The team at GT has had so much fun putting together issue after issue every fortnight for its readers. Despite the challenges faced and a huge change with WFH, weâ€™re proud of the many collaborations and star-studded pages weâ€™ve worked on. Hereâ€™s a quick look at our covers in 2020, as we gear up for a fabulous year ahead.
Over the past fortnight I found myself being pulled in several directions. The demands of being an editor at a fortnightly, along with being editor at a literary journal (The Aleph Review), while running two companies as my day jobs (Consilium Counselling Services and Small Talk IMC) began to overwhelm me. This, though, was just scratching the surface; multiple weddings, dance practices, birthdays, work receptions and book launches took up all the remaining time.
Looking around me, I began noticing this is the life of almost everyone I know. Therefore, choosing a topic for this issue wasnâ€™t hard. The recurring theme from the past fortnight lent itself easily to my pen and is something that has become all too common â€” everyone is just too darn busy!
People seem to constantly be on the go, trying to meet the demands of an unrealistically packed schedule: work, weddings, dance practices, more work, yoga classes, special gym courses, more social commitments and even more work. Trying to meet up with friends to simply â€œhang outâ€ without expectations has become a chore in itself and something to mark in the calendar three weeks in advance, but strictly between 7pm and 8pm because, you guessed it, thatâ€™s all that can be spared. And that too begrudgingly, as all of you will probably be checking your watches and stressing out about the long, seemingly never-ending to-do list. Why bother wasting time watching a movie together and sharing a human experience when you can simply watch Netflix, write a proposal and put on a soul-cleansing mask â€” all at the same time!
â€œNot surprisingly, our defining traits are a constant state of being broke and having to work multiple jobs, or at least thinking of them â€” a result of the global economy that the Baby Boomers have left us withâ€
The common denominator in all of this: millennials.
Millennial, a word thatâ€™s become almost ubiquitous, but also one that continues to gain negative connotation thanks to several social media posts and articles blaming us for ruining various industries from real estate to canned tuna. Allegedly, all millennials do is take â€œaesthetic AFâ€ pictures of avocado toast for Instagram and hence, will never be able to afford a house.
William Strauss and Neil Howe coined this term back in 19871 when referring to those born between the early 1980s and mid-1990s â€” the Gen Y or those succeeding the Baby Boomers. Now, due to social media allowing space for interconnectivity and shared experiences, millennial is no longer relegated to simple demographic terminology, but can be denoted to represent an entire lifestyle. While the Boomers might have had the luxury of the â€œrich and famousâ€ lifestyle, us millennials are generally always â€œbooked and busyâ€ and quite proud of that. This has become so representative of the struggle of our generation that scores of articles have been published addressing the millennial fatigue, burnout and how, despite being constantly immersed in novel experiences, we are prone to loneliness and mental health issues.
The distinguishing factor of being a millennial, therefore, seems to be this constant urge to not have a single moment of actual freedom â€” even that Sunday evening self-care mask becomes a tool for social media content creation. Very rarely do we step out of our â€œwork modeâ€ to just be in the moment. This might be a direct consequence of growing up in an age so integrated with technology (I shudder to think what will happen to the generations below us), but is also something we actively pressure ourselves into doing. Work seems to define us. But why is that so?
In order to decipher the millennial code I turned to those around me. A quick Instagram â€œAsk Me Anythingâ€ directed towards the meanings of being a millennial and our work culture yielded several passionate responses and voice notes.
Not surprisingly, our defining traits are a constant state of being broke and having to work multiple jobs, or at least thinking of them â€” a result of the global economy that the Baby Boomers have left us with. With failing economic systems and widespread job insecurity, itâ€™s no wonder that we feel such financial uncertainty. As Qasim Ahsan, an academic, put it, â€œpunctuating breaks with the fear of fiscal insecurity.â€
Mahnoor Wali, co-founder and IMC consultant at Small Talk, seems to think the integration of technology is making everyone extremely accessible round-the-clock, in turn leading to a need to be available. Weâ€™re fed the narrative of working hard and being on the grind from our parents, however, weâ€™ve taken it to another level; the fact that we are accessible means we should be. Maryam Raja, stylist at Grazia Pakistan, believes itâ€™s also due to the amount of options we have. Comparing our generation to our parentsâ€™, she believes that being a millennial means going out into the world without a definite plan and set expectations.
