Take it. It’s free.

Illustration of advice

Advice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Being a Pakistani, I just loooove to give advice. The line between my life and yours is a little blurry, you see. Everyone I know, or don’t know, between Gwadar and Parachinar, is an extension of my really extended family – bhai, baji, amma, baba, khala, chacha, beta, beti, uncle, aunty, bua. So naturally, I have your best interests at heart, muah!

Now, if you were clever like me, you would have realized that advice is free, just like a smile. Since smile is charity, advice is too. You should follow logic baba on twitter. He says A is equal to C (uff, we’ll talk about B when he’s left the room). Now don’t ask me for money – I have none to give, only advice, on how you should have spent yours, more prudently. As it is, I’m already over my budget this month because I bought this blessed pair of chappals that the phuppo next door swears by – they ARE the secret to obedient husbands. So for the rest of the month, I’ll give you smiles and advice.

What I’m about to tell you is derived from centuries of hair-whitening research from our nannies and grannies. It is specific to the Pakistani phenotype and genotype. If you are our Afghan or Saudi brothers, please triple the strength for each tip before use. If you’re Indian, Israeli or American, go flush yourself down the toilet. (That’s advice too.)

• Don’t work on Fridays. It is for baths, prayers and pelting stones on passing cars, if you feel offended.

• The secret ingredient in finger-licking good food is perspiration. Work up a sweat.

• The antidote to envy is to have a tablespoon of sour grapes soaked in gripe water at bedtime.

• Don’t buy lawn from Peepak Derwani. He has cheetah prints and even zebras know that cheetahs are not halal. Only Jay-Jay has halal lawn.

• Rickets is better than a sun-tan. You’ll get married as long as you’re fair.

• We have no CNG in cars and no electricity in homes, because there is no Haya in women. Stop blaming the government.

• Bald men are virile. Ladies use that information carefully, and use polio drops when necessary.

• If you want to be filthy rich, avoid frequent hand washing.

What did you just say? Mind my own business? No, no, no. I don’t own my business. It is in my great-grandmother’s name, because she doesn’t have an NTN.

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Of never-ending needs …

People vary in what they expect from others – some need financial assistance or tangible things money can buy, and others demand your time, attention or reassurance. There are some who claim it out of necessity, and others as a matter of right. Before, I evoke defensive responses in some of you, let me clarify that I believe in charity and I believe in helping those in need. It is desirable and highly recommended, actually, to share some of your good fortune with the less endowed, of your own initiative.

English: A leech (Hirudo medicinalis) beginnin...

A leech (Hirudo medicinalis) beginning to suck. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This post however discusses people who claim out of a sense of entitlement. Some call them free-riders, and others call them leeches, but the fact is that these people live off the hard-work, smarts or compassion or vulnerabilities of others.When applied to these individuals, you’ll discover that neediness is a state of mind more than a state of deprivation.

If you have lots of time at your hand, like I do, and know a few needy people, you’ll realize that they have a lot in common.

They are, to their credit, keen observers and resourceful people. If you have what they want, they’ll spot you from a mile and embark on instant rapport and trust building exercises. In fact, until they’re needing, they’re very charming people. A few steps into establishing trust, they may work to socially isolate you. You may notice yourself spending disproportionate amounts of time with them, by neglecting your person or by ignoring those around you, or worse, some of your former friends may actively start avoiding you, probably because of the way your *new, best friend* treated them behind your back! You’ll be amazed at the variety of tools that they employ – they can switch back and forth between the babe-in-the-woods, to the blood-sucking, blackmailer, and the shy, vulnerable man/woman, to the determined pushy individual that lurks underneath. If you’re stuck with them, don’t depend on them though. Most of them are selfish to the core. Once you’ve fallen into their trap, they can drain you with their incessant demands for whatever it is that they are after, without bothering to think of the negative impact it may have on you. Fortunately for you, when you are no longer able or willing to meet their demands, they turn bitter and eventually disappear.

While I am no expert on human behaviour, I suspect, that neediness has its roots in low self-esteem and a marked inaction to address the causes of low self-esteem. A needy person highly values wealth and social status. They are masters of illusion and excel at superficial expressions of success and achievement. Despite the fact that they’re determined in their pursuit of you, there is real inaction on their part to improve themselves. Their insecurities never really go away, no matter how much you feed them, because, deep-down they know they are inadequate and incompetent.

Now, I’m taking the liberty to make a sexist remark here. Neediness is more commonly observed in women rather than men. It is possible that women, especially in the East, are raised to be dependant, both mentally and physically, upon the men, or older, authority-holding women, in their lives. Because independent thinking and action is widely frowned upon, in time, the women learn to constantly seek approval for who they are and what they are doing. I’m sure though that they exist everywhere in both genders.

Because of the baggage these folks bring to relationships, it is best to run, before they invade your life. Speaking for myself, I am wary of unusually sweet people. If I am suddenly the centre of someone’s world, I would guard my wallet and my heart. There are other signs too. If someone’s income doesn’t explain their lifestyle, you want to be careful. If someone asks for a favour, without looking visibly embarrassed (never mind the words, watch the non-verbal cues), asking is not strange to them. If you’re barely acquainted with someone and they start pouring out dark and mushy secrets about their life, you ought to be suspicious. And here’s the over-arching rule, stay away from drama queens and drama queers.

Oh, by the way, if anything in this description sounds remotely like you, I have a few generous tips for you:

  • Don’t take all the eggs out of a single basket/nest. Have at least 5-10 hens in your resource network. 
  • Pace your demands. Don’t ask more than two favours in a row, of the same individual.
  • Don’t demand instant gratification. It triggers a fight-or-flight response in the other person.
  • Choose your favours carefully. Several small ones can be more irritating than one big one.

Now that I’ve said what I’ve wanted to say, let me concede some ground. This post is not meant to be a harsh judgment on some persons. After all, we are all needy at some point or the other. And we need different things at different stages in our life. The challenge is to not let neediness become a habit or a lifestyle. To quote Mohammad (PBUH), ‘the hand that gives is better than the hand that receives’, so be the upper hand.

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You, Creep, You!

Wordle: Hate

You can love someone with all your heart and if you had two hearts, you could hate someone with both. After all, the poor hate the rich and the rich loathe the poor. Fat people resent the thinner ones and the thin ones despise their endowed counterparts. The faithful abhor the faithless and the faithless find them insufferable. The list just goes on.

At the heart of all hatred, you’ll eventually discover a deep sense of insecurity about resources which may be as tangible as money or a job, or as intangible as affection or appreciation. 

At a very basic level, the process works like this:

  • You don’t have something you value. Let’s call it the prize.
  • You consider all the reasons you don’t have the prize and choose a convenient one – you don’t have it because you were denied it (the denial of rights)
  • You look around and find others who do have the prize. These are the usurpers.
  • You make fundamental assumptions about the usurper’s intentions – that the denial of rights was intentional because they’re either supremacists or simply deceitful and unprincipled.
  • You are enraged and decide to fight back, because they deserve it. Now you’re not only playing to kill, you want to be as brutal as possible.   
  • They retaliate and the cycle starts.

Several sociologists, notably Dr. Martin Oppenheimer, have looked at organized hatred that is against the other race, religion, ethnicity, gender, value, choice and basically any and all differences between you and them. They note that sometimes it is based on actual injustice but most often, all the provocation one needs to deal with their own weaknesses and frustrations, is a perception or bias against another, fuelled by notions of supremacy and entitlement.

Whatever the cause or the object, the bottomline is that hatred is destructive for all involved. If you’re acting on it, you’re starting a vicious cycle. If you’re not acting on it, it’s affecting your mental health and possibly your heart health.

So then how do we deal with hatred?                                      

Confucius has nailed it before me by saying:

“He who requires much from himself and little from others, will keep himself from being the object of resentment”.

On a personal level, when (and thankfully, not very often) I am feeling resentful towards a person or a group, I first try to address the rage because it not only propels undesirable actions, but also impairs logic. So, calming down is crucial. No, I don’t, in any way try to be in their shoes – it’ll always be a bad fit, but I try not to let my dislike for them influence my actions. For example, I shall not cross my arms, frown, say anything rude, or change my plans, in response to their presence. Many times, I succeed at pretending they don’t exist, at other times I don’t. But I try, nevertheless. In the longer term, it is best to distance ourselves from people or situations that make us angry or act irrationally.

I’m sure everyone experiences the dislike/resent emotions once in a while. I’d love to hear what other readers do to deal with it.

