don’t mean to be pretentious or anything, but…..

Yes, two months went by without a peep on my blog. I did continue to read posts by my multitudinous bloggy friends though, sometimes leaving a comment, sometimes not.

As for me, I just felt I didn’t have any words, though sometimes my mind would register something as blogworthy, yet writing about anything seemed superfluous, not to mention time-consuming. I guess I was allowing myself to revel in laziness and not beating myself up about it.

My shoulder/neck problems stemmed from over-usage of my laptop. Even the physiotherapist told me this. And of course, it should have been obvious that I needed time off from sitting propped on an elbow while lying in bed.

So I ended up reading a lot, sitting up straight, wearing my reading glasses. Finally finished ‘The Corrections’ (by Jonathan Franzen) and I have to say it was absolutely brilliant. It took me a long time to read it, firstly because it is more than 700 pages long, and secondly because it was having a strange intense effect on me. It was just that good. Far be it from me to give you a book review at this point though. Just, trust me on this….read the book if you can. You listening Harsha? πŸ™‚

I’m happy to report a most strange yet delightful series of coincidences too, the first of which is this.

Since some time last year (or perhaps even the year before) I have been feeling the urge to read Urdu. You might think it strange that I’d say something like this, being a Pakistani, having lived here all my life, speaking the language. You’d think I must have readΒ Urdu books all my life, but no, that is not the case. My knowledge of Urdu writers and poets amounts to a big fat zero. This is a sad consequence of having studied under the Cambridge board of education.

I have grown up reading English literature only. Perhaps that is why I have always felt like an alien, an outsider in my own country. I don’t/can’t identify completely with the greater Pakistani/subcontinental culture, observing things around me with somewhat of a sense of detachment..it never helped that I belong to a communal sect that encouraged the speaking of Gujarati over Urdu, which was doomed for me to be not a second language, but a third language. It didn’t matter while I was growing up, except that essays in Urdu didn’t exactly trip off my tongue, but I felt a sense of quaintness in being perceived as something other than an Urdu-speaker, just by the way I pronounced the Urdu ‘r’…..the one with the ‘toi’ on top. I never got that right until someone pointed it out to me, and since then I’ve made an effort to pronounce it correctly.

So you see dear readers, I live in a bubble within a bubble. But I am mesmerised by the fluidity, the ease, and the complete unselfconscious assurance with which pure Urdu speakers wax eloquent. I know I can never be like them, but despite the tiny eye-straining font, and my debilitating lack of understanding of a lot of Urdu words, Project 2012 was to educate myself in my own language and I would do so by starting off reading the Mantonama, penned by the controversial and highly acclaimed Saadat Hasan Manto. (A good friend was kind enough to loan me his copy πŸ™‚ )Β 

Mantonama is a compilation of short stories and happens to be the first proper Urdu book I have ever read after the textbooks we did at school. I have already read a few stories and been surprised at the ease with which I could read them. I didn’t need to consult the dictionary even once!

But here’s the strange coincidence. 2012 has been declared the Year of Manto and marks the centenary of Manto’s birth, celebrated not just in Pakistan but also in India.

I had no clue about this when I decided to start my Urdu book-reading project with one of his books. πŸ™‚Β 

Perhaps listening to the articulate and erudite Ayesha Jalal, Manto’s niece, at the Karachi Literature Festival earlier this year had something to do with piquing my interest further, because really, I didn’t know much about Manto or his style of writing, or his subject matter, or even the fact that he was prosecuted for writing ‘obscene’ things. Ayesha Jalal says ‘He wrote what he saw, and took no sides.’

I was warned by my friend that reading Manto will have a strange effect on me and he was right. After picking my way through a few stories, I was decidedly disturbed.

I had to lay the book aside for a bit, and pick up another book that I thought looked intriguing, and was also being highly acclaimed these days in literary circles.

‘The Wandering Falcon’ has been written by Jamil Ahmad, an 80-plus year old man. Here’s something about him.

It was a relatively quick read, being only 180 pages long, but it had my imagination completely captivated. I still feel in thrall of the harsh beauty of the world he has described in his book, a world not too far from my own….

The Wandering Falcon reads almost like a collection of short stories too, woven through with the story of Tor Baz, an orphaned boy, who wanders nomadically through the borderland between Pakistan and Afghanistan, those forbidding tribal areas that seem to have defied all attempts at being governed.

This book is a must read. It is written simply, but with attention to detail, and is sure to leave a lasting impression on your mind. I can’t recommend it enough!!Β 

And now that I am done with it, I shall go back to reading Manto…..with perhaps a bit of Jaun Elia thrown in to liven things up a bit. Maybe there will come a day when I’m very very old, that I shall be able to quote poetry with flair and construct complex sentences and speak them the way they should be spoken.

Jazzing with colour!

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

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

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

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

Here is evidence of her work around my house….

this is a ceramic bowl she found in a flea market and painted a border to. it was just a plain blue bowl before this! i had to buy it off her when i saw it at her house because i couldn't take my eyes off it πŸ™‚
a tiny, gorgeously painted little wooden thingy I fell in love with too.
i asked Fatu to design a circular mirror for Amu, and this is what she came up with. I think she did a spectacular job, and it goes beautifully in Amu's room πŸ™‚
after the stupendous success of the blue mirror, I felt like putting mirrors everywhere, so I asked Fatu to make another one but with a different colour scheme. this one seems to be in a state of flux, as it has switched 3 places already and i'm seriously thinking of relocating it again. or maybe i'll ask her to make me yet another one. can't help it if i like circular mirrors can I?
this is supposed to be a keychain hanger and is one of the oldest of Fatu's things around my house. it belongs in my kitchen and I hang an assortment of dusters on it πŸ™‚
this is supposed to be a covered dustbin, but then I thought it was too pretty for trash. so we use it as something to store wires and camera paraphernalia and various other thingamajigs
a lovely compartmentalized jewellery box that prettifies my dresser πŸ™‚
this little wooden box was once part of a toy. Fatu painted it for me a long time ago and I use it as a place to store my most used recipes wriiten on squares of card paper πŸ™‚
plain, stained Thai trays, rejuvenated. for free! πŸ˜€
and a rack for newspapers...

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

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

who says we can't scrub our feet with something pretty?
or wear pretty, painted wooden clogs in the bathroom? (trademark Fatu! they sell like hot cakes)
wooden trestles and spreads to match! (these sell like hotcakes too!)
the artist is not above painting her own clothes as well πŸ™‚
corner of a table, and a painted trunk in the background...
freshly painted keychain hangers
big, all-accomodating trays πŸ™‚
everything on this shelf is for sale πŸ™‚ so let me know if you like anything.
wooden bowls and spoons, renovated πŸ™‚
an assortment of colourful keychains
and candlestick holders...
handmade bags, designed and stitched entirely by Fatu herself. I have lost count of the hundreds she has made and sold!

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

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

She’ll love to sell you her stuff πŸ™‚

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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All time favorites-Coke Studio

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

These are the ones that immediately sprang to mind.

Josh and Shafqat Amanat Ali (Mahi Ve)

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

Atif Aslam (Mai Ni)

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

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

Arif Lohar and Meesha Shafi (Alif Allah)

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

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

Zeb and Haniya (Bibi Sanam Janem)

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

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

Zeb and Haniya (Nazar Eyle)

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

Beautifully sung by Zeb.

Meesha Shafi (Chori chori)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And this was the place we were seeking there…

Jeddah ice cream and falooda

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

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

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

dahi baray in Tah's elegant hand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Karachi Port Trust by night....
KPT.....1918.

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

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

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

Sigh.

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

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

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

So here goes.

Mizraab

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

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

Sanam Marvi

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

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

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

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

Ataullah Khan Isakhelvi

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

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

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

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

Fareed Ayaz and Abu Muhammad

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

Kaavish

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

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

Hope you enjoyed the various sounds folks. That’s a wrap πŸ™‚

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