Mediocrity the Pakistani dream

A seth sahab gets into his Mercedes and drives off to his villa-home to his wife. They Skype-chat with their two younger kids in NYC; both are art majors while their elder brother helps out his father in the factory.

The seth stands by his window, looking through the glass, as he smiles on what he has built and repeats “Alhamdulillah”. There. That’s it. That’s the Pakistani dream – to rise above the day-to-day worries, to have achieved enough to fulfill the offspring’s dreams and to have a backup plan in case the dreams turn to despair because there’s always daddy’s business to save the day.

It is not a substandard dream to build your life around and certainly no less of an achievement if you start from scratch. But if you’ve climbed, worked and achieved the position where you stand today, why not go beyond? No, it is not money that I ask you to run after – that never should be the drive or the goal of life but what I am focusing on, is a growth mindset. Why be complacent about being a big fish in a small pond why not scale up? Why not capture the world market and flourish way beyond the second-tier home products?

The fact is, we have all settled down, settled down for being mediocre without the slightest hint of disapproval of our fixed mindsets; we’re sufficiently complacent about it. Heck, we brag about it. We’re bragging about being mediocre. It’s always about how much we’ve done and never about where we want to go or need to be; it’s about the car I drive, the school I send my child to, not the dream of being the best in what I pursue. Or more importantly if I am making a difference for the rest of the people, for the underprivileged class or the needy? Or am I working towards creating jobs, getting my companies or the country’s name in the top 10 of this year or the next ten years. The conversation nearly always ends up in “Allah ka dia sab hay, bohat hay”.

We seem to be a nation of mediocrity swallowed up in our anxieties. Something our neighbors have risen above from and slowing nowhere till they have risen to the top. The Pakistani dream always has a cap and once filled, we stop. You will have no trouble jotting down names of local brands which maybe a household name for us but unknown beyond these borders. Can you name ten entrepreneurs that expanded their business from Pakistan and stepped into other countries and made a billion dollars? 10 household names that we don’t need to google to see. But we are very familiar with names like  Infosys, Tata, Bajaj and Amul.

Have we even stepped out and did an effort to push that boundary?

The seth style of governance doesn’t make it any better: a child who inherits his father’s business, often, does not go the distance. His Pakistani dream has already been handed to him in a silver spoon and well, who cares for the golden spoon? I firmly believe the people who can save Pakistan are going to be clever rich people, that’s what we need people with money and a will to go beyond set up funds, invest cleverly, start building something. It will only take one rovio, one zynga, one facebook to make it and change our mindsets and that is what we need.

And that’s the top end of the ladder. Let’s talk about us. We, the real mediocre. We get a government job and there is a celebration in the family: the safety net of a pension is a dream fulfilled. Everyone else is looked down upon.

I remember after my father passed away and how every other person’s question was why didn’t I get bharti in his bank because that would mean a permanent job, a pension and all that jazz. And I’m sure a lot of us have met that aunty once in a month – at least. Safety nets and supporting wheels is all that we want for ourselves and for the people we care about.

And then there are those who are the pride of the herd. The ones who got out of the country and ‘this system’ only to be proudly mediocre somewhere else. Getting into a company, getting the car we couldn’t afford in the Pakistani mediocrity and settle down for a gora mediocrity with a substandard 3 series.

If we were a product, our tagline would boast ‘Mediocre middle managers come and get yours today!’ – and perhaps, for a lower price than our neighbors.

We teach our children to be mediocre with our anxiety. So how many of you born and bred Pakistani men reading this took an Army entrance exam? Is it because of your profound love for the country, for protecting your Pakistani fellow men and women, for its sovereignty and progress or is it for the plot at the end of retirement? Or the chance to be brain-dead for a couple of decades so you don’t have to make hard decisions about your life to do this or to do that: a defined path followed strictly under order going straight to heaven. Let’s assume for a second that it is the right way to go and all the stars are aligned for it, how many of us get promoted beyond a colonel? I’d be interested to know how many people retire at what-post in the army even in a defined process where you go from ABC to Z like a straight arrow. But the fact of the matter is, we get tired at D but are sufficiently happy, sitting comfortably in our sarkari car and the canal in DHA.

If progress was key we wouldn’t be entering a department with no revenue or part in the GDP. We send our children to be army men because it’s safe, secure, stable and like a CMMI defined process that is aptly streamlined. It is the perfect sanctuary for a Pakistani.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying we are lazy, less talented or dufuss. We are simply scared and if we’re not, someone else will make sure that we end up scared and made to follow a traditional path leading to the dream.

