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Book Review: Far More Than A Game (2020)

“The modern-day journalists and the media professionals would not have even imagined the difficulties and the hiccups that I and other reporters of my generation had endured during the 1950s and onwards.”

Chapter 30 Page 289


INTRODUCTION

Since the 1960s, Qamar Ahmed, the author of the book, has covered more than 450 tests, 700 one-day internationals, and nine World Cups (the first eight and then 2019) as a journalist for many agencies like BBC, The Times, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, AFP, Reuters, just to name a few.

The cricketing journey of the author is not about the history of Pakistan cricket but international cricket. It is a passion that leads you to eternal respect that you earn after a love affair with the game.

Far More Than A Game is divided into thirty chapters that are spread over almost 300 pages. Most of the details are the author’s first-hand experience due to the nature of this book being autobiographic with an assistance of a few national and international books.

The reading of this book is easy, comprehensive, punched detailing with straight incidents from different timelines, and with complete liberty of his opinions.


 PERSONAL ACCOUNT

This autobiography is pretty personal and perhaps I can say the book is a rollercoaster ride about Qamar Ahmed’s life. By latter, I mean that he is totally open to all the parallels if he feels to speak about and thinks of no consequence about a series of questions he may be asked about his life. And I liked the nature of his openness that describes his personality and the autobiography being put to the best use of it. The reader won’t feel the sensationalism of the literature but the admittance about his life that he moved on but were vital to being written in the book.

The author depicted his disappointment in General Zia-ul-Haq’s leadership which was so disturbing to him that he refused to shake hands at a party. There is an entire chapter (no.22) about the two incidents that soured his relationship with Imran Khan. The writing of this chapter clearly indicates an agitation that should be addressed to the reader due to the fact that this eighteen-page chapter is surprisingly the lengthiest of all the chapters he wrote along with another chapter about his first-class career. I do not question the author’s motive but I am writing my honest observation about the writing of the book that this particular chapter was stretched as compared to the other interesting chapters that required more detailing than this. If this chapter had eighteen pages of details, then I reckon that a chapter about the road trip from London to Pakistan (no.14) deserves a separate book.

There are several personal accounts that help in shaping the authenticity of an autobiography. In one chapter (no.9), he writes about a life that was wasted in college because his parents wanted him to pursue a career in science rather than wanting him to choose his own career. An octogenarian passes an important piece of information to the readers about his younghood that his life decisions were made by his parents that succumb to a traditional parental syndrome in South Asia which has been emotionally attached in this region for quite a long time. Deciding about the life of a kid is understood but someone who passes his childhood and enters into college hood has the right to make his/her own decisions. The author addressed this matter, advocated liberty, and encouraged the readers to follow their passion rather than a silly tradition.

There was a French girl he was seeing in 1965 who was in England to learn the English language (no.11). Only a few paragraphs were written about her but nothing much. I liked the idea of keeping it short just like a brief series of meeting in life. It is like a gust of wind that blew from one direction towards the other once in life. It is a special mention of interest people at old age remember despite the time has passed around fifty years to that.


“Never for one moment as a schoolboy then I had even the slightest of inkling of what the destiny had in store for us and what was to come which would not only change the life of my family and that of many others and that of the country itself which would influence also the course of history.”

Chapter 1 Page 20


EUROPEAN PERK AND HISTORY LESSON

Far More Than A Game is a fascinating read for more than one reason but the most significant point to consider reading this life story is that the author was one of those few Pakistanis who got European, especially a British exposure to a socioeconomic life that fetched a lot of international diversity. Living a life in a multicultural country develops individualism and helps in socializing with people from different diversity. So that worldly experience fetched a lot of stories and incidents that happened with the author.

And then the author belongs to the greatest generation who experienced the partition of India. A lifetime that the next generations can neither feel nor imagine the suffering. So his personal account from the earlier chapters is a source of real history that the readers are unable to find in the books that are provided by their academic authorities.

The book starts with a sorry tale of partition and his childhood memories in the first chapter followed by a gripping narrative of his family’s migration from Chapra to Hyderabad. There are two chapters that are history lessons, one is about Hyderabad city and the other is about his ancestors, a knowledge that was treasured to him by his uncle from Mairwa, a city in Bihar state.


UNFORGETTABLE MEETINGS

One of the luxuries in the field of journalism is meeting important people from different walks of life, and so did the author. Qamar Ahmed missed no chance detail in separate chapters about his once-in-a-lifetime moments when he met Kerry Packer (no.15), Sir Don Bradman (no.16), and Nelson Mandela (no.21). Touring India was mostly personal for Qamar Ahmed due to his origins. But he holds the distinction to have met with the Indian film industry’s greats. Imagine people in those times like the author getting the honor of meeting the great Raj Kapoor at his residence where along with the Kapoors, they also get to meet Dilip Kumar. Meeting two of the biggest superstars of the golden age at the same place is surely one of the best memories of a lifetime.


CRITICAL CHAPTERS

Far More Than A Game is not only about history and the people he met in his lifetime, it is also about some very serious highlights that were needed to be addressed that occurred in the last chapters of the book. One was about Salim Malik and the kind of world he entered to regret for life.

There is a special place for Indian cricket legend Sunil Gavaskar in his heart and the twentieth chapter is dedicated to him to talk about some situations which may have gone unheard of. It was shocking to understand that Sunny was stopped by the MCC staff twice to enter the Lord’s cricket ground. The details about these incidents are covered in the chapter.

A much-needed drive to address some controversial incidents like the Gatting-Rana altercation, the Inzamam-Hair ball-tampering controversy, the bus attack on the Sri Lankan team, etc through his experience made rounds in the book.

The twenty-eighth chapter is full of funny and priceless moments that the readers will read with keen interest. I like a few of his moments like the historic moment of South Africa’s re-entry into international cricket, his brawl with a mugger, mistakenly calling Alec StewartHansie’, a cricket manager asking to sacrifice a black sheep, and many more. If I was sitting along with the author when he called Alec Stewart ‘Hansie’, I would have seriously couldn’t stop myself from laughing my ass out. It was a really funny and ‘innocent’ blunder.


