Sunday, 9 March 2014

The Reading Practice

Buying school books at the beginning of a new year was always something I looked forward to. The smell of fresh books, with their shiny covers and crisp pages, has always been an obsession. In grade five, when my books arrived, there was something new amongst them. There was a thick (at least it felt thick at that time) story book: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, and it was out of sheer curiosity that I picked up that book. I was already hooked on as I read the first few pages! It was magical! I imagined Charlie, his house, the way he had to starve, how he must have felt when he won that golden ticket, and then the Oompa Loompas, Willy Wonka, and his magical chocolate factory! I finished the book in four days! But I was hungry for more! This book was my gateway drug. It has been almost fifteen years since I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and I have read hundreds of books since then. My teachers, my parents, and everyone around me appreciated me for my reading habits.
However, when I look around I today I see parents handing over IPads and Tabs to their kids. I barely see any kids, at least the ones I know, interested in reading. Yes, they are good with their studies and yes, they get good grades but they have no idea who Thomas Hardy was or who wrote Pride and Prejudice. Why is reading so important? How is our generation different from the up-coming one? What do books have that movies don’t? While I was teaching I used to ask my students to read Harry Potter, Da Vinci Code etc. and they used to retort back with the same clich├ęd answer that we have already seen the movie. So, I come back to the question I initially raised: What do books have that movies don’t?
                While it is true that reading a book takes you way longer than watching a movie but there are several advantages that reading presents. Most importantly, for young minds- it is important to make sure that they are imaginative and creative. While reading a book, a person imagines characters and situations, he/she forges links about situations and in truth plays the scene in his/her mind. Movies present one person’s depiction of the way the characters should be. The scenes and situations are a portrayal of that one person’s perception; therefore, there is an inherent bias when it comes to movies. For example, I never expected Willy Wonka to look the way Johnny Depp acted him out. I am not saying that it was bad. I am just saying that this wasn’t what I ‘imagined’ him to be like. So kids, who have seen the movie, will forever imagine Willy Wonka to be the way he was represented. And if anyone of the kids, who has seen the movie tries reading the book, he/she would not be able to imagine a different Willy Wonka. Therefore, the imagination factor has to be considered. We should let the children imagine what they want their favorite characters to be like and not induce a ready-made image in their minds.
                Secondly, when you read books you pick up new words, you learn new phrases, and you learn how to present your own thoughts. While I was reading Charlie and the Chocolate factory I remember consulting the Oxford Dictionary several times for there were words like: perplex, ludicrous, and loathe which, at my age, I couldn’t for my life fathom the meanings of. Also in some cases I noted that while reading some difficult words, I could easily guess the meaning of the word from the context that it was being used in. This was an attribute that I learnt through reading and one that I use even today. It was while reading that I realized the importance of vocabulary. I remember that when I was in grade eight I picked up Thomas Hardy’s novel “The Mayor of Casterbridge”. I read the first page and couldn’t get a word so I put it down, some days later I picked it up again and still couldn’t get anything and it was on the third attempt that I decided that I have to get past the first page and with the help of a dictionary I was successful. When I did get past the first page I was instantly captivated by the storyline. Today, Mayor of Casterbridge is one of my favorite novels.
                Thirdly, books are tiny knowledge houses. When you read books like ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ and ‘Da Vinci Code’, you not only enjoy the storyline, but also learn about such significant and diverse subjects like the French Revolution and religion. So, when I read Da Vinci Code I was prompted to research more about the Knight Templars and Free Masons. When a child comes across something like this it triggers his/her curiosity to learn more about the subjects touched upon in a book. Generally, when I tell this to my students the answer is: “Sir! We have Google and Wikipedia! Why do we need books?” While this is a valid question we need to consider one important factor here. How many of us generally go on Google and write terms like French revolution or Knight Templars until we have been prompted to do so by a teacher? Google and Wikipedia are used majorly by students attempting to do their assignments. While by reading books you get automatic triggers and learning about something that you are actually interested in is much better than doing a boring history assignment at 3 AM.
                Parents of this generation need to understand the importance of reading. While it is true that there are many distractions for the children these days like IPads, TV, Cell phones, and Laptops, the parents need to work on their child’s reading habits as well and make sure that they read books that stimulate their minds and make them more imaginative beings. The screen time should be minimal and their reading time maximum.  

Three things to ask for when you get the interview call

The moment we get the call announcing, “your interview will take place on…” we start fretting, worrying, and getting all nervous in anticipation of how we will do in the interview. Most of us start thinking in terms of what to wear, from shoes to our ties, and from make-up to the hand-bag that we will be carrying. Interviews are more than just dressing up and looking pretty and/or handsome. This article will provide strategies of how to deal with the interview call.

The first and foremost thing to keep in mind is that you should begin the strategizing process the moment you get the call. There are few very important questions that you need to keep in mind when you pick up the phone and make sure that you ask these questions straightaway. Keep your cool, the person on the other side is a human as well and he or she is NOT the one judging you, at least not on the phone call. The first thing you should ask for is the name of the caller so that if you need to call back for some more information you should know at least who called you. If possible, note this down somewhere along with the number/extension from which you got the call.

Know the Job Description
During the call make sure that you ask for the Job Description (JD) in detail. The person calling you might seem reluctant in giving away too many details. One reason for this might be that he or she has to make a dozen more calls and, therefore, does not want to spend too much time on one call. However, try to be polite and wheedle out as much information as you can. Knowing the JD is critical. Why? Because you have to tailor all your experiences to fit that specific JD! For example, if you organized an event where three hundred people took part in, you can modify it differently for each JD and for each department, so for instance if you apply for:
Finance “I had to manage the finances for the event. In total we raised $XYZ and I had to allocate this amount to the boarding, lodging, activities, and social activities budget heads. I did so by using Microsoft Excel and then conducted regular budgetary checks to ensure that the amounts for each budget head were sufficient. At the end of each day I shared this data wih the event heads and ensured that everyone was strictly restraining to the budget allocated”
Marketing “For the event we needed a total of $XYZ. I made a list of sponsors who will be willing to contribute for our event. By approaching each sponsor with the event proposal and presentation we convinced JHT, KJY, and TYU to sponsor our event.”

Therefore, it is critical that you know the JD. Also, it is certain that you will be asked about it during the interview. So, make sure that you have the memorized the entire JD. Also, after the call Google the JD and see what is required of you.

Know thy Interviewer
During the call make sure that you request for the name of the Interviewer, in some cases you will get the name of the Interviewer instantly, in some cases you will have to badger the caller a little. Why is it important to know who the Interviewer is? Knowing the person who is interviewing you will help you prepare better. So, once you get the name of the Interviewer go on the internet and Google the shit out of him/her. Most professionals have LinkedIn profiles these days which reveal a great deal about them from their professional experiences to their skills and from their career objectives to their interests. EVERYTHING. If you are smart you can take a great deal from their profiles. If they have written research papers, articles, and blogs- Go through them. Know their psyche. Know what interests them and then try to model your answers based on what they would like to see in a candidate. Plus if during the interview you can quote what they said about a particular subject it would prove to them that you are actually interested in job and you made an effort.

Know the Misc.
While some callers will tell you to bring the resumes and related documents, some won’t .Ask specifically for the documents that you are required to bring along. After you get to know the documents require- Get a file. Organize your documents. If possible make a separate file for all papers that you have written, this will show your preparedness for the interview. Have at least three copies of your resume, tailored according to the JD, neatly stapled, and put in file covers already. It is always impressive as an Interviewer to see that the candidate is meticulous and well prepared for the interview. Know that an interview is the gateway, and for you to clear the gateway you should be excellent and impeccable. During the call, ask for the timings and the place of the interview. Ask also for the floor you are required to come to. This will save you a lot of last minute hassle. Try to be there at least 15 minutes before the scheduled time.

© Junaid Shafqat Interview Skills and Resume Writing Material, 2014

Monday, 1 October 2012

The Horrors of Our Modern Feudalistic Socitiey

It is interesting to note the current political standings of PTI and PML-N. A year ago we could see PTI gaining some fast ground, evolving as a convening point for the youth of this country while PML-N was staggering, befuddled by the so called Tsunami and the change in political climate it harbingered. PML-N being a party with a strong political acumen and a history filled with shrewd mass-moving ideology has, it seems, steered clear of the devastating effects of this political tempest. Building on the motor way made a decade back, the PML-N seems to believe that infrastructural developments are the easiest way to capture the eye of the public. Who cares about the educational and health policy of Imran Khan when it is not there in substance? Our myopic public seems to have decided that new bridges, laptops and a glittery new metro system are key indicators of a developed country. I believe that we have not let PML-N and its strategists down; we have once again proved to be materialistic whores who can be bribed into anything.
The feudal system of the past has metamorphosed into a far horrendous form in our ‘civilized’ cities. The status quo remains the same; the class difference has exacerbated over time. Our politicians seem to have resisted any change whatsoever to their feudal mindsets: if we educate them who will we rule? Therefore we, as a nation, have forever been denied education, those who revolt against this status quo, are crushed and discarded to be forgotten and in some cases to be made examples of. Imran Khan, is the most recent protagonist against this existing system, and the system is doing all it can to shun him away. When I went through the educational and health policies that PTI recently presented, my only concern was: who would allow him to implement these policies? They are good, no they are EXCELLENT! For a change these policies have been drafted by people who have strong educational backgrounds, superb professional experiences and the necessary political foresight to implement these policies and not by the usual failed politicians.
I am no expert but from what I have observed I believe that only education is going to help our country at this stage. Starting from today it would take an entire generation to run its course before we see any considerable improvement, it is an investment I concur, but a mighty good one. It would ensure our survival and would make sure that our economic and political future is secure. While infrastructural developments (read building bridges and metro bus systems) are signs of developed nations, they sure are just superficial if THOSE are the only investments a nation is making. Especially in a country like Pakistan, major investments have to be made on making sure that the public has access to basic necessities like education, health and food. Imran Khan has to resist these power-mongers and make sure that he does all he can to one day implement these policies.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

The Paradox of Independence

It is so naive of us to think of our nation as being free, it is almost hilarious when i see our youth celebrating 14th August with the so called “riwaiti josh-o-jazba” and it’s insane when our leaders tell us that we are sovereign. Bound in the shackles of slavery, entwined in chains of servitude, we are nothing but a horde of animals being driven by external forces. It is saddening to see that even after 65 years of 'dependence' we haven’t learnt anything! Nations elsewhere are progressing rapidly; we are being driven in to the abyss of destruction. Call me pessimistic, call me ungrateful or call me unpatriotic my notions of celebrating are not limited to updating my facebook status, riding bikes or delivering empty speeches.
Instead of spending all that money on flags, we could have bought many starving a delightful meal, instead of burning all that fuel we could have gifted some poor person who travels miles in torn shoes a pair of slippers. But NO we have to make the world record by making the biggest flag! Independent nations don’t need to prove that they are independent; it is almost as if we are in some sort of complex and we try every year to prove to ourselves that we are free. It is of course healthy to come together and celebrate! But the question remains: celebrate what? 65 years worth of failed governments? Our millions of poor people? or the load shedding?
I am at a loss for words when I see our prime minister ‘assuring’ people that Pakistan is an independent country. You don’t need to assure that sir, the fact that you are there in that PMs Chair is proof enough of my freedom!
It has been almost three years and I have gone status-less on facebook, have stopped wearing a badge, stopped buying jhandis and flags because I think that this is pointless! Instead I believe a better idea would be to give away that money! Oh right! What good will a hundred rupee do to a poor person? I am sure that is a ‘valid’ concern for most of us, what we don’t consider is that
a)      A hundred rupee note buys 20 Rotis (surprise that can actually help a starving family)
b)      If we do this collectively it can actually help
As an economics major, one thing that attracts me about Islam is the Zakat/Sadqa system. There is a perfect trickle-down effect in the economy that helps with the rotation of wealth. Pakistan, I am sorry ISLAMIC republic of Pakistan, was supposedly a country based on Islamic principles, sadly we couldn’t even apply the most pragmatic ones. There is still time to reconsider our values and our priorities; else we will be celebrating a hundred years of our Independence with the same Josh and Jazba without achieving anything substantial! 

Friday, 30 March 2012

SOLD! price: one laptop

An excellent ploy I say-giving laptops free of costs to the students of Punjab! I mean I am just impressed! There used to be a time when we used to buy entire villages for just a plate of 'daigi biryani' and bottles of coke! What has it come to now? Laptops! But yeah that's understood even the cheap whores standing on the roadside charge more with time and we are no less than them whores now!

give me a laptop, plaster a sticker of 'SOLD' of my forehead and move on- the line is pretty long you may have to sell half your empire to buy them all. But no wait! Wait! Wait! wait! They are giving us something that was always ours! RIGHT? But why would I want a laptop if my family doesn't even have access to the basic necessities? In fact where am I going to charge the damn thing! 12 hours of load shedding later? Why of course!

Inflation has hit the nation!

Even them politicians face the toll! Imagine! If my mom goes on shopping and instead of buying food for the month she buys a shiny toy for me I would be happy for a few hours but then eventually I will scream for food! You get the analogy? Why of course we are all so smart! We all get it but we will still be SOLD. No?

A better thing to do to win our hearts would be to actually give a DAMN about us! Solve our basic problems! Food. Water. Electricity. Education. Health. and yeah then if you have some left over funds you can buy us laptops. One major problem with our politicians today is that they are trying too hard. Imran Khan has such an impressive following not because he is giving out candies! It’s because there is substance to what he actually says! Others need to take a leaf out his book!

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Load shedding tears

Dil jis ko diya who england chali gayi

Pyar jis se kiya woh Italy chali gayi

Dil ne kaha khudkhushi ker lo

Hath switch mein diya tu bijli chali gayi

When the federal minister for water and power Naveed Qamar announced to the awestruck nation that there would be no more load shedding from 7th February onwards, I was one of very many to believe this farfetched remark. It is fascinating to note that from that day on, instead of there being no load shedding, it actually has picked up to an extent that was never seen before. Abbottabad alone, the city where I sit writing this seemingly frustrated piece, witnesses over 12 hours of load shedding each day. The capital of KPK, Peshawar, observes an outage for every alternative hour of the day.

Were it a true democracy and its Minister would have broken such a blatant promise, there would have been questions asked, the minister would have been held responsible for hoodwinking the people. But no! Welcome to Pakistan, welcome to country where we accept without questioning, welcome to a nation that can be swindled by anyone and everyone, be it the military, be it the corrupt politicians or be it criminals, welcome to Pakistan. The way this country is being run, the way it is being exploited is disheartening.

Most disturbing is the attitude of our people towards the entire predicament. Instead of going out on the streets, protesting, they laze in front of warm fires making up such forward messages as written above. True they are bored but they are not this helpless, no nation can ever demand their rights by ignoring the problems that they face. It is time that the nation should act in a way befitting a democracy. We will forever remain a developing country (read failed state) if we do not, ourselves, do something to save this country. Load shedding is one of many issues facing this country, united we can deal with them, but by ignoring and disregarding them completely we won’t get anywhere.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Pakistan and the prisoner of Centrail jail

Funny it may seem but experimenting with highly-dangerous and psychotic criminals is not such a good idea after all. The experiment with the element 'Z' turned out to be one of the worst manifestations of the claim above. While elsewhere criminals are regarded as a potential threat to  the entire system we Pakistanis have proven, with a generosity beyond measure, the same untrue. the results though have been disastrous and in some cases beyond repair. 'it is a bloody mess' are the words that come to my mind as i lay back thinking of how to spit it out so that it doesn't come across as a mean piece of writing. But sadly writing words like ' chaos', 'disorder' or even for that matter 'calamity' doesn't quite give the scope of the tragedy. Am i being too pessimistic? hardly so!
after spending years in the Central Jail, Z seems to have escaped in an almost Sirius-like manner(BINGO! by turning into a giant black dog) and has taken over the nation. Most of us are still baffled as to how this tragedy struck us and there is no explanation that makes sense as to why we let this happen. I have  grown up in a country where the military is the strongest political force (paradoxically) which has a mega-influence on all state matters, including those who take up their roles as mannequins on the political front. These puppets only manage affairs like education, economy(limited control of course), health (actually makes me laugh) and trivial affairs of state management while the military decides everything else from the foreign relations to the internal threats and takes all the major decisions on behalf of the state.
what frustrates me is that if the military is such a power-hungry, egotistical, controlling setup, the least it can do is to give us a competent set of puppets. But hang on if they give us a working government, that very government would ALSO end up questioning the very setup that brought them in. So people like Z and people like R Malik, Y Gilani and B Awan end up in post of high power with zero degree of competence as their primary concern is NOT to work for the people but for their own interests.
There are inherent flaws in this system that need to be changed. If people like I khan are brought to power they will have to deal with these flaws first and then move on to solve the bigger problems. I doubt if any country would be able to function with two parallel systems of governance, in such a case probably anarchy might be more suited !