Saturday, August 20, 2011

Urdu BOOK REVIEW: Karachi Halwa Aur Badayun Ke Pairay

Thank you Amra Alam for the book loan

Published in Daily Times / Saturday, August 20, 2011
Published under the title: Back from the Future

Author(s): Imrana Maqsood and Amra Alam
Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal

The two people present at the book reading session that day are from the small town of Badayun. And they are afraid — afraid that the new generation might find it difficult to relate to their experiences. Or that they might get spooked by the choice of language (Urdu) — or fail to appreciate the underlying message. As the evening commenced, it became increasingly clear — such fears were unjustified.

Though they parted company with India some 50 years ago when their family migrated to Karachi, Pakistan — a part of Imrana Maqsood and Amra Alam stayed behind in their beloved Badayun. The other part grew up to be a successful playwright and an equally successful children’s book author. Karachi Halwa Aur Badayun Ke Pairay is a slim little concoction based on their sweetest childhood memories. That their most treasured effects lie scattered over two sides of a hostile border does not lessen the yearnings. Granted, the world they once knew seems alien, but its precious cargo of cultural values continues to fascinate.

When the cravings return, the sisters take their faded impressions out for a spin in their old hometown and narrate stories of being accosted by obliging ghosts and gracious residents at every turn. Luckily, they got an opportunity to walk down the streets of Badayun one more time, taking away a few lovingly selected fragments of memory for keepsake. Traces of their past selves linger on in the alleyways. As they near the site where they spent their formative years, the present dissolves into the past; faint echoes of their laughter get amplified. A lost era is slowly being brought back to life. The glimpses may be fleeting but their impact is lasting.

When they stop to marvel at places like Maqsood Lodge, time stands still — when they summon those that have become part of history, they are overcome with emotion. In this condensed version of events Badayun appeared to exist in a bubble. The aftermath of a tsunami that swept through the land seemed to pass it by leaving two little girls who go by the handle of Immo (Imrana) and Paro (Amra) free to embark on flights of fantasy uninterrupted.

Though there is a sense of profound grief, which struggles to reach the shore, the writers manage to keep their musings light taking care not to stray too far deep into darker territory. Instead they invite their readers to their old haunts to share the euphoria, to revel in the simplicity of the period and to savour the tranquillity unbroken by the seasonal changes. Delightful little anecdotes about family and friends illuminate their memory lane. The plotting is non-linear — the most remarkable aspect of their journey is perhaps the discovery of how sands of time that eroded trust between the generations have left certain bonds forged all those years ago untouched. Their old neighbourhood remembers them well; strangers leap up to lend a helping hand.

When Badayun began to receive an influx of migrants from Pakistan, it was their father who helped resettle them. Soon winds of change will force this family to head out into the unknown. Karachi — the ‘Promised Land’ in this scenario has a smaller cameo and a curiously weary feel. Here, despite their changed circumstances, the adventure seeking spirit of Immo and her co-conspirator Paro lives on.

Imrana jokes that one cannot turn over a rock without stumbling over either a poet (Shakeel Badayuni was an oft visitor in their household) or a writer. As the title suggests, it is also renowned for its confectionary. Both Amra (Chief Editor SUNTRA magazine/Co-Editor Aye Karachi) — the award winning children’s books author and Imrana with whom she has collaborated on 15 television serials, are far too modest. They deserve a place on Badayun’s wall of fame just as much as those poets/writers hidden under random rocks.


That they are drawn to the places where both have such deep roots is expected; as is the fact that a child’s vantage point shows this home at its best. Karachi Halwa Aur Badayun Ke Pairay, with its special blend of humour and pathos sallies forth to conquer hearts and minds. There is no room for shadows in their idyllic sounding childhood. None will board the Sentiment Express.

Ferozesons Pvt Ltd; Pp 128; Rs 395

Friday, August 12, 2011

VIEW: Research! No Plagiarism (an old piece from Social Pages 2006)

Sana Bucha's article (Jul 17 2011) 'When Incredibles Sulk' vs. The Economist (14 Jul 2011) : 'Pakistan and America In a Sulk'. Not everyone agrees that this is a case of plagiarism even though it seems pretty clear-cut. Am posting an old forgotten piece inspired by a similar case (several in fact).

As the debate on what constitutes ‘Plagiarism’ rages on amongst many, clearly the line between ‘research’ and plagiarism appear to be blurred. That the plagiarized piece is subject to copyright and demeaning to self and publication when discovered seldom affects the ‘amoral’ or will never deter an ‘immoral’.

Perhaps some do not recognize it as a crime. There are several types of plagiarists; Ignorant, indifferent and irresponsible. They commit unintentional plagiarism in their ignorance, through indifference do not cite sources and because of negligence alter the content by paraphrasing wrongly. While a lot can be found on this subject on the internet, yet here I am, once again, giving close encounters of my own with the plagiaristic kind and you would be surprised how many of these lurk out there. The good news is that oftentimes they are easy to detect with the simplest of strategies, our own version of detection software.

When faced with a flawless piece of writing, listening to the warning bells helps for there may be a genuinely good writer out there (who will, no doubt be mortified to know that his/her writing has been subjected to such scrutiny) but 5 times out of 10, it is a smug plagiarist as a quick Google search will verify. The internet may have made the plagiarizers' life easy but detectors and fact checkers can not complain either. Most Plagiarists do not take the time to change more than a few lines of the content and this is how you get them, by typing in the suspect lines. Sometimes, it is not always the newbie who is plagiarizing but a well known veteran and I do not envy the person who gets to confront them.

And they called it ‘Research’

Surprisingly, persuading an otherwise intelligent person that plagiarism is not research is harder than it seems. Consider an article discovered to be plagiarized from not one or two but several websites. In a bid to avoid absolute condemnation of an otherwise keen writer, h/s was informed diplomatically that the ‘sample’ sent in was good and h/s should send in the real piece now. His reply: Sample? That was my ‘research’. ‘Research’ in their world could be cutting from one website and pasting it onto MS Word.

A word of advice; do not kid yourselves. We know research and that was not it. Research is there to assist in the development of original ideas or to back up ‘your’ viewpoint with appropriate citations.

When one fellow was told to rework a piece, he went and massacred said piece by reshuffling all sentences, putting what came after commas before. The result made the poor editors hair stand on end. Yet another went to Wikipedia, cut the webpage onto word and sent it in; an entire webpage means the blue underlined thingies (links) were still there. When asked to rework with citations, back came a reply, sorry no can do, do not have the time’. The article was on the merits of Ramzan by the way.

I suggest that if you have taken the trouble to cut and paste, take a few seconds more and type in 'taken from…' at the end. Why mislead the editor? It is their job to find you out and if they are any good at it, be warned that they will. Folks may get by with this cavalier attitude towards life in some universities, but they will find the going hard in the real world. Instructors are not always out to get you but good editors are. For if they do not, foreign newspapers come out of nowhere and threaten their publication and credibility with nasty lawsuits.

The End

Images Courtesy of: http://www.statefansnation.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/plagiarism.gif

http://blogs.fit.edu/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/bart-simpson-plagiarize.png

http://kidshealth.org/kid/feeling/school/headers_88212/K_plagiarism1.jpg

Fwd: http://pakistanmediawatch.com/2011/07/22/culture-of-plagiarism-at-jang-group/

Saturday, August 6, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Broken Republic - Author / Arundhati Roy

Thanks to Liberty Books for the review copy

Published in Daily Times / Saturday, August 06, 2011

Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal

A local writer once recounted a story where he happened to be on a mailing list that was bombarded by dozens of kindly e-mails from an Indian peer. They were all roughly the same, each disparaging his — the writer’s — (imperfect) nation, its military missteps, defective political/social setup, extremist hideouts; anything and everything was fair game. The one-sided exchange continued till, one day, the writer from the imperfect nation diverted the conversation to a little known resistance movement called the Maoist insurgency.

