Jun 30, 2008

Let's waste time.. chasing cars..

Jun 27, 2008


Found out the hard way (pun very much intended) that this bone exists in the human body.

Jun 23, 2008


The little boy who used to fight with me over Tom and Jerry cartoons and steal mangoes from Chacha Jani's courtyard is finally on his way to the future he's worked so hard for.

Love you, you crazy, silly, sweetheart of a brother. You deserve every bit of happiness that comes your way.

Jun 22, 2008

Way to go.

I've always admired people who can stand up for themselves. In an opportunist, dog-eat-dog world, it remains a quality not only to be admired but to be forever safe from the powers of disillusion.

This goes out to this dude. Changing history rocks. Especially if it's for Pakistan's benefit. :)

Jun 21, 2008

Think about it.

Fascinating factoid #1: There are currently 98 oil producing countries in the world, of which 64 are thought to have passed their geologically imposed production peak, and of those 60 are in terminal production decline.

Fascinating factoid # 2: In the 21st century it is a travesty that it takes 4,000 pounds of metal to move 200 pounds of people. That's only 5% efficient.

Taken from this website.

Jun 20, 2008


How does one become what he/she becomes? How can a woman sell herself for few rupees and be desensitized? How does humanity sell itself for nickels and dimes and paisas and cents ... and not care at all?

This one-hour-thirty-nine-minute flick is the story of Chameli. Kareena Kapoor plays the title role opposite Rahul Bose as he tells the story of the night that changed his life. Recovering from the tragedy of his wife's death, the movie begins as the investment banker's car breaks down in a red-light area where he meets cigarette-smoking, mafia-fighting, slang-happy Chameli. An action-packed couple of hours ensue as he steps into the other half of the world, struggling to understand its wormholes.

Kareena Kapoor, even with her flawless skin and doe-eyed face, is able to deliver through crude and coarse mannerisms, unbridled language and all-too-frank laughter. Bose seems boorish enough and makes up for what Kareena lacks. In any case, the movie is watchable, if not for the needless songs, but for the paced dialogs, the peek into what lives after dark in sin-cities and the fact that you don't always have to see Kareena singing songs with a good-looking hero in the Alps.

Jun 19, 2008

Failure and Imagination.

Khizra posted something pretty inspirational on her blog, indeed. I'm sharing it with you guys, not only because I absolutely love J. K. Rowling's dry Brit humor, her work and the fact that she actually made an effort to make a graduation speech dark yet at the same time funny and interesting ... but because it's always good to hear people mean what they say. Even if it is so very, very rare.

Here it is. J. K. Rowling's address titled "The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination" which she delivered to Harvard graduates on their big day.

I'm warning you people. Read it ALL.

President Faust, members of the Harvard Corporation and the Board of Overseers, members of the faculty, proud parents, and, above all, graduates,

The first thing I would like to say is 'thank you.' Not only has Harvard given me an extraordinary honour, but the weeks of fear and nausea I've experienced at the thought of giving this commencement address have made me lose weight. A win-win situation! Now all I have to do is take deep breaths, squint at the red banners and fool myself into believing I am at the world's best-educated Harry Potter convention.

Delivering a commencement address is a great responsibility; or so I thought until I cast my mind back to my own graduation. The commencement speaker that day was the distinguished British philosopher Baroness Mary Warnock. Reflecting on her speech has helped me enormously in writing this one, because it turns out that I can't remember a single word she said. This liberating discovery enables me to proceed without any fear that I might inadvertently influence you to abandon promising careers in business, law or politics for the giddy delights of becoming a gay wizard.

You see? If all you remember in years to come is the 'gay wizard' joke, I've still come out ahead of Baroness Mary Warnock. Achievable goals: the first step towards personal improvement.

Actually, I have wracked my mind and heart for what I ought to say to you today. I have asked myself what I wish I had known at my own graduation, and what important lessons I have learned in the 21 years that has expired between that day and this.

I have come up with two answers. On this wonderful day when we are gathered together to celebrate your academic success, I have decided to talk to you about the benefits of failure. And as you stand on the threshold of what is sometimes called 'real life', I want to extol the crucial importance of imagination.

These might seem quixotic or paradoxical choices, but please bear with me.

Looking back at the 21-year-old that I was at graduation, is a slightly uncomfortable experience for the 42-year-old that she has become. Half my lifetime ago, I was striking an uneasy balance between the ambition I had for myself, and what those closest to me expected of me.

I was convinced that the only thing I wanted to do, ever, was to write novels. However, my parents, both of whom came from impoverished backgrounds and neither of whom had been to college, took the view that my overactive imagination was an amusing personal quirk that could never pay a mortgage, or secure a pension.

They had hoped that I would take a vocational degree; I wanted to study English Literature. A compromise was reached that in retrospect satisfied nobody, and I went up to study Modern Languages. Hardly had my parents' car rounded the corner at the end of the road than I ditched German and scuttled off down the Classics corridor.

I cannot remember telling my parents that I was studying Classics; they might well have found out for the first time on graduation day. Of all subjects on this planet, I think they would have been hard put to name one less useful than Greek mythology when it came to securing the keys to an executive bathroom.

I would like to make it clear, in parenthesis, that I do not blame my parents for their point of view. There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction; the moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you. What is more, I cannot criticise my parents for hoping that I would never experience poverty. They had been poor themselves, and I have since been poor, and I quite agree with them that it is not an ennobling experience. Poverty entails fear, and stress, and sometimes depression; it means a thousand petty humiliations and hardships. Climbing out of poverty by your own efforts, that is indeed something on which to pride yourself, but poverty itself is romanticised only by fools.

What I feared most for myself at your age was not poverty, but failure.

At your age, in spite of a distinct lack of motivation at university, where I had spent far too long in the coffee bar writing stories, and far too little time at lectures, I had a knack for passing examinations, and that, for years, had been the measure of success in my life and that of my peers.

I am not dull enough to suppose that because you are young, gifted and well-educated, you have never known hardship or heartbreak. Talent and intelligence never yet inoculated anyone against the caprice of the Fates, and I do not for a moment suppose that everyone here has enjoyed an existence of unruffled privilege and contentment.

However, the fact that you are graduating from Harvard suggests that you are not very well-acquainted with failure. You might be driven by a fear of failure quite as much as a desire for success. Indeed, your conception of failure might not be too far from the average person's idea of success, so high have you already flown academically.

Ultimately, we all have to decide for ourselves what constitutes failure, but the world is quite eager to give you a set of criteria if you let it. So I think it fair to say that by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.

Now, I am not going to stand here and tell you that failure is fun. That period of my life was a dark one, and I had no idea that there was going to be what the press has since represented as a kind of fairy tale resolution. I had no idea how far the tunnel extended, and for a long time, any light at the end of it was a hope rather than a reality.

So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.

Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above rubies.

The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more to me than any qualification I ever earned.

Given a time machine or a Time Turner, I would tell my 21-year-old self that personal happiness lies in knowing that life is not a check-list of acquisition or achievement. Your qualifications, your CV, are not your life, though you will meet many people of my age and older who confuse the two. Life is difficult, and complicated, and beyond anyone's total control, and the humility to know that will enable you to survive its vicissitudes.

You might think that I chose my second theme, the importance of imagination, because of the part it played in rebuilding my life, but that is not wholly so. Though I will defend the value of bedtime stories to my last gasp, I have learned to value imagination in a much broader sense. Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathise with humans whose experiences we have never shared.

One of the greatest formative experiences of my life preceded Harry Potter, though it informed much of what I subsequently wrote in those books. This revelation came in the form of one of my earliest day jobs. Though I was sloping off to write stories during my lunch hours, I paid the rent in my early 20s by working in the research department at Amnesty International's headquarters in London.

There in my little office I read hastily scribbled letters smuggled out of totalitarian regimes by men and women who were risking imprisonment to inform the outside world of what was happening to them. I saw photographs of those who had disappeared without trace, sent to Amnesty by their desperate families and friends. I read the testimony of torture victims and saw pictures of their injuries. I opened handwritten, eye-witness accounts of summary trials and executions, of kidnappings and rapes.

Many of my co-workers were ex-political prisoners, people who had been displaced from their homes, or fled into exile, because they had the temerity to think independently of their government. Visitors to our office included those who had come to give information, or to try and find out what had happened to those they had been forced to leave behind.

I shall never forget the African torture victim, a young man no older than I was at the time, who had become mentally ill after all he had endured in his homeland. He trembled uncontrollably as he spoke into a video camera about the brutality inflicted upon him. He was a foot taller than I was, and seemed as fragile as a child. I was given the job of escorting him to the Underground Station afterwards, and this man whose life had been shattered by cruelty took my hand with exquisite courtesy, and wished me future happiness.

And as long as I live I shall remember walking along an empty corridor and suddenly hearing, from behind a closed door, a scream of pain and horror such as I have never heard since. The door opened, and the researcher poked out her head and told me to run and make a hot drink for the young man sitting with her. She had just given him the news that in retaliation for his own outspokenness against his country's regime, his mother had been seized and executed.

Every day of my working week in my early 20s I was reminded how incredibly fortunate I was, to live in a country with a democratically elected government, where legal representation and a public trial were the rights of everyone.

Every day, I saw more evidence about the evils humankind will inflict on their fellow humans, to gain or maintain power. I began to have nightmares, literal nightmares, about some of the things I saw, heard and read.

And yet I also learned more about human goodness at Amnesty International than I had ever known before.

Amnesty mobilises thousands of people who have never been tortured or imprisoned for their beliefs to act on behalf of those who have. The power of human empathy, leading to collective action, saves lives, and frees prisoners. Ordinary people, whose personal well-being and security are assured, join together in huge numbers to save people they do not know, and will never meet. My small participation in that process was one of the most humbling and inspiring experiences of my life.

Unlike any other creature on this planet, humans can learn and understand, without having experienced. They can think themselves into other people's minds, imagine themselves into other people's places.

Of course, this is a power, like my brand of fictional magic, that is morally neutral. One might use such an ability to manipulate, or control, just as much as to understand or sympathise.

And many prefer not to exercise their imaginations at all. They choose to remain comfortably within the bounds of their own experience, never troubling to wonder how it would feel to have been born other than they are. They can refuse to hear screams or to peer inside cages; they can close their minds and hearts to any suffering that does not touch them personally; they can refuse to know.

I might be tempted to envy people who can live that way, except that I do not think they have any fewer nightmares than I do. Choosing to live in narrow spaces can lead to a form of mental agoraphobia, and that brings its own terrors. I think the wilfully unimaginative see more monsters. They are often more afraid.

What is more, those who choose not to empathise may enable real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it, through our own apathy.

One of the many things I learned at the end of that Classics corridor down which I ventured at the age of 18, in search of something I could not then define, was this, written by the Greek author Plutarch: What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.

That is an astonishing statement and yet proven a thousand times every day of our lives. It expresses, in part, our inescapable connection with the outside world, the fact that we touch other people's lives simply by existing.

But how much more are you, Harvard graduates of 2008, likely to touch other people's lives? Your intelligence, your capacity for hard work, the education you have earned and received, give you unique status, and unique responsibilities. Even your nationality sets you apart. The great majority of you belong to the world's only remaining superpower. The way you vote, the way you live, the way you protest, the pressure you bring to bear on your government, has an impact way beyond your borders. That is your privilege, and your burden.

If you choose to use your status and influence to raise your voice on behalf of those who have no voice; if you choose to identify not only with the powerful, but with the powerless; if you retain the ability to imagine yourself into the lives of those who do not have your advantages, then it will not only be your proud families who celebrate your existence, but thousands and millions of people whose reality you have helped transform for the better. We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already: we have the power to imagine better.

I am nearly finished. I have one last hope for you, which is something that I already had at 21. The friends with whom I sat on graduation day have been my friends for life. They are my children's godparents, the people to whom I've been able to turn in times of trouble, friends who have been kind enough not to sue me when I've used their names for Death Eaters. At our graduation we were bound by enormous affection, by our shared experience of a time that could never come again, and, of course, by the knowledge that we held certain photographic evidence that would be exceptionally valuable if any of us ran for Prime Minister.

So today, I can wish you nothing better than similar friendships. And tomorrow, I hope that even if you remember not a single word of mine, you remember those of Seneca, another of those old Romans I met when I fled down the Classics corridor, in retreat from career ladders, in search of ancient wisdom:

As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters.

I wish you all very good lives.

Thank you very much.


Bollywood is something you kind of have to develop a taste for.

If you haven't grown up in India or Pakistan, watching Salman Khan develop from a scrawny 20-year-old to a muscly 30-something, still chasing girls, tolerating 3-plus hours of female melodramatics, male stereotypes, the fight for good'n'evil, loving over-makeupped, under-dressed, under-dogged heroines, 5-minute dance numbers, familiar surnames to rank at the box office and the general hoopla that is associated with these films, you will have little understanding or appreciation to this cinema. For you to acknowledge how far Indian cinema has come, you have to watch this movie.

Starring Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Akshay Kumar and Anil Kapoor, comes the storyline and direction strongly reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino's flicks - or at least a wannabe Tarantino anyway. It does not boast to be made sense out of, it doesn't want you to think about society and its problems, and it doesn't want you to wonder why the hell does a vixen like Kareena shout for "Bacchhaaaaannnn!" when she so readily agreed to be water-hosed-down by the villain?

Why? Because the entire film, ladies and gentlemen, is about the fictitious reality of the very word tashan. To me the film held a lot of entertainment value when it came to the big brand of audience Indian cinema appeals to. Kareena looks great, Akshay's fighting Crouching-Tiger-Hidden-Dragon style, Saif is talking Pataudi-style, Anil Kapoor is really doing his bit with that broken English and you've got a beaty-meaty soundtrack. That's the very definition of what makes Indian movies click. That's what I admire about the movie. It was Tashan from the beginning to the end, make no mistake, no false promises of sensibilities from any point whatsoever (they should add that as a disclaimer to these entertainment-flicks).

Fun to watch, easy to forget, Bollywood a la classic. Go watch and pig out.

Jun 16, 2008

"Dead Man Walking"

The humanist in me sympathizes with the cause of helping a death-row inmate. At the same time it completely grosses out me and my principles of morality, my beliefs in the sanctity of justice, pardon and life itself. This movie will make you think and wonder about the society you live in, the schism produced by inevitable social coordinates.

Just wish there was a better place we could call earth.

Jun 11, 2008

From the heart of an overheated Pakistani.

This is JUST one of those days when I want someone else to take my class. Or not get up in the morning. Or keep sleeping until it's noon and it's time for lunch.

Special shout out to KESC for keeping the power out of safe distance for 35/48 hours and thus making me more stressed than I get in teaching a week of two universities.

Another special mention: fishing-goo 'jerkazoids' for making Pakistan into a hellhole and making enough dough to send kids abroad to work at McDonalds.

Thank you for making life unlivable for the average Pakistani citizen. No food, electricity, petrol, water, hospitals and now add monsoon rain and broken roads to the mix.

Summer? Oh yeah. We've only just begun.

Jun 6, 2008

The truth shall set you laughing.

This is absolutely hilarious (no pun intended) if nothing short of alarming.

Usually if you're feeling too sorry for yourself, it is advised that you look at lives which deserve more sympathy than yours. In this case however, we've found a new anecdote: American politics.

More specifically: Hillary Clinton.

Let's ignore the fact that she refuses to let go. Let's also ignore the fact that she mailed this strangely compassionate letter to her supporters (with obvious dual meanings) and let's also ignore that Obama actually didn't pull kindergarten 'shame-shame' pranks on her.

And let's focus on why people are voting for her. Because she's a woman.

Are y' kidding?

That's an undeniably pathetic reason to vote for a politician, for a candidate who wants to establish a future for your country at a point where your policies have more than just far-reaching effects on global politics. This is the presidential election, for crying out loud. Not a contest for a circus freak or a title role to a Hollywood blockbuster. If anything I feel nauseated that she's a woman, since she's proven to live the very stereotype: unreasonable and irrational.

I will not say that Obama and McCain are the messiahs for the future, but if I'd want to see some ration of common sense and dignity, I'd not look at Mrs. Clinton anyway.

US politics were never of much interest to me (I stopped paying attention when Bush was reelected); I am slightly Marxist, democracy is nothing but a smokescreen for the masses and the power elite. However, if someone starts to dance naked on the road chanting battle-cries, you're bound to pay attention at some point in time.

I hope Obama wins. And I'm not just saying that because he's a big-eared fellow with little hair to his name. I'm saying it because at least he's got the smokescreen working for him. When something like that doesn't work out for you (hint hint, Mrs. Clinton) I think it's time to gracefully step down and smell the Vice Presidentship.

Have given my own two cents to it: cent no. 1 and cent. no. 2. The rest of you please go out and do the same. At least tell the morons they've got democracy all screwed up.

(And thank you, Barooq. I finally got that dose of laughter. Especially with this comment that someone left. Hilarious. Hmm. Maybe this time I do intend the pun.)

The jerk that is reality..

Death puts everything in perspective.

Jun 3, 2008

The Immaculae.

