One's personality is both a composition and reflection, but if I have to choose one of them, I will choose reflection as the "self" is more important to me than "me". One's composition may change, walking across the cultural landscapes and climbing the social ladder but one's self is tied to one's reflections. The fun part is that reflections are not bound to "Time-Space" barriers ( it is not time-space) and respective mental constructs, which have grown so thick over ages, that they had reduced the image of humans to Sisyphus, rolling different sizes of boulders on hills of different heights.… As the name of this Blog indicates, knols are my perspectives on topics of interests, sweet/bitter experiences or just doodling :)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

A Young Man Who Shattered My Concept of a Buddha

Until now, I had this idea that all those who leave their homes for a greater purpose are living Buddhas (By Buddha here I mean, an enlightened person). On morning of January 23rd, some pictures put the first hole in my this dear concept, and on January 25, I had to rethink the whole concept anew. I had to accept that I had built my concept of a Buddha on a snapshot of the first Buddha’s act of leaving his palace into the world out there to find “the truth” as essence of Buddha’s whole story. This was definitely kindling my thinking, while I was shaping and reshaping my plans for wandering into the world out there. On January 22nd, I woke up with the terrible news that a suicide bomber has blown-up a bus carrying pilgrims in Mastung district of Baluchistan. It was not the first suicide attack on buses of pilgrims, and in words of Mushtaq Ahmed Yusufi, the Pakistanis who live out of country hear bad news so frequently, that they have become sensitive like seismometers who start vibrating with any news come out of the country, and pray that this one shouldn't be true, and every time, the news turns out right. The pain and suffering is heartbreaking, and the inability to have a helping hand is nerve-racking. That day, the news had no human-face and the victims were just numbers.

The next day (January 23rd), the first images of victims started surfacing on the social media. Among them, the pictures of Ibtihaj and his sister Umm-e-Farwah caught the attention of media. The pictures were speaking loud the love of the sister and brother , and their enthusiasm for life.As I mentioned at the start of this knol that, on January 23rd, some pictures put the first holes in my dear concept of Buddha. These were the pictures. These pictures reminded me that leaving the home for a purpose is just the start of becoming a Buddha. The journey is not the purpose. The purpose is to overcome the suffering. It was a wired feeling. A true tragedy that has occupied my mind. I was not able to stop not imagining a young boy who has to live the rest of his life missing his dearest sisters, mother and grandmother (Ibtihaj had lost his two sisters, mother, grandmother, and he himself was injured in the event and was hospitalized). If just the image of such life was so painful, how this young boy is going to cope with the pains that he has to live the rest of his with? I just didn't want to think beyond this. It was these thoughts that made me to think about the teachings of Buddha. My understanding of  his teaching was that, life is suffering and suffering starts in minds and the only way to reduce the suffering is through the mindfulness. In other words, my concept of living Buddhas were replaced by the teaching of the Buddha. It is very likely that brain is wired to compare the contrasting images, as out of no where the image of Spozhmay came to my mind. The image of 8-years old, visibly disoriented and distressed Spozhmay (arrested teen-female suicide bomber) started to appear even more painful to me. They say, "young souls are innocent". There were two different pictures of teens on my screen. At one side, teens that were filled with love and life and lost in the suicide attack. On other side, there was a teen who was forced to blew herself up.She survived by failing, but her pleas for life and protection from her brother was equally painful. At one side, there were brother and sister who were best friends, and on other side, there was a sister who was asking protection from his brother. What I could do? These images were facts on the ground and I had to live with them. I had to incorporate the Buddha's teaching that life is suffering and suffering begin in mind. The sooner one accepts the fact and reconciles with them, the lesser are the sufferings. It is easy to utter these words, but practically, it is not easy to not think about the families who have to live the wounds for the rest of their lives.

On January 25, an image of Ibtihaj surfaced on the social media that was showing him making a victory sign with a smiling face. That was unbelievable, and it shattered my all concepts altogether. Here is a teenage boy, who has lost 4 members of his family and he himself is wounded, but do not show any sign of pain or weakness. He had left his home for a purpose (pilgrimage) and had been through worst possible suffering and yet has not let pain and suffering overcome him. If Buddha is a person who has overcome his suffering, so far this boy definitely fits my new concept of a Buddha. I pray that he stays strong, and grow even stronger in the course of his life. He is definitely a source of inspiration.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Army and the Poeple

