Posted in Gardening, Stuff I do

(Mis)Adventures of a DIY gardener (part 1)

There was once a vine with very pretty yellow flowers called Allamanda that caused me great grief . I brought it home in a pot and put it in a corner of my courtyard and hoped it would go wild, like it does in homes all over Karachi; but as luck would have it, the one that I adopted behaved like a stubborn child and refused to grow much, and was prone to attacks of mealy bugs.

Months went by and my Allamanda didn’t seem as healthy as I would have liked. I would drive by houses with walls overgrown with these beautiful fresh green leaves and flowers and feel envious and miserable at my failure.

I didn’t give up on it however, and transferred it along with a fertile mix of sand and fresh buffalo manure into a big hole in the ground near the stairs, and crossed my fingers.

It promptly shed most of its leaves after the transplantation, and my heart sank, thinking it was a goner….and I would be held responsible for its death.

But after a few weeks, I spied new tendrils and leaves beginning to peek out of the stem, and I tended to it with new zeal. Watched out for bugs and sprayed it every two weeks, watered it and trained the tendrils to climb higher.

New leaves kept growing after that and the vine got bushier, until one morning I woke up to see new yellow flowers bobbing in the breeze! It was the most beautiful and gratifying sight in the world, giving me fresh hope and the reassurance that I wasn’t a plant murderer.

Several months went by, and now my Allamanda is the pride and joy of my little courtyard, entwining itself over the bamboo trellis just like I had always hoped it would 🙂 Joy!

Posted in Gardening, Stuff I do

Mirchi lagi!!

Isn’t it beautiful? My first green chilli, in all it’s fiery glory…sigh…

Just look at the pretty white flower it sprouted from. Still can’t believe I finally managed to grow something apart from spinach and coriander. Those were just leaves, but this? This is a product! I’m so utterly delighted!

What should I do with it? I don’t have the heart to eat it. Not yet anyway. Wondering how long I can let it hang there and continue to delight me before it must be plucked, and chopped, and sprinkled into my curry which will end up in my tummy, after which it will probably cause mild havoc with my intestinal lining.

When my aunt found out about my intention (random at first but perked itself into an interest) to grow veggies, she was delighted with me but gave me a dire warning. Do NOT grow chillis, she said. It is BAD luck.

It’ll disrupt my life and cause strife in the house and arguments amongst the family every day!

Obviously, once I was told not to grow it, I just HAD to then proceed to do the exact opposite. Happily, we aren’t fighting any more than usual (knock on wood).

I’ll be careful not to step on the leaves though, and in case someone falls sick, I’ll take a fistful of chillies and burn them and for best effect, throw the ashes over my shoulder. That should take care of all the negative vibes! 😀

Posted in Uncategorized

Flooded!

You’d think I’d have more serious things on my mind than what to do with my hair. As if Pakistan isn’t going through a worse disaster than the 2005 tsunami and the Kashmir and Haiti earthquakes all put together. As if millions of people haven’t been displaced, rendered homeless, and left to the mercy of nature….and the government.

Muzaffargarh

The thing is, we’re staggered by the scale of this new devastation, now that the truth has hit home, and we’re at a loss and feeling puny. Disbelief has been replaced by despair, a feeling acutely compounded by the mis-actions of our president. Much has been said about his jaunt abroad, Cheshire cat grin in place. I for one, am dumbfounded by his speeches and his behaviour. His bereavement over Benazir has always seemed disingenuous, and so now does his concern for the well-being of his countrymen. He is a liar and a joker. Perhaps a clever joker. After all, he has amassed wealth that has not even been assessed. It infuriates me that he owns a chateau in Normandy. He should be made to sell it, and all his other homes, and use the money to help the people of his country.

As if that’ll happen.

Anyways, there seem to be a lot of organisations working towards getting relief supplies across to the flood affectees. Huz and I donated some money to my neighbour, who was collecting along with a bunch of friends, though I felt it wasn’t enough, we definitely need to do more, and surely enough, more independent groups are presenting themselves as trustworthy avenues for getting help across directly to the affected. The trouble is, it is the month of Ramazan, when communal dues and zakat must be given, not to mention help those of the poor in direct connection to us….like my maid Zahooran. So there’s only so much that can go around. Rising inflation has hit us all, but especially the poor, who struggle to make ends meet as it is, and I know Zahooran waits all year for this time when she can count on me being more generous than usual.

But after reading the papers today, another horrifying scenario is rearing its head. Famine.

They’re saying prices of fresh produce are going to go through the roof, as supply starts dwindling. And of course it will…..huge swathes of standing crops and farmland have been inundated.

Zahooran tells me worriedly, that even after the water recedes, the land will be waterlogged and rendered useless for a long time. It will be uncultivable and she knows this because her family back home does ‘khaiti bari’ in Riyasat Bahawalpur. And I cannot even begin to comprehend how the farmers and their families are going to deal with something like this, let alone us city people who depend on the rural people to provide us with what they grow. What the f*** are we going to do??

For now I intend to gather together another carton of rations to donate to the flood relief effort organised by KGS middle school. It seems some of the staff is going to go along with the donated goods in a big truck and distribute the food and medicines themselves, which is just great. But at the end of the day, I know I’ll be sleeping in a dry comfy bed, and my heart goes out to those millions of people for whom even the basics of human living are now an unimaginable luxury…

If prayers would work I’d pray, but I think what is called for now is extreme generosity. To hell with donor fatigue. We can’t just sit around and feel horrified and helpless. We have to help as much as we can! And we have to keep helping relentlessly.

the displaced.
Posted in Uncategorized

Might as well curl up and dye…

If there is anything that defines me, it’s angst. I think I was pretty much born an existentialist, if indeed an existentialist is someone who is a great deal afraid and anxious. I come to this conclusion because I now realise that I am a worry wart in denial, and that it is time to embrace that knowledge.

According to existential philosophy, angst is the dread caused by man’s awareness that his future is not determined but must be freely chosen. Can there be anything scarier than that? My earliest memories of angst-filled feelings include:

1. The fear of lighting matches and stoves. This is because I observed my mom turning on the gas and lighting a match. The resultant mild explosion with which the stove lit up did not faze my mom in the least, but I was struck with horror as I contemplated the consequences of doing this myself, and I worried about growing up and having to do these kinds of things too.

2. Watching my eldest sister going to college all by herself and travelling by bus and crossing roads and stuff. Oh the anxiety at ever having to cross a road and go to college! It was enough to make me never want to grow up.

3. Getting married. Would I ever find a man who was as lovely as my dad? I didn’t think so, and it made me as anxious as the female equivalent of Oedipus.

4. Observation (movies) and ill-informed discussions with the peer group revealed a whole bunch of facts about the birds and the bees, which opened up a whole new can of worms. The biggest question was ‘how’?? And the answers delighted and shocked and horrified all at the same time.

5. Giving birth, after watching melodramatic Indian movies that depicted women screaming and crying for mercy while in the throes of labour. How was I to wilfully put myself through that kind of inhuman pain and indignity?

No one could have guessed what a worried little child was. I always appeared happy-go-lucky. But I’m 37 years old now and still muddling my way through more confusion and angst. It never ends until it all ends doesn’t it. I did my worrying about death and lying in a grave and ceasing to exist altogether and am halfway over that now. Wrinkles, and getting fat and grey hair are the new death.

The first strand of white hair in the front of my head caught me by surprise. It was very noticeable in my shock of black hair, a fact that was pointed out to me repeatedly (as if I wasn’t all too aware of it already….silly people). Slowly and surely, the number of white strands started to multiply until it reached a point where I could no longer count them. My family puzzled over this, since I am the third in a line of four daughters, and my elder sisters did not have any gray in their hair AT ALL. Am I the runt of the litter? I joke and say that I think about stuff and have multitudinous subconscious worries, and this is why my hair is turning white, but it’s too true! This should be proof that I am not the blithe spirit everyone seems to think I am!

Maybe history is cruelly repeating itself, as my mother greyed the earliest in a family of eight siblings where she was the third daughter!

But apart from getting down to the bottom of the cause, I now had to worry about what to do with the rest of my life as far as my crowning glory was concerned and here were the options:

1. Should I be the cool arty type and go the Durriya Kazi way and wear lots of kajal in my eyes and don ethnic earrings to accompany a not-so-thick white braid?

2. Should I be funky and dye my hair indigo and crop it into a trendy bob to look post-modern?

3. Should I just let it be and age gracefully and stay myself without having to adopt an identity and make some kind of a statement?

Decisions, decisions. What path to choose? It isn’t easy to face the world when your hair betrays you. People’s eyes cannot help but flick upwards while conversing and I know they’re thinking what’s up with her hair? until they come right out and blurt it. ‘Why is your hair turning white?’, they ask simple-mindedly, as if there is a subversive reason. What do I tell them? That I am crushed by the angst of the living and my hair is beginning to reflect it? ‘Why don’t you dye it?’, say the fashionable lot for whom changing colours is not about hiding something but about novelty. Don’t they realise how vigilant you have to be to make sure the roots don’t show when the hair grows, and how frequently you need touch ups? It all reeks of unsustainability if you ask me.

‘Aap ke baal tou bilkul safed ho rahe hain’, says the girl who does my hair at a salon, as if I am struck by a terrible disease.

I stoically bear my cross and develop an attitude about my silvery streaks and people say I look stylish and glam…..but only if I make the effort and straighten it and style it and spend some time on it. If I don’t, I just look and feel like a hag. I know if I start using chemicals on my head I stand to lose not just lots of money but also lots of hair.

Life is so hard 😦