Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Haj in Pakistan

Haj in Pakistan

Most people on being told about two Haj places in Pakistan appear genuinely shocked.  How dare you think of giving your hard-earned foreign exchange to anyone but the Saudis!  Jokes aside, sociologists love the idea of religious services that benefit local economies. Your God, your religion, your holy places, your money—they should all stay together.

Haj at Shah Aqeeq
Back in 1992 when I heard of devotees from Jati, Sujawal, and other surrounding areas performing their Haj at Shah Aqeeq I got very interested in that spiritual center.  I was in Badin at that time; curious to learn about the religious beliefs of that group I made a visit to Shah Aqeeq.  When I reached the shrine I found it to be barricaded by the police; apparently there was a crackdown on ‘illegal’ activities being performed at the dargah.

Haj at Koh-e-Murad
Growing extremism in Pakistan has resulted in attacks on the Zikris, a Sunni-Muslim offshoot living in and around the town of Turbat in Balochistan.  The Zikris perform a haj-like pilgrimage at Koh-e-Murad.

And there is a good logic to keeping pilgrimage sites local: Haj, or any other pilgrimage for that matter, is about undertaking a long journey through which you go through physical exercise, you get to see new places, you act according to your religious beliefs, and you do all this with a large group of like-minded people.  If you have limited financial resources and you can achieve all these goals locally, why pay money to the airlines and to despots controlling religious sites in other countries?

Shah Aqeeq photo courtesy of http://wikimapia.org/
Koh-e-Murad photo courtesy of http://real-politique.blogspot.com/.

Hajj locations in Pakistan, Hajis, Hajjis, Kaaba, Kaba

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

San Francisco Bay Area Urdu writer (K. Ashraf) Khawaja Ashraf's Journey

An interview with prolific Urdu writer K Ashraf.
K Ashraf has written ten books so far.

Matti ka beta
Nasl e Sukhta
Shab Gazeeda Sahar

Collections of Short Stories
Mukalmay ka qatl
Tareekee mein chaltay loag
Aina Kahani

Israel mein chand roz
Moscow Moscow
Soqrat kay shahr mein
Kinaray Neel

Friday, October 02, 2015

Is 75 a good age to die at?

August 31, 2015
Another snow storm.  It was very cold.  The only thing warm that Iowa winter was Anita Baker’s new single ‘Sweet Love.’  Warm?  No, It was HOT.  I had listened to it at least ten times in a row a night before.  Stop, rewind, play, stop, rewind, play…and keep doing it.
It was now morning.  Subdued light had broken outside but I did not want to leave the bed.  Someone on the door was knocking.  I lifted the curtain a bit to see who it was.  It was Theresa—I had met her through the Cosmopolitan Club.  She had a book in her hand.
‘I am leaving for home.  Want to give you this book before I leave,’ she yelled and waved a book she had in her hand.  I went to the door and got the book from her.  She gave me a hug, her icy cold cheek pressing against mine—and then left.
I looked at the book after she was gone.  It was ‘Pulling Your Own Strings’ by Wayne Dyer.  I started reading it and found it absorbing.  Before I knew it I was quarter of the way through.  It was as if Dyer was right in front of me, talking to me about how to live a life of freedom.  I finished that book and then read others Dyer had written.  Dyer’s books had a profound impact on me.  About to end college, it was the best career counseling I could get.  I decided to never ever work for anyone but myself.  I also learned to question authority…any authority, all authorities.
Wayne Dyer has died.  I hope he died in peace knowing that countless people around the world have benefitted tremendously from his writings.

