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. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

The big Mars candy bar




 When I was a little girl, my parents used to give me an allowance of 10 rupees. It was actually fixed per day, but every afternoon when I came back from school, I would put that unused 10 rupee note carefully on my desk, in case I needed to spend it the next day. We were far from poor, but my parents taught me early on the importance and value of having money. 10 rupees in those times was quite a lot (according to me). I wasn't stingy, but I was happy with whatever lunch I got from home, and only once a week I would indulge in getting something (Candy or a drink) from the school canteen. So, basically, 10 rupees were enough to last a week. My story goes like this:

I have a very clear memory of walking one evening to a nearby general store with my mother. After she had bought all the items on her list, she asked me if I wanted anything. My head could reach barely above the counter, but I scanned the candy and chocolate jars carefully. I settled on a big Mars bar, the biggest I had seen yet. There was another child right next to me on the counter, looking greedily at where my finger was pointing. This child was a little beggar girl, probably the daughter of a local maidservant or maasi; she was wearing old clothes, and a rag as a shawl on her head. She was older than me and a bit taller. I remember her yellow bleached hair peeking from beneath the rag shawl, and her greedy look as she too stared at the big Mars candy bar.

My mother asked the price casually. Rs 20 was the answer. I turned suddenly towards her and I said I didn't want it. I chose a smaller candy bar for Rs 10 that I used to buy often. “I want this one, Ammi”. Rs. 20 was too much to spend on a candy bar, I thought in my childish brain. ‘Ammi gets so many other important things for the kitchen in that amount. I could buy a book in that much money, why just a big candy bar?’ I thought.
 My mother asked me if I was sure, and she got me the smaller candy. As we picked up our shopping bags and turned to leave the counter, the little beggar child demanded that big Mars bar from the counter person. She quickly took out two 10 rupee notes from somewhere in her shawl, and grabbed the big bar. She gave me a look of pure superiority as she walked out of the store ahead of us.

This incident is marked vividly in my memory. It has changed the way I view the lifestyle of our ‘poor’.

Friday, September 7, 2012

What makes you a Liberal?




Most people I know, are generally of the idea that believing in liberalism is just an excuse for being immoral. If somebody comes across as liberal-leaning, he/she is immediately cast into a wine-drinking /gambling/promiscuous stereotype. I have been thinking long and hard on this topic, and I have come to the conclusion that there is a reason why people believe in this stereotype. And the reason is the behaviour of some of the so-called ‘liberals’ themselves (don’t scoff me, there are plenty of those around).

People, and especially my generation, are most likely confused about what being a liberal means. Again, I come to the words and meaning debate: a word can have several different meanings and images attached to it, but they are not necessarily accurate. So here are a few thought-provoking questions to ask yourself:

Does voting for a Liberal government make you a liberal?

Does wearing a certain type of clothing make you a liberal?

Does studying in certain schools make you one?

Does scoffing the ‘conservative’-types make you one?

Does glorifying certain personalities make you a liberal?

Does your indifference to religion make you a liberal?

Or is it simply about allowing yourself a justification for doing things that go against your cultural norms and traditions? (i.e. alcohol consumption, going to bars/clubbing, you get my drift...)

Simply googling the term ‘liberalism’ brings me to its core idea: the belief in importance of equal rights and freedom/liberty for every human being. This... Is...It.
A person who believes in equal rights for all humans on this planet, and believes in every person’s right to freedom, is a liberal. Frankly, without going into a philosophical debate, and adding tons of layered meaning to this rather simple way of thinking... anybody can be a liberal. A person can dress any way they like, and still hold the highest importance to these two fundamental aspects of liberalism. Similarly, nobody can judge another person based on outward appearance, about how conservative or liberal they might be. And if you are a true liberal at heart, you would stop yourself right before you make that judgement.

So does it sound like such a bad thing now? I don’t think so.
“Live and Let Live” and come to the liberal side! 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Past Tense


(14th August Special)

Half-Mast

All the glory, all the pride, all the songs, belong to the past. All the achievements we hear about, are talked of in the past tense. And in my heart I question them, my grandparents and parents both. What is there to be happy about in this country?

And I'm told:

- we had people who worked in makeshift canvas tents and used cardboard boxes as office furniture. They didn't ask for salaries, because they knew this new country could not afford it.
- we had a Prime Minister who refused expensive clothes, because the common Pakistani could not afford them. We shot that Prime Minister dead, and now we forgot him. We erased him from our school books. Sometimes we label him as a traitor.
- there was a time when little children used to walk to and from school without any fear. These same children grew up, frightened to death of letting their own children step outside. Why?
- we had a quaint Tram service in Karachi. We burned the trams, ripped the rail-track off the road, and sold it as scrap metal.
- we had double decker buses, like those you see in London. We burned them, and left them as trash.
- we had an education system, and it was not surprising to find the best doctors, teachers, engineers and scientists coming from Government schools. Now we mock them as "neela" "peela" school or Urdu medium.
- we had one of the best hockey teams in the world. A team that got us Gold at the Olympics... true heroes. We replaced them because they were not the 'right' ethnicity. Hence, we lost our pride.
- We had a physicist who is celebrated the world over, a Nobel Laureate, but we shunned him. We conveniently forgot him. Instead we chose to celebrate ignorance. Knowledge and Wisdom have no place in our hearts and minds.
- We had a free, open environment, where foreigners liked to visit.... we drove them away by our wild calls for extremism.
- On Sundays, every church in Karachi used to be a busy place, with bells clanging and people greeting each other warmly. My parents remember going right up to the windows, and looking in. Now we have walls around churches that are sky-high, and we can not go inside without feeling like strangers.
- A library ship called Logos used to dock every year at Karachi Harbour... kids would rush upon the decks, and choose books from the world over. The sailors used to enjoy evening strolls at Keamari, walking around town, having a drink at the bar and trying to talk to the native children. This ship does not dock anymore, because we threatened our Christian volunteers, who used to help in setting the library up. We lost Logos.
- There was a time when bus stops had a "time keeper", a guy who would tell you when the next bus would go by. And he was rarely wrong.
- There was a time when people respected "Ladies" who were out about on their business, dragging children through shops, and waving down a rickshaw. Now the ladies are scared to step out. Even if they do, we like to sit around and giggle as they go by, or we hit them with pebbles to ensure they realize they are second class citizens.
- There was a time Karachiites used to talk of going to Cox's Bazar, or going to Chittagong for a holiday. Children had the option to learn Persian or Bengali at school. But we oppressed our other half, until they wanted nothing more to do with us. Then we lied about it in our history books. And still do.
- There was a time when the streets of this city were washed and scented every morning, and the Clock Tower used to be a great help to the pedestrian on the street. The clock Tower is broken, and the streets are choked with traffic.
- There was a time when this city had potential to become a great city, instead we threw out proper town planning, we let overpopulation and rural migration take hold of it, and sat back enjoying the disaster.
- There was a time when we had some respect for our History, and protected our heritage with fierce love. Now we look down upon it, and feel it's better if the extremists blow up all the statues. Or we'll sell those statues to other countries in black anyway.

This was a past that my grandparents lived, my parents saw, and I can only hear about and imagine.

Once, I remember I was going somewhere by train. In the middle of the deserted landscape of Upper Sindh, our train stopped for 5 minutes. It was around late afternoon. I saw a child from the nearby village, walking beside the train, dragging a plastic bottle filled with dirty water. She was about 6, her tattered clothes hardly covering her little form. She gazed in such wonder at us, at our train. Such wonder in those eyes. Then our train moved and the child stood there transfixed. When people talk of Independence, of this Beloved Country... I often wonder, did that child even know what Independence is? does she recognize the flag of this country? Does she know our Glorious History? Our past? And most of all, does it matter to her? Does it matter that she is free? Is she?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Water-powered fantasy

So this guy's "invented" a car that runs on water. It's all over the news. It's all over the blog posts. It's got Hammered Pir polishing his moustache on air. And it's proving once again what a polarized and insane people live in this land of the pure.

This guy, who is not even a proper engineer but is a GENEEYUS like the classic drop-out Billy Gates, claims that his "water kit" uses the process of electrolysis to provide Hydrogen fuel for the car. Never mind the amount of energy required for the process of electrolysis. Because obviously the science textbooks have been lying all this time!

He also claims that all "theories" comes after the practical. Always. There is no merit in the scientific method, according to this National Hero, as he smiles into his How-to papers downloaded from the net (incidently from a website called Troll Physics).

Next, he claims his "theory" has disproved the Second Law of Thermodynamics. A law that states: energy can neither be created nor be destroyed, in other words "input is equal to output". What absolute rubbish that is, because here's how two normal magnets can run a car easily! (refer to picture below, which is an actual snapshot from the PhD thesis of Sir Trolloloby of University of Nonsensical Technologies). 

"If Sir Trolloloby can do it, so can I" says the guy intelligently, waggling his moustache on tv.  

Specially for this "inventor" the water molecule releases a hidden energy, that the otherwise shy H2O is unable to provide to other scientists worldwide. H20 could not be reached for comment, but it is assumed that there is a secret collaboration  between the two that the Inventor keeps nodding about. 

A couple of stupid, obviously jealous scientific people objected to these claims, insanely basing their ideas on the normal (but now obsolete) science. But just as passionately, our sane gentry armed with the truth, replied to quell such scientific idiots. Here are some illuminating and intelligent comments to shut those scientists up:

(click on picture to read properly)

here is another gem from another sane citizen who would like to put all these scientists in jail for their inherent dishonesty in belittling an engineer:
(click on picture to read properly)

please ignore the latter comment by Saein, he's an american-paid indian agent.
Here's another paid agent who is trying to malign the national hero, with his idiotic comment:

(click on picture to read properly)

Fear not, sane citizens!!! Such scientific idiots are finally crawling into their pits and crying bitterly over their "research". Also, I'd like to say that we should definitely appreciate such awesome GENEEYUS like this inventor, let's hope he becomes another drop-out like Stevy Jobs and Billy Gates in future. Big shout out to the SHAKSPEARE illiterate people out there!!! 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The old Aunt who never speaks



She sits hunched upon her charpoy, facing the wall throughout the day. Life, for her, moves in slow motion now. Slowly, inching her fingers towards her comb, slowly, reaching for the food, slowly setting her feet on the ground, tapping around for her chappal. Walking like a shadow towards the bathroom, spending an eternity there, washing her face, watching the soapy water drain. She rarely looks at the mirror, and when she does, she shudders away from herself.

Her only family is her brother and his wife and kids. They ignore her, as she likes to be ignored. She only eats when her brother brings a tray, and she chews for the longest time. Guests are given a vacant stare, and no recognition, their presence bothers her. Sometimes she whispers softly in the night, talking about old times to the wall. There is a picture in her old trunk, forgotten by almost everyone: a laughing girl in riding boots and a hat, mounted on a horse. She has brown locks falling over her shoulders, and her face shows not a single care in the world. How different the laughing girl, from this old woman who shrinks into herself. She has forgotten how she looked, how it felt to be young, how it felt riding the horses that her family owned. She has almost forgotten that farmhouse in her native land, where she was born and lived out her good years. The brilliant mornings, the horse rides, the easy evenings spent in a luxury that few could afford. Outside, the world was at war, there were planes flying and bombing people, there were people dying, but she was safe... tucked away into a small peaceful village. She had dreams then, of always having her family around, of the eternal evening teas, and riding in the afternoons, of finally meeting the man of her dreams who would whisk her away to another pretty house, somewhere safe and happy.

Then suddenly, things changed. The world was finished with the war, but there was war in her own land. One day some people slit throats down the main street of the village, and set fire to the houses. Her family fled their village with what little they could save. She remembers vividly, the train station, the reeking seats, the shivering with fear. She does not remember how long they travelled, how many trains they changed, which direction they went. She has a vague memory about being jostled across a land far more vast than what she had imagined. She remembers the burning houses, burning people, burning grass, burning trains. Then finally, exhausted, coming to a busy town across the new border and finding shelter in a one-room rundown apartment on a street heavy with smoke and traffic. These people spoke in a rude way and a foreign accent, and looked down at them and their small luggage, their miserly living, their torn dresses. She remembers her mother and sisters succumbing to their hollow TB coughs on successive nights, she remembers the constant shivering.

Sitting on her charpoy at night, she shivers now, even though it is hot and the air conditioner is out of order. She shivers, remembering the first cold winter, remembering the deep sadness, the shock. Her father and older brother are also lost somewhere; she can not quite recall how they left this world. But she knows they no longer exist. Only her younger brother was left, and that one-room slum. Then her memory fails her, crawling this way and that across time. She opens her tired eyes and stares at her room, a bigger one in a bigger house. The brother has married, which is a good thing, and has two sons. The boys make a lot of noise, watching cricket on tv in the room next to hers. The wife is kind to her, but keeps her distance. She is happy for her brother, and the boys make her smile in wonder sometimes. Their energy catches her off guard, she sees her brothers in their faces at times. That is when she has the urge to speak. She has not spoken much in the last 30 years, so her voice is croaky and hoarse. The boys nod at her encouragingly, but they hardly have the time to hear her out. 

She rearranges herself, facing away from them, staring at the wall. Atleast the wall is empty and friendly. She stares until she remembers nothing, and everything turns white and blank. The edges of her sight blur into brilliant white, and for some time it gives her peace. 

(*This is a work of fiction, but based on a real person and real events).

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Poetry

Today, after a long hiatus, my poet guardian angel (I like to believe he/she exists) has visited me again. It took 2 whole years for the angel to come back, and give me words to string into a rhyme. I have learned a lot in these 2 years, and with all that learning, I was able to string words in a better way then I used to. This calls for celebration. I should probably go and have some chocolate fudge cake.
And the poem?
it is about maps and destinations and paths we take to reach where we want to.
Someday, I hope it will be published.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Those who became complete




Today I thought I'd share a Turkish poem by Yunus Emre:

'Those who became complete,
didn't live this life in hypocrisy,
didn't learn the meaning of things,
by reading commentaries...

Reality is an Ocean, the Law is a Ship.
Many have never left the Ship,
never jumped into the sea.

They might have come to Worship,
but they stopped at rituals,
They never knew or entered the inside.

Those who think the Four Books
were meant to be talked about,
who have only read explanations,
and never entered meaning,
are really in sin.

Yunus means 'true friend',
for one whose journey has begun...
Until we transform our Names,
we haven't found the Way."

It made me think whether I was bold enough to jump from the Ship, and whether I had the courage to go beyond rituals, into something deeper and more real than this world will ever be. Worth thinking about. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Baking Disasters


I didn’t know that I’d develop such an obsession with all things baked during my time in Toronto. Now since I’ve been back, I find myself being drawn to the baking needs aisle more frequently, lamenting the fact that I do not have access to a proper electric oven, and trying out as many bakeries as I can. I miss my pumpkin pies, cheesecakes and biscotti too much.

However, I’m sorely disappointed in the quality of baked goods/baking items available in the markets in Karachi. Maybe, I’d have been less disappointed, had there not been so many cooking channels airing special programs on delicious baking... Maybe, due to this, I had a lot of expectations with the “professional” bakers. Here’s a series of complaints about things that got me disappointed:


Brownies:
Bricks

Seriously? It’s the easiest thing there is out there to bake. Anything with sugar, eggs, flour and a dash of vanilla tastes delicious... and adding loads of chocolate into the batter makes it simply divine. How can one go wrong with fudgy, chocolatey brownies? When there are a million recipes out there in books/mags/newspapers, and for free on the internet? And if you’re totally lazy, you can simply pick up a box of brownie mix to bake a batch in under 20 minutes! Heck, you can bake it in less than 6 minutes if you’re like me (using a microwave oven)!!

The brownies these so-called “professional bakers” present us with are brick-hard blocks of flour (almost black due to the excessive artificial colour) that taste like cardboard. No fudgy, chewy chocolate in there- not even a decent amount of cocoa powder. You might come across the occasional white spots (evidence that the baker was in too much hurry to mix the batter properly) while you take your bite. You may also get an unpleasant surprise when you discover a hard little pebble between your teeth- don’t worry, it’s only a rather smallish bit of mouldy, rancid walnut that the baker thought was a great idea to add and perk up the flavour. It’s too small to cause any serious stomach troubles. Really...! Stick to your old Betty Crocker boxes (thankfully available at most supermarkets), a microwaveable dish, and your reliable old microwave... you do NOT need to spend Rs.500+ for a terrible disaster from a showy bakery.



Cakes:


You know, there was a time when your dad used to order your birthday cake from the bakery closest to your house, and you couldn’t wait to cut it and later lick the icing off your knife...remember? When the candles used to go smoothly into the decent amount of chocolate icing, and the sponge was soft and delicious... and the nice little line of icing in the middle made you so happy, it was like eating two pieces of cake instead of one...anyways. Those days are gone. Over.

The cake from the bakery closest to your house has some nasty obsession with pineapple pieces and canned juice nowadays...in fact, it’s all the rage I hear. The cute decorations are also gone- you only get blobs of white stuff all around with a ‘glazed’ cherry on top of them. Once you cut into the cake... the middle layer is completely full of all sizes and shapes of pineapple chunks you could imagine. The lower sponge is soaking through with pineapple canned juice... the “juice” you throw away when you eat out the chunks from the can. Yes, that juice. No matter what flavour the bakery claims the icing/sponge is... I can guarantee it will taste like pineapple. 100%- no doubt about that.

Then, if you are like me, you blame the neighbourhood bakery...and decide to go to that hip little cutesy place everyone’s been talking about. It’s the bakery that charges 50% more on every item, just because it’s a hip little cutesy place everyone’s been talking about... you know the one, don’t you? You pick out the loveliest, scrumptious cake you can see in their fridge, and pay a ridiculous amount for such a small cake...but (you tell yourself) this bakery actually uses some expensive stuff... that’s why.

Yup...that's the one.


Well guess what? Surprise!! You get a repeat of a brownie disaster! It’s a brick made out of flour, tasting mysteriously like that cardboard box it came in... and you even get some sticky icing that makes your teeth turn blue! (or green or red... depends) Ooh...the fondant decoration made you melt? Now it’ll make the bite hard to swallow by sticking to your throat...awesome! Just what you paid for.
Whatever you do, do NOT buy a cheesecake from said hip little cutesy place. It’s just a plain frightening mess of white cement, with a bit of cream or vanilla or something...that’s sitting on top of biscuits ka ‘choora’... that powder you find at the bottom of cookie packets. The point that’s frightening is: it’s not baked...it’s frozen. Using some kind of corn flour or gelatine mixture. It has raw eggs inside. Now that’s frightening.



Cupcakes:



Ah! Cupcakes... who doesn’t like them? First of all... those aluminum “cups” on display look completely empty. Upon inspection, you find- oh yeah...that’s dark chocolate icing on it... You buy a dozen of them to fill a box to take home (ridiculous amount of money for the almost empty aluminum cups, but it’s the hip little cutesy place after all). You use your nails to pry apart the aluminum from the thing inside, while the “icing” leaks onto your fingers. You take a dismally small bite of the cupcake...tastes like sugar and vanilla..not bad. Atleast not cardboard... but that’s what you get. If you are stupid enough to get those fondant-with-icing on top ones, be sure to brush your teeth properly later. You don’t want to scare people with purple teeth.



Pizza:



Yes, I went to the world’s most renowned pizza franchise after 5 years of being abroad. After 5 years of eating pizza from small unknown places that used to serve halal and charged no money for home delivery. I discovered that the basic sizes followed all over the world are unavailable at our place. We get to choose from “Large” (read normal/regular all over the world) and “pan-sized” (read so-small-it-fits-in-my-plate). The “Extra”-large option is unheard of. No dips on the side. You pay extra for salads and drinks. The garlic bread is likely to pull out your front teeth, so is the crust with barely-there toppings. No matter what flavour you order, you are only going to enjoy the flavour of the crust, and some hanging strips of mozzarella...yay! for your expensive pizza. They serve ice-cold drinks, so your mouth is thankfully too numb to bother about all other tastes. 

Oh well... Time to start baking by myself.