Archive for the 'Cultural' Category

Day 292 – so how different is Pakistan?

Quote of the day…

a Pakistani asking a new trainee what is different in PK from home…

her answer is exactly what was my though:

“its hard to say, there is nothing that would be similar :)

Day 260 – three cases of missinterpreting Islam

I will not even talk about things like people blowing themselves up in the name of Allah who will send them straight to deepest hell, because they commit murder… The cases are  different, from three different points of view, all highly media covered…

Scene one: Sudan – teddy bear case
A primary school teacher was charged for “letting 7-years old children in her class name a teddybear Mohammed“. It was part of a lesson where the kids were supposed to pick a name for the teddybear, so they picked the most favorite name of theirs. If You are not able to find what is the problem, the religion-protectors found it as an offence to name a toy by the name of the prophet Mohammed… (read original text)

Silly isnt it? And pointless! Conservative Islam doesnt agree with depicting people and most of all holy people, because it doesnt want them to become subjects of worship, true – but putting this case in the same category is idiotic! And no talks about cultural sensitivity – that is not the case here! If this is blasphemy how DARE the protectors of faith name their sons with the name of the Prophet? Do they claim that their son is worth the Prophets name? Stupidity!
She was in jail for a week waiting for the court to decide, was supposed to be given 15 days of jail, but has been pardoned by the president… and than deported from the country…

And to finish the story – a worker at the school has been fired and accused that it was her who started the whole thing… She claims to be innocentand has her life screwed big time as nobody wants to employ her and her family is being harrassed… As I say, pure Stupidity in all directions. (read article)

Scene two: England – bishop supports implementation of Sharia law
A bishop has told in an interview that he thinks that some aspects of Muslim law – sharia should be implemented in UK law, mostly in field of economy and marriages. As result a virtual “stoning” by media and even politicians started, not a single word of support worth notice…
And I feel like puke – PUKE – P.U.K.E. – vomit! If you are looking for a couple of guys who would kill all the Muslims in Your town, try for example this page. The comments of people to the topic are so absurd, simple minded and “I am right and who doesnt agree is s sissy and leftish liberalist!”…. pure disgust…

Ironic: if You get married in Pakistan under Muslim law, Your marriage is valid in UK, but in UK its not possible to get married under Muslim law… isnt that weird?
MEGA ironic: during the carnage and shit throwing, the news from Nov 07 that UK government will issue Sharia-compliant bonds has made it to headlines again… (read original text)

…the whole thing is about exagerrating and missinterpreting. But it perfectly fits into the scheme of “war on terror“, because war needs propaganda (doesnt matter if the war is/not “just”) and fear and hate of the enemy is a basic propaganda element… I guess those who came up with the term “war on terror” got more than they asked for

Scene three: Iran – government forces people to follow Sharia-called rules
Well, in last year or so the conservative elements of the government of Iran have started to push on following of some rules that they call Sharia. First of all, there is nothing like Muslim law, its just a collection of instructions taken from Koran and Muslim traditions that a power-party or religious group proclaims to be Sharia. Forget the concept of a book of Muslim law, Koran is not a book of law, but a collection of verses on God and Life… Thus logically Muslim law is actually the law of the power group… and often the power group chooses different rules than the people would.

Iran in last year has seen persecutions of women who had their head scarf not “non-transparent enough” or of not enough of length etc. Really ridiculous crap because of simple reason – people of the countrz (muslims) do not agree with those rules. Understand, Muslims are pushed to follow a “Muslim” law that they do not agree with, thus there are only two options:   a) they are not Muslim, b) the law is not Muslim…

You pick, but I have been told that women after comming from outside fling the piece of cloth on the ground – because they are made to wear it, not because they believe in it. What in Turkey becomes a symbol of “free presentation of being Muslim” is in Iran a way “of raping the beliefs of people”…

Day 219 – nonsustainability? how do You describe it?

This is actually a comeback to a post I made a long time ago – how shocked I was to see Pakistanis take food containers from pottery and smash them after usage…
…I considered it unsustainable as pottery is expensive in Slovakia and thus it has be be reused.

But here in Pakistan and even more in India its obvious that clay doesnt cost anything! In India they serve You tea in pottery mini-cups, that You throw away after usage… But after a little bit of rain and stomping the cup becomes what it was before – dust

…what happens to a plastic cup? Does it change back to petroleum? Dont think so… thank You Pakistan for giving a blow to my image of the world

Days 192-209 – Lahore, Lahore and again Lahore (beautiful place)

Three weeks it is that I have spent in Lahore – sleeping over at the trip to India, visiting of the AIESEC branch, Eid and Christmas, Benazirs assasination, “moarning” riots…. I can not say that I am tired of this city, it was really a nice experience to be a tourist again

There are generally three chapters of the story:

1. Regale Internet Inn

This travelers hostel situated on the Mall street, main street of Lahore, actually walking distance from the Old city … Doesnt look much from outside, but offers accomodation only for foreigners for 150-200 Ruppes per night (SO cheap compared to others) and that includes free drinking water, european style washroom, washing machine, internet, TV, comfortable roof-terrace, library, non stop security and most of all – lots of other random travelers who can give You the best advises…

Apart from this, the owner Mr. Malik has lots of interesting things to talk about and organizes every Thursday a trip to a Sufi shrine where the “mystic” drumming and chanting and tranceing is going on…

2. The sightseeing in Lahore

Very nice time – going around and seeing all the (most famous) interesting places. Lahore has lots to see and You dont feel like a “normal” tourist, because there is nearly no foreigners and the places are really interesting.

On the flip side, YOU are often a bigger attraction for locals than the places (so they keep staring at You and try to find out: “what is Your name”, “where are You from” etc.) and to every nice place You go, there will be somebody who wants to show You “something beautiful” and ask for money afterwards :P

I have seen e.g. Badshahi mosque (after 400 years, still one of biggest mosques in the world), Minar-e-Pakistan, the trio of Jahangirs, Asaf Khans and Nur Jahans Tombs, Food Street, Daata Darbar (Sufi saints shrine) and lots of other random places…

3. Being stuck in LUMS uni

Which happened due to the assasination of Benazir Bhutto :P …getting bored and having enough time to update this blog.

…. EnD …. if You have only few days to spend in Pakistan, go to Lahore and life in Regal Inn.

Days 207-209 – Xmas in Pakistan

People back from home are asking me if I miss Xmas, Lenka even tried to bring me the Christmas atmosphere through SMS and of course I got wishes of a happy Xmas time…

Well, I have spent the Xmas in Lahore, in the hostel mentioned below… In Pakistan, and most of all iLahore, has a suprising lot of Christians. But they celebrate Christmas on 25th, unlike in Slovakia where the celebration is on 24th night. I have spent the days sightseeing in Lahore…  But I have a few interesting stories to share :)

random guy: “hello, what Your name?”
me: “Tomas”
random guy: “me [insert name], nice to meet You …… where You from?
me: “Slovakia – Czechoslovakia – Europe ”
random guy: “Aaah, Europe … are You Christian?…… because I am!”
me: “Yes …………by birth.”
random guy: “Ok, nice to meet You, Happy Christmas”
me: “You too, Khuda-hafiz”

random guy: “hello, what Your name?”
me: “Tomas”
random guy: “me [insert name], nice to meet You …… where You from?
me: “Slovakia – Czechoslovakia – Europe ”
random guy: “Ok, suppose You pray to Your God what would You wish for? ”
me: “……. [mind stuck] well, ehm, aaaaah, huh …. [finaly idea] I guess Peace for this country.. ”
random guy: “Ok, nice to meet You, Happy Christmas”
me: “You too, Khuda-hafiz”

random guy: “hello, what Your name?”
me: “Tomas”
random guy: “me [insert name], nice to meet You …… where You from?
me: “Slovakia – Czechoslovakia”
random guy: “I am Pastor in church here in Lahore. I just see You here and think he is Christian, and thats why I come to You. Would You be so kind and let me invite You for dinner to my house, day after tomorrow?”
me: “Well, nice to meet You, I am not sure if I have time, I might leave Lahore soon ”
random guy: ” I will show You my church. Actually would You like to say something in my church – from the Bible. You do read the Bible(!?)”
me: “Thats really nice of You, actually I want to read it…. Just like the Quaran. But as I say, I dont know yet if I am here than. [which is truth].”
random guy: “Ok, here is my number, can You give me Your number and we call and say if You can?”
me: “Ok, here it is. [that cant hurt and actually it could be interesting]”
….. discusion during which he shows me his planned speach for the next mess and tells how he wants to be a good reader of English Bible and than we part [and I forget it all due to Benazir]
….. few days pass……
phone: “hello? here is [name], I want to ask how are You, I sent You SMS message on Christmas.”
me: “Oh, hello yes [totally forgot about the message], nice to hear You. ”
phone: “So can You come to my home? I am not sure if I tell You, I even have a small school at the Church, and I tell them I met You and they want to see You and I say You might see, if can. I understand You are busy.”
me: “well, I want to return back to Karachi as soon as possible, so do not know… again [partly true], will see”
phone: “Ok, was just nice to hear You, good bye, God bless You”
me: [confused] “Yes, good bye.”

