Wednesday, January 19, 2011


"It's not what you know, but whom you know".
Protocolitis is a phenomenon that needs no introduction in the Pakistani System. If unfortunately, you are not aware of this term, either you are not a Pakistani by heart, or you haven’t lived here long enough.
This term, though rare, the practice is rampant in our society. Everything needs and has to be done through 'special treatment'. From getting any job done in a Government Institution to getting time from a famous private practitioner to of course getting your child into the 'en vogue' Institution, you need connections.
Of course, knowing the right people to get the job done is an accomplishment within itself. It saves one from the hassle of standing in a queue and hence the wastage of time and resources is minimized. The same principle is of course being followed by our wise rulers who have protocol while travelling so as to keep the expenditure of the taxpayer's money to a minimum. And while their time is more important, you can fruitfully utilize yours by teaching your child the number of vehicles in their squad.
The second benefit is the marked change in behavior encountered after the person dealing with you, realizes 'who' you are. This can come in especially handy in no-win situations like arguing with a traffic sergeant, or at your local bank when the 'last date for payment' sign is up. The person upon realizing your noble heritage, instantly replaces his frown with a smile and suddenly finds all the time in the world to respond to your enquiries.
The most dramatic change in my humble experience is observed in the Doctor's office, when you are the chosen one amongst a throng of ailing humanity and the nurse can take your vitals at a leisurely pace with a re-assuring smile, which tends to restore one's confidence of being dealt like a human being .
Others, of course have the right to disagree. A variety of anecdotes can be unearthed regarding this subject, there sadly being no dearth of examples. Remember the last time you were setting afoot on the ‘Land of the Pure’ and recuperating from the ‘cultural shock’ one tends to get while coming back. You are standing in the queue minding your own business, when suddenly a person way behind you is called upfront and given the royal treatment, while you call your relatives standing outside to assuring them you have indeed landed.
The situation is more pathetic the other way round. On departure, pour example, you are required to dismantle all your equipment like a warehouse exhibiting its items, while the’ protocol’ is whisked through.( Wonder if a similar situation exists at our borders, no pun intended).
Proclaiming to be of the blue blood can have its disadvantages as well. Because you are a protocol, it is assumed that you can afford all the ‘special’ favors bestowed upon you. That would probably lead to your doctor prescribing you the priciest treatment, your hairdresser advising you about the choisest hair-care and your bosses assigning you to tedious tasks, presuming you have the right connections to get the job done.
And of course the biggest drawback is being a protocol itself. Once a protocol, always a protocol. Because you once used your connections to get that file moved, next time there better be a bigger one!!


Standing amidst the glittering lights of the city, with throngs of people queing for purchases, shopping as if it were their last day on the Earth. Or is it?
With larger-than-life plazas mushrooming everywhere and with the latest models of SUVs, with barely enough parking space, people wearing gaudy clothing with flashy accessories, it is hard to conceptualize this place brnaded as the most dangerous place on the planet today.
True, these upscale places represent only a fraction of our populace and paint a rosier picture of the present state of affairs. But taking all that into account, the state of affairs potrayed by the media makes one skeptical of the present situation.
"9/11 was horrible". I remember my friend telling us. "I was near that place at that time." The rest of us stared stolidly back at her. Any attempt at empathy was unfruitful at this point. "We have a 9/11 everyday." was all I could muster in response. That was the time when schools were closed for an indefinite period of time after receiving death threats and we did not know when our children would be able to go to school again.
And, there was a time when people working or living near the sensitive areas would be dealing with terrorism on a daily basis, wondering whether they'll be able to make it home alive. My way to work and back would bear semblance to finding my way in a fieldmine, jubilant at having crossed another barrier.  While working near the Mall in Lahore, I personally had to go through similar experiences. With every key road from the One Five building to the FIA building to the High Court being targeted, calling my loved ones to assure them of my safety and being stranded at the workplace till late in the evenings was getting to be a normal routine.
In Karachi, our "city of lights" (pun intended), where statistics show target killings on a daily basis now, a sense of irony prevails when there is no news on this front. Reminds me of the no-death parties we had in our Neonatology Department where the day was celebrated when no child lost his life.
But, amongst suicide bombings almost on a daily basis, target killings, inflation, unemployment and insecurity, we still manage to trudge on. Life goes on with the same, if not more fervor for us Pakistanis, or so it seems. Is it because we have so many problems that we have become immune to them?
Amidst all this chaos and mayhem, we still continue to celebrate, 'life' if you will. We have new restaurants, fashion weeks, galas, weddings on a larger scale than observed before. Every public place is brimming with activity, traffic on the roads heavier than ever before. No situation can be 'dangerous" enough to dampen our spirits. Would, I wonder things be the same on 5th Avenue if 'they' were facing a similar situation?
But as they sat, all is not lost when u have hope. True, there is an impending sense of doom, an apprehension on the horizon, about our personal and collective futures. Although it is not without a sense of irony and sarcasm that I observe when I start something new like buying a new car, re-decorating my house, my son starting his school, it is refreshing to see people who still believe in this homeland and believe their progeny have a future here and plan for them. People who, despite the circumstances came back to this country to offer their services to it and who have decided to stay back. Looking at them, one still feels hope for this country and the feeling that it can survive and exist despite all odds, thanks to its stubborn people. Hats off to them!