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I just had to share the following piece of writing by a Rape Victim who survived to truly live the next 32 years.
Note: I have added stuff where I felt was the need, in “[]”. Stuff in bold is something I endorse.
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

After being raped, I was wounded; My honour was not.
-Sohaila Abdulali

Sohaila Abdulali

Sohaila Abdulali

“When I fought to live that night, I hardly knew what I was fighting for. A male friend and I had gone for a walk up a mountain near my home. Four armed men caught us and made us climb to a secluded spot, where they raped me for several hours, and beat both of us. They argued among themselves about whether or not to kill us, and finally let us go.

At 17, I was just a child. Life rewarded me richly for surviving. I stumbled home, wounded and traumatized, to a fabulous family. With them on my side, so much came my way. I found true love. I wrote books. I saw a kangaroo in the wild. I caught buses and missed trains. I had a shining child. The century changed. My first gray hair appeared.

Too many others will never experience that. They will not see that it gets better, that the day comes when one incident is no longer the central focus of your life. One day you find you are no longer looking behind you, expecting every group of men to attack. One day you wind a scarf around your throat without having a flashback to being choked. One day you are not frightened anymore.

Rape is horrible. But it is not horrible for all the reasons that have been drilled into the heads of Indian women. It is horrible because you are violated, you are scared, someone else takes control of your body and hurts you in the most intimate way. It is not horrible because you lose your “virtue.” It is not horrible because your father and your brother are dishonored. I reject the notion that my virtue is located in my vagina, just as I reject the notion that men’s brains are in their genitals.

If we take honor out of the equation, rape will still be horrible, but it will be a personal, and not a societal, horror. We will be able to give women [or men] who have been assaulted what they truly need: not a load of rubbish about how they should feel guilty or ashamed, but empathy for going through a terrible trauma [just like any other trauma, such as robbery, accident, illness, earthquake, etc].

The week after I was attacked, I heard the story of a woman who was raped in a nearby suburb. She came home, went into the kitchen, set herself on fire and died. The person who told me the story was full of admiration for her selflessness in preserving her husband’s honor. Thanks to my parents, I never did understand this.

The law has to provide real penalties for rapists and protection for victims, but only families and communities can provide this empathy and support. How will a teenager participate in the prosecution of her rapist if her family isn’t behind her? How will a wife charge her assailant if her husband thinks the attack was more of an affront to him than a violation of her?

At 17, I thought the scariest thing that could happen in my life was being hurt and humiliated in such a painful way. At 49, I know I was wrong: the scariest thing is imagining my 11-year-old child being hurt and humiliated. Not because of my family’s honor, but because she trusts the world and it is infinitely painful to think of her losing that trust. When I look back, it is not the 17-year-old me I want to comfort, but my parents. They had the job of picking up the pieces.

This is where our work lies, with those of us who are raising the next generation. It lies in teaching our sons and daughters to become liberated, respectful adults who know that men who hurt women are making a choice, and will be punished.

When I was 17, I could not have imagined thousands of people marching against rape in India, as we have seen these past few weeks. And yet there is still work to be done. We have spent generations constructing elaborate systems of patriarchy, caste and social and sexual inequality that allow abuse to flourish. But rape is not inevitable, like the weather. We need to shelve all the gibberish about honor and virtue and did-she-lead-him-on and could-he-help-himself. We need to put responsibility where it lies: on men who violate women, and on all of us who let them get away with it while we point accusing fingers at their victims.”

– Sohaila Abdulali.

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I recently had the opportunity to interview a handful of candidates for a few internship positions at my employer’s.

The experience made me realize a few things, the most painfully obvious one being the fact that I am alhamdolillah one of the few lucky ones to have been trained at one of the best business schools in the country and region, for the corporate toughness to come my way. Another thing I realized was that no matter how much one reads about the Do’s and Don’ts of the Corporate World in a classroom setting, or at an employer’s Campus Recruitment Drive, some things stick with you only after you experience them (as the recipient, or as the poor soul who happens to be the butt of cruel misfortune).

Yet another thing I realized was how far behind Pakistan (the relatively faster metropolitan cities included) is on the Human Resources front of the business world.

I am thus penning down the following interview tips with the intention of spreading some awareness for those less fortunate than us, as well as to serve as a reminder to those of us who tend to become a little complacent.

Naming your resumes:

I remember one of my faculty members pointing out to us how job/internship applicants tend to keep improving our resumes, and our tendency to save each updated version as something along the lines of, “CV_final_final_FINAL.doc”. While it clicked immediately when pointed out back in classroom setting, and while recruitment processes of some large MNC’s have guided us regarding how to title our resumes a little more professionally than we would consciously remember to, the true irritability of this struck me when I received some 4 dozen resumes myself, most of them titled in a similar fashion. The proud OCD-victim that I am, I was probably the one off case who actually sat down to rename each resume according to the Applicant name and position applied for. But I assure you there are very few who have the time and energy to do that for you. I was lucky I hardly had 50 resumes to go through, over a small application window. It wouldn’t be surprising if someone at a large company that allows you 2 months window to apply simply overlooks a resume titled in such generic a fashion. Or worse, imagine your resume getting lost because a resume with the exact same title already exists in the folder!

A common rule of thumb that groomed professionals prefer and promote is something along the lines of “Resume_Your Name_Position Applied for + Year_Company Name”. If that becomes too long, the least one could do is use a simple “Resume_Full Name” format.

Further tips on naming your resumes:
1. Please refrain from using all CAPS.
2. Please refrain even harder from using mixed case in your resume title! Case in point: “fIRST NAME LAST Name with pic.doc” – please, no. Another case in point: “Cv hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.doc”. Seriously?

During this recruitment experience of mine, I received a resume (for an internship based in Karachi, offered by a company based and operating in Karachi), from someone studying in London, and “willing to come to Karachi if offered the internship” – I couldn’t tell whether it was plain silliness or actual desperation. Plus, I could not afford to, and would not bother calling someone seven seas afar, only for an internship.

Using pictures in your resume:

The world over, it is being increasingly acknowledged that adding a picture to your resume is generally discouraged as it adds to a bias. Studies have shown that good looking people are at a natural advantage, not matter how unfair it seems. It is also generally advised that unless the position you are applying for specifically requires your face and demeanor to look acceptable according to certain industry standards (such as for models, or air host/hostesses, or people in the service industry in general), a picture should not be used on your resume.

Pakistan on the other hand, is not only far behind on the Human Resources Development aspect of the corporate world, but also happens to be in a very confused place itself. While there are MNC’s operating on International Standards, a large number of employers/recruiters/interviewers belong to the same old desi seth mentality where they consider it appropriate (for different reasons), for a photo to be included on a resume.

In such a scenario, the best option is to do your research on the company you are applying to. If the company claims to operate on international standards, or is reputed to be absolutely professional, then it is safe not to include your photo in your resume. But if you are applying to a lesser known or a known-to-be-seth-desi-type of an employer, then it is safer to include that passport shot. Do note however, to keep the photo itself as professional as possible (well-kept hair, not grinning beyond reason, not photoshopped beyond required – just a pleasant glimpse of what you look like as a professional).

Receiving a Call for Interview:

1. First off, please do yourself the favor of providing the employer/recruiter with a functioning and correct and complete number! ‘Nuff said.

2. Equally importantly, please ensure that the phone number you provide in your resume for recruiters to get in touch with you is always switched on and accessible! Yes it is possible to run out of battery, or to be in a low-to-no-signal area for the exact amount of time when the recruiter happens to call you. But recruiters today give you at least 2-3 calls over a spread out period of time in case you are unable to answer the phone call the first time. Recruiters today understand that you could be in the shower, or on the road, or in an elevator/basement without signal, or in a meeting or class. But you can’t expect every recruiter to show you the kindness of trying to reach you on a phone that they find to be consistently switched off…over a week!

Answer yourself this: who wants the job/internship? You, not the recruiter. Who has more options? The recruiter, not you.

Someone who is on the road in heavy, noisy traffic but answers the phone and requests a call back in an hour or so, like any professional would, leaves a much better impression (and secures a higher chance of a call-back) than someone who chooses to ignore the call altogether.

3. We understand what a nuisance prank callers can be, and we have developed a certain precaution around unknown numbers. But if the unknown number seems to be a landline, please do yourself the favor of answering it at least once. It is likely to be a recruiter. If it is a cellular number calling, and is not testing your patience with missed calls or cheap texts, and is in fact ringing consistently, please do yourself the favor and answer it at least once. It could be a recruiter.

4. When you apply for some opportunity, please keep a tab on all the places and positions you applied to. Do not ask the recruiter who gives you a call to invite you for an interview, things such as, “Which company is this?”, “What position is this?”, “What is the JD of this position?” and so on. Major turnoff. Especially when all these things have already been advertised for your benefit – based on which you applied in the first place.
While on the one hand it does make sense that you may have applied to 20 different places in your desperation or in your less than strategic job/internship application plan, the least you could do after randomly applying to a million places is to keep a tab on all those places. Yup, the onus of that responsibility is on you. The even more basic courtesy you can do yourself is to listen to what the caller just said, which on a standard basis includes information on who they are, where they are calling from and why.

5. When a recruiter calls you to invite you to an interview (a first interview, for an internship), please refrain from asking, over the phone, what the timings would be and whether there would be a stipend and how much if so. Graciously accept the interview call, ask more important questions such as where the office is located where you are required to appear for the interview, whether there is something you need to bring along, what time are you required to report, and so on, rather than make the recruiter wish to simply hang up on you. Save these questions for the interview. And the end of the interview at that. Preferably if the interview goes well.
[Note: generally speaking, leave all questions pertaining to the working conditions and remuneration et al for the end of the final interview or when an offer is made. Or, if these things are so important to you, do your research at home, not in the recruiter’s face].

Showing up for the Interview:

1. The most important thing you need to do for this step is to show up. All other things, such as showing up 10 minutes before the reporting time, or dressing appropriately, or keeping a copy of your resume and the job description handy, and such, are quite secondary. Make sure you show up on the said day and date. If you do not show up, not every recruiter will be kind enough to give you a call to check up on you.

Case in point: So I schedule an interview for this lady, and we agree on the time and day/date. On the day of the interview, she is an hour late, and when my expectations of her giving me a call asking for help on directions are not met, I call her myself, only to hear, “Isn’t it off today?” (it was a Saturday). Coming from the background of leading business schools, I should have saved my own time and energy and just hung up. But perhaps curiosity got the better of me and I asked her, “Why would I schedule an interview if it was off?” When she was lost for words, I further probed, “Why would you not show up and ask me this question upon my re-calling you, rather than confirm when I was offering you this time slot 3 days ago?”. I was met with sheepish responses and requests for a rescheduling, and I told her I would consider her case. Needless to say, before I could return to her case, I found a match for the opening and I did not feel the need to bother myself any further.

2. Oh and by the way, if you are late and miss your slot, please do yourself the favor of not demanding (yes you read that right) to be interviewed according to the schedule. If you miss your turn, you go to the end of the line and wait like every other candidate. If you have to be somewhere else, evaluate your priorities and make your choice.

During the Interview:

1. If you do not know the answer to a question, aerial firing is definitely the worse option than politely and genuinely admitting that you do not know the answer. There are ways to accept/acknowledge lack of information/knowledge without coming across as a failure. It is okay not to know something, or to forget something basic in the nervous moment of being interviewed. In fact, some ways actually make you gain further points in such scenarios. But aerial firing – please refrain! Do yourself, and those belonging to the same institute as you, this favor.

2. Why would you ask the interviewer what to do in case you receive a better offer from elsewhere? Is s/he your university student counselor? Wait…why don’t you know the answer to this question yourself?

3. When being interviewed for a job opening, please do not ask the interviewer about the car company policy. Please also do not . Most certainly not during the first interview. First interviews are usually arranged for recruiters/interviewers to gauge the person-job-organizational fit. Further 1-2 interviews are scheduled to confirm the candidate-LineManager fit, and to make the offer.
Only at the stage of an offer being made should you take the risk of trying to negotiate. Then too, know the art of negotiating. The only other point where you can bring up the package your current employer is offering you is if the interviewer/recruiter asks/requests you.
Do yourself the favor and do not rub that car in the interviewer’s face during your (first) interview. If your current employer is about to give you a car shortly, why are you job-hunting elsewhere anyway? Is it just me, or are you actually more worried about what you get out of a professional relationship rather than realize the win-win such relationships need to be? You know what’s worse than that impression? The fact that all that you are looking at is short-term physical benefits.

Now, after knowing the Don’ts, if you google the Do’s, you’d be in a much better position to fight for that position. Good luck!



{March 11, 2013}   Islam for Atheists, Logically

faith & reasonI was quite the late adopter of social media, especially twitter, (and have yet to explore several more platforms such as pinterest, Reddit, you name it). So it was only natural for me to discover a handful of things quite late. One of these things that I came across was twitter accounts with bio’s that for some reason proudly claimed they were ex-Muslims and now Atheists. This actually came as a shock to me, because I had heard of atheism, and had not yet gotten over the fact that there are people who don’t believe in the concept of a god, any god, and here was something even closer to me, Muslims/Islam, slapping my brain with an ‘ex’. I just could not comprehend this latest find.

