Monday, May 31, 2010

Adhe Adhoore Khawab: My Reflections

Maimoona Nazneen 
University of Management and Technology, Lahore
"It is not a conventional love story but altogether a different narrative that advocates love of ideology that may lead to  sacrifice  even one's own life."
Adhay Adhooray Khawab" by Dr. Shahid Sidiqui is a beautiful blend of society, politics, education and literature. It advocates a unique socio-political theme, i.e., education should be used as a vehicle for social change. Theories, discussed in the in the four walls of classroom are of no use until they are not applied and practiced.

Professor Saharan Roy is not only a learned scholar but an effective teacher as well. He manages to open windows of light and fresh air in the minds of students, stirs their thinking by asking thought-provoking questions, and stimulates healthy discussions. He uses live examples from everyday life to make difficult concepts easy to understand. He is popular among students because he not only makes things easy to grasp but also gives new dimensions of applying these concepts. According to him three things are very important for teacher, i.e., punctuality, preparation of lesson and self respect of students. It is not a conventional love story but altogether a different narrative that advocates love of ideology that may lead to  sacrifice  even one's own life.  

According to the writer, "mohabbat qurbani mangti ha, kabhi maal ki, kabhi martabay ki, kabi jaan ki." These sacrifices do not mark the end of love rather they make the cause sublime and inspiring. Professor Roy's dream is taken up by his students, especially Imtisal. He has actually presented the dream and inspiration to fulfill it. He has left a role model for his students to follow in their lives.

This novel is an exact social mirror of Pakistan’s political upheaval. Coupled with simple style and language, social relevance makes the story gripping for readers. The use of multiple narrators helps us to look at a situation from both students’ and teachers’ perspective. In this way this novel is an effective contribution to the theme of education. It promotes that students and teacher should play their active in bringing desired social change.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Analysis Based on Reading of the Novel: Aadhe Adhore Khawab

Dhani Bux Shah
The Aga Khan University, Institute for Educational Development

"One of the most significant and excellent novels I have ever read in my entire life"

In April 2010, I went to a Book Store of Karachi to purchase the books of Nursery class for my son. I handed over the list of the books to the Salesperson and in the meantime looked through the Store; I found two shelves having books on fiction. As I had time, so I started browsing the books. In fact I was looking for Paulo Coelho’s “The Alchemist”; I had heard much about this book but had not yet got a chance to read it. As I was browsing I saw Aadhe Adhore Khawab of Dr Shahid Siddiqui in the shelf. In the meantime, however, I found, The Alchemist, purchased it and left the Book Store.

Couple of days later I got an e-mail from the Chair Alumni of my university, containing the link of Dr Shahid’s Blog. The blog contained Dr Shahid’s articles including the review of his book Aadhe Adhore Khawa, written by one of my most favourite professors of the university. Either what he has written in the review of the book or his influence cherished a desire in my heart to read this book. So, I got it issued from the library along with another book, Sophie’s World, and came to my flat.
At night, I started reading Sophie’s World. After reading for half an hour I put that book aside and took Aadhe Adhore Khawab. I found the introduction very catchy and kept on thinking during reading that it is certainly written by someone very experienced literary person. On the last page of Introduction I found that it was written by Asif Farrukhy; but could not recognize him, either because of my poor reading habits which have led me to be exposed to just some books or due to quite limited reading of Urdu literature.

I started reading the book, beginning with Gulzar’s beautiful lines. As I was reading, a feeling came to me that I was being caught in a strange type of interest and engagement with the text and it was increasing as I am turning the pages. I found that slowly the reading was catching me intensely. As a result, I asked myself; why am I feeling that I am being caught? The answer came, “might be because you do not read fiction and fiction is always catchy”, but in the second thought my mind sent me the titles of some fiction books which I had read but they were unable to put me in a situation, I was experiencing this time. Consequently, the first answer was rejected by the mind at once. I stopped analysis and started reading again. But the same thing happened again I felt that as I was turning the pages, I was becoming more engaged to the text. I continued, till the moment came when I reached on Page # 29 and was unable to continue the reading. I put the book aside, stood and left my flat, went to that Book Store where first I had seen this book, reached there, purchased the book, returned to flat and again start reading. But why I did so, could I not continue the reading from the library book? The answer is simple, I could not, because I have a habit of highlighting and taking the notes on the pages of the book; that I found very interesting, engaging, relevant and heart capturing and certainly, I could not do this to the library book. The more I was reading the text the more I was feeling that actually it is my own story, rather than Imtisal Agha’s.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Hunza Disaster and Schools

Dr Shahid Siddiqui

Hunza has been a role model for the rest of Pakistan in terms of its high literacy rate and school enrolment figures. According to one estimate, the literacy rate of Hunza is around 90 per cent, which becomes even more impressive when we consider the geographical location and complex terrain of the area.
Despite the fact that schools are difficult to approach and meagre resources are available, it is remarkable that the literacy rate is far higher than the national literacy rate which, according to the Pakistan Social and Living Standards Survey 2007-8, is 56 per cent.

One of the primary reasons for this is people’s tremendous interest in education. The education of children is considered a prime investment by the people of Hunza. That is why, instead of spending money on better living, they prefer to spend on educating their children. There is equal emphasis on the education of girls and parents encourage their daughter to go to schools, colleges and universities.
A number of analysts believe that the large-scale disaster could have been averted had there been faster rescues. The authorities either did not realize the enormity of the challenge and its potential repercussions or deliberately downplayed the magnitude of the calamity. The result, however, is an uncertain situation that can lead to huge losses.
In the Hunza region there are 53 primary schools, 37 middle schools, 35 high schools, seven higher secondary schools and four degree colleges. Given the limited chances of higher education, the boys and girls of Hunza go to main cities such as Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Islamabad for higher education.The educational structure of Hunza-Nagar and Gilgit is a blend of public schools, non-formal schools, Social Action Programme (SAP) schools, Aga Khan Education Services-Pakistan (AKES-P) schools, AKES-P supported schools, private schools and madressahs. There are 344 primary schools of which 96 are public-sector schools. There are an estimated 141 middle schools of which 53 are public-sector schools, and 113 high schools of which 47 are in the public sector.

The total number of higher secondary schools is six of which one is public. There are 598 schools in total in Gilgit and Hunza-Nagar of which 196 are public schools. The current enrolment of boys is 36,086 while for girls it is 36,017. The Aga Khan network has done exemplary work in terms of providing quality education and setting up an educational structure that is a successful model for other regions of Pakistan.

Unfortunately, this educational scenario has been badly disturbed by the disaster that started in January with the landslide in Attaabad, a village of upper Hunza, and that is worsening with every passing day. As the lake expanded, it engulfed a number of buildings including houses and schools. Four upstream villages — Attaabad, Shishkat, Aeenaba and Gulmit — are badly affected by the artificially created Hunza lake. A number of schools have been either destroyed or identified as potentially dangerous buildings.

Many school buildings have been evacuated. The latest update from Hunza and Gilgit is that all the public schools and colleges have been closed for an indefinite period, although another purpose of closing them might be to use the school buildings to house internally displaced persons.

The closure of schools started on May 15 and may continue for an indefinite period. It is important to keep in mind that these schools had already remained closed for one to two months for the winter vacations. Currently the 72,103 students that are enrolled in schools and colleges of different systems are out of school. Such a long closure will without doubt have a negative impact on their educational performance.

The disaster has also thrown up another problem that has a direct bearing on education. The majority of the parents in the region, whose main source of earning is farming and who rely mainly on the cash crop of potatoes, were unable to cultivate their lands and were deprived of their livelihoods. Other parents who were involved in small-scale business are now idle because the submersion of parts of the Karakoram Highway has meant that trade with China is no longer possible.

This situation is aggravated further since the shortage of goods has pushed prices up. Most people have lost their lands, fruit orchards and means of living, and are finding it difficult to pay the fees and school-related expenditures of their children.A large number of boys and girls from Hunza are acquiring higher education in the large cities of Pakistan. Their parents suddenly find themselves in a difficult position in terms of continuing to bear the children’s educational expenses. Students studying far from their homes are upset: they cannot go back to their homes since the only method of travel — by boat — has also been suspended. In some cases they have been advised by their parents to stay away from the danger zone.

The ordeal that started with the landslide has entered its fifth month now. Twenty-five thousand people of Gojal (upper Hunza) have been stranded, cut off from the rest of the country since there is no land connection and the boat service has been suspended. The educational price of the Hunza disaster can have serious consequences for the local inhabitants whose top priority is the provision of the best possible education for their children. A number of analysts believe that the large-scale disaster could have been averted had there been faster rescues. The authorities either did not realize the enormity of the challenge and its potential repercussions or deliberately downplayed the magnitude of the calamity. The result, however, is an uncertain situation that can lead to huge losses.

