FEBRUARY 13-19 2011
Thrill of the Chased 32
Divided We Stand
Let’s Talk About Love A fanboy gets his dream date with Mathira
FEBRUARY 13-19 2011
Cover Story 16 Lets Talk About Love Screen siren Mathira is our lucky Valentine 24 Love... Actually? The origins of Valentine’s Day are more grisly then you’d think 26 Practical Magic Fortune-tellers share their predictions for a ‘special’ year in love
Feature 28 The Unlovely Bones Meet the ghoulish character known only as ‘Petrol’
Politically Incorrect 30 Yours Extremely Mullah Bummer’s letter to his friend and leader Ossy
Fired Up With Frieha
32 Thrill of the Chased Does playing hard to get really work?
Washington Diary 34 Divided We Stand Pakistani-Americans remain fixated on events at home
Interview 37 Behind Enemy Lines Mirza Waheed talks about life in Indian Kashmir
Regulars 6 People & Parties: Out and about with Pakistan’s beautiful people 14 Tribune Questionnaire: Ayesha F Hashwani on vacations 40 Reviews: What’s new in films and books 44 Horoscope: Shelley von Strunckel on your week ahead 46 Ten Things I Hate About: Valentine’s Day
Editor: Zarrar Khuhro. Sub-Editors: Batool Zehra, Hamna Zubair Creative Team: Amna Iqbal, Jamal Khurshid, Essa Malik, Anam Haleem, Tariq Alvi, S Asif Ali, Samad Siddiqui, Sukayna Sadik Publisher: Bilal A Lakhani. Executive Editor: Muhammad Ziauddin. Editor: Kamal Siddiqi. For feedback and submissions: email@example.com
PEOPLE & PARTIES
The countryâ€™s literati made appearances at the second
Authors Sethi, Mueenuddin, Hanif, Sethi and Naqvi
Natasha and Sophia
Bina Shah and Claire Chambers
FEBRUARY 13-19 2011
PHOTO CREDIT: NEFER SEHGAL
Karachi Literature Festival.
PEOPLE & PARTIES
Jimmy Engineer FEBRUARY 13-19 2011
k Fasi Za
PEOPLE & PARTIES
Attendees at the book fair
Zehra Nigah, Kishwar Naheed and Durdana Soomro FEBRUARY 13-19 2011
PEOPLE & PARTIES
Karachi’s Café 76 recently launched its new Sunday brunch, and coffee and croissants were served with a dose of comedy as Saad Haroon kept the crowd in stitches.
Faraz Alamgir, Sana Sultan, Sana Murtuza and Aisha Kirmani
Asad and Shehla
FEBRUARY 13-19 2011
“I want what I want right now” Designer Ayesha F Hashwani on vacations, hating sushi and hiding imperfections.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
When and where were you happiest?
Loving people and being loved by my daughter and husband.
There have been so many happy moments in my life that it would
What is your greatest fear? Losing one of my family members. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
be difficult to pinpoint any one.
Which talent would you most like to have? I would love to have been a great pianist.
I’m shy and I procrastinate. I’ve been meaning to stop doing it...
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
What is the trait you most deplore in others?
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I would have to say, having raised a wonderful daughter who is
What is your greatest extravagance?
patient, loving, extremely giving and well-mannered.
Vacations. I blow my budget on travelling as frequently as
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
What is your current state of mind?
What is your most treasured possession?
Very happy. I am currently working on two very exciting projects.
My daughter! Every day is brighter because of her.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Patience! I want what I want right now.
Loss of a loved one and all the things you never got to say or do.
On what occasion do you lie?
If you didn’t do your current job, what would you choose to do?
When my husband insists we have to go for a sushi dinner… I
Teaching Kindergarten children. I love kids.
What do you most dislike about your appearance? I’d rather not say. If I do everyone will start noticing it. Which living person do you most despise? I don’t really despise anyone. What is the quality do you most like in a man? A sense of humour and humility. He should be pleasant looking
What is your most marked characteristic? I wear my heart on my sleeve. Who is your hero of fiction? Superman. Which historical figure do you most identify with? Darn! I knew I should have paid more attention in history.
and extremely generous, giving me lots of presents!
Who are your heroes in real life?
What is the quality you most like in a woman?
back to people.
She should be honest, supporting and respectful. Which words or phrases do you most overuse? “That’s hilarious.”
Abdul Sattar Edhi. It’s difficult to match how much he has given
What is your greatest regret? I don’t think I have a biggest regret in life because I do believe everything happens for a reason. a
FEBRUARY 13-19 2011
lets talk about
A fanboy gets up close and personal with Mathira before Valentine’s Day, exploring the siren’s thoughts on romance, relationships, and riding the wave of fame. BY HASSAN CHOUDRY PHOTOGRAPHY BY NEFER SEHGAL
16 FEBRUARY 13-19 2010
COVER STORY I discovered Mathira. Way before some X-rated telephone calls catapulted her to fame, before “Gujji gujji muah” became a popular catchphrase, before people barely knew what VibeTV was. I discovered Mathira. Channel surfing on one idle night, I came across a show featuring a striking young woman who dished out love advice to despairing callers... and I was hooked. I was soon posting Mathira links on Facebook, uploading videos of her on YouTube and making my friends tune into her show. And I watched with pride
as this once-unknown anchor shot
to the fame she so rightly deserved... So when my editor tells me to interview the firecracker, that too so close to Valentine’s
get ready to dazzle her — I wear my best shirt and splash on some new cologne. I’m about to meet the beautiful, daring woman who touches thousands of hearts every day. This is my chance! I do a double take when I catch my first glimpse of Mathira, entering the Vibe office apologising profusely for having made me wait all of five minutes. Sans makeup and dressed down in an oversized yellow shirt and black pants, one would be hard-pressed to recognise “Love Indicator’s” famous host. I feel like I know her already, but can’t wait for this brazen femme fatale to reveal some of her deepest, darkest secrets. She doesn’t disappoint. “My love life is very complicated,” she says intriguingly. “I do love someone, but I believe you don’t always have to go express your emotions to the person you love. Being happy for a loved one, even if you are distant, is also love.” All very profound, but hardly promising. What I want to know
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is: What’s her ‘relationship status’? Is she single? Is she looking? When pressed, Mathira falls back on the safe old standby, “I am in a relationship with my work. This is the right time for me to concentrate on my professional life. I’m single.” Great. That means I still stand a chance. Now if only I could get to know more about her past. Who was her first crush? “My first love was quite fun but as they say jitna jannat dikhata hai utna jahanam bhi dikhata hai so after I went through that, Single,
said no, never again!”
corner, Mathira remains unfazed:
thing about Valentine’s Day is that I get a lot of gifts, from 10-rupee bangles to really fancy stuff. This is so much better than when I was in a relationship — at that time the day would inevitably get spoilt and I’d be crying by the end o
No wonder her ideal Valentine’s Day celebrations do not involve big plans. “My ideal Valentine’s Day would be me and the guy I like, in a nice, quiet, candlelit room. Sweet music would be playing on the stereo and we’d have some homemade dinner, maybe two scrambled eggs.” Very do-able. Less do-able is being the Heathcliff that Mathira has in her mind as her ideal guy. Despite her tough veneer, Mathira wants a husband who is assertive and her notions of being subservient to her husband are fairly typical — fine by me, I’m a fairly typical Pakistani guy myself. “My ideal partner should be mature, and at least five to six years older than me,” she says, and I do some quick mental math. “He should be gutsy and demanding or he’ll become a doormat. He has to be so strong that when he walks into a room he creates an immediate impression. With a beautiful girl like me by his side, he needs to know how to protect his woman like a shield. Hundreds of guys will be looking at me and
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COVER STORY Mathira’s words of wisdom sdom Her message for Valentine’s Day: “Go ahead speak your heart to the right person in the right way at the right time. And if it is a no, don’t be sad — just back off.” I don’ don’t o t want to be just eye candy. He faces a big task — the task of
Worst rumour she’s heard about herself: “That I’m not a ‘good girl’... that I take money for one night.”
