Thursday, November 26, 2015

Things I thought as a Kid

Things I used to believe when I was a kid:
  • I thought we lived inside the world, not on it. I once asked my mother why we couldn’t see the floors above our heads where the people in the north lived. Not until my parents bought me a small globe and explained that we lived and walked on the surface did I understand this concept. 
  • an older cousin once convinced me that vhs tapes could record our dreams, you just had to sleep with the tape under your pillow and if you played it in the morning, your dream would be on tv, but only if you woke up really really early. Alas, I was never early enough. 
  • another cousin convinced me that pink tissue paper, properly crumpled up and twisted around a few times was an easy way to make cotton candy at home. I don’t know how he got me duped, but I embarrassed my parents a couple of times at other peoples houses, asking if I could borrow that pink tissue paper to eat as cotton candy. 
  • I used to think people went to restaurants to read a book and then have food. Like you sit around a table, read the book, and then order. It was extremely important. I often demanded the waiter give me a book to read whenever we went out to eat.  
  • i thought there was a special cloud that collected stray balloons that floated away in the sky, they probably gathered into a single colorful cloud and lived happily ever after. 
  • Because I was so scared of lightening and thunderstorms, my dad convinced me that the lightening was just a flash of God’s camera, He was taking pictures from the sky. 
  • I believed my dolls and toys had feelings, if I didn’t hug them or play with them equally every day, they would feel sad and hurt and lonely. I did have favorites, but I always tried to make up to the not-so-favorite ones. 
  • I thought little tiny people lived inside the tv all day. 
  • I thought elevators could go anywhere in a short time. When my aunt got married, she stayed at a hotel for a few days with her husband before leaving for New York. I thought we went all the way to New York in the elevator to see her when we visited her in the hotel. 
  • I thought London, England, and Britain were three different countries. 
  • I thought Iraq and Iran were the same country, only spelled differently by different people.
  • I thought Kenya was another name for all of Africa.
  • I thought lakes were just stations for rivers and streams to rest in a place, like train stations. 
  • I thought MQM and PPP (the political parties) were actually NTM and PTV, the two television stations. 
  • I thought cats were people in disguise, always keeping an eye on us. This was probably inspired by my aunt telling me she went to my school every day as a cat, and she used to sit on the wall and see me around, so I wasn’t lonely. 
  • I also thought all teachers were supposed to wear heels, and their hair in a bun, and chew gum after lunch, this was all part of their job description. 
  • I thought writers sat and wrote the books all day, every single copy of the book by their own hand, and also colored the illustration. 
  • I thought things we bought at the store, like cake and pudding mixes, would come out looking like the pictures on their boxes. When my mother made them, they never looked anything like on the box. I was always so disappointed. 
  • I thought some eyeglasses could make you see right through the floor. This is probably because I often borrowed (stole) my grandfather’s glasses when he was taking a nap in the afternoon, and they made everything look a little hollowed out. 
  • The Morven Gold cigarette ad with the tag line “har dum tawana” (english: Always strong) made me run from the room every time it came on. I believed the guys enjoying the cigarette and grinning into the screen were some kind of monsters like the dracula with their pointed flashy teeth. 
  • I got annoyed whenever my uncle sang the song “gorey rang ka zamana” by Vital Signs for me (which he did often)  I thought he was making fun of me.
  • The same uncle used to dissuade me from touching his shiny-rimmed glasses by his classic quote “don’t touch the glasses” in a sing-song voice. I used to repeat the rhyme anytime I saw another person wearing glasses and tried to touch them anyways. I thought it was necessary and I was asking permission. 


Now I think about it, I was pretty gullible. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Why kids don't read

This is for Sadia

Why kids/students don't read:
They have not been introduced to reading properly. Unfortunately kids view reading as a "chore" or "work" and not as a "fun" activity like playing sports or playing with toys. Secondly, the stories kids have access to are also "boring"- I mean the assigned reading in class. The teacher is boring, the environment in the class is boring and sleepy, kids are forced to stand up and read aloud- which is a nightmare. Third, there is more emphasis on spelling, new words, underlining and bringing heavy dictionaries to school and trying to find the meaning of those new words. It is highly discouraging. I almost hated reading at school because of this. Lastly, some kids just aren't readers at all. They don't have any natural inclination towards books and stories, you can't force them to like something they don't.

