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FEBRUARY 2-8 2014

All Bit, No Coin The promise of a digital currency and how it can transform the world


FEBRUARY 2-8 2014

Feature

Cover Story

Click the knot

All Bit, No Coin

Marriages may be made in heaven but the internet has been competing

The promise of a digital currency and how it can transform the world

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Society

Trigger your mind Exposure to violence on TV screens can transform children into soft targets for aggression

46

26

4

Regulars 6 People & Parties: Out and about with beautiful people

36 Review: Books, Movies and Theatre

Magazine In-charge: Sarah Munir and Sub-Editors: Dilaira Mondegarian and Manahyl Khan Creative Team: Amna Iqbal, Essa Malik, Jamal Khurshid, Samra Aamir, Kiran Shahid, Munira Abbas, S Asif Ali & Talha Ahmed Khan Publisher: Bilal A Lakhani. Executive Editor: Muhammad Ziauddin. Editor: Kamal Siddiqi For feedback and submissions: magazine@tribune.com.pk Twitter: @ETribuneMag & Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ETribuneMag Printed: uniprint@unigraph.com


PEOPLE & PARTIES

Maham Ansar and Arjumand Bano

al Khan

en and Amm

Risham, Aim

Kanwal

Hina Malik a

Raym Fatima and

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Maliha Bhimjee, Mahwash Bhimjee and Naila

PHOTO COURTESY BILAL MUKHTAR EVENTS AND PR

Triumph launches its exclusive studio at L’atelier, Lahore


PEOPLE & PARTIES

Tara Uzra Dawood and Zeinab Masud

iends

i with fr Alina Leghar

d Maheen

Mehwish an

Shani and Turan Shaikh

all

Angie Marsh

Huma Adnan

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Asma Kazmi, Saniha Jafri and Sabeen Rasool

PHOTOS COURTESY FATIMA SHAMSIE COURTESY OF TUD PR

Educate a Girl holds its Celebration 100 Dinner at Cafe Flo


PEOPLE & PARTIES

Sonia Nazir and Hannah Butt

iend

ira with a fr

srar and Sa

, Farah A Hina Salman

Shanzay Malik

ar

Honey Waq tima Seher and Fa

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Hifsa and Anny

PHOTOS COURTESY TAKEII AND SAVVY PR

Cambridge launches its flagship store in Z block DHA, Lahore


PEOPLE & PARTIES

and Tuba Teli

Anam

Tayyaba

Sarah Jamil with a guest

Sherbano Rehmani and

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Dilnoor Sandhu

Ahmed Jung

and Eashal

Fayyaz

PHOTOS COURTESY TAKEII AND SAVVY PR

Unam, Fareen Naviwala


PEOPLE & PARTIES

Farkhanda

ra Tapal

Sabe Bawany and

Ifra Zaidi

Sadaf Jalil

Almas Sadique and Maheen Sadique

seer

er and Ilva Ta

Nadia Tase

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PHOTOS COURTESY TAKE II

Showstopper launches its online web store in Karachi


PEOPLE & PARTIES

and Saima

Farkhanda and Anoushe

Erum Khaja

t

Uzma and Maliha Shauka

Salima Manji and Laila

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Wasti

Afshan Bawany

PHOTOS COURTESY TAKE II

fa Colombowala Samina Anjarwala, Zul


COVER STORY

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All Bit, No Coin The promise of a digital currency and how it can transform the world

BY ADIL MULKI AND ADNAN RIZVI DESIGN BY KIRAN SHAHID

The idea that money would be virtually mined in stoic computer laboratories in Iceland, Hong Kong or Washington State would have seemed outrageous up until a few years ago. Now, it is this very fact that future money markets may be built on. It is inside these whirring custombuilt silver computers, performing complex algorithms 24-hours a day that future wealth is created in the form of Bitcoins — a digital currency that enables transactions between two parties without any physical exchange of money. Bit(e)-sized goodness Not too long ago, the world was a much simpler place. Barter was the primary mode of exchange, where people used to trade wheat for milk and milk for clothes. However, once

people’s needs stopped coinciding, they felt the need for a mutually accepted medium of exchange. Money took many shapes from valuable goods to seashells (cowries) and salt bars to precious metals such as gold and silver. For authentication purposes, the metal pieces were minted into prescribed shapes called coins. With time, the value of coins was assigned to paper notes and for over a millennium, that is where the buck stopped. It was after World War II that a major change was seen and plastic money in the form of modern credit and debit cards really took off. More recently, in 2009, Satoshi Nakamoto changed the ballgame completely by coming up with a digital currency called the Bitcoin. Even though Nakamoto’s identity remains unknown, the significance of Bitcoin as the future of money can hardly be disputed. FEBRUARY 2-8 2014

