to the people as possible, influencing their thoughts and practices by example. They had to speak the same language as the common man and also to sing the melodies that moved them. Thus a whole way of looking at the problem of culture developed in the early decades of the millennium, which was syncretic, catholic and inclusive.
Usually it were the Chishtia Sufis who took the lead in promoting this method of ritualistic practices but obviously in a country as large and diverse as India the shades must have been variedly staggering. There were also mystics who were malamati and more bent on denouncing the given truth, and the qalandars who were not very keen to maintain a balance between here and hereafter, but the mainstream sufia couched in humanism did manage to strike a balance.
Madhu Trivedi too had mentioned Sheikh Bahauddin Zikria of Multan, the famous sufi of the Suharwardi Order to be one of the leading patrons of music in those times. His ancestors had settled in Kangra a few generations before his birth and he pursued his education in the Hindu environment. He learnt the Quran in all the seven qirats as well as acquired adequate knowledge of the Arabic language. "The process of assimilation of Indian and Persio Arabic music in Sama began under him at the khanqah of Multan which was the famous pilgrim centre of the Shaivites as well as the Siddha and the Nath saints, commonly referred as jogis in the medieval literary and folk tradition."
He then quoted Faqirullah that Bahauddin Zikria adopted the folk genre "chhand" and used it for devotional music by rendering Persian couplets in this form. Chhand, it should be noted, was one of the verse forms used by the jogis in their poetical compositions in lieu of the traditional "prabandh". He also adopted the raag ragini system, evolved new raags such as Multan Dhanasari .The Chishtia also included "sama zikr jali", and the foremost among the followers were Amir Khusro, and Amir Hasan Sanjhari, the latter being the author of Fawaidal Fuad, affectionately called "Saadi e Hindustan".
The music as it has developed in the last five hundred years especially during the middle period, generally characterised, as the Muslim Rule in India was a breakaway from the music of the temples. If one had to chart the development and assess the contribution, a very simplistic reading can track it down to it being inclusive. Other than the laid down principles, strictly and religiously adhered to religious practice, the scope was broadened by referring to other sources particularly those that fall under the genre of folk music.
This music referred to secular sources -- it celebrated human love and fulfilment in its material and physical form -- revelled in the changing of seasons/harvesting, and did not shy away from the joys of plenty. Death too was treated in primarily human terms.
Though there has been focus on the contribution of Amir Khusro but the contributions of all others including Bahauddin Zikria Multani has really not been documented or really researched into. Even Bharaspati had gone a long way in citing the contribution of Bahauddin Zikria but it was is unclear whether it was the same Bahauddin Zikria who lies buried in Multan that he was referring to. The information was scant and not properly collated, scattered but not put in any definite order. The result the scraps of information only formed a template on which fancies can be constructed.
There certainly were the "qawwals bachhas" who practiced the art of qawwali but their history and genealogy too has to be unearthed to fully understand the contribution of these musicians and the style in the overall development of music. They have been mentioned in earlier historical accounts but disappear to reappear again as kheyalias after centuries of silence. There is a Gharana, which calls itself "Qawwal Bacchoan Ka Gharana", but their genealogical table has huge gaps that need to be filled for a better understanding of the course that music took in the many centuries as dhrupad ruled the musical waves.