Source: THE FLIP OF THE COIN!
Lets agree to disagree, but with due respect to each other!
In the times we are living in, discussions and arguments have mostly gone online. The debates which once were a part of the drawing-room culture have become an integral part of the electronic, print and social media. The options for people to comment online on news, blogs, posts and write-ups etc, have opened up new opportunities for the readers. There were times when after reading something of importance or interest in the newspaper or a magazine, I would discuss it with the people around me. We would talk about the issue, argue, agree or disagree, but never in a manner where the other person would feel that his opinion has been brushed aside, or he is being demeaned for his views. Maybe being polite in a face to face discussions was not only an important requirement of a debate it was considered an essential part of good upbringing, and no one wanted to seem rude or disrespectful to each other.
But the huge swing of technology and the easy access to it, has changed people’s attitudes and also the way they discuss issues these days! As a regular visitor to the blogs of reputable publications, I have noticed how ugly a discussion can become. It may be about politics, religion, a social issue or even a game! Most people with differing opinions mock, insult and in extreme cases verbally abuse those who have a different way of seeing things. This I-will-punch-you–in-the-face-if-you-dare-to- disagree-with-me approach is on the rise by the day.
People make an argument an ego matter, and win they must, either by hook or by crook! Instead of making it a means to a better understanding of a controversial issue, and trying to see things from the other one’s point of view, they prefer to belittle or mock those who do not agree with their way of perceiving an issue. The use of profane words is on the rise and some people really think it is “cool” to use these words in their comments. The words which once no gentleman even dreamt of using in public, have become so common that even our children are using them! While reading comments I often come across words like absurd, shit, nonsense, unintelligent, ridiculous, repressive, trash (just to mention the softer ones) etc. Some call the other’s views silly, illogical and appalling! All barriers of civility are broken and we seem to forget that there are always two faces of a coin.
It is perfectly okay to disagree, because it is our basic right to have our own opinion on different matters. But the point we often overlook is that each and every individual has a different view, which depends on his/her social and cultural background, religious beliefs and the moral values which run in a family! And education, though last mentioned, should be the on the top of this list.
Why is this new approach getting so common? What are we teaching our young generation? Have we becoming more egoistic by the day and feel it is our right to thrust down our opinion down our opponents’ throat, least caring that we may even choke them with our efforts? Why is our society becoming so brutally intolerant, with a total disregard for a difference in opinion? Where will this frame of mind lead us too? Why are all barriers of civility broken when we do not see eye to eye with someone?
All these are disturbing questions that I ask myself! There is already too much hatred and dissent in our world. Instead of being judgmental, raising accusing fingers and resorting to mudslinging, let’s try to create a more tolerant world through discussions and trying to understand differing views. Or else, we should be prepared to hand down a legacy of hatred and contempt to our younger generation.
In Pakistan, the illiterate have no access to newspapers, magazines or the social media. The less affluent, even if they have a formal education, are too busy trying to make the ends meet to spare time reading and commenting on posts and write ups. So only the educated middle and upper class are among those who take interest and can take out time to participate in these virtual discussions. Education brings with it tolerance; a respect for the views of someone who sees things from another angle or perspective. And keeping in mind the class who has an access to the social and print media, I think it should try to be more open-minded and flexible. Instead of making our comments sound like a slap on the face, we can make them polite and respectful. Mocking, insulting or ridiculing someone who does not see eye to eye with us, only proves that we are educated illiterates!
Let’s agree to disagree, but with due respect to each other’s opinion. Proving yourself right and the opponent wrong should not be important, a debate should be a means to hone the mind and bring a broader perspective to one’s outlook on controversial issues!
A slightly edited version of this blog was published in The Express Tribune Blogs
(Before starting to read this blog please keep in mind that this is not a religious sermon! At the moment, keeping aside my firm belief in the teachings of Islam, I am just writing this piece as a social and cultural responsibility).
Hawa mein urtaa jaaye mera laal dopatta malmal ka…one of my cherished childhood memories is about this old song! On some days when we could not think of some other game, I and my twin sisters would sneak Ammi’s doppattas (each of us rushing to grab the red one). We would sing this popular song of those days, dancing clumsily on our spacious terrace, as the doppattas (too long for our small frames) flew behind us in the air!
Dopattas were once considered an integral part of the dress code in the Indo-Pak subcontinent. Long flowing scarves which covered the hair and bosom, were considered an important sign of femininity. Worn with a shalwar qameez, they also differentiated our women from those belonging to the Western andother cultures and were regarded as a cultural/religious symbol.
Sadly, over the decades, the influxes of foreign influence, plus a general misconception of women empowerment, have made our women let this beautiful piece of clothing fly away from their dresses. For good!
It is a common sight to see grown up girls and even women dressed in shirts (qameez) with shalwars/trousers/ cigarette pants whatever, with no sign of a doppatta. I personally feel that their dress looks incomplete, as if they have forgotten an important part of their suit at home! Because in my opinion, a doppatta carried properly adds grace, charm and beauty to a woman’s looks and is in no way a hindrance or hassle for her.
After being hesitant for years, when I finally decided to write on this sensitive issue, I felt that taking the views of young girls would be more appropriate. Because considering my age, anyone can easily accuse me of doling out unnecessary (aunty-like) advice which does not go with the requirements of the progressive times we are living in. Both of the girls who have given their opinion are daughters of my friends and highly educated professionals.
Quratulain Ahmed, an entrepreneur, (also the chief motivator behind this writing), speaks her mind in clear terms. Out spoken and liberal, she does not mince her words while giving her views. “Belonging to a conservative Urdu speaking family, I wasn’t even allowed to wear jeans to college since my mother disliked it. Shalwar Kameez was the only dress which I and my sisters could wear once we outgrew our teens and started developing our bosoms. Wearing a dupatta was a must for us. For four years, I went to a liberal arts college managing a duppatta with the art material etc I had to carry daily. But gone are those days and Dupattas are now considered out of fashion. As someone has put “less is more”, women have stopped wearing them.
Zehra Awan, who has recently completed her ACCA and works with a reputed accountancy firm says, “Before giving my views on the disappearance of doppattas from the female apparel these days, I would like to mention that I was also one of those young girls who had done away with this important part of the feminine dress in our culture. Somehow, I thought wearing it was a hassle and a hindrance to my movement, whether I was at work or in a social gathering. To be honest, one day I suddenly realized how inappropriate it was to go out without a doppatta! It didn’t take me long to realize that I felt much better when I wore a doppata with my dress as I felt safer from unnecessarily prying eyes and somehow I was also more inclined to pray regularly.
“Although I admit that wearing a dupatta has not made me more religious or a better person, nor has it clarified all the rights and wrongs in my mind, but one way in which it has changed me is through my womanly conscience and sense of security when I step out of my house.”
Qurat muses, “Western influences in our culture have crept in slowly over the decades and sadly it is now acceptable so see a Muslim doppatta-less woman in a sleeveless dress in public places, social gatherings and on the television. What I would like to put across is where are we headed next? Our media is portraying the Pakistani woman as modern in the dress not in the head! Doing away with an important part of your dress empowers you in no way! If a woman feels that not wearing a dupatta makes her look chic and fit better in the crowd then she is headed in the wrong direction. If this mind set continues, I fear that soon those who wear this graceful part of a dress will be termed as backward or conservative.”
Says Zehra “I do not want to pass stereo type comments like how shameless is a girl moving in public without a doppatta, or how her parents have failed to instill our cultural values in her mind, or (worse of all) no decent man will ever marry her! A person’s character, family background or values are not for me (or anyone) to comment on so blatantly. I am not sharing my views to mock or ridicule any woman out there who does not wear a dupatta. You can be covered in a burqa and be a worse person than the girl next to you who is wearing tight fitting jeans and a sleeveless top. Your personality and character is yours (something between you and your Creator) and not something to be judged by your clothing.
Zehra continues to share her views “I want to confess that I find myself actually looking better, more graceful and lady-like when I wear a dupatta which I now feel is the true essential piece which completes a female outfit. Sometimes I wonder why I completely stopped wearing it in the first place. I find that there is no fashion that I fail to meet while wearing a dupatta, nor do I find myself less modern or open-minded while doing the same. On the contrary, I feel more secure when I move in public. How can I complain of a man staring at me in bazaars or on the roads if I have left my dress incomplete? A woman’s beauty is never in what she shows openly and to everyone; it is in what she keeps hidden from the world.”
