Till Death Do Us Part

I’ve caught myself thinking about death quite a lot these days.

With me, it always starts by wondering what will happen when I die. What’ll happen to me between death and the time that I’m sorted into heaven or hell? What’ll happen to those who love me, the ones I’ll leave behind?

But mostly, I think about what will happen to me if I lose someone. What am I gonna do, how am I going to live without them? I tell myself not to think about it, I tell my mind to shut up, but my overactive imagination will think up every gory detail until I have to force my attention elsewhere.

And I suppose that I am writing about this today because I realize that these thoughts are a result of the recent bomb blasts in Lahore, and the close call that I had with them. These blasts had stopped for some while, but have been going on for nearly half a decade now, and I had never given them so much thought because I’d become so desensitized to it. Myself, and so many others like me, who were lucky enough to not know victims of these attacks, have dissociated themselves from heart-wrenching emotions. I’m not saying that we don’t care, but when you think about it (if you’re one of these people), have you ever given it more than a fleeting thought? Has the pain of what the victims’ families must’ve gone through echo through you?

Because I know that after a very long time, have I allowed myself to feel for them.

I’m not saying you’re a monster for not crying yourself to sleep every time something like this happens – that’s impossible, seeing how many events like this rock our country. But I do think that we stop treating it so casually. We, as a nation, talk of these events breezily, because it’s our coping mechanism, but a lot of us forget that somewhere out there, someone lost their loved ones to these heinous acts, and to simply treat these attacks like a common occurrence, not giving them more than one thought, to treat them offhandedly in conversation, saying its something horrible yer not refraining from joking about it, is not the right way to go about it. Don’t forget them, don’t joke about them, don’t joke about the blasts, and just don’t forget to goddamn care.

What separates us from animals is our empathy.

(Note: These are my views – please do not be offended if you don’t feel this way. I know I have generalized, but I haven’t generalized everybody. I am not forcing you to feel the same way about this that I do.)

She tries

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She tries with all her heart and soul.

But she just can’t say it. There’s no way for her to show things to others the way regular people can.

She cannot express herself as well as others can. With her and others, it’s always a guessing game, with them trying to guess what she’s desperately trying to tell. If she ever talks, she mumbles; what others find most agitating about her. Most people actually think she’s mute, but the truth is far from it.

She’s a brilliant mind with no way to communicate to the world outside her head. And so when she hits a low point, with all that pent-up resentment and frustration building up inside her, she explodes. But not the way the regulars do, where they scream and shout themselves hoarse, effectively demonstrating to everyone how they feel. No, she cries. Her face burns red, like a fire truck, and tears stream down her face as she desperately tries to express herself, and fails to do so.

Because all she gets in return for her demonstration of her anger is just angry dismissive responses from her family. They’ll tell her to shut up, they’ll scream at her for creating such a ruckus, because they are too ignorant to see that she isn’t being a brat, she is actually having trouble telling you what she feels. They think that there’s no problem, that she just randomly bursts into tears. The only ones who realize that there may be something wrong are her parents, but even they are reluctant to admit there’s an issue.

And that is where the problem lies. Autism is not taken seriously, and parents and families around the world have a different response to it. Some, who are aware of it, have taught themselves how to treat their child so that she or he does not feel unloved. Others feel that beating them into shape will fix the problem. Others think that as they grow up, they’ll get better. Others simply ignore it, and try to hide their child when they find themselves in social gatherings.

Autism is a mental condition with varying degrees, characterized by someone finding difficulty in social interactions or understanding social norms, and cannot communicate properly. But parents think that it’s a disease, something shameful, when it’s not; as long as you treat your child as a human, nothing’s wrong. And its high time that this attitude changed. Autism is not something to be ashamed of. Rather, it is others who need to find the empathy they lack and just be kind.

Are T.V. Shows Just Entertainment?

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“Whoever controls the media controls the mind.”

The immortal words of Jim Morrison state the horrifying truth about everything we watch and hear; it’s all one gross manipulation.

T.V. Shows are entertainment, for all ages, but it’s the underlying connotations of what we’re watching that influences us.

Shows for children, like Mickey Mouse and Barney teach children many things; manners, good habits, and to a minor extent, survival skills. But other shows, like superhero animations (Justice League e.t.c.), feature violence and aggression, which impacts children’s social behavior. Either they resort to violence as a solution to their problems, or they become so appalled by the horrors of the world that they begin to exhibit anti-social behavior. Besides that, children, who are still developing, are unable to tell fact from fantasy.

The media also features unrealistic role models for children, boys and girls alike. People of color can rarely relate to any of the characters because ninety percent of them are white, privileged people. It creates disgust and lack of appreciation for their skin color. If you ever notice, very little children T. V. shows features any person who isn’t a size zero, and even if they do have extra weight, the characters are ridiculed because of it. This again makes children become weight conscious, and in the end all of this destroys any chance of them developing a strong mentality, and the child, if he or she does not receive help, will succumb to their insecurities.

