Karachi 5 : Dubai 0 – Is Karachi better than Dubai?

I’m not going to pretend and say that ever since I’ve moved to Dubai, life here is horrible and Karachi was much better, because truth be told, Dubai has a lot more to offer in terms of comfort as well as personal and professional growth!

But there are definitely some things about Karachi that make it worthy of being called ‘Home.’ And those things are worth mentioning here:

1. Maps

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I know the roads, I know how to drive, I have a license (who doesn’t?) and I have a car in Karachi. Did I mention I know the roads? Yes, Dubai is a beautiful concrete jungle, but it is so rapidly changing that one can never get completely accustomed to the roads. Or maybe I have a really poor sense of direction because I can never seem to figure out which way is home. Using maps to get from one place to another every single time is a HUGE problem for a technologically challenged person like myself and asking the husband is a big no-no because he cannot understand what there is to understand about using GPS.

2. Shopping

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Every single shelf in IKEA and Home Center is like a siren calling me to pick up the inhabitants of the shelf and transfer them to my trolley, pass them through the scanner, pay a fortune for them and take them home. I don’t remember being a shopaholic in Karachi, so I blame Dubai for making me shop till I drop. You enter a store to buy bread and end up buying 6 other things that you really did not need, but were convinced that they were nice to have in the house.

3. Taxi Fare

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Imagine paying Rs. 500 for a rickshaw ride from Dolmen Mall Clifton to Park Towers. No bargaining, no reasoning. Paying the ‘minimum fare’ for a taxi ride in Dubai makes me feel helpless and maybe even slightly cheated, just like I would feel if I had to pay Rs. 500 to a rickshaw wala in Karachi.

4. Fines

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There is a fine for everything in Dubai. Every. Single. Thing. There is a fine on eating in the Metro, a fine on crossing roads, a fine on eating in public in Ramadan, and even a fine on wearing certain clothes. My husband even convinced me that there was a fine on touching parked cars! Compared to Karachi where you could break a signal in front of a policeman and then argue that it wasn’t your fault, this place comes as a huge shock!

5. Food

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Dubai obviously has amazing continental food and a wide variety to choose from. You can find anything your heart desires, even Pakistani restaurants that serve Pakistani dishes. But the strict restrictions on food quality here mean that the food is prepared without the sweat and blood of the chef, making it somehow taste slightly bland and unexciting!

For each thing that is right with Karachi, however, there are 3 more things wrong with it. So while I was feeling slightly patriotic and maybe even a little homesick, I may have tried to find reasons to highlight Karachi in a positive light, but the fact remains that life in Dubai is much easier and has more to offer to us than Karachi ever did. While Karachi takes and takes from us, other countries take some and give more back in return. I really hope that our Politicians wake up and realize what they’re stealing from the nation every single minute, and that Karachi becomes a better place to live in.

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Thanks for Pushing My Car!

While driving back from work on Saturday, I came across a human barrier on the Expressway. A group of 6 to 8 men walked onto the road, held hands, and stopped all the cars from passing through. I saw the group early enough to slow the car far away from them, but in my panic to turn the car around, I let go of the clutch and the car stopped suddenly. At that moment all I could see was the end. I knew that was it for me. I was convinced those men had large weapons and they were going to shoot me.

With no other choice but to face what was happening ahead of me, I looked up. At the cost of sounding completely insensitive, I will admit that I was relieved when I saw the reason for the road block. Some of the men were carrying a casket, while others were blocking the cars so that the procession could cross the road smoothly. If I wasn’t alone in the car I would have laughed out loud at the ridiculous thoughts I had just moments earlier.

As soon as the men started clearing away, the cars behind me started honking. Everyone was in a rush to leave. My car, however, was in no hurry. The moody old machine refused to start.

While trying to  think of who to call for help, I looked to my left. A Domino’s rider was right beside my car and he must have noticed that my car was not starting because without a word, he parked his bike on the side, climbed off it, and offered to push the car. I gladly accepted his offer!

He pushed the car and while doing so another man came to help. Five minutes later the car started and I was merrily on my way back home!

