Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Power of BFFs

I'm one of those people who sort of shut down during Ramzan. I call it 'the hibernation mode'. It's the one time of the year when I go nocturnal; all my reading and some writing happens after iftar. Because let's face it, I can't think one creative thing on an empty stomach. My friends will tell you that I become a gorilla when I'm hungry and to save the world from yet another calamity, I tend to spend most of the waking hours of fasting, sleeping. 

So what has fasting and my sleep habits have to do with my BFFs? These past five rozas, I did not just abstain from food and water, I also kind of lay low and didn't talk to any of my friends. Well, most of them are not even in Pakistan and by the time I can figure out the various timezones, it's not the 'decent' hour to make any calls. And five days of not gossiping with my girls turned me into a freak who was talking to herself while brushing her teeth at night!

There was a time, some many years back, when I spoke to my friends everyday for at least an hour. And this was after I had spent most of the day with them in school and later, college. And the next day, we started off from where we left our previous conversation, which was usually a couple of hours old only! 

Owing to marriage, work and in some cases a combination of the two, most of us are now in different timezones. We are 'connected' through the good old WhatsApp group, but exchanging occasional messages and pictures isn't the same as having a good, long, fulfilling talk (which can range from how the kids are doing in school to the husband's frustrating habits and end at how everyone feels about Kim Kardashian's contouring).


Friends, both old and new, are so important in our lives. As a woman I cherish the friends I have whom I can still call and tell stuff that's bothering me, after we've gone over the preliminary conversation about kids (theirs) and weather of course! I'm lucky that I have girlfriends, both old and new, who are willing to listen and share 'stuff' without passing judgement. Just like in the good old days, when we were young and all we had to worry about was grades and nail colour shades and whether any one of us will ever see Sampras play at Wimbledon!  Most of us are scattered in various timezones now but when we get the chance to be together, we continue from exactly where we left off, even if it was a couple of years back.


As far as my freaky behaviour of the night before is concerned, all it required was a powerful dose of BFFs - even if all three of them were in three different time zones!

Note: Yes, I'm sort of binge watching SATC these days. 

Image: Google

Monday, June 6, 2016

Save your story from pneumonia

"Write to please one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia."

(Kurt Vonnegut Jr.)


Sunday, June 5, 2016

Sunday ka Sizzle

"I got this from Tate Modern because it reminded me of you," said hubby dearest.

I think it was the expression. Or was it the hair?

Portrait of a Young Woman 1935 by Meredith Frampton


Friday, June 3, 2016

Thirty days to a new-ish me

There was a time when writing here wasn't so difficult. The blog is an online diary of sorts which one mostly writes for oneself but also with a faint hope that someone out there in cyber-space will read it, like it, share it and comment on it! Which, of course, doesn't happen all of the time. Or in my case, MOST of the time. And you know in the initial days of blogging, it really didn't matter. What was important for me was to write everyday. No, that isn't correct. Let me rephrase it. What was important for me was to write what 'I wanted' everyday. Over the last year or two, I've become so affected by what other people will think about me, I've not done any 'honest' writing here. When I do write it's with so many ifs and buts in mind that I usually end up not writing a single word. 

I've been struggling with writing for almost my entire life. And isn't it dumb that I'm always thinking about writing but never end up doing it? Maybe I haven't been true to myself about what I really, really want to write about. Do I want to write epic fantasies or chick-lit novels or maybe, literary fiction (gulp!)? Maybe all three or none of the above? 

While driving the other day I heard one of the RJs on City FM 89 say something like how Ramzan is sort of a break from our everyday, all year round-the-clock routine. It's true. For thirty days we get a chance to unwind a bit and get our shit together. Some of us find this the best time to lose weight while others consider this as a chance to reconnect with God. And I thought that maybe THIS Ramzan I, too, can change. No Ramzan Reading Challenge this month, oh no! What I want is to feel different after these thirty days are over. I'm sure I won't turn into a completely different person and that's not what I'm aiming for also. Maybe someone who is at peace with who she is; mind, body and soul. Yup. A simple goal during the one blessed month we have all year. Besides my birth month, of course!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The importance of creation

Creating stories was a part of my life since a very young age. As a little girl of five or six I had this habit of telling stories to whoever cared to listen. Most of these stories were made on the spot or were a mixture of stuff I read. Mostly unsuspecting aunts and uncles became a victim of these sessions. Some, like my dear youngest Chacha Jeff, encouraged me immensely and I distinctly remember sitting in my eldest phuppi's big living room, telling some spur-of-the-moment-created story to him.

The love for reading came at a very early age too. It seems I was born with it. Maybe the reading genes of all my ancestors from both my parents' sides came into me. And of course, when a person is a reader, he/she naturally wants to write. 

Although the love for stories and storytelling was something I identified with at a very young age, the ability to transfer that onto paper was something I failed at. I've been thinking about this for a while now. Writers create stories from fragments of life around them. Some stories come from experience, others from observation, and some from a combination of both. Sometimes a certain setting inspires a story, at other times a memory. One of the first stories I wrote, and that too for a writing competition in school, was about the pets of my friend and neighbour who also happened to be in the same class as myself. In the story the pets, two rabbits, drowned. The story almost won, I forget why. However, I was asked to read it out to the entire school, which I did and found myself at the receiving end from my friend. In fact, he was so upset that I had killed his pets (even if in a story) that he said something like I deserved not to win.

