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Friday, March 25, 2011

This beats weight loss

I'm signing up for Swapna Krishna's 2011 South Asian Challenge! The challenge is to read as many books on South Asia or written by South Asian authors before 31st December 2011 - and man am I up for it!

I will be maintaining a list of the books that I've finished reading in this post. My aim is to reach the level of South Asian Guru (> 10 books). Wish me luck or, even better, sign up for it!

Aaf's super duper, ultra impressive list of desi books devoured for the year 2011:

1. The Reluctant Fundamentalist - Mohsin Hamid
2. Beautiful from this Angle - Maha Khan Phillips
3. The Life's Too Short Literary Review (it looks like a book, okay?)
4. A Case of Exploding Mangoes - M. Hanif
5. Unaccustomed Earth - Jhumpa Lahiri
6. The Wishmaker - Ali Sethi
7. The Marriage Bureau for Rich People - Farahad Zama
8. The Collaborator - Mirza Waheed
9. Our Lady of Alice Bhatti - M. Hanif
10. Husband of a Fanatic - Amitava Kumar
11. Story of a Widow - Musharraf Ali Farooqi

Many thanks to Shehla Wynne for referring me to Swapna's blog! And if you have any suggestions for books that I should be covering, let me know in the comments section.

Update (December 19th, 2011): I'm pleased to report that I've just finished eleven books by desi authors. You may now call me The Guru.  *bows* Thank you, Swapna, for providing the impetus for this and for getting me back into the groove!


Apologies for having dropped off the face of the Earth. Not a day goes by that I don't think, "Oooh! That'll make for a cracking entry!" But life gets in the way, the idea is shelved and, like other discarded blog ideas, it expires immediately.

I've been having a tough few weeks but am committed to returning within the next day or two to write up a proper entry and, hopefully, find something funny to report in the midst of all the madness.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Pick me up before you go, go

Feeling a little low today. Would love to hear some happy stories. O' silent readers and not-so-silent readers, if anything good happened to you recently, please share it. Let's hear something positive.

All Blue, no Wit

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Faithfully someone else's

"Who is Mama's sweetheaaaaaart?"


"Who is Baba's sweetheaaaaaaart?"


"Who is Zain's sweetheaaaaaaart?"


"And who is Solom's sweetheart?"

(Pause for thought)


Friday, March 11, 2011

The Unbearable Randomness of Stuff

It’s official. My favourite word is ‘random’. There was a point at which I thought ‘problematic’ was my favourite word, but really, there’s nothing I throw around with as much joyful abandon as ‘random’. And that’s exactly what this post is going to be.

Karachi’s been a ball so far, with just one exception. Okay, two exceptions because I think my maid may have a stalker/boyfriend/what’s the difference? Our neighbours do not have an intercom. I know this because every time they have to say something to a member of the domestic staff, they hang out of the window and call out to them. Normally, this may not have mattered, except the aforementioned window is directly opposite our bedroom window. Therefore the following scenario unfolds every second day:

Afia on the verge of putting Zain to sleep, counting down the seconds until she can dip into the biscuit box.


Zain: Waaaaaaaahhh!!!

Afia: “3… 2… dammit! 1000, 999, 998…”

It’s not just the noise. When I was living with Amma, privacy was a non-issue. We had no domestic help, so it was possible to make that occasional dash to the kitchen in a towel. After I got married, however, it became unseemly to enter the kitchen without a dupatta. I was looking forward to reclaiming some of that devil-may-care freedom when we moved. Instead, we got neighbours with a direct view into our bedroom. What’s the point of living independently, I ask you, if one can’t go commando in one’s own room?

Let me tell you something else while we're in this deep, philosophical mode. I’ve concluded that the classic New Year Resolution is a thoroughly ill-timed phenomenon and therefore doomed to fail the instant it is made. Think about it: half the population of resolutioners is either drunk or hung over when the aforementioned resolutions are being made. The half that isn’t inebriated is obviously depressed out of its mind (why else would you want to set life-changing goals at midnight in the dead of winter?) So you see, New Year Resolutions are typically being made by a group of people who are NOT THINKING RATIONALLY! No wonder you still look like a blimp when the next year rolls around! What did you think: the awesome power of Janus would work those triple-fudge sundaes off of your thighs? Resolution smesholution.

The only thing to do is to resolve things at another time of year. Do it when you’re ready to make that change. If you hit rock bottom on the 3rd of March and you decide you’re ready to get into shape, then your new year starts on the 4th of March. I’m convinced this is the only way to make the dratted resolution work, otherwise it’s just like starting another useless diet every year, on the year.

So I met up with my cousin and friend Sara Jamil at Butlers Chocolate Café on Zamzama last Monday! (Where did you think the fudge sundae reference came from?) Tip for the uninitiated: coffee places in Karachi are open at 9 am. (I KNOW. Who would’ve thought, right?) That’s when the mommy crowd gets out to socialise, you see. Sad people like me, who are actually happier staying awake at night, are forced to be up in time to drop their children to school. Apparently, they make up for the inconvenience by complaining to each other over a mug of cappuccino.

In other words, Karachi cafes have reinvented Monday Morning. We MUST reward them by giving them as much business as possible. Support every mug of coffee with a double-chocolate brownie, I say! It's okay, the new year doesn't start on January 1st anymore, remember?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thanks a kilo!

One of the things I've discovered recently is that tracking blog stats is strangely addictive; more so than blogging, in fact. In the last few days, when the page views were beginning to lean towards the 1,000 mark, I started signing in almost obsessively - wishing, willing that 834 to become 900 and that 967 to become 1,000. Eventually, the 998 became 1,002. I did feel a little cheated at having missed the exact moment, which was also when I realised that I was acting like a paranoid blog freak.

Perhaps it's the curse of the baby blogger. You start posting, expecting no one to read but secretly hoping that your blog will go viral and be featured on MSN news by the end of the week. What happens in reality is decent enough and pleasantly so: you get a moderate number of hits that keep rising steadily and ultimately settle into a spike pattern that coincides with each new post, indicating that you've finally got a regular readership. Your blog isn't featured on a major news network, but it does make it to the lists of a couple of other popular blogs, most of them maintained by your cousins who are either trying to help or have succumbed to duress after putting up a half-hearted fight.

By now, you haven't quite 'arrived' in the blogging world but you are becoming conscious of the new public nature of appreciation for your writing. That's when you start monitoring the stats. It takes you a couple of days to become completely obsessed and to start judging the worth of your writing on the basis of the response it gets. When no one comments, you go on a chocolate binge. When someone comments, you google yourself. You start spending a disproportionate amount of time every day wondering what to blog about next. By 'you', of course, I mean 'I'.

And then, you hit 1,000 page views in six weeks, and you realise that that's far beyond what you ever realistically imagined for your little, unknown weblog. And in that moment, there's nothing to do really except to grin and accept the amazingness of it...

... after which you Facebook the news, check back obsessively to see if someone's responded to that, monitor the stats some more, fret about not having a new entry up, write one eventually and click 'PUBLISH POST'.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Faithfully yours

By now whoever's read this blog more than once probably thinks that it's a never-ending series of conversations, so I promise that my next entry will be a proper one, involving the use of paragraphs.

But first!

Conversation with Suleiman while trying to feed him dinner.

Me: Who is Mama's sweetheart?


Me: Yesssss!


Me: Hahaha! Yes! Shabash! Baba is also Mama's sweetheart.


Me: What?! No. Imtiaz is not Mama's sweetheart.


Azfar: Aaf, is there something you need to tell me?

Friday, March 4, 2011

In da hood

Yes, perhaps I'm rubbing it in, but there are some things that must be gotten off the chest otherwise the host body will implode. Please read my blogpost Mothers are not for kids! for some context.

Conversation with my mother over Skype today.

Azfar: Amma, we can't see you and we can't hear you.

(Amma calls me on my cell phone.)

Amma: I can see you and hear you. (accusingly) I heard you shouting at Suleiman.

Afia: Yes, I know you can hear us. But there's a problem with the apparatus at your end. Is your camera plugged in? Check at the back.

Amma (on cell): Okay. Can you see me now?

Afia: Nopes.

Amma (on cell): Wait, hold on... Can you see me now?

Afia: Yes! I can see you! Good going, Ma! I'm impressed! If you've managed to fix the camera, there are high chances that you can fix the mic too! What did you do?

Amma (on cell): I removed the hood from the camera.

(Azfar and I look at each other.)

Me: This is so going on my blog.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Conversations with Calliope - Part II

Calliope: i want a daughter

C: i'll die if i dont have a girl

Me: Okay. But keep in mind that you could die of plenty of other things associated with having kids, regardless of the sex.

Me: Even if you make it through the pregnancy and deliver, the post-delivery period will probably kill you. If not, the first year of motherhood probably will.

Me: And if you make it through THAT, wait for the teenage years.

C: im hoping i'll make enough money to be able to afford all the help i need to keep me calm

Me: Calm mothers are LIARS.

C: hahaha

Me: Are you a LIAR?


C: no

Me: HUH?

C: no

Me: HUH???

Me: Say 'no' once more... it'll add a nice, even tone to the conversation.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Thank you for the music

What a busy week it’s been! Azfar’s colleague and our friend, Sabeen Jatoi, finally took the big plunge with a Mianwali man (which makes her a mian-waali, according to Azfar). I have a soft spot for this match because: 

(a) Sabeen’s one of the kindest, liveliest, most unaffected people I know,
(b) she’s married her best friend (highly recommended) and
(c) his name is Asfand (close enough).

If I were famous, I’d endorse this wedding.

The great thing about this shaadi, apart from the décor and saliva-inducing fashion parade, was the humour. For starters, Sabeen was the cutest bridezilla ever. Example: we were practicing the skit for her mehndi when she helpfully announced, “Listen, everyone, I just want to let you know: if you’re not that confident about getting into the acting and the roles, PLEASE DON’T WORRY! We’ll just REPLACE you with someone else! NOT an issue!”

To help things along, the bride’s wedding party was a real motley crew, ready and willing to laugh at anything. I met this amazing Indian woman called Zara Khan, married to a Pakistani and settled in London, who made such an unlikely psychiatrist that I’m convinced she’s either an undercover RAW agent or else a tennis player hiding from her adoring fans (as you know, we in Pakistan have happily confined the Indian experience to celebrities, tennis players and spies). Sabeen’s friend Tania was also a barrel of laughs – she left the job scene as a global HR exec and is now pursuing her dream of becoming a DJ. Another person I met was Nazish Brohi, an activist, brilliant hostess and talented writer who’s making the transition from journalism to fiction. Was also super pleased to meet Rizwan Ahmad, a very in-the-moment sort of photographer and the brain behind the iconic ‘Wikileaks – Butterfly Doesn’t’ sanitary napkin ad campaign. In terms of unadulterated entertainment value, though, it was Mohsin Sayeed who was the biggest blast of them all.

If Mohsin had a parallel in the animal kingdom, it would be the peacock. You look at that man and you can almost see the metaphorical tail, fanned out in all its technicolor glory as he happily struts around and works the crowd (he completely disagrees with this comparison and insists that the only thing he has in common with a peacock is his feet). 

I actually met Mohsin briefly at the Karachi Literature Festival earlier in February, distributing flyers for Naya Jeevan. When I praised him for being a good Samaritan he said, “Oh please, no. I hate poor people! I’m just doing this for a friend. You want another one?”

By the time we met at Sabeen’s wedding, he had no recollection of me. But we still had an impassioned and slightly ironic discussion in the middle of her nikah about whether it was necessary to be with someone in order to be happy (ever the serial monogamist, I insisted that it was. He immediately branded that as the “tyranny of love” and informed me that the only person who knows how to make you happy is yourself, and that the chances of finding The Right Person are 1 in 6 billion. I’ve always considered myself lucky to have found Azfar but this little statistic really put things in perspective… note to self: must start making breakfast for him from tomorrow… okay, maybe from next week… OH COME ON! I’m tired from all this dancing!).

It was tricky selling Papercuts, the DWL online magazine, to Mohsin. I mentioned Sanam Maher’s excellent article on Coke Studio and Pakistani identity, at which he exclaimed, “I hate Coke Studio!” Then he said that he hated anything that was blown out of proportion, like Pakistani novelists writing in English these days (Mohsin Hamid interview, anyone?). After that he told me that a magazine cannot be a real magazine until it goes into print. We finally wrapped up with him saying that there was no point to blogging. Suffice to say, Mohsin Sayeed will NOT be reading Papercuts or browsing through this entry any time soon.

Combine the crazy conversations with the ready flow of cake, sandwiches and hand-whipped coffee, and I was hooked, dostos. Friends, food and fun: what more could one ask for in a wedding?! By the time Sabeen took her leave from home on Sunday night, I was getting teary eyed right alongside her mother and cousins. The most touching moment from that rukhsati, however, was the sight of her maid – known simply as Maasi – standing alone in the crowd of family and friends, clutching the aarsi musaf mirror, a deluge of tears quietly rolling down her face.

Thank you and bon voyage, Sabeen Jatoi – may the extraordinary love of your well wishers protect you at every step of your journey in life, inshallah.