November 21st, 2017

Three Weddings and a Funeral. Part II.16

Initially, SGR had planned to come on a Wednesday; but then he called in and said Wednesday did not look likely because of some engagements; he did not specify whether those engagements were of an official or a domestic nature. I hung up the phone and wondered if these engagements had anything to do with, or any bearing on what he intended discussing with me. After all, if it was something that warranted a clandestine trip down to a neighboring country to discuss it with a friend, it quite probably was the only engagement these days.

I found myself wondering about the nature of this ‘something important’; it took me back to the conversation we had had when he had first called to ‘request my time and opinion, because he knew I was short on the former these days, and because he valued the latter so very much’; and I tried to see if he had dropped any hints as to what it was. There were none. It was quite apparent that whatever it was that SGR needed to discuss, he intended to keep it under cover until he got here. I wished he had given me an inkling at least of what it was just so I could perhaps be better prepared – when your friend wants your opinion on something that is so very important for him, and he is coming down specifically to seek your opinion, you want to be sure you do not end up being, well… not much help. Flattering as his confidence in me was, it was highly disconcerting too.

SGR is not just good at what he does, he is one of the best. He has climbed the corporate ladder much faster than anyone I know; fact is, he hardly did bother with the ladder, being more of an elevator-man; and is already part of a well-known MNC’s top management team in the region. In fact, it is the globe-trotting his professional responsibilities make mandatory on him which have enabled us to stay more in touch with each other across two countries than we do with some of our friends in our respective countries. For two simple reasons, it was quite apparent that whatever the matter was it would have little to do with his professional life:

He has just about as much chance of finding himself in need of professional guidance as the Sultan of Brunei has of falling behind on his credit card payments.

If by any stretch of imagination, and here one wonders if indeed imagination can be credited with such elasticity at all, he did find himself at such crossroads in his professional life, there was as much hope of my opinion coming in handy as there is of my yearly income coming in handy to make payments on the Sultan of Brunei’s credit cards!

Do we all not know that the Sultan of Brunei quite likely does not carry credit cards? And just in case he does, and assuming he has swiped the card a few times in the white house to buy a country or two, there is zero possibility of him falling behind on his credit card payments – which is all the point.

Was it then something that was afoot at home? SGR is deliriously married Masha Allah, and has two most adorable and extremely entertaining children. His brother is his best buddy, and his family loves him. As might be surmised from above, it was not that I did not bring my deductive faculties into play; it was just that those faculties seemed woefully out of touch. After the above few inquiries, I began to understand what the likes of Muralidharan and Shane Warne feel like after they have bowled a few deliveries at our batsmen – except I was playing against myself, and somehow leaving oneself clueless is not one’s idea of feeling good about oneself.

The next few days passed without much incident, and eventually I found myself at the airport waiting for SGR. We spoke on the phone, and he asked me to meet him in the departures building. I assumed he was headed for the departures section to make arrangements for his return flight immediately after the end of our discussion. Had it been a regular visit, I would have met him in one of his two favorite haunts – the Grand Hayyat or the Fairmont – and his flight itinerary would have been taken care of by his office. This was the first time I was meeting him at the airport, and quite apparently, his office was not involved in his flight arrangements. Was he considering taking up a job in the UAE? Was that it? Maybe that’s why his office was not involved in booking his flights.

I was delighted by the thought, but then also reminded myself that if indeed this were the case, and he were here to seek my advice on whether or not to take up a job in the UAE, I would have to ensure I stayed objective, and did not allow the excitement of him moving to the UAE to color my opinion. Dubai is not necessarily the best of options for everyone. It is too crowded, too expensive, too un-Islamic, and too-not-worth-the-hassle for someone who is well-settled in a relatively not so crazy city like Doha (Or even Abu-Dhabi for that matter, as JB would tell us all from his experience). I decided to wait until I knew what exactly was it that he was being offered – if indeed it were the prospect of a job change that were bringing him to Dubai.

