Browsing "Personal"
Sep 18, 2013 - Books, Personal    1 Comment

Ten Things I’ve Learnt About Love

To say that I loved ‘Ten things I’ve Learnt About Love’ by Sarah Butler would be an understatement. Yes, I loved it but I also felt that I have lived that book, that life, those choices and those regrets.


I checked out the book because I liked the cover. It is styled as a list and even though I am not a person who makes lists, but I am drawn to them so I picked up the book. The two protagonists – Daniel and Alice – are both lost and looking for something. Alice has returned to London just in time to say good bye to her dying father and Daniel is a man looking for a daughter he’s never met. Every chapter is alternately narrated by Alice and Daniel and starts with a list of ten things which tells us a lot about the characters. It is also my favourite part of the book. I think it helps if we make lists – even if we just want to share them with a shrink.

Reading it was not only emotional but also personal. Let me admit that there are way too many similarities between me and one of the protagonists of the book Alice, for me to feel even remotely neutral about the book. We both lost our mothers when we were very young and then lost our dads at about the same age. We both were youngest daughters and have this weird love hate relationship with our elder sisters. Just like Alice, I too had to sort my dad’s house after his death and then had to put it up on sale. Doing that in a grievous state is perhaps the single most difficult thing that I ever had to do so while I was reading it, I was reliving that time of my life.

I too lost the only home I knew with Dad’s death. It made me reassess my relationship with everything – my work, the rest of the family, my city because when you lose that one anchor that has kept you connected with the rest of the things in your life, you are lost and would be floundering and grappling with the very idea of a home and a sense of belonging. This book is all about that.

It is beautifully written poignant tale where you need to take time between chapters to think and contemplate and ask questions. The characters are not nice nor are they black and white – they are real – like most of us with a bit of good, a bit of bad and a sprinkling of oddities that makes us human and fallible. It’s a sad book yet it still is infused with hope. It is about affection and human connection, about identity that we attach to persons and home and about the hunt for something to hold on to.

It’s a love story but not a typical one. It’s a love story where you both wonder and search for something at the same time. It is also an ode to the city of London which is perhaps the most engaging character of the book.

I am giving this book a solid five star recommendation; readers who want everything spelled out would perhaps give it a two. Other readers may not feel the same connection with the book that I did because Alice and Daniel are not the most likeable characters out there, and you may not feel the same way about London as I do, but I would still like you to give it a try. It’s a great read for self reflection.

Dear Facebook, some of us are more than our biology

Note: This is a rant.

What in the name of internet gods is wrong with FaceBook?

Just because I am a woman of child bearing age who has not disclosed her relationship status, all the suggested likes on my timeline are about dating websites, new moms groups, fertility clinics, potty training, beauty clinics offering to make me smooth and dewy by lasers of all kinds, yoga websites, clothing companies, fashion designers, weight loss website or weight loss website pretending to be women’s health website. I mean seriously?

According to Facebook, people like me have got to be looking for romantic hook ups with other people through dating websites. If they are not looking for their online soul mate, they must either be procreating or trying to procreate through the help of the aforementioned clinics, or trying to potty train their spawn. If you are done with all that, then you must spend a fortune to try and look like teenager with no lines around the forehead and no body hair. You are also suggested to like designers you cannot afford (seriously what percentage of world population can afford Prada or Michael Kors!). If you are done with all that, then it is suggested that you must join yoga or a zumba or an aerobic class because unless you are made to feel horrible about your physique and body type, your internet experience is incomplete.

For the record, I just want to state that I don’t do online dating or speed dating. I am not a mom, young or old. I am currently not potty training anyone and if I ever get down to doing it, I most definitely will do it without plastering it on Faceook. I would also like to state that women are people too and just like their male counterparts, they have body hair. The world will not come to an end if a few women like me refuse to spend $2000 to make their legs smooth and shiny.

Get your act together Facebook, some of us are more than our biology and the identity that is thrust upon us by the society. Some of us take pride in being human beings without predisposed characteristics. It’s about time you realize that women are people too.


PS: I live in Canada so this is my personal experience, women living in different parts of the world may have a different facebook targeted marketing experience.

The F Word

Let’s just be very clear about one thing – ‘Feminist’ was never a very popular label to begin with. Since the first wave of feminism, feminists were labeled as men hating, religion shunning, morally ambiguous beings challenging the social order of the day. Though some things have changed since then – women suffrage is almost universal and most constitutions grant their female citizens basic civil rights – quite a few remains just as tough and the stigma attached to the label ‘feminist’ is just as clear and present as it was at the turn of 20th century.

While this abhorrence of the term feminist is quite commonplace, there is a new trend emerging of late. Female celebrities are getting up and denouncing feminism and declaring in the loudest possible voice that they are NOT feminists.

Why this regression in thought? Once upon a time we have had female celebrities who were headstrong and had no qualms about ruffling a few feathers and coming out as strong and independent women – be it Mae West or Dorothy Parker. Now everyone from Beyonce Knowles to Taylor Swift to Gwyneth Paltrow to Madhuri Dixit is at pains to declare it to the world that they are not feminists.

Just mention it to a female celebrity that she is considered a strong woman by her audience and perhaps she is a feminist and chances are that you will end up facing a deluge of words telling you that they are ‘oh so not a feminist’.

On one end you have someone like Lady Gaga who made absolutely no sense when she said, “I am not a feminist – I hail men, I love men. I celebrate American male and beer and bars and muscle cars,” because frankly a five year old – if he or she could articulate – would tell you that appreciation for beers or bars, loving men and demanding equality among genders are so not mutually exclusive. On the other hand you have Gwyneth Paltrow who distanced herself from feminism by stating that feminist activist Gloria Steinem wouldn’t approve of her lifestyle, having chosen to compromise her career for her family and relationship. Since when the approval of one woman – no matter how iconic a feminist she was – defines feminism and what it entails? Someone needs to tell Ms Paltrow that liberty of choosing a certain lifestyle is one of the basic tenets of feminism.

As late as earlier this year, Beyoncé in an interview stated, “That word [feminist] can be very extreme … I do believe in equality … But I’m happily married. I love my husband.” Somehow Ms. Knowles is under the impression that being happily married, having a family and loving your husband do not make one a feminist.

Demi Moore also joined the idiot bandwagon when she said that she finds the term feminism obsolete because the world does not need it any more. “I’m a great supporter of women, but I have never really thought of myself as a feminist,” she said. “I think clearly times have changed and women have made their mark in many different areas.”

Closer to home, Madhuri Dixit shunned the word feminist quite vociferously. “I don’t think I’m a feminist. I am independent and strong, which is what women should be like.”

As far as homegrown Pakistani celebrities are concerned, there has been no mention of the word feminist or feminism in any public discussion or media interaction – probably because our discourse is so religion heavy, it does not leave any room for non religious debate on anything, most certainly not on feminism.

It must be noted that despite eschewing the term feminism, these celebrities also try and tell the world that they are strong women who believe in equality and fair play because who would want to be called submissive, pliant and weak, right? Well newsflash for them because if they believe that women should be strong and independent and have the same rights at home, workplace and in the society then they too are feminists, they are just too much of a chicken to align themselves with the word and admit it publicly.

Why this rejection of the word feminism? Is it because of the all the misconceptions related to the word which basically says that all feminists are argumentative, dour faced, men hating lesbians (though in my opinion, there is nothing wrong with being either dour faced, argumentative or lesbian)? Is it because the celebs fear that by associating themselves with feminism, they will lose their popularity? Is it because we live in the social media dominated age where celebrities are constantly interacting with their fans and know what is expected of them and act and say the things accordingly? Or is it because these feminism shunning celebrities have given someone else the power to define what is acceptable (and feminism is not) and label themselves accordingly?

It is perhaps all the reasons cited above and more. Celebrities like Demi Moore and Lady Gaga rely on their popularity for their success and financial gains and are afraid to use the F word but it also drives home the point that there is no level playing field for women if they have to come out and say that they are not feminists, if anything it tells us that the world needs feminism and its feminist icons and role models.

Feminists do not hate men in general. Most of the women who label themselves as feminists like men just fine. In fact, they may state it more openly than their patriarchy endorsing sisters but that is not the point here. The point here is that they may like or dislike people for various reasons and they can be both men and women.

From Susan Sarandon to Beyonce, despite espousing the principals of feminism, they all shun the word – Beyonce suggested that something like bootylicious should replace feminism while Sarandon thinks humanist is a better word, but is that even the point? Had that been a natural progression of language where one word gives way to another, it would have been perfectly fine but this is not the case here. Female celebrities, who are role model to many, are actively shunning the word because of the negativity associated with it. It is not just a matter of semantics; there is a long history associated with the word and shunning it would mean not only denying that legacy but also dishonoring the struggles of women who made possible the freedoms we enjoy today through their efforts.

Feminism is not just a label, it was a movement – it still is a movement. It is not about the women who turn away from it for popularity but about fighting the fight against injustice for the people who do not enjoy the privilege of equality. The feminist worldview is about fighting patriarchy and creating a more just society for everyone which in turn would benefit everyone – men, women, children, animals and perhaps the environment.

Before these women get up and denounce feminism, have they stopped and pondered that it is feminism that has won us the vote, equal pay – at least in the law, the contraceptive options, property rights, and the right to education among others?

No matter what Demi Moore believes in, we are nowhere close to a world where feminism is not needed. The world is still deeply unequal and women everywhere are victims of discrimination on the basis of sex and it is dishonest to say that a feminism based rights movement is redundant. Even the nature of struggle has not changed – at least in a country like Pakistan where despite universal adult suffrage, there are pockets where women are not allowed to vote and no woman celeb had the decency to raise voice against it.

There was a time when associating oneself with gay rights was considered social hara-kiri. Now there is hardly anyone – at least in the Western world – who would openly say that they are against equal rights for LGBTs and this change happened because some people had the courage to get up and support what they believed in. Feminism needs such champions now. Ellen Page is one of those rare celebrities who wear their feminist identity with pride. She is not afraid of the label and believes that it needs to be out there. “How could it be any more obvious that we still live in a patriarchal world when feminism is considered a bad word?” asks Page.

Yes, these celebrities are no gender theorists and expecting them to be well versed in the academics of feminism is unrealistic, but expecting them to not disown feminism because it would mean more twitter followers or more popularity amongst the patriarchy supporting majority is not asking a lot. As famous people with clout, it is their responsibility to impact upon others to strive for a more just world. In any case, human beings are not just defined by one single label. We are complex creature and comprise of multiple identities – liberal or conservative, humanist, conformist or non conformist, democrat, socialist or capitalist and so on. It is about time we put an end to this ban on feminism as an articulated political and social concept and celebrities like Ellen Page, Kiera Knightly and Patrick Stewart (yes, men can be feminists too) who flaunt their feminist ideology will help in mainstreaming the word and the ideology.

Say it now, feminism is NOT a bad word. There is nothing wrong with being a feminist. I just hope that more people embrace it and help in ridding the word of all negative connotations.

Originally written for ViewPointOnlline

Jul 6, 2013 - Books, Personal    6 Comments

There is more to life than childish pursuit of happiness

There are more bad writers than there are good writers, just like there are more boring people than really interesting ones, it is like the law of nature – or something akin to it. What is tragic – at least in our times – that people prefer to read the truly awful ones instead of the few decent writers that are out there.

I could not care less about those who write vampire and werewolf stories or those who write badly written but best selling mommy porn, we all know that it is crap and it will go down in history as such. It is the pseudo intellectual philosophical babble that people try to pass as literature that gets my goat. What irritates me even more than popularity of best selling pop philosophy is the use of words like iridescent and constant optimism it spreads.

The world is a dark dark place, life is a bitch and then you die and after that there is an endless vacuum. Yes, there is no light at the end of the tunnel, in fact many do not even get to see the end of the tunnel so why can’t people get their heads around that and be content with misery which in my opinion is a natural state of being.

Why there are more people who read and actually believe in the garbage spewed by Coelho than someone like Kafka?  A line like this – “When you really want something to happen, the whole world conspires to help you achieve it” – is nothing but merely a line, the universe continues to function like it should; however, “There is an infinite amount of hope in the universe… but not for us” is not just a line, it is the truth.

Here is to accepting truth and living with loneliness, sadness and misery. There is nothing wrong with that, in fact this constant pursuit of happiness is rather childish and looks okay only on a Hallmark greeting card.



PS: Started writing this post on Kafka’s birthday but got sidetracked and started reading the metamorphosis once again. Now go and buy a decent book and read it and reflect. You guys owe it to yourselves.


