Doctors of Karachi (not the striking ones)
A cloud's been lifted from over me. It happened to coincide with the dulling of a throbbing nerve near my mother in law's spine. The doctor descended like an angel and seduced her into the procedure for 40K. He did this soft, holistic approach thing, and it worked. America return and what not, except his own personal story is a bit inelegant, and his type do the manners bit before they peddle a brand new vaccine. Still better than the diva orthopaedic surgeon I met a few weeks earlier.
Diva said he’d make incisions, straighten vertebrae, tie knots, diffuse pain, stitch. Three days in the Middle East, three days in Pakistan; his stare was that of a man who makes so much money in surgeries, he has no time for niceties. Angry, jet set, cigarette stained lips, and ferocious gaze. 'Surgery is the only choice. There is risk in everything, even for a 25 year old woman.' But doctor, there is age, sugar, frailty, despair. More glares. Eric says I should have asked for a percentage, an exact risk fraction. But there was nothing more frightening than coming between the doctor and his money or cocaine. I'd thought we'd give him hell for making us wait two hours. I resisted getting coffee from Dunkin Donuts on another floor in case he showed up. Well, he showed us. But he performs miracles on deformed bones, a few misses permissible by stats, and complaining about a wait would be indicative of my pathetic existence.
Charity delays revolution
People give zakat from the U.S. It's a lot of money, and even though philosophically I'm against charity, some things must be done, fast -- a rough, manual redistribution of wealth. That's where the nation's at. Systemic change, revolution, institution building -- all gone to hell in a hand basket. Its TV Politics, and settling for that fuzzy comfort the act of giving brings. People are nervous about the future, disillusioned with the present; no one says sorry or thank you; they criticize and under appreciate; cheating is norm; everyone's hurting from a memory; most people self medicate; Zardari as president is metaphor for the end of the world; but when you fix someone's transient problem the instant gratification you get from their brief gratitude; in knowing that the extra cash will go some ways – it's nice. You've made a difference in an impossible world. Showed the finger to KESC. Created hope amidst hopelessness. Sugar, oil, murghi will feed some; three days of stitching stars and sequins on collars, and when the light goes, then working nights when it returns, or piles of untouched piece rate bundles.
Well, truth be told - taking pleasure in charity may be narcissistic. Charity appeases the giver; it's self indulgent and congratulatory, doesn't help the neediest. It's random, unfair, and short lived. It's the drama of the giver. Do what you can is a half truth. Yet, when crude Marxists proclaim, "I hate charity; I never give money," that just seems heartless.
If you are able to give donations, you've probably benefited from an unjust economic system, and the receiver has borne its brunt. So if you don't stand on a street corner with pamphlets, or file lawsuits against management, at least quit the drama, the hoopla, the celebration of charity. Be discreet, but not the selfless martyr who gives without advertising, but anticipates an accidental leak to personal glory -- just alert to the dissonance in the act of charity, its moral blandness and inadequacy -- how without the state stepping in large scale, it will be the proverbial bandage on a cancerous brain.
Religion and Culture
As my Marxist friend once said, if the people believe in the God, then who am I? Call it opiate or membership in a giant brotherhood. Hostile atheists, always fighting, seem a bit rash. There’s profiteering in belonging, long term survival in community, solace in having a code and bending before the lord. Religion is a pragmatic choice, and most atheists forget it's not about rational debate between Evolution and Eve -- it's a club with benefits. But the atheists can't handle the extremism, the constant proselytizing, the coercion of the mosque, and fight they must to overcome their own demons.
Reason why I'm often reluctant to sip the wine, break the bread, or fully embrace Ganesh or Gandhi is this: Religion for us, and I speak for a large, closeted group of Zia's bastards is associated with the dull but talented Nayyara Noor and Noor Jehan; ustani ji who taught Quran but sat under the bougainvillea tree on a broken bench, 10 feet away from where our dog Billu was tied; Moulvi Saab on his cycle; constant religion on TV; Zia making sex, music, and modernity illegal. Faith was depressing. Also always tied up with class and our parent's ambivalence about the new social order promulgated by Zia -- brow beaten by the mullah and reduced to nodding to Hum Dekhain Gai, like the military dad came back, born again, and found his kids threw a party. Add to their shame and ambivalence, our own. Boys in school were sexier if they played basketball, lived well, and did milaad and naat; but impotent if they did only milaad and naat. Had my period once at a soyem. I was 15, and post Zia, normal bodily functions were regarded as contemptible (remember he even banned urinals as these were too causal about such functions.) I needed an alibi for my shame. Read a whole sipara while the outcast ladies chatted (shamelessly.) Add to the list bleeding in secret.
I would later (after college) grow bored of the argument that the so called keepers of faith have given it a bad reputation. If you follow the true spirit, you are awakened. Fatima Mernissi and Riffat Hasan may be right about Muslim Xeenas, but Blasphemy, Hudood, Death for adultery, and other state imposed vices were a bit distracting and the feminist ladies of Medina weren't exactly blazing by on horses. If anything, now the class aspect is taken out of religion and even the elites are drawn to evangelists -- Farhat Hashmi and her sister Nighat who delivers strange lectures at the Royal Rodale. Even the old leftists succumbed and grew softer on God, dressed up for Eid and Diwali, paving the way for young, reactive atheists for whom the god question does not necessarily mean questioning economic oppression.
Progressive spins on religion, in theory, are fine; its doctrines may even be open to beautiful interpretation but in practice, and as I see it in Pakistan, it simply affirms capitalism, and its sidekick -- charity, and oppression of women and minorities.
It is what it is what it is.
And this is what it comes down to: KESC has blessed us with a mosquito biting and fanless night. The battery on my computer will lapse soon. The UPS slacked off hours ago. My children’s backs need to be scratched so they can sleep. No one lies in roza. For one whole month hope, joy and faith and ethics reignite.