There are outliers yes. There always are. We wouldn’t be a country if it wasn’t for the outliers. But look around you, isn’t mediocrity the Pakistani dream?

What is the price that you are paying to live ‘comfortably’

We live most of our lives to make things comfortable for ourselves and for the generation exceeding us. The rest however, is spent on survival.

Survival is justified but there’s another factor: comfort. How crucial is the latter for our lives? Crucial enough that I grind myself every day so that the carpet can be two inches thicker and the car a hundred horse power more? Our modern metropolitan lives conveniently trap us within it and we keep moving in circles. In return, we sell our experiences – all of those that we could have had with the time that we spent acquiring objects, the time that we spent caring for them and worrying about them being stolen from us. I wonder what if…

Is comfort really worth all that? What is the price of comfort one might ask; is it worth our whole adult lives? To flee, to be at one place; stagnant, comfortable. All the experiences we pass, all the people we could have have a significant impact on, the joy that could have been shared by many, all given up so that our lives and the lives of our children are more comfortable.

It is not our fault. Not really. We live and thrive in a (global) society where something as honorable as honor and respect is tied up with how comfortably someone lives and what other comforts they can afford. Human values, morals and all intangible things fall far behind.

It is a system that nurtures gathering and hoarding the need for more. One can escape from it in one’s head but a constant reinforcement and iron-will is prerequisite. We need to learn to be comfortable – without the comforts – to break this cycle and rise as individuals above this rat race that we’ve plunged into. We really need to rise above this rate race. Live a life

Where the label on our shoes don’t govern how good our lives are and we have more experiences to talk about, the tales of the thousand adventures we had, the lives we touched, the people we met, the things we learned rather than our latest acquisition of the finest lawn on the first presale of the season before ANYONE I mean ANYONE got it.

Why is change so hard? Why can’t we do what we know is good for us?

“Perspective” is all there is to life. It makes you and it breaks you. It is perspective that makes your life a heaven when its hell and it make you stress, crash & burn till your life is all ashes – when it really is not! It can marry you to the spouse of your dreams and it can have you hating your super model girlfriend for that one thing she does with her hair.

State of mind is all there is to it. One who controls it wins; peace & happiness and all that entails. So, basically, we have it in our hands, all we need is the will, the will to make our minds see things to get things. That too the things that really matter.

But who said each one of us comes with an iron clad will. Even when you have done all you can to align yourself in that perfect perspective and figured it all out – all it takes is a bump in the road to send it all clattering down. All the boxes in which everything was juxtaposed and prioritised comes tumbling down. Just that one small wrong slippery turn!

It would be very easy to choose the right path if you were a child with the young head laid in a white horizon. In a world where everything was levelled and you were a crisp blank page, well balanced and with no prior inclinations, kinks or bends. Sadly, that isn’t the case!

We are a collection of our memories, experiences and like the saying ‘things we’ve done repeatedly’. We are not a “crisp blank page, well balanced and with no prior inclinations, kinks or bends”. The whole supposed process of aligning ourselves is synonymous to someone waltzing in and making you learn to walk again.

Now this man comes in and wants to fix it and even if you want him to fix it you’re doomed for the rest of your life to be acutely conscious of every single step you take. Stagger, realise, understand and fix it over and over again. This re-start would continue to hammer in until the new way becomes a part of you. Your brain stops thinking about walking like it did when you were you, when you learned to walk.

But, when the time comes when you have to rush; you might jump back to your instinct, like you always ran. It would take the mind of a monk to realise at that point of the rush that you had to run in your new fixed way. And this is just running to do the deed – think of the deed itself, would we really stick to the change we painstakingly adopted!

All this is similar to brainwashing one’s self (for the good) Sadly its easier to be brainwashed by World War II propaganda films than it is to be by oneself. To  realign our perspective to see things in a brighter more understanding light.

Its perhaps not impossible but requires work, a lot of it. To understand that a change of perspective is required, is the most important step. This holds true not only for an individual but a community, a nation. To see the good we have, things we can do and things we can achieve by not waiting for someone else to fix the mess we have created but to pick up the tools and do it ourselves.

This is the way out and to get to it we need is an understanding of perspective and how to change it. Can we?

“And those who were seen dancing, were thought to be crazy, by those who could not hear the music.” –  Friedrich Nietzsche

Why motivational speeches don’t work?


We all want to be productive. We all wish we could be motivated and we all want to do what no man has ever done before, or at least the 99% hasn’t. However, more often than we want to, we find ourselves in an overweight, lazy, unmotivated, working at a dead end job pit.

We watch a motivational video on the social networking website about the man who learned to play the Symphony number 2 while he cooked the best pan cakes you’ve ever tasted; all that after his horrific accident where he lost all of his limbs and an eye and
it moves our soul. We promise in the name of all that is holy and right in the world that this is the point beyond which our lives will be changed forever and I will transform myself into this six-pack beast whose everyday consists of a class act starting off with a revolutionary invention of a biofuel and ends with feeding the orphan ducklings in the local park.

Yet, after an hour we find ourselves with a bowl of fries in front of our TV watching the latest of the Kardashians. Again.

Why is it, that something so profound has no effect on us and every time we feel the burst of positive energy and then all of a sudden it is all gone?

Why is that self-help books are among the top ten best sellers yet, the number of people influenced or guided by them are less than the number of editions of that title?

The fact is this: every single person from those videos and every case study in the self-help book, everyone, before becoming that inspiration or achieving all that glory, have gone through pain and suffering of first understanding themselves, understanding what keeps them from growing, from becoming what they desire and where their inability actually lies.
It is only through the suffering of understanding ourselves and what we lack, that we can rise above it.

Embarking on that northern adventure, making a cabin in the woods, quitting your job and starting to work on your startup on a whim, that’s all going to be great for a time.  But as many things that we try to fill the little holes in our heart with, they all seem to fall; piece by piece. And we’re back to square one again.

It is because we choose not to suffer. It is because we do not choose to appreciate or rather understand that vacancy that we have right in the middle of the heart.

Like the comic says, not till we learn to run and enjoy the whooshing sound the hole makes in the wind, we cannot progress as a being. We cannot be fulfilled, motivated or be at peace.

No amount of motivational speeches and self-help books are going to fix us and no cabin in the wood is going to feel like home until we suffer and enjoy our home as a home and our current state of suffering as a reality. It is then, and only then that even a small ant carrying a load to her house can motivate us to take down a mountain.

My shitty grammer fixed by the very talented and super intelligent , Mehreen Qayas ( )

Overseas Pakistani Syndrome

If every Pakistani was given the chance to live in any country, Pakistan would most probably be an uninhibited desolate paradise. Most of us living in Pakistan would bail, given the chance. Let’s face it; we would give up our white collar jobs to jump into the “chalo chalo waliyat chalo band wagon”. We would live happily ever after, shelving products, mopping the floors and finally owning the crown jewel kebab shop that every Pakistani child dreams of since the day he can say the word “kebab”. There are some amongst us that are more fortunate than others, and we go for ‘alaa taleem’ which essentially still means “I ain’t coming back” given the slightest chance. We would prove ourselves to be the pinnacle of what academia has to offer; the summa cam lauds, nay the creme da la creme of graduates, with the finest of grades. the same us which had to go to the HOD’s office a couple of times to get the two marks so we could pass the course, it’s the same us.  It’s just that was our parents money and this is well our hard earned cash from the part time job I got which would be beneath me if I was back home. We then graduate and find a job, we serve to the best of our abilities and more, something we’re incapable of doing back home because back there it’s our birthright to litter, to not pay taxes and to try our best to get away with as little work as possible. (And then whine about how the system is at fault)

US-PassportAs days turn to months and months to years, we settled down, get married (but only after we’ve broken up with my girlfriend in walayat and my fiancé’ back home whose nose I find faulty now) to that good looking woman who’d never marry me because, well, I was just a guy, now I’m a guy with a passport that’s not green. Before leaving you promise yourself that you’ll make all that cash and settle down back home with a comfortable life style you could never have if you worked here, but that never really happens. Time goes by, you stop converting everything into rupees and how much it would cost back home, whenever you go shopping. All the while your father’s hair turn white, his beard grows long, and his face gives in and shows the weakness that now consumes his body. Slow and shaky, he reluctantly gets used to carrying that big grocery bag home week after week. Whenever you ask your mother how her bad knee is now over skype she keeps repeating ‘khud hi theek ho jaye ga’ you tell her if you were there you’d drag her to the doctor to have it checked, but you’re not. You’re not a bad son, you always make it a point to show your parents their growing grandchildren, albeit on Skype at least every other week, you try, you really do, but things keep piling up. You have bills to pay and deadlines to meet. Then the inevitable happens you parent(s) ends up in a hospital bed. You want to go, more than anything, that’s the only thing you want to do, but then there is the school that doesn’t consider it an emergency and isn’t letting your kids go to another country without the shots, and the high paying job you just switched to have a different time off policy. You really want to go…. But you don’t.

