PROF: not a JOKE!

After going through the circuit these last few years, once, then twice, and now thrice, I’ve come to a realization that this year it is different.  ‘PROF’  is no longer an obstacle that one can maneuver around, over, and, under: the beauty of grace marks, internal assessment, cheating or sheer luck (not to mention, studying your backside off), is still viable but lackluster.  PROF has emerged formidable, and challenges you.

Now, before I say anything, I don’t intend to generalize.  I don’t intend to confuse or eve misrepresent a very large and respectable cross-section of student population known as ‘theethas’.  I belong to that stratum which natural selection hasn’t exactly favored.  We tend to lack the dedication, ambition (and rote learning tools in some cases) to excel.  People like us aren’t great and don’t do great things.  We work (study) to survive.

Now, from the obvious change this year includes; work load!  It has increased and the amount of material that has had to be covered, and will keep increasing in future.  Along with it so will responsibilities, and a need to adapt and overcome various tiresome and phobic frights such as interacting with people, touching patients…obeying orders…and the list goes on.

One thing that I have come to recognize and appreciate is going through past papers.  It really is convenient and helpful, as questions tend to repeat.  Yet, I only managed to do a few for just one subject.  Not very conscientious, I suppose.

A feeling that has started increasing in its urgency and pressure on my moral compass is that MBBS is not only about intellect and skills and saving lives, it is also a rat race.  A vicious one at that, with people clamouring to be at the top or at the front.  Once someone gets there, skills do play a crucial role.  But it’s the whole package, including right way to show obeisance, to form alliances, the ability to suck up – the petty politics – always looming overhead.   An undignified life for someone sensitive about self-respect.

Another important factor, perhaps most of us, including me, overlook is our deeds!  Without elaborating or trying to preach, I think the following incident will suffice:

Imam Ash-Shafi`i said: “I complained to Wakee` about the weakness of my memory, so he ordered me to abandon disobedience (sin) and informed me that knowledge is light. He said that the light of Allah is not given to the disobedient.”

These abovementioned thoughts revolved in my mind quite vividly, that one fateful exam (won’t name the subject), like frames of a motion picture reeling in front of my eyes.  As I sat there doleful and resigned, I resolved myself into consolation, come what may – maybe even a “suppli” (God, I hope not) – I’ve tried and still got to keep doing it, a milestone has not been achieved as of yet…

                                                              Ibtidaa-e-Ishq hai Rota hai Kya

                                                         Aagay Aagay Dekhiye hota hai Kya

The PMC Watch- An Epilogue

[Note: this article has 2 parts, both are being presented here for the reader.  Enjoy!]

PART 1

The PMC Watch?!  I will cut to the chase; the idea was conceived one eventful night more than a year ago, in a dark corner of a study room, while chatting with a friend.  He was confided in, so there were two of us.

Messages were discreetly sent to individuals who we believed had a potential to write, and were most likely to collaborate.  Out of all the people we invited, and there weren’t many, only one showed interest, and gave an encouraging response.  He came onboard.  I must say ever since he has been our best asset.  So, there were three of us.  Much later a fourth was brought on to the team.  So, there were only four of us who ever were involved with running of, and writing for the PMC Watch- the blog and the facebook page.

Why the PMC Watch?  This is a difficult question to answer.  But, it was borne out of a need to provide a different edge and angle, to views and commentary on life at PMC.  And, to think in a different paradigm than the prevalent one.  Candid sarcasm, raising serious questions, and giving truthful conclusions has had been our hallmark.  The ‘need’ to do all of this was felt, after having observed that it wasn’t necessarily the ‘intellect’,  the ‘right’, the common sense, that prevailed in the PMC culture.

So, the very core of our message was and is the ability to ‘self-criticize’.  This stands important, because it is only after one confronts one’s own faults, at individual and societal level, and the weak ivory towers are demolished, does one begin to see with a higher level of clarity.

How successful we have been in imparting this message, I cannot say.  Whether our work has been appreciated or slated, is something I am not too concerned to seek an answer for.  As a wise woman once said:

“If we have been accused of what is not within us, then how many times have we been praised for what is also not within us.”

I believe a point has come where we need to benefit from some introspection for our own good.   Whether the PMC Watch is a worthwhile endeavor or not?  Whether we facilitate ‘change’ and ‘thinking outside the box’, or do we pontificate?  Do we have an audience or are we just hitting the wall?  Are we sincere in our work, or just self-serving?  And, so on.  Add to this the pre-PROF drama, and we have valid enough reasons for a BREAK!!

As I make a ‘temporary’ departure, from this ‘fiefdom’ (lol) of pen, I am reminded of, in a caricatured way, of Bahadur Shah Zafar’s verses, which he penned while being exiled to Rangoon:

My beloved tormented me so much

We were forced to leave our native land;

As drops of wax from the burning taper

So as we quit the circle of life

Fell tears from our eyes.

The gardener forbade us sporting in his garden,

With laughter we came,

With wailing we parted.

No I don’t suddenly feel forlorn and heartbroken!  But, the point is, just as some have their text messages and the ‘significant others’ [a sign of manhood these days], and others have their hostel life and its hustle and bustle.  Then, there are those who have their medical books to cherish and hug.

For me, it was (and is) as much as a question of ‘survival’ as of not being quiescent, in an environment which is lopsided, layered with pretenses, fueled with group-think and sheep mentality, seeking to be something it cannot be, and all the while passing off as normal!  So, you can understand the dilemma.

So, my ‘circle of life’ to borrow the poet’s words, which helped me survive (and hopefully will in future), is writing with a ‘cause’.  It is as much an antidote, as it is a symbolic expression of shattering the ‘idols’ that are such degenerate values and ‘mores’.  No one questions these, no one sees through these, but all find ways to twist and twist!

Anyhow, at the moment it is time to close this chapter in PMC’s lackluster history; only to emerge once again…sooner or later.  Or maybe not!

– The Obscurantist

PART 2

Preamble has already been given by The Obscurantist, I guess. I would just like to add a little bit from my side.

It was a fairly cold day in the first week of March of 2010, I remember. The Obscurantist approached me while we were leaving the Physiology Lab. He handed me a tiny piece of paper on which “pmcwatch.wordpress.com” was written. I asked him about it and he said that I should check it whenever I had time. I visited the blog and found the idea really striking and felt kind of flattered too because The Obscurantist had himself invited me to contribute to it. So, I hopped in! I contributed my first article the following Sunday. The Obscurantist welcomed it and I was added to the list of the authors.

Basically, I joined The PMC Watch for two purposes: ‘Recreation’ and ‘Catharsis’. And, I got both of these fulfilled through the course of time. I was aware of the fact that people mostly don’t go about reading anything written in English unless they have to prepare for some exam etc. But still, I thought that it would be worth writing even if just two or three people read it and it would be enough if I successfully impregnate even a single mind with my ideas. I never considered it a platform which could change anything significantly and neither had I ever thought of it as a mere pastime.

For me, the most important of all things has always been expressing my mind in as subtle a manner as possible. I prefer releasing the frustration in a cloak of humor; the frustration begotten by the sense of not being able to do something in a broader perspective. The PMC Watch provided me with the opportunity to do it, that is, express my mind, and I am grateful for that! Even if I get to write my thoughts on a wall (preferably, my Facebook wall :D), I get contented. And undoubtedly, The PMC Watch has always been better than a wall :). As Meer has said,

وقت خوش  ان  کا  جو  ہم بزم  ہیں  تیرے

ہم تو  در و دیوار  کو احوال سنا جاتے ہیں

(waqt-e-khush  un kaa  jo  hum-bazm  haim  tere

hum to dar-o-deewaar ko ahwaal suna jaate hain)

The question as of whether or not to carry it on arose when The Obscurantist recently intimated to me that he seemed to be getting too egotistic regarding The PMC Watch. I said, “Do whatever you deem right, I will support”. He made a decision and hence I am talking to you now, which could be the very last time we ever talk. Everything that begins has an end, and if it is going to end here, I would like to end it with one of my very favorite verses of Faiz.

 فیض، آتے ہیں راہ عشق میں جو سخت مقام
آنے والوں  سے  کہو  ہم  تو  گزر  جائیں  گے

(Faiz, aate hain raah-e-ishq mein jo sakht maqaam

aane  waalon  se  kaho,  hum to  guzar  jaayen  ge)

Regards,

The Philosopher’s Stone

PARWAZ 2010: A Review

Parwaz ’10 has finally arrived.  For all the hype that’s supposed to build up in the run up to its arrival, one is wont to see people having philosophical epiphanies, while reading it in the corridors, or the lawns, or the library, or wherever.  But, you get the point?  Parwaz is HERE.

Things aren’t hopeless; this year’s Parwaz has something to offer.  The fact that it is better [English section*] than last year’s, is an accolade in and of itself.

First I will discuss, what I thought was worthwhile in Parwaz ’10, and then, obviously, in a PMC Watch-esque style I’ll indulge in some criticism too.

I’ll be honest; I opened Parwaz, with the intent to find something to criticize.  And, having flipped through the first few pages, I did feel quite justified.  But as I laid my eyes, much to the chagrin of my brain, on more and more material, I realized that there was something substantial to be found in it: if read it wouldn’t be a complete waste of time.

Let’s take a few noteworthy examples:

The title that first caught my eye was “Free Will Eschewed”.  I admit my weakness for ‘big’ words, hence the excitement.

Even though, the piece was disjointed at every other paragraph, and that the author seemingly contradicted herself.  I still thought it merited mention because there was a peculiar abundance of difficult and obscure words in it, many having been employed properly.  The author deserves credit for that.  Though, if it had been well thought out, it could’ve been a great piece.

Another article that stood out was verbosely titled: “Ridiculous Fashion Modes (Invented by Ignorance and Adopted by Folly)”.  This article contrasted well with the abovementioned piece in many ways.  It had coherence, was easy to read, and made sense.

Its content happened to discuss a very pertinent issue: the shallow standards of our society, and what it imagines  the so-called ‘modernity’ to be, and tries hard to adopt, especially through ‘fashion’(faayyshaan).

The article also had a hint of wit.  For instance:

“…Their clothing is beyond description (seriously!  But I’ll present a little picture), pants would seem to fall any minute, their hairstyle[s] are beyond imagination, working like new mountain ranges.  These ‘dudes’ (I am stressing on it, mind that) with spikes look more like a bunch of porcupines.”

The author has done a decent job, she should continue writing.

Another piece that I particularly liked was “Group Nomenclature” , because it discussed an issue that touches at the very heart and core of PMC’s culture: Group-ism, a need for ‘identity’, and the boundaries, all so meticulously constructed, that exist at PMC.  Or, how people feel compelled to ‘change’ their selves, and adopt a new social ‘identity’.  How, we so often see that those who only yesterday were meek bookish nerds, turn, almost over night into local versions of ‘Jonas Brothers’ [Click to get a better idea :P], or ‘Gossip Girl(s)’ [Yes, another pop culture reference, but no pic this time].

The article had a good dose of sarcasm, and the author cleverly utilized medical terminology, and that added to the effect immensely.  It’s worth a read.

There were quite a few ‘discourses’ on religion too, which is commendable.  But, they were either pseudo-intellectual interpretations (such as that of Shikwa/Jawab-e-Shikwa), OR, reminiscing and lamenting the course of history.  When indeed, the need of the hour is to talk about ‘relevant’ issues from an Islamic perspective, and connect past to present and make “it” relevant.

Much of the rest was the same old drill, with the same trite and pedestrian topics:  we need democracy, we need this, we need that, and of course ‘political’ commentary having self-bestowed the ‘expertise’ to do so.

Then, there were the token ‘My first day at PMC…’/ ‘How I love PMC…’ topics.  Nothing wrong with it, but there are innumerable ‘real’ issues at PMC that one could talk about and there’s a dearth of material on these.  Instead of paying lip service to already used and abused topics, explore more avenues.  Nonetheless, the authors should be congratulated, as they at least chose to write!

In passing, I must mention that I do have a bone to pick with one particular poem, “The Potion of Love: A Panacea” .  I’ve been befuddled with this rather convoluted (and probably tasteless) recipe of ‘Love’, as it does not make much sense, even with layers of metaphor.  The aspiring poetess states that it is love [quote], “…for which cupid shared the blame.”  Apparently, it is the ‘magic’ of this cupid’s love that gives [quote], “…birth to hope, banishing barbarous plunders.”  Is she suggesting, that if every man in the world had a woman to love, and every woman a man, it would be a ‘Panacea’ [remedy/solution] to all of the world’s miseries?  I am confident, even a Bob Marley intoxicated with Marijuana, would think this far-fetched.