How to inculcate reading habits in young children:
Parents/Grandparents/home environment are vital for young children to take an interest in reading. There is no replacement for these factors, not even school. Each child is interested in "stories" from a young age, and parents can utilize this interest for an easy transition from "story-telling" to "reading". Parents can limit watching movies to after the kids have finished reading a book. Also, avoiding "preachy" books with a clear-cut "Moral" at the end of the story goes a long way. Having a story "preach" makes the fun activity into something less fun. At school providing too many aids, (drawings/animations/using props) actually spoils the fun in imagining the story as it is read.
Finally, limiting kids with downright stupid "library" rules such as only allowing them to borrow books if they have purchased the library "bag" or brought it with them on the designated day should be avoided. I remember clearly how many times I was told I could not borrow a book from the school library simply because I forgot to bring the stupid library bag with me. I also remember the librarian being a strict lady who would not let me touch certain interesting books because they were for "reference" only (Illustrated history books, books on pyramids and books on rainforests were out of question- I was only allowed to borrow books from a selected shelf).

How can reading be made fun:
Again, some kids are naturally inclined to reading books, others simply don't like it that much. It is nice to encourage those who have the natural bent in them to read more. On the other hand, forcing non-readers will only push them further away.
Having interesting books is also key. If it is boring there is no way a kid will like it. No matter what grown ups think. Urdu books in particular suffer a lot from the boring syndrome. We simply do not have interesting enough stories for the kids. Also, forcing your own culture on kids just to counter the stories from the West is not a good option. I fell in love with "reading" by reading the "Wide Range Readers" series...now they have been conveniently chucked out of school because they apparently converted kids to Western thinking and Christianity. That's just stupid. Don't bring religion and culture in to reading please.

Having separate spaces/cafes for readers to socialise:
No, I don't think these are necessary. Socializing and interaction can't be forced. Having artificial conversations to fit into a "cliché" is not a good thing. I do believe there should be open public spaces where people can meet each other and enjoy a cup of coffee. The book lovers will come when they feel like it.

Your idea:
Yes, I think it's a good initiative.  Not all kids are lucky enough to have a family environment or parents who encourage reading. Some kids do have it in them and they need a push in the right direction, so yes I agree with that. Bringing story telling and "reading" as an activity in the classroom will encourage these kids to pick up a book.

Monetary value:
I don't know how to answer this question, really.

Schools/Parents should pay for activities:
Schools should pay. Parents should not, except if they want to for activities outside school. The costs should not be outrageous. Book fairs at schools are so ridiculously expensive, parents just buy flashy looking books for their brats to show off. That's the unfortunate reality.

Making it sustainable:
This will take time, efforts. It will not take a few years to change the scene, it will take decades to make reading a success with the masses. We have a long way to go. We need to read more so our kids will see it and learn. We need teachers to read more, books to be cheaper, writers to write more, and parents to take an interest in reading with their kids too. It takes the whole community, not just a few scattered activities in schools. We also need more libraries. We need to make reading fashionable, and not an escape for the lonely child to spend time at lunch.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Insulting Ghalib

Mirza Ghalib's poster being insulted by these ladies

Recently, a private tv channel launched a repeat of Gulzar's play on the life of Mirza Ghalib, one of the most famous and excellent poets that ever lived. The same day this tv channel had a morning show with the theme of "Urdu Poetry" and had Mirza Ghalib's posters all over the set. Understandably, this was a kind of promotional show for the launch of the play. 

I was appalled by the manner in which the host started the show with verses quoted from the back of a rickshaw. I thought this was just a warm-up kind of joke before launching into the actual poetry fest, when the host waved us over to see the whole set. She described it as a setting for a "mushaira" (a formal poetry recitation event) but it best resembled a run-down road-side sheesha and kabab joint. Brilliant red rugs and bolster pillows (gao takiyas) with cheap tassles rested on takhts, and the lady thought this is what a mushaira setting must look like.

pearls of poetic wisdom dripping off the polished canvas back of a sputtering rickshaw...


What followed was a string of people reciting rhyming sentences for cheap entertainment in the name of poetry or what they thought poetry must be like. Five minutes into the show and two well-known jokers from the world of cheap tv entertainment were called upon to share their love for poetry. One of the joker was dressed in a traditional dress and cap associated with poets of pre-partition times. They were expected to make the audience laugh and make up rhyming sentences to insult each other. All this drama played out tragically with Mirza Ghalib's posters in the backdrop and the host's incessant peels of laughter in response to each insulting jibe. I don't know what the tv channel or the program's producer was trying to prove, but it looked like the only concept these people had of "poetry" were the 2 liner's written on rickshaws, buses and walls around the city. They also thought the abhorrent twisted text message 2 liners qualified as "poetic" enough to be included. Not a single proper couplet or verse from Urdu's many many great poets was recited on this show apparently promoting Mirza Ghalib's play. 

This is exactly the type of "poetry" being recited on this show
"Muhabbat ko zamaney mein gul-e-nayaab kehtey hain...
hum aapko baithne se pehley adaab kehtey hain.."
wah wah...mausoof tashrif rakhiye humare rickshey mein aap hi ka intezar tha


We switched off the TV but not before we had seen and heard enough to doubt the mental capabilities and aesthetics of those involved in the production of this show as well as the audience. Can't believe this is what the world has come to... 

Here is a youtube link for those who'd like to witness the stupidity first hand:

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Things my parents say

My parents have the habit of saying the most amusing and annoying things and since I'm their only one, I get to be the target 99% of the time. I have often wondered about how awesome it must feel if these same things were said to a sibling, and I'd be watching it happen gleefully to someone else for a change. There are some disadvantages of being an only child I guess.

Here are some of the things I've heard from them ever since I remember:

'Beta aur andhera kar ke parho taakey aankhein jaldi se patt ho jayein'
(Child, read in even more darkness so your eyes stop working quickly) - when I'm reading late at night

-         Aur andar ghuss jao tv ke
(sit even closer to the tv screen) – when I’m watching tv with interest

-          Kissi soorat sunn mat lena keh mainey kya kaha hai
(don’t listen to me any time soon) – when I’m busy with some other thing

-          Light nahi aaney ki aaj toh
(Electricity won’t be coming back today) – every 5 minutes during loadshedding somehow they look at me accusingly when saying this 

-          Yeh kaam tum aaj ki taarikh mein karlena ACHA!
(just do this chore within today’s date, OK) – when I’m busy doing something else

-          Bachpan se kaan band hain, ooncha sunti hai
(since childhood her ears are closed, she's hard of hearing) –when my parents murmur about me in the living room 

-          Khaaney ko muu terha hai
(turns up her nose at food) –when I’m expected to be excited about eating spinach and turnips at lunch

-          Tum ne suna main ne kya kaha? Kya kaha abhi main ne?
(did you hear what I said? What did I just say?) – when I’m on the phone and they want my attention

-          Kha mat lena kisi tarhan
(don’t eat it for heaven’s sake) – when I’m still running around getting the table set for dinner

-          Uth jao naisti
(get up lazy) – when they’re up since 7 and I’m still in bed at 9 on Sundays

-          Muun daal lo poora phir nazar ayega
(put your face in it then you’ll see it) – when I’m cooking with concentration

-          Yeh mortadella pichley 2 saal se freezer mein para hai, phenk dein?
(this mortadella has been in the freezer since 2 years now, should I throw it?) – when they discover the 10th packet of mortadella and mistake it for the 1st and only pack that I’m apparently not eating

-          Aur kam kardo khana beta, hum drip lagwa deinge
(eat even less child, we’ll get you on IV drips) – when I try to cut down on carbs

-          Laptop godh liya hua hai
(she’s adopted a laptop) – when somebody asks about what I’m doing nowadays





Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Turkish dramas and the Pakistani audience




Remember the first time there was talk about banning foreign dramas? That happened when Indian serials flooded our TV screens in the 2000s. Some were in favour of banning them in order to support our local TV industry (which had begun flourishing again, with the mushrooming growth of private TV channels); whereas others, especially housewives, were happily consuming daily doses of saas-bahu-susraal conspiracy (mother-daughter in laws) episodes at their convenience. Several intermittent banning and blatant copying of Indian sets and costumes later, Pakistani audiences were finally fed up of the whole situation. There was too much of the same thing, whether Indian or local, and so any drama which did not follow the typical ‘saas-bahu’ (mother-in-law, daughter-in-law) formula became the most sought-after and likeable alternative.

The stereotypical Saas-bahu-susraal conspiracy Indian drama


We can say that the influx of Indian dramas had actually caused a revival of the local Pakistani TV industry. Spurred by competition and filling a growing niche of audiences yearning for something more real, our dramas once again entered a golden age. As a result, new talents, new storylines, and increased quality of production surfaced in recent years. The same audience that had embraced Indian soaps is now switching daily to our own TV serials.

one of the most successful local dramas this year- Humsafar


Recently, Turkish serials have taken the audience by storm. There is constant debate about how damaging it is to our industry, and the dramas being culturally irrelevant. Again, some argue for a ban on foreign dramas to support our local television productions. But is it really true that these dramas spell disaster and a premature death to our recently revived TV industry?

Let’s first take a look at the appeal of the Turkish series. There is glitz and glamour, lots of stunning outdoor scenes, good-looking actors, crisp dialogues, and last but not least the perfect Urdu dubbing. People are engrossed in Turkish dramas out of curiosity about a different country that few will have the chance to see in reality. The audience wants to see how people live in Turkey, what they talk about, how similar or different they are to us.

The drama that started all the drama- Ishq-e-Mamnu


Those who oppose the introduction of Turkish soaps usually point out that their culture is different to ours. Well, so is Indian and Western culture. Our audience is capable of understanding cultural differences, and treats the situations onscreen accordingly. When watching foreign shows before has not made us forget our culture, the Turkish soaps can hardly be a serious threat. Those who are still in favour of remaining unaware and unexposed to other cultures have the choice to switch to local productions.

One of the Turkish dramas being shown at prime time- Fatma Gul


I also want to say that themes such as romance, family attachments, heart break and revenge are common throughout cultures. I can point out several of our local dramas having similar plots to the Turkish dramas being shown currently. People also object to the presence of bold scenes and ‘immodest’ dressing of the women in Turkish dramas. In reality, all such scenes and short dresses have been carefully censored for Pakistani audiences.  As for depicting issues such as rape in Turkish dramas, Pakistani dramas have also included such themes as part of their plots.

local drama involving a bold theme - Mere dard ko jo zuban mile

People object that our dramas show ‘reality’ while foreign dramas are overly glamorous. If every drama depicted ‘reality’ (often depressing and tragic) the audience will get bored. Entertainment should also be enjoyable and provide a refreshing escape from reality, although I agree that there should be a balance. Finally there are objections on Turkish drama characters having Muslim names being somehow ‘misleading’ for our audience. I am most surprised at the objections, because I’m aware that these Turkish serials have a huge fan-following in relatively conservative countries such as the Middle East, Iran and Afghanistan.

In the end, it’s all about quality. People watch what they like, and that is the purpose of entertainment. If Turkish dramas have shown the audience a different glamorous world, our TV industry too can learn from it. We have to admit that they are better in some respects. We can either shut our eyes and deny the fact, or open our eyes and accept it. We can ban and forget about it, or we can see and learn and perfect ours. We can either shut ourselves in with our culture or go global and promote our TV serials. I don’t look forward to the day we ban foreign dramas in Pakistan. I look forward to the day our TV dramas are so good that they are dubbed and watched in other countries. That can only happen if we accept healthy competition and foster the need for improvement and perfection. That will be another golden age for Pakistani drama, and hopefully it is not too far.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Gift for the New Fire

Exercise for failing writers: Write a short story or excerpt based on a different culture (either historic or existing) and include a well-researched characteristic ritual or cultural event as part of the narrative. 