Mother tongue and the other tongues


Human beings are designed to either want things or to want to do things. Most have a list of things they would like to do or get or achieve before they hit the bucket. It can range from wanting to walk the Appalachian Trail to wanting to become the CEO of a Fortune 500 company to having 17 wives and over 100 kids. (I’m not joking: there is actually a person in the UAE who is doing this, and that too with government funding.)

My own wishes are a bit more prosaic and don’t require me to walk through a country or hike to a mountain peak or procreate like crazy. One of them is to become multilingual.

There is merit in learning languages other than the one you grew up speaking. (This applies especially to speakers of English, which almost everyone speaks these days.) I don’t want to learn a new language because it would look cool on my college application – been there, done that, multiple times – without ever knowing a third language. In fact, I already have three degrees and if I even think about going back to school (which I secretly do), my sisters will commit me to a mental institution. The doctors at the mental institution will have to coin a new term for my disease which would sound something like “addicted to being a student so she can do all the peculiar stuff she wants to and stay unemployed while pretend to pursue academic excellence”… but I digress. I also don’t want to learn a new language just so I can be known as that “crackpot who can speak Ukrainian”; there are enough reasons already for me to be classified as a crackpot (Ukranian or no Ukranian). I don’t even want to be called a well-rounded person because I am a well-rounded person. As a matter of fact, I need to turn some of that roundedness into muscle, but I digress again. My problem is this: every time I decide to learn a new language, something happens that puts me off it. It is either a series of unfortunate events or a horrid person or my lack of perseverance or a combination of it all, but I am yet to master a third language – I have checked, sarcasm doesn’t count as a language, although it should, given that it is the Esperanto of our time – and I am digressing yet again.

Anyone who knows me knows my love for Ghalib. When people land in Delhi for the first time, they want to eat food at Dilli Haat or see Qutub Minaar or have their pictures taken at Laal Qila. I went to pay respect to Mirza Ghalib at his mazaar. Abba (not the Mama Mia fame 70s pop act – I call my father Abba) used to say that in order to fully appreciate Ghalib one must know Farsi. And so I always wanted to learn it to understand Ghalib better.

But my 45-day trip to Iran – I was working on a travelogue for a TV channel – stripped me of all the love and affection I had for the language. All I can now remember is the haggling I did in grammatically incorrect Farsi at the Grand Bazaar of Tehran and how the Irani actor who was working on our project complained that he had been sexually propositioned by a Pakistani actor and how I first had to placate him and then requested him not to register a complaint in a weird mix of barely-there Persian and English with a few Urdu and Punjabi expletives thrown in for my personal satisfaction. I had to do that to get out of that country without getting entangled with law enforcement agencies because we were told that homosexual advances are considered a non-bailable offence in Iran. I wanted to learn Persian to appreciate Ghalib’s poetry more and ended up groveling to a guy for not reporting an incident of sexual aggression – something I don’t believe in – to save my skin along with that of my crew. That took care of my fascination with Persian. (Now I only throw random phrases of Farsi in the middle of arguments to sound learned.)

As a child, I also wanted to learn Arabic because I naively thought it would guarantee me a place in heaven. Growing up generally and dealing with a Saudi stalker at university who refused to register the fact that no amount of petro dollars would make him popular with normal folks took care of my childish enthrallment with Arabic (to say nothing of the visions of paradise associated with the language). The fact that I can still fool my European friends at Dubai airport into believing that I know Arabic by reading the flight schedule in the language also played a part (why learn a new language when people think that you know it already?).

Another language I have toyed with is French. I hate snooty waiters at French restaurants who correct my pronunciations. I dream of going to a French restaurant and ordering Soupe au pistou, Boeuf Bourguignon and Salade Niçoise without fumbling once. Back in college, I tried speaking French with my friend Frédéric but every time I tried take the name of a dish, he cracked up and dashed my hopes of holding my head high in a French restaurant and proudly order escargot borguignonne – the thing is that I don’t even eat snails, I only wanted to order them, without repeating the word thrice to make sure that waiter got my order.

Back in college I lived in student halls and when we got a brand new community room with a huge TV (I graduated 9 years ago, so that TV was a big deal) I wanted to enjoy that too. The problem was that every time I would go there – and I tried sneaking in at 3 a.m. – the room would be full of Greek students watching football. I had to give in eventually and learned to appreciate football with them. Not only that, but I also learned to enjoy Greek food, how to order it in the lone Greek takeaway in the neighbourhood and all the choice swear words in Greek that people in my building used to hurl at their teams when they would not do well. If I ever end up attending a football match in Thessaloniki or Athens, I would be totally at home out-swearing the wildest of sports hooligans. They say – and I don’t know who “they” are – that if you know how to swear in a language, it is half the battle won, so perhaps I can say that I “get by” in Greek.

Unfortunately, proficiency with Greek cusswords is not a skill I can list on my Linked In profile and hope to increase my chances of landing a high-paying job. The way things are in Greece right now, that will probably make me eligible for an economic bailout.

I think it is time I get serious about learning a new language and I have decided to concentrate on Spanish for various reasons. For starters, I have actually attended one La Liga match in Madrid.  Secondly, I have seen all Pedro Almodóvar films. Thirdly, I have always wanted to sing along Spanish songs and what can be a better incentive to learn a new language than singing along the songs that you liked but could not understand.

Hola Español, Here I come.

Originally written for The Friday Times the image is also reproduced from The Friday Times

Passing desi-isms as sage advice

Most people think that they have this one major problem and if they could change that about themselves, they believe their lives would improve drastically. Some people think that if they lose weight, or manage their anger or embrace spontaneity, their lives would be better. In my case, it is my lack of ability to say no that always ruins it for me. If I somehow manage to say the golden word NO, I end up with so much guilt that I actually regret making the right decision.

If only someone was teaching a course on how to politely say, “Please God, No”, “Not my problem” and “Whatever!” without losing friends and alienating people, I would jump the queue — and I never jump the queue, despite being Pakistani from all sides of the family — to sign up for that course.

The problem gets even more intense when you move to a new country. Unless you are moving to Outer Mongolia or Chilean Highlands — and I have my doubts about Chilean Highlands — chances are that you will encounter your fair share of desis, who will try and interfere with your life, dish out counsel when none is sought and try to sell you things and services that you have no use of. Saying no to that is not just difficult, it is almost impossible.

Everyone who has the opportunity to move to a country will probably meet people from the old country who may or may not help them get settled. When someone from our part of the world — I mean South Asia in general and Pakistan in particular — moves to another country there would always be loads of people from the home countries dishing out desi-isms and passing them on as sage advice.

There will always be people around you who would want to guide you in your job search — they probably have moved to that new country 15 years ago when the job market was drastically different — and easier to break into — but they will try and force their opinion on how you should carve out a career in your adopted country and will offer you a ten dollar an hour job at their father-in-law’s super store selling biryani masala and Bollywood DVDs to bored desi housewives.

It does not really matter that you are trained as a lawyer or an IT professional or a speech therapist, they will tell you that everyone goes through this because they have been through this.

Some of them will not only suggest that you take that butchery course from your local community college but will also have the cheek to say that you will enjoy it because it is so different from what you have been doing before – you could be an Economist in your old country but they would not care. You feel like practicing some of those butchery skills on them and ask how in the name of everything that is holy and sacred can a vegetarian with two post grad degrees ever enjoy being a butcher?

Some of them will tell you where to rent an apartment and whom you should rent it from — it would almost always be some relative of their wives trying to con you into getting a smaller/smellier apartment in name of desi camaraderie and brotherhood.

Telling them that you have decided to share an apartment with a Jamaican co-worker close to your workplace will result in high dramatics. From telling you that your mom will be disappointed in you for spurning their amazing offer to making you feel horrible about not renting their space as they kept the apartment vacant for you because they knew your brother’s mother-in-law’s neighbours back in 1980s.

You being the ungrateful FOB not only decided to move in with your co-worker but you choosing a black person to share your living space will be taken as a personal insult. There will be implied or explicit racism — depending upon how integrated they are in the society — and they will regale you with tales of how someone they knew lived next to an apartment where one of the residents — almost always a black person — slit the throat of his/her flat mate and robbed them off their worldly possessions.

You try telling them that your Jamaican friend — a widowed lady of 55 — has only decided to share her apartment because she is suffering from an empty nest syndrome and is a fine upstanding, law abiding taxpaying citizen but they will continue to shake their head and make you feel bad for not taking up their offer.

At times like this, renting the smellier apartment seemed like the easier thing to do. If you happen to take them on their offer of renting an accommodation owned by a desi person, you are in for a treat. For starters, three previous tenants would still be getting their bank statements and phone bills and other assorted mail on that address and would want you to hold onto their mail so that they can pick it up whenever they feel like it.

When you try to tell them that they need to update their contact details with their cell phone service provider and their bank, they would give you the hurt look which basically says, “Et Tu Brutus? Can’t you just pick my mail from the box?” and you who perhaps wanted to scream “Please Gawd, NO!” agree to keep picking up their mail for foreseeable future.

Picking up the mail is less of a hassle because you do it once a day; the bigger threat to sanity is your land line phone. If the phone is registered in your desi landlord/landlady’s name, chances are that you will be inundated with offers of Quran classes for toddlers from dudes who call you behen or baji. When you try to tell the telemarketers that there are no toddlers in the radius of 600 sq yards and you do not wish to avail their services, they will try to get you to buy an online course for yourself so that you are saved from the eternal fires of hell.

This is not all, if your landlord has an Arabic sounding name, telemarketers who do not speak a word of English will call you and try to sell you channels running Turkish soaps dubbed in Arabic and you end up wanting to tear your hair out. As you are not bound by desi code — and the fact that they barely speak any English — you can scream and shout and let it all out at them.

I once spent some time in Slovenia with friends and found the lady working in the kitchen of the hostel where I was staying giving me seriously dirty looks. My Romanian friend and the lady found a common language that they both could speak — Italian — and asked her if she had a problem with me.

The cleaning lady was a Greek woman who assumed that I was Turkish and felt obliged to hate me. When my friends told her that I am from Pakistan, her demeanor changed and she became friendly to the extent that she offered me special hidden jams and freshest fruit for breakfast. You just cannot pull that in an English speaking country where everyone knows Bollywood, chicken tikka masala, our track record with women’s rights and the fact that one Osama bin Laden lived in Pakistan for many, many years.

There are times when you get exasperated with all the desiness around you and you wonder about your decision of leaving home because there is no escaping the sights and sounds from home and you yearn to escape it all but that, too, passes away and you learn to coexist with it — at times reluctantly, and at times, wholeheartedly.

I remember once spending some time in Ukraine without seeing another person of colour and was ecstatic when encountered all things desi at Dubai airport after weeks of not seeing it. No matter how keen we are for integration in the new land or how insulated we want to be, a certain desiness will always stay with us, no matter where we live.

First appeared in June 2013 issue of Monthly Pique

May 16, 2013 - Personal    3 Comments

Losing Home …

Back in December, I was asked to contribute to the memoir section of a special edition of  Sugar Mule – a literary magazine. The issue is titled No Place Like Home – Borders, Boundaries, and Identity in South Asia and Diaspora.

I am glad to share that the issue is out now and I have written an account of my parents’ forced separation following the War of 1971 and independence of Bangladesh, it is called Losing Home.

Apr 15, 2013 - Personal, rant, tumblr    13 Comments

Not all imitation flatters, Summaiya knows it best

There are days when you wake up and think that its gonna a be a good day. Today started off as such a day. The temperature was great, there was sunshine out there and I started my day with a near perfect cup of coffee. I had my to-do list with me and was planning to sneak in an hour during the day where I could go out for a walk. As soon as I switched on my computer and went to check facebook, I knew that I will have forego that walk and write this blog.

Those who know me perhaps know Summaiya Jillani as well. Summaiya Jillnai is a Pakistani artist. She is also related to me and like a true Pakistani, I do not let go of any opportunity to promote family members and Summaiya is excellent so everyone – family or otherwise – should sing her praises. Those who follow me on twitter would know that I have urged them in the past to go attend her exhibitions and buy her outstanding work. Last year she painted Marilyn Monroe with a desi look and gained instant fame. Both Summaiya and her painting “Baar Baar Dekho, Hazaar Baar Dekho” were covered by Dawn, Express Tribune, Hello Magazine, Weekly Mag, British website catering to desis The Asians and Huffington Post to name a few. If you go to Tumblr, there is a tag dedicated to her work.

Summaiya Jillani with her painting Baar Baar Dekho, Hazaar Baar Dekho

Summaiya Jillani with her painting Baar Baar Dekho, Hazaar Baar Dekho

The reason I went on this spiel about how great Summaiya’s work is because I came across a photo on Facebook where a Designer Zahra Ahmad has stolen her iconic painting – yes, I just used the word iconic for a family member – and used it on a kurta “designed” by her. Here is a photo of that kurta on display in Tariq Road’s Dolmen Mall, Karachi.

While she was stealing the painting and using it on her design, she did not even respect it enough to put it in its entirety. She cut off part of the image – Monroe’s feet  – to put on super tacky orange and pink stripes. She is that challenged when it comes to aesthetics and she has the gall to call herself a designer. What’s sadder is that this woman has over 342,000 followers on facebook who actually think she is a designer.

zahra ahmed

Zahra Ahmad’s “design” with the stolen image


Zahra Ahmad, you are either gallactically stupid or exceptionally shameless that you steal the most famous painting that came out in past one year, use it on one of your tacky joras , display it on bloody Dolmen Mall and then think that no one will notice it!

Seriously, this Zahra Ahmed should be taken to task. I mean all designers seek “inspiration” but to steal someone’s work like this without either seeking their permission to use it or paying them royalty is outright stealing. If we had better copy right laws, that woman Zahra Ahmed – I refuse to call her a designer – should have been sued for everything she is worth. While I am venting can I just go and say, “What a bitch!”

Summaiya Jillani is a conscientious and socially responsible artist. She has volunteered time for students of Zindagi Trust last summer and other schools and has also been involved in campaigns to beautify the city of Karachi.  She has also been part of a theatre festival by The Citizen’s Foundation and performed in a play Aik Se Barh Kar Aik produced by Katha and directed by Shahid Shafaat. She is also a young person who is just starting out as an artist and those who steal her work to make some quick money should be ashamed. The only authorized vendor who can use this image is The Second Layer who produced T shirts with the picture which also bear the artist’s signature.  If you believe in intellectual property rights, you can show solidarity by joining Summaiya Jillani’s facebook page and view her work. You can also order the T shirt with authorized image from The Second Layer. The royalty from the sale of those T shirts will go to the artist. While you are at it, boycott Zahra Ahmad.  There is imitation that flatters and there is imitation that is highway robbery, Zahra Ahmad’s imitation falls into latter.

Summaiya with her teacher & mentor Duriya Kazi

Summaiya with her mentor Duriya Kazi


zindagggi trust

Summaiya during Summer camp at a Zindagi Trust school


Albert Einstein by Summaiya Jillani

summaiya teaching young kids at T2F

Summaiya teaching some kids about screen painting at Art Bazaar at T2F


TSL marilyn

The T shirt with the authorized image & signature

Sums sunday

Summaiya & her friends, trying to beautify Karachi one graffiti at a time.


Apr 14, 2008 - Personal    6 Comments

Thank you mom, for everything

April 13 is my mother’s birthday.
What I am trying to say is had she been alive, it would have been her birthday. I don’t recall wishing her much when she was alive (my only excuse is that I was a self absorbed kid when she passed away), but I never missed her birthdays since she’s been gone; I guess we only realize how important a person is after s/he is gone. I now think about all things I want to say to Ammi but she is no more.
Mothers are precious and most people love their moms a lot, but at times we take their presence, their commitment, their affection and their kindness for granted. Most of the time, we feel that a mother would always stand like pillar of strength no matter what she is up against. We tell them about our problems, frustrations and miseries without thinking – even for a single minute – that they could be facing problems of their own.
It’s been a very long time since my mother passed away, but I still miss her. I miss her when I come home, I miss her when I want to share a gossip and she is not there. I miss her when I make decisions and want a sounding board. I terribly missed her when I wanted to choose a college major and wanted to seek her advice because no one knew me as well as she did. I missed her when I had a fight with one of my teachers and wanted unconditional understanding only a mother is capable of. I missed her the day I graduated and wanted to share the joy with someone who would be just as ecstatic with my achievement as I was. I missed her the day I got my first salary because I know she would have been so so proud of me. I badly wanted to take her out, buy her things and indulge her little wishes but she was not around. I  miss her every time I want to share my joys and frustrations, but she is no more.
I miss her smile, her compassion and her understanding. I am lucky that I had some time with her but I now regret that I had always taken that time with her for granted. I thought Ammi would ALWAYS be around. I regret that I had the opportunity but never really thanked her.
I want to thank my mother for being a great mom, so here it is. Thank you Ammi for your empathy and compassion, for your guidance, for the values that you instilled in me, for your absolute and unreserved love and for being there when I needed you most. Thank you for enriching my life. Thank you mom, for everything.