Mar 25, 2012

Book Review

By Fizza Ali Khan

By Siddiq Salik
Reviewed on: 21st February, 2012
386pp, Rs. 595

Struggle is the key to success. But what of those who do not bother to struggle, and yet have successful lives?

Siddiq Salik was one such person. After getting a Masters degree in English Literature, he “ruined” his future prospects by accepting an offer to join the Pakistan Army. Only the most basic military training, based on handling a pistol and saluting to seniors, was sufficient for him before he moved on to “serious captain duties”: in charge of “press and propaganda”, ending up considering himself equal to the Nazi master of lies, Josef Goebbels.

Salute records his memoirs, covering the enormous distance from captain to major as more of a newspaper editor/correspondent than a fighter. It gives the reader an insight into the lighter side of Pakistan Army, with instances like injured, hospitalised soldiers’ comments on a nurse and complaints about the lack of women in Pakistan Military Academy, and the married author’s own infatuation with a military doctor.

But life is not all fun and games in Pakistan Army, and Salik makes that very clear. His accounts of the 1971 war reported from Bangladesh would prove eye-opening for many, defying the then government’s attempts to censor all sensitive news. The causes and the consequences of the involuntary surrender of the 90,000 “robots” are brought to the limelight, with the latter discussed more in detail in his first book, Mein Ne Dhaka Doobta Dekha (I Witnessed the Fall of Dhaka). He also talks of his experiences with different governments, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s democracy and Zia ul Haq’s dictatorship focused more than the others.
The book was written in Urdu, albeit with frequent use of English terminology, which may be reflective of the initial “farangi” lifestyle of army men. It starts out sounding like a self-indulgent autobiography, but maturity seeps in and a more humble tone replaces the self-conceitedness of an obnoxious soldier as the story progresses.
Salik has not aimed for a specific audience; his humorous style of writing, marked by sarcasm and hyperbole, is meant to appeal to the masses, military and civilian alike. The popularity of the book may be due to the author’s civilian perspective of military life.
However, according to some, this perspective is the propaganda of the Pakistan Army to build support for itself, perhaps for yet another military takeover of the country. What they fail to take into account though, is that the author’s intention was to poke fun at every government for inefficiency, particularly the military dictators.
It is unfortunate that Siddiq Salik did not live to clarify the criticism. He died a Brigadier in a plane crash, even before Salute was published.

Book Review

Dune (1984)
Reviewed by Nimrah Nadeem

If handled right, a good novel can make a good film. However, a great novel almost never becomes a great movie, because the intricacies of the book can’t possibly be captured in such a limited screen time.
David Lynch’s movie adaptation of Frank Herbert’s cult classic sci-fi novel faced pretty much the same problem, but it seems this movie just took it to a whole new level.
The movie doesn’t even come close to doing the book justice. On the contrary, it was riddled with gaping weaknesses in the plot and bland, one dimensional characters.

According to Robert Egbert, Dune was “a real mess, an incomprehensible, ugly, unstructured, pointless excursion into the murkier realms of one of the most confusing screenplays of all time."
The protagonist is a young man, Paul Atriedes (Kyle McLachlan) of House Atriedes foretold as the “Kwisatz Haderach” who will lead the native Fremen of the titular desert planet Arrakis, or Dune to victory over the malevolent House Harkonnen. Riddled with dirty politics, intricate layers of meaning, and memorable, well developed characters, the book was a masterpiece. As winner of the prestigious Hugo and Nebula awards, Frank Herbert’s Dune has a massive fan base, one that David Lynch’s weak movie adaptation has deeply disappointed.

At the time, Lynch was one of Hollywood’s most avant-garde directors, having directed masterpieces such as the famous ‘Elephant Man’ and ‘Eraserhead’. He was even on the directing shortlist for ‘Return of the Jedi’. Lynch was considered worthy of a massive undertaking, but after Dune, he even resorted to releasing certain versions of the movie under a pseudonym Alan Smithee. Well, Lynch, maybe it’s too little, too late.

On the whole, the film wasn’t completely horrendous. The visuals and special effects were considerably impressive, when you think about it in terms of a 1984 movie. The worms were almost spot on, and so were the Fremens’ “blue in blue” eyes. Even the music score by popular 1980’s band Toto was appreciated. Too bad they couldn’t save the movie.

Personally, I just hope David Lynch doesn’t read Isaac Asimov’s Foundation and try taking it on. We don’t need any more sci fi movie adaptation disasters.

Karachi - The City of Lights

By Fizza Ali

From Kolachi, a fishing village, to Karachi, this cosmopolitan mega-city is the undisputed heart of the country’s economy, being the financial and commercial centre for the nation. Spread over an ever-expanding area of 3500 sq km, it hosts more than 18 million people, making it one of the largest cities in the world. Given its size and economic importance, it is not surprising that people from all over Pakistan come here to make a future. If you want to make it anywhere, the saying goes, you have to head for Karachi.

From ethnic Sindhis, Punjabis, Pathans and Balochis to Mohajirs and Afghan refugees, Karachi is home to all, including significant Hindu, Christian and Parsi minorities. Dominated by Urdu-speaking Mohajirs who settled here when it was the newly-found country’s capital, it hosts mostly the middle-class stratum of society. Given this diversity, it is inevitable for the city to have a reputation for civil unrest and communal violence. This constant danger coupled with insane traffic, frequent power cuts, overstretched infrastructure and, to top that, sweltering heat will make for a very challenging stay. And perhaps this is what lends charm to the life, buzz and colours of this fast-paced city.

Karachi brings together all that Pakistan is known for: different cultures and traditions, crowded markets, heartbreaking poverty, indifferent elite, authoritative foreigners, uncontrolled inflation, juicy history, and the true colours of life. Where you see a bare-footed old man in torn clothes sitting on the roadside with arms outstretched, you would also see the BMW’s and Mercedes that race past him. The mini-buses and rickshaws still remain the charm of the city though.

Heart-touching Urdu poetry, or witty or sarcastic remarks painted on their backsides, along with paintings of imaginary creatures, folktale heroes or martyrs, and intricate designs and patterns make the red mini-buses a beautiful but cheap source of transport. Other modes of transport include larger, more comfortable buses with slightly higher fares, taxis or cabs available for hire.

There are multiple tourist attractions in Karachi, apart from the charm itself. Festivals like Hamara Karachi, aimed at putting to productive use the citizens’ love for the city, Karachi Literature Festival, which showcases the city’s literary society, and Karachi Fashion Week, which caters to the more fashion-oriented classes, among others are all events where one gets to see the life of the city. Other than that, Karachi’s beautiful beaches – Sandspit Beach, Hawke’s Bay Beach and French Beach, the most beautiful beach of the city – have ever been major tourist attractions, especially Clifton Beach, once considered the most popular silver-sand beach and health resort. Port Grand, established as an extensive food street and entertainment complex in Downtown Karachi, houses various restaurants, shopping malls, art galleries, a tavern area, Hindu temple, pedestrian-friendly tier and view of the Karachi Harbour.

Colonial architecture can be seen in the old city centre Saddar, with examples being the Frere Hall Library, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the Mereweather Tower. Pakistan’s own history can be traced through museums such as Mohatta Palace, Pakistan Air Force Museum, Pakistan Maritime Museum and the Quaid’s Mausoleum, which remains a symbol of the City of the Quaid.

Summing it up, a visit to Karachi will clear any misconceptions people may have about Pakistan, while showing the lighter, brighter and livelier side of the country.

Mar 5, 2012

What Bothers Me.

We had a spoken word poetry competition at school. The winner was a language student, Naveen Qazi. Here is Naveen performing her poem!