Another interesting aspect of this was highlighted by Hiba Sheikh, co-founder of Consilium, that technological integration has led to work never stopping and by extension, work relationships having blurred boundaries. This is something I agree with; perhaps the reason why weâ€™re constantly talking about work and how busy we are, is because most of our digital interactions outside of work end up being with our colleagues â€” sharing relevant memes, following up on clients in WhatsApp groups or simply finding common ground to vent.
From what I gathered, the need to â€œlook busyâ€ is brought on by our lives being broadcasted for the world to see on social media. Sure, we might have the liberty to work from home or out of a cafe, be a digital nomad as it were, but at the end, work takes centre stage in our lives. Whatever time we have left, we give to errands and social commitments. We take a certain pride in being â€œbooked and busy,â€ or as my friendâ€™s mother jests, engaged in â€œback-to-backâ€ meetings. This high we get from a lengthy to-do list or having more work to do than the next person has serious negative mental health consequences that are only just being explored.
However, I did see a fascinating trend in all the responses I received to my Instagram story. Most Pakistanis were the ones highlighting the negative aspects of being stuck in the millennial generation; whether it was dismay at juggling ten different projects and multiple screens, hustling constantly or being perpetually broke. Contrastingly, my foreign friends were the ones extolling the benefits of being a millennial: freedom to choose what you want, working for what you believe in rather than being a cog in the machine, flexible working schedules and finding your own work ethic.
I believe what it boils down to is this: weâ€™re in the digital age and thereâ€™s no escaping it; thereâ€™s no such thing as work-life balance anymore because work is life and vice versa. However, the advantage we have is that our generation is gravitating increasingly towards a lifestyle of fulfilment and inner satisfaction, despite financial uncertainty. We need to focus on these aspects of our millennial work culture and avoid the strains of projecting a perfectly well-adjusted life where all deadlines are met. That pressure has coined its own term, the millennial burnout; we must remember that our need for excelling at our passion projects and putting them up on Instagram should not outweigh our very human need of relaxing and finding joy in real human experiences.
1- Horovitz, Bruce (4 May 2012).Â â€œAfter Gen X, Millennials, what should next generation be?â€.Â USA Today. Retrieved 22 April 2019
Spring has sprung and nature is in fullÂ bloom. The stunning Sabeeka ImamÂ captures the seasonâ€™s essence against aÂ magical, floral backdrop
In Pakistan, the arrival of spring doesnâ€™t only bring with it the promise of new life and a chance to start afresh, or to even lose those kilos we have been packing over the winter wedding seasonâ€”it also brings with it a peculiar phenomenon now known as “lawn season.” Season is quite an appropriate word to describe this, as this once simple fabric has now taken a life of its own.
Just as the flowers start to bloom again and the temperature slowly rises, we are bombarded form all sides with the latest in lawn. Billboards, television commercials, flyers, print advertisements, social media updates, press releasesâ€”all somehow work in perfect harmony to bring to us “the most coveted lawn.” Images of models, local and international, dressed to the nines and accessorised to the max in exotic locations are imploring us to think of nothing else but this fabric. Somehow, all your sorrows and the miserable summer can be easily fixed if you just have the right lawn outfit it seems.
Lawn season begins as early as mid-February now and brings with it its own counterpart to spring fever i.e. (you guessed it) “lawn fever.” Anyone who has been following lifestyle social media accounts from Pakistan over the last few years is aware of the mania these few months induce in consumers. Long queues outside favourite labels and fights over the last article of a certain design have, sadly, become common. However, this was not always the case.
The “lawn wars,” as some publicists are prone to call it, have only begun recently, but have firmly taken over annual spring festivities. Not too long ago, I remember lawn being spoken of in very normal terms and not given the priority status it enjoys today. But why is that so? And where did it come from?
I was quite surprised to learn that there’s a French connection when it comes to lawn. This seemingly simple fabric got its name from the town of Laon in Northern France, where linen lawn was heavily manufactured
The conversation around lawn has always been there; even as a child I remember that the change of season meant my mother and many women around me had to go and get new lawn clothes made. Yet, the ubiquity of lawn nowadays and the almost reverence with which it is discussed did not exist before. I blame the rise of social media making it easier for fashion houses to reach out to consumers, allowing them to take a simple fabric and elevate it to the level of almost “everyday couture;”Â they market it in such a way that there is no other recourse.
With all this talk of lawn, I decided to look into this. What is this fabric? Where did it come from?
I was quite surprised to learn that there’s a French connection when it comes to lawn. This seemingly simple fabric got its name from the town of Laon in Northern France, where linen lawn was heavily manufactured. According to the Fairchild Books Dictionary of Textiles, lawn is a “fine, plain weave relatively sheer cotton fabric made in close constructions.” It was used initially to make blouses, dresses (for both women and children) and even handkerchiefs. Other names of the fabric are Batiste and Nainsook.
The original term “lawn” was used for fine linen fabric with an open texture and that is still called linen lawn. Over the years, especially in the Subcontinent with its abundance of good cotton, lawn moved from linen to cotton. The fact that it’s a breathable fabric made it gain popularity due to the extreme summer conditions in the region. Moreover, it lends itself to be dyed easily and printed on; this opened an entirely new avenue for womenswear.
Lawn continued its hold over womenswear for the warmer months for decades. However, with the rise of fashion houses in Pakistan and the constant innovation taking place in the fashion industry, lawn took on new meaning. Catapulted to luxury status, designer lawn is the most sought after fabric every spring. Whether it is stitched or unstitched, a full three-piece suit or just separates, lawn dominates. Designers continue to come up with newer prints every year and embellish them further with intricate embroideries and accessories. Due to the often high price points of designer lawn, imitation lawn vendors have cropped up that allow everyone to be able to wear the designs of the season.
There’s a lot to be said about this, in my opinion. Gone are the times when women would buy unlabelled lawn fabric and simply get their clothes made on their own. Now it’s about whose lawn you wear and whether you were able to get it in time or not. I mean, why would you still be wearing Volume 1 when Volume 2 is clearly in vogue, am I right?
The lawn phenomenon plays directly into our consumerist tendencies and brands comply. Every year budgets are bigger and campaigns are flashier. Social media has definitely played its part in making designer lawn more of a necessity than before.
Whether the demand was created or not, whether there’s a real need for lawn to be so fancy or not, those are lengthier discussions. For now, we just have to accept that we have another season going on and that’s called lawn. Happy shopping ladies!
The power list of trailblazers who have championedÂ Â gallant causes and raised standards of success in their respective fields
Managing Director, Careem Pakistan and Saudi Arabia; Co-founder and Chairperson, Salt Arts
Managing Director of Careem Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, Junaid Iqbal is also the co-founder and Chairperson of Salt Arts- Pakistanâ€™s leading Arts Management and Production agency, with an overriding focus on creating experiential live music events. An economist by training, Junaid is lauded as a growth and turnaround specialist with a diverse professional portfolio. From an energy futures trader in the US, launching and hosting groundbreaking television shows and leading privatisation deals to the tune of $1.6 billion as CEO of Elixir Securitiesâ€”he has done it all.Â Junaid spends his free time listening to music, reading and spending time in the mountains.Â Text: Areesha Chaudhry
Jibran is a human rights activist who fearlessly works for the protection of minorities in Pakistan. He is a trustee at Elaj Trust and founded the NGO, Never Forget Pakistan.Â Â His work got him featured in Foreign Policy Magazine amongst the three Pakistanis making considerable effort against sectarian violence. In January 2015, he played a key role in organising a new movement to reclaim Pakistan from violent extremism.Â Text: Hassan Tahir Latif
After graduating from the Aga Khan University, Dr. Mohsin Ali Mustafa went on to pursue a career in public health and co-founded Clinic5, an affordable health delivery service in Pakistan. Despite being a strong proponent of the scale of impact his field offers, he believes healthcare within our country requires a radical shift. With Clinic5, he aims to work towards that very dream and hopes of a Pakistan where basic medical treatment is readily available to all.Â Â Dr. Mustafa is a 2015 Asia 21 Young Leader at the Asia Society and a regional fellow at the Acumen Fellowship for social entrepreneurs. In 2018 he joined the Harvard School of Public Health as a Bernard Lown Scholar. He is also a Weidenfeld-Hoffmann & Skoll Scholar at the University of Oxfordâ€™s SaÃ¯d Business School.Â Â Mohsin balances the love for his work with his passion for the outdoors and reading books.Â Text: Mehek Raza Rizvi
Ishaq Kothawala gave up his monotonous day job, realising he wanted more from life than just working day in and out to help build someone elseâ€™s empire. Chasing his dream of doing something meaningful and of scalable impact, he put all his bets on Bykea, an all-in-one app for transportation, delivery and payment services. The young entrepreneur is a huge advocate of the convenience technology offers and hopes to use it to add value to peopleâ€™s lives. Text: Sana Zehra
The trio behind The Videographers (TVG) quit their respective jobs in the same year to start working on an idea they had in college. After five years of building and working on TVG, they now have offices in Lahore, Karachi and Dubai with a team of over 50 people, making them the largest video production house in the country. They credit their successful partnership to their complementing personalities. Zohaib is a vigorous planner and go-getter, Kabeer is more composed and rational and Zain is introspective and extremely artistic; each partner brings something distinctive to the table. With growing demands on digital video content, TVG has since expanded its services to include a content creation agency by the name of Viral Media and TED, which is a full circle event concierge planning, and design service. Furthermore, TVG also plans to launch a content creation studio in 2020 where YouTubers can shoot live videos using the TVG platform.Â Text: Areesha Chaudhry
Moin Khan is a graduate of San Francisco State University. Upon graduating he started working for a Bay Area startup company ‘SecretBuilders’ but soon quit to pursue his passion for adventure and riding bikes. He spent June through December 2011 travelling from San Francisco, California to Lahore, Pakistan on his Honda CBR F4i sports bike, for which he became viral on social media. Since then Moin has used his popularity to encourage tourism across Pakistan under the name of ‘A Different Agenda.’ His upcoming project includes Pakistan’s first ever motorcycle racing event to be held in Punjab within the next couple of months.Â Text: Hassan Tahir Latif
Shayan Zaeem Khan, an avid gamer, co-founded Caramel Tech Studios in 2011. The Lahore-based company is a premier game development house that has worked on blockbuster games like Blades of Battle and RPG.
He also co-founded Fizz Inc in 2015, raising over $1 million in seed capital. Fizz helps to break down language barriers in the gaming community and connects over two billion gamers across the globe. Text: Hassan Tahir Latif
In August 2018, Saif Noon became the first Pakistani to have finished the worldâ€™s longest and toughest horse race at just ninteen years of age. The Mongol Derby is a thousand kilometre horse race through the Mongolian Steppe. This race is meant to be similar to the horse messenger system created by the Mongolian ruler, Genghis Khan. The horses used for the race were semi wild, while the terrain included deserts, steppes, fields, mountains, hills and even rivers.Â Saif has been riding since he was seven and has helped raise funds for charities through the sport. He is currently pursuing his undergraduate degree at The Royal Agricultural University in England.Â Text: Areesha Chaudhry
Shahnawaz Zali is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Qatar campus. Shahnawaz was nominated for a Student Academy Award in 2016 for his documentary on suicide bombers, 100 Stepsâ€”Sou Qadam. He’s gone on to win several other accolades at international events including the Miami Independent Film Festival and the Accolade Global Film Festival. He also made the Forbes Asia 30 under 30 list in 2017.Â Text: Sana Zehra
Sarmad Ahmad has seen the issue of mental health first hand. Members of his family suffered and recovered from various issues and he saw much stigma and miscommunication surrounding mental well-being. This is what inspired him to start an online counseling site. Saaya Health offers online counselling with trained professional counselors. Saaya also teamed up with organizations to help improve emotional health by simple tech solutions. Change according to Sarmad is a slow process. By focusing on core strength Saaya is helping make therapy and counselling commonplace.Â Text: Sana Zehra
When six-pack abs aren’t enough
â€˜Body Positivityâ€™â€”two words that have gained a lot of traction in our vernacular of late and have encouraged countless women across the world to have a healthier outlook towards their own bodies. Even within our own society, the body positivity and self love movement has taken root and continues to challenge traditional norms of physical beauty. In fact, several corporations and design houses that cater to females have become strong proponents of the philosophy, executing campaigns in support of body positivity and self love. Although the impact of this movement is widespread and continues to grow due to the influence of social media, it rarely touches upon another demographic: males.
While women endeavour to support each other against body shaming, it seems as if men continue to drown out voices that speak up on their behalf. In my opinion, this behaviour can be relegated to the heteronormative behaviour expected of men. The largely patriarchal social structures of South Asia continue to propound ideals that are now being dubbed â€œtoxic masculinity.â€ A quick look at social media debates on this topic demonstrates this clearly: men are quick to judge others for calling out toxic masculine behaviour and deride its implications. Such toxicity does not only lend itself to the behaviour of men, but also to their physical appearance. Just as women have been expected to fit a certain mould to be desirable, so have men. Where women are told to be nothing short of Miloâ€™s Venus, men are expected to be the spitting image of a Greek god. Having struggled with my own body, and being the occasional target of a jab, I decided to look into this further.
