March 26th, 2017

Differentiating Jalali Baba and Coori….0

I am starting out with the explicit intention of putting up a serious update today, and by serious I do not mean the “serious” damage that da Momma and the daughterly duo promise to do to their food, before they nibble a little at the food and begin congratulating each other on a job well done; I mean SERIOUS serious. Having been out of action, and hence out of practice for about a week less than a month, I am faced with the enviable dilemma of too many topics to blog about, and I intend on making the most of this dilemma.
Jalali Baba has been in Karachi for some three weeks now, which means I can actually blog about that gentleman he had met recently, one who had stated, drawing on his excellence in a pertinent area of expertise, that Jalali Baba was borderline psychotic, and something else equally disconcerting. I can blog about this gentleman, and support his deduction with observations and experiences of my own – in addition to those I have already blogged about, and not get an abusive call, or a not-such-a-surprise visit from Jalali Baba. Yes sir, that would make for an excellent and risk free update.
Or I could blog about Coori and the detergent episode, which is something I have been promising to blog about for ages. Oh, and for a couple of people who have at different times implied that Coori and Jalali Baba are one and the same person, I would like to make this very public clarification that the two are poles apart. It is just my luck that I am stuck with psychotic people for friends.
For instance, Coori would not know the first thing about Yousufi, unless of course you told him that Yousufi is actually a pathan of Yousufzai clan, at which time he could delve into the trove of historical facts about pathans that he carries in his grey matter and surface with a few interesting ones to share with the ignorant non pathan mortals. Jalali Baba on the other hand could easily be mistaken for a scholar when it comes to Yousufi. That alone sets the two apart.
That and the fact that Jalali Baba has enviable command over Urdu, which is more than can be said about Coori. Coori on the other hand speaks impeccable Pushto. Of course one might be forgiven for doubting the technical accuracy of the terms “enviable command” as well as “impeccable” , since the two are relative to your humble servant’s understanding of the two languages, which can, at best, be described as moderate and negligible respectively for Urdu and Pushto. By negligible, I mean I know the meaning of sange, jodey, Khudae pamaan, ywa, dwa, dre and rasha. Though I must admit I am not completely sure if ‘Rasha’ means come or go. Under such circumstances, if one were to accuse me of exaggerating my understanding of Pushto, a language whose evolution can be traced back a few millennia and which is the pride of a proud and brave people, I would not exactly sue one for libel or slander.
Sure, Coori and Jalali Baba have their similarities. There must be some commonalities between people who befriend a bore, and I insist on this spelling, and continue to count the imbecile amongst their friends even after they know him as well as they do. They are not the same person though. Let us not forget also that we are looking at the two through the myopic viewpoint of one person, who is probably incapable to recognize and admire the other features that are peculiar to each of them and which set the two apart.
Actually that sounds like an idea. Why don’t we try and figure out the other differences in these two dynamic personalities today? Where does one start from…? Appearance? Makes sense. They do look different, as must most people who are not one and the same person. They both have had something to do with beards, as I have explained in my earlier posts. Jalali Baba’s beard, when he has one, is more a testimony to his lethargy than a concious religious choice, or a fashion statement. At some point it was also a fashion statement, a statement of bad fashion that is – we are talking about times when having a large beard, with “tao-able” moustache was considored fashionable. Tragic as it might seem the fashion had originated in the jungles of interior Sindh and interior Punjab, where docaits often supported such beards. The point in either case, the case of the fashion freaks and the case of the jungle freaks, was presenting a belligerant image. In Jalali Baba’s case, it went well with his image of no-nonsense, demented, and cruel brilliant professor, an image that was the key to discipline in his class rooms.
Coori’s beard was a matter of religious choice. He loved his beard dearly, and swore by it. It looked good on him too, but we did not know that until much later when we received his pictures without it from Canada. For as long as I saw him in person, I saw him with the beard. I am not sure if he grew one again, I saw him last some six years ago, and even if he did grow one, I doubt if it would have looked as lovely as it used to then. The ‘maiden’ beard, a prerogative of only those people whose faces have never known the touch of blade or aftershave, has a nobility about it that does not come easy to the beard that grows in tilled land. It is much like comparing the majestic beauty of the woods with the more controlled look of a field. Coori’s beard was also a more permanent feature of his personality, unlike in the case of Jalali Baba where it comes and goes, at times leaving a silly, over-sized moustache behind.
Another point of difference is their interest, or lack thereof, in sports. Jalali Baba cannot be bothered with cricket, while Coori cannot be bothered with people who cannot be bothered with cricket. Jalali Baba is an IT professional, which he insists is an accusation because he calls himself a networking professional. As far as a non-techy, computer-wary person like me is concerned they are all IT people. Besides, if you cannot call Jalali Baba an information technology person who can you call an information technology person? I mean, the man is nothing but full of a little information about so many things, and the perfection with which he uses that little information about everything to disparage, denigrate, belittle, malign, and generally discredit me is nothing short of technology.
Coori, on the other hand, is an MBA, with majors in Marketing, Finance, Management, and whatever else they allowed him to major in. The one thing I am sure he did not major in was MIS. He shares my dread of, and hence the disdain for all pc-induced and Bill Gates-inspired specializations.
Coori was an accomplished cook eight years ago. He made tomato salan. Jalali Baba had his first cooking ordeal less than a week before he departed for Pakistan last month. The historic incident owed its occurrence to the fact that his wife and kids had left for Pakistan a couple of weeks ahead of him, and Bhabi had left him a few recipes to help him get oriented in the culinary domain. Since he was going to be cooking for just himself, she had left recipes for small portions that would last him a day or so, so that he did not just cook a cauldron of something and make himself sick eating stale food day after day.
Someone whose favorite movies invariably include a military angle, and someone who has always conducted himself as a psuedo commando, can be relied upon to do that kind of thing. He subscribes to the ridiculous school of militarist (read drill-masterist) masculinity where exercising caution in matters of physical well-being is often brushed aside as feminine, or worse still, civilian luxury. The only way to toughening oneself is through rigorous self-torture, and through subjecting oneself to the harshest conditions.
She need not have bothered though. Jalali Baba did not need food for the first three days. He had his first box of Pringles, and a dozen cartons of Marlboro to convert into ash. He had no time to eat. In her blissful absence, he could go about smoking to his heart’s content and consternation in every nook and corner of the house. I have visions of him smoking freely in the kitchen, in the bathrooms, sitting at the dining table, in the sofas, in the closet, under the table, behind the lamp, in front of the lamp, standing at the dining table, on the sofas, in the closet as well as on the closet, on the table, behind the lamp, in front of the lamp, lying on the bed, under the bed, beside the bed, behind the bed, in front of the bed, and while hanging from the ceiling fans or out of the balcony.
I have these visions because I know he smokes as many cigarettes as he can before the Ramadan fast since he will not be smoking through the day. Knowing him he probably feels the need to smoke in all the places and in all the postures mentioned above because he knows he will not be able to smoke inside the house, and if Bhabi can help it, outside the house, once she is back. It was probably one of his secret fantasies to be able to smoke in the various parts of his home.
Anyhow, once he had made up for his domestic nicotine deficiency, and in the process made himself sick, he could not make use of those recipes for the next few days precisely because he was sick. He has a bad throat fortnightly, and each time he goes to his doctor the doctor tells him to quit smoking. He had a very bad throat and a very bad stomach this time. When I confronted him about the bad throat and clarified to him that the doctor’s repeated advice implied that his smoking ways were to blame for his recurring throat infection, he brushed me aside saying the doctor just found in his infections an excuse to pursue his own sinister anti-smoking agenda. He said it in such a pitiable tone that for a while I sympathized with him and wanted to sue the doctor for malpractice.
AA, being a doctor, got to speak to him and suggested that bananas might help with his stomach problems. Jalali Baba called a few hours later to complain that he was going bananas with bananas. Apparently he had taken the doctor’s advice on the stomach matter, and brought himself a dozen or so bananas. He ate a couple, and then ate the rest, because otherwise they would have gone bad, and in case he had eaten something else his stomach would have got worse. AA had to tell him to get off the bananas.
He did a similar thing with cooking when he got down to it finally. The incident is best narrated the way it unfolded in front of us. On a Friday afternoon, we got a call from Jalali Baba saying he had started experimenting with the recipes bhabi had left him, but was not sure all was going great. Wifey and I set out to help him, and asked him what the problem seemed to be. Apparently, he had had the meat and the water on the stove for quite sometime but the water was showing no sign of drying up in accordance with the prediction of the recipe. After a few straightforward questions, it was determined that there was too much water in the cooking pot. He would have no part of that deduction.
Instead he maintained that his measurements were mathematical and accurate. However, since we know him too well now, we pretty much suspected that the problem had to be with the mathematical calculations, so we asked him to elaborate on the matter. Turns out Bhabi had left him a recipe for four pieces of meat, but since he was going to be traveling to Pakistan in the next couple of days, he figured he could not leave any meat in the refrigerator, so he decided to cook all of it, which was numerically much more than just four pieces. As you might have guessed by now, he ended up increasing the amount of water in proportion to the increase in number of pieces. What he got as a result was a pot full of water that would take forever to evaporate. We helped him rectify the situation.
I called him an hour later to inquire what his first self-prepared lunch had been like, and was surprised when he told me he had still not had any lunch. Here is what had happened: after he had brought the water down to a more reasonable level, he had left it to cook, and gone to read a book. Half an hour later, when he had gone back to check on it, he had found the water to be almost at the same level as before. Now one has heard of stubborn beef, mutton or beans that refuse to yield to cooking attempts, but water???
He had been able to figure this one out by himself though. He had run out of gas, and that too some time soon after he had taken the water out of the pot, where soon after may be used interchangeably with immediately. He was, at the time, waiting for the gas cylinder people to arrive. I implored him to order take out, but he refused to budge and said he would eat what he had put in so much effort in. Eventually he did eat it, and as was to be expected discovered that he could actually cook better than most people who had ever cooked anything. It was Owlie, I think, who had remarked that somehow when men cook for the first time they impress themselves more than anyone else they have impressed, if at all, with their cooking.
Jalali Baba comes from Karachi, his parents came from East Pakistan after it became Bangladesh, and their parents had migrated from Bihar, India when Pakistan was created. Coori and his ancestors are rooted in Mardan, unless I am making a mistake here and it was actually Lala’s family which was rooted in Mardan and Coori’s had come from Persia or Afghanistan.
The similarity of course is that Jalali Baba loves Pakistan and everything Pakistani dearly because two of his previous generations have braved horrors of war and migration just so they can be in a country of their own and call themselves Pakistanis. Coori loves Pakistan and all things Pakistani dearly because it is the country he and his ancestors have always known as their own. I love them both dearly.

Coori – First impressions, tomato salan, and the last red note.0

I blog today, because I must.

I have been too afraid of blogging about Coori without being in the right frame of mind, without feeling energetic and nostalgic enough, and without having time enough on my hands. You see, he is that dear to me, that khabti moron. I write about my friends because this is my way of sharing some of my most prized possessions with you. I also write about them because if I did not, I would not have anything else to write about. These friends have defined chapters in my life, such has been their contribution to messing things up for me. Nonetheless, my life is apparently the only subject I seem to have better command on than any other mortal does, though there are those who would disagree with that too – my mother for one, and if I am to blog without bringing into question the source as well as the authenticity of my update, I had better stick to my own life.

Incidentally, I have just the one life – the same one which has its chapters defined by my friends. My alter egos, the siblings, make the headings, while I am the one constant on every page – the footnote in italics.

Hisaab-e-dostaan dar-e-dil, is a farsi quotation, which Yousufi had used to articulate what can never be completely said – a thank you to a friend for his friendship. I am afraid of opening this hisaab, and then not finding the words to introduce my friends to you. Coori is just one of them. There are so many others, some already mentioned and some not yet, but let this post not become an index now.

Coori’s reputation, as I have explained, had preceded him. It was a long time, however, before I actually got to meet him. It was a strange meeting. Mari had taken me along to meet Lala, whom I had met once before, and who was put up with Coori. I don’t seem to recall where exactly this meeting had taken place – what I do recollect is that Lala had all his belongings tied up in a bundle or two, and was perched atop those bundles. Lala was all of five and a half feet tall, and because of his frail frame, looked little more than five. The only thing that belied his age were his sturdy, strong hands that left your palm a little compressed after every handshake.

Mari had had a little something to discuss with Lala, which is why he had stopped there for a few minutes. We did get out in a few minutes, but I don’t clearly remember if he ever got down to discussing his agenda with Lala. I do remember Coori and I getting into the “heading” of a discussion, because that was all it could be called, and parting with mutual respect and disdain for each other. The former is understandable, the latter needs explaining. It had a lot to do with appearances and first impressions. Months later, we were to exchange notes, and find that following were the impressions we had left on each other:

Coori’s impressions of me: Scrawny, and awkwardly dressed in a chequered shirt that hung loosely from his shoulders that made a nice coat-hanger. 24” flapper jeans atop saleem shahi khussas. Oblong, bony face hidden beneath a pair of extra large round glasses, and whiskers disguised as a stubble/beard. Patronizing Mummy-Daddy dufus, puts on an accent when interjecting unnecessary English words, hence subject to inferiority complex and low self esteem, and most probably speaks bad urdu (This coming from a pathan from Mardan – I almost killed him!). Might know a thing or two about Tauheed. Needs tweaking, but will do for now.

My impressions of Coori: Arrogant pathan Mulla (The skin under the beard had till then never been subjected to a razor). Ignorant too. Clad in Shalwar Qameez and khaidi – ain’t getting past semester 2/BBA. (He was already in his final semester by then, maintaining a 3.8 CGPA), looks like being in a business school’s gone to his head – either that or he was trying too hard to impress me with his management/marketing terminology, bet Meigs and Meigs gives him the creeps, should pass on M.A. Ghani to him and watch him squirm under debit/credit compulsions. Good Urdu for a pathan, and impressive enough English for a Mardan School product. Might know a thing or two about Tauheed. Needs a lot of work, but will do for now.

Coori had the focus of an elephant. There’s nothing to prove that elephants have great focus, but then there is nothing to suggest on the contrary either. I am just assuming their focus is as good as their memory is rumoured to be. I need the elephant allegory because Coori also had the memory of an elephant.

Take, for example, the case when I had brought home my first semester books. He was in his last semester then, and was keenly interested in what curriculum PCBA was following as against his TIU curriculum. Turns out PCBA had chosen Keegan’s book on Principles of Marketing, while he had studied Kotler’s at TIU. His curiosity piqued, he requested to borrow the book for 22 days, the number of chapters in Keegan’s book. I got him a copy, and he returned it to me after 22 days, with comments at the end of each chapter. His logic was simple. It took him two hours a day max to finish a chapter, and he could spare a couple of hours from his final semester preparation in the quest for superior and complete knowledge. He could be a geek like that. He could also argue in favor of TIU with any PCBA student after that, just because they had not recommended Kotler’s book, and just because he had studied the two of them, and could tell for a fact that Kotler’s selection of words in his 20 odd chapters was better.

There was also the time sometime before this when someone told him that the Khans were ruling Bollywood. He was not really into bollywood movies, but he knew a thing or two about Aamir Khan and Salman Khan – enough to disagree and argue that they were not such great actors after all. It was then that he found out that there was a third Khan too, and we are talking about ’96 here, by which time Shahrukh Khan had been around for almost three or four years. He was quite surprised, and excused himself from that discussion.

I remember we were in the last days of the month, and almost all of us were broke, which actually had little to do with what days of the month we were in. After the initial three-four days of wealth, and absolute wealth at that, we managment students used to spend the rest of the month waiting for the next month’s allowance to arrive from home. It did not matter, whose money arrived first. As soon as it did, the reciever promptly paid off his debts to the rest of the roommates, so that everyone was left with equally less amount to spend until the next guy’s money arrived.

Such was the need for us to be taught some management, and such was our zeal to experiment with radical management theories of our own. Lala’s tomato-salan/curry was a product of those days of poverty, all it took to make were a few tomatoes, which were not very expensive. The tandoor-wala used to give us rotis on credit, and TIU was just next door. I was the only guy, who had to go to PCBA which was not that close, but the van took you there, if the bike did not have petrol enough.

It was in one of those days of utter collective poverty that Coori had heard about this new actor on the block, who was a pathan originally from Peshawar, and was supposed to be pretty good. He had gone missing for the day, and when we returned home, we found him lying in front of a TV and VCR. We were delighted. We did not have a VCR in our room, and if he had been able to rent it, that meant we would be watching some movies during the night, and eating well, because it looked like Coori’s money had arrived. There were still a few days to go before the end of the month, and we had all hit rock bottom in our finances. His money could not have come at a better time.

You guessed it, dear readers, the money had not arrived. Coori had rented out the VCR, and all of Shahrukh Khan’s movies released till that date, with the last red note of the room. We could have killed him then and there, but he was quick to point towards two bags full of tomatoes lying in the corner. So, he stayed up the night to finish all the movies, and by the morning had arrived at the decision that SK was actually a great actor, and deserving of any prizes and awards he won, including Coori’s last 100 rupees, and two good trousers.

Turns out, in one of the movies SK had done an acrobat act to land on his knees such that his trousers were torn at the knees on impact. Coori was much impressed with the stunt, and had been trying it since the morning. The results were successful, two out of his five trousers had obliged, and were now succumbing to their fate in a corner. Coori’s knees kept him away from the library for a couple of weeks – the library was on the second floor, and there were no elevators in the college.

As for the rest of us, we were pretty happy with the way things had turned out. For one thing, we had hoped that Coori without the library would not be as potent and ambitious in his disagreements, and secondly there was the faint hope that perhaps the painful knees will help cure Coori’s dementia.

