Karachi 5 : Dubai 0 – Is Karachi better than Dubai?

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I’m not going to pretend and say that ever since I’ve moved to Dubai, life here is horrible and Karachi was much better, because truth be told, Dubai has a lot more to offer in terms of comfort as well as personal and professional growth!

But there are definitely some things about Karachi that make it worthy of being called ‘Home.’ And those things are worth mentioning here:

1. Maps

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I know the roads, I know how to drive, I have a license (who doesn’t?) and I have a car in Karachi. Did I mention I know the roads? Yes, Dubai is a beautiful concrete jungle, but it is so rapidly changing that one can never get completely accustomed to the roads. Or maybe I have a really poor sense of direction because I can never seem to figure out which way is home. Using maps to get from one place to another every single time is a HUGE problem for a technologically challenged person like myself and asking the husband is a big no-no because he cannot understand what there is to understand about using GPS.

2. Shopping

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Every single shelf in IKEA and Home Center is like a siren calling me to pick up the inhabitants of the shelf and transfer them to my trolley, pass them through the scanner, pay a fortune for them and take them home. I don’t remember being a shopaholic in Karachi, so I blame Dubai for making me shop till I drop. You enter a store to buy bread and end up buying 6 other things that you really did not need, but were convinced that they were nice to have in the house.

3. Taxi Fare

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Imagine paying Rs. 500 for a rickshaw ride from Dolmen Mall Clifton to Park Towers. No bargaining, no reasoning. Paying the ‘minimum fare’ for a taxi ride in Dubai makes me feel helpless and maybe even slightly cheated, just like I would feel if I had to pay Rs. 500 to a rickshaw wala in Karachi.

4. Fines

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There is a fine for everything in Dubai. Every. Single. Thing. There is a fine on eating in the Metro, a fine on crossing roads, a fine on eating in public in Ramadan, and even a fine on wearing certain clothes. My husband even convinced me that there was a fine on touching parked cars! Compared to Karachi where you could break a signal in front of a policeman and then argue that it wasn’t your fault, this place comes as a huge shock!

5. Food

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Dubai obviously has amazing continental food and a wide variety to choose from. You can find anything your heart desires, even Pakistani restaurants that serve Pakistani dishes. But the strict restrictions on food quality here mean that the food is prepared without the sweat and blood of the chef, making it somehow taste slightly bland and unexciting!

For each thing that is right with Karachi, however, there are 3 more things wrong with it. So while I was feeling slightly patriotic and maybe even a little homesick, I may have tried to find reasons to highlight Karachi in a positive light, but the fact remains that life in Dubai is much easier and has more to offer to us than Karachi ever did. While Karachi takes and takes from us, other countries take some and give more back in return. I really hope that our Politicians wake up and realize what they’re stealing from the nation every single minute, and that Karachi becomes a better place to live in.

I Screamed for Ice Cream!

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It’s been a long time since I’ve had good ice cream.

It seems like it was years ago that we used to go to Gelatto Affair and have a scoop of dark chocolate ice cream with their dark cone. I remember looking forward to eating it at Park Towers and enjoying every bit of it. Until I stopped liking it altogether. They stopped caring about the quality and the ice cream stopped tasting the same as before.

Over the years ice cream lost its appeal for me because there just wasn’t anything interesting enough or yummy enough to look forward to! A few months back, however, Magnum introduced the new Magnum Store. Finally a new ice cream parlor that focused on ice cream rather than cake and other desserts. I was excited to try it out and I did.

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I had the chocolate Magnum with Dark Chocolate Dip, fruit pebbles, rice crispies, and honey comb. Now I am usually the last person to experiment with colors and fruity flavors, but I am glad that I tried something new, because that ice cream was simply dreamy! And the funny thing is, I thought the heavily coated ice cream would be difficult to bite into and would probably be too messy to eat, but eating it was easier than having a soft cone!

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I was also quite impressed with their Hot Chocolate. My friend ordered what they named ‘crème de cocoa’ and it was a hot drink with almonds and marshmallows floating in it. That drink was pure indulgence and I would totally recommend it to people who love pure chocolate!

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I really enjoyed my experience at the Magnum Store and I’m glad that there’s finally some interesting ice cream to look forward to again!

Thanks for Pushing My Car!

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While driving back from work on Saturday, I came across a human barrier on the Expressway. A group of 6 to 8 men walked onto the road, held hands, and stopped all the cars from passing through. I saw the group early enough to slow the car far away from them, but in my panic to turn the car around, I let go of the clutch and the car stopped suddenly. At that moment all I could see was the end. I knew that was it for me. I was convinced those men had large weapons and they were going to shoot me.

With no other choice but to face what was happening ahead of me, I looked up. At the cost of sounding completely insensitive, I will admit that I was relieved when I saw the reason for the road block. Some of the men were carrying a casket, while others were blocking the cars so that the procession could cross the road smoothly. If I wasn’t alone in the car I would have laughed out loud at the ridiculous thoughts I had just moments earlier.

As soon as the men started clearing away, the cars behind me started honking. Everyone was in a rush to leave. My car, however, was in no hurry. The moody old machine refused to start.

While trying to  think of who to call for help, I looked to my left. A Domino’s rider was right beside my car and he must have noticed that my car was not starting because without a word, he parked his bike on the side, climbed off it, and offered to push the car. I gladly accepted his offer!

He pushed the car and while doing so another man came to help. Five minutes later the car started and I was merrily on my way back home!

Had it not been for the Domino’s rider, I don’t know how long I would have had to wait before help arrived. The wait would still be fine, if only it wasn’t for the terrifying thought of armed men lurking around every corner of the city waiting for their chance to pounce on unguarded citizens and rob them!

In my haste to leave, I forgot to ask the rider his name. But I know that I will never forget what he did for me! And because of him, Domino’s just earned itself a very loyal customer!

Thank You, Mr. Rider, you just proved that chivalry is not completely dead!!

Burgers Don’t Discriminate…Boys Do!

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Last week I decided that I want to be treated like a girl forever.

My car needed a wipe down, but being a girl, I decided that the task of cleaning my own car was beneath me. I felt no guilt or reluctance when I asked my husband to quickly wipe the car down for me before I could take it to work that morning. He didn’t question this and did what was asked of him, thanks to the awesome rules of Pakistani society that lean more towards the comfort of women than men.

Then two days ago, my husband told me he was going out for burgers with the ‘boys.’

” I want a burger too, Mustafa.” I whined. “We’re getting real burgers tonight. You won’t like them… I’ll take you out some other time.” Came his highly sexist reply.

This obviously stirred the feminist in me and I demanded that he take me with him and ditch the boys. I’d show him that girls can enjoy a hearty beef burger just as much as the next macho man. For some reason, he found this funny, but I guess he had some faith in my healthy appetite because he finally agreed!

His agreement somehow turned into a challenge and we started listing down possible eating arenas.

While I was trying to come up with a place with smaller burgers just in case I ended up not finishing the whole thing, my husband was intent on finding a place with the biggest, meanest beef burgers.

He decided on TGIF. I couldn’t argue since a) he was driving and b) I didn’t want to sound weak.

We reached TGIF and I studied their new range of Angus beef burgers. I gulped. My husband grinned. With a barely contained smile he ordered a Tennessee Beef Burger for himself and a Mushroom Beef Burger for me.

Then we waited for the burgers to arrive.

We were served two very large burgers with a 7 ounce patty each. Not being a huge fan of beef, I couldn’t help but feel slightly apprehensive about the size of the burgers, but having accepted the challenge and needing to prove the power of women, I sucked it up and dug in.

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The Tennessee Beef Burger with a special sauce on the side.

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Mushroom Onion Swiss Burger

I honestly cannot say what got me through the entire burger. I don’t know if it was the taste of the burger, the quality of the meat, the juicy beef patty that was cooked to perfection, or merely the need to prove myself to ‘man’kind, but I finished the entire thing.

And I was proud of myself.

So was Mustafa, I think, when he wasn’t busy frowning over his loss.

So two days ago, I decided that I do not want to be treated like a girl all the time. I want to be treated like an equal when it comes to enjoying food, independence and freedom, but when it’s time to get my hands dirty, I’d rather hide behind the pink veil of femininity. No one can deny the perks of being a woman in Karachi, but it’s when these perks become obstacles that I start questioning the norms of society.

Nevertheless, our society allows me and others like me to enjoy the best of both worlds without coming across as selfish or wrong. So I guess I’ll just leave it at that and when I meet an obstacle along the way, well, I guess I’ll just cross that bridge when I get there.

Are You on Survival Mode?

'It's all about YOU, isn't it? YOUR hopes! YOUR wants! YOUR needs!'

Driving on a small two-way road, a car with high beams switched on renders me partially blind for a moment, and I cannot help but wonder why the driver is so insensitive. Perhaps it’s because he forgot to switch the extra lights off, or maybe he couldn’t care less about the discomfort he’s causing others. It could also be that the driver genuinely needed the lights. I can’t be sure. But when I see more than a few pairs of beams flashing on cars passing by, I can’t help but conclude that people in Karachi are insensitive.

Being selfish is one thing, but being clueless about everyone else’s discomfort is worse. And that’s what’s happening to us.

Each day we do so many things to prove how selfish we have become. We take our time getting dressed for a party because we decided that we will reach late. We don’t need to think about what this means for the hosts and their plans to serve dinner at a particular time. Neither do we care about how much further this will push a child’s bedtime because we don’t have kids to worry about. We just do what suits us at the time.

“I need to reach work before my boss arrives or else he will fire me!!” So we take a wrong turn and speed away, leaving in our wake complete chaos for someone else to sort out. “I just need to grab two things from the supermarket and I’ll be back in a minute!” And we double park our car, blocking another and causing someone great inconvenience.

“Excuse me, I’m ready to order.” We cut into the line at the counter because we know what we want to eat. We conveniently ignore the long line at the counter and people waiting for their turns, warranting nothing but angry glares and frustrated customers.

Do we do any of this out of spite or on purpose? I’d like to believe not. I think each of us is on auto-pilot, doing what is best for our own selves, following the basic rule of ‘survival of the fittest.’ Every single day we do so many things that aren’t right, but we do it anyway because we don’t even realize that our actions may have unpleasant consequences for others.

I’d like to think that Karachiites are simply on Survival Mode, and acting on instincts rather than anything else. A moment of realization might help us all to check our actions before we cause trouble for anyone else.

It’s the little things like emptying food trays in the trash can after a meal, not pushing your friends out of a selfie, driving in the middle lane if we’re going to drive slow, and being conscious about our general surroundings that can help us switch off our survival mode for a while and become more responsible citizens of Karachi.

7 Things to Try This Weekend!

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Did you notice that most of your weekend plans begin with and end on where you want to eat? If there is one thing that Karachiites are good at, it’s eating out! With such an eclectic mix of food places in the city, one can never really run out of options. However, if you want to break away from the routine of eating at your regular restaurants, then here are some of the things you can try out this weekend:

  1. The Beach
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    Contrary to popular belief, the beach is great for a lot more than just boring family picnics or drinking/smoking up with friends. When you have an entire day planned at the beach but blue bottles lie lined up on the shore like soul-sucking zombies, there is only one thing to do; EAT! There are so many interesting ways to enjoy food at the beach. Try this for example, take marinated goat legs to the beach. Wrap them nice and tight in foil, dig a deep hole in the sand and layer it with stones and burning hot coals. Place the foiled goat leg in the hole, cover it up with stones and sand and wait for it to slowly cook. Dig out the cooked legs and enjoy with
    raita salaaaad!

  2. Go Fishing
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    I have always been fascinated with the idea of hunting. Call me romantic, but the thrill of adventure mixed with unknown dangers and the glorious moment of victory when one finally hunts down their prey, has had me intrigued since I was a child. I guess that’s why I enjoy fishing so much. You should try fishing in Karachi too! You can rent a boat from Kemari early Sunday morning. The boat comes with fishing equipment and a kitchen, so you can catch your fish and eat it too while enjoying a serene boat-ride in the ocean!

  3. Chill at a mall
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    Karachi’s malls don’t hold a candle against international malls, but Dolmen Mall Clifton definitely comes close. Walking around the mall, peeking into shops and spending hours admiring clothes and accessories never gets old for a girl. But if it isn’t a girls’ night out, then try Air Hockey at Sinbad. You can order your meal at the food court and play a game or two while your meal gets prepared! The best part about Air Hockey? The worse you are at the game, the more enjoyable it becomes! (Warning: the game may cause abdominal cramps and swollen throat glands due to uncontrollable laughter and incessant screaming.)
  4. Try the new Cafe
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    Since you know you are going to make your plans around food, why don’t you try the newest cafe that opened up in Defence. Which one? It doesn’t matter, there are bound to be at least five new cafes that you haven’t tried yet.
  5. Also try the older ones
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    If you want to enjoy a quiet, delicious meal with your partner, your best bet would be to visit one of the nicer restaurants in Karachi. Pompei, Pantry, Rowtisserie, and Cafe Flo are some of my favorites and I’ve heard good reviews about The East End too. Here you can enjoy a hearty meal with some semblance of peace and quiet, and go back to work on Monday bathed in the afterglow of the decadent meal you enjoyed the night before!
  6. Burns Road’s Food Fest
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    If there aren’t enough weddings this month and you’re craving some traditional Pakistani food, then Burns Road is the place to be. It’s cramped for space and you can never find a place to park, but that just adds to the whole experience of eating there! Make it an adventure; park the car far away from your destination, walk down the road and eat at the restaurant instead of inside your car! It feels great, you’ll see.
  7. Then there’s always Pizza
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    When all else fails, order Pizza! I’ve had great experience with Dominos and Broadway and I can always count on them to deliver hot and cheesy pizzas on time! And what can be better than a hot pizza with a delicious movie?

So this weekend make plans to try something new and share your experiences!

7 Signs You’re a Bad Neighbor!

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Whether you live in an apartment or in a house, you are bound to have neighbors. Here are some signs that you’ve been a bad neighbor! (Read as: Avoid the following if you don’t want the neighbors to start plotting your murder.)

1.  You park your royal carriage where you see fit!

'Did we do something to upset the neighbors?'

Karachiites have this unique ability to park their cars in the most interesting ways. You know you’re a bad neighbor when you park your car right in front of the neighbor’s gate and then pretend you were in a huge rush to be able to park anywhere else!

2. You keep your house clean but litter the neighbor’s driveway

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Broadway Pizza, NYP and 14th Street are great! Except when you have to dispose off their gigantic empty boxes! You solve this problem by gently placing the pile of boxes outside your gate and use the tip of your shoe to slightly move it closer to your neighbor’s house. Ha! Let passersby think your neighbors ate those greasy pizzas for dinner last night!

3. Water, water everywhere, not a single drop to drink!

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When water in the main lines run out and a tanker is called for, you suddenly want to shower more often and it becomes absolutely essential to wash your car!

4. You keep your television volume high enough to wake the dead!

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You seem to have a sound and sturdy new sound system in your house. Good for you! But maybe you should consider that while your ears are used to the deafening decibels emanating from your speakers, your neighbors might be scribbling notes to communicate with each over the noise!

5. You don’t invite your neighbors to a big celebration in your house!

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When you have a wedding tent in your garden, your neighbors will definitely notice. It’s always a good idea to invite them to the celebrations. Not only will they be more accommodating when the Mehndi music plays until the wee hours, but they might also wish you well!

6. You borrow tea and sugar from your neighbors like there is no tomorrow.

'I'm your new neighbour, can I borrow a cupful of money, or even your credit card?'

Not being able to drink your morning tea because patti khatam ho gayi is the worst fate to befall upon you. To fix this issue immediately you seek help from the friendly Samaritans living opposite your flat! Terrible idea! Instead, you should take some time out on a weekend, make a list of all you need, (include tea in the list), purchase, use, and repeat!

7. You put a password on your Wifi.

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YOU.PUT.A.PASSWORD.ON.YOUR.WIFI! There can be no explanation for this insensitivity unless you’ve shared your wifi password with the neighbors.Then all is forgiven!

So now that you know where you stand on the bad neighbor scale, let me know if you know of worse neighbors and what they do to make them that way!

Is It Just Me or Do the Roads Need Some Fixing up?

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Dear Department of Infrastructure,

I have a small concern regarding the state of the roads in the city. It isn’t a very big problem, really, but the broken roads are becoming a cause for accidents, theft, loss of semi-precious lives and injurious brawls. Let me explain this.

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Driving on roads that resemble a mountainous terrain causes cars to either come to a sudden stop, or take a sharp turn to avoid deep ridges on the road. Uneven road surfaces cause damage to ordinary cars. I can understand that you wouldn’t know this because you probably drove around in a Mars Rover all your life. So it really isn’t your fault.

When drivers’ reflexes set in and they take sharp turns or halt the car abruptly to avoid damage to their ordinary car’s shocks, they inadvertently become a cause for accidents. Of course, these accidents only churn out a couple dead bodies, but what’s two more in the ever-increasing death toll? If the accidents aren’t too serious, they may just result in a broken bumper here or cracked windshield there. Damage to the car does, however result in the eruption of heated arguments that oftentimes become physical brawls. But then arguments are such inconsequential matters in this city that we mustn’t waste time on the topic.

Then there are times when the slow speed of cars makes them an easy target for mobile snatchers. It is very convenient to stop an already snail-paced car and take advantage of the situation. But giving up our phones and wallets is the least we can do for our country.

The most important reason for needing new smooth roads, however, is because I do not want to see the VIP Movement in the city being inconvenienced or slowed down. It would be a shame to see 25 or so fancy cars going up and down on a bumpy car ride. Kind of damages the picture of sophistication and royalty, doesn’t it? Also, we wouldn’t want the VIPs thinking that our roads are terrible and ugly. The open potholes, the uneven surfaces, the puddles created in the middle of the main road, and the holes that have been dug for underground pipelines make this beautiful city look like a face filled with acne marks.

I have faith that you will soon give out orders to get the city’s roads in order even if you have to cut corners and distribute massive amounts of bribe. After all, you are associated with the most capable people of our nation; the Leadership! I know that this may be an inconvenient time for you, what with it being your Autumn Break, but I wouldn’t have asked for the favor if it wasn’t for the Very Important People of Pakistan.

I look forward to your prompt action!

Regards,
A Concerned Citizen

Knock Knock! Can I Have Your Phone?

Photo Credit: The Newsblog

My job is not easy. I snatch mobile phones and wallets from the middle class citizens of Karachi. My boss is a tough cookie and he does not let us get away with poorly done jobs. In the one and a half years that I have been working for him, I have learnt that he is really hard to please.

What makes Bossman really mad is when one of us breaks a rule. For instance all of us know that we must always stick to working within our assigned territories. We cannot get caught by Policemen who do not work for us and we cannot get beaten up by the common man. We must also always meet our weekly targets no matter how many hours of unofficial work time we have to put into the effort. (Boss does not care if you don’t spend enough time with your wife. I guess his wife must not be as scary as mine!) Similarly, we must always work in pairs and never do anything that is beyond our level of expertise.

Working in the industry for over a year means that I now qualify for the position of ‘snatcher.’ This means that I am an actual mobile snatcher now and not just a rider. You see, if you are a newbie in the field, you can only ride, not collect! Now my partner rides the bike and I get off it to collect phones. The two of us work great as a team and collect up to thirty cell phones a day! Of course we aren’t always so lucky! For you see, when we are assigned a territory in Defence, we have a tough time meeting our targets. Rich people are very unpredictable and one can never tell when there is a guard hiding in the car or when of the rich people are armed.

One of my favorite territories to work in is Maripur. It is the area that every beach-goer must cross if they want to reach their destination. There is a bumpy patch of ground near the factories and truck ‘adda’ where we find our targets almost too easily. I’m quite sure there used to be a road here at some point, but there is only sand, bumps and pebbles now. Since the road is so non-existent, cars have to be driven at a snail’s pace and they are inevitably trapped between trucks. This is where we come into the picture. We waste no time in stopping our bike in front of the car, jumping off with a gun, knocking on the car’s window and grabbing our loot in less than one minute.  Of course, by the time we are done with the snatching and have disappeared, the beach-goers don’t know what hit them.

Sometimes, however, our chickenly opponents experience a fleeting moment of courage and speed off without parting with their valuables, and with us just looking on in confusion. Such stunts not only leave us without our loot, but they also hurt our ego and damage our image! And sometimes, our prey gets a bout of strength along with some courage, and crushes our bike or partner in their mad dash to safety! Obviously I think that is unfair and unnecessary! But, who will explain this to the heartless citizens of Karachi?

