The Population Crisis

Pakistan’s population has spiked dramatically in just a few decades. The nation had fewer than 35 million inhabitants in 1947. In fact, present-day Bangladesh , then referred to as “East Pakistan”, was larger in population than “West Pakistan”! Today, the country has over 200 million people – growing over 6x since inception. This is not a population increase – it’s an explosion.

The fertility rate is another aspect to consider. It is defined as “births per woman” – ie. the estimated number of children that an average woman will have throughout her lifetime. In 1951, the fertility rate was over 6 children per woman. Many families were exceeding the average – having 8+ children was not uncommon. Today, the fertility rate of Pakistan is 3.4, which is still higher compared to other Muslim-majority countries like Indonesia (2.3), Malaysia (2.01), Bangladesh (2.05), Turkey (2.08), Saudi Arabia (2.34) and UAE (1.42). Pakistan’s fertility rate is also substantially higher than nearly all developed countries like U.S. (1.78), Canada (1.53), U.K. (1.75), Japan (1.37), France (1.85).

In hindsight, the “bache do hi ache” (“just 2 kids are good”) campaign has proven insuccessful in the nation. As of yet, the population boom has seemed to exacerbate poverty. Most families having a greater number of children are not financially well-off. Their children, often growing up to lead difficult, labor-intensive lives, end up having more children themselves in an effort to build a support system and a retirement plan. This has created a domino effect on poverty at a macro level.

The past cannot be changed, but the future can. Many believe that this population boom could be used as an advantage for the country. According to UNDP’s 2018 report on youth, 64% of Pakistan’s population is younger than the age of 30. A younger population entering the workforce could increase economic output.

Will the fertility rate be lowered by a more educated, stable youth, and the increase in women entering the workforce? What are your thoughts?

“Studying Arts? Haw Haye!”

"Studying Arts? Haw Haye!"

By Noor Jamshed Khan

The subcontinent is a macrocosm shrouded in mysticism, spiritualism and bountiful springs of creativity. Surprisingly, we stand on the Earth that has witnessed a tsunami of cultures, languages, history and arts! Regardless of our blind eyes; those of us who reside within the blankets of our mother land, are aware of the traditional beauty which flows within the loose Earth which is in a constant battle for dominance against war, technological advancement and the impeachment created by ignorant figures who are far too focused on the corruption caused by a crusade that is far ancient than their own bones.

As the daughter of a proud military father and an educated mother, I too have been a target when choosing to dedicate my life to the Arts.

“Aagey kya karo gee?”

“Log kya kahein gei? Koi shaadi nahi kare ga tumsei?”

“Yei amreeki khayalat yahan nahi chalte. Zyada gori bannei kee koshish mat kar!”

”Tumhara moun zyada tou nahi chalna shuru hogya? Bas yei jo tum arts parh rahi ho na, sar par charh raha hai.”

“Aap kya ghar kei deewar bhi paint kar sakti hain?”

Despite all these claims on my character, I was determined and consistent for my future. According to the philosophies of our revered poet and philosopher Allama Muhammad Iqbal, Khudi! Khudi my friends goes beyond self-preservation! How many times have you heard a hippie friend go on about ‘look deep within yourself to find yourself!’ as much as it makes no sense, there is a sliver of truth to it. As a fine artist, who are rumoured to be manual labourers (a bit of truth in there as well, I won’t deny), will it be surprising for you to learn that I also dabbled a lot in philosophy, research writing, poetry and other fields of advanced literature? I take what I have learned as tools to look within my faults, pinpoint them, recognise them thus, establishing the principle of Khudi that our dear Allama speaks of.  I look past the sticks and stones, past the sour expressions of disappointed rishta aunties to something more meaningful…..

Like any other passionate scholar, educator or artist! Each step begins with a bit of ridicule, its natural!

Don’t be afraid or ashamed when somebody, who doesn’t even know the definition and the history behind, the chiaroscuro light or the famous murti (statuette) of Venus of Willendorf attempts to derail you from your ambition. These kind of people would only distinguish a naked, fat lady who has a chubby face and no arms! They are unable to think behind the tangible form or even recognise that the Venus represented fertility and the divine feminine! How this travel sized statuette changed the lives of our ancestors and we, as the next generation, can only spit at something that has held within its tiny clay form prayers and wishes of so many people who have passed away with time.

Venus of Willendorf, est. 30,000 B.C.

Understand that people, especially those of our culture, are afraid of change.

Whether be a house, a family or even something as simple as a pet! We tend to see change as a form of coup d’etat to our daily routine and rituals therefore, can you imagine being asked to change your entire life or even your thinking for something not worth your time?

Your ancestors has followed a consistent pattern for centuries. It has prevailed due to this circle within which your blood has been confined within. It’s safe. It has assured a happy and prosperous life for generations! Until one rivulet decides to trickle out of this boundary much to the chagrin of aunties, mamoos and naanis. My dear readers, I speak on the behalf of that drop of blood that has dared to flow out of that boundary, it is ok!

Things are hard at first for sure but you will get used to the, presumably subtle, kannakhio kee glare (peripheral glare) or the sarcastic quips aimed at the lack of your IQ for something as grand as MBA that your cousin has done from Cambridge or Harvard. (But we all know that your phuppo is making that on the go but you let it slide since you are far too tired of comparisons at this point, am I right?)

I have no rights to guide your thinking or hold your hand, I am just a simple human being who can pat you on the back and tell you of my truthful experience so you may be assured that your choices are yours alone to make.

Nobody is responsible for you but yourself my friend therefore, why allow someone else to make that choice for you?

It’s not like your khala will be your first patient if you are a struggling doctor who is afraid of blood. Or your father has forced you to become a businessman when he doesn’t have a clue of your anxieties when facing the corporate environment. When you make your own choice, you are at peace with yourself, you know why?

Because YOU as an independent individual has made that decision thus, are responsible for it. Therefore you cannot complain about your daily woes to someone who doesn’t understand your plights in the first place but hey! You will find new friends that do understand you. Or are willing to help you in achieving that goal when the ones whom you have lived with your whole life did not even attempt to understand you.

Now now, don’t go rebelling in your young adult life because I have said that.

My dear readers! Be elegant, mature and mindful when making your own decisions. Be the bigger person when the other barks at you. I say that as someone who has graduated from an Art university because we thrive on human nature, we are the word renaissance personified because we wish to refresh and remind the world of true human nature.

It’s okay to show emotion. It’s okay to love someone. And it’s certainly fine to laugh aloud in public! (Just don’t be that one expressive human being who sits in the theatre and annoys everyone else, yeah?) As artists, we are human beings first. Knowledge is something that we take for granted, it’s something more than rattafying those physics kei numerical or practicing our beautiful handwriting so we can become that one kid who asks for that extra sheet during exams!

Knowledge is something beautiful, something that permeates within our extra and peripersonal space which we are so blind towards! Art has allowed me the space and the power to attempt to breach that veil…..attempt to question that metaphysical reality that many of our Muslim scholars had wished to question. It’s a never ending cycle of answering rising queries which is honourable and not haram in any sense!

Finally - Remember that the first Surah of the Quran is Iqra.

‘Nuff said.

Respect for the Essential Workers

Social distancing and masks are musts right now. Let's not forget to be kind as well!

One of the most difficult jobs I’ve worked was being a cashier. I worked at a busy retail chain store while in University, to pay for my day to day expenses. The reason I found the job to be so difficult was 2-fold: a lack of appreciation (getting disrespected by angry customers was routine), and a lack of fulfillment (what difference am I making to the world?). To be honest, it was also a very lonely job. “How are you today? Did you find everything you needed?” was the line I repeated to hundreds of customers everyday, without any real connection. The majority of my 6 to 10 hour shift was spent standing in the same spot, with a half hour lunch break, ringing customers. I would turn into auto-pilot mode. I didn’t even have to think much to do my job, my fingers and arms had memorized exactly which keys on the register to hit, how to bag the items, where all the cigarettes were, etc. 

One day, it was snowing heavily, and I had to be at work. Schools closed, most offices closed and asked employees to work from home, and many stores closed as well, but my store did not. Retail stores often stay open regardless of the weather. I started driving over to work – a half hour drive – and got stuck in extremely difficult driving conditions on the highway. My car was not equipped for this. It was a poorly maintained second-hand that was meant just to last a year or two so I could save up for a better one. The road had not been plowed yet. Long story short, my car’s tires couldn’t grip the road, kept sliding erratically, and eventually I lost control. My car spun sharply more than 180 degrees while drifting into the shoulder lane (thankfully I was on the far-right lane so I did not hit any cars) and only stopped thanks to the hill of soft snow acting as a cushion. I was safe, but extremely nervous, and the car was miraculously undamaged. There was an 18-wheeler truck right next to me so I knew it could have ended much worse. A very nice police officer happened to be on the highway, saw me, and turned his emergency lights on to make all the other cars stop so that I could turn my car around and get back on the road. I told him I wanted to turn back and get home, but he said at this point, I’m closer to my work so I might as well play safe and just get there. He drove with me for a while just to get me to work. Great guy.

When I got to work, I told the story to my manager and co-workers at the time and I remember seeing unconcerned reactions. “Really? Wow. Anyway, could you make sure you fix the items by the main register?” My experience was considered ordinary, I realized, or perhaps, I was too ordinary and people die everyday, right? But in my shoes, just getting to work had turned into a great risk on that day. Shortly after, I put in my resignation notice.

When I quit my job, I think I felt my reality was that while my contributions weren’t perceived so great to demand more pay, my well-being (or lack thereof) was also not really a matter of concern for my peers and managers. Add to that the harsh treatment from customers, and the snowy winter days which gave me some driving-phobia. It was a cold environment, both literally and figuratively.

Since then, I’ve harbored a great deal of respect for workers that today are being labeled ‘essential’ – retail employees, drivers, police officers, nurses, doctors, and many others – anyone who cannot perform their job remotely, but whose participation is absolutely required to keep the world running. Truth is, these jobs were always essential and most of us already knew that, but it has never been so evident as now.

Cashiers who are still working right now, I feel, are taking risks every day similarly to the risk I took on that snowy day. But their risk is greater, because my resignation was under otherwise normal circumstances; these workers choose to continue working under a pandemic. One of the employees at a nearby grocery store, which we visit often, was diagnosed with COVID-19 over the weekend; it’s a very real threat to them. They are choosing to come in not only for a paycheck, but to keep us alive and comfortable, and they’re putting their health on the line to do so. They can go home satisfied every day that they made a difference, and we are very grateful to them for it, now more than ever before. I hope – and I believe – that we can also keep that sentiment for all types of workers even after this pandemic ends and life returns to normality, because everyone wants to feel fulfilled and appreciated for their job.

One of the side-effects of this terrible pandemic is that it is beating some good habits into us, as well as general concern for others, which we always needed. Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds – we should have always been doing so, but how many actually did (I’m looking at you, office Bob who sprinkled his hands for 2 seconds with no soap after peeing at the urinal)? Stay home if you’re sick. Be kind to others. Say thank you to your local store’s employees, and treat them as you would treat a friend, even if your coupon doesn’t scan or an item is out-of-stock. At the very least, let’s admit their jobs are not easy, and they never were. Let’s continue these good habits and carry this renewed awareness to post-pandemic life.

“Don’t Ask Questions!”

How many have you heard “Don’t ask questions! Just do as you’re told!”, from your parents? I know I did; still do. And maybe this isn’t just a desi parent lingo, but I don’t know many desi parents who encourage their kids to question their life.


I have heard many aunties complain that their kids are always asking “why” to everything they tell their kids. I hardly blame them; it isn’t easy being a parent. Kids can be annoyingly curious.


So, this auntie came over one day, for some reason or another, and she was telling us that her 10-year-old son is always asking her ‘why’ whenever she tells him that he can’t do something for religious or cultural reasons. I can barely remember what I ate yesterday, let alone the exact thing she was telling him he can’t do. But the kid was apparently complaining that other kids can do this so why can’t he. As a mom, she just wants her son to listen to her and not question her reasons. Of course, she mentioned that she never asked her parents questions when they told her to do something.

As an introvert and a youngster, I really wasn’t going to say anything, so I didn’t. I just ate my pulao in silence and listened. It was good pulao and I’m no fool that’s going to let it get cold to add in my two cents to the conversation. I also hate confrontations, so there’s that. However, I couldn’t help but think how hard it can really be to explain things to children; kids aren’t as dumb as we like to think.  

In the West, specifically in America, we are taught to be individuals and encouraged to learn via asking questions.

I know for myself growing up, the teachers prioritized ourselves in our lives. They taught and even encouraged us to ask questions. They appreciate it so much that my cousin received a special award for asking a lot of questions; It gave us all a good chuckle. They teach us that if we don’t understand something then we must ask why and how. And from my personal experience, desi parents don’t admire this trait in the least.

Culturally, the weight of respecting our elders is so heavy that doubting their rules and orders is considered disrespectful and an act of disobedience.

Now listen, I’m not saying we should completely disregard our parents and their advice. We ain’t about that life. They try to do what they think is best for us; we should appreciate that. However, this doesn’t stop our curiosity on why there are certain rules set in place that other kids don’t have to follow. But for some reason parents find it unbearably frustrating answering our questions.

Let me give you an example of a basic conversation from when I was 12 years old:

My mom: Don’t wear perfume and walk under the trees. It attracts Jinns and they will possess you.

Me: What? That doesn’t even make sense. Why would that happen? There are millions of women who wear perfume in the park, and they come home fine. Why would they come for little ol’ me?

My mom: These things do happen and I’m telling you for your benefit. This is the problem with you kids, you never listen to your elders, Badtameez (disrespectful). Now, go do something useful.

haunted tree
Yeah, that's pretty much how I imagine it, minus the kuta that my mom won't
let me get because that's haram too ;(

All she had to say was that it is believed that Jinns like to, allegedly, reside in flower bushes (which I discovered when I got older), and since perfumes are floral scented it can attract otherworldly entities. Or she could have told me that she thought I was too young to be smelling good. Either of these reasons would have been more reasonable than just saying that I’ll get possessed. But what do I know?

Perhaps, they themselves don’t know the answers which is why they struggle to find a proper response. Parents don’t like to be wrong and don’t like to admit that they may not know something.

This is something I’ve always been dubious about. I can feel my eyes squinting and side eyeing in suspicion when my mother says, ‘that our elders told us this and that’s that’.

I think back in our parent’s time the family unit was so tight knit that there was hardly any way for outside influence to seep in. It was easier for them to believe and accept the regulations of their elders even without proper explanation.

Nowadays, with easy access of the internet, which holds vast knowledge of everything and anything, we know more of the world than our parents did. We wonder and question more and struggle to be satisfied with just, “because I said so”.

I don’t know about you, but I consider my parents average human beings. That means that I acknowledge the fact that my parents don’t know all. It’s just that they need to accept this fact about themselves.

I just want to put my hand on their shoulder, squeeze in reassurance and tell them “it’s okay that you don’t know. We can research separately and then rendezvous later and share our study”.

We must work together to diminish the cultural differences between us and our parents.

Our parents not only have a generation gap with us but also an environmental gap. We are being raised in a completely different time and country than our parents. They need to understand that their kids are growing up multi-cultural and will need more explanations; and we need to probably be less annoying.

But on the real, don’t stop asking questions. Ask them but, be respectful and patient with your parents when you’re annoying them. Explain that you don’t understand and want to, you know…understand.

And parents, try to be less annoyed by your curious children; they are just trying to understand your mindset. I mean, I just wanted to understand why I can’t drink water standing up other than that Shaytan(Satan) is peeing in my water and there is a demon standing beside me. I always thought Shaytan’s time would be better spent cajoling a believer to skip their Namaz instead of performing a petty act of peeing in my water? I’m just asking; but again, what do I know? Of course, as an adult now I know that drinking and eating standing up decreases the amount of nutrients your body receives. Sitting ensures that the water travels properly to your organs and they receive all the benefits to boost your health. But I don’t think my parents knew that; they probably truly believed that Shaytan pees in our water because that’s what they learned from their elders. They had the right idea but the reasoning behind it was lackluster to be honest.

You know what else is lost on me? Apparently, we can’t face our feet towards the Kaaba. You could put a gun to my head and ask for the number of times I’ve had my feet slapped for facing the Kaaba; I would have to die because its impossible to count. It’s not like I sit there and think ‘you know what would be fun? If I swing my legs 45 degrees NE because that’s where I pray’. It just happens! I’m just sitting there minding my own business, re-watching the first season of The Walking Dead for the hundredth time. And right when it gets intense, the characters are surrounded by Zombies, the thrilling music picks up, my hands and feet begin to feel clammy, I feel a sharp sting at my feet. “Move your legs! You’re facing the Kaaba!”. I am shook to the say the least. If I had been facing my legs in that direction in a purposeful attempt to be blasphemous then yes, I am in the wrong. But I don’t think its condemnable if the act is done without conscious effort. My legs just happen to face that direction. The intention should matter. In my heart, I was so engrossed in willing the characters to survive that I did not even think about what my body was doing. I shan’t plead guilty. But I suppose in the matter of religion I will plead the fifth, since I am not so knowledgeable in the subject. 

I’m only somewhat trying to roast my parents, but I think its allowed; we joke about it together, so I have permission. Feel free to roast your own family, respectfully. I think it allows us to bond and grow thick skin. Just don’t forget to duck when a chapal(shoes) comes flying at you.

Anyways, I think I’ve talked enough and you’re probably tired reading this whole thing. If you’ve read up until now, what are you still doing here? Hurry up and go do something useful! And don’t ask too many questions!

At the end of the day, we are more alike than different and family comes first!

Where Pakistan meets Trinidad

In 1980, a young man crossed the seas from Pakistan. Working on a cargo ship to find his way to the United states of America at the age of 20.  In 1974, a young woman was sponsored by her brother after her father passed away and came to the United States of America from Trinidad and Tobago with her mother in hopes for a new beginning. 

They both landed in the city of New York, not knowing that their paths would be crossed and later create a life of their own together.  This is the story of my mom and dad.  My name is Shereen, wife of Habib Ehmad (the creator of Pakcord). This is a story of how I was raised in a multi-cultural home, being married into full Punjabi family and uniting these experiences with my love of food.

My mom and dad met in the late 1980’s at a DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles), while they were on line waiting for their turn.  They locked eyes, and soon after, my brave father asked my grandmother for my mother’s hand in marriage. Now, some may ask, how did this happen so easily? Was it love marriage? Were there other intentions? Nope! This was a pure encounter and I always love hearing this story.

You could say it was love at first sight!

The two youngsters got married in 1987 and three years later I was born. Pakistan and Trinidad are obviously two totally different countries with a different cultural inhabitant, traditions, and most importantly, FOOD!

While growing up, I felt like I was evenly exposed to both cultures.  My mom gradually learned how to cook Pakistani dishes as my dad taught her and because of her numerous visits to Pakistan.  From Karahi to Biryani, my mom is a damn good cook.  On the opposite end, I was also very close to my maternal grandmother who was an amazing Trinidadian cook.  My sisters and I accompanied her in the kitchen while she would make sweet treats and savory curries and of course the fluffiest and buttery rotis ever!  In this article, I will discuss how the dishes from each country may be similar, different and modified from each other.  So, make sure you have a snack because you’re about to get stomach grumbles.  

