What do You Remember of Your Time on Earth?

Remember one of my earlier post? where I shared my experience of Eid holidays and one particular ‘first day of eid’ where me and my friends hit the streets late at night and went exploring some legacy hotels around Karachi? well, that very same day some thing else happened, which at the time was making the blog post seemed inappropriate and out of place so I didn’t mention it… However now, as is the case with most (I daresay all) of my posts coming from the depths of my twisted mind, I feel that that single event has finally found a post of its own.

This blog will be a collection of some short interesting events which most of you will find boring and perhaps a few will take it as food for thought.

Finger Licking ‘Cute’??!

Hmmm… that day right after finishing the Dog Day Afternoon and finalizing the night scene with mates, I made the significant effort of getting out of my stupor to fetch dinner from a nearby KFC outlet. As tedious as the task was, coming from a man fed up of doing the routine family scene all day and bored out of his mind, I decided to make the effort of driving to the nearby joint. Ordered a Zinger Xtreme! the only sandwich I like at KFC, took the receipt and was hanging around idle around the counter when I heard some laughter coming behind the silver shelves. I shifted a bit to my right so I could see the origin of this levity. It really wasn’t something extraordinary, two  KFC serving personnel, a boy and a girl standing relaxed in a corner in their uniform and gossiping about god knows what, they were very comfortable with each other gauging by their mannerism,  but most important of all they were… Happy. Happily chatting away and going about their conversation oblivious to who ever is watching or whatever is going around them. These two young people belonging to the lower income segment of my hypocritical society, not giving a fuck about the taboos, societal norms or there financial constraints and instead working on the first day of Eid-ul-Fitr, a national holiday, a public holiday all over the moslem world!,, making the most of it…there was something soothing about watching these two., it actually brought a smile on my face and put me in a good mood for the rest of that night.

A Club Night in Istanbul

A guy gets out of a club on the European side of Istanbul. The name of the club is Cuba. He has a bottle of beer in one hand and an Eastern European girl is walking by his side. The two are in an apparent haze of  joy and longing for one another, momentarily forgetting the discomfort of spending two nights together and seeing each other in person for the first time in eight years… momentarily forgetting the awful verbal abuses exchanged in the past couple of hours, momentarily forgetting that this is their last night together for another eight years or maybe never again, momentarily forgetting that one of them is from Eastern Europe and the other is from Pakistan, a distant land plagued with extremism, violent political storms and a crippling economy frozen in time.

The boy stops at an ATM, not getting jack shit of the alphabet appearing on the screen but manages to get some lira out. They hail a taxi and head out into the night. The girl doesn’t want to go to the hotel, she wants to do something else, it is 3am in the morning on a Saturday…. They stopped the taxi over the Galata bridge conntecting old Istanbul with the new Istanbul with a river flowing in between. As the taxi drives off, they both start walking across the bridge, the weather is just the perfect blend of chill and sweat. There

The Galata Bridge

conversation is limited to pleasentaries, they do not talk much but admire the beauty of the night of a summertime Istanbul. Along the ledge of  the bridge there are people of different races fishing together unconcerned about who walks by, what time it is or whether tonight is even a good night for fishing…. Our strange couple walks among these fisherman, pass a local policeman and just stare out. It truly is a beautiful night. Or is it? There is an invisible almost palpable wall between them. The two wished they could understand what it all meant…

Yaser

“…-and this, my good students is why it is important for a company to have greater share of equity rather then liability” the professor summarizes as I finish taking the last of my notes from a finance lecture eons ago.

A Job well done I looked to my right, my buddy was dozing off oblivious to what is going on around him.

“You!!”

I looked up and turned a shade of bright red on finding the entire class staring at me and my friend.

“You!!” the professor yelled once again

“How many times have I told you not to sleep in my lectures! I understand that you are working a night shift, I understand that you are working 12 hours a day, I understand that you are in need..,but this is disrespectful and simply not tolerable. If you can’t keep pace with the rest of us maybe you should just quit!” —

After the end of the lecture my friend and I went outside for a cigarette, decided to bunk the rest of the day, smoked a joint and decided to check out Empress Market in Saddar. It was probably another one of those crazy things I have done. The idea seemed very interesting and thats exactly what we did.

During the course of the afternoon, we traveled all across Saddar in a public bus, stoned out of our minds, checked out pet animals in Empress Market, visited a friend in Gulistan-e-Johar for some PS3 street fighting gaming, there was also an instance of me throwing up in the toilet, another instance of us rolling joints on top of a bridge in rush hour traffic, and ending up in Askari three where another friend was waiting for us…

We spent the entire night listening to trance, grilling chicken on his roof top and ofcourse rolling more joints. During one of these random sessions I remember him telling me something:

“Man, I am trying, I am trying to keep everything in balance but the way that bitch discouraged me this morning I say fuck it! you know what I think, maybe she is right, I should just stop studying and concentrate on my work”

He dropped out of university after trying to complete the program for 3 consecutive years. One of the most original people I have ever met. Hats off to you buddy. God be with you.

I don’t know what it all means. But if I was to die suddenly, unfortunately, at this very instance and was facing God who is asking me;

“Son what do you remember of your time on Earth, don’t think just tell me the first few things that come to your mind.” These are few of the events I will tell Him…

…And then I’ll hum this tune 🙂 :

One Day I Wish to Have this Kind of Time

I have often wondered why me and my friends often end up indulging in intoxicants wait… intoxicants is too negative a word, lets just call it a ‘drink’ or two on weekends after a hectic week. Yes, sometimes I think after five days of dealing with the tasks at work, the usual verbal lashing from the boss and household chores it is OK to relax, sip and unwind.

Some would say that my experimental college days are gone and the practical world doesn’t allow one to compromise on health well not at least when there are sooooo many other alternatives available. ALTERNATIVES, hmmm I think I can never over emphasize the importance of the said Alternatives, more importantly the lack thereof.

Living in Karachi people do not really have much going on for them in the recreation department. Seems like all our free time is centered around one form of food or the other. I would love to elaborate more about this ‘fooding business’ but fear it will deviate from the topic. I will just conclude by saying that had there been something sane and safe to do besides going out and EAT I wouldn’t think twice about drinking.

So that is how the usual Eid started for me. The chand raath was a night of ‘indulgence’ over a good conversation with friends where anecdotes of all the Eids bygone were shared followed by an early morning prayer session at the Eid Gha (A large prayer congregation) which marks the official day of Eid. After that I knew I was in for a routine every Pakistani takes months to zealously prepare; the house decorations, clothing and accessorizing, fooding (of course) etcetera and spent visiting the same family members they have been seeing the whole year round only this time with a big smile. Dam, what an anti-climax! The Pakistani social norms are deeply rooted in the family system, the relatives, the community and the interdependence with one another which is the reason for such a monotonous event as Eid. For the expatriates, visiting Pakistani family and friends the Eid holidays might represent the real meaning of Family time but for majority of us it is simply just another day. So these thoughts got me into a solemn mood for most of the ritual relative meet ups.

These are our values which in the West will often be taken as Racism. Now, I am not judging nor am I saying if this is wrong or right. This is all an observation presented in as objective a format as possible.

By evening I couldn’t take it any more and retired to my room where I knew some recently downloaded movies would be a far more entertaining means to kill time. I watched an old Al Pacino classic, Dog Day Afternoon (1975). *Spoiler Alert. The idea of Pacino playing a queer role was very interesting.

I think I must have slept towards the end credits of the film because it was now very dark outside and the house seemed deserted so I guessed the party must have moved out to raid another unsuspecting victim.

In any case I wanted to hit the streets as well see what Karachites were up to on this festive day. In the next 30 minutes the windows of my car were rolled down, one hand sticking out enjoy the fresh Arabian sea air, two asshole buddies in the back seat and we were off on Shahr-e-faisal. First stop Butler’s Chocolate Shop, but the place was packed full and I mean  people coming out of the crevices of the glass walls a waiting list of 45 mins! Hell no. We drove off to Espresso found the same predicament there.

Now what do we do. The only serious coffee houses are packed. Well it is on these merry occasions that one must experiment and we ended up at the Cinnamon Cafe Lounge of Avari Towers where I last went as a kid maybe 15 years ago! We got the entire place to ourselves since it was 2:00am in the morning. The place had an aura of grand moments lost within the walls. The architecture resembles that of Pearl Continental Hotel, a little toned down perhaps but good non the less. We ordered coffee and looked around. The lounge does not allow you to smoke inside but there is a very convenient courtyard overlooking the pool for that. The floor was carpeted and the lights weren’t too bright. Overall I would say the place had a welcoming and cosy feel to it.

The coffees arrived and while I sipped I noticed some books on a table. One in particular caught my attention, it was titled Karachiwala: Subcontinent Within a City. And what a treat to simmer through it. The author had basically written personal accounts of around 40 or more (I might be wrong) families residing in Karachi belonging to very diverse backgrounds. Parsis, Balcohis, Sariki, Chinese, Sindhis, Mohajirs, Christians, Jews (Yes you read correct!!), you name it and it was there. I was amazed by the diversity of people cataloged here.

In a typical non-conformist fashion I chose the Jewish account of the book. You might be surprised to know that before partition there was a very active Jewish community living in Karachi and according to the book around 2500 to 3000! However, racial tensions and discrimination every time there was a Arab-Israel war made it very difficult for the Jews to live peacefully. Also according to the book there are many old buildings which were designed or commissioned by Jewish architects or builders. One such building is the Russian Embassy behind Abdullah Shah Gazi Mazar.

Incredible I thought to myself that there was a time in Pakistan where Jews could co-exist peacefully with the Muslims. What happened to us? why have we gone so far astray? The joy of Eid and a read about the Jews got me thinking again about Pakistan’s past glory.

We left at 3:00am but the lounge is open 24 hours and is a must for those looking for a quite reflecting time and very comfortable in stark contrast to Pearl Continental or Marriot Hotel where the staff stares at you for no reason. And no if some of you are wondering if I am being paid to write this stuff. I am not. In fact I would love it if I was getting paid to promote something on my blog. But unfortunately at present it is not the case. That being said today was very close to the kind of time I wish too have all the time: