House Sold

Click to read on Dawn: http://dawn.com/2012/05/06/humour-house-sold/

I sold my house before I moved back to Canada, it was quite an experience and I discovered things I couldn’t imagine about people I have known all my life.

Remember the house I got renovated? I sold it. And I moved. But that is another story. Unless you have gone mad and decided to move half way across the world — and having gone through this extremely painful process myself I would not advocate it for anyone — never sell your house. First of all you should only sell your house, if it has a leaky roof, cracked floors, and crumbling walls. Or if a close relative has passed away and left you a mansion on Tipu Sultan road.

Selling your house is an uncomfortable process; it will keep you up at nights and give you plenty of indigestion. You will have all kinds of people invading your privacy requesting tours of your house at odd hours of the day. And they will want to know why you chose to paint your daughter’s room two shades of pink and why the kitchen counters are black. They will shake their heads unbelievingly at the ‘extravagant’ price, then bug you after you sell the house to someone else, why you didn’t inform them first, because they had their hearts set on it.

A house that you have lived in for a long time becomes part of you; it hosts your celebrations and shelters your rainy days. It watches your children grow and becomes their first friend; its walls hold up everything from little pink and blue bunny rabbit cut-outs to posters of sleek cars or rock stars with bad hair-dos. It provides a personal little haven known as the bedroom, where your moody teenagers retreat to when the world doesn’t treat them right. It listens patiently, never judging, never offering unwanted advice to the angry adolescent but pacifies them with the knowledge, that here, they are accepted. It sadly hears your fights and joyfully watches reconciliations. It guards every secret obsessively.

I miss my house. And it took me months to wind everything up. Twenty years of possessions are hard to get rid of. And you won’t believe the junk I had. Actually, you probably would because every Pakistani woman has an incredible imagination when it comes to recycling. Closets that were full of spare dupattas of cast away suits, clothes piled up for repairs or distribution to various destinations, shoes that had been worn out and forgotten about, hair clips, scrunchies and makeup kits that were never used. Stashes of candy, hidden from the children. I could almost hear my house moan sadly as I continued to deprive it of all its belongings.

The kitchen cupboards were stripped of countless empty ice-cream containers, unused dishes, utensils and plastic bags. Oh how we women adore our plastic bags! Of course my maid had a field day, and I felt a bit guilty at her bliss on receiving such trivial little titbits. I know my house will miss her too. The way she helped me scrub and dust out each and every corner was admirable, getting our house ready for the new owners as we reminisced and even shed some tears together.

Sniff. Enough! Never regret a decision, it wastes too much time. Just learn from it. Which gets me to the real point. When we put our house up for sale, a wise old person told us it is ethical to ask your neighbours first if they are interested. We did, fortunately everyone already had their own house. Neighbours are one thing. Relatives are another.

Never sell your house to a relative. Especially if you are the type of person with a lot of ‘lihaaz’ (read: doormat). That is where they get you, at your lihaaz. Because of lihaaz you will sell your house at a rock bottom price and then listen quietly as your relatives whine incessantly about how broke they are. They will also want to get it renovated some more before they move in. Never mind the fact that you still live there. Lihaaz aap ko mar day ga.

After the house is sold, your relatives will come often with the pretext of helping you wind up the house. They are actually coming to make sure you don’t damage any of the walls while moving out large and heavy furniture. Speaking of large and heavy furniture, don’t bother trying to sell it or give it to any of your best friends. Your relatives will do you a big favour by insisting that you leave everything and they will take care of it for you. Later they will complain to all and sundry that you left your broken down junk for them. That ‘junk’ that will later adorn their drawing rooms.

And then of course there is the large collection of electronic gadgets that you will leave for them. And they will have the gall to phone you up to tell you the stuff you left for them (that they had asked for, by the way) doesn’t work, and it is costing them a lot to get it fixed. So you offer to give them their money back… oops, you gave it to them for free. So what to do now?

Don’t let it come to this, heed my advice and never sell your house. Especially not to relatives.

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Weekly Writing Challenge: Leave your shoes at the door!

This is an article I wrote for the humor section of Dawn Images (Newspaper). Leave your shoes at the door! 

My shoes are at the door, and I put ‘his’ on. He has tips for bachelors, desi style!        Glossary for non-desis:                                                                                                       Saas-Jee: respectful for mother-in-law                                                                               Sali: literal: sister-in-law. Slang:jerk                                                                                          Salla: literal:brother-in-law. Slang:jerk.                                                                            Susur: father-in-law. Susura: jerk/idiot etc.

Marriage

So you are about to take the big step?? You’ve given Mom the go-ahead to find the perfect girl. Good for you — it is time you settled down, not getting any younger right? Just some advice, don’t go for the looks (God knows what they look like under all that makeup), don’t go for the modern girl (she’ll keep you at the end of a leash), don’t go for the status (daddy will always be downsizing you at get-togethers). Go for the orphan. Really, I am not joking. Go for the orphan.

I know what you’re thinking, that this is some kind of pathetic joke; that’s because you haven’t met the in-laws yet. So you’ve seen a girl or two and met their families; nice quiet folks, polite and interested. It’s a trap, all part of the plan to snare unsuspecting, happily unaware innocent guys like yourself into the most complex and thorny role in the history of man. The son-in-law.

You think I am some jealous, lonely, scheming bachelor trying to keep you from marital bliss? Believe me man, there’s no such thing! I’m in it up to my neck, trust me. Married for five years now, or should I say I was sold into slavery five years ago by my parents with the connivance of my married friends. They couldn’t deal with my freedom — traitors. I am doing you a favour, giving you the inside story.

Before you are married, your soon-to-be mother-in-law calls up your mother to ask how you are and how your job is going. She cooks nihari (your favourite) and sends it over with your soon-to-be respectful young brother in-law. She and your future sister-in-law pick up the latest designer shirts for you when they go shopping and hope you like it, if not they get it changed. Future mother-in-law knows all your likes and dislikes; after your mother, she is the one who is most concerned about your well-being. Until you get married.

You remember that story about the kids who get lost in the forest and this nice little old lady lets them into her candy house? That’s the stuff I am warning you about dude!! She’s gonna sink her teeth into you. After you get married the only time your mother-in-law phones is to listen to her daughter’s complaints about you and your family. She doesn’t talk to your mother because your wife always reaches the phone before anyone else, no matter where she is in the house she can hear the phone ring and it’s always her mother calling.

When Saas-jee does talk to you on the phone, it is to inform you that she needs to go somewhere and she’s giving you the honor of driving her there. While you are driving, you will have to listen attentively as she tells you how to live your life and the errors of your ways. You will be required to make sounds of agreement, and nod your head in the affirmative; never, ever speak, even to agree. What you have to say is inconsequential, you must only nod.

Gifts will be bestowed upon you on birthdays, anniversaries and Eid. The apparel is usually last year’s sale leftovers that were going at 80 per cent off. And if you think there is no way you would be caught dead in a parrot green kurta, think again my friend, think again! You have no idea how your sali searched every shop in Ramazan, whilst fasting, to find you the perfect kurta. Sali.

The only dish your wife’s rude little brother brings over is your wife’s favorite, which coincidentally, is some weird tasteless concoction with an even weirder name. You are informed it is French and given a patronizing look by your sala, who has incredible tolerance in dealing with your inexperienced, simpleton ways. Sala. Beware of Daddy (susur jee), the once jovial, back slapping, ‘so pleased to have you as part of our family’ gentleman. You whisked his princess away, you don’t treat her right, and man he is no longer pleased to have you as part of his family. He will let you know this, often and publicly. Be prepared beforehand and have your doctor prescribe you some heavy antidepressants. Always take at least two before attending his dinner parties, that way you’ll be totally out of it and won’t realise you are the butt of all his jokes. Susur(a).

