Wabbit Season Noo! Duck Season Nooo Wedding Season!!

Ahhhh weddings. The divine bond between husband and wife or husband and husband or wife… and well which ever is politically correct for you. They say that a funeral, religion and a wedding are the defining traits of a civilization. I must say if that is really the case then we Pakistanis are a civilization of the highest order ’cause boy do we celebrate on our weddings.

I once had a discussion with some peers on the importance of these so called Wedding Seasons. I was trying to understand why families prefer weddings on specific times throughout the year. Well summer vacations are obvious, kids are home, relatives coming from all over the world, parents are more relaxed.

What about the Winter breaks? Here I got an interesting response, ‘Are you kidding me? Winters are amazing, its chilly, we get to wear expensive suits, coffee tastes really good who doesn’t want to get married in winters?! Ok… er fair enough. But then what about the Eid Holidays? or for that matter specific times all year round when that ‘golden relative’ is coming on a strict deadline who would kill himself if he misses the wedding (its funny how they never change their own vacationing schedule for this major event)

OK so Winters, Summers, Eids and random golden relatives year round I think a Wedding Climate is a better choice of words. I don’t buy this season bullshit weddings in Pakistan just need an excuse to happen.

However one does not find many or in fact any occasion in Pakistan that gets celebrated purely out of a feeling of mutual respect, tolerance, joy and love the way our weddings do. It is in its essence a festival allowing people usually constrained by societal taboos and restrictions to enjoy life free of all limitation. Dancing together in our desi spirit, female friends getting permissions to stay over night or stay out late, lavish spending on the venues and so many other things which will on any other day be restricted by the elders. No matter how divided we Pakistanis are but inside that yellow-green flower Marquee we are all united as one. I think cricket is the only other event that brings us close the way weddings do!

A few of my friends got married quite recently and the whole fare was quite experiential. Dance practices, dholkies, mehndis, helping the house members out with the arrangements. The events proved to be a welcome break in a mundane week usually marked with work during the day, hanging out at nights and dinners on the weekends.

One Mehndi stood out among all other events. It was a union between one Karachi family of doctors and one Lahori family who, I learned later on were also doctors. Very interesting  phenomenon.

The usual wedding processions took place. The arrival of the ‘barat’ (other wedding party) had a great fan fare among not only the people invited but also people on the side walks and passerbys. It reminded me of a Bora wedding last year when my friend the groom, actually rode on a white Arabic stead (horse) in traditional Bora garments all the way to the stage where his maiden fair was waiting for him. It was an amazing spectacle and I am lucky to have attended one. Wish our weddings were as interesting, I am sick of this usual Korma and Biryani shit. In the past 30 years the only modern thing about weddings in my family is the addition of a Coffee and/or Pan (betelnut).

So any way, the dances were good at this event. There were properly choreographed ones and free style ones. Freestyle should be a term synonymous with the Punjabis. A group of pretty dancing girls were joined by their cousins, followed by their friends, folllowed by their parents and as if on que the bride and the groom. A ruckus ensued on the tiny dance floor.

Now we Karachites are a bit shy and protective about our personal space. Punjabis on the other hand… In the confusion it seemed like all the guests from Lahore were crammed up on the dance floor with the their Karachi host quietly standing on the sidelines  waiting for their turn to shake it. The d j getting caught in the tempo switched from the usual bhangra to Pitbull. hahah Pitbull! in a Mehndi. And hardly surprisingly there was a shout of joy from the Lahoris.

Mehndi Dance

We decided to leave at this point and were just getting in our vehicles when someone from inside with a big smile on his face approached us.

“Hello, any body got a cigarette?”

“Sure” and I offered him one

“Oh thanks man, I am an asthma patient but I can’t live without this darn thing. I am a doctor too.”

“Oh really, then ho-”

“Don’t tell my wife though, she doesn’t know. Actually I just got married two days ago in Lahore and now I am attending my brothers wedding here in Karachi. Isn’t that exciting?”

