Category Archives: Non-Humor

The Lords Experience


I was probably the first spectator in the stand along with my brother Ishtiaq. Play was supposed to start at 11:00. It was barely 9:30. That’s how early I have always been for cricket matches. Be it my first ever experience at Niaz Stadium in Hyderabad for a Pakistan – Srilanka match before 1992 World Cup or numerous other experiences at National Stadium in Karachi. I love to get in there early, get a feel of the ground, soak the atmosphere (or lack of it), and then watch players warm up and practise. But this was different. As we sat on our seats I said something to Ishtiaq and he replied, ‘let me absorb this for a while, I am at Lords to watch a test match. This is my dream come true.’ I could totally understand. He was a being a fan just like me. We were afterall at Lords cricket ground.

This day has more signifance due to the fact that Pakistan was playing. Last time I went to see a cricket match was for a Asia Cup game between Pakistan and Srilanka at National Stadium in Karachi in July 2008. Soon after, the attack on Srilankan team happened and international cricket stopped in Pakistan. So I was watching my team play after eight years. Now to he honest, I was vary of my record (or jinx) of Pakistan losing matches whenever I go to see them in stadium. Their win ratio is about 20% when I am in the crowd. And Pakistan hadn’t won at Lords since 1996. I don’t need to go into more details about what I was fearing despite the decent position we were in.

Another reason for coming in early was that from my experiences in Pakistan, I assumed it would take quite a bit of time to find the right gate and then enclosure to enter. When we reached the ground we saw a long que of MCC members formally dressed in the striped or baige blazers and ties. We were swiftly guided to right entrance by stewards and as soon as gates opened it was a smooth sailing. Unlike Pakistan, spectators were allowed to bring in their food and liquor (in limited quantity). However flags or banners were not allowed. Crowd in other stands was a good mix of people casually dressed in chappals and shorts to people in suits as well as uber cool fashionistas in smart casuals. As we entered we saw Nursery ground which is a small ground used for nets. It is situated behind the spaceship looking media centre and that is where the name Nursery End comes from. We stopped by there to see Sohail Khan and other coaching staff giving net practise to Muhammad Amir and Yasir Shah. Though none of it came to any help as Pakistan innings folded before we could open our packs of crisps. Before entering the stand, we decided to get some coffee and this is where we had our first encounter with Lords’s knowledable crowd. An old gentlemen wearing MCC jacket was sipping his tea and as I was mixing sugar to my latte, he asked us politely ‘do you lads think your team can finish the game today?’. I honestly didn’t think so. So I said that it will go to 5th day and I think England has a good chance considering lot of their first innings dismissals were poor shots to Yasir Shah and I expect them to play better. He said, ‘He is a good leggie this chap. And perhaps you are disregarding a weary fourth day pitch.’ As it turned out, I was. He left saying may the best team wins.

Our stand was right below media centre, opposite pavilion. We had a good view (mid/Long off position from Nursery End) and were under the shade on a sunny but breezy day. In terms of support, England had an edge but there was a vociferous Pakistani contigent scattered which made it’s presence felt throughout the day. English support was typical Lords. Neutral, sporting and sophisticated in it’s behaviour. There were usually some turned heads and raised eyebrows at Pakistani slogans and chants but plenty of smiles as well. On my left were two English gentlemen with whom I had numerous interesting conversations throughout the day. They would burst out laughing during Wahab Riaz’s great spell everytime he would beat a batsmen. He once commented that if there was rule that batsmen would have to walk back if they were beaten 5 times, both Woak and Baistrow would be out by now. His departing remark was that in the end, atleast England had more reviews left in DRS so they won on that account. On my right were couple of Desi young men, one of who didnt know Muhammad Aamir.

What I like about watching matches in grounds is you get to see some stuff which somehow is not evident on television coverage. I saw suited Wasim Akram talking to Rahat Ali and Wahab Riaz before start of play for good 15 minutes. He was holding a ball up in the air so it must have been either about release of the ball or arm positioning. Regardless, both Rahat and Wahab bowled well on the day. There were lot of memes on social media about Muhammad Hafeez and his utility to the team. Before Pakistan’s turn to bowl, Micky Arthur spent time with Hafeez on catching drills. Also, watching Wahab Riaz trying to make crowd clap for Muhammad Aamir when nothing seemed to be working for him was great to see.