h me.” being with But until Mr Perfect comes along, Mathira can take care of herself — she carries pepper spray and pocket knives for protec-
What she’d do if she became prime minister: “I will create more employment opportunities because unemployment creates criminals.”
tion and isn’t afraid to use them. “I have a black belt,” she says. “When I got my first salary, I decided to buy myself something. I had taken a rickshaw to the bank and when I was getting off a man snatched my purse and started to run away. At first, I didn’t
What she’d legalise if she became prime minister: “Freedom to wear what you want, within a limit. The freedom of wearing what you want to wear starts at your own house and in front of your own parents.”
know what to do, but then I flung my heels over my shoulder and ran after him. And I remember that day I wore a miniskirt and I was still running and jumping. When I finally got hold of the man, I hit him with a rock. He said he needed money so I felt really bad and later gave him Rs1,000.” She displays the same mixture of gutsiness and sympathy to callers on “Love Indicator”. The show’s raciness is unprecedented and for that very reason, irresistible. Even those who tut-tut and shake their heads can’t say that they haven’t been titillated by the late-night show. Time delay switches and censorship guidelines seem to fall by the wayside when it comes to this show and Mathira has handled some decidedly dirty calls with aplomb. “When I am on the show, I believe I am open to all forms of criticism. People say all sorts of things and I say koi baat nahi. Sometimes it gets too much and I start crying on-screen but I then shake it off and carry on with the programme. If someone swears at me, it just shows what family background that person has. Mera gunnah meray sar pay hai. Mera khuda janta hai mein kya karti hoon kya nahi karti. For God’s sake don’t blame people. Don’t label people. Not everyone is the same.” She believes that the worst quality one can have is too much patience, which she possesses. “Having too much patience is not good. I cannot shout at anyone, I end up crying.” With over a hundred calls on her show every day, she certainly has struck a connection with viewers. Is her social life just as happening? “A thousand people say they know Mathira. So many people come talk to me but when I leave the room, the same people start criticising me,” she says. So yes I have a thousand
20 FEBRUARY 13-19 2010
>> Mathira on Bollywood “I would love to go to Bollywood, but not to ‘massage’ someone. I wouldn’t play any vulgar roles. Regarding Veena, I would like to ask Pakistan — when her nude pictures showed up on the internet and she was in Pakistan, where was everyone then? Why didn’t anyone react then? Now people are reacting at the wrong time for the wrong reasons. The nude pictures are worse than what happened in India. She made a mistake, maybe she wanted to stay in and become Rakhi Sawant Part Two and played her cards wrong, but I would like to tell people kay theek hai yar ghalati ho gai, humari bandi hai woh. Let’s forgive her. There are a hundred ways of entertaining. She was wearing perfect clothes [in “Big Boss 4”] and I loved her dressing but I didn’t like the way she was behaving. Jab pyar ka bhoot ata hai toh bohat kuch barbad kar kay jata hai. To her a little message would be: just say you’re sorry.” <<
21 FEBRUARY 13-19 2010
friends, but if you ask me about my very close friends, that number will come down to two or three.” She also says that although she used to be a bit of a “party-freak”, she has now become more of a homebody. “Hazar log hazar baatain so I don’t socialise much anymore.” With three different shows, including a sports show, a cooking show and a yoga show, Mathira barely has time to socialise... unfortunately for me, it seems. Her mentor and boss Babar Tajammul compares her to Priyanka Chopra, and says Mathira has done wonders for the Pakistani television industry. “Top govern-
>> Mathira on ‘Love Indicator’ and the concept behind it “I did not start off with the aim of solving people’s problems. It just happened, one person called in and asked something and I gave him my advice which turned out to be good. That is how the calls started rolling in. And not every other guy calls in to share issues. Some tell me their problems off screen some talk to me on screen. The show is still a lot of fun. Mera programme dhabay tak mein chalta hai. It is just a normal concept where, despite all that is going on in Pakistan there is a place where a girl can sit wearing normal clothes. My concept is that I am a young girl and I want to sit the way I am. Meri jo personality hai mein woh badloun gi nahi.” <<
ment officials monitoring the media have personally told me that they tried their best to curb the popularity of Indian TV channels in Pakistan,” he says, “but it is Mathira who struck a chord with Pakistani viewers and made them refocus their attention on local media. We are proud of creating a brand like her.” Her co-host on her Geo Super sports show, Khurram, says: “There is the occasional ‘Oh my God you work with Mathira’ but she is actually a lot of fun to work with - well-informed, professional and punctual. Above all, she knows what people want.” And she has high-profile admirers. “She is one of the gutsiest girls on late night TV,” says fashion photographer Tapu Javeri. “None of us have the guts to take live callers without a delay. She is quick on her feet and it’s nice to have her on TV. I’m a fan.” Stand-up comedian Sami Shah, who shared the stage with her at the last Lux Style Awards, says: “Every guy at the show who knew me even the slightest bit was after me to introduce them to her. That is Mathira’s power. She is controversial, hated, judged and critiqued - she may even represent everything you think is wrong with the country - but you still want to say you met her. That is why she wins.” So Mathira is an independent woman who remains unfazed by anything said or done against her. She deals with calls questioning her character, and threats to her life... But there are days when it all gets too much, and this is how she deals with the stress when she goes home: “I get under a blanket and I cry for an hour. Then I go to sleep.” Mathira looks up and smiles. “After all, tomorrow is a bright new day!” a
22 FEBRUARY 13-19 2010
>>Mathira on rumours and criticism “ Actresses esses in Lollywood Lol flaunt their stomachs and their legs, uss pay koii ku kuch nahi bolta. But when one girl wears normal tops and jeans everyone sits down to criticise her. When someone becomes succesful, people don’t want to compete with them on fair grounds — they want to sabotage them and halt their progress to feel better about themselves. This is the problem with Paksitani society. I believe if you have to move forward, you cannot do that by bringing anyone else down.”<<
>>Mathira on a woman’s role in a relationship “Aik aurat ki hazar responsibilities hoti hain. A woman should learn to compromise but that does not mean she should switch off her feelings. Before getting married, aap ko apnay banday kay samnay har cheez crystal clear rakhna chahiay. You should not change for the man. Trust and openness are more important than love. If a relationship fails it fails because of both the parties involved. Before being husband and wife or Romeo and Juliet, you have to be best friends. There is a certain age in everyone’s life when their sexual desire dries up... I mean, after the age of 50, many marriages fail. So to avoid this you have to be best friends. You have to look at a relationship in the long run not in the short run.”<<
>>Mathira on her perfect wedding “I do not want a grand wedding with a lot of people around. I want to get married on a beach, in a long flowy gown — something really Hawaiian. After the wedding I want to have a party and then go sailing somewhere far away.”<< >> Mathira on men “I don’t believe ‘all men are dogs’. I believe when you are a wife, in the first week you should learn how to leash your dog and if you fail then I am sorry your dog will go wild and if you manage it, fine he is with you. A dog is a man’s best friend and can also bite the man. It depends on how you treat it.”<<
>>Mathira on husbands “I believe even if a man cheats on his wife, there is some fault in the woman. She is either not compromising or she is not being open with him. I believe that a woman can do wonders. And if a woman wants to sit like a garbage truck jis tarha humari khawateen karti hain ‘Oh shaadi ho gai mein nahi kuch kar rahi, oh bachay ho gai mein wazan bhi nahi hata rahi choro’ tau mard kya karay ga. Men like change. A woman should be willing to change.”<<
23 FEBRUARY 13-19 2010
COVER STORY Valentine’s Day didn’t begin with a pair of starcrossed lovers or a hallmark greeting card campaign — it started with a bunch of half-naked Romans running through the streets whipping women with strips of goat hide to cure their infertility.
actually? The next time you buy roses on Valentine’s Day, remember that the tradition began rather more violently. BY ZARRAR KHUHRO
In ancient times February 15 was the Roman feast of Lupercalia, which also included one other rather interesting tradition: a lottery in which young men would draw the names of teenage girls from a box. The lucky, or not so lucky, girl would then be the fellow’s sexual partner during the remaining year. Often the lady would receive a gift or a greeting in the name of Juno, a Roman goddess. Was this the precursor of the Valentine’s Day card?