So here is the post I promised last week – a post that addresses especially those atheists who look down upon others who exercise their choice and right to practice religion (whichever religion for that matter), and those twitterati who proudly claim to ex-Muslim-now-Atheists, because these idiots have nothing to be ‘proud’ of, and for all their harping on about logic and science, don’t make an ounce of sense to me.

Here’s to calling on their BS. Read the rest of this entry »



{March 8, 2013}   the rape philosophy

helplessness = power over other

helplessness = power over other

This post stirred many a thoughts once I happened upon this piece. I would like to disclaim here that there is a lot more that can be further elaborated upon, and that toward the end I might sound like preaching (especially from an Islamic point of view), but 1. had I been preaching like a holier than thou saint I would not sometimes be found clad in tomboy clothes or I would be a regular head scarf-er etc; 2. I am merely putting down my thoughts as my mind untangles those threads and answers questions in light of my life and my study of life so far, even if it sounds like a conclusion, which it is in a way. I would also like to disclaim here that I do not expect everyone to spring into some realization and agree with me and my conclusion and adopt it.

There is A LOT to be said and understood about how sexual violence works. But in light of the above special-focus topic of ..I will limit this post of mine to a single aspect of sexual violence: rape.

It is men who have given rise to rape, and women are not to be blamed. Read the rest of this entry »



“Marina Abramović, “Rhythm 0,” 1974

Marina Abramović

Marina Abramović

Marina Abramović is best known for her performance pieces, in which she tries to explore what is possible for an artist to do in the name of art. Her best known piece was the recent “The Artist Is Present,” in which she sat motionless for 736.5 hours over the course of three months, inviting visitors to sit opposite her and make eye contact for as long as they wanted. So many people began spontaneously crying across from her that blogs and Facebook groups were set up for those people. 

Her bravest piece, however, is my favorite. This piece was primarily a trust exercise, in which she told viewers she would not move for six hours no matter what they did to her. She placed 72 objects one could use in pleasing or destructive ways, ranging from flowers and a feather boa to a knife and a loaded pistol, on a table near her and invited the viewers to use them on her however they wanted. 

Initially, Abramović said, viewers were peaceful and timid, but it escalated to violence quickly. “The experience I learned was that … if you leave decision to the public, you can be killed… I felt really violated: they cut my clothes, stuck rose thorns in my stomach, one person aimed the gun at my head, and another took it away. It created an aggressive atmosphere. After exactly 6 hours, as planned, I stood up and started walking toward the public. Everyone ran away, escaping an actual confrontation.”

This piece revealed something terrible about humanity, similar to what Philip Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment or Stanley Milgram’s Obedience Experiment, both of which also proved how readily people will harm one another under unusual circumstances. 

This performance showed just how easy it is to dehumanize a person who doesn’t fight back, and is particularly powerful because it defies what we think we know about ourselves. I’m certain the no one reading this believes the people around him/her capable of doing such things to another human being, but this performance proves otherwise.”

Source: Facebook Sharing



{February 20, 2013}   categorizing social media platforms
striking that balance is as much on you as on others' perception of you (photo credits: google images)

striking that balance is as much on you as on others’ perception of you (photo credits: google images)

As a Marketing and HR bi-major (MBA from one of the top business schools in my region) and professional, it irks me to no end when potential employers or line managers scan your personal social media profiles to arrive at a judgement of your work-related potential. Common examples are pictures uploaded on facebook where you might be acting silly with your friends, and a potential or current employer, boss, or colleague takes that to mean you have a non-serious attitude that applies everywhere and anywhere, and makes sure to have it noticed in the work place environment. Another common example is the need for people to mention in their twitter bio data something along the lines of “RT’s are not endorsements,” or “Views my own, not my employer’s”.

However, given the kind of background we all come from in Pakistan, a background where people are only beginning to understand and practice professional HR standards and practices, I believe those who face such problems are also at a bit of fault.

where to draw the line (image source: google images)

where to draw the line (image source: google images)

For instance, a simple measure that could be taken is to avoid mentioning you work related background on a twitter account that you are using solely for entertainment, or, for instance, ensuring that colleagues are kept off your facebook profile. One of my colleague-cum-bosses I worked with went so far as to make 2 facebook profiles, one was strictly personal, and the other to keep in touch with professional contacts as per facebook’s ways. Like, why should you mention where you work or what professional background you hold, on a twitter bio, when you know that the purpose of that account is more personal (such as RT-ing jokes & quips, most of which may not be acceptable in a professional setting) than corporate? 

You have LinkedIn for professional contacts and communication, apart from your professional email address, office number etc. Must you have all your professional contacts on all your personal interaction forums?

Simple rule: decide what the objective of your social profile is, for each social platform: Do you want your facebook profile to be the primary manner in which to keep in touch with professional contacts or seek out professional opportunities? Do you want people not to confuse your twitter account with what your employer or your work ethics represent? Do you want to restrict professional activity to LinkedIn only? How would you prefer people contacting you for work – via personal email ID or via a professional one?

find that balance & stick to it - message is consistency & updation (image credit: google images)

find that balance & stick to it – message is consistency & updation (image credit: google images)

Even if you use more than one social platforms for several purposes each, in the end, it all boils down to the weightage you give to each objective on each profile. That, and strict adherence to your own rules, will help you fend off professional attacks due to activity on personal profiles/accounts.



{February 18, 2013}   the grand limitation of being human

the grand limitation of being human

(photo source: facebook sharing)



{February 15, 2013}   in the name of religion

heart stringsSo yesterday was, almost globally, being celebrated as Valentine’s Day. And once again, what a sad turn of events it is all taking in Pakistan.

Personally, I am not in favor of restricting love to be celebrated on a single day, and this includes Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Labor Day, every day for that matter. Personally, I believe that one should believe in what they believe in every day of their lives, should try their best to practice what they preach every day of their lives, try not to always be preaching, and focus on self instead of everything everyone else is doing.

However, people will use every opportunity to earn a buck or prevent someone else from earning that buck. Which is why, one sees extra focus on some value or the other, some sentiment or the other, on one particular day, so that an industry could reap exponential profits on that particular day (take any day that people celebrate with special preparations and decorations and rituals etc).

There will be those who understand that business will not only make use of opportunities to earn, but will in fact strive to create opportunities which they can then reap benefits off. There will be those who will use the same opportunities for the benefit of businesses of other kinds (such as political or religious or social agendas). And then there will be those poor souls of fools who are so insecure and sensitive that they will play right into the hands of the two groups defined above. Read the rest of this entry »



{February 4, 2013}   on missing out

i don’t understand people’s craze about capturing things because they don’t want to miss it. like sunsets. i mean, i get it if you loved a sight so much that you pounced on the opportunity to capture it so that you can revisit it at will in future. and i get it if you’re a photographer by occupation/passion. but all other people who take like a million pictures of EVERY scenery they come across – like, dude, get a life. you say you dont wanna miss it? you wanna preserve it? what for? do you realize how many sceneries you have missed already because you weren’t born then? do you realize that preserving every day in a number of ways is not really preserving anything for future generations because they will have their share of beautiful sceneries. this – this crazy snapping of things and environments – is only wasting your day, each day that you do this.

get a life. enjoy whatever comes your way for its sake, and for your own sake. it is for you to keep. sure take a snap or two, or a few. a handful of albums from your past are usually a nice thing to have around you. but know that that day was sent for you to enjoy, so live it, rather than waste time trying to capture it. capture it with your heart & soul, for the most part at least. and no matter how much you yearn for it to happen, sometimes, you just cant share everything you want to with everyone you want to, and you cant save everything. you cant save everything.

here is a little sunset for you: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151988291425647&set=vb.837380646&type=3&theater



{February 2, 2013}   on feminism

this post is inspired by certain life incidents that have often made me think to such an extent that it irritates the crap out of me. 

i’ve often been labelled a feminist. and it has, simply speaking, pissed me right off. the first time i got called a feminist i had to look the word up in a fat oxford dictionary. and from what i understood of the definition, i could not agree with myself being labelled as such in absolute terms. the next few times it happened happened after a long long break. during this break, i used to go to school where the uniform demanded that i be covered in loosely fitting clothes, a large dupatta and a scarf, (other facts of the context are that the school was co-ed, and that i used to be very active participant in competitions of almost every sort, especially sports). anyway, so the next time it happened i was 3 years into university, and at an internship, where the rest of the 6 interns were all girls and just one guy. it was this guy who called me a feminist, which made me stop whatever i was doing, taken slightly aback, and look at myself objectively. the only things i could come up with were that i was active, enthusiastic, and vocal about things i believed in. which i consider an incomplete definition of feminism.feminism Read the rest of this entry »



et cetera
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