A little piece of heaven

When we moved back into our sweet old apartment after a year away, I had this idea that we really needed to focus on our wellness. I had a strong desire to create a space in the house that would be dedicated entirely to movement and yoga. I use the word ‘create’, because no such space existed heretofore. There was one room which had a lot of potential, but a lot of things needed to be done for it to feel calm and zen, and in retrospect those changes couldn’t have been made to manifest if we had never made the weird decision of moving away. But I shall leave that for another post.

Ultimately, we ended up with new flooring, a lovely medium brown tile that resembles wood, I recall it was called walnut. We removed an ugly dark brown aluminium window that overlooked a balcony, broke the wall till the floor and installed a white UPVC door that could be easily opened inwards. A white picket fence was crafted and installed along the balcony ledge to create a more sheltered haven for plants. This added a most pleasing element to the entire room, as the fence partially obscured an ugly PMT with all its accompanying jumble of wires extending every which way. It also provided the perfect trellis for a pretty yellow-flowering vine I’ve had for years, which miraculously survived the move. The balcony was painted a rather bold shade of dark grey, I just knew the green of the plants would contrast vividly against it and happily I was right. My vision was to create a little forest, with juxtaposed foliage of various shades of green, pink, yellow and maroon. Every time we draw the curtains or open the doors now, we are able to welcome in lots of nature and the outside can merge with the inside. Soundproof white windows were installed to drown out the weekend noises in our immediate neighbourhood, and the room feels a lot more peaceful for the first time in fifteen years.

We painted the room a soothing shade of white, with just one wall a light shade of lilac. It was a fraught decision because I wasn’t sure if it would look right, in fact I thought it was wrong for the longest time. But the addition of white wispy curtains on a bamboo rod, really brought it all together with the soft pastel blue of the L-shaped sofa, the vintage mint-green of the TV console, and a deep bookshelf I painted a light but bright blue. An architectural snake plant graces the corner, and a row of spotlights illumines a triptych of cloud paintings made by Amu on the wall above the sofa. A few simple hand-woven rugs in complimentary colors makes the room even cozier, and adds some padding on the floor for yoga. Our three rolled-up but ever-present yoga mats are always neatly lined up next to the TV in an old wicker basket that once housed Amu’s toys.

We removed half the four glass sliding door panels along one wall and bricked in the ensuing open space to create a greater sense of privacy. The two remaining panels were polished and re-installed, and that was it. Huz and Amu finally understood that the mind-boggling 180-degree change they were witnessing was actually the physical translation of something that was only in my head all along.

I love the fact that we get to enjoy this space so much more now, and use it with so much appreciation and gratitude. This room had always felt disordered and chaotic to me, full of furniture that didn’t belong there and added no value to a piece of prime real-estate, with its west-open breezy windows and bright afternoon sunlight giving way to golden hour before sunset.

Perhaps this is what stagnation does, when you feel so stuck with what you have but cannot change until something big happens to shake you out of your zone. We had intended to change the flooring of only one section of the house before moving back in, and it did not include this room. But then we thought, why not? We wouldn’t ever get the chance again. Of course, ultimately we ended up digging up the entire apartment , it was simply inevitable, and actually our entire home feels transformed just by changing the tiles. It was a huge, destructive, noisy, messy, labor-intensive process and it honestly felt quite scary while it was going on. And it took a lot of time, but it got there finally. It isn’t perfect, but it looks great to me.

I have often thought of our home as a spaceship, hurtling through time and space, the changing sky and seasons. That’s the feeling I get as I daydream through life, looking out the windows. God(dess) knows I have daydreamed a lot here, but the house now feels more like a ship, navigating the wild ride which is the planet in the grip of a sea change.

We refer to this newly incarnated room as our yoga room and we use it every day at different times for this very purpose. But we also end up inviting visitors here, it now being the prettiest room in the house. I think it indeed is the calm zen of the color palette and the healthy plants that made my niece recently exclaim ‘this room feels like jannat!

And so it happily is!

Family tree

Someone forwarded a picture of a tree painted on a wall, on the branches of which were hung framed family photographsโ€ฆa โ€˜family treeโ€™ as it were. This is what it looked like:



My mother was immediately obsessed with the idea of recreating it in her house, and I volunteered to help bring her desire to fruition, as it would be technically impossible for Mum to paint it herself, now that she has a frozen shoulder among other movement issues with her arms.

But it turned out to be a project far more complex and involved than just getting down to it with some paints and a brush. The wall in question, in fact the entire room was in dire need of a paint job, and I being the perfectionist that I am, refused to compromise.

(A little bit of history about my Mum: she loves painting on walls. She once painted a bird sitting on a branch on the landing of an apartment building we once lived in. We had to leave it behind when we moved from there, and I wonder if anyone had the heart to paint over itโ€ฆ)

Despite the protests, I bought paint, rollers and wall putty and set to work. Prepping the room took a few days and a lot of hard work (which I was willing to do despite the laboriousness) and I did get some help which made the job a bit lighter, nevertheless, I was quite exhausted by the time it was all done.

After that it was just a matter of transferring a quick sketch from paper to wall, freehand with chalk. The tree itself only took a tiny fraction of the time it took to prep the wall. But it was well worth the effort.

I had so much fun with the tree! Never painted directly on a wall before!! ๐Ÿ˜€

Here are a few terrible pictures taken with my phone camera, just cos I wanted to share. Plus Iโ€™m terribly proud of it and everyone who visits my parents praises it profusely which makes my mother proud of me. ๐Ÿ™‚

The wall was originally off-white. I decided to paint it a shade of golden ochre, which ultimately turned out to be a good choice.

(I rearranged the furniture in the lounge despite my motherโ€™s stubborn protestations, and she has grown to love the arrangement, and generally perhaps, to realize that her way isn’t always the best way, haha)

The new background colour melded well with the acrylic colours i used for the trunk



10259942_10152024034214109_9079724614659324396_nSuch a coincidence that The Happy Page posted this drawing the same week that I did just this.

So this was one of the projects I threw myself into to keep me busy. The pictures on the tree have multiplied too, each and every tiniest member of our growing family is on this wall, much to the happiness of my mother.

What have you been up to lately?

Junkie self-portrait

Lisa, over at the Satsumabug blogย often paints herself while looking in the mirror. In her own words, Lisa is a ‘transdisciplinary artist who works in text and image.’

Since I used to do stuff like that myself, I enjoy her blog for the way she keeps track of her experiments, the meticulousness with which she documents some of her more painstaking work, like this card she made for Valentine’s Day.ย 

These days I am a woman of few words, so I feel inadequate when it comes to describing anything or anyone much. And Lisa is all about introspection, so her blog is my go-to place when all I want to do is nod agreeably at what someone else is saying. She is just so wise. And articulate. I want her to infect me with her zest for life!

She has her off days too though, and this is what she has decided to do when her life feels out of balance. It’s so weird how often what she says resonates with me! I love the seemingly effortless way she puts into words everything I’m feeling or have felt.

Lisa, this post is for you. The least I can do is show you my junkie self-portrait. Just remember, this was done around eighteen years ago….and I don’t think it took more than 15 minutes ๐Ÿ™‚

Jazzing with colour!

When someone does not display any particular artistic skill for most of their childhood/teenage years, then one fine day decides to pick up a brush and proceeds to paint anything wooden she can get her hands on, one can’t help but shake one’s head in disbelief, amazement and yes a bit of amusement thrown in. You wonder if it’s a passing phase…..but then years go by, and she’s still at it, painting her heart out. For quite a few years now she has been running a shop from her house and has made a name and a niche for herself, going by the name ‘Articrafts’.

Over the course of time she has produced and sold a mind-boggling amount of work, and that would include just about anything she was obsessed by at a given point. She gets ideas, and then does not rest until she has given them some kind of form and shape.

She is, truly, an extremely creative woman, with an eye for colour and a sure, firm hand with a paintbrush or a sewing machine, whatever medium she chooses to dabble in, often combining all. The following sea of pictures should speak for themselves, I think.

I’m lucky that person is my little sister Fatu, so I get a lot of freebies ๐Ÿ™‚

Here is evidence of her work around my house….

this is a ceramic bowl she found in a flea market and painted a border to. it was just a plain blue bowl before this! i had to buy it off her when i saw it at her house because i couldn't take my eyes off it ๐Ÿ™‚

a tiny, gorgeously painted little wooden thingy I fell in love with too.

i asked Fatu to design a circular mirror for Amu, and this is what she came up with. I think she did a spectacular job, and it goes beautifully in Amu's room ๐Ÿ™‚

after the stupendous success of the blue mirror, I felt like putting mirrors everywhere, so I asked Fatu to make another one but with a different colour scheme. this one seems to be in a state of flux, as it has switched 3 places already and i'm seriously thinking of relocating it again. or maybe i'll ask her to make me yet another one. can't help it if i like circular mirrors can I?

this is supposed to be a keychain hanger and is one of the oldest of Fatu's things around my house. it belongs in my kitchen and I hang an assortment of dusters on it ๐Ÿ™‚

this is supposed to be a covered dustbin, but then I thought it was too pretty for trash. so we use it as something to store wires and camera paraphernalia and various other thingamajigs

a lovely compartmentalized jewellery box that prettifies my dresser ๐Ÿ™‚

this little wooden box was once part of a toy. Fatu painted it for me a long time ago and I use it as a place to store my most used recipes wriiten on squares of card paper ๐Ÿ™‚

plain, stained Thai trays, rejuvenated. for free! ๐Ÿ˜€

and a rack for newspapers...

Fatu makes lots of other stuff too, of course, and I feel you need to see that too. Most of it is made by a carpenter she hires, and she sands everything smooth, stains it, and embellishes it with some paint and finishes it with lots of lacquer so it doesn’t ever come off.

But she also scours the flea markets to look for worn-out old pieces, which she then proceeds to refurbish, thereby rescuing them and what is more, creating works of art that can be used on an everyday basis….

who says we can't scrub our feet with something pretty?

or wear pretty, painted wooden clogs in the bathroom? (trademark Fatu! they sell like hot cakes)

wooden trestles and spreads to match! (these sell like hotcakes too!)

the artist is not above painting her own clothes as well ๐Ÿ™‚

corner of a table, and a painted trunk in the background...

freshly painted keychain hangers

big, all-accomodating trays ๐Ÿ™‚

everything on this shelf is for sale ๐Ÿ™‚ so let me know if you like anything.

wooden bowls and spoons, renovated ๐Ÿ™‚

an assortment of colourful keychains

and candlestick holders...

handmade bags, designed and stitched entirely by Fatu herself. I have lost count of the hundreds she has made and sold!

She loves glimpsing sights of people carrying the bags that she has made, in places she never dreamed she would. And since she does not keep a proper inventory, she herself has no clue of the sheer volume of work she has done, nor does she really care to dwell on it. I find that amazing about her.

So this is my sister Fatu, everybody. If you live in Karachi, do check her out. Drop me a note here if you would like to contact her……maybe I could connect you. Or look for her page on Facebook….it’s called ‘Jazzing with colours’ and ‘like’ it. Or if all else fails, just email her at crazy_hair@live.com.

She’ll love to sell you her stuff ๐Ÿ™‚

Autumn, anyone?

I’ve been reading a lot of posts about autumn lately, one of which was even Freshly Pressed today, and left me desirous of a warm apple-cinnamon scone with my tea.

For some in the right place at this time (meaning latitudes higher/lower than the Tropics) the air is getting nippier, days are getting shorter…..and trees are beginning to get more colourful.

How lucky are you people of the Temperate zones…..you get to witness and FEEL the change of seasons.

I’m sure it must be glorious….despite getting back into school routine for mommies and children alike. In that sense autumn really is the beginning of a new year. Some even redefine it as a ย time for rejuvenation…..of rebirth….and I think I can relate to that if the last two days are anything to go by.

You see, dear readers, I have been spring-cleaning at a time of year normally associated with the autumnal months, though Karachi seems to have registered this time of the year of all times, as the monsoon season.

So while dark clouds gathered overhead and burst their breaches, and as it rained non-stop for 24 hours, turning the poorly-drained streets and lanes of Karachi into rivers and lakes, and as yours truly deemed it wise not to venture out of her bubble for fear of the car stalling while navigating a particularly large lake which is actually her link to the rest of the world, the sponges, dusters and wash-cloths were brought out and the house got a thorough clean-up.

The night it started raining was the same night that I decided to take my allergies more seriously.

I have been waking up in the morning, my lungs choked, unable to breathe, despite the antihistamine pill I have been taking every night for the last month, until I take a few puffs of Aerolin. My bronchioles expand and I relax, and sink back into my pillow with relief.

For the last few years, these symptoms have usually arisen in October……so I’m taken by surprise this year as it started much earlier, and lately I have been thinking maybe it’s not just dust I’m allergic to. Perhaps I have been in denial about my cat allergies, I don’t know, maybe it is time for me to go to an allergy specialist and get myself tested.

I stayed up till 3 am the other night, sitting next to my balcony door, listening to the rumbling thunder, ominously loud at times, and the flashes of lightning periodically illuminating the sky. As the rain lashed against the door, and Fuzzy sat nearby, his ears twitching, looking worried, I read through six different articles that told me similar things about how to deal with cat allergies. I bookmarked this one, and am considering printing it out and sticking it to my bathroom door so I can read it every day and be more motivated and less likely to slack off in terms of safely and effectively minimising my allergic reaction to whatever it is in my house that’s triggering it.

Apparently, there are many allergens that can cause the same symptoms as cat allergens, some of which can be more serious than those that can be caused by a cat alone.

Whatever the case may be, there can be no harm in cleaning the house from top to bottom (with a bandanna wrapped around my face) and it can only benefit my fellow inhabitants and I.

The first thing I did was to remove my work table from a closed, carpeted room into a more airy area right next to the balcony. As many of you know, I spend an unhealthy amount of time on my laptop! Therefore, it was imperative that I balance the unhealthiness with a healthier environment, and I think It will make a big difference. Fingers crossed.

I realise that my house is probably smothered in cat allergens because Fuzzy, as his name indicates, has been endowed with very fine, downy fur. He is also, unfortunately, a black cat. Cats with dark fur are more allergy-inducing than cats with light fur.

I wish I had known this when we adopted him. Sigh. But it’s too late now, I love the little critter.

Here’s a little known fact. I am the only person in my family that has a humungusly soft spot for animals. I mean, my Mom does too, but I was always the one who imposed pets on her, she never had any when she was growing up. I do know for a fact that she adored my neighbour’s dog (i think his name was Silver…..he was sadly hit by a car…) and didn’t object to her rabbits roaming our house, munching uncooked lasagne sheets and pooping on the sofa….but I am straying from the topic at hand….

So I started with the space which I shall now inhabit as my primary work area, and armed with a ladder, soapy water and a sponge, I proceeded to systematically wash all the walls, from ceiling to floor. I dusted everything thoroughly with a damp cloth, vacuumed the furniture, the blinds, cleaned the fans of all the accumulated dirt and cat hair (which we do every 10 days or so) and washed the curtains in hot water to kill all the allergens on them.

Needless to say, I have been passing out, exhausted from the hard work, my arms aching, but feeling great that I’m working towards making the house healthier. I smile with happiness as I sing wheezily while going about my work, puffing my inhaler when need be.

Too bad Zahooran wasn’t around to see her employer doing a better job of housework than her that first day ๐Ÿ˜›

The biggest change for poor little Fuzzy is going to be the fact that I must train him not to sleep under the bed in my room…..which is his favourite place in the whole house for most of the day, emerging only in the evening, stretching out his limbs and meandering his way to one of us for some love, or over to his water bowl if he’s thirsty.

He runs into my room and under the bed, first chance he gets! Especially when the doorbell rings……he is terrified of visitors ๐Ÿ™‚

Giving him up is just not an option, friends.

I know I just have to work a little harder, that’s all.

But since we’re on the theme of the art work around my house, and autumn brings to mind dead leaves, here’s some I painted several years ago when I picked them up from somewhere because I thought they were beautiful.



Here’s to rebirth…..and rejuvenation. And cleaner air and less allergens. And hopefully more watercolours some day.

My heart goes out to the people of Badin and all the other waterlogged, flooded areas of Sindh, where people’s homes and livelihoods have once again been ruthlessly washed away. I know better now than to wish for rain in a country with governments that do nothing to improve or spend more money on building and maintaining crucial infrastructure.

when Huz got me roses….

….I thought they needed to be immortalized. Such a rare occasion definitely should be! (and no, this post is NOT about my husbands sense of romance….I used to emotionally blackmail him into getting me flowers….cos I really like them. They’re so pretty! But I don’t anymore….emotionally blackmail him, that is…if i want flowers, I go get them myself. And that’s fine too. Though I realize he will read this post and feel blackmailed again. Heh heh. That’s fine too)

So, the day after a long gone birthday, I made these quick watercolours, trying to capture the shades of yellow, peach and orange merging into red at the edges.

Here they are, for what they’re worth, framed and hung near the entrance to the house.

I should have you know, this post was inspired by Patty over at meandering minds…...she is an amazing woman who is working on her watercolor skills even as she fractured her collarbone three times in the past two months!!! (give or take a few weeks)

I don’t know how she manages to produce a blog post through the haze of extreme pain that envelops her these days, but she does. I tip my hat to her.

And this goes out to my lovely fellow bloggers who wanted to see more of the artwork scattered around my house. It’s a great theme, (meaning I don’t need to put words to the myriad difficult thoughts churning through my head every day…..call it a cop out) and I have a couple more up my sleeve. Stay tuned please.




Fluttering a summer away…an art project and some memories.

The year was 2002, and Huz had some work in the Maldives. Yes, you heard me right. The Maldives. He had to be there for a month, and luckily the time coincided with summer holidays for Amu, so after working out the feasibility of the two of us going along and staying at a nearby resort island while Huz ferried back and forth to work in Male, it was decided that we would accompany him ๐Ÿ™‚

In retrospect, it was probably the most idyllic month of our lives, and I would give an arm and a leg to be there now, when I have so many more digital cameras, but really, at the time I couldn’t help wondering what Amu and I would DO all day to keep us entertained. How much snorkelling and swimming can one possibly do? How much can you read in a hammock? How do you keep a four year old occupied all day for weeks on an island without any forms of recreation besides the obvious ones? How many sand castles can you make? (we made one every day ๐Ÿ˜› )

These are questions (among many more) that I may answer in some future blog post, with pictorial illustrations. For now, I will have you, my dear readers, know that I took along with me my paintbrushes, watercolours, and some good Cansen paper. And a Nature book on butterflies.

I love butterflies. They are the most mesmerising creatures (in my opinion) and I am blown away by the sheer variety of them. If one happens to flutter by, I will drop everything and watch it till it flutters away. It’s just one of those things you have to do. Watch butterflies, yeah.

I never liked the idea of real, dead butterflies framed and put on walls (no offense to anyone who does so, it just doesn’t appeal to me.) But I had an idea when I came across that book on butterflies in an old book store. Why not replicate them in watercolours?

So I decided to make that my summer project, and what better way to put your nose to the grindstone than to maroon yourself on a tiny Maldivian island?

Every day (after my post-breakfast nap) I sat down by the window in my beach bungalow, with all my paraphernalia laid out neatly. I would first sketch the butterfly, a painstaking process (when you’re feeling lazy in the summery torpor) because one half of the butterfly had to be an exact mirror image of the other half. Crazy concentration. Once the sketch was complete, I’d start mixing colours and painting.

When I look at my framed butterfly panels now, I associate them with that idyllic Maldivian summer of 2002. It brings back (slightly blurred) memories of white sand, dappled sunlight filtering in through the trees, turquoise waters and countless afternoons spent going for walks around Paradise island, sand castles, and yoga on the beach.

So I hope you enjoy looking at these today. I inscribed the scientific names of the butterflies underneath the watercolors because I love saying the names out loud and would have forgotten them otherwise…

To give you an idea of the size, these were all done on 5”x5” squares of white paper.


bottle green








Can you guess which one I love the most? What would you do for fun/recreation on a month-long getaway in Paradise? ๐Ÿ™‚