24 FEBRUARY 13-19 2010
Unsurprisingly, the church didn’t quite like all this carrying on so they did what they usually did with deeply ingrained pagan festival — they rebranded it. The date was changed from February 15 to February 14, and the lottery was expanded to allow girls to pick names as well. Now, the names were of Christian saints and the lucky ones who drew the names had to imitate the saints’ actions for the rest of the year. It didn’t catch on.
a game of chance In ancient times February 15 was the Roman feast of Lupercalia, which also includ-
The holiday was also renamed in honour of St Valentine, but it’s still not clear just who he was or what he did. One legend says
ed one other rather interesting tradition:
he was jailed by the Romans for not giving up on his Christian faith and, while in jail, healed his jailer’s daughter. Before being
a lottery in which young men would draw
executed he wrote her a letter signed ‘from your Valentine’
the names of teenage girls from a box. The
Claudius banned his soldiers from getting married (he thought
Another version of the legend is that, when the Roman emperor it turned them into sissies), Valentine carried out ‘underground’
lucky, or not so lucky, girl would then be the
weddings. When Claudius found out he tried to convert Valentine to paganism. Valentine in turn tried to make a good Christian out of
fellow’s sexual partner during the remain-
Claudius and was beaten and beheaded for his pains.
tomb was found in Rome dedicated to St Valentine. So the next time
Whatever the truth is, we know that he did actually exist as a you’re griping about buying a Valentine’s card or gift, just remember it beats getting beheaded — or whipped with goat hide. a
25 FEBRUARY 13-19 2010
COVER STORY I was sitting in a dimly lit room heavy with the smell of incense. The glamorous clairvoyant who sat across from me picked up a cigarette with jewel-encrusted fingers and intoned, “Can you think of anyone in your life who wishes you ill? They might be… using black magic against you!” Which is apparently why I am disinclined towards romance. I knew it wasn’t just me. It was kala jaadu all along. I’ll also admit this: While I’ve always been sceptical of astrology, palmistry, numerology and similar forms of fortune-telling, a tiny part of me really wants to believe that a stranger can take one look at my palm and tell me exactly what to do to become, let’s say, fabulously wealthy on the second Friday of the third month from February.
magic A journey to discover what the stars say about our love lives results in some surprising revelations. BY HAMNA ZUBAIR
It is this proclivity I’m indulging by visiting a series of fortunetellers before V-day. I’m hoping to get some sort of insight into the twists and turns my love life may take in the coming years — and I’m also dying to get a few laughs along the way. After all, fortune-tellers haven’t exactly been accurate in their predictions about my romantic engagements in the past, so I expect some levity. I remember clearly an appointment I had with a palmist in 2008 — she told me I would be ‘wed’ by 2009, which provoked a minute of deadly panic. “But I don’t want to be wed in 2009!” I had told the grand-looking lady. “I don’t know if I want to be wed at all!” My mother, who was sitting beside me at the time, bristled, and the palmist just smiled indulgently and patted my hand. Of course, 2009 came and went without so much as a whisper of wedding bells, and I breathed several sighs of relief. And for this round of predictions, I chose a trusted friend as my fortune-telling partner in crime instead of my mother — less pressure that way, I thought. My friend, whom we’ll just call ‘Honey,’ was also going to get her fortune told and would serve as my ‘control subject.’ Our first appointment was with a well-known numerologist. This respected gentleman said he knew more about the study of Numerol-
ogy than almost any other practitioner in Pakistan, and Honey and I felt we were in good hands. The only unnerving part of the experience was that he didn’t look either Honey or myself in the eye even once during the whole reading — he would either be staring at his calculations or gazing off into space while he told us the story of our lives. Oh well, I thought. Seers are entitled to some quirks, after all. I perked up when, after using my birth date to do some calculations, he told me I was a ‘Number 11’ — a Master Number, which meant I was destined for greatness. “With great power comes great responsibility,” he added mysteriously. After scribbling a few more numbers onto a piece of paper he said I would be engaged by 2012 and married by 2013, years that are drawing near enough to provoke
After scribbling a few more numbers onto a piece of paper he said I would be engaged by 2012 and married by 2013, years that are drawing near enough to provoke another minute of fear.
another minute of fear. My fate was sealed when he announced that I would also have a “big family” — it isn’t an exaggeration to say I
so penetrating that we all but spilled the tea she’d offered us. Maybe
left the place with quaking knees, because some of my worst night-
it was the stuffiness of her room, maybe it was her kajal… but Hon-
mares feature mounds of soiled diapers and equally abundant chil-
ey and I were definitely spooked, especially when she started going
dren squealing “Mama!” as they ride roughshod over my sanity, not
all kala jaado on us.
to mention my hopes and dreams.
To me, she said I had an aversion to marriage because of certain
Honey had a better time than I did, because the numerologist said
‘negative energies’ that other people might be directing towards me.
she and her current partner were “well-matched.” He got a couple of
“Does anyone at work have a grudge against you?” she asked throat-
things wrong, though. He said Honey’s man “worked in investment
ily. “Is anyone jealous of your mother?” I could only shake my head
banking or finance,” which is far from the truth, and added that the
at each question — to be honest, I thought that girl who glared at me
boy in question “was always thinking about money” — which isn’t
at the coffee machine yesterday was just having a bad day.
To Honey, she said a man from the past would reveal his love
But all in all, the experience was interesting and thought-provok-
to her very soon — which kind of flattered Honey, I could tell. The
ing: Honey was more interested in her man now than ever before,
session continued for over an hour, and we soon forgot to ask only
and I was busy thinking of ways to avoid my impending nuptials.
about our love lives… Honey and I were hooked, line and sinker. We
Our next stop was a palmist. This adorable old man was a huge flirt, and complimented Honey and I on our “youth and beauty” sev-
bombarded the lady with questions about our careers, our health, our travel plans and — I’m embarrassed to admit it — our dreams.
eral times. It soon became obvious that the palmist had little other
We left the lady’s tarot-reading room blinking and disoriented,
than romance on his mind, because he kept insisting that both
clutching pieces of paper with Quranic verses printed on them — she
Honey and I would be married (to our respective future husbands,
had given us special prayers to recite. It was only after Honey and I
not to each other) very soon. “When will I be married?” I asked him.
had been jolted around in the car a few times that we came back to
“Issi waqt!” he roared (I looked around nervously). “Buy her a wed-
earth and realised that much of what the seer had told us could have
ding present now!” He exclaimed, addressing Honey and gesturing
applied to anyone, really.
towards me. “And when will she be married?” I asked, bobbing my
We were, however, creeped out enough that we agreed not to dis-
head in Honey’s direction. “She will also get married now!” he pro-
cuss her predictions with anyone — except of course for all the thou-
nounced. “It’s right around the corner!”
sands of people (hopefully) reading this piece.
Honey and I left the palmist’s a little bamboozled. When we
It has not escaped me that each fortune-teller I’ve been to during
pressed him, he had told us a little bit about other aspects of our lives
my quest to divine the inner workings of my heart has told me I’ll
— he said I would be successful professionally and that Honey would
be tying the knot soon. Even the Tarot lady said this, by the way.
be rich and live a long life — but that was about it.
