Saturday, January 22, 2011

Banaras in Awe!

Mehwish came home, slammed the door, dumped the countless shopping bags on the couch. Banaras was standing near his favorite green swing, watching the lady in fascination, was highly curious about the colourful bags spilled all over. He came forward and opened one, just then Mehwish put down her phone and yelled at the boy " Stop it, how dare you touch my things with dirty hands". Her mother told her to calm down and looked inside one tote bag and took out a colurful yellow shirt," this is pretty, how much? Mehwish looked up from her texting and said " Rs.3500, but I'm not sure about it, I think I'll give it to Bashira". Banaras listening eagerly to the two women was shocked to know the price and thought to himself that his monthly salary is less than that, how much money does this lady have.

In the evening, Mehwish's friends came over, one had a toddler with her. The girls had dinner plans and were chatting excitedly as were meeting after a no of weeks. Her mom suggested that they take Banaras with them to mind the child so that they can eat and talk in peace. Mehwish gave her mother a very disapproving look, after which she was assured that the boy had been made to shower and wash his hands properly. Very reluctantly,she nodded and everyone hopped into the car. Banaras was enjoying the car ride but was very aware of Mehwish as he could feel her disapproval everytime she looked at him. Banaras was in awe, the interior of the restaurant, flowers, candles, pictures all over and of course the posh looking people, eating there. He was strictly instructed to look after the toddler and make sure to remain inside. He was more than happy to run after te child as it gave him a chance to explore the place. Everyone eating there seemed so content, happy, with not a worry in the world. They also looked beautiful in his mind, even though many were old wrinkly men and women but their clothes, shoes, all looked so new and shiny to Banaras. He kept looking down at his dirty slipper clad feet and his grey, yellowing shalwar kameez. He was so different from them. There was nothing nice or special about him, no one would want to look a second time at him. These thoughts dampened his spirit and suddenly the shiny new place didn't hold that appeal as before. He walked around making sure the child didn't knock anything over, kept turning in between to see the ladies eating. One of them called out to him suddenly asking for the child to be brought to the table. The child was fed, the ladies ate, ordered dessert, the food they were having didn't look very appetizing to him but he was hungry now as it was past ten. Finally he saw the ladies getting up and was relived as he thought they will head home now but no. Next, they drove to a new shiny place where they oredred tea/coffee. For a while he forgot about his hunger pangs and looked around the place. Around twelve, the ladies got up and finally headed home. Banaras was in tears in the car, no one had thought about feeding him a morsel, in his village, his mom would give him a paratha and chai for dinner max by 9 and he would be the one to get the first hot paratha off the fire, being the youngest. He suddenly wanted to just run away, was he invisible, were these people blind or was it just because of his dirty clothes. After reaching home, he locked the gate and tried to go in the main house instead of his room at the back. Mehwish, tired and sleepy after a night out, snapped at him,"Where the hell are you going, go to your room".Banaras looked up at her with a choked throat and said, I'm hungry, want to eat". Mehwish " Ufffff, why didn't you tell me you were hungry, stupid boy, get lost, go eat whatever. She walked off and left Banaras staring at her.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Banaras !

"Banaras, open the gate quickly", shouts out Mehwish as she climbs into her car. The boy runs to open the rickety gate and stands holding it because of the wind. As the car rolls out, Mehwish notices the discolouration and acne ridden skin on the boys neck and hands. She gets a shudder and wants him to go away. Banaras had arrived in the city just a few days ago from a village near Mianwali. He had spent the past few days staring at everything in awe as all was new and extremely exciting for him. He loved the hustle bustle and the huge house with a green swing, sat on it every chance he got. The other boy working in the kitchen was a Balti so he barely understood him and paid little attention to his instructions. He felt free and excited, extremely happy with this new phase in his life.

Banaras being the youngest of three elder brothers, was a pampered young man. His elder brothers had been employed in the city at various jobs for many years. They wanted the same for him. He was extremely raw and unruly at the moment, needed to learn manners badly.

Mehwish hated the sight of him, as he was sweaty and dirty all the time. She didn't want him touching anything in her room.

The story of young, filthy, poverty ridden Banaras continues....

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Mohd, my sister in law Tania's son, an extremely hyper and super intelligent four year old with a mop of curly hair falling on his forehead. He loves talking non stop and most of the conversations involve his supremacy and how Four Arms and Humangasora will eat me alive. MO's imagination is heavily influenced by Ben10, and so his fascination with the super hero kid reflects innocently in his banter.

He is the sort of child who demands constant attention and will show his annoyance at being ignored. Being a typical boy, he will jump onto you suddenly like in a tag team match and do his level best to pin you down. I remember the day he was born, 23rd December 2005, the nurse opened the door and wheeled in a small cot and said " Who wants to see the baby". Excitedly,we all gathered around and were baffled as we weren't sure where the baby was. Mohd was wrapped in a bright green cloth and was a tiny little thing bundled up near the edge. He was bright red with pink lips. I was so fascinated by him as I had never seen a few minutes old baby before. It was early days in my marriage and I decided to settle down and take it easy for a few months. I happily spent those days at home, a major reason was Mohd. He is in Pakistan these days for his annual summer vacations, eagerly waiting for him to get back from Lahore. MO makes life very interesting.

PS: He appointed me the official guardian of his chicks while he is in Lahore, they being under a constant threat from Aki Mamoo, who wants to have them for dinner.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Electrifying Madness

I got home from work to find out that there was no light since 3pm, grunting, I put my laptop away, changed and sat down under the fan run by the UPS. I was reading a book " Three Cups of Tea", was sweating and praying the light comes back soon. Suddenly, the voltage started going up and down in an alarming manner, reminding me of the electrifying madness of two weeks ago.
What happened was that, hubby and I were fast asleep at 6:30am, we woke up to weird noises coming from the tv, it was on standby mode (sorry). I got up to switch it off but was late and it blew up with a bang, bellowing black smoke. It was a terrible way to wake up, to an exploding televison. Later that evening, cell charger, desktop, fridge, pressure pump, microwave, telephone exchange, several fans & bulbs all got burnt due to excess voltage. It was like a movie scene, as three things blew up within a space of 1 min. The KESC crew came and found out that a part of the wire which earths the voltage had been cut and stolen, fortunately they fixed it and we slept peacefully.
So yesterday when the voltage was on a seesaw again, I got alarmed and started unplugging all electrical appliances. The light went off completely later on and we had a candlelight dinner. Getting frustrated, we decided to step out for a while and got home to find the KESC crew truck parked outside our gate, just seeing them comforted me and I could look forward to a peaceful night. Lo and behold, we found out that someone had stolen a part of the wire again and hence the wild fluctuation. Now the issue was that in order to replace the wire, a major portion of a tree had to be chopped off as it was in the way. The poor KECS men set to work with a small knife, with which very little progress was being made. By this time, neighbours had collected next to the truck, all eager to find out the progress. Akif, my husband suggested they use a butcher knife, which my father in law uses annually for the Qurbani. It was a heavy and dangerous piece of instrument but the men made progress and eventually managed to chop off all the branches coming in the way. The man was huffing and puffing by the time he finished. We offered them water and tea which they accepted thankfully. It was after 11pm by now, the new wire was put in place and electricity was finally restored. Seeing the KESC crew at work late at night, made me realize that these men work hard, the whole night, from one area to another, climbing onto the poles, with no safety measures. The poor staff of KESC, who do all the dirty work, definitely try their best with the limited resources provided to them, so I want to say “Thank you for a good nights sleep”.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Gradual Islamisation

Late 60's and 70's, as seen from our parents pictures and anecdotes were modern times. The country boasted of casino's, cinema's and public parties with booze. The armed forces in particular were considered extremely emancipated, promoting the club culture which the British rule had introduced in this part of the world. Those times were extremely religiously tolerant as well, many castes be it sunni's, sheas's, ahmedi's lived and interacted with each other, many inter caste marriages took place as well.

Come the 80's and the start of the Zia era, came the Allah Hafiz culture. From a secular society, we started transforming into an Islamic one where everything started and ended with Islam.
The women became very active and shifted from coffee parties to milaads and dars. The core concept of these events remained the same, to dress up in your finest,socialize and gossip to death but it was done in an Islamic manner with a Quran Khawani or with reciting ayats or naats. The women who did not attend were considered going astray from God's path. More and more men started growing long beards and Jameet e Islami became the saviour of Islam and its practices. It became common knowledge hearing about couples sitting innocently in Uni or college campuses, to be threatened or the boy beaten up and warned to stay away from each other. Gradually we closed our minds and limited our vision.

Standing in 2010 today, we have numerous religious channels where uneducated maulvi's lecture our nation about right and wrong. Don't get me wrong, there is nothing bad about having channels solely for religious purposes but the content is absolutely absurd. The viewers of such channels, their vision doesn't go beyond the end their nose. The Q&A session, where people call in to ask the Islamic expert, is amazingly hilarious. Q's like can i paint my nails and pray? can i marry off my gay son? is working in a call center allowed in Islam etc etc. The list is endless and gets funnier. We are deeply entrenched and have fallen far far down in this pit which is eating us up,a nation which has produced highly enlightened individuals still remembered by the world.

Friday, May 07, 2010


Home exhibitions of clothes, formal and casual etc is an extremely lucrative business these days, as women will never stop shopping, I can vouch for this, being one :) Earlier it was the middle class women who used to try and earn the extra buck but now its the rich bored housewives who have ventured into this.

These home based entrepreneurs are extremely rich, live in huge fancy houses and don't need the extra buck at all. With summer in full swing and women going crazy making clothes,I too attended a no of such exhibitions.

The trade mark of all such events are the dolled up women, dressed in their finest and talking non stop in fake accents. It's a very pretentious crowd, who try and act extremely modern, speak only in English,everything western rocks, desi values suck and look down on people not dressed according to the latest fashion. With long red painted nails flashing diamond solitaires, the ladies pick out outfits from the racks, totaling a bill of over 50k easily, and you get to hear comments like "I love these exhibitions jani,so cost effective na"

I love modern, independent minded, high maintenance women (it's imp to look good) but why don't these modern thoughts translate into other other areas as well, why limited only to your social circle. These very mansions, holding the exhibitions don't cater to the drivers who sit outside in the 50 degrees while the begum saheb spends her millions inside and on entering the exhibition area in the house, first comment after the mwahss is " Its boiling outside jani".What do these women know about heat? They travel to and fro in air conditioned cars, live in centrally air conditioned houses but never will they spare a thought to the people working for them. There is no arrangement for the poor souls outside, no chairs, no pedestal fans, hell they aren't even asked to come in the porch to get out of the direct heat.

If the elite are so for western values, then how come they treat the lower class in such an inhuman manner????

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Being Poor

Manzoor, a teenage balti boy, comes up to the room to hand a bottle of water to the lords. He enters the room and is told to put it on the fridge, instantly his body and mind responds to the chilled temperature. He loves the cool breeze on his face and wishes he could sit in the room for a while longer. The lords are sprawled on the bed, watching TV in their pj's.

Manzoor reluctantly leaves the room, closes the door behind him and wishes he could also sleep in heaven like the lords. He starts his daily ironing and thinks to himself "why are they better off than me" "Why doesn't God make my life better" " What is so special about them"????

He picks up toys thrown on the floor by lord junior, puts them back in the basket. The young lord comes shouting and crying, "Why did you touch my toys?", throws a big tantrum and keeps shouting till Mama lord comes out to console him, " Aww my baby, I will scold him, don't cry". Manzoor gets told off and the lords go back to their Alaskan environment. The Balti thinks to himself that only a day or two earlier lord junior was being given a lesson about respecting elders, talking to them politely, how come he is allowed to shout and insult me even though I'm at least 15 years his senior.

The young man goes into the kitchen and starts the washing up of the utensils, dries the cutlery and scrubs the counters clean. Once all the chores are done, he goes into his dingy room to sleep, as soon as his back hits the bed, the clock strikes 12 and the electricity goes. He tosses and turns in his bed, braving the mosquitoes, with the sound of the generator in the background which turns on instantly as the great lords can't be without their air con's for even a second.

He works hard the whole day without a minutes rest, but he can never earn such luxuries in life because that is the sole right of the lords as he is after all a poor guy and will remain so all his life.


I was sitting watching TV when I got a call from Akif, my husband, he wanted me to go scuba diving with him and his friends on Saturday. I had known about his scuba diving plan but wasn't taking too much interest as I wasn't going to go dive. Although I was concerned for him, as we usually tend to mistrust everything in Pakistan and totally trust ppl and institutes abroad. I was really scared but I said yes.
We set off for Mubarak village on Saturday, around two hours drive from Karachi city. We reached a small fishing village and beyond the thatched roof huts was absolutely blue crystal clear water. Simply beautiful. We started driving along a very narrow jeep track and several times had to get out of the car to guide Akif. We parked our cars in this open area and walked down to the beach, the water was cold and it was heavenly just to stand and get our feet wet. Our instructors Yousaf and Rosheen from Karachi Scuba Diving Centre had started unpacking the gear, quite a task. Once set, the instruction process started. We were given basic tips and told to change into the diving suits.I got into one of the jeeps to change and was huffing puffing by the time i finished. The diving suit is tight and to get into it in a car is very tough. One by one the instructors took us into the water and taught us how to breathe under water. The sea had become extremely rough by the time we were ready to dive and it was decided to come back another day.
In between the week,Yousaf and Rosheen organized a practice session at a pool which proved to be very useful. By the way, Rosheen Khan is Pakistan's only female scuba instructor. The pool session was fun and we came back more confident.
Next Saturday we set off early morning, this time our destination was Charna Island. We reached a mini port after a 1.5 hour drive, from there we got into 2 boats and set off for the famous dive spot. The sea was rough, the whole journey was quite frightening as we had huge waves hitting the boat and i was constantly praying. The instructors sat absolutely relaxed as it was nothing new for them. Once there, anchor was thrown in and the boats were parked right in front of Charna. This is considered a good dive spot for beginners as the island guards the water from the waves from one side, so the sea is relatively calm. Boat 1 went first, and we sat and filmed the group dive in one by one. I had calmed down seeing them come back alive :)
Next we started preparing for the dive, getting into suits, finding fins and weight belts our size. A weight belt is like 15 kg weight which is tied around the waist, basically to make the diver heavy and sink into the water. One by one, all of us flipped into the water, backwards complete commando action style. I consider myself very brave. A rope was thrown into the water to keep everyone together. We practiced our under water sign language once and then we went in. Down and down we went, 30 feet under water. It was an amazing feeling. I saw schools of fish swimming around a beautiful coral reef. The world under water has beautiful colours, creatures of all sizes and shapes. I was tremendously enjoying the experience, after a while, I checked my oxygen level as per instructions and it was down to a 1000, i gestured to the instructor and we swam upwards.We had a feast on our journey back, thankfully the sea was not rough and we had a smooth ride back. Everyone later asked me as to how I trusted a local diving centre as nothing is reliable in Pakistan. People, lets give the people in our own country a chance and opportunity to excel. Scuba diving, I highly recommend to everyone.