Monday, August 29, 2005

Second-hand books

I bought a book at a second-hand bookshop a few days ago and found a love song, hand-written in ardent bubble-scrawl, tucked away in its pages. I wonder who it was for. And whether it was ever read. Old books are fun that way. They carry so many lives within them, in the marginalia that scuttles around the borders of the text. It's almost like getting to know another person.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Small moves

It's the little things in life that matter. My uncle and I were on the same flight over to Lahore last week. He was flying business class and I was at the back in economy. The flight's only an hour and a bit and between take-off, landing and breakfast (a staple PIA omelette, cutlet and croissant) there's only about ten or fifteen minutes you have to yourself to look around, be bored, read a book, make faces at the children or whatever. And yet, in spite of that, Mamu came back to check if I was alright, if I needed anything. What do you say to that? It's a very humbling feeling. Thank you doesn't quite cover it.

I remember thinking a little while ago how there are two types of good people (iss duniya main do tarha ke pappu hotay hain . . . ); those who make it easy for you to love them and those who don't. Try and be the first kind. Live generously, love generously, be patient with other people. Think before you speak. Simple rules. And yet how much they enrich our lives, these small kindnesses.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Mera Sohna Shehr Karachi

I'm back in Karachi these days. It's a sweet feeling, visiting a city that once used to be home. Everything seems familiar. The people, the places, the accents. It's almost like sliding back into a groove. Or maybe this is all just nostalgia.

They're making an underpass around Boat Basin so the roads are all mashed up and jammed with traffic. I walked into Rajoo's Ice Cream looking for a milkshake and was told the electricity had gone out. The crows are still there, crowding the sky at dusk. Have things changed?

The DVD market has collapsed. With the introduction of the new copyright laws, stores that used to be stocked to suffocation are now listless and barren. I suppose this means we have to find new ways of amusing ourselves. Maybe people will start reading again and the book bazar at Frere Hall will swell with eager new customers savoring the books and the spicy chaat, the friendly weather of reading. I saw a copy of VS Naipaul's A House for Mr Biswas for 40 rupees on a seller's cart. Here's to hoping.

(For those of you interested in poetry, there's a copy of TS Eliot's delightful Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats at Mr Old Books on Boat Basin for a mere 35 rupees.)

Dilpasand Chaat is still there, our local monument to taste and pleasure. A mixed plate costs fifteen rupees, up from the previous twelve, but still packs a punch. You take the first bite and fireworks start singing in your ears. I still believe that if anyone is new to Karachi and has only an hour to spare, they should be taken immediately to Dilpasand Chaat and then to Sialkot Milk House, to be drowned in the flavors of chaat and milkshake. Apart from making a mean date milkshake, they serve mango milkshake almost all year round at Sialkot Milk House. What more could one ask for?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Scattered update

- Got back late last night from a very busy trip to Dubai. Shopping. I hate it. Prowling around stores looking for stray bargains, rummaging through tie racks, trying on shoe after shoe after shoe. It's a ridiculous pastime. I don't know how people can enjoy it. Props though to the sweet old English lady who gave me a small talk on how to select neck-ties when I asked her to help me choose between two. Did you know that the shirt/tie placements in stores are dictated by the designers themselves? I always thought it was the sales assistants who did that. You live and you learn.

- Khala came over for a holiday early Sunday morning and needed directions to get to our house. They were waiting at the local mall aka the black hole which sucks up chocolate syrup and spits out bleach. She needed to be rescued. I jumped out of bed, grabbed an apple and rushed out of the house to perfom this heroic feat. Why the apple? To get rid of my toxic morning breath. It's a great trick. Crunch by crunch, the odors dissipate and the pall of gloom fermenting in your mouth quickly lifts to reveal a super-hero, pillow-cheeked, apple-breathed, ready to face with steely determination whatever challenges may come his way.

- Bit into a plum and got a jet of sweet sticky plum-spray up my nose.

- Met up with knicq and this other guy whose name I forget and what was supposed to be a quick smooch-smooch-hello-I-must-be-going-book-drop-off turned into a three hour spectacular with food, books and detailed instructions in how to outwit your wife. Ate Chinese food that tasted nothing like the pungent memories of those two a.m. noodles eaten after a night out in Toronto. This was delicious stuff, made even more so in the company of friends. Tom Yum soup, spicy chicken nuggets, Dim Sum samosas and a ginger chicken with an identity crisis (it looked like fish.) For those in Dubai, visit China Times at the Jumairah Plaza on Beach Road. Good food, generous portions and quick service. The mall also comes with a well-stocked second-hand bookshop (House of Prose) that's definitely worth a visit.

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