They’re probably just all out to get me.
After this Honey and I were more determined than ever to get a
Anyway, I’ll concentrate instead on one of the numerologist’s
thorough picture of our future lives, which is why we decided to go
predications for me. “This year Valentine’s Day will be very interest-
to a noted Tarot card reader.
ing for you,” he said. “On February 14th something will begin for you
That is how we found ourselves in the aforementioned dimly-lit
— and end on the same day. It will be very short-lived.” Whatever
room, plucking esoteric cards from a pack and asking for them to be
could this be, I mused. A conversation with a cheesy crank caller
interpreted. The stately female who did our reading was impressive
professing his love for me? A marriage proposal? A headache? Watch
— she described our personalities precisely and fixed us with a gaze
this space. a
27 FEBRUARY 13-19 2010
the un The sickly stench of a decomposing body wafted out of the autopsy room as we walked through this wellknown medical college. Even though it was the middle of the day, the college was practically deserted and pieces of broken furniture dotted the halls. But we were prepared for all this — after all, meeting the shadowy character known only as ‘Petrol’ was no task for the fainthearted. Every now and then a comically obnoxious horn from a passing bus or the chuckles of a group of friends walking towards the canteen would break the deathly silence of the corridors. However, as soon as we turned a dim corner, the silence was deafening. This was the hall that led to the room that was as dark as the trade that took place in it. Here sat Petrol, in an office that was only slightly bigger than a broom closet. A table fan that sputtered more than it cooled slowly dispelled the deathly aura that had descended on us as we had walked through the tomb-like abyss. What followed was the typical Petrol-student exchange, which went something like this: “Okay, so what will it be? Skull? Upper limb? Lower limb? Whole skeleton?” Petrol gets straight down to business. Obviously, students do not brave these ghoulish grounds just to drop in and say“hi” — they are here for the real thing: organic, tried and tested human bones. Petrol casually tossed a few bones out of one of his drawers. A rib or
two flew past the midday snack he was munching on, and he trawled FEBRUARY 13-19 2011
In the shadowy recesses of a medical college lurks a man who deals in the remains of the dead!
BY HIBA TOHID
through his store of human remains with the same unwashed hands
Who else would be willing to sieve dust for bones and lose both his
he would eat his kebab roll with. The drawer did not of course contain
image and name on the way? For the puritan faculty that harped
all the bones requested — Petrol needed more time for that. And at the
on about medical ethics day in and day out, Petrol was an invisible
end of the day, Petrol left his humble office and disappeared into the
yet crucial learning aid resigned to an obscure corner.
light outside, squinting as he went.
Just like any other baddie, Petrol too came with a side kick —
Petrol’s ways were as mysterious as his work. How he obtained a
CNG! From shoveling a grave in the dark to replacing his superior in
supply of bones that almost never ran short was a topic of intense
menial tasks like bargaining with the students, this subordinate
speculation among bands of students gathered in different corners
cost less to deal with, hence his name.
of the college.
CNG always hovered in Petrol’s shadow, watching his boss close-
Whether he invaded graves at night or resorted to other means
ly to learn the tricks of the trade. After Petrol mysteriously disap-
to get his wares, the fact remained that this sinister figure got his
peared one day, for some time CNG acted as heir to the empire of
hands dirty doing a job no one else wanted to. He was known as
bones and skulls that Petrol left behind.
the bone dealer who had made a pact with the dead… just to make
Now though, even this trusty sidekick is not easy to trace. This college
a few bucks! In doing so, he unwittingly helped a hoard of pious
that stands smack in the middle of the city has metamorphosed in all
doctors perform better in their exams.
these years. The creepy cranny that housed the infamous bone dealer
This favour however, did not come for free. “Gari mein petrol daalo gey toh gari chaley gee!” (If you want to run the car, you’ve got to fill it up with petrol) was what Petrol used to say to students asking for his ‘services’. He got his name from the very thing that drove his ambitions… his petrol… money! The human body was a playground for freshmen trying to mark the exact location of human organs on it during an Anatomy exam.
now stands vacant, ready to be flattened to the ground. Although CNG, the half-blood prince, walks these grounds no more, the treasure he fled with still stays well in demand. “Bones are now swapped and bartered, traded to younger students by seniors but if they ever run short… You can always find a peon who promises to get you a limb or two from ‘somewhere’!” says a student.
Tired of practicing their skills on dummies, students soon realised
And since Petrol isn’t seen around campus anymore, an urban
that messing with the ‘real thing’ was so much more effective, and
legend says the human bones that students surreptitiously
that’s where Petrol would come in.
practice their craft on in that dark basement… may just be
This ignoble rivet in our medical machinery was indispensable.
Petrol’s own. a
29 FEBRUARY 13-19 2011
extremely The secret letter of Mullah Bummer. BY AA SHEIKH
Respected leader and dear friend, It is with great sadness that I pen this missive to you. It’s been two months since our security squads assigned us different caves on either side of the Durand Line. Security concerns notwithstanding, I miss you very much, Ossy. We shared the same cave for most of the last few years — ever since Ayman left and went to France —and I confess I had grown very fond of your exalted company and companionship. Of course, the fact that your cave was centrally heated in winters was an added benefit. We shared some very good times together. Ah, the simple joys of discussing world
30 FEBRUARY 13-19 2011
domination while picking lice from your beard; of watching old reruns of Baywatch on satellite TV; of sharing lamb dumpukht and bars of US Army chocolate. The memories keep flooding me. Remember the time you were trying to create a new generation of parcel-bombs but one blew in your face and set your beard on fire? Or when you dabbled with a new version of anthrax and got infected yourself? On a personal note, I confess I keep missing you more and more. Although I will soon get central heating and a broadband connection in my cave, life will still be pretty boring without you. I remember with great fondness and nostalgia our wonderful times together. It sometimes reminds me of that movie we saw, I think it was called “Broken Back of Mountain” or something. Those were the days! Before I close I must tell you that I’m revising the 420th version of our master plan for the Talibanisation of America. While it is quite comprehensive and includes all airline schedules and subway timings, not to mention a separate chapter on Sarah Palin’s fate once we take over, I think a key element is amiss: I firmly believe change should be initiated from the top. I don’t think we can successfully Talibanise America until Obama wears a burqa and Mrs Clinton grows a beard. Oh, my apologies. I mean vice versa. I think we should make this an integral element of our manifesto. I’ll forward the details for your kind consideration. In the end, my dear Ossy, I want to reiterate that I remain your steadfast friend and ally, despite all the distance and international military personnel between us. I wish you the best of health and spirits. Yours extremely, Bummer. a
31 FEBRUARY 13-19 2011
FIRED UP WITH FRIEHA
thrill of the chased Playing hard to get may earn you the respect of your Pakistani peers â€” but will it prepare you for relationships? BY FRIEHA ALTAF
catch me if you can Supermodel Frieha was no easy catch. Her first boyfriend chased her for two years. Eventually the love letters, song dedications, and moonlight vigils outside her home worked. . . a six-year relationship is what the amorous admirer got for his pains.
32 FEBRUARY 13-19 2011
Conventional wisdom says that if you want to make a man fall in love with you, make him chase you! I’m con-
own experience at school, girls who gave in to the advances of the
When I was at college in America, I would jealously watch my American girlfriends go on exciting first dates with handsome boys, enjoying wild, steamy, passionate nights.
Society had invented a number of appealing labels for these girls,
held my morals and traditional Pakistani values. My attitude earned
I suppose this is why my poor first boyfriend had to ‘chase’ me for
understand relationships and the realities of male-female interac-
vinced that ‘playing hard to get’ has been practiced ever since Adam
and Eve found each other, covered with leaves. Why else would lines like these have been handed down through the ages: “Anything that comes easy loses its excitement,” and “To love and not to have is the greatest torture and the most tormenting pleasure.”