Growing up, my mom and dad wanted my sisters and I to understand where we came from and understand that we a distinctly a multi-cultural family. 

My mom learned how to cook Pakistani dishes as my dad taught her during their early years in marriage.  She cooked various dishes ranging from Karahi, Biryani, Shaami Kabob, and Pulao.  Honestly, the list could go on and on.

Pakistani spices range from so many fragrances, colors and purpose.  The combination of these spices create magic in a pot.  Turmeric, red chili powder, coriander, star anise, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves are just the basics to create an aromatic and spicy dishes to satisfy anybody.  After getting married to my husband, I learned even more tricks in the kitchen.  I learned from my sister-in-law how to make my own home-made garam masala.  I learned from my mother-in-law how to cook various dishes from mustard greens, turnips, and Rohu curry fish dish.

One thing I learned and love is passing down these recipes and traditions are important to keep family values tight and forever.  Food ties our family together in the heart of the home, the kitchen.  Although I am married into a Pakistani family and value the recipes and traditions dearly, I do keep the cultures of Trinidad near and dear.  I feel unique and fortunate to be able to cook with so much versatility. 

Chicken Biryani
Shaami Kababs
Rohu Fish Curry

Now, let's look at Trinidad food, starting with the sweets!

My grandmother would teach my sisters and I how to cook sweet dishes and savory dishes.  After getting married, I shared this uniqueness to my husband and the most interesting part in doing this is when he says, “I’ve had this before!” Both countries and cultures may be different, however they can always be tied by the power of food in translation.  For example, my grandmother taught me a sweet dish called Malida, which is mashed roti mixed with condensed milk, coconut, spices and raisins and then rolled into a ball.  Pakistan has a variation to this and I think this is special!  My grandmother also made a very special sweet dish called Barfi and Kurma (no, not Korma). Kurma is fried milk dough covered with sugar syrup, also called the Trinidad Gulab Jamun. This was my grandmother’s favorite item and her specialty to cook for Eid, every year!

Malida from Trinidad
Desi Gulab Jamun, of course
Kurma, also known as the Trinidad Gulab Jamun

Trinidadian and Pakistani barfis are very similar. One difference is that the Trini barfi always has the sprinkles on top, however they both taste quite similar and will satisfy your sweet tooth!

Trini Barfi
Pakistani Barfi

Now, let's talk about Trini food! I'm getting hungry just typing this!

Trinidad is also home of very tasty savory dishes like Doubles, which is a curry channa sandwich wrapped in fried dough, also known as Bara.  

The difference in Pakistani and Trinidad cooking is the spices and methods of cooking.  Trinidadian curries have adapted to the local spices with Creole influences. Only in Trinidad would you find dark roasted spices, roasted lentils, West Indian spices and Creole herbs blended into a curry. The spices may consist of turmeric, coriander, chickpea, cumin, garlic, pepper, fenugreek, bay leaf, mace, chile habanero, green onion, thyme, mustard, fennel, and nigella. 

Doubles, the famous street food from Trinidad. 'If you ain't have a double, you ain't a Trini!'

Another one of my all time favorite dish is called Dhalpuri.  This is a white flour hearty roti filled with a spicy daal filling. My sisters and I would eat this on weekend mornings.  The aroma that it would fill the house would make me feel warm and fuzzy inside as I watched my mom or grandmother pull it out of the hot tawa, then watching it land on my plate, steaming hot.  The final touch would be adding butter, and watching it melt off.


These dishes are well-known throughout any Trinidad household.  One memory that I reconcile with over and over is waking up Sunday morning to the smell of my mom’s cooking, and breaking open the warm and buttery rotis with my little finger and enjoying every bite. 

Nothing can replace mom’s cooking!

Writing this article has made me realize how lucky I am to be exposed to these treasures and having the ability to pass down these amazing dishes to my future children and so on.  Food is not only a sustainable need but a foundation for memorable gestures of love and family.  

I am forever grateful to my family for teaching me that diversity and unity can be as simple as blending up some spices and firing up the stove.