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It was surreal and engrossing. The atmosphere had a dreamlike quality about it. Mere mortals were absorbed in the sheer specter and stunned by the prevailing environment that was beyond idyllic. The unbelievable sight and the scenes unfolding were a snapshot right out of an immaculate painting that was conceived somewhere in heavens except for the fact_ it was so real and tangible yet so pure, heavenly and unbelievable.

Every living and non-living form had lost its individuality and succumbed to the overwhelming homogenizing invasion of thick and deepening snow blanket that lent a delicate white glow to the world around us. The effect was not just blinding but captivating to the extent that touched and mesmerized our every sense rendering a state of virtual trance.  

Tranquil and calm, and thanks to the incessant orchestrating display of dancing and rolling white specks of snow flakes that sailed and floated through the atmosphere in an enchanting dynamic formation, emanating from a uniform thin ash grey mist that stretched beyond horizon to the heavens unknown, a continous spray of white streak that lent its shade and painted everything white on its course, the world around us was virtually unreal.

We had just approached the scenic but desertedvalleyofKalamall draped in white and absorbed in dead calm after what had been an unbelievably exciting five hours journey from Mingora. The jeeps, almost a dozen in number, drove in close formation pressing, crushing and grading a thick blanket of snow piling heavy loads along the edges. As we entered the town, it presented an amazing look. The road, shops, hotels and resorts by the river that are abuzz and throng with tourists and life during the summers were all covered in snow and virtually lifeless. A thin stream of flowing river asserting itself amidst a huge overwhelming mass of surrounding snow was the only sign of life left in the valley. Following a steep descent that led our jeeps to a hotel by the river with its picket, parking and play area all sunk in snow. Drawing a sigh of relief, though still unsure that we had actually made it that far in such conditions, we disembarked while it was still snowing heavily. There we were served freshly cooked delicious lunch that we savoured in extreme cold.

The snow jeep rally, a peace initiative and an absolute fun filled adventure, was organized by Islamabad jeep club during the first week of Feburary. In all there were about thirty participants and a dozen jeeps that participated in the rally. We had started our journey in drizzle fromIslamabad motorway toll plaza almost a day earlier. Drive to Mardan and Mangora had been a smooth and pleasant one rendered even more enjoyable by the spell of rain that continued throughout the journey. Owing to the frequent military and police checkpoints that have been established after the Taliban insurgency in the area and rain, the journey was slow and it took us about six hours to reach Mangora. Hungary as we were, there we feasted ourselves with the tantalizing and delicious local specialty of chappal kababs and satiatied our taste buds. It was raining and quite cold in Mingora. Soon we were led to our hotel in Fizza Ghat and tired and fatigued we retreated into the warmth of our sleeping bags in utter cold.

It had been snowing heavily in Kalam for the last couple of days and the weather forecast predicted the wet spell to continue. That amounted to increased possibility of land slides and blockage of Swat Kalam highway and lent more flavour to the adventure. Taking into account the eventualities and the exciting challenge that were to be encountered, we took an early breakfast and start next morning. It was Sunday and still raining in Fizza Ghat when we left our abode aroundhalf past eight in the morning.

Hustle and bustle as we get ready to depart

The scenic Swat valley was awash with a fresh tinge of damp and lively green surrounded by hills all coated white by steadily descending snowline that was gradually approaching the valley. There was an air of freshness, charm and serenity about the atmosphere and it felt wonderful to be back to peaceful and calm Swat after a lapse of many years. 

The rally was led to a Military unit in Madyan where Lt Col Nadeem and his unit had hosted tea in the honour of president and participants of the IJC. The officers emphasized the point that the peace had been restored in the valley and the plans were underway to transfer the administration and management of the areas to the civilian authorities. It was noteworthy to assert that most of the natives wanted the tourists back to the paradise of Swat to stir up economic activity that would in turn benefit the local inhabitants. They were thankful to the participants of the rally as activities like these should help a good deal in bolstering the confidence of the visitors and the first hand experience and knowledge would trigger increased flow of tourism in the region.

Drive from Madyan was a lifetime experience, enchanting and besotting to say the least. As soon as we had approached the twin settlement of Bahrain, we were greeted by a fresh torrent of sleet. The showers of rain soon froze and transformed into the remarkable haze of snow. From thereon it was all a breathtaking journey in snow, with heavens and nature particularly generous and kind to have unveiled the most mind-blowing views and specters of its purity and raw beauty upon us. The road, more appropriately a gradually ascending trail along the winding and gushing river Swat, was all covered in thick layers of snow and the already thin traffic almost died out. Military excavators and graders were engaged in clearing the road along the slides at some occasional spots while we continued to tootle along through the beautiful scenery, pin-drop silence and utter calm.

Whatever scant number of locals that had decided not to migrate during the extreme winters, were well informed and eagerly awaited their guests and greeted us as we drove along the sole snow covered road that bisects the Kalam bazzar. Notwithstanding the hostile spell of falling snow, even in acute cold a sizeable number of locals had thronged the plane at the exit of the Kalam where the rally was scheduled.

The jeeps approached the arena and the drivers came up with enormously bold, daring and deft maneuvers and feats as they drove and waded their way through hip high layers of snow. Locals particularly enjoyed the spellbinding performance of various drivers. It was heavenly to roam and lumber through the heaps of snow in that sublime and pure atmosphere amidst a cluster of tall alpines all cloaked in white.

 

After a couple of hours as the darkness began to descend upon and engulf the peace of picturesque Kalam valley, we drove back to the comfort of our hotel rooms (if it may be termed so considering the lack of any heaters but a few LPG stoves that sweated miserably to make any impression in the freezing cold that penetrated right through the bones). It was still snowing while we had a delicious dinner together and cake cutting ceremony afterwards. We survived through the extreme of that deadly cold night, half asleep and half awake somehow to find a lovely morning greet us with a promising dawn.

 It had stopped snowing sometime late in the night but our jeeps, courtyard and surroundings were all sunk in thick layers of snow and frost. The conditions were still overcast and it was a perfect morning to take a walk and explore the heavenly surroundings. Valley and bazaar of Kalam was unbelievably calm and all buried in meters of fresh snow. As far as the vision could penetrate, all we could see was a uniform undulating sheet of heavenly white spread all across filling every trough and crest alike.

 

After the breakfast, the prize distribution ceremony was arranged that was attended by an ex-nazim of the area and a few military officers in addition to the participants. It was time to depart as the sun finally peeked from behind the clouds leaving us dazed with excitement as did its reflections dazzled our sights.

 (More snaps and details on www.ijc.com.pk & www.pakwheels.com  under Snow Cross 2012 )

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Evolution or Revolution?

Are we eventually not back to the square one? The ever so familiar situation repeating itself every so often _ the civil military stand off and the government and judiciary finding themselves at loggerheads yet again feeding ample fodder to the insatiable milling machine of media thankfully to sensationalize and spice things up to their liking, churning out conspiracy theories by creating an unnecessary hype at times while acting irresponsibly by neglecting the imperative developments and details at others to mislead ( read to keep informed) the public at large but to keep their business and entertainment (talk) shows going round the clock. 

The history is perhaps tired of repeating itself over and over again but we are not. While the cynical circular spectrum of events continue to go round and round statically with no linear development over the six decades, interestingly the question remains who is actually at fault? 

Was the judiciary at fault when ZAB riding the crest of a mammoth tide of popularism was hanged? Certainly! Was the judiciary at fault when the over zealous Sultan Muhammad Nawaz Sharif stormed the supreme court overwhelmed by his lust of power? Certainly not! Is the judiciary at fault now when it is taking government to task over a couple of security and political issues? Anybody’s guess! 

More? Was it democratically elected Nawaz Sharif at fault when he dismissed the then COAS Musharraf or was the military takeover a logical reaction to Sharif’s voracious desire for omnipotence while undermining the freedom of various state institutions? 

While it appears deceptively simple to single out Army as the most criminal force and factor in the equation that has arguably rooted out seeds of democratic culture that have been sown time and again but haven’t the democratic institutions failed time and again and caved in owing to their intrinsic weakness, imbalance, disharmony and reckless measures? I am certainly not for khakis to step in or marching boots to trample the constitution at their own free will. There are far too many lessons to learn from the autocratic Islamic revolution led by Hazarat General Muhammad Zia ul Haq and later, in stark contrast, the radiant era of “Renaissance” unleashed by enlightened moderator Mush__ both reminding us of the ages of darkness ironically in one way or the other. But the fact remains that unlike the rest, Military is the only disciplined and organized institution of the state with supposedly far less public dealing and external influence. In all fairness, doesn’t Military get more than its due share of blame for the failure of state or democratic process or institutions? Again, even if for the argument’s sake, Military is the mother of all ills, isn’t failure of a major state institution to understand its due role and to overstep its limits or jurisdiction blatantly time and again be deemed as the failure of democracy or system itself? 

If so, this brings us back to the million dollar question, how in the world do the tenets of western democracy offer the best solution to our typical political, social and economic problems that have failed to grab roots in sixty four years?

 If going to the polls with 35 million bogus registered votes every now and then and casting our vote in the favour of the candidate solely on the basis of birardari or “kinship” as Anatol Lieven ( Pakistan a hard country) puts it earns us the licence to be a democratic state, who are we fooling by expecting a change to take place simply by sticking to this ritual? Not to undermine our society, but have we got the literacy, awareness, religious and social freedom and justice, tradition and maturity to inculcate that culture of expression of freedom, tolerance, mutual respect, equal rights for all human beings that constitute the spirit of democracy together?   

If not, then why are we obsessed with the secular models of western democracy that will never work for us or has never gained roots in the sixty four years of the existence ofPakistanas a state? 

My dear friends and intellectuals who cannot see beyond the dazzling virtues of democracy and exist as if only to keep on harping about it, let us be honest and analyze is democracy the only system that has brought about change coupled with social and economic upliftment round the globe or region? We may snub China for poor human rights standings but what has brought about that magnificent rise in its economic power and splendour? Democracy? Why forget the Asian tigersSingapore? While the state has remained a kingdom with no natural resources of its own (even the drinking water is to be imported from the neighbouring Malaysia), who can deny the remarkable turn around in its stature and economic fate that has earned it the informal title of the ‘Most orderly state” in the world just in a few decades? 

Call it our mindset but name a single mainstream political party that has nurtured democratic culture within its rank and file. Does passing the leadership on to the next generation or the memebers of the family like personal fiefdom or heritage does not negate the spirit of the democracy itself? Or is it perfectly cool to build on a monarchy of  Sharifs, Bhuttos, Zardaris & Madaris while harping about democratic traditions and process?

To cut it short, there may well be countless virtues and democracy may still be the best form of governance but what good is it if it does not deliver but rather dis-enfranchise the masses to the point where the state is brought to the brink of its existential threat?

To me, democracy is after all a means or mode to deliver! 

Divine Interventions!?

Another worthy contribution by Mrs. Delirium

As we make headlines again for all the wrong reasons, this time we should be given the benefit of the doubt because they were not our doing-not exactly, so to speak.

So following our national sport of evading responsibility and blaming others, this time it is the Almighty himself who is to be blamed. The Heavens have turned against us in the form of floods and that tiny thing causing that beastly disease–Dengue.

 Since this time surprisingly it was not our not-so-friendly-neighbors infesting mosquitoes and using them in place of nuclear weapons, nor was it a conspiracy on the part of the superpowers using them as micro drones. Of course, there is always the theory of Biological Warfare by our enemies using the mosquitoes as a vector. By the way our population keeps on growing by leaps and bounds; it will take them a while to commit genocide, even if they wanted to.

The popular view is that Azaab-e-Ilaahi has descended upon us to punish our deeds. Not that there is the slightest of doubt in anyone’s mind regarding the Almighty’s displeasure with us as a nation. We are guilty of all the evils mentioned in the Book and failing to acknowledge them beneath the cloak of self-righteousness.