Hey, I’m not judging you or anyone else, how could I judge anyone when, if given a chance like every other Patriot Pakistani, I would jump through hoops to get into the “Gora band wagon”. How can I or anyone else for that matter judge you, no one has the right to judge you, well not until they’ve walked two moons in your moccasins. But that wasn’t really my issue in the first place.

My issue begins when you sit in your leather recliner chair with the central heating/cooling on, in front of your burger baby kids who would have you committed to a psychiatric ward before they let you move them back to Pakistan. With your trophy wife, who would call the home office and have you jailed, before she agrees to live with your parents in this terror infested, corruption ridden uncivilized piece of land you grew up in. As you sit there, staring blankly into the idiot box watching the Pakistani news channel (or should I say entertainment central), commenting on every move Mr. Politician, whose name while living in Pakistani I don’t know, makes.

My issue is when every one of you folks lectures us on the intricacies of how the country is going to shit and no one is doing anything about it. What bothers me is how you have the audacity to lecture us from the comfort of your centrally cooled/heated drawing room. Yea sure, each and every Pakistan also discusses the same from the comfort of their drawing room, but hey! We do it without central heating/cooling! My issue with you is not the life choices you’ve made nor what your intentions were/are; my issue is every Pakistani not in Pakistan complaining about Pakistan all the frigging time. (I will concede that we do provide a tempting target given our politicians, society, mullas healthcare, education, infrastructure, security, law and justice …).

What is required is you move on, accept the fact that you will never be as Pakistani as the guy who lives here, goes through the power outages every half hour, sees the poor on the street but cannot do anything about it. For God’s sake stop confusing our weakness for indifference, we may not have been able to help the poor on the street but we do empathize with him. We may not have been able to change the system but we sure the hell are determined to try. We may not have been able to bring a sweeping revolution but we are willing to stand under the blazing sun for hours on end to vote. It’s about time you accept the fact that you gave up your right on criticizing this country when you didn’t come down here to vote.

And to all of you living in self-imposed exile let’s ask ourselves what have we done for our Country, how much tax have we paid in the last X number of years, how many schools and colleges did we open? How many people did we provide jobs? How many households did we support from the money that we earned from foreign countries? No one asks these questions, no one really cares. All that seems to matter is what the TV show guy is saying on Geo in the comfort of your modern homes. Yes there are problems with our system, yes there is corruption, yes everything might be falling to pieces, but it’s our problems. It’s the Problems of the people who live and breathe the air here, who go, day in and day out, surviving this urban circus.

You gave up your right to complain when you gave up your green passport. Not your right to life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness but a far more fundamental one, the right to criticize your Country and it’s time to accept it. You gave up your right when you realized that the day your kids are old enough to know that they can say no to visiting that stinky smelly country and stopped coming. You gave up your right to comment on every single speech the politician with opposing views makes when you paid that mortgage on the second home. You gave up your right when you couldn’t make it to your dad’s funeral because they would kick you out of the 6 digit paying job that you just joined. You’ve gave it up a very long time ago and it’s about time you accept it.

Come visit us meet us after a couple of years or whenever you want, we will welcome you, love you and respect you, like you deserve. We will open our homes and hearts for you. Just be courteous enough not to be involved in the matters of our home. This is our land, this is where we live every day and this is what we will fix. Everyone has a choice, you made yours, let’s accept that and move on. Let’s tune into the news and talk shows that affect our daily lives and the lives of our children, let’s talk about things that we deal with on a daily basis; because if words were food, nobody would be going hungry in Pakistan.

Disclaimer: I think it is my weakness of writing that I couldn’t convey my point properly. I am not criticizing anyone for moving out for one secondly I have no right to ask how you spend your money and how you live. Nor are all overseas Pakistani’s like that. Heck our company is funded by a man who built his fortune in the states lives in the states and has 500+ people employed in Pakistan and to top that off is funding start ups in Pakistan. There are those people and they are great they are the essence and the building blocks of our society and they are our only connection with the western world, they represent us and they do a great job at it. This article has got to do absolutely nothing with them, this has to do with the rest of us. The rest of us who would run away not because we need to because we want to, it’s for us the one’s who would not invest a single rupee in the state (whether charity or otherwise) yet would spend their lives criticizing the country. It’s for us who would never be ease at being where they are and would never have the kahunas to actually move back. Accepting is the first step my friend.


After watching animal planet for a whole decade, every day, I realized, besides teaching me the names of at least twenty venomous snakes, it has really taught me a thing or two about the focus of animals. If you observe any animal carefully (let’s keep hyenas out of this, those bastards are scary) or a group of animals, they all have it figured out: hunt, eat, reproduce and, well, don’t get eaten. And over the years they evolve to make themselves better hunters, survivors, scavengers or whatever the particular species is supposed to do. Their goals are simple and they start working on them from day one. Be it an individual goal or the goal for the whole community, animals will go to any extent to fulfill that goal without caring about the consequences of the struggle. There isn’t a thing called leisure in their book, there isn’t an alright let’s take this Sunday off, let’s chill out a bit and then see what’s next. Every single generation will sacrifice itself for the higher purpose for the survival of the species on the whole.

We humans on the other hand, have complicated ourselves with complicated and vain goals (if any). We are always worried about that, what will I get out of it and more importantly what will I do with that. This too is not in all people there is a small size of these kinds of people. Others, well most of us, spend our lives figuring out what the goal was, or not caring about it at all (if dad’s paying). And if we do come across certain individuals who are goal-oriented, instead of appreciating them, we often are looking down upon them with phrases like, “dude you really need to chill out”, “why do you do so much of what you do” , “there is life beyond what you are doing”, “come to the dark side we have cookies”. Ok, I just added the last one randomly but you do get the point.

I don’t know when or where did we get this lost and how did the luxury became our focus, how’d it get so bad that all our focus is on having a good time and even if working , doing it so we can have a good time later. Isn’t there anything, anything at all that you want to do that does not end up with laying near a beach, getting a tan. Is that all the brilliance the most intelligent creatures come up with? If we want to evolve into better creatures (humans) we really need to start focusing. Because this isn’t going to last for long.

Lets Live

I understand, I completely do. But here me out just this once, when you are in university. You have a sense of purpose, you have a target. Something substantial something right in your face, when you wake up you look at the calendar and go like fuck three months till the semester ends. I never said that goal was something you liked or you were looking forward to, but it does give you a sense of purpose. When you graduate, things change for better and for worse. You come home from your 9-5 job, and you have that free time, you don’t have to worry about projects or deadlines after you’ve left the office. But at the same time, somehow that’s something you start missing. There is a deadline there is a purpose but the one that you have defined. There is no teacher grading your papers, no tomorrow is the last chance to submit your assignments, there is freedom. This freedom makes you feel old very soon.

Your friends start to get engaged, married or move out of the state. You still hang out on the weekends and you talk about your weekend, some of you find your hair, well let’s say you’re getting bald, and some turn gray. And one day it snaps and you know that you’re getting old. That’s an awful realization for anyone I’d say. But it happens to the best of us. It has happened to me a little while ago. But, here is the thing; here is the bit that puts the puzzle together. YOU, yes I did write that in all caps.

You are the one that still makes me feel young somehow. You, still make my heart skip a beat. I still feel like a silly fool when I’m with you. I still smile and try to impress you like a teenager. I talk too fast, and too much. I get loud and frantic, and I pace around the room when I’m talking to you. Trust me, I’m not that youthful on the best of spring days. What is that word, yes ‘alive’ I feel alive when I am with you. Yes, yes, I know all about it and I don’t expect anything. I’ve planned my life too much, I’ve always worked for that goal and I got it. I don’t want to anymore. I don’t want to think about the future or how it’s going to end. I don’t care about the end, it somehow doesn’t matter anymore, ‘the end’. I just want to live this day, this day which is today . Not even this day this moment right here where I am , with what I’m doing. Cherishing and enjoying this soothing moment jumbled up in joy, wonder and a little sweat. I want to live here, not the previous moment not the next. Nor, do I want to waste this precious moment for the worry of the next. This is, this is now this is where I am, where I want to be. With you.

I cannot afford to waste this today, on what may or may not happen in the future. Worrying about who may or may not get hurt or what happens. This is my moment and nothing can take it away from me, not even you. I cannot any longer jump around with my measuring tape of rationality or my notepad of pros and cons. Or that special three column gadget we take out on special occasions like that. I don’t, I don’t want to rationalize what is what is not. I just want to feel this moment with you and that is all there is to it, I want to feel that skipping heart, that smile and that look on your face, God that look on your face, your face. I want to live in the time we spend together, talk, chat or text even. Not the time that we won’t be doing all those things.

Rationalizations, have let me to where I am today. With sticky notes, lots of columns, and things to do lists. Grey hair, the stupid gray hair. More, diaries will be filled, more sticky notes on the desk, more pencil columns, this will never end. Let’s just stop this today, and live. Let’s live, for now at least.