Wednesday, June 29, 2011

'Telling the Truth About the World'

I’ve begun teaching! Monday was my first class and I really enjoyed it. Our first lesson was simply ‘what is journalism?’ I used the definition I had learned at the Princeton University Summer Journalism Program in the summer of 2008. “Journalism is telling the truth about the world,” said Richard Just, one of the directors of the program and now, the Executive Editor of The New Republic.

I teach the girls in the morning from 9 to 11 a.m. and boys in the afternoon from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. I had requested the principals to allow me to teach in a co-educational environment, but they objected given the Pakistani traditional culture of separating genders so as to avoid misconduct. I find this arrangement very interesting.

I had expected the girls to be more social with me given that I, too, am a female. But to my surprise, they are all reserved. They are very obedient and always follow directions. They are also very quiet, and it is a challenge for me to get them to talk and speak up. Even last year when I taught blogging, I found the girls to be far more conservative. It bugged me that this was so. I wanted them to be more interactive.

The boys, on the other hand, are not shy. They talk often—it’s actually a challenge to keep them quiet! They do not hesitate to voice their opinions and speak their mind. All of them enjoy participating in discussions and that makes me happy and excited to teach. But I still couldn’t figure out why there was such a role reversal: why were the girls more shy than the boys? Something was wrong. There has to be an explanation—and as it turns out, there is.

Women are expected to be submissive. But this was not a new fact to me. I know very well that women are held to a double standard—that’s true everywhere. I suppose I can somewhat see how submissiveness is related to shyness—conforming to another’s authority means being obedient and unwilling to challenge that authority, therefore being reserved. Maybe I’m just used to men and women being “equal” in every aspect of life? Maybe America really has changed me in more ways than I can imagine. Or maybe, my concept of gender equality is skewed. Maybe both?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Anarkali Bazaar


Anarkali Bazaar: A very famous shopping center. It is also one of the oldest markets in all of South Asia. The Bazaar is named after “Anarkali,” legendarily believed to be a slave girl who had an affair with the Mughal Emperor Akbar’s son, Prince Salim (also known as Jahangir).

Badshahi Mosque

Badshahi Mosque: Badshah in Urdu means “king.” This was the king’s mosque. The Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb built this in 1671, and it’s hard to believe that it only took 2 years to complete! Badshahi Mosque (hosts 60,000 worshippers at once) is the second largest mosque in Pakistan, followed by the Faisal Mosque (hosts 95,000 worshippers at once) located in Isalamabad. The three domes of the Badshahi Mosque symbolize the three most important aspects of Islam: Allah, Prophet Muhammad, and the Holy Book of Quran. The five doors on either side symbolize the five pillars of Islam—declaration of faith, prayer, fasting, zakat (charity), and the hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca). Finally, the four minarets guarding the mosque symbolize the four caliphates that ruled following Prophet Muhammad’s death.





Shahi Qila

The Moti Masjid.

In front of Naulakha pavilion.


In front of Alamgiri Gate.


Lahore Fort:
Also known as the Shahi Qila. This castle was built under the Mughal emperor Akbar, but has been continuously augmented by the subsequent rulers, including the British who used it as a fort instead of a palace. Within the Qila (meaning “castle”) are Shish Mahal (mahal means “palace”), Alamgiri Gate, Naulakha pavilion, and Moti Masjid (moti means “pearl”). The Moti Masjid was built by Shah Janan to extend the Naulakha pavilion. The Lahore Fort encompasses many different architectural designs date as far back as the 16th century Mughal era and are as recent as the 20th century British era.

Minar-e-Pakistan



Minar-e-Pakistan: Think the Washington Monument. Minar in Urdu means a “tower,” just like a “minaret” is a tower of a mosque. Minar-e-Pakistan is the site where the Muslim League passed the Pakistan Resolution on March 23, 1940, exactly seven years before Pakistan was formed.




Snap Snap Snap

The following day was indeed better. Baba and I welcomed the opportunity to sleep in. At about 2 p.m. we awoke to sounds of drip-drop—wait, it rained in Lahore?? We were as shocked as any other Lahori. Luckily, it stopped raining at about 3 p.m. and the sun was back. You could hardly tell it rained! The weather was cooler, of course, but it was as bright as any other day. Anyway, we booked a richshaw to Anarkali, a famous shopping area and food street. The richshaw driver offered to show us the city, and we immediately said ‘yes.’ We would finally get to explore the city, see some of its historic wonders, and appreciate its cultural wealth—all in broad daylight. Time for snap snap snap! Here are the places we visited – hope you enjoy the pictures and the descriptions of each (above).


Some other things we saw are Shalimar Gardens, the Lahore Museum, Kim’s Gun, Samadhi of Ranjit Singh, the Lahore Railway, home of Allama Iqbal, and lots of colleges and universities built under British reign.

First Time on a Richshaw




I’m back from Lahore, the City of Lights. What a trip! Overall, I’d say I had lots of fun. I finished my fieldwork in two days, which was a relief. On Wednesday, we went to Punjab University at about 10 a.m. It was my first time sitting on the rickshaw, a three-wheeled vehicle that is somewhat comfortable and makes a lot of noise. It is small enough to move in and out of traffic and big enough to seat about two to three people. Punjab University is a public university, funded mainly by the government. It is so large that it was recently expanded into two campuses. I ended up choosing the Qaid-e-azam campus, or the “New Campus,” for my research. The new campus is named after the founder of Pakistan, Qaid-e-azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah.


Despite my many calls and numerous emails beforehand to arrange a meeting with the Vice Chancellor of the University, Baba and I still faced challenges on the day of. We were kept being sent around from office to office. Forget being annoyed; we were frustrated. The heat fueled us for sure. We finally got the V.C.’s signature and, unlike Hazara University where two boys were assigned to us for assistance, we were on our own at Punjab University. We walked through the building halls and saw students studying. I went up to a crowd and explained my project in hopes that they would welcome my survey. Rather, I was disappointed when they refused and said they were too busy studying. I understood.


We then went to the History Department, whose Chairman was very hospitable with us. He welcomed us into his office, offered us tea, and with interest, spoke to me about my research. I was delighted to meet someone who could speak to me on my level of understanding. Turns out this Chairman not only has a Ph.D., but is also a professor, dean, a journal editor, as well an international conference organizer. He invited me to submit my research paper to his journal and took down my contact information to invite me to his conference. You bet I was excited!!


Until 5 p.m., we went around to various department chairs, sought their permission, and handed out the surveys to the students in that department. Baba constantly became dehydrated, so we made multiple water stops. I am so grateful to Baba for his time, energy, and commitment to my research project. With his help, we completed all 200 surveys in one day! For our education, Baba is always willing to do whatever it takes – even if it means baking in the Lahore heat for hours and days. Today is Father’s Day and I am eternally thankful for such a great father.


On Thursday, I completed all my interviews. It was exam week so a lot of the selected interviewees could not commit the time. Good thing I had alternatives. I heard the same things, same opinions, and similar commentary from these students as those of Hazara University. Miles apart, yet the same mentality? I can’t conclude this yet, but sure seems like it.


Later that evening we went out for sightseeing. We left the hotel at 7 p.m. I knew it would be difficult to explore some of the famous sights at nighttime and I was upset with Baba for choosing such a time. And as I predicted, we “window-toured.” What a disappointment! Lahore is known for its historical structures – some from the Mughal era, some even before that – as well as its museums, malls, mosques, government buildings, and more. I went to sleep in a bad mood, hoping that the following day would be better. After all, my rebirth was at risk.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Daewoo Experience

I do have Internet access here!

There’s a famous Punjabi saying: jinne laor ni takkea o jammea i nai – “He who has not seen Lahore has not born.” I think this is applicable is to Pakistanis only, though I could be wrong. Anyway, yesterday, I was born—now I have two birthdays. Mom, Dad, and dear friends, that means two birthday cakes and twice the presents, please! :-)



The Daewoo (pronounced DA-WOO) bus had great service. I was impressed with the cleanliness, air-conditioning, and refreshments. The bus hostess kept us plenty hydrated by offering water every hour, which was the best part because I found myself to be awfully thirsty. During the 7-hour drive, we stopped only 3 times for 15 minutes at each rest area. Baba took advantage of these rest stops because he was not feeling well. For a good majority of the ride, I stared out the window. I saw endless farmland area—so many plants, and fresh vegetables, all green with properly functioning irrigation systems. I saw farmers on oxen and horses, making a run through the farmlands they worked so hard to cultivate. Harvesting season was finally here.


Once we got on the “motorway”—we say “highway” in USA—the white dotted and yellow solid lines reminded me of routes 495 and 295 I was used to driving on. I rarely saw suzukis or vans, common modes of public transportation in Abbottabad. Instead, there were Hondas and Totoyas everywhere. What an interesting juxtaposition of agricultural fields (symbolic of agrarian, rural Pakistan) and high-class motorways (symbolic of the progressing, urban Pakistan).


We safely arrived to the humid, humid Lahore. The first thing I saw in Lahore was KFC. Then a short while later, a bright golden ‘M’ caught my eye and I instantly began craving for fresh fries. I also saw Dunkin' Donuts and Pizza Hut. Talk about globalization! I wrote a paper earlier this past semester about ‘McDonaldization,’ the spread and globalization of Western food chains. Seeing the Western food chains from the Daewoo window put everything in context. Professor Murthy would be so proud of my conceptual application.


When we got off the bus, my clothes were wet….of sweat. Gross! The fans at the station only circulated warm air. No help. A good friend of Rizwan Bhai picked us up from the station and dropped us off at our hotel. Baba and I both quickly showered in cold, refreshing water. Felt like Heaven. It was about 8 p.m. so we ordered vegetable fried rice off the very Westernized menu. Quickly ate and fell asleep. A busy day awaits us tomorrow.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Off to Lahore

Yesterday, Baba woke up at 10 a.m. But after he left the room, I snoozed for another hour. Today, I was determined to update my diary…I’ve been slacking for the past two weeks. At noon, I made my way to our red roof, and sat there for an hour journaling. A lot of my writing consisted of, surprisingly, negative feelings about some of the family events that have happened so far. At least I don’t have to deal with this family gossip/drama year round.

Ayeshi Baji, eldest of the female cousins from Baba’s side of the family, came to visit me. Baji is a respectful way of saying “older sister.” She brought me lunch, which was nice of her. I ate two chicken pieces with roti. It was a good, light meal.

I then called Punjab University to tell them that I will be coming to Lahore on Tuesday. I wanted to get an appointment with the Vice Chancellor for Wednesday morning. Originally, Rizwan Bhai, eldest of the male cousins from Baba’s side of the family, was supposed to assist us on the trip, as he is well-versed with the in’s and out’s of the famous city. He called in the afternoon to cancel—Baba had speculated this would happen. It’s unfortunate he can no longer come. He would have made for a good guide. Oh well.

In either case, Baba and I will be sitting on an air-conditioned bus at 11 a.m. tomorrow. The expensive Daewoo bus is a South Korean service gaining popularity in Pakistan. We will depart from Abbottabad and arrive directly in Lahore 7 hours later. People say that Abbottabad’s heat is nothing compared to Lahore’s. That Abbottabad is in fact a ‘cool Paradise’ in comparison. But if I can’t handle Abbottabad’s heat, and am complaining about it already, I wonder what will happen when I reach Lahore. One thing is for sure: I’ll have my water bottle with me at all times.

I just finished packing a small suitcase for the trip. I’m fully prepared: plenty of clothes to change into, shampoo, toothpaste, notebook, pencil, surveys. Am I missing anything else? Nikon and video camera are also packed and ready to go. Unfortunately, I won’t have my laptop with me in Lahore, but perhaps I’ll have access to a computer with Internet in the hotel that we stay in. I’m very excited for the adventure that awaits me—I can’t wait to see the famous and infamous LAHORE. So many places to tour, so much to see, so much to do! I want to see why people call it a “mini America.” I hope the city does not disappoint me.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Smell of Home


First, the good news. On Thursday, June 9th at 6:30 p.m. a beautiful baby came to life. My mamu had a daughter! I now have one more cousin from my mother’s side. Yay for population growth … I think. The yet-to-be-named baby is resting in the Bach Christian Hospital, the same missionary hospital in which I was born 20 years ago. All the doctors and nurses there are Christian and have learned the native languages of Hindko, Urdu, Punjabi, Pushto, and more. Their main mission is to serve the people of the village for a reduced cost, as a lot of the care receivers cannot afford the medical bills of the city.

The second good news is that I now have high-speed Internet – used to be a rarity and/or impossibility in the mountains. But clearly technology has advanced, as I can get wifi signal now. Instead of dial-up, I have “DSL.” This means more blogging, more often. And more Facebooking, of course. :-)

My days are going by just like that. It’s been three weeks and I hardly even noticed. I feel so unaccomplished. Back at Bowdoin, my life is so structured – iCal tells me what to do and where to be during all hours of the day. Here, I’ve lost a sense of time. I stay up late at night chatting with friends and family. I wake up late in the afternoon, past lunchtime. I sometimes eat breakfast, and sometimes lunch. Sometimes I miss both and just eat dinner. I have lost all appetite. And I think it’s the heat that’s getting to me. When electricity goes out, it’s hard to be productive and I don’t feel like eating when I feel hot.

Today, I want out with my cousins, bhabis (wives of brothers or first male cousins), and their children (my nephews/nieces). I had complained earlier to my cousins that the only places I have “seen” in my native country are Mansehra and Abbottabad. So today I was able to explore some of these rural areas. I went by the riverside and played in the water with my adorable nephews and nieces. Then we went atop a gorgeous mountain in Bala Kot (you may remember that name from the headlines that came about from the 2004 earthquake) and saw all of Mansehra below. It was breathtaking! Reminded me of the experience in Antigua, Guatemala, when we hiked a hill and saw the entire city below – a reward worth the endurance. I had a great time today. I was actually becoming bored in my house. I’m glad I went out for a fresh breath of air, which mostly smelled of dung (manure). Felt at home finally.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Tandoori Research


Greetings from a ‘tandoor!’ It is scorching hot here! Every day feels hotter than the day before. I cannot stand the heat. I can feel the sweat in my clothes every day. Thank goodness for showers. Cold, freezing showers, I mean.


On Sunday, I went to go live with Nano (maternal grandmother). I like visiting her. She, along with my two khalas (mother’s sisters), one mamu (mother’s brother), and mami (mamu’s wife) live together in Mansehra. I figured it would be a good excuse to escape Qalandarabad for a few days, spend time with my second half of family relatives, and begin my sociological research.


As part of my independent study in sociology with Professor Christensen in the upcoming fall semester, I am researching what it means to have dual identities. More specifically, I am interested in knowing the views of college students about Pakistanis living in America. I want to compare a 200-sample from Hazara University, located in the ‘conservative’ Mansehra, and Punjab University, located in the ‘liberal’ Lahore. This study first and foremost stems from personal curiosity, as I am also a Pakistani living in America. Secondly, I am interested in learning how intersections of gender, geographical location, and ideological beliefs of a place impact one’s perception of native-born Pakistanis who have either acquired a second, American citizenship or are willfully choosing to live in America for a majority of their lifetime. I am hoping that this research sheds some light on the complexities of dual nationalities.


On Monday, Baba came to Nano’s house at 9:30 a.m. to pick me up. With 200 copies of my already-prepared survey in hand, I left the house looking forward to a great day ahead of me. This would be my first time visiting Hazara University, for I had only heard of the institution in conversation with people. We had scheduled a meeting with the Vice Chancellor—equivalent of an American university or college president—at 10 a.m., but of course we had to wait 45 minutes for our turn. Once we got Vice Chancellor's permission from his office, we were free to roam the campus on our own. But we didn’t want to do that. On such a large campus, how would we ever find students from different departments to take my survey? And I wanted as diverse a sample as possible. Thankfully, two students, both of whom were campus proctors, were assigned to assist us. They were very cooperative and patient.


As we visited each classroom, I introduced myself and explained, in English, what my research was about. Each participating student had to sign a consent form. It was an interesting experience visiting these classrooms with Baba and the two proctors. Even though I am a confident public speaker, I still felt pressured in two opposite directions. According to Baba’s expectations, I had to be very formal and proper, only making eye contact with the female students and remembering not to smile at the male students—because doing so would mean I am leading them on for "something." Then there was pressure from my audience; all of the students that sat before me were approximately my age even though some looked older. The twenty-some pairs of eyes, some from behind burqas, in every classroom felt like twenty-some pairs of video camera lens, all zoomed in. I felt as though I was being monitored, and that there was no room for errors. My every word, my every gesture would be memorialized for better or for worse—so I had to be perfect. Thankfully, I was able to cool my nerves. Mr. Coch, my sixth grade teacher, always used to say that whenever we are nervous of public speaking, always imagine a room full of mirrors. That way, you are practically talking to yourself. As I explained to every student what their commitment entailed by taking my survey, I was reminded of my very first class presentation ever. It was in Mr. Coch’s class. We had to make a 10-minute “speech” about any topic of our choice. I, of course, chose a random thing to research: the lady slipper—it’s a rare flower that grows in arid areas. Every time I spoke to the Hazara students, for some reason random facts about the lady slipper hovered in the back of my mind. Weird, much?


Luckily, I was able to survey 200 students all in one day. These surveys would provide me quantitative data in my research. To obtain qualitative data, I had to conduct interviews. Thanks to Prof. Riley's Research and Methods class, I am an aspiring researcher. On Monday night, I looked through every survey (it took 2 hours!) and selected 4 boys and 4 girls for interviews. There was no formal criterion for selection; I simply chose students based on their interesting or odd choice of responses to some of my questions. On Tuesday, I again went to Hazara University with Baba, who picked me up from Nano’s house. This time, only one of the proctors was available to assist us. We had difficulty finding the selected students so we referred to plan B: randomly selecting other students who had taken the survey. I was able to conduct 4 interviews on Tuesday and 4 on Wednesday. Each interviewee received a monetary token of appreciation for their time. With money in the equation, you bet everyone wanted to be interviewed.


I am now back in Bandi Dhudan. It is about 2:40 a.m. and I am about to sleep soon. My mami is expected to deliver a baby tonight so Baba and I are waiting for the phone to ring with some good news.


By the way, a tandoor is an open-top cylindrical oven in which rotis are cooked. Google some images. :)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Silk Roads

Hi everyone. I apologize for going MIA. It took us one week to hook up the Internet. First and foremost, all is well on my end. I safely arrived to Pakistan on May 28th. My 4-hour flight from Bahrain landed at the Benazir A. Bhutto International Airport in Islamabad at approximately 7 a.m. My two chachas, my father’s brothers, awaited for us in the VIP lounge. About an hour earlier, while still on the plane, I changed into the traditional slawar, kameez and dupata. Jeans and t-shirts were not okay. After all, I was a villager. We village people are not like the city dwellers. We pride ourselves in having higher standard of morals, especially a high emphasis on the values of respect and family honor. Today’s cities in Pakistan are very Westernized, therefore, according to common belief, lacking those morals. Take Lahore as a perfect example. There, you’ll see boys and girls dressed in Western styles. You’ll find pubs and bars. (And might I remind you Pakistan is an Islamic state, where alcohol is prohibited.) You’ll want to shop in the big malls and eat at McDonald’s. You’ll feel as if you never left America. But modernization is a good thing, right? How else is Pakistan supposed to progress if it can’t modernize first? All that is true, however, the simple fact is that modernization clashes severely with the value system of Pakistan. Most people still are not willing to compromise their values for the country’s better advancement.

When I changed my clothes on the plane, I remembered the first time I visited Pakistan in 2003. I was 12 years old at the time and had only lived in America for 4 years. But apparently 5 years was enough to ‘Americanize’ my siblings and me. I vividly remember the reaction of my chachas when we got off the plane. My three sisters and I were wearing matching peach tops and dark blue denim jeans. I was excited to wear my new clothes. Muma had handpicked this outfit from Macy’s weeks before. Muma always liked to dress us the same; perhaps it was her way of showing us that she loved us all equally. But to any outsider, we looked like quadruplets of different sizes and heights. To my four chachas, however, we were Americans—and that was bad. The awkward tension during the 4-hour car ride home was enough to tell me something was wrong. The very next day, we switched into ready-made Pakistani outfits. That experience will always stay with me because it was the first time someone made me feel as though I was not Pakistani.

On Saturday, as we drove in my elder Chacha’s white Parado, Baba pointed out a small dirt road from the window. “That road led to the Silk Roads,” he said. “During Asoka’s empire, porcelain and other pottery traveled through here.” Immediately, Mr. Coe’s AP World History hit me. I wanted to take a picture of the road, but I didn’t have enough time to take out my camera. It was such a cool sight though! Who knew history could be so fascinating?

It’s been an entire week I’ve been here. The Abbottabad that headlines have dubbed as ‘dangerous’ seems to be the same old peaceful, mountainous place I call home. Abbottabad is the city I identify with. Within that city, I live in the town of Qalandarabad, and within that town, I’m up in the village of Bandi Dhudan. In Urdu, “bandi” means mud house or a small hut. You’ll find hundreds of bandis here.

I’m trying my best to stay safe. I’m drinking plenty of mineral water in this 100 degree-plus Fahrenheit weather. I already have mosquito bites all over my arms and legs. The small red spots make me look like I have chicken pox. But fortunately, my antibodies are working hard to protect me.