ANS:


The sun was about to set when the priests came for her. She hardly had time to think before her hands and feet were tied and she was declared the human-gift. The taller man dragged her up the many stairs of the Grand Temple, with her knees scraping the stone edges.  She screamed as loud as she could, her heart pounding in her ears and drowning out the cheers from the crowd. There was somebody pushing her cruelly up the stairs from behind, and the whole scene melted in her sight under a flood of tears. As they neared the top-most stair, she clenched her teeth and let no sound escape. She would not beg and she would not die screaming wildly like the other human-gifts.

Somehow, she had always known this day would come. It was written in the eyes of her people, it would flash clearly in their expressions whenever they laid their eyes on her. Poor orphan Atzi, the best candidate to pacify the gods for the New Fire. There will be no mother or father to cry for her when her heart was ripped out and offered to the Sun. And she was too poor, too insignificant to be chosen as an ixiptla, no honours for her in life, and no honour or remembrance in death. She had always known, and she had been foolish enough not to run sooner.

As the chief priest rose to silence the crowd below, Atzi looked about herself frantically. There was the rock before her, and the chief priest standing right in front of the huge fire. Some priests were quietly dousing the fire with scented water, waiting for total darkness so they could extinguish the Old Flame completely.

“A new dawn, we hope, shall come- my people!” shouted the chief. A murmur ran through the excited crowd below. Atzi could barely manage to stand on her bound feet, and the two priests on either side held her arms firmly.

“We shall see the Sun rise again on the morrow, and we pray with this sacrifice, may the Gods be pleased with us!”

May the Gods be pleased with us, repeated the crowd. Atzi shook her hair out of her face and glared at the fire. ‘May the Gods be pleased with your filth’ she thought. ‘May you suffer, each one of you, till the day you draw your last breath!’ She was now being forced to kneel before the Rock, and she saw the decorated knife with which they killed human-gifts, and pulled out the heart to be offered to the god. Her heart pounded even more fiercely at the horrific sight. ‘What god? What new year? I want to live, not die like this...'

“Do not rebel in your heart, Atzi” said a voice quietly from her right. She turned to look in the direction, surprised. It was old Pale Grey, the almost blind priest who rarely spoke. The chief was now starting the ceremonial chant. 
I must run, and I must run quick!’ she thought. The priests would cut off the rope on her feet in a few minutes, so she could walk around the fire before her sacrifice. ‘Then, I would shove them aside, with all my might, and jump ... jump off the other side of the temple. I may break my bones, but not die like this.’
“Such plans, Atzi! Such plans to kill yourself, when you can die much more easily this way...”  Pale Grey said in her ear.
What? Is he reading my mind?’ Atzi stared wide-eyed at him.
“Yes, I have read minds of those who died before you, Atzi”
The other priest on her left was completely lost in the ceremonial chants, and he did not listen to Pale Grey. 

“Get away from me!!! Leave me alone!!!” she wailed aloud suddenly. The chief frowned during his prayer chant, and the priest to her left gave her arm a sudden jerk. “Silence, stupid girl” he growled.
Pale Grey smiled.
‘What should I do, oh my heart... where can I go? I must run, I must live! I don’t want to die... no, this must stop. There must be a way out... must be a way...’
“When they climb up these steps, most ixiptla are happy, dear Atzi... this death is painless, and you reach God where we cannot.”
“But I’m not one! I’m no ixiptla... I-"

“Arise!! My brethren, for it’s the time for the Old flame to die...” the chief announced most solemnly. Sudden silence fell all around her. The younger priests tending the fire bowed twice to the public below, and placed their water jars on the ground. As the priest on her left picked up the knife, Atzi flinched and tried to shrink away. He knelt down and cut the rope tying her feet. It was a sharp, clean knife.

“Yes, that is why it’s painless, dear girl.” Pale Grey replied to her inner thoughts.
so why don’t you die instead, you filth!’

“You must walk around the Old flame once, Atzi...” the Chief addressed her in the growing darkness. Pale Grey stepped aside, his eyes now burning with hate. One of the younger priests took her right arm, and together with the left priest he pulled her towards the fire.

