Soniah Kamal

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'Islam is not Pakistan's religion; Marriage is'

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Tribute to Copy Editor Helene Pleasants

Sometimes people touch us, teach us in ways that stay with us always. Finding a teacher, a mentor, a guide, someone willing to take their time to lead you through a labyrinth you might take forever to get out of, if at all, is to seriously luck out. What My Editor Taught Me is a lovely piece written by a writer about one such copy editor.

'Helene had no literary theories — she had literary values. She valued clarity and transparency. She had nothing against style, if it didn’t distract from the material. Her blue pencil struck at redundancy, at confusion, at authorial vanity, at the wrong and the false word, at the unearned conclusion. She loved good writing, therefore she loved the reader: good writing did not cause the reader to stumble over meaning. By the time Helene was finished with me seven years later, I knew how to read a sentence and how to fix one. I knew what a sentence was supposed to do. I began to write my own sentences; needless to say, the responsibility for them is my own.'
read rest of NYTBR here


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Islamabad Marriott. 2004. 2007. 2008.


If you've been to Islamabad chances are you've been to the Marriott, at the very least you've passed it. In the nineties I stayed there during my SATs only offered in Islamabad during the time. The room I got was not to my satisfaction and I remember writing a letter of complaint which I handed to receptionists who tried hard not to giggle over the girl with the English accent who'd actually written a damn letter of complaint.
'Madam,' said one with a straight face, "I will personally see it gets to the party responsible for assigning rooms without views'.
More recently I'd been there for weddings and dinners. Marriott with its off-white arches and marble floors symbolized, for all those who need to spend a night away from home, home away from home like any hotel. In 2004 Marriott saw an explosion that killed seven, however Pakistan says that explosion was the result of a short circuit while the US says it was an explosive. In 2007 a security guard died after trying to stop a bomber. And, now, Ramadan 2008, another explosion, this time a truck with supposedly a tonne of explosives slamming into it and killing, at last count, sixty. Obviously for the killers there is no difference between Muslims and Non-Muslims. They are equal opportunity killers. What do the killers want? To be able to aggressively recruit if the US invades in order to restore 'stability'? I chose the above pic with the injured victim because often, in the US at least, such footage is always sanitized. And it shouldn't be. Buildings can be rebuilt; lives lost and traumatized cannot.
A day into the bombing I have not seen coverage on any of the US news channels-- perhaps there was a blip, but I missed it. The channels are too busy with Obama and Palin nama.Why isn't there a US news channel which caters to world news? Oh- of course, we the US, is the world. Why are Americans so okay about being so uninformed? Not knowing what's going on earth is not a great strength but a weakness-- albeit one that can be easily remedied.


I helped Maqsood, a driver, who was lying injured in his Corolla parked outside the hotel. Blood was pouring from his head but he requested to make a phone call. I gave him my mobile phone. He called someone and said that “I am Maqsood. I am badly injured in the bomb blast, I don’t think I will come back to Sargodha alive on this Eid. Please take care of my daughter Mariam, please don’t inform my mother what happened to me because she will die, I cannot speak more, Goodbye.” Maqsood was shifted to an ambulance in a very precarious condition.
A journalist colleague, watching the immense human suffering, was getting mad. He was abusing the terrorists, saying: the “Americans are killing us in the tribal areas, these Taliban are killing us in Islamabad; they will not go to paradise they will go to hell.”
I don’t have words to express the pain and agony of the women and children who were injured in the hotel. One woman, holding her little daughter, was not ready to leave the Nadia Coffee Shop where the body of her husband was lying on a table. The little girl was crying, “Papa I am sorry, I forced you to come to this hotel, I am sorry Papa, please wake up Papa.”
read the rest of Hamid Mir's report here


Ambulances rushed to the area, picking their way through the charred carcasses of vehicles that had been in the street outside. Windows in buildings hundreds of yards away were shattered. Tropical fish from the tanks inside lay among the torn furnishings in the entrance area.
Mohammed Ali, an emergency service official, said that after an initial chaotic search to find survivors, rescue teams had only been able to make two brief forays into the hotel. He said they had found neither bodies nor survivors and had to retreat quickly.
"The fire has eaten the entire building," he said.
read rest here