I have always been shorter than those around me and for a large part of my life I was underweight. Only recently, after active effort, have I reached what is considered to be the â€œnormalâ€ BMI for someone of my stature and age. However, while I was lucky enough to develop confidence to combat any body shaming I faced, I realise now that many others canâ€™t or havenâ€™t.
â€œMost importantly,Â we need to give space for men to express their insecurities. A shift from our heteronormative expectations of men that are debilitating for mental health, can be the startâ€
Delving into the debate on body disorders I quickly found out that Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is more serious than I previously thought. It has been classified as a mental illness by many global psychiatric professionals and organisations. However, this perception rarely transfers over to our daily lives. Even though BDD is on the extreme end, modern day gym culture and the constant bombardment of an Adonis-like male physique through advertisements and media portrayals of â€œperfect menâ€ continue to put many men on the risk spectrum. According to one American study, the percentage of men that are unhappy with their bodies has tripled in the past twenty-five yearsâ€”a drastic increase indeed1.
Donâ€™t get me wrong, Iâ€™m not saying that fitness is unimportant or should be neglected. I myself felt like a whole new person once I began working out and was able to experience firsthand the positive effects that exercise can have on the mind, body and self-esteem. But as with anything, an unhealthy obsession has negative consequences. To understand this better I reached out to body activist Musa Hayat, who is currently based in London and is a strong proponent of having a healthy relationship with oneâ€™s body.
Musa echoed my sentiments regarding the reason behind why South Asian men in particular might be unwilling to discuss body positivity. According to him, the alpha-male mindset that is so embedded in our society, discourages men from openly addressing their insecurities and hence gives way to dissatisfaction. This in turn can lead to a range of mental health issues from anxiety to BDD.
What fascinated me the most during my research was how those we deem to have the â€œperfectâ€ body are also victim to this phenomenon. Reading up on the blogs and Instagram captions of several international fitness models, I observed something peculiar: men with the much sought after physique were equally dissatisfied with their appearance. This was troubling for me; while I struggle to maintain a normal BMI, those with chiseled abs and â€œSuperman bicepsâ€ – the Holy Grail of fitness if you may – want more. Having six-pack abs isnâ€™t enough for them; they continue to want lower body-fat percentages and more defined physiques. This is not altogether a foreign concept in Pakistan either. To get further insight into this I spoke to Sameer Malik, a fitness trainer and the entrepreneur behind Iron Box in Lahore.
Speaking to him, I found out that most men aim for a muscular, bulky body that resembles that of fitness models, athletes or movie stars. Regarding why those with the â€œperfectâ€ body continue to be dissatisfied, he suggested itâ€™s because of the general need of humans to want more. Once again, it is about perception. If one wants to challenge their body to improve for health reasons, Iâ€™m all for it. But those who have an unhealthy obsession, where the goal of their life is to achieve unattainable, unsustainable body-fat percentages or cuts, thatâ€™s where the problem comes in.Â Sameer further admitted that there are negatives when people buy into the online myth of constantly having a perfect body, but also stated that social media has made fitness a lot more accessible to people.
In conclusion, having spoken to body activists, trainers and friends, it boils down to what I assumed was the problem all along. Men in our society are conditioned to bottle their feelings, to always be better than the man next to them and to increase their manliness constantly. When it comes to the physical, this takes form in the never-ending quest of a perfect body. This constant dissatisfaction, spurred on by social media, can for many create an unhealthy obsession. Fitness is important, but using it negatively, like anything else, is dangerous. We need to focus on fitness from a health perspective and understand that not all bodies are the same.
Most importantly, we need to give space for men to express their insecurities. A shift from our heteronormative expectations of men that are debilitating for mental health, can be the start.
Notes: Â 1.Â Pope HG, Phillips KA, Olivardia R.Â The Adonis complex: the secret crisis of male body obsession.Â New York: Free Press; 2000.
“Love is a many splendored thing / Love lifts us up where we belong / All you need is love” begins Ewan McGregor in Moulin Rouge. Not long after Nicole Kidman retorts, “Love is just a game”
I adore this scene (the Elephant Love Medley) from the roller coaster of emotions that is Moulin Rouge by Baz Luhrmann. It perfectly captures the turning point of the protagonistsâ€™ lives as they hurl towards a love that they believe is their destiny. And who can deny destiny right? Indifferent to the consequences of a forbidden relationship, they decide that their love will defy all odds. The movie ends (no spoilers here) and youâ€™re left with a heavy heart. But through the parting words – and even the post-credits images – the concept of believing in an everlasting love is reinforced manifold.
Growing up in an age where technology had just begun to take its roots in society and had not yet intervened in the most private moments of our lives, it seemed that adulthood would comprise of such grand romantic gestures, accompanied by their own orchestral score and definitely choreographed dancing; Bollywood or Hollywood – you take your pick.
All our lives, such expectations have been ingrained in our minds: the perfect Hallmark moments of dating, proposing, marriage and married life. Everything had to be that: perfect, painstakingly so. It doesnâ€™t help that the commercialisation of love through movies, TV shows and even days such as Valentineâ€™s have led us to believe that if we are not married at a certain age and in an almost symbiotic relationship with a partner, that we havenâ€™t achieved anything.
However, in the absence of the digital age, we kept chasing this made-up idea of the one true love around street corners and in vintage bookstores, or in our case, in clandestine encounters at cafes. But then, quite suddenly, technology and dating apps took over. There was a new medium to find the One. Even Rishta Aunties were replaced by matrimonial websites, well not entirely.
Yet, it was not until recent years that the digital world truly interfered in our love lives. The advent of social media as we know it today facilitated a different kind of relationship: the digital one. With phone applications such as Tinder, Minder, Bumble etc. and the DM (direct messaging) option on many social media sites such as Instagram and Twitter, connecting became much easier. But isnâ€™t that what social media and technology are supposed to do? Connect us to a wider audience?
Althoug, this did have its upside in making us become a socially aware generation that recognises injustices, relationships and the pursuit of love have changed entirely with the rise of the social justice warrior (SJW). We are now aware that many of our childhood rom-coms had sexist, misogynistic portrayals of women, that women are not objects and that consent is important in every aspect of a relationship. The spread of the #MeToo movement like wildfire, further kept us all in check and many ideals set by rom-coms were understood to be harmful to society.
But what else has changed?
Options. We have a lot more options: in clothes, food, travel destinations, social justice causes, make-up, everything. This choice is made easy by the numerous social media apps that are a touch away on our phones. We are constantly looking for the next best thing and comparing our lives to the heavily curated ones of social media influencers and other media personalities.
â€œLove isn’t an airbrushed photograph, but is a bunch of compromises, arguments, and the daily struggle of two people living their lives together – of course sprinkled with cute Instagram momentsâ€
But what about love?
Speaking to people around me – the millennials – I have figured that the concept of love has remained the same: an unattainable fairy tale. But now instead of an occasional movie or TV show, itâ€™s bombarded on a daily basis at us through the well-curated social media accounts of influencers and celebrities. With this constant reminder of one not living a perfect life, everyone is looking for the next best thing. This has, worryingly, crept into dating as well. With many putting up detailed profiles online and Instagram accounts documenting every moment of the day, along with â€œdigital datesâ€ where every question is asked and answered, a physical encounter becomes meaningless. It perhaps then serves only as a way to judge physical attraction.
Another aspect that worries those around me is the ease of access to the previously inaccessible. It is now very easy to â€œslide into someoneâ€™s DMsâ€ and begin conversing with several people at once; these people can be regular Joes and Jills or your favourite celebrity that you could only write fan mail to a few years ago. This level of open interaction lulls everyone into a false sense of what they can achieve in reality.
The problem is that in the midst of this the human connection is lost. Fairy tale love was unattainable in the analogue days but at least people went out and interacted with each other and tried to win the other personâ€™s affections through their personality. Now itâ€™s your Instagram engagement rate, the best profile picture you can put up on Tinder or how wise you sound on Twitter. How many of us are guilty of posting on social media just to get someone elseâ€™s attention? Almost all social media users are.
Where does this leave us? This increased interconnectivity is being used to reach out to celebrities, models and influencers, but we have become wary of a simple â€œhiâ€ to the person next to us. We donâ€™t realise that online profiles are meant to attract attention and the lives of online couples donâ€™t represent love. Our concept of love has remained warped. Instead of the digital age making real connections possible, it has only fostered further confusion. Love isnâ€™t an airbrushed photograph, but is a bunch of compromises, arguments, and the daily struggle of two people living their lives together – of course sprinkled with â€œcute Instagram moments.â€
What we need to remember is that love at its foundation is a human feeling and giving in to the power of a DM or the digitisation of love, we have removed its essence. Love might be a many splendoured thing, but it is definitely not always â€œrainbows and butterfliesâ€ as Adam Levine from Maroon 5 rightly suggests in She Will Be Loved.
