September 17th, 2014

Chai, tea and qahwa.5

Tea has its advantages. If not for tea, for instance, hundreds of thousands of people would be growing something more meaningful and less profitable – perhaps onions and potatoes, and we all know that the world needs more of oblivion and avarice, not less. Also, the trouble with onions and potatoes is that you can’t be making catchy jingles  about them, nor can you dip them into hot water to make horrible potions which you can sip for extended periods of time, multiple times a day. For sheer meaninglessness, the sort which liberates trolls and necessitates furniture, tea has but few parallels. If not for tea, indeed, cupboards would have been redundant, and can you imagine what life would have been without such a repository in our early lives?

Take away tea, and you do away with the institution of tea-boy. You will agree that ‘coffee boy’ simply does not have the same ring to it; if anything, it has a rather strong racist feel to it. ‘Water boy’, on the other hand, is forever disgraced thanks to Adam Sandler. I have nothing against the man, at least not after I have seen Spanglish; but that is about all the views I can share on him and his movies while maintaining the sanctity of Ramadan.

Imagine a world without tea, and you are bombarded with notions like test matches without tea-breaks, ergo a world without the necessary excitement which comes with trying to figure out if a declaration will come first or will tea? It would be a world that would have to make do without the eager anticipation which accompanies every ball bowled in the few overs leading up to and following tea.

Who can imagine a world without tea cosies and tea-trolleys? The sub-continent can ill-afford a world without tea-trolleys – the match-making would simply be incomplete without it. It’s after all a ceremony which involves the shy and homely girl reeling in a loaded tea-trolley, parking it strategically in front of the prospective in-laws, lifting the tea cosy just as the mother explains that the art-work and embroidery on the tea cosy are but a mere fraction of  what the highly-skilled daughter can do when equipped with the knitting paraphernalia, and making and serving tea to the guests just as the bashful ‘boy’ steals glances to his heart’s content. Take away the tea-trolley and the tea cosy, and the whole scene comes crumbling down.

Yet, I am beginning to find it harder and harder to allow tea to continue to reside in that soft corner which a desi heart reserves for addictive non-alcoholic beverages. This from a man whose day is turned upside down by a lopsided headache if he does not get his cuppa chai within two hours of lifting that head off the pillow. Ask me for reasons, and the most articulate explanation I can offer is a shrug. All I know is, I do look forward to a cup of tea, but once it arrives, I keep it waiting indefinitely, and then often struggle to finish more than half the cup. Have the Red and the Yellow labels lost flavor? Or has Rainbow milk (that essential ingredient of desi chai in the Middle East)? Or is it just that people no longer know how to brew a good cup of tea? A more plausible explanation will perhaps center around my own preferences rather than changes in the actual beverage. The trouble is I can barely discern a change in my preferences, it is just that I seem to have gone off tea. To an obsessive compulsive person like me, such a development can be very worrying. One never knows what kind of a tic a major change like this will bring about. Who wants to wake up one fine morning with a sudden urge to poke one’s own eye? Or worse, poke another person’s eye. Or bite the back of his thumb? Or lick the bridge of one’s own nose? All because one fails to get excited about a cup of steaming hot chai ?

My search for answers, my determination to spare my poor system the effects of another embarrassing tic, and my ambition to forever contribute to the sum total of world knowledge compel me to look deeper into my relationship with tea. For many of my formative years, a cup of chai constituted sinful indulgence, because as most desi children were told those days, chai was not for children. Effectively, this elevated chai to the level of forbidden fruit. A dizzying sense of achievement, the dizzying often being more than just metaphorical, ensued a single sip won from an elder. Being offered a whole cup of any beverage which included trace amounts of tea invariably got you bragging rights in our household. The trouble with that, of course, was that such bragging rights always came at a price. One only got served chai if one had had another one of those splitting headaches which dotted one’s childhood (and years beyond) with the regularity of a full moon, sometimes even throwing in a bonus half-moon appearance too; either that or one was force-fed the dreaded ‘qahwa’, which was tea sans milk but with myriad spices thrown in. You got that if you woke up vomiting in the middle of the night when it was too late for your mother to take you to the hospital, because your father was on stand-by duty and was not going to be home until his unit returned the next day, and because your mother did not drive, and because your mother could get the ‘qahwa’ ready, you washed and changed into new clothes and the floor cleaned all at the same time. You got that cup of qahwa, plenty of cajoling, and a kiss on your forehead, and it just made you better. You knew you would be eating porridge for another two days, and the dreaded khichri too, but you did not mind – your mother made you qahwa, and gave you a kiss, and prayed to Allah, and Allah made you better.

Come to think of it, that is perhaps tea’s greatest advantage. It can be made into qahwa at three in the morning by your mother, and it helps you get better. The very thought of it helps you get better.

A method to madness.0

Mind is a wonderful thing. It can find such interesting subjects in seemingly mundane items. Take mine, for instance, and its habit of wandering off on tangents which, on merit, can scarcely be called interesting. Brain, mine at least, defines its own yardstick for measuring merit. This can be the only explanation which does not imply an inherent inability to differentiate between meaningful and completely inane tangents. One eschews incriminating one’s own mind. Even for one given to jumping from pitfall to pitfall in blind pursuit of the heart’s agenda – and yes, I do flatter myself here – it is important to remember that the brain is a devious mass of billions of demonic neurons all abuzz with negative energy, and that this mass is inseparable from one – at least under the ideal or bordering-on-ideal circumstances. It just does not do to rub it the wrong way. Most centers of negative energy do not take well to having their inherent abilities called into question, and since vindictive traits come naturally to all villains, who wants to incriminate a villain who takes up the penthouse in one’s anatomy?

All of this, of course, brings me back to my original assertion that mind is a wonderful thing. Courtesy mine, unlike millions and millions, I am never intrigued by the random and ridiculous nature of dreams. Fact is, I wonder at people, with pity and envy in equal measure, who are constantly stumped by the apparent lack of logic and rationale in how their dreams progress. Why pity, you ask? Well, look at it this way, how dull must their lives be if their brains tick along from one point to another with any deference to rationale? Envy, you wonder? Well, at least these people only have to lament an apparent lack of rationale when they sink into slumber, unlike yours truly, who is forever catching at straws – awake or asleep. I am surprised I do not hear the echo of my brain’s evil laugh as it amuses itself seeing me all at sea, bobbing up and down in the wilderness of madness.

For what is it all, if not madness? This constant and continuous struggle to find meaning in the endless journey of my mind? It stops nowhere. It wanders off in new directions all on its own without knowing or bothering to find out if the road ahead leads to any destination at all. And then, along the way, a broken signboard catches its fancy and it just stand there, for hours at end, staring at it blankly. How does one explain it’s complete lack of interest in such signboards when it stands there contemplating them with singular focus? More importantly, how does one explain its deep interest in every passing tree, every little plant, every patch of green when it never really stops to look at them at all?

There is a method to this madness, even I can see it. My heart certainly can. The heart. Now, there is a good companion. Or is it? It lets me down every few paces when it skips a beat or gets completely engrossed in the stars and the moon and the sun. But it means well, and it sees things I do not. If only it could learn to share what it saw, we would probably be able to rein the mind in. But the heart has this habit of ruminating for years and years on what it sees, sometimes for centuries it seems, and then one fine moment, for no apparent reason, it just blurts out an astonishingly vivid description of what it had seen ages ago. At times like these, you just look at it while struggling to get various parts of your facial features to regain their closing function. At length, you succeed in pulling the jaw back up, you try and scrunch the flaring nostrils into some mode of normalcy, and you narrow your eyes into what you hope will complete a menacing look, but then you are dismayed when you hear the heart’s roaring laughter. It has seen your jaw dropping, your nostrils doing a dragon, and your eyes stretching as wide as they can, and then it has seen your comical attempt at feigning fury, and it finds you funny. Funny is good for the heart, pun intended, but bad for establishing any semblance of authority. You give in, and you follow the heart into your next disaster.

If you ask me, I think the mind and the heart are in cahoots with each other. They have the same agenda. And it is not me. Or mine. I think they just take turns amusing themselves at my expense. Indeed, I have a sneaking suspicion that those signboards, which the mind stops every now and then to look at for no apparent reason, are normally the ones the heart decides to follow eventually. There is a method to this madness.

The Sacred Bull.0

Towards the end of my academic life, I stumbled upon this unbelievable treasure trove of a bookshop in the famous Liberty market of Lahore. Some people had taken up this sprawling basement and literally dumped tonnes and tonnes of books in the place without making any effort towards segregating books at all. As a result, what you had on your hands was what can only be called a cocktail party of books. All kinds of books were to be found mingling with all kinds of strange books, and there was no definite way of knowing where to go find a book on any given subject. What’s more, the books took the cocktail party analogy quite literally, and went around mingling all over the place as is, apparently, the etiquette in such parties.

It could have been frustrating if one had dived in to pick up a particular cover and dive back out, because finding a given book could take forever, and there was always a likelihood that the book might not be there at all; because whatever else this shop was, it was not your conventional bookshop. The people selling these books seemed to have little or no interest in their wares, and as a result the pricing was also quite arbitrary. The impression I got was that they went about with some random pricing stickers and put them on whatever book was nearest to them. As a consequence, there were gems priced lower than stones, and stones priced as stones. The best part was that nothing was priced as a gem.

If, however, one had just sauntered in to browse through some titles with no specific book or genre in mind, one could enjoy quite a game of treasure hunt. It was during one of these expeditions that I had picked up a book called ‘The Sacred Bull’ (in hardcover no less) for a total of Pkr 125, which is only slightly more than SR 5 today and was just short of SR 10 back then. In other words, it was free. Perhaps, that had something to do with the fact that I never really did get around to properly reading reading it, because economists suggest that people attach more value to things when they feel they have paid a fortune for them. Give them the most precious things for free, like water, air, love, friends and happiness, and they are likely to take them for-granted.  The suggestion does not apply entirely to me, because I think the only thing I love more than a precious book is a free book. My failure to actually finish the book might be attributed to my abject failure to read any of the gibberish that is peddled under the head of management books. Often I get the feeling that either the writers of these books have not the slightest idea how the real world works, or they think their readers have not the slightest idea how the real world works. On the rare occasions when these books do not border on the fantastic, they seem to be repackaging well-known and well-understood facts as revolutionary new findings. I find these books a spectacular waste of time, and therefore, often choose to invest my precious time in fiction. So much for the real world.

The long and short of it, nonetheless, is that I never did really read the book, but I did browse through it, and what little I read of it has stayed with me since. Stripped to basics, it drew on the example of sacred cows in India to come up with the term. In India, cows are sacred and worshiped as such, which gives them a free pass on pretty much everywhere. Should a cow be found in the middle of the road, it is not to be nudged away, instead people must make way around it, or wait for it to give way. The book’s writer went on to say that sometimes we humans treat a perceived road block much the same way, and allow a monster of our own making to hinder our progress, derail our carriage, deny our potential, the whole shebang. He called this monster, The Sacred Bull.

This blog post is me taking my sacred bull by the horns. Again.

 

Sense & NCISibility.4

It’s 11:00 pm, and I am sitting here debating whether I should go pay the gym my monthly visit and check on the ancient creaking equipment’s fitness, or try and force another blog within the same month. The fact that you are reading this blog is deceptive in what it leads you to deduce, so beware. It is entirely possible that I might have gone off to the gym after typing my dilemma line, and come back to blog. Only, in knicqland, that would be so ridiculous, it wouldn’t even be funny.

As you can probably tell, I am done trying to make sense, and thus passing myself off as sensible. For one thing, I continue to get the feeling that no-one buys into that even when I think I have pulled it off in style; for another, one must acknowledge one’s limitations at some point. Just this morning, I was thinking of some of the better decisions I have taken, and I realized the extent of my limitations when I got to the conclusion that two of my top decisions had to do with my walking out of jobs. Consider this:

  • The first time, it was a job that paid well, did not ask for a lot of work to be done in return, and yet, I left it to go work for a company that paid less and asked for a lot more work.
  • The second time around, I left a job when there were no other options lined up, but the current job was sapping the life out of me. That a world recession followed only a couple of months later only made it more, well… interesting.

And yet, when I think of some of the best things to happen to me, I count those two instances quite at the beginning. Quite obviously, sensible does not become me, and sense and I have little in common. Alhamdulillah.

There is of course the fact that it is very rare when I think I have pulled off being sensible in style. Put it all together, and you can begin to imagine just how demotivating it can all amount to be for someone like me under the circumstances. It is not as if I cut myself much slack, so when I think I have done a convincing enough job and people should buy in, the least they can do is demonstrate some courtesy and pretend to buy in. It is this sort of short shrifting which alienates perfectly normal people to the extent where they begin to attach lesser value to the lives of fellow human beings. Or at least, this is what most of the NCIS, CSI, SCIN, INCS, ICNS, SNCI genre of TV shows want us to believe. Has anyone wondered what exactly is the point of these shows?

I used to like one of them for it’s dry humor, and interesting characters, until these shows started mushrooming all across the channels, and I began to get my characters mixed up. It has come to a point where they start a new show and I wait for the oh-so-cool aging investigator to turn around to the oh-so-hot agent-with-the-brains for answers just when the Mr. Oh-so-funny-agent is hitting on the earlier mentioned oh-so-hot agent for the billionth time, and then wait for the actual answers to come from the oh-so-obsessed-with-dead-bodies-old-man and his walking-fashion-disaster-geeky oh-maybe-so-cute assistant in the lab. Throw in increasingly graphic scenes of decomposing human bodies and parts, and apparently you have a show on your hand which people cannot get enough of – even if you present the same show with half a dozen similar, but oh-so-different, abbreviations for names. Time was when ‘Murder she wrote’ was the weekly murder mystery dose for everyone, and it made do without any decomposed/decomposing body parts.

Anyhow, that is tantalizingly close to sounding sensible, so I had better save myself the disappointment and the accompanying bout of depression induced by the general public’s failure to appreciate the good intentions of a guy trying hard to make some sense, and stop right here.

Besides, one of the channels is running last week’s episode of NCIS, and I must go get my dose of graphic corpses for a good night’s sleep.

p.s. I kinda dig that oh-so-hot-agent-with-brains.

Finding a way out of the woods…0

For many days now, I have wondered what has gone missing. It was not very long ago when I had so much to say, to so many people. There were words galore, and some of them carried some meaning too – or so at least  I used to think.  Someone wise had once told me that it is best not to go back and read the mind rot we churn out, and it was perhaps some of the best advice given to me by wise people, which is also to say that I went back and read some of the old stuff. Not that it changed anything except help put things in perspective.

More than words, however, I used to think I had ideas – ideas which the world needed so that it could save itself from all kinds of bad things ranging from mere stagnation to total annihilation. It takes something away from your motivation when you figure out that most of your bright ideas have already been around for a few centuries if not millenia. I really did think I was on to something big when I had thought up a scrabble board that would have nice little compartments for tiles to rest in, so that every little nudge, every little careless (and sometimes careful) movement of a hand did not reset the entire game. Turns out, someone has already beaten me to it. The ‘reset’ option was another one of the great ideas that would have been entirely mine if only I had had the foresight to arrive a couple of centuries earlier. As luck would have it, some company claiming to be soft at the minutest level has taken the ‘reset’ idea to ridiculous heights of application – only they call it ‘restart’.

I am not making sense. Again. This seems to be my default setting. Even though writing at this blog is being forced into restarting, it would appear that we continue to write in the same manner, and a hiatus of a couple of years has done nothing to help our style mature. We are feeling very regal in that way today, since it is a proven fact that royalty maintain some semblance of sanity through keeping up appearances – if only for the public eye, while the general populace, the commoners so to speak, simply let the standards slip. The tragedy, of course, is that even if we did not act so regal, and vehemently, even vociferously, encouraged the standards to slip, they might find very little slipping possible despite the best of their efforts.

