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New Social Compact

How It Happened by Shazaf Fatima Haider: Book Review

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The upcoming and present generations harbor and behold different assumptions, aspirations, worldviews, lifestyles, and ideologies than previous generations. However, they both view life through altered and these altered ideologies are well presented in the novel How It Happened (2012) by Shazaf Fatima Haider. The story is narrated by, youngest of all the family members, a 15-year old Saleha. This story revolves around a Shia ‘’Bandian’’ family progeny of the village of Bhakuraj in the Indian sub-continent who now lives in Karachi, Pakistan. Shazaf many a time speak tongue in cheek for Pakistani society and traditions. It is a noticeable fact that values, traditions, ideologies, and lifestyles keep on changing over time due to the change in worldviews and currently adopted concepts and ideals.

How It Happened, Penguin books, India.

In the novel, the re-adjustment process of a completely new culture stands quite distinguishable through social change, economical force, evolution, and constant general pressure as the cultural transition takes place. As can be seen in the novel that cultural transition has influenced within the same family but the remarkable impact was observed on the post generation of family through any of the above-mentioned factors. In the novel, from time to time we witness minor disagreements and contradictory views among all the family members but constant distress and confusion occur between the two female protagonists of the Bhakuraj family. There is a constant tug of war between both of the women (Dadi and Zeba). When Haroon, the elder son, wants to go to New York for his studies as he is a new graduate of IBADadi opposes the idea of studying abroad. She starts crying she has certain insecurities about him. Firstly, She thinks that he would marry abroad to a non-Muslim girl and their Bhakhurajian tradition of arrange marriage will decay. It was taken as taboo to marry a girl or boy of their liking. They were not given the right to choose their life partner although they claim to be the religious and honored families in society. Secondly, she has also fear deep inside her heart because Qurat who is Dadi’s cousin, her son married abroad to a converted Muslim and black girl. As she has no much social exposure, she thinks that everyone who goes abroad returns with a wife. But eventually, she agrees that it can only be possible if he promises that he would marry a girl approved by Dadi and whenever she wants. Zeba, the elder daughter of the family, has a different notion about it. She argues with Dadi and says: Dadi, you’re being unfair! Zebabaji protested. Haroon Bhai should have the freedom to marry someone he likes.

Upon this Dadi retorted “You be quiet! Listen to you! He should marry someone he likes….. Hussain! Look at what your daughter is saying!’’ (Ibid 29)

On another occasion, the subject is again the marriage of Haroon. Dadi puts forward a list of qualities that should be possessed by a prospective girl. When Dadi says: ‘’Arey Bhai, the younger they are, the more malleable!’’ Zeba is not of the same view, she again says this thought of her and says: ‘Dadi ‘, Zebabaji inquired, are we talking about women or plasticine?

From the beginning, we encounter this argumentation between the two protagonists for Zeba has a different social background and she has a different literal and economic background. Zeba has been brought up in a different social circle. She has grown in the city of Karachi, a different and liberal environment from the village of Bhakuraj where Dadi had been brought up. There is a big difference in a city and a village. Social factors have a great impact on the mindset of a person. Zeba believes that a person should be entitled right to choose her life partner as she has been inclined to this view socially. She has acquired it from society and the environment that a person has the right to his life, he has the right of expression, and he has the right to live his life the way he likes. She is courageous enough to argue with the matriarch of the family. Though no one is allowed to argue with Dadi, Zeba’s grooming does not allow her to remain quiet on the matters they don’t think are right. On the contrary, Dadi has been brought up were talking or arguing is considered as an offensive act towards the embedded taboos. Though economically sound but socially isolated, Dadi has been brought up in isolation in such away. They had been taught that they had no right especially girls to express their thoughts when elders discuss any topic or decide a matter of importance because they are taken as unwise. They have been taught that girls from respected families do not speak, they just listen and obey what they are told. Dadi had no schooling and another social circle. What she learned at home was all regarding education. She has been traditionally trained at home. She has been taught that a girl has to raise children and to keep the house no more. The women who do this duty of housekeeping and raising children well are characterized as respectable and successful women. In the novel, Dadi frequently expresses her thoughts proudly that a girl should be seen and not heard, a girl should be able to cook well, a girl should like this and that. Zeba says that women should be treated as human and not any material thing. They are living human beings, they breathe, they are not dumb, they can speak then why they should not be heard and only seen. They can differentiate between right and wrong and from their childhood they have been taught these things at home as well as in society.

The youngsters of the family have their style of living. Zeba, being a student of literature, keeps different views about everything. In the novel, she is depicted as a sharp-minded and disobedient girl of the family. Zeba is treated as the rebel of the family because she has set her principles for leading an ideal life. She is never inclined to follow the embedded customs, principles and traditions set by the Bhakurajian family. She seems to be interested to listen to the folks told by Dadi but she has no convictions to spend her own life as old-fashioned as Dadi`s. She is driven by the social norms of modern-day and by the conflicting differences between both traditions and viewpoints as she progresses in her educational life. 

In the novel changing roles of women have been portrayed greatly. Saima(Haroon’s wife) represents the ability of women to work in the man’s world. Fattiphups is playing the role of a liberal woman, who’s is leading a life in accord with her mindset. 

Based on given arguments and analysis it is found that as change is permanent in human life, a shift in culture is certain in this mobile society and Shazaf has justified the that with her wit. As Dadi had to agree with new trends, everyone has to accept the fact. Sooner or later culture has to decay and a new culture has to emerge according to social, political and economic changes that take place with the time. This novel proves this fact by presenting three generations in the same family. The shift of culture takes the gap of a generation but at last, it happens, the way old traditions of the Bakhuraj family come to its end by the marriage of Zeba ( a Shia girl) to a Sunni boy. So How It Happened can be taken as comic satire on the Pakistani society.

The writer has graduated in English Literature from NUML, Islamabad and is currently teaching at IBA-PUBLIC school Sukkur, Sindh.

New Social Compact

Debunking Magical realism through Marquez’s “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings”

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There are few names in the Latin American literature, which it comes to famous novels and short stories, Columbian writer Gabriel Gracia Marquez is one of them. Throughout Latin America, he is popular with the name Gabo and was one of the intellectual literary writers of the 20th century. For his tremendous work, he received the Neustadt International Prize for Literature in 1972 and Nobel Peace Prize for literature in 1982. During his literary journey, he has written numerous acclaimed novels such as One Hundred years of Solitude published in 1962 and Love in the Time of Cholera, which was published in 1985. His popular writing style is often known as magical realism, which later emerged as a major literary movement in Latin American literature. He has also written numerous famous short stories, and among them “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” is very popular in Latin American. The American Review published it in 1995 in the Spanish language. The title of the story “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” tells the story of a shadowy old man, who one day appears in the family courtyard. The old man was not an ordinary person, because he was having some strange characteristics such as an enormous pair of wings, which was a new thing for the people, who were living in town. Hence, with the magical depiction of old man character, the author explains the conflict the ordinary people encounters concerning their cultural belief. Moreover, the whole story is written from the context of third-person narrator.

On the other hand, the presence of an old man character with huge wings represents the Magical realism of the author. Throughout the story one of the most interesting thing about the old man character is that after his appearance in the family court people began viewing him as a normal human being. But for some, he was different from the normal man because he got the huge wings that make him look like an angel, who is dressed like a rag-picker. The major character in the story is Pelayo and Elisenda in whose yard, the mysterious old man first appears. In the story, the author describes the strangeness of this old man in these words “His huge buzzard wings, dirty and half-plucked, were forever entangled in the mud. They looked at him so long and so closely that Pelayo and Elisenda very soon overcame their surprise and in the end found him familiar”. This clearly shows, though initially Pelayo and Elisenda found him a strange creature but, after the closer contact, they began viewing as a normal human being just like them. Nonetheless, the old man with mysterious wings was still a strange creature for the other people in town.

When Pelayo and Elisenda brought the old man to the physician in the town, the physician took the advantage to examine the physical uniqueness of this old man. For the physician, the old man was a new thing for him, because throughout, his carrier, the doctor has encountered something like him. As the author writes about the physician; “What surprised him most, however, was the logic of his wings. They seemed so natural on that completely human organism that he couldn’t understand why other men didn’t have them too”. Similarly, when Pelayo and Elisenda informed their neighbor about the mysterious old man, the neighbor tells them that he is an angel. This scene in the story explains how an individual thinks and feels when he/she encounters something different, mysterious, and strange. Moreover, this also explains the limitation of the human mind and the lack of knowledge about different things. This happens, at one moment the couple decides to get rid of the old man and even planned to kill him because they thought he might be a curse. Later, they change their plan and decides to imprison him and in prison, the mysterious old man suffers severe abuse and mistreatment.

Soon after the imprisonment of the old man, the people began whispering stories about the old man. Some villagers began perceiving him as an angel, while the other considered him as evil, who is God’s curse on the village. In this respect, the story The very old man with enormous wings Marquez is a mixture of compassion and sadness. Because the couple Pelayo and Elisenda wanted to get rid of him but the old man refuses to leave them until their life is transformed. As it is written in the bible “Do not be forgetful to entertain a stranger, you could be entertaining an angel”. The real reason, why the old man was a stranger to the couple and villagers because he was unattractive and he was having huge wings that embarrassed them. Throughout the story, the people in the town curse him and makes fun of him, but the old man never fights back because he is compassionate and he understands the fact that he cannot speak their language. Overall the whole story demonstrates the context of bad and good human nature because seeing the beauty is one thing while ignoring a person based on the fact that he is ugly is weary.

In contrast, the central theme of Gracia Marquez’s “The very old man with enormous wings Marquez” is the Coexistence of compassion and cruelty, which explains the feeble response of selfish and greedy humans towards those,  who are different, strange, ugly, and weak. For instance, the major characters in the novel the couple Pelayo and Elisenda imprison the old man and abuse him, and even they planned to kill him because he was ugly and weak. But once they thought, they could benefit from the old man by showcasing him in the village, they decide to keep him to accomplish their appetite for money. In a nutshell, the moral of the story was religious has always been a shallow set of beliefs, which ignore the principles of morality. Hence, the treatment of the old man in the town after his appearance in the family yard clearly shows that people in the story are faithless having inconsistent faith.

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New Social Compact

Women Rights in China and Challenges

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Women rights and gender discrimination have been a problem for many years in china. Various restrictions were imposed on women to suppress them in society. Income discrepancy and traditional gender roles in country aim to place women inferior as compared with their male counterparts.

There are diverse sectors where women face discrimination. Women of the past and present in china have dealt with unfair employment practices. They have had to jump over the unnecessary hurdles just to keep up with their male counterparts in the society. The Chinese government claims to better prioritize the promotion of gender equality but in reality it does not seem appropriate to say that there is not a single department of life where women are not being suppressed. In jobs, mostly men are preferred over women at high positions. There are a number of contextual examples which demonstrates this discrepancy in the status of women throughout china, and whilst there has been a great deal of the popular sphere, others have been brutally repressed by a government dominated by male families. For example, women who have children do not always receive support from their pay when maternity leave.

China’s history has seen a higher focus on men being the core of not just their families but also they play crucial role in in overall country’s growth and development. Post Confucius era, society labeled men as the yang and women as the yin. In this same vein, society views Yang as active, smart and the dominant half. This compared with Yin, which is soft, passive and submissive. These ideologies are not as prominent today but persist enough that there is a problem.

The tradition begins at birth with boys being the preferred children compared to girls in China. A consensus opinion in the country is that if one has a male child versus a female child, they believe the son will grow into a more successful member of the family. The sons are more likely favored because the issue of pregnancy is a non-factor and they can choose almost any job they desire. Of course, this is something that does not support efforts for gender equality nor women’s rights in China.

A survey done just last year found that 80% of generation Z mothers did not have jobs outside of the home. Importantly, most of those surveyed were from poorer cities. The same survey found that 45% of these stay-at-home mothers had no intention of going back to work. They simply accepted their role of caring for the house. Gender equality and women’s rights in China have shifted toward cutting into the history of patriarchal dominance within the country.

Women’s Rights Movement in China

Since the Chinese government is not completely behind gender equality in China for women, the feminist movement is still active and stronger than ever. In 2015, the day before International Women’s Day, five feminist activists were arrested and jailed for 37 days. They were just five of an even larger movement of activists fighting against the traditional gender role ideology that has placed females below males. These movements have begun to make great progress towards gender inequality within the country. From 2011 to 2015, a “12th Five Year Plan” had goals of reducing gender inequality in education and healthcare.

The plan also was to increase the senior and management positions and make them accessible for women to apply for said positions. Xi Jinping, the current President of the People’s Republic of China, has proclaimed that the country will donate $10 million to the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. During the next five years and beyond, this support will help the women of China and other countries build 100 health projects for women and children. March 1, 2016, the Anti-domestic Violence Law of the People’s Republic of China took effect. This law resulted in the improvement in legislation for gender equality in China. In June of that year, ¥279.453 billion was put forth toward loans to help women, overall.