‘He can read my thoughts, how can I escape... I must run, I must kick these two hard, bite off their hands and run...’
“Too late now for that, girl... grip her tightly, Zoxo, she has plans to walk free” Pale Grey said aloud. The younger priest grabbed her by the waist and turned her towards the fire. “Nobody who has walked these steps as a human-gift, has ever come back down alive. This is the will of the gods, and we do as they wish.” Pale Grey’s booming voice declared.

If you are there, any of the gods, do not do this injustice to me.’ Atzi walked slowly around the fire. ‘I never prayed around the fire, god, but today this is my prayer. Answer me.’ She saw the Old Flame’s dying flickers reflecting in Pale Grey’s dull eyes as she passed him. Slowly they turned around the fire, the two priests pulling the thin girl between them.
‘Do not be unfair to me. You have given me this life, do not take it away like this.’ Atzi sighed as they stepped away from the fire.

“Do NOT blaspheme against the gods, little devil” Pale Grey growled as they neared him.
Then they were all silent. The younger priests bowing before the fire picked up their water jars and poured water over the Old Flame. The old century was gone, it was the end.

The chief chanted the mourning prayer for the Old Flame. It was a low and morose melody, and slowly one by one, some voices below joined him. They were those who had lived to see the previous Flame die, and the new Fire start. They remembered the forgotten words of their forefathers, and some of them wept with tears in their eyes. ‘Why am I thinking all this, when my life is about to end?’

Pale Grey was looking at her curiously, probably clawing through her thoughts.

Such disgrace you hold me in, devil. You degrade me in your thoughts, blaspheme against our gods and life source, you ungrateful spiteful little thing. Better finish with you and fast.’ Pale Grey’s quiet voice whispered within her head. ‘Yes, I can speak inside your mind, yes I can read all your thoughts, you evil little one... and you have to be dead before you do some more damage to our people.’
You are evil... and not me’ Atzi replied to him in her thoughts.

The priests holding her began to move towards the Sacred Rock, and she saw the knife glistening in the dying light of the Old Flame. ‘No this can’t be happening, please...no!’
They lifted her over the rock. ‘Why doesn’t the ground shake? Why doesn’t the sky shatter? Why doesn’t your hand come down to save me, god?’
The chief bowed before the Sacred Rock. Then he rose to his feet and raised the knife high above his head, as if displaying it to the entire heavens and earth.
Atzi screamed with all her might. “STOP!"

And there was a jolt. The priests’ eyes widened in fear, as the temple floor shook beneath their feet. Atzi screamed again, louder. Soon, the people gathered at the feet of the temple were running and screaming, as the earth moved in ripples around them. Trees were ripped out from their roots, and the rocks broke and fell from the mountain tops, as the chief stood frozen in shock holding the knife in his hands. The temple pillar fell over the steps and shattered like glass. The priests had seen enough. They ran down the many steps of the temple screaming in fear, until only the Chief and Pale Grey remained with Atzi.

“Let her go. This is a sign.” The chief said. “The Gods are displeased with us.”

Pale Grey shot her a glance full of fear and loathing, his face taut in a grimace. But he loosened the knots on her hands, and spat at her feet. Atzi jumped up and ran, as fast as her bruised legs could allow her.

‘Go, you witch, and leave us be!’ His voice echoed in her mind. 

(Disclaimer: Some elements of Aztec and Mesoamerican culture are changed to fit the story. Not historically accurate.) 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Boring characters- interesting stories

Exercise for failing writers: Describe an ordinary character, which comes across as boring and mundane, in an interesting manner. 


Ans:

Mr. Barry leads an ordinary life. So ordinary in fact, that you would barely notice his existence even if he was your next-door neighbour. He has a typically forgettable face, no charming or disarming features to talk about, and no distinctive quality about his person or personality. Everything from his name to his shoes and umbrellas are extremely ordinary. He hardly has anything interesting to say, and he could care less about what exceptional things were going on around him. He doesn’t really see the need for any improvement in his ordinary house. It has an ordinary couch and sofa set, a very ordinary wooden table, an ordinary rug and an ordinary fireplace that is usually turned off. If you happen to peek into his house, and it is an extremely rare occurrence that you would care enough to do so, you’d see a perfectly ordinary kitchen with little to spare. His bedroom upstairs has a single bed, a dresser and a closet. There is nothing of any distinction or importance that might make you wonder about him in any way.

