Sunday, January 8, 2017

An Open Letter to Mr. Salman Ahmad of the Band Formerly Known as Junoon

A horribly edited and mangled version of this letter was originally published in the print issue of The Express Tribune. However, they were able to rectify it and publish it in its original form online. It can be read here: http://tribune.com.pk/story/1287542/open-letter-salman-ahmad-former-junooni/


Dear Mr. Ahmad,

For the love of music, Junoon, and all that is holy, please stop singing, recording, and rereleasing old Junoon songs and stop calling yourself Junoon altogether. You are ruining the songs and the legacy of the band for all of us. Forever.

Let me begin by saying that I am one of the earliest and biggest Junoon fans. I was 13 years old when Junoon came out and I vividly remember buying that cassette tape from a small music shop in Nazimabad #4. I remember being ecstatic to hear the distorted guitar riff of “Chori Chori” and also a bit uneasy when my parents asked me in a disapproving tone what I was listening to. That is when I knew I was going to be a Junooni, an instant rebel, listening to the first Pakistani rock band on my cassette player. I literally broke that tape in the coming months, listening to it day in and out; although I do admit that I would fast-forward the two tracks “Game of Chance” and “Downtown Princess,” mostly because they were sung in English and also because they sounded way off compared to what the rest of the album was about. I had just started to learn the guitar at the time and “Heer” was one of the first songs I starting playing. You were a hero for me; a prolific Pakistani electric guitar player who was mixing Eastern scales into his rock solos. I was mesmerized, especially by “Sunn.” What a song!

Next came Talaash. I remember getting the album free with a tube of Colgate toothpaste, even though it was not the complete album. It only had six songs, I believe, but it had “Talaash,” “Heeray,” and “Woh,” which are still to this day some of my favorite Junoon songs. By the time Inquilaab was released, I was older and was regularly attending your concerts in Karachi like a true Junooni, going wild on songs like “Saeen,” “Husan Walon,” and “Mera Mahi.” You guys used to play at the Bahria Auditorium on Karsaz every weekend, sometimes on both Thursday and Friday nights (because Friday and Saturday used to be off and Sunday was a working day then), and I would be there, standing in the front, rocking out to your songs every week, sometimes on both nights. Junoon once played at the Alliance Francaise in Karachi and I could not afford the tickets, so my friend and I snuck in early after school and stayed hidden behind the stage until it was show time many hours later. I got to witness you do the sound check. I even met you that day and we had a little talk. That was one of my best days from that time.

Then came my late teens and heartbreak. I would find solace in songs like “Kyoun Pareshan” and “Mukh Gaye Nay” from Azaadi. Soon, I left Karachi and went on to my university, where you truly continued to be an inspiration to me. I performed “Heer” on stage for my university’s talent show, and later also played in a band where we used to play an acoustic version of “Heeray.” I remember being in the States at that time and Junoon would be the music that united all Pakistanis there. Songs like “Sayonee,” “Mahiwal,” and when Parvaaz came out, “Bulleya,” “Pyar Bina,” and “Sajna,” could be heard all over the campus. Since then, whenever I hear these songs, it brings an overwhelming wave of nostalgia over me, as I am reminded of those evocative days in college where Junoon was the greatest, most iconic sufi/rock band ever. I know that you came out with a few more albums after that but I was not able to listen to them in their entirety as I had a chance to do so with all the previous albums, especially after I heard the more pop-sounding “Pappu Yaar,” which was a grave departure for me from Junoon, although that album had “Tara Jala,” a great song.

It was quite sad when I heard that Junoon had decided to break up with you, Mr. Azmat, and Mr. Connell going their separate ways.

I did not follow Junoon after that because to me, the band was over. But I recall that you continued to take the name forward and even came out with an album or two. It was only yesterday that I had a chance to hear a mangled version of “Bulleya” called “Bulleya/Lonely Heart” from your 2010 album Rock & Roll Jihad, which only includes you as the sole member from the band but the album is credited as being produced and recorded by Junoon. In this version, not only do you (badly) sing the song, you have also changed the chorus from “Buleya kee jana mein kaun?” to say “Lonely heart. Help me heal.” No. Just no. As soon as I heard this atrocity, I was enraged and I immediately wished I had never listened to it. This new version has completely ruined the original song for me. Now I cannot listen to the old song without hearing you sing “Lonely heart. Help me heal.” And that is not ok. All my wistful memories associated with that song are ruined. Destroyed. Decimated. Forever.

I also found out that you have recently rerecorded “Khwab” from the first album in your voice and that you plan on releasing this new version on an album “celebrating” the 25th anniversary of Junoon. Again, to my great dismay, when I heard the song, I found you had changed the melody. Of “Khwab!” Please stop this. Please stop messing with classic old Junoon songs by re-releasing them in your voice. Even though I feel that “Meray Pass Aaja” from Junoon is a brilliant song and you did a very good job singing it, please understand that singing is not your forte. Why would you even want to do this? Why would you want to re-sing these old songs and re-record them? Many bands have broken up in the past and the individual members have all moved on, gone on to create new songs, doing various other projects. I am not aware of any member from any band who was a guitarist and who has gone on after a split to continue singing the band’s old songs in his or her own voice, releasing them again and again in new albums. Singing them and playing at concerts is fine because they are your songs and people come to listen to them. But please. Do not re-record them in your voice. Save us all the horror and stop spoiling Junoon songs and the band’s legacy.

Also, how is it Junoon’s 25th anniversary? Didn’t the band break up and split in 2005 when Ali Azmat left? Or possibly even in 2003 when Brian left? That’s at least 11 years ago! The band is done and dusted. It’s finished. Stop calling yourself Junoon, especially if you are going to release Indian movie songs like “Kaise Bolun,” where you are singing auto-tuned lines like, “I am in love, soul to soul.” Quit doing it in Junoon’s name if you are going to sing such crappy non-Junoon-like songs like “Door.” Make a new band. Call it whatever you want to but not Junoon because Junoon, along with you, was Ali Azmat, Brian O'Connell, Malcolm Goveas, and Ustad Ashiq Ali Mir (the last two you unfortunately never officially recognized as being part of the band; sadly enough, neither Malcolm nor Ustad sahab’s name appear anywhere related to Junoon, not on your website and not on your Wikipedia pages). Junoon is no more (pun intended). It is dead. Accept that and move on. Let the dead lie and also spare Junoon’s fans from having to go through the trauma of hearing bastardized versions of the songs that mean so much to them. You are not only destroying the songs, you are destroying the nostalgia associated with them.

