All posts in the Pakistan category

For the Love of Learning

Published March 4, 2015 by sidmary

Who among us has never seen or experienced the early morning frenzy that seizes the households where everyone has to leave for some place or the other and reach before a certain time? School students, college students, university students, office workers…it is a routine unmanned by occupation. However early you get up, and however fast you get ready, the clock in the morning ticks at an unparalleled speed trying to make you late.

What if in this situation, in the time it takes you to hear the horn, open the door and move out, your van leaves? What if, even as you stand at the gate, you see the receding behind of the indomitable vehicle mocking you in the face for the one second delay? At least once in a lifetime, this has happened with most of us.

But wait…! What if your wish or need to get to school, or college overpowers the misery and seething anger you are feeling at the situation? What if you get into your car and drive across half the city to reach the institution, only to realize that you are one minute late and cannot enter the premises? Blam! There goes the world crumbling around you; one more morning incident to fire your nerves and heat your blood. You go quickly over the schedule of the day in your mind weighing how important attending classes today was…and you comfort yourself with the conclusion that you will get notes from your friend and all will be fine. Then you go home and plop on the bed, making up for the sleep you lost last night making an assignment you had to submit today.

What a comedy of errors! Or maybe a tragedy? Who knows? However, there is one very important aspect to this not uncommon scenario that it would a tragedy to not explore: the policy of educational institutions to send students back home even if they are half a minute late. Yes, just thirty seconds worth of delay.

Let us look first at the reasons for this strict policy. It is majorly because institutions want to instill the value of punctuality in their students, and maintain some decorum in the school that such strict policies are made; and yet one is forced to question: is all fine with this?

The early schools which were the centers of learning and research were homely places where all were welcome. They were institutes from where learning developed and advanced, and the forbears of the educational institutions we have today. They developed the sciences which are taught in our schools today, but what were their salient features? These were schools which remained open at all times. It was sin to close the doors of learning on those who sought them. Knowledge was sacred, and withholding it from the seeker was blasphemy.

In the modern day, when education has been institutionalized, rules and policies are required to be stricter. Students are and should be expected to adhere to certain norms of behavior, but the strict policy and rule making should follow some rules too. Humans are not sheep- all to be herded indiscriminately by the same stick, and education and learning is not a child’s play to be taken lightly and undervalued by the centers of education themselves.

To instill punctuality in students and maintain the decorum of schools and colleges, penalties are and should be issued to those who undervalue the importance of learning and those who are religiously non-punctual, but to send students home who are late once in a blue moon and with genuine reason is blasphemy! What educational institutions encourage this way is students going home and sleeping the productive morning hours away. Along with the student, they are equally to blame for the loss of precious time and perhaps more for not understanding the value and importance of one whole day of learning.

It is about time that educational institutions make policies with practicality and the objective of learning in their minds. The effort of one who wakes up in the wee morning hours, gets ready and travels a good half hour or more to get to school or college should be appreciated and respected, and more than the clock’s face should be considered when sending one back down the same path they took to learning.


–Sidra Maryam

KIBF 2013

Published December 12, 2013 by sidmary

When you enter the Karachi Expo Centre on one of the days near the end of the year, you find the essence of Karachi.

You will find motorbike riders, rikhshaw travellers, and Pajero owners all coming together at one place with nothing to differentiate them…

And the love of books to unite them.

Here, in three halls full of books, you see the trend of society. You see what people like to read, what people like to think, and what people are told.

You see what your country men feel, and what guides their feelings.

Occasionally you’ll catch sight of a foreigner, and you will be proud of how you represent your country to him.

You might also see a writer, a columnist, or an analyst you hate or look up to, and somewhere in your heart, you’d be filled with pride that you have access to one place that they visit, and you tell your friends and family of whom you saw.

And then there are the books…

In both the languages most read in your country.

English and Urdu.

And its a collection that helps you travel accross time and sail over lands.

It gives you insight into the nitty gritties of small stuff, and overviews of “big stuff.”