Had it not been for the Domino’s rider, I don’t know how long I would have had to wait before help arrived. The wait would still be fine, if only it wasn’t for the terrifying thought of armed men lurking around every corner of the city waiting for their chance to pounce on unguarded citizens and rob them!

In my haste to leave, I forgot to ask the rider his name. But I know that I will never forget what he did for me! And because of him, Domino’s just earned itself a very loyal customer!

Thank You, Mr. Rider, you just proved that chivalry is not completely dead!!

Are You on Survival Mode?

Driving on a small two-way road, a car with high beams switched on renders me partially blind for a moment, and I cannot help but wonder why the driver is so insensitive. Perhaps it’s because he forgot to switch the extra lights off, or maybe he couldn’t care less about the discomfort he’s causing others. It could also be that the driver genuinely needed the lights. I can’t be sure. But when I see more than a few pairs of beams flashing on cars passing by, I can’t help but conclude that people in Karachi are insensitive.

Being selfish is one thing, but being clueless about everyone else’s discomfort is worse. And that’s what’s happening to us.

Each day we do so many things to prove how selfish we have become. We take our time getting dressed for a party because we decided that we will reach late. We don’t need to think about what this means for the hosts and their plans to serve dinner at a particular time. Neither do we care about how much further this will push a child’s bedtime because we don’t have kids to worry about. We just do what suits us at the time.

“I need to reach work before my boss arrives or else he will fire me!!” So we take a wrong turn and speed away, leaving in our wake complete chaos for someone else to sort out. “I just need to grab two things from the supermarket and I’ll be back in a minute!” And we double park our car, blocking another and causing someone great inconvenience.

“Excuse me, I’m ready to order.” We cut into the line at the counter because we know what we want to eat. We conveniently ignore the long line at the counter and people waiting for their turns, warranting nothing but angry glares and frustrated customers.

Do we do any of this out of spite or on purpose? I’d like to believe not. I think each of us is on auto-pilot, doing what is best for our own selves, following the basic rule of ‘survival of the fittest.’ Every single day we do so many things that aren’t right, but we do it anyway because we don’t even realize that our actions may have unpleasant consequences for others.

I’d like to think that Karachiites are simply on Survival Mode, and acting on instincts rather than anything else. A moment of realization might help us all to check our actions before we cause trouble for anyone else.

It’s the little things like emptying food trays in the trash can after a meal, not pushing your friends out of a selfie, driving in the middle lane if we’re going to drive slow, and being conscious about our general surroundings that can help us switch off our survival mode for a while and become more responsible citizens of Karachi.

7 Signs You’re a Bad Neighbor!

Whether you live in an apartment or in a house, you are bound to have neighbors. Here are some signs that you’ve been a bad neighbor! (Read as: Avoid the following if you don’t want the neighbors to start plotting your murder.)

1.  You park your royal carriage where you see fit!

'Did we do something to upset the neighbors?'

Karachiites have this unique ability to park their cars in the most interesting ways. You know you’re a bad neighbor when you park your car right in front of the neighbor’s gate and then pretend you were in a huge rush to be able to park anywhere else!

2. You keep your house clean but litter the neighbor’s driveway

Flood Clean up 301

Broadway Pizza, NYP and 14th Street are great! Except when you have to dispose off their gigantic empty boxes! You solve this problem by gently placing the pile of boxes outside your gate and use the tip of your shoe to slightly move it closer to your neighbor’s house. Ha! Let passersby think your neighbors ate those greasy pizzas for dinner last night!

3. Water, water everywhere, not a single drop to drink!

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When water in the main lines run out and a tanker is called for, you suddenly want to shower more often and it becomes absolutely essential to wash your car!

4. You keep your television volume high enough to wake the dead!

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You seem to have a sound and sturdy new sound system in your house. Good for you! But maybe you should consider that while your ears are used to the deafening decibels emanating from your speakers, your neighbors might be scribbling notes to communicate with each over the noise!

5. You don’t invite your neighbors to a big celebration in your house!

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When you have a wedding tent in your garden, your neighbors will definitely notice. It’s always a good idea to invite them to the celebrations. Not only will they be more accommodating when the Mehndi music plays until the wee hours, but they might also wish you well!

