Posted in Hopeless

There she goes again

After four missed calls (I never know where my cell phone is, esp on Sundays) or ‘mis-caals’ as the residents of Neelum Colony and the majority of rural city-dwellers (or urban village-dwellers) are wont to say, Zahooran turned up at my doorstep today, Tayyab in tow.

I was puzzled, today being a Sunday and an off day for her, when she can do her own laundry and spend the day as she pleases.

Something was up.

She took off her slippers by the door and bade Tayyab do the same, conscientious about not bringing the dirt from the filthy narrow alleyways  of the colony into my house.

She and Tayyab made their way over to the living room rug as I trailed behind, wondering what prompted this extracurricular visit, and asked her if all was well as they plonked themselves onto the floor. Zahooran evaded my eye and looked confused…. and a bit furtive.

‘Buss baji….ek masla ho gaya hai….,’ she began. There was a problem.

Last night she got a phone call from her husband telling her to come home (to Bahawalpur) as he wasn’t well. Apparently, he had an upset stomach and was dehydrated and needed a drip. Getting a ‘drip’ means serious business. It generally means one must be really quite sick, and it is appropriate for concerned relatives to congregate by the sick bed and look grave. And if you happen to be the wife of the sick person in question…? Well, obviously you must drop everything, take leave from your various work places, pack some clothes and travel 851 kilometres, tired and a bit sick from the road trip yourself, and tend to your husband’s sickly needs.

I sat on my chair and looked at her. She refused to meet my eye. It has only been four months since she came back from her hometown, after a visit that lasted three months, and I was forced to look for other help.

And now here she was, asking my opinion on what she should do. Of course I would say she should do what she thought best! I can’t very well tell her to forget her husband….that he’d have to get better by himself..?

Frankly, I really don’t see how the two of them can exist like this…she in Karachi, working her ass off to make ends meet and send Tayyab to school, he in Bahawalpur doing whatever it is that he does there, which according to Zahooran doesn’t amount to much.

Does she even love him? Does she even care?

I asked her if she thought it was feasible for her to just up and leave. People get sick all the time. Would she expect him to come and take care of her if she fell ill over here? Especially since he claims the Karachi air doesn’t suit him. What about the fact that she doesn’t LIKE being in Bahawalpur herself?

I realized she hadn’t really come to ask for my advice or opinion at all. In fact, she had come to inform me. And to collect her salary, with the assurance that she’d be back in a week. She had already made up her mind to go and had arranged to be at the bus stop at 4 o’clock in the afternoon (it was 1 when she dropped in.) And considering she had not mentioned anything about leaving yesterday, all this must have transpired overnight.

And I can’t help admiring her subtlety!

The funny thing is, I know there’s no way she’ll be back in a week, yet I don’t feel angry with her for running off just when the holidays end and school starts. I mean, I don’t feel angry for myself. I guess what I’m trying to say is, it makes me indignant for HER that she’s expected to go through all this inconvenience.

Yet, I’m aware that she herself probably doesn’t feel any resentment at all. If anything, she is just doing what she feels is right, what is expected of her as a good wife. What would people say otherwise?

As for me, let’s see how I feel a week from now, when she has not returned, the month of Ramadan will have well and truly set in, and I will not have the energy nor the desire to wash the dishes, vacuum the house, clean the bathrooms and dust the blasted furniture. 😛 And I can’t believe she left me with detailed instructions on how best to keep the bathroom taps looking shiny and the glass cubicle spot-free.

Posted in Stuff I like

All time favorites-Coke Studio

In the aftermath of the 4th season of Coke Studio, I thought about all the other perfornances we have watched over the last couple of years and decided to compile a short list of my absolute favourites, barring the ones I showcased in a previous post.

These are the ones that immediately sprang to mind.

Josh and Shafqat Amanat Ali (Mahi Ve)

I love the energy of the Montreal-based Josh duo Q and Rup, coupled with Shafqat’s classical input. The original is better, but the Coke Studio version is pretty good too, a lovely mix of bhangra, pop and hip-hop.

Atif Aslam (Mai Ni)

The boy with the golden voice, who gained recognition with the song ‘Aadat’ as the lead singer of Jal….they soon split up in a rather messy, ignominous way.

Mai Ni….the Coke Studio version is haunting, and beautifully sung by Atif.

Arif Lohar and Meesha Shafi (Alif Allah)

Never been a fan of Arif Lohar’s genre of music or his flashy dress sense, but I believe he’s immensely popular in Punjab. This song though, was simply awesome!

Meesha, of Overload fame, added some extra oomph and pizzazz as Lohar’s sidekick, and this Bahoo-inspired song became an instant HIT throughout the Pakistani music-loving world, much thanks to Coke Studio and Rohail’s vision.

Zeb and Haniya (Bibi Sanam Janem)

These two US-educated girls from Kohat, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa are cousins. Their music is melodious and really easy on the ears, with a folksy, bluesy sound. Stars, these two.

Bibi Sanam Janem is an Afghani song, very catchy tune and eminently sing-able.

Zeb and Haniya (Nazar Eyle)

A Turkish number this time. Literally translated, the song is quite absurd, but mesmerising if you have no clue what it means…

Beautifully sung by Zeb.

Meesha Shafi (Chori chori)

Model/singer, Meesha was catapulted to fame in this season of Coke Studio, first with her duet with Arif Lohar (see above) and then with this soulful, trance-like rendition of a song originally sung by the renowned Reshma…

What do you think? Got any favorites you think I should include in this list?

Posted in Foody, Stuff I like

Could this be the best one…? (FF-part 4)

Falooda quest #3 was not only disappointing, it left Amu a little worse for wear. If you recall, while we waited for the strange pineapple falooda at Flamingo, we ordered a couple of plates of mixed chaat. That chaat was lethally spicy, even though die-hard Flamingo chaat-eaters will say ‘But the mix plate at Flamingo is the best!’

If there is anything I have learned while on this bizarre mission, it is this. Nothing is consistent.

So poor Amu was up all night, not only throwing up, but also with …….(she’s going to hate me for divulging this)……diarrhea. The next morning, looking decidedly woebegone, limp and listless, she looked at me with mild accusation and asked me if I knew how it felt to want to use the loo for two purposes at the same time.

While I had managed to let the chaat pass through my system incident-free, the offspring’s paternal side of the chromosomal components disallowed her digestive system from being blase about extra spices.

We decided to give ourselves a break and lay off street food for the time being……but Fate had other plans for us…..

The next night, Huz’s brother O.D and my lovely sister-in-law Tah dropped in for a visit. They had been away for two weeks, vacationing on some beautiful beaches in Thailand and Malaysia this summer, and Tah brought me back some very pretty Thai crockery. We listened to their stories and in my mind I was momentarily transported back to the time we were there a couple of years ago….

In our turn, we told them what we had been up to and described the different faloodas we’d been guzzling. They were amused but I could tell their interest had been perked. There are very few things that enthuse Odie….(vacationing in Thailand/Malaysia is one. Collecting expensive rubies is another) so when he asked if we had tried the falooda at Lighthouse, there was a tiny glimmer of a spark in his eye…

Tah was surprised we hadn’t heard about this one. She told us about family falooda outings and mentioned a decrepit old aunt whose cravings for falooda at Lighthouse surfaced every few months and she would implore Tah’s brother to take her there.

Huz and I were, OF COURSE, most game to try it out and we wondered if bro and SIL would like to show us where the shop is accompany us.

Amu politely declined the invitation, but I could tell she would have preferred to throw a shoe at me.

So off we went, leaving Amu behind this time, but picked up O.D and Tah’s daughter Fati on the way. She digs faloodas too.

So it was around 11 o’clock at night that we made our way past the Pakistan Chowk roundabout and crossed over into the oldest areas of Karachi, which is populated by old old buildings, once quaint and beautiful, now just quaint and in various stages of disrepair. It is heartbreaking to see these remnants of British-era structures being taken over by ugly new commercial buildings, criss-crossed by ugly wires and cables, dotted with unsightly shop signboards.

Perhaps it is just as well that I couldn’t take pictures as we drove towards Lighthouse. The streets were too dark…

Now before you start conjuring up images of an actual lighthouse at the water’s edge, the Lighthouse I’m talking about is actually a very old commercial area on the far end of M.A Jinnah Road, the end closer to West Wharf than the Quaid’s mazaar. It is known as Lighthouse because there once used to be a cinema in this area by that name. It is also the most renowned flea market in Karachi.

And this was the place we were seeking there…

Jeddah ice cream and falooda

There were two kinds here as well…..regular and special. Regular falooda is made special by the addition of nuts and fruit and jelly and unsurprisingly, Huz succumbed to the lure of of such richness…

The rest of us ordered regular faloodas, and while we waited, Tah recommended dahi baray from the tiny little shop next door…

It was the best plate of dahi baray ever, topped with chana and papri….mmmm…

dahi baray in Tah's elegant hand

It didn’t make a difference if we ordered special or regular, the price was still the same….90 rupees for a huge glass of falooda.

If you recall, I was very eager to find a place that made a concoction using basil seeds…..

Ta-da! See the little black tadpoley looking things? Basil seeds! (tukh malanga in Urdu)
and an angle that shows off more of Tah's elegance
and my lack thereof :p
the view from our car
looked like some sort of meeting

I loved the falooda. It had the perfect rose ice cream, the perfect amount of tukh malanga (I adore the subtle crunchiness) and was rich and satisfying, with a few pistachios and figs when I worked my way to the bottom. I could have done with less vermicelli and more milk, but still, I think this was the best one so far. Huz should have had the regular one, cos I don’t think he ended up having the same falooda experience I did.

O.D and Tah were happy to see our enjoyment and enthusiasm and were glad they got to be an inadvertent part of the falooda quest. Fati was just baffled by it all, but enjoyed herself too, nonetheless. She never thought Huz and I were the sort who’d enjoy doing stuff like this, which tells me we need to work on our image….

Perhaps we come across too….la dee dah…?

We need to show her we can have as much street food as the next person!

Karachi Port Trust by night....
KPT.....1918.
Posted in Writing

Rats!

Inspired by Satsumabug, (my creative new bloggy friend), I went ahead and subscribed to her daily prompts for writers. Just for some fun!

Todays prompt was…..rats.

Very strange, I know. And what a coincidence. Single Malt Monkey (the original creative bloggy friend) wrote something on the topic today, right here.

So what springs to mind when I think of rats?

Well, the Pied Piper, for one. Very odd story that, come to think of it, though I’m glad the rats followed the Piper out of Hamelin and drowned in the river Weser….the idea of a rat-infested town is frankly, revolting. Not very nice of the townspeople not to have paid the Piper his dues for services rendered, so I’m kind of okay with the whole revenge deal. But when I think of what might have happened to the kids…..I’m not so sure. After all, one of the theories is… the Pied Piper was a paedophile…

Would it be better then to think all the children of Hamelin disappeared because of the plague…?…a horrible infection of the lymphatic system that swept through Europe in the 14th century, wiping out 75 million people in its wake.

The Black Death was believed to be caused by the bite of infected fleas, often found on rodents….such as mice….or rats.

They even made up a nursery rhyme about it. Remember ‘Ring around the Roses’? 

I’m not very fond of rats, no. They used to climb up pipes and gnaw holes in the netting of our kitchen window to get into our house and forage for food.

So the kind I’m familiar with are not the pretty ones people in other parts of the world keep as pets. The rats I know….they eat kittens for breakfast. They’re big, and brown….with fearsome teeth and long ugly tails. They scurry along the sides of buildings, furtively looking for places to hide.

Rodent. What an expressive word. It conjures up all manner of negative attributes. Likewise vermin…the very phonetics of the word bring to mind something hideously objectionable…

Say it out loud…

Verrrrr-minnnn……

(shudders)

In their defense though, I don’t really blame them for jumping off sinking ships if it means they have a chance of swimming to safety (though of course I’d much rather they drowned)

I would ditch a lost cause too. No, really. Life is just too short!

But still, I’m not very fond of rats.

Ironic then, that I’m a Rat myself….

Yes, dear readers, I was born in 1972……which, according to the Chinese zodiac makes me a Water Rat….

A website I stumbled across describes Rats thus:

Occupying the 1st and most prominent position on the Chinese Zodiac, the Rat symbolizes such character traits as wit, imagination and curiosity. Rats have keen observation skills and with those skills they’re able to deduce much about other people and other situations. Overall, Rats are full of energy, talkative and charming but they have a tendency to become aggressive.

Rats are full of good advice but they will never share their troubles with others. They are honest individuals and they enjoy living for the moment. They’re also capable of surviving any situation.

And separately….

THE WATER RAT 1912 AND 1972
Being guided by the Water element means these Rats have a knack for influencing people. With their strong intellectual powers and great insight, they are also great puzzle solvers. They are quick to understand others and are incredibly practical people. Rats apply their talents to their everyday lives, making them obliging, generous and compassionate to other people. Generally, they are liked and respected by everyone. Like all Rats, however, they can be determined to seek their own gain, and will not mind using these talents to achieve it – though generally without losing anyone’s respect in doing so.

Sounds uncannily like me, this description 😉

I shall leave you with some Al Stewart to conclude. Just replace the word ‘cat’ with ‘rat’ and we have a lovely song to claim as our own. 😉

(Rat or no rat, I’m a cat person all the way)

Posted in Stuff I like

My Top 5 from Coke Studio Season 4….so far.

Season 4 of Coke Studio is proving to be as much fun as the previous one, and I have an urge to share the performances that I REALLY enjoyed. But for the record, I’d just like to say that I love Rohail Hayat. He is quite awesome in my books, and has come a looooong way from his gangly, awkward days as a keyboardist for the Vital Signs.

Junaid Jamshed may be remembered as the lead singer of the most popular, the most phenomenal, the very FIRST pop band in Pakistan, but what the hell has he done to himself??

Sigh.

Rohail on the other hand has forever made his mark on the music scene as the producer of Coke Studio. The others just…faded away.

So yes, Rohail is now my favourite Vital Signs group member. Long may he live. He has succeeded in presenting obscure artists and musicians to us, as well as re-introducing established singers with a fresh sound.

The following videos are not in any order as such, as each one is so very different in terms of genre and calibre. They’re a mix of modern and traditional, and what I like about the ‘traditional’ performances is the way they have been fused with more western instruments and produced a sound that is a wonderful blend of both East and West.

So here goes.

Mizraab

Mizraab is a band I didn’t know anything about until now. This is one of the songs from the first episode I think, I can’t remember for sure, but it doesn’t matter. It got stuck in my head for some reason, so it must be good. Hope you enjoy it too. (you can stop watching when it gets too dramatic towards the end)

The lead singer, Faraz, is great with that guitar. And Rachel and Zoe add a nice touch with their voices to accompany Faraz’s singing.

Sanam Marvi

I admit I didn’t much like Sanam Marvi at first. She was introduced in the last season I think, and at the risk of incurring the wrath of Abida Parveen lovers, Sanam Marvi sounded a bit too much like a young version of her for me to like her. (Never been much of an Abida Parveen fan)

But she has grown on me since then, perhaps because of the glimpses we get of her humble personality, and earnestness. She once said, ‘Agar mujh mein mosiqi na hoti, tou shayed mai bhi na hoti.’  (if I had no music in me, I wouldn’t exist)

She sings  Sufi ‘kalaam’ (verses) with verve, passion and sensitivity. I think I REALLY like her very much now.

This is her singing ‘Ith Naheen’ by Baba Bulleh Shah. It means, if not here, then nowhere.

Ataullah Khan Isakhelvi

Isakhelvi needs absolutely no introduction. He is a phenomenon. I think Rohail must be over the moon with joy that he managed to rope him in!

For those who know nothing about him though, Ataullah Khan Isakhelvi, or Khan saheb as he is known on the sets of Coke Studio is a Punjabi folk singer, crooning songs of love in his instantly recognisable gritty voice. There’s something about it and his songs that I find incredibly sexy.

This is the Coke Studio version of a song from a Punjabi movie, very romantic. ‘Pyar Nal na sahi, ghussay naal vekh liya kar…beemaaraan noo shifa mil jaandi ay’, which means, literally, ‘look at me with anger, if not love…that would be enough….this sick person would be cured’ 🙂

But first, a peek at what goes on behind the scenes…..(love the deference with which Rohail speaks to Isakhelvi, and the various artists goofing off with each other)  🙂

Fareed Ayaz and Abu Muhammad

I don’t even know if this is classical or if it’s qawwali, but it’s sixteen and a half minutes of pure entertainment. I’m amazed at how Fareed Ayaz can belt this out with a mouth stuffed with paan! And the body language of the singers, the way they move their hands and seem to put their entire bodies into their performance is just great to watch. I don’t even know what it is they’re singing so passionately about….but I can feel it. And it’s great fun to see the head-bobbing and the smiles on the faces of the guitarists and Gumby the drummer….they just look like they’re enjoying it immensely and that is fun to watch too. I think it’s called synergy. And pure artistry. Fantastic.

Kaavish

Another band I know nothing about, but I just fell in love with the softness of this song. It’s more a lullaby, really. And another song I couldn’t stop singing to myself….

Beautifully rendered. Here’s ‘Nindiya re’….

Hope you enjoyed the various sounds folks. That’s a wrap 🙂

p.s Would love to hear from you and know which songs you enjoyed so far this season….

Posted in Foody

Finding falooda part-3

this is what we see as we go down our quiet street and turn left....
the boy watches me, alert and on guard, as we stop alongside long enough for me to grab a picture of his family buying chadars for Shah Ghazi's grave
and as we ease into the traffic and crowds on the main road...

It’s party time 🙂

Funny how we seem to be gravitating towards this time of night, you could even say we’re gearing up for it, in anticipation.

It’s funny because we don’t DO stuff like this normally. We’re what you’d call stay-at-homers.

There are a couple of reasons behind the reluctance to get out and go somewhere.

1. Roads. Uncouth drivers.

2. Jaywalkers. Beggars. Windshield cleaners.

3. Side-view mirror thieves. Parking fee collectors. Muggers.

4. Home is sweet. There’s internet and home-cooked food.

And when there’s no home-cooked food, there are piles of menus for home delivery. Nobody needs to go out.

So why this sudden enthusiasm for eating faloodas from street-side juice shops every night, you ask…….?

I don’t know! We must be mad.

Tonight we decided to stay closer to home and explore 26th Street to see if anyone sells a satisfactory falooda around these parts.

To our surprise we discovered they don’t. There’s loads of barbecue, and chaat, and a place that sold kulfi falooda (which makes me wish we were on a kulfi quest, cos kulfis are the one thing that make me go ‘mmmm’)

No problem. Karachi is one giant food street. We just swung outta there and put plan B into action.

Off to Zamzama!

Milano.

Feeling in the mood for something savoury before the sweet, and having heard much about a certain chicken gyro available here, we thought we’d try it out. No, never come here before either. I’m telling you, we don’t go out much. (And I don’t think we have a delivery menu for these guys.)

The waiter runs off with our order, only to return sheepishly with the news that they’re all out of gyros. And they don’t serve faloodas either.

Perhaps it was indicative of the way tonight’s quest would turn out that we ended up at the most pedestrian of all places in Clifton…the most hackneyed area of all….

 

.

Flamingo!

How boringly close to home could we get?

O well.

The waiter gave us a choice of two kinds of falooda……strawberry and pineapple.

Huz and I were kinda baffled. How can such non-faloody types of falooda possibly exist? We asked him again if he was absolutely sure what he was offering was falooda and not milkshake and he told us it was most assuredly falooda.

To be honest, the idea of a flavoured falooda (by which I mean anything other than rose) turned my stomach, but we chose the lesser of two evils and asked for  just one…pineapple. And while we waited, Amu and I had an extremely spicy mix-plate each while Huz devoured an aaloo bun kabab.

a very non-pink falooda

Ok, so it looked pretty good. But I let Huz have the first shot at it. He stirred it and stirred it……

cos that's how he rolls.

And I can tell you he thought it wasn’t bad. But then, he likes stuff with fruit and nuts. And jelly.

Me? I DID give it a shot. But somehow I just couldn’t get into it, even though I love pineapple. The whole concept of it just felt….wrong.

So I don’t think we’re going back to Flamingo for falooda ever again. But it was a good thing we ordered a standby dessert from Cool (Kool?) Inn. (In Karachi, the ‘C’s’ are often replaced with ‘K’s’)

it was called freezer plate ice cream. intrigued, i sent huz off to investigate. he returned with a pamphlet detailing flavours and types. basically it was a dessert version of katakat, where ice cream, chocolate and cookies were chopped up together and served in a yummy waffle cup.

There was a little girl wandering around trying to sell a bunch of wilty-looking roses to people parked all around having their ice creams and chaats and bun kababs. She came and sat down on the sidewalk in front of our car and I got the impression she was crying.

Then she got up and I saw that she wasn’t, and she wandered up to my window, and didn’t run away when I aimed my camera at her.

flower girl

I showed her her picture through the window. And then she kinda smiled.