CHAPTERS ARRANGEMENT

Arranging and compiling chapters in a book, especially in autobiographies are very vital. I have read a few autobiographies and being a bibliophile, I have this idea that there are two different arts involved in shaping and publishing a book; one is writing it as a whole, and the other is giving the whole writing the best possible finishing in a way that reader is captivated to read a life story.

I will be a little critical here about the arrangement of the chapters. As per my reading experience, Far More Than A Game didn’t conclude fittingly. I think the thirtieth and the second-last chapter where he wrote about the evolution of sports journalism and the use of technology, would have been the perfect end with a personal message or some inspiring words for the readers.


“When checking out to proceed to Calcutta (Kolkata) for the sixth and final test of the ongoing series between Pakistan and India, I requested the receptionist at the hotel for my bill.

The reception officials gave me a pleasing smile to say: “No bill Sir, we know who you are. We have been told by Dr. Hari about you that this was your house before you left for Pakistan as a schoolboy.””

Chapter 4 Page 47


The first three chapters in the book highlight in detail about his childhood, migration, and painful history. And then in the next chapter, he remembers his return to India. That fourth chapter needed to be distanced from the previous chapters and arranged in the middle of the reading.

With a gap of a few chapters and crossing the time to the late 1970s, this reunion moment would have melted the emotions more. It is my opinion that talking about the reunion in just the fourth chapter of the book was way too soon.  The editor or compiler of the publishing company should have considered giving the sentimental feel to the reader by arranging this chapter somewhere far from the earliest details.

The fourth chapter has an amazing detailing of reuniting, giving the readers a staunch view that partition gave us a lot of painful stories and reunions of a lifetime. Imagine if hatred had its say and those landlords had killed Qamar and his family? There would be no story to tell us, there would be no legacy of cricket journalism and broadcasting, and there would be no reunions or faith in humanity to hope from those tragedies.


CLOSING REMARKS

“Far More Than A Game” is the anatomy of cricket journalism, a pocket dictionary to the evolution of cricket, a time-traveling diary that settles nowhere but gives you an experience of a lifetime. A cricketing life to celebrate, thank you so much for your lifetime contribution and service to this beautiful game.


“I always believed that if you are good with people they are good with you and in turn respect you for what you do. That is how I thought a journalist should be when dealing with a story or with people related to it.”

Chapter 22 Page 207

The autograph of the legend himself…

TV Review: Malory Towers

Malory Towers is a children’s television show by CBBC and is set in the post-World War in Britain. The show is about Darrell Rivers who is sent to the all-girls boarding school, Malory Towers, where she befriends and struggles to learn life lessons with them. She gets into trouble and faces challenges in maintaining discipline but with a group of good company, she and her friends help out each other and grace their younghood.

As it is obvious by the title, Malory Towers is based on Enid Blyton‘s set of six novels with the same title. Each of the books is based on Darrel’s year of term she attended in the boarding school. Therefore, I assume that the first two seasons that are released are based on the first two books because each of the seasons is based on Darrel’s first and second terms. That also means that the show may progress to complete the remaining books in the next four seasons.

And the show has all the qualities to complete six seasons because of its details about the characters, lush camera work, and very thoughtful structure of episodes each focusing on something interesting about the life of the young girls in Malory Towers, the events that may have been traced from the books. The show is a feel-good coming-of-age light-heart period drama. The writing of the show convincingly depicts the problems the young girls face like anger issues, tolerance, manners, etc.

Programme Name: Malory Towers – TX: n/a – Episode: Malory Towers – ep 1 (No. 1) – Picture Shows: Darrell (ELLA BRIGHT), Sally (SIENNA ARIF-KNIGHTS), Gwen (DANYA GRIVER) – (C) WildBrain/Queen Bert Limited – Photographer: Steve Wilkie

The show covers a lot of thought that develops an interest in a coming-of-age children’s drama like the school’s financial crisis, the loyalty of veteran staff, girls being superstitious and getting afraid of scary expectations, silly pranks, care for the animals, girls trying to impress their parents and willing not to disappoint them at all, competing against other schools, bullying, entomophobia, reading private letters, and a few more. In short, the mood or the enthusiasm of the viewers will not get punctured.

Some episodes flourish well. I liked the episode ‘The Slap’ that was carefully written and very much thought was implied on both Gwendoline and Darrell. Darrell is the central character with temper issues, the reason she was dropped from the previous school. Gwen is the bad news, the troublemaker who is always on Darrell’s nerves. Darrell slaps Gwen and their chemistry gets intense. Gwendoline’s character has been well taken care of as compared to Darrel Rivers. As much as the viewer hates the character, her being jealous, rude, and playing politics makes more sense.

I liked how the girls are distinguished with their teenage traits, some are scared, some are superstitious, some are witty, clever, sweet and some are bad news. But being bad news also gives you a good insider about why such girls switched to this behavioral attitude. Where did this jealousy or hatred come from? The introduction of poor Ellen Wilson made a strong case where she was struggling to adjust with the other girls who belonged to financially better backgrounds. Even the girls had a difficult time understanding Ellen’s situation and were quite a scene when they gift Ellen some leftovers.

I must not forget to mention and praise such an impressive performance by Daniya Griver as Gwendoline Lacey. She convincingly made every single viewer hate the character and made us wish to see her expelled from the school once and for all. Her physical, mental, and emotional portrayal was an accurate definition of a jealous, selfish, and mean girl.

I haven’t read Malory Towers but I expect the show does justice to the original work. I binged the whole show in one go because the direction and the continuity were compelling. I felt that the show had the same vibes as the children’s shows like CBC‘s Anne With An E and I was right about it. Watching this show was a delightful experience and now I will wait for the next season.

For the audience that is willing to show their children a quality drama, I recommend them to show Malory Towers.

The Stooges: Those Fools On The Mean Streets

Born and raised in Jeddah, I had the luxury in my childhood to enjoy many memorable American sitcoms and cartoons on local channels. In the early 90s, Saudi Channel 2 entertained me with countless shows. One of those was The New Three Stooges cartoons, a very popular animated series of the mid-60s. I was hardly seven or eight and wasn’t aware about those three characters in the cartoons were real. I would have never known in my childhood about their being real had my school timings not changed.

In 1994, when I studied in the 5th standard, it was the afternoon shift of my school Pakistan International School Jeddah (PISJ) but my timings shifted from afternoon to morning when I entered my 6th class. The year was 1995 when Sony Entertainment Television was launched later that year and the channel was airing three American television series one after one in the afternoon. First The Three Stooges (in English), then Dennis The Menace and I Dream Of Jeannie (both dubbed in Hindi). As Paulo Coelho says, Maktub, isn’t it? And I was astonished at the Stooges being real and funnier than the cartoons. I had to return from school and try to catch this show as soon as possible.

The Three Stooges were the vaudeville team in the golden age of comedy which mostly featured Moe Howard, Larry Fine, and Curly Howard. The man who made me laugh at that show was that fat bald funny guy Curly but I used to get annoyed sometimes when I return from school and catch the show and notice that someone else than Curly was featuring on that day’s episode. And I asked myself where did that fatty go? With time, I came to understand the backstories of unarguably the most well-known comedy team the world has ever known.

When The Three Stooges came to prominence in the mid-1930s, the golden age of comedy was still on the run with Charles Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Laurel And Hardy, and The Marx Brothers already dominating in the United States for more than twenty years. And this team, along with other greats like Abbott And Castello began to carry the torch.

But those were the sickening times as the world moved towards the second Great War. Sometimes I wonder how the golden age of comedy coincided with those depressing decades. Perhaps the entertainers with a disturbed struggling journey, unhappy life, and tragic personal tales know the meaning of happiness and have the best of laughs.

How The Team Was Created?

In the early days, Moe and his brother Shemp were seeking work in show business. Then in 1921, Moe got the chance to work in Ted Healy‘s vaudeville shows. Two years later, Moe was performing in one of Ted’s stage performances when he noticed Shemp in the audience. Moe yelled at him and Shemp responded which led to a funny argumentative performance between the brothers leading to amuse the spectators. Ted took notice of all this and immediately hired Shemp.

Larry’s parents, in his teenage years, were sending him to a European music school to make his professional career as a violinist and he would have joined if the first World War had not interfered. By 1925, Moe had prematurely retired from acting when he got married and focused on his new life. So only Shemp was working under Ted for some years until Larry met them and joined in 1928. By the end of the same year, Ted pulled Moe out of retirement to rejoin him. By 1929, Moe, Shemp, and Larry worked as a unit for the first time.

Readers! this is how Ted Healy created the team or to be more precise, the three stooges were unified to perform with their boss. Moe, Shemp, and Larry were the original line-ups and along with Ted, they were named ‘Ted Healy and his Racketeers’. Later on, they were ‘Ted Healy and his Stooges’. Together they performed for some years until their contract expired in 1934.

It is said that employer Ted Healy was alcoholic and abusive. Shemp gave up on his behavior, quit the team, and focused on his solo career. And then entered the man who carried this team on his own to make them world-famous, Moe’s other brother Jerome Howard.

When Moe introduced Jerome to Healy, he was unimpressed because he thought he doesn’t look funny with long chestnut-red hair and a mustache. Jerome left and returned with a shaved head and said “Boy do I look girly”. Healy heard girly as Curly and hired him as Shemp’s replacement with a convincing shaved funny face. Boy, I wonder if Shemp had not given up, this team would have never made the name for which we remember them. It seems like sometimes giving up is the best idea. It was a golden twist of fate as, after the contract expiry in 1934, Ted Healy departed and they officially became The Three Stooges and signed with Columbia Pictures.

Curly’s Peak to Tragic End

Columbia Pictures first offered them $600-a-week for the first year with a renewable option. After the huge success of the first film, they earned $1000 for it and the future offer went lucrative with $7500 per film. This hugely successful journey continued for 23 years with the production company. During the period, the team made 190 short films out of which Curly featured in the first 97 films and is widely considered to be the most successful period for the team.

Curly was the God-gifted mercurial talent of the slapstick comedy. Before joining them, Curly used to hang around backstage and enjoy his brothers performing with Healy and enjoying their acts. For me, he is one of the greatest comedians of all time for one major reason, he was an original performer without formal or professional training. Most of the comedy greats of his time were trained but he was handpicked by his brother to take Shemp’s place and the rest is history. His childish mannerism, funny facial expressions, high-pitch voice, silly noises, and physically nonsensical comic timings were his features making most of his fans entertained.

Change of moods...
Three different expressions in 0.75 SECONDS!!!

This is from their short film Pardon My Scotch, a short film released in 1935 (their 9th of 190 films). Here you see his reaction to the bread as if it is staring at him. These are the three different facial reactions he gave to bread in around 0.75 SECONDS! If I include the retakes, I wonder how many times he pulled his muscles to one single shot. And many more in his career. And that was Curly’s greatness in the comedy. He was fast and holds an absolute distinction in physical comedy.

Viewers often remember Jerry Lewis, Rodney Dangerfield, Jim Carrey, Peter Sellers, and many many more in the category of one of the greatest physical comedians from the talking cinema of the 20th century. And Curly is mostly forgotten.

Collectively, the team peaked from 1934 to 1941 and many critics agree that Moe, Larry, and Curly were physically at their best to make the viewers laugh. But to the team’s unfortunate innocence, the team never realized their potential and worth. They could never believe how significant was their rank in the world of comedy that for 23 years of business with Columbia Pictures, they remained underpaid and their salary never increased. The biggest culprit was Harry Cohn, the co-founder of Columbia Pictures whose deception of their misjudgment made them realize too late that they were worth millions. All those prime years, Harry Cohn kept lying to them that the market of comedy shorts was meeting downfall.

Harry Cohn’s biggest damage to the team was not taking Curly’s dropping health into a concern for once. In the early 40s, Curly’s physical decline began, and suffered minor strokes. His weight increased, wasn’t physically and verbally quick as he used to be. In 1945, Curly was found to have serious hypertension, obesity, and retinal hemorrhage. The doctors had recommended the rest so that he can regain his health and strength. Moe had pleaded to give him rest for good but Cohn was afraid of losing profits. So he refused to give Curly rest and forced him to continue working leading to disturbing consequences.

As expected, Curly’s health deteriorated further. In the last few films from 1946 onwards, Moe was coaching him in his dialogues as he was forgetting. Frequently collaborated director Jules White had admitted difficulties shooting with Curly. Curly’s voice went deeper and his actions slowed further. A viewer can easily observe the decline in Curly’s comic timing in his final 20 films out of 97. Curly had to prematurely retire from acting when he suffered a stroke during the shooting of Half-Wits Holiday. Shemp was immediately called back to take his place.

Curly's facial difference in 11 years!!
Curly on the left in 1936 picture ‘Disorder In The Court’ and on the right in 1947 picture ‘Half-Wits Holiday’.

Curly being the biggest reason for The Three Stooges’ success faced the most painful years. The miseries hadn’t ended at retirement. After work, he suffered a massive stroke in 1947. A few years later, he was partially paralyzed and was in a wheelchair by 1950. He suffered another stroke the very next year and had to live in the hospital. Later that year, the Howard family was informed to collect him as his mental condition was collapsing and had become a problem for the nursing staff. Moe, being under the contract, was unable to give his family the much-needed time and moved his brother to the other hospital. In early 1952, the Howard family was informed that Curly has died in the hospital. He was only 48.

With Curly’s departure from the films, the team met an obvious decline in humor. It was pretty obvious and predictable that none of his replacements (Shemp, Joe, DeRita) will match his comic timing or fill the gap he left wide open. The weakest of all replacements was Joe Besser. While joining the team, he actually put a clause specifically prohibiting not hitting him. The physical beating was one of the norms of the team’s prime segments of comedy when Moe used to hit the other stooges. In Curly-Joe DeRita‘s time, the team met resurgence when they featured in six films and the animated series ran in the 1960s.

My Favorite The Three Stooges Short Films

1934 – Punch Drunks

1934 – Men In Black

1934 – Three Little Pigskins

1935 – Pop Goes the Easel

1935 – Pardon My Scotch

1936 – Ants in the Pantry

1936 – Disorder in the Court

1936 – False Alarm

1936 – Slippery Silks

1937 – The Sitter Downers

1938 – Tassels in the Air

1939 – We Want Our Mummy

1939 – Calling All Curs

1940 – You Natzy Spy!

1940 – A Plumbing We Will Go

1942 – What’s the Matador?

1942 – Sock-a-Bye Baby

1943 – They Stooge to Conga

1943 – Dizzy Detectives

1943 – Back from the Front

1943 – Three Little Twirps

1943 – Higher Than a Kite

1943 – I Can Hardly Wait

1944 – Idle Roomers

1944 – Gents Without Cents

1944 – No Dough, Boys

1945 – Three Pests in a Mess

1945 – Booby Dupes

1946 – G.I. Wanna Come

Men In Black, released in 1934, is the only Stooge film to reach the Oscars when Jules White got nominated for Best Live Action Short Film.

The Natzy Spy! became the first Hollywood film to satirize Nazis, The Third Reich, and Adolf Hitler. Moe Howard was the first actor to play a comic version of Hitler, nine months before Charles Chaplin’s The Great Dictator.


In the past few weeks, I have watched all the 97 short films featuring Curly and I want to sum up that there is no comedy team like The Three Stooges who could perform better surreal humor than them. Their nonsensical slapsticks are a separate dimension of comedy-verse. You can pull the same silly actions they attempted but you won’t get that popularity and acceptance that they built in their time. They were unique assembling. They were hardworking and dedicated comedians. In one of the earliest films, Pardon My Scotch in 1935, Moe broke three ribs during one shot. The camera continued to roll, he lifted and walked towards Larry and Curly, slapped them, and then fainted down.

See, every comedian or a comedy team had the artistry to attract the viewers. But The Three Stooges had no honest quality of presenting comedy of above par standard. They were the stooges who make people of all ages and in every period laugh and burn their bellies out. Entertaining the people by being stupid was their main charisma. They didn’t hold any critical acclaim but watching all those short films makes me think about their characters being lower-class fellas struggling to find work and failing again and again when the Great Depression was alarming at their very pinnacle of comedy.

A bunch of degenerates faking as highly reputed officers, doctors, scientists, and businessmen joining elite parties and ending up throwing pie cakes at each other was a slap on society. How immoral of those socialites!

Besides Curly, one major reason for the team’s success was that Moe Howard and Larry Fine stayed from the beginning until the end. The Three Stooges lasted for around 50 years in the business, and Moe and Larry featured in almost every single project.

circa 1939: American comedian Moe Howard stabbing his fellow comedians, Larry Fine (left) and Curly Howard with forks. The trio starred in countless films together as ‘The Three Stooges’. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

The Rising of a Failed State (Last Part)

This blog is in the continuity from my previous blog. Before you begin reading further, kindly read the first part HERE.

In the previous blog, I discussed the issues Pakistan is facing in the recent years and what points the observers have to consider in scrutinizing the government. Now I will surface the expectations on the revival of survival.

INVOKING A TABDEELI

The result of the recently concluded general elections comes to a massive surprise with a voice of change drumming almost everywhere. Being hopeless to observe the cipher-bound nation to vote the same parties repeating the same destruction and failing the country, I was believing that the same Pakistan Muslim League – N (PMLN) running the government will win the election after collecting the sympathetic votes for imprisoning their favorite leaders or perhaps Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) will take the turn.

Moreover, Imran Khan‘s former wife Reham Khan sparked nationwide controversy by making blatant allegations in her recently released book. I am not aware of how accurate the allegations are. My brain doesn’t accept the kind of allegations she made on her former husband because those claims make Khan look pure evil but then, Khan had a Sita White case in the past with whom he has an illegitimate daughter. Fingers crossed or in the other words, God knows the best.

But Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) are victorious with 116 seats for the National Assembly. The 22-year wait to win the general election is over. Khan’s declaration of change in the form of a tsunami which he coined in a political jalsa a few years ago all becomes true. Back in 2002, when Pakistan Muslim League – Q (PML-Q) won the general election, PTI won only one seat and that too by Khan. This election, Khan win 5 seats alone wherever he contested becoming the first Pakistani politician to record victory at 5 different polling stations. Back in 1970, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto contested elections from 4 constituencies and managed to win 3.

Numerous wonders occurred at this event. PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto lost a seat from Lyari district where his party had political dominance for decades. Muttahida Qaumi Movement‘s 30-year rule over Karachi ended when PTI won 15 of the 21 seats in Karachi for the National Assembly. The province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) had a tendency towards changing the ruling party in the general elections every time in the past 25 years. PTI became the first party to win KPK assembly in consecutive terms which prove that their contribution for the KPK people was recognized and trusted.

Voice of change and change of voice coincides across the nation. A politician like Maulana Fazlur Rehman who in almost every general election ended winning the seat in the National Assembly couldn’t win this time. Amir Liaqat joining PTI five months ago raised the eyebrows to the standards the party had raised or lowered to the voice the change for the better cause. But how crucial was this decision? People in Karachi, who were fed up of MQM’s rule especially Farooq Sattar, decided to vote and prefer Amir Liaqat over him for the sake of changing hands and looking a better future of Karachi under PTI after listening to Khan addressing tons of promises in the last few years. It indeed is a change when so many calamities over PMLN, PPP, and MQM occur.

KHAN’S ADDRESSES – A VOICE OF HOPE

The political dynamics are changing, so are the global voices. After a few channels from the Indian media displayed hatred towards Khan, many people in India including famous names in sports and film industry are praising his success and struggle, and hoping to see a new wave in Indo-Pak diplomatic ties. Navjot Sidhu accepted Khan’s invitation to participate in the oath ceremony. With Sidhu’s arrival, I hope a dove raises the bar of peace between the two countries.

Imran Khan with scores of addresses and promises in his jalsas forwarded highly impressive addresses after the election results before and after becoming the 22nd prime minister of the country. A lot of topics came to the attention but with a powerful stature and a command in speaking with the required determination that he always possessed, what made his listeners feel good and hopeful was the freshness of words. He spoke some lines which no biggest authority in Pakistan ever did. There is a reason why most of the viewers and listeners trust him.

What I will try to do is bring a few bullet points in attention to the readers from both the addresses to understand what we are to expect and hope in the next five very important and crucial years.

01. Khan idealized that the state under him will be like Medina under the times of Prophet Muhammad Sallallahu Alaehe Wasallam (SAW). Now, to be honest, this religious circle of vision may take the nation into daydreaming and completely avoiding the ground reality of the offense the country has suffered under the name of Islam. With people belonging to many different Islamic ideologies under the same geographical roof, it is almost impossible to convince all at a point or put them in any religious agreement.

There is every chance that his every move or decision is put to an argument if the decision is according to Sharia law or if Prophet Mohammad S.A.W. allowed. Most of the people in the country have taken the religious matter to different dimensions, they understand less, gets sentimental more. Many times, the probability of doubt towards understanding a scholar or an orator about Islam or any aspect adds more rage, fury, and risk. In such a situation, my opinion is that Khan should have avoided such an extremely bold statement because when the lumberjack chops the trunk, the whole tree collapses. 

So the nation should observe that Khan spoke about the principles of the ideal state to establish so they should not fall delusional of thinking a whole newly constructed Islamic state and begin comparing his every move for the state with the state Prophet Mohammad S.A.W. established. He, in short, has set Medina state as a prime example.

02. Khan spoke highly of human development and recognition of the poor to be fed and paid what they deserve. He was so highly concerned of child growth that he, live on the state channel, showed two diagrams of children only differing due to consumption of nourishing food required for a two-year-old child.

03. Khan confirmed that political rivalries are the past for the sake of bringing solidarity in the country. I do not expect the rivalry to end. When he is running the government, there is every possibility in the coming years that his rivals ridicule the country’s political and socioeconomic situation in the coming years.

04. Khan clearly stated that the accountability will start with him and his ministers, followed by the others. One of the most impressive lines in his address.

05. Khan encouraged the overseas Pakistanis to invest the money in the country under the new leadership and promised the nation to protect the tax money and better the tax culture.

06. Khan innovated shaping the PM house into an educational institution and to bring in public use of all the governor houses. Because he admits humiliation for living in a palace of a country where more than half of the population are poor.

With that, he submitted his assurance that he, his governors and ministers will reduce their expenditures and adopt simplicity. The expensive vehicles which were used by the previous governments will be sold in the auction to the businessmen and put the received hefty money in the national treasury. The security will be reduced.

07. Khan talked about sending a team to China, make a report and learn the progress of the efforts the Chinese government made to overcome poverty at such a high rate.

08. Khan gave equal importance to both Saudi Arabia and Iran and voiced for immense efforts to ease the Middle East crisis. I have discussed Pakistan’s role in the Middle East crisis in the previous part.

09. Khan expressed disappointment to the Indian media for spreading negative portrayal but urged for dialogues and stepping ahead for better ties and open on trade relations and transactions.

10. Khan spoke of law amendments to ensure speedy disposal of civil cases within a year. We know that thousands of cases are shelved unfought for years and the poor is the one who suffered the most. If this happens, justice may be believed to earn its lost repute.

