Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Of Man Made and Natural Disasters

My soul descended from the heavens and when its preordained time has transpired it will return to the heavens. In the meantime it spends its days on earth encased in a mortal shell of flesh and blood. A shell that breathes and sleeps that feels pain and sorrow joy and love. Distinctively shaped it has a beating heart arms and limbs, eyes that take in the beauty and horrors of this world. Observers would say that these are the characteristics of a human being. I couldn’t agree more therefore I am but a man.

However I belong to a complex species. It is not enough to be human we also need a race to belong to. These same observers would look upon the color of my skin, my hair even my eyes and classify me accordingly. Then they would ask me about my beliefs and anoint a belief system upon me. Finally they would look upon documents issued upon my birth to determine my nationality. Therefore I am many things. South Asian, Muslim, American and so begins a brutal juggling act.

Many humans would fall into these classifications. But how they would respond to stimuli brought forth from world events depends on what they give priority to. For me being a good Muslim holds the most weight. I belong to the Ummah, the Nation of Islam comprised of many ethnicities. Among them Pacific Islander, African, Middle Eastern, European, South Asian, Asian, Central Asian, to name just a few. Each has formed its own nation state its people pay homage to the Ummah in one way or another. I love each nation as if it were my own. And on many occasions expressed my love to brothers and sisters from Algeria, Egypt, Bangladesh, India, Qattar, UAE, Saudia Arabia, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Malaysia. I hope to meet beloved brothers and sisters from all remaining nations.

However when it comes to familiarity I would have to say I am most familiar with the nation state of Pakistan. My parents instilled in me a love for that country early on. This love was strong enough to convince me and my siblings to migrate with my parents when they wished to retire and return to their homeland. Unfortunately for me and my sisters the harsh realities of this savage land smashed our rose tinted goggles. The country of my parents was not what it seemed.

Instability brought upon by illiteracy and agitated by opportunistic elements, continues to inflict mortal wounds. The economy is shot, the infrastructure crippled, the populace beaten, the leaders corrupt. It would be easy to launch in to a vicious verbal attack; picking at the problems of this under developed country laughing and mocking all the while. That would be easy and cruel this is something I simply can’t do. Yes the country has problems but I examine and ponder each one with respect and with the intention of finding solutions. That is what is uneasy that is what is humane.

The issue of economy and infrastructure go hand and hand. My dad tried to establish his practice in Karachi he even partnered with a likeminded friend who had also left a burgeoning business in the states to set up shop in the country they both loved. But one problem after another hindered their efforts. Efficiency and productivity were severely limited and at the mercy of unreliable power supply, decrepit roads and a limited pool of qualified human resource. Add to that clientele who did not uphold their end of the bargain and you can see why dad had to pay frequent visits to his US based clients.

These circumstances did not affect me much while in college. But ever since my beloved Abu’s death and my new responsibilities I simply cannot put up with that kind of nonsense! I am thankful to God for allowing me to return to the US where I can spend my energies on worthwhile endeavors.

So as you can see the picture is pretty bleak. I know there are many big businesses there doing tremendous work I am well aware of this. But it is hard for expatriates to break into that world as we are automatically discriminated against for being “outsiders”. So we are left with very little options but I digress.

Getting back on point it is evident that a weak economy is compounding the problems of the common man. Many draw parallels between the volatile populace and the prelude to the French Revolution. The corrupt leaders are more or less saying for these down trodden souls to feast on cake in the absence of bread. It’s no wonder emotions are seething. True supporters of Pakistan try to quell the anger while opportunistic entities capitalize on this vulnerability and incite violence.

These entities were prevalent during the 80’s and especially the mid 90’s. The city of Karachi descended into a hell on earth as thugs were recruited under the guise of a racist and nationalistic ideology to wreak havoc on the people. Ummatis were divided into frivolous groups based on language and ethnic origin. They were pitted against each other and made to shed each other’s blood. No mercy or decency was shown as every instrument of torture and death was brought to bare. The streets ran red.

Privately and at times openly, enemies of the Ummah celebrated, indulging in the gore. When compatriots demanded the extradition of those individuals found to be orchestrating the carnage the enemies hid behind their laws and disallowed it. Rather they demanded we capture their wanted souls with calls of “Do More”.

When Pakistan was not a front line state these shameful internal affairs were barely known by the outside world. Now with the spotlight firmly fixed on the Afghan/Pakistan border if we sneeze the world hears it. Ladies and gentlemen we are sneezing yet again. Those nationalistic, racists political parties are at it again inciting hatred and turning brother against brother a crime for which they will have to answer for in the ethereal court of God.

For the most part descent people don’t partake in the medley only riff raff who have nothing better to do get their kicks by beating up on some guy, setting fires and smashing storefronts. This is something that can happen without warning. I remember one time buying jewelry with my mom (yes for my engagement) in a popular shopping district. We’re sitting in the gleaming, air conditioned store, the door securely locked, soft drinks in hand; when all of a sudden we get word of mass rioting. It’s not too far away from where we are the lafungey are disrupting traffic because there is no water in their kuchi abadi. Repeated complaints to city officials were of no use thirsty and fed up they took to the streets. The police dispersed them quickly enough and life resumed once again.

We were lucky with that one. At times these things get out of hand and the violence can go on for days. It’s common to see dump trucks engulfed in flames on the side of the road on those occasions. That’s when they bring in an elite division of the army known as the Rangers. Their attack vehicles with rear mounted twin barrel submachine guns quickly cut down miscreants. But it is only a stop gap solution. Society tries to reform itself. With public prayers for God to show mercy on his believers and an appeal for forgiveness for our sins. Again descent people take heed however the people who need to hear this message are deaf and dumb, words do not affect them and they go right on playing into the hands of Satan. That’s why our best minds have left that land to apply their skills and talents in countries that appreciate them and reward them in kind. In the end the populace is left helpless left to fend for itself.

Who can they turn to? It seems not even Allah wishes to ease their discomfort. Disasters pre-ordained for this land for whatever purpose are upon it once again. Who can forget the earthquakes in the Northern Areas from not too long ago? Religious leaders were quick to point out punishment for our sins. Currently raging river water has caused even more deaths a sinful people are being punished yet again.

I am concerned but not losing sleep, mostly because no one I personally know has been affected. I’ll probably make a small financial contribution to relief work to ease my guilt and then go about my business. The usual chain of events will ensue initially people will try to help each other out. When that will not be enough the Government with its meager resources will step in. When that will prove to be insufficient they will go begging to the international community for help. Relief agencies will arrive and set up camp. The mullahs will object to the influx of foreign spies. The governments representing the agencies will deny the allegation. The Pakistani Government will apologize for the unruly Mullahs maybe even arrest a couple for good measure. In the end they will be able to establish some kind of refugee camp where the inhabitants will live out many atrocious days before being allowed to return home by the authorities. But not before the deaths of many.

And so it goes heaven sent souls returning from whence they came thus completing our time on planet earth. Ameen and goodnight to one and all.

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