This earth life

It’s 11 pm and I have wound myself cozily down for the night, a tad too well fed, wrapped in my warmest shawl in the thick of Karachi winter. Today has been the kind of day I am inspired to cook a lot, partly because the cold makes me hungry, partly because it’s pleasant to hang around a fire. So I whipped up a fresh salad using half the mung beans I had soaked overnight and boiled in the morning, saving the greenish water to make a spicy, lemony lentil soup. The dwindling gas supply is erratic this winter, and perhaps forevermore. It seems we didn’t really think this precious natural resource could ever run out. Now we have a portable stove/gas cylinder on standby and I pretend I’m camping in my kitchen, which makes cooking oddly a whole lot more fun despite the awkwardness of the process. (Perhaps because of it?) I need to have a little chair to sit by the stove, and a low table to keep my things on…..and I have to admit, cooking is indeed a lot more enjoyable when you’re sitting down. I confess I could cook things all day if I didn’t have to stand and do it.

I also boiled some potatoes and mashed them up with butter and a little locally-made Gruyere. But the piece de resistance had to be the gajar ka halwa I had been daydreaming about since yesterday and finally conjured up from freshly grated red carrrots, lots of milk and sugar, and a tsp of crushed cardamom seeds. The gas supply had resumed , so I slow-cooked the grated carrots, stirring frequently as the milk evaporated. I made myself a cup of coffee to sip while watching the sun go down and the clouds turn pink, as the halwa bubbled and glistened deliciously in its final stages.

Two batches of laundry were hung out to dry in the soft winter sunshine in the middle of all this cooking, multiple cats fed and cleaned up after. It had been an active, busy day but I had made an intention to get in some mindful exercise before the day was over. So on went the fairy lights, the diffuser spewed out a refreshing mist, and twilight turned into night with a 50-minute yoga practice.

I don’t know why the idea of learning to make origami paper cranes entered my head today. Of course, it was one thought that led to another and then another, but the root of the matter was an empty journal with uninspiring paper that I had put into the recycling bin earlier. I think my inner critic was chastising me for not thinking of a better use for all that unused paper. I was also a bit bored of late and in need of a new ‘project’.

So I fished out the journal from the bin, searched for a suitable tutorial on youtube and set to work. I made three perfect cranes, one after the other, but if you ask me to make one without guidance, I might flounder. It gets rather technical halfway through and I suddenly lose the logic of what leads to what, which makes me think I need to practice a lot more to create a stronger neural pathway to keep track of the folds in the paper.

In Japanese culture there is a tradition of making one thousand paper cranes as a prayer for the return to health and well-being of a sick friend or relative. There is an analogy too between that square piece of paper and ourselves. The paper starts off smooth and unwrinkled until it starts to fold and the creases keep adding up, becoming an indelible part of the paper, eventually turning it into an unfathomable sculpture.

How long will it take me to make one thousand paper cranes? 200 days, if I make five everyday. Enough time to create an enduring crease in my brain I should think.

Speaking of making the most of beautiful winter afternoons and cooking on low stoves, I’ve been joining youngest sis on her regular weekend beach forays. She loves the feeling of expanse, being near water, and going for long walks while listening to music. It has become something we both look forward to, even though the drive back is fraught with huge trucks and traffic jams. But the beach is peaceful, the waves soothing, and the earthing effect of walking barefoot on sand is incredibly grounding. We usually pack some food for a post-walk picnic when we settle down to watch the sun go down and make tea or coffee on her camping stove, folding chairs firmly planted in the sand. We leave when it starts to get dark, albeit a little reluctantly, as the feeling of freedom, fresh air and seagulls casts such a spell on the senses. I suppose it can get a bit creepy when there’s no one around but you on an empty beach, but in all my years I have only encountered fishermen, camel-men, horse-men, and groups of families with children or young people partying in the huts. I have never felt much fear of anything apart from the swarms of midges that emerge from the mangrove forest on one side of this particular sand spit, and in retrospect, I’m a little surprised at my naivete and misplaced sense of safety.

The truth is, when the universe sends you an angel to warn you of danger, you’d better trust him, and pay heed. When you start to feel uneasy, even after a lovely afternoon, leave as fast as you can. When you spot three men walking along the shoreline in your direction, don’t assume they’ll keep walking. Definitely don’t bring so much stuff with you that it slows down your escape.

We got mugged last weekend by three such men, and though none of us were hurt and thankfully Huz was also with us, it was a frightening experience which took a couple of days to stop replaying in our heads on loop. We were so vulnerable, such easy targets, and they were petty thieves with a gun. They ran away over the dunes after depriving poor Huz of his phone and wallet and didn’t come after Fatu or I, probably rode away fast on their motorbike.

This unwholesome event has left a definite crease in our paper, and I don’t know what shape the future of our freedoms will take. Will we be too scared to continue our weekend jaunts? Or will we be a whole lot more vigilant from now on? Perhaps this mugging was just waiting to happen, and perhaps there is an important lesson in it for us, to never take our safety for granted, never be complacent. Perhaps it was a lesson in how to take the good with the bad. In truth, isn’t being ‘safe’ an illusion? Anything can happen anywhere, even if you’re ‘careful’. Sometimes you’re just in the wrong place at the wrong time, couldn’t that be true?

To me, it feels like a story that wants to be told, but the details can really only be felt, deep in our bones, all the thoughts that passed through our minds, the way the very air seemed to change with the approach of menace, the way our hearts beat against our ribs, the ways we responded in the moment, and all our individual regrets at not having done all the things we could have done, throwing fistfuls of sand in their eyes, shouting loudly for help, pulling out a threatening knife….something my warrior-sister came very close to doing. She isn’t new to muggings or risky endeavours, like cycling around the city alone at night, so when she says she doesn’t feel too comfortable going anywhere alone anymore, that’s a lot.

And the protective older sister in me is super relieved. How sad is that.

Five paper cranes a day, that’s how we rewire.



  1. huzaifazoom says:

    wrinkles can be reminders of wounds tended with some deft folding, some clumsy unraveling, like sisters braving the healing together ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Munira says:

      How very well said ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Geetali says:

    How sad that your beach idyll should be violated by those violent presences. I trust you will find it in yourselves to return and recapture the peace that the sea brings.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Munira says:

      It would be too great a loss if we never returned, so return we must… all in due time, incorporating the lessons learned, staying close to other humans instead of seeking isolation :/


  3. Eddie says:

    First of All I am so sorry for the mugging incident. Glad you all are safe.

    Been a while since I came to your blog because of my trip to Pak and back and then work related craziness that ensued.

    Honestly Whenever I come here and Read your stuff. It feels like I have found some letters in the dusty attic of a house I just moved in, which I am reading by the bonfire on the lake side.

    Your way with words is simplistically engaging. The reader gets sucked into the storical journey you take them on even though they seem oddly mundane things of your day to day life and yet the narrative is .. so good.

    You have such a great knack of story telling.

    After a productive day at work and one and half day worth of continuous snow fall ( Crazy blizzards around here lately) I made a warm cup of coffee, put on some Abida Perveen and opened your blog.

    Keep writing. Sincerely A Fan.

    Also Happy womens day.



    1. Munira says:

      Did you perchance listen to ‘dhoondo ge agar mulkon mulkon’? I don’t know why I was humming that song yesterday, so when I read your comment at night it made me smile at the synchronicity 🙂
      Hope the trip to the motherland was a good one! Thank you for dropping in (and for the hausla afzaai) I really love that you shared a bit of your ambience so I could imagine the romance of snow and warm cups of coffee, and of course, Abida Perveen 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Eddie says:

        Oh My! what a coincidence. I think the moment I hit the reply button yesterday, that song came on. I have a play list for Abida and that is the 2nd song on it. I have Faiz’s Kafiyan sung by her as well which I absolutley love and recommend if you haven’t already listened to them.

        Liked by 1 person

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