I refused to entertain the idea that there could be other possible ‘somethings’. The very first few thoughts that sprang to mind ensured that I decided on this inhospitable approach towards other ‘somethings’. Thoughts, dear reader, are a strange phenomenon. They come in all shapes and sizes. There is the kind which has set its sights on entering our minds, and making itself comfortable once there. This lot’s ambition to find abode at the top floor is rivaled only by its diligence and dedication to this task. Irrespective of whether or not we give our consent to hosting these thoughts, they sneak into our minds through back doors and alleys at times, and come barging in at others, with scant regard for the barriers we erect to check their entry.

Compare this eager lot to the kind, who would rather be anywhere than in our minds; no amount of cajoling, reasoning, pleading, coercing or even patient waiting will make them accept our invitation to come visiting. There is at least one blog we all know of which suffers due to the aversion of these and such other thoughts to finding themselves within the confines of a mind. It was due to the persistent and persevering nature of the former kind of thoughts that some still managed to seep into my mind, and left me cold with a false sense of foreboding.

There was the terrifying thought that perhaps he was having an affair. People do that sometimes – get involved where they should not. SGR is not the kind who would go about philandering, but he is blessed with a loving heart, and there is no telling when the heart might decide to pull against the righteous forces of reason. What if it was some such development, and he were contemplating tying the knot – again? What would I tell him? Importantly, would he listen to me if I told him to not tie himself in knots through this tying the knot business? More importantly, how would he like it if he sought my opinion on such a matter, and I offered the kind of opinion that is seldom offered except to very near and dear ones – the honest kind? Where would that leave our friendship?

In such matters, I have already learned, people do not ask for honest opinions, they ask for assenting and consenting opinions; they go looking for an opinion that will alleviate the burden of their guilt, and help them let themselves off the hook. Unfortunately, offering an honest opinion under the circumstances can carry repercussions. There is always the risk that deafened by the noise of racing heartbeats, they will not hear the voice of reason, and will actually resent being reminded of the importance of adhering to reason over heart. I was about to get angry with SGR for getting himself, and me with him, into this mess; what infernal impulse had come over him to lose his marbles, and in the process his heart, like that? Why could he not have appreciated what he had been blessed with and be thankful for it? It was at this point that I realized that I too needed to adhere to reason over imagination. After all, SGR’s extra-marital indiscretions were nothing but a figment of my imagination, a reflection of my worst fears.

Scarcely had I drawn myself away from this horrendous line of thought, when my mind was besieged by another thought, another kind of fear. SGR is quite the movie-buff. What if he had taken the wrong kind of inspiration from one of those ‘Ocean’ movies? What if his sole purpose in coming to the UAE was to engage my services for a heist? Where, in the conducting of a heist, would I come in handy is of course anybody’s guess. Here one must make provision for the fact that people are often unaware of their potential, or at least less aware as compared to their contemporaries of what they are capable or not capable of.

Self-evaluation, after all, is not an exact science. Had it been so, I would have made partner in an MNC by now; unfortunately, most people seemed to differ from my self-evaluations during the part of my professional life when I was required to fill up a self-evaluation form periodically. There is, indeed, credible evidence in the form of a termination letter which supports the hypothesis that self-evaluation is not an exact science.

It is, therefore, entirely possible that I might have over-looked some hidden potential in me, which SGR might have identified in one of our meetings, the kind of potential that comes in handy in undertakings such as heists and other such clandestine operations. Granted I am no Brad Pitt, but then SGR is not exactly what you might call George Clooney. I was beginning to get worried that this line of thought was forcing me to identify the wrong kind of potentials in myself, and I decided to put an end to the soul searching before I discovered that I had, in fact, abundant talent to steal samosas from Pakistani restaurants, or shoplifting at Big and Tall.

The thing with thoughts is that they are much taken with idioms and phrases. ‘It never rains but pours’ seemed to be the order of the day. I was still fighting the urge to hold up an airport, and make away with the luggage of hundreds of passengers, when a most ridiculous thought presented itself to me: What if SGR had suddenly discovered that he was indeed better-half-material trapped in what we might refer to as the wrong kind of body? Why he would need to see me about such a realization was another disturbing question; but I was saved the trouble of pondering over these disconcerting questions when I spotted SGR’s familiar face at a distance. I could see that whatever the matter was, it had failed to dampen his spirits; his delightful smile lit up his face, and warmed my heart. I issued a silent rebuke to my mind for entertaining such ridiculous guests in the preceding few minutes, and waved at SGR to catch his attention.

As we walked towards each other, I prepared for the imminent lifting of the proverbial veil.

Three Weddings and a Funeral.9

It is, perhaps, a good thing – the fact that I have not written in a long time. But before you offer your consent, let me clarify that I have wanted to write, but have either been too exhausted to type out a few coherent lines, or too devoid of ideas. It was more of former and less of latter. There was also a lot lacking by way of motivation; not the kind of motivation one needs to start writing, but the kind necessary to finish what one has begun writing. No-one is more aware than I of how dismal it is when one has not written in weeks, even months. It is, therefore, perhaps a good thing that I sit here with the intention to complete not one post, but four. To ensure that I keep at it, and am able to follow up on this commitment I have decided to post all four under the same title. That the title is somewhat lacking in originality, and can hardly lay claim to greatness in improvising is something I am aware of, but shall choose to overlook. It is but a means to an end, the title is, and the end is entirely different from the source I accuse me of having borrowed the title from.

Perhaps, I should clarify at this point that there is little in what follows that will qualify to be called a wedding in the generally understood meaning of the word. It is more a metaphor than anything else, a metaphor for happiness; for what is a wedding but a celebration of and two hopes for eternal happiness. Sure, it is the coming together of two people, and the binding together of new ties between two families, but at the end of it all, a wedding is two people hoping to find happiness with each other. So, if you ask me, a wedding is one of the most apt metaphors for happiness – eternal or not.

Here are, then, the stories of three weddings and a funeral:

The First Wedding:

I got a call from SGR. He was coming to Dubai, he said, but he did not want anyone finding out this time. This was strange, because SGR lives and works in the neighboring GCC state of Qatar, and visits good old Dubai often for business. The business part he manages in the mornings, and the evenings we spend together talking of all things that friends talk about when they meet after a long time, and then some. Over the past few years, I have introduced SGR to my friends here, and now we all look forward collectively to his visits here. SGR has us all convinced that this looking forward is mutual.

I like doing that – introducing my friends to each other. There is a reason behind it, and a very selfish one at that. It has everything to do with making me look good. You see, when it comes to friends, I have always been blessed. Allah Almighty has, in His unbounded mercy, always blessed me with wonderful people for friends. It might have something to do with my own deficiencies, but they always seem to be more learned, more knowledgeable, and hence more impressive than I can ever hope to be. Invariably, they are better people than I am, but Jalali Baba believes that is easily accomplished since I present a meager challenge in that department; not that he has nice things to say about the challenges I might present in the knowledgeable/learned department. They, my friends, are my best possessions, and I like to show them off.

SGR and I go back to our college days, and that was a long time ago. We knew each other then too, but only in passing. I knew SGR because he was at the top of his class, and because he used to host this forum called “Cross-fire” where they used to have intellectually stimulating, grave discussions and ferocious debates about issues that have been having or could have lasting effects on the world. SGR knew me because I was not on top of my class, and because I used to bring comic relief to “Crossfire” by airing my opinion openly. SGR is too kind and generous, and it will be hard to get him to admit that what we had was less than mutual respect for each other – the deficiency being from his side. A few years after we had graduated, Fash, who was a class-fellow of SGR’s and a childhood friend of mine, called me up requesting me to show SGR around since he was tied down in his job at the Mall, and SGR was in town. I called SGR up, we agreed on the time and venue, and met up. We stayed up discussing God knows what till four in the morning, and we both had work to go to in the morning; the rest as they say is history.

SGR has been coming to the UAE very regularly ever since, and if he has committed the unpardonable sin of not letting me know, and not meeting up, he must be let off simply for doing a stupendous job of not letting it be known. Over time we established that SGR liked smoking Sheesha, and hated Dubai. We also established that we shared an unrivaled passion for good food. Our meeting points were thus defined: They must serve good sheesha, they must either not be in Dubai, or look nothing like being in Dubai, and they must serve great food. The quest to find such places took us around a bit, but eventually we did settle for a couple of places.

If we could help it, and if we had enough time on hand, which is to say if each of us could fold his official chores latest by 9:00 p.m. we would leave for Abu-Dhabi, so that we could be at Havana Cafe, Abu-Dhabi latest by 11:00 p.m. Havana Cafe is a lovely little spot at the tip of Abu-Dhabi city, located on what is a strip of reclaimed land protruding into the Arabian sea; it overlooks the magnificent Emirates Palace Hotel on the one side, and the lighted skyscrapers of the capital on the other; it is separated from both by what can best be described as a little bit of sea-water, which adds to the ambience of the place through the insulation it provides from the noise of the city, a few yachts and luxury boats moored by the side, and the shimmering reflections of both the Emirates Palace Hotel and the city bringing color to the dark canvas of semi-still water. The sheesha is great, even if it makes me cough after the third drag, dizzy by the fourth, and positively intoxicated by the fifth; and they make a great burger called Havana Special.

If, however, due to any number of factors either of us cannot untangle himself from the daily chores by 9:00 p.m. we settle in favor of Dubai Heritage Village, which is situated on the Bur-Dubai side of the creek. There have some good restaurants there, and they have tables lining the pavement this side of the grill which serves to keep the sea at bay. Across the creek, downtown Dubai, Deira stands in all its splendor. No sky-scrapers, but enough high rise buildings and enough hoardings and neon-signs to present an agreeable sight, especially when reflected in the water. The place is insulated once again from the noise and hustle-bustle that has come to define Dubai, and is lent a degree of authenticity by the loud Arab (read Egyptian) Music blaring from the speakers, and the floating ‘Dhows’. Dhows are wooden boats and launches, some of which are decorated with lights and banners and you know those are the ones that carry tourists around, while others are not so decorated and are laden with cargoes of various kinds. These are part of a fleet that continues to ply the sea-routes to neighboring countries and helps keep the centuries old trade relations as well as traditions intact. These restaurants serve good sheesha, good food, and stay open till late.

Jalali Baba, Moderate Enlightenment and a couple of SGR’s friends have become a regular feature of these meetings, wherever they are held. More the merrier is the mantra. Once the sheesha is served, the conversation is given a few revs, and then put in ‘D’. The topics can range from Religion to Politics, to Land-Cruisers (SGR’s almost sole passion), to books, to airplanes (SGR’s almost other passion), to knicqisms, to JB-bashing, to knicq-bashing to any-one else bashing, to Dubai-bashing (SGR and JB’s joint passion – one being from Qatar and the other a resident of Abu-Dhabi), to Abu-Dhabi-bashing (JB’s sole right by virtue of him being an ex-citizen of the city), to food (a common passion, or assumed to be so, irrespective of who is in attendance), to extolling Qatar and all things Qatari (SGR again), to just about anything. Irrespective of what the topic is, good humor and laughter continue to define and defile the underlying mood, and JB invariably comes in for some flak, simply because none of us would dare disrespect him on his own, and because we all know there is security in numbers; but mostly because one way or the other he ends up being embroiled in all kinds of things that make it impossible for him to join us in these meetings, and when in a subsequent session he does join, he makes for a good target thanks to the trademark ridiculousness of his excuse for his absence from the previous meeting.

Most recently, we discovered another spot in the UAE, which provided us the necessary ingredients for our meeting i.e. good sheesha, not Dubai, good food, and insulation from city-noise. It is almost equi-distant from both Abu-Dhabi and Dubai, and makes it possible for STK to join us, since she lives in Al-Ain. I had known this spot for sometime, since it happens to be in my place of birth: Al-Ain; but SGR and I had never really been able to make that trip down to this little city often called the city of gardens. The spot is at the top of Jebel Hafeet, a 950m mountain billed as the highest point in the country. There is a modest hotel at the top of the mountain, and while the food is edible, and the sheesha is almost good, it is the location of the spot itself that stands out – almost literally. The sheesha place is built like a majlis tent, and is aptly called Khaimah; it is built deliberately in a dark corner just at the back of the Mercuree Hotel, and on most days the howling of the wind passing by the mountain can be heard. Visible below are the minuscule maps which the city lights draw on the sprawling desert that is the city of Al-Ain.

So SGR called, and said he needed to see me about something important, and he needed to discuss something most privately, and would therefore appreciate if I did not disclose his arrival to the other friends. He said he would be coming only for a few hours, and would be in the country just so the two of us could turn the idea over and perhaps arrive at a solution. He made some very formal requests, and I began to get worried. We have been good friends for years now, and when I was in trouble a couple of times, I had been able to just pick up the phone, and ask SGR for his help. It had never occurred to me to thank him before or after I had asked the favors. Here was SGR thanking me already for time and opinion, I was glad he had the trust and confidence to ask for, and neither of which he had yet taken. But then, I thought to myself, SGR has always been a very classy guy; someone for whom no detail is too small. My intrigue was heightened, my interest piqued, and my imagination was working overtime to decipher the mystery, but he refused to part with any details until he had arrived here. Left with little other option, I decided to wait, and assured him I would not be disclosing his imminent arrival to anyone.

After this, I waited.

(Continued)

Fash’s 30th!2

In just about twenty four hours, Fash will, by the grace of Allah, turn 30 years old. He will be the first one from my friends to cross over into thirties. Not that it is of any consequence, thirty year olds today are so much younger than thirty year olds from my father’s generation. I should know. 30 year olds today are just about a year older than me today – they used to be something like 25 years older than me back then. Those guys used to be so old!

Fash has been a dear dear friend, the dearest, and he is also the oldest friend I have today. We first got to know each other back in 1985, when we started grade four together in school. I had just come back from Pakistan, after being gone for some two years, and he, I think, had come down from Abu-Dhabi. I don’t remember how we came to be friends, and after this long who really cares; one wonders if it really was out of choice since the gender ratio in our class was 26:4 to the disadvantage of the males; besides my memories from those days are rather painful. Fash has maintained a decent four inch vertical superiority over me all along. I used to think he had a superiority complex, until I found out he was the short guy in his cousins. This vertical advantage of his often resulted in horizontal consequences for me, owing to our daily wrestling matches before the morning assembly.

He has often laughed about the time he picked me up, and brought me down on his knee. I still attribute my back problems to that fateful incident. Another time, we were sabre rattling, only mine was a plastic scale, while he had that wooden scale that used to come with a blade – in my enthusiasm, I caught one of his ‘blows’ in my hand, and refused to let go…he just pulled the scale away – left me with four fingers bleeding. We both left that school after seventh grade, and were to meet again a good seven years later in Pakistan. It has been another nine years since, and Fash has introduced me to scores of wonderful new people in these years, amongst them Felicity, Madi and Jalali Baba.

Moral of the story: Great friends come to those who hold on to their first great friend.

I have learnt that the strongest of bonds are formed in the weakest of moments, under the most fragile circumstances. I have also learnt that one of Allah’s greatest blessings is a friend close by in turbulent times. A few years ago, I was left bruised and battered at the end of a most trying day; Allah had given me the strength to plough through the day’s events, but I did not see it that way at the time. Despair, regret, anguish, and sadness were pulling me into hopelessness, when I found Fash on line. I was fragile, deeply hurt, and very tired at the time, and I am glad it was Fash I had found on line. He comforted me, reassured me, and kept me from completely disintegrating. I did not realize it then, and it was only months later when I came across that same conversation that it dawned upon me just how vulnerable and unwise I had been in those moments, and just how big a blessing of Allah Fash had been that day. That chapter in my life tested a couple more of my friends, and Alhamdu Lillah each one of them came through. I could not talk to Fash after that, but Madi was with me for the next couple of weeks, and helped me and guided me as a friend must a friend lost in darkness. I got back online, and found an email from Felicity that had just the rigth words saying just the things I needed to be told at the time. After all that turbulence, peace and releif came to me through a precious few lines, written to me by a precious friend. Sure, I suffered, but I also discovered the wonderful joy that friends are.

This is turning into a song of friendship; I had meant for this post to be an introduction of Fash, one of my closest, dearest friends; but it is begining to read like a boring chapter from my biography. My apologies. It is, however, an undeniable fact that no introduction of a great friend is complete unless one elaborates on just what makes that friend great. To Fash’s disadvantage, what makes him great is that he has stuck around despite the boring me – and this he has done for over two decades now!

So, dear friend, here is wishing you a very very happy birthday, and many many happy returns of the day. May Allah shower His blessings on you everyday and every night, and may He reward you with joy, happiness and contentment for bringing joy to so many lives; may He give you the courage and strength to endure being my friend for all years to come.

Ameen.

Madi, Joseph and Mansoor. Vol. II0

Joseph wrote me an email, and he signed it Guiseppe. It took me sometime to figure out that Joseph and Guiseppe are one and the same person. I am sure he will forgive me. After all, unlike him, I am not Italian.

I had met Guiseppe by chance. He was the third good thing happening to me on that day. Madi’s visit was the first, my discovery of Mansoor’s music was the second, and meeting Guiseppe was the third. It seems appropriate that I tackle Mansoor before I do Guiseppe. Mansoor is not exactly pronounced Mansoor, it is pronounced more along the lines of Maynsour, what with he being an Iranian and all.

A couple of years ago, a client of mine, distributor for a major Korean brand of cigarettes had thrown a grand party at the Dubai Golf Creek to launch a new brand of cigarettes. The party was followed by a grand concert, and because the M.D was in a generous mood when he met me, he handed me over a couple of passes to this concert. It was a concert by an Iranian superstar followed by a Lebanese superstar. I understood niether Persian music nor Arabic music, but it seemed rude to decline that invitation, so I took it with thanks. Besides, Persian and Lebanese are generally acknowledged as two of the most beautiful races on Earth, and I thought being in the company of that crowd could only do my eyes good.

Mine was a VIP pass, so I proceeded to the open air venue along with a couple of friends from the host company, one an Indian and the other a Pakistani. Our jaws dropped to the ground with resounding thuds, and our eyes almost popped out when we got to the venue. It was as if we had been transported to another part of the world in an instant – everywhere we looked we saw these men and women of exquisite beauty, and for as far as I could see I could see not a single abaya/burqa/scarf. Actually, the ladies were too liberally dressed even for a Dubaiite’s taste. The concert was yet to begin, but the place was jam packed, and it was abuzz with the indescribable noise reminiscent of a huge beehive.

I tried to listen, and I so very much liked what I heard. Anyone who has heard either Persian or Lebanese accent of Arabic will tell you that there are few dialects that sound more amicable to the ears. There’s of course the sing-song dialect of Singhalese that the Srilankans talk in, there is Swahili that my Kenyan friends seem to sing lullabys in, and in our own backyard we have sweet languages like Seraiki and Sindhi that are easy on the ears – but Persian, and Lebanese/Syrian Arabic are in a class of their own. Perhaps, it has something to do with the over all ambience created by the speakers of these two languages that lends them added beauty.

So there we were looking like kids in a HUGE candy shop, when all of a sudden, without any warning this bearded guy sprang on to the stage with a cry – and the noise that followed was nothing less than deafening. He mozay feghustay dostayed a little before he launched into his first song. The crowd went absolutely berserk, and I found it hard to convince myself I was in UAE. I know a lot goes on in UAE, but somehow that part of Dubai is not a part of the life we born and brought up in UAE Pakistanis normally live. The first song ended, and then without music this guy chanted something like “Deevooney Deevooney…” and half the crowd chanted back in unison. The other half almost killed itself screaming!

Turns out this was one of the most waited for numbers in the evening, something like a Dil Dil Pakistan in a Vital Signs concert. The noise as well as the frantic dancing of the crowd was beginning to get to me, perhaps because I knew niether the language nor the music at all, so by the end of the second song, I had made my way out of the venue, but for a long long time the “Deevooney…” chant was etched on my memory. I had wanted to get my hands on that music for sometime, but unfortunately, I had not taken the trouble of finding out the name of that band at the time.

Two years down the road, I had just sauntered into this Virgin Music Store when the DJ played “Deevooney”. I recognized the tune instantly, and picked up a cassette. I still do not understand more than just a few words, but I love the music. The guy sings very well and our Jals and Jawads could certainly take a leaf out of their music. Its worn off now, but on that day the excitement of listening to something totally fresh had wanted to translate into words on this blog, hence the inclusion in the title of the post. By the way deevooney means the same as Deewana in Urdu, Crazy. Incidently that was also the name of the album – Crazy.

So there…

… Now all I have to write about is Guiseppe, who to date is one of the most inspiring peiople I have met… but you are going to have to come back to read about him.

Madi, Joseph and Mansoor. 10

Now, doesn’t that sound like an interesting topic for a ch’haar darwesh story? My posts may not be ch’har darwesh stories, but they are ambitious attempts nontheless. The title, I would think then, is apt. The CD stories are seldom containable in one post, or tome. At least, they always present that growth potential, and one ought to be optimistic about these matters, hence the “1″. This “1″ implies a lot more than it says. It tells you that the author takes it upon himself to help you manage your time better, and so will not be burdening you with the complete details just yet. It also asks you to make a mental note to come back again – for, for every thing that has a volume 1, it is implicit that there will at least be a volume “2″, if not more. Thirdly, it makes it binding on the writer to keep his mental faculties operational by telling him that he might be in for a marathon rather than a 100m.

I am not very good at diary like posts, and often end up typing out lines after lines of boredom, as might have been guaged by discerning readers by now. Not that I think my non-diary posts are any better, but at least they do not imply that I am a boring old man with a boring penchant for boredom. At least, they do not advertise …

Wait a minute! Where is all this going…?
Do you see now what I mean? I am talented enough to destroy the promise of a perfectly nice title. Well, not today. Not now. Hopefully, not often.

It has been an interesting day, and I have decided to try and see if I can manage to reflect that here… The day was interesting because of the three people, whose names give this post its title. They made a perfectly (read painfully) average day great, and I dedicate this post, and quite possibly some to follow, to them.

Let us start with Madi. Madi isn’t pronounced the way it is written. It is pronounced the way it is not written. I guess, if it were to be spelled the way it is pronounced, it would be spelled Muddee – not with the “d” of mud, but with the “d” of Urdu dada, or Russian “Da”, or for that matter the Arabic “d”. Yeah that’s right, the last one fits it very well.

Now with the pronounciation out of the way, let me tell you that Madi is the name of one of those courageous men, who chose to be friends with this imbecile many years ago, and have since stood by their decision, come what may. He was here from Karachi on some training course being conducted by his hot shot company, and we managed to meet up a couple of times to catch up on old times. Old times happen to be the 16 months we’d spent together in PCBA back in 1997-98.

There was a lot going for us then. All the nice, pretty and beautiful girls (are there any other kind?) were falling for Madi, and I was going around proposing to each of them. Actually, I got to them with my proposals, even before Madi got around to getting them to fall for him. The worst part is he just had to be there, and be the gentleman he is, to make them fall for him. The best part is not one girl accepted my proposal. Best for them girls that is. All this, when he was just half a kilo heavier than me. It did not matter what weight I was, he was always half a kilo heavier than me. I had a theory. He had this full sand-papery shave even back then, and that was the half a kilo of difference. Either that, or he did not cut his nails. Given a choice between the two, he would inevitably be more agreeable to the former option. Why? Beats me.

We found out we were on the same wavelength during our study sessions. It would often transpire that we would get together at his place for joint study. We would agree to meet at something like 8 p.m. and be through with our thorough understanding of the topic/assignment at 2:00 a.m latest. 8:00 p.m. used to be the time I would get to his home from my hostel. After having seen the latest episode of Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, we would let his mother treat us to a scrumptious dinner, and then proceed post haste to his room sporting studious looks as well as attitude. The time by then would often have whizzed past us to 10:00 p.m. The books would be opened quickly, but before we even got started with the first topic, we would drift into either a story from his past or mine. After, the first three sessions, it used to be only his stories, since I did not have very many left in the bag by then. The first break would come with tea and snacks at midnight, after which we would often agree that we were running short on time, and needed to focus on the task on hand. The task on hand would often be an impending exam, or imminent presentation.

This is how the first five minutes of study would go at 12:35 a.m …

Madi: Oh, this is the one. I remember the teacher (names vary) had explained it with this analogy.
Me: Oh, yeah, and look here, these are Bilal’s notes from the classroom… and didn’t Felicity raise this point in the same case.
Madi: Oh yeah. See, this is how it applies to problem no.1… (followed by 30 seconds for explanation).
Me: Hmmm… the next ten problems/slides look the same.
Madi: They do? Show me…
Me: Yes.
Madi: Yes, they do.
Me: That takes care of half the chapter.
Madi: (Looking at the wall clock) We are still running behind schedule.

So, we would repeat the above five minutes for the rest of the chapter.

Madi: There, now we are ahead of schedule. Just need to get powerpoint ready. Shall we take a break.

I would give my consent, and we would drift back into Madi’s stories and my poetry. At 2:00 a.m. we would realize that we had fallen behind schedule, and so would get down to work. By 3:00 a.m. the “work” would be finished, and we would be worried about getting up late in the morning. Madi would often suggest that he could skip shaving, and I could skip brushing in case we woke up late – or we could both skip washing our faces with soap, which would translate into massive savings in soap and water over the next 3349 years. However, in case we were running really late, we could always skip tying the laces on our shoes, and he would also not lock the car. So satisfied with our time management feat, we would stay up another half hour, and would be woken up five minutes later by his mother just in time for our half hour trips to bathrooms.

Upon reaching college, we would run to Felicity and ask her if she had studied anything the past night, and she would tell us that she had. In evidence thereof she would tell us the story of the latest John Grisham novel, or a review of the latest movie she had seen the last night. We would then send her into depression by telling her that we had been up till 4:00 a.m preparing. The grades were always the same, Madi and I would score in the high eighties, and Felicity in high nineties. We hated her. We did all the hard work while she watched movies and read novels, and she always got better grades.

Anyway, Madi was here, and we were meeting after over two years. In the meanwhile, he had got married, and had been blessed with an angel. Reminiscing was fun, and meeting after such a long time was even more fun. Hope you can make it for a longer period next time, ol’ friend.

If I do not go to bed now, no amount of skipping will help me in the morning… So, Jospeh and Mansoor who made the rest of my day special shall have to wait till the next post to find mention….

Yaaaaawn! Shab Bakhair.

August 02.0

August 02. It was Shahnila’s birthday, and I had no idea how to wish her. I wasn’t even sure where she was, and how life was treating her in general.Shahnila, one of the sweetest people you could ever meet. The greatest of listeners, and the most wonderful of friends one could ask for. All she had to do to be a great friend to you was be your friend, and be herself.

I still remember her fondly, she and her weekly new dresses; complete with new make-up to match. I also remember that day in class when we were having these presentations, which were not really much trouble, nor did they carry any real weightage towards the final grade. But, she was all worked up, and sat through the whole of the two presentations preceding hers holding my hand. That was the sort of thing she needed your support in – a teeny weeny test, an immaterial report, an unimportant presentation.

I also remember the day she sat with me at Punjnad’s stairs, and heard the ups and downs in my love-story. By the time I was through telling her how tough the going was increasingly getting, she was the one with the tears in her eyes, and a smile on her lips. That was the kind of support she lent you; felt your frsutration, your pain, and your longing – felt them probably more than you yourself did. As long as she was around, you knew you had some sincere prayers coming your way, and some real support system, should the things that matter most to you take a turn for the worse. You also knew for sure there was one more person who would definitely rejoice in your good fortune.

And then that last meeting with her – at her home, in their drawing room, over a wonderful meal cooked by her loving mother; her mother who looked so much like her grandmother whose portrait adorned the wall. She had broken up with OT, and I had decided to part ways with wifey-to-be. Our reasons were different, but our pain was the same. We had spoken at length that day. We had spoken about how it was important for her to part ways with OT, because he had a different lifestyle. A lifestyle that required a huge effort and sacrifice from her parents and family to adjust to. We also spoke about how important it was that I do not go against my parents, and sacrifice my love for their wishes. She went ahead and stayed away from OT. I did not make the sacrifice.

Today, if she knew about my two wonderful kids, Masha Allah, perhaps she would be one of the happiest people on earth. Happy that I had found happiness with wifey. She would also lament the fact that it had to come at a cost.

If only I knew how she was doing. Last I heard, her troubles had continued even after her decision to separate herself from OT. I have since always prayed that she finds happiness with whomever it is who is lucky enough to have her as his life partner.

And I have wished, and hoped that she will contact one of us one of these days, and share our joys the wonderful way only she does.

Happy Birthday to you Shahnila, whereever you are. And many many happy returns of the day.

May He bless you with all the best in life, and hereafter.

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