Trolling: Pakistan’s National Pastime?

By Sonya Rehman The internet is increasingly becoming a scary place. Where trolling was once joked about, today it stands as a deadly force, spreading its tentacles far and wide, inciting propaganda, hatred and intolerance. Take the recently ‘leaked’ images of Mahira Khan taking a ciggie break with Ranbir Kapoor in New York for instance….

The Jazz Musicians of Lahore

By Sonya Rehman Izzat Majeed is a man of a few words. At first, his monosyllabic answers can rub you the wrong way, particularly if you’re a little on the sensitive side. You might think he’s either being dismissive, or, that he thinks your questions are rather stupid. Seated behind a large desk at his…

An Ode To Cultural Heritage

By Sonya Rehman As the Aga Khan Cultural Services Pakistan enters its third decade of operations in the country, the organization’s mission to improve socio-economic conditions of rural and urban communities by leveraging the transformative power of cultural heritage has only strengthened. With numerous award-winning projects in the high valleys of Gilgit-Baltistan under its belt,…

Khadija Siddiqi: Justice Delayed, Not Denied

By Sonya Rehman It was a case which made headlines last summer in the first week of May. Khadija Siddiqi, a 21-year-old law student in Lahore, Pakistan, was stabbed 23 times in broad daylight on a busy road while she waited to pick up her 6-year-old sister from school. The attacker, Shah Husain, the son of a…

Pakistani Singer Highlights Trans Lives In Latest Single

By Sonya Rehman It’s a fun and catchy little ditty, but on closer inspection, Madam, the latest single by Pakistani musician, Jimmy Khan, shines the spotlight on a rather grim issue: local society’s apathetic attitude towards its transgender community. But it was only after the song was recorded that Khan started considering highlighting the lives of transgenders…

Director’s Cut

By Sonya Rehman Local cinema is on the rise, what with the help of independent filmmakers who have brought a number of genres and stories to the big screen. While some have gone the safe, commercial route, i.e. aping formulaic Bollywood productions, others have taken the longer, albeit more offbeat and original path. Through local…

I Wish We Could Go Back To The Time When…

By Sonya Rehman I wish we could go back to the time when, Holidays didn’t need to be validated by likes and crummy virtual hearts, When driving up to Murree meant, Not having to ‘check-in,’ And every misty evening, mountain top, slothful mountain snail didn’t need to be shared, With such urgency, Living in the…

Unsent

By Sonya Rehman God listens. God knows. God, within muscle and bone.  In 2014, in the winter of my sibling’s year-long medical treatment, I lay in my bed heartbroken, unable to sleep. The loneliness was piercing, acute. It was only then did my self-imposed single-ness feel like an albatross around my neck. What was I punishing myself for, I…

The Man Behind The Minar: Nasreddin Murat-Khan

By Sonya Rehman He wasn’t an ordinary man, and neither was his life. Even though Nasreddin Murat-Khan is largely acknowledged as the ‘architect behind Minar-e-Pakistan,’ his story goes beyond the minar, and far beyond Pakistan. We meet at her childhood friend’s home in Lahore for tea. Meral Murat-Khan, Murat-Khan’s youngest daughter, is soft-spoken and candid…

Pakistani Music Maestro Teams Up With Grammy-Winning Producer

By Sonya Rehman In perhaps one of the most exciting developments in the global music sphere, a Pakistani classical music giant, Ustad Naseeruddin Saami, will be collaborating on a multi-CD album with Ian Brennan, an Irish-American record producer who won a Grammy Award in 2011 for the Best World Music Album. “[Saami] is a world class vocalist, both virtuosic and soulful…

A Platform For New Music Talent In Pakistan

By Sonya Rehman Pakistan’s largest music streaming site, Patari, recently launched Patari Tabeer, a project that has stirred up the local music scene thanks to its unique line-up of artists from Islamabad to Sindh, and beyond. With its sixth and final song soon-to-be released, the project brings unexposed talent from humble backgrounds to centre stage: a tea-seller,…

Reboot

By Sonya Rehman To un-bitter oneself, How lucky to live in a harsh world and nurture a softness, The kind that is never cynical, Wisdom without a lack of trust, Knowing that the sky and the earth, both, are strong enough to support you, carry you through, To un-bitter one’s heart, Such an uphill battle…

Against All Odds

By Sonya Rehman In a village in Raiwind, Lahore, a little boy would sit in a basket attached to his father’s bicycle and repeat mathematics multiplication tables that his father would chant aloud for his son to memorise. In the evenings, after a long, tiring day in the fields herding cattle, the shepherd would ask…

Ringing In 2017

By Sonya Rehman Before you proceed, please know, this isn’t one of those little rosey-posey slice of life pieces on a 30-something man-less, child-less woman looking back on a life riddled with hardships, championing advice on how to survive Lahore, the world, amidst the sharks and serpents. Instead, let me tone down the romanticism a…

Off The Beaten Track

By Sonya Rehman Dressed in a black T-shirt and jeans, with his thick, curly dark hair combed back, he could be an intense, brooding hero in a desi Indie flick, or a reluctant villain in a hit drama serial. Slim, self-assured and self-contained, Shahvaar Ali Khan has depth. And beneath all the layers there is…

Pakistan’s Guardians Of Culture

By Sonya Rehman Running for three consecutive days, the popular Daachi Exhibition, held by the Lahore-based not-for-profit, Daachi Foundation, came to a close last evening. Launched in 2009, the foundation was initiated with the main aim of promoting local arts and crafts in a bid to preserve the country’s rich heritage and culture. And since…

Some Girls…

By Sonya Rehman Some girls protect their treasures, With padlocks and keys, While others in tinted cars, With rich city boys, Some girls protect their treasures, In hijabs of fine silk and lace, Tucking away their crowning glory, Some girls, their sapphire virtues, Neatly nestled, chest-deep, Some girls never knew they had treasures to begin…

Everyone Needs A Master Shifu

By Sonya Rehman Tele-surfing earlier and caught a bit of Kung Fu Panda (such a fan). That cartoon is profound. Saw the part where Master Shifu invites Po to sit down to a meal of dumplings after an intense kung fu training session. With each dumpling that Po attempts to put in his mouth, Master…

Is There A Name For Such A Thing?

By Sonya Rehman Is there a name for such a thing? To feel generations older, frayed and worn in, like your grandmother’s slippers, beckoning to well-wishers as if they are children to protect and nurture, is there a name for such a thing? To feel as if you’ve traveled to each corner of God’s glorious…

Amjad Sabri’s Final Encore

By Sonya Rehman Last month, the popular Pakistani music series, Coke Studio, broadcast one of its long-awaited tracks for the new season, ‘Rang,’ a duet between Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and the late, Amjad Sabri. A touching rendition of a devotional song by Ameer Khusro, the famed Sufi poet and scholar; what made the Khan-Sabri collaboration…

Emo Ode #33 to Lahore

By Sonya Rehman Lahore you have broken my heart. Obliterated it. Since 1983 and counting. You are in the poorly-lit Cantt street where the neighbor’s cook carries a bottle of flat coke in a Rahat packet, in the chilli yellow lights arranged in a wreath on an old pre-partition home (same street), that looks like…

Meet Pakistan’s Wonder Boys Reimagining Special Education

By Sonya Rehman Taking home third prize at the Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) Tech-I Startup Competition held at Stanford University this year, WonderTree, a Pakistani start-up from Karachi, is on the road to aiding children with special needs by way of its thoroughly interactive augmented reality games. For Muhammad Usman, the start-up’s co-founder and Chief…

A Tiny Bit Of Compassion?

By Sonya Rehman The images were gruesome and heartbreaking: hundreds of corpses of stray dogs were flung off garbage trucks and lined up on a road to be disposed off in August, in Karachi. Poisoned in a bid to curb the stray dog population in the city, the move by the municipal authority was cruel…

Halwa Poori Is Spicy, Sweet, Deep Fried Goodness

By Sonya Rehman If you’re hoping to polish off a plate of halwa poori, the spicy-sweet, deep fried goodness that’s also the most popular breakfast in Pakistan, make sure you’re ravenous. The Muhammad Ali of all Pakistani breakfasts, halwa poori, conceived in the Indian province of Punjab, is a traditional meal passed down from the…

Deradicalizing Pakistan Through Comic Books

By Sonya Rehman He was an unassuming ninth-grader when he was radicalized years ago by a school teacher to join a jihad training camp. Gauher Aftab, one of the co-founders of CFx Comics, a Pakistani comic book start-up, recently wrote a tell-all article about his brush with Islamic extremism and how his experience led him to wage a different…

Our True Test

By Sonya Rehman A day before we picked her up, her brother was killed by a speeding vehicle. He was too adventurous and had strayed from the pack. With her remaining three puppies, the emaciated mother dog had lucked out – she had sought refuge on a green belt near an army check point in…

Discomfort

By Sonya Rehman Privilege can be a strange curse. Removing you from a rawness, a raw, basic kind of living. Privilege can make you cruel, if you aren’t careful. Staring out of your car, with those sad, unfulfilled eyes, you look at the gypsies, their naked children playing with rot, garbage, as the women look…

Lahore

By Sonya Rehman That’s what Lahore does, Lifts you up amidst the old and the new, Qinchis and ricks, Reels in 3D downtown, Flash n’ pomp, the disoriented fake-blonde, Home, hell, Street food whipped in love and grime, Hearts so heavy, Crowns of magnanimity, Streets dogs with God in their eyes, Break, broken, A fat…

Notes From July

By Sonya Rehman In their 40s and 50s, my older colleagues tell me I should have strapped on the old ball and chain in my 20s. The older you get, they say, and the more set in your ways you become. I understand that now. But if you maintain your feminine grace, what is wrong…

A Spoonful of Sugar

By Sonya Rehman There’s nothing more soul-satisfying than slicing your spoon through a perfectly round, wobbly-soft gulab jamun set in a sizzling little katori filled with sweet syrup, piping hot. Scrumptious. Decadent. The combination of powdered milk, ghee, sugar, love and heat gives rise to little bites of heaven, and if it were up to…

Pakistani Music: The Road to Revival?

By Sonya Rehman While the Pakistani film industry has made quite a comeback thanks to the rise of a new branch of alternative, local cinema, brought on by independent filmmakers keen to break free from typical, formulaic Lollywood, the local music scene also seems to be following in its footsteps. But wait, we’ll get to…

Eulogy for Sabri

By Sonya Rehman There goes the neighborhood, There goes the phony sense of calm, There goes our disillusionment, There it goes, Revived again, They killed a man of God, A grand man of love, A mighty voice, That would spread out like silver doves, Into the hands of the Beloved, Reverberating in broken hearts, There goes…

Cher Pushes For The Release of ‘Kaavan’ – Islamabad’s Loneliest Elephant

By Sonya Rehman From a change.org petition that garnered thousands of signatures, to immense pressure from animal lovers and animal rights activists both at home and abroad, Kaavan, the 29-year-old maltreated elephant in Maraghazar Zoo, in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, was recently unchained after 27 years in confinement. Gifted by Sri Lanka to Pakistan in the 80s, Kaavan’s only…

Postcards From Pakistan: Can Local Tourism Be Revived?

By Sonya Rehman Nishat Mummunka’s love for the aviation industry was almost instantaneous when she began working at American Express’ travel department in 1973 in Lahore, Pakistan, as a fresh graduate. Soon enough, her passion for all things travel led her to lucrative offers from Swiss Air and British Airways, the latter of which required…

The TV Serial That Got Pakistan Talking About Child Abuse

By Sonya Rehman Udaari, a popular new Pakistani television drama serial that highlights a pressing social issue, child abuse, was recently served a notice by the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) this month for its “unethical” and “offensive” scenes. A collaboration between a well-known private channel, HUM TV, and a local microfinance institution, Kashf Foundation, the TV serial…

Documenting Pakistan: Preserving A Past

By Sonya Rehman Dressed in a bottle green T-shirt and jeans, the young Pakistani author and researcher, Haroon Khalid, comes across as an unpretentious, easygoing guy when I meet him at a local café in Lahore. Currently working on his third book, based on the life of the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, Khalid states…

Documentary On Extremism Banned In Pakistan

By Sonya Rehman Having been screened in over twenty countries and subsequently picking up numerous awards, Hemal Trivedi and Mohammed Ali Naqvi’s hard-hitting documentary, Among The Believers was recently axed by the Central Board of Film Censors (CBFC) in Pakistan. In a notification issued by the CBFC, it stated that “the [production] contains dialogues which project the…