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COVER STORY How the Bitcoin works

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If you had invested in Bitcoins at the beginning of 2013, you would be holding currency with a value appreciation of more than 6000% at the end of the year. No other stock or commodity is capable of generating this kind of strikingly impressive return FEBRUARY 2-8 2014

The simplest way to understand how a Bitcoin works is to think of it as a computer code that acts as a currency. An even simpler explanation is to think of it as the farm coins or farm cash that is used to purchase commodities on the popular online game Farmville. However, its growing acceptability in the world on a global scale makes it a real world currency. Being much more secure and easier to carry as compared to other international currencies further adds to its value. Since it is a peer-to-peer cryptocurrency, all transactions are recorded and made available for everyone else to see. This universal record of transactions is called the ‘Block Chain’ or ‘The Ledger’ and is shared by the web, which allows one to authenticate all Bitcoin transactions and eliminate the bogus and counterfeit ones. So, if someone trying to send you Bitcoins does not have them recorded on the ledger, then you should beware, as they probably do not exist. Theoretically, Bitcoins can be

counterfeited or spent twice but one would need to have an astronomical amount of computing power at their disposal to pull that off. Bitcoins can be obtained through three major means. The first one is mining or making Bitcoins, which requires a considerable computing power, a lot of hardware and monetary capital. However, there is a catch here as the Bitcoin money supply rises gradationally. With an upper ceiling of 21 million coins, which translates into roughly 25 Bitcoins being produced every 10 minutes, this limit will be exhausted by 2140 at the latest. Bitcoin miners are crucial as they not only maintain ledgers but also provide the virtual money that is sent across. Miners deploy high-end computer systems to verify Bitcoin transactions and earn their share of virtual money. As more and more miners turn to this line of work due to the surge


Increase in the value of Bitcoin during 2013 $1,400 30 Nov: Peak $1,209.94

$1,200

$800

will cease automatically. On the other hand, other currencies can be created simply through printing, thus causing inflation.

$600

Growing Bit-by-bit

27 Nov: Hits $1,000

$1,000

18 Nov: US Senate committee deems Bitcoin legitimate

$400 $200 0 Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

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Aug

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Nov

Dec

in its value, it adds to the time and complexity of the work. The only way of working around this problem is by investing in stronger computing power. The second is to purchase Bitcoins from exchanges where various currencies can be traded for this virtual money while the third is to sell your products or services online in exchange for Bitcoins. Bitcoin transactions mention the payer’s Bitcoin address, receiver’s address, number of Bitcoins and a timestamp. They can be saved in ‘wallets’ in the form of ‘private key’ software codes that are a series of alpha numeric characters. Wallets can be stored online or on a laptop while a hardcopy of the code can also be printed for storage purposes. However, if Bitcoins are stored in a wallet or on a machine, which gets damaged or lost, the coins are gone forever. Bitcoins are not regulated by any central authority, which means that they cannot be controlled by any government and their total circulation cannot be increased or decreased at any single entity’s discretion. New Bitcoins are being mined by the network at a rate that is a factor of total computing power on the network and once the total number of Bitcoins reaches 21 million, the mining of new coins