Mastung, Balochistan: The artist portrays terrorist attacks on Pilgrims
Taliban attacked army in Bannu and Rawalpindi, and army swiftly responded with aerial bombings on their hideouts (So detecting, locating and eliminating enemies in remote and lawless places as North Waziristan and Afghan border is not a problem for Army). In comparison, we see regular suicide attacks and executions of pilgrims and passengers on the same highway, on the same place for more than a decade. The place is called Mastung, and it is just a conglomerate of some small villages and  a small town in the immediate neighborhood of provincial-capital-city Quetta, which is one of the largest Army cantonment in the country (It is not a remote place like North Waziristan) and yet, it appears that these terrorists have license to kill at will (As they openly claim and campaign for the murders and vow to continue their mission of cleansing, give regular press conferences, have offices around the city, do make open hate speeches and do political businesses). What this dual behaviors imply to people, especially, when people hear everyday about Jihadi forces as strategic assets, strategic depth (even if it is denied verbally, the actions speak otherwise), politicians keep rationalizing "jihad" against citizen and sometimes against law-enforcement agencies, the financial aid of extremists and the country by cheap oil and charities from gulf monarchs? Aren't these behaviors say to people that there are three classes of people, the real assets is army, the strategic assets is jihadi forces and people are at the disposal of these assets to use, whatever serve best their interests. It is definitely not the matter of incapability of government in general, and there can't be any question about the capability of army in particular, but apparently, the class mentality (even a tacit form of caste mentality). Only the lives of army, the people from privileged communities in seats of power, and the jihadi assets are valued. The rest of people's lives have no value and can be sacrificed whatever serve their interests. It just make this idea look real that it is not the people who own the country but the army (of course these words make us feel bad as for long we had cherished the army and letting go this feeling is not easy, but as they say, there is no escape but to submit to reason)

Right now, that I am typing these words, it is 5:30 AM in Quetta, and men, women and children are sitting on the streets, next to coffins of victims of a suicide bombing, in a sit-in protest (They have been there since yesterday and have vowed to sit there until army takes action against terrorists). It is the third of these kinds of sit-in protests. For last decade, both provincial and federal governments have made promises on  multiple occasions but people have yet to see any action against perpetrators. Each time that government ease off  the people of Pakistan with the promises just to forget them soon is only making this feeling more strong that the people is not asset of the country, and should not think of themselves to be equal to army and to the jihadi terrorists. The media laud the people for their peaceful and nonviolent protests despite their losses, but for how long and how much second-class citizens (modern word for lower castes) should pay for their patience?

They say, "In order to catch alligators, you need to drain the swamp" but there are reports that billions of rupees funneled through banks to terrorists each month. When terrorists are killing people with ease of mind, knowing there is no government to check on them, and they get billions each month, then people can only expect more lethal and brutal attacks. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Dialogue On Hazaragi Language : An Opinion

                             Rob standing next to his mud-oven with an engraved Greek Letter pi 
Almost a decade ago, we had a discussion about Hazaragi culture, and one of the friends, who was about 25-30 years older than rest of us, told us about some characters that his mother used to engrave on the mud-cooking stoves, and that, those characters had resemblances to Chinese characters. He had asked his mother what those characters mean, and why she is engraving them? Her reply was that she had learnt this from her mother, and don't know the reason. It was a tradition that had survived by passing from one generation to next generation until mud-cooking stoves were replaced by oil and gas stoves. It was his opinion that those characters may had been some Buddhist or Shamanistic prayers or talisman that predated Islam and adoption of Persian language, and somehow managed to survive until his mother's generation. The characters may had been changed over time by copying and individuation processes, but they were there. Since that time, I have been looking for those mud-cooking stoves first hand, and the only place that I hoped to find them were in Hazarajat, but I have never gotten a chance to visit Hazarajat. May be some friends from Hazarajat could verify this and document those characters. Alternately, it is also possible that those characters were just some decorations and had nothing to do with history or ancient culture. Only documentation and research can bring them to the light (if they exist, because it is all based on narration of a single person). I put these two pictures as examples that even in our time, there are individuals (like above picture) who engrave things that interest them on things they build (like some sort of personal signature, tattoo or motto), or it could be just a traditional way of putting trademarks (below picture), still we can't rule out that those mud-cooking-stove engravings had some linkage with a historical practice or an ancient language (anything is possible) 

A traditional Example (Japanese): Setsu engraving in the mud-stove from setsu Farm 
The reason that I started this knol by mentioning a lost tradition of engraving characters on mud-cooking stoves is to point towards something, that in my opinion has to be included in the ongoing debate about Hazaragi language on social media. People who argue that Hazaragi is a language and those who argue that it is just a dialect of Farsi have some good points, and I definitely enjoyed reading them, but I think, what matters even more is to understand that language is something of a daily usage by people. Let's for sake of argument suppose that Hazaragi is a distinct language, how long will it survive? The reason that I am asking this question is that each year 25 languages are disappearing. Yes, currently, there are few million people, who speak in Hazaragi, but looking to rising rate of migrations and urge for adaption of global languages make the future of the language look very grim. Language is not a historical artifact or a historical building that could be preserved by putting them in books. It is a tool that people use on daily basis (I recommend to read this BBC article: Are dying languages worth saving?). The replacement of mud-stoves by oil, gas and electric stoves, the tradition of engraving mud-stoves with characters have died. It is a very natural process. When we were kids, we had tens of games that we were playing on the streets, but now computers games have replaced those games. You can document those games but you can't make children play those games instead of computer games. It is how cultures evolve. Technologies and globalization make us constantly learn new things and replace our traditional tools. Fearing technologies and globalization is not a solution but understanding how things work and adaption is the solution. If Hazaragi is a language and it has to survive, then it has to grow to remain a tool that people continue to use it on daily basis. Otherwise writing a few poems, a few stories or making a few dramas won't make it relevant for long as billions of more interesting, entertaining and useful contents in global languages are competing for times of the people.

Now let's suppose that Hazaragi is a dialect of Farsi and its usage by people expands, it won't take it long that it will become a distinct language. As I said before, the most important thing is that we have not to miss the point that language is a tool of daily usage. The only way that its usage can grow is that people have to feel the need to use it. Take the example of English for example. It has grown to become global language because the center for technologies, sciences, global trade and politics are in the English speaking areas. To make it more clear, although English has grown to become a global language, yet, the classy and artistic expressions are  borrowed from French, the expressions for law, wisdom and scientific terminologies are borrowed from Latin and Greek, a number of mathematical words from Arabic, words for natural well-being and fitness from Buddhist and Chinese traditions, philosophical words from German, Italian words for stage and performances, and so on. These words didn't enter into English because some academicians planned to do so. It happened because Greeks pioneered Philosophy and Sciences, Romans mastered laws, French have made fashion and sophistication their trademark, Chinese have masterfully balanced the mental and physical health in their cuisine, exercises and philosophies. Please don't take me wrong. I am not suggesting that Hazaragi will survive or become a distinct language only if we do what Greeks, Chinese and Romans did. Instead, I am stressing on the point that a language can't survive on its own. It needs distinct things to be expressed in it, in order for it to become distinct. If we keep developing indigenous traditions in arts, literature, food, sports and on that is distinct to us, we will need expressions for them as distinct, and that is how a language will be able to stay relevant for daily usage and can grow to become distinct.

One more point to support my argument. Hazaras were living in Hazarajat since their origin with total blackout of history, and there are only few things that made them come to light, The resistance of Hizb Wahdat, Buddhas of Bamiyan and nonviolent protests of and for Quetta. Similarly, just the existence of a language is not a guarantee of its survival in the future. It needs distinct things to make it distinct, and it needs important things to become important.

To further my point, take example of India and Pakistan. Pakistan is partitioned from India on the basis of two nations theory (Although Hindu and Muslims of subcontinent are racially same but culturally they are two different nations). After partition, the film industry was also divided. The Indian film industry made better films and despite of governmental bans on Indian movies, they were widely watched in Pakistan and now the Indian film industry have practically killed the nation theory. Pakistani youths listen, sing, dress, act and speak the language of Indian movies.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Where Is My Glasses?

Impressed by the technological leaps, naturally, I was also looking to the worldviews as futuristic and filled with ambitions of conquering Universe. No doubt, naive are the impressed, and so was I. But the good news is that naivety is not a permanent damage. It is a temporary blindness of imagination, and if that is too much, I can concede to call it temporary seizure of imagination, or as an alternative I can call it poverty of imagination. Thanks to thousands of years of inherited-gossips, we can be poor at anything, but not words, and thankfully, I can use it lavishly without fearing that one day, I am going to run out of it. They are certainly, not of those natural resources that can't be renewed (so there is no worries about any carbon-taxation or facing protests of activists), and they are definitely going to inflate like fiat-money (You have to guess the rest as it is becoming too political). I hope you are getting it by now, that why am I asking for my glasses at the title of this knol?. I am going out of focus too soon, and need my eye-glasses to come back to the point, I started. 

