Mental Health Day
LUMS's annual fare, DramaFest '10 brought the best talents in amateur theatre to its open-air space
By Usman Ghafoor
If LUMS's 21-year-old Dramaline has continued to produce little, big theatre talents, the society's much younger (barely 3!) enterprise DramaFest showcases not only its organisational and management skills but also a hawk-eyed ability to hunt the best that other educational institutions of the country have to offer in terms of acting, direction and backstage. This year, the festival that traditionally spans three days brought 17-odd performances ("out of over 30 entries we'd received," in the words of Dramaline President Junaid Fazal) to LUMS's open-air courtyard with its custom-made stage, a side stage and a small projection screen that would run brief, 'MTV-style' video trivia introducing every participating team before the start of their play.
For the audience, comprising mostly school/university students, it was one happy occasion to flock together and cheer their respective team members. If a Dance of Death, a mime by LGS JT (short for Lahore Grammar School-Johar Town branch!), produced the noisiest of claps from a certain section in the crowd, you'd know very well why.
The performing lineup made an interesting list: you had leading institutions of Lahore like Aitchison and Kinnaird College, besides an entire branch-breakdown of LGS -- 55-Main, 1-A-1, Defence, Paragon and so on -- together with Bahria University from Islamabad, Indus Valley from Karachi and Ghulam Ishaq Khan Institute from Topi. To quote Junaid Fazal, a BSc Economics student at LUMS who has previously been a part of DramaFest as its general secretary also, "There was no bar on any [educational] institute, in or outside Lahore; anyone could send in their entry."
Likewise, the criterion for selection was simple. "We hadn't any preferences for a particular kind of theme or genre," Junaid tells The News on Sunday. "We didn't want to limit ourselves."
As a result, DramaFest '10 saw quite a variety, with FAST's Innuendo and LGS 55-Main's The Moving Sculptures of Now producing allegorical delights, while Beaconhouse National University came up with a musical -- titled Bus Stop -- that highlighted the fragility of romance in today's world, KC and Bahria had fun with satire in Urdu-Punjabi bilinguals, and Aitchison offered a crime thriller. NCA stuck to good ol' mime, followed by LGS 1-A-1's philosophical Perception and GIKI's rather 'esoteric' presentation that couldn't find many takers among the (mostly) young audience.
The festival was judged by actor turned theatre director Shahnaz Sheikh and Ijlal Khan, producer of a number of contemporary stage plays. Junaid himself was the mediator and tie-breaker. Interestingly, since Shahnaz has been associated with LGS Paragon, she wasn't supposed to judge their play.
Similarly, Ijlal, having worked with LGS JT (boys branch), didn't judge their performance.
Eventually, SICAS's Bandeya was declared the Best Serious Play on the final, 'Oscars' night. A heartrending narrative about four lunatics who escape the mental asylum to face the hypocrite world outside, Bandeya also walked away with the Audience's Choice trophy.
NCA won Best Concept award, besides an award for its director-duo Huzaifa and Awais. Indus Valley's Angi was adjudged Best Script, while Best Costumes went, deservedly enough, to FAST whose Shah Fahad also took home the Best Supporting Actor trophy for his brilliant portrayal of Fear. Amina Suhail of SICAS bagged Best Supporting Actress, while the top two acting honours went to Areeba Baig and Hassan of Bahria and LGS JT respectively.
The Oscars were a highly anticipated part of the DramaFest '10 and brought a colourful close to the event.
Ramblings of an environmentalist
By Ammara Ahmad
A reservoir in Hungary exploded this week, flooding a town with several meters of toxic sludge that caused four deaths and many chemical burns. Preventing disasters like this is exactly what environmentalists are paid for.
Some four years back, everyone advised that a bachelor in Environmental Sciences is inevitable for a successful life. Before taking the plunge, I dreamt of a multinational job with a starting salary three times that of my dad's, perhaps emerging as a Pakistani Rachel Carson or Christiane Amanpour covering environmental disasters. An Oscar winning documentary on Climate Change, like the "Inconvenient truth", would have been very encouraging too.
Environmental Science is a synergy of various subjects; everything is included, from Biotechnology, which contains DNA models of genetically modified crops to taxes, tariffs and property rights in Environmental Economics an exam in which most of us tried to cheat. From billions of tons of fertile soil lost by the Himalayas to the deteriorating indoor air quality we studied it all. One of the professors was hypochondriac. She was obsessed with the female reproductive health and the disasters it attracts. She also had this rare gift of linking death, cancer and amputation with even the most trivial everyday habits (like mistakenly eating a poisonous fungus while chewing the end of a pencil).
