Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Baby's Got A Secret

This is a bit of a cheat blog. I must remind you that I'm not the kind of guy who forwards sms jokes or email jokes - unless they're pure fun. I had an email from MK in Karachi, forwarding me this website. The purpose of this blog is to get you to pay a visit to it. Secrets are second nature to gay men. Most of us end up leading strange double lives. We learn automatically to transpose pronouns. The "he" becomes a "she" as part of dinner party banter. References to past "girlfriends" are muted over with a quick change of topic. So get to www.postsecret.com and see what you make of it. Some of it is quirky. Some disturbing. Some close to the bone. Much too close to the bloody bone. And some of it is graphically gorgeous. Enjoy. I promise to return with remotely meaningful prose in the near future.

Monday, May 30, 2005


The Party ended successfully. Having scraped the last remaining guests off the floor, I escaped to the sanity of my bedroom. The much neglected Beast got a major share of TLC before I passed out. The next day went by in a haze. I decided that after all this high tech stuff I needed a resort to nature, to a simpler life. Something evocative of my youth. The obvious answer was a weekend in the Sanctuary. For those of you who don't know, the Sanctuary is a house in the hills, which a friend and I built. It started off as sheer folly, but is now a welcome retreat from heat, people,work and ...well life in general. The main problem about holidays in the hills is that you have to pick your people carefully. This is not like a party where you can swan into another room or pick up your keys and leave because the guests are a pain in the ass. There are no emergency exits in the Sanctuary.
Having looked at various guest options, I decided on Diplo Version 1, because he is leaving in a few days. Myself (naturalment). The Newsman, because he is a good sport and despite odd lapses in behaviour is a fun kind of guy. Then there's my friend from Karachi - let's call her Dimples, because she sports two when she smiles. And she smiles an awful lot. I think I found Dimples vaguely attractive during my schooldays when my hormonal surges and sexual tendencies were in tumultuous conflict with each other. Oh yes. Lady M tried to get herself and the Jellyfish included. I put my foot firmly down.The four of us (sans M and the Amphibian) took off in elated spirits.
Along the way up, I kept wondering if I had picked on quite the right combination of people. Dimples didn't know the other two men and also happened to be the token heterosexual and the token woman to boot. Diplo and the Newsman were a little shaky. Newsman had refused to RSVP Diplo's last party on the pretext that he was "young and effusive" (or words to that effect) and was exempted from the requirement. Just as love means never having to say you're sorry, youth (or relative youth) means never having to RSVP. Whatever. We drove on regardless. We're stuck with each other for the next 36 hours, I thought. Maybe I can just retire from it all and pretend I have work to do.
I am glad to report that I was proven wrong. If people are basically civilised they can get along with each other in any circumstances. The Newsman and Diplo have North American educations. Dimples and I are of the Brit persuasion. Straight, gay, male, female, old, young. The spectacular view from my garden, copious quantities of grape juice and an arctic breeze ironed out whatever differences there were. Oh yes, television is banned in the Sanctuary. This means having to survive with music, books or, that long forgotten institution, the board game. For me, the most comic moments arose when we staggered in to play Taboo. For the unitiated, this is almost like charades and involves one person trying to get another to guess a word, without using certain key words. Diplo had to get Dimples to guess "Anchovies" without using the word "pizza". The exchange ran like this
Diplo: Small black, squiggly things
Dimples: Eels ?
Diplo: Sprinkled on flat round things found in chain Italian restaurants.
Dimples: Gnocchi.
Diplo: Gnocchi. Are you mad.Have you ever heard of Gnocchi Hut. Or Gnocchi Express ?
Or take another exchange where the word was "actor."
Diplo: Think Paul Newman
Dimples: Salad dressing ?
Diplo (with head in hands) : I give up!
For all my sins I got "wrench".
Me: An implement.
Diplo: What does it look like?
Me: I don't know. I've never used one.
Diplo: What does it do?
Me: I haven't the foggiest. Only real men use them. And I don't know any.
And so it went. Good clean fun. I haven't had that in a long long time. With all my clothes on.
Ps: What does one do with a wrench ???

Friday, May 27, 2005

The Pilgrims' Progress - Part the Second.

