Monday, June 27, 2005

The Bathtub at the End of the Universe

Tales From Middle Earth 5: Body

The Conference is over. There is much revelry on the last night. The other delegates have decided to take the early morning shuttle back to Delhi. Uber and his harem are alone at last. I try sleeping but the incessant birdsong coupled with the shrieking airbus have awoken me. There is a gentle tap on my door. I open the door and the person on the other side sizes me up in my red tartan pyjamas. I equally size up his black pinstripe frock. "I'm your guide for the next three days." Oh oh. The last thing I need is another guide. I have learned that the Bhutanese are nervous about letting foreigners run free through their carefully preserved society. They must shudder inwardly when they think of the tangled mess of South Asian life which surrounds them.

Time to change, organize the harem and then move on to pleasanter climes. We arrive at the Uma just in time for lunch. We have agreed to move here for the Hedonistic Phase of our holiday. The Uma is a boutique hotel owned by the King's uncle and leased to Christina Ong a Singaporean businesswoman with a flair for designer hotels. My room is dreamy and the bathtub (pictured above) is the apogee of luxury. I seek ways of unscrewing it and taking it home with me. The hotel is terribly New Age. Funky music wafts through every room. Aromatherapy reigns supreme. The food is terribly terribly good. Jewel and I endorse the low carb menu. This is sublime. Six star sublimity actually.

I pore over the massage menu while the others leave for some absurd trek or the other. I decide that my body needs TLC and the Uma spa is just the place for it. In the next three days my body is scraped, kneaded, pulled, tugged and pummeled into shape by a team of men and women. I am to be immersed in herbs I have never seen before. Hot pebbles are to glide all over my sinuous back. I will be clingfilmed in mud, leaves and other substances with origins I do not want to get into. The overall effect is orgasmic. Or so I recollect. I trudge up each evening in my dressing gown, crawl into bed and disappear into a world of dreams. I never switch on the television in my room barring one night when I feel my disconnect with the outer world is getting out of hand. The Michael Jackson jury is about to render its verdict. All this could be coming from another planet. Bhutan is the real Neverland.

The next few days are sublime. I am taken to the archery club and given a crash course on how to deal with a bow and arrow. Archery is the national sport of Bhutan and they manage to muster a few medals at the Olympics. There are long drives on snaking roads. At times we are driven up so high that breathing becomes an effort. On other days I walk aimlessly down High Street, taking pictures of people. I bribe children to pose for me with packets of Lays Crisps and bottles of Thumbs Up. I try shopping one day, but there is really not a great deal to buy. The harem is devastated. I believe this must be the first time they have have ever had to survive on minimal shopping.

I chat with the girls at the front desk. One of them is emboldened and asks me if I am a film star. I blush and reply I am not. "Ah but you look like one." Blush again. "Really, how would you know?" "We have many here." "Ah such as ?" "Well Cameron Diaz was here last week. And Mr De Niro comes in next month." Is that cool ? A tall West Indian man drifts by one day with a blonde girlfriend. I have no idea who he is, but he exudes star quality. He nods at us each time we meet and I secretly think he expects us to request an autograph. It transpires he is an English footballer called Sol Campbell. Alas. Soccer is not high on the list of the Uber's priorities. Or those of his harem.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Tales From Middle Earth 4: Dreams of Paro

Bhutan is a riddle wrapped in a mystery enfolded in puff pastry. Most of the cliches you've heard about it are true. It is stunningly beautiful. It is cut off from the rest of the world. The men do wear frocks. You cannot buy a diet Coke over the counter. You cannot smoke anywhere. The television channel broadcasts for an hour a day. Virtually nothing is made here apart from the very basics. Everything comes from either India or Thailand. The local newspaper comes out twice a week. The Indian Rupee is legal tender. Everybody speaks English and Hindi. The King is married to three sisters. It is all true.

First impressions have to centre on the ring of mountains that surround Paro, the second city of Bhutan. Through half closed eyes these look like our version of the Himalayas, except much higher and, curiously, much nearer. Then there is the riot of colour that hits you smack in the face. Sunglasses are advised not for ultraviolet protection, but to keep you at bay from the kaleidoscopic colours that swathe the architecture, the costumes and the interiors. For example, the Bhutan High Court is painted Surf box yellow with red, pink, green, blue and orange ornamentation. Then there are the sounds. Cheesy as it may be, one actually wakes up to the sound of birds chirping. And there is the river which has its own soundtrack. The assault on the senses is complete but cloyingly pleasant.

I am given a cottage at the state owned hotel where we are to stay for the first three days. This is not unlike the PTDC cottages dotted through northern Pakistan but infinitely cleaner. The conference (the ostensible reason for my visit) is scheduled to open soon and I charge down to register. It is clear that nobody is here to listen to tedious papers on development. There is a clang of cymbals and troupe of Buddhist monks enter chanting in sonorous tones. Speeches. Yawn. Meaningless words strung together. Then there is tea. I decline Bhutanese tea (which is laced with butter) and opt for boring old Liptons. The delegates (all from South Asia) eye each other curiously. "Jolly" says a pudgy pleasant faced man extending his hand. "Very jolly" I reply, extending mine. "Err. No. That's my name actually." I squint at his lapel card. It reads "S D Jolly." Oops. The Jolly's and I are destined to become good friends. Their three sons have never met a Pakistani before and I am deluged by a barrage of questions. I suspect that one of the Jolly boys may be a little "jollier" than meets the eye, but I leave this train of thought uninvestigated.

I return to the cottage to discover that Jewel (who has a cottage adjacent to mine) has hit the Australian shiraz. We imbibe in silence watching the view. Time to head down for dinner. We are treated like royalty. Bhutan produces every which kind of alcohol -an exclusive Army monopoly. I think of the ramifications if this were to happen at home. I ask a minister why it is so difficult to enter the country. "We have our traditions and we wish to preserve them." He looks over his shoulder, lowers his tone a few decibels. "We don't want to end up like the Nepalese. All those scruffy drug taking hippies with long hair." He is right. I never encounter any of those in the week I am to spend in Bhutan. Not a single backpack. Not even Prada.

Jewel and I totter back to our cottage. I look to see if anyone is watching and then light up one of my Delhi Havanas. Bhutan is a no smoking country. It is an offence to smoke in a public place or to sell tobacco to anyone. If tobacco is a no-no then drugs are beyond the pale. The next few days will see Dimples and myself looking for strategic smoking spots. Ban notwithstanding, people do smoke. There are cigarette butts all over the place. My Bhutanese friends tell me there is a thriving black market in Indian cigarettes. I sip my Shiraz. The combination of Druk vodka, Bhutanese scotch and Australian wine is beginning to tell. I climb the precarious hill and eke out just enough energy to fall into my miniature bed. Another Day in Paradise.

Tales From Middle Earth 3: Mid Air

I hadn’t banked on the potency of the cucumber daiquiris. I hadn’t bothered to move my watch a half forward to sync with Indian Standard Time either. The thundering cannons in my nightmare translated to frantic knocking on my door. I charge out of my bed to open it, only to discover the Uberharem standing there- each of them dressed to kill. “The hotel van is ready to go” they chime in chorus. “But there’s still half an hour to go” I plead. “Oh no there isn’t” the chorus respond. Damn. I had intended to adjust to local time- the damned daiquiri got in the way. My beauty routine was slashed in half and I entered a van of very grouchy looking people. Attempts at polite conversation were futile. I had kept them waiting and Delhi heat caused them to resemble heads of lettuce in a sauna.

On to Delhi airport. Why oh why does one of the world’s sexiest cities have to have one of the unsexiest airports ? Delhi airport manages to make “Islamabad International” look good – and that’s no mean feat. There are no lifts, the wiring has come apart, the floor boards stand uprooted, the duty free shops are basic and the least said about the restaurant the better. The only saving grace (for me) was a large cigar shop. Having procured my Cohibas, I discovered I could only light up at the bar. Dimples and I ordered coffee as a group of delayed Keralans stared wistfully into their Kingfishers. Time moved ponderously. I stared at our tickets. Druk Air. “Dimples, have you ever heard of this airline?” “No. Never. Ever.” “What do you think “Druk” means?” “It means “Dragon” darling. I’ve done my homework.”

Time to board. Another flash of microwave heat. The transit bus weaves its way through an unending maze to arrive at one of the smallest aircraft I have seen. Its belly rises a mere yard above the tarmac. My stomach churns. Strange, because I haven’t eaten since the cucumber daiquiri. The harem smiled weakly. I rose and they followed me, Saudi style. I crouched and entered the jet. Jewel and I agreed to sit together. I looked around for my the other half of my seat belt. It didn’t exist. The crew looked distinctly underage. The jet shudders and –miracle of miracles- rises. The coffee trolley arrives jangling an odd assortment of drinks. I opt for a stiff vodka and tonic. “But its only eleven in the morning” Jewel pleads. Ignoring her I ask for a swift refill. Adventure flying can be fun.

Flying on a Stoly haze, I finally mustered the courage to stare out of the window. The view is, literally, breathtaking. Snow capped peaks rise through the clouds and seem near enough to touch. An Oz accent comes on and points out Everest on the right hand side of the jet. My instinctive reaction is to register the sheer loneliness of the peaks. Wow. There are places more isolated than Islamabad. The hissing silence is punctuated by the sound of a hundred digital cameras rising to the occasion. The view is dutifully captured. A stray voice says “Preeti did you get the south face.” “Yes Daddy, I did.” The jet does a nauseating bank so the audience can get a better view. My vodka tonics swirl anti clockwise. What the heck. Druk Air may be an awful airline but nobody can ever accuse them of not obliging their passengers.

More Stoly. The underage crew come around and ask everyone to remove all bags on the floor for stowage above. An Australian accent comes on imploring the passengers to fasten their seat belts and cautioning us not to be scared of the landing. The jet rises slightly and dips in to a nosedive. The brakes come on mid air. We lurch. Jewel says a vague prayer. The cabin shudders. I slip my feet out of my loafers. Damn. I should have had another drink. The silence becomes positively pregnant. The engines perform an aria from La Traviata and we enter the narrowest valley I have seen. Another massive drop and the jet banks awkwardly to the left. I look out of the window to see the wing tip move a few feet away from the mountains. I instinctively closed my eyes. There is a dull thud. This could either be a landing or a crash.

The Harem breaks into spontaneous applause. I open my eyes. The door slides are “disarmed” and I step out into a world that could only have been designed by Disney. The men wear knee length skirts. The women longer skirts. The overarching sky is connected by a series of mountains which reach forever into the sky. There is a profusion of smiling faces. I am dazed and confused. Is this Shangri la ?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Cucumber Dacquiri - courtesy my Nokia

Tales From Middle Earth 2: Delhi Part One

With the first visa imbroglio behind me (three more will follow) I traipse out into Delhi. The dry heat delivers a mean left punch. I feel my jacket wilt and the rest of my clothes will follow suit shortly. It is marginally hotter than Lahore. It has been many years since I have visited Delhi. The most perceptible change that has occurred lies in the fact that one can breathe again. The last time I visited Delhi, the pollution had been compounded by the post Diwali fireworks. I recall having to rush into airconditioning to be able to breathe properly. Thankfully, all that is history. A bunch of brave lawyers (tadaaa) and an enlightened judiciary have allowed a city to breathe again.
My travelling companions are a delightful and somewhat varied bunch of Pakistani women. Regular readers will have discerned that my life is delightfully occupied by women as I have (almost) written off the drones who pass as Pakistani men. The UberHarem consists of Dimple, who we encountered in an earlier blog; Jewel, an urbane Pakistani businesswoman undergoing a messy divorce; and last (but never least) there is "She" (as in the Rider Haggard novel) an exuberant lawyer who has just begun to discover the joys of Younger Men. The Harem and I traipse into the Intercontinental and the jets of airconditioning are bordering on the orgasmic. The gals fancy some shopping. Delhi, like an enthusiastic mistress, tries to lure me out onto the streets. Two flights, the visa fiasco and the all encompassing heat make me tetchy. I strip, throw myself into a cold shower in the kitsch 60s bathroom (green onyx ...sigh) and collapse on my bed.
After a seeming eternity of deep sleep, I am awoken by Jewel. We met for the first time earlier that day and she invites me out for dinner. We assemble in the lobby and make our way to the Imperial, one of Delhi's truly "Grand" old hotels. The interiors are "olde worlde" colonial and some of the vistas are stunning. The designers, however, seemed to feel they were onto a good thing and didn't quite know when to stop. The end result is a kind of Colonial overkill - brilliant in some parts and overdone in others. The Silk Route is our destination. Jewel insists that we start with cucumber dacquiris. I am initially hesitant but accede to her request. In a word, they are brilliant. The food is great. The visa officers seem a million miles away. We return and I sink into a truly deep sleep.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Tales From Middle Earth 1: Form(s) vs Substance

Hello Earthlings. I have returned. It has been a long and eventful twelve days and I am not sure quite where to begin. Telephones are always good places to start. "Sir. You will need to send us six original copies of the visa application." Me: "Six originals ? Photocopies aren't good enough?" "No Sir. Six originals." Ah well. There goes the lunch break. The six originals with six photographs are duly despatched to the Indian High Commission. No news for days thereafter. The night before I am scheduled to leave my passport arrives with four of said six forms duly stamped and scribbled with all manner of hieroglyphics. Phew. The ordeal is finally over. Or so I think.
On board my forty minute Lahore-to-Delhi hop I am filling in the usual disembarkation cards when I notice that on my handwritten visa somebody has overwritten the word "multiple" on top of the word "single". I need multiple entries as Delhi is a transit point. Ah well. Just another mistake. Oh yes. The immigration form states clearly "For Indian Nationals only." I point this out to Pakistan International. "Sorry sir. Those are the forms the Indians gave us." Hmmmm. Curiouser and curiouser. I clamber out at Delhi Airport (more about it in a later blog) join the queue only to discover that I have to fill out another set of forms - this time only in triplicate. My passport is first checked against a Dickensian ledger (to ensure that I am not a member of any jihadi organisation ??) and then I join the queue again. It is much longer now as six flights have since arrived. The new forms state that they are issued under the Foreigners Act, 1947 and ominously state "For Pakistan nationals only." The myriad of other nationalities there do no qualify as "foreigners."
"Next." I march forward and flash one of my dazzling smiles at the immigration officer. She smiles back. "Welcome to India." "Delighted to be here." Her smile freezes and then disappears. "Somebody has overwritten this visa." "Yes. But its not me. The overwriting is in the same ink and the same handwriting." "I'll have to check with my superiors." She disappears for what seems an eternity. The other passengers in the queue eye me suspiciously. Perhaps they do think I am a jihadi in drag. The number of passengers dwindles. She returns finally. "I'm sorry sir. You'll have to talk to the Assistant Commissioner about this. That way please." For some awful reason I think of the first ten minutes of Midnight Express. The return flight to Lahore has left. Yikes.
Mr Chauhan could easily substitute for one of his counterparts across the border. He is wearing the de rigeur safari suit in one of those indistinguishable shades of brown. "Confidence building measures" he snorts. "I have no idea what these politicans are up to if they can't issue a proper visa." I heave a sigh of relief. "Neither do I." "I will let you go this time, but I am warning you that this problem will repeat itself each time you pass through." I am scheduled to pass through Delhi three times in the next week. The prospect of negotiating my way through does not sound promising. Nevertheless, two hours and forty five minutes after my flight has landed I am free to leave. I head for Duty Free. "Two large bottles of Chivas. And can I swig a shot here ?" Duty free boy smiles back. "Drink all you like. I have no change. Can I give you Kit Kats instead?"
Mr Chauhan is not wrong. The scene replays itself another three times. This is not merely sad-it is tragic. Delhi is the one airport in the world, where I can pass through customs and immigration and come out speaking the same language. The banks of goodwill I am to encounter in the next few days are immeasurable. All it takes is a bunch of civil servants to ensure that the road to everlasting peace is pasted with ridiculous forms. I am sure that Indian nationals suffer as much when they cross the border as well. The time has come to join hands and burn as many forms as we can find. Do I have any volunteers ?

Monday, June 06, 2005

Only Connect

I start this post by letting my faithful followers know that I am going to be away for the next few days. This should not normally pose a problem as there is usually access to an internet connection and, therefore, the possibility of a blog update. However, the country I am going to has just opened its first internet cafe a few months ago, so I'm fairly unsure about my connectivity. I haven't received my passport from the Embassy involved, so I'm not so sure about travel plans. In brief: if you don't see an update here for about ten or twelve days: DO NOT PANIC!
Back to more important things. At the risk of sounding as though I've been blogging since birth, I once wrote a piece here about how being gay in Pakistan had certain inbuilt advantages. One of these lies in being able to cut through the cliques and groups which constitute Pakistani social life. Married people are usually the biggest defaulters here preferring to cling to school friends and work colleagues. Being gay doesn't mean having to write off the considerable luggage that comes with being Pakistani (third cousins twice removed) but it does allow you to peek outside the confines of The Rules. If you're truly brave, you can even step out.
This line of thinking has its roots in the intermingling that has recently taken place between many of my straight and gay friends. Like many around me, I have compartmentalised my life into "gay" and "straight" boxes out of fear of causing offence. I have tried to shield my gay friends from never ending monologues on the importance of the right school or the best family holiday destination. Likewise, I have tried to protect my straight friends from an off-colour conversation on oral sex or the best crusing joints in town. Sometimes, I have had to protect some of my gay friends from other gay friends. At one dinner, I hosted there was outrage when an outspoken friend went up to a straight woman and said "What does it feel like to be married to the only heterosexual man in this room." The hostility generated by that one remark produced enough energy to light up a large town.
So, given this background, I was practicing some kind of apartheid. And, apartheid, we now know is terrible. I have, therefore, decided to tear down as many barriers as I can. My experiment has been a resounding success. "Who is this guy?" "He's amazing!" "How come you've kept him away from us so long." And so on. I guess the best policy is just to lie back and let people figure things out for themselves. People have to discover their own abilities to connect. If they fail that is their problem. I simply have to stop being quite as protective as I have been in the past.
Back to "connections." E. M. Forster used "only connect" as the tagline (sorry EM, you'd never have used that word) to many of his novels. A theme based around people and cultures struggling to meet against the odds. This cuts against the grain when it comes to the complacency of Pakistani social life with people meeting within rapidly diminishing circles-within-circles. You must remember that there are no bars here or similar meeting places where people can drop their reserves and connect with complete strangers. I often challenge my Pakistani to friends to ask when they last spoke to a complete stranger in a social setting. Heck, when did you last flash a smile to a complete stranger ?
As with all urges, the urge to connect needs to be tempered with patience. One of the most endearing moments this week came from a friend with whom I've been talking, but we've never actually met as yet. In connect-mode, I rushed to make some hasty plan which involved my dashing to see him in between connecting flights. I was politely reassured that we would meet, but that not connecting at all was better than connecting in those circumstances. That he was not running away and that we would meet, when we were both comfortable with it. Deep Breath. He's right.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Living High's Meme

I've never done this before. Sin ( once nominated me but the questions went on forever. Living High ( has done it, but the questions are much more self contained. Here goes.

1. Total Volume of Music on my computer: 2997 songs.
2. The Last CD I Bought: Omara Portuondo: Buena Vista Social Club
3. Song Playing Right Now: Right now silence. Last "song" heard was the opening to Beethoven's Ninth.
4. Five Songs I listen to a lot or that mean a lot to me: Phew. Tough. In no particular order: Sway -Dean Martin(mush). I Don't Love You Any More-The Eurythmics (schadenfreunde music). I Want You - Marvin Gaye or Madonna or Robert Palmer (hope music). La Boheme-Puccini-Barbara Hendricks(The kind of background music I assume they play in heaven.) Don't Explain -Billie Holiday (music that reminds me that I'm human). Meda Ishq Vi Tun - Abida Parveen (for the hidden spiritual in me). That's six-but who's counting!
I pass this on to Sin, Sarah, TDH, Mac and anyone else who feels so inclined!

Viva Gay Pakistan

Here's an interesting article which a friend wrote up. Some bits I agree with. Others I don't. The most immediate (and facile?) response is: if things in Pakistan are quite as hunky dory, why don't you reveal your name and identity ? Do we have another Deep Throat in the making ? Read on:


Gay Pakistan - 'less inhibited than West'
Throughout South Asia, homosexuality has been a taboo subject. But there are signs in some areas that gay people are now becoming more open in their behaviour. In this column a gay man in Pakistan talks about the advantages of being gay there compared to the West. He prefers to remain anonymous.
It is all too common to hear examples of the repression of sexuality and oppression of sexual minorities in South Asia.

Open displays of straight and gay sexuality are taboo in PakistanBut the problem with sweeping generalisations about sexuality, or anything else for that matter, is the exceptions.
I am one such exception - a gay man who grew up in Pakistan, became aware of his sexuality while studying in the US, had most of his early experiences of love and sex there, and yet decided to come back home to Pakistan. It will surprise many when I say that I actually feel more comfortable about myself while living here than I was in the West. It was not always so of course. Before my return, I felt quite aggrieved when my straight brother downplayed my apprehensions about being gay in Pakistan.

I cannot remember a single occasion in almost 10 years that I have felt threatened with regards to my sexuality in Pakistan It really was not a problem, he suggested. How insensitive and naive of him, I thought. My brother has won the point since though. While I maintain discretion in many respects, I have come out to most of my family, with their loving support.
I have also come out to all my friends, and rarely meet anyone aggressively hostile to gay individuals. I have lived with a lover independently without anyone raising an eyebrow.
I have attended gay parties more uninhibited than any I have seen in the West.

'Differently configured'
In fact, I cannot remember a single occasion in almost 10 years that I have felt threatened with regards to my sexuality in Pakistan. An entirely unrepresentative experience to be sure, as far as the experience of a majority of Pakistanis is concerned. But there is no representative sample that I can think of.

Pakistan has 'conservative religious and cultural attitudes'Sexuality itself is so much more differently configured in Pakistan than in the West - which is where the language of the sexuality debate comes from. This is especially true in terms of people's perceptions of their identity and behaviour, in terms of class, with regards to family and religious obligations.
I would not for a moment suggest that it is easy being gay in Pakistan. Homosexual acts are illegal, and conservative religious and cultural attitudes mean many gay people are afraid to openly acknowledge their sexuality. They face ostracism by their families if they do. But in a sense the American military's approach of "don't ask, don't tell" is applied throughout this society.

'Taboo matter'
True, there is a fine line between discretion and suffocating silence. But being straight is not that much easier, and is in fact sometimes more difficult when it comes to physical relationships.
What is perhaps closer to the truth is that overt expression of sexuality itself - both gay and straight - is a taboo matter in Pakistani society. But whereas heterosexual courting and coupling is all too obvious, gay socialising can take place without attracting as much attention - with brazen abandon in a society where many forms of overt physical and emotional intimacy between members of the same gender are tolerated and even admired. The opposite holds true for such public expression between members of the opposite sex. Just as everywhere else, however, things are changing, driven by the exposure to information via technology. The internet, satellite television and films all combine to give a new generation of gay men and women context to their emotions, a sense of identity, an outlet for expression and perhaps most importantly, the ability to communicate with each other.

No wonder, then, that I met my boyfriend on the internet.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

My Right Foot

I don't know if you've ever been incarcerated for a long time in a bed. The static views really begin to get to you. I've been staring at my offensive right foot for so long, that I thought I'd share the view with you. I knew camera phones would come in handy one day. I feel like Cary Grant (or was it James Stewart) in Rear Window. Maybe I can see someone commit a murder as I stare out of the window. Till that happens, I will memorise evey grain of wood in my chinese cupboard.


I managed to twist my ankle yesterday en route to the book shop. It was fine for a bit, but I had to leave (yet another) farewell dinner for Diplo 1 halfway through when the pain teetered in the red area between excruciating and unbearable. It hurt so bad I thought I would cry. But then I thought of the emotional scars that would leave on the Beast. So I popped six painkillers instead and felt lightheaded, if not better. The pain's down today and the brain is working. I tried watching some TV today. Through the maze of Hinglish/Engdu I got to thinking about the quirks of English/Urdu that we speak. What makes us be us, as opposed to others speaking the same languages. Here are some of my favourites:
1. The double adjective: This is the double use of an adjective to emphasise the point. Such as : "The black black man had thin thin arms." I think this is an Urdu device which translates into English. See see.
2. The vague adjective: The suffix "ish" allows us to any word and make it "sort of". It can be added with gay abandon to just about anything. My two favourites are "The weather is chillish today" and "That guy is so feminish."
3. English for emphasis: Here English words are used to underscore the key points of a sentence. The all time classic is "Merey father kee death ho gai hai." (My father has died.) The key words "father" and "death" appear in English. The unimportant grammatic joiners appear in the original Urdu. Another classic is "Woh bohut nice man hain." (He is a nice man.)
4. New Wine in Old Bottles: Some English words take on new meanings or nuances altogether. "Aged" just means old ...not very old. "Healthy" means "fat."
5. The death of the article: "A" and "the" have got to be the two most difficult words for a Pakistani to get right. Half my life is spent inserting or removing the definite and indefinite article into a sentence. The reason is simple. Urdu lacks articles. "Cat is sitting on wall" is perfectly correct Urdu formulation. I am waiting for someone to invent a hotkey which will insert articles into the right place in an English sentence.
6. Connectors: Some Urdu words act as "joiners" and creep into any reasonable English conversation. These include the ubiquituous "acha" (OK/alright), "leykin" (but) "aur" (and)and "phir" (then). To wit:"Acha, you're cute leykin I'm attached aur phir Mummy wants me to marry the virgin next door. "
7. Familial Matters: "Uncle" and "Auntie" (never the English "Aunt" or the American "Ant") can generically refer to any older person. One of the worst things about crossing 40 is having complete strangers refer to me as "Uncle" or (in the Punjab" "Ankill." ) I usually respond with a filthy glare or (if it comes from a child) trip it while it walks away.
8. Slang: One could write an essay on slang and street language. Some English words have totally localised meanings. Take "burger" for example. A TV show of the 80s assumed that a burger was the apogee of western sophistication. Today a "burger" refers to any westernised Pakistani (like me ?) in a derisory but humourous manner. My local radio channel has a show where anyone using an English word becomes a Burger right away.
9. Pronunciation: Although Urdu is one of the most versatile languages in the world with a profusion of sounds, some words just don't hang well on the Pakistani tongue. "Government" is "Gormint", "Olympics" are "Olumpics", "ask" is "aks", "law" is "lah" (and lawyers, therefore, liars), bomb becomes "bum" and so on.
10. Juxtapositions: As with German some words are just added on to others to create a complex noun. "Damnfoolnonsense" featured in every Pakistani film of the sixties. "Happybirthday" is another. ("When is your happybirthday?")
11. Anachronisms: On arriving in London to study ("fresh off the boat") I soon discovered that the Brits didn't use some words we did. "Thrice" is one. ("Twice" and "Three times" I was corrected.) It also took me four years to figure out the difference in pronunciation in a "v" and a "w". I still have to pause before I can talk about "Virginia Woolf's varied works." I try avoiding such sentences altogether.
12. Numbers: Double Two, Double Four Double Six Five. Very Desi. Oh yes, Double O. Oh oh!
Ofcourse all of these quirks just add to the charm of the language and its use. Some cultures just pick up some words which half lost out in English. The characters in Naipauls "Mystic Masseur" are "vexed" all the time- a word which rarely crops up in conversational English any longer. I wish more Pakistani writers wrote employing these quirks. Actually, I just wish we had more Pakistani writers.