Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Mourning the death of Jamal Ashraf Ansari

If every birth reminds us God is still hopeful with humanity, perhaps every death reminds us how little time we have to fulfill that hope.

Jamal Ashraf Ansari died in Karachi today.

Although I had the pleasure of briefly meeting soft-spoken Ansari I did not really know him that well--directly. Indirectly I know a lot about him; the source of my indirect information being Ansari's bright son writer, blogger, activist Sabahat Ashraf, more popularly known by his penname iFaqeer.

1970s were a special time in the history of Pakistan. Middle East ready to exploit vast oil reserves opened its doors to skilled and unskilled labor of the subcontinent. It was around the same time that a lot of teaching positions opened up in Nigeria. Pakistani teachers went to West Africa in hordes. Jamal Ashraf Ansari was one of them. Several years later on returning back from Africa Jamal Ansari started teaching at a Karachi college, and that was when the prefix 'Professor' was added to his name.

Long time ago when as a child I heard the expression of a death leaving a hole I conjured up an image of humanity that is made of various shaped blocks butting each other. Every now and then a hand shows up from nowhere and randomly picks up a block, leaving an empty space. Then the whole humanity jostles and squirms and the movement ends up filling up the absent block's space, but in this process the blocks around the hole change their orientation and the whole frame of humanity does change its shape a bit.
That is exactly what Jamal Ashraf Ansari’s death would do too.

[Photo obtained from , Government College for Men's website--Jamal Ashraf Ansari taught at that college.]

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

FOSA held joint celebration of 60th year of Indian and Pakistani Independence

“Go West, Young man,” they would be advised. They would heed the call, would leave, and on reaching the destination, would forget about the lands they came from. And their forgiveness would be more of a nonelective than a voluntary act. The ‘young man’ settled in the West would have little means to keep in touch with the folks left behind. Not any more. Modern day immigrants—and now they are going everywhere, east, west, north, and south (though a more recognizable stream flows from countries of turmoil to those with stable political systems)—keep well connected, if they wish to, with people they have left. But FOSA (Friends of South Asia, insisted that immigrants to Western countries often have a frozen social, political, and environmental image of their ‘homeland’, whereas in reality places are going through continuous change. Keeping up with its tradition of holding a joint celebration of Indian and Pakistani independence days, this year FOSA marked the occasion by holding its fourth annual South Asian literary evening on Saturday, August 25, at Milpitas Library Community Hall. FOSA had invited South Asian writers to reflect on the notion of ‘Revisiting Changing Homelands’ “to recognize and record” changes immigrants see and feel taking place in their ‘homelands.’

Even with a strong desire on the part of FOSA administrators to get submissions in regional South Asian languages, FOSA failed to get much diversity in contributions for the literary evening. Though hard to believe that FOSA’s widely distributed call for submissions, making rounds in the literary groups on the Internet, did not reach people writing in Tamil, Sindhi, Nepalese, and other South Asian languages let alone Bangla (the only South Asian language boasting Nobel Prize in literature), the literary evening featured only two entries in any language other than English--both pieces were in Urdu.

Moazzam Sheikh a writer originally from Lahore and settled in San Francisco moderated the literary evening. Moazzam Sheikh writes fiction in English and Urdu, and translates from Urdu and Punjabi into English. He is the editor of ‘A letter from India: contemporary short stories from Pakistan’ (Penguin Books, 2004).

Amina Kamal Khan a poet and filmmaker living in Washington DC area had submitted a poem for the evening. Amina Khan’s poem ‘Coming home’ was read by Moazzam Sheikh.
Khawaja Ashraf, editor of, has been writing short stories in Urdu and English since 1973. His Urdu stories have been published in Auraq, Lahore and Shubkhoon, Allahabad. Khawaja Ashraf read a short story titled “A Cup of Tea With Buddha.”

Mohezin (Mo) Tejani, currently residing in Thailand, writes articles, stories, and poetry for various magazines worldwide. A Chameleon's Tale – True Stories of a Global Refugee, the first volume of his globetrotting memoirs, was published in June 2006. “Fruits of Childhood” written by Mo Tejani was read by Saadia Mumtaz.

Rinku Dutta, born in Sanctoria, Bihar, is currently engaged in post-doctoral research at the University of Pennsylvania. Ijaz Syed read a piece written by Rinku Dutta--the commentary was titled "54, Chowringhee Lane."

Maheen M Adamson, a research fellow at Stanford University, is interested in film, theater, and Urdu literature. Maheen Adamson read “Aik Ungal Ka Border" (Urdu).

Ahsan Sajjad, a Karachite settled in the heart of Silicon Valley, has been writing songs in the American Folk/blues style. Ahsan Sajjad read "The Origination of The Musical Chair", a satirical piece.
Saqib Mausoof, a writer and filmmaker based in San Francisco is currently working on his feature film ‘Kala Pul’, and his travelogue, Afraid to Shoot Strangers. Saqib Mausoof read his memoir titled “The Dancing Girl of Mohenjodaro.”
Wajahat Ali a native Californian of Pakistani ancestry has been writing and producing plays and films since he was a child. His play "The Domestic Crusaders" was performed at various places in the Bay Area and earned accolades from critics. Wajahat Ali's troupe performed staged reading of an excerpt from Ali's play "How to read 'Un-Wholly Warriors.’”

A prevue of the movie Kala Pul and a short film on crossing Wagah border were screened to conclude the literary evening.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Got this email:

Sep 17, 2007 11:34 AM
subject Unauthorized Activity
Dear Bank of America client,

You have received this email because you or someone had used your account from different locations.For security purpose, we are required to open an investigation into this matter.

In order to safeguard your account, we require that you confirm your banking details.

The help speeed up to this process, please access the following link so we ca complete the verification of your Bank of America Online Banking Account registration information.


If we do no receive the appropriate account verification within 48 hours, then we will assume this Bank of America account is fraudulent and will be suspended.

The purpose of this verification is to ensure that your bank account has not been fraudulently used and to combat the fraud from our community. We appreciate your support and understanding and thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.


Look at the ghastly grammatical errors in the message. They make me cry. Can someone kindly offer an 'English writing' class to the spammers? Please!