Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Happy Home

You know how ten or so years ago, whenever given crayons and a piece of paper, we always drew a landscape with brown mountains with streams running through it; squiggly grass and lopsided houses and a not-so-perfect circle of a sun, with sun beams poking out of it like spikes of a porcupine? Or maybe you don't know; maybe it was me who was insistently persistent in her idea of a perfect landscape.

As years went by, I figured that I'm picturing 'perfect' the wrong way. It might be difficult to explain my thought process and define what happened, but I'll give it a shot, anyway.

This picture of a house by the mountains has always been the foreground of all dreams and romantic scenarios that played through my head. I never payed much attention to who, what or how; just where mattered to me. Not saying I wanted to live in the Himalayas; just saying that I wanted things to be the way I had in mind.

But, sadly, experiences kill our dreams. One minute you're running through the rain, ecstatic, next you fall down with a bruise on your knee and learn your lesson. That happened to me, multiple times. I fell down, bandaged my knee, got up and ran again. And again. Until I had no strength in me to ever run again. My happy home in the hills became hazy and blurred.

When I had given up completely, God told me it's wrong to quit. He stitched me up and set me off. The path that I kept falling on was no longer wet, gritty or rough; it was easy. Once I got over my initial fear of falling, I knew this is what I wanted. It changed my beliefs. It changed my mind. And it helped me.Through life and all the nonsense that comes with it.

Turns out it's not a perfect life that I want. Turns out I can do without a swimming pool and a fish-pond in the garden. Turns out I can make do with a mediocre life with the perfect person. Turns out I already am in my happy home; although the chimney isn't quite like I pictured.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013


You know the feeling when you have stories and vague ideas flitting about in your head and you don't really pay them much attention until you're having a conversation with your favourite person, and you decide to translate them into words, and you discover that they were actually good stories worth telling? I do. It's one warm feeling. Such is the power of actual conversation with an actual friend; you can say your weirdest thought out loud and there are more chances of him saying 'Hey, that's happened to me too' than 'What the hell are you saying"

I believe, and you should too, that the closest you can get to a person is not when you can be in their company for hours and have lively, mindless talk that makes you laugh; it is when you can sit down in front of your mate, exchange occasional, meaningful one-liner sentences and still feel like as happy as a hyena.*

I fear that one day, when the humans today have all died and there is an entirely new breed of them in the world, these tiny things that have not been said will be lost forever. This is why I say everything out loud, even if it's not the most interesting thing in the world; even if it doesn't make sense, I don't care about others mistrusting my sanity . What do you think would have happened if that one person who talked about déjà vu had feared being called crazy? We'd never have found out it's a real thing. People would be going around thinking, hey that's happened before... but i'm probably just slightly mad.

So you get my flow, right? We should all talk more. Not about what we ate for dinner or what 'they fought about' but about ideas and feelings and habits and philosophies. Whatever is on your mind, say it out loud. Not everyone is very good at phrasing ideas, but what's the harm in trying?

*Hyenas are said to be the only animals that can laugh out loud. So I assumed their happiness.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Elections and other monstruosité

I wake up on the morning of the 11th of May. Yes, morning. That's a statement in itself. I feel the excitement pangs that i have come to associate with Eid and exams, over the years. But, no; today is neither. It's Election Day! The day has come and passed four times in my life without me even noticing. And like every other event in the universe, it's important to me now because I'm involved. Not competing or anything, just voting. Like every other citizen, i was under the impression that i can contribute in the making of a new government. I could not have been sillier. Or dumber. Or more wrong. (I wish wronger were a word, my sentence would have sounded so much more impactful.)

I set out at 11 dot. That's the soonest I could, considering I had convinced my 80-year-old grandmother to vote for my man, Imran, and you can cook paaye faster than she dresses. Anyway, heading out, I triumphantly texted people telling them I was gonna go vote (ink on my thumb, ya'll). A short, very bumpy, back-breaking ride later, we're at The Polling Station. Queues of old people, young people, women, girls. I was actually impressed. Until the police constable at the gate told us: "Gaarri aagay lo! Yahan park karna mana hai!" Even AFTER we explained to him we had a senior citizen with us who couldn't walk on uneven surfaces. I was even more upset when I was told, by a different but equally inapt looking constable, that the polling hadn't started yet because 'samaan nahi aaya.' I really can't believe I had thought it would be a cool, systematic process. For once I had been optimistic of the sense of duty of our officers. Were they not supposed to be here three hours ago? Whatever. Climbing back in, i went back to the house, all gloomy. Daddy said we could go back again in a few hours, the polling had to start sooner or later.

One sad hour later, bhai log ring my doorbell and say the voters in the house can carpool with them to the station. No thank you, we aren't voting for you anyway. I didn't say that out loud. Anyway, guess what! It meant the polling had started! A repeat performance of getting in the car and bumpy back-breaking ride took us to the polling station where the queue had lengthened dramatically. Anyway, taking one for the country, citizens, I joined it. Holding my nani's arm, not even inside the gate yet. Waited and waited. I was trying really hard not to ask women who they were voting for. I swear, I tried. Then it burst out of me: 'Kisko vote dengi?"
"Pata nai"
"Kia matlab? Aap line mein hain. Kese nai pata?"
I think she lost her cool with me then because she made a horrible face and turned away. I was offended, but not as much as to not try again. By now, everyone around including the Rangers and the Police had noticed my nani. We were shepherded to the front of the line and inside the polling station where there are even longer queues. I sit my nani down on a nearby chair and join in. Again, I try not to ask but I just lack the capability to keep it in.
"Kisko vote dengi?"
"Patang ko"
The discussion should have ended there but keen and insistent that i am, i ploughed on:
"Dekheyn Imran Khan ko vote deyn! Wo Naya Pakistan banayega"
She smiled and shook her head. I swear, I have never felt more desperate a need to slap someone hard. It took every ounce of self-control I had to smile back, however condescendingly. Back there, a Ranger had spotted my nani and her cane (that she threatened to hit everyone and anyone with). Once again we were pushed and encouraged to go ahead to the front of the line. I was beginning to think it was a great idea to convince nani to come. I was quite enjoying the preferential treatment.

At the front of the line, it was pandemonium. A woman scratching names off a list, screaming to see identity cards and receipts. Women pushing and pulling each other to be at the front. Anyway, we got our names checked in the book. At one point the woman matching faces to lists and names insisted on re-christening me Saleema Tufail. Only my persistent refusal led her to search for an alternative.

After mucho hard work, pulling pushing through and screaming for space, we (my nani and I) were in the polling room for women. Once again, i regretfully admit that i thought it would be systematic and proper. I was wrong. If outside was panic, inside was Sparta. A woman was missing from her post, the illiterate clerk who had been given the job of inking thumbs was tearing ballot papers and stamping them for the voters. And the women of NA-253... Taubah. They were crazy. Crazy and selfish. Each wanted to get done before everyone else. Anyway, I got my nani her two ballot papers and got mine. The curtained area where citizens are supposed to stamp their votes in privacy was not vacant. Mildly, I wondered why. My question was soon answered when a fully make-up'd woman walked out and cast, not one not two, but SEVEN ballot papers in one ballot box alone. In my head, i got a vague replay of the polling officer tearing off the papers and handing it over to The Woman herself saying: 'Patang pe lagana' I hadn't even realized what she was doing! The hell? I had always heard of bad stuff happening but it never happened to me. Had I just witnessed blatant rigging?

I had to say something. I looked around with half-a-finger raised to accuse the criminal herself in a 'IT WAS YOU' kinda way. But nothing doing; she had run away as soon as she had done her job. I pointed at the only polling officer in the room and said: "Kia horaha hai yahan per? Rigging kar rae hain aap log?!" My voice getting louder with each syllable. I had briefly wondered before if I was wrong, but her reaction told me everything. She looked wild-eyed and said: "Kisnay dekha? Aap ne dekha? Aap ne dekha? Kisi ne nai dekha." And to my surprise, the voice that came from behind me saying: "Main ne dekha!" was my nani's. You have to give it to her. The woman at the counter totally flipped out telling us to get out. I gave her the coldest, most disgusted look i could muster and said: "I'm here to vote, I'm not going"

I helped my nani fold her ballot paper and folded mine, cast our votes and walked out. As I am a nag and a persistent insistent human being, I did not give up. I walked over to the horse-faced makrooh shakal wali woman who was claiming to be the ECP official. Clearly, she was lying. She tried very hard to twist my words around and make it sound like i'm making a fuss. All became clear when I saw make-up face sitting right beside her. UGH.

I went to the Rangers and the Police officers in turn, pleading my case. The latter even offered me a glass of Coke saying 'Madam, thandi ho jayen.' I threatened them all with reminders of death and Judgement Day. They did nothing. A senior officer gave me his phone number telling me to call in case of a problem. DUDE, I HAVE A PROBLEM NOW. Sigh, all hope was lost on my part. I hear they later sealed polling in that station, but back then I was so dejected that I even forgot to buy a celebratory Coke in honour of me voting for the first time.

Point is, it wasn't a good experience, but an experience. It taught me to stand up for my rights. It taught me that there are all kinds of people in the world. Most of all, it taught me that i should carry a camera with me everywhere I go in case I have to make emergency videos of political parties rigging their way to the National Assembly. Bleh. -_-

Saturday, 27 April 2013


There is no such thing as 'self-satisfied.' There is no such thing as confidence. It's all an act. We, humans, are creatures of love and we need constant reassurances. We need pats on the back and congratulatory hugs. We need birthdays, presents and promotions to feel important, worthy. We need family and lovers and friends to feel loved. We are all needy. Needy for acceptance.

Everyone has put on an outfit and thought, 'Hey, this makes me look great!', walked out with their head held high. But can any of you say, honestly, that you haven't felt discomfited when a better dressed stranger has looked you up and down in condescension? I don't think so.

Although present in everyone (according to me), there are degrees of diffidence, of insecurity. There are people who need to wear branded clothes in order to increase(?) their self-worth. But there also people out there who only befriend good- looking people just because they feel good around them. Trust me, they exist.

The logic behind this is that since they feel they are lacking in certain areas of their lives, or physical appearance, they try to cover them up with something that has been widely admired to fill the void. It might make them feel better for the time being, but I'm sure it only makes them feel more inadequate without the solace of their respective necessities.

I used to know this girl who was an extreme case of insecurity. She was actually really pretty. She had great friends, lots of money, namely everything that a person needs to feel secure. But somehow it got into her head that she wasn't good enough. She, then, started making up entire personalities. She actually went lengths making them look real: created their Facebook profiles, created a background story for them, made up academic achievements they were supposed to have acquired, etc etc. Now that bichaari must have been psychologically unwell, I'm sorry to have brought her up, but it just goes on to show to what extents people go in order to make themselves feel likeable and loved.

 I am a different sort of touchy. I just always need second opinions. I need my sister or my mom or my best friend to tell me I look good, my term paper is acceptable, my writing piece is readable and so on. It's a solvable problem.

Why? Why do WE, super intelligent beings, toppers of the food chain, need to feel good about ourselves? Why do we all care what others think of us regardless of our age, sex, beauty or social status? Why do we, like lesser creatures, need to be part of the crowd, need to follow each other blindly?

Hey, don't look at me; I'm not giving out answers here, just putting a question forward. Scientists should really work on solving our personal little intra-planetary problems before heading out to Mars to find life. We have a reputation, an image to hold up in front of Martians after all. ;)

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Annoying people

Contrary to what the title suggests, this is not a chapter from a handbook that gives direction on how to annoy people. This is a whiny journal entry about the types of annoying people I have had the displeasure of meeting.

The utterly hateful kind are those who spoil your movies and books for you by spoiling the suspense. My brother seems to thinks it's hilarious. But I'll tell you what: if you're reading or hearing this and yet you try to do it to me, don't blame me for not giving you a heads up before murdering you with an axe. I waited months for the last Harry Potter book to come out; my brother doesn't even read! Just to annoy me, which is an acceptable motive for anything brothers do, he skimmed through the last few pages and told me what happens. Sigh. The neighbours still swear they heard a banshee that day.

Then there are people who have no interest in any other aspect of you except your looks and your sexuality. They're constantly trying to set you up with a "good-looking" cousin/friend of theirs. Or worse still, trying to chat you up themselves. Get a life, really.

Proceeding the list are people who don't even know what they're doing wrong. They call you by your nickname at the first meeting, scroll through your pictures while "checking out" your phone, invade on your personal space and show up at dinners and lunches uninvited. They just don't get the hint. They even stoop as low as to assuming you're going to pay their bills off your pocket money!

Now, I don't know why, but i have this reserved hate-space for people who write, or speak, English incessantly, even though they have terrible grammar. On top of that, they type with so many extra X's that I think they might have swallowed Professor Utonium's Chemical X. They send me into a deep state of hysteria that only wears off after i open and close the dictionary obsessively, not quite unlike Lady Macbeth's fetish of washing her hands. Exaggeration aside, it really is painful.

The worst part is that once your brain decides it doesn't like someone, every single action of theirs gets on your nerves. Their laugh makes you mad. Their compliments offend you and their very presence makes your skin prickle.

It's a public service message to these disregardful naggers, just, don't be annoying. Thanks, no offense. ;)

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

My city, my beloved.

You know how you feel this rush of emotions about the situation in the city and just DON'T have words intense enough to portray it? One of my closest friends, Tooba Akhtar, is a patriot and Karachi lover. Also, a brilliant writer. She has managed to come up with this beautiful, beautiful piece. MUST. BE. READ.

Today, Karachi has made me feel emotions I didn't even know I had the capacity to feel. You whirlwind-causer, you. So typical.

Karachi is my city. It’s where I was born, where I grew up, and where I intend to be for the rest of my life, provided it’s what God has planned for me.

Karachi is also where some, in fact most, of my best memories are. It’s where I attended school and made friends. It’s where my parents held my hand and took me out. It’s the city where my dad demands he kisses me on the cheek every time he leaves the house, be it for a few hours or a few weeks. It’s also where my grandparents spoiled me relentless, and it’s where they, together with my parents, taught me manners. Manners to lead a peaceful life, manners to make niceties, and manners to be a lady; though the latter is not something I always stuck to.

Karachi is where I experienced friendship, and the wonderful people it familiarised me with. It’s where I made friends, and where friends unfriended me. It’s where I had my first crush outside of television. It’s also the city where I experienced heartbreak for the first time.

Karachi is where I found God. In my heart, which is in my body, which is in Karachi. I belong to Karachi and Karachi belongs to me.

Up until recently, I hadn’t realised just how deep my love for Karachi was. I knew I loved it always, don’t get me wrong; I just didn’t know how much. I loved it enough to always defend it. And enough to point out every opportunity I got that we have a beach. But I never quite knew Karachi could make me feel pain.
But it can. Karachi hurts now. Seeing how things have become in this beautifully diverse and uncompromisingly resilient city of mine gives me heart ache. It hurts. To an unforeseen degree. It really hurts. The pain is stifling, bordering on excruciating. So much bloodshed. Of my people. It hurts. And with every half a drop more of blood, the pain becomes increasingly crippling.

But more than hurting me, watching Karachi go down makes me cringe. It brings frown lines to my forehead. I never wanted to feel this way about Karachi, but it has left me with no choice. From being the city that taught me how to trust, it has now become the city I can’t trust. The irony of the situation isn’t lost on anyone. I can’t trust Karachi with my family, my friends, my loved ones, my fellow compatriots. I never know when Karachi will swallow any of them. I never know who Karachi will swallow next. This unpredictability used to amuse me once, it added to the beauty of my city; the city that took every opportunity it got to surprise me, and others like me. But now, Karachi makes me feel scared, but more than scared, I feel vulnerable.

Karachi has now become the city that has enough power to take everything away from me. Everything that’s mine, and everything I love.

Until you recover, Karachi, until you recover. I’m not going to abandon you. Ever. I’m not going to be an opportunist and find an easy escape route. No. I’m gonna fight for what’s mine. I’m gonna struggle. Till I don’t get you back, Karachi.

Karachi, meri jaan. You bring tears to my eyes, and that’s how much I love you. I hope to live to see the day you become you again. Godspeed.

Monday, 4 March 2013

The Bright Side

I don't usually quote people. And, since this is MY blog, especially not here. Last night, however, a friend wrote something that touched my heart, and i'm going against my rules.

"Life is not a bed of roses, and even then, it has the ability to surprise you. Sometimes unpleasantly. The One looking above all of us, maintains a perfect balance in each of our lives. He makes sure that none of the billions of us gets over or under blessed. And for that, He tests us with various situations. It is up to you to look at the bright side. You lose your phone, you get promotion. You lose your laptop, you make a friend. You lose your girl, you learn a lesson. You lose your father, you become a man.

The hidden blessings behind a curse are way beyond our horizon to comprehend, yet, we must have faith in Allah. We must believe that something much better is inevitably about to arrive. We must look forward to it.

So in my opinion, instead of pondering aimlessly about what we've lost, we should look forward to what Allah gives us to make up for it."

- Umair Nasir.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Surprises and smiles.

When a father walks into the maternity ward and sees his new-born for the first time, you should see his face. You should record that moment, not in your cameras or phones, but in your heart; it is much too precious to be put in something as artificial as a DSLR. Now that's real happiness.

Have you ever given someone a surprise? An unexpected present, an affectionate brush of the hand, a kiss on the cheek, a sweet compliment? If you have, you will know that their reaction and appreciation is the best pay-back in the world, and there seems to be no place in the world you'd rather be.

Is being given a surprise better than giving one? I thought i knew my answer. Recently, a friend of mine, realising that i'm crazy about balloons, got me a car full of them. His expression when he saw me jumping with unconstrained happiness was so content that I had second thoughts about it. I realised, seeing someone you love smiling because of your actions is about the best surprise you could ever get.

Often i've heard people wondering what "life" is. They talk about it as if one conversation is enough to decipher the most complicated code in the universe. Now, I may not be as cool a philosopher as Socrates, but I am cool enough to tell you that it's little moments and little favours that bring great joy. It's these little things that constitute life. Not a Mercedes, but a Kitkat can make you ecstatic. It's not the most expensive facial treatment that brings a glow to your skin, but a hug from your best mate.

My theory says: don't over-think, take life as it comes at you; it might not be as bad as your nightmares suggest. Give it a chance. Learn to accept that maybe not knowing everything before-hand is a blessing. Surprise life by accepting its unyielding mystery and in turn, let life surprise you.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Tiny Details.

I love meeting new people. Making new friends, filling them in about my life and hobbies and activities and experiences, making an impression, building trust, hanging out. There are so many things that are old but which the friend renews. I've always wondered what logic lay behind it and recently, I've reached conclusions.

I am like Google plus. I have real-life circles. A close friends circle, an acquaintance circle, a family circle and so forth. I have a different image in each of them. I decide which side of me to show to a particular circle. For example, my friends know me as this funny, laughing, happy person who never takes offense. My family knows I'm temperamental and angry. My distant relatives think I'm a retard who can't hold a conversation for more than a few minutes. It's bizarre how my personality has so many facets and one person can only see one at a time.

In school, friends come easy because you don't really have a personal self at that time. Disagreements are rare because you take pride in liking what your best friend likes. As i grew older and went to college, i realized that making friends isn't all that easy. Opposites might attract in some cases, but in mine, no. Not really. For me, friendship, love, family are all about conversation. I can't love someone or care for them at all if i haven't reached a certain level of communication with them.Anyway, college passed and i didn't have a single new real-friend to my name. That has to be because of the student-sorting system our government practices, of which i HIGHLY disapprove. All students with bad grades in one place. (Will come back to it another time.)

I joined university and for quite some time I had to make do with no-actual-conversation, make-do friends. Afterwards, when i joined my literature class, i met people. The change was so sudden that you wouldn't even know how I changed unless you looked at the tiny details. There were a lot of differences between us, but at least a few things in common with each of them. One always said what i wanted to, before me. Another shared my love for photographs. Every friend possessed one of my characteristics and we got along like a house on fire.

When I think of making new friends, i get excited. The charm lies in the fact that a new person that i meet won't think I'm retarded or weird or angry or whatever. I can show them whatever facet of my personality that i want to and that will be ME for them.

I love meeting new people. But then, who doesn't?

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

We need a new year.

Whenever i get an inspiration to write something, it begins in unusual ways. Sometimes a certain word pops into my head and i develop the whole story around, enveloping the word in its midst. Sometimes its a thought that i extend from both ends until i have reached something coherent. Well, this time, i just needed to write. I think reading something that i wrote gets through to me more than anything else.

When i was five, i was an angry kid. Slapping, biting, hitting others my age was a habit. My younger brother still sports beautifully symmetric scars on both his cheeks that i claim credit for. I wasn't evil, i immediately felt guilty for what i had done, even if it were not for my mother's retaliatory spanking. What i craved, in my guilt, was forgiveness. I always apologized. I had no idea then why the cold staring pierced my soul but now i know: i wished to change. I wished my mother would give me one more chance and i'd never lay a finger on brother again. Problem is, they never did forgive me. In words they did; they said it was okay. They even started talking to me again but they never forgave me. It kept resurfacing. Repetition of stories to others. They never realised i had the spark of change inside. It only worsened my condition. I thought: if they still think i'm a bad girl, why should i be nice? They wont appreciate anything. 

This flaw in my upbringing, in turn, created a flaw in my personality. I crave someone who would understand that i can change anything about me if given the chance. I only wanted one chance.

I know what a new year beginning means to me: an opportunity. I can leave all my mistakes behind and start from a scratch. No matter if i am a sinful creature, I can always ask for forgiveness and start afresh. I know, it can be done on any day of the year. You can say you're sorry and start over, Allah will never begrudge you. He will welcome you. It's only the effect an ending has on you. Prayers and repentance will never mean as much to me on a random day as they do on the new year's eve.

I started this year off thinking that i have grown up. This time, i will stick to my decisions. I am a grown woman, after all. I disappointed myself again. No matter how close a person is to you, only yourself and God are two entities who'll always be willing to accept your faults and welcome you back. I think all of us have developed double standards. If only we could forgive loved ones as readily as we do ourselves.

I don't know if everybody thinks like me, what i do know is, everyone wants a chance. Everyone deserves a chance. If they want to change, please, let them. Patience is all they ask. Maybe, when the next time you look, they'll have turned from an ugly cocoon to a butterfly.

If people refuse to look at you in a new light and they can only see you for what you were, only see you for the mistakes you've made, if they don't realize that you are not your mistakes, then they have to go. -Steve Maraboli