The Mule, the Spider & the Ostrich

Peaceful coexistence

Peaceful coexistence (Image created using Sp-studio.de)

My neighbour is a prosperous man residing in a posh locality, who will be condemned to hell, if he shaves his beard. He wears a fine cotton shalwar[1], starched and ironed to perfection, that’s not quite long enough to go past his ankles. His head is usually shaved and covered by a white taqiyah[2]. He’s known to donate generously to the local mosque that amongst other things, provides boarding, lodging and religious guidance to impressionable minds that have been practically abandoned by their families, for lack of means.  He commits his personal time to monthly and annual tableegh & dawah visits (Muslim missionary work) to slums and remote areas where they teach the residents religious best-practices.

His character is beyond reproach. And, his lifestyle is amazing. When others around him are burning precious diesel or gas, in-house, during an electricity outage, he seems to be enjoying a backup source of electricity straight from another electric pole that’s not facing the outage. His ecological footprint is all over the street and can be discovered in your trashcan or found sneakily deposited next to your boundary wall. We are not quite sure about what he does for a living. He seasonally acts as a stockist (or a hoarder of sorts, if I may) believing that one cannot deprive others of the value they should rightfully receive, by engaging in unfair trade practices and market manipulation. The only objectionable sources of income, in his opinion, are banking and prostitution. The latter may be permitted under certain conditions. As he lectures you on the “exploitative” nature of banking, he yells a profanity at an under-nourished, under-age Pathan servant who has been left in their service by folks living somewhere in the north of Pakistan. Once an year, an adult from the child’s family turns up to collect the annual wages for his labour and to confirm that he’s still alive.

This respectable citizen is in line with the wealthier clerics in our country, according to whom, there is no provision of taxes in an Islamic administrative system and hence a Muslim need not worry about tax evasion. Breaking the law of the land, or keeping tax money out of the government treasury (however corrupt) that may, just may, go towards infrastructure, education, healthcare, sanitation or otherwise improving conditions for the less privileged doesn’t figure into the elusive list of haraams[3] or makrooh[4]. Reportedly, eating shrimp ranks high on this list.

He’s the mule, in horse’s skin.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Wifey Dear, is an emancipated woman in her late thirties, who speaks English, drives a Camry, and looks at you from behind a veil that even covers her eyes (drivers, beware!). Her swarovsky-encrusted abaya[5] is a symbol of modesty and a blessing for the average Pakistani man, who would definitely drool at the 200-lbs beauty, should she abandon it in favour of a loose-fitting shalwar kameez.  She has produced five sons so far in the way of furthering the Ummah, all the while believing that love for and pride in one’s offspring is a worldly trial. Hence, she has dissociated herself from many of her parental responsibilities, presumably to nip all sources of parental pride in the bud. Her time’s better spent at a ladies-only religious learning club, that excels in displacing common-sense or research-based priorities from your everyday life. This month, for instance, they spent a considerable time figuring out the scoring system for rewards and penalties associated with drinking water in various positions such as standing up and sitting down, while no word of condemnation was spoken for the indiscriminate killings of members of a minority community that resides in the same city. To give them due credit, this group knows the top five million ways to secure heaven, each carefully selected so as to require them to be less useful and more disruptive to society. Her advancements at learning can be measured by the number of Arabic words she can smack into a conversation in place of perfectly reasonable Urdu words.

She’s a spider who has long stopped thinking for herself and is now caught in a delusional world spun by her religious patriarchs, forever clinging to it and pretending to be the queen of her territory. She’s as unsure of her strength, courage and intellect as she is ashamed of her body (this being an instrument of the devil meant to lure the men). She is a woman who has sentenced herself in the process of deliverance.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

A few miles away, in the worker’s colony where my housekeeper lives, life’s a bit more forbidding. This morning, her sister-in-law was beaten up ruthlessly by her spouse because she spent his heroin money on their child’s school fee. The night before, a teen was tortured to death because he dared to exchange hot words with the local influential figure. A middle-aged woman in the same colony is destined to die of breast cancer because her family is against medical treatment and is rather ashamed that she could sprout such a dishonourable tumour. The child of a daily-wage worker hasn’t eaten in 18 hours, because his father couldn’t find public transport (!) to reach the construction site where he works as a mason.

I start to shake my head in disbelief and catch a glimpse of my $200 haircut in the mirror to the right – an amount that can feed a family of five for a month (yes, food is still cheap here). My MacBook is worth at least 16 years of basic education in Pakistan for a child. I can read, write, think and speak on a hundred causes meriting advocacy.

I shut my eyes and when I open them again, the blur is gone. I am, after all, the callous ostrich.


[1] Loose-fitting Pakistani trousers

[2] A rounded cap worn by Muslim men

[3] Prohibited

[4] Permissible but disliked

[5] Cloak