My own mother, too, wasn’t being coy when she told me to play
it cool with boys. She really believed in her own mantra. “Men love to chase girls,” she would tell me. “Girls don’t approach boys, that’s not the way it’s done. You’ll seem too ‘easy’.” And it was true: in my opposite sex too soon were judged harshly, especially by other girls. the favoured title being ‘fast.’
two years before I finally succumbed to his charms. He wrote me love
letters, dedicated songs to me, stood outside my house in the moonlight pining for me… what he got for his persistence was a six-year
relationship. Did the relationship last beyond that? Of course not! It’s not like I found my ‘one true love’ by being frigid. But despite
me the ‘respect’ of my Pakistani guy friends but did little to help me tion. In retrospect, would I have been better off being able to ask
a guy out? Should I have made the first move all along? And how would guys in the late 80’s have reacted to a gutsy, independent girl who knew what she wanted?
Actually, I can answer that. I knew of hardly any women who got
this, my mother’s words continue to echo in my head, with the re-
away with living the ‘fast and furious’ lifestyle in Pakistan. The ones
have a crush on a guy I patiently wait for him to make the first move,
insecure husbands always questioning their past relationships. It
sult that I have never, ever asked a guy out on a date. Never! Even if I and if he doesn’t… oh well, my crush eventually fades away.
There is an interesting flipside to this, though. When I was at col-
who were forthright and open about their choices had to bear with was clear that the Pakistani man was not ready for a ‘carefree’ girl.
Things have changed over the years, but not very much. I have
lege in America, I would jealously watch my American girlfriends
some male friends who think that ‘playing hard to get’ is a silly, dis-
steamy, passionate nights with said beaus. The problem was that
on the issue. She says, “Playing hard to get is neither attractive nor
go on exciting first dates with handsome boys, enjoying wild,
these dashing studs didn’t bother to call the next day, and I’d have to
endure long conversations with my girlfriends that revolved around the question, “Why hasn’t he called?” College boys weren’t interested in ‘relationships’; they just wanted to move on to the next conquest as soon as possible.
So had my mother been right all along? Well, being momma’s
good little girl meant that I lived through years of the typically
honest game. Another friend of mine has an entirely different take
mature… but although it is seen as being old-fashioned today, it can also simply be a means of doing things differently from the rest…
a person who holds their own and keeps things mysterious while
maintaining boundaries. A woman who’s a challenge also conveys
that she has standards to maintain. Boundaries and mystery should never be lost when in a relationship.”
All in all, I don’t think I ever set out to ‘play hard to get’ on purpose.
American college experience without succumbing to temptation de-
This attitude was conditioned into my system by my parents. “You
was thoroughly confused by the whole thing and had no idea what
when you were chased while you were single without a proper mar-
spite my ‘exotic’ looks. When a college boy first made a pass at me, I was transpiring. I could have taken some comfort in the fact that I wasn’t the only unattached lady in my dormitory, except the only
other ‘unscathed’ female weighed around 300 pounds. Anyway, suf-
fice it to say that realising that what is considered virtuous in your
part of the world makes you a ‘freak’ in other, more cosmopolitan
will fall in love once and marry that man,” they had intoned. So riage proposal in hand, of course the only answer you could give the
guy was “No!” You fought the flattery and attention by constantly telling yourself: “Girlfriend, he only wants to sleep with you.” Such was my upbringing!
With all these games abound, I often wonder: once the game is
circles was a huge cultural shock. This realisation is also a rite of
over, is love over? How would things have fared if Laila and Majnu
much peer pressure and a new, open environment, will you choose
ied in one grave, asking each other for space: “Hey, stop crowding
passage which will hopefully make you more mature: faced with so
to stick to your own culture or adopt the ways of the society you are living in for a short while?
Back in Pakistan, people thought it was pretty cool that I had up-
or Romeo and Juliet had not died for love? Are Heer and Ranjha, burme,” she tells him. “I need my space!” Now, space is another topic entirely, a topic that will take much more ‘space’ to address… next time. a
FEBRUARY 13-19 2011
Pakistani-Americans remain divorced from mainstream US politics, preferring to concentrate on events at home instead. BY SHAHZAD RAZA
Chaudhry Shahzad talks the way he drives: fast and with little regard for stop signs. And while he drives, his favourite topic of conversation is Pakistani politics. A Washington DC taxi driver by profession, he proudly tells his customers that he is the secretary general of Pakistan Muslim League-Q, Virginia Chapter. If such a thing exists at all, that is.
34 FEBRUARY 13-19 2011
Every year Pakistani-American doctors exhibit their wealth by organising mega-events and fundraisers, but by and large, the Pakistani community remains disorganised, and the economic clout and credentials of many Pakistani-Americans have contributed little towards converting them into a united body. He is not unique, but rather one of those many Pakistanis who,
while they may be physically living in the US, are mentally still in Pakistan. He works more than 10 hours a day and often finds time to chat with a friend after he finally parks his cab for the
night. The near-daily shenanigans in Pakistan’s political arena provide the material and set the duration and volume level of these otherwise short and hasty meetings.
“Last time Chaudhry Wajahat came here he appointed me the
PML-Q secretary general of the Virginia Chapter. We arranged a
get together in his honour. After all, I am from Gujrat,” he says proudly while taking a sharp turn on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Chaudhry Shahzad is also proud of having organised a rally in
favour of General Pervez Musharraf, when the latter arrived at the White House a few years ago. The number of participants in
that pro-Musharraf rally was around 20, but they still outnumbered the rival group present outside the White House that same day, who were holding placards cursing Musharraf.
Ripples in local, state or federal tiers of American politics do
not excite Shahzad. The Tea Party isn’t a political movement for
him but rather an occasion to serve samosas. On the other hand a scandal involving some local politicians of his hometown is certain to put a spark in his eye. He seldom reads The Washington Post or The New York Times, but never forgets to get a copy of his favou-
rite community newspaper, which is published in Urdu.
All in all, he’s a fairly typical specimen of the roughly 253,000
Pakistanis (2004 US Census figures) currently residing in the US. In total, legal Pakistanis make up about 0.1 per cent of the total US population.
The immigration phenomenon is deeply rooted in the history
of this country, often knows as the Country of Immigrants. Mod-
ern novels like American Chica by Marie Arana and The Godfather by
FEBRUARY 13-19 2011
WASHINGTONDIARY Mario Puzo have focused on the intricacies of this subject. The
first generation of immigrants always finds it difficult to develop
a sense of association with or devotion to the countries they immigrate to. But in case of many first generation Pakistani-Americans, they simply don’t want to even give it a try.
Many Pakistanis living in the US are the sole breadwinners of
their families. Some own multi-million dollars mansions near the Potomac River, while some share a dingy room with two of
their compatriots in the suburbs of Washington DC. Some are
rich, while most face a daily struggle to survive, make ends meet and hopefully send some money back to their families. They hail
from all parts of Pakistan and speak many different languages, and they all owe a debt to their adopted country. But there’s one
more thing they have in common: they are not an organised community.
New York City hosts the largest concentration of Pakistani-
Americans, with a population of approximately 35,000, residing
primarily in the boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn. These num-
Ripples in local, state or federal tiers of American politics do not excite him. The Tea Party isn’t a political movement for him but rather an occasion to serve samosas. On the other hand, a scandal involving some local politicians of his hometown is certain to put a spark in his eye.
bers make Pakistani-Americans the fifth largest Asian-American
group in New York City. The states of California and Texas have the largest number of Pakistanis compared to other US states.