The price movement in Bitcoin has been nothing short of spectacular. If you had invested in Bitcoins at the beginning of 2013, you would be holding currency with a value appreciation of more than 6000% at the end of the year. No other stock or commodity is capable of generating this kind of strikingly impressive return. However, this abnormal movement also underlines the speculative nature of Bitcoins, which has witnessed multiple booms and busts in its short life span of three and a half years. The Bitcoin value first stretched out in June 2011 when it reached $22.21 for a Bitcoin. Then followed a bust and Bitcoin bottomed out to $2 in November 2011. However, 2013 proved to be extraordinarily fruitful and witnessed a massive surge in value. Even though March 2013 saw a temporary glitch in the Bitcoin software which resulted in a slight dip in the value, the general trend remained upwards, with Bitcoin value eventually touching four digits. The boom and bust in Bitcoin value during 2013 resulted in massive media coverage, increased market knowledge regarding its existence and a gradational rise in circulation volume. Currently, it has an average weekly price of $945 on the largest exchange. But its volatility also makes it an obscure investment option as any investment that frequently loses or surges 50% in a day can be treated as a risky speculative tool. However, it appears that 2014 maybe the year when Bitcoins are finally accepted as a real currency as the media buzz around it finally settles down and its

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Number of stores and exchanges dealing in Bitcoins according to region 3

4 20

ASIA

11 NORTH AMERICA 650

2

North Atlantic Ocean

643 425

54

188

43 6

8

327

Pakistan Arabian Peninsula

AFRICA

10

10

Gobi 43

26 35

48 Indonesia 3

6 Indian Ocean

SOUTH AMERICA

24 South Atlantic Ocean 23

106

user network expands from hardcore tech gurus to a larger circle of retailers and buyers. In November, 2013, during a US Senate hearing, law enforcement and securities agencies said that Bitcoin could be a legitimate medium of exchange, prompting a sharp increase in its value that rose to $1200. A month later, People’s Bank of China, rescinded Bitcoin as a currency, citing customer concerns and barred it from being used in the markets. This prompted large Chinese retailers to stop taking Bitcoins and led to huge decline in its value. The trend is suspected to continue in the future as well as central banks around the world are expected to remain an arch rival of any virtual currency since it challenges their position as a money repository.

Bit-ing off more than you can chew? Even though Bitcoins are starting to

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gain acceptance globally as a legitimate medium of exchange, it may be years before it can find ground in Pakistan. A lack of awareness, trust and no official government stance on this digital currency are the primary reasons behind this lag. At present, only authorised dealers and moneychangers can buy or sell foreign currencies in Pakistan. Code lists of foreign currencies provided by the central bank do not include Bitcoin as a currency. Faisal Khan, a payments expert and tech guru says, “At present there is no official stance on Bitcoins in Pakistan. However, there is no cost on Bitcoin transactions and that makes it a very attractive prospect.” Currently, the country is struggling with even basic online payment systems. “Due to the absence of PayPal in Pakistan, it becomes next to impossible to receive payments for services rendered online,” says Ali Ahmed, a freelance software developer in Karachi.

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Low density Bitcoin region. Medium density Bitcoin region. High density Bitcoin region.

Bitcoins are starting to gain acceptance globally as a legitimate medium of exchange but it may be years before it can find ground in Pakistan. A lack of awareness, trust and no official government stance are the primary reasons behind this lag


Evolution of money over time

North Pacific Ocean

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4 AUSTRALIA 57

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At present there is no official stance on Bitcoins in Pakistan. However, there is no cost on Bitcoin transactions and that makes it a very attractive prospect Payments expert and tech guru Faisal Khan

Unfortunately, Pakistani freelancers are at a loss and have to rely on alternate channels to get their hard earned money remitted and often end up paying huge commissions in the process. Widespread and legal use of Bitcoin in Pakistan is one option for which they are keeping their fingers crossed. “There is much skepticism surrounding Bitcoin due to its alleged usage in global money laundering activities. This also makes the digital currency very volatile. I do not see it being considered a serious investment avenue by the big boys of the local financial landscape anytime soon,” says Khurram Khan, an investment banker. According to Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed, the chairman of the Senate’s committee on Defence, certain initiatives have been undertaken recently on cyber-related issues, particularly cyber security, and a cyber security task force has also been launched. While Hussain made references to

Bitcoin, no specific policy plan has been discussed yet. He said that any input on the subject is welcome from the private sector. Despite their immense potential, the lack of regulation around Bitcoins might jeopardise its growth in the future. The dubious origin of the currency and the lack of information about Satoshi Nakamoto has created skepticism among some investors. But some like Khan dismiss that concern. “The argument that Bitcoin is anonymous is not entirely true. Bitcoin is pseudoanonymous. There is a general ledger that is open for all to see. The wallet IDs can be associated with our CNICs and the transparency mechanisms required by State Bank of Pakistan can easily be met,” he says. Given its impunity from government oversight, regulation and taxation, Bitcoins are also a lucrative option for money laundering and other illegal activities. Silk Road, a global online business that was launched to cater to criminal transactions and accepted payments in Bitcoins to remain off the radar is one such example. Besides other activities, the main business of the site was to facilitate online trade of drugs, including heroin. In October 2013 Silk Road was shut down by FBI and its Bitcoins worth $28 million were ceased. Interestingly enough, Khan retorts, “Which currency in the world is not used for money laundering or illegal transactions? Does that mean the currency should be banned? Mechanisms can be put into place in order curb illegal use.” Perhaps, once these questions are asked and answered on a larger scale, Pakistan may also emerge as a player in the virtual currency arena. Adil Mulki works for a private bank and is interested in the outdoors, wildlife and science. He can be reached at vagabonds.odyssey@gmail.com Adnan Rizvi is a banker and an investment analyst. He tweets @syedadnanrizvi

Barter

Coins

Notes

Plastic Money / Cards

Crypto Currencies / Bitcoin

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FEATURE

Clickthe knot Marriages may be made in heaven but the internet has been competing BY MANAHYL KHAN DESIGN BY MUNIRA ABBAS

Urban dictionary defines hipsters as “a subculture of men and women typically in their 20s and 30s who value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter.” HipsterShaadi.com, a match-making site modeled on one of the most used words today is a smart move, for both the partners of the website and its users.

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Founders Humaira Mubeen and Shereen Nourollahi first met on an online forum called ‘Mipzters’ while discussing marriages on a chat thread. Both of them recognised the need for a platform where likeminded Muslims could meet and get to know each other for the prospects of starting a relationship. Hence, came about HipsterShaadi.com, a fun project catering to adults who consider themselves “Muslim, cool and involved in today’s society.” With South Asian elders still playing a significant role in young people’s lives, the process of finding a spouse does not singlehandedly belong to the prospective bride or groom. The team felt that there was a gap in what the elders decided for their children and what the son/daughter was looking for in a future spouse, thus creating space for a venture like theirs. “The youth needs to actively branch out and show what they are looking for. This site serves as a filter in society to find others who are likeminded,” explains Humaira. To get started, you need to submit a profile of yourself which includes a write-up that provides a glimpse into your personality, what you are seeking in your significant other and a picture. However, no one gets to see the picture until you find a hipster ‘connection’ and choose to reveal it. The site which has been around for nearly three months initially started on Tumblr and became instantly popular, driving the two founding girls to take on two other partners for a fully functional website. Hassan Shaikley and Sadique Ali, whose profiles are listed on the website, brought with them the required computing and programming skills to run such a site. “We are two men, two women, from Pakistan, Iraq, India, and Iran/ America and have grown up in different places. Our ages range from 22 to 27 years, making us as varied as a group gets. We all get along really well and think that is a major contributor to our success so far,” says Shereen. The website does not charge a fee for registration yet, some-


thing which potentially nurtures the daily influx of new usONLINE POLL RESULTS ers. “As we are currently in our beta stage on the site, we are We conducted a three-day online poll to ask actively working on improving our services,” says Humaira, Pakistanis whether they had ever used the who claims all expenses are paid for by the team so far. Adservice of a dating and matrimonial website. We ditionally, there is help if you are unsure of what to write on asked, you decided: your profile as the team provides pointers, listed under ‘proHave you ever used a matrimonial/dating website? file tips’. (77%) No With free registration and a trend-forward team, the site (23%) Yes attracts various hopefuls including some very funny, casual Total Voters: 1,493 profiles. One reads, “I’m the doctor your parents want you to marry,” while another says, “I refuse to wear bright red and yellow skinny pants if that’s woman, physically active and what you’re looking for.” serious about religion.” While most profiles on the The website also caters to diwebsite seem to resort to huvorced individuals — a pleasant mour to express themselves, reminder that happy endings the purpose remains serious. are not limited to first-timers. “It’s not necessary [to be funny] “Some divorced individuals at all — each profile represents have made profiles, though the individual person in their the majority of users are first most genuine form. If they’re Humaira Shereen time spouse-seeking, younger naturally funny, or serious, or people,” says Ali. more mature, the open-ended This digital platform tranprofile system HipsterShaadi scends borders, maps and uses allows a person to show cultures and is a great meettheir true colours and find ing point for all hopefuls. Acsomebody who appreciates cording to website analytics, their unique characteristics,” HipsterShaadi.com is most explains Shereen. popular in the United States, According to the team, the followed by Canada, United most common demands seen Ali Hassan Kingdom, Pakistan and the on profiles for men are “openUnited Arab Emirates. minded, serious about religion, Founders of HipsterShaadi.com. PHOTO: HIPSTERSHAADI The newly launched website someone who wants to grow spiritually/intellectually, and a good sense of humor”. Wom- has not had a successful HipsterShaadi couple yet but there en on the other hand are seen to be asking for their match is good reason for that. “We’ve only been up and running for to be “intellectual, confident, accepting of a career-oriented less than three months, we hope couples are still getting to know each other by this stage!” says Hassan. The team keeps both hopefuls and browsers equally entertained with nuggets of wisdom on the top of their webWith free registration and a page that change as you hit refresh. There is peace for those in panic, “When it’s meant to be, it’ll happen”; there is entrend-forward team, the site couragement for those who need a push, “Sometimes you attracts various hopefuls including just have to Yolo [You Only Live Once] it” and signs for those some very funny, casual profiles. struggling with a decision, “This could be the one.” So if you’re looking for Cupid, or four, you know the One reads, “I’m the doctor your address. T

parents want you to marry.”

Manahyl Khan is a subeditor on The Express Tribune magazine desk. She tweets @manahylk

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High ’n Low An obnoxious but glorified depiction of a broker’s over-the-top lifestyle BY SAMRA MUSLIM

Martin Scorsese’s latest offering The Wolf of Wall Street has divided audiences into two camps: those who praise the work as a masterpiece of cinematic verve and those who say it glorifies white-collar crime. While not quite the magnum opus some call it, The Wolf of Wall Street can be a black-hearted comedy, filled with parties, money, hreecorruption and drugs, which oozes energy throughout its threehour long running time. The Wolf of Wall Streett is based on the memoirs of Jordan Belfort (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), a lying, holic and drug addict who happens to cheating alcoholic know how to con people out of their money. When oving, he is lying. Belfort was a New York his lips are moving, nd founder of Stratton Oakmont, a comstockbroker and aged in securities fraud and corruppany that engaged treet during the nineties. tion on Wall Street First off, the performances are top-notch. aprio has proven himself to be Leonardo DiCaprio st versatile and engaging actors of one of the most his movie he has managed to evoke today and in this nd support for a character who compassion and ve it. DiCaprio has truly done more doesn’t deserve n terms of acting to win his Oscar. than enough in Jonah Hill is the standout as Belfort’s kick Donnie Azoff, bringing his psychotic sidekick nto the mix. Margot Robbie excomedy skills into cels as Naomi, likable and hated at once, and Kyle Chandler plays an FBI straight arrow well, teetering between hero and villain. Also of note is Matthew McConaguhey who plays the Wall Street aches broker who teaches young Jordan the ropes he film’s and conveys the e in his whole message an style Native American fore and ‘war chant’ before after a ‘raid’. d-fall stoAs a rise-and-fall ry, it has too much ‘rise’ gh ‘fall’. Although and not enough hould have been the real plot should al crimes in Wall Belfort’s actual m doesn’t Street, the film n that. focus much on 36 In fact, his FEBRUARY 2-8 2014

victims are never even shown, so the movie just ends up being a series of outrageous parties, and schemes that will keep their fortune and pleasures going. Right till the end, Scorsese does not seem interested in taking the focus away from the glamour. Oscar Trivia: • The Wolf of Wall Street is nominated for five Oscars: Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Leonardo DiCaprio), Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Jonah Hill), Best Achievement in Directing (Martin Scorsese) and Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay (Terence Winter). • Martin Scorsese just earned his 8th Best Director nomination with The Wolf of Wall Street. The movie is also the 5th of Martin Scorsese’s last six films to score nods for Best Picture and Director, and landed Scorsese his 12th career nomination. • Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese have made five films together. Four of them have now earned Picture and Director nominations.