OK, back to the starting point, I was so impressed by the technological advances that when first time, I read about Nietzsche declaring that "God is dead", I thought, wow, certainly, there is going to something mind-blowing. I have yet to understand, the invisible God, and philosophers have killed Him a century ago. Now, I was naively looking for something beyond God, bigger, better, mightier and smarter and ....etc. As I dig in more, I found, hey, am I going to the wrong direction? Is it just me having this problem (because I got a poor eye-sight) or there are other people also like me, who have orientation problem? When God was alive in the philosophers' minds, humans were looking for themselves in the image of God, but after killing Him, they are looking for traces of themselves in millions of animals, plants and in-between organisms. Hey, isn't that like we are walking backwards instead of forward. I had heard, when a person or a nation becomes old (In words of street boys, close to other side than this side), and can't see any hope in the future, then seeing into future becomes painful, and he starts looking into past, starts fantasizing his past, glorify it and start liking to live there. Whenever, he faces a difficult time, he looks back and sees his glorious youths, with all those tops that he had conquered, those jubilant moments with outburst of happiness, or his old kingdom of youths, where he had no worries, and feels better. One who has fallen into love of past, don't need any kind of morphine for any pain. Isn't that chronic-disease of Muslim world? All their assertion is to recreate the past, as their present and future is too painful and unlivable? (In fact, they are so scared of their present and future, that they miss no opportunity of destroying the present -boooom- and see those who try to take them forward as traitors, and do not hesitate to wipe those kafirs -grrrr-). I have to correct the Marx and say, past is the strongest morphine ever evolved or can be created. It can affect billions to a point of no chance for recovery. Again, where is my glasses? 

You may argue, your body, organisms, rocks, lands, water and atmophere and everything natural holding the real history and the rest are just social constructs. I certainly agree with that. There is no escape from facts, but technologies are not history, they are constructs. OK, I take back my arguments and say, there is disconnect and widening gap between technologies and our world-views. Technologically, we are moving forward, and intellectually, we are moving back. Oh, right, that is what Picasso painted. See, I need my glasses. I go back again and again to Picasso and each time, see something new there, that I had missed previous times. I can't escape not be impressed both while looking forward and looking backward. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

I Stayed Silent

He was really enthusiastic to take me to the hotel that he was taking his daily lunches. He explained, "It is the proportion of onion and tomato that determine, whether a gravy is going to be sweet or sour. The key to good cooking is to keep the track of proportions" Although, most of his tips and stories were repetitive, as I had heard them countless times (Occasionally, he was giving some rare insights about life, that proved to be valuable times and again to me), but he was so enthusiastically telling them that, it didn't matter to me, what he was talking about. I just wanted to listen to him. His talks were like music. You had to focus on the rhythms than lines. I was sure, the same is going to be true about his choice of the hotel, and I wasn't really going there to taste the food. I just wanted to see the satisfaction in his eyes. I just wanted to see him taking pride in touring me into his world. That mattered to me more than anything else. As we entered the hotel, I immediately noticed why he liked this place. There were couple of his friends that greeted him in their own style (using trade language) The cook was almost the same age as he was. The hotel was one of the tens of ordinary hotels around the city. There wasn't anything special to the hotel. The worn-wooden benches, large wooden double-doors that were hinged to wooden frame and opened against outside walls, the soot-black ceiling, a raised place for cook and his utensils. Everyone were talking with everyone else, not just with persons sharing the same table, but across the tables. The cook and the waiter were not only good listeners but also active participants. The topics were shifting quickly. I was so comfortable there that I could sit there for hours and just listen to them. Our lunch arrived. "How is your food?" he asked. "I really liked it. You have a great taste." and then I looked into his eyes, to see the sense of pride, satisfaction and kindness in them (Frankly speaking, I always prefer having my food at home. No matter, how great a hotel is, they can never match the comfort of home). I sensed that he was observing me, while talking with his friends. I tried to focus on my food and do not let him feel that it wasn't different than what I was used to eat. A young-man entered the hotel. He had squared face, long hairs, thick eyes-brows, narrow-eyes, humpy-nose, and plump body. He was clean-shaved and neatly dressed. He ordered tea. As soon as he entered in the conversation, the environment of hotel suddenly changed. Everyone became serious. I sensed the tension in the hotel. He was questioning everything, from their beliefs, values, practices to their life-styles. These men, who I doubt anyone had a proper schooling, trying hard to convince him that these traditions had stood the test of times. They were throwing parables, proverbs and examples from their experiences (apparently, these were all they knew) to defend their values. But the young-man was seemed determined to straighten these middle-aged men. Several times, I wanted to jump in and to face this man, but I controlled myself and stayed silent. I stayed silent because I was concerned that by my participation, he may feel that I thought, I am better qualified to face this man than him. I always wanted him to feel that he is in control of everything. The debate ended without any conclusion, as both sides apparently arguing against themselves than their opponents. The young-man left hotel and things slowly returned to normal. I guess, he had forgotten about me, when he was debating that young man. "What do you think about arguments of that young-man?" he asked me. "He is just trying to discover himself. He is going to grow. Don't feel bad about his arguments" I chuckled.... "If I was that young-man, I would have asked a lot of questions about your experiences that our generations have never gotten a chance to know. Only a gemologist knows the real worth of a gem" I added.