Never think of older sister-in-law’s husband as an ally just because you are in the same boat. Big mistake; he’ll sink your boat to ensure smoother sailing of his own. He lets you believe he’s on your side, but after you get married, he gets promoted. He’s Big Daddy’s spy, he’ll sell you out just to get an approving nod from the old guy.

And that’s the inside story, just a second, phone’s ringing, “Hello? Yeah I’ll be there in 10 minutes. What? Be there in five? No, no it’s no problem at all. Five minutes, I’m coming.” Sali. Do you have a painkiller?

Apartment Life in Karachi

When I was living in Karachi (which I just googled and found is no longer on the most dangerous cities list since we moved) we lived in a large comfortable house. But I also had the opportunity to live awhile in an apartment or ‘flat complex’. It was ….an experience.
Link for article in Dawn newspaper:http://archives.dawn.com/archives/69571
meet the neighbors
Flat out: Meet the neighbours

By Khaula Mazhar

People who prefer living in a house rather than in a flat have absolutely no sense of adventure. Where else can you find so many different types of people living in the same place, constantly getting on each other`s nerves? Where else can you find such an interesting environment?

For starters, look at the amazing artwork that goes into the décor of even the most average, normal, everyday flat. Notice the dramatic red streaks in corners and on the lower parts of walls? You may call it disgusting, I call it artistic. Only a paan addict can truly appreciate its beauty.

The leaky plumbing is another amazing aspect; the designs caused by the water slowly seeping out of the pipes and into the walls give the place a lot of character. And there`s so much to talk about once your tiles start falling out due to the water damage; at your next family get-together you can hold the audience spell bound as you narrate how a chunk of plaster fell on your head while you were in the loo.

There is constant activity in the complex parking areas, and if you live on the ground floor you`ll never be far from the action; be it the Peeping Toms, who always appear at your window the second you open your curtains, or the cricket crazy delinquents who keep the window makers in business. But all this pales into insignificance once Eidul Azha draws near. The sights (animals of all shapes, sizes, personalities and all of their recycled food lying around in cute lumps), sounds (baaing, mooing, moaning, groaning, screaming, pleading, all seasoned with a few spicy swear words) and SMELLS (let`s just say `organic` shall we?) Who needs a vacation to exotic locales when so much is happening at their doorstep?

Living in a flat also engenders a feeling of togetherness with your neighbours. They know everything about you, you know everything about them. For example, I know the timetable of the lady who lives upstairs. She starts cooking when it`s my bedtime. The second I fall asleep I am awoken by the gentle scraping sound of her `sil butta` and I can picture her grinding away at all those aromatic spices. She`s so considerate, she always brings me a plate of her Bihari kebabs, making sure I get them no matter what — even if she has to pound on my door for twenty minutes, while I try to drag myself out of bed, at a quarter past midnight. Her persistence amazes me; so does her timetable.

There`s a very caring family in the flat opposite ours. They care about what I`m doing, why I am doing it, who has come to visit me and why; what I have cooked and, since it smells so good, can I send some over? Of course, they keep me informed of all their goings-on as well. I feel like I`m part of their family. When a baby was born at one of their relatives, I felt like a proud aunt. A family feud left me indignant. I now have more things to worry about than I need and I doubt I will ever run out. Isn`t that great? They also keep me from getting lonely as someone is always dropping in. If “Bhabi” can`t come by, she`ll be sure to send over her four different sized children to keep me company, no matter how much I insist that I don`t need it.

No flat would be complete without the `been there, done that` family. I know they are very popular, and they are a real favourite of mine. No matter what you have seen, heard, done; no matter where all you have been, you`ll find they have seen that, heard that, done that, been there, and of course, all on a much grander scale. It really boosts your spirits to be associated with such sophisticated people.

Life in flats is never boring; there`s always something going on to keep you distracted. Either it`s an aameen or a birthday, sometimes even a mehndi in the reception area. If you don`t feel like cooking you can always attend one of these functions without the hassle of fighting traffic or driving a distance; just skip downstairs.

