August 15th, 2018

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.


Simple point(s).6

Here’s the thing about headaches. They hurt. That is the one thing about them headaches I am not partiularly crazy about. That is saying a lot, since Saab will tell you, I am crazy about everything, and most people I am blessed with; about some others I am crazier, but then they are worth being crazier about. It is all besides the point of course, since it is my recurring headaches I intend making a point about, and the point is simple: They hurt, and that is the one thing about them I am not crazy about. The latter part of the former statement must sound like a point in itself, and it is one too, but it is not the simple point I intend making. The simple point I do intend making is about the hurtful nature of headaches, and everything else, whether or not it qualifies to be a point in itself, is but an extension of the simple point.

Here’s the thing about simple points though. They are simple – too simple, and hence it is very difficult for your average 40 watt blogger to build a meaningful post around a single simple point. Multiple simple points are a lucrative prospect but also carry the risk of complexity; and when you get simplicity mixed up with complexity all you get is an ideal JB post, since it is JB who finds simplicity in complexity and complexity in simplicity. What, one might be excused for wondering, is wrong in a post becoming an ideal JB post? One is a fool. Anything which even borders on an ideal JB anything is ambitious, unreal, hypothetical, and hence qualifies to be classified as nothing. Now, the thing about Jalali Baba is here – he has exacting standards, much too exacting to be practical and real. Only nothing can come close to be anything remotely like something that would meet Jalali Baba’s definition of ideal.

Ironically, Jalali Baba fails his own standards – in his choice of disciples and friends for one thing; which is a pity becuase it means Jalali Baba is more than just nothing. Given as intelligent as he is, it is quite likely though that he chooses bad people for friends – or at least one bad person for a friend – just so he qualifies to be more than nothing. I feel exploited!

People should refrain from choosing me as a friend just because I qualify to be a bad choice, and making that bad choice helps them qualify to be more than nothing because making a bad choice means they are not JB-ideal, and only nothing is JB-ideal.

Oh, and yes – my head hurts!

Pearls and Perils.4

Jalali Baba has never promised nirvana. He promises nothing, and delivers on this promise. He is only one of the many mentors who have impressed upon me the need to deliver on my promises. There is that smart way of saying it, which stresses the importance of under-committing and over-delivering, and highlights the perils of over-committing and under-delivering – but its a smart way of saying things, and Jalali Baba does not accord me much intellectual prowess, not enough to expect me to decipher a smart way of saying things. He breaks it to me simply, and not gently.

I have not the confidence to do simple things. The good thing about complex things is that they are a lot like singing Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s songs – you are not expected to do very well; and when you do badly, not many blame you for it. Jalali Baba likes to think he keeps it simple, and by his standards he does too. Its just that he finds simplicity in complexity and complexity in simplicity. He sits up all night and reads and re-reads “A Brief History of Time”, primarily because it feeds his enormous ego to realize that he finds it simple, and that he gets it, but also because he finds it simple, and he gets it too! Compare that with the fact that he loses his way on the Shaikh Zayed Road, which is more than a 100 kilometers of a long straight stretch of road, and the rumour that he had once lost his way coming down in an elevator! – and you know what I am talking about. Simple is simply complex and complex is but simple in JBland.

Is it any wonder then that Jalali Baba does not promise nirvana? Saab, disillusioned as he is with Jalali Baba, insists that Jalali Baba refuses to promise nirvana because he refuses to share his Marlboro and Gitanes cigarettes. One cannot blame Saab for his take on the matter, Jalali Baba after all does seem to ‘eek out’ nirvana from being at the other end of the cigarette. It was probably Mushtaq Ahmad Yousufi who wrote in one of his books that a cigarette is a contraption which has fire at on end and a fool at the other. I have not read Yousufi in a long time, which is why I am not really sure if it was in a Yousufi book that I’d read this ‘fact’; at the same time, I have hardly read anything but Yousufi in a long long time, so this bit of information had to be in one of his books to linger around in a corner of my mind waiting for the spotlight to be diverted on it.

Between Jalali baba and I, we have an understanding. We have indeed more than an understanding. Indeed it can be said without an iota of a doubt that we understand each other. I understand Jalali Baba, and the eccentric ways in which things work in his demented world – or ought to, and he understands that I understand that; he thus understands as much of me as is necessary to be understood for our platonic relationship to prosper. Among his many JBiic attributes, Jalali Baba takes pride in his ability to gather and store in his exalted mind heaps upon heaps of information that no-one ever will need to look for, and that promises to contribute in no way to the betterment of this world and those who co-inhabit it with Jalali Baba. Such information, Jalali Baba often teaches me, which serves no purpose, nor promises to serve any, is the purest kind of information, and purity, it is common knowledge, is the corner-stone of all journeys spiritual and therefore highly desireable. If Jalali Baba were to know anything more about me, more than what he already knows that is, it would render all his information about me impure, and our journey on the path of spiritual misguidance will turn into a quest in a labyrinth. This is why, he insists, I should refrain from subjecting him to any such information that might be classified as useful or beneficial.

I wake up every morning and wonder if I should tell him correctly when he puts me the rhetorical “How are you?” question upon meeting. What if such an answer could fall under the perilous answers that carry meaningful information. My only saving grace is that he hardly waits for my answer after asking the question, and launches into dispersing and dispensing with that day’s pearls of spiritual guidance almost in the same breath as he poses the question in.

The day he pauses long enough after asking the question, I know I will be found out; I know Jalali Baba will hold me responsible for having compromised the purity of information. I live in perpetual fear of eternal guilt.

For once, can’t think of a title.1

There’s a little piece that plays when Elliot is done talking with his cellmate towards the end of the movie “Bedazzled”, and it is brilliant. What is amazing is that I have seen the movie at least a dozen times, and I had never noticed it before. Perhaps, I was never in the mood I am today. Perhaps, one of the pre-requisites to get into that mood is to have seen the movie a dozen times without having noticed that lovely bit of music. After all, everything we are led into today is a consequence of all the things we were led into in the preceding units of time. We are where we are, because we were where we were; wherever we were when we were where we were, whenever we were wherever we were before we got to where we are. It might sound a little convulated, and a tad contrived, but its the truth.

For the longest time, I was pre-occupied with making sense. I was also quite convinced that I did make sense more often than not. Then, one day, I ran into Saab. We grabbed a couple of shawarmas each, and after careful contemplation of facts deduced that if a shawarma were made without onions, and with extra tahina, it tasted infintely better; however, it posed an increased risk to one’s attire since the tahina managed to leak out the wrong end of the shawarma, and onto one’s blue shirt – which by the way is the color on which the creamy tahina stands out the most. For those who are wondering, “Yes! There is a right and a wrong end of the shawarma” and “No! The shawarma in Pakistan is nowhere close to being as good as the original thing – minus the (basal) onion and with extra tahina of course.”

