Thursday, October 02, 2014

RAW LIFE (Episode 100)

He looked at her in a surveying manner, like perhaps he was talking to her in his mind and she was reacting to what he was saying and he didn’t need to really say it out loud to watch how the conversation would unfold. He turned to his pregnant wife then and watched her as she popped yet another chewy strawberry flavoured acidity tablet in her mouth and munched on it furiously while also in a deep conversation with one of her girlfriends next to her about whether or not baby girls can be seen wearing blue. He stroked her cheek endearingly and she acknowledged it by patting his knee, still too deep in a discussion about blues and pinks to tear her eyes away from her friend.
He turned back to Kay then and assessed her some more.
“I think your New Year resolution should be to have an open mind.”
N, who was watching, stifled a guffaw and upon an amused stare from Kay explained the rude noise;
“Its’ not about having an open mind- its about deciding what you want and stop waiting around for it to walk into your life. You need to get out there and make an effort- who do you hang out with anyway these days? Its certainly not us, we hardly see you.”
Kay winced at that. She had lost touch with a few good friends that year because she had been too caught up with work to make it to a number of plans. The fact was that since she returned to Karachi from New York, she had had her blinders on and work was all she did. A plan made two months before she got on that plane- to be so swamped with commitments and projects that she wouldn’t miss her life in New York once she was back in Karachi. In retrospect, 3 full time careers and one-year later- her plan had worked. Perhaps too well.

Friday, February 03, 2012

The Return 2012

This entry has been inspired by an incredibly touching email sent to me today by U.K.J. Your words meant a lot and I shall reply soon.

As you may have noticed, I stopped writing this blog several months ago. 9 months ago to be exact. While I did not have a baby, life did alter immensely and in a weird almost poetic way, one can say indeed, a new life was born. That life was mine.
In retrospect, it can be said I stopped writing because whereas in the past I had felt my writing helped me figure myself out, it had then begun to hold me back as well. 9 months ago I stopped wanted to ‘figure it all out’, I stopped wanting to justify me to myself- I simply wanted to do without having to think about doing anything and everything I did. As wrong as this may sound to some, immediate or even shortly delayed reflection on ones decisions or acts or even behavior at times is a life lived with great caution. I have to admit that for the first time in my life I wanted to feel inhibited. That inhibition in itself is a selfish act, perhaps- but there comes a certain time in certain people’s lives when there is an unexplainable need to just BE and only they can understand what I am talking about.
The nearly three years I spent in New York was that period of inhibition for me- and so dear and sacred was this time and experience and so personal that, for the most part, I did not want to share it with anyone at all.

Now, 9 months later from when I blogged last and exactly 4 weeks ago, I moved back to Karachi. I moved back, a new person and this new person wants to share.
And so, once again,
Raw Life is officially alive.


Tuesday, April 05, 2011

hara peela hara peela hara peela

You know,
Everyone else has said it so well and I don’t think I could so a better job of saying it myself. However, I cannot remember a time since 9/11 I have seen my country unite under one flag, the way I did in this Cricket World Cup. I have read and followed blogs and newspapers and all sorts of post match analysis by well known and lesser known writers- even the most cynical ones (the ones who write all sorts of trash about how Pakistan is a failed state, listing off their carefully written check list of reasons) as well as the eternal optimists (the ones who write nauseatingly sweet stuff praising Pakistan for the minutest of achievements saying how its just a misunderstood country) have all come to the same conclusions; Afridi brought our nation together and made Pakistan grow up and mature in last 6 weeks more than it has in over 60 years.
Some have said, “don’t get carried away- Pakistan still has serious problems.”
No shit Sherlocks. We really do not need to be reminded of that- trust me, we know.
But for now let’s revel in the moment of finally becoming one united nation.

Congratulations Pakistan. This is our time.

some stuff i loved:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My gal Sam.


Last year Al announced her decision to marry F. Since then, a LOT has happened in the lives of us best friends. So while Al rode off into the Middle Eastern sunset with her prince charming, Sai raised a little boy, Ash dedicated herself to her two little girls, M focused on a joint career and business with her mr right, it left us four single girls to continue to battle with our curses. How we battled only we know. I have to admit I battled the least, not having chosen anyone from the pool of “wrong” recently I was fairly safe. For me, I suppose the worst that could be said was that I suffered the curse of being single. Some would say that alone is a cruel joke. But I was single in New York, having the time of my life. But for my other three girls, the curse was brutal to them- is brutal to them in a bittersweet kind of way.
So now I’ll tell you about my gal Sam. She gave her heart to a boy when we were just 16 or 17. Nine years later and after many many ups and downs, she still felt the same way about him and he seemed to feel the same way about her too. The curse was playing a cruel game with them. It was never going to let them end up together.
The curse won.
It was a bitter and sad end to what I will declare was true love for however long it lasted and however terribly it ended. But if the curse really did win, how would one explain her ecstasy a year later, one month ago, when she told me she finally met the man she wanted to be with forever. A man. Not a boy.

To be honest I was not completely on board. I thought the curse was just playing evil tricks with her. I asked her time and again if she was sure. I could not help thinking that the curse had disguised itself and was coming around to tease her and go for a double blow - the ultimate thing to do because it was so pissed at Al, Sai, M and Ash for beating it down. It was coming after Sam with turbo power.
It was not until I believed Sam was truly and completely happy with her decision that I realized what had happened. The curse indeed had won the first time around in the game with Sam but she is a force to be reckoned with. She cannot be crushed. She got right back up looked the curse in the eye and first said, “screw you” and then, “take that”. I can almost hear the curse whimpering away, injured and insulted that it failed yet another friend after it came so close to nearly destroying one of us.
What the curse does not realize is that while it is individually trying to bring down each of us, all 8 of us, together, as a packaged deal are working to protect one another from it. Even though out of the three left now, two are not in the most practically ideal relationships but each of us know that, together, we have the strength to take this curse and shove it.
So in the spirit of Sam giving you the boot, we have just one thing left to say to you ‘B Curse’;


Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Between me and Karachi- thankyouverymuch-

It’s been a while. I know. But I finally have the guts to talk about what I have been working on in Grad school since last term. So let me start from the beginning. It was Jan 2010 and I had a terrible experience at the airport, which I briefly spoke about in one of my “return to new york” posts. 30 hours at Abu Dhabi airport is enough to drive anyone insane. I was ready to quit the States and Fulbright to be quite honest. Even School was going terribly in the sense that my work was just not getting through to the advisors and I did not know what more I could do.
For my last ditch effort I decided to take a class called Exploring Narrative in video. I figured getting back in touch with my filmmaking passions might kick start something inside me. When my prof. told us we had to have a final video project, either we make a film or something equivalent I knew at once I wanted to make something about Karachi.
Since I had always loved Kamila Shamsie’s Kartography and always wondered why nobody in Pakistan ever made a film out of it (Mehreen Jabbar? Hasan Zaidi?) I decided to do it myself. Not the whole book of course. There is only so much I could do on my own. So I wrote a screenplay around the part when Raheen has moved to New York and Karim is desperate to make her feel some remorse about the political tensions in Pakistan.
Long story short I never made the film. Something more original came from the whole experience though. Through several talks with my prof. (who actually kind of liked my script but felt I didn’t need Karim in it) I somehow ended up writing a video letter to Khizzy.
What the heck is a video letter?
It’s quite simple really. I would just write khizzy having a normal conversation the way I do about everything under the sun be it politics, opinions, my nephew, my issues in life, living in new york and comparing it to Karachi and just generally talking about Pakistan (etc.). I would record myself reading that letter and throw in some visuals that I wont get into details about right now.
Honestly, I had no idea what people would think of it. So when I showed it to my class of 20 and my prof. I was not expecting it to be liked and resonated with as much as it was!
I admit the first one was not too great though but since then and now with letter number 5 I feel I have come a long long way. The letters are about 15 minutes long each and I talk a lot!
Since then, I have shown the letters in all my critiques to several peers and one of them was even a Pakistani. Honestly, it was his opinion I most feared. This guy was one of us, he would tell me if he thought I was wrong in by the way I spoke of where we come from. I do not know why I fear that- especially because its my personal experience I’m talking about when I speak of Karachi. Why do I expect to be understood universally? Don’t artist step on toes all the time? Is my stream of consciousness and the way I speak in the video a valid thing?
But my Pakistani class fellow claims to love it. He really loved it. He said it really showed “us” and what “we” were like. “Our” kind. The kind that barely existed in the larger frame of Pakistan.
Still, I don’t have the guts to show it to you guys. The rest of the Pakistani’s.

Recently, I met an artist from Denmark. She saw two of the letters and told me I needed to turn it into a feature film; to put the 12 letters I intended to complete by the end of my program into one long film type of format. Another filmmaker who I met at a party made the same suggestion to me. They really seem to believe in my work. So why am I so afraid? This is not to say I do not believe in my own work…but I guess I am afraid of being wrongly judged.
Then something wonderful happened this Saturday. I went and saw Slackistan. Talk about everything coming together and resonating with a person. Okay, given that the film was about Islamabadi’s and we are nothing like them, I felt very close to the director artistically because in a different way he did with Islamabad what I was doing with Karachi. In a very very different way, we were similar. The difference was he had the guts to put it out there in a festival.

On a different note what I really liked about the movie was that he was not trying hard at all to show our kind of society. He could have totally overdone it by trying to show how liberal we are with the drinking and partying scenes in the movie, or how Islamic we are by not showing any of that at all or how modern we are by making girls wear clothes we’d never see people wear on the streets or how conservative we are by making the girls wear only shalwar kameez. But he did it all so tastefully that it was nothing short of charming.
The boy shares a glass of whiskey with his dad. It’s done.
The girl dramatically claims she would rather be a lesbian. It’s done.
Wannabe cool guy buys a condom. It’s done.
These things are done and he didn’t try and hide it.

He could have casted super models in the film but he went for the average joes and the non skinny girls instead, making them more likeable and relatable.
The dialogue was a good mix of English and Urdu (perhaps heavier on the English side which is exactly the case with us) but above all, it was sharp, witty and not overdone. I really looked for something to dislike about the film, some hole in it but nothing. Okay so there IS one hole. The font used in the film for some desi terms and some thoughts was terrible, but it can be ignored. Plus, only art students would pick up on that.
What I really really liked about the experience was the Q and A with the director.
Since the moview premiered in New York, aside from the desi crowd, some goras came as well. Their questions were obviously of a particular kind because they did not get a lot of what need not be explained to us desi’s.

“Why was there not much more discussion about the bombs and the bad political situation amongst the people in the movie?” was one question. Now the director’s answer could have veered towards pretentiousness but he was so savvy. It’s a part of life over there, he said. We are so used to it that we don’t feel the need to discuss it more than in passing over coffee.
Perfecto. This was it. He said it like it was.

“Why is there a distinct lack of parents in your film? It almost seems like the young people in the film have none.”
Parents and the relationship they have with the youth would have meant taking the film completely elsewhere, he said. Establishing the relationships between them would have meant explaining some of their behavior and the why they were the way they were.
Good answer. If you think about it, parents are sort of in the background when you freshly graduate and life is all about you and your friends and the nothingness you are up to. But I guess this is one of those things that would be obvious to just us.
“Do you feel like young people want to leave Pakistan these days?” another asked. Now the director could have ranted on about how patriotic he was and this and that but he simply said “yes.”
Sentiments and morale was low, people want to escape, and the situation is bad. Some choose to stay and some decide to leave. That is the reality, he said.
Last but not least, someone asked; “Are young people like this all over Pakistan?”
Now I really wanted to see what he would say about that.
Not at all, he said. This is just a pin pointed part of Islamabadi society. If he were to make a film about Lahore or Karachi it would have to be completely different just because of the sheer difference of pace in the other places. Islamabad is a city that always sleeps.
Good answer yet again.
I left the theatre feeling great. Finally someone had done what I had wanted someone to do. Make a film about us. No matter how non-existent we are in the larger frame of Pakistani’s, he made a film about people I could point to and say ‘see them, whatever you think or feel about them is not important, they are us’ (even if they were Islamabadi’s and I am a Karachiite).
I have more confidence in my own work now and I am more open to the idea of putting my video letters in a feature film format and just doing it.

Wish me luck people. This thesis just became larger than life.
Cheers ☺

Monday, September 06, 2010

Of failing and failure.

Everyone tells me I am quite crazy to go back home whenever a long holiday approaches. They ask me why I don’t travel to other exotic places like the Caribbean or Mexico or hey even the west coast. I really want to. I do. But honestly, when your country is 1/5th under water and both your sisters in their last leg of hard pregnancies and when you have grandparents aged 92 and 86 waiting to see you, not knowing if they will ever see you again, the heart isn’t wanting a cruise or craving an authentic taco. Not to mention not seeing your parents for 7 months. Or your nephew who you practically raised, the one who asks everyday if you are coming home “tomorrow”. I sound incredibly dramatic don’t i? That aside, nothing I have said is untrue. And so despite disapproving head shakes and “tsks” of apparent lost opportunities, I went home in August for three weeks.
A friend of mine asked me upon my return how I felt having been back home.
Sad. Happy. Disheartened. Proud. Broken. United. Hopeless. Faithful.
That is Karachi for you.
You watch the older apparently wiser politicians destroy it only to watch the younger passionate average kids try and fix it. You watch a natural disaster swallow your neighboring cities and you buck up and invade the streets and go yourself to provide relief because not trusting the government doesn’t mean you sit back and do nothing. You don’t listen when they officially ban you from celebrating your country’s independence day, instead you go celebrate the way it should be celebrated; by making a human chain around Schon circle proclaiming unity in hard times. You watch your president stroll in the country after 2 weeks into the nations drowning and instead of wasting time hating him, you make fun of him and move on to actually taking care of the bigger problem at hand. You get upset that while the country is dealing with such a tragedy some people just wont stop fighting and killing over differences like sect and different political ideas- but you sit tight and wait for the fire outside to put out before letting the fire inside you take over and continue to help the people in distress.
That is Karachi for you.
You ignore the people who write smart columns about how Pakistan is a failed state because you look around you and see how many people are working so hard to prove that wrong; because you know like in school, to fail overall you have to fail everything. If you pass one test, you still have a chance. And you see people passing that test all the time, be it the kids of IVS or the kids of Szabist or any other place. But where you should not deny the failures you produce like certain cricketers, we should acknowledge the winners we produce; like certain tiny frail and incredibly kind men who we have been rooting for years to get the Nobel prize. Failed states do not produce men like that. Nor do they sustain men like that. But Pakistan did.
You also realize, no matter how many years pass you will always have people you can call your own back home. That when you return they will flock your house to see you, spend time with you, throw parties for you, organize meetups for you, because you belong with them. You realize how good it feels to fill up a diner with friends on a spontaneous night out for coffee or get turned away from them because they cannot fit all of you in. You realize how much they mean to you and you mean to them when they come over to your house for your birthday uninvited, all 30 of them, even when they do not like or have spoken to certain other people in that room for months. But they are there because they want to be with you and the other stupid stuff doesn’t matter.
So you tell me, would I have been happier in Mexico eating food I don’t even really like, alone, backpacking with some stranger or on a cruise with some other random nobody? I had a plan when I came to New York. To travel like crazy at any chance a got. Alone, with a random stranger, I didn’t care. I thought time was running out for me and I had to do all that. Since then I’ve realized, what’s the hurry? I rather see those places one day with someone special instead. Who is to say I wont? Right now, I rather listen to my heart and go home. Be with the people who are waiting to be with me because yes, time is running out, and who knows whether or not they will be around when I go back next year.
Mexico, however, aint going no where.

ps: my sister just told me she doesn't get the trip-tyc. :/ i hope someone does. :/


Monday, July 26, 2010

She came. She Rocked. She left.

They say the third time is a charm. Watching her perform live for the third time, I actually had the chance to finally meet the legend herself. She hugged me like we had known each other forever.

This week has been phenomenal for me. I’ve never been prouder to be Pakistani and be a part of an effort to show America who we really are and what our soul is really made up of. As embarrassing as it is to admit this I was so overwhelmed at certain points, I actually felt my chest constrict with sheer happiness as I stood on Union Square on the 20th of July and watch some of the most talented musicians perform their hearts out for New York.

This was us. This was what I had been trying to tell New Yorkers for the last year about Pakistan. The Sufi Festival did it. People have been looking at the photographs I took which have been floating around on the Internet since then and have felt it too.
It is remarkable how life works. Perhaps this is one of those unforeseen reasons God made me come to New York instead of San Francisco where I desperately wanted to go. Was this event alone worth going to my second option school? Totally. I would be in serious tears and major major depression if I were sitting in SF while North America’s first Sufi Festival was happening in New York. Never ever doubt what happens to you, God always always has a bigger plan in mind.

This festival couldn’t have come at a better or worse time for me. Worse, because out of all the days in the year this was one week I was essentially homeless. The best, because I needed reinforcement of faith and happiness in my beliefs and hope. I needed this because I felt trapped and suffocated due to some serious uninformed discussions happening in class concerning politics and general matters concerning my country and my religion. I wrote a blog about it. A long one. But I chickened out of posting it mainly out of fear of being judged by some of the readers. Here is a bit of it and you will understand why I couldn’t put it down here:

The more the days pass the more I feel like I am done with having to be open minded and accepting of things like Atheism, and the general misunderstanding of people when it comes to Islam. I am tired of forgiving their ignorance. During one session in class a person I respected a lot shrugged, held his hands up and said, “well the Taliban are the face of Islam, they have appointed themselves as the representatives of the religion to the world soooo….”
Sooo clearly since Al-Qaeda is so true and authentic and reliable, then the west really ARE the infidel dogs they keep trying to convince us of. And here WE were exercising our brains and putting to use our limited evaluating skills, understanding that its just a mad bunch of people saying horrible things but hey, if you goras believe them so much, maybe we should too!

Now you understand why it was so wonderful to be surrounded by people like myself, from where I am from, even if it was just for 3 days. 3 wonderful days of dancing to pure mystical music and hanging out with devoted, charming people.
It is perhaps pushing it to think God sent them to calm me down but I shall believe that in any case because it makes me happy ☺
I cannot promise to be more regular with my posts, mainly because I think these days I don’t have the patience to bear with what I say being taken out of context and I had nothing positive to post about as such till now.
However, since life is so much better now, I shall be posting more until my trip to Karachi in two weeks (after 6 months!), which I am insanely excited about.