And you have to chose well…because like food you eat takes up and re-makes the whole of your body in a few years time, the books you read take up and re-make your whole mind and life in a few years time.

But it is magical. Believe me.

You don’t want to miss it next year.

Wherever you go,

Choose well.

And happy reading. 🙂

–Sidra Maryam


There should be a Uniform System of Education in Pakistan

Published October 25, 2013 by sidmary


(Following is my argument on the debate we had in school. I was the leader of proposition, and this being the first speech, focuses on breaking up and explaining the topic as well as presenting the stance.)


Honorable Chairperson,


I present my speech today in favor of the topic at hand, and am presenting in fact, one of the many paradoxes of life.


This specific paradox, is one that sneers at us from right under our noses, and makes a joke out of us every passing moment, yet one that we fail even to be amused about.


The system of education, prevalent in Pakistan, is ironically a host to a multitude of other systems, just like a decaying body, which becomes the host to the growth of a multitude of fungal and bacterial colonies. The end, needless to say, can never be good.


The real irony here however, lies in the fact that this education, which is meant to illuminate, build bridges and extend boundaries, is in fact cutting off communication, limiting minds, and building fences.


Quaid-e-Azam said and I quote that “You have to stand guard over the development and maintenance of Islamic democracy, Islamic social justice, and the equality of manhood in you own native soil.” (unquote)


I ask you Hon. Chair, HOW, how exactly is the development and maintenance of Islamic social justice and the equality of manhood possible in this land, when its very education is one that creates social classes, builds class differences, and wipes away empathy from hearts?


Hon. Chair,


The state of education in our country is dismal. Divide the system into three components, and you will find yet more diversity under their umbrellas. Take first the private sector, mostly schools and colleges affiliated with foreign universities, and exceptions aside, you will find that although they provide quality education, usually in a high-tech environment, they send individuals in the world with an undue superiority complex. Individuals, who although trained in the multiple fields of sciences, business and humanities, are untrained in the disciples of life, and morals.


Take next our institutions of religious education, namely the Madrassas, and you will find that the most excellent syllabus, is taught sadly without innovation and integration, resulting in pushing the best potential scholars behind in the race against time, and creating a class altogether different from those taught in schools.


We take lastly the government schools, and their general state of deterioration requires no introduction.


Hon. Chair,


Lets analyze this.


Lets question ourselves.


Why is a privately educated individual made into an instrument in the capitalist machinery. Why is he given no guidance about his purpose of life, and no understanding of people unlike himself!


And why is a student educated in a Madrassa left behind in the modern world, when its integration with religion and morals that the world needs the most right now.


And why should a student studying from a government school be deprived of the basic essence of education?


Hon. Chair,


The answer to all these questions is simple. There should one system of education, across the country, that provides ideological, value-based, and modern education assisted by up-to-date teaching methodologies and equipment.


In compliance to Article-25A of the constitution of Pakistan, that promises the provision of education to all and everyone till the age of 16, such should be the standard.


James A. Garfield said and I quote, that: ” Next in importance to freedom and justice, is proper education, without which neither freedom, nor justice can be permanently maintained.” (unquote)


Hon. Chair,


It is such a uniform system of education, that inculcates the principles of freedom and justice, that our country needs the most right now. For education is, as the Quaid said, “a matter of life and death for the country.”


As for my friends who might question the practicality of the suggestion, I have but one more message of the Quaid: “With faith, discipline and selfless devotion to duty, their is nothing that is not possible.”



People sitting on mats on the floor, reading b...

People sitting on mats on the floor, reading books. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(And i won!!! 😀 )


–Sidra Maryam


Darkness begets Knowledge

Published March 6, 2013 by sidmary

“Darkness begets knowledge.”

The city’s shut down. The shutters dropped. The houses are locked with people safe inside. And the ones outside?? The ones who lost their homes?? The ones who have none…??

The schools are to remain close for an undetermined period. Same for business transactions. There are some who take this as another few days for home, yet others who depend on daily work for daily wages for daily food…What about them??

The business shutdown causes loss of fortunes everyday. The very soil screams out, yet the din above ground suppresses its cries. The country holds treasures, asks us to exploit them,…do we hear??

People die, people starve, people hallucinate, people violate, people resent, people despair…Thats’s not the onset of night, its the end.

“Darkness begets knowledge.”

Knowledge begets Light.

Light begets the Cure.

Keep positive. The world needs you. Its future is yours. Do your part…It’s waiting…


–Sidra Maryam



Published February 3, 2013 by sidmary

Thandiani (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

December, we visited the northern areas of Pakistan. They are a height and beauty to be reckoned with.

At the near-top of a mountain in Thandiani, we spent a few hours. Over there, near the top of the world in the late evening, I said my Prayers. In that momemt that I said them, I was infused with overwhelming emotions of Love and Fear. Gratefulness and helplessness washed over me. Where I sat, after the platform ended on my right, all you could see was the sky. On my right, the slope of a mountain faced me. It seemed so near, I could make out the very barks and leaves of the trees aligned on its breast. On my front, past the road cut into the mountain whichwe had taken, there was a deep drop and a vast space. Miles and miles ahead, I could make out the outlines and colours of mountains beyond dimmed in my view by the mist enveloping them.

I loved God in that moment for bringing me so far up and away from my city; at a height I had hardly ever dared to think of conquering. And I loved Him for making it so beautiful, and allowing me to appreciate it. I feared Him too in that instant for when His anger would annihialate these very mountains, and all beauty and life herein would crumble…

–Sidra Maryam


Published November 10, 2012 by sidmary

Inspite of living in a coastal city, our excursions to the sea are infrequent. We had one of these rare trips yesterday, and as before, it was so overwhelming, I feel compelled to write about it. We visited the side of the coast which held little public and was clean as one could wish…

I lowered my hand into the sea,

And scooped up stardust in my hand.

I treaded gently on thy bed;

I didn’t trouble the living glittering sand.


I watched my step and looked under my feet

So starfish are not killed beneath.

I let the waves wash over me,

And swayed in time with those more free.


–Sidra Maryam

Busy Much…

Published October 23, 2012 by sidmary

Life’s this big dynamic roller-coaster at times. It takes you, and it sways you, then it takes your breathe away; and in the end, it hails you.

So there is a lot going on. Life’s my roller-coaster ride, because maybe it thinks i do not entertain myself enough the ‘normal’ way, so it makes its own ultra-big effort to keep me occupied. I am laden with school-work, deadlines of projects, preparations for up-coming competitions besides this list of extra-curricular that i managed to get my head into. At times i asked myself, ‘Is this too much,’ ‘Am i taking more than i can chew,’ ‘Should i back out?’…but no. I kept through it. And i am glad.

Yes at times it does freak me out: this having such a lot to do. And yes i get stressed out; and the ends of my fingertips tingle; and my brain snoozes and i wonder how i will ever get through…but in the end, ‘it is’ as i told my friend at the end of the scool day ‘good to be busy.’

There’s this sense of purpose that you get, and the feeling that every day is actually a development. I try to maintain a journal (which i don’t update so regularly), and seeing it all there, the memories recorded in words, phrases, notes; the tries, the failures, the insecurities and the accomplishments; i sometimes just sit back and wonder at how long ago it seems. What is trapped there so that i remember it, is a record of all the ‘busy-ness’ of my life, aswell as the mild observations of one who sits back to relax, and the intense observations of one too depressed or too sick of it.

Yet at the end of the day my journal teaches me that life’s only worth it when i have new experiences and adventures to record on its pages every day. It teaches me to take chances and take risks, because tomorrow when i will see how silly i had been, that will tell me how wise i have become. So for now at least, i put my leg in everything that is good enough. I occupy myself at all times because it keeps so much at bay; and it keeps me busy. And being busy, in so many dimensions, is so truly good…

An Obituary

Published September 12, 2012 by sidmary

khoon-e-khak-nasheenan-tha,- sou-rizk-e-khak-hua..

