An Unfortunate Mindset

You know there is a very fine line, thin and almost obscure, which connects the mindset which deems it ok to insult someone in public by calling them names – especially when the person in question is of the opposite gender – and the mindset which is ok with ‘light beating’ of wives to be ok for things which are not ‘acceptable’ in terms of their behavior.

This very thin line of connection whilst cannot be seen so easily and to the naked eye is actually one of many big problems with us. And it’s a problem not just in one way or one level. Multiple ways. It’s an entire thought process or school of thought if you will which isn’t really the produce of a well-researched and intellectual think tank or anything of that sort. Just the opposite. Fueled by an ignorant and ancient mindset which refuses to embrace good for humanity and wants to continue ruling with their veil of ignorance on top of everyone to stay in their positions of power and influence. I am sure it won’t require any rocket science to guess who I am referring to.

But that’s one of the things. We are ok dissecting and discussing it in drawing rooms and condemning it as if it was the most natural thing to come to us. Whereas upon closer introspection you might find that one some levels you are just as ignorant. Ok maybe not ‘just as ignorant’ but definitely more ignorant than you would like to admit.

Khawaja Asif’s remarks in the Parliament against Shireen Mazari were uncalled for, unbecoming and definitely not something that should be part of the nation’s parliament much less coming from a federal minister for crying out loud. It was not the first time from Khawaja Asif and definitely not the first time in the history of the country. There have been many incidents in the past involving women parliamentarians of all parties. Benazir Bhutto too had to face such ridicule.

It is sad that such things happen. But these things happen not just here – they happen in other parts of the world as well. So this is actually a bigger problem world over especially with the whole ceiling on women’s achievements and growth and success etc. Till we as a whole get out of this need to differentiate between genders in the professional realm – things will remain the same.

This discrimination and mindset world over is there but perhaps most parts of the world have become a bit more subtle and sophisticated so they don’t tend to boil over like it still does here. It was also unbecoming of people chiming in with ‘Keep quite aunty’ etc. It was also unbecoming of others present there not doing enough to control the situation and try and make amends immediately. Surely this is not something which cannot transcend different political party lines. Respect and all?

Sadly it doesn’t. It is this very mindset which will perhaps condemn the light beating issue of the CII (the wonderful people that they are) but will actually internally agree with them and then well who knows what happens in their households. It is the same ignorant and ‘jaahil’ soch that thinks it is ok to go around beating the weaker sex. As is the case. It is the same mindset which then goes on to connect with other problems like honor killing and all. The one which would most likely look down upon the victim of a rape and take out their flaws and faults which led to the crime rather than look at the perpetrator.

It is the mindset which thinks it’s a man’s world and only men are allowed to be kings and rulers and have every single inch of power available in this world. And that anything else is here to be man’s objects of desire, use and rejection. It is unfortunate that such a mindset occupies the parliament of our country. It is unfortunate that such a mindset is allowed to spew negativity towards development. It is unfortunate that we have not done enough to battle this mindset.

It is this mindset which has for years continued being an obstacle towards girls education. It is this mindset which has given liberty to elements like TTP and the like to go about attacking and murdering innocents, destroying structures and lives, vanquishing dreams and hopes. It is this mindset which is unfortunate and which hasn’t been dealt with where it needs to be dealt with the most – in the mind. The military operation has beat the TTP in the background. But the social fabric of our society is still suffering.

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Some Observations for the Holy Month

The holy month is just around the corner. Literally at the corner in fact. 3-4 days away now. And given the temperature rise that takes place in our personalities in general and the way the actual temperatures are going I think we must take stock of things before hand to ensure that we actually live up to the most basic creed of this holy month. It is an ideal time to learn patience, peace, self-control and acceptance. The patience to not just go through the day without food and water. But patience in our dealings as humans with other people as well. In our understanding of other people. In managing our tempers and moods and attitudes. Peace with knowing who you are, peace with the situation and circumstances around you and in your particular world. Peace in achieving spirituality. Peace through spiritually getting closer to our Almighty Allah. Self-control on all forms of temptations. From food to all those addictions to habits and behaviors which are negative or not exactly good. And acceptance of others. Of who they are. Of the fact that not everyone is the same.

From this point on let’s try and be on our best behavior from all aspects for Ramadan and maybe continue those behaviors going forward in life as well.

