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Friday, December 30, 2011

Starlight, star bright

@madihariaz: You really need to deal with the fact that Solom's the star of your blog. Seriously.

@afiaaslam: Are you saying the rest of it is crap?  

@madihariaz: No. Just that your son's a star.  

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Double or nothing

Me: I love you.

Solom: I luw yew tew.

Me: I love you MORE.

Solom: *confused*

Me (whispering): Say, "I love you most."

Solom: I luw yew almost.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Josh naal pao bhangra

Oh good Lord.

Won the Best Diarist prize at the Pakistan Blog Awards.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Storytime: Goldilocks and the Four Bears

Gather round now, children, for it is time to hear a story.

Now you all may have heard of Goldilocks who ate the little bear’s porridge and broke his chair and slept in his bed because it was all just right for her. Forget that because it wasn’t real. The only thing you need to learn from that tale is that trespassing is illegal. And that sometimes people take things that are yours and somehow get away with it even though your parents are around and are SUPPOSED to be looking out for you and are bigger than the evil person taking those things from you but are STILL somehow unable to stop that person, mostly because they think the other person’s cute or sometimes because they are watching their favourite show on TV and are a little fed-up and think that it’ll be okay to just stop that person next time because it IS bound to happen again. Another thing you could learn from that tale is that you can only eat, sit and sleep in peace as long as baby’s out of the house. Which brings us to our real story: Goldilocks and the Four Bears.

Once upon a time, there were four bears: Baba bear, Mama bear, Baby bear and Little Baby bear. Baba bear told Baby bear the Goldilocks story once or twice before putting him to sleep. Now that we’re over the Goldilocks reference, we can get back to our main story. The four bears lived in Karachi and felt very hot in the summer. So one day Baba bear called an electrician and told him to reset the ceiling fan so it would run faster. This bothered Mama bear, who had always had a fear of fast ceiling fans because she was convinced that one would fall on her some day. Baba bear thought she was being dramatic and in any case he was feeling very hot, so the fan was reset at a faster speed.

That year Karachi saw a very long summer, which continued into the first week of December. The fast fan served the family well, even if Mama bear would lie awake at night gaping at it and thinking, “Ab gira, ab gira…” But then, summers passed and one day a great chill descended over Karachi. People began to wear medium cotton instead of thin cotton, and everyone agreed that winter was finally here. The nights grew cool but still the fan continued whirring madly over the four bears, making the room even cooler. And as we know, when baby bears feel cold at night, they pee.

One night, as Mama bear lay awake, thinking, “Ab gira, ab gira… GOD, it’s cold, must call the electrician tomorrow!” Little Baby bear started whimpering in his sleep. Then he started thrashing around to the left and right. After that he sat up and swayed around for a bit with his eyes closed. Then he fell back on the bed as if he’d given up a great struggle. Then he squirmed his way across the bed until he’d reached his father, after which he sat up again and then collapsed on his father’s chest, all this while supposedly still being asleep. Baba bear awoke because of the commotion, drew his arm around Little Baby bear and then said gruffly, “Aaf, he’s wet himself.” For indeed that was why Little Baby bear had been thrashing around.

When Mama bear was done changing Little Baby’s clothes and diaper and had finished cleaning the mattress and the bedsheet, she heard a sound from the cot where Baby bear was sleeping. Now Baby bear was thrashing around, moaning, “Mamaaa… garam duddoooo…” Baba bear and Mama bear took one look at each other (the only sort of look that parents are capable of exchanging at 3 am) and sure enough, when Mama bear went to the cot to check, Baby bear had wet himself too. She shook Baby bear awake. “Solom,” she said, shaking him. Baby bear did not wake up. “SOLOM,” she said, shaking him harder. Baby bear still did not wake up. “Get up,” Mama bear hissed, poking him in his privates. Baby bear opened his eyes and said, “Mama? Wonder Pets is sleeping.” “Yes, betay, they are the only ones managing that right now,” Mama bear replied and dragged Baby bear to the toilet.

When Mama bear was done scolding Baby bear while he was sitting on the commode and had finished changing Baby bear’s clothes and had stripped the mattress protector from the cot and replaced the sheet, she found Little Baby bear sitting up in the master bed, wide awake and looking very interested in everything that was going on.

“Aaaaeeee?” Little Baby bear said. “Shhhhhhhh!” Mama bear said. Little Baby bear looked at her with big eyes.

“AAAAAAAEEEEYAAAAYAAAA!!!” he exclaimed, as if saying, “Why are we pretending that everyone’s asleep?”

“What’s the matter with the two of you?!!!” Mama bear shouted. “Do you think I have nothing to do other than to run from bed to cot, cleaning up your pee??!!”

“Shhhh!!!” Baba bear said, who was still pretending to be asleep.

“Babaaaaaaaaaaa!” Little Baby bear gurgled, now that he was sure that Baba bear was in fact awake. So he stood up, took a few tottering steps across the bed, threw himself on Baba bear’s chest and started slapping his face. Mama bear and Baba bear exchanged another look. Mama bear determinedly took a step towards the bed.

“I will take him to the other room,” Baba bear said, sounding like a sacrificial lamb.

“Okay! Please turn the fan off on your way out!” Mama bear said and with that she climbed into bed, pulled the coverlet over her head and pretended to fall asleep. And they all stayed sleep deprived ever after. The End.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Proposal

This is just an interim post. I'm travelling for an out-of-town wedding these days and seeing my cousin and his fiancee interacting in the midst of the wedding hullabaloo, which is slowly building up to a pitch, is making me nostalgic. It occurred to me that in the post I wrote earlier, in which I described how Azfar and I had decided to tie the knot, probably the most important story was of how he proposed. It's that time of year again when weddings and love are in the air, so let's share our proposal stories! How did it happen for you? I'd love to hear any and all stories: romantic/arranged, staid/crazy, whirlwind/never ending, funny/weepy - even proposals that didn't end in marriage! It'll be such fun to compare our experiences. Out with it!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

An Evidence-based Approach

Animated dinner-table discussion on the Veena Malik/FHM cover scandal.

Azfar: She's got her arm across her chest so she OBVIOUSLY went topless, otherwise WHY would she pose like that?

Me: Yes but she's saying that that's not her AT ALL, you see. She's saying her head's been photoshopped on top of someone ELSE'S body.

A: Hmm. Then she should release another picture of her body to prove that it's not her.

Me: *staring*

A: What?

Me: Good one, Azfar.

A: No, I didn't mean...

Me: Of course you didn't.

A: Yaar she can take a picture of her stomach, can't she?? NO ONE has the same belly button!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Blasphemist

Conversation while trying to put wide-awake Solom to bed after a long, long day.

Me: Okay betay, good night.

Solom: MAMA?

Me: Yes?

S: Solom's go OUT.

Me: Solom will do nothing of the sort. Solom will close his eyes and think of Allah and then Solom will Go. To. SLEEP.  GOOD NIGHT.

S: MAMA!!!


S (holding three fingers out): How many Allahs I have?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Here and Nowhere Else

I got a call today from a cousin who’s a particular favourite in the family. He’s about to get married and he and his fiancĂ©e were thinking of getting away for a bit over the long weekend before the wedding madness kicked in later this month. Things got a little tricky when they remembered that the extra holidays were on account of the 9th and 10th of Moharram and, given the possibility of violence, it may not be safe to travel. So what did my cousin do? Called his cousin who’d married a Shia, of course.

“Thanks, Puch,” I said on the phone. “I like how I’ve become the family resource person on Ashura security arrangements.”

“Of course, Aafoo,” he replied, blowing a kiss on the phone.

“I honestly don’t think there should be a problem getting out of Lahore. Just find out what the route of the procession is going to be and avoid that. Avoid crowded areas. And try not to take Kate to a majlis as a cultural experience.”

Then I told him I had to go say my prayers, which I’d been trying to do for the last half hour except the phone kept ringing. And sitting on the prayer mat, I begged God to please keep my husband safe this Ashura. I usually ask for protection for our family, but these prayers tend to become more distraught in the first two weeks of Moharram.

There were many things I was told before this marriage took place. I was given warnings, most of them about salvation (or lack thereof). Others tried to warn me about practical considerations like the importance of a husband and wife being on the same spiritual page, especially when there would be children in the picture. I lost some people along this path; people who were important to me. But there was something about this man that inspired me to be a better person, and in a vague but overwhelming way that outweighed all other religious or political considerations.

I’m not going to romanticize this unnecessarily. The fact is that Azfar very nearly didn’t propose to me. We were best friends, had immense respect for each other and loved spending time together, but he was a good son and would never have taken a decision to marry out of the Syed Shia fold unless he felt seriously compelled to rewrite fourteen hundred years of family history. I just got lucky that one day he did feel compelled to. He spent that whole night leafing through pictures of us together over the years and then made up his mind to ask me. It was so sudden that he never even managed to plan a proper proposal: he walked into my mother’s house after office the next evening, pulled a half-dead rose out of the inner pocket of his coat with a flourish and said, “Will you marry me?”

“Azfar,” I said once I’d remembered to breathe, “if you want to propose to me, you’d better do it properly. I’m not marrying anyone with a proposal like that.”

So he took me to the Marriott and there, sitting in Nadia coffee shop, he said, “Give me a minute.” Then he placed his fingers on his temples and closed his eyes like he was going to teleport himself out of the situation. And after that he delivered the BEST proposal: nothing over the top, nothing cheesy, just a simple, honest exposition of why he believed from the bottom of his heart that we should be together for the rest of our lives. I think what decided it for me was that while he was speaking, I had a sudden premonition. It actually came to me like a flash, electricity running through my body and all: we were sitting on a jhoola at our mehndi a few months later; then it was us again further down the line with a child in our arms. It was the Eureka moment I’d always been told to look out for when deciding whether a person was the right one, and there it was. As I wrote on the DWL forums a few months later, ‘I couldn't have imagined all these years that it was your warm neck that this cold nose would eventually call home.’

There were things I did not see that day. I never saw myself sitting on the prayer mat as I was this evening. I did not foresee the mortification of watching yet another news item about a sectarian attack on television with my in-laws. I did not see myself standing at the door every 9th and 10th of Muharram with dread slowly uncurling itself deep in my stomach as I bid goodbye to my husband and family leaving for the procession. None of the warnings that I got included, “Afia, you will be afraid for the rest of your life. You will be afraid for your husband and for your children too, because they will be his sons. You will be afraid of having suddenly gained everything and then having it taken away from you just as suddenly.”

‘I cannot wait to surround myself with happiness. My mind is full of giggles, excited whispers, children's voices. Running feet on the floor. Kitchen curtains in primary colours. White kurtis with blue embroidery. You.’

Something else I’d written on the DWL forums back in 2007, three weeks after we’d gotten engaged. There are times when I wonder if I would’ve accepted the proposal if I’d foreseen the fear. I would never have known any of this, of course: the way Solom looks up at me, his three-year-old eyes so full of soul and understanding; how Zain charges down the corridor with his torso perfectly immobile but his backside moving left and right like a ticker gone mad; or the way my heart soars when Azfar walks in through the door. I would never have known any of this. So I wouldn’t have missed it. Right?

It’s just that it is impossible to imagine another life when you married the man who gave you your Eureka moment. And there are no guarantees anywhere, in anything. I may never have found anyone worth settling down with, or worse I may have settled for someone who wasn’t worth it. A different decision back then would have cheated me out of my destiny – and this is my destiny. The fear is crippling, but there is also no greater happiness. He has the ability to make me remember: every time I see his smiling face come home, I remember why he was the one. As I wrote four years ago, ‘I cannot believe your stability... the carefree, unquestioning way in which you love, the carefulness with which you hold me close to your heart. You are real. You are here. You will stay.’

There are things I cannot foresee. So be it.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Malaysia, Shukriya

All this talk of odd couples and Maldives in January has reminded me of our first family vacation abroad, which happened earlier this summer. We scheduled a two-week holiday with two small children to two countries (Singapore and Malaysia) and three locations (Singapore, KL and Langkawi), including an inter-country train ride, with a conference thrown in for good measure. Absolute madness. The children fell sick three times (each) and Azfar fell sick twice, in addition to tearing a ligament in his shoulder. How, you may ask? The incident I want to relate happened on our last night in Malaysia, at a lovely resort in Langkawi.

Our hut was located in the rainforest section of the resort, so there were standard warnings to watch out for wild animals, particularly baboons. We’d left a tray out one night on the advice of the room service staff and the next morning, as might be expected, had found remains of sandwiches and fries strewn all over the porch (they even dipped into the ketchup, which to me is a much bigger sign of rampant globalization than any other story one’s heard about fast food consumption in human beings; btw I’ve also heard of a goat that got addicted to Coke but more on that later).

Anyway, so we were aware that wild animals roamed the rainforest. On our last night, we’d put the kids to sleep, finished packing and were about to go to bed when the motion-sensitive light in the balcony came on.

“Oh my God, Azfar!” I whispered, skin prickling. “There’s something on the balcony right now!!” And I started tip-toeing across the creaky wooden floor towards the window.

“Aaf please let it be,” Azfar begged. “The kids will wake up and we have to get up so early. Let’s just go to sleep.”

So I tip-toed back sullenly and we fell asleep. At about three in the morning, I had a dream. We’d left the balcony sliding door open by mistake, and a wild animal was entering with the intention of attacking us. So I did what any normal person would do in my position: I sat up in bed and screamed a scream that must've crossed the rainforest, cleared the beach and woken up the mermaids in the ocean. I then saw a porcupine quill the size of Minar-e-Pakistan shooting in through the same balcony door… straight at me. A proper attack was underway. Again acting with perfect rationality, I moved out of the way of this missile - and fell off the bed. 

In the meantime, Azfar, who was fast asleep on his stomach, woke up to the sound of his wife’s blood curdling scream, turned his head and saw her two legs up in the air, falling backwards off the bed. Now anyone in their right minds would’ve figured that if most of a person’s body has already gone overboard, there is absolutely no sense in trying to grab their leg. But since he is very chivalrous and was obviously not thinking straight at the time, he shimmied across the bed while on his stomach and stretched out with all his force to catch hold of me. And that was how he tore a ligament.

The moment my head connected with the hardwood floor, I woke up (obviously). It occurred to me that I was looking at the ceiling from further away than when I had gone to sleep. So, being an utterly practical person, I climbed back onto the bed – only to see my husband sitting on the other side, clutching his shoulder.

Azfar: Ahhhh…

Me: “What happened??” (Ye acha hai, I’m the one who just fell off the bed and he’s groaning!)

Azfar: [insert story] is what happened.

Me: “Oh noooooo, poor jaani, what can I do to help?” (I can’t believe he missed my leg AND pulled a muscle!)

Azfar: “I’ll be fine. Just get me that cream.”

Me: “Yes OF COURSE, jaani!” (Oh my God, we’re flying to Pakistan tomorrow! WHO’S GOING TO CARRY THE LUGGAGE?!)

We made it to the airport in one piece the next day and Azfar, who’d funneled all kinds of pain killers into his bloodstream, was looking absolutely hale and hearty to anyone who didn’t know what had happened the previous night. Imagine the looks on the faces of the customs officials and passengers as this tall, healthy, top-quality specimen of Pakistani male stood to the side with his shades on while his visibly out-of-shape wife hrrumphed and hooed and haaed as she lifted suitcase after suitcase onto the conveyor belt. Has anyone ever gotten a dirty look from a customs official here? Trust me, no you haven't. I don’t think anyone in the history of aviation has been gladder to board a plane than my husband was that morning. Pfft!

So, yes… Maldives. You'll pardon me if I'm not biting the bait yet!

The Aafster Life is competing in the Best Diarist category of the Pakistan Blog Awards! If you find my troubles and stresses as funny as I hope you do, take a moment to vote! Click on the button at the top right of the blog. Thanks!

The Odd Couple

Unreal conversation with husband last night.

Azfar: The company has said that it'll send us to Maldives for a vacation. You wanna go?

Me (looking eternally suspicious of anything remotely corporate): Why?

A: If I can see this project through before the end of the year.

Me: Oh. Okay, so it's like a... what do you call it... *dangling hand in air*

A: Punkha.

Me: Punkha?! I meant carrot on a stick.

A: No, no, no stick. No scene like that.

Me: The CARROT is the important part, Azfar.

*second of silence*

A: So, you wanna go?

The Aafster Life is competing in the Best Diarist category of the Pakistan Blog Awards! If you find my troubles and stresses as funny as I hope you do, take a moment to vote! Click on the button at the top right of the blog. Thanks!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

History in the Making

Something's in the works that I am really excited about. I'm helping to set up a small workshop group for writers in Karachi - sort of like an offline version of Desi Writers Lounge, only intentionally much smaller and more focused in terms of developing content. A friend who's a published writer threw the idea my way a couple of months ago, we recruited three other writers and today we had the first ice-breaker to help the group gel before getting started. There are two other prospective writers whom we've asked to join the fold. Our plan is to cap the number of members at seven so that things stay personal and workshopping is more intense.

It's not a new idea but there's something about this group of people that's got me really optimistic. I'm the only one who represents the management side of the literary circus, being editor of a magazine. Two of the other members are acclaimed writers, which I expect is going to increase the standard of discourse substantially. Another member, a good friend, has just finished her novel and is expecting to be published in the coming year (let's hope the Mayans got that date wrong). There is one other member who I hadn't met before today but had read in an anthology of stories by women writers from Pakistan. The energy at this first meet was excellent and while we were sorting out details of where to meet, how often to meet and how not to tread on each others' toes (artist log hain, bhai, kuch bhi ho sakta hai) there was an overwhelming sense of potential. I kept thinking, "Something good can happen here."

If we're able to inspire each other and discipline ourselves enough to keep writing, this'll be something worth remembering later. I had a three-second flight of fancy while sitting at the table during the meeting, in fact. I could see myself twenty years in the future, when I would finally have achieved the jaw-dropping feat of publishing a line or two. A pimply, intense-looking reporter with round glasses would be interviewing me and would ask, "So what's this secret writers' society I've heard rumours of from your slimmer... sorry, younger... I mean, early days as a writer?" And I would smile enigmatically and say something profoundly writery (I haven't figured out what just yet; we got into an accident on the way back so the evening sort of went into a state of epic decline after that, thus rudely truncating my love affair with myself).

I really want to finish this post with a song and for some reason, this one keeps coming to mind. The actual story behind this scene from Shehzad Khalil's unforgettable drama 'Ehsas' is a terribly sad one, but just for today, I will reimagine it. The pretty mother (played by Shehwar Rahim) is me, of course, after a happy evening full of possibilities. The two precious boys are mine, those are my in-laws at the back, Khaled Anum is himself but he's still a close relative (proven by the fact that he and I alone are able to sing on pitch in the entire group). And that's Azfar with the video camera... gazing at me with rapt admiration, even looking up to thank God for giving him such a cool wife. Enjoy.

The Aafster Life is competing in the Best Diarist category of the Pakistan Blog Awards! If you find my troubles and stresses as funny as I hope you do, take a moment to vote! Click on the button at the top right of the blog. Thanks!

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Blogger's Handbook on How to Bring Out a Facebook Jalsa

A lot of effort has gone into building a credible voting campaign for The Aafster Life at the Pakistan Blog Awards, and only some of it is mine.

It started with posting a link to the nomination page on Facebook and tentatively asking people to vote. In return, I offered each voter a "Hooah!" No matter which way you looked at it, this was a terrible strategy to garner support. As someone pointed out later, a vote ought to get a chicken, a shawl and some Quaid-e-Azams in return. The first response to the FB post was: Who you calling a Hooah???

Okay, so one person had voted. I was not expecting much from this or anything in life at that point. My husband was in China, my child had become a demon overnight and we were on a spooky unexplained-household-item-breakdown spree exactly when my poor in-laws were visiting. My new iPhone had died while charging, the microwave had started sparking, Zain had literally broken off a piece of our new stereo, the cook hadn't turned up, the meat shop hadn't opened and the toilet seat in the guestroom had come off its hinges for no good reason. The karma balance in my life seemed out. If I listened hard, the Universe did not seem to be saying, "Goooddd tiiime tooo siiignnn uppp foorrr a cooonteeest." To make things worse, another early-bird contender in the Best Diarist category of the blog awards already had 250 votes up before I'd even gotten started. And he was really sweet and encouraging, so the Universe was probably saying nice things to him, and all of this was fundamentally unfair because the Universe was supposed to be a neutral third-party.

My first tweet about the nomination was: Pl. ignore edited blog introduction. Terrified now that my name is actually up there. Vote karo, naak na katnay do! No one RTed that one - God knows why.

But the comments had started coming in on Facebook. Half the people couldn't figure out how to vote while the other half had randomly clicked on the yellow stars and then realised that they'd just brought the rating down. There was a deluge of "How do I"s and "Aargh"s. And yet it was a start - an unexpected one. A few hours later, two of my friends shared on the link to the nomination page, using words like 'fabulously funny' and 'slice of urban truths from Karachi' to describe this blog. Some people responded to their posts, using words like 'hilarious' and 'relatable'. "She has our kind of humour," one person said, "or am I overestimating us?" (Yes? Haw haw!)

And so the FB shares for the nomination page began to go up, and the votes started lazily rolling in. A friend of mine emailed her students, urging them to read the blog and vote. Then she got excited and started a blog too. Another friend posted a tweet threatening her followers with DMs if they didn't vote, and messaged a popular Indian blogger to check out The Aafster Life. Shortly after this, I received a wry tweet from one of my super-funny Twitter contacts: Someone in Bombay emailed me a link to your blog & asked me to vote. I have witnessed Washington intervening in our elections but this was a first! Kiya baat hai. 

Yet another friend, a photographer who makes the meanest chicken w/cashew nuts you've ever tasted, posted a link to one of my posts with this comment: 

alright afia I have a confession to make! I cried and i cried out loud reading this piece. It is beautifully written and I felt as if you went inside my heart and was able to let out all that I wanted to say for the past 5 and half years....thank you for writing this and making all the moms feel better :)

I watched all this with amazement, then gratitude, then amazed gratitude (and occasionally grateful amazement). I had become emotionally committed to the idea of giving this campaign my best. People believed in me, man. The least I could do in return was put up a good fight, right? Did I have to put on my boxing gloves now? Wait, how did one run a campaign anyway? Uh-oh.

And that's when some special magic kicked in. I don't know what happened, or how it happened, but the link to the nomination page went sort-of viral on Facebook. As of right now, it's gotten 374 shares. Only fifteen of those shares were made by my friends. I am itching to find out who the rest of the 359 people are. I want to throw them a party and hug all of them (unless someone's creepy - then they get a handshake; you have to be prepared for these things in Pakistan). There are people who've done so much that I want to look them in the eye and ask, "What do you want, really?" like my friend Mahwash. One minute we were discussing whether Ethan Hawke had greasy teeth and the next minute she was somehow promoting my blog nomination. Here is a select progression of her tweets:

1. Hey followers, wallowers, creepy nobodies and favorite somebodies. Vote for @AfiaAslam to win the Best Diarist (Pakistan Blog Awards)! (she forgot to attach a link to the nomination or the blog in that one).

We then graduated to a discussion on Madagascar's King Julian and the possibility that his version of 'I Like To Move It' was the best dance song ever.

2. Vote for @AfiaAslam. Better her than Imran Khan :-p (this time, a link was included).

3. Alright, pretty followers. Vote for @AfiaAslam as the Best Diarist at the Pakistan Blog Awards. She is awesome.

A few minutes later:

4. Be awesome. Support awesomeness. Vote 4 @AfiaAslam as The. Best. Diarist. Ever. Pak Blog Awards won't know what hit em!

5. If you want to be awesome, if you want to support awesomeness, vote for @AfiaAslam as Best Diarist. Shabash. Vote now.

She then posted on her blog, asking people to vote. Somewhere in the middle she also put up another campaign tweet but linked it to a story about an army doctor who murdered a doorman. It was an honest mistake.

6. Alright. By a show of tweets tell me who voted for @AfiaAslam today. Come on. Don't be shy. Or stingy.

By this time, my cousin Sara, who'd been watching from a bemused distance, commented on FB: You should probably run for elections and hire Mahwash as your campaign manager ;-)  That inspired my friend to come up with multi-lingual campaign slogans, e.g. "Afia saadi shair ai!", "Ullu mat baniyey, Afia ko vote dijiey!" and "Aavay hi aavay! Afia aavay!" We then dedicated songs to each other. Some faarigh and over-optimistic guy on Twitter asked us if we were sisters. The blog awards had given rise to some serious cameraderie - and don't look now but we were in the middle of a full-fledged campaign.

(Conversation on Facebook)

Sara: maybe a televised speech will help? you need to make a video of yourself thanking your FB public and post it- now THAT would be a campaign move :D

Ibaad: Totally agree with Sara, a video needs to be put up! It should start with our flag fluttering in the cool wintery breeze and with the quami tarana playing in the background and your opening line could be "Meray azeez humwatanoon / bloggeroon aap ko Afia ka salam", the rest i leave in your capable hands..

Madiha R: I think Ibaad and Sara are on to something. Except you should forgo the quami tarana and start off with a resounding cry from Solom for garam dudo.

Shazaf: lol! video idea zindabad! chalo chalo blogosphere chalo!  

Mahwash: VEE DEE OH! *everyone chant with me* VEE DEE OH! HO HO HO! VEE DEE OH!

Shazaf: OH .. OH OH (i'm going to echo Mahwash)


Mahwash: ooooh aaaa rriaaa rio! VEEEEE DEEEE OOH!!! ohpaa ohpaaa! 

Shazaf: forget afia. i'm voting for mahwash!


Shazaf: but i don't want the wall that is afia to giro! ee oh ee oh ee oh!

Mahwash: (the wall is the competitors btw) AA FEE YAA! VEE DEE YO! VOTE APNA DO! HEE HEE HO! GO GO GO!

Shazaf: i'm sorry. i think the wall is ambiguous and we sound like we're pushing afia in a well.

Mahwash: OH *pauses for thought* How about "AFIA KA BOL BALA HAI! KIS KIS NE VOTE DALA HAI?!" 

Me: Dude I went for lunch and in the meantime...

Mahwash: Lunch? Aur mera yahan gala sookh gaya.

Me: Hahahahaha! I wish I could put all this DOWN somewhere takeh baad me yaad rahay!!    
Me: OH.
Me: Gotta go, inspiration has struck.


Shazaf: ^ bloggo?

Mahwash: minglish portmanteaux of english word blog- and the urdu verb of karo.

Shazaf: fail.  

And that's what it's been like. Isn't this post a little premature, you might ask? No it isn't, because this isn't a victory lap; it's a tribute. I don't care anymore whether I win or not. In less than a week my insignificant little blog has gone from just over 4,000 page views to 9,000 page views. A nomination page with elusive yellow stars was shared on by hundreds of people I didn't even know and the vote count went up by 100 in 24 hours. New friendships were forged and a hell of a lot of fun was had. People wrote back with all kinds of superlative praise for this blog. That doesn't mean that it is the best thing around - it just means that the words that reside here spoke to them. THIS is success.

There's one word for this feeling: WAH! What A High.

The Aafster Life is competing in the Best Diarist category of the Pakistan Blog Awards! If you find my troubles and stresses as funny as I hope you do, take a moment to vote! Click on the button at the top right of the blog. Thanks!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Stop the Press

Just when my campaign for the Pakistan Blog Awards is well on its way and for the first time I am actually daring to hope for a good outcome, I have encountered the worst writer's block in history. Ironic, but not entirely surprising when you consider how the rest of my day tends to go. Everyone's been saying, "You need to get back to blogging." "You need to put up another entry," they say. "You need new content for the judges to see." And I want to say, "To kya karoon? Zor lagaoon??"

There is a simple, entertaining idea in the works, but it is taking all my patience and power of imagination to get it to stand on its own, and it may not work even then. As I was telling a friend last night, I think I finally understand how men feel about impotence. And so there is only one thing to do: wait for it!

The Aafster Life is competing in the Best Diarist category of the Pakistan Blog Awards! If you find my troubles and stresses as funny as I hope you do, take a moment to vote! Click on the button at the top right of the blog. Thanks!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Vote for The Aafster Life

I'm competing for the Best Diarist Category of the Pakistan Blog Awards 2011. There, I said it. If you've laughed at Solom's grammar, admired how Azfar's tongue is permanently wedged in his cheek, gaped at Imtiaz's exploits and cringed at my bloopers, THE LEAST YOU COULD DO IS VOTE, YEAH.

No really, this is the first time I'm trying for something of this sort and it would mean the world if you could help me get a winning chance at this thing. Here's how:

Go to my nomination page (you can also go through the Awards button at the top right of the blog). Once you're there, scroll down and click on the small, yellow stars to vote. Clicking on the fifth star to the right will give the highest rating. Tada! Easy as... other simple stuff.

If you get that far, please consider sharing the nomination page on as well. Make your vote count: help me win! And let me know if you've voted. I will send you good karma and we'll be happy together. Thanks a bunch, everyone  :-D

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

On role play

Conversation between me and Solom while reading a book:

Me: Look Solom, who is this?

Solom: This is TWO BOYS.

Me: Haan, and what is this boy's name?


Me: And this one?


Me: And what is this?

S: This is ELEPHANT.

Me: And what is the elephant's name?


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Critical Reading: the Murder of Manto

Went to an excellent critical reading session at T2F two nights ago. With the help of Ajmal Kamal, we dissected the edited version of Manto's short story 'Naya Qanoon' as it had appeared in the Urdu textbooks in Sindh. The write-up on the event can be found here.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

In Passing

Me: I've decided I'm going to have an affair.

Azfar: Really.

Me: Yes. First, I am going to get into shape. Then I'm going to get myself some nice clothes. THEN I'm going to have an affair.

Azfar (looking relieved): Oh good! I'll be dead by then!

Monday, September 26, 2011

A Life Less Extraordinary

At the back of every educated woman's head lurks the suspicion that she's destined for greatness. That's why we went to college after all, when we could just as easily have been reproducing a year into our first period. That's why we learnt how to use the computer before we cooked our first meal. That's why we grew up hearing words like 'career', 'success' and 'balance' - and questions like, "What do you want to do?" We were supposed to make something of ourselves. We were supposed to be better than women who never imagined they could do anything other than rear children. A lot of money was invested in developing our brains so that we could... well, use them.

It's 3.37 am and I am writing this with the heady fumes of Dettol slowly permeating every valuable grey cell that inhabits this skull. That's because the better part of the last hour has been spent cleaning up the healthy portions of half-digested sausage that my son threw up in his bed, on the rug, just outside the bathroom door and then in the bathroom itself. Perhaps I'm writing this because I need an excuse to binge on chocolate cake in the wee hours of the morning. Or maybe the Dettol is clouding my judgement. Who knows. All I can say with confidence is that at this moment, my education is completely useless. The only trail I'm capable of blazing right now is the sort you might see if you threw a burning match at a woman reeking of disinfectant running down a corridor with a wiper.

And that is difficult to accept. It is a tough moment when you realise that after all the years of presuming that you'd become something, you have actually turned out quite ordinary. That your life, too, has been reorganised around the concept of birthday parties, quarterly assessments and macaroni with cheese, just like all those unbearably average women you were always so SURE you were never like. UN reports talk about women like you: they say you are worth educating because you're three times more likely to send your children to school. You too are a majority statistic - and in all likelihood you will stay one.

But is that so bad? What's so unbearable about being the lynchpin of bloody society, after all? Yes, there's no fame or fortune in it. Yes, much of your day is spent in what could only be described as menial tasks. There are no thanks to be had, no certificates of appreciation, no annual bonuses. But you are part of that silent mass of worker ants that holds things together, are you not? If it weren't for this army, fighting its small battles quietly in the background every single day, where would the world be? If we weren't content with playing this supporting role, the whole cast - hell, the whole dang film - would collapse. So yeah... motherhood. It's the most thankless voluntary work in the world, but this is one community service the world cannot do without.

At least that's what I have to tell myself at moments like this one.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

One of THOSE moments

I'm the kind of mother who's constantly beating herself up for not being around enough for the kids. And I don't even do an office job. For what it's worth, I am home and available at a moment's notice should the need arise. But the truth is, there's a magazine to run and there are many times in a day when I realise I should've been with my sons for the last hour, playing with blocks, instead of monitoring the online stats on Papercuts or sending out emails to team members. And I feel bad about that - a lot. I know why my younger son starts crying when he sees me pull out the laptop, and why Solom gets agitated when he sees me zipping to the living room (i.e. the laptop's permanent abode).

This afternoon I was heading out to the salon for some quick work and I realised Solom did not want to let me go. We waved 'bye' to each other and I said, "I'll be back soon! See you!" and all the cheerful things one says, but he kept his eyes fixed on me and, with his arm stretched out and with utter distress written all over his face, kept calling out - "Mama? Mama?" He did not want me to go.

I had to go, of course, but I kept wondering why it was such a big deal for him. And then I realised, it's because he never sees me leave. You see, I'm based at home, out of choice, and because we're new in Karachi (and, let's face it, it's big ol' busybusybusy Karachi) I don't go out a lot to hang with friends. So this is what Solom sees every day: he gets dropped off to school by Mama. He comes out of school and Mama is there to pick him up. He goes to play, Mama's waving at the door. He comes back, Mama's waiting for him. So now when Mama was leaving and he was home, he didn't know what to make of it.

And that's when it hit me: I am there for my son. I am. And he knows it. Isn't that awesome?!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Amma, tussi vee great ho

So I called my mother and asked her to read the latest blog entry. Five minutes later, I received this text message:

The computer is dead. Long live the computer.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Isloo, tussi great ho

I’ve been missing Islamabad a lot lately. Not that there’s anything wrong with Karachi *stops, reconsiders that statement* but with my friends putting up annoying FB status updates like ‘Rain in Isloo, sooo beaaauuutiful’ and ‘Clouds over mountains *sigh* <3’ and ‘Romantic n rainy… wattay morning!’ my longing for ye ol’ pind has increased tenfold. 

Going back is always a mixed bag, though. Not that there’s anything wrong with Islamabad *stops, reconsiders statement* but the fact of the matter is that now when we visit the city, we’re visiting our parents… we’re not actually ‘at home’. And with a child on either hip, it can become complicated not to be at home. You’ll recall the famous saying: Home is the where the frickin’ playpen is.

It actually hasn’t been that long since we were there last – we’d just flown up in June to celebrate my 33rd birthday. The occasion was ominously rolling around and Azfar and I were beginning to wonder what the heck we could do in Karachi with a total of four people living within driving distance who were actually willing to meet up with us. So we thought we’d take the ostrich approach and go to Islamabad instead. I nearly changed my mind, however, after having this surreal conversation on the topic with my mother:

Amma: Aafoo, I’ve decided I’m having your birthday party.

Me: Aww. Amma, there’s no need… really.

Amma: No it’s fine, I owe people dinners anyway.

Me: Ah.

Amma (forging ahead): The guest list is coming to about fifteen people. Mashallah, there are eight of us just among the immediate family. Then I thought I hadn’t gotten my friends together for a long time, so there’s Tahira, Nina, Kaisera and Imran, Cheem and Zafri, Nazo and Bajia. Asma may not be able to make it but I’m going to ask her, of course. You never manage to meet all of them when you visit, so this will be a good time.

Me: *waiting expectantly*

Amma: If you like, you could invite one or two of your friends as well!

Me: Hmm. That could be problematic, seeing that there are more than one or two of them and, um, they’re all married with… err… children and stuff.

Amma (forging ahead): Oh, I forgot. Kaisera’s son-in-law’s birthday is also on the same day and he MAY be visiting from Dubai on a surprise visit… we don’t know yet… so I have told her that I’ll also have his name written on the cake.


Amma: Yes, I thought it’ll be a nice gesture.

Me (thinking quickly): Ma, Azfar is going to get my birthday cake.

Amma: AFIA. Don’t be SILLY. I’M hosting the birthday party. I will NOT ask your husband to buy the cake.

Me (conspiratorially): No, Ma, you don’t understand. I’m MARRIED now… it’ll look VERY weird that you’re doing everything and that my husband isn’t playing a role, you know?? What will my in-laws think? It’s just not DONE.

Amma (conspiratorially/totally-getting-it-ly): Ohhh… I see. Yes, you’re right…

And so we went to Islamabad for my birthday. Amma put a fabulous do together; so fabulous, in fact, that she was wiped out before it even started.  The food was AWESOME and Amma’s awesomer than awesome friends rocked the party like they always do. On our end, Zain spent the evening bawling for no fathomable reason. So one could say the party was being rocked on one end and wrecked on the other. But everyone agreed the food was delish. And Amma had put up these lovely balloons and streamers. And the cake said ‘WANT A PIECE OF ME.’ And I got very cool gifts, ranging from perfumes and bags to book vouchers and almanacs on Elvis Presley and Muhammad Ali (yes, you read that right). And Amma gave me a hilariously appropriate card that read:



Chalo Shabaash Cake Khareedo Aur Kaato! It’s your Birthday!!! :p

The last present was an anonymous-looking box wrapped in generic, totally forgettable, silver paper. “Who’s this from?” I wondered, opening the card. There was a pair of scissors made on the front with a smiley face on either blade.

With you being my other half, life seems so complete and better in every way


 Happy birthday to my perfect match. To my wife!

I blinked. Then I rushed to the adjoining room, where Azfar was playing with the kids. “Thank you for the card,” I barely managed to whisper in his ear. “It was WHOLLY undeserved.” And with that, yours truly promptly started crying.

“It’s the best card ever,” I gurgled, tearing the wrapping on the gift open. “This is better than ANY present you could EVER give me. OHMYGODANiPHONEANDAKINDLE??!!!! WHOOOOOHOOOO!!!!! WHOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! *galloping off back to the next room* AMMAAAAAA… LOOK WHAT AZFAR GOT MEEEEEEE!!!!!”

Once the excitement had worn off, I got suspicious about the card. My peers will understand what I mean when I say that it was a little too perfect. Something was fishy in the State of Denmark. Later that night:

Me: You picked the first card you saw, didn’t you.

Azfar (sagely shaking his head): Nnnopes.

Me: Second?

A: Nnnopes.

Me: Third.

A: Maybe.

(thinks hard)

A: It was bright yellow…

Me: I don’t want to know!!!

Anyway, so in that incredibly rushed trip I remembered why it’s so goshdarned brilliant to have a home town to go to. In four days, I got more done than I’d been able to get done in six months of being in a new city. Got the tailor over to stitch my quota of summer clothes; got my bank issues sorted out; reconnected with most of our incredible friends (including two of my closest girlfriends, one of whom just had a baby a few months ago); had a birthday party; watched our parents enjoying their grandchildren; and sat on Amma’s roof.

Don’t underestimate that last point. Because when you’re from Islamabad and you move to Karachi (or Houston, for that matter) it’s almost a shock to return to that environment. You feel like a starving plant that’s suddenly been hooked up to an IV with chlorophyll. I sat on Amma’s roof, and I drank in that view and I feasted my eyes on those green-as-green-can-be hills, on the flowering plants and bushes in Nani’s lawn, the stretch of park just beyond – nearly choked with trees – and yes, feasted my eyes too on the clouds rolling over those hills, the sky so blue after the rain of the previous day. You see, I know what my friends are on about when they post those FB status updates. I know.

View from Amma's house - this one before the rain

And now I can’t wait for Eid!

Conversations with Calliope - Part V

Calliope: so, i weigh 102.6 today

Me:  That is so ridiculous.
Me: That's not a valid weight. That's, like, a fever statistic.

C: i should keep looking for apartments, seriously
C: i lost 3 pounds in 3 days
C:  "what diet are you on?" "oh, the homeless diet."