[it was the blood of ashes, so it was reduced to ashes] –Faiz

Two factories caught fire yesterday. One in Lahore, the other in Karachi. Hundreds suffocated or burned to death. The brigadiers reached late and rescue processes were slow.

That’s not the point here. The point is that people DIED. They actually DIED and there was no one to ask for them, no one to take them out, no one to reassure them. Imagine yourself locked up in a room with all entrances closed, smoke slowly seeping in, the slow torturous suffocation, the masses of people trapped and panicky with you, and a death that is unavoidable. That’s how they passed away; almost three hundred people in the factory in Baldia Town as I know from the most recent statistics.

Statistics. That’s all that everything reduces to in this world. A number, a graph, that no one bothers to interpret. Yes, they probably are going to record the effects too. The number of families left totally unsupported; the increase in depression, in families going unfed each night; the number of houses mourning deaths of 2,3 up to 6-7 deaths in an instant. Yes they are going to record it, and yes we are going to read it and we will say ‘how sad’ and ‘how tragic’ and then we will tend to our meals.  And then at the end of the year, there will be a short paragraph as an event review for the year.

Our own lives are not statistics or numbers to us. Why, oh WHY do we fail to understand that each number in those statistics was a being of dreams and aspirations and an un-achieved future!!??

The workers were all poor, and no one asks the poor how they fare in this world. They ask the rich ‘Howdy-do’ because they are already faring well, and won’t plead to them for help, but the poor are not asked, nor truly sympathized with. So for we can do now, lets close our eyes for a minute and grieve for them, and pray for them and our country; for the dreams we all have and the futures we all want. They may be fickle things, but they make life. And next when we are position of action, let us do something for our country and for our lost dreams; and let us do something for the poor who need the justice that is all spent on the rich…

–Sidra Maryam

Happy 14th August

Published August 14, 2012 by sidmary

Fourteenth of August. Came and Gone. No. Going. Almost. Almost Going. In case you are unaware, this is the Independence Day for Pakistan. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan. It is marked in Asia on the map, and rests somewhere between China, India, Afghanistan and Iran. Its my country.

Liberated in 1947.

But you would know? Of course. Wouldn’t you?

My nani says that in the early years after independence, on the 14th of August, the national anthem was played on the radio at 8:00 o’ clock. It was played everywhere. The traffic used to stop. People used to step out and stand up. All round the country…that would be the only voice that was. At homes, offices, everywhere… And everyone used to stop everything, stand up and sing…

I imagined the aura. So enchanting. Right?

This 14th, today I mean… most of us were asleep at eight. Right? It was a holiday..

Anyways…it was the 65th year of our liberation. Among the many independence day wishes I received, one said: “Amreeka k ghlamon ko bartania se azadi bohat bohat mubarak ho” (  Congrats on independence from Britain to the slaves of America) . I said Oh…

As we celebrate our 65th year of Independence,  there is a liberation struggle going on again. In our country only. Did you know about it?? Its our media. Are you saying ‘Oh, that..’ Don’t. It’s not that. Its this.

What’s happening is that some conscientious people demanded court action on the vulgarity in electronic and print media. You know what it is. Right? The absolutely vulgar advertisements, shows, dramas, billboards, films. Just name it…

So. Our independent Media said that its business was being affected, thus it blacked it out. The proceedings are not broadcast and those who tend to broadcast it are blackmailed. The one media person who ventured to write about it has been blacklisted by the independent tv channels. His name is Ansar Abbasi by the ways.

Don’t worry. I follow the newspaper which follow the stuff. I’ll tell you about it. And that message too that I framed for our youth for this day.

Oh how I venture. I am so sorry. I drifted from the topic: Happy Independence Day.

–Sidra Maryam

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