Category Archives: |Introspection & Experiences|

Venting, recipes, meanderings, life.

End of December

A lot of people have been asking me what I’m “up to.”

It’s inevitable, I would do the same.

Apart from the awkwardness of explaining that I’m not employed and don’t plan to be in a conventional way, any time soon, it’s not very hard to go back inside my head and think of the way I’ve just been looking at the sunlight this December.

It’s a very unique luxury, to be able to absorb the transmitted cheer of the “season,” and to actually be in a temperate, extremely pleasant weather of Karachi December.

 

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The Good Book.

Last night I felt rattled, confused, disoriented and isolated, like I often do.

I had gone for a light jog / walk though after a long time and that welcome feeling of peace which follows helped me seek out guidance without a million distractions of questions blocking my attempts to actually get it. I went towards the Quran, and on top of it found a copy of “The Essential Koran” which I forgot I had.

I was tired, and let myself get straight away to the translation rather than reading the considerable layers of explanation, background and introduction that I’m sure provide an extremely beneficial depth before reading. However, I didn’t worry about it, knowing that this book, or any religious volume or even a text of any worth, really, often takes many re-readings, reflection and sifting through to get at a piece of its wisdom.

I knew I’d (hopefully) be back.

In the few pages that I read, I felt oddly liberated in reading a version of the Quran that put the reader face-to-face with purely English. Perhaps it was the absence of two other languages that I can’t understand that made everything seem more accessible. Although some of the translation was similar to the more traditional copy of the Quran that I had, certain terms stood out to me.

The most telling, perhaps, was when what is supposedly Satan, is referred to as “The Obsessor.”

Being very aware and attentive to consumerism and its accompanying addictions in our lives these days, this term struck a chord with me.

The same happened when I read the simplest and most, well, endearing of verses:

“Worship nothing but God;

Be good to your parents and relatives,

And to the orphan and the poor,

Speak nicely to people,

Be constant in prayer,

and give charity.”

The sheer simplicity and succinct earnestness inherent in this verse sent waves of … well…. what feels like loving humility echoing out of me.

Really, what could be more simple yet more relevant today than ever.

I mean,

Speak Nicely To People.

I know that if I actually apply that rule to everyone I meet, I would have to make a few changes. How liberating it would be to try to stick to just that, for a week, even for a day, and let go of complicated life-plans and self-images.

Worship nothing but God;

I know this sounds sacrilegious, but I always thought this was a bit arrogant.

However, when I read this yesterday, it was the nothing rather than the God that stood out for me.

I’ve always tried to look beyond logic when reading the Quran. I’ve tried to believe that things may make sense in ways they perhaps shouldn’t, considering how old the text is. Perhaps it paid off for the first time.

It felt more like a warning against our worshiping of things that don’t deserve worship, rather than a demand to worship God.

Again, consumerism came to mind. The psychotic addiction to information, the feeling of being “connected,” gadgets, the next new thing; brand identity / loyalty; advertising campaigns 6 feet high, imprinting superiority and desire into our very souls.

It’s all most people see outside on the street, inside on their TV’s, and now on the omni-present Internet. It’s a struggle to find a space that doesn’t inflict an insatiable desire for something that will never be permanent.

That is what we must not worship. The only thing to counter that is the truth of our own existence, of this world: i.e., God.

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[Film] Editing: The Fragmentation of Time.

the luxury of documentary shooting: early morning en route to "keenjhar lake."

“It’s in Edit.”

A term that’s been thrown around so much around anyone who’s worked in media, film, tv etc.

But there’s a certain meat-packing assembly line mentality to the way this phrase does the rounds in an environment like TV.

In Pakistan, where TV channels have been bubbling towards climax like a pot of unwatched soup, sitting on an edit to finish a project has become this unlikely media community’s annoying daily chore.



I say unlikely because it’s precisely that.

set-up for a long-night of real-time capturing.


It’s been an arena where the most unlikely mix of people have come together around the common process of think-shoot-edit-deliver. Motorcycling lads from middle-class families trek from far away not only to make an earnest living, but sometimes also to be part of less regimented working mindset. 20-30 somethings from rich families come via chauffer or in any case a decent car. Mod-squad foreign return hipsters, sometimes even with foreign film degrees will work closely with a 48 year-old journalist who’s been working in Urdu print for the last 25 years. A local art-school graduate in her mid-20’s, engaged to be married soon, perhaps, will revise the edits of the night-time editor who attends classes for a BSc during the day, saving up for his sister’s wedding.


I know I’m pulling big fat cliche’s out of the air, but this is a good sampling of how it’s felt. Perhaps this is also because I’ve largely worked in environments that cater t0 a more youthful and/or westernized audience. In any case, amidst this constantly shifting melting pot of varying attitudes, backgrounds and perceptions about this field of work, editing, the kind of step-child of filmmaking, has become the most neglected process. For the glamour-seeking lot, glorifying themselves as “power-producers,” perpetually emanating an uber-busy, stressed out vibe, it’s much easier to tout a camera, be present on a shoot, and take ownership of that process. Editing, however, requires the complete opposite mindset: calm, durability, a long-attention span, a shit loads of patience. Things that will only come to you when there’s truly a vision present.

Although I’ve been stuck like glue to this process of creation, creativity, concept and execution, I sometimes think I’m in the wrong environment.

images from my college thesis of a moment in the subway, a plane window, a train... further fragmented as the backdrop for on-campus post-cards.



Editing is really like playing with time.

An infinite array of moods, rhythms, stories and messages lie in the juxtaposition of even two shots. It’s equally necessary, though, as I’ve learned (painfully slowly) to look at the bigger picture, and the relationship between bigger chunks of time.

But this fascination for breaking up time to such a degree, conveying experience in one never-ending montage of starts and stops…. this has eaten me (and my personal time) alive over the last few years. I seem to harbor a need to explore every possible variation of the way one picture can replace another in the viewer’s stream of consciousness. Maybe that’s why I’ve favoured styles such as split screen: when I can’t fit in all the variations that I like, I have two images running simultaneously. (I recognize, of course, that this is the poorest reason possible to use split-screen).

I’m re-examining my approach to editing not only because laying down the big picture is simply more practical in terms of work deadlines, but also because I finally recovered a digital version of my first finished piece. A thesis work, 20 minutes long, called Settled in Transit. The whole thing has a voiceover that’s repetitively looped, like a deliberate echo. I never articulated exactly why I felt that this persistently disjointed delivery would enhance the piece. But in hindsight it seems that an ever-changing stream of experience, a never-ending chain of flickering images, settled, as it were, in its very transience… has been an obsession for me.

a wider vista on painstaking detail.

2/25th's of a second. who am i kidding.


I’m beginning to think that perhaps this ADD approach to visuals relates to other aspects of my life? It’s funny that only now, at a stage where I’m re-examining my life, long-term goals, etc., do I understand the reassuring, binding balm of a larger story thread.

Coming back to the issue at hand though, I suddenly feel completely rattled. I’m fearful of, though simultaneously exhilarated by the notion that I, in fact, perhaps know nothing about story-telling. Narrative is the hardest thing to construct, and I believe that tenet. I feel like it’s the easiest and the toughest, because it flows from the true nature of our own experience of time. So in a way, we are trying to imitate nature. Perhaps what I have been trying to do is play with the laws of nature [i.e. time & the human mind’s need to perceive time as a story], before actually understanding and establishing a firm grasp of those laws themselves.

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When Childhood Becomes Vintage.

I recently cleaned out the whooping mess that is my jewelry stash.

More like accessories stash.

I think both my grandmothers would cringe at what makes up my concept of “jewelry.” I have to credit my friend Andleeb for unleashing the monster of reckless abandon when it comes to things to wear on your person. Thanks to this lack of restriction, each time I look at boxes of psychedelic chunkiness, I feel a certain…. fulfillment?






But of late, my appreciation for jewelry has evolved by going a little… backwards.

Perhaps its a hormonal thing, after having crossed the late-20’s (ok, more like the 31) threshold, thereby craving the presence of something “real.” That polished delicacy of diamond, the sanctifying presence of gold, and all-in-all the constant presence of a few, signature pieces of real jewelry that somehow lend you an all-at-once grown up feeling.

a traditional box for a small pile of the "real" stuff.

Especially in this part of the world.

