Arranged Valentines

A funny episode on Pakistani TV by Avari-Nameh:

During a Valentine’s Day “special.” A —- my family would call her “modern” —- woman is interviewing an evidently very happy couple.

Hostess: So how long have you been celebrating Valentine’s Day?

Husband: Just a few years now. We’ve only started recently, but we really enjoy it.

Hostess: That’s so wonderful. Tell me, and tell our viewers, how did you two meet and fall in love?

Husband: Actually, we’re first cousins. The marriage was arranged.

Also, check out the comparison of Islamabad to Little Rock, AR in the same post.

Weeks 5-6

I was having cramps in my lower abdomen for a few days and I noticed on Dec 16th evening that I have slight dark brown spotting. Spotting continued for next 10 days and cramps starting to become severe.

On the 18th, I freaked out as cramps were getting worse. I had an ovarian cyst couple months ago with similar symptoms, so I called my doc (IVF-NJ/PCOS specialist group). The nurse told me to have an early home pregnancy test and I told her… no way, it has not happened to me in last 7 years so it may not be pregnancy.

She was very polite and asked me to come next morning to have an ultrasound to see what’s going on with my cycle. I love this setup with the fertility specialist. They have 2 or 3 hours dedicated each morning where their patients can just walk in to have a blood test and/or ultrasound and one of the doctors from the group is always there even on weekends. It’s absolutely necessary for women taking IVF treatment but is also a blessing for patients like me who have gynecological issues often and need immediate attention and correct diagnosis.

My last emergency trip to a hospital (rated very best in NJ for its women health) was a very bad experience. I was dying with pain, they diagnosed me wrong without doing any test, X-ray or ultrasound and then started the wrong medicines and asked me to go see my regular specialist, who on my first visit did the ultrasound and right away told me that I have no infection, it’s just an ovarian cyst and then provided me correct line of treatment. So you can tell how much I trust my specialist over the hospital emergency rooms.

We (Zack and me) visited the specialist next morning, Dec 19th. One of the new doctors from their group (Dr Yi) was there that day. I have never met her before. Mostly I go with appointments and only see Dr Trieser or Dr Darder. She did a quick transvaginal ultrasound and told us that it seems like I am pregnant and the bleeding is due to implantation —- nothing to be worried about. She also did the blood test and later called me home around noon to confirm the pregnancy. She also asked me to keep visiting every week till the 10th week, when they can say pregnancy is stable.

Who comes to know next —- A complete stranger

My company is not doing good in last three years. We are reduced (by force adjustments) from a group of 8 System Engineers to only 2 and this is the last ultimatum from upper management to make a sale of our product or they will close shop.

So I was applying for other jobs. The same last week of Dec, I was negotiating with S, a manager in a very good company and he offered me a good package and I was supposed to confirm Monday Dec 22, that I will join this new company on Feb 01.

When I heard the baby news, I started to take it slow at work and decided not to change jobs. Moving to a new company requires a lot of extra work hours and effort before you make a good reputation. Zack and myself talked and decided it’s not a good time for me to start all over at work front. If I lose my present job in 6 months, so be it, but we should not be taking any risk.

So I told S on monday Dec 22, that I am sorry I can’t join and he was so disappointed and he tried to convince me and asked me if I wanted more benefits etc. I felt kind of sorry too and told him that I just found out I am pregnant and I don’t want to take any risk of extra work load etc.

Everything seems ok but cramps keep getting worse and worse. There were days when I was unable to sit staright in my office.

I told a few of my friends at work… mainly Steven, Rob, Laura and Daksha. I was feeling very tired and sick, could not sleep properly at nigt so I wanted to ask my boss if I can telecommute one day a week. Most of my friends at work told me not to tell my boss. Considering the force adjustments and stuff, they feared that he might use it as a negative impact on my employment continuation with my present company. But my lower abdominal pain was killing me so I decided to trust my boss. When I told him, he reacted very happy and told me to work from home as much as I needed. I was not sure if it was a good idea to share with him or not but I trusted him. It’s very important that you trust your immediate boss at work.

On the 24th Dec, I was scheduled for an ultrasound to see the baby’s heart beat. My doc could not find the heartbeat and he was concerned that it might not be the good sac since I am having such bad cramps. It made me very sad and I did pray a lot for a healthy baby.

My doc told me to revisit on Dec 29th to again check the heart beat. According to him if there will be no heart beat by Dec 29th (6 weeks) then it’s not a good sign.

Weeks 2-3

We don’t know when our baby was conceived. Actually, we have a vague idea. Since we live in different states, we can narrow down the dates to when I was home in Jersey. That comes out to be the thanksgiving weekend from Nov 27—30. But we can’t be more precise because we live apart. So it could have been any one of those days.

You see the conception of our baby was an accident. No, that’s not correct. It was conceived in indifference. Amber has PCOS and PCOS means infertility. So a long time ago, we stopped using any birth control. Condoms after all take the fun out of sex. And the only time we got pregnant before was in 1996 which ended in a miscarriage.

So, hear nutcase relatives of mine (you know who you are), God wasn’t punishing us (by not giving us any kids) for using birth control like you thought. Stop being so crazy and judgmental.

On the other hand, I can’t say that the baby is unwanted or unplanned. We were thinking about a baby and were ready to have one. Our plans just called for this to happen a couple of months and thousands of dollars later.

If you have read Amber’s post, you might wonder if our perspectives are completely different. They were. Amber has always wanted a baby while I have been, ahem, indifferent. However, both of us have been getting closer to the other’s viewpoint recently. This pregnancy is the result.

Blog Milestone

Around 5pm ET today, the weblog passed 100,000 page views according to Sitemeter. It took 9 months since I got my own domain and switched to Movable Type. I understand that some weblogs get more traffic in a day.

