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Recently, a video featuring the interview of Shahid Khan Afridi went viral on the social networking site. The interview saw Afridi tiptoeing around a question -regarding his views on under-19 women cricket team and if Pakistani women should come forward in sports or not – by stating that women have tremendous zaiqa (taste) in their hands and they cook really well.

Ever since this video had come around, there has been a lot whoopla surrounding it. Afridi had been called names and a chauvinist. Some people have completely withdrawn their support for him while others have completely brushed past this comment saying that it is his personal opinion and should be of no concern to anyone.

Both of these standpoints are very interesting.

We Pakistanis are emotional by nature I think. Getting all worked up emotionally comes naturally to us. If we would take the pain to look the interview, Afridi seemed aware about the sensitivity of the topic, and therefore, abstained from making more than a single comment on it, which was indeed a smart and sensible thing to do.

His views did indeed appear to be conservative though. However, ridiculing him or calling him names would not help the matter. It kills the chance of engaging or anyone him in a debate. Condemning someone for their point of views deter them from re-examining and changing them.

That is problem with most of the leftists of our society. Make a comment that they do not approve of, and they go all guns blazing accusing you of being a backward and an unethical person worthy of being shipped back to the Stone Age.

He did not say that he was against women education or women working outside. No! No! He did not but many liberals assumed just that and had, consequently, over-reacted based on these assumptions, which is not really the best course of action. If taken only at what was said; Afridi did not appear to be in favor of women playing sports and that was it!

Now coming onto the standpoint which proclaims that Afridi’s comments are his personal opinions and should not concern us, the thing is that Afridi is a national hero. The minute he made this comment on air, his opinion stopped being his own. His comments, whether we would like to admit or not, would do have some bearing on the beliefs of others especially his followers – many of whom are young. So many people look up to Shahid Afridi.

I also consider myself to be one of the biggest fans of Shahid Khan Afridi.  I have been loyal fan since 1996 when he debuted. The height of my Afridi-mania was such that whenever he was dropped from the team for his dismal batting performance, I would pray for the player substituting him to put up a bad show. I had always admired him for his immense dedication and commitment to our team and our country, and the fact that he never gives up.

But before been a big Afridi fan, I am a woman too. I have to admit that I was taken aback when I first saw the video. The thing is being Pakistani women, we have to fight many demons inside and outside. The road to our dreams is not easy. Most of the choices that we make in our lives stand at crossroads from what most parts of our patriarchal society supports and allows. Hence, making such unpopular but right choices require a lot of courage. In this process, every ounce of support counts. For me and I am sure many others, Afridi’s resilience in the face of adversity and most importantly, his way of always following his heart has been a source of inspiration.

The girls who have dared to join the cricket team in Peshawar are really courageous, and this is a major breakthrough. This will open doors for many girls hailing from the conservative backgrounds. Many women would be empowered.  In such a scenario, the support of our national cricketing hero is much needed. Therefore, Afridi should clarify his point of view and consider reviewing his beliefs as many people idolize him. A show of greater responsibility is called for here as this issue is of paramount importance.

To conclude, liberals need to stop jumping to conclusion and give people room to improve, and Afridi needs to step up here like he always do because I, for one thing, do not even have any Zaiqa is my hands.

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I often find myself struggling with the question as to what causes love to die, and resentment to take over. What causes the best feeling in the world to turn into an ugly monster eating one away from inside? Our loved ones suddenly become ‘wrong people” without whom life would be so much better. Maybe the answers lie in the way we approach our relationships. Before we even know it, love gets buried under the enormous heap of expectations.

During the beginning, we are giving attention and love free of cost. The reward lies in the act itself. We are happy and perfectly contented. However, as the time progresses, people around us, who wish us all-too-well, start to implore us to push for things that ‘they think’ would make us happy. We are asked questions like, “how could you be happy like this?” “Come on! Expectations are natural. How can you expect nothing in return?” The world tells you how things should be completely oblivious to fact that God has made us in His image and likeness, and blessed us with an enormous capacity to give.

