A dark Hall mark
A Gender discrimination
…what they did last summer!
By Usman Ghafoor
Your very first introduction to this barely year-old amateur production group — bizarrely named Naked Tyrant — had to have some element of shock, as all online invites to the screening of their videoed skits told you to ‘Stay Naked’. Well, this was just their way of beckoning you and it seemed to work, judging from the 100-plus crowd of excited young girls and boys that had stormed inside Nairang Art Gallery, the venue for the event, recently.
Put together by a bunch of 20-something homeys — Akber Ali Khan (alias Hackbah), a BNU graduate in Architecture; Abdul Nusrat, a talented photographer and Economics student at City University, London; Haroon Mannoo from McGill; Amal and Rahema from NCA; Imaad, Shibli and the popular Gas Mask Guy, Abdul Rehman — the hour-and-10-minute-long screening had everybody in stitches, as it jumped from one funny video to another, intercut with soundbytes from the production team itself. Akber’s zany impersonation as Zardari and the episode of Atif Aslam’s abduction by a gang who threatens to kill the pop singer because of the way he botched up Michael Jackson’s cover (‘Billie Jean’) got big laughs from the audience.
According to Akber, a “casual musician”-turned-comic-wizard who features in all the skits as the lead, the idea struck him “last summer, after we’d shot our three music videos. I was always interested in comedy but never tried it on stage or TV. So, we thought of making some general skits, basically the social-satire kind. And, this year we compiled them into a single screening,” he tells TNS.
The name ‘Naked Tyrant’, Akber says, came from the nick he would use while gaming online.
It was a ticketed event, meant for raising funds for the flood victims but, in Akber’s words, an auditorium space was hard to find: “LUMS didn’t allow outsiders, BNU’s is in the back of beyond and most people wouldn’t be willing to drive all the way to its Tarogil campus. Other auditoriums were charging us whereas Nairang was free, so we went for it.”
Encouraged by the response from the audiences, both at the venue as well as online — all Naked Tyrant videos are famously doing the Facebook rounds! — Akber is planning another few screenings, this time outside Lahore. He also speaks of “so many young, enterprising people [who] have showed their keenness to be a part of NTP. Right now, we are just getting back to our normal lives, but I promise to come back next summer, with more of such stuff!”
This attempt is to draw art lover’s attention towards the plight of 21 million people affected by the country’s worst ever floods. The faculty of the College of Art & Design , University of the Punjab, the students and more than one hundred artists from all over the country have dedicated their works to raise funds for flood victims, the proceeds of which would be donated to the effectees.
Thirty percent concession is also offered by the artists on all the pieces to facilitate the art lovers to ‘buy’ and contribute to the noble cause.
The show titled ‘Art for Life’ would be inaugurated at Alhamra Arts Council, The Mall on Sept 20 at 6:00 p.m.
Apart from the other victims, the artisans and the craftsmen of the country have also been affected seriously by the deadly floods. The idea of the exhibition is also to help these poor artists through fund raising so that they can stand on their feet again and can earn a decent livelihood .The challenges that they face in this disastrous situation are formidable and in some cases insurmountable.
The major artists participating from all over the country in the show are Qudsia Nisar, Nahid Raza, Mohsin Ali Bhatti, Akram Dost, Karim Khan, Salima Hashmi, Saeed Akhtar, Iqbal Hussain, Quddus Mirza, Ghulam Mustafa, Sardar Asif, Ali Azmat, Mughees Riaz, Rahat Naveed Masud, Khalid Mahmood, Kehkashan Jafri, Arif Khan, Maliha Azami Agha, R.M.Naeem and Bashir Ahmad.
Some celebrated photographers like Umair Ghani and Ibrar Cheema are exhibiting their photographs in the show. Ceramists like Dabeer and Shoaib Mehmood and a miniaturist have also contributed to help in the noble cause by exhibition of their work.
Some artists like Rahat Naveed Masud, Mughees Riaz, Maliha and Ali Azmat have created fresh pieces especially for the occasion. Their work is related in some way to the recent floods and its indelible impact on the lives of the people.
Rahat Naveed’s painting in pastel is a serious indictment of the impact of the disaster on the lives and minds of young children. She has drawn a young girl half drowned in water which seems to have entered her home. Her eyes stare back with sadness and innocence. The flower in the picture creates an irony and reveals the helplessness of a young child. The colours used are pastels, a signature style of the artist and the details of the features are marvellously executed.
Ali Azmat’s image of a Pakistan flag wrapped around the holy Quran is again a serious and a sensitive portrayal of the pain inflicted on the motherland and its inhabitants. The details of the folds and the seams on the cloth, mark the artist’s command of the medium.
