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Apr 13, 2015 - Personal    11 Comments

Ammi & me

I have never been too attached or addicted to anything. I don’t feel an actual physical craving for things if they are no longer in my life. Not even for caffeine. I have been drinking tea & coffee since I was a teenager and I love a cup or two every day, but I have lived without either for months without losing my sanity. I have lived without internet for three months in a remote Sri Lankan corner and survived to tell the tale. I have given up meat for over a year and had no trouble doing that too. I have spent one year in practically 3 pairs of jeans and one pair of shoes and did okay. In short, I can live without pretty much anything if I put my mind to it. Giving up things, places, even people has never been much of a problem for me. I may miss them, I definitely reminisce about them, but I survive and get by.

The only person that I have ever felt actual physical longing for is my mother. I lost ammi when I was a teenager and even though it has been quite a while, I still miss her presence in my life.

Some days, out of nowhere, I get this craving to talk to my mother that just wouldn’t go away. I have sisters and a bunch of most wonderful friends with whom I can talk about anything under the sun. I even have access to free shrinks where I live but some days, I just know no one else but just ammi would do. I don’t even need a massive trigger for that longing to jump at me out of nowehere. It has happened to me at the oddest places and times. Once I was driving down in my car and my iPod shuffled to Munni Begum and it reminded me of the time when my father had a thing for Munni Begum and ammi would just indulgently laugh at him perking up whenever Munni Begum was on TV. Despite being a total daddy’s girl I took ammi’s status as the sole recipient of his romantic affections very seriously. Any time Abba would express that he liked Munni Begum or the fact that one of my aunts cooked excellent Haleem, I would jump at him and make sure that he would declare that ammi’s Haleem was the best – esp better than the aforementioned aunt’s – and that Munni Begum had nothing on my mom.

Considering I lost ammi when I was still a teenager, I never had the chance to really talk to her about a lot of things. I always wonder what kind of relationship I would have had with her as an adult – woman to woman – had she lived to see me become the person I am today. Would I become the person I am if she had been around or I would have turned out to be a fundamentally different person? Would she have approved of my life choices or not? I would have liked to become her friend because my mother was a genuinely cool and fairly nontraditional person and I like to think we would have hit it off with as adults. I think I would have liked to pamper her a bit because she was the one who took care of everyone around her when she was alive.

Ever since I moved to Toronto, I have started attending a lot of literary events. 70% of the attendees of such events are retired women – aged between 60 to 75 – and sometimes, we get talking. Whenever I talk to them about anything, I always wonder if Ammi would have liked to attend such events and it would have been so cool if Ammi could have been here with me and we would be this cool mother/daughter duo doing things together.

Some days I read a book and just want to talk to her about it. Some days I feel on top of the world and want to share that joy with her, some days I hate everything and just want that unconditional support that one can only get from a mother. There are days when I want to bitch about people in my life and sometimes I just want to complain about my hair or gel based nail polish and I only want to do that with ammi but she is not around and I have not yet mastered the art of talking with the people on the other side.

It is Ammi’s birthday today and I want to wish her happy birthday. I obviously cannot and that’s okay. This is life, sometimes your parents die earlier than others. Chin up and move on, but do believe me when I say that you must enjoy the time you have with your mother.  If you are still a kid and live with your parents, just go over to your mom’s room and give her a hug. If your mom lives in the same city, just drive over – get a take away that she likes – and share it with her. If you live far from your mom, give her a call and let her know how important she is. Just do it, NOW because sooner or later, she is not gonna be around and then you will miss her and that would be an absolutely wretched feeling.

Enjoy her company while you can, have fun with her, gossip about the relatives and neighbours and mutual friends, buy her a spa day ticket, take a vacation together or just watch TV with her – you are lucky to have this privilege for as long as you have, savour it, enjoy it and tell her she is special.

 

PS: Special shout out to my Ammi,  Happy birthday mom.

Commuter chronicles

There are people who have used public transport all their lives and then there are those who drive to work come rain or hail. As someone who drove the length of Shahrah-e-Faisal for most of her professional life, the idea of sitting in a subway, reading a paper and getting to work without hurling curse words at fellow drivers was quite fascinating for me. So when I moved to Toronto, I decided that I wouldn’t buy a car and very happily got in the queue to buy my first monthly pass, blissfully unsuspecting of the jungle that is the underground.

I was expecting the usual suspects when I first started commuting through the subway: loud snorers, pesky cell phone talkers (only on the buses and not in the subway for obvious reasons), people with multiple kids who have no control over their own offspring, and loud gossipers. Well, I encountered them all and then some more.