From that point on, we start to recount in our mind all the good things we have done for our loved ones for which it seemed that we were not appreciated. Hence, our minds become caught up in grave injustices that have been done to us. We start to lose sleep and our much cherished peace of mind. At that point, we have crowned our loved ones the authors of our happiness; the writers of our life scripts.

From that moment on, we become caught up in the struggle for control. We stop doing the things that once made us happy. We stop focusing on our selves, and start giving them exclusive attention.

The acts that were once performed for our loved ones as a way to show our love, now become motivated by a need to control – out of fear, not out of love. With their inherent value forgotten, they are carried out as means to an end. The goal in this case is our happiness, which we hope to receive if our loved ones act in a certain way. They are done hoping to receive paybacks. It kills our freedom and also the relationship. The things that made us fall in love with them become a sore point for us. We stop appreciating them for the people that they are, and want them to become exactly as we want them to. After all, our happiness depends on them so there is absolutely no room for divergence from our predefined set of acceptable behaviors whatsoever.

Our loved ones are able to sense this shift in our motives. They then start to feel suffocated by our constant attention and gestures of affection. They also come to realize that we have made them the authors of our happiness. This burden is too much for them to carry so they start to turn away from us. They don’t give up without trying though. But as we are keeping tabs on everything that they do, they don’t know which one of their mistakes would be termed as a sin, and this fear makes them distance themselves from us. This distance could be physical and/or mental. Then, bitterness sets in. Ironically we lose all our affection for our loved ones just because they do not fit into our ideas of how they should be or act. Too much for true love.

If you find yourself struggling with your relationships, enlist the conditions and expectation you have come to associate with them. Write them all on a paper. You will have a good laugh about some of them. You will be amused by the nonsensical nature of these demands.

You have to do away with them, and learn to give without expectations. You need to stop living in fear of losing your loved ones as this is the only thing that would drive them away.

This means that you have to take responsibility for your happiness and accept the status of the other party as a human, who can and will err. In short, you must learn to love unconditionally because it is only the form of love that lasts.

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This August we saw another instance in which merit was completely sabotaged. When we learnt about Dr. Iram Bokharey’s transfer from Services Hospital, Lahore, we were all dismayed. We could not believe that a person who has dedicated more than two decades of her life to the profession of clinical psychology would be dethroned by someone who merely has one and a half years of experience in the field – Ms. Najama Tauheed. What was more shocking is the fact that Ms. Najama Tauheed was once Dr. Iram Bokharey’s research trainee. Ms. Najama Tauheed had used her political connection with the ruling party to get herself appointed at Services Hospital.

Dr Iram Bokharey has trained and taught many students from different universities across Pakistan. I have known Dr.Iram Bokharey for since two years. She has taught a course to my class. She was extremely helpful and kind. Given the amount of experience she had, she was always very humble, and someone we could easily approach for help. Not only that, she would quote from books that we have not even heard names of, and had tremendous amount of knowledge. I have never met such a well-read and well-articulated lady in my life. Her supervisor says that Dr. Iram Bokharey is her claim to fame.

My second interaction with her took place at Services Hospital. I have been placed there as a trainee clinical psychologist. Over the five months of my placement, I observed that she would go out of her way to help her workmates and trainees. She tried her level best to make the transition into new work environment easy for the new appointees. This also included Ms. Najama Tauheed, who has been appointed at Services Hospital in 2012 on contractual basis. This appointment had been again a product of political influence rather than merit.

She wished everyone to benefit from her knowledge, and did not shower it upon a lucky few. We could easily walk into her office and ask her for guidance, and she would give us her full time and attention. She never demanded any sort of protocol. Even when I was not under her research supervision, she helped me a lot with my research thesis.

Her transfer from Services Hospital and replacement by a person who has 20 years her junior in terms of experience is something that we can never come to terms with. When this incident took place, a meeting of clinical psychologists was called under the banner of Pakistan Association of Clinical Psychologists to protest against this action and decide on the future course of action. It was attended by many prominent clinical psychologists. Both Dr. Iram Bokharey and Ms. Najama Tauheed were present. While Ms. Najama Tauheed went on to justify her actions by narrating her stories for an hour, Dr. Irum Bokharey sat quietly – never attempting once to gain sympathy.

Ms. Najama Tauheed unabashedly announced her use of political connections to get a job in Lahore. She had recently passed Public Service examination, and had been appointed in Rawalpindi. She did not want to move there, so her in-laws contacted someone in the Punjab Chief Minister’s close circles to help her with it. As a result, she was given a position at Services Hospital, while Dr. Iram Bokharey was issued a notice of her transfer to a hospital in Rawalpindi.

When initial hue and cry rose, Dr. Iram Bokharey was offered a place at Pakistan Institute of Mental Health as a consolation but her position at Services Hospital could not be restored as it was an order from high-ups. Dr. Iram Bokharey mentioned employees in the Health Secretariat as warning her that her very own student was conspiring to take her seat and her seat was as good as gone.

Every department has a hierarchical set up. To reach the senior position, you have to go through certain process through which you acquire advanced skills and knowledge. Such bypass of the system is unfair to patients, students and the community at large.

We all know that Dr. Iram Bokharey will not be affected by this transfer in the long run. She has already achieved so much, and will continue to do so in the future. This is a matter of a student betrayal of her teacher and mentor. I am afraid from now on; no teacher would ever invest in her students like Dr. Iram Bokharey did. I am apprehensive that people would think twice before helping others because this wrong precedent has been set.

Ever since this incident, I have also started to question the value of my degree in Pakistan. This example only shows that we should work on building political connections rather than focus on acquiring knowledge and skills.

For More Information on this Issue, Kindly Visit:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Revoke-Transfer-of-Dr-Iram-Bokharey-from-Services-Hospital/526088157446997?fref=ts

 

All in Shayan’s Day.

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While there are many places that can provide you with information, only a few educate you. Dar-ul-Sakun is one of them. It is a halfway house located within the premises of Punjab Welfare Society, Lahore – governed by the Government of Punjab. It houses psychiatric patients both males and females in separate wards. The residents living there have been forsaken by their families. In some cases, monetary support is the only sign of love that the families exhibit while in other cases, brief visits are made to quell the guilt inducing inner voice. Therefore, the residents of Dar-ul-Sakun live their lives haunted by the memories of their past, which are both bitter and sweet. Their present is different though. It is only bitter and filled with constant humiliation. Dar-ul-Sakun is anything but a sanctuary of peace.

Initially, when we started to work there, we believed that the families of the residents were responsible for these circumstances. However, with time, our perception changed. As the residents stable and otherwise got comfortable with us, they started to share their problems. The dark alleys of the institute that had not initially disturbed us started to speak of the atrocities that took place behind the closed doors of the place that promised peace.

 In mornings, we usually find the offices of the administrative staff sitting empty. They either come late or do not show up at all. Simply put, conditions there are unlivable. Furniture is sanctity and washrooms are in shambles. The residents are made to eat in greasy utensils. The female ward does not even have warm water running in their taps. Therefore, the mere task of taking bath turns into torture during winters. 

Dar-ul-Sakun does not even have a psychologist or psychiatrist in house. Therefore, most residents are getting medication without proper assessment. To make the matters worse, the residents are forced into submission through physical and verbal abuse, which are unduly sanctioned by the administration as the only way to control the “mentally disabled” further aggravating their conditions.

The place lacks security in every sense. Two months into our program based on group interventions, one regular member of the group started to skip sessions. Upon inquiry, we were informed that she had developed a ‘gynea-problem’. This was surprising as we have always seen the lady in good spirits with a beaming smile on her face. We were explained that the problem was a result of an incident of sexual abuse that took place before she was brought to the institute. Something about the explanation did not fit well as the lady had been living there for a good two and a half years. We were left wondering as to why the symptoms did not appear before. Further probing revealed that sexual abuse was not uncommon at Dar-ul-Sakun. 

Owing to the lack of professional psychological support and generally oppressive environment of the place, many residents have developed new psychiatric illnesses. The oldest member of the house was brought to this place with a diagnosis of epilepsy. She was otherwise a woman of sound mind. Now, 23 years later, she has started to exhibit symptoms of schizophrenia, which is a severe form of mental disturbance. Another lady is experiencing a return of her symptoms. However, she still awaits proper assessment and treatment, which could prevent her tormenting illness from returning for good.

Disgruntled by these states of affairs, whenever we raise our voices, we are explained that lack of funds and resources is the main reason behind these conditions. Interestingly enough, when Hamza Shahbaz was to visit Punjab Welfare Society, the nearby institute for the disabled was whitewashed overnight. Accounts of the stable residents also revealed that the administration takes away any money that they earn or receive from their families saying that they have no use of it as they are well provided for already. The goods, which they receive in charity, are also taken away from them. Hence, it is more about the lack of will and integrity on the part of the administration rather than the lack of funds.   

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Higher education institutions are venues for character building and grooming. The aim is to produce knowledgeable, skilled and professional individuals. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. At times, these institutions give rise to and nourish highly stressful environments all in the name of education. Then, they provide faulty justifications for putting their students through draining and rigorous modes of training.

According to a study conducted in Karachi in 2006 with medical students as participants, depression and anxiety symptoms were found in 70 percent of the studied. This is a very high proportion. It means that, if generalized, 7 out of 10 students, you would meet in a medical college would be experiencing depression or anxiety. Research has documented that medical students become less satisfied with their lives compared with peers as their degrees proceeds. This is not limited to medical colleges. It has been found that overall the physical and emotional health of students at higher education establishments is bad relative to that of their peers’. I have personally seen some of my mates crumble under stress – pushed to the edge of a burnout and over.

It is given that some amount of stress work as a motivator. However, if it increases, then its repercussions start to manifest in different forms. For some students, stress leads to experience of guilt, incompetence, fear and anger. All of which are unhealthy emotions causing both psychological and physiological dysfunction. Bear in mind, stress has been implicated in many diseases ranging from asthma to cancer.

They start to withdraw from others, indulge in self-criticism and problem avoidance. They are living under constant fear of failing and are always on the edge.  Social withdrawal damages interpersonal relationships. As a result, much is takes away from their social support system, which is much-needed at that time.

 Negative self evaluation affects their confidence level and the ability to work effectively.  It has also been seen students who have undergone a highly stressful degree program tend to label high amounts of stress as normal. Therefore, they end up going for highly-demanding jobs. Thereby, these unhealthy patterns that should have been restricted to few years of their lives become a way of life.

Students studying at the higher educational institutions are at an age where they are going through many transitions in their lives. Their parents are ageing, and there are shifts in the relationship dynamics for as individuals grow old, their roles and responsibilities towards the family increase. Moreover, monetary issues are a substantial source of worry as high-level degrees cost a lot. Then, there is a constant threat of being dropped out of the program. Add this to long hours at school and seemingly unending assignments, projects and presentations, the burden becomes almost impossible to bear. The grading systems in some institutions also lead to the emergence of unhealthy competition. Everyone is trying to get their work done as if it is the only thing that counts, and the environment becomes politicized. Students are made to believe that their degrees are the end of the world without which they have no hopes of succeeding. Therefore, individuals are forced to put everything on a backburner – even important things that help us get by in life.

Some say that students should be resilient enough to face these challenges. Otherwise, they are not capable enough to begin with. However, such arguments are not valid. Every individual is different. They enter a higher degree program with different sets of circumstances, which may be highly unfavorable. Given their unfavorable situations, the fact that they have made it into the program might be an enough show of resilience on their parts. Still, they are bombarded with how they are not trying hard enough and what they need to do or be to prove mettle. Thus, instructors and administrators often make unfair assumptions and push students to the limit. Given this backdrop, it is not surprising that students end up with their emotional and physical health compromised.

The objective of education is to produce wise, well-rounded and healthy individuals. Therefore, institutions should try to make the lives of their students easy. The mission should be to equip students with positive coping skills and present them with adequate role models for their lives. Hence, the study programs should be designed in a way that students are able to allocate adequate time to self-nurturance. Healthy work-life balance should be promoted so that they learn to live a happy life.

 Only then, learning would become a joyous experience, which it should be -not a burden. This way, students would not be always on a run, and they would gain even more because they would study to know more not to score more.

God Threshold.