An insightful conversation with my ungrateful self



On my way to work, just south the memory lane I bumped into a girl coming from the opposite direction. We both looked startled by this unexpected collision, ‘I’m sorry, I wasn’t looking straight’ she apologized sheepishly. Feeling a bit awkward, I apologized on my part and explained how I was more focused on reading a text on my cell phone. Intrigued by the title of the book she was holding in her hands, I asked if she was a student. ‘Yes, yes I am… I’m in the process of completing my masters in Philosophy.’  Impressive, I thought.

I started walking towards the coffee shop just across the road and she followed. Hmm, I guess she likes the coffee from the same cafe. We both ordered mocha latte and settled ourselves on a small round table with two chairs. Maybe she wants to stick around a bit with me, I thought to myself sipping the hot coffee. ‘I love their coffee and the cosy atmosphere of this place.’  What a coincidence, I murmured.

‘So what do you do?’ she asked looking interested in my life. It took few seconds to analyse my life and ‘things I do’ before replying, ‘you know, I once studied philosophy too.’ ‘She seemed more interested and started asking questions related to the future of this subject in terms of career and has it helped me in anyway at all. I explained her how I never pursued this subject professionally and can’t seem to think of any classmates too. A hint of disappointment flashed in her eyes, ‘so it’s not worth the effort then, is it? Well, truth be told, I only opted for this subject as I have always been fascinated by philosophical inquiries and debates.’

Somehow, her words sounded familiar. She seemed five or six years younger than me, full of energy and determination to make things work in her life. Interrupting my chain of thoughts, she asked, ‘so… tell me more, what have you done after completing the degree?’ This time she sounded more of a friend than a stranger. ‘Well, nothing much. I have been working in some media organisations, got married settled down in another country and still struggling in my own way.’ ‘That sounds great; looks like you did get what you aimed for’. ‘I am not so sure about it’, I muttered. She interrupted, ‘If you see it through my eyes, I think you have accomplished what I or anybody in my age would wish for. Aren’t you happy with your life? 

Is it true that I am not happy with my life? I looked at her and a sense of familiarity hit me just then. She was the five years younger version of me. Remembering now, I was in her position once, sitting in that exact same spot sipping my coffee I once jotted the things I would want to have in next couple of years. I titled it as my ‘grand five years plan’. So … I actually should be happy having accomplished what I had set five years ago but too engaged in writing another list of things to achieve in coming years. How very ungrateful of me!

Flying high with PIA, an experience of a lifetime

While planning an exotic destination to visit during vacation period we all spend time considering the airline to invest money and faith in. The notion of flying with an airline with a proven track of crashing once in a while does sound not only foolish but border line insane. It makes me wonder why some airlines are still in business and most of all why do people prefer them for travelling? In their defense there are reasons such as cheap rates, direct flights and more luggage allowance.

Internet is full of websites giving you information related to travel guide and you can avoid dangerous airlines . There is another website which has listed some safe airline options as well, do check out at

I find the notion of flying on a plane very uncomfortable. Anything on the road with wheels on sounds good to me. So this year in January when we had to make the big decision of choosing a reliable airline offering good rates, we had to choose between direct or an indirect flight. Travelling during peak seasons costs more than off season tickets so we had to carefully select the airline for travelling. Our travel agent suggested us to board a direct flight to Lahore, Pakistan as it takes around 16 hours and chances of losing luggage during indirect flights are higher than the direct flights.

PIA plane at Toronto Pearson International just before the take off.

PIA plane at Toronto Pearson International just before the take off.

So what do you get when you want, a) A direct flight to Pakistan, b) That too in low rates? It’s always PIA (Pakistan International Airlines). If it was solely upon us with no outside interference I would have preferred cancelling the trip altogether. I mean why would I want to risk our lives by travelling in an airline which has always been under scrutiny by media for its poor maintenance. Only recently a PIA plane en route to Dubai via Lahore caught fire soon after taking off. Lucky for the 50 something souls trapped inside the pilot immediately landed safely. Few weeks back a PIA pilot was arrested and accused of being drunk at Leeds Bradford International Airport in Britain just before his flight. Imagine how comfortable I would be while travelling in an airline with a bad repute when I am already a self proclaimed aviophobic.

Having spent a good amount of cash in buying air tickets we were left with no choice but to board the plane and proceed with our journey. Surprisingly my over all experience with PIA turned out to be good (At least I made it back in Toronto alive).

Great luggage allowance:

The luggage allowance that PIA offers is great, each passenger is allowed to carry 2 bags of 28 kgs along with an additional 7kgs for hand luggage. So while I was packing my bags I stuffed some extra gifts and clothing just to relish the benefit and even then I had few kgs left. PIA’s luggage allowance is an appealing factor which is why many Pakistanis prefer to travel in it unlike other airlines.


Rarely, one can feel comfortable in a plane during those long boring flights. In terms of seating, I had a very bad experience with PIA. The seats were very congested and some guy at the back took off his smelly shoes right after getting in the plane… yeah I lost my sleep and peace for good 16 hours.

Worn out seat covers with dysfunctional screens.

Worn out seat covers with dysfunctional screens.

Lunch is served!

Lunch is served!

Food and service:

As the entertainment system in most part of the plane was dysfunctional, they turned on cool blue lights with a starry sky effect, which was our cue to go off to sleep. Air hostesses were a seldom sight. So, in case somebody needed a drink while the attendant wasn’t in sight, they had to get it themselves as the little call button wasn’t very effective.

We were served food an hour after take off from Toronto, but the serving was ridiculously small, making me want to call my favourite pizza delivery from 30,000 ft in the air. I remember feeling that this could never satisfy my hunger but boy was I wrong, as the tiny substitute of a meal packed quite a punch. There is something about the way they prepare it which makes the food so heavy.

Snack time!

Snack time!



Based on my recent experience I can confidently say that I have overcome the fear of flying in PIA and can recommend it to others. It is obviously not a fancy airline to travel in, however, with support from the government and responsible authorities this company has the chance of drastically improving its services and can very well attract more people.

Currently PIA flights are operating once in a week every Tuesday from Toronto Pearson Airport.

Chronicle of the affected!

For quite sometime we have been noticing a different community trying to settle around us. At first it seemed too mundane to consider. They used to exist outside our houses, minding their own business. Ruled by a monarch, the workers carried out regular chores to serve their small community.



There were days when we would notice one or two of them inside our house and with open arms we greeted them. We thought they were facing survival issues, so we let them inside our house and allowed them to roam freely anywhere they pleased.

From one or two they gradually began to increase in numbers. As soon as they entered our dwelling they seemed less charged lacking their signature buzz. Within 24 hours they would die so we had to collect their bodies and silently dump them. Knowing more will foolishly follow their footsteps and the cycle will go on. Feeling sorry for them we assisted them to fly back to their secret nest but every now and then they would march back in our house claiming what was never theirs in the first place.

It seems like history does repeat itself in this case we were the Red Indians. Their attitude began to change, more restless, aggressive and greedy. They had begun to claim our territory thus discouraging our involvement at every level. We were forced to turn a blind eye and accept them as one of us sharing our food and our land. Until one day one of our members was attacked by them. It did seem as a defense mechanism but alarming enough for us to realise that we are losing our control and our sovereignty is under attack.

We began to hunt them whenever we could. It was a war. Both parties now realised there were no common grounds for negotiation. Because our motto has always been “no negotiation with terrorists.”

The attacks had affected our mobility. We avoided the day time and carried our chores in the darkness of night. Like thieves we would sneak out of our house to fulfill our chores. On the seventh day of previous attack, the same member of our community was attacked by them. This time the injuries were much more severe. All hell broke lose!

There were reports of several more attacks from around our community. Innocent families especially women and children were attacked. Outdoor parties and picnics  were disturbed, their food robbed and people were left bruised and in dire need of medical attention. Friendly protests faced similar fate. Seemed as if there is nothing much we can do.