These natural disasters if anything have ripped apart the gaping holes in our system. Our lack of basic infrastructure and myopic vision making it impossible to respond to any disaster is apparent. The Japanese had their earthquakes and the Americans had their hurricanes in the not too distant past. Undisputedly, they are rich on resources available at their disposal. But how we have managed to use/abuse ours is also a study in itself. The damage inflicted has been blown out of proportion by our own incompetence.

While there will be innovative means deployed to raise funds for the floods (conferences, telethons etc.), one wishes the same imagination had been used for something erstwhile in apprehension of the impending floods.

The Government has responded with surprising alacrity to the Dengue crisis, but while our neighbors have been successful in containing it through research, we chose to ignore the problem when it could have been effectively dealt with without causing the large-scale damage it is causing today.

However, it is also in moments like these when one sees the spirit of nationhood re-kindled and everyone contributing in whatever way they can to help. Also, it is amusing to see the local health authorities preaching lessons of public health, long forgotten and never implemented upon. Overnight, we seem to have discovered the benefits of keeping our environs clean and realizing the importance of prevention.

And in a typical hypocritical way, we would spend more time organizing en-masse prayers than take any practical steps for this purpose but the hand of divinity is omnipotent and ubiquitous, like a variable biasing the end-result of a spreadsheet. Because when one has managed to the best of one’s ability; we conclude “Dua karein. Allah behter karega.”

SHAMPOO FOR HIJABIS

Mrs. Delirium on marketing gimmicks of FMCGs

The new ‘in’ is the shampoo for hijabis. Without doubt, this is a skillful maneuver on behalf of the cosmetic company to capture the rapidly growing segment of the market favoring the hijab. This foretells important trends in our population:

An ever-increasing number of woman are taking to the hijaab as their preferred attire, comprising mostly urbanites studying or working outside,  more popular amongst the younger ones, transcending class barriers. These are seen as a target market to capitalize upon since urban areas now have frequent outlets catering to the faithful like specialized shops selling abbayas and hijabs to bookshops selling only Islamic books.

While this may be seen as a backward trend by the liberals denouncing the growing conservatism & ‘Arabinization’ of the predominant culture of the Sub-Continent, a lot of terming this is as the branding of Islam into a corporate entity.

But apart from being a brilliant marketing tactic, focusing on product differentiation, it has for the first time acknowledged hitherto neglected portion of the society. This is a similar strategy deployed in Indonesia a few years back. Catering to the local demands of the local market has been successfully used in this part of the world (remember Leher Pepsi & other brands in India in the 80s?)

While visualizing Islam in the Arabic context is practicing it almost too religiously, since this culture has now taken root, there is no harm on capitalizing upon it. Taken without prejudice, this can be a section like nail lacquer for housewives or soap for eczema & certainly no cause of ridicule from the liberals.

It is heartening to see that we have advertisements catering to the local demands as opposed to imported themes or models bearing no congruency with our population in language or attire. The inevitable result of projection by the media has resulted in our youth blindly emulating them considering it hip or cool.

This also heralds the fact that our local markets are mature enough for our multinationals to come up with special products tailored for them rather than coming up with a single product for the entire region.

There is that young promising bright girl who makes it to the hot seat of the plagiarized illustration of ‘Who wants to be a millionaire’– Junaid Jamshed’s faithful mullah compliant Islamic version_ Alif Laam Meem. She runs through the early rounds quickly until the poor girl is disastrously stuck by the revelation, no less challenging than the laurels of the restlessly wandering and now eternally and peacefully asleep Columbus, that she has been asked to discover the God forsakenly unknown place of Congo somewhere on the globe. Stunned, the girl wisely decides to opt for ‘Shoora’. As it turns out nearly three quarters of the house overwhelmed with excitement, momentarily passes the verdict, to somehow, relocate the state in question from Africa to Asia. The girl confidently and proudly announces to go with the ‘majority’ only to be shocked at how she has been let down by the ‘overwhelming majority’.

