Q & A WITH
The other day Ghazala Khan of Pakistani Spectator asked me if I could be available for an interview. I told her bloggers are mostly the people who do things mainly for passion, so she would be welcome for any such questioning session. Ghazla had a round of questions concerning this blog and me which she thinks is the pen behind this blog; it’s though as much an effort of my friends in the world of writing, photography, web formatting and above all my readers. Excerpts…
What made you enter the blogging world? Just an accident, a chance or an inspiration!
Have visited many countries, firstly during my higher studies and later during my professional assignments. There are so many beautiful things there to see but Pakistan is unique. It has everything for everybody. Its beauty is original, untempered and as such attracts every mind. But people outside do not know this. My idea about ‘Wonders of Pakistan’ has been first of all to enable our own countrymen know the wonderous sites in their homeland and then to let the outside world know how beautiful, how wonderful and a hospitable country Pakistan is.
Another motivating factor which necessitated / rather pushed me to launch this blog has been the discouraging and totally non professional approach of our government run establishments related to tourism. Many a time, I myself faced an indifferent, cold attitude from our various tourism outlets, so I decided to establish a platform, where people are able to learn a lot about our country; its rich history, heritage its mountains, rivers, art, everything.
In what way do you think, Wonders of Pakistan is different?
We at WOP concentrate particularly on veracity of its contents. We try that each and every content that we insert, be it the history, heritage, art, and culture, tourism, every thing, is subjected to a strong testing ground, so overall quality editing is our forte.
The top 7 wonders of Pakistan, in your opinion?
- Deosai Plain
- Uch Sharif
The top 3 places in Pakistan for ‘just married’ I mean the honeymooners?
Honeymooners have both the honey and the moon so it shouldn’t matter much for them where to go but if you ask me then:
- Shangrila Resort
- A beach hut in Karachi
Only one characteristic you think has brought you success in life?
Ready to accept challenge.
The happiest and the gloomiest day of your life?
When I was informed by the title awarding committee of the Prague University of Technology that I was being conferred the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Food Sciences. That was the happiest.
The day Mohtarma Benazir was shot at in Rawlapindi:
Am neither a PPP wala, nor do I sympathize with their political philosophy (its another matter that in theory what they say is at the heart of every Pakistani but actions speak louder than words; which I do not find in case of present PPP leadership), the day I learnt that Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto has been shot in Rawalpindi, I was so grieved including my family that for complete two days we didn’t take any thing. These fits of gloom grip me sometimes even now.
Urdu Blogs seem to have a huge potential, when do you think they can really take on the online horizon in Pakistan?
At the moment, mostly the Pakistani blogs are being put up in English; the reason being the problem with its script. No suitable software is available in Urdu as yet. The script being used is cumbersome and hard to read. (Even today there is an ad in Urdu daily newspaper from world’s largest search engine Google on copy rights of authors & writers but being in computer script of Urdu its hardly readable).
Many a time when I find something of interest in an Urdu blog, I have to skip because of the poor readability. Though some blogs do use the ‘nastaleeq’ and in such a case I definitely read the piece of my interest. Am not computer savvy but I do believe ‘nastaleeq’ is being used in MS picture format. Once a completely new and perfected script is evolved, Urdu blogs will definitely get more readership, for then it would be far easier to become popular because majority of people find it more convenient to read Urdu rather than English.
If I ask you to pick 3 top travel destinations in the world, with no worries about how it’s paid for – what would you choose?
- The Taj Mahal in Agra, India
- Nagara Falls in Niagara, Canada
- Venice, the city on water (was there once, but still “Hae daikhnay ki cheez issay bar bar daikh!”). Venice is an Italian city.
Your favorite book and why?
History being my favorite subject, I mostly read books on history and of course a masterpiece in history, written by an American writer “The Rise and the Fall of Third Reich” is the book I liked most. William L. Shirer was the best selling author in mid sixties when he first published this book. I read it much later. Its style is so lucid and Shirer’s pen is so forceful and contents so interesting, that everything seems to proceed natural – it’s so absorbing you feel you are wandering in the streets of Hitler’s Germany. The day he enters the stage as a Nazi desperado after the end of WWI, goes through the great recession of 1930’s, the Reichstag Fire, waging the Second World War till the Nuremberg Trials. Shirer’s style is superb; while reading you feel you are a participant to the events of history he is describing in the book.
And your favorite meal, dress, and sport?
Love sizzling chicken with rice done in Pakistani style. As for dress, I feel comfortable in western casual dress as well as shalwar qameez. About sports, frankly speaking, I do not have much interest in sports; instead I love to read books on history and travel.
The first thing you notice about a person (whether you know him / her already or meeting for the first time?
Per se, I view the figure and then listen what he / she has to say, for it’s the mind or thoughts which determine my assessment about the person am engaged in interaction or otherwise involved in one way or the other.
English blogs or Urdu Blogs, which one has a brighter future in Pakistan?
Already taken abbove.
How can Pakistani bloggers benefit from blogs financially?