I hate farewells. There's something about departures which saddens me immensely. Unfortunately, I happen to live in one of the most transient cities in the world. People come here for three year postings and take off to the other end of the universe. It's par for the course, but even after a decade of living here, I have yet to get used to it. I suppose one could try and avoid meeting diplos altogether but it happens. Diplo Version 1 (to borrow Sin's terminology) is leaving and I decided to host a small farewell for him last night. Diplo has been a good friend during his two and some year stint here and we share many interests in common. Being the multi tasker that I am, I also decided to help Lady M and the Brunette by using the farewell dinner as a mask of sorts, so they could invite their respective lust objects over.
First, the Brunette. I had decided to invite Mr Darcy to see if any chemistry could be built up. The Brunette, you will recall, had lost a shoe the last time I tried to bring them together. Mr Darcy was duly called and he accepted the invitation with great enthusiasm. Alas, the day before he called to apologise. Work was taking him to Bangkok. Hang on. Nobody goes to Bangkok on work. Is Mr Darcy just another frustrated sex tourist? We don't know. For now I am tempted to give him the benefit of the doubt.
And then there's Lady M. Alas, her objet du jour was in town and was the first person to arrive. The Jellyfish (as I shall henceforth refer to him) hasn't changed one bit. He exuded false confidence from every pore. His opening gambit was to rubbish my Davidoff cigar and suggest I smoke a Cuban instead. Pretentious twat. Beware of men who insist on consuming what is popularly perceived to be the best. Things could only get worse. And they did. One of my guests (the Princess) arrived from the other side of the Border. The Princess is pretty and bright. The Jellyfish is neither. He tried his damndest to get to know the Princess better, but if there's one thing royalty knows, it is how to deliver a royal snub. Try as he may, the Jellyfish made no headway. The Princess won hands down. Her body langauge screamed "Get away from me you oily sleazebag."
And then came the grand finale. Having failed with the Princess, the Jellyfish decided to bond with me. Big mistake. I am not an easy bonder. It takes me time to mull, muse, chew and ruminate over who my pals are. I have very few, but I prefer it that way. The bonding technique was crude to the point of ...well...a good puke. "Have you ever had it off with a north Chinese woman?" Me: "Errr. No. Actually not South Chinese either" I replied, thereby wiping off the possibility of sexual conquest with a third of the World's female population. "Great sex. And they're tall." This, I think, was an oblique reference to Lady M who is not the world's tallest person. I could feel the enamel on my teeth begin to crumble to powder. "I have a Moroccan woman in London. She looks like Angelina Jolie." Hang on. This was becoming repellant. Clearly, the Jellyfish could not have much of an interest in Lady M, if he was regaling her best friend of his Occidental and Oriental shags.
I am now stuck with having to tell Lady M the sad truth. A truth I sensed at the outset but I had to wait to have proven. The Jellyfish is an asshole of the highest order. She looked so obliviously happy last night that I was scared to broach the subject. She suggested dinner with him tomorrow and I declined in no uncertain terms. Men are complete bastards. I am contemplating lesbianism as a serious alternative. Ciao.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Eyre Affair

I may bitch, rant and moan about my parents like most other mortals, but when it comes to the habit of reading, I am eternally grateful to them. My siblings and I were postively encouraged to read at every step of the way- a habit that I've retained over the years. I remember my sister(who had become a mother very recently) once coming in asking me for a "light" book to read. "Light? How light?" I queried. "Well, as light as possible. I'm breast feeding, its a crashing bore and I need something I can balance on his head." I'm delighted to report that fifteen years later the kid who had "lite lit" balanced on his head is now an avid reader himself.
This week has been gloomy as I've been ploughed with work and I've cocked up on a project. Something staring me in the face which I hadn't acknowledged. In any case it is always good to have intimations of fallibility flash by once in a while - failing which I'm sure I'd be perfect. It was in this Kafkaesque state of mind that I picked up a book by the strangely named Jasper Fforde-that's not a typo. "The Eyre Affair" is charming and intelligent at the same time. Much better than the pulp fiction many read to keep themselves afloat. It is based on an equally curiously named detective -Thursday Next and her adventures in a surreal Britain.
The year is 1985. The Brits are at war with Russkies in Crimea. Wales has declared itself a socialist republic. The Dodo has been revived in a process of reverse extinction. One thing hasn't changed though: The Brits are madly in love with their books and their literature. So much so that a special department has been set up to protect literary works and to ensure that manuscripts are safe. Enter Thursday. She works for Litera Tec which is a branch of Special Operations that has been set up to ensure that literature remains intact. Everyday conversation among the masses involves long debates on the authenticity of Shakespeare's authorship of the plays or the works of Dickens.
Enter the bad guy: Acheron Hades. He has devised a method of seizing original manuscripts and altering the text so that ALL editions of the text are altered. His first maneouvre is mundane. Removing Mr Quaverly from the text of Martin Chuzzlewit- not a great work of art by any stretch of the imagination. He takes on the establishment when he manages to get into the text and the world of Jane Eyre. Now this is serious stuff. The Brits and the Brontes have a connection which spans decades. What follows is a roller coaster ride interspersing "modern" Britain with the world of Jane Eyre. Nothing is sacrosanct in Fforde's imaginary world. He takes broad swipes at all, including the television press, by inventing the Toad News Network and big business, in the form of the Goliath Corporation. But do not be mistaken. There is an Alice in Wonderland feel to Thursday's adventure. No lofty polemics here. My "laugh out loud" moment came when Thursday (with the help of Mr Rochester) enters the world of Jane Eyre, only to discover some Japanese tourists who have managed to sneak in with her.
What remains once the book is over is a terrific sense of humour coupled with a fertile imagination- a rare occurence in a PDB (post Dan Brown) world. The seriousness (if that is the right word) lingers in the fact that great literature is important and worth fighting for. The only other work of fiction that dwells on this subject (though in a very different manner) is Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 - subsequently made into a not-very-good film by Francois Truffaut. If great literature is worth dying for or worth saving then shouldn't more of us be reading it ? That, I think, is the unspoken premise in Fforde's work. I have the next three books and look foward to devouring them.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Talking Heads

Islamabad was once a series of villages, with village people and village things to do. One forgets the origins of cities until one is forced into it. Try telling a Dubai native (a Dubaian?) that he lives in what was once a fishing village. Or an Omani about pearl fishers. People often take the concrete mass as reality while forgetting the original reality. Islamabad does have subtle reminders of its humble origins. Once you drive out of the city (about five minutes in any direction) you are accosted by wheat or cotton or mustard fields. Karachi is quainter, as absolutely nothing grows there barring the odd date palm. I was tickled when a group of Karachi friends pointed at some miniature shrubs growing there, a few feet high at most, and shrieked ...."TREES."
Back to my story. Saturday night involved a long drive on my way out to a friend's "farm" (pronounced "form" for some unfathomable reason) for dinner. The drive itself is scary enough with several miles of unpopulated terrain. I called upon the Guru and his wife for company. They were equally scared and hastily agreed. The three of us arrived at the Form and drove through wheat fields until we arrived at a citified house in the middle of nowhere. On the way we encountered a pack of wild boar, a solitary but very large porcupine and dogs who were really wolves in drag. Scary stuff.
The "party" in progress was scarier still. This was the "Country" set and talk ranged from "amreekan sundi" (American termites) to canalic irrigation. The men had ruddy cheeks, bad haircuts and wardrobes from hell. The women were just plain dumpy. Years of child bearing and child rearing in no-man's-land had taken its toll on them. This called for a triple shot of scotch on a few rocks. Gulp. Things looked no better, but I now felt I could take on the World. Or at least the Form World. I looked to nearest person for conversation. This was a large lady swathed in thaans of georgette with a husband wearing - wait for it - a safari suit. The little label on the pocket had "pansy" written on it. I tried several different opening gambits. Nothing worked. No conversation. Music streamed in from another room. "Would you like to dawnce? "she inquired. Would I like to what ? "DAWNCE" she yelled over the music. Err. No. I had just lit up my havana and didn't want her to self-combust to the strains of vintage Kylie wafting in.
Escape resulted in a walk in the garden. Well more of a field than a garden really. I spotted someone remotely interesting. How sadly mistaken I was. For the next one hour and ten minutes (I counted!) said stranger held me in his steely gaze and lectured me on Hydroponics. For those of you who don't know (which I assume is all of you) hydroponics involves the growing of vegetables in water instead of soil. In this case the vegetable of choice was tomatoes. The expression on my face glazed over and I dropped into screensaver mode instantly. This cannot be happening to me. Oscar Wilde once said something about boring people being the most dangerous. Hydroman proved it beyond doubt.
Just as I was about to drop into Standby Mode, I discovered some rustling in a distant wheatfield. On closer inspection I discerned a group of expat city dwellers smoking banned substances. As stoned as they were, I was still able to discover points in common with them. My sigh or relief punctuated the wheat sheaves. Which brings me to the point this shaggy dog story. The Death of Conversation. Why can't people learn to make decent small talk? If I had my way every party attendee would need to carry a list of Ten Interesting Things To Talk About. Leaving aside sex, religion, politics and hydroponic tomoatoes, there are a zillion other things to discuss. Heine once defined silence as a conversation with an Englishman. I disagree. The Brits (for all their failings) have refined conversation to a High Art. Unfortunately, they left behind the roads, railways, legal and tax systems, but departed with the Art of Conversation. The end result is brain dead social events which are not helped any by a staggering intake of booze and drugs.
So where did we go all wrong ? I suspect part of the problem lies in the fact that young Pakistani children are never really exposed to adult conversation at an early enough age. They are allowed to prattle on forever and are encouraged by indulgent parents to talk endlessly - never to listen. As a result they haven't the foggiest idea of how to sustain a conversation - they excel at juvenile monologues. I think parents must be compelled (on pain of death!) to get their children to be able to bloody converse in a civilised manner. To be able to tell them that grunts, "yeahs" and a synopsis of the last PS 2 game played will not make them likeable human beings. To provide them with interests (reading for one) which will make them thinking people. To gently let them know that talking is a privelege and must be exercised carefully. That boring people to death is the eighthth deadliest sin. Until any of this happens we are doomed to successive attacks of Killer Hydroponic Tomatoes.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Fan Male

It's been another shitty weekend. London is becoming a distant memory. I'm sitting at the office working, putting together a report on (wait for it) SANITATION. My sanity is very clearly at risk. Without blowing my own trumpet I must confess that once in a while I do get email in response to my blog directly on my email address. This is for those who either do not have a blogger account or else prefer to write directly. Much of it is blush-inducing stuff and I try not to reread fan mail for fear that it may go straight to my head.

Today's mailbag included the following from CS which brought a smile to my face. CS: I hope you do not mind my quoting from what I think is a personal email. Here it goes:

"By the way, your friend's blog Venial Sin is one of the best I have ever read. He should collect some of his material into a collection of short stories or a series of related tableaux to compose a novella. It would be much better than David Sedaris' work. I swear reading Venial Sin's entries is like hearing some the best of Cole Porter. As for your blog, I find it succeeds best it communicating the social mores and customs -- a little like Thackeray or Austen."

Wow .....Cole Porter, Austen, Thackeray. Maybe this will not be such a shitty Sunday after all.


Friday, May 20, 2005

Ipod Therefore I Am.

It has been a long week and I apologise to my faithful readers (all three of them) for my abstinence. Abstinence leads me to theme of this blog. In the absence of sex I have found a substitute. It is plastic, about four or five inches long and about an inch thick. I concede that these dimensions may not satisfy everyone, but (metaphorically speaking) times are hard. I speak of my Apple Ipod which has lain with me in my virginal bed each night. In a word, it is brilliant. Perhaps the best thing to come out of America since the Hula Hoop or the Trampoline. Imagine all the music you ever own (or are likely to own in the next five years) being compressed into something that fits into your pocket or (for the well endowed) your Prada bag.

I'm an Apple virgin having been seduced by MicroSoft in my impressionable youth. Microsoft sex has been rough at times, but like a subdued and long-suffering wife I've taken all the shit they've thrown my way. Apple is pure lover material. It is fun and it is smart. I cannot make such claims of the men I know. The Ipod turns itself on when you insert the headphones. If that aint smart (and full of sexual innuendo) then what is ? Then there's the control ring. This is small, smooth shiny breast with a pert nipple at its centre. Controls are accessed by swirling a finger round the breast or by gently tweaking the nipple. This can be done while the Ipod is in one's pocket, thereby adding an air of mystery to the whole thing. (Be careful if you want to avoid the "sad wanker" label.) Oh yes. You can also dress your Ipod up. There's a whole range of sexy Ipod socks available. Mine is wearing lime green tonight. It gets better. The new state of the art Ipod Photo allows you to download album covers. So if you are (like me) blind without your glasses, you can peer into the IPod's generous screen and figure out what the fuck it is that you're listening to.

And now to the best part: The Music. At the risk of sounding like a geek, there is an awesome 60 GB's of memory. I've downloaded the better part of my music collection with two entire operas to boot (Bellini's "Norma" and Puccini's "La Boheme") and I've only used up 5GBs of space. This means I can continue to store music till eternity. The Ipod connects to most computer speakers. For some unfathomable reason I picked up speakers which look like extras off a Star Wars set. The force is with them - especially on high bass. And with an ITripper you can tune your Ipod into your car's FM player. Unfortunately, the anally retentive Brits don't sell these as they amount to "transmission" which is unlawful. "Transmission" being the ten inches from your dashboard to the FM Radio. Hang all the lawyers. (They need to be well hung.)

The only thing I have not done so far (apart from have real sex with my Ipod) is to organise my music into playlists. As a result, the 2974 songs that I have will usually play in random order. This can lead to odd and highly unsettling juxtapositions given the kind of music I listen to. Imagine jumping from Count Basie to Blondie to Youssou N'dour to Maria Callas to Kishore Kumar. This can be truly amusing when there are a bunch of close friends around - but highly embarassing when something unexpected comes along. Say Village People or Abba or (blush) Cliff Richard. Ok Stop sniggering. This was the music of my early childhood/youth. It is a small wonder that I've retained my sanity despite having been weaned on some truly mind numbing sounds. I have history and I'm proud to say so. In the process of storing music, I have come across at least a hundred CDs I will never listen to again (Gregorian Chants, Viva Lambada and Hot Arab Party Mix to name a few) which I will give away to the Italian. His life will never be the same again. And as for me- I'm having a QNI with my IP. For the unitiated : a Quiet Night In with My Ipod.

Monday, May 16, 2005

The Pilgrims' Progress.

Given the vacuousness of my life these days, I have been living vicariously through the lives of others. I have written at length about my friends, Lady M and the Brunette. While I sailed through a succession of chameleons over Saturday and Sunday, each of my gals had an interesting tale to tell. So, in good Chaucerian fashion, I shall relate the progress each of them has made in their lives.
First the Brunette. I am terribly worried. She is pursuing a recently engaged man who has shown no sign of terminating his earlier relationship. The man in question pursues her relentlessly, calls, texts, drops in and generally makes no mystery of his interest. I fear, however, like all Pakistani men, he is going to remain engaged to a girl hand picked by psycho-mommy. The Brunette, however, is no bimbo. I fear she is playing into all of this just to prove to herself that she is still attractive to men. That, I feel, is about the dumbest motivation to have in these matters. I can understand pursuing someone for the sheer lust/chemistry of a situation, even if it's not going to end in a relationship. But pursuit for the sake of proving a point ? In any event it all culminated in near-sex on saturday night. The Brunette decided to call it a day when she got his shirt off. She put on her Manolos, picked up her car keys and departed. Maybe he had saggy tits.
And now on to Lady M. There is some method in her madness. Her objet is single, though he carries some baggage- two ex wives for a start. In any event they agreed to meet saturday night. It all started of well enough. Coffee, drinks, conversation. The talk became personal and he proceeded to discuss his baggage. All 36 Louis Vuitton cases worth. Remember, a Pakistani man would sooner flash than discuss his emotional vulnerability. She went in to make some coffee. He followed. She turned around. He looked at her. "What are you thinking of" he said with a dreamy smile. She froze. Blank. Silence is the Bermuda Triangle of sex- unless there is underlying physical activity. In this case there was nothing. Nada. Zilch. The moment came and went. The Window had shut. He muttered something and said he had to go. Fled down the steps. Then came running back to collect his phone. Ran down again. Poor Lady M had forgotten that the average man needs a little encouragement to avoid date rape/presumptiousness charges. She is smart enough to have seen the window but froze when the moment of truth arrived. She has promised to make amends.
And what, you may ask, was I doing through all this ? I was having dinner with an American, a Brazilian and a Syrian. And though this polyglot gathering I was trying to guide the girls through their evenings with SMS. Not to much avail though. I think I am becoming a homotextual.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Music For Chameleons

I finally had dinner with the Ghecko tonight. The Ghecko is a many flecked creature. He is everything to everybody. The Man Without Qualities. Pleasant. Good looking in an ambient sort of way. Never one to cause offence on the slightest pretext whatsoever. Blandness reigns. Life is ecru. Maybe life is switched onto an easy listening channel forever. Nothing bad can ever happen in Ghecko world. I am bored. Stiff. Why have men like the Ghecko been invented ? I suppose in a zen-meets-chips kind of world GheckoMan can exude a kind of dull happiness over all he surveys. Presumably GheckoWoman lies in wait for him, blending seamlessly into her environment waiting to entrance her Blah equivalent.
It was in this state of insufferable equilbrium that I returned home. Kicked off my shoes. Threw myself onto the bed. I needed a dose of emotion, to undo the eternal equivalence the Ghecko had induced. And I found it. A song I'd played on the show. "Dance Me To The End of Love." By someone called Madeleine Peyroux. It hadn't quite registered at the time as more than a nifty tune. Then I flicked on my Ipod and among the 2361 songs I'd randomly transferred, I found the original Leonard Cohen version. Quite simply, they don't write lyrics like this any longer. Bland prefabricated songs have stopped me from focusing on words. Bland prefabricated men have stopped me from focusing on emotion. L. Cohen. Dance Me To End of Love.
Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic ’til I’m gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Oh let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone
Let me feel you moving like they do in babylon
Show me slowly what I only know the limits of
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the wedding now, dance me on and on
Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long
We’re both of us beneath our love, we’re both of us above
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic till I’m gathered safely in
Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Inn of the Sixth Happiness

I did it. I finally mustered the courage to walk into a brothel. But purely for academic purposes. The brothel in question officially passes as a "killub" of the far eastern variety. I drive by it a dozen times a day. Its infamy is well known and it is regularly busted once a month. It survives tenaciously and continues relentlessly. The Italian and Tham (he lisps) popped by yesterday and the killub cropped up in conversation. I told them I had never been there ...indeed I had never been into a brothel before. What are we waiting for ? Let's go now. And so it started.
The killub has all the accoutrements of a nice safe chinese restaurant. Dragons, paper lanterns and chinese characters. The biggest dragon is the bouncer at the gate. "Pakistan national" he asked in some undecipherable accent. "UK National" said the Italian before I could tell the truth. We were whisked in with unseemly haste. As my eyes accustomed themselves to the low lighting I could make out a bar, a dance floor and a billiards table. There were mysterious Chinamen lurking round the place. Professional lurkers. The clientele (barring the the three of us) was largely Arab. This seemed to be a meeting space for the two easts: Far and Middle. The women were wannabe Chinese. Chinky eyed but of the Central Asian variety. Vaguely Chinese in the wrong lighting. Not unattractive, but wary. I'm sure they were much older than I made them out to be.
Later in bed (alone, in case you're wondering) I thought it through. What makes men do the brothel thingie ? Many of my straight, "happily" married male friends have confessed to visiting Houses of Ill Repute in Karachi, Lahore and Dubai. Is it just the thrill of instant sex ? Is there power play that goes with it ? Or have I left out some vital ingredient. Most of my gay friends are pretty cool about promiscuity - I am reliably informed that every one night stand has the potential to grow into something more permanent. None of my gay friends have actually confessed to paying for sex. Except for the Guru, but he's weird anyway. On the other hand, lets not get to finicky about definitions here. Some gay relationships teeter-like bad stilletos-on the thin dividing line between Love and Paid Love. What about the Canderel Daddy who pays the rent, cellphone bill and airline fares ? Theoretically, not much difference between him and the fat paunchy Shaikhs I saw last night. Or did the Beatles get it all wrong. Money can buy you love. Is it OK to go for someone because she has big tits or because he has a big dick, but-totally, wholly, completely immoral to go for a big bank balance ? So many questions. So few answers.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Ten Things In Every Metrosexual Fridge

1. Perrier
2. Lemon
3. Ice
4. Eye Pac Masque
5. Mixers (tonic/soda/ginger)
6. Brie
7.Condom (Just in case)
8. Apple (sin symbolism)
9. Lindt Extra Dark (90%)
10. Absolut Kurant

Monday, May 09, 2005

G Boyz

I live in one of the most stratified cities in the world. Islamabad has more sectors than Berlin ever did. There is a grid system at work which was designed by a man who was also experimenting with the cannabis that grows wild in these parts. Broadly there is an "A to Z " which runs from left to right and and a 1 to 1oo which works from up to down. This leads to stuff like D 89 (which doesn't exist-yet) and F16 (which is not a military fighter plane.) The residential bits generally run from E to H and getting someone's sectoral coordinates will give you a fairly good indicator of background, bank balance and social desirability. Not sexuality, but I'm working on that one. (E7 has shades of Little Castro to it.)
Of all the Sectors at work, the G's have a rough time of it. Apart from G6 (which is about as old as it gets - the Plymouth Rock of Isloo) the rest of the G's are borderline, aspirational but never inspirational. Architecture by Bosch on acid. From Bauhaus to ...well, nothing actually. My flamboyantly Queeny Friend was distraught when he moved from an F to a G. The Horror. The Shame. You will come to see me won't you? Ofcourse, I will. Can we keep an eye on my car to make sure the wheelcaps are still there when I come out. Or the car for that matter. You get my drift. Right ? Can I have my mail forwarded to your office. But ofcourse you can. Darling.
G Boyz are a breed apart. They wear rip-off low rise high maintenance Diesel pants (via Bangkok) sport bandanas and shiny Nikes. They wear Thai t shirts with Dadaist slogans. ("Drink More Milk" or "Pleasurable sunshine be yours on Phuket beachfront".) They have an endearing turn of phrase: "Lesbians" become "Lebanese" or "Limousines" and Bisexuals are known as "Taxis" - because anyone can hop on. Geddit ? They insist on speaking English (or something like it) drive white altos and travel in packs of six. Six packs ? If there is attitude anywhere in the city, G Boy has it .
My friend the Adman called in a flurry. "Check your email. NOW." Ok. Said email revealed an amateurish collection of pictures of a cafe au lait man, striking only those poses which showed off his torso and biceps to pleasurable perfection. The email admonished me for my overdrawn celibacy and recommended that I call the subject of the "artwork" immediately to put me out of my misery. I dwelt at length about my inherent superficiality. Is a nice torso all it takes ? Surely I need someone with something more? What if the torso came with a Ph.D in French Cinema ? Do I need another brain around me ? Surely mine's enough for two and then some? Damn. The angst of frustration. To cut a long story short, "Studley" and I were to meet Chez Moi at 7. I usually never meet strange men at home, but the adman assured me that Studley was "safe." I still decided to hide my new Nokia behind a cushion. No chances were being taken.
The anointed hour arrived. Shock. This was not the man in the pictures. This was a...a... G BOY. Too late. Gulp. Where were the biceps ? I could figure out matchstick arms through the denier of the T shirt. And the legs were skinny to boot as well. The outfit was G Boy classic though. The haircut was an overgrown ducktail- a tough old duck at that. The voice hit a high note the moment he entered. Cafe au lait was really Nescafe. Studley was Dudley. The photographs had clearly been doctored. The prototype bore no connection to the man I had slavishly drooled over. I was paying the price for my lasciviousness, my superficiality and my sheer stupidity. This was textbook Adobe PhotoShock. The next hour went by in a haze. I tried imagining him in different lighting or maybe even on a different planet. To no avail. The skinny G Boy refused to remorph to my bidding. Even my otherwise fervid imagination gave in. This was an unmitigated disaster. I think I am going to renew my vows of celibacy at St. Peters in London, the next time I am there. Cross my heart. And my legs.

Friday, May 06, 2005

The One With A Hole In It

My "phoren" aura is wearing thin. Last night I was invited to two ghastly official dinners. The things I have to do to keep my job going. The second one was particularly nasty. It was hosted at the residence (they don't call em houses) of an Ambassador. Two particular facets stand out: the architecture and some of the female guests. The men were inconsequential (as are most Pak men) and don't merit further reference.
First the architecture. The reception room was round and had a round atrium dead centre. You got it. It was a giant polo mint. So rather than walk from one end of the room to the other, you went round and round in circles -literally. Strangely, the flow was anti clockwise. Nobody dared to switch directions. I tried once, but the host positively glared at me from the outer circumference. The Hole (so to speak) was an empty black void. I think it aptly summed up the sheer horror and nothingness of the evening.
Second, the women. In his brilliant Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe describes an entire subset of Manhattan women as the Lemon Tarts. These are the bleached blondes, pushing (heaving ?) fifty who are stretched taut like dry canvas across a frame. My candidates are also blonde, but of the bottle variety. Don't get me wrong. They are incredibly beautiful women. Its just that they have a blonde thing going. In deference to Tom I shall call them Gulabi Barfees. They are all twenty somethings, recently married to bankers and brimming with exuberance. The dress code is highly inflammable. To wit, the Barfee on my right wore thaans of shocking pink polyester with twinkly spangly things all over. Each time she lifted a wrist to cut into her roast beef, a million sparkling reflections lit the room. Multiply that by the twenty other Barfees present and you have the disco scenes in Saturday Night Fever to a T. Alas my sunglasses were miles away or I could have done a fairly convincing Ray Charles impersonation.
And then there's the Hair. Great hair actually. But all of it golden yellow. Yards of tresses cascading around the table like a glittering daisy chain. More blonde than on a Californian beach. We are talking industrial quantities here. I recall the one time I was foolishly persuaded into dyeing my tresses. It took ages, cost a fortune, stank forever and black puddles formed at my feet during each shampoo session. Worse still, the white shone through with a stubborn persistence. Never again. Jamais. So I happen to personally know that it must take some doing for these glistening beauties to hit the peroxide so regularly. Why do they do it ? Do their Gentlemen prefer Blondes? Hardly. They'd have to be hit on the head with a blunt object to vaguely emote anything. Or does every erection have an equal and opposite erection ? I don't know. I'm still trying to figure it all out. I think I'm ready for another phoren trip soon or else I may lose even more of the plot.

Thursday, May 05, 2005


The Brunette and Lady M popped in for a drink last night. This became dinner. I hastily rustled together scrambled oeufs avec smoked salmon with a green salad and a bone dry white. They looked low and comfort food was called for. I refuse to succumb to fast food (my last Big Mac was consumed in the early 90s) so this was going to have to do. After they left, I got thinking. What is it about Pakistani women (of a certain age and background) that makes them oh-s0-hesitant with making The First Move.
First a little background. Lady M after much pushing, nudging, cajoling and a kick where it hurts had decided to pursue a slightly younger man. He is not worthy of a sidelong glance, but if he turns her on, who am I to complain. The Brunette, on the other hand, has been foolishly encouraging a younger man who has just announced his engagement- to someone else naturalment. I know. I know what you're thinking. And I agree with you. The purpose of this piece is not to trash my friends' choices. That can wait for another occasion. I'm here to look at strategy.
What do I do if someone registers as a blip on my radar ? Being the idiotic research oriented ass that I am, I try doing some homework. This involves casually questioning common friends (easy as we all know that there are only two degrees of seperation in Pakistan), checking out Google (it works!) and generally snooping unabashedly. The next step usually involves enlisting the services of a close common friend to contrive an "event" where the two of us "coincidentally" land up. If all goes well by then (and it doesn't always) I move to step 3 which involves the dinner invitation. And if get by that obstacle with grace, panache and isstyle, then the rest is textbook stuff.
Lets apply my framework to the men being chased by Lady M and the Brunette. The gals have done their homework. Aided and abetted by moi, they have also managed to contrive social situations in which the men in question have been invited over. The problem arrives with stage 3. I have discovered that neither of these swish, dynamic, intelligent women is willing to invite a man alone for dinner. These are women who work, who tell male employees what to do every day of the week. The men in question haven't popped the question and weeks have gone by. Does one drop a man because he isn't taking the next step on Uber's 3 stage seduction plan ? Does one wait interminably forever? The Brunette eventually confessed to going on a drive with her swain where they held hands. Hang on. Held hands? Yikes. Isn't that the kind of thing one did at fifteen ? What's a grown woman doing holding hands in the 21st century ? Or is it just me that's out of sync.
The real issue here is that my friends' are of the considered view that asking (or hinting to be asked) by a man is ...errr..well cheap. Nice girls don't ask guys out. Nice guys do the asking. I think I'm closer to the core of the centre of the nucleus of the problem now. Quite simply: Most Pakistani men don't have what it takes to carry this through. I think, in each case, they like the girls in question, but they don't have the social skills. I hate generalisations but Pakistani men are decidedly wimplike when it comes to these situations. I cannot, for example, think of a good pass that has been made to me by a Pakistani man. These generally rank on a Richter scale of crudity. They (we?) are not bad guys. Just socially deficient. Given these depressing paremeters I am convinced that the only way out of this impasse is for the girls to take a deep breath and suggest dinner. Failing which, they will be holding hands forever.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Trouble With Hari

It is 2.40 am. By right, tradition and precedent I should be slumbering. Sleep should be around the corner or, if I am lucky, the next one. Nothing of the sort. My body is traveling at a height of 10,345 metres, at a speed of 784 kilometres an hour with gentle headwinds of 45 mph. I am spiritually somewhere between Bratislava and Bishkek. This is not a bad place to be if the spectre of going to work early tomorrow morning didn't haunt me quite so much. Who said the work ethic was purely puritan ?

It is in this continuum lacking space and time that makes me believe I am truly the Global Soul. Apologies to Pico Iyer whose title I have ripped off. And whose picture I have ripped off as well. The receding hairline alone is enough to get me to vote him for a Booker Prize. With a cheesiness that belies belief I picked up a copy of The Global Soul at Kuala Lumpur airport. That was the day, many years ago, when the Americans decided to start bombing Afghanistan. I arrived at Dubai airport with all potential flights cancelled, but secure in the knowledge that I could read through Iyer. The Global Soul tells of a world of airports, controlled lighting, multi racialism and, highly relevantly, sleeplessness. Generally a world of the human construct. Can humanity exist, let alone survive, in Terminal 3 en route to Utopia on UA 377 ? I think it can.

On my last flight back, I discovered I was the only passenger in my section. Ok, First Class. My only steward ( I think "flight attendant" sucks) was Harry. Or Hari as I later discovered. Cute. Fair. Stocky. Hmmm. "Dinner sir ?" "Its 3 am". "Drink then? " "Water." "No Champagne?" Nope. This was an inauspicious start. I took the seat as far back as it would go. It went further than most people I know. Ouch. My reverie was shattered by some pretty scary turbulence. Hari happened to be strutting by to discover a man who had declined his offer of Dom Perignon but was scared shitless by a little bumpiness. "Everything OK?" "Sure." "You look a little scared." "Well, yes just a little." "There's only one cure. Get out of your seat and come to the galley." This could well have been the beginning of a gay porn flick, had I not been quite so queasy. I was offered the jump seat with Hari leading the way. Chill. I do this every day, I kept repeating to myself. The mantra was working.

He sat beside me. Punched a finger onto a computer screen. The lighting dimmed. This was heading towards Emanuelle meets Star Wars. Hari looked at me. I looked back and grinned apishly. I slipped a hand onto his thigh. Gulp. "I could lose my job" he whispered. "Me too"I retorted flaccidly. There was a slight snog. "Islamabad" he said. Heck. Was this a signal ? "What?" "Islamabad" "What about it ?""Never been there."But you're on your way there now.' 'Yes. But we spend ninety minutes there. Turn round. Never been there." Ah. I was getting it. "How come ?" "Indian passport. No visa." I nuzzled his neck. This was becoming positively illicit. "Islamabad." Oh no. Back to that again. "What's it all about. Islamabad." Errr. "Well think of Delhi without the Mughal architecture, but with hills." Bite on my earlobe. "You're nice." "So are you?""Are all Pakistanis like you ?""Some are. Others aspire. Some aren't" Thud. Bump. "One sec. Flight announcement."Seat Belts.

And so it went. We chatted. Musharaf. Sonia. Kiss. Borders. Nuzzle. Islamabad. Mumbai. Loves. Lifes. Touch. Champagne? Kiss. Yes. Nice hair. You 2. Is it always this deserted ? Yes. At this time of night. Mmmm. Blanket ? Nope. Do you have a thing about men in uniform. Nope. I could make an exception. Can you ever come back ? Nope. Visas. Borders. Visas. Borders. You're sweet. You too. Ruffle. Nuzzle.Mummy knows I'm gay. Really ? I think mine does too. All this flying ? Do you normally chat men up at cruising altitude ? No. This is the first time I've done it. I could lose my job. Me 2. Borders. Visas.

I walked through immigration with a Cheshire grin on my face. Anyone ready for Track 3 Diplomacy ? I'd like to think I'd almost crossed the Line of No Control.

Monday, May 02, 2005

London Calling - Part the Second

I did so not want this piece to be a travelogue. I fear it is plodding in that direction. At last call, I was safely ensconced in the Temptress' boudoir. For those of you who think this was a junket, I did have work to do. I shall not bore you with the tedium of my medium. The Temptress was busy with unfinished business, so I decided to have an emotional reunion with the Burmese Belle. BB and I were at school when were about a dozen years each. Remarkably, we've kept in touch ever since. BB has had an interesting graph, and is now on her second marriage. She is fatally (read very fatally) attracted to gay men and has reason to believe that all was not kosher with her choice of husbands. We met with much unmixed emotion. She told me I was looking good, that the years had been kind to me. I tried to resist with the usual half mumbled platitudes, but eventually ended up agreeing with her. Why lie ? After a brief session alone, we rushed off to a french restaurant for dinner with Husband the Second. He is an utterly charming kind of guy. If they ever bring out a gay version I shall be first in the queue. I'm hopeless with french food, but the moules looked great. And they were.
The next day was spent in a bee line for the Armani shop on New Bond Street. For the unititated, I am an Armani junkie. I bought my first piece (we don't call them clothes) when I was 25 and had it not burnt to smithereens in a fire in Nathiagali I would still have had it. Since then, I have decided that I will not invest in tons of junk. Just one piece of GA every six months. That sounds fair, doesn't it ? Alas, fate had something else in store for me. Everything at the store was in a regular (a.ka. midget) size. I tried pretending that the cuffs were not too short and that a hint of ankle could just be the Next Trendy Thing. Even my half closed (clothed?) eyes couldn't fool me. This called for action. The store manager was summoned. "You do know that to be an Armani catwalk model one has to be over six feet tall ?" "Si, si." "Then what are these short clothes doing all over the place. Have you chopped the ends off ? " Eventually it was agreed that I could email the great man and let him know that although his designs were divinely delicious, his sizes were un peu screwy. For those of you who may need to take similar action, complaints should go to giorgio.armani@armani.com.
My other enduring memory of London is food. I have eaten enough calories in the last week to sustain a small sub Saharan republic. I've written up Oxo already. I was taken to Chutney Mary by BB- this is an anglo-indian restaurant in Knightsbridge, which was, frankly, a tad disappointing. The lines between fusion and con-fusion are fuzzy at the best of times. The highlight of the trip was Yuacha (sp?) a funky chinese dim sum place in Soho, which was done up in shades of cobalt and pink. Yes. The food was to sublime. Yes. It is possible to go all orgasmic about dim sum. There was also Thai food. Although the Temptress insisted I was getting the once-over from a man across the restaurant. I had duck in cherry sauce at Balans, which was also divine. I have sworn never to eat again. But tomorrow, Miz Scarlett, is another day.