Travel Debunked

NY Hostel

That time I splurged and got myself my very own “room” in a hostel. Lol. This ^^ is the entire room I kid you not. But it was my last night in NYC and I needed the sleep. 

Travel has become a more recent phenomenon with people constantly posting about their travel bucket-lists and long romanticised versions of what it means to explore our beautiful planet. I am one of those people. I want nothing more and nothing makes me happier than traveling. But, of course there was going to be a ‘but’, let me also share something very real. Traveling solo can also become extremely lonely. There is a lot of involuntary introspection and you’re forced to face truths and allow memories to resurface that you had carefully locked away somewhere in the complex labyrinth of your mind. You’re at your most vulnerable. You will get lost. Trust me, no amount of research and memorizing subway stops will keep you from experiencing the horror of being totally lost in a foreign country. The few seconds before you remember you can call an Uber or Lyft will give you a cardio Jillian Michaels would be proud of. You will also face bias. Let’s not kid ourselves – as much as I love my country telling someone being friendly you’re from Pakistan is a conversation killer. You WILL get homesick so much so you will cancel your flight and hostel reservations in Georgia and Azerbaijan and return home from Turkey (I am still ashamed of it). You will also miss a flight, be short on cash unable to pay the difference for the next flight and sit on the airport floor sobbing like crazy while people avoid you afraid you were a scam.

You may think I am being dramatic but I assure you all of the above has happened to me.

So before you decide to follow any trends and pack up your bags to get more fodder for your Instagram, make sure you know what you are doing.

OK byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

No Danke’ to you!

Here is a little joke I thought I should share with you all. I had a visa interview set at German Embassy in Islamabad on 4th December. This was for the Facebook Community Leaders Circle conference in Berlin on 18th December 2018. There was sooooo much paperwork but I am used to it. I love my country but let’s just say it doesn’t evoke trust right away. Was all prepared with NTN, tax filing docs, bank statements, employment letters, company ownership certificates and you name it.

Anyone who has ever been to the Diplomatic Enclave for visa purpose know the ritual. Going to the Visa Seekers Shuttle Service, standing in lines to get your visa interview invite checked, depositing your phones, and then being taken in a shuttle/bus with a bunch of other poor hopeful souls. These include aged men and women sometimes on wheelchairs hoping to visit their kids settled abroad, young wives in full desi bling hoping to be reunited with husbands living abroad, young men and women with dreams in their eyes looking for the Promised Land. And then there is the most privileged lot like myself that has a big company/organization inviting them to grace their event with all expenses paid and we are so sure of getting the visa.

Anyhoo, so got on the bus and was dropped off on the side of the road and pointed in the direction of the embassy. Reached and there was a shed with a metal sheet for a roof and nothing to keep out the dry Islamabad cold. Men, women, kids sat huddled together waiting for their names to be called out. No one there to explain the procedure. I was told to wait as my appointment was between 10 AM and 11 AM while they were still catering to the 9 to 10 crowd (this was 10:15 BTW). I could hear this Pakistani lady with a shrill voice standing behind a glass counter speaking in a mic asking people questions about their documents and it was quite uncomfortable. You see some were not very literate, some didn’t have the right docs and this was all very public. Eek.

My turn comes finally and one look and the lady tells me my appointment was made against an expired passport. Now the expired one ends with a 92 and the new one ends with a 93. My fault or whoever applied on my behalf. I showed all my docs, explained I had both passports on me … original passports and not mere copies. She said something about rules. I was really nice and understanding and asked she make me a new appointment for tomorrow. This is where it got tricky. She said I had to do it online. Now there were no appointments available online till mid Jan 2019 and remember how I said the event was on 18th Dec 2018? Yeah. She apologized and told me to keep trying at which point I had a fit of giggles. I knew someone who used to start laughing every time she would get angry and I could never understand how that could be until that moment.

So next time anyone complains of the faulty bureaucratic system in Pakistan I am not going to nod my head in agreement. NO SIR. And next time someone especially a foreigner complains about the lack of basic common sense among Pakistanis I am not going to shake my head at the sorry state of affairs in my poor dear country. Neither am I going to accept how we are deliberately lazy and make things difficult for people.

I along with others waited in the cold under a metal shed for an interview that was supposed to happen at 10 Am till 11:30 AM and was then turned away without as much as some assistance in getting a new appointment date. Would it really be so hard to make a simple room with comfortable (not luxurious) seats and some heating and give the people some privacy as they were called for their appointment?

What.Ev.Er.

OK byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

You have Me

There are days I wish I could spill everything I feel onto this empty screen and be done. But there are no words to do it all justice. The tides of anger, helplessness, happiness, contentment, determination, rejection and sorrow – the deepest swirls of it – can not be put into something as mundane as words. It can only be felt. It needs a divine power’s revelatory prowess dripping consciousness into one’s darkened soul lifting the fog. But alas, I am no prophet or hermit or mystic. And will have to be content with the micro seconds of clarity … you know … like those puzzles you can’t decipher if you look at them straight but that start coming together the moment you let your gaze drop and stop trying so hard. The divine only appears when you stop looking and trying so hard. When just the belief keeps you warm is when you will be rewarded with beautiful micro seconds of clarity and those can not be captured in any physical form.

