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Monthly Archives: August 2008

The latest Pakistani national anthem

I just got this sad parody of the Pakistani national anthem (video) in my inbox.

Zardari ki zamin shad bad
Bijli aay 8 ghantay baad
Tu nishanay corruption aalishan

Arz e zardaristan, shaad baad … [I censored this bit because it fosters inter-province animosity]

Zardari ki zamin ka nizam
Aaatay, gas, bijli ka bohran
Quam mulk sub-gharak Nawaz, wakil paainda bad
Bainazir dunya say faraar
Parchamay sitara-o-Hilal
Khoon main ranga sara saal

Bhool apna maazi shan-e-haal, jaan ne istaqbal
Saya-e-Amrika sar pe sawaar

Translation:

Long live (Asif) Zardari’s land
Where power outages last eight hours straight.
Thou art a great symbol of glorious corruption
Land of Zardari live forever

The order of Zardari’s land is such -
perpetual shortages of flour, gas, power.
The nation, country all destroyed – Nawaz (Sharif) live on forever.
Benazir escaped from the world.

The flag of the crescent and the star
coloured red with blood year round.
Forget your past, present, future -

Crushed beneath the shadow of America.

I will survive (homeschooling)

I confess that I am a closeted lover of home-schooling. Though my own circumstances seem to make it an impossible option for me, I would dearly love to home-school my 2-year old. So far she has only tasted daycares, and that alone has caused me to revolt against the idea of institutionalized education for children – in general. This song, an edited version of “I will survive” struck a chord.

Breaking up the cafe listings

I’d like to make a prediction, and then hedge my claim with conditional statements.

Today I was working on course prep in a cafe. A pile of boring-looking books on the chair beside me, my laptop, a cup of coffee in front of me (I have recently graduated to medium cups, which says something about my new work schedule). Next to me, two women chatted about their children for a couple of hours. Their voices were modulated to a low pitch, so it didn’t disturb me much. Then, as I was approaching the third hour of work and my strength was flagging, a man entered with a laptop. He settled on the couch, opened the laptop, and then started making a phone call to an obviously dear friend, because he talked for about an hour. A second man entered, sat down on the couch closer to me, and took out his cellphone too.

I predict that the market for cafes will become more specific soon. Cafes will divide into nerdy and sociable. When friends need to meet, they will meet in the sociable cafes. When grad students need to hunker down over the footnotes, they’ll scurry over to the nerdy cafes.

This will happen because unless it does, we’re going to have some cafe rage soon.

But what of the messy interstices between the types?

What of the young student who THINKS she belongs in the nerdy cafe because she SHOULD be working on her midterms, but she is too popular to turn off her cellphone – ever? What of the self-employed businessman who thinks he belongs in the nerdy cafe simply because he is “working,” but work means making endless calls in a loud, reassuring booming voice as he goes down a list in Excel? What of the non-nerdy individual who just wants to relax over a cup of herbal tea and can’t relax because of the chatter? What of the tutor who meets up with his middle school tutees in a nerdy cafe and explains the ins and outs of the SATS in his strong baritone (this is from real life)?

Confusion between the types is not the only reason for this prediction to be proved false. The other reason is desire for the other.

Maybe the mixed cafe exists because nerdy people want to approximate social butterflies. They are not social butterflies, they cannot be them, they have no life to speak of perhaps – but they want to bask in their space. It’s the reason why people who are not young and beautiful like to watch beautiful young people. It’s the reason why the unknown like to watch the famous. We yearn. It’s not quite aspiring. Just yearning and watching.

And what of the social butterflies? Surely they have thoughts in their heads too? While it is difficult for me to empathize with social butterflies, I would venture that they too wish to share space with nerds. The sight of
bespectacled nerds tapping away at keyboards makes them feel productive and busy. And smart. Since they are in the same space, they consume some of their aura.

And so, this post ends with a prediction that cafes will not divide into types, but that the nerdy will continue to wish that they could own their cafes. They will scurry into the cafe, glare at the mommies occupying THEIR seat and table NEXT TO THE OUTLET, and pile their laptop, backpack, notebook and books onto the table next to the amorous couple with the frothy beverage, and inwardly wish they could kick everyone out that wasn’t sitting ALONE, interacting with nothing but a keyboard.

Wear your (retail) poverty with pride

We just moved, and the previous tenants’ family magazine was waiting on the counter for them. Yesterday I happened to be browsing the magazine to see what was cool and what was hot. And I came upon an image that caused me some amusement. A young White woman walking through a green meadow, in hip summer clothing, with a brown tote bag on her shoulder. The tote bag bore the caption that informed the reader that this particular commodity was $50, and was produced by “H’Oat Couture.”

The fabric bag itself had a third-world produced basic picture of a girl blowing a trumpet, and in Persian it said Baranj Royale (Royal Rice).

At this very moment, I HAVE that bag of rice in my kitchen. I could make a cool $50 out of a FREE sack once I use up the rice. As long as I have hip, wealthy young folks who would be willing to shell out the money. Instead, of course, they could emptying the rice bag in the kitchen, put their cellphone in it, and runn out the door. I suspect that without the H’Oat Couture label, and the signs of having paid retail for the empty rice-bag, a mere bag from the trash would probably not be found in the cool streets.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with wearing an empty rice-bag on your shoulder. It’s coarse-grain fabric, so frankly it would irritate my skin. It’s also a narrow bag that would not be very useful for a practical woman with a toddler by her side. But what is it about this bag that allows a company to charge $50 once they have attached a handle to it?

It’s nice to be wealthy. But it is not so very cool anymore. Being wealthy is (yawn). Being wealthy is not cutting edge. It’s too safe. It doesn’t taste of grit and grime.

But we don’t really need grit and grime, so we won’t be fishing our rice-bag out of the trash. We’ll pay for it once it’s sitting on retail shelves.

The wealthy want to remain wealthy, but they do not want to be *stuck* in that corner. Don’t label them wealthy. They’ll try out other labels, H’Oat labels, and third world products acquired during tourist ventures, in order to acquire a little zap for their image. They’ll do the Dior when they want to, and then they’ll do the rice-bag. They’re exciting.

Consuming poverty and grit makes them acquire some of its danger and some of its reality. (“Cannibal Tours” comes to mind.) Wealthy lifestyles are, the wealthy may be aware, unreal. Removed. Artificially constructed. So in order to bring them down to earth, they buy some earth, labeled RealEarth perhaps (is there a patent out there). Earth from the yard will not do. And they put it on their mantelpiece.

Retail is essential to remove the connotations of TRUE poverty. It is play-acting poverty. It is costume poverty. We know it is cool because it is unreal. Yet it is there, a joke, because we all KNOW they wouldn’t *have* to grab a rice-bag for a purse. You grab a $50 ricebag because your face cream costs $300. The rice-bag itself is a testament to wealth. Wealth *allows* them to fake poverty. The poor are too busy buying fake Luis Vuitton bags on the corner. We live lives of play-acting. Goffman would love it.

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