guard at Sacred Heart Cathedral : “halawala kikle afiaz [something in urdu]?! ”
me: “Pardon me? I want to take pictures, can I?”
guard: “haliflatu platu watu [something in urdu] Christian?”
Jeremy : “Why? …. Yes, we ………… by birth”
guard: “Catholic? urdududududu [something in urdu]”
Jeremy : “No, we not Catholic, can we go to the cathedral? ”
me: “Yes, we are”
guard : “huhlugugulgu, nah, go. [gives up and lets us in].”
Jeremy: [pissed off] “Why did he ask us? If we are Catholics? Did anybody ask us at the Mosque or Sikh Temple if we are Muslims or Sikhs?! What the #$%? ”
me: “In case like this, I will be buddhist, muslim or even sikh, I want to see it…”
Jeremy: “phf” [pissed off, disinterested in the really nice cathedral]
…after a while…
me : “Jeremy! I know now why did he ask us… There is a service going on inside…”
Jeremy: [surprised looks at his bag] “Oh, afraid of terorist attacks? From us? ”
me : [thinking: Actually, its Christmas service, Muslims also dont like when non-muslims go for their Friday prayers and this service is only once in the year... ]”

(I am cheating – the last pic is from India, in Pakistan there were no Xmas markets…)

Days 181-92 – more India!

OK, I admit, I tried to be lazy… and not write nearly anything about India… but she doesnt deserve it, India took good care of me, so here we go again:

1. Getting there

I was requesting visas for India from Pakistan, which is already a disadvantage, but thanks to a few miracles and Umar who did the running around Islamabad offices, me and Jeremy got the visas right on time, actually we had to wait for them in Lahore as they came a day later… 3.300 rupees :P The only good thing was that foreigners dont get visas that say how exactly do You have to cross (train, plane, bus) and where (which exact border place), so we walked to Inda :O

Simply said – we took a taxi from Lahore, went to Wagha border, went through the Paki customs, walked to India, went through the Indian customs and than got a taxi to Amritsar… I know it looks pretty simple, and it would normally be, but not if there is a bus with fifty people who comes at the same time as You :P    It took us damn 3 hours to get from 1st to 2nd taxi!

2. Amritsar

Amritsar is the city closest to Lahore, it took half an hour from the border to get there. We had couple of hours before our train left so we thought we have no reason to hurry… but. First of all we wasted time at the border and than it took us 1,5 hour to get a ticket – wait in the line! The way how the ticket selling works is the TOP of unefficiency I have ever seen.

Anyways, we went first to the Golden Temple, as that was something Jeremy wanted to see… and I have to say, I am glad he did. It is a beautiful place, where there is lots to see… For any tourist it is also very good to know that the temple is open to any visitor, there is a place to sleep for free inside, the temple has a charity kitchen that serves hundreds of poor every day and most of all – its really beautiful.

3. Train ride

Was OK. If I say that it took 28 hours, I guess some of You will be scared, well, it was sometimes boring, but it was pretty OK and comfortable.

We spent couple of hours talking to a random indian guy – about everything: partition of India and PK, differences, history and even Kashmir. Result (can not say what is true and what not):
- people of both countries like each other, its the governments that do all the conflicts
- the Pakistani security services actually attacks India
- there is no way how India or Pakistan can accept that Kashmir is not theirs

4. Jamshedpur

Would be a small and unimportant town, if TATA Steel was not founded here – this is where the TATA empire has started. Btw, TATA is launching the “Worlds cheapest car” for only 2.500 USD :) … Apart from that the town is actually owned by TATA and has to be said, thats why its also called the cleanes town of India (eventhough by European standards it still has a long way to go). Generally its just an industrial town with not much to see except a Culture centre (founded by TATA) and schools were poor people learn handycrafts (founded by TATA), TATAs trainign centre (where the opening ceremony was) and TATA Steels factory (which we have not seen).

During the conference we had an Indian night, during which there was a whole program of different kinds of Indian music and dances, really nice :)

5. Kolkata

Where we stayed in a cheap (but really bad) hotel, as we had couple of days left before we had to go back to Pakistan. We saw some nice places like Victorias Memorial (but didnt go in, too expensive for foreigners) and Belur Math (headquarter of Ramakrishnas). As Kolkata experienced some riots lately (conflict between oposition and government) some places have been closed…

BUT what was the most important for us was the FOOD and TEA. Amazing lassi, potato chat, spicy tea and other random foods, that was the best part of the Kolkata stay :)

6. Way back to Lahore

Took two nights and one day :)   Not kidding, but it went fast… Got a few intesting sights, like a cow looking into our compartment, saw the holy river Ganga, and sunrise over the fields. Stopped again for a short time in Amritsar (we came before the border opened) and than walked back to Pakistan… The End :P