So, if you are bored of your large living quarters, your privacy, your beautiful lawn, your own, undisputed parking area, your peace and quiet, don`t despair; excitement is just round the corner! Pack up and move your family to the nearest flat complex.

Terror in The Classroom

This is an article I wrote for Dawn Newspaper but had forgotten about. Dedicated to teachers.
Humour: Terror in the classroom

By Khaula Mazhar


It`s the start of a new school year, a much awaited time for many a harangued mother. Ironically, come September, while one group of women take a breather, another group is constantly on its toes the teachers. Just like students, teachers too come in all types and they will all be gathered in the staff room at 10am, the universal tea time for all teachers. So let`s eavesdrop and hear what they go through during a typical day at work.

Ms Strict and Stern
“Students these days are really getting impossible to teach!” (She doesn`t realise it`s because her methods are so boring). All those excuses for unfinished homework. Weddings, lost exercise books, absences, misunderstandings, guests in the house… there`s no end! Just give detentions and minus points, that`s my method. It does wonders.”

Ms Whiner
“You think that`s bad! You guys should try taking class one. They can drive you nuts with their non-stop questions, and don`t even ask about their homework! Parents must think we are going to drop by their place in the evening to get the homework done ourselves.”

Ms Senior Class Teacher
“I invite you all to my grade eight boys` class after break time. It`s like nothing you`ve ever smelt in your life! It makes me wonder if they actually ever shower at all, besides they are so rowdy and worked up after their break it takes them twenty minutes to settle down to start work. By the end of the class I feel like my voice box has been damaged.”

Ms Nursery Teacher
“By the end of my class, I feel like most of my body has been damaged. Sitting on those little chairs and getting down on my knees to listen to my tiny little munchkins. By the end of the week I feel like a rheumatic hag, and all those little munchkins seem more like a bunch of gremlins.”

Ms Sour Puss
“What a horrible thing to say! Why, nursery children are such little angels!

Ms Nursery Teacher
“Excuse me! I am human, you know! Do you realise how hard it is to get little kids to do things? They can`t even make a straight line! You have to spoonfeed them everything.”

Ms Other Nursery Teacher
“Heck! You have to spoonfeed some of their parents as well! Important notes and circulars come back in their bags unread, it`s like parents expect you to tell them to check their kids` bags everyday! Then you have to write extra reminders for them separately or make phone calls, and then they actually have the nerve to tell you they never received any kind of notice! Why don`t you check your kids` bags?”

Just then a young frenzied teacher bursts into the staff room and collapses into a chair. Her hair looks like she`s been trying to pull it out. Everyone is dead silent.

Ms `I Am Definitely Going Nuts`

“I can`t take it anymore! I just can`t take it! It`s a madhouse I tell you, a madhouse!”(This is the pre-nursery teacher, whose students have just come to school for the first time)

“They are so small, and they are everywhere at once! I can`t pick up the crayons off the floor fast enough before they are into the blocks, then all of a sudden there are blocks all over the place! I wipe one nose and turn around to find six more runny noses! As soon as I tie a pair of shoelaces, five have tripped on untied laces and are whining like crazy. One girl keeps running out of the class and the guard keeps bringing her back from the gate. By the time I send one little girl to the washroom, three more have peed on the mat!” Here she pauses for a breath but before anyone can get a word in, she starts off again.

“Snack boxes! I hate those things! Why do parents buy lunch boxes that need a rocket scientist to figure them out? And everyone wants their lunch box opened at the same time. And the smell! Oh the putrid smell of a hurried breakfast of milk and eggs that has been regurgitated by a screaming, howling, coughing, vomitty child! And then, when they finally come to collect their brats, each parent wants every little detail of their darling`s day. I am going to go nuts!”

She then breaks into heart wrenching sobs while everyone quietly edges out of the room — they all have their own troubles waiting for them in their respective class rooms; taking care of a hysterical teacher is not on their day`s schedule.

