Logic is Variable

an argument starts here

Mountain Might

For the soft adventurers, the prospect of climbing, rock repelling and trekking in mountainous terrain of Northern Pakistan can thrilling as well as daunting. Compared to a backpacking in and around Murree or bush walking in Cholistan, exploring high hills in northern Pakistan is an altogether different experience. Rather than jumping into the wilderness to get away from it all, you walk into thinly populated countryside free from roads and modern day civic amenities.

Mountain villages are caught in a time warp, their terraced fields stacked up huge hillsides. The paths are timeless caravan routes, trails between villages or tracks to high grazing pastures. It is an incredibly beautiful natural world. Only higher up in the alpine valleys are the villages left behind, to be replaced by herder's hutsand higher still, the ice castles of the lofty mountains.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 8:23 AM, , links to this post

Grand Trunk Road

Travelling on Grand Trunk Road all my life, it captured my imagination as a cultural curiosity when I read Rudyard Kipling's Kim. At the beginning of the last century Kipling called it "a wonderful spectacle.... without crowding.... green-arched, shade-flecked ... a river of life." But Pakistan's National Highway Number 5 (N-5), alias the Grand Trunk Road, or simply the GT Road, presents a different impression now. Commuting up and down the GT Road are caravans of trucks, buses, cars, animals and animal transport also auto-rickshaws, all having equal right of the way. On the GT Road every bus, truck, and a car must pass the vehicle ahead. "The GT Road," a veteran traveller John Otto wrote says, "really belongs to the trucker." And he is right in a way.

So much has changed since Kipling's description of the GT Road, which he saw "brimming with all manner of travellers -- rich merchants with elephants and camels laden with merchandise, guarded by retainers. The aristocracy on colourful horses and elephants with gilded howdahs for the ladies, their silk drapes fluttering in the wind, the raggle taggle of the gypsies roaming from one village to the next in search of food and work." The old identities have steadily defused by the common objectives for prosperity and development. Since partition, the new social and economic objectives have been the major engines of change. The only thing that still remains on this strategic, economic and cultural artery of Pakistan is that it is "the river of life."
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 12:00 AM, , links to this post

Urdu Blog

What is a blog? How is blogging phenomenon still evolving in Pakistan? Lack of content in Pakistan blogsphere and how quality local content can help create a new image of Pakistan? This review of Pakistan blogsphere appeared in Pakistan Armed Forces' Monthly Magazine Hilal (Urdu section) in May 2011 issue.

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 8:30 AM, , links to this post

My Cup of Tea

Pakistan is one of the best travel destinations in the world – desert expanses in Thar and Cholistan, Lush green plains in Punjab, mighty mountains in Northern Pakistan, Chitral and Swat, so many unexplored and just to yourself places, what else. Start of some of the world history can still be traced down to Pakistan – Indus Civilization. Moreover, Pakistan being one of the cheapest countries in the world is best for budget travelers. Which is why it is said that Pakistan has a lot to offer to every one; not only to travelers, hard core adventurers, mountaineers, and rural tourists, vacationers but also to anthropologists, archeologists, and researchers? (Also for those who want to sit back and enjoy the ride from the comfort of home). Read about my travel experiences at  Doodh Patti - My Cup of Tea.


posted by S A J Shirazi @ 8:28 AM, , links to this post

Helen of Troy, Cleopatra, Qura tul Ain to Umrao Jan Ada

Societies pride in different strengths: Some give importance to bravery, some to democracy, and some nations think that freedom of expressions, development and or education are the hallmarks for their long-term sustenance. “The nations should be judged on how they look at their women,” writes Abbas Khan, the author of Urdu novel Mein Aur Umrao Jan Ada, his eleventh.

There is a famous saying that every thing in fiction is true except dates. But in the novel written by Abbas Khan even dates are true because he has based his novel in the back ground of five very famous women in the history: Helen of Troy, Cleopatra, Qura tul Ain Tahira (Iran), Mughal Princess Noor Jehan and Umrao Jan Ada.

Helen of Troy was the daughter of Zeus and Leda and wife of Menelaus, considered to be the most beautiful woman in the world. Her abduction by Paris caused the Trojan War and made thousand ships drown.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 1:29 PM, , links to this post

Matters of hearts – Ram La’l’s love letters to Abbas Khan

Ram La’l is to Abbas Khan as Abbas Khan is to me. Only Ram La’l Abbas Khan equation is more visible in recently published book titled Sultnat-e-Dill Say – compilation of letters written by India Urdu writer Ram La’l to Pakistani writer Abbas Khan over a period (1987 -1995) of time. They are all love letters.

The beautifully published book starts with a travelogue by Abbas Khan who traveled from Lahore to Mianwali (birth place of Ram La’l) and Islamabad together with Ram La’l when the later visited Pakistan. The narrative of the journey clearly shows how interests and observations of both the writers are similar.

People still write letters in this age of fast communication when most have switched over to email, cellular phones and social media channels. In his letters, Ram La’l has documented the contemporary literary history. His letters to Abbas Khan not only show personal relationship, love and affection between the two but also document what was happening and how in different fields of Urdu literature – new books, short stories, translations, literary functions. Most of all, Ram la’l’s silent efforts to urge Abbas Kahn to write more and to write everywhere and to read, read and read everything published not only relating Urdu literature but also of diverse subjects that help understand human behavior.

I suggest everyone who has any love for the written words must read the book that is published by Caravan Books, Sadar Multan Cantt.

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 9:00 AM, , links to this post

Spider Cover story - High and Dry

This article appeared in Spider.tm

Pakistan's '1%' Internet population is divided between those who literally live on the Web and those who are clueless about its true potential. In the past, few technologies have affected the attitude of users of technology as the Internet. Although every one seems to be getting online these days but the fact is that the Internet is still in a formative stage with only a tiny percentage of Pakistani population having access to it, writes on S.A.J Shirazi

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 2:45 PM, , links to this post

Once upon a time, there was life offline

Having to survive without the Internet when every one seems to be living in the cyberspace and achieving is a new king of anxiety. It is very hard to perceive life offline especially for those who have integrated Internet in their lives and work.

The Internet is a shorter route to many things: obtaining information, conducting business, making decisions, socializing or spending leisure time. Researchers are trying to find out Internet's impacts on life on and offline. Celebration of the Internet Free Day or the 20-year net veteran Steve Cisler's expedition to put himself "in other people shoes who are not online" are some cases in point.

For generation that is growing up with the Internet, the essence of existence lies in their presence online and being disconnected in their totally connected circle means like living in a digital dark age. This fraternity thinks that every one in the world is online. They forget an overwhelming majority of humanity which is without the Internet. Convinced that there is nothing that cannot be done online, this generation looks up to the Internet world for help and support for every thing from writing term papers to writing emails 'to the future' or doing what many will not try in real life -- even shy adolescents are active and bold in the virtual world when engaged in Internet communications as a passionate past time. I browsed MSN Member Directory with my search preference (Pakistan, single and looking, age 20-29) and found 20 pages of results showing Pakistani males and 20 pages of Pakistani females. Well, in today's world, the Internet does net people in a well knit circle together!

Always looking to own new gizmos, experience new technologies and find ways to do novel things online, it is the youth who are future computer scientists, engineers, programmers, developers and end users (also the Web queens and the Net princes). Youth are worst affected by no access to the Internet or outages. How do you perceive life without the Internet? "Without the Internet my life is unimaginable. It gives me feelings of being a dweller of the Stone Age if all of a sudden I were to quit use of the Internet. But like radio, television, or telephone, or cars and microwave ovens, the Internet is not going to go away. So I think of making best of it rather than thinking about living without it," says Sara Kazmi, editor Ravi, a magazine of Government College University Lahore. Jaffar, a Syrian student of de'Montmorency College of Dentistry Lahore says, "A lot of thrill and interactivity is attached with the world online so it really is painful to perceive life without the Internet."

The other categories hit by no access or disconnections are of IT professionals and those end users who are supplementing their earnings by pursuing income generating activities online. Zahid Shahzad, a techie says, "When I am disconnected, I attend to those assignments that otherwise keep piling up in the in-tray waiting for my attention. And, I keep jotting down things and thoughts, what I would do when online." Hafiz Munir is an urbanite computer engineer with his roots in the village where his mother, brothers and sisters live without telephone or possibility of the Internet access. He says, "I have always been going to my village to refresh my urban attitudes but going has become greatly difficult since I have put my work and life on the Internet. And it is no only me. No IT professional can afford to live without continuous connectivity. One of the reasons is that others assume IT people as 'on call' every time."

Users who have been online all their life have started taking it for granted. Any interruption, short or long, is frustrating. What do you do when you have to live offline for reasons beyond control? "Me and every one in my circle (presence on the Internet seems to be defining social circles) groans and grumbles when ever there is a disruption in connectivity; and there are so many," says Sara. Enthusiastic users have connections from more than one ISP (and the Internet cards at hand) and still "the first thing I do is to ring one or two ISPs and inquire, then I ask my friends before I decide what to do. One has to run around if there is a hardware or software problem that needs a repair or reinstallation. In our country you can do nothing in case of electric failures, telephone line disruptions or ISP 'maintenance' problem. Even respective departmental inquiry stations and help lines will not tell you what is happening," laments Arshad Mahmud. And Hafiz says, "After ascertaining the cause, I look for alternatives to remain online till things are back to normal at my own work station."

Acquiring necessary skills and hooking on the Internet at later stages in life was a major shift for those who were in the middle of their life when Internet necessitated changes in job specifications and descriptions as well as in societal norms. It is comparatively easier for this class to strike balance in on and offline life.

For Maryum Yunus, switching from the position of a sub editor in a print publication was a major shift -- especially in terms of Internet access and experience online. "The usage of the Internet mainly depends on what sort of work one is doing. I have Internet exclusively available to me at work as well as home. For my newspaper job, use of the Net was essential for me. I would logon and remain online more though I never was a freak. My present job as the Assistant Manager Image Marketing does not require active use of the Net. I only need to go online every now and then for a short duration to download my emails, fire off replies, weed out spam to keep the inbox under limits, exchange Hello Hi with friends if I can could catch someone online or to surf any specific site and look for particular information. Life never stops for me if I am disconnected or do not go online for days. After all people had been living, working and communicating even before IBM launched the personal computer. No?"

Life offline is rather harder for those who are yet striving to go online; those who are aware of the Internet and what people are accomplishing online. In our infrastructure poor country, majority of people are not online, for a variety of reasons. "I always dream about life online and what all I will be able to do when I join college in the city," told Mumtaz, a metric student from village Mong who is using computer since last one year and is to go to the city for college education where he will be able get connected. "People are migrating to cities for providing opportunities to their wards in the online world," says Hafiz.

There is an equilibrium point between the virtual and real life though it is getting difficult to point out where that point is. Life online is difficult but life can be much more enriching for those who are online, can take control of the Internet and are not mesmerized by its rhythm.


posted by S A J Shirazi @ 10:58 PM, , links to this post

Dot on the map

Flying over Astola Island (Pakistan)‚ my first sight of the Island and the speed boat anchored in a bay far below quite took my breath. Pointing hull of the boat lay in pale blue shallows‚ riding on the swell. Even a hardened seaman would have melted at the sight of a creature as beautiful as the speed boat. I looked forward to the promise of sailing around the Island in a boat and later exploring it in the company of botanist experts on a purposeful visit.We landed on a rough helipad marked with a circle in lime on the edge. Soon a sleek and small boat puttered towards us. I felt like a warrior and navigator Vasco da Gama, when he reached Calicut on May 20, 1498.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ 10:20 AM, , links to this post

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