There is a whole new category of commuters I opened up my eyes to once I started commuting regularly by the subway: the expert make-up appliers. These are women who whip out their lipsticks and apply them without mirrors. Sometimes you see some painting their nails while balancing their morning cups of coffee, others decide to moisturize major parts of their body in front of an audience. Once a woman asked me to hold a small mirror for her because she needed both her hands to apply mascara perfectly. While I was holding the mirror – because how can one refuse a sister some vanity – she told me how this seriously loaded single guy was coming in for a deposition at her office and how she wanted her lashes be in mint condition to ensnare him with her womanly wiles. I should point out that that the phrase ‘womanly wiles’ is not really a part of my vocabulary, it was the woman with the mascara who used that term. I was suitably impressed – both with her make-up skills and her repertoire of womanly wiles.

Some people catch up on their TV viewing on the commute back from work. You would spot people watching new episodes of Mad Men, True Detective, Agents of Shield or one of those many vampire/zombie shows on their tablets. It is like an unwritten rule of subway commuting, for the morning commute, you either read the newspaper or hold on to the caffeine of your choice like your life is depending on it. You gossip, watch TV, look bored, play cross word puzzle or just randomly stare at people during the evening commute. However, one day, I spotted a woman watching ‘How to lose a guy in 10 days’ on the way to work – in the morning! Watching Kate Hudson is generally painful but watching her before 8.00 am is masochism of next level.

The other day I was sitting in the subway when a woman complimented me on my earrings. I thanked her and checked which ones I was wearing. Turned out, I was wearing a pair of golf club earrings that my sister got me when I was in high school. She then asked me if I was a golfer. When I told her that I’ve never played golf, she was offended and said that I should not be allowed to wear something that beautiful if I was not an avid golfer. I did not know how to respond to that. She then asked me if I would sell her those earrings. By this time she had started scaring me a bit so I just took them off and told her she could take them for free (they are quite old anyways). Genuinely offended at that she told me she could not take off things off a person (though she had no qualms in harassing a perfect stranger for wearing a golf club in her ears despite not being a golfer). I then put my earrings in my pocket and told her that if it was any consolation, I have earrings with daggers but that does not mean I am an international assassin. That weirded her out enough to leave me alone. I bet she tells people during lulls in dinner parties that she met a brown international assassin in the subway once.

My trend of attracting old ladies of all kinds at airports and airplanes has followed me to the underground train world. I have met my fair share of old ladies who have asked me about ways to use phone apps, download songs on one’s phone and its effect on the data plan, complain about their grandkids who do not talk on phone like normal people but just text. I wanted to tell them that they should count their lucky stars that their grandkids still talk to them and do not insist on snapchat but held myself back because that would require a fresh round of explanations.

There are some other people who would love to tell others how open-minded they are, at times embarrassingly so. Apparently the best way to tell perfect strangers how you are not a narrow minded wasp (White Anglo Saxon Person) is to whip your phone out and show them highly inappropriate photographs of you canoodling with your boyfriend of colour. I mean why are Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian judged for doing it in front of the camera! I think half the world’s population would like the other half to know that they are getting some.

There are some of those nosey types who shamelessly read whatever you are reading on your phone. At times, you want to scream at them, “Take your own phone out asshole!”

 

Last week, a very cheerful guy sat next to me in the bus. He smiled and said hi, I responded with a smile and a hi. He then commented on the good weather and told me how glad he was that I was in Canada and not in my country. Now, I know Pakistan is not really a choice tourist destination but it stung a little, so I asked him why he was particularly glad that I was not in my country.

“Oh they raped and killed and then hung two girls in your country, right?  At least you are safe here,” said he waving a copy of Metro (the free newspaper that is available at every subway station and bus terminal in Toronto) in my face. I agreed with him that it was indeed a tragic incident but not one that happens to all the women in India. I mean it’s a country of 1.2 billion people and more than half of them are women who are obviously not dead. I then told him I am not an Indian. “Oh so what country are you from?” he asked, and when I told him Pakistan (should’ve known better) he smiled even more and said, “Ah you are from the country where they killed the pregnant lady with bricks. That’s tragic too.” The man’s cheery tone as he rattled off this latest piece of tidbit to emerge from my country forced me to get off earlier than I had to, quickly trying to put as much distance as I could between me and his joyfully morbid fascination with tragic deaths in South Asia.

One day, I just happened to pick up Foucault for light summer reading and I swear I was not trying to be a pretentious shmuck. I always had to read him under duress and I believe that one ends up hating the best of writers if they become part of the syllabus, so I picked his ‘The Order of Things’ and was reading it in the bus when a really old man sat down next to me. He started off with no preamble.

“You look like someone who has been to a college, right?”

“Yes, far too many if you ask me,” I replied.

“Yeah, like you have some kind of masters degree?”

“I actually have two masters degrees,” I grimaced.

