Kuch Karo

 
Day Four began with talk of the assignments that had been given during the previous session. One of them had been to research the life of Steve Jobs, a personality that had been discussed earlier. To ensure complete participation, Maliha had paired kids who could not easily access the internet with those who could. She then started an activity when a participant, chosen at random, would begin telling Jobs' tale and would be stopped abruptly only to have another participant take over from where the story was left off. 

At first, the kids began to recite dates, names and small irrelevant details. However, once Maliha explained to them that they had not needed to memorize Jobs' biography for the assignment, the telling of the tale truly began. It was when the participants shifted from the rote-learning prevalent in our education system that they really told the story of a man who failed many times only to persevere and eventually make it big. It was also then that they truly began to appreciate it.

After all the assignments had been dealt with, the group returned to Mustafa Akyol's talk regarding "Faith versus tradition in Islam," which they had been unable to watch in its entirety earlier because of an untimely power outage. One sentence in the talk that caused some general concern in the group was: "Islamization is a problematic idea." Maliha quickly explained that Islam was not the problem, nor was Islamization, but that Islamization could lead to problems. She then asked participants how they thought this might happen. People were quick to point out how not understanding religion and the Quran, and the lack of scholars in charge of clearing confusions could cause serious problems in an Islamized state. 
From here, the group went on to discuss what had actually been planned for the day. Maliha asked the participants if they were aware of the nuclear weapons Pakistan possessed. They were. 

"Why do we have them?" Maliha asked. 

"For our enemies!" 

"Who are they?"

"India!" they said in unison, as if it was the most obvious thing ever.

"If India is our enemy, why haven't we bombed them yet?" 

"There are a lot of Muslims in India," said Mohtashim. "We wouldn't want to kill them." 

"But those Muslims are Indian. Aren't they our enemies, then? Who is our enemy?"

"The Hindus?" someone offered. 

"So, if there hadn't been Muslims in India, we would have bombed the Indians? Is it okay to just kill millions of non-Muslims?"

There was an uncomfortable silence. People shifted in their seats. Some shook their heads. "No," said some. 
"How did you decide India is your enemy?" asked Maliha. "Have you ever met an Indian?"

This propelled the group into a role-play activity. Taha was a Pakistani while Ruqueia assumed the role of an Indian. To make matters delightfully complicated, Maliha told Taha that he was a Pakistani Hindu while Ruqueia was told that she was an Indian Muslim. 

The two just stared at each other, grinning awkwardly.

"You're enemies!" Maliha said, mocking exasperation. "Why aren't you fighting?" 

"He's done nothing to me," Ruqueia countered. 

"But you're enemies! You've been fighting for generations. Tumhain apni pushton ka badla nahien lena?" (This is hard to translate but loosely means, "Don't you want to avenge your ancestors?")

"Pushton nay badla lay liya," Ruqueia responded, lightning-fast as always. (Translation: "My ancestors have taken revenge (in the fighting).") "Why should I?" 

I looked up from my note-taking at this and exchanged triumphant glances with Zohra. 

Maliha smiled and nodded. "So what should we do if we have problems with India?" 

"We should negotiate," said Taha. Baat cheet.

"But we're already doing that, aren't we? The negotiations don't seem to be working."

"Well we should do it better." 

More triumphant glances exhanged. 

"Who told you India is our enemy, anyway?"

The group seemed taken aback by the question.

"It's what we've always been told," ventured Faiq. 

"But who is it?" 

Many suggestions were brought forward - including parents, television, and teachers - but it was ultimately decided that it was people with power who told everyone who the nation was enemies with. 

"And who decides when we're at war? Is everyone in a country fighting with everyone in the country it is at war with?" 

The same answer was reached: people with power.

"So here we have President Usman," announced Maliha as she pointed at Usman. "He has this button he can press which will send a nuclear missile to India. If he presses the button, who will die?" 

Silence. 

Then. 

"People," said Bakhtawar. No, not people; she had used the word insaan. Humans. Humans, stripped of identities and labels. Just humans. 

"Suppose Usman passed a law that said everyone wearing white would be shot. Would that be fair?" 

Everyone shook their heads. 

"Would it be fair if some of the people shot this way were criminals?" 

More heads shook. "There would be other innocent people, too."

"So President Usman has the power to tell you who your enemies are, to declare war, and to pass laws that aren't fair. Should he have this kind of power?" 

It was unanimously decided that he should not. 

Maliha then explained that even we elect people who have the power to affect our lives. However, power and authority should have clearly defined limits. She further explained that, because we have the power to give people such authority in the first place, it is of utmost importance that we elect are the right people.

After that, the kids were given a break to feast on samosay and chai.

"I think we thoroughly confused them today," said Maliha to us as she munched on her samosa. "Good." That, of course, was the point of the workshop - to leave them asking more questions than when they first walked in. Confusion dispels complacency. Complacency is the antithesis of curiosity, open-mindedness and the habit of seeking answers and information, without which good decisions are hard to make. 

The intensity of the workshop was notched down a bit post-lunch so as to not saturate the kids. I played the playlist with everyone's favourite songs we had made earlier. Maliha handed out pads of post-it notes and told them to start using their space as the Idea Room, to visually present their ideas on the walls and collectively appreciate them. 

First off, the group was asked to reflect on the first week of the workshop, write down things they now thought differently about and put the post-its on a wall. The most common answers were failure, nuclear weapons and the concept of being enemies respectively. 
Maliha also asked them to similarly put up on the walls things they liked and things they wished the workshop had more of. Finally, Maliha showed some of her own post-its to the group and discussed them. 
After that, there was a pleasant lull as everyone sat around chatting. Alishbah approached Maliha to say that she had been wondering exactly why the workshop was being conducted. After a quick consulting look directed towards us and nods from us, she revealed the plans she had for the sixteen students from Lead High School. 

She first began with a question. She asked the group what they now thought was vital for good decision-making. The answer was almost automatic; more information was required. 

"And where does one access such information?" 

"Libraries," Ashar offered. 

Maliha nodded. She then began to recount how she had had to work in the campus library during her first year at Bennington College. She had been amazed by the resources and facilities offered by the library and had sorely wished her city had similar spaces. It was then that the idea for the project - for Kuch Karo - came to her. She envisioned restoring a library that was now defunct and that was close to schools so that students could utilize them, and even help in maintaining them. Maliha told the participants how intelligent and capable each of them were and then asked who among them would be willing to help her out. 

Sixteen hands punched the air. 

- Asad
06/24/2012 12:33pm

Really interesting stuff. Would love to learn more about the library facilities and how it's making a difference. Keep up the good work!

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Asad
06/26/2012 10:30pm

We have just started working on the library. We won't know how the restoration will affect the community but we're hoping for the best.

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Ali
06/24/2012 9:50pm

Sweet post, Asad, and one that shows how fast they can advance once someone teaches them to ask the right questions.

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Asad
06/26/2012 10:34pm

Thanks!
And I completely agree. I think people are inclined to be sensible; they only need a little bit of guidance sometimes.

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Saba Anvery
06/25/2012 11:21am

Goodness goodness goodness!!! India not the enemy !! Islamization having issues!!! our culture not being purely islamic!!! What are you guys doing the kids!!!
:)))
Keep the good work!
What do you need for the library?

Reply
Asad
06/26/2012 10:37pm

We need to shatter their world before they can rebuilt it. :)

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Asad
06/26/2012 10:39pm

*rebuild

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Saba Anvery
06/25/2012 11:22am

* What are you guys doing to the poor kids.
* Keep up the good work.

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Sadia
06/26/2012 9:48pm

I love that the kids asked why the workshop was being conducted - the most important why question there can be, why are we doing this, why do we do anything, etc. Just goes to show what an amazing job you all are doing. Maliha, so much love and massive kudos, we're proud of you.

Looking forward to more.

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Seema Anvery
06/28/2012 10:38am

Very very impressive,everything and all.
You are the future Pakistan InshAllah

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