  1. Remember – We are all human

We are all but humans created by the same Almighty. However we are all not the same and yes some people make errors – in work, judgement and simple day to day tasks. Let’s remember that being human means to err. Let’s not lose our cool on those mistakes made by people no matter how irritating they may seem. Breathe in and don’t let it get to you. People aren’t robots and maybe some people can’t perform to their possible levels during Ramadan. Or well some people are genuinely more error prone but not due to any lack of effort. That’s unfortunately who they are. So maybe instead of losing your cool try and helping. You might just point out something they have been doing or approaching wrong.

  1. Fasting isn’t just about no eating and drinking

It isn’t just about not eating and drinking during the day. It’s also about practicing good behaviors and interactions with people. It’s also about your good manners as a human being overall. Not being rude to people unnecessarily. Not just trying to be aggressive in an effort to establish yourself as a dominant personality and showing your well I don’t know perhaps position of power. Not having ulterior motives. Not back biting. Not gossiping. Not getting into everyone’s business. Not spreading everyone’s business to everyone when everyone is not even concerned. No dramatics.

  1. Live and let live

First and foremost everyone isn’t a follower of Islam. There are people who follow other faiths. And it is not in their religion to be fasting. So they are eating and drinking. You should not have a problem with that. PATIENCE AND ACCEPTANCE. Ok there are people who follow Islam as well and who do not fast. AGAIN – YOU should not have a problem with that. PATIENCE and ACCEPTANCE. Maybe they have health issues which does not allow them to fast or they are currently unwell or in a situation where they cannot fast. Or maybe it was an off day. Or maybe they don’t fast. It is between them and Allah. As long as they are not coming and interfering with you fasting or actually trying to make you not fast then it shouldn’t concern you. Judgement is not for humans. It is for Allah. Yes we may advise – but not judge. And this is not just for Ramadan and fasting. Everyone has their own way of living and approaching life. Their own priorities and their own goals in life. They have their own worries and struggles and happiness moments and achievements. Their own way of celebration and their own way of dealing with stress and grief. People go through circumstances which change their personality. Some people have a change in lifestyle when they have a change in their life – new place, new job, getting married etc. Different things. People evolve and grow. Its ok. As long as whatever is happening isn’t coming and actually harming you physically or getting in the way of your being able to live happily and do your things and duties of life in peace – then it is not your problem. Don’t go out of your way to make it a problem. Live and let live. And be ok with things.

  1. Explore a healthier lifestyle

It might not sound like something that can happen in Ramadan especially given how we are a culture which is big on grand iftars and grand sehris and as a nation love our food. But tell you what – Ramadan is actually a very good month to develop certain habits and routines. You can actually develop a better nutritional balance during this month as long as you are disciplined about it. Choose healthy foods over the jalebis and samosas. One offs are all good but focus on the greens and the fruits and the good proteins made in a good way. You can with discipline get your body used to this eating habit. And this eating habit will definitely help you in the long run. Avoid all the junk as much as possible and stick to as much organic as possible. Oh and home food is king during Ramadan. At all costs avoid the All you can eat Iftar buffets. Please. They are a waste of money and time and health. Also the best time to break habits which you might want to. And addictions if any.

  1. Dates are not just for symbolism and tradition

Dates are actually packed with a lot of energy. They are a good source of various vitamins and minerals. Its a good source of energy, sugar and fiber. Essential minerals such as calcium, iron, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, magnesium and zinc are found in dates. It also contains vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin A and vitamin K. So don’t think it is just a tradition for Ramadan or symbolic. There is lots of good in eating dates as can be read above!

  1. Plan a work out, sport or exercise just before or a little after Iftar

I am sure some of you already do this. And some of you are raising your eyebrows saying ‘is he mad! In this heat in Roza’. Granted on the face of it that may be a valid observation. But it is tried and tested. Rest it out during the middle of the day after your school/college or work. And just before Iftar hit the track/gym or field of sport. It will do wonders. You will realize that some latent energy will come through for you and just reaching home and freshening up in time for Iftar will be a great way to make sure you have a balanced iftar also and not over do it. At least that works for me. For those who don’t fancy this can always take the night work out option after Iftar.

7. Be as charitable as you can and help the needy

I can’t stress on this enough. People are needy and poor out there. They are suffering and are facing challenges on a daily basis. Help out as much as you can. Switch on the charitable side of your personality and never turn it off. Help children who are being deprived of their childhood eat meals. Distribute as many iftar as possible. Help people not just through money and food – but in any way possible. This is one of the best ways to appease Allah and also to attain a sense of spirituality and inner peace for yourself. And also for your after life. Help people to eventually help yourself. A few hundreds everyday will not affect your wallet. I am talking to the affluent ones here or in the very least people who have some privileges in their lifestyles. Distribute help this month and beyond. Donate to a charity. Spread the word. Physically help out with tasks if necessary. Aid those who are of special needs perhaps. Or those who are medically not doing well. There are many ways you can do this and must.

Sri Lanka – The Land of Smiles

This articles was first published in Travel & Aviation magazine here: http://travel-aviation.com/index.php/category/country-piece1/

Sri Lanka –the land of smiles – is one of the most underrated destinations in my humble opinion. That may be primarily down to the fact that the country was dogged with internal security issues till about 4 years back during which time competing destinations marketed and established themselves much more. But if you ask me it ranks right up there in terms of experience and beauty and hospitality. Especially for those of us looking for an economic get away and something that isn’t a burden on the wallet. The tagline ‘the land of smiles’ also fits really well as the people are really welcoming, hospitable and great. They always seem to be smiling and happy and there is actually no language barrier to be faced here.

For Pakistanis another plus point is the VISA. It used to be easier than it is now as it was on arrival till 2014. However new rules require travellers to apply online. This isn’t a cumbersome process at all and quite easy. I got my visa within 24 hours and it was all online. No passport submission anywhere. No documents. Nothing. Easy.

Easy Visa process + easy on the wallet makes this for a great destination. And it has a lot more to offer from a tourism point of view. There are scenic views, cultural and spiritual experiences, natural beauty, and interaction with wild life and beach resorts as well. Colombo offers some amount of an urban metropolis with the required shopping as well. Not as expansive as most other destinations but good nonetheless.

For the Pakistani Wallet

As mentioned earlier this is one of the more economic destinations for Pakistanis not looking to splurge. And with all other travel guides we like to encourage the smart traveller in you to plan ahead and make life easier for yourself. Book in advance and use the miracle of the internet to book online. Sites like booking.com are great in this regard and you never when you might come across a ‘steal’ of a deal for a 5 star accommodation.

To give you an idea here is the breakdown. Travel to Sri Lanka can be done via Sri Lankan Airlines from Karachi at fares which will hover around PKR 45-55k depending on how early you book. These are the fares for economy seats. For other places people can either journey to Karachi and onwards or take other airlines which won’t be direct like Emirates or Etihad. So for non-karachi travellers I would say the flight estimate would be around PKR 65-80k depending on airline, flight and date of booking. Keep in mind the peak season for Sri Lanka is between July to September so fares will go up if you book during this period.

VISA costs are 99$ per person. You can pay online using a credit card while applying for the VISA if you are managing this all on your own. Otherwise your travel agent can take care of it and add it in his overall bill. This is a spike as up till last year the VISA cost was 20$ for applied VISAs and 30$ for on arrival VISAs.

Expenses within Sri Lanka on food, shopping and tours etc are more or less in line with the kind of costs and expenses you might expect to find in Pakistan. Once you do the conversion its more or less the same. And the conversion goes in our currency’s favour which is just that slight bit stronger than the Sri Lankan rupee (roughly around 1 PKR to 1.3 Sri Lankan Rupee*). Average meal cost would be something like PKR 1,200 per person in normal restaurants. And for fast foods and on the go foods it would be something like PKR 700 per person. And there are plenty of Halal options so that is also a load off. Not to mention the vegetable variety on offer.

 Accommodation for an 8 day tour would come to around PKR 90k for a double room or twin share stay throughout, which is again great and can be slightly less also depending on what kind of hotels you book and how smart you are online in getting good deals. An example – when I recently went I got a 5 star property in Bentota (beach resort area near Colombo) for around PKR 25,000/- for two nights inclusive of breakfast and dinner! The hotel was Cinnamon Bey and I got this amazing deal through booking.com. Just goes to show how well you can manage your accommodation expenditure if you are smart about it.