Immigrating Granny

This is an article I wrote for July 1st’s Dawn newspaper, the editor asked me to write about settling in a new country. Since I was moving back home and it was not a new experience for me, I wrote from the view point of an old lady moving abroad from Pakistan for the first time. If you want to read about interesting things that happen when you move out of North America go and visit this great blog : http://communicatingacrossboundariesblog.com/

http://dawn.com/2012/07/01/rant-and-rave-allah-tauba/

Meet the In-Laws

Meet the In-Laws (Click link to read on Dawn where it wasted originally published)

Are you still a bachelor? There are a few reasons you might want to stay one!

So you are about to take the big step?? You’ve given Mom the go-ahead to find the perfect girl. Good for you — it is time you settled down, not getting any younger right? Just some advice, don’t go for the looks (God knows what they look like under all that makeup), don’t go for the modern girl (she’ll keep you at the end of a leash), don’t go for the status (daddy will always be downsizing you at get-togethers). Go for the orphan. Really, I am not joking. Go for the orphan.

I know what you’re thinking, that this is some kind of pathetic joke; that’s because you haven’t met the in-laws yet. So you’ve seen a girl or two and met their families; nice quiet folks, polite and interested. It’s a trap, all part of the plan to snare unsuspecting, happily unaware innocent guys like yourself into the most complex and thorny role in the history of man. The son-in-law.

You think I am some jealous, lonely, scheming bachelor trying to keep you from marital bliss? Believe me man, there’s no such thing! I’m in it up to my neck, trust me. Married for five years now, or should I say I was sold into slavery five years ago by my parents with the connivance of my married friends. They couldn’t deal with my freedom — traitors. I am doing you a favour, giving you the inside story.

Before you are married, your soon-to-be mother-in-law calls up your mother to ask how you are and how your job is going. She cooks nihari (your favourite) and sends it over with your soon-to-be respectful young brother in-law. She and your future sister-in-law pick up the latest designer shirts for you when they go shopping and hope you like it, if not they get it changed. Future mother-in-law knows all your likes and dislikes; after your mother, she is the one who is most concerned about your well being. Until you get married.

You remember that story about the kids who get lost in the forest and this nice little old lady lets them into her candy house? That’s the stuff I am warning you about dude!! She’s gonna sink her teeth into you. After you get married the only time your mother-in-law phones is to listen to her daughter’s complaints about you and your family. She doesn’t talk to your mother because your wife always reaches the phone before anyone else, no matter where she is in the house she can hear the phone ring and it’s always her mother calling.

When Saas-jee does talk to you on the phone, it is to inform you that she needs to go somewhere and she’s giving you the honour of driving her there. While you are driving, you will have to listen attentively as she tells you how to live your life and the errors of your ways. You will be required to make sounds of agreement, and nod your head in the affirmative; never, ever speak, even to agree. What you have to say is inconsequential, you must only nod.

Gifts will be bestowed upon you on birthdays, anniversaries and Eid. The apparel is usually last year’s sale leftovers that were going at 80 per cent off. And if you think there is no way you would be caught dead in a parrot green kurta, think again my friend, think again! You have no idea how your sali searched every shop in Ramazan, whilst fasting, to find you the perfect kurta. Sali.

The only dish your wife’s rude little brother brings over is your wife’s favourite, which coincidentally, is some weird tasteless concoction with an even weirder name. You are informed it is French and given a patronising look by your sala, who has incredible tolerance in dealing with your inexperienced, simpleton ways. Sala. Beware of Daddy (susur jee), the once jovial, back slapping, ‘so pleased to have you as part of our family’ gentleman. You whisked his princess away, you don’t treat her right, and man he is no longer pleased to have you as part of his family. He will let you know this, often and publicly. Be prepared beforehand and have your doctor prescribe you some heavy anti-depressants. Always take at least two before attending his dinner parties, that way you’ll be totally out of it and won’t realise you are the butt of all his jokes. Susur(a).

Never think of older sister-in-law’s husband as an ally just because you are in the same boat. Big mistake; he’ll sink your boat to ensure smoother sailing of his own. He lets you believe he’s on your side, but after you get married, he gets promoted. He’s Big Daddy’s spy, he’ll sell you out just to get an approving nod from the old guy.

And that’s the inside story, just a second, phone’s ringing, “Hello? Yeah I’ll be there in 10 minutes. What? Be there in five? No, no it’s no problem at all. Five minutes, I’m coming.” Sali. Do you have a painkiller?

House Interrupted

House Interrupted (Click link to read on Dawn)

Have you ever gotten your house renovated? I have and I would love to tell you all the fun I had with it.

The sun shines lavishly on the white sand of the beach that sparkles with the brilliance of countless tiny diamonds. The crystal clear water holds a myriad of coloured fish that float past me like butterflies. They wave out greetings as I swim past them; the ultimate vacation — I hope it never ends. Then the door bell rings! I clutch at the water which has now turned into a bed sheet and pull it over my head. I unashamedly continue to feign sleep and wait for someone else to answer the door; whoever is out there will have to be patient. Serves them right for ringing the door bell at this ungodly hour of 8am during the summer vacations.

(Yeah, yeah, I know what you are thinking: you are driving to the office at that time. Don’t hate me, because I freelance.) I am about to fall asleep, I can hear the seagulls…and the sound of a sledgehammer as it breaks cruelly into what used to be our staircase. The brilliant blue sky shatters above and falls soundlessly on my bed.

“Get up!! Mazdoors need tea!” My husband calls out the most annoying instruction of the day. Make tea for the labourers …several times a day. They are being paid by the day, which is why they keep getting sick and disappear for at least three days at a time. Today they are here, because I wasn’t expecting them and slept in. Yesterday they didn’t come because I was up early. Very early. And I had their tea ready. My husband and I ended up drinking three extra cups each because we felt bad about throwing a whole kettle full of perfectly brewed tea down the drain.

The door bell rings again and I persistently disregard it. Let the husband deal with it; if I go to check who it is, all work will immediately stop. All eyes and ears will be on me and the intruder at the door because whatever we are discussing is as important as a world cup final. And anyways it is probably the electrician so I have to make another cup of tea. Tea companies stay in business thanks to the people renovating your house. I bet they take a commission.

Husband is in heated discussion with the electrician because the “China maal” brand of electrical ‘thingamajigs’ he insisted on buying have all blown whatever it is they blow and stopped working. And he just put them in yesterday. More money out of poverty-stricken wallet and another trip to the shop and all electrical work is put on hold until “China maal” gets back and fixes everything that he screwed up yesterday. Every fuse in the house has blown and I wait for illumination and my blender to be brought back to life.

We have all gotten used to the constant hammering and thunderous crashing sounds as chunks of our house fall to join the large amount of debris lying everywhere in the garage. So when there is a sudden silence it sounds surreal. I strain my ears to hear the latest drama unfold. So do the labourers who are butchering my staircase. They need some entertainment and they know they are going to get it. This time it is the bricklayer who is putting up the beautiful grey stones on the exterior walls.

We had spent (read: wasted) an enormous amount of time planning a pattern that used the minimum amount of bricks and ordered the quantity of stones accordingly; but of course this was our biggest mistake. We should have left it up to the bricklayer; after all he is doing us a favour putting up the bricks — this gives him the right to decide where to put them and how many to use.

And boy is he generous. He has put them up — everywhere! Now we are out of bricks and he has nothing to do. Except complain that his time is being wasted as he has to wait for my husband to go out and order more bricks. I think hubby will rob a bank on the way to finance this new project. In the meantime everyone else has decided they need a much deserved tea break. A small piece of advice, never get your house renovated. Just walk around with your eyes closed and imagine you live in a palace.

 

Answer Me

Answer Me (Click on link to read on Dawn)

In Pakistan you feel lucky if you have  electricity and a land line phone that actually works. This article is dedicated to those who have the wonderful everyday experience of lacking both.

It is hot, humid and everyone is going nuts. A lady moves out of the kitchen to collapse gratefully on the sofa under the fan. Just then there is a loud, startling noise and the electricity goes off; the telltale blast announces an indefinite power failure. Oh dear. Husband didn’t change UPS battery either, no power, no fan!

She frantically dials husband’s number.

“Sorry the number you have dialled is not responding, please try later.”

Wait for two minutes… Two minutes are too long, thirty seconds are enough. Dials husband’s number again.

“Sorry the number you have dialled is not listed. Please check and redial again.”

Extremely irritated now … dials again, very carefully.

“Haylo, kown hay bhai?” Unfamiliar voice.

“Assalam o Alaikum, I need to speak to Junaid sahib please.”

“Eh? Wo kon hai bhai?”

“Who is this?” Asks the wife, now at the end of her tether.

“This is Ghaffar Supariwalla”

“Oh, sorry wrong number.”

Dials again, ever so carefully, checking each number.

“Sorry the number you have dialled cannot be connected. Please dial again or contact customer services”

This is not working. She reaches for her new ‘don’t know how to use properly’ touch screen mobile.

Dials carefully, trying not to tap screen too hard. Tapped too hard, back….oh, oh! Back again. Should have saved number. Yes! Success, finally.

“Hello kiya hai, I am in a meeting.” Husband obviously not in the mood to chat.

“The transformer just blew out! I’m dying in this heat, do something!”

“Would you like me to come home and fix it?” asks husband, patronising tone obvious.

“That would be nice, it’s hot as hell.”

“You’ve gotta be kidding me.” Husband not amused.

“Well can’t you?”

“No dear, that is what linemen are for. Now I want you to think, who should you call?”

“You think you are so funny! What I mean is can you get someone to come down and fix it? When I phone all I get is ‘Thank you very much for calling, your complaint has been recorded. Your complaint number is 52678, we’ll send someone out just as soon as we can… blah blah blah!’ And no one ever comes. You phone them up, scream your head off, threaten them with your colourful language tell them you’re going to call what’s-his-name-director-friend and there you have it! The KESC truck is there in 15 minutes.”

“Well right now it’s not possible so humour me and phone them up, 118.”

“Are you going to be late for din….” Click. Call ended.

Darn, men are so inconsiderate! Dials number from landline.

“Sorry your line has been temporarily disconnected due to non-payment. If you have paid your bill please call customer service for more information.”

Now fuming she dials customer service.

“Hello this is customer care service, for service in English press 1. For service in Urdu press 2.” Bleeeep.

“For phone line press 1. For broadband Pakistan press 2. For …” Wait a minute…what the heck! This is a prepaid phone! How can it be disconnected for non-payment? Oh, never mind. Have to use complicated touch screen mobile phone, to hell with the landline. Dials 118 … no, no, not 1118! Go back, tap the screen lightly. Yes!

“Assalam O Alaikum respected customers; electricity is a precious resource for all of us. Let us preserve it so we can all benefit from its use. You can do this by turning off fans when not in use, switch off all lights during the day. Remove mobile chargers from the socket when recharging is complete. Don’t waste water, and in this way avoid unnecessary use of motor to fill up water tanks. Encourage your children to be energy wise and turn off all electrical appliances when not in use.

Encourage your neighbours to be active in their energy management. You can also ask your in-laws, your best friends, your children’s best friends and their relatives as well as the people you meet on the street to use electricity wisely. In this way, with your cooperation, we can spread the message to the whole city. Bijli bachayay apne liyay, quom ki liyay. Shukria. An operator will be with you shortly. Thank you for waiting.”

Waiting … still waiting… sickening piano music in background.

“Hello KESC complaint centre.”

“Oh thank God! I thought no one would ever answer, the transformer outside my house just blew up and…”

“Sorry Ma’am hold on for just one minute.”

“Oh wait I …” More piano music. Click . Another click, hope is reborn.

“Assalam O Alaikum. Please wait for an operator to attend your call, or dial 1 if you don’t feel like waiting. Dial 2 if you want service in Urdu. Dial 3 if you want to report electricity theft. Dial 4 if you are not sure why you called. Dial 5 for the latest fashion updates. Dial 6 for …”

Presses 1, can’t wait any longer this is ridiculous.

“Thank you for calling; when you are ready to wait please call back.”

Click. End of call.

Slaps forehead. Hard. Dials again…

“Sorry you do not have sufficient balance to make this call.”

Competitive Moms

Competitive Moms (click to read on Dawn)

(This is an article I wrote for Dawn Newspaper’s Sunday Images. It is dedicated to women with competitive friends. )

Have you ever enjoyed lunch with an old college friend who you haven’t seen for a couple of years? Isn’t it great to reminisce about all the great adventures you had together, the long hours of studying and pigging out on junk food, the tension of exams, the anxious waiting for results, and sharing each others’ victories? Then exchanging the latest changes and developments that have occurred over the years… sigh!

This, however, is where the lunch starts to turn sour, when you realise the only thing she now has to talk about is her child. What a bore; you’d much rather talk about yours. So the conversation goes something like this:

Friend: “You know Ali was only 10 months old when he took his first step! It was so incredible! Everybody was shocked, I mean 10 months! Have you ever heard of kids walking at 10 months? Of course I always knew my child was definitely gifted, but…”

You: “Well…you know my daughter was walking at 10 months too, it’s not really…”

Friend: (in a patronising tone) “Oh no! You misunderstood me. I mean running all over the place at 10 months not just stumbling around. He actually started to try to walk when he was only eight months so he was an expert at 10! Of course, it was kind of expected; he was rolling over at only four months and practically crawling everywhere at five. You won’t believe what a hard time he gave me. You are really lucky you had your daughter first, girls don’t get into that much trouble and they aren’t that active. I had to be on my toes 24 hours a day…”

You: “Actually my daughter was quite naughty so I know what you have been through. Sarah was only three months when…”

Friend: “Oh I know you are just trying to make me feel better. Believe me girls are a lot easier to handle than boys. My nieces are little angels, my sister never had a hard time with them. In fact, I’d say all three of them put together on their worst behaviour couldn’t compare to what Ali could do. But of course, it’s a small price to pay when you have such a brilliant child. We were so confused when it came to deciding on the right school for him…”

You: “Yeah, I know what you mean. But I am really satisfied with Sarah’s school; the teachers there are really…”

Friend: “Yes, yes it is after all the fourth best school in this area. But you know my husband is such a perfectionist and when it comes to education, only the best was good enough for Ali. Of course, you do have to consider these things when you have an extraordinary child like Ali. Sometimes you know, I almost envy mothers with average children, they are so much easier to handle. You can’t imagine what it is like to keep up with Ali. Just the other day his teacher was telling me how confidently he recited four nursery rhymes in a row in front of his class without any help at all.”

You (starting to get really bugged and wondering if this is actually the same person you knew in college): “Sarah is more into colouring and drawing, she just loves to…”

Friend: “What a coincidence! So is Ali. His drawings are incredible, they seem to have been made by a much, much older child. And so neat! All the colours are inside the lines, he just never ceases to amaze me.”

You (starting to get up): “Oh my gosh, look at the time! I’ve really got to go Lubna, it was great to see you, but I’ve got to run and pick Sarah up from her piano lessons. Of course, you know how it is with little geniuses. Always on our toes! Let’s do lunch again some time, bye.” (Glad to have got the last word!)

Friend (a little stunned at finally being outdone): “Yeah, sure. Bye.” (She quickly composes herself and takes out her mobile and dials a number.) Hello Nazia! How are you darling! You know how busy I am, it’s not easy looking after such an active little prodigy. Just the other day the maid had finished ironing and folding all the clothes and Ali just couldn’t resist dumping the basket over. Then he got into the kitchen and…… (listening to the speaker for a second).s Oh no, you can’t begin to imagine what I go through! Why your little Zaid is such an innocent little sweetheart. He isn’t half as active as Ali, who, by the way….”