It pains me immensely to see and hear what Junoon’s legacy has become and you are the only one ruining it. I would urge you, nay plead with you, to please stop with this nonsense and stop further ruining Junoon for all of us forever.

Sincerely,

A Junooni who no longer wishes to be one.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Pentadecadent Me

In my last post - 5 Decades - I said I was going to compile a list of 35 songs, one for each year that I have lived, from 1979 till 2013. I came up with some rules that I had to follow, which is why it took me a while - more than two months - but I was finally able to complete the project.

Here is the song list. The compilation can be downloaded here: http://bit.ly/PentadecadentMe 

Pentadecadent Me

1979 - "Shadowplay" by Joy Division
1980 - "A Forest" by The Cure
1981 - "Show of Strength" by Echo & the Bunnymen
1982 - "In Shreds" by The Chameleons
1983 - "Not Now John" by Pink Floyd
1984 - "Running Town" by Siouxsie and the Banshees
1985 - "Barbarism Begins at Home" by The Smiths
1986 - "Serpent's Kiss" by The Mission
1987 - "Rocket Queen" by Guns N' Roses
1988 - "River Euphrates" by Pixies
1989 - "About a Girl" by Nirvana
1990 - "Halo" by Depeche Mode
1991 - "Snail" by The Smashing Pumpkins
1992 - "Would?" by Alice in Chains
1993 - "Far Behind" by Candlebox
1994 - "Fall Down" by Toad the Wet Sprocket
1995 - "Southbound Pachyderm" by Primus
1996 - "Burden in My Hand" by Soundgarden
1997 - "The Down Town" by Days of the New
1998 - "Secret Prayer" by Joe Satriani
1999 - "Bad Light" by Built to Spill
2000 - "Raahayn" by Rushk
2001 - "Schism" by Tool
2002 - "Concertina" by The Mars Volta
2003 - "Nothing (93 Returning Mix)" By Holden & Thompson
2004 - "Neighborhood #2 (Laïka)" by The Arcade Fire
2005 - "Twilight" by The Raveonettes
2006 - "Map of the Problematique" by Muse
2007 - "Reckoner" by Radiohead
2008 - "Closer" by Kings of Leon
2009 - "The High Road" by Broken Bells
2010 - "The Mystery Zone" by Spoon
2011 - "Irresistible Force (Met the Immovable Object)" by Jane's Addiction
2012 - "Taro" by Alt-J
2013 - "Late Night" by Foals


A very special thanks to Sadia Khatri for lending a hand with the artwork and to all my radio listeners for helping me hash this out in my mind over the past few weeks.

Friday, May 2, 2014

5 Decades

Some of my friends were over from out of town in winter and we were talking about how long it has been since we've known each other, have been out of school, etc. and one thing that struck me then was that I've lived through 5 decades. Even though I'm in my 30s, I was born in 1979 and it's 2014 now, so technically, I've seen the 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s, and 2010s so far. This got me thinking and I started exploring alternative music of each of these decades in depth. The 70s, not so much because I only "saw" one year. The 80s, I went completely nuts, as I dug further and much deeper into bands like Echo & the Bunnymen, Joy Division (later New Order), Pixies, Siouxie and the Banshees, The Cure, The Smiths, etc. and genres like goth-rock and dark wave. The 90s and onwards I have pretty much been following the music in real time, but still looked into some of the more obscure bands, different music scenes, such as the Madchester scene that grew out of 80s British new wave, post-punk and post-rock scene, the US post-grunge indie scene, etc.

So I got to thinking that since I've listened to and explored all this music, what it is that I should do with all of it? Naturally, I decided that I'm going to make a compilation. After considering several different concepts and formats, I've finally come up with the idea of having one song for each year, which means there will be 36 songs in all if I include 2014. That is going to be quite difficult because every year has had so many great songs. There will be hundreds of songs to choose from for each year and thousands of songs to choose from for the 36 years. So many things have to be considered, e.g. genre, style of music, upbeat or slow and date; basically a song might have been written in 1979, recorded in 1980, released as a single in 1981 and in an album in 1982. Since there are quite a lot of genres and styles, it means that there can be several different lists that can be compiled. For instance, I can come up with a very electronic list, or a very guitar-driven rock list, or a list of dark-themed songs, etc.

*

I've been working on this for the past couple of weeks and it's turning out to be a very personal list and it's surely going to take a while. I've started with putting down some of the bands and songs that I know must be there, but choosing other songs for other years is proving very difficult. Sometimes very good songs I want overlap - the most problematic year so far has been 1985; can't believe they released such good music in that year - other times the songs do not fit the theme. As of now, I have only gotten about 9 songs but and am not even sure of all of them. At least I am 100% sure of the 1979 song, so that has worked to set the mood and theme for the rest of the list.

I've also decided I would use the original release date of that particular version of the song. So, for example, if a song was released as a single in 1984 but then again on the album in 1985, that song would go in 1984. Some songs were released first in the album but later on as singles, and those would go in the year when the album was released, so basically whenever the song was first released. Sometimes, a band has released different versions of the same song in different years. For instance, Pixies released "Vamos" on their EP Come on Pilgrim in 1987, but they re-released a slightly different version of the same song on their 1988 album Surfer Rosa, so particular versions of songs for the respective year is going to be another consideration.

Another rule is no repetition of bands. So, if I use Slash's Snakepit's "Dime Store Rock" for the 1995 song, I can't use Slash's "By the Sword" for 2010. Also, if I use Guns n' Roses, Slash's solo albums also become ineligible, because it's basically the same band with a different vocalist; Matt Sorum and Gilby Clarke both appear in Slash's Snakepit 1995 line up and Izzy Stradlin, Duff McKagan and Steven Adler all worked on the 2010 album. And Axl Rose's cover band also disqualifies. This also means that I can't use both Joy Division and New Order; same goes for Nirvana and Foo Fighters; Soundgarden/Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave; Tool and Perfect Circle; Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver, etc.

Also, no cover songs, only original songs by the bands/artists. And not doing 2014, since it's not over yet, so it will be a total of 35 songs.

*

This list's giving me insomnia. I keep getting up to make changes, listening to songs and it is not even a quarter done! Can't decide which songs to put for so many of the years. A lot of good songs have to be sacrificed. Sometimes I think of doing more than one list but that doesn't make sense, as that would dilute the whole idea. Going a bit insane in the membrane. HEY! ISN'T THAT A SONG FROM 1993?! But it's ok. It doesn't fit the theme.

Enjoying every bit of it though. Rediscovering some really good songs that I had forgotten.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Of Ostriches and Women


I recently found out that, at least in Pakistan, an ostrich is not a bird. This has compounded my confusion about what is what in this country especially after the whole apple and banana fiasco last year.

But seriously - ok semi seriously - I can understand why the ostrich was classified as an animal.  Pakistan is exporting large quantities of the bird's meat and many more projects for its agriculture are in the pipeline. Before the aforementioned amendment, ostriches were classified as exotic birds and it required all kinds of licenses and permits to raise them. Changing a bill in the provincial assembly is apparently much simpler to do in Pakistan than getting said permits and licenses.

Yet, none of it explains why women, especially burqa-clad women, cross the busy main roads of Karachi the way they do. You must have heard of the way that ostriches behave when they are in danger; they place their heads flat on the ground, thinking that if they can't see the danger, the danger won't be able to see them. Perhaps you might even have heard of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal, "a mind-boggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you."* But these burqa-fied women crossing the roads are somewhat a new breed, one I've termed as The Mind-Boggingly Stupid Ostrich Women. They appear out of nowhere in front of you - especially when you are cruising on a very busy street (e.g. Shahra-e-Faisal) - and proceed to quickly cross the road without giving as much as a cursory glance towards oncoming traffic. They deliberately avert their gaze - with a complete disregard, I might add, to all the screeching, honking, and cursing around them - hoping that if they don't see the approaching cars, motorcycles, bicycles, rickshaws, buses, trucks, tankers, vans, eighteen-wheelers, twenty-two-wheelers, donkey carts and cows, the cows, donkey carts, twenty-two-wheelers, eighteen-wheelers, vans, tankers, trucks, buses, rickshaws, bicycles, motorcycles, and cars won't run them over.

This much is pretty clear. What I'm completely unsure of is whether they believe that they will be saved because the traffic can't see them either or because they believe that if they don't look at the traffic, the traffic won't exist anymore.




* Adams, Douglas. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. New York: Random House, 1979: pg. 21


Monday, July 23, 2012

Sorry, Ghalti Se Mistake Ho Gaya


It’s funny that I keep coming back to my blog Ramzan after Ramzan. Perhaps the holy month inspires some creativity in me, just as it seems to do so for many others. For instance, consider Veena Malik and her new show on a channel called Hero TV. How much more creative can one get?

But since I don’t fast, it could be that the holiness of the people around me is somehow conducive to my writing process; that or just the plain hilarity that ensues because of so many people who all of a sudden start doing strange and weird things in this month.

Like calling it Ramadan. What is Ramadan? All my life I have heard it as being Ramzan and said Ramzan and all of a sudden, people are saying Ramadan. Why do we have to pull out our camel-like tongues and say it in Arabic? With this logic, we might as well start calling our drinks Bebsi and our country Bakistan.

Anyhow, if me coming back to my blog every Ramzan is funny, then that’s a good thing, because this is after all a humorous blog.

This year, it was an SMS that inspired me to come here and write again. I will divulge the content of that hilarious text in just a minute, but before I do, I want to comment on the way English is handled by many people here in Karachi. I know I have talked about this before a few times, but it never seems to get old. This time, let me present the conversation as it happened. Here goes:

Electrician: “Jee, aur agar aap ko aato maating switching karnee hai tau aap ko Snow White switch lagana zuroori hoga. Waisay who kuch ziyada mehenga nahee hota, liken woh aik buhat zuroori…”

Me: “Aik second. Snow White switch?”

Electrician: “Jee, jee. Snow White switch. Tau mein keh raha tha…”

My cousin: “Aap kaheen cellulite switch kee baat tau naheen kar rahai…”

Electrician: “Jee, jee, jee, jee. Wohi. Sorry, ghalti se spelling mistake ho gaya…”

The humor of this situation does not end here, because apparently it seems that my cousin made a "spelling mistake" as well. There is no such thing as a cellulite switch that is used in generators; I have no idea what it is actually called.

This brings me to the text I received which prompted this blog post. The sender did make a real spelling mistake here:

“May this auspicious month of holy Ramadan-e-Kareem give you the guidance to do good and shun evil. May Allah shower you with blessings and accept your farts.”

But I have yet to receive an apology for it.




Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Just In Case Files of Shandar Misttry, Inventive Generalist


I have started a Twitter Book Project. I plan on writing a novel (at least a novella) on Twitter.

Not "What is Twitter?" or "Things to do on Twitter." A book written inside the 140-characters box of Twitter.

It has it all: Vampires, Werewolves, Zombies, Superheroes, Aliens, Love, Sex, Rainbows, Fairies, Unicorns, Elves, Trolls, Wizards...

... Murder, Intrigue, Mystery, Espionage, Conspiracy Theories, Action, Romance, Comedy, and all the rest of the things people read about.

But not necessarily in that order.

Follow me on Twitter @shandarmisstry (or follow this link: https://twitter.com/shandarmisttry) to read the story.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Back by Popular Demand; or Sorry for the Inconsistent


It's been a while since I wrote here (funny that it was Ramzan last when I wrote and it's Ramzan once again) and it's been a while since (weird 90's nostalgia* and crappy song playing in my head) I did those "You know you're in..." routine. So without further ado and one more cliche, I present to you:

You Know You're in Karachi When You Are Not Allowed to Take Your "Cold Rings" Inside Shops in Malls - I recently went to some of the malls here in Karachi and saw some really interesting things. For instance, I didn't know that even malls were constructed according to classes. One of the malls I went to had a really crappy ground floor, but things got better, the shops got larger, and the air conditioner got cooler as I climbed the floors. By the time I was on the top floor, it felt like I was all dressed up in designer's clothes, that I was running free in the meadows, and was frozen solid. However, the funniness and hilarity remained same throughout. I bought a Mirinda from OTPT and was about to enter a shop, when the shopkeeper looked at me with a disappointed look, and pointed his finger towards a sign on his door. It said, "No foods or cold rings allowed." I don't even wear a ring but the man would not let me take my Mirinda inside. What a nutter.

On a related note (and also on a lower floor), I found a shop that said it was holding a sale and there was 40% off on all paints. Actually, the sign said, "40% off. Paints only." This was quite deliberately stuck to a shelf full of clothes. My first thought was that it must mean solid colors, as in 40% off on shirts/pants that were only red or blue or green or yellow or pink (if that's the way you swing) and not on stripes or plaids or checks or pictured ones. Needless to say, I was wrong again; it was 40% off on the pants only, didn't matter what color/design they were or what was printed (or not printed) on them. It was in the same mall that I saw King's Corn and their tagline: "Sweety and Tasty;" I was surprised they hadn't added "Corny" to it as well.

You Know You're in Karachi When You Read This on a Pizza Delivery Menu:
- Pizza is not a matter of life or death! It is much more important than that... Considering all the violence happening in Karachi these days, makes you wonder now, doesn't it? Is the pizza mafia to blame?

- Flair tasty & enriched - What does that even mean?

- Unforgotable taste - Even if you wanted to forgot the taste, you wouldn't be able to. Why? Because it is unforgotable.

- Pizza lagacy at best - At worst, it would not lag as bad as the new Maxcom-Taken-Over-and-Given-in-by-PTCL connection does.


And to top it all off (Rs. 100 extra for topings), all of these appeared on the same menu.

You Know You're in Karachi When Shops Open for 9 Hours But Shopkeepers are Only There for 3 - Most of the shops in Karachi, whether they are selling clothes, shoes, books, paint, cement, or any other necessary things, open at around noon. An hour after opening the shop, the shopkeepers go to the mosque to say their afternoon prayers. They can easily pray inside their shop, which would save them a lot of time walking to the mosque, waiting for the jamaat to start, and walking back to the shop, but no, they insist on taking a 45-minute break because it earns them more sawab; so what if the customers have to wait, who cares? The shopkeepers are amassing their tolls to pay their way into heaven. After the prayer break, they take a lunch break, only to take evening and sunset prayers breaks and various chai and miscellaneous breaks till they close shop. To add to all of these, they take additional breaks during load shedding hours, because who can work in the dim lights that their UPS/generators support? Who needs to work so hard, when Pakistan's economy is booming, per capita income is very high, and everyone is enjoying not just the basic amenities of life, but all the leisures as well? Doesn't matter if they work 3 hours a day, have no electricity half the time, and treat their customers with disdain as if the shopkeepers were doing the customers a favor by working at their own shops; just say "Aall iz vell," and all will be.

You Know You're in Karachi When People Tell You Something is Right Just Because They Are (or Everybody Else is) Doing It - One of the things that has started to really irk me is when people tell me what they think is right. People are always insisting upon telling me that what they are doing is perfectly all right even though it seems oddly wrong. For instance, I noticed that a plumber installing a large water tank high up near the ceiling was putting it on an extremely flimsy support that neither looked strong nor stable. Even my 4-year old niece thought that it looked shady and that it would fall soon; and when I questioned his method, he calmly told me not to worry, as he has been doing it for years. I told him just because he has been doing something for years doesn't necessarily make it ok, to which he only smiled and looked at me as if I was mad or something. "Kuch nahee hota, sahab," he told me. "Yeh chalta hai." Nope, doesn't walk. This is exactly why you hear about roofs falling and building collapsing in Karachi all the time. People think that if it holds for an hour, it would hold forever.

In a similar situation, I was getting my bathroom fixed, as a few of the tiles had cracked and broken. I went to get some new tiles and the shopkeeper told me that he was out of the kind of tiles I wanted but he had some other tiles in some other style. I told him that those were not the kind of tiles I wanted, to which he replied, "Aray sahab. Yeh tau buhat acha tile hai. Aaj kal buhat chal raha hai. Sub yeh laga rahain hain. Aap bhee yehee laga lein." I find it quite funny that people think that since everyone is doing something, it must be the correct and the only proper thing to do.

Another thing that relates to this, what I would like to term "idiotic obstinacy" of most Pakistanis, is how everyone loves to deny that what they have done is wrong. For instance, please refer to one of my earlier posts about waiters forgetting the order and bringing the wrong items. In it, even though I mentioned the waiter's blunder, I did not tell you that when the waiter brought the wrong order and I pointed it out to him, he calmly said to me, "Sir, aapne yehee order diya tha." This is very common, as no one is willing to accept their mistake. A few days ago, I was invited to play at a party and I was told that the sound system would be provided at the venue. When I went there to test my sound, I heard some weird crackling in one of the speakers. Believe you me, it took me a good portion of the next hour trying to convince the "sound man" that there was in fact something wrong with the speaker and that he should fix it; the man kept denying that there was anything wrong. This is something that I am noticing more and more and I think it has to do with our people's inherent laziness; they do not want to admit their mistakes, as they would then have to fix it, which would mean extra work for them, which would mean not being able to take as many prayers break, lunch breaks, chai breaks, and load shedding breaks as they want.

You Know You're in Karachi When You Jump With Joy, Dance About, Throw a Party, and Distribute Mithai when KESC Announces that Load Shedding would Now be 3 hours instead of 12 - This is only upon the announcement, mind you, before the load shedding actually decreases. When it actually drops, you end up worrying your hair out because the "light hasn't gone for the past 8 hours" and you keep stressing over when the next outage will happen.

You Know You're in Karachi When The Fumigators Don't Wear Masks; They Take Tea - So I called these guys to get my house fumigated and they showed up with backpacks full of insecticide and started spraying my walls and floors. Everything about these guys was very professional; they had proper uniforms, some hi-tech spraying equipment, and an odorless-yet-deadly liquid that they drenched the inside of my house with. However, the only thing lacking were the masks on their faces. I had gone out of the house after they had started spraying but I found that I had forgotten my keys inside, so I ducked in real quick and went and got my keys. Even though I came out within a minute, I came out coughing and wheezing, with my eyes burning and my throat feeling like, well, like I had swallowed/breathed in some insecticide (by the way, it this was when I realized that the spray was odorless-yet-deadly). I later asked the fumigators about how they could endure that toxic environment and why they didn't wear any masks. It hindered their work, they told me. "Aur koyee masla nahee hai, sahab," one of them told me with the usual self-assured-confident-yet-most-likely-misplaced conviction of us Pakistanis as he handed me the bill. "Thora bura lagta hai galay ko, liken itna masla nahee hai." I told them that this was wrong and bad for their health and that they should wear masks while fumigating houses, to which they told me that they have a solution for it that didn't include any masks; all they do is take tea at the closest dhaaba around after each fumigation, and that makes them feel better. I was flabbergasted red; with this logic of taking tea after inhaling poison, no one in Pakistan should ever get any kind of sick.

You Know You're in Karachi When People Pull Numbers Out of their Asses - When someone in Karachi or someone from Karachi tells you that they would be 15 minutes, it does not mean 15 minutes; it can be any arbitrary amount of time depending upon various factors, including the profession of the person, his or her distance from you, the time of the day, and the type of mood the person is in. For instance, it is very common for KESC employees to tell you on the telephone at any given time of the day that there is a fault in your system and that it would be fixed within the hour. Sometimes, the electricity is restored even before you hang up the phone; other times you keep waiting the whole night but "the hour" never passes. The guy who fixes your air conditioner would tell you that he will be at your place by 4pm, but you can never be sure if he meant 4pm today, tomorrow, the day after, etc. All of this becomes even more frustrating when you show up at your car mechanic's shop to pick up your car at 2pm because he called you there at 1:30, only to find that the ustaad has gone to the mosque for the afternoon prayers and would be back after lunch, chai, load shedding, etc; or in other words, in 15 minutes.


And that's it with my post for today. If it sounds callous and bitter, it is because it is just that.



* I love how I just incorporated another "Past Time" reference in there. I am so punny that I laugh it.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Iftar/Dinner Conundrum

I don’t get these iftar/dinner parties. Notice I have put a slash in between iftar and dinner but we all know that they are more like iftar AND dinner parties. People reach your place just before its time to break their fast and leave as soon as they have had dinner, and all of this takes place within two hours. I don’t get it.

Ramzan is supposed to be about control, sacrifice, and self-restriction. When it says that we must abstain from eating food, it is so we can learn self-control and learn how to manage our hunger. It does not mean that we have pakoras and dahi barays and cholays and fruit chat and chicken patties and samosas and veggie roles and daal and chanay and roohafzah for iftar and then have chicken karahi and biryani and behari kabab and sashlik and quorma and nihari and naan and parathas for dinner and then parathas and kababs and omelets and cereal and fried eggs and toast and butter and balai and phainnis for sehri. I am pretty sure that if one were to calculate all the food that one consumes on a normal “roza,” it will be at least fifty percent more than what that same person would consume on a normal day. It would be common sense to think that people would lose weight during Ramzan because they are going hungry for most of the day, but actually, most people end up gaining weight during this holy month. The reason: they have a hearty iftar, a hearty dinner, and a hearty sehri, all within the span of a few hours and this more than amply covers and exceeds their daily calorie intake.

The worst are the people who only pretend that they are actually following the true meaning of Ramzan. We had an iftar/dinner (notice the slash again) party at our place the other day and it was the same deal: various fried and fattening food items for iftar and forty-five minutes after the respected rozaydaars had had their fill of iftar, dinner was served with a serving of different dinner dishes. It was a family affair, so I called out to one of my cousins (second cousin from marriage [his not mine] thrice removed) and told him to come eat. 

Nahi yaar,” he made a disgusting face at me while rubbing his stomach. “I just had too much iftari and I am completely full. I cannot eat right now. This is not how I usually am during Ramzan. At home, I don’t have iftar, I have dinner straightaway. But today is different, as I couldn’t resist all the fried and fattening food items.” 

He actually didn’t really say the last line, but I imagined that that’s what he was trying to tell me.
I walked away thinking wow, this guy is really upholding the spirit of Ramzan. Now why couldn’t everybody be like him? Why do we have to have three large meals a day in an abnormal way, when we can easily have two? This is the way to fast and not the way…

I was unable to finish my thoughts, as just a few minutes later, I saw that same cousin (second cousin from marriage [his not mine] thrice removed) of mine stuffing behari kababs down his throat and up his nostrils. He was really packing it up. Poor guy. He must be used to having his dinner instead of his iftar at this time.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

No More Loadshedding and Other More Popular Good News

It is my pleasure to relay the news that the KESC just announced that there would be no more loadshedding in Karachi starting from today. I was extremely suspicious about this news because KESC has been promising this for years now and it has only turned out to be complete air so far. However, I did some research and it is really going to work this time.

According to an official spokesperson, “KESC has installed and initiated three new power plants in the city and these would be enough to supply Karachi with all its power needs, making this city true to its nickname again. Not only will these new power plants be able to generate enough electricity for Karachi, we would be left with a surplus of 250MW, which we will be selling to other cities as well.”

This is great news. I am so glad that we can enjoy continuous and non-stop electricity supply to our homes, offices, and factories now. It is so annoying when the electricity is turned off every few hours for a few hours and you are left sitting in the hot and humid heat or darkness; or both. So, from now on, no worrying that you will miss your favorite show on television, or that your Playstation might turn off in the middle of saving the game and wiping out your entire progress, or that you will not be able to iron your clothes in time and get ready to go your cousin’s wedding. And no more spending extra to get generators, UPS, and fuel for the generator every other day!

In other news, all of which is good too, I have just heard that they have a new traffic system in place that will eliminate all traffic jams in Karachi. Now, it won’t matter where you are or what car you are driving, you will always get to your destination in time. This new system is very simple and it works to have all the drivers drive in their respective lanes. You won’t ever see anyone coming head-on from the wrong side of the road when you are going one-way. The motorcyclists will have their own lanes, the buses and trucks will have their own roads, there would be no potholes and all the pedestrians would use overhead bridges instead of running through the middle of the main road.

Also, they have this new technology out starting from today that would instantly dissolve all garbage, including blue, green, black, and white plastic bags, and recycle them into pure oxygen and water. This would work to eliminate the trash problem in Karachi, making it a hygienic haven, while at the same time providing us all with nice, clean air to breathe and an abundance of running water.

There is more good news, but I am afraid you are not going to believe me, you know, with what day it is today and all that.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Waiters: Geniuses or Goldfish?

Did you know that all waiters in Karachi, especially those working in front of Hot & Spicy kabab rolls, have perfect photographic memories. Yes, they do. Not only because they insist that they do, but also because they believe it themselves. The only problem is that their lenses are broken, the aperture is incorrectly set, their shutter speed is too slow, and the film in their camera has been exposed to too much light.

I learnt this the hard way earlier today when we went to Hot & Spicy and ordered some rolls. There was a few of us there and our order was pretty varied. Some wanted a regular chicken roll, some wanted it in a
roti, others wanted garlic-mayo in theirs, and some wanted a club sandwich. I gave the order for seven different people to our waiter, who stood there, memorizing everything I was saying. One look to his face and I knew he was going to mess up. I asked him, at least three times, to write down the order, but he told me, more than three times, that: "Sir. Aap fikar hee na karein. Mujhe sab yaad hai." (Don't worry. I remember the order perfectly). I asked him to repeat the order, through which he fumbled, but was able to get it right after some help from me and my friends. Sort of like a child at school rote-speaking a poem with the help and encouragement of his teacher.

And guess what? Instead of remembering the order perfectly, he messed it up completely. Two garlic-mayos in parathas instead of the one in roti and one chicken roll instead of the two of beef. It was a total disaster. When I told the waiter that I was now in fact karring fikar (worried) and asked him what happened to his perfect memory, all he could muster was a sheepish grin and a scratch on his head. Needless to say, we had to send the order back and this time sent a hand-written note along with the waiter.

So, my Karachiite friends, waiters here are not geniuses; they are more like goldfish with their 5-second memories. Make sure that whenever you go to any restaurant/eatery/kiosk/dhaaba wherever in Karachi, make sure that you tell the waiter to write your order down on PAPER with a PEN (no, not in his mind with air). If the waiter says he does not have a paper and a pen, insist that he brings one and refuse to place the order until he writes it down or you write it down for him.

Unless of course, you don't mind eating beef and garlic when you actually wanted chicken and cheese.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

How to Party It Up in Karachi on Less Than Rs. 100 a Day

So, you want to party, but have no friends? You want to go to a dance amidst strobing lights and loud music, but are never invited to any of such parties? You want to attend Club Nights, Bollywood Nights, Pay-Us-Rs. 5,000-Per-Couple-To-Watch-Other-People-Watch-You-Dance Nights, but cannot afford to go to such venues?

Well, worry not. I have the perfect solution for you. All you need is a vehicle - any kind will do, a walkman/discman/mp3 player/radio, and earphones. Just take your car/taxi/motorcycle/cycle/van/truck/bus/rick shaw/taanga/gadha gaaree and take a ride on to Shahra-e-Faisal. Find one of the new cop-cars that they have slowly patrolling on the road with their continuously flashing blue and red lights, wear your headphones, put the music of your choice, and just follow these cars around. For some odd and no apparent reason, these cop cars are determined to roam the streets with their lights turned on and flashing - ALL THE TIME. They think that they must use these lights all the time, no matter what, and no matter where they are going with a total disregard for patients of epilepsy falling, twitching, shuddering, and seizing up all around them.

Might as well use these lights for some good and party it up behind them.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

So How Big is Your Generator Anyway?

I was sitting at one of my friend’s house the other night and he had some people over whom I was meeting for the first time. As it happened, the electricity went out a couple of times and we were all left in an awkward darkness for a few seconds in between the time the lights went off until it took my friend’s chawkidaar to turn the generator on. I found my friend embarrassingly apologizing to the group for not being able to run the a/c on the generator because “there was something wrong with the generator and it was not running on full power at the time otherwise it really has enough juice to run even two a/c’s at a time, etc.” This sparked a conversation about what kind of a generator everyone had and how powerful it was. As the conversation progressed, I found myself growing increasingly conscious about the size of my generator because every one there were talking about their high-powered-automatic generators as if they were talking about owning some sort of a Italian designer suit or sports car, or both. The thing I realized was that generators, like cars and cell phones, have become not only a necessity but also another status symbol and items for showing off among the pretentious population of Karachi.

You would think that I would be extremely glad and content to have a small 4.2 kVA generator that can run all the fans in my house, all the lights, and perhaps the TV and maybe a fridge if I am careful and use only a few lights. It’s a bit loud when it runs and it’s the kind where you have to pull on a chain in order to start it. Also, I have to turn off my deep freezer, a/c’s, and all other heavy appliances in my house before I can turn the generator on as it cannot support so much load. I am living alone these days and I don’t have a chawkidaar so I am the one who has to get up and turn off the appliances before turning the generator on every time the electricity fails. And then I have to stay near my living room so that I can hear the sweet and wonderful bell that rings (music to my ears) to indicate the electricity is back and it’s time to turn the generator off.

You would be wrong: I am not happy with my generator. And I realize it’s not because I think having a bigger generator would mean me having a higher social status; it’s because having a bigger generator would mean that I have less shit to worry about every day. I, being the ungrateful ass of a human being that humans are, want an even bigger and better generator. I want the super duper super silent 25 kVA kind where I don’t have to turn off anything in my house and it purrs like a kitten when its running rather than sounding like a helicopter about to crash land in my lawn. I want it to come installed with an automatic starter so that it turns itself on when the power goes out and then turn itself back off when it comes back. I want to be able to sleep through power outages with my a/c running full speed and no worries that the food in my freezer would go bad if the electricity doesn’t come back within the next 4 hours.

I realize how ungrateful I am being and how I must sound like a pathetic pretentious percentage of the population I described earlier. But what can I say? I find myself living in a new class-system in Karachi: those who have a super duper generator, those who have a regular generator, and those who don’t have a generator at all*. And I understand that this last group of people must comprise a huge percent of the Karachi population and are the ones who are the most miserable without having any alternative power source at all. And I feel so stupid and ungrateful about whining over having to get up every time the electricity goes and having to contend with spending the time being under only a fan. The reason I feel that this is so bad is actually not because I feel stupid and ungrateful but because I have to feel stupid and ungrateful over such a ridiculous condition. This just goes on to show how bad the electricity situation in Karachi has become when even people who own generators are not happy and the power outages continue to have a negative effect even on people who have an alternative source of energy. I am frustrated because I have a generator that is not powerful enough. And this frustration is not because I envy those who have a bigger generator but because it is still extremely inconvenient for me to go through the hassle of turning it on and off 16 times a day (and night) and still not being able to use every thing in my house. KESC is failing Karachi on not only being unable to provide adequate electricity to the city but also because it is now responsible for creating so many different problems on so many different levels, e.g. creating all sorts of weird psychological problems, what with all these various generator-related inferiority/superiority complexes and these new kinds of stupefyingly stupid social syndromes.

Isn’t all of this extremely pathetic**?



* I am currently ignoring people who have UPS and invertors installed in their houses, as they would be a topic of some other post some other time.


** not my ingratitude, but the distressing electricity situation in Karachi. Well, ok, both my ingratitude as well as the distressing electricity situation in Karachi.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Pimp Your Landmarks Here

Last night found me at the Teen Talwar (Three Swords) intersection after about a month and I was surprised to see that this landmark monument is now being sponsored by Bank Alfalah. The Teen Talwars are three large marble swords, each signifying one of Quaid-e-Azam’s words of creed, the credo being Unity, Faith, and Discipline and now, two large blocks of marble have been added to the monument and these read Bank Alfalah in large blue letters on all four sides.

I remarked about this to my friend, who defended this move by saying, “at least the bank is going to maintain it now. Can’t you see the swords are so clean and the water fountains are running all the time?”

I am sorry, but I have to disagree. Is this really necessary? Is our government so desperate and incapable of maintaining our landmarks that they need corporations to pay them rent on them and take the responsibility of maintaining them? This is just ridiculous. What next? The Sabun 101 Menar-e-Pakistan? Frooto’s Faisal Masjid? Ding Dong Quaid-e-Azam ka Mazaar?

Monday, April 27, 2009

An Australian Advice to End Pakistani Corruption

So, last night, I was sitting in a semi-formal environment being the youngest one at the table. I wasn’t actually being the youngest, it just happened that I was the youngest one there. Amongst the other people present were two of my cousins, both considerably older than me, some of their even older friends, one of whom had brought an Australian on vacation who was also the same age as my older cousin's older friends. Anyhow, age has got nothing to do with this post and I am only mentioning all of this in order to establish the serious tone that was hovering over that particular table in that particular semi-formal environment. The talk on the table added to the somber atmosphere as it progressed into a heated discussion about our current government, systems, corruption, and the corruption in our government and systems. One of my older cousin’s even older friends started talking about how he was going through a lot of trouble in getting his land transferred/sold/or something like that.

“Everywhere I go they ask for a bribe. I went to the registrar’s office and he asked for a kickback on my sale, that lousy son of a bitch,” said my older cousin’s even older friend.

“Yeah,” added my other older cousins’ other older friend. “It is like this everywhere here in Karachi. Nothing gets done unless you pay your way through it. I had to go to court for some problem and I had to bribe everyone from the goddamn peon to the mazharfakhar judge.”

The poor Australian man had just sat there, listening to the whole thing wide-eyed, and surprised, and only at this point, he decided to speak up.

“So guys,” he said in a helpful, considerate, a heavily accented Australian, and an extremely serious voice. “If you have to give bribes to all these people, the judges, the lawyers etc, why don’t you do something and complain about it to the police?”

And that was the end of the sober, solemn atmosphere at the table.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Time Travel and Other Lesser Known Benefits of Daylight Saving

Most of the countries in the world adopt daylight savings so that their hard working citizens can have a little more of the day left at the end of their day. This means that people who work from 9 to 6 to get home by 7 still have an hour or so of the daylight in which they can do their chores or spend time with their family. This makes the workers more productive as they feel they have a longer day and more time to spend in the sun. In Pakistan, however, the main prerogative for adopting daylight saving is to save electricity. Even though I can understand the principles of how this can potentially be achieved, I don’t think that the KESC, the Pakistani government, or most of the Pakistani public really understands how this could be possible and this kind of sort of defeats the whole purpose of advancing the clocks an hour in Pakistan. I don’t know why they did it last year and I don’t know why they are doing it again because the electricity problem was not solved at all. I think that the electricity shortage might even have worsened because of this, as we saw at least 3-4 hours of load shedding in Karachi even during the winters.

Nevertheless, it happened last year and it is going to happen again this year. Tonight at midnight, all clocks in Pakistan would be advanced an hour, and we will lose one hour of our summer. As mentioned above, there are many advantages of doing this. However, there are some more benefits that people are not aware of and I list them here:

Time Travel – Many people do not realize this but this is the best time for time travel. We all have the opportunity to challenge Einstein and his ideas about relativity and whatnot, as all of us in Pakistan will jump an hour ahead in time tonight. One minute it will be 11:59pm and the next 1:00am. I am pretty excited about that!

Loan Nullification – Do you have some outstanding loans that you have repay? Well, being a Pakistani, I have come up with a very simple solution to all your problems. Call the people you owe money to and tell them that you are giving them a one-time offer of paying them their entire loan back all at once. Just ask them to collect their dues anytime between midnight and 1:00am tonight.

Two-timing – Last year, many people faced a lot of confusion over what time it was as some people decided not to adopt daylight saving. What we don’t realize is that this gives us a great opportunity to two-time everyone. It is, after all, a fact that people will be following two-times and this would make it completely kosher for anytime to two-time anyone and everyone else.

Being Late for Work – Yes, now you have a perfect excuse (at least for the next whole week) of coming in an hour late to work. The first day, you can always forget to set your clock ahead; the second day, your alarm clock would go off at the wrong time; the third day your driver would have the wrong time, and so forth.

No More Confusion over “What Time is It?” – It would be 8pm then when it would be 7pm now, which means that according to the old time, you would be one hour behind the time that it would be now. Now would be an hour ahead, which means that if it were 7pm now, it would actually be 6pm then according to the old time but you will be ahead an hour according to the new time. The old time then would be an hour behind us and we would now be an hour ahead in the new time. See? No confusion at all.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Modern Day Exercises for Shedding a Load During Load Shedding

Almost everyone is health conscious these days but almost everyone is also very lazy. People tend to shy away from doing any exercise and prefer to sit or lie down all day. Most people are so lazy that they won't have anything else but 'fast' foodi delivered to their homes/offices just so they won't have to make any unnecessary movements other than sitting or lying down. This is a big problem as it can be very difficult to motivate people to take up exercise. This is why I have come up with a very viable solution for everyone for this upcoming summer. I present to you: the Modern Day Exercises for Shedding a Load During Load Shedding

1. The Generator Starter Bend and Pull
ii: Great for your back and arms and very easy to execute. Flip the switch on the generator, bend down and grab the rope, strain your back a bit, and pull with a sudden jerk. Repeat as many times 'load-shedding' occurs or 6 to 8 times a day, whichever comes first.

2. The Forearm Newspaper Fan Swivel: No electricity and feeling hot? Need to build those forearm muscles? All you need is a newspaper and an arm and you are all set. Just hold up the paper in your hand, point it towards your face, and swivel your arm in a faniii-like motion. Feel cool and develop those bi/tri-ceps!

3. Electricity Generating Treadmill Generator: Don't have a generator, but a lot of flab around your tummy? Worry not. Here is a solution that works as a double-edged sword killing you two birds with the same stroke: an innovative new technology that combines your treadmill with an inductor, alternator, and whatnot in order to give you the first ever Human Powered Electricity Generator DELS1000iv. Simply start running on the treadmill, shed a load, and worry not about load shedding. Order yours today!v

4. The Jog-Cool Off: The humid weather with an unpowered ceiling fan getting you down? Missing the cool wind hitting your face 6 to 8 hours a day? Just get up and start jogging. Doesn’t matter where you do it, as long as you keep running and let the air around you breeze into youvi.




i e.g. inexplicably heaped salads 

ii works only if you have a manually starting generator. For those who do not have a generator refer to the Forearm Newspaper Fan Swivel or the Electricity Generating Treadmill Generator. 

iii not the ceiling fan

iv Designed Especially for Load Shedding. 

v For more details on how to order this revolutionary new device, leave a comment below. 

vi This is actually not a joke*. I remember many years ago, one of my aunts employed a kid (who had come down all the way from cold-weathered Chitral) to help around the house. Poor kid used to live in a small room with asbestos roofing and his room would get really hot in the summers. You can imagine how he must feel when the electricity would go off, leaving him sweating in the hot and humid summer weather of Karachi. One day, during the load-shedding hour, we heard noises, like someone was running around the house in circles. My cousin and I went to investigate and found the kid running around the house in circles. We stopped him and asked him what he was doing, to which he told us that running makes the air hit him like a breeze.

*I am seriously not joking. Scouts’ honor.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Last Salad at Pizza Hut

I went to one of the Pizza Hut restaurants a couple of nights ago after a very long time. I was amazed to see how much they have grown in terms of business and customers, as the new restaurant I went to was huge and completely jammed pack.

Another thing that I saw growing (and jam packed) were the salads. I am sure all Karachiites reading this would know what I am talking about: people walking to the salad bars came back with plates heaped so high so as to give Mount Vesuvius some competition. Some plates looked like Aztec pyramids, while others looked like an orangutan would jump out from them any moment. People stack those salads so high that the plates would probably break if someone breathed on them. I believe each of the salad plate I saw could easily feed a whole village in Botswana; for twenty days! I actually heard of a research that some scientists are conducting on such salad stacking because they believe the same principles can be used to get rid of the world's garbage problem*, if they can learn to stack it so high and compact.

Yet, the higher the stacks of salads, the lower the standard of quality maintained at the restaurant. The service has fallen, most of the waiters are not trained, and it seemed like the management was having a very hard time serving so many customers at once. People incessantly demanded forks, knives, and ketchup so that they can start eating their pizzas and it seemed like the restaurant just did not have enough forks, knives, or ketchup** for every customer. Even if they did, the movements of the waiter was continuously being hindered by the movements of several large structures, ala the salad crescendos. I sat there and ate my pizza with my hand, the way it should be eaten, not with knives, forks, and/or ketchup, and looked at the fiasco that they are now calling Pizza Hut.





* not really

**Ketchup is probably the number-one selling condiment in Pakistan. People like to eat ketchup here with their French fries, fried chicken, pakoras***, samosas****, patties, sandwiches, burgers, steaks, egg fried rice, pizzas, and pretty much everything else that does not require a chapatti to eat with. People just can’t get enough of ketchup.

*** fried onions/potatoes/eggplant/green chili pepper in a flour batter

**** pastry stuffed with beef/lentil/potatoes

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday and February the 13th

This is kind of cool, funny, ironic, and interesting all at the same time. It's Friday the 13th today and just a day before February the 14th.

Love and Luck collide at midnight tonight.

Friday, October 31, 2008

And We're Back

I thought I had entered the-Twilight-Zone/Star-Trek-time-warp and was in a five-month dream where everyone in Pakistan had set their clocks ahead an hour, the dollar and petrol/liter were in the Rs. 80's, the stock markets of the world had crashed, I had stopped writing my blog, and Asif Ali Zardari was the President of Pakistan. Then I realized that midnight has come and gone to come again, it's still October, and we are back in normal time.

Monday, June 2, 2008

What time is it?

Welcome to June 2nd, or is it still yesterday?

It takes time, or rather the lack, or was it more, to see things through. Imagine the plight of a simpleton, who takes and eats for granted what "it is" that is given to him. Forget about him thinking about how long it's going to take him to even simply, for only the sake of finishing what you have started, in what possibly might be the wholly most ridiculous way of proving the point, which is neither a tomb nor en ambassy, be just exactly what I was trying to tell you in the first place, and yea, that it takes a while to get through all of this, and pfft... you wanna make him 'deliberately' set his watch/clock ahead an hour so that he ends up losing one hour (1 hour) of his life?

And then explain all of the above to yourselves.

Daylight saving is no big deal.

Yet, we, in Karachi, simply cannot fail to understand it. Give me my hour back! I want to watch "who want's to you be a millionaire at 9, not 10!"!

That was a few years ago.

Today, it's "who is smarter than a 5th grader?"