Running into Saab, however, has as little to do with me making sense more often than not, as it has to do with me discovering that playing football with a semi-inflated basketball in the vicinity of pointed metallic objects can result in a Harry Potterish mark on one’s skull. One is given to wishful thinking, and one could not help but wonder if the parallels between the boy wizard’s mark and the one acquired by yours truly would transcend the merely visual. One is a fool. One must understand that pointed metallic objects are not Lord Voldermot’s wands, and hence getting such a mark does not make one a prospective boy wizard – especially since one went past the boyhood age over a decade ago.

The great thing about discoveries is that someone must make them. The irony is that being discovered does not render a discovery fit for greatness. Saab says, “This has to be the lamest thing I heard, said or read today”, which is saying a lot since Saab has been with me for almost half the day, and he has heard me speak for all of that time, as he sat there reading his own diary. Saab is sitting with me here reading this post as it is being typed out (and offering his unwelcome critique – he says, “It is rude to read between brackets”, and hence refrains from reading anything that I enclose in brackets, or at least pretends to – which is why I am calling his critique unwelcome in brackets). I have explained to Saab that I was merely trying to act intelligent by pointing out an irony, and he has nodded his understanding, approval or both. He is a man of few words, and of fewer nods. Have you ever wondered upon the irony of us humans’ pre-occupation with ironies? I have not either. I am intrigued though everytime someone highlights an irony. Saab says, “Being able to discern irony is a hallmark of the intelligent”, and I can hardly be faulted in my quest to acquire all these hallmarks.

I am after all a disciple of the exalted Jalali Baba, even if he has publically ostracised me from his circle of disciples. If there is one thing that Jalali Baba teaches by personal example, it is looking all intellectual and intelligent and smart and all things one is not and doing all it takes to look all those things. Jalali Baba’s sense of irony is exceeded alone by what he thinks is his sense of humor, which has little of sense about it and which is replete with his sarcasm, and his sarcasm is second only to his disdain for the logically impaired – an allusion to yours truly and the like. Jalali Baba reads Stephen Hawking for example, and he reads him with a vangeance. You can tell when Jalali Baba has been reading Stephen Hawking lately, because he goes all teary eyed everytime he looks at the skies in those days; because he seems to be hanging on to every word you say in those days, until you utter a word that sounds remotely like any of the following ‘Steep, Fun, Hawk, King, Brief, History, Time, Big, Bang, theory’. These words, uttered singularly or in an ill-fated (read ill-fitted) combination, are his cue to start looking intelligent. It is painful, but all things spiritual are. Nirvana is achieved through pain.

Jalali Baba has never promised nirvana. He promises nothing, and delivers on this promise. Jalali Baba is only one of the many mentors who have impressed upon me the need to deliver on my promises. There is that smart way of saying it, which stresses the importance of under-committing and over-delivering, and highlights the perils of over-committing and under-delivering – but it sounds too management-guruish, and it seems criminal to put it up on my blog without charging exorbitant sums of money to people who know it already, and will benefit little from being told again; and if there is one thing I am not, its a criminal.

Externalities, Inferences, and the establishing of contrived truth.9

There was never a doubt in my mind, and now there are many. Perhaps, they were always there; perhaps they just hid themselves very well, or perhaps, I have just started paying more attention to what transpires in and around me. Yes… perhaps.

Saab is more sure of himself. He does not second guess himself. “Can I or can I not?”, “Will I?”, “Can I really?”; these are not questions he is likely to pose himself. He believes more in forging ahead and finding the answer. If he can, he can; if he cannot, he cannot; if he will, he will; and if he will not, he obviously will not. It is that simple for him. It was hardly ever this simple for me, but it used to be simpler not very long ago. One wonders if all this second guessing is a consequence of having been too close to Jalali Baba for far too long, which is why one is a fool, and there are two more reasons one is:

The first is that there is little to wonder here. Jalali baba takes second guessing beyond an art form. He makes it into a compulsive behavioral disorder, much like everything else about his personna is. Staying close to him, and being his most favored disciple, until very recently at least when he liberated me from the shackles of his “peerdom”, had to carry its own externalities. ‘Externalities’ figures in my posts quite often, primarily because I like to think I still remember something from that course in economics which I had taken during my academic life. Life, Saab says, is little else than academic, which, if true, means that academic life should be classified as a redundant term, which it is not – not so far anyway, not to the best my knowledge. The best of my knowledge, in JB’s view, is not a very reliable source for knowledge; and JB’s view, to the best of my knowledge, is not much of a view to lend credibility to anything; which is all besides the point since all I wanted to clarify was that externality, if I remember correctly, is a fancy word for side-effects or by-products.

There is every likelihood that I do, in fact, remember correctly since I have been using this term for almost a decade now, and have hardly allowed it to fade from my memory. This decade-long usage in itself is little evidence to prove the correctness of what I remember correctly; the former pertains to the accuracy of the fact in question, while the latter has more to do with the accurate recollection of the fact – accurate or otherwise. There are four possible combinations of the former and the latter, which are as follows:

- Both the fact and the recollection are accurate.
- The fact is accurate, but the recollection is less than accurate.
- The recollection is accurate, but the information recollected was wrong to begin with.
- Niether the information, nor the recollection of it is accurate.

If one were to look closely at the four possibilities stated above, one would realize that whatever else they might help us in concluding, what they cannot help us in proving is that the information remembered as fact here is in fact accurate. More importantly, none of the above is lent more credibility simply because I have been quoting this information as fact over a prolonged period of time.

The second is that there is precious little that meets Jalali Baba’s approval, and this is common knowledge. Jalali Baba sets exacting standards, and raises the bar every now and then, since every now and then human ambition and endurance triumphs over Jalali Baba’s under-estimation of human potential, and over-estimation of human incompetence; and someone somewhere manages to come within striking distance of what Jalali Baba calls ‘cieling of human competence’, thereby making it mandatory to raise the bar, and with it the afore-mentioned cieling, once again. Saab is of the view that Jalali Baba can thus be credited with motivating the human race to realize its true potential, but Saab knows little about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which is a cornerstone of modern motivation theory. Hence it is safe to conclude that Saab’s stance on the subject is, at best, flawed. All Jalali Baba does achieve through his ever-rising standards and summary disapproval of all that surrounds him is perpetual second-guessing and a pervading lack of confidence.

I digress. Staying close to JB, I infer from personal experience, had to have its own externalities, mostly negative and rarely positive, since externalities, I seem to recall, can be both positive or negative. ‘Positive externalities’ is a fancy way of saying by-products, and negative externalities is an economist’s way of saying ‘side-effects’. This co-relation, I must admit, is entirely my own inference, and is unlikely to be found in any libraries, unless of course there are libraries somewhere which have had the good sense to accumulate my inferences into tomes of wisdom for the welfare of mankind. By-products are good since they can be sold for additional revenue, while side-effects are bad since they must be endured when mild, and cured when not so mild.I have hardly been able to sell anything arising out of my closeness with JB, which is an important bit of information since it leads us to multiple inferences. The first of these inferences is that even though I did make a provision for a rare positive externality arising out of being under JB’s tutelege for an extended period of time, empirical data suggests that such a provision was totally unnecessary, and may be discarded without fear of any negative externality arising out of such discarding. Another direct inference tells us that all externalities arising out of being JB’s lone disciple are necessarily negative, and hence I have endured much and must be cured of some; worryingly enough, at this point we do not even know for a fact if I have endured some and need to be cured of much.

I am beginning to make a good many inferences lately, and this I infer, is a direct consequence of an earlier inference that the thought process is capable of functioning on its own, and without the not-too-gentle prodding from Jalali Baba, and that there is little wrong in any such thought process. This was an inference borne out of the realization that yours truly was Jalali Baba’s lone disciple, and not having Jalali Baba as their spiritual misguide had not deterred quite a few other people, the rest of the world to be precise, from launching into the thought process game entirely on their own. The damning evidence, of course, was the possibility, distant but real, that these people had fared rather well, which is a less dignified way of admitting that they had done better than yours truly, who had been led to believe for the longest time that having Jalali Baba as the spiritual misguide entitled him to exclusive rights to doing well in the thought process exercise.

There’s a little piece that plays when Elliot is done talking with his cellmate towards the end of the movie “Bedazzled”, and it is brilliant. What is amazing is that I have seen the movie at least a dozen times, and I had never noticed it before. Perhaps, I was never in the mood I am today. Perhaps, one of the pre-requisites to get into that mood is to have seen the movie a dozen times without having noticed that lovely bit of music. After all, everything we are led into today is a consequence of all the things we were led into in the preceding units of time. We are where we are, because we were where we were; wherever we were when we were where we were, whenever we were wherever we were before we got to where we are. It might sound a little convulated and a tad contrived, but its the truth.

Introducing Saab, the man not the auto-maker, and the Japanese auto-makers’ Conspiracy.5

Jalali Baba is eccentric, Chillate is chilled (and bitter), Aamir Zaki’s Signature is brilliant, Hot cakes sell like Toyotas; and I am full of facts, no one is interested in. I am also full of posts no-one offers to put up for me. Jalali Baba has accused me of being full of certain other organic compounds, but we have a difference of opinion there. That is saying a lot about how strongly I feel about the subject, since I am not one to differ with my own spiritual misguide on matters less important than life and death. If there is one person who can actually afford to entertain a difference of opinion with Jalali Baba, it is Saab; and I am not Saab. Saab is hardly spiritual. Saab is absolutely misguided, hence the difference of opinion with Jalali Baba.

Opinion is a strange thing. It hardly matters what it is, until there is one that differs from it. Jalali Baba is aware that his opinion is thus lent added credibility when Saab commits the blasphemy of differing form it; and this is perhaps why Jalali Baba bears with Saab’s incredible incredulity. Saab’s disagreement proves little else than the vanity of an assumption that Jalali Baba’s opinion can be the subject of any skepticism at all. Vanity is a sin. Saab will rot in hell, and so will his assumptions.

Backaches are spiritual equivalents of physical nirvana. There is as much spiritual about backaches as there is physical about nirvana. It is another one of those facts no-one is interested in. No-one except Saab of course. Saab indulges with backaches; he entertains them, tames them, pampers them and looks forward to them. They afford him an opportunity to lie on his aching back, and contemplate less the fate of a world plagued by indifference to him and infested with Jalali Baba’s disciples. Saab sees me where he goes. It is primarily because I go where he goes, but there could be other reasons too; reasons only Saab and his psychiatrist can uncover through dedicated and long sessions that cost Saab a fortune.

I worry about Saab. Saab worries about the world, and its fate; until backache sets in. Then he worries about having to get well, and having to drive one of the Toyotas or the Hondas, the kindly Al Futtaims have imported into the UAE with the sole purpose of keeping the orthopedics busy. Did I not mention a conspiracy by the Toyotas, Hondas, Mitsubishis, Mazdas and the like? Turns out the conspiracy is hatched not only by the car manufacturers but also by their agents across the country. The Futtaims have joined hands with the Toyota and Honda chaps, while the Habtoors and Galadaris are in cahoots with Mitsubishi and Mazda respectively. Saab is aware of this elaborate conspiracy too, and much like yours truly, a victim of it as well. It is a conspiracy to exploit the orthopedics, and to give them bad backs through long hours. Perhaps there is a certain wisdom in it all, how can they hope to actually treat a pain they have not personally experienced? One feels though, and one is not being a complete fool here, that the Futtaims, Habtoors and the Galadaris have allowed passion and overzealous attempts at forcing empathy to interfere with their ambitious drive towards fulfilling their obligations towards bringing about an excellence in the medical fraternity that is borne out of nothing less than personal exposure to misery.

Its all very well being passionate and overzealous about the whole “medical excellence through personal exposure to misery” philosophy, until one, or as is the case here, a handful of chaps decide to cause the misery that the medical fraternity must be exposed to.

I realize that I have omitted a few important facts that are central to ensuring that the pieces fall into place magically, so here goes:

Long ago, Saab and I had an opportunity to evaluate the facts that were available to us, which were limited in number, but convincing enough in the empirical evidence they provided through sheer pain. The facts were thus: Saab had a Toyota, I had a Honda; Saab developed a bad back, I developed a bad back; Saab shifted to a German car, and I to a Korean car that had recently acquired American nationality; Saab’s backaches vanished, mine evaporated; I reverted to a Toyota, and the backaches struck with a vengeance; Saab stayed wiser than I for sometime, and then fell to the temptation of a Toyota A/C – he slept with a runny nose, thanks to the magical air conditioning; and woke up with an enhanced sensation of having a back, and an aching back at that, thanks to the Toyota seats. We put two and two together, and then we put the rest of the facts together, and got to the conclusion that the Japanese cars had excellent air-conditioning and fuel economy, and extremely non-ergonomic seating systems, if they had a semblance of a system in their seats that is; the only thing systematic about those seats is the pain they cause.

Yours truly was the first one to hazard a guess as to what was amiss where, which in one word was: comfort and consideration for the “sitter”. Not one word you say, ask George W. Bush. He has often used such one words. A guy who can go about destroying countries, and killing people not only with impunity, but also with the support of an Oxford educated pet, ought to know a thing or two about the correct usage of the queen’s language. Saab was more adventurous with his take on the facts, and he felt that it were the Toyota/Mazda guys trying to deliberately give us all bad backs, so when the Japs launched their world-wide campaign to retake the world through military forays, we would be in no position to lift our guns and march. It turned out later that the Japanese actually offered the agents the option of choosing what seats would be installed in the cars that would be sent to their territories, and that it were actually the agents that were asking for these backache causing seats.

This was baffling; why would they want to give us, their own people, bad backs? It was at this point that one was reminded of the golden rule about assumption, which was that one must assume the best on another’s part, until there was reason to assume otherwise. One is not always a fool; so we tried to assume the best on the agents’ part; and the only plausible explanation was that the agents want us all to have bad backs so that the orthopedics are kept busy, and since there are so many of these Japanese cars around, it was apparent that the agents did not just want the Orthopedics busy, they wanted them terribly busy, busy enough to give them bad backs. Working with the golden rule again, we got to the conclusion that they wanted the Orthopedics to have badbacks so that they could experience first hand the pain they had to treat, and at this point it all fell in place – magically or not.

Little things, and the Bollywood flavor.8

There is something about writing that escapes me. It is not the something whose happening was the lament of an earlier post. It is the somehing that refuses to happen. In all probability it is the act of writing itself, but there is always the possibility of it being the subject matter, sentence construction, vocabulary, or plain and simple the very will to indulge in the act. At this point of time however, I am quite sure that this is not a post about my writing conundrum (Or conundri if you will – its a new word that I have learnt, and I am still in the process of getting to know the other members of the family well).

The unfotunate part is that I am not really sure what this post is to be about. I have time. I have the spanking new laptop. I do not have internet, and I do not have anything worthwhile to do. These are what you might call ideal conditions for writing up a post to be updated later. The thing with ideal conditions is that they are often imaginary, little more than wishful thinking by some overly intelligent people with over-active imaginations; on those rare occasions where ideal conditions are actual and real they are almost always impossible to exploit. A catch-22 situation if there were ever one.

If you find shortcomings in the above argument, you have little to congratulate yourself about. If you find the previous statment to be rude, you have little, if any, by way of consolation coming your way. Little, it seems, is big today, or is at least something we are big on today. Little is big, and big is little; just as long is a short word and short is one that is long – the underlying premise in the latter comparison being ofcourse that these are the two words we have set out to compare in terms of their length or lack thereof. If you figure that the latter half of the previous sentence was completely and utterly unnecessary, you have little to appreciate your figuring acumen for. Little, as I said, is big today; so you had better get used to it.

The problem with sitting by yourself doing nothing is that it brings back those little memories you thought you had consigned to the far corners of your brain. There isn’t an awful lot that is wrong with the little memories, its just that little memories feed on big ones, and big is little today so we are ignoring the big memories, and they being big and bossy refuse to be ignored. There is precious little, however, that they can do about being ignored, whether or not they consent to being ignored. Ignoring, by its very definition, is an act that seeks to undermine the opinion and the will of the ignored.

There is this little memory of the family in that blue Mazda 808 going for a trip to Oman. The Mazda 808 is another little memory – the family’s first car I can recollect from my childhood. Apparently Walid sahib had had a Datsun sports and some other cars before the 808, but I can only recall the 808. It was a nifty little thing, with a top speed of just 120kms/hr. Or maybe it was 120 miles/hr. Who knows? Its a little memory. A little memory of a little blue car from when I was little.

There’s this other little memory from those days, when I was able to make my way through the blanket-tunnels. You know what the blanket tunnels are, don’t you? Those are tunnels you crawl into and out of. They must have had very large blankets back then. I have tried crawling into blanket-tunnels of late, but I keep coming out of the walls of the tunnel – either that or the whole tunnel just collapses on me.

I asked JB if he had ever crawled in and out of a blanket tunnel, and he said he had. I asked him if he had tried doing it again, since he is someone who seldom refrains from trying anything that can even remotely be called an adventure. I have a doubt that he actually tries his hand at only those which can be only remotely called an adventure. I am quite sure he does not try those adventures because he has an adventerous spirit. Most of what he does try can only remotely be called an adventure. (Am I repeating myself? Not really, I am emphasizing.) Most of what JB does try can only be called madness.

If you are an eight year old, and you don the superman costume, and jump off of the second floor of your house with the intent of getting people to gasp: “Its a plane!”, “Its a something else”, “NO! Its super-JB!!!”; can you really be credited with having an adventerous spirit? Madness is a more apt adjective that springs to mind. There is JB-ness, but its a more refined madness, and hence more dangerous. JB developed JB-ness in his later years, as he got to spend more and more time with himself. Madness is little when compared with JB-ness.

I digress. So, I asked JB, if he had tried crawling into and out of a blanket tunnel of late, and he gave me a look. JB does not give looks. He just launches into verbal tirades when he is cornered into working with beings of lesser intellect – that “beings-of-lesser-intellect” is an all encompassing term is a little fact which is a given in JB-land. So, JB gave me a look, and I knew better than to push my luck pursuing the subject.

What goes around comes around. Its a little cliche. Its a hard little fact too though. I sent something around years ago, and then I sent something else around some years later, and as if that were not enough I sent something else on the way a few years later. Well, what do you know? The “something”, and the first and the second “something else” got together somewhere along the way; sort of ran into each other or something.

Maybe, the something was humming a tune to herself, minding her own business in a cafe’, and the first something esle happened to be sitting at the next table minding her own business, and she recognized the tune from her childhood, and so she turned around with tears in her eyes and started singing the tune along with something. Something was startled, and surprised, and taken aback; but she kept on humming her tune. They both got up form their tables, humming the same tune, all the while looking at each other and with tears welling up in their eyes. Then, they stood next to each other, and completed the tune. Silence. Tears. More tears. Instant hugs! Plenty of kissing.

The next thing one knew they had formed a duo, and were going about singing the tune in the whole wide world; which is where the second something else must have heard them, while he was toiling under the sun next to their hotel, or dropping a passenger off at their concert, or coming in to attend a high profile meeting in one of the hotels he owned – complete with white pointed shoes, and dark sunglasses in the night. He must have stood there, tears streaming down his tanned face (if he were toiling under the sun), or welling up in his bloodshot eyes (if he were a cabbie doing double shifts to buy medicine for his ailing foster mother), or sneaking from behind the sunglasses (if he were the hotel magnate who owned all the hotels on Earth and then some on Mars as well). More silnce. More tears. More instant hugs! More plenty of kissing!

Who cares how they got together. Its a minor detail. One of those littles, we will choose to ignore. They did get together, and they came back separately in a jeep, on a motorbike, and on a horse-back/helicopter (depending on whether the second something else were a labourer or a a hotel magnate), and crashed through the three glass-walls of my empire, beat up my over-enthusiastic to be beaten-up goons, and sent me around. Oh, and a chorus kept humming the darned tune all along. I think it were the servants doing it – the traitors!

I do not mind. Its my turn to go around, and then come around.

There’s just a little thing missing. A tune to keep humming.

Perhaps I should do an Anu Malik on them. Minor infringement on non-existant copyright. What say you?

A post better than no post at all.14

I need to go brush my teeth; but that is not what this post is about; though it could well have been about brushing my teeth. A post about brushing one’s teeth ought to be better than no post at all. Fact is a post about brushing teeth, anyone’s teeth, would probably be even more interesting, since that – brushing anyone’s teeth – is not something one is normally expected to do, and a post about doing what one is not normally expected to do ought to be better than no post at all. I have suddenly realized that there is actually absolutely no excuse for not updating, because one can update about anything, and a post about anything ought to be better than no post at all. It gets better. Anything is a broad term. It covers everything. Everything, when isolated from the big picture, becomes ‘anything’. ‘Anything’ in other words could be anything in everything; one could thus update about everything, and there could be a post about any one ‘anything’ in everything, and there could be multiple posts about the multiple ‘anythings”, and multiple posts about anythings ought to be better than no post at all.

How is it then that knicqland has been without an update for such a long long time? Here in lies the updating conundrum, which is a new word I have learnt, and have been dying to put to good use, and an update about putting a new word to good use ought to be better than no post at all.

Jalali Baba likes new words, but he likes new phrases more, and he likes derogatory twisted lines like “You have a nose the size of my kneecap and a brain the size of my kneecap. Both deformities have not helped you in life and have, in fact, rendered your every thought a knee-jerk response” even more. (Pertinent information: My nose and brain are not the same size, JB, hence, has kneecaps in two sizes – but we will leave this anatomy discussion for another less fortunate time). He saves them in the perpetually-abuzz -with-innane-and-innocuous-information mass of neurons that is his exalted brain, so he can leave them as comments on my posts one day. Unfortunately for me these jbeurons, since JB’s neurons are slightly more than your average neurons, come with an enhanced capability to store information over longer periods of time, and an enviable/deplorable excellence in reproducing such information as and when required.

Since JB brain is perpetually abuzz with activity, these lines find themselves in a sort of cocktail party where the luminaries amongst them are invited to mingle, and add value to each other through sharing and mutual learning. Jb leaves those rehashed and restyled derogatory comments on my blog, and garnishes them with his very own unique brand of knicq-bashing, just so he can feel better about himself. JB looks in the mirror, and tells the guy he sees in it that he is better than him. (See comment 37)

Unfortunately for Jalali Baba, that is the only guy he knows he is possibly better than, and ironically it is a reflection of himself – literally so. Using me as a punching bag must make him feel just as good as it does me using him as a punching bag. A post about two friends with absolute disdain for each other using each other as a punching bag ought to be better than no post at all.

This post is not about Jalali Baba, and a post not about Jalali Baba ought to be better than no post at all. This post is about me having to brush my teeth, and we have already established that a post about I brushing my teeth ought to be better than no post at all.

So, this is a post which is better than no post at all.

Digression – the rule.11

Its a conspiracy, and the Hondas, Toyotas, Mitsubishis and the Mazdas of the world are party to it. But, let me not get ahead of myself. Lets start from the begining…

Long long ago, yours truly used to eat an apple a day. It was,however, not necessarily the habit that kept the doctor away. What did keep the doctor away was a combination of various factors, chief amongst them being the fact that the doctors kept to their seats in the military hospital, which was a few miles outside the city. A distant second reason was the fact that Walid Sahib had a car and could drive us there whenever the need for doctor’s expert opinion to corroborate Manji’s expert opinion arose. It may also have to do something with the fact that doctors had long ceased to make house calls in this part of the world, unless of course the house call were made purely out of social obligation rather than professional compulsion.

The long and short of it though is that yours truly used to eat an apple a day. Sometimes, yours truly ate two or three apples a day too, provided the apples were crunchy and juicy. If the apples did not have, what one used to call ‘the crunch’ one supplemented the apples with almonds, which while did make the meal crunchier, was as bad a combination as they come, but yours truly was not, at the time, aware of the new precedents he was setting in bad food combinations. On the contrary, one remembers having rather relished the combination to a great extent. So much so, that there came a time, when if an apple turned out to be a good, and crunchy-as-a-good-crunchy-apple-apple, thereby making almonds totally redundant, one was rather disappointed.

It just goes on to prove that our senses are largely acquired senses. Haven’t you ever wondered about that cream roll you used to love eating when you were a five year old, but could not bear to take a bite of now? Granted, the said cream roll might not have been able to maintain its freshness after all these years, but hey, if you like something today, isn’t it rather rummy not liking it a few years down the road. I wouldn’t like it if Count Dracula went all watery mouth seeing the ‘well-rounded’ me today, and refused to partake of me, say thirty, or for that matter three hundred years down the road. Whats a few hundred years in a vampire’s life?

Speaking of Vampires, I have often wondered what would a vampire end up with, were he to sink his teeth in Jalali Baba’s fat neck? There are multiple possibilities that come to mind, and it is almost impossible to be entirely confident of which one is most realistic in nature. What one can be confident of though is that such an eventuality would be entirely to the detriment of the said vampire. JB, as I have often highlighted, is the reason why so many people in the tobacco business are still able to eek out a livelihood. He is also directly responsible for stifling the pesticide business in his area of residence.

Not very long ago, the municipality workers with their pesticide guns emitting clouds of smoke could be seen systematically going through the streets of that area, trying to ensure that the residents were rid of mosquitos, flies, and the like. However potent the mixture they used, their foes were always able to muster the resilience to survive through those termination campaigns, and almost always came back to exact their revenge on the residents through sheer numbers. The municipality appointed terminators were fighting a losing battle – that is until JB moved into the locality.

Fortunately for JB, and for the residents of JB’s locality, Mrs. JB is a doctor by profession, who forbids JB’s suicidal ambition to fill up as many empty pringles boxes with ‘Marlboro’ and ‘Gitanes’ ash, as required to set an enduring world record. JB is a highly intelligent and wise person, his attributes amply reflected in his choice of friends and devotees. He is gifted (or cursed, depending on how you choose to look at it) with a devious mind adept at spinning strategies to foil Mrs. JB’s best laid plans to keep him healthy and around for longer than his own modest target.

As soon as the pringles ban was clamped down on him, he experienced a rebout of his selective amnesia. Apparently, this selective amnesia had served him well in his college days, when he needed to step out and act out his part on the other side of the cigarette. For those who do not know, a certain gentleman, evidently extensively experienced in and deeply knowledgeable about such matters, has gone on record saying that a cigarette is nothing but negligible levels of tobacco complimented by generous helpings of that addictive agent nicotine rolled into a stick which has fire at one end, and a fool’s mouth at the other. I tender heart-felt apologies to any puritans who might have been irked by my-not-so-accurate reproduction of the said gentleman’s words. Suffice it is to say that I feel rather strongly on the subject and find it difficult to not offer my tupence worth, even if that means resorting to synthetic quotes.

Pardon my habitual digressions. JB, therefore, had to feign amnesia, when he went out shopping for the house. He would conveniently forget picking up such essential items such as powdered milk, diapers, mineral water, or whatever it was that Mrs. JB had underlined the importance of not forgetting to bring back. It would give him an excuse then to saunter around the block on the premise of going back and picking that essential item in a jiffy, and, of course, to light the fire at the other end of the cigarette. Little did he know that as he went around completing these household chores, he was cleaning out the neigbourhood of all insects, even the roaches. The poor things, roaches that is, found it the hard way, and fortunately did not live to alert their kind, that it is one thing surviving a nuclear holocast, but it is enirely another proposition surviving JB fumes.

Mosquitos, an Urdu humorist declares, are a gallant kind. They are not known to resorting to blitzkreig tactics, nor are they prone to stooping to shock and awe kind of warfare. They follow, and quite consistently so, the search, warn, challenge and attack line of offensive. Well, in JB’s case, they found the hardway that their tactic was flawed. Searching him was no issue, since he leaves a nicotinic trail behind him, and the paths leading to him are normally lined with insects of various kinds, sizes and shapes which have perished after falling in the line of JB fire. It was the warning part that they failed to do, they had to get near him to effectively buzz the warning-cum-challenge in his ears, and this proved a task they were ill-equipped to carry out. Perhaps, if they had the gas masks…!

They brought out the infantry once, and as scores fell left and right trying to bridge the distance between their kind and JB, some finally did manage to make contact with the enemy. The offensive was altogether anandoned, however, once they saw their valiant commandoes and marines wilting before their eyes after sipping from river of nicotine. It is rumoured that the mosquitos are working to train an SSG unit, where the young mosquitos chosen for the training are weaned on “beedi”, and it is a smart move too, since the only thing that stinks more than JB smoke is the ‘beedi’.

It remains to be seen, however, if this strategy will bear fruit. Apparently, too many young mosquitos have perished in this cause, and a certain group of mother mosquitos have got together and started protesting the very idea of launching the war on JB. Their point is that JB is headed the destruction way as it is, and the mosquitos should not have to mindlessly lay down their lives towards achievement of this end. Many believe that the head mosquito may just have signed his own exit from the dorms of mosquito power through his incessant and mindless gibberish about conquering JB and sucking him dry. A growing number of mosquitos and other insects are begining to feel that black, nicotine infested, blood is not all it is made out to be, and that it might not hold the key to enduring insect supremacy. There are, however, paddy field grown mosquitos and other rum drinking insects that have not allowed reason to interfere with their ambition, and they continue to espouse the insect way of live for JB, lions, elephants, birds, and plants alike.

Given all of the above, and JB’s record against other blood-sucking creatures, those vampires had better watch out.

Digression seems to be the rule of the day today. I think, I had better stop here. We will come to that conspiracy by the Hondas, Toyotas, Mitsubishis, Nissans and Mazdas in another post.


Cricket and the crown.5

There was a little bit of ambiguity surrounding the catch Sir Ian Bell had taken to dismiss bloody M. Yousuf, when bloody M. Yousuf had shown his impudent intent approaching his century. Thankfully, Sir Simon Tauffel was the umpire, and he took Sir Ian Bell’s declaration at face value, and ruled bloody M. Yousuf out. There was absolutely no need to refer the matter to the third umpire, since Sir Ian Bell, unlike bloody Rashid Latif is a gentleman, and would never have appealed for a catch, had he not taken it cleanly. Preposterous as it is, the bloody Pakis have been drawing parallels between the incident involving Sir Ian Bell and the infamous incident involving bloody Rashid Latif, and have had the audacity to even suggest an inquiry into the matter of Sir Ian Bell’s catch.

Bloody Rashid Latif was banned for five matches by the esteemed ICC for appealing for a caught out decision after what was shown by the TV replays to be a less than clean catch. Gentlemanly conduct does not come easy to the low-life brown people, and expecting them to display same under all circumstances is rather optimistic. Realistic approach demands that all appeals by the bloody brown people should be referred to a third umpire to ensure complete code of conduct of a gentleman is observed when the game of the gentlemen is played, especially by the bloody brown people with the gentlemen themselves. A gentleman’s word however should never be doubted, nor should a gentleman be slighted by referring a matter to a third umpire when a gentleman has already stated his position on the matter. It is because of this reason that any comparisons drawn between the incident involving Sir Bell and that made infamous by bloody Latif would in essence have to fall under fallacious comparisons. Apples may not be compared with dried dates.

There is then the matter of the decisions His Umpiring Excellency Darrel Hair has made. His credentials have been questioned by the insolent Pakis for having called bloody Shabbir Ahmed for chucking, or for warning bloody Kaneria for running onto the pitch, or sending Salman Butt back after he had visibly and intentionally run on the pitch while takng a run. His Umpiring Excellency is beyond reproach, even approach. That he should be requested to officiate in matches not played between gentlemen teams in itself is derogatory to him, and beyond the comprehension of yours truly. That he should undertake these assignments despite the low social stature of the ‘hosts’ in itself bears testimony to his dedication to upholding the cause of gentlemen.

His Umpiring Excellency does the bloody brownies an immense honour by often officiating in matches played by them, and at the same time ensures that the devious scehmes employed by the bloody brownies in their impertinent attempts at rising to the status of equals with gentlemen on the playing field are checked at all times under his scrutiny. If bloody Shabbir Ahmad thought he could jeopardize the English Gentlemen’s plans, he had another thing coming. In case, bloody Kaneria had forgotten his rightful brown place in the general scheme of cricketing things, His Umpiring Excellency was quick to remind him of the same; and for the impudent Salman Butt to think he could repeat his insolence of the past in the second test match was childish. His Umpiring Excellency knows a thing or two abour disciplining children.

What is beyond comprehension is the insistence of the bloody Pakis that His Umpiring Excellency did not have to refer the matter of bloody Inzamam’s dismissal by Sir Steve Harmisson to the third umpire. Some have gone so far so as to suggest that even Sir Steven Harmisson should have been reprimanded for shying at bloody Inzamam’s wicket in the first place, since, as they put it, bloody Inzamam was making no attempt at taking a run. A knighted gentleman to be penalized for exhibiting his exalted fury? What nerve, what impudence!

Why, I ask, should bloody Inzamam not be ruled out when he has the insolence to take evasive action when a gentleman throws a ball at him. And to suggest that His Umpiring Excellency should have favoured Inzamam for this insolence, and that too after his 109- run defiance in the face of the exalted English attack. Who, by the way, was to ascertain that bloody Inzamam’s foot lifted in the air, and the other outide the crease was not a precursor to his attempt to take a run. Are we now to assume the best on the part of brownies?. Such amateur optimism can only spell doom for us all. Bloody Pakis know this well, but continue to expect us to give them the benefit of the doubt, and some even have the audacity to suggest that we play the game with them as equals, while many have been demanding that His Umpiring Excellency should be relieved of his duties.

Alas! The world outside the Empire, as well as beyond the realms of pure, white skinned people seems to have forgotten its place.

Circumference, Zany JB, and Nostalgia.1

1 Meter!

Its official. Knicq has breached the 1M barrier in circumference.

In the past, I have hovered around this barrier, but never really did cross it. My failures, however, were not due to lack of trying. I know now that everything must happen in its own time, and one must continue to strive for excellence in the face of adversity and failures. A 100 cms is a lot of me, and I knew I was on the right track when standing up straight, I could no longer see my size 9 shoes. Jalali Baba has always had reservations about the usage of the word straight here in the context. He believes half moon conveys a much more accurate picture, but I differ on technical grounds. The semi-circular image invoked by the half moon metaphor does not really fit me. As far as imagery goes, Jalali Baba says it is more a case of getting the China wall to stand vertically rather than lying around like a lazy python, and getting it to swallow the half moon just so it comes to rest in the middle. Of course, this is a ridiculous way of putting things. Everyone knows, walls don’t eat half moons, or full moons; and whoever heard of pythons lying around lazily?

Thats Jalali Baba for you. He will be 30 soon, and although he maintains otherwise I have this nagging suspicion that he crossed 1M long ago. It is common knowledge that he is on the wrong side of 100 Kgs. I remain on the right side by about twenty kgs. JB thinks my eating habits add to his weight, and his smoking habits to my girth. The more I evaluate the data available, the more sense this hypothesis makes. I guess, he is pulling me into senilepur along with him. He is senile, this part I have figured out. I have also got to the conclusion that he is fighting old age. You know you are fighting old age when you start believing you are getting old, because most people choose to fight old age rather than age gracefully. Before I tell you why I think he is fighting old age, let me tell you about a small incident that should have alerted me to JB’s condition years ago.

A couple of years ago, wifey and kids had chosen exactly the same time to go on a vacation, when JB’s family was in Pakistan. JB lives in Abu Dhabi, approximately 175 Kms from where I live. He used to drive down with a bundle of wood, and a makeshift tent, in the trunk of Saab-ki-Gaadi, and drive on another 100 kilometers to Dibba; where he would put up the tent in the ‘wilderness’, make a ‘bonfire’ 2 feet in height, spend the night there, and drive back to Abu Dhabi in the morning. This used to qualify for the ultimate adventure out in the open, away from the hustle bustle of cities and towns – the former employed to refer to Abu-Dhabi and Dubai, and the latter used to allude to yours truly’s city of abode.

He did this almost every week, and talked about it to me for the rest of the week. This has to be the explanation for my affirmative nod when he invited me to one such night of adventure. I find no other logical basis for this stupidity of mine. I am not an outdoors person. I am a Dubaiite, and like all fellow-Dubaiites, I would take the air-conditioned malls over the “wilderness” anyday. (After the trip, I would take malls on fire over a trip to the wilderness with JB)

I was ordered to pack in a copy of “Kuliyat-e-Iqbal”, while JB packed in OSK, who has until now been introduced as Fash’s BiL. We set off in Saab Ki Gaadi about midnight on an unusually cold night. Along the way, Jalali Bab tried to educate the lesser mortals on Iqbal, but lost interest when we could not even feign interest. Then came the punishment for this insolence. At two in the morning, with the whole world, including the road ahead plunged in absolute darkness, JB switched off the head lights – only for a few seconds, but for long enough to scare the living daylights out of the two of us. Our screams only encouraged him, and he did it for a second time, and stopped only when the two of us threatened to tell his wife about his smoking excesses(provided, of course, we made it back in one peice, but a provision we chose not to elaborate on at the time).

He finally found a place to stop the car, and put the tent up – a deserted spot between two hills, populated by nothing, save a few shrubs swaying suspiciously in the howling winter wind, and the omnipresent fear of grouchy ghosts woken from their slumber by our cacophony. To JB’s dismay, we decided against spending the night there, and forced him to choose another spot. The spot we did agree on was at the beach, the impracticality of which choice was laid bare when it came time to put the tent up. Somehow, the tent was done, and JB got down to making his ‘bonfire’. Here again was a challenge, since the winds were not conducive to getting the fire going; a challenge that was overcome eventually. We huddled around the fire to keep ourselves warm.

We had barely got comfortable, when a strong gust of wind brought a ton of sand to our fire, and chased on its way out particles of sand with their tails on fire. For a while, the whole place was lit up like the sky; in this while I heard JB scream and run after those fiery particles, it was only later that I realized that he was running after our tent, which had been uprooted by the wind. That put paid to the night under the skies.

A few weeks ago, JB was chastizing me for my reckless driving on blackey about a year ago, when I had done a little swerving and cutting while talking on my cell phone; and I had to bring up his switching off of those head lights. That shut him up. A while later, while sitting down in a traditional Yemeni restaurant for our dinner, I asked him what the dickens did he think he was doing at the time. His reply, ‘Saab, there is no thrill in life anymore’. I had to suppress my murderous instinct, but even the best restraint could also not keep me from going ballistic in his face in two public places – one the afore mentioned traditional restaurant, which refused to serve us food given my outburst; and the other which served us food despite the ballistic me.

I have figured out now though – JB is old, and he is fighting old age – some men resort to cheap thrills in this fight. There are those who switch off head lights while driving on a dark highway, or go bungie jumping, or join a gym; or remarry; and there are those who opt for a more enduring pain- they go nostalgic. The latter crop of fighters is a sad bunch of people; they find something wrong with everything around them, and long for days gone by, the miseries of days gone by, and the joys of days gone by. If they are any good with the pen, they write books about days gone by, and romanticize the past at the expense of present and future.

JB comes from a new breed of fighters though – this is a breed which thinks itself older than it really is, so while the guys resort to some or all of the switching-off-the-headlights thrills, they are disappointed to find that they can’t really get nostaligic because their days gone by are no so far off. They must then do the next best thing – they live in other people’s nostalgia.

It is a way of life elevated to an art form by the likes of JB. The method is simple. You read a few books on genuine nostalgia, and then realizing that what you are living through today, will constitute your nostalgia tomorow, just as the past turned into nostalgia for those writers, you start living your picture perfect nostalgia, for tomorrow’s sake. Am I making any sense?

I do not have to, I will be 30 in a year’s time, and I will be able to think back to today with a touch of nostalgia, think back to days when I used to fight the oncomings of old age with half baked philosophic psychoanalysis of my freinds who were living their nostalgia before they got to the logical age of nostalgia.

For now, I am 1 Meter fat, and JB is a 100 KGS heavy – these will be the days to hark back to!

Breaking News…0

We interrupt the serenity of this blog for an important announcement.

JB has updated. Actually updated this time. Blogistan just got more interesting.


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.


I have often wondered if this blog would have been the same without Jalali Baba. He has been the inspiration for no less than three updates, and his twisted logic has found its way in every alternate update if not in every update. The unhealthy mix of absolute disdain (his for me) and minimal respect (mine for him) that characterizes our friendship is so tangible, it would find its place under fixed assets on a balance sheet, were it not so omnipresent on this blog.

Its worth brooding over then, if this blog would have been the same without him around. What has been the world’s greatest mystery, ever since Jalali Baba got himself a blog, is the million dollar question, ” What will Jalali Baba write about, if ever he decides to update?”

It has been a KPI (Kep Performance Indicator) of mine to elicit an update out of Jalali Baba. My attempts in this regard have gone from suggesting, asking, threatening, ordering, requesting, cajoling, imploring, begging, and pleading to tagging him.

Well, the question has been answered, the mystery unravelled… Jalali Baba has updated in his own distinctive, twisted style.

Thank you Jalalio… *wipes ‘tears of happiness’*

Mushaira, Blackey, and Knicq 22.0

There was an Urdu Mushaira here today, and yours truly was there by invitation – make that earnest invitation. They really really needed me there today, and they told me this in no uncertain terms. I put forth a condition that I could not be caught dead in a Mushaira if Jalali Baba were not one of the honoured guests there. They gasped. They said they had never known Jalali Baba was a poet too. I laughed. I told them he was not; but he liked ‘sher’ and appreciated a good one as long as it was not by yours truly. They said they would make sure he got the most sought after, the V.I.Piest invitation, and got the best seat too. I said I would consider then. They said there was no reason for me not to consider. After all, they said, it was not as if I were going to be reciting my work.


Like, wha?

*Regains composure.*

So, I smiled graciously, and I said, I had considered, and that I would come. They said, they were thankful. I said they were welcome. The $&%*@$ shallalabumistikasters!!!

So, go we did, Jalali Baba and I. And it was a lovely evening. Actually, Jalali Baba and I agreed the young poetess was lovelier, but then it was an evening brimming with poetic paraphernalia. Jalali Baba kept repeating it was brimming with poetic justice too. I never for once thought he was referring to the injustice done to this legend in making by barring him from reciting his masterpeices. He insisted, he was.

It was difficult to get him to keep quiet. He, for his part, was brimming with these anecdotes from his Karachi days. The gentleman in the seat in front of us coughs, and off Jalali Baba goes about how one of his students used to cough incessantly during his classes, which reminds him how once he had seen one of his fellow professors hit the guy, who used to sit in the seat in front of the incessantly coughing guy, with a duster; which he had taken to be the disciplining norm for the faculty in that institution, and had gone on to apply this disciplinary tactic in his class the very day.

He then proceeds to tell me, how he had spotted one of his students in another class that day not paying attention to his lecture, and how he had fired a chalk missile right at his head. Here, he takes a breath, and then goes on and tells me how he was petrified when the student had gone down holding his hand to his eye.

The student, Jalali Baba explains, was the son of some high ranking military officer, and he had thought his career over as he had walked to the student. The poor thing had looked up at Jalali Baba, and Jalali Baba had asked him if he had been hit in the eye. When the student had told him he was not, a relieved Baba had told him that he had been aiming for it. At this point Jalali Baba guffaws and concludes his story telling me that he had never, after that, faced any disciplinary hiccups in his teaching career. This is all told to me, when some poor chap is trying very hard to get the hazreen-e-mehfil (audience) to shower some daad (appreciation) on his verses.

I tell Jalali Baba he is going to get us thrown out. He agrees, and slides into this time when he had managed to get four of his friends thrown out of a wedding party, which was funny to him because one of the thrown out guys was not only one of his closest friends, he was also the groom’s brother! Now this reminds him of how when he was the groom, his friends had presented him with a bottle of Habib Cooking Oil as a wedding present, which reminds him of the old peon at his school whose name was Habib, and whose daughter was the best friend of the girl his best friend’s cousin had a crush on, which reminds him …

Its a miracle, they did not throw us out!

So, the Mushaira ended, and Jalali Baba proceeded to Abu Dhabi, while I left for Sharjah.
Oh, and on the way back, thanks to some brilliant team-work that Blackey and I were able to come up with, we were home in slightly under 15 minutes, having maintained 140 Kms/Hr cutting and swerving our way through the viscous weekend Dubai-Sharjah traffic at 1:00 a.m. It had been a looong long time ever since I had felt 22! Its been a long time since I was 22.

It feels great to know I can still be 22 behind the wheel, when I want to be…

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