Each morning, he gets up at 7, takes his bath, dresses in greys or browns, and heads downstairs to have his breakfast. One hard-boiled egg and a single buttered slice of bread accompany his tea. He neatly cleans his place-mat and teacup before leaving for work. His car is a typical sedan you would see on any road, with the colour so faded that it’s essentially colorless. Not transparent, mind you, but just an unidentifiable colour, somewhere on the scale between grey and brown and specks of red. He drives carefully, and seems to enjoy blending in with the rest of the cars on the highway. His office is a plain and simple desk-chair-cubicle, and he has requested not to have any technological annoyance within his reach. If you care enough, you could read the sign overhead on the main street, and see that it is a Law firm. He spends his day reading catalogued archives of old cases and making notes in boring brown ledgers in his neat small handwriting. His lunch is a simple cucumber slice sandwich taken with mineral water. At the end of the day, he drives home listening to classical music on the radio. He turns on the porch light as he comes in, and every alternate day he waters his 8 pots of mundane creeping plants. Today is not the plant-watering day. He picks up the newspaper by his door, and chucks it directly into the recycle bin. He changes into his night clothes, prepares his usual supper of buttered bread, boiled vegetables, and canned meat chunks. From exactly 7pm to 9pm, Mr. Barry watches television. He likes to see some action on the sports channel, then on to the business news drawl, and finally he watches the weather report for the next day. He turns off the television, satisfied that nothing extraordinary about the world and its goings on has reached him in his ordinariness. He goes downstairs to switch off lights, checks the lock on his front door, climbs back upstairs and gets ready for bed. He is fast asleep around 10pm.

Mr. Barry would be quite unhappy to be noticed by you. He would also feel uncomfortable if you were found peeking into his living room, or trying to focus your binoculars into his bedroom windows. He prefers to be left alone while shopping for his usual groceries, and if any of you people come up to him to say hello, he’d rather avoid looking into your eyes and responding. He values personal privacy above all other things, and he is grateful that his is not invaded often.

People like Mr. Barry give authors a hard time trying to make their lives sound interesting. You cannot imagine him to be a wizard or a stranded alien from another planet (although that seems to be the case).  Perhaps you think he’s solving some important case at his workplace. No, nothing like that. Mr. Barry has made it a point to work only in tax or insurance related cases. If anything remotely unusual comes his way, he likes to pick up the file and leave it at his colleagues’ desk to work on. People in his office are grateful for having him. They can place all mundane and boring tasks on his desk, and he’s more than happy to work on them. The neighbours too would be grateful for having him live amongst them, if they ever noticed him, because he always takes out trash on time, waters his plants, shovels his driveway, does not have annoying kids screaming down the street, nor does he have a gossiping wife who is always hosting barbeques. The cashier at the grocery store is especially happy to have him as her customer. He usually buys the same stuff and gives exact change. He doesn’t bother taking the receipts, so she simply pulls it out and throws it in the bin under her counter. The mailman always sighs with relief when he comes across Mr. Barry’s postbox. There is never any post, so his task is easy.

Mr. Barry probably has never bothered anyone in his entire life, and I suppose one day he’d grow old and sick, and would die quietly. Although, I wonder if people will be bothered enough to come to his funeral when that happens. Sometimes, I often wonder if he is happy the way he is. When I peek into his living room during his TV watching time, I see him smile at random infomercials on the shopping tv, or nod at the official looking guy telling us about bad weather tomorrow. At times like these, I feel Mr. Barry has surrounded himself with the comfort and happiness that is enough for him. So, you see... if you peek inside, you might get bored. But if you ever get caught by Mr. Barry when you’re prowling around his mundane plants and pots under his porch light, well... that maybe an interesting story.