Women were to be buried, dressed and washed in white. Women of all colors. She was one of them and so was she, and her and her and them, and yes, those standing in the corner with their arms stuck to their sides and the ones stuck to their chests, begging for something that came and left, like a period of rest, swung high and low, dangled above, and confused them all, like chorus, that could rise and fall, within seconds of its simple and sparky diminutive existence

They could not be freed. They were honorbound to the serpentine warriors, the neanderthals and their boxer shorts were green and yellow and red, eternally and forgetfully because their master had lost their deed in the texts of wars and lawyers. That's when she was born. she remembered the time. That was when God told them that they were dreaming. And it'd be over soon.

Cautiously, silently, they moved behind in the long line that went all the way up, up, up, up, to the topmost tower, through the moat and onto the edge; there the dragon stepped in front of the gate, barfed fire and nothing but their bare flesh remained. They tried to hide it, tried to protect it, cover it, smoothen it, but the scars never went.

These scars never do, not even if you bite them off with the sharpest canines.

She had tried that once. But he broke her heart with the same teeth and the degeneration became cancerous, said the medicine-man. You are going to die.

When have I not died. She laughed and looked into his deep brown eyes.

Did I not tell you? I died when he looked, when he kissed, when he brought me flowers and called me beautiful and ran his fingers through my hair and said he was so proud... so proud...

The medicine-man looked disturbed. No. He smiles sadly. You never told me. I wish you had. I wish I could stop him from loving you this way.

There was nothing obscene about it, she rationalizes to him, gathering her skirt around her fine, browned, scraped legs (she had run again, the rain beat her down) and saw him gazing appreciatively.

You don't want to do that. She loved and hated the way he took his eyes away. Then schemas took over.

You are not the medicine man, her eyes narrowed. You are the autopsy-man, and you will feed me to the fire the same way they eat flesh.

Tell me what you want to say.

I don't want to say, you sick old fuck. I want to scream. I want to tell you you're all the same and you deserve to rot in hell and I should be rotting in hell with you, because I deserve that for trusting you.

Then night and old frightening nightmares came, just the same, they always did, never deterring, changing, adapting. The same pitch black house. She walks in, throat closes and a light so bright, tears begin to fall. The scene changes as swiftly as it does in movies, she is running again, the dragon running after her, her feet begin to bleed and her relatives surround her, breathing and watching with mad mouths, dripping with spit and blood and oil. She runs and stops and falls and the scene shifts. Now she is awake. What was the very last sight she saw swimming? Drowning in sweat? No, that was real. The dragon? No, he's real too. The feet? Yes.

Were they filled with blood, he asked.

Why do you want to know. She fidgets with his tie. He wears boring ties.

They won't like it, you should know. He gently pries his tie away from her hands, pats them, pats her and sits down looking all-official. They won't like it if you're dreaming.

They will like the nightmares. I have been chosen to paint their walls with them. She dips her hand into her mouth a little. Her spit was red and green and blue. Now she scribbled, with her nimble fingers: I never knew.

He looked nervous again. The way most men are if you talk to them about what they are nervous about. She laughed raucously and tapped his chin with her colored hand. Her brown, weather-beaten hand. Are you disgusted yet?

Tell me more.

He took her fingers and squeezed them, the color rushed forth, he filled the bucket.

Exorcist, she screamed. He kissed her on the forehead and she went to sleep, her screaming reiterations ringing high in the topmost tower and the dragon howled.

When she woke, her dress was no longer pale and dinghy. I'm a bride. What are those, tunes of matrimony? Clear and sublime. And there he stood, so smooth-faced, smiling, waiting to hold her hand and call her into his embrace. She traipsed along a yellow, red, blue, green brick road, the crystals still shining on her throat, her lips pressed sweetly in a smile. Is this all? This is what I had feared. My finale?

The tunes kept ringing, her lips kept their sweetness in their movement, her skin was still glowing. He touched her cheek and felt the glow, moved away abruptly, lunged at her again and burnt. The dragon howled. She stood before him, fixated at his snapping teeth and dirty, scorching nostrils.

You wore white, he growled. You are brown. And you are going to die.

She saw the light in her flesh. Was God going to be fair? She didn't know. She just didn't want Him to growl.

Jun 1, 2008

Dream Big - David Cook.

I have been trying to remember this song since forever. Finally (thanks to some person who was more inclined on answering the question instead of telling me how lame it is to forget the whole thing instead of the 'if you don't something something' of the song) I have it. The song is "Dream Big" sung by Cook on the Finale.

Here are the lyrics and this is the video.