Karachi Photo Blog

Friday, October 24, 2014

NED Convention's Malala Story

NED Convention's Malala Story

Back in April 2014, when Silicon Valley NED alumni started to finalize the Tenth Annual NED Alumni Convention program (held October 10-12, in the Silicon Valley, California), organizers thought about inviting a crowd-puller as the keynote speaker.  Several names came up: Hamid Mir, Hassan Nisar, Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, Adib Rizvi, Ayesha Siddiqa…but one name on which all members of the Steering Committee got truly excited was that of Malala Yousafzai.  Yes, it should be Malala Yousafzai.  A 17-year old girl speaking to the NED alumni in Urdu/Pushto—what a show that would be!  Organizers set out to contact Malala. The obvious approach was to contact Malala through either her website/fan club http://www.malala-yousafzai.com, or through her charity, Malala Fund.  Email messages were sent to the addresses given on both web sites.  No answer came, for more than a month!  Malala was quickly losing her credibility.  A few organizers knew Shiza Shahid, co-founder of the Malala Fund, from Shiza's Standford days. Shiza was approached through mutual friends.  She replied, but organizers quickly learned Malala had gone out of Shiza Shahid's reach.  Malala could only be communicated with through Malala's PR firm, Edelman (http://www.edelman.com).  Shiza introduced the organizers to Charlotte Paton, Malala's agent at Edelman.  An invitation for Malala to speak at the NED Alumni Convention was sent via email to Charlotte on June 22.  Four days later, the following response came:

"Hi there,
Thank you for your patience and my apologies again for the delay in responding.  It is with regret that I must decline your invitation for Malala to be keynote speaker at the NED Alumni Convention in October - her schooling and other commitments mean she is unable to travel to the San Francisco Bay Area at this time.  
Please accept my best wishes for a successful event."

Where was that decision made?  Was it wise for Malala to shun Desi audience?  Organizers wrote back with the following:

"Thanks for writing back, Charlotte.
Organizers of the Convention did consider all the factors related to Malala's attendance: her school engagements, her relative inexperience in life (what can a 17-year old kid possibly say to an audience many times her age?), etc.  But the decision was to still seek Malala's attendance for one main reason: To make Malala more effective for girls' education in Pakistan. 

Ever since the assassination attempt on her, Malala has been appropriated by the West.  In Pakistan where there is growing mistrust of the US and its allies, the roundly Western adoption of this young woman has become counter-productive to Malala's cause.  In order to further the cause of girls' education in Pakistan Malala needs to be seen and heard among her own people.  NED Alumni Convention will provide such an opportunity, with hopefully other Pakistani/Muslim organizations following suit.

Charlotte, I request you to kindly re-consider your decision for the sake of Malala's actual mission: girls' education in Pakistan and other places threatened by fundamentalism. 

Our event is on Saturday, in the evening.  We can arrange for Malala's flight after her school on Friday, and fly her back on Sunday.

Looking forward to hear back from you soon."

That was June 26.   The following day, a phone call was made to Edelman's office in London; an organizer talked to Charlotte and repeated organizers' message.  Charlotte promised she would talk to Malala's family.

On July 9, a phone call to Edelman was followed by this message:

"Hi Charlotte,
Left you a voice mail message yesterday.
When I talked to you on the phone almost a week ago, you indicated you would talk to Malala's family about Malala's attendance of our October event.
Hope you were able to talk to Malala's family and that there is a positive development.

Kindly write back."

Shortly, a reply was received from Charlotte.

"My apologies – I believe my colleague Daniel recently picked up a call from you.
I did have a chance to speak to the family and the wider team about your invitation and regretfully, it remains the case that Malala will be unable to attend.
 Please accept my best wishes for a successful event.
 Kind regards"

Organizers were truly disappointed—more so because they could see in the media how Malala was running from one place to another to meet Western celebrities and to receive accolades.  Organizers were justified in thinking that the girl attacked by the fanatics two years ago was a different Malala; one who found refuge in London was a different person; that Malala—probably through her astute father and her PR firm—had decided to walk the path of Greg Mortenson: You need to spend more time in places where you find media glitz, prestigious awards, and lots of cash—spend time on the charitable cause people are paying you for, only if and when time permits.

Malala in White House photo, courtesy of Wikipedia
Injured Malala's photo, courtesy of ISPR

Read more about the Convention, here:

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Am Reading at LitQuake

Let this be an instance of shameless self-promotion.  Along with four other South Asian writers, this scribe will be reading at LitQuake 2014, on Saturday, October 18, at 6:30 pm.

The readings will take place at 18 Reasons (a-hard-to-define-eating-place/culinary school/event space), 3674 18th St. in San Francisco--the closest BART Station being 16th & Mission.   If you are running out of things to do this Saturday and want to listen to a few writers describe South-Asian-American experiences through short stories, do drop by.  Your presence will be greatly appreciated.

Image courtesy of LitCrawl.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Hannah Graham Found?

What contributed to Hannah Graham's disappearance? Alcohol.  Plain and simple.  An 18-year old drinking (illegally) and getting totally sloshed is obviously putting herself in a very vulnerable position.  How did the University of Virginia sophomore get alcohol when the minimum drinking age in Virginia, like most other places in the US, is 21? Jesse Matthew bought her those drinks.  Jesse is now a 'person of interest' in the Hannah Graham disappearance case.  The two met in a mall and then went to a bar. Although Jesse denies it, it will be very surprising if Jesse did not take advantage of Hannah Graham that night.  After all Jesse did all the necessary work: he bought Hannah drinks and got her drunk to the point where Hannah had no idea of her whereabouts.
How is Hannah Graham disappearance case being solved?  Through security cameras individual businesses and residences own.  Why is the case still unsolved?  Because there are large gaps between the coverage of surveillance cameras…something that is not the case in our intentional community, Elmustee.  All public places in Elmustee are thoroughly monitored.  Video recordings are kept for at least a year.  Even months after an incident, you can look at the video recordings of various cameras to piece together the complete story.  Had Hannah Graham disappeared inside Elmustee, the case would have been solved in hours.  From the moment when Hannah came out of the bar, we could tell you which way she went, which car she got into, where did that car finally stop, and which building she entered in the end.

Photo, courtesy of http://myfox8.com.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Neelam Ahmed Bashir in the San Francisco Bay Area

Prominent Urdu short story writer Neelam Ahmed Bashir was the guest of honor at Urdu Academy North America's September meeting.  Neelam Ahmed Bashir's latest book 'Wehshat hee sahee' was reviewed in the literary meeting held on Saturday, September 28, at the Chandni Restaurant in Newark, California.  Around 150 people attended the program.

Listen to the audio recording of the program here:

نیلم احمد بشیر کی کتاب 'وحشت ہی سہی' کی سان فرانسسکو بے ایریا میں تقریب تعارف
تاشی ظہیر کی سرپرستی میں اردو اکیڈمی کی ستمبر محفل میں ڈیڑھ سو سے زاءد لوگوں کی شرکت۔

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Tracing Naqsh-e-Meer

Tracing Naqsh-e-Meer
Eighteenth century Dehlavi Urdu poet Meer Taqi Meer (Mir Taqi Mir) was remembered and his contribution to Urdu language was discussed at the India Community Center in Milpitas on September 7, in a program aptly dubbed Naqsh-e-Meer.
How was the program appropriately named?  Hamida Banu Chopra, Bay Area Urdu teacher and chief organizer of the program, explained why Meer is called Khuda-e-sukhan by Urdu lovers.  Meer is held in high esteem for the words and expressions he gave to the Urdu language.  When Meer started writing poetry in Rekhta (nascent Urdu), very few wrote in that new language.  He was the one who took expressions and similes from Farsi and either used them as such, or altered them to fit in his Urdu verses.  For increasing the Urdu vocabulary considerably, and giving later poets and writers a bigger space to write in, Meer Taqi Meer is known as Khuda-e-Sukhan (God of language/poetry) by Urdu connoisseurs.  Today's Urdu is in fact Naqsh-e-Meer (Meer's footprint/stamp).

Besides Hamida Chopra, Suhail Farrukh, Jafar Shah, Sujata Roashan, Ravi Khurshid, Atiya Hai, Arshad Rashid, Saleem Malik, Ashraf Habibullah, and Dipti Bhatnagar read and sang Meer's poetry in the program attended by over one hundred people.

In all the readings, of special note was Ashraf Habibullah's tribute to Meer Taqi Meer.  The moment Habibullah stepped on the stage, there was light, literally…because Habibullah came donned in a jacket studded with LEDs that blinked and spelled his name on the back.  Meer must have tossed and turned violently in his grave learning his poetry was read in this fashion.  Seeing Habibullah make people laugh off their chairs it was hard to believe Ashraf Habibullah heads an internationally renowned Berkeley firm that makes software for strength analysis of buildings and structures.

Video highlights of the program are here:

Listen to complete audio recording of Naqsh-e-Meer program here: 

نقش میر میں سہیل طالب، جعفر شاہ، سجاتا چوہان، روی خورشید، عطیہ حءی، ارشد عزیز، سلیم ملک، اشرف حبیب اللہ، اور دپتی بھٹناگر نے میر کی چنیدہ غزلیں اور اشعار پیش کیے اور میر کی شاعری اور اپنے انداز بیاں پہ خوب داد حاصل کی۔ حمیدہ بانو چوپڑہ نے ایک مقالہ پڑھا اور حاضرین کو بتایا کہ میر تقی میر کو خداءے سخن کیوں کہا جاتا ہے۔

नक़्शे मेरे

मेरे तक़ी मेरे उर्दू  शायरी

हमीदा बनो चोप्रा, सोहैल, जफ़र शाह, सुजाता, रवि खुर्शी, अतिया हई, अरशद अज़ीज़, सलीम मालिक, अशरफ हबीबुल्लाह, दीप्ती भटनागर