11. Khan stressed on the improvement in the education and the government hospitals.

12. Khan raised the issue of global warming and emphasized on a nationwide tree plantation campaign. Khan on the 3rd of September has launched a mega Tree Tsunami project in which 10-billion trees will be planted in the next 5 years against the climatic and environmental challenges. If this plan succeeds, Pakistan may be counted among the countries who raise their voice and contribute against the challenges. It may prove to be a significant turning point.

13. Khan challenged and offered cooperation to his rivals by investigating on any requested stations where the losing parties believed that the elections were rigged. This act of daring is something which the previous ruling party didn’t commit or offer.

14. Khan, in his final lines, envisioned that the country will financially prosper to the extent that there would be no tax receiver and he doubted if he may be alive to see that happen. This statement will be remembered for a long time even after his soul departs because the quality of the great people is that they, in their lifetime, utter some quotes which become the observational phenomena.

WERE THE ELECTIONS RIGGED?

Many observers have depicted their satisfaction. I am not an observer of this scenario. Rigging has always been in our blood, this will never stop. As far as politics is concerned, after every 5-year period, the victorious party claims the general election to be the purest while the rest whine. The same method was applied this time when all the losing parties assembled for the conference and decided whether to sit in the national assembly or not. It indeed is traditionally hilarious that after losing the election, the party claims rigging and later on decides to sit in the assembly indirectly and technically accepting the results, and become the opposition. Because seriously, who refuses the power of seat in the national assembly? Better to sit in the opposition and play chess.

They say that the Election Commission of Pakistan was responsible for the election. But let us agree on the open secret that there is something fishy about the happenings in Pakistan’s political affairs in the recent months. The judicial and military accountability over the-then existing political scenario troubled them, the biggest names went to prison or were declared impotent to contest any seat for the general elections. Yes, nature had its say too when the heavy rains in Lahore exposed the lies of the provincial government and the professed Paris in Lahore turned in to Venice. The army security had much of the control on the polling stations I agree. I asked a few of my friends about the situation there. But why the cameras weren’t allowed inside the stations? Only God knows what exactly happened but, to be honest, if the elections still were rigged, I am certainly okay with it.

Why so? Because the previous rigging established no hopes but sorrows. Voters voted the same parties and whined all the years. You have tried and trusted them for decades twice and thrice. You have lived in fear at certain places. This time, the rigging that brings the new faces and new hopes are acceptable, the majority of the nation is convinced that they can certainly expect better from the new ruling party. Perhaps, this was the fairest ‘rigged’ elections ever. And there is nothing wrong in hoping that the country’s broken spine and damaged reputation can be tried to fix and improve.

REALISTIC PATRIOTISM

Pakistanis are the most patriotic nation in the world because there is no country whose nation celebrates its independence like her, but unfortunately, their sincerity and passion are over-dramatic and unrealistic. I call it chauvinism with the all-is-well approach because their contribution is less to what words of their utmost love for the country they utter from their mouths.

Patriotism is a form of emotional madness towards liking and loving a particular geographic piece of land with the addition of developing aerial theories which most of the time doesn’t make logical or lacks common sense. People with such mentality loses conscience and begins to believe that they are superior to the others.

Failed governments have destroyed the societies for decades and as compared to the golden period of their cultural integrity, we have observed more moral calamity, rage, hatred, delusion, frustration, madness, negativity, lie, manipulation, backbiting, brainwashing, abuse, killing, and firing.

Further destruction came in the education when so many lies while teaching the country’s history wrecked and manipulated the generations and developed disturbance and confusion towards the reality which they declared frailty. After all of this, if the nation thinks that they really are patriotic, then it is a lost case and doesn’t make sense.

Thinking and understanding towards the religion and tolerance have dropped a severe low, also in decades, when religion was used as a political tool and many many many so-called religious organizations came to existence to fool the illiterate and ignorant people. Many flags under the motive of spreading the message of Islam clashed the brains of common and aided with false and wrong beliefs. The wrongs and fongs became traditions and rituals. Some of those organizations became political parties and some campaigns for spreading terrorism.

The passion of the-then nationalism and patriotism which was highly delusional on paper with zero motive now have a new voice and new hope. Under a new leadership, this jazba can flourish and help to contribute an honest cause and build them a new mason.


I am not a nationalist or a patriotic individual but I feel disappointed to observe a country in such a miserable condition and totally lost on the purpose of its existence. I admire Mr. Jinnah’s charismatic personality but do not believe in the vision of Mr. Jinnah and strictly disagree with the partition of a land into two on the bases of a two-nation theory which is built on strict racism and hatred. Both Hindus and Muslims have lived together for centuries. The existence of both the countries became a possibility thanks to the conclusion of World War II which pushed the British Empire to release the countries from the colonization. God knows how long we all would be colonized if this war would have never happened or never ended.

I am not a rebel nor a time traveler to rectify the blunder of the country’s founder but with the passing of time, I have to compromise and recognize the existence of this country and I, like other people, build HOPE to see a better future of this country with the new masons enrolled.

People should not jump waiting for the results from the day after taking the oath. People must realize that much a loss in shape of money has been suffered. The act of begging by the previous governments towards the institutions and supreme authorities has led the country in bad repute.

After some years, we will look back and observe how the revelation of the Panama Papers and Microsoft’s Calibri font ate PMLN. It looks no less than a wonderful script of a political drama.

What is Naya Pakistan? It is a substantial imagination of building a utopian state which failed to create in 71 years. It is a renovation of the destroyed building. This is not coming to reality soon. I have observed the craziness on the social media about people asking and questioning the possibility of observing Naya Pakistan in a few days and weeks. This is sheer nonsense. Even the final results of your board exams do not show up that quick as the people are demanding.

Tremendous patience is required. It is about rebuilding a country, not a school or shopping mall. It will take years to produce the genuinely positive results. Enough addresses from Khan, action has to be implemented. The government should be judged after at least six months and should be highly discussed when the first federal budget under this government is announced. But people must realize that Khan cannot do this alone, the nation has to cooperate and contribute. The nation has to do the favor to aid Khan to produce the expected results. If the level of trust has raised a few percentages under him, there is a possibility to believe because hoping is believing.