This was just a game that she unfortunately lost but are we losing something by blindly going with the ‘majority’ in Pakistan for years?

Let us now visit a class of physics or mathematics with a mix of average and above average students with a couple of exceptional ones like any representative group or class. The professor comes up with a tricky numeric and logical problem. ‘Majority’ is unable to see through it offering a unique but wrong answer while only a handful get to analyze it properly to give the proper solution.

Now who is specifically right here? The mediocre majority?

A strong counter argument to the later case may well lie in the statement that the real life analytical problems are not a quiz of mathematics or science but have diverse solutions with no one right answer to an issue or a problem.

True my dear friends but who has to unravel those ‘right answers’ in a democratic state? The representatives of the people? Elected by whom? Masses mired in guts of feudalism, ethnicity, sectarianism and bradarism? They may well be adjudged as ‘aware’ but what percentage can be assumed as truly educated and is prepared to see beyond the basic survival needs of bread and butter or thana kachahri? When the much trumpeted ‘freedom to choose’ gets so myopic, coerced, insensitive and selfish at the very core what representation do we expect to emerge over and over again and what improvement do we expect out of it?

Are we not living in a fool’s paradise if we expect any change to spring out of the rotten electoral system?

For these apparent underlying reasons, those who see the current version of democracy as a self-correcting and self- cleansing mechanism should rest assured that we are conveniently tied up only in an endless vicious cycle.

Let us just glance at the structures and ranks and file of our political parties. How many of them can claim to be democratic in their spirit ? Not PML (N) that proudly elected NS as its president after a fierce and sapping electoral battle and is now resorting to infighting for the aspiring members are lobbying NOT to be elected but handpicked by the party leadership. But then why do we clamour and tend to forget that the party draws its roots and strength from the ashes of a mard-e-momin?

PPP? It has more Ps than democratic dimensions. We hope and pray that our endearing jaan nasheen Bilawal Bhutto Zardari descends from the skies safely to take the reigns of the party leadership one fine morning as soon as he turns twenty five.

MQM ? Duh! PTI…maybe. I am not sure. The only political party that may boast of being truly democratic in its organizational structure turns out be JI that we insist does not represent the mainstream populace!

While all these political parties continue to thrive by virtue of their sheer undemocratic character weaved round the presence of a singular monumental individual, living or dead (half dead in some cases), can we conclude that our eastern loyalist (or perhaps sycophant behaviour and mindset; thanks to our existence as colonial slaves for centuries) invariably breeds an inherent and subliminal desire to bow our heads before an authoritative monarch?

So de we have something wrong with our democracy, national psyche, awareness or political parties?

Whatever, that may well be but I can’t believe that there is something NOT seriously wrong in this equation. Perhaps we can not single that out and perhaps its a complicated mix of more than one destabilizing factors. But the point and discussion remains that a blind and unquestionable trust and faith in the tenets of western democracy is not working for us. A tide of socialism has come and lapsed. Its violent and raging currents swept the likes of mighty super power USSR in its wake. Whereas, the recent spate of crisis has shaken the foundations of the power centres of the west grounded firmly into democratic traditions backed by vested interests and unruly corporate and capitalist mafias. Where does this crumbling ultimately lead to is anybody’s guess!?

Returning to the point, democracy may well be the ultimate solution to all our blistering issues; Maybe not! What needs to be done is to walk out of this shell and paradigm and approach the question with an un-predisposed and open mindset, taking all the variables and stakes into account and forge a solution that comes out as the best remedial fit for our unique and diverse social, cultural, religious, economic and demographic demands.

My 7 links …….!?

As this restless girl Shivya, who manages her fabulous travel blog The Shooting Star, hopping from one continent to the other, nominates me for the 7 link project__ a wonderful initiative of  Tripbase , to be fair and honest, it comes as a bit of a shock. Not because my ever boasting self doesn’t consider myself much of a wanderer but principally because it brings home the realization that time really flies! 

7 link project is a sweet gentle reminder that I have been updating this personal blog for 7 months now and have piled up a mindless collection of more than 7 times that number. (Thanks to the readers for bearing with all those delirious outbursts). 

As I delve into the posts and statistics, I run into a number of surprises. First and foremost being, guess what!? the most visited page of the blog, barring home page, has been the “About” page. Lets still keep it as the ‘8th post’ as we search for the 7 (arguably) unique posts for the 7 link project. So lets plunge into the blog and dig out some pieces. Here we go! 

  1. My most popular post 

As the stats reveal, my most read and popular post turns out to be Imprinting footprints on virgin snow. Whether it is the charm of the virgin or the snow that caused all the pull and attraction is anybody’s guess!? 

  1. My most commented post 

The most commented happens to be the post about the pictorial journey that takes you through the captivating beauty of the mountain trek I love trailing through over and over again. The post is titled The Annual Pilgrimage  and it is downright sacrilegious not to comment on the post. 

  1. My least commented post 

Totally unexpected. My only piece of fiction on the blog weaved round a living character in the romantic backdrop of pulsating nature. Seems like, it all turned out to be a lame attempt that ended up in confusing the reader with contrasting metaphors. No comment so far, so to speak! Tangible Dreams 

  1. My nostalgic post 

About the idyllic and serene hill station I was brought up in. And that before it earned the overnight global fame hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons on May 2nd, 2011. Yes the one notoriously associated with OBL now, Abbottabad. The City That Once Was Mine!

    5.   My adorable post

One of the earliest posts on this blog; The one I dedicated to one of my closest friends. A walk down the memory lane, treasuring sweet memories, whereby, I shared a wonderful experience and enjoyed scribbling it. Exploring Mountains In January  

  1. My post on love and expense of universe 

Is love the binding force that is holding this disintegrating universe and its endless expense together? You decide! A Truth About My Universe……! 

     7.  My post on relationships & expectations 

As I understand, a simplified and isolated view and my two pence on the delicacies and intricacies of something as complex as human sensitivities and feelings. Emotional Bank Account  

Phew! Done with the selection bit. Now comes the hardest part. Handing over the torch for the next round of 7 link project.  As they say “Play the game in the spirit of the game.” Thus, the 7 people I am going to tag in line with the spirit of the 7 link project are Leenah with her blog Touching With Fingers The Naked Body Of Dreams. Valerine with her blog The Verbal Fiend. Mahlaqa managing her blog Mind And Beyond. Nadia Masood who operates her blog with her name. Umair with his blog Dashtnavard. Ugly Shoelace  managing her Ugly Worn-Out Shoelace and last but not the least Natasha Suleman operating her blog the spicy Green Chillies and then of course……we all miss Eva’s blog.

Done with my bit. Over to you guys now!

Cheers!

  • First of all, I seek an apology in advance for resorting to stereotyping and generalization. But then my dear friend this is a reactionary mindset you are so proud to associate yourself with_ stemming out of your psychic need to ridicule anything remotely related to religion & Islam in particular or to mimic or appease the gods who rave in abusing and humiliating the religion.
  • Thus it is your apologetic mindset and twisted logic steeped in prejudice and inferiority complex without substantial knowledge that develops your personality as a pseudo liberal ( Aadha teetar aadha batair)
  • You are not clear in your mind and have a dual personality. Flaunting a spirit of false intellectualism, you complicate the things by living in a haze of contradictions and dichotomy.
  • Your reactionary approach is no less myopic and extremist than that of those sickening fundamentalists who are out to blast everyone & everything around including their innards for the love of seventy two virgins.
  • You hail from an intolerant and ignorant lot who just believe in exploiting the words and deeds originating from the opposing half of the divide or spectrum. You have no solution to offer and being a part of a problem, just add to the polarity and tension with no sense of moderation, fraternity or reconciliation.
  • You don’t practice religion but deem yourself a master at that. Thereby, quote the teachings and commandments out of context or quote them selectively/partially to convey or make convoluted misleading interpretations for your own benefit. That just adds fuel to fire worsening the already fuming & intolerant socio-political landscape. And who does it help? Not you; Not me; Not our country!