“So you must be one of those people who do nothing but make quarter of a million for going to college for many years,” he looked at me as if I am responsible for shrinking his retirement investment or something.

I have a lot of patience for older folks but if someone overestimates my finances, it does get my goat. I mean If I was making that kind of money, wouldn’t I be driving a BMW convertible and not listening to his crap!

I hate driving and I realize I hate public transport with the same gusto. I now want Harry Potter’s broom to take me places. A flying carpet would do as well.

First published in The Friday Times 

Another victim of misogyny or is it Shariah!

Just about everyone, including UN Commission on Human Rights, has heard and condemned how Farzana Iqbal was pelted with stones and bricks outside Lahore High Court. Farzana was attacked by her family including her father, brothers and former fiance because she chose a marry a man she loved and her family did not approve of that union. She died as a result of that attack, her unborn child also died with her. As if that was not tragic enough, the newspaper report manage to push in a quote by a useless policeman  judging the husband for fleeing the scene to save his life and not being there to die with his wife.  The exact line was

A police official said Muhammad Iqbal was not near Farzana as she was attacked but did not try to prevent the attack, instead saving himself from the members of her family.

It was a brutal crime – a horrific murder – that was committed in front of many witnesses but given the way shariah has literally screwed with most laws in Pakistan, the murderers would not be apprehended because this is how qisas and diyat roll. Your family, instead of state has the power to pardon or seek money instead of justice. As most honour killings are committed by families, they decide pardon.  Husbands, fathers and brothers kill their female family members with impunity because they know that they can get away with it. At times, when they feel like killing someone else, they kill a female member of the family along with the other person to save their hides citing honour killing as a valid reason.

A good 15 years ago, I was interning for a human rights organization and I was given the task to go to court with one of the lawyers and to report on the way court works from a layperson’s view. I was quite excited because I had never seen a real court room before. My colleague was representing a woman seeking khula because her husband was violent and a serial rapist. I naively suggested that getting divorced under those circumstances would not be difficult. My colleague, who spent most of her professional life dealing with douches of all variety was a lot less optimistic. We went in the court room and my colleague presented a couple of witnesses who testified that the husband was indeed a sadistic violent man. The judge seemed uninterested through out and looked outside the tiny window during most of the proceedings. The minute we stepped out of the court room and into the veranda, the husband grabbed his wife and started beating her right there, in that corridor, in front of literally hundreds of people.

My colleague and I tried to stop that man, but after he pushed my colleague too hard, I did not go after him and tried to get the police constables on the duty to stop him, they did nothing more that to verbally ask him to not beat his wife. In the mean time, my lawyer colleague caught hold of the judge presiding that case and asked him to order the police or other court officials to stop it. The judge’s response was something that I will not forget till the day I die. He asked my colleague if the couple are still under nikah which was stupid because the lawyer was arguing for dissolution of that same nikah only a few minutes back. He then went on and said that as long as the woman is married to that man, he cannot do anything about it as it is a domestic matter, in any case, the religion allows it  (Jab tak yeh aurat apnay shuhar ke nikah mein hain, hum kuch nahen kar saktay, yeh gherloo azdawaji mamla hai, waisay bhi  mazhab ne ijazat dee huee hai). The husband also got his message across that he basically owns his wife so he left his sobbing wife behind and walked out of the court as if he did not break multiple laws in front of many witnesses. That was the day I realized for the first time that I was a second degree citizen in my own country and it was not just misogyny but the argument supporting misogyny that is at fault. Yes, I am talking about religious legislation and religious sanction that basically endorses every misogynist idea – be it polygamy, underage marriage, making husbands and fathers wali, Qanoon-e-shahadat, qisas, diyat, hudood to name a few.

The incident that happened 15 years back in Karachi High Court is responsible in a way for what happened with Farzana outside Lahore High Court. If that  judge had taken action against public display of violence against the wife back then, it would have set a precedent and perhaps more judges would have shown sensitivity in matters of gender discrimination.

Every one and his dog has condemned this murder but condemnation is cheap, it did not save Farzana and nor will it save future Farzanas. Everything is set against women – the legislation is against women when they get half the share in inheritance and their witness is considered to be half of that of a man. The society favours men, the economy favours men by recognizing their labour and paying them more for the same job, the familial set up is designed to put men on the pedestal and it all is rooted in religion. As long as religion forms the core of the legislation and how we conduct ourselves in public and private spaces, things will not change. Continue to blame the tool, (man and misogyny) because that is necessary and take measures to deal with it but also blame the argument (religion and how it supports that men are superior, women are subservient etc) that feeds that tool. Unless we are brave enough to address that, things will remain the same.