No government in the political history of Pakistan has ever completed its 5-year tenure. Will Khan be able to complete? Will Khan fulfill the promises? Will the ruling party surpass the expectations of the nation? Will there be a booming economy? Will the poverty decrease and the workers earn the deserving? Will the justice serve the right and prevail?

Time will tell…

Rise…

Film Review: Dunkirk (2017)


400,000 Men Couldn’t Get Home, So Home Came For Them


The message from hell descending from the clouds. The sea waves escorting back the dead bodies. The civilian boats rescuing the freezing fate-less soldiers. Casualties outnumbering the survivors. Hark! the bombers are approaching and releasing your death certificates. Realize! the fuel is getting low! So decide either you drop your plane to the sea or shoot your rival pilot.

There is panic everywhere, there is sonic everywhere. There is no amount of food, there is no hope for good. More than 300 thousand soldiers are trapped on the beaches and harbor of Dunkirk in an uncanny weather. France has fallen to the Germans and their troops are to reach the site anytime. But the Commander is hoping that they all will be back – Home.

Dunkirk is Christopher Nolan‘s latest project, a war film whose storyline and characters are fictional in nature but relies on the rich historical accuracy based on the historic evacuation of the Allied forces during World War II. Nolan has touched the new dimensions of the filmmaking of war films. For ages, the filmmakers have strived in convincing the audience by making ‘lengthy’ war films but Nolan’s warfare drama runs for only 106 minutes and proves that it is just a matter of speaking the story in the most formidable manner. Nolan proves that to make a successful war film, a coherent presentation plays a major part, not the length of the script.

 

 


“I’d rather fight waves than dive-bombers.”


The story is divided into three divergent segments of land, water, and air. There is a stupendous balance in all the three segments with the land story definitely being more of a blood boiler. Thousands of the soldiers standing, sitting, lying in the queue on the sands of the beach await their fate and hope for deliverance. When I say lying on the beach, few are the dead bodies.

War films are acutely loud and noisy. But here there is no massive bullet-firing in the whole film, no earth-shattering blasts or powerful destructions. The grip of the plot is kept at loose ends. Dunkirk’s script is build on intensity. More than killing, the film is about saving the lives and rendering a valuable service for the people stuck in the battle.

Yes, the nature of this war-subject is saving more than killing but like I wrote above that it is the intensity, the incredible screenplay of bringing things into either an argument or a question mark. The sequences and consequences of numerous scenes drop the emotions displaying the significance and tragic life conclusions like a boatman losing his son, a soldier dropping his helmet and walking towards the sea waves, a pilot watching his plane burnt etc.


“He’s shell-shocked, George. He’s not himself. He might never be himself again.”


Angel of death knocks the door everywhere and it is not a matter of bombs but other critical things like an oiled human body trying to wash himself in haste before it catches the fire on the water or a young soldier making an unsuccessful attempt to catch the ladder of the boat before fainting into the water.

Another impressive factor of the film is the target age-group of the troops portrayal. Mostly in the film are extremely young men. The impact is hard but I like the way the young skins are put to test in the biggest scare of their lives. There were two such scenes shot on the boys giving a fascinating look on the labor and patience during the war times. One was when the two young soldiers witness a helpless gashed soldier on the stretcher. Both heed each other’s possible signal and prepare to lift the heavy stretcher miles towards the boat running and staring the other dead bodies on the beach. The other scene is when the German troops shot at the trawler for target practice where the young soldiers are hiding and no one has the courage of volunteering to release from the boat.

The film is blessed with an ensemble cast whose characters are equally divided in all the three segments. The beauty of the screenplay is that there is no main character. All the characters support each other in their segment i.e., the character of the boatman, Mr Dawson, played by Mark Rylance is indeed the lead character on the sea but his sons, Peter and George, have decent onscreen appearance subjected towards the gallantry. Rylance piloted his character boat every day and listened to the audio recordings at the Imperial War Museum. Cillian Murphy plays the rescued soldier who suffers the psychological impact of the war. Being short in the role, his mental acting performance was exceptional. To improve his character, Murphy read about the psychological trauma the soldier endured.


“Men my age dictate this war. Why should we be allowed to send our children to fight it?”


Tom Hardy is the RAF pilot playing the major role flying in the clouds but his fellow RAF pilot, Collins played by Jack Lowden, is not to be considered underrated. On land, Kenneth Branagh is the commander, loosely based on Admiral William Tennant, but also attached to him is James D’Arcy as Colonel Winnant. But the weight of the characters is equal keeping in mind that the former’s character is verbal as compared to the latter’s character being physical.

Among the young soldiers, the character of Tommy played by Fionn Whitehead was impressive than Alex played by Harry Styles. In fact, Fionn’s performance was indeed the most impressive one who surely had the most minutes throughout the film. Fionn’s character Tommy was named after the slang term Tommy which was commonly used for the ordinary British soldiers. When Nolan auditioned Harry Styles, he was not acquainted with his immense popularity.

 Audience pointed Hardy’s contribution to the film as best but he was just a pilot flying the plane in the whole film. It was actually not Hardy’s performance but the character to be counted as the most valuable one.


“How hard is it to find a dead Englishman on Dunkirk beach, for God’s sake?”


Musical department? Hans Zimmer to Nolan is what John Williams to Spielberg. Easily the most powerful director-musician combo after the latter. And here Zimmer has gifted the audience with just another masterpiece in music. The sound of the watch ticking (often played at the start of the trailer) was actually Nolan’s own pocket watch synthesized by Zimmer. Also to his credit is including Edward Elgar‘s most famous variation ‘Nimrod’ from his Enigma Variations in the film’s dramatic theme. Sound mixing is excellent. The roar of a falling enemy aircraft from the sky will haunt you.