Maliha’s piece titled ‘The Deluge’ contains a hopeful, optimistic imagery of the heavens opening up. The dominant colours are blue, white, oker and orange.
Over all the courageous effort of the artist community from all over the country is commendable. They stand united under one roof and from their respective platform are trying to help the IDPs in hour of need.
Saeed Akthar’s self-portrait.
By Peerzada Najam-ul-Hassan.
By Prof. Dr. Rahat Naveed Masud.
Them not us
By Ammara Ahmad
The recent protest in the US against the Islamic Cultural Centre near the site of the former World Trade towers hurt us all.
Almost a decade back, we had a performance in school. To sound unique, I presented a bible story. It was disqualified; instead a couple of puzzled faces looked at me strangely. After that, I remained uninvited to iftar parties. The issue re-emerged when I decided to stand for the school’s council election. The opposition was about doubts regarding trusting a Christian with the student office of a predominantly Muslim school. The fellow students were further annoyed when they got to know that I had read the bible despite being a Muslim. It pinched me then that a mere school post was beyond my reach if I were not Muslim.
These days, everyone seems stunned at America’s discriminating behaviour. Yet a mere glimpse at our own history would be shocking. From extra-judicial and target killings to burning of property and restrictions on religious practices, Pakistan has it all.
Twenty years ago, Babri mosque was demolished. The news that a temple will replace the demolished mosque was distressing. The community that destroyed our religious structure wanted to substitute it with their own. The anger regarding the Islamic centre is similar.
Pakistan and the Muslim world will have to accord respect to other religions to attain it for themselves elsewhere.
A priest wanted to burn the Quran in the US. Thankfully, their president intervened to prevent the absurdity. But an entire colony of Christians was burned in Gojra and our president couldn’t even publish the official report on the carnage.
Our fury on the Indian Gujarat’s massacre was reasonable but we neglect the Pakistani Hindu community which suffers regular human rights violations, especially abduction of young women and their forced conversion to Islam. On a bus to India, I met some of these Hindus and almost all of them had applied for Indian immigration. These are the indigenous communities of Sindh who have been around for thousands of years. If they want to flee now, something is very wrong.
Our social fault-lines don’t just include a split with non-Muslims but also along sectarian, creed and caste lines. We aspire for a united Muslim umah (nation) and justice for Palestine, but fear condoning attacks on ahmedis within Pakistan. A Barelvi mosque cannot operate peacefully in a Wahabi majority street and vice versa.
Perhaps it is human instinct to identify oneself with one group and disown those who appear dissimilar. But on considering the differences of religion, caste, creed and genetic make-up, the only person I can relate to is — me. My mother was born Barelvi and converted to Wahabism. My father was Wahabi but went the Barelvi pathway. Consequently, I am one of those rare Muslims who have been perpetually confused about all sects. But the world doesn’t compose of one person but many.
We need to accept the diversity of the world. The six billion people on Earth have different races, ethnicities, religions and beliefs. They outnumber us in every way. For one billion Muslims we have five billion non-Muslims. The chances are that we will have to work for and with them. Many of us have already reached their universities and workplaces. So rather than being forced to live with them, let’s learn to live with them.
One day I was eating with a friend in college. I commented on the taste of the shawarma. After giving her a bite I realised she was a Shia. Furthermore, the shawarma cook was Christian. So what to do with it? Just like all prejudices, my decision boiled down to economics. The shawarma was expensive for my student allowance so I took another bite. It tasted just the same.
Young people in educational institutions are vulnerable to drug use in the absence of watchful eyes of parents and teachers
By Zarmeena Mubashir
Easy availability of drugs in the city is the main reason for the alarming increase in the number of drug addicts. Young people are the most vulnerable to drugs and their number is increasing over time, says a psychiatrist Mohammad Nazeef who is a project coordinator at a privately owned rehabilitation centre situated in the heart of the city.
PANAH, a rehabilitation centre situated in the heart of the city provides treatment to more than 12 drug addicts at a time. The patients here have a lot to share. Imran, aged 25, a photographer by profession, was brought to PANAH by his mother seven months back and has recovered immensely. He still comes for follow up therapy.
“I was a chain smoker, but had not tried any drug. My friends at the studio took charas (hashish) and from there it started and I ended up becoming a cocaine user,” says Imran, one of the many who get trapped in drug addiction and if lucky end up in a rehabilitation centre or are otherwise left on their own.
Another psychiatrist Syeda Sadia Ghaznavi treating drug addicts at a rehabilitation centre says, “Unfortunately, our schools are not drug free, especially privately run institutes, where majority of drugs are being traded. Teenagers, college goers studying in prestigious institutes come to us in great numbers for treatment. It is a pity that teachers and parents are not keeping a watchful eye on their offsprings and students which is why the situation is getting worse. Drugs that are unavailable anywhere are available in private schools and colleges. We treat addicts who consume ‘Ecstasy’, which is indeed a very expensive drug,” she says.
