Showing posts from June, 2012

Let’s stereotype

June 26
My almost-Dementia is one of the secrets behind my regret-free, generally grateful and optimistic outlook on life. It is this friendly forgetfulness, at least in part, that makes looking back at my past such a bittersweet and pleasurable activity. I’m not like Sonya, who wades in murky streams most of her days, her skin wrinkled and pale because of the time she spends feeling bitter. She has a picture-perfect memory and can recall the purple plastic watch her best friend was wearing on her right wrist on the fifth day of first grade. But her memory kind of works like he media – bad news sells, it sticks and draws more attention. The thorns sticking into her feet, scratching her arms and holding on to the cloaks she wears are too prickly, their sharpness stings so much that she cannot feel the softer, silky petals of happier days.
And so Sonya spends more time thinking about the time her mother got so angry at her for repeatedly asking to go to a friend’s party that she finally…

Stationary cities

June 17
Hera’s sitting across from me on a single bed, papers strewn beside her, a pen in her hand, nibbling her finger. The door to the room is open, and the curtains are tied together with a hairband, the fan is a whirling blur and for a minute, I feel like I’m back in the dorms. The pictures on her wall don’t help – memories from a little more than three years ago, like the pensieves from Harry Potter (, drawing me in, walking me into the central courtyard, reminding me of the Three-Leaf Thai Chicken, pressing down on my heart like a shoe crushing an ant, or how a child might press his palm to a hole in his beach ball.
We spent half of last night watching old videos, and looking at the hundreds of photographs we snapped in the four years at LUMS. It was hilarious and mildly heart breaking – I guess watching it together made is bearable. Also the fact that we didn’t look the way we looked in freshman year anymore. Ew. Seriously, those pictures have…

Falling for Niagara

June 18
Come on, you have to admit it. The word Niagara makes you giggle because it rhymes with Viagra. Reem warned me in advance, the place has been commercialized to the extent it barely seems like one of the natural wonders of the world – what I didn’t realize was how much I would enjoy the bling ding.
We found good parking and then like good old desi girls, we walked wrong way down a road with cars turning around a blind corner. What can I say, we like living on the edge. Now that I’m reunited with my girls, we paused and took pictures at every five feet, with a slightly different background, green grounds, and the most beautiful blue-green water, swirling towards the edge, where it plummeted vertically into the white arms of the river that stretched upwards.
There is something strange about Niagara Falls, the way it stretches out so wide and uniformly, falling so neatly over the edge. Something manmade about the whole scenario. Maybe it’s the hotels that compete for height and cu…

At Home

June 14
“You are such a brat. Your biggest stress was whether you will get your visa for Canada or go to Seattle earlier!”
If I had been a dwarf from Snow White at that time I would have been Bashful. But, I always say big is relative. So, depending on my current First World problem-mindset, I would say that as much fun as travelling is, it can be quite stressful. Especially if you’re a Muslim from Pakistan travelling in North America on your own. Also, ever since I missed my flight in Nashville (I was sweetly content in the airport lounge right in front of our gate. Except I had headphones on and my back to the gate. I don’t know how it happened but the plane took off without me and my little sister who was ecstatic that I had made such a bewildering error), I have become a nervous traveler.
I worry about reaching the airport too early, or too late, about baggage weight and excess fees, about floundering at the scanning machine because I have to take off my shoes, my laptop, my little…


June 12
I know I’m in Canada because the building a few streets down has a sign that says “The Canada Building”. It’s quite unimpressive, plain beige and square, but then Windsor is not exactly the kind of city that blows your mind away.
I’ve always been kind to places that I visit, though, and I stand by my belief that if you’re in the right frame of mind – and more importantly, with the right people – most places in the world will have something to offer. And sure enough, the view from the 18th floor of this apartment is beautiful. There are tall buildings that glitter all through the night instead of the stars, and all the cars and roads look like they came out of a toy set. I can see the river that changes color every day. I would be crucified for comparing New York to Windsor, but the cityscape from the balcony stirs the same loneliness in my heart.
The city is sketchy, with a rundown downtown. It looks poor, with small homes and strip clubs and bars all over the place, scattered l…

Dial Tone

June 11
I’m a hypocrite, I admit it. I refuse to put Kindle on the same shelf as real books, I tell myself I will ensure that my kids can hold a paintbrush and scribble with crayons before they can swipe fingers at IPads and play games on portable devices, I roll my eyes at couples who write sappy messages on Facebook and turn what should be private and sweet into what at best, bores the rest of the public (you would be surprised at how little it matters to the rest of the world that you ate dinner with your honey at the little bistro down the lane and then he bought you a long-stemmed rose).
I will reserve my thoughts on Facebook for later, but that brings me right to the dirt. I say I hate all this technology that has taken over our lives, that keeps us connected to people far away at the cost of ignoring those in our geographical proximity, but my Blackberry has become something like a third hand, or at least an addendum to one of my hands. I upload photographs on Facebook, and try …

Water babies

June 8
If I were part of Captain Planet’s crew, I’d be Gi (I always spelt it Gee but Wikipedia says otherwise). Not because she’s the Asian in the group but because her element is water. And even though I swim like a baby cow (in other words, very poorly and comically), I love water. Waterfalls, thunderstorms, lakes, rivers, even puddles make me happy. Not to mention the sea.
I miss you Arabian sea, with your gray-brown waters and warm sandy shores glinting under the bright sun. Dig your feet into the sand and just anchor yourself there, the cold, smooth sand covering your feet and then the waves rush up and over, and you feel the earth move.
We went to the lake today and walked on the trail that circles the water. There was an explosion of fitness all around us as people walked, jogged, ran and biked on the dirt path. There were the shirtless, sweaty men who breathed out in short, accurately spaced-out whoof, whoofs, and the wonder women who ran as they pushed their baby in a stroller…

I Miss

June 7
Things feel incomplete today. It seems like cupcakes without frosting, a sunset lost in the clouds, a helium balloon deflating and rolling around the floor. It is like standing on top of a tower and having no one to wrap their arms around you, or walking on a beautiful night with only the wind brushing through your fingers. Its like having to tuck away loose strands of hair by yourself the entire time, playing scrabble on your own, not being able to share Chinese food with the right person.
Austin is amazing, but everything, the lake, the food, the benches, the streets with music pouring out of a hundred different places – coming to battle out in the open, clanging pianos and soft acoustic guitars – it all makes me miss you.
Just a helium-less balloon deflating without you.

Batman Forever

June 6
My father’s a pilot. My mother’s father was a station manager. Travelling is in my genes, I tell people. Every year, as May starts walking away, I get the itching in my feet. It gets harder to pay attention to what is around me and I want to pack a suitcase, board a plane or plan a road trip. And like every other summer, I get to travel around this one too while others are immersed in school work already. I mean, I know I’ll have to make it up in the last two semesters but oh well!
We walked around a lot today, enough for me to want detachable feet so I can take them off and put them to the side. Or soak them in salt water. It reminded me of our trips with my dad, who is the most determined tourist you will ever find. A baseball cap, an unwillingness to spend money and an iron will to check off as many things-to-do as he/we could. It also reminded me of our treks in the northern areas. Ah, I am dying to go on a trip to Hunza. College, I miss you.
So, I got to see more of the city …

Welcome to Austin

June 5
There are some cities that are easy to describe. All you have to do is walk down their streets, and words fly out at you, getting stuck in your hair, sticking to the soles of your flip-flops, and dancing around your head like flies till you pluck them out and slip them into your bag.
My first day in Austin, which people had already pushed up onto a pedestal with praises and odes, and I walked slowly, with my camera around my shoulder and my eyes wide open. I was scouting the city, watching closely, gathering ammunition for my day’s blog. And I wasn’t disappointed. My friend’s apartment is close to UT, Austin, and there are little shops and cafés that sprout up on street corners no matter which direction you take. The heat, the papery bougainvillea, and brown people with black hair – there is a lot here that reminds me of home. The small almost-grocery shop located right around the corner from these apartments also feeds into nostalgia. Friendship store, anyone?
The city is bubbl…

In Transit

June 4
For the last thirty-five years, Jim had never needed to set an alarm to get up in the morning. The train rattling by would wake him up at six a.m. without fail. And more often than not it was the same sound he fell asleep to at night.
He still remembered how upset his wife and two daughters had been when the tracks were laid out all those years ago. “It is so loud! I’m tired of waking up in the middle of the night.” “I can’t study because of a train zipping by every other minute,” his then teenaged daughter had exaggerated, and the younger one had obviously copied the scrunched eyebrows and scowl to the detail and said the same thing – except in a squeakier voice. And they were right. It was really loud. The vibrations were barely perceptible: windows would shiver, the handle of a tea cup on a table close to the outside wall would change direction, dreams would be disrupted, eyes would flutter awake or one would jump out of his/her skin if they were watching a thriller in the mid…

What Dreams Are Made Of

June 3
I have enough blessings to make a stairway to heaven. Bright red, yellow, pink, orange and purple, blue, indigo, gold, and one of the shiniest parts of my life would be my friends. I don’t know what it is, but I dream about my school friends the most.
(Actually, I think I do know why. At least I think I know why because I spent two years studying psychology – which sounds more impressive than it actually was. So my dreams are made of wispy pale nostalgia, that smells really good, like fog, cold, dusty, and crisp, but it leaves an ache inside because it goes away too soon and you’re left wanting more. I miss my friends, or more accurately, I miss those days. Not enough to go back to the start, but maybe visit a few choice moments: the waterpark slides, chalk fights, locking one another in the school bathrooms, acting out Cinderella at Maddy’s birthday party, swinging in the evening outside Fatima’s apartments in Askari. There are strains of guilt, dark spots that camouflage into …

Toys ‘R Scary

June 2
I could spend hours with my toys. There were all these games, always titled with the same word repeated twice, like ‘ghar ghar’, ship ship, adventure adventure. And then there were my barbies. None of my friends had as many dolls as I did – there were the princesses, the regular ones, the male versions called Kens and I was in love with the Pizza Hut set I had.
I had quite a collection of mostly blond, very well-endowed barbies. But it didn’t happen overnight. Every summer my favorite aunt in America would take me to Toys ‘R Us and without fail, I would levitate towards the pinkest section and pick out a mermaid or a princess or a kitchen set for the mermaid/princess. Every birthday she would send me a doll.
I would also spend time reading books. Or skating in the terrace and singing songs. Or sprawled on the sofa, getting really bored. My time on the computer was strictly regulated (that is once computers came into our houses and lives) as was my TV watching. I credit my creat…

Reality TV

June 1
You know you have a problem when you spend the entire day in your PJs in front of the TV, and the only movement is the flick of your wrist to click “play next episode”. Or walk to the kitchen and get more food. But what a lovely problem to have when you have the luxury of time and empty to-do lists!
I’ve always had questionable taste in TV shows. I mean, considering I can’t stand trash novels and the only way you can get me to watch ‘rom-coms’ is a slumber party or a LOT of popcorn. The bright side (I am such an optimist) is that at least I know I’m watching really bad TV shows. Of course when the shows have names like Desperate Housewives and Cougar Town, it doesn’t take SPSS to figure that one out.
And true to my penchant for clichéd melodrama, I started watching this show called Switched at Birth. Yep, it is about two pretty, smooth-skinned 16-year-old girls who were – yes, you guessed it – switched at birth! It is filled with drama, and they definitely overdo it with fugiti…