Aao Blasphemy Blasphemy Khelain – Hunger Games, Pakistan Edition

Do you know what is the most popular sports in Pakistan these days? If your answer is cricket, you are way off the mark. The most popular sport in Pakistan is called “Aao Blasphemy Blasphemy khelain” and it is more lethal than most blood sports out there.

There are no rules to this game. Any random person can get up and blame the other one of blasphemy and before you can ask them to spell blasphemy, the whole country gets involved in it. TV anchors conduct shows discussing that, regular folks like you and I share such text and videos on social media and feel smug about them no matter what their ideological stances are. Most people in Pakistan cannot even spell ideology because they are overwhelmed with “idiology” that surrounds their lives which is rather ironic considering the country was created on ideological grounds, but I digress.

While people in Pakistan continue to play their favourite sport called “Aao Blasphemy Blasphemy Khelain,” they fail to realize that unlike other sports, this one has real victims. There are people who have died because someone decided to play ‘blasphemy blasphemy’. Forget future dystopian literature where people play ‘Hunger Games,’for survival. In Pakistan, human rights defenders like Rashid Rehman play this game every day and pay the ultimate price – their lives. Rashid Rehman was killed for taking up the case of a young man Junaid Hafiz who somehow angered Jamat-e-Islami’s goons in Bahauddin Zakariya University and they blamed him for running a blasphemous page on facebook. I have a feeling that Junaid too will soon be killed by a defender of faith who wants a huge mansion on a corner plot in jannat that is promised to him for killing a blasphemer – evidence against it be damned.

Junaid’s case gives me jitters every time I think about it because it could very easily have been me. Back in 2010, I was teaching a Gender 101 class in a private university and one make student got up and said “men are superior and whatever you are teaching us about physiological differences and psycho-social differences and how one is physical and the other is constructed is wrong.” When I asked him how he came to this conclusion, he said that Islam taught him that and any man made theory is wrong in comparison to what the religion has taught him and whatever I am teaching in the class is incorrect and blasphemous.

It was a three hour long class and I had a lot to cover in those three hours so I told him that he had every right to disagree with me, but I would go ahead with the class because what I was teaching was part of the curriculum and if he had issues with that, he was most welcome to drop the class, it was not like it was a compulsory course.

Just to be on the safe side, I registered that incident with the Dean’s office and forgot all about it. I left Karachi soon after that. One year later, Salmaan Taseer was killed because he too was accused of blasphemy and that was the day I realized how lucky I was that I was actually teaching in a private university with no Muslim Students or Jamat-e-Islami presence on the campus. Had it been Punjab University or Karachi University, I would probably have not survived to tell this tale. So when people go ahead and post news about how Rashid Rehman had it coming or how Junaid deserves to die, I feel like someone is actually writing my own death sentence again and again and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. I was lucky that I escaped that but Junaid most probably will not and that survivor’s guilt will hound me for the rest of my life.

The latest entrant in the blasphemy game is Mubashir Lucman who accused Geo Entertainment of blasphemy because the TV channel played a wedding song where the bride and groom are likened to the daughter of Prophet Bibi Fatima Zehra and Ali Ibn-e-Talib.  Had Mubashir Lucman ever been to s Shia wedding, he would have known that Shias like to immortalize the family of the prophet and it is quite a common occurrence at Shia weddings.

Funnily enough another video popped up where ARY, the channel that Mubashir Lucman works for, has played the same song/qawwali at another wedding (It is another debate why every goddamned morning show in Pakistan is hell bent on broadcasting live weddings at 9.00 am every other day). Ironically, the debate in Pakistan is not about how ridiculous this blasphemy game is but about how they both have committed blasphemy. It is not just Shia weddings; even Sunni weddings have wedding songs   about presence of Rasool-e-Pak at the event so anyone who sings those songs can also be called a blasphemer. The day is not far when Pakistan would become a country of blasphemers because everyone would accuse the other of blasphemy to out moralize everyone around them.

The blasphelmy fatwa games started with individuals and have now reached organizations; it is only logical that inanimate objects would be issued fatwas for committing blasphemy in near future. Forget Mullahs and Sunni Ittehad Council and all the other councils who vow to defend the honour of the people who are long gone by killing the living breathing ones because it is their raison d’être. It is the regular folks who are partaking in this game as they are complicit in those murders by sharing the beliefs perpetuated by the Mullahs and by sharing those news items on social media and by not questioning the goons who use blasphemy law as a murder weapon because blasphemy law is a murder weapon – the safest ultimate murder weapon out there. If you kill someone inciting blasphemy, chances are that you will never be held responsible and if you do get apprehended on an off chance, you are guaranteed free legal services and would be garlanded on every court appearance you make and no judge in the land of pure would dare to sentence you because at the end of the day, survival instincts trumps everything else.

Why my instagram account sucks?

