Friday, December 30, 2011

Mere Dil Mere Musafir Hua Phir Se Hukm Sadir

Key Watan Badr Houn Hum Tum
Dey Gali Gali Sadaien

....khair nothing as dramatic as that, but yes a change is acoming. There were hints earlier this month, but considering under the Australian surkhi powder I knew mera Dil to Phir Bhi Hai Pakistani

saaley visa dein ya na dein.

But I think it is coming through.


So we have two days to pack up house 
I feel like one of those fly by night operations
People will come to drop by New Year ki mithai, cake.
And there will be dust bunnies and tumble weed.
Visas issued and collected on the 1st.
We will send The Toddler to school on the 2nd. And then get on a flight in the evening to meet friends and family.
Melbourne after that.
And onward to  home for most of 2012
So some time in January Golkamra will be up and running at a new location. Details later. Suspense zaroori hai.
As New Year mithai I wanted to set up a sidebar that had all of my travel posts.
But that aint happening if there are packers nipping at your heels.
so I leave you with some Iqbal Bano.

See you all soon. Hugs and Kisses.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Aayegi Ek Baar Kho Gayi Jo Bahar..

I learnt a new word this week

Taaq-e-Nissian..translated as a niche, a shelf in the wall where you could place things  and 
just forget about them. I have forced myself to do that every day this month,  place some years of my life there and walk away. But that never happens does it?
Especially when it comes to all the years when you were not Saima Ammar.
But Saima Niaz. 
For this is how you will always be in my mind.

All the years when I was not capable of non-linear thought.
As in calling you Chothu for one.
My mouth would fumble around those words. The awkwardness of calling someone older and a foot taller than me Chothu? Chothu?
You taught me to imagine more than the grays of my life
and to think up  more interesting ways of describing a dimple rather than "holes in the cheek"
I was quite awkward those years, wasn't I ? You were our Lady Graceful ..of course you also had a course in self grooming under your belt, and I could  but only look at you with awe.

So I remember 

Tum aao  bardosh, 
With Music. Your Wit. With the video cassettes of Neighbours you would pick up from London, and all the care packages sent to you. Your posh accent, as you would rattle off poetry .

Hum aayen le kar 
all the Convent School prudishness, skipping all things bosom in the bodice rippers I read to you bus Saima then something happens between them ; until you were screaming, I am 18 read them to me NOW! 
all the knocks and bumps you suffered when I offered to guide you (for we all knew how you hated the white cane), and I true to form..absent minded.. after steering you into benches  and making you trip over stairs, would turn around and ask you, exasperated  Arey Why Dont You Just Tell Me When We Near A Step

Aur iske baad yeh poochein ke who guided whom?

You brought art , good conversation and so many interesting people to my life ...remember when you enrolled for sculpture while I was quite content in my Teutonic life memorizing how to conjugate German verbs? What was I thinking?! and did I ever thank you enough for being my passport to Fun Islamabad!

Did you ever despair ? We were not easy on you. Not as Saima Niaz when you kept our group (with each one of us notorious in the uni for our immense egos and fiery tempers) together. You shared with us your notes for Friedman's centre and periphery and HB promptly ran away to set up the Elite Group and declare some of us Periphery (of course it did not end there and he soon wanted a Super Elite).

And as Saima Ammar you finally settled into your mantle. 

I can only remember one winter evening from another life. (And it is the memory of that evening that assures me things will work out)
And you have taken out your reading list for  Politics and Foreign Policy of Afghanistan . I tell you it will be a cakewalk , coming from who I was, the history of Afghanistan started on December 24, 1979. And didnt we script it all for them?
we discover there was a Dost Mohammad, and then a Sher Ali, 
and Mohammad Afzal, and Azam, 
and another Sher Ali, 
and by the time you reach half of my family namesakes, Habibullah, Naseerullah, Amanullah, you are crying, and all I can do is pat your hand. Bus Daoud abhi aaya,  after that tou smooth running And we alternate between our tears as  Habibullahs and Rahmans keep on popping up and my feeble attempts to  pacify you  Bus Daoud abhi aaya.

