Book Review: The Handmaid’s Tale

handmaid tale

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It took me a while to digest Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale. When I first start reading this novel, I had no clue what world I was about to discover and let me tell you it was all doom and gloom. The storyline was disturbing and stayed with me for days.

The Canadian author has hit all the right buttons to stir up the reader’s uneasiness. The dystopian world she describes in the novel is stark and skewed by religious fundamentalism. Written in 1985, the story revolves around Offred, a handmaid (female slave) in the new Republic of Gilead. The Gilead was formed after attacks on US government. The totalitarian state that took control has rigid laws against women. Women rights like equality, sexual reproduction rights and general human rights are deemed punishable by the men of the society. The fictional world has food rationing, class hierarchy and public hangings for wrongdoing especially for women. Does this ring a bell?

Offred (not the real name) is part of class called the handmaids. The purpose of handmaid in the society is to conceive and bear children for the families. They are dressed in red colour and symbolism of fertility. Women here are only considered for childbirth and taking care of household. The Commander, where she lives as handmaiden, sees her as more than simply a surrogate.  Serena Joy, the Commander’s wife, is naturally jealous of Offred, but she is desperate for a child so, when Offred fails to become pregnant, Serena Joy arranges for her to sleep with Nick, the chauffeur.

margaret atwood

Photo by writer

Offred is reluctant to accept this world and she cannot suppress her desires. This is why she thinks about her past life and how one day she can leave this dark world. The end of the story leaves you in suspense of whether Offred has found the freedom or prison.

The narration is very erratic as it jumps between past and present, and at times makes you confused due to obscure description. It is what author has emphasised to show in the novel. She wants readers to be perplexed while reading the novel because the world of Gilead is extremely disturbing and secretive.

The story is about power, fundamentalism and misogyny. It’s horrific but somewhat true to reality. I felt hopelessness and sadness while reading this story.

A word of caution: This is not a happy read. So if you want to have a nice weekend, do not pick this novel.

“Remember forgiveness too is a power. To beg for it is a power, and to withhold or bestow it is a power, perhaps the greatest. Maybe none of this is about control. Maybe it isn’t really about who can own whom, who can do what to whom and get away with it, even as far as death. Maybe it isn’t about who can sit and who has to kneel or stand. Maybe it’s about who can do what to whom and be forgiven.” – Excerpt from book

The Handmaid’s Tale

By Margaret Atwood

Vintage Fiction, London

ISBN: 978-1-0-099-74091-9

320pp.

 

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Living Your Dream Life

This interview I took when I was working in Geo TV in 2012. This interview was posted on Geovision website. I am sharing some chunks of the interview over here for my readers.

ayesha ehtesham 1“I believe that everything happens for a reason but if you really yearn something, it definitely comes your way,” says Ayesha Ehtesham, a renowned face in the news industry.

She is the most admired news anchor of the program. Unlike her presence on the screen that comes out as a strong and a confident person, there is a naivety in her personality off-screen.

Whether it was by coincidence or destiny, Ayesha joined the media industry during her university life. It was not a pre-planned decision, but as J.K. Rowling says: “What we are today is not a reflection of our abilities but the choices we make,” thus Ayesha is fortunate enough to make the right choice for her career.

During university days, she proved her ability as radio presenter in FM channel of University of Punjab Radio. However, before joining Geo News, she has not only worked as an associate producer in one of the former channels but a broadcaster as well.

She hosted a program known as Geo Extra that airs on Geo News. It is a one hour slot based on news and events where the style of the news is different from the other run-of-the-mill news presentation. Ayesha talked about the latest news by adding an extra zing to the news bulletins.

Geo Vision brings you up-close and personal with lovely Ayesha Ehtesham who believes in making the right choice at the right time.

MADIHA AKHTAR: Why you choose to be a news anchor?

AYESHA EHTESHAM: During my childhood days, a part of me always wanted to do something in front of camera though I never had any plan of being a newscaster, but it seems that my luck played its role. I had two options in my university life, the first was Clinical Psychology and the other was Communications. Interestingly, my fate chose the latter one for me and I accidentally bumped into this profession.