That hurt. 

Maybe it's that fear of hurting others or more importantly, being judged for what I write, that has held me back. There is this thought, always, at the back of my mind about the audience, whether it is the unknown reader or the friend. 

This fear, more than anything, is what had crippled me as a writer. It is still very much present, filling me with doubts and anxiety. Nobody will read your work. The world doesn't need your stories, it has better ones out there. The truth is that yes, there are better stories out there and yes, maybe no one will ever read my work. But that doesn't mean I stop the process of creation. After all these years, and more recently, weeks of agonising over this, I've realised that I need to create. For myself. I have to write what I want to read. I have to write without shame, judgment and fear. And most importantly, I have to write because I do think I have a story to tell. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

London musings

"Stop staring. What are you looking at? The lines on my forehead? My arched brows? My long wrinkled neck? Are you admiring my aquiline features? Look into my eyes. These eyes have seen so many like you pass me by day after day. Some of you laugh, others stare and a few take pictures. I like it, the distraction, because most of the times I'm staring at Jean Dubuffet's 'The Busy Life', which features five grotesque figures as you can see for yourself. Now you understand what I go through? Wait! Where are you going? Oh yes, stare at the 'Four Figurines on a Base', my husband's memory of a Paris brothel. I have this in my view also. And the thoughts that go in my head when I see this, you can't even imagine. Go ahead! Admire his work. Are you leaving? Already? But I have so much to tell you. Wait!"

[I visited London in 2011 and one of my favourite activity was going to the museums and making notes on how I felt when I saw a work of art that fascinated me. This was written on a trip to Tate Modern. I came across it while combing through old notebooks yesterday.]

Image: Google

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The #100bookpact - Books 1-10

Sometimes undertaking a challenge is the only way to do things. Even though I consider myself to be an avid reader (at least that's what I keep telling everyone!), usually my book list at the end of the year doesn't have more than twenty books. Which is insane because I usually buy double this number of books every year.

Social media can make one do crazy things. For me the #100bookpact is just that. This year I've decided to read, yes you've read it right, a 100 books. It did appear to be a pretty daunting task but so far I've managed to finish nine books. For someone who only read the Malazan series last year, nine books is pretty amazing!

Here are the ten books with the briefest, most minuscule reviews.

1. Esmond in India by Ruth Jhabvala. Nostalgia, love, broken ideals and lost causes. Well written characters, each one striving for happiness and control of their lives, like we all are. Her work is a perfect example of how a story based in the subcontinent can be about ordinary people leading ordinary lives.

2. Aiding and Abetting by Muriel Spark. Whatever I've read by her so far has been hugely entertaining and this book is no different. There is a potential for a movie in it. Her novels are short but she always has very strong characters with distinct qualities. For example, the staple diet of one of the characters in this novel was smoked salmon and lamb chops!

3. The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov. It was such a huge disappointment. Even the vodka guzzling cat couldn't save it! I abandoned the book after 50 pages. However, I highly recommend his other novel, Black Snow, which I've been thinking should be made into a stage play. It is not just very funny but totally relevant to the theatre scene in Karachi, if not Pakistan.

4. So Long, and thanks for all the fish by Douglas Adams and then,

5. Mostly Harmless, again by Douglas Adams. This book was such a bore. I think the best one in this five book series is The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Even The Restaurant at the end of the World isn't bad either. I think the books which don't have Zaphod Beeblebrox and Marvin are really lame.

6. A morning with Jeeves is full of joy. Wodehouse's 'Joy in the Morning' was the sixth book. With preparations for the Desi Writers' Lounge stall for KLF in full swing in the beginning of February, this was the easiest, happiest read!

7. The famous Eat, Pray, Love came next. In all honesty I had never any intention of reading the book. I had seen the film and even though I had heard a lot about it, memoirs are not really my thing. But I read Big Magic last year by Gilbert and it made me curious to read her most famous work. It wasn't a let down and it gave me an excuse to watch the movie again. Also, it has a really smart plot. 

8. Tolkein's The Silmarillion came next. This book should definitely come with a disclaimer: Only for hardcore LOTR fans. 

9. Probably the best book I've read so far for this challenge was 'boom!' by Mark Haddon. A sci-fi for kids or young adults, it is one action packed story! It has aliens, toilet cleaner wielding spiders, mysterious portals, a jobless father who finds his calling in cooking, devious young boys who spy on aliens, and a road trip all the way from London to the Isle of Skye. Read it. Make your kids read it. Read it to your kids. Just don't die without reading this book!

10. I started Atonement last night. I've read two books by Ian McEwan, Amsterdam and On Chesil Beach, and really liked them but I always shied away from this critically acclaimed novel. I'm hoping it won't be as insipid as the movie. Let's see. 

The next update on the #100bookpact will come after I've finished ten more books. Which will, hopefully, not be at the end of the year! 

Note: Image of Eat, Pray, Love and The Silmarillion are from Google.