Look in the mirror, what do you see? Before saying, “DUH! Obviously I see myself”, study your reflection in the mirror again and this time do it more closely. Is it really you? Look into your eyes; do you see life in them? Look at your face; is it a happy face? And if you are surely positive about all these questions then there is nothing to worry; your life is good, but if you seem to be confused or unsure then I am afraid that your life might be moving on a wrong track.

Now, when I say ‘wrong track’ I mean the approach that you are using to live your life might be wrong and hence, you probably need to revisit it.

I always thought I knew myself very well and whenever I used to read or hear about anything regarding ‘Being Yourself’, I used to give it a laugh saying “How dumb! If I wouldn’t be myself, then who else would I be?” I never understood why people wouldn’t be ‘themselves’? Why and how is it hard to be yourself? But then one day, I finally found the answer to all those questions and that one-word answer was “Alienation”.

How did the revelation come to me? Well, it was various Self-Assessment questionnaires that I completed for one of my courses during Bachelors, which showed me that the kind of life I was living; and the way I was living it, was not what I have wanted for myself in reality. I was forced to ask myself, whose life am I living? Why am I living this kind of life when I don’t want to? And that’s when I came to know that I was a victim of ‘Self-Alienation’.

I am sure most of you have read or heard about Karl Marx’s Theory of Alienation in which he has given four types of Alienation and Alienation from Self is one of these four types. I believe ‘Self Alienation’ is the worst thing that can happen to anyone; being a stranger to oneself… Just Imagine!!

So, how can we become alienated to ourselves? It happens when we indulge ourselves in worldly desires (like money, fame, career, etc.) so much so that we become robots and our lives become mechanical. We are so busy chasing our goals that we forget to actually ‘live’; we pass on days; working and calculating that how much we have achieved and how much is still left. But do you know what the most ironic thing is? It is that this chase never ends….and it never will. There is always a ‘more’; more efficiency, more skills, more clients, more improvement, more money, more fame, more, more and MORE! You just can’t free yourself from this cruel game.

Today we live in the ‘Survival-of-the-fittest’ era where everybody is trying to be more than Best and to do so, we agree to go to any lengths; work day and night, compromise family gatherings, give up our favorite hobbies, etc. Slowly and gradually, we become slaves of our dreams; dreams that are given to us by this materialistic, or should I say capitalist world. This capitalist world only talks about money and survival. Sometimes I feel very sad and disappointed; the majority of us are just living for material rewards without having an actual purpose for living. Most of us don’t even remember what things really make us happy. I bet most of us won’t have much fun stuff to remember on our deathbed. But you know what? It’s still not very late.

I agree money is very important for surviving, but it’s not bad to think about having some happy or fun moments with yourself or your loved ones. Make sure your life’s purpose is not to become rich, famous or any other materialistic reward, but it is to stay happy and to create happiness for people living around you.

So if you are working on your assignment which is due tomorrow and your favorite show is up on TV, just go and watch it…allow yourself to enjoy; you can stay awake for a little longer than usual to complete that assignment 😉


Changing the Mindset of Future

There is no doubt that education is very important for the progress and development of every country but will educating people really solve our problems? If the answer is yes, then what are our ‘qualified’ doctors, engineers, lawyers, architects or our ‘educated’ is government doing for the betterment of the country? I believe we all know that they have only worked for their own wellbeing. In today’s world, everyone is concerned about ‘making money’; it has become the ultimate goal of our lives. This has made us all self-centered, materialistic and narrow-minded.

So why education didn’t do any good to us, the privileged ones?

Well, it is because we educated our brains but not our minds. Our minds have not been enlightened. Yet.

When a mother tells her 12-year-old son to study hard, bring excellent grades and become a brilliant doctor so that he can earn loads of money, she is actually making her son perceive education as a source of earning money. If, instead she tells her son to become a brilliant doctor to help others in pain, the young boy would see education as a source of bringing betterment in the society. Similarly, parents put a lot of emphasis on grades. Again, telling a child to study hard to bring excellent grades would only educate his brain; it won’t open his mind to learning.

How can education bring betterment to our country when we are conditioned since childhood to see it as a source of getting a materialistic reward?

We need to change the mindsets of our children as they are our future. Whatever they will learn now will become the foundation of their thinking process as they will grow up. Hence, their minds should be conditioned positively. This may seem a very small or insignificant issue but if we think over it, we will realize it holds great magnitude.

Children should see education as a source of bringing change, innovation and welfare. They should be set free to dream and to explore. Let them paint their future like they want. Let them paint the future of Pakistan.

Every ‘Part’ makes up a ‘Whole’

One of the most amazing things that I have learnt about life is how little things can make big things happen; every little deed and every little action of a person can substantially impact the surroundings in which he/she lives. As humans, we often believe that we are powerless and helpless; there is nothing much we can do but what we don’t realize is that by not doing much we can actually do a lot.

For example, one simple joke can make someone laugh, one small lie can ruin a trusting relationship, one stone removed from the street can prevent an accident, one burnt cigarette can lit a house on fire, one’s lost money can buy food to its founder and just one word can break the silence of years.

Another very stimulating idea to me is of the relevance and importance of each and every individual to this world. Every ‘part’ of a ‘whole’ is significant because together these parts make up the ‘whole’; even if a single part is missing the ‘whole’ would be incomplete. Similarly, every individual act of a person; be it good or bad, defines the happenings of the world at large. Our one small action could be the beginning of something new or the ending of some customary norm.

Hence, in order to change the world we don’t need to do big things; we can do random act of kindness that can trigger to the greater things in life.

It’s Time to See HER Differently

According to Amartya Sen; the Nobel Prize–winning economist, about 107 million females are missing from the globe today and every year, at least additional 2 million girls worldwide disappear because of gender discrimination. Indeed, gender inequality is one issue that has been there since the very existence of humanity.

There is no denying the fact that women all around the world are the greatest victim of gender discrimination in every walk of life; be it education, politics, health care, economic empowerment or decision making. But most importantly, women have been deprived of three basic rights that every human deserves and that is freedom of speech, freedom of thought and freedom of expression. Nicholas Kristof, co-author of the book ‘Half the Sky’ writes,

“More girls were killed in the last 50 years, precisely because they were girls, than men killed in all the wars in the 20th century.”

When you see this level of discrimination against women, you just can’t stop asking yourself, ‘Why women?’ And as if it’s not enough galling, your mind throws another irksome question at you and that is ‘Why do men discriminate against women?’

In Pakistan, due to prevailing male dominance, rights of women are neither given much importance nor any protection. The Global Gender Gap Index Report 2013 ranks Pakistan 135th out of 136 countries on gender-based disparities. This alone explains the intensity of this issue in the country. Every year thousands of women are kidnaped, raped, burned or killed in the name of honor or revenge (Aurat Foundation Report 2012).

Gender discrimination is a behavior which a person learns from his or her culture; it is about having a mindset that tells you to differentiate between the two genders because one perceives the other as inferior or weaker. Such cultural mindsets establish the very basis of gender-disparities in Pakistan as well. By raising our little girls to become obedient, submissive and dependent individuals, the society paints a fragile and powerless image of our women which is not only accepted by men but sadly, by women as well.

A girl is not weak and suppressive by default, but she is brought up to become like that. She’s told, at every step of her life, that she must be subservient to man who has the power to decide her fate.

Let us analyze some common beliefs and attitudes that exist in our society in this regard.

Men are supposed to be assertive whereas women are supposed to be docile and compromising; any woman who argues, fights for her rights or voices her opinion is considered to be uncultured and big-mouthed. Hence, in our society women are not entitled to have freedom of expression.

Another strong belief is that women ‘must’ be protected either by their father, brother or husband. We are taught from childhood that ‘men’ have to protect us. However, what I find very ironic is that these men will largely protect us from ‘other men’. Although, I will not deny the importance of a father, husband or brother who definitely provide a safe shelter to women but what if her abuser is her father, husband or brother or she is in a situation where these three men are not present, then what will she do? Apart from physical violence and abuse, it is their very own father or brother who sells them for drug and sex trafficking, kill them in the name of ‘karo-kaari’, force them into ‘watta-satta’ marriage, etc.

We never tell her that she can protect herself and that even though her father, brother or husband will always be there but when there is the need she must stand for herself. This is the reason why women often feel helpless when their very own ‘protectors’ are hurting or abusing them. Worse, they think it is acceptable.

Education is one of the major areas where women have to face discrimination; especially in the rural parts where illiteracy among women is high. The key reason is that men don’t want their females to be empowered as they fear it would reduce their control over them. Although, today we see more and more girls getting higher education in the urban areas, but the very motive of parents in educating their daughters is very disturbing. For a majority of parents, the primary motive of educating their daughters is to enable them to find a good husband. Moreover, it is for the sake of social ‘status’. A father would very proudly announce in public that his daughter will soon be a doctor and when someone asks his daughter about her future plans the father would immediately reply, ‘Oh, she’ll get married’.

Why can’t we tell our daughters that they need to get education so that they could become better persons, could educate their own children and even be able to support their families if needed?

Then there is this strong belief that working women are ‘too liberal’ and housewives are ‘cultured’. The society takes that a working woman can ‘never’ be a good wife, mother and daughter-in-law as her priority is not her family. Even if she does a fairly decent job in balancing her family and work life, the society will find some way to criticize her efforts.

Conversely, the ‘cultured’ housewives don’t enjoy much appreciation and respect too. The daily house chores that housewives do don’t generate any financial reward and, according to men, don’t require any special skills, it is taken for granted since it is something that women are ‘supposed’ to do. However, we fail to understand that their job is much tougher than any other job that earns dollars; they have to work 24/7 with no leaves, holidays or incentives. But what surprises me even more is that if a woman after completing her education decides to become a housewife then she is labeled as backward. Hence, our confused society sets paradoxical standards for women to follow.

Currently, Pakistan’s rank on Human Development Index (HDI) is 146th out of 187 countries while it ranks 123 on Gender Inequality Index. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the existence of such stereotypes sets the stage for momentous gender discrimination that subsists in our society in the form of honor killing, rape, domestic violence, child marriages, etc.

When you tell a small boy not to cry ‘like a girl’, he perceives that girls cry because they are weak. Having this perception in mind, he grows up to be a man who sees women as dependent and powerless individuals. He then teaches the same thing to his children and in this way the chain is never broken, the discrimination goes on.

No matter how much educated our people become but if their minds are still living in the dark ages then women will continue to suffer. This issue doesn’t really need awareness, it needs attention and action; it needs a change of attitude and a will to change.

Women alone can’t bring this change. Until and unless men don’t accept women to be equal to them intellectually, women fighting for their rights won’t stop this gender disparity. I believe it is also the responsibility of men of our society to ‘take a stand’; they should not only say ‘No Violence to Women’ but also do ‘No Violence to Women’.

Therefore, it’s time that we tell our daughters and sisters that yes, they are beautiful and pretty but most importantly they are smart and courageous, it’s time to let them be the writers of their story, let them dream, let them speak, let them think, let them choose and above all, set them free.

Yes, it’s time to see them differently for a change.

*NOTE: This article has already been published by ARY Blogs with little variations; just sharing it here too.

Clock or Compass, What comes first?

Last night, when I was out on a drive, a saying on some billboard got my attention:

“Life is too short to do Everything; Set your Priorities wisely”

Although, I looked at it only for a couple of  seconds but those words got scanned on my mind. When I got home and laid down on my bed, that saying flashed back to me. Thinking about it, a question popped into my mind: What comes first, clock or compass?; What should we plan on first? our time (clock) or our direction (compass)? Often, we worry about our time management but it is very seldom that we talk about our direction; the path we chose to follow in our lifetime. Therefore, before we become capable of managing our time (clock), I think first we should be clear on where we want to go in life (compass) and how; we need to know our goals, our Priorities, correctly. It is more important to know where you are going than knowing how fast are you going. Hence, Compass comes first and then comes the Clock.

The secret of a successful life lies in setting priorities. Life is not all about ‘what we want to do?’ but it is majorly about ‘what we want to do first?’. Your priorities are your direction in life which leads you to your ultimate goal. Therefore, one should be very careful while listing their priorities.  It is important to be sure about what should be numbered  ‘1’, what should be numbered  ‘2’ and so on. Because if we over-estimate or under-estimate the true value of things we want to do in life then in the end, we will be left with a lot of undone things which were ought to be done as we would have wasted our time in doing what was less or least important. That is why we fail to accomplish our goals.

Another  essential thing to understand is that when I ask ‘What comes first, clock or compass?’, the decision is not be made on the basis of what is important and what’s not but on the basis of what is ‘most’ or ‘more’ important among the two. There is no doubt that clock has its worth but when compared to compass, its significance becomes less as compass shows direction and until and unless we don’t have a direction(compass)  we can’t use our time(clock) effectively. Therefore, setting priorities doesn’t mean choosing between things that are right or wrong, good or bad, useful or useless but it is about listing things as ‘important’, ‘more important’ and ‘most important’. If we can set our priorities rightly and get them straight in our heads then I believe, it is very unlikely that our lives would be mess-up!

In my ‘About’ page I have mentioned my attitude for living life i.e.  “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” In this small lifetime, we have so much to do. By doing right things at right time and right place, we can overcome the dilemma which we often face, of choosing among the important things, when we ran out of time. Therefore, define your priorities and try to know them well.  😉

And to do so, you need to ask yourselves questions like this one: “What comes first, clock or compass?”