Friday, December 18, 2015

The Year that was and wasn't

At the beginning of the year I made a resolve to write more, to live more and to make everyday count. 

When I sat down to write this post I was thinking how I had not managed to reach any one of my rather lofty goals. It is at these times that a diary comes in handy so I quickly turned to the diary entry of Dec 2014 and found a list. One of those 'What I want to do in 2015' lists. My worst fears stared back at me, incomplete and in some cases, not attempted!

And then I had an epiphany; didn't I do a lot of exciting things this year that weren't even on the god forsaken list!?

Sometimes we aren't able to reach our plans because we are busy doing something equally or more cool. I made a Grand Reading Plan this year because I wanted to well, read more books. However I had started reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen in September 2014 and now, finally, in Dec 2015 I've reached the final volume in this awe-inspiring, magnificent ten book saga. Do I regret not reaching my Grand Reading Plan goal? Hell, no! I read one of the most epic fantasy series I've read since Tilsm-e-Hoshruba and it inspired me to write my own fantasy saga.

The NaNoWriMo Karachi gang at the wrap-up party at T2f - 11th Dec
And talking about writing my own fantasy saga....yes, my very own fantasy saga! It sounds incredibly unbelievable even as I write this. This year the one thing which I had never seen coming was the amazing experience of participating and winning (yes, you read that right!) NaNoWriMo. Writing 50k words in one month not only made me overcome a lot of my writing demons but it also helped me discover a lot about myself, both as a writer and a person. I think the entire NaNoWriMo experience with my friends and fellow writers was definitely the highlight of the year. 

Hubby Dear with Sarmad Khoosat in a still from the film, Manto
There were so many other great and not-so-great moments this year. Going on an all girls' trip to Dubai and losing my luggage on the way back home! Meeting school and college friends after the longest of time and starting the conversation right from where we left off. Hubby dear starred in three movies this year and I had my first red carpet moment with him in March. Our theatre group, Qissah Farosh, did a super performance at The Second Floor in September and all proceeds from the two day performance were donated to the Sabeen Mahmud Foundation. 

But the year wasn't full of happiness and cheer only. I lost a few amazing people, both friends and family, and as the year ends, it is heartbreaking that they aren't there anymore. 

With 2015 almost over, I've realised that life is too short for regrets. It is too short to hold back too. And I'm going to wake up with this thought on the first morning of January 2016. It's only afterwards that I'll make my list! 

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Sad life of the lime green iPod

An aura of sadness surrounds an object which we buy but don’t use. The object becomes dejected and eventually the grief permeates its soul and it assumes the title of just ‘another-thing-in-our-life’.

In the day and age we live in, we have lost the value of things. The world of shopping malls and the internet has made access to ‘objects’ all the more easier. Catchy taglines and smart advertising makes us want things we don’t really need. We have shiny plastic cards which give us the impression that we are not spending real cash. Our cupboards are altars to so many dejected objects that if we look through our stuff, at precisely this moment, we will find at least five things we haven’t used in the past one year. 

Sad, isn’t it?

I, too, am guilty of this. Of buying things which sit in my cupboard, waiting to see the light of day. I’m sure some of them are super dejected and have completely given up on me. 

When was the last time you bought something that gave you immense joy? Which had you grinning widely and you couldn’t wait to head home and open it? We buy so much stuff almost everyday that we have forgotten the excitement that comes wrapped inside our buys. Be it shoes, books, clothes, stationery or an iPod. I still remember my joy when I bought my first mobile phone. It was a tiny Sony Ericsson which I had bought from my very first paycheque. Or my first iPod Nano. It was the very first Apple product I had bought and I was over the moon when I came home with it and opened the box. I still have it and even though it has retired (read: doesn’t work), it is still a happy reminder of all the times it was there for me. 

I think the joy, for me at least, has diminished because of the increase in the frequency of shopping. Where once extensive shopping was only done either before Eid or a wedding, it is now a part of our everyday lifestyle. Almost every single day, we get to hear of how something we don’t really need will make our life better and happier. We know that it is a gimmick to lure us into the quagmire of consumerism yet we willingly walk into it and remain stuck, sometimes for life. 

And there is no better way to pass time when one is stuck then listen to some music on a lime green iPod. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

50k words, one month, endless tea = a novel?

Writing is a funny thing. And frustrating, exhausting, tiring, sleep-depriving, stressful, stress-free, scary, and yet, extremely fulfilling.

Before I signed up for NaNoWriMo, I spent most of my time making plans about writing. Most of my effort went into everything BUT writing. I read endless articles, browsed websites full of advice from authors (dead & alive) and took lots of printouts which I conveniently stuffed in various folders. I sat at the writing desk at various times of the day to ascertain which was the ‘perfect’ time. I also rearranged the objects on the desk to create a zen writing place. I was doing everything, except writing. 

NaNoWriMo changed all that. It made me realise that writing will happen only if I sit down each day and put one word after another. That’s all there is to it. It might not be the perfect prose, and it isn’t. It might be a first draft or maybe not. It might not be anything but just 50k words I cranked out to win a challenge. Or it just might (and I'm hoping with all my heart that it is!) be the skeleton of a novel. 

This month I have realised the magic of writing. I had never reached a point in my writing before where I considered it an escape from reality. I never thought I’ll be able to create a world, through words alone, so real that I’ll actually start believing it exists. It comes with some downsides also. One of them is a permanent ache between the shoulder blades. But the feeling of exhilaration and achievement I have felt this past one week after writing a couple of thousand words is just amazing. It probably is akin to having a baby. There is the pain, the exhaustion, the sleepless nights but in the end, it’s all worth it. 

It better be! 

*repeat to self all day, every day - first draft, first draft, first draft*

Image: Google

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Morning night

There are some movies which leave you speechless, you can’t find the right adjectives when you’re trying to describe them to someone. Movies which have the perfect story, breath-taking cinematography, whose every shot is a work of art, a lovely music score and brilliant acting. The Great Beauty, for me, was one such film. Last night I added Youth to the list also. 

What movies does your list have?

Monday, September 14, 2015

Handbag wishlist

The one article almost all fashion magazines feature is on handbags and what to carry in them. '5 must-haves for your handbag' or 'Handbag police: What will we find in yours?' or 'Travel essentials: 7 items every girl needs on a holiday' and there's also the 'guide to a perfectly equipped handbag'. It seems as the handbag is the saviour of the world, the real superhero which will have the answer to everything.

Since I am obsessed with bags and do end up carrying a lot of stuff for those 'just in case' moments (which have never really happened in all these years), I made a wishlist of what I'd really like in my handbag...from all my favourite books. 

1. The Invisibility cloak: Both Harry Potter and Amar Ayyar (Tilsm-e-Hoshruba) have one and boy, does it come handy. Once someone asked me if given a choice between the power to fly and becoming invisible, what will I choose? It was a no-brainer really...invisible beats flying any day. Imagine the possibilities of having such a cloak in your handbag?! Endless! 

2. The Light of Eärendil: Galadriel's gift to Frodo, this small crystal bottle of liquid contained the light of Eärendil's star. A light to fight darkness will come very handy in Karachi when muggers try and stop you. Flash the bottle at them, the light will blind them momentarily giving you enough time to make your escape. An extremely handy item for the handbag.

3. The little box Amar Ayyar carries with him which contains a special drug powder. One blow of it in the face of someone and it knocks them unconscious. Will probably come in very handy when noisy and ill-mannered children are screaming near your table at a restaurant. Or in a cinema. Or on an airplane.  Of course, how to go about it requires skill but when one is in a desperate situation, desperate measures need to be taken.

And speaking of Amar Ayyar I thought, why carry a handbag at all? If only I had his Zambeel, his magical bag of tricks in which anything of any size, animate or inanimate can be stored, I won't have to worry about handbags at all. Or muggers or weight limits while travelling! 

What item, from literature, will you like to carry in your handbag?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Anatomy of a performance

Crazy plans, usually, are made in the most calm moments. 

It was on a nice, pre-summer evening, somewhere in early April. It is that time of the year when the weather in Karachi is not monstrous and one can enjoy a smoke and chit chat in the great outdoors (read: terrace) with friends. While conversation flowed between hubby dear, Z and myself, one of us (I forget who) asked rather innocently if we could put up a new narrative performance this year?

The other two nodded nonchalantly at first but with each passing minute the desire to create something overcame all rational thoughts and a performance started materializing. Books were taken off the shelf, dim lights were replaced by reading lamps and the music was turned low. Discussions followed over the merits and demerits of various pieces. Plans were made and the night ended on a high note. 

Days turned into weeks and months and finally the seed that was planted in April took on a serious form in July and by early August the narrative performance was all set to happen. Dates were locked, essays selected and all was well with the world.

Or so it seemed. 

The first task is to choose the right actor for a piece. Matching the actors with the essays sounds like a pretty dangerous task and it is. In our case, thankfully, it isn't. Both our actors usually want the 'other' one to have the better piece. Unbelievable, right? It is such a relief that we usually perform with two actors only otherwise this 'Lucknavi style' of you, no you would just go on forever. 

Rehearsals are not fun when you have the job of deciding the venue, time, arrangements, menu (actors require nourishment), and then also take into account unforeseen events like strike by oil tankers = petrol pumps closed = no petrol = actors can't reach rehearsal. And then also keep your cool! Who said life was fair?

While the rehearsals are going on the rest of the team has to ensure everything else is in place and it doesn't help if it's only a one man team. So while rehearsals happened, it was my job to promote the event and ensure people turn up. There is no surety that people will come and it certainly doesn't help when every night hubby dear wonders out loud if anyone will even come to see the performance. If there is one surety it is the onslaught of nightmares which will continue till the performance. 

The day of the performance is madness, to say the least. Getting everything in order is no easy task. Costumes, props, lights, music etc. Of course one person in the group usually ends up taking most of the stress and that, in our case, is yours truly. 

Post performance is a time for both celebration and a bit of performance appraisal. The former usually happens on the final day and mostly it is more of a collective sigh of relief than anything else. At least until the next time one can bask in the glory of a successful performance (and not check Facebook to see how many likes have come on the pictures/videos every two hours!).

[That one question which started the entire exercise culminated into two nights of great performances by our theatre group, Qissah Farosh. For details, pics and video, click here]. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Down the rabbit hole I went

I was trying to hide from the world and following Alice's example I decided to go down a rabbit hole. But instead of finding Wonderland, I discovered:

1. All holes are full of mud and poop (rabbit or otherwise).

2. There is a Mad Hatter inside each of us.

3. We create Jabberwocky ourselves and feed it with our fear and insecurities. 

[A message I sent to a friend a few weeks back when I was floating about in the land of blues]. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The eat-------poop journey

I read quite a lot of books (read: nine) during Ramzan so the 15/15/30 project wasn't such a failure. Except that I could hardly think let alone write on an empty stomach so only 1.5 blog posts actually materialized. My hibernation mode was in overdrive most of this summer and if you've never experienced it, take it from an expert, it is SUPER easy to get used to the eat, sleep, read, poop lifestyle. 

There's nothing wrong with living such a life except the time when you decide to turn the hibernation mode off and try to add a whole bunch of activities between eat and poop. 

Since we're all different, even though we are essentially more or less the same, but since we all strive to be unique our eat--------poop journey varies (age, gender, profession, marital status, parents vs. non-parents, etc, etc). But what is the ideal journey? 

For me it'll be: eat - yoga- gym-read-WRITE-do a host of other random activities with family/friends/hubby dear- WRITE- read-poop

[Poop being at the end of the list does not mean it is done after all the activities. It's just to indicate its importance in our lifestyle. Although, I must admit, that not having a perfect poop every day does have an adverse effect on the rest of the activities]. 

So what's coming between me and all the items in my eat ------poop journey????


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Murder, a counterfeit eye & courtroom drama in Book #2

Detective novels, good ones, don't just have twists and turns or gruesome, bloody murders on every second page. The backbone of a good detective novel is the protagonist, the hero who is, of course, the detective himself. Christie gave us Hercule Poirot, Chandler created Philip Marlowe, and Doyle gave us the greatest (probably) of all detectives in the form of Sherlock Holmes.

And Erle Stanley Gardner created the legal eagle, Perry Mason.

The first thing different about this murder mystery is that Perry Mason is a lawyer and not a detective. The plot is simple: there is a murder, a number of people are at the scene of the crime which looks like a suicide but isn't, family members come under suspicion, back stories are dug up, another murder happens which the reader didn't see coming, a big court scene, and finally the capture of the fleeing murderer. 

The title of the book is The Case of the Counterfeit eye and the eye (or eyes) pop up whenever murder happens in the book. And it is this title which made for this amazing cover which made it an irresistible buy. Erle Stanley Gardner was also a criminal lawyer. He wrote 82 Perry Mason novels and this one was number six and was published in 1935 (the last one was published in 1973). The Penguin edition that I have is called a Penguin Perry Mason.  All his novels started with 'The Case of......' and have such interesting titles as, The Case of the Singing Skirt,  The Case of the Glamarous Ghost, and The Case of the Negligent Nymph (for a complete list read here). 

This book was a 'just read-don't think' kind. Unlike Marlowe or Holmes, I didn't really warm up to Perry Mason. His character seemed too sure of himself and kind of one dimensional. By the end I was kind of put off by his arrogance. I'd like to see how the character was played out on the television drama Perry Mason. Sometimes an actor can add greater depth to a certain character in a novel (like Anthony Andrews did for the character of Sebastian Flyte in the Brideshead Revisited television series). 

The ending of the novel was in true Urdu digest style with Perry Mason providing us with a little teaser of his next case complete with a title! 

Image: Google

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Ramzan and the Game Show Mania

Muzammil and his family had applied for the Ramzan game show a month in advance. They got the confirmation call a week before the first roza. Within hours the news had spread like wildfire among their friends, family and neighbours. 

After the initial excitement ebbed away the first issue was the list of people from the household who will go on the show. After a lot of discussions and many arguments, six  family members (which was the maximum number allowed by the channel) were finalised. This included:

1. Muzammil
2. His grandmother - being the eldest
3. His sister - the youngest in the family
4. His father 
5. His mother
6. His widowed aunt (father's sister) - she lived with them 

The remaining family (three brothers, one sister, a cousin) reconciled with the fact that they'll get some gifts from the show.

A few days later friends, family and neighbours started calling or visiting. While some came to wish the family good luck, others came with requests (and in some cases, demands). 

'If only you can get a laptop from the host'.
'My son could really do with a new mobile phone'.
'My daughter is going to be married a month after Eid. If you win a food processor, can you please give it to me? Consider it a wedding gift'.
'I always wanted a designer kurta for my son. You know he was born after five daughters'.

There were some veterans of previous game shows who overwhelmed the family with advice. 

'Learn some religion trivia. It always helps'.
'Request for a car and you might get a bike'.
'Religious trivia is good but memorize some good shair (poetry)'.
'Colour coordinate the clothes. It might get you a few small gifts'.
'Isn't your youngest going to fast for the first time this year? You should tell the organisers this as soon as you reach. She'll get a separate gift hamper'.
'Compose a song around the brand which is giving the bumper prize. A basic tune, nothing fancy. It can help you gain attention. You have to stand out from the rest'.
'Arrive real early to get a seat in the front'.
'Do take a gift for the host - that tasbeeh phuppi amma got from hajj last year or how about making a small handkerchief with the name of the host embroidered on it?' 'But nobody uses a handkerchief these days'.  ' Think of something else then... how about a small keychain with the name of the host on it? And make sure Dadi gives it. That will really move the host'.
'Don't be shy when the host starts giving away gifts at random. Your aim is to get as much stuff as possible'.
'Also, make sure you keep your possessions safe. Take one or two strong cloth bags with you and as soon as the show finishes put everything in it. Not like Zarina khala last year who lost two mobile phones while she was leaving the studio. Of course, somebody snatched it from her, the poor woman!'

After going to the game show and winning a considerable number of prizes, including a bike, Muzammil and his family were the talk and envy of most of their acquaintances. 

Muzammil's excitement about the show fizzled out a few days later when a friend told him that they had won double the gifts Muzammil's family had won. The secret of it all, he said, was to have different family members put in the application on different channels. More shows...more gifts!

Ramzan mubarak!

Note: This is a fiction piece. Just in case you thought otherwise.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Far Cry from Kensington - Book #1

[I finished the first book and the reason there is no post to show for it is because I'm taking too much time on writing it. I always find writing the review of a Spark novel rather daunting so while I am working on that, I thought I'd share some gems from the novel.]

It being Ramzan I thought it'll be a good idea to share some dieting tips followed by the protagonist, Mrs. Hawkins, to lose weight and trust me when I say she had a LOT of it to lose. Here is how she describes herself in the opening chapter:

"I was massive in size, strong-muscles, huge bosomed, with wide hips, hefty long legs, a bulging belly and fat backside; I carried an ample weight with my five-foot-six of height, and was healthy with it."

She continues, "As an aside, I can tell you that if there's nothing wrong with you except fat it is easy to get thin. You eat and drink the same as always, only half. If you are handed a plate of food, leave half; if you have to help yourself, take half". 

How about we all follow this golden rule and so not fill ourselves senseless with fried food and carbonated drinks this Ramzan?

Friday, June 19, 2015

15/15/30 Revisited - The Booklist this Year

Here it is. The reading material for the 15/15/30 Revisited project. It's not actually 15 books yet...still looking for two other reads. Any of your favourites here?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

15/15/30 Revisited

Last year, round about the same time, I decided to undertake a reading challenge. I called it 15/15/30 which stood for 15 books, 15 blogs, 30 days. Ambitious? Hell, yes! Not because of lack of time but probably lack of motivation. Once I stacked the books and posted the picture the reality of the challenge hit me. After two books my reading karma fizzled out and the books went back to their respective shelves (to mostly gather dust). 

This year I've decided to have a go at this challenge...again! Unlike last time, I put some thought into this. Actually it was one thought only, select a book which is under or at 200 pages. Anything that is 250 or above is not a good idea. And yea, include re-reads.

So far, I've made a list of 13 books which I shall unveil tomorrow. Another thing I will unveil is my big summer book giveaway. 

First of Ramazan promises to be very exciting! 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Of Travels and Destinations - Dubai (Wrap-up Post)

Conversations with taxi drivers in the Dubai trip provided the much needed insight about the place beyond its glitter. There was one taxi driver who told me how this job had helped his family back home and enabled him to build his house, marry off his sister and send his children to school. Then there was the one who explained, with great detail, how various nationalities behaved towards drivers - with foreigners (read: goras) being the most polite and leaving substantial tips and Arabs being the worst. Pakistanis and Indians were mostly rude, especially the affluent ones who considered taxi drivers as some alien species and not humans.

I like Dubai. Mostly because of my family and friends who live there and who made this trip such a memorable one. And yes, I admit, I like the shopping too. But there are various sides to Dubai and not all of them are glamorous. As tourists we don't get to see the apartment buildings where people share tiny flats and don't have central air-conditioning. Take a ride on the metro and you'll see tired, expressionless faces and glazed eyes as the metro takes them by shiny malls and hotels. They are, however, assured of one thing. No one will stop them on their way home and snatch their belongings at gun point.

Sometimes for peace of mind, you have to pay a price. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Down and Out in Karachi

You know that feeling in your throat when it seems all dry and itchy and a little voice in your head whispers that you might be coming down with something and your cook is off on his weekly holiday and you want soup but there isn't anyone to make it and your mom doesn't pick up the phone and the restaurant you go to serves all kinds of fancy soups but not chicken corn soup and you end up having too many throat lozenges and then you remember the homeopathic medicine your grandfather told you about and luckily, you have it in your medicine box and you chug it down hoping that all will be well the next day.


Friday, May 8, 2015

Of Travels and Destinations - Dubai Part III

Within three hours of landing in Dubai, I was at the mall and in the make up store. It's easy to explain why: I needed to buy makeup. Why the urgency? Simple, because I had none. And the reason I had hardly any makeup was because on a similar getaway trip to Dubai I had made in the first weekend of April, the airline had lost my luggage. 

The airline has still not officially declared the luggage as lost. They are hoping to find it so they are spared making the compensation payment (which is peanuts....I mean, how can they put a price on the emotional attachment I had with my stuff? sniff! sniff!). I've kind of gone through all the stages involved in losing a piece of luggage; denial, more denial, hope, anger, frustration (usually involves the question, why me?), resignation, sliver of hope and finally, acceptance. 

Living in Downtown Dubai (I almost wrote Downton...and I'm not even a fan!) is very convenient. Dubai Mall is just minutes away! And it has the answer to all your shopping needs, more or less. It certainly had the answer to my needs and once we were done with the much needed bathroom trip, we stepped out of the house, hailed a taxi and off we went to Dubai mall. Our driver was from Peshawar and as soon as we told him we were from Karachi he asked, MQM? It is at times like these that one feels like, well....anyone living in this city would know what one feels like when asked this question.

So this taxi driver, Faiyaaz, was living and working in Dubai for the past 17 years. He told us how the entire Downtown area was all a desert wasteland and now they had made it into this concrete wonderland. We chit chatted about Pakistan, Karachi, Peshawar, etc and in under ten minutes, he deposited us at the mall entrance and refused to take money from us. You are our guests here, he said, politely shaking his head. We shook our heads too, politely thanked him for his gesture, made a small speech on how we couldn't rob him of his livelihood, handed him the money and stepped out of the taxi.

In all my trips to Dubai over the past five years I've never met a taxi driver who refused to take money from me. The gesture was very sweet and it gave me a bit of hope. There are still people out there who think from their heart, and are sentimental of sorts. There is good in this world and if you're good too, there is no reason why you won't run into some goodness now and then!

Dubai is a perfect example of how so many different people from different parts of the world can live in one place. I'm going to hold onto this thought for a bit and talk about it in detail in later posts. Meanwhile, in Travel and Destinations part IV: my detailed conversation with another taxi driver to find out the truth about why Pakistani taxi drivers harass Pakistani clients. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Where I write about earrings....

There is always some story about the things we own and I believe that it's the story which makes that particular object special. And everyone wants to hear a good story, right?

If you're one of those girls who loves long earrings and can't resist buying one whenever you  get the chance, then you MUST check out

And while you're there, check out my mini piece on how my love for long earrings started. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Of Travel and Destinations - Dubai Part II

I always carry a book on me, even while I'm in Karachi. You never know when you'll need to kill the time and I'd rather read than play Candy Crush, thank you very much! I was carrying the novel, Thud! with me but when hubby dear stepped into the book stall in the departure lounge, I couldn't help wandering over too. Maybe it was nostalgia or the resolve to do new things on this trip that made me buy a copy of the 'Suspense Digest' May issue. 

Hubby dear raised inquisitive eyebrows when he saw my buy but I shrugged nonchalantly, said this is all part of the plan, sat back on the uncomfortable waiting area seat and started reading the first story. The thing that has always attracted me to Urdu digests is the artwork. As a child I used to make stories based on the ink drawings which were usually on the title page of the story. My grandmother was an avid reader of these digests and at any given point in time there were quite a few digest copies in her room. It's a fun exercise actually and some drawings are really done well. This copy of the digest has not excited me very much as far as the artwork or the stories are concerned (yes I've read a few of them and that too after coming back!).