“Yea sounds like f-”

“You know I am glad I found you guys they say cigarettes unites us all. Hey you guys know where a medical store is? Its time for my asthma medication”

“Yes it is about a Kilometer from here, you go straight and take a rig-”

“Can you please take me there? this is my first time in Karachi”

Oh boy. What a character. And as I said before there is just something about Lahoris , friendly though they are confused as fuck. We decided to give the nuptial soul a ride and had a good conversation along the way.

Funny thing a wedding is. A very cultural event. There are certain rituals and traditions no matter what the 1400 year old man made shariah bullshit counters, we will still do it. Even the extremists. Maybe there is hope still.

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One Day I Wish to Have this Kind of Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Day being Unemployed

Ok so tonight I am in a very good mood. The weather is a bit chilly, just about the right temperature where you don’t wanna roam around in your boxers and would rather get cosy in your PJs. I’ve just finished watching this amazing animated movie, CARS (2006). Yes I know its a bit old, been meaning to watch it but tonight I actually did that and boy! had a great time. These days I’ve been on a crazy Walt Disney frenzy. Watching cartoons and animated films from the past, revisiting my childhood days. But that is another blog post. Back to the issue of my good mood…

So sitting on my bed with the laptop, A Sate of Trance episode number er…443 yes playing in the back ground and I am really at ease.

Part of the reason I started blogging is to understand what goes around me. It is like by talking or in my case writing about what happens around you make things come to better perspective. So, perhaps by talking about what happened throughout the day I will shed some light on this good feeling that I’m having right now.

I woke up at 8:30am, showered and had to skip breakfast because I had an appointment with a professor at my university for 9:00am. It takes about 20 minutes for me to dress up and 40 minutes by car in medium traffic to reach university from my home so no way was I going to be on time. I don’t know why I missed my precious protein filled breakfast knowing I wasn’t going to make it on time anyway but I guess it eased my conscience.

Anyway at the university I did miss the dam appointment but as it turned out the good professor took some time out to see me and I got what I wanted. Awesome and I was pretty close to the schedule I had planned out the night before.

12:30pm back at home. Had a very late breakfast, deli delied with mom and got ready to visit my office. Yes ‘visit’. When you have resigned officially, you ‘VISIT YOUR WORK’ as oppose to ‘GOING TO WORK’. So by 3pm I was in my office or should I say ex-office. Winded up a meeting and some last minute tasks. The meeting didn’t go as well as I had planned, at least for my vendor who got grilled and will probably hold a grudge with the company from now on but hey, not my problem ha ha no sir. Not any more.

So I left work at 6:00pm picked up my sister from her friends place near Clifton and came back home had an OK lunch. The emphasis is on my mom’s cooking. Its .. well lets just say she can cook really well if she wants. But today wasn’t her best day. In any case no complains the food was healthy and put me in a stupor for an hour. When I woke up at 9:00pm the world was felt a bit fuzzy so I took a walk on the roof, enjoyed the chilliness of the night getting chillier by the minute over a cigarette and called in a friend.

After he left I had a late dinner and watched the movie CARS which I mentioned earlier. And now it is 2:00 am almost time to sleep again and I am in a nice content stated of mind. The day was hectic, I was all over Karachi but at the end everything got done. Its like when you plan out the to-do list for the day in your head and everything is time dependent and when it all falls right into place just like you wanted it feels like a mindgasm. The feeling is good I am sure you guys know what I mean. At least those of you who are working.

…Not bad for a FIRST DAY BEING UNEMPLOYED 🙂 oh and did I mention I use to hate my job? Change. Change is the lesson of the day here people. Think about it when you have time. It won the hearts of millions of Americans when Obama was campaigning and started a revolution in North Africa and the Middle East.

I am apprehensive about tomorrow but at the same time I am really hopeful. I didn’t knew the name of this 90’s house number, it reminds me of all our junior high school Eid Milan Parties, Basants, Melas, Dholkies and what not. A week back heard it over FM 89 and valha. Tonight we party!