I can never completely turn into a “diamond aunty” though. Even though I want to sometimes. The allure of being attached to just one piece, it seems illusive and a thing forgotten. (I went through phases like this through my teens, and I sometimes look back enviously at myself as someone with the air of not trying to0 hard but just enjoying that one adornment).

As a result, I’ve learned, finally, not to stress about what compartment which type of jewelry should go into. But to savour them all instead. I think it’s finally paying off, because my recent post-holiday spirit has made me celebrate everything, including clothes I forgot I had and never wore, and as an extension, of course, accessories. In scrounging around hurriedly for a golden accessory for a wedding outfit, I started going through a trundled up stash of what my mom loved to refer to as “costume jewelry.”

a zip-locked stash of vintage.

Her definitive left overs from the ’80’s.

I’ve been through them a hundred times as a kid. They were way too outlandish to be taken seriously in the oh-so-understated ’90’s. But thanks to this post-millenium whatever-goes sense of style (which i sometimes secretly think is a sign of the apocalypse), I’ve started looking on them as some serious loot.

They really are quite flashy and ornate, but it’s that grown up, old-worldly sense of ornateness that’s started to intrigue me. I’m even thinking of looking into the whole brooch phenomenon.

a conscious effort to have an unbridled array of prints and bold colour.

letting people think i have airs.

(It was this thinking that actually let me buy myself a red, ruffly(!) thing this summer].



Of course as always there are no rules or conditions. It’s what feels right when.


broken, and something i would never have considered wearing in the '90s.

these make me think of dynasty. 80's post-dinnertime nostalgia.

unabashed, full-figured ornateness. can't wait to wear.


corporate gold hoops + massive pearl droplets. mega power earrings.

hypnotizing fairy-tale glossiness. 10 year-old female identities forming between magazine pages.

turkish delight earrings. their luxurious shape and smooth texture always reminded me of that curvy chocolate treat.


toy-like chunkiness even to hold in your hand. instant clip-on fruity glam.

memories of a red jumpsuit, shiny lipgloss, and these earrings: somewhere between girly and statement.

a chunky intricacy not easily found nowadays.


timeless (and sometimes tacky) pearl power.


big. loud. chunky: the '80's.

doubled-stranded manufactured classiness. vintage-looking clasp.


sweet surprise: a piercingly beautiful two-sided mughal minature piece.

coupled it with my one diamond pendant. a feeling of womanly abundance, to have art dancing about your neck.



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The “Right” Person.

“We All Married The Wrong Person.”

The caption of one of today’s “freshly pressed” blogs.

With the accompanying image of an anonymous couple decked out in timeless (relatively) nuptial traditionals, this anti-idealistic statement would sure stand out in the best-seller pile. A definite head-turner in the contagious current western mindset obsessed with shortcuts to an increasingly illusive happiness.

Especially if its in the realm of marriage / love / life-partner. Then they’ve really got you.

But the blog author isn’t using this as a best-selling tagline. She’s sharing with her readers the powerful notion that nobody really married the “right person.”

While many individuals (including myself) find their romanticism flailing in protest against this seemingly gloomy vantage point, what I like about her post is that it doesn’t really negate the idea of believing that someone is “right” for you, or even the “one” for you.

Instead, it kind of flips the idea on its head.

Quoting a certain acclaimed Dr. Haltzman, who’s interview (by the author) this post is based on, the post reads:

“If we believe we must find the right person to marry, then the course of our marriage becomes a constant test to see if we were correct in that choice,” says Dr. Haltzman, adding that today’s culture does not support standing by our promises. Instead, he says we receive the repeated message, “You deserve the best.” These attitudes contribute to marital dissatisfaction, he says.

The simple art of being comfortable and happy in one’s own existence has been of interest to me lately. It seems the more I read, the more I find messages that point to the distorted, bottomless bit of consumerism that we live in. As Dr. Haltzman’s quote states, it seems this mentality has seeped into every realm of our lives.

I can’t deny the thrilling feeling of a new start, a fresh energy entering my life, when I throw money away on a new fancy smartphone. It’s really just a gadget, we all know that. But there’s something so compelling about how this particular interface will just somehow inspire me, or be a new start for me. I can’t help comparing this to the thrill of a new relationship.