I wonder how do I round up this piece of writing? I just want to convince women that discarding your doppatta is not a status symbol, nor does it prove that you are highly qualified, progressive and liberal. It is only a matter of confused conception of what is modern and chic. I would like to request to all those out there who have done away with their doppattas, whether it is due to peer pressure or a misguided desire of being called up-to-date or progressive, please promote your own culture instead of a foreign one.
Doppattas may not be ‘IN’ for some girls/women these days, but they are definitely not ‘OUT’ for others. This is the main reason all designers are still promoting three piece suits and have not yet compromised with the length or breadth of a doppatta. I firmly believe that dopattas are an inevitable part of our cultural dress code and will not be blown away with the wind, come what may!
آ ئینہ دیکھتی ہوں میں تو ٹھٹک جاتی ہوں
ایک انجان سی صورت نظر آتی ہے مجھے
حیراں ہو کر میں کرتی ہوں یہ خود سے سوال
دکھی کر دیتا ہے مجھ کو میرا اپنا ہی سوال
یہ جو چہرہ ہے یہ مرا چہرہ تو نہیں
یہ جو آنکھیں ہیں یہ مری آنکھیں تو نہیں
اس نئے چہرے کا تو لگتا ہے ہر اک نقش اداس
دھواں دیتے نظر آتے ہیں نگاہوں کے چراغ
میری آنکھوں میں تو رہتا تھا تبسم رقصاں
لب پہ رہتی تھی ہنسی کھلتے گلابوں کی طرح
خامشی میں مری ہوتی تھیں ہزاروں باتیں
چہچہاتی پھرتی تھی میں کسی بلبل کی طرح
ہر طرف میں تو جلاتی تھی محبت کے چراغ
میں سمجھتی تھی زندگی خوشیوں کا ہے نام
ہر طرف پھول ہیں مجھ کو کانٹوں سے کیا کام
دکھ کتنے ہیں مقدر میں مجھے معلوم نہ تھا
زندگی کا یہ روپ بھی ہے، سوچا ہی نہ تھا
کھائے جب زخم تو زیست ہے کیا، یہ میں نے جانا
پھر بھی تھے عزم جواں، ہر مشکل کو آسان جانا
ہنس کے سہتی رہی جو زخم زندگی دیتی گئی
اپنے اشکوں کو ھنسی میں میں چھپاتی گئی
شکوہ کرنا نہ کبھی دل کو یہ سمجھاتی رہی
کبھی راہ میں ترے بھی جلینگے محبت کے چراغ
وقت بہت بیت گیا تو میں نے یہ حقیقت جانی
اس جہاں میں وفا کی کوئی قیمت ہی نہیں
تلخیاں گھلتی گئیں کچھ اس طرح دل کے اندر
اک اک کر کے بجھے سب وہ محبت کے چراغ
اب ہے آئینہ اور اک اجنبی چہرہ ہے
جس کے ہر نقش سے ابھرتا ہے اذیت کا سراغ
اور یہ چہرہ مجھ سے کرتا ہے ہردم یہ سوال
ہے کوئی جو کہ دے اس کے سوالوں کا جواب
وقت کے صحرا میں کہاں کھو گیا تیرا وہ وجود
ہر طرف جو کہ جلاتا تھا محبت کے چراغ
3-10-2015…….I posted this blog two years back, hence readres may note a difference in the days mentioned. I still feel the lessons of Eid ul Azha should be re learnt, not only by children but also by grown ups like me!
My house is strangely quiet for the last two or three days! In fact, the street I live on has also lost its extra ordinary hustle and bustle. The happy kids, enjoying the glorious days before Eid ul Azha, are no more to be seen as they are back to their school and home work regimes.
The city was bustling with activity till last Tuesday! Cows and goats were the most sought out living beings treading the earth in our part of the world. Discussions revolved around them, prices and sizes being the most important issues! Mothers had thrown caution to the wind as children came and went out…
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Eidul Azha is just round the corner. As I step into my terrace with my evening cup of tea, I hear happy shouts of children. I peep out of my front door and see a few children of the neighbourhood having the time of their lives, as they race their goats in the lane. A group of those who haven`t yet attained this honour are participating in the celebration by running along, clapping, shouting and urging the goats to run faster.
Some have even managed to sneak twigs from their gardens and are offering it to the goats in the hope that the proud owner will allow him to race the goat for a while.
The most frequently asked questions among the children these days are, `Have you been to the mandi yet?` `When will your dad get the sacrificial animals` and the most troublesome of all `Howmuch did you (or your father) pay for this goat (or cow)? Eidul Azha is steadily becoming a competition, a rat race to acquire the largest or most expensive animal in the neighbourhood, whether it is a goat, a sheep or a cow. Those of us who have paid a hefty sum for their animals display them around proudly, grabbing every opportunity to mention the price. The people who are regular in performing the yearly sacrifice but cannot afford very expensive animals, feel a bit let down. Although they are sure to join the daily ritual of walking and racing of their goats, the feeling of embarrassment is written loud and clear on their innocent faces.
Is this display and competition the real spirit of this festival? Let us remind ourselves about the true spirit of Eidul Azha. This great Muslim Festival, which is second only to Eidul Fitr, teaches us great lessons every year. It is not about boasting how much we can spend or showing off how rich we are. On the contrary, it teaches the lessons of obedience, sacrifice, compassions and how we should share our blessings with those who are not as privileged as we are!
Apart from the religious aspects of the lessons we learn and relearn every year (total submission to the Will of the Almighty), Eidul Azha revives in us social and moral values. The lesson we learn from this festival of sacrifice is universal and applicable to all mankind. It reminds us of our blessings and kindles feelings of compassion in our heart for the poor around us.
Last year, just to check if the meat seller in my locality was charging me the correct rates of beef and mutton, I asked my maid at what rate she was buying these commodities. She looked at me with a rueful smile, “How do I know baji? It is difficult to manage daal roti (lentil and bread) for my big family, I can’t afford to buy meat. We have beef and mutton only at Baqr eid when people like you give us some, or sometimes when a baji like you gives away her leftovers.”
My maid’s reply taught me a disturbing lesson. We have more than one dish at our table each day and one of them is sure to be of meat, whether it is mutton, chicken or beef. But if I look around with a compassionate heart, I feel that I have more of everything than what I really need. And I always took this blessing for granted.
Dear friends, this year when your parents are distributing the meat from the sacrificed animals, urge them to give away bigger packets to the needy. Instead of stuffing our fridges and freezers with the meat, let us think about those who have not been able to afford sacrificing an animal and will so happily and thankfully like to receive some meat from others. These people cannot afford to buy meat otherwise the rest of the year too. Let them have a hearty feast with their families and enjoy the meat for a few days. If possible, make some extra place in your freezers so that you can store small packets for your household helpers, which they can take away after a few days.
Festivals are happy occasions meant to bring people together. They revive in us the spirit of sharing and on Eidul Azha we are taught to do this by sharing the meat from the sacrificial animals so that there is a feast in every home, regardless of status. And you can share your extra clothes, books, toys and other items of daily use which are more than your requirements. Spread happiness among the less fortunate by sharing your blessings with them because, in the end, the spirit of sacrifice, compassion and love for humanity counts, not the size, health or price of the goat, sheep or cow we sacrifice on Eidul Azha!
Two of the main lessons we learn from this occasion are obedience and sacrifice.
Obedience: Most of my young friends know that the sacrifice of animals Muslims make from the 10th to 12th of ZilHaj every year is to commemorate the great sacrifice of the Prophet Ibrahim A.S. He dreamt that he was sacrificing his only son Ismail as Allah had ordained him to do so.
Both father and son had no second thoughts in complying with this Divine Order, but Allah in His infinite Mercy, replaced the little boy with a ram. The lesson we learn from this great sacrifice is universal and applicable to all mankind. We should obey the Almighty without arguing or complaining. Our parents and our teachers are our greatest well-wishers in this world. Often young minds cannot contemplate what they ask or expect from us, but obeying without complaining always brings good results for us.
Sacrifice: Children are the most valuable assets of every parent, who leave no stone unturned to keep them away from all harm. Prophet Ibrahim’s A.S readiness to sacrifice his son on Allah’s command teaches us an important lesson. When we observe Eidul Azha and sacrifice animals, we part with a good amount of our money, but we make this sacrifice to help the people who are not as privileged as we are.
A close friend’s mother, who was bedridden for the last two or three years due to a stroke, (and was suffering from multiple health problems) was rushed to the hospital after she had a silent heart attack. When I and a mutual friend went to the hospital to enquire about her welfare, a peep into the ICU was suggestive enough for her fate. Tubes seemed to protrude from different parts of Auntie’s frail body and an oxygen mask nearly covered her pale face. A very active woman in her prime years, she was a fighter by nature, but it was too clear that she was losing her battle for life. To my surprise, I found my friend confident and calm, “Ammi’s doctor says that she will be shifted to a private room in a day or two and go home once she starts taking and retaining oral meals”. Either she didn’t want to share her fears with us or was in a state of denial as the writing was clearly on the wall!
When I called a couple of days later, for the first time I sensed a note of panic in my friend’s voice, “I am feeling scared!” she said in a worried tone. “The doctor just says let’s wait and see in answer to my queries. Ammi has not been shifted from the ICU yet and seems to be slipping into a coma”. As she kept on sharing her fears and concern for her mother with me, unconsciously my mind slipped into the past and I remembered with pain similar times when the tide of my father’s life was ebbing! I was nearly tempted to say, “I know what you must be feeling! I have been through this situation”, but somehow I bit my tongue before the words slipped out and instead tried my best to console my friend.
After hanging up I sat in deep thought trying to admonish myself, “This is the moment my friend needs me to share her concern and fears with, and not mine to go back down memories’ lane and tell her about my painful experience. Her grief is the present, what I have experienced is the past. Such remarks had pained and irritated me in my moments of grief and I shouldn’t make this blunder today when a dear friend is going through a similar situation”.
Auntie passed away peacefully the next day and when my friend’s son called to inform, though I felt sad for her, a sense of relief also engulfed my heart. Thanks goodness that I had held back my words just in time. By lending a sympathetic ear, I had done the best a friend can do in a hopeless situation!
Often when someone close to us wants to share his woes with us, expecting sympathy or a word of advice, we make the blunder of cutting him short and declaring, “I can understand what you are going through because I have been through this!” or worse still “Someone I know or a friend knows has had a similar experience”. We forget that the person in distress is in dire need of a listening ear, and badly wants to pour out his problems with someone he thinks will be helpful and kind. Or better still, in a totally no-win situation, offer a shoulder to cry on. Hardly can we imagine the feelings of the distressed person, who is cut short with a confident, “I know what you must be feeling. I have been through this!”
More than a decade has passed but the painful memories of the last days of my father’s life is still fresh in my mind. A patient of acute Ulcerative Colitis, he was not keeping good health for the past many years. And finally, he was rushed to the hospital after extensive rectal bleeding. Although Daddy’s doctor tried blood transfusions and the required medications, nothing seemed to work for him and within a week, he slipped into a near comatose state. The doctor was sympathetic but practical, “Take your father home and make him as comfortable as possible, because medically nothing more can be done for him.”
I can never forget the sense of deep agony and total helplessness of those days. With hearts heavy as lead, I and my siblings watched the tide of life ebbing from our father, day by day, hour by hour!
Relatives, friends and acquaintances came pouring in to enquire about Daddy’s welfare. But it became very frustrating and annoying because most of them had a story to tell. “So and so had similar symptoms in his/her last days!” “I can feel your pain as I have experienced this traumatic situation. My father/mother/spouse/ child/friend died in such and such manner.”
With a heart nearly bursting with pain, I often felt like blurting out rudely, “No! You can NOT understand what I am going through! This dying man is my beloved Daddy, the iron-man of my life who loved me dearly but ruled over me like a tyrant, who made endless efforts, either by bullying or coaxing, to bring out the best in me. How can you understand my agony? This grief is mine and totally different from what you (or someone you know) have experienced in the past! And at the moment, my pain is too deep for me to care about how so and so died! ”
But every time I felt like saying something as blunt, an inner voice told me to keep quiet. These are all well-wishers, only their mode of sympathy may not suit my state of mind! I tried to convince myself again and again.
The pains of those insensitive remarks linger to the day. The painful experience of Daddy’s last days has taught me an important lesson. There is a time to listen and a time to speak. Only by lending a compassionate ear and a shoulder to cry on, we can help a dear one to cope with his pain. I cannot and do not undermine the importance of kind and consoling words, but only when they are uttered at the correct moment! Often while sharing their woes, our friends just need a hand to hold, a sympathetic ear to listen and a caring heart to understand.