A patient under treatment at the treatment centre Phoenix Foundation says, “My parents separated at a very young age. I was looked after by my father and he is an alcoholic. I studied hard and got into one of the best universities but unknowingly got trapped into drug addiction. My friends take drugs and my father drinks on a routine basis. I want to quit drugs and that is why I am here,” says Hamza (name has been changed).
“The reasons leading to drug use among the youth are lack of parental attention, broken marriages of parents or being brought up by single parent, stress, academic pressure and unacceptable behaviour patterns of parents such as extra marital affairs. Some want to escape from reality, and most importantly peer pressure which is quite a menace,” says Maria Ali, an officer at Anti Narcotics Force. “The alarming number of young boys and girls taking life threatening drugs at vulnerable ages is a burning issue and light needs to be shed on it from the public sector as well,” she says.
Karim, aged 24, resident of Wapda Town is part of management team of a rehabilitation centre. He too came here as an addict and recovered within a span of six months. He has studied till matriculation and started consuming drugs due to peer pressure. Initially, like majority of parents his family did not have a clue why his health was deteriorating rapidly. The family learnt that Karim had become a cocaine user only with medical help.
The irony of using cocaine is that there are 100 percent chances that the user will consume it again. Similarly, consuming heroin has 95 percent chances of addiction; opium and alcohol have relatively low chances of addiction as the figure varies from 20 to 25 percent. Addiction to hash takes longer but hash is very problematic as it can ultimately lead to psychosis. “People who are bipolar by birth are at high risk of taking drugs as they get depressed and excited easily. Similarly, children who witness domestic violence or infidelity at a young age are vulnerable to drug addiction,” says Dr Haris Burki, a psychiatrist treating drug addicts.
Psychiatrist Nazeef finds the pan shops scary. He says they sell more than just gutka (betel nut) and need to be monitored by the authorities. If we look around us there has been a mushrooming of flashy tobacco shops all over Lahore. While gutka is a subject of controversy in India as it is highly addictive, we still don’t seem to be aware of it. It is also consumed by children as it is sweet and can ultimately lead to throat cancer. “We have treated boys studying in sixth grade and I myself do not understand how parents can suspect a child of such addictions. It is a shame that universities that are supposedly prestigious, have nearly all the drugs available,” he added.
“We as social workers feel sad when we receive boys from respectable families for rehabilitation. What is upsetting is that some parents who come to us are very casual about addiction, especially alcohol,” says Mohammad Ashraf, a psychiatrist at a rehabilitation centre.
In the prevailing circumstances it is important that extensive awareness programmes be initiated about the harmful effects of drugs, through different methods including use of electronic and print media, entertainment/ street theatres for education and puppet performances. Similarly, awareness campaign in schools and colleges regarding the consequences of drugs intake must be started where a medical team comprising doctor, social worker and a psychologist should inform the students about the hazardous effects of drugs on health. Moreover, family intervention must be taken into account while treating drug addicts. Separate treatment and rehabilitation centres for females including school and college goers must be established.
It is important that families remain aware of the daily activities of their offsprings and siblings, especially people with whom they spend their leisure time their friends and about their work place. The addicts who want to quit drugs must be linked and referred to proper rehabilitation centres to make them useful citizens and there must be proper follow up of those who have been treated. Those who do not want to quit drugs, should be mobilised in collaboration with the NGOs which are working particularly in this field.
The number of drug addicts in Punjab is alarming. The Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) recently said they are eight million in the country — a considerable jump from three million in 1993 and four million in 2000. The mapping by ANF shows that in Lahore areas such as Multan Chungi, Sabzazar, Johar Town, Taxali, Doban Pura, Heera Mandi and settlements of gypsies throughout the city are places where drug addicts are found in good number. Weed, commonly known as Bhang, is consumed as a regular drink in the above mentioned areas.
The causes need to be tracked down and action must be taken by every individual, especially parents and teachers. We must not forget that we all have a responsibility towards this nation which is longing for immediate and sincere help.
Drugs have made them dregs of society. — Photos by Rahat Dar
A dark Hall mark
Beware of hawkers selling faulty mobile phones at one third of the price of original sets at Hall Road
By Waris Ali
The Hall Road that connects the Regal Chowk to McLeod Road in the City allures thousands of customers a day to its electronics products, more prominently, computers, cellphones, television sets and other multimedia gadgets.
While the market stands second to Hafeez Centre for the products, it is the prime center of attention of those who throng Lahore from other cities for shopping.