Therefore, I appeal to all you Karachiites with a cell phone and wallet; please follow the instructions below and make our jobs easier for us:

  1. Make sure you flash your phones in the car a couple of times so we know you have a phone for us.
  2. Do not look around for suspicious people on bikes. If you make eye contact with us we cannot catch you off-guard and before you know it, you just made us lose a potential loot.
  3. Make sure you keep your car between trucks or right next to the sidewalk so that you are easily accessible and conveniently trapped.
  4. Leave your phones and wallets inside your bags so that when we are collecting we just have to grab one thing instead of several things at once. Snatchers only have two hands after all… Plus there is also the matter of limited time.
  5. Also, do not forget to keep your jewelry in your handbags! I recently came across a nice lady’s handbag which had some expensive jewelry! I think she believed she would be safer if her frosting was off her instead of being flashed for all to see! Ha. Lucky for us, we snatched the entire bag from her and found the jewelry too!
  6. Keep your windows slightly rolled down and doors unlocked. It saves us time to wait for scared fingers to roll down the window.
  7. When we knock on your window with our metal beauty, please remember to panic! Your panic is what makes our work easier!

I do hope you will follow these simple instructions. You do this for us, and I will be sure to put in a good word for you with our Boss! Thank you!

What do I need you for?

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When I was a kid I was very fascinated with my grandmother’s “Hoover.” She lived in Dubai at the time and each time I visited her and she got her “Hoover” out, I’d follow her around the house wondering what the robotic sucker will eat up next… It was an interesting hobby until my mom got a vacuum cleaner of her own.

I still remember the day we welcomed the brand new machine into our home. A broken cabinet that was lying on the floor of the store room became ‘home sweet home’ for my dust buster. The magnificent machine was a gift from my dad to my mom! (Whatever happened to diamonds and shoes, dad?) So it was special and it held emotional as well as well as functional value in our hearts.

I grew up watching my mom use the machine on our carpets and floors. Sometimes, I got to try too, and I would go crazy vacuuming the balcony where the dust was aplenty and ants galore. Vacuuming the house was always fun, until I reached an age where it became part of my house chores.

Taking the machine out of the cabinet in the store room, unwrapping the electrical cord and fitting it into various sockets of each room, spending half an hour using it all over the house, lifting things to vacuum under them, then wrapping the cord back when I was done, pushing it back into the cabinet, and making sure it fit well, became the most cumbersome task in the world.

In simple words, I fell out of love with my dust buster.

Looking back, I’m not too surprised at what happened. Because isn’t that exactly what happened with the huge two-storeyed doll house that I showed off for years? And the two wheeled bicycle that my dad bought all the way from somewhere very far?  And the new cell phone that I had to earn through my grades?

I’ve learnt that what we consider to be our absolute treasure today, becomes a burden in the future. I remember wanting my father’s brand new LAMY pen desperately in Grade 7. My dad had recently travelled to Germany and bought himself a set of LAMY pens. He had two fountain pens, one silver and the other black. The silver one was downright gorgeous, while the black one looked ordinary- well, as ordinary as a Mercedes would look in front of a Lamborghini.

So once I had my sights set on that piece of pure perfection, I wanted it with all my life. I begged and pleaded with my dad for days before he finally agreed to let me take the silver pen to school for a day. Of course, when daddy dearest saw the look of absolute joy on his little girl’s face when she came back from school that day, he knew he had lost the battle and agreed to let me keep the pen forever. I was ecstatic and used it to burn holes in my pages until I simply stopped.

Where is the pen now? In some drawer at my mom’s place, I guess. Because I stopped using it when I began my O Levels.

My point is, we collect all these things with so much enthusiasm, but why does the excitement of using them die out eventually while the passion for owning more things never does? I don’t remember retail therapy being the solution to all of life’s problems when I was younger… So what changed?

Will we ever wake up and realize that we’re slaving away all day so that we can buy more and more things and not truly enjoy the things that we already have?

This obviously does not mean that I’m not happy about the awesome gadgets and accessories that I already have, and I am sure I won’t change my shopping plans for the weekend just because of a quick realization, but I figured this was worth writing about… Because now I know that when I want to buy the new Nexus 6, I will remind myself that I do not need it.