An Aesthete’s Musings

Its 6:46 AM when I am writing this, I’ve spent the whole night staying awake thinking about stuff that matters, stuff that doesn’t and just some random meaningless stuff. Out of those musing is this post is born out. In the wee hour of morning somehow my chain of thoughts ended up on the concept of beauty. Having spent more than two years living in Scandinavia I’ve noticed a difference in the collective societal thinking of my homeland and this place. It is not to say that there is only a single difference, there are many..some marked and some subtle, this one although subtle but is perhaps significant since to me it looks like to be affecting a vast majority of youngster out there in here. In fact in much of the youth I’ve noticed it behind so many significant life choices they make that it astonishes me.  People who think they are fat want to be thin, thin want to be fat (or ‘less thin’ might be the right way to put it), pale wants to be tanned and tan (basically brown people) want to be white, it all seems to be a rat race of wannabe this or that or less of this or more of that.

I don’t want to sound too clichéd but beauty, to me (or at least what I think about how I think it is, there might be moments where I might be susceptible to the collective societal thinking)is a relative term, just like it was to Plato and by affect to Socrates as it was Platonic-Socrates that makes a reference to this string of thought in Phaedo, it is said that Socrates on his deathbed was involved in a discussion with two other Pythagorean philosophers and he purports the idea that beauty is a relative term, they are relative in a sense that whether or not something should be called beautiful or not is dependent upon the basis of comparison with the opposite, i.e. ugly. He used this analogy to conclude that just like beautiful comes from ugly and vice versa then so does the living come from the dead and hence the dead must exist as souls in Hades, he died at the conclusion of this discussion. Though the conclusion is of no particular philosophical value but the comparison drawn to prove it is not, at least in my opinion.

The Death of Socrates (1778)

The Death of Socrates as depicted by the French painter Jacques-Louis David.

Something else I find fascinating  about the concept of beauty (and remarkably superficial in the common societal concept of it) is the different ways it can be perceived, it’s not the slim, tall, blonde and blue-eyed maiden that is considered the most beautiful universally, but apparently in certain remote tribes of Uganda and Mauritania it is the extremely obese women who are thought of as knock-out babes, and the individual anatomical feature thought of as epitomizing the beauty are the stretch marks, while the slim women are thought of as malnourished and ugly, proves the point that Socrates and Plato were not that far off-mark in their thinking.  To stretch the point of perceptions, the most interesting perception of beauty I’ve ever heard of or read is that one defined by Haruki Murakami, in almost all his novels. The romantic interest of his protagonists are mostly women with below-average looks but the trait that attracts the protagonists most (and by extension probably to Murakami himself) is the way they move, generally or  when performing different tasks that attracts him most, it’s the nimble, swift,  precise economical movements and the body language that leaves him in awe..Not the looks.  To me it sounds like an incredible depth of perception and an interesting observation on the concept of beauty and how diversely it may be perceived.
So I guess what I am trying to say here in this untangled jumble of thoughts is that we as a specie should stop dragging our societies towards the superficial and should be graceful instead because you see it is ok to care about appearances but the moment one gets affected by them, weather when it comes to one’s own or the other’s, is the moment one becomes judgmental and judgmental people are never gracious and I for one, and perhaps it applies to everyone, will take grace over glib any day.

Mansoor Ijaz in a weird music video?

WTF is Mansoor Ijaz doing in this weird little music video by some Italian house music DJ?? Just move the toggle bar to 2:48 and there he is. At first I thought it might be someone who is slighlty look alike but the resemblance is uncanny, and more importantly he sounds the same as well.

Mansoor Ijaz commentating on a wrestling match between establishment and PPP

Mansoor Ijaz commentating a wrestling match between scantly clad women!

Now the question arises, Can we trust this man?

A Statistical Look at Muslim Stereotyping

I was going through my journal today and found an entry that seemed interesting and, more importantly, appropriate enough to blog about. So I did a bit of background research and this is what I’ve managed to scrape out.

A little more than an year ago I was studying and living in this small Swedish city by the name of Sundsvall, located approximately 400 kms north of Stockholm along the Gulf of Bothnia the city had long, cold and harsh winters with temperatures reaching -32 degree centigrade during the peak of the winter season. I was living in student dorms built right next to the university campus and the city center was about 20-25 minutes of walk away, often students walking to and from the city center would tag along and just chit chat along the way to socialize and to get their minds off of the feeling of numbness we often felt over our bodies due to the extreme cold. So on one of those chilly winter mornings with heavy overcast, I found myself walking towards home after buying some groceries from the supermarket located in the city center, during the walk I bumped into a student from Uruguay whom I had seen play futsal a couple of times in a sports gym near university. As we started talking about our respective countries he showed great curiosity about Pakistan and asked me several blatant questions regarding terrorism, extremism and its links to Islam and Pakistan, I answered his questions as best as I could but the interaction had me thinking about Muslim stereotypes. As I was studying a statistics based course in those days so I decided to do a bit of simple statistical analysis about the subject when I went back home and noted it down in my journal. So this what I wrote:

There are between 1.2 to 1.57 billion Muslims in this world. That makes about 23%-24% of the population of this world, approximately every fourth person on this planet is a Muslim. According to the latest statistics which I can find (these are from the year 2008) there are somewhere between 700,000 to 1 Million people on the Terrorist Watch List maintained by American intelligence agencies, the list includes not only all the people who are terrorists but also individuals who are only ‘suspected’ of being involved in extremism.
Now It is quite certain that all of them are definitely not Muslims, as there are several nationalistic and other terrorists movements out there, but lets just assume for the sake of argument that A) all of them are in fact Muslims and B) Even the ones that are only ‘suspected terrorists’ are actual terrorists. So under these assumptions if we divide the number of (suspected) terrorists with the total population of Muslims. (1,000,000 divided by 1,570,000,000)

The result is 0.06%! This is too small of a number to be of any significance and its just sad to know that how less than 0.1% of nutjobs among us have become the representatives of the global Islamic community. I guess this just goes to show how the media affects and twists our opinion about a particular group of people and how it misrepresents different sets of human beings, and to be blunt how it preaches (for the lack of any better word) hate against people belonging to a certain background.