The writer is the director of the Centre for Humanities and Social Sciences at the Lahore School of Economics and the author of Rethinking Education in Pakistan.

Book Appreciation Ceremony: Adhe Adhoore Khawab

Ceremony of Dr Shahid Siddiqui’s novel held at UMT on May 12, 2010

The University of Management and Technology (UMT), Lahore, organized a special ceremony to promote and appreciate Dr Shahid Siddiqui’s book “Aadhay Adhooray Khwaab”.

The first edition of this thought provoking novel has already been sold out while the second edition is already on the market. Hamid Khan, former President Supreme Court Bar Association, and Raja Anwar, Chairman of the Chief Minister’s Taskforce for Elementary Education, were the chief guests of the ceremony.

Addressing on the occasion, Dr Hasan Sohaib Murad, Rector UMT, said that the book was a valuable addition to the literary world. He observed that history testifies to the fact that the decline and downfall of nations is largely attributable to their weakness is the world of knowledge and literature. He said that the chief character of the novel was that of an ideal teacher, who unfortunately, was a rare species in today’s world. However, the writer deserves credit for highlighting the role of the teacher at a time when society desperately needs dedicated teachers who may be mentors of future generations.

Reflecting on the merits of the novel, Hamid Khan said that the sacrifices made by the characters depicted in the book for the restoration of the judiciary serve as guidelines for all of us. Raja Anwar said that military dictatorships have always harmed the country and resistance against such dictatorships serve as milestones in our national history. He added that Dr Shahid Siddiqui should be congratulated for doing justice to all characters in the novel and for conveying a message of working towards a higher purpose in life. At the end, Dr Shahid Siddiqui thanked Dr Hasan Sohaib Murad, faculty members and students for their contributions in organizing the ceremony.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Multiple Dimensions of the Hunza Disaster

Dr Shahid Siddiqui
The Daily Times: 15 May, 2010
Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean”
—Samuel Taylor Coleridge: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

Twenty five thousand people have been stranded in the valley of Gojal (Upper Hunza) for approximately the last four months when the small village of Attabad, situated in Gojal, was hit by a landslide, killing a number of inhabitants and damaging houses, schools and dispensaries. The debris, as a result of the landslide, obstructed the flow of the Hunza river, creating a lake which is rising, expanding and extending with each passing day, threatening the submersion of low lying areas in the nearby villages, e.g. Aeenabad, Shishkat, Gulmit, Hussaini and Passu. The tehsil headquarter, Gulmit, has already been turned into an island with no land connections with neighbouring villages. There is no electricity in Shiskit and Gulmit.

Promises were made that the situation would be normalised within three weeks. But it has now been more than four months and the situation is moving from bad to worse. As a result, the length of the artificially created lake has risen to 17 kilometres. The average water rise is about three feet per day and the average water inflow is 2,300 cusecs. The maximum height of the water in the lake is currently at 320 feet. The ever-rising and expanding lake has already started sending ominous signals of more dire events. The monstrous waves have already submerged 90 homes, two jama’at khanas and one school.

The most painful part of the issue was the downplaying of the disaster by the federal and local authorities. They tried to create the impression that everything was either all right or under control. The reality, however, was just the opposite
The danger of the outburst of the artificial lake is increasing. Keeping in view the volume and speed of water it will create, a number of villages, situated downstream, will either be flooded or will experience landslides. According to a report by FOCUS, an affiliated organisation of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), the villages that run a high risk of flooding in case of the outburst of the lake include Ahmadabad, Faizabad, Ganish, Mayun, Joglot, Gowachi, Rahimabad, Rahimabad Pain, Nomal, Chilmisdas, Juta Pain, Jagoat, Majokal, Danyore and Oshkandas. The worst scenario could be the flood rushing downstream, submerging 15 bridges and 20 villages and finally hitting the Tarbela Dam.

The Gojal disaster has multiple dimensions: economic, educational, health, and psychological. The lack of communication, with the exception of obsolete and risky boats, has led to a number of economic problems. The submersion of 15 kilometres of the Karakoram Highway has brought to a halt trade activities through this route. The estimated volume of border trade ranges from Rs 4 to 5 billion. There is a serious dearth of food, fuel, gas and wood. The supply of necessary commodities is limited and insufficient. Approximately 15,000 kanals of land in Aeenabad, Shishkat, and Gulmit are underwater now. Most of this land was cultivatable. Thousands of domestic trees have been uprooted lending a hard blow to the economic means of the local inhabitants where 90 percent rely on farming. The buying power of the common people has gone down, as the prices have been hiked up and economic resources are dwindling. The sowing of the potato cash crop, which is the major source of subsistence for local farmers, has been jeopardised in the wake of flooded fields, broken communication means, shortage of seeds and fertilisers and highly uncertain future prospects.

The disaster has an educational dimension as well. Hunza is known for its very high literacy rate — about 80 percent — as parents consider the education of their children to be their biggest investment. A number of schools have now been destroyed or declared unsafe, leading to the displacement of a large number of students. Quite a few parents, because of the economic crunch, are unable to pay the fees for their children. The schools have been closed down, as they would be used as potential camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Associated with education is the vital dimension of health. Besides the initial human loss at Attabad, where 19 inhabitants died, there was one more casualty during the rescue operation. Shehzad Sher, a young boy of grade 12, laid down his life on February 5, 2010 while doingrescue work. The painful fact is that there is no proper hospital in Gojal. There is no laboratory, no X-ray machine and no ultrasound apparatus. There is no lady doctor and no permanent physician in the area. Patients, in normal times, are referred to the hospital in Gilgit. Since the collapse of the bridge and the Karakoram Highway, even critical patients are deprived of hospital facilities.

Besides economic, educational, and health dimensions, there is a psychological dimension to this disaster. A number of stranded inhabitants have developed a feeling of helplessness, frustration and depression. Their lives are now riddled with anxiety and fear; fear of the fast-approaching water, fear of losing their property and fear of getting displaced. A large number of girls and boys from Gojal are studying away from their homes, in the major cities of Pakistan. They are deeply concerned and worried about their families. Their families are far away and their dear ones are in a vulnerable state. There is a marked change in their lives, adversely affecting their academic performance.

The most painful part of the issue was the downplaying of the disaster by the federal and local authorities. They tried to create the impression that everything was either all right or under control. The reality, however, was just the opposite. The local inhabitants, in their protest rallies in Gilgit and Hunza, accused the authorities of sheer negligence by underestimating the threat and applying insufficient machinery, labour and daily working hours. There was no help sought from China to meet the challenge. Was that a deliberate attempt to “cash in on chaos”, as Nomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine would interpret? Summer is setting in. The glaciers have started melting. The clock is ticking away.
The writer is Director of Centre for Humanities and Social Sciences at Lahore School of Economics and author of Rethinking Education in Pakistan. Read more at:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Book Review: Adhe adhoore Khawab

Review by  
Kausar Bilal

The novel, Adhey Adhoorey Khawab, by Dr. Shahid Siddiqui, is very captivating because of its beautiful expression. It is unique in its topic and style, where life is integrated between love, education, sociology, politics and human welfare. The language used is very simple but very heart touching because of its literary touch. Its real life expression keeps the reader occupied with the novel till the end. The story is very close to real life experience, and the novelist is successful in creating the scenes that depict reality, where, sometimes, the reader finds himself/herself recalling his/her student life.

The novel is about an extraordinary college teacher, Professor Saharan Roy. He was extremely popular among his pupils as a beloved teacher and mentor because of his unique teaching style and philosophy of life. He was a passionate and dedicated teacher who not only had command over his subject matter very, but also knew how to teach it affectively. He used to relate the subject content to the real life experiences and examples. His special technique was to reach out to the minds and souls of his students, and, motivate them to learn, think and explore independently about what they were studying. Moreover, he used to add his loving, helping, encouraging and supporting attitude towards his students as part of his teaching, which resulted in building the self esteem and self confidence among his pupils. His interactive teaching style helped the students to think and understand the subject knowledge deeply, while he used to hold back his own scholarly opinions unless and until students had expressed their views. Another expression of his affection and encouragement towards his students was his gifts that he gave to his students as rewards for their good performances.
Professor Saharan Roy was a philosopher, too, who believed in using education creatively for human welfare as a tool for social and political reforms. Thus, in fact, as a teacher, and, social and political activist, he tried to give his students the courage to have dreams and a life for a cause.

At a point, he was attracted to a student, Imtisal, who came from a village for studies. In fact, we see two similar people, who are soul mates to each other, attracting to each other and love happens between them, but unfortunately, they could not recognize it immediately. In truth, they enjoyed each others company because they intuitively used to share the same dreams. Professor Roy encouraged and motivated Imtisal to make the dream come true by teaching at her village school. Then, Mr. Saharan Roy was arrested and tortured by the government during his participation in a Lawyers’ movement. Finally, the death news of Professor Roy had broken the hearts of all his students, including Imtisal. However, she was proud of him and went to materialize the dream of teaching at her village school despite all the better opportunities she could get.  Professor Saharan Roy was, no doubt, an unforgettable teacher who influenced the lives of his students for better and inspired them to fulfill their dreams of social and national reforms.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Hegemony of Language

LANGUAGE has been a subject of interest not only for linguists but also for anthropologists, biologists and culture-study specialists. During different periods of history, fundamental questions have been raised regarding the nature and function of language.

One school of thought believed that language was a ‘neutral’ phenomenon. It was a passive transmitter of ideas and reflected what happens in a society. Language was thus viewed as a tool whose sole purpose was to communicate ideas, emotions and information.

In the past, language was studied in isolation and there were judgmental views on different languages. With the passage of time, language’s relation with society was focused on. A number of linguists explored the direct relevance of various social factors to vocabulary, grammar and phonology. Some of these social factors included age, gender, social class, religion and education. Studies suggest the dominance of society over language.

A revolutionary step in understanding the nature and function of language came in the form of a significant contribution by anthropologists Sapir and Whorf. Sapir offered the view that “the language habits of our community predispose certain choices of interpretation”. This radical view helped people see language as an active force that was not passive and neutral in nature.

According to Whorf, “The categories and types that we isolate from the world of phenomena we do not find there because they stare every observer in the face; on the contrary, the world is presented in a kaleidoscope flux of impressions which has to be organised by our minds and this means largely by the linguistic systems of our minds.”

This revolutionary hypothesis helped re-determine the functions of language which was no longer considered a passive tool of communication but a highly social and political phenomenon.

To further explore the role of language we need to study the role of social institutions in the construction of social reality. Social institutions include family, schools, religion, the media, etc. These institutions construct, validate and perpetuate certain stereotypes as a part of the construction of reality. All these institutions use language as an important tool in the construction of reality. Language is linked with issues of power and politics.

The Italian thinker and political activist Antonio Gramsci found an interesting link between language and hegemony. In his seminal work The Prison Notebooks, Gramsci refers to political and civil society that make use of coercive and discursive approaches for the purposes of hegemony. The discursive approach makes use of culture, of which language is obviously an important component. The impact of this approach is so subtle and effective that the controlled groups welcome this control by consent. According to African novelist Ngugi wa Thiong’o, the ‘cultural bomb’ “annihilate[s] a people’s belief in their names, in their languages, in their environment, in their heritage of struggle, in their unity, in their capacities and ultimately in themselves. It makes them see their past as one wasteland”.

Realising fully the potential of language in the process of control, imperialist powers always made use of it to maintain control. This was obvious, for example, when in pre-partition India, Lord Macaulay advocated the case of the English language against Sanskrit and Arabic by stating his objective of forming “a class who may be interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern; a class of persons, Indians in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals and intellect.”

What should our response to English be? There are theoretically three options available to us. The first is to reject English and cling to the native language. The second is to embrace English and disown our native language. Both these options are based on an approach where out of two languages one language has to be removed. And both options lead to the denial of a multiplicity of viewpoints. The third option is learning English without rejecting one’s own language.

Keeping in view the significance of English and its value in obtaining jobs and information, it is not wise to close the door on it. We can, however, teach English by employing critical pedagogy. English language teaching needs the complete revamping of its objectives, books and terms of assessment. It is through a critical treatment of language teaching that we can produce students with critical thinking, who can then identify hegemonic designs and reverse the discourse. The Indian novelist Raja Rao puts it so well: “One has to convey in a language not one’s own the spirit that is one’s own.”

The writer is director of Centre for Humanities and Social Sciences at Lahore School of Economics and author of Rethinking Education in Pakistan.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Anton Allahar's insightful lecture

Why is the whole world not developed?

Listen to the lecture: