And the Cow Jumped Over the Bridge…

You know it’s your lucky day when you see a thief walk away with your cellphone. If you can see him go, it means he didn’t take your life. Lucky people give away their belongings, while unlucky people give up much more.

Death is nothing but a statistic anymore and what used to be a tragic incident has simply become an inevitability of life in Karachi. It is on a daily basis that I hear about a death or mugging, and it doesn’t surprise me anymore. I’m not sure when it happened, but I have become immune to the threat. Did you hear about the guy who got killed because he got mad at someone for driving on the wrong side of the road? (Talk about “chori oopar se seena zori!”) Or about the woman who got shot in broad daylight right in front of her child? Or about the woman who got shot even after she gave up all her valuables? Or about a friend who lost all her contacts because her phone got stolen?

The sad truth is that most people reading this might have either been mugged at least once, or know of someone who has gone through it. So you will understand what it feels like to have a gun pointing at your head and giving away your hard earned possessions. It is such a helpless feeling. You’re angry, you’re sad, you’re frustrated, you’re scared – a myriad of emotions at one time… But when you get back home, your family will tell you that you’re lucky you’re unharmed. That it could have been much worse, they could have sat in the car, or they could have shot you… They will tell you to take extra precaution next time. Lock your doors, roll up the windows, always be alert, don’t wear jewelry while driving, keep a spare phone to give away, avoid going out too often, and so on.

Let me tell you that it will still happen again, because chances are, that if you’re living in Karachi, you will get mugged at least once in your lifetime and, if you’re lucky, live to tell the tale.

But you know what else could kill you? A cow. No, really. It can.

SO last night, my husband and I went to Nueplex for a movie. (We watched Lucy, btw… I thought it was alright…) It was around eleven by the time we left the cinema. Now, those of you who have visited Nueplex at night know that the road that leads out of Phase 8 is a bit scary, what with no street lights, scanty number of cars, and all the stories about the infamous black Prado! I will admit that I was scared, especially since it was just me and my husband in the car! Alone. At night.

But we managed to leave the area unscathed. Then we had the Expressway to cross, which is a great road, but very dark and deserted at night. I was freaking out there as well. Haply though, we managed to reach Baloch Colony without incident. BUT, it was at the foot of the bridge that we had the scariest encounter of MY life. (I don’t know if it was the scariest for my husband… He’s lived a more adventurous life than me).

It was a dark road, and just as we were about to ascend the bridge, a COW appeared at the side of the fast lane. One half of the cow was on our side of the bridge while the other half was on the other side. The cow was about to jump in front of our car but thanks to quick reflexes and luck, my husband managed to switch lanes and speed past the crazy cow. It may seem like a silly incident now, but I am sure that had the cow hit our car, we would have come out looking like pancakes in metal wrap! The car was fast, the cow was huge, and the impact could have been fatal!

So the point is, it’s not just the bad guys with guns that can kill you in this beautiful city of no lights. It could easily be an accident with a car, cow, truck, or even a wall! It could be a fatal argument, or target killing, but no matter how much you try, if it’s time to go, no precautionary measures can help you. Being afraid of going out at night because you will get mugged is not going to help anything. So live and let live… you hear me MOM? Don’t be afraid because, quite honestly, no one can live like this forever.

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What I do NOT go to the salon for…

If you’re reading this post then you’re most likely a woman. But if you’re not, then take my advice and move on to the next post, honey. This is not for you!

Dear Salon Girls,

Believe it or not, when I feel like having a good chat with someone I call up a friend or meet up with her. Call me crazy, but I do not go to the salon to socialize. I don’t know where you get your information from, but someone needs to tell you that your clients don’t like to listen to non-stop chatter and be expected to respond to it! Contrary to popular belief, we have other women to interact with, so please take the chatter down a notch!

You know why we DO visit the salon? To get our overgrown eyebrows taken care of, to get our nails and hair done, to be cleaned up and to look more presentable in public. I don’t know if you got the memo, but we definitely do NOT come to you to be criticized. I for one do not like to hear the obvious being stated! Yes, my eyebrows are weird, get over it! Move ON!

But I am willing to overlook that stuff, ladies, because maybe I’m being just a little uptight! However, what I cannot overlook is dirty stuff being used on me! You may be overworked, you may be too busy to take care of the little things, but you still need to take some time to sanitize the tools you use! You take quick lunch breaks, great! But you’ve got to find the time to wash your hands when you’re done! The last thing I need is oily and smelly fingers on my face!

You’re probably thinking that I’m being whiney now. But let me tell you that THIS is not the whiney me. This is the nice and polite me. So stop making excuses for your shortcomings and understand what you need to change!

You know when I’m getting a pedicure, I expect my feet to be treated with care, I like them to look clean after the procedure and feel smooth to touch! I also expect to feel relaxed and maybe even a little pampered. The last thing I need is to hear snickering and whispering between two employees while one of them is working on my feet! It’s rude, obnoxious and very annoying! You may not even be discussing my feet, but it sure feels like you are! So stop doing it!

I have been meaning to write to you for a while and having finally done it is a huge load off my chest! I will still keep visiting the salon though, you know that right? Because a girl just cannot live without her beauty regime! But I cannot promise to be nice to you if you add extra chatter, free germs, and rude comments to the beauty care package! So no hard feelings, okay?

KThnxBye

Naya Pakistaniii?

I took a midday nap. It’s not a usual part of my routine but I was exceptionally sleepy today so the nap was unavoidable. I’m up and dressed for dinner with friends. We are going to Burns Road for an assortment of street food. The roads look unrealistically clean today, not a single plastic bag in sight. Don’t look at me like that, I am just as shocked as you are. Cars are parked only along the footpath and the food stalls seem to be pushed back from the main roads. Doesn’t look like Burns Road does it? Could have fooled me too! I see so many trash cans around! I guess people finally started using them…And what’s with the street lights? I can read a book on the road there is so much light here. I think I just saw a mini bus stop at…OMG is that an actual Bus Stop?

Hmmm… maybe it’s the out-of-routine nap I just took, or maybe I’m in an alternate universe, but whatever I see around me right now, it’s perfect! Let’s just review the cool things we saw together:

  1. Street Lights that actually work.
  2. Clean Roads (Did I not mention that no one in the car threw trash outside their windows? I’m sorry, I may have forgotten.)
  3. Responsible food hawkers who are keeping their businesses off the main roads.
  4. Respectable people who are parking in legit spaces and following traffic rules.
  5. The mini bus driver who stopped at a bus stop to pick up passengers rather than the middle of nowhere.

That’s 5 things that made my world a much better place for one entire night. 5 things that I wish happen in my Naya Pakistan. 5 things that are in complete control of the common Pakistani man!

So who needs political protests and dharnas and Facebook statuses to bring about change? All we need to do is work on our own bad habits and start thinking about others too, and we are good to go!

Oh, and to all those people who actively put up highly opinionated statuses about the dharna being silly and a waste of time… Tell me something, what have you done for your country to bring about a positive change? Anything worth sharing? I look forward to reading about your investment in our country!

So I’m a female driver… STOP looking at me like that!!

See that girl getting into the tiny white car? Yep that one in heels. That’s me. Just like every morning, I am driving myself to work today. I’m taking my usual route; No signals, no ‘stop’ signs, no waiting anywhere. Do you notice the fancy silver car in front? See how it’s going super slow? Can you see the driver’s greasy grin in his rearview mirror? I think he’s trying to prove a point. (That he’s the king of all sleazy slimebally creepy men). I’m not honking at him, as you can see. It’s not because I’m the most patient person in the world. It’s only because I don’t want him to know he’s succeeding in annoying the hell out of me. Does he really think I’m going to give up so soon? Ha! In your dreams, loser. I’m just going to wait until the narrow road ends and the main road begins…

At last I’m free from the treachery of the silver snail, and I continue on my way. The little ‘V’ road that will take me to the bridge is where I like to go slow to avoid getting hit by speeding cars coming from the other road on the side. Uh oh… That happy looking police man wants me to stop my car. Did I do something wrong? He’s asking me to show him the car’s documents. I ask him why while reaching for the dashboard. Before I can open it he moves away from my window and tells me I can go. Huh… Why did he even stop me then? I could be wrong, but I think he’s on drugs. Oddball!

Do you hear that song? It’s my new favorite. Oh look… That truck is going slow in the fast lane. I’ll just change my lane and move to the middle lane. Woah… The truck driver suddenly grew a conscience and decided to move to the middle lane two seconds before I could. I should just stay in my lane. Did you see that crazy motorcycle? It just overtook my car from the wrong side and now it’s going zig zag right in front of my face. “honk!” What’s with the dirty look he’s giving me? I’m not the one driving in the wrong lane!? Sheesh! Finally a free road. I’m really enjoying this music… Is that a woman strolling on the main road? Really? Can she not see the pedestrian bridge overhead?

Anyway… I’m five minutes away from my office. The road’s busy now. Everyone’s in a rush. Why do people keep honking at me when there is a car in front of me? My car didn’t come with a flying gear, people!! What do you want me to do? Go through the car in front me? The road’s clearing up. I am this close to getting through to the next bridge, but Ugggggh! Why do these sneaky minibuses have to stop in the middle of the road to pick up passengers?

Do you see those men on the bike on the left? They have a grin glued to their dark, skinny faces. And not surprisingly, they’re grinning right at me. Do I look like I’m out to make new friends? STOP smiling at me baboons, you’re not making yourself look good!! Oh good, the Black Mercedes just overtook the bikes. Yayy no more grinning monkeys to avoid eye contact with. No… I didn’t think the old man driving the Mercedes would be any less of a grinning idiot than the bike boys. I wasn’t wrong. He’s smiling at me too. Disgusting!

By the time I reach work, I feel like I’ve been through a cycle in the washing machine. I am exhausted and irritated by the experience. When I was given the car keys, I felt grown up and independent. I was excited to drive myself to work and other places. I was happy to be my own boss, not having to depend on someone else to pick or drop me! I didn’t know that driving in Karachi was such a frustrating experience. No one follows the traffic rules, no one even follows the rules of civilization. Men stare at female drivers, and they deliberately make it difficult for us to drive. It’s already a crazy ride what with the dug up and broken roads, puddles on the main roads and blistering heat! Stop being so mean to us, men. We’re human too!

Big King Versus Big Mac

I happen to love good food! And I work in a place where my colleagues love good food just as much!

So how do we spend most of our lunch breaks? We eat out! It’s fattening, it’s unhealthy, and it’s the most satisfying way to spend our lunch breaks too!

Two of my colleagues and I are usually open to trying new things but we tend to shy away from fast food joints like MC Donalds and Burger King. I am not sure why we haven’t visited them before, but we decided to go against the norm and go to Burger King last Wednesday!

It was the day before 14th August and we went to Burger King in Khayaban-e-Nishat. The place was ringing with patriotic songs and there were green and white balloons all over the place. But what caught our attention were the centerpieces on each of the tables! Each table had an empty box of the Kings Collection Burgers (Big King and Chicken Big King) with a yellow crown sitting on top! The creative marketing of these new burgers was enough to push us to try these royal meals out!

You know what a Big Mac is right? So the Chicken Big King is the same thing, only much much better! It has two layers of Chicken patties between three layers of Bun. What makes the Chicken Big King so special? The special sauce that goes between the layers, the fresh buns, the tasty patty of chicken, and just the right amount of seasoning made it a winner for me! Now I normally don’t eat a Chicken Burger unless it’s from a Chicken place like KFC, but when I tried my colleague’s Chicken Big King, I knew what I’d be ordering next time!

What I ate was the Big King. This burger was in Beef and it was the real deal! I haven’t had a juicier burger in Pakistani fast food joints before and I fell in love with the burger instantly! Similar to the Chicken Big King except for the Beef patties instead of Chicken, I was quite surprised by the quality of the Burger! True to its name, the Burger was royal and I enjoyed every last bite.

I will recommend The Kings Collection to all burger lovers who want to eat a good burger during lunch breaks but can’t spare the time it takes to eat a gourmet burger! It’s the closest you will get to the real thing. And if you’re a fan of Big Mac but haven’t eaten it in a long time because of the sad quality that MC Donalds now serves, then you will definitely want to try the Chicken Big King!

Enjoy your food!

 

 

 

Thank You Domex!

I haven’t been to Sunday Bazaar since the beginning of Summer, but the weather seemed cooler today and the clouds were out to hide the sun for a while, so my friends and I decided to spend the day shopping!

I found some very good things at Sunday Bazaar today and even though most things seemed very expensive in the beginning, we managed to snag some excellent bargains! I spent half my day buying exciting things that I really don’t need, eating junk food, drinking sugarcane juice and lots and lots of water!! The weather was great, but walking around the bazaar, haggling with hawkers, and trying to navigate the way through tiny walkways was tough and demanded hydration!

As a result, there came a point when we were ready to go home but a little far from the car and all the liquids in our systems were trying to pressurize us into using the washroom! I knew there was a washroom in Sunday Bazaar and I also knew that I never used it to for a reason. It was always dirty, smelly and overcrowded! But not today! What I saw today (and you can see it in the featured image as well) was a pleasant surprise from a cleaning agent called ‘Domex!’

Domex had re-done the ladies’ and gents’ washrooms. The Ladies’ washroom looked clean from outside so I figured it must be clean-ish from inside too and considering it was a bladder emergency I decided to walk in and take a chance! I was actually surprised to find a clean, well-lit, well maintained washroom with four separate cubicles and a maid to keep the place constantly clean. There was a bottle of Domex in each cubicle and it certainly kept the toilets shining! The floors were tiled and not flooded with water, and seeing as how Sunday Bazaar is a sandy place, the washroom did not have traces of sandy footprints in it at all.

So ladies, if you plan to hit the bazaar next time, don’t be afraid to visit the brand new washrooms made by Domex and make your shopping experience more comfortable!

 

O Laundry! Why art thou not folded?

Image

O Laundry! Why art thou unfolded?
Are you so mean that you like to see me get scolded?
You smell so pretty, yet look so crumpled,
It looks like you and a grizzly bear just cuddled.

It may seem hard at first, O Laundry,
But try not to be so weird and crease-y,
Be better than the rest and come out folded,
Don’t make my mom shout at me to “FOLD IT!”

You’re old enough to fold yourself, O Friend,
If I am 25 then you should be a hundred and ten,
Because you’ve existed since much before I was born,
And now because of your laziness you know I am torn.

I swore to protect you when I bought you from the store,
But nobody warned me folding you would be a bore,
So I hope that you will understand this message,
Because if you don’t fold yourself, my dear, there will be mass sacrilege.

You will be shoved in my cupboard untidily,
Unless you abide by my rules, O Laundry.
Fear for your appearance, dearest clean clothes,
Because I will be ruthless. No remorse. No guilt. No woes.

Yes, I hate folding clothes. Even my own. If any one knows an easy way of folding t shirts, socks, pants and shirts, please feel free to get in touch!

 

 

“I’d never send my daughter to a Convent School…”

“Never! I would never send my daughter to a Convent School! I’ve heard they teach them English prayers there and force them to recite them every morning. My poor Muslim daughter will become a Christian before my eyes and it will be too late to fix the mess then,” protested my educated and ‘liberal’ aunt from ‘abroad’. “Your father is a damn fool for sending you to a Catholic school. I would have stopped him if I had known what he was planning inside that crazy little head of his.”

“But Aunty, I am still a practicing Muslim and I pray my Namaz daily, in Arabic, mind you. The Prayers we recited in the morning assembly were simply a ‘thank you’ to God for His bounties,” I reasoned, but it fell on deaf ears.

We live in an Islamic country. Maybe it’s because our ancestors had to fight and sacrifice lives for this piece of land, or maybe it’s just some inherent insecurity that makes us so possessive of our religion, but us Pakistanis are very touchy about Islam. When it comes to handing over the reins to a non Muslim, it rarely ever works out! Take my aunt for example; she lives in London, a country run by non Muslims for non Muslims, and she still believes that her daughter will be negatively influenced if she goes to a Convent school in Pakistan. It doesn’t make any sense! Her daughter has studied in London all her life and she’s still a Muslim, but going to a Convent will change her!

I am glad my parents thought differently. They were so excited when I got my admission in a Convent school that they distributed sweets to the entire neighborhood! Were they not ‘good’ Muslims? They most definitely were! It was just that they saw the Convent for what it really was. A great educational institute where they not only impart knowledge, but also shape us to become fine young ladies. At my school where I spent 13 years of my life with the same bunch of 70 girls, I was moulded into someone I am proud to be today.

My school taught me discipline, my teachers stressed on perfection, we were taught the importance of keeping clean, smelling nice and even looking presentable, we always walked in a straight line, no one dared to forget their homework, we tried to remain silent during class, and we found some very incredible friends. The 13 years I spent in my Convent were the best years of my life! I focused on things that actually mattered back then. People mattered, relationships mattered, parents and teachers were our idols, and the rest of the crap did not matter! Had I been in a co-ed run by anyone other than a nun, I would probably not have had such a happy, un-biased childhood.

I say unbiased because from day one we were taught tolerance for other religions. Being Catholic, the nuns never disrespected Islam, instead they made sure we knew more about our own religions. Parsis, Catholics, Muslims, Hindus; we were all part of one team in school. It was here that I formed friendships that will last me a lifetime. I know that we are all dispersed over the globe now, and we barely meet each other, but when we do, it’s like we were never apart! Those are the kind of friends you can always count on because they have been moulded by the same principles as you! Differences in religion, caste, color, or wealth, never mattered. These were all things we learned about once we left school.

Being an all girls’ school we enjoyed things that kids in other schools could not. We went out of town, out of city and even out of country for our school trips. I don’t think my parents would have been too comfortable sending me for these week long trips had I been in a co-ed school. But I was in a Convent where the girls were more like sisters and it was almost like a crazy family vacation!

We had Special Canteens which were like huge bake sales with brownies, games, lasagne, and mini burgers for sale. We would collect money in these bake sales and give them to charity. Every Thursday was Social Service Day which meant we would put in a percentage of our weekly pocket money in a box for charity. Helping others, sacrificing your wants for the need of others was something that was emphasized on since kindergarten. Concerts, Farewell parties, Plays, Speech Competitions, dance practices, Throwball and Netball practicies were a few other things that kept us entertained and connected.

For those parents who think Convent schools are overrated and they will brainwash their daughters into becoming snobby little liberal-thinking crack pots, think about what these new private schools are teaching your kids. Teachers are afraid of parents, kids are customers and customer is king, school excursions revolve around trips to the cinema or flower shows or a factory, kids are taught only to get straight A’s and compete to be the best! But what about character building lessons? What about singing classes where they teach you harmony and the value of teamwork? What about Activity lessons where they teach you how to fold napkins and pack a suitcase? No one teaches them this anymore. Except an all-girls’ school, or a Convent!

So, aunty, think about what kind of future you want for your daughter. You come from a very different generation where parents and teachers were  respected and idolized. But kids today are independent, with more access to information than we ever had. There are many schools in Karachi and they all guarantee their students excellent grades, but you need to ask yourself if good grades trump good character. Religious differences are not a major issue if you’re living in an Islamic country, because even a Convent school teaches its students Islamiyat!

So what’s it going to be? Good grades and a spoilt brat or good grades and a refined young lady?

 

 

“Don’t marry a Muslim”

Sumedh Natu

My grandmother slit her wrists today.

To assure the inquisitive, prying world it had nothing to do with the inner politics of the family, I was asked to stick to the discussed story that she found out she had an incurable injury. The truth is she couldn’t handle the apparent shame my actions in the past two months had brought our prestigious family name.

Everyone in India barks about tradition. They say our country stands tall on an intellectual platform because we’ve been following a social structure that’s been untouched for centuries. One of the core ideas behind this structure is absolute obedience towards elders. The logic is easy enough to understand. They have more experience. The possibility of them making the right decision in a dilemma is higher. Tradition, I have been told is the platform for a good family life.

Except that I flouted this rule.

I fell…

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Colleague morphed into friend…

We oftentimes take things for granted.

Let’s take our colleagues for instance. Even though they aren’t ‘things’ per se, we do take them for granted. When do we realize this? Usually when it’s too late.

I admit we all have our fair share of weird colleagues to deal with, but there are always a few or sometimes even just one, you can connect with and fall back on. Ever wonder what you would do without that one person who you vent out to when your boss snubs at you? Or who you would go to when the evil colleague says something nasty about your new handbag? Or even who you would share lunch with? We often don’t realize it, but we create some very strong bonds with our colleagues. How does that happen, and more importantly when does that happen?

When you start a new job, you often enter an environment where you feel vulnerable. You feel like you’ve entered a place where people have already formed bonds with each other and there is no room for you. But, almost 99% of the times this changes. You begin to realize that the environment that seemed so intimidating once, is actually divided into sub groups and each group has certain insecurities or differences to deal with. With each passing day, you make space for yourself and become part of one of those sub groups. If you’re lucky, one or two people who are similar to you may leave their comfort zones and adopt you. You then become part of a new group and feel confident, loved and stronger than ever before.

So, if you look back and think over the transition, who do you have to thank for helping you fit in? Would you be as comfortable as you are today without that one colleague who’s been your punching bag, your gossip girl, your confidante, your adviser, supporter, and friend?

I have always filed people into neat little boxes; friends in one box, cousins in another box, colleagues in another, etc. When one of us is finally leaving, I’ve realized that over the years my colleague has become more than just a person I spent my office hours with. She no longer fits in the colleagues’ box, but eases right into the friends category. All the times I’ve confided in her, shared “OMG I’m totally judging SYZ colleague” moments with her, gossiped about other people with her, shared family troubles, and even gone out on shopping sprees with her, have morphed into unforgettable memories.

I’m just glad that I had a friend in the workplace all this time, because she made my experience colorful and left never a dull moment! I know that I took her for granted all this time, but I do realize now how much she helped me deal with my successes and failures, and with other difficult colleagues.

So, Miss Colleague, I am not taking you for granted anymore. 🙂