Shorn of words, bereft of ideas, what does one write about? And how?

These are difficult questions to have to consider. If I had any political acumen, I would have devoted my energies to discussing the political scene back home.  More importantly, if I had any interest in the circus that is called politics in Pakistan, I probably would have overlooked my own shortcomings in the acumen department and gone ahead and written about the circus anyway. Fortunately, circus when it is reduced to freak shows holds very little interest for me.

I would write about my understanding of deen, and how I have arrived at that understanding. I tried doing it too, but I felt an absolute hypocrite pontificating (ironic use of word) when I have consistently failed to bring deen into my own life. There is also the fact that most discussions about deen tend to turn passionate, and need some level of passion and drive to keep going. I look inside me, and find no remnants of any passion I used to have. I am convinced that I have no inclination of getting into heated debates and arguments about anything. If people see the world differently than me, it is their choice, and hence their own misfortune. They are not my responsibility.

Besides, a few times already, I have alienated a few close friends simply because I could not resist the allure of winning an argument. What is an argument worth at the end of the day? I am sure it is worth something, since so many people, so many groups of people, so many nations seem to relish every opportunity to dive into one.  Is it worth a friend, worth losing a friend? Is anything ever worth losing a real friend? Once, I had come very close to losing a friend, a friend who has always been more than just a great friend, even more than a brother. We grew up together, learning from each other, relying on each other, and yet being different from each other. We learned to appreciate our differences, and value our common interests. It was not an argument that had threatened to cost me so dearly – he was wise enough to know that an argument when we both knew that I was the one who had been in the wrong, could only make matters worse, so he had walked away before an argument could even begin. And then, some years later, he could find it in his gracious heart to forgive the disappointment and the hurt I had caused him, and he just showed up one day at my door. We picked up right from where we had left, and have never had to look back. Alhamdulillah. Amongst the millions of things I have to thank Allah subhanahu for, this second chance certainly ranks very near to the top. Would I ever risk being in that spot again? I am inclined to think not.

What is an argument then? Except mere clash of egos disguised as opinions? When egos clash, egos bruise, because they are fragile, and inflated, and plain silly. And such are opinions. No opinion is worth risking a friendship, so when I see opinions rearing their heads, I walk away. Except, when it is a matter of faith. Faith is faith, and sometimes it is not possible to walk away from a discussion on faith, not when it is not something trivial, and is indeed something about the very fundamentals of faith. For this reason, I decided against updating on deen as well. I am not qualified enough to discuss faith, nor do I have the knowledge, yet in matters of faith little knowledge often masquerades as enough knowledge, and leads people to developing opinions. Opinions that may or may not have much to do with faith, but will be considered worth an argument – worth losing a friend. I am not prepared to lose friends over words, but what is stop some friends from being willing to lose me over a few words? And what if my own opinion dons the mask of knowledge and drives me away from friends I have cultivated over the years?

Leaves sport and work to write about then, and I am good enough at neither to be writing about it.

Aelan2

Jinhen khoon khel acha lagta hai
Jo nafraton ke payambar baney baithey hain
Woh jo apni barf posh chatton taley
Mil baith kar likhtey hain kahaniyan
Hamari khoon alood deewaron kee
Hamarey jismon ke tukron kee
Hamari Girti huwi chatton kee,
Aur dehaktey Jhulastey Gharon kee.

Woh jo yeh faisaley karney lagey hain
Ke kis ko haq hai saans leney ka
Aur kis ka ghar laut jana mumkin nahin
Woh jo yeh samajhtey hain
Keh meelon duur baith kar
Samadaron paar baith kar,
Woh hamarey jismon ke lotharon ke,
Hamarey hathon ke,
Hamarey pairon ke,
Hamarey khwabon ke,
Aur…
Hamari Aahon ke
Anbaar laga saktey hain
Woh jo hamari sanson ke ukharne kee dhun banatey hain
Woh jo hamara sheeraza bikharne kee lae sunatey hain
Woh jo insaaniyyat ke bun ke alambardar,
Insanon ko ghun lagatey hain
Woh jaan len…
Keh Aaaj…
Bohat huwa!

Aaj hum bebasi ka libada utarey detey hain,
Aaj hum bekasi ka dhara morey detey hain,
Woh jaan len,
Keh aaj hum apni sarhadon kee,
Khud hifazat karney ka azm uthatey hain.
Apni sanson ko khud dao pe lagatey hain.
Woh jaan len,
Keh aaj hum un ki taraf aatey hain.

Phir roo-e-zameen par,
Woh apna haami-o-nasir dhoond len,
Jis ghaar main chahen ja chuppen,
Ya aasmanon tuk main makaan karen,
Hum har boond ka hisaab chukain ge,
Har aansoo ka darya banayen ge,
Lehron main samandar chupain ge.
Hum badalon se garaj churayen ge,
Allah kee zameen ko tung kartey jayen ge.
Hum har saans lutayen ge,
Magar tum ko kaifar-e-kirdaar tuk layen ge.

Yeh Va’ada raha,
Yeh qasam rahee,
yahee aaj hamara
Aelan-e-jung raha.

Tum dabak jao,
Ya dehak jao,
Jhulas jao,
Ya Dehal jao.
Laakh tum taweelen karo,
Hazaar Qahar lao!
Chaho…
To khud apne haathon zehar khao!

Ab humen rukna yaad nahin,
Tum raham ke haqdar nahin,
Aur darguzar ke ab hum rawadar nahin,
Ab waqt hamara hai,
Dhaar hamari, aur Sar tumhara hai

Yeh Va’ada raha,
Yeh qasam rahee,
Yahee Aelan-e-jung hamara hai.

Haze.6

So yes, I feel like writing today. Perhaps, that’s a start. Perhaps not. It has been some seven or eight months since I had last written, and frankly, it feels like its been years. Sometimes, I come to this place, and it surprises me to note how I had been spewing such mindless gibberish for so long so consistently. I take nothing away from you readers, those who used to come here anyway; too often, a good mind deciphers some deeper meaning in a completely inane something, and accords greater value to an otherwise mundane little thing.

I had never wanted the blog to be a diary. Frankly, I don’t think I had wanted it to be anything more than a place where I would probably get some writing practice. The old adage which maps the route to perfection through practice hardly applies to me. If anything, as I continued to write, I went from bad to worse.  Perhaps, I ended up practicing my weaknesses more than anything else. When it became quite obvious that the exercise was counter-productive, I seemed to lose the will to even practice.

That was not all of the reason for the hiatus of course. I think I was just out of jokes. Its hard – this realization that one is not able to create any humor, when all one has ever credited himself with is perhaps a little sense of humor. I remember I had written a few posts too lamenting the loss of my sense of humor. On closer inspection, I have realized that perhaps there was very little of that sense in me anyway. I had just happened to be around an exceptionally gifted person, the narrating of whose eccentricities passed for some humor. When life intervened, and Jalali Baba and I found ourselves more and more engrossed with our own little lives, mine decidedly littler than his, I had fewer incidents and quotes to chronicle here.

There was nothing to write about. The world has steadily become a more violent, more depressing place. The injustice prevalent today and all the mayhem which arises from rampant injustice beggars belief. Or perhaps, until then, I had never fully realized just how pathetic a world we live in; and when the realization did dawn upon me, I was plainly over-whelmed by just how irrelevant I was in the greater scheme of things. I guess at some point, at least in some part, I had believed that I would be able to make a difference through the one thing I was passably good at. Writing. Then came the double whammy. I was not nearly as good as I thought I was, or at least could be one day. More importantly, though, I was far too ignorant, far too opinionated, and far too emotionally attached to my own convictions to be able to construct an argument that would even impress the next person – let alone, a whole zeitgeist.

I look at the wars, the inequalities, the insanity of spending billions and billions to kill people, to put people, animals and machines on distant planets, to entice people into spending mindlessly on things they have absolutely no use for or need for, while billions of people live on not enough food, and not enough to see them through the next day, and my system just shuts down. Crashes.

Is it any wonder that we are hurtling towards self destruction at the pace we are? Does our world, this planet even deserve to be saved? Perhaps, the planet should be allowed to just implode on itself. At least that will bring justice to all. Those suffering have nothing to lose, and those making their fellow humans suffer ought to lose all they have.

Is it any use writing such dreary thoughts? Will it achieve any good? I used to think I was an optimist, and perhaps I am being an optimist in hoping that this world will end sooner than later, so that the misery endured by the billions on this planet ends. Or perhaps, I am just being morose.

It is in times like these that I stop thinking about it all. Perhaps, wrongly so. Because, even I know that I have a responsibility to make this world a better place for myself, for my children, for everybody and for all the children of the world. It is also at these times that I feel completely useless and irrelevant. It is at times like these that I remind myself that the world belongs to Allah, and He has a plan.

Sooner or later, the next level in His plan will kick in, and we will be in a better saner world. And I will be able to write about my mundane life again.

Gillette, Gitteltun, and the 727

There will come a day when the guys at Gillette will tell me that they had been fibbing all along and that actually the thing that they had really wanted to make all those years was the one fitted with nine and a half blades, because, let’s face it, the one with nine blades and a quarter of a blade came close, very close, but it missed out just where the real blade needed to, pun intended, cut it; i.e. the real stubble, for what’s a stubble that cannot survive nine blades and a quarter. They will have a fancy name for the real stubble, which I will come to in due time.

Beauty, they will tell me, is actually skin deep, in more ways than the popularly propagated and rarely countered belief along those lines, and the only thing that stands taut between a man’s ‘beauty’ and the world is the skin that covers the under-stubble, which, the under-stubble that is, is in fact the hitherto unknown layer of stubble which grows under the skin and in which is rooted the stubble. The under-stubble, they will tell me, is the discovery of the century made at the Gillette labs, and it will be years, if not decades, before the rest of the world catches up with the medical advancements being made in the field of facial hair removal at the Gillette labs strategically located away from prying eyes of the makers of Phillips shavers on a planet called Gitteltun far away in the galaxy commonly known as, ironically, that hairy galaxy. 

The quarter blade, I will come to know thanks to their ready willingness to share the inside story with me, did a splendid job of removing the camouflage skin, and camouflage skin will by then be very normal way of dismissing this redundant bit of epidermal nuisance, to uncover the under-stubble, which is invisible to the naked eye (but of course), but failed just where it mattered – in tackling the under-stubble. If not for that, the electronic microscopes would not reveal the dense rainforests on our chins. This, they will remark in a tone not entirely untainted by pride, is where the nine and a half blade comes in – it removes not only the skin, but also the under-stubble – a feat after which the outer layer of my face will feel soft as liquid to touch; which, I will privately wonder to myself, it might just be, since if the face does not start bleeding profusely after removal of skins and under-stubbles, it can hardly have been a face constituted of organic matter.

When they feel they have nearly come to the end of their sales pitch, they will cheerily tell me that I can be a proud owner of the halfer, which is probably what they will be calling their razor by then, and of skin so fluidly velvety that the best velvet will soon be called halfer-like, against the payment of a paltry sum of nine thousand five hundred and fifty five riyals, and a pound of flesh – my own flesh. 

Either that or they will do a Nike and introduce the all-new single-blade razor, which, they will tell me, is all that a man ever needs, and the best he can get. They will watch with amusement the sparkle in my eye, and before I have a chance of telling them just how pleased I am that they have come off of that silly business of exorbitantly expensive shaving razors with multiple blades, they will gently break the news to me that if I want they can book me a set of those cutting edge single-blade razors against the payment of – you guessed it – a paltry sum of nine thousand, five hundred, and fifty five riyals and a pound of flesh, my own flesh – preferably not removed from what they will derogatorily call the triple chin.

It will be somewhere at this point that I will draw their attention to the beard I have sported for some years now, and will explain in response to their puzzled look that the beard, that bit of facial hair sprouting all over my triple chin, is actually a direct consequence of not having been the most frequent user of their merchandise. They will draw themselves up haughtily and assert that they know, of course, what the growth on my triple chin is called, but they had assumed, they will disparagingly inform me, that the over-grown stubble was just a manifestation of my ignorance about all things best a man can get; either that, the smart Alec everyone will have been calling number 2 will quip, or a manifestation of my ignorance of or confusion about the exact geographical location of my chin in the general wilderness of my face; since, he will observe privately, with a head as oval as a triple chin, and a triple chin as oval as an oval head, especially an oval head almost naturally devoid of any follicle representation, people could be forgiven for getting their facts about where their head and chin were located.     

It will be my turn to draw myself up haughtily, and draw myself up haughtily I will, as if on cue; for what’s a man who cannot take his turn to draw himself up haughtily in a proper manner? There are few things which define and determine an average man’s standing in his own eyes as well as his ability to draw himself up haughtily when the time comes for him to draw himself up haughtily. Greater men take matters into their hands rather literally when they perceive some impropriety in their dialogue and take rightful umbrage – which is a precursor to the taking of matters in hands at a literal level. Greater men still take the matters and hand them over on a platter into the able hands of their Generals when such occasions arise; while weaker men quickly look around to see if eager hands are racing from any or all directions to grab matters of their own accord, when such matters present themselves. It is the weakest kind who register little by way of reaction when matters such as those which must be handled inflict themselves upon them, and the strongest kind who let matters rest with a smile when confronted by such matters directly. I have often wondered, in fact, how close the weakest are to the strongest when all kinds are measured in terms of how they respond to situations which lead to matters which have formed the crux of the discussion thus far in this paragraph.

The average kind, however, the kind which yours truly subscribes to, live in a world more perceived than real, and in doing so do the world a favor.  For we form the vast majority which constitutes the heaving mass of humanity toiling in the service of this world, and if we did not live in perceived worlds, our dissatisfaction with the status quo and our grievances with those who exploit us and induce and implore us to exploit each other would turn the world, as we know it, on its head leading to chaos and mayhem; and don’t we all know how very undesirable chaos and mayhem are? Especially in a world which we inhabit, which is why we sit back and count our blessings as chaos and mayhem are inflicted on other worlds in our name. Live in perceived worlds we must, and we do. We bask in perceived limelight, relish perceived luxuries, lament perceived short-comings and deprivations, draw ourselves up haughtily at perceived slights and live out the length of our not so great lives in perceived satisfaction.

Perceiving so many things at so many levels requires perfection in the art of perceiving, and as someone must have said somewhere in some language, perfection is not easily acquired. It requires singular focus, dogged resolve, and the kind of perseverance that can only lead to, well, perfection. We, the average kind, are sadly completely devoid of any of the afore-mentioned attributes, because such attributes would automatically elevate us from amongst the masses into the ranks of stronger and stronger still men. How then we do manage to acquire the perfection we do in the art of perceiving is a mystery unto itself, and one of the greatest anomalies of the world. I, an average man of the most average kind, can hardly lay claim to resolving, explaining or decoding one of the greatest anomalies of our world, and will therefore refrain from trying to venture an explanation. 

The importance of drawing myself up haughtily thus explained, I feel I can proceed with the story of the day when Gillette will tell me that they had been fibbing all along. Having defined and determined my standing in my own eyes through that timely act of drawing myself up haughtily, I will proceed to admonish the guys from Gillette, and reserve special scorn for the Smart Alec. I will tell them in no uncertain terms that I know my head from my chin, thank you, however oval in shape and devoid of follicle representation the head might be, and however heady the chin might be in its general demeanor; and that the beard is no consequence of any ignorance on my part of what the best is a man can get, and on the contrary in fact, it is a direct result of a deep understanding of the very best a man can get – and 72 of those he can. Thank you.