Transportation is not something that needs to be explored. You can easily hire a guide and driver for the duration of the stay. The guy stays with you for all the days and is your transport for throughout Sri Lanka. There are no public transport hassles. All travel in Sri Lanka is customized to your own time table and not to mention the convenience and ease of having a guide / driver combo throughout. A good one can come in around 55$ per day inclusive of fuel, car rent, services of the guide, his food and accommodation. Now please tell me that is not a steal?

All in all the total cost per head should come to around PKR 140k for an eight day stay including travel, stay, tickets, tourist activities, food and guide. And mind you stay is in 4-5 star hotels. This does not include shopping and any other luxurious activities like spas and massages. However even if you add the latter for a couple of times it would come to around not more than 150K per head which is fantastic for an eight day tour. Honestly great destination and you can probably get away with a lower budget as well.

The Top Places in Sri Lanka

It is all basically a drive around the country once you land in Sri Lanka. The perfect planning would have you land in Sri Lanka and stay overnight in Negombo (city close to Colombo and on the beach). From there you drive away to Kandy and Nuwara Eliya and then back down south towards Bentota and Colombo.

Kandy

By far the most activity filled city with tourist attractions aplenty and very scenic hilly views as well. The weather the city has to offer is excellent between July to September which is overall the ideal time to go to Sri Lanka. There will be showers out of nowhere but then the sun will come back up out of nowhere to. Kandy is the second largest city of Sri Lanka after Colombo. It has temples, market areas, natural man made attractions and cultural shows. You can visit the Elephant Orphanage in Pinnawala and the Spice Gardens on your way to Kandy and not far from the main city (maybe about a 1 hour journey). The orphanage is great where you can get up close and personal with gentle giants of the Ceylon valley and feed and ride them for an enhanced experience. Then there are the botanical gardens which are beautifully made and have some of the tallest and oldest trees around which are nothing but beautiful. Very well maintained and made the botanical gardens are a must see. The one in Kandy is high on plants and trees as compared to flowers. And if you are lucky you might get a peek of monkeys as well! Additionally you may also visit the Temple of the Tooth for some cultural input and attend a local dance and culture show in city to cap of the stay here. A 2 day stay in Kandy is sufficiently comfortable but you can do all of this in one hectic day as well. On your way out from Kandy be sure to visit a local wood carving factory for some great souvenirs and take home stuff.

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Places to stay in Kandy would definitely be either Amaya Hills or Earl’s Regent. Both are excellent hotels with comfortable rooms and excellent hilly views. The Ayurvedic massage treatment at Amaya Hills is especially excellent.

Nuwara Eliya

The hill station of Sri Lanka that is absolutely gorgeous. Expect weather to be on the chillier side here with temperatures during the day time during July-September also touching around 13-14 degrees. It gets cold in the night so be sure to pack something slightly warm for here. Nuwara Eliya is on the hill so the journey to and from the city is a windy road. For those who have travel issues on such routes I would definitely advise taking a motion sickness tablet before hand to help during the journey as it can be a bit much. The result is worth it though. The view from Nuwara Eliya and on the way is gorgeous. The higher you drive closer to the city your view is filled with beautiful tea gardens all across the hills. You can stop at one of the tea factories for a quick visit and lesson in how tea is made and how many different kinds of tea are there. You will also be served a complimentary cup of tea made from the fresh produce. Another on the way sighting is the Ramboda Waterfalls. This makes for a great view and a nice lunch stop. Once in Nuwara Eliya to be honest there are just a couple of things to do. More so for the nature geeks in us who like treks and lakes and horse rides. Gregory lake makes up the main attraction in the city with boating, horse riding and a typical hill station weather time coffee. Maximum you just need a day in the city and then you can move on. If you like relaxing in such environments you can extend your stay.

Recommended hotels for the city are Qantara and Araliya Green Hills. Qantara is a fairly new hotel but very well made is almost at the top belt of the city so the view from here of the whole city all the way to the lake is breathtaking. Stay at both hotels is comfortable and food is also good.

