I was recently interview by Ghazala Khan at The Pakistani Spectator – here is the published version as found on their website – I thank her and the entire Pakistani Spectator team for all the kind words they have repeatedly mentioned about me.
Teeth Maestro is one of the beaconhouses of Pakistani blogosphere. He is a dentist by profession, but geeker than any geek when it comes to information technology. He has been actively blogging since July 2004 first on blogspot, but now has got his own WWW home at Teeth Maestro. He has been instrumental in making the Pakistani blogging horizon dynamic. Along with the people’s teeth and blogging, he also manages some other cool ventures.
Behind the mask of Teeth Maestro is Dr. Awab Alvi a Pakistani dentist practicing in Karachi at Alvi Dental Hospital. He graduated with a dental degree (BDS) from deMontmorency College of Dentistry, Lahore. and then proceeded to Saint Louis University for a Masters Degree (MSc) in the field of Orthodontics (Braces) he later went for an extensive study at the University of Pennsylvania for a certificate in Endodontics (Root Canals).
He was kind enough to do an in-depth and joyous interview with The Pakistani Spectator.
Could you tell us what made you decide to blog?
I can easily call myself a technology addict (geek), and have always been eager to try new things that come by every so often in this digital age, back in 2004 I saw the new fad called Blogging, which then was nothing more then a digitized / online version of the pre-historic diary. I actually remember thinking to myself why the heck would I write a diary, let alone an online one, and then share it publicly with the world’. It did not actually tickle my nerve back then, but I thought it cant hurt to try it out. Well then as they say its history from then on.
At the time I was genuinely concerned about my privacy and hence choose to live under a pen name that is how the tag Teeth Maestro came into existence, being a dentist hence the word Teeth but to ad a little spice I threw in the word maestro, and it just stuck. For a good year I hid behind the pen name but then it simply did not matter after the brief year of reservations.
What do you think sets Teeth Maestro apart from other blogs?
Teeth Maestro, is not in it for any financial gains and neither is engrossed in any popularity contest but yes it is satisfying to have someone read all the stuff you write, hence i truly value my regular readers, the other section dropping in via search engines is just incidental. I believe this blog is just my own online chalkboard on which i choose to write anything I feel like writing about, be it politics (mostly) or any issue that makes me tick. In this process I make hideous grammatical mistakes and blunders but even then I take it lightly as this remains a casual online diary, you cannot be expected to make post with perfect English, if that were the case then I have better things to do then worry about then the a’s and the o’s
I believe, if I am not mistaken it was Teeth Maestro which first started taking about Pakistani politics on blogs. It was not a deliberate attempt to be different but it was quite simply what I felt more passionate about sharing. It was simply my way to protest against these stupid politicians who choose to use my country as a door mat. I have usually been very vocal in all social gatherings about my thoughts on politics that was definitely limited to a small group of people, this blog provided me an opportunity to reach out to a lot more
If you could choose one characteristic you have that brought you success, what would it be?
In my blog I feel it is my honest a truthful opinion that has been the hallmark of success usually not worrying about any repercussions, living in Karachi and talking against MQM is something not to write home about, anonymously it might sneak by but its worrisome when your name is apparent on the website. But I feel if Pakistan has to improve then people have to take a stand against all this, and simply hiding behind a pen name does little to create change hence that was the primary reason that urged me to come out of hiding from behind the pen name, though I still widely use the pen name but do not hide it in anyway.
If you could pick a travel destination, anywhere in the world, with no worries about how it’s paid for – what would your top 3 choices be?
I have over the past few months become an avid fan of off-road 4×4 adventure in Pakistan making a few fun trips with a club called Off Road Pakistan. Hence Pakistan has in the recent months captivated my imagination as it is truly a breathtaking destination if properly explored – hence it could be an all expense paid trip off-roading in Pakistan – If I were to choose a destination outside Pakistan then somehow I would love a trip to Europe
What is your favorite book and why?
Amongst many, it seems I must do a plug for Ayesha Siddiqa’s book Military Inc, she has done our nation a great service, she has exposed the uncharted territory of feudal lard called Pakistan Army, this feudal empire continues to reign on Pakistan as if they owned it. I must confess that the book must be read with a tinge of salt, it could very well be that some facts could have been blown out of proportion, but at the same time it raises some very important issues and gives one a good grasp on the term MILBUS – it has been said that ‘every country has an Army but Pakistan Army has a Country’ – how true
What’s the first thing you notice about a person (whether you know them or not)?
Being a dentist by profession and an Orthodontist I naturally notice the smile of any person I interact with, but more importantly I focus on the teeth.
Do you think Pakistani politicians could benefit from the social networks and things like twitter?
Pakistani politics is actually living in the stone age as compared to the global trends we see, but its probably not to blame the political system entirely as there should be over 96% people of Pakistan who are not yet connected to the web. Once the Internet becomes a common utensil then Politics will be run also via the web in Pakistan. But yes mobile technology is so prevalent that one might see a potential for a twitter like applications but honestly there has not used in politics per se
Is it true that who has a successful blog has an awful lot of time on their hands?
If you were to ever spend a day with me you would be surprised (more like astonished) as to how much computer I actually use, I think the only time I leave a keyboard is when I sleep or maybe in the evening when I try to spend some time with my family and late night coffee outing. Rest it seems I am glued to the computer. When i am not sitting on the computer I have my Blackberry device which keeps me connected to any and all emails that come hounding into my mailbox. Spare time, nope – but as a geek I am a computer-holic, plain and simple, blogging is just part of that daily routine
Do you think this whole emphasis on blogs and whatever online is a significant indicator to show that the web, the social web, is becoming a very important political force?
Most definitely – I would not say that it will overcome other aspects of the political machinery – but it has the potential to be a very important deciding factor in any future political decisions. Pakistan may be a few years behind but a closer look at the upcoming US elections shows you that every candidate has a blog, it gives the voters an up close and personal interaction with every candidate and his issues. Pakistani politics is sadly not based on issues but more centered around ethnic divisions, once there is mindset shift towards actual issue deciding elections then I feel blogs will be the deciding factor – for that paradigm shift to happen there needs to be rampant education throughout the country.
What do you think where the Pakistani blogosphere is right now?
Pakistani blogs are I feel a few years behind the global trends, in the early part of 2007 I had predicted that we would see a definite increase in number of blogs within this year, and we definitely seen a rise this year. Gone are the days when you had to explain what a BLAAG (ack) was, but instead now people know what a blog is and in turn ask for the URL – that alone is a good indicator that people are embracing the concept. I do run and manage Bloggers.pk which is a Pakistani blog aggregator there I have seen a large number of new registrations coming in over this past year as well. The biggest gripe I continue to have is the fact that since most people can not read and write in English we need a good Urdu system, but sadly the Unicode font for Urdu is truly pathetic and barely readable – some creative person has to step up and try to improve this font maybe creating this on an open source concept so that it can gain popularity. Once we get our own language font become a lot more readable then I assure you we will see greater growth
Who are your top five favorite bloggers in Pakistan?
There are many favorite bloggers, heck my RSS reader is filled with a large number of MUST READ blogs hence it would be unfair to categorize them as 1-2-3 but instead I mix and match five of them just in fairness. The Glasshouse, Adil Najam, SAJ Shirazi, Omer Alvie & Khalid Omar (with no rankings whatsoever)
Have you ever become stunned by the uniqueness of any blogger in Pakistani blogosphere?
Adil Najam – he started Pakistaniat as a small project and I am delighted to see this blog grow into one great blog, and a very good website that provides some rock solid material for its readers.
What is the future of blogging in Pakistan?
Blogging in Pakistan is barely at its infancy – I see it to growing in a massive way, allowing people the opportunity to witness the true meaning of free speech and interactivity. But as a side benefit I also see this concept as having a great potential to become a good source of revenue for anyone who commits to this effort – its easily a one man shop which requires no physical office nothing, but only time and if hard work is put into it then people can easily reap a handsome profit from its day to day functioning. Sadly not many Pakistanis understand this potential for making money, but it should not take long for the change to happen
In political respect, can we say blogging a ‘democracy of message’?
I have been blogging about local politics for some time – it is quite simply my own opinion which I pen down for the world to see, some may agree and some don’t, blogging provides both parties an opportunity to question any issue and make arguments supporting the point of view. If someone were to read and understand this detailed discussion one can surely come through with a general idea as to what the people really want, albeit it could be a a small sample group but its enough to get an idea of the grass root demands of the people
Can Pakistani blogosphere play any notable role in the forthcoming elections, if they happen at all?
I think the political scenario in Pakistan is quite unpredictable, Blogs on the other hand are not as popular to make an impact in at least these forthcoming elections, Blogs at the present are limited to a very select group of readers who understand this concept – maybe next time around we might have a far greater influence on the voters but for now we are just a small voice amongst a million others
What are your other ventures despite of Teeth Maestro Blog, and what are the future plans?
I have always had desire to make a difference in whatever small way that i can. For me blogging was the first step which has surprisingly turned out to be a very exciting project for me personally. I then become involved with Don’t Block the Blog campaign which by the grace of Allah has evolved into an internationally recognized organization on free speech in Pakistan. Yet another side project has been Proud-Pakistani.com which aims to promote the patriotic spirit amongst Pakistanis.
In the recent days we have launched a new website called Quinge.com, this is a dream project by Omer Alvie and myself where we wanted to create a very interesting website which carries quality content for the Pakistani public. Our first step is the launch of a podcast called QuingeCast (two editions are already online) which talks to different Pakistanis around the world who have made a difference in the world. We might not be hunting down a star studded guest list but instead feel un recognized talent must be highlighted to everyone. This is still a project ‘in development’ and we have other exciting ideas lined up for the future so stay tuned to Quinge.com.
Any Message you want to give to the readers of The Pakistani Spectator?
As a Pakistani I feel it is our responsibility as responsible citizens to bring this country back on track, the only way possible is when we as individuals stand up against the corrupt rulers and show them the door. I truly believe that one person can make a difference, so go forth with that belief in yourself to create change, soon a combined effort will transform this country into one of the most progressive nations.