Blogs are an initial step to come into the world of publishing. Lately this medium of publication has become so strong in generating an independent, individualistic reader- viewership base that it has tempted even the giant publishing houses of the printed world, like New York Times, Washington Post, the weeklies Time and Newsweek, you name any and it will most probably be there on the web as a blog. But in essence it is a medium for those who want to write, what they want to write, not what they are asked or ordered to write. For such people, publication over a blog is the first step.
For writers, editors and publishers, weblogs offer a quick and free platform to express themselves. Once the people who are in the business or trade and start taking interest in the work of a particular writer, his value as a writer, analyst, editor, strategist is assessed, he or she can then market that skill to concerned business or trade through one’s own blog or through another whom one may think as stronger in marketing such a skill. Otherwise too, a writer can even launch a book through his own blog and market it too.
I personally foresee a tremendous potential on the financial side of blogging. As I already said, with internet getting high speed through new technologies, ISP charges getting down, internet usage is now further moving from desktops to mobile media like laptops, PDA’s and mobile phones. Message communication to focus groups and targeted readerships / viewers is more effective than other media. The role of President Obama’s weblogs and websites has been reported as one of the factors in his reaching the youth of America more effectively than his Republican rival John McCain.
Pakistani bloggers tend to remain somewhat self-centered and really don’t go out of their shells? Is it the oriental style of blogging, or are they still unsure which way to go about it?
Since I mostly view English blogs, whether Pakistani or foreign, I do not find much difference. Our bloggers are as loud, independent and bold to express their opinions, just like their western counterparts. Being self centered, ‘may be’ and I repeat ‘may be’ true for Urdu bloggers (as I said I do not view much of Urdu blogs) but Pakistani bloggers in English are not the inward looking, not just ensconced in their shells, no, no, I don’t think so.
Where does Pakistani blogosphere stand right now?
Our blogosphere is more expressive and bolder than other media. As such it should be in the takeoff stage but it lacks professionalism. This too will come up gradually and will definitely be reflected in the PK bloggers by passage of time.
In this regard I wish to quote one instance. There is a site called PKKH (Pakistan ka Khuda Hafiz). Now this is a sentence uttered by our former dictator president Gen. (Retd). Pervaiz Musharraf, while he was announcing his resignation over Pakistani TV channels. If you go deep into the meaning of this sentence, it has connotations like “Goodbye forever Pakistan”.
Now this is something highly despisable. A dictator could say it because every dictator believes ‘après moi deluge’ but a site administrator ought to be careful in choosing a title. To be on the web doesn’t mean you can play with the wishes / sentiments of the people.
I sometime feel this site is perhaps being administered by a Hindutva guy because only such extremists can have sites like these. Even if the intention of the administrator who chose this title was sincere, yet, the title itself connotates a bad feeling for patriotic Pakistani nationalists.
Your top five favourite bloggers in Pakistan?
The following four:only:-
- Lahore nama / Pak Tea House
Have you ever been stunned by uniqueness of any blogger in Pakistani blogosphere?
It’s of course Adil Najam’s pakistaniat.com. Its uniqueness is its pakistaniat, its format and the contents.
The future of blogging in Pakistan?
Blogging is getting highly popular in Pakistan. The only problem is the speed. Since majority of net users do not have a high speed broadband facility (which is basically the technology for long term quality blogging), therefore, the high cost of broadband is a big deterrence. However, with net technologies getting more competitive, blogging may become as strong as other media (electronic as well as the hard print).
You have also got a blogging life, how has it directly affected both your personal and professional life?
I do blogging whenever I have free time. I partly do it to satiate my passion for reading and writing, especially about the slugs I have chosen for my own blog. Secondly it’s also a part of my professional activity, so I fully enjoy my blogging time. My family too, is very responsive and cooperative in this regard.
And finally your future plans?
At the moment am financing all expenses of my blog (which is an e-magazine appearing every month on the web) from my own pocket. The writers and photographers, who contribute in WOP, too are doing this with a missionary zeal, but ultimately one has to stand on one’s own to sustain. I get a lot of requests from Pakistanis at home and abroad whether ‘Wonders of Pakistan’ is being printed in solid format which presently it is not. I wish ‘Wonders of Pakistan’ could raise funds to meet its expenses through sponsorships from various stakeholders in tourism, history, heritage, hospitality, travel and similar activities and trades. Once we are successful, I would like that a magazine in hard format (printed on paper) comes up too.
Then I get lot of mail from people in the US, Canada, the EU countries and Australia, who want to come to Pakistan, some want to see our culture, others want to delve in our history, there are others who just want to be here, this even at this moment now when we have this terrible menace called extremism with us.
I think we can have group visits too, provided our federal authorities can get us out of the negative advisory list.
Finally I would say through WOP, I intend to utilize our medium as the prime mover and shaker in developing and promoting the tourism potential of this country which is TREMENDOUS – if properly perceived and marketed.
Any Message for readers of our blog ‘The Pakistani Spectator’?
Be a proud Pakistani. All of us have great hopes for this country. Pakistan is developing and we certainly do have shortcomings. But they are all surmountable. We have a history of resilience right from the ancient times and we have a great future before us.
The legacy of our forefathers who demonstrated perseverance and a flair for innovation beacons us to a roadmap for Pakistan as a progressive, strong and great country. Let us work together, wherever we are, to make this a reality – within our life time.