Dunkirk is supreme at almost every technical department. Nolan’s screenplay is superbly balanced with Lee Smith‘s editing. The timing of the segments’ stories kept changing ahead and behind to show from other character’s point of view and it is indeed the beauty of editing which makes Dunkirk attract the audience understand the depth of the story from different angles. Hoyte van Hoytema‘s cinematography is sublime. I loved the aerial plane attacking shots.

Christopher Nolan keeps experimenting a new genre and develops his directional methods and ways of telling the stories. His direction is frank, polar and strict to the subject. In first half an hour, the presentation of the film is concentrating on the happenings at the beach, in the air, and at the sea with very remote dialogues. With the help of a phenomenal film editing, Nolan has crafted his Nolanistic method of depicting the heightened realism and giving the viewers a chance to see his artistry like resurrecting for a reason.

Dunkirk is so superior film that in a premiere the Dunkirk veterans wept and expressed if they time traveled back in Dunkirk. The veterans approved the realism and precise presentation of the war. Many critics have declared Dunkirk to be Nolan’s best work to date. It truly is a difficult question with more arguments than announcing the conclusion. Between his Inception, The Dark Knight, Interstellar, and Dunkirk, it seems impossible to pick the best and ignore the rest.

In my opinion, Dunkirk is the greatest war film ever made and will be remembered for ages. The greatest in a sense that the subject has been addressed and crafted in the most excellent form and has to be included in an elite list of the greatest war films like Apocalypse Now and Saving Private Ryan.

Ratings: 9.5/10


“We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds. We shall fight in the fields and in the streets. We shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender. and even if this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

 

Book Review: The Diary Of A Young Girl (1947)

The events of the World Wars staging on the planet earth not only brought the highest recorded casualties of the 20th century but brought many historical consequences and incredible stories. People in my community often take Hitler‘s genocide of killing 6 million European Jews as an act of achievement or blessing because they theorize the opinion that it is the Jews being blood-thirsty toward the Muslims in Palestine for decades. Hardly they are familiar with the Zionism movement and do not recognize the difference between the Jewish religion and the Zionism movement.

The complexity of the subject lies in the tragic state where the Jews were the prime target in The Holocaust. In my life, I personally came to realize that Jews have been war or political victims ever in the timeline when I happened to watch Roman Polanski‘s The Pianist back in 2003. I was familiar with the face of the young Anne Frank as I happen to see in some tribute videos played on the TV a few years ago and I calculated the prominence of her picture in the history section that there is something very memorable about this girl.  Later on, through various sources on the internet, I learned about her personal and posthumous achievement as a teenage diarist revealing some very critical details of the existing chaos in Nazi Germany and the Netherlands, and her very tragic conclusion of giving up life in one of the concentration camps in Germany at a minor age of 15.

Anne Frank rose to posthumous fame globally when her diary was published with the sharp details of her personal life and the war disturbances during her two-year hiding with her family. It is not just an impression of reading a girl’s diary speaking of the world war but it is a deep psychology of understanding one of the 6 million casualties about how a normal person of any age is shaped in the historic or political chaos. How does a girl of 13 with all the luxury of a domestic and school life live an unfortunate life in the two-year hiding with her family?

Everyone in Europe was affected by the world war and Anne Frank is one of the most discussed Jewish victims of that time. As a reader, when you read the first dozens of the letters, you become a child like her. With her writing and your reading, you begin to create and develop an understanding of her, her ideology, her opinion, her social behavior, and attitude towards her parents, her sister, her friends (among which couple of them became more than a friend for a short period), and other people with whom she was hiding in the concealed rooms. Diary was Anne’s best and most loyalist friend but the reading mentally convinces if you are the diary’s replacement and the deceased is talking, admitting, and confessing to you.

Anne wasn’t a childish immature diarist as I was expecting. To my surprise, she was a mature girl who had a treasure of words to describe in detail her physical and emotional developments. She was impressive in giving detail about the structure of the house where the whole family was hiding which is known as the Secret Annex (Achterhuis in Dutch). She has spoken about her relationship with Peter in much detail which draws your attention. Peter was a 16-year-old son of the van Pels family, the family who joined the Franks in the hiding. Besides, she expresses her love for history and literature and set her ambition to become a journalist when the war is finished.

In my reading experience, the dozens of books which I have read so far, this is the book that gives me more pain and grief. I have to admit that when I was reading this book, I was traveling the time and wanting that bad to save the entire family from the evils of invasion. It breaks my heart to understand how much people have to suffer from the decisions made by the people in power. I began thinking while reading her letters about my honest opinion that the whole world, its existence, the life, the timeline, and every creature arriving at the surface are all scripted by God. He is the author, a writer of the fate of the earth and its inhabitants. Anne was bestowed with the diary, a present she got on her 13th birthday from her father. A month later, the hiding began and the diary gifted a month ago became Anne’s keeper of the secrets. For the next two years, she began writing in rich detail about a lot of things until she was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to the concentration camp. It was Miep Gies who hid the Franks and van Pels in the Secret Annex. Months after Anne’s tragic death, Miep found the papers and the diaries on the floor of the concealed room. She didn’t read it but forwarded it to Anne’s father Otto Frank after the war when her death was confirmed in the Autumn of 1945. If there was no war, there would have been no hiding and this book would never be written nor reached us. It is all scripted, Anne wasn’t brought into this world to live a normal life. She was born in the most disturbing timeline at the unfortunate place to write the diary and do us a favor to read her. It is all scripted. 

Miep Gies died a few years ago at the age of 100. One of Anne’s friends, Hanneli Goslar, is still alive at 88 and now lives in Jerusalem with her family. Goslar has appeared in several Anne Frank documentaries. Had Anne not died in the camp, she might have fulfilled her ambition to become a journalist and would have been 88 to date. Anne and her sister Margot were buried in an unknown mass grave but the reading of her memoir is buried in our hearts and we have sympathies and respect for the poor little girl.