Stuck in a travel-less rut

Le Louvre

I want to travel.  I really, really do!

It’s a sad fact that I haven’t really gone anywhere beyond my comfort zone in the past…7 years!

In 2003, I moved to Dubai with my family after living in Canada for 6 years.  Since then, I’ve only ever been in the UAE or Pakistan.  It’s gotten even worse since I started college in 2008.  Before, I used to live in Dubai and go to Pakistan for a vacation.  Now I live in Pakistan and go back home to Dubai for a vacation.  I left Canada 7 years ago, and still haven’t even gone back there for a visit, unlike the rest of my family. It’s like I am stuck in some sort of never-ending vicious cycle from which I can’t escape! 

Le Tour Eiffel

Le Tour Eiffel

 

Everyone around me is going places.  New York, Bangkok, Paris, London, Montreal, Istanbul, Kuala Lampur.  I am not asking for a world tour or even an all-expense trip to one of those cities.  I just want to get out of the Lahore-Dubai paradigm.  I am not trying to play the ‘poor little rich girl’ card but it’s just frustrating to hear about all these fantastic places but not have any hope of ever visiting them!  And no, telling me that I’ll have plenty of opportunities to travel after I am hitched is really NOT the answer.  Isn’t this the time to realy experience everything life has to offer?  At this age, I am literally at the cusp of adulthood; this is that short window of time that I have to make the most of before I get bogged down with responsibilities that revolve around a career and a mother-in-law. 

What would be truly ideal is if I could just do a semester or a summer term abroad somewhere.  I have always wanted to attend the Cambridge Summer School program but, realistically speaking, it’s a little more than what my poor daddy can afford, that’s IF he ever warms up to the idea of letting me go anywhere at all.  But there are plenty more programmes that are a lot cheaper but still hugely beneficial.  I think LUMS does a student-exchange program as well, but that’s with some university in Austria that I haven’t really heard of. 

I was actually checking out the summer term curriculum at AUP (American University of Paris).  It is heavenly!  First of all, its in PARIS (enough said).  Its the city of Louis Vuitton and where the Revolution went down, of sidewalk bistros and feather-light croissants, wine, cheese and escargots, of Chanel, the Louvre, and the Champs Elysees, of the Eiffel Tower, high fashion, and romantic architecture.  But I digress; its basically a 7 week program from June till mid-July and it’s got all these brilliant courses, and the thought of studying them just made me drool, as nerdy as that sounds.  There’s Intro to Islamic Art and Architecture, The History of Paris and a truly divine-sounding course on comparative literature called Modernist Experiments of Migration: 

Explores the work of Anglo-American modernist writers in Paris, concentrating on the works of Ernest Hemingway, Wyndham Lewis, Gertrude Stein, Djuna Barnes, Jean Rhys, and other writers. Relates their formal experimentation to the visual arts and to the psychic dynamics of exile: the experience of liberation from the constraints of one culture and an alienated relation to the new environment.

Sigh.  One day, I suppose.  One day, I shall go to Paris, show off my high-school French, do everything on this list ( http://matadortrips.com/how-to-be-literary-in-paris/ )  and devour all that makes the city so magical.  One day, I’ll go to all the other places I have listed on a spreadsheet in my mind, thats keeps growing every week.  But I hope that day comes soon, because right now, the book of my life has only has a few chapters that even I wouldn’t be bothered to read.  One day, I’ll travel because like St Augustine wrote, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

The oh so Parisienne architecture

Just another post about 9/11

It had been an ordinary Tuesday morning.  I had woken up, late as usual, hurriedly dressed and walked quickly to school without bothering to look around at the leaves turning from forest green to burnt orange as they normally began to do every fall.  It drizzled lightly that morning and a chilled breeze had wafted through the portable-cum-classroom as I tried to stay awake and pay attention to the long division we were being taught.  I had never enjoyed Grade 6 arithmetics, and certainly less so on cool September mornings when all you want to do is stay warmly tucked under the covers, without having anything to worry about.  Little did I know that, in just a handful of minutes, we would all be burdened with something greater that numbers and equations to think about.  The intercom had blared, shaking me out of my daydream about warm beds and soft pillows, and the principal’s voice boomed out to every classroom and corridor in the school.  A grave terrorist act has taken place, he had said, as two planes crashed into the Twin Towers.  Not in Toronto, he reassured, but in New York.  He had called it a shocking and terrifying act, and urged us all not to panic and to stay calm and that he would inform us of any updates if necessary.  I remember being confused then, and wondering how the collapse of a couple of buildings could possibly have any effect on us, sitting in school in Toronto.  If only the principal could also have told me then, on that fateful morning of September 11th, 2001, of the many consequences that would follow the attack on the WTC.

I was eleven years old and only a few hours away from New York when the 9/11 attacks occurred.  Nearly nine years later and thousands of miles away from Ground Zero, I am still just as perturbed, not about what actually happened, but about the chain of events that unfolded soon after.  A total of nineteen hijackers took control of four commercial airliners, crashing two into the WTC in New York, one into the Pentagon in Virginia, and one in the middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania.  Nearly three thousand people died that day, with many more injured, but that, as I later discovered, was just the tip of the iceberg.  Tens of thousands of lives have been lost in the eight years that have passed, owing to the decisions made by the American government following 9/11. Almost five hours after the WTC was attacked, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfield started making tentative plans to attack Iraq and obtain control over Saddam Hussein, despite the fact that neither Iraq nor its dictator had any link whatsoever to either Al-Qaeda or Osama bin Laden, the actual perpetrators of the attack.  A note taken by one of Rumsfield’s aides quotes, “best info fast. Judge whether good enough hit S.H.” –Saddam Hussein – “at same time. Not only UBL” (Osama Bin Laden)  They simply needed an excuse and some conspiracy theorists see the whole incident of 9/11 as simply a smokescreen dropped by the US itself so that it could go after the countries it wanted to.  As a direct result of the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration launched a War on Terror against Al-Qaeda and its agents of terrorism, and used this reason to invade Afghanistan only twenty six days after 9/11.  Although the American attacks in Afghanistan did initially serve to dethrone the Taliban from the region, they also hurled Afghanistan into a whirlpool of instability and insecurity, as its civilian population suffered from the cut-off from food and medicine supplied, and illegal drug-trafficking proliferated and anti-American insurgent groups acted out within the country.

A key question that came to prevail over all public discussion was “Why do they hate us?”, asked by President George W Bush nine days after 9/11.  The answer was thought to be discovered not in the United States, its political framework or in any of its foreign policies but in ‘the other’, the irrational, angry and bearded militant Muslims of all Islamic societies. Everyone was wondering ‘What is wrong with the Muslim world?’ rather than bothering to question that perhaps there was something fundamentally wrong in the United States itself that it was targeted for a such a large-scale terrorist act.  America was deemed as normal, its ideology was universal, whereas any harm done to America could only stem from a not-normal, and illogical culture.  Aggression, hate and anger were all instigated within the general American populace to such an extent that many people did not even bother to question the actions of their government and wonder over whether or not starting wars and taking innocent lives was the right way of obtaining justice for the atrocities committed on 9/11.  Any opposition to the war on terror was seen as unpatriotic and possibly even dangerous, and this led to a rise in hate crimes all over the world, with Muslims being the primary victims.  My own brother Muhammad was threatened repeatedly at his workplace in Toronto despite the fact that nothing about his mannerisms or accent indicated he was a religious man or even an Arab.  It was simply because of his name that many people felt the need to accuse him of being in cahoots with terrorists hiding away in caves halfway across the world.

When I met new people in Toronto, they wondered about the exotic origins of my name.  After 9/11, I stopped telling them it was in Arabic name, and I stopped correcting their erroneous pronunciation.  Instead, I said I had no idea what my name meant, and preferred to be called by the Anglicized version of it that they created.  It was not all unpleasant, but the feeling that, suddenly you are seen as an outsider and an unwelcome foreigner in a place where you had lived your whole life, was hurtful and more than a little baffling.  I did not understand then the larger scope of what was going on in the world, or the actions of the American government that would lead to senseless aggression, suppression of people, unfair imprisonments of innocents, and the destruction of thousands of blameless lives.  What happened during 9/11 was certainly unfair, but it did not, in any way, give any right to the United States to embark on a mission based on global domination through force and coercion.  9/11 does not justify manipulating the truth in order to advance politically accepted dogmas and nor does it set a precedent for establishing governing metanarratives of unquestionable authority and then enforcing them throughout the rest of the world.  What happened on 9/11 was unjust but what has happened since then is simply beyond the pale of justice entirely.

Pakistan Under Siege: What do you WANT?

injured-608

– In the past 2 weeks, more than 150 people have been killed as a result of terrorist activities

– 3 law enforcement compounds in Lahore were attacked on the same day, now known as the Bloody Thursday (Oct 15th)

– 2 suicide bomb attacks took place in an Islamic university in Islamabad on October 21st

– Many more bombs have been found and diffused in other cities across the country, including Peshawar and Karachi

– All schools in Sindh, Baluchistan, NWFP and Punjab have been ordered to shut down by the gov’t

– Colleges and universities in Punjab, both public and private, have also closed down.  This includes BNU, NCA, Punjab University and LUMS

peshawar-blast-oct-15-afp-608 

The question that I pose to the perpetrators of these attacks is: WHAT DO YOU WANT?

Why is it that you choose to destroy your own country?  Why do you want to halt this country’s progress, blight its already-controversial image in the international arena, spread the germ of fear and hatred throughout its citizens, and ensure that no child can peacefully receive a proper education without being worried about a possible bomb blast in school?  What kind of twisted justification can you offer for all the havoc you’ve wrecked, for all the innocent lives you have taken, for all the sleep you have stolen from widows, orphans and grieving mothers?  What cause are you really fighting for, the perpetuation of your perception of Islam or the hidden agendas of other influential players that aid and fund your heinous actions?  What sadistic pleasure do you get out of going into bustling bazaars and blowing not only yourself but also everyone around you into smithereens?  Do you honestly think that makes you some sort of noble martyr, a shaheed?  Can’t you feel the abhorrence and antagonism everyone in this country feels against you and what you stand for or are you really so deluded that you think you’re actually doing us a favour?  Can’t you stop before it’s too late, before you cripple the country entirely so that it must remain subservient to the vested interests of a foreign superpower forever?  If you come from a poor and unprivileged sect of society, do you really believe that attacking schools and police compounds is going to improve your standards of living?  Can’t you see that the blood you’ve spilled of all the guiltless and absolved lives is not going to grant you the privileges of living in luxury or help you, in any way, to get back at the system that treated you unfairly?  When will you stop, when will it be enough?  Is there even a point of no return or are you far too removed from reality to imagine that life CAN be led peacefully without killing the unsuspecting?