Our joy was short-lived. Coori was able to employ a junior to bring him books and magazines from the library, and with the detergent maximization incident was able to defend the Khabti title bestowed upon him by his peers.

Coming up sometime in the future – Coori and the detergent maximization project!

Coori, and Knicq Khabti.0

I was in the process of moving all my contacts from hotmail to gmail, and I came across what is now a defunct email address,, and it brought back a horde of memories.

Coori, spelled as it might be, is pronounced Kori, and is quite possibly a derivative of Ghauri. It was the title bestowed upon one of the most intriguing personalities I have ever come across, and I can tell you this, I have come across a pretty decent number of intriguing dudes. I fail to fathom the connection between Coori and Ghauri though, because the gentleman who this name was given to, was not a Ghauri. His family name was Ghani. But then, there isn’t much about Coori/Kori that is easy to fathom, or make sense of.

I was a student of B.Com in those days, and deeply in love. There was thus little that kept me busy, and when not writing pieces like ‘Chal Bhaag Chalen’ or bringing the temperature of Lahore down by a few degrees with my sighs, I could be found embroiled in passionate discussions with whosoever proved unfortunate enough to have got me started. Topic, subject, and subject matter were hardly of consequence, since I, as well as most of my victims, were admirably but indiscriminately ignorant about everything. Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention. The very necessity of keeping an inane discussion – often disguised as an animated argument – going led to a flood of creative juices, and many a new philosophy or ‘set of well researched facts’ would emerge as the positive externalities of these discussions. Not very surprisingly, my opinionated rantings and ravings had earned me the admiration of a discerning few, and the wrath of jealous, prejudiced, ignorant, opinionless, linguistically challenged, wayward youth – in short all my dear friends. Given that this lot had to put up with the various compulsive behavioral disorders I was affected with in those days, (Don’t ask, too many to remember) it is understandable why I was adjudged the rightful recipient of the title ‘khabti’.

I would be wrong if I said I was not pleased with the title. I looked at it as the lesser privileged people’s way of admitting my superiority, and I basked in the glory of my own ignorance. While in the past, I had ended up in discussions with people, post-title, I would go around sniffing for possible ‘discussions’. I used to wonder in those days why I could not find anyone in the cafeteria of my college, or in Mari’s college. It was much later that I was told that they had these sentries posted at strategic points, and a s soon as these sentries would see me approaching, they would blow a whistle, or make a bird sound, or honk a certain number of times, and people would scram to their classes. No wonder, class attendance was at its highest in these two colleges during my stay, and academic results had gone through the roof. Come to think of it, I should have been nominated for a social service award by the city council, but I guess the buggers exploited my simplicity and ignorance of the ways of the world. You would think people would be more generous with their appreciation for a good deed.

Mari, by the way, is one of my oldest friends, and despite the passage of two decades, we continue to be fast friends. Perhaps, one of the reasons is that except for a short while when Mari did not know better and we were together in the same class, Mari has always maintained a safe distance from me. He was in Al-Ain when I was in Sharjah, and when we had both ended up in Lahore, he admirably left my college to me, and opted for a business school instead to inflict Mariisms. Almost a decade later, he continues to maintain a friendship-friendly distance from me. While I have the ends of my neurons melting here in the UAE, he is in the process of getting his unique brand of antagonism frozen in Canada.

So, one of those days, I went out to meet Mari, and as I approached the canteen, I was puzzled by the noise that emanated from the canteen. It seemed like a busy place, which it had not been ever since I had got into a discussion there about something almost a year ago. At first I thought there was an India-Pakistan match on, and people were all in the canteen to watch it on the telly. (Yeah folks, this college had a telly in the canteen so students could watch the matches there) But then, I realized there were no matches on.

So puzzled, I walked into the jam-packed canteen, and found Mari sitting there. I asked him what was up, and he told me the truth about the sentries and all. I was tempted to get into a discussion about the pros and cons of attending such ‘saer haasil’ discussions as mine, but then another thought occurred to me… the people had finally realized their folly, and had now decided to turn up in huge numbers to add to their learning. I decided to confirm my inference with Mari, and would you believe what he told me next?

The people were still not very keen on being subjected to my brand of knowledge, but they had been driven out of their classes by this new student from Mardan, who it seemed, was much better equipped in the art of ‘khabtiism’ than I was. The college would rather put up with me than be subjected to him. Mari was not entirely excited when he’d told me that I had finally met my match. I was, though, immensely excited. Little had I known then, what I was up against…

Coming up Next… Coori, the one and the only.

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