While the Hall Road is among the most reliable and booming markets of electronics products, it is swarmed by some tricksters also, bringing bad name to it. Consider the scene outside Osama Center, at the Hall Road: about a dozen men offer cellphone sets — mostly faulty Nokia N95 8GB — to people for sale for just Rs 8000. Its market price is more than Rs 30,000. Claiming that they have been forced by an urgent need for money to sell out this original Nokia set, they try to swindle people who have little idea of the extent of the trick they are being played on.
“I have been deceived twice by them,” a passerby Latif told The News on Sunday during a survey of the venue. “They have been hired by vendors to sell out these faulty sets. They mostly vanish after selling one or two sets and new agents replace them to sell out more such sets,” Latif added.
It requires just a little sense to understand that nobody can sell his articles, such as a cellphone set, a laptop or certain accessories, without permission of the Hall Road administration. These so-called sellers, most of them teenagers and some also villagers, cannot dare sell any mobile set on their own. “Their plea that they are in urgent need of money, and could get thrice the price if they had identity card, is ridiculous. And how can a person sell out his gadget at a third of the market price.”
At a shop outside Osama Center I saw a young man run towards the vendor and show him his mobile set, surprisingly the same model Nokia N95 8GB, and ask for just Rs 8,000. I was stunned to see that the vendor was another ‘character’ of the ‘drama’, who anxiously held the set and talked ambitiously about its features, in a virtual effort to persuade me to ask about the set. The ‘episode’ continued for some three minutes, leaving me stunned, and ended when the vendor refused to buy.
And as per my expectations, the so-called seller turned to me and offered me the cellphone set for sale, the last move for which the whole drama had been enacted. I turned down the ‘offer’.
Another person with whom I shared the trend, took me to the nearby Arif Centre at Hall Road and showed me that such Nokia N95 8GB sets are being sold in ‘China mobile market’ for just Rs 5000, and warned me to never buy any of them since they are ‘faulty’ sets, in one way or another.
This is one face of Hall Road; it is a great market where thousands of deals worth millions of rupees are done every day with trust. But this phenomenon is going to dent its credibility at the public level.
While the newly-elected Khidmat Group has been very active since its election to run the Hall Road affairs — prime among them is streamlining the parking system and allocating an open place in the heart of the market — the group should take proper steps against such swindlers and save reputation of the old electronics market.
The catch: latest phones at throwaway prices.
By Ayra Inderyas
Wishing to get admission in the church run training centre for beauty skills, Pretty (33), unfolded her ordeal due to societal discrimination towards eunuchs. She was abandoned by her family at the age of 14 on the pretext that she was not normal to live with her three brothers and four sisters.
“My brothers accused me of spoiling the future of other sisters and bringing a bad name to the family with my presence at home,” Pretty said with tear-filled eyes. Her brothers left her at the mercy of a rich family in Cantt where she worked as domestic help in exchange for the money given to them in advance. Following the family’s departure abroad, she contacted her parents but met refusal to be accepted back home and was subjected to severe beating by her brothers when she forcibly landed home. Desperate for shelter and food, she got in touch with her neighborhood friend, who made her known to a man who supported her financially for some time.
“Having had the pleasure of buying food of my choice and expensive clothes, I fell in love with that person.” But, this support was soon gone and she was again stranded when her boy friend left her and married someone else. Following this, she met an elderly person who gave her accommodation and food and made her known to the eunuch community.
For sustenance and livelihood, she was left with no choice but to enter into the business of singing and dancing at marriage, birthday, and other family celebrations with her partners. With her community she learnt the art of dancing and singing but her Guru (master) did not give her money except food and accommodation and in return she was made to dance all through the nights in different celebrations. As time passed by, her eleven years experience of living all by herself made her a senior person in eunuch community as she now supports eight other members in a single room shared accommodation in a slum dwelling near Shalimar Gardens. She stands all out for support to her community members whenever a dispute occurs.
“We often visit places uninvited to earn our living,” said Pretty. The month of Ramazan made her business slack but the first two days of Eid were her working days. She celebrated Eid the third day and had a dance party at home. To appease her clients in order to obtain a good monetary bargain she sometimes has to offer sex, which further makes her vulnerable. When asked if she was aware of the health hazards, Pretty laughed and said in a serious note: “I am already dead, what can other diseases bring to me.”
On the brighter side she said she wanted to learn beautician’s skills to earn money because the business she is involved in brings a lot of humiliation every now and then. All the time she is called by different names which add to her woes. She demands that her community be respected like other people in society; or to avoid ostracism trans-gender people be designated a separate locality to live without being subjected to perpetual discrimination and humiliation.
Ours is a degenerate society where illiteracy, apathy and superstitions reign supreme. In such conditions one cannot expect tolerance or a benevolent attitude towards the marginalised or handicapped segment of society. Such is the case of Pretty.