Shaista Zaid Retires

Source: PTV

Shaista Zaid is a name synonymous with English language news bulletins for my generation, those growing up in the late 80s and 90s in Pakistan. But actually, her career spanned over 43 years.

I have been talking of late of how we have completely lost the Pakistan we once knew and grew up with, let it be the sights and sounds, the culture, the solidarity and the experience, so there goes another part of the old Pakistan with the announcement of her retirement on July 21, 2012.

Here is her brief biography. It is hard to believe she started her career in 1969.

Well she had to stop reading news one day, though she never seems to get old. But she will never be forgotten by my generation.

I hope she enjoys her retirement.

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The Life & Death of Rajesh Khanna

Source: movies.ndtv.com

Rajesh Khanna passed away on July 18, 2012 and somehow I was sensing it for quite a few months. And I know you don’t have to be a psychic for that, a lot of people had the same feeling as well. Everybody knew it was going to happen and everybody knew they would feel terrible about it, unless for some reason they either hated Rajesh Khanna or old Bollywood.

Speaking of people hating Rajesh Khanna, it was only a coincidence that the May 2012 issue of Stardust had republished an article dating May 1986 in their “Blast from the Past” section, reading “How Rajesh Khanna Tried to Molest a Newcomer” with the subheading of “A Star-Mother’s Cry of Anguish”. The article features explicit references of Rajesh Khanna’s attempts of molesting the then-newcomer actress Sabia and how Dimple Kapadia’s father detested him as a pervert.

While this would forever establish Rajesh Khanna as a typical male culprit in the eyes of many, I must confess that it only makes him more interesting and mysterious to a part of some of us. Without glorifying the alleged acts. Though not sure how trustworthy this gossipy magazine is. Also, It is worth noticing how Rajesh Khanna would have felt a couple of months before his death had he noticed this article himself. Why I am talking about this, I am not sure but just because this has brought forth to me a dark yet fascinating and mysterious side of a superstar who is a household name.

Source: Mid Day

I cannot really say if I have been a huge Rajesh Khanna fan, or one at all, but I had absolutely no choice on how much his films would influence my life, as would be the case with many of you, because I literally grew up watching them. I am a huge old Bollywood fan and it was the golden age of Bollywood when Rajesh Khanna reigned supreme as the undisputed superstar of the silverscreen, particularly the fascinating 70s. He had a haunting face, it disturbed me as a child, yet I could not tell if I loved it or hated it. It was impossible to ignore him.

Some of my most favorite Bollywood songs were from the movies of Rajesh Khanna and that is something which becomes a part of you forever and ever. It is just a matter of feeling it and it is just a matter of acknowledging it, or you could just choose to ignore it. I think the day of his death was a good occasion when at least I would consider it important to stop ignoring it. I must confess I have been thinking about the old man quite a lot over many months. How he must be living. What must be going through his mind. How his relation would have evolved with Dimple Kapadia after the separation.

I think Rajesh Khanna was an important actor, though I cannot say that he was a great actor, but an important one because he appeared in very important motion pictures such as “Anand”, “Amar Prem”, “Aradhana”, “Kati Patang” and “Mere Jeevan Saathi”. I am missing a lot in this list I know, especially the mention of his killer pair with one of my favorites Sharmila Tagore. However, this was a time when Bollywood still pursued somewhat intellectual subjects in its filmmaking in a subtle manner, confronting existential issues, reflecting on life and death and how humans coped with tragedies, much of which has been turned into monkey circus, especially in the last two decades of Bollywood.

I think Rajesh Khanna was an actor that marked the golden era of Bollywood, the end of which just saw the beginning of its monkey circus. This is why he is important and this is why he needs to be remembered, regardless of the fact that he must be overrated and perhaps not as skilled an actor as his worshiping fans may claim him to be, as some would like to point out. It does not matter, he achieved all that and at the end of the day, you cannot help but like him.

One of the reasons I am a Rajesh Khanna fan is the fact that Kishore Kumar, who is my all-time favorite singer, was always the voice behind his face on the screen. This is something that I simply cannot ignore. One of the greatest songs that touched me from his movie “Safar” was none other than “Zindagi Ka Safar”. I often wondered while listening to this song what Kishore Kumar would have felt while singing it and what Rajesh Khanna would have gone through filming it, and especially when he would have looked back at it after all the years that had passed.

Whatever those thoughts maybe, I simply cannot get this song out of my head ever since Rajesh Khanna’s demise.

Rest in Peace.

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August 24, 2012 – 1720 HRS

Update: Thanks to Roshni Mitra, a correction in the post. The film “Kora Kagaz” did not feature Rajesh Khanna. Thanks for pointing it out. Corrected.

Take Morality Out

Artist: Eugene Delacroix (Source: lib-art.com)

The world seems to be exploding all over the place. There simply seems to be no rest, there always is news about something terrible from one remote corner of the globe and there is always something horrible happening in the other. Manmade bad news, I mean, to be precise.

But it was a different world altogether that you were told about, wasn’t it?

It was a different society that you were about to become a part of. It was a different set of values that your parents taught you and it was a completely different code of ethics and morality that you were supposed to follow at the end of the day.

However, what you find happening is completely different. As if there are different worlds existing within the only one that we know of holding life. As if there are different moral standards existing in them.

But that’s true. There are different worlds existing within the only one that we know of.

There are different, several moral standards existing in all of them. With serious consequences.

It all becomes a shock, incomprehensible, wickedness, evil, war, violence, crime, sin, murder, rape, genocide.

Everything seems to fall apart. It seems as if all that you have ever been told was a lie. And that is a fact. A fact of our world.

A world in which several different worlds exist, with several different moral standards.

A lot of things that are told to us about this world, and about this life, are nothing but blatant lies. All things you read in elementary school, all the imaginary ideals, all the myths of the ages and why you should try replicating their clearly senseless, idiotic and pointless impossible heroics, and how you are expected to behave when the other person clearly does not.

It has all been an effort to make human beings a civilized being out of what they really are and will always remain. Animals with destructive instincts and intellect to worsen the destruction and complicate their evolution. Tamed less unsuccessfully by some than others.

Well, even if it sounds most outrageous and ridiculous to you, try doing that. Take morality out of the equation for a moment and you will find that everything would seem to fit in place. You know, the missing piece of the puzzle.

There is no need to care for your neighbor. There is no need to care for people in the remote corners of the world, or even on the streets of your city.

No need to be bothered about genocide and mass murder of a different race, or even your own, as long as you are safe, surviving and thriving. Do not blink an eye on lust-starved men raping a defenseless woman, turn after turn, waiting. There is even no need to cry about the starving children of Africa. Let them starve. It will shorten their misery.

Besides, this explains a lot of other things. Explains why there is so much war, killing and violence around the world. Explains why there is rape, abuse and torture.

Explains why there are religion and politics, which are supposedly there to bring moral justice to the society and actually end up worsening everything.

Why not? They are but merely evolutionary tools. Why not?

Just take morality out for a moment and everything falls into place.

Everything becomes simple, that man is an intelligent animal which would get just about anything it wants by using just about any way possible. It’s just plain and simple.

If there is only one loaf of bread left in the whole world, what do you expect a hungry animal would do to react to it? And how would you expect it to respond to its fellow creatures or to any other creature which is about to pounce on the solitary produce of grain?

How would you react?

Well, probably you would have shared. Probably not.

I took morality out and a lot of things were better to understand.

A lot of things started making perfectly good sense.

Don’t listen to the lies your parents and schools tell you… too closely.

Source: © 1968 MGM/Stanley Kubrick

The Religion of Brutal Murderers

Source: Bazuki Muhammad/Reuters/CFR

Well, let’s not restrain and offer respites when something so atrocious occurs in the name of faith and religious fervor that it defies all standards of cruelty, barbarism and inhumanity. Islam has proudly maintained a very consistent record in this regard, at least in the recent years, along with other great faiths of the world, particularly at the heart of its very own Islamic Republic of Pakistan. A state where the most fervent and the truest of Muslims in the whole wide world live.

Fervent Muslims are pretty interesting as far as their keenness in inquiring about others’ faith is concerned. Especially when it concerns their own faith and are yet said to believe in the scripture with the “to each his own” kind of verse, as far as faith is concerned. However, they still seem very much concerned about what people around them seem to believe or not believe in, particularly when it has anything remotely to do with their faith. Poor Ahmedis. They should have chosen connection with some other faith.

An essential part of the Islamic faith, with some schools more enthusiastic about it than others, is to scan their environment for blasphemies and to eliminate the guilty party or at least start babbling about it. While the very act can argued to be potentially intellectual and beneficial from an evolutionary viewpoint, it nevertheless contradicts the high claims of the adherents of this faith of its transcendental code of ethics and humanity, and probably of those who have falsely popularized the misnomer of “Religion of Peace”.

Speaking of that, it is important to clarify here that calling Islam the “Religion of Peace” on the basis of the fact that the Arabic word “Islam” means “Peace” is wrong. It is so because in the context of the religion, the word “Islam” means “Submission”, which could also extend into the functional meaning of oppression. But that’s detail. So why are we talking about the “Religion of Peace” again?

It seems that the Muslims in Pakistan, which apparently are the truest in the world, have no better pastime, apart from oppressing women in the most creative ways, than scanning their immediate and not-so-immediate environment for blasphemies. Another such event occurred in the Chanighot part of the great city of the Princely State of Bahawalpur. A wild, angry and extremely pious mob set a man on fire on a public square on the charges that the person had desecrated the Holy Koran.

Well, there is no point recreating the scene, as you can read the story at this link yourself. Apparently, the pious were not happy, that the man, a malang, a Sufi ascetic holy man who is usually not in control of his senses due to his perpetually intoxicated state of mind, was arrested by the police on the charge of blasphemy. The clerics of the area made inflammatory speeches that enough justice was not done, which inspired the locals to set the police station on fire, as well as the culprit, who was burned alive in a public square, as the police stood there, witnessing the historic and spectacular punishment.

Undoubtedly the punishment for the apparently mentally challenged person, who most probably even would not be aware of what the Koran actually was anymore, could not be more appropriate and fitting. After all, how can anyone dare not respect the truest of all the scriptures. Especially when it is believed by the truest of all the Muslims. The punishment of such a blasphemer should be worse than death. They should be tortured to death, burned at stake.

While you could argue that the miscreants in this case do not represent the vast majority of Muslims, it is better that you save yourself the trouble. I won’t stereotype here but I have pretty systematically and personally found even the most educated of Muslims acting in the same spirit and principle as the violent and blood-thristy mob in Bahawalpur more or less did, whenever it comes to blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad or the desecration of the Koran. Even though there is no body to account for the way Muslims sometimes treat the Koran themselves, but let’s not enter the realm of raising doubts about the doubtless faithfuls.

The greatest evidence of that came right after the murder of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer in the January of 2011, when right winger extremists, particularly Barelvi Sunnis, who claim to be a peaceful sect, and even lawyers, the defenders of the bigoted constitution of Pakistan, were dancing in jubilation and showering praises and rose petals on the criminal murder Malik Mumtaz Qadri, which they proudly deem the “Ghazi” or the “surviving hero”. This is evidence enough of what this religion has become in Pakistan, if it ever was not like this once.

However, apologists would say that the act of this tiny mob in Bahawalpur or that of a fanatically fervent security guard should not be blamed on the entire Muslim community and the great faith of Islam. While that is true that the entire community must not be blamed for these “remote” acts, but there is no doubt about the fact that the community is not fulfilling its duties to discourage such events, which actually occur on regular basis. Thankfully, we always conveniently forget cases like Aasia Bibi. What is worse, such brutalities and discriminating murder have been institutionalized by the Pakistani state in the blasphemy law.

This is where these actions exit the domain of mobs and individuals and enter the supervision of the mosque, the state, the law and the clerics and the religion of Islam itself. This is where all the possible defense of the faith of Islam is destroyed in my books. Certainly such a faith deserves no respect or immunity from criticism at all. Also saying that there is nothing in the Koran that even alludes to the punishment for blasphemy is a meaningless argument because the Hadith-abiding Sunnis of Pakistan, who believe in murdering for blasphemy as an article of faith, don’t give any weight to it.

However, if there is any trace of humanity left in this gang of brutal and heartless murderers, then they should at least condemn the most painful torture and the most horrific murder of a man who was not even in his senses or for a crime that he probably didn’t even commit, or even if he did, did not commit it consciously. I think the elated founders of the religion or of the belief that death should be the penalty for blasphemy themselves might have exercised caution in this case, if I may wishfully assume that.

A lot of people in the West criticizing Islam are accused of “Islamophobia”, and while the prejudice against Muslims do exist, there is no doubt that there is a lot of reasonable criticism on Islam which Muslims conveniently dodge in the name of religious freedom. Unfortunately, there are quite a few parts of their faith which leave the realm of religious freedom and fall under the definition of crime and human rights violation. That is where religious freedom ends, sadly for them.

Therefore, it is the duty of progressive, educated and pragmatic Muslims to take a stand and start criticizing Islam in order to make the necessary and required improvements that it needs. It is so because any non-Muslim will be conveniently labelled an Islamophobe, just like anyone criticizing Israeli atrocities is conveniently labelled an Antisemitic. Therefore, people who really want the world to respect Islam and count it as a peaceful and non-violent religion, must have to take the initiative to bringing about the necessary changes.

I am usually not too eager to quote secular Pakistani journalist Nadeem F. Paracha but he wrote a really pinching piece on this event and the growing extremism of terrorist proportions in Pakistan. It’s a real reality check. Something that every Pakistani child should try reading to free themselves of the inhumane faith that they are conditioned to believe in.

Or the critics of Islam would keep on saying from time to time, again and again, as I read somewhere in an online discussion.

The Religion of Peace Strikes Again.