Alarming things

There’s a silly-looking alarm clock on the little table next to my bed. it is green with an orange button on top that serves two purposes, or at least used to serve two purposes.

The first one was the more fascinating of the two, as when pressed while lying awake sleepless at night, it would project the time as a digital light onto the ceiling.

It also serves to turn the alarm on or off.

Huz picked up this cute little clock from the Dubai duty-free for Amu on his way back from somewhere several years ago and over time, and by the endlessly pokey/proddy fascination of visiting children, it has now turned into a mere shadow of its former self. I don’t know why kids find this clock so fascinating, but out of everything lying around in my house, this particular object strikes them as particularly juicy. After examining all the knobs and pressing all the cute little buttons, they pick it up in a perplexed way and shake it vigorously next to their little ears, perhaps in an effort to trry and make it ‘tick’, like a normal self-respecting alarm clock should do.

As a result, the time projection function has ceased to function, as it were, and the alarm is a series of muffled squeals. Some things inside it have come unhinged, so it makes weird clunky noises from deep inside when we pick it up to relocate it. Nevertheless, it continues to show us the time, and in its own suppressed way DOES manage to get me awake when need be.

Today, however, I did NOT need to be woken at 6:20, it being a Sunday. I suppose Huz must have pressed the orange button by mistake at night.

I was roused from deep slumber, the events of a very strange dream (that involved my best friend from school) came to some sort of conclusion (or not) as my mind clambered onto the plane of consciousness enough to poke Huz and inform him very politely that the alarm was ringing and could he please turn it off?

He obliged without any ado, and I must not have been too resentful or I wouldn’t have wrapped my blankie snugly around myself, found that sweet spot on my pillow, and gone back to sleep, waking again after another couple of hours (this time resentfully) only because I had to visit the…ahem…ladies room.

I was dissatisfied with the number of hours my sleep clocked in on a Sunday morning and though I got up and started moving around doing stuff, I wasn’t operating at peak energy levels. In fact, I remember telling Huz as I plonked myself on a chair in front of my laptop that I should still be sleeping.

Nevertheless, there were things on my to do list that needed crossing off, and I had given myself some stern ultimatums as I jotted down chores and aspirations.

I short-listed a couple of things as being of utmost and grave importance: 1) Go to Sunday bazaar. 2) Visit parents.

Lesser things included a bit of gardening, watering and pruning, stitching another nice kameez for myself (yes, I stitched me one a couple of days ago and it looked and felt so good when I wore it on Amu’s Sports day at school, that it is motivating me to stitch another one asap)

Sunday means no Zahooran, so there is always some clearing and washing up to do, and I allowed myself to carry on with the lesser tasks until it was time to do the more important things. Therefore, I ventured into the balcony to assess the state of neglect my plants were in.

The problem with my balcony is, it is a very narrow space that widens into a slightly larger space, and that is where my plants are. Sometimes I forget they are even there. When I remember their existence, I dutifully empty the water collected from the airconditioning pipes into the pots, thereby doing my bit for the environment. But I blame the builder for making such a stupid balcony for my reluctance to go there. It doesn’t help that he put in a very stupid rickety aluminium sliding door that always derails when I try to slide it open. Very annoying, therefore I try and limit my excursions into the balcony.

But it is a tribute to the hardy spirit of the Ficus and the thorny plant with pink flowers that they survive out there. Too bad about the bougainvillea and the betel leaf plant, though I do feel that the bougainvillea isn’t beyond repair. In fact, I can see tiny new leaves emerging from the seemingly lifeless branches just a day after I watered it…..

Karma got me in the end though. As I surveyed the sad-looking cane palm and stripped it of dead leaves and twigs, one sneaky dried leaf poked me in the eye, and as I flinched, the poke turned into a rather vicious scratch.

As my hand flew up in alarm, my eyes welled up with tears and i looked at the twig that hurt me with some bitterness, tinged with guilt. It was after all entirely my fault that the leaves dried up anyway. Serve me right for getting poked in the eye!

I shuffled back into the house feeling remorseful and sorry for myself and made my way over to a mirror to assess the damage. No blood = good sign.

I accepted my defeat.

Then I drew the blinds and curtains, curled up in bed, pulled my blankie up to my chin and found a sweet spot on my pillow. My eye needed to recover after all.

Sunday bazaar could wait till next Sunday, and my poor dear parents will just have to wait till tomorrow. Which is, of course, another day.

p.s I slept the whole afternoon and woke up again at 5. Best thing I did all day.

Sunday ambience

all is peaceful...sun shines...cricketers play..
hark! something grows!
and the champa springs forth a new bunch of buds..
the mysteriously dormant leafy sprigs produce a profusion of mysterious yellow blooms...
(thank you Pasha!)
the other pot chooses to be more demure..
the chilli plant rose again like a phoenix from the ashes, and is now more beautiful than it ever was...
tomato seedlings have found new homes...
bumblebee takes a chill pill. too lazy a sunday to be dive-bombing my ears πŸ˜›
to think the champa was so little when i planted it...just two little sprigs with some leaves..
it has replaced the bug-friendly allamanda as my new pride and joy πŸ™‚
the house is peaceful too, without Zahooran to disrupt the artful mess...
morning light filters through the blinds..
this one's for Kathy πŸ™‚
the offspring plants her juice on the table...
and proceeds to gobble her cereal. which reminds me....

I should do something about breakfast πŸ™‚

Courtyard lovelies!

Got this when it was only yea high…


It took a long hiatus for growing purposes, slowly but surely, inch by inch, month by ponderous month, no flowers or anything. Finally it sprouted a bud-bearing stalk a few months ago, which, to my horror, I accidentally broke off.

But then it went into a ballistic growth spurt and turned rapidly into a little tree, still flowerless…until this morning πŸ™‚ I guess the summer heat got to it!


Bought this succulent non-spiky cactus from the 2011 Flower Show. It got a bit weird while I was away in Tanzania for two weeks and Mom over-watered it. That’s a big no-no when it comes to desert plants. They actually LIKE being parched πŸ˜›

So I put it in the courtyard in full sun and let it be for a while, and sure enough, it got all pretty and rose-like again! I love looking at its crimson-edged leaves πŸ™‚

some kind of dangerously thorny plant

My friend’s mother sent me this plant for my newbie collection. It bears new bright pink tiny flowers every day, and I love it because it’s so hardy and low maintenance. It thrives under the trellis in partial shade, and is probably the prettiest plant in my courtyard. Thanks Shermeen’s Mom! πŸ˜€


And this is the fruit of my labour, from the tomato plants I’ve been nurturing for the last several months. The last time I attempted growing tomatoes, the plants died without bearing any fruit. So very disappointing.

But I was determined to grow tomatoes! So I planted more, read up on tomato-growing, transplanted the small shoots into bigger pots, fed them, watered them, talked to them, made them a trellis….and now look. πŸ˜€

My very own tomato! And guess what….there’s two little baby ones behind it! *dances with joy* I know, I know, the leaves don’t look too healthy, don’t ask me what’s wrong now, I’ll have to google the symptoms and see what can be done. But for now, I’m a-gonna go down to the courtyard every morning and look at my green baby tomatoes and beam at them till they ripen πŸ™‚

Can’t wait to eat ’em!

(Mis)Adventures of a DIY gardener (part-2)

My regular readers (hey Mom! *waves*) would recall part 1 of this post, in which I wrote about the gorgeous allamanda that graced the top of the trellis in my courtyard.

It took so many months for it to grow lush and dense, covering the trellis and shading the courtyard underneath….

All to be destroyed by the vile mealy bugs!! Aarghh!!

Yes, there was another infestation. And this one was worse than any I’ve seen before, so complete was the havoc it wreaked. I guess I lost not just the battle, but even the will to grow any more allamanda. It’s all over, folks. Β I mean, just LOOK what it did to my beautiful trellis 😦

after i had finished cutting and dragging off ALL the horribly infested branches and stems

For the uninitiated, mealy bugs are possibly THE WORST kind of pest to infect succulent plants. They feed on plant sap by attaching themselves to the undersides of leaves (all the better not to be seen, tricksy little buggers) and secrete a waxy powdery layer to protect themselves while they suck the juices right out.

You know your plant is infected with them when you see colourless drops of honeydew appear on the leaves. A sooty mould soon forms on the honeydew secretions, the plant takes on a sickly appearance, the stem distorts and the leaves start to shrivel and drop. Weakened plants succumb to fungi and rot.

To set things straight, I TRIED. I tried VERY HARD. In fact I have been fighting mealy bugs all of my adult gardening life. I have plucked them out with tweezers. I have tweaked them off with toothpicks and cotton buds dipped in nailpolish remover. I have painstakingly and delicately spent hours wiping them off with damp cloth. I even made litres and litres of soap-water solutions and went crazy with the spray gun (apparently, soap is the only thing that penetrates the protective covering of the damned bugs), followed by further sessions with pesticides, no holds barred. I even succeeded in eradicating them a couple of times, but ultimately, those were just small battles. It was the whole damned war I lost!!

This infestation didn’t just suck the life out of my lovely allamanda….I guess it was a shoulder-slumping moment for me too.

In a way it was almost a relief to accept defeat and declare (mentally) Β ”I can’t fight this anymore!!”

Sigh. It looks so desolate now….like the aftermath of a fire. The mealy bugs reproduced and spread quite literally like wildfire, the very denseness of the foliage proving to be the cause of its demise. All my vehement spraying had no effect at all, as I couldn’t quite get through to the innermost regions of entwined stems and leaves, let alone the fuzzy white armour of the little dastardly creatures.
Curse you, mealy bugs!! *shakes fist at mealy bugs* Curse you all to death!!
May you all die slowly and painfully and be pushed over the brink of extinction!!

Who says things can’t be green on both sides of the darn fence?

When I was a little girl, I had a thing for climbing trees. I realize I still do, when I see a juicy-looking tree and find myself automatically looking for footholds. Perhaps Enid Blyton had something to do with this, as most of her protagonists were expert tree-climbers, and I was very impressionable. The tomboy in me has died hard.

This is me and trees:

its branches just beckoned....what could I do?
ooh...footholds! (must climb)


But this post is not about trees so much as it is about plants in general. Of late, I find myself obsessed with the idea of growing things, inspired perhaps by a mild form of envy (if other people can have a green thumb, so can I!) but also due to exposure to a bunch of articles posted by my horticultural friends on Facebook, the most inspiring of which was this.

I have tried growing things in my balcony, but my attempts grew half-hearted over the summer months, as the hotness of the sun and the harshness of the winds prevented my plants from faring well, giving up on it altogether as way too much work with too few benefits. But the story of this guy in London growing food in pots in his balcony has succeeded in galvanising me into action once again. Container gardening, here I come! πŸ˜€

My experimentation with seeds began when I attended a flower show earlier this year and saw a guy selling them. That flower show was responsible for quite a few things actually.

1. I realized gardening can be quite a happening thing.

2. Fellow human beings and inhabitants of Karachi seemed really into it.

3. Aforementioned people actually succeeded in growing stuff in their homes.

Here’s a glimpse of the flower show:

huh....climbing this would be a cinch.

I ignored the orchids at the flower show altogether, as I didn’t relish the idea of watching them die in my not-quite-so-green-thumbed hands. I ignored the twisted, curly bamboos for the same reason. In fact, I walked out of the flower show without purchasing a single plant! (and this after spending at least 2 hours oohing and aahing over all the lusciousness).Β But like Jack in the fabled story (minus the admonishing mother), I found myself drawn to magic beans……

After buying a few packets, I walked out, went home, put the seeds in a drawer and promptly ignored them for several weeks. It required too much thought and the fear of failure was too high to actually go ahead and plant them. But one fine day (taking heart from horticultural Facebook friends, as well as my beloved aunt, a vegetable-growing diva, and also the new-found knowledge that crops CAN be grown in pots), I shed my horticultural chicken-shit-ness, donned my gloves and shady hat, picked up my spades, shovelled earth into pots and took the bull by the horns.

I planted cucumber, spinach, coriander, tomatoes, corn, chillies and basil that day. Out of these, spinach, coriander, basil and chillies proved very successful and I was overjoyed. The corn plants grew beautifully too, and I marvelled to see how the cobs grew like babies in a pregnant stem. Sadly, they died a stillborn death, the plants starting to wither after reaching the second trimester; and the tomato and cucumber plants grew madly, but never bore any fruit until they too withered away, as from an unconsummated marriage.

Feeling a bit defeated in my gardening ambitions, I abandoned them in favor of more fruitful pursuits. Like blogging. πŸ˜›

Then I came across that article about the London guy……

Happily, the rejuvenation in my ‘growing’ mood has coincided with sowing season. Not to be daunted by my earlier failures,I set to work once again (the old fiend-like determination setting in), and with a little bit of experience this time round, I set the ground for some serious crop-production. I lugged whatever pots I had, all shapes and sizes, filled with soil, from the downstairs courtyard into my balcony, a back-breaking and thigh-cramping job requiring multitudinous jogs up and down the kitchen stairs. No help whatsoever. Just me and my achy muscles.

I’m going to do things right this time….more focus….more vigilance. I got myself more magic beans too, and have planted capsicum, lettuce, strawberries, green beans, and am giving spinach, coriander, cucumber, tomatoes, chillies and corn another shot.

My sowing frenzy came to a screeching halt when I realized I had too many seeds and not enough pots. I DID acquire more (through some very sly and underhanded means, details of which are known by only a select and privileged few) [you know who you are guys], and continued the good work. This is how Project Balcony has shaped up so far:

(Six more pots have been added to this lot today. Will post an update to let you know how the plants are faring in a months time with some, hopefully, VERY much greener photos)

My very own terrorists

I have some uninvited guests in my house, but I don’t mind them staying. They have adopted the bamboo trellis in my courtyard as their home and when you look at the picture you will see why.

See the holes in the ends of the bamboo? Perfect.

Apparently, they do not approve of me encroaching on their domain, and I have no intention of disputing their claim. I actually like seeing them buzzing around busily, hovering over the pretty yellow flowers, then zooming off to chase one another in the bright sunshine. They’re unique in their fat, juicy, black plumpness.

Someone once told me a story regarding bumblebees that involved ears being dived into. Needless to say, my first instinct is to clap my hands on both sides of my head and run.

But laundry has to be strung up to dry, and plants need to be watered and tended to, so I try my best to act like I’m not scared. My nonchalance doesn’t fool them, however. They zone in on me like bombers and succeed in chasing me off, tail between my legs, ears firmly sealed (much like the effect created by bats in anΒ earlier post)

I think they just occasionally like to have some fun with me. Usually they’re too busy flying in and out of their holes in a non-aggressive way. I quite like their company when they’re in that mood. They make things more lively πŸ™‚

And I’m hoping they’ll have a good influence on my tomatoes (the ones that stubbornly resist fruiting πŸ˜› )

(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 πŸ™‚ Joy!

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! πŸ˜€