 

We Sank the Khukri

Just thought I should share the story of this less known but amazing feat of naval combat performed by the Pakistan Navy during the 1971 Indo-Pak war. This is an excerpt taken from the book ’Sentinels of the Sea – The Pakistan Navy’ by Rear Admiral R. Kadri.

We Sank the Khukri
By
Rear Admiral R. Kadri, SJ (Retd.)

INS Khukri

November 20, 1971 was a holiday and so was 21 November – two whole days “free” during the difficult days of turmoil in East Pakistan. It was Eid-al-Azha, time for sacrificial offering of animals, of family get-togethers and of feasting and sharing of joys. However, 1971 was not to be a year for such celebrations for us. The Indians had decided that 1971 was their year of the “opportunity of the century” and they were not about to miss the opportunity.

It was already apparent to any thinking person keeping track of the unfolding events that with each passing day, he day of decision was drawing nearer. The Indians had to intervene in East Pakistan during that winter or miss the “opportunity of the century” forever.

PN Submarine Ghazi had been dispatched only a few days earlier to the Bay of Bengal for operations in that distant area, should the need arise. The mission assigned was difficult and dangerous but the submarine had sailed out in a blaze of glory with the battle cries of Allah-Ho-Akbar little knowing that this was to be its last mission.

I was at that time the Electrical Officer of PN submarine Hangor and therefore before going home for two days Eid holidays had made sure, as is the practice, that everything was ready in case the submarine was required to proceed to sea at short notice. Except for attending the congregational Eid prayers, I had decided to stay at home. There was no visiting relatives or friends, only a quiet day at home, knowing that the Indians always preferred days or events of National or religious importance to launch their attacks.

Eid day passed off quietly, but on the evening of second day of Eid my front gate bell rang. Thinking it might be a visitor, I went to open the front gate, but on seeing a naval police patrolman standing there, realization at once dawned that the time of waiting and uncertainty was over and that time had finally come for the submarine Hangor to put to sea.

This was confirmed by the patrolman. I therefore quickly changed into uniform, picked up the small handbag which was already packed for such an eventuality and with a quick goodbye to wife and children sped away at breakneck speed towards the Submarine Base – praying all the way to be granted enough time to enable our submarine to put to sea before hostilities commenced in the Western theatre of war also.

On reaching the Submarine Base, I found that those submariners who lived nearer or had been contacted earlier had already reported for duty, while others like me were just arriving. The fact that not a single officer or sailor wasted a single second in reporting for duty, and every single one of them reported promptly, showed that without being told, every submariner had the same thought in mind and had kept himself ready for this eventuality.

As each member of Hangor’s crew arrived on board, he knew exactly what had to be done in terms of final preparations, and set about doing it. Family, friends and festival were all forgotten – only the mission and the task at hand mattered. It was a good team, disciplined and well trained and needed no guidance.

After the sailing-orders had been received, all the submarines, with their identification numbers painted out slipped silently from their berths one by one, as their departure times came, to proceed separately to their respective patrol areas. From now on hey would be on their own, without contact with the outside world except to periodically receive, and that too only when possible, radioed instructions from Naval Headquarters. They themselves could not contact the outside world and, in order not to compromise their location, would have to maintain complete radio silence, except to pass an extremely important message.

PNS Hangor sets sails for its patrol with the identification number painted off.

Once the submarines were in their patrol areas, all contacts if classified as warships or submarines, were to be considered hostile. From now on life would be a constant effort to stay one jump ahead of the enemy. Every emission and every noise, be it electro-magnetic, sonic or ultra-sonic would have to be checked, measured, plotted, analysed and evaluated. On this would depend whether you were the attacker or the attacked in this deadly game.

Once Hangor had cleared the Manora breakwater, on the way to its patrol area, ships company automatically fell into its usual three watch system, with one watch on duty and two watches “off”. This would now be the constant routine except when “action stations” were closed up or during other emergencies when everybody would be closed up at his allocated station, depending on the type of emergency.

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Ajrak in vogue?!

Just saw this interesting little picture of a girl taken in New York by Scott Schuman posted on his famous fashion blog The Sartorialist . Whats immediately noticeable and catches the eye is the uncanny resemblance of her skirt to the standard ajrak design patterns being made in Sindh, Pakistan since 3000 BC.

It just highlights the potential of Pakistani traditional fabrics, designs, handicrafts and rich history; and how it, when crafted and presented fashionably, is more than worthy of being donned by NY’s rich and famous. On a lighter note, Yay! for Ajrak getting in vogue after 5000 years. Haha!

Photo by Scott Schuman

Why doesn’t it cry out?

Read an interesting poem a couple of days ago by a relatively unknown poet. The original poem is in Urdu, but here is an english translation of it:

My forefathers spoke the truth as they saw it

For the glory of mankind, for honor’s sake

For the eternal light

This blood became a beacon for all those

Who stood against tyranny

And the blood flowing on battlefields, on crucifixes, in prisons

Declared their existence

That blood was evidence of man’s honor

Was a symbol of eternal light

 

And here am I, a barefoot man on the high way of need

Enchained and compromised by common comforts

I find myself watching…thinking..

If the blood of those forefathers flows in my veins

Why doesn’t it cry out?

-Iftikhar Arif

Start.

This is my blog. I will blog here i.e. I will write stuff here. Stuff that I will think of..later. Right now I need a cup of tea.