Ever since the recent attack we have been forced to confine ourselves behind the locked doors in a room. Most part of our house has been claimed by terrorists. We are being dictated and held hostages by fifty or so aggressive militants. Clad in yellow jackets and armed with poisonous venom they don’t fear death.

Instead they have forced our men and women to cover up from head to toe. At no cost can we afford to continue our casual lifestyle of singing and dancing. The use of disco lights or lights at all is prohibited as it makes them more aggressive.
Our call for outside help only made matters worse. A team was sent to eliminate these pests but due to the extensive use of chemical weapons we have suffered a serious blow.

Having lost their nest, a large amount of these yellow jackets has settled in our house. Looking back we have realised how our innocence and lack of awareness has cost us our peace. Education and raising awareness is the key to eliminate the misunderstanding that yellow jackets  are wasps and not useful bees. They are mindless extremists which feed on meat and fruits and are considered pests. Under no circumstances must one let them feel welcome.

“Time to sew me in”: Kim’s embrassing wardrobe malfunction


Oops! She did it again. Kim is renowned for her killer curves, but this time the curves killed her leather dress, that too just minutes before a television appearance.  And the reality star had to be sewn back into the skintight dress as she and her sisters Khole and Kourtney were about to go live on Jimmy Kimmel Live show on Wednesday.

Lucky for her, the embarrassing incident happened indoor where she could be rescued. As we know that Kardashian family is no stranger to the gossip world but it seems like they enjoy spreading it, that too on Twitter. The reality star took the idea of social networking a bit too seriously and wrote on Twitter: “About to do Jimmy Kimmel & my whole dress rips! Help!!! Time to sew me in… praying this works!”  Soon after that she retweeted: “Getting my dress sewn up! I think we can make it work… ”

The courageous star later made her way to the set, all stitched and stuffed back. Kim paired the dress with towering leopard Christian Louboutin pumps, with diamond earrings and hair pulled back in a sleek ponytail.

Kim has a history of wardrobe malfunction. From a visible tag on her backside to the seam of her shape wear. Oh Kim! When will you get it right?

By Fatima Islam

This is a copy of an original article published on the website of Closer Magazine, a product of Bauer Media.

Not so dear eh!! Mayer lashes back at ex’s song


John Mayer and Taylor Swift

One thing we have learned is dating a singer is not a good idea, if you must then please don’t upset them and it seems that John Mayer has learned it the hard way.

When Mayer wrote ‘Your body is a wonderland’, a romantic ode to his ex Jennifer Love Hewitt it was a hit. But now the singer is upset and feels humiliated because his ex, Taylor Swift who happens to be a singer, has written a song ‘Dear John’. Take that Mayer!!!

So what’s the big deal about the lyrics, anyway? It so happens that Taylor briefly dated Mayer in 2009 when she was a teenager. The lyrics reflect her heartache,

‘I see it all now that you’re gone, Don’t you think I was too young,

To be messed with, the girl in the dress. Cried whole way home.

I should’ve known.’ ‘Don’t you thing nineteen’s too young to be played by your dark, twisted games, When I loved you so. ’

In an interview with Rolling Stone John Mayer tells, ‘It made me feel terrible because I did not deserve it. I’m pretty good at taking accountability now, and I never did anything to deserve that. It was a really lousy thing for her to do.’

He claims that he was blindsided by the songs and was unaware of her feelings towards him. ‘I never got an email. I never got a phone call. I was really caught off-guard, and it really humiliated me at a time when I’d already been dressed down. I mean, how would you feel if, at the lowest you’ve ever been, someone kicked you even lower? ‘

He refused to answer when asked to explain the song’s line, `Don’t you think I was too young to be messed with? ‘ Mayer replied: ‘I don’t want to go into that.’ And I will say as a songwriter that I think it’s kind of cheap songwriting. ‘

He further adds, ‘I know she’s the biggest thing in the world, and I’m not trying to sink anybody’s ship, but I think it’s abusing your talent to rub your hands together and go, ‘Wait till he gets a load of this! ‘ That’s bulls**t.’

