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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.