6. You borrow tea and sugar from your neighbors like there is no tomorrow.

'I'm your new neighbour, can I borrow a cupful of money, or even your credit card?'

Not being able to drink your morning tea because patti khatam ho gayi is the worst fate to befall upon you. To fix this issue immediately you seek help from the friendly Samaritans living opposite your flat! Terrible idea! Instead, you should take some time out on a weekend, make a list of all you need, (include tea in the list), purchase, use, and repeat!

7. You put a password on your Wifi.

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YOU.PUT.A.PASSWORD.ON.YOUR.WIFI! There can be no explanation for this insensitivity unless you’ve shared your wifi password with the neighbors.Then all is forgiven!

So now that you know where you stand on the bad neighbor scale, let me know if you know of worse neighbors and what they do to make them that way!

Is It Just Me or Do the Roads Need Some Fixing up?

Dear Department of Infrastructure,

I have a small concern regarding the state of the roads in the city. It isn’t a very big problem, really, but the broken roads are becoming a cause for accidents, theft, loss of semi-precious lives and injurious brawls. Let me explain this.

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Driving on roads that resemble a mountainous terrain causes cars to either come to a sudden stop, or take a sharp turn to avoid deep ridges on the road. Uneven road surfaces cause damage to ordinary cars. I can understand that you wouldn’t know this because you probably drove around in a Mars Rover all your life. So it really isn’t your fault.

When drivers’ reflexes set in and they take sharp turns or halt the car abruptly to avoid damage to their ordinary car’s shocks, they inadvertently become a cause for accidents. Of course, these accidents only churn out a couple dead bodies, but what’s two more in the ever-increasing death toll? If the accidents aren’t too serious, they may just result in a broken bumper here or cracked windshield there. Damage to the car does, however result in the eruption of heated arguments that oftentimes become physical brawls. But then arguments are such inconsequential matters in this city that we mustn’t waste time on the topic.

Then there are times when the slow speed of cars makes them an easy target for mobile snatchers. It is very convenient to stop an already snail-paced car and take advantage of the situation. But giving up our phones and wallets is the least we can do for our country.

The most important reason for needing new smooth roads, however, is because I do not want to see the VIP Movement in the city being inconvenienced or slowed down. It would be a shame to see 25 or so fancy cars going up and down on a bumpy car ride. Kind of damages the picture of sophistication and royalty, doesn’t it? Also, we wouldn’t want the VIPs thinking that our roads are terrible and ugly. The open potholes, the uneven surfaces, the puddles created in the middle of the main road, and the holes that have been dug for underground pipelines make this beautiful city look like a face filled with acne marks.

I have faith that you will soon give out orders to get the city’s roads in order even if you have to cut corners and distribute massive amounts of bribe. After all, you are associated with the most capable people of our nation; the Leadership! I know that this may be an inconvenient time for you, what with it being your Autumn Break, but I wouldn’t have asked for the favor if it wasn’t for the Very Important People of Pakistan.

I look forward to your prompt action!

Regards,
A Concerned Citizen

Knock Knock! Can I Have Your Phone?

My job is not easy. I snatch mobile phones and wallets from the middle class citizens of Karachi. My boss is a tough cookie and he does not let us get away with poorly done jobs. In the one and a half years that I have been working for him, I have learnt that he is really hard to please.

What makes Bossman really mad is when one of us breaks a rule. For instance all of us know that we must always stick to working within our assigned territories. We cannot get caught by Policemen who do not work for us and we cannot get beaten up by the common man. We must also always meet our weekly targets no matter how many hours of unofficial work time we have to put into the effort. (Boss does not care if you don’t spend enough time with your wife. I guess his wife must not be as scary as mine!) Similarly, we must always work in pairs and never do anything that is beyond our level of expertise.

Working in the industry for over a year means that I now qualify for the position of ‘snatcher.’ This means that I am an actual mobile snatcher now and not just a rider. You see, if you are a newbie in the field, you can only ride, not collect! Now my partner rides the bike and I get off it to collect phones. The two of us work great as a team and collect up to thirty cell phones a day! Of course we aren’t always so lucky! For you see, when we are assigned a territory in Defence, we have a tough time meeting our targets. Rich people are very unpredictable and one can never tell when there is a guard hiding in the car or when of the rich people are armed.

One of my favorite territories to work in is Maripur. It is the area that every beach-goer must cross if they want to reach their destination. There is a bumpy patch of ground near the factories and truck ‘adda’ where we find our targets almost too easily. I’m quite sure there used to be a road here at some point, but there is only sand, bumps and pebbles now. Since the road is so non-existent, cars have to be driven at a snail’s pace and they are inevitably trapped between trucks. This is where we come into the picture. We waste no time in stopping our bike in front of the car, jumping off with a gun, knocking on the car’s window and grabbing our loot in less than one minute.  Of course, by the time we are done with the snatching and have disappeared, the beach-goers don’t know what hit them.

Sometimes, however, our chickenly opponents experience a fleeting moment of courage and speed off without parting with their valuables, and with us just looking on in confusion. Such stunts not only leave us without our loot, but they also hurt our ego and damage our image! And sometimes, our prey gets a bout of strength along with some courage, and crushes our bike or partner in their mad dash to safety! Obviously I think that is unfair and unnecessary! But, who will explain this to the heartless citizens of Karachi?

Therefore, I appeal to all you Karachiites with a cell phone and wallet; please follow the instructions below and make our jobs easier for us:

  1. Make sure you flash your phones in the car a couple of times so we know you have a phone for us.
  2. Do not look around for suspicious people on bikes. If you make eye contact with us we cannot catch you off-guard and before you know it, you just made us lose a potential loot.
  3. Make sure you keep your car between trucks or right next to the sidewalk so that you are easily accessible and conveniently trapped.
  4. Leave your phones and wallets inside your bags so that when we are collecting we just have to grab one thing instead of several things at once. Snatchers only have two hands after all… Plus there is also the matter of limited time.
  5. Also, do not forget to keep your jewelry in your handbags! I recently came across a nice lady’s handbag which had some expensive jewelry! I think she believed she would be safer if her frosting was off her instead of being flashed for all to see! Ha. Lucky for us, we snatched the entire bag from her and found the jewelry too!
  6. Keep your windows slightly rolled down and doors unlocked. It saves us time to wait for scared fingers to roll down the window.
  7. When we knock on your window with our metal beauty, please remember to panic! Your panic is what makes our work easier!

I do hope you will follow these simple instructions. You do this for us, and I will be sure to put in a good word for you with our Boss! Thank you!

What do I need you for?

When I was a kid I was very fascinated with my grandmother’s “Hoover.” She lived in Dubai at the time and each time I visited her and she got her “Hoover” out, I’d follow her around the house wondering what the robotic sucker will eat up next… It was an interesting hobby until my mom got a vacuum cleaner of her own.

I still remember the day we welcomed the brand new machine into our home. A broken cabinet that was lying on the floor of the store room became ‘home sweet home’ for my dust buster. The magnificent machine was a gift from my dad to my mom! (Whatever happened to diamonds and shoes, dad?) So it was special and it held emotional as well as well as functional value in our hearts.

I grew up watching my mom use the machine on our carpets and floors. Sometimes, I got to try too, and I would go crazy vacuuming the balcony where the dust was aplenty and ants galore. Vacuuming the house was always fun, until I reached an age where it became part of my house chores.

Taking the machine out of the cabinet in the store room, unwrapping the electrical cord and fitting it into various sockets of each room, spending half an hour using it all over the house, lifting things to vacuum under them, then wrapping the cord back when I was done, pushing it back into the cabinet, and making sure it fit well, became the most cumbersome task in the world.

In simple words, I fell out of love with my dust buster.

Looking back, I’m not too surprised at what happened. Because isn’t that exactly what happened with the huge two-storeyed doll house that I showed off for years? And the two wheeled bicycle that my dad bought all the way from somewhere very far?  And the new cell phone that I had to earn through my grades?

I’ve learnt that what we consider to be our absolute treasure today, becomes a burden in the future. I remember wanting my father’s brand new LAMY pen desperately in Grade 7. My dad had recently travelled to Germany and bought himself a set of LAMY pens. He had two fountain pens, one silver and the other black. The silver one was downright gorgeous, while the black one looked ordinary- well, as ordinary as a Mercedes would look in front of a Lamborghini.