I was at work when this kid  – at my age all fresh faced recent graduates seem like kids – asks, “Is anybody on Facebook these days?” Before any of us uncool (read old) people could’ve confessed to having an active FB account, he went, “Only women in their fifties are using Facebook, and Twitter is for attention seeking celebrities and bitter politicians; people who matter are on Instagram and snapchat.”

Now I don’t even want to know what snapchat is (okay I know what it is but I never ever want to go there, like ever!) but I do have an Instagram so I reassured myself that I may not yet be a relic from days past. I must confess that I only made an account because my phone was acting weird and every picture I took came out with a bluish hue, and unless I filtered the hell outta all the pictures they looked like they belonged in smurf world. That is how my Instagram account was born. But one look at my follower count and you would know it hasn’t seen much success since its arrival into the world. Even people who are my FB friends do not follow me on Instagram. For a while I was hurt by this cyber neglect from friends but then realized there are reasons why my Instagram sucks:

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No panoramic views with positive gyan

No kidding, but there are people out there who wake up in the morning, take amazing panoramic shots from their windows, perhaps a selfie while contorting their bodies into some yoga asana and spread a positive message about winning the day, capturing the moment or something equally cheesy. I, on the other hand, wake up with just enough time to make myself presentable before I hop on the subway to get to work. I also do not live in a posh building overlooking a lake or an idyllic park. How many photographs can a person take of their backyard? Hence no early morning images to make my fellow Instagrammers hit that follow button.

No brunching with ‘my girls’

I work from 8.00 am to 5.00 pm. It is humanly impossible for me to do brunch. I eat granola bars or random bananas and yogurt on the subway and grab my caffeine of choice on my way to work. Secondly, a lack of ‘my girls’ in Toronto (where I live these days) is a bit of a hindrance in taking glam shots over a meal that didn’t even exist when I was young. My girls with whom I would love to brunch (yes, brunch is so cool, it is practically a verb now) live in places far far away, like Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Mumbai, Chennai, London, The Hague, Los Angeles and New York (okay New York is not that far away, I concede).

My office is not cool (neither am I)

Yes, offices in chic post-industrial loft style buildings with brick walls, exposed beams, high ceilings and cute cacti on desks where hipsters and cool people work do exist outside Indie films. I have been to at least three to know it’s true, but I do not work in a place like that. My workplace is a windowless, doorless cubicle and I am a human drone barley existing in that corporate environment. All I can do is post photos of a whiteboard where someone has written something illegible. The most excitement I can do is post a picture of the coffee machine. Plus, I work on an old-fashioned Dell desktop, not the latest gizmo from the Apple stable. In all honestly, even if I had a Macbook Air, I could not post a selfie with a line like “Getting my workaholic on.” I mean, seriously?!

No selfies!

Selfie might have been the word of 2013 and everyone from Kim Kardashain to Barak Obama is taking one – or one thousand – but I have never taken a selfie. Yes, not even a single one. Nor do I plan to start now, unless someone is offering me money to do it. I mean I can only embarrass myself for money, as one should, but so far, no one is biting, so I am living with my ‘no selfie’ rule. When you do not take a selfie every third hour of the day, what are you gonna post on Instagram? Your food?

No exotic meals

For Cybergods, the only meals worth Instagramming are Kale salads and Kiwi cleanse juice, with captions that go: “Rushing to Whole Foods before it closes for the night”. Unfortunately, I do not eat alluring exotic food because I am poor, and pretty food costs a lot of money. I also feel quite out of place at Whole Foods because I am always the only brown person there. No matter how creative I try to be, I know I will never get followers if I post my food that consists of frozen pizza, dal chawal and aloo gosht. I also do not understand why people hashtag their food with #FoodPorn. I mean why?

I do not hashtag my life

#FoodPorn brings us to the fact that I do not hashtag my life. I do not post a selfie with a pout and a million hashtags that go something like #bored #WhatToDoWithMyLife #TwentiesAreFunk #SomebodyGetMeOutOfMyOffice #MissMyBoo among others. I also do not post photos of funky shoes and hashtag them #ShoePorn. I also wonder about the lack of profundity that comes with various hashtags that use the word porn which makes me decidedly uncool, hence not follow worthy.

No famous friends

I have no famous friends. No one will follow me to get glimpses of my life with my cool celeb ‘hangs’. My friends are like me – ordinary folks – who eat non-fancy food, take non-exotic vacations, pick twitter fights with people professing love for Tasleema Nasreen (no substance, just nuisance value) or Jennifer Lawrence (forced adult cutesiness makes me throw up in my mouth) or Paulo Coelho (because sane people do not quote Paulo Coelho). Lack of overtly cutesy friends with no nuisance value and no pop philosophy are just another reason for my shameful number of Instagram followers.

Last but not the least, I am not a millionaire poker player

Yes, there is a guy out there with millions of followers because he is rich, posts photos of guns, really fancy cars and not so fancy women. Sometimes he kills it by posting photos of bundles of $100 bills. As I have no access to fancy cars (I use public transport), guns or scantily clad women, my Instagram account shall remain forever unpopular.

Hmm…I think I can live with that. Hey look, Facebook just revamped its interface again!

 

 

First published in The Friday Times

Photo credit: _minabelle_ and this particular photo

Mar 27, 2014 - Personal, Toronto    2 Comments

Spring in Toronto – or lack thereof

 

Like every other city, Toronto has its own set of peculiarities and oddities. The biggest and most well-known oddity is of course election of Mayor Ford because Torontonians – in general – are gracious, open minded, left leaning, liberal and polite and Mayor Ford is anything but; yet he got elected and there is a very clear and present fear that he may get elected again this fall.

The other oddity is spring. Officially, March 22 is the first day of spring but unfortunately, Mother Nature did not receive the memo and it was something around -4 degree Celsius on March 22 and –12 degrees yesterday and about -1 right now, so yes, it seems that the weather gods are fickle and the jury is still out whether spring will make its appearance this month. I just want to be clear that by spring we do not mean spring like they do in other parts of the world, people in Toronto would be glad to have a no snow no subzero temperature for start and will patiently wait for May to actual spring to descend.

People cannot control weather but what they can and do control is their wardrobe. They say power of positive thinking can change anything  in the world. Does it extend to weather? I don’t know, but some Torontonians are beckoning spring – by shedding warm clothing. I mean it is still cold and windy enough to warrant a warm jacket with a thick scarf if not gloves and toque, but some brave souls – or people who are in denial about spring – have decided to shun their woolies and have decided to parade around in – gasp – dress shirts!

Hat’s off to you guys. I hope your positive outlook – at least about spring – can consciously uncouple the city with this winter. It has been relentless this year.

Jan 14, 2014 - Pakistan, Personal, Politics, rant    No Comments

Things that pissed me off last week

Last week, I wrote a piece called “19 reasons why you should NOT become besties with your BFF’s girlfriend.” Now those of you who have been reading my blog would know that I tend to rant like this occasionally where I try to write in a self-effacing manner to inject some humour without sounding like a patronizing prick but some people just tend to take everything so literally which pisses me off to no end.

Quite obviously, topping the list of things that pissed me off last week are the responses I got on that particular piece.

The first question that I was asked, “Was it biographical?”

If a writer is writing in first person or second person, it does not necessarily mean it is her life story. Sometimes a story sounds better in third person, sometimes it sounds better in first person and the aforementioned story was in second person – a first for me. Yes, I happen to have male friends and I do get along very well with their significant others. I may have borrowed something from one or two of them but it was not my life story, nor was it theirs. It did not say that it was autobiographical.

The second question was, “If you love your BFF love so much (my BFF – as mentioned in that article – was a man), why don’t you date him yourself?”

Like I said earlier, it was not an autobiography. Secondly, telling a woman to date a guy whom she called a man-child on a public forum, not the smartest of ideas I am afraid.

Another comment that came after my response to the first question was, “You sure it did not happen? It read like a kinky dystopian triangle.

Dystopian and love triangle!

If there is one thing I hate more than the abuse of word dystopian, it is the whole concept of romantic triangles. Argh!

The other thing that pissed the hell outta me was Jennifer Lawrence being — well Jennifer Lawrence. Back in the day when she started photo bombing people during award shows, people found it endearing. I did not, but I tolerated it. Two years later, she is still photo bombing and people still think it’s cute, I mean WTF? As if that was not enough, she said that she wanted to push Taylor Swift off the red carpet to sound goofy and the world loved it? I mean popularity of reality TV is an indication of general dumbing down of the society but cheering that on did hurt me in my soul.

Wake up people; go read a book (but nothing by Stephanie Meyers and that 50 shades lady) take a walk in the park, think and reflect and you will realize that no one is that cute. It is all orchestrated. Appreciate it for the amazing personal branding but please don’t fall for it.

Colton Haynes has all my respect for trolling Jennifer Lawrence

 

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Imran Khen being the tool that he is

 

Rounding off the things that pissed me off last week was Imran Khan insulting Sindhis by calling Mahmud Ghaznavi the liberator of the land (he never liberated it, only raided it so it was historically incorrect as well). I mean we all know that he is not the sharpest tool around (he is just a tool) but likening yourself to the invader and looter of the land takes a different level of insensitivity. The fact that Imran Khan actually tweeted that did not piss me because I expect that from him. The fact that some people actually cheered that message pissed me off like nothing else.