MA: According to you, three qualities that are needed to become a successful news anchor?

AE: Foremost one need to have sharp senses because a single mistake means you are out of the game; secondly confidence and finally knowledge. I believe that these are some of the significant components that a news anchor should possess.

MA: Do you think that looks are given more importance than knowledge for being an anchor…your take?

AE: Personally, I disagree from this statement. Before one could give importance to the looks over knowledge but after the inclusion of private channels, anchors are required to be well-prepared. However, there are two reasons of my disagreement; firstly you have hourly live news and breaking alerts one cannot survive until and unless one is not well-informed. Secondly, one needs to be camera-friendly – any sane person can lose confidence while facing camera, though for a newscaster you need to have confidence for your mental alertness.

ayesha 5MA: Who is your inspiration in anchoring?

AE: Faiza Dawood, former Geo newscaster Nida Sameer and Hala Ghurrani of CNN.

MA: Give one positive and negative point of being a news anchor?

AE: I think the positives are good package and limelight (giggle), whereas the drawback is the compromise of the personal lives.

MA: While doing live bulletins, did you face any mishap?

AE: There are several occasions when you come across funny or embarrassing situations; which include munching words during bulletins or doing lisping so on and so forth.

MA: Your most memorable moment while doing news bulletin?

AE: (Thinking hard) I guess it is yet to come!

MA: Any news that made you speechless or gave goose bumps? How did you recover yourself?

AE: Well, to be honest it’s not a good feeling at all to present bad news to the viewers, I really feel bad from inside. The assassination of Salman Taseer and the recent Malala issue – these were the times when I felt crying. But this is the job of us as anchors to control ourselves. At a glance, it might seem insensitive but this is a part of our job to avoid showing any lines of emotion on our face.

MA: What has been your favorite news that made your day?

AE: Once a batman entered a news studio where a presenter was sitting and giving her bulletin. She shrieked at the sight of flying creature, it was one of the news that really brings a smile on my face. My reason of amusement is because of my association with the profession. I am a newscaster, so definitely any news related to your contemporaries is hilarious.

MA: Among noted personalities at Geo News, who is your favorite one?

AE: Najam Sethi – he is the man of masses and his style of explaining things is very casual which I find it interesting.

ayesha 3MA: In our present lot of politicians, who do you think is the rational one?

AE: For me, Imran Khan all the way!

MA: Other than you, who is your favourite anchor in Geo TV?

AE: Danish Anis Sheikh-the attribute of being involved in every show is commendable. The peppiness and an interactive style of his anchoring are his strong points.

MA: Are you a planner? Do you have any goals?

AE: I am not a planner, I live at the moment. Though my goal is to excel in the field of media and I am just hoping for the best.

MA: How has been your experience working with Geo?

AE: So far, it’s been a good journey. In my opinion, Geo is one such organisation that provides you a family environment to work at your comfort.

MA: To your fans, what you want to say?

AE: Nothing is impossible, yes nothing is! I never thought I would land into news anchoring, but destination paves its own way. It’s not impossible to achieve what you want; the only means is to have a firm belief on God and one’s ability.

 

Talib Haider: “News is my passion”

This interview I took when I was working in Geo TV in 2012. This interview was posted on Geovision website. I am sharing some chunks of the interview over here for my readers.

talib 2The passion of doing something new every other day landed him in the field of Journalism. A go-getter by nature, Talib Haider is a television journalist and a news presenter who loves every bit of his job.

Haider has joined the broadcast industry of Pakistan since 2004. Initially he started off with the business and finance news coverage; his specialty in business studies was the main support for his in-depth knowledge about the subject. There are lots of achievements under his belt.

In the span of time, he got an opportunity to be a part of special news coverage which varies from USA elections (2004 and 2008), UK general election (2010) to live reporting the aftermaths of Balakot and Muzzarafabad districts after 2005 earthquake. Apart from Business news, he had also co-hosted cricket world cup (2007) and football world cups (2006 and 2010).

Haider also presented main news bulletins featuring political, current affairs, sport, business and local news at Geo News.

With his suave demeanor and a twinkling passion in his eyes, Geo Vision brings you up close to Talib Haider who believes in planning ahead in his life.