Bentota

The perennial beach resort. Bentota is something of a properly developed sandspit or hawksbay that Pakistanis and Karachiites in particular might be able to relate to. The hotels are resort type hotels here and it is basically the stop for a relaxing, tanning and spoil of yourself resting type of stay. The beach is somewhat pebbly so be sure to be prepared in footwear accordingly. There are some good water sport options that can be done here including jet skiing, tube riding, motor boat riding, snorkelling and fishing to name a few. There is also a wild life attraction in the Turtle Hatchery in Bentota which you can skip or do depending on your interest.

The hotel to stay in here is Cinnamon Bey. It is a 5 star luxury property with a great beach, excellent restaurants and fantastic amenities overall. A 5 star resort in the true sense of it.

Colombo

Colombo is the only metropolis experience that you will get in Sri Lanka. This is the place for fulfilling the retail, shopping, big city cravings in you. There are some places you can see as a tourist like the Independence square but really Colombo is really for concrete jungle feel for rounding off the Sri Lankan holiday. There are some very nice shopping outlets and retail malls here where you can get good stuff. Odel, Paradise Road, Glitz and Barefoot are a couple of places that you should definitely visit. Shopping is also like almost all other things not that expensive in Sri Lanka and in some cases you can actually get some pretty good deals. For fine dining experience be sure to try out either Beach Wadia (for sea food lovers) or Gallery Cafe which is a great combination of an art gallery, a retail store and very fine dining.

There are plenty of good hotel options in Colombo. Cinnamon Grand, Hilton, Cinnamon Red and Mirage a few of the good ones you can choose from.

Overall

Overall Sri Lanka is a great holiday experience which gets ignored thanks to the Thailands and Malaysias on offer. Head to head it is probably not as high in experience but definitely has a lot to offer and is something which will be economical for Pakistanis. Excellent destination for couples and honeymooners!

The Year of the West Indies

‘6 6 6 6! Carlos Braithwaite! Remember that name’

Just can’t get over the emotion with which Ian Bishop was commentating when in a 4 balls West Indies turned the nail biter final of the World T20 2016 on its head. It was quite literally amazing. The young all rounder in question made the 19 required off the last over seem like a paltry sum. 4 hits and done. It was actually more or less done in the first 2 hits but he chose to hit 2 more of the same for good measure.

As a Pakistani fan and for a majority of the other Pakistani fans our World T20 triumph pretty much came when India were defeated in the semi-finals. That West Indies went on to beat England as well and clinch the title was more of a brotherly (in cricketing terms) happiness for the Caribbean team.

There is always something likeable, at least for me, when it comes to two teams – the West Indies and the Kiwis. So personally I am happy they won. And they deserved every bit of it. Starting from uncertainty and a complete lack of support from their cricket board this team literally scrapped everything together, every member of it to achieve the success they did. They triumphed against unbelievable odds off the field. On the field they banded together and played as a unit. They tried their best to cover whatever they were lacking. And they triumphed. It will make for an unbelievable story for years to come – h–w the West Indies won the 2016 World T20. And it was not just a one man show throughout the tournament. Everyone delivered in different games. There was a different hero in each game. And there were contributions here and there by everyone.

It was Gayle in the group game against England with a hammering century. It was Simmons, Charles and Russel against India in the semi-final. It was mostly Samuels against England in the final and of course the 4 ball demolition from Braithwaite.

Darren Sammy’s men also capped off with their title an overall great year for the West Indies. As it stands they are the Under 19 World ODI champions (January), the Women’s World T20 champions and the Men’s World T20 Champions. The men’s team also became the first country to lift a second World T20 title. England, SL, India and Pakistan have 1 each.

They played like a united team from a situation where the cricket board’s actions and relationship with the players would be deemed anything other than unity. They played with heart. They played with spirit. They played in a way where no one can say they didn’t deserve it. I think every neutral would have been supporting them.

The world as it is in this day and age has moved on from that euphoria on to the more current happenings of the IPL and the post world cup soul searching of certain countries’ performance at the tournament. Pakistan for one has gone into full gear of heads rolling and overhauls and calls for change. Afridi has resigned from captaincy but not opted for retirement just yet. Waqar Younis after much love hate drama with the PCB has resigned as coach. Aaqib Javed has refused to become the coach after what he deemed was the PCB going back on their word and their handling of Waqar Younis and much more. Oh and Inzi is our new head selector.

So yes all this will go on and much more. However we must not easily take away from this being the year of the Caribbean’s cricketers. Youngsters, Women and Men. The Calypso kings have truly marked 2016 as their year and in style. 6,6,6,6.

Attack on Lahore, Attack anywhere, Attack on Humanity

Prayers for all the lives lost in the attack in Lahore yesterday. Prayers for all the innocent gone. Prayers for all the families broken. Prayers for the sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers who are no more. Prayers for those who are undergoing treatment to try and recover. Prayers for those who are trying to recover from the trauma. Yet again prayers. Yet again we are the same juncture. There will be widespread criticism of security arrangements or the police or the intelligence or the politicians. There will be criticism that (and rightly so) the politicians will just be doing what they always do. They will come on media and ‘strongly’ condemn the barbaric actions of those behind this attack. There will be criticism of western media not giving equal weightage to the tragedy of an attack in a non-western state or country as given to the attacks in Belgium or France. There will be lots of noise on social media. There will be some sanity. There will be some chaos. It will all be there. And then once the cacophony has dimmed over the course of the next couple of weeks – we will move on. The world will move on. As it always does. As it always has. We lost 144 bright futures in children in Peshawer in December 2014. There was hue and cry. There was a black day. There were black profile pictures and black cover photos. Then after a couple of weeks, a year passed by and people marked the anniversary of the attacks. The same happened in Paris – there was a wave of people who changed their profile picture to mark their solidarity with them by having a watermarked French flag. Then life moved on. Belgium happened. Life is moving on. In between Yemen happened, Istanbul happened – life continues moving on.

We blame ISIS, we blame RAW, we blame the US. Life still moves on. But tell me how does any of this actually bring about any change? How does it comfort the lives of the ones left behind of the victims? How does it help the world in the future? What real action or objective is being achieved in the eradication of all these evils? It will only be better when we stand up to the evils of all these extremists. All these people who in the name of religion carry out murders, terror and destruction. They are not representative of anything or any religion or any race. They are all an evil against humanity and humanity must prevail against them by recognizing this fact. By moving beyond religion and race and standing up to them and saying this isn’t about any of that. This is about humanity. This about an attack on humanity – regardless of where, regardless of on who.

The change will come when we come forward and stand up to the mindset that was there in Islamabad yesterday. If we don’t stand up to that and stop it now – there will be more Lahores, Peshawers etc. If we don’t stand up to and stop extremism world over, there will be more Belgiums and Paris’s.

There cannot be any place in this world for extremism. We as humanity must stand up to it.

World T20 2016: Pakistan’s batting woes

Pakistan’s cricket team has been on a rotten run in the limited overs format. Yes the PSL was a good reprieve in between and certainly did warm the heart to see something Pakistan with the potential of becoming big in the years to come however fact is fact. In the ODI and T20 format our team has simply been awful. The results are there for all to see. And with the World T20 main round just around the corner and on the back of an extremely disastrous Asia Cup, a major overhaul is the only thing that seems to be the cure.

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From the batting to the captaincy to the management and coaching and maybe a tweak or two in bowling – a major overhaul is required. There are no two ways about it. Our batsmen made a hash of things in the Asia Cup and even before that against the Kiwis. They have repeatedly shown that this batting lineup lacks any solidity, character or consistency. The biggest culprits have been the openers and the middle order. Pakistan’s opening problem is quite old. Not since the days of Saeed Anwar have we found a single, consistent and world class opening batsman. And not since his partnership with Aamir Sohail have we found a consistent pair at the top of the order. There have been numerous openers and numerous pairing options with not a single consistent and world class pair or player emerging. The middle order has taken hits since the decline of Younis Khan in the shorter format of the game and afterwards the retirement of Misbah. Prior to that the departures of Inzimam and Yousuf did the same but we had Misbah and Younis. Now we don’t. Azhar is not a Misbah. There is no Inzi in sight to bank on for even 7 out 10 times. Simply put – batting has been our biggest area of churning out losses and bad performances. Even with a strong and completely fit line up our bowling has not been able to do anything about inept and schoolboy batting displays. The most recent example being the Asia Cup match against India in which we were shot out for 83. Our bowlers tried but just didn’t have a realistic enough target to defend. Senior players like Umar Akmal and Hafeez have to take more responsibility. They have to be more consistent and deliver. Sarfaraz also has to ensure that he continues to be a responsible player with the bat more often than not. He has done that somewhat in the past and will have to up it in the tournament.

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Captaincy is another issue. While Afridi has served Pakistan for a long time and has definitely provided in the past, it just keeps looking like he is running out of steam. Batting has never really been something that I have ever put Afridi on onus for but even his bowling is in decline. And with leadership comes responsibility. You need to inspire somehow on the field through bowling, batting or fielding the rest of the team. To galvanize them. To get them out of the slumber. However that really has been missing. Nor has there been a sacrificing rescue act to stabilize the ship. Something that was often the feature of Misbah’s captaincy and for which he was often given the stick by people left, right and center. I would again ask them – what else could he have done. And had he not done that the shambles that are the batting right now would have been the shambles then as well. Afridi’s captaincy of late has been neither inspiring nor the self-sacrificing for stability nor the leading from the front sort. His captaincy has neither been Misbah nor has it been anywhere near the heights he reached as captain in the 2011 world cup. We badly need that inspiration or leading from the front. And we need it now to have any sort of respectability at the World T20.

Including a batting coach now may very well be having left it too late. And not just any batting coach but an established, respected and accomplished figure. But it may just bring a little bit of semblance in the approach that our batsmen use. Khurram Manzoor was always going to be a disaster and recalling Ahmed Shehzad to the squad was all but inevitable. Even if it doesn’t really guarantee immediate success or consistency, it will at least add some experience. How far is that experience used by Ahmed Shehzad with the bat rather than social media is left to be seen.

The bowling department, yet again seems to be our only ray of hope. With the return of Amir to the team the attack has gotten a spearhead for attack even thou I was opposed to him returning on principle. I still maintain it but this is more of a practical assessment of the team more than anything else. And technically his inclusion is after due process of being banned and having served his time. Coming back to the assessment, with Amir the spearhead and having Irfan and Wahab Riaz in support our bowling will have the required bite. I would definitely keep Wahab Riaz ahead of Sami because he can give that required intensity more than Sami and can contribute a little with the bat as well. Irfan will remain an asset with his height. Spin is something that we are hurting in no longer having someone like Saeed Ajmal in the side nor Yasir Shah for that matter. Afridi as mentioned earlier is no longer the bowler he used to be. Hafeez cannot bowl due to his action being termed as illegal. Shoaib Malik can be useful, but that’s about it, he can just be useful.

Keeping all of the above in mind and given that our group has India, New Zealand, Australia and one qualifier from the initial rounds (most likely Bangladesh) it will be nothing short of a miracle if we qualify from the group. Australia are perhaps the only team we can be more confident of beating given their T20 side is not that good. India has a curse on us in tournaments and will most likely be victors against us especially in front of their home crowd. The Kiwis are a strong unit. Bangladesh (if they qualify) are going to use their recent victory against us in the Asia Cup as an inspiration to repeat that victory and can achieve that.

So as usual prayers for team Pakistan but doesn’t seem like it is going to be a very good cup for us. Sad to see Afridi sign off from international cricket in what looks more and more likely to be the above scenario. He has been a great asset for the team in the past and has had an interesting, part glorious part chaotic career in the green shirt and one would have hoped for him to depart on a high.

travel essentials

Travelling can be a lot of things- inspiring, rejuvenating, relaxing, an escape, an experience, an adventure etc. It can be a lot of good things. But of course it comes with its own set of baggage and hassles. Crowded airport terminals, long flights, noisy flight neighbours, changes in temperature on flight and in terminal, dealing with natives from a country who seemingly don’t communicate in English or choose not to etc. So as with everything else travel has its pros and cons. What you can do to ensure that the tilt is heavily on the positives as your take away from your holiday or vacation is plan ahead for these hassles and problems and try to minimize them as much as possible. Obviously you can’t eliminate them entirely but mitigation can do wonders. Here is a list of things which can help in various phases of travel or well at least makes my list anyway.

Travel Wallet / Card Holders

A travel wallet can be one of the most essential, time saving and hassle free items on your list. Avoid digging through your bag to search for the frequent flyer card, passport, boarding ticket and any other xyz item. Pick up a special cardholder to hold all the essential cards or documents you will need at the airport (frequent flier card, credit card, ID). Yes you might come off as a little bit of an organization nut or a control freak but you’ll be a lot less likely to misplace an important card in the rush to make your flight.