What was exciting, as I tried to maneuver my hand luggage, enormous handbag and myself  through the narrow aisle without brushing against other passengers, was the holiday itself. And more importantly, the quest! We were surrounded on almost all sides by men who seemed to be going to the Middle East for work. What  caught my attention was the phone conversation the fellow sitting behind me was having. Although we humans strive to be different, we are all so similar in so many ways. No matter what social strata we belong to, we all ask/say similar things when travelling abroad for work, leisure or study: pray for me, the blessings of mothers are the best, don't cry that I'm leaving, etc. All those workers on the plane with us had left behind their wives, children, parents, friends, the comforts of home. They were going away so that their loved ones could lead a comfortable life while they lived and worked in average and in some cases, below average conditions. And I kept thinking, why are we letting these people go away? Why can't our country provide livelihood for its people? Why don't we value our labour? What is wrong with us? 

On a lighter note, it was amusing to see all these people being served by a foreign and 'gora' (for want of a better word) crew!

The flight to Dubai takes approximately two hours which is almost the same as Karachi to Islamabad. However, the world turns 180 degrees once you land in Dubai. From the moment you step into the Dubai airport, it seems as if you've entered 'la-la land'. Everything is spotlessly perfect. The perfection continues as you walk out of the airport, into the car and on the road. Perfect roads with perfect sidewalks and perfect cars in perfect lanes perfectly following all rules and regulations to reach their perfect (or in some cases not so perfect) destinations. And the latter is what I'm meaning to discover in my (perfect?) trip.

Read in Travel and Destinations part III: Why our first taxi ride was almost free, my first buy just hours after landing and how the Dubai Mall aquarium has the answer to all problems that plague mankind. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Of Travels and Destinations - Dubai Part I

"A question, a quest is a starting point that gives any trip a purpose." 
                                                                                                         (Pico Iyer)

Before leaving on holiday with hubby dear last month, I happened to read the above quote. I have, never, set an objective before embarking on a journey. So I asked myself: what do I want to come back with from this trip besides the usual suitcase full of stuff (70% useful and 30% useless shopping) and an SD card with photographs? 

This quote (and the article it was a part of) inspired me to do some serious thinking which excluded the 'things to pack', 'gifts for friends' and 'holiday shopping' list. In all honesty, it wasn't easy to set a question for myself. What kind of quest can I give myself for a trip to Dubai? Besides setting a budget and STICKING to it? Which, I assure you, is quite a challenge. 

After much thinking I decided to set myself two goals. The first one was simple enough, do new things on this trip. The second one was a bit tough. Try and scrape through the glittery surface of Dubai and discover what lies beneath. Is there any personality to this city? 

Armed with these two questions, some Khaadi kurtis (their western pret kurtis are my favourite pieces), a pair of jeans which I succeeded buttoning up after holding my breath for what seemed like an eternity, my funky orange 'Listen Girl' bag, and multi-colored kolapuris, I was ready to discover Dubai like it was nobody's business.

With me usually the whole excitement of discovering new places, doing new things and other holiday jargon-y stuff fizzles out a few days into the vacation. The same happened in the case of this trip also but I managed to stay true to my goals which I will reveal in the next few posts which I will be posting in the next few days.

Read in Travels and Destinations part II: My 'new genre' read for the journey, observations on the plane and the concrete jungle that is Dubai. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

A postmortem of Beginnings

The most difficult part of writing a blog post is the beginning. Even now I'm thinking whether I should re-write the first this how I wanted to start? Isn't it rather mundane? And mundane made me think of the word banal which took me down memory lane and once I start walking in this lane, one thought leads to another and I start thinking, now this is what I should blog about next. But I don't. 

Beginnings are generally difficult. Be it a new job, a new city, a new relationship, or a blank page, I always find beginnings daunting. What scares the living daylight out of me these days is the cursor blinking on a blank page, challenging me to write the first word. The first sentence. The first paragraph. To BEGIN the story (or the blog post).

Writing, like everything else in life, suffers if it's not genuine. My writing efforts, recently, are tainted by thoughts like, what will so and so think of this? Is this even good enough to share? Can't I come up with more meaningful stuff? Is this grammatically correct? Questions give birth to doubt and instead of fighting back I shut shop and curl up with a book. My great escape from life!

But escapes are never permanent and I've decided to follow my intention I made a bit earlier this year (read here in detail) of writing without remorse or shame. And to let go when it comes to writing also. Don't say later I didn't warn you. And whoever you are, thanks for reading!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Tell me....

Tell me, which is the one book you'll always like to have on you? Always. Something you'll never get tired of and which, on each reading (or re-reading) will surprise you. Maybe surprise is too strong a sentiment. Let's say it won't bore you, no matter how many times you go through it. Do you think there is such a book?

Saturday, March 28, 2015

20 minutes

Twenty minutes' sleep. Just a nice doze. In that time I had muffed a job and lost eight thousand dollars. Well, why not? In twenty minutes you can sink a battleship, down three or four planes, hold a double execution. You can die, get married, get fired and find a new job, have a tooth pulled, have your tonsils out. In twenty minutes you can even get up in the morning. You can get a glass of water at a night club - maybe. 

(Farewell, My Lovely - Raymond Chandler)

Friday, March 27, 2015

Finding Freedom

How many of us are liberated in the true sense of the word?

I'm not. Not completely. Of course there have been some brief periods in my life when I felt free...but they have been few. Lately I've developed this very bad habit of pondering over everything. What will someone think or say if I wear this? What will that person think if I write on a particular topic? How will I be able to justify to someone my inability to do some xyz task? Is our manner of life correct? Are we not misfits in the family, society, world? Will people be interested in what I have to write? Do I really have a story to tell?

I am plagued with such thoughts almost every single day. Thoughts like these create self-doubt and once that finds roots within you, life becomes hell. When I mull indefinitely over a tweet, a blog post or a story, I eventually end up not tweeting, not blogging and not writing. And thus end up feeding my self-doubt even more. 

It's not easy to liberate oneself. A change of scene is not a solution, as I've experienced because the self-doubt neatly folds itself into your luggage and comes along for the journey. And of course, spoils it. 

So, what to do? After some thought, I've brought it down to these. 

1. Let go. More like.......LET GO!

2. Believe in ME.

3. Always look at the grass on my side of the fence and be grateful for it. 

4. Laugh more. With friends, family, loved ones. 

5. Make no.1 the goal of the year. 

And most importantly,

6. Write. Without shame, without care, without remorse. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

To Plan or Not to Plan

You know how there are some moments in your life (can be weeks or months or a month) when things happen one after the other, some planned and others not so planned and you find yourself in a whirlwind of activity at different fronts?

March was such a month for me.

I stepped out of my comfort zone this month, met some new people and touched base with some old ones. And all this activity has made me start thinking. About my writing, this blog, social media in general and how much do I want to be out there. 

I'm donning my thinking cap from tomorrow. Tonight I've got to be at the top of my game at the, hopefully, last event of this month. Here's where I'm going to be at Language and The Writer: An evening with Aamer Hussein. Come over and say hello if you have the time! 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

March and its books

February was the month I totally cheated on my reading resolution. The Grand Reading Plan was chucked out of the window because stuff needed to get done. Literary festivals and other things, some exciting and some not so exciting. 

The March reading list looks like this: 

1. The Plague - Albert Camus

I've read The Outsider and it was such a fantastic book. One of those books you can never forget. Like it's easy to forget War and Peace (Tolstoy) except for the fact that it is based around that time when Napoleon invaded Russia. Or Portnoy's Complaint (Philip Roth). But this book, The Outsider, is very hard to forget. Camus was a genius. 

2. The Raymond Chandler Omnibus 

I'm going to read 'Farewell my Lovely' only. I've read The Long Goodbye and watched the movie loosely based on the novel starring Elliot Gourd as Philip Marlowe. Throughly enjoyed the book and knowing me I just might end up reading the entire omnibus. This guy is not just good, he's brilliant in all his gory details and plot twists.

3. The Rainy Moon  - Colette

It's a collection of short stories and one story a day is not just perfectly possible, it is good for the soul too. Especially if it involves women walking out on men or vice versa for the love of a cat. Don't believe it? Read here.

4. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams (Re-read)

And not just this one book, the entire series. Chuck out all the other reads and just get lost in the crazy world that Adams created. And I would love one of these. 

5. Travels with my Aunt - Graham Greene (Re-read)

Whether you're a Greene fan or not, this is one book you must read. MUST read. It is hilarious and yet has so many layers. And then watch the movie based on the book starring, wait for it, a youngish Maggie Smith as the aunt. Even though the movie is not at all faithful to the book, Smith is the aunt you've envisioned while reading the book. Read the book first. Always read the book first. 

6. Laughing Gas and Hot Water - P.G.Wodehouse

Although it looks like one title, these are actually two books (collected works). A Wodehouse a month is the key to a happy life. Whenever life gets too much, read Wodehouse. Laughter guaranteed every time. 

Enough reading for a month. 

Image: Google

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sunday ka Sizzle

Would you like to sin
With Elinor Glyn
On a tiger skin?
Or would you prefer
To err with her
On some other fur?

Elinor Glyn wrote 'Three Weeks' which was the 'Fifty Shades of Grey' in 1907.

Above is a doggerel inspired by her most sensational work, Three Weeks.

It was so amusing I couldn't help but put it up here!

1999 - the year I stopped watching cricket

I was in Karachi in 1999, preparing for my IBA entrance test which meant that I had ample time on my hands to watch ALL the matches of the Cricket World Cup. I was at my grandmother's house and with all cousins over for holidays there was a big, festive gathering which sat down to watch each match. Over tea, snacks and Cadbury fruit and nut chocolate, we discussed the merits of our team versus the rest of the world. 

And what a team it was! A solid fast pace 'killer' bowling attack in the form of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar, Azhar Mahmood, and Abdur Razzaq. And an equally solid spin attack with the veteran Mushtaq Ahmed and the spin maestro & pioneer of 'doosra', Saqlain Mushtaq. Moin Khan was the perfect keeper. The batting line up had veterans like Salim Malik, Ijaz Ahmed and of course Inzi. Lending support to the veterans were Saeed Anwar, Yousuf Youhana and the young Shahid Afridi. What a team! 

It was one of the first (and last) Cricket World Cup in which I followed all the matches, kept a tab on scores of teams, and even made notes of high scoring batsmen and top wicket takers. [Saeed Anwar was one of the leading run scorers in the tournament while Saqlain Mushtaq was among the highest wicket takers.]

Steve Waugh & Wasim Akram before the final.
Our team did surprisingly and amazingly well. The loss to Bangladesh was avoidable but just three losses to the final wasn't so bad. And what a super victory we had over New Zealand in the semi-final! There was no doubt in my mind and probably in the minds of almost all Pakistanis that we were bringing the World Cup home.

The final was a total anti-climax and with a few exceptions, probably one of the most disappointing match I've ever witnessed in my life. It was like our team was drugged or under a spell. When the batting failed, there was hope that the bowling attack will rip the Aussies apart. But it was not to be and we lost, miserably. It wasn't the loss that hurt as much as the manner in which we lost. Every effort seemed half-hearted. It was as if the team had come prepared to throw away the match. 

I don't know why we lost. Maybe the team was suffering from a bad hangover. Maybe they all got off from the wrong side of the bed or a black cat passed in front of the team bus just when they were stepping out to play. Or maybe someone, the captain perhaps, decided to throw away the final to earn an extra buck. 

Whatever it was, 1999 was the last year when I took cricket seriously. 

And in the present circumstances, it seems like a great decision!

Image: Google

Friday, February 20, 2015

Of Rooms and Views

Inspired by the title of the novel, A Room with a View by E.M.Forster  (which was a part of my February reads in the Grand Reading Plan 2015), I came up with some past, desired and present views. 

From a room with a view of sky, sea and sand (Ko Pha Ngan Island)
A view I greatly desire from a room (Laguna Beach, LA)

The view right now.

Note: All pictures are by the author of the blog. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Reading Ghalib

I finished reading the biography of Mirza Ghalib titled, Ghalib - The man, the times by Pavan K. Varma. I also went through the Diwan -e- Ghalib simultaneously which made the read very enjoyable. Over the weekend, I'm going to watch the television series Mirza Ghalib, made by the poet-director Gulzar and starring the super talented actor Naseeruddin Shah. Gulzar also had a bust of Ghalib commissioned and installed at the poet's haveli in Delhi. Read more of that here.

This is one of my favourite artwork based on Ghalib's poetry by Abdur Rahman Chugtai. Ripped out of a diary, its been a part of my life since many years and occupies a prominent place in my writing area. 


Monday, January 12, 2015

a post-crash confession

In the middle of the afternoon today, I crashed.

It wasn't a physical crash although eventually I did crash in front of my telly and watched a christmas chick flick which incidentally gave me a great idea for my new lamps which are technically not new lamps but a gift from my aunt who is giving away her stuff but in a way they are new.

Why did I crash? Why does one crash? In my case it's usually a combination of pending things to do and things that I AM supposed to do and things I PLANNED to do. When I'm unable to meet the latter, postponing the planned activity day after day after day, frustration builds up and then at the most unlikely moment (which has NOTHING to do with the planned activity), I snap. 


Emotional snap = morose face and zero response to anything including phone calls from close friends. Also, ignoring hubby.

Mental snap = Self pity, mostly!

Physical snap = Lethargy which usually leads to long periods of time in front of the telly. 

And so I sat for almost three hours, staring at the telly, watching the Top Gear team travel through Rwanda, some bits of the television comedy Web Therapy (which is a great find!) and finally a chick flick. Between the time dinner started and the chick flick ended (roughly ten minutes), I directed all my angst at the remodelling of the lamp shades which I don't want remodelled anymore. And while having dinner I kept thinking I'll probably end up dreaming about the whole fiasco (which, in reality, isn't that big really) and wake up miserable the next day when I heard about the massacre in Nigeria. 

And my snap! moment kind of melted into a little pool of water. The same one in which one is supposed to drown in the Urdu proverb (chullu bhar paani). 

Here I was, twisting my insides over a bloody lamp and there were people in Nigeria, who not many days back, were killed mercilessly and some actually drowned because they were trying to escape being killed by militants? It was like a jolt of electricity. A major wake up call for me. What am I doing? Why am I focusing all my energy on something which is not going to, in any way, change the direction of my life?

So I took a deep breath, smiled at hubby dearest and thanked HIM. Things might not be perfect all the time but they are pretty good and that, I think, will do just fine for now.