while the rest of my nation is caught up in election fever and clogging the blogosphere and all sorts of social media with never-ending treatises on why their candidate is better – or, more commonly – why the opposing candidates are worse; and either conjuring up naya pakistans, or in displays of magnificent revisionism, telling stories of former “glory”; and basically managing to fill in the time between their own personal tragedies like waiting for the next episode of zindagi gulzar hai or waiting in the queue at the CNG station or for their turn at the barber shop with their new found political expertise; the iceman, yours truly, is busy contemplating another sort of future.

waqia ye hai ke i’m getting married.

(by the way, speaking of barbers and stuff, i just have to tell you that i am now pony tailed so all ye fellow sufferers of male pattern baldness, give not up thine hope. i shall bear the standard till there is life in these limbs. or follicles. mainly follicles.)

but yeah, i’m getting married.

which sets up a whole new line of thought for my adoring public. they throng the street below my apartment waiting for a glimpse of me on the balcony or through a window. i hear them chanting dirges, wailing long and loud and every now and then one of the crowd will succumb to the grief and pass from this temporary world, regretted by all. it is of course, in their context, a sad time. xill-e-ilahi, king of kings, mankind’s last hope, has left the brotherhood of the bachelors. until now, every guy who ever tried to make a stag entry at a night club, showed up alone at prom night, survived a valentine’s day without a date, made a sheepish single appearance at a wedding anniversary, visited a gaggle of desi aunts on eid, got refused entry to family-only parks or beaches, went alone to watch a chick flick at the cinema, learnt how to tango by twirling a dummy, or ever had to explain to a guest why all 13 towels are in the washing machine at the same time so please use this duster here – every single one of them had this redeeming phrase to ensure acceptance by our fickle society: yaar, abbas bhi to..

but sadly for them, this cannot be so any more.

and that, as they say, is that.

___________________________________________

the prolonged hiatus from blogging will probably continue until the world in general gets a slightly funnier place to live in. and of course the craziness of the wedding preps will probably find its way here in due course. also, what little bit i do manage to write is going into the book.

it’s called tovarisch gujjar. so please don’t name your book or movie that. please.

__________________________________________

my election prediction: nothing will get better.


you see a hot blonde chick on the street and you know that you’ve seen a hot blonde chick on the street – unless of course you’re in bangkok, in which case you have seen something which you should not have thought of as hot. you see a hot blonde chick’s avatar on the internet and you know you’re dealing with a seriously overweight bloke who needs a job, pronto. these are the facts of life. it’s sad but it is what it is.

of course, that is not what this post is about.

they say a sure sign of senility is the crossing of random threads of thought where ordinarily you would expect just one. for instance, a discussion about politics focusses on politics. a discussion about sport focusses on sport. a discussion about lebanon focusses on girls. this is natural. a senile person, on the other hand, approaches a conversation differently. he talks about red sweaters, his grandmother’s banana tree, the first time he wore an overcoat and the fact that he hides his money in a woollen sock, just to tell you that he’s feeling cold and that you need to switch off the a.c. and while i often vehemently dispute the allegations that i’m a doddering old man in dire need of the fountain of youth, my writing style (or lack of it) generally indicates i have mastered this aspect of senility like few people have ever done before me.

however, i have recently received the semi-clarification that i’m not old, just old-school. after spending the best part of the past three years telling people that i’m actually a bit younger than the 36 they take me for, it was mildly refreshing to have someone register surprise that my thirtieth birthday comes up next month. apparently, i look 27. admittedly it gets dark on the dubai marina after 12:00 am and the lady in question is one of the types who get pretty high after two and half puffs of watermelon sheesha (the things these kids smoke nowadays, i tell you, its ridiculous) but the point stands. this is the same lady who told me that her grandfather – get a load of this, grandfather not regular father – used to watch the tv shows i mentioned when she inquired who moeen akhtar was. she is also the same lady who told me that her father – regular variety this time, not grand – shares my taste in wodehouse, who apparently had a sense of humour that is so not for this generation. and she told me i look 27 which makes me a hypothetically 2-3 years older than her which in turn makes me more or less part of her own generation. which makes me fit like a glove into three generations of her family. so, yeah.  them sheesha dudes at the dubai marina? they be mixin’ it real strong.

but…. assuming i survive most of ramadan, i’ll turn 30 next month. 30!!!!!

[author's note: one of this dame's best friends says that 34 year old men turn into perverts so i'm going to enjoy watching the change in my personality over the next 4 years. i hope its gradual but noticeable, not a cinderalla style 12 0'clock where nothing happens until you're 34 and then suddenly you find yourself offering free mammograms outside private clinics in jumeirah. that way you'd miss the fun]

but, leikin, magar, 30!!! in management consultancy terms, father time has delivered significantly earlier than expected thereby disrupting the supply chain of life. in shayari terms, my chief concern at the moment is as follows:

maashooq kahein aap hamaare hain buzurg
na cheez ko yeh din na dikhana, ya rab!

le sigh.


when patrick swayze was still alive, he made a movie in which he died and no one could see his ghost but whoopi goldberg could hear him. now that he’s dead i’m not sure if they make movies in hollywood heaven – and if they do i wonder who plays the hot wife, i mean, demi moore’s still alive – but the point is that someone probably does a whoopi in the real world and communicate with ghosts. what is a ghost after all? spectre? ectoplasm? astral projection? no one knows. but most people are sure they exist. some people claim to have seen them. some communicate with the other side regularly.

i, of course, have the inside story.

but i will not tell it to you. nyaah na na na na.

what i will tell you is that whether or not they exist is irrelevant. there are much more dangerous beings walking the face of the earth. and i’m not even talking about desi matchmaking aunties. no, its the [whisper] ANIMALS! [unwhisper?] non-human animals are not human. there is a very good reason for this. they’re not humans because they choose not to be. they don’t like us. when the world as we know it is eventually destroyed and sam worthington type terminators walk the earth, they will not be very sam worthington types – they will look more like lassie. or garfield.

i can hear cats. they think evil things. where you see a goodlooking young man in his twenties [cue background score: abhi to mein jawan hoon], they see a scratching-post. they jump on you with extracted claws and attempt to hang on by digging those claws into you. and all because you stepped on their cousin’s tail several years ago. talk about holding a grudge. i’ve got nothing against cats, mind you. personally i can take them or leave them alone. if i meet a cat in a park i give it a smile and a civil “good morning”. and by and large they seem to respect the law of great open spaces and do not interfere in your affairs. but in confined places like rooms with walls and ambush points from under sofas and behind flower pots, they acquire a sinister sort of swagger and an evil grin and they go from cute balls of fur to machete wielding maniacs with an urgent desire to see your intestines. this is worse if they keep women as pets. a woman-owning cat is statistically 7.8 times more likely to attempt to get in your lap than one who lives with men. this is just because. it has something to do with estrogen and cranberry juice but i can’t really go into the details on a family friendly blog.

what cats (and their pets) don’t know is that i was not always averse to their company. i used to provide catering services to a grouchy alley cat in karachi i named ash for his silver tail long before aishwarya rai appropriated that name for her own use. he was the devon aiko of nazimabadi cats with mismatched eyes and a bushy silver tail that indicated his mother might have had a fling with a travelling persian a while before he was born. ho hum. i’m not one to cast stones but the brain can’t hide what the eyes can see. it was a healthy relationship based on mutual interests (i needed to dispose of the glass of milk that i was mandated to consume every night and he willingly obliged) and i attribute the sudden disappearance of the irritating pigeons who’d holed up outside my bedroom window to his presence. if fate had not intervened you could say it was the stuff fairytales were made out of and you might actually have sold the rights of the story to disney for a pretty decent sum (USD 999,999.99 for instance). but fate spent too much time in the eighties watching reruns of falcon crest and dallas and on one lazy summer afternoon after retrieving a tennis ball from the ledge above my window i had the misfortune to land on ash’s silver tail.

we have all heard screams. we have all heard yowls. in different ways on different days we’re subjected to the misery of our fellow living beings and they can be disconcerting. (if you’re not sure what misery sounds like, try saying “mae’r ebost hwn ac unrhyw ffeiliau atodedig yn breifat!” in a voice like keifer sutherland’s. its welsh for “this email and any attached files is private!“). sometimes they make you sad, sometimes they make you glad. sometimes they make you cry, sometimes you just get high. this scream/yowl/trumpet of the apocalypse made me jump. on the same cat. again. twice in around two seconds. objectively speaking, i can see his point of view and concede that a little bit of aggravation and complaint might not have been entirely out of place. personal injury is personal injury and i would willingly have apologized and offered to settle the damages out of court if he didn’t press charges but maybe the stress of lazing around all day had gotten to him and something snapped. ash changed from a cute half persian little guy to a fire breathing battle lion from ancient times. that the levi’s looked like they’d been made to order for a short peg-legged pirate after the incident speaks for itself. needless to say, ash did not get any more milk from me and the relations never exactly thawed after that. he died without apologizing for his overreaction and for some reason his family still refuse to see my side of the incident. so we generally accept that maintaining a healthy distance is the best policy that can be followed.

i’m not scared of cats – i have, after all, rescued gorees from evil taxi drivers – and am not scared of anything other than male pattern baldness. i just don’t like them. and in any case, as the emirati proverb goes, ash sharda noos al marjala.

_____________________

killer fact: house cats have been known to kill men. just saying.

_____________________

just get stuffed cats, yaar. save the taxidermy industry.


 

 

you wouldn’t be very wrong if you suggested that i had obsessive compulsive disorder. but i will not stop until i get all 93.


since i have more or less completely lost whatever smattering of creative ability i once had, and since you have obviously not lost your desire to read my stuff, i will take the middle road, not the one robert frost (two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less travelled by) and junaid jamshed (hum kyun chalein uss rah par, jis rah par sab hee chalein) both advocated in what was their only moment of consensus – i’ll let you read one of my many unpublished drafts. you’re welcome.

________________________________________________________________________

it has always been my attempt to write as one who has mastered the art of humour. this is not so much because i like to imagine readers falling off their office chairs while laughing at my jokes or because i’m one of those quack alternative medicine types who believe laughter gives you positive chi and drives out the ill winds blowing around your insides – indeed the less ill wind from your insides you release into the atmosphere the better, save your planet and all that jazz – but because a lifetime of following pakistani cricket can make you either want to cry or to laugh and if you opt to cry, then people, especially female people (and yes, contrary to poular belief, i do know a few) will say those blasphemous things like “it’s only a game” that shock you to your very core and have about as much medicinal value as table salt does on a festering wound. well, that’s not the only reason. i also try humour because i like humour. and because being even an extremely insignificant junior member of the club to which wodehouse and yousufi belong is one hell of an honour.

which is why most would assume that meer taqi meer isn’t exactly my cup of tea.

[note: not to distract you from the main topic but that analogy, like most analogies, doesn't apply to yours truly, the great and mighty. i have never been a fan of tea. but when i say that you would assume that he isn't my cup of tea i mean you would think that i would not normally enjoy something as morosely depressing as the poetry of meer taqi meer and khwaja meer dard, which though about as beautifully constructed and presented as poetry can be (or maybe even better than that) is not something that would instinctively remind you of dickens' cheeryble brothers.]

[note 2: i would also like to stress that it is the poetry of meer that i am referring to as my cup of tea, not meer taqi meer the poet and definitely not meer taqi meer the man. the reason i stress this is that even in those days when what was taboo was very definitely taboo, there are traces of the more-sleazy-than-merely-dubious in meer's verses. consider the following:

meer bhi kya saaday hain, beemar huay jis ke sabab
usee attaar ke launday se dawa laitay hain

meer is such a simpleton, that he takes his medicine
from the same perfumer's apprentice who made him ill

to use the emoticon that has gained much currency from the works of hemlock and owl, o_O. i was never much good at paraphrasing or reference to context questions that popped up in my literature exams but even to the untrained eye, there is obviously something deeply wrong with that couplet, even if all indicators point towards the assumption that in a different age, meer would have been a heath ledger fan (brokeback mountain not batman). in any case, he should've used protection. let this be a lesson to you.]

but there is so much depth, so much beauty in his works that at times you just feel like wah wah-ing out loud, even if you’re merely reading a ghazal online from the workplace. of course, the depth and beauty are aspects that have been analysed down to their dna. and it certainly wouldn’t be fitting to add to that body of work in a collection called the samandar-e-bemaina. no. what i would like to talk about is his ego. in all of documented history, there have been few statements that would be more aptly called understatements than the words of  columbus’s first mate, “veo la tierra!” (i see land) on sighting the west indies. one of those statements would be to call meer an egotist.

you must know, before you continue to read this (assuming of course, that i’ve held you spell bound so far), that in all of cinematic history no character has come as close to being awesome as his royal majesty, king julian. conceit, when done well, is an art form that will entertain the best of them. meer took it to the next level.

during the medieval equivalent of a press conference, the great man (also known as shehenshah-e-ghazal and khuda-e-sukhan, king of ghazal and god of language, respectively) was asked how the outlook of urdu poetry looked to him. well, it didn’t look much too bright. he claimed that there were only 2 and a half poets who wrote in the urdu language viz. meer himself, his great contemporary khwaja meer dard and everyone else could be fit into the remaining “half”. the flabbergasted interviewer started reeling off dozens of names of the better known poets of the time including that of mir hasan, to which meer finally conceded:

“ponay teen keh lein”

(call it 2 and three quarters)

 that there is class for you. unwavering self belief. probably the reason why one of his best ghazals starts off with him throwing the gauntlet at the subcontinent’s best known romantic hero (for over a thousand years no less), qais ibn al mulawwah majnoon – ironically, an arab from najd.

aa ke sajjadah nasheen huwa hai qais meray baad

wah. no one could do that better.

 

 

 


she isn’t the first crush you ever had. no, definitely not. at that time and in that place a smile without braces or actually, a smile, period, is enough for you to get a crush on someone. but she’s special. not just because she doesn’t wear braces but because that smile is simply the most gorgeous smile ever flashed on human eyes and rodin himself couldn’t have sculpted her better. and even though the fact that she thinks its very sweet of you to feel like that about someone four years older than you and that you should’ve told her before it was her last day at school and the fact that that peck on the cheek is not just the only physical contact you will ever have with her but the last contact of any kind for at least the next 17 years should cumulatively have pushed you down into the depths of anguish adolescents visit every day – you get lost in the heady daze of having been somewhere, someplace magical and its a feeling you will never ever experience again. that part of your face, where that strawberry lip gloss grazed, will feel different for weeks. you do everything you can to preserve it from the damages of soap and water, grime and dirt, anything and everything so as to not jinx the magic that was left behind.

you are almost thirteen years old.

and then, a couple of weeks later, you see mahnoor baloch in a tv commercial.

you don’t shave. or you do. you wear  a green tie. or you don’t. you tie strings at shrines, you supplicate to god, you swear you’ll empty your wallet at the next donation box, you give lifts to people and ask them to do the praying worried that your ledger of sins might render your own prayers ineligible for approval. you think, you strategize, you analyse, you agonize. you go through mood swings previously only thought possible in heavily pregnant women. you abandon all pretenses at sanity and objectivity, you go insane. you dance, you scream, you shout, you jump. you feel your pulse racing so fast you have to walk out and take deep breaths. you feel hurt, you feel relieved. you feel victorious, you feel defeated. you live every freaking second of that world cup with your team. you are afridi, you are shoaib, you are even bloody kamran akmal.

you are almost thirty years old.

but this time, not in a couple of weeks nor a couple of decades, will a mahnoor baloch commercial do anything to take that away from you.

i’ve been watching cricket and cheering on the boys in green for more than twenty five years now. and it never gets old. it thrills, it disappoints. it is the most awesome rollercoaster in the universe and i’m proud to have been on it.

you did it right, boys. i wouldn’t have had it any other way.

_________________________

scratch that. next time, finish it. win the goddamn thing.

_________________________

in the meantime, if you’re looking for me, i  am now using the pseudonym of unnikrishnan shivaramchandran and accepting baklawas and gulab jamun from various people while shouting “indiaaaaaaa, indYEAH”. i love baklawas. and gulab jamun.


when you’re barely 5’6″ tall, looking at the world from up above becomes slightly technical and apart from this being the reason that i have a deep distrust of the validity of the philosophical observations of one bulleh shah, esq., it is also the reason why i have mastered astral projection and let my spirit soar over the earth looking at what you do and claim you don’t and don’t do and claim you do, all the while smiling benevolently at your little follies. this is the way that the great operate and as i am truly great, i truly operate thusly.

it is also this skill that enables me to observe the fact that in the limbo spot between the heavens and the earth, where everyone’s consciences reside, there are two, and only two, societal trends that are truly universal; viz. the deep and unwavering belief that lala is the greatest thing on earth and the equally deep and unwavering prejudice against the follically challenged.

i know, for instance, that in the mind maps of everyone who has ever lost a hair is painted in indelible ink an index of others’ baldness, also known as i-oob (not to be confused with i-boob, which is a demographically restricted app available only to single lebanese women over the age of thirty – for details please contact our beirut offices, this is a family friendly blog after all). the origins of this bias are not clear but most historians agree that they existed well before old testament times, before delilah chopped off samson’s hair after a lover’s tiff in order to make him look ridiculous – or, as she put it, “לעכערלעך” – indeed, if you believe in evolution, even before apes were considering a career switch from relaxed primate to harried homo sapiens, the balding among their species were ostracized from their clans and wandered the jungles and mountains and plains alone – and it is a commonly held belief that it is from one of these lone travellers that the toupee wearing sheikh rasheed ahmed is descended, though understandably, much of their ancient wisdom is lost on this so-called specimen of humanity.

speaking of toupees, don’t you, dear reader, think that the toupee is the most extreme of all solutions available to the bald and the balding? and this is where i want you to think very closely, for this post is about baldness and nothing but.

i have been described in one of my carefree moods, by a teacher much impressed by the stylistic expertise of ghalib as one with “nothing on his mind but his hair” (though ghalib would have said something like “maalik-e-zehn-e-bay bojh, bajuz gaysoo-e-sar” because he was a bit finicky that way) and though i have often suspected this was a plagiarized line from one of her classics – it is in fact wodehousean to the extreme – it is a description i have been increasingly holding on to as i transform from sultan rahi to yul brynner in the matter of carpeting of the upper storey. trust me, no amount of preparation or mental conditioning can help you come to terms with the hair blocking the drain in the bath tub. except maybe the hair blocking the drain in the washbasin. and unlike measles, chicken pox and golfing, the earlier you get it, the worse it is.

my blessed syrian barber, ammar, who is hi-tech enough to call his customers with reminders that their hair trims are due and who truly believes he is not a barber but a “hair designer” (which in my books is just an expensive barber) has forcibly changed my hair “style” of the past 27 years in an attempt to partially conceal the ever expanding bald spot that is threatening to engulf the once lush jungle that was my hair. this, he says, is plan a. plan b, i think, is to go from a jason statham-esque “yes i’m balding” to a vin diesel-esque “yes i’m bald” but for now, he says, concealment is the key. he also tells me that i should get married soon or his “job will become harder” as if i have managed to remain a chick magnet all these years on the strength of his hair work alone.

*sigh*

some people have too much confidence in the value of their work.

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in other news, i’m loving this remix of veena malik’s interview

she makes a few hundred valid points.

____________________

guys, the world cup is on, lala is captain, rana naved isn’t in the team, and even ravi shastri’s commentary is more interesting than listening to javed chowdhry prattle on about raymond davis and firdaus ashiq awan. why in hell isn’t everyone jazba junooning?




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