Browsing "romance"
Apr 22, 2014 - Bollywood, Books, rant, romance    No Comments

The Taliban Cricket Club – a book that ticks every Bollywood cliche known

Life in Kabul has become a sellable literary genre of its own. The success of hauntingly beautiful The Kite Runner opened the flood gates and there is no stopping since then. From fiction to nonfiction to memoirs, if the book mentions Kabul, women abuse and Taliban, chances are that it will get a publisher or two with some decent marketing budget. If a book as shoddily written as Kabul Beauty School can triumph at international best seller lists, then The Taliban Cricket Club should be considered a master piece but boy, is it a bad book or what!

I generally have no love lost for all things Afghanistan and Kabul, probably because I have lived too close to most things described in those books and also because I have been to Afghanistan and I always find the book version of Kabul very unreal and caricature like. I picked up The Taliban Cricket Club at the local library during the T20 World Cup when I was feeling homesick and missing cricket and live tweeting and cursing with my friends and fellow compatriots because that’s always so much fun (and heartache when your team lose). The book, however, turned out to be a major disappointment.

For starters, the introduction of Rukhsana as a spirited young journalist ticked just about every cliché that ever existed about spirited young female journalist. For a person who has been that spirited young female journalist, I found it to be majorly yawn inducing. When we are young and spirited, we do not think everything through like Rukhsana, we do things because we believe in ourselves and the power of written word and the naivety that it can bring about the desired change, but I digress.

The plot is simple. Taliban are ruling Afghanistan and things are awful. One day, they call all journalists, including our brave protagonist Rukhsana, to announce that they are keen on developing an Afghan cricket team. There would be a local tournament with local teams and the best of the best would make up for a national team which will first travel to Pakistan to get trained and would then tour the rest of the world. According to the book, no one in Kabul knew how to play cricket except for Rukhsana, which is the biggest bull shit ever because Pathans from both sides of the border have been mingling each other for long to not know about cricket.

How does our heroine know so much about cricket if she grew up in Afghanistan and living under Taliban? Well, for starters, her childhood friend and betrothed had friends in Lahore who taught him how to play cricket and he in turn taught Rukhsana and then played with her in their compound. Secondly, she went to college in India and played for her college team in Delhi which apparently made her an expert on the game. Rukhsana comes up with the plan to teach her teenage brother and her cousins to play cricket so that they can escape Afghanistan and brutal Taliban regime.

Apart from the rather weak story line, there are things that irritated me to no end about the book. One was this four page long tirade about how cricket is a genteel game that epitomizes fair play and equality. I wonder if the writer is not familiar with competitive sport that is cricket these days. What he wrote about is an afternoon friendly match in a rural England after Sunday lunch where everyone is bit mellow after food and a pint or two of beer. It is not the game where Hansie Cronje lost his life, Mohammed Azharuddin lost his reputation and young Mohammed Amir lost his career but I digress again.

The other thing that got my beef (no pun intended) was Rukhsana’s mother asking her to get vegetables for ‘quorma’. As a person who has cooked ‘quorma’ innumerable times, the only vegetable used in that dish is onion and that too to make gravy. The writer should’ve checked quorma recipe if he really wanted to include that in his book, it would have been better if he had not named the dish or just called it a stew. I know it has absolutely nothing to do with the plot but I do get irritated with lazy writing like that.  Is it too much to run a google search when you are writing a book?

If there is a protagonist in the story, there has got to be an antagonist. Zorak Wahidi was that villain – at times so cartoonish that I ended up picturing Teja and Crime Master GoGo instead of this fearsome bearded Taliban minister. When summoned, Rukhsana went to see this minister of vice and virtue with her teenage brother and her cousins. The whole scene where he killed a couple for adultery in front of them and how some other Talib dudes ogled at her brother had me rolling my eyes instead of feeling the terror and muster sympathy for them. As if random killing was not enough, the villain had to seek our heroine’s hand in marriage because that’s what evil villains do, seek hand of fair maidens in marriage when they get a break from killing random people.

Like a true heroine, Rukhsana is not without her share of better suitors. There is Shaheen, her well mannered, well educated, banker childhood betrothed living in USA. He is perfect on paper and Rukhsana kind of knew that she would end up with him but she declined a formal engagement not one but four times because her heart belonged to someone else – an Indian dude – a documentary film maker named Veer. I mean seriously? Have we not all seen Veer Zara already?

The chapters about her learning cricket and them dating in India were meh! Their first kiss was bleh! There was a page long text about Rukhsana’s awakened sexuality and maturity with that one single kiss in the back seat of a cinema in Delhi at the ripe old age of 17 and it was so corny that I wanted to scream like a banshee. I mean Hello! That Veer guy missed an opportunity to bottle and sell the essence of his kiss and becoming the next Ambani.

Among other things, the book tells us that Pakistanis are generally bad people. I know that there is not a lot of love lost between Afghans and Pakistanis but the way it was written, it was clear that it was not written with an Afghan perspective but an obviously Indian one. A good writer needs to find a voice for his or her characters, not force his own voice onto them. Mr Murari – the writer – obviously failed to do that.

In the end, it was the Indian love interest Veer – the man with magical kisses – who came to Kabul to save the day and win Rukhsana’s  team the cricket tournament which enabled them to get to Pakistan and then run away to other parts of the world. As he was an NRI, he had a wad of Benjamins to help the poor Afghan cousins of the heroine to get them to their desired parts of the world. The fact that the captain of the opposing cricket team was named Waseem (the bad guy of course) and had played for a club in Rawalpindi was not lost on the readers.

The writer Timeri N. Murari is apparently a big writer in India but this book was absolute shit. I can totally picture how he came about the plot. It must have been one long weekend when he watched both Lagaan and Veer Zara on TV and then some news about Talibaan and had some bad idli and sambar and thought, I too can write a saga comprising of various countries and escape from Afghanistan and become next Khaled Hoseini. I mean it has cricket, inter faith cross border romance, Taliban and a feisty heroine, what else would the public want? Errr how about some originality, research and some heart. Honestly, it was one of those stories where you end up rooting for the villain which in this case was the Taliban minister for vice and virtue. Yes, this book made me root for a Talib and that is quite a feat.

I would give this book half a star for the effort it must have taken the writer to sit down and write all 336 pages. The story is clichéd and predictable with boring uni dimensional characters ad really bad narrative. You want to slap the hell outta the protagonist by the end of it.

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.

Feb 11, 2009 - romance    49 Comments

Pakistan’s Hollywood Damaad *

As rumor has it, Fatima Bhutto is dating good ol’ George Clooney. Super market tabloid National Enquirer (quite a grand name for a tabloid, isn’t it?) first broke the story which was quoted by Celebitchy on Feb 10th 2009. On Feb 11th, it was plastered all over the Indian Newspapers, from national newspapers like TOI, Indian Express and Hindustan Times to local newspapers such as New Kerala and an assortment of bollywood websites. Surprisingly, the only Pakistani newspaper that carried this news item was Nation and they too carried a three line news item which did not mention the word ‘dating’ and their copy goes something like this:

THE American political salt-n-pepper actor has apparently been wooing slain former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s niece, Fatima Bhutto, a 26-year-old poet and journalist, reported American magazine The National Enquirer on Tuesday.

Although I am no fan of May – December romances (Clooney is 21 years older than Fatima Bhutto), but given her family history – her aunt married Zardari who is rumoured to have something to do with his wife’s assassination and her uncle Shahnawaz Bhutto is rumoured to have been poisoned by his Afghan wife – she could have done a lot worse.

As for Clooney, if it is true (and I have some serious doubts about it), then all I can say is … what a lucky bastard.

* Damaad means son-in-law in Urdu

Addendum: It is heard through reliable sources that Fatima Bhutto plans to sue the Magazine that broke this story. Apparently, it is not true. There goes our hopes of having Clooney as President in future.


Dec 18, 2008 - romance, women    31 Comments

My knight in shining Corvette

Scottish professors have just confirmed what I have always known; watching romantic comedies can spoil your love life, in my case, it can extinguish the love life before it even begins.

Researchers at the Family and Personal Relationships Laboratory at Heriot Watt University in Scotland have concluded that romantic films ruin romance for real life lovers. Films such as Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill give people the idea of unrealistic love and huge expectations.

Psychologists at the family and personal relationships laboratory at the university studied 40 top box office hits between 1995 and 2005, and identified common themes which they believed were unrealistic.

The movies included You’ve Got Mail, Maid In Manhattan, The Wedding Planner and While You Were Sleeping.

The university’s Dr Bjarne Holmes said: “Marriage counsellors often see couples who believe that sex should always be perfect, and if someone is meant to be with you then they will know what you want without you needing to communicate it.”
“We now have some emerging evidence that suggests popular media play a role in perpetuating these ideas in people’s minds.”

I have actually known a girl who has watched Love Story 26 times and she took it for granted that her university would be filled with rich good looking replicas of Ryan O’Neal. The only rich and handsome guy in her class was the son of local landlord and he had already run through a wife when she met him.

But not all romantic films are a waste, at least I think that way. Remember About a Boy, that was the only decent Hugh Grant film where his bumbling and fumbling ways were actually charming and despite the ultra corny “You complete me” and ‘You had me at hello”; Jerry Maguire presented a romance as real as it can be in a romantic comedy, complete with first awkward date, confused marriage, trial separation and a not so beautiful kid.

We all know that romcoms are not for real, but we still tend to believe that we might be the lucky ones who will end up with their own fairytals, but not every girl is modern day Cinderella of Pretty Women whose knight came charging in a shinning white Cadillac to rescue her; mere mortals have to work their asses off on a relationship provided they can find somebody half decent.

If I happen to find a knight, I would want him come charging in a shining Corvette.

PS: I think this blog is being over run by Colin Firth images.


Aug 25, 2008 - quirky, romance, women    No Comments

Lonely hearts for ugly women !

A town mayor in Australia has upset the locals by suggesting that ugly women should move there because they have an abundance of single men.

We have all heard about the fact that the women who have bad luck with men should move to Alaska as the male population far outnumber the female population. But it is a first that a mayor – a local official – is suggesting that all the attractively challenged (plain ugly in politically incorrect language) women should move to his town because it has 5 men for every single women and no matter how bad a woman looks, she stands a good chance of hitting off with one of them men.
John Molony is the Mayor of Mount Isa, a remote mining town in Queensland, Australia and he has made that suggestion. According to the most recent census in 2006, there were just 819 women aged 20-24 living there out of a total population of 21,421.
Mr Molony proposed a novel solution to the lack of eligible ladies in an interview with the Townsville Bulletin: “With five blokes to every girl, may I suggest that beauty-disadvantaged women should proceed to Mount Isa.
“Quite often you will see walking down the street a lass who is not so attractive with a wide smile on her face. Whether it is recollection of something previous or anticipation for the next evening, there is a degree of happiness,” he said. In my opinion, he is chauvinistic moron who thinks that a woman can only be truly happy if she has a man or two at hand. He is also totally objectifying men, gasp!
The council has since been swamped with complaints from both men and women.
Fellow councillor Jean Ferris isn’t impressed: “It’s an absolute disgrace,” she told the Courier Mail. “It’s not council’s view and it’s not mine. We’re definitely appalled,” she said.
But the mayor has refused to apologize for the remarks – saying he was “telling it like it is” and insisting he is “a bloke who respects women.”
“I believe we should look after women,” he said. “I’m told men outnumber women here by five to one. If that’s the case, then perhaps it’s an opportunity for some lonely women.”

Aug 20, 2008 - romance, women    No Comments

BBC gone bonkers

Any girl who has ever read English romantic novels is guilty of reading Mills & Boons. In fact I knew at least one boy in my undergrad class who used to read Mills & Boons. I too have been guilty of reading them in high school and before you go and start mocking my literary taste (or lack thereof), let me tell you that literary giants such as P G Wodehouse and Jack London have also written for the publishing house. Yes, we have seen first, second, third and fourth wave of feminism, but Mills & Boons stays firmly entrenched in the 19th century when men were masterful and stern. The stories are all the same. The couples are passionately in love but would never utter the “L” word before page 177. The first kiss would probably be featured on page 56 and the first sexual encounter begins on page 99. The heroes are all strong and silent types – modern day Mr. Darcy reincarnation – and the heroine is always overwhelmed by her lover’s masculinity.

According to Independent, Mills & Boon is celebrating its 100th year in style – by launching the romantic series on television produced by nothing less than BBC. Now one would be able to see heaving bosoms, foreign filthy rich and brooding heroes and virginal heroines (ironic, isn’t it as teenage pregnancy is highest in UK – the home of Mills & Boon – in the whole of Europe) on TV.

As if it was not enough, BBC has also produced a documentary, How to Write a Mills & Boon, based on the guides the publisher itself produces, offering advice to would-be novelists.

I mean what the hell is happening to this world, I mean seriously!


May 15, 2008 - quirky, romance    No Comments

The memoirs from hell, yikes!!!

Get ready to laugh your lungs out or cringe with horror (depends on how you see it). Cherie Blair is out with biography which has hysterical romantic details about her life with good ol’ Tony. Here is what a Guardian blog says about it.

“Perhaps it was the smell of his skin … the penetrating blue eyes, penetrating because they seemed to see right through me, to the extent that I could feel a blush rise up from some unchartered part of me …”

This is not, as you could be forgiven for thinking, an extract from a Mills and Boon novel, but the latest snippet from Cherie Blair’s autobiography. And, yes, she is talking about Tony.

The former prime minister’s wife has been dishing the dirt on life at No 10 all week as her memoir is serialised in the ‘Times’ and ‘the Sun’. We’ve learned that Tony used her miscarriage to detract from public panic over Iraq, how she didn’t get on with some of the royals, the extent of her rift with Alastair Campbell and how Tony’s “heart sank” when the two of them learned that George Bush had been elected US president.

But the latest revelations that she had the hots for her husband when they first met have lifted a lid on an area of political life that many of us would rather she had kept shut. It is almost as bad as hearing your own mother discussing her sex life with Dad – we know it goes on, but really, we don’t need to know the details.

“I began to realise that he was a very good-looking young man, tall and slim, yet broad in the shoulders. A really strong body,” she gushes. Breathlessly, no doubt, with a heaving bosom.

Readers of a nervous disposition should look away now: Cherie goes on to tell us that they’ve “done it”, although whether this is on the top deck of a bus unclear.

“Tony and I took the bus … It was a double-decker and we went upstairs. It was completely empty and by the time we got off we knew each other better than when we’d got on. And even better the next morning.”

The words “nudge, nudge, wink, wink” are missing at the end of the last sentence, but we get the idea.

Mrs Blair is unlikely to win the upcoming Orange Prize for her autobiography, but we’d like to suggest she enters for another literary gong: the Bad Sex award.

The Literary Review Bad Sex in Fiction Award is given every winter to the author who produces the worst description of a sex scene in a novel.

Surely Cherie’s a shoo-in with her spreading blushes from unchartered territory? Uncharted, that is, until she jumps on the number 74 with Tony.

Unfortunately, the former PM’s lust-crazed wife doesn’t grow out of her consuming passion as she ages: “I fancied him rotten and still do,” she insists on telling us. But thankfully she has become slightly more demure in her later years.

Her description of Leo’s conception at Balmoral on a royal visit is positively prudish compared to the torrid Tony she describes earlier. “As usual up there, it had been bitterly cold, and what with one thing and another … ”

What? No strong-bodied, slim-hipped night of abandon? Cherie, this is not going to win you the Bad Sex award. No wonder WHSmith is already selling your autobiography at half price only hours after it has gone on sale.

Although for the same price, you could pick up a couple of Mills and Boon novels. Would we really be able to tell the difference?


Well, if you ask me, one would be able to tell the difference, at least the hero and heroine in Mills and Boon would certainly be better looking and younger than Tony and Cherie. I shudder and cringe and scream for mercy; first it was details of naked younus khan on nadia khan show and now I am regaled with stories of how a slim hipped blue-eyed Tony made Cherie’s knee’s weak? This is definitely the end of the world as we know it.

I shudder some more.

Feb 1, 2008 - romance, Society, USA, women    4 Comments

The Fourth Wave of Feminism?????

If Reuters is to be believed (and they should be believed, they are the oldest news agency), rich older women sitting on gold mines are being paired up with hot young men at a New York matchmaking event next week, Feb 7th to be precise. We have seen rich old and middle-aged men getting hooked up with pretty young things (Donald Trump and Micheal Douglas to name a few), but a New York entrepreneur, Jeremy Abelson, has come up with a speed dating set up where he will be bringing together 20 “sugar mamas” and 20 “boy toys”. Not every run of the mill old woman can be part of it, the “sugar mamas” must be at least 36 and make a minimum $500,000 a year—though $4 million in assets also meets requirements. According to the news, a good 5,000 men applied to become the boy toys, but only twenty had to be selected. The prospective boy toys — who had to be under 35 — were screened by Janice Spindel, billed as New York’s most exclusive matchmaker.

Abelson, 27, calls it “Natural Selection Speed Date II: Sugar Mamas & Boy Toys.” He came up with the idea after drawing criticism from feminists for organizing an event last year that paired wealthy older men with young women. Pocket Change, the company that is promoting this event, is calling it the fourth wave of feminism. One older woman said that she find younger guys more perceptive towards their dates, while older guys will be looking over your shoulder at a younger woman. Honestly, if it requires this much planning and work, it cannot be natural selection, can it be?

For someone like me, raised in Pakistan where a woman’s shelf life is 23 years (you are considered over the hill if you are at least not engaged by 25), this idea sounds, well, alien. Firstly, I think men never really grow up (the addiction to gadgets and video games is but a proof – no matter how old they are, they just want to play) so a man much younger would be more like a kid, what say?

Secondly, the romantic in me cringe at the idea of speed dating in general and this kind of speed dating where they actually go through your bank account to check your eligibility, in particular. What happened to the old fashioned romantic love? Are demands of modern life making the traditional starry eyed love a thing of past?

Another anthropological trend that emerges from this news is that there were 5000 applicants who wanted to be boy toys – that is – they thought a rich older woman would be their meal ticket for life. I am so glad that men are showing their true colors at last. They have been doing it for centuries; choosing to marry for prestige, right family and huge sums of dowry but somehow all of that was deemed socially acceptable, no matter how avaricious it was. Now, men have come out as plain ol’ “Gold Digger” who offer themselves in exchange of a comfy lifestyle, its about time the word gold digger become genderless.

Last but not the least, do cougars out on a prowl represents the fourth wave of feminism? I don’t know, what do you have to say to that?

May 7, 2007 - published work, romance, travel    9 Comments

Finding romance at the airports

During my late night channel surfing last night, I came across a teleplay called Pyar Kahani on one of the local channels. It was a 25 minute long love story with minimal dialogues and a lot of background music.  

It all started at John F. Kennedy International Airport where a shalwar kameez clad Pakistani dosheeza (played by a Bangladeshi actor) with no English language skills was wandering around the JFK, looking all harassed (just like the razia jo ke ghundon main phans gayee ho, although no ghundas were in sight). She was keenly watched by a cute guy (we later found out that he was a Brazilian) with a manual camera slung from his neck (giving him the arty hipster look). They starting talking or rather gesticulating as much as they could have, given the girl’s almost nonexistent and the guy’s barely there English. They both then discovered that they had to kill ten long hours at JFK, so they decided to play tourist and hailed a cab to take them to, where else but Manhattan. The cabbie was a desi who gave our heroine killing looks that vary from “humaree larki sharam-o-haya se na waqif hai aur goray ke sath akaylay ghoom rahee hai” to “aur agar ghoomna hi that au hum mar gaye thay kiya.” They were later shown roaming around Times Square, Broadway, streets of Manhattan and of course Central Park where they paid tribute to John Lennon.

After a long day of taking in sights and sounds of New York and of each other, they boarded another cab to go back to the airport. They were quiet on their way back, stealing surreptitious glances at each, pondering about the impending end of the cab ride. Thankfully it was gora cabbie who minded his own business and dropped them off at JFK. They said their goodbyes and parted ways, she sat amongst the desi crowd in the lounge for the Pakistan bound flight while he roamed a different corner of the airport. Just when our heroine was about to board the flight, the Latino hottie realized that he is in love with our desi damsel and ran after her. In true rom-com tradition, the lift was not available and the escalator was not working and our Brazilian hero (who looked fit enough to out run many sprinters) had to run a couple of flights of stairs and vast corridors at JFK to find his dusky maiden. In the end, they meet and confessed their love … and I am sure they lived happily ever after.

The story was ok – a little too sweet for my taste though – and I have nothing against it, but it was a fantasy; a rather childish one at that. In real life, you see sunburned aged Nordic lotharios at Bangkok airport, yuppies yammering into their cell phones at Singapore, cabbies fighting for customers at Islamabad, men of all ages and nationalities staring at women’s breasts in Cairo (I think it is the national time pass activity of men aged 14 – infinity) and just about every human ear attached to an ipod on any of British airports. I have traveled a lot and most of the time I traveled by myself and have never come across a cute and smitten Brazilian man, or any cute guy for that matter. Most of the time, I end up directing aunties from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to the nearby toilets, drinking water taps or their respective gates.

All the four times that I have been to India, I filled an average of 17 ‘entry in India’ forms per visit. Not only did I fill those blasted forms for myself or the odd old aunty traveling alone from Pakistan to see dying relatives in India, I filled up the forms of so many Indians who cannot read and write in English. The Indian government, by some stroke of genius, prints all those entry forms in English alone. May be they want the world to think that literacy is universal in India or maybe they just want the English speaking cool people to come back into the country,  but I digress.

If I am not helping old aunties, I end up answering stupid question asked by young and old alike. Once on my way to Germany, I had a four hour long transit (where else but in DO-BUY-EE). I settled in a chair with a book (of course it happened after a facilitation session where I helped two young women from Lahore on their way to Jo’burg to reunite with their respective husbands in finding the usual toilet, tap and gate). They decided that instead to finding a place near their gate, they should hang out with me. Our conversation went something like this:

Lady1: So you are married?
I: No, I am not.
Lady 2: But why are you not married, umar tau ho gaye hai shadi ki.
I: bas ji aisay hi naheen ki.
Lady 2: haw, yeh kya baat hue. Chalo koi naheen, hum karwa dain gay, zaat kiya hai tumharee.
I: (totally taken aback) ji zaat?????
Lady 1: haan zaat, hor kiya?
I: ji who tau naheen pata.
Lady1 &2: (in unison) haw hai … zaat ka naheen pata … tum Karachi walay shadee waghera kaisay kartay ho.
I: bas ji aisay hi kar laitay hain … bagher zaat ke.
Lady1: bas rehnay do … isi liye shade naheen hue tumharee ke zaat paat ka pata naheen.

I picked up my bag and said, “oh my flight is about to leave,” and the spent the next two hours, cooped up in special people’s toilet (my heartfelt apologies to anyone who wanted to use the facility) alternately blistering and reading my book.

Another time, I was mobbed by three sardarnis at Heathrow, screaming Pallaviiiiiiiiii!!!!! and asking for my autograph. Pallavi??? I asked them who is this Pallavi and why do they think she is autograph worthy, but they refused to listen and I actually ended up signing their autograph books with “regards, Pallavi.” I later found out that it was a character in one of the saas bahu Indian telly soap and the sardarniyan thought I was her (my very personal brush to fame).

Other incidents include an Indian guy asking for 5 dollars to buy coffee at Pearson International, Toronto. Once I was glancing through the Indian edition of cosmopolitan featuring Sushmita Sen in flimsy chiffon dress at the airport in Delhi and a Pakistani uncle, who was sitting next to me, craned his neck to the level of disfigurement to catch a glimpse of lovely Sushmita. When I was done with the magazine, he asked if he can borrow the magazine. Annoyed that I was, I said no, you cannot borrow it. He was persistent and asked why? I held up the magazine and said, “The cover says that it is the magazine for today’s women. You certainly do not belong to the present generation and are most definitely not a woman.”

So far, my finest hour has been the conversation with a Chinese man at Schiphol airport who taught me the choice swear words in Chinese. I may not be able to swear in English and Urdu with such profundity, but I am sure I can shame any hoodlum in the streets of shanghai after that tutorial ….
Shanghai, here I come ….

The published version of the article can be accessed here