Madiha Akhtar: Why you choose to be a news anchor?
Talib Haider:
Any job in a news channel is extremely dynamic, be it a producer, editor, reporter or a presenter. One has to be ahead of the clock, ‘all the time’. News presentation is just one end of it which viewers get to watch. I love it because of the very nature of the job; providing information to people. And doing something new every day, every hour, every minute feels extremely rewarding.

MA: How did you enter the field of news anchoring?
TH:
I guess it was something that developed on the job. As a business graduate from Institute of Business Administration (IBA), one of my strengths is presentation which helped me in getting into this field. Also, interest in the news and better general knowledge provided me off the screen support. But it was the curiosity of knowing everything that was undercurrent, which really developed my journalistic skills.

MA: According to you, three qualities that are needed to become a successful news anchor?
TH:
Firstly knowledge, secondly one should look presentable and lastly voice of the person. Two skills are pretty much; however, possessing three is a bonus.

MA: Who is your inspiration in anchoring?
TH: Jeremy Paxman, Larry King and Riz Khan.

talib 3MA: Give one positive and negative point of being a news anchor?
TH:
It is good to tell news to the viewers but the drawback is likewise; informing people about bad stories as well.

MA: While doing live bulletins, did you face any mishap?
TH:
Being a newscaster, it’s one of the essentials to avoid being emotional. However, we are not inhumane and of course sometimes it’s hard to control your emotions. I remember once there was a terrorism activity because of which many innocent children were killed—while giving the news, the female newscaster started sobbing continuously therefore I was called in immediately. But she was crying so badly that just by looking at her, my voice also got choked during the bulletin.

MA: Any news that made you speechless or gave goose bumps? How did you recover yourself?
TH:
Every day, all stories are important and can make any person speechless, yet we survive. There are some which when we think about, do make us speechless for some time though. For instance, the decisions of sacking of the Prime Minister by Supreme Court of Pakistan or the death of Osama bin Laden or the crash of Air Blue plane in Islamabad.

MA: What has been your favorite news that made your day?
TH:
I love the time when Pakistan cricket team wins any match or especially the stories in Eid – these are some of the stories which beams my face with joy while reading the news. The recent ‘save’ by the PIA pilot of flight PK787 going from Karachi to Islamabad carrying 167 passengers where the left engine stopped working but luckily, the pilot landed the plane safely.

talib haider 1MA: Among noted personalities at Geo News, who is your favourite one?
TH:
Kamran Khan because of his well-researched news analysis with focus mainly on the News.

MA: Other than you, who is your favourite anchor in Geo TV?
TH:
Danish Anis Sheikh; he is versatile and can present different formats.

MA: Your most memorable moment while doing news bulletin?
TH:
When Captain Wasi of MV Suez was released from the Somali pirates and he didn’t arrive in Pakistan yet; we arranged a telephonic conversation between Captain and his family especially his daughter; it was an extremely emotional moment.

MA: Are you a planner? Do you have any goals?
TH: I have always planned in life; otherwise it will be like driving on a road with no destination. Even after two masters in business and journalism, I want to study further.
I plan to do research to help mankind (haven’t decided which field). I also plan to write what I have learned in life, met people with great wisdom yet many do not know about them, and also share my travel experiences through my writing.

MA: How has been your experience working with Geo?
TH: Amazing, amazing, amazing. I love Team Geo, there are good days, bad days, yet every day is extremely dynamic. Each day is a new day with new challenges. Every person gives his/her best which is the best in the industry; so if you want to be the best and continue to be like that, this is the place.

MA: What you want to say to your readers?
TH:
A person’s goals are mainly divided into career/money, social/family, and dream /to be something/someone or to achieve something etc. Try to correctly define what you want to do in life and go for it. If you continue on the same path as you planned for a few years; you will or will be very close to achieving it.

 

Stand Out From The Crowd

This interview I took when I was working in Geo TV in 2012. This interview was posted on Geovision website. I am sharing some chunks of the interview over here for my readers.

beenish saleem 1“Each day in the world of news makes you a strong person,” says chirpy, quick-witted Beenish Saleem.