By Fatima Islam

The dark side of Facebook

For most of us, our experience on Facebook is a benign – even banal – one. A status update about a colleague’s commute. A “friend” request from someone we haven’t seen for years (and hoped to avoid for several more). A picture of another friend’s baby, barely distinguishable from the dozen posted the day before.

Some four billion pieces of content are shared every day by 845 million users. And while most are harmless, it has recently come to light that the site is brimming with paedophilia, pornography, racism and violence – all moderated by outsourced, poorly vetted workers in third world countries paid just $1 an hour.

In addition to the questionable morality of a company that is about to create 1,000 millionaires when it floats paying such paltry sums, there are significant privacy concerns for the rest of us. Although this invisible army of moderators receive basic training, they work from home, do not appear to undergo criminal checks, and have worrying access to users’ personal details. In a week in which there has been an outcry over Google’s privacy policies, can we expect a wider backlash over the extent to which we trust companies with our intimate information?

Last month, 21-year-old Amine Derkaoui gave an interview to Gawker, an American media outlet. Derkaoui had spent three weeks working in Morocco for oDesk, one of the outsourcing companies used by Facebook. His job, for which he claimed he was paid around $1 an hour, involved moderating photos and posts flagged as unsuitable by other users.

“It must be the worst salary paid by Facebook,” he told The Daily Telegraph this week. “And the job itself was very upsetting – no one likes to see a human cut into pieces every day.”

Derkaoui is not exaggerating. An articulate man, he described images of animal abuse, butchered bodies and videos of fights. Other moderators, mainly young, well-educated people working in Asia, Africa and Central America, have similar stories. “Paedophilia, necrophilia, beheadings, suicides, etc,” said one. “I left [because] I value my sanity.” Another compared it to working in a sewer. “All the —- of the world flows towards you and you have to clean it up,” he said.

Who, one wonders, apart from the desperate, the unstable and the unsavoury, would be attracted to doing such an awful job in the first place?

Of course, not all of the unsuitable material on the site is so graphic. Facebook operates a fascinatingly strict set of guidelines determining what should be deleted. Pictures of naked private parts, drugs (apart from marijuana) and sexual activity (apart from foreplay) are all banned. Male nipples are OK, but naked breastfeeding is not. Photographs of bodily fluids (except semen) are allowed, but not if a human being is also shown. Photoshopped images are fine, but not if they show someone in a negative light.

Once something is reported by a user, the moderator sitting at his computer in Morocco or Mexico has three options: delete it; ignore it; or escalate it, which refers it back to a Facebook employee in California (who will, if necessary, report it to the authorities). Moderators are told always to escalate specific threats – “I’m going to stab Lisa H at the frat party” is given as the charming example – but not generic, unlikely ones, such as “I’m going to blow up the planet on New Year’s Eve.”

It is, of course, to Facebook’s credit that they are attempting to balance their mission “to make the world more open and connected” with a willingness to remove traces of the darker side of human nature. The company founded by Mark Zuckerberg in his Harvard bedroom is richer and more populated than many countries. These moderators are their police.

Neither is Facebook alone in outsourcing unpleasant work. Adam Levin, the US-based chief executive of Criterion Capital Partners and the owner of British social network Bebo, says that the process is “rampant” across Silicon Valley.

“We do it at Bebo,” he says. “Facebook has so much content flowing into its system every day that it needs hundreds of people moderating all the images and posts which are flagged. That type of workforce is best outsourced for speed, scale and cost.”

A spokesman for Twitter said that they have an internal moderation team, but refused to answer a question about outsourcing. Similarly, a Google spokesperson would not say how Google+, the search giant’s new social network, will be moderated. Neither Facebook nor oDesk were willing to comment on anything to do with outsourcing or moderation.

Levin, however, estimates that Facebook indirectly employs between 800 to 1,000 moderators via oDesk and others – nearly a third of its more handsomely remunerated full-time staff. Graham Cluley, of the internet security firm Sophos, calls Silicon Valley’s outsourcing culture its “poorly kept dirty secret”.