At this they will leave my presence shaking their hairy heads and scratching their velvety chins, and I will be none the worse for their departure.  I will turn on my heel then and stomp off in a gait only marginally tainted by a degree of pride.  

Of dreamy victories…0

I conquered sleep. If I had to list some of the greatest battles I have won, this conquest would figure quite near the top of that list; and for good reason too. King Bruce of Scotland and the sage spider who sent him on his way to victory through examples of personal toil, perseverance and courage have nothing on me. The only difference perhaps is that my battles with sleep were more passive – in the sense, I used to fight sleep, but not with explicit intent. Perhaps, I must commend myself at having won a battle without even consciously trying – but who is to say I was not consciously trying? I have tricked myself so many times over the years that I have completely lost credibility with me. Any assertions I make now, I take with a pinch of salt. It might have something to do with living in the GCC all these years, where a news headline stating a definite announcement from the Government usually means just the opposite. Cynical old residents of the country like yours truly will often interpret an announcement stating that the country will not be enacting a certain law anytime soon or ever as stating that the law is to come into effect the next morning. So when I assert with conviction that I was not even trying to win this battle, I begin to think: “Hmmm… is that entirely true? Perhaps, all I was doing over the past decades was trying to beat sleep”. Thankfully, I have never been accused of being detail oriented – the big picture is all that counts in the knicq world – so, quite often, all I do after voicing such a sceptical thought questioning my real motives is move on to making the next assertion I must doubt. Yes, the big picture itself is quite skewed. Pictures are perspectives. Perspectives are nothing if not skewed.

Sleep has been my adversary for as long as I can remember. It used to bring nightmares and nightmares were a big problem. They were scary. And abstract. Things I did not understand frightened me – like they would any child. There was a psychedelic element to my nightmares. They were the kind of dreams which would be boring if I could see them in mute mode. The thing was I could not – I did not have the remote control. Sleep did, which is why I hated sleep. As I grew up, the noisy nightmares became less of a problem and more of a nuisance. Sleep figured that part out in time, and changed its tactics. For a time, it had nothing in its arsenal to affect me to any worthwhile degree. It sprang a few surprises once in a while – the one about me getting married to two girls from my class on the same day was worrisome. I was an eight year old then – and marriage at that age just meant an extra set of parents. Two marriages meant three sets of parents – seriously, who wants that at eight? Besides, I had a crush on the class teacher. Also, one of the featured mothers-in-law was one of the feared teachers at school. Cane was her best friend. Sleep was getting close, but not close enough.

Nightmares became irrelevant by the time I turned ten. Sleep was an enemy not because of its own designs on my sanity, but because it was an effective tool in the hands of my personal set of parents. With sleep and home-work at their disposal, fun became something mentioned under the head of opportunity cost. Consistently. I don’t know about others, but when you are a student in the Pakistani school system there is always enough homework for you to finish in a day if you have a twin to help you with it. Have I told you I did not have any twins? None to my knowledge at least. If my parents decided to keep only one of the two ugly babies, they never told me about it. If, on the other hand, they had adopted one of the two ugly babies, they probably did drop a few hints about that – but I wasn’t paying attention back then. It’s too late to broach the subject now. Besides, I am not an ugly baby anymore – too old for that tag.

So, I had twice the homework I could finish. My options were often limited. Either I would finish half the homework for each subject or finish only half the subjects. The good thing about finishing half the homework for any subject was that you did not stand back when you had to submit the notebooks. The bad thing was such homework was often returned with “Incomplete!” written across your hard toil’s fruit – my feelings were not easily hurt, and if it were just this exclamation I had to deal with, I would have managed quite well. The trouble was all such exclamations had to be counter signed by a parent – your own parent. Mushtaq Ahmad Yousufi had once pronounced the judgment that in our education system failures had only two careers to choose from. The healthy ones went on to join the army, and the feeble bodied and mild-natured were made teachers. It is not my place to doubt the truth of Yousufi saheb’s verdict. But I will certainly make the following observations as addenda to his pronouncement:

1. The feeble bodied ones were only pretending to be feeble bodied to escape military service. They grew healthy and plump in later years, and if the corporal punishment they meted out were any indication, they had it in them to defeat the most ferocious enemy.

2. The ones who made teachers were cunning and sadistic. They pre-empted our defence tactics, ensnared us with mountains of homework, and led us into killing fields with their requirements for those countersigns to their ‘Incomplete!”.

Come to think of it, my addenda have little to do with Yousufi saheb’s pronouncement. Thankfully, he is not reading this blog. Not to my knowledge.

Why, you might ask, did I not try and finish the homework in its entirety like the other children? There were always some who used to finish their homework. I had no idea twins were that common. Well, apart from the fact that I did not have my twin around, I did not completely finish my homework for two reasons:

1. The handwriting practice: The parents had a great tool in their hands. If at all, you finished your homework, or managed to convince them you had, you did not get off easy. You got handwriting practice, because let’s face it – you wrote as if you had written with your feet, while so and so (invariably there were family friends or cousins who were in the same grade as yourself, and whose parents’ idea of great group fun activity when your parents visited them was showing the homework of their children to the visitors) wrote as if stringing pearls into necklaces – or whatever it was the pearls were strung into. They were never specific – the parents. The desi idiom for writing in flawless hand is stringing pearls.

So, you had to write and write and write until your words looked as if you had strung pearls – which of course never happened; because you wrote as if with your feet and no-one strings pearls with feet. ‘Jeem ka paet’, the curving half circle of the letter ‘jeem’ was particularly hard; and all passages chosen for hand writing practice began with “Aaj” – today, a word which ends in ‘jeem’. Needless to say, the stringing never got done. So much so that when one grew up and went away to distant places to try and get an education, one worried about writing home. Invariably, the responses from home started with a commentary on your handwriting.

The interesting thing is that in later years, one got an opportunity to compare notes, the proverbial kind, with the very stringers of those pearls. Would you believe it, they used to live the same nightmares as us? Apparently, they never strung any pearls. They just wrote with their feet. We strung pearls. Apparently, there is a lot of subjectivity that goes into deciding who used the appropriate limbs for writing and who did the stringing.

It made sense, therefore, to get done with the homework in time enough to finish with the inevitable hand-writing practice later on.

2. Sleep: If all else failed though, there was always sleep. It was always time to go to bed. The time between finishing one’s homework/handwriting practice and sleep was often just about enough to be force fed Okra, Egg plant, meat, fish, rice and all things not ketchup, french fries, cheese and jam.

Eventually, one’s resistance broke down. One got conquered, and comfortable with the idea of sleeping. One grew up resenting it, but… well, sleeping it.

Years passed, and one did not even realize that one was a faithful subject of the Sleep Raj. Slavery is such a curse. But then, some months ago, I realized that sleep was running my schedule, my life. That was when I woke up, so to speak. I fought back. And now, I have positively conquered sleep. For over a month now, I have not slept at any regular time, for any regular time. In a given 24 hours, I have slept for anywhere between one and six hours – and I have not followed any schedule. I have stayed up nights, and then not slept in the morning even. I have slept at noon and woken up a few hours later to stay up for the next 16-18 hours. On no two days, have I gone to bed at the same hour. Sleep does not run me anymore. I run it.

It’s a sweet victory.

Yeh Galliyan Aur Hain13

Yeh galliyan aur hain,

Yaan yaas ka guzar nahin.

Aah ka paas nahin,

Ashkon ko uzar nahin.

Yaas ummeed kee humjoli,

Kiran ka partao,

Aahon kee boli.

Aur ummeed…

Jaise musafir kee jholi,

Phailata hai isey,

Manzil ka khwahan.

Mohabbaton ke qafile,

Jazbaat kee toli.

Har aik musafir…

Aur har aik kee jholi.

Magar tu…

Tu ke manzil ke napaid wujood ka,

Khud munh bolta suboot hai,

Terey paas jholi hai, na rasta hai,

Na rakht-e-safar na sung-e-meel hai,

Aur na hee koi shajr-e-sayadaar hai.

Terey paas wohi teri manoos galliyan,

Aur tujh ko yeh ma’loom bhi hai,

Ke yeh galliyan aur hain,

Yaan ummeed na sahi,

Magar yaas ka guzar bhi nahin.

Pits.2

Somewhere along the road, over the past couple of years, I came face to face with myself. When the initial shock of the realization that I was in fact staring at myself wore off, all that was left was a bizarre feeling. It was not entirely disgust, nor was it much by way of admiration. It was, however, a feeling I could have done without. It was a meeting I could have done without.

There is that cliche in every language perhaps which talks of mirrors and the disappoinments they hold. If there isn’t one, there should be one. Mirrors do hold disappointments. It is only when we look at them in the light of experience and awareness that we realize just how much disappointment hides in a mere reflection. Right changes places in a reflection. Or Vice Verca.

I was a self proclaimed narcissist, and I went from being a narcissist to being an extremely shy person very quickly after that meeting with myself. Perhaps, I needed a certain level of ignorance about myself to continue to like myself, to admire myself to the point of being a narcissist, of being self assured, of being able to find fault with others and of being able to feel better enough than others to offer advice.  I think my disappointment was tangible, hard and pointy. It broke the mirror; but it left me with that image of myself which is much less flattering than is appropriate for a self portrait.

I am comfortable being shy and not being cocky sure. The extent of my own short comings and the extent of my own weaknesses has dawned upon me, and it has taken away not only what must have been my over-bearing self assuredness, but also a lot of bitterness, pain, self pity and misery which I had built over the years. It sounds quite the paradox, doesn’t it? But it is the honest truth, once I realized I was not as admirable a man as I thought I was, I also realized that the world owed me nothing, and whatever I got from anyone was purely my good fortune, and much more than perhaps I deserved.  It has taught me to cast my eyes down when morality surges inside of me urging me to take the higher moral ground once again, and I walk away, and continue to walk until I get to plains. I have developed a fear of heights I think. How easily we forget ourselves as soon as we set foot on an elevated surface, don’t we? Well, I did. Perhaps, still do, but hopefully we will never have to find out.

I looked myself in the eye, and the past flashed before me. I looked back and all I could see were ruins, and broken hearts, and tears. There was always a reason for me to cause misery, and having a reason made it alright to cause pain and suffering, disappointment and doom. I looked closely and there were some beautiful oases in my past. I pulled out objectivity and looked at the oases through objectivity; it brought tears to my eyes to realize that everyone of those oases was a reminder of the generosity, love and care shown to me by those whom I had wronged along the way. I blinked the tears away, and vanity reared its ugly head to try and convince me that my tears were proof enough that I had my heart in the right place. After all those oases of love and affection, generosity and forgiveness, which I had not played a part in making, what was my one consolation going to be – that I could cry at having been the epic failure I had been?  It still surprises me to realize that when it came to myself I set myself such conveniently low standards.

To think I was oblivious to it all as I caused this mayhem all my life, and to think I had to come face to face with myself to see it all in a short span of time.

And to think I am deep down here.

FB and barjasta tukbandi.0

One of the blessings of the world wide web is facebook. It has put me in touch with countless such people whom I would otherwise quite likely never have seen again. Fine! I will strike the ‘countless’ – I know one can always go and count one’s contacts.

My cousin Raheel is one amongst those people. We lost contact years ago when he was busy conquering the hearts and minds of important people in Islamabad, and I had come here to the UAE hoping to make a fortune in dirhams – a dream I have much given up now. Raheel and I have always been more friends than cousins, so much so that years ago when the family battleground presented a picture of what most family battlegrounds present pictures of – the senile, senseless and yet sombre family feuds, we promised each other that should our two sets of parents decide to raise battle cries and go charging at each other to revive a bit of sibling rivalry moments from their childhood, we would ensure that we continued to be friends even if our allegiance to our respective families dictated that we no longer call each other family. Thankfully, while our families have often hovered dangerously close to altercations threatening to become full blown wars, they have always managed to scale back hostilities just in time to attend a wedding or a funeral together. It is important to be seen together or not seen together at these two functions during family feuds – it lets everyone know where the two warring/not warring factions stand vis-a-vis their reported-through-grapevine differences. Unfortunately for us though life dragged us to two different continents and we were never able to benefit from our families not feuding. Until facebook came along though.

Now our families might not be feuding, but our friendship is peculiar in that all we ever have are altercations. One of the recent ones we had was interesting enough for me to want to share it with you.

I had updated my FB status as “waits”. It is a perfectly innocent and vague update. It let me state my hope and longing a little without disclosing anything of substance. Except, I had not factored in Raheel.  Raheel stepped in and had in time turned the whole status update on its head. Being blessed with the kind of friends I am, it was only to be understood that matters would get out of hand, and I would have to step in myself and delete the update and the accompanying 45 comments to restore sanity. After which I made it clear though my status update that no further status updates barring the current one would be coming along for sometime. Except, I could not resist, and put up another update in under 12 hours. After which the following exchange took place:

Raheel: Ek kahani, Abdul Hameed Addum ke zubaani:

Aap (at 0000 hrs):
“Shayad meiN Addum ub na kharabaat meiN aaooN
Ub baada-ghussaroN say meirra zikkr na karna”

Hum (between 0000 hrs and 1330 hrs):
“Tehqeeq ho tou rooH-e-do-aalam tarrap uthay
Itna teirray baghair parayshaaN raha hooN meiN”

Aap (at 1330 hrs):
“DostooN kay naam yaad aanay lagay
Talkh-o-sheerieN jaam yaad aanay lagay
Khoub-soorat tohmatein choubhnay lageiN
Dill-nasheem ilzaam yaad aanay laggay”

Shukkar hey kay aap mehfil mein waapis tou aaye! Hum tou samjhay thay kay aap Shirri Raam Chandar Je kee oor 13 barras kay bunn-baas per nikkal gaye hein. Shukkar Khuda ka, aap Hanooman Jee kay bhaghat niklay aur Tarzan kay doost Munkoo kee tarrah turrant waapis aan lapkay. :-) :-) :-)

Knicq: Khoobsoorat tomhatein and dil nasheen ilzaam indeed!

Aik maulvi kee deewar par shirkiya kalimat raqam karne se ehtiraz baratiye go iz raah-e-tafannun hee sahee. Shukriya. Main sirf Allah ka bandah hoon. :)

Raheel: Yeh “Maulvi Kee Deewaar” bhee barra khoob kaha aap nay. Tou arz kiya he:

“Maulvi Kee Deewaar”

Kyon iss per chHapti rehti hey ye toHmattoN kee bharmaar
Ye maulvi kee deewar hey loogo, maulvi kee deewar

Ye “uss galee” ka daakia hey, ye banda barRa fraadia hey
Na karna koi aitbaar oo loogo, na karna koi aitbaar
Ye maulvi kee deewar hey loogo, maulvi kee deewar

Ye jitna maal bhee aaya hey, sub chooroN say he churraya hey
ChadDi-banain say lungi-dhoHti au rub kurta-shalwaar
Ye maulvi kee deewar hey loogo, maulvi kee deewar

Kuch qabbaz kee khubrain, chund hikmat kay ishtihaar
Ye Persoon ka akhbaar hey bhai persoon ka akhbaar
Ye maulvi kee deewar hey loogo, maulvi kee deewar

Yaad rakhiye – Kalaam mein wazzan ho na hoo, dalleel yaqeenun wazi hey ;-)

Knicq:

“Raheel kee daleel.”

Wazn main feel hai,
Kaat main keel hai,
Fitratan zaleel hai,
Ye nai ik daleel hai,
- Baani is ka Raheel hai,
- Yeh daleel-e-Raheel hai.

Mantaq se choor hai,
Mizaah bharpoor hai,
Sharafat se door hai,
Sarasar futoor hai,
- Baani is ka Raheel hai,
- Yeh daleel-e-Raheel hai.

Tohmat ka bazaar hai,
Haqaiq se bezaar hai,
Maqsad sirf aazaar hai,
Ba’es e nang o aar hai.
- Baani is ka Raheel hai.
- Yeh Daleel-e-Raheel hai.

Kehne ko aur bhi hai kuch,
Abhi zer-e-ghaur bhi hai kuch,
Khayal ka daur bhi hai kuch,
per bhaijna filfaur bhi hai kuch.
- Baani is ka Raheel hai
- Yeh Daleel-e-Raheel hai.

Raheel ibn-e-wakeel hai,
Khoon main iske daleel hai,
Aankh pe is kee neel hai,
Yeh padash-e-daleel hai,
- Baani is ka Raheel hai
- Yeh Daleel-e-Raheel hai.

This is too much fun. :)

Raheel:

Tum itna jo muskara rahay ho
Kiss marraz ko apnay chupa rahay ho?

Ho gee tumheiN jo bhe ho gee “khurrak”
Meirri taaNg per kyoN khuja rahay ho?

Pehlay bachoN kee maaN ne jhaara hey aur
Unn kay maamoN say ub maar kha rahay ho

Bulla ker maseetee meiN mullooN ko subb
Pechay say kyon unn kay ghar jaa rahay ho?

I know this is silly; just a bunch of badly written rhyming garbage – out of meter and out of order. But it’s fun.

Knicq:

Seriously, I expected better than this from you Raheel.

It was only the second sh’er which was enjoyable.

Khissiyane ho kya keh khamba nochte ho?
Sar khujatey ho kyun, tum kia sochte ho?

Fikr-e-sukhan main abhi darak aur chahiye,
Baghair matlab ke tum qafiya dabochte ho?

Kaha tumhara hee hai ya anwar masood ka,
Kis haq se akhir dosron ka kalam “poach-tey” ho?

Maza to jub hai, keh do harf jor bhi lao tum,
Aur mizah kee hudood ko bhi pohonchte ho.

Hah! That felt good.

Raheel:

LOL! Acha Sahab Aissa hee sahi:

“Muzzir hey teisha-e-khoonein liye huay koi shakhss
Kay goor-kan ko bhee ubb koh-kan kaha jaye”

Knicq:

“Gorkan bhi gar kohkan kehlai to kia bura hai
Jo baharkaif chooha nikal lai to kia bura hai.”

And that was that. We stopped after this for fear I might be hauled away by the Halqa-e-arbab-e-zauq for public flogging or some such punishment.

Of realizations late…1

Evenings, rains and my reflection in the mirror often make me melancholy. What is surprising is that this is a rather recent discovery. Up until now, I had been convinced that I loved the three – though perhaps not necessarily in the order I have mentioned them in. I love trees too, and babies as well – but they do not make me melancholy. The human heart is such a strange organ. It conceals much and betrays little. It plays games which amuse none but itself. Then, one fine morning, it ceases to find itself amusing, and decides that it finds evenings, rains and a certain reflection in the mirror, any mirror, a tad less pleasant than before.

The tragedy perhaps is compounded by its complete callousness towards the three objects, and the drama heightened by the wailing of the said objects. OK, may be not all the three objects – but one can serve as a spokesman for others. After all, there is no evidence to suggest that collective wailing is more reliable a form of lodging a complaint with the powers that be as compared to an individual (and less ambiguous)… well… wailing. Wailing is wailing. If one does not serve the purpose, pluck at the strings of the heart, literally so in this case, with its soulful retelling of the wrong one has been done, chances are many won’t either. There is quite likely something wrong with the strings, which makes them un-pluck able; Urdu poetry is replete with stories of such hearts which have faulty strings, too many strings, not enough strings, and so on and so forth.

Evenings are beautiful, and if I were blessed with the gift of articulation through verbal imagery, I would have sketched to you the many shades, smells and sounds of evenings for you. But, you do not need me to sketch an evening for you – evenings are amongst those of Allah’s blessings which have been for the most part available to mankind (and all His other creation) in abundance and free of charge. Too often though, many of us take such blessings for granted, and while we toil away at the other often menial and meaningless aspects of our lives, we let these blessings sneak past us without ever noticing them. Evenings are short, and if it were up to me I would make it mandatory on myself and every one else to drop whatever it was they were doing when evenings approached, and witness the miracle of Allah’s creation and beauty which evenings are.

Aren’t we humans, perhaps, the only beings who do not stop for the evenings? Who do not come out to meet and be a part of the evenings? Nonetheless, it is not mankind’s callous attitude towards the daily opening of this beautiful, mystical and heart-rendering window in their lives that makes me melancholy. Perhaps, it is the knowledge that this evening too, like all the others before her, will desert me and leave me to my devices to grapple with the silent and suffocating darkness – the darkness which inevitably follows in her footsteps. Or perhaps it is the painful fact that I get attached to my evenings – savor every moment of their existence. Quite possibly though my sadness is rooted in something intangible and obscure – something more like my intellectual faculties the very existence of which is the subject of many a heated debate.

Do you know what makes the evenings ever more enchanting? Trees do. Trees prepare to welcome the evenings long before anyone else even starts thinking about the imminent trickery of twilight. They invite all kinds of birds to their branches, then they spread their leaves far and wide to hide the birds from view, in the process also partially obscuring and lending an even greater beauty to the setting sun,  and partially basking in its soft parting light. Then arrives the evening to a rousing welcome, with the chorus provided by all the birds hidden from view and the orchestra played by the rustling leaves.  Does it not feel at these times that time must learn to stand still, even if for a short while?

Who then could not love evenings?

My love for rains is deeper and more real. It is deeper because unlike the case with evenings I do not have the luxury of knowing that if I miss rain when she comes thundering, threatening and prattling, I can always meet her again same time, same place the following day. We live in a desert. All year long we brave the sun’s cruelty, its wrath, its suffocating watch during nights, its scalding reminders pouring out of our taps, and its altogether over-bearing presence pretty much all the time. Rains are scarce, and even when it does rain, it hardly ever pours.

Our lifestyles are ill equipped to even handle rain. As soon as the first showers arrive, the general public loses all sense of objectivity on roads, (and we all know that the general public spends a large percentage of its waking time on roads in this country) or perhaps fails to acquire the new and different levels of objectivity required on the roads now. This fact is plainly reflected in the number of accidents we have during rains every year. There are quite likely people out there, who do not even know what the windshield wipers are  installed on their cars for, and still others who are perfectly aware what the wipers are for, but for the life of them cannot figure out which of the many switches in their cars turns them on.  At least this is the only plausible explanation I can offer for the ten-fold increase in the number of accidents on the roads with the arrival of rains.

Then there is the more sinister matter of the road system’s capability to put up with water of the non-bottled kind, or lack there of. Last year, we had rains for only three days, but for the three days we had actual rain. What do you think happened? The word puddles had to be dropped in favor of pools. On the Emirates road, the erstwhile crown jewel in the Road and Transport Authorities’ (we have more than one, quite likely seven of them) crown, there were cars submerged in water! By the third day, the roads network was not visible and many people were actually stranded in their homes, since they could not get to their cars.  Yet, I reckon there is hardly a soul in this country who does not harbor an unconditional love for rains. The minute the clouds begin to gather, the various radio stations dig out their rain songs collection (Cue “hai hai yeh majboori” on all desi stations), people make plans to head out – to the neighboring state or own balcony – and facebook status updates quite unanimously announce the profile owners’ unbounded delight at the advent of showers.

Personally, however, I happen to be the person who lived, merrily and deliriously happily, through five monsoons in Pakistan, enjoyed every day and every night of rainfall, and welcomed every inch of rain with open arms – literally. There is something about rains which echoes in the very depths of my soul, something about water falling from the high skies which has no parallel in the many miracles that surround us. Rains come with the promise of washing away all sorrows and doubts which weaken the heart. They are such a beautiful and apt reminder of Allah’s bounty, His mercy upon mankind, His  blessings and His promise to provide for all His creation. It has, therefore, come as a surprise to me – this realization that rains make me blue – metaphorically speaking.

The reflection I can understand.

Rub Raakha te Jee Aayan Nun.17

People are interesting. Often people are endearing. Very rarely, people are hurtful. Because of all that people are, and can be at different times, people watching is an interesting pastime. It is primarily this interesting pastime that keeps the blogosphere/blogistan/blogworld going. What is it after all that entices us to go read another person’s blog? (apart from leaving our own URL there of course!) Blog-hopping is a new way of people-watching. We land at a new blog, and find out what another person thinks, does, or does not think or do in his/her life. Virtual people, contrary to what the term suggests, are real people.

Thankfully (and hopefully), the world has not yet got to a point where obscure computer programs have blogs they masquerade as people on. Thankfully again, all we have is still people masquerading as programs, and that too a select minority; what is, after all, a virus/worm/Trojan but a malicious person inflicting himself on people he/she can victimize. While it is easy to assume that people have a virtual persona which they allow to reflect in their blogs, it is worthwhile remembering that such virtual persona is still a part of who they are. Quite often, it is more honest a representation of a person than one he portrays in his everyday real life. Often enough too, a virtual persona is a caricature, or a self-portrait gone horribly wrong. Rarely, a blog persona is a totally different person, far-removed intentionally from the real life person. When we see these virtual people, we might find them interesting, endearing, hurtful or even abhorrent, but our findings are always tainted by doubt, because of the virtuality factor.

People are more interesting in real-life. It struck me when I was at the airport recently waiting for someone. The flight was delayed, and for once I was early. I have always found the arrivals area a far better and more delightful place as compared to the departures area. There is a merry atmosphere about the arrivals lounge which is in stark contrast to the melancholy that pervades the departures area. The UAE’s demographics, much like those of the other GCC states are peculiar in the sense that approximately 70-80% of the total population (if not more) is comprised of expatriates; I do not know what the term expatriate means according to Merriam-Websters, but over here the term defines people who live and work here for years, and if they can afford it, visit home come yearly vacations – for most people taking a vacation and visiting home are synonymous, as ironic as it may seem to some – and this is why one sees less of the melancholy about the departures lounge here in the UAE than does one back home in the sub-continent.

Back home, one of the most common sights in the departures area is the elderly mother crying her eyes out when bidding her saat-samandar-paar bound son farewell, and one of the most constant features of an airport departures area is the sadness and the melancholy as a dear one leaves the country with explicit promises to write and implicit promises to send back the much needed dirhams, riyals, dinars, yens, dollars, pounds or whatever else it is they get paid in.

In the GCC countries, being in the departures lounge often means one is headed home, pockets bulging with money saved over the previous months, or borrowed hastily over the previous couple of weeks, and bags full of gifts for all and sundry – including the siblings, cousins, friends, their in-laws, and the nephews and nieces of the brother-in-law’s sister-in-law. More than that, it means being happy at finally going back home after months and often years of toiling in the petro-economies. Contrary to the general rule, the departures area is less melancholy and more merry.

Perhaps the only sentiment common to the departures areas in the gulf and those back home is envy. The difference of course lies in the factors that drive that envy. Back home the departing son, and by extension his family are viewed with envy because of the ‘opportunity’ they have been blessed with. Over here, friends come to airport to see off a friend send him with love and perhaps a little envy at him for getting a chance to get away from the slave life and get to his nears and dears.

Wasn’t I supposed to tell you about how I indulged in a spot of people watching?

I will. Promise.

Tagged. Here.15

Lost, are we? Why else would you be here? It isn’t as if this blog gets updated even on a monthly basis. One could not possibly explain a visit to this blog by stating one’s deep desire to find out what the latest update was about, or by maintaining  just how interesting one found this place continuously. The last update here was a month ago. The update before last was four months before that, and the one preceding that a good five months earlier. Yet, you are here. We know that for a fact. You have to be here if you are reading this, and if you are here one has to wonder what it is that brings you here. All evidence suggests you are lost in this virtual labyrinth, and have come to this dreadful dead-end in your quest to find your way to whatever it is you are trying to find your way to. Or perhaps you are not lost. If you are not lost, chances are you are here because you have been sent here by the kindly people who tag me in the hope of jump starting me back into regular blogging. Don’t ask me why they would want that. Beats me. I wouldn’t  jump-start my blogging.

As matters stand, Owl has tagged me thus: Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 16 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 16 people to be tagged.

Owlie, now that I have got around to doing this tag, you owe me a big tray of those delicious date cookies of yours – simply because I have refrained from blogging all this while because I have not felt like putting my shortcomings up for public scrutiny, and now you are getting me to put 16 of them here. Here goes then:

1. I have not the faintest idea how to go about this. This is random enough.

2. I once made a paper plane that was airborne for far longer than it is appropriate for a paper plane to be. I was seven then, and never took that as a sign for me to take up engineering.

3. I have never played any sport regularly, except perhaps Soccer which I played from 6th standard till the 12th. We called it football, and I still do. I am calling it soccer for your convenience. Communication is a strong point with me. I used to play goalkeeper. I was the default goalkeeper because I was too bad at any other position. Eventually, I improved my goal keeping – to the extent where I was nominated the official goal keeper for the 9th standard team. I was also in the 9th standard then. Just in case you wondered. I stopped playing after I conceded 11 goals in the 20-minute recess playing against the 9th standard boys. I was in the 12th standard at the time.

4. Communication is a strong point with me – and yet, my communication skills seem to have been on a downhill ride for the past couple of years.

5. I often forget what I was saying, and when I do remember what I was saying I forget who I was saying it to. Often I also forget why I was saying what I was saying. My life has become an exercise in putting the pieces of my conversational puzzles together.

6. I am a terrible listener. Yet, there are those whom I love listening to -  so much so that I refuse to answer phones when I am listening to them.

7. I have learned to stay away from swimming and all manner of water-sport. Of the three occasions I have ventured into a swimming pool, I have been dragged out by the life guard on two occasions. The only time I summoned the courage to wade into the sea, I had to be rescued by Jalali Baba. The sea was not more than 6 feet deep at that spot.

8. Water and dogs hate me. They sense and smell my fear respectively. I love water. I don’t hate dogs. Such a pity dogs don’t read – or else perhaps this admission could have cleared decades of unnecesary bad blood. If you have a dog, let him know. Help spread the word, save the world etc…

9. There was a time when I had not a single trouser in my wardrobe which was not torn at the knees – an understandable consequence of my reliance on a motor-bike to get about the town.

10. A motor bike accident was also the reason for my closest brush with a sad demise. When the truck came to a halt, they had to drag me out from under it by the ankles. The twin-tyres left a lasting mark on ribcage area, which looks like the map of Lahore I think; and a patch of hair missing on my head. I was 19. It was a garbage truck hence the ‘sad’ preceding ‘demise’. I was on a bike the next afternoon, and was duly given a dressing down by my sister-in-law upon my return. The incident also taught me that I won’t die until it is time for me to die. And when it is time for me to die, I will die. In that way, it helped prepare me for death.

11. I have always had OCD. Or something bordering on OCD.

12. Music brings tears to my eyes. Sometimes.

13. Onions do too. Quite often.

14. As does a punch on my nose. Always.

15. On the down side, I lack discipline, punctuality, wisdom, survival instinct, competitiveness, a deep knowledge of any subject, ability to control my appetite, and enough water in my system.

16. On the upside, I do not lack compassion. I love easily and deeply. I try to forgive easily.  Alhamdulilah.

And now to tag 16 people who have not been tagged already. I don’t think there are 16 bloggers out there who will respond if I tag them, but if you are reading this, even if you arrived here after getting lost, you are tagged.

Additionally, A, Saadat, Asma, and Adnan you are all tagged.

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