Here’s something I heard from an old man recently.

“The source of most troubles in this world is lethargy. The key to a happy and content life lies in ………. exercise and activity. So, if you want to avoid depression, dissatisfaction and all things negative, exercise. And if you want to grow and improve, stretch yourself to the limit. But remember, you are not just your body. You are a combination of your body, mind, heart and soul. So

1. Be physically active; try to do all your work yourself. And if you want to go a step further, stretch your body to the limit; As you keep pushing the limit, the limit will keep moving ahead and you’ll keep growing stronger.

2. Ask questions. Be curious. Never believe in anything without thinking. In other words keep your mind active. Keep thinking. And if you want to go a step further, stop being afraid of new ideas, stretch the limits of your mind, the only thing that stops us from mentally venturing into unknown territories is ourselves and our fears. Overcome yourself and you’ll keep growing stronger.

3. Be good to the people around you. Love them and help them wherever you can without any expectation of any return. Just give. And if you want to go a step further, love all creatures, help everyone, try to stretch the capacity of your heart to the limit. Help even those who never asked you and don’t worry if they respond by hurting you. Achieve that and you’ll keep growing stronger.”

In conversation with the Genie

As soon as the boy rubbed the lamp, a genie appeared. Here is the conversation that followed.

Genie: You have given me freedom. I can grant you one wish.

Boy: Just one? Is that all the price you are willing to pay for freedom?

G: One is a lot if you use it smartly.
B: What a ridiculous excuse! No wonder you were trapped in a lamp for so long. You don’t know the value of freedom.
G: I don’t have all day. Just tell me your wish.
B: But why just one?
G: It’s company policy. That’s all I am allowed to grant.
B: Well, change that policy.
G: I can’t.
B: Who can then?
G: Just tell me your wish and be done with it, will you?
B: What can I wish for?
G: Anything.
B: Ok. I wish that you grant me a hundred wishes.
G: You can’t wish that.
B: But you said I could wish for anything.
G: But not that. You are trying to use a loophole in the system. You are trying to use company policy to go against company policy. That cannot be allowed.
B: Ok. Then I wish your company policy changed and everyone got a hundred wishes.
G: Can’t do that.
B: Then what can I wish for.
G: Anything.
B: Okay I wish that you go back in the lamp and stay there.
G: Shit!

I want to be an Army officer

“I want to be an army officer.”

“Well, you have to have an intermediate degree for that. Then you apply at one of the recruitment centers where they will test your knowledge and physical fitness. They will also conduct a short interview. If they clear you, you will go for ISSB, where they will test you physically and mentally for three or four days. If you pass, you will undergo a rigorous training at the Pakistan Military Academy. If you successfully complete that, you will become an army officer. Although the trainings and courses will continue throughout your career and you must perform well, if you want to go higher up in the service.”

“I guess I will be a CSP officer then.”

“Well, you have to have a bachelor’s degree for that. Then they will make you take an exam in various subjects including English, Islamic Studies, Science, Current Affairs etc. If you pass the exam you will have to undergo a medical test, a psychological evaluation and a grueling interview. You don’t just need to pass these, you need to land in the top couple of hundred or so to go further. If you do that, you will undergo training at the Civil Services Academy. If you successfully complete that, you will undergo another training at a different academy. If you complete that too, you will become a CSP officer. Although the trainings and courses will continue throughout your career and you must perform well, if you want to go higher up in the service.”

“Judge, then?”

“Well you will need a law degree for that. And then…..”

“Wait wait wait! Why the hell is all this so hard?”

“Because these people have to perform important functions. Not every Tom, Dick and Harry can do this stuff. They have to pick the right people for defending our country’s borders, for executing its laws and for interpreting statutes and meting out justice.”

“I can’t do all that.”

“Then be an MNA or MPA.”

“What do they do?”

“They make the laws of this country which are then executed by the bureaucrats and interpreted by the judiciary. They run the country that is defended by the army. They are the bosses.”

“What do I need for that?”

“Nothing. All you need is that more Toms, Dicks and Harries want you to be an MNA or MPA than any other person in your constituency.”

“And degree?”

“Not anymore.”




“Not at all.”

“Courses, if I want to go higher?”

“No courses.”


Are we significant?

We are but the smallest components of this universe. What happens in far off galaxies or other planets in our solar system has next to no significance in our lives. Then what is important to us? The events around the globe? In our own country? In our city? There is so much going on at the same time that it is difficult to imagine anyone being completely aware of all events that occur at any given time. This is true despite the fact that a number of those unknown events may have serious implications for us. But we don’t know, so we don’t care. Then how do we decide what events are important. Obviously we do precious little to try and gather information that has not been handed over to us on a plate. We restrict ourselves to information that comes to us………….through the media, through people we meet or even through bits and pieces of conversations that we pick up from here and there. And then we decide what is important enough for us to spend / waste our time on. But do we really? I guess we don’t even take that much trouble. We consider important events that we are told are important………by the media, by the people we meet or even by people whose conversations we happen to hear. So, should we trust this information? Is it actually important? Is anything actually important? What about things that we are or at least should be absolutely sure about? Like the fact that it is not a good idea to hurt people or disobey laws or tell lies or commit injustices or make money through illegal and / or unfair means. We don’t need anyone to give us that information or to tell us that it is important. We know. And yet, we don’t. So is anything significant? Are we significant?

Being afraid of change

I find it hard to understand how some people can be afraid of change. It’s not like being afraid of crowds or heights or enclosed spaces, because one can avoid all these or at least try to avoid them. Being afraid of change is more like being afraid of breathing or air or your skin. Change, like all these things, is always there. Anyone who appears to have this desire to avoid change is simply unaware that everything around him is changing all the time. The cells in his body, his thoughts, the position of the sun, moon and heavenly bodies, even the angle of the earth; nothing stays the same.

Maybe people who are afraid of change just believe that things can remain the same only because they are not able to perceive the constant change every moment brings. Maybe by trying to avoid change, they are just trying to perpetuate their misperceptions. Maybe they are afraid to know the truth, afraid to see, afraid to be aware. And that, as I said in the beginning, is hard to understand.


Ludicrates was a Geek philosopher that none of you would have heard of, primarily because he did not actually exist. Now, Ludicrates had a terrible fear of heights, a problem that initially frustrated him and later on in his life, intrigued him. Especially when he realized that a number of people around him suffered from the same fear, he got immensely interested and decided to give the matter its due share of thought. After years and years of acute observation, he found that children who received proper education were much more likely to develop this fear later on in their lives than the ones who were, so to speak, illiterate, or more precisely, unschooled.

So Ludicrates came up with a theory and said that the reason for this fear among recipients of formal education was that they had been taught repeatedly that

1. When Jack and Jill went up the hill, Jack fell down and broke his crown. And of course, Jill came tumbling after.

2. When Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, he had a great fall. And although the king’s horses could not be expected to perform such an intricate task, even the king’s men could not put him together again.

3. When the baby rocked in its cradle on the top of a tree, the bough broke and the baby came down with the cradle and all.

4. Urdu sayings like har urooj ko zawal hai and English ones like ‘whatever goes up must come down’ have stood the test of time.

In short, Ludicrates concluded that education instills a terrible fear of heights in the hearts of people which has grave consequences. Other than the fact that it makes their lives pretty miserable, especially when they have to stand at a high place, this fear causes educated people to stay away from the pursuit of high office and high positions. Hence, the only people who manage to get really high up in the world are the ones who either never got to go to school or if they did, failed to get any real education. When the teacher was repeating nursery rhymes or famous sayings, they weren’t listening. Ludicrates, for the rest of his life, kept wishing that the educated people would come to realize that it was not necessary that whatever fears they had picked up from school were true. He wished that they would understand that Jack and Jill, more often than not, do come back safe and sound, and with a pail of water too.

Telling the truth

Let’s admit it; there are situations when we just do not possess the courage required to tell the truth. In such situations we regularly choose to lie instead of facing the consequences of truth. Given the sad but true fact that few, if any, of us are above such small weaknesses, I can give such liars a break and not blame them too much. But what about the lies we regularly tell and which serve no serious purpose at all.

1. Someone expecting us calls and asks how long we will be. If we think it’ll take us half an hour to get there, we instinctively say “Fifteen minutes!” ignoring the fact that had we been 45 minutes away, we would have just as easily said “Half an hour!” Are we just making the other person feel better this way?

2. When the host asks us if we want to have dinner, we reply “No! I am not hungry” or “No ! I just ate” even if we have not eaten anything for hours and would love a meal. Is this some sort of courtesy?

3. A call wakes us up in the middle of a satisfying nap and the caller asks “I hope I did not disturb you!” and we conveniently reply “No, not at all” when we feel like killing the person. Are we being polite?

4. In various professional situations, we shamelessly promise stuff like “I will give it my 110%!” Of course we know what we promising is mathematically impossible. Are we exhibiting our sincerity?

5. When a caller asks us “Pehchana!” we say “Yes! Of course!” just hoping that a few more words from him would help us recognize the voice. Are we showing our intimacy with the person?

6. We go to a funeral or a Qul etc, and habitually say “bara afsos hua!” even if we hardly knew the deceased and weren’t even sure he was alive till now. Are we following some custom?

7. We meet someone for the first time and even if he or she fails to leave any impression whatsoever on us, we say “Pleased to meet you!” Are we being civilized?

8. When someone criticizes a third person, we feel this uncontrollable urge to tell him that that fault does not lie in us, even when we are pretty sure of the opposite. Are we trying to avoid being insecure?

9. When a classic and critically acclaimed book or movie is under discussion, we make it a point to stress how much we liked it, even if we hated it or completely failed to see the point of the whole thing. Are we being cultured?

10. And lastly, when our spouse or partner says “I love you!” we almost always respond with “I love you too!” without thinking, without even knowing what the phrase exactly means and even if what we feel at that time is anything but love. Are we being romantic?

I don’t know but I feel the answer to all ten questions above is the same. No! We are lying, we are just being liars.

Staying alive vs Living

There is a difference between staying alive and living. Just like there is a difference between animals and humans. Animals stay alive, humans have the choice of actually living. You are born and you die. Everything else is uncertain. Trying to pretend there is certainty in life is the craziest of illusions. Cherishing uncertainty breeds real life. I enjoy the fact that life is unpredictable. I enjoy the challenges it throws. I succeed in handling some of them and fail miserably in others. But I never judge myself on these successes or failures and judge others even less. My way is the only way to live my life and the same is true for everyone else. You cannot change the past no matter how hard you try. And the future will always spring a surprise even for the most careful of planners, maybe more so for him. So this mess is only for those who learn from their mistakes and do not fear anything. People who don’t give a shit. Who says constipation is bad?


“So you think that these animals can never select a king that is good for them?” The tiger asked.

“In their present condition, no.” The lion said confidently.

“What present condition?”

“Well, they are averse to using their brains, averse to working hard, and averse to taking any responsibility. They keep looking towards all kinds of deities, kings, rulers to take them out of their misery and keep blaming all these things for all their problems.”

“And what can they do to help themselves, do you have any idea?”

“Of course. They can begin by deciding to help themselves. They can focus on increasing their strength, their intellect, their capacity. They can start taking responsibility for their condition. They can work hard in whatever field they are.”

“And how would all this result in the election of a good king?”

“Ha ha ha!” the lion roared. “This would create a jungle where any king would be a good king, because all the animals would be playing their part, so the king would not matter that much. Because all the animals would be solving their own problems, and if their king becomes one of those problems, they would solve that too.”

“So if they start living their own lives well, all will be fine in the jungle?”

“Yes, but that won’t happen,” said the lion with a satisfied grin. “They are too lethargic and stupid to do that. They will keep looking at the skies, waiting for God, or a messiah, and they will keep being exploited. We lions ruled them directly, not we rule them indirectly. If they come up with some other dumb idea of government, we’ll still rule.”

“So they have no chance?”

“They do. But they don’t look like realizing, any time soon, that government or king is nothing. They are the ones who can improve their conditions. If they keep asking for people to rule them, that’s what they’ll keep getting; people who rule, and rulers have power, and power corrupts, and we love corrupt people, because corrupt can be exploited, and we exploit.”

“Don’t you feel guilty? Exploitation is not a virtue.”

“Ha ha!” the lion roared. “They want to be exploited, they need exploitation. Just observe them. You will not see anyone who is against exploitation. All they desire is to cease to be the exploited and become the exploiter. And we give them that opportunity, we give them the tiniest bit of power for the tiniest bit of time and they run to us wagging their tails. And when we take that power away, they keep looking at us with their tongues hanging out, waiting for the next piece of power that we might throw at them.”

“Hmmm! So they need power.”

“Everyone needs power. But look at me. I have the power over myself. So no one can exercise power over me easily, anyone wishing to do that would have to fight, maybe fight to death. But these damn animals, they don’t have any idea or inclination to learn to exercise power over themselves. They love to exercise it on others. And to do that, they have to accept a system where anyone who can, will exercise power over others, and more often than not, they are the ones who suffer.”

“So why don’t they realize?”

“Because they are too scared to use their minds. Because they are too used to wagging their tails and waiting for a piece of food from someone else. Because they are not lions.”


“From what I hear, the animals are on to your scheme,” the tiger said. “I hear that they have figured out your pattern of installing wolves and dogs on the throne, and now they are prepared to resist such an effort. I have reports that even the wolves are now uncertain of whether they should try such a coup again, they fear for their lives.”

“Ha ha ha ha!” roared the lion. “That doesn’t bother me. They’ll keep coming up with ideas to ruin their lives.”

“But I hear that in the next elections, the animals are looking to change the status quo. I hear that they are looking towards someone other than the donkeys and zebras. Maybe some stronger, smarter animal.”

“Yes yes, I know!” the lion nodded. “They were stuck with a hyena for a long time actually who forced them to realize that this democratic system could be manipulated to their detriment. But I am not worried.”

“So you have a plan?” asked the tiger curiously.

“Well, I do, but I might not need it. A lot of animals are going for a new king but not all of them. And as I said, numbers count in this jungle now. So, the new horse might not become the king after all.”

“There’s a horse?”

“Yes, a race horse. He is charming, beautiful and kind. And he won a number of races in his time, so he is very popular. But you see, the beauty of this system is, that whoever wants to be the king needs to have a team, all of whom are a part his government. And this horse’s team consists of old donkeys, zebras, and hyenas who were parts of the teams of previous kings as well. I know how to pull their strings.”

“He has all the same animals in his team?”

“Not all. There are other smaller animals who have never experienced government, who don’t know its pressures, and who have no idea of my strength. I will handle them. But that won’t be necessary. These animals would elect a donkey or a zebra anyway.”

“I hear the horse is doing well.”

“Animals throng to see him whenever he appears in a clearing in the jungle. But that doesn’t mean anything. Weaker animals, as I told you before, are larger in number. Lots of others can pull such crowds. Just sit back and enjoy the proceedings.”

“But the jungle is becoming a wasteland.”

“Who gives a shit?”

“The animals should.”

“I didn’t ask who should give a shit. I asked who does give a shit.” The lion roared.