Wayne Dyer's photo courtesy of touching1mhearts.com

Friday, May 22, 2015

A Western Union Online Chatting Experience

Western Union Online Chatting Experience--May 22, 2015, around 11: 15 am [California time]
[Time notes added later]

 Jasmine: Hi, my name is Jasmine. How may I help you? Ali: Yes, Jasmine.  Want to send money to Pakistan. Ali: If I pay in cash at a Western Union location, will there be a fee? Ali: Are you there? Ali: Hello!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ali: ? Ali: ? Ali: ? Ali: Anyone there??????????????????????????? [Several minutes later]
 Jasmine: Hello. Ali: Finally. Jasmine: I apologize for the late response. Ali: Apology not accepted yet. Jasmine: Yes, there will be fees if you send your transaction at a location. Ali: How much is the fee? Ali: Or, Fee-wise what's the least expensive way to send money to Pakistan?
[Several minutes later]  Ali: Are you once again ignoring me, Jasmine? Jasmine: I am checking. Ali: thanks. Ali: Still checking, jasmine" Ali: ?
[Several minutes later]  Jasmine: there is a fee in sending it to Pakistan. Ali: You already said that.  How much? Jasmine: For example you sent $100, the fee would be $9.99 Ali: Is it better to send the money through WU web site, or better to walk to a location?  Which one incurs less fee? Jasmine: To a location. Less hassle and the money will be available within minutes. Ali: But the fee? Ali: Same? Jasmine: The fee is $9.99 for $100 transaction. Ali: Sending online vs sending from a physical location of Western Union? Jasmine: How much do you intend to send? Ali: $120 Jasmine: Same fee, $9.99 Ali: thanks, Jasmine. Ali: but that's not what I see online. Ali: I am afraid you know very little about the company you work for. Ali: You need extensive training. Ali: In manners, in education about WU services, etc. etc. Jasmine:  https://www.westernunion.com/us/en/price-estimator/start.html Ali: Bye now.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Remembering 145 schoolchildren of Peshawar

Light rain did not deter around one hundred people to attend a candlelight vigil at the Stanford University, held to remember the 145 schoolchildren of the Army Public School, Peshawar, massacred by a group of terrorists on December 16.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Tina Mann at Jashn-e-Tashie Zaheer

Any given day Tina Mann can have Hadiqa Kiani biting the dust.

A better audio of this song is present here
starting from 02:04:20.

Tina Mann with Ashneel Singh on tabla and Ali Shahabuddin on the keyboard.

Monday, December 08, 2014

The Murder of Ibolya Ryan: A UAE National Day Celebration…of an evil kind.

The United Arab Emirates celebrated its National Day on December 2.  There were flags everywhere..flags to tie your misplaced identity to, flags to hide your identity if you can cleverly use them to cover the registration plate of your car.  Dala al Hashemi used an Emirati flag to hide the number plate of her SUV, when she went out to stab to death a Romanian-American, and place a home made bomb outside the residence of an Egyptian-American doctor.  The attempt to kill the American doctor (fortunately unsuccessful) was premeditated--Dala allegedly went to the doctor’s residence, several days earlier, to make sure he lived there. But Ibolya Ryan, the special education American teacher, just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Dala stayed in the women’s room of a mall for an hour waiting to kill an American, any American…Ibolya finally walked in; it is not clear how Dala identified Ibolya as an American.

For those of you who have been fortunate not to visit the UAE, understand that that union of seven Sheikhdoms along the Persian Gulf reeks of gaudy phoniness.  It is a place of the foreigners, for the foreigners, (build) by the foreigners--all three groups of foreigners pretty much living in mutual exclusion.   This is where European-descent people and the wannabes can shamelessly get a taste of life once lived in the colonial era.  The social hierarchy is hard to miss: Westerners at the top, non-Emirati Arabs and skilled workers from other places in the middle, and disposable labor from South Asia, Philippines, and other countries at the very bottom.  Many have been wondering how long this last vestige of ‘colonialism’ will last.  Ibolya Ryan’s murder may be signaling an end of that era of exploitation.

Thanks to the surveillance camera footage; Dala’s folly of visiting the doctor’s residence for reconnaissance, days earlier, when the registration plate of her SUV was not covered with anything; and the hard work of the Abu Dhabi police Dala al Hashemi was nabbed.  But what can be done about the malice that exists in the hearts.  Can Dala’s arrest deter others who might be harboring the kind of ill-will towards Americans and Westerners that Dala holds?  Probably not, especially if such people are driven by religion. 

Many in the Western expatriate community of the UAE must be thinking along these lines.

Photo, courtesy of the Abu Dhabi Police.