Desi in DC

May 6, 2017

Affordable Care Act – One More Story

My Father-in-Law has Parkinson’s. It took him a while to get diagnosed. He was also a new immigrant to the US. His fault lay in the fact that by the time his 12 years  of waiting in line to receive his family sponsored immigration docs were up, he was already past 64. So when he moved to the US on his green card he was almost 65.

We tried to buy insurance for him and were constantly told to apply for medicare. What the insurance companies failed to understand was that for a new immigrant, medicare was not an option since they had not worked long enough in the US to accrue points. When we were successful in convincing these companies the quotes we received were simply unaffordable. North of 1K per month and that too with a significant deductible.

When Obamacare was passed, my FIL was finally able to afford insurance. After spending 5 years living uninsured, paying out of pocket for any medical expenses, my FIL finally had health insurance.

After spending the last few years stress free, we worry that FIL may lose his coverage once again. 

It is sad that the world’s “Super Power” is unable to get its act together as far as a just medical system is concerned. Access to good quality healthcare should be a right and not a privilege. Maybe the US can learn a few things from its neighbours in the North,


March 29, 2010

The Oprah Factor

Filed under: Starting a career,Uncategorized,US — dcdesi @ 1:08 am
Tags: , , ,

Earlier in the week I had watched Julie and Julia, a movie about a 29-30 year old new york woman who starts blogging about her love for cooking and her attempt to make every single recipe from Julia Child’s “French cooking for the servantless Americans” cook book. By the end of the experiment the woman had numerous followers on the internet and had received a book and movie contract.

Interestingly today I was watching CNBC and they were analyzing the Oprah factor to see what impact it could have on people. One woman decided to follow Oprah’s advice and live like Oprah. She bought, read and did what Oprah recommended. All in all she wants to live like the way Oprah suggests one should live for a period of a year. What do you know, after three months she too has a book contract.

Interesting chain of events for all you writers out there….Hmm who should I follow;)

April 22, 2009

CNN, Farid Zakarya and Karzai

There seems to be no point in watching CNN on a Sunday afternoon because all I see is Farid Zakariya on his favourite topic. Labeling Pakistan as a failed state, a rouge state and any other similar word he can get his hands on. First it was via newsweek and now its through CNN . I first thought I was paranoid but after seeing the same trends week after week I know I am not.

On this particular occasion, he had invited Mr Karzai, Afghanistan’s President to provide his comments. His introduction stated that this is the man who controls Afghanistan, why is it then that all unbiased scoops coming out of Afghanistan state that the US is doing miserably in the Afghan war and to be honest all Karzai controls is Kabul and the areas surrounding it.

According to Mr Karzai, the Taliban problem in Afghanistan is because of Pakistan. umm hello.. The Taliban problem in Pakistan is because of Afghanistan, as are the drug, guns, extremism and refugee problems!!

April 6, 2009

The Fame That Was Not To Be

On Sunday, while walking down the streets of Arlington, just a couple of miles from Georgetown, my partner and I were stopped by Richard Reeves, one of the satellite anchors for ABC7 news. The hot topic of the day was the missile test by N Korea.

He wanted to find out what our reaction was to the test. He was hoping that we would say it was a terrifying experience. Being the ND taught pacifist, my responce was not going to be that simple.

Instead I just said I think all countries need to do away with nukes, the US and Russia started it, they need to take the first step. As long as even one country has it, how do we expect the others to give it up. infact the danger of other countries acquring it will always remain. Its only when we all do away with then only can we see some peace.  Otherwise what N Korea did was not unexpected so why is there such a big fuss.

He tried again to see if he could get me to give him a more mainline answer.. I knew  I had shot all chances of my claim to fame when I gave him a response similar to my first answer.. so did I make the 9 oclock news?? Obviously not:)

September 27, 2008

US Elections; the North West and Pakistan

Who would have thought that I would say this but after yesterday’s US presidential debate it seems maybe McCain may be better for Pakistan. I disagree with most of his policies except his foreign policy stance related to Pakistan, In Obama’s case his domestic policies make sense but his foreign policy views on Pakistan show his lack of experience..

When will US policy makers realize what a number of US Academics and South Asian experts have been trying to tell them, you cannot look at the north of Pakistan and think its a simple problem that the Pakistani’s don’t want to do anything about. On the contrary its an extremely difficult situation that may require the best minds who know the area to come up with a possible solution that “may” work.  if you look at Pakistan’s statistics you will note that there has been a massive spike in the number of suicide bombings all over the country. As was typical during the cold war, it seems the War on T has done the same, the war turf had moved from the country’s at war to that of ours. It is the Pakistanis who have been losing their lives. Let someone at least recognize that we too have lost thousands of innocent lives due to no fault of our own.

At the same time as Pakistanis we can’t sit and accept the increasing impact that the  right wingers seem to think they are having on our country. Shutting down girls schools, threatening media shops and barber stores, if we don’t do something about this now the situation will only get worse. A number of tribal elders who have tried to help their communities by standing up to these guys have already been killed. We cannot let their deaths be in vain.

We’ll realize too late that the demographics of our country have changed. It is important that for once instead of having a reactionary policy ( ie reacting after the effect) we need to have both an offensive as well as a precautionary policy. It may already be a little late for that and we may already be in the reactionary stage but we still need to make the effort.  We have been complacent for too long and have accepted this violence for too long, its time we stepped up and protected our cities so that our children can be free to go where they wish without us worrying about potential suicide bombings…

July 27, 2008

The US and Paid Maternity

Filed under: Pakistan,Uncategorized,US — dcdesi @ 3:07 pm

Its baby season in the US. I know at least 7-9 people who are expecting within the next 6 months. That brings us to the question of whose getting paid maternity, who isn’t?

So after doing some reseach I came across a few interesting articles. According to the authors of these articles the US stands next  to Papua new Guinea as far as maternal benefits go. Most place will not offer paid maternity,  other places do so after you have completed at least a year with them, and that too if they have a short term disability option, many others expect you to take paid leave read vacation days to take maternity..  very few places provide three months of paid maternity.

Employers have been on record for saying if we offer better maternity benefits we will encourage people to have more kids.. yea  he was a guy.. talk abt too much equality, do you want women to give up their choice to have a family 😎  one won’t be able to hire people in 40 years here  if this negative attitude towards child bearing continues.  Then they might turn into Germany where the government offers people incentives to have a large family..

Moral of the story before you decide to have a kid, go to Europe or Canada at least you’ll get a year off, even father’s get three months in Canada:)  Even in PK you get 3 months off no questions asked…..

October 2, 2007

What Right does the Pakistani Government have to Grant Amnesty to Benazir Bhutto?

A leading English Language newspaper reported that the Pakistani Government agreed to grant Amnesty to Benazir Bhutto. According to the report the government has agreed to quash corruption charges against Benazir Bhutto. What right does the Pakistani government have to grant amnesty to Benazir Bhutto?  BB’s crimes affected the country and its people; her crime was against her people, people who were ignorant and dense enough to elect her twice to power, not having learnt from their first mistake; people in a country where at least 60 % are illiterate. [I have given the country the benefit of a doubt by accepting a literacy rate of 40% while acknowledging that quite a few of these ‘literates’ barely finished 4th grade.

What right does the Pakistani government have to grant Amnesty to Benazir Bhutto? What kind of message are they sending across? Raid your country dry, and then live a comfortable life abroad, make contacts with the West, wait till a General comes along, if you wait long enough, your friends in the west, along with the general may be sweet enough to forgive you the crimes that never affected them in the first place? Is that the message that we want to send out to our future politicians?

For Benazir Bhutto, it is not just the crime of her corruption, but also the corruption that her husband participated in, but more importantly the heinous crimes that were committed on the city of Karachi during the reign of Benazir Bhutto.

I have just finished reading Kamila Shamsie’s book Kartography. (a novel about Karachi and its elites though the 80s and 90’s.) As I finished reading the book I was struck strongly by a sense of horror that how could we forget what Karachi was like?

As a child and a teenager growing in the 80’s and 90’s the one thing that I clearly remember is a time of peace and a time of violence. Newspapers have written constantly about the possibilities of Benazir Bhutto returning and how she was the “US Supported” candidate. While reading the book, I was transported back to Karachi in the 1990’s and a statement made by the then prime minister (BB) , that country was progressing and Karachi was only a city of 10 million people. This statement came at time when on an average 20 people were dying daily on the streets of Karachi. It was during BB’s reign that during the first 9 months of 1995 more then 1300 people were killed on the streets of Karachi, most of them young men belonging to the Mohajir community. Between the periods of June 1995 and Oct 995 more then 600 people were killed, with the rate of execution style killings rising. Bhutto was criticized by her own brother for the way she handled the situation. 

The terror that we grew up with, how can we have forgotten that so quickly? Are we really going to go back to those days? Karachi is not perfect, it has often been hijacked by those with power for their own means,  But those who grew up in the city can think of no other place as home and often wonder when will the city receive justice?

What right does the government have to grant amnesty to a person who has committed a crime against people who do not want to forgive her?

If she is innocent, let her fight her cases like everyone else. Although  no case has been proven against her in Pakistan, Bhutto has already been charged for Money laundering by Switzerland. In addition, countries such as France, Switzerland, Poland and UAE have already forwarded information regarding Bhutto and Zardari’s corrupt practices.  How can the West, that promotes ideas of freedom, democracy and transparency, keep pushing someone who is so corrupt, a fact not only stated by Pakistanis but also by European countries.

Over and Out

A very frustrated Pakistani!

PS: Can a case be filed against this decision??Our lawyers and politicians seem to be filing one for everything else, why not for a worthy cause?


References: Asia week summaries.


August 31, 2007

Khuda Keh Liye

Its 1;40 am in DC. I have to be at work at 8, that means waking up by 6. Normally I would have been asleep 4 hours ago, but today I had something special to do. I had finally got hold of a link that would allow me to watch Khuda Keh liye. Yes I know I am supporting piracy, but I assure you I will go watch it on the big screen if it is released in the US and hence pay my dues.

The movie was beautiful, I was ready to cry at moments b/c I missed home, and b/c I am seeing what home is turning into. One of my closest and bestest- if that is a word, stopped talking to me when he was hit by convertititus. Or maybe it was his wife who had it, but I know he was a willing follower. Shoman beautifully has shown the contrast in this world. we’re all full of good and bad, the west no different then the east. I also appreciated the way he shows the humanity in the young kid, and how it keeps showing up everytime he is asked to do something, and how everytime he is brainwashed in the name of religion. Its like people forget their logic in recognizing the difference between right and wrong.

Why can we not have more religious leaders that actually pass a fatwa on something good and progressive and get some publicity about it rather then on everything that is bad and regressive. The most famous example being the latest Fatwa being passed in the NWFP that education for women is Haram. It’s so Haram that we have a haddith that says if men and women need to go to China to study, they should. I wonder how Maulvi Sahab is going to explain that.

My favourite line from the movie was ” daari to Abu jahal ki bhi thi” the idea being, how important it is to focus on spirituallity rather then the physical appearance of things. Why is it that our maulvis concentrate so much on prostitutes but not the reasons why these women have had to turn to such means to feed their family.

I am a much at peace muslim today after having watched the movie. I have realized the importance of knowing my religion, to defend it from its own followers, and too trust the value system that we grew up with, rather then one that is being imposed on us from these “religious leaders”.

I really must go to sleep now, but just wanted to jot these thoughts down.

over and out

July 25, 2007

Lal Masjid and Madrasa Reforms

The Lal Masjid fiasco has once again brought to the limelight the issue of Madrasa reforms. The 9/11 commission reports issued in the US seem to consider the Madrasa education as a root source of problems. In fact there seems to be a general belief amongst the western population and media that these schools help promote intolerance and extremism and are the recruiting grounds for terrorists.

Although acknowledging that it is only a small minority that promote extremism, the question still remains how can Pakistan help change the system while still maintaining the benefits of the Madrasa’s? Many families, especially those coming from rural areas, send their kids to madrasas where although they are provided a basic education heavily focused on religion they also provide support to the family by taking care of these children by providing them with free board, education and two square meals a day. For families who can barely afford one square meal a day, having one or two kids taken care of lands up being a great source of relief.

In addition, children need religious education along with secular education. I think in order to overcome this issue the Pakistani policy makers will do well to observe the Indonesian Religious schools also known as Pesantrens. These pesantrens are noted for teaching a moderate form of Islam.

The pensentran that I had visited was located in Bogor Indonesia, located close to the Indonesian Capital Jakarta. The Madrassah Aliya Nagri is Muslim religious high school run by the department of education and the department of religion. The school is coed, and provided both secular and religious education. I have quoted a journal entry that I wrote incorporating my initial thoughts when I first visited the school. “I visited the school and wished all religious schools could be similar.

The children are provided a well rounded education. The classes are mixed and there is free interaction between the two sexes. The female students and teachers wear the hijab but this in no way restricts their freedom of interaction. The students pray together, but during breaks take out a guitar and join in the singing as well.

In Pakistan half the religious schools would probably teach you that singing is not allowed. I feel the mix that they have in Indonesia will allow them to be more tolerant not only of other religions but also of those who tend to be different within our own religion. “

The government of Pakistan would do well to invest some resources in figuring out what it is that makes these pasentrans work so well in Indonesia and what is the reason that almost 20% of the student population in Indonesia obtains their education from these schools and high schools and why is it that Indonesia is still able to maintain its reputation as a moderate Muslim country even with such a widespread madrasa system?

I believe it is only through learning from the Indonesian experience and making the necessary changes within our own will we be able to not only maintain the benifits of the madrasa system but also prevent it from being exploited by extremist elements.

over and out!

July 11, 2007

US policy and Muslim Communities.

Filed under: Desi,Education,Muslims,Peace building,Politics,Uncategorized,US — dcdesi @ 3:06 am

I know i had disappeared but much has happened.

Today I attended an interesting congregation of US leaders, academics, Muslim Americans, Jewish leaders, media experts, conservatives, liberals etc etc etc in DC. The common concern- how to impact the downward spiraling of relations between the US and Muslims all over the world? How to ensure that US actions do not further harm relations?

Being a Muslim, born in a Muslim country, having spent the last few yrs in the west it is an issue close to home, and hence I have a personal interest in seeing these relations improve. both because A) I don’t want bad relations to prevent others from getting the rich experience and opportunities that I have had in my interaction of the two culture and B) b/c worsening relations due to US actions is creating more problems at home, when a larger number of people join extremist groups due to frustration caused by US actions. As some intelligent American said regarding American policy and Actions: ” we are creating terrorists faster then killing them”

Polling data shows that Muslims outside the US value and appreciate  the same top two things about the US that most Americans value ie democracy/ liberty and technology. ( a complete contrast to the current administration’s stance  on they hate us for our values and freedom) it also shows that more then 50% of Americans know nothing or know very little about Islam and about 1/3 believe that Islam espouses violence.

Data also shows that quite a large population of Americans believe that the problem is a matter of miscommunication and misunderstanding. They believe American actions have been misrepresented and so feel its a communications issue that can be overcome by reducing the communication gap. polls also show for most Muslims it is a policy issue and that people recognize that their problem is with the US foreign policy.

for Muslims outside the US these are obvious issues, it just waits to be seen when these issues will become obvious to those within the US.

the group that met today has a difficult task of coming up with solutions to address these different paradigms of thinking.

Over and out.

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