All this information starts producing guilt. Almost all of Earth's environmental tragedies, no matter how often we blame the cows, are caused by humans. From whipping out entire rain forests (Latin America) and generating deserts in mere four years (China), to heaps of trash in the centre of the Pacific we did it all. Our everyday actions and habits are persistently contributing to this muddle. The plastic bags we use everyday, can be swallowed by fish and turtles. The piles of synthetic waste we contribute daily, 75% of the time remains untreated and hazardous. No fairies or Twilight vampires come down to wash it away. Go to river Ravi, you will see how this trash persists, causing illnesses, land waste and biodiversity loss. So now, when you remove that plastic sandwich wrapper, please wonder.
Much of environmentalism is based on choice. We persistently choose between green and non-green options. But this is very confusing. Consider buying a purse. A long-lasting leather bag has taken up cattle feed (we have a food shortage) and other natural resources. Meanwhile, it has required chemicals for manufacture and produced hazardous gases. Kasur a town of leather tanneries is one of the most contaminated places on Earth. But a rexene bag, though cheaper is also fully manufactured, non-biodegradable, gives out fumes and arguably very green. A bus is greener than a rickshaw, but travelling on one is a nightmare. Even my childhood fancy of having twelve children has been trampled by Earth's diminishing carrying capacity, productivity and resources.
Human culture isn't environmentally friendly. We use various shampoos, body washes and gels that eventually drain in the water bodies, causing ecological perils. We wash our entire households and workplaces with substances that include toxins, acids and alkalis, and banned pesticides. A liquid exterminating all bugs in our kitchen also damaged our body when absorbed. My own mother bypasses my environmental sermons and devotedly spatters buckets of clean water (which 1 billion people lack) and toxins to clean our perpetually dusty veranda. Despite all my instructions, household helpers forget to turn the taps or lights off when they leave.
The dream job in a multinational will have to wait for the recession to end, and a serious environmental concern to emerge in the corporate and private sector. I am no more interested in repeating what Al Gore or Carson already did. Pakistan's environmental crisis needs a more innovative answer one documentary won't help.
Just last month, my colleague had a son. Mother Earth might not allow me a dozen kids, but it can't stop me from playing with the ones already around.
*Walk/Cycle/Clean Lahore:Critical Mass Lahore and WasteBusters are hosting a series of events to make work party today!
*Liberty Chowk clean up starts at 3pm, bags and gloves will be provided.
*Cycling for Mental Health Awareness: The cyclists will leave the Institute of Mental Health Lahore at 4:00pm and arrive at Liberty Mall at 5pm.
*Walk for climate action from Hotspot, Gaddafi Stadium at 4:30pm and arrival at Liberty at 5:00pm.
*Exhibition of paintings by Ali Abbas titled GardBaad (Dusty Wind) at Ejaz Art Gallery from Mon, Oct 11-30. The exhibtion will open tomorrow at 6:00pm.
*Dance party 'Zombies on the Run' at World Fashion Cafe today at 8:30pm. The person in the best costume wins Rs.10,010. Exclusive dance performances, Different DJ's with the latest mixes,exquisite cocktails, fashion show and a lot more. For details call 0321-4446198
*Fun: Open Mic Night at Nandos MM Alam Branch on Thursday, Oct 14. Fee: Rs.200. You just have to play, sing, dance, act, tell jokes, read a piece or display any hidden talent that you feel can make the cut in your 10 minutes. The night ends at 11pm. To participate, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
*International Conference on Islamic Banking & Finance tomorrow, Mon, Oct 11. Website: http://www.alhudacibe.com.
Contact Hina Faheem.
Choraha sittings, a part of Lahori culture brings people together
By Syed Ali Abedi
Choraha is a part of Lahori culture. People belonging to different walks of life in a mohallah sit together at a choraha at night and discuss politics, culture, budget, price-hike, corruption, international issues, showbiz, sports, religion and unemployment. They also discuss their problems. They discuss issues in a humorous way while making fun of each other in laymen terms.
Shop-owner Sattar and his friend Tariq Aziz used to sit on chorahas of their mohallahs in Chauburji and Krishan Nagar in the mid 1970s and 80s when they were bachelors. Sharing their joyous moments and experiences with TNS, they say, "Our main topics of discussion were showbiz, particularly Pakistani films and politics. Once returning to our homes after watching Maula Jatt, a Punjabi film, we started discussing its characters, songs and fights. We became directors in no time and started pointing out weaknesses in the film." They say they also used to discuss politicians, especially Benazir Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharif.
These thara friends would walk into a marriage function of strangers for lunch and dinner. "Once I was coming from Bhati Gate with my friend when we saw an illuminated house where a marriage function was underway. We entered the house and stayed there for about two hours till dinner was served. The dinner was delicious and it was such fun."
They say they have become so busy in their work that they do not get time together any more. They say there was a time when they used to sit on chorahas till 3am.
Remembering their past, Tariq Aziz and Sattar say, there were sittings almost in each choraha but with the passage of time, they have decreased. There were fewer crimes during their times as compared to now. Cable and internet keeps people indoors. People living in an area would meet more often when there was only one state-run television, PTV, which ended its transmission by 12pm.
Besides, inflation is causing a gradual decrease in the number of sittings as it is forcing people to do double jobs to make their ends meet.
There are some people who differ with the views of Tariq and Sattar. Masood, a former laboratory in-charge in Services Hospital who now runs a grocery shop, says he has two groups, one of his mohallah men and the other of the hospital staff. He shares his 35-year-old long sittings in these words: "I and my friends, including Arshad, Shaheen Imtiaz, Mahzar and Talat Mehmood, sit in a mohallah and discuss domestic problems and job issues. We also discuss how we could go abroad for a job. Our sittings last till midnight with a game of carom." Talat and Mujahid shifted to Canada 30 years ago. "I and my friends still sit in a park opposite Services Hospital, and discuss who will do the night duty. Our favourite games are carom and cards during the sittings."
Masood is of the view that the number of sittings are increasing day by day due to unemployment. He says most of the youths are jobless and they sit on chorahas (chowks) and discuss different issues. Most of the people who sit on chowks at night are small businessmen who go on their business after 10am. He is of the view that sittings on chorahas are a culture of old localities while sittings in hotels and restaurants are a culture of posh localities. He says people of posh localities sit in hotels, clubs and restaurants while people of old localities have meetings on chorahas.
"Bringing home meal or food for friends or neighbours sitting on a choraha is also a part of the culture," says Rahim of Bhati Gate. Sometimes I and sometimes my friends bring meal with them from our homes while we sit on a choraha. Sometimes we pool money and buy food from bazaar. My mother also exchanges food with our neighbours. This gives us a feeling that we care for each other. Sometimes my neighbour gives lunch and dinner when I am alone in my house. This one will not be found in posh localities."
Abdur Rehman, who runs a furniture shop says, "My friends and negihbours come to my shop at the time of its closing in the night and remain here till midnight. We discuss different issues, particularly price hike and increase in electricity and gas tariff as these are creating financial problems for us all. We discuss different ways to overcome the problems in lighter mood with cups of tea in our hands. We relax that way. Sometimes I bring tea from my house and sometimes from a tea stall."
There is a need to regulate private hostels by keeping a check on the inmates
By Khalid Zeeshan
A large number of people come to Lahore from different parts of Punjab and from other provinces for various purposes. Generally they come for jobs but a large number of students come here to study in better educational institutions. Because of lack of accommodation at these educational institutions and workplaces, these emigrants stay in private hostels.
An unchecked admission of people in these hostels is a potential threat to security, to check crimes and other abrasive activities. Owners of private hostels do not take precautionary measures before renting out their rooms. The Police Department does not have any data about these hostels and other people living as paying guests in different localities of Lahore. The rules and regulations in most hostels of the city are extremely lenient, allowing anyone to rent a room without having to show identification or other documents. Moreover, some people rent out a portion of their house without checking their identity.
Originally an inhabitant of Bajaur Agency, Abdul Shakoor Khan, who recently got a room in the Firdaus Market, told this scribe that he just paid advance and was not asked for any proof of identification like an identity card or a domicile. On further questioning, he said some of his friends will soon be staying with him in that room.
People who carried out terrorist activities against the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team in Liberty Market were also living in a hostel in Firdaus Market, Gulberg. After the attacks, grenades and bloodstained clothes were recovered from that hostel. This is why private hostels of the city are posing a grave security threat, as poor management allows potential terrorists to use these hostels to stay and plan activities elsewhere in the city.
According to Asghar Bhatti, SHO Naseerabad, Gulberg, adequate steps have been taken to collect data of the people residing in hostels here. He says he arranges a daily visit to these hostels to check if any unregistered person is staying in them. He is confident that the complete data of the hostels and the people residing in them has been established while anyone reluctant to provide the data is prosecuted. "Soon we will be maintaining a computerised data of the hostels."
Local residents dispute his claim. They are of the opinion that the police only make a superficial visit, that too once in a blue moon. The police only intensify their action when a terrorist activity takes place in the city; nothing is done before or after. Moreover, they hardly pay any attention to collecting the data of the people staying in these hostels. Some foreigners, generally from African countries are also staying in these private hostels.
According to news reports, recently, a few Africans staying as paying guests in Firdaus Market were arrested by the police on allegations of drug trafficking. Drugs were also recovered from them. This was done when they had already spread adequate poison in the city. They were also found involved in certain other immoral activities but the hostel owners had turned a blind eye to what was happening under their nose as they were only concerned with their money. Muhammad Ashraf, a resident of Model Colony pointed out that "we had notified to the police the suspicious activities of the African people residing in Gulberg as paying guests but no action was taken against them." He alleged that the house-owners are only concerned with rent which these Africans pay more than others; no record is kept by them.
Despite a constant public awareness in media about the potential terrorists, most of the owners of the private hostels and the people renting out their houses fail to ask for the identification proof of anyone asking for a room.
Muhammad Yousuf , the owner of one of the hostels, says the local police only once collected data from those staying in hostels but since then lots of people have come and gone. He says being an ex-army man he makes sure that all those asking for room in his hostel prove their identity but says he personally knew some people who wouldn't take such measures.
After the attacks on Sri Lankan cricket team near Liberty Market, police showed temporary vigilance to keep a record of private hostels but now it seems they are not bothered about it. Still a large influx of emigrants is taking place without any check. Neither the owners nor the police officials are bothered to keep a record of these people. Sources at the local police station say that the hostel owners do not take any precautionary measures before renting out their rooms. Police stations don't have any data of these hostels. All sorts of people end up visiting hostels.
Police had been instructed to prepare profiles of people staying in private hostels but despite these instructions police do not have any comprehensive data. Moreover, no measures have been taken on the part of the local police to establish community policing which can be an effective tool to prevent any untoward incident.
People are offered rooms after they pay their advance. Neither an identity proof is demanded nor their luggage checked. This gives them a free hand to carry out any illegal activity if they desire. Moreover, people can accommodate guests at hostels after paying guest dues. The owners never check the status of guests and are only interested in the extra money generated through them.
A matter of priority
Only one out of every ten people suffering from mental illness seeks expert help
By Prof. I.A.K. Tareen
Are mental illnesses on the increase? Are there adequate treatment facilities available and are they being provided to the needy on time? Are people widely aware of the various available preventive measures?
These ailments deprive individuals of happiness to the extent that a walk in the garden or showing affection to a child becomes an anathema. For such peoplelife becomes a burden to the point that at times, death becomes preferable to living.
Unfortunately, here only one out of every ten people suffering from any type of mental illness seeks expert help. These ailments need to be treated early to avoid complications and to enable the sufferer to return to a normal, happy life.
Today, in Pakistan, individuals, irrespective of their age, sex, or socio-economic condition, feel apprehensive, anxious and insecure. There is an all-pervading sense of unease where people feel deprived -- there is lack of optimism at the national level. This atmosphere of uncertainty leads to a broader sense of despondency -- which hinders the will towards personal advancement.
If you speak to the man on the street or a well-off person it is a familiar refrain: uncertainty, instability, the absence of law and order leads to an all pervasive feeling of insecurity.
It is important to understand that economic difficulties do not seem to be the cause of this uncertainty. These conditions are a relatively recent phenomenon.
When Pakistan came into being, economic problems and conditions were much more trying. Yet there was no sense of despondency and uncertainty.
Millions of people had crossed the newly drawn Indo-Pak border in search of shelter and safety.
They were our elders and they believed that Pakistan was the realisation of their most ardent desires, their fondest dreams. However, more than a half century later, that dream still eludes realisation.
Every sincere citizen of this country is imbued with the desire to see this country prosper. Experts and specialists of psychological and mental diseases tell us that a polluted political atmosphere literally infects its citizens affecting their mental health, generating waves of hopelessness and despondency.
While modern science and technology have provided humanity with all sorts of comforts and conveniences, medical science too has progressed by leaps and bounds from diagnosis to treatment to cure. Various intractable diseases and afflictions can now be treated and cured. In the same measure progress has been made in identifying and treating mental disorders.
However, here people sadly harbour many misconceptions about mental disorders. Lack of knowledge and the inability to understand means that mental disorders are often confused with insanity. Society does not look favourably upon people who visit psychiatrists although most mental disorders are treatable.
When such a person goes to a general medical practitioner various tests are prescribed, routine treatments initiated. Since the test results invariably come out as normal and routine treatment provides no relief; the patient becomes increasingly frustrated; more often than not a frustrated, desperate sufferer of depression turns to self-proclaimed 'spiritualist' -- quack.
Surprisingly, few people know or realise that depression is actually an ailment that can be successfully treated. Therefore, lack of proper knowledge combines with common misperceptions about mental illness to prevent perfectly treatable people from seeking expert advice.