‘’There are a number of contextual examples which demonstrate this discrepancy in the status of women throughout China, and whilst there has been a great deal of progress made in some elements of the popular sphere, others have been brutally repressed by a government dominated by male influence.

Mao Zedong’s famously published collection of speeches entitled ‘the little red book’ offers a glimpse into the People’s Republic’s public policy in relation to women, as Mao himself is quoted as saying ‘Women hold up half the sky’ and more overtly.’’

In order to build a great socialist society, it is of the utmost importance to arouse the broad masses of women to join in productive activity. Men and women must receive equal pay for equal work in production. Genuine equality between the sexes can only be realized in the process of the socialist transformation of society as a whole.

The china has been widening the gender discrimination gap in the society through legalized way and there is desperate need to raise the voices in gender equality.

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New Social Compact

Gender Pay Gaps during Pandemic: A Reflection on International Workers’ Day 2021

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Men, rather than women, have been disproportionately affected by job losses over time. Nonetheless, the harsh reality of this pandemic recession has shown that women are more likely to be unemployed. As a matter of fact, women have lost substantial jobs as a result of increased childcare needs caused by school and daycare closures, which prohibit many women from working, and as a result of their employment being concentrated in heavily affected sectors such as the services sector (hospitality business, restaurant, retail outlets and so on). According to a study by Alon et al, women’s unemployment increased by 12.8 percent during the first period of Covid-19 (from March 2020), while men’s unemployment increased by just 9.9 percent. Changes in job rates (which include transfers into and out of the labor force) follow the same trend, with women experiencing a much greater drop in employment than men during the recession. Similar trends have been seen in other pandemic-affected countries.

In Southeast Asia, where informal workers account for 78 percent of the workforce, women make up the majority of blue-collar employees. In Indonesia, the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar, women make up a substantial portion of the domestic workers, despite having a low contractual working status in informal settings. They are underpaid as a result of the pandemic, and the Covid-19 recession has reduced their importance in the workplace. Indonesia as one of the countries which affected by pandemic also experienced similar thing, with two-thirds of the female population in the active age group (between 15 and 64 years old), Indonesia is supposed to have tremendous potential for accelerating its economic development, but the truth is the opposite due to the never-ending pandemic. Since the pandemic began, many employees, mostly women, have lost their jobs or had their working hours shortened. Of course, their daily wages are affected by this situation. Besides, the wage gap between men and women also widens from March 2020 to March 2021, with women in the informal sector receiving up to 50% less than men, clearly resulting in discriminatory practices.Despite the fact that Indonesia ratified the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) Convention No. 100 on Equal Remuneration in 1958, fair and equal salaries have remained unchanged until now, and the legislation seems to have been overlooked and inapplicable in a pandemic situation.

Furthermore, the issue is not resolved at that stage. Apart from the pandemic, both formal and informal workers are exposed to various work systems and regulations. Women may have similar experiences with low wages and unequal payment positions in both environments, but women who work in the formal sector have the capacity, experience, and communication skills to negotiate their salaries with their employers, while women who work in the informal sector do not. Women in informal work face a number of challenges, including a lack of negotiation skills and a voice in fighting for their rights, particularly if they lack support structures (labor unions). Furthermore, when it comes to employees’ salaries, the corporate system is notoriously secretive. Another issue that continues to upset women is the lack of transparency in employee wages. Despite the fact that the national minimum wage policy is regulated by the government, only a small number of female workers are aware of it.

Overcoming Gender Pay Gaps within Pandemic Condition

In the spirit of International Workers’ Day 2021, there should be an organized and systematic solution to (at the very least) close the wage gap between men and women in this pandemic situation. International organizations and agencies also attempted to convince national governments to abolish gender roles and prejudices, however this is insufficient. As a decision-maker, the government must ‘knock on the door’ of companies and businesses to support and appreciate work done disproportionately by women. Furthermore, implementing transparent and equitable wage schemes is an important aspect of significantly changing this phenomenon. Real action must come not only from the structural level (government and corporations), but also from society, which must acknowledge the existence of women’s workers and not undervalue what they have accomplished, because in this Covid-19 condition, women must bear the “triple burden” of action, whether in productive work (as a worker or labor), reproductive work (as a wife and mother), and also as a member of society. Last but not least, women must actively engage in labor unions in order to persuade gender equality in the workplace and have the courage to speak out for their rights, as this is the key to securing fair wages. And when women are paid equally, their family’s income rises, and they contribute more to the family’s well-being.

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