So once I had my sights set on that piece of pure perfection, I wanted it with all my life. I begged and pleaded with my dad for days before he finally agreed to let me take the silver pen to school for a day. Of course, when daddy dearest saw the look of absolute joy on his little girl’s face when she came back from school that day, he knew he had lost the battle and agreed to let me keep the pen forever. I was ecstatic and used it to burn holes in my pages until I simply stopped.

Where is the pen now? In some drawer at my mom’s place, I guess. Because I stopped using it when I began my O Levels.

My point is, we collect all these things with so much enthusiasm, but why does the excitement of using them die out eventually while the passion for owning more things never does? I don’t remember retail therapy being the solution to all of life’s problems when I was younger… So what changed?

Will we ever wake up and realize that we’re slaving away all day so that we can buy more and more things and not truly enjoy the things that we already have?

This obviously does not mean that I’m not happy about the awesome gadgets and accessories that I already have, and I am sure I won’t change my shopping plans for the weekend just because of a quick realization, but I figured this was worth writing about… Because now I know that when I want to buy the new Nexus 6, I will remind myself that I do not need it.

And the Cow Jumped Over the Bridge…

You know it’s your lucky day when you see a thief walk away with your cellphone. If you can see him go, it means he didn’t take your life. Lucky people give away their belongings, while unlucky people give up much more.

Death is nothing but a statistic anymore and what used to be a tragic incident has simply become an inevitability of life in Karachi. It is on a daily basis that I hear about a death or mugging, and it doesn’t surprise me anymore. I’m not sure when it happened, but I have become immune to the threat. Did you hear about the guy who got killed because he got mad at someone for driving on the wrong side of the road? (Talk about “chori oopar se seena zori!”) Or about the woman who got shot in broad daylight right in front of her child? Or about the woman who got shot even after she gave up all her valuables? Or about a friend who lost all her contacts because her phone got stolen?

The sad truth is that most people reading this might have either been mugged at least once, or know of someone who has gone through it. So you will understand what it feels like to have a gun pointing at your head and giving away your hard earned possessions. It is such a helpless feeling. You’re angry, you’re sad, you’re frustrated, you’re scared – a myriad of emotions at one time… But when you get back home, your family will tell you that you’re lucky you’re unharmed. That it could have been much worse, they could have sat in the car, or they could have shot you… They will tell you to take extra precaution next time. Lock your doors, roll up the windows, always be alert, don’t wear jewelry while driving, keep a spare phone to give away, avoid going out too often, and so on.

Let me tell you that it will still happen again, because chances are, that if you’re living in Karachi, you will get mugged at least once in your lifetime and, if you’re lucky, live to tell the tale.

But you know what else could kill you? A cow. No, really. It can.

SO last night, my husband and I went to Nueplex for a movie. (We watched Lucy, btw… I thought it was alright…) It was around eleven by the time we left the cinema. Now, those of you who have visited Nueplex at night know that the road that leads out of Phase 8 is a bit scary, what with no street lights, scanty number of cars, and all the stories about the infamous black Prado! I will admit that I was scared, especially since it was just me and my husband in the car! Alone. At night.

But we managed to leave the area unscathed. Then we had the Expressway to cross, which is a great road, but very dark and deserted at night. I was freaking out there as well. Haply though, we managed to reach Baloch Colony without incident. BUT, it was at the foot of the bridge that we had the scariest encounter of MY life. (I don’t know if it was the scariest for my husband… He’s lived a more adventurous life than me).

It was a dark road, and just as we were about to ascend the bridge, a COW appeared at the side of the fast lane. One half of the cow was on our side of the bridge while the other half was on the other side. The cow was about to jump in front of our car but thanks to quick reflexes and luck, my husband managed to switch lanes and speed past the crazy cow. It may seem like a silly incident now, but I am sure that had the cow hit our car, we would have come out looking like pancakes in metal wrap! The car was fast, the cow was huge, and the impact could have been fatal!

So the point is, it’s not just the bad guys with guns that can kill you in this beautiful city of no lights. It could easily be an accident with a car, cow, truck, or even a wall! It could be a fatal argument, or target killing, but no matter how much you try, if it’s time to go, no precautionary measures can help you. Being afraid of going out at night because you will get mugged is not going to help anything. So live and let live… you hear me MOM? Don’t be afraid because, quite honestly, no one can live like this forever.

What I do NOT go to the salon for…

If you’re reading this post then you’re most likely a woman. But if you’re not, then take my advice and move on to the next post, honey. This is not for you!

Dear Salon Girls,

Believe it or not, when I feel like having a good chat with someone I call up a friend or meet up with her. Call me crazy, but I do not go to the salon to socialize. I don’t know where you get your information from, but someone needs to tell you that your clients don’t like to listen to non-stop chatter and be expected to respond to it! Contrary to popular belief, we have other women to interact with, so please take the chatter down a notch!

You know why we DO visit the salon? To get our overgrown eyebrows taken care of, to get our nails and hair done, to be cleaned up and to look more presentable in public. I don’t know if you got the memo, but we definitely do NOT come to you to be criticized. I for one do not like to hear the obvious being stated! Yes, my eyebrows are weird, get over it! Move ON!

But I am willing to overlook that stuff, ladies, because maybe I’m being just a little uptight! However, what I cannot overlook is dirty stuff being used on me! You may be overworked, you may be too busy to take care of the little things, but you still need to take some time to sanitize the tools you use! You take quick lunch breaks, great! But you’ve got to find the time to wash your hands when you’re done! The last thing I need is oily and smelly fingers on my face!

You’re probably thinking that I’m being whiney now. But let me tell you that THIS is not the whiney me. This is the nice and polite me. So stop making excuses for your shortcomings and understand what you need to change!

You know when I’m getting a pedicure, I expect my feet to be treated with care, I like them to look clean after the procedure and feel smooth to touch! I also expect to feel relaxed and maybe even a little pampered. The last thing I need is to hear snickering and whispering between two employees while one of them is working on my feet! It’s rude, obnoxious and very annoying! You may not even be discussing my feet, but it sure feels like you are! So stop doing it!

I have been meaning to write to you for a while and having finally done it is a huge load off my chest! I will still keep visiting the salon though, you know that right? Because a girl just cannot live without her beauty regime! But I cannot promise to be nice to you if you add extra chatter, free germs, and rude comments to the beauty care package! So no hard feelings, okay?

KThnxBye

Naya Pakistaniii?

I took a midday nap. It’s not a usual part of my routine but I was exceptionally sleepy today so the nap was unavoidable. I’m up and dressed for dinner with friends. We are going to Burns Road for an assortment of street food. The roads look unrealistically clean today, not a single plastic bag in sight. Don’t look at me like that, I am just as shocked as you are. Cars are parked only along the footpath and the food stalls seem to be pushed back from the main roads. Doesn’t look like Burns Road does it? Could have fooled me too! I see so many trash cans around! I guess people finally started using them…And what’s with the street lights? I can read a book on the road there is so much light here. I think I just saw a mini bus stop at…OMG is that an actual Bus Stop?

Hmmm… maybe it’s the out-of-routine nap I just took, or maybe I’m in an alternate universe, but whatever I see around me right now, it’s perfect! Let’s just review the cool things we saw together:

  1. Street Lights that actually work.
  2. Clean Roads (Did I not mention that no one in the car threw trash outside their windows? I’m sorry, I may have forgotten.)
  3. Responsible food hawkers who are keeping their businesses off the main roads.
  4. Respectable people who are parking in legit spaces and following traffic rules.
  5. The mini bus driver who stopped at a bus stop to pick up passengers rather than the middle of nowhere.

That’s 5 things that made my world a much better place for one entire night. 5 things that I wish happen in my Naya Pakistan. 5 things that are in complete control of the common Pakistani man!

So who needs political protests and dharnas and Facebook statuses to bring about change? All we need to do is work on our own bad habits and start thinking about others too, and we are good to go!

Oh, and to all those people who actively put up highly opinionated statuses about the dharna being silly and a waste of time… Tell me something, what have you done for your country to bring about a positive change? Anything worth sharing? I look forward to reading about your investment in our country!