Dawn in the Valley of Wisdom – Saaee’n Amar Jaleel


It was by sheer boring routine of the day that I decided to go through some pages on Facebook that I had joined over the past many years. In one of the academic pages, I stumbled upon a post sharing details of Sindh Abhyas Academy seminar on Sindhi literature. Sindh Abhyas Academy of Szabist has started a series of seminars focusing on Sindh – its history, literature, archaeology, and music.

Read: Does changing the script kill the language?

It was 4 am on a Sunday and the seminar timings were 3pm on the same day. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make it since I need a good few days before I decide to go out and socialize. In the morning, I though decided to not miss this opportunity of hearing Saaee’n Amar Jaleel [you can read more about this great Sindhi writer and his published work on his website]. By some miracle, my brother (who hates reading anything and everything and despises any sessions on literature) agreed to accompany me and so we reached at Szabist 90 – a good 40mins late.

First session was a talk by G.M. Umrani. I could only catch last five minutes of his seemingly controversial talk and povs. He sounded aggressive like some religious clergy. Pardon me, if you are a fan. By seeing the heat on Twitter, I am rather happy (or not) to miss the first session.

Read the rest of this entry


Indian / Pakistani food: chicken handi and some sort of beef kebabs!


Muharram in Skardu, ’75


Reading Murphy’s Where the Indus is Young during the month of Muharram has its own kind of fascination. My Facebook timeline is filled with odes from Shiah friends, hate (or rather judgmental) speech from Sunni friends, and then a few messages from those who are troubled by the stark intolerance of these two groups. Personally, I haven’t yet seen a Shiah friend talking insolently about Sunni followers or their leaders; however, Sunni friends are persistent the former group hates their khalifaas.

A midst all this, Murphy’s book takes us back to Aashuraa of 1975 in the areas of Gilgit/Baltistan, where the situation doesn’t seem any different. She is witnessing a Muharram procession which she finds similar to Irish Good Friday. Murphy talks about how she was switched off by this display of insensate grief. Throughout the book, Murphy has mentioned de Fillipi’s quotes from his journey Read the rest of this entry

Dervla Murphy – Travelogues (Where the Indus is Young)


Last week, I finally got myself some travelogues – not that I hadn’t had any, but it’d been a while since I last visited Afghanistan by the eyes of Rory Stewart. I decided to continue that journey but move inside towards Pakistan. Dervla Murphy is my new body (however that sounds) travelling through Islamabad, Pindi, Swat, Gilgit, and now Skardu Baltistan.

Murphy is travelling with her daughter – 6 years old, can you believe that? – during the extreme cold months of December-January (it’s still going on, i think it’ll continue till March). This journey is based in the year 1975 with apparent differences one would notice especially after 9/11. She talks about rather naive people of Gilgit and Skardu – she actually names some as idiot and oaf which is very uncalled for coming from a writer.


However, the book is full of stories, landscape explanations (rather visual), apricots-eating weeks, games of getting kerosene oil to keep warm, filthy state of being unwashed for weeks, thrills and anxiety of travelling with a tiny little child, Fillipo De Fillipi quotes, and well a few buckets of adjectives.

Murphy is travelling the northern plate of Pakistan which boosts a plenty of highest mountains of the world. Those sheer peaks properly presented by Nature with beautiful, transparent lakes, unharmed by little hamlets, and very simple life of locals make for a pretty riveting read.

It’s actually quite exciting and relevant to read this book during the final days of Muharram where Murphy is talking about bloody flagellations witnessed in Skardu. She has painfully described the mourning day when a few thousands of people beat their own chests, cut their scalps and backs with knives and keep on thumping their chests for hours in a below freezing temperature. During those few pages, I felt rather upset due to the fact Murphy was witnessing this with her 6yr old. Travellers have their own ways, perhaps?

I am planning to read Stewart again after I finish Dervla Murphy’s Where the Indus is Young to compare if that one was indeed a better read. It should be noted that Stewart’s journey started post 9/11 which could be a reason it felt more relevant to me. Throughout last 4 days I have been in a nostalgic memory of travelling with Stewart but let’s focus on Murphy, Baltistan and adjectives for now!

More updates once I finish the journey!

Southern(lower) plains of Pakistan – in stark opposition of Northern side of peaks!

*Muharram is a holy month in Islam when the Shiah sect of Muslims mourn the barbaric deaths of Prophet’s grandson Hussain and his followers. This mourning is in the form of rallying but sometimes it gets violent when mourners start injuring themselves. This month is revered and respected by almost all sects of Islam. Read more on Wikipedia.

P.S. Must thank Kitabain.com for delivering some beautiful titles for half the prices!


Pakistan: Are Urban Women’s Growing Baking & Sewing Interests Problematic?

It’s increasingly being considered as a good thing from economic perspective. However, restricting women only to a few skills such as sewing and backing could yield long term economic depressions with no foreseeable equal participation of women in workforce.

How to Stay Secure Online


Whether you’re an internet newbie or an expert, you are equally vulnerable to all kinds of cybercrimes. While the internet offers many opportunities to explore, create new things, collaborate on exciting projects, or take online MOOCs from top ranking universities of the world, it also has some serious trade-offs that we often choose to neglect. There is a basic rule of thumb: your private information remains private only if it never leaves your own head.

We aren’t saying you shouldn’t trust anyone in life, but trusting someone with your private information (passwords, accounts credentials, security questions, PINs etcetera) always puts you at risk of losing that information, and the valuable services they allow you to access. There are a few tiny tips that you can follow to ensure your own security online. And like they say, “since you never leave the main gate of your house open for thieves and murderers and whoever”, (clichéd as that may be), you should be vigilant about the security and safety of your online life as well.

Stronger passwords

In the digital world, passwords are like the keys to your gate; never to be shared! It is the most essential element as it is used to get into your personal accounts. So how do you create stronger, more resilient passwords?

Use mnemonics: They improve memory by using the words from your favorite rhymes, poetry or say, a movie title, for example, yaar ko hum ney jab ajaadekhaa can be turned into yKhnjBd. You can make passwords even stronger by using digits for letters: 0 for o/O, 5 or 2 for S/s etcetera. Play with variations that would be more easily memorable for you. If not mnemonics then simply make sure your password contains a combination of capital letters, small letters, digits and signs and not just a single sentence with all small or capital letters.

Always use different passwords for high-value or sensitive services. For instance, don’t use the same password for Twitter and for online banking. And use a different password again for your e-mail account: after all, where do your password reminders get sent to?

Use KeePass (keepass.info) to store your passwords, credit card PINs, computer passes and any other sensitive information. Do not write it on paper or save it in email/mobile drafts. Also, do not store passwords on your browser’s password manager. Browsers store passwords in a single known location – which means an attacker will always know where to look, even if the passwords are encrypted, increasing the chance that data will be compromised.

How to be secure on social media

Most of our time online is spent on social media sites. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ are increasingly becoming a vital part of our daily life. While things are pretty simple on Twitter, (everything is public OR hidden if you keep a protected account), it’s a bit different when it comes to Facebook. We add our friends, acquaintances and family members on Facebook, which means more private information is shared, risking a much wider view of your online identity. Facebook accounts can also be used to harass, create fake accounts using your publicly shared information and photos; and it can become messy, with you having to ask your friends to mark your account as spam, and then going through the process of getting your account deleted and establishing a new one. But that frustration can be avoided with a few privacy settings. Also, please do not add just about everyone who sends you a friend request. You not only expose your private information, but also that of your Facebook friends and family members. Always make sure if that guy who used to be in your school and you two never actually spoke to each other is genuinely interested in friendship with you, or whether he is trawling for your private information? If that account which seems to be of your college teacher really belongs to the teacher or is it a fake account?

Spend some time on your Facebook privacy settings to make sure they are set to how you want them to be. Go to the settings gear icon on the top right corner and click on the Privacy Settings on the drop down menu. In the privacy settings window you can set who can look at your profile, who can search for you by e-mail or name, who can tag you in their photos and other important settings. Go through each of them to make sure you do not miss any important point. Remember in particular that ’friends of friends’ can be a very large number of people you don’t know, even if you have been careful in who you accept as your own circle of ‘friends’.

When you update your status or share a photo, there is a little icon to edit the post/photo’s visibility from public to friends to custom, etcetera. Do make use of it, rather than just accepting the default settings, as the default settings on Facebook may not necessarily be the best ones for you.

Some important browsing tips

• Always use HTTPS!
• Keep location feature/GPS disabled when not necessary.
• Use two-way verification (available on Gmail, FB, Dropbox, etc) for that extra security layer.
• Change your passwords every couple of months as a precautionary step.
• Use proxy services when you intend to remain anonymous because of the security issues – particularly while blogging about sensitive issues.
• Set your browser to ‘always clear cookies and browsing history’ – especially when using a machine which is not exclusively being used by you.

Your online persona is a part of you, and it is as valuable as any other information you may have. The more you ‘live online’, the more care you should take of your online life.

Published on Dawn Spider Magazine