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Posts Tagged ‘pakistan’

Maria Toorpakai is the top-ranked female squash player in Pakistan. Toorpakai is coached by retired Canadian squash star Jonathon Power, pictured here.

WBUR’s Only a Game is great at searching out fascinating sports stories that few media channels cover. Here is one about a female squash player bucking the odds in a conservative part of Pakistan, where girls just don’t do this kind of thing.

Karen Given reports, “There are places in this world where games aren’t just games and where sports heroes have the power to be more than just pixels on a television screen.

“One of those places is Waziristan, part of Pakistan’s tribal region. That’s where Maria Toorpakai grew up. Her sport was squash, and her hero was Jonathan Power — a Canadian who, in 1999, became the first North American squash player to become No. 1 in the world.

“From an early age, Toorpakai wasn’t like the other girls.

” ‘When I was two years old, I could see the happiness in boys’ faces and more glow. But most of the women are just no one, you know? …

” ‘I thought maybe it’s the differences because boys have different clothes than girls. So then I took all my girly dresses and I took it to the backyard and I burnt them, and I was four-and-a-half. I saw my father and he didn’t say anything but when I looked at him he just smiled and said, “Well, I guess I have a fifth son now.” ‘

“Toorpakai’s father allowed her to masquerade as a boy and play sports. But when she discovered squash at the age of 12, the family’s secret began to unravel.

” ‘There’s a proper squash academy and he took me there. And he asked what we should do for squash, and my son wants to play squash. The director of the squash academy, he said definitely we will give membership to this kid. You have to bring the birth certificate first. My father got a little nervous.’

“Maria Toorpakai tells her story In Her Own Words. To hear the full story, click [this page] the play button below the headline at the top of the page. Toorpakai’s book is called ‘A Different Kind of Daughter.’ ”

I really recommend becoming familiar with WBUR’s Only a Game, here. It’s syndicated nationally, and non-sports fans love it as much as sports fans.

Longtime host Bill Littlefield is an unusual sports maven. An English professor, he covers football but especially how it hurts athletes, and he has instituted an approach to interviews (like Toorpakai’s) in which a talented interviewer (like Karen Givens) asks probing questions that enable interviewees to tell their own story. The interviewer’s voice doesn’t appear. I love this idea. It sounds so natural.

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She’s a mild-mannered school teacher in Pakistan — unless education for girls is threatened, and then, watch out! She’s the Burka Avenger!

Salman Masood and Declan Walsh have the story at the NY Times: “Cartoon fans in Pakistan have been excited by the arrival of the country’s first caped crusader, in the form of a female superhero who flies through the air, battling villains using pens and books.

“The heroine, Burka Avenger, is certainly an unusual role model for female empowerment in Pakistan: a woman who uses martial arts to battle colorful villains …

“But the cartoon, in which a demure schoolteacher, Jiya, transforms into the action heroine by donning a burqa, or traditional cloak, has also triggered an awkward debate about her costume.

“ ‘Is it right to take the burqa and make it look “cool” for children, to brainwash girls into thinking that a burqa gives you power instead of taking it away from you?” asked the novelist and commentator Bina Shah in a blog post.

“The criticism has not overshadowed the broader welcome that Burka Avenger, which aired [in Islamabad] for the first time on Sunday evening, has received. With slick computer animation, fast-paced action and flashes of humor that even adults can appreciate, the character could offer Pakistanis a new cultural icon akin to Wonder Woman in the United States.”

And she is generating some thoughtful discussions about the role of girls and women and the importance of education for girls.  The show’s maker, pop star Aaron Haroon Rashid, points out that the burka is merely the heroine’s disguise.

(An excellent disguise indeed, used effectively by the playwright Tony Kushner in Homebody/Kabul, about a Western woman who leaves home and disappears in Afghanistan.)

Read more about the cartoon show here.

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Originally, I was just going to write about a new State Department program that brings foreign cultural acts to the United States. There had been a story in the Boston Globe.