The negative emotions remain but the fear is gone because you know He has got you.

Though They May be a Few

The world is full of a few good people. They light up everything around you when the darkness is almost tangible and you can touch it with your fingertips. These few keep reminding one that darkness is weak that’s why it takes so many to create it. But a tiny ray can pierce through it and spread everywhere guiding the lost and dejected souls to find their way to it and to one another.

Until We Meet Again

Maamaa passed away. What does that even mean? Where did he pass away to? On a spiritual and religious and faith level I understand. He shed his skin and now he is a free soul gone to meet his Creator. But on a human level it hurts so bad.

That first night in his new home right outside the house we spent so many happy eids and weddings in. Just soil. And there was a huge storm. We were all inside sleeping in our warm beds. General Saab was outside. No one rushing to lock doors and put heavy objects in front of old windows to prevent them from banging lest they disturb his sleep. He was right under it all out in the open oblivious to it. Or was heaven saying, “He is here”. 🙂 I wouldn’t be surprised.

Bye bye Maamaa. That water story – me forcing you to drink it – I failed at making you have it but I served it to all your guests. Thought I would go to Topkapi because I missed it last time and you recommended it. Couldn’t bring myself to do it.

We miss you.

On “Useless Criticism” and “Badmashi”

A Facebook repost has me writing this. The post is publicly accessible on my Facebook page. Here is what it looks like and what I said:

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Here is what it looks like!

Pretty mellow, one might say. Not so according to the comments. I won’t say much but just put out some juicy pieces there.

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I am a-likin’ it .. yayyy all discussing how to solve the problem  

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Uh oh … what have I ever done for women empowerment? Hmmm … lemme think

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Personal against the woman we all look up to and admire? 

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I am a guy. Ask me what women want. “Voice of reason tries to intervene” Moral of the story: You can’t reason with the unreasonable. 

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You silly women! The entire concept of “criticism” against anything us men do is wrong because we are right and you are wrong and there is nothing you can do about it (a la Ms Truncball)

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“Remember when I ran crying to you because “these women” wouldn’t let me play and told me off to Daddy? Thank you for wiping my tears and letting me sleep over.”

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These horrid greedy women only think of themselves and want “free ride”. Off with their heads. 

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And we will not bow down to this BADMASHI (bullying / rascality) 

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For more inspiration on how to be more inclusive and how useless a criticism is please see above exhibits and/or go to https://www.facebook.com/nutshellconferences/ and see how much efforts are being made to add women. 

CRY ME A RIVER!

Vulnerably Strong

Grief has got its cold, bony fingers on my heart. It’s so hard to return to life before it all. I got a clod from its grave. Taking a piece away. Taking away its power. How foolish of me. There were crying birds. Tiny featherless ones. Screeching abominably. They wanted to go back to their nest. Early morning I returned them to the earth to which it belonged. That night he shone like the moon. Serene and peaceful. My heart shivers.

A new idea is conceived to take away the edge. Foolishness, except some nights for a while my thoughts are about simpler things. Money. Fame. Success. Accounts. Funnels. Business Model Canvas. It helps.

Mosawi is keeping me sane and alive. So engrossed in working on it except for the heaviness in my heart and the world getting blurry occasionally.

Why is it such a taboo to be vulnerable? Why is it so unbelievably hard to imagine a person as both strong and vulnerable? Doing business everyone advises you to “fake it till you make it”. Being vicious is a quality. Cut-throat is coveted. I refuse to play by any rules that I don’t agree with.

It’s a struggle.

Work. Life.
Philosophy. Reality.

Writing isn’t coming naturally.

Chaos

I have always wanted a shabby chic, boho, country cottage, Winnie the Pooh 100 Acres Woods room. You know how people can put together crazy prints and textures and styles together and make them blend? Yeah. I am not one of those people. Wanted to get a simple wooden sofa in distressed finish with smaller chairs for extra seating, each chair different from another but making it a whole. Ended up buying the brightest red retro humongous 8 seater that makes my eyes hurt. Now I have that and this in one place waiting for the day their foster parents come and take them each home in completely opposite parts of the world, and I can try my interior decorating skills again.

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Ah what hopes I had for this

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What I call my Pinterest Corner

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Sher Khan and the Jacket resting on this monstrosity

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My mug and pencil collection!!

See what I mean? They are all good things. But they are different worlds. Kind of like my life. There are good parts. WONDERFUL parts. Stuff dreams are made of. But when put together in once place they kind of fall apart.

Very philosophical of me. 😀

Been invited to send an entry for some award. Don’t have the patience or the time. If you do it for me and I win, I will split my winnings with you. Takers?

OK byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

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PASHA Mini Meetup

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Momentum 2018 http://momentum.org.pk/

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Momentum 2017 https://web.facebook.com/pg/MomentumTechConference/photos/?tab=album&album_id=894975817334294

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EcomX Pakistan – https://www.facebook.com/events/609020709489339/?active_tab=discussion

Planning Commission Consultative Meeting with the industry on creation of Pakistan Startup Fund
February 2018 Karachi

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E-commerce Roundtable in Karachi – https://www.facebook.com/pg/pakict/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1168605123179995

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Karandaaz Pakistan signs agreement with Information Technology University, Lahore for a research that will improve the existing knowledge on women’s use of digital financial services and the barriers they face. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is supporting the research.

Because optics don’t matter. 🙂

 

respect

Don’t Tell Me It’s All In My Head.

BE ANGRY

For the longest time imaginable I resisted being called a feminist. Euuu the filthy, loathsome F word. It brought to me images of

  1. angry PMS-ing moustached fat women who couldn’t find a tub of their favorite ice cream in the store
  2. bitter LGBT community members with shaved heads
  3. promiscuous women blindly following the West and asking Makran has nude beaches

The reality only dawned on me recently. When you are 38, 2 years ago is recent. Started to notice a pattern. Every time I tried to say something someone spoke over me. Raised a point, and it was swept away. Gave an opinion and was heard with pained patience. WTH was going on here, I asked myself. And then I started paying attention.

I realized just how hard women work and yet their achievements are put in the very patronizing “Special Women Edition” of magazines, or they are asked to speak on panels about “Women Entrepreneurs and their Challenges, “Women Empowerment and it’s Importance” while the real brains of the society, the MEN, got to talk about serious stuff like fintech, incubators, block chain and blah blah.

I consciously kept an eye out for these big events organized with the support of big organizations such as Jazz, IBM, Microsoft, the Americans and all had same bias. The male to female ration of speakers and panelists was 33:7 against women or 20:9. Recently, an event was announced on Tech that claimed to

****** is a global startup community designed to educate, inspire and connect Pakistani entrepreneurs who work on innovative and disruptive technologies to create the knowledge economy to drive Pakistan’s growth over the coming decade.

A platform for entrepreneurs who are at the core of the ‘Eco System Leadership’ to get them started in the Pakistani Startup scene. A startup usually faces a financial crunch in its early stages. To help them in their endeavor, this initiative will provide eligible startups with major ‘Eco System Feeders’ which have components providing certain free and discounted services to reduce their financial burden to allow a startup economy to succeed.

While claiming they are speaking of both genders, they announce their first SEVEN speakers who were all male. When questions were raised some really funny stuff came up. Exhibit XYZ below:

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This gentleman tried to tell me how awfully underprivileged men were and asking for gender parity is promulgating double standards viz a viz the men.

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This one lady has been raising a hue and cry over manels and tagging me and others sympathetic to the cause. Suddenly, she wants us not to judge because SHE has been asked to speak. Hurray!

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Then in comes this lady who is supposedly managing the said conference’s social media strategy and having a real hard time finding women speakers. A group 3000+ women who are all associated with tech industry one way or the other offered to help if she shares the criteria. Criteria has yet to be shared.

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And then my favorite part – where we get called “girls” and told to “have patience” because social media strategy demands they put up maximum number of male guests out there and then follow it with a few females. What on earth! LOL

Whatever the men say I don’t care so much. Yeah it makes me very very angry at the injustice but what gets me really shouting DRACARYS at the top of my typing voice is when the women get into cahoots with the men. And for what? A spot on the panel and some small assignment?

By far my most favorite discussion on the topic of manels was about the launch of a National project. The photographs shared on social media were just a handful of women sitting in a hall packed with men. Here are some excerpts from that. If you want, I can share the link to the conversation separately *evil grin*

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Two men telling me how I am wrong and the photograph with 5 women and 100 men was lying. Also notice in first comment how it says the invites were limited to VCs of universities only? Next exhibit will show you a different story. And the second gentleman thinks inviting women is not the right strategy because “all events are not just for filling spaces with either gender“. He also was kind enough to discuss the issue ON THE DAY of the event with another lady. No, not before. Not while planning the guest list. But on the day.

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See the about turn? “It wasn’t limited to VCs” while previous comment says invitations were “restricted to VCs”. Makes me wonder which one to believe.

While all the time the conversation really was about what steps have organizers taken to ensure maximum female participation. As I said below:

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And you know what? Organizers started to ask! That’s all we want. Women don’t want to be fillers either but we need to realize the men have been at it for much longer and we are new. We may be few but we are there and if you try hard enough you will find us.

People are mad at me. They never expected a woman perhaps a decade or more younger than them to turn around and stop being nice and say it as it is. Have given people definition of MANSPLAINING. Told them why “feminism is not always cool” is such BS and given them great literature to read. Some have scoffed and said I was “angry”. You know what? I AM angry. Let me leave you with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s words:

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OK Byeeeeeeeeeeeeee