Smartphones

Not because they are funky. Not because everyone else has them. Not because they are the status quo. Not for anything else but the pure fact that smart phones have evolved into being an essential part of our overly technologically oriented lives. Love them or hate them you will feel more and more that they are way too useful to simply ignore. Especially if you belong to the working members of the society. And just as one would expect these little devils can be life savers for travelling. Music gaming or reading to kill the time on a long flight or a long transit at an airport. Alarms and reminders to store all important events, flight/tour/show times etc. Many apps that can help you on your travel journey with essential things – covered separately ahead.

Translation Apps

You can research and download whichever translation app you prefer but this is a miracle worker and a life saver. That’s right it is both those. Imagine going to a place like Beijing, China. If you didn’t have an idea of exactly how bad the communication barrier is like I did’t then trust me you would want to avoid the culture shock. People simply do not speak any English. It is very difficult and rare to find someone who would speak in somewhat English let alone fluently. In such a conundrum translation apps are essential. In the old days you could probably see from TV shows and movies etc people carrying around a language to language dictionary in their hands and frantically searching for the required word or phrase. Well this is essentially that only without the searching and franticness. All you have to do is type or speak into the app and viola translation will be done. Google Translate is in my humble opinion the best one out there. Covers a vast array of languages and has an easy to use interface. The translation can be played via audio as well making the entire experience more convenient.

Map Apps

I believe in exploring cities on foot. Whenever and wherever possible I would love to just walk around, take the local tube or taxi and just feel the city on my own. Embrace all that it has to offer from market places to malls to restaurants to activity places. I remember doing that through the various places and markets in London and also in Singapore. Really good experience. What you need to make this all the more better is a map. Download a map app for your phone which is updated and clearly has all the main places marked on it. Your location is clearly visible on it and will make it easier for you to chalk out directions on where you want to go. Again Google would top this list for maps as well. Some places have city specific map apps which also come with transport updates and guides on how to get to where (listing what transport you can take with timings and updates on whether a road might be closed and diversions etc).

Four Square

This app would be really helpful in cities or countries where people are high on technology and the social media. You want to go exploring on your own but don’t know which places are good and what to have at a particular restaurant? Well four square is the collective answer to that. It is a social media platform which guides you to the places around you giving complete ratings along with user reviews. The reviews can be really helpful. They cover almost everything that can be seen on the map from dining places to cinemas to book stores to malls to stations etc. Reviews and helpful tips can be found posted by other users which can definitely be helpful at any time. And you can return the favour by leaving reviews and tips of your own for other lost souls such as yourself.

Ear Plugs

No – they aren’t just for the ear pain you feel when landing and taking off in the aircraft. And they aren’t just for swimming or your beach visits because you can’t stand water in your ears. They are also amazing to get you through those troubled times when there may be a case of cranky toddlers, infants and small children who are wailing or crying or basically going hyper. Help yourself stay sane with these, just plug them in and block out the unnecessary noise.

DSLR

You might not be into photography. You might have a smart phone with a real nice camera in it. But believe me especially given the ease of use and competitive prices you simply must not travel without a DSLR. Photography is one of the best ways of grabbing the memories and experiences you have on travel outside of your own mind. Over clicking can be a problem but that is something you can control. But having a DSLR means you can capture that perfect sunset on the beach in Langkawi or the big 5 on safari at the Kruger National Park in Johannesburg with brilliance. The picture quality will be fantastic and you can use them to make copies and frame them later on as well to cap off your memorable times from your trips. All you need really is a basic lens or two and you are all set. The DSLR will help you do the rest. A picture is worth a thousand words after all.

Multi-Plug Adapter

Ever reached your destination only to find out that the hotel you are staying at doesn’t have a matching adapter or electrical socket for your phone charger, laptop, shaver or pretty much any other device that you carry with you for your travels? The answer to that long question is probably yes. It happened with me in Sri Lanka. Beautiful hotel in Negombo the day I landed. Turned out the entire country was on a 3 pin socket system and my phone charger, laptop charger and camera charger all had different plugs. Would have been less hassle free if I had known in advance and had just packed a multi-plug adapter from home!