And now they say Saima Ammar too is a memory

Even in death you inspire me. Teaching me to be patient with the bumps and bruises even as the one you trust steers you into another obstacle. To throw back your head and laugh, for this is our life. We survived Kund and the rivers Indus et Kabul's confluence while everyone shrieked. So I dont know why we are drowning now.
Tell me now
Bus Daud Abhi Aaya
 after that tou smooth running hai

Remember when we re-discovered this Saima? Just before he decided that Ameer ka Islam lies in designer kurtas and halal chips fatwa. When he could still sing songs of hope. So once more in your memory. 
Aayey Gee Eik Baar Khogayee Jo Bahar,

Mein Isee Aaas Mein Jeeyoun Ga.

Khud Sey Wada Hai Yeh Hain Irada Hai Yeh

Tu Suney Na Suney Mein Khahoun Ga ...

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Kabhi Mein Sochta Hoon Kuch Na Kuch Kahon Phir Yeh Sochta Hoon

Kiyoo Na Chup Rahoon

The lyricist for this song from Aina (1977) is either Tasleem Fazli or Akhtar Yousuf. If you  know dear reader please add in the comments section

And it is December.
A moment when the calendar reminds you ..again.. about the This Day in History 
The universe tinkers with the volume control for the "background noise" of your  days 
And there it is
Caps Locked
You Are Here You Are Here
Your feet do itch to dance at their revolution
But The Man turns around to look at you and asks Really? Serious ho? Allow them to enjoy their party. Ab wahan bhi...and shakes his head in dismay. 
So perhaps I should sit back and listen as they clear their throats to sing
My ballad about you and me and them and us and how Gman fits in can keep for another day.

And as I flounder around in transit
The past is not yet a memory
and I am still struggling with my Best Of
A wishlist for the New
So perhaps on days like this, you gather the boys Big and Small and walk around Dhaka University
I promise we come in peace. No Liberators today no Oppressors
And we try to sneak in as Tejoy Haldar's installation huddles in for A Serious Discussion

This is the Fine Arts department in Dhaka University, as you can see Nature is giving the young artists stiff competition
Oh the whimsy, the whimsy of the installations that dot the campus

And we walk the grounds while Gman and me fumble with the words So This is Your Great-Grandfather's University. So much history for so small a backback

But it seems his shoulders are strong enough to take on what we deem our historical burden
 And there is a pool of water. Of course. With steps leading down to it; it is Friday and a group of students walk down to make their ablutions

Yes there are days when I should just listen


There will be doors that I will want to knock at, but for now maybe it is best that no one opens the door for us.

 The Toddler is curious enough to pry, to call out. We will let some conversations be, though words of apology are forming at my lips 

And we walk past Ramna Park

And the Ramna Temple 
no bricks and stones now
for the deities have taken to a shamiana
And for years I wandered the streets of another Ramna in a city which was built on the crushed hopes of this
And yes I wonder at how it is that it is Ramna that interlinks Operation Searchlight and Operation Sunrise. You know when at times men in khakhi think they should have been in Public Works Department and sat on bulldozers.
Not that the dawn of democracy was easy on these spaces 
But even then
We should seriously think twice before you know naming anything Ramna
General Nagri has always worked well
We all know what happens to Constitution Avenues
So as I said deities live under tents
 So what I have gathered over the past two weeks from the blog statistics is NO ONE is interested in clicking on images for all the lovely buildings I photograph. Most of you just want to know So What Do They Look Like
I have seriously rationed my words in this post
So perhaps I should leave you with some pictures of me
Just to satisfy your curiosity 
so in future you can look at the sights and the buildings for a change
But before that let me adjust my dupatta
For you know from the way some people in my life carry on when the two ends are not perfectly aligned 
when one end of the dupatta drags on the floor 
empires just crumble
there are also tsunamis
And that is why Shilpa Shetty had to sing about Dupatte Ka Pallu Ka Kidhar ka Kidhar Hai

I will leave brushing my hair for another day.

And then just as you think you are ready to face the world, a little voice  reminds you yeh sab tou theek hai BUT WHERE IS MY JUICE

So yes I have so much to write, so much to share with you.
But I remember just in time for now Kiyoo Na Chup Rahoo
So sit back and  just enjoy some  Mehdi Hasan
(and crazy woman in purple)

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Aane Wala Pal Jaane Wala Hai

As we drove out from Dhaka towards Manekgunj and I busied myself wondering how and when I will blog about it (as all bloggers are wont to do) I could swear it read as a very funny travel post in my mind. I was going to write a note about how The Toddler has picked up on my fondness for the"countryside" albeit he will phrase it as What A Beautiful Country Mama, So Many Country Outside. 
There was also going to be a sly dig about how development discourse has influenced street directories. "You want to go to Baliaiti huh, take a right from Vulnerability" or "Sir jee we are passing through Climate Change now. Do you want to stop the car?"
But let us leave that for another day.

Today let me take you on a journey to the Baliaiti Zamindar Palace.
Technically it is some 40 miles out of Dhaka, and 5 km from Manekgunj where we were for the weekend.
But as we all know the past is another country.
Even if it is just the countryside.

The road to the mysterious mansion. Or haveli as I refer to anything larger than a 2 bed,drawing/dining, attached bath, with its own servant quarter,
or as the Bangalis call it a zamindarbari 
...was winding and crossed many a rickety bridge.  The Toddler and I sang There Was a Crooked Man (and I added "Arhaan, this means he was a crooked contractor and bungled all the funds" ...yes why get into Kyphosis of Notre Dame with a 2 year old) and we deliberated on the crooked miles and the crooked stiles and fences, and saw all the crooked animals scurrying off in the distance.
And I wondered about the mysterious Baliati Palace I had only seen pictures of in a Facebook album (yeah! stalkers are us) and how no one I knew in Dhaka took an interest in it. And how you too dear reader might have opened up another tab in your window browser to google some information about it!
I got some of my answers to these questions when we turned around the corner and I gawked Khudaya!
as I saw this in the distance. 

Even as the driver exclaimed. "Papayas such beautiful papayas and so cheap". 
Beauty does lie in the eye of the beholder.
You also have to have a well fed stomach to admire it.

We neared. The buildings were enclosed in a compound with stone lions at each of the gates.
Shera Ki Aamad! The Lion Enters
We paid up for what the Bengalis call Jadoo Ghar (read museum)--albeit only two rooms of the 200 plus are open to public, inside you will see various items of "household use". Hurricane lanterns, safes oh so many safes, cattles (sic they were kettles) , a teak commode, really beautiful wall mirrors in a room where the wallpaper was still intact, a pair of marble Nandi, impressive chandeliers. A bed and a rifle stand. Basic what they could "salvage from the looters" stuff.

However the true beauty was that of the buildings themselves. Pieces of furniture are only the accessories of our life.

And how handsome were these buildings.
19th century.
So they may have seen three violent partitions. 

I wonder what they made of us. Driver ji looking over his shoulder at the papaya stand.
The Toddler running from one mansion to another.
Gman thinking to himself Bilkul Calcutta (his barometer of all things sophisticated)
And hum?  Dear Reader.
I was ..unlikely behavior..for a motor mouth like me. Stupefied.

Oh if these trees could talk

So once upon a time there was a very rich salt merchant. Who turned zamindar courtesy Taj-e-Bartania. He had four sons. Hence four mansions. Over time he found more money. Also wives. And sons. Leading to seven houses for seven sons. Of those these four survive.
These two on the far right 
Repeat to Self. Its Only Bricks In the end Its Only Bricks . 
And these two to the far left.
Mera Wala Salmon Pink no White No Pink
The problematic (for me at least) white paint for the two buildings in the middle are courtesy a "renovation" project when they did get some funds. The renovation work has been long abandoned due to lack of funds, but the grounds were well maintained. There were rose bushes planted in front of the mansion, and the grass in the back of the buildings well trimmed. There was a ghat, that looked clean, the steps free of moss. Look at me pretending to be a property agent now.

The buildings in the back however were in a pretty decrepit condition. And not just because of neglect and ravages of time. Two had been put to fire by a "crazed woman" as the guard put it. I suspect it were the squatters . For once the families that had lived there had moved away (I assume they moved away. I hope they moved away and didnt face any act of violence) the mansions saw a generation of squatters. In one case the area school master. They were driven away some time in Gen Ershad's regime, and the Archaeology Department took over. Perhaps in a "dog in the manger" fit of pique the squatters put the building alight? Or was it looters in the 1940s. Or a disgruntled senior wife before that? Who knows. For other than the board put up at the entrance which spoke of a Shaha family, and how one member of the family,  Sri Kishori Lal Saha (Roy Choudhury) , went on to contribute funds to set up Jagganath College and later Jagganath Hall in Dhaka University; there were no other details. Roy Chodhury was a familiar name for us, as his statue is a familiar sight every Durga Puja at Jagganath Hall .
Here is a pic.
Statue of Roy Choudhury--benefactor Jagganath Hall.

But coming back to Baliati Palace. 

Was it Manderley's Mrs D? Jane Eyre's Mrs R? You Decide

And this
Cue In Andheri Raato Mai. Flickering Lamp Optional

And this
I forget whether these were stables. Or guest houses. Or both. Yes we all have those kinds of guests.
and how could I forget that the Seven Houses for Seven Brothers came with an attached pool. Zenana bathing house, changing rooms ka alag intezam

 And there were rows upon rows of doors. And The Toddler and me launched into a door knock campaign.

A well with steps going in. And though Gman screamed I Can Spot Water. I refused to near it. And looked at this instead.

Walking out towards the four in the front, I took a look at the scrolls and realized at times it is not just the devil in the details. there are some satanic cherubs as well.

Too lazy to zoom in. OK.Here you are.

Say it with me. Mummmmmmyyy

Though friends quizzed me. Was the place haunted? I would say no. Arhaan gamboled happily through it, so it seemed whatever that may have been evil was exorcised in the fire, baptized over the floods of history. It did leave me with a hundred possible stories.
Should I mourn the owners' loss? For what if it was a crooked sixpence (and some more) he may or may not have found on a stile that funded the palace?
How much money can you make in salt? As much as say if your father owned Bambino Cinema Was this the 19th century equivalent of Rockwood/Surrey Mansion?
But I am going off on a tangent which I am also wont to do.
Oh dear me.
It could be that the zamindar was not an evil man. He had a kind and gracious family, and when they moved on, the Lady of the Manor tied up a handful of earth in the pallu of her sari and whispered in the winds. This and my memories of the years here, this is all I take with me wherever I go.
And the brothers four threw open the doors to their mansions. Had an Open House and all their friends and foes danced the night away. That they later unlocked their garages, their wardrobes, and people trooped in and  took away all that they wanted.
But it is also possible that they were horrible people and that when their cars turned around the corner, and the dust died down, the villagers whooped in joy, dancing the evening away, finally collapsed to the floor in mirth setting up camp in the corridors.
But there is something so dignified.
And stately
And calm about these buildings
That I cannot imagine that the muddied fingers of violence, of envy ever clawed over it.
Do you?
So many stories remain untold. Maybe one day we will know what happened next to all who were associated with this palace at one time.
But for now I am a bit kinder towards all who do try telling me tales of rooms they struggle to summon in their dreams. Gman for one has promised to listen more carefully to his grand aunts Perchance they were right, perhaps grandfather did abandon many riches. And I dont think we will be making snide remarks about pudeene ke bagh, orchards of mint any more.
Forgive me all.

Ek baar se Dil Nahi Bharta. Just appreciate how the buildings are lit up by the strange 5pm sun

The next morning we woke up in the community farm/conference centre in Manekgunj. And I exchanged one Social Commentary Of Our Times for another.
Walking with Arhaan , I realised how all my cultural references, my Love For the Countryside comes from Blyton. So if I were to see this, 

I would think of the cool dairy where Sheila from Willow Farm lent a hand to her mother and their help in setting cream and  butter; and where they left the milk to cool down. This building by the way is an apiculture lab.

And I think of Rory and Benjy and threshing grains at Cherry  Tree.
But at least I can assure myself it will not just be Tammylan that will teach Arhaan to have a love for nature.
On our morning walks we witnessed many a kingfisher. They refused to pose as they complained how the government never offered them any handouts. 
The Kind of Pictures You Take Just  Because You Have a Swanky Camera  Now!  Exhibit A

The Kind of Pictures YouTake Because You Have a Swanky Camera  Now! Exhibit B

And later as we went to our room and Arhaan scanned through channels, and stopped playing with the remote enough to hear this song play. 

I cried. 
And I dont know whether it was Ashura and my moral quandary about The Toddler listening to music that saddened me (For I have always loved Golmal and this song in particular) 
Or were they tears of joy at all the blessings I have? For some the year draws to an end, for us it has just begun and it is my annual stock taking time. But whatever it is. I know time is passing me by, even as it all just begins for Arhaan. May  it be a beautiful journey for him too. For I have had a ball.

And just then The Toddler piped"Such a nice country this is Mama?"
I didnt have the heart to say Countryside kiddo Countryside.
Oh let him live in this "country of his mind"  for as long as he can. Such a nice country it is to be.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Hai Jazba Junoon To Himmat Na Haar Justajoo Jo Karey Woh Chuay Asmaan Mehnat Apni Ho Gi Pehchan Kabhi Na Bhoolo

There was a bake sale today. Rather a Meena Bazar, and amongst the rows upon rows of stalls offering me things that I ABSOLUTELY do not need, but oh look so pretty lined up like that, was one selling me my double chin and that third tyre around my waist. As the cashier added up my purchase, one of the bazaar organizers came up to me with a clipboard, asking me with a smile to choose from a list of charities ,one, where they could send the proceeds of my sale to. I chose a charity that benefited prison inmates. Kindred souls we.

Yup, all things said, a mother's "I am in it for the long haul" love considered, and the memory of some good days, it all does come down to sitting on the prayer mat, "lengthening your prayers" so to avoid being the one putting the toddler to bed. I had shared elsewhere how my prayer mat is the last bastion of retaining some sanity in this crazy adventure that is motherhood. Bathrooms are no longer sacred retreats where one can catch up on some reading on a smart phone, for toddlers have mastered the fine art of banging on the door whilst they work on the lock. So yes the prayer mat it is. I have no idea whether this disclosure was helpful for any of the parents out there but it did introduce me to a lovely woman who manages the work from home, mom to two, thinking person hats quite well. She describes herself as someone who

is clumsily juggling marriage, motherhood, moving, and editorship of a magazine. Fortunately, she is able to see the humour in this.

Oh yes she does, and you too will be able to read up on how she does this if you were to click on
or cut/paste this in your browser window

and if you are REALLY short of time and cannot read all of the entries (though you must, you must)
just visit
 or and this which is so so brutally honest about the things we mothers go through , and yes it is funny, and moving at the same time
Oh just go ahead and just read her, please.

OK , so now my Lend Me Your Ears spiel does not end here. You  have to now go and vote for her. And the deadline is 1130 pm THAT IS HALF PAST ELEVEN IN THE NIGHT(Pakistan Time) November 28th THIS YEAR. And you ask me haw hai what craziness is this, we have not even heard what she is planning to do about the environment and here you are asking us to vote for her. Oh stop with that already. We have voted along caste lines, biradari, because we loved the candidate's father so, for the way a particular candidate looks,or to defy the current incumbent, or just because DADDY/MOMMY/HUSBAND/THE VILLAGE CHIEF told us to, 
so for just this once go ahead and click on the fifth star at

and it does not matter if you are not from Pakistan or have a grandmother who lived there at one time. Many, many Pakistanis with Green Cards and some with American passports end up in the Cabinet every now and then. We are all inclusive this way. So vote will ya?

 I could at this stage include some testimonials like how waiters from her local bistro love her for always tipping way way above the recommended ten percent, and how she was a conscientious little soul right from Grade 2. (Her art teacher tells us how she always colored between the lines and washed her brushes right after paint projects)

But I would rather just remind you of how incredibly easy it is to participate in this election.  Just point the cursor to this link and click. Many of us would like to vote come election time, but fifteen hours into queuing up for voter's registration or  the 39th time the guy at the counter asks us to Now SIGN THIS FORM IN TRIPLICATE AND WE WOULD LIKE TO SEE YOUR GRANDFATHER's DENTAL RECORDS AGAIN, we just give up. And you are left with that ache in your heart, for you too dream wistfully of the day when you could turn around and tell someone I Voted And I Felt Soo Good. And the euphoria, the euphoria, when your candidate wins. Oh man, oh man.

And trust me, can it ever get simpler than this? No moral dilemma as you ready to cast your vote, no one will ask you to take an oath on how you consider a certain sect non-Muslim. You do not have to bite your nails down worrying, OK so I voted for her/him but what if s/he decides to send more troops to Afghanistan. How does s/he look in a suit. The candidate's stand on Birkins. Whether the candidate's educational degrees are for real? Or whether their foreign policy experience is based on being able to view GHQ from their window. Or that they were plucky enough to take the winning last wicket some time. 

I ask you now to take a look at her Display Pic. Mashallah, what a beautiful set of teeth. Does it seem that the candidate will use state funds to pay for her gutka/pan habit. And she is a mother, a mother, even Bhutto had to give up on her Amazon daughter avatar and it was only as a mother that she finally achieved political success. So there you are:

Go ahead.

I think there is a Facebook page too, but as I promised I did not want this to be a stressful voting exercise for you involving logging in and looking up a page. (However, if you do yeah you)

Now hurry along, 
Yes You
Go Go Go

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dil Bole Boom Boom

If this was still 1990 and we were in Rawalpindi I would have torn a page from my notebook and tried in my best penmanship to write a list of songs; 
I would have called for truce and let the Great Sister Wars be for a while, just so that the combined force of the two of us could have begged,borrowed, stolen to get to Radio City in Islamabad and asked for a Mixed Tape.
 And we could have called it something like Lala Nothing Gonna Change My Love For U-1990.
And everyone in school would have run copies of it.

But it is 2011.

And I have not slept all night.

And someone once said right after the World Cup, a couple of months ago, that great moments like this should inspire great art, great writing; and I want to. But as I said I have not slept all night, Gman is away, I live in a country where they have not declared a school holiday even after all that you did, you beauty you, and I have to get busy with the business of mommyhood.

So for now, all I can do is trawl youtube,  and dedicate this to you, as homage. 

We start with this cira 2am Dhaka time:

And for all of you who do not understand the Hindi, (thought they were all singing in Urdu back then, oh well!) I suggest this which was released at the same time give or take a year or two.

Oh yes I could have. Danced. All night. 

For My Heart Went as Nazia Hassan so eloquently put it, and you breathed the life into her words, Boom Boom.

I too can wear pigtails.

For Lala you melt our hardened hearts. We laugh as we have not in so many days, and as we wake up to yet another morning, for a couple of hours we can forget our pain. I pray fervently that out there where the wild things are and madness rules others too find the fire, the inspiration, to face another day.
There is a spring in my step.
And this one goes out to you.

Lest you all think I am Lala Fan Girl Numero Uno, well sadly Tazeen and this post beat me to it earlier this year. Hurry up and read it, for many a time I see myself as Sir Syed going up to that Big Farm in the sky  up there and declaring "I bring for You, Mussadas-e-Hali-Version 2011"--this, this Ode To Lala.