Perhaps this is what Haltzman means when he says that:

“…even if we think we know a person well when we marry them, we are temporarily blinded by our love,”

It may be this high, this rush of excitement, that we call “love,” that led him to research:

“…the negative effects in our consumer society of having too many choices—which may lead to increased expectations and lower satisfaction.”

The author goes on to share the wisdom of similar research from another published authority:

“I’ll cut to the chase and reveal that people are happier with the choices they make when there are relatively few choices from which to choose. With too many choices, we can become overburdened and regretful and constantly question our decision. Today, individuals may feel they have many choices of mates, and fear lost opportunities with potential “right” partners.”

As a not-so-young single person with more than one serious relationship that isn’t any more, this isn’ the most comforting thing to hear. What’s more interesting, however, is how easily I buy into (very often literally) the huge amount of choices there are.

Spending money on something that I think will be IT (like the latest smartphone), yet craving the perceived luxury of more choices. The amount of information, detail, feature, specifications that the market is flooded with is enough to make one giddy. At times it truly does. It makes me sick, especially my own susceptibility to it.

I can’t help wondering if, and someone just knowing, that this greedy, starved search for fulfillment translates to the more personal realm of one’s life too.

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29 days London, 1 day… Bath.

I used to turn my nose down on packaged tours of any kind.

Then I rode a bus with Julie Andrew’s singing embrace plastered all over it.

I was holding my mouth shut tight lest I bust out along with the Sound of Music soundtrack as we meandered over some very alive hills, the trees where she scraped her knee, the abbey that is where she belongs, her home, her family, her life.

Yes, I took the Sound of Music bus tour in Salzburg.

And it gave me the cheapest of cheap thrills.

Oddly therapeutic, actually. Like you’re finally giving into the ease and comfort of commercial ventures. Sitting back and enjoying the show. Listening to the tour guide. Being tickled by random trivia: [like the fact that half of the scenes on the Vontrap Villa patio were actually shot at the lake where we were standing, and the other half at a studio in the good old u.s.a.].

I guess that’s why I was a much easier tourist two years later in Bath, and I even gave into the Jane Austen center. Although I have to admit it was the gimmickiest of them all, starting off simply with a British woman talking to us in a room full of chairs. Again, that vacuous, jaded, post-27 existence of mine, seeking peace and pacification in any form, lapped up all the trivia she offered about her family tree, her brother in the navy, the illness that she died of, and that she just made it into the “comfortable” realm of things since they did manage to keep servants in her house.

the prestigious residential circle

referred to in Austen-speak

as "The Circus."

I have to admit, it re-sparked the nascent embryo of edwardian-era curiosity. After being inspired to download as many Austen film adaptations for maximum consumption without all the literary discipline, I was actually reading articles to investigate the vague depiction of social norms. For instance, I was surprised when in the Keira Knightly version of Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Bindley actually walks into the bedroom where Jane Bennett is sick in bed.

Fascinating stuff.

That particular article also led me to pin down the whole question of toilets. Only the rich had them. I would think Mr. Darcy definitely flushed inside Pemberley. Not so sure about poor Lizzie and her sisters.

Apart from Jane Austen and the post-holiday period film reverie she inspired, Bath was a heaven-sent day to beat holiday-end blues.

Bathed (!) in edifices of fading ochre, columned Roman antiquity is mirrored with lofty rows of uniform chimneys. An imposing symmetry is found in what the Austen lady referred to as “The Circus.” As we entered the city through bus, exquisite upscale gold-hued cottages were echoed with church steeples throughout the hills. Cathedrals and churches almost never leave your vista, be it in close proximity or in the surrounding countryside.

Avon River Coffee Lookout. Immense Content.


Being lucky enough to take this one-day dip into the past with a companion who loves food as much as I do, one of my favourite moments was our first stop: post-breakfast coffee. This fresh, airy, prettily white-washed patisserie was on the corner of a bridge on the river Avon.


cathedral spire in every vista

The flowers didn’t exactly put a dent in all the quaintness, but being a world heritage sight, there was still a bit of austerity, a bit of inaccessibility about the place. I feel like I meandered through the depressive low-keyness of a small town the evening we arrived, to pristine, solitary quaintness the next morning, to full-on tourist life by the afternoon. At that point of course some of the novelty and specialness wore off. The high-street could’ve (sort of maybe) been a very quaint London find.


What definitely could not be found in London was the Alice-in-Wonderland-esque patch of garden right in the heart of the town. Wrought-iron stair-cases wove down the sides of long wall extending from the bridge over the Avon River, descending into the most sculpted, surreally antiquated english gardens ever. Make-believe period-film set magic.

Who could blame crowds of tourists (such as ourselves) for happily thronging even the high-street of such city, especially when they were very near to …

The Roman Baths.

Another touristy venture that aerated some of my bigotry towards controlling the experience of an ancient monument / building / work.

the entire structure was covered when actually in use. so no yucky green algae effect back then.

Yes, in this case, I have to admit any reservations towards the audio tour of the Roman Baths, as well as the labyrinthine, brilliantly concealed museum penetrating the surviving structure, can be nothing but bigotry.

How else would I have known that the water we see today bubbling up from the hot springs of old, is actually what was once rain from 10,000 years ago?

10,000 year old rain-drops.

I ask you.




The double-context of an ancient Roman presence seen through a 19th century Edwardian one seems to throw the stone of history further down the well of the mind’s eye. The Baths, functioning on this site as early as 60 A.D., were only discovered in the 19th century. At this time, the decidedly Christian society added this extra balcony layer above the site, as a tribute to the Roman generals who were connected with Bath, incidentally, known then, as Aqua Solis.


All in all, a veritable sponge of moments to soak up, a hearty broth of a day, ’twas Bath.

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Post-holiday Holistic

i’ve totally forgotten how to write in html.

that’s how long it’s been since i last blogged.

millennium musing.

It seemed a shame not to capture one month of soul-searching, eating, drinking, looking at bright colours, and walking, walking, walking… on london’s bridges, through alleys, round quaint corners.


but tied down by laptop i wasn’t going to be.

along with my usual pillage of art-officiale

[tickets,

maps,

brochures….

more tickets]


…a fistful,

(ok, more like an overnighter-full)

of H&M shopping…


…one of the more easily relatable forms of baggage i brought back with me was a sampling of some alternative food.

one was just cold-pressed sunflower oil; (while i’ve read up on a bit on the advantages of cold-pressed vs. regular, it’s not something that’s going to make as big a difference in my head as….)

quinoa.

also got organic butter beans and multi-grain flaxseed, spelt, [thingamajig] crackers.




back to quinoa.

quinoa fluffs and expands effusively when done, becoming a warm, fuzzy vat of healthy carb.

the thing that makes a big difference in my diet picture, and makes me so happy every time i cook with it, i want to don a fifties-style kitchen glamour suit complete with sky-blue apron and matching patent later heels and kick one up behind me in delight.

i’d heard of bulgar wheat, but that was my only (imaginary) foray into serious alternatives to the all-encompassing problem of wheat. brown rice is fine, but it still felt like i was just compartmentalizing my eating life between portions of desi-home-made-dish no.1/2/3/4 + roti/brown rice.

So what makes quinoa so special? It was more just the way i rethought my relationship with food, got inspired to make it my own, while i was away in london. i once again saw the simplicity of grilling assorted vegetables, baking fish within ten minutes, and perhaps most importantly, got an inner whiff of the simple herb, spice and vinegar combinations that sort of liberate your palette.

i got a whiff, and i’ve been intoxicated every since, to buy, plan, re-use ingredients: to make the most of the the eatables i love.

Today was the third time i used quinoa.

A simple online concoction using zucchini, eggplant, cherry tomatoes & red onion as a grilled warm salad along with chopped-basil-infused quinoa.

Before the two are united in a hearty, healthy union, the cooked quinoa is doused with the a dressing of all-essential balsamic vinegar, whisked with olive oil, minced garlic, and salt and pepper. The same dressing marinates the chopped prepped vegetables before they’re grilled.

Veggies glistening in their pre-marriage bath


One of the things that appealed to me about this recipe is it celebrates the way balsamic vinegar can make the simplest ingredients robust and full of tangy, zesty lightness. As the author said, “repeat after me: balsamic makes everything better.” The famous balsamic vinegar / honey reduce will always make a lot of salads taste divine. If it’s an emergency and I just want some taste in a psuedo-gourmet snack, i’ve even whisked balsamic vinegar with maple syrup and its served me just fine.



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