In other news, Valentine’s day was very good for traffic statistics. I got a lot of hits for “Valentine Poem.” So much so that this post is now the 2nd most popular of this weblog in the past month.

I have also made some small changes to the weblog. One is the listing of the appropriate categories for each post. This is just to remind Jonathan that he promised to do that on his weblog some time ago.

There are also links to the “about” pages for the authors as well as pages listing all the posts by a specific author on the right sidebar.

If you have any questions whose answers you would like to be on the “about” pages, feel free to ask.

Pakistan and Iran are Arab?

There was a really bad article in the New York Times by Leslie Wayne about Arab Americans backing Bush in this election cycle. Leslie Wayne considers Iranians and Pakistanis as Arab too. Who knew?

Fortunately, I don’t have to debunk it since Jack Shafer of Slate already has.

Juan Cole provides a good summary of languages in the region. He also writes about politics of the different immigrant groups from the Muslim world.

One thing I would add is that Pakistanis have generally been Republicans because of the perception that Republicans have sided more with Pakistan in its conflict against India.

UPDATE: The New York Times has appended a correction to the article today:

A headline yesterday on a front-page article about fund-raising for President Bush’s re-election referred imprecisely to donors described in the article. Not all are Arab-Americans; they include Pakistani and Iranian-born donors.

Secularism in the Middle East

Talking about the hijab ban in France and plans to allow “painless” female circumcision (also known as female genital mutilation) in Italy, Letter from Gotham writes:

Can somebody please tell me what is the difference in principle between outlawing one religious custom and allowing another? I recognize that wearing a scarf does no harm to anyone. My point is, isn’t the secular society the ultimate authority?

She asks again.

I’m not clear on what he opposes. Is it this particular ruling [hijab ban], or the right of a secular government to ban certain religious practices? [… Should] nice, sanitary female genital mutilations […] be allowed? After all the parents want it. Or does a secular government have the right to interfere in the practice of religious customs?

I think she raises an important point. My opinion is that on the general concept, there are definitely times when the state can and should interfere into religious or cultural affairs. This should be restricted to practices which are barbaric or otherwise restrict the rights of individuals or groups, etc. It is always a good idea to consider whether a specific policy will work or not and what its side-effects will be.

Thinking about this issue, I came across an excellent post at Pedantry.

I’m an advocate of secular government, and I believe secular government can only be a success when religious people demand it as something in their own best interests.

This is very close to my own stance as well.

I think there are legitimate grounds to see in contemporary Islamic legal thought the possibility of a system of laws and governance that need not be excessively unjust or alienating and would certainly draw on more genuinely local traditions than copying European legal and political ideas directly. I think there may even be grounds to think that the development of such a code might be preferable in the real circumstances that prevail in the Middle East to imposing European legal standards.

I prefer to criticise (or praise, when the opportunity arises) modern Islamic politics on the basis of what it wishes to establish rather than because of its religious origins alone. Indeed, having claimed that it is wrong to deny people their religion when they undertake political acts, I can hardly condemn Islamic political ideology for being both political and Islamic. I think non-Muslims could take a far more progressive approach to Islamic politics by criticising it for what it actually proposes rather than for its lack of secularism. When Islamic political activists demand the promotion of social justice because Mohammed commanded it, the secular advocate of social justice should not start getting picky about whether social justice is desirable because it’s what God wants or for more secular reasons. When Islamic politicians demand a second rate status for women or non-Muslims because of something they claim their religion demands, rather than either debate Islamic theology or demand that Islamic politicians establish a secularism neither they nor their constituents believe in, we ought to go and hunt down Islamic political activists with contrary ideas so that we can support their alternatives.

Scott has hit on a very important point here. Most of the Muslim world is not secular. Most people there take their religion very seriously. Also, in most of these countries, the secular elite that have ruled over the years have not really being a smashing success.

There are Islamic political parties in a number of Muslim countries, for example the religious alliance MMA. But a number of secular parties also have some religious character. A secular culture like Europe is not likely in the Muslim world in the near future and we cannot force them to adopt secularism.

The Muslim states should be allowed to develop their own path to a tolerant, good political system. This system would be based on their local culture and religion to some extent.

This obviously does not mean that we allow the extremists like Taliban etc. to take over entire states. Instead we should judge actions rather than a take binary decision between secularism and Islamism. If a political leader advocates for the government to take care of the poor, a la the Alabama Governor, that is well and good. Mistreatment of minorities and women obviously is not.

You might say that the theory is fine but the real world is different and there are a lot of extremist Islamic parties. A counterexample is obviously the Turkish AKP. A number of political parties, both explicitly Islamic and generically Islamic, have been willing to be part of democratic systems. Their actions need to be watched, but there is no reason some of them shouldn’t evolve into liberal democratic parties.

The alternative is not attractive either. Secular dictators which flout the rights of their people can become huge liabilities. US support of such dictators will be seen by the people of those countries as inimical to their interests. Plus these dictators haven’t really done much good. I don’t think Algeria would have been worse under FIS than the military government and the civil war it has gone through in the last decade.

Blogroll Changes

I have dropped a few blogs from my blogroll and added some.

Among the additions are (in no particular order):

  • The Manifest Border: A weblog about immigration from immigration lawyer Randy Tunac.
  • Pedantry: A very interesting weblog by Scott Martens about politics, Europe, language, philosophy and his grandpa’s adventures.
  • Quark Soup: About science and policy by freelance science writer/journalist David Appell.
  • Daily Kos: The ultimate political blog.

I am looking for more interesting weblogs, especially those covering natural and applied sciences. If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments.