Sunday, February 27, 2005

Oskar Schmoskar

The Oscars are on later today - well, tomorrow, if time differences are taken into account. I have an awful feeling that The Aviator will sweep everything. While this is, what the critics call, a luscious (read: well funded) production, Leonardo DiCaprio just doesn't cut the mustard. He is one of those men who is doomed to look like a boy till he hits 50. Getting him to play Howard Hughes calls for much more than willing suspension of disbelief from an audience. I would need to be on a bouquet of banned substances to be convinced. Hilary Swank's sexual ambiguity leaves me cold as well. Jamie Fox is considerably more convincing as Ray Charles. I gather that he is dead cert to win - if the fact that the bookies have stopped taking bets on him is anything to go by. It would be great if Hotel Rwanda got something. Although it is not a particularly well made film, there are important morals running through it. Any person living in a divisive society (pretty much anywhere in the world) would be well advised to see it.

And so to bed.

La Fievre du Samedi Soir

Saturday night. Choices, choices, choices. A Client dinner. An even more dull dinner with a bunch of journalists. An even duller event with a bunch of parliamentarians. I'd prefer to sit home figuring out the jazz for tomorrow's show (which now starts at 8pm cutting right into cocktail hour - far be it for a radio executive in Karachi to figure that out!). But then that would make me middle aged, wouldn't it ? After, all old men in cardigans ("cardies") sit around in velvet shuffle slippers sipping cocoa listening to jazz on saturday evenings. Given the enviable stereotype, I shall defy definition and bore myself silly by going to all three dinners. It is at times like this that I wish I were a cokehead.

Friday, February 25, 2005

All Grace No Will

Here's an item from today's Daily Times:

PU grants five grace marks to MA English candidates

Staff Report LAHORE: The Punjab University vice chancellor Lt Gen (r) Arshad Mahmood approved five grace marks for the Master of Arts (MA) English Part-1 Annual Examinations 2004 candidates on Thursday. The grace marks were given in the papers of Poetry, Drama, Novel, Prose and American literature. The university also extended the MA English admission forms’ submission date to March 10. The marks were given after students of PU affiliated colleges’ protested the annual system claiming that PU’s students got higher marks because they followed the semester system while they were following the annual system.

Hang on. These guys want an extra five marks (grace marks) which are based, not on merit, but on the perception that other competing students had an unfair advantage. A 'grace mark' is a grade which is based on the concept of a favour (the "grace" of the grantor) rather than any talent or brilliance on the part of the person being marked. It is deplorable that the chief executive of the Province has deigned it fit to grant these additional marks for no good reason. So if there continues to be abominable poetry, drama, novels, prose and American literature (!) coming out of Pakistan we know who to blame.

Incidentally the concept of "grace marks" does not exist on,, and other research sites. Yes, Google has some references, but these are primarily to a person - one Grace Marks who is the central figure in a novel by Margaret Atwood. The remaining Google references to grace marks refer principally to South Asia. Yet another useless concept which should be canned FORTHWITH.


Thursday, February 24, 2005


Worked till 4 am on the least stimulating assignment I've done in ages - a comparison of successive Petroelum policies. Even the dog inhaled the boredom and passed out. S came over to interview me on my favourite films. That's easy. Breakfast at Tiffany's. Cabaret. The Talented Mr Ripley. It strikes me later that the choice is a tad homosexual. I should have thrown in Terminator 2 or 3 to throw them off the track. Too late. Publish and be damned!

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Global Faith

It has taken me well over a week to plough through Olivier Roy's "Globalised Islam". It is not a difficult book to read - it's just that the week in question has been particularly tough. Parts of Roy's thesis are difficult to accept - particularly in the hothouse that I live in. Others, however, make a great deal of sense. Roy talks about the effects of deterritorialisation and decontextualisation of Islam. This does add up when is looking at Islam through the lens of the Muslim diaspora particularly in Europe and North America. Yes, a Muslim living everyday life in those cultures is "dispossessed" of his cultural base and has to reinvent him/herself anew in a very different socio cultural milieu. He can either join an existing community (usually a geographic-mosque based situation, usually in a depressed part of town) create one of his own (easier said than done) or become part of a virtual community via the internet.
I still think the emphasis on the development of Islam by the Muslims in the West has been overrated - although I confess I may have to eat my words if things change in the future. From my perspective, the fact is that Muslim intellectuals living in the West have yet to have registered on the Pakistan faith radar. I have never read about Tariq Ramadan and others except in books written out of the west. Many writers tend to overestimate the connection between the Muslim diaspora and its connection with the mother country. A Pakistani immigrant in the Middle East retains more of a connection with Pakistan because he is essentially a "short term" immigrant (permanent residence is out of the question) and given the physical proximity to home (anywhere between a one to three hour flight) he retains his identity. Moreover, living in an Arab/Islamic environment, the contrast between the original and adopted culture is not traumatic.
The picture changes when you look at the Muslim diaspora in the West. The expression "West" is deceptive as diaspora experiences in Europe and North America differ dramatically. Broadly, a "western" Muslim immigrant is farther away from home, is in a pervasively different culture and has fewer connections with home. The sense of community may vary with large groups of muslims in the United Kingdom (Bradford is ten percent muslim) to scattered communities across the larger geography of the United States. To illustrate the point, I doubt that many Pakistanis could make a great deal of sense of "The Lost Language of Lovers" by Nadeem Aslam - a second generation immigrant living in the UK. Although Aslam writes well, his subject matter - Pakistani immigrants in the UK- does not translate well into modern Pakistani life. The description of "desi" life rings few notes of commonality with the mother country. The thought patterns, behaviour and actions of the characters are, literally, out of place. It is Pakistani morality circa the 1950s (when immigration to the UK was at its peak) which has crystallised and (grudgingly) absorbed random aspects of the English life.
But back to Roy. Unfortunately, he is fixated with diaspora to the West- not within Muslim territories. For example, is the sense of alienation ("deterritorialisation") comparable for an immigrant moving from Mirpur to Manchester and a land based individual moving from Sukkur to Karachi ? Where Roy does succeed is in looking towards trends which have created what he describes as "neofundamentalism" which he contrasts with the more traditional Islamists. The latter, he describes as interlinked to political development within a state whereas the neofuns(!) concentrate their efforts on rescucitation of the individual - political development will follow once the individual has been "saved" and brought back to the rightful path. To support this view, he cites a number of examples (primarily from the inernet to show) that the neofuns essentially equate at an individual level - the community is not the primary target. That personal salvation is the primary quest. That intellectual pursuit is not the primary target- the fact that the Afghan "liberators" chose to call themselves Taliban (students) and not Alim (teachers) is relevant.
Roy's examination of the neofuns at the individual level is interesting but wears thin. In a comparative survey of neofuns (primarily Al Qaeda, similar groups and internet preachers) he finds them to be (a) immigrants living in alien cultures; (b) usually with a fairly high level of (technical) education; (c) estranged from parents and the mother culture; and (d) usually married to a "foreign" spouse. This ties in neatly (too neatly, for some) with his contention that the brand of Islam peddled by the neofuns is essentially rule-based and not an Islam which is rooted or even linked to any specific culture or ethnicity. This has led to a distilled, "purified" form of Islam which can be applied across the board from Ankara to Tampa Florida. The end result of this distillation and anti-intellectualisation has however been the issue of a series of edicts or commandments rather than any form of discourse. There is a growing body of work on practice or praxis (the emphasis on growing a beard or the type of Hijab to be worn) which has taken the place of faith. This has echoes in Pakistan where "modern" ulema appear regularly on television either as polemicists or as advisors on matters of dress, etiquette, behaviour and practice as opposed to matters of "iman" or pure faith.
So how does all of this augur for the future ? Firstly, I see little to stem the tide of neo/fundamentalism in Pakistan. One's attention has been diverted by cries of "enlightened moderation" but there has been nothing practical to implement any of this. Merely passing a law deigning that madrassahs will include computer classes in their curriculum is not going to change the position. Second: the pace of Islamisation may have slowed down - due to a less conducive national (as opposed to Provincial) environment, less funding from foreign and local sponsors, but it has not stopped altogether. The factors that led to the creation and growth of fundamentalism in Pakistan (bad education, zero health facilities, a growth in poverty) remain and (if World Bank/IMF statistics are to be believed) have actually worsened. Third: The Islamists (particularly the MMA Government in the NWFP) have done little to improve their political opportunity. Fixating on the smallers issues (banning dancing, billboards with women, cinemas and music) they have failed to capitalise on the larger problems of drugs, violence, foreign infiltration etc. A change of pace should never be confused with the cessation of fundamentalism. As long as the root causes remain the effects will ultimately emerge.

Hit and Miss

I finally spoke to R last night - only to discover that X is hopelessly straight. This has thrown me into a deep funk. Why are all the nice guys straight and the shrieky self-obsessed ones gay ? This is not sexist stereotyping. It is based on a series of awful experiences. I am trying not to make this piece a diatribe against gay pakistani men, but i fear it is headed in that general direction.
First things first. Gay Pakistani Men (GPM) are obsessed by their sexuality. I agree that sexuality is an important part of one's being. But there is a life beyond it. Things matter beyond who does (or doesn't) get you a hard-on. Then, there's the shrieky school of Pakistani sexuality. I am not a sociologist, but I get the feeling that many of my GPM friends spend a great deal of time wanting to be women or generally borrow what they perceive as feminine traits. The end result is a rehashed queen based on stereotypes borrowed from popular American television. Camp can actually be quite funny if done well (like the guys on Queer as Folk) but it can be painful if it is done badly. It is done very badly indeed over here. Third (and this one is boring but true) is the ungodly obsession with sex. I have all the time in the world for someone in the closet who is obsessive about sex quite simply because he doesn't get ...or because he doesn't get enough. I despair of GPM's (and there are many) for whom life is a series of dates. It is essentially a fast food theory (disposable men ? ) that is applied to real life. I do not want a MacLay with a side order of french fries. Fourth: I detest the ghetto lifestyles that GPM's invariably lead. My gay friends have gay parties, gay outings, gay trips to the beach, gay drinking sessions. You bring one straight person into the equation and you are met with stony stares or outright hostility. Yes, I agree that there are times when it is comforting to not have to deal with heterosexuals. But every day ?
So there you have a recipe for disaster. Sex obsessed, ghettoised,shrieky and xenophobic. Not nice. Not nice at all. I confess to trashing a few intelligent, well adjusted men in the process, but they are few and far between and they are bright enough to understand that they do not fall in the broad brush strokes I have given above.
So much for articulating the problem. Where does the solution lie ? Well, it would be great if gay men were to spend a little more time in the "real" world- preferably a world which includes women. And by women I mean more than the token fag hags/gal pals who act as satellites to GPM. As for sexuality obsession, its time to take a major chill pill. Yes, we all know (or gleefully suspect) that you are gay. You pick your friends for their powers of perception and we have perceived you are gay. We choose not to tell you because we respect you or love you or do not wish to embarass or "out" you. So can you stop being so anal about your sexuality ? (Pun intended). As for role models, the shrieky queen was invented in the west as either an anarchic aberration or a male variant of the Judy Garland-Barbara Streisand kind of gal. While she carries no copyright she did arise from a specific culture/subculture. And while dressing up is kind of fun once in a while, it becomes downright tedious every day of the week. The camp/vamp/tramp has lost her originality and so, my dear, have you. Mascara does not make you larger than life.
Phew. I feel so much better now. I think I have earned myself a latte.

Monday, February 21, 2005

A Tale of Two Cities

It took me an hour and a half of working round never-seen-before roads to get to Pindi for an appointment. "VVIP" movement diverted traffic to I-8 and from there to a no man's land that separates the two cities. I had always thought that there was a big blank patch between the two cities. My forced drive of today actually taught me that this is more psychological space than physical. The two cities are actually seamless and do (at least physically) count as one. However, as this would mean rewriting the Constitution, I think it is easier to let sleeping cities lie. Having said all of this, I never visit RWP unless work takes me there. I have no friends who live there, I am never invited to an event there and I have little motivation to go there. There are few (if any) places of historic or cultural interest. My die hard foodie friends take about kebabs in Shahi Mohalla. It will take more than a kebab to get me to drive out so far.

Back to psychological space and differences. I am sure that Pindi (together with Timbuctoo, Oslo and New Mexico) has many wonderful people. However, the usual run of the mill Pindi person I meet is as uninspiring as stewed pumpkin. This is not to say that Islamabad is bursting at the seams with interesting people. It is not. However, the distinction between Homo Islamabadicus and Homo Pindius is still apparent. In some respects RWP strikes me as the land time forgot. It's status is akin to an only child that has the full force of its parents' attention. Then along comes another child (an accident ? a test tube baby ? ) and attention is diverted.

If it were not for the army, Pindi would have ceased to remain a city- it would have been relegated to a town, if it is not one already. The army keeps the city running, paints the trees, has amazing traffic controls, runs the local hospital and some schools and generally infuses whatever passes for army "culture" into the city. There is, for example, an army museum in Pindi which houses the limousines driven by Presidents Ayub and Yahya. I discovered this quite by accident and ended up spending one of my most riveting moments in the city. The odd diversion apart I am as likely to spend more time in Pindi.

Except ofcourse if I discover Adonis in Pindi. In that case I will promptly revise my opinion. The depths of my shallowness remain uncharted!

Sunday, February 20, 2005


A technological crisis of conscience has arisen. I SMS'd someone (ok someone I sort of like) three days ago. Nothing difficult. Just a "how's it hangin' dude" kind of message. I get a reply days later. The doormat in me wants to reply immediately. The head has reigned supreme. I have not replied twelve hours later. I am sure when I do call I will become a regular himbo and say something like "I just saw your message" which will undo everything. I am clearly not intended to be a man of much mystery.

Capuccino Literature

Its been bitterly cold here. I awoke yesterday, zipped out of bed, opened the shutters, only to discover that the margallas behind my house were covered in snow. I had a brief moment in which to figure out the options I had ... a quick ski trip up there; perhaps a sleigh ride a la Zhivago? Or how about getting right back into bed. I took the path of least resistance. I could see the snow, but bed was about the warmest place to be. How's that for the best of both worlds?

Lying in bed all day allowed me to read two books that I had been meaning to. Both had elements in common. Written by white anglo saxon protestants as frothy accounts of life in Iran and Pakistan, they tried to intermingle the anecdotal with the historical. Both men are journalists so the style teeters between the literary, the factual, the personal and the honest rendition of an account.

"In the Rose Garden of the Martyrs" is by Christopher de Bellaigue - a Cambridge graduate, student of Persian studies, husband to an Iranian woman and correspondent for the Economist and the New York Review of Books. He doesn't have much of a pesonal story to tell. He does, however, speak Persian and manages to intersperse much anecdotal narrative with the history of Iran circa the Shah to the present day. Apart from his way too brief interlude into shi shi Tehran (women described as "matchsticks soaked in Chanel") he seems to find more of the "real" Iran among the clerics of Qom and Isfahan, the mafia of South Tehran and the editors of newspapers which are constantly banned and re-emerge under new names. The most chilling episodes in the book (for me) revolve around the horrors of the Iran Iraq war which resulted in some alarmingly high death tolls. De Bellaigue says that the army of Iran forgot one of the basic precepts of war - the minimisation of human casualty. If people die, so be it. The Shi'ite (and some would say Islamic) concepts of martyrdom allowed this to be absorbed by a seemingly accepting population. Graveyards serve as poignant reminders of what it was (or was supposed to be) all about. In a comic interlude, de Bellaigue describes how street names have been changed after relatively little known martyrs. In a chapter simply entitled "Gas" de Bellaigue investigates the severe after effects of chemical inhalation which occurred many years later. Western business, covertly and overtly, allowed Saddam to produce mustard gas and other chemicals with Western governments turning a blind eye to all this. As we know, the eye turned, with mock horror, when the self same chemical weapons became a raison for weapons inspection and (eventually) occupation.

"Alive and Well in Pakistan" (there had to be a better title) by Ethan Casey works on a smaller canvas. The first part of the book (probably the best) charts his travels in and around Kashmir as a correspondent for The Bangkok Post and the South China Morning Post. He's an avid reader of Naipaul in whom he sees little wrong. Naipaul's misreadings of this part of the world (in Among the Believers, Beyond Belief et al) should have rung an alarm bell somewhere - not a trace of it emerges in the book. The book begins its descent in the second part where Casey arrives to teach at the Beaconhouse National University in Lahore. The emphasis on history and politics of the first part, transfers to a chattier account of life in Lahore, with brief interludes in Islamabad, Peshawar and Multan. Casey's cast of characters are broadly divided among his students, his cronies at the tennis club and his landlord's family. Somehow, his characterisation of all these people lacks charm, is studied and they emerge as two dimensional. Casey's lack of a working knowledge of Urdu may play a part in this. There is a limit to which one can derive humour from the bad english Casey is subjected to by all he meets. Yes, I know bad grammar has its charm - it also has its limits. William Dalrymple did a better job of Delhi. He had the advantage of a true affection combined with a strong sense of academic knowledge. Casey is lacking on both fronts. When I finish the last page of a book, I often ask myself :"Now, what was that all about ?". In Casey's case, I still don't have the answer.

Saturday, February 19, 2005


T called to ask for inspiration for her Herald column. I trotted some of the stuff set out in my "Dumb and Dumber" entry. This is now the basis for her column next month. Let it not be said that all I say is completely irrelevant. I have issues with Herald though ..too Karachi, too KGS, too libero-fascist and (quite honestly) too downright sopho-moronic. It needs a thorough shaking down. Ditto, its sibling, the oh-so-earnest Newsline. What is worth reading .. ? Lots of stuff on the web. The London Times. The Guardian. The New York Times. The Economist (stiff upper lip, but tolerable.) Gaydar (for comic relief). (my wish list grows); (fantasy) (more fantasy). looking strangers).

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Post Valentine Redz

F called from Karachi to ask if I knew that someone had put up a huge billboard on the "do talwar" roundabout proclaiming "IFTIKHAR LOVES SAEED AND WISHES HIM A HAPPY VALENTINE" or something like that. Sounds funky. True love ? Pure love ? Who knows. I wish them well, whatever the nature of their relationship.

After my truly stinky day at work I had a run in with the delicious X. We were part of a group in a very crowded room. Me in my work clothes (black undertaker's suit!) he in his leather jacket and considerably less formal clothes. I worked my way to the back of the room where we both stood leaning against the wall smoking ourselves silly. Finally, I asked whether the people in the room had real jobs or did they normally hang out at 1 am on a weekday. He confessed he did have a job and that he had to be up really early. In the course of conversation, I discovered where he works. R works there too, and I have spent most of this morning wondering whether I should pursue this further or dismiss X as HH (hopelessly heterosexual)- hetero beyond repair (or despair!).

The androgynous but HD (hopelessly dull) Adil calls persistently. I think this is destined to end up in bed and in boredom. He is an awfully nice guy - awfully. He is also as dull as ditchwater. Once the sexual novelty has worn off (usually twenty minutes in my case) I know I will either roll over and fall asleep or else think of ways to get him out of there pronto. Sad but true!

Ah well, there are possibilities after VD (Valentines Day) one remote and the other boring. :)

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


Yuk. Its been two days of late nighters at work trying to close a transaction. Even typing this blog is tough. Each finger weighs a ton and something. Still another two days to the weekend. *sigh* Even my junior assistant has given up. He's home, asleep and his phone is switched off. Its only 10 am on a Wednesday morning. Well at least the sun is out and the clouds are gone.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Valentine Blooze

I had to make an emergency pit stop on the way to work today and pick up Valentine's cards for at least three people I know. If they don't get at least a card each they will be suicidal/depressed and/or hormonal (usually all three) for some time to come. I will be on the receiving end of all this negative karma, so there is an element of self preservation to all this.

The whole Valentines ethos has changed in Pakistan. The Valentine's shop was packed with people- most of who seemed to be under 25. Yes, the front page of every national newspaper also had full colour ads shamelessly promoting chocolate, flowers et al. But do people really know what Valentine's Day is all about ? Or should they ? I was bemused to overhear kids talking about sending a card to their mothers. Sheesh. That should keep Freud busy for some time.

The only downside to Valentine's Day is the sense of coupling the entire event is designed to promote. As with my single friends, there are others who, because they are single, feel a deep sense of despair at not being a part of a couple. Speaking for myself (I have no constituency, alas!) there is much to be said for being single. I would sooner be single than trapped in a mediocre relationship. Being single gives me the time to be me - not such a bad thing in small doses. I can focus, for some time, on an emotional audit of myself without having to accomodate another. I am not prescribing eternal singledom. Its not such a bad thing, in measure. Or as an Islamabad friend reminds me- the statistical odds of meeting the right person in Karachi are 140 times greater! (The large number of my single Karachi friends must mean a higher sense of discrimination- or that statistics are bunk!)

Post script: Anyone wallowing in the sorrows of singledom would be advised to listen to listen to "Single" by Natasha Beddingfield, recommended to me by a 9 year old niece this summer.

I'm not waitin' around for a man to save me (Cos I'm happy where I am)
Don't depend on a guy to validate me (No no)
I don't need to be anyone's baby (Is that so hard to understand?)
No I don't need another half to make me whole.


Saturday, February 12, 2005

Dumb and Dumber

A bunch of us were invited by the US Ambassador to Pakistan to hear Stephen Cohen speak about his new book "The Idea of Pakistan." The exchange was intriguing enough for me to buy the book - and (eventually) read it. Some of it makes for disturbing reading. Apart from the usual platitudes about Pakistan, India, Kashmir, democratisation, nuclear power etc. the most incisive comments are about the deplorable state of education in Pakistan.

On University education Cohen says (and I quote)

"Pakistan's public universities and colleges, once quite promising, have fallen into such an abject state that some reputable scholars claim that they are beyond redemption in their present form and should be transformed or abolished. Even numerically their output is minimal.Pakistan now has just over 100,000 students in tertiary institutions. In constrast, Iran, with half of Pakistan's population has over 700,000 students enrolled at this level, Bangladesh has approximately 878,537, Turkey 1,607,388 and India 9,404,460."

Hang on. Does this mean Bangladesh has eight times as many university students as Pakistan ? Depressingly still, the numbers tell only half the story. What about the quality of the education being imparted to so few ?

Back to Cohen. In a footnote (quoting Parvez Hoodbhoy)

"In another instance, in the 1980s, 120 students from all over Pakistan tok a standardized five hour test designed to test competence in physics, with a scholarship to MIT as the reward for the best student. Not one student passed the exam, and the results were supressed by the educational authorities."

Seeing as we can't do it ourselves, a contract worth sixty million dollars has been given to a North Carolina company (RTI) to improve our primary education system over a four year period.

Maybe we should just outsource the Ministry of Education.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Bonfire of the Vanities

I finally had my long overdue lunch with F. After having spent years communicating (or not communicating) we finally meet at a Karachi restaurant named after an Italian city destroyed by lava ash. I have, however, to put my havana away as they draw the line at smoking there. Somehow, the irony of this is lost on the waiters.

The conversation drifts (even if the smoke doesn't) to our mutual "designer" friends. I confess that even though I love them dearly I am worried about the surfeit of ego they possess. They have, effectively, redone Coppernicus and put themselves at the centre of a new universe. The words "I/me/myself" are spoken repeatedly. The cult of the self has triumphed- and triumphed supremely. F agrees and adds that ego-glut is accompanied by the absence of development -either emotional or intellectual or spiritual. Stuff that looked "cute" when we were teenagers, "tolerable" when we were thirtysomethings is now bordering on the absurd. One does not become older grows older. And growth is implies that one has learned things along the way. In the case of many of our friends this has, quite simply not happened. They have contented themselves with the rat race. Money. Spouses. 2.75 Children. A Civic in the garage. They have not read a book in ages. They are unable to voice an opinion on anything which has not featured in last month's Vogue (ok, Vanity Fair if we're lucky). But are we being unfair ? Is it just some of our friends who are party to this ? Or has society as a whole dumbed itself out of existence. Maybe the truth lurks somewhere in between.

Ps: The food at Pompeii is great. I shattered my no carbs diet with risotto.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

One Reason to have Flu

1. Your voice gets all sexy and husky and FM radio asks you to do voice overs for them. CityFM89 today ....Hollywood tomorrow ?

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Ten Reasons Not to Have Flu

1. You wake up feeling lousy.
2. You spend the day feeling lousy.
3. You go to bed feeling lousy.
4. Things make even less sense than they usually do.
5. Cough syrups are an acquired taste.
6. People are scared to sit too close to you...
7. And therefore, the odds of scoring become even remoter.
8. "Relax, its only flu" doesn't quite hit the right note
9. None of the five senses work in equilibrium
10. Flu sux.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Airport -the Sequel

Back to another airport. This time its Isb's airport (aiportette?) en route to Karachi. I have a meeting, lunch with F, an afternoon with the parents, a dinner in Karachi. Sunday with some guilt sleep. Guilt sleep, because I really should be awake entertaining the parents. Then its back home Sunday night. Ah well. I shall take my Eco Book with me this time. Hopefully it will intimidate handsome strangers from striking up mindless conversations with me.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Time Flies

Hmmm three months already and not a word to say. Maybe this should be a blog about not writing a blog at all. My mind is numb right perhaps its best I stick to my latest wasted opportunity. Early morning tuesday, I hop onto the red eye shuttle flight for Lahore. Trying to read my "script" for the oncoming meeting and concentrating on people boarding. The usual droll collection of characters- corpulent businessmen, mna's, mpa's and polyester clad people doing their best to look desperately busy. One has to add a sense of drama to an early morning flight. There HAS to be something about waking up in the freezing cold at 6 am, to catch a shuttle at that ungodly hour.

And then he walks in. Mr Greek God. Ooozing (note the extra "o") confidence from every pore. Steps right in with a swagger. And when I say swagger, I mean swagger. He sports the ubiquituous Vandyke (what DID Pak men do with their chins before ? ) tight jeans, a cool top and one of those dumb wireless things clipped to his ear, transmitting his telephone from wherever he'd secreted it. Sits three rows ahead so I get the near perfect view of his nape. And there it ends. Or almost

Cut to the next day. 8pm. Time to catch the evening shuttle back. El Greco (with the Vandyke!) arrives yet again. Madly enough the swish earpiece is still on, the blue light on it throbbing with mysterious intensity. We go through the same boarding routine. Embarking, I think, they call it. Zorba carries only carryon luggage. A Hugo Boss suit cover and some other small pieces which can be stowed (don't you just lurve airline jargon) in the overhead compartment. Anyhow, he struts the aisle for a bit and then plonks himself next to me. And what do I do for the next thirty minutes of enforced constrainment in the tiniest seats on earth - where physical intimacy is thrust upon one perforce. Nothing. Zilch. Nada. I continue to read my book as though I am used to reading esoteric philosophy while sitting adjacent to the Gods. We arrive. I get up to push through. And then he utters his first words to me" I'm sorry I'm holding you up, but I have stuff at the back." And me (voice cracking for what its worth) blurt out "Don't Worry". Or something equally flaccid. We exchange a brief look. And that's it. Not quite F Scott Fitzgerald. Its life ...or something like it.