Since she used to come in the night time bulletins, it’s save to say that she was the nocturnal face of Geo News. She is co-operative, humble and knows her work very well. Beenish started her career as a sports reporter from Lahore but before she realized, her luck played wonders with her and she became a news-anchor.

Geo Vision brings you up-close to Beenish Saleem whose outspoken and casual nature defines her true self.

Madiha Akhtar: Why you choose to be a news-anchor?
Beenish Saleem: Well, it was by chance. I was into reporting before and maybe because I used to speak well, therefore I landed into this profession. But I would still say that it was just a mere coincidence. However, people watch you on television and gradually you earned face-value by becoming a house-hold name.

MA: How did you enter the field of news anchoring?
BS: I graduated in Journalism studies from Beacon National University Lahore and joined the field as a sports reporter. It was my previous channel that gave me an opportunity to divert my career into news-anchoring. Later I become a part of Geo News as a full-fledged newscaster from July 2009.

MA: According to you, three qualities that are needed to become a successful news anchor?
BS: For me, firstly one needs to be well-versed; one should also look presentable and finally to be extra alert as even a second’s distraction can cost more than you can imagine.

MA: Do you think that looks are given more importance than knowledge for being an anchor?
BS:
Unfortunately, it’s a dilemma that our newscasters are mostly looked as newsreaders, our news audiences are wide and they cannot be fooled. It’s true that presentation matters but it’s not the only criteria to rely on. Change is inevitable nevertheless, but at the same time I want to add that we (news anchors) are the people who register the reporter to the minds of the people. In fact we are also the ones to bring story to the public.

MA: Who is your inspiration in anchoring?

BS: Barkha Dutt and Poonam Sharma from India; they are my inspiration only because I can relate to them as they have also started their career with reporting. They had to face more or less same struggle as any Pakistani female journalist has to go through.

beenish

MA: Give one positive and negative point of being a news anchor?
BS:
To be precise; you earn screen value as people recognize you which is the brighter side of being an anchor. But this is also one of the downsides because people relate to you and if any news disturbs anyone, so the news-anchors are blamed and ultimately they have to bear the brunt of the viewers’ revulsion.

MA: While doing live bulletins, did you face any mishap?
BS:
Yes, once a housefly entered the news studio and alas! In the entire place, she found my nose to sit on! I was giving my OC (on-camera) that time and therefore I had to be static for around 30-40 seconds. I cannot even remove the fly from my nose (sigh). It was an awkward moment for me because it came out very bad in front of camera.

MA: Your most memorable moment while doing news bulletin?
BS:
(Thinking hard) for now, there is none I think it is still to come.

 

MA: Any news that made you speechless or gave goose bumps? How did you recover yourself?
BS: There are many issues including the assassination of Salman Taseer, and even Malala issue that grabbed the attention of International community; these were some news that really gave me goose bumps. However, it was the death of veteran actor Jamil Fakhri which really made me speechless and I started weeping but then with the help of my control room, I collected and composed myself soon.

MA: What has been your favourite news that made your day?
BS: Shoaib-Sania wedding ceremony, an interesting story as the bride was from our neighboring country and it was nice to be part of something like this. Furthermore, the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton was a treat to watch. Even though these kinds of news are not implied to journalistic ethics but they spread happiness.

bwenish

MA: Among noted personalities in news channels, who is your favourite one?
BS: Najam Sethi, he is not bias, his views are balanced and he presents an informative program.

MA: In present lot of politicians, who do you think is the rational one?
BS:
Former President Asif Zardari… I reckoned him as a true politician who knows what he is doing.

MA: Other than you, who has been your favourite anchor in Geo TV?
BS: There are two anchors that are my favourites, first is of course Danish Anis Sheikh. He is one such anchor who has the potential to do everything. He is basically a character anchor (she grins widely). The other one is Muhammad Junaid, who is also very good at his job.

MA: Are you a planner? Do you have any goals?
BS:
I have to learn a lot because learning is a life-long process for me. It’s just the beginning and more work needs to be accomplished. My aim is to make my own individuality, simply to stand out from the crowd.

MA: How was your experience working with Geo?
BS
: Overall, it’s been a rocky and bumpy road, but a great journey so far.

MA: To the readers, what you want to say?

BS: Stop being judgmental please! There is some heart-wrecking news which also sends shivers down to our spine as well. Don’t judge us from outside because at the end of the day we are also ordinary people who are just doing our jobs.

 

Persistence And Passion

This interview I took when I was working in Geo TV in 2012. This interview was posted on Geovision website. I am sharing some chunks of the interview over here for my readers.

Maria-Memon-Height-Weight-Age

Online photo

“It’s easier to judge us (media people) from the surface but the real picture is quite different,” says the pretty and resilient Maria Memon.

She is strong-minded and her confidence reflects through her personality. It is not an easy job and people do not have any clue what one go through. Every day we come to the news studio, and go through all over again, adds Maria. Moreover, the sight of dead bodies is not a pleasant one, as we are also affected with the awful video footages but keeping aside all the emotions, we do our job.

However, entering the profession of journalism was never her goal; she wanted to be a doctor but her destiny chose a different plan for her. She started out as a Software engineer, later opted as HR consultant and eventually her fate landed her into Journalism. Her career graph shows a gradual transition that ultimately leads her to the place where she is now a ‘Newscaster’.

So, how determined and passionate is Maria Memon? Geo vision brings you a light chit-chat with high-spirited Maria who believes to make a difference in the lives of millions through her effort.

Madiha Akhtar: Why you choose to be a News anchor?

Maria Memon: It chooses me! I had worked as a field reporter for four years in Geo News. In the meantime, Geo management asked me to host Mere Mutabiq. Gradually, it trained my skills for news anchoring and now here I am!

MA: How did you enter the field of News anchoring?

imagesMM: I graduated as a Software Engineer and it was during that period, I got inspired from my ‘communication skills professor’, who encouraged me to polish my public speaking skills. After graduation, I worked as an HR consultant and later joined Geo TV, in 2008 as a program coordinator for Geo English but the project I was assigned got cancelled. Later my bureau chief at that time shifted me to the news room and thus began my journey as a news anchor/reporter and as they say, the rest is history.

MA: According to you, three qualities that are needed to become a successful news anchor?

MM: For me, one need to always have a hunger to learn new things; keeping aside the glamour part our work entirely depends on lots of words so one should have a vast knowledge in order to have a command over language. Secondly, inquisitiveness that keeps one going. Lastly, Persistence and never ever quit! There might be low times in your career but it’s all about never giving up your goal.

MA: Who is your inspiration in anchoring?

MM: Christiane Amanpour (CNN anchorperson)—she is someone to whom I look up to. I do follow her work and someday I wish to do glorious job like her.

MA: Give one positive and negative point of being a news anchor?

MM: The thought of not just standing as a bystander rather playing a small yet an integral part keeps me upbeat. Whereas the downside of the job is to disconnect ourselves from emotions and torment one is going through internally.

MA: While doing live bulletins, did you face any mishap?MariaMemon17Nov20121

MM: Every day you cannot be a winner! Live TV is just like a test match where one day you outshine and other day you are out on a duck. I remembered one of my callers called me on one of my shows and I could not stop laughing. It was rude nevertheless but moments like these happen and right thing to do is to learn and move on…

MA: Your most memorable moment while doing news bulletin?
MM: There has been few like coverage of fire incident in Lahore or visiting Dada Darbar, even though I did not give the finest performance but it is memorable for me.

MA: Any news that made you speechless or gave goose bumps? How did you recover yourself?
MM:
I belong to Air-force background so definitely any news related to Military accidents saddens me. When Malala was shot and she was in bad condition, every day a fear loomed that what if she could not survive the wound! However, in case of an emergent situation, the notes were prepared beforehand. Because as cliché as it sounds, this is the part of our job… when you are in front of camera, you have to conceal your emotions and professionalism takes over.

MA: What has been your favorite news that made your day?
MM:
I was glad to break the news of the conniver Maulvi in Rimsha’s case. It was the moment of elation and once again my faith restores on humanity. Furthermore any news that gives you feeling-good-factor makes my day for instance fortunately when Malala Yosufzai survived from the gunshot or at times when Pakistan team wins any cricket match.