The content of T. V. shows doesn’t only affect children. Studies show that in teenagers, watching T.V. helps them deal with loneliness. Essays written about their favorite T.V. shows have less words regarding loneliness. But is it really healthy to establish relations with fictional characters? Does it suppress their need for human interaction, or fulfill it?

T.V. has the same effect on teenagers as it does on children. They, too, develop violent tendencies, since a lot of teenagers watch cop shows, and two-thirds of T.V. shows feature violence. This also raises levels of street crimes. Studies have shown that there is a direct connection between media violence and the acceptance of rape, domestic abuse and substance abuse.

And again, the unrealistic representation of a women’s body in the media – the size zero, the hour-glass shape – has created a lot of insecurity among the female youth. Eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia e.t.c. are becoming more and more common. Increasing advertisement of calorie-rich food with low nutritional value influence teenagers’ food preferences, and marketers, who are just trying to sell their product, inadvertently cause obesity in adolescents.

Adults are also not left unaffected by this. The persistent watching of T. V. shows causes depression, which is a side effect of loneliness and separation from real human interaction. It’s also makes them violent, which can lead to domestic abuse.

And now, to address the issues in the television content of the Pakistani media, the media of my own country. The content of Pakistani dramas is the most pressing concern. Though recent dramas have begun to break the mindset of a mindless arranged marriage and is promoting the idea of love marriages, the most pressing problem continues to be as such; in every situation, the women is not allowed to express herself.

The moral of the ‘hit’ Pakistani dramas has always been that pride and ego will always perish in the end, because of the victim’s – who is always a girl, usually newly-wed – patience, perseverance and quietude on her part. These dramas reinforce a women’s inferiority in comparison to the man’s, who is always right, regardless of how untrustworthy he is. It reinforces the ‘acceptable’ actions of a girl, and her inability to express herself thanks to the constraints of society. The media promotes the idea that women are stronger if they suffer silently, and lose all their respect, rather than stand up for it and not let it be stolen from them.

And if the drama isn’t featuring the suffering women, it’ll feature two women pitting against one other over a worthless man. It is infuriating that the Pakistani media industry is incapable of producing a piece that features women in a truly empowering light, but the real truth is that the majority of the audience is illiterate and believes in what has been stated before, and in order to make their shows sell, they have to show all these demeaning aspects of a Pakistani woman’s life. Do you not hence believe that the Pakistani media plays the greatest role of in the moral underdevelopment and the presence of societal vices in our society?

The extent to which the media influences our thoughts, actions and decisions is difficult to comprehend, when you think about it. And so, I will leave you pondering with the words that left me perturbed for a very long time; “Whoever controls the media, controls the mind.”

Pakistan, Women and Divorce

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Here comes another rant about the Pakistani society.

My mother’s friend, who, for the sake of convenience I will refer to as my aunt, came over to my place to vent about her husband and her terrible marital life, which got me thinking about the poor mentality of Pakistani people. Her husband married another woman six months after they had just gotten married (polygamy for men is legal in Pakistan). And yet, to this day, eighteen years later, she’s still married to him. She narrates that she had wanted a divorce right there, right then; I mean, who wouldn’t?

Guess why she stayed married to that him, bore him two children, and suffered mental abuse at the hands of a vindictive mother-in-law, when it was so clear that he wasn’t worth it. Why didn’t she get that divorce?

Her parents didn’t let her.

And that is what today’s rant is about; the social ostracism that Pakistani women have to face when they file a divorce or get divorced (the difference is very stark here in Pakistan), which makes women and their parents afraid of having the taint of divorce on their daughter and facing all that stigma that they’d rather their daughter suffer than to come back home.

So many women today, even ones coming from literate well-off families, remain married to abusive husbands and subject themselves to mental deterioration; because no one, not their fathers, their mothers, their families are willing to support them when they talk about taking the step. Because no one wants to be the parents or siblings of a divorced women, because no one is willing to silence the judgemental and ignorant society that we live in.

Here’s the legend about divorced women in Pakistan; they will live alone, shunned by society, poor, helpless. No one will marry them again, no one will care for them – they are treated like second-class citizens in their own homes, by their own families. Technically, in the minds of Pakistanis, the home in which she was raised, in which she grew up, was not her home the minute she is married. One of the mottoes regarding marriages is ‘Susral se ab sirf tumhara janaza nikle ga’ (Now the only way you’re coming out of your in-laws house is if you die and they take your funeral.)*

For women in Pakistan, it is considered better to be married and living in hell than to be divorced. The justification is: at least you still have that ‘respect’ that a woman does when she has the name of a man other than her father’s attached to her name. A divorced woman is disgraced, empty-handed.

It’s high time this idea ended. The prevalent religion in Pakistan, Islam, allows divorce for the very purpose of dissolving the marriage if one or both partners are unhappy. But unfortunately, in Pakistan, women are demeaned and disgraced if they are divorced, to the extent that most women are afraid of getting a divorce, or housing a divorced woman.

Also notice how all this time, all I’ve talked about are women who suffer from divorced, not man. In this society, the same rules do not apply to men. They can easily remarry and continue with their lives, while it’s the women who have the face the ostracism and social stigma that has them running from the world. For men here, divorce is as easy as flipping a switch.

To be a woman is Pakistan is difficult – there are so many issues we have to face that I can never fit in one post. If one’s marriage is failing, her life is hell. She has the choice, but it’s a faux one, one only the courageous can make, the ones who are lucky enough to be supported by their families. But there are so many unfortunate ones who have no way out, or have gotten out and are now dishonored for their choice, and now they are drowning in the sea of misery created by the social constructs of this country.

Hopefully, one day, this attitude toward divorce will change, so that many beautiful butterflies can get their chance to live again.

*This is a rough translation, if you have a better, more concise one, please comment it, so I can update it.

 

To Be or Not To Be

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I will be what I need to be.

A mother. A sister. A lover.

A hero.

A sinner. A saint. A villain.

A monster.

A savior. A teacher. A student.

A mentor.

A hunter. A ruler. A queen.

A killer.

I will be what I need to be.

If that is what

i need to be.

To be or not to be;

that is not the question.

What to be

when you need to be,

that is the question.

 

On Hypocrisy

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I can stand a lot of things.

I can stand hubris, gluttony, misogyny, hate.

But I cannot stand hypocrisy.

You may wonder how someone who calls themselves a feminist can stand misogyny, but  not hypocrisy. The answer to that is very simple, I’m afraid. Misogynists believe that they are truly superior to women. They are prideful and incorrect, but their consistency is, in a way, admirable. They don’t sway from their paradigm; everything they say, they do, reflects their belief. But hypocrites, on the other hand, are not. They are inconsistent, to put it nicely. They say something but believe in the contradictory. Their actions are the opposite of what they preach. And it irks me, to no end, because it is so hard to call them out on their BS, because they change colors like a chameleon. A proverb in my native language, Urdu, says, “Na teen main na tera main.” It’s interpretation is that the person this proverb is referring to has his/her feet in both pools, and belongs to not one or the other, but rather belongs to neither.

That proverb accurately describes hypocrites. Like Janus, the trickster Roman God with two faces, hypocrites are multi-faceted, with so many facades its gets hard to keep up with them. Not all hypocrites are necessarily bad; they’re many kinds of hypocrites. There are those who are simply indecisive, unsure of who they are and what they believe in, and never tried to discover themselves, so they are left with believing in contradictory beliefs. They believe in one aspect of a broader topic that they say they firmly believe in, but at the same time disagree with another point of that same belief. There are others who changes faces for appearances’ sake – they are someone else, but will say are something else to appear popular or liberal e.t.c. Nonetheless, they are terrible company.

I think that my hatred dislike for hypocrites stems from my own experiences with them.

For one, my father is a hypocrite. Don’t get me wrong, I love my father, but that does not mean that I will turn a blind eye to his flaws, his biggest one being that he has no consistent and solid ideals. And for someone who’s hit their golden age mark, inconsistency in ideals is unexpected. He comes off as a liberal, but is against women working (he will never say it aloud, but he has expressed it in many ways). As long as I have lived in Pakistan, I am not allowed to go to many places out alone, with friends, without any supervision (though this rule has changed in recent years), but I’m allowed to travel abroad alone.

His hypocrisy makes it difficult for me, mentally, to take action, because deep down I don’t want to disappoint him. And, as I said before, its hard to keep up and appease all his multiple facets. It does not mean that I will not make ends meet to secure my future, but it does make it difficult.

I have had my fair share of hypocritical friends as well. A fun fact about me; I am very, very comfortable with who I am. I have never felt the need to have a lot of friends, a squad (though that would be cool), but I will never, ever throw away who I am to become popular. I don’t want a clique of friends. I don’t want to befriend every foreigner who comes to my school just so that I can seem cool (no offense to any foreigner, they are cool people, I just feel that many people throw themselves at them because they are the ‘cool’ kids, and lose themselves in an attempt to be someone they’re not). But I have been, and still am, friends with people who no longer seem like the people I knew just to fit in. Maybe I never really knew them. Maybe I still don’t. But to me, they seem like hypocrites. They’re nice people, great people, but still hypocrites.

Over the years, I’ve grown not to give to much of myself away to people, to prevent myself from getting hurt too much. I’ve suffered far too much heartbreak at the expense of friendship to feel secure in any, no matter how true their hearts may be. I have friends, people I love and enjoy talking to. I have a social life I am very comfortable with, albeit I might not go out often, I go out with people I love, I am comfortable with – I refuse to lose myself in the process of achieving immature, worthless high school popularity. I strive for a better future. I will not sacrifice teenage fun for it, but I will not sacrifice my ability to love, trust, my mental peace or my heart in this race.

I refuse to be pulled down by words of people who have no clue who they are, who are letting society thrash them around, and want me to succumb to the will of the ones who are cooler. I refuse to be judged for being at peace. To those who read this, take my advice; do not let yourself be belittled or ridiculed by people who could not care less about you, who are comfortable with changing themselves over and over again, not for themselves, but others. Find yourself, then look for those who complement you. It’s a better alternative than to lose yourself to this hypocrisy that’s embedded into the roots of this world.