The Pakistani community in America is generally regarded as
economically successful. Many Pakistani-Americans have man-
aged to increase their wealth and now own their own businesses, including restaurants, grocery, clothing and appliance stores,
newspaper booths, and travel agencies. Every year PakistaniAmerican doctors (more than 15,000 doctors of Pakistani descent
are practicing medicine in America) exhibit their wealth by organising mega-events and fundraisers. They give till it hurts:
according to Adil Najam, author of the book Portrait of a Giving Com-
munity: Philanthropy by the Pakistani-American Diaspora, in the year 2002 the Pakistani community gave nearly $1 billion in charity.
During the last round of Strategic Dialogue between Pakistan
But by and large, the Pakistani community in the US remains
and the United States, held in Washington DC, a visiting Paki-
Pakistani-Americans have contributed little towards convert-
community. At a dinner reception, the host had to rescue the
disorganised, and the economic clout and credentials of many
ing them into a united body willing to safeguard the interests of their motherland. They are deeply concerned about Pakistan and very vocal in their views. But for one reason or another, their
stani minister had to confront several tough questions from the
minister when he was facing the ire of some angry PakistaniAmerican doctors.
Pakistani journalists and scholars have their own interpreta-
well-intentioned efforts don’t translate into a good deal of influ-
tion of the situation. According to their more or less similar anal-
common Americans a new and positive perspective on Pakistan.
disputes instead of thinking or behaving like representatives of
ence over American policy makers, nor do they manage to give Wealthy Pakistanis do randomly organise fundraisers for their
American politician friends, but cannot match the networking of Indian entrepreneurs and well-off Indian-Americans.
yses, the Pakistani community remains mired in trivial internal
a country. They often cite the example of the lobbying success of the Jewish community and its unparalleled power in America.
According to one estimate, the population of Muslims will
Living far from the motherland, some Pakistani-Americans
match the population of Jews in the Unites States by 2030. Would
hosted by a Pakistani-American doctor, a heated debate erupted.
Jewish-Americans do? It’s doubtful. Power and influence isn’t a
have fallen victim to disillusionment. At a recent reception,
A small group was bitterly criticising politicians and proposing
ble defense in favour of the much-maligned politicians.
“a permanent military rule in Pakistan until things get better.” The other group, looking rather apologetic, was putting up a feeFEBRUARY 13-19 2011
they have as strong an influence on American policy as the numbers game and in contrast to the relative unity of the Jewish and Indian communities, the Muslim and Pakistani communities remain divided and parochial in their outlooks. a
In The Collaborator, Mirza Waheed writes about young boys in a border village at the start of the Kashmir uprising in the early 1990s. As the conflict reaches this village, a young boy gets left behind when all his friends cross the line of control to Pakistan to be trained as militants. As security forces move into the area all the villagers leave except the boy and his parents and the boy is forced to work as a body counter for the Indian army. The Collaborator was released in India on January 30th.
enemy lines Mirza Waheed, the author of The Collaborator, on life in Indian Kashmir and the struggle against occupation BY IMRANA KHWAJA
Mirza Waheed is from Srinagar and is currently Online Editor
at the BBC’s Urdu Service in London. He spoke about his book and what it was like to grow up in Kashmir in the 1990s. Q: To what extent is the story about you? A: To be honest my childhood was quite different from that of the protagonist. I was born in Srinagar and my father worked with the Tourism department. As a result I lived in a different and very beautiful part of Kashmir. It was almost idyllic!
But of course things changed in the early 90s when I was still
a teenager and conflict became an everyday reality. One incident that left a particularly deep impression on me was a security ‘crackdown’ in Srinagar. As is usual during a crackdown all
inhabitants had to walk in single file to a field where we were
required to gather. As I was walking, I saw a number of dead bodies that had presumably been killed in a so-called encounter. I realised that one of them was still alive and was asking for water.
FEBRUARY 13-19 2011
There was nothing I could do. These things change you. Q: How did it change you? A: I always say that our generation is marked for life. You no
longer see the world with the same eyes. You even walk differ-
ently, more hesitantly, because you fear everything. You might be nabbed anytime on the street by the police or the BSF (Border
Security Force) or by the army. We would witness violence first
hand, and in the evening hear it reported on TV as though it was
a thriller or a crime story — whereas what we were witnessing on the ground was a tragedy.
Q: What relationship did your generation have with India? A: When you’re growing up, on the face of it everything seems okay. You watch Indian films, Indian television, eat food that
comes from India, and your parents, uncles, relatives work for the government.
As you grow older you begin to make connections. Unfor-
tunately, the security forces are what you see of India if you’re growing up in Kashmir. You don’t see the benign democracy that
it still is, in my opinion, despite its flaws and contradictions. But when I grew up, all we saw was the machine gun and the bunker.
Q: Which is surely why the boys began crossing the border in the first place? A: Of course, when hundreds of boys went over to Pakistan to become militants, it didn’t just happen overnight. There were
years of pent up resentment, disillusionment and a sense of disenfranchisement. India has basically ‘managed’ Kashmir
through client elites who it trusts to rule. Most people agree that most elections in Kashmir have not been fair.
Q: In the areas where you lived was the absence of young men noticeable? A: Oh yes, very noticeable! You knew so-and-so person had
probably gone across, some relatives might claim that he was
‘away on business’ while others in the same family would privately admit that he had become a militant. Q: Was there a particular class that joined up? A: People who don’t have a lot to look forward to will be more keen
to take this step but it wasn’t just boys from poor backgrounds.
One of the first commanders of JKLF who died in a battle with security forces in Srinagar, Ashfaq Majid Wani, went to the best
school in Srinagar. FEBRUARY 13-19 2011
kashmir fatigue Mirza Waheed found it interesting that the Pakistani press remained relatively silence at a time when people were dying every day during the Kashmir protest last summer.
Q: Is there much being written about the experiences of Kashmiri people? A: I heard someone comment recently that ‘the boys have grown up and they’re writing back’. There is a lot happening, people are writing fiction and poetry.
There are now two generations from Kashmir. There’s us, the
ones who were teenagers when it all started and are now in our
thirties. And there’s a generation who was born at the start of, or during, the conflict — people who are now in their 20s — and this
is all they have seen. We still know of a past that was ‘normal’ but they’ve never seen anything like that. Q: Are their voices being heard in India? A: Yes, there are people who are very critical about what is going on and there is a growing circle of people who are telling the state
that we have to listen to Kashmiris. It has taken a lot of dead people to get to this place, but one must recognise it’s a good thing.
Q: Did you find it strange that the Kashmir protest last summer got such little media attention? A: A few newspapers picked it up but it didn’t get the attention it deserved. There were teenagers dying every day — 111 people died in the summer — but it was interesting that the silence included
the Pakistani press. One analyst suggested to me that Pakistan was suffering from Kashmir fatigue. There has been a tactical
change in the Pakistani state’s Kashmir policy; maybe there is some recognition that the tactic of forcing a solution hasn’t
“You no longer see the world with the same eyes. You even walk differently, more hesitantly, because you fear everything. You might be nabbed anytime on the street by the police or the BSF (Border Security Force) or by the army. We would witness violence first hand, and in the evening hear it reported on TV as though it was a thriller or a crime story — whereas what we were witnessing on the ground was a tragedy.”
worked for Pakistan.
While India hasn’t been able to crush the will of Kashmiri
people in the last 22 years Pakistan has failed to force a resolution. That’s where we are right now.
Q: Does the boy, who remains nameless, decide to cross over to Pakistan in the end? A: He’s seen so much murder and death that all hope has kind
of evaporated. But I have left it open as to whether he decides to leave. He picks up the bag he had initially packed to go to
Pakistan as a militant. He may go, but deep down he doesn’t believe in the gun. a
39 FEBRUARY 13-19 2011
featured review of the week
film over the top BY RAFAY MAHMOOD
Bollywood has come of age — but unfortunately the signs of maturity are only shown by filmmakers like Anurag Kashyap and Vishal Bhardwaj whereas people like Farah Khan, who have been a part of the film fraternity for quite some time, are stuck in their own bubble. Her latest venture, Tees Maar Khan, testifies to the fact that while the choreographer-turned-director may like to make big-budget films, she fails to make meaningful use of the money she spends. Starring Akshay Kumar and Katrina Kaif in the lead roles and Akshay Khanna in a supporting role, the film follows the story of a local conman known as “Tees Maar Khaan” and explores how he manages to pull off the biggest train robbery using his dodging skills and charismatic personality. True to the traditions of Bollywood masala flicks, the story has no layers and to call it a film about a conman is an exaggeration because technically it falls under only one genre — “Farah Khan Filmmaking”. One must appreciate Farah Khan’s eye for casting — Akshay and Katrina are the only couple to give back-to-back blockbusters since the once-celebrated Shahrukh and Kajol duo. Akshay Kumar gives a phenomenal performance; the cheesy smiles and gestures that the actor invented in Hera Pheri and which have now become a part of his onscreen persona, brought life to a dead story and even deader screenplay. Katrina too manages to pull through this time because all she was required to do was overact and her emotive performance is perfectly suitable for her role. But it is Akshay Khanna who gives his best performance by far since Dil Chahta Hai. His over-the-top turn as Atish Kapoor manages, in a couple of scenes, to even steal the limelight from Akshay Kumar. As for the music — that crucial factor in any Bollywood masala flick, that consumes the most time and money, and contributes the least to the narrative — Tees Maar Khan’s is below average. A useless qawalli “Wallah re Wallah” was forced into the film just to give 40 Salman Khan a cameo appearance. The title track, an English verFEBRUARY 13-19 2011
all masala, no meat “Munni Badnaam” is a proper item number with Malaika executing every thumka perfectly whereas “Sheela Ki Jawani” is just Katrina, sexy clothes and some unimpressive MTV-style gyrations
>> 5 Better Item Numbers Than Sheila ki Jawani 1. Munni Badnaam hui 2. Beeri 3. Babu Jee 4. Kajra Re 5. Choli ke Peechay <<
Overall, Tees Maar Khan could have been much better had the filmmakers worked a little on the dialogue and the story. The best TMK could come up with was: “Tawaaif ki luteti izzat bachana” or “Tees maar Khan ko pakarna bekaar hai.”
sion of the song Tees Maar Khan, sets the mood for the audience — a couple of blondes are shown pole-dancing with an animated newborn baby. Then comes the film’s most celebrated song and its main selling point. . . “Sheela Ki Jawani”. The tune is catchy and Katrina looks stunning but the composition is below average and comparing it with “Munni Badnaam Hui” is an overstatement. “Munni Badnaam” is a proper item number with Malaika executing every thumka perfectly whereas “Sheela Ki Jawani” is just Katrina wearing sexy clothes, which is hardly enough to crown her as the queen of the item girls. Overall Tees Maar Khan could have been much better had the filmmakers worked a little on the dialogue and the story. Popular con films like Catch Me If You Can, Confidence and even Bluff Master are about sharp people and have memorable dialogues. The best TMK could come up with was: “Tawaaif ki luteti izzat bachana” or “Tees maar Khan ko pakarna bekaar hai”. After a classy film like Om Shanti Om, which had more than just great sets and catchy music (Shahrukh Khan, anyone?), TMK disappoints terribly. It tries to follow the same formula but, this time around, the audience finds it stale. Post-TMK, Akshay Khanna will get better offers from Bollywood, Katrina will get spicier roles, and Akshay Kumar will be more cautious about co-productions because only “Sheela Ki Jawani” cannot make you a successful producer. But as far as the film itself goes, slick marketing has played a greater role in its success than either script or substance. 41 FEBRUARY 13-19 2011
film copy that BY NOFIL NAQVI
When I discovered that Abbas Kiarostami, one of my favourite Iranian directors, had directed a non-Iranian film, I was very excited, but at the same time full of dread. You see, I’ve been scarred by the painful experience of Wong Kar Wai’s My Blueberry Nights, the first non-Chinese film by a director whom I greatly admire. The film was a complete disaster, and thus my expectations of Copie Conforme (Certified Copy) were tainted by the trauma of that disappointment. My apologies, Mr Kiarostami, for ever doubting you… This excellent film, starring Julliette Binoche as the volatile French single mother Elle, and William Shimell as the English writer James Miller, is beautifully shot in Tuscany and features dialogue in French, Italian and English. Miller is in Italy promoting his new book, titled Copie Conforme, when he meets Elle, who offers to give him a tour of a village called Lucignano. Now Tuscany is the land of Dante Alighieri, Botticelli, Michelangelo and da Vinci, and the thesis of Miller’s book is that a copy of a work of art is just as much a work of art as the original. As the pair debate the idea of a fake being equivalent to the original itself, they themselves begin playing out a fake relationship. Knowing Kiarostami, the genius behind movies like The Wind Will Carry Us and A Taste of Cherry, is also commenting on how every relationship, and in fact everything we see in cinema is actually fake. One of the most remarkable elements of the film is its pace. The director truly lets moments linger, allowing the audience to think about what is happening. And what is happening is quite intense. The characters in Copie Conforme are certainly not afraid of confrontation; they are driven by strong feelings and opinions. The pauses in Copie Conforme let us see, as the movie is indeed a visual feast. Veteran Italian cinematographer Luca Bigazzi has shown Tuscany as perhaps only an Italian could have, with images so rich that they saturate our senses. Great attention has also been given to colour, there is a predominant faded rosiness, a lot like 42 the paintings by some of the masters of Tuscany themselves. And FEBRUARY 13-19 2011
fake plastic relationships Kiarostami comments on how every relationship, and in fact everything we see in cinema, is actually fake the way much of the dialogue has been shot, with the lead actors addressing the camera directly, one could say that Binoche and Shimell are also in a fake relationship with the audience. Somewhere along the way, it becomes kind of confusing whether Miller is indeed Elle’s estranged ex-husband or not. Their fake relationship goes in directions where many unfortunate real relationships go, and because so much of their role-playing is based on truths, the line between reality and fantasy starts to blur. Such moments often make the best cinema, because after all, the construct behind the fantasy in films is also reality. Although this film moves relatively slowly compared to average Hollywood fare, it engages the audience philosophically and emotionally, and on those levels, Copie Conforme is nothing short of a rollercoaster ride.
book the butterfly effect BY ZARRAR KHUHRO
I must confess that I’m not an impartial reviewer. Moni Mohsin’s ‘Diary of a Social Butterfly’ has been the bright spot in my otherwise dismal Fridays for many years now. But I must also confess that I’m as much of an ‘antisocialist’ as the long-suffering Janoo himself. That’s ‘antisocial’ in Butterfly-talk, in case you’re one of the uninitiated. At once a biting social commentary, a masterpiece of satire and an all-around fun read, the ‘Social Butterfly’ columns have been a big hit ever since they were first printed. It’s a world of GTs, of ladies who lunch, party-shartys and lots and lots of gos(sip). Tender Hooks is Moni Mohsin’s follow-up to the best-selling Diary of a Social Butterfly paperback, but this one isn’t just a compilation of random columns but a complete novel starring all the characters we’ve come to know, love and hate all at the same time. The story revolves around the search for an ‘illegible’ (eligible) girl for Butterfly’s cousin Jonkers, who is browbeaten by his domineering mother Aunty Pussy. Along the way, we meet more than a few new additions to the cast, in all of whom we find echoes of ourselves or of people we know. Mohsin walks a tightrope between her works turning into pure social commentary or else caricature. To her credit, it is a line she walks with expert ease, never plunging into the abyss of allegory or succumbing to superficiality. Nor do her characters remain caricatures, unable to grow and adapt. As the novel progresses, we see the Butterfly we know (and love to hate, in some cases), show that she not only has a heart of gold underneath the layers of superficiality, but also possesses a surprising sting. And while the characters may be fictional, the setting for the novel is very real. It is the Pakistan of suicide bombers, street crime, political and social corruption, and deep, deep denial. If we are honest, we will find echoes of real conversations in the uproariously funny exchanges that dot the novel. Like this one:
perfect poise Mohsin walks the line between pure social commentary and caricature with expert ease “Meanwhiles, Janoo and Shaukat and Jammy and Zafar had got back to discussing politics and Zafar was saying it was impossible for a Muslim to kill another Muslim. That’s why he was cocksure it wasn’t the Talibans who were doing the bombings. Janoo said okay then who did all the killing in the Iraq and Iran war in which a million people died and Zafar said that was tau cent percent the Americans. And then Jammy said it was the Israelis and I said to Zeenat that her highlights were very nice and who had done them and Shehla asked Tanya if she’d come and stay with them in Swizzerland and she replied, ‘No offence but Geneva sucks.’” Move over Mrs Malaprop, you’re not a shade on our Butterfly. a FEBRUARY 13-19 2011
HOROSCOPE BY SHELLEY VON STRUNCKEL
Aries March 20 - April 19 Tempting as it is to turn new and exciting ideas into solid plans, you’d regret it. They’re only the beginning of a thrilling cycle of growth that began with the expan-
sive Jupiter’s move into Aries in late January. Explore these, but keep things loose since with Uranus, planet of innovation, also moving into your sign in a month’s time, there’s plenty of excitement yet to come.
Taurus April 20 - May 20 Recent rather unpleasant encounters may have made you question whether it’s worth bothering with Shelley von Strunckel is an internationally acclaimed astrologer who created the first horoscope column for the London Sunday Times in 1992. A frequent lecturer, she writes daily,
certain alliances. These were only an uncomfortable blip on the screen, as you’ll learn if you raise these issues in question — or
any others — early this week. Besides, with the current fast pace, nobody has time for petty dramas. The more swiftly you, and others, learn to put these behind you, the better.
weekly and monthly horoscopes in publications around the world including South China Morning Post, The Gulf News, Tatler, French and Chinese Vogue and now The Express Tribune Magazine.
Gemini May 21 - June 20 True, at times your glib humour has got you
in trouble. But now it’s your greatest ally. First, it will jolly certain
individuals out of the grumpy mood triggered by recent clashes. This accomplished, you’ll then focus on persuading them and
others to go along with your own ideas. Your confidence they’ll be delighted with what you have to offer makes this all the easier.
Cancer June 21 - July 22 Sometimes it’s easy to get others to com-
mit, even to new ideas. At the moment, however, the feedback
has been wonderful but there’s been no follow up. Don’t worry. These individuals are iin the midst of a serious assessment of their own arrangements and priorities, and can’t give proper
thought to the future before this is completed. Expect to hear after the Full Moon, on the 18th.
Leo July 23 - August 22 There’s nothing like a clash to bring unspo-
ken issues out in the open. But you correctly sense that certain pivotal matters haven’t been raised and, obviously, are uneasy
about taking things further until you know more. You needn’t worry. The Leo Full Moon, on Friday the 18th, is bound to bring
these and other concerns to the surface. After that, you’ll know exactly what’s what.
Virgo August 23 – September 22 Don’t make the mistake of as-
suming that you’ll be able to put complicated issues to rest in one
lengthy and detailed discussion. Others aren’t ready to acknowledge certain matters and may not be for some weeks. But with
the actual situations in question in transition, you’re better off
keeping things loose. This doesn’t just apply to life’s practicali-
ties. It involves your feelings just as much. FEBRUARY 13-19 2011
Libra September 23 – October 22 The trick to dealing with a tricky
week in a rather difficult period is to acknowledge that, no mat-
ter how much you try, things are unlikely to go smoothly. That means you’ll invest a minimum of effort in smoothing the way.
Actually, the odd clash will get things moving, and just when some action is needed. With lots yet to surface, forget arrangements — even simple ones.
Scorpio October 23 – November 21 Nobody is better at noticing simple facts and turning those observations into an amazingly canny
assessment of the most complicated of situations. But with sev-
eral of the heavyweight planets moving into new signs during
the year’s first few months, even you could be wrong. Knowing that, do something out of character. Compare notes with others. This proves so revealing that you could soon find yourself doing it regularly.
Sagittarius November 22 – December 21 Even the most thrilling of
ideas or offers come with practical obligations, as you’re about to
discover. But you won’t know the full facts until after the 25th, when your ruler Jupiter challenges the uncompromising Pluto.
What you learn then, both about the individuals and the situations involved, make it worth the wait. In the meanwhile, explore your options but make no commitments you can’t change.
Capricorn December 22 – January 19 You’ve a knack for dealing with those who’re so difficult they drive others crazy. But even you could wonder why you bother with certain individuals. Be
patient. With so many planets moving into new positions and several clashing with your ruler Saturn, complications are inevitable. Ironically, what you learn in the process of resolving these is so valuable it more than justifies the effort required.
Aquarius January 20 – February 18 Once you understand that the
arguments others make either against or for certain arrange-
ments have nothing to do with logic, everything else will make sense. The problem is that they’re anxious about certain sud-
den changes, as are you. But while you’re biding your time until
you learn more, they’re taking action, and it isn’t always well thought out. The best strategy? For now - distract them.
Pisces February 19 – March 19 Those who’re suffering upset you.
Still, before you race to their side, do a little investigation. While a few might indeed be struggling, far more are simply too lazy to make the effort required to deal with this unruly but ultimately
worthwhile period. Do their work for them now and they’ll ex-
For more information, to order personal charts and to download & listen to detailed audiocasts, visit www.shelleyvonstrunckel.com
pect you to come to their aid every time they snap their fingers.
45 FEBRUARY 13-19 2011
10 things I hate about ...valentine’s day
1 2 3 4 5
BY TEHREEM AIDRUS
So now there’s a license to be horrible to your ‘significant other’ 364 days a year? This is now the only
‘official’ day to appreciate your spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend.
The colour red is everywhere, and I mean everywhere! On billboards, TV screens and every single shopfront:
red roses, red wrapping paper, red sheets. It’s enough to make a raging bull out of you.
God help you if you’re single on the love-fest that is V-day. Souls sated with love, trying to impress
unattached people with their wonderful relationships should be incinerated and their remains flushed down the toilet!
So what did you get on V-day? Random inquiries about
what you got from your significant other are infuriating — especially when said significant other does not exist, or worse, forgets all about the big day.
How it’s all a money-making scam. Valentine’s Day is
the largest commercial day of the year. The advertising industry has got a tight leash on lovers. It compels
people to show their affection by purchasing things… things they really don’t need or want, like the 10-feethigh teddy bear you gave your girlfriend last year.
46 FEBRUARY 13-19 2011
6 7 8 9 10
Emotionally manipulative street vendors. Try refusing to buy overpriced roses from a tiny child wearing a fluffy
pink Valentine’s Day themed headband on February 14. It’s a nightmare.
The counter-productiveness of it all. Indulging in ex-
pensive confectionery only results in guilt. Feeding your girlfriend heart shaped candies will only add to
her girth and love-handles. And the more you do, the more your lover will expect in the years to come.
‘Pity presents’ handed out to single friends. You might as well give them a can of kerosene wrapped in red heart-print paper addressed ‘Dear Loser’.
How it never gets old. You’d think anyone over 16
wouldn’t be affected by the torture of this celebration…
but my friend’s mom has been married for 25 years and still gets annoyed when she doesn’t get a present on V-day.
The havoc this day wreaks on your eating habits. Want
to eat out on February 14, or a day before or after that?
You’ll have to pay through the nose for a reservation, and you may have to wrestle that guy for a table – but it’s ok, it’s all in love’s name. a