Now, to some constructive criticism, if I may.  Allow me to begin with the ‘editorial’.  I can’t recall having last read such a deplorable ‘editorial’.  To mention just one illustrious mistake; whoever even writes an ‘introduction’ (‘tamheed’) in a second paragraph?!  And, to think the Editorial Board had a ‘whole’ year to get it correct.

A further proof of the lackadaisical job done by the respectable Editor-in-Chief, is how he made a factual and historical error in one of his numerous articles, by calling the caliph ‘Umar ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz (ra) : ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abdul ‘Aziz.  What happened to proof-reading?  Cross-checking?  In short, editorial duties?!

Another beautiful example of how the whole range of Editors, Sub-Editors, Asisstant-Editors […], were completely blind-sided by the enormity of their task, that they seemingly decided to not do it at all: is plagiarism!  Yes, they even managed to have plagiarized material published.

To quote someone is one thing, but to have a whole page filled with someone else’s words, and write two measly sentences of ones own at the beginning, then have it published under one’s own name [even after having mentioned the actual author ‘Gabriel Garcia Marquez’], is blatant plagiarism.  No excuse for it.

I really can’t comprehend this conduct of Parwaz’s editors.  If they take their jobs more seriously, it could greatly uplift Parwaz’s stature.

Notwithstanding the unforgiveable editorial shenanigans, there IS a silver lining.  In this year’s Parwaz, some raw talent has shone through, which definitely needs to be developed.  Even with the unoriginal material, the standard of language, content, and its delivery has improved.  This by all means is an achievement.  Parwaz certainly has cause to celebrate, but still not much to boast.

For the Love of Urdu.

Urdu!

I have been reading Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi lately, and even though I can’t comprehend half of it, I feel enamored by it.  Not just with the way he writes, or what he writes about, but the vehicle of his expression: the language.  Not just trite, repetitive trash that passes off as ‘fiction’ these days, but refined and rich language that reminds one of what Urdu is (or was) all about.  Words and sentences that create a flurry in one’s mind, and add color to one’s imagination.

The greatest asset of an expressive language is not merely being a means of ‘communication’; rather it’s giving meaning and, layers of meanings to things small and large.  It is this expansiveness of words that gives life to ideas and concepts.  If words or their usage become obsolete, that much of meaning and understanding is also lost.  This is the greatest tragedy faced by Urdu today.  The Urdu as it was known, and what it represented in its heyday of literary achievements and scholarly output is arguably no more.  What little use of proper Urdu and its appreciation remains in our collective conscience must be preserved.

The following excerpt from towards the end of first chapter of Yusufi’s ‘Aab-e-Gumm’, I found it amusing yet true.

 

مرزا اکثر طعنہ دیتے ہیں کہ تم ان معدودے چند

لوگوں میں سے ہو جنہوں نے متروکہ جائداد کا کوئ کلیم داخل نہیں کیا

وجہ یہ کہ چلتے وقت تم اپنے ساتھ متروکات کا دفینہ کھود کر

! سموچا ڈھو کر پاکستان لے آئے

تفنن برطرف اگر ان میں سے ایک لفظ جی ہاں

صرف ایک لفظ بھی دوبارہ رائج ہو گیا تو سمجھوں گا عمر بھر کی محنت سوارت ہوئ

 

One needs to read Yusufi, to see the sheer humor in this excerpt.  I thought the use of word ‘matruka’ was quite clever.  Whether the person the person who said it intended it the same way as I am interpreting it, it does get the point across at so many levels, that Urdu words and terms are becoming antiquated.

But, the question is; if something has become obsolete, what is it replaced with?  And, what are the reasons?

Urdu really is becoming ‘matruka’, left off, unclaimed, irrelevant…

…Because of the cultural and social status we have accorded it.  It is considered unbecoming to use it in formal settings (and increasingly in informal ones too).

…Because, we are required to read, write, and understand ideas, concepts, skills – knowledge – in a language other than Urdu.  I’m not against it, I’m utilizing this very language.  But, the lack of emphasis on Urdu has meant that ideas, concepts, ethical precepts, religious injunctions, that are all by far and large better explained, or need to be explicated in Urdu, for the general masses, are overlooked.  If the ‘educated’ ones are failing at this, this could only result in gradual irrelevance and loss of language, and with it such crucial knowledge.

What is happening to us, more complex than ‘loss’ of language, but it is a critical aspect of this dilemma, this ‘loss’ of culture.

وہ لہر نہ پھر دل میں جاگی وہ رنگ نہ لوٹ کے پھر آیا

 

There’s no particular reason for singling out Mushtaq Ahmad Yusufi’s words, while writing this little article, except that his Urdu is extremely expressive (and hard!), and I had the epiphany of writing this down, while reading Yusufi.  I’m learning Urdu, for which reasons are many (some discussed above), and this is just a small token of appreciation.  As I learn and understand it more, I intend to cherish the fact that I ‘know’ it.  For now this should suffice.

 

یہ افسانہ اگرچہ سرسری ہے

ولے اس وقت کی لذت بھری ہے

 

Catharsis

I remember some wise guy once saying:

The freedom of expression guards our other liberties.

Freedom: a word full of meaning and beauty, but foreign to our society! Whether it be the freedom of speech or thought; you name it, and we don’t have it. “Why is it that every beautiful and noble thing is non-existent in our society?” I always ask myself! Anyway, I am not here to answer this question (neither am I in a position to answer this question ;-)). In fact, I am here to relate the consequences of the ‘absence of freedom’.

Everybody would agree with me on the fact that a lack of proper communication has a catastrophic effect on mental health; and it is as necessary as food or air to express oneself. Freedom is the most important thing to make this happen. We could fully express ourselves only when we feel that we are free to say whatever we have in mind. If we place even a single barrier, the whole purpose of communication gets killed.

Before proceeding further, I would like to justify this statement: “Freedom is the most important thing to achieve the real purpose of communication”. Whenever something goes inside, ultimately, it has to come outside. We come across a variety of feelings here in PMC on daily basis, for example, getting humiliated by the teachers, getting depressed because of samosa getting more and more costly, being let down by the fact that we are single and so forth.

These feelings do make their way inside our head, but they never actually come out of it. Could we tell our teachers of what we really think of them? Could we do something about the cost of samosa? Could we tell our friend that we are jealous of him/her because we are single and he/she is not?! The fear of a supplee never allows us to express our real feelings to the teachers; authority of the Café guy stops us from arguing over samosa price; and our ego prevents us from confessing that we are tired of being single! This evident failure to let go of our actual emotions and feelings has led to some extremely disastrous consequences, one of them being (as put in my own words) “a frequent, abrupt and nasty leakage of repressed emotions through certain highly unpleasant channels”.

Everybody has some companions who are otherwise useless but are a good means of releasing frustration and anger. We talk to them and feel somewhat relieved. Some of that “garbage” might get disposed of in this way but much of it remains within us because the above mentioned and other similar reasons compel us to never open up fully to them. We never talk to them about actual matter, hence destroying the purpose of communication.

At this point, I would like to quote Arthur Schopenhauer:-

The conversation among ordinary people mostly consists in hackneyed commonplaces, which they alternately repeat to each other with the utmost complacency.

The conversations that take place among us poor PMCians consist of nothing but hackneyed commonplaces. By taking part in these conversations, any keen observer would readily sense a degree of frustration that has arisen as a result of suppression of the underlying emotion and at the same time would get amused. The charm of these conversations is that they do not just take place among us fellows; they take place almost everywhere in PMC, that is, notice boards, walls, benches and anything that could bear the weight of our delicate emotions!

Thing that makes these conversations so special is that they are a genuine reflection of our collective mindsets and represent our true selves. Take a look at the following ‘picture’:-

I am not a Paindu!

It says, “I am a PMCian and I am not a PAINDU”. It is evident that the people who wrote this are suffering from an inferiority complex because they came to PMC from their pind with a hope that PMC would be a different place (a Camelot, thus to speak). But, nevertheless, we should admire their benevolence because they left much of the chart empty for the others to share their sorrows too!