The Classic Car Collectors of Pakistan

By Sonya Rehman Although you’ve probably never seen a news report where a procession of classic motor glide through the streets of Lahore, there is in fact a thriving community of vintage petrol heads in Pakistan. Here are three of the men at the heart of that group. With a cigarette dangling from his mouth,…

A Fast Car And No Road Map

By Sonya Rehman I made a very difficult decision in December 2015, when I decided to give up a flashy job in a flashy city for a new career that was beginning to quickly pull me into an embrace. Teaching. Academia. My younger (immature) self would’ve balked at the idea of a career in education…

Bending Towards Justice

By Sonya Rehman Having won an Oscar this year for her documentary, A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s production follows the story of Saba Qaiser, a young woman who survives a brutal honour killing attempt by her very own kin. In an exclusive interview, Asad Jamal, the Lahore-based lawyer who…

Wall of Tolerance: Lahore Diffuses Terrorism with Community Art

By Sonya Rehman The terrorist attack last week on Easter, at Lahore’s popular Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, which left scores dead and hundreds injured, was nothing short of horrific. Since the attack, the stories of loss and devastation have begun emerging across social media platforms; one in particular was the that of a little girl, now an…

The Curious Case of Taher Shah

By Sonya Rehman Much has been said and written about Taher Shah, Pakistan’s very own internet superstar, who gently slipped into the ‘scene’ after the release of his first single, Eye to Eye in 2013. Dressed in a white suit and swaying with his long, curly tresses, Shah crooned into the camera – the country’s biggest Romeo…

Rekindling The Indo-Pak Connection Through Poetry

By Sonya Rehman Released over Youtube last month by Delhi Poetry Slam, an Indian poet, Shivani Gupta, speaks from the heart in a thoroughly sensitive spoken-word performance that touches upon India, Pakistan and a desire to know and understand ‘the other.’ “Look I’m not here to start a fight,” Gupta speaks in the video, “I just…

Self-Preservation

By Sonya Rehman I think God tells you it’s time to change in very subtle ways. It’s never direct. It could be by way of a thought, a vision, a random conversation with someone, or an observation – something that jolts you awake. I’ve been foggy-headed for months; dragging my feet through a routine that…

Trains Over Planes

By Sonya Rehman I miss taking the train every weekend (or every second weekend) to your sweet little home in New Jersey. A small back-pack and a book and my thoughts. The way concrete would blend into shiny greenery, meticulously manicured lawns, wooden rocking chairs outside sleepy porches, fresh air, a slowed down homey pace,…

The Karachi Whiz Kid and Pakistan’s First Hand Drawn Animated Flick

By Sonya Rehman In 2012, a young, unassuming Pakistani musician from Karachi created waves after being selected as a TEDGlobal Fellow, following the success of his brilliant composition, Fire Fly, which went viral a year before. Sharing stage space at TEDGlobal – a conference that brings together trailblazers from across the world to deliver inspiring talks – with…

Filmmaker Takes on Honor Killing in Pakistan

By Sonya Rehman With the 88th Academy Awards taking place today, Pakistani documentary filmmaker, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s Oscar-nominated documentary, A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, brings to focus the gruesome practice of honor killings in Pakistan. Having taken home an Oscar in 2012 for Saving Face, a documentary about victims of acid attacks in the country,…

The Rise Of Lahore’s Biscuit King

By Sonya Rehman Past shops selling glittering party decorations, silver and gold tiaras, cricket bats, plastic toys for children, netted pouches filled with sea-green, azure and multi-colored marbles, local Pakistani sweets, dried fruit, spicy pickles and fresh kebabs, the narrow, claustrophobic streets inside Mochi Gate, one of thirteen historical gates constructed by the Mughals, in…

Bibi And The PIA Connection

By Sonya Rehman Thought of my grandmother early this morning. Not sure why. Maybe it has something to do with this ongoing, horrible PIA issue/tragedy, or the fact that her birthday is tomorrow on the 13th of February… Raffath Aziz (known as Bibijoon by my brother and I) was the Deputy District Manager at PIA…

The Struggling Devotee

By Sonya Rehman I’ve always had a bit of a shaky relationship with faith. While I don’t come from a very conventional family, I do remember this one particular Qari saab who’d visit our house a few times a week to teach my brother and I the Quran. We would call him Maa Saab –…