There’s also a lot of nudity in the m movie. The party office scenes are sso somewhat disturbing, especially the on o one where they pay a woman to ssh shave her head. The Wolf of Wall Street is not a ffil film for everyone — it is an over-thetto top movie about a larger-than-life cch character, with big dreams and high ho op He lived life fully, unapolohopes. geticallyy a and excessively. It is extremely funny a and entertaining for those with ‘the stren ng to live it.’ strength Rating: Ra at S Samra Muslim is a digital marketing p professional, an avid reader and a movie buff. She tweets @samramuslim


BOOK

Fighting the friend With his debut novel, K Anis Ahmed emerges as a strong new voice from Bangladesh BY TOOBA MASOOD

The World in My Hands, K Anis Ahmed’s debut novel, is a dark satirical story about a deputy editor in a military-backed emergency in Bangladesh. Launched in December last year, the book revolves around Hissam Haseeb, the deputy editor of The Daily Pandua — described as “a man of letters with a pungent wit, and deep-seated heresies; and also a possessor of ambitions as huge and hidden as his anxieties.” He likes to read self-help and improvement books like, Only the Paranoid Survive and the Power of Yes. He wants so much in life but something always holds him back until he is presented with the opportunity to make it big — the militarybacked emergency. With Bangladesh and the military in the background, the book boasts a fictional setting about two friends — Haseeb and

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The book will soon be available at The Last Word. FEBRUARY 2-8 2014

his college friend, Kaiser, one of Palitpur’s wealthiest property developers. He also happens to be the man who married the woman of Haseeb’s dreams. Their bond is bitterly tested when they are caught on the opposite sides of the crisis unfolding in their country. The whirlpool begins on an ordinary night when Haseeb orders shashlik for dinner. He had been avoiding a meeting with the editor and wondered when the old man would leave or die so he could finally get his promotion. As his dinner arrives, one of his reporters comes in with breaking news about a list released by the intelligence services on businessmen and politicians who were about to be arrested. As Haseeb sits and thinks of a headline to go with the story — contemplating options pro or against the powerful, the world around him changes. Calling Haseeb successful is perhaps a stretch but it is certain that his life is full of risks. As the military takes over, Haseeb has to alter his life and keep fighting before he reaches a breaking-point. The relationship between Haseeb and Kaiser reflects what is going on in the country — the tense atmosphere, hostility, confusion and a glimmer of hope. The way Ahmed writes makes his rage at the military-backed emergency palpable for the reader — especially for a South Asian audience. The characters in the book are well-rounded as they grow into themselves and as a reader you learn to fall in love with their flaws. One of the best parts about the book is its pace — its fast with a lot of unexpected knee-jerking moments. Ahmed’s debut novel looks at how growth and prosperity can survive instability and violence in the third world. Ahmed lives up

to expectation, given that the author turned quite a few heads, back in 2012, with his short stories titled Goodnight, Mr Kissinger, which also revolved around Bangladesh. In addition to The World in My Hands and Goodnight, Mr Kissinger, Ahmed is also the publisher of the Dhaka Tribune and Bengal Lights, a literary journal. His first published story, Forty Steps, appeared in the Minnesota Review in 2000 and was up for a Pushcart Prize. In an interview Ahmed gave earlier this month, he said the topic of his next novel would be lighter, “a comedy about foodies in New York.” The author lives in Dhaka with his wife and son. T Tooba Masood is a reporter on the Peshawar desk of The Express Tribune. She tweets @tabahitooba

Author K Anis Ahmed.


THEATRE

Mukhtaran Mai played by Kamala Sankaram.

Leaving a mark From thumbprint to signature, Mukhtaran Mai comes full circle at The New York City Opera BY MARIUM SOOMRO

4

In 2002, the gang rape of Mukhtaran Mai made international headlines. This January, for eight nights straight in New York City, an opera titled Thumbprint attempted to retell the same story. The $150,000 production is the creation of playwright and librettist Susan Yankowitz, directed by Rachel Dickstein and composed by Kamala Sankaram, who also plays the lead role of Mukhtaran Mai. The 90-minute showcase consisted of six musicians conducted by Steven Osgood and six actors who were visible to the audience at all times and played more than one role. The opera band was cloaked in black, while FEBRUARY 2-8 2014

there was a plain white backdrop projecting images according to the changing scenes on stage. The main props were Pakistani charpoys, a broom made of wood and rice bags which were later cut open dramatically during the rape scene with muffled shrieks as Kamala stood against a charpoy. The opening scene shows Mukhtaran Mai dressed in shalwar kameez sitting on a charpoy, embroidering away with her head bowed. As the lights dim, the opera band starts with a theatrical number and raises the tension in the room. The actors are now in full character as reporters sing “BBC, Islamabad Times, Hindustan Times,

Mukhtaran Mai please answer the question. Where did you get your courage?” This question is reiterated throughout the opera. “In a dry season, someone must be the first drop of rain,” responds the rape survivor. In dramatic flow, the opera then travels back into time to show a happy time in a Pakistani family when the women of the household were cooking some rotis. Their happiness soon turns to grief as their patriarch walks in to break the news of Mukhtaran Mai’s brother, Shakur being accused of rape. Faiz Mastoi (a member of the powerful rival clan) played by Manu Narayan delivers an outstanding performance in his antago-


nist’s role, as he comes into Mukhtaran’s household and demands an apology from a woman of their tribe and an equal transaction of Shakur’s crime as per tradition. The storyline of the opera follows the timeline of events but the explanation of the Pakistani customs in the libretto is at times, unclear. The American audience most likely couldn’t understand Urdu words in the libretto such as ‘zinnah’ (adultery) and ‘tauba’ (repent). The title was given a creative twist but its significance was exaggerated. Thumbprint stands for the thumbprint which Mukhtaran Mai used to sign her papers at the police station. The libretto suggested however, that all Pakistani women are illiterate and therefore use their thumbprint. Recalling her three meetings with Mukhtaran Mai in the opera’s program, Susan Yankowitz says, “Because she spoke no English and I had no Urdu, we communicated through interpreters. The tape transcribed her words and inflections, my pen noted mood, tension, changed expressions, whispers with her cousin — and with the addition of intuition, I wrote that first monologue.” The opera was successful in recreating the mood and tension of the tragedy but the selective emphasis on parts of the event ended up complicating Pakistan’s realities even further for an American audience. The opera’s band of musicians was spectacular in intertwining a fusion of qawwali with their western instruments. Before the curtains fell back, the white backdrop turned an appealing blue and ‘Mukhtaran Bibi’ could be seen written in Urdu-- from thumbprint to signature, Mai came full circle. Despite a well-intentioned execution, the opera didn’t match Mukhtaran Mai’s powerful story. Perhaps, for a story this strong, it was this form of expression that wasn’t appropriate.

Thumbprint stands for the thumbprint which Mukhtaran Mai used to sign her papers at the police station. The libretto suggested however, that all Pakistani women are illiterate and therefore use their thumbprint

Marium Soomro is a freelance writer based out of New York. She tweets @Marium_Soomro

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(Top & bottom) Cast and crew of Thumbprint. FEBRUARY 2-8 2014


FILM

Scam of the

swindlers

American Hustle is a ’70s crime romp full of vigour, mirth and edge about the middle class American swindlers adamant to make it big. David Owen Russell’s wild take on the American dream rekindles the disco era with a zesty fun approach of an FBI operation. ‘‘Some of this actually happened,” appears as the screen opens for the movie; a slightly fictionalised version of the Abscam (short for Abdul scam) which occurred in America in the late 1970s. The movie has many tempting offers like smart backtalk, overripe comedy about corruption, duplicity, loyalty, and love. The director, Russell, who was nominated in the recent past for an Oscar for The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, is a serious contender again for this humorous crime drama. Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) has a chain of dry cleaning businesses, sells forged art and runs a loan fraud operation when he meets the beautiful Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) at a pool party. Their criminal minds click instantly with Sydney taking a new identity as 42 a British aristocrat to lure more people into FEBRUARY 2-8 2014

American Hustle will bring the world crashing down with its stunning scandals BY HASSAN MAJEED

their scams. She knows Irving has a younger wife Rosalind (Jennifer Lawrence) but they almost immediately come on to each other. Quickly though, they are tripped up by an overenthusiastic FBI agent, Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), who realises they can help him bust a corruption case involving city mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), several congressmen, a senator and mob boss Victor Tellegio (Robert De Niro). Using a fake Arab sheikh to pose as an investor, the FBI entraps the politicians with the help of Irving and Sydney. Lawrence steals the show with her over-thetop portrayal of a ‘dumb-blonde’, but extremely clever housewife. Her liking for nail polish that mixes the aroma of flowers and garbage reflects her character very well. Adams is daring and relentless as she does everything

to get away from her past. She is both, devious and sophisticated, depending on the situation. Bale, who starved himself for The Fighter, now puts on 40 pounds for his middle-age slob role. With a bulging belly, he glues and combs his thinning hair and dresses in trendy clothes hoping to be a young center of attention. Cooper is fiercely energetic, funny and furious as an FBI agent but, as a male, he is weak and tamed by Adams. Love, hate, jealousy and lust between these characters soon come in the way of their professional work. The movie will remind you of classics such as Married to the Mob, Goodfellas and Prizzi’s Honor, but it has a volatility of its own. It is a must-see if you want to enjoy a dramatic storm of romance, tension and humour with a twisted ending, bearing in mind that the story takes long to unfold. Rating: Hassan Majeed is a child and adolescent psychiatry fellow at the Long Island Medical Center, New York. He tweets @HassanMajeedMD


Trigger your mind

Exposure to violence on TV screens can transform children into soft targets for aggression

BY DILAIRA MONDEGARIAN DESIGN BY SAMRA AAMIR

Television is to children what a trigger is to the delinquent — a nudge in the wrong direction can lead to dangerous long term consequences and the recent surge in violent programming on television is bound to do just that. Since the 1950s, numerous research has been conducted on this phenomenon, but recent studies have turned out to be more concrete in their findings. In a 2010 article published in Psychology Today, titled Media Violence Revisited, professor Ross Buck reestablishes the link between media violence and increase in aggressive behaviour and decreased empathy in children. He concludes that despite the educational potential that the television presents, the appropriateness of its message should be given careful thought. Since children are ill-equipped cognitively and emotionally, they are incapable of analysing all the messages they view on the screen. “The more we see something, the more we take it to be normal. It becomes habitual and you learn to accept it and imitate it,” says Alya Mian, psychotherapist and teacher. The portrayal of violence on television, mostly in cartoons or movies, is highly glamorised (practised by “good” characters), sanitised (showing no pain) and trivialised (portrayed as humourous), resulting in more and more children imitating the act based on their observational learning. The harmful effects often result in the development of aggressive behaviour, being less empathetic towards a victim or fear of becoming a victim.

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The warning signs of developing aggression: • Intense anger • Frequent loss of temper • Extreme irritability • Extreme impulsiveness • Easily frustrated FEBRUARY 2-8 2014

Some international violent cartoons aired locally on cable TV: • Ben 10 • Dragon Ball Z • Pokemon Battle Frontier • Transformers Animated “I was taken aback during a par-ent teacher meeting when I wass informed that my child was turn-ing into a playground bully,” sayss rSamia, who fears her eight-yearg old son has started emulating e what he sees in cartoons. Since rchildren have a tough time differn, entiating between fact and fiction, ve they tend to become more reactive mic rather than proactive. They mimic fantasy violence by engaging in en sword fighting or gunplay even long after the cartoon is over. Acter cording to Farzeen, whose daughter is addicted to Ben 10, “She starts her hat homework only after watching that cartoon and has started arguing a lot w.” more at home with her father now.” “Communication [on the part of the parents] is key to solving thiss uproblem,” says Mian. “Contextuts alisation is important and parents ain should take the time out to explain long the consequences of violence.” Along dren, with discussing things with children, mmes parents can monitor the programmes their children view and limit the number of hours of viewing per week. Children can also be encouraged to take ive to up outdoor sports as an alternative watching television. n vioWith the effects of television hood, lence no longer limited to childhood, as proven by longitudinal studies, mondren’s itoring and controlling their children’s o every viewing habits should be added to parenting guide. T Dilaira Mondegarian is a subeditor on the Express Tribune ribune magazine desk. She tweets @DilairaM


The Express Tribune Magazine - February 2  

The Express Tribune Magazine for February 02nd 2014

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