January issue 2012

By | Arts & Culture | Books | Opinion | Published 5 years ago

Newsline asks Pakistani writers for three tips on how to survive in Pakistan in 2012.

Mohammed Hanif is the author of A Case of Exploding Mangoes(2008), longlisted for the Booker Prize and the winner of the Shakti Bhatt First Book Awards. His latest book is Our Lady of Alice Bhatti (2011).

Open a small dairy farm or at least buy a cow or a buffalo or a goat: A highly placed source has informed me that whatever might happen in the country, we are not going to stop eating meat or drinking milk.

Grow your own vegetables: If you are not a big meat person or happen to be lactose intolerant, start growing your own vegetables. It’s easy, all you need is a handful of earth, a few drops of water and a few seeds.

Start your own blog: If you start doing the above two, you’ll have lots of time on your hands. Cows are not very interactive, plants will communicate to you maybe once in a month, so you can fill your hours by writing about the joys of farming. Soon you’ll have a dedicated following, wouldn’t be long before you are offered a book deal or asked to write a colum in a foreign newspaper. And you’ll have enough money to buy all the milk and meat and vegetables you want from the market.

M_A_Farooqi01-12Musharraf Ali Farooqi is an author and translator. His new novelBetween Clay and Dust will appear in April 2012.

Get a sturdy bicycle, and if you do not already know, learn: how to ride a bike, repair a puncture, fix a slipped chain. You and your loved ones will soon need these skills.

Get a magnifying glass. It can be used to light fires. You have no idea how soon you will be boiling your tea and drinking water over a fire lit with the help of a magnifying glass.

Remember that insects are nutritious. Get over your aversion of insects and start developing a taste for them. They are about to play an important role in saving your life.

 

 

Shehryar_Fazli01-12Shehryar Fazli is the author of Invitation (2011), a runner-up in the 2011 Edinburgh International Book Festival’s Newton First Book Award.

Rephrase the question. The idea of ‘surviving’ 2012 seems to suggest that we’re on the brink of collapse – a prospect that’s been conjured several times in the last few years but has so far been disappointed. That said, there are critical challenges to internal stability, including a rising threat against religious and sectarian minorities, women and their staunchest advocates, which we’ll confront afresh this coming year. Rather than contemplating surviving these challenges (which could, for example, recommend silence over mobilisation), we should be more active in tackling them.

Maintain a critical eye. In times of national emergency, or perceived threats to national sovereignty, too much self-examination is often deemed counter-productive, irresponsible, or, worst of all, unpatriotic. But it would be one sacrifice too many, in a possibly volatile year, to stop looking critically at the customs, policies and institutions of state that bear most on our public and private lives.

Eschew nationalism, embrace humanism. To think that there are values and interests that are fundamentally Pakistani, and therefore inherently distinct, better and more urgent than others, usually results in narrow concepts of ‘national interest’ that every Pakistani – as a Pakistani – is supposed to espouse. We give up some of our humanity, pluralism and independence of thought, in the process.

Shandana_Minhas01-12Shandana Minhas is the author of Tunnel Vision (2007) which was nominated for the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize, 2008.

I’ll start by registering my protest at the question. Is Pakistan a polar bear attack, that it must be survived? Protest registered, and ‘civil society’ merit badge thus duly earned. Now for the tips.

Travel. To places within our borders that you might never have seen, just so you know how beautiful the country is and how friendly and hardworking most people are. Try not to get mugged/lost/assaulted/wander accidentally into a PTI rally. If you do, give those dratted Zionists a verbal what’s what.

Travel also to other places outside our borders, by reading, just so you know hard times are the rule and not the exception.

Laugh. We have some fantastic local comedic talent, for example Rehman Malik, The 4-man show and Rehman Malik on The 4-man show, which is sphincter suicide. Hasb-i-haal is also amusing – when it is not taking potshots at gay people. Out of my survival tips, laughing is the one most Pakistanis do naturally. Witness, babies. Witness, the giggles of bored waiters chasing each other through tables on a food street. Witness the sniggers of mullahs on the joke in between takes on the Aamir Liaquat Hussain show. Witness, the upside down frown of the Akmal brothers slapping each other’s backs at crossing Go and collecting two hundred. If it hurts too much to laugh, smile. This is the kingdom of smiles. Just don’t smile at a random man on the street. He might follow you to work and ask you to marry him. Oh no wait, that’s Iran.

Love. It’s free, healing, self-perpetuating, and you can make it at home.

Moni_Mohsin01-12Moni Mohsin is the author Tender Hooks (2011), The Diary of a Social Butterfly (2008) and The End of Innocence (2006).

Give generously of your time and your resources. For people of conscience, this is the only way to survive the coming year without sinking into despair. In a place as socially unjust as Pakistan, you have to lead a meaningful existence encompassing both your own welfare and that of less privileged people.

Try and be hopeful and positive about the country’s prospects. Even if your hopes don’t materialise, at least you’ll have had a happy, well happy-ish, year. But by hopeful I don’t mean delusional. Don’t live in a make-believe world. Be clear-sighted and realistic and resist the urge (comforting though it is) to blame outsiders, be they Americans or Indians or Israelis or Martians, for all our misfortunes.

Try not to give in to paranoid hysteria or seek refuge in grandiose delusions of power. Don’t consume conspiracy theories mindlessly. Read widely. Educate and inform yourself. Try and understand how the rest of the world views us and why. We cannot absolve ourselves of responsibility for the mess we find ourselves in. The sooner we recognise that and start fixing it, the better.

Keep safe. Or be lucky. Preferably both.

 

Bina_Shah1-12Bina Shah is the author of three novels Where They Dream in Blue (2001), The 786 Cybercafe (2004) and Slum Child (2009).

Wash your hands a lot. This may sound silly, but Pakistan is a very dirty country. Have you been outside lately? Garbage everywhere. Any time you eat out, you could be felled by hepatitis, typhoid or, at the very least, viral gastroenteritis. People catch the flu, dress up and go to weddings, and insist on kissing you on both cheeks, then announcing, “I’ve got the flu and I’m on antibiotics.” If they really love you, they might cough on you while they tell you this. Washing your hands won’t save you from the garbage, the stomach illnesses or the flu, but at least you’ll buy lots of soap, which will kickstart Pakistan’s economy.

Avoid weddings. I have turned avoiding weddings into a high art form. No more worrying about how I’m going to afford the latest designer wear, shoes, handbag, blow-dry and make-up job in order to attend seven functions for one couple. No more dodging well-meaning aunties who ask me when I’m going to stop being so picky and just marry the next person I see. You may become a social pariah by adopting such extreme measures, but you’ll save money on both the clothes and therapy bills (you won’t even need a flu shot).

Don’t read the newspapers or watch television. This is the equivalent of being an ostrich and sticking your head into the sand, but I’ve never been more relaxed or stress-free since I stopped gleaning news from any news source. By removing BBC and CNN from our televisions, our cable operators have done half the job for me already. Most of it is just speculation anyway. I’d rather read Mills & Boon romance novels because those are more likely to come true than what most of our TV anchors predict for us.

Maybe they should all just wash their hands and go to a wedding instead.

Masud_Alam01-12Masud Alam is a columnist and journalism trainer based in Islamabad, and the author of Chalo (2009), his first collection of travel stories.

That every coming year is going to bring more of the same is a given in this country. If it happens to be an election year, there’s going to be all the more sleaze and rot flying around. And considering the fact that the ruling party is in an advanced stage of disintegration, with its leaders being exposed as thugs or buffoons, utterly incapable of managing routine affairs let alone a crisis, the fallout is going to be scarier and stinkier than one can imagine.

Grow a thicker skin. If you still believe politics is about the common man i.e. you, nothing can save you from a massive heartbreak. The ruling elite will continue to play their game, before and after the elections or even if there is no election. You are only required to show up when it’s time to clap and cheer the ouster of one duffer and the induction of another. The Imrans and Bilawals have as much concern for your well-being as that demonstrated by the Shareefs and Zardaris. Vote for a loser this time, you have nothing to lose. The winners have already been notified by the GHQ.

Banish TV from your life. Cancer is not the major cause of death in Pakistan; media in general and television in particular is. If you are not already brain-dead, wean yourself off Pakistani channels. They are nothing but poison. If you are hooked to a drama serial, or cricket, watch it on the Internet, without commercial breaks and at a time of your own convenience. And don’t worry about breaking news; when there is one, it’ll find you.

Party like there’s no 2013. Between the power outages, strikes by various professions and trades, CNG closures, suicide and drone attacks, ever-growing traffic jams, and frequent bouts of paralyses suffered by the government, there is little time left for us to enjoy life. Use it. Sing, dance, fall in love again and celebrate life resiliently moving on against all odds. And don’t wait till the end of the year, start the party season now. There just might be no 2013. Both Nostradamus and Zaid Hamid seem to agree on this.

Asif_Farrukhi01-12Masud Alam is a columnist and journalism trainer based in Islamabad, and the author of Chalo (2009), his first collection of travel stories.

That every coming year is going to bring more of the same is a given in this country. If it happens to be an election year, there’s going to be all the more sleaze and rot flying around. And considering the fact that the ruling party is in an advanced stage of disintegration, with its leaders being exposed as thugs or buffoons, utterly incapable of managing routine affairs let alone a crisis, the fallout is going to be scarier and stinkier than one can imagine.

Grow a thicker skin. If you still believe politics is about the common man i.e. you, nothing can save you from a massive heartbreak. The ruling elite will continue to play their game, before and after the elections or even if there is no election. You are only required to show up when it’s time to clap and cheer the ouster of one duffer and the induction of another. The Imrans and Bilawals have as much concern for your well-being as that demonstrated by the Shareefs and Zardaris. Vote for a loser this time, you have nothing to lose. The winners have already been notified by the GHQ.

Banish TV from your life. Cancer is not the major cause of death in Pakistan; media in general and television in particular is. If you are not already brain-dead, wean yourself off Pakistani channels. They are nothing but poison. If you are hooked to a drama serial, or cricket, watch it on the Internet, without commercial breaks and at a time of your own convenience. And don’t worry about breaking news; when there is one, it’ll find you.

Party like there’s no 2013. Between the power outages, strikes by various professions and trades, CNG closures, suicide and drone attacks, ever-growing traffic jams, and frequent bouts of paralyses suffered by the government, there is little time left for us to enjoy life. Use it. Sing, dance, fall in love again and celebrate life resiliently moving on against all odds. And don’t wait till the end of the year, start the party season now. There just might be no 2013. Both Nostradamus and Zaid Hamid seem to agree on this.

The writer is a former assistant editor at Newsline