The debate on cultural appropriation has become a hot topic over the years, especially in the era of “woke” social media. But why is it that we are only upset when our own cultureâ€™s on the line?
I grew up ambivalent about the obsession of the West with the East. At times it seemed unhealthy, laughable or even honorific. I eventually began to see it as a positive thing and appreciated the need of western tourists on a spiritual journey through eastern countries to “find themselves.” The world was becoming a global village, so perhaps this was not necessarily a bad thing. If someone wanted to practice yoga or feng shui, wasn’t it good for the originating culture that their centuries old practices were being exposed to the world at large?
Then came the age of social media and easy access to ideas from around the world. Examples of the way western nations were essentially appropriating other cultures were exposed for the entire world to see. If you type in “cultural appropriation news” in Google you’re bombarded with articles detailing the crimes against culture in almost every field: fashion, celebrity lifestyles, music, art and even the culinary world. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has recently been accused of appropriating a jerk rice dish from Jamaica without respect for its heritage.
Soon, I saw a major problem within my own society that fails to see anything wrong with blackface, white models wearing Native American headgear at Coachella, white singers pretending to be black, jokes targeted against features of Asian ethnicities and the list goes on. Unfortunately, most of us are only riled up by incidents of cultural appropriation when it’s our own at stake.
When Paul Smith designed what is essentially a Peshawari chappal in 2014 and called it “Robert,” priced at Â£300, we were outraged. There was no mention of Pakistan, let alone of the rich history behind the chappal. Similary, when Moschino’s Jeremy Scott sent models down the runway for his Resort 2017 Collection, all one could see was our native mirror work that’s popular on both sides of the border.
Forever 21’s kolhapuri style sandals (that in my opinion could have also been a rip off from various African cultures) being sold for 10 times the amount of their Pakistani counterparts infuriated us. Outrage everywhere.
We were all in agreement that it is acceptable for western design houses to use our cultural elements, as long as due credit is given. The biggest issue with appropriation is that those with historic privilege â€” those who have subjugated our culture and identities and continue to do so â€” profit off that very culture without any mention of the design origins.
On a side note, I must sayÂ that the outrage over howÂ international designers price those items is unfair. If a $3 kolhapuri being sold for $48 abroad upsets us, then why don’t we proudly wear our colours and culture when abroad, rather than blatantly assimilating? But that warrants another discussion.
Sadly, most people in Pakistan don’t bat an eye against cultural appropriation, as long as it does not affect our own. When Pakistani designers shoot fashion campaigns using African tribes as backdrops, or our photographers use blackface and Afros in shoots (cataloguing them as experimentation with form), we forget that we are guilty of appropriation ourselves.
We overlook our own racist attitudes towards other people of colour and hence we rarely stand up for other cultures being appropriated. “My culture is not your costume” is a line we rarely understand, until a gora wears a shalwar and calls it â€œAladdin pants.â€ Why is it that we forget to empathise with other cultures? What gives us the right to think of ourselves as superior to others, while clamouring for equality with the “whites?”
Could it be the inferiority complex that is embedded in our post-colonial society? We are all too happy to be appreciated by the “white man” as long as they give credit to us, but we very easily portray other cultures in a demeaning manner. Perhaps weâ€™re just indifferent when it comes to due diligence and research.
The fashion industry is uniquely poised in our country to educate the masses. With increasing internet penetration, especially among the clientele of fashion brands, it has become imperative that the industry becomes responsible.
Fashion and art are transcendental and should not be confined to cultural boundaries. But in a world that is trying to move on from the atrocities of colonialism and is still failing to end systemic racism, simply recognising the originating culture of inspiration and doing basic research can be steps in the right direction.
Who says siblings only colour coordinate their outfits as kids? Zara and Ahmad Abbas wear burgundy in their own unique ways
Children of the veteran actress Asma Abbas, and niece and nephews of the legendary Bushra Ansari, these siblings were naturally drawn to the entertainment industry. What makes their performances truly special though, is their exceptional devotion to the craft
There’s nothing quite like a sibling bond. Waqas, Ahmad and Zara have always inspired and protected each other, but also never missed out on an