I must admit during England’s main partnership, I did contemplate leaving early to avoid the rush. But my brother insisted to stay and thank goodness we did. As we were about to walk out after end of play, I saw Pakistani team line up on the ground and I thought I have never seen a match presentation ceremony on Lords ground so what are they upto? What happened afterwards will remain in our minds forever. And the fact that I saw it live, I can only express by saying that I was there when it happened. As we were walking out, Lords and its surrounding streets were resonating with Pakistan Zindabad slogans and for fans who had not seen their team in action for so long, you could feel nothing but pride.

P.S: I have tried resisting the urge to write a match report for two reasons: 1 – They are already out there and written by people who can do more justice than I can and 2 – You watch very little of the actual game itself when you are on the ground.

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My Friend by Khalil Gibran

My friend, I am not what I seem. Seeming is but a garment I wear–a
care-woven garment that protects me from thy questionings and thee
from my negligence.

The “I” in me, my friend, dwells in the house of silence, and
therein it shall remain for ever more, unperceived, unapproachable.

I would not have thee believe in what I say nor trust in what I
do–for my words are naught but thy own thoughts in sound and my
deeds thy own hopes in action.

When thou sayest, “The wind bloweth eastward,” I say, “Aye it doth
blow eastward”; for I would not have thee know that my mind doth
not dwell upon the wind but upon the sea.

Thou canst not understand my seafaring thoughts, nor would I have
thee understand. I would be at sea alone.

When it is day with thee, my friend, it is night with me; yet even
then I speak of the noontide that dances upon the hills and of
the purple shadow that steals its way across the valley; for thou
canst not hear the songs of my darkness nor see my wings beating
against the stars–and I fain would not have thee hear or see. I
would be with night alone.

When thou ascendest to thy Heaven I descend to my Hell–even then
thou callest to me across the unbridgeable gulf, “My companion, my
comrade,” and I call back to thee, “My comrade, my companion”–for
I would not have thee see my Hell. The flame would burn thy eyesight
and the smoke would crowd thy nostrils. And I love my Hell too
well to have thee visit it. I would be in Hell alone.

Thou lovest Truth and Beauty and Righteousness; and I for thy sake
say it is well and seemly to love these things. But in my heart
I laught at thy love. Yet I would not have thee see my laughter.
I would laugh alone.

My friend, thou art good and cautious and wise; nay, thou art
perfect–and I, too, speak with thee wisely and cautiously. And
yet I am mad. But I mask my madness. I would be mad alone.

My friend, thou art not my friend, but how shall I make thee
understand? My path is not thy path, yet together we walk, hand
in hand.


Dear Luis Suarez

Luis

 

Dear Luis Suarez,

Now that your transfer to Barcelona been confirmed, about time we should have this talk.

You know when Kenny Dalglish introduced you as substitute against Stoke at Anfield for your first appearance, I did not know much about you other than your hand ball heroic in the World Cup. But you made a great start by scoring on debut, and gave hope to the hearts still recovering from departure of a certain Fernando Torres. What actually made me take notice of you was your fourth appearance for Liverpool, versus Manchester United where you tore them apart and became my Man of the Match despite Dirk Kuyt getting a hat-trick. I knew we have a new star, a new rage and a new darling of the Kop.

We both know our time together has been a bit of up and down. You just can’t keep your self out of trouble, can you? Even if I do give you benefit of doubt for the whole Evra scenario (you know a benefit of doubt for you these days is rather difficult), your constant battles with authorities of the game were a regular feature. We, the fans at Liverpool saw it as competitiveness of someone who came up from a tough neighborhood and as ‘win-at-all-cost’ quality. You know we loved you. we loved you for that audacious dive on the feet of David Moyes’s, it was hilarious Luis. Brandan described it as ‘scouse humor’ and you became one of us if you weren’t by then. We loved you for that half line blinder of an goal against Norwich which left Steven Gerrard fuming because you didn’t pass it on him. But he forgave you because the ball went it. And you know, my heart sank when you sobbed after that draw against Crystal Palace this year, after all you brought us so close to title and back in the elites of game.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Everton v Liverpool - Goodison Park

But Luis, as much as I understand your reasons behind this transfer to Spain, you should have thought more about it. Four years in Liverpool and you did not hear about the ‘curse of Kop’. You see my friend, when ever our darling strikers leave, they miss us terribly. So much so, great Ian Rush came back from Juventus after 18 months to re-discover his scoring form. Even our (not so) good friend Paul Scholes suggested that you should have had a word with Owen and Torres before taking this call. Really.

But it is not just the curse. I really think you have made a wrong choice in terms of your new club. Barcelona? Really?

Perhaps you forgot they have a habit of buying central strikers and playing them on flanks. Thiery Henry, remember? Won 6 tor 7 titles for them including Champions League but playing on the left wing. David Villa left recently because he wanted to play in the centre. Forget him, if you would recall, Number 9s, dont really last long there at Catalan land. Zlatan and Eto are two more cases. By the way, Neymar hasn’t settled as much, he is playing on the left (your preferred position if not centre) so that leave only right wing for you Luis. You see things start getting ‘Messi’ if you want to be at centre of the attack in Barcelona. Why do you think Sanchez left?

You see Luiz, there in Barcelona, if you have to make a 6 yard pass to Messi, you make it. If you don’t, it is not forgiven. You see Luis, You, Neymar, Iniesta and all are there to support Messi. He is the darling of the crowd. He is the main attraction. Rest of you are just a crowd. Remember how you got all that great service from Steven Gerrard, Raheem Sterling, Coutinho and Sturridge. That is exactly what you have to do there.

Anyways, that is all done now. You won’t hear crowd chanting your name for 90 minutes but so what? You get to live near your wife’s relatives. I understand.

That letter you wrote for fans, I find it hard to believe because I have been a PR man myself Luis, but I hope you mean it.

Regardless. Luis Suarez, We had great time as long as it lasted. Enjoy Spain. Best of luck.

Best,

A Liverpool Fan.

P.S: Rest your teeth a little, your next bite might be your last one on the ground.


London Street Performers


Distant guitar plays rhythmically through the tunnels of London’s underground walkway system, or on various spots in Central London, growing louder with each passing step.

That has always been one of the most charming aspects of London for me. I am always tempted to stop and listen to them. Lot of times I actually do it. You get variety of genres and instruments to listen to if you spend a day walking in London.

This gentleman I saw playing clarinet at Southbank.

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This rock band played a great set during rain at Trafalgar Square, sitting under a tree. It gives you great feeling to see random strangers passing by suddenly break into dance moves.

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I must admit I have not seen too many string quartets perform, but this one at Covent Garden did a very good job. I speacially liked the way they kept engaging audience .

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You unexpectedly hear a favorite track walking down the bank, like this guy was covering John Mayer’s version of ‘XO’

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Or you end up listening to an Avril Lavigne song right next to London Eye.

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Another great thing about London is it’s versatility in terms of adapting and opening up to other cultures and sounds. Since World Cup is flavor of the season, I saw this band play famous Samba tunes

10259990_10152086086150493_1993689717200168397_nOr this guy playing a great reggae version of  ‘a’int no sun shine’

10330471_10152086086495493_7677076148112963308_nAnd there is always bit of Bob Marley influence everywhere

1525059_10152086086295493_8280583701669126512_nAnd last but not least, you will find something amusing which will keep you wondering.

10414928_10152086083710493_1777880844454535307_nThese are just some of the reasons, why I will keep going back to London.


Baba

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I have trashed various drafts of this post. I have been at loss to decide from where to begin and how to end it. I wanted to give a befitting tribute to the man, who played an important part in me becoming the man I am today. At first, mere use of past tense for him was too much to begin with. In the end, I just simply gave up. I have come to conclusion that rightly so, I am not qualified enough to write a proper homage for Baba. This is just an attempt to celebrate his life, rather than mourning his demise.

Like any other relationship, our relationship too had many facets to it. My earlier thoughts of him are of being in awe of him. We were raised to simply behave when he was around, as he usually travelled a lot due to nature of his work. There would be a comparative calm at our house in his presence, and pin drop silence whenever he was on phone. It’s not that he was tough on us in anyway, it’s just this is how we were brought up.

But it changed soon. Although for most of pre-teen and teen years Baba was posted outside Hyderabad and we were camped there due to our schooling, but there were times when he was posted in Hyderabad and we lived together. Some of my best years of life were spent in an old Banglow at Civil Lines in Hyderabad when we all lived together. Every evening, Baba would play cricket with us and it was sort of beginning of our personal transformation.

Some years later, Baba got posted in Nawabshah and we would visit him during school breaks.  During a particular winter break we visited him and insisted him to play cricket with us. That particular residence had a huge backyard and its surface consisted of crushed brick material.  This meant it was less than ideal for playing cricket and Baba noticed it when he played with us. Sometimes ball would keep extremely low or at other times would jump up unexpectedly. When we got back there again for summer breaks, the backyard had a newly laid cement pitch on it. That event pretty much explains Baba’s contribution to my life. Nobody asked him to get that pitch laid for us. He got it done himself knowing how much we loved playing cricket. Similarly, all my life I got everything without having to ask. He almost always knew when we needed something.

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During my school years, Baba was very particular about us maintaining our grades. He would constantly tell us that he we need to study hard to get into good universities and land good jobs. He particularly drilled into us that he would not be able to support us financially and we had to build our own lives.  This is probably the only time I can remember where he attempted  bluff and did it successfully.  I would probably never forget my first day at work when I was getting ready for office in Karachi and Baba happened to be there. He asked me to have breakfast with him and asked several questions about nature of my job. I tried to explain advertising and nature of agency-client relationship in layman terms. He grasped that client’s would not always be kind to me. He then said I should keep in mind that if I ever felt insulted by a boss or a client, I should not hesitate to resign and he has earned enough to be able to take care of me. For a moment I was taken aback by his advice but that discussion gave me confidence which I carried throughout my career. I knew I had solid backing, and it is that backing I miss now. Even when I went to see him after my return from Bahrain, he could sense I was feeling down and he said only one sentence about the situation, “ I am not dead yet, what are you worried about?”.

In terms of his personality, if I compare Baba with his peers and colleague, he was a simple person.  As I matured, I realized he was easy to talk to, though not talkative. Our relationship in last decade or so had moved to a point where we would frankly discuss cricket, movies or politics but his authority always remained there. He was usually not a person of strong likes or dislikes (unless it was politics or religion). For example, I don’t think he had a favorite cricketer or an actor (although he liked Dilip Kumar). As for politics, he felt Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hard done, and hated Zardari clan with vigor. But only few days ago, my younger brother Arif told me that Baba refused to be photographed with either George Bush or Tony Blair during his visit to Madam Tussaud’s museum in London due to their role in invasion of Iraq. Similarly, he had very strong views on religious matters.

Last six months were not easy on anyone.  To see someone who was not just in control of his life, but everyone around him, disintegrate so rapidly was unthinkable. It reached a point where I stopped praying for his life and started praying for his peace. He was buried on 21st of Ramadan, and being a Shia, he couldn’t have asked for better timing.  Today when people are offering their condolences for him, they describe him as gentle, kind, patronizing and some go to extent of calling him saintly. They tell us of patronizing things he did for them, things we in family were not aware of.

Now that I look back, I don’t ever remember him saying anything like ‘I love you’ to me or to his other kids. To be honest, he didn’t need to. I knew how much he loved me, or all his family. But I do regret not telling him how much I loved him. I hope he knew. Whatever he was to the world, to me he was simply Baba.


We Are Not Finished

Let’s accept it. The feeling of patriotism and togetherness in our nation is not common. We are somewhat divided on ethnic and sectarian grounds in our normal lives and are completely fine with it.

I have heard tales of 1965 war, how the nation united and responded to external threat but never experienced it. It did sound like a fairytale, and I really wanted to experience it someday. And then it happened.

After earthquake stuck Pakistan in October of 2005, I visited PAF Museum to drop off some stuff for as relief aid. It was Ramadan and I reached there around  5 pm when normally people are at their worst behavior, ready to shout and fight in the excuse of fasting. But at the venue, there was a two kilometer long bumper to bumper car line with impeccable discipline. It took me about 45 minutes from the gate to reach drop off point and I do not remember anyone honking even once. Everyone sat silently in their cars, waited patiently to reach the spot, would get off from car, drop their contribution and quietly drive away. The PAF jawans along with some school kids volunteers could be seen diligently sorting relief aid for its further dispatch. Despite so much happening, there was a silence in the air and around. For the first time in my life, I actually felt proud of being a Pakistani, and not for a sporting reason. For the first time, I felt we are not finished as a nation, not as yet.

A lot has happened since then in my personal, professional and social life. The feeling of togetherness slowly disappeared to the point I do not even remember how it felt. Politically, we have gone to stone ages. Love him or hate him, somehow President Musharaf’s last words ‘Pakistan ka khuda hafiz’ have a haunting feeling to them now.

Personally, I have never been active in politics or religion. I have had keen interest of happenings around me but that’s where it ends. I have never even voted in my life (something I regret), my excuse has been a distance of about 500 kilometers between Karachi and my constituency. Usually people around me take it for granted that I would be a Peoples Party supporter given my Sindhi feudal background and more so because I belong to the constituency of ‘Zardaris’ and I usually don’t even bother to correct them because it has hardly mattered to me. In last few years I have started to at least correct them because no wants to be associated with them. For the record, I have never ever been a fan of Benazir Bhutto and I wish nothing well (even on humanitarian grounds) to the core Zardari clan. From the religious point of view, I have never worn my sect on my sleeve, I don’t think most of my friends would even know that I am a Shia. Religion or sect has never affected me when it comes to having social ties or friends. Until very recently, I did not even have any Shia friends at all. I have had friends from all religions (yes, Jews too) and from all sects. Simply, it has just never bothered me. I have always believed religion to be an extremely private matter between me and my God.

I have also not been bothered about practical aspects of political activism. I use social media to whine about government policies and load shedding, taunt inefficiencies of Rehman Malik and take out my frustrations against President Zardari and his cronies. And that’s about it. May be it’s the class divide. I have never considered it to be my duty to go out on street and raise my voice. My living room is a comfortable place from where I can access live coverage of all political events. Why risk my life, wallet and car when someone else is doing it.  And, then I expect everything to be fine and get upset if it is not. It’s not just me; you are as guiltier as I am. And I want that to change.

But my perspective of things has started to change. We all get affected by tragic events like bomb blasts at some level. In past, I have only seen them as a tragic loss of human beings, they still are. But what has carried on in Quetta for last few years, and repeated incidents in areas like Challas (people being taken down from buses, identified through ID card checks, separated and shot at point blank) forced the idea of looking at this from a different angle. And now I am sure, it is quite plainly ethnic cleansing. It is an effort to wipe out a particular community. Why, because they do not toe to a particular brand of Islam. They read the same Quran, bow down to the same Allah, but apparently the differences have provided good enough justification for them to be killed. In last couple of years, I have actually started considering whether I should attend  ‘majalis’ with my wife and young kids in Muharram because there is a threat of a terrorist activity. And I want that to change.

That is why recent bombing in Quetta shook me. How long would I keep taking government inefficiency lying down? I felt the inevitability of it happening something to me sooner or later. I was watching events of various sit-ins (dharna) at home when my wife received a call from her friend who was attending dharna at Bilawal Chorangi with her family. That is when I decided least I can do is contribute by attending it.

I was surprised with how organized arrangements were, right from the car parking. To be honest, there wasn’t much of a crowd. 2500 attendees in a country where jalsas and rallies are attended by hundreds of thousands is not much. But it was the being done in a very organized and peaceful manner. There were a big number of women and kids in the sit-in. Prayers were being offered for the victims of Quetta blasts. I could see couple of vans from prominent media channels that were not doing what they were supposed to do. But at least policemen on duty were polite and cordial. I also saw volunteers distributing food and water to attendees, and some volunteers even collecting garbage to keep the place clean and tidy. One could sense the determination of people but there was sadness in the air.

But what impressed me most, was that attendees were from all walks of life. They weren’t only Shias. I could see messages of support over different mediums of social media from friends who belonged to different sects and religions. They were as furious towards authorities as I was, and as sympathetic towards Quetta as I was. Everyone was doing their bit to help. Since mobile phone service was not stable in Clifton, some people in the locality of Bilawal Chorangi removed security password from their wifi routers, enabling everyone to update posts and pictures live from the event, which more than made up for the lack of media coverage. This is what I do not want to change. This feeling of being in thick and thin together; this feeling of being one. This somewhat similar feeling that, we are not finished as a Nation. Not as yet.


2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 5,500 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 9 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.