Published in Dawn on June 22 2016
IF you ask 100 women in Pakistan whether they work, 78 of them will respond that they do not – our female labour force participation rate is 22pc. If probed further on how they spend their time, they might mumble: “I cook, clean, send children to school, buy groceries, and take care of infants, toddlers and the elderly …” The list would go on.
Published in Dawn’s Books and Authors in November 2015
“I’m a storyteller. I’ve always been more interested in storytelling than in writing,” the Italian writer with the pen name Elena Ferrante said in one of her rare interviews conducted via written correspondence. No wonder that Ferrante’s writing is a phenomenon that has taken the world of literati and readers alike by storm. Termed as modern classics, her novels have attracted a huge readership. Originally written in Italian, the series has been translated into English by Ann Goldstein. Her much-awaited The Story of the Lost Child, the last book of the Neapolitan series, came out recently.
Published in Dawn on March 23 2015
While trade unions in Pakistan are by and large led exclusively by men, women too have played an important role in labour struggles in the informal sector.
Whether it was tenants rising up against landlords in the pre-Partition era, brick kilns and agricultural workers struggling for freedom from bondage in contemporary Sindh and Punjab, the peasants’ resistance against the military for land rights, or the fisherfolk’s struggle for rights on natural resources, women have emerged as leaders. They have mobilised marginalised communities to tackle tough challenges.
I call myself a feminist? You know why? It’s simple: ‘feminist’ is a sweet-sounding word. And I love it. It doesn’t bother me if the word makes many angry in my society where people put strange appendages to this beautiful word. Like militant, radical, phony, pseudo, blah, blah. To hell with adjectives! And don’t tell me ‘feminist’ is an adjective. Feminist is a person, a human being, a noun.
Stars scribble in our eyes the frosty sagas
The gleaming cantos of unvanquished space — Hull Crane
If you believe in stars (even if your belief is like a faint sensation), if you believe that the wanderers of the cosmos influence your destiny on Earth then it’s time to rejoice. The year 1985 Juts been termed by astrologers as opportune for women.
The New Year began on a happy note when I came to know of the findings of a Pakistani astrologer. He says women are going to make remarkable headway in 1985. The progress will be made in the realm of education; knowledge will expand. The chart he has calculated, indicates that on March 20, 1985, Mercury will enter the Heaven’s at 9:17 PM and thence of will be the ruling Planet.
Most social customs revolve around the institution of the family. And the family, or home, is the woman’s domain. So let’s face the fact that women play a significant role in perpetuating decadent social customs.
Women dominate family affairs no matter how much subjugated they are in other matters of life. But their dominance is pathetic. Because the dominance is over petty, superfluous things masked by the disproportionate importance attached to them. By women themselves. Who else?
During my early youth I believed that adolescence was the most wonderful period in a person’s life. And I thought every teenager in the world was in a blissful state. It made me feel miserable. Because I wasn’t having ‘the most wonderful time’ in the least!
I think it was Urdu poetry that played mischief and filled my head with romanticised notions of youth. I am sure fiction didn’t do any harm because for one thing, it was ‘taraqqi pasand afsanay’ I was reading since class five; for another, they must be going above my head at that time anyway.
Whatever poets said about ‘sweet sixteen’, to me it was nothing but sour. All my complexes (inferiority complexes) intense ambivalence (particularly toward my mother), fights and frictions (with siblings), dreams, aspirations, frustrations, etc, made my mind a confused jumble of thoughts and feelings, and my ‘stream of consciousness’ a torrential, frothing mass. But mercifully all that was behind a placid facade: I was quite a quiet person.