A weird turn of events

Of course Mini had to go. That was a foregone conclusion for Huz.

But for Amu and I, the story was far more complex and fraught with emotion to have such a neat ending.

With great half-heartedness, we started a campaign to find adopters for little Mini. But I was becoming more and more certain that Fuzzy’s presence in the house was no longer something I wanted to tolerate. I felt like I was done with him. Even Amu was indifferent by now. He was just a badly-behaved, spoilt-rotten cat, hell-bent on making sure I couldn’t have a pretty house. I found myself looking at him with a mixture of sadness, frustration, anger and despair. I began to neglect him and stopped brushing him, esp since he had begun to flinch and back away even from the thing he loved the most. I didn’t care that this was only a manifestation of his anxiety at Mini’s presence in the house and began to look for a shelter to give Fuzzy up to. I just didn’t want to handle his spraying and marking anymore. I even thought of abandoning him somewhere, immediately dismissing the idea even though urged by well-meaning but ultimately misguided parents and siblings to do just that.

The dissonance in my head over the cat conundrum was causing a great deal of just-under-the-surface stress, the kind that makes you broody and think dark existential thoughts. I was really tired of cleaning up cat pee on a daily basis, failing at administering antidepressant, failing at finding another home for Mini, failing at not loving her so it wouldn’t be difficult to give her away.

So it certainly didn’t help that Nazish had begun to come in later and later for work. Her expected time of arrival had gone from 12 to 2, and I was getting increasingly irritated by what had really begun to seem like her taking advantage of my good nature. I decided I would let her go too.

I told Huz and he looked at me like I was hysterical, sternly telling me to calm down. Nazish was a good maid, trustworthy and quiet to boot, so what if she always looked depressed and we barely communicated with each other? Firing her at a time when we needed help keeping the house pee-free and dust-free was the stupidest thing I could possibly do.

So of course, I proceeded to do two stupid things.

I wrote to the only animal shelter in Karachi to ask that if they would take Fuzzy, we would not only donate money on a regular basis, we would even provide a cage to keep him in.

And when I opened the door for Nazish to enter on Monday, (the day after Fuzzy and Mini’s poopy battle) I waited till she had begun to wash dishes before breaking the silence between us by saying she should start looking for other work as her schedule was no longer acceptable to me.

She took the news stoically, only asking if she should leave immediately or stay on till the end of the month. I was immediately regretful, as I felt I had somehow failed her by not understanding her problems and her reasons for coming late, failed her by making her feel so disposable. But all I said was there was no need to hurry, she could take her time finding another job. Then I left the kitchen and left her to mull over her immediate future as she continued washing dishes. Huz just shook his head and warned me that my imminent housework-related stress would only mean he would have two stressed creatures to contend with in the house, one human, one feline.

I avoided Nazish for an hour, but then she struck up a conversation as I chopped veggies, confessing sheepishly that she knew my anger was justified and that she really had troubled me greatly with her erratic timings and that she was willing to ask around and get me a replacement.

It was as if she had only to speak for me to soften. Of course I didn’t really want to fire her, I said. I liked her work and I trusted her and had no desire to go through the hassle of employing, training and getting used to the presence of another person in the house at all. Come to think of it, did it really even matter what time she came as long as the work got done? I told her how stressed I was about Fuzzy and Mini and how I was thinking of giving Fuzzy away as a solution to my problems.

Nazish looked at me and asked, “Kitne mein deingi? Main le jaoon usse?”

She had mentioned once or twice before how much her little daughter adored cats and how she loved playing with one that lived at her mother’s place, where she left both her daughters each day before coming to work at my place, as she couldn’t possibly leave them alone at home in an environment like the Colony where she lived, a dense settlement of mostly Pashtuns.

I looked back at her, incredulous. She actually thought I was selling Fuzzy! But my incredulity turned into hope…giving Fuzzy over to Nazish and her little daughters seemed so much better than giving him up to a shelter….

We started talking nitty gritties. All talk of firing Nazish had been banished, and I figured her sudden talkativeness and animation stemmed from nervousness at having come very close to losing a job she really depended on./

She reassured me that Fuzzy would be safe in her ‘store room’ and could romp in her courtyard if he liked, and that as long as I provided his kibbles, they would take care of him for us.

I bounced off to tell Huz what had just transpired. He looked at me and shook his head again, laughing at how rapidly the situation in our house managed to swing with such mercurial changeability, but completely approving of Nazish’s acquisition of the errant Fuzzy.

I set about packing his things, his bath towel, shampoo, food and water bowls, his brush…not allowing myself to feel the slightest tinge of wtf-am-I-doing.

It was decided that she would fetch her daughters from her mothers house and bring them back to my place, after which I would pack Fuzzy into his basket and drop them all home. I had never seen where she lived, in a year and a half of her working with us, and it seemed this was the day I would finally make the leap across the class barrier that divided me from Nazish’s world.

She sat down on the floor in my room, where I was brushing Fuzzy for the last time, feeling the first glimmers of sadness at what I was doing. It was late afternoon and the sun’s presence was waning as Nazish began to talk to me in a manner she had hitherto never done. I listened as she started telling me detailed stories about her life and her childhood and her complicated family dynamics, her husband, her marriage, her parents and siblings, her uncles and aunts and cousins, all caught up in traditions full of patriarchy and misogyny. I listened to her talk stoically about the difficulties she faced, the bad choices she had made or that had been made on her behalf and which she was now trapped in. She talked about her daughters birthday and how she danced with her uncle, the weddings that she loved to dress up for, the intrigues and scandals that were the fuel of their family get-togethers. She told me about all the places she had ever worked at, the kinships she had formed with men who never disrespected her, the employers who helped pay for her elder daughters schooling and rebuked her for getting back together with an uncaring, sometimes abusive husband. She had been engaged to him when she was little, but he had defied his betrothal to her by eloping with her erstwhile school friend, then divorcing her out of remorse at being ostracized by the family and marrying Nazish eventually. It was as if she had been propelled into self-disclosure by the faith I was displaying in her, by entrusting my pet to her.

We talked till it grew dark, me asking curious questions that she had no qualms about answering, and I confess I found myself fascinated, witnessing and undergoing a complete transformation in my perception of who Nazish was, not a mournful, depressed girl, but a thoughtful yet feisty individual with strong convictions and aspirations despite the challenges life was constantly throwing at her. But more of this in another post.

For now we finally got to meet her daughters, 9-yr old pretty Ailya, who shared her birthday with Amu, one of the reasons I felt Nazish was destined to work for me, and 3 yr-old pixie-faced Sidra, the future mistress of a fallen-from-grace Fuzzy. Little humans and cat were introduced to each other and I spent some time explaining the do’s and don’t’s of dealing with him.

Nazish and her daughters slid into the backseat while Amu cradled Fuzzy’s basket in front. I smiled uncertainly at her, she smiled uncertainly back, and then we were off to Nazish’s house in the heart of a slum we had never set foot in before.

(to be continued…)

New kitty on the block

After a warm meal of diluted milk with a spot of honey, little lost kitty received a nice rub-down with cotton wool soaked in Frontline spray and a clean cloth to get as much grease off as possible. I could tell she didn’t like the smell of the flea medicine, nor the feel of being wet, but she took it like a sport. Amu and I spent all day checking up on her and watching as she ran around and explored, dying fleas hopping off one by one. That night she spent outside, but safe and away from cold draughts in a big empty litter bag. The maternal instinct had already kicked in as Amu and I worried about the little kitty all night. Needless to say, we had already asked the chowkidar to keep an eye out for a motherly looking cat with babies. He said this one seemed most likely to have wandered into the parking lot from somewhere outside, though there have been a few cat births on the roof in the past.

The next day, and not without a little trepidation, we let Fuzzy (the resident cat) meet the newcomer. We stood alert, and though Fuzzy wasn’t as relaxed around her as we would have liked, nothing untoward happened. I began to get visions of a multiple cat household.

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Fuzzy follows kitty
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kitty marches up to Fuzzy unafraid
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Fuzzy backs away

DSC_0343 DSC_0345 DSC_0349 DSC_0350 DSC_0351 DSC_0355 DSC_0357 DSC_0358 DSC_0359 That afternoon, I gave the little kitty a much needed warm bath with shampoo, as I had noticed that she was quite smelly. I kept it quick so she wouldn’t catch a cold, drying her off with a soft towel and finishing up with a gentle blow-dry. Now she was fit to not only stay inside the house, but to curl up in what was to be her favoured perch for the next few weeks….our neck and shoulders. DSC_0364 DSC_0367DSC_0372 Fuzzy was most certainly not sure what to make of this development and stayed close, keeping a beady eye trained on the new entrant. I read up on how to introduce resident cats to new kittens and everything pointed to keeping the two separate initially and only slowly allowing them to interact. Separate litters, separate bowls for food and water, separate rooms. I rubbed kitty with a piece of cloth, then rubbed Fuzzy with it too, allowing their scents to intermingle. They could see each other through a glass door, but no touching for a few days. Then I let the door stay open a crack and the two cats played ‘pawsie’. But though I was optimistic about the two getting along eventually, I couldn’t possibly have been prepared for what happened in the following days and weeks. (to be continued)    

Things that happen

A simple thing like waking up unusually early one day can change your life forever, or at least for the life span of a cat. Here’s what happened one beautifully crisp morning in December.

Decided to take Amu driving at 7am as the stretch of road where I teach her is relatively car-free and less intimidating then.

In the parking area of our apartment building rang out the forlornly incessant mewing of a decidedly small cat. The mysterious mewing kitty was hiding in the space between the top of the wheel and the chassis of our car, rendering us incapable of driving away without getting it out first.

Seeing us standing around helpless, the chowkidar fetched a stick to get the invisible noisemaker to jump off and run out. What emerged was a tiny grease-covered creature of indeterminate colour and scared blue eyes. I picked her up to stop her from running under the car again, and after ten minutes of confused debate decided to put her in our courtyard for the time being to keep her safe.

When we returned from our driving session, the tiny kitten was quietly curled up behind one of the potted plants, but ran out and started mewing again when she saw us. She was obviously hungry and cold and infested with fleas, and there was no choice but to clean her up and feed her and keep her warm….

(to be continued…)

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Family tree

Someone forwarded a picture of a tree painted on a wall, on the branches of which were hung framed family photographs…a ‘family tree’ as it were. This is what it looked like:

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Pretty!

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 it…)

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!! 😀

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

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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.
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(I rearranged the furniture in the lounge despite my mother’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)
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The new background colour melded well with the acrylic colours i used for the trunk

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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?

Ducks, revisited

Once upon an earlier time, on another occasion when my better judgment had abandoned me for a few minutes, I  fell prey to colourful little dyed chicks. They were being sold ridiculously cheap and I thought Amu would get a kick out of them. At the time, I didn’t think that the chicks would eventually grow normal feathers, would stop being cute, and that we would eventually have to think about getting rid of them. I mean, chickens in a small 6th floor apartment? Really Mun?

Mazzy was shocking pink and Zally was bright green. We kept them in a little cage and allowed them to run around the house a couple of times a day, pooping wherever they went. They pecked frenziedly at their ‘bajra’ at feeding times and had the cutest way of dipping into their water and glugging it, raising their beaks to the ceiling.

To cut a not-very-long story shorter, I gave them away to eldest Sis+nephew, who in turn gave them away to their neighbour, where they were attacked by cats. Alas…the ways of the food chain.

Did I learn a lesson? Apparently not, since fast forward a year or two and I now had two ducklings on my hands.

Hill Park with its duck pond could have been perfect, but ultimately I couldn’t just leave them there. I suppose we were more concerned about their well being since they had stuck around longer and raised more hell than the chicks. I had no desire to inflict them on any of my family or friends knowing how much trouble they were. But no matter what, I couldn’t let Apple and Cherry become cat food. Even though I’m more a cat person than a duck person.

A not-too-distant memory crept into my head. The preschool Amu went to a couple of years ago (when she was 3) had a big cage in the corner of its garden. Had there been ducks in there? It was only a vague recollection, but it was worth a shot. 

Mrs G was the principal, the dragon lady of the montessori circuit, known for her stern disposition and no-nonsense demeanour, since her preschool was one of the most-sought-after. This was where Amu cried inconsolably on her first day, spent a year learning her phonetics, colours, patterns and shapes. This was where she learnt to share a sandbox with other children, and where she learnt to pour water from a jug and how to colour within the line. Parents queued up to have their babies registered here while they were in the last weeks of pregnancy. This way they could at least make the waiting list. It was alleged that babies from Mrs G’s school had a greater chance of getting into The Most Sought After School in Karachi. (Amu did.)

I mustered up the bravado that propels a lot of my actions (I am intimidated by people in positions of authority) and called Mrs G to meekly ask if her bird cage would accommodate two adorable ducklings, and wouldn’t the preschoolers be fascinated by the new additions? I wasn’t sure how I expected her to respond but I am predisposed to pessimism, so when she said I could drop by and talk to the gatekeeper (who was in charge of the birds) and see what he said, I could scarcely believe my ears. I thanked her most profusely and hung up, grinning as I looked towards the balcony where Apple and Cherry cheeped nonstop.

The chowkidar was friendly and helpful and led us over to the bird cage in the corner of the garden. It was actually more of a fenced in spot with wire mesh, a roof and a door rather than a cage. It housed two ducks and a magnificent rooster. One of the ducks seemed to have laid eggs and was busy nesting. We let Apple and Cherry out of their basket to have a look-see. The rooster was long of leg and fleet of foot, and at least five times the size of Apple (the bigger of the duo.) He seemed a little edgy. I didn’t trust him one bit and kept a close watch, alert for any untoward action. Where the other ducks were least bothered, Rooster paced up and down and all around, his coxcombed head cocked dangerously towards the newcomers, his beady eye flashing. All of a sudden he darted straight at them and Apple and Cherry ran for their lives! It was most melodramatic.

In the end however, the chowkidar reassured us that our duckies would be fine and the rooster wouldn’t hurt them, apparently it just had a bit of an attitude problem. We decided to trust his experience and left them there, but all of the rest of the evening my mind kept going back to Apple and Cherry, wondering if they were alright.

We went back to visit them early the next day, and indeed, not only were they safe and sound, they had taken to their new home quite blithely, with plenty of food and space and even a little pond to mess around in. They didn’t come running to say hello though. Hmph.

Did I mention that Apple was the prettier, more extroverted of the two? Cherry always looked pale in comparison and I had read somewhere that the male of the species was always more striking, so I figured Apple must be male and Cherry female.

A few months went by, during which we were regularly given news of Apple and Cherry’s welfare through my brother in law, who went to drop his little one there every day. When I went to see them again a few months later it was startling to see how much they had grown. But what came as a beautiful surprise was Cherry, who had grown the most iridescent blue and green and sleek dark brown tail and wing feathers. No longer was she a mousy yellow. Apple still had a black patch on his head and looked more or less the same, just bigger feathers. So maybe I got their genders mixed up 🙂

When the bird flu scare hit Karachi, I heard Mrs G sent all the birds away for a while. I lost track of Apple and Cherry after that and never saw them again.

This and the last blog post are dedicated to Graham and Heather. I thought I should write about them (Apple and Cherry, not Graham and Heather!) because Graham commented on Heather’s blog mentioning a duck that tossed a proffered salad leaf back at him. Because of my alacrity, I have been gifted a cyber duck—-> (*)>  for luck! Hope it makes me blog more often 😉

Ducks in the city

Once upon a time, my common sense left the house for a walk around the block and returned bearing two tiny ducklings bought from a woman in Sunday bazaar, Karachi’s bustling weekend market.

It wasn’t as if we lived on a farm, or even an independent little bungalow with a sweet little back garden and a pond. Not as if aforementioned common sense gave even a passing thought to where the ducklings would bloom and grow. No. It just saw two fuzzy yellow, beady-eyed, flappy-footed creatures and thought, ‘Must have!’

We kept them in a basket lined with newspaper and gave them crumbs of bread and water. The very same night, common sense had a heart attack when it realized that the ducklings were VERY demanding and made a LOT of noise.

But as with all disasters, one quickly learns to cope, and the brain shuts down in self defense. One even urges one’s daughter to think of suitable names for the new pets. And so it came to be that 5-yr old Amu decisively pronounced the bigger one to be Apple and the smaller one to be Cherry, her two favourite fruits at the time.

Apple was the better looking of the two ducklings. Cherry always looked duller, more woebegone. Who knew how to figure out their respective genders.

The idea was for little Amu to learn how to take care of little animals, and she did, dutifully chopping up slices of bread into bite-size pieces for baby duck beaks to tackle. It was a delight to watch them gobble and drink so feistily! But Amu had school and homework and had to go to bed early, and the ducklings grew louder and chirped incessantly if they lost sight of any of us. So I ended up spending more time with them than Amu. They grew pretty fast too, and within days, the basket could no longer contain their curious souls. They quickly learnt to jump out of there and run around our tiny apartment, Apple the venturesome one and Cherry following trepidatiously in his footsteps. If we wanted to fool them into thinking it was bedtime, we’d cover the basket with a cloth and turn off the lights and if we were lucky they’d settle down and go to sleep, cuddled against each other. But the slightest sound would wake them, and so we all learned to be really quiet at night lest we woke the little imps.

ducks

A month or so went by this way, during which we filled tubs of water and let them swim as long as they liked. I made them a bigger home under a wicker bench in our tiny 6th floor balcony. After experimenting with different types of food, it had been determined they loved chopped ribbons of green lettuce, so we always kept a supply in the house and Apple and Cherry devoured every last scrap of their treat with frequent sips from their water bowl.

I could never have known just how much of a bane those two cuties would become to my existence. All they did was eat, drink, poop (they even ate their own poop!) and generally make a huge mess of their balcony habitat. All I did was feed them, hang out with them, worry about their food if I had to go out for too many hours, and clean up after them twice a day. I began to dread coming home, and lingered too long in bed in the morning so I wouldn’t have to get up and chop more lettuce. The newspapers I used to line the floor of their makeshift cage would be sodden with water and green poop and it stank to high heaven. I’d have to don my gloves and wrap a scarf around my face before Operation Cleanup.

I had two T-rexes in my balcony!

A couple more months went by this way, Apple and Cherry were now 5 times their original size and our house smelt fowl. I thought wistfully of the days when the house smelt of fresh laundry. Huz and I had had a few guilt-ridden conversations about how to find a more natural environment for them. I finally understood why Hansel and Gretel’s stepmother could do what she did. The only place I could think of taking them to (and leaving them there) was Hill Park.

One of the oldest parks in Karachi, Hill Park has, at the centre of its undulating landscape, a large man-made pond. Full of geese. And…..ducks. People visiting the park would buy popcorn and feed the ducks and that would be the highlight of their excursion.

The more I thought about it, the more it seemed to make perfect sense. I imagined a kindly grown up duck taking Apple and Cherry under her generous wing and teaching them the ways of life in a ducky community. I pictured them finally working out the meaning of their lives as they took to the pond like…er…ducks to……hmm.

So it was that early one cool Sunday morning, we packed the ducklings into a wicker basket and set off for Hill Park, just to scope out the territory. We let Apple and Cherry out and they walked in wonder and bafflement in this strange new grassy environment. That was when I saw how scrawny and small and vulnerable they looked compared to those magnificent fully grown specimens of their own kind, who were all mostly sitting around the edge of the pond, preening in the morning sun. My hopes of finding an adoptive mommy-duck began to seem ludicrous.

The cross-specie maternal instinct kicked in when Huz pointed out a mean-looking tomcat gazing steadily at our fledgling duckies. No way could we leave them behind unprotected over here.

Amu scurried to grab the two and bundle them back into the picnic basket, and as we walked back to the car, my mind had already started thinking about Option #2.

Birdy

Of late I have been more prone to pick up my camera than my pen and have clicked a few pictures I’m going to start posting one by one on Mun-Zooms, my photo blog. 

I have also been busy OCDing, organizing and cleaning and dejunking cabinets, cupboards and drawers systematically.

As I dashed around the house, full of beans due to the Kundalini yoga my sister Fats made me do with her yesterday, I glimpsed a pigeon sitting on a ledge outside Amu’s window. It was trying to peer into the room with its beady orange eye, bobbing and tilting its head side to side. I couldn’t help stopping in my tracks and laughing a little, then scooted off to grab the camera from my room.

Just as I trained the lens on it and fiddled with the focus, wouldn’t you know it, it flapped its wings noisily and took off, so that particular pigeon lost its chance at being gawked at on my blog 🙂

Then I remembered noticing a pigeon through the side of an open window on our landing, nesting in the building duct and since I had a camera in my hand, I stepped out to see if it was still there.

Thankfully it was, so my need to capture a pigeon today was fulfilled. Here’s one of the pics I took.

Dear readers of Munira’s bubble, do subscribe to Mun-Zooms if you haven’t already. There’s not much to read there, just photos, so go ahead, don’t be afraid 😛 Plus, you’ll get to see the humungus version of this photo. FTW!

Junkie self-portrait

Lisa, over at the Satsumabug blog 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. 

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 🙂

The bag lady wins

Contents of a certain bedside table:

wallet

keys (house and car)

little plastic dish filled with assorted foreign coins mixed with dust

box with three or four little pouches containing various sets of gold and silver buttons set with semi-precious/precious stones

pouch full of keys to all the doors in our apartment, including a set that belongs to an ex-neighbour from our previous apartment

packet of razors

some unmentionables (due to PG nature of blog)

paper clips of varying shapes and sizes

strewn coins

visiting cards/registration cards/library cards

unworn, ill-fitting caps

assorted pencil cells for various remotes

a legal file (that is more precious than anything else in this house and cannot be stored anywhere except bedside table)

empty box of perfume

big unwieldy box containing unworn watch

miscellaneous travel pouches containing mostly useless things

lots of dust

a little cylindrical tin with red candle inside

While sorting out Huz’s bedside drawers, dusting, throwing away stuff, keeping things that needed to be kept, I came across this object you see featured in the pictures.

It’s a a cinnamon-scented candle that has been used a bit, but not entirely, and it made me think of a Valentines Day years ago, before Amu was even an involuntary twinkle in either of our eyes…

The day was going by unremarked (remember what I told you about Huz in this here post?) and I was debating whether to be mature and not care, or pouty and resentful at the lack of flowers.

After all, we DID scoff at traditional notions of love and romance, thumb our noses at candle-lit dinners, pooh-pooh consumerism and such.

But in my mind I went back to the days when the boys showered the girls with rose petals from the school roof…..heart-shaped cards were handed around…….someone gave someone a stuffed toy…..a long-stemmed rose……a mixed tape…..and oh the thrill of someone walking up to you to deliver a card sent by a secret admirer….

In a fit of nostalgia for days past, I felt compelled to walk into a store and buy something corny, just for the sake of it.

This little object caught my eye….and when I opened the lid I got a heady whiff of cinnamon.

Yum.

I paid for it, went home and gave it to Huz, feeling silly. Huz looked at me with a ‘but I didn’t get YOU anything’ expression, and as a result, I felt justified in feeling righteous and indignant.

Awkward.

Fifteen years later, I pick up the rusted little candle container, take off the lid to smell it, and realize it doesn’t even smell like cinnamon anymore.

Yet here it is, still in Huz’s drawer, even after so many years and I searched in my heart to see if I could find any sentimental attachment, or if Huz would miss it. The only thing redeeming it was that it had just been around for so long.

And so, in a fit of feng shui, I tossed it.

Then I finished organizing the drawer and beamed at the clean-ness of it all. I usually leave his crap alone until some years go by or until my innate obsessive-compulsiveness vanquishes his protective paranoia.

Later that night, as I was about to turn off the light and crawl into bed, my eye caught sight of the candle lying amidst the other junk I had thrown into the dustbin.

I thought of it being taken away by the jamadaar the next day and dumped along with all kinds of other horrible refuse in some garbage heap somewhere…

Nope, couldn’t do it.

If it managed to stick around fifteen years, it could very well stick around for another fifteen. 🙂

Happy VD all you lovely people!

A friend posted this song the other day and I just loved watching and listening to it, firstly because there’s something very cool about people who can just sit on a sofa and strum a guitar (not to mention play riffs!) and belt out a song sung by the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and make it their own.

And there’s something so charming about a man singing about longing and love.

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.

Monday

Ok, I admit I’ve been very lazy and uninspired for the last few weeks, not least when it came to blogging.

I have been neglecting my plants, doing only the barest minimum to keep them alive, and sometimes not even that. I DID finally wash ALL the clothes accumulating in the various laundry baskets though, and that’s saying something!

I have clothes to stitch by default because my favourite tailor is playing hard to get, and I really need an autumn infusion in my wardrobe, which seems woefully bare when I deludedly open the door, thinking perhaps I might magically find something nice to wear that I may have overlooked the last time I opened that door.

But I have not felt inspired to stitch, though the cloth is beautiful and the trimmings match. I can’t be bothered to ‘apply’ myself, if you catch my drift.

Is this what laziness is all about? Or is there more to this torpor….

I need to think about clothes for an upcoming wedding in the family, but going shopping and deciding on fabrics and colours seems like too much work. I’m putting it off, knowing full well that as the time draws ever closer I’m setting myself up to freak out because Amu and I will have nothing fabulous to wear and we will feel like the poor relatives.

Many of you who have followed my blog from the beginning will be aware of the existence of a room in my house that was beginning to feel like a black hole. To cut a long story short, we decided to revamp that room, relocate all our stuff, give away anything we didn’t need anymore and turn that room into a nice cosy and inviting sitting room where we could entertain friends/guests.

First we got the flooring done. We kept it cheap by using vinyl instead of wood, but the effect is similar so it turned out great. Then we had to redo the lighting, to create a nicer ambience.

The walls had to be painted next, and the ceiling fan needed to be scraped and painted again, because we live near the sea and the moist air wreaks havoc with rustable objects.

Furnishings and accessories need to be done now, and though a part of me wants to get my teeth into that, I can’t be pushed to go out, visit shops, balk at the prices of things, be terrified of making a commitment, spend a lot of money…..and not be happy with the end result.

I often make bad decisions, then live with them, a part of me suffering in silence, a part of me in denial at having made a bad choice.

So anyway, that’s some work in progress which will obviously take some time to put together for that stylish magazine-y look that I would like to achieve (without spending too much.)

Can’t go shopping today anyway, everything is closed, including schools, because Nusrat Bhutto passed away. The event made Zahooran sad yesterday, who woke up with a sense of foreboding. She often feels like this just before someone dies.

In the meantime, since I am not only lazy but also very disorganized, I started cooking lunch at a quarter to two because I was distracted by Facebook earlier, and since we bought some very expensive mutton yesterday I decided to give it special treatment by making Punjabi yakhni pulao.

When I put the meat to boil along with ginger, garlic and a whole packet of Shan Punjabi yakhni pulao masala, Huz wandered in, following the smell with his nose, saying ‘What’s this? Smells good.’

Then he came for a closer whiff.

‘Actually, it smells like you’re cooking brain.’

I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing, considering brains make him squeamish.

‘Hmmm….’ said I.

Then Amu walked into the kitchen, saying ‘Why does it smell like fish? No wait, it smells like blood.’

I was left a bit speechless. And also a bit worried. It IS 600 rupees worth of meat after all!

It’s 4:30 now, and the rice still has a little time to go before it is ready, I think there was something wrong with the recipe written on the back of the box, so I modified a few things. There’s no way you can cook 6 cups of rice in just two cups of meat stock…….

There’s a jug full of sweet lassi waiting in the freezer though.

And I will say again here, if I have not already said it before……..my family is very patient 🙂

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  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 😛

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 🙂

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.

browny
olive-y

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.

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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 🙂

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 😛 )

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.

turquoise
bottle green
aquamarine
glass
dotty
brown
orange
yellow
watery

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

Sensations in my body right now

Today’s writing prompt prompted me to write, only because my body has run such a gamut of sensations all evening.

And anyone who knows me knows how descriptive I can get.

It started with a heavy feeling in my head, (which is a natural consequence of fasting) around 2 hours before the Maghrib call for prayer, the time Amu and I wait for in anticpation and spend a little bit of time preparing for.

It has been four days since Zahooran’s untoward departure, and after ignoring it all this time I vowed last night to do some housework today. Even though I knew it would make me expend lots of energy and make me very thirsty indeed. But I ignored the hunger cramps and stopped myself from dreaming of a cold glass of water as I vacuumed and washed and mopped, sweaty and dehydrated. I fought the lethargy I knew would creep in and take hold of me if I stopped working…..it’s so easy to curl up with a book when you’re low on energy, then doze off….

A shower set me right, refreshing me from the outside, and a little snuggle in Huz’s arms soothed my head, as it always does.

I wore a bright pink shirt (the color is such a pick-me-up) with my baggy brown fisherman’s trousers from Bangkok, and I marched into the kitchen to chop pears, mangoes, bananas and grapes and apples for a delicious fruit salad, whipped up a batter of gram flour and spices for aaloo pakoras (potato fritters) and made huge glasses of Rooh Afza with lemon. The perfect iftaar in Ramadan.

We prayed, then took a little pinch of salt to break our fast and then….it was time to eat and drink.

I can’t describe the euphoria I feel as I take that first sip of cool, sweet-sour sherbet, the first bite of ketchup-dipped pakora, perfectly crisp on the outside…..soft potato inside. We’re silent as we slowly but inexorably munch our way through a whole plate of these, sipping our drink, feeling the food in our tummies after 14 and a half hours of nothing, letting the endorphins kick in.

The fruit salad tastes fresh and varied in its multiple sweetnesses, so much healthier than the pakoras, but hey, we deserve a bit of decadence too. I focus on how good it all tastes, and feel a bit numb and brain-dead, which is a signal from my brain to pour myself a mug of hot, strong, sweet tea, that delivers a kick like nothing else can. And I feel my body flooding with joy…

Tea. The one thing I crave in the evening. Gets me out of a stupor in a jiffy.

It’s strange that I hate fasting, yet I love how great it feels when I stop. There is no other way of experiencing this. You can only feel it when you have purposely deprived yourself. I’m not a religious person, and I don’t feel holy or spiritual, but I fast because it is a tradition. I fast because I have been culturally conditioned to do so.

And I sure as hell feel good when I stop.

The ‘Yes! I like this!’ blog award goes to….

I’m tickled pink, not to mention terribly flattered and honoured to have received this today:

Yippee!! Thank you once again Alan (aka Single Malt Monkey) for deeming me a deserving recipient 🙂

The rules of this particular award were as follows:

1. Thank and link to the person who nominated you.
2. Share seven random facts about yourself.
3. Pass the award along to 15 deserving blog buddies.
4. Contact those buddies to congratulate them.

Okay, so the first one is taken care of. Now to share seven random facts about myself…*cough* This won’t be easy, but…..here goes….
1. When I was in my teens, I was struck by a strange feeling of regret as I contemplated the notion that I’ll never get to meet all the gazillions of people co-habiting planet Earth with me. It actually made my heart sink.
2. These days I’m seriously thinking about trying out each and every recipe from my new Potato  Cookbook that I bought for a bargain price of Rs 250 from a second-hand bookshop. (it’s in great shape too!) We’re talking 240 recipes, my friend. Have already made three things from it, a) spanish tortilla; b) hash browns; c) potato and mixed vegetable salad with lemon mayonnaise. They all turned out great, though I varied some of the ingredients according to availability..
3. I love that my ability and penchant for writing led me to blogging, an avenue for sharing my thoughts, rants and experiences with so many people OTHER than my immediate circle of acquaintance. I have a greater sense of community here than in my real life…
4. I think my personality encourages people to confide in me. Sometimes a tad more than they should…
5. Animals are my favourite people. Especially kittens and puppies.
6. If there is something I wish for more than anything, it is to live in a world where there is no need to have a system of beliefs…
7. I am more comfortable in the virtual world than the real world.
Phew. I think my random facts aren’t as random as I’d like them to be.
Moving on!
Goody, here comes the fun part.This is where I pass the award along to 15 deserving blog buddies. Admittedly, some of them can’t be considered ‘buddies’, so let’s just say they’re bloggers whose blogs I have subscribed to thus far in my blogging career, and/or whose sites I find myself drawn to perusing. Some of them I love because they’re just a pleasure to read. Others are great because I learn something from them…still others inject some humour into my day or provide beautiful images that inspire me to pick up my camera as well. Whatever the case, these are my besties, so by all means give them a look-see…
1. Single Malt Monkey, I mention him first as it is because of him I’m passing on the award 🙂 SMM is a multi-talented person, currently dabbling in painting, but who loves poetry and literature, photography, and believe it or not, actually makes guitars. Needless to say, he’s big on music too AND…he’s been FP’ed a few times.
2. H is for Happiness. I am so glad Harsha stumbled across my blog, and that I was led to hers as a consequence. H, as I call her, lives in Goa and has the dubious distinction of being my blogger soul sister. She loves to re-read her favourite books, plays cricket with her gorgeous son Ishaan, and laments the fact that Goa is such a darned tourist attraction! She is an amazing photographer, and loves Nature with a passion.
3. Gathering-just-a-bit-o moss is where my infinitely better half attempts not to make too little or too much sense. I have the right to reserve judgment on whether he makes ANY sense at all, nevertheless (and I’m not biased when I say) the guy is an incredibly kooky poet, loves to mock things in a seemingly intellectually subversive way (esp Sufism) and believes in keeping things short and sweet. ‘Nuff said.
4. Free Range , is Susan Orlean’s blog at The New Yorker where she muses about encounters in places with people and things. Including chickens. She’s a professional of course, and needs no publicity by me of all people, but I love her blog and want to share her with all of you.
5. Hortophile-My new garden blogs about…you guessed it…her garden. It is truly an awesome one. The woman has a seriously green thumb and believes in environmental responsibility…..and common sense. Not only do I learn a lot, I feel good just looking at her pictures and reading about the things she does. Very inspiring indeed.
6. Indigo Violet’s Blog is where you’ll find my ADHD friend Aarti. Found her through Harsha’s blog and really enjoy her rambling style, not to mention her psychological insights, her love for her multitudinous pets, and yes, her kooky sense of humour , conveyed amply by her choice of images. To know more about her, read her ‘About Indigo’…..the girl has joie de vivre!
7. The class factotum speaks, and this too as mostly staccato conversations with her husband. In her own words, she is ‘a gold digging, bon bon eating, soap opera watching housewife who lives off her wonderful used husband: Serious Honey, aka The Engineer.’
8. Open Lotus Garden wonders how much positive impact a single garden can make. A very inspiring and encouraging blog, not to mention wonderfully uplifting.
9.Not So Spanish is one of the most consistently cute blogs I have come across on WordPress. Rea writes about being a Canadian mom in Spain, her two kids and her husband and the funny things she sees around her adopted country. Amazingly dry sense of humour and wit. Love it!
10. Kristen Lamb’s Blog once again, needs no publicity, but if you’re a blogger/writer/social media fan, you seriously need to check out her blog. Great style, great advice, highly useful.
(holy crap! 5 more to go!)
11. Emjayandthem’s Blog. Ok, MJ is relatively new on my blogroll but I love her already. She is responsible for introducing me to the best pancake recipe EVER, but not only that, she missed Diana at the royal wedding as much as I did. I think I found her through Single Malt Monkey’s blog. Don’t you just love serendipity?
12. Mehreen Kasana. How could I forget her? She’s the funniest writer/doodler in the Pakistani blogosphere! The girl is rather famous already and needs no publicity, nevertheless, she  must be introduced to the uninitiated. She doesn’t post very often, but I make it a point to check what she’s been up to every once in a while.
13. Kala Kawa In his own words, he’s no expert. He just watches, reports…and bashes. Very good basher too! And a prominent member of the Pakistani twitterati. Very entertaining indeed.
14. The Karachi Walla will tell you anything you want to know and anywhere you want to go in The City by the Sea. Found him by chance while searching for pictures on the web, wondered who he was, and recently learned the world is a very small place indeed……I think he definitely deserves some publicity 🙂
15. Xeemarmar…..one of those blogs I just HAVE to visit, since it is co-written by two very lively and intelligent ladies from my hometown/community 🙂 The name is derived from Zimmarmar, a mountain in Yemen, a place held dear by both the writers for similar reasons….
Congratulations to all of you who won!! I shall now proceed to let you all know how amazingly lucky you are and bring your attention to this post unless you’re one of those intelligent few who had the good sense to subscribe to my blog.
Writing this has been such fun. It made me think about why I appreciate all of you as much as I do, and left me with a warm glowy feeling inside. I’m sure y’all feel the radiations….don’tcha? Don’tcha??
 Wokay then, time to publish this.

Courtyard lovelies!

Got this when it was only yea high…

Champa

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 🙂 I guess the summer heat got to it!

Cactus

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 😛

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 🙂

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! 😀

Tomato!

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. 😀

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 🙂

Can’t wait to eat ’em!

Me? Work? Uh…

It has now been a few months over a year since I started blogging, and as usual, I let an anniversary go by unmarked. Couldn’t be bothered to make a fuss I suppose.

I can’t really recall why I started this blog, only that Huz egged me into it. It’s not that I think of myself as a big fat writer or anything. Just big and fat perhaps. But that’s probably my body dysmorphia manifesting itself…

I guess I started writing to have something to do with my time. Not that I’m an idle person, that wouldn’t be true…

I do a lot of stuff that doesn’t exactly have anything to do with ‘making a living’. Which makes me wonder, is making a living the only thing that substantiates one’s life? What gives a ‘working’ person superiority over a ‘non-working’ person? Does the fact that I’m a ‘non-working’ person make me, in fact, a ‘non-working’ person?

‘What is it that you do?’, I’m often asked, and frankly, this question always stumps me. I usually start babbling some nonsense or other so as to baffle the questioner, when all I really want to do is punch the person in the face. The reason, I suppose, is because I hate being categorized. I don’t want to be one thing or another. Just because I’m someone’s wife and don’t go out to work doesn’t make me a ‘housewife’.

Yes, I am a wife. Yes, I am a mom. No, I don’t have a job. But a lady of leisure? Hell no.

I digress from my original train of thought, but I find I have ventured into saying something else that needs to be said. But I’ll get back to that later. First, let me make the point I was trying to make.

No, I’m not an aspiring writer. I just did well in English Language at school, and enjoyed writing essays. A lot. And I enjoyed reading. A lot.

So I’m doing now, what I used to love doing when I was way younger, and with no desire to take it any further than what and where it is. Does that make me unambitious?

I’m really glad to have a bunch of people (you guys who’re reading this!) who read what I have to say….some of you respond to me and leave a comment, or ‘like’ what I write, which gratifies me no end.

But writing this blog had nothing to do with ‘improving’ myself, or my style of writing or whatever. I just said what I felt needed to be said. Nothing earth-shattering or anything. Just, you know, stuff that I felt like articulating somewhere convenient. So, if a friend tells me, ‘Hey, I like your blog…you’ve really improved from the stuff you wrote earlier’, I’m left with mixed feelings. On the one hand I feel warm and fuzzy….on the other, I feel kinda let down.

I never wrote to be judged for my writing. Any comments like that just leave me feeling hollow, and a bit offended. I never asked for an opinion!

Then again, isn’t that what a blog is about? Aren’t my musings up for inspection?

Phew, okay now, my point has been made. See? Nothing earth-shattering at all.

So to get back to that other train of thought, no, I don’t consider myself to be a ‘housewife’. And I’m definitely not an ‘aunty’, though that’s what Amu’s friends call me, something that took a while getting used to. Does that mean I’m in denial?

I won’t bother answering that, and neither should you, if you know what’s good for you 😉

The fact is, there are a lot of things I do, which I don’t let anyone else do for me. I cook, I drive, I wash, I sew, I garden, I move heavy furniture, I paint, I write, I visit, I do groceries, and a whole bunch of things that glue our tiny little household together. And through all these things that I do (that I don’t get paid for…but I should!) I try to find time to do some fun things too. I get tired though. I love my alone time. I like to sit some place quiet and just…think. Look at my plants. Admire the sky. Think of ways to prettify the house. I don’t always appreciate being invited out, because it makes me stop doing all the things I do to pay attention to how I look, my hair, my clothes, my face, and it makes me think, life is a lot of work.

It makes me think, one works, just to stay on top of things, and in the end is known only as someone who doesn’t….you know….’work’.

Commissioned work :)

A friend asked me to make her something for a bare wall in her sitting room. She wanted something floral. So I searched for images to find something I could work with and this is what I found.

And this is what I did with it…..

signed and sealed

It’s a 2’x2 1/2′ canvas, worked with oil pastels. She and her husband wanted lots of orange and yellow in it, very different from the cool blue-y sketch I did at first. I sure hope she likes it. Fingers crossed. Now to get it framed 🙂

(This post is dedicated to the Single Malt Monkey) 🙂

Of insecurity, kids, a school bus, and responsibility.

Perhaps it is an indictment of our times, that there is now barbed wire, raised walls, huge concrete slabs near the gates and a gunman on the roof. Fire drills have given way to bomb drills at the old campus.

After the terrorist attack on a university in Islamabad in October 2009, panic and fear gripped the hearts and minds of school administrations AND parent bodies alike. I can only speak for Karachi, since I live here, but I would imagine there being a similar scenario in all the major cities of Pakistan.

This was terrorism taken to an all-new level, a hitherto uncharted one. There was a mad scramble for an appropriate response, resulting in the mass fortification of virtually all the prominent schools and colleges in the city.

Speaking of the school Amu goes to, located in the heart of the busiest commercial district of Karachi, the transformation of the boundary wall of a century-old institution makes my heart sink everytime I see it. The iron-grill gate through which you could see the quaint bougainvillea-covered archway in the distance, and children milling about at home-time is a thing of the past. Now there’s a tall wooden impervious gate, with a heavily garrisoned sidegate through which anyone wishing to enter or leave the school must pass. The friendly chowkidar who knew everyone, has been replaced by several uniformed security guards, who check for school ID cards, and give our purses the once-over with a scanning device. The sidewalk outside the school has been roped off, so pedestrians are forced to walk on the road. Everyone is suspect. Even the alleged parents of the kids in the school!

But far be it from me to bore you with details of the security situation in the city, the larger bane of our existence. I am here today to talk about something called Bus Duty…..which is a tiny speck on a microcosmic level, as far as banes of existence go.

AN EXPLANATION

A bunch of parents from the school parent body put their heads together and came up with a plan to simplify their own lives, and consequently, the lives of a bigger bunch of parents. The result? An answer to all our commuting problems in this busy trafficky city around home-time, and the reduction of a considerable number of cars on the streets. The answer, dear friends, is a privately chartered bus system.

Now this is no ordinary bus system. It is not monitored by the school, but by the parents themselves. The idea is simple enough you’d say….but there’s a catch…

Every parent whose child is fortunate enough to get on the bus MUST VOLUNTEER FOR BUS DUTY!

The basic premise of bus duty is, and this stems from the first sentence of this post, that the bus our children ride in to and from school should never be unsupervised. Anything can happen in this unpredictable city to a bus full of kids, and though an unarmed, untrained-for-combat-parent might be an unsuitable match for armed kidnappers, or a crazed suicide bomber, or a street riot gone amok, at least they can save the kids from themselves. Or so we think.

I’ll skip the details of how the system works, and how the coordinators (yours truly being one) manage to make rosters, distribute them AND make sure the designated parent turns up for duty in the morning AND the afternoon, as well as pay up for the service on time. Fast-forward to one day every month where I myself have to be the parent on board…

Being a closet anthropologist, (an uncertified one at that), riding on a bus full of 12-13 yr olds provides great opportunities for observing the behavioural patterns of these overgrown midgets. After months of careful observation, I have come to the conclusion that the male of the species are way more entertaining than the females, who prefer riding in the back of the bus and seem to be content to plug their ears with I-Pods and/or nibble nonchalantly on raspberry ice lollies, their tongues crimson with food color.

An erstwhile president’s granddaughter climbs aboard, an anonymous rider amongst civilians, and makes her way to the back with her lolly. The boys occupy the middle and the front and their preferred choice of snack is potato chips. The quiet boys sit in the front, out of the way of the rowdier, more vocal boys. According to Amu, none of the boys are worthy of the attention of the girls, except perhaps Naqvi, who seems to have a thing for one of the girls in the back. I hear his side-kick Byram has a secret crush on Amu. I’m thrilled to know this, since I have a secret crush on Byram, as he always greets me when he sees me and offers me a chip. He is the cutest, most polite boy on the bus, yet has the craziest sense of humour. The other day, he had somehow managed to wriggle his arms out of his sleeves, tied the sleeves to the back, and was jumping out from behind seats to try and scare the wits out of everyone who boarded the bus, as the weird armless bogey-man. Go figure. Amu just rolls her eyes, whereas I can’t stop giggling.

I take attendance and tick off names one by one, making note of the kids who weren’t present and verifying their whereabouts. The boys helpfully give me information.

As the bus rolls out of middle school, the quiet boys are absorbed in solving their Rubiks cubes. Arham is especially good at it, and I watch, enthralled, as he asks Hasan to mess it up just so he can tackle it ferociously and solve it within minutes.

Adil and Asad are embroiled in a seat fight that escalates into a water fight. I’m scared some of it will get flung my way. The driver turns around and shouts something in Pushto-accented Urdu to the tune of something like ‘Shut up and sit down!!!’, while glaring accusingly at ME, the supposedly responsible Parent On Board. Little does he know how helpless and ineffectual my protests are against the single-minded revenge-propelled rowdiness of the trouble-makers. But I’m scared the driver might become an unstable one if he flies into a rage, and when Hasham and Nisar start egging Adil and Asad to get nastier, I decide to pull the Powerful Adult card. My timid protest turns into an authoritative yell and I tell the boys to sit down IMMEDIATELY or I would be writing emails to ALL their parents telling them exactly how badly-behaved their kids were and that they would get into serious trouble if I got them kicked off the bus. I half-expected them to humiliate me in the eyes of the girls by ignoring me completely and carrying on, so imagine my surprise when they lapsed into submission. They actually looked scared!

Feeling smug, I resume the reading of my book, though I can’t focus too well due to all that mental patting myself on the back, and had to stifle my smile. The problem is, how to maintain the facade of Powerful Adult, when the chastised boys still have the ability to make me burst into chuckles at their conversation? Hasham says to the mono-browed Asad, ‘Look at your EYEbrows, dude’, to which Asad’s lightning response is, ‘Look at your FACE, dude.’

Then they launch into some conversation that I don’t bother to follow, until I hear the f-word being used repeatedly by the thug of the group, Asad. I glance towards the boys from the corner of my eye and catch Hasham’s furtive look in my direction. He whispers loudly to Asad to shut the f— up, ‘Aunty’ can hear everything. To that, I look up and reply ‘Yes, she can, and she’s going to mention the bad language in her email too!’. I look around to see if the girls were listening and am relieved to see them still in their musical states of oblivion. It seems they really couldn’t care less!

Nisar, with a macabre sense of humour quips he is an orphan, so there is no point in writing to his parents. I tell him I’d be sure to mention what he said in my email to his parents.

I continue to read my book, catching snippets of more inappropriate conversation amongst the boys, and I wonder how much of this I could interfere with. I don’t want to be a tyrannical, over-vigilant parent. But it makes me think about peer groups, and education, and how little I can protect my daughter from hearing things I’m not sure I want her to hear….at least not just yet…..from people her own age. It’s easy to see the power struggles between the boys, and the need to dominate and impress. All of them have a strong need to be accepted, the more insecure they are the harder they try, and I recognize this as I quietly observe, and the child in me empathizes. But their humour is so basic and so diabolically childish, anybody would laugh.

I know most of the parents grumble about Bus Duty and what a chore it is, but we insist it is important for the safety of our kids. I can’t help wondering though, how much we think we can protect our children from.

I have a fair suspicion the real dangers lie inside, not outside……. 🙂