MA: Among noted personalities at Geo News, who is your favorite one?

MM: Najam Sethi, he smoothly eases the complexity of the story with his jovial discussion and chilled-out attitude. The way he adds Punjabi touch in his discussion adds more flavor to his program. I reckon him as the perfect TV man.

MA: Other than you, who is your favorite anchor in Geo TV?
MM: Danish Anis Shaikh; his energy and passion are his forte and he can host any format easily.

MA: Are you a planner? Do you have any goals?Maria-Memon
MM:
I am not a planner! I take every day as it comes. Nonetheless, in the long run my aim is to establish myself as a credible journalist.

MA: How is your experience working with Geo?
MM:
A great experience indeed! As a woman, the organisation provides you a secure working environment where one feels comfortable to perform their job. Geo gives you an opportunity to opine your voice. In the span of four years, Geo gives me full leverage to explore my potentials and try every other role and for that I am also grateful to my mentors.

MA: To your fans, what you want to say?
MM: There are many people who want to become anchors but for wrong reasons. So to all those who prefer short-cuts, it’s not worth it. Only hard work and patience pays off at the end.

 

 

Home Is Where The Heart Is…

corniche

Corniche, Abu Dhabi (Photo by writer)


It is said that the place where you are born always stay with you no matter where ever you go.

I think it’s true and this I felt when I went to my birth place after seven years. It was like I knew this place and the minute I arrived there; I got connected to everything around me. I felt I have reached home.


 

khaliydiyah

Al Khalidiyah Park (Photo by writer)


The park in the photo is Al Khalidiyah Park, which is in Abu Dhabi. This park has been there for many years. I remember my father used to take me and my sister after coming back from office. I still remember vividly how I and my sister would run on the garden. We would go on slide and see-saw which were the best rides for us in those times.

Fast forward to 2015, I am a grown up person. And I was happy to find a small part of my past in the present. This park, where I had laughed and played, still exists. Now, the play part was replaced by brisk walking and jogging. I spent time with my parents and enjoyed every, single moment over there.

Although I live in Karachi now, the city that has my heart is my birth place — Abu Dhabi.

khalidiyah

Photo by writer

I spent my initial years here, made wonderful and beautiful memories with my loved ones (read cousins), attended Junoon concert for the first time, danced on my cousin’s wedding, had a childhood crush, watched Bollywood movies on cinema, talked about our future plans with my cousins under the blanket, had my Aqiqah (Islamic tradition of the sacrifice of a sheep or goat on the occasion of a child’s birth and distribute the meat to the poor), birthdays and what not…

I bid adieu to my birth place long time but still it haunts me ( in a good way). Abu Dhabi has given me so much more than this which will always stay in my heart till my last breath. It’s goodbye for now till I see you again!

Have you ever felt like this for your birth place? If possible, share it in the comment section.

 

 

What Is So Great About Friday?

masjid nabwi

Photo by the writer

This photo is of Masjid-un-Nabwi in Madina. A place filled with tranquility and calmness. This is the beautiful gate of the mosque. It was a dream comes true when I and my parents prayed our Friday prayer here.

I have always loved Friday, the reason being the blessings which you receive on this day. The day is full of barakah and it only matters if you give importance to this day. I remember when I was in school; Friday was a weekend over here in Pakistan. I would wake up early and after my traditional breakfast of puri (unleavened deep-fried bread, originating from South Asia) and tea, I would take shower before Friday prayer, put on itar (scented perfume), and then I would pray. After prayer, we all would have a grand lunch. Those were good old days…

Now, there is no off on Friday, however, still I wake up early, take shower and then wear my nice clothes to work and I do use itar. This is the ritual I religiously follow even today as well.

For Muslims, Friday is a blessed day and we usually celebrate this day with religious fervour. We make sure to clean up nicely, go to mosque, listen Khutbah (Islamic sermon) and pray Namaz in congregation. It’s good if you also recite Surah Kahf and make sure to perform good deeds for example giving alms to poor and greeting strangers with a smile.

On a side note, do give some time to your parents because they are not getting young and you will regret it once you lose them.