Friday, 31 July 2009

Writer's Block- The Ways of Our Youth-Part II- By Bushra Hassan

About two years ago, my boss, who has a penchant for delegating, asked me to become an “Intern Supervisor”. Ours is a small-ish office, with few people but lots of interns. It is one of those places where important people like to send their children to polish up their CVs and young adults come to think they can influence change. In less than two years I have supervised over three dozen teenagers. By now, I’ve acquired the talent and wisdom to judge a child before they have even sat upon the chair, prior to the interview. I know them before I meet them. I see them from their CVs, and in the subsequent time they spend in the office, my beliefs are confirmed further.

The subject of youth interests me immensely. I was the youth less than a decade ago, so I’m amazed by the changes the country has undergone in such little time. But more than that, I’m a mother who wants to understand the youth, as my child will be one of them soon and I do not want the generation gap to be too wide. This blog is about my experiences with those interns.

Interns are of different kinds and backgrounds. I may be generalizing a little, and you might think I’m making sweeping statements, but the truth remains, every word is true. Here is how it goes:

a) The “cool” only sit and mingle with the cool. The children of the elite (who come through a top-down way) only befriend children of the elite. The young interns from humble backgrounds stick together.
b) Boys and girls check each other out in the first few minutes. The girls from simpler background lose out sooner, and frankly, care less about the “love in the office”. They are more focused and hungrier to achieve.
c) Many interns are accompanied by either of their parents for the interview, who without realizing it, stifle their child’s personality and/or confidence by being over protective and over imposing. You can see the child’s discomfort, every time. I have personally seen that these kids have the worst time adjusting and finding themselves during their time in the office.
d) There are no apprehensions, whatsoever, about little lies on the reference letter. I ask them to keep a list of the tasks performed, so at the end of their internship period, in their reference letter, I may add them. In all the interns, only two have been honest. The rest copy-paste from others, or just create things to sound impressive. It is a minor thing for them to ask me to extend the duration on the letters. It saddens me, this level of morality, so early in life.
e) Most boys, if not all, smoke. I have yet to meet an intern who does not smoke. They may hide it from me, but they do.
f) Interns are angry. Within six months of graduation, the youth is bitter and angry. They see jobs going to other children, and the cry “nepotism”. There is little acceptance that perhaps, just perhaps, they did not get a job because the other person was indeed better. They all believe they are the best there is, and they deserve all there is. And any decision to the contrary is corruption of the system. Within months, if not weeks, they are convinced that the system is unfair.
g) Most young men believe that they will move abroad and all problems with automatically disappear. Going abroad either through immigration (sponsored by daddy), or through education (whether scholarship or again, by daddy) will help solve all their life’s problems.
h) The kids genuinely believe they know everything. They are less open to new ideas, as their ideas have been formed and carved in stone. It is indeed difficult to convince them and to prove that honesty does exist. That nepotism only gets you so far. They are shown around our office where every one was hired on merit and merit alone, and they toss it aside as being the only office where this is so. This hurts me most.
i) They all enter the office to be an officer. All the interns I’ve had, had to be taught, that photo-copying and spiral binding are important things to learn. That you do not get to delegate to “support staff”, that you do not get tea on your table and the support staff is not supposed to clean after you. The helping yourself and helping others, is greatly replaced by “being helped”. The office support staff is made equivalent of domestic help. And there is little respect for the work they do. Every one is in a hurry to become a big “afsar”
j) There are two kinds of girls I get to supervise every year, who annoy me most. These are the ones who are either too humble, quiet and submissive; or too clever and passive aggressive. Many have both these tendencies simultaneously, like split personalities; sing whichever one suits them most. They start out as poor victims, and within weeks become the exact opposite. There is little balance. I realize now that these girls come from households that suppress their individuality, and this is their coping mechanism.
k) There is little interest in learning how to write. Everything is copy-pasted from the web. There is little credit to individual thought and innovation. Children are afraid of making mistakes, as it would cramp their style. So they don’t take risks, ask questions. It takes me a week so build the confidence in them to make mistakes, ask questions and think of the answers. Sometimes it takes longer. Our education system has dulled their intellectual creativity.
l) Most importantly, they want to change things for the better and they don’t know how. They have no one listening to what their dreams are and what they want to do. They have parents who either don’t care, or care only for them to become engineers or doctors. They are lost and want some one to hold their hand and listen to them, and guide them.

They are lost.

It pities me to see them like this because this is not their fault. There is a fault in the system that lacks quality in both the education and the upbringing. Both the “taleem” and “tarbiyat” have flaws. Most of the observations above are simply a result of inadequate time by the parents. Perhaps I am being too quick to judge, but two years and over forty interns has taught me plenty. It worries me that perhaps too much self awareness is a bad thing, because it leaves little space for growth and change.

It is never too late to change. I have learnt the mistakes I must never make with my child. I have learnt what I need to teach these interns the most. They have become like my children, they are the children of this nation, and our future is in their hands. Perhaps, when you see some one young and confused, you can hold their hand a while. In the meantime, their hands are held in mine.

San Francisco

Ok so my visit to this enchanting city is turning into quite an adventure!

The other day I was confronted by the fact that my better half left the house to catch a bus, and had left her cell phone behind!

I knew that if I stopped to put on some socks and shoes she would have been long gone! So I charged out after her bare foot down the road trying to get her attention, after 2 blocks she finally heard me! and I gave her the phone so she could stay connected.

All the while I walked back to the apt building, I wondered if I would have been able to run bare foot on the street in my city, the pavements here are so darned clean, by comparison, of course; I still went home and washed my feet, mind you! Bare foot! on Divisadero Street, while people watched me do the 2 blocks at a run, havent run a long while mind you I was quite pleased with my performance!

Then we went to the Theatre the ‘Orpheum’ where WICKED was playing, a treat from my Son Taimoor, when we exited, the place after the show, we began to look for a taxi, as everyone was doing the same, with no luck, we headed for the bus stop, as we turned the corner on McAllister, there before our eyes was a real live scene, from Starsky and Hutch ! for the uninitiated, it was a cop serial of the 80s 4 cop cars blocking the street and surrounding the bad guys, who had assumed the position! by that I mean legs apart hands high and apart up against the wall!! I was very tempted to whip out my camera and start getting some shots, but being unfamiliar with the cop-public reactions I thought better of it. Wow! We witnessed our first real life police action in San Francisco.

But getting back to the theatre, The Orpheum, it was magnificent! the interior took me back to the old world charms of the ones in London, it truly was so beautiful inside! I wanted to photograph the interiors but was stopped my the ushers as photography was not permitted inside the theatre, what a shame! I so wanted to share the sight with you!

I was walking along the street on a pavement, oh! yes I forget we dont have them much in my city! they barely have room for the traffic! leave alone the pedestrians! and you know what the minute you step up to the edge at a crossing cars immediately slow down and make sure that they stop when the light permits pedestrians to cross!

at each crossing I also noted, while I waited for the lights to change so I could cross, was this message:

 IMG_0430                  IMG_0431

That is how they make sure the streets dont fill with rain water, when it starts to pour! like its doing in another city in my country! They even encourage you to report anyone polluting the streets!

they even have a concept of citizen’s arrest! You as a citizen can arrest another citizen if you find them breaking the rules and laws of the city!!


Here are some of the areas I have seen for you to enjoy!

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Made in Pakistan

MADE IN PAKISTAN.....A documentary motivated by New York Time's cover story declaring Pakistan as the "most dangerous place in the world".

Produced by Pakistani filmmakers, it follows the lives of four ordinary citizens during Musharraf's rule in an effort to break Western stereotypes about the country. More details on Pak Tea House at the following link:

The film is being screened in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.

Lahore: 14-18 August09
Karachi: 31 July-2 August09
Islamabad: 8-9 August09

Venue and other details are discussed in the blog.

I think we should all make the effort to go watch the movie and to encourage such efforts by Pakistani filmmakers.

Mehr Zahra

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Lahori Fashion

Hey readers! I'm back after a long break with a fashion update for you guys :)

All over Pakistan, especially in Lahore, summer fashion includes straight pants with loose painchas, closer to the culots style, reminiscent of the early 9O's. Shirts are also longer and for those of you who feel bad as you've got small shirts stitched worry not as you can put satin ribbons on the daman, sleeves and collar as they not only increase the length but is also in style :) Dupatta has become complimentary and even optional, depending on the style you're wearing! Pastels are IN, as are floral prints, as opposed to geometric designs.Once stepping out you need to carry a water bottle, plenty of sun block, wear your sunglasses and tie a scarf on your head to protect yourself hair from the sun and the scorching heat!!

See you next week:)