“The US State Department, which has long sent American artists abroad as part of its cultural diplomacy efforts, is for the first time launching a sizable program to bring foreign performers here — an initiative administered by the New England Foundation for the Arts. Comedians, puppeteers, musicians, and dancers from Pakistan, Haiti, and Indonesia will tour to small and midsize cities across America next year as part of the nearly $2 million Center Stage program. ‘Since the early ’50s, we’ve basically sent groups overseas to do people-to-people exchange for mutual understanding,’ said Ann Stock, assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs. ‘This is the first time we’re bringing 10 groups to Main Street America.’ ”

It sounded like a nice experience for foreign visitors and audiences alike.

But not all summer visitors who come in under the auspices of the State Department get what they expect. J-1 visas, for example, are given out for young people to work here and enjoy cultural interactions. But according to Monica Lopossay in Thursday’s New York Times, things cans go wrong, especially if job placements are contracted out to contractors who also contract them out.

In Palmyra, near Hersey (PA), “Hundreds of foreign students, waving their fists and shouting defiantly in many languages, walked off their jobs on Wednesday at a plant here that packs Hershey’s chocolates, saying a summer program that was supposed to be a cultural exchange had instead turned them into underpaid labor.

“The students, from countries including China, Nigeria, Romania and Ukraine, came to the United States through a long-established State Department summer visa program that allows them to work for two months and then travel. The students said they were expecting to practice their English, make money and learn what life is like in the United States.

“In a way, they did. About 400 foreign students were put to work lifting heavy boxes and packing Reese’s candies, Kit-Kats and Almond Joys on a fast-moving production line, many of them on a night shift. After paycheck deductions for fees associated with the program and for their rent, students said at a rally in front of the huge packing plant that many of them were not earning nearly enough to recover what they had spent in their home countries to obtain their visas.” Read more here.

In Rhode Island, our family often meets up with young adults on J-1 visas. They staff the grocery store and the restaurants in summer. For us, it is a nice cultural exchange to talk to people from Ukraine, Moldova, or Serbia, but it’s hard to know if the visitors are having a valuable experience. Often their housing is not great, but the location is beautiful and many make good friends.

If you know more about this, do weigh in.

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On the Tuesday after Memorial Day I ran into a woman I know who works in another department. She grew up in New York City, where her father worked at the United Nations. Her family is from Pakistan. After inquiring about her weekend, I learned that she had cooked for 80 by herself, serving everyone in her backyard! The meal sounded amazing, so I asked her to e-mail the menu to me.

hi, here was my menu, enjoy!

mixed vegetable pilaf, BBQ chicken with various spices, beef kabobs, fenugreek and potatoes, samosas filled with ground chicken, corn, cow’s feet, naan, yogurt, Pakistani bread pudding

Cow’s feet/trotters are considered a delicacy in Pakistan.  Mine took 7 hours to make of which 6 hours were cooked on the regular stove and one hour was in the pressure cooker.  Ideally, you should be able to cook them for about 75 minutes in the pressure cooker.  However, since I was making such a large quantity I decided to cook them on the stove.  After six hours, I gave up and cooked a few batches separately in the pressure cooker 🙂

So I got to thinking, I wonder how many different kinds of banquets prepared by people from different countries of origin are being cooked for backyard parties on Memorial Day. Or July 4. What a recipe book that would make!

Do you publish cookbooks? You may take the idea and run with it. This book will surely be too heavy to carry, given all the different groups that make up America. You may have to make it an online e-book.

 

Reader Asakiyune writes, “The woman who cooked for 80 TOTALLY INTIMIDATES ME. Cooking for 10 is about all I want to ever try managing! … maybe 15 or 20. 80? 80?? Yowza. And I liked your earlier entry, on the group doing mild ecumenicism for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. I hope you can interest your religious ed director in hosting a lecture by the organizing woman.

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