Now, take a good look at the following placards which give glad tidings of an oncoming ‘book-fair’:-

Book Fair 1

Book Fair 2

The one on top, at various places, contains references to Munni and Sheela. Book-fair, Munni, Sheela…do they seem related to each other? If you are a PMCian, your answer should be: “HELL YEAH!” At other places, it says: “Sir Najam ki pencil mere pas hai, mujh se rujoo karein (I have Sir Najam’s pencil, contact me)”, “uthtay janazay dekho (see the funerals)”, “harkat check kar lo (check that action) etc.

The second one has these inscriptions: “haye Ammi, bhaoo (oh Mom, BHAOO)”, “chal rehn de baba kam kar (leave it dude, go do your job)”, “dafa maaro yaar (let it be, yaar)”, “Molvi teri to… (Molvi, you are a…)”, “jaldi lagaao yaar (do it soon, yaar)”, “Islamic bhai mujhe cheap books buy krni hain (Islamic bhai, I want to buy cheap books)”, “bachna ae hasino, lo main aa gaya (brace yourselves broads, here I come)etc.

Sometimes, the notice boards get polluted with filthy politics. As politics is also a means of letting the ‘garbage’ stored inside come outside, we see many politicians in PMC. Remarkable thing is that you don’t have to belong to some party to be a politician!

The following pictures show ‘politically emotional outburst’ which took place when a party planned an event and some other parties opposed the plan (and probably the ‘planners’ too):-

Political poster 1

Political poster 2

Now, see the rebuttal:-

Political poster 3

It says: “JALLAN KI MAARI (name of the opposing party has been censored)”

Apart from the vulgarities, indecencies, and random trashy stuff; some creative work could also be seen sometimes. Take a look:-

What a great BONGI is this?!

It says: “The RING IS MINE! SAURON LIVES!!!

ARAGON LIVES

FRODO LIVES

–What a Great BONGI IZ This?!–

Now, I would like to end this article with an advice: It is the freedom of thought which is actually important. Real freedom comes when your soul is liberated from petty desires. Learn to communicate with yourself. A famous nazm of Faiz is crossing my mind…

Bol, ke lab aazad hain tere

Bol, zabaan ab tak teri hai

Tera sutwan jism hai tera

Bol, ke jaan ab tak teri hai

Bol, ke thora waqt bohat hai

Jism-o-zaban ki maut se pehle

Bol, ke sach zinda hai ab tak

Bol, jo kuch kehna hai kehle

(Speak, your lips are free

Speak, it is your own tongue

Speak, it is your own body

Speak, your life is still yours

Speak, this brief hour is long enough

Before the death of body and tongue:

Speak, ’cause the truth is not dead yet

Speak, speak, whatever you must speak)

Regards,

The Philosopher’s Stone

Inside the Walls

Inside the Walls

I had originally decided to write a long post on the little trip I made with some friends to the Old City Lahore.  I had even managed to write four pages of a rough draft (I have a habit of writing on paper before I type it out).  But I decided to scratch the idea.  In fact, it wasn’t exactly a trip, because once we entered that intricate labyrinth of narrow allies and streets, that is old city Lahore, we didn’t know where we were going.  But, we kept on, turning from street into another…

…I guess this really is the whole allure of ‘exploring’, you don’t always know where you are going, or what you may come across.  But, also whatever you see, you find meaning in it…

An old building we saw, while finding our way through the slender streets:

After managing our way through a particularly narrow street, we suddenly found ourselves in much more open space, and realized we had finally found Masjid Wazir Khan:

 

Inside the Mosque:

 

 

 

In a bid to explore even more, since we had much time at hand…we decided to look for some other historical places.  It turns out, alongside Badshahi Masjid, and Masjid Wazir Khan, there are other mosques that are quite historic.  One of them being a certain ‘Saleh Kamboh Mosque’, which is mistakenly referred to as ‘Chinian Wali Masjid’ in many travel guides, which we later found out is yet another Mosque.

 

Outside Saleh Kamboh Mosque:

 

Probably the only thing I regret from the trip, is having missed the authentic Lahori breakfast, and that too in the very center of real Lahore, when I had the chance…I guess there’s always another time.