The emails stopped.

Someone else, having taken a random combination of words such as challenging the writ of the state, unrest in the tribal areas, military operations, insurrection, IEDs, peace talks, collateral damage and fundamentalists, typically designed to decode the blueprints of neighbouring insurgencies, has unexpectedly used it to open the portal to India’s raging Maoist/Naxalite rebellion.

Arundhati Roy’s new book, Broken Republic, is a collection of three essays (2009-2010) dealing with this live-wire issue causing occasional sparks within India. Her new counter-narrative serves to eviscerate the official storyline and promises a rag tag bunch of rebels their five minutes of fame. Roy, who goes off the beaten path, calmly facing down charges of sedition, obscenity and treason, returns with evidence of corporate greed and political misdemeanours. She then proceeds to serve up stories featuring Naxalite oppression, determined to kindle the flame of moral outrage among conservationists and human rights activists across the globe. Since she is an internationally acclaimed voice of India — an oft repressed, Booker Prize winning, wonderfully eloquent, highly controversial one at that, with a history of taking on unpopular causes — the message tends to get amplified.

Here she is scouring the jungles for ‘ammo’ to launch a devastating strike against the world’s biggest democracy. The plight of a rag tag militia, if done right, makes for an effective weapon. Big bad mining corporations, indigenous people armed with bows and arrows fighting for survival complete with a lone crusader marching to a funereal score. This is the compelling stuff summer blockbusters like Avatar are composed of. India’s conundrum has been reduced to a simple formula. “To get bauxite out of flat topped hills, to get iron ore out from under the forest floor, to get 85 percent of India’s people off their lands and into the cities, India has to become a police state; the government has to militarise and to justify that militarisation it needs an enemy.” And the discomfiting notion is that the Maoists are that enemy.

The reason these raging insurgencies are allowed to fly below the western radar is because, according to one analyst, they do not threaten the global world order. Perhaps this is why Pakistan lands at number 12 on the list of most failed countries while India remains comfortably perched at 76.

In the second essay, as Roy recounts her time spent running with the resistance, her caustic political commentary cuts through the picturesque democratic facade giving a sobering assessment of the Indian state’s anti-Maoist campaign design and implications of continuing its toxic struggle. The recurring motif is not that of the nation’s triumphant entry into the superpower club but its costly misadventures on the domestic front. The forest dwellers however get a fair hearing. Their grievances, according to this version, are legitimate and their cause is just. They are made to look quite benign up close. And when the state tries to argue otherwise, it finds the constitution blocking its path.

There is enough gallows humour to take the edge off. She wryly observes that when the government begins to talk of tribal welfare it is time to worry, adding that the need to displace a large population for dams, irrigation projects or mines inevitably precedes talk of giving them the “fruits of modern development”.

The plot keeps taking surprising twists and turns. Welfare projects assume sinister shapes when shown in the backdrop of impending operations. And, while India’s marginalised community members are getting a trendy new makeover, “corporate fundamentalists” (yes fundamentalists), show up without spin doctors standing in the shadows of what has been described as “a massive paramilitary force armed with money, firepower, media and the hubris of emerging superpower”. She depicts a nation that has let slip the dogs of war in places that are “homeland to India’s tribal people and dreamland to the corporate world” and “is willing to shoot, starve, lay siege to and deploy its armed forces in self-defence against the poorest citizens”. But the Maoists, despite the fancy trimmings, are not completely off the hook. Though she is on a first name basis with a few comrades, she does not deny their history of violence or lack of direction.

Generally, an Indian-held mirror manages to capture a reflection of cross-border terrorism or an unfortunate neighbour allegedly caught in the act of exporting terror. Roy’s illustrated guide to India replaces the beautiful illusion of security with a replica made of fear, misery and doubt crafted in its own backyard.

Ushba Publishing International;

Pp 220; Rs 1,000