Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Lights, camera, action!

The end of 2009 is here and many of us will be reflecting on, pondering about, thinking of, planning to and hoping for 2010.
But not today!
I am going to pay a small tribute to my hubby dear today on his brilliant performance in his final drama exam which was on Monday. He would probably not agree with the brilliant part but I think (all bias aside) that he did an amazing job.
The play was an Urdu adaptation of the Italian play 'An Accidental Death of an Anarchist' by Dario Fo. It was a political satire that hit upon the weaknesses of our political system in general and the police force specifically. In brief the play is based on the story of a railway union worker who fell or was thrown from the fourth floor of a police station. This was termed as a suicidal act by the police while the media hyped it as a murder.
Adnan played the lead role of a maniac, Jaali, who suffers from a personality disorder. He impersonates people and sort of fools them to earn money. The police arrest Jaali and interrogate him. Since he is a crazy sort, they let him free after a warning. Jaali, on the other hand, knows about the death of the railway union worker and decides to fool the police. The rest of the drama is about how Jaali impersonates a Judge (and a doctor) and makes the policemen on the fourth floor admit to their mistake regarding the death of the railway worker.
Though it had moments of comedy, the play was an attack on our current political system. It talked about the methods police use to make a suspect confess (even though he might be innocent), and how politicians talk about 'Ehtesaab' (accountability) but never do anything about corruption when they come into office.
It was amazing watching Adnan perform and I was extremely proud! It's not easy to be on stage for 1 hour and 20 minutes and that too in three different get ups. So three cheers for you, hubby dear! Well done!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Jewels of Karachi- Hindu Gymkhana Pictorial (Part I)

These are some more pictures of the Hindu Gymkhana.
[I didn't take these pictures. I think some friend of Adnan took these].

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Jewels of Karachi

Adnan (hubby dear) is a theatre student at NAPA (National Academy of Performing Arts). NAPA is based in one of the most amazing buildings in Karachi, the Hindu Gymkhana. For those of you who want to know a little history about the place, read on:

'Designed by the first-known Muslim architect Agha Ahmed Hussain, it was the first public building in Karachi to boldly adopt the Mughal-Revival style. The choice of architect and architectural language is even more interesting because it was commissioned during a period when Karachi did not seem to be affected by communal tension rippling in the subcontinent. The Hindu Gymkhana was a club for the Hindu upper classes who formed a strong commercial elite in Karachi in the years before Independence in 1947. The Hindu community and Seth Ramgopal Gourdhanandh Mohatta contributed money for its construction.

The plan and massing was based on the tomb of Itamad-ud-Daulah (1628) in Agra. The building is small in size and consists primarily of a hall and some smaller rooms used for administrative purposes. Stone for the two-foot thick walls was acquired in Bijapur. The roof line is defined by delicate massing of cupolas and balustrades directly influenced by Akbar's Fatehpur Sikri. The octagonal corner towers framing the projecting central jharoka or porch are capped with chattris (domed kiosks). Smaller chattris highlight the corners of the projecting porch that carry the drooping bangladar roof used in Emperor Akbar's period. The projecting chajjas are supported by ornamental brackets. The cupolas of the chattris are reinforced concrete and the walls are dressed in Gizri stone. Some of the carved elements are of Jodhpur stone'.

Hindu Gymkhana is one of those places where time comes to a stand still. It stands in the noisy city center; surrounded by honking cars, rickshaws and mini buses, as an oasis. When I first sat on the rooftop I felt as if I had entered an enchanted place, something out of 'Tilsm Hoshruba'. As if a group of 'parees' (fairies) will appear and start dancing. The walls whisper of bygone eras and it feels as if the spirits of the people who came to spend their leisure time at the gymkhana are still around. There is music playing in a room while in another there is a heated discussion on politics taking place. What all must have happened here during the partition days? These and many secrets are embedded in the walls of the structure and they will remain there till the end of time.

I am no good at photography and so I might not have done justice to the beautiful structure of the Hindu Gymkhana. When you see these pictures and you are in Karachi, do take out some time and visit this place. You won't regret it!
[On a personal note, this building is very dear to me because it was here that hubby dear went down on his knees and asked for my hand!]

Friday, December 4, 2009

Morning Mumbo Jumbo

It's fifteen minutes to nine. The typical Pakistani housewife is settled comfortably on the couch with a mug of steaming hot tea. The maid has come in (finally after the Eid holidays!), the typical husband has left for work and the typical kids are in school. As the clock strikes nine, she tunes into her favourite morning show. In the ad break, she tunes into the show on the other channel. In case that doesn't interest her she decides to take a sneak peek at the third channel before quickly tuning into her original FAVOURITE show. She makes a mental note of the celebrity's dress, jots down the recipes mentioned in the cooking section and tries to remember the filmi gossip to share with her typical friends. (She also wants to exercise when the show trainer comes on air but her mom calls during that time and well, she has to tell the typical details of yesterday to her!)
There is nothing wrong with these morning shows (or the typical housewife). Infact, these shows are a huge cash cow for each channel. It goes without saying that only the very popular shows get to be money minting programs for their respective channels. Each one has quite a similar pattern. There is a decked up host who starts her (or his) discussion with something very simple like the weather or the fact that wedding parties are supposed to be wrapped up by midnight and what happened at the reception s/he went to last night. Or s/he would give a small lecture on following the law and how, one her way to work, a driver broke the signal and what this reflects of us as a nation. Points to ponder on? (For the housewife we just talked about above, yes). After the opening talk there is the usual horoscope or tarot card reading, a discussion by some 'filmi expert' on the latest films (mostly Indian. Much reflection that is on us as a nation!),
a skin/beauty expert, a guest celebrity, some exercise and cooking and during all this hullabaloo, viewer calls and lots of ads (not to forget the various product placements all over the sets).
From a strictly branding point of view, morning shows are great. From detergents to toothpastes to cooking masalas and milk (not to forget the gazillion other brands that form a part of our monthly grocery list), the housewife watching the show is the perfect target. There are some very funny product placements (like Ariel next to the cooking range during the cooking segment on one morning show. With all due respect, no one really washes their dirty linen in the kitchen!) but mostly, brands occupy "correct" places. Nesvita branding done in the exercise segment, Olpers Cream on the kitchen counter, and a branded mug of steaming hot tea in the hands of the host (I don't know if any brand has done this yet) are bound to catch and hopefully, influence the typical housewife. An expensive effort to become a typical brand on her typical list!
From a non-brand point of view, they are a reasonable pastime. Ofcourse it is better that our housewives (and with all due respect to them) watch something other than those Indian soaps. These soaps have addicts everywhere, in all types of households belonging to all types of
social classes. Unbeliveable! Full marks to the Indians, though, for spreading their fictionalized culture through the telly. Most Indians I know have said, quite emphatically, that the lifestyle shown in these soaps is not reflective of their culture. Just like the attitude of the Australian cricket team is not reflective of the Aussie nation as a whole but ofcourse, as humans we tend to generalize. In our case, we try very hard to reflect a 'soft' image of ourselves in all types of ways but somehow, nobody seems to take notice. Tsk! Tsk!
Karachi is really lovely these days, weather wise. It is fun to go out in the afternoon with friends and discuss days gone by over a cup of tea and doughnuts. It is absolutely heavenly to go at night for a cup of coffee or hot chocolate with carrot cake. I would recommend Expresso for the coffee, cake and ambience. A cup of tea is best had at home while sitting on a couch tuned into your favourite (morning?) show.
[ Comment section: If you don't want to comment on the above blog just answer any one of the following questions. Blog na huwa, entrance exam ho gaya!
Btw, has anyone of you managed to see 'The 3 Idiots', Amir Khan's new venture? Also, comments on 2o12. Also, which book (if any) are you reading these days?]

Friday, November 20, 2009

Cheeni Kum..aur zaiyda bhi

One should never take anything for granted, including sugar! Atleast the sugar crisis has made us realize this (or has it?). Really, it is a sad state of affair in our country these days. A few months ago there was no atta, and now there is no sugar. We should take it as a wake up call. Tomorrow, there might be no water! Considering the way we are hell bent on destroying our planet, this scenario is not too far away also. We have this no worry attitude because we somehow know deep down that when the water crisis does come, we won't be around. Have you given some thought to the future of your children? Instead of reciting prayers for our departed souls they will be cursing us for a). ruining the planet and b). leaving them there to clean the mess. Think about it!
On a lighter note, this is the best time to get rid of that sweet tooth forever. Stop having sugar and stop buying it (or searching to buy it) and these disgusting, gluttonous sugar mill owners will realize that they're in trouble. We are a sad nation. We have never really understood what can be done with the 'power of the people'. If ordinary people, like you and me, decide to stop buying sugar - we might just change a few things around here. 'People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people'. That's what V said in 'V for Vendetta' (an amazing and very inspiring movie which should be in the list of movies you must see before you die) and it holds true. In our case though, this might not hold that true. We don't want to come out of our protective bubbles. 'What difference will my not buying sugar make?', you may ask. It might not make any difference immediately but if you try, and those around you also become part of this, it might just make a difference. Let's not limit ourselves to the sugar matter only - try and make a difference by not wasting water, by not throwing things outside your house and on the roads, and please do try not to waste paper. Try doing all this and practise what you preach. Trust me, you'll make a difference even if it's a tiny one!
Today was the 25th death anniversary of Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Now here's a man who made a difference.
'Aaiiye haath uthaayen hum bhi
hum jinhen rasm-e-dua yaad nahin
hum jinhen soz-e-mohabbat ke siwa
koi buth, koi Khudaa yaad nahin'

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Of Sunshine, oranges and punctuation marks.

We all go through the winter blues. Early sunsets are very depressing, especially when you are a 'sun' person. I don't really know what being a sun person really means; in my case I love when there is more sunlight. When it goes pitch dark at 1900 hrs - depression sort of sets in. I miss sunshine! Ofcourse winters has its advantages also - no sweaty weather, no major worries when there is an electricity breakdown, lots of dryfruit, gajar ka halwa and ofcourse, oranges! It is amazing how nature has built this reward system for us in both summers and winters; mangoes to slurp and lick from May-July and then lovely, juicy, delicious oranges! I say, bring it all on! Let's bring in some color in the dullwinters with some oranges!
I have some major tasks this week. I need to get to know my new SLR (got it today only!), a beauty, which is sitting on my bed waiting forme. Being slow with technology, this is going to take some time to do. Then there is the busy family weekend - which promises to be lotsof fun. Ofcourse, the mehndi of Arif and Sana (both close and dear friends) on Thursday which is, I'm sure, going to be a blast! And I just happened to forget all the assignments and quizzes waiting to be graded.
Although grading is one of the more tedious parts of teaching, it helps in a lot of ways. Sometimes (and I have had many such times), there is a thing or two I have learnt from some of my students. A point of view or perspective on a brand that I had never considered. It also teaches (or should teach) one to be just, tolerant and patient. There are many times when I've not understood the writing of a student but Imake an effort to understand so that I don't just deduct marks because he/she had poor handwriting. At university level you can'treally cut marks at poor handwriting although I am sure a lot of teachers do. I guess I'm not one of 'those' teachers. I do hate grammatical errors though. It is a pity that we as a nation don't know both English and Urdu. The latter is something we never make an effort to learn ever. This is so sad. I am not proclaiming to be very proficient in Urdu myself (I don't even know the Urdu alphabets in order) but at least I'm not ashamed to speak our language and read literature in Urdu or watch Urdu plays. Anyways, coming back to the grammatical error issue, moststudents (at university level) do not know when to use 'its' and 'it's'. I believe it's something most of us do. What with the sms culture, people have completely forgotten punctuation! It is one thing to use extremely concise form of language in an sms but to use the same in exam papers and even official emails is intolerable! If we can't learn our Urdu language, we might as well speak and write English properly. The funniest is that these students also learn French and sometimes Spanish (when offered). Sigh! [I haven't yet deducted marks for punctuation though I do give a very long lecture bordering on sarcasm to the class. Does it help? 70% of the time].
Overall, teaching is fun! It is a different experience altogether to share all sorts of things with students and to learn from them in the process.My teaching years have made me a more confident, self-assured and better person and I have all my wonderful students to thank for this!A little note on a marketing campaign which is going around big time in Karachi these days. Flora, a brand of margarine by Unilever, hasput up pole banners and hoardings in different places all over the city. Putting up pole banners all (or almost all) over the city is not cheap so the brand team wants the maximum leverage from it. The interesting thing about these banners is the placement of the Flora logo. It is in such a small corner to be hardly visible. I asked my hubby (because he is a sort of target market for the brand and since he's not inthe marketing business we might label him as a 'layman') about these banners and he professed knowledge about the banners but all he remembered was a picture of a red heart and a dirty brown heart, he had no clue about the brand. It was only when I slowed down the caras we coming on Sunset Boulevard late last night and pointed out Flora's tiny logo on the right hand corner of the pole banner that he finally made some sense out of it. Now you might say a lot of things about this but when there is too much information on a pole banner (a long text message, an image and a little logo) which might be viewed for only a few seconds as people are driving (and those who are not usually are too busy watching people in the cars next to them, talking on the phone, scolding kids or changing radio channels) it translates into nothing except a lot of foolishness on the part of the brand and the agency team. Then again, you can't blame them altogether, most of their stuff comes ready made from their region. Overall, a very unimpressive effort.
Guess that's it for now. Saw the film 'I am Sam' today (Sean Penn, Michelle Pfeiffer). A very moving movie. It also had some very impressive branding; there was Pizza Hut and Starbucks where Sean Penn worked plus Porsche, driven by the leading lady. Smart branding, lovely movie and now I'm off to read 'Nausea' (Jean Paul Sartre). More on the book later.
Note: Just found out the names of the two M.F. Hussain movies; Gaja Gamini starring the lovely Madhuri Dixit and Meenaxi in which Tabu plays the lead role. I saw Meenaxi when it was released. What a movie! It actually looked more like a painting!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I got them sniffles...

It is one thing to fall sick. To have the sniffles is worse; you're neither here nor there. I mean, one doesn't actually qualify as being sick and one is not 100% fit also. It's a very physically and mentally disturbing ailment, more of the latter than the former. Since I have the sniffles today, I cannot focus on anything but them (and this might just affect my writing. Perfect excuse!). I took my soup and my joshanda. While I stirred the instant joshanda I started thinking of how brands capitalize on lifestyle changes. Our lives have become very fast paced and our brands have become the same. Even though our elders (daddis and nanis - grand mothers) still maintain that 'desi' joshanda works best, we are not willing to try it. There are many things that make desi joshanda a little difficult to swallow; there's the taste and the time involved in making it. One must put sugar in it to make it drinkable. So why would you want to go through so much hassle when there is the instant solution. Just cut the sachet, pour the contents in a cup of boiling water and sip away (you can also add it in tea). A famous local brand is also available in a variety of flavours. Now I sound like the brand manager of some joshanda brand!
Hoping to feel better tommorrow...more on brands and life later.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hello World!

Karachi is cold today.
Every once in a while, when Siberian winds blow into Quetta, Karachi becomes cold. Mostly the city dwellers are caught totally by surprise, as happened today. Many of us will find themselves becoming victims of coughs and colds [I have this absolutley awful case of sniffles]. Have lots of soup. Homemade or the instant one, whichever suits you. Soup is good for the soul - and so is cake and dark chocolate!
Starting up my own blog has been my biggest mission since the last few weeks. There was a slight hesitation, very miniscule, that prevented me from venturing out into the blog world earlier. It took some courage, a few cans of Coke Zero (huge Coke fan) and some venn diagrams in my writing notebook to start this off. It has started now and as the days go by, I am sure it will assume a personality of its own. Maybe I should do one of those brand exercises which I do in class. If my blog was a person how would it be...?