Wondering when will we get our heads out of our asses, if we ever will, and see the things they are.

Jan 10, 2014 - Humour, Personal, published work    2 Comments

19 reasons why you should NOT become besties with your BFF’s girlfriend

You met her because your BFF was dating her. You end up liking her – partly because she was the love of your BFF’s life and because she was so much fun to bitch with while your BFF was busy doing other stuff – like playing the latest version of Grand Theft Auto and discussing the finer points of La Liga points table with his mates.

You bond over your love of achaar, your hatred for work in development sector and your sartorial choices which range from standard Levi’s to Khaadi, to colorful shoes and eclectic Sunday Bazaar picks. You both think that chai paratha is the best breakfast ever. You both secretly hate the fact that you are adult women who not only listen to Taylor Swift songs but sing them along when appropriate – which is like always. You both agree that no matter how fashionable it is to eat frozen yogurt instead of regular dessert, you will never give in to the fad. You bond over the fact that New Girl is a stupid show and that you loath Zooey Deschanel and her fake lashes with unmitigated gusto and no, her rejection of Jospeh Gordon-Levitt in 500 Days of Summer has nothing to do with that hatred, you just hate her for being so overly cutesy and quirky with her bobby collar dresses and hipster eye wear. Real successful adult women cannot be that cutesy and survive to tell the tale. You both agree that while Ryan Gosling is hot, there is something about Bradley Cooper (probably his voice and the fact that he can rock black bin liners) that tilts the scale in his favour.

You both like overpriced coffee and read obscure books that other people have not heard of. In fact you take immense pleasure in introducing such hidden gems to the world and then preen when the world falls in love with those books and writers. You both take immense pride in being the snarkiest girls around and practice your jabs on your BFF for shit and giggles. You help your BFF plan perfect dates and help him buy the most thoughtful gifts because you do not want her to ever leave your BFF.

You love your BFF even more for falling in love with this perfect girl and you are planning their wedding in your head because you know that you will eventually end up alone and you will ask them to let you stay in their guest bedroom when you are all old and frail and need each other to remind which pills to take with your breakfast and which pills to take before you go to bed.

One day, BFF’s girlfriend brought another dude along – some family friend’s son who is living it up in Dubai – and tries to set you up with him. You look at your BFF’s girl and ask if she has lost her mind? It’s not like you have anything in common with the Dubai dude who is a gold trader and wears more jewelry that you would ever wear – and you do wear jewelry. Next thing you know, BFF’s girlfriend got engaged to the gold trader from Dubai and dumped your BFF with a photo of her engagement ring that she sent via MMS. Like all good things, this too was too good to last and your dreams of a blissful old age died before any of you reached the retirement age.

You are in a dilemma – who do you stay friends with and who do you dump? Your BFF is your BFF but he is basically a man child who is keener on gaming than settling down so you do get why your BFF’s girl did what she did. But then you also judged her for not breaking off with your BFF before she decided to let the richie rich from Dubai court her and you judged her for that. You also hated that because you never judged her before; it was always the two of you judging other people, never each other. Luckily, you all dispersed into three different corners of the globe after that and your friendship shrunk to Facebook likes and whatsapp messaging. This breakup happened quite a few months back but it was only recently that she tied the knot with the richie rich from Dubai and posted the photos on facebook which made you relive your pain.

You know it for a fact that your lives are gonna go on divergent paths – you make presentations in Prezi for a living, shovel snow every morning to get to work and use public transport, while BFF’s former girlfriend will probably live in a palatial house, procreate soon and will have Filipino maids raise her brood while Richie rich gets richer in Dubai.

To paraphrase Adele, you could have had it all but then you didn’t. You think this break up was harder on you than your BFF. He has football and Xbox to console him, what do you have? Absolutely nothing. Not even sad songs because Adele has found new love and is blissfully happy.

You realize that you either need a new girlfriend or you should ask your BFF to move near you and start dating another perfect girl but with his track record, chances are that he will lose her to Zelda or GTA IV or some other video game that will leave you just as heartbroken as you are right now. You realize that you should start acting like an adult and invest for your future because obviously, moving in with BFF and his future wife is not the best retirement plan.

 PS: As you can see, there is no listing or actual 19 reasons. I only wanted to sound like a Buzzfeed article. People at  Buzzfeed, please hire me so I can fulfill my dreams of writing about things like – 16 reasons why Harvey Specter’s suits are better tailored that Don Draper’s.

First published in The Friday Times

 

Email encounters of the other kind!

I get emails – almost anyone who exists in the virtual world gets emails – even if when they do not share that email address with anyone, they still get emails from Nigerian investor wanting to invest in their business and their email provider’s admin. I, unlike other people, get weird emails and I am not talking about spam here.

The emails I get are all not just weird, they cover a very broad range of spectrum. They could be people asking me to give them Urdu language tuition (never taught Urdu in any of my lives and though I speak it fluently and enjoy Urdu literature like any other enthusiast, I cannot teach Urdu Grammar to save my life – sarf-o-nahu anyone?), people sending marriage proposals after reading my articles (they are almost always men from India with a couple of random rishtas from Middle East but I have a feeling that they too would be Indian men), aunties seeking education advice for their sons and daughters (I am supposed to be awesome at fooling universities into providing grants and waiving fees – which I am obviously not – otherwise I would be enrolled in some kind of doctoral program instead of working and dreaming about a life where I would be rich enough to be idle) and people inviting me to expensive “Lawn” exhibitions (people in Pakistan would know what that phenomenon is, the rest don’t need to worry about that and those who know me must wonder why I get those invites considering how sartorially challenged I am).

The point of this whole tirade is that I get weird emails and should not be shocked when I get offers of digital qurbani (slaughtering your goat via skype) and “exclusive” dating services specializing in highly qualified brown people, but nothing prepared me for the email that was waiting for me this morning in my inbox. I actually went WTF out loud on my morning commute – much to the chagrin of an Asian lady sitting next to me at my very unladylike language.

The text of that email was

“I am working on a fiction book which includes a female character’s experiences with online dating. The woman is in her late 40s. I am soliciting stories from women who have dated online. I need unusual, weird, crazy, scary stories. Your name will not be used. Specifics will be changed to protect your privacy. You will NOT be paid for your story.

If you are a single woman – divorced, widowed or never married – who is 40 or older and have met and dated men via online dating websites, please contact. Since this is a Christian novel, stories have to be clean stories. No sex or deviant behaviour, no use of alcohol or drugs and no bad language please. Like I said earlier, keep it clean.

I mean really?

I tried to muster some outrage because the sender thought I was over 40 and over eager (no disrespect for those who go for online dating) enough to have an okcupid profile but come on! How can one not laugh at the message that is clearly bonkers? You want stories of online dating but no salacious details! Why would anyone want to read a book that has nothing going for it? I mean I am no pervert who would want to know details that should not be shared but if you take the bite out of life then what else is left? Would people actually shell out money to read about the stories of online dating for women over forty if it is going to be about creeps stalking your facebook profile, some hand holding of non-platonic kind and group sessions about Jesus saving your sorry selves? That book sounds like a snoozefest even before it is written.

Is there really a market for Christian romance out there? Probably in the Bible belt. I, for one, never thought there was a market for mommy porn but 50 shades proved me and the rest of the snooty people wrong. Who really knows what people actually want, Christian online romance may turn out to be the next big thing, after all Nicholas Sparks’ A Walk to Remember was not only a best seller, it also launched Mindy Moore’s rather tame acting career.

Sep 18, 2013 - Feminism, Personal    1 Comment

Living with a rape schedule

“When I was in college, a teacher once said that all women live by a ‘rape schedule.’ I was baffled by the term, but as she went on to explain, I got really freaked out. Because I realized that I knew exactly what she was talking about. And you do too. Because of their constant fear of rape (conscious or not), women do things throughout the day to protect themselves. Whether it’s carrying our keys in our hands as we walk home, locking our car doors as soon as we get in, or not walking down certain streets, we take precautions. While taking precautions is certainly not a bad idea, the fact that certain things women do are so ingrained into our daily routines is truly disturbing. It’s essentially like living in a prison – all the time. We can’t assume that we’re safe anywhere: not on the streets, not in our homes. And we’re so used to feeling unsafe that we don’t even see that there’s something seriously fucked up about it.” —      Jessica Valenti

After reading this excerpt from one of the many amazing piece written by Jessica Valenti, I too looked back at my life and realized that all of this is true. And as I have spent a better part of my life – esp teenage years – in Pakistan, the problem faced by me and women like me is even more complex. As a middle class Pakistani woman, I was raised to look at every man as potential rapist hence things as simple as rolling down the car window and asking for directions have been pondered upon relentlessly, often times not asking men for directions because we thought someone will jump at us.

That was me as a teenager, I overcame that fear as an adult but continued to develop other safeguards. I once drove with a bust tyre instead of changing it like a normal person because it was dark and there was not much traffic on the road. After a particularly scary incident in Islamabad, I even bought myself a taser because I thought I may actually need to use it.

At times I wonder if women in any part of the world are free of this ‘rape schedule’. Do they even realize that this is what they are living with and that they need to break free and that one of the most important ways to fight back is to raise sons who are conscientious and treat women like fellow human beings, and not potential playmates. Are there any mothers among us who do not judge other women in front of their sons explicitly because they want them to grow into decent adults?

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