The biggest worry for the rest of us, however, is that the moderation process isn’t nearly secretive enough. According to Derkaoui, there are no security measures on a moderator’s computer to stop them uploading obscene material themselves. Despite coming into daily contact with such material, he was never subjected to a criminal record check. Where, then, is the oversight body for these underpaid global police? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Facebook itself is guarding them, according to a previous statement to which the Telegraph was referred. “These contractors are subject to rigorous quality controls and we have implemented several layers of safeguards to protect the data of those using our service,” it read. “No user information beyond the content in question and the source of the report is shared. All decisions made by contractors are subject to extensive audits.”

And yet in the images due for moderation seen by the Telegraph, the name of anyone “tagged” in an offending post – as well as the user who uploaded it – could be clearly discerned. A Facebook spokesman said that these names are shared with the moderators to put the content in context – a context sufficient for Derkaoui to claim that he had as much information as “looking at a friend’s Facebook page”. He admits to having subsequently looked up more information online about the people he had been moderating. Cluley is worried that Facebook users could be blackmailed by disgruntled moderators – or even see pictures originally intended for a small circle of friends pasted all over the web.

Shamoon Siddiqui, chief executive of, an American app-building firm that employs people in the developing world for a more generous $7 to $10 an hour, agrees that better security measures are needed. “It isn’t wrong for Facebook to have an Indian office,” he says. “But it is wrong for it to use an arbitrary marketplace with random people it doesn’t know in that country. This will have to change.”

In Britain, for example, all web moderators have to undergo an enhanced CRB check. eModeration, whose clients range from HSBC to The X-Factor, pays £10 an hour and never lets its staff spend too long on the gritty stuff. They wouldn’t go near the Facebook account. The job, says Tamara Littleton, its chief executive, is too big, the moderating too reactive, and they couldn’t compete on cost with the likes of oDesk.

So, if no one can undercut the likes of oDesk, could they not be undermined instead? If Mr Zuckerberg will not dig deeper into his $17.5 billion pockets to pay the street-sweepers of Facebook properly, maybe he could be persuaded by a little moral outrage?

Levin disagrees. “Perhaps a minute percentage of users will stop using Facebook when they hear about this,” he says. “But the more digital our society becomes, the less people value their privacy.”

Perhaps. But maybe disgruntled commuters, old schoolfriends and new mothers will think twice before sharing intimate information with their “friends” – only to find that two minutes later it’s being viewed by an under-vetted, unfulfilled person on a dollar an hour in an internet café in Marrakech.

Courtesy Daily Telegraph by , and Emma Barnett

The pursuit of happiness

The meaning of happiness, pain or beauty are subjective and vary according to the person undergoing such emotions. When Socrates questioned Atreus about the reality of beauty, the surprised Atreus replied that the meaning of beauty is known even to a child for it is what we find physically attractive, things that are pretty, things that look good, and pleasant to look at’. Still unconvinced Socrates asked ‘what are we to say that they are mistaken in their thinking and that only that which is physically appealing is beautiful?’

The notion of happiness or peace is no different to beauty as these carry similar emotional characteristics. While spending life in a settled place with vast resources to enjoy the luxuries of life is happiness and peaceful for one might not be the same for other. There might be an exception where someone wants to build his life with moments spent in hard work, where blood and sweat has been shed to achieve the aims of his life. Although, the urge to ‘have it all’ can be found in both characters but the nature of ‘how to have it’, however, will beg to differ.

In today’s world, one’s reason for happiness is predicted by the number of materialistic items one possesses. No doubt these very things make life easier to live, but no way can they be the heartbeat of happiness. Life is made up of moments, moments when you are happy and moments when you are not. But to draw a comparison between a rich man’s happiness with a hobo’s is foolishness because it is hard to understand who derived more satisfaction and happiness from his moment.

 The pursuit of happiness is never ending, the process may vary in length and consume years. But the reason to move on and zeal to achieve the goals and necessities of life should be revered.