World Polio Day, Oct 24: ‘Any number more than zero is too much’

A slightly revised version of my article in The News on Sunday on Oct. 23… The world watches as the last three polio endemic countries strive to relegate the crippling virus to history


Polio survivors Ramesh Ferris and Minda Dentler share their experiences – and dreams about a polio-free world. Photos: Beena Sarwar

“In 1955 Dr Jonas Salk invented the preventive vaccine. It is outrageous that 25 years later I contracted polio,” says author and global health advocate Ramesh Ferris.

Standing on his good leg, a crutch compensating for the paralysed one in braces, eyes gleaming behind black-rimmed glasses, Ferris passionately addresses the audience of about a hundred physicians, scientists and international diplomats. They include representatives from the world’s three remaining polio endemic countries — Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria. Continue reading

P. Sainath – upcoming talks in America

Sainath-MIT1aThe eminent journalist P. Sainath, author of the groundbreaking collection of reports Everybody Loves a Good Drought, is headed to the USA from his base in India. He will give a series of talks at various campuses about his work and the unique, empowering, online journalistic endeavour he launched last year, the People’s Archive of Rural India – PARI. Worth going to hear him speak if you are in the area. See my article about him: Travels though history with a rural archivist.

Campus times and dates below, with some posters by a PARI volunteer. Continue reading

Finding lost heritage: Pakistan’s Sikh legacy

My Personal Political column in Himal Southasian, Aug 3, 2016, published also in Aman ki Asha and TOI blogs, posted here with additional links and visuals.

Author Amardeep Singh shares a story from his travelogue. Photo: Beena Sarwar

Author Amardeep Singh shares a story from his travelogue. Photo: Beena Sarwar

Finding lost heritage

“If you could visit any place in Pakistan, where would you go?” asks Amardeep Singh whenever he gives a talk to introduce his recently published travelogue Lost Heritage – The Sikh Legacy In Pakistan.

The question, aimed primarily at Sikh members of the audience, invariably elicits two answers: Sikh holy places. Their ancestral village.

It was the same in Boston on June 18, 2016 at the E-5 Center where Amardeep Singh gave his 42nd such talk. He understands the response all too well. After all, he too once had the same “myopic” reasons, as he says, for wanting to go to Pakistan, which he considers his “homeland”, being the land of his ancestors and also where Sikhdom’s holiest sites are located, like Nankana Sahib, birthplace of Guru Nanak, the first Sikh Guru. Continue reading

Lifting the veil: Queer life undercover in South Asia


“Secret” – fine art photo by Ali Mehdi Zaidi

The struggle of Muslim homosexuals in Pakistan, South Asia, or as expatriates is not just about LGBTQ rights but part of the larger fight for inclusion and pluralism within Islam. My essay published in The Boston Globe Ideas section (July 31, 2016)  on South Asian and Muslim attitudes towards homosexuality, reproduced below with additional links, info and photos, as well as parts not included in the final published version. The attack in the Orlando gay nightclub put the spotlight not just on the perpetrator, but his victims — Muslim gay (queer) folk who are particularly vulnerable to homophobia besides facing as Islamophobia in the West, and receiving little or no support from the Muslim community at home and abroad. Plus they are now increasingly being targeted by extremists claiming legitimacy from Islam. Thanks to all those who took the time to speak to me, gave me feedback and entrusted me with their stories, and to the Boston Globe editors for their empathy and openness.  Continue reading

Save Nepal’s Edhi, Dr Govinda KC, on hunger strike for pro-poor medical reforms


Dr Govinda KC: fighting for pro-poor medical reforms

UPDATE: Sign the online petition

If South Asia has a viable public health icon after the passing of Edhi in Pakistan, this man is it,” says a Nepali friend. 

Dr. Govinda KC is a man who is considered a saint in Nepal –  a middle-class doctor who on his own expense offers medical help wherever there is a disaster: Haiti, the Kashmir earthquake in Pakistan, Bangladesh floods. 

By all accounts an incredible human being, he is entering the third week of his hunger strike, a fast unto the death for reforms in the medical education sector. His demands: lower the cost of medical education and create a public health system that allows access of all to quality care, in the place of Nepal’s present highly privatised and centralised system.  Continue reading

Titillate us, entertain us, even educate us, but please, don’t talk about rights

Women Protest Qandeel murder

Women and men in Peshawar protest Qandeel Baloch’s murder. Photo via Javed Aziz Khan

Pakistani model and social media icon Qandeel Baloch rocked the boat with outrageous antics like offering to strip if Shahid Afridi led the Pakistan cricket team to victory against India in the T20 match a few months ago. Yesterday, her brother in Multan strangled her to death in apparently because she was bringing a bad name to the family — a family she financially supported. Continue reading

Opposing elected PM Erdogan doesn’t mean supporting a military coup


A man lies in front of a tank near Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport early Saturday, July 16. Ismail Coskun / AP

The coup in Turkey is a reminder of the dangers of impatiences with flawed democracy. Democracy, like peace, is a process, not an event. In the long run, the worst democracy is better than the best dictatorship. Agree with the Awami Workers Party, Pakistan – “The solution to imperfect democracy is not to abolish it, but to deepen it”. Sharing their statement below:  Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: